One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies were saved one and two at a time by bargaining hard with the butcher and the vegetable man. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day was Christmas.

 There was nothing to do but lie down ot the little old couch and cry. So Della did it. It seems that life is made up of sobs, sniffles and smiles – but mainly sniffles.

 While Della was moving from sobs to sniffles, take a look at the home. A furnished flat that cost $8 a week. It was cheap and it looked cheap.

 In the entrance way below was a broken letter-box, and an electric bell which didn’t work. On the letter-box was a card with the name “Mr.James Dillingham Young.”

 The “Dillingham” had been added to the card when its owner was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income had decreased to $20, the “Dillingham” looked too fancy, as if it should decrease to a more modest “D.” But whenever Mr James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by his wife, Della. Which is all very good.

 Della finished crying and dried her cheeks. She stood by the window and looked out at a gray cat walking on a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she only had $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months. Jims salary wasn’t much. And expenses had been greater than she expected. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a presnt for Jim. Her Jim. She had spent many happy hours planning something nice for him. Something fine and rare and expensive – something that was good enough to be owned by Jim.

 Then Della saw her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes shone, but her face lost all its color. She quickly removed her hair clips and let her hair fall down to its full length.

 Now, there were two things Mr. and Mrs. Young had of which they were both very proud. One was Jims’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. So now Della’s beautiful hair hung down, shining. It reached down below her knees and was almost like a coat for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. She paused for a moment and two tears fell on the worn red carpet.

 Then she put one her old brown jacket and her old brown hat, and ran out the door to the street.

 She stopped at a sign that read: “Madam Sofronie. Hair goods of all kinds.” Della ran up the stairs, and stod paning in the shop.

 “Will you buy my hair?” she asked.
 “I buy hair,” said Madam. she was large, very white, and unfriendly. “Take your hat off and let me see it.”

 Down came the shining waterfall.

 “Twenty dollars,” said Madam, lifting the heavy hair with her hand.

 “Give it to me quick,” said Della.

 The next two hours flew by as Della happily shopped for Jim’s present. She found it at last. It must have been made for Jim and no one else. There was nothing else like it in any of the stores. It was a platinum watch chain, simple and classic in design. It was worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value – the description fitted them both. It coast twenty-one dollars. She hurried home with 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim could now look at the time when he was with wealthy people. As grand as the watch was, he sometimes had to secretly look at it because he was embarrassed of the old leather strap he used instead of a chain.

 When Della reached home her happiness gave way a little to caution and reason. She worried about what Jim would think when he saw her hair was gone. She got out her curling irons and began to repair the damage. Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny curls which made her look like a school girl. She looked at her reflection in the mirror for a long time.

 “I don’t think Jim will kill me,” she said to herself, “but what could I do? Oh! What could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?”

 At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the sausages.

 Jim was never late. Della held the watch chain in her hand and sat waiting for him. Then she heard him coming up the stairs, and she turned white for a moment. She whispered a little prayer, “Please, God, make him think I am still pretty.”

 The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it He looked thin and very serious. Poor man, he was only twenty-two – and he had a wife to look after. He needed a new overcoat and was without gloves.

 Jim stopped like a statue. His eyes were fixed on Della. He stared at her. She could not understand his expression, and it terrified her.

 She jumped up and went over to him.

 “Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold it because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow back. You don’t mind, do you? I just had to do it. My hair grows very fast. Say ‘Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice – what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

 “You’ve cut off your hair?” Jim asked slowly, as if he couldn’t understand.

 “Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me anyway? I’m still me without my hair.”

 Jim looked around the room curiously.

 “You say your hair is gone?” he said, like a small child.

 “You won’t find it here,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you. Sold and gone. It’s Christmas Eve, be good to me. I sold it for you. Maybe the hairs on my head were numbered,” she wnet on with a sudden, serious sweetness, “but nobody could erver count my love for you. Shall I put the sausages on, Jim?”

 Jim seemd to wake up. He hugged Della for ten seconds, then he took a package from his overcoat pocket and put it on the table.

 “Don’t worry about me, Dell,” he said. “No haircut, shave or shampoo could ever make me dislike you. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why I was shocked for a while.”

 Della opened the package and gave a scream of joy. A seond later she burst into tears, and Jim had to use all his power to comfort her.

 For there lay The Combs – the set of combs that Della had worshipped for months in a big store window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled edges – the perfect color to wear in her beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew. Her heart had desperately wanted them without any hope of having them. And now, they were hers. Bur her hair was gone.

 But she hugged them tightly to her chest. After a while, she looked up with teary eyes and a smile, and said, “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

 And then Della leapt up like a little burnt cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

 Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him. The precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection inviof her bright and passion-ate spirit.

 “Isn’t it lovely, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to check the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

 But Jim dropped down on the couch, put his hands behind his head, and smiled.

 “Dell,” he said. “Let’s put our Chistmas presents away for a while. They’re too nice to use right now. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. Now, Let’s have those sausages.”

 The Magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought figts to the Bebe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts must also have been wise. They were expensive and probably came with a recipt, so that the gifts could be exchanged at the market. And here I have told you a story, not very well, about two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrified their most treasured possessions.

 But of all those people who give gifts, these two were the wisest. People like these are the wisest. The are the Magi.

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