THE GIFT OF THE MAGI | Short Story | O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling–something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation–as all good things should do. It was even 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 applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. 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 chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “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 fellow, he was only twenty-two–and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again–you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully 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?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

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

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.


Read More from O. Henry

Together Forever -3

‘When you know, you have nothing to lose, you stop caring and start living’

The life was getting its way to the mountains, the chilled air was blowing at its pace. It was dark, here in the woods, and they decided to stay there for the night. A small resort managed to get a single fluorescent bulb. They had their dinner there and went to their RV.
There was a single worker in the resort and he was the owner itself. It was off season so he went home.

Everything was going well than ever. They were happy, sharing some good times and there was no sign of her sickness, she was getting better over time. After Tanisha had her medicines, Tanisha and Juhi went to sleep.

While they were asleep Arun was still looking at the stars from that window. He knew this was not going stay for long, tears were rolling down from his eyes. He was praying and after sometimes he felt someone by his side. It was Tanisha.

“I don’t know, what to do? Even if I try, I couldn’t save you, and I know it has been difficult for you but I can’t live without you”

She tried to say something but closed her mouth with a force and hugged her, in a while, he could feel her whole weight and she was gone.

He was fridged for some moment, he tried to call some people, but couldn’t get any voice.
The resort was closed down. There was no one there. Arun was still sitting there, beside the windows, hugging her.

He was kissing her on her forehead, several times and went out of the bus, silently. It was dark and some stars were visible, his throat was chocked and only tears were flowing by.

After looking for something, he again went inside the Rv, he saw his life, died at the corner of the window, there was also another small angel sleeping on the bed. He went to both of them and kissed. A helpless father and a helpless lover lost both the battles of life. He was also known to the fact that this was going to happen anyways.

In the next few minutes, he started the RV and this made Juhi comes out of sleep. She went and started analyzing about what has happened. Rv was going at its full speed and reaches the top of the mountain. She went to the cabin where Arun was driving and was asking what was going on. But Arun was just looking forward, tears were flowing and didn’t say a word. She again came to Tanisha and was trying to call a dead body to raise.

After a while, she realized Arun was standing in front of him, and the bus was running at its full speed. Arun came to her and hugged and the RV was flying between the mountains.

A sound of collapse and a family ended.

Together Forever -2

‘When you know the pain of your loved ones, you start living with their pain.’

The sun was shining in the sky. Some rays of light were coming from the windows and her face was shining. Arun was still standing, watching her. His moist eyes can tell you about the journey so far. Filled with helplessness, he was constantly thinking of what can be done. From last few months, he was begging for her life. Doctors, Hakims, Temples, Churches or Mosques, he did everything he could. He wasn’t left with anything. He was thinking and thinking, he even didn’t realize when she woke up.

He was looking constantly at a parallel window outside and she was looking at him. Restlessly, she was just looking at him, while doctors and nurses hurried. She came out of the coma after twelve days, Meanwhile, doctors asked Arun to sit back.

After two hours of their business, doctor Sharma allowed Arun to meet her. He knew he didn’t have to say what the doctor had said. He wanted his expression should not speak either. He washed his face and after putting a smile on his face, he walked inside.

In the small steps, he was traveling long distances of longingness. He remembers, all of her memories with him. When he was covering this small distance of long intervals, she was still looking at him, she knew his pain.

He looked into her eyes,
She knew, the man behind that smile, longing for her life, she can feel the tiredness and within a minute, she collected, and passed a smile, a brave one, to tell him, “everything is fine, honey, and rest will be best.” He knew it all, he put his hands on hers, while sitting on the table beside her bed.

They wanted to express a lot, but the moist eyes began the conversation. She tried to speak something, but couldn’t. He helped her and she said in broken words,
“how’s Juhi ?”

“She is good, doing great in school.”

The conversation then, followed by questions and answer in a mild way. Then, she asked,

“When are we going home.”

As she spoke, the immense dam of emotions broke into tears. He realized his tears when it fell on her hands. She said,

“Don’t worry, I know you, it was difficult to hold, be strong like me, can’t you see, how strong I am”, and smiled. That smile was like a fresh breath, for his suffocating life.

“I don’t know, what’s gonna happen, I just don’t want to die here, take me home or somewhere”.

He knew nothing, even if she is not going to stay with him, he wants her to feel living again. He wanted to give her the best he can. No one can give you life, but moments of life gives you life.

He agreed as he walks out of the room. He knew, what he needs to do. He went to doctor Sharma and asked him what if he would take Tanisha home. The question converted to debate and debate into an argument. The doctor said not to get her out of the hospital but he knew he already has lost it. Losing her again wouldn’t be bearable.

He went to his friend, Mr. Khanna, a reckoned businessman and sold all of his property to him. Some pairs of land, his house, and his cars. In a day, he sold everything he has earned in his life.

Meanwhile, in the hospital, it was emotion, that was rolling inside a small compartment. The daughter and the mother were having a long cute conversation of big to tiny issues. Hughes, kisses, smiles, and laughter were making Tanisha living, after so long. Juhi was at its best again.

In the evening Arun came to the hospital and made the rest of it be complete. They laughed, talked and shared the lost bond again.

Next morning, After asking the doctor, Arun packed all the things to get his family out of that building that has caused enough pain and little relief, for now.

They came out of the hospital with medicines, reports and lots of positivity. Each glare of the sun was felt, the rebirth of hope and the staffs of the hospital was looking them as: ‘how anyone can get out of the hospital, when actually, at this stage of the patient, they are admitted.’

While going towards the cab, Arun went towards a huge RV bus. Their eyes were wide open as Arun exclaimed with joy that they are not going home, having questionable looks, they went inside.

The RV was full of their memories, the photographs, the gifts, some love letters were stickied on the walls, they were from their college, their dolls, and a lucrative interior welcomed them. while Tanisha and Juhi were busy in watching interiors, Arun was ready to go.

Arun, driver of the family was ready to drive his home this time. They started from Delhi to Punjab and drove towards the mountains of Himachal Pradesh.
Every single stop would carry excitement, tea at tea points, Lunches and dinners at Dhabas. They started to cover the mountains now.

A brand new RV was racing across the mountains, carrying two lovebirds and their small little angel.

To be continued.

Together Forever -1

A brand new RV was racing across the mountains, carrying two lovebirds and their small little angel.

Last six months of their lives have been more like a death every day. Tanisha got diagnosed with cancer and a life full of happiness was dumped into the ashes of sorrow. While the doctors never got an idea of three deaths within one life, their lives were struggling every day.

Juhi used to miss her school every day, while Arun was not going for his job. Every day, there was lots of checkups, diagnosis of infections, blood change, and heavy medicines. This led the family to go onto ground day by day.

Ten days back from now, Arun was standing in front of operation theatre watching through the windows, the calm and beautiful life of him, lying on the bed with wires and monitors, a negative thought struck his mind, what if she died. A mere thought of consequence can send you to the world of nothing, the tears of helplessness rolled by and at the next moment he realized a small palm onto his hands, Juhi was there. She made him bow down and said: “Pa, everything will be fine, Mamma will be fine and then we will go in mountains to live.” He hugged her and went to the waiting area.

While Juhi got a quick asleep, he was still thinking of his conversation with doctor Sharma who said Tanisha is not having more than a month or even less.
He never thought of this life and he can’t even think of a life with Tanisha.

He remembers, dancing on a Punjabi track in the marriage of his brother in law last January, with his wife and daughter, a family Arun and Tanisha always prayed for.

Tanisha belongs to a Punjabi family and Arun is from Ghaziabad, a city in Uttar Pradesh. They met in their college in New Delhi and Started their flattering romance. They crossed their borders of caste and religion to pave a way to their marriage. But as the love was never supposed to be accepted, it was Tanisha’s brother who took the charge, and the wedding happened.

While the marriage was full of relatives, the best part was no one was happy except Tanisha and Arun. Relatives had their own points and lovers had their own. In their life, this would be the most remarkable completion of love. They knew what they want from life and started their journey in the best possible way. Every dream of their love was coming alive, every passing day. Arun was working as a sales manager in Ford motors, a motor vehicle company, and Tanisha chooses to take care of her home after Juhi was born.

Everything was going like a beautiful dream into reality until a bad watch of destiny dumped into their life. After six years of their marriage, this would be their first year in a dilemma that they will celebrate their seventh anniversary together or not.

As dawn approached, a reddish beam of ray approached Arun. He patiently arranged Juhi onto the chair, where she was sleeping. He again went to one of the windows of operation theatre and glanced into the room where Tanisha was sleeping.

To be continued.

Together Forever

He looked into her eyes,
She knew, the man behind that smile, longing for her life,
Life has not been good to him,
She can feel his tiredness,
and within a minute, she collected,
and passed a smile, a brave one, to tell him, everything is fine, honey, and rest will be best.

He knew it all, he put his hands on hers, making relax same way it is,

neither the nurse knows, nor the doctors, the two bodies in love, and then cancer, merely a terminology, and they were busy in preparation, cuts and operated,

no one to know the pain and strain, of two, divided into bodies, gathered by the same soul.

They departed to there places,
one to the operation room and the other to its window, the silences, one made one into dreams with closed eyes and other in the world of hope and prayer,

the knife roled for cuts, threads to the stitches and lovers to dreams.

We are so complete, just don’t go, don’t feel weak, get a good sleep and come back to me. Her dreams can see him and he is still grabbing the feet of every almighty asking for her.

The battle of love is the battle of life, the fought, the knew their value, defeated the odds, she came back with the love, they fought, sustained and made their love, complete again, for forever.