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The Gift of the Magi

The Gift of the Magi
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.
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