The Gift of the Magi
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
Where she stopped the sign read: “Mme. 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