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The Gifts


Reading Texts


THE GIFT OF THE MAGI


by O. Henry
~ Abridged Version ~

1


One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all she had saved. Three times Della counted it. Only 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 cry. So Della did it. You see, life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles ---- but mainly of sniffles.

Della finished her cry and stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking along a grey fence in a grey backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim, her husband, a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week, which was their total income, 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 --- something good enough to be owned by Jim.

2

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the mirror between the windows of the room. 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 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. 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.

Nervously and quickly she did it up again. Once she hesitated for a minute and stood still while a tear or two ran down her cheeks.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she ran out the door and down the stairs to the street.

She stopped at a shop where the sign read: “Madame Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting.

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take your hat off and let’s have a look at it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the hair with a skilful hand.

“Give it to me,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. She was looking in the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. It was a gold chain simple and chaste in design, like all good things. It was worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. 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 was ashamed of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her excitement gave way to reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and began to work on her hair.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look like a schoolboy.





3

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 supper. Della held the chain in the palm of her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stairs, 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. Then he stood still. 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 left 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 did not understand what Della has said.

“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, almost like an idiot.

“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.”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He embraced his Della. For ten seconds nothing seemed to matter. Then he drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake about me, Della,” he said, “ I don’t think there’s anything about your haircut that could make me love you any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why I didn’t know what to say for a while at first.”

Her white fingers tore at the string and paper nimbly. And then a scream of joy; and then, a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs that Della had worshipped long in a shop window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in her beautiful hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved for them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the hair that should have adorned the combs was 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 then Della leaped up and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm.

Isn’t it lovely, 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.

“Della,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep them for 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 get the supper ready.”






4

The magi, as you know, were wise men --- wonderfully wise men --- who brought gifts to Baby Jesus in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones. And here I have told you the story of two foolish children who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But let me tell you that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, they are the magi.


THE GIFT OF THE MAGI


by O. Henry
~ Simplified Version



1



One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all she had. 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 sit down on the old sofa and cry. So Della did. You see, life is made up of tears and smiles, but mainly of tears.

As Della had finished crying she looked out of the window sadly at a grey cat walking along a grey fence in a grey park. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present.

2

Suddenly she turned away from the window and stood before a mirror. Her eyes were shining brightly, but h her husband, a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, but twenty dollars a week doesn’t leave much for saving. That was the total of their income and expenses had been greater than she had calculated. 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 --- something that is good enough for her Jim.

Her face had lost its color. Quickly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two things that Jim and Della were very proud of. One was Jim’s gold watch that had belonged to his father and his grandfather. The other was Della’s hair. It was brown and shinny like a cascade. It reached below her knee and when she let it loose, it fell around her like a beautiful cloak.

Quickly and nervously she pinned it up again. Once she hesitated for a minute and stood still while a tear or two went down her face. She put on her old brown jacket and her old brown hat. Then she rushed out of the door and down the stairs to the street.

She stopped at a shop with the sign “Madame. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take your hat off and let’s have a look at it.”

Down fell the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame.

“Give it to me quickly,” said Della.

The next two hours had gone happily. Della was searching the stores for Jim’s present. She found it at last. It was a platinum watch chain. Like all good things, it was simple in design. As soon as she saw it she knew that it would be right for Jim’s watch. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents.

When Della reached home her excitement was gone. She got out her curling irons and began to work her hair into tiny curls. When she finished, she looked at her reflection in the mirror long and carefully.

“Please God, make him think I am still pretty,” she whispered

She stopped at a shop where the sign read: “Madame Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting.

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take your hat off and let’s have a look at it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the hair with a skilful hand.

“Give it to me,” said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. She was looking in the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. It was a gold chain simple and chaste in design, like all good things. It was worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him.

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 was ashamed of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her excitement gave way to reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and began to work on her hair.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look like a schoolboy.





3

At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying pan was hot on the stove ready to cook the supper. Della sat on the corner of the table near the door. Then she heard his step on the stair, and she turned white for just a moment.

The door opened and Jim stepped in. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two --- and already burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he had no gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not understand, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the feelings that she had expected. He simply stared at her with that strange expression on his face.

Della got 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 because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again. 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 slowly, as if he did not understand.

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

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, looking about the room like an idiot.

“Yes, it’s sold and gone,” said Della. “It’s Christmas Eve, Jim. Be good to me, for it went for you.”

Jim seemed to wake suddenly from a dream. He drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

Don’t make any mistake about me, Della,” he said, “ I don’t think there’s anything in your haircut that could make me love you any less. But if you open that package you’ll see why I did not know what to say just now.”

With nimble fingers Della tore at the string and paper. And then an excited scream of joy. And then a quick change to tears and cries.

For there lay The Combs --- the set of combs that Della had admired for months in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, with jewels in them ---just the right colour to wear in her beautiful hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved for them without hoping to possess them. And now, they were hers, but her hair had gone and she had no use for them.

But she held them close to her heart and at last, she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say, “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

Then Della remembered that Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She showed it to him eagerly.

“Isn’t it lovely, 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 dropped down on the sofa and put his hands behind his head and smiled.

“Della,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep them 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 get the supper ready.”






- -

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material -> Stone Fox Teacher’s Book  Part I  Teacher’s Guide and Teaching Plan
material -> Alternative Tasks Units
material -> Spaghetti Pig-Out Teacher’s Book  Part I 
material -> Stone Fox Teacher’s Book  Part I  Teacher’s Guide and Teaching Plan
material -> The Boscombe Valley Mystery The Story (student version) The Boscombe Valley Mystery The Story chapter 1: the murder case
material -> The Boscombe Valley Mystery Teacher’s Book  Part I  Teacher’s Guide and Teaching Plan
material -> The Chameleon Teacher’s Book  Part I  Teacher’s Guide and Teaching Plan
material -> Esio Trot Teacher’s Book  Part I  Teacher’s Guide and Teaching Plan
unit02 -> The Gifts Teacher’s Book  Part I  Teacher’s Guide and Teaching Plan


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