Have you ever gone to great lengths to try and do something nice for someone else? The Gift of the Magi is a short Christmas story about two people who sacrifice their most precious possessions to give each other the greatest gifts of all.
Let's go on this short Christmas story adventure together!
The Gift of the Magi
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The Gift of the Magi Part 1
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. 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 bawl. So Della did it. Which makes it all the more true that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
And look at this house! A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly need a description. It was surely run down and most things didn't work as they should.
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 wiped her eyes with the kerchief. 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, and this was all she had to show for it. 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 expensive—something that Jim would be proud to own.
The Gift of the Magi Part 2
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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 street, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day just to show it off to the Queen herself!
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 put it up nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.
She put on her old brown jacket and her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with a brilliant sparkle in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.
Where she stopped the sign read: “Madame. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. To the Madame,
“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.
“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a look at it.”
Down rippled the brown cascade.
“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.
“It's a deal, but do it quickly,” said Della.
The Gift of the Magi Part 3
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For the next two hours she was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present with her twenty-one dollars and eighty seven cents in hand.
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 in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not ornate decoration—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 able to properly check 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 excitement gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons 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?”
The Gift of the Magi Part 4
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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 stairs, and she turned white for just a moment.
She had a habit of saying a 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 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, aren'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. 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. 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.
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.”
The Gift of the Magi Part 5
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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.
For there lay The Combs—the set of combs and brushes, that Della had worshiped for so long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims—just the shade to wear in her 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 then 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 people 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.
Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
What Do You Think of The Gift of the Magi?
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What does The Gift of the Magi mean to you?
Would you sacrifice your most precious possession for someone you love like in this story?
Would you be disappointed if someone sacrificed greatly to get you a gift that you couldn't use?
Jesus sacrificed his life for you - his greatest gift of all.
How do you feel about that?
Have you accepted His gift?
How do you think He would feel if you didn't accept or use His gift?
We Hope You Enjoyed The Gift of the Magi! If you did, you may also like these, we love the audio CD collections by Jim Weiss.