The gift (2)


Based on O. Henry’s classic story, “The Gift of the Magi” and adapted for English language learners. 


*$1.87  [One dollar and 87 pennies]


87 pennies

DELLA looked at the money in her hand. There were 87 pennies.     She had also had one dollar. That was all there was. One dollar and 87 pennies. Della saved the money all year waiting for Christmas. At the market she bought vegetables that were not fresh. They cost less money. She bought the smallest pieces of meat she could find. She always felt poor and that was a terrible feeling. On Christmas day, however, she did not want to be poor! She wanted to buy something wonderful for her husband, Jim. 

     Three times Della counted the money. One dollar and 87 pennies. “Tomorrow is Christmas!” she said, sadly. Della sat down and cried. Then went to the window. Everything was gray. She saw a gray cat. The gray cat was walking on a gray fence in a gray yard. And the sky was gray too.  “Tomorrow is Christmas and I have only one dollar and 87 pennies to buy my husband a gift! What can I do?” she asked herself.


     Della and Jim had three things they loved very much: They loved each other. They loved Jim’s gold pocket watch, and they loved Della’s beauti- ful hair.  Jim’s watch was very old. His grandfather gave it to him. And they loved Della’s hair because it was more beautiful than any hair you have ever seen. 


     Della went and looked in the mirror. Her face was sad, but her heart was suddenly hopeful. She looked at her long, long hair. Della’s hair fell down past her shoulders like a beautiful waterfall. It reached below her knees and almost looked like a gold coat. Della stood looking in the mirror. A few tears fell from her eyes onto the floor. 

     Della then put on her coat and her old brown hat. She ran out the door and down the street. She stopped where a sign read: “Hair Salon”. Della ran up the steps. As soon as she opened the door she said to the woman in the shop: “Will you buy my hair?”

     “I buy hair,” said Madame Sofia. “Take your hat off. Let me look at it.” After she looked at Della’s hair, Madame Sofia said “I will buy your hair for $20 dollars.”

     “O.K.,” said Della, trying not to cry. For two hours Madame Sofia worked to cut Della’s long hair. When she finally finished, Della ran from the shop and into all the stores in town to choose a gift for her dear Jim. She found it at last. It was a gold chain, the perfect gift for Jim’s gold watch.  As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be for him. She gave the shopkeeper twenty-one dollars and hurried home with 87 cents in her pocket. It was just enough to buy a nice piece of meat for their Christmas dinner.

     When Della arrived home she began to try to make what was left of her hair pretty.  Her hair looked terrible, but at least she could now give her dear husband a special gift. After 40 minutes of careful work, her head was covered with tiny round curls that made her look like a schoolboy. She looked at herself in the mirror. What would Jim do when he saw her?

     At 7 o’clock, the coffee was made and a small pan on the stove filled with a small piece of meat. Soon her Jim would be home from work.  Della held the gold chain in her hand and sat near the door. Then she heard his step and she turned white for just a minute. She had a way of saying a little silent prayer about the simplest things, and now she whispered: “Please God, make Jim think I am still pretty.” 

     The door opened and Jim stepped in. He looked thin and very serious. He needed a new coat and his gloves did not keep his hands warm any more. Jim came in the door and stopped without moving. His eyes were fixed on Della. There was an expression in his eyes that made Della afraid. It was not anger, not surprise, not fear. He simply looked at her with a strange expression on his face. 

     Della went to him and said, “Jim, my love, do not look at me that way! I cut my hair and sold because I could not live through Christmas without giving you a gift. My hair will grow again. I just had to do it!  My hair grows very fast.  Say ‘Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let us be happy!  You do not know what a nice, wonderful gift I have for you!” 

     “You have cut off your hair?” asked Jim, slowly, as if he could not believe what his eyes saw.

     “Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Do you not like me just as well? I am the same person without my hair!”  Jim looked around the room as if he was looking for something. “You say your hair is gone?” he asked as if his eyes were lying to him.

     “You need not look for it,” said Della. “It is sold, I tell you—sold and gone. It is Christmas Eve. Be good to me, for it was cut for you.”

     Jim put his arms around Della. Then he took a package from his coat and put it on the table. Della looked at it and smiled. Her long, white fingers quickly pulled at the string and paper. At first there was a scream of joy, but then she began to cry as if her heart would break. In the box there were 4 combs to hold her hair, something that Della had wanted ever since she saw them in a shop window. They were beautiful combs, made of shells, with jewels at the edge—just the color to wear in the beautiful hair that was no longer hers. They cost a lot of money, she knew, and she had wanted them without ever hoping to have them. And now, the beautiful combs were hers ... but her hair was gone! 

     Still, she held the combs in her hands and soon she was able to look up with a smile and say, “My hair grows so fast, Jim!” Then Della jumped up and cried, “Oh, oh! Wait until you see my gift!”  She then held it out to him in her open hands. The gold chain seemed so bright. 

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

     Jim sat on the couch, covered his face with his hands, but then pulled them away and smiled.

     “Dell, my love,” said he, “I sold my gold watch to get the money to buy the set of combs for your hair.”


write down

Now it’s your turn write what you think!  This story is called “the gift”. But in the story 2 gifts were given. So what is the one gift, the real gift, the title is talking about?

Have you ever gotten a special gift? Write a short story about it now.

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