"The Gift of the Magi" Vocabulary

March 28, 2013
O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" is a much-imitated tale of sacrifice in the name of true love (etext found here).
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.
Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
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.
Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag.
Expenses had been greater than she had calculated.
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.
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.
Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.
She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.
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.
When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason.
She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love.
Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy.
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.
“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.
For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction.
This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.
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, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.
Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims—just the shade to wear in the 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.
The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
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.
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 children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.

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Wednesday April 3rd 2013, 9:30 PM
Comment by: Ingrid R.
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