One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. Every day, when she went to the
shops, she spent very little money. She bought the cheapest meat, the cheapest
vegetables. And when she was tired, she still walked round and round the shops
to find the cheapest food. She saved every cent possible.
Della counted the money again. There was no mistake. One dollar and eighty-seven
cents. That was all. And the next day was Christmas. She couldn't do anything
about it. She could only sit down and cry. So she sat there, in the poor little
room, and she cried.
Della lived in this poor little room, in New York, with her husband, James
Dillingham Young. They also had a bedroom, and a kitchen and a bathroom - all
poor little rooms. James Dillingham Young was lucky, because he had a job, but
it was not a good job. These rooms took most of his money. Della tried to find
work, but times were bad, and there was no work for her. But when Mr James
Dillingham Young came home to his rooms, Mrs James Dillingham Young called him
'Jim' and put her arms round him. And that was good.
Della stopped crying and she washed her face. She stood by the window, and
looked out at a grey cat on a grey wall in the grey road. Tomorrow was Christmas
Day, and she had only one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy Jim a Christmas
present. Her Jim. She wanted very much to buy him something really fine,
something to show how much she loved him.
Suddenly, Della turned round and ran over to look in the glass on the wall. Her
eyes were bright.
Now, the James Dillingham Youngs had two very special things. One was Jim's gold
watch. It once belonged to his father, and, before that, to his grandfather. The
other special thing was Della's hair.
Quickly, Della let down her beautiful, long hair. It fell down her back, and it
was almost like a coat around her. Then she put her hair up again, quickly. For
a second or two she stood still, and cried a little.
Then she put on her old brown coat, and her old brown hat, turned, and left the
room. She went downstairs and out into the road, and her eyes were bright.
She walked along by the shops, and stopped when she came to a door with 'Madame
Eloise - Hair' on it. Inside there was a fat woman. She did not look like an
'Will you buy my hair?' Della asked.
'I buy hair,' Madame replied. 'Take your hat off, then, and show me your hair.'
The beautiful brown hair fell down.
'Twenty dollars,' Madame said, and she touched the hair with her hand.
'Quick! Cut it off! Give me the money!' Della said. The next two hours went
quickly. Della was happy because she was looking round the shops for Jim's
present. At last she found it. It was a gold chain for The Watch. Jim loved his
watch, but it had no chain. When Della saw this gold chain, she knew immediately
that it was right for Jim. She must have it. The shop took twenty-one dollars
from her for it, and she hurried home with the eighty-seven cents.
When she arrived there, she looked at her very short hair in the glass. 'What
can I do with it?' she thought. For the next half an hour she was very busy.
Then she looked again in the glass. Her hair was now in very small curls all
over her head. 'Oh, dear. I look like a schoolgirl!' she said to herself.
'What's Jim going to say when he sees me'
At seven o'clock the dinner was nearly ready and Della was waiting. 'Oh, I hope
he thinks that I'm still beautiful!' she thought.
The door opened and Jim came in and closed it. He looked very thin and he needed
a new coat. His eyes were on Della. She could not understand the look on his
face, and she was afraid. He was not angry or surprised. He just watched her,
with that strange look on his face.
Della ran to him.
'Jim,' she cried. 'Don't look at me like that. I sold my hair because I wanted
to give you a present. It will soon be long again. I had to do it, Jim. Say
"Happy Christmas", please. I have a wonderful present for you!'
'You've cut off your hair?' asked Jim. 'Yes. I cut it off and sold it,' Della
said. 'But don't you love me any more, Jim? I'm still me.' Jim looked round the
'You say your hair has gone?' he said, almost stupidly.
'Yes. I told you. Because I love you! Shall I get the dinner now, Jim?'
Suddenly Jim put his arms round his Della. Then he took something from his
pocket and put it on the table.
'I love you, Della,' he said. 'It doesn't matter if your hair is short or long.
But if you open that, you'll see why I was unhappy at first.'
Excited, Della pulled off the paper. Then she gave a little scream of happiness.
But a second later there were cries of unhappiness.
Because there were The Combs - the combs for her beautiful hair. When she first
saw these combs in the shop window, she wanted them. They were beautiful combs,
expensive combs, and now they were her combs. But she no longer had her hair!
Della picked them up and held them. Her eyes were full of love.
'But my hair will soon be long again, Jim.'
And then Della remembered. She jumped up and cried, 'Oh! Oh!' She ran to get
Jim's beautiful present, and she held it out to him.
'Isn't it lovely, Jim? I looked everywhere for it. Now you'll want to look at
your watch a hundred times a day. Give it to me! Give me your watch, Jim! Let's
see it with its new chain.'
But Jim did not do this. He sat down, put his hands behind his head, and he
'Della,' he said. 'Let's keep our presents for a time. They're so nice. You see,
I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now, let's have
And this was the story of two young people who were very much in love.