LOVE STORY

Published by: Mohd Saim on 29th Jun 2014 | View all blogs by Mohd Saim

                                            

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 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. 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 howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral

reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with

sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from

the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished

flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it

certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter

would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could

coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the

name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

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

The Gift Of The Magi -- O. Henry

- 4 -

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 attended to her cheeks with the

powder rag. 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,

with this result. 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 sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of

the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room.

Perhaps you have seen a peerglass in an $8 flat. 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. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the

glass. 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 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 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.

The Gift Of The Magi -- O. Henry

- 5 -

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 did it up

again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and

stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat.

With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes,

she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair

Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected

herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked

the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a

sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a

practiced hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget

the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's

present.

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 and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by

substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all

good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon

The Gift Of The Magi -- O. Henry

- 6 -

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 properly anxious

about 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 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. 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?"

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 stair away down on the first

flight, 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

The Gift Of The Magi -- O. Henry

- 7 -

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 patent 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, ain'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, boy. 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?"

The Gift Of The Magi -- O. Henry

- 8 -

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded

his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some

inconsequential object in the other direction. 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. This dark assertion will be

illuminated later on.

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."

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.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back,

that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. 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.

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!"

    The Gift Of The Magi -- O. Henry

- 9 -

And them 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 children 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. O all who give and

receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest.

They are the magi.

 

                                            ***Mohd Saim***

 

                             

“She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses,”

cried the young Student; “but in all my garden there is no red

rose.” From her nest in the holm-oak tree the Nightingale heard

him, and she looked out through the leaves, and wondered.

“No red rose in all my garden!” he cried, and his beautiful eyes

filled with tears. “Ah, on what little things does happiness depend!

I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of

philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made

wretched.” “Here at last is a true lover,” said the Nightingale.

“Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not;

night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see

him. His hair is dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are red

as the rose of his desire; but passion has made his face like pale

ivory, and sorrow has set her seal upon his brow.” “The Prince

gives a ball to-morrow night,” murmured the young Student, “and

my love will be of the company. If I bring her a red rose she will

dance with me till dawn. If I bring her a red rose, I shall hold her in

my arms, and she will lean her head upon my shoulder, and her

hand will be clasped in mine. But there is no red rose in my

garden, so I shall sit lonely, and she will pass me by. She will have

no heed of me, and my heart will break.”

“Here indeed is the true lover,” said the Nightingale. “What I sing

of, he suffers: what is joy to me, to him is pain. Surely Love is a

wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer

than fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set

forth in the market-place. It may not be purchased of the

merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold.” “The

musicians will sit in their gallery,” said the young Student, “and

play upon their stringed instruments, and my love will dance to

the sound of the harp and the violin. She will dance so lightly that

her feet will not touch the floor, and the courtiers in their gay

dresses will throng around her. But with me she will not dance, for

I have no red rose to give her”; and he flung himself down on the

grass, and buried his face in his hands, and wept.

“Why is he weeping?” asked a little Green Lizard, as he ran past

him with his tail in the air.

“Why, indeed?” said a Butterfly, who was fluttering about after a

sunbeam.

3

“Why, indeed?” whispered a Daisy to his neighbour, in a soft, low

voice.

“He is weeping for a red rose,” said the Nightingale.

“For a red rose!” they cried; “how very ridiculous!” and the little

Lizard, who was something of a cynic, laughed outright.

But the Nightingale understood the secret of the Student’s sorrow,

and she sat silent in the oak-tree, and thought about the mystery of

Love.

Suddenly she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into

the air. She passed through the grove like a shadow, and like a

shadow she sailed across the garden.

In the centre of the grass-plot was standing a beautiful Rose-tree,

and when she saw it, she flew over to it, and lit upon a spray.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest

song.” But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are white,” it answered; “as white as the foam of the sea,

and whiter than the snow upon the mountain. But go to my brother

who grows round the old sun-dial, and perhaps he will give you

what you want.” So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that

was growing round the old sun-dial.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest

song.” But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are yellow,” it answered; “as yellow as the hair of the

mermaiden who sits upon an amber throne, and yellower than the

daffodil that blooms in the meadow before the mower comes with

his scythe. But go to my brother who grows beneath the Student’s

window, and perhaps he will give you what you want.”

So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing

beneath the Student’s window.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest

song.” But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are red,” it answered; “as red as the feet of the dove, and

redder than the great fans of coral that wave and wave in the ocean

cavern. But the winter has chilled my veins, and the frost has

nipped my buds, and the storm has broken my branches, and I

shall have no roses at all this year.” “One red rose is all I want,”

cried the Nightingale. “Only one red rose! Is there any way by

which I can get it?” “There is a way,” answered the Tree; “but it is

so terrible that I dare not tell it to you.” “Tell it to me,” said the

4

Nightingale, “I am not afraid.” “If you want a red rose,” said the

Tree, “you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it

with your own heart’s-blood. You must sing to me with your

breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the

thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into

my veins, and become mine.” “Death is a great price to pay for a

red rose,” cried the Nightingale, “and Life is very dear to all. It is

pleasant to sit in the green wood, and to watch the Sun in his

chariot of gold, and the Moon in her chariot of pearl. Sweet is the

scent of the hawthorn, and sweet are the bluebells that hide in the

valley, and the heather that blows on the hill. Yet Love is better

than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a

man?” So she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into

the air. She swept over the garden like a shadow, and like a

shadow she sailed through the grove.

The young Student was still lying on the grass, where she had left

him, and the tears were not yet dry on his beautiful eyes.

“Be happy,” cried the Nightingale, “be happy; you shall have your

red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with

my own heart’s-blood.

All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for

Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier

than Power, though he is mighty. Flame-coloured are his wings,

and coloured like flame is his body. His lips are sweet as honey,

and his breath is like frankincense.” The Student looked up from

the grass, and listened, but he could not understand what the

Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew the things that

are written down in books.

But the Oak-tree understood, and felt sad, for he was very fond of

the little nightingale who had built her nest in his branches.

“Sing me one last song,” he whispered; “I shall feel very lonely

when you are gone.”

So the Nightingale sang to the Oak-tree, and her voice was like

water bubbling from a silver jar.

When she had finished her song the Student got up, and pulled a

note-book and a lead-pencil out of his pocket.

“She has form,” he said to himself, as he walked away through the

grove, “that cannot be denied her; but has she got feeling? I am

afraid not. In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style, without

any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others. She thinks

5

merely of music, and everybody knows that the arts are selfish.

Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful notes in her

voice. What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any

practical good.” And he went into his room, and lay down on his

little pallet-bed, and began to think of his love; and, after a time, he

fell asleep.

And when the Moon shone in the heavens the Nightingale flew to

the Rosetree, and set her breast against the thorn. All night long

she sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold, crystal

Moon leaned down and listened. All night long she sang, and the

thorn went deeper and deeper into her breast, and her lifeblood

ebbed away from her.

She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl.

And on the topmost spray of the Rose-tree there blossomed a

marvellous rose, petal followed petal, as song followed song. Pale

was it, as first, as the mist that hangs over the river- pale as the feet

of the morning, and silver as the wings of the dawn. As the

shadow of a rose in a mirror of silver, as the shadow of a rose in a

water-pool, so was the rose that blossomed on the topmost spray of

the Tree.

But the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the

thorn. “Press closer, little Nightingale,” cried the Tree, “or the Day

will come before the rose is finished.” So the Nightingale pressed

closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for

she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.

And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like

the flush in the face of the bridegroom when he kisses the lips of

the bride. But the thorn had not yet reached her heart, so the rose’s

heart remained white, for only a Nightingale’s heart’s-blood can

crimson the heart of a rose.

And the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the

thorn. “Press closer, little Nightingale,” cried the Tree, “or the Day

will come before the rose is finished.” So the Nightingale pressed

closer against the thorn, and the thorn touched her heart, and a

fierce pang of pain shot through her. Bitter, bitter was the pain, and

wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is

perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.

And the marvellous rose became crimson, like the rose of the

eastern sky.

Crimson was the girdle of petals, and crimson as a ruby was the

heart.

6

But the Nightingale’s voice grew fainter, and her little wings began

to beat, and a film came over her eyes. Fainter and fainter grew her

song, and she felt something choking her in her throat.

Then she gave one last burst of music. The White Moon heard it,

and she forgot the dawn, and lingered on in the sky. The red rose

heard it and it trembled all over with ecstasy, and opened it petals

to the cold morning air. Echo bore it to her purple cavern in the

hills, and woke the sleeping shepherds from their dreams. It

floated through the reeds of the river, and they carried its message

to the sea.

“Look, look!” cried the Tree, “the rose is finished now”; but the

Nightingale made no answer, for she was lying dead in the long

grass, with the thorn in her heart.

And at noon the Student opened his window and looked out.

“Why, what a wonderful piece of luck!” he cried; “here is a red

rose! I have never seen any rose like it in all my life. It is so

beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name”; and he leaned

down and plucked it.

Then he put on his hat, and ran up to the Professor’s house with

the rose in his hand.

The daughter of the Professor was sitting in the doorway winding

blue silk on a reel, and her little dog was lying at her feet.

“You said that you would dance with me if I brought you a red

rose,” cried the Student. “Here is the reddest rose in all the world.

You will wear it to-night next your heart, and as we dance together

it will tell you how I love you.” But the girl frowned.

“I am afraid it will not go with my dress,” she answered; “and,

besides, the Chamberlain’s nephew has sent me some real jewels,

and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers.”

“Well, upon my word, you are very ungrateful,” said the Student,

angrily; and he threw the rose into the street, where it fell into the

gutter, and a cartwheel went over it.

“Ungrateful!” said the girl. “I tell you what, you are very rude;

and, after all, who are you? Only a Student. Why, I don’t believe

you have even got silver buckles to your shoes as the

Chamberlain’s nephew has”; and she got up from her chair and

went into the house.

“What a silly thing Love is,” said the Student as he walked away.

“It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything, and

it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and

7

making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite

unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is everything, I shall

go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.”

So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and

began to read.

THE END

                                                 ***Mohd Saim***

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