The Gift Of The Magi
The two most cherished possessions in Jim and Della Young's household, a mean New York City apartment, are a gold watch, an heirloom given to Jim by his father, and Della's cascading brown hair, which, as the story opens, we see her admiring in the mirror one last time.
It is the day before Christmas and Della realizes that the one dollar and eighty-seven cents she has saved is insufficient to buy Jim a nice gift. Madame Sonofrie, a neighborhood wigmaker, offers to purchase Della's hair for twenty dollars. Relieved of her former distress (as well her hair), Della scouts the stores for an appropriate present when she happens upon a platinum fob chain, a perfect complement to Jim's watch.
At home, Della worries about how Jim will react to her recently acquired look. Just before he enters she whispers a short prayer: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty." Jim readily answers that prayer, but not after a look of stupified curiosity and an explanation from his wife. The wrapped package he hands to Della helps her decipher his reaction: For Christmas Jim has bought her an expensive set of jewelled combs she had admired in a Broadway shop months earlier. After a brief hysterical episode, Della expresses that she loves the combs and gives Jim the fob only to discover that he purchased her gift with funds earned from selling his watch. They enjoy a laugh as they realize each gift has been rendered useless by the other's sacrifice.
The narrator explains that the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas originated with the Magi, the wise men who brought gifts to the newborn Jesus; without question they gave the wisest gifts. Initially condemning the young couple's foolishness in the face of their reduced financial circumstances, he (the narrator) ultimately praises the sacrifice each endures to enrich the other's happiness as the wisest gift of all.