IT WAS CHRISTMAS Eve day and poor Della Young counted her money. She had just $1.87 to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. Much of the money consisted of pennies she had scrimped and saved for months by skillfully dickering with the grocer, butcher and vegetable man. But it would clearly not be enough. Della was terribly distraught.

Only $1.87 to buy a present for her precious Jim. She had spent many a happy hour dreaming about something especially nice for him. Something fine, rare and sterling; something special enough to be worthy of the honor of being owned by him.

There were only two possessions Della and Jim owned in which both took a whole lot of pride. One was Jim’s gold pocket watch, handed down to him by his father and grandfather. The other was Della’s hair. Her long, beautiful, dark brown hair fell down about her, rippling and shining like a cascade of waters.

It reached well below her knees and blanketed her lovely body like a long velvet gown. Della studied herself in the mirror. She quickly made a decision and hurriedly put on her old brown jacket with a matching brown hat and went out. Della spent hours searching for Jim’s present before she finally found it.

It surely had been made for him and no one else. There was no other gift like it anywhere in any of the stores, for she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum watch fob with a simple chain. As soon as she saw it, she knew it must be Jim’s.

It had cost her $21. But without that beautiful fob and chain on his beloved watch, Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. For sometimes, he was embarrassed to look at his watch in public because of its shabby old leather strap.

When Jim came home from work that evening, Della met him at the door. His eyes suddenly fixed upon her. There was a peculiar expression in them that she could not read. It was not anger, surprise, disapproval or horror. He simply stared at her with an empty expression on his face.

Della pleaded with him not to look at her that way, but she must have appeared very different to him indeed. For she had cut off her beautiful hair and sold it to buy him the fob. She began to cry softly as she told him she couldn’t bear to live through Christmas without giving him a nice gift. She begged him not to think any less of her.

Shaken, Jim gently kissed her and reassured her that no haircut would ever make him love her any less. It was then he handed Della her present. Della hurriedly tore open the wrapping. She screamed with joy and then, she cried hysterically. For there in front of her lay “the combs,” the set of combs she had seen in a Broadway window and had worshiped so long.

They were beautiful combs, made of pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims; just the right shade to wear in her beautiful, long, dark brown hair. She knew they were very expensive combs, and her poor heart had craved and yearned over them without the least hope of ever possessing them.

She clutched them to her bosom, loving them. But the beautiful tresses that should have adorned the combs were gone. She then gave Jim his present.

Jim took the beautiful platinum fob with the simple chain and sat down on their couch. He looked at her tenderly and with a smile, told her he had sold his watch to buy the combs.

So goes O. Henry’s poignant love story about James and Della Young, who sacrificed for each other the single greatest treasure closest to their heart. This simple tale of two young lovers embodies and epitomizes the true meaning of Christmas; that of mutual sacrifice for those we love.