O. Henry. The Christmas story «The Gift of the Magi» (for beginners)

If you have not read the Christmas story «The Gift of the Magi» by O.Henry, it is high time to read it now. This touching story is about young lovers. They wanted to give each other gifts, but no gift could be better than their love. Read the story and get in the Christmas spirit of love and sacrifice. Merry Christmas to you!

I hope you will enjoy reading the story and learning English at the same time. The story has two parts. The lists of English words to understand is before the text.

This story in English is for pre-intermediate but you can also read «The Gift of the Magi» (in English, for intermediate).

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O. Henry «The Gift of the Magi» (for pre-intermediate)

(the most famous Christmas story)

The story is adapted for Englishstory.ru. @Englishstory.ru, 2016

Words for part 1:

  1. save on — экономить на
  2. rare — редкий
  3. be worth belonging to — быть достойным принадлежать
  4. pull down her hair — распустить волосы
  5. value — ценить, дорожить
  6. put it up — убрала (волосы)
  7. repair — зд. восстанавливать, исправлять ущерб
  8. song girl — хористка (девушка, поющая в хоре)

Part 1

Della counted the money. It was one dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all that she could save on vegetables and meat during 5 months.  Della counted it once more. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was nothing to do but sit down and cry. So Della cried. When she finished crying, she dried her face and came up by the window. She saw a grey cat walking along a grey fence in a grey back yard. She sighed unhappily as the money was not enough to buy her husband Jim a gift. Many hours she had spent planning to buy something nice for him. Something fine and rare — something that could be worth belonging to Jim.

There was a tall glass mirror between the windows of the room. Suddenly Della turned from the window and stood before the glass mirror and looked at herself. Then she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, Jim and Della had two things which they valued. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her, shining like a brown waterfall. It reached below her knees and almost covered her. And then quickly she put it up again. She stood still while a few tears fell on the floor.

She put on her coat and her old brown hat. Then she run out of the door and down the street.

She stopped at the sign: «Madame Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.» Della ran up the steps to the shop.

«Will you buy my hair?» asked Della.

«I buy hair,» said Madame. «Take your hat off and let us have a look at it.»

Down came the beautiful brown waterfall of hair.

«Twenty dollars,» said Madame.

During the next two hours Della looked in all the shops to choose a gift for Jim. She found it at last. It was a chain made of silver. It was perfect for Jim’s gold watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be for him. She gave the shopkeeper twenty-one dollars and hurried home with the eighty-seven cents that was left.

When Della arrived home she began to repair what was left of her hair. It was a very big job.

It took her forty minutes to make herself look like a schoolboy with her head covered with tiny round curls of hair. She looked in the glass mirror carefully. «If Jim does not kill me before he takes a second look at me,» she said to herself, «he’ll say I look like a song girl. But what could I do — oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?»

At seven o’clock that night the coffee was made and the pan on the stove was hot and ready to cook the meat.

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O. Henry «The Gift of the Magi» (a Christmas story for beginners). Part 2

Words for part 2:

  1. expression — выражение
  2. I had my hair cut. — Я обрезала волосы.
  3. combs — зд. гребни
  4. the Magi — волхвы
  5. Baby Jesus — младенец Иисус
  6. treasure — сокровище

Part 2

Jim was never late coming home from work. Della held the silver chain in her hand and sat near the door. Then she heard his step and she turned white for just a minute. She whispered: «Please God, make him think I am still pretty.»

The door opened and Jim stepped in. He looked thin and very serious. Poor man, he was only twenty-two and he had to care for a wife. He needed a new coat and gloves to keep his hands warm.

Jim stopped inside the door, when he saw Della. There was an expression in his eyes that she could not understand, and it frightened her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor fear. He simply looked at her with a strange expression on his face. Della went to him.

«Jim, my love,» she cried, «do not look at me that way. I had my hair cut and sold because I wanted to give you a gift. My hair will grow out again. It grows very fast. Say ‘Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let us be happy. You do not know what a nice— what a beautiful, nice gift I have for you.»

«You have cut off your hair?» asked Jim, slowly, as if he had not understood her words.

«Cut it off and sold it,» said Della. «Do you not like me just as well? I am the same person without my hair, right?

Jim looked about the room as if he were looking for something. Then he took a package from his coat and threw it on the table.

«I do not think there is any haircut that could make me like my girl less,» he said. «But if you open that package you may see why you frightened me at first.»

She quickly tore the string and paper. There was a scream of joy; and then, alas! a change to tears and cries. For there were the combs that Della had wanted ever since she saw them in a shop window. Beautiful combs, made of shells, with jewels at the edge. They cost a lot of money, she had wanted them without ever hoping to have them. And now, the beautiful combs were hers, but the hair was gone.

She held the combs and said with a smile, «My hair grows so fast, Jim!»

Then Della jumped up and cried, «Oh, oh!» Jim had not yet seen his beautiful gift. She held it out to him in her open hands. The silver chain seemed so bright.

«Isn’t it wonderful, Jim? I looked all over town to find it. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.»

But Jim said nothing and fell on the couch, smiling. «Dell,» said he, «let us put our Christmas gifts away and keep them a while. They are too nice to use just right now. I sold my gold watch to get the money to buy the combs for your hair.»

The magi who brought gifts to the Baby Jesus were wise men. They invented the art of giving Christmas gifts. And their gifts were wise. This is a story of two young people who gave for each other their greatest treasures. It tells us that love and sacrifice is the greatest gift in the world.

3 thoughts on “O. Henry. The Christmas story «The Gift of the Magi» (for beginners)
  1. Natalja says:

    Спасибо за ваш сайт. Интересные истории, только все они с печальным концом.

    • Tatiana says:

      Не все,… есть еще мистические истории, смешные истории, детективы… Читайте!

  2. Евгения says:

    Спасибо за прекрасный адаптированный рассказ!

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