One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all Della had. Furthermore, sixty cents of it is in the smallest denominations - pennies. The pennies were saved one or two at a time by bargaining with the men at the market who sold vegetables and meat. The bargaining made one’s face burned with the silent acknowledgement of being poor. Della counted the money three times. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. Christmas would come on the next day.
There was clearly nothing to do but to sit down and cry. So Della cried. Which led to the thought that life is made up of little cries and smiles, with more little cries than smiles.
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Della finished her crying and dried her face. She stood by the window and looked out unhappily at a grey cat walking along a grey fence in a grey back yard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day and she had only one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy her husband Jim a gift. She had been saving every penny she could for months with this result.
Jim earned twenty dollars a week, which does not go far. Expenses had been greater than she had expected. They always are. She had spent many happy hours planning to buy something nice for him. Something fine and rare. Something close to being worth the honour of 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. Her eyes were shining, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Quickly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.
Now, Mr. and Missus James Dillingham Young had two possessions which they valued. One was Jim’s gold timepiece, the watch that had been his fathers and his grandfathers. The other was Della’s hair.
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Had the Queen of Sheba lived in their building, Della would have let her hair hang out the window to dry just to reduce the value of the queen’s jewels.
Now, Della’s beautiful hair fell about her, shining like a brown waterfall. It reached below her knees and made itself look almost like a covering for her. She then quickly put it up again. She stood still while a few tears fell on the floor.
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