Haggling with the greengrocer, grocer, and butcher so that her ears burned, Della only collected a dollar and eighty-five cents.
With these pennies she had to buy Jim a Christmas present.
Jim and Della were renting a furnished apartment whose furnishings were not so much blatant poverty, but rather eloquent poverty. Jim's earnings had recently declined considerably, and the young couple had not had an easy time. The family had two treasures: Della's luxurious hair, before which the jewels of the Queen of Sheba herself would pale, and Jim's gold watch, which King Solomon himself would have envied.
After a few tears of disappointment, Della stared into the narrow truce, and a brilliant idea occurred to her. She dressed quickly, went outside, and soon stopped near a sign for "All Kinds of Hair Products." For twenty dollars she sold her luxurious braids and used the proceeds to buy Jim a platinum chain for his watch.
When she returned home, Della was suddenly afraid that her husband would dislike her with this short haircut, and she "set about repairing the damage done by generosity combined with love. She heated a pair of tongs, curled her hair into fine curls, and looked remarkably like a boy who had escaped from school.
When Jim came home, frozen without gloves, he looked at his wife with either surprise or horror or anger. Neither the new haircut nor any other reason could have made Jim dislike his wife, but he could not fathom the fact that Della no longer had cos. At last Jim pulled out a bundle containing a set of tortoiseshell combs with shiny stones - the object of Della's secret desires. In return, she presented her husband with the chain. But her gift, like Jim's, had to be hidden for now: Jim had pawned the watch to buy his wife the combs.
...Of all the givers, these two were the wisest. Of all those who give and receive gifts, only those like them are truly wise. Everywhere and everywhere. They are the wise men.
The retelling is based on a translation by E. Kalashnikova from The Works of O. Henry in Three Volumes (M.: Pravda, 1975).