I think I read a short about a woman who is trying to save up for a gift, and realized that she doesn't have enough money to buy her husband anything significant. While she is looking at her saved money, she thinks about her penny pinching, including "bullying" the butcher to save money on produce purchases. I'm not sure about the ending, but for some reason, it ends with the women having a tortoise hair clip or something similar. Does anyone remember a short story like that?

1 Answer 1


"The Gift of the Magi", by O. Henry

A husband and wife both buy each other thoughtful gifts, but in the process are forced to sell things (his watch, her hair) which the gifts (a watch chain, some hair combs) were meant for. The story opens with her considering her small savings, including a bit about bullying/"bulldozing":

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

She is given tortoise shell hair combs as a gift, at the end:

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

Method of finding: recognition from having read the thing before, most recently due to this question.

  • 6
    Parodied by xkcd: xkcd.com/506 Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 12:39
  • 2
    Inflation calculators don't go back as far as 1905 but $1.87 is like $60 nowadays. Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 15:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.