By Utah National Parks Council
Dec 14, 2014

Twelve Days of Christmas: A Scout is Loyal

“A Scout is Loyal.A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and nation.”

I remember hearing this tale for the first time as a child and thinking these two people were pretty stupid, but over the years I have come see see that their love and loyalty for each other is what caused them to act the way they did.

After reading this story, reflect with your Scouts about the couple’s loyalty; ask them to list the things that showed they were loyal to each other.


Savings1One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. That’s all Della Dillingham Young had to buy a present for her beloved husband, Jim. And the next day was Christmas. Faced with such a situation, Della burst into tears on the couch, which gives the narrator the opportunity to tell us a bit more about the situation of Jim and Della. They live in a shabby flat and they’re poor. But they love each other and are loyal and devoted in every way.

Once Della had recovered herself, she went to a mirror to let down her hair and examine it. Della had beautiful, brown, knee-length hair. “Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty

watchpride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair…

brown hair“So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.”

Her hair examined, Della puts it back up and bundles up to head out into the cold. She leaves the flat and walks to Madame Sofronie’s hair goods shop, where she sells her hair for twenty bucks. Now she has $21.87.
“Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present.

“She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone. . . . As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. It was like him. Quietness and value—the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.”

Della returned home and tried to make her now-short hair presentable with a curling iron. She wasn’t convinced Jim would approve, but she did what she had to do to get him a good present. When she finished with her hair, she got to work preparing coffee and a dinner of pork chops.

“At 7 o’clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

“Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: ‘Please God, make him think I am still pretty.'”

Jim arrives to find Della waiting by the door and stares fixedly at her, not able to understand that Della’s hair is gone. Della can’t understand quite what his reaction means.

After a little while, Jim snapped out of it and gave Della her present, explaining that his reaction would make sense when she opened it. Della opened it and cries out in joy, only to burst into tears immediately afterward.

gifts“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 worn the coveted adornments were gone.

“But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “‘My hair grows so fast, Jim!'”

Once she recovered she gave Jim his present, holding out the watch chain.

gifts“She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.”

“‘Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.'”

“Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“‘Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.'”

“The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.” Loyal to one another, to a fault!

o henry
Author: O. Henry | Short story writer (O. Henry is the pen name for William Sydney Porter, September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910) You can read the complete story here.

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