The following is an excerpt from a much loved Christmas story from my huge anthology of American Christmas classics HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: BEST LOVED STORIES OF ALL TIME now on sale as a Black Friday Special for 99 cents!

Christmas is about giving, sharing, helping, and most of all, love. ♥

star magi

by O. Henry

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.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name “Mr. James Dillingham Young.”

The “Dillingham” had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called “Jim” and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling—something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

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.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the “Sofronie.”

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight at the looks of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

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 and not by meretricious ornamentation—as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. 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.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends–a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do—oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty seven cents?”

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.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two—and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

“Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again—you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!’ Jim, and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice—what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well, anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you—sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year—what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

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 jeweled 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.

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!”

And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. 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.♥


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“Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” by Mark Twain – An American Classic

mark twainFirst published in Harper’s Magazine in 1906 and then anthologized in THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER AND OTHER STORIES, this short remiscence of the young Twain pursuing a clever and cunning turkey hen over hill and dale with his paltry single shot shotgun never fails to please. Told from the vantage point of maturity and equipped with a fine sense of the ridiculous (including that of his own irrational youthful persistence), Twain is at his understated best and shows a remarkable appreciation for the wiles and female huffiness of this amazing old bird.  His sympathy for her is palpable and his reverence for her clever tactics highly amusing.  She has a personality not unlike the typical American mother of his day, prim, proper, adamant and certain of her own superiority, particularly to this brash brainless young man determined to “bag her.”

I re-read it every year around Thanksgiving and always laugh and finish with a smile on my face.

Twain was the quintessential American author of his time, much loved, honored and widely read.  There has never been a popular author so verbally adept, witty, subtle and in tune with his audience as Twain.  He is a national treasure.

[BTW I have a large flock of fat turkey hens in my back pasture and observe them from my kitchen window regularly.  I can confirm they behave in much the same way as Twain's intended prissy prey: superior, cagey, self-assured, and so very huffy feminine. So funny!]

Hope you enjoy this. We were all young once and took off after an impossible dream or two only to fall flat and wind up exhausted and humbled :)


When I was a boy my uncle and his big boys hunted with the rifle, the
youngest boy Fred and I with a shotgun–a small single-barrelled shotgun
which was properly suited to our size and strength; it was not much
heavier than a broom. We carried it turn about, half an hour at a time.
I was not able to hit anything with it, but I liked to try. Fred and
I hunted feathered small game, the others hunted deer, squirrels, wild
turkeys, and such things. My uncle and the big boys were good shots.
They killed hawks and wild geese and such like on the wing; and they
didn’t wound or kill squirrels, they stunned them. When the dogs treed
a squirrel, the squirrel would scamper aloft and run out on a limb
and flatten himself along it, hoping to make himself invisible in
that way–and not quite succeeding. You could see his wee little ears
sticking up. You couldn’t see his nose, but you knew where it was. Then
the hunter, despising a “rest” for his rifle, stood up and took
offhand aim at the limb and sent a bullet into it immediately under
the squirrel’s nose, and down tumbled the animal, unwounded, but
unconscious; the dogs gave him a shake and he was dead. Sometimes when
the distance was great and the wind not accurately allowed for, the
bullet would hit the squirrel’s head; the dogs could do as they pleased
with that one–the hunter’s pride was hurt, and he wouldn’t allow it to
go into the gamebag.

In the first faint gray of the dawn the stately wild turkeys would be
stalking around in great flocks, and ready to be sociable and answer
invitations to come and converse with other excursionists of their kind.
The hunter concealed himself and imitated the turkey-call by sucking
the air through the leg-bone of a turkey which had previously answered
a call like that and lived only just long enough to regret it. There is
nothing that furnishes a perfect turkey-call except that bone. Another
of Nature’s treacheries, you see. She is full of them; half the time she
doesn’t know which she likes best–to betray her child or protect it.
In the case of the turkey she is badly mixed: she gives it a bone to be
used in getting it into trouble, and she also furnishes it with a trick
for getting itself out of the trouble again. When a mamma-turkey answers
an invitation and finds she has made a mistake in accepting it, she does
as the mamma-partridge does–remembers a previous engagement–and goes
limping and scrambling away, pretending to be very lame; and at the same
time she is saying to her not-visible children, “Lie low, keep still,
don’t expose yourselves; I shall be back as soon as I have beguiled this
shabby swindler out of the country.”

turkey henWhen a person is ignorant and confiding, this immoral device can
have tiresome results. I followed an ostensibly lame turkey over a
considerable part of the United States one morning, because I believed
in her and could not think she would deceive a mere boy, and one who
was trusting her and considering her honest. I had the single-barreled
shotgun, but my idea was to catch her alive. I often got within rushing
distance of her, and then made my rush; but always, just as I made my
final plunge and put my hand down where her back had been, it wasn’t
there; it was only two or three inches from there and I brushed the
tail-feathers as I landed on my stomach–a very close call, but still
not quite close enough; that is, not close enough for success, but just
close enough to convince me that I could do it next time. She always
waited for me, a little piece away, and let on to be resting and greatly
fatigued; which was a lie, but I believed it, for I still thought her
honest long after I ought to have begun to doubt her, suspecting that
this was no way for a high-minded bird to be acting. I followed, and
followed, and followed, making my periodical rushes, and getting up and
brushing the dust off, and resuming the voyage with patient confidence;
indeed, with a confidence which grew, for I could see by the change of
climate and vegetation that we were getting up into the high latitudes,
and as she always looked a little tireder and a little more discouraged
after each rush, I judged that I was safe to win, in the end, the
competition being purely a matter of staying power and the advantage
lying with me from the start because she was lame.

Along in the afternoon I began to feel fatigued myself. Neither of us
had had any rest since we first started on the excursion, which was
upwards of ten hours before, though latterly we had paused awhile after
rushes, I letting on to be thinking about something else; but neither of
us sincere, and both of us waiting for the other to call game but in no
real hurry about it, for indeed those little evanescent snatches of rest
were very grateful to the feelings of us both; it would naturally be
so, skirmishing along like that ever since dawn and not a bite in the
meantime; at least for me, though sometimes as she lay on her side
fanning herself with a wing and praying for strength to get out of this
difficulty a grasshopper happened along whose time had come, and that
was well for her, and fortunate, but I had nothing–nothing the whole

More than once, after I was very tired, I gave up taking her alive, and
was going to shoot her, but I never did it, although it was my right,
for I did not believe I could hit her; and besides, she always stopped
and posed, when I raised the gun, and this made me suspicious that
she knew about me and my marksmanship, and so I did not care to expose
myself to remarks.

I did not get her, at all. When she got tired of the game at last, she
rose from almost under my hand and flew aloft with the rush and whir
of a shell and lit on the highest limb of a great tree and sat down and
crossed her legs and smiled down at me, and seemed gratified to see me
so astonished.

I was ashamed, and also lost; and it was while wandering the woods
hunting for myself that I found a deserted log cabin and had one of
the best meals there that in my life-days I have eaten. The weed-grown
garden was full of ripe tomatoes, and I ate them ravenously, though I
had never liked them before. Not more than two or three times since have
I tasted anything that was so delicious as those tomatoes. I surfeited
myself with them, and did not taste another one until I was in middle
life. I can eat them now, but I do not like the look of them. I suppose
we have all experienced a surfeit at one time or another. Once, in
stress of circumstances, I ate part of a barrel of sardines, there being
nothing else at hand, but since then I have always been able to get
along without sardines. ##

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T.S. Eliot Reads “The Journey of the Magi” – ancient intonations

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Catch the Spirit, Refresh Your Soul!

home for christmas cover

5.0 out of 5 stars An Anthology Full of Christmas Inspiration November 14, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
In this day and age it is far too easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas. Some would even say it is no longer politically correct to use the word Christmas. The season has been entirely commercialized and the magical feelings once inspired by the big day are now replaced with stress and strife. Traditions are fading fast and many simply view it as a day to receive material items and electronic gadgets. I am entirely guilty of contributing to the commercialization. A day that once inspired feelings of peace and wonderment now makes me break out in hives as I compile my lengthy list of parties I feel obliged to attend and presents I feel obligated to purchase.

“Home for Christmas” allowed me to feel the magic of the season once again. It may sound silly to some, but I was nearly in tears after reading the first story, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. It is a story with which I was familiar from childhood. The memories it induced hit me like a ton of bricks. It made me nostalgic. I actually got a little teary eyed at its simple beauty and message. It made me realize this collection was one which I needed to share. It also brought me to the realization that I had severely lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas and inspired me to make a few immediate changes on my Holiday to-do and to-purchase lists. These stories returned my sense of appreciation for the day in a way that I had long lost. They are a rich and varied compilation of stories that will deliver an instant appreciation of the power they hold to inspire. This beautiful anthology has personally inspired me share it with others in hopes of instilling or invoking that magical feeling the Christmas season should bring. This isn’t the usual Kindle book that you read and disregard. You will want to keep this one around to read again, read to your children and read for simple inspiration. I do not know of any other compilation of such length or variety. “Home for Christmas” is the perfect title because it is impossible for anyone of any age to read through and not find multiple stories that hit home. If you are lacking in Christmas inspiration, this anthology is a certain and immediate fix.”

Over 500 pages of Christmas classics, a book to read aloud and share with family and friends during the holiday season. Something for all ages. Inspiring, heartwarming.
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“The way hope builds his house” — Emily Dickinson (Manuscript)


E.D. had difficult handwriting and wrote on anything handy. She did not leave polished manuscripts of her poems for publication in most cases.  This was eventually published as poem #1481 and dated c. 1879   “The way Hope builds his House/It is not a sill–/Nor Rafter has that Edifice/But only Pinnacle–/Abode in  as supreme/This superfices/As if it were Ledges smit/Or mortised with the Laws–” It also should be noted her verse became more cryptic and elliptical in her later years–almost as if the poems were notes to herself.

Originally posted on Biblioklept:


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Dangerous Times

This is off-topic but has become THE topic for me recently as a result of some heartbreaking events I have observed and tried to ameliorate. So excuse the soapbox schtick and oratory but attend.  This is important. More important than anything else.


Everyone has experienced it at one time or another, some more than others.

My shoulder sometimes stays wet for days from the tears or the wounded or dying. And I know myself personally and deeply how it feels, how it hurts.

We are all perps, some more than others. But the pain and personal damage we cause must finally be called out, for this has become a very discourteous and dangerous practice in this age without feeling or conscience. Yes, this internet age.

An age of depersonalization, “friending” and “liking.” How we have up ended and eviscerated these old vital verities. It does not bode well for the human race or the planet to have gutted what really matters and replaced them with vacuities, farces and frauds.

An era in which acknowledgement and response are either balm or, if withheld, spell “you don’t exist, you are nothing, or less.”

We all get tons of unsolicited junk email and texts. Delete, delete, delete. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s essential to one’s mental health and survival to sweep the infectious communications crap out of our lives.

But I have come to the conclusion that to ignore a friend’s or former associate’s email or text is tantamount to flushing them down the toilet, particularly those emails and texts in which they are reaching out for help or encouragement in a tough time.

Yeah, we may not have a solution or answer to what troubles them, what the problem is consuming them, we probably don’t, and that makes us uncomfortable, or worse we decide they don’t “matter” anymore, aren’t players,not in the game anymore and can’t help us!

Particularly execrable–see the Inferno on that attitude.

But if we are half-way human we can at the very least commiserate, show we care and that’s the important thing. Compassion, empathy. Comforting, encouragement.

I’m convinced there’s an especially hot tormenting place in hell for people who ignore personal cries from the heart from others.

“Love one another as I have loved you.”

It is our responsibility as human beings to care for one another. Ignoring someone we have known who has reached out to us and shared his or her troubles, whether by email, text or voice mail, someone we in the past befriended or worked with, that is, someone we had a relationship with, is a deliberate act of trying to snuff them out, kill them emotionally, and it exponentially increases their pain and confusion.

To ignore someone is the equivalent of inflicting incredible lasting damage to them. There is no excuse for it, forget how busy we all are.We are NOT that busy. We are shamefully self-absorbed, selfish.

If we lose our capacity for compassion, we are all lost.

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Mystery Book Tour Day 10 #MysteryNovember Marlin, Darlin’ by Margaret Langstaff


Read all about it! Breaking news! Thank you, Rosie, and your stalwart and kind team of avid readers! Beautiful people, one and all!

Originally posted on Rosie Amber:

November Mystery Tour

Today’s guest on the Mystery November Book Tour is Margaret Langstaff with her book Marlin, Darlin’

Marlin Darlin

Where is your home town?

You ask about my current home town. Well, I have lived on a lovely small farm just west of Gainesville, FL since 2002. Lots of wonderfully crazy animals, both domestic and wild. Six rescue dogs, horses and chickens and wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, red tail hawks, you name it. We have a high old time here. I love it. Every day has its surprises. One morning I had a lost Emu show up at my front door! My dogs went bonkers—it made an electrical jazzy noise—but that’s nothing, don’t get me started. Snakes on my front doorstep, bugs the size of drones. Florida in many areas is still really wild and my little farm is a perfect example.

How long have you been writing?

Though I’d ghost-written many books…

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