O. Henry's poignant short story begins with Christmas Eve just hours away. Della has long been contemplating what she can give her husband; likewise, Jim has considered the purchase of the bejeweled combs for his wife's lovely hair. They have not communicated their worries and their desires because they do not wish to spoil the surprise of their gift-giving. But, while they have not told each other about the Christmas gifts, they have daily shared their love. For, each wants to give the other something wonderful, something fine and beautiful, something that represents the deep love they have for each other.
When Jim sees Della's hair and Della discovers that Jim no longer has a watch on which to hook his new chain, they are both quiet because they are sadly disappointed. Nevertheless, their strong affection for one another overtakes their melancholy. This is why O. Henry writes that they are "the wisest."