What makes one city different from another city? Is it the buildings, the weather, the people? It is the people who make a city, and to know a city, you must know its people. You must know what makes them laugh and cry, know the small details of their everyday lives. What kind of people lived in New York at the beginning of the twentieth century? Are New Yorkersdifferent now from a hundred years ago? Cities grow bigger with the years, new buildings are put up and old buildings are pulled down, horses are replaced by cars and buses, fashions change. But people do not change. The New Yorkers in these stories are very different from each other, but the hopes of a tramp are as important as the hopes of a lawyer; the love of a waitress is as exciting as the loveof an actress. And we see that people's hopes and fears and dreams do not change with the years.
The Christmas Presents
ne dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. Every day, when she went to the shops, she spent very little money. She bought the cheapest meat, the cheapest vegetables. And when she was tired, she still walked round and round the shops to find the cheapest food.She saved every cent possible. Delia counted the money again. There was no mistake. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And the next day was Christmas.
She couldn't do anything about it. She could only sit down and cry. So she sat there, in the poor little room, and she cried. Delia lived in this poor little room, in New York, with her husband, James Dillingham Young. They also had abedroom, and a kitchen and a bathroom - all poor little rooms. James Dillingham Young was lucky, because he had a job, but it was not a good job. These rooms took most of his money. Delia tried to find work, but times were bad, and there was no work for her. But when Mr James Dillingham Young came
home to his rooms, Mrs James Dillingham Young called him 'Jim' and put her arms round him. Andthat was good. Delia stopped crying and she washed her face. She stood by the window, and looked out at a grey cat on a grey wall in the grey road. Tomorrow was Christmas Day, and she had only one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy Jim a Christmas present. Her Jim. She wanted very much to buy him something really fine, something to show how much she loved him. Suddenly, Delia turned round and ranover to look in the glass on the wall. Her eyes were bright. Now, the James Dillingham Youngs had two very special things. One was Jim's gold watch. It once belonged to his father, and, before that, to his grandfather. The other special thing was Delia's hair. Quickly, Delia let down her beautiful, long hair. It fell down her back, and it was almost like a coat around her. Then she put her hairup again, quickly. For a second or two she stood still, and cried a little. Then she put on her old brown coat, and her old brown hat, turned, and left the room. She went downstairs and out into the road, and her eyes were bright. She walked along by the shops, and stopped when she came to a door with 'Madame Eloise - Hair' on it.
Inside there was a fat woman. She did not look like an 'Eloise'.'Will you buy my hair?' Delia asked. 'I buy hair,' Madame replied. 'Take your hat off, then, and show me your hair.' The beautiful brown hair fell down. 'Twenty dollars,' Madame said, and she touched the hair with her hand. 'Quick! Cut it off! Give me the money!' Delia said. The next two hours went quickly. Delia was happy because she was looking round the shops for Jim's present. At last shefound it. It was a gold chain for The Watch. Jim loved his watch, but it had no chain. When Delia saw this gold chain, she knew immediately that it was right for Jim. She must have it. The shop took twenty-one dollars from her for it, and she hurried home with the eighty-seven cents. When she arrived there, she looked at her very short hair in the glass. 'What can I do with it?' she thought. For...