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Gently, tenderly, and even proudly he denied his deepest love and presented the denial as his finest gift to restore a small girl’s dignity, to heal a small girl’s sense of treachery.
In Janice Holt Giles’ short story “The Gift”, eight year-old Sallie loves Jeff, the adult foreman of her father’s ranch. She intends to marry him. Jeff is fond of Sallie and is always kind to her, but of course, Jeff’s feelings are much different than Sallie’s.
It would be easy for this story to come off as quaint and sentimental; however, Giles keeps the story honest by telling it in third person from Sallie’s point of view. The reader gets Sallie’s emotions as complete and real as opposed to something overly romanticized. In addition, Jeff’s inevitable let down validates Sallie’s feelings instead of simply crushing them.
By the end of the story, I was quite surprised at how much dimension Giles gives these characters and how much I cared about them. It’s not the kind of story I would usually consider a favorite but it could very well be one.
While Giles is considered to be from Kentucky, this story frequently references “the prairie”. Based on other geographical references, my guess is that this story is set in Kansas. Another guess would place it somewhere toward the end of the 19th century.
This is the first work by Giles that I’ve read but I’m familiar with her name because one of the novels she wrote is titled The Kentuckians. The novel tends to be on display at bookstores in and around my hometown under the “local interest” category. Now that I’ve read one of her stories, I might have to check out this novel.
This story is included in my copy of Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. I read it when I selected the Three of Diamonds for Week 7 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.