The Last Leaf
The Gift of the Magi & other stories
Johnsy and Sue are artists who move into Greenwich Village in New York City. As Winter approaches and the weather gets colder, Johnsy becomes ill with pneumonia. She gets so sick that she believes that when the last leaf falls from the vine outside her window, she will die.

An old artist, named Behrman, who lives in the same building as the girls, braves a storm one night to paint a leaf on the wall — a leaf that will never fall. Cold and wet from painting in the icy rain, he catches pneumonia and dies. This gives Johnsy the hope to survive her illness, and it also creates the masterpiece Behrman had always dreamed of painting.

Vocab checkpoint
approaches verb

To approach is to move towards. It is often used with seasons and special occasions (New Year, Christmas, birthdays) as in the example here, as well as with people and moving objects (vehicles, etc).

becomes verb

In this example, becomes has the same meaning as "gets". With illnesses, we often use "to fall", or "to be taken":

Johnsy fell ill/Johnsy was taken ill

pneumonia noun

Pneumonia is a serious illness of the lungs.

vine noun

A vine is like a branch (of a tree), but is actually a stem of a climbing plant (it may also be used to describe the climbing plant itself, e.g. grape vine).

braves verb

To brave as a verb, means to face an adverse or difficult situation, even though the person may not be brave (as in the meaning of the adjective: courageous).

survive verb

To survive something is to overcome a problem, illness or adverse situation. It may also be, simply, to stay alive. The noun is survivor.

masterpiece noun

A masterpiece is a great work of art, like a painting, sculpture or piece of music or writing (poetry, fiction, etc.)

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