The Monkey's Paw (Part 1a) by W.W. Jacobs (simplified)

monkey1.jpg

Outside, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlor of Laburnam Villa, the curtains were closed and the fire burned brightly. A father and son were playing chess, the father, who had ideas about the game involving radical changes, putting his king into such unnecessary dangers that it even caused comments from the old white-haired lady knitting peacefully by the fire.

"Listen to the wind," said Mr. White, who, having seen a serious mistake after it was too late, was trying to prevent his son from seeing it.

"I'm listening," said the son, grimly looking at the board as he stretched out his hand. "Check."

"I don’t think that he'll come tonight," said his father, with his hand over the board.

"Mate," replied the son.

"That's the worst part of living so far out of town," cried Mr. White. "This is the most horrible, wet, out-of-the-way place to live in. The pathway's a bog, and the road's a torrent."

"Never mind, dear," said his wife, soothingly, "perhaps you'll win the next one."

Mr. White looked up sharply, just in time to catch a glance between mother and son. The words died away on his lips, and he hid a guilty grin in his thin grey beard.

"There he is," said Herbert White, as the gate banged loudly and heavy footsteps came toward the door.

The old man rose quickly and opened the door. Mr. White re-entered the room, followed by a tall, burly man with small bright eyes and a red face.

"Sergeant-Major Morris," he said, introducing him.

The sergeant-major shook hands and, taking a seat by the fire, watched contentedly while his host got out whiskey and glasses and put a small copper kettle on the fire.

After drinking his third glass, his eyes got brighter, and he began to talk, the little family circle looked at the visitor with eager interest as he straightened his broad shoulders and spoke of wild scenes and brave deeds, of wars and plagues, and strange people in distant lands.

"Twenty-one years of it," said Mr. White, nodding at his wife and son. "When he went away he was a skinny youth in the warehouse. Now look at him."

"He doesn't look like he has had much harm," said Mrs. White, politely.

"I'd like to go to India myself," said the old man, "just to look round a bit, you know."

"Better where you are," said the sergeant-major, shaking his head. He put down the empty glass and sighed softly.

"I would like to see those old temples and fakirs and jugglers," said the old man. "What was that you started telling me the other day about a monkey's paw or something, Morris?"

"Nothing," said the soldier, hastily. "At least nothing worth hearing."

"Monkey's paw?" said Mrs. White, curiously.

"Well, it's just a bit of what you might call magic, perhaps," said the sergeant-major, offhandedly.

His three listeners leaned forward eagerly. The visitor absent-mindedly put his empty glass to his lips and then set it down again. His host filled it for him.

The sergeant-major, reaching into his pocket, said, "It's just an ordinary little paw, dried like a mummy."

He took something out of his pocket and held it out. Mrs. White drew back with a grimace, but her son, taking it, examined it curiously.

"What is special about it?" inquired Mr. White as he took it from his son and, having examined it, placed it upon the table.

"It had a spell put on it by an old fakir," said the sergeant-major, "a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives and that those who interfered with it regretted their actions. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it."

His manner was impressive and his hearers were aware that their laughter was impolite.

"Well, why don't you have three, sir?" said Herbert White, cleverly.

The soldier looked at him in the way that the middle aged regard presumptuous youth. "I have," he said, quietly, and his red face whitened.

"And did you really have the three wishes granted?" asked Mrs. White.

"I did," said the sergeant-major, and his glass tapped against his strong teeth.

"And has anybody else wished?" persisted the old lady.

"The first man had his three wishes. Yes," was the reply; "I don't know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That's how I got the paw."

His tones were so grave that the group became quiet.

"If you've had your three wishes, it's no good to you now, then, Morris," said the old man at last. "Why do you keep it?"

The soldier shook his head. "I don’t know," he said, slowly. "I did have some idea of selling it, but I don't think I will. It has caused enough mischief already. Besides, people won't buy it. Some of them think it's a fairy tale, and those who believe it want to try it first and pay me afterward."

"If you could have another three wishes," said the old man, eyeing him carefully, "would you have them?"

"I don't know," said the other. "I don't know."

He took the paw and, dangling it between his forefinger and thumb, suddenly threw it upon the fire. White, with a cry, bent down and grabbed it.

"Better let it burn," said the soldier, solemnly.

"If you don't want it, Morris," said the other, "give it to me."

"I won't," said his friend, doggedly. "I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don't blame me for what happens. Throw it on the fire again like a sensible man."

The other shook his head and examined his new possession closely. "How do you do it?" he inquired.

"Hold it up in your right hand and wish out loud," said the sergeant-major, "but I warn you of the consequences."

"Sounds like the Arabian Nights," said Mrs. White, as she rose and began to set the supper. "Don't you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me?"

Her husband drew the talisman from pocket, and then all three burst into laughter as the sergeant-major, with a look of alarm on his face, caught him by the arm.

"If you must wish," he said, gruffly, "wish for something sensible."

Mr. White dropped it back in his pocket and motioned his friend to the table. During supper, the talisman was partly forgotten, and afterward the three sat listening with interest to the second part of the soldier's adventures in India.