Outside, the night was cold and wet, but in the small living room the curtains were closed and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were playing chess; the father, whose ideas about the game involved some very unusual moves, putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary danger that it even brought comment from the white-haired old lady knitting quietly by the fire. “Listen to the wind,” said Mr. White who, having seen a mistake that could cost him the game after it was too late, was trying to stop his son from seeing it. “I’m listening,” said the son, seriously studying the board as he stretched out his hand. “Check.” “I should hardly think that he’ll come tonight,” said his father, with his hand held in the air over the board. “Mate,” replied the son. “That’s the worst of living so far out,” cried Mr. White with sudden and unexpected violence; “Of all the awful out of the way places to live in, this is the worst. Can’t walk on the footpath without getting stuck in the mud, and the road’s a river. I don’t know what the people are thinking about. I suppose they think it doesn’t matter because only two houses in the road have people in them.” “Never mind, dear,” said his wife calmly; “perhaps you’ll win the next one.” Mr. White looked up sharply, just in time to see a knowing look between mother and son. The words died away on his lips, and he hid a guilty smile in his thin grey beard. “There he is,” said Herbert White as the gate banged shut loudly and heavy footsteps came toward the door. The old man rose quickly and opening the door, was heard telling the new arrival how sorry he was for his recent loss. The new arrival talked about his sadness, so that Mrs. White said, “Tut, tut!” and coughed gently as her husband entered the room followed by a tall, heavy built, strong-looking man, whose skin had the healthy reddish colour associated with outdoor life and whose eyes showed that he could be a dangerous enemy. “Sergeant-Major Morris,” he said, introducing him to his wife and his son, Herbert. The Sergeant-Major shook hands and, taking the offered seat by the fire, watched with satisfaction as Mr. White got out whiskey and glasses. After the third glass his eyes got brighter and he began to talk. The little family circle listened with growing interest to this visitor from distant parts, as he squared his broad shoulders in the chair and spoke of wild scenes and brave acts; of wars and strange peoples. “Twenty-one years of it,” said Mr. White, looking at his wife and son. “When he went away he was a thin young man. Now look at him.” “He doesn’t look to have taken much harm.” said Mrs. White politely. “I’d like to go to India myself,” said the old man, just to look around a bit, you know.” “Better where you are,” said the Sergeant-Major, shaking his head. He put down the empty glass and sighing softly, shook it again. “I should like to see those old temples and fakirs and the street entertainers,” said the old man. “What was that that you started telling me the other day about a monkey’s paw or something, Morris?” “Nothing.” said the soldier quickly. “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, without first stopping to think. His three listeners leaned forward excitedly. Deep in thought, the visitor put his empty glass to his lips and then set it down again. Mr. White filled it for him again. “To look at it,” said the Sergeant-Major, feeling about in his pocket, “it’s just an ordinary little paw, dried to a mummy.” He took something out of his pocket and held it out for them. Mrs. White drew back with a look of disgust, but her son, taking it, examined it curiously. “And what is there special about it?” asked 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 tried to change it would be sorry. He put a spell on it so that three different men could each have three wishes from it.” The way he told the story showed that he truly believed it and his listeners became aware that their light laughter was out of place and had hurt him a little. “Well, why don’t you have three, sir?” said Herbert, cleverly. The soldier looked at him the way that the middle aged usually look at disrespectful youth. “I have,” he said quietly, and his 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?” continued 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 voice was so serious that the group fell quiet. “If you’ve had your three wishes it’s no good to you now then Morris,” said the old man at last. “What do you keep it for?” The soldier shook his head. “Fancy I suppose,” he said slowly. “I did have some idea of selling it, but I don’t think I will. It has caused me enough trouble already. Besides, people won’t buy. They think it’s just a story, some of them; and those who do think anything of it want to try it first and pay me afterward.” “If you could have another three wishes,” said the old man, watching him carefully, “would you have them?” “I don’t know,” said the other. “I don’t know.” He took the paw, and holding it between his front finger and thumb, suddenly threw it upon the fire. Mr. White, with a slight cry, quickly bent down and took it off. “Better let it burn,” said the soldier sadly, but in a way that let them know he believed it to be true. “If you don’t want it Morris,” said the other, “give it to me.” “I won’t.” said his friend with stubborn determination. “I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don’t hold me responsible for what happens. Throw it on the fire like a sensible man.” The other shook his head and examined his possession closely. “How do you do it?” he asked. “Hold it up in your right hand, and state your wish out loud so that you can be heard,” said the Sergeant-Major, “But I warn you of what might happen.” “Sounds like the ‘Arabian Nights’”, said Mrs. White, as she rose and began to set the dinner. “Don’t you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me.” Her husband drew the talisman from his pocket, and all three laughed loudly as the Sergeant-Major, with a look of alarm on his face, caught him by the arm. “If you must wish,” he demanded, “Wish for something sensible.” Mr. White dropped it back in his pocket, and placing chairs, motioned his friend to the table. In the business of dinner the talisman was partly forgotten, and afterward the three sat fascinated as the listened to more of the soldier’s adventures in India. “If the tale about the monkey’s paw is not more truthful than those he has been telling us,” said Herbert, as the door closed behind their guest, just in time to catch the last train, “we shan’t make much out of it.” “Did you give anything for it, father?” asked Mrs. White, watching her husband closely. “A little,” said he, colouring slightly, “He didn’t want it, but I made him take it. And he pressed me again to throw it away.” “Not likely!” said Herbert, with pretended horror. “Why, we’re going to be rich, and famous, and happy.” Smiling, he said, “Wish to be a king, father, to begin with; then mother can’t complain allthe time.” He ran quickly around the table, chased by the laughing Mrs White armed with a piece of cloth. Mr. White took the paw from his pocket and eyed it doubtfully. “I don’t know what to wish for, and that’s a fact,” he said slowly. “It seems to me I’ve got all I want.” “If you only paid off the house, you’d be quite happy, wouldn’t you!” said Herbert, with his hand on his shoulder. “Well, wish for two hundred pounds, then; that’ll just do it.” His father, smiling and with an embarrassed look for his foolishness in believing the soldier’s story, held up the talisman. Herbert, with a serious face, spoiled only by a quick smile to his mother, sat down at the piano and struck a few grand chords. “I wish for two hundred pounds,” said the old man clearly. A fine crash from the piano greeted his words, broken by a frightened cry from the old man. His wife and son ran toward him. “It moved,” he cried, with a look of horror at the object as it lay on the floor. “As I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake.” “Well, I don’t see the money,” said his son, as he picked it up and placed it on the table, “and I bet I never shall.” “It must have been your imagination, father,” said his wife, regarding him worriedly. He shook his head. “Never mind, though; there’s no harm done, but it gave me a shock all the same.” They sat down by the fire again while the two men finished their pipes. Outside, the wind was higher than ever, and the old man jumped nervously at the sound of a door banging upstairs. An unusual and depressing silence settled on all three, which lasted until the old couple got up to to go to bed. “I expect you’ll find the cash tied up in a big bag in the middle of your bed,” said Herbert, as he wished them goodnight, “and something horrible sitting on top of your wardrobe watching you as you pocket your ill-gotten money. Herbert, who normally had a playful nature and didn’t like to take things too seriously, sat alone in the darkness looking into the dying fire. He saw faces in it; the last so horrible and so monkey-like that he stared at it in amazement. It became so clear that, with a nervous laugh, he felt on the table for a glass containing some water to throw over it. His hand found the monkey’s paw, and with a little shake of his body he wiped his hand on his coat and went up to bed.