A Short Story For Saturday

Though Halloween was yesterday, it still seems fitting to feature a classic, frightful short story, W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey Paw,” this weekend. The story begins with the White family at home on a cold and wet night, with father and son playing chess, when a visitor arrives at their door:

The Sargeant-Major took hands and taking the proffered seat by the fire, watched contentedly as his host got out whiskey and tumblers and stood a small copper kettle on the fire.

At the third glass his eyes got brighter, and he began to talk, the little family circle regarding with eager interest this visitor from distant parts, as he squared his broad shoulders in the chair and spoke of wild scenes and doughty deeds; of wars and plagues and strange peoples.

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

“He don’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 Sargeant-Major, shaking his head. He put down the empty glass and sighning softly, shook it again.

“I should like to see those old temples and fakirs and jugglers,” 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 hastily. “Leastways, 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 Sargeant-Major off-handedly.

Keep reading here. For more of Jacobs’ short fiction, check out The Monkey’s Paw and Other Tales of Mystery and the Macabre. Previous SSFSs here.