The night was cold and wet. In the small living room, the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were playing chess.
"Listen to that wind," said Mr. White. Outside, the wind howled softly.
"I'm listening," said Mr. White's son, surveying the chessboard. "Check."
"I don't think that he'd come tonight," said his father.
"Checkmate!" replied the son.
The Whites lived in the countryside. The nearest town was miles away and the nearest neighbour was far away.
"There he is," said Mr. White, as the gate banged to loud and heavy footsteps coming towards the door.
Mr. White opened the door and introduced the guest, "This is Sergeant-Major Morris."
The sergeant-major shook hands and sat by the fire. His host offered him whisky.
At the third glass his eyes got brighter, and he began to talk. The White family listened with eager interest as the Sergeant-Major Morris spoke of strange tales from India − of wars and plagues and strange people.
"Twenty-one years of it," said Mr. White, nodding at his wife and son. "When he went away, he was a youth. Now look at him."
"I'd like to go to India myself," continued 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 sighing softly, shook it again.
"I would like to see those old temples, 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. "Nothing worth hearing."
"Monkey's paw?" said Mrs. White curiously.
His three listeners leaned forward eagerly.
"The Monkey's Paw," said the sergeant-major, fumbling in his pocket, "is just an ordinary little paw, dried like a mummy.”
He took something out of his pocket and showed it. Mrs. White drew back with a grimace, but her son, taking it, examined it curiously.
"And 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 did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it."
Sergeant-Major – a rank in the army.
Plague – an infectious disease that spreads quickly and causes death.
Fakir – a Hindu holy man, said to possess mysterious powers.