The Monkey’s Paw – Retold
I t was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled and twigs and leaves scuffled and rattled past the house. Mr and Mrs White sat in the parlour of their cosy home, in front of a blazing fire. Mr White played chess with his only son, Herbert. His wife sat in a rocking chair knitting and watching as they played.
“WHOOOOO, WHOOOO,” went the wind. All of a sudden there was a knock at the door. Rat- tat – tat. All three Whites sat up with a start.
“Who is that knocking at my big front door,” asked Old Mr White.
“I’ll go,” said Herbert, “and find out.” And off he went to answer the door.
On the doorstep stood a giant of a gentleman in a soldier’s uniform. “My name,” he said, “is Sergeant Major Morris. May I come in?”
Sergeant Major Morris was an old friend of Mr White. He walked out of the gloomy hallway and stepping in he shook hands with Mr White and Mrs White and with Herbert. Mrs White went to get him a nice cup of tea.
N ow the Sergeant Major had been in the army in India. He sat down and told them all about his life as a soldier. He and had seen many exciting things. They all sat round. First he told them about palaces and temples, beggars and Kings. Then he told them about high mountains and wide rivers and they learned more and more about a magical land full of wonders.
They heard about mangoes and bananas about coconuts and breadfruit. About tea plantations and palm trees – about deserts and jungles. “There are holy cows and elephants and crocodiles and everywhere you go there are lots and lots of monkeys.” said the Sergeant Major.
In their minds they could imagine these strange and wonderful Lands. Most of all they enjoyed hearing about the market places with their jugglers, snake charmers, magicians (or Fakirs) and a man who performed the Indian rope trick. Morris told them how the man had played a pipe and a rope had uncoiled and risen slowly until it stood straight up and then a little boy had climbed up the rope. Mrs White clapped her hands with glee.
“Well, dear old friend,” said Mr White. “if I remember rightly, the last time I saw you, you started to tell me a story about a monkey’s paw.”
The Sergeant Major turned pale and even though he was a very big man and a very brave man he seemed to shrink. “I really don’t want to talk about that.” he said. Surely he couldn’t be scared, thought Mrs White.
“Oh, Please, do tell us.” begged Herbert. And they all leaned in to listen even more carefully.
“It’s only a bit of magic,” said Morris.
“Do tell us,” said Mrs White.
So he did.
“You’ve heard of a lucky rabbit’s foot?” asked Morris. The Whites agreed that a rabbit’s paw was sometimes said to bring good luck. “But it isn’t very good luck for the rabbit!,” said Herbert.
The Sergeant Major reached into his pocket and brought out a tiny little hand. It looked just like your hand or mine – but very small and rather furry hand.
“This,” said Morris, “is a magical monkey’s paw. But unlike the rabbit’s foot this brings both good luck and bad.”
“Oh do PLEASE tell us about it?” asked Herbert.
A nd slowly Sergeant Major Morris told his tale. He told how the Monkey’s Paw had a magic spell put on it. It would grant three wishes to three owners but the Fakir who had cast the magic spell had warned the first owner. The warning was that he who plays with magic was plays with Fate.
Morris told them that the first owner had made three wishes but he was so unhappy that his third wish was TO DIE!!
“Well Sergeant Major, did you have your three wishes?” asked Old Mrs White.
“Yes,” said Sergeant Major Morris, “I did,” But by now he was shaking with fright and wouldn’t tell them any more.
B y now the fearless Sergeant Major Morris was so afraid that he said his goodbyes and rushed off into the night leaving the monkey’s paw in the candlelight in the middle of the table. As he went he was mumbling words of warning. Clearly he was in a big hurry to get away.
Old Mr White seized the little monkey’s paw from the table and said, “Now it’s our turn. Now the paw is ours!”
“Well,” asked Herbert. “Did you believe his story?” Both Mrs White and Mr White said they didn’t REALLY believe it. But curiously they were all deeply troubled by what their visitor had said.
“I still don’t believe it and I’m not scared.” said Mr White “and to prove it. I’m going to make a wish.”
He rubbed the little hand one, two, three times, and wished for two hundred pounds (which was a lot of money in those days.) The hand seemed to wriggle and wriggle in his hand.
BOOOOOM. There was a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder so loud that the whole house shook. As quickly as the storm had started the wind died away and all was quiet. They stood around in shock but nothing else happened. No money floated from the ceiling. They searched high and low but no matter how hard they looked, the Monkey’s Paw had not given them the money. “Pah!” said Mr White, “See! I told you so! F- A- K- E- R- S not Fakirs” and off they went to bed.
I n the morning Herbert kissed his mother and his father and went off to work at the timber mill in the normal way.
Later on that day after the terrible storm, there was another knock at the White’s front door, Rat- tat – tat. With Herbert at work this time Mr White said, “I’ll go,” and off he went to answer the door.
At the door stood an undertaker dressed from head to foot in black, with a tall round top hat in his hands.
“I have some terrible news,” said the undertaker. “There has been an awful accident at the wood mill.”
“Aaaargh!” Shrieked Mrs White while Mr White just stood and trembled.
The undertaker fiddled with his hat and struggled to tell them, “Your poor son was killed today in an accident.” He bowed his head and went on, “The Mill says they are not to blame but to show how sorry they are, they are giving you a payment of two hundred pounds.” Nervously he handed over an envelope full of money.
Of course the Whites were sad but they were also in shock. Oh, their poor dear Herbert.
With the undertaker gone, they could only think of the monkey’s paw and what had happened to their one and only son. Their wish had been granted but now they had lost Herbert for ever.
Mrs White in her tears suddenly had a thought, “We still have the monkey’s paw - I will wish him back to life.” Grabbing at the paw she stroked it one, two, three times, and she wished her wish. “I wish that our son should come back to us.”
By now it was dark and stormy again outside. “WHOOOOO, WHOOOO,” went the wind.
W ith a start, Poor Old Mr White immediately knew that his wife had made a terrible mistake – she should have said “I wish that our son should come back to us ALIVE.”
For now he knew that every wish came a dreadful stroke of fate. And as he thought about what his wife had done there came an eerie scraping and knocking at the door. Someone was trying to get in. And somehow he knew that this was their dear dead son Herbert.
“I’ll go,” said Mrs White. And off she went to answer the door.
But before she could answer it, with a quaking heart, Mr White rushed to pick up the monkey’s paw and stroking it one, two, three times, he made one last wish. His wish was made and having undone Mrs White’s wish the noise at their front door stopped.
He hugged his wife before throwing the monkey’s paw onto the fire. They both watched as it burst into a flash of twinkles, and then with a - POOOUF - it was gone.