he Monkey's Paw (1902) by W. W. Jacobs I. WITHOUT, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were at chess, the former, who possessed ideas about the game involving radical changes, putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire. "Hark at the wind," said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it. "I'm listening," said the latter, grimly surveying the board as he stretched out his hand. "Check." "I should hardly think that he'd come to-night," said his father, with his hand poised over the board. "Mate," replied the son. "That's the worst of living so far out," bawled Mr. White, with sudden and unlookedfor violence; "of all the beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst. Pathway's a bog, and the road's a torrent. I don't know what people are thinking about. I suppose because only two houses on the road are let, they think it doesn't matter." "Never mind, dear," said his wife soothingly; "perhaps you'll win the next one." Mr. White looked up sharply, just in time to intercept a knowing 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 to loudly and heavy footsteps came toward the door. The old man rose with hospitable haste, and opening the door, was heard condoling with the new arrival. The new arrival also condoled with himself, so that Mrs. White said, "Tut, tut!" and coughed gently as her husband entered the room, followed by a tall burly man, beady of eye and rubicund of visage. "Sergeant-Major Morris," he said, introducing him. The sergeant-major shook hands, and taking the proffered seat by the fire, watched contentedly while his host got out whisky 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 strange 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 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 should 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. "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 sergeant-major off-handedly. His three listeners leaned forward eagerly. The visitor absentmindedly put his empty glass to his lips and then set it down again. His host filled it for him. "To look at," said the sergeant-major, fumbling in his pocket, "it's just an ordinary little paw, dried to a mummy." He took something out of his pocket and proffered it. Mrs. White drew back with a grimace, but her son, taking it, examined it curiously. "And what is there 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." His manner was so impressive that his hearers were conscious that their light laughter jarred somewhat. "Well, why don't you have three, sir?" said Herbert White cleverly. The soldier regarded him in the way that middle age is wont to regard presumptuous youth. "I have," he said quietly, and his blotchy 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?" inquired 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 a hush fell upon the group. "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. "If you could have another three wishes," said the old man, eyeing him keenly, "would you have them?" "I don't know," said the other. "I don't know." He took the paw, and dangling it between his front finger and thumb, suddenly threw it upon the fire. White, with a slight cry, stooped down and snatched it off. "Better let it burn," said the soldier solemnly. "If you don't want it, Morris," said the old man, "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. Pitch 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 aloud,' 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 his 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 into his pocket, and placing chairs, motioned his friend to the table. In the business of supper the talisman was partly forgotten, and afterward the three sat listening in an enthralled fashion to a second instalment of the soldier's adventures in India. "If the tale about the monkey paw is not more truthful than those he has been telling us," said Herbert, as the door closed behind their guest, just in time for him to catch the last train, "we shan't make much out of it." "Did you give him anything for it, father?" inquired Mrs. White, regarding her husband closely. "A trifle," said he, colouring slightly. "He didn't want it, but I made him take it. And he pressed me again to throw it away." "Likely," said Herbert, with pretended horror. "Why, we're going to be rich, and famous, and happy. Wish to be an emperor, father, to begin with; then you can't be henpecked." He darted round the table, pursued by the maligned Mrs. White armed with an antimacassar. Mr. White took the paw from his pocket and eyed it dubiously. "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 cleared 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 shamefacedly at his own credulity, held up the talisman, as his son, with a solemn face somewhat marred by a wink at his mother, sat down at the piano and struck a few impressive chords. "I wish for two hundred pounds," said the old man distinctly. A fine crash from the piano greeted the words, interrupted by a shuddering cry from the old man. His wife and son ran toward him. "It moved, he cried, with a glance of disgust at the object as it lay on the floor. "As I wished it twisted in my hands 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 fancy, father," said his wife, regarding him anxiously. 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 started nervously at the sound of a door banging upstairs. A silence unusual and depressing settled upon all three, which lasted until the old couple rose to retire for the night. "I expect you'll find the cash tied up in a big bag in the middle of your bed," said Herbert, as he bade them good-night, "and something horrible squatting up on top of the wardrobe watching you as you pocket your ill-gotten gains." He sat alone in the darkness, gazing at the dying fire, and seeing faces in it. The last face was so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it in amazement. It got so vivid that, with a little uneasy laugh, he felt on the table for a glass containing a little water to throw over it. His hand grasped the monkey's paw, and with a little shiver he wiped his hand on his coat and went up to bed. II. IN the brightness of the wintry sun next morning as it streamed over the breakfast table Herbert laughed at his fears. There was an air of prosaic wholesomeness about the room which it had lacked on the previous night, and the dirty, shrivelled little paw was pitched on the sideboard with a carelessness which betokened no great belief in its virtues. "I suppose all old soldiers are the same," said Mrs White. "The idea of our listening to such nonsense! How could wishes be granted in these days? And if they could, how could two hundred pounds hurt you, father?" "Might drop on his head from the sky," said the frivolous Herbert. "Morris said the things happened so naturally," said his father, "that you might if you so wished attribute it to coincidence." "Well, don't break into the money before I come back," said Herbert, as he rose from the table. "I'm afraid it'll turn you into a mean, avaricious man, and we shall have to disown you." His mother laughed, and following him to the door, watched him down the road, and returning to the breakfast table, was very happy at the expense of her husband's credulity. All of which did not prevent her from scurrying to the door at the postman's knock, nor prevent her from referring somewhat shortly to retired sergeant-majors of bibulous habits when she found that the post brought a tailor's bill. "Herbert will have some more of his funny remarks, I expect, when he comes home," she said, as they sat at dinner. "I dare say," said Mr. White, pouring himself out some beer; "but for all that, the thing moved in my hand; that I'll swear to." "You thought it did," said the old lady soothingly. "I say it did," replied the other. "There was no thought about it; I had just----What's the matter?" His wife made no reply. She was watching the mysterious movements of a man outside, who, peering in an undecided fashion at the house, appeared to be trying to make up his mind to enter. In mental connection with the two hundred pounds, she noticed that the stranger was well dressed and wore a silk hat of glossy newness. Three times he paused at the gate, and then walked on again. The fourth time he stood with his hand upon it, and then with sudden resolution flung it open and walked up the path. Mrs. White at the same moment placed her hands behind her, and hurriedly unfastening the strings of her apron, put that useful article of apparel beneath the cushion of her chair. She brought the stranger, who seemed ill at ease, into the room. He gazed at her furtively, and listened in a preoccupied fashion as the old lady apologized for the appearance of the room, and her husband's coat, a garment which he usually reserved for the garden. She then waited as patiently as her sex would permit, for him to broach his business, but he was at first strangely silent. "I--was asked to call," he said at last, and stooped and picked a piece of cotton from his trousers. "I come from Maw and Meggins." The old lady started. "Is anything the matter?" she asked breathlessly. "Has anything happened to Herbert? What is it? What is it?" Her husband interposed. "There, there, mother," he said hastily. "Sit down, and don't jump to conclusions. You've not brought bad news, I'm sure, sir" and he eyed the other wistfully. "I'm sorry----" began the visitor. "Is he hurt?" demanded the mother. The visitor bowed in assent. "Badly hurt," he said quietly, "but he is not in any pain." "Oh, thank God!" said the old woman, clasping her hands. "Thank God for that! Thank----" She broke off suddenly as the sinister meaning of the assurance dawned upon her and she saw the awful confirmation of her fears in the other's averted face. She caught her breath, and turning to her slower-witted husband, laid her trembling old hand upon his. There was a long silence. "He was caught in the machinery," said the visitor at length, in a low voice. "Caught in the machinery," repeated Mr. White, in a dazed fashion, "yes." He sat staring blankly out at the window, and taking his wife's hand between his own, pressed it as he had been wont to do in their old courting days nearly forty years before. "He was the only one left to us," he said, turning gently to the visitor. "It is hard." The other coughed, and rising, walked slowly to the window. "The firm wished me to convey their sincere sympathy with you in your great loss," he said, without looking round. "I beg that you will understand I am only their servant and merely obeying orders." There was no reply; the old woman's face was white, her eyes staring, and her breath inaudible; on the husband's face was a look such as his friend the sergeant might have carried into his first action. "I was to say that Maw and Meggins disclaim all responsibility," continued the other. "They admit no liability at all, but in consideration of your son's services they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation." Mr. White dropped his wife's hand, and rising to his feet, gazed with a look of horror at his visitor. His dry lips shaped the words, "How much?" "Two hundred pounds," was the answer. Unconscious of his wife's shriek, the old man smiled faintly, put out his hands like a sightless man, and dropped, a senseless heap, to the floor. III. IN the huge new cemetery, some two miles distant, the old people buried their dead, and came back to a house steeped in shadow and silence. It was all over so quickly that at first they could hardly realize it, and remained in a state of expectation as though of something else to happen--something else which was to lighten this load, too heavy for old hearts to bear. But the days passed, and expectation gave place to resignation--the hopeless resignation of the old, sometimes miscalled, apathy. Sometimes they hardly exchanged a word, for now they had nothing to talk about, and their days were long to weariness. It was about a week after that that the old man, waking suddenly in the night, stretched out his hand and found himself alone. The room was in darkness, and the sound of subdued weeping came from the window. He raised himself in bed and listened. "Come back," he said tenderly. "You will be cold." "It is colder for my son," said the old woman, and wept afresh. The sound of her sobs died away on his ears. The bed was warm, and his eyes heavy with sleep. He dozed fitfully, and then slept until a sudden wild cry from his wife awoke him with a start. "The paw!" she cried wildly. "The monkey's paw!" He started up in alarm. "Where? Where is it? What's the matter?" She came stumbling across the room toward him. "I want it," she said quietly. "You've not destroyed it?" "It's in the parlour, on the bracket," he replied, marvelling. "Why?" She cried and laughed together, and bending over, kissed his cheek. "I only just thought of it," she said hysterically. "Why didn't I think of it before? Why didn't you think of it?" "Think of what?" he questioned. "The other two wishes," she replied rapidly. "We've only had one." "Was not that enough?" he demanded fiercely. "No," she cried, triumphantly; "we'll have one more. Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again." The man sat up in bed and flung the bedclothes from his quaking limbs. "Good God, you are mad!" he cried aghast. "Get it," she panted; "get it quickly, and wish---- Oh, my boy, my boy!" Her husband struck a match and lit the candle. "Get back to bed," he said, unsteadily. "You don't know what you are saying." "We had the first wish granted," said the old woman, feverishly; "why not the second." "A coincidence," stammered the old man. "Go and get it and wish," cried the old woman, quivering with excitement. The old man turned and regarded her, and his voice shook. "He has been dead ten days, and besides he--I would not tell you else, but--I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?" "Bring him back," cried the old woman, and dragged him toward the door. "Do you think I fear the child I have nursed?" He went down in the darkness, and felt his way to the parlour, and then to the mantelpiece. The talisman was in its place, and a horrible fear that the unspoken wish might bring his mutilated son before him ere he could escape from the room seized upon him, and he caught his breath as he found that he had lost the direction of the door. His brow cold with sweat, he felt his way round the table, and groped along the wall until he found himself in the small passage with the unwholesome thing in his hand. Even his wife's face seemed changed as he entered the room. It was white and expectant, and to his fears seemed to have an unnatural look upon it. He was afraid of her. "Wish!" she cried, in a strong voice. "It is foolish and wicked," he faltered. "Wish!" repeated his wife. He raised his hand. "I wish my son alive again." The talisman fell to the floor, and he regarded it fearfully. Then he sank trembling into a chair as the old woman, with burning eyes, walked to the window and raised the blind. He sat until he was chilled with the cold, glancing occasionally at the figure of the old woman peering through the window. The candle end, which had burnt below the rim of the china candlestick, was throwing pulsating shadows on the ceiling and walls, until, with a flicker larger than the rest, it expired. The old man, with an unspeakable sense of relief at the failure of the talisman, crept back to his bed, and a minute or two afterward the old woman came silently and apathetically beside him. Neither spoke, but both lay silently listening to the ticking of the clock. A stair creaked, and a squeaky mouse scurried noisily through the wall. The darkness was oppressive, and after lying for some time screwing up his courage, the husband took the box of matches, and striking one, went downstairs for a candle. At the foot of the stairs the match went out, and he paused to strike another, and at the same moment a knock, so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible, sounded on the front door. The matches fell from his hand. He stood motionless, his breath suspended until the knock was repeated. Then he turned and fled swiftly back to his room, and closed the door behind him. A third knock sounded through the house. "What's that?" cried the old woman, starting up. "A rat," said the old man, in shaking tones--"a rat. It passed me on the stairs." His wife sat up in bed listening. A loud knock resounded through the house. "It's Herbert!" she screamed. "It's Herbert!" She ran to the door, but her husband was before her, and catching her by the arm, held her tightly. "What are you going to do?" he whispered hoarsely. "It's my boy; it's Herbert!" she cried, struggling mechanically. "I forgot it was two miles away. What are you holding me for? Let go. I must open the door." "For God's sake, don't let it in," cried the old man trembling. "You're afraid of your own son," she cried, struggling. "Let me go. I'm coming, Herbert; I'm coming." There was another knock, and another. The old woman with a sudden wrench broke free and ran from the room. Her husband followed to the landing, and called after her appealingly as she hurried downstairs. He heard the chain rattle back and the bottom bolt drawn slowly and stiffly from the socket. Then the old woman's voice, strained and panting. "The bolt," she cried loudly. "Come down. I can't reach it." But her husband was on his hands and knees groping wildly on the floor in search of the paw. If he could only find it before the thing outside got in. A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house, and he heard the scraping of a chair as his wife put it down in the passage against the door. He heard the creaking of the bolt as it came slowly back, and at the same moment he found the monkey's paw, and frantically breathed his third and last wish. The knocking ceased suddenly, although the echoes of it were still in the house. He heard the chair drawn back and the door opened. A cold wind rushed up the staircase, and a long loud wail of disappointment and misery from his wife gave him courage to run down to her side, and then to the gate beyond. The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road. (End.)


he Monkey's Paw (1902) af W. W. Jacobs I. UDEN, natten var kold og våd, men i den lille stue i Laburnam Villa persiennerne var trukket for, og ilden brændte klart. Far og søn var i skak, den tidligere, der besad ideer om spillet, der involverede radikale ændringer, satte sin konge ud i så skarpe og unødvendige farer, at det endda fremkaldte kommentarer fra hvidhåret gammel dame strikker roligt ved bålet. "Læg efter vinden," sagde hr. White, som efter at have set en fatal fejltagelse også var det sent, var elskværdigt ivrig efter at forhindre sin søn i at se det. "Jeg lytter," sagde sidstnævnte og så grusomt på tavlen, mens han strakte sit ud hånd. "Kontrollere." "Jeg skulle næppe tro, at han ville komme i nat," sagde hans far med oprejst hånd over tavlen. "Kære," svarede sønnen. "Det er det værste ved at bo så langt ude," råbte hr. White med pludselig og uventet vold; "af alle de dyriske, slaskede, afsidesliggende steder at bo i, er dette værst. Pathway er en mose, og vejen er en strøm. Jeg ved ikke, hvad folk tænker om. Jeg formoder, at fordi kun to huse på vejen er udlejet, tror de, at det ikke gør det stof." "Det er ligegyldigt, kære," sagde hans kone beroligende; "måske vinder du den næste." Hr. White så skarpt op, lige i tide til at opsnappe et vidende blik imellem mor og søn.Ordene døde på hans læber, og han gemte et skyldigt grin i sin tynde gråt skæg. "Der er han," sagde Herbert White, da porten bankede til højlydte og tunge fodtrin kom hen mod døren. Den gamle mand rejste sig med gæstfri hast, og han åbnede døren, hørtes kondolere med den nye ankomst. Den nyankomne kondolerede også med sig selv, så fru White sagde: "Tut, tut!" og hostede blidt, da hendes mand kom ind i rummet, efterfulgt af en høj, kraftig mand, perle af øjet og ansigtsrude. "Sergent-major Morris," sagde han og præsenterede ham. Sergent-majoren gav hånden og tog den tilbudte plads ved bålet og så på tilfreds, mens hans vært fik whisky og tumbler frem og stod en lille kobber kedel på bålet. Ved det tredje glas blev hans øjne lysere, og han begyndte at tale, den lille familiekreds med ivrig interesse betragtede denne besøgende fra fjerne egne, mens han vendte sig ud skuldre i stolen og talte om mærkelige scener og dumme gerninger; af krige og plager og fremmede folkeslag. "Enogtyve år af det," sagde Mr. White og nikkede til sin kone og søn. "Når han gik bort, han var en ung i lageret. Se nu på ham." "Han ser ikke ud til at have taget meget skade," sagde Mrs. White høfligt."Jeg vil selv gerne til Indien," sagde den gamle, "bare for at se mig lidt omkring, du ved godt." "Bedre hvor du er," sagde oversergenten og rystede på hovedet. Han lagde ned tomt glas, og sukkede sagte, rystede det igen. "Jeg vil gerne se de gamle templer og fakirer og jonglører," sagde den gamle mand. "Hvad var det, du begyndte at fortælle mig forleden om en abepote eller noget, Morris?" "Intet," sagde soldaten hastigt. "I hvert fald intet værd at høre." "Abepote?" sagde fru White nysgerrigt. "Nå, det er måske bare lidt af det, man kan kalde magi," sagde oversergenten. på egen hånd. Hans tre tilhørere lænede sig ivrigt frem. Den besøgende satte sindløst sin tom glas til hans læber og læg det så ned igen. Hans vært fyldte det for ham. "At se på," sagde oversergenten og famlede i lommen, "det er bare en alm. lille pote, tørret til en mumie." Han tog noget op af lommen og tilbød det. Mrs. White trak sig tilbage med en grimasse, men hendes søn tog den og undersøgte den nysgerrigt. "Og hvad er der specielt ved det?" spurgte hr. White, da han tog det fra sin søn og efter at have undersøgt det, lagde han det på bordet. "Den havde en trylleformular på sig af en gammel fakir," sagde sergent-majoren, "en meget hellig mand.Han ville vise, at skæbnen styrede folks liv, og at de, der blandede sig i den gjorde det til deres sorg. Han lagde en besværgelse på det, så tre separate mænd hver kunne have tre ønsker fra det." Hans opførsel var så imponerende, at hans tilhørere var bevidste om deres lys latter rystede noget. "Nå, hvorfor har du ikke tre, sir?" sagde Herbert White klogt. Soldaten betragtede ham på den måde, som middelalderen plejer at betragte som formastelig ungdom. "Det har jeg," sagde han stille, og hans plettede ansigt blev hvidt. "Og fik du virkelig de tre ønsker opfyldt?" spurgte Mrs. White. "Det gjorde jeg," sagde oversergenten, og hans glas bankede mod hans stærke tænder. "Og har nogen andre ønsket det?" spurgte den gamle dame. "Den første mand havde sine tre ønsker, ja," lød svaret. "Jeg ved ikke, hvad det første to var, men den tredje var til døden. Sådan fik jeg poten." Hans toner var så alvorlige, at der faldt stilhed over gruppen. "Hvis du har fået dine tre ønsker, er det ikke godt for dig nu, Morris," sagde den gamle mand endelig. "Hvad gemmer du den til?" Soldaten rystede på hovedet. "Fancy, formoder jeg," sagde han langsomt. "Hvis du kunne få tre ønsker mere," sagde den gamle mand og så skarpt på ham. "vil du have dem?" "Jeg ved det ikke," sagde den anden."Jeg ved ikke." Han tog poten og dinglede den mellem sin forfinger og tommelfinger og kastede pludselig det på bålet. White bøjede sig med et let skrig ned og snuppede det af. "Lad det hellere brænde," sagde soldaten højtideligt. "Hvis du ikke vil have det, Morris," sagde den gamle mand, "giv det til mig." "Det vil jeg ikke," sagde hans ven stædigt. "Jeg smed det på bålet. Hvis du beholder det, skal du ikke bebrejde det mig for hvad der sker. Slå det på bålet igen, som en fornuftig mand." Den anden rystede på hovedet og undersøgte sin nye ejendom nøje. "Hvordan har du det det?" spurgte han. „Hold det op i din højre hånd og ønsk højt," sagde oversergenten, „men jeg advarer dig af konsekvenserne." "Det lyder som Arabian Nights," sagde fru White, da hun rejste sig og begyndte at indstille aftensmad. "Tror du ikke, du kunne ønske dig fire par hænder til mig?" Hendes mand trak talismanen op af lommen og brød så alle tre ud i latter da oversergenten med et uroligt blik i ansigtet greb ham i armen. "Hvis du må ønske," sagde han barskt, "ønsk dig noget fornuftigt." Hr. White tabte den tilbage i lommen, og placerede stole og gjorde tegn til sin ven bordet. I forbindelse med aftensmaden blev talismanen delvist glemt, og bagefter de tre sad og lyttede begejstret til en anden omgang af soldatens eventyr i Indien."Hvis fortællingen om abepoten ikke er mere sandfærdig end dem, han har fortalt os," sagde Herbert, da døren lukkede sig bag deres gæst, lige i tide til at han kunne fange det sidste tog, "vi skal ikke gøre meget ud af det." "Har du givet ham noget for det, far?" spurgte Mrs. White angående hende mand tæt på. "En bagatel," sagde han og farvede let. "Han ville ikke have det, men jeg fik ham til at tage det. Og han pressede mig igen for at smide den væk." "Sandsynligvis," sagde Herbert med foregivet rædsel. "Hvorfor, vi bliver rige, og berømt og glad. Ønsker at være en kejser, far, til at begynde med; så kan du ikke være det hønsehakket." Han pilede rundt om bordet, forfulgt af den udskældte Mrs. White bevæbnet med en antimacassar. Hr. White tog poten op af lommen og så tvivlsomt på den. "Jeg ved ikke hvad at ønske sig, og det er en kendsgerning," sagde han langsomt. "Det forekommer mig, at jeg har alt, hvad jeg vil have." "Hvis du kun ryddede huset, ville du være ret glad, ikke?" sagde Herbert, med hånden på skulderen. "Nå, så ønsk dig to hundrede pund, det går bare gør det." Hans far, der smilede skamfuldt over sin egen godtroenhed, holdt talismanen op som sin søn, med et højtideligt ansigt lidt skæmmet af et blink til sin mor, satte sig ved klaver og slog et par imponerende akkorder an. "Jeg ønsker mig to hundrede pund," sagde den gamle mand tydeligt.Et fint brag fra klaveret mødte ordene, afbrudt af et gysende råb fra den gamle mand. Hans kone og søn løb hen imod ham. "Den bevægede sig, græd han, med et afskyende blik på genstanden, da den lå på gulvet. "Som jeg ville ønske, at den snoede sig i mine hænder som en slange." "Nå, jeg kan ikke se pengene," sagde hans søn, da han tog dem op og lagde dem på bord, "og det vil jeg vædde på, at jeg aldrig vil." "Det må have været din fantasi, far," sagde hans kone og betragtede ham bekymret. Han rystede på hovedet. "Det er ligeglad, men der er ingen skade sket, men det gav mig en chok alligevel." De satte sig ved bålet igen, mens de to mænd gjorde deres piber færdige. Udenfor, den vinden var højere end nogensinde, og den gamle mand begyndte nervøst ved lyden af ​​en dør banke ovenpå. En usædvanlig og deprimerende stilhed lagde sig over alle tre, som varede indtil det gamle par rejste sig for at gå på pension for natten. "Jeg forventer, at du vil finde pengene bundet i en stor pose midt i din seng," sagde Herbert, da han bad dem godnat, "og noget forfærdeligt at sidde på hug ovenpå garderoben ser dig, mens du lommer dine dårligt opnåede gevinster." Han sad alene i mørket og stirrede på den døende ild og så ansigter i den. Den sidste Ansigtet var så forfærdeligt og så abeligt, at han stirrede forbløffet på det.Det blev så levende at han med et lille uroligt grin mærkede på bordet efter et glas med lidt vand at kaste over det. Hans hånd tog fat i abens pote, og med et lille gys tørrede han hans hånd på frakken og gik op i seng. II. I skæret af den vinterlige sol næste morgen, da den strømmede hen over morgenmaden bord Herbert lo af sin frygt. Der var en atmosfære af prosaisk sundhed omkring det værelse, som det havde manglet den foregående nat, og den beskidte, skrumpede lille pote blev slået op på skænken med en skødesløshed, som ikke viste nogen stor tro på dens dyder. "Jeg formoder, at alle gamle soldater er ens," sagde fru White. "Ideen med vores lytning til sådan noget sludder! Hvordan kunne ønsker opfyldes i disse dage? Og hvis de kunne, hvordan kunne to hundrede pund skade dig, far?" "Kan falde på hans hoved fra himlen," sagde den useriøse Herbert. "Morris sagde, at tingene skete så naturligt," sagde hans far, "at du måske, hvis du så gerne tilskriver det tilfældigheder." "Nå, bryder ikke ind i pengene, før jeg kommer tilbage," sagde Herbert, da han rejste sig bordet. "Jeg er bange for, at det vil gøre dig til en ond, grisk mand, og det bliver vi nødt til fornægte dig." Hans mor lo og fulgte ham til døren, så ham nede ad vejen, og vendte tilbage til morgenbordet, var meget glad på bekostning af sin mands godtroenhed.Alt dette forhindrede hende ikke i at skynde sig hen til døren hos postbuddet banke på, ej heller forhindre hende i at henvise noget kort til pensionerede sergent-major af sugende vaner, da hun fandt ud af, at stillingen medførte en skrædderregning. "Herbert vil have nogle flere af sine sjove bemærkninger, forventer jeg, når han kommer hjem," sagde hun, mens de sad til middag. "Jeg tør godt sige," sagde hr. White og skænkede sig en øl ud; "men alligevel ting bevægede sig i min hånd; det vil jeg sværge til." "Det troede du, det gjorde," sagde den gamle dame beroligende. "Det siger jeg, det gjorde," svarede den anden. "Der var ingen tanke over det; jeg havde bare ---- Hvad er sagen?" Hans kone svarede ikke. Hun så på en mands mystiske bevægelser udenfor, som, ubeslutsomt kiggede på huset, så ud til at forsøge at gøre det beslutter sig for at komme ind. I mental forbindelse med de to hundrede pund, hun bemærkede, at den fremmede var velklædt og bar en silkehat af blank nyhed. Tre gange holdt han en pause ved porten og gik så videre igen. Fjerde gang stod han med hånden på den, og så med pludselig beslutning slyngede den op og gik op stien. Fru White lagde i samme øjeblik sine hænder bag sig og skyndte sig løsner snorene på hendes forklæde og læg den nyttige beklædningsgenstand under puden på hendes stol. Hun bragte den fremmede, som virkede dårlig tilpas, ind i lokalet.Han stirrede på hende skjult, og lyttede på en optaget måde, mens den gamle dame undskyldte rummets udseende og hendes mands frakke, en beklædningsgenstand, som han normalt reserverede til haven. Hun ventede så tålmodigt, som hendes køn ville tillade, på ham bragte hans forretning, men han var først mærkeligt tavs. "Jeg - blev bedt om at ringe," sagde han til sidst og bøjede sig og plukkede et stykke bomuld fra hans bukser. "Jeg kommer fra Maw og Meggins." Den gamle dame startede. "Er der noget i vejen?" spurgte hun forpustet. "Har noget sket med Herbert? Hvad er det? Hvad er det?" Hendes mand greb ind. "Der, der, mor," sagde han hastigt. "Sæt dig ned, og lad være drage til konklusioner. Du har ikke bragt dårlige nyheder, det er jeg sikker på, sir" og han så på andet længselsfuldt. "Undskyld----" begyndte den besøgende. "Er han såret?" forlangte moderen. Den besøgende bukkede i samtykke. "Særligt såret," sagde han stille, "men han er ikke i nogen smerte." "Åh, gudskelov!" sagde den gamle kone og knugede hænderne. "Gudskelov for det! Tak----" Hun brød pludselig op, da den skumle betydning af forsikringen gik op for hende og hun så den frygtelige bekræftelse af hendes frygt i den andens afvendte ansigt. Hun fangede hendes åndedrag og vendte sig mod sin langsommere mand og lagde hendes skælvende gamle hånd på hans. Der var en lang stilhed."Han blev fanget i maskineriet," sagde den besøgende længe med lav stemme. "Fanget i maskineriet," gentog hr. White på en fortumlet måde, "ja." Han sad og stirrede tomt ud ad vinduet og tog sin kones hånd mellem sin egen, pressede den, som han havde været vant til at gøre i deres gamle frieridage i næsten fyrre år Før. "Han var den eneste tilbage til os," sagde han og vendte sig blidt mod den besøgende. "Det er svært." Den anden hostede og rejste sig og gik langsomt hen til vinduet. "Virksomheden ønskede mig for at overbringe deres oprigtige sympati med dig i dit store tab," sagde han uden kigger rundt. "Jeg beder om, at du vil forstå, at jeg kun er deres tjener og blot adlyde ordrer." Der var intet svar; den gamle kvindes ansigt var hvidt, hendes øjne stirrede og hendes ånde uhørbar; på mandens ansigt var et blik som hans ven sergenten kunne have gennemført i sin første handling. "Jeg skulle sige, at Maw og Meggins fraskriver sig alt ansvar," fortsatte den Andet. "De indrømmer intet ansvar overhovedet, men i betragtning af din søns tjenester de ønsker at give dig et bestemt beløb som kompensation." Hr. White tabte sin kones hånd og rejste sig og så med et rædselsblik hos sin gæst. Hans tørre læber formede ordene: "Hvor meget?" "To hundrede pund," var svaret.Ubevidst om sin kones skrig smilede den gamle mand svagt, rakte hænderne frem som en blindt menneske og faldt, en meningsløs bunke, på gulvet. III. PÅ den enorme nye kirkegård, omkring to mil væk, begravede de gamle deres døde, og kom tilbage til et hus gennemsyret af skygge og stilhed. Det hele var overstået så hurtigt at de først næsten ikke kunne indse det, og forblev i en forventningstilstand som selvom der skulle ske noget andet - noget andet som skulle lette denne byrde, for tung for gamle hjerter at bære. Men dagene gik, og forventningen gav plads til resignation - de håbløse resignation af den gamle, nogle gange forkert kaldte, apati. Nogle gange de næsten ikke vekslede et ord, for nu havde de ikke noget at tale om, og deres dage var lange til træthed. Det var omkring en uge efter, at den gamle mand vågnede pludselig om natten, rakte hånden ud og fandt sig selv alene. Værelset var i mørke, og den lyden af ​​dæmpet gråd kom fra vinduet. Han rejste sig i sengen og lyttede. "Kom tilbage," sagde han ømt. "Du bliver kold." "Det er koldere for min søn," sagde den gamle kone og græd på ny. Lyden af ​​hendes hulken døde hen i hans ører. Sengen var varm, og hans øjne tunge med søvn. Han blundede forfærdet og sov så indtil et pludseligt vildt skrig fra hans kone vækkede ham med en start. "Paben!" hun græd vildt. "Abens pote!" Han startede alarmerende."Hvor? Hvor er det? Hvad er der i vejen?" Hun kom snublende hen mod ham. "Jeg vil have det," sagde hun stille. "Du har ikke ødelagt det?" "Det er i stuen, på beslaget," svarede han undrende. "Hvorfor?" Hun græd og lo sammen, og bøjede sig ned og kyssede hans kind. "Jeg tænkte kun lige på det," sagde hun hysterisk. "Hvorfor tænkte jeg ikke på det før? Hvorfor tænkte du ikke på det?" "Tænk på hvad?" spurgte han. "De to andre ønsker," svarede hun hurtigt. "Vi har kun haft én." "Var det ikke nok?" forlangte han heftigt. "Nej," råbte hun triumferende; "vi skal have en mere. Gå ned og få den hurtigt, og ønsker vores dreng i live igen." Manden satte sig op i sengen og smed sengetøjet fra sine rystende lemmer. "Gode Gud, du er gal!" råbte han forfærdet. "Få det," pustede hun; "få det hurtigt, og ønske---Åh, min dreng, min dreng!" Hendes mand slog en tændstik og tændte lyset. "Kom tilbage i seng," sagde han ustabilt. "Du ved ikke, hvad du siger." "Vi fik det første ønske opfyldt," sagde den gamle kone febrilsk; "hvorfor ikke anden." "En tilfældighed," stammede den gamle mand. "Gå hen og hent den og ønsk," råbte den gamle kone og dirrede af begejstring. Den gamle mand vendte sig om og betragtede hende, og hans stemme rystede."Han har været død ti dage, og desuden ville jeg ikke fortælle dig andet, men - jeg kunne kun genkende ham på hans tøj. Hvis han var for frygtelig til at du kunne se dengang, hvordan så?" "Bring ham tilbage," råbte den gamle kone og slæbte ham hen mod døren. "Gør du tror jeg, jeg frygter det barn, jeg har ammet?" Han gik ned i mørket og følte sig vej til stuen og derefter til kaminhylde. Talismanen var på sin plads, og en forfærdelig frygt for, at den uudtalte ønsker kunne bringe sin lemlæstede søn foran sig, før han kunne flygte fra det beslaglagte værelse på ham, og han trak vejret, da han fandt ud af, at han havde mistet retningen på dør. Hans pande koldt af sved, han følte sig rundt om bordet og famlede langs væg, indtil han befandt sig i den lille gang med den usunde ting i sig hånd. Selv hans kones ansigt syntes ændret, da han trådte ind i rummet. Den var hvid og forventningsfuld, og hans frygt syntes at have et unaturligt blik på det. Han var bange for hende. "Ønske!" råbte hun med en stærk stemme. "Det er tåbeligt og ondt," vaklede han. "Ønske!" gentog hans kone. Han løftede hånden. "Jeg ønsker min søn i live igen." Talismanen faldt på gulvet, og han betragtede den frygtsomt. Så sank han skælvende ind i en stol, mens den gamle kvinde med brændende øjne gik hen til vinduet og rejste sig den blinde.Han sad, indtil han var kølet af kulden, og kiggede af og til på skikkelsen gammel kvinde kigger gennem vinduet. Lysenden, som var brændt under kant af kina lysestagen, kastede pulserende skygger på loftet og vægge, indtil den, med et flimmer større end resten, udløb. Den gamle mand, med en en ubeskrivelig følelse af lettelse over talismanens svigt, krøb tilbage til sin seng, og en Minutter efter kom den gamle kone tavs og apatisk ved siden af ​​ham. Ingen af ​​dem talte, men begge lå tavse og lyttede til klokkens tikkende. En trappe knirkede, og en knirkende mus susede støjende gennem væggen. Mørket var undertrykkende, og efter at have ligget et stykke tid og skruet modet op, tog manden æsken med tændstikker, og en slående, gik nedenunder for et stearinlys. For foden af ​​trappen gik tændstikken ud, og han holdt en pause for at slå en anden, og kl i samme øjeblik lød et bank, så stille og snigende, at det næsten ikke var hørbart fordøren. Tændstikkerne faldt fra hans hånd. Han stod ubevægelig, åndedrættet suspenderet indtil bank blev gentaget. Så vendte han sig om og flygtede hurtigt tilbage til sit værelse og lukkede døren bag ham. Et tredje bank lød gennem huset. "Hvad er det?" råbte den gamle kone og startede. "En rotte," sagde den gamle mand med rystende toner - "en rotte. Den gik forbi mig på trappen." Hans kone sad op i sengen og lyttede.Et højt bank rungede gennem huset. "Det er Herbert!" skreg hun. "Det er Herbert!" Hun løb hen til døren, men hendes mand var foran hende og greb hende i armen, holdt hende fast. "Hvad vil du gøre?" hviskede han hæst. "Det er min dreng; det er Herbert!" råbte hun og kæmpede mekanisk. "Jeg glemte, at det var to mil væk. Hvad holder du mig for? Giv slip. Jeg må åbne døren." "For guds skyld, lad det ikke komme ind," råbte den gamle mand skælvende. "Du er bange for din egen søn," råbte hun og kæmpede. "Slip mig. Jeg kommer, Herbert; Jeg kommer." Der blev banket igen, og endnu en. Den gamle kvinde med en pludselig skruenøgle knækkede fri og løb ud af værelset. Hendes mand fulgte med til landingen og kaldte efter hende tiltalende, mens hun skyndte sig ned. Han hørte kæden rasle tilbage og bunden bolten trukket langsomt og stift fra soklen. Så blev den gamle kvindes stemme anstrengt og pusten. "Røgen," råbte hun højt. "Kom ned. Jeg kan ikke nå det." Men hendes mand var på hænder og knæ og famlede vildt på gulvet på jagt efter poten. Hvis han kun kunne finde den, før den udenfor kom ind. En perfekt fusillade af bankerne gav genlyd gennem huset, og han hørte skrabningen af ​​en stol som sin kone satte den ned i gangen mod døren.Han hørte knirken fra bolten som den kom langsomt tilbage, og i samme øjeblik fandt han abens pote, og åndede febrilsk sit tredje og sidste ønske. Banken ophørte pludselig, selvom ekkoet af det stadig var i huset. Han hørte stolen trukket tilbage og døren åbnede. En kold vind stormede op ad trappen, og en lang høj hyl af skuffelse og elendighed fra hans kone gav ham mod til løb ned til hendes side, og så til porten bagved. Gadelampen flimrer overfor skinnede på en stille og øde vej. (Ende.)

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