The night was cold and wet. But in the small living room of Laburnam Villa, a fire burned brightly and a father and son played chess*. The father was a good player, but the son was better. His wife watched them play and warmed her hands in front of the fire.
‘Listen to that wind outside,’ said Mr White.
‘I can hear it,’ said Herbert, his son. He looked at the chess pieces and moved one of the pieces. ‘Check*!’ he said.
‘It’s bad weather out there,’ said Mr White. He wanted to distract* his son, but it didn’t work.
‘Checkmate*,’ said Herbert and smiled.
‘This is the worst thing about living far away from town,’ said Mr White. ‘Almost no-one wants to come this far on a stormy night.’ He was angry because he lost the game.
‘Perhaps you can win the next game,’ said Mrs White.
Mr White looked up quickly and saw his wife and son smile at each other. He smiled to himself.
Suddenly, there was a noise outside. His wife turned.
‘It’s him,’ said Mr White. He stood up and unlocked* the door. Dead leaves blew across the floor. Then a tall man walked into the small room.
‘Sergeant Major Morris,’ said Mr White.
‘Good evening,’ said the sergeant major and shook hands with Mr White, Herbert and Mrs White. Mrs White gave him a chair and sergeant major Morris sat down beside the fire. She made tea, and the sergeant major drank it slowly. He watched the fire and enjoyed its heat. When he finished the tea, he started to talk. The little family sat and listened carefully. They wanted to know all about their visitor. He spoke of different countries, great adventures and strange people.
‘Twenty-one years of travel,’ said the sergeant major. ‘When I left, I was a young man…’
‘I want to go to India,’ said Mr White, ‘and see the country. It is very beautiful, I think.’
‘Better to stay at home,’ said the sergeant major, and he shook his head.
‘Tell that story again,’ said Mr White. ‘Tell the story about the monkey’s paw.’
The sergeant major said nothing, but his face was serious*.
‘The monkey’s paw?’ said Mrs White. ‘That sounds interesting.’
The sergeant major looked into the fire.
Mrs White took his cup and put more tea in it.
‘Very well,’ said the sergeant major after some time. ‘You want to hear the story of the monkey’s paw, so here it is…’
Adapted from a story by W W Jacobs by EFLshorts.com
*chess – a board game
*check – a position in chess in which the opponent’s king is under direct attack
*distract – take away someone’s focus or attention
*checkmate – the capture of the opponent’s king
*unlocked – to open (a door) with a key
*serious – not laughing, thinking carefully