The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs, adapted for stage by Jeannette Jaquish

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Note: The original story The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs, was gotten from Project Gutenberg at The original story is in the public domain. This stage adaptation is offered free for performance, if author and adapter’s names are left on it. Very little was changed from the original.

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FATHER – Randall White, an old man in the original
MOTHER – Eliza White, an old woman in the original
SAMMY WHITE – their son or daughter, age 15 to 30
MORRIS – Visiting retired military, age 40+- younger than the Father
VISITOR – From Sammy’s company
Scene 1:  The Night It Came
(Middle class cottage: fireplace, armchairs in one place, kitchen table and chairs another place, bedroom with bed and chair another.)
NARRATOR    Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Mr. and Mrs. White, the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son / daughter/daughter 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.
FATHER   Hark at the wind,
NARRATOR   said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son / daughter from seeing it.
SAMMY   I'm listening...  Check.
FATHER I should hardly think that he'd come to-night.  (his hand poised over the board.)
SAMMY   Mate.
FATHER    That's the worst of living so far out, (with sudden and unlooked-for 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 in the road are let, they think it doesn't matter.
MOTHER  Never mind, dear (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 / daughter. The words died away on his lips, and he hid a guilty grin in his thin grey beard. )
SAMMY   There he is!
FATHER (opening the door) Charlie!  You old, scalliwag!
MORRIS   Guilty as charged.  You’re looking no worse for wear Randall.
FATHER  (introducing him) Sergeant-Major Charles Morris, this is my dear wife, Eliza, and my son / daughter Samuel / Samantha.
(Hand shaking and greetings.  Sammy hangs his coat & hat. The Father pours whiskey into two tumblers.)
MOTHER  Sit here by the fire, Sergeant Major Morris, and warm up.
MORRIS   Thank you.
MOTHER  Was the walk from the train station terribly wet?
MORRIS   Not too bad. I’ve certainly seen worse.
MOTHER  I’m, sure you have.
MORRIS   (taking the tumbler of whiskey from the Father)  Ah, thank you. That will take the chill off.
SAMMY  (sitting near) My father has told many stories of your adventures.
MORRIS   Has he?  I’m sure they’ve gotten better with time.
FATHER   Is it my fault you’ve given us so much time to tell ‘em without coming to tell ‘em yourself?  Twenty-one years Charley’s been off in the military witnessing wars and plagues and strange peoples. When he went away he was just a slip of a youth in the warehouse. Now look at him.
MOTHER  He don't look to have taken much harm.
FATHER     I'd like to go to India myself, just to look round a bit, you know.
MORRIS   Better where you are. (Shakes his head. He put down the empty glass, and sighing softly, shook it again.)
FATHER    I should like to see those old temples and fakirs and jugglers. What was that you started telling me the other day about a monkey's paw or something, Morris?
MORRIS   Nothing, ( hastily) Leastways nothing worth hearing.
MOTHER   Monkey's paw?
MORRIS   Well, it's just a bit of what you might call magic, perhaps.
(His three listeners leaned forward eagerly. The visitor absent-mindedly put his empty glass to his lips and then set it down again. His host filled it for him.)
MORRIS   To look at, ( fumbling in his pocket) it's just an ordinary little paw, dried to a mummy. (holds it out  The Mother drew back with a grimace, but Sammy, taking it, examined it curiously.)
FATHER    And what is there special about it? (as he took it from Sammy, and having examined it, placed it upon the table.)
MORRIS   It had a spell put on it by an old fakir, 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.
(Light laughter.)
SAMMY  (cleverly) Well, why don't you have three, sir?
(The soldier regarded him in the way that middle age is wont to regard presumptuous youth.)
MORRIS  (quietly) I have.
MOTHER   And did you really have the three wishes granted?
MORRIS  I did. (and his glass tapped against his strong teeth.)
SAMMY  And has anybody else wished?
MORRIS   The first man had his three wishes. Yes. I don't know what the first two were, but the third was for death. (pause)  That's how I got the paw.
(His tones were so grave that a hush fell upon the group.)
FATHER   If you've had your three wishes, it's no good to you now, then, Morris.   What do you keep it for?
MORRIS  (shaking his head) Fancy, I suppose ( slowly)   I did have some idea of selling it, but I don't think I will. It has caused enough mischief already. Besides, people won't buy. They think it's a fairy tale; some of them, and those who do think anything of it want to try it first and pay me afterward.
SAMMY   If you could have another three wishes, (eyeing him keenly) would you have them?
MORRIS  I don't know. I don't know.
(He took the paw, and dangling it between his forefinger and thumb, suddenly threw it upon the fire. The Father, with a slight cry, snatched it off.)
MORRIS  ( solemnly)  Better let it burn.
FATHER   If you don't want it, Morris,  give it to me.
MORRIS   (doggedly)  I won't. 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 Father shook his head and examined his new possession closely.)
FATHER   How do you do it?
MORRIS   Hold it up in your right hand and wish aloud. But I warn you of the consequences.
MOTHER  Sounds like the Arabian Nights. (as she rose and began to set the supper.) Don't you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me?
(Her FATHER   drew the talisman from pocket,
the Sergeant-Major, with a look of alarm on his face, caught him by the arm.
The family bursts into laughter.)
MORRIS   If you must wish, ( gruffly) wish for something sensible.
(The FAMILY laughs.)
MOTHER  Ha ha!  Well, what could be more sensible than supper?
SAMMY  Just what I was wishing!  Come on Sergeant Major.  My mother is a great cook!
MORRIS  A good home cooked meal is just what I am in need of.  It looks delicious!
(They will all sit down to dinner pantomiming eating and talking, then rising, good-byes and MORRIS EXITS.)
NARRATOR   In the business of supper the talisman was partly forgotten, and afterward the three sat listening in an enthralled fashion to a second installment of the soldier's adventures in India.
MORRIS   ...and when I looked in the knapsack guess what I had forgotten?
THE FAMILY  The map? The letter?  Your flint?
MORRIS   No!  The buttons!
FATHER   Morris!  Look at the clock!
NARRATOR    Sergeant-Colonel Morris made his good-byes with just enough time to catch the last train.
(Ad lib goodbyes as MORRIS is helped with his coat and EXITS.)
MOTHER   What an interesting man.  He certainly has plenty of stories.
SAMMY    If the tale about the monkey's paw is not more truthful than those others he has been telling us, we sha'nt make much out of it.
MOTHER  Did you give him anything for it, dear?
FATHER   (a bit embarrassed) A trifle.  He didn't want it, but I made him take it. And he pressed me again to throw it away.
SAMMY   (with mock horror)  Throw it away???
Why, we're going to be rich, and famous and happy. To begin with, wish to be an emperor, father; then you can't be henpecked.
(He darted round the table, pursued by the maligned Mrs. White armed with an antimacassar (armchair doily). Mr. White took the paw from his pocket and eyed it dubiously.)
FATHER   I don't know what to wish for, and that's a fact.  It seems to me I've got all I want.
SAMMY   If you only paid off  the house, you'd be quite happy, wouldn't you? Well, wish for two hundred pounds, then; that'll just do it.
(The Father, slightly embarrassed held up the talisman, as Sammy, with a solemn face, somewhat marred by a wink at his mother, sat down at the piano and struck a few impressive chords.  Or sings a few ominous notes. )
FATHER   I wish for two hundred pounds.
( A fine crashing chord from the piano greeted the words, interrupted by a shuddering cry from the old man.)
FATHER   It moved! As I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake.
SAMMY   Well, I don't see the money, ( as he picked it up and placed it on a table near the fireplace) and I bet I never shall.
MOTHER  It must have been your fancy, dear.
FATHER   (shaking his head) Never mind, though; there's no harm done, but it gave me a shock all the same.
(Mother begins clearing the table. Sammy stretches and sits near fire.  Father stands and looks at hand, sits and broods, glancing at the paw nearby.)
NARRATOR   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 shutter banging upstairs. A silence unusual and depressing settled upon all three, which lasted until the old couple rose to retire for the night.
MOTHER  It's late.  Come to bed, dear.  Good-night dear Sammy.  (kisses his head)
SAMMY   Good-night, Mother.  I expect you'll find the cash tied up in a big bag in the middle of your bed upstairs. And something horrible squatting up on top of the wardrobe watching you as you pocket your ill-gotten gains.  I’ll stay up just a little longer.
SAMMY acts out narration. )
NARRATOR   Sammy sat alone in the darkness, gazing at the dying fire, and seeing faces in the embers. 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 for his glass of 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. 
(In reaching for his glass of water, SAMMY grabs the monkey paw and flinches and drops it on the floor. 
EXITS wiping and smelling his hand.  EXITS.)
(SAMMY walks across stage apron, sniffs his hand and wipes it on his coat again. EXITS.)
Same room arrangement.
Day Lighting.
(Mother wears a bright apron, carries breakfast things to the table.  Father is at breakfast.)
NARRATOR  In the brightness of the wintry sun next morning as it streamed over the breakfast table they laughed at their fears of the night before.
MOTHER  Sammy!  Your breakfast is getting cold!
SAMMY   (ENTERING happily)  Morning, Father!  Morning, Mother!  (kisses her cheek)
MOTHER   Good morning, sleepyhead.  Hurry and eat your breakfast or you’ll be late for work.  (scraping food from a fry pan onto his plate. A sausage falls to the floor.)   Ooops!  Dropped your sausage.
(She reaches down to pick up what fell.
She lifts the object up and discovers she has accidentally picked up the monkey paw.)
( She screams and jerks her hand away in midair.  It flies off a little ways.)
SAMMY  You trying to feed me that old monkey hand? (picks it up)
FATHER   At least she was cooking it  first.
MOTHER  I was not.  Now where did that sausage roll to?  (searching under the table, finds it and throws it away)
SAMMY  You mean you were feeding it to me raw?
MOTHER  Oh, put it over there. (towards the fireplace)  Away from the table. 
(SAMMY   puts it on the mantle and goes to eat.)
SAMMY  Sorry Mr. Monkey Hand. If you were a monkey mouth maybe you could join us.
(walks to table) How'd it get under the table?  I wonder. (sits) Mmmm. Thank you for the good breakfast, Mother.
MOTHER  You are welcome, dear. Oh, I wish you’d wash your hands, dear.
SAMMY   I'm using a fork.
FATHER    I hope ol’ Morris didn’t get too wet on his walk back to the train. Oh, well, like he said: he’s seen worse.
MOTHER  I suppose all old soldiers are the same. 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, Randall?
SAMMY  Might drop on his head from the sky.
FATHER   Morris said the things happened so naturally that you might, if you wished, attribute it to coincidence.
SAMMY   Well, don't break into the money before I come back.  I'm afraid it'll turn you into a mean, avaricious skinflint, and we shall have to disown you.
MOTHER  Oh, get on with you, or you’ll be late.  Here’s your coat and your lunch box.
(MOTHER  hurries him out the door, goodbyes, watching fondly as he departs.)
FATHER   Come have some breakfast before it gets cold.  I like how you fried up the onions with the eggs. Very tasty.  Is there more sausage?  Or is the one you threw away the last of it?
(MOTHER serves herself breakfast and sits.)
MOTHER  Wishing on a monkey’s paw.  I can’t believe you’d believe in such things.
(CURTAIN CLOSES- remove breakfast things.)
KNOCK KNOCK (in a “postman’s pattern”)
MOTHER   Oh!  The mail.
(MOTHER ENTERS,  scurries across the stage apron before the closed curtain to EXIT other side, returning immediately with an envelope)   An envelope!
FATHER (voice offstage)  Isn’t that what the postman usually brings?
MOTHER  (opens it, disappointed)  A bill from the tailor.
FATHER (voice offstage) Maybe he has to make a second trip for the bag of gold.  They're pretty heavy I hear.
MOTHER   Oh you!  (EXITS)
Afternoon lighting
Afternoon activity: reading the paper, dusting, etc.)
MOTHER   Well, 4pm, and no sign of wealth.  (lovingly) Sammy will have some more funny remarks, I expect, at dinnertime.  I expect we'll be hearing about that old monkey paw wish for a long time.
 (she glances out the window at something of interest)
FATHER   I dare say, but for all that, the thing moved in my hand; that I'll swear to.
MOTHER  You thought it did.  (continues to look)
FATHER   I say it did. There was no thought about it; I had just-- What's the matter?
MOTHER  A well dressed gentleman outside.  Three times he has stopped at our gate as if to enter.
FATHER   Maybe he's bringing our 200 pounds. (chuckle)
MOTHER  He's coming up!  Oh!  (She quickly takes off her apron and stashes it under a cushion and straightens a few things.)
MOTHER  (opens door) Good day, sir.....  Can I help you?
VISITOR  Are you Mrs. White?
MOTHER   Yes, I am.  Won't you come in.
(The stranger ENTERS the room, ill at ease.)
MOTHER   Please excuse our untidy parlor and my husband's old coat - he was working in the garden. (waits)
VISITOR  I was asked to call.  I come from 'Maw and Meggins.'
MOTHER   (sudden shock)  Is anything the matter?  Has anything happened to Sammy? What is it? What is it?
FATHER     There, there, Eliza. Don't jump to conclusions. (to the visitor) You've not brought bad news, I'm sure, sir?
VISITOR    I'm sorry-
MOTHER     (wildly) Is Sammy hurt?
VISITOR (nodding)  Badly hurt, but not in any pain.
MOTHER     Oh, thank God! ( 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 contorted face. She caught her breath, and turning to her slower-witted husband, laid her trembling old hand upon his. There was a long silence. Both turn from the visitor to stare out the window toward audience.)
FATHER (with pain but calm) What happened?
VISITOR  I’m sorry, we were all very fond of...
FATHER  What happened?!!!!
VISITOR   Sammy was caught in the machinery.
FATHER    (stunned)   Caught in the machinery, yes.
(He stared blankly out at the window,
as his wife bursts into wrenching sobs.
He takes 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.)
Sammy was the only child left to us.
( turning gently to the visitor.)      It is hard.
VISITOR    (walking closer but awkwardly to them)
The firm wished me to convey their sincere sympathy with you in your great loss.  I beg that you will understand I am only their servant and merely obeying orders.
(There was no reply.)
VISITOR   I was to say that Maw and Meggins disclaim all responsibility.   They admit no liability at all, but in consideration of Sammy's services, they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation.  (he awkwardly holds out an envelope)
(Mr. White dropped his wife's hand. THEY turn to face the visitor with a look of horror.)
FATHER   How much?
VISITOR  Two hundred pounds
MOTHER      (shriek)
(Unconscious of his wife's shriek, the FATHER chuckled and sobbed together, put out his hands like a sightless man, and dropped, a senseless heap, to the floor. )
Actors get into nightclothes. Reveal bedroom. Lock door.)
NARRATOR    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.
NARRATOR    In It was about a week after, that the old man, waking suddenly in the night, stretched out his hand and found himself alone.

(The MOTHER  sits in  a chair near the bed but facing away from it. The FATHER sleeps in the bed, but awakes and feeling for his wife, realizes she is not next to him. )
FATHER   ( sits up, sees her.)
Come back to bed, ( tenderly) You will be cold.
MOTHER  It is colder for my Sammy,.(soft sobbing)
(FATHER   sits for a long moment watching her, but is overcome with sleep.
After a few moments...)
MOTHER  The paw! (she cried wildly) The monkey's paw!
(She shakes him awake roughly.)
FATHER   (terrified) Where? Where is it? What's the matter?
MOTHER  I want it, (quietly, intensely)  You've not destroyed it?
FATHER  It's in the parlor, on the mantle. Why?
MOTHER  (crying and laughing) I only just thought of it. Why didn't I think of it before? Why didn't you think of it?
FATHER   Think of what?
MOTHER  The other two wishes. We've only had one.
FATHER   (fiercely) Was not that enough?
MOTHER  No! We'll have one more. Quickly!  Go down and get it and wish our child alive again!
FATHER  Good God!  You are mad!
MOTHER  No! I'm not!  Go get it!  And wish Sammy alive! Oh, my child!  My child!
FATHER   Come back to bed. You don't know what you are saying.
MOTHER  We had the first wish granted, why not the second?
FATHER  A coincidence.
 MOTHER  (pulls him out of bed)  Go and get it and wish!
FATHER   (grabs her hands that she clutches him with)
Sammy has been dead ten days, and besides --I would not tell you this before, but---- I could only identify the body by the clothing. If it was too terrible for you to see then, how now?
MOTHER  Bring Sammy back!  (pulling him toward the doorway)   Do you think I fear the child I have nursed?
(They EXIT the bedroom and ENTER the downstairs. HE apprehensively gets the monkey's paw from the fireplace mantle and fearfully looks around.)
FATHER  Here is the accursed thing.
MOTHER  Wish! (she cried, in a strong voice. )
FATHER   It is foolish and wicked.
FATHER   (holding up the paw) I wish my child alive again! (a cry of anguish. He  drops the monkey's paw)
NARRATOR    The old man sank trembling into a chair as the old woman, with burning eyes, walked to the window and watched and waited.
(MOTHER parts imaginary curtains and faces audience.)
NARRATOR    He sat until he was chilled with the cold, glancing occasionally at the figure of the old woman peering through the window.
MOTHER   (with a look of hope)  Sammy..
FATHER  Such a request.  To bring the dead to life.  That thing cannot have the power.  (comes up gently behind her)  Come to bed.
MOTHER  (without looking at him)   I'll wait..
(Despondently, he goes upstairs, lies in bed staring.)
NARRATOR    The old man, with an unspeakable sense of relief at the failure of the talisman, crept back to his bed.
MOTHER   (giving up)   Oh, Sammy!  (sobs)
NARRATOR   But it was at least half an hour before the old woman came, silently and apathetically, to lie beside him. Neither spoke, but lay silently listening to the ticking of the clock.
MOTHER This darkness is oppressive.
FATHER  Candle's burned down. I'll get another.
(Carrying the lantern, goes downstairs and takes a candle from a drawer.)
KNOCK (soft)
(He stood motionless, his breath suspended.)
KNOCK (soft)
(He turned and fled swiftly back to his room, puts the candle in the lamp and lights it.)
MOTHER  What's that?
FATHER  A rat. ( in shaking tones) A rat. It passed me on the stairs.
(MOTHER sits up in bed listening. )
MOTHER  It's Sammy!  It's Sammy!
(She tries to run, He grabs her arm, holds her tightly.)
 FATHER   What are you going to do?  
MOTHER   It's my child; it's Sammy!  (struggling)
 I forgot the graveyard is two miles away. What are you holding me for?  Let go. I must open the door.
FATHER   For God's sake, Eliza!  Don't let it in!
MOTHER  You're afraid of your own child!  (breaks free)
Let me go. I'm coming, Sammy; I'm coming.
(MOTHER runs downstairs, stumbling thru the dark to the door.
 FATHER follows but stops too terrified to approach the door.
She struggles to slide the bottom bolt, then the key lock.)
MOTHER  I’m opening the door, Sammy!  I’m opening the door!
(The FATHER gropes on the floor to find the monkey hand.)
FATHER  Don’t open it, Eliza!  (to himself) Where is it?  Where is it?
MOTHER  I can’t reach the top bolt!  Help me, Randall!
(She drags a chair to door)
FATHER  Where is that cursed monkey paw!
(She stands on the chair, draws back bolt and steps off the chair.)
FATHER (finds it, stands and holds it out) I wish my child dead and at peace back in the grave!
(The knocking ceases.  The MOTHER  draws the chair back, and opens the door. Nothing is there.  FATHER runs to her side, they look out.)
MOTHER     (long loud wail of disappointment and misery.) 

Letter from  Maw and Meggins
(After “caught in the machinery”)
The firm wishes me to convey their sincere sympathy with you in your great loss.  I beg that you will understand I am only their servant and merely obeying orders.
I was to say that Maw and Meggins disclaim all responsibility.   They admit no liability at all, but in consideration of your son / daughter's services, they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation.
 (he awkwardly holds out an envelope)


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