“The Monkey’s Paw,” by W. W. Jacobs

“Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it.” –Anonymous

Part I

Without, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnum 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 chances, 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’s come tonight, ” said his father, with his hand poised over the board.

“Mate,” replied the son.

“That’s the worst of living so far out,” balled Mr. White with sudden and unlooked-for violence; “Of all the beastly, slushy, out of the way places to live in, this is the worst. Path’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.”

“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 took hands and taking the proffered seat by the fire, watched contentedly as his host got out whiskey 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 wild scenes and doughty deeds; of wars and plagues and strange peoples.

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Throwback Thursday: “I’m Gonna Wash that Gray Right Outta My Hair”

These early 80’s Clairol ads, of all things, came up on Facebook — after I lamented the waves of gray that have flourished across my head with astonishing suddenness.  (I swear this seems like something that happened overnight.  I honestly thought that there something wrong with my eyes, or maybe the bathroom light.)

I remember this little jingle quite well — it’s catchy, and there were a few variations of the 1980 TV spot that you see below.  I never knew that it was a send-up of a number from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” — “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair.”  For some reason, my friends thought that was really funny.

 

“O Where Are You Going?” by W. H. Auden

“O where are you going?” said reader to rider,
“That valley is fatal when furnaces burn,
Yonder’s the midden whose odors will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return.”

“O do you imagine,” said fearer to farer,
“That dusk will delay on your path to the pass,
Your diligent looking discover the lacking
Your footsteps feel from granite to grass?”

“O what was that bird,” said horror to hearer,
“Did you see that shape in the twisted trees?
Behind you swiftly the figure comes softly,
The spot on your skin is a shocking disease?”

“Out of this house” ‚ said rider to reader,
“Yours never will” ‚ said farer to fearer,
“They’re looking for you” ‚ said hearer to horror,
As he left them there, as he left them there.

 

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Photo credit: By Wikiprofile – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55718023

“O What Is That Sound,” by W. H. Auden

O what is that sound which so thrills the ear
Down in the valley drumming, drumming?
Only the scarlet soldiers, dear,
The soldiers coming.

O what is that light I see flashing so clear
Over the distance brightly, brightly?
Only the sun on their weapons, dear,
As they step lightly.

O what are they doing with all that gear,
What are they doing this morning, morning?
Only their usual manoeuvres, dear,
Or perhaps a warning.

O why have they left the road down there,
Why are they suddenly wheeling, wheeling?
Perhaps a change in their orders, dear,
Why are you kneeling?

O haven’t they stopped for the doctor’s care,
Haven’t they reined their horses, horses?
Why, they are none of them wounded, dear,
None of these forces.

O is it the parson they want, with white hair,
Is it the parson, is it, is it?
No, they are passing his gateway, dear,
Without a visit.

O it must be the farmer that lives so near.
It must be the farmer so cunning, so cunning?
They have passed the farmyard already, dear,
And now they are running.

O where are you going? Stay with me here!
Were the vows you swore deceiving, deceiving?
No, I promised to love you, dear,
But I must be leaving.

O it’s broken the lock and splintered the door,
O it’s the gate where they’re turning, turning;
Their boots are heavy on the floor
And their eyes are burning.

 

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