II.

In the brightness of the wintry sun next morning as it streamed over the breakfast table he 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, wildly.

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.

Footnotes

  1. Both of the Whites are in shock. Mrs. White has turned pale and her breath shallow. Mr. White, however, is compared to the soldier Morris. Similar to how Morris must have looked going toward his first battle, Mr. White is full of dread, shocked, and fearful of the future.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Although England was continuing to industrialize and automated heavy machinery was becoming more widespread, workers’ safety and rights did not keep pace with new workplace practices. Though tragic, Herbert’s fate was not uncommon at the time.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Maw and Meggins is not a real company, but judging from details readers learn about Herbert’s employment and the industry growing in England at the time, it is likely that it is some type of factory—perhaps of textiles, judging from the cotton on his clothes.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. In this line, the historical notion of the time that women were more emotional and impatient than men is on display. However, given the mystery of the monkey’s paw, it is unsurprising that Mrs. White finds it difficult to contain her excitement at what news the wealthy visitor brings.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Notice Mrs. White’s inclination to hide the fact that she has been working. Because she believes the visitor is wealthy (due to his expensive dress) and hopes that he’ll be delivering the two hundred pounds they wished for, she wants to appear to be of the same social class.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. The adjective “bibulous” means “fond of drinking alcohol to excess.”

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. This outlines up the central mystery of the story: is the paw truly magical, or are the Whites’ wishes fulfilled purely by chance? It also foreshadows the fulfilment of Mr. White’s first wish, which will come true soon.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The day outside is beautiful in contrast to the stormy weather of last night. In the light of day, the paw’s power seems nonexistent. The tone is now one of lightness rather than the ominous atmosphere of the previous day. At this point, the paw and its magic hold no sway over the Whites’ home.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Why does she hide a "useful article of apparel"?

    — Kate R
  10. What does the surprising conclusion of Part II not suggest about wishing on the monkey's paw?

    — Susan Hurn
  11. What is the most likely reason Mr. White is horrified by the mention of money?

    — Susan Hurn
  12. What does Mrs. White suddenly realize?

    — Susan Hurn
  13. What is the most likely reason Mrs. White would hurry to the door when the postman knocks?

    — Susan Hurn
  14. The readiness to believe something without adequate evidence.

    — Susan Hurn
  15. What does this detail suggest about the monkey's paw?

    — Susan Hurn
  16. This seems to indicate that Maw and Meggins are textile manufacturers. There would be no cotton anywhere around the Whites' home, but there would be plenty of it flying about inside a textile-manufacturing plant. The mills would be full of complicated machinery, and industrial accidents such as the one that killed Herbert would have been fairly commonplace in those times. As the visitor tells the Whites, the company has no liability to pay any compensation for such accidents.

    — William Delaney
  17. This whole sentence is of prime importance to the story. The reader will never know for sure whether the strange events occurred because of the supernatural power of the monkey's paw or whether they were all coincidences.

    — William Delaney
  18. This may seem a little cryptic. Evidently what the author is suggesting is that the tailor's bill reminds Mrs. White of family expenses and this in turn reminds her of the fact that their visitor of the night before drank up a lot of whiskey which will cost money to replenish. Furthermore, the reference to drinking serves to remind the reader that her husband and son were also drinking along with the sergeant-major. When we learn that Herbert was killed in an accident at work, we can either think it happened because the monkey's paw caused it or because the son had stayed up too late and had drunk too much whiskey, so that he was tired and hungover and hence susceptible to be caught in the machinery on that particular day. 

    — William Delaney
  19. Mr. White must have had a premonition that something bad was going to happen. He was the only one who felt that mummified paw move. He was the only one who saw the "simian" face in the fireplace. He was the one responsible for making the wish. The monkey's paw was his property, since he had asked Sergeant-Major Morris for it and had even paid him a small sum of money. If anything bad does happen, it will be Mr. White who will bear the responsibility. 

    — William Delaney
  20. The first part of the story took place on a dark night full of wind and rain. Now the author opens the second part with the morning sun streaming over the breakfast table. This is to set the stage for the totally unexpected shock Mr. and Mrs. White are about to receive. Bad news very often comes when it is least expected.

    — William Delaney
  21. This is intended to emphasize how much the mother adores her son. It will help explain her later actions in part three of the story. 

    — William Delaney
  22. Herbert is characterized as being lively and full of fun. This will make the home seem that much more empty and lonely should he ever leave.

    — William Delaney
  23. The passage compares the expression on Mr. White's face to how Sergeant-Major Morris might have looked going into battle for the first time. The implication is that Mr. White is aware that something awful is about to happen, and he is preparing himself for it. His expression might indicate fear, as well. 

    — Susan Hurn
  24. The man is finding it difficult to look at Mr. and Mrs. White as he brings them terrible news.

    — Susan Hurn
  25. The passage characterizes women as being impatient by nature.

    — Susan Hurn