The short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs begins on a cold, wet, and windy night. The White family is in the parlor of their home. Mr. White and his son Herbert are playing chess while Mrs. White watches. They are interrupted by a visit from Sergeant-Major Morris, who tells them stories about his many years in India. Eventually, Morris begins to tell the Whites about a mummified monkey's paw that he obtained from an old fakir. He calls it "just a bit of what you might call magic," but then, he goes on to tell of a spell upon it that gives three men three wishes each. According to Morris, the first man's third wish was for death. He also does not seemed pleased about the three wishes that he used. After telling about the paw, Morris abruptly throws it into the fire.
At this point, we see the initial reactions of the three family members. Mr. White snatches it out of the fire and seems eager to try it out. Morris suggests that he throw it back on the fire but then tells Mr. White that to use it, he should "hold it up in [his] right hand, and wish aloud." At this point, Mrs. White is about to serve dinner. She jokingly suggests that Mr. White should wish for "four pairs of hands" for her, and the Whites all laugh. It is obvious that none of them have yet taken the monkey's paw seriously. Morris urges Mr. White that if he must wish, he should "wish for something sensible."
After Morris leaves, the Whites still seem to be skeptical about the power of the monkey's paw. Herbert suggests frivolously that Mr. White wish to be an emperor, and then he suggests that Mr. White wish for 200 pounds so he can pay off the house. When Mr. White makes his wish, he is shocked that the paw moves as he holds it. Herbert, still skeptical, supposes that they will never see the money. They are all depressed as they go off to bed.
In the morning, Mrs. White dismisses the monkey's paw as nonsense. Mr. White, though, is uncertain, as he considers what Morris said about how the wishes were granted. We see, then, that initially Herbert White frivolously laughs about the power of the paw, Mrs. White calls it nonsense, and only Mr. White is uncertain about what the paw can really do.