"Laura" is a humorous short story by the British author Hector Hugh Munro who wrote under the pseudonym of Saki. The story first appeared in the Morning Post It was later collected in the 1914 anthology Beasts and Super-Beasts. It has since appeared in many anthologies.
The title character is a mischievous woman who believes in reincarnation. Laura thinks she will be reborn into a lower life form in her next incarnation because she has misbehaved in this life. She discusses her belief with Amanda whose husband has been an unfortunate victim of Laura's antics. After Laura's death, Amanda quickly becomes a firm believer in reincarnation.
Laura tells Amanda that her doctor has informed her she has only a few days to live. Amanda is shocked but Laura appears unconcerned. Laura believes she will not simply die but will reincarnate. She is certain, however, that her next incarnation will be in a lower organism because she has been rather vindictive in this life. For example, Amanda's husband Egbert complained too much when Laura let the puppies disturb his chickens and run over the flower beds, so she released the chickens into the seedling shed afterwards. At the same time, Laura feels she has not been quite so bad in her own way that she may become a nice elegant animal with a love of fun – perhaps an otter. Then, if she is a good otter, she may get back into a primitive human form in the following incarnation – like a little Nubian boy.
At breakfast after Laura's death, Egbert tells Amanda that four of his best speckled Sussex chickens, the ones he was going to show in a few days, have been killed. One of them was carried off and eaten in the middle of his best flower bed which is now also destroyed. Judging by the webbed footmarks going down to the stream, an otter was responsible for the devastation. More damage is done the following day while the family is at the funeral. The rest of the chickens are killed, and more flowers are destroyed along with the strawberries. Egbert decides to hunt down the otter. Amanda protests at first, but even she agrees reluctantly when the creature gets into the house and makes more mischief. After the hunt, Amanda learns from her neighbor that the otter they killed was a female with eyes that looked human and strangely familiar. Amanda suffers a nervous breakdown as a result.
Egbert takes Amanda to the Nile Valley to help her recuperate. The change of scenery proves beneficial and Amanda recovers quickly. Then one day she hears Egbert shouting curses in his dressing room. Amused by the unusually colorful language, Amanda inquires what the matter is. Egbert replies that a little Nubian boy threw his clean shirts into the bath. Amanda is now seriously ill.