The Open Window
H. H. Munro (Saki)
Framton Nuttel has presented himself at the Sappleton house to pay a visit. He is in the country undergoing a rest cure for his nerves and is calling on Mrs. Sappleton at the request of his sister. Though she does not know Mrs. Sappleton well, she worries that her brother will suffer if he keeps himself in total seclusion, as he is likely to do.
Fifteen-year-old Vera keeps Nuttel company while they wait for her aunt. After a short silence, Vera asks if Nuttel knows many people in the area. Nuttel replies in the negative, admitting that of Mrs. Sappleton he only knows her name and address. Vera then informs him that her aunt’s “great tragedy” happened after his sister was acquainted with her. Vera indicates the large window that opened on to the lawn.
Exactly three years ago, Vera recounts, Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and two younger brothers walked through the window to go on a day’s hunt. They never came back. They were drowned in a bog, and their bodies were never found. Mrs. Sappleton thinks they will come back some day, along with their spaniel, so she keeps the window open. She still talks of them often to her niece, repeating the words of one of her brother’s favorite songs, “Bertie, why do you bound?” Vera herself admits to sometimes believing the men will all come back through that window. She then breaks off her narration with a shudder.
At that moment, Mrs. Sappleton enters the room, apologizing for keeping him waiting and hoping that Vera has been amusing him. Mrs. Sappleton excuses the open window, explaining that her husband and brothers will be home soon, and she continues to talk on quite cheerfully about shooting. Nuttel finds this conversation gruesome and attempts to change the subject by talking about his rest cure, a topic which bores Mrs. Sappleton tremendously. But she suddenly brightens up, crying ”Here they are at last!”
Nuttel turns to Vera to extend his sympathy, but Vera is staring out through the open window with a look of horror in her eyes. Nuttel turns around to the window and sees Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and brothers walking across the lawn, a spaniel following them, and hears a voice singing “Bertie, why do you bound?” Nuttel grabs his hat and walking stick and flees from the house.
Mr. Sappleton comes through the window and greets his wife. Mrs. Sappleton muses over Nuttel’s departure that was so sudden it was if he had seen a ghost. Vera says that she believes it was the spaniel that frightened him; she tells her aunt and uncle that Nuttel is terrified of dogs ever since being hunted into a cemetery in India by wild dogs and having to spend the night in a newly dug grave.
As Saki remarks at story’s end, making up stories that add a bit of excitement to life, “romance at short notice,” is Vera’s specialty.