Mrs. Sappleton's fifteen-year-old niece Vera is depicted as a clever, intelligent girl with an affinity for "Romance at short notice" in Saki's short story "The Open Window ." After a brief introduction with Framton Nuttel, Vera instantly discovers that he is a gullible neurotic, who is not familiar...
Mrs. Sappleton's fifteen-year-old niece Vera is depicted as a clever, intelligent girl with an affinity for "Romance at short notice" in Saki's short story "The Open Window." After a brief introduction with Framton Nuttel, Vera instantly discovers that he is a gullible neurotic, who is not familiar with anyone in the region and is a mentally troubled outsider. She proceeds to demonstrate her storytelling and acting abilities by telling Framton a fabricated, elaborate tale about why her aunt's French window is kept open. Vera's story is particularly unsettling, and its dark subject matter makes Framton extremely nervous. Vera's ability to fabricate an involved tale on such short notice is impressive, as well as her talent for creating a shocking story to describe a seemingly typical situation pertaining to an open French window. Even after Framton bolts from Mrs. Sappleton's home, Vera once again reveals her expert storytelling abilities by fabricating a tale about Mr. Nuttel's terrifying history with a pack of pariah dogs in India. Vera also reveals her impressive acting abilities by maintaining her composure while she tells the story and stares out the window with a look of "dazed horror in her eyes" when her uncles return from their hunting trip. Her combined storytelling and acting abilities allow her to shatter Mr. Nuttel's delicate nerves as he sprints from her aunt's home in fear when Vera's uncles return.
Vera is an actress in that she's pretending to be a harmless, inoffensive young girl. There's nothing about her appearance or demeanor that would suggest that she represents a threat to Framton's fragile nervous system. However, appearances can be deceptive, and Vera expertly hides behind her sugar-and-spice persona to play a cruel prank on her unfortunate guest.
In Vera, the roles of actress and story-teller are combined. She's very good at telling stories, which give her the opportunity to allow her vivid imagination free reign. And as she spins Framton her spooky yarn, she's completely convincing in giving the impression that something terrible really did happen on that fateful hunting expedition. Vera's acting skills are much in evidence later on when the supposedly dead men return from their day's hunting. She stares through the open window at the approaching figures, a look of dazed horror in her eyes. It's all just a show, of course, to keep the prank going. But Framton's completely taken in by Vera's prodigious acting and story-telling skills, and immediately runs for the hills, his nerves shattered to pieces.
When Saki was plotting "The Open Window" he must have given considerable thought to creating the character who would tell the spooky story to Framton Nuttel. He chose to give the role to Vera, a fifteen-year-old girl. He may have decided against using a boy because a boy would have been more likely to go off bird shooting with the three men. A girl is more convincing because girls generally appear to be better behaved, although they may harbor all sorts of mischievous thoughts. Vera had to be young enough to play such a trick on a visitor and to take a risk of getting found out after the fact. But she had to be old enough to be entirely credible. Fifteen seems like exactly the right age. She is described as very "self-possessed." Saki uses the term "self-possessed" twice. We picture her as calm, cool, relaxed, quite sophisticated for her age. This is for the sake of contrast with Framton Nuttel, who is just the opposite of calm, cool, and relaxed. Vera's description as self-possessed will also serve as a contrast with the way she behaves when she sees the three men approaching the open window.
Framton is seated with his back toward the open window when Mrs. Sappleton cries, "Here they are at last!" Instead of looking at the window, Framton turns and looks at Vera. The girl is anything but self-possessed.
The child was staring out through the open window with dazed horror in her eyes.
Vera is a good actress as well as a good story-teller. She must have been planning to fake a look of "dazed horror" from the start. It is the look of horror on her innocent young face that frightens Framton more than anything else. All he needs is a glimpse of three men approaching with guns to make him flee in blind panic.