In "The Open Window," why did Mr. Framton Nuttel visit Mrs. Sappleton?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Framton Nuttel is calling on the entire Sappleton family. The men are out hunting. Mrs. Sappleton and her niece Vera are the only family members who happen to be at home. Nuttel is staying in the country in order to take a "rest cure." He is suffering from a nervous disorder and, aa he tells Mrs. Sappleton, "The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise." It is one of the chief ironies of the story that he will get no rest and plenty of mental excitement and violent physical exercise. His sister, who stayed at the local vicarage four years before, has given him letters of introduction to a number of people she had met while she was there. This seems like an imposition, since she couldn't have gotten to know the local people very well. But she insists on having her brother make an attempt to meet some people.

"I know how it will be," his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; "you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice."

Obviously Framton Nuttel is a shy, retiring man, and it is an ordeal for him to be calling on perfect strangers without any special purpose in mind. What can he expect of them? What can they expect of him? He is an ideal subject for Vera's practical joke because he doesn't know a soul down here, and he couldn't know anything to contradict the story she tells them about the three men getting sucked into a bog several years ago. 

The funny thing is that when Mrs. Sappleton arrives downstairs she fits in perfectly with Vera's scheme. Just as Vera had told Nuttel, Mrs. Sappleton appears to be waiting for the return of her husband and two brothers who supposedly died several years ago. 

"Here they are at last!" she cried. "Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!"

The mischievous Vera has orchestrated her whole trick beautifully. Nuttel has his back to the open window. He naturally believes that Mrs. Sappleton, supposedly mentally unbalanced, is hallucinating. He turns to Vera with a look of sympathy, but the artful girl is staring at the window and faking a look of horror.

In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction....In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms...

Framton panics. He jumps up, dashes out of the house and goes running for his life up the country road. That will probably be the last time he will use one of his sister's letters of introduction.