In "The Open Window," what does "Romance at short notice" mean, specifically, the word “romance”?
In Saki's short story "The Open Window", the character of Vera is a young teenage girl currently staying at her aunt's house (Mrs. Stappleton), and who is described as someone whose specialty is "romance, at short notice".
This latter phrase refers to her ability to come up with exaggerated stories, particularly with the seemingly-Gothic tale about three dead men who come to visit her aunt every time they see the window open.
Vera concocts this story instantly after meeting her aunt's future house guest, Mr Frampton Nuttel. Mr. Nuttel has just suffered a mental breakdown and is on location to take a rest cure. However, Vera's story ultimately sends Mr. Nuttel running out of the house in a fit, since the very three men that Vera describes in her story do end up showing up at the house: they were none other than Mrs. Sappleton's very-much-alive husband and two younger brothers, who had gone out.
It is apparent that Vera's quick wit is able to pick on Frampton's frail nature and, for this reason, she uses Nuttel as the victim of her tale.
Therefore, the term "romance" used as "Vera's specialty", is mainly intended to identify and describe the genre of the story that Vera tells Nuttel. This is because Vera's tale is both fictitious and embellished; these two traits alone automatically classify her story as a "romance" in the literary sense.