Why is Mr. Nuttel visiting the country?
Framton Nuttel's purpose in sojourning in the country and for calling on the Sappletons are covered quickly in two passages. When he presents himself he is greeted by fifteen-year-old Vera Sappleton, who explains that she is standing in for her aunt who will be down shortly.
Framton Nuttel endeavoured to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.
Vera has just enough time to tell Framton her utterly false ghost story before her aunt arrives. Then he gives Mrs. Sappleton some further details about his health.
"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise," announced Framton, who laboured under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one's ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. "On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement," he continued.
Framton's sister knew some people in the area, but not really very well. She had insisted on giving her brother letters of introduction to these people, probably under the assumption that such isolated country dwellers would welcome visitors from the big city of London. The sister had been staying with the local vicar, which made it impossible for anyone who received her letter of introduction to fail at least to invite Framton to tea. That is evidently Mrs. Sappleton's intention. It is nearly tea time, and she is awaiting the return pf her husband and her two brothers from their customary bird-hunting, which seems to be all they ever do and all they ever talk about..
The author establishes that Framton is seeking "complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise" because the poor man is going to experience just the opposite when he sees the men who have supposedly been dead for three years approaching the open window, all of them carrying guns. The story is told in such a way that the reader does not realize why Framton panics and goes running out of the house and down the country road until Mrs. Sappleton's husband enters and shows that he is not a ghost when he asks:
"Who was that who bolted out as we came up?"