The Open Window Summary

"The Open Window" by Saki is a 1914 short story about Framton Nuttel, who is frightened by the fanciful lies of his new neighbors' niece, Vera.

  • While visiting his neighbors, Framton meets Vera, who explains that her uncle and his brothers-in-law drowned in a moor three years ago on a hunting trip. Her aunt leaves the window open because she believes they will eventually return.

  • When the hunters, who actually only left that morning, return, Framton believes they are ghosts and flees. Vera explains his departure as a result of his fear of dogs, triggered by the appearance of the hunters' spaniel.

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Last Updated on June 30, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 711

Framton Nuttel arrives at the home of the Sappletons, with whom he is not acquainted. He is greeted by Vera, a “self-possessed” fifteen-year-old girl who says that her aunt, Mrs. Sappleton, will arrive soon to greet him.

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Framton silently reflects on his recent move to the area, which he refers to as a “rural retreat.” His sister, who once lived here, had worried that he would seclude himself. Thus she drafted up some letters of introduction so that Framton could meet some of her local acquaintances. Framton, for his part, worries that these social visits will worsen his nerves, and he notes that he is currently undergoing a “nerve cure.”

When Vera inquires, Framton reveals his lack of social contacts in the area as well as his sister’s efforts to make introductions for him. Vera then notes that Framton and his sister would not know about Mrs. Sappleton’s “great tragedy,” which occurred three years ago. Framton confirms his ignorance on the matter and feels surprised that tragedy could strike such a placid place.

Vera gestures towards a large French window, which has been opened, despite the October weather. Framton asks whether the open window is related to Mrs. Sappleton’s tragedy.

Vera tells the story of the tragedy. On this day three years ago, Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and her two younger brothers departed through the French window to go hunting for snipe across a nearby moor. Given the wetness of the prior summer, the softened earth swallowed up the three men, who have never been seen since. In her grief, Mrs. Sappleton keeps the window open every day until sundown, for she still expects the three men to return from their hunt with their brown spaniel. Mrs. Sappleton has told Vera of the manner of their departure, with her husband carrying his white coat over his arm and her brother Ronnie jestingly remarking, “Bertie, why do you bound?” 

Vera trembles as she finishes the story, at which point her aunt bursts into the room, apologizing for her lateness and expressing her hope that Vera has been “amusing.” 

Mrs. Sappleton then remarks on the open window, noting that she has kept it open because she is expecting the return of her husband and brothers, who have gone hunting for snipe. As she goes on discussing the topic of bird-hunting, Framton is horrified to witness her grief-stricken fixations. He tries to bring up other subjects, but Mrs. Sappleton is inattentive and continues to look at, and beyond, the open window.

Framton discusses his nerve cure, which consists of rest and an avoidance of mental and physical excitement, though he notes that doctors have not agreed on the proper diet for those suffering from nerves.

Mrs. Sappleton barely stifles a yawn in response to Framton’s tedious remarks, but then her demeanor suddenly brightens, and she cries, “Here they are at last!”

Framton is disturbed by this delusional display and turns to Vera to commiserate on the matter, but Vera is intently looking out through the open window with a look of “dazed horror.” Framton turns, training his gaze in the same direction.

Three people appear to be approaching the open window from across the lawn, all three carrying guns and one of them carrying a white coat. A brown spaniel follows them closely. Finally, one of them says, “Bertie, why do you bound?”

In a frantic state, Framton grabs his stick and hat and runs out the door, across the drive, and into the road, nearly colliding with a cyclist.

As the three men enter through the window, Mrs. Sappleton’s husband inquires about the man who just dashed out the door. Mrs. Sappleton tells him about Framton Nuttel, “a most extraordinary man” who spoke only of his maladies and then left without explanation, as if “he had seen a ghost.”

Vera calmly explains that it must have been the spaniel that scared him. She claims that Framton told her about his fear of dogs, which arose after an experience in India when he was followed by a pack of dogs and had to seek shelter in an open grave.

The final sentence of the story drives home the animating irony: “Romance at short notice was her speciality.”

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