illustration of a young girl looking out a window at ghostly figures

The Open Window

by Saki

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"The Open Window" contains a story within a story told by the "very self-possessed young lady of fifteen," named Vera. Framton Nuttel comes to the home she lives in with her aunt, one of many "formal visits on a succession of total strangers" that is supposed to help the "nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing." When Framton speaks of the letters of introduction he's brought from his sister, he speaks "in a tone of distinct regret," which lets Vera know (if she didn't already suspect) that meeting new people makes him uncomfortable and anxious. The narrator again refers to Vera as "self-possessed," contrasting her with Framton, who is edgy and nervous. Vera invents a story which we learn later to be designed to further unsettle poor Framton; she obviously sees him as an easy target. She tells him,

Out through that window, three years ago to a day, [my aunt's] husband and her two young brothers went off for their day's shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favorite snipe-shooting ground, they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warming. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it.

She goes on to explain that her aunt believes they will return someday with their little dog who died with them, and this is why, Vera says, the window is left open. In reality, these men just went out to hunt today and she knows that they are due back any moment; she clearly wants to terrify poor Framton. When the men return and Framton bolts from the house, she calmly makes up yet another story within this story! She tells her aunt and uncle that it was likely the presence of the dog which frightened Framton so. She says,

he told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve.

The narrator goes on to state that "Romance at short notice was [Vera's] specialty." Obviously, this story is also a complete fabrication!

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