The Open Window



Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Open Window can help.

Framton Nuttel is visiting the quiet English countryside in the hope of curing his nerves. Upon arriving at Mrs. Sappleton’s home, he is greeted by her self-assured 15-year-old niece named Vera. Mr. Nuttel searches in vain for the proper greeting for a teenage girl, while privately lamenting that these meetings with strangers, arranged by his sister, likely won’t do him any good. Vera proceeds to ask her guest about his knowledge of the area and learns that Mr. Nuttel knows “next to nothing” about her aunt. Vera then points out a large, open window, and launches into a story about Mrs. Sappleton’s “great tragedy.”

Vera tells Mr. Nuttel that three years ago Mrs. Sappleton’s husband, two brothers, and spaniel left through that window for a hunting trip, during which they were all “engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog.” Vera includes specific details about the outing that all ground her tale, such as the white raincoat one man was wearing and how her uncle Ronnie sang “Bertie, why do you bound?” to tease his sister. Now, Vera says, her aunt keeps the window open because she believes the men will still come home. Vera adds that on quiet evenings, she gets a “creepy feeling” that the dead men will indeed walk through the window.

Just then Mrs. Sappleton enters the room, much to Mr. Nuttel’s relief, and asks her guest whether Vera has been amusing him. She proceeds to apologize for the open window, remarking that her husband and brothers enter the house that way after hunting trips to avoid dirtying the carpet. Mr. Nuttel grows horrified by her cheerful rambling about hunting, and attempts to change the subject by discussing his illness and various cures. He notices that Mrs. Sappleton’s eyes keep wandering toward the window, and considers it an “unfortunate coincidence” to have visited on such a tragic anniversary. Mrs. Sappleton barely stifles a yawn before “brightening to attention” to something outside.

Mrs. Sappleton excitedly remarks that her brother and husband have arrived just in time for tea. For a moment Mr. Nuttel pities her delusion, before catching a look of terror on Vera’s face. Turning to look out the window himself, he sees three men and a dog walking across the yard, one with a white raincoat slung over his arm and another singing “Bertie, why do you bound?”—just as in Vera’s story. Terrified, Mr. Nuttel sprints out of the house and down the driveway.

The men enter the home and the one with the white coat asks Mrs. Sappleton who the man running past was. She responds that he was a “most extraordinary gentleman,” who left without saying goodbye, in such a hurry that “one would think he had seen a ghost.”

Immediately Vera explains that Mr. Nuttel ran off because of the spaniel, adding that he is scared of dogs due to a traumatic incident in India. The story concludes with the line, “romance at short notice was her specialty.”