"The Open Window" is a popular short story by the British author Hector Hugh Munro who wrote under the pseudonym of Saki. It was first published in the Westminster Gazette on November 18, 1911. The story was collected in the 1914 anthology Beasts and Super-Beasts.
In the story, a gentleman goes to the country for a rest cure for his nerves. On a visit to an acquaintance of his sister's, he learns from the hostess' young niece that there has been a terrible family tragedy. What follows is neither restful nor helpful to his already frayed nerves.
"The Open Window" is one of the most anthologized works by Saki. The story is frequently used in English education, and it has been adapted for film, television, and radio.
Framton Nuttel is staying in the country on his doctor's orders for a rest cure for his nerves. Following his sister's advice, he reluctantly pays a formal visit to one of her acquaintances named Mrs. Sappleton. While the hostess is being delayed, Framton is entertained by her fifteen-year-old niece. He tells the niece that he is visiting people his sister met four years ago when she stayed in the area. Having ascertained that Framton knows nothing about Mrs. Sappleton, the niece tells him about the tragedy that struck her aunt three years ago. She brings his attention to the French window looking out to the lawn which is still open despite it being a late October afternoon. Three years ago this day, the niece says, Mrs. Sappleton's husband and her two brothers went out shooting and never returned. All three were caught in a bog while crossing the moor, and their bodies were never recovered. Mrs. Sappleton still believes the men will come back, along with the brown spaniel that was lost with them. The niece explains that is why the window is always kept open till dark. She then admits, with a shudder, that she herself sometimes feels as if they will come walking in through the window.
Framton is relieved when Mrs. Sappleton finally appears. The hostess apologizes for being late then begins to talk about her husband and brothers who are expected back soon from a day's shooting. She goes on talking about bird shooting in the area, and her eyes constantly wander over to the open window. As Framton tries desperately to steer the conversation away from the topic, Mrs. Sappleton suddenly cries out "Here they are at last!" Framton shivers and looks over at the niece in an attempt to silently express his sympathy. He finds the girl staring out the open window with horror in her eyes. Framton swings around to look. He sees three figures in the twilight walking towards the house with a brown spaniel at their heels. Framton bolts out of the room and runs away from the house at full speed.
Mr. Sappleton, coming in through the open window, asks his wife who it was he saw running out. Mrs. Sappleton replies that it was a Mr. Nuttel, a most extraordinary man, who dashed off as if he had seen a ghost. The niece says it must have been the dog that scared him. She then goes on to explain that Mr. Nuttel told her he was once chased into a cemetery by a pack of vicious wild dogs in India and was forced to spend the night in a newly-dug grave. The story ends with the revelation that the niece specializes in "romance at short notice."
Open Window (1972), an American short film directed by Richard Patterson, is a dramatization of "The Open Window." It is often used as an educational video. The Open Doors (2004), a British short film directed by James Rogan, is also an adaptation of the story.
The story was adapted by the BBC as a television opera with music by Malcolm Arnold and libretto by Sidney Gilliat. The one-act opera was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on December 14, 1956. "The Open Window" was also adapted for the British television series Tales of the Unexpected. The episode first aired on the ITV network on October 21, 1984.
A fifteen-minute radio play based on "The Open Window" was produced as the last episode of the five-part mini-series of Saki dramatizations Claw Marks on the Curtain. The play first aired on BBC Radio 4 on May 6, 2005.
- ↑ Other episodes of the 2005 BBC radio mini-series Claw Marks on the Curtain, all dramatized by Roger Davenport, are based on "The Lumber Room", "The Schartz-Metterklume Method", "Fur" and "The Toys of Peace".