The Open Window

By Saki (H.H. Munro)

The following is another of the scary ghost tales adapted as free interactive stories in our chat fiction format. We hope you enjoy it!

Tap arrow above to hear cinematic theme music or to turn it off.
Tap on arrow above to listen to this story.
Niece
My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel; in the meantime you must try and put up with me.
Me
You are most agreeable, thanks very kindly, and please call me Framton if you would. A friendly address may help with the nerve cure I am supposed to be undergoing.
Niece
Do you know many of the people round here?
Me
Hardly a soul. I have letters of introduction to so many, and I have presented only a small number. You are among the first people to whom I have spoken. But I wonder whether your aunt, Mrs. Sappleton, can be any more charming.  
Niece
Kind of you to say. I trust you do not feel buried down here, and are getting directions.
Me
No problem there. My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me the letters of introduction and directions to some of the people here.  
Niece
Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?  
Me
Only her name and address. I was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state.   
Niece
Her great tragedy happened just three years ago; that would be since your sister’s time.  
Me
Her tragedy? (Thinking: Somehow in this restful country spot, tragedies seem out of place.)  
Niece
You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon.  
Me
It is quite warm for the time of the year. But what has a large French window being left open got to do with the tragedy?  
Niece
Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day’s shooting.  They never came back.   
Me
Extraordinary! What happened?  
Niece
In crossing the moor to their favourite 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 warning.   
Me
My condolences. How awful for you all.  
Niece
Their bodies were never recovered.  That was the dreadful part of it. Poor auntie always thinks that they will come back some day, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do.    
Me
So that is why the window is kept open?  
Niece
Yes, it is left open every evening till it is quite dusk.  Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing ‘Bertie, why do you bound?’ as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves.    
Me
I am so sorry for her.  
Niece
Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window—  
Me
I can see that you are still quite choked up about it. We must not dwell on … Ah, here is your aunt now. 
Mrs. Sappleton
I hope Vera has been amusing you?  
Me
Well, Mrs. Sappleton, she has been very interesting.  
Mrs. Sappleton
I hope you don’t mind the open window, my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way.   
Me
Oh? But–   
Mrs. Sappleton
They’ve been out for snipe in the marshes to-day, so they’ll make a fine mess over my poor carpets.  So like you men-folk, isn’t it?  
Mrs. Sappleton
The shooting is said to be going poorly for most, as the scarcity of birds after the harsh winter makes it difficult, I am told, and the prospects for duck in the winter are also dampened a bit. But our family is not easily discouraged.   
Me
It is all horrible. I think the winter is forecast to be mild this coming season, if the almanacs are right. So I am given to believe. (Thinking: The poor lady is able to give me only a fragment of her attention; her eyes are constantly straying past me to the open window and the lawn beyond. It is certainly an unfortunate coincidence that I should have paid my visit on this tragic anniversary.)  
Mrs. Sappleton
I am a true representative of the family in this dislike of being discouraged.  
Me
How brave to carry on. In contrast, the doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise.  
Mrs. Sappleton
Do tell.  
Me
On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement.  
Mrs. Sappleton
Ahh. Uh, no?  
Me
I assure you–  
Mrs. Sappleton
Here they are at last! Just in time for tea, and don’t they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!  
Me
But– (Thinking: Oh, now I understand. But the poor niece, living with this muddled old woman! Wait, what is the girl looking out at in that dazed, horrified way? There, three figures approaching the open window; all with guns under their arms, and one carrying a white coat. And tired brown spaniel is at their heels.) 
Ronnie
I said, Bertie, why do you bound?  
Me
Oh, say you will excuse me. Is that really the time? Lord, I must fly!  
Mrs. Sappleton
Why,?  Please don’t go–he is running out the door!   
Niece
He is past the front gate by now, I expect.  
Mr. Sappleton
Here we are, my dear. Fairly muddy, but most of it’s dry.  Who was that who bolted out as we came up?  
Mrs. Sappleton
A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel. He could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of apology when you arrived.  One would think he had seen a ghost.  
Niece
I expect it was the spaniel, 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.
Mr. Sappleton
Romance at short notice is your speciality, young lady.  

Look for additional free interactive stories throughout.