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Th Open Windo

BY SAKI (H. H. Munro) (1870-1916)

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"My ant wil be down presntly, Mr. Nuttel," said a very self-posesd yung lady of fifteen; "in th meantime u must try and put up with me."

Framton Nuttel endeavored to say th corect somthing wich shud duly flatter th nece of th moment without unduly discountng th ant that was to com. Privatly he doutd mor than evr wethr these forml visits on a succession of total stranjers wud do much towards helpng th nerv cure wich he was suposed to be undrgoing


"I no how it wil be," his sistr had said wen he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; "u wil bury yrself down ther and not speak to a livng sol, and yr nervs wil be worse than evr from moping. I shal just giv u letrs of introduction to al th peple I no ther. Som of them, as far as I can remembr, wer quite nice."

Framton wondrd wethr Mrs. Sappleton, th lady to hom he was presentng one of th letrs of introduction came into th nice division.

"Do u no many of th peple round here?" askd th nece, wen she jujd that they had had suficient silent comunion.

"Hardly a sol," said Framton. "My sistr was stayng here, at th rectry, u no, som four years ago, and she gave me letrs of introduction to som of th peple here."

He made th last statemnt in a tone of distinct regret.

"Then u no practicly nothing about my ant?" pursud th self-posesd yung lady.

"Only her name and adress," admitd th calr. He was wondrng wethr Mrs. Sappleton was in th marrid or widod state. An undefinable somthing about th room seemd to sujest masculin habitation.

"Her gret trajedy hapnd just thre years ago," said th child; "that wud be since yr sister's time."

"Her trajedy?" askd Framton; somhow in this restful cuntry spot trajedis seemd out of place.

"U may wondr wy we keep that windo wide open on an October aftrnoon," said th nece, indicating a larj French windo that opend on to a lawn.

"It is quite warm for th time of th year," said Framton; "but has that windo got anything to do with th trajedy?"

"Out thru that windo, thre years ago to a day, her husbnd and her two yung brothrs went off for ther day's shootng. They nevr came bak. In crosng th moor to ther favorit snipe-shootng ground they wer al thre engulfd in a trechrus pece of bog. It had been that dredful wet sumr, u no, and places that wer safe in othr years gave way sudnly without warnng. Ther bodis wer nevr recovrd. That was th dredful part of it." Here th child's voice lost its self-posesd note and became falteringly human. "Poor ant always thinks that they wil com bak somday, they and th litl brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that windo just as they used to do. That is wy th windo is kept open evry evenng til it is quite dusk. Poor dear ant, she has ofn told me how they went out, her husbnd with his wite watrproof coat over his arm, and Ronni, her yungst brothr, singng 'bertie, wy do u bound?' as he always did to tese her, because she said it got on her nervs. Do u no, somtimes on stil, quiet evenngs like this, I almost get a creepy feelng that they wil al walk in thru that windo--"

She broke off with a litl shudr. It was a relief to Framton wen th ant busld into th room with a wirl of apolojis for being late in making her apearnce.

"I hope Vera has been amusing u?" she said.

"She has been very intrestng," said Framton.

"I hope u dont mind th open windo," said Mrs. Sappleton briskly; "my husbnd and brothrs wil be home directly from shootng, and they always com in this way. They'v been out for snipe in th marshs today, so they'l make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like u menfolk, isnt it?"

She ratld on cheerfuly about th shootng and th scarcity of birds, and th prospects for duk in th wintr. To Framton it was al purely horibl. He made a desprat but only partialy succesful efrt to turn th talk on to a less gastly topic, he was concius that his hostess was givng him only a fragmnt of her atention, and her ys wer constntly strayng past him to th open windo and th lawn beyond. It was certnly an unfortunat coincidnce that he shud hav paid his visit on this trajic aniversry.

"Th doctrs agree in ordrng me complete rest, an absnce of mentl exitemnt, and avoidnce of anything in th natur of violent fysicl exrcise," anounced Framton, ho labord undr th tolrbly widespred delusion that total stranjers and chance aquaintnces ar hungry for th least detail of one's ailmnts and infirmitis, ther cause and cure. "On th matr of diet they ar not so much in agreemnt," he continud.

"No?" said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice wich only replaced a yawn at th last moment. Then she sudnly brytnd into alert atention--but not to wat Framton was sayng.

"Here they ar at last!" she cryd. "Just in time for te, and dont they look as if they wer muddy up to th ys!"

Framton shivrd slytly and turnd towards th nece with a look intendd to convey sympathetic comprehension. Th child was staring out thru th open windo with a dazed horr in her ys. In a chil shok of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and lookd in th same direction.

In th deepnng twilyt thre figrs wer walkng across th lawn towards th windo, they al carrid guns undr ther arms, and one of them was aditionly burdnd with a wite coat hung over his sholdrs. A tired brown spaniel kept close at ther heels. Noislesly they neard th house, and then a horse yung voice chantd out of th dusk: "I said, Berti, wy do u bound?"

Framton grabd wildly at his stik and hat; th hal dor, th gravl drive, and th front gate wer dimly noted stajes in his hedlong retreat. A cyclist comng along th road had to run into th hej to avoid imnnt colision.

"Here we ar, my dear," said th berr of th wite mackintosh, comng in thru th windo, "fairly muddy, but most of it's dry. Ho was that ho boltd out as we came up?"

"A most extrordnry man, a Mr. Nuttel," said Mrs. Sappleton; "cud only talk about his ilnesses, and dashd off without a word of goodby or apolojy wen u arived. One wud think he had seen a gost."

"I expect it was th spaniel," said th nece calmly; "he told me he had a horr of dogs. He was once huntd into a cemetry somwher on th banks of th Ganjes by a pak of paria dogs, and had to spend th nyt in a newly dug grave with th creaturs snarlng and grinng and foamng just abov him. Enuf to make anyone lose ther nerv."

Romance at short notice was her speciality.