The Open Window

the open windowThe British writer H. H. Munro, also known by the pen-name Saki, is considered the master of both the very short story and unexpected endings. The Open Window actually takes place around a door and not a window. In the story, a young woman plays a joke on an unfortunate visitor. Most readers also find themselves taken in by the joke. What about you?

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The girl in the story plays the joke on poor Framton Nuttel as they look outside through a pair of open French doors. As you can see in the picture above, a French door is made up of small panes of glass that reach to the floor. Because of this, some people also call them French windows. This is important in properly understanding the story.

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Intermediate Level 1800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

General Comments on the Story

Readers might be wondering why the youngest brother Ronnie’s singing “Bertie, why do you bound?” would upset Mrs Sappleton. As you can see from the vocabulary links above, to “bound” means to move by jumping, or to walk or run with long, energetic steps. However, someone who moves about in this way would not normally be called a “bounder”. The word bounder is an old-fashioned English slang word for a man who has behaved in a way that is morally wrong – especially toward women.

These words are a line from the song “Bertie The Bounder” from the 1909 musical Our Miss Gibbs. It is said that the song was written to make fun of the British king at the time, Edward VII. King Edward’s first name was Albert, and throughout his life he was known to the royal family by the nickname Bertie. Edward had a strong but likeable personality, and is said to have been the most popular king since the 1660’s. However, he was also a well-known ladies’ man. Some people claim that he had over 50 mistresses during his lifetime, including many after he married. Edward’s mother, the famous Queen Victoria, was known for her strict moral standards. Although Edward VII was much loved, many conservative English women of the day would have felt very embarrassed by his reported behavior.

If you are interested, you can listen to an early version of the song by clicking the link above. I haven’t been able to find a copy of the lyrics, so have transcribed the words as they sound and make sense to me. The recording is from an old vinyl record, which means that it is scratchy and hard to understand in parts. There are likely to be mistakes in some of the lines, so if anyone can help by sending us an original set of lyrics that we can put on the Internet for posterity, this would be greatly appreciated.

A number of the references in the song can be related to the life of Edward VII and other events of the day. The “Suzi” mentioned is most likely Lady Susan Vane-Tempest, the only woman with whom it is almost certain that Edward fathered an illegitimate child. Sadly, no one knows what became of the poor baby. If this is the case, the reference to Bertie taking Suzi for a ride in an aeroplane cannot be true. Edward attended a demonstration of powered flight by the Wright Brothers in 1908, but Lady Susan died while Wilbur and Orville were still in Grade School.

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cruel(adj: cruel, crueler, cruelest) Used to describe: 1. someone who hurts others and does not feel sorry about it; 2. something that causes or helps to cause pain or suffering.
(n: cruelty pl cruelties) 1. Something which causes pain or suffering. 2. The quality or state of being cruel. 3000

amusing(adj: amusing) Funny; providing enjoyment; pleasantly entertaining. An amusing story. 3000

(v: bound, bounds, bounded, bounding) To move by jumping; to walk or run with long, energetic steps. 5000

cemetery(n: cemetery pl cemeteries) A piece of ground where the bodies of dead people are buried; a graveyard. 5000

cheerful(adj: cheerful) 1. Feeling or showing happiness. 2. Causing good feelings or happiness. 4000

(adj: confident) To be certain or very sure about something. 2000
To be a confident person is to be self-assured (sure about your own abilities) and not shy. To be a confident communicator is to be able to speak or write freely, without feeling shy or nervous about making mistakes.

confuse(v: confuse, confuses, confused, confusing) To make someone uncertain or unable to understand something.
(n: confusion pl confusions) The feeling that you have when you do not understand what is happening, what is expected, etc.
(adj: confusing) Difficult to understand; not clear. 2000

(n: grave pl graves) A piece of ground, or the hole dug in it, in which a dead person is buried.
(adj: grave, graver, gravest) To look serious and formal in what you are doing. 4000

grave grave look.jpg

marsh(n: marsh pl marshes) An area of soft, wet land that has many grasses and other plants but few if any trees; a wetland. 5000

(n: nerve pl nerves) 1. One of the many thin cords which carry messages between all parts of the body and the brain. 2. Courage that allows you to do something that is dangerous, difficult, or frightening. 3. The rude attitude of someone who says or does things that make other people angry or upset [in which case you might say 'What a nerve!' when talking to or about them]. 2000
(phrasal verb: lose your nerve) To become afraid to do or try something.

nerves(n: nerves, noncount) The medical condition known today as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), characterized by uncontrollable and often unnecessary worry about common occurrences and situations. 2000

relief(n: relief, noncount) 1. A pleasant and relaxed feeling that someone has when something unpleasant stops or does not happen. Much to everyone's relief, the airplane landed without any problems. 2. The removal or reducing of something that is painful or unpleasant. Exercise is an excellent source of stress relief. 2000

romance(n: romance pl romances) 1. The relationship, actions etc of people who are in love. 2. A story about people in love. 3. A feeling of excitement and adventure, especially connected to a particular place or activity. The romance of travel. 5000

snarl(v: snarl, snarls, snarled, snarling) To make a deep, rough growling sound with the teeth showing (like an angry dog). (ขู่คำราม ใส่) 10000

(v: tease, teases, teased, teasing) 1. To annoy or bother (a person or animal) on purpose. (หยอกล้อ) 2. To laugh at or criticize (someone) in a way that is either friendly and playful or cruel and unkind. (หยอกเย้า) 3. To make (someone) feel excited or interested about something you might do or say without actually doing it or saying it. (ยั่วเย้า) (n) A woman who uses her sex appeal to take advantage of men. (ผู้หญิงที่ยั่วยวนผู้ชาย) 3000

(n: tragedy pl tragedies) 1. A very bad event that causes great sadness and often involves someone's death. (เหตุการณ์ร้ายแรง) 2. A play, movie, etc. that is serious and has a sad ending such as the death of the main character. (โศกนาฏกรรม) 3000

yawn(v: yawn, yawns, yawned, yawning) To open your mouth wide while taking in breath, usually because you are tired or bored. (หาว) 5000

A short (8 minute) ‘Americanized’ adaption of the story for which I can find little information other than the fact that it was apparently used as a filler between episodes of ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ in the 1980s TV series USA Saturday Nightmares. To watch online, click here. To download the mp4, click here.
A short (10 minute) video adaption of the story directed by James Rogan for the Future Shorts film label. Interestingly, it uses the more correct title: ‘The Open Doors’. To watch online, click here. To download the mp4, click here.

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