"My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel,"
said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen; "in the meantime you
must try and put up with me."
This is the inciting incident
because this is when she is
telling him the story and starting the chain of events.
Framton Nuttel endeavored to say the correct something
which should duly Hatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the
aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal
visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the
nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing
"I know how it will be," his sister had said
when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; "you will bury
yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be
worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to
all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite
Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom
he was presenting one of the letters of introduction came into the nice
"Do you know many of the people round here?"
asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent
"Hardly a soul," said Framton. "My sister
was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave
me letters of introduction to some of the people here."
He made the last statement in a tone of distinct
"Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?"
pursued the self-possessed young lady.
"Only her name and address," admitted the
caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed
state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine
This is the exposition because
it lays the groundwork and tells
how he doesn't know anyone or anything about that place.
"Her great tragedy happened just three years
ago," said the child; "that would be since your sister's
"Her tragedy?" asked Framton; somehow in this
restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.
"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on
an October afternoon," said the niece, indicating a large French window
that opened on to a lawn.
"It is quite warm for the time of the year,"
said Framton; "but has that window got anything to do with the
"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. In crossing the moor to their favorite 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. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the
dreadful part of it." Here the child's voice lost its self-possessed note
and became falteringly human. "Poor aunt always thinks that they will come
back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and
walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept
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. 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--"
She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to
Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being
late in making her appearance.
"I hope Vera
has been amusing you?" she said.
"She has been very interesting," said
"I hope you don't mind the open window," said
Mrs. Sappleton briskly; "my husband and brothers will be home directly
from shooting, and they always come in this way. They've been out for snipe in
the marshes today, so they'll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like
you menfolk, isn't it?"
She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the
scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton it was
all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort
to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic, he was conscious that his hostess
was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly
straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an
unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic
"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an
absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of
violent physical exercise," announced Framton, who labored under the
tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are
hungry for the least detail of one's ailments and infirmities, their cause and
cure. "On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement," he
"No?" said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only
replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she suddenly brightened into alert
attention--but not to what Framton was saying.
This is the rising action because
it scares him that he thinks she
thinks they will really come back.
"Here they are at last!" she cried. "Just
in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the
This is the turning point
because this is where Mrs.
Sapleton's husband and her brother return from hunting and
Mr. Frampton thinks they are ghosts.
Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece
with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring
out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock
of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same
In the deepening twilight three figures were walking
across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms, and
one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his
shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they
neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk:
"I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"
Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall
door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his
headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to
avoid imminent collision.
"Here we are, my dear," said the bearer of the
white mackintosh, coming in through the window, "fairly muddy, but most of
it's dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?"
"A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel," said
Mrs. Sappleton; "could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off
without a word of goodby or apology when you arrived. One would think he had
seen a ghost."
"I expect it was the spaniel," said the niece
calmly; "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."
This is the falling action
because when he sees the men and
dog that he thinks were dead, he runs out of the house
and down the street.
Romance at short notice was her speciality.
This is the resolution because we find out that Verna was really telling a lie and Mr.
Frampton didn't know.