Describe the events that led up to the aunt's incarceration (imprisonment) in the gooseberry garden in "The Lumber Room."

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A number of arbitrarily made judgments, hasty statements and conclusions, and a falsehood by the self-appointed aunt lead to her incarceration in the gooseberry garden. 

Here is a description of the events leading to this forced confinement of the aunt because of the cleverness of Nicholas:

  • When Nicholas tells his aunt there is a frog in his bread-and-milk, she summarily replies that there cannot possibly be a frog there. However, this is not true because he has placed a frog in his bowl [hasty conclusion]. This event results in Nicholas's own conclusion that

...the older, wiser, and better people had been proved to be profoundly in error in matters about which they had expressed the utmost assurance.

  • As a punishment for his having placed the frog in his bowl, Nicholas is made to remain home while his cousins go to Jagborough sands, their reward for good behavior [arbitrary judgment].
  • After Nicholas mitigates this "reward" of his cousins' going somewhere they can enjoy themselves, pointing out that his girl cousin is crying because she has scraped her knee and his boy cousin will be in pain later as he has boots on that pinch his feet, the angered aunt, who finds him disrespectful, forbids him to enter the gooseberry garden "because [he] is in disgrace." (Nicholas finds no logic in her dictate.)
  • Nicholas pretends that he wants to go into the gooseberry garden so that he can "keep her on self-imposed sentry-duty for the greater part of the aftemoon." Hoping to catch Nicholas in an act of disobedience [hasty conclusion based upon seeing Nicholas near the garden], the aunt stays in the garden, working "among flower beds and shrubberies."
  • Later, having grown suspicious of Nicholas's long disappearance as he has taken the opportunity to secretly enter the lumber room, the aunt calls out to him as she searches in the garden "among the artichokes and raspberry canes." [hasty conclusion that he is in the garden] But, she soon shrieks and cries for someone to come quickly.
  • When Nicholas approaches the garden, he asks, "Who's calling?" and his aunt explains that she has fallen into the rain-water tank, which is empty, but the sides are too slippery for her to step out of it. She asks Nicholas to get the ladder from under the cherry tree.
  • But, the more clever Nicholas reminds her he has been forbidden to enter the gooseberry garden and refuses to fetch the ladder.:

Your voice doesn't sound like aunt's," objected Nicholas; "you may be the Evil One tempting me to be disobedient. Aunt often tells me that the Evil One tempts me and that I always yield. This time I'm not going to yield."

  • Continuing to pretend that the aunt's voice is that of the "Evil One" who is merely tempting him for proof that the voice is not that of his aunt, he asks if there will be any strawberry jam for tea time. When the aunt responds, "Certainly there will be," [hasty statement] Nicholas entraps her by saying, 

"...when we asked aunt for strawberry jam yesterday she said there wasn't any. I know there are four jars of it in the store cupboard, because I looked, and of course you know it's there, but she doesn't, because she said there wasn't any. Oh, Devil, you have sold yourself!"

  • Nicholas then walks away, and it is not until a kitchen maid in search of parsley in the garden discovers her and lifts her from the water tank.