The Lumber Room

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In the short story "The Lumber Room" by H. H. Munro, what is Nicholas doing in the lumber room? 

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In the lumber room, Nicholas delightedly unleashes his imagination as he examines the treasures stored away in this dusty room.

Nicholas escapes from his prosaic and supercilious aunt by sequestering himself in the forbidden lumber room after assuring his safety by cleverly assuming "an expression of considerable obstinacy." He does this in order to make the aunt believe that he truly desires to enter the gooseberry garden and will make efforts to do so. With this subterfuge, Nicholas ensures that his aunt will occupy herself in "self-imposed sentry-duty for the greater part of the afternoon," and he can safely enjoy himself elsewhere.

Once in the lumber room, Nicholas indulges in flights of fancy as he happily gazes at all the "wonderful things" therein. Among them are quaint objects of interest and delight that absorb his attention:

  • candlesticks that are twisted into the shapes of snakes from an exotic world
  • an old-fashioned teapot shaped like a china duck whose beak is the pour spout
  • a sandalwood box containing small, delightful brass figures of Brahma bulls, peacocks, and mischievous dwarf-like demons
  • a large book filled with pictures of exotic and resplendent birds such as wood pigeons, herons, bustards, toucans, scarlet ibises, golden pheasants, and many others

But the object that truly arrests Nicholas's attention is a large tapestry which depicts a hunter who has shot a stag with an arrow. To him it is "a living, breathing story" in which he becomes the narrator. Looking at the scene of the deer impaled with the hunter's arrow and the two dogs "springing forward," having remained at point while the hunter shot, Nicholas engages his imagination as he wonders if the hunter, who has but two arrows left, and the dogs will be able to hold off the four wolves who are stealing upon them:

Nicholas sat for many golden minutes revolving the possibilities of the scene; he was inclined to think that there were more than four wolves and that the man and his dogs were in a tight corner.

His exciting reveries about the deer and the picture-book birds are unfortunately cut short by "the shrill vociferation" of his appointed-aunt's voice calling his name from the forbidden gooseberry garden. Nicholas returns the bird book to its place and leaves the room, locking it, and replacing the key where it had long rested.

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