In the short story "The Shed Chamber" by Laura E. Richards, a young teenager named Nora answers an advertisement to take a position as a housekeeper and childcare helper in the home of a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Bowles. Since Nora is the narrator of the story, readers quickly realize her compassion and kindness as she works hard to clean up the house, cook for the family, and care for the children and for Mrs. Bowles, who is an invalid.
When Mr. Bowles goes away on a business trip, the previous helper, a girl named Annie, arrives at the house. She asks to collect some things from the shed chamber, a large closet-like room adjoining Nora's room. However, Nora spots her letting a nasty-looking thief in through a window and hiding him in a cedar chest. After Annie leaves, Nora locks the thief in the cedar chest and runs for help. When the thief is captured, though, instead of telling Annie's role in it all, Nora visits her. She discovers that Annie is her own age and has lost her mother. Empathizing with Annie's lonely, heartbroken situation, Nora befriends her.
As Nora is narrating the story, she frequently addresses her audience of readers, whom she calls "girls." This leads us to believe that the moral of the story is mainly directed at girls and women. Most of Laura E. Richards's stories were written in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century, when girls were expected to adhere to strict standards of moral behavior. However, there are two strong and obvious morals in this story that are applicable to everyone.
One moral is to resist evil. When Nora finds out that the thief is hiding in the trunk, she realizes that he might harm Mrs. Bowles and the children, so instead of doing nothing or merely running away, she locks up the thief and runs for help.
The other moral is evident throughout the whole story, and it has to do with Nora's character. She is kind, helpful, hardworking, and generous, and Richards strongly implies that if you have these qualities, you can improve the lives of the people around you. This is epitomized when Nora is even able to befriend and help Annie.