The Shed Chamber Summary
“The Shed Chamber” is a short story by Laura E. Richards about Nora, a girl who goes to work for the Bowles family and proves her bravery in a remarkable series of events.
- With her family’s farm faring poorly, Nora responds to an advertisement to work for the Bowles family. She quickly proves her competence in running the house and caring for the ailing Mrs. Bowles.
- One night, the prior serving girl, Annie, arrives and secretly lets in an intruder. Nora acts decisively, stopping the burglary with the help of the neighbors. Ultimately, Nora does not reveal Annie’s involvement.
Last Updated on March 9, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 731
Nora recounts a childhood story to several girls, perhaps her own children.
Nora, one of three sisters, answers an advertisement in “Farmer’s Friend” for a girl to assist in housework and taking care of children. She asks permission from her father and mother to go. At first, her father is reluctant, saying that he will not have enough people to take in the apple harvest if Nora leaves, but Nora realizes that he is only afraid of missing her, and she is able to convince him, because there will be plenty of people to help with the harvest. She asks for a reference from the local pastor, who readily provides an excellent one. Having sent this on to Dashville, she secures the position, after which she leaves by train for her new employment. Having never traveled very far from home before this point, Dashville feels far away to Nora.
She arrives at the Bowles house, which is pleasant and painted yellow. Mr. Bowles is kind, and the children are shy and sweet-natured, but Nora is particularly taken by Mrs. Bowles, an invalid, who hopes Nora will be “the right one” at last.
The kitchen is in disarray; the oldest child, Barbara, says that the Bowles family have had one ill-suited serving girl after another, and the last one nearly starved Mrs. Bowles. Nora determines to make a tray of food for Mrs. Bowles and sends Barbara up with it. Mr. Bowles says he thinks the Lord has sent Nora.
Nora makes a good supper for Mr. Bowles and his children and is glad to see them eat it. That night, Barbara shows Nora her room, which has two doors. The second one leads to the “shed chamber,” a room empty of furniture apart from trunks and a wardrobe.
At the end of the first week, Mr. Bowles needs to go away on business. By this time, Mrs. Bowles and Nora are fast friends, and Mrs. Bowles says she will feel safe with Nora.
Nora asks if she may inspect how the windows and doors in the house fasten. She feels a little worried that the shed chamber does not fasten securely from the outside, but she assumes all will be well.
That night, after the children and Mrs. Bowles have gone to bed, a girl arrives at the door, saying she has recently left the house and has left a personal belonging behind. She wants to go up to the shed chamber and get it. Mrs. Bowles, when asked, says that while Annie was a poor servant, she meant no harm, and she gives her permission.
Annie scoffs when Nora tries to accompany her upstairs to the shed chamber, but something tells Nora she should follow. So, very softly, she creeps up the stairs after Annie and looks through the keyhole into the shed chamber. She sees Annie open the window and let in a man, who kisses her. Annie then helps him into a large trunk and closes the lid.
Nora hastens back downstairs; Annie emerges, and the pair converse politely again before Annie leaves. Nora knows there is silver and cash in the house and worries about what to do.
Once Annie has gone, Nora slips upstairs again and into the shed chamber. She turns the key of the big trunk, thinking it will hold the man at least for a while, and then goes to ask Mrs. Bowles if she might take a walk. Having secured permission, she runs.
She runs until she finds a house at which there are two men, George Brett and his father, to whom she explains the situation. George and Mr. Brett run back to the Bowles house with her. Because Nora is determined that Mrs. Bowles should not find out what is happening and be alarmed, they enter the house very quietly.
Just as they reach the shed chamber, the man in the trunk is lifting the lid. George Brett springs past Nora and engages the man in a fight. Nora faints; when she comes to, George is kneeling on the man’s chest, and his father is looking about for a clothes line to tie him up with.
Nora notes that Annie was young and motherless and had simply lost her way. Nora and Annie are now friends and have never told the story of the shed chamber to anyone.
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