Published in 1914 as part of the short story collection titled Beasts and Super-Beasts, H. H. Munro's (Saki's) story exemplifies his cynical delight in juxtaposing the societal conventions of the Edwardian period in England with what has been called "the demoniac side of childhood."
As the story opens, Nicholas finds himself suffering the punitive measures of a self-appointed and authoritarian aunt. He is denied the supposed privilege of going to the sands of Jagborough because he refused to eat his bread-and-milk in a bowl, which contains a frog.
Scolded for speaking nonsense as there could not be a frog in his dish, Nicholas insists that there is, indeed, a frog, since he has put it there himself. Then Nicholas is scolded further for his audacity in taking a frog from the garden; however, he perceives only the older person's misjudgment in arguing that there could be no such creature in his bread and milk.
Deprived of the supposedly festive privilege of the beach, Nicholas informs his aunt that his cousin Bobby will not enjoy himself since his boots are too tight and his other cousin has scraped her knee. She scolds him for not informing her of Bobby's boots and issues an order: "You are not to go into the gooseberry garden."
But since she is convinced that he will do so, Nicholas manoeuvres his way toward one of the garden doors, knowing that the aunt is watching. He then doubles back and goes into the library, where he takes down the key to the lumber room.
Once inside the lumber room, lit only by a high window, Nicholas is met with a world that stirs his imagination. A piece of framed tapestry becomes a living story of a hunter with a stag he has shot with an arrow, being pursued by several wolves; a teapot is delightful, a book of birds resplendent, and a carved sandalwood box lovely.
Suddenly, Nicholas hears his aunt’s shrill voice calling him in the gooseberry garden. He smiles to himself.
Soon the angry cries give way to a shriek and a cry for help. Locking the lumber room, Nicholas enters the front garden, calling out to his aunt. She responds,...
(The entire section is 553 words.)