The Lumber-Room by Saki, 1914
The magic trick:
Showing the wonder of a boy’s imagination
We’re about to spend a month in merry old England, and Saki is a great way to start.
I assume I am supposed to find Nicholas, the boy at the center of this story, charming in his cunning ways. I did not, however, find him charming at all. I found him to be a spoiled little rich kid.
So maybe that’s just me. Perhaps you enjoy his hi-jinx.
Anyway, I still liked the way Nicholas appreciated the lumber room. The story captures his creativity and imagination – so common in young kids – really well. Old dusty rooms become exciting new worlds when seen through the lens of an imaginative kid.
And that’s quite a trick on Saki’s part.
But there were other objects of delight and interest claiming his instant attention; there were quaint twisted candlesticks in the shape of snakes, and a teapot fashioned like a china duck, out of whose open beak the tea was supposed to come. How dull and shapeless the nursery teapot seemed in comparison! And there was a carved sandalwood box packed tight with aromatic cotton-wool, and between the layers of cotton-wool were little brass figures, hump-necked bulls, and peacocks and goblins, delightful to see and to handle. Less promising in appearance was a large square book with plain black covers; Nicholas peeped into it, and, behold, it was full of coloured pictures of birds. And such birds! In the garden, and in the lanes when he went for a walk, Nicholas came across a few birds, of which the largest were an occasional magpie or wood-pigeons here were herons and bustards, kites, toucans, tiger-bitterns, brush turkeys, ibises, golden pheasants, a whole portrait gallery of undreamed-of creatures. And as he was admiring the colouring of the mandarin duck and assigning a life-history to it, the voice of his aunt in shrill vociferation of his name came from the gooseberry garden without. She had grown suspicious at his long disappearance, and had leapt to the conclusion that he had climbed over the wall behind the sheltering screen of the lilac bushes: she was now engaged in energetic and rather hopeless search for him among the artichokes and raspberry canes.
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