The story opens on a hot summer day with three small children and their aunt sitting in a railway carriage on the way to Templecombe. Together with them in the carriage is an unknown man who observes their behavior. The children are bored and ask their aunt various questions. She tells them to observe the surroundings, but that encourages even more curiosity. In order to keep the children quiet for a while, the aunt decides to tell them a story. She comes up with a conventional, moralistic tale which fails to capture the interest of the children and creates even bigger discontent. As he also heard the story, the unknown man decides to point out its flaws. The aunt takes it as an offense and challenges him to tell a better story.
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