Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
While traveling to visit a friend in the English countryside, Lady Carlotta steps out of her railway carriage as the train stops at a provincial station. She observes a carter abusing his overworked horse, intervenes on behalf of the beast, and misses her train. An “imposingly attired lady,” Mrs. Quabarl, assumes that Lady Carlotta is her newly hired governess, Miss Hope, and imperiously whisks her off to the family mansion. Lady Carlotta says nothing to correct the misunderstanding. During the trip Mrs. Quabarl instructs her that she does not wish her children to be taught but rather to be made interested in their lessons, especially in history, in which she expects the children to be introduced to the life stories of real people. She also informs the supposed governess that French will be spoken several times a week at meals. When Lady Carlotta replies that she will instruct the children in French and Russian, Mrs. Quabarl begins losing control over her.
At the family dinner Lady Carlotta not only drinks wine along with her new employers but also discusses various vintages and recommends a merchant to the dumbfounded Mr. Quabarl. She further confounds them by announcing that she teaches history by the “Schartz-Metterklume method,” which the Quabarls agree to accept but clearly do not understand. The next morning Mrs. Quabarl discovers one daughter, Irene, sitting on the stairs and the other, Viola, covered by a wolfskin rug and perched on the window seat behind her. She is told that Irene is supposed to be Rome and Viola a she-wolf. Suddenly from the lawn comes angry screaming, and she observes her sons, Claude and Wilfred, dragging the lodgekeeper’s small daughters toward the house. Lady Carlotta informs Mrs. Quabarl that the children are reenacting the rape of the Sabine women. Mrs. Quabarl fires Lady Carlotta and rescues the girls. As Lady Carlotta walks toward the railway station, she tells her former employer that because of her interference her children will grow up thinking that the Sabine women escaped.
The story concludes with Lady Carlotta’s country friend remarking to her late-arriving guest how tiresome it must have been to miss her train and spend the night with strangers. Lady Carlotta replies that it was not at all tiresome—for her.