"The Storyteller" begins in a railway carriage. An aunt is traveling with her nieces and nephew. They are an hour away from Templecombe:
It was a hot afternoon, and the railway carriage was correspondingly sultry, and the next stop was at Templecombe, nearly an hour ahead.
The aunt sits in one corner of the railway carriage. Next to her are her nieces and nephew. In the further corner on the opposite side sits a bachelor:
The occupants of the carriage were a small girl, and a smaller girl, and a small boy. An aunt belonging to the children occupied one corner seat, and the further corner seat on the opposite side was occupied by a bachelor who was a stranger to their party, but the small girls and the small boy emphatically occupied the compartment.
The setting involves the children seated next to the bachelor. The children are being disruptive. The aunt continues to say, "Don't." The children ask "Why?"
Sitting in close quarters with the bachelor causes the bachelor to see and hear all that is going on with the children. He gets frustrated with the children:
The frown on the bachelor's face was deepening to a scowl. He was a hard, unsympathetic man, the aunt decided in her mind.
Because the children are disruptive, the bachelor thinks he can keep their attention by telling a story his way. He does set out to prove that his storytelling skills are better than the aunt's storytelling skills. In the end, he tells a terrible story about a little girl being eaten by a wolf. Nonetheless, he was able to still the children for ten minutes. The aunt comments on how the story is most improper.
"A most improper story to tell to young children! You have undermined the effect of years of careful teaching."
The bachelor replies that he kept the children's attention, something which the aunt had not been able to do:
"At any rate," said the bachelor, collecting his belongings preparatory to leaving the carriage, "I kept them quiet for ten minutes, which was more than you were able to do."