The novella tells the story of a young writer, Paul Overt, who meets Henry St. George, a famous novelist Overt admires. During that time, Overt also meets and falls in love with Marian Fancourt, a young woman who admires both St. George's and Overt's work. During their meetings, St. George, who is married, advises Overt against getting married and having children, arguing that a wife and children will be the death of Overt's creativity and career. Overt then takes an extended vacation in which he considers St. George's advice. When he returns, he learns that St. George's wife had died, and that St. George had taken Marian Fancourt as his wife. Overt feels that St. George had set him up in order to have Fancourt for himself, but St. George insists that by marrying Fancourt he saved Overt and his career.