In this literary work, the narrator recounts his experiences as an art instructor at Les Amis Des Vieux Maîtres, a correspondence art school in Montreal. The narrator, Jean de Daumier-Smith, is a talented artist who takes on the role of teaching students who lack artistic ability.
During his first week at Les Amis Des Vieux Maîtres, Jean begins to teach his new student, who notably rates himself as his own favorite artist.
Thursday mid-afternoon, feeling good and jumpy, I started in on one of the two new students, an American from Bangor, Maine, who said in his questionnaire, with wordy, Honest-John integrity, that he was his own favorite artist.
Jean becomes infatuated with one of his students, Sister Irma, a nun who teaches cooking and drawing at a convent school.
Jean writes a letter to Sister Irma expressing his admiration for her work and his desire to visit her. However, he receives a letter from the Mother Superior of the convent stating that Sister Irma will no longer be able to study at the art school. Jean is devastated by this news and writes a second letter to Sister Irma, expressing his regret and offering his services for free.
After I’d read and reread and then, for great, long minutes, stared at the Mother Superior’s letter, I suddenly broke away from it and wrote letters to my four remaining students, advising them to give up the idea of becoming artists.
The story ends with the closure of the art school and the narrator's decision to move on. After his work duties ended each day, he would join the Yoshotos for dinner, where they would sit in silence.