A thirteen-year-old girl in Vienna in the twenties of the last century, lonely in a bleak and uninspiring life with her mother, falls irresistibly in love with a new neighbor, a young writer and bon vivant who moves into the apartment opposite with his servant. As a young woman - the family had meanwhile moved to Innsbruck through their mother's marriage - she returns to Vienna, approaches the writer again and spends a night with the equally cultivated but indifferent bon vivant. He is far from recognizing the young girl in the grown woman. She spends two more nights with the inattentive finesse before it sets off on a journey - to withdraw from it. A pregnancy emerges from the nights together. A son is born and raised by a single person. The stranger hired herself as a courtesan in "better" circles, primarily to enable the son to receive a special education. She dupes several well-meaning admirers who want to transform the relationship with the beautiful woman into a well-cared for marriage. She wants to keep herself free for your love. Finally there is another night together, whereby the bon vivant shows by the morning payment that he also regards the young woman as a courtesan and that he still does not recognize her. After the death of her son - he dies of a fever as a child - the stranger reveals himself to her lover in a letter and emphasizes that he will only receive it as a letter from a dead person. The writer, touched by reading the letter, which takes up the main part of the narrative, still remembers only vaguely. As if in a distant dream, the image of the young girl from the neighborhood and the young woman who has always given herself to him unrecognized and loving appears to him.