Prince Yuri Lubovedsky

‘She was to walk along the Nevski and when accosted by a man she was not to put him off, but allow him to accompany her home, give him diplomatic encouragement and leave him at the door. He would of course ask the porter about her and would be told that she was the companion of a certain doctor’s wife. As a result of this procedure the doctor would acquire new patients, who invented some kind of ailment merely to get into his apartment in the hope of a pleasant meeting.

‘In so far as I have had time to study the nature of Vitvitskaia,’ observed the prince with conviction, ‘she must have been subconsciously depressed all the time by such a life, and only dire need could have constrained her to resort to it.

‘One day, when she was walking on the Nevski for the purpose of picking up patients, she quite unexpectedly met her younger brother, whom she had not seen for several years. He was very well dressed and gave the impression of being rich. This meeting with her brother brought a ray of light into her cheerless life. It appeared that he had some kind of business in Odessa and abroad. When he learned that she was not particularly well off, he proposed that she should come to Odessa, where he had many connections and could arrange something good for her. She consented. On her arrival in Odessa her brother found her a very good situation with excellent prospects—governess in the family of the Russian consul in Alexandria.

‘Several days later her brother introduced her to a very distinguished­ looking old man, who happened to be going to Alexandria and who agreed to accompany her. And so, one fine day, accompanied by this apparently reliable gentleman, she went on board the boat and started on her way.

‘What followed, you know. . .’

The prince told me he believed that only circumstances and the unhappy conditions of her family life had brought her to the brink of ruin, that her nature was unspoiled and that she had many excellent qualities. He had therefore decided to interest himself in her life and put her on the right path. ‘For this,’ said the prince, ‘I must first of all send the unfortunate girl to my sister on my estate in the Tambov province, so that she may have a good rest, and after that we will see. . .’