At the end of this side of Nevsky prospekt looms a large and densely populated house belonging to the merchant Lytkin, home to many actors and actresses from the Aleksandrinsky Theatre. Here in the middle of the 1850s there occurred one of those dramas that make a lasting impression.
This house has a wide front staircase. Up it an old grey-haired woman climbed to the fourth floor, then for some reason rang the bell of the nearest door, and, hurling herself downwards, broke a gas lamp that was sticking out on a fat iron pipe, bent the pipe itself, and was smashed to death, swimming in a pool of blood, which was sucked into the floor of limestone and left an unwashable stain.
It turned out that this unfortunate woman had lived in a remote corner of St Petersburg with her ward, a young girl, of whom she had been tenderly fond. With all the heat of final, belated passion, she fell in love with a civil servant from the postal department who was in the habit of paying them visits. He made a proposal of marriage to her ward, and the old woman, concealing her feelings, did everything she could to obtain a dowry for her charge, to prepare for the wedding, and attended the ceremony itself. But the following day, she walked out of her now suddenly empty apartment, wandered through St Petersburg, and since the rivers and canals were covered with ice, spied out the wide staircase in the house of Lytkin as a way of putting an end to her unbearably melancholy. The stain at the bottom of the stairs, which the residents of the house could not avoid, made an oppressive impression...
A.F. Koni, St Petersburg. Reminiscences of an old-timer