A beautiful spring day was drawing to a close. High aloft in the clear sky floated small rosy clouds, which seemed never to drift past, but to be slowly absorbed into the blue depths beyond. At an open window, in a handsome mansion situated in one of the outlying streets of O., the chief town of the govern-ment of that name-it was in the year 1842-there were sitting two ladies, the one about fifty years old, the other an old woman of seventy. The name of the first was Maria Dmitrievna Kalitine. Her husband, who had formerly occupied the post of Provincial Procurator, and who was well known in his day as a good man of business-a man of bilious temperament, confident, resolute, and enterprising-had been dead ten years. He had received a good education, and had studied at the university, but as the family from which he sprang was a poor one, he had early recognized the necessity of making a career for himself and of gaining money.