This fascinating short story starts off with the discussion of the two sisters, that propels the protagonist, Pahom, to make his foolish wish and leads the Devil to test him as a human by fulfilling his wishes and (supposedly) making him happy.
The discussion that the two sisters have is based around their living situations. As is said in the first paragraph:
The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a tradesman in the village.
This difference in living situation causes the sister who lives in the town to boast about the advantages of town life, mentioning their living standards and the entertainments not available in the countryside. The sister from the country then states that the peasants' life, although perhaps harder and more menotonous, is safer, as it is more secure and they do not risk losing everything.
It is when Pahom overhears this debate that we see he agrees with his wife's point of view, but then is lead to wish for more land to make his life and his family's life more secure. And so the tale begins...