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The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories

Shrove Tuesday
"PAVEL VASSILITCH!" cries Pelageya Ivanovna, waking her husband. "Pavel
Vassilitch! You might go and help Styopa with his lessons, he is sitting crying over his
book. He can't understand something again!"
Pavel Vassilitch gets up, makes the sign of the cross over his mouth as he yawns, and
says softly: "In a minute, my love!"
The cat who has been asleep beside him gets up too, straightens out its tail, arches its
spine, and half-shuts its eyes. There is stillness. . . . Mice can be heard scurrying behind
the wall-paper. Putting on his boots and his dressing-gown, Pavel Vassilitch, crumpled
and frowning from sleepiness, comes out of his bedroom into the dining-room; on his
entrance another cat, engaged in sniffing a marinade of fish in the window, jumps down
to the floor, and hides behind the cupboard.
"Who asked you to sniff that!" he says angrily, covering the fish with a sheet of
newspaper. "You are a pig to do that, not a cat. . . ."
From the dining-room there is a door leading into the nursery. There, at a table covered
with stains and deep scratches, sits Styopa, a high-school boy in the second class, with a
peevish expression of face and tear-stained eyes. With his knees raised almost to his chin,
and his hands clasped round them, he is swaying to and fro like a Chinese idol and
looking crossly at a sum book.
"Are you working?" asks Pavel Vassilitch, sitting down to the table and yawning. "Yes,
my boy. . . . We have enjoyed ourselves, slept, and eaten pancakes, and to-morrow comes
Lenten fare, repentance, and going to work. Every period of time has its limits. Why are
your eyes so red? Are you sick of learning your lessons? To be sure, after pancakes,
lessons are nasty to swallow. That's about it."
"What are you laughing at the child for?" Pelageya Ivanovna calls from the next room.
"You had better show him instead of laughing at him. He'll get a one again to-morrow,
and make me miserable."
"What is it you don't understand?" Pavel Vassilitch asks Styopa.
"Why this . . . division of fractions," the boy answers crossly. "The division of fractions
by fractions. . . ."
"H'm . . . queer boy! What is there in it? There's nothing to understand in it. Learn the
rules, and that's all. . . . To divide a fraction by a fraction you must multiply the
numerator of the first fraction by the denominator of the second, and that will be the
numerator of the quotient. . . . In this case, the numerator of the first fraction. . . ."