What appeared before Delia's eyes left her with a rather pleasant impression. Japhet had not bad taste: the walls of his apartment were covered with wallpaper in geometric patterns, on top of which hung pictures in simple wooden frames - they were mostly oil-painted seascapes, although once Delia's eyes caught a portrait of certain person in a white dress, who sat on a wooden chair and held on her knees a basket from which several flowers protruded.
- Who is this? - the girl somewhat unceremoniously pointed at the portrait with her finger.
Japhet, who, having finished the front door, was about to go to the kitchen (in which ajussi Jo has already entered), lingered in the corridor and carefully examined the picture that his young guest had in mind. Then he looked down at Delia and adjusted his glasses.
- Portrait of Elizabeth the Second from the hand of some Hungarian painter, - he said.
The girl couldn't believe her ears. Delia looked more closely at the portrait, but no matter how hard she tried, she did not notice in it any similarities with the English queen. This, however, was not at all surprising - the portrait depicted a girl, God forbid, eight years old, and therefore it would be strange if at such a young age she already looks like her in the present tense (sixty-something years old at the time of the events).
- Unfortunately, I can't remember the artist's name, but I don't think you're interested anyway, - continued the owner of the apartment.
Delia ignored this slightly haughty remark - she was much more interested in why this man living in America needed to hang a portrait of the Queen of Great Britain in his apartment. Is it really the matter that in this picture she was depicted at a young age? However, the girl thought, the owner could hang a picture of this kind just like that, without any special intention... Be that as it may, Delia's soul has already awakened the thirst for curiosity inherent in young children, mixed with the suspicion of a man eager to know how things really are.
She looked inquiringly at Japhet, but he, ignoring her, opened the drawer of a nearby secretaire en portefeuille and took out a some book. Delia moved closer to him and peered at the gilded letters on the white cloth cover - the title read "Edward Coleman, Fables of My Father Swan".
- What is that? - she asked, however, already guessing the contents of the book.
The fact is that if the name of the author did not tell her anything, the name itself aroused her interest, since it clearly echoed the well-known collection of magic stories "Tales of My Mother Goose", which Delia's mother used to read to her at night as a child. And although since then when she turned eight, at home never mentioned again about fairy tales, this did not prevent the girl from being in awe of them, even if she understands, that the witchcraft described in them contradicts the material world and is hardly worthy of the attention of educated people.
Meanwhile, Japh looked at Delia and, taking the book under his arm, adjusted his glasses again, which kept sliding down to the tip of his aquiline nose.
- I just thought, what if a child came to visit me, - he began, - then I just have to offer him something interesting. Do you like fairy tales? - Japh asked kindly.
- Who doesn't love them? - Delia responded enthusiastically.
- Then you and I will definitely find a common language! - there was genuine joy in voice of apartment's owner.
- Hey Japh, are you going to set the table? - a disgruntled and even authoritative shout reached their ears.
These words of ajussi Jo reawakened in the girl a little forgotten feeling of hunger, and Delia at the same moment rushed from the corridor to the kitchen, which, however, was somewhat reckless on her part, because the small space of Japhet's apartment was not conducive to such a method of transportation. Jordan was sitting in a chair, leaning back and impatiently fingered on the surface of the kitchen table, covered with a plain white enameled cloth. When he saw baby girl, he smiled reassuringly at her.
- Sit down, Delia, let's see what Japh will treat us to, - he said lazily.
At the same time, he nodded his head at a chair that stood by the window.
- By the way, how what to address you? - said the girl, taking her place at the table.
Delia addressed this question to the owner of the apartment, who had already entered the kitchen. He placed the book of fairy tales on the edge of the countertop and, rolling up his sleeves, glanced at the curious guest.
- Ajussi Japh, just call me ajussi Japh, - hesitating a bit, he replied.
After these words, he went to the oven and, opening the glass door, took out an aluminum baking sheet, smoked from time, on which lay a large bundle of aluminum foil. Holding the dripping pan with both hands, apartment's owner carefully placed it on the table and, taking a knife, made a transverse cut on the mint and shiny surface, after which he laid out the lamb shoulder blade on the cutting board.
- Burnt again, how can... - he sighed ruefully.
Delia, swallowing her saliva, leaned across the table and stared at the appetizing surface of the meat. Indeed, the crust on the underside of the shoulder blade was slightly charred.
- Nothing wrong, - said the girl, sniffing the nice smell. - I love roast with crispy crust.
- If you been a lover of meat with blood, then you would be disappointed, - ajussi Japh chuckled.
He began to cut the lamb shoulder into small pieces, and Jordan made a sign to the girl. At first she did not understand what he meant, but following the movement of his right hand, guessed that he wanted her to get the plates. Delia got up and, shuffling her shoes, walked over to the countertop and pulled out the first drawer she found at random. It contained forks and spoons.
- Do not delay, I need to put the meat, - she heard impatient voice of ajussi Japh.
Delia slammed the cutlery drawer shut and opened another - but there was not at all what she needed. Looking for some napkins and toothpicks, the girl understood how stupid she looked from the outside, but she couldn't help herself.
- Well, leave this matter to me, - Jordan got up from his chair. - And you sit down, - he ordered Delia.
The girl obediently followed her place, as Jordan walked over to the kitchen cabinets. He opened the doors of the top shelf and took out three white plates one by one, which he then placed in the sink.
- I completely forgot that you can't reach that high, - he said as he began rinsing them under running water.
- Never mind, - crossing her legs, the girl responded.
After washing the plates, ajussi Jo put them on the table and, closing the doors of kitchen cabinet, turned to apartment's owner.
- Put the kettle, or do you want to? - he asked with a smile.
- I made tea yet, - growled Japhet, shifting the meat from the cutting board to the plates. - Don't fuss, you're bothering me.
Ajussi Jo was once again sprawled out in his chair, crossing his legs like Delia, which made the girl smile - she was a little flattered that an adult man involuntarily repeats her movements after her. Baby girl suddenly caught herself thinking how much she liked his casual manner of carrying himself. At that moment, she even forgot about food, and only Japhet's voice brought her back to reality.
- Dinner is served, - said Japhet as he set out plates of meat in front of his guests.
Delia, shaking her head, came to her senses and, moving the plate closer to her, picked up the fork, which ajussi Japh gave her in time. Ajussi Jo leaned back in his chair and followed suit as the apartment's owner placed a small teapot and three cups on the table. The girl with great appetite began to eat meat on both cheeks, despite the fact that apart from black pepper on the crust, there were no other spices in it - not even salt.
- How does it taste? - asked Japhet, who finally took his seat at the table.
Little girl, whose mouth was full of food, silently nodded her head - her dark eyes shone with pleasure. Jordan, in turn, putting another piece of meat into his mouth, inarticulately mumbled something in an affirmative tone. Apartment's owner, satisfied with the effect he had on his guests, filled the cups and ruffled his curly hair with his fingers.
- Maybe you want supplements? I have beans, if you remember, - he suggested.
- Do not mix, mate, these foodstuff, - Jordan responded. - They need to be eaten with a break of at least an hour, otherwise the beans will kill the flavor of the meat.
He spoke these words in a tone that left no doubt that ajussi Jo's knowledge of cooking was very superficial, but he, apparently, did not expect to convince anyone of his innocence, although Delia, who was already full by now, nodded her head in agreement. Then she looked at Japhet.
- I will eat beans later, but now I would love to read that book, - and she pointed with her finger at the fairy tales' volume lying on the countertop.
Ajussi Jo followed her movement and, grinning, took the cup in his hand.
- Know, Japh, - he turned to the apartment's owner, - what Delia means by "read" when she is read aloud. You got the hint? - taking a sip, he winked at ajussi Japh.
- Well... - hesitated Japhet, obviously feeling awkward. - My oratory skills are not great, but if the young lady wants... - he looked at Delia, who was following their conversation with curiosity.
- Please, ajussi Japh, read me a fairy tale! - depicting on the face of charming helplessness, baby girl asked him.
- That's when you drink tea, then I will pamper you, - answered Japhet.
The instructive tone with which he spoke these words, girl didn't like - this minute ajussi Japh behaved just like Delia's father, who has never distinguished himself by sophistication of manners, but he was very fond of emphasizing his superiority over others at every convenient opportunity. The little girl caught herself thinking that if usually children want to see the features of their parents in those around them, she was completely the opposite - she is disgusted when she sees familiar features in outsiders, as if her entire consciousness tried to abstract from everything that was connected with her relatives.
- Ajussi Japh, It's not tasty! - Delia said petulantly.
This remark was not without merit - even when she was just going to visit, she heard Japhet's warning that he had no sweets at home, and drinking tea without sweets seemed to her a pointless exercise, for she always perceived tea as something to be washed down with, and not something to be drunk separately.
- God be with you, - waving his hand, said Japhet. - If you don't want tea, don't drink, I'm not forcing you to do that.
- Are we going to reading or not? - Delia asked, already impatient to hear fairy tale.
- Let me drink, - said Japh, raising the cup to his lips. - You don't mind? - taking a sip of tea, he turned to Delia.
The girl had no choice but to nod in agreement with apartment's owner, whereupon she crossed her legs and settled herself comfortably in a chair. So the three of them sat silently for four minutes, until finally Jordan got up from the table.
- All right, Japh, stop chase the teas, - without a twinge of conscience he said.
Then he started to leave the kitchen, beckoning the girl to follow him.
- Let's go to study, Delia, and take our seats, - he said cheerfully, already standing in the corridor.
Baby girl did not force herself to beg and got up from the table. She looked first at the book, then at Japhet - he continued to lackadaisically sip from the cup.
- Grab the book when you come to us, - she said.
Without waiting for his answer, Delia followed Jordan's lead and slipped out of the kitchen. Ajussi Japh followed her with his eyes, and then, leaving the cup, got up from his chair with a grunt.