“Mr. Thornber,” his name spilled involuntarily from her lips.
“What the blazes are you doing in here, Miss Roth?” demanded the gentleman. “You should be outside taking a turn in the garden. It is a very pleasant afternoon.” In a few strides he closed the distance between them. He stopped abruptly beside her, facing the fire, removing his gloves and warming his enormous hands which seemed to fascinate her at the moment as she replied to his inquiry.
“I was out in the garden earlier , Sir. And yes, it is a very pleasant afternoon. I was rather reluctant to come back inside but my duties to my pupil demanded that I do so.”
He turned to look at her and she met his stare, wondering if he had any idea of how delighted she was to see him. The days he had been away had dragged. The house seemed so empty and boring without his presence. She had no idea that he would return today. She hadn’t heard a carriage arrive and perceived that he had probably come by way of his horse. She had seen him once on the black steed and thought what a fine figure he made…
“What have you been up to while I was away?” his inquiry jolted her back to the present moment. She could feel her face grow red and hoped that he would attribute it to the fire. She moved away from the fireplace and went back to the chair she had vacated before he came in. She sank thankfully down into the soft cushions. She hoped he did not think her rude from walking away like that. As he crossed the room to where she was, she saw nothing in his countenance to indicate that he did.
He promptly took a seat in the chair nearby, his arm resting casually on the book on the table beside him, his head turned slightly to the right so he could look at her.
With her hands clasped in her lap as she returned his gaze, she replied, “Nothing outside of the ordinary. When I am not teaching, or outdoors, I spend most of my time here reading.”
“What sort of books do you like to read?”
“Fiction, mostly but I like History and Philosophy__”
“Philosophy?” He looked surprised. “Why should you like Philosophy?”
“Sir, do you wonder that I should like Philosophy because of my gender?”
“My surprise in your choice of discipline has nothing to do with your gender, Miss Roth. You just don’t seem like the philosophical type.”
“I beg to differ, Sir. Philosophy is an activity that I like to engage in. I like to question assumptions, beliefs and current presuppositions.”
He looked intrigued. “I suppose you are familiar with Plato, then?”
“Tell me, Miss Roth, do you agree with his claim that ‘until philosophers are kings, or kings have the spirit of philosophy, cities will never have rest from their troubles’?
Before she could answer, he got up from his seat. “I should be very interested in hearing your answer. After you have had your dinner this evening, I should like for you to join me in here.”
Did she detect a tender expression on his face? Before she could be certain, he was gone as quickly and suddenly as he had arrived.
Sighing, she reached for her book but didn’t open it for several minutes. Her mind preoccupied with their conversation and his question about Plato. She would have to think about it. She looked at the clock. Three hours before dinner. She longed for the time to advance quickly so that she could enjoy his company once again.
Photo: British (English) School; Portrait of a Gentleman; Royal Albert Memorial Museum; Sources: Art UK ; CUNY Education; American Art