Chance put the widower next to the widow. Or maybe chance had nothing to do with it, for the story began on All Souls. Be that as it may, the widow was already there when the widower tripped, stumbled, but did not fall.

He stood beside her. Shoe size ten beside shoe size eight. Widow and widower met facing the wares of a peasant woman: mushrooms heaped in a basket or spread out on newsprint and three buckets filled with cut flowers. The woman was sitting to one side of the covered market in the midst of other truck farmers and the produce of their small plots: celery, rutabaga the size of a child’s head, leeks and beets.

His diary confirms “All Souls” and makes no mystery of the shoe sizes. What made him stumble was the edge of the curbstone, but the word chance does not occur in his diary. “It may have been fate that brought us together that day on the stroke of ten o’clock … ” His attempt to give body to the third person, the silent intermediary, remains vague, as does his bumbling attempt to pin down the color of her head scarf: “Not exactly umber, more earth-brown than peat-black … ” He has better luck with the brickwork of the monastery wall: “Infested with scab … ”