For once, the cathedral was quite empty; Isoldé stood sensing into the quiet, the echoes of silence. At moments like this you really got a feel of the place. She stood at the west end.
The wide floor of the nave was empty of chairs, the sun sent shadows of colour down through the great window behind her to paint the ancient flags. Huge arches reared up to either side as she walked slowly up the nave, it felt like being in a stone forest. She stopped under the organ, looking up.
A flutter of wings from the minstrel gallery interrupted her. Somehow a sparrow had got in. She looked around for someone to help but the place was empty. The sparrow flew up the nave and landed beside her on the golden gate in the pulpitum. Isoldé stood watching it as it watched her, wondering what to do.
‘Here, little one,’ a voice spoke beside her.
Isoldé turned. The man put a finger to his lips, eyes smiling, and held out a hand. He called the bird again. The sparrow chirruped, its head on one side, looking. Then it made up its mind and flew down to clutch the finger in tiny claws. The man stroked the grey poll. ‘Come,’ he said, catching the bird’s eye. He turned to walk back down the nave and out the west door. Isoldé followed. In the close he held up his hand. ‘Fly well, little one. In there’s no place for you.’ The bird chirped again and flew off.
‘How did you do that?’ Isoldé breathed.
He turned to her, ‘Birds come to me.’ The blue eyes were laughing. ‘And animals.’
‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ She smiled back, eyes questioning.
‘It’s cold.’ He seemed embarrassed now. ‘Shall we go back inside?’
‘I can’t,’ she told him. ‘Lunchtime’s over. I must get back to the shop.’
He raised his brows.
She pointed to the bookshop on the other side of the green.
‘Ah,’ he said, seeing the shop. ‘The bishop tells me you have a good selection of music and CDs.’
‘That’s good to know,’ she said. ‘But I must go. It was wonderful, what you did.’
‘Mark King.’ He held out his hand.
‘Isoldé Labeale,’ she managed in response, realising his CDs were all over the window of the shop and she still hadn’t recognised his face. This was the man giving the concert tonight.
Something happened as they touched hands, both of them stopped still, looking at each other, then Isoldé let go and set off back to the shop. At the door she turned back. He was still there, watching her, smiling.