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Mr. Andreae's holiday

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Lauzerte wasn't even on our itinerary. Not that you could pass it by unnoticed, with its houses ranged prominently along the brow of a hill. We drove up to it not because we wanted to sight-see - we'd been doing that in a conventional Baedekerian manner for the past 10 days - but because it was 9 a.m. , because we'd been driving for three hours, and because it was time for breakfast.

Parking in its main street, the two of us climbed, crumpled from travel, out of the car and looked around for a cafe. The place looked unpromising, even deserted. A little country town, silent, rather indifferent. Apparently we were its sole visitors, and its inhabitants were elsewhere....

Then we heard the crash. We didn't see it - it was just an unmistakable and blank thud somewhere above and behind us. But were we the only people to hear it? No one came running; no one gaped out of windows....

We continued our search for a cafe, but the hotel looked abandoned, and the main street offered nothing else, so we strolled over to some steps that climbed to a higher part of the town. It was as we started to go up them that we caught sight of the protagonists of the recent, isolated drama. Their cars were at an odd angle, up in the parking area. One had presumably backed into the other. But were the man and woman involved spitting fire, brimstone, and insurance papers at each other? Not a bit of it: They were laughing and chatting like long-lost friends. The whole event was being treated as an occasion of exuberant Gallic bonhomie in the cheerful rural air. It was a great start to the week! Marvelous that they had, as it were, bumped into each other!

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