Table of Contents
A PENGUIN MYSTERY
THE FRIEND OF MADAME MAIGRET
One of the most significant figures in twentieth-century European literature, GEORGES JOSEPH CHRISTIAN SIMENON was born on February 12, 1903, in LiÃ¨ge, Belgium. He began work as a reporter for a local newspaper at the age of sixteen, and at nineteen moved to Paris to embark on a career as a novelist. According to Simenon, the character Jules Maigret came to him one afternoon in a cafÃ© in the small Dutch port of Delfzijl as he wrestled with writing a different sort of detective story. By noon the following day, he claimed, he had completed the first chapter of
The Strange Case of Peter the Lett
. The pipe-smoking Commissaire Maigret would go on to feature in seventy-five novels and twenty-eight stories, with estimated international sales to date of 850 million copies. His books have been translated into more than fifty languages.
The dark realism of Simenon's fiction has lent itself naturally to film adaptation with more than five hundred hours of television drama and sixty motion pictures produced throughout the world. A dazzling array of directors have tackled Simenon on screen, including Jean Renoir, Marcel CarnÃ©, Claude Chabrol, and Bertrand Tavernier. Maigret has been portrayed on film by Jean Gabin, Charles Laughton, and Pierre Renoir; and on television by Bruno Cremer, Rupert Davies and, most recently, Michael Gambon.
Simenon died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived for the latter part of his life.
For Nobel Laureate AndrÃ© Gide, Simenon was “perhaps the greatest novelist” of twentieth-century France. His ardent admirers outside of France included T. S. Eliot, Henry Miller, and Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez.
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L'ami de Madame Maigret
first published 1950
This translation first published by Hamish Hamilton 1960
Published in Penguin Books 1967
Reissued with minor revisions in Penguin Classics 2003
Published in Penguin Books 2007
L'ami de Madame Maigret
copyright Â© 1950. Georges Simenon Limited, a Chorion company. Translation copyright Â© 1960, 1967. Georges Simenon Limited, a Chorion company.
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Simenon, Georges, 1903-1989.
[Amie de Mme Maigret. English]
The friend of Madame Maigret / Georges Simenon ; translated by Helen Sebba.
“A Penguin Mystery”.
eISBN : 978-1-440-67798-4
1. Maigret, Jules (Fictitious character)âFiction. 2. PoliceâFranceâParisâFiction.
3. Police spousesâFiction. I. Sebba, Helen. II. Title.
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The chicken was on the stove, a fine red carrot, a big onion and a bunch of parsley, with the stems sticking out, surrounding it. Madame Maigret bent over to make sure there was no risk of the gas, which she had turned down as low as possible, going out. Then she closed the windows, except for the one in the bedroom, checked that she hadn't forgotten anything, glanced at the mirror and, satisfied, left the flat, locked the door, and put the key in her purse.
It was a little after ten o'clock on a morning in March. The air was crisp, with sparkling sunshine over Paris. By walking as far as the place de la RÃ©publique she could have taken a bus going right to the boulevard BarbÃ¨s and reached the place d'Anvers in plenty of time for her eleven o'clock appointment.
On account of the young lady, she went down the stairs to the Richard-Lenoir mÃ©tro station, just a step or two from her own door, and made the whole journey underground, looking vaguely, at every stop, at the familiar posters on the cream-colored walls.
Maigret had made fun of her, though not too much, for he had had a lot on his mind the last three weeks.
“Are you sure there isn't a good dentist nearer home?”
Madame Maigret had never had any trouble with her teeth. Madame Roblin, the neighbor on the fourth floorâthe lady with the dogâhad spoken so highly of Dr. Floresco that she had decided to go and see him.
“He has the fingers of a pianist. You won't even know he's working in your mouth. And if you're recommended by me he'll only charge you half the usual fee.”
He was a Romanian who had his surgery on the third floor of a building on the corner of the rue Turgot and the avenue Trudaine, exactly opposite the place d'Anvers. Was this Madame Maigret's seventh or eighth visit? She had a regular appointment at eleven o'clock. It had become a routine.
The first time, she had arrived a good quarter of an hour early, thanks to her morbid fear of keeping anyone waiting, and had twiddled her thumbs in a room overheated by a gas fire. On her second visit she had also had to wait. Both times she had not been admitted to the dentist's surgery until a quarter past eleven.
For her third appointment, since there was bright sunshine and the square opposite was twittering with birds, she had decided to sit down on a bench and wait until it was time. This was how she had made the acquaintance of the lady with the little boy.
By now the habit was so well established that she would deliberately leave early and take the mÃ©tro in order to save time.
It was pleasant to see the lawn, buds already half-opened on the branches of the few trees outlined against the wall of the high school. Sitting in full sunshine on the bench, one could follow the traffic on the boulevard Rochechouart, the green and white buses that looked like huge beasts and the taxis darting in and out.
There was the lady, in a blue coat and skirt, just as on the other mornings, with her little white hat, which was so becoming to her and so springlike. She shifted over to make more room for Madame Maigret, who had brought a bar of chocolate with her and held it out to the child.
“Say thank you, Charles.”
He was two, and the most striking thing about him was his big dark eyes with immense lashes, which made him look like a girl. At first Madame Maigret had wondered whether he could talk, whether the syllables he uttered belonged to any language. Then she had realized, though she hadn't gone so far as to ask their nationality, that he and the lady were foreigners.
“To me March is always the most beautiful month in Paris, in spite of the showers,” Madame Maigret was saying. “Some people prefer May or June, but March has so much more freshness.”
She would turn round from time to time to keep an eye on the dentist's windows, for from where she was sitting she could see the head of the patient who usually preceded her. He was a man of about fifty, rather unfriendly, who was in the process of having all his teeth out. She had become acquainted with him too. He had been born in Dunkirk, lived with his married daughter in this neighborhood, but didn't like his son-in-law.
The little boy, equipped this morning with a small red bucket and spade, was playing with the gravel. He was always very clean, very well cared for.
“I think I'll only have to come twice more,” Madame Maigret sighed. “According to what Dr. Floresco told me, he's going to start on the last tooth today.”
The lady smiled as she listened. She spoke excellent French, with a trace of an accent that lent it charm. At six or seven minutes to eleven she was still smiling at the child, who was greatly taken aback at having thrown dust in his own face; then all of a sudden she seemed to stare at something in the avenue Trudaine, appeared to hesitate, and stood up saying urgently:
“Will you watch him for a minute? I won't be long.”
For the moment Madame Maigret hadn't been too surprised. With her appointment in mind, she simply hoped the mother would be back in time, and from tact she did not turn round to see where she was going.
The little boy hadn't noticed anything. He was still squatting there, playing at filling his red bucket with pebbles, emptying it and indomitably starting all over again.
Madame Maigret wasn't wearing a watch. Her watch hadn't gone for years, and she never remembered to take it to the watchmaker. An old man came and sat down on the bench; he must have been a resident of the neighborhood, for she had seen him before.
“Would you be kind enough to tell me the time, monsieur?”
He must not have had a watch either, because he only answered:
“About eleven o'clock.”
The head was no longer to be seen in the dentist's window. Madame Maigret was beginning to be anxious. She was ashamed to keep Dr. Floresco waiting; he was so kind, so gentle, and his patience was unfailing.
She looked all around the square without seeing the young lady in the white hat. Had she suddenly been taken ill? Or had she seen someone she wanted to speak to?
A policeman was walking through the square, and Madame Maigret stood up to ask him the time. It really was eleven o'clock.
The lady still did not come back, and the minutes were going by. The child had looked up at the bench and seen that his mother was no longer there, but he hadn't seemed to mind.
If only Madame Maigret could get in touch with the dentist! She would merely have to cross the street and go up three flights of stairs. Now she felt tempted to ask the old gentleman to watch the little boy while she went up to explain to Dr. Floresco, but she didn't like to and she remained standing up, looking around her with mounting impatience.
The second time she asked a passerby the time, it was twenty past eleven. The old gentleman had gone. She was alone now on the bench. She had seen the patient who preceded her come out of the building on the corner and walk off in the direction of the rue Rochechouart.
What should she do? Had something happened to the nice lady? If she had been knocked down by a car she would have seen a crowd, people running. Wouldn't the child perhaps start getting upset now?
It was a ridiculous situation. Maigret would make fun of her again. It would be best not to mention it to him. She would telephone the dentist in a little while and apologize. Would she dare to tell him what had happened?
Suddenly she felt hot because her tenseness was making her blood tingle.