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Authors: Georges Simenon; Translated by Shaun Whiteside

The Saint-Fiacre Affair

BOOK: The Saint-Fiacre Affair
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Georges Simenon
 
THE SAINT-FIACRE AFFAIR
Translated by Shaun Whiteside
PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin
Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London
WC2R ORL,
England
Penguin Group
(USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group
(Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80
Strand, London
WC2R ORL,
England

www.penguin.com

First published in French as
La Messe
de Saint-Fiacre
by Fayard 1932
This translation first published in
Penguin Books 2014

Copyright 1932 by Georges Simenon
Limited
Translation copyright © Shaun Whiteside, 2014
GEORGES SIMENON ®
Simenon.tm
MAIGRET ® Georges Simenon Limited

Cover © Harry Gruyaert /Magnum Photos
Cover design by Alceu Chiesorin Nunes

All rights reserved

The moral rights of the author and
translator have been asserted

ISBN: 978-0-698-19382-6

Version_1

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

About the Author

1. The Little Cross-Eyed Girl

2. The Missal

3. The Altar Boy

4. Marie Vassiliev

5. The Second Day

6. The Two Camps

7. Appointments in Moulins

8. An Invitation to Dinner

9. In the Spirit of Walter Scott

10. The Wake

11. The Two-Note Whistle

EXTRA: Chapter 1 from
The Flemish House

PENGUIN CLASSICS

THE SAINT-FIACRE AFFAIR

‘I love reading Simenon. He makes me think of
Chekhov'

— William Faulkner

‘A truly wonderful writer … marvellously
readable – lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with the world he creates'

— Muriel Spark

‘Few writers have ever conveyed with such a
sure touch, the bleakness of human life'

— A. N. Wilson

‘One of the greatest writers of the twentieth
century … Simenon was unequalled at making us look inside, though the ability was masked
by his brilliance at absorbing us obsessively in his stories'

—
Guardian

‘A novelist who entered his fictional world as
if he were part of it'

— Peter Ackroyd

‘The greatest of all, the most genuine
novelist we have had in literature'

— André Gide

‘Superb … The most addictive of writers … A
unique teller of tales'

—
Observer

‘The mysteries of the human personality are
revealed in all their disconcerting complexity'

— Anita Brookner

‘A writer who, more than any other crime
novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal'

— P. D. James

‘A supreme writer … Unforgettable
vividness'

—
Independent

‘Compelling, remorseless, brilliant'

— John Gray

‘Extraordinary masterpieces of the twentieth
century'

— John Banville

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Georges Simenon was born on 12 February
1903 in Liège, Belgium, and died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived
for the latter part of his life. Between 1931 and 1972 he published seventy-five novels
and twenty-eight short stories featuring Inspector Maigret.

Simenon always resisted identifying himself
with his famous literary character, but acknowledged that they shared an important
characteristic:

My motto, to the extent that I have
one, has been noted often enough, and I've always conformed to it. It's
the one I've given to old Maigret, who resembles me in certain points …
‘understand and judge not'.

Penguin is publishing the entire series of
Maigret novels.

1. The Little Cross-Eyed Girl

A timid knock at the door; the sound of
something being set down on the floor; a furtive voice:

‘It's half past five! The
first bell has just rung for mass …'

Maigret propped himself on his elbows,
and as he looked in amazement at the skylight that pierced the sloping roof the
voice continued:

‘Are you taking
communion?'

Detective Chief Inspector Maigret was
standing up now, barefoot on the freezing floor. He walked towards the door, held
shut with a piece of string rolled around two nails. There was the sound of
scurrying footsteps, and when he looked into the corridor he caught a glimpse of a
woman in a camisole and a white skirt.

Then he picked up the jug of hot water
that Marie Tatin had left him, closed his door and looked around for a mirror to
shave in.

The candle only had a few minutes left
to live. Outside the skylight it was still pitch dark, a cold night in early winter.
A few dead leaves still clung to the branches of the poplars in the main square.

Because of the double slope of the
ceiling, Maigret could only stand upright in the middle of the attic room. He was
cold. All night a draught whose source he had not
been able to identify had left him with a chill on the
back of his neck.

But precisely that quality of cold
unsettled him, plunging him into a mood that he thought was forgotten.

The first bell for mass … Chimes over
the sleeping village … When he was a little boy, Maigret hadn't got up so
early. He used to wait for the second chime, at a quarter to six, because in those
days he didn't need to shave. Had he only washed his face?

No one brought any hot water in those
days. Sometimes the water was frozen in the jug. A little while later his shoes
would echo on the metalled road.

Now, as he got dressed, he heard Marie
Tatin coming and going in the front of the inn, shaking the grate of the stove,
clattering the dishes, turning the coffee mill.

He put on his jacket and his coat.
Before going out he took from his briefcase a piece of paper with an official label
attached:

Municipal Police of Moulins.

Issued for any eventuality to the
Police Judiciaire, Paris.

Then a squared sheet. Meticulous
handwriting:

I wish to inform you that a crime
will be committed at the church of Saint-Fiacre during first mass on All
Souls' Day.

The piece of paper had been hanging
around the offices of the Quai des Orfèvres for several days. Maigret had noticed it
by chance and been taken aback.

‘Saint-Fiacre, near
Matignon?'

‘Probably, because it reached us
via Moulins.'

And Maigret had put the paper in his
pocket. Saint-Fiacre! Matignon! Moulins! Words more familiar to him than any
others.

Saint-Fiacre was the place of his birth,
where his father had been estate manager of the chateau for thirty years! The last
time he had gone there had been, in fact, after the death of his father, who had
been buried in the little cemetery, behind the church.

A crime will be committed … during first mass …

Maigret had arrived the previous day. He
had put up at the only inn, the one that belonged to Marie Tatin.

She hadn't recognized him, but he
had recognized her, from her eyes. The little cross-eyed girl, as she had been
called back then. A skinny little girl who had become an even thinner old maid with
an even worse squint, moving endlessly around in the front room, in the kitchen, in
the farmyard where she raised rabbits and chickens.

The inspector went down the stairs. At
the bottom, the inn was lit by paraffin lights. The table was laid in a corner. Some
coarse grey bread. A smell of chicory coffee, boiling milk.

‘You're wrong not to take
communion on a day like today! Especially when you take the trouble to go to the
first mass … Heavens! There's the second peal!'

The bells rang out faintly. There was a
sound of footsteps in the road. Marie Tatin fled to her kitchen to put on her black
dress, her lace gloves, the little hat which refused to sit straight on her bun.

‘I'll let you finish eating.
Will you lock the door behind you?'

‘No need! I'm
ready.'

How confused she was to find herself
walking along the road with a man. A man who had come from Paris! She took tiny
steps, leaning forwards in the cold morning. Dead leaves somersaulted on the ground.
Their dry rustle suggested frost in the night.

Other shadows converged towards the
faint light from the church door. The bells were still ringing. There were some
lights in the windows of the single-storey houses: people hastily getting dressed
for first mass.

And Maigret savoured the sensations of
his youth again: the cold, stinging eyes, frozen fingertips, an aftertaste of
coffee. Then, stepping inside the church, a blast of heat, soft light; the smell of
candles and incense …

‘Please excuse me. I've got
my prie-dieu,' said his companion.

And Maigret recognized the black chair
with the red velvet arm-rest, the one that had belonged to old Tatin, the cross-eyed
girl's mother.

BOOK: The Saint-Fiacre Affair
3.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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