Read Maigret's Holiday Online

Authors: Georges Simenon

Maigret's Holiday (5 page)

BOOK: Maigret's Holiday
4.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

‘Do you know when the funeral
is?'

‘You mean the Godreau girl? …
It's tomorrow … At least it's scheduled for tomorrow … Between
you and me, in confidence, I think there'll be an autopsy … A mere
precaution, you understand? … Or rather to put a stop to malicious gossip …
People are even saying it's Doctor Bellamy who suggested it …'

All morning, as he did his daily round going
from bar to bar, he fumed a little, and it was the nuns that made him so angry.

Because if they
hadn't been nuns, he would have gone and rung the hospital bell. He would have
asked specific questions. It wouldn't have taken him long to find out who had
slipped a piece of paper into his pocket.

But he had to wait until three
o'clock. Disturbing Sister Aurélie would get him nowhere. On what grounds,
anyway? Because he wanted to see his wife? He was only allowed his eleven o'clock
telephone call and it was already a huge privilege that he had obtained to be allowed to
go and visit Madame Maigret every afternoon.

Later, he would have to walk with muffled
steps and talk in hushed tones.

‘We'll soon see,' he
growled after his third white wine.

All the same, at three o'clock there
he was, waiting a few seconds for the church bells to ring before pressing the bell on
the green door.

‘Good afternoon, Monsieur 6 …
Our dear patient is expecting you …'

He could hardly scowl at Sister
Aurélie, and he began to smile despite himself.

‘Just a moment, I'll announce
you … I'll announce you …'

And the other one, Sister Marie des Anges,
came to meet him at the top of the stairs. He couldn't talk to her in the corridor
with all the doors open.

‘Good afternoon, Monsieur 6 …
Our dear patient …'

It was like a conjuring trick in which he
played the conjuror's ball. He hadn't had a chance to open his mouth when he
found himself in his wife's room where the
horrid Mademoiselle
Rinquet was staring at him with her beady little eyes.

‘What's the matter with you,
Maigret?'

‘Me? Nothing …'

‘You're not in a good mood
…'

‘Yes I am …'

‘It's time for me to get out of
here, isn't it? Admit that you're bored …'

‘How are you?'

‘Better … Doctor Bertrand thinks
he'll be able to remove my staples on Monday … This morning, I was allowed a
little chicken …'

He couldn't even whisper to her. How
would that look? The vixen in the other bed was all ears.

‘By the way, you forgot to leave me a
little money …'

‘What for?'

‘A young patient came by earlier
collecting contributions …'

A glance over at Mademoiselle Rinquet, as if
he was meant to understand what was only half said. But understand what? Was she
collecting money for the elderly spinster?

‘What do you mean?'

‘For the wreath …'

And for a moment, he wondered naively what
the wreath had to do with the patient who was still alive. It was stupid. But he
wasn't spending all his time, day in and day out, in this atmosphere of whispered
secrets and meaningful looks.

‘Number 15 …'

‘Oh! Yes …'

Madame Maigret's
exquisite tact! Because her neighbour was seriously ill, because she had cancer –
and so was going to die – she thoughtfully lowered her voice to talk about the
wreath!

‘She's going to come back
… Give her twenty francs … Almost everyone gave twenty francs … The
funeral's tomorrow …'

‘I know …'

‘What did you have for
lunch?'

Every day, he had to give her a detailed
account of everything he had eaten.

‘You haven't been served any
more mussels, I hope?'

Sister Marie des Anges came in.

‘May I?'

It was to introduce the young patient who
was collecting money for the wreath. Maigret held out his twenty francs, together with a
pencil.

‘Do you want to write my wife's
name, Sister?'

Sister Marie des Anges took the pencil
without hesitation. Then there was a short pause. She looked up at Maigret's face
and her cheeks turned a little pinker.

She wrote the surname, while he scrutinized
the letters she traced on the sheet of paper. She didn't take the trouble to
disguise her handwriting. Besides, her eyes had already confessed.

Visibly shaken, she withdrew, saying thank
you and leading the young patient by the hand.

‘Here, we really are like a
family,' Madame Maigret was saying affectionately. ‘You can't imagine
the closeness that develops between people who are sick.'

He didn't want to
contradict her, even though he was thinking of Mademoiselle Rinquet.

‘I think they'll allow me home
in eight or ten days … The day after tomorrow, they'll let me sit in an
armchair for an hour.'

It wasn't very kind towards Madame
Maigret, but the half-hour seemed even longer than on the other days.

‘Wouldn't you like to move to a
different room?'

She was horrified. How could he be so
tactless as to say something like that in front of Mademoiselle Rinquet?

‘Why would you want me to
move?'

‘I don't know … There must
be a single room free now …'

Madame Maigret's alarm became more
personal and she stammered, unable to believe her ears:

‘Number 15? … Don't even
think of it, Maigret!'

A room in which a girl had just died! He
didn't press her. Mademoiselle Rinquet must take him for a monster. But he had
merely seen it as a way of getting to speak to Sister Marie des Anges on her own.

Too bad! He'd find another way. In the
corridor, as she was showing him out, he said to her:

‘May I speak to you for a moment in
the parlour?'

She knew what it was about and she was just
as alarmed as Madame Maigret had been.

‘The rules don't permit
…'

‘You mean the rules don't permit
me to have a conversation with you?'

‘Except in the presence of the mother
superior, to whom you must make a request …'

‘And where can I find
the mother superior?'

He had inadvertently raised his voice. He
was on the point of growing angry.

‘Shhh …'

Sister Aldegonde poked her head around a
half-open door and watched them from a distance.

‘Can I at least talk to you
here?'

‘Shhh …'

‘Can you write to me?'

‘The rules
don't—'

‘And I presume the rules don't
permit you to go into town?'

That was too much. He was verging on
blasphemy.

‘Listen, Sister—'

‘I beg you, Monsieur
6—'

‘You know what I want
to—'

‘Shhh … For goodness'
sake!'

And she joined her hands, advancing and
forcing him to retreat. She said out loud, no doubt for the benefit of Sister Aldegonde,
who was still listening:

‘I assure you that your dear patient
is lacking for nothing and that she's in excellent spirits …'

It was pointless insisting. He was already
on the stairs, on Sister Aurélie's territory now. All that remained was for
him to go downstairs and leave.

‘Good afternoon, Monsieur 6,'
said a mellow voice behind the window. ‘Will you be telephoning
tomorrow?'

He felt like a great oafish boy surrounded
by a gaggle of little girls who were making fun of him. Little girls of all ages,
including Mademoiselle Rinquet, whom he had taken
a dislike to, heaven
knows why! Including Madame Maigret, who was becoming rather too much part of the
place.

What point would there have been, since he
couldn't talk to anyone, in writing a note to alert him?

For a good ten minutes, he railed inwardly
against Sister Marie des Anges.

A hypocrite too. That tone of voice in which
she'd said, to pull the wool over Sister Aldegonde's eyes:

‘
I
assure you that your dear patient is lacking for nothing and that
…
'

And the other one, number 15, no doubt she
had been a ‘dear patient' too?

He walked in the shade, then in the sun,
going from one street to the next and, gradually, he calmed down and saw the funny
side.

Poor Sister Marie des Anges! In short, she
had done what she could. She had even shown daring and initiative. What would have been
an ordinary gesture anywhere else was true heroism in that place.

It wasn't her fault that Maigret had
got there too late, or that the Godreau girl had died too soon.

Right now, what could he do? Go back to the
hospital, ask to see the mother superior, and say: ‘I need to speak to Sister
Marie des Anges'?

On what grounds? What business was it of
his? Here, he wasn't Maigret from the Police Judiciaire, but plain Monsieur 6.

Talk to Doctor Bellamy? To tell him what,
for goodness' sake? Besides, hadn't the doctor himself insisted on having an
autopsy performed on his sister-in-law?

The previous day, Chief
Inspector Mansuy had told him that Lili Godreau had not regained consciousness and that
she had been in a coma from the time of the accident until her death.

A nice glass of white wine was what he
needed. In a real bar full of rowdy men. With real sunshine coming through the windows
and not that nauseating, subdued hospital light.

As for the note, he tore it into shreds.
Then he headed for the Brasserie du Remblai. Would Doctor Bellamy come for his game of
cards? That was his business. When there's a death in the house, the women begin
by declaring in a pitiful voice:

‘No … Don't press me
… I couldn't eat a thing … I'd rather die …'

Then, a little later, they are at the table
asking for dessert, if they aren't exchanging recipes with their
sisters-in-law.

As for Doctor Bellamy, he carried on playing
bridge. He was there, just like any other day. Several times he looked at Maigret and
his gaze was very sharp, very penetrating.

His eyes seemed to be saying: ‘I know
you're curious about me, that you are trying to understand me … I am not
bothered in the least …'

No, that was not entirely true. He was
bothered and, as time went by, Maigret could see that he was.

There was something else between him and the
doctor, a very subtle bond, but a bond all the same.

When Maigret went somewhere and was
recognized, he
was used to seeing people stare at him with curiosity,
because of his reputation. Some felt compelled to ask him questions, which were
generally rather stupid, or flattering.

‘So tell me, inspector, what is your
method?'

The cleverest ones, or the most pretentious,
would declare:

‘It seems to me that you are of the
Bergsonian school, you follow your hunches …'

Some, like Lourceau and a few of the persons
present, were content to see what a chief inspector from the Police Judiciaire looked
like.

‘As someone who's met so many
murderers …'

While others were very proud to shake hands
with a man whose picture regularly appeared in the newspapers.

This did not apply to Bellamy. The doctor
considered Maigret as an equal, in a way. He seemed to acknowledge that they were in the
same league though not quite on the same level.

His curiosity was mixed with respect, and
was almost a homage.

‘Half past four, doctor,' said
one of his partners.

‘So it is … I hadn't
forgotten …'

He seemed impervious to irony. He was
probably aware of his reputation as a besotted husband and felt no shame. He made his
way calmly over to the telephone booth. Maigret could see his sharp profile through the
glass sides and felt a growing urge to talk to him.

How? It was almost as delicate as with the
nuns. Wait until the doctor left, follow him to the door and say:

‘May I walk a little way with
you?'

Childish. Childish too,
with a man like that, to request a medical consultation.

Maigret was part of the little group while
remaining an outsider. People were used to seeing him sitting at his usual table.
Occasionally, one of the bridge players would show him his hand. Or someone would ask
him:

‘You're not too bored here in
Les Sables d'Olonne?'

But he still remained an onlooker. A bit
like a day boy among the boarders at a school.

‘Is your wife feeling
better?'

As a matter of fact, had Doctor Bellamy ever
spoken to him directly? He tried in vain to remember.

He was tired of this holiday which was
throwing him off-balance, making him ridiculously shy. Even Mansuy, because this was his
fiefdom, because later on he would be going back to his police station, had more
composure than him.

Because a girl was dead, because a nun who
was the picture of piety had slipped a note into his pocket, he was hanging around
Doctor Bellamy the way a schoolboy hangs around the rich kid in the class.

‘Waiter, another white
wine.'

He didn't want to look at the doctor
any more. His staring was becoming too obvious. The doctor must be able to tell what was
going on in his mind, understand his reticence, and he was perhaps even laughing at
it.

The doctor had finished his game. He rose
and went to fetch his hat from the coat stand.

‘Goodbye, gentlemen …'

He didn't say ‘See you
tomorrow', since the next day was the day of the funeral.

He was about to leave. He
was walking past Maigret. No, he had paused for a moment.

BOOK: Maigret's Holiday
4.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Maigret by Georges Simenon
The Mockingbirds by Whitney, Daisy
Whirligig by Magnus Macintyre
Score! by Jilly Cooper
Carnelians by Catherine Asaro
Light Shaper by Albert Nothlit
Lady in Green by Barbara Metzger
Match Me by Liz Appel