Le charretier de "La Providence" - 2
For more background information on the story and Dizy, visit also the Travel Log:
The bridge
Of course there still is a bridge spanning the canal on the old road from Dizy to Epernay, the present-day "Rue de Reims". It is not the bridge from the story. Like most bridges in Northern France it was destroyed during the second World War.
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The lock at Pogny
"In Vésigneul, three boats awaited their turn.
In Pogny, there were five.
- Clamor, no! grumbled the employee on this last lock. But I would like to know who had the pluck to make use of my bicycle? " (2)

While cycling on the tow path along the canal, in pursue of the barge, Maigret discovers that Jean, the carter of the "Providence", 'borrowed' the lockkeeper's bicycle at the lock nearby the village of Pogny.
Pogny, a quiet hamlet at 50 Km (31mi) from Dizy and 19 Km (12mi) from Vitry-le-François, lies without doubt besides the Canal latéral de la Marne, but there is no lock.
Inquiries with older residents of the village show that there has never been a lock.
Probably the lock at nearby La Chaussée-sur-Marne was meant.

La nuit du
carrefour
La guinguette
à deux sous
L' inspecteur
Cadavre
Les larmes
de bougie
Vente à la
bougie
La maison
du juge
Old postcard with the stone bridge on the road from Dizy to Epernay (early 1900's) The lock nearby La Chaussée-sur-Marne
Mon ami
Maigret
Vitry-le-François
Maigret à
Vichy
In Vitry-le-François the locations from the novel are not easy to find. Probably Vitry is considerably enlarged since 1931. It is a frantic, not too pleasant, town.
The lock, where the suicide attempt of Jean Darchambaux took place, is still there. Modernized of course.
l'Affaire
Saint-Fiacre
"La Providence?
- She obstructed the passage... This morning, she went to moor in the bend of the canal, hundred meters upstream, in front of the second bridge... (2)

The spot where the 'Providence' anchors after the accident can be found again at the end of the old harbor. Only, this is much more than 100 meters away from the lock, more like 600 or 700 meters. But there is no question that this is the place because it is the only bend in the canal.

"I will give him an injection anyway... But let them prepare a stretcher as fast as possible... The hospital is within five hundred meters from here...
L'Auberge aux
noyés
Le notaire de
Châteauneuf
M.Gallet,
décédé
Le charretier de
"La Providence" - 1
Le charretier de
"La Providence" - 2
Chez les
Flamands
"The police chief had taken a room in the 'Hôtel de la Marne', in town, far enough from the canal to be expelled from the atmosphere in which he had lived for the last few days." (2)
"Le Bagne"
The lock at Vitry-le-François The bend in the canal where "La Providence" moors
The hospital is now accommodated in a new edifice but the old building from which Jean Darchambaux eluded is still there, in the "Rue de l'Arquebuse" not far from the city center, but undoubtedly more than 500 meters away from the lock where the accident came about.
According to residents in the neighborhood the "Hôtel de la Marne" never existed. There even is no hotel left on the marketplace anymore. One of the existing cafés used to be a hotel.
The center part of the marketplace is still covered.
The old hospital of Vitry-le-François The market place where Maigret's hotel is supposed to be
Conclusions
The most important location of the novel, the lock at Dizy stayed surprisingly authentic. Distances in the story correspond reasonably well with reality. The position of the "Café de la marine" is still a problem.
The surroundings of the sites have changed considerably but this is normal after more than 70 years.
Vitry has changed very much and has grown from a typical provincial town into a frantic city. This is less the case with Epernay and Dizy, although these two municipalities expanded so they now almost coincide. Nevertheless the village of Dizy, the town of Epernay and the surroundings kept their provincial character and their typical charm.
For more information on the localities go to the Travel Log.
The market place early 1900's
Jean Darchambaux - ex-convict
" - Convicted? Maigret asks.
- Fifteen years of forced labor... This does not give us a lot... The director of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni wanted Darchambaux to work in one the hospitals of the penal colony... He refused...
He only tried to escape once, in the company of fifteen other inmates who had involved him...
When his fifteen years are done he remains a relegate, he is engaged as an employee in a sawmill where he occupies himself with the horses .
When he is 45 y.o., he is even with the law. And... his trace is lost..." (2)
Convicts leaving for the penal colony in Guyana
The penal colony of France in Guyana, South-America, was called "Le bagne" by the French.
Until 1938 convicts were sent to this colonial settlement for all kinds of offences and crimes, from straightforward theft to murder. And for sentences from 2 years to life.
In French there is an expression that says: "Quel bagne !". It is not literally translatable in English but it means something like: "What a nightmare!" or "What a misery!", this probably says a lot about the system and the conditions in this penal colony.
It is self-evident that this penal colony is frequently mentioned in the Maigret novels and stories. Because Maigret is successful in most of his inquiries numerous 'clients' of the police chief go to this "bagne" after conviction.
For Maigret-devotees who want to pay attention to the relevant backgrounds and the social context in which the stories are set it may be interesting to have more information about this "bagne" that was called "The most infamous prison in history" by the American "Crime Magazine".
Therefore a comprehensive contribution on this subject is appended in the "miscellaneous" - section of this website.
The penal colony
Go to:
"Le Bagne"
Go to: Chez les Flamands
Images
From top to bottom:
- Mediasys - Images de la France d'autrefois. Bridge in Epernay.
- Photo lock at La-Chaussée-sur-Marne, G. de Croock
- http://www9.mappy.com, © 2003 Mappy
- Photo lock at Vitry-le-François, G. de Croock.
- Photo bend in Canal latéral de la Marne a t Vitry-le-François, G. de Croock.
- Old postcard Hôpital in Vitry-le-François, http://www.chez.com/vitry/, website of the city of Vitry-le-François.
- Photo market place in Vitry-le-François, G.de Croock.
- Old postcard market place, http://www.chez.com/vitry/, website of the city of Vitry-le-François.
- Convicts leaving for "Le Bagne": http://membres.lycos.fr/fjustice
- Old photo, two convicts: http://voyageenguyane.free.fr/bagnes.htm
Notes
(2) Georges Simenon, Le charretier de "La Providence", 1931. Excerpts translated in English by G.de Croock out of the 1972 edition, A.Fayard & Cie, Paris.
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La nuit du carrefour - 1, - 2
La guinguette à deux sous - 1, - 2
L' inspecteur Cadavre - 1, - 2, - 3
Les larmes de bougie - 1, - 2
Vente à la bougie - 1, - 2
La maison du juge - 1, - 2, - 3
Mon ami Maigret - 1, - 2, - 3
Maigret à Vichy - 1, - 2
l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre - 1, - 2
l'Auberge aux Noyés - 1, - 2
Le notaire de Chéteauneuf - 1, - 2
M.Gallet, décédé - 1, - 2, - 3
Le charretier de "La Providence" - 1, - 2
Chez les Flamands - 1, - 2