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M is in retirement on the banks of the Loire, when M. Motte appears, a lawyer from Châteauneuf. He has three young daughters, the middle one of which, Armande Motte, is engaged to a penniless painter, Gérard Donavant. Somone has been stealing items from his precious collection of Oriental miniatures, but obviously not to sell them, since they're too easily identifiable. Motte is somehow convincing enough to get M to come to Châteauneuf, in the guise of an old Army friend, M. Legros, from Bergerac, a lumber wholesaler. M meets Donavant, and realizes immediately that he's the son of the Commodore, an international swindler M had arrested three times. Motte says he knows, that his real name is Gérard Gassin, and that he's told him everything. Gassin says it's clearly intended to impede his coming marriage, a month away. He'd recognized M as well. M meets the pompous head clerk, Jean Vidier, who also knows who he is, and who tells him his presence is misguided and he should beware of causing trouble. M wanders around a bit, and then tells Vidier he knows that Vidier knows who's done it. It was Émellienne Motte, the youngest daughter, 16, who is also in love with Gassin. She was trying to drive him away, rather than have her sister marry him. Vidier admitted that he'd once caught her at it, and she'd made him promise not to tell.
Maigret of the Month: September, 2011
Maigret's Journeys in France