An attempted murder of a down-and-outer: While he was sleeping under the Pont Marie, someone had hit "Doc" over the head and tossed him into the Seine to drown, but a couple of Belgian bargemen nearby had fished him out in time to save him. His identity card reveals that he is François Keller, from Mulhouse, where, coincidentally, Mrs. Maigret's sister lives. Thus Maigret learns that he had been a doctor there, left his wife and daughter and gone off to Gabon, in Africa, to work "like Dr. Schweitzer." But things hadn't gone the way he'd hoped, and for the past 15 years or more, he'd been a clochard in Paris, sleeping under the bridges, working as a sandwich man to buy his bottle of wine.
Maigret interviews his daughter and mother, but there seems to be no motive or contact. He goes down the Seine to find the bargeman again, and learns that his wife's father had owned the barge until he'd drowned in the Seine two years before, near the bridge at the Quai de la Rapée, where Doc had slept at the time, but not since. Maigret is convinced that the bargeman Jef van Houtte is guilty, but he denies all, and Doc is no help — he refuses to say anything. Maigret is finally forced to let van Houtte go, but a few months later a chance comment by Doc that "it's impossible to pass judgment" convinces Maigret that he was right, though Doc maintains that he'd said nothing.
This report prepared by Dana Samson