When the detectives had passed the yacht, Mr Pyke spoke again, slowly, with his habitual precision.
'He's the sort of son good families hate to have. Actually you can't have many specimens in France.'
Maigret was quite taken aback, for it was the first time, since he had known him, that his colleague had expressed general ideas. Mr Pyke seemed a little embarrassed himself, as though overcome with shame.
'What makes you think we have hardly any in France?'
'I mean not of that type, exactly.'
He picked his words with great care, standing still at the end of the jetty, facing the mountains which could be seen on the mainland.
'I rather think that in your country, a boy from a good family can commit some bêtises, as you say, so as to have a good time, to enjoy himself with women or cars, or to gamble in the casino. Do your bad boys play chess? I doubt it. Do they read Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard? It's unlikely, isn't it? They only want to live their life without waiting for their inheritance.'
They leant against the wall which ran along one side of the jetty, and the calm surface of the water was occasionally troubled by a fish jumping.
'De Greef does not belong to that category of bad characters, I don't think he even wants to have money. He's almost a pure anarchist. He has revolted against everything he has known, against everything he's been taught, against his magistrate of a father and his bourgeois mother, against his home town, against the customs of his own country.'
He broke off, half-blushing.
'I beg your pardon . . . '
'Go on, please.'
'We only exchanged a few words, the two of us, but I think I have understood him, because there are a lot of young people like that in my country, in all countries, probably, where morals are very strict. That's why I said just now that one probably doesn't come across a vast number of that type in France. Here there isn't any hypocrisy. Perhaps there isn't enough.'
Was he alluding to the surroundings, the world the two of them had been plunged in since their arrival, to the Monsieur Émiles, the Charlots, the Ginettes, who lived among the others without being singled out for opprobrium?
Maigret felt a little anxious, a little piqued. Without being attacked, he was sung by an urge to defend himself.