The Plague Part 1 (Section 5)
The next day, a few small official notices are tacked up around town, warning of the disease in a manner designed not to alarm the population. A general program has been drawn up, with regulations including transport of infected people to sick wards, and the advice to be particularly attentive to cleanliness.
Grand and Rieux discuss Cottard, who Grand says has become uncharacteristically nice and generous since the outbreak of the disease. He has invited Grand to expensive restaurants and has shown quite a lot of interest in Grand's writing project. He's also been saying some odd things, such as his comment to Grand about a waiter: "He's a nice fellow, and he'd make a good witness." Although Dr. Rieux is willing to dismiss all this as agitation, Grand suspects Cottard has something very big on his conscience. When the doctor visits Cottard in his dark apartment, Cottard is acting very strange. He wants to know if you can be arrested if you're in a hospital ward, and when he leaves Rieux he shouts back passionately that the town needs "An earthquake! A big one!" (pg. 59).
Dr. Rieux continues to tend to the sick, an exhausting process, especially because his patients are being difficult, refusing to entrust themselves to him as they used to. The death toll is rising, and the sick wards have already filled up. We are up to forty deaths a day. The serum arrives from Paris, but there is not enough of it to do much good. Though the daily life of the townspeople has still not drastically changed, the number of deaths is such that something must be done. The Prefect gives Dr. Rieux an official telegram: "Proclaim a state of plague stop close the town." The town gates are shut.