That night Coupeau went on a spree. Next day, Gervaise received ten francs from her
son Etienne, who was a mechanic on some railway. The youngster sent her a few
francs from time to time, knowing that they were not very well off at home. She made
some soup, and ate it all alone, for that scoundrel Coupeau did not return on the
morrow. On Monday he was still absent, and on Tuesday also. The whole week went
by. Ah, it would be good luck if some woman took him in.
On Sunday Gervaise received a printed document. It was to inform her that her
husband was dying at the Sainte-Anne asylum.
Gervaise did not disturb herself. He knew the way; he could very well get home from the
asylum by himself. They had cured him there so often that they could once more do him
the sorry service of putting him on his pins again. Had she not heard that very morning
that for the week before Coupeau had been seen as round as a ball, rolling about
Belleville from one dram shop to another in the company of My-Boots. Exactly so; and it
was My-Boots, too, who stood treat. He must have hooked his missus's stocking with all
the savings gained at very hard work. It wasn't clean money they had used, but money
that could infect them with any manner of vile diseases. Well, anyway, they hadn't
thought to invite her for a drink. If you wanted to drink by yourself, you could croak by
However, on Monday, as Gervaise had a nice little meal planned for the evening, the
remains of some beans and a pint of wine, she pretended to herself that a walk would
give her an appetite. The letter from the asylum which she had left lying on the bureau
bothered her. The snow had melted, the day was mild and grey and on the whole fine,
with just a slight keenness in the air which was invigorating. She started at noon, for her
walk was a long one. She had to cross Paris and her bad leg always slowed her. With
that the streets were crowded; but the people amused her; she reached her destination
very pleasantly. When she had given her name, she was told a most astounding story to
the effect that Coupeau had been fished out of the Seine close to the Pont-Neuf. He
had jumped over the parapet, under the impression that a bearded man was barring his
way. A fine jump, was it not? And as for finding out how Coupeau got to be on the Pont-
Neuf, that was a matter he could not even explain himself.
One of the keepers escorted Gervaise. She was ascending a staircase, when she heard
howlings which made her shiver to her very bones.
"He's playing a nice music, isn't he?" observed the keeper.
"Who is?" asked she.