Compréhension écrite n°5
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"Flory turned to the left outside the Club gate and started down the bazaar road (…) Flory was going to see Dr Veraswami. The doctor's house was a long bungalow of earth-oiled wood, standing on piles, with a large unkempt garden which adjoined that of the Club. (…) He went round to the front of the house and called up to the veranda: "Doctor! Are you busy ? May I come up ?"
The doctor, a little black and white figure, popped from within the house like a jack-in-the-box. He hurried to the veranda rail, exclaimed effusively:
"If you may come up! Of course, of course, come up this instant! Ah, Mr Flory, how very delightful to see you! Come up, come up. What drink will you have ? I have whisky, beer, vermouth and other European liquors. Ah, my dear friend, how I have been pining for some cultured conversation!"
(…) "Well, doctor", said Flory (…) and how are things ? How's the British Empire ? Sick of the palsy as ? Usual ?"
"Aha, Mr Flory, she iss very low, very low! Grave complications setting in. (…) We shall have to call in the specialists, I fear. Aha!"
It was a joke between the two men to pretend that the British Empire was an aged female patient of the doctor's. (…)
"What a joy to be here after that bloody Club (…) Such a glorious holiday from THEM "-he motioned with one heel in the direction of the Club-" from my beloved fellow Empire-builders. British prestige, the white man's burden, the pukka sahib sans peur et sans reproche -you know. Such a relief to be out of the stink of it for a little while."
"My friend, my friend, now come, come, please! That iss outrageous. You must not say such things of honourable English gentlemen!"
"You don't have to listen to the honourable gentlemen talking, doctor. I stood it as long as I could this morning. Ellis with his "dirty nigger", Westfield with his jokes, Macgregor with his Latin tags and please give the bearer fifteen lashes. (…) well, I couldn't stand it any longer. (…)"
The doctor grew agitated, as he always did when Flory criticized the Club members. (…) "But truly, truly, Mr Flory, you must not speak so! Why iss it that always you are abusing the pukka sahibs, ass you call them ? They are the salt of the earth. Consider the great things they have done -consider the great administrators who have made British India what it iss. (…) I quote your immortal Shakespeare- ass, take them for all in all, we shall not look upon their like again!"
"Well, do you want to look upon their like again ? I don't."
"And consider how noble a type iss the English gentleman! Their glorious loyalty to one another! The public school spirit! Even those of them whose manner iss unfortunate -some Englishmen are arrogant, I concede- have the great, sterling qualities that we Orientals lack. Beneath their rough exterior, their hearts are of gold."
"Of gilt, shall we say ? There's a kind of spurious good-fellowship between the English and this country. It's a tradition to booze together and swap meals and pretend to be friends, though we all hate each other like poison. Hanging together, we call it. It's a political necessity. Of course drink is what keeps the machine going. We should all go mad and kill one another in a week if it weren't for that. There's a subject for one of your uplift essayists, doctor. Booze as the cement of empire."
(…) "But, my dear friend, what lie are you living ?"
"Why, of course, the lie that we're here to uplift our poor black brothers instead of to rob them. I suppose it's a natural enough lie. But it corrupts us, it corrupts us in ways you can't imagine. There's an everlasting sense of being a sneak and a liar that torments us and drives us to justify ourselves night and day. It's at the bottom of half our beastliness to the natives. We Anglo-Indians could be almost bearable if we'd only admit that we're thieves and go on thieving without any humbug."
Rudyard Kipling, The White Man’s Burden, (Burmese Days - Chapter 3, abridged)