e-Anglais.com Bac anglais interactif, série ES-S, LV1 (juin 1998)

After lunch Harold usually joined Mrs Rice and her daughter for coffee. He decided to make no change in his usual behaviour. This was the first time he had seen Elsie since the night before. She was very pale and was obviously still suffering from shock, but she made a gallant endeavour to behave as usual, uttering small commonplaces about the weather and the scenery.

They commented on a new guest who had just arrived, trying to guess his nationality. Harold thought a moustache like that must be French - Elsie said German - and Mrs Rice thought he might be Spanish.

There was no one else but themselves on the terrace with the exception of the two Polish ladies who were sitting at the extreme end, both doing fancy-work.

As always when he saw them, Harold felt a queer shiver of apprehension pass over him. Those still faces, those curved beaks of noses, those long claw-like hands...

A page-boy approached and told Mrs Rice she was wanted. She rose and followed him. At the entrance to the hotel they saw her encounter a police officer in full uniform.

Elsie caught her breath.

"You don't think - anything's gone wrong?"

Harold reassured her quickly.

"Oh no, no, nothing of that kind."

But he himself knew a sudden pang of fear.

He said: "Your mother's been wonderful!"

"I know, Mother is a great fighter. She'll never sit down under defeat." Elsie shivered. "But it is all horrible, isn't it?"

"Now, don't dwell on it. It's all over and done with."

Elsie said in a low voice: "I can't forget that - that it was I who killed him."

Harold said urgently: "Don't think of it that way. It was an accident. You know that really."

Her face grew a little happier. Harold added: "And anyway it's past. The past is the past. Try never to think of it again."

Mrs Rice came back. By the expression on her face they saw that all was well.

"It gave me quite a fright," she said almost gaily. "But it was only a formality about some papers. Everything's all right, my children. We're out of the shadow. I think we might order ourselves a liqueur on the strength of it."

The liqueur was ordered and came. They raised their glasses.

Mrs Rice said: "To the future!"

Harold smiled at Elsie and said: "To your happiness!"

She smiled back at him and said as she lifted her glass: "And to you - to your success! I'm sure you're going to be a very great man."

With the reaction from fear they felt gay, almost light-headed. The shadow had lifted! All was well...

From the far end of the terrace the two bird-like women rose. They rolled up their work carefully. They came across the stone flags.

With little bows they sat down by Mrs Rice. One of them began to speak.

The other one let her eyes rest on Elsie and Harold. There was a little smile on her lips. It was not, Harold thought, a nice smile...

He looked over at Mrs Rice. She was listening to the Polish woman and though he couldn't understand a word, the expression on Mrs Rice's face was clear enough. All the old anguish and despair came back. She listened and occasionally spoke a brief word.

Presently the two sisters rose, and with stiff little bows went into the hotel.

Harold leaned forward. He said hoarsely: "What is it?"

Mrs Rice answered him in the quiet hopeless tones of despair: "Those women are going to blackmail us. They heard everything last night. And now we've tried to hush it up, it makes the whole thing a thousand times worse..."

Agatha Christie, The Stymphalian Birds.

  1. Compréhension de l'écrit

    1. Where does the action of the scene take place?  (1)
      Justify your answer by giving at least two quotations from the text.
      (You must quote the whole sentence.)

    2. Identify the main characters. Give their names and relationship whenever it is possible.
      (Put the names in alphabetical order.)
       (4)  (5)
       (6)  (7)
       (8)  (9)
       (10)  (11)
    3. List all the other characters mentioned in the text.
      (Include article.)
    4. Among the other characters mentioned, which one is spoken of but can't actually be present in the scene?
      Quote from the text to justify your answer.
      (You must quote the whole sentence.)
    5. Say who or what the underlined words refer to:
      (Answers must be in alphabetical order; use commas, no conjunctions.)
      There was no one else but themselves...   (17)
      But it is all horrible, isn't it?   (18)
      But it was only a formality...   (19)
      Everything is all right, my children   (20)
    6. Elsie went through various moods at different points of the story. These moods can be characterized by the following adjectives:
      shocked / apprehensive / horrified / relieved
      For each adjective, quote an appropriate phrase or sentence from the text.
      (No punctuation; 11 words maximum.)
    7. Say whether the following statements are R (right) or W (wrong). Justify your answer by picking out details from the text.
      Harold and the Rices have never met before.  (25)
      Harold felt nervous whenever he saw the two ladies.  (26)
      The interview between Mrs Rice and the police official went all right.  (27)
      Mrs Rice was sure the two Polish ladies would eventually be nice to them.  (28)
    8. Throughout the text there is an evolution in Harold's feeling and attitude. Put the following sentences into the chronological order according to the evolution of Harold's feelings and attitude. Select the order of the events:
      With the arrival of the Polish ladies he can't help shivering since he has always felt ill-at-ease in their presence.  (29)
      He tries to keep on being reassuring towards Elsie.  (30)
      As the Polish ladies interfere again, the potential danger they represent frightens him again.  (31)
      He decides to behave as usual in order not to arouse anybody's suspicion.  (32)
    9. Pick out two details from the text evoking birds.
      1. Details:
         (33)   (34)
      2. Who exactly do they allude to?
      3. Why are they compared to those birds? Tick the best solution. Because:
    10. Translate from "I know" ... down to "it's all over and done with".
      (NOTE: No correction yet. )
  2. Compétence linguistique

    1. Fill in the following grid:
      Nationality Country People
      Spanish  (38) The   (39)
       (40) Germany The   (41)
       (42)  (43) The French
      Polish  (44) The   (45)
    2. Turn the following sentences into reported speech:
      1. "Do you think anything's gone wrong?"
        Elsie asked  (46)
      2. "Your mother's been wonderful."
        Harold answered  (47)
      3. "I know. Mother is a great fighter. She'll never sit down under defeat."
        Elsie went on to say she knew 
      4. "Don't think of it."
        He told  (49)
    3. Use the prompts to rephrase the following sentences.
      1. Mrs Rice was sorry she spoke.
        She wished  (50)
      2. They immediately commented on the new guest who had just arrived.
        No sooner 
      3. A page-boy told Mrs Rice she was wanted.
        Mrs Rice  (52)
    4. Put the verb in brackets into the right forms and tenses.
      1. It isn't the first time Harold   (53)  (to see) the two Polish ladies.
      2. If Elsie   (54)  (not to talk) about commonplaces, Harold   (55)  (to understand) that she   (56)  (to be) afraid.
      3. Harold will question Mrs Rice as soon as she   (57)  (to be) back from the entrance hall.
      4. They were used   (58)  (to meet) for coffee.
    5. Without changing the meaning, rewrite the following sentences using one of the following modals:
      need / must / should / can / may
      1. Mrs Rice was convinced the two women had overheard their conversation.
        "The two women  ," Mrs Rice thought. (59)
      2. After the departure of the police, Mrs Rice thought being afraid was useless.
        She thought she  (60)
      3. Harold advised Elsie not to think about it again.
        He told her she  (61)
      4. It's impossible that Elsie should have felt calm.
        Elsie  (62)
      5. Perhaps the two ladies will finally not blackmail them.
        The two ladies  (63)
    6. Fill in the blanks with the right preposition.
      1. Elsie was looking   (64) commonplaces to utter.
      2. Harold and she looked   (65) a new guest who had just arrived.
      3. The three characters would all have to look deep   (66) the two women's lives to prevent them from acting.
  3. Expression écrite

    Choose one of the following subjects.

    1. Later on, Mrs Rice, Harold and Elsie are talking about their future plans to get out of their difficult situation. Imagine their conversation.
    2. How important is reading at a time when new technologies have an ever-increasing importance?

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