Texte de Ruth Rendell


« While he was telling the story about his mother taking him to the barber's, the pain in Walter's leg started again. A shooting pain appropriate, that and he knew very well what caused it. He shifted Andrew on to his other knee. The story was about how his mother and he, on the way to get his hair cut, stopped on the corner of the High Street and Green Lanes to talk to a friend who had just come out of the fishmonger's. His mother was a talkative lady who enjoyed a gossip. The friend was like-minded. They took very little notice of Walter. He disengaged his hand from his mother's, walked off on his own down Green Lanes and into Church Road, found the barber's, produced six pence from his pocket and had his hair cut. After that he walked back the way he had come. His mother and the friend were still talking. The five-year-old Walter slipped his little hand into his mother's and she looked down and smiled at him. His absence had gone unnoticed. Emma and Andrew marvelled at this story. They had heard it before but they still marvelled. The world had changed so much, even they knew that at six and four. They were not even allowed to stand outside on the pavement on their own for two minutes, let alone go anywhere unaccompanied. "Tell another," said Emma. As she spoke, a sharp twinge ran up Walter's calf to the knee and pinched his thigh muscle. He reached down and rubbed his bony old leg. "Shall I tell you how Haultrey shot me?" "Shot you?" said Andrew."With a gun?" "With an airgun. It was a long time ago." "Everything that's happened to you, Grandad," said Emma, "was a long time ago." "Very true, my sweetheart. This was sixty-five years ago. I was seven." "So it wasn't as long ago as when you had your hair cut", said Emma, who already showed promise as an arithmetician. Walter laughed. "Haultrey was a boy I knew. He lived down our road. We used to play down by the river, a whole bunch of us. There were fish in the river then but I don't think any of us were fishing that day. We'd been climbing trees. You could get across the river by climbing willow trees, the branches stretched right across. "And then one of us saw a kingfisher, a little tiny bright-blue bird it was, the colour of a peacock, and Haultrey said he was going to shoot it. I knew that would be wrong, even then I knew. Maybe we all did except Haultrey. He had an airgun, he showed it to us. I clapped my hands and the kingfisher flew away. All the birds went, we'd frightened them away with all the racket we were making. I had a friend called William Robbins, we called him Bill, he was my best friend, and he said to Haultrey that he'd bet he couldn't shoot anything, not aim at it and shoot it. Well, Haultrey wasn't having that and he said, yes, he could. He pointed to a stone sticking up out of the water and said he'd hit that. He didn't, though. He shot me." "Wow," said Andrew. "But he didn't mean to, Grandad," said Emma. "He didn't do it on purpose." "No, I don't suppose he did but it hurt all the same. The shot went into my leg, into the calf, just below my right knee. Bill Robbins went off to my house, he ran as fast as he could, he was a very good runner, the best in the school, and he fetched my dad and my dad took me to the doctor." "And did the doctor dig the bullet out?" "A pellet, not a bullet. No, he didn't dig it out." Walter rubbed his leg, just below the right knee. "As a matter of fact, it's still there." "It's still there?" Emma got off the arm of the chair and Andrew got off Walter's lap, and both children stood contemplating his right leg in its grey flannel trouser leg and grey-and-white Argyll pattern sock. Walter pulled up the trouser leg to the knee. There was nothing to be seen. "If you like," said Walter, "I'll show you a photograph of the inside of my leg next time you come to my house." The suggestion was greeted with rapture. They wanted `next time' to be now but were told by their mother that they would have to wait till Thursday. »
Ruth Rendell, Piranha to Scurfy, Arrow books, 2001

1. Who are the characters present and what's the relationship between them? How old are they?
True or False? Justify your answer by quoting from the text. Indicate the lines.
a) The children are used to being told stories by Walter.
b) The children are bored with Walter's stories.
c) As Walter is talking to his granchildren, he suffers from his wound.
3. Had the children heard all of Walter's stories before? Justify your answer (30 words) and quote the text.
Read the first story, from "The story was about…" to "… go anywhere unaccompanied".
a) Who are the characters involved? How are they related to each other?
b) "His absence had gone unnoticed." Who does "his" refer to?
Where had this character gone? Explain in your own words why his absence had gone unnoticed. (25 words)
c) What does the story make the children realize about their own mother's behaviour? Compare with Walter's mother. (40 words)
Read the second story, from "Shall I tell you…" to "… it's still there".
a) List the characters who appear in the story.
b) "He didn't do it on purpose." Who and what do the underlined words refer to? What caused the incident? (25 words)
c) Compare Walter's and Haultrey's behaviour. What does it reveal about their personalities? Justify your answer (40 words) and quote the text.
Read from "It's still there?" to the end of the text.
a) What does "it" refer to?
b) The word "there" appears in italics. What does it imply about the children's feelings? (15 words)
c) Find two quotations which express the same feelings (indicate the line).
7. What vision do the children have of Walter? How important is he in their lives? (40 words)
Choisir un seul des deux sujets suivants (300 mots +/- 10 %).
1. Do parents and grandparents play the same role in children's lives? Give examples.
2. Can you remember an event which had unexpected consequences? Write about this event.
Translate into French from "The story" to "little notice of Walter".
N.B. Ne pas traduire les noms de rues.


1. The characters present are: Walter (the grandfather) who is 72. Andrew (the grandson) who is 4 and Emma (the granddaughter) who is 6.
a) True: "They had heard it before but they still marvelled."
b) False: "Tell another, said Emma".
c) True: "While he was telling the story… the pain in Walter's leg started again."
3. The children hadn't heard all of Walter's stories before since Andrew expresses surprise when his grandfather tells them Haultrey shot him: "Shot you?" said Andrew. " With a gun?" , "Wow, said Andrew". Moreover, not only do they want to have more details which shows they discover the story ("And did the doctor dig the bullet out?") but they are also flabbergasted ("It's still there?").
a) The characters involved are Walter and his mother as well as one of his mother's friends.
b) "his" refers to Walter.
  • He had gone to the barber's.
  • His absence had gone unnoticed because his mother and her friend were in such deep conversation and so busy chatting and gossiping that everything around them didn't exist for them.
c) The children realise that their upbringing and Walter's are very different, they can't go outside unaccompanied and are closely looked after. They understand that everything is different now and that their mother is very careful and cautious when it comes to taking care of them.
a) The characters who appear in the story are: a bunch of friends: Walter, Haultrey, William Robbins (Bill) and other boys, Walter's father and a doctor.
b) "He" refers to Haultrey and "it" refers to Haultrey's shooting at Walter.
Since Haultrey couldn't shoot at the kingfisher or any other bird, he wanted to show that he was able to shoot at something but he missed the stone in the river and shot Walter.
c) Walter's and Haultrey's behaviours are totally different. On the one hand Haultrey doesn't mind shooting at birds, he is not interested in what he is shooting at, he only wants to play with his gun: "… and Haultrey said he was going to shoot it." and "Well, Haultrey wasn't having that and he said, yes, he could.". On the other hand, Walter disapproves of Haultrey's shooting and knows that birds are more important than simply playing with a gun: "I knew that would be wrong, even then I knew." and "I clapped my hands and the kingfisher flew away."
a) "It" refers to the bullet/pellet in Walter's calf.
b) "there" in italics implies that the children are amazed and can't imagine that the pellet is still in Walter's calf. It shows they can't believe what they are told.
c) – "… and both children stood contemplating his right leg…"
– "The suggestion was greeted with rapture."
–"They wanted 'next time' to be now…"
7. The children are obviously close to their grandfather; they love him and like him telling them stories. He is kind and they admire him. He is very important for them; his attitude shows he is a caring person and he feels concern for his grandchildren.
1. In my opinion, grandparents play a very important role in their grandchildren's lives all the more so since we live in a youth-oriented society.
Most parents are torn between their working day with their job pressure, and their household responsibilities. They don't have much time left to listen to the youngsters who have become more independent from adults. The first advantage of grandparents is that since they're retired, they have more time to devote to their grandchildren. When both parents work and when their children are very young, grandparents can look after the children in a more loving way than regular baby-sitters. They keep contact with family traditions better than any stranger would. Then, as they are not really in charge of the education of their grandchildren, they are in a position not to worry about authority and guide the children in a gentler way. As they are no longer under the pressure of time and of work, they feel more relaxed and peaceful than parents and they can communicate calmness and serenity to the young people. They are more receptive and have time to listen to the trifles that worry children and that parents would laugh at. Besides, their experience and their memories of the historical events they have lived through, and of the old styles and customs they have known provide a different outlook on life which may be extremely profitable to their grandchildren. They can give many small or funny details that no book can supply. When grandchildren and grandparents communicate and exchange ideas, instead of living in two separate worlds which brings no good to either, they will tremendously enjoy each other's company and benefit from it.
2. Création personnelle. Chacun relatera un événement particulier qui a entraîné des conséquences surprenantes ou inattendues. S'agissant d'une narration, le temps principalement employé sera le prétérit. Il faudra bien veiller à structurer le récit et à situer les éléments dans le temps et dans l'espace.
L'histoire racontait comment sa mère, qui l'emmenait se faire couper les cheveux, et lui s'étaient arrêtés au coin de High Street et de Green Lanes pour parler à un ami qui venait juste de sortir de chez le poissonnier/ de la poissonnerie. Sa mère était une femme bavarde qui adorait cancaner/ les cancans/ les commérages/ les potins, et son ami également. Ils ne firent pas attention à Walter.