Extract, A Rebuke to the Author, John Flory

19.[1]

yourself up with all these yellow-bellies (Eurasians.) See what happens, -get into a fight immediately. Don’t want to hear this about you again. Now what about this tart you were running round with, eh?”

Here I determined to show some resistance; but my breath came uncomfortably fast, & I was unable to look the old man in the face.

“She was nothing of the kind,” I said. “I did certainly meet a girl at the dance, a Eurasian, but she was an absolutely respectable girl in every way. I don’t think it’s fair to call her such names,[2] knowing nothing about her.”

I expected an outburst of rage: but while I was speaking he had lighted a cheroot, & this perhaps soothed him a little. At any rate he began to lecture me in a mild & even fatherly way, his gruff voice considerably softened.

“You see, my boy,” he said, “we white men in this country have to think of something besides ourselves. We are a garrison, so to speak…Empire, & all that, white man’s burden…you see the sort of thing I mean, eh? We’ve got to keep the flag flying, you see. Now as soon as you go mixing yourself up with these natives & Eurasians-

“Yes sir,” I broke in, “I know all that, but-

At this interruption[3] he turned his liverish eyes, which had been gazing at the window, towards my face with a less friendly expression. But he continued speaking in the same strain.

“A white man,” he said, “is always on his best behaviour before the native. Esprit de corps! Prestige! Once lower that, & it’s all up with you. We white men have to hang together…Now this girl you’ve made friends with, -perfectly respectable girl, I don’t doubt, perfectly respectable, -but you’ve got to realize, my boy, that it won’t do. Get entangled with a woman like that, -& where are you? Ruined. Ruined!”

Here he paused and relighted his cheroot, continuing his discourse between puffs of smoke.

“I’ve known fellows who married ’em, plenty of fellows; & where are they now? Every one of them repented it. You’ve got to have some sort of pride, my boy, in being a white man. Don’t lower yourself. I don’t say, of course, treat the native badly; nothing sillier. Treat ’em properly, kind and firm at the same time, you understand. Treat ’em properly, & there’s no one more charming. Always polite to them, make allowances & all that, strictly impartial, but-you are the sahib. Never forget that, my boy…Just the same you like, encourage the youngsters, -very good subordinates sometimes, -but no nonsense. Intermarry with ’em, treat ’em as equals, & you’re done. You see[4] that, my boy?”

“Yes, sir,” I said weakly. What, indeed could I have replied? “Of course”, he went on not unsympathetically, “women, out here, are a big problem. It’s hard, I know. You understand, of course, that the firm wouldn’t let you marry for some years yet?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well,[5] of course, young fellows will be young fellows; & some of these women, native & half-caste, are very charming. When I was your age, -well, no nonsense, that’s all. No marring. You understand that.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very well, my boy, that’s all, I think.” I stood up to go, he also rose & put one hand upon my shoulder.

“Always remembers, my boy, that we must think of others before ourselves. Esprit de corps! Never forget it. Esprit de Corps! All white men hang together. That’s all. Run along, now. Be a good boy, eh? These[6] last words were

Notes

[1] 19 ] the page number

[2] such names ] a tart

[3] At this interruption ] begins page 20

[4] You see ] See

[5] This paragraph and the next not indented in manuscript

[6] These ] At these

Peter Davison, from the Complete Works

Written 1926-1930?, CW 75. Only two pages of this manuscript, 19 and 20, survive. It is written in ink, 19 on fairly thick unlined quarto (9 by 6¾ inches), 20 on thinner lined foolscap (13 by 8¼ inches). Both carry the watermark Aviemore with an illustration of a buckled belt within which is a gauntleted hand, raised, holding a dagger. This watermark was used from 1922. Preliminary sketch for Burmese Days