Day 14: Rice-Mould

The facts

William carefully committed to memory the voice and manner of his sister’s greeting to her friends. That would come in useful later on, probably. No weapon of offence against the world in general and his own family in particular, was to be despised. He held a rehearsal in his room when the guests were all safely assembled in the drawing-room.
“Oh, how are you, Mrs. Green?” he said in a high falsetto, meant to represent the feminine voice. “And how’s the darling baby? Such a duck! What a perfect darling of a dress, my dear. I know whose heart you’ll break in that! Oh, Mr. Thompson!”—here William languished, bridled and ogled in a fashion seen nowhere on earth except in his imitations of his sister when engaged in conversation with one of the male sex. If reproduced at the right moment, it was guaranteed to drive her to frenzy, “I’m so glad to see you. Yes, of course I really am! I wouldn’t say it if I wasn’t!”

  • Number: 2.2
  • Published: 1922 (1919 in magazine form)
  • Book: More William
  • Synopsis: In the first ever published William story, he tries to procure a tastier dessert for the little next girl next door.

Verdict

It’s strange to think that William’s journey of affected masculinity began with the desperate eagerness to please the little girl next door which marks this story.

She is fed up with having “rice-mould” for pudding every evening. He promises her blacmange. Fortunately, his parents are hosting a party that evening so some is available in the larder…

This is a story with plenty of Williamesque monologues (“It’s a young folks’ party, I heard you tell Aunt Jane it was a young folks’ party. Well, I’m young, aren’t I? I’m eleven. Do you want me any younger? You aren’t ashamed of folks seeing me, are you! I’m not deformed or anything”) and behaviour: the scene in which he attacked an attractive pile of pears, eating the inside of each fruit and placing it back so as to look outwardly untouched, lingers in the memory!

Did Richmal Crompton have any idea quite what a phenomenon William would become, at this early stage? Who knows…