Day 103: William the Great Actor

The facts

The sound of horses’ hooves is made with a coconut, but he had succumbed to temptation and eaten it. He didn’t quite know what to do about the horses’ hooves. He hadn’t dared to tell anyone about it. Here it was coming now.
“Listen,” Miss Gwladwyn was saying. “I hear the sound of horses’ hooves.”
Then in the silence came the sound of a tin tray being hit slowly, loudly, regularly. The audience gave a yell of laughter. William felt annoyed. He showed his annoyance with a deafening and protracted thunderstorm.

  • Number: 9.2
  • Published: 1928 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Good
  • Synopsis: William is asked to provide the sound effects for a village play.

Verdict

I think this is probably my absolute favourite William story of the lot. It has everything.

Just the description of William’s ludicriously over-the-top sound effects (to accompany an admittedly ridiculous play) makes me almost cry with laughter:

“List,” said the heroine, “how the thunder rages in the valley.”
The thunder raged and continued to rage. For some minutes the cast remained silent and motionless – except for facial contortions expressive of horror and despair – waiting for the thunder to abate, but as it showed no signs of stopping they tried to proceed. It was, however, raging so violently that no one could hear a word, so they had to stop again. At last even its maker tired of it and it died away. The play proceeded. Behind the scenes William smiled again to himself. That had been a jolly good bit of thunder. He’d really enjoyed that.”

“Thunder, William,” said Miss Gwladwyn.
William beat on his tin tray. Miss Greene-Joanes groaned. “That noise,” she said, “goes through and through my head. I can’t bear it!”
“Well, thunder is loud,” said William coldly. “It’s nachrally loud. I can’t help thunder being’ nachrally loud.”
“Thunder more gently, William,” commanded Mrs Bruce Monkton-Bruce.
Just to annoy them William made an almost inaudible rumble of thunder, but to his own great annoyance it didn’t annoy them at all.

William was particularly anxious to show off because he had told the Outlaws that he was the star of the play – and not only that, he had also told Sir Giles Hampton that he was the star of the play. Sir Giles, a major London actor suffering from depression, was on a rest cure in the village and had wryly befriended William. He seemed amused by William’s complete lack of respect for his eminence:

“Do you know who I am?” he said majestically.
“No,” said William simply, “an’ I bet you don’t know who I am either.”
I am a very great actor,” said the man.
“So’m I,” said William promptly, “I’m the most important person in the play I’m in now. It’s to raise money for my football an’ the Lit’rary Society’s cinematograph”

So, of course, William has to prove to his audience that he is the most important person in the play. He does this not just by overexuberant sound effects, but by doctoring the theatrical programmes:

He had copied down the dramatis personæ from the ordinary programme, but at the end he had put an “and” and then in gigantic letters:
Wind
Rain
Thunder
Horses’ Hooves
And All Other Noises:
William Brown

There is simply nothing about this story that doesn’t make me guffaw.

And just to top it all, William’s little mistake with the paper ‘snow’ he was supposed to pour in from the rafters (the mistake involved a bucket of water) managed to get two of the actors engaged. And he cures Sir Giles’s depression. So all’s well that ends well.