William’s attitude was that every word postponed the inevitable moment of reckoning.
“You don’t know what music is to me,” said the musician beating his chest dramatically.
“Yes, I do,” said William solely for the sake of argument. Experience had taught him that with a little care and skill any argument can be prolonged almost indefinitely.
“You don’t love music,” said the musician.
“Yes, I do.”
“It isn’t life and breath to you.”
“Yes, it is.”
- Number: 14.1
- Published: 1932 (1931 in magazine form) – originally titled Invited by William
- Book: William the Pirate
- Synopsis: William takes it upon himself to invite a Punch & Judy man to a high society do.
William lets his imagination run away with him when he tells a mild Italian Punch & Judy man that he owns most of the land surrounding the village. Of course, he paints himself into a corner and ends up inviting Signor Manelli to perform at a party ‘he’ is giving at ‘his’ house – in reality a high-powered social event being held by Mr and Mrs Bott, attended by Lord Faversham.
“Are you Mr Zevrier?”
“I’m Zevrier,” said the man, tossing back his hair and striking an attitude.
“Well… well… I wouldn’t go to play to them if I was
you,” said William desperately.
“Why not?” snapped the musician.
William silently considered this question.
Mrs Bott, of course, has different ideas for the entertainment at her party, and she has booked Zevrier, a famous and very modern violinist.
On the night itself, Zevrier is delayed so Signor Manelli makes himself at home on-stage. William knows that retribution will surely reach him, but rather altruistically runs off to stall Zevrier so as to spare his Italian friend the humiliation of a scene.
Zevrier, it turns out, is perfectly happy to be stalled. He found Mrs Bott’s pernickerty arrangements for the party irksome, and disliked (not unreasonably) her habit of commencing letters to him with the words, “Dear Mr Zebra.”
In the end, he agrees to give William a private recital (“William’s eyes were closed as if in ecstasy. Zevrier could not know, of course, that William was asleep”) and even puts a somewhat polished version of the whole affair in his memoirs (“He had deep-set, dark eyes and a pale, oval face, sensitive lips, and dark curly hair. I saw at once that to him as to me music was the very breath of life”).
And everyone at the Botts’ party really enjoyed the Punch & Judy.