Lord of the flies, p.12
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       Lord of the Flies, p.12

           William Golding
 
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  "There you are."

  The boys peered at each other doubtfully. Ralph made a decision.

  "We'll go straight across to the platform and climb tomorrow."

  They murmured agreement; but Jack was standing by his shoulder.

  "If you're frightened of course―"

  Ralph turned on him.

  "Who went first on the castle rock?"

  "I went too. And that was daylight."

  "All right. Who wants to climb the mountain now?" Silence was the only answer.

  "Samneric? What about you?"

  "We ought to go an' tell Piggy―"

  "―yes, tell Piggy that―"

  "But Simon went!"

  "We ought to tell Piggy―in case―"

  "Robert? Bill?"

  They were going straight back to the platform now. Not, of course, that they were afraid―but tired.

  Ralph turned back to Jack.

  "You see?"

  "I'm going up the mountain." The words came from Jack viciously, as though they were a curse. He looked at Ralph, his thin body tensed, his spear held as if he threatened him.

  "I'm going up the mountain to look for the beast―now." Then the supreme sting, the casual, bitter word. "Coming?"

  At that word the other boys forgot their urge to be gone and turned back to sample this fresh rub of two spirits in the dark. The word was too good, too bitter, too successfully daunting to be repeated. It took Ralph at low water when his nerve was relaxed for the return to the shelter and the still, friendly waters of the lagoon.

  "I don't mind."

  Astonished, he heard his voice come out, cool and casual, so that the bitterness of Jack's taunt fell powerless.

  "If you don't mind, of course."

  "Oh, not at all."

  Jack took a step.

  "Well then―"

  Side by side, watched by silent boys, the two started up the mountain.

  Ralph stopped.

  "We're silly. Why should only two go? If we find anything, two won't be enough."

  There came the sound of boys scuttling away. Astonishingly, a dark figure moved against the tide.

  "Roger?"

  "Yes."

  "That's three, then."

  Once more they set out to climb the slope of the mountain. The darkness seemed to flow round them like a tide. Jack, who had said nothing, began to choke and cough, and a gust of wind set all three spluttering. Ralph's eyes were blinded with tears.

  "Ashes. We're on the edge of the burnt patch."

  Their footsteps and the occasional breeze were stirring up small devils of dust. Now that they stopped again, Ralph had time while he coughed to remember how silly they were. If there was no beast―and almost certainly there was no beast―in that case, well and good; but if there was something waiting on top of the mountain― what was the use of three of them, handicapped by the darkness and carrying only sticks?

  "We're being fools."

  Out of the darkness came the answer.

  "Windy?"

  Irritably Ralph shook himself. This was all Jack's fault.

  "'Course I am. But we're still being fools."

  "If you don't want to go on," said the voice sarcastically, "I'll go up by myself."

  Ralph heard the mockery and hated Jack. The sting of ashes in his eyes, tiredness, fear, enraged him.

  "Go on then! We'll wait here."

  There was silence.

  "Why don't you go? Are you frightened?" A stain in the darkness, a stain that was Jack, detached itself and began to draw away.

  "All right. So long."

  The stain vanished. Another took its place.

  Ralph felt his knee against something hard and rocked a charred trunk that was edgy to the touch. He felt the sharp cinders that had been bark push against the back of his knee and knew that Roger had sat down. He felt with his hands and lowered himself beside Roger, while the trunk rocked among invisible ashes. Roger, uncommunicative by nature, said nothing. He offered no opinion on the beast nor told Ralph why he had chosen to come on this mad expedition. He simply sat and rocked the trunk gently. Ralph noticed a rapid and infuriating tapping noise and realized that Roger was banging his silly wooden stick against something.

  So they sat, the rocking, tapping, impervious Roger and Ralph, fuming; round them the close sky was loaded with stars, save where the mountain punched up a hole of blackness.

  There was a slithering noise high above them, the sound of someone taking giant and dangerous strides on rock or ash. Then Jack found them, and was shivering and croaking in a voice they could just recognize as his.

  "I saw a thing on top."

  They heard him blunder against the trunk which rocked violently. He lay silent for a moment, then muttered.

  "Keep a good lookout. It may be following."

  A shower of ash pattered round them. Jack sat up.

  "I saw a thing bulge on the mountain."

  "You only imagined it," said Ralph shakily, "because nothing would bulge. Not any sort of creature."

  Roger spoke; they jumped, for they had forgotten him.

  "A frog."

  Jack giggled and shuddered.

  "Some frog. There was a noise too. A kind of 'plop' noise. Then the thing bulged."

  Ralph surprised himself, not so much by the quality of his voice, which was even, but by the bravado of its intention.

  "We'll go and look."

  For the first time since he had first known Jack, Ralph could feel him hesitate.

  "Now―?"

  His voice spoke for him.

  "Of course."

  He got off the trunk and led the way across the clinking cinders up into the dark, and the others followed.

  Now that his physical voice was silent the inner voice of reason, and other voices too, made themselves heard. Piggy was calling him a kid. Another voice told him not to be a fool; and the darkness and desperate enterprise gave the night a kind of dentist's chair unreality.

  As they came to the last slope, Jack and Roger drew near, changed from the ink-stains to distinguishable figures. By common consent they stopped and crouched together. Behind them, on the horizon, was a patch of lighter sky where in a moment the moon would rise. The wind roared once in the forest and pushed their rags against them.

  Ralph stirred.

  "Come on."

  They crept forward, Roger lagging a little. Jack and Ralph turned the shoulder of the mountain together. The glittering lengths of the lagoon lay below them and beyond that a long white smudge that was the reef. Roger joined them.

  Jack whispered.

  "Let's creep forward on hands and knees. Maybe it's asleep."

  Roger and Ralph moved on, this time leaving Jack in the rear, for all his brave words. They came to the flat top where the rock was hard to hands and knees.

  A creature that bulged.

  Ralph put his hand in the cold, soft ashes of the fire and smothered a cry. His hand and shoulder were twitching from the unlooked-for contact. Green lights of nausea appeared for a moment and ate into the darkness. Roger lay behind him and Jack's mouth was at his ear.

  "Over there, where there used to be a gap in the rock. A sort of hump―see?"

  Ashes blew into Ralph's face from the dead fire. He could not see the gap or anything else, because the green lights were opening again and growing, and the top of the mountain was sliding sideways.

  Once more, from a distance, he heard Jack's whisper.

  "Scared?"

  Not scared so much as paralyzed; hung up there immovable on the top of a diminishing, moving mountain. Jack slid away from him, Roger bumped, fumbled with a hiss of breath, and passed onwards. He heard them whispering.

  "Can you see anything?"

  "There―"

  In front of them, only three or four yards away, was a rock-like hump where no rock should be. Ralph could hear a tiny chattering noise coming from somewhere― perhaps from his own mouth. He bound himself together with his will, fused
his fear and loathing into a hatred, and stood up. He took two leaden steps forward.

  Behind them the silver of moon had drawn clear of the horizon. Before them, something like a great ape was sitting asleep with its head between its knees. Then the wind roared in the forest, there was confusion in the darkness and the creature lifted its head, holding toward them the ruin of a face.

  Ralph found himself taking giant strides among the ashes, heard other creatures crying out and leaping and dared the impossible on the dark slope; presently the mountain was deserted, save for the three abandoned sticks and the thing that bowed.

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  Gift for the Darkness

  Piggy looked up miserably from the dawn-pale beach to the dark mountain.

  "Are you sure? Really sure, I mean?"

  I told you a dozen times now," said Ralph, "we saw it."

  "D'you think we're safe down here?"

  "How the hell should I know?"

  Ralph jerked away from him and walked a few paces along the beach. Jack was kneeling and drawing a circular pattern in the sand with his forefinger. Piggy's voice came to them, hushed.

  "Are you sure? Really?"

  "Go up and see," said Jack contemptuously, "and good riddance."

  "No fear."

  "The beast had teeth," said Ralph, "and big black eyes."

  He shuddered violently. Piggy took off his one round of glass and polished the surface.

  "What we going to do?"

  Ralph turned toward the platform. The conch glimmered among the trees, a white blob against the place where the sun would rise. He pushed back his mop.

  "I don't know."

  He remembered the panic flight down the mountainside. "I don't think we'd ever fight a thing that size, honestly, you know. We'd talk but we wouldn't fight a tiger. We'd hide. Even Jack 'ud hide."

  Jack still looked at the sand.

  "What about my hunters?"

  Simon came stealing out of the shadows by the shelters. Ralph ignored Jack's question. He pointed to the touch of yellow above the sea.

  "As long as there's light we're brave enough. But then? And now that thing squats by the fire as though it didn't want us to be rescued―"

  He was twisting his hands now, unconsciously. His voice rose.

  "So we can't have a signal fire.... We're beaten."

  A point of gold appeared above the sea and at once all the sky lightened.

  "What about my hunters?"

  "Boys armed with sticks."

  Jack got to his feet. His face was red as he marched away. Piggy put on his one glass and looked at Ralph.

  "Now you done it. You been rude about his hunters."

  "Oh shut up!"

  The sound of the inexpertly blown conch interrupted them. As though he were serenading the rising sun, Jack went on blowing till the shelters were astir and the hunters crept to the platform and the littluns whimpered as now they so frequently did. Ralph rose obediently, and Piggy, and they went to the platform.

  "Talk," said Ralph bitterly, "talk, talk, talk."

  He took the conch from Jack.

  "This meeting―"

  Jack interrupted him.

  "I called it."

  "If you hadn't called it I should have. You just blew the conch."

  "Well, isn't that calling it?"

  "Oh, take it! Go on―talk!"

  Ralph thrust the conch into Jack's arms and sat down on the trunk.

  "I've called an assembly," said Jack, "because of a lot of things. First, you know now, we've seen the beast. We crawled up. We were only a few feet away. The beast sat up and looked at us. I don't know what it does. We don't even know what it is―"

  "The beast comes out of the sea―"

  "Out of the dark―"

  "Trees―"

  "Quiet!" shouted Jack. "You, listen. The beast is sitting up there, whatever it is―"

  "Perhaps it's waiting―"

  "Hunting―"

  "Yes, hunting."

  "Hunting," said Jack. He remembered his age-old tremors in the forest. "Yes. The beast is a hunter. Only― shut up! The next thing is that we couldn't kill it. And the next is that Ralph said my hunters are no good."

  "I never said that!"

  "I've got the conch. Ralph thinks you're cowards, running away from the boar and the beast. And that's not all."

  There was a kind of sigh on the platform as if everyone knew what was coming. Jack's voice went up, tremulous yet determined, pushing against the uncooperative silence.

  "He's like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn't a proper chief."

  Jack clutched the conch to him.

  "He's a coward himself."

  For a moment he paused and then went on.

  "On top, when Roger and me went on―he stayed back."

  "I went too!"

  "After."

  The two boys glared at each other through screens of hair.

  "I went on too," said Ralph, "then I ran away. So did you."

  "Call me a coward then."

  Jack turned to the hunters.

  "He's not a hunter. He'd never have got us meat. He isn't a prefect and we don't know anything about him. He just gives orders and expects people to obey for nothing. All this talk―"

  "All this talk!" shouted Ralph. "Talk, talk! Who wanted it? Who called the meeting?"

  Jack turned, red in the face, his chin sunk back. He glowered up under his eyebrows.

  "All right then," he said in tones of deep meaning, and menace, "all right."

  He held the conch against his chest with one hand and stabbed the air with his index finger.

  "Who thinks Ralph oughtn't to be chief?"

  He looked expectantly at the boys ranged round, who had frozen. Under the palms there was deadly silence.

  "Hands up," said Jack strongly, "whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?"

  The silence continued, breathless and heavy and full of shame. Slowly the red drained from Jack's cheeks, then came back with a painful rush. He licked his lips and turned his head at an angle, so that his gaze avoided the embarrassment of linking with another's eye.

  "How many think―"

  His voice tailed off. The hands that held the conch shook. He cleared his throat, and spoke loudly.

  "All right then."

  He laid the conch with great care in the grass at his feet. The humiliating tears were running from the corner of each eye.

  "I'm not going to play any longer. Not with you."

  Most of the boys were looking down now, at the grass or their feet. Jack cleared his throat again.

  "I'm not going to be a part of Ralph's lot―"

  He looked along the right-hand logs, numbering the hunters that had been a choir.

  "I'm going off by myself. He can catch his own pigs. Anyone who wants to hunt when I do can come too."

  He blundered out of the triangle toward the drop to the white sand.

  "Jack!"

  Jack turned and looked back at Ralph. For a moment he paused and then cried out, high-pitched, enraged.

  "―No!"

  He leapt down from the platform and ran along the beach, paying no heed to the steady fall of his tears; and until he dived into the forest Ralph watched him.

  Piggy was indignant.

  "I been talking, Ralph, and you just stood there like―"

  Softly, looking at Piggy and not seeing him, Ralph spoke to himself.

  "He'll come back. When the sun goes down he'll come." He looked at the conch in Piggy's hand.

  "What?"

  "Well there!"

  Piggy gave up the attempt to rebuke Ralph. He polished his glass again and went back to his subject.

  "We can do without Jack Merridew. There's others besides him on this island. But now we really got a beast, though I can't hardly believe it, we'll need to stay close to the platform; there'll be less need of him and his hunting. So now we can really decide on what's what."

  "There's no help, Piggy. Nothing
to be done."

  For a while they sat in depressed silence. Then Simon stood up and took the conch from Piggy, who was so astonished that he remained on his feet. Ralph looked up at Simon.

  "Simon? What is it this time?"

  A half-sound of jeering ran round the circle and Simon shrank from it.

  "I thought there might be something to do. Something we-"

  Again the pressure of the assembly took his voice away. He sought for help and sympathy and chose Piggy. He turned half toward him, clutching the conch to his brown chest.

  "I think we ought to climb the mountain."

  The circle shivered with dread. Simon broke off and turned to Piggy who was looking at him with an expression of derisive incomprehension.

  "What's the good of climbing up to this here beast when Ralph and the other two couldn't do nothing?"

  Simon whispered his answer.

  "What else is there to do?"

  His speech made, he allowed Piggy to lift the conch out of his hands. Then he retired and sat as far away from the others as possible.

  Piggy was speaking now with more assurance and with what, if the circumstances had not been so serious, the others would have recognized as pleasure.

  "I said we could all do without a certain person. Now I say we got to decide on what can be done. And I think I could tell you what Ralph's going to say next. The most important thing on the island is the smoke and you can't have no smoke without a fire."

  Ralph made a restless movement.

  "No go, Piggy. We've got no fire. That thing sits up there―we'll have to stay here."

  Piggy lifted the conch as though to add power to his next words.

  "We got no fire on the mountain. But what's wrong with a fire down here? A fire could be built on them rocks. On the sand, even. We'd make smoke just the same."

  "That's right!"

  "Smoke!"

  "By the bathing pool!"

  The boys began to babble. Only Piggy could have the intellectual daring to suggest moving the fire from the mountain.

  "So we'll have the fire down here," said Ralph. He looked about him. "We can build it just here between the bathing pool and the platform. Of course―"

  He broke off, frowning, thinking the thing out, unconsciously tugging at the stub of a nail with his teeth.

 
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