Lord of the flies, p.13
Lord of the Flies, p.13William Golding
"Of course the smoke won't show so much, not be seen so far away. But we needn't go near, near the―"
The others nodded in perfect comprehension. There would be no need to go near.
"We'll build the fire now."
The greatest ideas are the simplest. Now there was something to be done they worked with passion. Piggy was so full of delight and expanding liberty in Jack's departure, so full of pride in his contribution to the good of society, that he helped to fetch wood. The wood he fetched was close at hand, a fallen tree on the platform that they did not need for the assembly, yet to the others the sanctity of the platform had protected even what was useless there. Then the twins realized they would have a fire near them as a comfort in the night and this set a few littluns dancing and clapping hands.
The wood was not so dry as the fuel they had used on the mountain. Much of it was damply rotten and full of insects that scurried; logs had to be lifted from the soil with care or they crumbled into sodden powder. More than this, in order to avoid going deep into the forest the boys worked near at hand on any fallen wood no matter how tangled with new growth. The skirts of the forest and the scar were familiar, near the conch and the shelters and sufficiently friendly in daylight. What they might become in darkness nobody cared to think. They worked therefore with great energy and cheerfulness, though as time crept by there was a suggestion of panic in the energy and hysteria in the cheerfulness. They built a pyramid of leaves and twigs, branches and logs, on the bare sand by the platform. For the first time on the island, Piggy himself removed his one glass, knelt down and focused the sun on tinder. Soon there was a ceiling of smoke and a bush of yellow flame.
The littluns who had seen few fires since the first catastrophe became wildly excited. They danced and sang and there was a partyish air about the gathering.
At last Ralph stopped work and stood up, smudging the sweat from his face with a dirty forearm.
"We'll have to have a small fire. This one's too big to keep up."
Piggy sat down carefully on the sand and began to polish his glass.
"We could experiment. We could find out how to make a small hot fire and then put green branches on to make smoke. Some of them leaves must be better for that than the others."
As the fire died down so did the excitement. The littluns stopped singing and dancing and drifted away toward the sea or the fruit trees or the shelters.
Ralph dropped down in the sand.
"We'll have to make a new list of who's to look after the fire."
"If you can find 'em."
He looked round. Then for the first time he saw how few biguns there were and understood why the work had been so hard.
Piggy wiped his glass again.
"I expect... no, he wouldn't go into the forest by himself, would he?"
Ralph jumped up, ran swiftly round the fire and stood by Piggy, holding up his hair.
"But we've got to have a list! There's you and me and Samneric and―"
He would not look at Piggy but spoke casually.
"Where's Bill and Roger?"
Piggy leaned forward and put a fragment of wood on the fire.
"I expect they've gone. I expect they won't play either."
Ralph sat down and began to poke little holes in the sand. He was surprised to see that one had a drop of blood by it. He examined his bitten nail closely and watched the little globe of blood that gathered where the quick was gnawed away.
Piggy went on speaking.
"I seen them stealing off when we was gathering wood. They went that way. The same way as he went himself."
Ralph finished his inspection and looked up into the air. The sky, as if in sympathy with the great changes among them, was different today and so misty that in some places the hot air seemed white. The disc of the sun was dull silver as though it were nearer and not so hot, yet the air stifled.
"They always been making trouble, haven't they?"
The voice came near his shoulder and sounded anxious. "We can do without 'em. We'll be happier now, won't we?"
Ralph sat. The twins came, dragging a great log and grinning in their triumph. They dumped the log among the embers so that sparks flew.
"We can do all right on our own, can't we?"
For a long time while the log dried, caught fire and turned red hot, Ralph sat in the sand and said nothing. He did not see Piggy go to the twins and whisper to them, nor how the three boys went together into the forest.
"Here you are."
He came to himself with a jolt. Piggy and the other two were by him. They were laden with fruit.
"I thought perhaps," said Piggy, "we ought to have a feast, kind of."
The three boys sat down. They had a great mass of the fruit with them and all of it properly ripe. They grinned at Ralph as he took some and began to eat.
"Thanks," he said. Then with an accent of pleased surprise―"Thanks!"
"Do all right on our own," said Piggy. "It's them that haven't no common sense that make trouble on this island. We'll make a little hot fire―"
Ralph remembered what had been worrying him.
"I don't know."
"You don't think he's climbing the mountain?"
Piggy broke into noisy laughter and took more fruit. "He might be." He gulped his mouthful. "He's cracked."
Simon had passed through the area of fruit trees but today the littluns had been too busy with the fire on the beach and they had not pursued him there. He went on among the creepers until he reached the great mat that was woven by the open space and crawled inside. Beyond the screen of leaves the sunlight pelted down and the butterflies danced in the middle their unending dance. He knelt down and the arrow of the sun fell on him. That other time the air had seemed to vibrate with heat; but now it threatened. Soon the sweat was running from his long coarse hair. He shifted restlessly but there was no avoiding the sun. Presently he was thirsty, and then very thirsty. He continued to sit.
Far off along the beach, Jack was standing before a small group of boys. He was looking brilliantly happy.
"Hunting," he said. He sized them up. Each of them wore the remains of a black cap and ages ago they had stood in two demure rows and their voices had been the song of angels.
"We'll hunt. I'm going to be chief."
They nodded, and the crisis passed easily.
"And then―about the beast."
They moved, looked at the forest.
"I say this. We aren't going to bother about the beast."
He nodded at them.
"We're going to forget the beast."
"Forget the beast!"
If Jack was astonished by their fervor he did not show it.
"And another thing. We shan't dream so much down here. This is near the end of the island."
They agreed passionately out of the depths of their tormented private lives.
"Now listen. We might go later to the castle rock. But now I'm going to get more of the biguns away from the conch and all that. We'll kill a pig and give a feast." He paused and went on more slowly. "And about the beast. When we kill we'll leave some of the kill for it. Then it won't bother us, maybe."
He stood up abruptly.
"We'll go into the forest now and hunt."
He turned and trotted away and after a moment they followed him obediently.
They spread out, nervously, in the forest. Almost at once Jack found the dung and scattered roots that told of pig and soon the track was fresh. Jack signaled the rest of the hunt to be quiet and went forward by himself. He was happy and wore the damp darkness of the forest like his old clothes. He crept down a slope to rocks and scattered trees by the sea.
The pigs lay, bloated bags of fat, sensuously enjoying the shadows under the trees. There was no wind and they were unsuspicious; and practice had made Jack silent as the shadows. He stole away again and in
Fifteen yards from the drove Jack stopped, and his arm, straightening, pointed at the sow. He looked round in inquiry to make sure that everyone understood and the other boys nodded at him. The row of right arms slid back.
The drove of pigs started up; and at a range of only ten yards the wooden spears with fire-hardened points flew toward the chosen pig. One piglet, with a demented shriek, rushed into the sea trailing Roger's spear behind it. The sow gave a gasping squeal and staggered up, with two spears sticking in her fat flank. The boys shouted and rushed forward, the piglets scattered and the sow burst the advancing line and went crashing away through the forest.
They raced along the pig-track, but the forest was too dark and tangled so that Jack, cursing, stopped them and cast among the trees. Then he said nothing for a time but breathed fiercely so that they were awed by him and looked at each other in uneasy admiration. Presently he stabbed down at the ground with his finger.
Before the others could examine the drop of blood, Jack had swerved off, judging a trace, touching a bough that gave. So he followed, mysteriously right and assured, and the hunters trod behind him.
He stopped before a covert.
They surrounded the covert but the sow got away with the sting of another spear in her flank. The trailing butts hindered her and the sharp, cross-cut points were a torment. She blundered into a tree, forcing a spear still deeper; and after that any of the hunters could follow her easily by the drops of vivid blood. The afternoon wore on, hazy and dreadful with damp heat; the sow staggered her way ahead of them, bleeding and mad, and the hunters followed, wedded to her in lust, excited by the long chase and the dropped blood. They could see her now, nearly got up with her, but she spurted with her last strength and held ahead of them again. They were just behind her when she staggered into an open space where bright flowers grew and butterflies danced round each other and the air was hot and still.
Here, struck down by the heat, the sow fell and the hunters hurled themselves at her. This dreadful eruption from an unknown world made her frantic; she squealed and bucked and the air was full of sweat and noise and blood and terror. Roger ran round the heap, prodding with his spear whenever pigflesh appeared. Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgment for his point and began to push till he was leaning with his whole weight. The spear moved forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a highpitched scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled upon her. The butterflies still danced, preoccupied in the center of the clearing.
At last the immediacy of the kill subsided. The boys drew back, and Jack stood up, holding out his hands.
He giggled and flicked them while the boys laughed at his reeking palms. Then Jack grabbed Maurice and rubbed the stuff over his cheeks. Roger began to withdraw his spear and boys noticed it for the first time. Robert stabilized the thing in a phrase which was received uproariously.
"Right up her ass!"
"Did you hear?"
"Did you hear what he said?"
"Right up her ass!"
This time Robert and Maurice acted the two parts; and Maurice's acting of the pig's efforts to avoid the advancing spear was so funny that the boys cried with laughter.
At length even this palled. Jack began to clean his bloody hands on the rock. Then he started work on the sow and paunched her, lugging out the hot bags of colored guts, pushing them into a pile on the rock while the others watched him. He talked as he worked.
"We'll take the meat along the beach. I'll go back to the platform and invite them to a feast. That should give us time."
"How can we make a fire?"
Jack squatted back and frowned at the pig.
"We'll raid them and take fire. There must be four of you; Henry and you, Robert and Maurice. We'll put on paint and sneak up; Roger can snatch a branch while I say what I want. The rest of you can get this back to where we were. We'll build the fire there. And after that―"
He paused and stood up, looking at the shadows under the trees. His voice was lower when he spoke again.
"But we'll leave part of the kill for..."
He knelt down again and was busy with his knife. The boys crowded round him. He spoke over his shoulder to Roger.
"Sharpen a stick at both ends."
Presently he stood up, holding the dripping sow's head in his hands.
"Where's that stick?"
"Ram one end in the earth. Oh―it's rock. Jam it in that crack. There."
Jack held up the head and jammed the soft throat down on the pointed end of the stick which pierced through into the mouth. He stood back and the head hung there, a little blood dribbling down the stick.
Instinctively the boys drew back too; and the forest was very still. They listened, and the loudest noise was the buzzing of flies over the spilled guts.
Jack spoke in a whisper.
"Pick up the pig."
Maurice and Robert skewered the carcass, lifted the dead weight, and stood ready. In the silence, and standing over the dry blood, they looked suddenly furtive.
Jack spoke loudly.
"This head is for the beast. It's a gift."
The silence accepted the gift and awed them. The head remained there, dim-eyed, grinning faintly, blood blackening between the teeth. All at once they were running away, as fast as they could, through the forest toward the open beach.
Simon stayed where he was, a small brown image, concealed by the leaves. Even if he shut his eyes the sow's head still remained like an after-image. The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life. They assured Simon that everything was a bad business.
"I know that."
Simon discovered that he had spoken aloud. He opened his eyes quickly and there was the head grinning amusedly in the strange daylight, ignoring the flies, the spilled guts, even ignoring the indignity of being spiked on a stick.
He looked away, licking his dry lips.
A gift for the beast. Might not the beast come for it? The head, he thought, appeared to agree with him. Run away, said the head silently, go back to the others. It was a joke really―why should you bother? You were just wrong, that's all. A little headache, something you ate, perhaps. Go back, child, said the head silently.
Simon looked up, feeling the weight of his wet hair, and gazed at the sky. Up there, for once, were clouds, great bulging towers that sprouted away over the island, grey and cream and copper-colored. The clouds were sitting on the land; they squeezed, produced moment by moment this close, tormenting heat. Even the butterflies deserted the open space where the obscene thing grinned and dripped. Simon lowered his head, carefully keeping his eyes shut, then sheltered them with his hand. There were no shadows under the trees but everywhere a pearly stillness, so that what was real seemed illusive and without definition. The pile of guts was a black blob of flies that buzzed like a saw. After a while these flies found Simon. Gorged, they alighted by his runnels of sweat and drank. They tickled under his nostrils and played leapfrog on his thighs. They were black and iridescent green and without number; and in front of Simon, the Lord of the Flies hung on his stick and grinned. At last Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and dim eyes, the blood―and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition. In Simon's right temple, a pulse began to beat on the brain.
"That branch is gone."
"We ought to get some more wood. We're out of green branches."
Ralph sighed and stood up. There were no shadows under the palms on the platform; only this strange light that seemed to come from everywhere at once. High up among the bulging clouds thunder went off like a gun.
"We're going to get buckets of rain."
"What about the fire?"
Ralph trotted into the forest and returned with a wide spray of green which he dumped on the fire. The branch crackled, the leaves curled and the yellow smoke expanded.
Piggy made an aimless little pattern in the sand with his fingers.
"Trouble is, we haven't got enough people for a fire. You got to treat Samnenc as one turn. They do everything together―"
"Well, that isn't fair. Don't you see? They ought to do two turns."
Ralph considered this and understood. He was vexed to find how little he thought like a grownup and sighed again. The island was getting worse and worse.
Piggy looked at the fire.
"You'll want another green branch soon."
Ralph rolled over.
"Piggy. What are we going to do?"
"Just have to get on without 'em."
He frowned at the black and white mess in which lay the unburnt ends of branches. He tried to formulate.
He saw Piggy look up; and blundered on.
"Not of the beast. I mean I'm scared of that too. But nobody else understands about the fire. If someone threw you a rope when you were drowning. If a doctor said take this because if you don't take it you'll die―you would, wouldn't you? I mean?"
"'Course I would."
"Can't they see? Can't they understand? Without the smoke signal we'll die here? Look at that!"
A wave of heated air trembled above the ashes but without a trace of smoke.
"We can't keep one fire going. And they don't care. And what's more―" He looked intensely into Piggy's streaming face.
"What's more, I don't sometimes. Supposing I got like the others―not caring. What 'ud become of us?"
Lord of the Flies by William Golding / History & Fiction / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes