Lord of the flies, p.15
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       Lord of the Flies, p.15

           William Golding
 
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  "Who's going to join my tribe?"

  Ralph made a sudden movement that became a stumble. Some of the boys turned toward him.

  "I gave you food," said Jack, "and my hunters will protect you from the beast. Who will join my tribe?"

  "I'm chief," said Ralph, "because you chose me. And we were going to keep the fire going. Now you run after food―"

  "You ran yourself!" shouted Jack. "Look at that bone in your hands!"

  Ralph went crimson.

  "I said you were hunters. That was your job."

  Jack ignored him again.

  "Who'll join my tribe and have fun?"

  "I'm chief," said Ralph tremulously. "And what about the fire? And I've got the conch― "You haven't got it with you," said Jack, sneering. "You left it behind. See, clever? And the conch doesn't count at this end of the island―"

  All at once the thunder struck. Instead of the dull boom there was a point of impact in the explosion.

  "The conch counts here too," said Ralph, "and all over the island."

  "What are you going to do about it then?"

  Ralph examined the ranks of boys. There was no help in them and he looked away, confused and sweating. Piggy whispered.

  "The fire―rescue."

  "Who'll join my tribe?"

  "I will."

  "Me."

  "I will."

  "I'll blow the conch," said Ralph breathlessly, "and call an assembly."

  "We shan't hear it."

  Piggy touched Ralph's wrist.

  "Come away. There's going to be trouble. And we've had our meat."

  There was a blink of bright light beyond the forest and the thunder exploded again so that a littlun started to whine. Big drops of rain fell among them making individual sounds when they struck.

  "Going to be a storm," said Ralph, "and you'll have rain like when we dropped here. Who's clever now? Where are your shelters? What are you going to do about that?"

  The hunters were looking uneasily at the sky, flinching from the stroke of the drops. A wave of restlessness set the boys swaying and moving aimlessly. The flickering light became brighter and the blows of the thunder were only just bearable. The littluns began to run about, screaming.

  Jack leapt on to the sand.

  "Do our dance! Come on! Dance!"

  He ran stumbling through the thick sand to the open space of rock beyond the fire. Between the flashes of lightning the air was dark and terrible; and the boys followed him, clamorously. Roger became the pig, grunting and charging at Jack, who side-stepped. The hunters took their spears, the cooks took spits, and the rest clubs of firewood. A circling movement developed and a chant. While Roger mimed the terror of the pig, the littluns ran and jumped on the outside of the circle. Piggy and Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror and made it governable.

  "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"

  The movement became regular while the chant lost its first superficial excitement and began to beat like a steady pulse. Roger ceased to be a pig and became a hunter, so that the center of the ring yawned emptily. Some of the littluns started a ring on their own; and the complementary circles went round and round as though repetition would achieve safety of itself. There was the throb and stamp of a single organism.

  The dark sky was shattered by a blue-white scar. An instant later the noise was on them like the blow of a gigantic whip. The chant rose a tone in agony.

  "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"

  Now out of the terror rose another desire, thick, urgent, blind.

  "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"

  Again the blue-white scar jagged above them and the sulphurous explosion beat down. The littluns screamed and blundered about, fleeing from the edge of the forest, and one of them broke the ring of biguns in his terror.

  "Him! Him!"

  The circle became a horseshoe. A thing was crawling out of the forest. It came darkly, uncertainly. The shrill screaming that rose before the beast was like a pain. The beast stumbled into the horseshoe.

  "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!"

  The blue-white scar was constant, the noise unendurable. Simon was crying out something about a dead man on a hill.

  "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!"

  The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the center, its arms folded over its face. It was crying out against the abominable noise something about a body on the hill. The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws.

  Then the clouds opened and let down the rain like a waterfall. The water bounded from the mountain-top, tore leaves and branches from the trees, poured like a cold shower over the struggling heap on the sand. Presently the heap broke up and figures staggered away. Only the beast lay still, a few yards from the sea. Even in the rain they could see how small a beast it was; and already its blood was staining the sand.

  Now a great wind blew the rain sideways, cascading the water from the forest trees. On the mountain-top the parachute filled and moved; the figure slid, rose to its feet, spun, swayed down through a vastness of wet air and trod with ungainly feet the tops of the high trees; falling, still falling, it sank toward the beach and the boys rushed screaming into the darkness. The parachute took the figure forward, furrowing the lagoon, and bumped it over the reef and out to sea.

  Toward midnight the rain ceased and the clouds drifted away, so that the sky was scattered once more with the incredible lamps of stars. Then the breeze died too and there was no noise save the drip and trickle of water that ran out of clefts and spilled down, leaf by leaf, to the brown earth of the island. The air was cool, moist, and clear; and presently even the sound of the water was still. The beast lay huddled on the pale beach and the stains spread, inch by inch.

  The edge of the lagoon became a streak of phosphorescence which advanced minutely, as the great wave of the tide flowed. The clear water mirrored the clear sky and the angular bright constellations. The line of phosphorescence bulged about the sand grains and little pebbles; it held them each in a dimple of tension, then suddenly accepted them with an inaudible syllable and moved on.

  Along the shoreward edge of the shallows the advancing clearness was full of strange, moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes. Here and there a larger pebble clung to its own air and was covered with a coat of pearls. The tide swelled in over the rain-pitted sand and smoothed everything with a layer of silver. Now it touched the first of the stains that seeped from the broken body and the creatures made a moving patch of light as they gathered at the edge. The water rose farther and dressed Simon's coarse hair with brightness. The line of his cheek silvered and the turn of his shoulder became sculptured marble. The strange attendant creatures, with their fiery eyes and trailing vapors, busied themselves round his head. The body lifted a fraction of an inch from the sand and a bubble of air escaped from the mouth with a wet plop. Then it turned gently in the water.

  Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon were pulling, and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging slightly on one side while the solid core turned. The great wave of the tide moved farther along the island and the water lifted. Softly, surrounded by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon's dead body moved out toward the open sea.

  CHAPTER TEN

  The Shell and the Glasses

  Piggy eyed the advancing figure carefully. Nowadays he sometimes found that he saw more clearly if he removed his glasses and shifted the one lens t
o the other eye; but even through the good eye, after what had happened, Ralph remained unmistakably Ralph. He came now out of the coconut trees, limping, dirty, with dead leaves hanging from his shock of yellow hair. One eye was a slit in his puffy cheek and a great scab had formed on his right knee. He paused for a moment and peered at the figure on the platform.

  "Piggy? Are you the only one left?"

  "There's some littluns."

  "They don't count. No biguns?"

  "Oh―Samneric. They're collecting wood."

  "Nobody else?"

  "Not that I know of."

  Ralph climbed on to the platform carefully. The coarse grass was still worn away where the assembly used to sit; the fragile white conch still gleamed by the polished seat. Ralph sat down in the grass facing the chief's seat and the conch. Piggy knelt at his left, and for a long minute there was silence.

  At last Ralph cleared his throat and whispered something.

  Piggy whispered back.

  "What you say?"

  Ralph spoke up.

  "Simon."

  Piggy said nothing but nodded, solemnly. They continued to sit, gazing with impaired sight at the chief's seat and the glittering lagoon. The green light and the glossy patches of sunshine played over their befouled bodies.

  At length Ralph got up and went to the conch. He took the shell caressingly with both hands and knelt, leaning against the trunk.

  "Piggy."

  "Uh?"

  "What we going to do?"

  Piggy nodded at the conch.

  "You could―"

  "Call an assembly?"

  Ralph laughed sharply as he said the word and Piggy frowned.

  "You're still chief."

  Ralph laughed again.

  "You are. Over us."

  "I got the conch."

  "Ralph! Stop laughing like that. Look, there ain't no need, Ralph! What's the others going to think?"

  At last Ralph stopped. He was shivering.

  "Piggy."

  "Uh?"

  "That was Simon."

  "You said that before."

  "Piggy."

  "Uh?"

  "That was murder."

  "You stop it!" said Piggy, shrilly. "What good're you doing talking like that?"

  He jumped to his feet and stood over Ralph.

  "It was dark. There was that―that bloody dance. There was lightning and thunder and rain. We was scared!"

  "I wasn't scared," said Ralph slowly, "I was―I don't know what I was."

  "We was scared!" said Piggy excitedly. "Anything might have happened. It wasn't―what you said."

  He was gesticulating, searching for a formula.

  "Oh, Piggy!"

  Ralph's voice, low and stricken, stopped Piggy's gestures. He bent down and waited. Ralph, cradling the conch, rocked himself to and fro.

  "Don't you understand, Piggy? The things we did―"

  "He may still be―"

  "No."

  "P'raps he was only pretending―"

  Piggy's voice trailed off at the sight of Ralph's face.

  "You were outside. Outside the circle. You never really came in. Didn't you see what we―what they did?"

  There was loathing, and at the same time a kind of feverish excitement, in his voice.

  "Didn't you see, Piggy?"

  "Not all that well. I only got one eye now. You ought to know that, Ralph."

  Ralph continued to rock to and fro.

  "It was an accident," said Piggy suddenly, "that's what it was. An accident." His voice shrilled again. "Coming in the dark―he hadn't no business crawling like that out of the dark. He was batty. He asked for it." He gesticulated widely again. "It was an accident."

  "You didn't see what they did―"

  "Look, Ralph. We got to forget this. We can't do no good thinking about it, see?"

  "I'm frightened. Of us. I want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home."

  "It was an accident," said Piggy stubbornly, "and that's that."

  He touched Ralph's bare shoulder and Ralph shuddered at the human contact.

  "And look, Ralph"―Piggy glanced round quickly, then leaned close―"don't let on we was in that dance. Not to Samneric."

  "But we were! All of us!"

  Piggy shook his head.

  "Not us till last. They never noticed in the dark. Anyway you said I was only on the outside."

  "So was I," muttered Ralph, "I was on the outside too."

  Piggy nodded eagerly.

  "That's right. We was on the outside. We never done nothing, we never seen nothing."

  Piggy paused, then went on.

  "We'll live on our own, the four of us―"

  "Four of us. We aren't enough to keep the fire burning."

  "We'll try. See? I lit it."

  Samneric came dragging a great log out of the forest. They dumped it by the fire and turned to the pool. Ralph jumped to his feet.

  "Hi! You two!"

  The twins checked a moment, then walked on.

  "They're going to bathe, Ralph."

  "Better get it over."

  The twins were very surprised to see Ralph. They flushed and looked past him into the air.

  "Hullo. Fancy meeting you, Ralph."

  "We just been in the forest―"

  "―to get wood for the fire―"

  "―we got lost last night."

  Ralph examined his toes.

  "You got lost after the..."

  Piggy cleaned his lens.

  "After the feast," said Sam in a stifled voice. Eric nodded. "Yes, after the feast."

  "We left early," said Piggy quickly, "because we were tired."

  "So did we―"

  "―very early―"

  "―we were very tired."

  Sam touched a scratch on his forehead and then hurriedly took his hand away. Eric fingered his split lip.

  "Yes. We were very tired," repeated Sam, "so we left early. Was it a good―"

  The air was heavy with unspoken knowledge. Sam twisted and the obscene word shot out of him. "―dance?"

  Memory of the dance that none of them had attended shook all four boys convulsively.

  "We left early."

  When Roger came to the neck of land that joined the Castle Rock to the mainland he was not surprised to be challenged. He had reckoned, during the terrible night, on finding at least some of the tribe holding out against the horrors of the island in the safest place.

  The voice rang out sharply from on high, where the diminishing crags were balanced one on another.

  "Halt! Who goes there?"

  "Roger."

  "Advance, friend."

  Roger advanced.

  "You could see who I was."

  "The chief said we got to challenge everyone."

  Roger peered up.

  "You couldn't stop me coming if I wanted."

  "Couldn't I? Climb up and see."

  Roger clambered up the ladder-like cliff.

  "Look at this."

  A log had been jammed under the topmost rock and another lever under that. Robert leaned lightly on the lever and the rock groaned. A full effort would send the rock thundering down to the neck of land. Roger admired.

  "He's a proper chief, isn't he?"

  Robert nodded.

  "He's going to take us hunting."

  He jerked his head in the direction of the distant shelters where a thread of white smoke climbed up the sky. Roger, sitting on the very edge of the cliff, looked somberly back at the island as he worked with his fingers at a loose tooth. His gaze settled on the top of the distant mountain and Robert changed the unspoken subject.

  "He's going to beat Wilfred."

  "What for?"

  Robert shook his head doubtfully.

  "I don't know. He didn't say. He got angry and made us tie Wilfred up. He's been"―he giggled excitedly―"he's been tied for hours, waiting―"

  "But didn't the chief say why?"

  "I never heard him."

&nbs
p; Sitting on the tremendous rock in the torrid sun, Roger received this news as an illumination. He ceased to work at his tooth and sat still, assimilating the possibilities of irresponsible authority. Then, without another word, he climbed down the back of the rocks toward the cave and the rest of the tribe.

  The chief was sitting there, naked to the waist, his face blocked out in white and red. The tribe lay in a semicircle before him. The newly beaten and untied Wilfred was sniffing noisily in the background. Roger squatted with the rest.

  "Tomorrow," went on the chief, "we shall hunt again."

  He pointed at this savage and that with his spear.

  "Some of you will stay here to improve the cave and defend the gate. I shall take a few hunters with me and bring back meat. The defenders of the gate will see that the others don't sneak in."

  A savage raised his hand and the chief turned a bleak, painted face toward him.

  "Why should they try to sneak in, Chief?"

  The chief was vague but earnest.

  "They will. They'll try to spoil things we do. So the watchers at the gate must be careful. And then―"

  The chief paused. They saw a triangle of startling pink dart out, pass along his lips and vanish again.

  "―and then, the beast might try to come in. You remember how he crawled―"

  The semicircle shuddered and muttered in agreement.

  "He came―disguised. He may come again even though we gave him the head of our kill to eat. So watch; and be careful."

  Stanley lifted his forearm off the rock and held up an interrogative finger.

  "Well?"

  "But didn't we, didn't we―?"

  He squirmed and looked down.

  "No!"

  In the silence that followed, each savage flinched away from his individual memory.

  "No! How could we―kill―it?"

  Half-relieved, half-daunted by the implication of further terrors, the savages murmured again.

  "So leave the mountain alone," said the chief, solemnly, "and give it the head if you go hunting."

  Stanley flicked his finger again.

  "I expect the beast disguised itself."

  "Perhaps," said the chief. A theological speculation presented itself. "We'd better keep on the right side of him, anyhow. You can't tell what he might do."

 
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