Lord of the flies, p.16
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       Lord of the Flies, p.16

           William Golding
 
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  The tribe considered this; and then were shaken, as if by a flow of wind. The chief saw the effect of his words and stood abruptly.

  "But tomorrow we'll hunt and when we've got meat we'll have a feast―"

  Bill put up his hand.

  "Chief."

  "Yes?"

  "What'll we use for lighting the fire?"

  The chief's blush was hidden by the white and red clay. Into his uncertain silence the tribe spilled their murmur once more. Then the chief held up his hand.

  "We shall take fire from the others. Listen. Tomorrow we'll hunt and get meat. Tonight I'll go along with two hunters―who'll come?"

  Maurice and Roger put up their hands.

  "Maurice―"

  "Yes, Chief?"

  "Where was their fire?"

  "Back at the old place by the fire rock."

  The chief nodded.

  "The rest of you can go to sleep as soon as the sun sets. But us three, Maurice, Roger and me, we've got work to do. We'll leave just before sunset―"

  Maurice put up his hand.

  "But what happens if we meet―"

  The chief waved his objection aside.

  "We'll keep along by the sands. Then if he comes we'll do our, our dance again."

  "Only the three of us?"

  Again the murmur swelled and died away.

  Piggy handed Ralph his glasses and waited to receive back his sight. The wood was damp; and this was the third time they had lighted it. Ralph stood back, speaking to himself.

  "We don't want another night without fire."

  He looked round guiltily at the three boys standing by. This was the first time he had admitted the double function of the fire. Certainly one was to send up a beckoning column of smoke; but the other was to be a hearth now and a comfort until they slept. Eric breathed on the wood till it glowed and sent out a little flame. A billow of white and yellow smoke reeked up. Piggy took back his glasses and looked at the smoke with pleasure.

  "If only we could make a radio!"

  "Or a plane―"

  "―or a boat."

  Ralph dredged in his fading knowledge of the world.

  "We might get taken prisoner by the Reds."

  Eric pushed back his hair.

  "They'd be better than―"

  He would not name people and Sam finished the sentence for him by nodding along the beach.

  Ralph remembered the ungainly figure on a parachute.

  "He said something about a dead man." He flushed painfully at this admission that he had been present at the dance. He made urging motions at the smoke and with his body. "Don't stop―go on up!"

  "Smoke's getting thinner."

  "We need more wood already, even when it's wet."

  "My asthma―"

  The response was mechanical.

  "Sucks to your ass-mar."

  "If I pull logs, I get my asthma bad. I wish I didn't, Ralph, but there it is."

  The three boys went into the forest and fetched armfuls of rotten wood. Once more the smoke rose, yellow and thick.

  "Let's get something to eat."

  Together they went to the fruit trees, carrying their spears, saying little, cramming in haste. When they came out of the forest again the sun was setting and only embers glowed in the fire, and there was no smoke.

  "I can't carry any more wood," said Eric. "I'm tired."

  Ralph cleared his throat.

  "We kept the fire going up there."

  "Up there it was small. But this has got to be a big one."

  Ralph carried a fragment to the fire and watched the smoke that drifted into the dusk.

  "We've got to keep it going."

  Eric flung himself down.

  "I'm too tired. And what's the good?"

  "Eric!" cried Ralph in a shocked voice. "Don't talk like that!"

  Sam knelt by Eric.

  "Well―what is the good?"

  Ralph tried indignantly to remember. There was something good about a fire. Something overwhelmingly good.

  "Ralph's told you often enough," said Piggy moodily. "How else are we going to be rescued?"

  "Of course! If we don't make smoke―"

  He squatted before them in the crowding dusk.

  "Don't you understand? What's the good of wishing for radios and boats?"

  He held out his hand and twisted the fingers into a fist. "There's only one thing we can do to get out of this mess. Anyone can play at hunting, anyone can get us meat―"

  He looked from face to face. Then, at the moment of greatest passion and conviction, that curtain flapped in his head and he forgot what he had been driving at. He knelt there, his fist clenched, gazing solemnly from one to the other. Then the curtain whisked back.

  "Oh, yes. So we've got to make smoke; and more smoke―"

  "But we can't keep it going! Look at that!"

  The fire was dying on them.

  "Two to mind the fire," said Ralph, half to himself, "that's twelve hours a day."

  "We can't get any more wood, Ralph―"

  "―not in the dark―"

  "―not at night―"

  "We can light it every morning," said Piggy. "Nobody ain't going to see smoke in the dark."

  Sam nodded vigorously.

  "It was different when the fire was―"

  "―up there."

  Ralph stood up, feeling curiously defenseless with the darkness pressing in.

  "Let the fire go then, for tonight."

  He led the way to the first shelter, which still stood, though battered. The bed leaves lay within, dry and noisy to the touch. In the next shelter a littlun was talking in his sleep. The four biguns crept into the shelter and burrowed under the leaves. The twins lay together and Ralph and Piggy at the other end. For a while there was the continual creak and rustle of leaves as they tried for comfort.

  "Piggy."

  "Yeah?"

  "All right?"

  "S'pose so."

  At length, save for an occasional rustle, the shelter was silent. An oblong of blackness relieved with brilliant spangles hung before them and there was the hollow sound of surf on the reef. Ralph settled himself for his nightly game of supposing....

  Supposing they could be transported home by jet, then before morning they would land at that big airfield in Wiltshire. They would go by car; no, for things to be perfect they would go by train; all the way down to Devon and take that cottage again. Then at the foot of the garden the wild ponies would come and look over the wall....

  Ralph turned restlessly in the leaves. Dartmoor was wild and so were the ponies. But the attraction of wildness had gone.

  His mind skated to a consideration of a tamed town where savagery could not set foot. What could be safer than the bus center with its lamps and wheels?

  All at once, Ralph was dancing round a lamp standard. There was a bus crawling out of the bus station, a strange bus....

  "Ralph! Ralph!"

  "What is it?"

  "Don't make a noise like that―"

  "Sorry."

  From the darkness of the further end of the shelter came a dreadful moaning and they shattered the leaves in their fear. Sam and Eric, locked in an embrace, were fighting each other.

  "Sam! Sam!"

  "Hey―Eric!"

  Presently all was quiet again.

  Piggy spoke softly to Ralph.

  "We got to get out of this."

  "What d'you mean?"

  "Get rescued."

  For the first time that day, and despite the crowding blackness, Ralph sniggered.

  "I mean it," whispered Piggy. "If we don't get home soon we'll be barmy."

  "Round the bend."

  "Bomb happy."

  "Crackers;"

  Ralph pushed the damp tendrils of hair out of his eyes.

  "You write a letter to your auntie."

  Piggy considered this solemnly.

  "I don't know where she is now. And I haven't got an envelope and a stamp. An' there isn't
a mailbox. Or a postman."

  The success of his tiny joke overcame Ralph. His sniggers became uncontrollable, his body jumped and twitched.

  Piggy rebuked him with dignity.

  "I haven't said anything all that funny."

  Ralph continued to snigger though his chest hurt. His twitchings exhausted him till he lay, breathless and woebegone, waiting for the next spasm. During one of these pauses he was ambushed by sleep.

  "Ralph! You been making a noise again. Do be quiet, Ralph―because."

  Ralph heaved over among the leaves. He had reason to be thankful that his dream was broken, for the bus had been nearer and more distinct.

  "Why―because?"

  "Be quiet―and listen."

  Ralph lay down carefully, to the accompaniment of a long sigh from the leaves. Eric moaned something and then lay still. The darkness, save for the useless oblong of stars, was blanket-thick.

  "I can't hear anything."

  "There's something moving outside."

  Ralph's head prickled. The sound of his blood drowned all else and then subsided.

  "I still can't hear anything."

  "Listen. Listen for a long time."

  Quite clearly and emphatically, and only a yard or so away from the back of the shelter, a stick cracked. The blood roared again in Ralph's ears, confused images chased each other through his mind. A composite of these things was prowling round the shelters. He could feel Piggy's head against his shoulder and the convulsive grip of a hand.

  "Ralph! Ralph!"

  "Shut up and listen."

  Desperately, Ralph prayed that the beast would prefer littluns.

  A voice whispered horribly outside.

  "Piggy―Piggy―"

  "It's come!" gasped Piggy. "It's real!"

  He clung to Ralph and reached to get his breath.

  "Piggy, come outside. I want you, Piggy."

  Ralph's mouth was against Piggy's ear.

  "Don't say anything."

  "Piggy―where are you, Piggy?"

  Something brushed against the back of the shelter. Piggy kept still for a moment, then he had his asthma. He arched his back and crashed among the leaves with his legs. Ralph rolled away from him.

  Then there was a vicious snarling in the mouth of the shelter and the plunge and thump of living things. Someone tripped over Ralph and Piggy's corner became a complication of snarls and crashes and flying limbs. Ralph hit out; then he and what seemed like a dozen others were rolling over and over, hitting, biting, scratching. He was torn and jolted, found fingers in his mouth and bit them. A fist withdrew and came back like a piston, so that the whole shelter exploded into light. Ralph twisted sideways on top of a writhing body and felt hot breath on his cheek. He began to pound the mouth below him, using his clenched fist as a hammer; he hit with more and more passionate hysteria as the face became slippery. A knee jerked up between his legs and he fell sideways, busying himself with his pain, and the fight rolled over him. Then the shelter collapsed with smothering finality; and the anonymous shapes fought their way out and through. Dark figures drew themselves out of the wreckage and flitted away, till the screams of the littluns and Piggy's gasps were once more audible.

  Ralph called out in a quavering voice.

  "All you littluns, go to sleep. We've had a fight with the others. Now go to sleep."

  Samneric came close and peered at Ralph.

  "Are you two all right?"

  "I think so―"

  "―I got busted."

  "So did I. How's Piggy?"

  They hauled Piggy clear of the wreckage and leaned him against a tree. The night was cool and purged of immediate terror. Piggy's breathing was a little easier.

  "Did you get hurt, Piggy?"

  "Not much."

  "That was Jack and his hunters," said Ralph bitterly. "Why can't they leave us alone?"

  "We gave them something to think about," said Sam. Honesty compelled him to go on. "At least you did. I got mixed up with myself in a corner."

  "I gave one of 'em what for," said Ralph, "I smashed him up all right. He won't want to come and fight us again in a hurry."

  "So did I," said Eric. "When I woke up one was kicking me in the face. I got an awful bloody face, I think, Ralph. But I did him in the end."

  "What did you do?"

  "I got my knee up," said Eric with simple pride, "and I hit him with it in the pills. You should have heard him holler! He won't come back in a hurry either. So we didn't do too badly."

  Ralph moved suddenly in the dark; but then he heard Eric working his mouth.

  "What's the matter?"

  "Jus' a tooth loose."

  Piggy drew up his legs.

  "You all right, Piggy?"

  "I thought they wanted the conch."

  Ralph trotted down the pale beach and jumped on to the platform. The conch still glimmered by the chief's seat. He gazed for a moment or two, then went back to Piggy.

  "They didn't take the conch."

  "I know. They didn't come for the conch. They came for something else. Ralph―what am I going to do?"

  Far off along the bowstave of beach, three figures trotted toward the Castle Rock. They kept away from the forest and down by the water. Occasionally they sang softly; occasionally they turned cartwheels down by the moving streak of phosphorescence. The chief led then, trotting steadily, exulting in his achievement. He was a chief now in truth; and he made stabbing motions with his spear. From his left hand dangled Piggy's broken glasses.

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  Castle Rock

  In the short chill of dawn the four boys gathered round the black smudge where the fire had been, while Ralph knelt and blew. Grey, feathery ashes scurried hither and thither at his breath but no spark shone among them. The twins watched anxiously and Piggy sat expressionless behind the luminous wall of his myopia. Ralph continued to blow till his ears were singing with the effort, but then the first breeze of dawn took the job off his hands and blinded him with ashes. He squatted back, swore, and rubbed water out of his eyes.

  "No use."

  Eric looked down at him through a mask of dried blood. Piggy peered in the general direction of Ralph.

  " 'Course it's no use, Ralph. Now we got no fire."

  Ralph brought his face within a couple of feet of Piggy's.

  "Can you see me?"

  "A bit."

  Ralph allowed the swollen flap of his cheek to close his eye again.

  "They've got our fire."

  Rage shrilled his voice.

  "They stole it!"

  "That's them," said Piggy. "They blinded me. See? That's Jack Merridew. You call an assembly, Ralph, we got to decide what to do."

  "An assembly for only us?"

  "It's all we got. Sam―let me hold on to you."

  They went toward the platform.

  "Blow the conch," said Piggy. "Blow as loud as you can."

  The forests re-echoed; and birds lifted, crying out of the treetops, as on that first morning ages ago. Both ways the beach was deserted. Some littluns came from the shelters. Ralph sat down on the polished trunk and the three others stood before him. He nodded, and Samneric sat down on the right. Ralph pushed the conch into Piggy's hands. He held the shining thing carefully and blinked at Ralph.

  "Go on, then."

  "I just take the conch to say this. I can't see no more and I got to get my glasses back. Awful things has been done on this island. I voted for you for chief. He's the only one who ever got anything done. So now you speak, Ralph, and tell us what. Or else―"

  Piggy broke off, sniveling. Ralph took back the conch as he sat down.

  "Just an ordinary fire. You'd think we could do that, wouldn't you? Just a smoke signal so we can be rescued. Are we savages or what? Only now there's no signal going up. Ships may be passing. Do you remember how he went hunting and the fire went out and a ship passed by? And they all think he's best as chief. Then there was, there was... that's his fault, too. If it hadn't been f
or him it would never have happened. Now Piggy can't see, and they came, stealing―" Ralph's voice ran up "―at night, in darkness, and stole our fire. They stole it. We'd have given them fire if they'd asked. But they stole it and the signal's out and we can't ever be rescued. Don't you see what I mean? We'd have given them fire for themselves only they stole it. I―"

  He paused lamely as the curtain flickered in his brain. Piggy held out his hands for the conch.

  "What you goin' to do, Ralph? This is jus' talk without deciding. I want my glasses."

  "I'm trying to think. Supposing we go, looking like we used to, washed and hair brushed―after all we aren't savages really and being rescued isn't a game―"

  He opened the flap of his cheek and looked at the twins.

  "We could smarten up a bit and then go―"

  "We ought to take spears," said Sam. "Even Piggy."

  "―because we may need them."

  "You haven't got the conch!"

  Piggy held up the shell.

  "You can take spears if you want but I shan't. What's the good? I'll have to be led like a dog, anyhow. Yes, laugh. Go on, laugh. There's them on this island as would laugh at anything. And what happened? What's grownups goin' to think? Young Simon was murdered. And there was that other kid what had a mark on his face. Who's seen him since we first come here?"

  "Piggy! Stop a minute!"

  "I got the conch. I'm going to that Jack Merridew an' tell him, I am."

  "You'll get hurt."

  "What can he do more than he has? I'll tell him what's what. You let me carry the conch, Ralph. I'll show him the one thing he hasn't got."

  Piggy paused for a moment and peered round at the dim figures. The shape of the old assembly, trodden in the grass, listened to him.

  "I'm going to him with this conch in my hands. I'm going to hold it out. Look, I'm goin' to say, you're stronger than I am and you haven't got asthma. You can see, I'm goin' to say, and with both eyes. But I don't ask for my glasses back, not as a favor. I don't ask you to be a sport, I'll say, not because you're strong, but because what's right's right. Give me my glasses, I'm going to say―you got to!"

  Piggy ended, flushed and trembling. He pushed the conch quickly into Ralph's hands as though in a hurry to be rid of it and wiped the tears from his eyes. The green light was gentle about them and the conch lay at Ralph's feet, fragile and white. A single drop of water that had escaped Piggy's fingers now flashed on the delicate curve like a star.

 
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