Lord of the flies, p.18
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Lord of the Flies, p.18

           William Golding
 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

  The chief spoke to him angrily.

  "Why aren't you on watch?"

  Roger looked at him gravely.

  "I just came down―"

  The hangman's horror clung round him. The chief said no more to him but looked down at Samneric.

  "You got to join the tribe."

  "You lemme go―"

  "―and me."

  The chief snatched one of the few spears that were left and poked Sam in the ribs.

  "What d'you mean by it, eh?" said the chief fiercely. "What d'you mean by coming with spears? What d'you mean by not joining my tribe?"

  The prodding became rhythmic. Sam yelled.

  "That's not the way."

  Roger edged past the chief, only just avoiding pushing him with his shoulder. The yelling ceased, and Samneric lay looking up in quiet terror. Roger advanced upon them as one wielding a nameless authority.

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  Cry of the Hunters

  Ralph lay in a covert, wondering about his wounds. The bruised flesh was inches in diameter over his right ribs, with a swollen and bloody scar where the spear had hit him. His hair was full of dirt and tapped like the tendrils of a creeper. All over he was scratched and bruised from his flight through the forest. By the time his breathing was normal again, he had worked out that bathing these injuries would have to wait. How could you listen for naked feet if you were splashing in water? How could you be safe by the little stream or on the open beach?

  Ralph listened. He was not really far from the Castle Rock, and during the first panic he had thought he heard sounds of pursuit. But the hunters had only sneaked into the fringes of the greenery, retrieving spears perhaps, and then had rushed back to the sunny rock as if terrified of the darkness under the leaves. He had even glimpsed one of them, striped brown, black, and red, and had judged that it was Bill. But really, thought Ralph, this was not Bill. This was a savage whose image refused to blend with that ancient picture of a boy in shorts and shirt.

  The afternoon died away; the circular spots of sunlight moved steadily over green fronds and brown fiber but no sound came from behind the rock. At last Ralph wormed out of the ferns and sneaked forward to the edge of that impenetrable thicket that fronted the neck of land. He peered with elaborate caution between branches at the edge and could see Robert sitting on guard at the top of the cliff. He held a spear in his left hand and was tossing up a pebble and catching it again with the right. Behind him a column of smoke rose thickly, so that Ralph's nostrils flared and his mouth dribbled. He wiped his nose and mouth with the back of his hand and for the first time since the morning felt hungry. The tribe must be sitting round the gutted pig, watching the fat ooze and burn among the ashes. They would be intent.

  Another figure, an unrecognizable one, appeared by Robert and gave him something, then turned and went back behind the rock. Robert laid his spear on the rock beside him and began to gnaw between his raised hands. So the feast was beginning and the watchman had been given his portion.

  Ralph saw that for the time being he was safe. He limped away through the fruit trees, drawn by the thought of the poor food yet bitter when he remembered the feast. Feast today, and then tomorrow....

  He argued unconvincingly that they would let him alone, perhaps even make an outlaw of him. But then the fatal unreasoning knowledge came to him again. The breaking of the conch and the deaths of Piggy and Simon lay over the island like a vapor. These painted savages would go further and further. Then there was that indefinable connection between himself and Jack; who therefore would never let him alone; never.

  He paused, sun-flecked, holding up a bough, prepared to duck under it. A spasm of terror set him shaking and he cried aloud.

  "No. They're not as bad as that. It was an accident."

  He ducked under the bough, ran clumsily, then stopped and listened.

  He came to the smashed acres of fruit and ate greedily. He saw two littluns and, not having any idea of his own appearance, wondered why they screamed and ran.

  When he had eaten he went toward the beach. The sunlight was slanting now into the palms by the wrecked shelter. There was the platform and the pool. The best thing to do was to ignore this leaden feeling about the heart and rely on their common sense, their daylight sanity. Now that the tribe had eaten, the thing to do was to try again. And anyway, he couldn't stay here all night in an empty shelter by the deserted platform. His flesh crept and he shivered in the evening sun. No fire; no smoke; no rescue. He turned and limped away through the forest toward Jack's end of the island.

  The slanting sticks of sunlight were lost among the branches. At length he came to a clearing in the forest where rock prevented vegetation from growing. Now it was a pool of shadows and Ralph nearly flung himself behind a tree when he saw something standing in the center; but then he saw that the white face was bone and that the pig's skull grinned at him from the top of a stick. He walked slowly into the middle of the clearing and looked steadily at the skull that gleamed as white as ever the conch had done and seemed to jeer at him cynically. An inquisitive ant was busy in one of the eye sockets but otherwise the thing was lifeless.

  Or was it?

  Little prickles of sensation ran up and down his back. He stood, the skull about on a level with his face, and held up his hair with two hands. The teeth grinned, the empty sockets seemed to hold his gaze masterfully and without effort.

  What was it?

  The skull regarded Ralph like one who knows all the answers and won't tell. A sick fear and rage swept him. Fiercely he hit out at the filthy thing in front of him that bobbed like a toy and came back, still grinning into his face, so that he lashed and cried out in loathing. Then he was licking his bruised knuckles and looking at the bare stick, while the skull lay in two pieces, its grin now six feet across. He wrenched the quivering stick from the crack and held it as a spear between him and the white pieces. Then he backed away, keeping his face to the skull that lay grinning at the sky.

  When the green glow had gone from the horizon and night was fully accomplished, Ralph came again to the thicket in front of the Castle Rock. Peeping through, he could see that the height was still occupied, and whoever it was up there had a spear at the ready.

  He knelt among the shadows and felt his isolation bitterly. They were savages it was true; but they were human, and the ambushing fears of the deep night were coming on.

  Ralph moaned faintly. Tired though he was, he could not relax and fall into a well of sleep for fear of the tribe. Might it not be possible to walk boldly into the fort, say― "I've got pax," laugh lightly and sleep among the others? Pretend they were still boys, schoolboys who had said, "Sir, yes, Sir"―and worn caps? Daylight might have answered yes; but darkness and the horrors of death said no. Lying there in the darkness, he knew he was an outcast.

  " 'Cos I had some sense."

  He rubbed his cheek along his forearm, smelling the acrid scent of salt and sweat and the staleness of dirt. Over to the left, the waves of ocean were breathing, sucking down, then boiling back over the rock.

  There were sounds coming from behind the Castle Rock. Listening carefully, detaching his mind from the swing of the sea, Ralph could make out a familiar rhythm.

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

  The tribe was dancing. Somewhere on the other side of this rocky wall there would be a dark circle, a glowing fire, and meat. They would be savoring food and the comfort of safety.

  A noise nearer at hand made him quiver. Savages were clambering up the Castle Rock, right up to the top, and he could hear voices. He sneaked forward a few yards and saw the shape at the top of the rock change and enlarge. There were only two boys on the island who moved or talked like that.

  Ralph put his head down on his forearms and accepted this new fact like a wound. Samneric were part of the tribe now. They were guarding the Castle Rock against him. There was no chance of rescuing them and building up an outlaw tribe at the other end of the island. S
amneric were savages like the rest; Piggy was dead, and the conch smashed to powder.

  At length the guard climbed down. The two that remained seemed nothing more than a dark extension of the rock. A star appeared behind them and was momentarily eclipsed by some movement.

  Ralph edged forward, feeling his way over the uneven surface as though he were blind. There were miles of vague water at his right and the restless ocean lay under his left hand, as awful as the shaft of a pit. Every minute the water breathed round the death rock and flowered into a field of whiteness. Ralph crawled until he found the ledge of the entry in his grasp. The lookouts were immediately above him and he could see the end of a spear projecting over the rock.

  He called very gently.

  "Samneric―"

  There was no reply. To carry he must speak louder; and this would rouse those striped and inimical creatures from their feasting by the fire. He set his teeth and started to climb, finding the holds by touch. The stick that had supported a skull hampered him but he would not be parted from his only weapon. He was nearly level with the twins before he spoke again.

  "Samneric―"

  He heard a cry and a flurry from the rock. The twins had grabbed each other and were gibbering.

  "It's me. Ralph."

  Terrified that they would run and give the alarm, he hauled himself up until his head and shoulders stuck over the top. Far below his armpit he saw the luminous flowering round the rock.

  "It's only me. Ralph."

  At length they bent forward and peered in his face.

  "We thought it was―"

  "―we didn't know what it was―"

  "―we thought―"

  Memory of their new and shameful loyalty came to them. Eric was silent but Sam tried to do his duty.

  "You got to go, Ralph. You go away now―"

  He wagged his spear and essayed fierceness.

  "You shove off. See?"

  Eric nodded agreement and jabbed his spear in the air. Ralph leaned on his arms and did not go.

  "I came to see you two."

  His voice was thick. His throat was hurting him now though it had received no wound.

  "I came to see you two―"

  Words could not express the dull pain of these things. He fell silent, while the vivid stars were spilt and danced all ways.

  Sam shifted uneasily.

  "Honest, Ralph, you'd better go."

  Ralph looked up again.

  "You two aren't painted. How can you―? If it were light―"

  If it were light shame would burn them at admitting these things. But the night was dark. Eric took up; and then the twins started their antiphonal speech.

  "You got to go because it's not safe―"

  "―they made us. They hurt us―"

  "Who? Jack?"

  "Oh no―"

  They bent to him and lowered their voices.

  "Push off, Ralph―"

  "―it's a tribe―"

  "―they made us―"

  "―we couldn't help it―"

  When Ralph spoke again his voice was low, and seemed breathless.

  "What have I done? I liked him―and I wanted us to be rescued―"

  Again the stars spilled about the sky. Eric shook his head, earnestly.

  "Listen, Ralph. Never mind what's sense. That's gone―"

  "Never mind about the chief―"

  "―you got to go for your own good."

  "The chief and Roger―"

  "―yes, Roger―"

  "They hate you, Ralph. They're going to do you."

  "They're going to hunt you tomorrow."

  "But why?"

  "I dunno. And Ralph, Jack, the chief, says it'll be dangerous―"

  "―and we've got to be careful and throw our spears like at a pig."

  "We're going to spread out in a line across the island―"

  "―we're going forward from this end―"

  "―until we find you."

  "We've got to give signals like this."

  Eric raised his head and achieved a faint ululation by beating on his open mouth. Then he glanced behind him nervously.

  "Like that―"

  "―only louder, of course."

  "But I've done nothing," whispered Ralph, urgently. "I only wanted to keep up a fire!"

  He paused for a moment, thinking miserably of the morrow. A matter of overwhelming importance occurred to him.

  "What are you―?"

  He could not bring himself to be specific at first; but then fear and loneliness goaded him.

  "When they find me, what are they going to do?"

  The twins were silent. Beneath him, the death rock flowered again.

  "What are they―oh God! I'm hungry―"

  The towering rock seemed to sway under him.

  "Well―what―?"

  The twins answered his question indirectly.

  "You got to go now, Ralph."

  "For your own good."

  "Keep away. As far as you can."

  "Won't you come with me? Three of us―we'd stand a chance."

  After a moment's silence, Sam spoke in a strangled voice.

  "You don't know Roger. He's a terror."

  "And the chief―they're both―"

  "―terrors―"

  "―only Roger―"

  Both boys froze. Someone was climbing toward them from the tribe.

  "He's coming to see if we're keeping watch. Quick, Ralph!"

  As he prepared to let himself down the cliff, Ralph snatched at the last possible advantage to be wrung out of this meeting.

  "I'll lie up close; in that thicket down there," he whispered, "so keep them away from it. They'll never think to look so close―"

  The footsteps were still some distance away.

  "Sam―I'm going to be all right, aren't I?"

  The twins were silent again.

  "Here!" said Sam suddenly. "Take this―"

  Ralph felt a chunk of meat pushed against him and grabbed it.

  "But what are you going to do when you catch me?"

  Silence above. He sounded silly to himself. He lowered himself down the rock.

  "What are you going to do―?"

  From the top of the towering rock came the incomprehensible reply.

  "Roger sharpened a stick at both ends."

  Roger sharpened a stick at both ends. Ralph tried to attach a meaning to this but could not. He used all the bad words he could think of in a fit of temper that passed into yawning. How long could you go without sleep? He yearned for a bed and sheets―but the only whiteness here was the slow spilt milk, luminous round the rock forty feet below, where Piggy had fallen. Piggy was everywhere, was on this neck, was become terrible in darkness and death.

  If Piggy were to come back now out of the water, with his empty head―Ralph whimpered and yawned like a littlun. The stick in his hand became a crutch on which he reeled.

  Then he tensed again. There were voices raised on the top of the Castle Rock. Samneric were arguing with someone. But the ferns and the grass were near. That was the place to be in, hidden, and next to the thicket that would serve for tomorrow's hideout. Here―and his hands touched grass―was a place to be in for the night, not far from the tribe, so that if the horrors of the supernatural emerged one could at least mix with humans for the time being, even if it meant...

  What did it mean? A stick sharpened at both ends. What was there in that? They had thrown spears and missed; all but one. Perhaps they would miss next time, too.

  He squatted down in the tall grass, remembered the meat that Sam had given him, and began to tear at it ravenously. While he was eating, he heard fresh noises―cries of pain from Samneric, cries of panic, angry voices. What did it mean? Someone besides himself was in trouble, for at least one of the twins was catching it. Then the voices passed away down the rock and he ceased to think of them. He felt with his hands and found cool, delicate fronds backed against the thicket. Here then was the night's lair. At first light he
would creep into the thicket, squeeze between the twisted stems, ensconce himself so deep that only a crawler like himself could come through, and that crawler would be jabbed. There he would sit, and the search would pass him by, and the cordon waver on, ululating along the island, and he would be free.

  He pulled himself between the ferns, tunneling in. He laid the stick beside him, and huddled himself down in the blackness. One must remember to wake at first light, in order to diddle the savages―and he did not know how quickly sleep came and hurled him down a dark interior slope.

  He was awake before his eyes were open, listening to a noise that was near. He opened an eye, found the mold an inch or so from his face and his fingers gripped into it, light filtering between the fronds of fern. He had just time to realize that the age-long nightmares of falling and death were past and that the morning was come, when he heard the sound again. It was an ululation over by the seashore― and now the next savage answered and the next. The cry swept by him across the narrow end of the island from sea to lagoon, like the cry of a flying bird. He took no time to consider but grabbed his sharp stick and wriggled back among the ferns. Within seconds he was worming his way into the thicket; but not before he had glimpsed the legs of a savage coming toward him. The ferns were thumped and beaten and he heard legs moving in the long grass. The savage, whoever he was, ululated twice; and the cry was repeated in both directions, then died away. Ralph crouched still, tangled in the ferns, and for a time he heard nothing.

  At last he examined the thicket itself. Certainly no one could attack him here―and moreover he had a stroke of luck. The great rock that had killed Piggy had bounded into this thicket and bounced there, right in the center, making a smashed space a few feet in extent each way. When Ralph had wriggled into this he felt secure, and clever. He sat down carefully among the smashed stems and waited for the hunt to pass. Looking up between the leaves he caught a glimpse of something red. That must be the top of the Castle Rock, distant and unmenacing. He composed himself triumphantly, to hear the sounds of the hunt dying away.

  Yet no one made a sound; and as the minutes passed, in the green shade, his feeling of triumph faded.

  At last he heard a voice―Jack's voice, but hushed.

 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll