Lord of the flies, p.3
Lord of the Flies, p.3William Golding
"What made this track?"
Jack paused, wiping the sweat from his face. Ralph stood by him, breathless.
Jack shook his head.
Ralph peered into the darkness under the trees. The forest minutely vibrated.
The difficulty was not the steep ascent round the shoulders of rock, but the occasional plunges through the undergrowth to get to the next path. Here the roots and stems of creepers were in such tangles that the boys had to thread through them like pliant needles. Their only guide, apart from the brown ground and occasional flashes of light through the foliage, was the tendency of slope: whether this hole, laced as it was with the cables of creeper, stood higher than that.
Somehow, they moved up.
Immured in these tangles, at perhaps their most difficult moment, Ralph turned with shining eyes to the others.
The cause of their pleasure was not obvious. All three were hot, dirty and exhausted. Ralph was badly scratched. The creepers were as thick as their thighs and left little but tunnels for further penetration. Ralph shouted experimentally and they listened to the muted echoes.
"This is real exploring," said Jack. "I bet nobody's been here before."
"We ought to draw a map," said Ralph, "only we haven't any paper."
"We could make scratches on bark," said Simon, "and rub black stuff in."
Again came the solemn communion of shining eyes in the gloom.
There was no place for standing on one's head. This time Ralph expressed the intensity of his emotion by pretending to knock Simon down; and soon they were a happy, heaving pile in the under-dusk.
When they had fallen apart Ralph spoke first.
"Got to get on."
The pink granite of the next cliff was further back from the creepers and trees so that they could trot up the path. This again led into more open forest so that they had a glimpse of the spread sea. With openness came the sun; it dried the sweat that had soaked their clothes in the dark, damp heat. At last the way to the top looked like a scramble over pink rock, with no more plunging through darkness. The boys chose their way through defiles and over heaps of sharp stone.
High over this end of the island, the shattered rocks lifted up their stacks and chimneys. This one, against which Jack leaned, moved with a grating sound when they pushed.
But not "Come on" to the top. The assault on the summit must wait while the three boys accepted this challenge. The rock was as large as a small motor car.
Sway back and forth, catch the rhythm.
Increase the swing of the pendulum, increase, increase, come up and bear against that point of furthest balance― increase―increase― "Heave!"
The great rock loitered, poised on one toe, decided not to return, moved through the air, fell, struck, turned over, leapt droning through the air and smashed a deep hole in the canopy of the forest. Echoes and birds flew, white and pink dust floated, the forest further down shook as with the passage of an enraged monster: and then the island was still.
"Like a bomb!"
Not for five minutes could they drag themselves away from this triumph. But they left at last.
The way to the top was easy after that. As they reached the last stretch Ralph stopped.
They were on the lip of a circular hollow in the side of the mountain. This was filled with a blue flower, a rock plant of some sort, and the overflow hung down the vent and spilled lavishly among the canopy of the forest. The air was thick with butterflies, lifting, fluttering, settling.
Beyond the hollow was the square top of the mountain and soon they were standing on it.
They had guessed before that this was an island: clambering among the pink rocks, with the sea on either side, and the crystal heights of air, they had known by some instinct that the sea lay on every side. But there seemed something more fitting in leaving the last word till they stood on the top, and could see a circular horizon of water.
Ralph turned to the others.
"This belongs to us."
It was roughly boat-shaped: humped near this end with behind them the jumbled descent to the shore. On either side rocks, cliffs, treetops and a steep slope: forward there, the length of the boat, a tamer descent, tree-clad, with hints of pink: and then the jungly flat of the island, dense green, but drawn at the end to a pink tail. There, where the island petered out in water, was another island; a rock, almost detached, standing like a fort, facing them across the green with one bold, pink bastion.
The boys surveyed all this, then looked out to sea. They were high up and the afternoon had advanced; the view was not robbed of sharpness by mirage.
"That's a reef. A coral reef. I've seen pictures like that."
The reef enclosed more than one side of the island, lying perhaps a mile out and parallel to what they now thought of as their beach. The coral was scribbled in the sea as though a giant had bent down to reproduce the shape of the island in a flowing chalk line but tired before he had finished. Inside was peacock water, rocks and weeds showing as in an aquarium; outside was the dark blue of the sea. The tide was running so that long streaks of foam tailed away from the reef and for a moment they felt that the boat was moving steadily astern.
Jack pointed down.
"That's where we landed."
Beyond falls and cliffs there was a gash visible in the trees; there were the splintered trunks and then the drag, leaving only a fringe of palm between the scar and the sea. There, too, jutting into the lagoon, was the platform, with insect-like figures moving near it.
Ralph sketched a twining line from the bald spot on which they stood down a slope, a gully, through flowers, round and down to the rock where the scar started.
"That's the quickest way back."
Eyes shining, mouths open, triumphant, they savored the right of domination. They were lifted up: were friends.
"There's no village smoke, and no boats," said Ralph wisely. "We'll make sure later; but I think it's uninhabited."
"We'll get food," cried Jack. "Hunt. Catch things. until they fetch us."
Simon looked at them both, saying nothing but nodding till his black hair flopped backwards and forwards: his face was glowing.
Ralph looked down the other way where there was no reef.
"Steeper," said Jack.
Ralph made a cupping gesture.
"That bit of forest down there... the mountain holds it up."
Every point of the mountain held up trees―flowers and trees. Now the forest stirred, roared, flailed. The nearer acres of rock flowers fluttered and for half a minute the breeze blew cool on their faces.
Ralph spread his arms.
They laughed and tumbled and shouted on the mountain.
When Simon mentioned his hunger the others became aware of theirs.
"Come on," said Ralph. "We've found out what we wanted to know."
They scrambled down a rock slope, dropped among flowers and made their way under the trees. Here they paused and examined the bushes round them curiously.
Simon spoke first.
"Like candles. Candle bushes. Candle buds."
The bushes were dark evergreen and aromatic and the many buds were waxen green and folded up against the light. Jack slashed at one with his knife and the scent spilled over them.
"You couldn't light them," said Ralph. "They just look like candles."
"Green candles," said Jack contemptuously. "We can't eat them. Come on."
They were in the beginnings of the thick forest, plonking with weary feet on a track,
"I was choosing a place," said Jack. "I was just waiting for a moment to decide where to stab him."
"You should stick a pig," said Ralph fiercely. "They always talk about sticking a pig."
"You cut a pig's throat to let the blood out," said Jack, "otherwise you can't eat the meat."
"Why didn't you―?"
They knew very well why he hadn't: because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh; because of the unbearable blood.
"I was going to," said Jack. He was ahead of them, and they could not see his face. "I was choosing a place. Next time―!"
He snatched his knife out of the sheath and slammed it into a tree trunk. Next time there would be no mercy. He looked round fiercely, daring them to contradict. Then they broke out into the sunlight and for a while they were busy finding and devouring food as they moved down the scar toward the platform and the meeting.
Fire on the Mountain
By the time Ralph finished blowing the conch the platform was crowded. There were differences between this meeting and the one held in the morning. The afternoon sun slanted in from the other side of the platform and most of the children, feeling too late the smart of sunburn, had put their clothes on. The choir, less of a group, had discarded their cloaks.
Ralph sat on a fallen trunk, his left side to the sun. On his right were most of the choir; on his left the larger boys who had not known each other before the evacuation; before him small children squatted in the grass.
Silence now. Ralph lifted the cream and pink shell to his knees and a sudden breeze scattered light over the platform. He was uncertain whether to stand up or remain sitting. He looked sideways to his left, toward the bathing pool. Piggy was sitting near but giving no help.
Ralph cleared his throat.
All at once he found he could talk fluently and explain what he had to say. He passed a hand through his fair hair and spoke.
"We're on an island. We've been on the mountain top and seen water all round. We saw no houses, no smoke, no footprints, no boats, no people. We're on an uninhabited island with no other people on it."
Jack broke in.
"All the same you need an army―for hunting. Hunting pigs―"
"Yes. There are pigs on the island."
All three of them tried to convey the sense of the pink live thing struggling in the creepers.
"It broke away―"
"Before I could kill it―but―next time!"
Jack slammed his knife into a trunk and looked round challengingly.
The meeting settled down again.
"So you see," said Ralph, "We need hunters to get us meat. And another thing."
He lifted the shell on his knees and looked round the sun-slashed faces.
"There aren't any grownups. We shall have to look after ourselves."
The meeting hummed and was silent.
"And another thing. We can't have everybody talking at once. We'll have to have 'Hands up' like at school."
He held the conch before his face and glanced round the mouth.
"Then I'll give him the conch."
"That's what this shell's called. I'll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he's speaking."
"And he won't be interrupted: Except by me."
Jack was on his feet.
"We'll have rules!" he cried excitedly. "Lots of rules! Then when anyone breaks 'em―"
Ralph felt the conch lifted from his lap. Then Piggy was standing cradling the great cream shell and the shouting died down. Jack, left on his feet, looked uncertainly at Ralph who smiled and patted the log. Jack sat down. Piggy took off his glasses and blinked at the assembly while he wiped them on his shirt.
"You're hindering Ralph. You're not letting him get to the most important thing."
He paused effectively.
"Who knows we're here? Eh?"
"They knew at the airport."
"The man with a trumpet-thing―"
Piggy put on his glasses.
"Nobody knows where we are," said Piggy. He was paler than before and breathless. "Perhaps they knew where we was going to; and perhaps not. But they don't know where we are 'cos we never got there." He gaped at them for a moment, then swayed and sat down. Ralph took the conch from his hands.
"That's what I was going to say," he went on, "when you all, all...." He gazed at their intent faces. "The plane was shot down in flames. Nobody knows where we are. We may be here a long time."
The silence was so complete that they could hear the unevenness of Piggy's breathing. The sun slanted in and lay golden over half the platform. The breezes that on the lagoon had chased their tails like kittens were finding their way across the platform and into the forest. Ralph pushed back the tangle of fair hair that hung on his forehead.
"So we may be here a long time."
Nobody said anything. He grinned suddenly.
"But this is a good island. We―Jack, Simon and me― we climbed the mountain. It's wizard. There's food and drink, and―"
Piggy, partly recovered, pointed to the conch in Ralph's hands, and Jack and Simon fell silent. Ralph went on.
"While we're waiting we can have a good time on this island."
He gesticulated widely.
"It's like in a book."
At once there was a clamor.
"Swallows and Amazons―"
Ralph waved the conch.
"This is our island. It's a good island. Until the grownups come to fetch us we'll have fun."
Jack held out his hand for the conch.
"There's pigs," he said. "There's food; and bathing water in that little stream along there―and everything. Didn't anyone find anything else?"
He handed the conch back to Ralph and sat down. Apparently no one had found anything.
The older boys first noticed the child when he resisted. There was a group of little boys urging him forward and he did not want to go. He was a shrimp of a boy, about six years old, and one side of his face was blotted out by a mulberry-colored birthmark. He stood now, warped out of the perpendicular by the fierce light of publicity, and he bored into the coarse grass with one toe. He was muttering and about to cry.
The other little boys, whispering but serious, pushed him toward Ralph.
"All right," said Ralph, "come on then."
The small boy looked round in panic.
The small boy held out his hands for the conch and the assembly shouted with laughter; at once he snatched back his hands and started to cry.
"Let him have the conch!" shouted Piggy. "Let him h
At last Ralph induced him to hold the shell but by then the blow of laughter had taken away the child's voice. Piggy knelt by him, one hand on the great shell, listening and interpreting to the assembly.
"He wants to know what you're going to do about the snake-thing."
Ralph laughed, and the other boys laughed with him. The small boy twisted further into himself.
"Tell us about the snake-thing."
"Now he says it was a beastie."
"A snake-thing. Ever so big. He saw it."
"In the woods."
Either the wandering breezes or perhaps the decline of the sun allowed a little coolness to lie under the trees. The boys felt it and stirred restlessly.
"You couldn't have a beastie, a snake-thing, on an island this size," Ralph explained kindly. "You only get them in big countries, like Africa, or India."
Murmur; and the grave nodding of heads.
"He says the beastie came in the dark."
"Then he couldn't see it!"
Laughter and cheers.
"Did you hear that? Says he saw the thing in the dark―"
"He still says he saw the beastie. It came and went away again an' came back and wanted to eat him―"
"He was dreaming."
Laughing, Ralph looked for confirmation round the ring of faces. The older boys agreed; but here and there among the little ones was the doubt that required more than rational assurance.
"He must have had a nightmare. Stumbling about among all those creepers."
More grave nodding; they knew about nightmares. "He says he saw the beastie, the snake-thing, and will it come back tonight?"
"But there isn't a beastie!"
"He says in the morning it turned into them things like ropes in the trees and hung in the branches. He says will it come back tonight?"
"But there isn't a beastie!"
There was no laughter at all now and more grave watching. Ralph pushed both hands through his hair and looked at the little boy in mixed amusement and exasperation.
Jack seized the conch.
"Ralph's right of course. There isn't a snake-thing. But if there was a snake we'd hunt it and kill it. We're going to hunt pigs to get meat for everybody. And we'll look for the snake too―"
Lord of the Flies by William Golding / History & Fiction / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes