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Painted Faces and Long Hair

Chapter Four.

 

The first rhythm that they became used to was the slow swing from dawn to quick dusk. They accepted the pleasures of morning, the bright sun, the whelming sea and sweet air, as a time when play was good and life so full that hope was not necessary and therefore forgotten. Toward noon, as the floods of light fell more nearly to the perpendicular, the stark colors of the morning were smoothed in pearl and opalescence; and the heat—as though the impending sun’s height gave it momentum—became a blow that they ducked, running to the shade and lying there, perhaps even sleeping.

Strange things happened at midday. The glittering sea rose up, moved apart in planes of blatant impossibility; the coral reef and the few stunted palms that clung to the more elevated parts would float up into the sky, would quiver, be plucked apart, run like raindrops on a wire or be repeated as in an odd succession of mirrors. Sometimes land loomed where there was no land and flicked out like a bubble as the children watched. Piggy discounted all this learnedly as a “mirage”; and since no boy could reach even the reef over the stretch of water where the snapping sharks waited, they grew accustomed to these mysteries and ignored them, just as they ignored the miraculous, throbbing stars. At midday the illusions merged into the sky and there the sun gazed down like an angry eye. Then, at the end of the afternoon, the mirage subsided and the horizon became level and blue and clipped as the sun declined. That was another time of comparative coolness but menaced by the coming of the dark. When the sun sank, darkness dropped on the island like an extinguisher and soon the shelters were full of restlessness, under the remote stars.

Nevertheless, the northern European tradition of work, play, and food right through the day, made it impossible for them to adjust themselves wholly to this new rhythm. The littlun Percival had early crawled into a shelter and stayed there for two days, talking, singing, and crying, till they thought him batty and were faintly amused. Ever since then he had been peaked, red-eyed, and miserable; a littlun who played little and cried often.

The smaller boys were known now by the generic title of “littluns.” The decrease in size, from Ralph down, was gradual; and though there was a dubious region inhabited by Simon and Robert and Maurice, nevertheless no one had any difficulty in recognizing biguns at one end and littluns at the other. The undoubted littluns, those aged about six, led a quite distinct, and at the same time intense, life of their own. They ate most of the day, picking fruit where they could reach it and not particular about ripeness and quality. They were used now to stomach-aches and a sort of chronic diarrhoea. They suffered untold terrors in the dark and huddled together for comfort. Apart from food and sleep, they found time for play, aimless and trivial, in the white sand by the bright water. They cried for their mothers much less often than might have been expected; they were very brown, and filthily dirty. They obeyed the summons of the conch, partly because Ralph blew it, and he was big enough to be a link with the adult world of authority; and partly because they enjoyed the entertainment of the assemblies. But otherwise they seldom bothered with the biguns and their passionately emotional and corporate life was their own.



They had built castles in the sand at the bar of the little river. These castles were about one foot high and were decorated with shells, withered flowers, and interesting stones. Round the castles was a complex of marks, tracks, walls, railway lines, that were of significance only if inspected with the eye at beach-level. The littluns played here, if not happily at least with absorbed attention; and often as many as three of them would play the same game together.

Three were playing here now. Henry was the biggest of them. He was also a distant relative of that other boy whose mulberry-marked face had not been seen since the evening of the great fire; but he was not old enough to understand this, and if he had been told that the other boy had gone home in an aircraft, he would have accepted the statement without fuss or disbelief.

Henry was a bit of a leader this afternoon, because the other two were Percival and Johnny, the smallest boys on the island. Percival was mouse-colored and had not been very attractive even to his mother; Johnny was well built, with fair hair and a natural belligerence. Just now he was being obedient because he was interested; and the three children, kneeling in the sand, were at peace.

Roger and Maurice came out of the forest. They were relieved from duty at the fire and had come down for a swim. Roger led the way straight through the castles, kicking them over, burying the flowers, scattering the chosen stones. Maurice followed, laughing, and added to the destruction. The three littluns paused in their game and looked up. As it happened, the particular marks in which they were interested had not been touched, so they made no protest. Only Percival began to whimper with an eyeful of sand and Maurice hurried away. In his other life Maurice had received chastisement for filling a younger eye with sand. Now, though there was no parent to let fall a heavy hand, Maurice still felt the unease of wrongdoing. At the back of his mind formed the uncertain outlines of an excuse. He muttered something about a swim and broke into a trot.

Roger remained, watching the littluns. He was not noticeably darker than when he had dropped in, but the shock of black hair, down his nape and low on his forehead, seemed to suit his gloomy face and made what had seemed at first an unsociable remoteness into something forbidding. Percival finished his whimper and went on playing, for the tears had washed the sand away. Johnny watched him with china-blue eyes; then began to fling up sand in a shower, and presently Percival was crying again.

When Henry tired of his play and wandered off along the beach, Roger followed him, keeping beneath the palms and drifting casually in the same direction. Henry walked at a distance from the palms and the shade because he was too young to keep himself out of the sun. He went down the beach and. busied himself at the water’s edge. The great Pacific tide was coming in and every few seconds the relatively still water of the lagoon heaved forwards an inch, There were creatures that lived in this last fling of the sea, tiny transparencies that came questing in with the water over the hot, dry sand. With impalpable organs of sense they examined this new field. Perhaps food had appeared where at the last incursion there had been none; bird droppings, insects perhaps, any of the strewn detritus of landward life. Lake a myriad of tiny teeth in a saw, the transparencies came scavenging over the beach.

This was fascinating to Henry. He poked about with a bit of stick, that itself was wave-worn and whitened and a vagrant, and tried to control the motions of the scavengers. He made little runnels that the tide filled and tried to crowd them with creatures. He became absorbed beyond mere happiness as he felt himself exercising control over living things. He talked to them, urging them, ordering them. Driven back by the tide, his footprints became bays in which they were trapped and gave him the illusion of mastery. He squatted on his hams at the water’s edge, bowed, with a shock of hair falling over his forehead and past his eyes, and the afternoon sun emptied down invisible arrows.

Roger waited too. At first he had hidden behind a great palm; but Henry’s absorption with the transparencies was so obvious that at last he stood out in full view. He looked along the beach. Percival had gone off, crying, and Johnny was left in triumphant possession of the castles. He sat there, crooning to himself and throwing sand at an imaginary Percival. Beyond him, Roger could see the platform and the glints of spray where Ralph and Simon and Piggy and Maurice were diving in the pool. He listened carefully but could only just hear them.

A sudden breeze shook the fringe of palm trees, so that the fronds tossed and fluttered. Sixty feet above Roger, several nuts, fibrous lumps as big as rugby balls, were loosed from their stems. They fell about him with a series of hard thumps and he was not touched. Roger did not consider his escape, but looked from the nuts to Henry and back again.

The subsoil beneath the palm trees was a raised beach, and generations of palms had worked loose in this the stones that had lain on the sands of another shore. Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry—threw it to miss. The stone, that token of preposterous time, bounced five yards to Henry’s right and fell in the water. Roger gathered a handful of stones and began to throw them. Yet there was a space round Henry, perhaps six yards in diameter, into which, he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins.

Henry was surprised by the plopping sounds in the water. He abandoned the noiseless transparencies and pointed at the center of the spreading rings like a setter. This side and that the stones fell, and Henry turned obediently but always too late to see the stones in the air. At last he saw one and laughed, looking for the friend who was teasing him. But Roger had whipped behind the palm again, was leaning against it breathing quickly, his eyelids fluttering. Then Henry lost interest in stones and wandered off..

“Roger.”

Jack was standing under a tree about ten yards away. When Roger opened his eyes and saw him, a darker shadow crept beneath the swarthiness of his skin; but Jack noticed nothing. He was eager, impatient, beckoning, so that Roger went to him.

There was a small pool at the end of the river, dammed back by sand and full of white water-lilies and needle-like reeds. Here Sam and Eric were waiting, and Bill Jack, concealed from the sun, knelt by the pool and opened the two large leaves that he carried. One of them contained white clay, and the other red. By them lay a stick of charcoal brought down from the fire.

Jack explained to Roger as he worked.

“They don’t smell me. They see me, I think. Something pink, under the trees.”

He smeared on the clay.

“If only I’d some green!”

He turned a halt-concealed face up to Roger and answered the incomprehension of his gaze.

“For hunting. Like in the war. You know—dazzle paint Like things trying to look like something else—” He twisted in the urgency of telling. “—lake moths on a tree trunk.”

Roger understood and nodded gravely. The twins moved toward Jack and began to protest timidly about something. Jack waved them away.

“Shut up.”

He rubbed the charcoal stick between the patches of red and white on his face.

“No. You two come with me.”

He peered at his reflection and disliked it. He bent down, took up a double handful of lukewarm water and rubbed the mess from his face. Freckles and sandy eyebrows appeared.

Roger smiled, unwillingly.

“You don’t half look a mess.”

Jack planned his new face. He made one cheek and one eye-socket white, then he rubbed red over the other half of his face and slashed a black bar of charcoal across from right ear to left jaw. He looked in the pool for his reflection, but his breathing troubled the mirror.

“Samneric. Get me a coconut. An empty one.”

He knelt, holding the shell of water. A rounded patch of sunlight fell on his face and a brightness appeared in the depths of the water. He looked in astonishment, no longer at himself but at an awesome stranger. He spilt the water and leapt to his feet, laughing excitedly. Beside the pool his sinewy body held up a mask that drew their eyes and appalled them. He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling. He capered toward Bill, and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness. The face of red and white and black swung through the air and jigged toward Bill. Bill started up laughing; then suddenly he fell silent and blundered away through the bushes.

Jack rushed toward the twins.

“The rest are making a line. Come on!”

“But—”

“—we—”

“Come on! I’ll creep up and stab—”

The mask compelled them.

 

Ralph climbed out of the bathing pool and trotted up the beach and sat in the shade beneath the palms. His fair hair was plastered over his eyebrows and he pushed it back. Simon was floating in the water and kicking with his feet, and Maurice was practicing diving. Piggy was mooning about, aimlessly picking up things and discarding them. The rock-pools which so fascinated him were covered by the tide, so he was without an interest until the tide went back. Presently, seeing Ralph under the palms, he came and sat by him.

Piggy wore the remainders of a pair of shorts, his fat body was golden brown, and the glasses still flashed when he looked at anything. He was the only boy on the island whose hair never seemed to grow. The rest were shock-headed, but Piggy’s hair still lay in wisps over his head as though baldness were his natural state and this imperfect covering would soon go, like the velvet on a young stag’s antlers.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “about a clock. We could make a sundial We could put a stick in the sand, and then—”

The effort to express the mathematical processes involved was too great. He made a few passes instead.

“And an airplane, and a TV set,” said Ralph sourly, “and a steam engine.”

Piggy shook his head.

“You have to have a lot of metal things for that,” he said, “and we haven’t got no metal. But we got a stick.”

Ralph turned and smiled involuntarily. Piggy was a bore; his fat, his ass-mar and his matter-of-fact ideas were dull, but there was always a little pleasure to be got out of pulling his leg, even if one did it by accident.

Piggy saw the smile and misinterpreted it as friendliness. There had grown up tacitly among the biguns the opinion that Piggy was an outsider, not only by accent, which did not matter, but by fat, and ass-mar, and specs, and a certain disinclination for manual labor. Now, finding that something he had said made Ralph smile, he rejoiced and pressed his advantage.

“We got a lot of sticks. We could have a sundial each. Then we should know what the time was.”

“A fat lot of good that would be.”

“You said you wanted things done. So as we could be rescued.”

“Oh, shut up.”

He leapt to his feet and trotted back to the pool, just as

Maurice did a rather poor dive. Ralph was glad of a chance to change the subject. He shouted as Maurice came to the surface.

“Belly flop! Belly flop!”

Maurice flashed a smile at Ralph who slid easily into the water. Of all the boys, he was the most at home there; but today, irked by the mention of rescue, the useless, footling mention of rescue, even the green depths of water and the shattered, golden sun held no balm. Instead of remaining and playing, he swam with steady strokes under Simon and crawled out of the other side of the pool to lie there, sleek and streaming like a seal. Piggy, always clumsy, stood up and came to stand by him, so mat Ralph rolled on his stomach and pretended not to see. The mirages had died away and gloomily he ran his eye along the taut blue line of the horizon.

The next moment he was on his feet and shouting.

“Smoke! Smoke!”

Simon tried to sit up in the water and got a mouthful. Maurice, who had been standing ready to dive, swayed back on his heels, made a bolt for the platform, then swerved back to the grass under the palms. There he started to pull on his tattered shorts, to be ready for anything.

Ralph stood, one hand holding back his hair, the other clenched. Simon was climbing out of the water. Piggy was rubbing his glasses on his shorts and squinting at the sea. Maurice had got both legs through one leg of his shorts. Of all the boys, only Ralph was still.

I can’t see no smoke,” said Piggy incredulously. “I can’t see no smoke, Ralph—where is it?”

Ralph said nothing. Now both his hands were clenched over his forehead so that the fair hair was kept out of his eyes. He was leaning forward and already the salt was whitening his body.

“Ralph—where s the ship?”

Simon stood by, looking from Ralph to the horizon. Maurice’s trousers gave way with a sigh and he abandoned them as a wreck, rushed toward the forest, and then came back again.

The smoke was a tight little knot on the horizon and was uncoiling slowly. Beneath the smoke was a dot that might be a funnel. Ralph’s face was pale as he spoke to himself.

They’ll see our smoke.”

Piggy was looking in the right direction now.

“It don’t look much.”

He turned round and peered up at the mountain. Ralph continued to watch the ship, ravenously. Color was coming back into his face. Simon stood by him, silent.

“I know I can’t see very much,” said Piggy, “but have we got any smoke?”

Ralph moved impatiently, still watching the ship.

“The smoke on the mountain.”

Maurice came running, and stared out to sea. Both Simon and Piggy were looking up at the mountain. Piggy screwed up his face but Simon cried out as though he had hurt himself.

“Ralph! Ralph!”

The quality of his speech twisted Ralph on the sand.

“You tell me,” said Piggy anxiously. “Is there a signal?”

Ralph looked back at the dispersing smoke on the horizon, then up at the mountain.

“Ralph—please! Is there a signal?”

Simon put out his hand, timidly, to touch Ralph; but Ralph started to run, splashing through the shallow end of the bathing pool, across the hot, white sand and under the palms. A moment later he was battling with the complex undergrowth that was already engulfing the scar. Simon ran after him, then Maurice. Piggy shouted.

“Ralph! Please—Ralph!”

Then he too started to run, stumbling over Maurice’s discarded shorts before he was across the terrace. Behind the four boys, the smoke moved gently along the horizon; and on the beach, Henry and Johnny were throwing sand at Percival who was crying quietly again; and all three were in complete ignorance of the excitement.

By the time Ralph had reached the landward end of the scar he was using precious breath to swear. He did desperate violence to his naked body among the rasping creepers so that blood was sliding over him. Just where the steep ascent of the mountain began, he stopped. Maurice was only a few yards behind him.

“Piggy’s specs!” shouted Ralph. “If the fire’s all out, well need them—”

He stopped shouting and swayed on his feet. Piggy was only just visible, bumbling up from the beach. Ralphlooked at the horizon, then up to the mountain. Was it better to fetch Piggy’s glasses, or would the ship have gone? Or if they climbed on, supposing the fire was all out, and they had to watch Piggy crawling nearer and the ship sinking under the horizon? Balanced on a high peak of need, agonized by indecision, Ralph cried out:

“Oh God, oh God!”

Simon, struggling with bushes, caught his breath. His face was twisted. Ralph blundered on, savaging himself, as the wisp of smoke moved on.

The fire was dead. They saw that straight away; saw what they had really known down on the beach when the smoke of home had beckoned. The fire was out, smokeless and dead; the watchers were gone. A pile of unused fuel lay ready.

Ralph turned to the sea. The horizon stretched, impersonal once more, barren of all but the faintest trace of smoke. Ralph ran stumbling along the rocks, saved himself on the edge of the pink cliff, and screamed at the ship.

“Come back! Come back!”

He ran backwards and forwards along the cliff, his face always to the sea, and his voice rose insanely.

“Come back! Come back!”

Simon and Maurice arrived. Ralph looked at them with unwinking eyes. Simon turned away, smearing the water from his cheeks. Ralph reached inside himself for the worst word he knew.

“They let the bloody fire go out.”

He looked down the unfriendly side of the mountain. Piggy arrived, out of breath and whimpering like a littlun. Ralph clenched his fist and went very red. The intent-ness of his gaze, the bitterness of his voice, pointed for him.

“There they are.”

A procession had appeared, far down among the pink stones that lay near the water’s edge. Some of the boys wore black caps but otherwise they were almost naked. They lifted sticks in the air together whenever they came to an easy patch. They were chanting, something to do with the bundle that the errant twins carried so carefully. Ralph picked out Jack easily, even at that distance, tall, red-haired, and inevitably leading the procession.

Simon looked now, from Ralph to Jack, as he had looked from Ralph to the horizon, and what he saw seemed to make him afraid. Ralph said nothing more, but waited while the procession came nearer. The chant was audible but at that distance still wordless. Behind Jack walked the twins, carrying a great stake on their shoulders. The gutted carcass of a pig swung from the stake, swinging heavily as the twins toiled over the uneven ground. The pigs head hung down with gaping neck and seemed to search for something on the ground. At last the words of the chant floated up to them, across the bowl of blackened wood and ashes.

“Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood.”

Yet as the words became audible, the procession reached the steepest part of the mountain, and in a minute or two the chant had died away. Piggy sniveled and Simon shushed him quickly as though he had spoken too loudly in church.

Jack, his face smeared with clays, reached the top first and hailed Ralph excitedly, with lifted spear.

“Look! We’ve killed a pig—we stole up on them—we got in a circle—”

Voices broke in from the hunters.

“We got in a circle—”

“We crept up—”

The pig squealed—”

The twins stood with the pig swinging between them, dropping black gouts on the rock. They seemed to share one wide, ecstatic grin. Jack had too many things to tell Ralph at once. Instead, he danced a step or two, then remembered his dignity and stood still, grinning. He noticed blood on his hands and grimaced distastefully, looked for something on which to clean them, then wiped them on his shorts and laughed.

Ralph spoke.

“You let the fire go out.”

Jack checked, vaguely irritated by this irrelevance but too happy to let it worry him.

“We can light the fire again. You should have been with us, Ralph. We had a smashing time. The twins got knocked over—”

“We hit the pig—”

“—I fell on top—”

“I cut the pig’s throat,” said Jack, proudly, and yet twitched as he said it. “Can I borrow yours, Ralph, to make a nick in the hilt?”

The boys chattered and danced. The twins continued to grin.

There was lashings of blood,” said Jack, laughing and shuddering, “you should have seen it!”

“We’ll go hunting every day—”

Ralph spoke again, hoarsely. He had not moved.

“You let the fire go out.”

This repetition made Jack uneasy. He looked at the twins and then back at Ralph.

“We had to have them in the hunt,” he said, “or there wouldn’t have been enough for a ring.”

He flushed, conscious of a fault.

“The fire’s only been out an hour or two. We can light up again—”

He noticed Ralph’s scarred nakedness, and the sombre silence of all four of them. He sought, charitable in his happiness, to include them in the thing that had happened. His mind was crowded with memories; memories of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, taken away its life like a long satisfying drink.

He spread his arms wide.

“You should have seen the blood!”

The hunters were more silent now, but at this they buzzed again. Ralph flung back his hair. One arm pointed at the empty horizon. His voice was loud and savage, and struck them into silence.

“There was a ship.”

Jack, faced at once with too many awful implications, ducked away from them. He laid a hand on the pig and drew his knife. Ralph brought his arm down, fist clenched, and his voice shook.

“There was a ship. Out there. You said you’d keep the fire going and you let it out!” He took a step toward Jack, who turned and faced him.

“They might have seen us. We might have gone home—”

This was too bitter for Piggy, who forgot his timidity in the agony of his loss. He began to cry out, shrilly:

“You and your blood, Jack Merridew! You and your hunting! We might have gone home—”

Ralph pushed Piggy to one side.

“I was chief, and you were going to do what I said. You talk. But you can’t even build huts—then you go off hunting and let out the fire—”

He turned away, silent for a moment. Then his voice came again on a peak of feeling.

“There was a ship—”

One of the smaller hunters began to wail. The dismal truth was filtering through to everybody. Jack went very red as he hacked and pulled at the pig.

“The job was too much. We needed everyone.”

Ralph turned.

“You could have had everyone when the shelters were finished. But you had to hunt—”

“We needed meat.”

Jack stood up as he said this, the bloodied knife in his hand. The two boys faced each other. There was the brilliant world of hunting, tactics, fierce exhilaration, skill; and there was the world of longing and baffled common-sense. Jack transferred the knife to his left hand and smudged blood over his forehead as he pushed down the plastered hair.

Piggy began again.

“You didn’t ought to have let that fire out. You said you’d keep the smoke going—”

This from Piggy, and the wails of agreement from some of the hunters, drove Jack to violence. The bolting look came into his blue eyes. He took a step, and able at last to hit someone, stuck his fist into Piggy’s stomach. Piggy sat down with a grunt. Jack stood over him. His voice was vicious with humiliation.

“You would, would you? Fatty!”

Ralph made a step forward and Jack smacked Piggy’s head. Piggy’s glasses flew off and tinkled on the rocks. Piggy cried out in terror:

“My specs!”

He went crouching and feeling over the rocks but Simon, who got there first, found them for him. Passions beat about Simon on the mountain-top with awful wings.

“One side’s broken.”

Piggy grabbed and put on the glasses. He looked malevolently at Jack.

“I got to have them specs. Now I only got one eye. Jus’ you wait—”

Jack made a move toward Piggy who scrambled away till a great rock lay between them. He thrust his head over the top and glared at Jack through his one flashing glass.

“Now I only got one eye. Just you wait—”

Jack mimicked the whine and scramble.

“Jus’ you wait—yah!”

Piggy and the parody were so funny that the hunters began to laugh. Jack felt encouraged. He went on scrambling and the laughter rose to a gale of hysteria. Unwillingly Ralph felt his lips twitch; he was angry with himself for giving way.

He muttered.

“That was a dirty trick.”

Jack broke out of his gyration and stood facing Ralph. His words came in a shout.

“All right, all right!”

He looked at Piggy, at the hunters, at Ralph.

“I’m sorry. About the fire, I mean. There. I—”

He drew himself up.

“—I apologize.”

The buzz from the hunters was one of admiration at this handsome behavior. Clearly they were of the opinion that Jack had done the decent thing, had put himself in the right by his generous apology and Ralph, obscurely, in the wrong. They waited for an appropriately decent answer.

Yet Ralph’s throat refused to pass one. He resented, as an addition to Jack’s misbehavior, this verbal trick. The fire was dead, the ship was gone. Could they not see? Anger instead of decency passed his throat.

“That was a dirty trick.”

They were silent on the mountain-top while the opaque look appeared in Jack’s eyes and passed away.

Ralph’s final word was an ungracious mutter.

“All right. Light the fire.”

With some positive action before them, a little of die tension died. Ralph said no more, did nothing, stood looking down at the ashes round his feet. Jack was loud and active. He gave orders, sang, whistled, threw remarks at the silent Ralph—remarks that did not need an answer, and therefore could not invite a snub; and still Ralph was silent. No one, not even Jack, would ask him to move and in the end they had to build the fire three yards away and in a place not really as convenient. So Ralph asserted his chieftainship and could not have chosen a better way if he had thought for days. Against this weapon, so indefinable and so effective, Jack was powerless and raged without knowing why. By the time the pile was built, they were on different sides of a high barrier.

When they had dealt with the fire another crisis arose. Jack had no means of lighting it. Then to his surprise, Ralph went to Piggy and took the glasses from him. Not even Ralph knew now a link between him and Jack had been snapped and fastened elsewhere.

‘I’ll bring ‘em back.”

“I’ll come too.”

Piggy stood behind him, islanded in a sea of meaningless color, while Ralph knelt and focused the glossy spot. Instantly the fire was alight Piggy held out his hands and grabbed the glasses back.

Before these fantastically attractive flowers of violet and red and yellow, unkindness melted away. They became a circle of boys round a camp fire and even Piggy and Ralph were half-drawn in. Soon some of the boys were rushing down the slope for more wood while Jack hacked the pig. They tried holding the whole carcass on a stake over the fire, but the stake burnt more quickly than the pig roasted. In the end they skewered bits of meat on branches and held them in the flames: and even then almost as much boy was roasted as meat.

Ralph’s mouth watered. He meant to refuse meat but his past diet of fruit and nuts, with an odd crab or fish, gave him too little resistance. He accepted a piece of half-raw meat and gnawed it like a wolf.

Piggy spoke, also dribbling.

“Aren’t I having none?”

Jack had meant to leave him in doubt, as an assertion of power; but Piggy by advertising his omission made more cruelty necessary.

“You didn’t hunt.”

“No more did Ralph,” said Piggy wetly, “nor Simon.” He amplified. “There isn’t more than a ha’porth of meat in a crab.”

Ralph stirred uneasily. Simon, sitting between the twins and Piggy, wiped his mouth and shoved his piece of meat over the rocks to Piggy, who grabbed it. The twins giggled and Simon lowered his face in shame.

Then Jack leapt to his feet, slashed off a great hunk of meat, and flung it down at Simon’s feet.

“Eat! Damn you!”

He glared at Simon.

“Take it!”

He spun on his heel, center of a bewildered circle of boys.

“I got you meat!”

Numberless and inexpressible frustrations combined to make his rage elemental and awe-inspiring.

“I painted my face—I stole up. Now you eat—all of you—and I—”

Slowly the silence on the mountain-top deepened till the click of the fire and the soft hiss of roasting meat could be heard clearly. Jack looked round for understanding but found only respect. Ralph stood among the ashes of the signal fire, his hands full of meat, saying nothing.

Then at last Maurice broke the silence. He changed the subject to the only one that could bring the majority of them together.

“Where did you find the pig?”

Roger pointed down the unfriendly side. “They were there—by the sea.”

Jack, recovering, could not bear to have his story told. He broke in quickly.

“We spread round. I crept, on hands and knees. The spears fell out because they hadn’t barbs on. The pig ran away and made an awful noise—”

“It turned back and ran into the circle, bleeding—”

All the boys were talking at once, relieved and excited.

“We closed in—”

The first blow had paralyzed its hind quarters, so then the circle could close in and beat and beat—

“I cut the pig’s throat—”

The twins, still sharing their identical grin, jumped up and ran round each other. Then the rest joined in, making pig-dying noises and shouting.

“One for his nob!”

“Give him a fourpenny one!”

Then Maurice pretended to be the pig and ran squealing into the center, and the hunters, circling still, pretended to beat him. As they danced, they sang.

“Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Bash her in”

Ralph watched them, envious and resentful. Not till they flagged and the chant died away, did he speak.

“I’m calling an assembly.”

One by one, they halted, and stood watching him.

“With the conch. I’m calling a meeting even if we have to go on into the dark. Down on the platform. When I blow it. Now.”

He turned away and walked off, down the mountain.

 

Chapter Five.

Beast from Water

 

The tide was coming in and there was only a narrow strip of firm beach between the water and the white, stumbling stuff near the palm terrace. Ralph chose the firm strip as a path because he needed to think, and only here could he allow his feet to move without having to watch them. Suddenly, pacing by the water, he was overcome with astonishment. He found himself understanding the wearisomeness of this life, where every path was an improvisation and a considerable part of one’s waking life was spent watching one’s feet. He stopped, facing the strip; and remembering that first enthusiastic exploration as though it were part of a brighter childhood, he smiled jeeringly. He turned then and walked back toward the platform with the sun in his face. The time had come for the assembly and as he walked into the concealing splendors of the sunlight he went carefully over the points of his speech. There must be no mistake about this assembly, no chasing imaginary…

He lost himself in a maze of thoughts that were rendered vague by his lack of words to express them. Frowning, he tried again.

This meeting must not be fun, but business.

At that he walked faster, aware all at once of urgency and the declining sun and a little wind created by his speed that breathed about his face. This wind pressed his grey shirt against his chest so that he noticed—in this new mood of comprehension—how the folds were stiff like cardboard, and unpleasant; noticed too how the frayed edges of his shorts were making an uncomfortable, pink area on the front of his thighs. With a convulsion of the mind, Ralph discovered dirt and decay, understood how much he disliked perpetually flicking the tangled hair out of his eyes, and at last, when the sun was gone, rolling noisily to rest among dry leaves. At that he began to trot.

The beach near the bathing pool was dotted with groups of boys waiting for the assembly. They made way for him silently, conscious of his grim mood and the fault at the fire.

The place of assembly in which he stood was roughly a triangle; but irregular and sketchy, like everything they made. First there was the log on which he himself sat; a dead tree that must have been quite exceptionally big for the platform. Perhaps one of those legendary storms of the Pacific had shifted it here. This palm trunk lay parallel to the beach, so that when Ralph sat he faced the island but to the boys was a darkish figure against the shimmer of the lagoon. The two sides of the triangle of which the log was base were less evenly defined. On the right was a log polished by restless seats along the top, but not so large as the chiefs and not so comfortable. On the left were four small logs, one of them—the farthest—lamentably springy. Assembly after assembly had broken up in laughter when someone had leaned too far back and the log had whipped and thrown half a dozen boys backwards into the grass. Yet now, he saw, no one had had the wit—not himself nor Jack, nor Piggy—to bring a stone and wedge the thing. So they would continue enduring the ill-balanced twister, because, because…. Again he lost himself in deep waters.

Crass was worn away in front of each trunk but grew tall and untrodden in tile center of the triangle. Then, at the apex, the grass was thick again because no one sat there. All round the place of assembly the grey trunks rose, straight or leaning, and supported the low roof of leaves. On two sides was the beach; behind, the lagoon; in front, the darkness of the island.

Ralph turned to the chief’s seat. They had never had an assembly as late before. That was why the place looked so different. Normally the underside of the green roof was lit by a tangle of golden reflections, and their faces were lit upside down—like, thought Ralph, when you hold an electric torch in your hands. But now the sun was slanting in at one side, so that the shadows were where they ought to be.

Again he fell into that strange mood of speculation that was so foreign to him. If faces were different when lit from above or below—what was a face? What was anything?

Ralph moved impatiently. The trouble was, if you were a chief you had to think, you had to be wise. And then the occasion slipped by so that you had to grab at a decision. This made you think; because thought was a valuable thing, that got results…

Only, decided Ralph as he faced the chiefs seat, I can’t think. Not like Piggy.

Once more that evening Ralph had to adjust his values. Piggy could think. He could go step by step inside that fat head of his, only Piggy was no chief. But Piggy, for all his ludicrous body, had brains. Ralph was a specialist in thought now, and could recognize thought in another.

The sun in his eyes reminded him how time was passing, so he took the conch down from the tree and examined the surface. Exposure to the air had bleached the yellow and pink to near-white, and transparency. Ralph felt a land of affectionate reverence for the conch, even though he had fished the thing out of the lagoon himself. He faced the place of assembly and put the conch to his lips.

The others were waiting for this and came straight away. Those who were aware that a ship had passed the island while the fire was out were subdued by the thought of Ralph’s anger; while those, including the littluns who did not know, were impressed by the general air of solemnity. The place of assembly filled quickly; Jack, Simon, Maurice, most of the hunters, on Ralph’s right; the rest on the left, under the sun. Piggy came and stood outside the triangle. This indicated that he wished to listen, but would not speak; and Piggy intended it as a gesture of disapproval

“The thing is: we need an assembly.”

No one said anything but the faces turned to Ralph were intent. He flourished the conch. He had learnt as a practical business that fundamental statements like this had to be said at least twice, before everyone understood them. One had to sit, attracting all eyes to the conch, and drop words like heavy round stones among the little groups that crouched or squatted. He was searching his mind for simple words so that even the littluns would understand what the assembly was about. Later perhaps, practiced debaters—Jack, Maurice, Piggy—would use their whole art to twist the meeting: but now at the beginning the subject of the debate must be laid out clearly.

“We need an assembly. Not for fun. Not for laughing and falling off the log”—the group of littluns on the twister giggled and looked at each other—”not for making jokes, or for”—he lifted the conch in an effort to find the compelling word—”for cleverness. Not for these things. But to put things straight.’’

He paused for a moment.

“I’ve been alone. By myself I went, thinking what’s what I know what we need. An assembly to put things straight And first of all, I’m speaking.”

He paused for a moment and automatically pushed back his hair. Piggy tiptoed to the triangle, his ineffectual protest made, and joined the others.

Ralph went on.

“We have lots of assemblies. Everybody enjoys speaking and being together. We decide things. But they don’t get done. We were going to have water brought from the stream and left in those coconut shells under fresh leaves. So it was, for a few days. Now there’s no water. The shells are dry. People drink from the river.”

There was a murmur of assent.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with drinking from the river. I mean I’d sooner have water from that place—you know, the pool where the waterfall is—than out of an old coconut shell. Only we said we’d have the water brought And now not There were only two full shells there this afternoon.”

He licked his lips.

“Then there’s huts. Shelters.”

The murmur swelled again and died away.

“You mostly sleep in shelters. Tonight, except for Sam-neric up by the fire, you’ll all sleep there. Who built the shelters?”

Clamor rose at once. Everyone had built the shelters. Ralph had to wave the conch once more.

“Wait a minute! I mean, who built all three? We all built the first one, four of us the second one, and me ‘n Simon built the last one over there. That’s why it’s so tottery. No. Don’t laugh. That shelter might fall down if the rain comes back. We’ll need those shelters then.”

He paused and cleared his throat.

“There’s another thing. We chose those rocks right along beyond the bathing pool as a lavatory. That was sensible too. The tide cleans the place up. You littluns know about that.”

There were sniggers here and there and swift glances.

“Now people seem to use anywhere. Even near the shelters and the platform. You littluns, when you’re getting fruit; if you’re taken short—”

The assembly roared.

“I said if you’re taken short you keep away from the fruit. That’s dirty.”

Laughter rose again.

“I said that’s dirty!”

He plucked at his stiff, grey shirt.

“That’s realty dirty. If you’re taken short you go right along the beach to the rocks. See?”

Piggy held out his hands for the conch but Ralph shook his head. This speech was planned, point by point.

“We’ve all got to use the rocks again. This place is getting dirty.” He paused. The assembly, sensing a crisis, was tensely expectant. “And then: about the fire.”

Ralph let out his spare breath with a little gasp that was echoed by his audience. Jack started to chip a piece of wood with his knife and whispered something to Robert, who looked away.

“The fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don’t keep a fire going? Is a fire too much for us to make?”

He flung out an arm.

“Look at us! How many are we? And yet we can’t keep a fire going to make smoke. Don’t you understand? Can’t you see we ought to—ought to die before we let the fire out?”

There was a self-conscious giggling among the hunters. Ralph turned on them passionately.

“You hunters! You can laugh! But I tell you the smoke is more important than the pig, however often you kill one. Do all of you see?” He spread his arms wide and turned to the whole triangle.

“We’ve got to make smoke up there—or die.”

He paused, feeling for his next point

“And another thing.”

Someone called out.

“Too many things.”

There came mutters of agreement. Ralph overrode them.

“And another thing. We nearly set the whole island on fire. And we waste time, rolling rocks, and making little cooking fires. Now I say this and make it a rule, because I’m chief. We won’t have a fire anywhere but on the mountain. Ever.”

There was a row immediately. Boys stood up and shouted and Ralph shouted back.

“Because if you want a fire to cook fish or crab, you can jolly well go up the mountain. That way we’ll be certain.”

Hands were reaching for the conch in the light of the setting sun. He held on and leapt on the trunk.

“All this I meant to say. Now I’ve said it. You voted me for chief. Now you do what I say.”

They quieted, slowly, and at last were seated again. Ralph dropped down and spoke in his ordinary voice.

“So remember. The rocks for a lavatory. Keep the fire going and smoke showing as a signal. Don’t take fire from the mountain. Take your food up mere.”

Jack stood up, scowling in the gloom, and held out his hands.

“I haven’t finished yet”

“But you’ve talked and talked!”

“I’ve got the conch.”

Jack sat down, grumbling.

“Then the last mine. This is what people can talk about.”

He waited till the platform was very still.

“Things are breaking up. I don’t understand why. We began well; we were happy. And then—”

He moved the conch gently, looking beyond them at nothing, remembering the beastie, the snake, the fire, the talk of fear.

“Then people started getting frightened.”

A murmur, almost a moan, rose and passed away. Jack had stopped whittling. Ralph went on, abruptly.

“But that’s littluns’ talk. We’ll get that straight. So the last part, the bit we can all talk about, is kind of deciding on the fear.”

The hair was creeping into his eyes again.

“We’ve got to talk about this fear and decide there’s nothing in it. I’m frightened myself, sometimes; only that’s nonsense! Like bogies. Then, when we’ve decided, we can start again and be careful about things like the fire.” A picture of three boys walking along the bright beach flitted through his mind. “And be happy.”

Ceremonially, Ralph laid the conch on the trunk beside him as a sign that the speech was over. What sunlight reached them was level.

Jack stood up and took the conch.

“So this is a meeting to find out what’s what, I’ll tell you what’s what. You littluns started all this, with the fear talk. Beasts! Where from? Of course we’re frightened sometimes but we put up with being frightened. Only Ralph says you scream in the night. What does that mean but nightmares? Anyway, you don’t hunt or build or help—you’re a lot of cry-babies and sissies. That’s what. And as for the fear—you’ll have to put up with that like the rest of us.”

Ralph looked at Jack open-mouthed, but Jack took no notice.

‘The thing is—fear can’t hurt you any more than a dream. There aren’t any beasts to be afraid of on this island.” He looked along the row of whispering littluns. “Serve you right if something did get you, you useless lot of cry-babies! But there is no animal—”

Ralph interrupted him testily.

“What is all this? Who said anything about an animal?”

“You did, the other day. You said they dream and cry out Now they talk—not only the littluns, but my hunters sometimes—talk of a thing, a dark thing, a beast, some sort of animal I’ve heard. You thought not, didn’t you? Now listen. You don’t get big animals on small islands. Only pigs. You only get lions and tigers in big countries like Africa and India—”

“And the Zoo—”

“I’ve got the conch. I’m not talking about the fear. I’m talking about the beast. Be frightened if you like. But as for the beast—”

Jack paused, cradling the conch, and turned to his hunt” ers with their dirty black caps.

“Am I a hunter or am I not?”

They nodded, simply. He was a hunter all right. No one doubted that.

“Well then—I’ve been all over this island. By myself. If there were a beast I’d have seen it Be frightened because you’re like that—but there is no beast in the forest”

Jack handed back the conch and sat down. The whole assembly applauded him with relief. Then Piggy held out his hand.

“I don’t agree with all Jack said, but with some. ‘Course there isn’t a beast in the forest How could there be? What would a beast eat?”

“Pig.”

“We eat pig.”

“Piggy!”

“I got the conch!” said Piggy indignantly. “Ralph—they ought to shut up, oughtn’t they? You shut up, you littluns! What I mean is that I don’t agree about this here fear. Of course there isn’t nothing to be afraid of in the forest Why—I been there myself! You’ll be talking about ghosts and such things next We know what goes on and if there’s something wrong, there’s someone to put it right.”

He took off his glasses and blinked at them. The sun had gone as if the light had been turned off.

He proceeded to explain.

“If you get a pain in your stomach, whether it’s a little one or a big one—”

“Yours is a big one.”

“When you done laughing perhaps we can get on with the meeting. And if them littluns climb back on the twister again they’ll only fall off in a sec. So they might as well sit on the ground and listen. No. You have doctors for everything, even the inside of your mind. You don’t really mean that we got to be frightened all the time of nothing? Life,” said Piggy expansively, “is scientific, that’s what it is. In a year or two when the war’s over they’ll be traveling to Mars and back. I know there isn’t no beast—not with claws and all that, I mean—but I know there isn’t no fear, either.”

Piggy paused.

“Unless—”

Ralph moved restlessly.

“Unless what?”

“Unless we get frightened of people.”

A sound, half-laugh, half-jeer, rose among the seated boys. Piggy ducked his head and went on hastily.

“So lets hear from that littlun who talked about a beast and perhaps we can show him how silly he is.”

The littluns began to jabber among themselves, then one stood forward.

“What’s your name?”

“Phil.”

For a littlun he was self-confident, holding out his hands, cradling the conch as Ralph did, looking round at them to collect their attention before he spoke.

“Last night I had a dream, a horrid dream, fighting with things. I was outside the shelter by myself, fighting with things, those twisty things in the trees.”

He paused, and the other littluns laughed in horrified sympathy.

“Then I was frightened and I woke up. And I was outside the shelter by myself in the dark and the twisty things had gone away.”

The vivid horror of this, so possible and so nakedly terrifying, held them all silent. The child’s voice went piping on from behind the white conch.

“And I was frightened and started to call out for Ralph and then I saw something moving among the trees, something big and horrid.”

He paused, half-frightened by the recollection yet proud of the sensation he was creating.

“That was a nightmare,” said Ralph. “He was walking in his sleep.”

The assembly murmured in subdued agreement.

The littlun shook his head stubbornly.

“I was asleep when the twisty things were fighting and when they went away I was awake, and I saw something big and horrid moving in the trees.”

Ralph held out his hands for the conch and the littlun sat down.

“You were alseep. There wasn’t anyone there. How could anyone be wandering about in the forest at night? Was anyone? Did anyone go out?”

There was a long pause while the assembly grinned at

the thought of anyone going out in the darkness. Then Simon stood up and Ralph looked at him in astonishment

“You! What were you mucking about in the dark for?”

Simon grabbed the conch convulsively.

“I wanted—to go to a place—a place I know.”

“What place?”

“Just a place I know. A place in the jungle.”

He hesitated.

Jack settled the question for them with that contempt in his voice that could sound so funny and so final.

“He was taken short”

With a feeling of humiliation on Simon’s behalf, Ralph took back the conch, looking Simon sternly in the face as he did so.

“Well, don’t do it again. Understand? Not at night There’s enough silly talk about beasts, without the litthlus seeing you gliding about like a—”

The derisive laughter that rose had fear in it and condemnation. Simon opened his mouth to speak but Ralph had the conch, so he backed to his seat

When the assembly was silent Ralph turned to Piggy.

“Well, Piggy?”

“There was another one. Him.”

The littlums pushed Percival forward, then left him by himself. He stood knee-deep in the central grass, looking at his hidden feet, trying to pretend he was in a tent Ralph remembered another small boy who had stood like this and he flinched away from the memory. He had pushed the thought down and out of sight, where only some positive reminder like this could bring it to the surface. There had been no further numberings of the littluns, partly because there was no means of insuring that all of them were accounted for and partly because Ralph knew the answer to at least one question Piggy had asked on the mountain-top. There were little boys, fair, dark, freckled, and all dirty, but their faces were all dreadfully free of major blemishes. No one had seen the mulberry-colored birthmark again. But that time Piggy had coaxed and bullied. Tacitly admitting that he remembered the unmentionable, Ralph nodded to Piggy.

“Go on. Ask him.”

Piggy knelt, holding the conch.

“Now then. What’s your name?”

The small boy twisted away into his tent Piggy turned helplessly to Ralph, who spoke sharply.

“What’s your name?”

Tormented by the silence and the refusal the assembly broke into a chant.

“What’s your name? What’s your name?”

“Quiet!”

Ralph peered at the child in the twilight

“Now tell us. What’s your name?”

“Percival Wemys Madison, The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthony, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele-“

As if this information was rooted far down in the springs of sorrow, the littlun wept. His face puckered, the tears leapt from his eves, his mouth opened till they could see a square black hole. At first he was a silent effigy of sorrow; but then the lamentation rose out of him, loud and sustained as the conch.

“Shut up, you! Shut up!”

Percival Wemys Madison would not shut up. A spring had been tapped, far beyond the reach of authority or even physical intimidation. The crying went on, breath after breath, and seemed to sustain him upright as if he were nailed to it.

“Shut up! Shut up!”

For now the littluns were no longer silent. They were reminded of their personal sorrows; and perhaps felt themselves to share in a sorrow that was universal. They began to cry in sympathy, two of them almost as loud as Percival.

Maurice saved them. He cried out.

“Look at me!”

He pretended to fall over. He rubbed his rump and sat on the twister so that he fell in the grass. He clowned badly, but Percival and the others noticed and sniffed and laughed. Presently they were all laughing so absurdly that the biguns joined in.

Jack was the first to make himself heard. He had not got the conch and thus spoke against the rules; but nobody minded.

“And what about the beast?”

Something strange was happening to Percival. He yawned and staggered, so that Jack seized and shook him.

“Where does the beast live?”

Percival sagged in Jack’s grip.

“That’s a clever beast,” said Piggy, jeering, “if it can hide on this island.”

“Jack’s been everywhere—”

“Where could a beast live?”

“Beast my foot!”

Percival muttered something and the assembly laughed again. Ralph leaned forward.

“What does he say?”

Jack listened to Percival’s answer and then let go of him. Percival, released, surrounded by the comfortable presence of humans, fell in the long grass and went to sleep.

Jack cleared his throat then reported casually.

“He says the beast comes out of the sea.”

The last laugh died away. Ralph turned involuntarily, a black, humped figure against the lagoon. The assembly looked with him, considered the vast stretches of water, the high sea beyond, unknown indigo of infinite possibility, heard silently the sough and whisper from the reef.

Maurice spoke, so loudly that they jumped.

“Daddy said they haven’t found all the animals in the sea yet”

Argument started again. Ralph held out the glimmering conch and Maurice took it obediently. The meeting subsided.

“I mean when Jack says you can be frightened because people are frightened anyway that’s all right. But when he says there’s only pigs on this island I expect he’s right but he doesn’t know, not really, not certainly I mean—” Maurice took a breath. “My daddy says there’s things, what d’you call’em that make ink—squids—that are hundreds or yards long and eat whales whole.” He paused again ana laughed gaily. “I don’t believe in the beast of course. As Piggy says, life’s scientific, but we don’t know, do we? Not certainly, I mean—”

Someone shouted.

“A squid couldn’t come up out of the water!”

“Could!”

“Couldn’t!”

In a moment the platform was full of arguing, gesticulating shadows. To Ralph, seated, this seemed the breaking up of sanity. Fear, beasts, no general agreement that the fire was all-important: and when one tried to get the thing straight the argument sheered off, bringing up fresh, unpleasant matter.

He could see a whiteness in the gloom near him so he grabbed it from Maurice and blew as loudly as he could. The assembly was shocked into silence. Simon was close to him, laying hands on the conch. Simon felt a perilous necessity to speak; but to speak in assembly was a terrible thing to him.

“Maybe,” he said hesitantly, “maybe there is a beast.”

The assembly cried out savagely and Ralph stood up in amazement.

“You, Simon? You believe in this?”

“I don’t know,” said Simon. His heartbeats were choking him. “But…”

The storm broke.

“Sit down!”

“Shut up!”

“Take the conch!”

“Sod you!”

“Shut up!”

Ralph shouted.

“Hear him! He’s got the conch!”

“What I mean is… maybe it’s only us.”

“Nuts!”

That was from Piggy, shocked out of decorum. Simon want on.

“We could be sort of…”

Simon became inarticulate in his effort to express mankind’s essential illness. Inspiration came to him.

“What’s the dirtiest thing there is?”

As an answer Jack dropped into the uncomprehending silence that followed it the one crude expressive syllable. Release was immense. Those littluns who had climbed back on the twister fell off again and did not mind. The hunters were screaming with delight

Simon’s effort fell about him in ruins; the laughter beat him cruelly and he shrank away defenseless to his seat.

At last the assembly was silent again. Someone spoke out of turn.

“Maybe he means it’s some sort of ghost”

Ralph Lifted the conch and peered into the gloom. The lightest thing was the pale beach. Surely the littluns were nearer? Yes—there was no doubt about it, they were huddled into a tight knot of bodies in the central grass. A flurry of wind made the palms talk and the noise seemed very loud now that darkness and silence made it so noticeable. Two grey trunks rubbed each other with an evil squeaking that no one had noticed by day.

Piggy took the conch out of his hands. His voice was indignant.

“I don’t believe in no ghosts—ever!”

Jack was up too, unaccountably angry.

“Who cares what you believe–Fatty!”

“I got the conch!”

There was the sound of a brief tussle and the conch moved to and fro.

“You gimme the conch back!”

Ralph pushed between them and got a thump on the chest. He wrested the conch from someone and sat down breathlessly.

“There’s too much talk about ghosts. We ought to have left all this for daylight.”

A hushed and anonymous voice broke in.

“Perhaps that’s what the beast is—a ghost.”

The assembly was shaken as by a wind.

“There’s too much talking out of turn,” Ralph said, “because we can’t have proper assemblies if you don’t stick to the rules.”

He stopped again. The careful plan of this assembly had broken down.

“What d’you want me to say then? I was wrong to call this assembly so late. Well have a vote on them; on ghosts I mean; and then go to the shelters because we’re all tired. No—Jack is it?—wait a minute. I’ll say here and now that I don t believe in ghosts. Or I don’t think I do. But I don’t like the thought of them. Not now that is, in the dark. But we were going to decide what’s what.”

He raised the conch for a moment

“Very well then. I suppose what’s what is whether there are ghosts or not—”

He thought for a moment, formulating the question.

“Who thinks there may be ghosts?”

For a long time there was silence and no apparent movement. Then Ralph peered into the gloom and made out the hands. He spoke flatly.

“I see.”

The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away. Once there was this and that; and now—and the ship had gone.

The conch was snatched from his hands and Piggy’s voice shrilled.

“I didn’t vote for no ghosts!”

He whirled round on the assembly.

“Remember that, all of you!”

They heard him stamp.

“What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? What’s grownups going to think? Going off—hunting pigs—letting fires out—and now!”

A shadow fronted him tempestuously.

“You shut up, you fat slug!’

There was a moment’s struggle and the glimmering conch jigged up and down. Ralph leapt to his feet.

“Jack! Jack! You haven’t got the conch! Let him speak.”

Jack’s face swam near him.

“And you shut up! Who are you, anyway? Sitting there telling people what to do. You cant hunt, you can’t sing—”

“I’m chief. I was chosen.”

“Why should choosing make any difference? Just giving orders that don’t make any sense—”

“Piggy’s got the conch.”

That’s right—favor Piggy as you always do—”

“Jack!”

“Jack’s voice sounded in bitter mimicry.

“Jack! Jack!”

“The rules!” shouted Ralph. “You’re breaking the rules!”

“Who cares?”

Ralph summoned his wits.

“Because the rules are the only thing we’ve got!”

But Jack was shouting against him.

“Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong—we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! Well close in and beat and beat and beat—!”

He gave a wild whoop and leapt down to the pale sand. At once the platform was full of noise and excitement, scramblings, screams and laughter. The assembly shredded away and became a discursive and ra


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