Lord of the Flies
Original English version by William Golding, 1954
Dutch translation by H.U. Jessurun D'Oliveira
Bi-book created by Ernst van Eijk, 2014
1 The Sound of the Shell
2 Fire on the Mountain
3 Huts on the Beach
4 Painted Faces and Long Hair
5 Beast from Water
6 Beast from Air
7 Shadows and Tall Trees
8 Gift for the Darkness
9 A View to a Death
10 The Shell and the Glasses
11 Castle Rock
12 Cry of the Hunters
1 The Sound of the Shell
The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and
began to pick his way toward the lagoon. Though he had taken off his
school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his grey shirt stuck to
him and his hair was plastered to his forehead. All round him the long
scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat. He was clambering
heavily among the creepers and broken trunks when a bird, a vision of
red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witch-like cry; and this cry was
echoed by another.
“Hi!” it said. “Wait a minute!”
The undergrowth at the side of the scar was shaken and a multitude of raindrops fell pattering.
“Wait a minute,” the voice said. “I got caught up.”
The fair boy stopped and jerked his stockings with an automatic gesture
that made the jungle seem for a moment like the Home Counties.
The voice spoke again.
“I can't hardly move with all these creeper things.”
The owner of the voice came backing out of the undergrowth so that
twigs scratched on a greasy wind-breaker. The naked crooks of his knees
were plump, caught and scratched by thorns. He bent down, removed
the thorns carefully, and turned around. He was shorter than the fair boy
and very fat. He came forward, searching out safe lodgments for his feet,
and then looked up through thick spectacles.
“Where's the man with the megaphone?”
The fair boy shook his head.
“This is an island. At least I think it's an island. That's a reef out in the
sea. Perhaps there aren't any grown-ups anywhere.”
The fat boy looked startled.
“There was that pilot. But he wasn't in the passenger cabin, he was up
The fair boy was peering at the reef through screwed-up eyes.
“All them other kids,” the fat boy went on. “Some of them must have
got out. They must have, mustn't they?”
The fair boy began to pick his way as casually as possible toward the
water. He tried to be offhand and not too obviously uninterested, but the
fat boy hurried after him.
“Aren't there any grown-ups at all?”
“I don't think so.”
The fair boy said this solemnly; but then the delight of a realized
ambition overcame him. In the middle of the scar he stood on his head and
grinned at the reversed fat boy.
The fat boy thought for a moment.
The fair boy allowed his feet to come down and sat on the steamy
“He must have flown off after he dropped us. He couldn't land here. Not in a place with wheels.”
“We was attacked!”
“He'll be back all right.”
The fat boy shook his head.
“When we was coming down I looked through one of them windows. I saw the other part of the plane. There were flames coming out of it.”
He looked up and down the scar.
“And this is what the cabin done.”
The fair boy reached out and touched the jagged end of a trunk. For a
moment he looked interested.
“What happened to it?” he asked. “Where's it got to now?”
“That storm dragged it out to sea. It wasn't half dangerous with all
them tree trunks falling. There must have been some kids still in it.” He
hesitated for a moment, then spoke again.
“What's your name?”
The fat boy waited to be asked his name in turn but this proffer of
acquaintance was not made; the fair boy called Ralph smiled vaguely,
stood up, and began to make his way once more toward the lagoon. The
fat boy hung steadily at his shoulder.
“I expect there's a lot more of us scattered about. You haven't seen any
others, have you?”
Ralph shook his head and increased his speed. Then he tripped over a
branch and came down with a crash.
The fat boy stood by him, breathing hard.
“My auntie told me not to run,” he explained, “on account of my asthma.”
“That's right. Can't catch my breath. I was the only boy in our school
what had asthma,” said the fat boy with a touch of pride. “And I've been
wearing specs since I was three.”
He took off his glasses and held them out to Ralph, blinking and
smiling, and then started to wipe them against his grubby wind-breaker. An
expression of pain and inward concentration altered the pale contours of
his face. He smeared the sweat from his cheeks and quickly adjusted the
spectacles on his nose.
He glanced round the scar.
“Them fruit,” he said, “I expect—”
He put on his glasses, waded away from Ralph, and crouched down
among the tangled foliage.
“I'll be out again in just a minute—”
Ralph disentangled himself cautiously and stole away through the branches. In a few seconds the fat boy's grunts were behind him and he was hurrying
toward the screen that still lay between him and the lagoon. He
climbed over a broken trunk and was out of the jungle.
The shore was fledged with palm trees. These stood or leaned or
reclined against the light and their green feathers were a hundred feet up in
the air. The ground beneath them was a bank covered with coarse grass,
torn everywhere by the upheavals of fallen trees, scattered with decaying
coconuts and palm saplings. Behind this was the darkness of the forest
proper and the open space of the scar. Ralph stood, one hand against a
grey trunk, and screwed up his eyes against the shimmering water. Out
there, perhaps a mile away, the white surf flinked on a coral reef, and
beyond that the open sea was dark blue. Within the irregular arc of coral
the lagoon was still as a mountain lake—blue of all shades and shadowy
green and purple. The beach between the palm terrace and the water
was a thin stick, endless apparently, for to Ralph's left the perspectives of
palm and beach and water drew to a point at infinity; and always, almost
visible, was the heat.
He jumped down from the terrace. The sand was thick over his black
shoes and the heat hit him. He became conscious of the weight of clothes,
kicked his shoes off fiercely and ripped off each stocking with its elastic
garter in a single movement. Then he leapt back on the terrace, pulled
off his shirt, and stood there among the skull-like coconuts with green
shadows from the palms and the forest sliding over his skin. He undid
the snake-clasp of his belt, lugged off his shorts and pants, and stood
there naked, looking at the dazzling beach and the water.
He was old enough, twelve years and a few months, to have lost the
prominent tummy of childhood and not yet old enough for adolescence
to have made him awkward. You could see now that he might make a
boxer, as far as width and heaviness of shoulders went, but there was a
mildness about his mouth and eyes that proclaimed no devil. He patted
the palm trunk softly, and, forced at last to believe in the reality of the
island laughed delightedly again and stood on his head. He turned neatly
on to his feet, jumped down to the beach, knelt and swept a double
armful of sand into a pile against his chest. Then he sat back and looked
at the water with bright, excited eyes.
The fat boy lowered himself over the terrace and sat down carefully,
using the edge as a seat.
“I'm sorry I been such a time. Them fruit—”
He wiped his glasses and adjusted them on his button nose. The frame
had made a deep, pink “V” on the bridge. He looked critically at Ralph's
golden body and then down at his own clothes. He laid a hand on the
end of a zipper that extended down his chest.
Then he opened the zipper with decision and pulled the whole wind-breaker over his head.
Ralph looked at him sidelong and said nothing.
“I expect we'll want to know all their names,” said the fat boy, “and
make a list. We ought to have a meeting.”
Ralph did not take the hint so the fat boy was forced to continue.
“I don't care what they call me,” he said confidentially, “so long as they
don't call me what they used to call me at school.”
Ralph was faintly interested.
“What was that?”
The fat boy glanced over his shoulder, then leaned toward Ralph.
“They used to call me Piggy.”
Ralph shrieked with laughter. He jumped up.
Piggy clasped his hands in apprehension.
“I said I didn't want—”
Ralph danced out into the hot air of the beach and then returned as a
fighter-plane, with wings swept back, and machine-gunned Piggy.
He dived in the sand at Piggy's feet and lay there laughing.
Piggy grinned reluctantly, pleased despite himself at even this much
“So long as you don't tell the others—”
Ralph giggled into the sand. The expression of pain and concentration
returned to Piggy's face.
“Half a sec'.”
He hastened back into the forest. Ralph stood up and trotted along to
Here the beach was interrupted abruptly by the square motif of the
landscape; a great platform of pink granite thrust up uncompromisingly
through forest and terrace and sand and lagoon to make a raised jetty
four feet high. The top of this was covered with a thin layer of soil and
coarse grass and shaded with young palm trees. There was not enough
soil for them to grow to any height and when they reached perhaps
twenty feet they fell and dried, forming a criss-cross pattern of trunks,
very convenient to sit on. The palms that still stood made a green roof,
covered on the underside with a quivering tangle of reflections from the
lagoon. Ralph hauled himself onto this platform, noted the coolness and
shade, shut one eye, and decided that the shadows on his body were
really green. He picked his way to the seaward edge of the platform and
stood looking down into the water. It was clear to the bottom and bright
with the efflorescence of tropical weed and coral. A school of tiny, glittering
fish flicked hither and thither. Ralph spoke to himself, sounding the
bass strings of delight.
Beyond the platform there was more enchantment. Some act of God
—a typhoon perhaps, or the storm that had accompanied his own arrival—
had banked sand inside the lagoon so that there was a long, deep pool
in the beach with a high ledge of pink granite at the further end. Ralph
had been deceived before now by the specious appearance of depth in
a beach pool and he approached this one preparing to be disappointed. But the island ran true to form and the incredible pool, which clearly was
only invaded by the sea at high tide, was so deep at one end as to be
dark green. Ralph inspected the whole thirty yards carefully and then
plunged in. The water was warmer than his blood and he might have
been swimming in a huge bath.
Piggy appeared again, sat on the rocky ledge, and watched Ralph's
green and white body enviously.
“You can't half swim.”
Piggy took off his shoes and socks, ranged them carefully on the ledge,
and tested the water with one toe.
“What did you expect?”
“I didn't expect nothing. My auntie—”
“Sucks to your auntie!”
Ralph did a surface dive and swam under water with his eyes open; the
sandy edge of the pool loomed up like a hillside. He turned over, holding
his nose, and a golden light danced and shattered just over his face. Piggy
was looking determined and began to take off his shorts. Presently he was
palely and fatly naked. He tiptoed down the sandy side of the pool, and
sat there up to his neck in water smiling proudly at Ralph.
“Aren't you going to swim?”
Piggy shook his head.
“I can't swim. I wasn't allowed. My asthma—”
“Sucks to your ass-mar!”
Piggy bore this with a sort of humble patience.
“You can't half swim well.”
Ralph paddled backwards down the slope, immersed his mouth and
blew a jet of water into the air. Then he lifted his chin and spoke.
“I could swim when I was five. Daddy taught me. He's a commander
in the Navy. When he gets leave he'll come and rescue us. What's your
Piggy flushed suddenly.
“My dad's dead,” he said quickly, “and my mum—”
He took off his glasses and looked vainly for something with which to
“I used to live with my auntie. She kept a candy store. I used to get
ever so many candies. As many as I liked. When'll your dad rescue us?”
“Soon as he can.”
Piggy rose dripping from the water and stood naked, cleaning his glasses
with a sock. The only sound that reached them now through the heat of
the morning was the long, grinding roar of the breakers on the reef.
“How does he know we're here?”
Ralph lolled in the water. Sleep enveloped him like the swathing mirages
that were wrestling with the brilliance of the lagoon.
“How does he know we're here?”
Because, thought Ralph, because, because. The roar from the reef became
“They'd tell him at the airport.”
Piggy shook his head, put on his flashing glasses and looked down at
“Not them. Didn't you hear what the pilot said? About the atom bomb? They're all dead.”
Ralph pulled himself out of the water, stood facing Piggy, and considered
this unusual problem.
“This an island, isn't it?”
“I climbed a rock,” said Ralph slowly, “and I think this is an island.”
“They're all dead,” said Piggy, “an' this is an island. Nobody don't know
we're here. Your dad don't know, nobody don't know—”
His lips quivered and the spectacles were dimmed with mist.
“We may stay here till we die.”
With that word the heat seemed to increase till it became a threatening
weight and the lagoon attacked them with a blinding effulgence.
“Get my clothes,” muttered Ralph. “Along there.”
He trotted through the sand, enduring the sun's enmity, crossed the
platform and found his scattered clothes. To put on a grey shirt once
more was strangely pleasing. Then he climbed the edge of the platform
and sat in the green shade on a convenient trunk. Piggy hauled himself
up, carrying most of his clothes under his arms. Then he sat carefully on
a fallen trunk near the little cliff that fronted the lagoon; and the tangled
reflections quivered over him.
Presently he spoke.
“We got to find the others. We got to do something.”
Ralph said nothing. Here was a coral island. Protected from the sun,
ignoring Piggy's ill-omened talk, he dreamed pleasantly.
“How many of us are there?”
Ralph came forward and stood by Piggy.
“I don't know.”
Here and there, little breezes crept over the polished waters beneath
the haze of heat. When these breezes reached the platform the palm
fronds would whisper, so that spots of blurred sunlight slid over their
bodies or moved like bright, winged things in the shade.
Piggy looked up at Ralph. All the shadows on Ralph's face were
reversed; green above, bright below from the lagoon. A blur of sunlight
was crawling across his hair.
“We got to do something.”
Ralph looked through him. Here at last was the imagined but never
fully realized place leaping into real life. Ralph's lips parted in a delighted
smile and Piggy, taking this smile to himself as a mark of recognition,
laughed with pleasure.
“If it really is an island—”
Ralph had stopped smiling and was pointing into the lagoon.
Something creamy lay among the ferny weeds.
“No. A shell.” Suddenly Piggy was abubble with decorous excitement.
“S'right. It's a shell! I seen one like that before. On someone's back wall. A conch he called it. He used to blow it and then his mum would
come. It's ever so valuable—”
Near to Ralph's elbow a palm sapling leaned out over the lagoon.
Indeed, the weight was already pulling a lump from the poor soil and soon
it would fall. He tore out the stem and began to poke about in the water,
while the brilliant fish flicked away on this side and that. Piggy leaned
“Careful! You'll break it—”
Ralph spoke absently. The shell was interesting and pretty and a
worthy plaything; but the vivid phantoms of his day-dream still interposed
between him and Piggy, who in this context was an irrelevance. The palm
sapling, bending, pushed the shell across the weeds. Ralph used one hand
as a fulcrum and pressed down with the other till the shell rose, dripping,
and Piggy could make a grab.
Now the shell was no longer a thing seen but not to be touched, Ralph
too became excited.
“—a conch; ever so expensive. I bet if you wanted to buy one, you'd have to pay pounds and pounds and pounds—he had it on his garden
wall, and my auntie—”
Ralph took the shell from Piggy and a little water ran down his arm. In color the shell was deep cream, touched here and there with fading
pink. Between the point, worn away into a little hole, and the pink lips
of the mouth, lay eighteen inches of shell with a slight spiral twist and
covered with a delicate, embossed pattern. Ralph shook sand out of the
”—mooed like a cow, “he said. “He had some white stones too, an' a
bird cage with a green parrot. He didn't blow the white stones, of course,
an' he said—”
Piggy paused for breath and stroked the glistening thing that lay in
Ralph looked up.
“We can use this to call the others. Have a meeting. They'll come when
they hear us—”
He beamed at Ralph.
“That was what you meant, didn't you? That's why you got the conch
out of the water?”
Ralph pushed back his fair hair.
“How did your friend blow the conch?”
“He kind of spat,” said Piggy. “My auntie wouldn't let me blow on
account of my asthma. He said you blew from down here.” Piggy laid a
hand on his jutting abdomen. “You try, Ralph. You'll call the others.”
Doubtfully, Ralph laid the small end of the shell against his mouth and
blew. There came a rushing sound from its mouth but nothing more. Ralph wiped the salt water off his lips and tried again, but the shell
“He kind of spat.”
Ralph pursed his lips and squirted air into the shell, which emitted a
low, farting noise. This amused both boys so much that Ralph went on
squirting for some minutes, between bouts of laughter.
“He blew from down here.”
Ralph grasped the idea and hit the shell with air from his diaphragm. Immediately the thing sounded. A deep, harsh note boomed under the
palms, spread through the intricacies of the forest and echoed back from
the pink granite of the mountain. Clouds of birds rose from the treetops,
and something squealed and ran in the undergrowth.
Ralph took the shell away from his lips.
His ordinary voice sounded like a whisper after the harsh note of the
conch. He laid the conch against his lips, took a deep breath and blew
once more. The note boomed again: and then at his firmer pressure,
the note, fluking up an octave, became a strident blare more penetrating
than before. Piggy was shouting something, his face pleased, his glasses
flashing. The birds cried, small animals scuttered. Ralph's breath failed;
the note dropped the octave, became a low dubber, was a rush of air.
The conch was silent, a gleaming tusk; Ralph's face was dark with
breathlessness and the air over the island was full of bird-clamor and
“I bet you can hear that for miles.”
Ralph found his breath and blew a series of short blasts.
Piggy exclaimed: “There's one!”
A child had appeared among the palms, about a hundred yards along
the beach. He was a boy of perhaps six years, sturdy and fair, his clothes
torn, his face covered with a sticky mess of fruit. His trousers had been
lowered for an obvious purpose and had only been pulled back half-way. He jumped off the palm terrace into the sand and his trousers fell about
his ankles; he stepped out of them and trotted to the platform. Piggy
helped him up. Meanwhile Ralph continued to blow till voices shouted in
the forest. The small boy squatted in front of Ralph, looking up brightly
and vertically. As he received the reassurance of something purposeful
being done he began to look satisfied, and his only clean digit, a pink
thumb, slid into his mouth.
Piggy leaned down to him.
“What's yer name?”
Piggy muttered the name to himself and then shouted it to Ralph, who
was not interested because he was still blowing. His face was dark with
the violent pleasure of making this stupendous noise, and his heart was
making the stretched shirt shake. The shouting in the forest was nearer.
Signs of life were visible now on the beach. The sand, trembling beneath
the heat haze, concealed many figures in its miles of length; boys
were making their way toward the platform through the hot, dumb sand. Three small children, no older than Johnny, appeared from startlingly
close at hand, where they had been gorging fruit in the forest. A dark
little boy, not much younger than Piggy, parted a tangle of undergrowth,
walked on to the platform, and smiled cheerfully at everybody. More and
more of them came. Taking their cue from the innocent Johnny, they sat
down on the fallen palm trunks and waited. Ralph continued to blow
short, penetrating blasts. Piggy moved among the crowd, asking names
and frowning to remember them. The children gave him the same simple
obedience that they had given to the men with megaphones. Some
were naked and carrying their clothes; others half-naked, or more or less
dressed, in school uniforms, grey, blue, fawn, jacketed, or jerseyed. There
were badges, mottoes even, stripes of color in stockings and pullovers. Their heads clustered above the trunks in the green shade; heads brown,
fair, black, chestnut, sandy, mouse-colored; heads muttering, whispering,
heads full of eyes that watched Ralph and speculated. Something was
The children who came along the beach, singly or in twos, leapt into
visibility when they crossed the line from heat haze to nearer sand. Here,
the eye was first attracted to a black, bat-like creature that danced on
the sand, and only later perceived the body above it. The bat was the
child's shadow, shrunk by the vertical sun to a patch between the
hurrying feet. Even while he blew, Ralph noticed the last pair of bodies
that reached the platform above a fluttering patch of black. The two
boys, bullet-headed and with hair like tow, flung themselves down and
lay grinning and panting at Ralph like dogs. They were twins, and the eye
was shocked and incredulous at such cheery duplication. They breathed
together, they grinned together, they were chunky and vital. They raised
wet lips at Ralph, for they seemed provided with not quite enough skin,
so that their profiles were blurred and their mouths pulled open. Piggy
bent his flashing glasses to them and could be heard between the blasts,
repeating their names.
“Sam, Eric, Sam, Eric.”
Then he got muddled; the twins shook their heads and pointed at each
other and the crowd laughed.
At last Ralph ceased to blow and sat there, the conch trailing from one
hand, his head bowed on his knees. As the echoes died away so did the
laughter, and there was silence.
Within the diamond haze of the beach something dark was fumbling
along. Ralph saw it first, and watched till the intentness of his gaze drew
all eyes that way. Then the creature stepped from mirage on to clear sand,
and they saw that the darkness was not all shadow but mostly clothing. The creature was a party of boys, marching approximately in step in two
parallel lines and dressed in strangely eccentric clothing. Shorts, shirts,
and different garments they carried in their hands; but each boy wore
a square black cap with a silver badge on it. Their bodies, from throat
to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks which bore a long silver cross on
the left breast and each neck was finished off with a ham-bone frill. The
heat of the tropics, the descent, the search for food, and now this sweaty
march along the blazing beach had given them the complexions of newly
washed plums. The boy who controlled them was dressed in the same
way though his cap badge was golden. When his party was about ten
yards from the platform he shouted an order and they halted, gasping,
sweating, swaying in the fierce light. The boy himself came forward,
vaulted on to the platform with his cloak flying, and peered into what to
him was almost complete darkness.
“Where's the man with the trumpet?”
Ralph, sensing his sun-blindness, answered him.
“There's no man with a trumpet. Only me.”
The boy came close and peered down at Ralph, screwing up his face as
he did so. What he saw of the fair-haired boy with the creamy shell on
his knees did not seem to satisfy him. He turned quickly, his black cloak
“Isn't there a ship, then?”
Inside the floating cloak he was tall, thin, and bony; and his hair was
red beneath the black cap. His face was crumpled and freckled, and ugly
without silliness. Out of this face stared two light blue eyes, frustrated
now, and turning, or ready to turn, to anger.
“Isn't there a man here?”
Ralph spoke to his back.
“No. We're having a meeting. Come and join in.”
The group of cloaked boys began to scatter from close line. The tall
boy shouted at them.
“Choir! Stand still!”
Wearily obedient, the choir huddled into line and stood there swaying
in the sun. None the less, some began to protest faintly.
“But, Merridew. Please, Merridew… can't we?”
Then one of the boys flopped on his face in the sand and the line broke
up. They heaved the fallen boy to the platform and let him lie. Merridew,
his eyes staring, made the best of a bad job.
“All right then. Sit down. Let him alone.”
“He's always throwing a faint,“ said Merridew. “He did in Gib.; and
Addis; and at matins over the precentor.”
This last piece of shop brought sniggers from the choir, who perched
like black birds on the criss-cross trunks and examined Ralph with
interest. Piggy asked no names. He was intimidated by this uniformed
superiority and the offhand authority in Merridew's voice. He shrank to
the other side of Ralph and busied himself with his glasses.
Merridew turned to Ralph.
“Aren't there any grown-ups?”
Merridew sat down on a trunk and looked round the circle.
“Then we'll have to look after ourselves.”
Secure on the other side of Ralph, Piggy spoke timidly.
“That's why Ralph made a meeting. So as we can decide what to do. We've heard names. That's Johnny. Those two—they're twins, Sam 'n
Eric. Which is Eric—? You? No—you're Sam—”
“'n I'm Eric.”
“We'd better all have names,” said Ralph, “so I'm Ralph.”
“We got most names,” said Piggy. “Got 'em just now.”
“Kids' names,” said Merridew. “Why should I be Jack? I'm Merridew.”
Ralph turned to him quickly. This was the voice of one who knew his
“Then,” went on Piggy, “that boy—I forget—”
“You're talking too much,” said Jack Merridew. “Shut up, Fatty.”
“He's not Fatty,” cried Ralph, “his real name's Piggy!”
A storm of laughter arose and even the tiniest child joined in. For the
moment the boys were a closed circuit of sympathy with Piggy outside:
he went very pink, bowed his head and cleaned his glasses again.
Finally the laughter died away and the naming continued. There was
Maurice, next in size among the choir boys to Jack, but broad and
grinning all the time. There was a slight, furtive boy whom no one knew, who
kept to himself with an inner intensity of avoidance and secrecy. He
muttered that his name was Roger and was silent again. Bill, Robert, Harold,
Henry; the choir boy who had fainted sat up against a palm trunk, smiled
pallidly at Ralph and said that his name was Simon.
“We've got to decide about being rescued.”
There was a buzz. One of the small boys, Henry, said that he wanted
to go home.
“Shut up,” said Ralph absently. He lifted the conch. “Seems to me we
ought to have a chief to decide things.”
“A chief! A chief!”
“I ought to be chief,” said Jack with simple arrogance, “because I'm
chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp.”
“Well then,” said Jack, “I—”
He hesitated. The dark boy, Roger, stirred at last and spoke up.
“Let's have a vote.”
“Vote for chief!”
This toy of voting was almost as pleasing as the conch. Jack started to
protest but the clamor changed from the general wish for a chief to an
election by acclaim of Ralph himself. None of the boys could have found
good reason for this; what intelligence had been shown was traceable to
Piggy while the most obvious leader was Jack. But there was a stillness
about Ralph as he sat that marked him out: there was his size, and
attractive appearance; and most obscurely, yet most powerfully, there was
the conch. The being that had blown that, had sat waiting for them on
the platform with the delicate thing balanced on his knees, was set apart.
“Him with the shell.”
“Let him be chief with the trumpet-thing.”
Ralph raised a hand for silence.
“All right. Who wants Jack for chief?”
With dreary obedience the choir raised their hands.
“Who wants me?”
Every hand outside the choir except Piggy's was raised immediately. Then Piggy, too, raised his hand grudgingly into the air.
“I'm chief then.”
The circle of boys broke into applause. Even the choir applauded; and
the freckles on Jack's face disappeared under a blush of mortification. He
started up, then changed his mind and sat down again while the air rang. Ralph looked at him, eager to offer something.
“The choir belongs to you, of course.”
“They could be the army—”
“They could be—”
The suffusion drained away from Jack's face. Ralph waved again for
“Jack's in charge of the choir. They can be—what do you want them to
Jack and Ralph smiled at each other with shy liking. The rest began to
Jack stood up.
“All right, choir. Take off your togs.”
As if released from class, the choir boys stood up, chattered, piled their
black cloaks on the grass. Jack laid his on the trunk by Ralph. His grey
shorts were sticking to him with sweat. Ralph glanced at them admiringly,
and when Jack saw his glance he explained.
“I tried to get over that hill to see if there was water all round. But
your shell called us.”
Ralph smiled and held up the conch for silence.
“Listen, everybody. I've got to have time to think things out. I can't
decide what to do straight off. If this isn't an island we might be rescued
straight away. So we've got to decide if this is an island. Everybody
must stay round here and wait and not go away. Three of us—if we take
more we'd get all mixed, and lose each other—three of us will go on an
expedition and find out. I'll go, and Jack, and, and…”
He looked round the circle of eager faces. There was no lack of boys to
The boys round Simon giggled, and he stood up, laughing a little. Now
that the pallor of his faint was over, he was a skinny, vivid little boy, with
a glance coming up from under a hut of straight hair that hung down,
black and coarse.
He nodded at Ralph.
Jack snatched from behind him a sizable sheath-knife and clouted it
into a trunk. The buzz rose and died away.
Ralph turned to him.
“You're no good on a job like this.”
“All the same—”
“We don't want you,” said Jack, flatly. “Three's enough.”
Piggy's glasses flashed.
“I was with him when he found the conch. I was with him before
anyone else was.”
Jack and the others paid no attention. There was a general dispersal. Ralph, Jack and Simon jumped off the platform and walked along the
sand past the bathing pool. Piggy hung bumbling behind them.
“If Simon walks in the middle of us,” said Ralph, “then we could talk
over his head.”
The three of them fell into step. This meant that every now and then
Simon had to do a double shuffle to catch up with the others. Presently
Ralph stopped and turned back to Piggy.
Jack and Simon pretended to notice nothing. They walked on.
“You can't come.”
Piggy's glasses were misted again—this time with humiliation.
“You told 'em. After what I said.”
His face flushed, his mouth trembled.
“After I said I didn't want—”
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“About being called Piggy. I said I didn't care as long as they didn't call
me Piggy; an' I said not to tell and then you went an' said straight out—”
Stillness descended on them. Ralph, looking with more understanding
at Piggy, saw that he was hurt and crushed. He hovered between the two
courses of apology or further insult.
“Better Piggy than Fatty,” he said at last, with the directness of genuine
leadership, “and anyway, I'm sorry if you feel like that. Now go back,
Piggy, and take names. That's your job. So long.”
He turned and raced after the other two. Piggy stood and the rose of
indignation faded slowly from his cheeks. He went back to the platform.
The three boys walked briskly on the sand. The tide was low and
there was a strip of weed-strewn beach that was almost as firm as a road. A kind of glamour was spread over them and the scene and they were
conscious of the glamour and made happy by it. They turned to each
other, laughing excitedly, talking, not listening. The air was bright. Ralph,
faced by the task of translating all this into an explanation, stood on his
head and fell over. When they had done laughing, Simon stroked Ralph's
arm shyly; and they had to laugh again.
“Come on,” said Jack presently, “we're explorers.”
“We'll go to the end of the island,” said Ralph, “and look round the
“If it is an island—”
Now, toward the end of the afternoon, the mirages were settling a little. They found the end of the island, quite distinct, and not magicked out of
shape or sense. There was a jumble of the usual squareness, with one
great block sitting out in the lagoon. Sea birds were nesting there.
“Like icing,” said Ralph, “on a pink cake.”
“We shan't see round this corner,” said Jack, “because there isn't one. Only a slow curve—and you can see, the rocks get worse—” Ralph shaded
his eyes and followed the jagged outline of the crags up toward the
mountain. This part of the beach was nearer the mountain than any other that
they had seen.
“We'll try climbing the mountain from here,” he said. “I should think
this is the easiest way. There's less of that jungly stuff; and more pink
rock. Come on.”
The three boys began to scramble up. Some unknown force had wrenched
and shattered these cubes so that they lay askew, often piled
diminishingly on each other. The most usual feature of the rock was a pink
cliff surmounted by a skewed block; and that again surmounted, and
that again, till the pinkness became a stack of balanced rock projecting
through the looped fantasy of the forest creepers. Where the pink cliffs
rose out of the ground there were often narrow tracks winding upwards. They could edge along them, deep in the plant world, their faces to the
“What made this track?”
Jack paused, wiping the sweat from his face. Ralph stood by him,
Jack shook his head.
Ralph peered into the darkness under the trees. The forest minutely
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
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—
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
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
“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
They were in the beginnings of the thick forest, plonking with weary
feet on a track, when they heard the noises—squeakings—and the hard
strike of hoofs on a path. As they pushed forward the squeaking increased
till it became a frenzy. They found a piglet caught in a curtain of creepers,
throwing itself at the elastic traces in all the madness of extreme terror. Its
voice was thin, needle-sharp and insistent; The three boys rushed forward
and Jack drew his knife again with a flourish. He raised his arm in the
air. There came a pause, a hiatus, the pig continued to scream and the
creepers to jerk, and the blade continued to flash at the end of a bony
arm. The pause was only long enough for them to understand what an
enormity the downward stroke would be. Then the piglet tore loose from
the creepers and scurried into the undergrowth. They were left looking
at each other and the place of terror. Jack's face was white under the
freckles. He noticed that he still held the knife aloft and brought his
arm down replacing the blade in the sheath. Then they all three laughed
ashamedly and began to climb back to the 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
“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.
2 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
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.
“We saw —”
“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
He lifted the shell on his knees and looked round the sun-slashed faces.
“There aren't any grown-ups. 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
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
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 —”
“Blue flowers —”
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.
“Treasure Island —”
“Swallows and Amazons —”
“Coral Island —”
Ralph waved the conch.
“This is our island. It's a good island. Until the grown-ups 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
“Let him have the conch!” shouted Piggy. “Let him have it!”
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
“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,
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
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–”
“But there isn't a snake!”
“We'll make sure when we go hunting.”
Ralph was annoyed and, for the moment, defeated. He felt himself
facing something ungraspable. The eyes that looked so intently at him
were without humor.
“But there isn't a beast!”
Something he had not known was there rose in him and compelled him
to make the point, loudly and again.
“But I tell you there isn't a beast!”
The assembly was silent.
Ralph lifted the conch again and his good humor came back as he
thought of what he had to say next.
“Now we come to the most important thing. I've been thinking. I was
thinking while we were climbing the mountain.” He flashed a
conspiratorial grin at the other two. “And on the beach just now. This is what
thought. We want to have fun. And we want to be rescued.”
The passionate noise of agreement from the assembly hit him like a
wave and he lost his thread. He thought again.
“We want to be rescued; and of course we shall be rescued.”
Voices babbled. The simple statement, unbacked by any proof but the
weight of Ralph's new authority, brought light and happiness. He had to
wave the conch before he could make them hear him.
“My father's in the Navy. He said there aren't any unknown islands left. He says the Queen has a big room full of maps and all the islands in the
world are drawn there. So the Queen's got a picture of this island.”
Again came the sounds of cheerfulness and better heart.
“And sooner or later a ship will put in here. It might even be Daddy's
ship. So you see, sooner or later, we shall be rescued.”
He paused, with the point made. The assembly was lifted toward safety
by his words. They liked and now respected him. Spontaneously they
began to clap and presently the platform was loud with applause. Ralph
flushed, looking sideways at Piggy's open admiration, and then the other
way at Jack who was smirking and showing that he too knew how to
Ralph waved the conch.
“Shut up! Wait! Listen!”
He went on in the silence, borne on his triumph.
“There's another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes
near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top
of the mountain. We must make a fire.”
“A fire! Make a fire!”
At once half the boys were on their feet. Jack clamored among them,
the conch forgotten.
“Come on! Follow me!”
The space under the palm trees was full of noise and movement. Ralph
was on his feet too, shouting for quiet, but no one heard him. All at once
the crowd swayed toward the island and was gone–following Jack. Even
the tiny children went and did their best among the leaves and broken
branches. Ralph was left, holding the conch, with no one but Piggy.
Piggy's breathing was quite restored.
“Like kids!” he said scornfully. “Acting like a crowd of kids!”
Ralph looked at him doubtfully and laid the conch on the tree trunk.
“I bet it's gone tea-time,” said Piggy. “What do they think they're going
to do on that mountain?”
He caressed the shell respectfully, then stopped and looked up.
“Ralph! Hey! Where you going?”
Ralph was already clambering over the first smashed swathes of the
scar. A long way ahead of him was crashing and laughter.
Piggy watched him in disgust.
“Like a crowd of kids–”
He sighed, bent, and laced up his shoes. The noise of the errant
assembly faded up the mountain. Then, with the martyred expression of a
parent who has to keep up with the senseless ebullience of the children,
he picked up the conch, turned toward the forest, and began to pick his
way over the tumbled scar.
Below the other side of the mountain top was a platform of forest. Once more Ralph found himself making the cupping gesture.
“Down there we could get as much wood as we want.”
Jack nodded and pulled at his underlip. Starting perhaps a hundred
feet below them on the steeper side of the mountain, the patch might
have been designed expressly for fuel. Trees, forced by the damp heat,
found too little soil for full growth, fell early and decayed: creepers
cradled them, and new saplings searched a way up.
Jack turned to the choir, who stood ready. Their black caps of
maintenance were slid over one ear like berets.
“We'll build a pile. Come on.”
They found the likeliest path down and began tugging at the dead
wood. And the small boys who had reached the top came sliding too till
everyone but Piggy was busy. Most of the wood was so rotten that when
they pulled, it broke up into a shower of fragments and woodlice and
decay; but some trunks came out in one piece. The twins, Sam 'n Eric,
were the first to get a likely log but they could do nothing till Ralph, Jack,
Simon, Roger and Maurice found room for a hand-hold. Then they inched
the grotesque dead thing up the rock and toppled it over on top. Each
party of boys added a quota, less or more, and the pile grew. At the return
Ralph found himself alone on a limb with Jack and they grinned at each
other, sharing this burden. Once more, amid the breeze, the shouting,
the slanting sunlight on the high mountain, was shed that glamour, that
strange invisible light of friendship, adventure, and content.
“Almost too heavy.”
Jack grinned back.
“Not for the two of us.”
Together, joined in an effort by the burden, they staggered up the last
steep Of the mountain. Together, they chanted One! Two! Three! and
crashed the log on to the great pile. Then they stepped back, laughing
with triumphant pleasure, so that immediately Ralph had to stand on his
head. Below them, boys were still laboring, though some of the small
ones had lost interest and were searching this new forest for fruit. Now
the twins, with unsuspected intelligence, came up the mountain with
armfuls of dried leaves and dumped them against the pile. One by one,
as they sensed that the pile was complete, the boys stopped going back
for more and stood, with the pink, shattered top of the mountain around
them. Breath came evenly by now, and sweat dried.
Ralph and Jack looked at each other while society paused about them. The shameful knowledge grew in them and they did not know how to
Ralph spoke first, crimson in the face.
He cleared his throat and went on.
“Will you light the fire?”
Now the absurd situation was open, Jack blushed too. He began to
“You rub two sticks. You rub–”
He glanced at Ralph, who blurted out the last confession of
“Has anyone got any matches?”
“You make a bow and spin the arrow,” said Roger. He rubbed his hands
in mime. “Psss. Psss.”
A little air was moving over the mountain. Piggy came with it, in shorts
and shirt, laboring cautiously out of the forest with the evening sunlight
gleaming from his glasses. He held the conch under his arm.
Ralph shouted at him.
“Piggy! Have you got any matches?”
The other boys took up the cry till the mountain rang. Piggy shook his
head and came to the pile.
“My! You've made a big heap, haven't you?”
Jack pointed suddenly.
“His specs–use them as burning glasses!”
Piggy was surrounded before he could back away.
“Here–let me go!” His voice rose to a shriek of terror as Jack snatched
the glasses off his face. “Mind out! Give 'em back! I can hardly see! You'll
break the conch!”
Ralph elbowed him to the side and knelt by the pile.
“Stand out of the light.”
There was pushing and pulling and officious cries. Ralph moved the
lenses back and forth, this way and that, till a glossy white image of the
declining sun lay on a piece of rotten wood. Almost at once a thin trickle
of smoke rose up and made him cough. Jack knelt too and blew gently,
so that the smoke drifted away, thickening, and a tiny flame appeared. The flame, nearly invisible at first in that bright sunlight, enveloped a
small twig, grew, was enriched with color and reached up to a branch
which exploded with a sharp crack. The flame flapped higher and the
boys broke into a cheer.
“My specs!” howled Piggy. “Give me my specs!”
Ralph stood away from the pile and put the glasses into Piggy's groping
hands. His voice subsided to a mutter.
“Jus' blurs, that's all. Hardly see my hand–”
The boys were dancing. The pile was so rotten, and now so tinder-dry,
that whole limbs yielded passionately to the yellow flames that poured
upwards and shook a great beard of flame twenty feet in the air. For
yards round the fire the heat was like a blow, and the breeze was a river
of sparks. Trunks crumbled to white dust.
“More wood! All of you get more wood!”
Life became a race with the fire and the boys scattered through the
upper forest. To keep a clean flag of flame flying on the mountain was
the immediate end and no one looked further. Even the smallest boys,
unless fruit claimed them, brought little pieces of wood and threw them
in. The air moved a little faster and became a light wind, so that leeward
and windward side were clearly differentiated. On one side the air was
cool, but on the other the fire thrust out a savage arm of heat that crinkled
hair on the instant. Boys who felt the evening wind on their damp faces
paused to enjoy the freshness of it and then found they were exhausted. They flung themselves down in the shadows that lay among the shattered
rocks. The beard of flame diminished quickly; then the pile fell inwards
with a soft, cindery sound, and sent a great tree of sparks upwards that
leaned away and drifted downwind. The boys lay, panting like dogs.
Ralph raised his head off his forearms.
“That was no good.”
Roger spat efficiently into the hot dust.
“What d'you mean?”
“There wasn't any smoke. Only flame.”
Piggy had settled himself in a space between two rocks, and sat with
the conch on his knees.
“We haven't made a fire,” he said, “what's any use. We couldn't keep a
fire like that going, not if we tried.”
“A fat lot you tried,” said Jack contemptuously. “You just sat.”
“We used his specs,” said Simon, smearing a black cheek with his forearm. “He helped that way.”
“I got the conch,” said Piggy indignantly. “You let me speak!”
“The conch doesn't count on top of the mountain,” said Jack, “so you
“I got the conch in my hand.”
“Put on green branches,” said Maurice. “That's the best way to make
“I got the conch–”
Jack turned fiercely.
“You shut up!”
Piggy wilted. Ralph took the conch from him and looked round the
circle of boys.
“We've got to have special people for looking after the fire. Any day
there may be a ship out there”–he waved his arm at the taut wire of the
horizon–“and if we have a signal going they'll come and take us off. And
another thing. We ought to have more rules. Where the conch is, that's a
meeting. The same up here as down there.”
They assented. Piggy opened his mouth to speak, caught Jack's eye
and shut it again. Jack held out his hands for the conch and stood up,
holding the delicate thing carefully in his sooty hands.
“I agree with Ralph. We've got to have rules and obey them. After all,
we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything. So we've got to do the right things.”
He turned to Ralph.
“Ralph, I'll split up the choir–my hunters, that is–into groups, and we'll
be responsible for keeping the fire going–”
This generosity brought a spatter of applause from the boys, so that
Jack grinned at them, then waved the conch for silence.
“We'll let the fire burn out now. Who would see smoke at night-time,
anyway? And we can start the fire again whenever we like. Altos, you
can keep the fire going this week, and trebles the next–”
The assembly assented gravely.
“And we'll be responsible for keeping a lookout too. If we see a ship out
there”–they followed the direction of his bony arm with their eyes–“we'll
put green branches on. Then there'll be more smoke.”
They gazed intently at the dense blue of the horizon, as if a little
silhouette might appear there at any moment.
The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid nearer and
nearer the sill of the world. All at once they were aware of the evening
as the end of light and warmth.
Roger took the conch and looked round at them gloomily.
“I've been watching the sea. There hasn't been the trace of a ship. Perhaps we'll never be rescued.”
A murmur rose and swept away. Ralph took back the conch.
“I said before we'll be rescued sometime. We've just got to wait, that's
Daring, indignant, Piggy took the conch.
“That's what I said! I said about our meetings and things and then you
said shut up–”
His voice lifted into the whine of virtuous recrimination. They stirred
and began to shout him down.
“You said you wanted a small fire and you been and built a pile like a
hayrick. If I say anything,” cried Piggy, with bitter realism, “you say shut
up; but if Jack or Maurice or Simon–”
He paused in the tumult, standing, looking beyond them and down the
unfriendly side of the mountain to the great patch where they had found
dead wood. Then he laughed so strangely that they were hushed, looking
at the flash of his spectacles in astonishment. They followed his gaze to
find the sour joke.
“You got your small fire all right.”
Smoke was rising here and there among the creepers that festooned
the dead or dying trees. As they watched, a flash of fire appeared at the
root of one wisp, and then the smoke thickened. Small flames stirred
at the trunk of a tree and crawled away through leaves and brushwood,
dividing and increasing. One patch touched a tree trunk and scrambled
up like a bright squirrel. The smoke increased, sifted, rolled outwards. The squirrel leapt on the wings of the wind and clung to another standing
tree, eating downwards. Beneath the dark canopy of leaves and smoke
the fire laid hold on the forest and began to gnaw. Acres of black and
yellow smoke rolled steadily toward the sea. At the sight of the flames
and the irresistible course of the fire, the boys broke into shrill, excited
cheering. The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a
jaguar creeps on its belly toward a line of birch-like saplings that fledged
an outcrop of the pink rock. They flapped at the first of the trees, and
the branches grew a brief foliage of fire. The heart of flame leapt
nimbly across the gap between the trees and then went swinging and flaring
along the whole row of them. Beneath the capering boys a quarter of
a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame. The
separate noises of the fire merged into a drum-roll that seemed to shake the
“You got your small fire all right.”
Startled, Ralph realized that the boys were falling still and silent,
feeling the beginnings of awe at the power set free below them. The
knowledge and the awe made him savage.
“Oh, shut up!”
“I got the conch,” said Piggy, in a hurt voice. “I got a right to speak.”
They looked at him with eyes that lacked interest in what they saw, and
cocked ears at the drum-roll of the fire. Piggy glanced nervously into hell
and cradled the conch.
“We got to let that burn out now. And that was our firewood.”
He licked his lips.
“There ain't nothing we can do. We ought to be more careful. I'm
Jack dragged his eyes away from the fire.
“You're always scared. Yah–Fatty!”
“I got the conch,” said Piggy bleakly. He turned to Ralph. “I got the
conch, ain't I Ralph?”
Unwillingly Ralph turned away from the splendid, awful sight.
“The conch. I got a right to speak.”
The twins giggled together.
“We wanted smoke–”
A pall stretched for miles away from the island. All the boys except
Piggy started to giggle; presently they were shrieking with laughter.
Piggy lost his temper.
“I got the conch! Just you listen! The first thing we ought to have
made was shelters down there by the beach. It wasn't half cold down
there in the night. But the first time Ralph says 'fire' you goes howling
and screaming up this here mountain. Like a pack of kids!”
By now they were listening to the tirade.
“How can you expect to be rescued if you don't put first things first and
He took off his glasses and made as if to put down the conch; but the
sudden motion toward it of most of the older boys changed his mind. He
tucked the shell under his arm, and crouched back on a rock.
“Then when you get here you build a bonfire that isn't no use. Now
you been and set the whole island on fire. Won't we look funny if the
whole island burns up? Cooked fruit, that's what we'll have to eat, and
roast pork. And that's nothing to laugh at! You said Ralph was chief and
you don't give him time to think. Then when he says something you rush
off, like, like–”
He paused for breath, and the fire growled at them.
“And that's not all. Them kids. The little 'uns. Who took any notice of
'em? Who knows how many we got?”
Ralph took a sudden step forward.
“I told you to. I told you to get a list of names!”
“How could I,” cried Piggy indignantly, “all by myself? They waited for
two minutes, then they fell in the sea; they went into the forest; they just
scattered everywhere. How was I to know which was which?”
Ralph licked pale lips.
“Then you don't know how many of us there ought to be?”
“How could I with them little 'uns running round like insects? Then
when you three came back, as soon as you said make a fire, they all ran
away, and I never had a chance–”
“That's enough!” said Ralph sharply, and snatched back the conch. “If
you didn't you didn't.”
“–then you come up here an' pinch my specs–”
Jack turned on him.
“You shut up!”
“–and them little 'uns was wandering about down there where the fire
is. How d'you know they aren't still there?”
Piggy stood up and pointed to the smoke and flames. A murmur rose
among the boys and died away. Something strange was happening to
Piggy, for he was gasping for breath.
“That little 'un–” gasped Piggy– “him with the mark on his face, I don't
see him. Where is he now?”
The crowd was as silent as death.
“Him that talked about the snakes. He was down there–”
A tree exploded in the fire like a bomb. Tall swathes of creepers rose
for a moment into view, agonized, and went down again. The little boys
screamed at them.
“Snakes! Snakes! Look at the snakes!”
In the west, and unheeded, the sun lay only an inch or two above the
sea. Their faces were lit redly from beneath. Piggy fell against a rock and
clutched it with both hands.
“That little 'un that had a mark on his face–where is he now? I tell you
I don't see him.”
The boys looked at each other fearfully, unbelieving.
“–where is he now?”
Ralph muttered the reply as if in shame. “Perhaps he went back to the,
Beneath them, on the unfriendly side of the mountain, the drum-roll
3 Huts on the Beach
Jack was bent double. He was down like a sprinter, his nose only a few
inches from the humid earth. The tree trunks and the creepers that
festooned them lost themselves in a green dusk thirty feet above him, and all
about was the undergrowth. There was only the faintest indication of a
trail here; a cracked twig and what might be the impression of one side of
a hoof. He lowered his chin and stared at the traces as though he would
force them to speak to him. Then dog-like, uncomfortably on all fours
yet unheeding his discomfort, he stole forward five yards and stopped. Here was loop of creeper with a tendril pendant from a node. The tendril
was polished on the underside; pigs, passing through the loop, brushed
it with their bristly hide.
Jack crouched with his face a few inches away from this clue, then
stared forward into the semi-darkness of the undergrowth. His sandy
hair, considerably longer than it had been when they dropped in, was
lighter now; and his bare back was a mass of dark freckles and peeling
sunburn. A sharpened stick about five feet long trailed from his right
hand, and except for a pair of tattered shorts held up by his knife-belt he
was naked. He closed his eyes, raised his head and breathed in gently
with flared nostrils, assessing the current of warm air for information. The forest and he were very still.
At length he let out his breath in a long sigh and opened his eyes. They
were bright blue, eyes that in this frustration seemed bolting and nearly
mad. He passed his tongue across dry lips and scanned the
uncommunicative forest. Then again he stole forward and cast this way and that
over the ground.
The silence of the forest was more oppressive than the heat, and at
this hour of the day there was not even the whine of insects. Only when
Jack himself roused a gaudy bird from a primitive nest of sticks was the
silence shattered and echoes set ringing by a harsh cry that seemed to
come out of the abyss of ages. Jack himself shrank at this cry with a hiss
of indrawn breath, and for a minute became less a hunter than a furtive
thing, ape-like among the tangle of trees. Then the trail, the frustration,
claimed him again and he searched the ground avidly. By the trunk of a
vast tree that grew pale flowers on its grey bark he checked, closed his
eyes, and once more drew in the warm air; and this time his breath came
short, there was even a passing pallor in his face, and then the surge of
blood again. He passed like a shadow under the darkness of the tree and
crouched, looking down at the trodden ground at his feet.
The droppings were warm. They lay piled among turned earth. They
were olive green, smooth, and they steamed a little. Jack lifted his head
and stared at the inscrutable masses of creeper that lay across the trail. Then he raised his spear and sneaked forward. Beyond the creeper, the
trail joined a pig-run that was wide enough and trodden enough to be
a path. The ground was hardened by an accustomed tread and as Jack
rose to his full height he heard something moving on it. He swung back
his right arm and hurled the spear with all his strength. From the
pig-run came the quick, hard patter of hoofs, a castanet sound, seductive,
maddening—the promise of meat. He rushed out of the undergrowth
and snatched up his spear. The pattering of pig's trotters died away in
Jack stood there, streaming with sweat, streaked with brown earth,
stained by all the vicissitudes of a day's hunting. Swearing, he turned off
the trail and pushed his way through until the forest opened a little and
instead of bald trunks supporting a dark roof there were light grey trunks
and crowns of feathery palm. Beyond these was the glitter of the sea and
he could hear voices. Ralph was standing by a contraption of palm trunks
and leaves, a rude shelter that faced the lagoon and seemed very near to
falling down. He did not notice when Jack spoke.
“Got any water?”
Ralph looked up, frowning, from the complication of leaves. He did
not notice Jack even when he saw him.
“I said have you got any water? I'm thirsty.”
Ralph withdrew his attention from the shelter and realized Jack with a
“Oh, hullo. Water? There by the tree. Ought to be some left.”
Jack took up a coconut shell that brimmed with fresh water from among
a group that was arranged in the shade, and drank. The water splashed
over his chin and neck and chest. He breathed noisily when he had
Simon spoke from inside the shelter.
“Up a bit.”
Ralph turned to the shelter and lifted a branch with a whole tiling of
The leaves came apart and fluttered down. Simon's contrite face
appeared in the hole.
Ralph surveyed the wreck with distaste.
“Never get it done.”
He flung himself down at Jack's feet. Simon remained, looking out of
the hole in the shelter. Once down, Ralph explained.
“Been working for days now. And look!”
Two shelters were in position, but shaky. This one was a ruin.
“And they keep running off. You remember the meeting? How everyone
was going to work hard until the shelters were finished?”
“Except me and my hunters—”
“Except the hunters. Well, the littluns are—”
He gesticulated, sought for a word.
“They're hopeless. The older ones aren't much better. D'you see? All
day I've been working with Simon. No one else. They're off bathing, or
eating, or playing.”
Simon poked his head out carefully.
“You're chief. You tell 'em off.”
Ralph lay flat and looked up at the palm trees and the sky.
“Meetings. Don't we love meetings? Every day. Twice a day. We talk.” He got on one elbow. “I bet if I blew the conch this minute, they'd come
running. Then we'd be, you know, very solemn, and someone would say
we ought to build a jet, or a submarine, or a TV set. When the meeting
was over they'd work for five minutes, then wander off or go hunting.”
“We want meat.”
“Well, we haven't got any yet. And we want shelters. Besides, the rest
of your hunters came back hours ago. They've been swimming.”
“I went on,” said Jack. “I let them go. I had to go on. I—”
He tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was
swallowing him up.
“I went on. I thought, by myself—”
The madness came into his eyes again.
“I thought I might—kill.”
“But you didn't.”
“I thought I might.”
Some hidden passion vibrated in Ralph's voice.
“But you haven't yet.”
His invitation might have passed as casual, were it not for the
“You wouldn't care to help with the shelters, I suppose?”
“We want meat—”
“And we don't get it.”
Now the antagonism was audible.
“But I shall! Next time! I've got to get a barb on this spear! We
wounded a pig and the spear fell out. If we could only make barbs—”
“We need shelters.”
Suddenly Jack shouted in rage.
“Are you accusing—?”
“All I'm saying is we've worked dashed hard. That's all.”
They were both red in the face and found looking at each other
difficult. Ralph rolled on his stomach and began to play with the grass.
“If it rains like when we dropped in we'll need shelters all right. And
then another thing. We need shelters because of the—”
He paused for a moment and they both pushed their anger away. Then
he went on with the safe, changed subject.
“You've noticed, haven't you?”
Jack put down his spear and squatted.
“Well. They're frightened.”
He rolled over and peered into Jack's fierce, dirty face.
“I mean the way things are. They dream. You can hear 'em. Have you
been awake at night?”
Jack shook his head.
“They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others. As if—”
“As if it wasn't a good island.”
Astonished at the interruption, they looked up at Simon's serious face.
“As if,” said Simon, “the beastie, the beastie or the snake-thing, was
The two older boys flinched when they heard the shameful syllable. Snakes were not mentioned now, were not mentionable.
“As if this wasn't a good island,” said Ralph slowly. “Yes, that's right.”
Jack sat up and stretched out his legs.
“Crackers. Remember when we went exploring?”
They grinned at each other, remembering the glamour of the first day. Ralph went on.
“So we need shelters as a sort of—”
Jack drew up his legs, clasped his knees, and frowned in an effort to
“All the same—in the forest. I mean when you're hunting, not when
you're getting fruit, of course, but when you're on your own—”
He paused for a moment, not sure if Ralph would take him seriously.
“If you're hunting sometimes you catch yourself feeling as if—”
He flushed suddenly.
“There's nothing in it of course. Just a feeling. But you can feel as if
you're not hunting, but—being hunted, as if something's behind you all
the time in the jungle.”
They were silent again: Simon intent, Ralph incredulous and faintly
indignant. He sat up, rubbing one shoulder with a dirty hand.
“Well, I don't know.”
Jack leapt to his feet and spoke very quickly.
“That's how you can feel in the forest. Of course there's nothing in it. Only—only—”
He took a few rapid steps toward the beach, then came back.
“Only I know how they feel. See? That's all.”
“The best thing we can do is get ourselves rescued.”
Jack had to think for a moment before he could remember what rescue
“Rescue? Yes, of course! All the same, I'd like to catch a pig first—”
He snatched up his spear and dashed it into the ground. The opaque, mad
look came into his eyes again. Ralph looked at him critically through his
tangle of fair hair.
“So long as your hunters remember the fire—”
“You and your fire!”
The two boys trotted down the beach, and, turning at the water's edge,
looked back at the pink mountain. The trickle of smoke sketched a chalky
line up the solid blue of the sky, wavered high up and faded. Ralph
“I wonder how far off you could see that.”
“We don't make enough smoke.”
The bottom part of the trickle, as though conscious of their gaze,
thickened to a creamy blur which crept up the feeble column.
“They've put on green branches,” muttered Ralph. “I wonder!” He
screwed up his eyes and swung round to search the horizon.
Jack shouted so loudly that Ralph jumped.
“What? Where? Is it a ship?”
But Jack was pointing to the high declivities that led down from the
mountain to the flatter part of the island.
“Of course! They'll lie up there—they must, when the sun's too hot—”
Ralph gazed bewildered at his rapt face.
“—they get up high. High up and in the shade, resting during the heat,
like cows at home—”
“I thought you saw a ship!”
“We could steal up on one—paint our faces so they wouldn't see—
perhaps surround them and then—”
Indignation took away Ralph's control.
“I was talking about smoke! Don't you want to be rescued? All you can
talk about is pig, pig, pig!”
“But we want meat!”
“And I work all day with nothing but Simon and you come back and
don't even notice the huts!”
“I was working too—”
“But you like it!” shouted Ralph. “You want to hunt! While I—”
They faced each other on the bright beach, astonished at the rub of
feeling. Ralph looked away first, pretending interest in a group of littluns
on the sand. From beyond the platform came the shouting of the hunters
in the swimming pool. On the end of the platform, Piggy was lying flat,
looking down into the brilliant water.
“People don't help much.”
He wanted to explain how people were never quite what you thought
“Simon. He helps.” He pointed at the shelters.
“All the rest rushed off. He's done as much as I have. Only—”
“Simon's always about.”
Ralph stared back to the shelters with Jack by his side.
“Do a bit for you,” muttered Jack, “before I have a bathe.”
But when they reached the shelters Simon was not to be seen. Ralph
put his head in the hole, withdrew it, and turned to Jack.
“He's buzzed off.”
“Got fed up,” said Jack, “and gone for a bathe.”
“He's queer. He's funny.”
Jack nodded, as much for the sake of agreeing as anything, and by tacit
consent they left the shelter and went toward the bathing pool.
“And then,” said Jack, “when I've had a bathe and something to eat, I'll
just trek over to the other side of the mountain and see if I can see any
“But the sun's nearly set!”
“I might have time—”
They walked along, two continents of experience and feeling, unable
“If I could only get a pig!”
“I'll come back and go on with the shelter.”
They looked at each other, baffled, in love and hate. All the warm salt
water of the bathing pool and the shouting and splashing and laughing
were only just sufficient to bring them together again.
Simon was not in the bathing pool as they had expected.
When the other two had trotted down the beach to look back at the
mountain he had followed them for a few yards and then stopped. He
had stood frowning down at a pile of sand on the beach where somebody
had been trying to build a little house or hut. Then he turned his back on
this and walked into the forest with an air of purpose. He was a small,
skinny boy, his chin pointed, and his eyes so bright they had deceived
Ralph into thinking him delightfully gay and wicked. The coarse mop
of black hair was long and swung down, almost concealing a low, broad
forehead. He wore the remains of shorts and his feet were bare like
Jack's. Always darkish in color, Simon was burned by the sun to a deep
tan that glistened with sweat.
He picked his way up the scar, passed the great rock where Ralph had
climbed on the first morning, then turned off to his right among the trees. He walked with an accustomed tread through the acres of fruit trees,
where the least energetic could find an easy if unsatisfying meal. Flower
and fruit grew together on the same tree and everywhere was the scent
of ripeness and the booming of a million bees at pasture. Here the
littluns who had run after him caught up with him. They talked, cried out
unintelligibly, lugged him toward the trees. Then, amid the roar of bees
in the afternoon sunlight, Simon found for them the fruit they could not
reach, pulled off the choicest from up in the foliage, passed them back
down to the endless, outstretched hands. When he had satisfied them
he paused and looked round. The littluns watched him inscrutably over
double handfuls of ripe fruit.
Simon turned away from them and went where the just perceptible
path led him. Soon high jungle closed in. Tall trunks bore unexpected
pale flowers all the way up to the dark canopy where life went on
clamorously. The air here was dark too, and the creepers dropped their ropes
like the rigging of foundered ships. His feet left prints in the soft soil and
the creepers shivered throughout their lengths when he bumped them.
He came at last to a place where more sunshine fell. Since they had not
so far to go for light the creepers had woven a great mat that hung at the
side of an open space in the jungle; for here a patch of rock came close to
the surface and would not allow more than little plants and ferns to grow. The whole space was walled with dark aromatic bushes, and was a bowl
of heat and light. A great tree, fallen across one corner, leaned against the
trees that still stood and a rapid climber flaunted red and yellow sprays
right to the top.
Simon paused. He looked over his shoulder as Jack had done at the
close ways behind him and glanced swiftly round to confirm that he was
utterly alone. For a moment his movements were almost furtive. Then he
bent down and wormed his way into the center of the mat. The creepers
and the bushes were so close that he left his sweat on them and they
pulled together behind him. When he was secure in the middle he was
in a little cabin screened off from the open space by a few leaves. He
squatted down, parted the leaves and looked out into the clearing. Nothing moved but a pair of gaudy butterflies that danced round each other
in the hot air. Holding his breath he cocked a critical ear at the sounds
of the island. Evening was advancing toward the island; the sounds of
the bright fantastic birds, the bee-sounds, even the crying of the gulls
that were returning to their roosts among the square rocks, were fainter. The deep sea breaking miles away on the reef made an undertone less
perceptible than the susurration of the blood.
Simon dropped the screen of leaves back into place. The slope of
the bars of honey-colored sunlight decreased; they slid up the bushes,
passed over the green candle-like buds, moved up toward the canopy,
and darkness thickened under the trees. With the fading of the light the
riotous colors died and the heat and urgency cooled away. The candle-
buds stirred. Their green sepals drew back a little and the white tips of
the flowers rose delicately to meet the open air.
Now the sunlight had lifted clear of the open space and withdrawn
from the sky. Darkness poured out, submerging the ways between the
trees till they were dim and strange as the bottom of the sea. The candle-buds opened their wide white flowers glimmering under the light that
pricked down from the first stars. Their scent spilled out into the air and
took possession of the island.
4 Painted Faces and Long Hair
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
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 possible 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
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
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
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. Like 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
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
He smeared on the clay.
“If only I'd some green!”
He turned a half-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. “—like 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.
He rubbed the charcoal stick between the patches of red and white on
“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!”
“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 practising 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 air-plane, and a TV set,” said Ralph sourly, “and a steam
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
“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
that 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
The next moment he was on his feet and shouting.
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
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.
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 in the horizon, then up at
“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.
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, we'll need them—”
He stopped shouting and swayed on his feet. Piggy was only just
visible, bumbling up from the beach. Ralph looked 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 the bushes, caught his breath. His face was
twisted. Ralph blundered on, savaging himself, as the wisp of smoke
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
“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 intentness 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
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 pig's 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 snivelled 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.
“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
“The job was too much. We needed everyone.”
“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
commonsense. 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
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
“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:
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.
“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.
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 ingracious mutter.
“All right. Light the fire.”
With some positive action before them, a little of the 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 how 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 dribbled. 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.
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
“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
“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
“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,
“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.
5 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 chief's
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.
Grass was worn away in front of each trunk but grew tall and
untrodden in the 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
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 chief's seat, I can't think. Not like
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 kind 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,
practised 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
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
He licked his lips.
“Then there's huts. Shelters.”
The murmur swelled again and died away.
“You mostly sleep in shelters. Tonight, except for Samneric 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 really 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. His
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 a mutter 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
“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
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 thing. 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 hunters 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?”
“We eat pig.”
“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
“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 travelling 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
Ralph moved restlessly.
“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 let's 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?”
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
“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
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
“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
Ralph held out his hands for the conch and the littlun sat down.
“You were asleep. There wasn't anyone there. How could anyone be
wandering about in the forest at night? Was anyone? Did anyone go
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.”
“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 littluns seeing you gliding about like
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
When the assembly was silent Ralph turned to Piggy.
“There was another one. Him.”
The littluns 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 mountaintop. 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
“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
“What's your name? What's your name?”
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 eyes, 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 downed 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
“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 of yards
long and eat whales whole.” He paused again and 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—”
“A squid couldn't come up out of the water!”
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,
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
“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.
“Take the conch!”
“Hear him! He's got the conch!”
“What I mean is… maybe it's only us.”
That was from Piggy, shocked out of decorum. Simon went 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 defenceless 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 speaking that no one had noticed
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 wrestled
the conch from someone and sat down breathlessly.
“There's too much talk about ghosts. We ought to have left all this for
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. We'll 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
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
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.
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 grown-ups
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 can't 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's voice sounded in bitter mimicry.
“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! We'll 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
random scatter from the palms to the water and away along the beach,
beyond night-sight. Ralph found his cheek touching the conch and took it
“What's grown-ups going to say?” cried Piggy again. “Look at 'em!”
The sound of mock hunting, hysterical laughter and real terror came
from the beach.
“Blow the conch, Ralph.”
Piggy was so close that Ralph could see the glint of his one glass.
“There's the fire. Can't they see?”
“You got to be tough now. Make 'em do what you want.”
Ralph answered in the cautious voice of one who rehearses a theorem.
“If I blow the conch and they don't come back; then we've had it. We
shan't keep the fire going. We'll be like animals. We'll never be rescued.”
“If you don't blow, we'll soon be animals anyway. I can't see what
they're doing but I can hear.”
The dispersed figures had come together on the sand and were a dense
black mass that revolved. They were chanting something and littluns that
had had enough were staggering away, howling. Ralph raised the conch
to his lips and then lowered it.
“The trouble is: Are there ghosts, Piggy? Or beasts?”
“Course there aren't.”
”'Cos things wouldn't make sense. Houses an' streets, an'—TV—they
The dancing, chanting boys had worked themselves away till their
sound was nothing but a wordless rhythm.
“But s'pose they don't make sense? Not here, on this island? Supposing
things are watching us and waiting?”
Ralph shuddered violently and moved closer to Piggy, so that they
“You stop talking like that! We got enough trouble, Ralph, an' I've had
as much as I can stand. If there is ghosts—”
“I ought to give up being chief. Hear 'em.”
“Oh lord! Oh no!”
Piggy gripped Ralph's arm.
“If Jack was chief he'd have all hunting and no fire. We'd be here till
His voice ran up to a squeak.
“Who's that sitting there?”
“Fat lot of good we are,” said Ralph. “Three blind mice. I'll give up.”
“If you give up,” said Piggy, in an appalled whisper, “what 'ud happen
“He hates me. I dunno why. If he could do what he wanted—you're all
right, he respects you. Besides—you'd hit him.”
“You were having a nice fight with him just now.”
“I had the conch,” said Piggy simply. “I had a right to speak.”
Simon stirred in the dark.
“Go on being chief.”
“You shut up, young Simon! Why couldn't you say there wasn't a
“I'm scared of him,” said Piggy, “and that's why I know him. If you're
scared of someone you hate him but you can't stop thinking about him. You kid yourself he's all right really, an' then when you see him again;
it's like asthma an' you can't breathe. I tell you what. He hates you too,
“Me? Why me?”
“I dunno. You got him over the fire; an' you're chief an' he isn't.”
“But he's, he's, Jack Merridew!”
“I been in bed so much I done some thinking. I know about people. know about me. And him. He can't hurt you: but if you stand out of the
way he'd hurt the next thing. And that's me.”
“Piggy's right, Ralph. There's you and Jack. Go on being chief.”
“We're all drifting and things are going rotten. At home there was
always a grown-up. Please, sir, please, miss; and then you got an answer. How I wish!”
“I wish my auntie was here.”
“I wish my father… Oh, what's the use?”
“Keep the fire going.”
The dance was over and the hunters were going back to the shelters.
“Grown-ups know things,” said Piggy. “They ain't afraid of the dark. They'd meet and have tea and discuss. Then things 'ud be all right—”
“They wouldn't set fire to the island. Or lose—”
“They'd build a ship—”
The three boys stood in the darkness, striving unsuccessfully to convey
the majesty of adult life.
“They wouldn't quarrel—”
“Or break my specs—”
“Or talk about a beast—”
“If only they could get a message to us,” cried Ralph desperately. “If
only they could send us something grown-up… a sign or something.”
A thin wail out of the darkness chilled them and set them grabbing
for each other. Then the wail rose, remote and unearthly, and turned
to an inarticulate gibbering. Percival Wemys Madison, of the Vicarage,
Harcourt St. Anthony, lying in the long grass, was living through
circumstances in which the incantation of his address was powerless to help
6 Beast from Air
There was no light left save that of the stars. When they had understood
what made this ghostly noise and Percival was quiet again, Ralph and
Simon picked him up unhandily and carried him to a shelter. Piggy hung
about near for all his brave words, and the three bigger boys went
together to the next shelter. They lay restlessly and noisily among the dry
leaves, watching the patch of stars that was the opening toward the
lagoon. Sometimes a littlun cried out from the other shelters and once a
bigun spoke in the dark. Then they too fell asleep.
A sliver of moon rose over the horizon, hardly large enough to make
a path of light even when it sat right down on the water; but there were
other lights in the sky, that moved fast, winked, or went out, though
not even a faint popping came down from the battle fought at ten miles'
height. But a sign came down from the world of grown-ups, though at
the time there was no child awake to read it. There was a sudden bright
explosion and corkscrew trail across the sky; then darkness again and
stars. There was a speck above the island, a figure dropping swiftly
beneath a parachute, a figure that hung with dangling limbs. The changing
winds of various altitudes took the figure where they would. Then, three
miles up, the wind steadied and bore it in a descending curve round the
sky and swept it in a great slant across the reef and the lagoon toward
the mountain. The figure fell and crumpled among the blue flowers of
the mountain-side, but now there was a gentle breeze at this height too
and the parachute flopped and banged and pulled. So the figure, with
feet that dragged behind it, slid up the mountain. Yard by yard, puff
by puff, the breeze hauled the figure through the blue flowers, over the
boulders and red stones, till it lay huddled among the shattered rocks of
the mountain-top. Here the breeze was fitful and allowed the strings of
the parachute to tangle and festoon; and the figure sat, its helmeted head
between its knees, held by a complication of lines. When the breeze blew,
the lines would strain taut and some accident of this pull lifted the head
and chest upright so that the figure seemed to peer across the brow of the
mountain. Then, each time the wind dropped, the lines would slacken
and the figure bow forward again, sinking its head between its knees. So
as the stars moved across the sky, the figure sat on the mountain-top and
bowed and sank and bowed again.
In the darkness of early morning there were noises by a rock a little way
down the side of the mountain. Two boys rolled out a pile of brushwood
and dead leaves, two dim shadows talking sleepily to each other. They
were the twins, on duty at the fire. In theory one should have been
asleep and one on watch. But they could never manage to do things
sensibly if that meant acting independently, and since staying awake all
night was impossible, they had both gone to sleep. Now they approached
the darker smudge that had been the signal fire, yawning, rubbing their
eyes, treading with practised feet. When they reached it they stopped
yawning, and one ran quickly back for brushwood and leaves.
The other knelt down.
“I believe it's out.”
He fiddled with the sticks that were pushed into his hands.
He lay down and put his lips close to the smudge and blew softly. His
face appeared, lit redly. He stopped blowing for a moment.
Eric bent down and blew softly again till the patch was bright. Sam
poked the piece of tinder wood into the hot spot, then a branch. The
glow increased and the branch took fire. Sam piled on more branches.
“Don't burn the lot,” said Eric, “you're putting on too much.”
“Let's warm up.”
“We'll only have to fetch more wood.”
“—dark. All right, then.”
Eric squatted back and watched Sam make up the fire. He built a little
tent of dead wood and the fire was safely alight.
“That was near.”
“He'd have been—”
For a few moments the twins watched the fire in silence. Then Eric
“Wasn't he waxy?”
“Fire and the pig.”
“Lucky he went for Jack, 'stead of us.”
“Huh. Remember old Waxy at school?”
The twins shared their identical laughter, then remembered the
darkness and other things and glanced round uneasily. The flames, busy about
the tent, drew their eyes back again. Eric watched the scurrying woodlice
that were so frantically unable to avoid the flames, and thought of the
first fire—just down there, on the steeper side of the mountain, where
now was complete darkness. He did not like to remember it, and looked
away at the mountain-top.
Warmth radiated now, and beat pleasantly on them. Sam amused himself
by fitting branches into the fire as closely as possible. Eric spread out
his hands, searching for the distance at which the heat was just bearable. Idly looking beyond the fire, he resettled the scattered rocks from their
flat shadows into daylight contours. Just there was the big rock, and
the three stones there, that split rock, and there beyond was a gap—just
The flames were mastering the branches, the bark was curling and
falling away, the wood exploding. The tent fell inwards and flung a wide
circle of light over the mountain-top.
Sam looked at Eric irritably. The intensity of Eric's gaze made the
direction in which he looked terrible, for Sam had his back to it. He scrambled
round the fire, squatted by Eric, and looked to see. They became motionless,
gripped in each other's arms, four unwinking eyes aimed and two
Far beneath them, the trees of the forest sighed, then roared. The hair
on their foreheads fluttered and flames blew out sideways from the fire. Fifteen yards away from them came the plopping noise of fabric blown
Neither of the boys screamed but the grip of their arms tightened and
their mouths grew peaked. For perhaps ten seconds they crouched like
that while the flailing fire sent smoke and sparks and waves of inconstant
light over the top of the mountain.
Then as though they had but one terrified mind between them they
scrambled away over the rocks and fled.
Ralph was dreaming. He had fallen asleep after what seemed hours
of tossing and turning noisily among the dry leaves. Even the sounds of
nightmare from the other shelters no longer reached him, for he was back
to where he came from, feeding the ponies with sugar over the garden
wall. Then someone was shaking his arm, telling him that it was time for
“Ralph! Wake up!”
The leaves were roaring like the sea.
“Ralph, wake up!”
“What's the matter?”
“Who are you? The twins?”
“We saw the beast—”
The leaves were roaring still. Piggy bumped into him and a twin
grabbed him as he made for the oblong of paling stars.
“You can't go out—it's horrible!”
“Piggy—where are the spears?”
“I can hear the—”
“Quiet then. Lie still.”
They lay there listening, at first with doubt but then with terror to
the description the twins breathed at them between bouts of extreme
silence. Soon the darkness was full of claws, full of the awful unknown
and menace. An interminable dawn faded the stars out, and at last light,
sad and grey, filtered into the shelter. They began to stir though still the
world outside the shelter was impossibly dangerous. The maze of the
darkness sorted into near and far, and at the high point of the sky the
cloudlets were warmed with color. A single sea bird flapped upwards
with a hoarse cry that was echoed presently, and something squawked in
the forest. Now streaks of cloud near the horizon began to glow rosily,
and the feathery tops of the palms were green.
Ralph knelt in the entrance to the shelter and peered cautiously round
“Sam 'n Eric. Call them to an assembly. Quietly. Go on.”
The twins, holding tremulously to each other, dared the few yards
to the next shelter and spread the dreadful news. Ralph stood up and
walked for the sake of dignity, though with his back pricking, to the
platform. Piggy and Simon followed him and the other boys came sneaking
Ralph took the conch from where it lay on the polished seat and held
it to his lips; but then he hesitated and did not blow. He held the shell up
instead and showed it to them and they understood.
The rays of the sun that were fanning upwards from below the horizon
swung downwards to eye-level. Ralph looked for a moment at the
growing slice of gold that lit them from the right hand and seemed to
make speech possible. The circle of boys before him bristled with
He handed the conch to Eric, the nearest of the twins.
“We've seen the beast with our own eyes. No—we weren't asleep—”
Sam took up the story. By custom now one conch did for both twins,
for their substantial unity was recognized.
“It was furry. There was something moving behind its head—wings. The beast moved too—”
“That was awful. It kind of sat up—”
“The fire was bright—”
“We'd just made it up—”
“—more sticks on—”
“There were eyes—”
“We ran as fast as we could—”
“Bashed into things—”
“The beast followed us—”
“I saw it slinking behind the trees—”
“Nearly touched me—”
Ralph pointed fearfully at Eric's face, which was striped with scars
where the bushes had torn him.
“How did you do that?”
Eric felt his face.
“I'm all rough. Am I bleeding?”
The circle of boys shrank away in horror. Johnny, yawning still, burst
into noisy tears and was slapped by Bill till he choked on them. The bright
morning was full of threats and the circle began to change. It faced out,
rather than in, and the spears of sharpened wood were like a fence. Jack
called them back to the center.
“This'll be a real hunt! Who'll come?”
Ralph moved impatiently.
“These spears are made of wood. Don't be silly.”
Jack sneered at him.
“'Course I'm frightened. Who wouldn't be?”
He turned to the twins, yearning but hopeless.
“I suppose you aren't pulling our legs?”
The reply was too emphatic for anyone to doubt them.
Piggy took the conch.
“Couldn't we—kind of—stay here? Maybe the beast won't come near
But for the sense of something watching them, Ralph would have shouted
“Stay here? And be cramped into this bit of the island, always on the
lookout? How should we get our food? And what about the fire?”
“Let's be moving,” said Jack relentlessly, “we're wasting time.”
“No we're not. What about the littluns?”
“Sucks to the littluns!”
“Someone's got to look after them.”
“Nobody has so far.”
“There was no need! Now there is. Piggy'll look after them.”
“That's right. Keep Piggy out of danger.”
“Have some sense. What can Piggy do with only one eye?”
The rest of the boys were looking from Jack to Ralph, curiously.
“And another thing. You can't have an ordinary hunt because the beast
doesn't leave tracks. If it did you'd have seen them. For all we know, the
beast may swing through the trees like what's its name.”
“So we've got to think.”
Piggy took off his damaged glasses and cleaned the remaining lens.
“How about us, Ralph?”
“You haven't got the conch. Here.”
“I mean—how about us? Suppose the beast comes when you're all
away. I can't see proper, and if I get scared—”
Jack broke in, contemptuously.
“You're always scared.”
“I got the conch—”
“Conch! Conch!” shouted Jack. “We don't need the conch any more. We know who ought to say things. What good did Simon do speaking, or
Bill, or Walter? It's time some people knew they've got to keep quiet and
leave deciding things to the rest of us.”
Ralph could no longer ignore his speech. The blood was hot in his
“You haven't got the conch,” he said. “Sit down.”
Jack's face went so white that the freckles showed as clear, brown
flecks. He licked his lips and remained standing.
“This is a hunter's job.”
The rest of the boys watched intently. Piggy, finding himself
uncomfortably embroiled, slid the conch to Ralph's knees and sat down. The
silence grew oppressive and Piggy held his breath.
“This is more than a hunter's job,” said Ralph at last, “because you can't
track the beast. And don't you want to be rescued?”
He turned to the assembly.
“Don't you all want to be rescued?”
He looked back at Jack.
“I said before, the fire is the main thing. Now the fire must be out—”
The old exasperation saved him and gave him the energy to attack.
“Hasn't anyone got any sense? We've got to relight that fire. You never
thought of that, Jack, did you? Or don't any of you want to be rescued?”
Yes, they wanted to be rescued, there was no doubt about that; and
with a violent swing to Ralph's side, the crisis passed. Piggy let out his
breath with a gasp, reached for it again and failed. He lay against a log,
his mouth gaping, blue shadows creeping round his lips. Nobody minded
“Now think, Jack. Is there anywhere on the island you haven't been?”
Unwillingly Jack answered.
“There's only—but of course! You remember? The tail-end part, where
the rocks are all piled up. I've been near there. The rock makes a sort of
bridge. There's only one way up.”
“And the thing might live there.”
All the assembly talked at once.
“Quiet! All right. That's where we'll look. If the beast isn't there we'll
go up the mountain and look; and light the fire.”
“We'll eat first. Then go.” Ralph paused. “We'd better take spears.”
After they had eaten, Ralph and the biguns set out along the beach. They left Piggy propped up on the platform. This day promised, like
the others, to be a sunbath under a blue dome. The beach stretched
away before them in a gentle curve till perspective drew it into one with
the forest; for the day was not advanced enough to be obscured by the
shifting veils of mirage. Under Ralph's direction, they picked up a careful
way along the palm terrace, rather than dare the hot sand down by the
water. He let Jack lead the way; and Jack trod with theatrical caution
though they could have seen an enemy twenty yards away. Ralph walked
in the rear, thankful to have escaped responsibility for a time.
Simon, walking in front of Ralph, felt a flicker of incredulity—a beast
with claws that scratched, that sat on a mountain-top, that left no tracks
and yet was not fast enough to catch Samneric. However Simon thought
of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at
once heroic and sick.
He sighed. Other people could stand up and speak to an assembly,
apparently, without that dreadful feeling of the pressure of personality;
could say what they would as though they were speaking to only one
person. He stepped aside and looked back. Ralph was coming along,
holding his spear over his shoulder. Diffidently, Simon allowed his pace
to slacken until he was walking side by side with Ralph and looking up
at him through the coarse black hair that now fell to his eyes. Ralph
glanced sideways, smiled constrainedly as though he had forgotten that
Simon had made a fool of himself, then looked away again at nothing. For
a moment or two Simon was happy to be accepted and then he ceased to
think about himself. When he bashed into a tree Ralph looked sideways
impatiently and Robert sniggered. Simon reeled and a white spot on his
forehead turned red and trickled. Ralph dismissed Simon and returned
to his personal hell. They would reach the castle some time; and the chief
would have to go forward.
Jack came trotting back.
“We're in sight now.”
“All right. We'll get as close as we can.”
He followed Jack toward the castle where the ground rose slightly. On
their left was an impenetrable tangle of creepers and trees.
“Why couldn't there be something in that?”
“Because you can see. Nothing goes in or out.”
“What about the castle then?”
Ralph parted the screen of grass and looked out. There were only a few
more yards of stony ground and then the two sides of the island came
almost together so that one expected a peak of headland. But instead of
this a narrow ledge of rock, a few yards wide and perhaps fifteen long,
continued the island out into the sea. There lay another of those pieces
of pink squareness that underlay the structure of the island. This side of
the castle, perhaps a hundred feet high, was the pink bastion they had
seen from the mountain-top. The rock of the cliff was split and the top
littered with great lumps that seemed to totter.
Behind Ralph the tall grass had filled with silent hunters. Ralph looked
“You're a hunter.”
Jack went red.
“I know. All right.”
Something deep in Ralph spoke for him.
“I'm chief. I'll go. Don't argue.”
He turned to the others.
“You. Hide here. Wait for me.”
He found his voice tended either to disappear or to come out too loud. He looked at Jack.
“I've been all over. It must be here.”
Simon mumbled confusedly: “I don't believe in the beast.”
Ralph answered him politely, as if agreeing about the weather.
“No. I suppose not.”
His mouth was tight and pale. He put back his hair very slowly.
“Well. So long.”
He forced his feet to move until they had carried him out on to the neck
He was surrounded on all sides by chasms of empty air. There was
nowhere to hide, even if one did not have to go on. He paused on the
narrow neck and looked down. Soon, in a matter of centuries, the sea
would make an island of the castle. On the right hand was the lagoon,
troubled by the open sea; and on the left— Ralph shuddered. The
lagoon had protected them from the Pacific: and for some reason only Jack
had gone right down to the water on the other side. Now he saw the
landsman's view of the swell and it seemed like the breathing of some
stupendous creature. Slowly the waters sank among the rocks, revealing
pink tables of granite, strange growths of coral, polyp, and weed. Down,
down, the waters went, whispering like the wind among the heads of the
forest. There was one flat rock there, spread like a table, and the waters
sucking down on the four weedy sides made them seem like cliffs. Then
the sleeping leviathan breathed out, the waters rose, the weed streamed,
and the water boiled over the table rock with a roar. There was no sense
of the passage of waves; only this minute-long fall and rise and fall.
Ralph turned away to the red cliff. They were waiting behind him in
the long grass, waiting to see what he would do. He noticed that the
sweat in his palm was cool now; realized with surprise that he did not
really expect to meet any beast and didn't know what he would do about
it if he did.
He saw that he could climb the cliff but this was not necessary. The
squareness of the rock allowed a sort of plinth round it, so that to the
right, over the lagoon, one could inch along a ledge and turn the corner
out of sight. It was easy going, and soon he was peering round the rock.
Nothing but what you might expect: pink, tumbled boulders with guano
layered on them like icing; and a steep slope up to the shattered rocks
that crowned the bastion.
A sound behind him made him turn. Jack was edging along the ledge.
“Couldn't let you do it on your own.”
Ralph said nothing. He led the way over the rocks, inspected a sort
of half-cave that held nothing more terrible than a clutch of rotten eggs,
and at last sat down, looking round him and tapping the rock with the
butt of his spear.
Jack was excited.
“What a place for a fort!”
A column of spray wetted them.
“No fresh water.”
“What's that then?”
There was indeed a long green smudge half-way up the rock. They
climbed up and tasted the trickle of water.
“You could keep a coconut shell there, filling all the time.”
“Not me. This is a rotten place.”
Side by side they scaled the last height to where the diminishing pile
was crowned by the last broken rock. Jack struck the near one with his
fist and it grated slightly.
“Do you remember—?”
Consciousness of the bad times in between came to them both. Jack
“Shove a palm trunk under that and if an enemy came— look!”
A hundred feet below them was the narrow causeway, then the stony
ground, then the grass dotted with heads, and behind that the forest.
“One heave,” cried Jack, exulting, “and—wheee—!”
He made a sweeping movement with his hand. Ralph looked toward
“What's the matter?”
“You were looking—I don't know why.”
“There's no signal now. Nothing to show.”
“You're nuts on the signal.”
The taut blue horizon encircled them, broken only by the mountain-top.
“That's all we've got.”
He leaned his spear against the rocking stone and pushed back two
handfuls of hair.
“We'll have to go back and climb the mountain. That's where they saw
“The beast won't be there.”
“What else can we do?”
The others, waiting in the grass, saw Jack and Ralph unharmed and
broke cover into the sunlight. They forgot the beast in the excitement
of exploration. They swarmed across the bridge and soon were
climbing and shouting. Ralph stood now, one hand against an enormous red
block, a block large as a mill wheel that had been split off and hung,
tottering. Somberly he watched the mountain. He clenched his fist and
beat hammer-wise on the red wall at his right. His lips were tightly
compressed and his eyes yearned beneath the fringe of hair.
He sucked his bruised fist.
“Jack! Come on.”
But Jack was not there. A knot of boys, making a great noise that he
had not noticed, were heaving and pushing at a rock. As he turned, the
base cracked and the whole mass toppled into the sea so that a
thunderous plume of spray leapt half-way up the cliff.
“Stop it! Stop it!”
His voice struck a silence among them.
A strange thing happened in his head. Something flittered there in
front of his mind like a bat's wing, obscuring his idea.
At once the ideas were back, and the anger.
“We want smoke. And you go wasting your time. You roll rocks.”
“We've got plenty of time!”
Ralph shook his head.
“We'll go to the mountain.”
The clamor broke out. Some of the boys wanted to go back to the
beach. Some wanted to roll more rocks. The sun was bright and danger
had faded with the darkness.
“Jack. The beast might be on the other side. You can lead again. You've
“We could go by the shore. There's fruit.”
Bill came up to Ralph.
“Why can't we stay here for a bit?”
“Let's have a fort.”
“There's no food here,” said Ralph, “and no shelter. Not much fresh
“This would make a wizard fort.”
“We can roll rocks—”
“Right onto the bridge—”
“I say we'll go on!” shouted Ralph furiously. “We've got to make certain. We'll go now.”
“Let's stay here—”
“Back to the shelter—”
Ralph struck the skin off his knuckles. They did not seem to hurt.
“I'm chief. We've got to make certain. Can't you see the mountain? There's no signal showing. There may be a ship out there. Are you all off
Mutinously, the boys fell silent or muttering. Jack led the way down the rock and across the bridge.
7 Shadows and Tall Trees
The pig-run kept close to the jumble of rocks that lay down by the water
on the other side and Ralph was content to follow Jack along it. If you
could shut your ears to the slow suck down of the sea and boil of the
return, if you could forget how dun and unvisited were the ferny coverts
on either side, then there was a chance that you might put the beast out
of mind and dream for a while. The sun had swung over the vertical and
the afternoon heat was closing in on the island. Ralph passed a message
forward to Jack and when they next came to fruit the whole party stopped
Sitting, Ralph was aware of the heat for the first time that day. He
pulled distastefully at his grey shirt and wondered whether he might
undertake the adventure of washing it. Sitting under what seemed an
unusual heat, even for this island, Ralph planned his toilet. He would like
to have a pair of scissors and cut this hair—he flung the mass back—cut
this filthy hair right back to half an inch. He would like to have a bath,
a proper wallow with soap. He passed his tongue experimentally over
his teeth and decided that a toothbrush would come in handy too. Then
there were his nails—
Ralph turned his hand over and examined them. They were bitten
down to the quick though he could not remember when he had restarted
this habit nor any time when he indulged it.
“Be sucking my thumb next—”
He looked round, furtively. Apparently no one had heard. The hunters
sat, stuffing themselves with this easy meal, trying to convince themselves
that they got sufficient kick out of bananas and that other olive-grey, jelly-like fruit. With the memory of his sometime clean self as a standard,
Ralph looked them over. They were dirty, not with the spectacular dirt
of boys who have fallen into mud or been brought down hard on a rainy
day. Not one of them was an obvious subject for a shower, and yet—hair,
much too long, tangled here and there, knotted round a dead leaf or a
twig; faces cleaned fairly well by the process of eating and sweating but
marked in the less accessible angles with a kind of shadow; clothes, worn
away, stiff like his own with sweat, put on, not for decorum or comfort
but out of custom; the skin of the body, scurfy with brine—
He discovered with a little fall of the heart that these were the
conditions he took as normal now and that he did not mind. He sighed and
pushed away the stalk from which he had stripped the fruit. Already the
hunters were stealing away to do their business in the woods or down by
the rocks. He turned and looked out to sea.
Here, on the other side of the island, the view was utterly different. The
filmy enchantments of mirage could not endure the cold ocean water and
the horizon was hard, clipped blue. Ralph wandered down to the rocks. Down here, almost on a level with the sea, you could follow with your eye
the ceaseless, bulging passage of the deep sea waves. They were miles
wide, apparently not breakers or the banked ridges of shallow water. They traveled the length of the island with an air of disregarding it and
being set on other business; they were less a progress than a momentous
rise and fall of the whole ocean. Now the sea would suck down, making
cascades and waterfalls of retreating water, would sink past the rocks and
plaster down the seaweed like shining hair: then, pausing, gather and
rise with a roar, irresistibly swelling over point and outcrop, climbing the
little cliff, sending at last an arm of surf up a gully to end a yard or so
from him in fingers of spray.
Wave after wave, Ralph followed the rise and fall until something of
the remoteness of the sea numbed his brain. Then gradually the almost
infinite size of this water forced itself on his attention. This was the
divider, the barrier. On the other side of the island, swathed at midday with
mirage, defended by the shield of the quiet lagoon, one might dream of
rescue; but here, faced by the brute obtuseness of the ocean, the miles of
division, one was clamped down, one was helpless, one was condemned,
Simon was speaking almost in his ear. Ralph found that he had rock
painfully gripped in both hands, found his body arched, the muscles of
his neck stiff, his mouth strained open.
“You'll get back to where you came from.”
Simon nodded as he spoke. He was kneeling on one knee, looking
down from a higher rock which he held with both hands; his other leg
stretched down to Ralph's level.
Ralph was puzzled and searched Simon's face for a clue.
“It's so big, I mean—”
“All the same. You'll get back all right. I think so, anyway.”
Some of the strain had gone from Ralph's body. He glanced at the sea
and then smiled bitterly at Simon.
“Got a ship in your pocket?”
Simon grinned and shook his head.
“How do you know, then?”
When Simon was still silent Ralph said curtly, “You're batty.”
Simon shook his head violently till the coarse black hair flew backwards
and forwards across his face.
“No, I'm not. I just you'll get back all right.”
For a moment nothing more was said. And then they suddenly smiled
at each other.
Roger called from the coverts.
“Come and see!”
The ground was turned over near the pig-run and there were droppings
that steamed. Jack bent down to them as though he loved them.
“Ralph—we need meat even if we are hunting the other thing.”
“If you mean going the right way, we'll hunt.”
They set off again, the hunters bunched a little by fear of the mentioned
beast, while Jack quested ahead. They went more slowly than Ralph had
bargained for; yet in a way he was glad to loiter, cradling his spear. Jack
came up against some emergency of his craft and soon the procession
stopped. Ralph leaned against a tree and at once the daydreams came
swarming up. Jack was in charge of the hunt and there would be time to
get to the mountain— Once, following his father from Chatham to Devonport, they had lived
in a cottage on the edge of the moors. In the succession of houses that
Ralph had known, this one stood out with particular clarity because after
that house he had been sent away to school. Mummy had still been with
them and Daddy had come home every day. Wild ponies came to the
stone wall at the bottom of the garden, and it had snowed. Just behind
the cottage there was a sort of shed and you could lie up there, watching
the flakes swirl past. You could see the damp spot where each flake died,
then you could mark the first flake that lay down without melting and
watch, the whole ground turn white. You could go indoors when you
were cold and look out of the window, past the bright copper kettle and
the plate with the little blue men.
When you went to bed there was a bowl of cornflakes with sugar and
cream. And the books—they stood on the shelf by the bed, leaning
together with always two or three laid flat on top because he had not
bothered to put them back properly. They were dog-eared and scratched. There was the bright, shining one about Topsy and Mopsy that he never
read because it was about two girls; there was the one about the
magician which you read with a kind of tied-down terror, skipping page
twenty-seven with the awful picture of the spider; there was a book about
people who had dug things up, Egyptian things; there was The Boy's
Book of Trains, The Boy's Book of Ships. Vividly they came before him;
he could have reached up and touched them, could feel the weight and
slow slide with which The Mammoth Book for Boys would come out and
slither down… Everything was all right; everything was good-humored
The bushes crashed ahead of them. Boys flung themselves wildly from
the pig track and scrabbled in the creepers, screaming. Ralph saw Jack
nudged aside and fall. Then there was a creature bounding along the pig
track toward him, with tusks gleaming and an intimidating grunt. Ralph
found he was able to measure the distance coldly and take aim. With
the boar only five yards away, he flung the foolish wooden stick that he
carried, saw it hit the great snout and hang there for a moment. The
boar's note changed to a squeal and it swerved aside into the covert. The
pig-run filled with shouting boys again, Jack came running back, and
poked about in the undergrowth.
“But he'd do us!”
“Through here, I said—”
The boar was floundering away from them. They found another pig-run parallel to the first and Jack raced away. Ralph was full of fright and
apprehension and pride.
“I hit him! The spear stuck in—”
Now they came, unexpectedly, to an open space by the sea. Jack cast
about on the bare rock and looked anxious.
“I hit him,” said Ralph again, “and the spear stuck in a bit.”
He felt the need of witnesses.
“Didn't you see me?”
“I saw you. Right bang on his snout—Wheee!”
Ralph talked on, excitedly.
“I hit him all right. The spear stuck in. I wounded him!”
He sunned himself in their new respect and felt that hunting was good
“I walloped him properly. That was the beast, I think!” Jack came back.
“That wasn't the beast. That was a boar.”
“I hit him.”
“Why didn't you grab him? I tried—”
Ralph's voice ran up.
“But a boar!”
Jack flushed suddenly.
“You said he'd do us. What did you want to throw for? Why didn't you
He held out his arm.
He turned his left forearm for them all to see. On the outside was a rip;
not much, but bloody.
“He did that with his tusks. I couldn't get my spear down in time.”
Attention focused on Jack.
“That's a wound,” said Simon, “and you ought to suck it. Like Berengaria.”
“I hit him,” said Ralph indignantly. “I hit him with my spear, I wounded
He tried for their attention.
“He was coming along the path. I threw, like this—”
Robert snarled at him. Ralph entered into the play and everybody
laughed. Presently they were all jabbing at Robert who made mock
“Make a ring!”
The circle moved in and round. Robert squealed in mock terror, then
in real pain.
“Ow! Stop it! You're hurting!”
The butt end of a spear fell on his back as he blundered among them.
They got his arms and legs. Ralph, carried away by a sudden thick
excitement, grabbed Eric's spear and jabbed at Robert with it.
“Kill him! Kill him!”
All at once, Robert was screaming and struggling with the strength of
frenzy. Jack had him by the hair and was brandishing his knife. Behind
him was Roger, fighting to get close. The chant rose ritually, as at the last
moment of a dance or a hunt.
“Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!”
Ralph too was fighting to get near, to get a handful of that brown,
vulnerable flesh. The desire to squeeze and hurt was over-mastering.
Jack's arm came down; the heaving circle cheered and made pig-dying
noises. Then they lay quiet, panting, listening to Robert's frightened
snivels. He wiped his face with a dirty arm, and made an effort to
retrieve his status.
“Oh, my bum!”
He rubbed his rump ruefully. Jack rolled over.
“That was a good game.”
“Just a game,” said Ralph uneasily. “I got jolly badly hurt at rugger
“We ought to have a drum,” said Maurice, “then we could do it
Ralph looked at him.
“I dunno. You want a fire, I think, and a drum, and you keep time to
“You want a pig,” said Roger, “like a real hunt.”
“Or someone to pretend,” said Jack. “You could get someone to dress
up as a pig and then he could act—you know, pretend to knock me over
and all that.”
“You want a real pig,” said Robert, still caressing his rump, “because
you've got to kill him.”
“Use a littlun,” said Jack, and everybody laughed.
Ralph sat up.
“Well. We shan't find what we're looking for at this rate.”
One by one they stood up, twitching rags into place.
Ralph looked at Jack.
“Now for the mountain.”
“Shouldn't we go back to Piggy,” said Maurice, “before dark?”
The twins nodded like one boy.
“Yes, that's right. Let's go up there in the morning.”
Ralph looked out and saw the sea.
“We've got to start the fire again.”
“You haven't got Piggy's specs,” said Jack, “so you can't.”
“Then we'll find out if the mountain's clear.”
Maurice spoke, hesitating, not wanting to seem a funk.
“Supposing the beast's up there?”
Jack brandished his spear.
“We'll kill it.”
The sun seemed a little cooler. He slashed with the spear.
“What are we waiting for?”
“I suppose,” said Ralph, “if we keep on by the sea this way, we'll come
out below the burnt bit and then we can climb the mountain.
Once more Jack led them along by the suck and heave of the blinding
Once more Ralph dreamed, letting his skillful feet deal with the
difficulties of the path. Yet here his feet seemed less skillful than before. For most of the way they were forced right down to the bare rock by the
water and had to edge along between that and the dark luxuriance of
the forest. There were little cliffs to be scaled, some to be used as paths,
lengthy traverses where one used hands as well as feet. Here and there
they could clamber over wave-wet rock, leaping across clear pools that
the tide had left. They came to a gully that split the narrow foreshore like
a defense. This seemed to have no bottom and they peered awe-stricken
into the gloomy crack where water gurgled. Then the wave came back,
the gully boiled before them and spray dashed up to the very creeper so
that the boys were wet and shrieking. They tried the forest but it was
thick and woven like a bird's nest. In the end they had to jump one by
one, waiting till the water sank; and even so, some of them got a second
drenching. After that the rocks seemed to be growing impassable so they
sat for a time, letting their rags dry and watching the clipped outlines of
the rollers that moved so slowly past the island. They found fruit in a
haunt of bright little birds that hovered like insects. Then Ralph said they
were going too slowly. He himself climbed a tree and parted the canopy,
and saw the square head of the mountain seeming still a great way off. Then they tried to hurry along the rocks and Robert cut his knee quite
badly and they had to recognize that this path must be taken slowly if
they were to be safe. So they proceeded after that as if they were
climbing a dangerous mountain, until the rocks became an uncompromising
cliff, overhung with impossible jungle and falling sheer into the sea.
Ralph looked at the sun critically.
“Early evening. After tea-time, at any rate.”
“I don't remember this cliff,” said Jack, crestfallen, “so this must be the
bit of the coast I missed.”
“Let me think.”
By now, Ralph had no self-consciousness in public thinking but would
treat the day's decisions as though he were playing chess. The only
trouble was that he would never be a very good chess player. He thought of
the littluns and Piggy. Vividly he imagined Piggy by himself, huddled in a
shelter that was silent except for the sounds of nightmare.
“We can't leave the littluns alone with Piggy. Not all night.”
The other boys said nothing but stood round, watching him.
“If we went back we should take hours.”
Jack cleared his throat and spoke in a queer, tight voice. “We mustn't
let anything happen to Piggy, must we?” Ralph tapped his teeth with the
dirty point of Eric's spear.
“If we go across—”
He glanced round him.
“Someone's got to go across the island and tell Piggy we'll be back after
Bill spoke, unbelieving.
“Through the forest by himself? Now?”
“We can't spare more than one.”
Simon pushed his way to Ralph's elbow.
“I'll go if you like. I don't mind, honestly.”
Before Ralph had time to reply, he smiled quickly, turned and climbed
into the forest.
Ralph looked back at Jack, seeing him, infuriatingly, for the first time.
“Jack—that time you went the whole way to the castle rock.
“You came along part of this shore—below the mountain, beyond there.”
“I found a pig-run. It went for miles.”
“So the pig-run must be somewhere in there.”
Ralph nodded. He pointed at the forest.
Everybody agreed, sagely.
“All right then. We'll smash a way through till we find the pig-run.”
He took a step and halted.
“Wait a minute though! Where does the pig-run go to?”
“The mountain,” said Jack, “I told you.” He sneered. “Don't you want
to go to the mountain?”
Ralph sighed, sensing the rising antagonism, understanding that this
was how Jack felt as soon as he ceased to lead.
“I was thinking of the light. We'll be stumbling about.”
“We were going to look for the beast.”
“There won't be enough light.”
“I don't mind going,” said Jack hotly. “I'll go when we get there. Won't
you? Would you rather go back to the shelters and tell Piggy?”
Now it was Ralph's turn to flush but he spoke despairingly, out of the
new understanding that Piggy had given him.
“Why do you hate me?”
The boys stirred uneasily, as though something indecent had been said. The silence lengthened.
Ralph, still hot and hurt, turned away first.
He led the way and set himself as by right to hack at the tangles. Jack
brought up the rear, displaced and brooding.
The pig-track was a dark tunnel, for the sun was sliding quickly toward
the edge of the world and in the forest shadows were never far to seek. The track was broad and beaten and they ran along at a swift trot. Then
the roof of leaves broke up and they halted, breathing quickly, looking at
the few stars that pricked round the head of the mountain.
“There you are.”
The boys peered at each other doubtfully. Ralph made a decision.
“We'll go straight across to the platform and climb tomorrow.”
They murmured agreement; but Jack was standing by his shoulder.
“If you're frightened of course—”
Ralph turned on him.
“Who went first on the castle rock?”
“I went too. And that was daylight.”
“All right. Who wants to climb the mountain now?” Silence was the
“Samneric? What about you?”
“We ought to go an' tell Piggy—”
“—yes, tell Piggy that—”
“But Simon went!”
“We ought to tell Piggy—in case—”
They were going straight back to the platform now. Not, of course, that
they were afraid—but tired.
Ralph turned back to Jack.
“I'm going up the mountain.” The words came from Jack viciously, as
though they were a curse. He looked at Ralph, his thin body tensed, his
spear held as if he threatened him.
“I'm going up the mountain to look for the beast—now.”
Then the supreme sting, the casual, bitter word.
At that word the other boys forgot their urge to be gone and turned
back to sample this fresh rub of two spirits in the dark. The word was too
good, too bitter, too successfully daunting to be repeated. It took Ralph
at low water when his nerve was relaxed for the return to the shelter and
the still, friendly waters of the lagoon.
“I don't mind.”
Astonished, he heard his voice come out, cool and casual, so that the
bitterness of Jack's taunt fell powerless.
“If you don't mind, of course.”
“Oh, not at all.”
Jack took a step.
Side by side, watched by silent boys, the two started up the mountain.
“We're silly. Why should only two go? If we find anything, two won't
There came the sound of boys scuttling away. Astonishingly, a dark
figure moved against the tide.
“That's three, then.”
Once more they set out to climb the slope of the mountain. The
darkness seemed to flow round them like a tide. Jack, who had said nothing,
began to choke and cough, and a gust of wind set all three spluttering. Ralph's eyes were blinded with tears.
“Ashes. We're on the edge of the burnt patch.”
Their footsteps and the occasional breeze were stirring up small devils
of dust. Now that they stopped again, Ralph had time while he coughed
to remember how silly they were. If there was no beast—and almost
certainly there was no beast—in that case, well and good; but if there
was something waiting on top of the mountain— what was the use of
three of them, handicapped by the darkness and carrying only sticks?
“We're being fools.”
Out of the darkness came the answer.
Irritably Ralph shook himself. This was all Jack's fault.
”'Course I am. But we're still being fools.”
“If you don't want to go on,” said the voice sarcastically, “I'll go up by
Ralph heard the mockery and hated Jack. The sting of ashes in his
eyes, tiredness, fear, enraged him.
“Go on then! We'll wait here.”
There was silence.
“Why don't you go? Are you frightened?” A stain in the darkness, a
stain that was Jack, detached itself and began to draw away.
“All right. So long.”
The stain vanished. Another took its place.
Ralph felt his knee against something hard and rocked a charred trunk
that was edgy to the touch. He felt the sharp cinders that had been bark
push against the back of his knee and knew that Roger had sat down. He felt with his hands and lowered himself beside Roger, while the trunk
rocked among invisible ashes. Roger, uncommunicative by nature, said
nothing. He offered no opinion on the beast nor told Ralph why he had
chosen to come on this mad expedition. He simply sat and rocked the
trunk gently. Ralph noticed a rapid and infuriating tapping noise and
realized that Roger was banging his silly wooden stick against something.
So they sat, the rocking, tapping, impervious Roger and Ralph, fuming;
round them the close sky was loaded with stars, save where the mountain
punched up a hole of blackness.
There was a slithering noise high above them, the sound of someone
taking giant and dangerous strides on rock or ash. Then Jack found them,
and was shivering and croaking in a voice they could just recognize as his.
“I saw a thing on top.”
They heard him blunder against the trunk which rocked violently. He
lay silent for a moment, then muttered.
“Keep a good lookout. It may be following.”
A shower of ash pattered round them. Jack sat up.
“I saw a thing bulge on the mountain.”
“You only imagined it,” said Ralph shakily, “because nothing would
bulge. Not any sort of creature.”
Roger spoke; they jumped, for they had forgotten him.
Jack giggled and shuddered.
“Some frog. There was a noise too. A kind of 'plop' noise. Then the
Ralph surprised himself, not so much by the quality of his voice, which
was even, but by the bravado of its intention.
“We'll go and look.”
For the first time since he had first known Jack, Ralph could feel him
His voice spoke for him.
He got off the trunk and led the way across the clinking cinders up into
the dark, and the others followed.
Now that his physical voice was silent the inner voice of reason, and
other voices too, made themselves heard. Piggy was calling him a kid. Another voice told him not to be a fool; and the darkness and desperate
enterprise gave the night a kind of dentist's chair unreality.
As they came to the last slope, Jack and Roger drew near, changed
from the ink-stains to distinguishable figures. By common consent they
stopped and crouched together. Behind them, on the horizon, was a patch
of lighter sky where in a moment the moon would rise. The wind roared
once in the forest and pushed their rags against them.
They crept forward, Roger lagging a little. Jack and Ralph turned the
shoulder of the mountain together. The glittering lengths of the lagoon
lay below them and beyond that a long white smudge that was the reef. Roger joined them.
“Let's creep forward on hands and knees. Maybe it's asleep.”
Roger and Ralph moved on, this time leaving Jack in the rear, for all
his brave words. They came to the flat top where the rock was hard to
hands and knees.
A creature that bulged.
Ralph put his hand in the cold, soft ashes of the fire and smothered a
cry. His hand and shoulder were twitching from the unlooked-for contact. Green lights of nausea appeared for a moment and ate into the darkness. Roger lay behind him and Jack's mouth was at his ear.
“Over there, where there used to be a gap in the rock. A sort of hump—
Ashes blew into Ralph's face from the dead fire. He could not see the
gap or anything else, because the green lights were opening again and
growing, and the top of the mountain was sliding sideways.
Once more, from a distance, he heard Jack's whisper.
Not scared so much as paralyzed; hung up there immovable on the
top of a diminishing, moving mountain. Jack slid away from him, Roger
bumped, fumbled with a hiss of breath, and passed onwards. He heard
“Can you see anything?”
In front of them, only three or four yards away, was a rock-like hump
where no rock should be. Ralph could hear a tiny chattering noise
coming from somewhere— perhaps from his own mouth. He bound himself
together with his will, fused his fear and loathing into a hatred, and stood
up. He took two leaden steps forward.
Behind them the silver of moon had drawn clear of the horizon. Before
them, something like a great ape was sitting asleep with its head between
its knees. Then the wind roared in the forest, there was confusion in the
darkness and the creature lifted its head, holding toward them the ruin
of a face.
Ralph found himself taking giant strides among the ashes, heard other
creatures crying out and leaping and dared the impossible on the dark
slope; presently the mountain was deserted, save for the three abandoned
sticks and the thing that bowed.
8 Gift for the Darkness
Piggy looked up miserably from the dawn-pale beach to the dark
“Are you sure? Really sure, I mean?”
I told you a dozen times now,” said Ralph, “we saw it.”
“D'you think we're safe down here?”
“How the hell should I know?”
Ralph jerked away from him and walked a few paces along the beach. Jack was kneeling and drawing a circular pattern in the sand with his
forefinger. Piggy's voice came to them, hushed.
“Are you sure? Really?”
“Go up and see,” said Jack contemptuously, “and good riddance.”
“The beast had teeth,” said Ralph, “and big black eyes.”
He shuddered violently. Piggy took off his one round of glass and polished the surface.
“What we going to do?”
Ralph turned toward the platform. The conch glimmered among the
trees, a white blob against the place where the sun would rise. He pushed
back his mop.
“I don't know.”
He remembered the panic flight down the mountainside. “I don't think
we'd ever fight a thing that size, honestly, you know. We'd talk but we
wouldn't fight a tiger. We'd hide. Even Jack 'ud hide.”
Jack still looked at the sand.
“What about my hunters?”
Simon came stealing out of the shadows by the shelters. Ralph ignored
Jack's question. He pointed to the touch of yellow above the sea.
“As long as there's light we're brave enough. But then? And now that
thing squats by the fire as though it didn't want us to be rescued—”
He was twisting his hands now, unconsciously. His voice rose.
“So we can't have a signal fire… We're beaten.”
A point of gold appeared above the sea and at once all the sky
“What about my hunters?”
“Boys armed with sticks.”
Jack got to his feet. His face was red as he marched away. Piggy put
on his one glass and looked at Ralph.
“Now you done it. You been rude about his hunters.”
“Oh shut up!”
The sound of the inexpertly blown conch interrupted them. As though
he were serenading the rising sun, Jack went on blowing till the shelters
were astir and the hunters crept to the platform and the littluns
whimpered as now they so frequently did. Ralph rose obediently, and Piggy,
and they went to the platform.
“Talk,” said Ralph bitterly, “talk, talk, talk.”
He took the conch from Jack.
Jack interrupted him.
“I called it.”
“If you hadn't called it I should have. You just blew the conch.”
“Well, isn't that calling it?”
“Oh, take it! Go on—talk!”
Ralph thrust the conch into Jack's arms and sat down on the trunk.
“I've called an assembly,” said Jack, “because of a lot of things. First,
you know now, we've seen the beast. We crawled up. We were only a few
feet away. The beast sat up and looked at us. I don't know what it does. We don't even know what it is—”
“The beast comes out of the sea—”
“Out of the dark—”
“Quiet!” shouted Jack. “You, listen. The beast is sitting up there,
whatever it is—”
“Perhaps it's waiting—”
“Hunting,” said Jack. He remembered his age-old tremors in the forest. “Yes. The beast is a hunter. Only— shut up! The next thing is that we
couldn't kill it. And the next is that Ralph said my hunters are no good.”
“I never said that!”
“I've got the conch. Ralph thinks you're cowards, running away from
the boar and the beast. And that's not all.”
There was a kind of sigh on the platform as if everyone knew what was
coming. Jack's voice went up, tremulous yet determined, pushing against
the uncooperative silence.
“He's like Piggy. He says things like Piggy. He isn't a proper chief.”
Jack clutched the conch to him.
“He's a coward himself.”
For a moment he paused and then went on.
“On top, when Roger and me went on—he stayed back.”
“I went too!”
The two boys glared at each other through screens of hair.
“I went on too,” said Ralph, “then I ran away. So did you.”
“Call me a coward then.”
Jack turned to the hunters.
“He's not a hunter. He'd never have got us meat. He isn't a prefect
and we don't know anything about him. He just gives orders and expects
people to obey for nothing. All this talk—”
“All this talk!” shouted Ralph. “Talk, talk! Who wanted it? Who called
Jack turned, red in the face, his chin sunk back. He glowered up under
“All right then,” he said in tones of deep meaning, and menace, “all
He held the conch against his chest with one hand and stabbed the air
with his index finger.
“Who thinks Ralph oughtn't to be chief?”
He looked expectantly at the boys ranged round, who had frozen. Under
the palms there was deadly silence.
“Hands up,” said Jack strongly, “whoever wants Ralph not to be chief?”
The silence continued, breathless and heavy and full of shame. Slowly
the red drained from Jack's cheeks, then came back with a painful rush. He licked his lips and turned his head at an angle, so that his gaze avoided
the embarrassment of linking with another's eye.
“How many think—”
His voice tailed off. The hands that held the conch shook. He cleared
his throat, and spoke loudly.
“All right then.”
He laid the conch with great care in the grass at his feet. The
humiliating tears were running from the corner of each eye.
“I'm not going to play any longer. Not with you.”
Most of the boys were looking down now, at the grass or their feet. Jack cleared his throat again.
“I'm not going to be a part of Ralph's lot—”
He looked along the right-hand logs, numbering the hunters that had
been a choir.
“I'm going off by myself. He can catch his own pigs. Anyone who wants
to hunt when I do can come too.”
He blundered out of the triangle toward the drop to the white sand.
Jack turned and looked back at Ralph. For a moment he paused and
then cried out, high-pitched, enraged.
He leapt down from the platform and ran along the beach, paying no
heed to the steady fall of his tears; and until he dived into the forest
Ralph watched him.
Piggy was indignant.
“I been talking, Ralph, and you just stood there like—”
Softly, looking at Piggy and not seeing him, Ralph spoke to himself.
“He'll come back. When the sun goes down he'll come.” He looked at
the conch in Piggy's hand.
Piggy gave up the attempt to rebuke Ralph. He polished his glass again
and went back to his subject.
“We can do without Jack Merridew. There's others besides him on this
island. But now we really got a beast, though I can't hardly believe it,
we'll need to stay close to the platform; there'll be less need of him and
his hunting. So now we can really decide on what's what.”
“There's no help, Piggy. Nothing to be done.”
For a while they sat in depressed silence. Then Simon stood up and
took the conch from Piggy, who was so astonished that he remained on
his feet. Ralph looked up at Simon.
“Simon? What is it this time?”
A half-sound of jeering ran round the circle and Simon shrank from it.
“I thought there might be something to do. Something we—”
Again the pressure of the assembly took his voice away. He sought for
help and sympathy and chose Piggy. He turned half toward him, clutching
the conch to his brown chest.
“I think we ought to climb the mountain.”
The circle shivered with dread. Simon broke off and turned to Piggy
who was looking at him with an expression of derisive incomprehension.
“What's the good of climbing up to this here beast when Ralph and the
other two couldn't do nothing?”
Simon whispered his answer.
“What else is there to do?”
His speech made, he allowed Piggy to lift the conch out of his hands. Then he retired and sat as far away from the others as possible.
Piggy was speaking now with more assurance and with what, if the
circumstances had not been so serious, the others would have recognized
“I said we could all do without a certain person. Now I say we got to
decide on what can be done. And I think I could tell you what Ralph's
going to say next. The most important thing on the island is the smoke
and you can't have no smoke without a fire.”
Ralph made a restless movement.
“No go, Piggy. We've got no fire. That thing sits up there—we'll have
to stay here.”
Piggy lifted the conch as though to add power to his next words.
“We got no fire on the mountain. But what's wrong with a fire down
here? A fire could be built on them rocks. On the sand, even. We'd make
smoke just the same.”
“By the bathing pool!”
The boys began to babble. Only Piggy could have the intellectual
daring to suggest moving the fire from the mountain.
“So we'll have the fire down here,” said Ralph. He looked about him. “We can build it just here between the bathing pool and the platform. Of
He broke off, frowning, thinking the thing out, unconsciously tugging
at the stub of a nail with his teeth.
“Of course the smoke won't show so much, not be seen so far away. But we needn't go near, near the—”
The others nodded in perfect comprehension. There would be no need
to go near.
“We'll build the fire now.”
The greatest ideas are the simplest. Now there was something to be
done they worked with passion. Piggy was so full of delight and
expanding liberty in Jack's departure, so full of pride in his contribution to the
good of society, that he helped to fetch wood. The wood he fetched was
close at hand, a fallen tree on the platform that they did not need for
the assembly, yet to the others the sanctity of the platform had protected
even what was useless there. Then the twins realized they would have a
fire near them as a comfort in the night and this set a few littluns dancing
and clapping hands.
The wood was not so dry as the fuel they had used on the mountain. Much of it was damply rotten and full of insects that scurried; logs had
to be lifted from the soil with care or they crumbled into sodden powder. More than this, in order to avoid going deep into the forest the boys
worked near at hand on any fallen wood no matter how tangled with
new growth. The skirts of the forest and the scar were familiar, near the
conch and the shelters and sufficiently friendly in daylight. What they
might become in darkness nobody cared to think. They worked therefore
with great energy and cheerfulness, though as time crept by there was a
suggestion of panic in the energy and hysteria in the cheerfulness. They
built a pyramid of leaves and twigs, branches and logs, on the bare sand
by the platform. For the first time on the island, Piggy himself removed
his one glass, knelt down and focused the sun on tinder. Soon there was
a ceiling of smoke and a bush of yellow flame.
The littluns who had seen few fires since the first catastrophe became
wildly excited. They danced and sang and there was a partyish air about
At last Ralph stopped work and stood up, smudging the sweat from his
face with a dirty forearm.
“We'll have to have a small fire. This one's too big to keep up.”
Piggy sat down carefully on the sand and began to polish his glass.
“We could experiment. We could find out how to make a small hot fire
and then put green branches on to make smoke. Some of them leaves
must be better for that than the others.”
As the fire died down so did the excitement. The littluns stopped
singing and dancing and drifted away toward the sea or the fruit trees
or the shelters.
Ralph dropped down in the sand.
“We'll have to make a new list of who's to look after the fire.”
“If you can find 'em.”
He looked round. Then for the first time he saw how few biguns there
were and understood why the work had been so hard.
Piggy wiped his glass again.
“I expect… no, he wouldn't go into the forest by himself, would he?”
Ralph jumped up, ran swiftly round the fire and stood by Piggy, holding
up his hair.
“But we've got to have a list! There's you and me and Samneric and—”
He would not look at Piggy but spoke casually.
“Where's Bill and Roger?”
Piggy leaned forward and put a fragment of wood on the fire.
“I expect they've gone. I expect they won't play either.”
Ralph sat down and began to poke little holes in the sand. He was
surprised to see that one had a drop of blood by it. He examined his
bitten nail closely and watched the little globe of blood that gathered
where the quick was gnawed away.
Piggy went on speaking.
“I seen them stealing off when we was gathering wood. They went that
way. The same way as he went himself.”
Ralph finished his inspection and looked up into the air. The sky, as
if in sympathy with the great changes among them, was different today
and so misty that in some places the hot air seemed white. The disc of
the sun was dull silver as though it were nearer and not so hot, yet the
“They always been making trouble, haven't they?”
The voice came near his shoulder and sounded anxious. “We can do
without 'em. We'll be happier now, won't we?”
Ralph sat. The twins came, dragging a great log and grinning in their
triumph. They dumped the log among the embers so that sparks flew.
“We can do all right on our own, can't we?”
For a long time while the log dried, caught fire and turned red hot,
Ralph sat in the sand and said nothing. He did not see Piggy go to the
twins and whisper to them, nor how the three boys went together into
“Here you are.”
He came to himself with a jolt. Piggy and the other two were by him. They were laden with fruit.
“I thought perhaps,” said Piggy, “we ought to have a feast, kind of.”
The three boys sat down. They had a great mass of the fruit with them
and all of it properly ripe. They grinned at Ralph as he took some and
began to eat.
“Thanks,” he said. Then with an accent of pleased surprise—“Thanks!”
“Do all right on our own,” said Piggy. “It's them that haven't no common sense that make trouble on this island. We'll make a little hot fire—”
Ralph remembered what had been worrying him.
“I don't know.”
“You don't think he's climbing the mountain?”
Piggy broke into noisy laughter and took more fruit. “He might be.” He
gulped his mouthful. “He's cracked.”
Simon had passed through the area of fruit trees but today the littluns
had been too busy with the fire on the beach and they had not pursued
him there. He went on among the creepers until he reached the great
mat that was woven by the open space and crawled inside. Beyond the
screen of leaves the sunlight pelted down and the butterflies danced in
the middle their unending dance. He knelt down and the arrow of the
sun fell on him. That other time the air had seemed to vibrate with heat;
but now it threatened. Soon the sweat was running from his long coarse
hair. He shifted restlessly but there was no avoiding the sun. Presently
he was thirsty, and then very thirsty.
He continued to sit.
Far off along the beach, Jack was standing before a small group of boys. He was looking brilliantly happy.
“Hunting,” he said. He sized them up. Each of them wore the remains
of a black cap and ages ago they had stood in two demure rows and their
voices had been the song of angels.
“We'll hunt. I'm going to be chief.”
They nodded, and the crisis passed easily.
“And then—about the beast.”
They moved, looked at the forest.
“I say this. We aren't going to bother about the beast.”
He nodded at them.
“We're going to forget the beast.”
“Forget the beast!”
If Jack was astonished by their fervor he did not show it.
“And another thing. We shan't dream so much down here. This is near
the end of the island.”
They agreed passionately out of the depths of their tormented private
“Now listen. We might go later to the castle rock. But now I'm going
to get more of the biguns away from the conch and all that. We'll kill a
pig and give a feast.” He paused and went on more slowly. “And about
the beast. When we kill we'll leave some of the kill for it. Then it won't
bother us, maybe.”
He stood up abruptly.
“We'll go into the forest now and hunt.”
He turned and trotted away and after a moment they followed him
They spread out, nervously, in the forest. Almost at once Jack found
the dung and scattered roots that told of pig and soon the track was
fresh. Jack signaled the rest of the hunt to be quiet and went forward by
himself. He was happy and wore the damp darkness of the forest like his
old clothes. He crept down a slope to rocks and scattered trees by the
The pigs lay, bloated bags of fat, sensuously enjoying the shadows
under the trees. There was no wind and they were unsuspicious; and
practice had made Jack silent as the shadows. He stole away again and
instructed his hidden hunters. Presently they all began to inch forward
sweating in the silence and heat. Under the trees an ear flapped idly. A
little apart from the rest, sunk in deep maternal bliss, lay the largest sow
of the lot. She was black and pink; and the great bladder of her belly was
fringed with a row of piglets that slept or burrowed and squeaked.
Fifteen yards from the drove Jack stopped, and his arm, straightening,
pointed at the sow. He looked round in inquiry to make sure that
everyone understood and the other boys nodded at him. The row of right arms
The drove of pigs started up; and at a range of only ten yards the
wooden spears with fire-hardened points flew toward the chosen pig. One piglet, with a demented shriek, rushed into the sea trailing Roger's
spear behind it. The sow gave a gasping squeal and staggered up, with
two spears sticking in her fat flank. The boys shouted and rushed
forward, the piglets scattered and the sow burst the advancing line and
went crashing away through the forest.
They raced along the pig-track, but the forest was too dark and tangled
so that Jack, cursing, stopped them and cast among the trees. Then he
said nothing for a time but breathed fiercely so that they were awed by
him and looked at each other in uneasy admiration. Presently he stabbed
down at the ground with his finger.
Before the others could examine the drop of blood, Jack had swerved
off, judging a trace, touching a bough that gave. So he followed,
mysteriously right and assured, and the hunters trod behind him.
He stopped before a covert.
They surrounded the covert but the sow got away with the sting of
another spear in her flank. The trailing butts hindered her and the sharp,
cross-cut points were a torment. She blundered into a tree, forcing a
spear still deeper; and after that any of the hunters could follow her easily
by the drops of vivid blood. The afternoon wore on, hazy and dreadful
with damp heat; the sow staggered her way ahead of them, bleeding and
mad, and the hunters followed, wedded to her in lust, excited by the long
chase and the dropped blood. They could see her now, nearly got up with
her, but she spurted with her last strength and held ahead of them again. They were just behind her when she staggered into an open space where
bright flowers grew and butterflies danced round each other and the air
was hot and still.
Here, struck down by the heat, the sow fell and the hunters hurled
themselves at her. This dreadful eruption from an unknown world made
her frantic; she squealed and bucked and the air was full of sweat and
noise and blood and terror. Roger ran round the heap, prodding with his
spear whenever pigflesh appeared. Jack was on top of the sow, stabbing
downward with his knife. Roger found a lodgment for his point and
began to push till he was leaning with his whole weight. The spear moved
forward inch by inch and the terrified squealing became a highpitched
scream. Then Jack found the throat and the hot blood spouted over his
hands. The sow collapsed under them and they were heavy and fulfilled
upon her. The butterflies still danced, preoccupied in the center of the
At last the immediacy of the kill subsided. The boys drew back, and
Jack stood up, holding out his hands.
He giggled and flicked them while the boys laughed at his reeking
palms. Then Jack grabbed Maurice and rubbed the stuff over his cheeks. Roger began to withdraw his spear and boys noticed it for the first time. Robert stabilized the thing in a phrase which was received uproariously.
“Right up her ass!”
“Did you hear?”
“Did you hear what he said?”
“Right up her ass!”
This time Robert and Maurice acted the two parts; and Maurice's acting
of the pig's efforts to avoid the advancing spear was so funny that the boys
cried with laughter.
At length even this palled. Jack began to clean his bloody hands on the
rock. Then he started work on the sow and paunched her, lugging out
the hot bags of colored guts, pushing them into a pile on the rock while
the others watched him. He talked as he worked.
“We'll take the meat along the beach. I'll go back to the platform and
invite them to a feast. That should give us time.”
“How can we make a fire?”
Jack squatted back and frowned at the pig.
“We'll raid them and take fire. There must be four of you; Henry and
you, Robert and Maurice. We'll put on paint and sneak up; Roger can
snatch a branch while I say what I want. The rest of you can get this back
to where we were. We'll build the fire there. And after that—”
He paused and stood up, looking at the shadows under the trees. His
voice was lower when he spoke again.
“But we'll leave part of the kill for…”
He knelt down again and was busy with his knife. The boys crowded
round him. He spoke over his shoulder to Roger.
“Sharpen a stick at both ends.”
Presently he stood up, holding the dripping sow's head in his hands.
“Where's that stick?”
“Ram one end in the earth. Oh—it's rock. Jam it in that crack. There.”
Jack held up the head and jammed the soft throat down on the pointed
end of the stick which pierced through into the mouth. He stood back
and the head hung there, a little blood dribbling down the stick.
Instinctively the boys drew back too; and the forest was very still. They
listened, and the loudest noise was the buzzing of flies over the spilled
Jack spoke in a whisper.
“Pick up the pig.”
Maurice and Robert skewered the carcass, lifted the dead weight, and
stood ready. In the silence, and standing over the dry blood, they looked
Jack spoke loudly.
“This head is for the beast. It's a gift.”
The silence accepted the gift and awed them. The head remained there,
dim-eyed, grinning faintly, blood blackening between the teeth. All at
once they were running away, as fast as they could, through the forest
toward the open beach. Simon stayed where he was, a small brown image, concealed by the
leaves. Even if he shut his eyes the sow's head still remained like an
after-image. The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of
adult life. They assured Simon that everything was a bad business.
“I know that.”
Simon discovered that he had spoken aloud. He opened his eyes quickly
and there was the head grinning amusedly in the strange daylight,
ignoring the flies, the spilled guts, even ignoring the indignity of being spiked
on a stick.
He looked away, licking his dry lips.
A gift for the beast. Might not the beast come for it? The head, he
thought, appeared to agree with him. Run away, said the head silently,
go back to the others. It was a joke really—why should you bother? You
were just wrong, that's all. A little headache, something you ate, perhaps. Go back, child, said the head silently.
Simon looked up, feeling the weight of his wet hair, and gazed at the
sky. Up there, for once, were clouds, great bulging towers that sprouted
away over the island, grey and cream and copper-colored. The clouds
were sitting on the land; they squeezed, produced moment by moment
this close, tormenting heat. Even the butterflies deserted the open space
where the obscene thing grinned and dripped. Simon lowered his head,
carefully keeping his eyes shut, then sheltered them with his hand. There
were no shadows under the trees but everywhere a pearly stillness, so
that what was real seemed illusive and without definition. The pile of
guts was a black blob of flies that buzzed like a saw. After a while these
flies found Simon. Gorged, they alighted by his runnels of sweat and
drank. They tickled under his nostrils and played leapfrog on his thighs. They were black and iridescent green and without number; and in front
of Simon, the Lord of the Flies hung on his stick and grinned. At last
Simon gave up and looked back; saw the white teeth and dim eyes, the
blood—and his gaze was held by that ancient, inescapable recognition. In Simon's right temple, a pulse began to beat on the brain.
Ralph and Piggy lay in the sand, gazing at the fire and idly flicking
pebbles into its smokeless heart.
“That branch is gone.”
“We ought to get some more wood. We're out of green branches.”
Ralph sighed and stood up. There were no shadows under the palms
on the platform; only this strange light that seemed to come from
everywhere at once. High up among the bulging clouds thunder went off like
“We're going to get buckets of rain.”
“What about the fire?”
Ralph trotted into the forest and returned with a wide spray of green
which he dumped on the fire. The branch crackled, the leaves curled and
the yellow smoke expanded.
Piggy made an aimless little pattern in the sand with his fingers.
“Trouble is, we haven't got enough people for a fire. You got to treat
Samneric as one turn. They do everything together—”
“Well, that isn't fair. Don't you see? They ought to do two turns.”
Ralph considered this and understood. He was vexed to find how little
he thought like a grown-up and sighed again. The island was getting
worse and worse.
Piggy looked at the fire.
“You'll want another green branch soon.”
Ralph rolled over.
“Piggy. What are we going to do?”
“Just have to get on without 'em.”
He frowned at the black and white mess in which lay the unburnt ends
of branches. He tried to formulate.
He saw Piggy look up; and blundered on.
“Not of the beast. I mean I'm scared of that too. But nobody else
understands about the fire. If someone threw you a rope when you were
drowning. If a doctor said take this because if you don't take it you'll
die—you would, wouldn't you? I mean?”
“'Course I would.”
“Can't they see? Can't they understand? Without the smoke signal we'll
die here? Look at that!”
A wave of heated air trembled above the ashes but without a trace of
“We can't keep one fire going. And they don't care. And what's more—”
He looked intensely into Piggy's streaming face.
“What's more, I don't sometimes. Supposing I got like the others—not
caring. What 'ud become of us?”
Piggy took off his glasses, deeply troubled.
“I dunno, Ralph. We just got to go on, that's all. That's what grown-ups
Ralph, having begun the business of unburdening himself, continued.
“Piggy, what's wrong?”
Piggy looked at him in astonishment.
“Do you mean the—?”
“No, not it… I mean… what makes things break up like they do?”
Piggy rubbed his glasses slowly and thought. When he understood how
far Ralph had gone toward accepting him he flushed pinkly with pride.
“I dunno, Ralph. I expect it's him.”
“Jack.” A taboo was evolving round that word too.
Ralph nodded solemnly.
“Yes,” he said, “I suppose it must be.”
The forest near them burst into uproar. Demoniac figures with faces
of white and red and green rushed out howling, so that the littluns fled
screaming. Out of the corner of his eye, Ralph saw Piggy running. Two
figures rushed at the fire and he prepared to defend himself but they
grabbed half-burnt branches and raced away along the beach. The three
others stood still, watching Ralph; and he saw that the tallest of them,
stark naked save for paint and a belt, was Jack.
Ralph had his breath back and spoke.
Jack ignored him, lifted his spear and began to shout.
“Listen all of you. Me and my hunters, we're living along the beach by
a flat rock. We hunt and feast and have fun. If you want to join my tribe
come and see us. Perhaps I'll let you join. Perhaps not.”
He paused and looked round. He was safe from shame or self-consciousness
behind the mask of his paint and could look at each of them in turn. Ralph was kneeling by the remains of the fire like a sprinter at his mark
and his face was half-hidden by hair and smut. Samneric peered together
round a palm tree at the edge of the forest. A littlun howled, creased and
crimson, by the bathing pool and Piggy stood on the platform, the white
conch gripped in his hands.
“Tonight we're having a feast. We've killed a pig and we've got meat. You can come and eat with us if you like.”
Up in the cloud canyons the thunder boomed again. Jack and the two
anonymous savages with him swayed, looking up, and then recovered. The littlun went on howling. Jack was waiting for something. He
whispered urgently to the others.
The two savages murmured. Jack spoke sharply.
The two savages looked at each other, raised their spears together and
spoke in time.
“The Chief has spoken.”
Then the three of them turned and trotted away. Presently Ralph rose
to his feet, looking at the place where the savages had vanished. Samneric came, talking in an awed whisper.
“I thought it was—”
“—and I was—”
Piggy stood above them on the platform, still holding the conch.
“That was Jack and Maurice and Robert,” said Ralph. “Aren't they
“I thought I was going to have asthma.”
“Sucks to your ass-mar.”
“When I saw Jack I was sure he'd go for the conch. Can't think why.”
The group of boys looked at the white shell with affectionate respect. Piggy placed it in Ralph's hand and the littluns, seeing the familiar
symbol, started to come back.
He turned toward the platform, feeling the need for ritual. First went
Ralph, the white conch cradled, then Piggy very grave, then the twins,
then the littluns and the others.
“Sit down all of you. They raided us for fire. They're having fun. But
Ralph was puzzled by the shutter that flickered in his brain. There was
something he wanted to say; then the shutter had come down.
They were regarding him gravely, not yet troubled by any doubts about
his sufficiency. Ralph pushed the idiot hair out of his eyes and looked at
“But the… oh… the fire! Of course, the fire!”
He started to laugh, then stopped and became fluent instead.
“The fire's the most important thing. Without the fire we can't be
rescued. I'd like to put on war-paint and be a savage. But we must keep the
fire burning. The fire's the most important thing on the island, because,
He paused again and the silence became full of doubt and wonder.
Piggy whispered urgently.
“Oh yes. Without the fire we can't be rescued. So we must stay by the
fire and make smoke.”
When he stopped no one said anything. After the many brilliant speeches
that had been made on this very spot Ralph's remarks seemed lame, even
to the littluns.
At last Bill held out his hands for the conch.
“Now we can't have the fire up there—because we can't have the fire
up there—we need more people to keep it going. Let's go to this feast
and tell them the fire's hard on the rest of us. And the hunting and all
that, being savages I mean—it must be jolly good fun.”
Samneric took the conch.
“That must be fun like Bill says—and as he's invited us—”
“—to a feast—”
“—I could do with some meat—”
Ralph held up his hand.
“Why shouldn't we get our own meat?”
The twins looked at each other. Bill answered.
“We don't want to go in the jungle.”
“He's a hunter. They're all hunters. That's different.”
No one spoke for a moment, then Piggy muttered to the sand.
The littluns sat, solemnly thinking of meat, and dribbling. Overhead
the cannon boomed again and the dry palm fronds clattered in a sudden
gust of hot wind.
“You are a silly little boy,” said the Lord of the Flies, “just an ignorant,
silly little boy.”
Simon moved his swollen tongue but said nothing.
“Don't you agree?” said the Lord of the Flies. “Aren't you just a silly
Simon answered him in the same silent voice.
“Well then,” said the Lord of the Flies, “you'd better run off and play
with the others. They think you're batty. You don't want Ralph to think
you're batty, do you? You like Ralph a lot, don't you? And Piggy, and
Simon's head was tilted slightly up. His eyes could not break away and
the Lord of the Flies hung in space before him.
“What are you doing out here all alone? Aren't you afraid of me?”
“There isn't anyone to help you. Only me. And I'm the Beast.”
Simon's mouth labored, brought forth audible words.
“Pig's head on a stick.”
“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!” said
the head. For a moment or two the forest and all the other dimly
appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn't you? I'm part of you? Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go? Why
things are what they are?”
The laughter shivered again.
“Come now,” said the Lord of the Flies. “Get back to the others and
we'll forget the whole thing.”
Simon's head wobbled. His eyes were half closed as though he were
imitating the obscene thing on the stick. He knew that one of his times
was coming on. The Lord of the Flies was expanding like a balloon.
“This is ridiculous. You know perfectly well you'll only meet me down
there—so don't try to escape!”
Simon's body was arched and stiff. The Lord of the Flies spoke in the
voice of a schoolmaster.
“This has gone quite far enough. My poor, misguided child, do you
think you know better than I do?”
There was a pause.
“I'm warning you. I'm going to get angry. D'you see? You're not
wanted. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island! So don't try it on, my
poor misguided boy, or else—”
Simon found he was looking into a vast mouth. There was blackness
within, a blackness that spread.
“—Or else,” said the Lord of the Flies, “we shall do you? See? Jack and
Roger and Maurice and Robert and Bill and Piggy and Ralph. Do you. See?”
Simon was inside the mouth. He fell down and lost consciousness.
9 A View to a Death
Over the island the build-up of clouds continued. A steady current of
heated air rose all day from the mountain and was thrust to ten thousand
feet; revolving masses of gas piled up the static until the air was ready to
explode. By early evening the sun had gone and a brassy glare had taken
the place of clear daylight. Even the air that pushed in from the sea was
hot and held no refreshment. Colors drained from water and trees and
pink surfaces of rock, and the white and brown clouds brooded. Nothing
prospered but the flies who blackened their lord and made the spilt guts
look like a heap of glistening coal. Even when the vessel broke in Simon's
nose and the blood gushed out they left him alone, preferring the pig's
With the running of the blood Simon's fit passed into the weariness of
sleep. He lay in the mat of creepers while the evening advanced and the
cannon continued to play. At last he woke and saw dimly the dark earth
close by his cheek. Still he did not move but lay there, his face sideways
on the earth, his eyes looking dully before him. Then he turned over,
drew his feet under him and laid hold of the creepers to pull himself up. When the creepers shook the flies exploded from the guts with a vicious
note and clamped back on again. Simon got to his feet. The light was
unearthly. The Lord of the Flies hung on his stick like a black ball.
Simon spoke aloud to the clearing.
“What else is there to do?”
Nothing replied. Simon turned away from the open space and crawled
through the creepers till he was in the dusk of the forest. He walked
drearily between the trunks, his face empty of expression, and the blood
was dry round his mouth and chin. Only sometimes as he lifted the ropes
of creeper aside and chose his direction from the trend of the land, he
mouthed words that did not reach the air.
Presently the creepers festooned the trees less frequently and there was
a scatter of pearly light from the sky down through the trees. This was
the backbone of the island, the slightly higher land that lay beneath the
mountain where the forest was no longer deep jungle. Here there were
wide spaces interspersed with thickets and huge trees and the trend of
the ground led him up as the forest opened. He pushed on, staggering
sometimes with his weariness but never stopping. The usual brightness
was gone from his eyes and he walked with a sort of glum determination
like an old man.
A buffet of wind made him stagger and he saw that he was out in the
open, on rock, under a brassy sky. He found his legs were weak and his
tongue gave him pain all the time. When the wind reached the mountain-top he could see something happen, a flicker of blue stuff against brown
clouds. He pushed himself forward and the wind came again, stronger
now, cuffing the forest heads till they ducked and roared. Simon saw a
humped thing suddenly sit up on the top and look down at him. He hid
his face, and toiled on.
The flies had found the figure too. The life-like movement would scare
them off for a moment so that they made a dark cloud round the head. Then as the blue material of the parachute collapsed the corpulent figure
would bow forward, sighing, and the flies settle once more.
Simon felt his knees smack the rock. He crawled forward and soon he
understood. The tangle of lines showed him the mechanics of this parody;
he examined the white nasal bones, the teeth, the colors of corruption. He saw how pitilessly the layers of rubber and canvas held together the
poor body that should be rotting away. Then the wind blew again and
the figure lifted, bowed, and breathed foully at him. Simon knelt on all
fours and was sick till his stomach was empty. Then he took the lines in
his hands; he freed them from the rocks and the figure from the wind's
At last he turned away and looked down at the beaches. The fire by
the platform appeared to be out, or at least making no smoke. Further
along the beach, beyond the little river and near a great slab of rock, a
thin trickle of smoke was climbing into the sky. Simon, forgetful of the
flies, shaded his eyes with both hands and peered at the smoke. Even
at that distance it was possible to see that most of the boys—perhaps all
of the boys—were there. So they had shifted camp then, away from the
beast. As Simon thought this, he turned to the poor broken thing that sat
stinking by his side. The beast was harmless and horrible; and the news
must reach the others as soon as possible. He started down the mountain
and his legs gave beneath him. Even with great care the best he could do
was a stagger.
“Bathing,” said Ralph, “that's the only thing to do.” Piggy was
inspecting the looming-sky through his glass. “I don't like them clouds. Remember how it rained just after we landed?”
“Going to rain again.”
Ralph dived into the pool. A couple of littluns were playing at the edge,
trying to extract comfort from a wetness warmer than blood. Piggy took
off his glasses, stepped primly into the water and then put them on again. Ralph came to the surface and squirted a jet of water at him.
“Mind my specs,” said Piggy. “If I get water on the glass I got to get out
and clean 'em.”
Ralph squirted again and missed. He laughed at Piggy, expecting him
to retire meekly as usual and in pained silence. Instead, Piggy beat the
water with his hands.
“Stop it!” he shouted. “D'you hear?”
Furiously he drove the water into Ralph's face.
“All right, all right,” said Ralph. “Keep your hair on.”
Piggy stopped beating the water.
“I got a pain in my head. I wish the air was cooler.”
“I wish the rain would come.”
“I wish we could go home.”
Piggy lay back against the sloping sand side of the pool. His stomach
protruded and the water dried on it. Ralph squinted up at the sky. One
could guess at the movement of the sun by the progress of a light patch
among the clouds. He knelt in the water and looked round.
Piggy sat up.
“P'raps they're lying in the shelter.”
Piggy pointed beyond the platform.
“That's where they've gone. Jack's party.”
“Let them go,” said Ralph, uneasily, “I don't care.”
“Just for some meat—”
“And for hunting,” said Ralph, wisely, “and for pretending to be a tribe,
and putting on war-paint.”
Piggy stirred the sand under water and did not look at Ralph.
“P'raps we ought to go too.”
Ralph looked at him quickly and Piggy blushed.
“I mean—to make sure nothing happens.”
Ralph squirted water again. Long before Ralph and Piggy came up with
Jack's lot, they could hear
the party. There was a stretch of grass in a place where the palms left
a wide band of turf between the forest and the shore. Just one step
down from the edge of the turf was the white, blown sand of above high
water, warm, dry, trodden. Below that again was a rock that stretched
away toward the lagoon. Beyond was a short stretch of sand and then
the edge of the water. A fire burned on the rock and fat dripped from
the roasting pigmeat into the invisible flames. All the boys of the island,
except Piggy, Ralph, Simon, and the two tending the pig, were grouped
on the turf. They were laughing, singing, lying, squatting, or standing
on the grass, holding food in their hands. But to judge by the greasy
faces, the meat eating was almost done; and some held coconut shells in
their hands and were drinking from them. Before the party had started a
great log had been dragged into the center of the lawn and Jack, painted
and garlanded, sat there like an idol. There were piles of meat on green
leaves near him, and fruit, and coconut shells full of drink.
Piggy and Ralph came to the edge of the grassy platform; and the boys,
as they noticed them, fell silent one by one till only the boy next to Jack
was talking. Then the silence intruded even there and Jack turned where
he sat. For a time he looked at them and the crackle of the fire was the
loudest noise over the droning of the reef. Ralph looked away; and Sam,
thinking that Ralph had turned to him accusingly, put down his gnawed
bone with a nervous giggle. Ralph took an uncertain step, pointed to a
palm tree, and whispered something inaudible to Piggy; and they both
giggled like Sam. Lifting his feet high out of the sand, Ralph started to
stroll past. Piggy tried to whistle.
At this moment the boys who were cooking at the fire suddenly hauled
off a great chunk of meat and ran with it toward the grass. They bumped
Piggy, who was burnt, and yelled and danced. Immediately, Ralph and
the crowd of boys were united and relieved by a storm of laughter. Piggy
once more was the center of social derision so that everyone felt cheerful
Jack stood up and waved his spear.
“Take them some meat.”
The boys with the spit gave Ralph and Piggy each a succulent chunk. They took the gift, dribbling. So they stood and ate beneath a sky of
thunderous brass that rang with the storm-coming.
Jack waved his spear again.
“Has everybody eaten as much as they want?”
There was still food left, sizzling on the wooden spits, heaped on the
green platters. Betrayed by his stomach, Piggy threw a picked bone down
on the beach and stooped for more.
Jack spoke again, impatiently.
“Has everybody eaten as much as they want?”
His tone conveyed a warning, given out of the pride of ownership, and
the boys ate faster while there was still time. Seeing there was no
immediate likelihood of a pause, Jack rose from the log that was his throne
and sauntered to the edge of the grass. He looked down from behind his
paint at Ralph and Piggy. They moved a little farther off over the sand
and Ralph watched the fire as he ate. He noticed, without understanding,
how the flames were visible now against the dull light. Evening was
come, not with calm beauty but with the threat of violence.
“Give me a drink.”
Henry brought him a shell and he drank, watching Piggy and Ralph
over the jagged rim. Power lay in the brown swell of his forearms:
authority sat on his shoulder and chattered in his ear like an ape.
“All sit down.”
The boys ranged themselves in rows on the grass before him but Ralph
and Piggy stayed a foot lower, standing on the soft sand. Jack ignored
them for the moment, turned his mask down to the seated boys and
pointed at them with the spear.
“Who's going to join my tribe?”
Ralph made a sudden movement that became a stumble. Some of the
boys turned toward him.
“I gave you food,” said Jack, “and my hunters will protect you from the
beast. Who will join my tribe?”
“I'm chief,” said Ralph, “because you chose me. And we were going to
keep the fire going. Now you run after food—”
“You ran yourself!” shouted Jack. “Look at that bone in your hands!”
Ralph went crimson.
“I said you were hunters. That was your job.”
Jack ignored him again.
“Who'll join my tribe and have fun?”
“I'm chief,” said Ralph tremulously. “And what about the fire? And I've
got the conch.”
“You haven't got it with you,” said Jack, sneering. “You left it behind. See, clever? And the conch doesn't count at this end of the island—”
All at once the thunder struck. Instead of the dull boom there was a
point of impact in the explosion.
“The conch counts here too,” said Ralph, “and all over the island.”
“What are you going to do about it then?”
Ralph examined the ranks of boys. There was no help in them and he
looked away, confused and sweating. Piggy whispered.
“Who'll join my tribe?”
“I'll blow the conch,” said Ralph breathlessly, “and call an assembly.”
“We shan't hear it.”
Piggy touched Ralph's wrist.
“Come away. There's going to be trouble. And we've had our meat.”
There was a blink of bright light beyond the forest and the thunder
exploded again so that a littlun started to whine. Big drops of rain fell
among them making individual sounds when they struck.
“Going to be a storm,” said Ralph, “and you'll have rain like when we
dropped here. Who's clever now? Where are your shelters? What are
you going to do about that?”
The hunters were looking uneasily at the sky, flinching from the stroke
of the drops. A wave of restlessness set the boys swaying and moving
aimlessly. The flickering light became brighter and the blows of the thunder
were only just bearable. The littluns began to run about, screaming.
Jack leapt on to the sand.
“Do our dance! Come on! Dance!”
He ran stumbling through the thick sand to the open space of rock
beyond the fire. Between the flashes of lightning the air was dark and
terrible; and the boys followed him, clamorously. Roger became the pig,
grunting and charging at Jack, who side-stepped. The hunters took their
spears, the cooks took spits, and the rest clubs of firewood. A circling
movement developed and a chant. While Roger mimed the terror of the
pig, the littluns ran and jumped on the outside of the circle. Piggy and
Ralph, under the threat of the sky, found themselves eager to take a place
in this demented but partly secure society. They were glad to touch the
brown backs of the fence that hemmed in the terror and made it
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”
The movement became regular while the chant lost its first superficial
excitement and began to beat like a steady pulse. Roger ceased to be a
pig and became a hunter, so that the center of the ring yawned emptily. Some of the littluns started a ring on their own; and the complementary
circles went round and round as though repetition would achieve safety
of itself. There was the throb and stamp of a single organism.
The dark sky was shattered by a blue-white scar. An instant later the
noise was on them like the blow of a gigantic whip. The chant rose a tone
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”
Now out of the terror rose another desire, thick, urgent, blind.
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”
Again the blue-white scar jagged above them and the sulphurous
explosion beat down. The littluns screamed and blundered about, fleeing
from the edge of the forest, and one of them broke the ring of biguns in
The circle became a horseshoe. A thing was crawling out of the forest. It came darkly, uncertainly. The shrill screaming that rose before the beast
was like a pain. The beast stumbled into the horseshoe.
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”
The blue-white scar was constant, the noise unendurable. Simon was
crying out something about a dead man on a hill.
“Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood! Do him in!”
The sticks fell and the mouth of the new circle crunched and screamed. The beast was on its knees in the center, its arms folded over its face. It
was crying out against the abominable noise something about a body on
the hill. The beast struggled forward, broke the ring and fell over the
steep edge of the rock to the sand by the water. At once the crowd surged
after it, poured down the rock, leapt on to the beast, screamed, struck,
bit, tore. There were no words, and no movements but the tearing of
teeth and claws.
Then the clouds opened and let down the rain like a waterfall. The
water bounded from the mountain-top, tore leaves and branches from
the trees, poured like a cold shower over the struggling heap on the sand. Presently the heap broke up and figures staggered away. Only the beast
lay still, a few yards from the sea. Even in the rain they could see how
small a beast it was; and already its blood was staining the sand.
Now a great wind blew the rain sideways, cascading the water from
the forest trees. On the mountain-top the parachute filled and moved;
the figure slid, rose to its feet, spun, swayed down through a vastness of
wet air and trod with ungainly feet the tops of the high trees; falling, still
falling, it sank toward the beach and the boys rushed screaming into the
darkness. The parachute took the figure forward, furrowing the lagoon,
and bumped it over the reef and out to sea.
Towards midnight the rain ceased and the clouds drifted away, so that
the sky was scattered once more with the incredible lamps of stars. Then
the breeze died too and there was no noise save the drip and trickle of
water that ran out of clefts and spilled down, leaf by leaf, to the brown
earth of the island. The air was cool, moist, and clear; and presently even
the sound of the water was still. The beast lay huddled on the pale beach
and the stains spread, inch by inch.
The edge of the lagoon became a streak of phosphorescence which
advanced minutely, as the great wave of the tide flowed. The clear water
mirrored the clear sky and the angular bright constellations. The line of
phosphorescence bulged about the sand grains and little pebbles; it held
them each in a dimple of tension, then suddenly accepted them with an
inaudible syllable and moved on.
Along the shoreward edge of the shallows the advancing clearness was
full of strange, moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes. Here and
there a larger pebble clung to its own air and was covered with a coat
of pearls. The tide swelled in over the rain-pitted sand and smoothed
everything with a layer of silver. Now it touched the first of the stains
that seeped from the broken body and the creatures made a moving patch
of light as they gathered at the edge. The water rose farther and dressed
Simon's coarse hair with brightness. The line of his cheek silvered and the
turn of his shoulder became sculptured marble. The strange attendant
creatures, with their fiery eyes and trailing vapors, busied themselves
round his head. The body lifted a fraction of an inch from the sand and
a bubble of air escaped from the mouth with a wet plop. Then it turned
gently in the water.
Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon
were pulling, and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging
slightly on one side while the solid core turned. The great wave of the tide
moved farther along the island and the water lifted. Softly, surrounded
by a fringe of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the
steadfast constellations, Simon's dead body moved out toward the open
10 The Shell and the Glasses
Piggy eyed the advancing figure carefully. Nowadays he sometimes found
that he saw more clearly if he removed his glasses and shifted the one
lens to the other eye; but even through the good eye, after what had
happened, Ralph remained unmistakably Ralph. He came now out of the
coconut trees, limping, dirty, with dead leaves hanging from his shock of
yellow hair. One eye was a slit in his puffy cheek and a great scab had
formed on his right knee. He paused for a moment and peered at the
figure on the platform.
“Piggy? Are you the only one left?”
“There's some littluns.”
“They don't count. No biguns?”
“Oh—Samneric. They're collecting wood.”
“Not that I know of.”
Ralph climbed on to the platform carefully. The coarse grass was still
worn away where the assembly used to sit; the fragile white conch still
gleamed by the polished seat. Ralph sat down in the grass facing the
chief's seat and the conch. Piggy knelt at his left, and for a long minute
there was silence.
At last Ralph cleared his throat and whispered something.
Piggy whispered back.
“What you say?”
Ralph spoke up.
Piggy said nothing but nodded, solemnly. They continued to sit, gazing
with impaired sight at the chief's seat and the glittering lagoon. The
green light and the glossy patches of sunshine played over their befouled
At length Ralph got up and went to the conch. He took the shell ca-
ressingly with both hands and knelt, leaning against the trunk.
“What we going to do?”
Piggy nodded at the conch.
“Call an assembly?”
Ralph laughed sharply as he said the word and Piggy frowned.
“You're still chief.”
Ralph laughed again.
“You are. Over us.”
“I got the conch.”
“Ralph! Stop laughing like that. Look, there ain't no need, Ralph! What's the others going to think?”
At last Ralph stopped. He was shivering.
“That was Simon.”
“You said that before.”
“That was murder.”
“You stop it!” said Piggy, shrilly. “What good're you doing talking like
He jumped to his feet and stood over Ralph.
“It was dark. There was that—that bloody dance. There was lightning
and thunder and rain. We was scared!”
“I wasn't scared,” said Ralph slowly, “I was—I don't know what I was.”
“We was scared!” said Piggy excitedly. “Anything might have happened. It wasn't—what you said.”
He was gesticulating, searching for a formula.
Ralph's voice, low and stricken, stopped Piggy's gestures. He bent
down and waited. Ralph, cradling the conch, rocked himself to and fro.
“Don't you understand, Piggy? The things we did—”
“He may still be—”
“P'raps he was only pretending—”
Piggy's voice trailed off at the sight of Ralph's face.
“You were outside. Outside the circle. You never really came in. Didn't
you see what we—what they did?”
There was loathing, and at the same time a kind of feverish excitement,
in his voice.
“Didn't you see, Piggy?”
“Not all that well. I only got one eye now. You ought to know that,
Ralph continued to rock to and fro.
“It was an accident,” said Piggy suddenly, “that's what it was. An
accident.” His voice shrilled again. “Coming in the dark—he hadn't no
business crawling like that out of the dark. He was batty. He asked for
it.” He gesticulated widely again. “It was an accident.”
“You didn't see what they did—”
“Look, Ralph. We got to forget this. We can't do no good thinking
about it, see?”
“I'm frightened. Of us. I want to go home. Oh God, I want to go home.”
“It was an accident,” said Piggy stubbornly, “and that's that.”
He touched Ralph's bare shoulder and Ralph shuddered at the human
“And look, Ralph”—Piggy glanced round quickly, then leaned close—
“don't let on we was in that dance. Not to Samneric.”
“But we were! All of us!”
Piggy shook his head.
“Not us till last. They never noticed in the dark. Anyway you said I was
only on the outside.”
“So was I,” muttered Ralph, “I was on the outside too.”
Piggy nodded eagerly.
“That's right. We was on the outside. We never done nothing, we never
Piggy paused, then went on.
“We'll live on our own, the four of us—”
“Four of us. We aren't enough to keep the fire burning.”
“We'll try. See? I lit it.”
Samneric came dragging a great log out of the forest. They dumped it
by the fire and turned to the pool. Ralph jumped to his feet.
“Hi! You two!”
The twins checked a moment, then walked on.
“They're going to bathe, Ralph.”
“Better get it over.”
The twins were very surprised to see Ralph. They flushed and looked
past him into the air.
“Hullo. Fancy meeting you, Ralph.”
“We just been in the forest—”
“—to get wood for the fire—”
“—we got lost last night.”
Ralph examined his toes.
“You got lost after the…”
Piggy cleaned his lens.
“After the feast,” said Sam in a stifled voice. Eric nodded. “Yes, after
“We left early,” said Piggy quickly, “because we were tired.”
“So did we—”
“—we were very tired.”
Sam touched a scratch on his forehead and then hurriedly took his
hand away. Eric fingered his split lip.
“Yes. We were very tired,” repeated Sam, “so we left early. Was it a
The air was heavy with unspoken knowledge. Sam twisted and the
obscene word shot out of him. “—dance?”
Memory of the dance that none of them had attended shook all four
“We left early.”
When Roger came to the neck of land that joined the Castle Rock to
the mainland he was not surprised to be challenged. He had reckoned,
during the terrible night, on finding at least some of the tribe holding out
against the horrors of the island in the safest place.
The voice rang out sharply from on high, where the diminishing crags
were balanced one on another.
“Halt! Who goes there?”
“You could see who I was.”
“The chief said we got to challenge everyone.”
Roger peered up.
“You couldn't stop me coming if I wanted.”
“Couldn't I? Climb up and see.”
Roger clambered up the ladder-like cliff.
“Look at this.”
A log had been jammed under the topmost rock and another lever under
that. Robert leaned lightly on the lever and the rock groaned. A full
effort would send the rock thundering down to the neck of land. Roger
“He's a proper chief, isn't he?”
“He's going to take us hunting.”
He jerked his head in the direction of the distant shelters where a
thread of white smoke climbed up the sky. Roger, sitting on the very
edge of the cliff, looked somberly back at the island as he worked with
his fingers at a loose tooth. His gaze settled on the top of the distant
mountain and Robert changed the unspoken subject.
“He's going to beat Wilfred.”
Robert shook his head doubtfully.
“I don't know. He didn't say. He got angry and made us tie Wilfred up. He's been”—he giggled excitedly—“he's been tied for hours, waiting—”
“But didn't the chief say why?”
“I never heard him.”
Sitting on the tremendous rock in the torrid sun, Roger received this
news as an illumination. He ceased to work at his tooth and sat still,
assimilating the possibilities of irresponsible authority. Then, without
another word, he climbed down the back of the rocks toward the cave
and the rest of the tribe.
The chief was sitting there, naked to the waist, his face blocked out
in white and red. The tribe lay in a semicircle before him. The newly
beaten and untied Wilfred was sniffing noisily in the background. Roger
squatted with the rest.
“Tomorrow,” went on the chief, “we shall hunt again.”
He pointed at this savage and that with his spear.
“Some of you will stay here to improve the cave and defend the gate. I
shall take a few hunters with me and bring back meat. The defenders of
the gate will see that the others don't sneak in.”
A savage raised his hand and the chief turned a bleak, painted face
“Why should they try to sneak in, Chief?”
The chief was vague but earnest.
“They will. They'll try to spoil things we do. So the watchers at the
gate must be careful. And then—”
The chief paused. They saw a triangle of startling pink dart out, pass
along his lips and vanish again.
“—and then, the beast might try to come in. You remember how he
The semicircle shuddered and muttered in agreement.
“He came—disguised. He may come again even though we gave him
the head of our kill to eat. So watch; and be careful.”
Stanley lifted his forearm off the rock and held up an interrogative
“But didn't we, didn't we—?”
He squirmed and looked down.
In the silence that followed, each savage flinched away from his
“No! How could we—kill—it?”
Half-relieved, half-daunted by the implication of further terrors, the
savages murmured again.
“So leave the mountain alone,” said the chief, solemnly, “and give it the
head if you go hunting.”
Stanley flicked his finger again.
“I expect the beast disguised itself.”
“Perhaps,” said the chief. A theological speculation presented itself. “We'd better keep on the right side of him, anyhow. You can't tell what
he might do.”
The tribe considered this; and then were shaken, as if by a flow of
wind. The chief saw the effect of his words and stood abruptly.
“But tomorrow we'll hunt and when we've got meat we'll have a feast—”
Bill put up his hand.
“What'll we use for lighting the fire?”
The chief's blush was hidden by the white and red clay. Into his
uncertain silence the tribe spilled their murmur once more. Then the chief
held up his hand.
“We shall take fire from the others. Listen. Tomorrow we'll hunt and
get meat. Tonight I'll go along with two hunters—who'll come?”
Maurice and Roger put up their hands.
“Where was their fire?”
“Back at the old place by the fire rock.”
The chief nodded.
“The rest of you can go to sleep as soon as the sun sets. But us three,
Maurice, Roger and me, we've got work to do. We'll leave just before
Maurice put up his hand.
“But what happens if we meet—”
The chief waved his objection aside.
“We'll keep along by the sands. Then if he comes we'll do our, our
“Only the three of us?”
Again the murmur swelled and died away.
Piggy handed Ralph his glasses and waited to receive back his sight. The wood was damp; and this was the third time they had lighted it. Ralph stood back, speaking to himself.
“We don't want another night without fire.”
He looked round guiltily at the three boys standing by. This was the
first time he had admitted the double function of the fire. Certainly one
was to send up a beckoning column of smoke; but the other was to be
a hearth now and a comfort until they slept. Eric breathed on the wood
till it glowed and sent out a little flame. A billow of white and yellow
smoke reeked up. Piggy took back his glasses and looked at the smoke
“If only we could make a radio!”
“Or a plane—”
“—or a boat.”
Ralph dredged in his fading knowledge of the world.
“We might get taken prisoner by the Reds.”
Eric pushed back his hair.
“They'd be better than—”
He would not name people and Sam finished the sentence for him by
nodding along the beach.
Ralph remembered the ungainly figure on a parachute.
“He said something about a dead man.” He flushed painfully at this
admission that he had been present at the dance. He made urging motions
at the smoke and with his body. “Don't stop—go on up!”
“Smoke's getting thinner.”
“We need more wood already, even when it's wet.”
The response was mechanical.
“Sucks to your ass-mar.”
“If I pull logs, I get my asthma bad. I wish I didn't, Ralph, but there it
The three boys went into the forest and fetched armfuls of rotten wood. Once more the smoke rose, yellow and thick.
“Let's get something to eat.”
Together they went to the fruit trees, carrying their spears, saying little,
cramming in haste. When they came out of the forest again the sun was
setting and only embers glowed in the fire, and there was no smoke.
“I can't carry any more wood,” said Eric. “I'm tired.”
Ralph cleared his throat.
“We kept the fire going up there.”
“Up there it was small. But this has got to be a big one.”
Ralph carried a fragment to the fire and watched the smoke that drifted
into the dusk.
“We've got to keep it going.”
Eric flung himself down.
“I'm too tired. And what's the good?”
“Eric!” cried Ralph in a shocked voice. “Don't talk like that!”
Sam knelt by Eric.
“Well—what is the good?”
Ralph tried indignantly to remember. There was something good about
a fire. Something overwhelmingly good.
“Ralph's told you often enough,” said Piggy moodily. “How else are we
going to be rescued?”
“Of course! If we don't make smoke—”
He squatted before them in the crowding dusk.
“Don't you understand? What's the good of wishing for radios and
He held out his hand and twisted the fingers into a fist.
“There's only one thing we can do to get out of this mess. Anyone can
play at hunting, anyone can get us meat—”
He looked from face to face. Then, at the moment of greatest passion
and conviction, that curtain flapped in his head and he forgot what he
had been driving at. He knelt there, his fist clenched, gazing solemnly
from one to the other. Then the curtain whisked back.
“Oh, yes. So we've got to make smoke; and more smoke—”
“But we can't keep it going! Look at that!”
The fire was dying on them.
“Two to mind the fire,” said Ralph, half to himself, “that's twelve hours
“We can't get any more wood, Ralph—”
“—not in the dark—”
“—not at night—”
“We can light it every morning,” said Piggy. “Nobody ain't going to see
smoke in the dark.”
Sam nodded vigorously.
“It was different when the fire was—”
Ralph stood up, feeling curiously defenseless with the darkness
“Let the fire go then, for tonight.”
He led the way to the first shelter, which still stood, though battered. The bed leaves lay within, dry and noisy to the touch. In the next shelter
a littlun was talking in his sleep. The four biguns crept into the shelter
and burrowed under the leaves. The twins lay together and Ralph and
Piggy at the other end. For a while there was the continual creak and
rustle of leaves as they tried for comfort.
At length, save for an occasional rustle, the shelter was silent. An
oblong of blackness relieved with brilliant spangles hung before them and
there was the hollow sound of surf on the reef. Ralph settled himself for
his nightly game of supposing…
Supposing they could be transported home by jet, then before morning
they would land at that big airfield in Wiltshire. They would go by car;
no, for things to be perfect they would go by train; all the way down to
Devon and take that cottage again. Then at the foot of the garden the
wild ponies would come and look over the wall…
Ralph turned restlessly in the leaves. Dartmoor was wild and so were
the ponies. But the attraction of wildness had gone.
His mind skated to a consideration of a tamed town where savagery
could not set foot. What could be safer than the bus center with its lamps
All at once, Ralph was dancing round a lamp standard. There was a
bus crawling out of the bus station, a strange bus…
“What is it?”
“Don't make a noise like that—”
From the darkness of the further end of the shelter came a dreadful
moaning and they shattered the leaves in their fear. Sam and Eric, locked
in an embrace, were fighting each other.
Presently all was quiet again.
Piggy spoke softly to Ralph.
“We got to get out of this.”
“What d'you mean?”
For the first time that day, and despite the crowding blackness, Ralph
“I mean it,” whispered Piggy. “If we don't get home soon we'll be
“Round the bend.”
Ralph pushed the damp tendrils of hair out of his eyes.
“You write a letter to your auntie.”
Piggy considered this solemnly.
“I don't know where she is now. And I haven't got an envelope and a
stamp. An' there isn't a mailbox. Or a postman.”
The success of his tiny joke overcame Ralph. His sniggers became
uncontrollable, his body jumped and twitched.
Piggy rebuked him with dignity.
“I haven't said anything all that funny.”
Ralph continued to snigger though his chest hurt. His twitchings
exhausted him till he lay, breathless and woebegone, waiting for the next
spasm. During one of these pauses he was ambushed by sleep.
“Ralph! You been making a noise again. Do be quiet, Ralph—because.”
Ralph heaved over among the leaves. He had reason to be thankful that
his dream was broken, for the bus had been nearer and more distinct.
“Be quiet—and listen.”
Ralph lay down carefully, to the accompaniment of a long sigh from
the leaves. Eric moaned something and then lay still. The darkness, save
for the useless oblong of stars, was blanket-thick.
“I can't hear anything.”
“There's something moving outside.”
Ralph's head prickled. The sound of his blood drowned all else and
“I still can't hear anything.”
“Listen. Listen for a long time.”
Quite clearly and emphatically, and only a yard or so away from the
back of the shelter, a stick cracked. The blood roared again in Ralph's
ears, confused images chased each other through his mind. A composite
of these things was prowling round the shelters. He could feel Piggy's
head against his shoulder and the convulsive grip of a hand.
“Shut up and listen.”
Desperately, Ralph prayed that the beast would prefer littluns.
A voice whispered horribly outside.
“It's come!” gasped Piggy. “It's real!”
He clung to Ralph and reached to get his breath.
“Piggy, come outside. I want you, Piggy.”
Ralph's mouth was against Piggy's ear.
“Don't say anything.”
“Piggy—where are you, Piggy?”
Something brushed against the back of the shelter. Piggy kept still for a
moment, then he had his asthma. He arched his back and crashed among
the leaves with his legs. Ralph rolled away from him.
Then there was a vicious snarling in the mouth of the shelter and the
plunge and thump of living things. Someone tripped over Ralph and
Piggy's corner became a complication of snarls and crashes and flying
limbs. Ralph hit out; then he and what seemed like a dozen others were
rolling over and over, hitting, biting, scratching. He was torn and jolted,
found fingers in his mouth and bit them. A fist withdrew and came back
like a piston, so that the whole shelter exploded into light. Ralph twisted
sideways on top of a writhing body and felt hot breath on his cheek. He
began to pound the mouth below him, using his clenched fist as a hammer;
he hit with more and more passionate hysteria as the face became
slippery. A knee jerked up between his legs and he fell sideways, busying
himself with his pain, and the fight rolled over him. Then the shelter
collapsed with smothering finality; and the anonymous shapes fought their
way out and through. Dark figures drew themselves out of the wreckage
and flitted away, till the screams of the littluns and Piggy's gasps were
once more audible.
Ralph called out in a quavering voice.
“All you littluns, go to sleep. We've had a fight with the others. Now go
Samneric came close and peered at Ralph.
“Are you two all right?”
“I think so—”
“—I got busted.”
“So did I. How's Piggy?”
They hauled Piggy clear of the wreckage and leaned him against a tree. The night was cool and purged of immediate terror. Piggy's breathing was
a little easier.
“Did you get hurt, Piggy?”
“That was Jack and his hunters,” said Ralph bitterly. “Why can't they
leave us alone?”
“We gave them something to think about,” said Sam. Honesty compelled
him to go on. “At least you did. I got mixed up with myself in a
“I gave one of 'em what for,” said Ralph, “I smashed him up all right. He won't want to come and fight us again in a hurry.”
“So did I,” said Eric. “When I woke up one was kicking me in the face. I got an awful bloody face, I think, Ralph. But I did him in the end.”
“What did you do?”
“I got my knee up,” said Eric with simple pride, “and I hit him with it
in the pills. You should have heard him holler! He won't come back in a
hurry either. So we didn't do too badly.”
Ralph moved suddenly in the dark; but then he heard Eric working his
“What's the matter?”
“Jus' a tooth loose.”
Piggy drew up his legs.
“You all right, Piggy?”
“I thought they wanted the conch.”
Ralph trotted down the pale beach and jumped on to the platform. The
conch still glimmered by the chief's seat. He gazed for a moment or two,
then went back to Piggy.
“They didn't take the conch.”
“I know. They didn't come for the conch. They came for something
else. Ralph—what am I going to do?”
Far off along the bowstave of beach, three figures trotted toward the
Castle Rock. They kept away from the forest and down by the water. Occasionally they sang softly; occasionally they turned cartwheels down
by the moving streak of phosphorescence. The chief led then, trotting
steadily, exulting in his achievement. He was a chief now in truth; and he
made stabbing motions with his spear. From his left hand dangled Piggy's
11 Castle Rock
In the short chill of dawn the four boys gathered round the black smudge
where the fire had been, while Ralph knelt and blew. Grey, feathery
ashes scurried hither and thither at his breath but no spark shone among
them. The twins watched anxiously and Piggy sat expressionless behind
the luminous wall of his myopia. Ralph continued to blow till his ears
were singing with the effort, but then the first breeze of dawn took the
job off his hands and blinded him with ashes. He squatted back, swore,
and rubbed water out of his eyes.
Eric looked down at him through a mask of dried blood. Piggy peered
in the general direction of Ralph.
“'Course it's no use, Ralph. Now we got no fire.”
Ralph brought his face within a couple of feet of Piggy's.
“Can you see me?”
Ralph allowed the swollen flap of his cheek to close his eye again.
“They've got our fire.”
Rage shrilled his voice.
“They stole it!”
“That's them,” said Piggy. “They blinded me. See? That's Jack Merridew. You call an assembly, Ralph, we got to decide what to do.”
“An assembly for only us?”
“It's all we got. Sam—let me hold on to you.”
They went toward the platform.
“Blow the conch,” said Piggy. “Blow as loud as you can.”
The forests re-echoed; and birds lifted, crying out of the treetops, as
on that first morning ages ago. Both ways the beach was deserted. Some
littluns came from the shelters. Ralph sat down on the polished trunk and
the three others stood before him. He nodded, and Samneric sat down
on the right. Ralph pushed the conch into Piggy's hands. He held the
shining thing carefully and blinked at Ralph.
“Go on, then.”
“I just take the conch to say this. I can't see no more and I got to get
my glasses back. Awful things has been done on this island. I voted for
you for chief. He's the only one who ever got anything done. So now you
speak, Ralph, and tell us what. Or else—”
Piggy broke off, sniveling. Ralph took back the conch as he sat down.
“Just an ordinary fire. You'd think we could do that, wouldn't you? Just
a smoke signal so we can be rescued. Are we savages or what? Only now
there's no signal going up. Ships may be passing. Do you remember how
he went hunting and the fire went out and a ship passed by? And they
all think he's best as chief. Then there was, there was… that's his fault,
too. If it hadn't been for him it would never have happened. Now Piggy
can't see, and they came, stealing—” Ralph's voice ran up “—at night,
in darkness, and stole our fire. They stole it. We'd have given them fire
if they'd asked. But they stole it and the signal's out and we can't ever
be rescued. Don't you see what I mean? We'd have given them fire for
themselves only they stole it. I—”
He paused lamely as the curtain flickered in his brain. Piggy held out
his hands for the conch.
“What you goin' to do, Ralph? This is jus' talk without deciding. I want
“I'm trying to think. Supposing we go, looking like we used to, washed
and hair brushed—after all we aren't savages really and being rescued
isn't a game—”
He opened the flap of his cheek and looked at the twins.
“We could smarten up a bit and then go—”
“We ought to take spears,” said Sam. “Even Piggy.”
“—because we may need them.”
“You haven't got the conch!”
Piggy held up the shell.
“You can take spears if you want but I shan't. What's the good? I'll
have to be led like a dog, anyhow. Yes, laugh. Go on, laugh. There's them
on this island as would laugh at anything. And what happened? What's
grown-ups goin' to think? Young Simon was murdered. And there was
that other kid what had a mark on his face. Who's seen him since we first
“Piggy! Stop a minute!”
“I got the conch. I'm going to that Jack Merridew an' tell him, I am.”
“You'll get hurt.”
“What can he do more than he has? I'll tell him what's what. You let
me carry the conch, Ralph. I'll show him the one thing he hasn't got.”
Piggy paused for a moment and peered round at the dim figures. The
shape of the old assembly, trodden in the grass, listened to him.
“I'm going to him with this conch in my hands. I'm going to hold it
out. Look, I'm goin' to say, you're stronger than I am and you haven't got
asthma. You can see, I'm goin' to say, and with both eyes. But I don't ask
for my glasses back, not as a favor. I don't ask you to be a sport, I'll say,
not because you're strong, but because what's right's right. Give me my
glasses, I'm going to say—you got to!”
Piggy ended, flushed and trembling. He pushed the conch quickly into
Ralph's hands as though in a hurry to be rid of it and wiped the tears
from his eyes. The green light was gentle about them and the conch lay
at Ralph's feet, fragile and white. A single drop of water that had escaped
Piggy's fingers now flashed on the delicate curve like a star.
At last Ralph sat up straight and drew back his hair.
“All right. I mean—you can try if you like. We'll go with you.”
“He'll be painted,” said Sam, timidly. “You know how he'll be—”
“—he won't think much of us—”
“—if he gets waxy we've had it—”
Ralph scowled at Sam. Dimly he remembered something Simon had
said to him once, by the rocks.
“Don't be silly,” he said. And then he added quickly, “Let's go.”
He held out the conch to Piggy who flushed, this time with pride.
“You must carry it.”
“When we're ready I'll carry it—”
Piggy sought in his mind for words to convey his passionate willingness
to carry the conch against all odds.
“I don't mind. I'll be glad, Ralph, only I'll have to be led.”
Ralph put the conch back on the shining log.
“We better eat and then get ready.”
They made their way to the devastated fruit trees. Piggy was helped to
his food and found some by touch. While they ate, Ralph thought of the
“We'll be like we were. We'll wash—”
Sam gulped down a mouthful and protested.
“But we bathe every day!”
Ralph looked at the filthy objects before him and sighed.
“We ought to comb our hair. Only it's too long.”
“I've got both socks left in the shelter,” said Eric, “so we could pull them
over our heads like caps, sort of.”
“We could find some stuff,” said Piggy, “and tie your hair back.”
“Like a girl!”
“No. 'Course not.”
“Then we must go as we are,” said Ralph, “and they won't be any
Eric made a detaining gesture.
“But they'll be painted! You know how it is.”
The others nodded. They understood only too well the liberation into
savagery that the concealing paint brought.
“Well, we won't be painted,” said Ralph, “because we aren't savages.”
Samneric looked at each other.
“All the same—”
He tried to remember.
“Smoke,” he said, “we want smoke.”
He turned on the twins fiercely.
“I said 'smoke'! We've got to have smoke.”
There was silence, except for the multitudinous murmur of the bees. As last Piggy spoke, kindly.
“'Course we have. 'Cos the smoke's a signal and we can't be rescued if
we don't have smoke.”
“I knew that!” shouted Ralph. He pulled his arm away from Piggy. “Are
“I'm jus' saying what you always say,” said Piggy hastily. “I'd thought
for a moment—”
“I hadn't,” said Ralph loudly. “I knew it all the time. I hadn't forgotten.”
Piggy nodded propitiatingly.
“You're chief, Ralph. You remember everything.”
“I hadn't forgotten.”
The twins were examining Ralph curiously, as though they were seeing
him for the first time.
They set off along the beach in formation. Ralph went first, limping a
little, his spear carried over one shoulder. He saw things partially, through
the tremble of the heat haze over the flashing sands, and his own long
hair and injuries. Behind him came the twins, worried now for a while
but full of unquenchable vitality. They said little but trailed the butts
of their wooden spears; for Piggy had found that, by looking down and
shielding his tired sight from the sun, he could just see these moving
along the sand. He walked between the trailing butts, therefore, the
conch held carefully between his two hands. The boys made a compact
little group that moved over the beach, four plate-like shadows dancing
and mingling beneath them. There was no sign left of the storm, and the
beach was swept clean like a blade that has been scoured. The sky and
the mountain were at an immense distance, shimmering in the heat; and
the reef was lifted by mirage, floating in a kind of silver pool halfway up
They passed the place where the tribe had danced. The charred sticks
still lay on the rocks where the rain had quenched them but the sand by
the water was smooth again. They passed this in silence. No one doubted
that the tribe would be found at the Castle Rock and when they came in
sight of it they stopped with one accord. The densest tangle on the island,
a mass of twisted stems, black and green and impenetrable, lay on their
left and tall grass swayed before them. Now Ralph went forward.
Here was the crushed grass where they had all lain when he had gone
to prospect. There was the neck of land, the ledge skirting the rock, up
there were the red pinnacles.
Sam touched his arm.
There was a tiny smudge of smoke wavering into the air on the other
side of the rock.
“Some fire—I don't think.”
“What are we hiding for?”
He stepped through the screen of grass on to the little open space that
led to the narrow neck.
“You two follow behind. I'll go first, then Piggy a pace behind me. Keep
your spears ready.”
Piggy peered anxiously into the luminous veil that hung between him
and the world.
“Is it safe? Ain't there a cliff? I can hear the sea.”
“You keep right close to me.”
Ralph moved forward on to the neck. He kicked a stone and it bounded
into the water. Then the sea sucked down, revealing a red, weedy square
forty feet beneath Ralph's left arm.
“Am I safe?” quavered Piggy. “I feel awful—”
High above them from the pinnacles came a sudden shout and then an
imitation war-cry that was answered by a dozen voices from behind the
“Give me the conch and stay still.”
“Halt! Who goes there?”
Ralph bent back his head and glimpsed Roger's dark face at the top.
“You can see who I am!” he shouted. “Stop being silly!”
He put the conch to his lips and began to blow. Savages appeared,
painted out of recognition, edging round the ledge toward the neck. They
carried spears and disposed themselves to defend the entrance. Ralph
went on blowing and ignored Piggy's terrors.
Roger was shouting.
“You mind out—see?”
At length Ralph took his lips away and paused to get his breath back. His first words were a gasp, but audible.
“—calling an assembly.”
The savages guarding the neck muttered among themselves but made
no motion. Ralph walked forwards a couple of steps. A voice whispered
urgently behind him.
“Don't leave me, Ralph.”
“You kneel down,” said Ralph sideways, “and wait till I come back.”
He stood half-way along the neck and gazed at the savages intently. Freed by the paint, they had tied their hair back and were more
comfortable than he was. Ralph made a resolution to tie his own back
afterwards. Indeed he felt like telling them to wait and doing it there
and then; but that was impossible. The savages sniggered a bit and one gestured at
Ralph with his spear. High above, Roger took his hands off the lever and
leaned out to see what was going on. The boys on the neck stood in a
pool of their own shadow, diminished to shaggy heads. Piggy crouched,
his back shapeless as a sack.
“I'm calling an assembly.”
Roger took up a small stone and flung it between the twins, aiming to
miss. They started and Sam only just kept his footing. Some source of
power began to pulse in Roger's body.
Ralph spoke again, loudly.
“I'm calling an assembly.”
He ran his eye over them.
The group of boys stirred and consulted. A painted face spoke with the
voice of Robert.
“He's hunting. And he said we weren't to let you in.”
“I've come to see about the fire,” said Ralph, “and about Piggy's specs.”
The group in front of him shifted and laughter shivered outwards from
among them, light, excited laughter that went echoing among the tall
A voice spoke from behind Ralph.
“What do you want?”
The twins made a bolt past Ralph and got between him and the entry. He turned quickly. Jack, identifiable by personality and red hair, was
advancing from the forest. A hunter crouched on either side. All three
were masked in black and green. Behind them on the grass the headless
and paunched body of a sow lay where they had dropped it.
“Ralph! Don't leave me!”
With ludicrous care he embraced the rock, pressing himself to it above
the sucking sea. The sniggering of the savages became a loud derisive
Jack shouted above the noise.
“You go away, Ralph. You keep to your end. This is my end and my
tribe. You leave me alone.”
The jeering died away.
“You pinched Piggy's specs,” said Ralph, breathlessly. “You've got to
give them back.”
“Got to? Who says?”
Ralph's temper blazed out.
“I say! You voted for me for chief. Didn't you hear the conch? You
played a dirty trick—we'd have given you fire if you'd asked for it—”
The blood was flowing in his cheeks and the bunged-up eye throbbed.
“You could have had fire whenever you wanted. But you didn't. You
came sneaking up like a thief and stole Piggy's glasses!”
“Say that again!”
“Ralph! Mind me!”
Jack made a rush and stabbed at Ralph's chest with his spear. Ralph
sensed the position of the weapon from the glimpse he caught of Jack's
arm and put the thrust aside with his own butt. Then he brought the end
round and caught Jack a stinger across the ear. They were chest to chest,
breathing fiercely, pushing and glaring.
“Who's a thief?”
Jack wrenched free and swung at Ralph with his spear. By common
consent they were using the spears as sabers now, no longer daring the
lethal points. The blow struck Ralph's spear and slid down, to fall
agonizingly on his fingers. Then they were apart once more, their positions
reversed, Jack toward the Castle Rock and Ralph on the outside toward
Both boys were breathing very heavily.
“Come on then—”
Truculently they squared up to each other but kept just out of fighting
“You come on and see what you get!”
“You come on—”
Piggy clutching the ground was trying to attract Ralph's attention. Ralph
moved, bent down, kept a wary eye on Jack.
“Ralph—remember what we came for. The fire. My specs.”
Ralph nodded. He relaxed his fighting muscles, stood easily and grounded
the butt of his spear. Jack watched him inscrutably through his paint. Ralph glanced up at the pinnacles, then toward the group of savages.
“Listen. We've come to say this. First you've got to give back Piggy's
specs. If he hasn't got them he can't see. You aren't playing the game—”
The tribe of painted savages giggled and Ralph's mind faltered. He
pushed his hair up and gazed at the green and black mask before him,
trying to remember what Jack looked like.
“And the fire.”
“Oh yes. Then about the fire. I say this again. I've been saying it ever
since we dropped in.”
He held out his spear and pointed at the savages.
“Your only hope is keeping a signal fire going as long as there's light to see. Then maybe a
ship'll notice the smoke and come and rescue us and take us home. But
without that smoke we've got to wait till some ship comes by accident. We might wait years; till we were old—”
The shivering, silvery, unreal laughter of the savages sprayed out and
echoed away. A gust of rage shook Ralph. His voice cracked.
“Don't you understand, you painted fools? Sam, Eric, Piggy and me—
we aren't enough. We tried to keep the fire going, but we couldn't. And
then you, playing at hunting…”
He pointed past them to where the trickle of smoke dispersed in the
“Look at that! Call that a signal fire? That's a cooking fire. Now you'll
eat and there'll be no smoke. Don't you understand? There may be a ship
He paused, defeated by the silence and the painted anonymity of the
group guarding the entry. Jack opened a pink mouth and addressed
Samneric, who were between him and his tribe.
“You two. Get back.”
No one answered him. The twins, puzzled, looked at each other; while
Piggy, reassured by the cessation of violence, stood up carefully. Jack
glanced back at Ralph and then at the twins.
No one moved. Jack shouted angrily.
“I said 'grab them'!”
The painted group moved round Samneric nervously and unhandily. Once more the silvery laughter scattered.
Samneric protested out of the heart of civilization.
“Oh, I say!”
Their spears were taken from them.
“Tie them up!”
Ralph cried out hopelessly against the black and green mask.
“Go on. Tie them.”
Now the painted group felt the otherness of Samneric, felt the power
in their own hands. They felled the twins clumsily and excitedly. Jack
was inspired. He knew that Ralph would attempt a rescue. He struck
in a humming circle behind him and Ralph only just parried the blow. Beyond them the tribe and the twins were a loud and writhing heap. Piggy crouched again. Then the twins lay, astonished, and the tribe stood
round them. Jack turned to Ralph and spoke between his teeth.
“See? They do what I want.”
There was silence again. The twins lay, inexpertly tied up, and the tribe
watched Ralph to see what he would do. He numbered them through his
fringe, glimpsed the ineffectual smoke.
His temper broke. He screamed at Jack.
“You're a beast and a swine and a bloody, bloody thief!”
Jack, knowing this was the crisis, charged too. They met with a jolt
and bounced apart. Jack swung with his fist at Ralph and caught him on
the ear. Ralph hit Jack in the stomach and made him grunt. Then they
were facing each other again, panting and furious, but unnerved by each
other's ferocity. They became aware of the noise that was the background
to this fight, the steady shrill cheering of the tribe behind them.
Piggy's voice penetrated to Ralph.
“Let me speak.”
He was standing in the dust of the fight, and as the tribe saw his
intention the shrill cheer changed to a steady booing.
Piggy held up the conch and the booing sagged a little, then came up
again to strength.
“I got the conch!”
“I tell you, I got the conch!”
Surprisingly, there was silence now; the tribe were curious to hear what
amusing thing he might have to say.
Silence and pause; but in the silence a curious air-noise, close by Ralph's
head. He gave it half his attention—and there it was again; a faint “Zup!” Someone was throwing stones: Roger was dropping them, his one hand
still on the lever. Below him, Ralph was a shock of hair and Piggy a bag
“I got this to say. You're acting like a crowd of kids.” The booing rose
and died again as Piggy lifted the white, magic shell.
“Which is better—to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be
sensible like Ralph is?”
A great clamor rose among the savages. Piggy shouted again.
“Which is better—to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”
Again the clamor and again—“Zup!”
Ralph shouted against the noise.
“Which is better, law and rescue, or hunting and breaking things up?”
Now Jack was yelling too and Ralph could no longer make himself
heard. Jack had backed right against the tribe and they were a solid
mass of menace that bristled with spears. The intention of a charge was
forming among them; they were working up to it and the neck would be
swept clear. Ralph stood facing them, a little to one side, his spear ready. By him stood Piggy still holding out the talisman, the fragile, shining
beauty of the shell. The storm of sound beat at them, an incantation of
hatred. High overhead, Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment,
leaned all his weight on the lever.
Ralph heard the great rock before he saw it. He was aware of a jolt
in the earth that came to him through the soles of his feet, and the
breaking sound of stones at the top of the cliff. Then the monstrous red
thing bounded across the neck and he flung himself flat while the tribe
The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch
exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy,
saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air
sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. The rock bounded
twice and was lost in the forest. Piggy fell forty feet and landed on his
back across the square red rock in the sea. His head opened and stuff
came out and turned red. Piggy's arms and legs twitched a bit, like a
pig's after it has been killed. Then the sea breathed again in a long, slow
sigh, the water boiled white and pink over the rock; and when it went,
sucking back again, the body of Piggy was gone.
This time the silence was complete. Ralph's lips formed a word but no
Suddenly Jack bounded out from the tribe and began screaming wildly.
“See? See? That's what you'll get! I meant that! There isn't a tribe for
you any more! The conch is gone—”
He ran forward, stooping.
Viciously, with full intention, he hurled his spear at Ralph. The point
tore the skin and flesh over Ralph's ribs, then sheared off and fell in
the water. Ralph stumbled, feeling not pain but panic, and the tribe,
screaming now like the chief, began to advance. Another spear, a bent
one that would not fly straight, went past his face and one fell from on
high where Roger was. The twins lay hidden behind the tribe and the
anonymous devils' faces swarmed across the neck. Ralph turned and ran. A great noise as of sea gulls rose behind him. He obeyed an instinct that
he did not know he possessed and swerved over the open space so that
the spears went wide. He saw the headless body of the sow and jumped
in time. Then he was crashing through foliage and small boughs and was
hidden by the forest.
The chief stopped by the pig, turned and held up his hands.
“Back! Back to the fort!”
Presently the tribe returned noisily to the neck where Roger joined
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—”
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.
12 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
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
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
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. Samneric 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.
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
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—”
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
“You got to go because it's not safe—”
“—they made us. They hurt us—”
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—”
“They hate you, Ralph. They're going to do you.”
“They're going to hunt you tomorrow.”
“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.
“—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.
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—”
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
“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
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
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.
“Are you certain?”
The savage addressed said nothing. Perhaps he made a gesture.
“If you're fooling us—”
Immediately after this, there came a gasp, and a squeal of pain. Ralph
crouched instinctively. One of the twins was there, outside the thicket,
with Jack and Roger.
“You're sure he meant in there?”
The twin moaned faintly and then squealed again.
“He meant he'd hide in there?”
Silver laughter scattered among the trees.
So they knew.
Ralph picked up his stick and prepared for battle. But what could they
do? It would take them a week to break a path through the thicket; and
anyone who wormed his way in would be helpless. He felt the point of
his spear with his thumb and grinned without amusement. Whoever tried
that would be stuck, squealing like a pig.
They were going away, back to the tower rock. He could hear feet
moving and then someone sniggered. There came again that high, bird-
like cry that swept along the line. So some were still watching for him;
There was a long, breathless silence. Ralph found that he had bark in
his mouth from the gnawed spear. He stood and peered upwards to the
As he did so, he heard Jack's voice from the top.
“Heave! Heave! Heave!”
The red rock that he could see at the top of the cliff vanished like a
curtain, and he could see figures and blue sky. A moment later the earth
jolted, there was a rushing sound in the air, and the top of the thicket
was cuffed as with a gigantic hand. The rock bounded on, thumping and
smashing toward the beach, while a shower of broken twigs and leaves
fell on him. Beyond the thicket, the tribe was cheering.
Ralph put his fingers in his mouth and bit them. There was only one
other rock up there that they might conceivably move; but that was half
as big as a cottage, big as a car, a tank. He visualized its probable progress
with agonizing clearness—that one would start slowly, drop from ledge
to ledge, trundle across the neck like an outsize steamroller.
“Heave! Heave! Heave!”
Ralph put down his spear, then picked it up again. He pushed his hair
back irritably, took two hasty steps across the little space and then came
back. He stood looking at the broken ends of branches.
He caught sight of the rise and fall of his diaphragm and was surprised
to see how quickly he was breathing. Just left of center his heart-beats
were visible. He put the spear down again.
“Heave! Heave! Heave!”
A shrill, prolonged cheer.
Something boomed up on the red rock, then the earth jumped and
began to shake steadily, while the noise as steadily increased. Ralph was
shot into the air, thrown down, dashed against branches. At his right
hand, and only a few feet away, the whole thicket bent and the roots
screamed as they came out of the earth together. He saw something red
that turned over slowly as a mill wheel. Then the red thing was past and
the elephantine progress diminished toward the sea.
Ralph knelt on the plowed-up soil, and waited for the earth to come
back. Presently the white, broken stumps, the split sticks and the tangle
of the thicket refocused. There was a kind of heavy feeling in his body
where he had watched his own pulse.
Yet not entirely so. They were whispering out there; and suddenly the
branches were shaken furiously at two places on his right. The pointed
end of a stick appeared. In panic, Ralph thrust his own stick through the
crack and struck with all his might.
His spear twisted a little in his hands and then he withdrew it again.
Someone was moaning outside and a babble of voices rose. A fierce
argument was going on and the wounded savage kept groaning. Then
when there was silence, a single voice spoke and Ralph decided that it
was not Jack's.
“See? I told you—he's dangerous.”
The wounded savage moaned again.
What else? What next?
Ralph fastened his hands round the chewed spear and his hair fell. Someone was muttering, only a few yards away toward the Castle Rock. He heard a savage say “No!” in a shocked voice; and then there was
suppressed laughter. He squatted back on his heels and showed his teeth
at the wall of branches. He raise his spear, snarled a little, and waited.
Once more the invisible group sniggered. He heard a curious trickling
sound and then a louder crepitation as if someone were unwrapping great
sheets of cellophane. A stick snapped and he stifled a cough. Smoke was
seeping through the branches in white and yellow wisps, the patch of
blue sky overhead turned to the color of a storm cloud, and then the
smoke billowed round him.
Someone laughed excitedly, and a voice shouted.
He wormed his way through the thicket toward the forest, keeping as
far as possible beneath the smoke. Presently he saw open space, and the
green leaves of the edge of the thicket. A smallish savage was standing
between him and the rest of the forest, a savage striped red and white,
and carrying a spear. He was coughing and smearing the paint about his
eyes with the back of his hand as he tried to see through the increasing
smoke. Ralph launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the
spear, and the savage doubled up. There was a shout from beyond the
thicket and then Ralph was running with the swiftness of fear through the
undergrowth. He came to a pig-run, followed it for perhaps a hundred
yards, and then swerved off. Behind him the ululation swept across the
island once more and a single voice shouted three times. He guessed that
was the signal to advance and sped away again, till his chest was like fire. Then he flung himself down under a bush and waited for a moment till
his breathing steadied. He passed his tongue tentatively over his teeth
and lips and heard far off the ululation of the pursuers.
There were many things he could do. He could climb a tree; but that
was putting all his eggs in one basket. If he were detected, they had
nothing more difficult to do than wait.
If only one had time to think!
Another double cry at the same distance gave him a clue to their plan. Any savage balked in the forest would utter the double shout and hold
up the line till he was free again. That way they might hope to keep the
cordon unbroken right across the island. Ralph thought of the boar that
had broken through them with such ease. If necessary, when the chase
came too close, he could charge the cordon while it was still thin, burst
through, and run back. But run back where? The cordon would turn and
sweep again. Sooner or later he would have to sleep or eat—and then he
would awaken with hands clawing at him; and the hunt would become a
What was to be done, then? The tree? Burst the line like a boar? Either
way the choice was terrible.
A single cry quickened his heart-beat and, leaping up, he dashed away
toward the ocean side and the thick jungle till he was hung up among
creepers; he stayed there for a moment with his calves quivering. If only
one could have quiet, a long pause, a time to think!
And there again, shrill and inevitable, was the ululation sweeping across
the island. At that sound he shied like a horse among the creepers and
ran once more till he was panting. He flung himself down by some ferns. The tree, or the charge? He mastered his breathing for a moment, wiped
his mouth, and told himself to be calm. Samneric were somewhere in
that line, and hating it. Or were they? And supposing, instead of them,
he met the chief, or Roger who carried death in his hands?
Ralph pushed back his tangled hair and wiped the sweat out of his best
eye. He spoke aloud.
What was the sensible thing to do?
There was no Piggy to talk sense. There was no solemn assembly for
debate nor dignity of the conch.
Most, he was beginning to dread the curtain that might waver in his
brain, blacking out the sense of danger, making a simpleton of him.
A third idea would be to hide so well that the advancing line would
pass without discovering him.
He jerked his head off the ground and listened. There was another
noise to attend to now, a deep grumbling noise, as though the forest
itself were angry with him, a somber noise across which the ululations
were scribbled excruciatingly as on slate. He knew he had heard it before
somewhere, but had no time to remember.
Break the line.
Hide, and let them pass.
A nearer cry stood him on his feet and immediately he was away again,
running fast among thorns and brambles. Suddenly he blundered into the
open, found himself again in that open space—and there was the
fathomwide grin of the skull, no longer ridiculing a deep blue patch of sky but
jeering up into a blanket of smoke. Then Ralph was running beneath
trees, with the grumble of the forest explained. They had smoked him
out and set the island on fire.
Hide was better than a tree because you had a chance of breaking the
line if you were discovered.
He wondered if a pig would agree, and grimaced at nothing. Find the
deepest thicket, the darkest hole on the island, and creep in. Now, as he
ran, he peered about him. Bars and splashes of sunlight flitted over him
and sweat made glistening streaks on his dirty body. The cries were far
now, and faint.
At last he found what seemed to him the right place, though the
decision was desperate. Here, bushes and a wild tangle of creeper made a
mat that kept out all the light of the sun. Beneath it was a space,
perhaps a foot high, though it was pierced everywhere by parallel and rising
stems. If you wormed into the middle of that you would be five yards
from the edge, and hidden, unless the savage chose to lie down and look
for you; and even then, you would be in darkness—and if the worst
happened and he saw you, then you had a chance to burst out at him, fling
the whole line out of step and double back.
Cautiously, his stick trailing behind him, Ralph wormed between the
rising stems. When he reached the middle of the mat he lay and listened.
The fire was a big one and the drum-roll that he had thought was
left so far behind was nearer. Couldn't a fire outrun a galloping horse? He could see the sun-splashed ground over an area of perhaps fifty yards
from where he lay, and as he watched, the sunlight in every patch blinked
at him. This was so like the curtain that flapped in his brain that for a
moment he thought the blinking was inside him. But then the patches
blinked more rapidly, dulled and went out, so that he saw that a great
heaviness of smoke lay between the island and the sun.
If anyone peered under the bushes and chanced to glimpse human flesh
it might be Samneric who would pretend not to see and say nothing. He
laid his cheek against the chocolate-colored earth, licked his dry lips and
closed his eyes. Under the thicket, the earth was vibrating very slightly;
or perhaps there was a sound beneath the obvious thunder of the fire and
scribbled ululations that was too low to hear.
Someone cried out. Ralph jerked his cheek off the earth and looked
into the dulled light. They must be near now, he thought, and his chest
began to thump. Hide, break the line, climb a tree—which was the best
after all? The trouble was you only had one chance.
Now the fire was nearer; those volleying shots were great limbs, trunks
even, bursting. The fools! The fools! The fire must be almost at the fruit
trees—what would they eat tomorrow?
Ralph stirred restlessly in his narrow bed. One chanced nothing! What
could they do? Beat him? So what? Kill him? A stick sharpened at both
The cries, suddenly nearer, jerked him up. He could see a striped
savage moving hastily out of a green tangle, and coming toward the mat
where he hid, a savage who carried a spear. Ralph gripped his fingers
into the earth. Be ready now, in case.
Ralph fumbled to hold his spear so that it was point foremost; and now
he saw that the stick was sharpened at both ends.
The savage stopped fifteen yards away and uttered his cry.
Perhaps he can hear my heart over the noises of the fire. Don't scream. Get ready.
The savage moved forward so that you could only see him from the
waist down. That was the butt of his spear. Now you could see him from
the knee down. Don't scream.
A herd of pigs came squealing out of the greenery behind the savage
and rushed away into the forest. Birds were screaming, mice shrieking,
and a little hopping thing came under the mat and cowered.
Five yards away the savage stopped, standing right by the thicket, and
cried out. Ralph drew his feet up and crouched. The stake was in his
hands, the stake sharpened at both ends, the stake that vibrated so wildly,
that grew long, short, light, heavy, light again.
The ululation spread from shore to shore. The savage knelt down by
the edge of the thicket, and there were lights flickering in the forest
behind him. You could see a knee disturb the mold. Now the other. Two
hands. A spear.
The savage peered into the obscurity beneath the thicket. You could
tell that he saw light on this side and on that, but not in the middle—
there. In the middle was a blob of dark and the savage wrinkled up his
face, trying to decipher the darkness.
The seconds lengthened. Ralph was looking straight into the savage's
You'll get back.
Now he's seen you. He's making sure. A stick sharpened.
Ralph screamed, a scream of fright and anger and desperation. His
legs straightened, the screams became continuous and foaming. He shot
forward, burst the thicket, was in the open, screaming, snarling, bloody. He swung the stake and the savage tumbled over; but there were others
coming toward him, crying out. He swerved as a spear flew past and then
was silent, running. All at once the lights flickering ahead of him merged
together, the roar of the forest rose to thunder and a tall bush directly
in his path burst into a great fan-shaped flame. He swung to the right,
running desperately fast, with the heat beating on his left side and the
fire racing forward like a tide. The ululation rose behind him and spread
along, a series of short sharp cries, the sighting call. A brown figure
showed up at his right and fell away. They were all running, all crying out
madly. He could hear them crashing in the undergrowth and on the left
was the hot, bright thunder of the fire. He forgot his wounds, his hunger
and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet, rushing through
the forest toward the open beach. Spots jumped before his eyes and
turned into red circles that expanded quickly till they passed out of sight. Below him someone's legs were getting tired and the desperate ululation
advanced like a jagged fringe of menace and was almost overhead.
He stumbled over a root and the cry that pursued him rose even higher. He saw a shelter burst into flames and the fire flapped at his right
shoulder and there was the glitter of water. Then he was down, rolling over
and over in the warm sand, crouching with arm to ward off, trying to cry
He staggered to his feet, tensed for more terrors, and looked up at a
huge peaked cap. It was a white-topped cap, and above the green shade
of the peak was a crown, an anchor, gold foliage. He saw white drill,
epaulettes, a revolver, a row of gilt buttons down the front of a uniform.
A naval officer stood on the sand, looking down at Ralph in wary
astonishment. On the beach behind him was a cutter, her bows hauled
up and held by two ratings. In the stern-sheets another rating held a
The ululation faltered and died away.
The officer looked at Ralph doubtfully for a moment, then took his
hand away from the butt of the revolver.
Squirming a little, conscious of his filthy appearance, Ralph answered
The officer nodded, as if a question had been answered.
“Are there any adults—any grown-ups with you?”
Dumbly, Ralph shook his head. He turned a halfpace on the sand. A
semicircle of little boys, their bodies streaked with colored clay, sharp
sticks in their hands, were standing on the beach making no noise at all.
“Fun and games,” said the officer.
The fire reached the coconut palms by the beach and swallowed them
noisily. A flame, seemingly detached, swung like an acrobat and licked
up the palm heads on the platform. The sky was black.
The officer grinned cheerfully at Ralph.
“We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or
The officer inspected the little scarecrow in front of him. The kid
needed a bath, a haircut, a nose-wipe and a good deal of ointment.
“Nobody killed, I hope? Any dead bodies?”
“Only two. And they've gone.”
The officer leaned down and looked closely at Ralph.
Ralph nodded again. Behind him, the whole island was shuddering
with flame. The officer knew, as a rule, when people were telling the
truth. He whistled softly.
Other boys were appearing now, tiny tots some of them, brown, with
the distended bellies of small savages. One of them came close to the
officer and looked up.
But there was no more to come. Percival Wemys Madison sought in his
head for an incantation that had faded clean away.
The officer turned back to Ralph.
“We'll take you off. How many of you are there?”
Ralph shook his head. The officer looked past him to the group of
“Who's boss here?”
“I am,” said Ralph loudly.
A little boy who wore the remains of an extraordinary black cap on his
red hair and who carried the remains of a pair of spectacles at his waist,
started forward, then changed his mind and stood still.
“We saw your smoke. And you don't know how many of you there
“I should have thought,” said the officer as he visualized the search
before him, “I should have thought that a pack of British boys — you're all
British, aren't you? — would have been able to put up a better show than
“It was like that at first,” said Ralph, “before things—”
“We were together then—”
The officer nodded helpfully.
“I know. Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island.”
Ralph looked at him dumbly. For a moment he had a fleeting picture of
the strange glamour that had once invested the beaches. But the island
was scorched up like dead wood—Simon was dead—and Jack had… The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them
now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that
seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke
before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion,
the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of
them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for
the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through
the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
The officer, surrounded by these noises, was moved and a little
embarrassed. He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together;
and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.