“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 silence.
“Jack’s in charge of the choir. They can be—what do you want them to be?”
Jack and Ralph smiled at each other with shy liking. The rest began to talk eagerly. 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 choose from.
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[7 - You’re no good on a job like this – Ты для этой работы не подходишь].”
“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.