All at once he found he could talk fluently and explain what he had to say. He passed a hand through his fair hair and spoke.
“We’re on an island. We’ve been on the mountain top and seen water all round. We saw no houses, no smoke, no footprints, no boats, no people. We’re on an uninhabited island with no other people on it.”
Jack broke in.
“All the same you need an army—for hunting. Hunting pigs—”
“Yes. There are pigs on the island.”
All three of them tried to convey the sense of the pink live thing struggling in the creepers.
“It broke away—”
“Before I could kill it—but—next time!”
Jack slammed his knife into a trunk and looked round challengingly. The meeting settled down again.
“So you see,” said Ralph, “We need hunters to get us meat. And another thing[8 - And another thing – И еще кое-что].”
He lifted the shell on his knees and looked round the sun-slashed faces.
“There aren’t any grownups. We shall have to look after ourselves.”
The meeting hummed and was silent.
“And another thing. We can’t have everybody talking at once. We’ll have to have ‘Hands up’ like at school.”
He held the conch before his face and glanced round the mouth.
“Then I’ll give him the conch.”
“That’s what this shell’s called. I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.”
“And he won’t be interrupted: Except by me.”
Jack was on his feet.
“We’ll have rules!” he cried excitedly. “Lots of rules! Then when anyone breaks ’em—”
Ralph felt the conch lifted from his lap. Then Piggy was standing cradling the great cream shell and the shouting died down. Jack, left on his feet, looked uncertainly at Ralph who smiled and patted the log. Jack sat down. Piggy took off his glasses and blinked at the assembly while he wiped them on his shirt.
“You’re hindering Ralph. You’re not letting him get to the most important thing.”
He paused effectively.
“Who knows we’re here? Eh?”
“They knew at the airport.”
“The man with a trumpet-thing—”
Piggy put on his glasses.
“Nobody knows where we are,” said Piggy. He was paler than before and breathless. “Perhaps they knew where we was going to; and perhaps not. But they don’t know where we are ’cos we never got there.” He gaped at them for a moment, then swayed and sat down.
Ralph took the conch from his hands.
“That’s what I was going to say,” he went on, “when you all, all. …” He gazed at their intent faces. “The plane was shot down in flames. Nobody knows where we are. We may be here a long time.”
The silence was so complete that they could hear the unevenness of Piggy’s breathing. The sun slanted in and lay golden over half the platform. The breezes that on the lagoon had chased their tails like kittens were finding their way across the platform and into the forest.
Ralph pushed back the tangle of fair hair that hung on his forehead.
“So we may be here a long time.”
Nobody said anything. He grinned suddenly.
“But this is a good island. We—Jack, Simon and me—we climbed the mountain. It’s wizard. There’s food and drink, and—”
Piggy, partly recovered, pointed to the conch in Ralph’s hands, and Jack and Simon fell silent. Ralph went on.
“While we’re waiting we can have a good time on this island.”
He gesticulated widely.