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"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."
This meeting occurs immediately after Samneric see the beast on the mountain. Samneric inform Ralph that they saw a living beast on the mountain, so Ralph's assumption is that something on this island is dangerous. He takes this into consideration before blowing the conch. If he were to sound the trumpet, the beast would know where to find the boys. His holding up the conch instead is a method of caution to avoid the beast.
This can be be further traced to the last meeting at the beginning of chapter five. The boys were just milling around the meeting area waiting for Ralph to sound the conch so their meeting can being. It's obvious that the conch itself isn't calling meetings anymore, so the significance of the sound is gone. Silently holding up the conch is still effective because the conch is still a symbol of power on the lsland although it's in this chapter that Jack starts to pull himself and other boys away from Ralph and the conch.
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