“Now,” said Mildred, “my `family’ is people. They tell me things; I laugh, they laugh!
And the colours!”
“Yes, I know.”
“And besides, if Captain Beatty knew about those books–” She thought about it. Her face grew amazed and then horrified. “He might come and bum the house and thèfamily.’ That’s awful! Think of our investment. Why should I read? What for?”
“What for! Why!” said Montag. “I saw the damnedest snake in the world the other night. It was dead but it was alive. It could see but it couldn’t see. You want to see that snake. It’s at Emergency Hospital where they filed a report on all the junk the snake got out of you! Would you like to go and check their file? Maybe you’d look under Guy Montag or maybe under Fear or War. Would you like to go to that house that burnt last night? And rake ashes for the bones of the woman who set fire to her own house! What about Clarisse McClellan, where do we look for her? The morgue!
The bombers crossed the sky and crossed the sky over the house, gasping, murmuring, whistling like an immense, invisible fan, circling in emptiness.
“Jesus God,” said Montag. “Every hour so many damn things in the sky! How in hell did those bombers get up there every single second of our lives! Why doesn’t someone want to talk about it? We’ve started and won two atomic wars since 1960.
Is it because we’re having so much fun at home we’ve forgotten the world? Is it because we’re so rich and the rest of the world’s so poor and we just don’t care if they are? I’ve heard rumours; the world is starving, but we’re well-fed. Is it true, the
world works hard and we play? Is that why we’re hated so much? I’ve heard the rumours about hate, too, once in a long while, over the years. Do you know why? I don’t, that’s sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes! I don’t hear those idiot bastards in your parlour talking about it. God, Millie, don’t you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe…”
The telephone rang. Mildred snatched the phone.
“Ann!” She laughed. “Yes, the White Clown’s on tonight!”
Montag walked to the kitchen and threw the book down. “Montag,” he said, “you’re really stupid. Where do we go from here? Do we turn the books in, forget it?” He opened the book to read over Mildred’s laughter.
Poor Millie, he thought. Poor Montag, it’s mud to you, too. But where do you get help, where do you find a teacher this late?
Hold on. He shut his eyes. Yes, of course. Again he found himself thinking of the green park a year ago. The thought had been with him many times recently, but now he remembered how it was that day in the city park when he had seen that old man in the black suit hide something, quickly in his coat .
… The old man leapt up as if to run. And Montag said, “Wait ! ”
“I haven’t done anything! ” cried the old man trembling.
“No one said you did.”
They had sat in the green soft light without saying a word for a moment, and then Montag talked about the weather, and then the old man responded with a pale voice.
It was a strange quiet meeting. The old man admitted to being a retired English professor who had been thrown out upon the world forty years ago when the last liberal arts college shut for lack of students and patronage. His name was Faber, and when he finally lost his fear of Montag, he talked in a cadenced voice, looking at the sky and the trees and the green park, and when an hour had passed he said something to Montag and Montag sensed it was a rhymeless poem. Then the old man grew even more courageous and said something else and that was a poem, too.
Faber held his hand over his left coat-pocket and spoke these words gently, and Montag knew if he reached out, he might pull a book of poetry from the man’s coat.