But he did not reach out. His. hands stayed on his knees, numbed and useless. “I don’t talk things, sir,” said Faber. “I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I’m alive.”

That was all there was to it, really. An hour of monologue, a poem, a comment, and then without even acknowledging the fact that Montag was a fireman, Faber with a certain trembling, wrote his address on a slip of paper. “For your file,” he said, “in case you decide to be angry with me.”

“I’m not angry,” Montag said, surprised.

Mildred shrieked with laughter in the hall.

Montag went to his bedroom closet and flipped through his file-wallet to the heading: FUTURE INVESTIGATIONS (?). Faber’s name was there. He hadn’t turned it in and he hadn’t erased it.

He dialled the call on a secondary phone. The phone on the far end of the line called Faber’s name a dozen times before the professor answered in a faint voice. Montag identified himself and was met with a lengthy silence. “Yes, Mr. Montag?”

“Professor Faber, I have a rather odd question to ask. How many copies of the Bible are left in this country?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about! ”

“I want to know if there are any copies left at all.”

“This is some sort of a trap! I can’t talk to just anyone on the phone!”

“How many copies of Shakespeare and Plato?”

“None ! You know as well as I do. None!”

Faber hung up.

Montag put down the phone. None. A thing he knew of course from the firehouse listings. But somehow he had wanted to hear it from Faber himself.

In the hall Mildred’s face was suffused with excitement. “Well, the ladies are coming over!”

Montag showed her a book. “This is the Old and New Testament, and-”

“Don’t start that again!”

“It might be the last copy in this part of the world.”

“You’ve got to hand it back tonight, don’t you know? Captain Beatty knows you’ve got it, doesn’t he?”

“I don’t think he knows which book I stole. But how do I choose a substitute? Do I turn in Mr. Jefferson? Mr. Thoreau? Which is least valuable? If I pick a substitute and Beatty does know which book I stole, he’ll guess we’ve an entire library here!”

Mildred’s mouth twitched. “See what you’re doing? You’ll ruin us! Who’s more important, me or that Bible?” She was beginning to shriek now, sitting there like a wax doll melting in its own heat.

He could hear Beatty’s voice. “Sit down, Montag. Watch. Delicately, like the petals of a flower. Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly.

Beautiful, eh? Light the third page from the second and so on, chainsmoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the second-hand notions and time-worn philosophies.” There sat Beatty, perspiring gently, the floor littered with swarms of black moths that had died in a single storm Mildred stopped screaming as quickly as she started. Montag was not listening.

“There’s only one thing to do,” he said. “Some time before tonight when I give the book to Beatty, I’ve got to have a duplicate made.”

“You’ll be here for the White Clown tonight, and the ladies coming over?” cried Mildred.

Montag stopped at the door, with his back turned. “Millie?”

A silence “What?”

“Millie? Does the White Clown love you?”

No answer.

“Millie, does–” He licked his lips. “Does your `family’ love you, love you very much, love you with all their heart

and soul, Millie?”

He felt her blinking slowly at the back of his neck.

“Why’d you ask a silly question like that?”

He felt he wanted to cry, but nothing would happen to his eyes or his mouth.

“If you see that dog outside,” said Mildred, “give him a kick for me.”

He hesitated, listening at the door. He opened it and stepped out.

The rain had stopped and the sun was setting in the clear sky. The street and the lawn and the porch were empty. He let his breath go in a great sigh.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray