“We now take you to the Sky Room of the Hotel Lux for a half-hour of Just-Before-Dawn, a programme of-”
Granger turned it off.
“They didn’t show the man’s face in focus. Did you notice?
Even your best friends couldn’t tell if it was you. They scrambled it just enough to let the imagination take over. Hell,” he whispered. “Hell.”
Montag said nothing but now, looking back, sat with his eyes fixed to the blank screen, trembling.
Granger touched Montag’s arm. “Welcome back from the dead.” Montag nodded.
Granger went on. “You might as well know all of us, now. This is Fred Clement, former occupant of the Thomas Hardy chair at Cambridge in the years before it became an Atomic Engineering School. This other is Dr. Simmons from U.C.L.A., a specialist in Ortega y Gasset; Professor West here did quite a bit for ethics, an ancient study now, for Columbia University quite some years ago. Reverend Padover here gave a few lectures thirty years ago and lost his flock between one Sunday and the next for his views. He’s been bumming with us some time now. Myself: I wrote a book called The Fingers in the Glove; the Proper Relationship between the Individual and Society, and here I am! Welcome, Montag! ”
“I don’t belong with you,” said Montag, at last, slowly. “I’ve been an idiot all the way.”
“We’re used to that. We all made the right kind of mistakes, or we wouldn’t be here.
When we were separate individuals, all we had was rage. I struck a fireman when he came to burn my library years ago. I’ve been running ever since. You want to join us, Montag?”
“What have you to offer?”
“Nothing. I thought I had part of the Book of Ecclesiastes and maybe a little of Revelation, but I haven’t even that now.”
“The Book of Ecclesiastes would be fine. Where was it?”
“Here,” Montag touched his head.
“Ah,” Granger smiled and nodded.
“What’s wrong? Isn’t that all right?” said Montag.
“Better than all right; perfect!” Granger turned to the Reverend. “Do we have a Book of Ecclesiastes?”
“One. A man named Harris of Youngstown.”
“Montag.” Granger took Montag’s shoulder firmly. “Walk carefully. Guard your health.
If anything should happen to Harris, you are the Book of Ecclesiastes. See how important you’ve become in the last minute!”
“But I’ve forgotten!”
“No, nothing’s ever lost. We have ways to shake down your clinkers for you.”
“But I’ve tried to remember!”
“Don’t try. It’ll come when we need it. All of us have photographic memories, but spend a lifetime learning how to block off the things that are really in there. Simmons here has worked on it for twenty years and now we’ve got the method down to where
we can recall anything that’s been read once. Would you like, some day, Montag, to read Plato’s Republic?”
“I am Plato’s Republic. Like to read Marcus Aurelius? Mr. Simmons is Marcus.”
“How do you do?” said Mr. Simmons.
“Hello,” said Montag.
“I want you to meet Jonathan Swift, the author of that evil political book, Gulliver’s Travels! And this other fellow is Charles Darwin, and-this one is Schopenhauer, and this one is Einstein, and this one here at my elbow is Mr. Albert Schweitzer, a very kind philosopher indeed. Here we all are, Montag. Aristophanes and Mahatma Gandhi and Gautama Buddha and Confucius and Thomas Love Peacock and
Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Lincoln, if you please. We are also Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”
Everyone laughed quietly.
“It can’t be,” said Montag.
“It is,” replied Granger, smiling. ” We’re book-burners, too. We read the books and burnt them, afraid they’d be found. Micro-filming didn’t pay off; we were always travelling, we didn’t want to bury the film and come back later. Always the chance of discovery. Better to keep it in the old heads, where no one can see it or suspect it.
We are all bits and pieces of history and literature and international law, Byron, Tom Paine, Machiavelli, or Christ, it’s here. And the hour is late. And the war’s begun. And we are out here, and the city is there, all wrapped up in its own coat of a thousand colours. What do you think, Montag?”