Fahrenheit 451


PAGE 10


He lifted the two books. "These men have been dead a

long time, but I know their words point, one way or another, to Clansse."

Outside the front door, in the rain, a faint scratching.

Montag froze. He saw Mildred thrust herself back to the wall and gasp.



"I shut it off."

"Someone�the door�why doesn't the door- voice tell us�"

Under the door-sill, a slow, probing sniff, an exhalation of electric steam.

Mildred laughed. "It's only a dog, that's what! You want me to shoo him away?"

"Stay where you are!"

Silence. The cold rain falling. And the smell of blue electricity blowing under the locked door.

"Let's get back to work," said Montag quietly.

Mildred kicked at a book. "Books aren't people. You read and I look around, but there isn't

anybody!"

He stared at the parlour that was dead and grey as the waters of an ocean that might teem with

life if they switched on the electronic sun.

"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 the "family.' 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! Listen!"

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. 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.

He slammed the door.

He was on the subway.

I'm numb, he thought. When did the numbness really begin in my face? In my body? The night I

kicked the pill-bottle in the dark, like kicking a buried mine.

The numbness will go away, he thought. It'll take time, but I'll do it, or Faber will do it for me.

Someone somewhere will give me back the old face and the old hands the way they were. Even

the smile, he thought, the old burnt-in smile, that's gone. I'm lost without it.

The subway fled past him, cream-tile, jet-black, cream-tile, jet-black, numerals and darkness,

more darkness and the total adding itself.

Once as a child he had sat upon a yellow dune by the sea in the middle of the blue and hot

summer day, trying to fill a sieve with sand, because some cruel cousin had said, "Fill this sieve

and you'll get a dime!" "And the faster he poured, the faster it sifted through with a hot

whispering. His hands were tired, the sand was boiling, the sieve was empty. Seated there in the

midst of July, without a sound, he felt the tears move down his cheeks.

Now as the vacuum-underground rushed him through the dead cellars of town, jolting him, he

remembered the terrible logic of that sieve, and he looked down and saw that he was carrying the

Bible open. There were people in the suction train but he held the book in his hands and the silly

thought came to him, if you read fast and read all, maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve.

But he read and the words fell through, and he thought, in a few hours, there will be Beatty, and



here will be me handing this over, so no phrase must escape me, each line must be memorized. I
will myself to do it.
He clenched the book in his fists.
Trumpets blared.
"Denham's Dentrifice."

Shut up, thought Montag. Consider the lilies of the field.
"Denham's Dentifrice."
They toil not-
"Denham's--"

Consider the lilies of the field, shut up, shut up.
"Dentifrice ! "

He tore the book open and flicked the pages and felt them as if he were blind, he picked at the
shape of the individual letters, not blinking.
"Denham's. Spelled : D-E.N "
They toil not, neither do they . . .
A fierce whisper of hot sand through empty sieve.
"Denham's does it!"

Consider the lilies, the lilies, the lilies...
"Denham's dental detergent."

"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" It was a plea, a cry so terrible that Montag found himself on his feet,
the shocked inhabitants of the loud car staring, moving back from this man with the insane,
gorged face, the gibbering, dry mouth, the flapping book in his fist. The people who had been
sitting a moment before, tapping their feet to the rhythm of Denham's Dentifrice, Denham's
Dandy Dental Detergent, Denham's Dentifrice Dentifrice Dentifrice, one two, one two three, one
two, one two three. The people whose mouths had been faintly twitching the words Dentifrice
Dentifrice Dentifrice.