“You weren’t there, you didn’t see,” he said. “There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
“She was simple-minded.”
“She was as rational as you and I, more so perhaps, and we burnt her.”
“That’s water under the bridge.”
“No, not water; fire. You ever seen a burnt house? It smolders for days. Well, this fire’ll last me the rest of my life. God! I’ve been trying to put it out, in my mind, all night. I’m crazy with trying.”
“You should’ve thought of that before becoming a fireman.”
“Thought!” he said. “Was I given a choice? My grandfather and father were firemen. In my sleep, I ran after them.”
The parlor was playing a dance tune.
“This is the day you go on the early shift,” said Mildred. “You should’ve gone two hours ago. I just noticed.”
“It’s not just the woman that died,” said Montag. “Last night I thought about all the kerosene I’ve used in the past ten years. And I thought about books. And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each of the books. A man had to think them up. A man had to take a long time to put them down on paper. And I’d never even thought that thought before.” He got out of bed.
“It took some man a lifetime maybe to put some of his thoughts down, looking around the world and life, and then I come along in two minutes and boom!, it’s all over.”
“Let me alone,” said Mildred. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Let you alone! That’s all very well, but how can I leave myself alone? We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
Between Montag, a professional fire-starter who, just the other day, burnt a woman’s house down to destroy her books hidden in her attic and Mildred, his wife.