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Montag wakes up feeling ill and unsure of whether he can go to work. Millie responds with disbelief and annoyance rather than compassion, and Montag is in turn annoyed by her lack of interest in his concerns. Captain Beatty arrives to speak with Montag, somehow knowing that he feels ill and would be taking the evening off. He lectures Montag on how society has evolved into the current technological age, leaving little room for those who deviate from the structured, homogeneous conformity that has come to rule. Emphasizing structured routine rather than original thought, Beatty asserts that people are not born equal, but are made equal through laws and regulation. In the current system, people are less likely to offend each other, and thus everyone is better off.
While Beatty is visiting the Montags, Millie nervously organizes the bedroom. At one point she tries to fluff Montag's pillow, but because he has hidden a book underneath it he won't let her. Millie insists and places her hand under the pillow. She feels the outline of the book and is shocked. Although she doesn't turn her husband in, Millie asks Beatty what would happen if a fireman brought a book home. Beatty mentions firemen are occasionally overcome by curiosity about the books they burn and may steal one to satiate that curiosity. When this happens, he continues, they are given a 24-hour respite to come to their senses and burn the book before their coworkers must do so for them.
Montag becomes paranoid that Beatty knows that he has stolen not only one, but nearly 20 books over the course of his career. He feels compelled to tell Millie his secret and shows her his collection. Millie panics, insisting that they burn the books. Before the issue is resolved, someone comes to the door, prompting terror in both Montag and Millie. The Montags don't answer the door, and eventually the visitor departs, leaving the couple alone with their illegal library. Amidst his wife's protests and declarations of the worthlessness of books, Montag opens a book and begins to read.