It was a pleasure to burn

Itwasaspecialpleasuretoseethingseaten,toseethingsblackenedandchanged. Withthebrassnozzleinhisfists, withthisgreatpythonspittingitsvenomouskeroseneupontheworld, thebloodpoundedinhishead, andhishandswerethehandsofsomeamazingconductor playingallthesymphoniesofblazingandburningtobringdownthetattersandcharcoalruinsofhistory. Withhissymbolichelmetnumbered451onhisstolidhead, andhiseyesallorangeflamewiththethoughtofwhatcamenext, heflickedtheigniterandthehousejumpedupinagorgingfire thatburnedtheeveningskyredandyellowandblack. Hestrodeinaswarmoffireflies. Hewantedaboveall,liketheoldjoke, toshoveamarshmallowonastickinthefurnace, whiletheflappingpigeon-wingedbooksdiedontheporchandlawnofthehouse. Whilethebookswentupinsparklingwhirlsandblewawayonawindturneddarkwithburning.  

Montaggrinnedthefiercegrinofallmensingedanddrivenbackbyflame. Heknewthatwhenhereturnedtothefirehouse, hemightwinkathimself,aminstrelman,burnt-corked,inthemirror. Later,goingtosleep,hewouldfeelthefierysmilestillgrippedbyhisfacemuscles,inthedark. Itneverwentaway,thatsmile, itnevereverwentaway,aslongasheremembered.  

Hehunguphisblack-beetle-colouredhelmetandshinedit, hehunghisflameproofjacketneatly;heshoweredluxuriously, andthen,whistling,handsinpockets,walkedacrosstheupperfloorofthefirestation andfelldownthehole. Atthelastmoment,whendisasterseemedpositive, hepulledhishandsfromhispocketsandbrokehisfallbygraspingthegoldenpole. Heslidtoasqueakinghalt, theheelsoneinchfromtheconcretefloordownstairs. 

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