Soon, Montag becomes so bold with the ladies that he begins to read them poetry from one of his books. This is a traumatic experience for the women, one of whom starts to cry. Though Montag destroys the book afterwards, to make it seem as though he was simply demonstrating the silliness of poetry, the damage has already been done. When Mrs. Bowles rejects Montag's "poetry lesson," the fireman can restrain himself no longer. He tells her, "Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband killed in a jet and your third husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of the dozen abortions you've had, go home and think of that and your damn Caesarian sections, too, and your children who hate your guts! Go home and think how it all happened and what did you ever do to stop it?"
This ruins the social evening completely. All the ladies leave, except Mildred, who hurries to the bathroom to take some sleeping tablets. Through the radio-seashell, Faber hears all of this, unable to believe what Montag has said. Montag knows that his actions may have given him away, but he takes comfort in the fact that Faber is there (in the seashell) to teach him. Bradbury explains, "His mind would well over at last and he would not be Montag any more, this the old man told him, assured him, promised him. He would be Montag-plus-Faber, fire plus water. . . ." Faber rebukes Montag for his careless actions with the ladies, but admits that mistakes can lead to wisdom. Next, earplug in place, Montag enters the fire station, ready to do battle with Beatty. During their card game, Beatty intimidates Montag by quoting books that cite the danger of learning. Beatty knows exactly what Montag has done, and hopes to scare him off with his superior knowledge of literature. Indeed, Beatty seems incredibly well read, despite his opposition to books. Bradbury doesn't explain the fire chief's history very well, but the reader can assume that Beatty has an interesting story to tell. The captain tries to dissuade Montag from becoming too attached to books. "Stick with the firemen, Montag. All else is dreary chaos!" he tells him.
This scene is one of the most important in the entire novel. Montag must decide whom to believe: Faber or Beatty. This is no easy task; Montag already feels exhausted and physically derailed by the captain. Yet Montag has little time to collect his thoughts before the fire alarm sounds and he finds himself racing to another house. Finally the Salamander stops-in front of Montag's residence.