It was a pleasure to burn.
He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered.
They walked still further and the girl said, “Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of going to start them?” “No. Houses have always been fireproof, take my word for it.” “Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed firemen to stop the flames.”
She started up her walk. Then she seemed to remember something and came back to look at him with wonder and curiosity. “Are you happy?” she said. “Am I what?” he cried. But she was gone—running in the moonlight. Her front door shut gently.