Atlas Shrugged 3

CHAPTER III WHITE BLACKMAIL "What time is it?" It's running out, thought Rearden—but he answered, "I don't know, Not yet midnight," and remembering his wrist watch, added, "Twenty of." "I'm going to take a train home," said Lillian. He heard the sentence, but it had to wait its turn to enter the crowded passages to his consciousness. He stood looking absently at the living room of his suite, a few minutes' elevator ride away from the party. In a moment, he answered automatically, "At this hour?" "It's still early. There are plenty of trains running." "You're welcome to stay here, of course." "No, I think I prefer to go home." He did not argue. "What about you, Henry? Do you intend going home tonight?" "No." He added, "I have business appointments here tomorrow." "As you wish." She shrugged her evening wrap off her shoulders, caught it on her arm and started toward the door of his bedroom, but stopped. "I hate Francisco d'Anconia," she said tensely. "Why did he have to come to that party? And didn't he know enough to keep his mouth shut, at least till tomorrow morning?" He did not answer. "It's monstrous—what he's allowed to happen to his company. Of course, he's nothing but a rotten playboy—still, a fortune of that size is a responsibility, there's a limit to the negligence a man can permit himself!" He glanced at her face: it was oddly tense, the features sharpened, making her look older. "He owed a certain duty to his stockholders, didn't he? . . . Didn't he, Henry?" "Do you mind if we don't discuss it?" She made a tightening, sidewise movement with her lips, the equivalent of a shrug, and walked into the bedroom. He stood at the window, looking down at the streaming roofs of automobiles, letting his eyes rest on something while his faculty of sight was disconnected. His mind was still focused on the crowd in the ballroom downstairs and on two figures in that crowd. But as his living room remained on the edge of his vision, so the sense of some action he had to perform remained on the edge of his consciousness. He grasped it for a moment—it was the fact that he had to remove his evening clothes— but farther beyond the edge there was the feeling of reluctance to undress in the presence of a strange woman in his bedroom, and he forgot it again in the next moment. Lillian came out, as trimly groomed as she had arrived, the beige traveling suit outlining her figure with efficient tightness, the hat tilted over half a head of hair set in waves. She carried her suitcase, swinging it a little, as if in demonstration of her ability to carry it. He reached over mechanically and took the suitcase out of her hand. "What are you doing?" she asked. "I'm going to take you to the station." "Like this? You haven't changed your clothes." "It doesn't matter." "You don't have to escort me. I'm quite able to find my own way. If you have business appointments tomorrow, you'd better go to bed." He did not answer, but walked to the door, held it open for her and followed her to the elevator. They remained silent when they rode in a taxicab to the station. At such moments as he remembered her presence, he noticed that she sat efficiently --------------------------------------- 324 straight, almost flaunting the perfection of her poise; she seemed alertly awake and contented, as if she were starting out on a purposeful journey of early morning. The cab stopped at the entrance to the Taggart Terminal. The bright lights flooding the great glass doorway transformed the lateness of the hour into a sense of active, timeless security. Lillian jumped lightly out of the cab, saying, "No, no, you don't have to get out, drive on back. Will you be home for dinner tomorrow—or next month?" "I'll telephone you," he said. She waved her gloved hand at him and disappeared into the lights of the entrance. As the cab started forward, he gave the driver the address of Dagny's apartment. The apartment was dark when he entered, but the door to her bedroom was half-open and he heard her voice saying, "Hello, Hank." He walked in, asking, "Were you asleep?" "No." He switched on the light. She lay in bed, her head propped by the pillow, her hair falling smoothly to her shoulders, as if she had not moved for a long time; but her face was untroubled. She looked like a schoolgirl, with the tailored collar of a pale blue nightgown lying severely high at the base of her throat; the nightgown's front was a deliberate contrast to the severity, a spread of pale blue embroidery that looked luxuriously adult and feminine. He sat down on the edge of the bed—and she smiled, noticing that the stern formality of his full dress clothes made his action so simply, naturally intimate. He smiled in answer. He had come, prepared to reject the forgiveness she had granted him at the party, as one rejects a favor from too generous an adversary. Instead, he reached out suddenly and moved his hand over her forehead, down the line of her hair, in a gesture of protective tenderness, in the sudden feeling of how delicately childlike she was, this adversary who had borne the constant challenge of his strength, but who should have had his protection. "You're carrying BO much," he said, "and it's I who make it harder for you . . ." "No, Hank, you don't and you know it." "I know that you have the strength not to let it hurt you, but it's a strength I have no right to call upon. Yet I do, and I have no solution, no atonement to offer. I can only admit that I know it and that there's no way I can ask you to forgive me." "There's nothing to forgive." "I had no right to bring her into your presence." "It did not hurt me. Only . . ." "Yes?" ". . . only seeing the way you suffered . . . was hard to see." "I don't think that suffering makes up for anything, but whatever I felt, I didn't suffer enough, if there's one thing I loathe, it's to speak of my own suffering—that should be no one's concern but mine. But if you want to know, since you know it already—yes, it was hell for me. And I wish it were worse. At least, I'm not letting myself get away with it." He said it sternly, without emotion, as an impersonal verdict upon himself. She smiled, in amused sadness, she took his hand and pressed it to her lips, and shook her head in rejection of the verdict, holding her face hidden against his hand. "What do you mean?" he asked softly. "Nothing . . ." Then she raised her head and said firmly, "Hank, I knew you were married. I knew what I was doing. I chose to do it. There's nothing that you owe me, no duty that you have to consider." --------------------------------------- 325 He shook his head slowly, in protest. "Hank, I want nothing from you except what you wish to give me. Do you remember that you called me a trader once? I want you to come to me seeking nothing but your own enjoyment. So long as you wish to remain married, whatever your reason, I have no right to resent it. My way of trading is to know that the joy you give me is paid for by the joy you get from me—not by your suffering or mine. I don't accept sacrifices and I don't make them. If you asked me for more than you meant to me, I would refuse. If you asked me to give up the railroad, I'd leave you. If ever the pleasure of one has to be bought by the pain of the other, there better be no trade at all. A trade by which one gains and the other loses is a fraud. You don't do it in business, Hank. Don't do it in your own life." Like a dim sound track under her words, he was hearing the words said to him by Lillian; he was seeing the distance between the two, the difference in what they sought from him and from life. "Dagny, what do you think of my marriage?" "I have no right to think of it." "You must have wondered about it." "I did . . . before I came to Ellis Wyatt's house. Not since." "You've never asked me a question about it." "And won't." He was silent for a moment, then said, looking straight at her, underscoring his first rejection of the privacy she had always granted him, "There's one thing I want you to know: I have not touched her since . . . Ellis Wyatt's house." "I'm glad." "Did you think I could?" "I've never permitted myself to wonder about that." "Dagny, do you mean that if I had, you . . . you'd accept that, too?" "Yes." "You wouldn't hate it?" "I'd hate it more than I can tell you. But if that were your choice, I would accept it. I want you, Hank." He took her hand and raised it to his lips, she felt the moment's struggle in his body, in the sudden movement with which he came down, half-collapsing, and let his mouth cling to her shoulder. Then he pulled her forward, he pulled the length of her body in the pale blue nightgown to lie stretched across his knees, he held it with an unsmiling violence, as if in hatred for her words and as if they were the words he had most wanted to hear. He bent his face down to hers and she heard the question that had come again and again in the nights of the year behind them, always torn out of him involuntarily, always as a sudden break that betrayed his constant, secret torture: "Who was your first man?" She strained back, trying to draw away from him, but he held her. "No, Hank," she said, her face hard. The brief, taut movement of his lips was a smile. "I know that you won't answer it, but I won't stop asking—because that is what I'll never accept." "Ask yourself why you won't accept it." He answered, his hand moving slowly from her breasts to her knees, as if stressing his ownership and hating it, "Because . . . the things you've permitted me to do . . . I didn't think you could, not ever, not even for me . . . but to find that you did, and more: that you had permitted another man, had wanted him to, had—" "Do you understand what you're saying? That you've never accepted my wanting you, either—you've never accepted that I should want you, just as I should have wanted him, once." --------------------------------------- 326 He said, his voice low, "That's true." She tore herself away from him with a brusque, twisting movement, she stood up, but she stood looking down at him with a faint smile, and she said softly, "Do you know your only real guilt? With the greatest capacity for it, you've never learned to enjoy yourself. You've always rejected your own pleasure too easily. You've been willing to bear too much." "He said that, too." "Who?" "Francisco d'Anconia." He wondered why he had the impression that the name shocked her and that she answered an instant too late, "He said that to you?" "We were talking about quite a different subject." In a moment, she said calmly, "I saw you talking to him. Which one of you was insulting the other, this time?" "We weren't. Dagny, what do you think of him?" "I think that he's done it intentionally—that smash-up we're in for, tomorrow." "I know he has. Still, what do you think of him as a person?" "I don't know. I ought to think that he's the most depraved person I've ever met." "You ought to? But you don't?" "No. I can't quite make myself feel certain of it." He smiled. "That's what's strange about him. I know that he's a liar, a loafer, a cheap playboy, the most viciously irresponsible waste of a human being I ever imagined possible. Yet, when I look at him, I feel that if ever there was a man to whom I would entrust my life, he's the one." She gasped. "Hank, are you saying that you like him?" "I'm saying that I didn't know what it meant, to like a man, I didn't know how much I missed it—until I met him," "Good God, Hank, you've fallen for him!" "Yes—I think I have." He smiled. "Why does it frighten you?" "Because . . . because I think he's going to hurt you in some terrible way . . . and the more you see in him, the harder it will be to bear . . . and it will take you a long time to get over it, if ever. . . . I feel that I ought to warn you against him, but I can't—because I'm certain of nothing about him, not even whether he's the greatest or the lowest man on earth." "I'm certain of nothing about him—except that I like him." "But think of what' he's done. It's not Jim and Boyle that he's hurt, it's you and me and Ken Danagger and the rest of us, because Jim's gang will merely take it out on us—and it's going to be another disaster, like the Wyatt fire." "Yes . . . yes, like the Wyatt fire. But, you know, I don't think I care too much about that. What's one more disaster? Everything's going anyway, it's only a question of a little faster or a little slower, all that's left for us ahead is to keep the ship afloat as long as we can and then go down with it." "Is that his excuse for himself? Is that what he's made you feel?" "No. Oh no! That's the feeling I lose when I speak to him. The strange thing is what he does make me feel." "What?" "Hope." She nodded, in helpless wonder, knowing that she had felt it, too. "I don't know why," he said. "But I look at people and they seem to be made of nothing but pain. He's not. You're not. That terrible hopelessness that's all around us, I lose it only in his presence. And here. Nowhere else." --------------------------------------- 327 She came back to him and slipped down to sit at his feet, pressing her face to his knees. "Hank, we still have so much ahead of us . . . and so much right now. . . . " He looked at the shape of pale blue silk huddled against the black of his clothes—he bent down to her—he said, his voice low, "Dagny . . . the things I said to you that morning in Ellis Wyatt's house . . . I think I was lying to myself." "I know it." Through a gray drizzle of rain, the calendar above the roofs said: September 3, and a clock on another tower said: 10:40, as Rearden rode back to the Wayne-Falkland Hotel. The cab's radio was spitting out shrilly the sounds of a panic-tinged voice announcing the crash of d'Anconia Copper. Rearden leaned wearily against the seat: the disaster seemed to be no more than a stale news story read long ago. He felt nothing, except an uncomfortable sense of impropriety at finding himself out in the morning streets, dressed in evening clothes. He felt no desire to return from the world he had left to the world he saw drizzling past the windows of the taxi. He turned the key in the door of his hotel suite, hoping to get back to a desk as fast as possible and have to see nothing around him. They hit his consciousness together: the breakfast table—the door to his bedroom., open upon the sight of a bed that had been slept in—and Lillian's voice saying, "Good morning, Henry." She sat in an armchair, wearing the suit she had worn yesterday, without the jacket or hat; her white blouse looked smugly crisp. There were remnants of a breakfast on the table. She was smoking a cigarette, with the air and pose of a long, patient vigil. As he stood still, she took the time to cross her legs and settle down more comfortably, then asked, "Aren't you going to say anything, Henry?" He stood like a man in military uniform at some official proceedings where emotions could not be permitted to exist. "It is for you to speak." "Aren't you going to try to justify yourself?" "No." "Aren't you going to start begging my forgiveness?" "There is no reason why you should forgive me. There is nothing for me to add. You know the truth. Now it is up to you." She chuckled, stretching, rubbing her shoulder blades against the chair's back. "Didn't you expect to be caught, sooner or later?" she asked. "If a man like you stays pure as a monk for over a year, didn't you think that I might begin to suspect the reason? It's funny, though, that that famous brain of yours didn't prevent you from getting caught as simply as this." She waved at the room, at the breakfast table. "I felt certain that you weren't going to return here, last night. And it wasn't difficult or expensive at all to find out from a hotel employee, this morning, that you haven't spent a night in these rooms in the past year." He said nothing. "The man of stainless steel!" She laughed. "The man of achievement and honor who's so much better than the rest of us! Does she dance in the chorus or is she a manicurist in an exclusive barber shop patronized by millionaires?" He remained silent. "Who is she, Henry?" "I won't answer that." "I want to know." "You're not going to." "Don't you think it's ridiculous, your playing the part of a gentleman who's protecting the lady's name—or of any sort of gentleman, from now on? Who is she?" --------------------------------------- 328 "I said I won't answer." She shrugged. "I suppose it makes no difference. There's only one standard type for the one standard purpose. I've always known that under that ascetic look of yours you were a plain, crude sensualist who sought nothing from a woman except an animal satisfaction which I pride myself on not having given you. I knew that your vaunted sense of honor would collapse some day and you would be drawn to the lowest, cheapest type of female, just like any other cheating husband." She chuckled. "That great admirer of yours, Miss Dagny Taggart, was furious at me for the mere hint of a suggestion that her hero wasn't as pure as his stainless, non-corrosive rail. And she was naive enough to imagine that I could suspect her of being the type men find attractive for a relationship in which what they seek is most notoriously not brains. I knew your real nature and inclinations. Didn't I?" He said nothing. "Do you know what [ think of you now?" "You have the right to condemn me in any way you wish." She laughed. "The great man who was so contemptuous—in business—of weaklings who trimmed corners or fell by the wayside, because they couldn't match his strength of character and steadfastness of purpose! How do you feel about it now?" "My feelings need not concern you. You have the right to decide what you wish me to do. I will agree to any demand you make, except one: don't ask me to give it up." "Oh, I wouldn't ask you to give it up! I wouldn't expect you to change your nature. This is your true level—under all that self-made grandeur of a knight of industry who rose by sheer genius from the ore mine gutters to finger bowls and white tie! It fits you welt, that white tie, to come home in at eleven o'clock in the morning! You never rose out of the ore mines, that's where you belong—all of you self-made princes of the cash register—in the corner saloon on Saturday night, with the traveling salesmen and the dance- hall girls!" "Do you wish to divorce me?" "Oh, wouldn't you like that! Wouldn't that be a smart trade to pull! Don't you suppose I know that you've wanted to divorce me since the first month of our marriage?" "If that is what you thought, why did you stay with me?" She answered severely, "It's a question you have lost the right to ask." "That's true," he said, thinking that only one conceivable reason, her love for him, could justify her answer. "No, I'm not going to divorce you. Do you suppose that I will allow your romance with a floozie to deprive me of my home, my name, my social position? I shall preserve such pieces of my life as I can, whatever does not rest on so shoddy a foundation as your fidelity. Make no mistake about it: I shall never give you a divorce. Whether you like it or not, you're married and you'll stay married." "I will, if that is what you wish." "And furthermore, I will not consider—incidentally, why don't you sit down?" He remained standing. "Please say what you have to say." "I will not consider any unofficial divorce, such as a separation. You may continue your love idyll in the subways and basements where it belongs, but in the eyes of the world I will expect you to remember that I am Mrs. Henry Rearden. You have always proclaimed such an exaggerated devotion to honesty— now let me see you be condemned to the life of the hypocrite that you really are. I will expect you to maintain your residence at the home which is officially yours, but will now be mine." "If you wish." --------------------------------------- 329 She leaned back loosely, in a manner of untidy relaxation, her legs spread apart, her arms resting in two strict parallels on the arms of the chair—like a judge who could permit himself to be sloppy. "Divorce?" she said, chuckling coldly. "Did you think you'd get off as easily as that? Did you think you'd get by at the price of a few of your millions tossed off as alimony? You're so used to purchasing whatever you wish by the simple means of your dollars, that you cannot conceive of things that are non-commercial, non-negotiable, non-subject to any kind of trade. You're unable to believe that there may exist a person who feels no concern for money. You cannot imagine what that means. Well, I think you're going to learn. Oh yes, of course you'll agree to any demand I make, from now on. I want you to sit in that office of which you're so proud, in those precious mills of yours, and play the hero who works eighteen hours a day, the giant of industry who keeps the whole country going, the genius who is above the common herd of whining, lying, chiseling humanity. Then I want you to come home and face the only person who knows you for what you really are, who knows the actual value of your word, of your honor, of your integrity, of your vaunted self-esteem. I want you to face, in your own home, the one person who despises you and has the right to do so. I want you to look at me whenever you build another furnace, or pour another record breaking load of steel, or hear applause and admiration, whenever you feel proud of yourself, whenever you feel clean, whenever you feel drunk on the sense of your own greatness. I want you to look at me whenever you hear of some act of depravity, or feel anger at human corruption, or feel contempt for someone's knavery, or are the victim of a new governmental extortion—to look and to know that you're no better, that you're superior to no one, that there's nothing you have the right to condemn. I want you to look at me and to learn the fate of the man who tried to build a tower to the sky, or the man who wanted to reach the sun on wings made of wax—or you, the man who wanted to hold himself as perfect!" Somewhere outside of him and apart, as if he were reading it in a brain not his own, he observed the thought that there was some flaw in the scheme of the punishment she wanted him to bear, something wrong by its own terms, aside from its propriety or justice, some practical miscalculation that would demolish it all if discovered. He did not attempt to discover it. The thought went by as a moment's notation, made in cold curiosity, to be brought back in some distant future. There was nothing within him now with which to feel interest or to respond. His own brain was numb with the effort to hold the last of his sense of justice against so overwhelming a tide of revulsion that it swamped Lillian out of human form, past all his pleas to himself that he had no right to feel it. If she was loathsome, he thought, it was he who had brought her to it; this was her way of taking pain—no one could prescribe the form of a human being's attempt to bear suffering—no one could blame—above all, not he, who had caused it. But he saw no evidence of pain in her manner. Then perhaps the ugliness was the only means she could summon to hide it, he thought. Then he thought of nothing except of withstanding the revulsion, for the length of the next moment and of the next. When she stopped speaking, he asked, "Have you finished?" "Yes, I believe so." "Then you had better take the train home now." When he undertook the motions necessary to remove his evening clothes, he discovered that his muscles felt as if he were at the end of a long day of physical labor. His starched shirt was limp with sweat. There was neither thought nor feeling left in him, nothing but a sense that merged the remnants of both, the sense of congratulation upon the --------------------------------------- 330 greatest victory he had ever demanded of himself: that Lillian had walked out of the hotel suite alive. Entering Rearden's office, Dr. Floyd Ferris wore the expression of a man so certain of the success of his quest that he could afford a benevolent smile. He spoke with a smooth, cheerful assurance; Rearden had the impression that it was the assurance of a cardsharp who has spent a prodigious effort in memorizing every possible variation of the pattern, and is now safe in the knowledge that every card in the deck is marked. "Well, Mr. Rearden," he said, by way of greeting, "I didn't know that even a hardened hound of public functions and shaker of famous hands, like myself, could still get a thrill out of meeting an eminent man, but that's what I feel right now, believe it or not." "How do you do," said Rearden. Dr. Ferris sat down and made a few remarks about the colors of the leaves in the month of October, as he had observed them by the roadside on his long drive from Washington, undertaken specifically for the purpose of meeting Mr. Rearden in person. Rearden said nothing. Dr. Ferris looked out the window and commented on the inspiring sight of the Rearden mills which, he said, were one of the most valuable productive enterprises in the country. "That is not what you thought of my product a year and a half ago," said Rearden. Dr. Ferris gave a brief frown, as if a dot of the pattern had slipped and almost cost him the game, then chuckled, as if he had recaptured it. "That was a year and a half ago, Mr. Rearden," he said easily. "Times change, and people change with the times—the wise ones do. Wisdom lies in knowing when to remember and when to forget. Consistency is not a habit of mind which it is wise to practice or to expect of the human race." He then proceeded to discourse upon the foolishness of consistency in a world where nothing was absolute except the principle of compromise. He talked earnestly, but in a casual manner, as if they both understood that this was not the main subject of their interview; yet, oddly, he spoke not in the tone of a foreword, but in the tone of a postscript, as if the main subject had been settled long ago. Rearden waited for the first "Don't you think so?” and answered, "Please state the urgent matter for which you requested this appointment." Dr. Ferris looked astonished and blank for a moment, then said brightly, as if remembering an unimportant subject which could be disposed of without effort, "Oh, that? That was in regard to the dates of delivery of Rearden Metal to the State Science Institute. We should like to have five thousand tons by the first of December, and then we'll be quite agreeable to waiting for the balance of the order until after the first of the year." Rearden sat looking at him silently for a long time; each passing moment had the effect of making the gay intonations of Dr. Ferris' voice, still hanging in the air of the room, seem more foolish. When Dr. Ferris had begun to dread that he would not answer at all, Rearden answered, "Hasn't the traffic cop with the leather leggings, whom you sent here, given you a report on his conversation with me?" "Why, yes, Mr. Rearden, but—" "What else do you want to hear?" "But that was five months ago, Mr. Rearden. A certain event has taken place since, which makes me quite sure that you have changed your mind and that you will make no trouble for us at all, just as we will make no trouble for you." "What event?" --------------------------------------- 331 "An event of which you have far greater knowledge than I—but, you see, I do have knowledge of it, even though you would much prefer me to have none." "What event?" "Since it is your secret, Mr. Rearden, why not let it remain a secret? Who doesn't have secrets nowadays? For instance, Project X is a secret. You realize, of course, that we could obtain your Metal simply by having it purchased in smaller quantities by various government offices who would then transfer it to us—and you would not be able to prevent it. But this would necessitate our letting a lot of lousy bureaucrats"—Dr. Ferris smiled with disarming frankness—"oh yes, we are as unpopular with one another as we are with you private citizens—it would necessitate our letting a lot of other bureaucrats in on the secret of Project X, which would be highly undesirable at this time. And so would any newspaper publicity about the Project—if we put you on trial for refusal to comply with a government order. But if you had to stand trial on another, much more serious charge, where Project X and the State Science Institute were not involved, and where you could not raise any issue of principle or arouse any public sympathy—why, that would not inconvenience us at all, but it would cost you more than you would care to contemplate. Therefore, the only practical thing for you to do is to help us keep our secret and get us to help you keep yours—and, as I'm sure you realize, we are fully able to keep any of the bureaucrats safely off your trail for as long as we wish," "What event, what secret and what trail?" "Oh, come, Mr. Rearden, don't be childish! The four thousand tons of Rearden Metal which you delivered to Ken Danagger, of course," said Dr. Ferris lightly. Rearden did not answer. "Issues of. principle are such a nuisance," said Dr. Ferris, smiling, "and such a waste of time for all concerned. Now would you care to be a martyr for an issue of principle, only in circumstances where nobody will know that that's what you are—nobody but you and me—where you won't get a chance to breathe a word about the issue or the principle—where you won't be a hero, the creator of a spectacular new metal, making a stand against enemies whose actions might appear somewhat shabby in the eyes of the public—where you won't be a hero, but a common criminal, a greedy industrialist who's cheated the law for a plain motive of profit, a racketeer of the black market who's broken the national regulations designed to protect the public welfare—a hero without glory and without public, who'll accomplish no more than about half a column of newsprint somewhere on page five—now would you still care to be that kind of martyr? Because that's just what the issue amounts to now: either you let us have the Metal or you go to jail for ten years and take your friend Danagger along, too." As a biologist, Dr. Ferris had always been fascinated by the theory that animals had the capacity to smell fear; he had tried to develop a similar capacity in himself. Watching Rearden, he concluded that the man had long since decided to give in—because he caught no trace of any fear. "Who was your informer?" asked Rearden. "One of your friends, Mr. Rearden. The owner of a copper mine in Arizona, who reported to us that you had purchased an extra amount of copper last month, above the regular tonnage required for the monthly quota of Rearden Metal which the law permits you to produce. Copper is one of the ingredients of Rearden Metal, isn't it? That was all the information we needed. The rest was easy to trace. You mustn't blame that mine owner too much. The copper producers, as you know, are being squeezed so badly right now that the man had to offer something of value in order to obtain a favor, an 'emergency need' ruling which suspended a few of the directives in his case and gave him a little breathing spell. The person to whom he traded his information knew --------------------------------------- 332 where it would have the highest value, so he traded it to me, in return for certain favors he needed. So all the necessary evidence, as well as the next ten years of your life, are now in my possession—and I am offering you a trade. I'm sure you won't object, since trade is your specialty. The form may be a little different from what it was in your youth—but you're a smart trader, you've always known how to take advantage of changing conditions, and these are the conditions of our day, so it should not be difficult for you to see where your interests lie and to act accordingly." Rearden said calmly, "In my youth, this was called blackmail." Dr. Ferris grinned. "That's what it is, Mr. Rearden. We've entered a much more realistic age." But there was a peculiar difference, thought Rearden, between the manner of a plain blackmailer and that of Dr. Ferris. A blackmailer would show signs of gloating over his victim's sin and of acknowledging its evil, he would suggest a threat to the victim and a sense of danger to them both. Dr. Ferris conveyed none of it. His manner was that of dealing with the normal and the natural, it suggested a sense of safety, it held no tone of condemnation, but a hint of comradeship, a comradeship based—for both of them—on self-contempt. The sudden feeling that made Rearden lean forward in a posture of eager attentiveness, was the feeling that he was about to discover another step along his half glimpsed trail. Seeing Rearden's look of interest, Dr. Ferris smiled and congratulated himself on having caught the right key. The game was clear to him now, the markings of the pattern were falling in the right order; some men, thought Dr. Ferris, would do anything so long as it was left unnamed, but this man wanted frankness, this was the tough realist he had expected to find. "You're a practical man, Mr. Rearden," said Dr. Ferris amiably. "I can't understand why you should want to stay behind the times. Why don't you adjust yourself and play it right? You're smarter than most of them. You're a valuable person, we've wanted you for a long time, and when I heard that you were trying to string along with Jim Taggart, I knew you could be had. Don't bother with Jim Taggart, he's nothing, he's just flea-bait. Get into the big game. We can use you and you can use us. Want us to step on Orren Boyle for you? He's given you an awful beating, want us to trim him down a little? It can be done. Or want us to keep Ken Danagger in line? Look how impractical you've been about that. I know why you sold him the Metal—it's because you need him to get coal from. So you take a chance on going to jail and paying huge fines, just to keep on the good side of Ken Danagger. Do you call that good business? Now, make a deal with us and just let Mr. Danagger understand that if he doesn't toe the line, he'll go to jail, but you won't, because you've got friends he hasn't got—and you'll never have to worry about your coal supply from then on. Now that's the modern way of doing business. Ask yourself which way is more practical. And whatever anyone's said about you, nobody's ever denied that you're a great businessman and a hard-headed realist." "That's what I am," said Rearden. "That's what I thought," said Dr. Ferris. "You rose to riches in an age when most men were going bankrupt, you've always managed to blast obstacles, to keep your mills going and to make money—that's your reputation—so you wouldn't want to be impractical now, would you? What for? What do you care, so long as you make money? Leave the theories to people like Bertram Scudder and the ideals to people like Balph Eubank—and be yourself. Come down to earth. You're not the man who'd let sentiment interfere with business." "No," said Rearden slowly, "I wouldn't. Not any kind of sentiment." Dr. Ferris smiled. "Don't you suppose we knew it?" he said, his tone suggesting that he was letting his patent-leather hair down to impress a fellow criminal by a display of superior cunning. "We've waited a long time --------------------------------------- 333 to get something on you. You honest men are such a problem and such a headache. But we knew you'd slip sooner or later—and this is just what we wanted." "You seem to be pleased about it." "Don't I have good reason to be?" "But, after all, I did break one of your laws." "Well, what do you think they're for?" Dr. Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden's face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. Dr. Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap. "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against—then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." Watching Dr. Ferris watch him, Rearden saw the sudden twitch of anxiety, the look that precedes panic, as if a clean card had fallen on the table from a deck Dr. Ferris had never seen before. What Dr. Ferris was seeing in Rearden's face was the look of luminous serenity that comes from the sudden answer to an old, dark problem, a look of relaxation and eagerness together; there was a youthful clarity in Rearden's eyes and the faintest touch of contempt in the line of his mouth. Whatever this meant—and Dr. Ferris could not decipher it —he was certain of one thing: the face held no sign of guilt. "There's a flaw in your system, Dr. Ferris,” Rearden said quietly, almost lightly, "a practical flaw which you will discover when you put me on trial for selling four thousand tons of Rearden Metal to Ken Danagger." It took twenty seconds—Rearden could feel them moving past slowly—at the end of which Dr. Ferris became convinced that he had heard Rearden's final decision. "Do you think we're bluffing?" snapped Dr. Ferris; his voice suddenly had the quality of the animals he had spent so much time studying: it sounded as if he were baring his teeth. "I don't know," said Rearden. "I don't care, one way or the other." "Are you going to be as impractical as that?" "The evaluation of an action as 'practical,' Dr. Ferris, depends on what it is that one wishes to practice." "Haven't you always placed your self-interest above all else?" "That is what I am doing right now." "If you think we'll let you get away with a—" "You will now please get out of here." "Whom do you think you're fooling?" Dr. Ferris' voice had risen close to the edge of a scream. "The day of the barons of industry is done! You've got the goods, but we've got the goods on you, and you're going to play it our way or you'll—" Rearden had pressed a button; Miss Ives entered the office. "Dr. Ferris has become confused and has lost his way, Miss Ives," --------------------------------------- 334 said Rearden. "Will you escort him out please?" He turned to Ferris. "Miss Ives is a woman, she weighs about a hundred pounds, and she has no practical qualifications at all, only a superlative intellectual efficiency. She would never do for a bouncer in a saloon, only in an impractical place, such as a factory." Miss Ives looked as if she was performing a duty of no greater emotional significance than taking dictation about a list of shipping invoices. Standing straight in a disciplined manner of icy formality, she held the door open, let Dr. Ferris cross the room, then walked out first; Dr. Ferris followed. She came back a few minutes later, laughing in uncontrollable exultation. "Mr. Rearden," she asked, laughing at her fear for him, at their danger, at everything but the triumph of the moment, "what is it you're doing?" He sat in a pose he had never permitted himself before, a pose he had resented as the most vulgar symbol of the businessman—he sat leaning back in his chair, with his feet on his desk—and it seemed to her that the posture had an air of peculiar nobility, that it was not the pose of a stuffy executive, but of a young crusader. "I think I'm discovering a new continent, Owen," he answered cheerfully. "A continent that should have been discovered along with America, but wasn't." "I have to speak of it to you" said Eddie Willers, looking at the worker across the table. "I don't know why it helps me, but it does— just to know that you're hearing me." It was late and the lights of the underground cafeteria were low, but Eddie Willers could see the worker's eyes looking at him intently. "I feel as if . . . as if there's no people and no human language left," said Eddie Willers. "I feel that if I were to scream in the middle of the streets, there would be no one to hear it. . . . No, that's not quite what I feel, it's this: I feel that someone is screaming in the middle of the streets, but people are passing by and no sound can reach them —and it's not Hank Rearden or Ken Danagger or I who's screaming, and yet it seems as if it's all three of us. . . . Don't you see that somebody should have risen to defend them, but nobody has or will? Rearden and Danagger were indicted this morning—for an illegal sale of Rearden Metal. They'll go on trial next month. I was there, in the courtroom in Philadelphia, when they read the indictment. Rearden was very calm—I kept feeling that he was smiling, but he wasn't. Danagger was worse than calm. He didn't say a word, he just stood there, as if the room were empty. . . . The newspapers are saying that both of them should be thrown in jail. . . . No . . . no, I'm not shaking, I'm all right, I'll be all right in a moment. . . . That's why I haven't said a word to her, I was afraid I'd explode and I didn't want to make it harder for her, I know how she feels. . . . Oh yes, she spoke to me about it, and she didn't shake, but it was worse— you know, the kind of rigidity when a person acts as if she didn't feel anything at all, and . . . Listen, did I ever tell you that I like you? I like you very much—for the way you look right now. You hear us. You understand . . . What did she say? It was strange: it's not Hank Rearden that she's afraid for, it's Ken Danagger. She said that Rearden will have the strength to take it, but Danagger won't. Not that he'll lack the strength, but he'll refuse to take it. She . . . she feels certain that Ken Danagger will be the next one to go. To go like Ellis Wyatt and all those others. To give up and vanish . . . Why? Well, she thinks that there's something like a shift of stress involved— economic and personal stress. As soon as all the weight of the moment shifts to the shoulders of some one man—he's the one who vanishes, like a --------------------------------------- 335 pillar slashed off. A year ago, nothing worse could have happened to 'the country than to lose Ellis Wyatt. He's the one we lost. Since then, she says, it's been as if the center of gravity were swinging wildly—like in a sinking cargo ship out of control—shifting from industry to industry, from man to man. When we lose one, another becomes that much more desperately needed—and he's the one we lose next. Well, what could be a greater disaster now than to have the country's coal supply left in the hands of men like Boyle or Larkin? And there's no one left in the coal industry who amounts to much, except Ken Danagger. So she says that she feels almost as if he's a marked man, as if he's hit by a spotlight right now, waiting to be cut down. . . . What are you laughing at? It might sound preposterous, but I think it's true. . . . What? . . . Oh yes, you bet she's a smart woman! . . . And then there's another thing involved, she says. A man has to come to a certain mental stage—not anger or despair, but something much, much more than both—before he can be cut down. She can't tell what it is, but she knew, long before the fire, that Ellis Wyatt had reached that stage and something would happen to him. When she saw Ken Danagger in the courtroom today, she said that he was ready for the destroyer. . . . Yes, that's the words she used: he was ready for the destroyer. You see, she doesn't think it's happening by chance or accident. She thinks there's a system behind it, an intention, a man. There's a destroyer loose in the country, who's cutting down the buttresses one after another to let the structure collapse upon our heads. Some ruthless creature moved by some inconceivable purpose . . . She says that she won't let him get Ken Danagger. She keeps repeating that she must stop Danagger—she wants to speak to him, to beg, to plead, to revive whatever it is that he's losing, to arm him against the destroyer, before the destroyer comes. She's desperately anxious to reach Danagger first. He has refused to see anyone. He's gone back to Pittsburgh, to his mines. But she got him on the phone, late today, and she's made an appointment to see him tomorrow afternoon. . . . Yes, she'll go to Pittsburgh tomorrow. . . . Yes, she's afraid for Danagger, terribly afraid. . . . No. She knows nothing about the destroyer. She has no clue to his identity, no evidence of his existence—except the trail of destruction. But she feels certain that he exists. . . . No, she cannot guess his purpose. She says that nothing on earth could justify him. There are times when she feels that she'd like to find him more than any other man in the world, more than the inventor of the motor. She says that if she found the destroyer, she'd shoot him on sight—she'd be willing to give her life if she could take his first and by her own hand . . . because he's the most evil creature that's ever existed, the man who's draining the brains of the world. . . . I guess it's getting to be too much for her, at times—even for her. I don't think she allows herself to know how tired she is. The other morning, I came to work very early and I found her asleep on the couch in her office, with the light still burning on her desk. She'd been there all night. I just stood and looked at her. I wouldn't have awakened her if the whole goddamn railroad collapsed. . . . When she was asleep? Why, she looked like a young girl. She looked as if she felt certain that she would awaken in a world where no one would harm her, as if she had nothing to hide or to fear. That's what was terrible—that guiltless purity of her face, with her body twisted by exhaustion, still lying there as she had collapsed. She looked—say, why should you ask me what she looks like when she's asleep? . . . Yes, you're right, why do I talk about it? I shouldn't. I don't know what made me think of it. . . . Don't pay any attention to me. I'll be all right tomorrow. I guess it's just that I'm sort of shell-shocked by that courtroom. I keep thinking: if men like Rearden and Danagger are to be sent to jail, then what kind of world are we working in and what for? Isn't there any --------------------------------------- 336 justice left on earth? I was foolish enough to say that to a reporter when we were leaving the courtroom—and he just laughed and said, 'Who is John Galt?' . . . Tell me, what's happening to us? Isn't there a single man of justice left? Isn't there anyone to defend them? Oh, do you hear me? Isn't there anyone to defend them?" "Mr. Danagger will be free in a moment, Miss Taggart. He has a visitor in his office. Will you excuse it, please?" said the secretary. Through the two hours of her flight to Pittsburgh, Dagny had been tensely unable to justify her anxiety or to dismiss it; there was no reason to count minutes, yet she had felt a blind desire to hurry. The anxiety vanished when she entered the anteroom of Ken Danagger's office: she had reached him, nothing had happened to prevent it, she felt safety, confidence and an enormous sense of relief. The words of the secretary demolished it. You're becoming a coward—thought Dagny., feeling a causeless jolt of dread at the words, out of all proportion to their meaning. "I am so sorry, Miss Taggart." She heard the secretary's respectful, solicitous voice and realized that she had stood there without answering. "Mr. Danagger will be with you in just a moment. Won't you sit down?" The voice conveyed an anxious concern over the impropriety of keeping her waiting. Dagny smiled. "Oh, that's quite all right." She sat down in a wooden armchair, facing the secretary's railing. She reached for a cigarette and stopped, wondering whether she would have time to finish it, hoping that she would not, then lighted it brusquely. It was an old-fashioned frame building, this headquarters of the great Danagger Coal Company. Somewhere in the hills beyond the window were the pits where Ken Danagger had once worked as a miner. He had never moved his office away from the coal fields. She could see the mine entrances cut into the hillsides, small frames of metal girders, that led to an immense underground kingdom. They seemed precariously modest, lost in the violent orange and red of the hills. . . . Under a harsh blue sky, in the sunlight of late October, the sea of leaves looked like a sea of fire . . . like waves rolling to swallow the fragile posts of the mine doorways. She shuddered and looked away: she thought of the flaming leaves spread over the hills of Wisconsin, on the road to Starnesville. She noticed that there was only a stub left of the cigarette between her fingers. She lighted another. When she glanced at the clock on the wall of the anteroom, she caught the secretary glancing at it at the same time. Her appointment was for three o'clock; the white dial said: 3:12. "Please forgive it, Miss Taggart," said the secretary, "Mr. Danagger will be through, any moment now, Mr. Danagger is extremely punctual about Ms appointments. Please believe me that this is unprecedented." "I know it." She knew that Ken Danagger was as rigidly exact about his schedule as a railroad timetable and that he had been known to cancel an interview if a caller permitted himself to arrive five minutes late. The secretary was an elderly spinster with a forbidding manner: a manner of even-toned courtesy impervious to any shock, just as her spotless white blouse was impervious to an atmosphere filled with coal dust. Dagny thought it strange that a hardened, well-trained woman of this type should appear to be nervous: she volunteered no conversation, she sat still, bent over some pages of paper on her desk. Half of Dagny's cigarette had gone in smoke, while the woman still sat looking at the same page. When she raised her head to glance at the clock, the 4ial said: 3:30. --------------------------------------- 337 "I know that this is inexcusable, Miss Taggart." The note of apprehension was obvious in her voice now. "I am unable to understand it." "Would you mind telling Mr. Danagger that I'm here?" "I can't!" It was almost a cry; she saw Dagny's astonished glance and felt obliged to explain: "Mr. Danagger called me, on the interoffice communicator, and told me that he was not to be interrupted under any circumstances or for any reason whatever." "When did he do that?" The moment's pause was like a small air cushion for the answer: "Two hours ago." Dagny looked at the closed door of Danagger's office. She could hear the sound of a voice beyond the door, but so faintly that she could not tell whether it was the voice of one man or the conversation of two; she could not distinguish the words or the emotional quality of the tone: it was only a low, even progression of sounds that seemed normal and did not convey the pitch of raised voices. "How long has Mr. Danagger been in conference?" she asked. "Since one o'clock," said the secretary grimly, then added in apology, "It was an unscheduled caller, or Mr. Danagger would never have permitted this to happen." The door was not locked, thought Dagny; she felt an unreasoning desire to tear it open and walk in—it was only a few wooden boards with a brass knob, it would require only a small muscular contraction of her arm—but she looked away, knowing that the power of a civilized order and of Ken Danagger's right was more impregnable a barrier than any lock. She found herself staring at the stubs of her cigarettes in the ashtray stand beside her, and wondered why it gave her a sharper feeling of apprehension. Then she realized that she was thinking of Hugh Akston: she had written to him, at his diner in Wyoming, asking him to tell her where he had obtained the cigarette with the dollar sign; her letter had come back, with a postal inscription to inform her that he had moved away, leaving no forwarding address. She told herself angrily that this had no connection with the present moment and that she had to control her nerves. But her hand jerked to press the button of the ashtray and make the cigarette stubs vanish inside the stand. As she looked up, her eyes met the glance of the secretary watching her. "I am sorry, Miss Taggart. I don't know what to do about it." It was an openly desperate plea. "I don't dare interrupt." Dagny asked slowly, as a demand, in defiance of office etiquette, "Who is with Mr. Danagger?" "I don't know, Miss Taggart. I have never seen the gentleman before." She noticed the sudden, fixed stillness of Dagny's eyes and added, "I think it's a childhood friend of Mr. Danagger." "Oh!" said Dagny, relieved. "He came in unannounced and asked to see Mr. Danagger and said that this was an appointment which Mr. Danagger had made with him forty years ago," "How old is Mr. Danagger?" "Fifty-two," said the secretary. She added reflectively, in the tone of a casual remark, "Mr. Danagger started working at the age of twelve." After another silence, she added, "The strange thing is that the visitor does not look as if he's even forty years old. He seems to be a man in his thirties." "Did he give his name?" "No." "What does he look like?" --------------------------------------- 338 The secretary smiled with sudden animation, as if she were about to utter an enthusiastic compliment, but the smile vanished abruptly. "I don't know," she answered uneasily. "He's hard to describe. He has a strange face." They had been silent for a long time, and the hands of the dial were approaching 3:50 when the buzzer rang on the secretary's desk— the bell from Danagger's office, the signal of permission to enter. They both leaped to their feet, and the secretary rushed forward, smiling with relief, hastening to open the door. As she entered Danagger's office, Dagny saw the private exit door closing after the caller who had preceded her. She heard the knock of the door against the jamb and the faint tinkle of the glass panel. She saw the man who had left, by his reflection on Ken Danagger's face. It was not the face she had seen in the courtroom, it was not the face she had known for years as a countenance of unchanging, unfeeling rigidity—it was a face which a young man of twenty should hope for, but could not achieve, a face from which every sign of strain had been wiped out, so that the lined cheeks, the creased forehead, the graying hair—like elements rearranged by a new theme—were made to form a composition of hope, eagerness and guiltless serenity: the theme was deliverance. He did not rise when she entered—he looked as if he had not quite returned to the reality of the moment and had forgotten the proper routine—but he smiled at her with such simple benevolence that she found herself smiling in answer. She caught herself thinking that this was the way every human being should greet another—and she lost her anxiety, feeling suddenly certain that all was well and that nothing to be feared could exist. "How do you do, Miss Taggart," he said. "Forgive me, I think that I have kept you waiting. Please sit down." He pointed to the chair in front of his desk. "I didn't mind waiting," she said. "I'm grateful that you gave me this appointment. I was extremely anxious to speak to you on a matter of urgent importance." He leaned forward across the desk, with a look of attentive concentration, as he always did at the mention of an important business matter, but she was not speaking to the man she knew, this was a stranger, and she stopped, uncertain about the arguments she had been prepared to use. He looked at her in silence, and then he said, "Miss Taggart, this is such a beautiful day—probably the last, this year. There's a thing I've always wanted to do, but never had time for it. Let's go back to New York together and take one of those excursion boat trips around the island of Manhattan. Let's take a last look at the greatest city in the world." She sat still, trying to hold her eyes fixed in order to stop the office from swaying. This was the Ken Danagger who had never had a personal friend, had never married, had never attended a play or a movie, had never permitted anyone the impertinence of taking his time for any concern but business. "Mr. Danagger, I came here to speak to you about a matter of crucial importance to the future of your business and mine. I came to speak to you about your indictment." "Oh, that? Don't worry about that. It doesn't matter. I'm going to retire." She sat still, feeling nothing, wondering numbly whether this was how it felt to hear a death sentence one had dreaded, but had never quite believed possible. Her first movement was a sudden jerk of her head toward the exit door; she asked, her voice low, her mouth distorted by hatred, "Who was he?" Danagger laughed. "If you've guessed that much, you should have guessed that it's a question I won't answer." --------------------------------------- 339 "Oh God, Ken Danagger!" she moaned; his words made her realize that the barrier of hopelessness, of silence, of unanswered questions was already erected between them; the hatred had been only a thin wire that had held her for a moment and she broke with its breaking. "Oh God!" "You're wrong, kid," he said gently. "I know how you feel, but you're wrong," then added more formally, as if remembering the proper manner, as if still trying to balance himself between two kinds of reality, "I'm sorry, Miss Taggart, that you had to come here so soon after." "I came too late," she said. "That's what I came here to prevent. I knew it would happen." "Why?" "I felt certain that he'd get you next, whoever he is." "You did? That's funny. I didn't." "I wanted to warn you, to . . . to arm you against him." He smiled. "Take my word for it, Miss Taggart, so that you won't torture yourself with regrets about the timing; that could not have been done." She felt that with every passing minute he was moving away into some great distance where she would not be able to reach him, but there was still some thin bridge left between them and she had to hurry. She leaned forward, she said very quietly, the intensity of emotion taking form in the exaggerated steadiness of her voice, "Do you remember what you thought and felt, what you were, three hours ago? Do you remember what your mines meant to you? Do you remember Taggart Transcontinental or Rearden Steel? In the name of that, will you answer me? Will you help me to understand?" "I will answer whatever I may." "You have decided to retire? To give up your business?" "Yes." "Does it mean nothing to you now?" "It means more to me now than it ever did before." "But you're going to abandon it?" "Yes." "Why?" "That, I won't answer,” "You, who loved your work, who respected nothing but work, who despised every kind of aimlessness, passivity and renunciation—have you renounced the kind of life you loved?" "No. I have just discovered how much I do love it." "But you intend to exist without work or purpose?" "What makes you think that?" "Are you going into the coal-mining business somewhere else?" "No, not into the coal-mining business." "Then what are you going to do?" "I haven't decided that yet." "Where are you going?" "I won't answer." She gave herself a moment's pause, to gather her strength, to tell herself; Don't feel, don't show him that you feel anything, don't let it cloud and break the bridge—then she said, in the same quiet, even voice, "Do you realize what your retirement will do to Hank Rearden, to me, to all the rest of us, whoever is left?" "Yes. I realize it more fully than you do at present." "And it means nothing to you?" "It means more than you will care to believe." "Then why are you deserting us?" --------------------------------------- 340 "You will not believe it and I will not explain, but I am not deserting you." "We're being left to carry a greater burden, and you're indifferent to the knowledge that you'll see us destroyed by the looters." "Don't be too sure of that." "Of which? Your indifference or our destruction?" "Of either." "But you know, you knew it this morning, that it's a battle to the death, and it's we—you were one of us—against the looters." "If I answer that 7 know it, but you don't—you'll think that I attach no meaning to my words. So take it as you wish, but that is my answer." "Will you tell me the meaning?" "No. It's for you to discover." "You're willing to give up the world to the looters. We aren't." "Don't be too sure of either." She remained helplessly silent. The strangeness of his manner was its simplicity; he spoke as if he were being completely natural and—in the midst of unanswered questions and of a tragic mystery—he conveyed the impression that there were no secrets any longer, and no mystery need ever have existed. But as she watched him, she saw the first break in his joyous calm: she saw him struggling against some thought; he hesitated, then said, with effort, "About Hank Rearden . . . Will you do me a favor?" "Of course." "Will you tell him that I . . . You see, I've never cared for people, yet he was always the man I respected, but I didn't know until today that what I felt was,. . . that he was the only man I ever loved. . . . Just tell him this and that I wish I could—no, I guess that's all I can tell him. . . . He'll probably damn me for leaving . . . still, maybe he won't." "I'll tell him." Hearing the dulled, hidden sound of pain in his voice, she felt so close to him that it seemed impossible he would deliver the blow he was delivering— and she made one last effort. "Mr. Danagger, if I were to plead on my knees, if I were to find some sort of words that I haven't found—would there be . . . is there a chance to stop you?" "There isn't." After a moment, she asked tonelessly, "When are you quitting?" "Tonight." "What will you do with"—she pointed at the hills beyond the window—"the Danagger Coal Company? To whom are you leaving it?" "I don't know—or care. To nobody or everybody. To whoever wants to take it." "You're not going to dispose of it or appoint a successor?" "No. What for?" "To leave it in good hands. Couldn't you at least name an heir of your own choice?" "I haven't any choice. It doesn't make any difference to me. Want me to leave it all to you?" He reached for a sheet of paper. "I'll write a letter naming you sole heiress right now, if you want me to." She shook her head in an involuntary recoil of horror. "I'm not a looter!" He chuckled, pushing the paper aside. "You see? You gave the right answer, whether you knew it or not. Don't worry about Danagger Coal. It won't make any difference, whether I appoint the best successor in the world, or the worst, or none. No matter who takes it over now, whether men or weeds, it won't make any difference." --------------------------------------- 341 "But to walk off and abandon . . . just abandon . . . an industrial enterprise, as if we were in the age of landless nomads or of savages wandering in the jungle!" "Aren't we?" He was smiling at her, half in mockery, half in compassion. "Why should I leave a deed or a will? I don't want to help the looters to pretend that private property still exists. I am complying with the system which they have established. They do not need me, they say, they only need my coal. Let them take it." "Then you're accepting their system?" "Am I?" She moaned, looking at the exit door, "What has he done to you?" "He told me that I had the right to exist." "I didn't believe it possible that in three hours one could make a man turn against fifty-two years of his life!" "If that's what you trunk he's done, or if you think that he's told me some inconceivable revelation, then I can see how bewildering it would appear to you. But that's not what he's done. He merely named what I had lived by, what every man lives by—at and to the extent of such time as he doesn't spend destroying himself." She knew that questions were futile and that there was nothing she could say to him. He looked at her bowed head and said gently, "You're a brave person, Miss Taggart. I know what you're doing right now and what it's costing you. Don't torture yourself. Let me go." She rose to her feet. She was about to speak—but suddenly he saw her stare down, leap forward and seize the ashtray that stood on the edge of the desk. The ashtray contained a cigarette butt stamped with the sign of the dollar. "What's the matter, Miss Taggart?" "Did he . . . did he smoke this?" "Who?" "Your caller—did he smoke this cigarette?" "Why, I don't know . . . I guess so . . . yes, I think I did see him smoking a cigarette once . . . let me see . . . no, that's not my brand, so it must be his." "Were there any other visitors in this office today?" "No. But why, Miss Taggart? What's the matter?" "May I take this?" "What? The cigarette butt?" He stared at her in bewilderment. "Yes." "Why, sure—but what for?" She was looking down at the butt in the palm of her hand as if it were a jewel. "I don't know . . . I don't know what good it will do me, except that it's a clue to"—she smiled bitterly—"to a secret of my own." She stood, reluctant to leave, looking at Ken Danagger in the manner of a last look at one departing for the realm of no return. He guessed it, smiled and extended his hand. "I won't say goodbye," he said, "because I'll see you again in the not too distant future." "Oh," she said eagerly, holding his hand clasped across the desk, "are you going to return?" "No. You're going to join me." There was only a faint red breath above the structures in the darkness, as if the mills were asleep but alive, with the even breathing of the furnaces and the distant heartbeats of the conveyor belts to show it. Rearden stood at the window of his office, his hand pressed to the pane; in the perspective of distance, his hand covered half a mile of structures, as if he were trying to hold them. --------------------------------------- 342 He was looking at a long wall of vertical strips, which was the battery of coke ovens. A narrow door slid open with a brief gasp of flame, and a sheet of red-glowing coke came sliding out smoothly, like a slice of bread from the side of a giant toaster. It held still for an instant, then an angular crack shot through the slice and it crumbled into a gondola waiting on the rails below. Danagger coal, he thought. These were the only words in his mind. The rest was a feeling of loneliness, so vast that even its own pain seemed swallowed in an enormous void. Yesterday, Dagny had told him the story of her futile attempt and given him Danagger's message. This morning, he had heard the news that Danagger had disappeared. Through his sleepless night, then through the taut concentration on the duties of the day, his answer to the message had kept beating in his mind, the answer he would never have a chance to utter. "The only man I ever loved." It came from Ken Danagger, who had never expressed anything more personal than "Look here, Rearden." He thought: Why had we let it go? Why had we both been condemned —in the hours away from our desks—to an exile among dreary strangers who had made us give up all desire for rest, for friendship, for the sound of human voices? Could I now reclaim a single hour spent listening to my brother Philip and give it to Ken Danagger? Who made it our duty to accept, as the only reward for our work, the gray torture of pretending love for those who roused us to nothing but contempt? We who were able to melt rock and metal for our purpose, why had we never sought that which we wanted from men? He tried to choke the words in his mind, knowing that it was useless to think of them now. But the words were there and they were like words addressed to the dead: No, I don't damn you for leaving—if that is the question and the pain which you took away with you. Why didn't you give me a chance to tell you . . . what? that I approve? . . . no, but that I can neither blame you nor follow you. Closing his eyes, he permitted himself to experience for a moment the immense relief he would feel if he, too, were to walk off, abandoning everything. Under the shock of his loss, he felt a thin thread of envy. Why didn't they come for me, too, whoever they are, and give me that irresistible reason which would make me go? But in the next moment, his shudder of anger told him that he would murder the man who'd attempt to approach him, he would murder before he could hear the words of the secret that would take him away from his mills. It was late, his staff had gone, but he dreaded the road to his house and the emptiness of the evening ahead. He felt as if the enemy who had wiped out Ken Danagger, were waiting for him in the darkness beyond the glow of the mills. He was not invulnerable any longer, but whatever it was, he thought, wherever it came from, he was safe from it here, as in a circle of fires drawn about him to ward off evil. He looked at the glittering white splashes on the dark windows of a structure in the distance; they were like motionless ripples of sunlight on water. It was the reflection of the neon sign that burned on the roof of the building above his head, saying: Rearden Steel. He thought of the night when he had wished to light a sign above his past, saying: Rearden Life. Why had he wished it? For whose eyes to see? He thought—in bitter astonishment and for the first time—that the joyous pride he had once felt, had come from his respect for men, for the value of their admiration and their judgment. He did not feel it any longer. There were no men, he thought, to whose sight he could wish to offer that sign. He turned brusquely away from the window. He seized his overcoat with the harsh sweep of a gesture intended to jolt him back into the discipline of --------------------------------------- 343 action. He slammed the two folds of the overcoat about his body, he jerked the belt tight, then hastened to turn off the lights with rapid snaps of his hand on his way out of the office. He threw the door open—and stopped. A single lamp was burning in a corner of the dimmed anteroom. The man who sat on the edge of a desk, in a pose of casual, patient waiting, was Francisco d'Anconia. Rearden stood still and caught a brief instant when Francisco, not moving, looked at him with the hint of an amused smile that was like a wink between conspirators at a secret they both understood, but would not acknowledge. It was only an instant, almost too brief to grasp, because it seemed to him that Francisco rose at once at his entrance, with a movement of courteous deference. The movement suggested a strict formality, the denial of any attempt at presumption—but it stressed the intimacy of the fact that he uttered no word of greeting or explanation. Rearden asked, his voice hard, "What are you doing here?" "I thought that you would want to see me tonight, Mr. Rearden." "Why?" "For the same reason that has kept you so late in your office. You were not working." "How long have you been sitting here?" "An hour or two." "Why didn't you knock at my door?" "Would you have allowed me to come in?" "You're late in asking that question," "Shall I leave, Mr. Rearden?" Rearden pointed to the door of his office. "Come in." Turning the lights on in the office, moving with unhurried control, Rearden thought that he must not allow himself to feel anything, but felt the color of life returning to him in the tensely quiet eagerness of an emotion which he would not identify. What he told himself consciously was: Be careful. He sat down on the edge of his desk, crossed his arms, looked at Francisco, who remained standing respectfully before him, and asked with the cold hint of a smile, "Why did you come here?" "You don't want me to answer, Mr. Rearden. You wouldn't admit to me or to yourself how desperately lonely you are tonight. If you don't question me, you won't feel obliged to deny it. Just accept what you do know, anyway: that I know it." Taut like a string pulled by anger against the impertinence at one end and by admiration for the frankness at the other, Rearden answered, "I'll admit it, if you wish. What should it matter to me, that you know it?" "That I know and care, Mr. Rearden. I'm the only man around you who does." "Why should you care? And why should I need your help tonight?" "Because it's not easy to have to damn the man who meant most to you." "I wouldn't damn you if you'd only stay away from me." Francisco's eyes widened a little, then he grinned and said, "I was speaking of Mr. Danagger." For an instant, Rearden looked as if he wanted to slap his own face, then he laughed softly and said, "All right. Sit down." He waited to see what advantage Francisco would take of it now, but Francisco obeyed him in silence, with a smile that had an oddly boyish quality: a look of triumph and gratitude, together. "I don't damn Ken Danagger," said Rearden. "You don't?" The two words seemed to fall with a singular emphasis; they were pronounced very quietly, almost cautiously, with no remnant of a smile on Francisco's face. "No. I don't try to prescribe how much a man should have to bear. --------------------------------------- 344 If he broke, it's not for me to judge him." "If he broke . . . ?" "Well, didn't he?" Francisco leaned back; his smile returned, but it was not a happy smile. "What will his disappearance do to you?" "I will just have to work a little harder." Francisco looked at a steel bridge traced in black strokes against red steam beyond the window, and said, pointing, "Every one of those girders has a limit to the load it can carry. What's yours?" Rearden laughed. "Is that what you're afraid of? Is that why you came here? Were you afraid I'd break? Did you want to save me, as Dagny Taggart wanted to save Ken Danagger? She tried to reach him in time, but couldn't." "She did? I didn't know it. Miss Taggart and I disagree about many things." "Don't worry. I'm not going to vanish. Let them all give up and stop working. I won't. I don't know my limit and don't care. All I have to know is that I can't be stopped." "Any man can be stopped, Mr. Rearden." "How?" "It's only a matter of knowing man's motive power." "What is it?" "You ought to know, Mr. Rearden. You're one of the last moral men left to the world." Rearden chuckled in bitter amusement. "I've been called just about everything but that. And you're wrong. You have no idea how wrong." "Are you sure?" "I ought to know. Moral? What on earth made you say it?" Francisco pointed to the mills beyond the window. "This." For a long moment, Rearden looked at him without moving, then asked only, "What do you mean?" "If you want to see an abstract principle, such as moral action, in material form—there it is. Look at it, Mr. Rearden. Every girder of it, every pipe, wire and valve was put there by a choice in answer to the question: right or wrong? You had to choose right and you had to choose the best within your knowledge—the best for your purpose, which was to make steel—and then move on and extend the knowledge, and do better, and still better, with your purpose as your standard of value. You had to act on your own judgment, you had to have the capacity to judge, the courage to stand on the verdict of your mind, and the purest, the most ruthless consecration to the rule of doing right, of doing the best, the utmost best possible to you. Nothing could have made you act against your judgment, and you would have rejected as wrong—as evil—any man who attempted to tell you that the best way to heat a furnace was to fill it with ice. Millions of men, an entire nation, were not able to deter you from producing Rearden Metal—because you had the knowledge of its superlative value and the power which such knowledge gives. But what I wonder about, Mr. Rearden, is why you live by one code of principles when you deal with nature and by another when you deal with men?" Rearden's eyes were fixed on him so intently that the question came slowly, as if the effort to pronounce it were a distraction: "What do you mean?" "Why don't you hold to the purpose of your life as clearly and rigidly as you hold to the purpose of your mills?" "What do you mean?" "You have judged every brick within this place by its value to the goal of making steel. Have you been as strict about the goal which your work and your steel are serving? What do you wish to achieve by giving your life to the making of steel? By what standard of value do you judge your days? For --------------------------------------- 345 instance, why did you spend ten years of exacting effort to produce Rearden Metal?" Rearden looked away, the slight, slumping movement of his shoulders like a sigh of release and disappointment. "If you have to ask that, then you wouldn't understand." "If I told you that I understand it, but you don't—would you throw me out of here?" "T should have thrown you out of here anyway—so go ahead, tell me what you mean." "Are you proud of the rail of the John Galt Line?" "Yes." "Why?" "Because it's the best rail ever made." "Why did you make it?" "In order to make money." "There were many easier ways to make money. Why did you choose the hardest?" "You said it in your speech at Taggart's wedding: in order to exchange my best effort for the best effort of others." "If that was your purpose, have you achieved it?" A beat of time vanished in a heavy drop of silence. "No," said Rearden. "Have you made any money?" "No." "When you strain your energy to its utmost in order to produce the best, do you expect to be rewarded for it or punished?" Rearden did not answer. "By every standard of decency, of honor, of justice known to you—are you convinced that you should have been rewarded for it?" "Yes," said Rearden, his voice low. "Then if you were punished, instead—what sort of code have you accepted?" Rearden did not answer. "It is generally assumed," said Francisco, "that living in a human society makes one's life much easier and safer than if one were left alone to struggle against nature on a desert island. Now wherever there is a man who needs or uses metal in any way-—Rearden Metal has made his life easier for him. Has it made yours easier for you?" "No," said Rearden, his voice low. "Has it left your life as it was before you produced the Metal?" "No—" said Rearden, the word breaking off as if he had cut short the thought that followed. Francisco's voice lashed at him suddenly, as a command: "Say it!" "It has made it harder," said Rearden tonelessly. "When you felt proud of the rail of the John Galt Line," said Francisco, the measured rhythm of his voice giving a ruthless clarity to his words, "what sort of men did you think of? Did you want to see that Line used by your equals—by giants of productive energy, such as Ellis Wyatt, whom it would help to reach higher and still higher achievements of their own?" "Yes," said Rearden eagerly. "Did you want to see it used by men who could not equal the power of your mind, but who would equal your moral integrity—men such as Eddie Willers—who could never invent your Metal, but who would do their best, work as hard as you did, live by their own effort, and—riding on your rail—give a moment's silent thanks to the man who gave them more than they could give him?" "Yes," said Rearden gently. "Did you want to see it used by whining rotters who never rouse themselves to any effort, who do not possess the ability of a filing clerk, but demand the income of a company president, who drift from failure to failure and expect you to pay their bills, who hold their wishing as an equivalent of --------------------------------------- 346 your work and their need as a higher claim to reward than your effort, who demand that you serve them, who demand that it be the aim of your life to serve them, who demand that your strength be the voiceless, rightless, unpaid, unrewarded slave of their impotence, who proclaim that you are born to serfdom by reason of your genius, while they are born to rule by the grace of incompetence, that yours is only to give, but theirs only to take, that yours is to produce, but theirs to consume, that you are not to be paid, neither in matter nor in spirit, neither by wealth nor by recognition nor by respect nor by gratitude—so that they would ride on your rail and sneer at you and curse you, since they owe you nothing, not even the effort of taking off their hats which you paid for? Would this be what you wanted? Would you feel proud of it?" 'I'd blast that rail first," said Rearden, his lips white. 'Then why don't you do it, Mr. Rearden? Of the three kinds of men I described—which men are being destroyed and which are using your Line today?" They heard the distant metal heartbeats of the mills through the long thread of silence. "What I described last," said Francisco, "is any man who proclaims his right to a single penny of another man's effort." Rearden did not answer; he was looking at the reflection of a neon sign on dark windows in the distance. "You take pride in setting no limit to your endurance, Mr. Rearden, because you think that you are doing right. What if you aren't? What if you're placing your virtue in the service of evil and letting it become a tool for the destruction of everything you love, respect and admire? Why don't you uphold your own code of values among men as you do among iron smelters? You who won't allow one per cent of impurity into an alloy of metal—what have you allowed into your moral code?" Rearden sat very still; the words in his mind were like the beat of steps down the trail he had been seeking; the words were: the sanction of the victim. "You, who would not submit to the hardships of nature, but set out to conquer it and placed it in the service of your joy and your comfort—to what have you submitted at the hands of men? You, who know from your work that one bears punishment only for being wrong —what have you been willing to bear and for what reason? All your life, you have heard yourself denounced, not for your faults, but for your greatest virtues. You have been hated, not for your mistakes, but for your achievements. You have been scorned for all those qualities of character which are your highest pride. You have been called selfish for the courage of acting on your own judgment and bearing sole responsibility for your own life. You have been called arrogant for your independent mind. You have been called cruel for your unyielding integrity. You have been called anti-social for the vision that made you venture upon undiscovered roads. You have been called ruthless for the strength and self- discipline of your drive to your purpose. You have been called greedy for the magnificence of your power to create wealth. You, who've expended an inconceivable flow of energy, have been called a parasite. You, who've created abundance where there had been nothing but wastelands and helpless, starving men before you, have been called a robber. You, who've kept them all alive, have been called an exploiter. You, the purest and most moral man among them, have been sneered at as a 'vulgar materialist.' Have you stopped to ask them: by what right?—by what code?—by what standard? No, you have borne it all and kept silent. You bowed to their code and you never upheld your own. You knew what exacting morality was needed to produce a single metal nail, but you let them brand you as immoral. You knew that man needs the strictest code of values to deal with nature, but you thought that you needed no such code to deal with men. You left the --------------------------------------- 347 deadliest weapon in the hands of your enemies, a weapon you never suspected or understood. Their moral code is their weapon. Ask yourself how deeply and in how many terrible ways you have accepted it. Ask yourself what it is that a code of moral values does to a man's life, and why he can't exist without it, and what happens to him if he accepts the wrong standard, by which the evil is the good. Shall I tell you why you're drawn to me, even though you think you ought to damn me? It's because I'm the first man who has given you what the whole world owes you and what you should have demanded of all men before you dealt with them: a moral sanction." Rearden whirled to him, then remained still, with a stillness like a gasp. Francisco leaned forward, as if he were reaching the landing of a dangerous flight, and his eyes were steady, but their glance seemed to tremble with intensity. "You're guilty of a great sin, Mr. Rearden, much guiltier than they tell you, but not in the way they preach. The worst guilt is to accept an undeserved guilt—and that is what you have been doing all your life. You have been paying blackmail, not for your vices, but for your virtues. You have been willing to carry the load of an unearned punishment—and toilet it grow the heavier the greater the virtues you practiced. But your virtues were those which keep men alive. Your own moral code—the one you lived by, but never stated, acknowledged or defended—was the code that preserves man's existence. If you were punished for it, what was the nature of those who punished you? Yours was the code of life. What, then, is theirs? What standard of value lies at its root? What is its ultimate purpose? Do you think that what you're facing is merely a conspiracy to seize your wealth? You, who know the source of wealth, should know it's much more and much worse than that. Did you ask me to name man's motive power? Man's motive power is his moral code. Ask yourself where their code is leading you and what it offers you as your final goal. A viler evil than to murder a man, is to sell him suicide as an act of virtue. A viler evil than to throw a man into a sacrificial furnace, is to demand that he leap in, of his own will, and that he build the furnace, besides. By their own statement, it is they who need you and have nothing to offer you in return. By their own statement, you must support them because they cannot survive without you. Consider the obscenity of offering their impotence and their need—their need of you—as a justification for your torture. Are you willing to accept it? Do you care to purchase—at the price of your great endurance, at the price of your agony—the satisfaction of the needs of your own destroyers?" "No!" "Mr. Rearden," said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, "if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders—what would you tell him to do?" "I . . . don't know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?" "To shrug." The clatter of the metal came in a flow of irregular sounds without discernible rhythm, not like the action of a mechanism, but as if some conscious impulse were behind every sudden, tearing rise that went up and crashed, scattering into the faint moan of gears. The glass of the windows tinkled once in a while. Francisco's eyes were watching Rearden as if he were examining the course of bullets on a battered target. The course was hard to trace: the gaunt figure on the edge of the desk was erect, the cold blue eyes showed nothing --------------------------------------- 348 but the intensity of a glance fixed upon a great distance, only the inflexible mouth betrayed a line drawn by pain. "Go on," said Rearden with effort, "continue. You haven't finished, have you?" "I have barely begun." Francisco's voice was hard. "What . . . are you driving at?" "You'll know it before I'm through. But first, I want you to answer a question: if you understand the nature of your burden, how can you . . ." The scream of an alarm siren shattered the space beyond the window and shot like a rocket in a long, thin line to the sky. It held for an instant, then fell, then went on in rising, falling spirals of sound, as if fighting for breath against terror to scream louder. It was the shriek of agony, the call for help, the voice of the mills as of a wounded body crying to hold its soul. Rearden thought that he leaped for the door the instant the scream hit his consciousness, but he saw that he was an instant late, because Francisco had preceded him. Flung by the blast of the same response as his own, Francisco was flying down the hall, pressing the button of the elevator and, not waiting, racing on down the stairs. Rearden followed him and, watching the dial of the elevator on the stair landings, they met it halfway down the height of the building. Before the steel cage had ceased trembling at the sill of the ground floor, Francisco was out, racing to meet the sound of the call for help. Rearden had thought himself a good runner, but he could not keep up with the swift figure streaking off through stretches of red glare and darkness, the figure of a useless playboy he had hated himself for admiring. The stream, gushing from a hole low on the side of a blast furnace, did not have the red glow of fire, but the white radiance of sunlight. It poured along the ground, branching off at random in sudden streaks; it cut through a dank fog of steam with a bright suggestion of morning. It was liquid iron, and what the scream of the alarm proclaimed was a break-out. The charge of the furnace had been hung up and, breaking, had blown the tap-hole open. The furnace foreman lay knocked unconscious, the white flow spurted, slowly tearing the hole wider, and men were struggling with sand, hose and fire clay to stop the glowing streaks that spread in a heavy, gliding motion, eating everything on their way into jets of acrid smoke. In the few moments which Rearden needed to grasp the sight and nature of the disaster, he saw a man's figure rising suddenly at the foot of the furnace, a figure outlined by the red glare almost as if it stood in the path of the torrent, he saw the swing of a white shirt sleeved arm that rose and flung a black object into the source of the spurting metal. It was Francisco d'Anconia, and his action belonged to an art which Rearden had not believed any man to be trained to perform any longer. Years before, Rearden had worked in an obscure steel plant in Minnesota, where it had been his job, after a blast furnace was tapped, to close the hole by hand—by throwing bullets of fire clay to dam the flow of the metal. It was a dangerous job that had taken many lives; it had been abolished years earlier by the invention of the hydraulic gun; but there had been struggling, failing mills which, on their way down, had attempted to use the outworn equipment and methods of a distant past. Rearden had done the job; but in the years since, he had met no other man able to do it. In the midst of shooting jets of live steam, in the face of a crumbling blast furnace, he was now seeing the tall, slim figure of the playboy performing the task with the skill of an expert. It took an instant for Rearden to tear off his coat, seize a pair of goggles from the first man in sight and join Francisco at the mouth of the --------------------------------------- 349 furnace. There was no time to speak, to feel or to wonder. Francisco glanced at him once—and what Rearden saw was a smudged face, black goggles and a wide grin. They stood on a slippery bank of baked mud, at the edge of the white stream, with the raging hole under their feet, flinging clay into the glare where the twisting tongues that looked like gas were boiling metal. Rearden's consciousness became a progression of bending, raising the weight, aiming and sending it down and, before it had reached its unseen destination, bending for the next one again, a consciousness drawn tight upon watching the aim of his arm, to save the furnace, and the precarious posture of his feet, to save himself. He was aware of nothing else—except that the sum of it was the exultant feeling of action, of his own capacity, of his body's precision, of its response to his will. And with no time to know it, but knowing it, seizing it with his senses past the censorship of his mind, he was seeing a black silhouette with red rays shooting from behind its shoulders, its elbows, its angular curves, the red rays circling through steam like the long needles of spotlights, following the movements of a swift, expert, confident being whom he had never seen before except in evening clothes under the lights of ballrooms. There was no time to form words, to think, to explain, but he knew that this was the real Francisco d'Anconia, this was what he had seen from the first and loved—the word did not shock him, because there was no word in his mind, there was only a joyous feeling that seemed like a flow of energy added to his own. To the rhythm of his body, with the scorching heat on his face and the winter night on his shoulder blades, he was seeing suddenly that this was the simple essence of his universe: the instantaneous refusal to submit to disaster, the irresistible drive to fight it, the triumphant feeling of his own ability to win. He was certain that Francisco felt it, too, that he had been moved by the same impulse, that it was right to feel it, right for both of them to be what they were—he caught glimpses of a sweat-streaked face intent upon action, and it was the most joyous face he had ever seen. The furnace stood above them, a black bulk wrapped in coils of tubes and steam; she seemed to pant, shooting red gasps that hung on the air above the mills—and they fought not to let her bleed to death. Sparks hung about their feet and burst in sudden sheafs out of the metal, dying unnoticed against their clothes, against the skin of their hands. The stream was coming slower, in broken spurts through the dam rising beyond their sight. It happened so fast that Rearden knew it fully only after it was over. He knew that there were two moments: the first was when he saw the violent swing of Francisco's body in a forward thrust that sent the bullet to continue the line in space, then he saw the sudden, unrhythmic jerk backward that did not succeed, the convulsive beating against a forward pull, the extended arms of the silhouette losing its balance, he thought that a leap across the distance between them on the slippery, crumbling ridge would mean the death of both of them—and the second moment was when he landed at Francisco's side, held him in his arms, hung swaying together between space and ridge, over the white pit, then gained his footing and pulled him back, and, for an instant, still held the length of Francisco's body against the length of his own, as he would have held the body of an only son. His love, his terror, his relief were in a single sentence: "Be careful, you goddamn fool!" Francisco reached for a chunk of clay and went on. When the job was done and the gap was closed, Rearden noticed that there was a twisting pain in the muscles of his arms and legs, that his body had no --------------------------------------- 350 strength left to move—yet that he felt as if he were entering his office in the morning, eager for ten new problems to solve. He looked at Francisco and noticed for the first time that their clothes had blade-ringed holes, that their hands were bleeding, that there was a patch of skin torn on Francisco's temple and a red thread winding down his cheekbone. Francisco pushed the goggles back off his eyes and grinned at him: it was a smile of morning. A young man with a look of chronic hurt and impertinence together, rushed up to him, crying, "I couldn't help it, Mr. Rearden!" and launched into a speech of explanation. Rearden turned his back on him without a word. It was the assistant in charge of the pressure gauge of the furnace, a young man out of college. Somewhere on the outer edge of Rearden's consciousness, there was the thought that accidents of this nature were happening more frequently now, caused by the kind of ore he was using, but he had to use whatever ore he could find. There was the thought that his old workers had always been able to avert disaster; any of them would have seen e indications of a hang-up and known how to prevent it; but there were not many of them left, and he had to employ whatever men he could find. Through the swirling coils of steam around him, he observed that it was the older men who had rushed from all over the mills to fight the break-out and now stood in line, being given first aid by the medical staff. He wondered what was happening to the young men of the country. But the wonder was swallowed by the sight of the college boy's face, which he could not bear to see, by a wave of contempt, by the wordless thought that if this was the enemy, there was nothing to fear. All these things came to him and vanished in the outer darkness; the sight blotting them out was Francisco d'Anconia, He saw Francisco giving orders to the men around him. They did not know who he was or where he came from, but they listened: they knew he was a man who knew his job. Francisco broke off in the middle of a sentence, seeing Rearden approach and listen, and said, laughing, "Oh, I beg your pardon!" Rearden said, "Go right ahead. It's all correct, so far." They said nothing to each other when they walked together through the darkness, on their way back to the office. Rearden felt an exultant laughter swelling within him, he felt that he wanted, in his turn, to wink at Francisco like a fellow conspirator who had learned a secret Francisco would not acknowledge. He glanced at his face once in a while, but Francisco would not look at him. After a while, Francisco said, "You saved my Me." The "thank you" was in the way he said it. Rearden chuckled. "You saved my furnace." They went on in silence. Rearden felt himself growing lighter with every step. Raising his face to the cold air, he saw the peaceful darkness bf the sky and a single star above a smokestack with the vertical lettering: Rearden Steel. He felt how glad he was to be alive. He did not expect the change he saw in Francisco's face when he looked at it in the light of his office. The things he had seen by the glare of the furnace were gone. He had expected a look of triumph, of mockery at all the insults Francisco had heard from him, a look demanding the apology he was joyously eager to offer. Instead, he saw a face made lifeless by an odd dejection. "Are you hurt?" "No . . . no, not at all." "Come here," ordered Rearden, opening the door of his bathroom. . "Look at yourself." "Never mind. You come here." --------------------------------------- 351 For the first time, Rearden felt that he was the older man; he felt the pleasure of taking Francisco in charge; he felt a confident, amused, paternal protectiveness. He washed the grime off Francisco's face, he put disinfectants and adhesive bandages on his temple, his hands, his scorched elbows. Francisco obeyed him in silence. Rearden asked, in the tone of the most eloquent salute he could offer, "Where did you learn to work like that?" Francisco shrugged. "I was brought up around smelters of every kind," he answered indifferently. Rearden could not decipher the expression of his face: it was only a look of peculiar stillness, as if his eyes were fixed on some secret vision of his own that drew his mouth into a line of desolate, bitter, hurting self- mockery. They did not speak until they were back in the office. "You know," said Rearden, "everything you said here was true. But that was only part of the story. The other part is what we've done tonight. Don't you see? We're able to act. They're not. So it's we who'll win in the long run, no matter what they do to us." Francisco did not answer, "Listen," said Rearden, "I know what's been the trouble with you. You've never cared to do a real day's work in your life. I thought you were conceited enough, but I see that you have no idea of what you've got in you. Forget that fortune of yours for a while and come to work for me. I'll start you as furnace foreman any time. You don't know what it will do for you. In a few years, you'll be ready to appreciate and to run d'Anconia Copper." He expected a burst of laughter and he was prepared to argue; instead, he saw Francisco shaking his head slowly, as if he could not trust his voice, as if he feared that were he to speak, he would accept. In a moment, he said, "Mr. Rearden . . . I think I would give the rest of my life for one year as your furnace foreman. But I can't." "Why not?" "Don't ask me. It's . . . a personal matter." The vision of Francisco in Rearden's mind, which he had resented and found irresistibly attractive, had been the figure of a man radiantly incapable of suffering. What he saw now in Francisco's eyes was the look of a quiet, tightly controlled, patiently borne torture. Francisco reached silently for his overcoat. "You're not leaving, are you?" asked Rearden, "Yes." "Aren't you going to finish what you had to tell me?" "Not tonight." "You wanted me to answer a question. What was it?" Francisco shook his head. "You started asking me how can I . . . How can I—what?" Francisco's smile was like a moan of pain, the only moan he would permit himself. "I won't ask it, Mr. Rearden. I know it." --------------------------------------- 352 CHAPTER IV THE SANCTION OF THE VICTIM The roast turkey had cost $30. The champagne had cost $25. The lace tablecloth, a cobweb of grapes and vine leaves iridescent in the candlelight, had cost $2,000. The dinner service, with an artist's design burned in blue and gold into a translucent white china, had cost $2,500. The silverware, which bore the initials LR in Empire wreaths of laurels, had cost $3,000. But it was held to be unspiritual to think of money and of what that money represented. A peasant's wooden shoe, gilded, stood in the center of the table, filled with marigolds, grapes and carrots. The candles were stuck into pumpkins that were cut as open-mouthed faces drooling raisins, nuts and candy upon the tablecloth. It was Thanksgiving dinner, and the three who faced Rearden about the table were his wife, his mother and his brother. "This is the night to thank the Lord for our blessings," said Rearden's mother. "God has been kind to us. There are people all over the country who haven't got any food in the house tonight, and some that haven't even got a house, and more of them going jobless every day. Gives me the creeps to look around in the city. Why, only last week, who do you suppose I ran into but Lucie Judson—Henry, do you remember Lucie Judson? Used to live next door to us. up in Minnesota, when you were ten- twelve years old. Had a boy about your age. I lost track of Lucie when they moved to New York, must have been all of twenty years ago. Well, it gave me the creeps to see what she's come to—just a toothless old hag, wrapped in a man's overcoat, panhandling on a street corner. And I thought: That could've been me, but for the grace of God." "Well, if thanks are in order," said Lillian gaily, "I think that we shouldn't forget Gertrude, the new cook. She's an artist." "Me, I'm just going to be old-fashioned," said Philip. "I'm just going to thank the sweetest mother in the world." "Well, for the matter of that," said Rearden's mother, "we ought to . thank Lillian for this dinner and for all the trouble she took to make it so pretty. She spent hours fixing the table. It's real quaint and different." "It's the wooden shoe that does it," said Philip, bending his head sidewise to study it in a manner of critical appreciation. "That's the real touch. Anybody can have candles, silverware and junk, that doesn't take anything but money—but this shoe, that took thought." Rearden said nothing. The candlelight moved over his motionless face as over a portrait; the portrait bore an expression of impersonal courtesy. "You haven't touched your wine," said his mother, looking at him. "What I think is you ought to drink a toast in gratitude to the people of this country who have given you so much." "Henry is not in the mood for it, Mother," said Lillian. "I'm afraid Thanksgiving is a holiday only for those who have a clear conscience." She raised her wine glass, but stopped it halfway to her lips and asked, "You're not going to make some sort of stand at your trial tomorrow, are you, Henry?" "I am." She put the glass down. "What are you going to do?" "You'll see it tomorrow." "You don't really imagine that you can get away with it!" "I don't know what you have in mind as the object I'm to get away with." "Do you realize that the charge against you is extremely serious?" "I do." --------------------------------------- 353 "You've admitted that you sold the Metal to Ken Danagger." "I have." "They might send you to jail for ten years," "I don't think they will, but it's possible." "Have you been reading the newspapers, Henry?" asked Philip, with an odd kind of smile. "No." "Oh, you should!" "Should I? Why?" "You ought to see the names they call you!" "That's interesting," said Rearden; he said it about the fact that Philip's smile was one of pleasure. "I don't understand it," said his mother. "Jail? Did you say jail, Lillian? Henry, are you going to be sent to jail?" "I might be." "But that's ridiculous' Do something about it." "What?" "I don't know. I don't understand any of it. Respectable people don't go to jail. Do something. You've always known what to do about business." "Not this kind of business." "I don't believe it." Her voice had the tone of a frightened, spoiled child. "You're saying it just to be mean." "He's playing the hero, Mother," said Lillian. She smiled coldly, turning to Rearden. "Don't you think that your attitude is perfectly futile?" "No." "You know that cases of this kind are not . . . intended ever to come to trial. There are ways to avoid it, to get things settled amicably —if one knows the right people." "I don't know the right people." "Look at Orren Boyle. He's done much more and much worse than your little fling at the black market, but he's smart enough to keep himself out of courtrooms." "Then I'm not smart enough." "Don't you think it's time you made an effort to adjust yourself to the conditions of our age?" "No." "Well, then I don't see how you can pretend that you're some sort of victim. If you go to jail, it will be your own fault." "What pretense are you talking about, Lillian?" "Oh, I know that you think you're fighting for some sort of principle —but actually it's only a matter of your incredible conceit. You're doing it for no better reason than because you think you're right." "Do you think they're right?" She shrugged, "That's the conceit I'm talking about—the idea that it matters who's right or wrong. It's the most insufferable form of vanity, this insistence on always doing right. How do you know what's right? How can anyone ever know it? It's nothing but a delusion to flatter your own ego and to hurt other people by flaunting your superiority over them." He was looking at her with attentive interest. "Why should it hurt other people, if it's nothing but a delusion?" "Is it necessary for me to point out that in your case it's nothing but hypocrisy? That is why I find your attitude preposterous. Questions of right have no bearing on human existence. And you're certainly nothing but human— aren't you, Henry? You're no better than any of the men you're going to face tomorrow. I think you should remember that it's not for you to make a stand on any sort of principle. Maybe you're a victim in this particular mess, maybe they're pulling a rotten trick on you, but what of it? They're doing it --------------------------------------- 354 because they're weak; they couldn't resist the temptation to grab your Metal and to muscle in on your profits, because they had no other way of ever getting rich. Why should you blame them? It's only a question of different strains, but it s the same shoddy human fabric that gives way just as quickly. You wouldn't be tempted by money, because it's so easy for you to make it. But you wouldn't withstand other pressures and you'd fall just as ignominiously. Wouldn't you? So you have no right to any righteous indignation against them. You have no moral superiority to assert or to defend. And if you haven't, then what is the point of fighting a battle that you can't win? I suppose that one might find some satisfaction in being a martyr, if one is above reproach. But you—who are you to cast the first stone?" She paused to observe the effect. There was none, except that his look of attentive interest seemed intensified; he listened as if he were held by some impersonal, scientific curiosity. It was not the response she had expected. "1 believe you understand me," she said. "No," he answered quietly, "I don't." "I think you should abandon the illusion of your own perfection, which you know full well to be an illusion. I think you should learn to get along with other people. The day of the hero is past. This is the day of humanity, in a much deeper sense than you imagine. Human beings are no longer expected to be saints nor to be punished for their sins. Nobody is right or wrong, we're all in it together, we're all human—and the human is the imperfect. You'll gain nothing tomorrow by proving that they're wrong. You ought to give in with good grace, simply because it's the practical thing to do. You ought to keep silent, precisely because they're wrong. They'll appreciate it. Make concessions for others and they'll make concessions for you. Live and let live. Give and take. Give in and take in. That's the policy of our age—and it's time you accepted it. Don't tell me you're too good for it. You know that you're not. You know that I know it." The look of his eyes, held raptly still upon some point in space, was not in answer to her words; it was in answer to a man's voice saying to him, "Do you think that what you're facing is merely a conspiracy to seize your wealth? You, who know the source of wealth, should know it's much more and much worse than that." He turned to look at Lillian. He was seeing the full extent of her failure—in the immensity of his own indifference. The droning stream of her insults was like the sound of a distant riveting machine, a long, impotent pressure that reached nothing within him. He had heard her studied reminders of his guilt on every evening he had spent at home in the past three months. But guilt had been the one emotion he had found himself unable to feel. The punishment she had wanted to inflict on him was the torture of shame; what she had inflicted was the torture of boredom. He remembered his brief glimpse—on that morning in the Wayne Falkland Hotel—of a flaw in her scheme of punishment, which he had not examined. Now he stated it to himself for the first time. She wanted to force upon him the suffering of dishonor—but his own sense of honor was her only weapon of enforcement. She wanted to wrest from him an acknowledgment of his moral depravity—but only his own moral rectitude could attach significance to such a verdict. She wanted to injure him by her contempt—but he could not be injured, unless he respected her judgment. She wanted to punish him for the pain he had caused her and she held her pain as a gun aimed at him, as if she wished to extort his agony at the point of his pity. But her only tool was his own benevolence, his concern for her, his compassion. Her only power was the power of his own virtues. What if he chose to withdraw it? --------------------------------------- 355 An issue of guilt, he thought, had to rest on his own acceptance of the code of justice that pronounced him guilty. He did not accept it; he never had. His virtues, all the virtues she needed to achieve his punishment, came from another code and lived by another standard. He felt no guilt, no shame, no regret, no dishonor. He felt no concern for any verdict she chose to pass upon him: he had lost respect for her judgment long ago. And the sole chain still holding him was only a last remnant of pity. But what was the code on which she acted? What sort of code permitted the concept of a punishment that required the victim's own virtue as the fuel to make it work? A code—he thought—which would destroy only those who tried to observe it; a punishment, from which only the honest would suffer, while the dishonest would escape unhurt. Could one conceive of an infamy lower than to equate virtue with pain, to make virtue, not vice, the source and motive power of suffering? If he were the kind of rotter she was struggling to make him believe he was, then no issue of his honor and his moral worth would matter to him. If he wasn't, then what was the nature of her attempt? To count upon his virtue and use it as an instrument of torture, to practice blackmail with the victim's generosity as sole means of extortion, to accept the gift of a man's good will and turn it into a tool for the giver's destruction . . . he sat very still, contemplating the formula of so monstrous an evil that he was able to name it, but not to believe it possible. He sat very still, held by the hammering of a single question: Did Lillian know the exact nature of her scheme?—was it a conscious policy, devised with full awareness of its meaning? He shuddered; he did not hate her enough to believe it. He looked at her. She was absorbed, at the moment, in the task of cutting a plum pudding that stood as a mount of blue flame on a silver platter before her, its glow dancing over her face and her laughing mouth—she was plunging a silver knife into the flame, with a practiced, graceful curve of her arm. She had metallic leaves in the red, gold and brown colors of autumn scattered over one shoulder of her black velvet gown; they glittered in the candlelight. He could not get rid of the impression, which he had kept receiving and rejecting for three months, that her vengeance was not a form of despair, as he had supposed—the impression, which he regarded as inconceivable, that she was enjoying it. He could find no trace of pain in her manner. She had an air of confidence new to her. She seemed to be at home in her house for the first time. Even though everything within the house was of her own choice and taste, she had always seemed to act as the bright, efficient, resentful manager of a high-class hotel, who keeps smiling in bitter amusement at her position of inferiority to the owners. The amusement remained, but the bitterness was gone. She had not gained weight, but her features had lost their delicate sharpness in a blurring, softening look of satisfaction; even her voice sounded as if it had grown plump. He did not hear what she was saying; she was laughing in the last flicker of the blue flames, while he sat weighing the question: Did she know? He felt certain that he had discovered a secret much greater than the problem of his marriage, that he had grasped the formula of a policy practiced more widely throughout the world than he dared to contemplate at the moment. But to convict a human being of that practice was a verdict of irrevocable damnation, and he knew that he would not believe it of anyone, so long as the possibility of a doubt remained. No—he thought, looking at Lillian, with the last effort of his generosity— he would not believe it of her. In the name of whatever grace and pride she possessed—in the name of such moments when he had seen a smile of joy on her --------------------------------------- 356 face, the smile of a living being—in the name of the brief shadow of love he had once felt for her—he would not pronounce upon her a verdict of total evil. The butter slipped a plate of plum pudding in front of him, and he heard Lillian's voice: "Where have you been for the last five minutes, Henry—or is it for the last century? You haven't answered me. You haven't heard a word I said." "I heard it," he answered quietly. "I don't know what you're trying to accomplish." "What a question!" said his mother. "Isn't that just like a man? She's trying to save you from going to jail—that's what she's trying to accomplish." That could be true, he thought; perhaps, by the reasoning of some crude, childish cowardice, the motive of their malice was a desire to protect him, to break him down into the safety of a compromise. It's possible, he thought— but knew that he did not believe it. "You've always been unpopular," said Lillian, "and it's more than a matter of any one particular issue. It's that unyielding, intractable attitude of yours. The men who're going to try you, know what you're thinking. That's why they'll crack down on you, while they'd let another man off." "Why, no. I don't think they know what I'm thinking. That's what I have to let them know tomorrow." "Unless you show them that you're willing to give in and co-operate, you won't have a chance. You've been too hard to deal with." "No. I've been too easy." "But if they put you in jail," said his mother, "what's going to happen to your family? Have you thought of that?" "No. I haven't." "Have you thought of the disgrace you'll bring upon us?" "Mother, do you understand the issue in this case?" "No, I don't and I-don't want to understand. It's all dirty business and dirty politics. All business is just dirty politics and all politics is just dirty business. I never did want to understand any of it. I don't care who's right or wrong, but what I think a man ought to think of first is his family. Don't you know what this will do to us?" "No, Mother, I don't know or care." His mother looked at him, aghast. "Well, I think you have a very provincial attitude, all of you," said Philip suddenly. "Nobody here seems to be concerned with the wider, social aspects of the case. I don't agree with you, Lillian. I don't see why you say that they're pulling some sort of rotten trick on Henry and that he's in the right. I think he's guilty as hell. Mother, I can explain the issue to you very simply. There's nothing unusual about it, the courts are full of cases of this kind. Businessmen are taking advantage of the national emergency in order to make money. They break the regulations which protect the common welfare of all—for the sake of their own personal gain. They're profiteers of the black market who grow rich by defrauding the poor of their rightful share, at a time of desperate shortage. They pursue a ruthless, grasping, grabbing, antisocial policy, based on nothing but plain, selfish greed. It's no use pretending about it, we all know it—and I think it's contemptible." He spoke in a careless, offhand manner, as if explaining the obvious to a group of adolescents; his tone conveyed the assurance of a man who knows that the moral ground of his stand is not open to question. Rearden sat looking at him, as if studying an object seen for the first time. Somewhere deep in Rearden's mind, as a steady, gentle, inexorable beat, was a man's voice, saying: By what right?—by what code?— by what standard? --------------------------------------- 357 "Philip," he said, not raising his voice, "say any of that again and you will find yourself out in the street, right now, with the suit you've got on your back, with whatever change you've got in your pocket and with nothing else." . He heard no answer, no sound, no movement. He noted that the stillness of the three before him had no element of astonishment. The look of shock on their faces was not the shock of people at the sudden explosion of a bomb, but the shock of people who had known that they Were playing with a lighted fuse. There were no outcries, no protests, no questions; they knew that he meant it and they knew everything it meant. A dim, sickening feeling told him that they had known it long before he did. "You . . . you wouldn't throw your own brother out on the street, would you?" his mother said at last; it was not a demand, but a plea. "I would." "But he's your brother . . . Doesn't that mean anything to you?" "No." "Maybe he goes a bit too far at times, but it's just loose talk, it's just that modern jabber, he doesn't know what he's saying." "Then let him learn." "Don't be hard on him . . . he's younger than you and . . . and weaker. He . . . Henry, don't look at me that way! I've never seen you look like that. . . . You shouldn't frighten him. You know that he needs you." "Does he know it?" "You can't be hard on a man who needs you, it will prey on your conscience for the rest of your life." "It won't." "You've got to be kind, Henry." "I'm not." "You've got to have some pity." "I haven't." "A good man knows how to forgive." "I don't." "You wouldn't want me to think that you're selfish," "I am." Philip's eyes were darting from one to the other. He looked like a man who had felt certain that he stood on solid granite and had suddenly discovered that it was thin ice, now cracking open all around him. "But I . . . " he tried, and stopped; his voice sounded like steps testing the ice. "But don't I have any freedom of speech?" "In your own house. Not in mine." "Don't I have a right to my own ideas?" "At your own expense. Not at mine." "Don't you tolerate any differences of opinion?" "Not when I'm paying the bills." "Isn't there anything involved but money?" "Yes. The fact that it's my money." "Don't you want to consider any hi . . ."—he was going to say "higher," but changed his mind—"any other aspects?" "No." "But I'm not your slave." "Am I yours?" "I don't know what you—" He stopped; he knew what was meant. "No," said Rearden, "you're not my slave. You're free to walk out of here any time you choose." "I . . . I'm not speaking of that." "I am." "I don't understand it . . ." --------------------------------------- 358 my political views. You've never "Don't you?" "You've always known my . objected before." "That's true," said Rearden gravely. "Perhaps I owe you an explanation, if I have misled you. I've tried never to remind you that you're riving on my charity. I thought that it was your place to remember it. I thought that any human being who accepts the help of another, knows that good will is the giver's only motive and that good will is the payment he owes in return. But I see that I was wrong. You were getting your food unearned and you concluded that affection did not have to be earned, either. You concluded that I was the safest person in the world for you to spit on, precisely because I held you by the throat. You concluded that I wouldn't want to remind you of it and that I would be tied by the fear of hurting your feelings. All right, let's get it straight: you're an object of charity who's exhausted his credit long ago. Whatever affection I might have felt for you once, is gone. I haven't the slightest interest in you, your fate or your future. I haven't any reason whatever for wishing to feed you. If you leave my house, it won't make any difference to me whether you starve or not. Now that is your position here and I will expect you to remember it, if you wish to stay. If not, then get out." But for the movement of drawing his head a little into his shoulders, Philip showed no reaction. "Don't imagine that I enjoy living here," he said; his voice was lifeless and shrill. "If you think I'm happy, you're mistaken. I'd give anything to get away." The words pertained to defiance, but the voice had a curiously cautious quality. "If that is how you feel about it, it would be best for me to leave." The words were a statement, but the voice put a question mark at the end of it and waited; there was no answer. "You needn't worry about my future. I don't have to ask: favors of anybody. I can take care of myself all right." The words were addressed to Rearden, but the eyes were looking at his mother; she did not speak; she was afraid to move. "I've always wanted to be on my own. I've always wanted to live in New York, near all my friends." The voice slowed down and added in an impersonal, reflective manner, as if the words were not addressed to anyone, "Of course, I'd have the problem of maintaining a certain social position . . . it's not my fault if I'll be embarrassed by a family name associated with a millionaire. . . . I would need enough money for a year or two . . . to establish myself in a manner suitable to my—" "You won't get it from me." "I wasn't asking you for it, was 1? Don't imagine that I couldn't get it somewhere else, if I wanted to! Don't imagine that I couldn't leave! I'd go in a minute, if I had only myself to think about. But Mother needs me, and if I deserted her—" "Don't explain." "And besides, you misunderstood me, Henry. I haven't said anything to insult you. I wasn't speaking in any personal way. I was only discussing the general political picture from an abstract sociological viewpoint which—" "Don't explain," said Rearden. He was looking at Philip's face. It was half-lowered, its eyes looking up at him. The eyes were lifeless, as if they had witnessed nothing; they held no spark of excitement, no personal sensation, neither of defiance nor of regret, neither of shame nor of suffering; they were filmy ovals that held no response to reality, no attempt to understand it, to weigh it, to reach some verdict of justice —ovals that held nothing but a dull, still, mindless hatred. "Don't explain. Just keep your mouth shut." The revulsion that made Rearden turn his face away contained a spasm of pity. There was an instant when he wanted to seize his brother's shoulders, --------------------------------------- 359 to shake him, to cry: How could you do this to yourself? How did you come to a stage where this is all that's left of you? Why did you let the wonderful fact of your own existence go by? . . . He looked away. He knew it was useless. He noted, in weary contempt, that the three at the table remained silent. Through all the years past, his consideration for them had brought him nothing but their maliciously righteous reproaches. Where was their righteousness now? Now was the time to stand on their code of justice—if justice had been any part of their code. Why didn't they throw at him all those accusations of cruelty and selfishness, which he had come to accept as the eternal chorus to his life? What had permitted them to do it for years? He knew that the words he heard in his mind were the key to the answer: The sanction of the victim. "Don't let's quarrel," said his mother, her voice cheerless and vague. "It's Thanksgiving Day." When he looked at Lillian, he caught a glance that made him certain she had watched him for a long time: its quality was panic. He got up. "You will please excuse me now," he said to the table at large. "Where are you going?" asked Lillian sharply. He stood looking at her for a deliberate moment, as if to confirm the meaning she would read in his answer: "To New York." She jumped to her feet. "Tonight?" "Now," "You can't go to New York tonight!" Her voice was not loud, but it had the imperious helplessness of a shriek. "This is not the time when you can afford it. When you can afford to desert your family, I mean. You ought to think about the matter of clean hands. You're not in a position to permit yourself anything which you know to be depravity." By what code?—thought Rearden—by what standard? "Why do you wish to go to New York tonight?" "I think, Lillian, for the same reason that makes you wish to stop me." "Tomorrow is your trial." "That is what I mean." He made a movement to turn, and she raised her voice: "I don't want you to go!" He smiled. It was the first time he had smiled at her in the past three months; it was not the kind of smile she could care to see. "I forbid you to leave us tonight!" He turned and left the room. Sitting at the wheel of his car, with the glassy, frozen road flying at his face and down under the wheels at sixty miles an hour, he let the thought of his family drop away from him—and the vision of their faces went rolling back into the abyss of speed that swallowed the bare Trees and lonely structures of the roadside. There was little traffic, and few lights in the distant clusters of the towns he passed; the emptiness of inactivity was the only sign of a holiday. A hazy glow, rusted by frost, flashed above the roof of a factory once in a rare while, and a cold wind shrieked through the joints of his car, beating the canvas top against the metal frame. By some dim sense of contrast, which he did not define, the thought of his family was replaced by the thought of his encounter with the Wet Nurse, the Washington boy of his mills. At the time of his indictment, he had discovered that the boy had known about his deal with Danagger, yet had not reported it to anyone. "Why didn't you inform your friends about me?" he had asked. The boy had answered brusquely, not looking at him, "Didn't want to." "It was part of your job to watch precisely for things of that kind, wasn't it?" "Yeah." --------------------------------------- 360 "Besides, your friends would have been delighted to hear it." "I knew." "Didn't you know what a valuable piece of information it was and what a stupendous trade you could have pulled with those friends of yours in Washington whom you offered to me once—remember?—the friends who always 'occasion expenses'?" The boy had not answered. "It could have made your career at the very top level. Don't tell me that you didn't know it." "I knew it." "Then why didn't you make use of it?" "I didn't want to." "Why not?" "Don't know." The boy had stood, glumly avoiding Rearden's eyes, as if trying to avoid something incomprehensible within himself. Rearden had laughed. "Listen, Non-Absolute, you're playing with fire. Better go and murder somebody fast, before you let it get you—that reason that stopped you from turning informer—or else it will blast your career to hell." The boy had not answered. This morning, Rearden had gone to his office as usual, even though the rest of the office building was closed. At lunch time, he had stopped at the rolling mills and had been astonished to find the Wet Nurse standing there, alone in a corner, ignored by everybody, watching the work with an air of childish enjoyment. "What are you doing here today?" Rearden had asked. "Don't you know it's a holiday?" "Oh, I let the girls off, but I just came in to finish some business." "What business?" "Oh, letters and . . . Oh, hell, I signed three letters and sharpened my pencils, I know I didn't have to do it today, but I had nothing to do at home and . . . I get lonesome away from this place." "Don't you have any family?" "No . . . not to speak of. What about you, Mr. Rearden? Don't you have any?" "I guess—not to speak of." "I like this place. I like to hang around. . . . You know, Mr. Rearden, what I studied to be was a metallurgist." Walking away, Rearden had turned to glance back and had caught the Wet Nurse looking after him as a boy would look at the hero of his childhood's favorite adventure story. God help the poor little bastard! —he had thought. God help them all—he thought, driving through the dark streets of a small town, borrowing, in contemptuous pity, the words of their belief which he had never shared. He saw newspapers displayed on metal stands, with the black letters of headlines screaming to empty corners: "Railroad Disaster." He had heard the news on the radio, that afternoon: there had been a wreck on the main line of Taggart Transcontinental, near Rockland, Wyoming; a split rail had sent a freight train crashing over the edge of a canyon. Wrecks on the Taggart main line were becoming more frequent—the track was wearing out—the track which, less than eighteen months ago, Dagny was planning to rebuild, promising him a journey from coast to coast on his own Metal. She had spent a year, picking worn rail from abandoned branches to patch the rail of the main line. She had spent months fighting the men of Jim's Board of Directors, who said that the national emergency was only temporary and a track that had lasted for ten years could well last for another winter, until spring, when conditions would improve, as Mr. Wesley Mouch had promised. Three weeks ago, she had made them authorize the purchase of sixty --------------------------------------- 361 thousand tons of new rail; it could do no more than make a few patches across the continent in the worst divisions, but it was all she had been able to obtain from them. She had had to wrench the money out of men deaf with panic: the freight revenues were falling at such a rate that the men of the Board had begun to tremble, staring at Jim's idea of the most prosperous year in Taggart history. She had had to order steel rail, there was no hope of obtaining an "emergency need" permission to buy Rearden Metal and no time to beg for it. Rearden looked away from the headlines to the glow at the edge of the sky, which was the city of New York far ahead; his hands tightened on the wheel a little. It was half past nine when he reached the city. Dagny's apartment was dark, when he let himself in with his key. He picked up the telephone and called her office. Her own voice answered: "Taggart Transcontinental." "Don't you know it's a holiday?" he asked. "Hello, Hank. Railroads have no holidays. Where are you calling from?" "Your place." "I'll be through in another half-hour." "It's all right. Stay there. I'll come for you." The anteroom of her office was dark, when he entered, except for the lighted glass cubbyhole of Eddie Willers. Eddie was closing his desk, getting ready to leave. He looked at Rearden, in puzzled astonishment. "Good evening, Eddie. What is it that keeps you people so busy— the Rockland wreck?" Eddie sighed. "Yes, Mr. Rearden." "That's what I want to see Dagny about—about your rail." "She's still here." He started toward her door, when Eddie called after him hesitantly, "Mr. Rearden . . ." He stopped. "Yes?" "I wanted to say . . . because tomorrow is your trial . . . and whatever they do to you is supposed to be in the name of all the people . . . I just wanted to say that I . . . that it won't be in my name . . . even if there's nothing I can do about it, except to tell you . . . even if I know that that doesn't mean anything." "It means much more than you suspect. Perhaps more than any of us suspect. Thanks, Eddie." Dagny glanced up from her desk, when Rearden entered her office; he saw her watching him as he approached and he saw the look of weariness disappearing from her eyes. He sat down on the edge of the desk. She leaned back, brushing a strand of hair off her face, her shoulders relaxing under her thin white blouse. "Dagny, there's something I want to tell you about the rail that you ordered. I want you to know this tonight." She was watching him attentively; the expression of his face pulled hers into the same look of quietly solemn tension. "I am supposed to deliver to Taggart Transcontinental, on February 'fifteenth, sixty thousand tons of rail, which is to give you three hundred miles of track. You will receive—for the same sum of money—eighty thousand tons of rail, which will give you five hundred miles of track. You know what material is cheaper and lighter than steel. Your rail will not be steel, it will be Rearden Metal. Don't argue, object or agree. I am not asking for your consent. You are not supposed to consent or to know anything about it. I am doing this and I alone will be responsible. We will work it so that those on your staff who'll know that you've ordered steel, won't know that you've received Rearden Metal, and those who'll know that you've received Rearden Metal, won't know that you had no --------------------------------------- 362 permit to buy it. We will tangle the bookkeeping in such a way that if the thing should ever blow up, nobody will be able to pin anything on anybody, except on me. They might suspect that I bribed someone on your staff, or they might suspect that you were hi on it, but they won't be able to prove it. I want you to give me your word that you will never admit it, no matter what happens. It's my Metal, and if there are any chances to take, it's I who'll take them. I have been planning this from the day I received your order. I have ordered the copper for it, from a source which will not betray me. I did not intend to tell you about it till later, but I changed my mind. I want you to know it tonight—because I am going on trial tomorrow for the same kind of crime." She had listened without moving. At his last sentence, he saw a faint contraction of her cheeks and lips; it was not quite a smile, but it gave him her whole answer: pain, admiration, understanding. Then he saw her eyes becoming softer, more painfully, dangerously alive—he took her wrist, as if the tight grasp of his fingers and the severity of his glance were to give her the support she needed—and he said sternly, "Don't thank me—this is not a favor—I am doing it in order to be able to bear my work, or else I'll break like Ken Danagger." She whispered, "AH right, Hank, I won't thank you," the tone of her voice and the look of her eyes making it a lie by the time it was uttered. He smiled. "Give me the word I asked." She inclined her head. "I give you my word." He released her wrist. She added, not raising her head, "The only thing I'll say is that if they sentence you to jail tomorrow, I'll quit—without waiting for any destroyer to prompt me." "You won't. And I don't think they'll sentence me to jail. I think they'll let me off very lightly. I have a hypothesis about it—I'll explain it to you afterwards, when I've put it to the test." "What hypothesis?" "Who is John Galt?" He smiled, and stood up. "That's all. We won't talk any further about my trial, tonight. You don't happen to have anything to drink in your office, have you?" "No. But I think my traffic manager has some sort of a bar on one shelf of his filing closet." "Do you think you could steal a drink for me, if he doesn't have it locked?" "I'll try." He stood looking at the portrait of Nat Taggart on the wall of her office— the portrait of a young man with a lifted head—until she returned, bringing a bottle of brandy and two glasses. He filled the glasses in silence. "You know, Dagny, Thanksgiving was a holiday established by productive people to celebrate the success of their work." The movement of his arm, as he raised his glass, went from the portrait—to her—to himself— to the buildings of the city beyond the window. For a month in advance, the people who filled the courtroom had been told by the press that they would see the man who was a greedy enemy of society; but they had come to see the man who had invented Rearden Metal. He stood up, when the judges called upon him to do so. He wore a gray suit, he had pale blue eyes and blond hair; it was not the colors that made his figure seem icily implacable, it was the fact that the suit had an expensive simplicity seldom flaunted these days, that it belonged in the sternly luxurious office of a rich corporation, that his bearing came from a civilized era and clashed with the place around him. The crowd knew from the newspapers that he represented the evil of ruthless wealth; and—as they praised the virtue of chastity, then ran to see any movie that displayed a half-naked female on its posters—so they came to --------------------------------------- 363 see him; evil, at least, did not have the stale hopelessness of a bromide which none believed and none dared to challenge. They looked at him without admiration—admiration was a feeling they had lost the capacity to experience, long ago; they looked with curiosity and with a dim sense of defiance against those who had told them that it was their duty to hate him. A few years ago, they would have jeered at his air of self-confident wealth. But today, there was a slate-gray sky in the windows of the courtroom, which promised the first snowstorm of a long, hard winter; the last of the country's oil was vanishing, and the coal mines were not able to keep up with the hysterical scramble for winter supplies. The crowd in the courtroom remembered that this was the case which had cost them the services of Ken Danagger. There were rumors that the output of the Danagger Coal Company had fallen perceptibly within one month; the newspapers said that it was merely a matter of readjustment while Danagger's cousin was reorganizing the company he had taken over. Last week, the front pages had carried the story of a catastrophe on the site of a housing project under construction: defective steel girders had collapsed, killing four workmen; the newspapers had not mentioned, but the crowd knew, that the girders had come from Orren Boyle's Associated Steel. They sat in the courtroom in heavy silence and they looked at the tall, gray figure, not with hope—they were losing the capacity to hope —but with an impassive neutrality spiked by a faint question mark; the question mark was placed over all the pious slogans they had heard for years. The newspapers had snarled that the cause of the country's troubles, as this case demonstrated, was the selfish greed of rich industrialists; that it was men like Hank Rearden who were to blame for the shrinking diet, the falling temperature and the cracking roofs in the homes of the nation; that if it had not been for men who broke regulations and hampered the government's plans, prosperity would have been achieved long ago; and that a man like Hank Rearden was prompted by nothing but the profit motive. This last was stated without explanation or elaboration, as if the words "profit motive" were the self-evident brand of ultimate evil. The crowd remembered that these same newspapers, less than two years ago, had screamed that the production of Rearden Metal should be forbidden, because its producer was endangering people's lives for the sake of his greed; they remembered that the man in gray had ridden in the cab of the first engine to run over a track of his own Metal; and that he was now on trial for the greedy crime of withholding from the public a load of the Metal which it had been his greedy crime to offer in the public market. According to the procedure established by directives, cases of this kind were not tried by a jury, but by a panel of three judges appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources; the procedure, the directives had stated, was to be informal and democratic. The judge's bench had been removed from the old Philadelphia courtroom for this occasion, and replaced by a table on a wooden platform; it gave the room an atmosphere suggesting the kind of meeting where a presiding body puts something over on a mentally retarded membership. One of the judges, acting as prosecutor, had read the charges. "You may now offer whatever plea you wish to make in your own defense," he announced. Facing the platform, his voice inflectionless and peculiarly clear, Hank Rearden answered: "I have no defense." "Do you—" The judge stumbled; he had not expected it to be that easy. "Do you throw yourself upon the mercy of this court?" "I do not recognize this court's right to try me." "What?" "I do not recognize this court's right to try me." --------------------------------------- 364 "But, Mr. Rearden, this is the legally appointed court to try this particular category of crime." "I do not recognize my action as a crime," "But you have admitted that you have broken our regulations controlling the sale of your Metal." "I do not recognize your right to control the sale of my Metal." "Is it necessary for me to point out that your recognition was not required?" "No. I am fully aware of it and I am acting accordingly." He noted the stillness of the room. By the rules of the complicated pretense which all those people played for one another's benefit, they should have considered his stand as incomprehensible folly; there should have been rustles of astonishment and derision; there were none; they sat still; they understood. "Do you mean that you are refusing to obey the law?" asked the judge. "No. I am complying with the law—to the letter. Your law holds that my life, my work and my property may be disposed of without my consent. Very well, you may now dispose of me without my participation in the matter. I will not play the part of defending myself, where no defense is possible, and I will not simulate the illusion of dealing with a tribunal of justice." "But, Mr. Rearden, the law provides specifically that you are to be given an opportunity to present your side of the case and to defend yourself." "A prisoner brought to trial can defend himself only if there is an objective principle of justice recognized by his judges, a principle upholding his rights, which they may not violate and which he can invoke. The law, by which you are trying me, holds that there are no principles, that I have no rights and that you may do with me whatever you please. Very well. Do it." "Mr. Rearden, the law which you are denouncing is based on the highest principle—the principle of the public good." "Who is the public? What does it hold as its good? There was a time when men believed that the good' was a concept to be defined by a code of moral values and that no man had the right to seek his good through the violation of the rights of another. If it is now believed that my fellow men may sacrifice me in any manner they please for the sake of whatever they deem to be their own good, if they believe that they may seize my property simply because they need it—well, so does any burglar. There is only this difference: the burglar does not ask me to sanction his act." A group of seats at the side of the courtroom was reserved for the prominent visitors who had come from New York to witness the trial. Dagny sat motionless and her face showed nothing but a solemn attention, the attention of listening with the knowledge that the flow of his words would determine the course of her life. Eddie Willers sat beside her. James Taggart had not come. Paul Larkin sat hunched forward, his face thrust out, pointed like an animal's muzzle, sharpened by a look of fear now turning into malicious hatred. Mr. Mowen, who sat beside him, was a man of greater innocence and smaller understanding; his fear was of a simpler nature; he listened in bewildered indignation and he whispered to Larkin, "Good God, now he's done it! Now he'll convince the whole country that all businessmen are enemies of the public good!" "Are we to understand," asked the judge, "that you hold your own interests above the interests of the public?" "I hold that such a question can never arise except in a society of cannibals.” "What . . . what do you mean?" "I hold that there is no clash of interests among men who do not demand the unearned and do not practice human sacrifices." --------------------------------------- 365 "Are we to understand that if the public deems it necessary to curtail your profits, you do not recognize its right to do so?" "Why, yes, I do. The public may curtail my profits any time it wishes—by refusing to buy my product." "We are speaking of . . . other methods." "Any other method of curtailing profits is the method of looters —and I recognize it as such." "Mr. Rearden, this is hardly the way to defend yourself." "I said that I would not defend myself." "But this is unheard of! Do you realize the gravity of the charge against you?" "I do not care to consider it." "Do you realize the possible consequences of your stand?" "Fully." "It is the opinion of this court that the facts presented by the prosecution seem to warrant no leniency. The penalty which this court has the power to impose on you is extremely severe." "Go ahead." "I beg your pardon?" "Impose it." The three judges looked at one another. Then their spokesman turned back to Rearden. "This is unprecedented," he said. "It is completely irregular," said the second judge. "The law requires you to submit a plea in your own defense. Your only alternative is to state for the record that you throw yourself upon the mercy of the court." "I do not." "But you have to." "Do you mean that what you expect from me is some sort of voluntary action?" "Yes." "I volunteer nothing." "But the law demands that the defendant's side be represented on the record." "Do you mean that you need my help to make this procedure legal?" "Well, no . . . yes . . . that is, to complete the form." "I will not help you." The third and youngest judge, who had acted as prosecutor, snapped impatiently, "This is ridiculous and unfair! Do you want to let it look as if a man of your prominence had been railroaded without a—" He cut himself off short. Somebody at the back of the courtroom emitted a long whistle. "I want," said Rearden gravely, "to let the nature of this procedure appear exactly for what it is. If you need my help to disguise it—I will not help you." "But we are giving you a chance to defend yourself—and it is you who are rejecting it." "I will not help you to pretend that I have a chance. I will not help you to preserve an appearance of righteousness where rights are not recognized. I will not help you to preserve an appearance of rationality by entering a debate in which a gun is the final argument. I will not help you to pretend that you are administering justice." "But the law compels you to volunteer a defense!" There was laughter at the back of the courtroom. "That is the flaw in your theory, gentlemen," said Rearden gravely, "and I will not help you out of it. If you choose to deal with men by means of compulsion, do so. But you will discover that you need the voluntary co- operation of your victims, in many more ways than you can see at present. And your victims should discover that it is their own volition—which you cannot --------------------------------------- 366 force—that makes you possible. I choose to be consistent and I will obey you in the manner you demand. Whatever you wish me to do, I will do it at the point of a gun. If you sentence me to jail, you will have to send armed men to carry me there—I will not volunteer to move. If you fine me, you will have to seize my property to collect the fine—I will not volunteer to pay it. If you believe that you have the right to force me—use your guns openly. I will not help you to disguise the nature of your action." The eldest judge leaned forward across the table and his voice became suavely derisive: "You speak as if you were fighting for some sort of principle, Mr. Rearden, but what you're actually fighting for is only your property, isn't it?" "Yes, of course. I am fighting for my property. Do you know the kind of principle that represents?" "You pose as a champion of freedom, but it's only the freedom to make money that you're after." "Yes, of course. AH I want is the freedom to make money. Do you know what that freedom implies?" "Surely, Mr. Rearden, you wouldn't want your attitude to be misunderstood. You wouldn't want to give support to the widespread impression that you are a man devoid of social conscience, who feels no concern for the welfare of his fellows and works for nothing but his own profit." "I work for nothing but my own profit. I earn it." There was a gasp, not of indignation, but of astonishment, in the crowd behind him and silence from the judges he faced. He went on calmly: "No, I do not want my attitude to be misunderstood. I shall be glad to state it for the record. I am in full agreement with the facts of everything said about me in the newspapers—with the facts, but not with the evaluation. I work for nothing but my own profit—which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of theirs; I do not sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage—and I am proud of every penny that I have earned in this manner. I am rich and I am proud of every penny I own. I have made my money by my own effort, in free exchange and through the voluntary consent of every man I dealt with—the voluntary consent of those who employed me when I started, the voluntary consent of those who work for me now, the voluntary consent of those who buy my product. I shall answer all the questions you are afraid to ask me openly. Do I wish to pay my workers more than their services are worth to me? I do not. Do I wish to sell my product for less than my customers are willing to pay me? I do not. Do I wish to sell it at a loss or give it away? I do not. If this is evil, do whatever you please about me, according to whatever standards you hold. These are mine. I am earning my own living, as every honest man must. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact of my own existence and the fact that I must work in order to support it. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it and to do it well. I refuse to accept as guilt the fact that I am able to do it better than most people—the fact that my work is of greater value than the work of my neighbors and that more men are willing to pay I refuse to apologize for my ability—I refuse to apologize for my me. success—I refuse to apologize for my money. If this is evil, make the most of it. If this is what the public finds harmful to its interests, let the public destroy me. This is my code—and I will accept no other. I could say to you that I have done more good for my fellow men than you can ever hope to accomplish—but I will not say it, because I do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist, nor do I recognize the good of others as a justification for their seizure of my property or their destruction of my life. I will not say that the good of others was the --------------------------------------- 367 purpose of my work—my own good was my purpose, and I despise the man who surrenders his. I could say to you that you do not serve the public good—that nobody's good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices—that when you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all, and a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction. I could say to you that you will and can achieve nothing but universal devastation—as any looter must, when he runs out of victims. I could say it, but I won't. It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise. If it were true that men could achieve their good by means of turning some men into sacrificial animals, and I were asked to immolate myself for the sake of creatures who wanted to survive at the price of my blood, if I were asked to serve the interests of society apart from, above and against my own— I would refuse, I would reject it as the most contemptible evil, I would fight it with every, power I possess, I would fight the whole of mankind, if one minute were all I could last before I were murdered, I would fight in the full confidence of the justice of my battle and of a living being's right to exist. Let there be no misunderstanding about me. If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned, I will have no part of it!" The crowd burst into applause. Rearden whirled around, more startled than his judges. He saw faces that laughed in violent excitement, and faces that pleaded for help; he saw their silent despair breaking out into the open; he saw the same anger and indignation as his own, finding release in the wild defiance of their cheering; he saw the looks of admiration and the looks of hope. There were also the faces of loose-mouthed young men and maliciously unkempt females, the kind who led the booing in newsreel theaters at any appearance of a businessman on the screen; they did not attempt a counter-demonstration; they were silent. As he looked at the crowd, people saw in his face what the threats of the judges had not been able to evoke: the first sign of emotion. It was a few moments before they heard the furious beating of a gavel upon the table and one of the judges yelling: "—or I shall have the courtroom cleared!" _ As he turned back to the table, Rearden's eyes moved over the visitors' section. His glance paused on Dagny, a pause perceptible only to her, as if he were saying: It works. She would have appeared calm except that her eyes seemed to have become too large for her face. Eddie Willers was smiling the kind of smile that is a man's substitute for breaking into tears. Mr. Mowen looked stupefied. Paul Larkin was staring at the floor. There was no expression on Bertram Scudder's face on Lillian's. She sat at the end of a row, her legs crossed, a mink stole slanting from her right shoulder to her left hip; she looked at Rearden, not moving. In the complex violence of all the things he felt, he had time to recognize a touch of regret and of longing: there was a face he had hoped to see, had looked for from the start of the session, had wanted to be present more than any other face around him. But Francisco d'Anconia had not come. 4LMr. Rearden," said the eldest judge, smiling affably, reproachfully and spreading his arms, "it is regrettable that you should have misunderstood us so completely. That's the trouble—that businessmen refuse to approach us in a spirit of trust and friendship. They seem to imagine that we are their enemies. Why do you speak of human sacrifices? What made you go to such an extreme? We have no intention of seizing your property or destroying your life. We do not seek to harm your interests. We are fully aware of your distinguished achievements. Our purpose is only to balance social pressures and do justice to all. This hearing is really intended, not as a trial, but as a friendly discussion aimed at mutual understanding and co-operation." --------------------------------------- 368 "I do not co-operate at the point of a gun." "Why speak of guns? This matter is not serious enough to warrant such references. We are fully aware that the guilt in this case lies chiefly with Mr. Kenneth Danagger, who instigated this infringement of the law, who exerted pressure upon you and who confessed his guilt by disappearing in order to escape trial" "No. We did it by equal, mutual, voluntary agreement." "Mr. Rearden," said the second judge, "you may not share some of our ideas, but when all is said and done, we're all working for the same cause. For the good of the people. We realize that you were prompted to disregard legal technicalities by the critical situation of the coal mines and the crucial importance of fuel to the public welfare." "No. I was prompted by my own profit and my own interests. What effect it had on the coal mines and the public welfare is for you to estimate. That was not my motive." Mr. Mowen stared dazedly about him and whispered to Paul Larkin, "Something's gone screwy here." "Oh, shut up!" snapped Larkin. "I am sure, Mr. Rearden," said the eldest judge, "that you do not really believe—nor docs the public—that we wish to treat you as a sacrificial victim. If anyone has been laboring under such a misapprehension, we are anxious to prove that it is not true." The judges retired to consider their verdict. They did not stay out long. They returned to an ominously silent courtroom—and announced that a fine of $5,000 was imposed on Henry Rearden, but that the sentence was suspended. Streaks of jeering laughter ran through the applause that swept the courtroom. The applause was aimed at Rearden, the laughter—at the judges. Rearden stood motionless, not turning to the crowd, barely hearing the applause. He stood looking at the judges. There was no triumph in his face, no elation, only the still intensity of contemplating a vision with a bitter wonder that was almost fear. He was seeing the enormity of the smallness of the enemy who was destroying the world. He felt as if, after a journey of years through a landscape of devastation, past the ruins of great factories, the wrecks of powerful engines, the bodies of invincible men, he had come upon the despoiler, expecting to find a giant—and had found a rat eager to scurry for cover at the first sound of a human step. If this is what has beaten us, he thought, the guilt is ours. He was jolted back into the courtroom by the people pressing to surround him. He smiled in answer to their smiles, to the frantic, tragic eagerness of their faces; there was a touch of sadness in his smile. "God bless you, Mr. Rearden!" said an old woman with a ragged shawl over her head. "Can't you save us, Mr. Rearden? They're eating us alive, and it's no use fooling anybody about how it's the rich that they're after—do you know what's happening to us?" "Listen, Mr. Rearden," said a man who looked like a factory worker, "it's the rich who're selling us down the river. Tell those wealthy bastards, who're so anxious to give everything away, that when they give away their palaces, they're giving away the skin off our backs." "I know it," said Rearden. The guilt is ours, he thought. If we who were the movers, the providers, the benefactors of mankind, were willing to let the brand of evil be stamped upon us and silently to bear punishment for our virtues—what sort of "good" did we expect to triumph in the world? He looked at the people around him. They had cheered him today; they had cheered him by the side of the track of the John Galt Line. But tomorrow they would clamor for a new directive from Wesley Mouch and a free housing project from Orren Boyle, while Boyle's girders collapsed upon --------------------------------------- 369 their heads. They would do it, because they would be told to forget, as a sin, that which had made them cheer Hank Rearden. Why were they ready to renounce their highest moments as a sin? Why were they willing to betray the best within them? What made them believe that this earth was a realm of evil where despair was their natural fate? He could not name the reason, but he knew that it had to be named. He felt it as a huge question mark within the courtroom, which it was now his duty to answer. This was the real sentence imposed upon him, he thought—to discover what idea, what simple idea available to the simplest man, had made mankind accept the doctrines that led it to self-destruction. "Hank, I'll never think that it's hopeless, not ever again," said Dagny that evening, after the trial. "I'll never be tempted to quit. You've proved that the right always works and always wins—" She stopped, then added, "— provided one knows what is the right." Lillian said to him at dinner next day, "So you've won, have you?" Her voice was noncommittal; she said nothing else; she was watching him, as If studying a riddle. The Wet Nurse asked him at the mills, "Mr. Rearden, what's a moral premise?" "What you're going to have a lot of trouble with." The boy frowned, then shrugged and said, laughing, "God, that was a wonderful show! What a beating you gave them, Mr. Rearden! I sat by the radio and howled." "How do you know it was a beating?" "Well, it was, wasn't it?" "Are you sure of it?" "Sure I'm sure." "The thing that makes you sure is a moral premise." The newspapers were silent. After the exaggerated attention they had given to the case, they acted as if the trial were not worthy of notice. They printed brief accounts on unlikely pages, worded in such generalities that no reader could discover any hint of a controversial issue. The businessmen he met seemed to wish to evade the subject of his trial. Some made no comment at all, but turned away, their faces showing a peculiar resentment under the effort to appear noncommittal, as if they feared that the mere act of looking at him would be interpreted as taking a stand. Others ventured to comment: "In my opinion, Rearden, it was extremely unwise of you. . . . It seems to me that this is hardly the time to make enemies. . . . We can't afford to arouse resentment." "Whose resentment?" he asked. "I don't think the government will like it." "You saw the consequences of that" "Well, I don't know . . . The public won't take it, there's bound to be a lot of indignation." "You saw how the public took it." "Well, I don't know . . . We've been trying hard not to give any grounds for all those accusations about selfish greed—and you've given ammunition to the enemy." "Would you rather agree with the enemy that you have no right to your profits and your property?" "Oh, no, no, certainly not—but why go to extremes? There's always a middle ground." "A middle ground between you and your murderers?" "Now why use such words?” "What I said at the trial, was it true or not?" "It's going to be misquoted and misunderstood." "Was it true or not?" "The public is too dumb to grapple with such issues." "Was it true or not?" --------------------------------------- 370 "It's no time to boast about being rich—when the populace is starving. It's just goading them on to seize everything." "But telling them that you have no right to your wealth, while they have— is what's going to restrain them?" "Well, I don't know . . ." "I don't like the things you said at your trial," said another man. "In my opinion, I don't agree with you at all. Personally, I'm proud to believe that I am working for the public good, not just for my own profit. I like to think that I have some goal higher than just earning my three meals a day and my Hammond limousine." "And I don't like that idea about no directives and no controls," said another. "I grant you they're running hog-wild and overdoing it. But—no controls at all? I don't go along with that. I think some controls are necessary. The ones which are for the public good." "I am sorry, gentlemen," said Rearden, "that I will be obliged to save your goddamn necks along with mine." A group of businessmen headed by Mr. Mowen did not issue any statements about the trial. But a week later they announced, with an inordinate amount of publicity, that they were endowing the construction of a playground for the children of the unemployed. Bertram Scudder did not mention the trial in his column. But ten days later, he wrote, among items of miscellaneous gossip: "Some idea of the public value of Mr. Hank Rearden may be gathered from the fact that of all social groups, he seems to be most unpopular with his own fellow businessmen. His old-fashioned brand of ruthlessness seems to be too much even for those predatory barons of profit." On an evening in December—when the street beyond his window was like a congested throat coughing with the horns of pre-Christmas traffic—Rearden sat in his room at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, fighting an enemy more dangerous than weariness or fear: revulsion against the thought of having to deal with human beings. He sat, unwilling to venture into the streets of the city, unwilling to move, as if he were chained to his chair and to this room. He had tried for hours to ignore an emotion that felt like the pull of homesickness: his awareness that the only man whom he longed to see, was here, in this hotel, just a few floors above him. He had caught himself, in the past few weeks, wasting time in the lobby whenever he entered the hotel or left it, loitering unnecessarily at the mail counter or the newsstand, watching the hurried currents of people, hoping to see Francisco d'Anconia among them. He had caught himself eating solitary dinners in the restaurant of the Wayne-Falkland, with his eyes on the curtains of the entrance doorway, Now he caught himself sitting in his room, thinking that the distance was only a few floors. He rose to his feet, with a chuckle of amused indignation; he was acting, he thought, like a woman who waits for a telephone call and fights against the temptation to end the torture by making the first move. There was no reason, he thought, why he could not go to Francisco d'Anconia, if that was what he wanted. Yet when he told himself that he would, he felt some dangerous element of surrender in the intensity of his own relief. He made a step toward the phone, to call Francisco's suite, but stopped. It was not what he wanted; what he wanted was simply to walk in, unannounced, as Francisco had walked into his office; it was this that seemed to state some unstated right between them. On his way to the elevator, he thought: He won't be in or, if he is, you'll probably find him entertaining some floozie, which will serve you right. But the thought seemed unreal, he could not make it apply to the man he had seen at the mouth of the furnace—he stood confidently in the elevator, --------------------------------------- 371 looking up—he walked confidently down the hall, feeling his bitterness relax into gaiety—he knocked at the door. Francisco's voice snapped, "Come in!" It had a brusque, absentminded sound. Rearden opened the door and stopped on the threshold. One of the hotel's costliest satin-shaded lamps stood in the middle of the floor, throwing a circle of light on wide sheets of drafting paper. Francisco d'Anconia, in shirt sleeves, a strand of hair hanging down over his face, lay stretched on the floor, on his stomach, propped up by his elbows, biting the end of a pencil in concentration upon some point of the intricate tracing before him. He did not look up, he seemed to have forgotten the knock. Rearden tried to distinguish the drawing: it looked like the section of a smelter. He stood watching in startled wonder; had he had the power to bring into reality his own image of Francisco d'Anconia, this was the picture he would have seen: the figure of a purposeful young worker intent upon a difficult task, In a moment, Francisco raised his head. In the next instant, he flung his body upward to a kneeling posture, looking at Rearden with a smile of incredulous pleasure. In the next, he seized the drawings and threw them aside too hastily, face down. "What did I interrupt?" asked Rearden. "Nothing much. Come in." He was grinning happily. Rearden felt suddenly certain that Francisco had waited, too, had waited for this as for a victory which he had not quite hoped to achieve. "What were you doing?" asked Rearden. "Just amusing myself." "Let me see it." "No." He rose and kicked the drawings aside. Rearden noted that if he had resented as impertinence Francisco's manner of proprietorship in his office, he himself was now guilty of the same attitude—because he offered no explanation for his visit, but crossed the room and sat down in an armchair, casually, as if he were at home. "Why didn't you come to continue what you had started?" he asked. "You have been continuing it brilliantly without my help." "Do you mean, my trial?" "I mean, your trial." "How do you know? You weren't there." Francisco smiled, because the tone of the voice confessed an added sentence: I was looking for you. "Don't you suppose I heard every word of it on the radio?" "You did? Well, how did you like hearing your own lines come over the air, with me as your stooge?" "You weren't, Mr. Rearden. They weren't my lines. Weren't they the things you had always lived by?" "Yes." "I only helped you to see that you should have been proud to live by them." "I am glad you heard it" "It was great, Mr. Rearden—and about three generations too late." "What do you mean?" "If one single businessman had had the courage, then, to say that he worked for nothing but his own profit—and to say it proudly—he would have saved the world." "I haven't given up the world as lost." "It isn't. It never can be. But oh God!—what he would have spared us!" "Well, I guess we have to fight, no matter what era we're caught in." --------------------------------------- 372 "Yes . . . You know, Mr. Rearden, I would suggest that you get a transcript of your trial and read what you said. Then see whether you are practicing it fully and consistently—or not." "You mean that I'm not?" "See for yourself." "I know that you had a great deal to tell me, when we were interrupted, that night at the mills. Why don't you finish what you had to say?" "No. It's too soon." Francisco acted as if there were nothing unusual about this visit, as if he took it as a matter of natural course—as he had always acted in Rearden's presence. But Rearden noted that he was not so calm as he wished to appear; he was pacing the room, in a manner that seemed a release for an emotion he did not want to confess; he had forgotten the lamp and it still stood on the floor as the room's sole illumination. "You've been taking an awful beating in the way of discoveries, haven't you?" said Francisco, "How did you like the behavior of your fellow businessmen?" "I suppose it was to be expected." His voice tense with the anger of compassion, Francisco said, "It's been twelve years and yet I'm still unable to see it indifferently!" The sentence sounded involuntary, as if, trying to suppress the sound of emotion, he had uttered suppressed words. "Twelve years—since what?" asked Rearden. There was an instant's pause, but Francisco answered calmly, "Since I understood what those men were doing," He added, "I know what you're going through right now . . . and what's still ahead." "Thanks," said Rearden. "For what?" "For what you're trying so hard not to show. But don't worry about me. I'm still able to stand it. . . . You know, I didn't come here because I wanted to talk about myself or even about the trial." "I'll agree to any subject you choose—in order to have you here." He said it in the tone of a courteous joke; but the tone could not disguise it; he meant it. "What did you want to talk about?" "You." Francisco stopped. He looked at Rearden for a moment, then answered quietly, "All right.” If that which Rearden felt could have gone directly into words, past the barrier of his will, he would have cried: Don't let me down—I need you—I am fighting all of them, I have fought to my limit and am condemned to fight beyond it—and, as sole ammunition possible to me, I need the knowledge of one single man whom I can trust, respect and admire. Instead, he said calmly, very simply—and the only note of a personal bond between them was that tone of sincerity which comes with a direct, unqualifiedly rational statement and implies the same honesty of mind in the listener—"You know, I think that the only real moral crime that one man can commit against another is the attempt to create, by his words or actions, an impression of the contradictory, the impossible, the irrational, and thus shake the concept of rationality in his victim." "That's true." "If I say that that is the dilemma you've put me in, would you help me by answering a personal question?" "I will try.” "I don't have to tell you—I think you know it—that you are the man of the highest mind I have ever met. I am coming to accept, not as right, but at least as possible, the fact that you refuse to exercise your great ability in the world of today. But what a man does out of despair, is not necessarily a --------------------------------------- 373 key to his character. I have always thought that the real key is in that which he seeks for his enjoyment. And this is what I find inconceivable: no matter what you've given up, so long as you chose to remain alive, how can you find any pleasure in spending a life as valuable as yours on running after cheap women and on an imbecile's idea of diversions?" Francisco looked at him with a fine smile of amusement, as if saying: No? You didn't want to talk about yourself? And what is it that you're confessing but the desperate loneliness which makes the question of my character more important to you than any other question right now? The smile merged into a soft, good-natured chuckle, as if the question involved no problem for him, no painful secret to reveal. "There's a way to solve every dilemma of that kind, Mr. Rearden. Check your premises." He sat down on the floor, settling himself gaily, informally, for a conversation he would enjoy. "Is it your own first-hand conclusion that I am a man of high mind?" "Yes." "Do you know of your own first-hand knowledge that I spend my life running after women?" "You've never denied it." "Denied it? I've gone to a lot of trouble to create that impression." "Do you mean to say that it isn't true?" "Do I strike you as a man with a miserable inferiority complex?" "Good God, no!" "Only that kind of man spends his life running after women." "What do you mean?" "Do you remember what I said about money and about the men who seek to reverse the law of cause and effect? The men who try to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind? Well, the mail who despises himself tries to gain self-esteem from sexual adventures —which can't be done, because sex is not the cause, but an effect and an expression of a man's sense of his own value." "You'd better explain that." "Did it ever occur to you that it's the same issue? The men who think that wealth comes from material resources and has no intellectual root or meaning, are the men who think—for the same reason—that sex is a physical capacity which functions independently of one's mind, choice or code of values. They think that your body creates a desire and makes a choice for you—just about in some such way as if iron ore transformed itself into railroad rails of its own volition. Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself. No matter what corruption he's taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which he cannot perform for any motive but his own enjoyment—just try to think of performing it in a spirit of selfless charity!—an act which is not possible in self-abasement, only in self-exaltation, only in the confidence of being desired and being worthy of desire. It is an act that forces him to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body, and to accept his real ego as., his standard of value. He will always be attracted to the woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself, the woman whose surrender permits him to experience—or to fake—a sense of self-esteem. The man who is proudly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer—because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of an achievement, not the possession of --------------------------------------- 374 a brainless slut. He does not seek to . . . What's the matter?" he asked, seeing the look on Rearden's face, a look of intensity much beyond mere interest in an abstract discussion. "Go on," said Rearden tensely. "He does not seek to gain his value, he seeks to express it. There is no conflict between the standards of his mind and the desires of his body. But the man who is convinced of his own worthlessness will be drawn to a woman he despises—because she will reflect his own secret self, she will release him from that objective reality in which he is a fraud, she will give him a momentary illusion of his own value and a momentary escape from the moral code that damns him. Observe the ugly mess which most men make of their sex lives—and observe the mess of contradictions which they hold as their moral philosophy. One proceeds from the other. Love is our response to our highest values— and can be nothing else. Let a man corrupt his values and his view of existence, let him profess that love is not self-enjoyment but self-denial, that virtue consists, not of pride, but of pity or pain or weakness or sacrifice, that the noblest love is born, not of admiration, but of charity, not in response to values, but in response to flaws—and he will have cut himself in two. His body will not obey him, it will not respond, it will make him impotent toward the woman he professes to love and draw him to the lowest type of whore he can find. His body will always follow the ultimate logic of his deepest convictions; if he believes that flaws are values, he has damned existence as evil and only the evil will attract him. He has damned himself and he will feel that depravity is all he is worthy of enjoying. He has equated virtue with pain and he will feel that vice is the only realm of pleasure. Then he will scream that his body has vicious desires of its own which his mind cannot conquer, that sex is sin, that true love is a pure emotion of the spirit. And then he will wonder why love brings him nothing but boredom, and sex—nothing but shame." Rearden said slowly, looking off, not realizing that he was thinking aloud, "At least . . . I've never accepted that other tenet . . . I've never felt guilty about making money." Francisco missed the significance of the first two words; he smiled and said eagerly, "You do see that it's the same issue? No, you'd never accept any part of their vicious creed. You wouldn't be able to force it upon yourself. If you tried to damn sex as evil, you'd still find yourself, against your will, acting on the proper moral premise. You'd be attracted to the highest woman you met. You'd always want a heroine. You'd be incapable of self-contempt. You'd be unable to believe that existence is evil and that you're a helpless creature caught in an impossible universe. You're the man who's spent his life shaping matter to the purpose of his mind. You're the man who would know that just as an idea unexpressed in physical action is contemptible hypocrisy, so is platonic love—and just as physical action unguided by an idea is a fool's self-fraud, so is sex when cut off from one's code of values. It's the same issue, and you would know it. Your inviolate sense of self-esteem would know it. You would be incapable of desire for a woman you despised. Only the man who extols the purity of a love devoid of desire, is capable of the depravity of a desire devoid of love. But observe that most people are creatures cut in half who keep swinging desperately to one side or to the other. One kind of half is the man who despises money, factories, skyscrapers and his own body. He holds undefined emotions about non-conceivable subjects as the meaning of life and as his claim to virtue. And he cries with despair, because he can feel nothing for the women he respects, but finds himself in bondage to an irresistible passion for a slut from the gutter. --------------------------------------- 375 He is the man whom people call an idealist. The other kind of half is the man whom people call practical, the man who despises principles, abstractions, art, philosophy and his own mind. He regards the acquisition of material objects as the only goal of existence—and he laughs at the need to consider their purpose or their source. He expects them to give him pleasure— and he wonders why the more he gets, the less he feels. He is the man who spends his time chasing women. Observe the triple fraud which he perpetrates upon himself. He will not acknowledge his need of self-esteem, since he scoffs at such a concept as moral values; yet he feels the profound self- contempt which comes from believing that he is a piece of meat. He will not acknowledge, but he knows that sex is the physical expression of a tribute to personal values. So he tries, by going through the motions of the effect, to acquire that which should have been the cause. He tries to gain a sense of his own value from the women who surrender to him—and he forgets that the women he picks have neither character nor judgment nor standard of value. He tells himself that all he's after is physical pleasure— but observe that he tires of his women in a week or a night, that he despises professional whores and that he loves to imagine he is seducing virtuous girls who make a great exception for his sake. It is the feeling, of achievement that he seeks and never finds. What glory can there be in the conquest of a mindless body? Now that is your woman-chaser. Does the description fit me?" "God, no!" "Then you can judge, without asking my word for it, how much chasing of women I've done in my life." "But what on earth have you been doing on the front pages of newspapers for the last—isn't it twelve—years?" "I've spent a lot of money on the most ostentatiously vulgar parties I could think of, and a miserable amount of time on being seen with the appropriate sort of women. As for the rest—" He stopped, then said, "I have some friends who know this, but you are the first person to whom I am confiding it against my own rules: I have never slept with any of those women. I have never touched one of them." "What is more incredible than that, is that I believe you." The lamp on the floor beside him threw broken bits of light across Francisco's face, as he leaned forward; the face had a look of guiltless amusement. "If you care to glance over those front pages, you'll see that I've never said anything. It was the women who were eager to rush into print with stories insinuating that being seen with me at a restaurant was the sign of a great romance. What do you suppose those women are after but the same thing as the chaser—the desire to gain their own value from the number and fame of the men they conquer? Only it's one step phonier, because the value they seek is not even in the actual fact, but in the impression on and the envy of other women. Well, I gave those bitches what they wanted—but what they literally wanted, without the pretense that they expected, the pretense that hides from Them the nature of their wish. Do you think they wanted to sleep with me or with any man? They wouldn't be capable of so real and honest a desire. They wanted food for their vanity—and I gave it to them. I gave them the chance to boast to their friends and to see themselves in the scandal sheets in the roles of great seductresses. But do you know that it works in exactly the same way as what you did at your trial? If you want to defeat any kind of vicious fraud—comply with it literally, adding nothing of your own to disguise its nature. Those women understood. They saw whether there's any satisfaction in being envied by others for a feat one has not achieved. Instead of self-esteem, their publicized romances with me have given them a deeper sense of inferiority: each one of them knows that she's tried and failed. If dragging me into bed is supposed to be her public --------------------------------------- 376 standard of value, she knows that she couldn't live up to it. I think those women hate me more than any other man on. earth. But my secret is safe—because each one of them thinks that she was the only one who failed, while all the others succeeded, so she'll be the more vehement in swearing to our romance and will never admit the truth to anybody." "But what have you done to your own reputation?" Francisco shrugged. "Those whom I respect, will know the truth about me, sooner or later. The others"—his face hardened—"the others consider that which I really am as evil. Let them have what they prefer—what I appear to be on the front pages." "But what for? Why did you do it? Just to teach them a lesson?" "Hell, no! I wanted to be known as a playboy." "Why?" "A playboy is a man who just can't help letting money run through his fingers.” "Why did you want to assume such an ugly sort of role?" "Camouflage." "For what?" "For a purpose of my own." "What purpose?" Francisco shook his head. "Don't ask me to tell you that. I've told you more than I should. You'll come to know the rest of it soon, anyway." "If it's more than you should, why did you tell me?" "Because . . . you've made me become impatient for the first time in years." The note of a suppressed emotion came back into his voice. "Because I've never wanted anyone to know the truth about me as I wanted you to know it. Because I knew that you'd despise a playboy more than any other sort of man—as I would, too. Playboy? I've never loved but one woman in my life and still do and always will!" It was an involuntary break, and he added, his voice low, "I've never confessed that to anyone . . . not even to her." "Have you lost her?" Francisco sat looking off into space; in a moment, he answered tonelessly, "I hope not." The light of the lamp hit his face from below, and Rearden could not see his eyes, only his mouth drawn in lines of endurance and oddly solemn resignation. Rearden knew that this was a wound not to be probed any further. With one of his swift changes of mood, Francisco said, "Oh well, it's just a little longer!" and rose to his feet, smiling. "Since you trust me," said Rearden, "I want to tell you a secret of mine in exchange. I want you to, know how much I trusted you before I came here. And I might need your help later." "You're the only man left whom I'd like to help." "There's a great deal that I don't understand about you, but I'm certain of one thing: that you're not a friend of the looters." "I'm not." There was a hint of amusement in Francisco's face, as at an understatement. "So I know that you won't betray me if I tell you that I'm going to continue selling Rearden Metal to customers of my own choice in any amount I wish, whenever I see a chance to do it. Right now, I'm getting ready to pour an order twenty times the size of the one they tried me for." Sitting on the arm of a chair, a few feet away, Francisco leaned forward to look at him silently, frowning, for a long moment, "Do you think that you're fighting them by doing it?" he asked. "Well, what would you call it? Co-operating?" --------------------------------------- 377 "You were willing to work and produce Rearden Metal for them at the price of losing your profits, losing your friends, enriching stray bastards who had the pull to rob you, and taking their abuse for the privilege of keeping them alive. Now you're willing to do it at the price of accepting the position of a criminal and the risk of being thrown in jail at any moment—for the sake of keeping in existence a system which can be kept going only by its victims, only by the breaking of its own laws." "It's not for their system, but for customers whom I can't abandon to the mercy of their system—I intend to outlast that system of theirs —I don't intend to let them stop me, no matter how hard they make it for me—and I don't intend to give up the world to them, even if I am the last man left. Right now, that illegal order is more important to me than the whole of my mills." Francisco shook his head slowly and did not answer; then he asked, "To which one of your friends in the copper industry are you going to give the valuable privilege of informing on you this time?" Rearden smiled. "Not this time. This time, I'm dealing with a man I can trust." "Really? Who is it?" "You." Francisco sat up straight. "What?" he asked, his voice so low that he almost succeeded in hiding the sound of a gasp. Rearden was smiling. "You didn't know that I'm one of your customers now? It was done through a couple of stooges and under a phony name—but I'll need your help to prevent anyone on your staff from becoming inquisitive about it. I need that copper, I need it on time—and I don't care if they arrest me later, so long as I get this through. I know that you've lost all concern for your company, your wealth, your work, because you don't care to deal with looters like Taggart and Boyle. But if you meant all the things you taught me, if I am the last man left whom you respect, you'll help me to survive and to beat them. I've never asked for anyone's help. I'm asking for yours. I need you. I trust you. You've always professed your admiration for me. Well, there's my life in your hands—if you want it. An order of d'Anconia copper is being shipped to me right now. It left San Juan on December fifth." "What?!" It was a scream of plain shock. Francisco had shot to his feet, past any attempt to hide anything. "On December fifth?" "Yes," said Rearden, stupefied. Francisco leaped to the telephone. "I told you not to deal with d'Anconia Copper!" It was the half-moaning, half-furious cry of despair. His hand was reaching for the telephone, but jerked back. He grasped the edge of the table, as if to stop himself from lifting the receiver, and he stood, head down, for how long a time neither he nor Rearden could tell. Rearden was held numb by the fact of watching an agonized struggle with the motionless figure of a man as its only evidence. He could not guess the nature of the struggle, he knew only that there was something which Francisco had the power to prevent in that moment and that it was a power which he would not use. When Francisco raised his head, Rearden saw a face drawn by so great a suffering that its lines were almost an audible cry of pain, the more terrible because the face had a look of firmness, as if the decision had been made and this was the price of it. "Francisco . . . what's the matter?" "Hank, I . . . " He shook his head, stopped, then stood up straight. "Mr. Rearden," he said, in a voice that had the strength, the despair and the peculiar dignity of a plea he knew to be hopeless, "for the time when --------------------------------------- 378 you're going to damn me, when you're going to doubt every word I said . . . I swear to you—by the woman I love—that I am your friend." The memory of Francisco's face as it looked in that moment, came back to Rearden three days later, through a blinding shock of loss and hatred—it came back, even though, standing by the radio in his office, he thought that he must now keep away from the Wayne-Falkland or he would kill Francisco d'Anconia on sight—it kept coming back to him, through the words he was hearing—he was hearing that three ships of d'Anconia copper, bound from San Juan to New York, had been attacked by Ragnar Danneskjold and sent to the bottom of the ocean—it kept coming back, even though he knew that much more than the copper had gone down for him with those ships. --------------------------------------- 379 CHAPTER V ACCOUNT OVERDRAWN It was the first failure in the history of Rearden Steel. For the first time, an order was not delivered as promised. But by February 15, when the Taggart rail was due, it made no difference to anyone any longer. Winter had come early, in the last days of November. People said that it was the hardest winter on record and that no one could be blamed for the unusual severity of the snowstorms. They did not care to remember that there had been a time when snowstorms did not sweep, unresisted, down unlighted roads and upon the roofs of unheated houses, did not stop the movement of trains, did not leave a wake of corpses counted by the hundreds. The first time that Danagger Coal was late in delivering fuel to Taggart Transcontinental, in the last week of December, Danagger's cousin explained that he could not help it; he had had to cut the workday down to six hours, he said, in order to raise the morale of the men who did not seem to function as they had in the days of his cousin Kenneth; the men had become listless and sloppy, he said, because they were exhausted by the harsh discipline of the former management; he could not help it if some of the superintendents and foremen had quit him without reason, men who had been with the company for ten to twenty years; he could not help it if there seemed to be some friction between his workers and his new supervisory staff, even though the new men were much more liberal than the old slave drivers; it was only a matter of readjustment, he said. He could not help it, he said, if the tonnage intended for Taggart Transcontinental had been turned over, on the eve of its scheduled delivery, to the Bureau of Global Relief for shipment to the People's State of England; it was an emergency, the people of England were starving, with all of their State factories closing down—and Miss Taggart was being unreasonable, since it was only a matter of one day's delay. It was only one day's delay. It caused a three days' delay in the run of Freight Train Number 386, bound from California to New York with fifty-nine carloads of lettuce and oranges. Freight Train Number 386 waited on sidings, at coaling stations, for the fuel that had not arrived. When the train reached New York, the lettuce and oranges had to be dumped into the East River: they had waited their turn too long in the freight houses of California, with the train schedules cut and the engines forbidden, by directive, to pull a train of more than sixty cars. Nobody but their friends and trade associates noticed that three orange growers in California went out of business, as well as two lettuce farmers in Imperial Valley; nobody noticed the closing of a commission house in New York, of a plumbing company to which the commission house owed money, of a lead-pipe wholesaler who had supplied the plumbing company. When people were starving, said the newspapers, one did not have to feel concern over the failures of business enterprises which were only private ventures for private profit. The coal shipped across the Atlantic by the Bureau of Global Relief did not reach the People's State of England: it was seized by Ragnar Danneskjold. The second time that Danagger Coal was late in delivering fuel to Taggart Transcontinental, in mid-January, Danagger's cousin snarled over the telephone that he could not help it: his mines had been shut down for three days, due to a shortage of lubricating oil for the machinery. The supply of coal to Taggart Transcontinental was four days late. Mr. Quinn, of the Quinn Ball Bearing Company which had once moved from Connecticut to Colorado, waited a week for the freight train that carried his --------------------------------------- 380 order of Rearden steel. When the train arrived, the doors of the Quinn Ball Bearing Company's plant were closed. Nobody traced the closing of a motor company in Michigan, that had waited for a shipment of ball bearings, its machinery idle, its workers on full pay; or the closing of a sawmill in Oregon, that had waited for a new motor; or the closing of a lumber yard in Iowa, left without supply; or the bankruptcy of a building contractor in Illinois who, failing to get his lumber on time, found his contracts cancelled and the purchasers of his homes sent wandering off down snowswept roads in search of that which did not exist anywhere any longer. The snowstorm that came at the end of January blocked the passes through the Rocky Mountains, raising white walls thirty feet high across the main- line track of Taggart Transcontinental. The men who attempted to clear the track, gave up within the first few hours: the rotary plows broke down, one after another. The plows had been kept in precarious repair for two years past the span of their usefulness. The new plows had not been delivered; the manufacturer had quit, unable to obtain the steel he needed from Orren Boyle. Three westbound trains were trapped on the sidings of Winston Station, high in the Rockies, where the main line of Taggart Transcontinental cut across the northwest corner of Colorado. For five days, they remained beyond the reach of help. Trains could not approach them through the storm. The last of the trucks made by Lawrence Hammond broke down on the frozen grades of the mountain highways. The best of the airplanes once made by Dwight Sanders were sent out, but never reached Winston Station; they were worn past the stage of fighting a storm. Through the driving mesh of snow, the passengers trapped aboard the trains looked out at the lights of Winston's shanties. The lights died in the night of the second day. By the evening of the third, the lights, the heat and the food had given out aboard the trains. In the brief lulls of the storm, when the white mesh vanished and left behind it the stillness of a black void merging a lightless earth with a starless sky— the passengers could see, many miles away to the south, a small tongue of flame twisting in the wind. It was Wyatt's Torch. By the morning of the sixth day, when the trains were able to move and proceeded down the slopes of Utah, of Nevada, of California, the trainmen observed the smokeless stacks and the closed doors of small trackside factories, which had not been closed on their last run. "Storms are an act of God," wrote Bertram Scudder, "and nobody can be held socially responsible for the weather." The rations of coal, established by Wesley Mouch, permitted the heating of homes for three hours a day. There was no wood to burn, no metal to make new stoves, no tools to pierce the walls of the houses for new installations. In makeshift contraptions of bricks and oil cans, professors were burning the books of their libraries, and fruit growers were burning the trees of their orchards. "Privations strengthen a people's spirit," wrote Bertram Scudder, "and forge the fine steel of social discipline. Sacrifice is the cement which unites human bricks into the great edifice of society." "The nation which had once held the creed that greatness is achieved by production, is now told that it is achieved by squalor," said Francisco d'Anconia in a press interview. But this was not printed. The only business boom, that winter, came to the amusement industry. People wrenched their pennies out of the quicksands of their food and heat budgets, and went without meals in order to crowd into movie theaters, in order to escape for a few hours the state of animals reduced to the single concern of terror over their crudest needs. In January, all movie theaters, night clubs and bowling alleys were closed by order of Wesley Mouch, for the --------------------------------------- 381 purpose of conserving fuel. "Pleasure is not an essential of existence," wrote Bertram Scudder. "You must learn to take a philosophical attitude," said Dr. Simon Pritchett to a young girl student who broke down into sudden, hysterical sobs in the middle of a lecture. She had just returned from a volunteer relief expedition to a settlement on Lake Superior; she had seen a mother holding the body of a grown son who had died of hunger. "There are no absolutes," said Dr. Pritchett. "Reality is only an illusion. How does that woman know that her son is dead? How does she know that he ever existed?" People with pleading eyes and desperate faces crowded into tents where evangelists cried in triumphant gloating that man was unable to cope with nature, that his science was a fraud, that his mind was a failure, that he was reaping punishment for the sin of pride, for his confidence in his own intellect—and that only faith in the power of mystic secrets could protect him from the fissure of a rail or from the blowout of the last tire on his last truck. Love was the key to the mystic secrets, they cried, love and selfless sacrifice to the needs of others. Orren Boyle made a selfless sacrifice to the needs of others. He sold to the Bureau of Global Relief, for shipment to the People's State of Germany, ten thousand tons of structural steel shapes that had been intended for the Atlantic Southern Railroad. "It was a difficult decision to make," he said, with a moist, unfocused look of righteousness, to the panic-stricken president of the Atlantic Southern, "but I weighed the fact that you're a rich corporation, while the people of Germany are in a state of unspeakable misery. So I acted on the principle that need comes first. When in doubt, it's the weak that must be considered, not the strong." The president of the Atlantic Southern had heard that Orren Boyle's most valuable friend in Washington had a friend in the Ministry of Supply of the People's State of Germany. But whether this had been Boyle's motive or whether it had been the principle of sacrifice, no one could tell and it made no difference: if Boyle had been a saint of the creed of selflessness, he would have had to do precisely what he had done. This silenced the president of the Atlantic Southern; he dared not admit that he cared for his railroad more than for the people of Germany; he dared not argue against the principle of sacrifice. The waters of the Mississippi had been rising all through the month of January, swollen by the storms, driven by the wind into a restless grinding of current against current and against every obstruction in their way. On a night of lashing sleet, in the first week of February, the Mississippi bridge of the Atlantic Southern collapsed under a passenger train. The engine and the first five sleepers went down with the cracking girders into the twisting black spirals of water eighty feet below. The rest of the train remained on the first three spans of the bridge, which held. "You can't have your cake and let your neighbor eat it, too," said Francisco d'Anconia. The fury of denunciations which the holders of public voices unleashed against him was greater than their concern over the horror at the river. It was whispered that the chief engineer of the Atlantic Southern, in despair over the company's failure to obtain the steel he needed to reinforce the bridge, had resigned six months ago, telling the company that the bridge was unsafe. He had written a letter to the largest newspaper in New York, warning the public about it; the letter had not been printed. It was whispered that the first three spans of the bridge had held because they had been reinforced with structural shapes of Rearden Metal; but five hundred tons of the Metal was all that the railroad had been able to obtain under the Fair Share Law. --------------------------------------- 382 As the sole result of official investigations, two bridges across the Mississippi, belonging to smaller railroads, were condemned. One of the railroads went out of business; the other closed a branch line, tore up its rail and laid a track to the Mississippi bridge of Taggart Transcontinental; so did the Atlantic Southern. The great Taggart Bridge at Bedford, Illinois, had been built by Nathaniel Taggart. He had fought the government for years, because the courts had ruled, on the complaint of river shippers, that railroads were a destructive competition to shipping and thus a threat to the public welfare, and that railroad bridges across the Mississippi were to be forbidden as a material obstruction; the courts had ordered Nathaniel Taggart to tear down his bridge and to carry his passengers across the river by means of barges. He had won that battle by a majority of one voice on the Supreme Court. His bridge was now the only major link left to hold the continent together. His last descendant had made it her strictest rule that whatever else was neglected, the Taggart Bridge would always be maintained in flawless shape. The steel shipped across the Atlantic by the Bureau of Global Relief had not reached the People's State of Germany. It had been seized by Ragnar Danneskjold—but nobody heard of it outside the Bureau, because the newspapers had long since stopped mentioning the activities of Ragnar Danneskjold. It was not until the public began to notice the growing shortage, then the disappearance from the market of electric irons, toasters, washing machines and all electrical appliances, that people began to ask questions and to hear whispers. They heard that no ship loaded with d'Anconia copper was able to reach a port of the United States; it could not get past Ragnar Danneskjold. In the foggy winter nights, on the waterfront, sailors whispered the story that Ragnar Danneskjold always seized the cargoes of relief vessels, but never touched the copper: he sank the d'Anconia ships with their loads; he let the crews escape in lifeboats, but the copper went to the bottom of the ocean. They whispered it as a dark legend beyond men's power to explain; nobody could find a reason why Danneskjold did not choose to take the copper. In the second week of February, for the purpose of conserving copper wire and electric power, a directive forbade the running of elevators above the twenty-fifth floor. The upper floors of the buildings had to be vacated, and partitions of unpainted boards went up to cut off the stairways. By special permit, exceptions were granted—on the grounds of "essential need"—to a few of the larger business enterprises and the more fashionable hotels. The tops of the cities were cut down. The inhabitants of New York had never had to be aware of the weather. Storms had been only a nuisance that slowed the traffic and made puddles in the doorways of brightly lighted shops. Stepping against the wind, dressed in raincoats, furs and evening slippers, people had felt that a storm was an intruder within the city. Now, facing the gusts of snow that came sweeping down the narrow streets, people felt in dim terror that they were the temporary intruders and that the wind had the right-of-way. "It won't make any difference to us now, forget it, Hank, it doesn't matter," said Dagny when Rearden told her that he would not be able to deliver the rail; he had not been able to find a supplier of copper. "Forget it, Hank." He did not answer her. He could not forget the first failure of Rearden Steel. On the evening of February 15, a plate cracked on a rail joint and sent an engine off the track, half a mile from Winston, Colorado, on a division which was to have been relaid with the new rail. The station agent of Winston sighed and sent for a crew with a crane; it was only one of the minor accidents that were happening in his section every other day or so, he was getting used to it. --------------------------------------- 383 Rearden, that evening, his coat collar raised, his hat slanted low over his eyes, the snow drifts rising to his knees, was tramping through an abandoned open-pit coal mine, in a forsaken corner of Pennsylvania, supervising the loading of pirated coal upon the trucks which he had provided. Nobody owned the mine, nobody could afford the cost of working it. But a young man with a brusque voice and dark, angry eyes, who came from a starving settlement, had organized a gang of the unemployed and made a deal with Rearden to deliver the coal. They mined it at night, they stored it in hidden culverts, they were paid in cash, with no questions asked or answered. Guilty of a fierce desire to remain alive, they and Rearden traded like savages, without rights, titles, contracts or protection, with nothing but mutual understanding and a ruthlessly absolute observance of one's given word. Rearden did not even know the name of the young leader. Watching him at the job of loading the trucks, Rearden thought that this boy, if born a generation earlier, would have become a great industrialist; now, he would probably end his brief life as a plain criminal in a few more years. Dagny, that evening, was facing a meeting of the Taggart Board of Directors. They sat about a polished table in a stately Board room which was inadequately heated. The men who, through the decades of their careers, had relied for their security upon keeping their faces blank, their words inconclusive and their clothes impeccable, were thrown off-key by the sweaters stretched over their stomachs, by the mufflers wound about their necks, by the sound of coughing that cut through the discussion too frequently, like the rattle of a machine gun. She noted that Jim had lost the smoothness of his usual performance. He sat with his head drawn into his shoulders, and his eyes kept darting too rapidly from face to face. A man from Washington sat at the table among them. Nobody knew his exact job or title, but it was not necessary: they knew that he was the man from Washington. His name was Mr. Weatherby, he had graying temples, a long, narrow face and a mouth that looked as if he had to stretch his facial muscles in order to keep it closed; this gave a suggestion of primness to a face that displayed nothing else. The Directors did not know whether he was present as the guest, the adviser or the ruler of the Board; they preferred not to find out. "It seems to me," said the chairman, "that the top problem for us to consider is the fact that the track of our main line appears to be in a deplorable, not to say critical, condition—" He paused, then added cautiously, "—while the only good rail we own is that of the John Galt—I mean, the Rio Norte—Line." In the same cautious tone of waiting for someone else to pick up the intended purpose of his words, another man said, "If we consider our critical shortage of equipment, and if we consider that we are letting it wear out in the service of a branch line running at a loss—" He stopped and did not state what would occur if they considered it. "In my opinion," said a thin, pallid man with a neat mustache, "the Rio Norte Line seems to have become a financial burden which the company might not be able to carry—that is, not unless certain readjustments are made, which—" He did not finish, but glanced at Mr. Weatherby. Mr. Weatherby looked as if he had not noticed it. "Jim," said the chairman, "I think you might explain the picture to Mr. Weatherby." Taggart's voice still retained a practiced smoothness, but it was the smoothness of a piece of cloth stretched tight over a broken glass object, and the sharp edges showed through once in a while: "I think it is generally --------------------------------------- 384 conceded that the main factor affecting every railroad in the country is the unusual rate of business failures. While we all realize, of course, that this is only temporary, still, for the moment, it has made the railroad situation approach a stage that may well be described as desperate. Specifically, the number of factories which have closed throughout the territory of the Taggart Transcontinental system is so large that it has wrecked our entire financial structure. Districts and divisions which had always brought us our steadiest revenues, are now showing an actual operating loss. A train schedule geared to a heavy volume of freight cannot be maintained for three shippers where there had once been seven. We cannot give them the same service—at least, not at . . . our present rates." He glanced at Mr. Weatherby, but Mr. Weatherby did not seem to notice. "It seems to me," said Taggart, the sharp edges becoming sharper in his voice, "that the stand taken by our shippers is unfair. Most of them have been complaining about their competitors and have passed various local measures to eliminate competition in their particular fields. Now most of them are practically in sole possession of their markets, yet they refuse to realize that a railroad cannot give to one lone factory the freight rates which had been made possible by the production of a whole region. We are running our trains for them at a loss, yet they have taken a stand against any . . . raise in rates." "Against any raise?" said Mr. Weatherby mildly, with a good imitation of astonishment. "That is not the stand they have taken." "If certain rumors, which I refuse to credit, are true—" said the chairman, and stopped one syllable after the tone of panic had become obvious in his voice. "Jim," said Mr. Weatherby pleasantly, "I think it would be best if we just didn't mention the subject of raising the rates." "I wasn't suggesting an actual raise at this time," said Taggart hastily. "I merely referred to it to round out the picture." "But, Jim," said an old man with a quavering voice, "I thought that your influence—I mean, your friendship—with Mr. Mouch would insure . . . " He stopped, because the others were looking at him severely, in reproof for the breach of an unwritten law: one did not mention a failure of this kind, one did not discuss the mysterious ways of Jim's powerful friendships or why they had failed him. "Fact is," said Mr. Weatherby easily, "that Mr. Mouch sent me here to discuss the demand of the railway unions for a raise in wages and the demand of the shippers for a cut in rates." He said it in a tone of casual firmness; he knew that all these men had known it, that the demands had been discussed in the newspapers for months; he knew that the dread in these men's minds was not of the fact, but of his naming it-—as if the fact had not existed, but his words held the power to make it exist; he knew that they had waited to see whether he would exercise that power; he was letting them know that he would. Their situation warranted an outcry of protest; there was none; nobody answered him. Then James Taggart said in that biting, nervous tone which is intended to convey anger, but merely confesses uncertainty, "I wouldn't exaggerate the importance of Buzzy Watts of the National Shippers Council. He's been making a lot of noise and giving a lot of expensive dinners in Washington, but I wouldn't advise taking it too seriously." "Oh, I don't know," said Mr. Weatherby. "Listen, Clem, I do know that Wesley refused to see him last week." "That's true. Wesley is a pretty busy man." "And I know that when Gene Lawson gave that big party ten days ago, practically everybody was there, but Buzzy Watts was not invited." "That's so," said Mr. Weatherby peaceably. --------------------------------------- 385 "So I wouldn't bet on Mr. Buzzy Watts, Clem. And I wouldn't let it worry me." "Wesley's an impartial man," said Mr. Weatherby. "A man devoted to public duty. It's the interests of the country as a whole that he's got to consider above everything else." Taggart sat up; of all the danger signs he knew, this line of talk was the worst. "Nobody can deny it, Jim, that Wesley feels a high regard for you as an enlightened businessman, a valuable adviser and one of his closest personal friends." Taggart's eyes shot to him swiftly: this was still worse. "But nobody can say that Wesley would hesitate to sacrifice his personal feelings and friendships—where the welfare of the public is concerned." Taggart's face remained blank; his terror came from things never allowed to reach expression in words or in facial muscles. The terror was his struggle against an unadmitted thought: he himself had been "the public" for so long and in so many different issues, that he knew what it would mean if that magic title, that sacred title no one dared to oppose, were transferred, along with its "welfare," to the person of Buzzy Watts. But what he asked, and he asked it hastily, was, "You're not implying that I would place my personal interests above the public welfare, are you?" "No, of course not," said Mr. Weatherby, with a look that was almost a smile. "Certainly not. Not you, Jim. Your public-spirited attitude—and understanding-—are too well known. That's why Wesley expects you to see every side of the picture." "Yes, of course," said Taggart, trapped. "Well, consider the unions' side of it. Maybe you can't afford to give them a raise, but how can they afford to exist when the cost of living has shot sky-high? They've got to eat, don't they? That comes first, railroad or no railroad." Mr. Weatherby's tone had a kind of placid righteousness, as if he were reciting a formula required to convey another meaning, clear to all of them; he was looking straight at Taggart, in special emphasis of the unstated. "There are almost a million members in the railway unions. With families, dependents and poor relatives—and who hasn't got poor relatives these days?—it amounts to about five million votes. Persons, I mean. Wesley has to bear that in mind. He has to think of their psychology. And then, consider the public. The rates you're charging were established at a time when everybody was making money. But the way things are now, the cost of transportation has become a burden nobody can afford. People arc screaming about it all over the country." He looked straight at Taggart; he merely looked, but his glance had the quality of a wink. "There's an awful lot of them, Jim. They're not very happy at the moment about an awful lot of things. A government that would bring the railroad rates down would make a lot of folks grateful." The silence that answered him was like a hole so deep that no sound could be heard of the things crashing down to its bottom. Taggart knew, as they all knew, to what disinterested motive Mr. Mouch would always be ready to sacrifice his personal friendships. It was the silence and the fact that she did not want to say it, had come here resolved not to speak, but could not resist it, that made Dagny's voice sound so vibrantly harsh: "Got what you've been asking for, all these years, gentlemen?" The swiftness with which their eyes moved to her was an involuntary answer to an unexpected sound, but the swiftness with which they moved away—to look down at the table, at the walls, anywhere but at her—was the conscious answer to the meaning of the sounds. In the silence of the next moment, she felt their resentment like a starch thickening the air of the room, and she knew that it was not resentment against Mr. Weatherby, but against her. She could have borne it, if they had --------------------------------------- 386 merely let her question go unanswered; but what made her feel a sickening tightness in her stomach, was their double fraud of pretending to ignore her and then answering in their own kind of manner. The chairman said, not looking at her, his voice pointedly noncommittal, yet vaguely purposeful at the same time, "It would have been all right, everything would have worked out fine, if it weren't for the wrong people in positions of power, such as Buzzy Watts and Chick Morrison." "Oh, I wouldn't worry about Chick Morrison," said the pallid man with the mustache. "He hasn't any top-level connections. Not really. It's Tinky Holloway that's poison." "I don't see the picture as hopeless," said a portly man who wore a green muffler. "Joe Dunphy and Bud Hazleton are very close to Wesley. If their influence prevails, we'll be all right. However, Kip Chalmers and Tinky Holloway are dangerous." "I can take care of Kip Chalmers," said Taggart. Mr. Weatherby was the only person in the room who did not mind looking at Dagny; but whenever his glance rested upon her, it registered nothing; she was the only person in the room whom he did not see. "I am thinking," said Mr. Weatherby casually, looking at Taggart, "that you might do Wesley a favor." "Wesley knows that he can always count on me." "Well, my thought is that if you granted the unions' wage raises— we might drop the question of cutting the rates, for the time being." "I can't do that!" It was almost a cry. "The National Alliance of Railroads has taken a unanimous stand against the raises and has committed every member to refuse." "That's just what I mean," said Mr. Weatherby softly. "Wesley needs to drive a wedge into that Alliance stand. If a railroad like Taggart Transcontinental were to give in, the rest would be easy. You would help Wesley a great deal. He would appreciate it." "But, good God, Clem!—I'd be open to court action for it, by the Alliance rules!" Mr. Weatherby smiled. "What court? Let Wesley take care of that." "But listen, Clem, you know—you know just as well as I do—that we can't afford it!" Mr. Weatherby shrugged. "That's a problem for you to work out." "How, for Christ's sake?" "I don't know. That's your job, not ours. You wouldn't want the government to start telling you how to run your railroad, would you?" "No, of course not! But—" "Our job is only to see that the people get fair wages and decent transportation. It's up to you to deliver. But, of course, if you say that you can't do the job, why then—" "I haven't said it!" Taggart cried hastily, "I haven't said it at all!" "Good," said Mr. Weatherby pleasantly. "We know that you have the ability to find some way to do it." He was looking at Taggart; Taggart was looking at Dagny. "Well, it was just a thought," said Mr. Weatherby, leaning back in his chair in a manner of modest withdrawal. "Just a thought for you to mull over. I'm only a guest here. I don't want to interfere. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the situation of the . . . branch lines, I believe?" "Yes," said the chairman and sighed. "Yes. Now if anyone has a constructive suggestion to offer—" He waited; no one answered. "I believe the picture is clear to all of us." He waited. "It seems to be established that we cannot continue to afford the operation of some of our branch lines . . . the Rio Norte Line in particular . . . and, therefore, some form of action seems to be indicated. . . ." --------------------------------------- 387 "I think," said the pallid man with the mustache, his voice unexpectedly confident, "that we should now hear from Miss Taggart." He leaned forward with a look of hopeful craftiness. As Dagny did not answer, but merely turned to him, he asked, "What do you have to say, Miss Taggart?" "Nothing." "I beg your pardon?" "All I had to say was contained in the report which Jim has read to you." She spoke quietly, her voice clear and flat. "But you did not make any recommendations." "I have none to make." "But, after all, as our Operating Vice-President, you have a vital interest in the policies of this railroad." "I have no authority over the policies of this railroad." "Oh, but we are anxious to consider your opinion." "I have no opinions." "Miss Taggart," he said, in the smoothly formal tone of an order, "you cannot fail to realize that our branch lines are running at a disastrous deficit—and that we expect you to make them pay." "How?" "I don't know. That is your job, not ours." "I have stated in my report the reasons why that is now impossible. If there are facts which I have overlooked, please name them." "Oh, I wouldn't know. We expect you to find some way to make it possible. Our job is only to see that the stockholders get a fair profit. It's up to you to deliver. You wouldn't want us to think that you're unable to do the job and—" "I am unable to do it." The man opened his mouth, but found nothing else to say; he looked at her in bewilderment, wondering why the formula had failed. "Miss Taggart," asked the man with the green muffler, "did you imply in your report that the situation of the Rio Norte Line was critical?" "I stated that it was hopeless." "Then what action do you propose?" "I propose- nothing." "Aren't you evading a responsibility?" "What is it that you think you're doing?" She spoke evenly, addressing them all. "Are you counting on my not saying that the responsibility-is yours, that it was your goddamn policies that brought us where we are? Well, I'm saying it." "Miss Taggart, Miss Taggart," said the chairman in a tone of pleading reproach, "there shouldn't be any hard feelings among us. Does it matter now who was to blame? We don't want to quarrel over past mistakes. We must all pull together as a team to carry our railroad through this desperate emergency," A gray-haired man of patrician bearing, who had remained silent throughout the session, with a look of the quietly bitter knowledge that the entire performance was futile, glanced at Dagny in a way which would have been sympathy had he still felt a remnant of hope. He said, raising his voice just enough to betray a note of controlled indignation, "Mr. Chairman, if it is practical solutions that we are considering, I should like to suggest that we discuss the limitation placed upon the length and speed of our trains. Of any single practice, that is the most disastrous one. Its repeal would not solve all of our problems, but it would be an enormous relief. With the desperate shortage of motive power and the appalling shortage of fuel, it is criminal insanity to send an engine out on the road with sixty cars when it could pull a hundred and to take four days on a run which could be made in three. I suggest that we compute the number of shippers we have ruined and the --------------------------------------- 388 districts we have destroyed through the failures, shortages and delays of transportation, and then we—" "Don't think of it," Mr. Weatherby cut in snappily. "Don't try dreaming about any repeals. We wouldn't consider it. We wouldn't even consider listening to any talk on the subject." "Mr. Chairman," the gray-haired man asked quietly, "shall I continue?" The chairman spread out his hands, with a smooth smile, indicating helplessness. "It would be impractical," he answered. "I think we'd better confine the discussion to the status of the Rio Norte Line," snapped James Taggart. There was a long silence. The man with the green muffler turned to Dagny. "Miss Taggart," he asked sadly and cautiously, "would you say that if—this is just a hypothetical question—if the equipment now in use on the Rio Norte Line were made available, it would fill the needs of our transcontinental main-line traffic?" "It would help." "The rail of the Rio Norte Line," said the pallid man with the mustache, "is unmatched anywhere in the country and could not now be purchased at any price. We have three hundred miles of track, which means well over four hundred miles of rail of pure Rearden Metal in that Line. Would you say, Miss Taggart, that we cannot afford to waste that superlative rail on a branch that carries no major traffic any longer?" "That is for you to judge." "Let me put it this way: would it be of value if that rail were made available for our main-line track, which is in such urgent need of repair?" "It would help." "Miss Taggart," asked the man with the quavering voice, "would you say that there are any shippers of consequence left on the Rio Norte Line?" "There's Ted Nielsen of Nielsen Motors. No one else." "Would you say that the operating costs of the Rio Norte Line could be used to relieve the financial strain on the rest of the system?" "It would help." "Then, as our Operating Vice-President . . ." He stopped; she waited, looking at him; he said, "Well?" "What was your question?" "I meant to say . . . that is, well, as our Operating Vice-President, don't you have certain conclusions to draw?" She stood up. She looked at the faces around the table. "Gentlemen," she said, "I do not know by what sort of self-fraud you expect to feel that if it's I who name the decision you intend to make, it will be I who'll bear the responsibility for it. Perhaps you believe that if my voice delivers the final blow, it will make me the murderer involved—since you know that this is the last act of a long-drawn-out murder. I cannot conceive what it is you think you can accomplish by a pretense of this kind, and I will not help you to stage it. The final blow will be delivered by you, as were all the others." She turned to go. The chairman half-rose, asking helplessly, "But, Miss Taggart—" "Please remain seated. Please continue the discussion—and take the vote in which I shall have no voice. I shall abstain from voting. Ill stand by, if you wish me to, but only as an employee. I will not pretend to be anything else." She turned away once more, but it was the voice of the gray-haired man that stopped her. "Miss Taggart, this is not an official question, it is only my personal curiosity, but would you tell me your view of the future of the Taggart Transcontinental system?" --------------------------------------- 389 She answered, looking at him in understanding, her voice gentler, "I have stopped thinking of a future or of a railroad system. I intend to continue running trains so long as it is still possible to run them. I don't think that it will be much longer." She walked away from the table, to the window, to stand aside and let them continue without her. She looked at the city. Jim had obtained the permit which allowed them the use of electric power to the top of the Taggart Building. From the height of the room, the city looked like a flattened remnant, with but a few rare, lonely streaks of lighted glass still rising through the darkness to the sky. She did not listen to the voices of the men behind her. She did not know for how long the broken snatches of their struggle kept rolling past her—the sounds that nudged and prodded one another, trying to edge back and leave someone pushed forward—a struggle, not to assert one's own will, but to squeeze an assertion from some unwilling victim —a battle in which the decision was to be pronounced, not by the winner, but by the loser: "It seems to me . . . It is, I think . . . It must, in my opinion . . . If we were to suppose . . . I am merely suggesting . . . I am not implying, but . . . If we consider both sides . . . It is, in my opinion, indubitable . . . It seems to me to be an unmistakable fact . . ." She did not know whose voice it was, but she heard it when the voice pronounced: ". . . and, therefore, I move that the John Galt Line be closed." Something, she thought, had made him call the Line by its right name. You had to bear it, too, generations ago—it was just as hard for you, just as bad, but you did not let it stop you—was it really as bad as this? as ugly?—never mind, it's different forms, but it's only pain, and you were not stopped by pain, not by whatever kind it was that you had to bear—you were not stopped—you did not give in to it—you faced it and this is the kind I have to face—you fought and I will have to —you did it—I will try . . . She heard, in her own mind, the quiet intensity of the words of dedication—and it was some time before she realized that she was speaking to Nat Taggart. The next voice she heard was Mr. Weatherby's: "Wait a minute, boys. Do you happen to remember that you need to obtain permission before you can close a branch line?" "Good God, Clem!" Taggart's cry was open panic. "Surely there's not going to be any trouble about—" "I wouldn't be too sure of it. Don't forget that you're a public service and you're expected to provide transportation, whether you make money or not." "But you know that it's impossible!" "Well, that's fine for you, that solves your problem, if you close that Line—but what will it do to us? Leaving a whole state like Colorado practically without transportation—what sort of public sentiment will it arouse? Now, of course, if you gave Wesley something in return, to balance it, if you granted the unions' wage raises—" "I can't! I gave my word to the National Alliance!" "Your word? Well, suit yourself; We wouldn't want to force the Alliance. We much prefer to have things happen voluntarily. But these are difficult times and it's hard telling what's liable to happen. With everybody going broke and the tax receipts falling, we might—fact being that we hold well over fifty per cent of the Taggart bonds—we might be compelled to call for the payment of railroad bonds within six months." "What?!" screamed Taggart. "—or sooner." --------------------------------------- 390 "But you can't! Oh God, you can't! It was understood that the moratorium was for five years! It was a contract, an obligation! We were counting on it!" "An obligation? Aren't you old-fashioned, Jim? There aren't any obligations, except the necessity of the moment. The original owners of those bonds were counting on their payments, too." Dagny burst out laughing. She could not stop herself, she could not resist it, she could not reject a moment's chance to avenge Ellis Wyatt, Andrew Stockton, Lawrence Hammond, all the others. She said, torn by laughter: "Thanks, Mr. Weatherby!" Mr. Weatherby looked at her in astonishment. "Yes?" he asked coldly. "I knew that we would have to pay for those bonds one way or another. We're paying." "Miss Taggart," said the chairman severely, "don't you think that I told- you-so's are futile? To talk of what would have happened if we had acted differently is nothing but purely theoretical speculation. We cannot indulge in theory, we have to deal with the practical reality of the moment." "Right," said Mr. Weatherby. "That's what you ought to be—practical. Now we offer you a trade. You do something for us and we'll do something for you. You give the unions their wage raises and we'll give you permission to close the Rio Norte Line." "All right," said James Taggart, his voice choked. Standing at the window, she heard them vote on their decision. She heard them declare that the John Galt Line would end in six weeks, on March 31. It's only a matter of getting through the next few moments, she thought; take care of the next few moments, and then the next, a few at a time, and after a while it will be easier; you'll get over it, after a while. The assignment she gave herself for the next few moments was to put on her coat and be first to leave the room. Then there was the assignment of riding in an elevator down the great, silent length of the Taggart Building. Then there was the assignment of crossing the dark lobby. Halfway through the lobby, she stopped. A man stood leaning against the wall, in a manner of purposeful waiting—and it was she who was his purpose, because he was looking straight at her. She did not recognize him at once, because she felt certain that the face she saw could not possibly be there in that lobby at this hour. "Hi, Slug," he said softly. She answered, groping for some great distance that had once been hers, "Hi, Frisco." "Have they finally murdered John Galt?" She struggled to place the moment into some orderly sequence of time. The question belonged to the present, but the solemn face came from those days on the hill by the Hudson when he would have understood all that the question meant to her. "How did you know that they'd do it tonight?" she asked. "It's been obvious for months that that would be the next step at their next meeting." "Why did you come here?" "To see how you'd take it." "Want to laugh about it?" "No, Dagny, I don't want to laugh about it." She saw no hint of amusement in his face; she answered trustingly, "I don't know how I'm taking it." "I do." --------------------------------------- 391 "I was expecting it, I knew they'd have to do it, so now it's only a matter of getting through"—tonight, she wanted to say, but said—"all the work and details." He took her arm. "Let's go some place where we can have a drink together." "Francisco, why don't you laugh at me? You've always laughed about that Line." "I will—tomorrow, when I see you going on with all the work and details. Not tonight." "Why not?" "Come on. You're in no condition to talk about it." "I—" She wanted to protest, but said, "No, I guess I'm not." He led her out to the street, and she found herself walking silently in time with the steady rhythm of his steps, the grasp of his fingers on her arm unstressed and firm. He signaled a passing taxicab and held the door open for her. She obeyed him without questions; she felt relief, like a swimmer who stops struggling. The spectacle of a man acting with assurance, was a life belt thrown to her at a moment when she had forgotten the hope of its existence. The relief was not in the surrender of responsibility, but in the sight of a man able to assume it. "Dagny," he said, looking at the city as it moved past their taxi window, "think of the first man who thought of making a steel girder. He knew what he saw, what he thought and what he wanted. He did not say, 'It seems to me,' and he did not take orders from those who say, 'In my opinion.'" She chuckled, wondering at his accuracy: he had guessed the nature of the sickening sense that held her, the sense of a swamp which she had to escape. "Look around you," he said. "A city is the frozen shape of human courage— the courage of those men who thought for the first time of every bolt, rivet and power generator that went to make it. The courage to say, not 'It seems to me,' but 'It is'—and to stake one's life on one's judgment. You're not alone. Those men exist. They have always existed. There was a time when human beings crouched in caves, at the mercy of any pestilence and any storm. Could men such as those on your Board of Directors have brought them out of the cave and up to this?" He pointed at the city. "God, no!" "Then there's your proof that another kind of men do exist." "Yes," she said avidly. "Yes." "Think of them and forget your Board of Directors." "Francisco, where are they now—the other kind of men?" "Now they're not wanted." "I want them. Oh God, how I want them!" "When you do, you'll find them." He did not question her about the John Galt Line and she did not speak of it, until they sat at a table in a dimly lighted booth and she saw the stem of a glass between her fingers. She had barely noticed how they had come here. It was a quiet, costly place that looked like a secret retreat; she saw a small, lustrous table under her hand, the leather of a circular seat behind her shoulders, and a niche of dark blue mirror that cut them off from the sight of whatever enjoyment or pain others had come here to hide. Francisco was leaning against the table, watching her, and she felt as if she were leaning against the steady attentiveness of his eyes. They did not speak of the Line, but she said suddenly, looking down at the liquid in her glass: "I'm thinking of the night when Nat Taggart was told that he had to abandon the bridge he was building. The bridge across the Mississippi. He had been desperately short of money—because people were afraid of the bridge, they called it an impractical venture. That morning, he was told that the river steamboat concerns had filed suit against him, demanding that his bridge be destroyed as a threat to the public welfare. --------------------------------------- 392 There were three spans of the bridge built, advancing across the river. That same day, a local mob attacked the structure and set fire to the wooden scaffolding. His workers deserted him, some because they were scared, some because they were bribed by the steamboat people, and most of them because he had had no money to pay them for weeks. Throughout that day, he kept receiving word that men who had subscribed to buy the stock of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad were cancelling their subscriptions, one after another. Toward evening, a committee, representing two banks that were his last hope of support, came to see him. It was right there, on the construction site by the river, in the old railway coach where he lived, with the door open to the view of the blackened ruin, with the wooden remnants still smoking over the twisted steel. He had negotiated a loan from those banks, but the contract had not been signed. The committee told him that he would have to give up his bridge, because he was certain to lose the suit, and the bridge would be ordered torn down by the time he completed it. If he was willing to give it up, they said, and to ferry his passengers across the river on barges, as other railroads were doing, the contract would stand and he would get the money to continue his line west on the other shore; if not, then the loan was off. What was his answer?— they asked. He did not say a word, he picked up the contract, tore it across, handed it to them and walked out. He walked to the bridge, along the spans, down to the last girder. He knelt, he picked up the tools his men had left and he started to clear the charred wreckage away from the steel structure. His chief engineer saw him there, axe in hand, alone over the wide river, with the sun setting behind him in that west where his line was to go. He worked there all night. By morning, he had thought out a plan of what he would do to find the right men, the men of independent judgment—to find them, to convince them, to raise the money, to continue the bridge." She spoke in a low, flat voice, looking down at the spot of light that shimmered in the liquid as her fingers turned the stem of her glass once in a while. She showed no emotion, but her voice had the intense monotone of a prayer: "Francisco . . . if he could live through that night, what right have I to complain? What does it matter, how I feel just now? He built that bridge, I have to hold it for him. I can't let it go the way of the bridge of the Atlantic Southern. I feel almost as if he'd know it, if I let that happen, he'd know it that night when he was alone over the river . . . no, that's nonsense, but here's what I feel: any man who knows what Nat Taggart felt that night, any man living now and capable of knowing it—it's him that I would betray if I let it happen . . . and I can't." "Dagny, if Nat Taggart were living now, what would he do?" She answered involuntarily, with a swift, bitter chuckle, "He wouldn't last a minute!"—then corrected herself: "No, he would. He would find a way to fight them." "How?" "I don't know." She noticed some tense, cautious quality in the attentive way he watched her as he leaned forward and asked, "Dagny, the men of your Board of Directors are no match for Nat Taggart, are they? There's no form of contest in which they could beat him, there's nothing he'd have to fear from them, there's no mind, no will, no power in the bunch of them to equal one- thousandth of his." "No, of course not." "Then why is it that throughout men's history the Nat Taggarts, who make the world, have always won—and always lost it to the men of the Board?" "I . . . don't know." "How could men who're afraid to hold an unqualified opinion about the weather, fight Nat Taggart? How could they seize his achievement, if he chose --------------------------------------- 393 to defend it? Dagny, he fought with every weapon he possessed, except the most important one. They could not have won, if we —he and the rest of us—had not given the world away to them." "Yes, You gave it away to them. Ellis Wyatt did. Ken Danagger did, I won't." He smiled. "Who built the John Galt Line for them?" He saw only the faintest contraction of her mouth, but he knew that the question was like a blow across an open wound. Yet she answered quietly, "I did." "For this kind of end?" "For the men who did not hold out, would not fight and gave up." "Don't you see that no other end was possible?" "No." "How much injustice are you willing to take?" "As much as I'm able to fight." "What will you do now? Tomorrow?" She said calmly, looking straight at him with the faintly proud look of stressing her calm, "Start to tear it up." "What?" "The John Galt Line. Start to tear it up as good as with my own hands—with my own mind, by my own instructions. Get it ready to be closed, then tear it up and use its pieces to reinforce the transcontinental track. There's a lot of work to do. It will keep me busy." The calm cracked a little, in the faintest change of her voice: "You know, I'm looking forward to it. I'm glad that I'll have to do it myself. That's why Nat Taggart worked all that night—just to keep going. It's not so bad as long as there's something one can do. And I'll know, at least, that I'm saving the main line." "Dagny," he asked very quietly—and she wondered what made her feel that he looked as if his personal fate hung on her answer, "what if it were the main line that you had to dismember?" She answered irresistibly, "Then I'd let the last engine run over me!" —but added, "No. That's just self-pity. I wouldn't." He said gently, "I know you wouldn't. But you'd wish you could." "Yes." He smiled, not looking at her; it was a mocking smile, but it was a smile of pain and the mockery was directed at himself. She wondered what made her certain of it; but she knew his face so well that she would always know what he felt, even though she could not guess his reasons any longer. She knew his face as well, she thought, as she knew every line of his body, as she could still see it, as she was suddenly aware of it under his clothes, a few feet away, in the crowding intimacy of the booth. He turned to look at her and some sudden change in his eyes made her certain that he knew what she was thinking. He looked away and picked up his glass. "Well—" he said, "to Nat Taggart." "And to Sebastian d'Anconia?" she asked—then regretted it, because it had sounded like mockery, which she had not intended. But she saw a look of odd, bright clarity in his eyes and he answered firmly, with the faintly proud smile of stressing his firmness, "Yes—and to Sebastian d'Anconia," Her hand trembled a little and she spilled a few drops on the square of paper lace that lay on the dark, shining plastic of the table. She watched him empty his glass in a single gesture; the brusque, brief movement of his hand made it look like the gesture of some solemn pledge. She thought suddenly that this was the first time in twelve years that he had come to her of his own choice. --------------------------------------- 394 He had acted as if he were confidently in control, as if his confidence were a transfusion to let her recapture hers, he had given her no time to wonder that they should be here together. Now she felt, unaccountably, that the reins he had held were gone. It was only the silence of a few blank moments and the motionless outline of his forehead, cheekbone and mouth, as he sat with his face turned away from her— but she felt as if it were he who was now struggling for something he had to recapture. She wondered what had been his purpose tonight—and noticed that he had, perhaps, accomplished it: he had carried her over the worst moment, he had given her an invaluable defense against despair—the knowledge that a living intelligence had heard her and understood. But why had he wanted to do it? Why had he cared about her hour of despair—after the years of agony he had given her? Why had it mattered to him how she would take the death of the John Galt Line? She noticed that this was the question she had not asked him in the lobby of the Taggart Building. This was the bond between them, she thought: that she would never be astonished if he came when she needed him most, and that he would always know when to come. This was the danger: that she would trust him even while knowing that it could be nothing but some new kind of trap, even while remembering that he would always betray those who trusted him. He sat, leaning forward with his arms crossed on the table, looking straight ahead. He said suddenly, not turning to her: "1 am thinking of the fifteen years that Sebastian d'Anconia had to wait for the woman he loved. He did not know whether he would ever find her again, whether she would survive . . . whether she would wait for him. But he knew that she could not live through his battle and that he could not call her to him until it was won. So he waited, holding his love in the place of the hope which he had no right to hold. But when he carried her across the threshold of his house, as the first Senora d'Anconia of a new world, he knew that the battle was won, that they were free, that nothing threatened her and nothing would ever hurt her again." In the days of their passionate happiness, he had never given her a hint that he would come to think of her as Senora d'Anconia. For one moment, she wondered whether she had known what she had meant to him. But the moment ended in an invisible shudder: she would not believe that the past twelve years could allow the things she was hearing to be possible. This was the new trap, she thought. "Francisco," she asked, her voice hard, "what have you done to Hank Rearden?" He looked startled that she should think of that name at that moment "Why?" he asked. "He told me once that you were the only man he'd ever liked. But last time I saw him, he said that he would kill you on sight." "He did not tell you why?" "No." “He told you nothing about it?" "No." She saw him smiling strangely, a smile of sadness, gratitude and longing. "I warned him that you would hurt him—when he told me that you were the only man he liked." His words came like a sudden explosion: "He was the only man— with one exception—to whom I could have given my life!" "Who is the exception?" "The man to whom I have." "What do you mean?" --------------------------------------- 395 He shook his head, as if he had said more than he intended, and did not answer. "What did you do to Rearden?" "I'll tell you some time. Not now." "Is that what you always do to those who . . . mean a great deal to you?" He looked at her with a smile that had the luminous sincerity of innocence and pain. "You know," he said gently, "I could say that that is what they always do to me." He added, "But I won't. The actions—and the knowledge—were mine." He stood up. "Shall we go? I'll take you home." She rose and he held her coat for her; it was a wide, loose garment, and his hands guided it to enfold her body. She felt his arm remain about her shoulders a moment longer than he intended her to notice. She glanced back at him. But he was standing oddly still, staring intently down at the table. In rising, they had brushed aside the mats of paper lace and she saw an inscription cut into the plastic of the table top. Attempts had been made to erase it, but the inscription remained, as the graven voice of some unknown drunk's despair: "Who is John Galt?" With a brusque movement of anger, she flicked the mat back to cover the words. He chuckled. "I can answer it," he said. "I can tell you who is John Galt." "Really? Everybody seems to know him, but they never tell the same story twice." "They're all true, though—all the stories you've heard about him." "Well, what's yours? Who is he?" "John Galt is Prometheus who changed his mind. After centuries of being torn by vultures in payment for having brought to men the fire of the gods, he broke his chains and he withdrew his fire—until the day when men withdraw their vultures." The band of crossties swept in wide curves around granite corners, clinging to the mountainsides of Colorado. Dagny walked down the ties, keeping her hands in her coat pockets, and her eyes on the meaningless distance ahead; only the familiar movement of straining her steps to the spacing of the ties gave her the physical sense of an action pertaining to a railroad. A gray cotton, which was neither quite fog nor clouds, hung in sloppy wads between sky and mountains, making the sky look like an old mattress spilling its stuffing down the sides of the peaks. A crusted snow covered the ground, belonging neither to winter nor to spring. A net of moisture hung in the air, and she felt an icy pin-prick on her face once in a while, which was neither a raindrop nor a snowflake. The weather seemed afraid to take a stand and clung noncommittally to some sort of road's middle; Board of Directors' weather, she thought. The light seemed drained and she could not tell whether this was the afternoon or the evening of March 31. But she was very certain that it was March 31; that was a certainty not to be escaped. She had come to Colorado with Hank Rearden, to buy whatever machinery could still be found in the closed factories. It had been like a hurried search through the sinking hulk of a great ship before it was to vanish out of reach. They could have given the task to employees, but they had come, both prompted by the same unconfessed motive: they could not resist the desire to attend the run of the last train, as one cannot resist the desire to give a last salute by attending a funeral, even while knowing that it is only an act of self-torture. They had been buying machinery from doubtful owners in sales of dubious legality, since nobody could tell who had the right to dispose of the great, dead properties, and nobody would come to challenge the transactions. They --------------------------------------- 396 had bought everything that could be moved from the gutted plant of Nielsen Motors. Ted Nielsen had quit and vanished, a week after the announcement that the Line was to be closed. She had felt like a scavenger, but the activity of the hunt had made her able to bear these past few days. When she had found that three empty hours remained before the departure of the last train, she had gone to walk through the countryside, to escape the stillness of the town. She had walked at random through twisting mountain trails, alone among rocks and snow, trying to substitute motion for thought, knowing that she had to get through this day without thinking of the summer when she had ridden the engine of the first train. But she found herself walking back along the roadbed of the John Galt Line—and she knew that she had intended it, that she had gone out for that purpose. It was a spur track which had already been dismembered. There were no signal lights, no switches, no telephone wires, nothing but a long band of wooden strips left on the ground—a chain of ties without rail, like the remnant of a spine—and, as its lonely guardian, at an abandoned grade crossing, a pole with slanted arms saying: "Stop. Look. Listen." An early darkness mixed with fog was slipping down to fill the valleys, when she came upon the factory. There was an inscription high on the lustrous tile of its front wall: "Roger Marsh. Electrical Appliances." The man who had wanted to chain himself to his desk in order not to leave this, she thought. The building stood intact, like a corpse in that instant when its eyes have just closed and one still waits to see them open again. She felt that the lights would flare up at any moment behind the great sheets of windows, under the long, flat roofs. Then she saw one broken pane, pierced by a stone for some young moron's enjoyment—and she saw the tall, dry stem of a single weed rising from the steps of the main entrance. Hit by a sudden, blinding hatred, in rebellion against the weed's impertinence, knowing of what enemy this was the scout, she ran forward, she fell on her knees and jerked the weed up by its roots. Then, kneeling on the steps of a closed factory, looking at the vast silence of mountains, brush and dusk, she thought: What do you think you're doing? It was almost dark when she reached the end of the ties that led her back to the town of Marshville. Marshville had been the end of the Line for months past; service to Wyatt Junction had been discontinued long ago; Dr. Ferris' Reclamation Project had been abandoned this winter. The street lights were on, and they hung in mid-air at the intersections, in a long, diminishing line of yellow globes over the empty streets of Marshville. All the better homes were closed—the neat, sturdy houses of modest cost, well built and well kept; there were faded "For Sale" signs on their lawns. But she saw lights in the windows of the cheap, garish structures that had acquired, within a few years, the slovenly dilapidation of slum hovels; the homes of people who had not moved, the people who never looked beyond the span of one week. She saw a large new television set in the lighted room of a house with a sagging roof and cracking walls. She wondered how long they expected the electric power companies of Colorado to remain in existence. Then she shook her head: those people had never known that power companies existed. The main street of Marshville was lined by the black windows of shops out of business. All the luxury stores are gone—she thought, looking at their signs; and then she shuddered, realizing what things she now called luxury, realizing to what extent and in what manner those things, once available to the poorest, had been luxuries: Dry Cleaning—Electrical Appliances—Gas --------------------------------------- 397 Station—Drug Store—Five and Ten. The only ones left open were grocery stores and saloons. The platform of the railroad station was crowded. The glaring arc lights seemed to pick it out of the mountains, to isolate and focus it, like a small stage on which every movement was naked to the sight of the unseen tiers rising in the vast, encircling night. People were carting luggage, bundling their children, haggling at ticket windows, the stifled panic of their manner suggesting that what they really wanted to do was to fall down on the ground and scream with terror. Their terror had the evasive quality of guilt: it was not the fear that comes from understanding, but from the refusal to understand. The last train stood at the platform, its windows a long, lone streak of light. The steam of the locomotive, gasping tensely through the wheels, did not have its usual joyous sound of energy released for a sprint; it had the sound of a panting breath that one dreads to hear and dreads more to stop hearing. Far at the end of the lighted windows, she saw the small red dot of a lantern attached to her private car. Beyond the lantern, there was nothing but a black void. The train was loaded to capacity, and the shrill notes of hysteria in the confusion of voices were the pleas for space in vestibules and aisles. Some people were not leaving, but stood in vapid curiosity, watching the show; they had come, as if knowing that this was the last event they would ever witness in their community and, perhaps, in their lives. She walked hastily through the crowd, trying not to look at anyone. Some knew who she was, most of them did not. She saw an old woman with a ragged shawl on her shoulders and the graph of a lifetime's struggle on the cracked skin of her face; the woman's glance was a hopeless appeal for help. An unshaved young man with gold-rimmed glasses stood on a crate under an arc light, yelling to the faces shifting past him, "What do they mean, no business! Look at that train! It's full of passengers! There's plenty of business! It's just that there's no profits for them—that's why they're letting you perish, those greedy parasites!" A disheveled woman rushed up to Dagny, waving two tickets and screaming something about the wrong date. Dagny found herself pushing people out of the way, fighting to reach the end of the train—but an emaciated man, with the staring eyes of years of malicious futility, rushed at her, shouting, "It's all right for you, you've got a good overcoat and a private car, but you won't give us any trains, you and all the selfish—" He stopped abruptly, looking at someone behind her. She felt a hand grasping her elbow: it was Hank Rearden. He held her arm and led her toward her car; seeing the look on his face, she understood why people got out of their way. At the end of the platform, a pallid, plumpish man stood saying to a crying woman, "That's how it's always been in this world. There will be no chance for the poor, until the rich are destroyed." High above the town, hanging in black space like an uncooled planet, the flame of Wyatt's Torch was twisting in the wind. Rearden went inside her car, but she remained on the steps of the vestibule, delaying the finality of turning away. She heard the "All aboard!" She looked at the people who remained on the platform as one looks at those who watch the departure of the last lifeboat. The conductor stood below, at the foot of the steps, with his lantern in one hand and his watch in the other. He glanced at the watch, then glanced up at her face. She answered by the silent affirmation of closing her eyes and inclining her head. She saw his lantern circling through the air, as she turned away—and the first jolt of the wheels, on the rails of Rearden Metal, was made easier for her by the sight of Rearden, as she pulled the door open and went into her car. --------------------------------------- 398 When James Taggart telephoned Lillian Rearden from New York and said, "Why, no—no special reason, just wondered how you were and whether you ever came to the city—haven't seen you for ages and just thought we might have lunch together next time you're in New York"—she knew that he had some very special reason in mind. When she answered lazily, "Oh, let me see—what day is this? April second?— let me look at my calendar—why, it just so happens that I have some shopping to do in New York tomorrow, so I'll be delighted to let you save me my lunch money"—he knew that she had no shopping to do and that the luncheon would be the only purpose of her trip to the city. They met in a distinguished, high-priced restaurant, much too distinguished and high-priced ever to be mentioned in the gossip columns; not the kind of place which James Taggart, always eager for personal publicity, was in the habit of patronizing; he did not want them to be seen together, she concluded. The half-hint of half-secret amusement remained on her face while she listened to him talking about their friends, the theater and the weather, carefully building for himself the protection of the unimportant. She sat gracefully not quite straight, as if she were leaning back, enjoying the futility of his performance and the fact that he had to stage it for her benefit. She waited with patient curiosity to discover his purpose. "I do think that you deserve a pat on the back or a medal or something, Jim," she said, "for being remarkably cheerful in spite of all the messy trouble you're having. Didn't you just close the best branch of your railroad?" "Oh, it's only a slight financial setback, nothing more. One has to expect retrenchments at a time like this. Considering the general state of the country, we're doing quite well. Better than the rest of them." He added, shrugging, "Besides, it's a matter of opinion whether the Rio Norte Line was our best branch. It is only my sister who thought so. It was her pet project." She caught the tone of pleasure blurring the drawl of his syllables. She smiled and said, "I see." Looking up at her from under his lowered forehead, as if stressing that he expected her to understand, Taggart asked, "How is he taking it?" "Who?" She understood quite well. "Your husband.” "Taking what?" "The closing of that Line." She smiled gaily. "Your guess is as good as mine, Jim—and mine is very good indeed," "What do you mean?" "You know how he would take it—just as you know how your sister is taking it. So your cloud has a double silver lining, hasn't it?" "What has he been saying in the last few days?" "He's been away in Colorado for over a week, so I—" She stopped; she had started answering lightly, but she noticed that Taggart's question had been too specific while his tone had been too casual, and she realized that he had struck the first note leading toward the purpose of the luncheon; she paused for the briefest instant, then finished, still more lightly, "so I wouldn't know. But he's coming back any day now." "Would you say that his attitude is still what one might call recalcitrant?" "Why, Jim, that would be an understatement!" "It was to be hoped that events had, perhaps, taught him the wisdom of a mellower approach." --------------------------------------- 399 It amused her to keep him in doubt about her understanding. "Oh yes," she said innocently, "it would be wonderful if anything could ever make him change." "He is making things exceedingly hard for himself." "He always has." "But events have a way of beating us all into a more . . . pliable frame of mind, sooner or later." "I've heard many characteristics ascribed to him, but 'pliable' has never been one of them." "Well, things change and people change with them. After all, it is a law of nature that animals must adapt themselves to their background. And I might add that adaptability is the one characteristic most stringently required at present by laws other than those of nature. We're in for a very difficult time, and I would hate to see you suffer the consequences of his intransigent attitude. I would hate—as your friend—to see you in the kind of danger he's headed for, unless he learns to cooperate." "How sweet of you, Jim," she said sweetly. He was doling his sentences out with cautious slowness, balancing himself between word and intonation to hit the right degree of semi clarity. He wanted her to understand, but he did not want her to understand fully, explicitly, down to the root—since the essence of that modern language, which he had learned to speak expertly, was never to let oneself or others understand anything down to the root. He had not needed many words to understand Mr. Weatherby. On his last trip to Washington, he had pleaded with Mr. Weatherby that a cut in the rates of the railroads would be a deathblow; the wage raises had been granted, but the demands for the cut in rates were still heard in the press—and Taggart had known what it meant, if Mr. Mouch still permitted them to be heard; he had known that the knife was still poised at his throat. Mr. Weatherby had not answered his pleas, but had said, in a tone of idly irrelevant speculation, "Wesley has so many tough problems. If he is to give everybody a breathing spell, financially speaking, he's got to put into operation a certain emergency program of which you have some inkling. But you know what hell the unprogressive elements of the country would raise about it. A man like Rearden, for instance. We don't want any more stunts of the sort he's liable to pull. Wesley would give a lot for somebody who could keep Rearden in line. But I guess that's something nobody can deliver. Though I may be wrong. You may know better, Jim, since Rearden is a sort of friend of yours, who comes to your parties and all that." Looking at Lillian across the table, Taggart said, "Friendship, I find, is the most valuable thing in life—and I would be amiss if I didn't give you proof of mine." "But I've never doubted it." He lowered his voice to the tone of an ominous warning: "I think I should tell you, as a favor to a friend, although it's confidential, that your husband's attitude is being discussed in high places—very high places. I'm sure you know what I mean." This was why he hated Lillian Rearden, thought Taggart: she knew the game, but she played it with unexpected variations of her own. It was against all rules to look at him suddenly, to laugh in his face, and —after all those remarks showing that she understood too little—to say bluntly, showing that she understood too much, "Why, darling, of course I know what you mean. You mean that the purpose of this very excellent luncheon was not a favor you wanted to do me, but a favor you wanted to get from me. You mean that it's you who are in danger and could use that favor to great advantage for a trade in high places. --------------------------------------- 400 And you mean that you are reminding me of my promise to deliver the goods." "The sort of performance he put on at his trial was hardly what I'd call delivering the goods," he said angrily. "It wasn't what you had led me to expect." "Oh my, no, it wasn't," she said placidly. "It certainly wasn't. But, darling, did you expect me not to know that after that performance of his he wouldn't be very popular in high places? Did you really think you had to tell me that as a confidential favor?" "But it's true. I heard him discussed, so I thought I'd tell you." "I'm sure it's true. I know that they would be discussing him. I know also that if there were anything they could do to him, they would have done it right after his trial. My, would they have been glad to do it! So I know that he's the only one among you who is in no danger whatever, at the moment. I know that it's they who are afraid of him. Do you see how well I understand what you mean, darling?" "Well, if you think you do, I must say that for my part I don't understand you at all. I don't know what it is you're doing." "Why, I'm just setting things straight—so that you'll know that I know how much you need me. And now that it's straight, I'll tell you the truth in my turn: I didn't double-cross you, I merely failed. His performance at the trial—I didn't expect it any more than you did. Less. I had good reason not to expect it. But something went wrong. I don't know what it was. I am trying to find out. When I do, I will keep my promise. Then you'll be free to take full credit for it and to tell your friends in high places that it's you who've disarmed him." "Lillian," he said nervously, "I meant it when I said that I was anxious to give you proof of my friendship—so if there's anything-1 can do for—" She laughed. "There isn't. I know you meant it. But there's nothing you can do for me. No favor of any kind. No trade. I'm a truly noncommercial person, I want nothing in return. Tough luck, Jim. You'll just have to remain at my mercy." "But then why should you want to do it at all? What are you getting out of it?" She leaned back, smiling. "This lunch. Just seeing you here. Just knowing that you had to come to me." An angry spark flashed in Taggart's veiled eyes, then his eyelids narrowed slowly and he, too, leaned back in his chair, his face relaxing to a faint look of mockery and satisfaction. Even from within that unstated, unnamed, undefined muck which represented his code of values, he was able to realize which one of them was the more dependent on the other and the more contemptible. When they parted at the door of the restaurant, she went to Rearden's suite at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, where she stayed occasionally in his absence. She paced the room for about half an hour, in a leisurely manner of reflection. Then she picked up the telephone, with a smoothly casual gesture, but with the purposeful air of a decision reached. She called Rearden's office at the mills and asked Miss Ives when she expected him to return. "Mr. Rearden will be in New York tomorrow, arriving on the Comet, Mrs. Rearden," said Miss Ives' clear, courteous voice. "Tomorrow? That's wonderful. Miss Ives, would you do me a favor? Would you call Gertrude at the house and tell her not to expect me for dinner? I'm staying in New York overnight." She hung up, glanced at her watch and called the florist of the Wayne- Falkland. "This is Mrs. Henry Rearden," she said. "I should like to have two dozen roses delivered to Mr. Rearden's drawing room aboard the Comet. . . . --------------------------------------- 401 Yes, today, this afternoon, when the Comet reaches Chicago. . . . No, without any card—just the flowers. . . . Thank you ever so much." She telephoned James Taggart. "Jim, will you send me a pass to your passenger platforms? I want to meet my husband at the station tomorrow." She hesitated between Balph Eubank and Bertram Scudder, chose Balph Eubank, telephoned him and made a date for this evening's dinner and a musical show. Then she went to take a bath1, and lay relaxing in a tub of warm water, reading a magazine devoted to problems of political economy. It was late afternoon when the florist telephoned her. "Our Chicago office sent word that they were unable to deliver the flowers, Mrs. Rearden," he said, "because Mr. Rearden is not aboard the Comet." "Are you sure?" she asked. "Quite sure, Mrs. Rearden. Our man found at the station in Chicago that there was no compartment on the train reserved in Mr. Rearden's name. We checked with the New York office of Taggart Transcontinental, just to make certain, and were told that Mr. Rearden's name is not on the passenger list of the Comet." "I see. . . . Then cancel the order, please. . . . Thank you." She sat by the telephone for a moment, frowning, then called Miss Ives. "Please forgive me for being slightly scatterbrained, Miss Ives, but I was rushed and did not write it down, and now I'm not quite certain of what you said. Did you say that Mr. Rearden was coming back tomorrow? On the Comet?" "Yes, Mrs. Rearden." "You have not heard of any delay or change in his plans?" "Why, no. In fact, I spoke to Mr. Rearden about an hour ago. He telephoned from the station in Chicago, and he mentioned that he had to hurry back aboard, as the Comet was about to leave." "I see. Thank you." She leaped to her feet as soon as the click of the instrument restored her to privacy. She started pacing the room, her steps now unrhythmically tense. Then she stopped, struck by a sudden thought. There was only one reason why a man would make a train reservation under an assumed name: if he was not traveling alone. Her facial muscles went flowing slowly into a smile of satisfaction: this was an opportunity she had not expected. Standing on the Terminal platform, at a point halfway down the length of the train, Lillian Rearden watched the passengers descending from the Comet. Her mouth held the hint of a smile; there was a spark of animation in her lifeless eyes; she glanced from one face to another, jerking her head with the awkward eagerness of a schoolgirl. She was anticipating the look on Rearden's face when, with his mistress beside him, he would see her standing there. Her glance darted hopefully to every flashy young female stepping off the train. It was hard to watch: within an instant after the first few figures, the train had seemed to burst at the seams, flooding the platform with a solid current that swept in one direction, as if pulled by a vacuum; she could barely distinguish separate persons. The lights were more glare than illumination, picking this one strip out of a dusty, oily darkness. She needed an effort to stand still against the invisible pressure of motion. Her first sight of Rearden in the crowd came as a shock: she had not seen him step out of a car, but there he was, walking in her direction from somewhere far down the length of the train. He was alone. He was walking with his usual purposeful speed, his hands in the pockets of his trenchcoat. There was no woman beside him, no companion of any kind, except a porter hurrying along with a bag she recognized as his. --------------------------------------- 402 In a fury of incredulous disappointment, she looked frantically for any single feminine figure he could, have left behind. She felt certain that she would recognize his choice. She saw none that could be possible. And then she saw that the last car of the train was a private car, and that the figure standing at its door, talking to some station official— a figure wearing, not minks and veils, but a rough sports coat that stressed the incomparable grace of a slender body in the confident posture of this station's owner and center—was Dagny Taggart. Then Lillian Rearden understood. "Lillian! What's the matter?" She heard Rearden's voice, she felt his hand grasping her arm, she saw him looking at her as one looks at the object of a sudden emergency. He was looking at a blank face and an unfocused glance of terror. "What happened? What are you doing here?" "I . . . Hello, Henry . . . I just came to meet you . . . No special reason . . . I just wanted to meet you." The terror was gone from her face, but she spoke in a strange, flat voice. "I wanted to see you, it was an impulse, a sudden impulse and I couldn't resist it, because—" "But you look . . . looked ill." "No . . . No, maybe I felt faint, it's stuffy here. . . . I couldn't resist coming, because it made me think of the days when you would have been glad to see me . . . it was a moment's illusion to recreate for myself. . . ." The words sounded like a memorized lesson. She knew that she had to speak, while her mind was fighting to grasp the full meaning of her discovery. The words were part of the plan she had intended to use, if she had met him after he had found the roses in his compartment. He did not answer, he stood watching her, frowning. "I missed you, Henry, I know what I am confessing. But I don't expect it to mean anything to you any longer." The words did not fit the tight face, the lips that moved with effort, the eyes that kept glancing away from him down the length of the platform. "I wanted . . . I merely wanted to surprise you." A look of shrewdness and purpose was returning to her face. He took her arm, but she drew back, a little too sharply. "Aren't you going to say a word to me, Henry?" "What do you wish me to say?” "Do you hate it as much as that—having your wife come to meet you at the station?" She glanced down the platform: Dagny Taggart was walking toward them; he did not see her. "Let's go," he said. She would not move. "Do you?" she asked. "What?" "Do you hate it?" "No, I don't hate it. I merely don't understand it." "Tell me about your trip. I'm sure you've had a very enjoyable trip." "Come on. We can talk at home." "When do I ever have a chance to talk to you at home?" She was drawling her words impassively, as if she were stretching them to fill time, for some reason which he could not imagine. "I had hoped to catch a few moments of your attention—like this—between trains and business appointments and all those important matters that hold you day and night, all those great achievements of yours, such as . . . Hello, Miss Taggart!" she said sharply, her voice loud and bright. Rearden whirled around. Dagny was walking past them, but she stopped. "How do you do," she said to Lillian, bowing, her face expressionless. "I am so sorry, Miss Taggart," said Lillian, smiling, "you must forgive me if I don't know the appropriate formula of condolences for the occasion." She --------------------------------------- 403 noted that Dagny and Rearden had not greeted each other. "You're returning from what was, in effect, the funeral of your child by my husband, aren't you?" Dagny's mouth showed a faint line of astonishment and of contempt. She inclined her head, by way of leave-taking, and walked on. Lillian glanced sharply at Rearden's face, as if in deliberate emphasis. He looked at her indifferently, puzzled. She said nothing. She followed him without a word when he turned to go. She remained silent in the taxicab, her face half-turned away from him, while they rode to the Wayne-Falkland Hotel. He felt certain, as he looked at the tautly twisted set of her mouth, that some uncustomary violence was raging within her. He had never known her to experience a strong emotion of any kind. She whirled to face him, the moment they were alone in his room. "So that's who it is?" she asked. He had not expected it. He looked at her, not quite believing that he had understood it correctly. "It's Dagny Taggart who's your mistress, isn't she?" He did not answer. "I happen to know that you had no compartment on that train. So I know where you've slept for the last four nights. Do you want to admit it or do you want me to send detectives to question her train crews and her house servants? Is it Dagny Taggart?" "Yes," he answered calmly. Her mouth twisted into an ugly chuckle; she was staring past him. "I should have known it. I should have guessed. That's why it didn't work!" He asked, in blank bewilderment, "What didn't work?" She stepped back, as if to remind herself of his presence. "Had you— when she was in our house, at the party—had you, then . . . ?" "No. Since." "The great businesswoman," she said, "above reproach and feminine weaknesses. The great mind detached from any concern with the body . . ." She chuckled, "The bracelet . . ." she said, with the still look that made it sound as if the words were dropped accidentally out of the torrent in her mind. "That's what she meant to you. That's the weapon she gave you." "If you really understand what you're saying—yes." "Do you think I'll let you get away with it?" "Get away . . . ?" He was looking at her incredulously, in cold, astonished curiosity. "That's why, at your trial—" She stopped. "What about my trial?" She was trembling. "You know, of course, that I won't allow this to continue." "What does it have to do with my trial?" "I won't permit you to have her. Not her. Anyone but her." He let a moment pass, then asked evenly, "Why?" "I won't permit it! You'll give it up!" He was looking at her without expression, but the steadiness of his eyes hit her as his most dangerous answer. "You'll give it up, you'll leave her, you'll never see her again!" "Lillian, if you wish to discuss it, there's one thing you'd better understand; nothing on earth will make me give it up." "But I demand it!" "I told you that you could demand anything but that." He saw the look of a peculiar panic growing in her eyes: it was not the look of understanding, but of a ferocious refusal to understand—as if she wanted to turn the violence of her emotion into a fog screen, as if she --------------------------------------- 404 hoped, not that it would blind her to reality, but that her blindness would make reality cease to exist. "But I have the right to demand it! I own your life! It's my property. My property—by your own oath. You swore to serve my happiness, Not yours— mine! What have you done for me? You've given me nothing, you've sacrificed nothing, you've never been concerned with anything but yourself—your work, your mills, your talent, your mistress! What about me? I hold first claim! I'm presenting it for collection! You're the account I own!" It was the look on his face that drove her up the rising steps of her voice, scream by scream, into terror. She was seeing, not anger or pain or guilt, but the one inviolate enemy: indifference. "Have you thought of me?" she screamed, her voice breaking against his face. "Have you thought of what you're doing to me? You have no right to go on, if you know that you're putting me through hell every time you sleep with that woman! I can't stand it, I can't stand one moment of knowing it! Will you sacrifice me to your animal desire? Are you as vicious and selfish as that? Can you buy your pleasure at the price of my suffering? Can you have it, if this is what it does to me?" Feeling nothing but the emptiness of wonder, he observed the thing which he had glimpsed briefly in the past and was now seeing in the full ugliness of its futility: the spectacle of pleas for pity delivered, in snarling hatred, as threats and as demands. "Lillian," he said very quietly, "I would have it, even if it took your life." She heard it. She heard more than he was ready to know and to hear in his own words. The shock, to him, was that she did not scream in answer, but that he saw her, instead, shrinking down into calm. "You have no right . . ." she said dully. It had the embarrassing helplessness of the words of a person who knows her own words to be meaningless. "Whatever claim you may have on me," he said, "no human being can hold on another a claim demanding that he wipe himself out of existence." "Does she mean as much as that to you?" "Much more than that." The look of thought was returning to her face, but in her face it had the quality of a look of cunning. She remained silent. "Lillian, I'm glad that you know the truth. Now you can make a choice with full understanding. You may divorce me—or you may ask that we continue as we are. That is the only choice you have. It is all I can offer you. I think you know that I want you to divorce me. But I don't ask for sacrifices. I don't know what sort of comfort you can find in our marriage, but if you do, I won't ask you to give it up. I don't know why you should want to hold me now, I don't know what it is that I mean to you, I don't know what you're seeking, what form of happiness is yours or what you will obtain from a situation which I see as intolerable for both of us. By every standard of mine, you should have divorced me long ago. By every standard of mine, to maintain our marriage will be a vicious fraud. But my standards are not yours. I do not understand yours, I never have, but I will accept them. If this is the manner of your love for me, if bearing the name of my wife will give you some form of contentment, I won't take it away from you. It's I who've broken my word, so I will atone for it to the extent I can. You know, of course, that I could buy one of those modern judges and obtain a divorce any time I wished. I won't do it. I will keep my word, if you so desire, but this is the only form in which I can keep it. Now make your choice—but if you choose to hold me, you must never speak to me about her, you must never show her that you know, if you meet her in the future, you must never touch that part of my life." --------------------------------------- 405 She stood still, looking up at him, the posture of her body slouched and loose, as if its sloppiness were a form of defiance, as if she did not care to resume for his sake the discipline of a graceful bearing. "Miss Dagny Taggart . . ." she said, and chuckled. "The superwoman whom common, average wives were not supposed to suspect. The woman who cared for nothing but business and dealt with men as a man. The woman of great spirit who admired you platonically, just for your genius, your mills and your Metal!" She chuckled. "I should have known that she was just a bitch who wanted you in the same way as any bitch would want you— because you are fully as expert in bed as you are at a desk, if I am a judge of such matters. But she would appreciate that better than I, since she worships expertness of any kind and since she has probably been laid by every section hand on her railroad!" She stopped, because she saw, for the first time in her life, by what sort of look one learns that a man is capable of killing. But he was not looking at her. She was not sure whether he was seeing her at all or hearing her voice. He was hearing his own voice saying her words—saying them to Dagny in the sun-striped bedroom of Ellis Wyatt's house. He was seeing, in the nights behind him, Dagny's face in those moments when, his body leaving hers, she lay still with a look of radiance that was more than a smile, a look of youth, of early morning, of gratitude to the fact of one's own existence. And he was seeing Lillian's face, as he had seen it in bed beside him, a lifeless face with evasive eyes, with some feeble sneer on its lips and the look of sharing some smutty guilt. He saw who was the accuser and who the accused—he saw the obscenity of letting impotence hold itself as virtue and damn the power of living as a sin— he saw, with the clarity of direct perception, in the shock of a single instant, the terrible ugliness of that which had once been his own belief. It was only an instant, a conviction without words, a knowledge grasped as a feeling, left unsealed by his mind. The shock brought him back to the sight of Lillian and to the sound of her words. She appeared to him suddenly as some inconsequential presence that had to be dealt with at the moment. "Lillian," he said, in an unstressed voice that did not grant her even the honor of anger, "you are not to speak of her to me. If you ever do it again, I will answer you as I would answer a hoodlum: I will beat you up. Neither you nor anyone else is to discuss her." She glanced at him. "Really?" she said. It had an odd, casual sound —as if the word were tossed away, leaving some hook implanted in her mind. She seemed to be considering some sudden vision of her own. He said quietly, in weary astonishment, "I thought you would be glad to discover the truth. I thought you would prefer to know—for the sake of whatever love or respect you felt for me—that if I betrayed you, it was not cheaply and casually, it was not for a chorus girl, but for the cleanest and most serious feeling of my life." The ferocious spring with which she whirled to him was involuntary, as was the naked twist of hatred in her face. "Oh, you goddamn fool!" He remained silent. Her composure returned, with the faint suggestion of a smile of secret mockery. "I believe you're waiting for my answer?" she said. "No, I won't divorce you. Don't ever hope for that. We shall continue as we are—if that is what you offered and if you think it can continue. See whether you can flout all moral principles and get away with it!" He did not listen to her while she reached for her coat, telling him that she was going back to their home. He barely noticed it when the door closed after her. He stood motionless, held by a feeling he had never experienced before. He knew that he would have to think later, to think and understand, --------------------------------------- 406 but for the moment he wanted nothing but to observe the wonder of what he felt. It was a sense of freedom, as if he stood alone in the midst of an endless sweep of clean air, with only the memory of some weight that had been torn off his shoulders. It was the feeling of an immense deliverance. It was the knowledge that it did not matter to him what Lillian felt, what she suffered or what became of her, and more: not only that it did not matter, but the shining, guiltless knowledge that it did not have to matter. --------------------------------------- 407 CHAPTER VI MIRACLE METAL "But can we get away with it?" asked Wesley Mouch. His voice was high with anger and thin with fear. Nobody answered him. James Taggart sat on the edge of an armchair, not moving, looking up at him from under his forehead, Orren Boyle gave a vicious tap against an ashtray, shaking the ash off his cigar. Dr. Floyd Ferris smiled. Mr. Weatherby folded his lips and hands. Fred Kinnan, head of the Amalgamated Labor of America, stopped pacing the office, sat down on the window sill and crossed his arms. Eugene Lawson, who had sat hunched downward, absent-mindedly rearranging a display of flowers on a low glass table, raised his torso resentfully and glanced up. Mouch sat at his desk, with his fist on a sheet of paper. It was Eugene Lawson who answered. "That's not, it seems to me, the way to put it. We must not let vulgar difficulties obstruct our feeling that it's a noble plan motivated solely by the public welfare. It's for the good of the people. The people need it. Need comes first, so we don't have to consider anything else." Nobody objected or picked it up; they looked as if Lawson had merely made it harder to continue the discussion. But a small man who sat unobtrusively in the best armchair of the room, apart from the others, content to be ignored and fully aware that none of them could be unconscious of his presence, glanced at Lawson, then at Mouch, and said with brisk cheerfulness, "That's the line, Wesley. Tone it down and dress it up and get your press boys to chant it—and you won't have to worry." "Yes, Mr. Thompson," said Mouch glumly. Mr. Thompson, the Head of the State, was a man who possessed the quality of never being noticed. In any group of three, his person became indistinguishable, and when seen alone it seemed to evoke a group of its own, composed of the countless persons he resembled. The country had no clear image of what he looked like: his photographs had appeared on the covers of magazines as frequently as those of his predecessors in office, but people could never be quite certain which photographs were his and which were pictures of "a mail clerk" or "a white-collar worker," accompanying articles about the daily life of the undifferentiated—except that Mr. Thompson's collars were usually wilted. He had broad shoulders and a slight body. He had stringy hair, a wide mouth and an elastic age range that made him look like a harassed forty or an unusually vigorous sixty. Holding enormous official powers, he schemed ceaselessly to expand them, because it was expected of him by those who had pushed him into office. He had the cunning of the unintelligent and the frantic energy of the lazy. The sole secret of his rise in life was the fact that he was a product of chance and knew it and aspired to nothing else. "It's obvious that measures have to be taken. Drastic measures," said James Taggart, speaking, not to Mr. Thompson, but to Wesley Mouch. "We can't let things go the way they're going much longer." His voice was belligerent and shaky. "Take it easy, Jim," said Orren Boyle. "Something's got to be done and done fast!" "Don't look at me," snapped Wesley Mouch. "I can't help it. I can't help it if people refuse to co-operate. I'm tied. I need wider powers." Mouch had summoned them all to Washington, as his friends and personal advisers, for a private, unofficial conference on the national crisis. But, watching him, they were unable to decide whether his manner was overbearing or whining, whether he was threatening them or pleading for their help. --------------------------------------- 408 "Fact is," said Mr. Weatherby primly, in a statistical tone of voice, "that in the twelve-month period ending on the first of this year, the rate of business failures has doubled, as compared with the preceding twelve-month period. Since the first of this year, it has trebled." "Be sure they think it's their own fault," said Dr. Ferris casually. "Huh?" said Wesley Mouch, his eyes darting to Ferris. "Whatever you do, don't apologize," said Dr, Ferris. "Make them feel guilty." "I'm not apologizing!" snapped Mouch. "I'm not to blame. I need wider powers." "But it is their own fault," said Eugene Lawson, turning aggressively to Dr. Ferris. "It's their lack of social spirit. They refuse to recognize that production is not a private choice, but a public duty. They have no right to fail, no matter what conditions happen to come up. They've got to go on producing. It's a social imperative. A man's work is not a personal matter, it's a social matter. There's no such thing as a personal matter—or a personal life. That's what we've got to force them to learn." "Gene Lawson knows what I'm talking about," said Dr. Ferris, with a slight smile, "even though he hasn't the faintest idea that he does." "What do you think you mean?" asked Lawson, his voice rising. "Skip it," ordered Wesley Mouch. "I don't care what you decide to do, Wesley," said Mr. Thompson, "and I don't care if the businessmen squawk about it. Just be sure you've got the press with you. Be damn sure about that." "I've got 'em," said Mouch. "One editor who'd open his trap at the wrong time could do us more harm than ten disgruntled millionaires." "That's true, Mr. Thompson," said Dr. Ferris. "But can you name one editor who knows it?" "Guess not," said Mr. Thompson; he sounded pleased. "Whatever type of men we're counting on and planning for," said Dr. Ferris, "there's a certain old-fashioned quotation which we may safely forget: the one about counting on the wise and the honest. We don't have to consider them. They're out of date." James Taggart glanced at the window. There were patches of blue in the sky above the spacious streets of Washington, the faint blue of mid-April, and a few beams breaking through the clouds, A monument stood shining in the distance, hit by a ray of sun: it was a tall, white obelisk, erected to the memory of the man Dr. Ferris was quoting, the man in whose honor this city had been named. James Taggart looked away. "I don't like the professor's remarks," said Lawson loudly and sullenly. "Keep still," said Wesley Mouch. "Dr. Ferris is not talking theory, but practice." "Well, if you want to talk practice," said Fred Kinnan, "then let me tell you that we can't worry about businessmen at a time like this. What we've got to think about is jobs. More jobs for the people. In my unions, every man who's working is feeding five who aren't, not counting his own pack of starving relatives. If you want my advice— oh, I know you won't go for it, but it's just a thought—issue a directive making it compulsory to add, say, one-third more men to every payroll in the country." "Good God!" yelled Taggart. "Are you crazy? We can barely meet our payrolls as it is! There's not enough work for the men we've got now! One- third more? We wouldn't have any use for them whatever!" "Who cares whether you'd have any use for them?" said Fred Kinnan. "They need jobs. That's what comes first—need—doesn't it?— not your profits." --------------------------------------- 409 "It's not a question of profits!" yelled Taggart hastily. "I haven't said anything about profits. I haven't given you any grounds to insult me. It's just a question of where in hell we'd get the money to pay your men— when half our trains are running empty and there's not enough freight to fill a trolley car." His voice slowed down suddenly to a tone of cautious thoughtfulness: "However, we do understand the plight of the working men, and—it's just a thought —we could, perhaps, take on a certain extra number, if we were permitted to double our freight rates, which—" "Have you lost your mind?" yelled Orren Boyle. "I'm going broke on the rates you're charging now, I shudder every time a damn boxcar pulls in or out of the mills, they're bleeding me to death, I can't afford it—and you want to double it?" "It is not essential whether you can afford it or not," said Taggart coldly, "You have to be prepared to make some sacrifices. The public needs railroads. Need conies first—above your profits." "What profits?" yelled Orren Boyle. "When did I ever make any profits? Nobody can accuse me of running a profit-making business! Just look at my balance sheet—and then look at the books of a certain competitor of mine, who's got all the customers, all the raw materials, all the technical advantages and a monopoly on secret formulas—then tell me who's the profiteer! . . . But, of course, the public does need railroads, and perhaps I could manage to absorb a certain raise in rates, if I were to get— it's just a thought—if I were to get a subsidy to carry me over the next year or two, until I catch my stride and—" "What? Again?" yelled Mr. Weatherby, losing his primness. "How many loans have you got from us and how many extensions, suspensions and moratoriums? You haven't repaid a penny—and with all of you boys going broke and the tax receipts crashing, where do you expect us to get the money to hand you a subsidy?" "There are people who aren't broke," said Boyle slowly. "You boys have no excuse for permitting all that need and misery to spread through the country— so long as there are people who aren't broke." "I can't help it!" yelled Wesley Mouch. "I can't do anything about it! I need wider powers!" They could not tell what had prompted Mr. Thompson to attend this particular conference. He had said little, but had listened with interest. It seemed as if there were something which he had wanted to learn, and now he looked as if he had learned it. He stood up and smiled cheerfully. "Go ahead, Wesley," he said. "Go ahead with Number 10-289. You won't have any trouble at all," They had all risen to their feet, in gloomily reluctant deference. Wesley Mouch glanced down at his sheet of paper, then said in a petulant tone of voice, "If you want me to go ahead, you'll have to declare a state of total emergency." "I'll declare it any time you're ready." "There are certain difficulties, which—" "I'll leave it up to you. Work it out any way you wish. It's your job. Let me see the rough draft, tomorrow or next day, but don't bother me about the details. I've got a speech to make on the radio in half an hour." "The chief difficulty is that I'm not sure whether the law actually grants us the power to put into effect certain provisions of Directive Number 10- 289.1 fear they might be open to challenge." “Oh hell, we've passed so many emergency laws that if you hunt through them, you're sure to dig up something that will cover it." Mr. Thompson turned to the others with a smile of good fellowship. "I'll leave you boys to iron out the wrinkles," he said. "I appreciate your coming to Washington to help us out. Glad to have seen you." --------------------------------------- 410 They waited until the door closed after him, then resumed their seats; they did not look at one another. They had not heard the text of Directive No. 10-289, but they knew what it would contain. They had known it for a long time, in that special manner which consisted of keeping secrets from oneself and leaving knowledge untranslated into words. And, by the same method, they now wished it were possible for them not to hear the words of the directive. It was to avoid moments such as this that all the complex twistings of their minds had been devised, They wished the directive to go into effect. They wished it could be put into effect without words, so that they would not have to know that what they were doing was what it was. Nobody had ever announced that Directive No. 10-289 was the final goal of his efforts. Yet, for generations past, men had worked to make it possible, and for months past, every provision of it had been prepared for by countless speeches, articles, sermons, editorials—by purposeful voices that screamed with anger if anyone named their purpose. 'The picture now is this," said Wesley Mouch. "The economic condition of the country was better the year before last than it was last year, and last year it was better than it is at present. It's obvious that we would not be able to survive another year of the same progression. Therefore, our sole objective must now be to hold the line. To stand still in order to catch our stride. To achieve total stability. Freedom has been given a chance and has failed. Therefore, more stringent controls are necessary. Since men are unable and unwilling to solve their problems voluntarily, they must be forced to do it." He paused, picked up the sheet of paper, then added in a less formal tone of voice, "Hell, what it comes down to is that we can manage to exist as and where we are, but we can't afford to move! So we've got to stand still. We've got to stand still. We've got to make those bastards stand still!" His head drawn into his shoulders, he was looking at them with the anger of a man declaring that the country's troubles were a personal affront to him. So many men seeking favors had been afraid of him that he now acted as if his anger were a solution to everything, as if his anger were omnipotent, as if all he had to do was to get angry. Yet, facing him, the men who sat in a silent semicircle before his desk were uncertain whether the presence of fear in the room was their own emotion or whether the hunched figure behind the desk generated the panic of a cornered rat. Wesley Mouch had a long, square face and a flat-topped skull, made more so by a brush haircut. His lower lip was a petulant bulb and the pale, brownish pupils of his eyes looked like the yolks of eggs smeared under the not fully translucent whites. His facial muscles moved abruptly, and the movement vanished, having conveyed no expression. No one had ever seen him smile. Wesley Mouch came from a family that had known neither poverty nor wealth nor distinction for many generations; it had clung, however, to a tradition of its own: that of being college-bred and, therefore, of despising men who were in business. The family's diplomas had always hung on the wall in the manner of a reproach to the world, because the diplomas had not automatically produced the material equivalents of their attested spiritual value. Among the family's numerous relatives, there was one rich uncle. He had married his money and, in his widowed old age, he had picked Wesley as his favorite from among his many nephews and nieces, because Wesley was the least distinguished of the lot and therefore, thought Uncle Julius, the safest. Uncle Julius did not care for people who were brilliant. He did not care for the trouble of managing his money, either; so he turned the job over to Wesley. By the time Wesley graduated from college, there was no money left to manage. Uncle --------------------------------------- 411 Julius blamed it on Wesley's cunning and cried that Wesley was an unscrupulous schemer. But there had been no scheme about it; Wesley could not have said just where the money had gone. In high school, Wesley Mouch had been one of the worst students and had passionately envied those who were the best. College taught him that he did not have to envy them at all. After graduation, he took a job in the advertising department of a company that manufactured a bogus corn-cure. The cure sold well and he rose to be the head of his department. He left it to take charge of the advertising of a hair-restorer, then of a patented brassiere, then of a new soap, then of a soft drink—and then he became advertising vice-president of an automobile concern. He tried to sell automobiles as if they were a bogus corn-cure. They did not sell. He blamed it on the insufficiency of his advertising budget. It was the president of the automobile concern who recommended him to Rearden. It was Rearden who introduced him to Washington—Rearden, who knew no standard by which to judge the activities of his Washington man. It was James Taggart who gave him a start in the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources—in exchange for double crossing Rearden in order to help Orren Boyle in exchange for destroying Dan Conway. From then on, people helped Wesley Mouch to advance, for the same reason as that which had prompted Uncle Julius: they were people who believed that mediocrity was safe. The men who now sat in front of his desk had been taught that the law of causality was a superstition and that one had to deal with the situation of the moment without considering its cause. By the situation of the moment, they had concluded that Wesley Mouch was a man of superlative skill and cunning, since millions aspired to power, but he was the one who had achieved it. It was not within their method of thinking to know that Wesley Mouch was the zero at the meeting point of forces unleashed in destruction against one another. "This is just a rough draft of Directive Number 10-289," said Wesley Mouch, "which Gene, Clem and I have dashed off just to give you the general idea. We want to hear your opinions, suggestions and so forth—you being the representatives of labor, industry, transportation and the professions." Fred Kinnan got off the window sill and sat down on the arm of a chair. Orren Boyle spit out the butt of his cigar. James Taggart looked down at his own hands. Dr. Ferris was the only one who seemed to be at ease. "In the name of the general welfare," read Wesley Mouch, "to protect the people's security, to achieve full equality and total stability, it is decreed for the duration of the national emergency that— "Point One. All workers, wage earners and employees of any kind whatsoever shall henceforth be attached to their jobs and shall not leave nor be dismissed nor change employment, under penalty of a term in jail. The penalty shall be determined by the Unification Board, such Board to be appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources. All persons reaching the age of twenty-one shall report to the Unification Board, which shall assign them to where, in its opinion, their services will best serve the interests of the nation. "Point Two. All industrial, commercial, manufacturing and business establishments of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth remain in operation, and the owners of such establishments shall not quit nor leave nor retire, nor close, sell or transfer their business, under penalty of the nationalization of their establishment and of any and all of their property. "Point Three. All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift by means of Gift Certificates to be signed voluntarily by the owners of all such patents and copyrights. The Unification Board shall then license the use of such patents and copyrights to all applicants, equally and without discrimination, for the --------------------------------------- 412 purpose of eliminating monopolistic practices, discarding obsolete products and making the best available to the whole nation. No trademarks, brand names or copyrighted titles shall be used. Every formerly patented product shall be known by a new name and sold by all manufacturers under the same name, such name to be selected by the Unification Board. All private trademarks and brand names are hereby abolished. "Point Four. No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufactured or sold after the date of this directive. The Office of Patents and Copyrights is hereby suspended. "Point Five. Every establishment, concern, corporation or person engaged in production of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth produce the same amount of goods per year as it, they or he produced during the Basic Year, no more and no less. The year to be known as the Basic or Yardstick Year is to be the year ending on the date of this directive. Over or under production shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board. "Point Six. Every person of any age, sex, class or income, shall henceforth spend the same amount of money on the purchase of goods per year as he or she spent during the Basic Year, no more and no less. Over or under purchasing shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board. "Point Seven. All wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits, interest rates and forms of income of any nature whatsoever, shall be frozen at their present figures, as of the date of this directive. "Point Eight. All cases arising from and rules not specifically provided for in this directive, shall be settled and determined by the Unification Board, whose decisions will be final." There was, even within the four men who had listened, a remnant of human dignity, which made them sit still and feel sick for the length of one minute. James Taggart spoke first. His voice was low, but it had the trembling intensity of an involuntary scream: "Well, why not? Why should they have it, if we don't? Why should they stand above us? If we are to perish, let's make sure that we all perish together. Let's make sure that we leave them no chance to survive!" "That's a damn funny thing to say about a very practical plan that will benefit everybody," said Orren Boyle shrilly, looking at Taggart in frightened astonishment. Dr. Ferris chuckled. Taggart's eyes seemed to focus, and he said, his voice louder, "Yes, of course. It's a very practical plan. It's necessary, practical and just. It will solve everybody's problems. It will give everybody a chance to feel safe. A chance to rest." "It will give security to the people," said Eugene Lawson, his mouth slithering into a smile. "Security—that's what the people want. If they want it, why shouldn't they have it? Just because a handful of rich will object?" "It's not the rich who'll object," said Dr. Ferris lazily. "The rich drool for security more than any other sort of animal—haven't you discovered that yet?" "Well, who'll object?" snapped Lawson. Dr. Ferris smiled pointedly, and did not answer. Lawson looked away. "To hell with them! Why should we worry about them? We've got to run the world for the sake of the little people. It's intelligence that's caused all the troubles of humanity. Man's mind is the root of all evil. This is the day of the heart. It's the weak, the meek, the sick and the humble that must be the only objects of our concern," His lower Up was twisting in soft, lecherous motions. --------------------------------------- 413 "Those who're big are here to serve those who aren't. If they refuse to do their moral duty, we've got to force them. There once was an Age of Reason, but we've progressed beyond it. This is the Age of Love." "Shut up!" screamed James Taggart. They all stared at him. "For Christ's sake, Jim, what's the matter?" said Orren Boyle, shaking. "Nothing," said Taggart, "nothing . . . Wesley, keep him still, will you?" Mouch said uncomfortably, "But I fail to see—" "Just keep him still. We don't have to listen to him, do we?" "Why, no, but—" "Then let's go on." "What is this?" demanded Lawson, "I resent it. I most emphatically—" But he saw no support in the faces around him and stopped, his mouth sagging into an expression of pouting hatred. "Let's go on," said Taggart feverishly. "What's the matter with you?" asked Orren Boyle, trying not to know what was the matter with himself and why he felt frightened. "Genius is a superstition, Jim," said Dr. Ferris slowly, with an odd kind of emphasis, as if knowing that he was naming the unnamed in all their minds. "There's no such thing as the intellect. A man's brain is a social product. A sum of influences that he's picked up from those around him. Nobody invents anything, he merely reflects what's floating in the social atmosphere. A genius is an intellectual scavenger and a greedy hoarder of the ideas which rightfully belong to society, from which he stole them. All thought is theft. If we do away with private fortunes, we'll have a fairer distribution of wealth. If we do away with the genius, we'll have a faker distribution of ideas." "Are we here to talk business or are we here to kid one another?" asked Fred Kinnan. They turned to him. He was a muscular man with large features, but his face had the astonishing property of finely drawn lines that raised the corners of his mouth into the permanent hint of a wise, sardonic grin. He sat on the arm of the chair, hands in pockets, looking at Mouch with the smiling glance of a hardened policeman at a shoplifter. "All I've got to say is that you'd better staff that Unification Board with my men," he said. "Better make sure of it, brother—or I'll blast your Point One to hell." "I intend, of course, to have a representative of labor on that Board," said Mouch dryly, "as well as a representative of industry, of the professions and of every cross-section of—" "No cross-sections," said Fred Kinnan evenly. "Just representatives of labor. Period." "What the hell!" yelled Orren Boyle. "That's stacking the cards, isn't it?" "Sure," said Fred Kinnan. "But that will give you a stranglehold on every business in the country!" "What do you think I'm after?" "That's unfair!" yelled Boyle. "I won't stand for it! You have no right! You—" "Right?" said Kinnan innocently. "Are we talking about rights?" "But, I mean, after all, there are certain fundamental property rights which—" "Listen, pal, you want Point Three, don't you?" "Well, I—" "Then you'd better keep your trap shut about property rights from now on. Keep it shut tight." --------------------------------------- 414 "Mr. Kinnan," said Dr. Ferris, "you must not make the old fashioned mistake of drawing wide generalizations. Our policy has to be flexible. There are no absolute principles which—" "Save it for Jim Taggart, Doc," said Fred Kinnan. "I know what I'm talking about. That's because I never went to college." "I object," said Boyle, "to your dictatorial method of—" Kinnan turned his back on him and said, "Listen, Wesley, my boys won't like Point One. If I get to run things, I'll make them swallow it. If not, not. Just make up your mind," "Well—" said Mouch, and stopped. "For Christ's sake, Wesley, what about us?" yelled Taggart. "You'll come to me," said Kinnan, "when you'll need a deal to fix the Board. But I'll run that Board. Me and Wesley." "Do you think the country will stand for it?" yelled Taggart. "Stop kidding yourself," said Kinnan. "The country? If there aren't any principles any more—and I guess the doc is right, because there sure aren't— if there aren't any rules to this game and it's only a question of who robs whom—then I've got more votes than the bunch of you, there are more workers than employers, and don't you forget it, boys!" "That's a funny attitude to take," said Taggart haughtily, "about a measure which, after all, is not designed for the selfish benefit of workers or employers, but for the general welfare of the public." "Okay," said Kinnan amiably, "let's talk your lingo. Who is the public? If you go by quality—then it ain't you, Jim, and it ain't Orrie Boyle. If you go by quantity—then it sure is me, because quantity is what I've got behind me." His smile disappeared, and with a sudden, bitter look of weariness he added, "Only I'm not going to say that I'm working for the welfare of my public, because I know I'm not. I know that I'm delivering the poor bastards into slavery, and that's all there is to it. And they know it, too. But they know that I'll have to throw them a crumb once in a while, if I want to keep my racket, while with the rest of you they wouldn't have a chance in hell. So that's why, if they've got to be under a whip, they'd rather I held it, not you—you drooling, tear-jerking, mealy-mouthed bastards of the public welfare! Do you think that outside of your college-bred pansies there's one village idiot whom you're fooling? I'm a racketeer—but I know it and my boys know it, and they know that I'll pay off. Not out of the kindness of my heart, either, and not a cent more than I can get away with, but at least they can count on that much. Sure, it makes me sick sometimes, it makes me sick right now, but it's not me who's built this kind of world—you did—so I'm playing the game as you've set it up and I'm going to play it for as long as it lasts—which isn't going to be long for any of us!" He stood up. No one answered him. He let his eyes move slowly from face to face and stop on Wesley Mouch. "Do I get the Board, Wesley?" he asked casually. "The selection of the specific personnel is only a technical detail," said Mouch pleasantly. "Suppose we discuss it later, you and I?" Everybody in the room knew that this meant the answer Yes. "Okay, pal," said Kinnan. He went back to the window, sat down on the sill and lighted a cigarette. For some unadmitted reason, the others were looking at Dr. Ferris, as if seeking guidance. "Don't be disturbed by oratory," said Dr. Ferris smoothly. "Mr. Kinnan is a fine speaker, but he has no sense of practical reality. He is unable to think dialectically." There was another silence, then James Taggart spoke up suddenly. --------------------------------------- 415 "I don't care. It doesn't matter. He'll have to hold things still. Everything will have to remain as it is. Just as it is. Nobody will be permitted to change anything. Except—" He turned sharply to Wesley Mouch. "Wesley, under Point Four, we'll have to close all research departments, experimental laboratories, scientific foundations and all the rest of the institutions of that kind. They'll have to be forbidden." "Yes, that's right," said Mouch. "I hadn't thought of that. We'll have to stick in a couple of lines about that." He hunted around for a pencil and made a few scrawls on the margin of his paper. "It will end wasteful competition," said James Taggart. "We'll stop scrambling to beat one another to the untried and the unknown. We won't have to worry about new inventions upsetting the market. We won't have to pour money down the drain in useless experiments just to keep up with over ambitious competitors." "Yes," said Orren Boyle. "Nobody should be allowed to waste money on the new until everybody has plenty of the old. Close all those damn research laboratories—and the sooner, the better." "Yes," said Wesley Mouch. "We'll close them. All of them." "The State Science Institute, too?" asked Fred Kinnan. "Oh, no!" said Mouch. "That's different. That's government. Besides, it's a non-profit institution. And it will be sufficient to take care of all scientific progress." "Quite sufficient," said Dr. Ferris. "And what will become of all the engineers, professors and such, when you close all those laboratories?" asked Fred Kinnan. "What are they going to do for a living, with all the other jobs and businesses frozen?" "Oh," said Wesley Mouch. He scratched his head. He turned to Mr. Weatherby. "Do we put them on relief, Clem?" "No," said Mr. Weatherby. "What for? There's not enough of them to raise a squawk. Not enough to matter." "I suppose," said Mouch, turning to Dr. Ferris, "that you'll be able to absorb some of them, Floyd?" "Some," said Dr. Ferris slowly, as if relishing every syllable of his answer. "Those who prove co-operative." "What about the rest?" asked Fred Kinnan. "They'll have to wait till the Unification Board finds some use for them," said Wesley Mouch. "What will they eat while they're waiting?" Mouch shrugged. "There's got to be some victims in times of national emergency. It can't be helped." "We have the right to do it!" cried Taggart suddenly, in defiance to the stillness of the room. "We need it. We need it, don't we?" There was no answer. "We have the right to protect our livelihood!" Nobody opposed him, but he went on with a shrill, pleading insistence. "We'll be safe for the first time in centuries. Everybody will know his place and job, and everybody else's place and job—and we won't be at the mercy of every stray crank with a new idea. Nobody will push us out of business or steal our markets or undersell us or make us obsolete. Nobody will come to us offering some damn new gadget and putting us on the spot to decide whether we'll lose our shirt if we buy it, or whether we'll lose our shirt if we don't but somebody else does! We won't have to decide. Nobody will be permitted to decide anything. It will be decided once and for all." His glance moved pleadingly from face to face. "There's been enough invented already—enough for everybody's comfort—why should they be allowed to go on inventing? Why should we permit them to blast the ground from under our feet every few steps? Why should we be kept on the go in eternal uncertainty? Just --------------------------------------- 416 because of a few restless, ambitious adventurers? Should we sacrifice the contentment of the whole of mankind to the greed of a few non-conformists? We don't need them. We don't need them at all. I wish we'd get rid of that hero worship! Heroes? They've done nothing but harm, all through history. They've kept mankind running a wild race, with no breathing spell, no rest, no ease, no security. Running to catch up with them . . . always, without end . . . Just as -we catch up, they're years ahead. . . . They leave us no chance . . . They've never left us a chance. . . ." His eyes were moving restlessly; he glanced at the window, but looked hastily away: he did not want to see the white obelisk in the distance. "We're through with them. We've won. This is our age. Our world. We're going to have security—for the first time in centuries—for the first time since the beginning of the industrial revolution!" "Well, this, I guess," said Fred Kinnan, "is the anti-industrial revolution." "That's a damn funny thing for you to say!" snapped Wesley Mouch. "We can't be permitted to say that to the public." "Don't worry, brother. I won't say it to the public." "It's a total fallacy," said Dr. Ferris. "It's a statement prompted by ignorance. Every expert has conceded long ago that a planned economy achieves the maximum of productive efficiency and that centralization leads to super- industrialization.” "Centralization destroys the blight of monopoly," said Boyle. "How's that again?" drawled Kinnan. Boyle did not catch the tone of mockery, and answered earnestly, "It destroys the blight of monopoly. It leads to the democratization of industry. It makes everything available to everybody. Now, for instance, at a time like this, when there's such a desperate shortage of iron ore, is there any sense in my wasting money, labor and national resources on making old-fashioned steel, when there exists a much better metal that I could be making? A metal that everybody wants, but nobody can get. Now is that good economics or sound social efficiency or democratic justice? Why shouldn't I be allowed to manufacture that metal and why shouldn't the people get it when they need it? Just because of the private monopoly of one selfish individual? Should we sacrifice our rights to his personal interests?" "Skip it, brother," said Fred Kinnan. "I've read it all in the same newspapers you did." "I don't like your attitude," said Boyle, in a sudden tone of righteousness, with a look which, in a barroom, would have signified a prelude to a fist fight. He sat up straight, buttressed by the columns of paragraphs on yellow-tinged paper, which he was seeing in his mind: "At a time of crucial public need, are we to waste social effort on the manufacture of obsolete products? Are we to let the many remain in want while the few withhold from us the better products and methods available? Are we to be stopped by the superstition of patent rights?" "Is it not obvious that private industry is unable to cope with the present economic crisis? How long, for instance, are we going to put up with the disgraceful shortage of Rearden Metal? There is a crying public demand for it, which Rearden has failed to supply." "When are we going to put an end to economic injustice and special privileges? Why should Rearden be the only one permitted to manufacture Rearden Metal?" "I don't like your attitude," said Orren Boyle. "So long as we respect the rights of the workers, we'll want you to respect the rights of the industrialists." "Which rights of which industrialists?" drawled Kinnan. --------------------------------------- 417 "I'm inclined to think," said Dr. Ferris hastily, "that Point Two, perhaps, is the most essential one of all at present. We must put an end to that peculiar business of industrialists retiring and vanishing. We must stop them. It's playing havoc with our entire economy." "Why are they doing it?" asked Taggart nervously. "Where are they all going?" "Nobody knows," said Dr. Ferris. "We've been unable to find any information or explanation. But it must be stopped. In times of crisis, economic service to the nation is just as much of a duty as military service. Anyone who abandons it should be regarded as a deserter. I have recommended that we introduce the death penalty for those men, but Wesley wouldn't agree to it." "Take it easy, boy," said Fred Kinnan in an odd, slow voice. He sat suddenly and perfectly still, his arms crossed, looking at Ferris in a manner that made it suddenly real to the room that Ferris had proposed murder. "Don't let me hear you talk about any death penalties in industry." Dr. Ferris shrugged. "We don't have to go to extremes," said Mouch hastily. "We don't want to frighten people. We want to have them on our side. Our top problem is, will they . . . will they accept it at all?" "They will," said Dr. Ferris. "I'm a little worried," said Eugene Lawson, "about Points Three and Four. Taking over the patents is fine. Nobody's going to defend industrialists. But I'm worried about taking over the copyrights. That's going to antagonize the intellectuals. It's dangerous. It's a spiritual issue. Doesn't Point Four mean that no new books are to be written or published from now on?" "Yes," said Mouch, "it does. But we can't make an exception for the book- publishing business. It's an industry like any other. When we say 'no new products,' it's got to mean 'no new products.' " "But this is a matter of the spirit," said Lawson; his voice had a tone, not of rational respect, but of superstitious awe. "We're not interfering with anybody's spirit. But when you print a book on paper, it becomes a material commodity—and if we grant an exception to one commodity, we won't be able to hold the others in line and we won't be able to make anything stick." "Yes, that's true. But—" "Don't be a chump, Gene," said Dr. Ferris. "You don't want some recalcitrant hacks to come out with treatises that will wreck our entire program, do you? If you breathe the word 'censorship' now, they'll all scream bloody murder. They're not ready for it—as yet. But if you leave the spirit alone and make it a simple material issue—not a matter of ideas, but just a matter of paper, ink and printing presses— you accomplish your purpose much more smoothly. You'll make sure that nothing dangerous gets printed or heard—and nobody is going to fight over a material issue." "Yes, but . . . but I don't think the writers will like it." "Are you sure?" asked Wesley Mouch, with a glance that was almost a smile, "Don't forget that under Point Five, the publishers will have to publish as many books as they did in the Basic Year. Since there will be no new ones, they will have to reprint—and the public will have to buy—some of the old ones. There are many very worthy books that have never had a fair chance." "Oh," said Lawson; he remembered that he had seen Mouch lunching with Balph Eubank two weeks ago. Then he shook his head and frowned. "Still, I'm worried. The intellectuals are our friends. We don't want to lose them. They can make an awful lot of trouble." "They won't," said Fred Kinnan. "Your kind of intellectuals are the first to scream when it's safe—and the first to shut their traps at the first sign --------------------------------------- 418 of danger. They spend years spitting at the man who feeds them—and they lick the hand of the man who slaps their drooling faces. Didn't they deliver every country of Europe, one after another, to committees of goons, just like this one here? Didn't they scream their heads off to shut out every burglar alarm and to break every padlock open for the goons? Have you heard a peep out of them since? Didn't they scream that they were the friends of labor? Do you hear them raising their voices about the chain gangs, the slave camps, the fourteen-hour workday and the mortality from scurvy in the People's States of Europe? No, but you do hear them telling the whip-beaten wretches that starvation is prosperity, that slavery is freedom, that torture chambers arc brother-love and that if the wretches don't understand it, then it's their own fault that they suffer, and it's the mangled corpses in the jail cellars who're to blame for all their troubles, not the benevolent leaders! Intellectuals? You might have to worry about any other breed of men, but not about the modern intellectuals: they'll swallow anything. I don't feel so safe about the lousiest wharf rat in the longshoremen's union: he's liable to remember suddenly that he is a man—and then I won't be able to keep him in line. But the intellectuals? That's the one thing they've forgotten long ago. I guess it's the one thing that all their education was aimed to make them forget. Do anything you please to the intellectuals. They'll take it." "For once," said Dr. Ferns, "I agree with Mr. Kinnan. I agree with his facts, if not with his feelings. You don't have to worry about the intellectuals, Wesley. Just put a-few of them on the government payroll and send them out to preach precisely the sort of thing Mr. Kinnan mentioned: that the blame rests on the victims. Give them moderately comfortable salaries and extremely loud titles—and they'll forget their copyrights and do a better job for you than whole squads of enforcement officers." "Yes," said Mouch. "I know." "The danger that I'm worried about will come from a different quarter," said Dr. Ferris thoughtfully. "You might run into quite a bit of trouble on that 'voluntary Gift Certificate1 business, Wesley." "I know," said Mouch glumly. "That's the point I wanted Thompson to help us out on. But I guess he can't. We don't actually have the legal power to seize the patents. Oh, there's plenty of clauses in dozens of laws that can be stretched to cover it—almost, but not quite. Any tycoon who'd want to make a test case would have a very good chance to beat us. And we have to preserve a semblance of legality—or the populace won't take it." "Precisely," said Dr. Ferris. "It's extremely important to get those patents turned over to us voluntarily. Even if we had a law permitting outright nationalization, it would be much better to get them as a gift, We want to leave to people the illusion that they're still preserving their private property rights. And most of them will play along. They'll sign the Gift Certificates. Just raise a lot of noise about its being a patriotic duty and that anyone who refuses is a prince of greed, and they'll sign. But—" He stopped. "I know," said Mouch; he was growing visibly more nervous. "There will be, I think, a few old-fashioned bastards here and there who'll refuse to sign— but they won't be prominent enough to make a noise, nobody will hear about it, their own communities and friends will turn against them for their being selfish, so it won't give us any trouble. We'll just take the patents over, anyway—and those guys won't have the nerve or the money to start a test case. But—" He stopped. James Taggart leaned back in his chair, watching them; he was beginning to enjoy the conversation. "Yes," said Dr. Ferris, "I'm thinking of it, too. I'm thinking of a certain' tycoon who is in a position to blast us to pieces. Whether we'll --------------------------------------- 419 recover the pieces or not, is hard to tell. God knows what is liable to happen at a hysterical time like the present and in a situation as delicate as this. Anything can throw everything off balance. Blow up the whole works. And if there's anyone who wants to do it, he does. He does and can. He knows the real issue, he knows the things which must not be said—and he is not afraid to say them. He knows the one dangerous, fatally dangerous weapon. He is our deadliest adversary." "Who?" asked Lawson. Dr. Ferris hesitated, shrugged and answered, "The guiltless man." Lawson stared blankly. "What do you mean and whom are you talking about?" James Taggart smiled. "I mean that there is no way to disarm any man," said Dr. Ferris, "except through guilt. Through that which he himself has accepted as guilt. If a man has ever stolen a dime, you can impose on him the punishment intended for a bank robber and he will take it. He'll bear any form of misery, he'll feel that he deserves no better. If there's not enough guilt in the world, we must create it. If we teach a man that it's evil to look at spring flowers and he believes us and then does it —we'll be able to do whatever we please with him. He won't defend himself. He won't feel he's worth it. He won't fight. But save us from the man who lives up to his own- standards. Save us from the man of clean conscience. He's the man who'll beat us." "Are you talking about Henry Rearden?" asked Taggart, his voice peculiarly clear. The one name they had not wanted to pronounce struck them into an instant's silence. "What if I were?" asked Dr. Ferris cautiously. "Oh, nothing," said Taggart. "Only, if you were, I would tell you that I can deliver Henry Rearden. He'll sign." By the rules of their unspoken language, they all knew—from the tone of his voice—that he was not bluffing. "God, Jim! No!" gasped Wesley Mouch. "Yes," said Taggart. "I was stunned, too, when I learned—what I learned. I didn't expect that. Anything but that." "I am glad to hear it," said Mouch cautiously. "It's a constructive piece of information. It might be very valuable indeed." "Valuable—yes," said Taggart pleasantly. "When do you plan to put the directive into effect?" "Oh, we have to move fast. We don't want any news of it to leak out. I expect you all to keep this most strictly confidential. I'd say that we'll be ready to spring it on them in a couple of weeks." "Don't you think that it would be advisable—before all prices are frozen— to adjust the matter of the railroad rates? I was thinking of a raise. A small but most essentially needed raise." "We'll discuss it, you and I," said Mouch amiably. "It might be arranged." He turned to the others; Boyle's face was sagging. "There are many details still to be worked out, but I'm sure that our program won't encounter any major difficulties." He was assuming the tone and manner of a public address; he sounded brisk and almost cheerful. "Rough spots are to be expected. If one thing doesn't work, we'll try another. Trial-and-error is the only pragmatic rule of action. We'll just keep on trying. If any hardships come up, remember that it's only temporary. Only for the duration of the national emergency." "Say," asked Kinnan, "how is the emergency to end if everything is to stand still?" "Don't be theoretical," said Mouch impatiently. "We've got to deal with the situation of the moment. Don't bother about minor details, so long as the --------------------------------------- 420 broad outlines of our policy are clear. We'll have the power. We'll be able to solve any problem and answer any question." Fred Kinnan chuckled. "Who is John Galt?" "Don't say that!" cried Taggart. "I have a question to ask about Point Seven," said Kinnan. "It says that al! wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits and so forth will be frozen on the date of the directive. Taxes, too?" "Oh no!" cried Mouch. "How can we tell what funds we'll need in the future?" Kinnan seemed to be smiling. "Well?" snapped Mouch. "What about it?" "Nothing," said Kinnan. "I just asked." Mouch leaned back in his chair. "I must say to all of you that I appreciate your coming here and giving us the benefit of your opinions. It has been very helpful." He leaned forward to look at his desk calendar and sat over it for a moment, toying with his pencil, Then the pencil came down, struck a date and drew a circle around it. "Directive 10-289 will go into effect on the morning of May first." All nodded approval. None looked at his neighbor. James Taggart rose, walked to the window and pulled the blind down over the white obelisk. In the first moment of awakening, Dagny was astonished to find herself looking at the spires of unfamiliar buildings against a glowing, pale blue sky. Then she saw the twisted seam of the thin stocking on her own leg, she felt a wrench of discomfort in the muscles of her waistline, and she realized that she was lying on the couch in her office, with the clock on her desk saying 6:15 and the first rays of the sun giving silver edges to the silhouettes of the skyscrapers beyond the window. The last thing she remembered was that she had dropped down on the couch, intending to rest for ten minutes, when the window was black and the clock stood at 3:30. She twisted herself to her feet, feeling an enormous exhaustion. The lighted lamp on the desk looked futile in the glow of the morning, over the piles of paper which were her cheerless, unfinished task. She tried not to think of the work for a few minutes longer, while she dragged herself past the desk to her washroom and let handfuls of cold water run over her face. The exhaustion was gone by the time she stepped back into the office. No matter what night preceded it, she had never known a morning when she did not feel the rise of a quiet excitement that became a tightening energy in her body and a hunger for action in her mind— because this was the beginning of day and it was a day of her life. She looked down at the city. The streets were still empty, it made them look wider, and in the luminous cleanliness of the spring air they seemed to be waiting for the promise of all the greatness that would take form in the activity about to pour through them. The calendar in the distance said: May 1. She sat down at her desk, smiling in defiance at the distastefulness of her job. She hated the reports that she had to finish reading, but it was her job, it was her railroad, it was morning. She lighted a cigarette, thinking that she would finish this task before breakfast; she turned off the lamp and pulled the papers forward. There were reports from the general managers of the four Regions of the Taggart system, their pages a typewritten cry of despair over the breakdowns of equipment. There was a report about a wreck on the main line near Winston, Colorado. There was the new budget of the Operating Department, the revised budget based on the raise in rates which Jim had obtained last week. She tried to choke the exasperation of hopelessness as she went slowly over the budget's figures: all those calculations had been made on the assumption that the volume of freight would remain unchanged and that the raise would bring --------------------------------------- 421 them added revenue by the end of the year; she knew that the freight tonnage would go on shrinking, that the raise would make little difference, that by the end of this year their losses would be greater than ever. When she looked up from the pages, she saw with a small jolt of astonishment that the clock said 9:25. She had been dimly aware of the usual sound of movement and voices in the anteroom of her office, as her staff had arrived to begin their day; she wondered why nobody had entered her office and why her telephone had remained silent; as a daily rule, there should have been a rush of business by this hour. She glanced at her calendar; there was a note that the McNeil Car Foundry of Chicago was to phone her at nine A.M. in regard to the new freight cars which Taggart Transcontinental had been expecting for six months. She flicked the switch of the interoffice communicator to call her secretary. The girl's voice answered with a startled little gasp: "Miss Taggart! Are you here, in your office?" "I slept here last night, again. Didn't intend to, but did. Was there a call for me from the McNeil Car Foundry?" "No, Miss Taggart." "Put them through to me immediately, when they call," "Yes, Miss Taggart." Switching the communicator off, she wondered whether she imagined it or whether there had been something strange in the girl's voice: it had sounded unnaturally tense. She felt the faint light-headedness of hunger and thought that she should go down to get a cup of coffee, but there was still the report of the chief engineer to finish, so she lighted one more cigarette. The chief engineer was out on the road, supervising the reconstruction of the main track with the Rearden Metal rail taken from the corpse of the John Galt Line; she had chosen the sections most urgently in need of repair. Opening his report, she read—with a shock of incredulous anger—that he had stopped work in the mountain section of Winston, Colorado. He recommended a change of plans: he suggested that the rail intended for Winston be used, instead, to repair the track of their Washington-to-Miami branch. He gave his reasons: a derailment had occurred on that branch last week, and Mr. Tinky Holloway of Washington, traveling with a party of friends, had been delayed for three hours; it had been reported to the chief engineer that Mr. Holloway had expressed extreme displeasure. Although, from a purely technological viewpoint—said the chief engineer's report—the rail of the Miami branch was in better condition than that of the Winston section, one had to remember, from a sociological viewpoint, that the Miami branch carried a much more important class of passenger traffic; therefore, the chief engineer suggested that Winston could be kept waiting a little longer, and recommended the sacrifice of an obscure section of mountain trackage for the sake of a branch where "Taggart Transcontinental could not afford to create an unfavorable impression." She read, slashing furious pencil marks on the margins of the pages, thinking that her first duty of the day, ahead of any other, was to stop this particular piece of insanity. The telephone rang. "Yes?" she asked, snatching the receiver. "McNeil Car Foundry?" "No," said the voice of her secretary. "Senor Francisco d'Anconia." She looked at the phone's mouthpiece for the instant of a brief shock. "All right. Put him on." The next voice she heard was Francisco's. "I see that you're in your office just the same," he said; his voice was mocking, harsh and tense. "Where did you expect me to be?" "How do you like the new suspension?" --------------------------------------- 422 "What suspension?" "The moratorium on brains." "What are you talking about?" "Haven't you seen today's newspapers?" "No." There was a pause; then his voice came slowly, changed and grave: "Better take a look at them, Dagny." "All right." "I'll call you later." She hung up and pressed the switch of the communicator on her desk. "Get me a newspaper," she said to her secretary. "Yes, Miss Taggart," the secretary's voice answered grimly. It was Eddie Willers who came in and put the newspaper down on her desk. The meaning of the look on his face' was the same as the tone she had caught in Francisco's voice: the advance notice of some inconceivable disaster. "None of us wanted to be first to tell you," he said very quietly and walked out. When she rose from her desk, a few moments later, she felt that she had full control of her body and that she was not aware of her body's existence. She felt lifted to her feet and it seemed to her that she stood straight, not touching the ground. There was an abnormal clarity about every object in the room, yet she was seeing nothing around her, but she knew that she would be able to see the thread of a cobweb if her purpose required it, just as she would be able to walk with a somnambulist's assurance along the edge of a roof. She could not know that she was looking at the room with the eyes of a person who had lost the capacity and the concept of doubt, and what remained to her was the simplicity of a single perception and of a single goal. She did not know that the thing which seemed so violent, yet felt like such a still, unfamiliar calm within her, was the power of full certainty—and that the anger shaking her body, the anger which made her ready, with the same passionate indifference, either to kill or to die, was her love of rectitude, the only love to which all the years of her life had been given. Holding the newspaper in her hand, she walked out of her office and on toward the hall. She knew, crossing the anteroom, that the faces of her staff were turned to her, but they seemed to be many years away. She walked down the hall, moving swiftly but without effort, with the same sensation of knowing that her feet were probably touching the ground but that she did not feel it. She did not know how many rooms she crossed to reach Jim's office, or whether there had been any people in her way, she knew the direction to take and the door to pull open to enter unannounced and walk toward his desk. The newspaper was twisted into a roll by the time she stood before him. She threw it at his face, it struck his cheek and fell down to the carpet. "There's my resignation, Jim," she said. "I won't work as a slave or as a slave-driver." She did not hear the sound of his gasp; it came with the sound of the door closing after her. She went back to her office and, crossing the anteroom, signaled Eddie to follow her inside. She said, her voice calm and clear, "I have resigned." He nodded silently. "I don't know as yet what I’ll do in the future. I'm going away, to think it over and to decide. If you want to follow me, I'll be at the lodge in Woodstock." It was an old hunting cabin in a forest of the Berkshire Mountains, which she had inherited from her father and had not visited for years. --------------------------------------- 423 "I want to follow," he whispered, "I want to quit, and . . . and I can't. I can't make myself do it." "Then will you do me a favor?" "Of course." "Don't communicate with me about the railroad. I don't want to hear it. Don't tell anyone where I am, except Hank Rearden. If he asks, tell him about the cabin and how to get there. But no one else. I don't want to see anybody." "AU right." "Promise?" "Of course." "When I decide what's to become of me, I'll let you know." "Ill wait." "That's all, Eddie." He knew that every word was measured and that nothing else could be said between them at this moment. He inclined his head, letting it say the rest, then walked out of the office. She saw the chief engineer's report still lying open on her desk, and thought that she had to order him at once to resume the work on the Winston section, then remembered that it was not her problem any longer. She felt no pain. She knew that the pain would come later and that it would be a tearing agony of pain, and that the numbness of this moment was a rest granted to her, not after, but before, to make her ready to bear it. But it did not matter. If that is required of me, then I'll bear it—she thought. She sat down at her desk and telephoned Rearden at his mills in Pennsylvania. "Hello, dearest," he said. He said it simply and clearly, as if he wanted to say it because it was real and right, and he needed to hold on to the concepts of reality and Tightness. "Hank, I've quit." "I see." He sounded as if he had expected it. "Nobody came to get me, no destroyer, perhaps there never was any destroyer, after all. I don't know what I'll do next, but I have to get away, so that I won't have to see any of them for a while. Then I'll decide. I know that you can't go with me right now." "No. I have two weeks in which they expect me to sign their Gift Certificate. I want to be right here when the two weeks expire." "Do you need me—for the two weeks?" "No. It's worse for you than for me. You have no way to fight them. I have. I think I'm glad they did it. It's clear and final. Don't worry about me. Rest. Rest from all of it, first." "Yes." "Where are you going?" "To the country. To a cabin I own in the Berkshires. If you want to see me, Eddie Willers will tell you the way to get there. I'll be back in two weeks." "Will you do me a favor?" "Yes." "Don't come back until I come for you." "But I want to be here, when it happens." "Leave that up to me." "Whatever they do to you, I want it done to me also." "Leave it up to me. Dearest, don't you understand? I think that what I want most right now is what you want: not to see any of them. But I have to stay here for a while. So it will help me if I know that you, at least, are out of their reach. I want to keep one clean point in my mind, to lean --------------------------------------- 424 against. It will be only a short while—and then I'll come for you. Do you understand?" "Yes, my darling. So long." It was weightlessly easy to walk out of her office and down the stretching halls of Taggart Transcontinental. She walked, looking ahead, her steps advancing with the unbroken, unhurried rhythm of finality. Her face was held level and it had a look of astonishment, of acceptance, of repose. She walked across the concourse of the Terminal. She saw the statue of Nathaniel Taggart. But she felt no pain from it and no reproach, only the rising fullness of her love, only the feeling that she was going to join him, not in death, but in that which had been his life. The first man to quit at Rearden Steel was Tom Colby, rolling mill foreman, head of the Rearden Steel Workers Union. For ten years, he had heard himself denounced throughout the country, because his was a "company union" and because he had never engaged in a violent conflict with the management. This was true: no conflict had ever been necessary; Rearden paid a higher wage scale than any union scale in the country, for which he demanded—and got—the best labor force to be found anywhere. When Tom Colby told him that he was quitting, Rearden nodded, without comment or questions. "I won't work under these conditions, myself," Colby added quietly, "and I won't help, to keep the men working. They trust me. I won't be the Judas goat leading them to the stockyards." "What are you going to do for a living?" asked Rearden. "I've saved enough to last me for about a year." "And after that?" Colby shrugged. Rearden thought of the boy with the angry eyes, who mined coal at night as a criminal. He thought of all the dark roads, the alleys, the back yards of the country, where the best of the country's men would now exchange their services in jungle barter, in chance jobs, in unrecorded transactions. He thought of the end of that road. Tom Colby seemed to know what he was thinking. "You're on your way to end up right alongside of me, Mr. Rearden," he said. "Are you going to sign your brains over to them?" "No." "And after that?" Rearden shrugged. Colby's eyes watched him for a moment, pale, shrewd eyes in a furnace- tanned face with soot-engraved wrinkles. "They've been telling us for years that it's you against me, Mr. Rearden. But it isn't. It's Orren Boyle and Fred Kinnan against you and me." "I know it." The Wet Nurse had never entered Rearden's office, as if sensing that that was a place he had no right to enter. He always waited to catch a glimpse of Rearden outside. The directive had attached him to his job, as the mills' official watchdog of over-or-under-production. He stopped Rearden, a few days later, in an alley between the rows of open-hearth furnaces. There was an odd look of fierceness on the boy's face. "Mr. Rearden," he said, "I wanted to tell you that if you want to pour ten times the quota of Rearden Metal or steel or pig iron or anything, and bootleg it all over the place to anybody at any price—I wanted to tell you to go ahead. Ill fix it up. I'll juggle the books, I'll fake the reports, I'll get phony witnesses, I'll forge affidavits, I'll commit perjury—so you don't have to worry, there won't be any trouble!" --------------------------------------- 425 "Now why do you want to do that?" asked Rearden, smiling, but his smile vanished when he heard the boy answer earnestly: "Because I want, for once, to do something moral." "That's not the way to be moral—" Rearden started, and stopped abruptly, realizing that- it was the way, the only way left, realizing through how many twists of intellectual corruption upon corruption this boy had to struggle toward his momentous discovery. "I guess that's not the word," the boy said sheepishly. "I know it's a stuffy, old-fashioned word. That's not what I meant. I meant—" It was a sudden, desperate cry of incredulous anger: "Mr. Rearden, they have no right to do it!" "What?" "Take Rearden Metal away from you." Rearden smiled and, prompted by a desperate pity, said, "Forget it, Non- Absolute. There are no rights." "I know there aren't. But I mean . . . what I mean is that they can't do it." "Why not?" He could not help smiling. "Mr. Rearden, don't sign the Gift Certificate! Don't sign it, on principle." "I won't sign it. But there aren't any principles." "I know there aren't." He was reciting it in full earnestness, with the honesty of a conscientious student: "I know that everything is relative and that nobody can know anything and that reason is an illusion and that there isn't any reality. But I'm just talking about Rearden Metal. Don't sign, Mr. Rearden. Morals or no morals, principles or no principles, just don't sign it—because it isn't right!" No one else mentioned the directive in Rearden's presence. Silence was the new aspect about the mills. The men did not speak to him when he appeared in the workshops, and he noticed that they did not speak to one another. The personnel office received no formal resignations. But every other morning, one or two men failed to appear and never appeared again. Inquiries at their homes found the homes abandoned and the men gone. The personnel office did not report these desertions, as the directive required; instead, Rearden began to see unfamiliar faces among the workers, the drawn, beaten faces of the long unemployed, and heard them addressed by the names of the men who had quit. He asked no questions. There was silence throughout the country. He did not know how many industrialists had retired and vanished on May I and 2, leaving their plants to be seized. He counted ten among his own customers, including McNeil of the McNeil Car Foundry in Chicago. He had no way of learning about the others; no reports appeared in the newspapers. The front pages of the newspapers were suddenly full of stories about spring floods, traffic accidents, school picnics and golden-wedding anniversaries. There was silence in his own home. Lillian had departed on a vacation trip to Florida, in mid-April; it had astonished him, as an inexplicable whim; it was the first trip she had taken alone since their marriage. Philip avoided him, with a look of panic. His mother stared at Rearden in reproachful bewilderment; she said nothing, but she kept bursting into tears in his presence, her manner suggesting that her tears were the most important aspect to consider in whatever disaster it was that she sensed approaching. On the morning of May 15, he sat at the desk in his office, above the spread of the mills, and watched the colors of the smoke rising to the clear, blue sky. There were spurts of transparent smoke, like waves of heat, invisible but for the structures that shivered behind them; there were streaks of red smoke, and sluggish columns of yellow, and light, floating --------------------------------------- 426 spirals of blue—and the thick, tight, swiftly pouring coils that looked like twisted bolts of satin tinged a mother-of-pearl pink by the summer sun. The buzzer rang on his desk, and Miss Ives voice said, "Dr. Floyd Ferris to see you, without appointment, Mr. Rearden." In spite of its rigid formality, her tone conveyed the question: Shall I throw him out? There was a faint movement of astonishment in Rearden's face, barely above the line of indifference: he had not expected that particular emissary. He answered evenly, "Ask him to come in." Dr. Ferris did not smile as he walked toward Rearden's desk; he merely wore a look suggesting that Rearden knew full well that he had good reason to smile and so he would abstain from the obvious. He sat down in front of the desk, not waiting for an invitation; he carried a briefcase, which he placed across his knees; he acted as if words were superfluous, since his reappearance in this office had made everything clear. Rearden sat watching him in patient silence. "Since the deadline for the signing of the national Gift Certificates expires tonight at midnight," said Dr. Ferris, in the tone of a salesman extending a special courtesy to a customer, "I have come to obtain your signature, Mr. Rearden." He paused, with an air of suggesting that the formula now called for an answer. "Go on," said Rearden. "I am listening." "Yes, I suppose I should explain," said Dr. Ferris, "that we wish to get your signature early in the day in order to announce the fact on a national news broadcast. Although the gift program has gone through quite smoothly, there are still a few stubborn individualists left, who have failed to sign— small fry, really, whose patents are of no crucial value, but we cannot let them remain unbound, as a matter of principle, you understand. They are, we believe, waiting to follow your lead. You have a great popular following, Mr. Rearden, much greater than you suspected or knew how to use. Therefore, the announcement that you have signed will remove the last hopes of resistance and, by midnight, will bring in the last signatures, thus completing the program on schedule." Rearden knew that of all possible speeches, this was the last Dr. Ferris would make if any doubt of his surrender remained in the man's mind. "Go on," said Rearden evenly. "You haven't finished." "You know—as you have demonstrated at your trial—how important it is, and why, that we obtain all that property with the voluntary consent of the victims." Dr. Ferris opened his briefcase. "Here is the Gift Certificate, Mr. Rearden. We have filled it out and all you have to do is to sign your name at the bottom." The piece of paper, which he placed in front of Rearden, looked like a small college diploma, with the text printed in old-fashioned script and the particulars inserted by typewriter. The thing stated that he, Henry Rearden, hereby transferred to the nation all rights to the metal alloy now known as "Rearden Metal," which would henceforth be manufactured by all who so desired, and which would bear the name of "Miracle Metal," chosen by the representatives of the people. Glancing at the paper, Rearden wondered whether it was a deliberate mockery of decency, or so low an estimate of their victims' intelligence, that had made the designers of this paper print the text across a faint drawing of the Statue of Liberty. His eyes moved slowly to Dr. Ferris' face. "You would not have come here," he said, "unless you had some extraordinary kind of blackjack to use on me. What is it?" --------------------------------------- 427 "Of course," said Dr. Ferris. "I would expect you to understand that. That is why no lengthy explanations are necessary." He opened his briefcase. "Do you wish to see my blackjack? I have brought a few samples." In the manner of a cardsharp whisking out a long fan of cards with one snap of the hand, he spread before Rearden a line of glossy photographic prints. They were photostats of hotel and auto court registers, bearing in Rearden's handwriting the names of Mr. and Mrs. J. Smith. "You know, of course," said Dr. Ferris softly, "but you might wish to see whether we know it, that Mrs. J. Smith is Miss Dagny Taggart." He found nothing to observe in Rearden's face. Rearden had not moved to bend over the prints, but sat looking down at them with grave attentiveness, as if, from the perspective of distance, he were discovering something about them which he had not known. "We have a great deal of additional evidence," said Dr. Ferris, and tossed down on the desk a photostat of the jeweler's bill for the ruby pendant. "You wouldn't care to see the sworn statements of apartment house doormen and night clerks—they contain nothing that would be new to you, except the number of witnesses who know where you spent your nights in New York, for about the last two years. You mustn't blame those people too much. It's an interesting characteristic of epochs such as ours that people begin to be afraid of saying the things they want to say—and afraid, when questioned, to remain silent about things they'd prefer never to utter. That is to be expected. But you would be astonished if you knew who gave us the original tip." "I know it," said Rearden; his voice conveyed no reaction. The trip to Florida was not inexplicable to him any longer. "There is nothing in this blackjack of mine that can harm you personally," said Dr. Ferris, "We knew that no form of personal injury would ever make you give in. Therefore, I am telling you frankly that this will not hurt you at all. It will only hurt Miss Taggart" Rearden was looking straight at him now, but Dr. Ferris wondered why it seemed to him that the calm, closed face was moving away into a greater and greater distance. "If this affair of yours is spread from one end of the country to the other," said Dr, Ferris, "by such experts in the art of smearing as Bertram Scudder, it will do no actual damage to your reputation. Beyond a few glances of curiosity and a few raised eyebrows in a few of the stuffier drawing rooms, you will get off quite easily. Affairs of this sort are expected of a man. In fact, it will enhance your reputation. It will give you an aura of romantic glamour among the women and, among the men, it will give you a certain kind of prestige, in the nature of envy for an unusual conquest. But what it will do to Miss Taggart—with her spotless name, her reputation for being above scandal, her peculiar position of a woman in a strictly masculine business— what it will do to her, what she will see in the eyes of everyone she meets, what she will hear from every man she deals with—I will leave that up to your own mind to imagine. And to consider." Rearden felt nothing but a great stillness and a great clarity. It was as if some voice were telling him sternly: This is the time—the scene is lighted—now look. And standing naked in the great light, he was looking quietly, solemnly, stripped of fear, of pain, of hope, with nothing left to him but the desire to know. Dr. Ferris was astonished to hear him say slowly, in the dispassionate tone of an abstract statement that did not seem to be addressed to his listener, "But all your calculations rest on the fact that Miss Taggart is a virtuous woman, not the slut you're going to call her." "Yes, of course," said Dr. Ferris. --------------------------------------- 428 "And that this means much more to me than a casual affair." "Of course." "If she and I were the kind of scum you're going to make us appear, your blackjack wouldn't work." "No, it wouldn't.” "If our relationship were the depravity you're going to proclaim it to be, you'd have no way to harm us." "No." "We'd be outside your power." "Actually—yes." It was not to Dr. Ferris that Rearden was speaking. He was seeing a long line of men stretched through the centuries from Plato onward, whose heir and final product was an incompetent little professor with the appearance of a gigolo and the soul of a thug. "I offered you, once, a chance to join us," said Dr. Ferris. "You refused. Now you can see the consequences. How a man of your intelligence thought that he could win by playing it straight, I can't imagine." "But if I had joined you," said Rearden with the same detachment, as if he were not speaking about himself, "what would I have found worth looting from Orren Boyle?" "Oh hell, there's always enough suckers to expropriate in the world!" "Such as Miss Taggart? As Ken Danagger? As Ellis Wyatt? As I?" "Such as any man who wants to be impractical." "You mean that it is not practical to live on earth, is it?" He did not know whether Dr. Ferris answered him. He was not listening any longer. He was seeing the pendulous face of Orren Boyle with the small slits of pig's eyes, the doughy face of Mr. Mowen with the eyes that scurried away from any speaker and any fact—he was seeing them go through the jerky motions of an ape performing a routine it had learned to copy by muscular habit, performing it in order to manufacture Rearden Metal, with no knowledge and no capacity to know what had taken place in the experimental laboratory of Rearden Steel through ten years of passionate devotion to an excruciating effort. It was proper that they should now call it "Miracle Metal".—a miracle was the only name they could give to those ten years and to that faculty from which Rearden Metal was born—a miracle was all that the Metal could be in their eyes, the product of an unknown, unknowable cause, an object in nature, not to be explained, but to be seized, like a stone or a weed, theirs for the seizing—"are we to let the many remain in want while the few withhold from us the better products and methods available?" If I had not known that my life depends on my mind and my effort—he was saying soundlessly to the line of men stretched through the centuries—if I had not made it my highest moral purpose to exercise the best of my effort and the fullest capacity of my mind in order to support and expand my life, you would have found nothing to loot from me, nothing to support your own existence. It is not my sins that you're using to injure me, but my virtues— my virtues by your own acknowledgment, since your own life depends on them, since you need them, since you do not seek to destroy my achievement but to seize it. He remembered the voice of the gigolo of science saying to him: "We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick." We were not after power—he said to the gigolo's ancestors-in-spirit— and we did not live by means of that which we condemned. We regarded productive ability as virtue—and we let the degree of his virtue be the measure of a man's reward. We drew no advantage from the things we regarded as evil—we did not require the existence of bank robbers in order to operate our banks, or of burglars in order to provide for our homes, or of murderers in order to protect our lives. But you need the products of a man's ability— --------------------------------------- 429 yet you proclaim that productive ability is a selfish evil and you turn the degree of a man's productiveness into the measure of his loss. We lived by that which we held to be good and punished that which we held to be evil. You live by that which you denounce as evil and punish that which you know to be good. He remembered the formula of the punishment that Lillian had sought to impose on him, the formula he had considered too monstrous to believe—and he saw it now in its full application, as a system of thought, as a way of life and on a world scale. There it was: the punishment that required the victim's own virtue as the fuel to make it work—his invention of Rearden Metal being used as the cause of his expropriation—Dagny's honor and the depth of their feeling for each other being used as a tool of blackmail, a blackmail from which the depraved would be immune—and, in the People's States of Europe, millions of men being held in bondage by means of their desire to live, by means of their energy drained in forced labor, by means of their ability to feed their masters, by means of the hostage system, of their love for their children or wives or friends—by means of love, ability and pleasure as the fodder for threats and the bait for extortion, with love tied to fear, ability to punishment, ambition to confiscation, with blackmail as law, with escape from pain, not quest for pleasure, as the only incentive to effort and the only reward of achievement—men held enslaved by means of whatever living power they possessed and of whatever joy they found in life. Such was the code that the world had accepted and such was the key to the code: that it hooked man's love of existence to a circuit of torture, so that only the man who had nothing to offer would have nothing to fear, so that the virtues which made life possible and the values which gave it meaning became the agents of its destruction, so that one's best became the tool of one's agony, and man's life on earth became impractical. “Yours was the code of life," said the voice of a man whom he could not forget. "What, then, is theirs?" Why had the world accepted it?—he thought. How had the victims come to sanction a code that pronounced them guilty of the fact of existing? . . . And then the violence of an inner blow became the total stillness of his body as he sat looking at a sudden vision: Hadn't he done it also? Hadn't he given his sanction to the code of self damnation? Dagny—he thought—and the depth of their feeling for each other . . . the blackmail from which the depraved would be immune . . . hadn't he, too, once called it depravity? Hadn't he been first to throw at her all the insults which the human scum was now threatening to throw at her in public? Hadn't he accepted as guilt the highest happiness he had ever found? "You who won't allow one per cent of impurity into an alloy of metal," the unforgotten voice was saying to him, "what have you allowed into your moral code?" "Well, Mr. Rearden?" said the voice of Dr, Ferris. "Do you understand me now? Do we get the Metal or do we make a public showplace out of Miss Taggart's bedroom?" He was not seeing Dr. Ferris. He was seeing—in the violent clarity that was like a spotlight tearing every riddle open to him—the day he met Dagny for the first time. It was a few months after she had become Vice-President of Taggart Transcontinental. He had been hearing skeptically, for some time, the rumors that the railroad was run by Jim Taggart's sister. That summer, when he grew exasperated at Taggart's delays and contradictions over an order of rail for a new cutoff, an order which Taggart kept placing, altering and withdrawing, somebody told him that if he wished to get any sense or action out of Taggart Transcontinental, he'd better speak to Jim's sister. He telephoned her office to make an appointment and insisted on having it that same afternoon. Her --------------------------------------- 430 secretary told him that Miss Taggart would be at the construction site of the new cutoff, that afternoon, at Milford Station between New York and Philadelphia, but would be glad to see him there if he wished. He went to the appointment resentfully; he did not like such businesswomen as he had met, and he felt that railroads were no business for a woman to play with; he expected a spoiled heiress who used her name and sex as substitute for ability, some eyebrow-plucked, over groomed female, like the lady executives of department stores. He got off the last car of a long train, far beyond the platform of Milford Station. There was a clutter of sidings, freight cars, cranes and steam shovels around him, descending from the main track down the slope of a ravine where men were grading the roadbed of the new cutoff. He started walking between the sidings toward the station building. Then he stopped. He saw a girl standing on top of a pile of machinery on a flatcar. She was looking off at the ravine, her head lifted, strands of disordered hair stirring in the wind. Her plain gray suit was like a thin coating of metal over a slender body against the spread of sun-flooded space and sky. Her posture had the lightness and unself-conscious precision of an arrogantly pure self-confidence. She was watching the work, her glance intent and purposeful, the glance of competence enjoying its own function. She looked as if this were her place, her moment and her world, she looked as if enjoyment were her natural state, her face was the living form of an active, living intelligence., a young girl's face with a woman's mouth, she seemed unaware of her body except as of a taut instrument ready to serve her purpose in any manner she wished. Had he asked himself a moment earlier whether he carried in his mind an image of what he wanted a woman to look like, he would have answered that he did not; yet, seeing her, he knew that this was the image and that it had been for years. But he was not looking at her as at a woman. He had forgotten where he was and on what errand, he was held by a child's sensation of joy in the immediate moment, by the delight of the unexpected and undiscovered, he was held by the astonishment of realizing how seldom he came upon a sight he truly liked, liked in complete acceptance and for its own sake, he was looking up at her with a faint smile, as he would have looked at a statue or a landscape, and what he felt was the sheer pleasure of the sight, the purest esthetic pleasure he had ever experienced. He saw a switchman going by and he asked, pointing, "Who is that?" "Dagny Taggart," said the man, walking on. Rearden felt as if the words struck him inside his throat. He felt the start of a current that cut his breath for a moment, then went slowly down his body, carrying in its wake a sense of weight, a drained heaviness that left him no capacity but one. He was aware—with an abnormal clarity—of the place, the woman's name, and everything it implied, but all of it had receded into some outer ring and had become a pressure that left him alone in the center, as the ring's meaning and essence—and his only reality was the desire to have this woman, now, here, on top of the flatcar in the open sun—to have her before a word was spoken between them, as the first act of their meeting, because it would say everything and because they had earned it long ago. She turned her head. In the slow curve of the movement, her eyes came to his and stopped. He felt certain that she saw the nature of his glance, that she was held by it, yet did not name it to herself. Her eyes moved on and he saw her speak to some man who stood beside the flatcar, taking notes. Two things struck him together: his return to his normal reality, and the shattering impact of guilt. He felt a moment's approach to that which no man may feel fully and survive: a sense of self-hatred—the more terrible because some part of him refused to accept it and made him feel guiltier. It was not --------------------------------------- 431 a progression of words, but the instantaneous verdict of an emotion, a verdict that told him: This, then, was his nature, this was his depravity— that the shameful desire he had never been able to conquer, came to him in response to the only sight of beauty he had found, that it came with a violence he had not known to be possible, and that the only freedom now left to him was to hide it and to despise himself, but never to be rid of it so long as he and this woman were alive. He did not know how long he stood there or what devastation that span of time left within him. All that he could preserve was the will to decide that she must never know it. He waited until she had descended to the ground and the man with the notes had departed; then he approached her and said coldly: "Miss Taggart? I am Henry Rearden." "Oh!" It was just a small break, then he heard the quietly natural "How do you do, Mr. Rearden." He knew, not admitting it to himself, that the break came from some faint equivalent of his own feeling: she was glad that a face she had liked belonged to a man she could admire. When he proceeded to speak to her about business, his manner was more harshly abrupt than it had ever been with any of his masculine customers. Now, looking from the memory of the girl on the flatcar to the Gift Certificate lying on his desk, he felt as if the two met in a single shock, fusing all the days and doubts he had lived between them, and, by the glare of the explosion, in a moment's vision of a final sum, he saw the answer to all his questions. He thought: Guilty?—guiltier than I had known, far guiltier than I had thought, that day—guilty of the evil of damning as guilt that which was my best. I damned the fact that my mind and body were a unit, and that my body responded to the values of my mind. I damned the fact that joy is the core of existence, the motive power of every living being, that it is the need of one's body as it is the goal of one's spirit, that my body was not a weight of inanimate muscles, but an instrument able to give me an experience of superlative joy to unite my flesh and my spirit. That capacity, which I damned as shameful, had left me indifferent to sluts, but gave me my one desire in answer to a woman's greatness. That desire, which I damned as obscene, did not come from the sight of her body, but from the knowledge that the lovely form I saw, did express the spirit I was seeing— it was not her body that I wanted, but her person—it was not the girl in gray that I had to possess, but the woman who ran a railroad. But I damned my body's capacity to express what I felt, I damned, as an affront to her, the highest tribute I could give her—just as they damn my ability to translate the work of my mind into Rearden Metal, just as they damn me for the power to transform matter to serve my needs. I accepted their code and believed, as they taught me, that the values of one's spirit must remain as an impotent longing, unexpressed in action, untranslated into reality, while the life of one's body must be lived in misery, as a senseless, degrading performance, and those who attempt to enjoy it must be branded as inferior animals. I broke their code, but I fell into the trap they intended, the trap of a code devised to be broken. I took no pride in my rebellion, I took it as guilt, I did not damn them, I damned myself, I did not damn their code, I damned existence—and I hid my happiness as a shameful secret. I should have lived it openly, as of our right—or made her my wife, as in truth she was. But I branded my happiness as evil and made her bear it as a disgrace. What they want to do to her now, I did it first. I made it possible. I did it—in the name of pity for the most contemptible woman I know. That, too, was their code, and I accepted it. I believed that one person owes a --------------------------------------- 432 duty to another with no payment for it in return. I believed that it was my duty to love a woman who gave me nothing, who betrayed everything I lived for, who demanded her happiness at the price of mine. I believed that love is some static gift which, once granted, need no longer be deserved—just as they believe that wealth is a static possession which can be seized and held without further effort. I believed that love is a gratuity, not a reward to be earned— just as they believe it is their right to demand an unearned wealth. And just as they believe that their need is a claim on my energy, so I believed that her unhappiness was a claim on my life. For the sake of pity, not justice, T endured ten years of self-torture. I placed pity above my own conscience, and this is the core of my guilt. My crime was committed when I said to her, "By every standard of mine, to maintain our marriage will be a vicious fraud. But my standards are not yours. I do not understand yours, I never have, but I will accept them." Here they are, lying on my desk, those standards I accepted without understanding, here is the manner of her love for me, that love which I never believed, but tried to spare. Here is the final product of the unearned. I thought that it was proper to commit injustice, so long as I would be the only one to suffer. But nothing can justify injustice. And this is the punishment for accepting as proper that hideous evil which is self-immolation. I thought that I would be the only victim. Instead, I've sacrificed the noblest woman to the vilest. When one acts on pity against justice, it is the good whom one punishes for the sake of the evil; when one saves the guilty from suffering, it is the innocent whom one forces to suffer. There is no escape from justice, nothing can be unearned and unpaid for in the universe, neither in matter nor in spirit—and if the guilty do not pay, then the innocent have to pay it. It was not the cheap little looters of wealth who have beaten me— it was I. They did not disarm me—I threw away my weapon. This is a battle that cannot be fought except with clean hands—because the enemy's sole power is in the sores of one's conscience—and I accepted a code that made me regard the strength of my hands as a sin and a stain. "Do we get the Metal, Mr. Rearden?" He looked from the Gift Certificate on his desk to the memory of the girl on the flatcar. He asked himself whether he could deliver the radiant being he had seen in that moment, to the looters of the mind and the thugs of the press. Could he continue to let the innocent bear punishment? Could he let her take the stand he should have taken? Could he now defy the enemy's code, when the disgrace would be hers, not his—when the muck would be thrown at her, not at him— when she would have to fight, while he'd be spared? Could he let her existence be turned into a hell he would have no way of sharing? He sat still, looking up at her, I love you, he said to the girl on the flatcar, silently pronouncing the words that had been the meaning of that moment four years ago, feeling the solemn happiness that belonged with the words, even though this was how he had to say it to her for the first time. He looked down at the. Gift Certificate. Dagny, he thought, you would not let me do it if you knew, you will hate me for it if you learn—but I cannot let you pay my debts. The fault was mine and I will not shift to you the punishment which is mine to take. Even if I have nothing else now left to me, I have this much: that I see the truth, that I am free of their guilt, that I can now stand guiltless in my own eyes, that I know I am right, right fully and for the first time—and that I will remain faithful to the one commandment of my code which I have never broken: to be a man who pays his own way. I love you, he said to the girl on the flatcar, feeling as if the light of that summer's sun were touching his forehead, as if he, too, were standing --------------------------------------- 433 under an open sky over an unobstructed earth, with nothing left to him except himself. "Well, Mr. Rearden? Are you going to sign?'1 asked Dr. Ferris. Rearden's eyes moved to him. He had forgotten that Ferris was there, he did not know whether Ferris had been speaking, arguing or waiting in silence. "Oh, that?" said Rearden. He picked up a pen and with no second glance, with the easy gesture of a millionaire signing a check, he signed his name at the foot of the Statue of Liberty and pushed the Gift Certificate across the desk. --------------------------------------- 434 CHAPTER VII THE MORATORIUM ON BRAINS "Where have you been all this time?" Eddie Willers asked the worker in the underground cafeteria, and added, with a smile that was an appeal, an apology and a confession of despair, "Oh, I know it's I who've stayed away from here for weeks." The smile looked like the effort of a crippled child groping for a gesture that he could not perform any longer. "I did come here once, about two weeks ago, but you weren't here that night. I was afraid you'd gone . . . so many people are vanishing without notice. I hear there's hundreds of them roving around the country. The police have been arresting them for leaving their jobs—they're called deserters—but there's too many of them and no food to feed them in jail, so nobody gives a damn any more, one way or another. I hear the deserters are just wandering about, doing odd jobs or worse—who's got any odd jobs to offer these days? . . . It's our best men that we're losing, the kind who've been with the company for twenty years or more. Why did they have to chain them to their jobs? Those men never intended to quit— but now they're quitting at the slightest disagreement, just dropping their tools and walking off, any hour of the day or night, leaving us in all sorts of jams—the men who used to leap out of bed and come running if the railroad needed them. . . . You should see the kind of human driftwood we're getting to fill the vacancies. Some of them mean well, but they're scared of their own shadows. Others are the kind of scum I didn't think existed—they get the jobs and they know that we can't throw them out once they're in, so they make it clear that they don't intend to work for their pay and never did intend. They're the kind of men who like it—who like the way things are now. Can you imagine that there are human beings who like it? Well, there are. . . . You know, I don't think that I really believe it—all that's happening to us these days. It's happening all right, but I don't believe it. I keep thinking that insanity is a state where a person can't tell what's real. Well, what's real now is insane—and if I accepted it as real, I'd have to lose my mind, wouldn't I? . . . I go on working and I keep telling myself that this is Taggart Transcontinental. I keep waiting for her to come back— for die door to open at any moment and—oh God, I'm not supposed to say that! . . . What? You knew it? You knew that she's gone? . . . They're keeping it secret. But I guess everybody knows it, only nobody is supposed to say it. They're telling people that she's away on a leave of absence. She's still listed as our Vice-President in Charge of Operation. I think Jim and I are the only ones who know that she has resigned for good. Jim is scared to death that his friends in Washington will take it out on him, if it becomes known that she's quit. It's supposed to be disastrous for public morale, if any prominent person quits, and Jim doesn't want them to know that he's got a deserter right in his own family. . . . But that's not all. Jim is scared that the stockholders, the employees and whoever we do business with, will lose the last of their confidence in Taggart Transcontinental if they learn that she's gone. Confidence! You'd think that it wouldn't matter now, since there's nothing any of them can do about it. And yet, Jim knows that we have to preserve some semblance of the greatness that Taggart Transcontinental once stood for. And he knows that the last of it went with her. . . . No, they don't know where she is. . . . Yes, I do, but I won't tell them. I'm the only one who knows. . . . Oh yes, they've been trying to find out. They've tried to pump me in every way they could think of, but it's no use. I won't tell anyone. . . . You should see the trained seal that we now have in her place—our new Operating Vice-President. Oh sure, we have one—that is, we have and we haven't. It's like everything they do today—it is and it ain't, at the same tune. His name is Clifton Locey— --------------------------------------- 435 he's from Jim's personal staff—a bright, progressive young man of fortyseven and a friend of Jim's. He's only supposed to be pinch-hitting for her, but he sits in her office and we all know that that's the new Operating Vice-President. He gives the orders—that is, he sees to it that he's never caught actually giving an order. He works very hard at making sure that no decision can ever be pinned down on him, so that he won't be blamed for anything. You see, his purpose is not to operate a railroad, but to hold a job. He doesn't want to run trains— he wants to please Jim. He doesn't give a damn whether there's a single train moving or not, so long as he can make a good impression on Jim and on the boys in Washington. So far, Mr. Clifton Locey has managed to frame up two men: a young third assistant, for not relaying an order which Mr. Locey had never given—and the freight manager, for issuing an order which Mr. Locey did give, only the freight manager couldn't prove it. Both men were fired, officially, by ruling of the Unification Board. . . . When things go well— which is never longer than half an hour—Mr. Locey makes it a point to remind us that 'these are not the days of Miss Taggart.' At the first sign of trouble, he calls me into his office and asks me—casually, in the midst of the most irrelevant drivel—what Miss Taggart used to do in such an emergency. I tell him, whenever I can. I tell myself that it's Taggart Transcontinental, and . . . and there's thousands of lives on dozens of trains that hang on our decisions. Between emergencies, Mr. Locey goes out of his way to be rude to me—that's so I wouldn't think that he needs me. He's made it a point to change everything she used to do, in every respect that doesn't matter, but he's damn cautious not to change anything that matters. The only trouble is that he can't always tell which is which. . . . On his first day in her office, he told me that it wasn't a good idea to have a picture of Nat Taggart on the wall— 'Nat Taggart,' he said, 'belongs to a dark past, to the age of selfish greed, he is not exactly a symbol of our modern, progressive policies, so it could make a bad impression, people could identify me with him.' 'No, they couldn't,' I said—but I took the picture off his wall. . . . What? . . . No, she doesn't know any of it. I haven't communicated with her. Not once. She told me not to. . . . Last week, I almost quit. It was over Chick's Special. Mr. Chick Morrison of Washington, whoever the hell he is, has gone on a speaking tour of the whole country—to speak about the directive and build up the people's morale, as things are getting to be pretty wild everywhere. He demanded a special train, for himself and party—a sleeper, a parlor car and a diner with barroom and lounge. The Unification Board gave him permission to travel at a hundred miles an hour—by reason, the ruling said, of this being a non-profit journey. Well, so it is. It's just a journey to talk people into continuing to break their backs at making profits in order to support men who are superior by reason of not making any. Well, our trouble came when Mr. Chick Morrison demanded a Diesel engine for his train. We had none to give him. Every Diesel we own is out on the road, pulling the Comet and the transcontinental freights, and there wasn't a spare one anywhere on the system, except—well, that was an exception I wasn't going to mention to Mr. Clifton Locey. Mr. Locey raised the roof, screaming that come hell or high water we couldn't refuse a demand of Mr. Chick Morrison. I don't know what damn fool finally told him about the extra Diesel that was kept at Winston, Colorado, at the mouth of the tunnel. You know the way our Diesels break down nowadays, they're all breathing their last—so you can understand why that extra Diesel had to be kept at the tunnel. I explained it to Mr. Locey, I threatened him, I pleaded, I told him that she had made it our strictest rule that Winston Station was never to be left without an extra Diesel. He told me to remember that he was not Miss Taggart—as if I could ever forget it!—and that the rule --------------------------------------- 436 was nonsense, because nothing had happened all these years, so Winston could do without a Diesel for a couple of months, and he wasn't going to worry about some theoretical disaster in the future when we were up against the very real, practical, immediate disaster of getting Mr. Chick Morrison angry at us. Well, Chick's Special got the Diesel. The superintendent of the Colorado Division quit. Mr. Locey gave that job to a friend of his own. I wanted to quit. I had never wanted to so badly. But I didn't. . . . No, I haven't heard from her. I haven't heard a word since she left. Why do you keep questioning me about her? Forget it. She won't be back, . . . I don't know what it is that I'm hoping for. Nothing, I guess. I just go day by day, and I try not to look ahead. At first, I hoped that somebody would save us. I thought maybe it would be Hank Rearden. But he gave in. I don't know what they did to him to make him sign, but I know that it must have been something terrible. Everybody thinks so. Everybody's whispering about it, wondering what sort of pressure was used on him. . . . No, nobody knows. He's made no public statements and he's refused to see anyone, . . . But, listen, I'll tell you something else that everybody's whispering about. Lean closer, will you?—I don't want to speak too loudly. They say that Orren Boyle seems to have known about that directive long ago, weeks or months in advance, because he had started, quietly and secretly, to reconstruct his furnaces for the production of Rearden Metal, in one of his lesser steel plants, an obscure little place way out on the coast of Maine, He was ready to start pouring the Metal the moment Rearden's extortion paper—I mean, Gift Certificate—was signed. But—listen—the night before they were to start, Boyle's men were heating the furnaces in that place on the coast, when they heard a voice, they didn't know whether it came from a plane or a radio or some sort of loud-speaker, but it was a man's voice and it said that he would give them ten minutes to get out of the place. They got out. They started going and they kept on going—because the man's voice had said that he was Ragnar Danneskjold. In the next half-hour, Boyle's mills were razed to the ground. Razed, wiped out, not a brick of them left standing. They say it was done by long-range naval guns, from somewhere way out on the Atlantic. Nobody saw Danneskjold's ship. . . . That's what people are whispering. The newspapers haven't printed a word about it. The boys in Washington say that it's only a rumor spread by panic-mongers. . . . I don't know whether the story is true. I think it is. I hope it is. . . . You know, when I was fifteen years old, I used to wonder how any man could become a criminal, I couldn't understand what would make it possible. Now—now I'm glad that Ragnar Danneskjold has blown up those mills. May God bless him and never let them find him, whatever and wherever he is! . . . Yes, that's what I've come to feel. Well, how much do they think people can take? . . . It's not so bad for me in the daytime, because I can keep busy and not think, but it gets me at night. I can't sleep any more, I lie awake for hours. . . . Yes!—if you want to know it—yes, it's because I'm worried about her! I'm scared to death for her. Woodstock is just a miserable little hole of a place, miles away from everything, and the Taggart lodge is twenty miles farther, twenty miles of a twisting trail in a godforsaken forest. How do I know what might happen to her there, alone, and with the kind of gangs that are roving all through the country these nights—just through such desolate parts of the country as the Berkshires? . . . I know I shouldn't think about it. I know that she can take care of herself. Only I wish she'd drop me a line. I wish I could go there. But she told me not to. I told her I'd wait. . . . You know, I'm glad you're here tonight. It helps me—talking to you and . . . just seeing you here. You won't vanish, like all the others, will you? . . . What? Next week? . . . Oh, on your vacation. For how long? . . . How do you rate a whole month's vacation? . . . I wish I could do that, too—take a month off at my own expense. But they --------------------------------------- 437 wouldn't let me. . . . Really? I envy you. . . . I wouldn't have envied you a few years ago. But now—now I'd like to get away. Now I envy you—if you've been able to take a month off every summer for twelve years." It was a dark road, but it led in a new direction. Rearden walked from his mills, not toward his house, but toward the city of Philadelphia. It was a great distance to walk, but he had wanted to do it tonight, as he had done it every evening of the past week. He felt at peace in the empty darkness of the countryside, with nothing but the black shapes of trees around him, with no motion but that of his own body and of branches stirring in the wind, with no lights but the slow sparks of the fireflies flickering through the hedges. The two hours between mills and city were his span of rest. He had moved out of his home to an apartment in Philadelphia. He had given no explanation to his mother and Philip, he had said nothing except that they could remain in the house if they wished and that Miss Ives would take care of their bills. He had asked them to tell Lillian, when she returned, that she was not to attempt to see him. They had stared at him in terrified silence. He had handed to his attorney a signed blank check and said, "Get me a divorce. On any grounds and at any cost. I don't care what means you use, how many of their judges you purchase or whether you find it necessary to stage a frame-up of my wife. Do whatever you wish. But there is to be no alimony and no property settlement." The attorney had looked at him with the hint of a wise, sad smile, as if this were an event he had expected to happen long ago. He had answered, "Okay, Hank. It can be done. But it will take some time." "Make it as fast as you can." No one had questioned him about his signature on the Gift Certificate. But he had noticed that the men at the mills looked at him with a kind of searching curiosity, almost as if they expected to find the scars of some physical torture on his body. He felt nothing—nothing but the sense of an even, restful twilight, like a spread of slag over a molten metal, when it crusts and swallows the last brilliant spurt of the white glow within. He felt nothing at the thought of the looters who were now going to manufacture Rearden Metal. His desire to hold his right to it and proudly to be the only one to sell it, had been his form of respect for his fellow men, his belief that to trade with them was an act of honor. The belief, the respect and the desire were gone. He did not care what men made, what they sold, where they bought his Metal or whether any of them would know that it had been his. The human shapes moving past him in the streets of the city were physical objects without any meaning. The countryside —with the darkness washing away all traces of human activity, leaving only an untouched earth which he had once been able to handle—was real. He carried a gun in his pocket, as advised by the policemen of the radio car that patrolled the roads; they had warned him that no road was safe after dark, these days. He felt, with a touch of mirthless amusement, that the gun had been needed at the mills, not in the peaceful safety of loneliness and night; what could some starving vagrant take from him, compared to what had been taken by men who claimed to be his protectors? He walked with an effortless speed, feeling relaxed by a form of activity that was natural to him. This was his period of training for solitude, he thought; he had to learn to live without any awareness of people, the awareness that now paralyzed him with revulsion. He had once built his fortune, starting out with empty hands; now he had to rebuild his life, starting out with an empty spirit. He would give himself a short span of time for the training, he thought, and then he would claim the one incomparable value still left to him, the one --------------------------------------- 438 desire that had remained pure and whole: he would go to Dagny. Two commandments had grown in his mind; one was a duty, the other a passionate wish. The first was never to let her learn the reason of his surrender to the looters; the second was to say to her the words which he should have known at their first meeting and should have said on the gallery of Ellis Wyatt's house. There was nothing but the strong summer starlight to guide him, as he walked, but he could distinguish the highway and the remnant of a stone fence ahead, at the corner of a country crossroad. The fence had nothing to protect any longer, only a spread of weeds, a willow tree bending over the road and, farther in the distance, the ruin of a farmhouse with the starlight showing through its roof. He walked, thinking that even this sight still retained the power to be of value: it gave him the promise of a long stretch of space undisturbed by human intrusion. The man who stepped suddenly out into the road must have come from behind the willow tree, but so swiftly that it seemed as if he had sprung up from the middle of the highway. Rearden's hand went to the gun in his pocket, but stopped: he knew—by the proud posture of the body standing in the open, by the straight line of the shoulders against the starlit sky—that the man was not a bandit. When he heard the voice, he knew that the man was not a beggar. "I should like to speak to you, Mr. Rearden." The voice had the firmness, the clarity and the special courtesy peculiar to men who are accustomed to giving orders. "Go ahead," said Rearden, "provided you don't intend to ask me for help or money." The man's garments were rough, but efficiently trim. He wore dark trousers and a dark blue windbreaker closed tight at his throat, prolonging the lines of his long, slender figure. He wore a dark blue cap, and all that could be seen of him in the night were his hands, his face and a patch of gold-blond hair on his temple. The hands held no weapon, only a package wrapped in burlap, the size of a carton of cigarettes. "No, Mr. Rearden," he said, "I don't intend to ask you for money, but to return it to you." "To return money?" "Yes." "What money?" "A small refund on a very large debt." "Owed by you?" "No, not by me. It is only a token payment, but I want you to accept it as proof that if we live long enough, you and I, every dollar of that debt will be returned to you." "What debt?" "The money that was taken from you by force." He extended the package to Rearden, flipping the burlap open. Rearden saw the starlight run like fire along a mirror-smooth surface. He knew, by its weight and texture, that what he held was a bar of solid gold. He looked from the bar to the man's face, but the face seemed harder and less revealing than the surface of the metal. "Who are you?" asked Rearden. "The friend of the friendless." "Did you come here to give this to me?" "Yes." "Do you mean that you had to stalk me at night, on a lonely road, in order, not to rob me, but to hand me a bar of gold?" "Yes." --------------------------------------- 439 "Why?" "When robbery is done in open daylight by sanction of the law, as it is done today, then any act of honor or restitution has to be hidden underground." "What made you think that I'd accept a gift of this kind?" "It is not a gift, Mr. Rearden. It is your own money. But I have one favor to ask of you. It is a request, not a condition, because there can be no such thing as conditional property. The gold is yours, so you are free to use it as you please. But I risked my life to bring it to you tonight, so I am asking, as a favor, that you save it for the future or spend it on yourself. On nothing but your own comfort and pleasure. Do not give it away and, above all, do not put it into your business." "Why?" "Because I don't want it to be of any benefit to anybody but you. Otherwise, I will have broken an oath taken long ago—as I am breaking every rule I had set for myself by speaking to you tonight." "What do you mean?" "I have been collecting this money for you for a long time. But I did not intend to see you or tell you about it or give it to you until much later." "Then why did you?" "Because I couldn't stand it any longer." "Stand what?" "I thought that I had seen everything one could see and that there was nothing I could not stand seeing. But when they took Rearden Metal away from you, it was too much, even for me. I know that you don't need this gold at present. What you need is the justice which it represents, and the knowledge that there are men who care for justice." Struggling not to give in to an emotion which he felt rising through his bewilderment, past all his doubts, Rearden tried to study the man's face, searching for some clue to help him understand. But the face had no expression; it had not changed once while speaking; it looked as if the man had lost the capacity to feel long ago, and what remained of him were only features that seemed implacable and dead. With a shudder of astonishment, Rearden found himself thinking that it was not the face of a man, but of an avenging angel. "Why did you care?" asked Rearden. "What do I mean to you?" "Much more than you have reason to suspect. And I have a friend to whom you mean much more than you will ever learn. He would have given anything to stand by you today. But he can't come to you. So I came in his place." "What friend?" "I prefer not to name him." "Did you say that you've spent a long time collecting this money for me?" "I have collected much more than this." He pointed at the gold. "I am holding it in your name and I will turn it over to you when the time comes. This is only a sample, as proof that it does exist. And if you reach the day when you find yourself robbed of the last of your fortune, I want you to remember that you have a large bank account waiting for you." "What account?" "If you try to think of all the money that has been taken from you by force, you will know that your account represents a considerable sum." "How did you collect it? Where did this gold come from?" "It was taken from those who robbed you." "Taken by whom?" "By me." "Who are you?" "Ragnar Danneskjold." --------------------------------------- 440 Rearden looked at him for a long, still moment, then let the gold fall out of his hands. Danneskjold's eyes did not follow it to the ground, but remained fixed on Rearden with no change of expression. "Would you rather I were a law-abiding citizen, Mr. Rearden? If so, which law should I abide by? Directive 10-289?" "Ragnar Danneskjold . . ." said Rearden, as if he were seeing the whole of the past decade, as if he were looking at the enormity of a crime spread through ten years and held within two words. "Look more carefully, Mr. Rearden. There are only two modes of living left to us today: to be a looter who robs disarmed victims or to be a victim who works for the benefit of his own despoilers. I did not choose to be either." "You chose to live by means of force, like the rest of them," "Yes—openly. Honestly, if you will. I do not rob men who are tied and gagged, I do not demand that my victims help me, I do not tell them that I am acting for their own good. I stake my life in every encounter with men, and they have a chance to match their guns and their brains against mine in fair battle. Fair? It's I against the organized strength, the guns, the planes, the battleships of five continents. If it's a moral judgment that you wish to pronounce, Mr. Rearden, then who is the man of higher morality: I or Wesley Mouch?" "I have no answer to give you," said Rearden, his voice low. "Why should you be shocked, Mr. Rearden? I am merely complying with the system which my fellow men have established. If they believe that force is the proper means to deal with one another, I am giving them what they ask for. If they believe that the purpose of my life is to serve them, let them try to enforce their creed. If they believe that my mind is their property— let them come and get it." "But what sort of life have you chosen? To what purpose are you giving your mind?" "To the cause of my love." "Which is what?" "Justice." "Served by being a pirate?" "By working for the day when I won't have to be a pirate any longer." "Which day is that?" "The day when you'll be free to make a profit on Rearden Metal." "Oh God!" said Rearden, laughing, his voice desperate. "Is that your ambition?" Danneskjold's face did not change. "It is." "Do you expect to live to see that day?" "Yes. Don't you?" "No." "Then what are you looking forward to, Mr. Rearden?" "Nothing." "What are you working for?" Rearden glanced at him. "Why do you ask that?" "To make you understand why I'm not." "Don't expect me ever to approve of a criminal." "I don't expect it. But there are a few things I want to help you to see." "Even if they're true, the things you said, why did you choose to be a bandit? Why didn't you simply step out, like—" He stopped. "Like Ellis Wyatt, Mr. Rearden? Like Andrew Stockton? Like your friend Ken Danagger?" "Yes!" "Would you approve of that?" "I—" He stopped, shocked by his own words. --------------------------------------- 441 The shock that came next was to see Danneskjold smile: it was like seeing the first green of spring on the sculptured planes of an iceberg. Rearden realized suddenly, for the first time, that Danneskjold's face was more than handsome, that it had the startling beauty of physical perfection—the hard, proud features, the scornful mouth of a Viking's statue—yet he had not been aware of it, almost as if the dead sternness of the face had forbidden the impertinence of an appraisal. But the smile was brilliantly alive. "I do approve of it, Mr. Rearden. But I've chosen a special mission of my own. I'm after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men's minds, we will not have a decent world to live in." "What man?" "Robin Hood." Rearden looked at him blankly, not understanding. "He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich—or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich." "What in blazes do you mean?" "If you remember the stories you've read about me in the newspapers, before they stopped printing them, you know that I have never robbed a private ship and never taken any private property. Nor have I ever robbed a military vessel—because the purpose of a military fleet is to protect from violence the citizens who paid for it, which is the proper function of a government. But I have seized every loot carrier that came within range of my guns, every government relief ship, subsidy ship, loan ship, gift ship, every vessel with a cargo of goods taken by force from some men for the unpaid, unearned benefit of others. I seized the boats that sailed under the flag of the idea which I am fighting: the idea that need is a sacred idol requiring human sacrifices—that the need of some men is the knife of a guillotine hanging over others—that all of us must live with our work, our hopes, our plans, our efforts at the mercy of the moment when that knife will descend upon us—and that the extent of our ability is the extent of our danger, so that success will bring our heads down on the block, while failure will give us the right to pull the cord. This is the horror which Robin Hood immortalized as an ideal of righteousness. It is said that he fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don't have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. He became a justification for every mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, has demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters, by proclaiming his willingness to devote his life to his inferiors at the price of robbing his superiors. It is this foulest of creatures—the double-parasite who lives on the sores, of the poor and the blood of the rich—whom men have come to regard as a moral ideal. And this has brought us to a world where the more a man produces, the closer he comes to the loss of all his rights, until, if his ability is great enough, he becomes a rightless creature delivered as prey to any claimant—while in order to be placed above rights, above principles, above morality, placed where anything is permitted to him, even plunder and murder, all a man has to do is to be in need. Do you wonder why the world is collapsing around us? That is what I am fighting, Mr. --------------------------------------- 442 Rearden. Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive." Rearden listened, feeling numb. But under the numbness, like the first thrust of a seed breaking through, he felt an emotion he could not identify except that it seemed familiar and very distant, like something experienced and renounced long ago. "What I actually am, Mr. Rearden, is a policeman. It is a policeman's duty to protect men from criminals—criminals being those who seize wealth by force. It is a policeman's duty to retrieve stolen property and return it to its owners. But when robbery becomes the purpose of the law, and the policeman's duty becomes, not the protection, but the plunder of property— then it is an outlaw who has to become a policeman. I have been selling the cargoes I retrieved to some special customers of mine in this country, who pay me in gold. Also, I have been selling my cargoes to the smugglers and the black-market traders of the People's States of Europe. Do you know the conditions of existence in those People's States? Since production and trade— not violence—were decreed to be crimes, the best men of Europe had no choice but to become criminals. The slave-drivers of those States are kept in power by the handouts from their fellow looters in countries not yet fully drained, such as this country. I do not let the handouts reach them. I sell the goods to Europe's law-breakers, at the highest prices I can get, and I make them pay me in gold. Gold is the objective value, the means of preserving one's wealth and one's future. Nobody is permitted to have gold in Europe, except the whip-wielding friends of humanity, who claim that they spend it for the welfare of their victims. That is the gold which my smuggler-customers obtain to pay me. How? By the same method I use to obtain the goods. And then I return the gold to those from whom the goods were stolen—to you, Mr. Rearden, and to other men like you." Rearden grasped the nature of the emotion he had forgotten. It was the emotion he had felt when, at the age of fourteen, he had looked at his first pay check—when, at the age of twenty-four, he had been made superintendent of the ore mines—when, as the owner of the mines, he had placed, in his own name, his first order for new equipment from the best concern of the time, Twentieth Century Motors— an emotion of solemn, joyous excitement, the sense of winning his place in a world he respected and earning the recognition of men he admired. For almost two decades, that emotion had been buried under a mount of wreckage, as the years had added layer upon gray layer of contempt, of indignation, of his struggle not to look around him, not to see those he dealt with, not to expect anything from men and to keep, as a private vision within the four walls of his office, the sense of that world into which he had hoped to rise. Yet there it was again, breaking through from under the wreckage, that feeling of quickened interest, of listening to the luminous voice of reason, with which one could communicate and deal and live. But it was the voice of a pirate speaking about acts of violence, offering him this substitute for his world of reason and justice. He could not accept it; he could not lose whatever remnant of his vision he still retained. He listened, wishing he could escape, yet knowing that he would not miss a word of it. "I deposit the gold in a bank—in a gold-standard bank, Mr. Rearden —to the account of men who are its rightful owners. They are the men of superlative ability who made their fortunes by personal effort, in free trade, using no compulsion, no help from the government. They are the great victims who have contributed the most and suffered the worst injustice in return. Their names are written in my book of restitution. Every load of gold which I bring back is divided among them and deposited to their accounts." --------------------------------------- 443 "Who are they?" "You're one of them, Mr. Rearden. I cannot compute all the money that has been extorted from you—in hidden taxes, in regulations, in wasted time, in lost effort, in energy spent to overcome artificial obstacles. I cannot compute the sum, but if you wish to see its magnitude —look around you. The extent of the misery now spreading through this once prosperous country is the extent of the injustice which you have suffered. If men refuse to pay the debt they owe you, this is the manner in which they will pay for it. But there is one part of the debt which is computed and on record. That is the part which I have made it my purpose to collect and return to you." "What is that?" "Your income tax, Mr. Rearden." "What?" "Your income tax for the last twelve years." "You intend to refund that?" "In full and in gold, Mr. Rearden." Rearden burst out laughing; he laughed like a young boy, in simple amusement, in enjoyment of the incredible. "Good God! You're a policeman and a collector of Internal Revenue, too?" "Yes," said Danneskjold gravely. "You're not serious about this, are you?" "Do I look as if I'm joking?" "But this is preposterous!" "Any more preposterous than Directive 10-289?" "It's not real or possible!" "Is only evil real and possible?" "But—" "Are you thinking that death and taxes are our only certainty, Mr. Rearden? Well, there's nothing I can do about the first, but if I lift the burden of the second, men might learn to see the connection between the two and what a longer, happier life they have the power to achieve. They might learn to hold, not death and taxes, but life and production as their two absolutes and as the base of their moral code." Rearden looked at him, not smiling. The tall, slim figure, with the windbreaker stressing its trained muscular agility, was that of a highwayman; the stern marble face was that of a judge; the dry, clear voice was that of an efficient bookkeeper. "The looters are not the only ones who have kept records on you, Mr. Rearden. So have I. I have, in my files, copies of all your income tax returns for the last twelve years, as well as the returns of all my other clients. I have friends in some astonishing places, who obtain the copies I need. I divide the money among my clients in proportion to the sums extorted from them. Most of my accounts have now been paid to their owners. Yours is the largest one left to settle. On the day when you will be ready to claim it—the day when I'll know that no penny of it will go back to support the looters—I will turn your account over to you. Until then—" He glanced down at the gold on the ground. "Pick it up, Mr. Rearden. It's not stolen. It's yours." Rearden would not move or answer or look down. "Much more than that lies in the bank, in your name." "What bank?" "Do you remember Midas Mulligan of Chicago?" "Yes, of course." "All my accounts are deposited at the Mulligan Bank." "There is no Mulligan Bank in Chicago." "It is not in Chicago." Rearden let a moment pass. "Where is it?" --------------------------------------- 444 "I think that you will know it before long, Mr. Rearden. But I cannot tell you now." He added, "I must tell you, however, that I am the only one responsible for this undertaking. It is my own personal mission. No one is involved in it but me and the men of my ship's crew. Even my banker has no part in it, except for keeping the money I deposit. Many of my friends do not approve of the course I've chosen. But we all choose different ways to fight the same battle—and this is mine." Rearden smiled contemptuously, "Aren't you one of those damn altruists who spends his time on a non-profit venture and risks his life merely to serve others?" "No, Mr. Rearden. I am investing my time in my own future. When we are free and have to start rebuilding from out of the ruins, I want to see the world reborn as fast as possible. If there is, then, some working capital in the right hands—in the hands of our best, our most productive men—it will save years for the rest of us and, incidentally, centuries for the history of the country. Did you ask what you meant to me? Everything I admire, everything I want to be on the day when the earth will have a place for such state of being, everything I want to deal with—even if this is the only way I can deal with you and be of use to you at present." "Why?" whispered Rearden. "Because my only love, the only value I care to live for, is that which has never been loved by the world, has never won recognition or friends or defenders: human ability. That is the love I am serving—and if I should lose my life, to what better purpose could I give it?" The man who had lost the capacity to feel?—thought Rearden, and knew that the austerity of the marble face was the form of a disciplined capacity to feel too deeply. The even voice was continuing dispassionately: "I wanted you to know this. I wanted you to know it now, when it most seem to you that you're abandoned at the bottom of a pit among subhuman creatures who are all that's left of mankind. I wanted you to know, in your most hopeless hour, that the day of deliverance is much closer than you think. And there was one special reason why I had to speak to you and tell you my secret ahead of the proper time. Have you heard of what happened to Orren Boyle's steel mills on the coast of Maine?" "Yes," said Rearden—and was shocked to hear that the word came as a gasp out of the sudden jolt of eagerness within him. "I didn't know whether it was true." "It's true. I did it. Mr. Boyle is not going to manufacture Rearden Metal on the coast of Maine. He is not going to manufacture it anywhere. Neither is any other looting louse who thinks that a directive can give him a right to your brain. Whoever attempts to produce that Metal, will find his furnaces blown up, his machinery blasted, his shipments wrecked, his plant set on fire—so many things will happen to any man who tries it, that people will say there's a curse on it, and there will soon be no worker in the country willing to enter the plant of any new producer of Rearden Metal. If men like Boyle think that force is all they need to rob their betters—let them see what happens when one of their betters chooses to resort to force. I wanted you to know, Mr. Rearden, that none of them will produce your Metal nor make a penny on it." Because he felt an exultant desire to laugh—as he had laughed at the news of Wyatt's fire, as he had laughed at the crash of d'Anconia Copper—and knew that if he did, the thing he feared would hold him, would not release him this time, and he would never see his mills again—Rearden drew back and, for a moment, kept his lips closed tight to utter no sound. When the moment was --------------------------------------- 445 over, he said quietly, his voice firm and dead, "Take that gold of yours and get away from here. I won't accept the help of a criminal." Danneskjold's face showed no reaction. "I cannot force you to accept the gold, Mr. Rearden. But I will not take it back. You may leave it lying where it is, if you wish." "I don't want your help and I don't intend to protect you. If I were within reach of a phone, I would call the police. I would and I will, if you ever attempt to approach me again. I'll do it—in self-protection." "I understand exactly what you mean." "You know—because I've listened to you, because you've seen me eager to hear it—that I haven't damned you as I should. I can't damn you or anyone else. There are no standards left for men to live by, so I don't care to judge anything they do today or in what manner they attempt to endure the unendurable. If this is your manner, I will let you go to hell in your own way, but I want no part of it. Neither as your inspiration nor as your accomplice. Don't expect me ever to accept your bank account, if it does exist. Spend it on some extra armor plate for yourself—because I'm going to report this to the police and give them every clue I can to set them on your trail." Danneskjold did not move or answer. A freight train was rolling by, somewhere in the distance and darkness; they could not see it, but they heard the pounding beat of wheels filling the silence, and it seemed close, as if a disembodied train, reduced to a long string of sound, were going past them in the night. "You wanted to help me in my most hopeless hour?" said Rearden. "If I am brought to where my only defender is a pirate, then I don't care to be defended any longer. You speak some remnant of a human language, so in the name of that, I'll tell you that I have no hope left, but I have the knowledge that when the end comes, I will have lived by my own standards, even while I was the only one to whom they remained valid. I will have lived in the world in which I started and J will go down with the last of it. I don't think you'll want to understand me, but—" A beam of light hit them with the violence of a physical blow. The clangor of the train had swallowed the noise of the motor and they had not heard the approach of the car that swept out of the side road, from behind the farmhouse. They were not in the car's path, yet they heard the screech of brakes behind the two headlights, pulling an invisible shape to a stop. It was Rearden who jumped back involuntarily and had time to marvel at his companion: the swiftness of Danneskjold's self-control was that he did not move. It was a police car and it stopped beside them. The driver leaned out. "Oh, it's you, Mr. Rearden!" he said, touching his fingers to his cap. "Good evening, sir." "Hello," said Rearden, fighting to control the unnatural abruptness of his voice. There were two patrolmen in the front seat of the car and their faces had a tight look of purpose, not the look of their usual friendly intention to stop for a chat. "Mr. Rearden, did you walk from the mills by way of Edgewood Road, past Blacksmith Cove?" "Yes. Why?" "Did you happen to see a man anywhere around these parts, a stranger moving along in a hurry?" "Where?" "He'd be either on foot or in a battered wreck of a car that's got a million-dollar motor." "What man?" --------------------------------------- 446 "A tall man with blond hair." "Who is he?" "You wouldn't believe it if I told you, Mr. Rearden. Did you see him?" Rearden was not aware of his own questions, only of the astonishing fact that he was able to force sounds past some beating barrier inside his throat. He was looking straight at the policeman, but he felt as if the focus of his eyes had switched to his side vision, and what he saw most clearly was Danneskjold's face watching him with no expression, with no line's, no muscle's worth of feeling. He saw Danneskjold's arms hanging idly by his sides, the hands relaxed, with no sign of intention to reach for a weapon, leaving the tall, straight body defenseless and open—open as to a firing squad. He saw, in the light, that the face looked younger than he had thought and that the eyes were sky-blue. He felt that his one danger would be to glance directly at Danneskjold—and he kept his eyes on the policeman, on the brass buttons of a blue uniform, but the object filling his consciousness, more forcefully than a visual perception, was Danneskjold's body, the naked body under the clothes, the body that would be wiped out of existence. He did not hear his own words, because he kept hearing a single sentence in his mind, without context except the feeling that it was the only thing that mattered to him in the world: "If I should lose my life, to what better purpose could I give it?" "Did you see him, Mr. Rearden?" "No," said Rearden. "I didn't." The policeman shrugged regretfully and closed his hands about the steering wheel. "You didn't see any man that looked suspicious?" "No." "Nor any strange car passing you on the road?" "No." The policeman reached for the starter. "They got word that he was seen ashore in these parts tonight, and they've thrown a dragnet over five counties. We're not supposed to mention his name, not to scare the folks, but he's a man whose head is worth three million dollars in rewards from all over the world.” He had pressed the starter and the motor was churning the air with bright cracks of sound, when the second policeman leaned forward. He had been looking at the blond hair under Danneskjold's cap. "Who is that, Mr. Rearden?" he asked. "My new bodyguard,” said Rearden. "Oh . . . ! A sensible precaution, Mr. Rearden, in times like these. Good night, sir." The motor jerked forward. The red taillights of the car went shrinking down the road. Danneskjold watched it go, then glanced pointedly at Rearden's right hand. Rearden realized that he had stood facing the policemen with his hand clutching the gun in his pocket and that he had been prepared to use it. He opened his fingers and drew his hand out hastily. Danneskjold smiled. It was a smile of radiant amusement, the silent laughter of a clear, young spirit greeting a moment it was glad to have lived. And although the two did not resemble each other, the smile made Rearden think of Francisco d'Anconia. "You haven't told a lie," said Ragnar Danneskjold. "Your bodyguard—that's what I am and what I'll deserve to be, in many more ways than you can know at present. Thanks, Mr. Rearden, and so long—we'll meet again much sooner than I had hoped." He was gone before Rearden could answer. He vanished beyond the stone fence, as abruptly and soundlessly as he had come. When Rearden turned to look through the farm field, there was no trace of him and no sign of movement anywhere in the darkness. --------------------------------------- 447 Rearden stood on the edge of an empty road in a spread of loneliness vaster than it had seemed before. Then he saw, lying at his feet, an object wrapped in burlap, with one corner exposed and glistening in the moonlight, the color of the pirate's hair. He bent, picked it up and walked on. Kip Chalmers swore as the train lurched and spilled his cocktail over the table top. He slumped forward, his elbow in the puddle, and said: "God damn these railroads! What's the matter with their track? You'd think with all the money they've got they'd disgorge a little, so we wouldn't have to bump like farmers on a hay cart!" His three companions did not take the trouble to answer. It was late, and they remained in the lounge merely because an effort was needed to retire to their compartments. The lights of the lounge looked like feeble portholes in a fog of cigarette smoke dank with the odor of alcohol. It was a private car, which Chalmers had demanded and obtained for his journey; it was attached to the end of the Comet and it swung like the tail of a nervous animal as the Comet coiled through the curves of the mountains. "I'm going to campaign for the nationalization of the railroads," said Kip Chalmers, glaring defiantly at a small, gray man who looked at him without interest. 'That's going to be my platform plank. I've got to have a platform plank. I don't like Jim Taggart. He looks like a soft-boiled clam. To hell with the railroads! It's time we took them over." "Go to bed," said the man, "if you expect to look like anything human at the big rally tomorrow." "Do you think we'll make it?" "You've got to make it." "I know I've got to. But I don't think we'll get there on time. This goddamn snail of a super-special is hours late." "You’ve got to get there, Kip," said the man ominously, in that stubborn monotone of the unthinking which asserts an end without concern for the means. "God damn you, don't you suppose I know it?" Kip Chalmers had curly blond hair and a shapeless mouth. He came from a semi-wealthy, semi-distinguished family, but he sneered at wealth and distinction in a manner which implied that only a top rank aristocrat could permit himself such a degree of cynical indifference. He had graduated from a college which specialized in breeding that kind of aristocracy. The college had taught him that the purpose of ideas is to fool those who are stupid enough to think. He had made his way in Washington with the grace of a cat- burglar, climbing from bureau to bureau as from ledge to ledge of a crumbling structure. He was ranked as semi-powerful, but his manner made laymen mistake him for nothing less than Wesley Mouch. For reasons of his own particular strategy, Kip Chalmers had decided to enter popular politics and to run for election as Legislator from California, though he knew nothing about that state except the movie industry and the beach clubs. His campaign manager had done the preliminary work, and Chalmers was now on his way to face his future constituents for the first time at an over publicized rally in San Francisco tomorrow night. The manager had wanted him to start a day earlier, but Charmers had stayed in Washington to attend a cocktail party and had taken the last train possible. He had shown no concern about the rally until this evening, when he noticed that the Comet was running six hours late. His three companions did not mind his mood: they liked his liquor, tester Tuck, his campaign manager, was a small, aging man with a face that looked as if it had once been punched in and had never rebounded. He was an attorney who, some generations earlier, would have represented shoplifters and people who stage accidents on the premises of rich corporations; now he found that he could do better by representing men like Kip Chalmers. --------------------------------------- 448 Laura Bradford was Chalmers' current mistress; he liked her because his predecessor had been Wesley Mouch. She was a movie actress who had forced her way from competent featured player to incompetent star, not by means of sleeping with studio executives, but by taking the long-distance short cut of sleeping with bureaucrats. She talked economics, instead of glamor, for press interviews, in the belligerently righteous style of a third-rate tabloid; her economics consisted of the assertion that "we've got to help the poor." Gilbert Keith-Worthing was Chalmers' guest, for no reason that either of them could discover. He was a British novelist of world fame, who had been popular thirty years ago; since then, nobody bothered to read what he wrote, but everybody accepted him as a walking classic. He had been considered profound for uttering such things as: "Freedom? Do let's stop talking about freedom. Freedom is impossible. Man can never be free of hunger, of cold, of disease, of physical accidents. He can never be free of the tyranny of nature. So why should he object to the tyranny of a political dictatorship?" When all of Europe put into practice the ideas which he bad preached, he came to live in America. Through the years, his style of writing and his body had grown flabby. At seventy, he was an obese old man with retouched hair and a manner of scornful cynicism retouched by quotations from the yogis about the futility of all human endeavor. Kip Chalmers had invited him, because it seemed to look distinguished. Gilbert Keith Worthing had come along, because he had no particular place to go. "God damn these railroad people!" said Kip Chalmers. "They're doing it on purpose. They want to ruin my campaign. I can't miss that rally! For Christ's sake, Lester, do something!" "I've tried," said Lester Tuck. At the train's last stop, he had tried, by long-distance telephone, to find air transportation to complete their journey; but there were no commercial flights scheduled for the next two days. "If they don't get me there on time, I'll have their scalps and their railroad! Can't we tell that damn conductor to hurry?" "You've told him three times," "I'll get him fired. He's given me nothing but a lot of alibis about all their messy technical troubles. I expect transportation, not alibis. They can't treat me like one of their day-coach passengers. I expect them to get me where I want to go when I want it. Don't they know that I'm on this train?" "They know it by now," said Laura Bradford. "Shut up, Kip. You bore me." Chalmers refilled his glass. The car was rocking and the glassware tinkled faintly on the shelves of the bar. The patches of starlit sky in the windows kept swaying jerkily, and it seemed as if the stars were tinkling against one another. They could see nothing beyond the glass bay of the observation window at the end of the car, except the small halos of red and green lanterns marking the rear of the train, and a brief stretch of rail running away from them into the darkness. A wall of rock was racing the train, and the stars dipped occasionally into a sudden break that outlined, high above them, the peaks of the mountains of Colorado. "Mountains . . ." said Gilbert Keith-Worthing, with satisfaction. "It is a spectacle of this kind that makes one feel the insignificance of man.' What is this presumptuous little bit of rail, which crude materialists are so proud of building—compared to that eternal grandeur? No more than the basting thread of a seamstress on the hem of the garment of nature. If a single one of those granite giants chose to crumble, it would annihilate this train." "Why should it choose to crumble?" asked Laura Bradford, without any particular interest. --------------------------------------- 449 "I think this damn train is going slower," said Kip Chalmers. "Those bastards are slowing down,, in spite of what I told them!" "Well . . . it's the mountains, you know . . ." said Lester Tuck. "Mountains be damned! Lester, what day is this? With all those damn changes of time, I can't tell which—" "It's May twenty-seventh," sighed Lester Tuck. "It's May twenty-eighth," said Gilbert Keith-Worthing, glancing at his watch. "It is now twelve minutes past midnight.” "Jesus!" cried Chalmers. "Then the rally is today?" "Yep," said Lester Tuck. "We won't make it! We—" The train gave a sharper lurch, knocking the glass out of his hand. The thin sound of its crash against the floor mixed with the screech of the wheel-flanges tearing against the rail of a sharp curve. "I say," asked Gilbert Keith-Worthing nervously, "are your railroads safe?" "Hell, yes!" said Kip Chalmers. "We've got so many rules, regulations and controls that those bastards wouldn't dare not to be safe! . . . Lester, how far are we now? What's the next stop?'1 "There won't be any stop till Salt Lake City." "I mean, what's the next station?" Lester Tuck produced a soiled map, which he had been consulting every few minutes since nightfall. "Winston," he said. "Winston, Colorado." Kip Chalmers reached for another glass. "Tinky Holloway said that Wesley said that if you don't win this election, you're through," said Laura Bradford. She sat sprawled in her chair, looking past Chalmers, studying her own face in a mirror on the wall of the lounge; she was bored and it amused her to needle his impotent anger. "Oh, he did, did he?" "Uh-huh. Wesley doesn't want what's-his-name—whoever's running against you—to get into the Legislature. If you don't win, Wesley will be sore as hell. Tinky said—" "Damn that bastard! He'd better watch his own neck!" "Oh, I don't know. Wesley likes him very much." She added, "Tinky Holloway wouldn't allow some miserable train to make him miss an important meeting. They wouldn't dare to hold him up." Kip Chalmers sat staring at his glass. "I'm going to have the government seize all the railroads," he said, his voice low. "Really," said Gilbert Keith-Worthing, "I don't see why you haven't done it long ago. This is the only country on earth backward enough to permit private ownership of railroads." "Well, we're catching up with you," said Kip Chalmers. "Your country is so incredibly naive. It's such an anachronism. All that talk about liberty and human rights—I haven't heard it since the days of my great-grandfather. It's nothing but a verbal luxury of the rich. After all, it doesn't make any difference to the poor whether their livelihood is at the mercy of an industrialist or of a bureaucrat." 5S8 "The day of the industrialists is over. This is the day of—" The jolt felt as if the air within the car smashed them forward while the floor stopped under their feet. Kip Chalmers was flung down to the carpet, Gilbert Keith-Worthing was thrown across the table top, the lights were blasted out. Glasses crashed off the shelves, the steel of the walls screamed as if about to rip open, while a long, distant thud went like a convulsion through the wheels of the train. When he raised his head, Chalmers saw that the car stood intact and still; he heard the moans of his companions and the first shriek of Laura Bradford's --------------------------------------- 450 hysterics. He crawled along the floor to the doorway, wrenched it open, and tumbled down the steps. Far ahead, on the side of a curve, he saw moving flashlights and a red glow at a spot where the engine had no place to be. He stumbled through the darkness, bumping into half-clothed figures that waved the futile little flares of matches. Somewhere along the line, he saw a man with a flashlight and seized his arm. It was the conductor. "What happened?" gasped Chalmers. "Split rail,” the conductor answered impassively. "The engine went off the track." "Off . . . ?M "On its side." "Anybody . . . killed?" "No. The engineer's all right. The fireman is hurt." "Split rail? What do you mean, split rail?" The conductor's face had an odd look: it was grim, accusing and closed. "Rail wears out, Mr. Chalmers," he answered with a strange kind of emphasis. "Particularly on curves." "Didn't you know that it was worn out?" "We knew." "Well, why didn't you have it replaced?" "It was going to be replaced. But Mr. Locey cancelled that." "Who is Mr. Locey?" "The man who is not our Operating Vice-President." Chalmers wondered why the conductor seemed to look at him as if something about the catastrophe were his fault. "Well . . . well, aren't you going to put the engine back on the track?" "That engine's never going to be put back on any track, from the looks of it." "But . . . but it's got to move us!" "It can't." Beyond the few moving flares and the dulled sounds of screams, Chalmers sensed suddenly, not wanting to look at it, the black immensity of the mountains, the silence of hundreds of uninhabited miles, and the precarious strip of a ledge hanging between a wall of rock and an abyss. He gripped the conductor's arm tighter. "But . . . but what are we going to do?" "The engineer's gone to call Winston." "Call? How?" "There's a phone couple of miles down the track." "Will they get us out of here?" "They will." "But . . ." Then his mind made a connection with the past and the future, and his voice rose to a scream for the first time: "How long will we have to wait?" "I don't know," said the conductor. He threw Chalmers' hand off his arm, and walked away. The night operator of Winston Station listened to the phone message, dropped the receiver and raced up the stairs to shake the station agent out of bed. The station agent was a husky, surly drifter who had been assigned to the job ten days ago, by order of the new division superintendent. He stumbled dazedly to his feet, but he was knocked awake when the operator's words reached his brain. "What?" he gasped. "Jesus! The Comet? . . . Well, don't stand there shaking! Call Silver Springs!" --------------------------------------- 451 The night dispatcher of the Division Headquarters at Silver Springs listened to the message, then telephoned Dave Mitchum, the new superintendent of the Colorado Division. "The Comet?" gasped Mitchum, his hand pressing the telephone receiver to his ear, his feet hitting the floor and throwing him upright, out of bed. "The engine done for? The Diesel?" "Yes, sir." "Oh God! Oh, God Almighty! What are we going to do?" Then, remembering his position, he added, "Well, send out the wrecking train." "I have." "Call the operator at Sherwood to hold all traffic." "I have." "What have you got on the sheet?" "The Army Freight Special, westbound. But it's not due for about four hours. It's running late." "I'll be right down. . . . Wait, listen, get Bill, Sandy and Clarence down by the time I get there. There's going to be hell to pay!" Dave Mitchum had always complained about injustice, because, he said, he had always had bad luck. He explained it by speaking darkly about the conspiracy of the big fellows, who would never give him a chance, though he did not explain just whom he meant by "the big fellows." Seniority of service was his favorite topic of complaint and sole standard of value; he had been in the railroad business longer than many men who had advanced beyond him; this, he said, was proof of the social system's injustice—though he never explained just what he meant by "the social system." He had worked for many railroads, but had not stayed long with any one of them. His employers had had no specific misdeeds to charge against him, but had simply eased him out, because he said, "Nobody told me to!” too often. He did not know that he owed his present job to a deal between James Taggart and Wesley Mouch: when Taggart traded to Mouch the secret of his sister's private life, in exchange for a raise in rates, Mouch made him throw in an extra favor, by their customary rules of bargaining, which consisted of squeezing all one could out of any given trade. The extra was a job for Dave Mitchum, who was the brother-in-law of Claude Slagenhop, who was the president of the Friends of Global Progress, who were regarded by Mouch as a valuable influence on public opinion. James Taggart pushed the responsibility of finding a job for Mitchum onto Clifton Locey. Locey pushed Mitchum into the first job that came up— superintendent of the Colorado Division—when the man holding it quit without notice. The man quit when the extra Diesel engine of Winston Station was given to Chick Morrison's Special. "What are we going to do?" cried Dave Mitchum, rushing, half-dressed and groggy with sleep, into his office, where the chief dispatcher, the trainmaster and the road foreman of engines were waiting for him. The three men did not answer. They were middle-aged men with years of railroad service behind them. A month ago, they would have volunteered their advice in any emergency; but they were beginning to learn that things had changed and that it was dangerous to speak. "What in hell are we going to do?" "One thing is certain," said Bill Brent, the chief dispatcher. "We can't send a train into the tunnel with a coal-burning engine." Dave Mitchum's eyes grew sullen: he knew that this was the one thought on all their minds; he wished Brent had not named it. "Well, where do we get a Diesel?" he asked angrily. "We don't," said the road foreman. "But we can't keep the Comet waiting on a siding all night!" --------------------------------------- 452 "Looks like we'll have to," said the trainmaster. "What's the use of talking about it, Dave? You know that there is no Diesel anywhere on the division." "But Christ Almighty, how do they expect us to move trains without engines?" "Miss Taggart didn't," said the road foreman. "Mr. Locey does." "Bill," asked Mitchum, in the tone of pleading for a favor, "isn't there anything transcontinental that's due tonight, with any sort of a Diesel?" "The first one to come," said Bill Brent implacably, "will be Number 236, the fast freight from San Francisco, which is due at Winston at seven- eighteen A.M." He added, "That's the Diesel closest to us at this moment. I've checked," "What about the Army Special?" "Better not think about it, Dave. That one has superiority over everything on the line, including the Comet, by order of the Army. They're running late as it is—journal boxes caught fire twice. They're carrying munitions for the West Coast arsenals. Better pray that nothing stops them on your division. If you think we'll catch hell for holding the Comet, it's nothing to what we'll catch if we try to stop that Special." They remained silent. The windows were open to the summer night and they could hear the ringing of the telephone in the dispatcher's office downstairs. The signal lights winked over the deserted yards that had once been a busy division point. Mitchum looked toward the roundhouse, where the black silhouettes of a few steam engines stood outlined in a dim light. "The tunnel—" he said and stopped. "—is eight miles long," said the trainmaster, with a harsh emphasis. "I was only thinking," snapped Mitchum. "Better not think of it," said Brent softly. "I haven't said anything!" "What was that talk you had with Dick Horton before he quit?" the road foreman asked too innocently, as if the subject were irrelevant. "Wasn't it something about the ventilation system of the tunnel being on the bum? Didn't he say that that tunnel was hardly safe nowadays even for Diesel engines?" "Why do you bring that up?" snapped Mitchum. "I haven't said anything!" Dick Horton, the division chief engineer, had quit three days after Mitchum's arrival. "I thought I'd just mention it," the road foreman answered innocently. "Look, Dave," said Bill Brent, knowing that Mitchum would stall for another hour rather than formulate a decision, "you know that there's only one thing to do: hold the Comet at Winston till morning, wait for Number 236, have her Diesel take the Comet through the tunnel, then let the Comet finish her run with the best coal-burner we can give her on the other side," "But how late will that make her?" Brent shrugged. "Twelve hours—eighteen hours—who knows?" "Eighteen hours—for the Comet? Christ, that's never happened before!" "None of what's been happening to us has ever happened before," said Brent, with an astonishing sound of weariness in his brisk, competent voice. "But they'll blame us for it in New York! They'll put all the blame on us!" Brent shrugged. A month ago, he would have considered such an injustice inconceivable; today, he knew better. "I guess . . ." said Mitchum miserably, "I guess there's nothing else that we can do." "There isn't, Dave," --------------------------------------- 453 "Oh God! Why did this have to happen to us?" "Who is John Galt?" It was half-past two when the Comet, pulled by an old switch engine, jerked to a stop on a siding of Winston Station. Kip Chalmers glanced out with incredulous anger at the few shanties on a desolate mountainside and at the ancient hovel of a station. "Now what? What in hell are they stopping here for?" he cried, and rang for the conductor. With the return of motion and safety, his terror had turned into rage. He felt almost as if he had been cheated by having been made to experience an unnecessary fear. His companions were still clinging to the tables of the lounge; they felt too shaken to sleep. "How long?" the conductor said impassively, in answer to his question. "Till morning, Mr. Chalmers." Chalmers stared at him, stupefied. "We're going to stand here till morning?" "Yes, Mr. Chalmers." "Here?" "Yes." "But I have a rally in San Francisco in the evening!" The conductor did not answer. "Why? Why do we have to stand? Why in hell? What happened?" Slowly, patiently, with contemptuous politeness, the conductor gave him an exact account of the situation. But years ago, in grammar school, in high school, in college, Kip Chalmers had been taught that man does not and need not live by reason. "Damn your tunnel!" he screamed. "Do you think I'm going to let you hold me up because of some miserable tunnel? Do you want to wreck vital national plans on account of a tunnel? Tell your engineer that I must be in San Francisco by evening and that he's got to get me there!" "How?" "That's your job, not mine!" "There is no way to do it." "Then find a way, God damn you!" The conductor did not answer. "Do you think I'll let your miserable technological problems interfere with crucial social issues? Do you know who I am? Tell that engineer to start moving, if he values his job!" "The engineer has his orders." "Orders be damned! I give the orders these days! Tell him to start at once!" "Perhaps you'd better speak to the station agent, Mr. Chalmers. I have no authority to answer you as I'd like to," said the conductor, and walked out. Chalmers leaped to his feet. "Say, Kip . . ." said Lester Tuck uneasily, "maybe it's true . . . maybe they can't do it." "They can if they have to!" snapped Chalmers, marching resolutely to the door. Years ago, in college, he had been taught that the only effective means to impel men to action was fear. In the dilapidated office of Winston Station, he confronted a sleepy man with slack, worn features, and a frightened young boy who sat at the operator's desk. They listened, in silent stupor, to a stream of profanity such as they had never heard from any section gang. "—and it's not my problem how you get the train through the tunnel, that's for you to figure out!" Chalmers concluded. "But if you don't get me an engine and don't start that train, you can kiss good-bye to your jobs, your work permits and this whole goddamn railroad!" --------------------------------------- 454 The station agent had never heard of Kip Chalmers and did not know the nature of his position. But he knew that this was the day when unknown men in undefined positions held unlimited power—the power of life or death. "It's not up to us, Mr. Chalmers," he said pleadingly. "We don't issue the orders out here. The order came from Silver Springs. Suppose you telephone Mr. Mitchum and—" "Who's Mr. Mitchum?" "He's the division superintendent at Silver Springs. Suppose you send him a message to—" "I should bother with a division superintendent! I'll send a message to Jim Taggart—that's what I'm going to do!" Before the station agent had time to recover, Chalmers whirled to the boy, ordering, "You—take this down and send it at once!" It was a message which, a month ago, the station agent would not have accepted from any passenger; the rules forbade it; but he was not certain about any rules any longer: Mr. James Taggart, New York City. Am held up on the Comet at Winston, Colorado, by the incompetence of your men, who refuse to give me an engine. Have meeting in San Francisco in the evening of top- level national importance. If you don't move my train at once, I'll let you guess the consequences. Kip Chalmers. After the boy had transmitted the words onto the wires that stretched from pole to pole across a continent as guardians of the Taggart track—after Kip Chalmers had returned to Ms car to wait for an answer—the station agent telephoned Dave Mitchum, who was his friend, and read to him the text of the message. He heard Mitchum groan in answer. "I thought I'd tell you, Dave. I never heard of the guy before, but maybe he's somebody important." "I don't know!" moaned Mitchum. "Kip Chalmers? You see his name in the newspapers all the time, right in with all the top-level boys, I don't know what he is, but if he's from Washington, we can't take any chances. Oh Christ, what are we going to do?" We can't take any chances—thought the Taggart operator in New York, and transmitted the message by telephone to James Taggart's home. It was close to six A.M. in New York, and James Taggart was awakened out of the fitful sleep of a restless night. He listened to the telephone, his face sagging. He felt the same fear as the station agent of Winston, and for the same reason. He called the home of Clifton Locey. All the rage which he could not pour upon Kip Chalmers, was poured over the telephone wire upon Clifton Locey. "Do something!" screamed Taggart. "I don't care what you do, it's your job, not mine, but see to it that that train gets through! What in hell is going on? I never heard of the Comet being held up! Is that how you run your department? It's a fine thing when important passengers have to start sending messages to me! At least, when my sister ran the place, I wasn't awakened in the middle of the night over every spike that broke in Iowa—Colorado, I mean!" "I'm so sorry, Jim," said Clifton Locey smoothly, in a tone that balanced apology, reassurance and the right degree of patronizing confidence. "It's just a misunderstanding. It's somebody's stupid mistake. Don't worry, 111 take care of it. I was, as a matter of fact, in bed, but I'll attend to it at once." Clifton Locey was not in bed; he had just returned from a round of night clubs, in the company of a young lady. He asked her to wait and hurried to the offices of Taggart Transcontinental. None of the night staff who saw him there could say why he chose to appear in person, but neither could they say that it had been unnecessary. He rushed in and out of several offices, was seen by many people and gave an impression of great activity. The only physical result of it was an order that went over the wires to Dave Mitchum, superintendent of the Colorado Division: "Give an engine to Mr. Chalmers at --------------------------------------- 455 once. Send the Comet through safely and without unnecessary delay. If you are unable to perform your duties, I shall hold you responsible before the Unification Board, Clifton Locey," Then, calling his girl friend to join him, Clifton Locey drove to a country roadhouse—to make certain that no one would be able to find him in the next few hours. The dispatcher at Silver Springs was baffled by the order that he handed to Dave Mitchum, but Dave Mitchum understood. He knew that no railroad order would ever speak in such terms as giving an engine to a passenger; he knew that the thing was a show piece, he guessed what sort of show was being staged, and he felt a cold sweat at the realization of who was being framed as the goat of the show. "What's the matter, Dave?" asked the trainmaster. Mitchum did not answer. He seized the telephone, his hands shaking as he begged for a connection to the Taggart operator in New York, He looked like an animal in a trap. He begged the New York operator to get him Mr. Clifton Locey's home. The operator tried. There was no answer. He begged the operator to keep on trying and to try every number he could think of, where Mr. Locey might be found. The operator promised and Mitchum hung up, but knew that it was useless to wait or to speak to anyone in Mr. Locey's department. "What's the matter, Dave?" Mitchum handed him the order—and saw by the look on the trainmaster's face that the trap was as bad as he had suspected. He called the Region Headquarters of Taggart Transcontinental at Omaha, Nebraska, and begged to speak to the general manager of the region. There was a brief silence on the wire, then the voice of the Omaha operator told him that the general manager had resigned and vanished three days ago—"over a little trouble with Mr. Locey," the voice added. He asked to speak to the assistant general manager in charge of his particular district; but the assistant was out of town for the week end and could not be reached. "Get me somebody else!" Mitchum screamed. "Anybody, of any district! For Christ's sake, get me somebody who'll tell me what to do!" The man who came on the wire was the assistant general manager of the Iowa-Minnesota District. "What?" he interrupted at Mitchum's first words. "At Winston, Colorado? Why in hell are you calling me? . . . No, don't tell me what happened, I don't want to know it! . . . No, I said! No! You're not going to frame me into having to explain afterwards why I did or didn't do anything about whatever it is. It's not my problem! . . . Speak to some region executive, don't pick on me, what do I have to do with Colorado? . . . Oh hell, I don't know, get the chief engineer, speak to him!" The chief engineer of the Central Region answered impatiently, "Yes? What? What is it?"—and Mitchum rushed desperately to explain. When the chief engineer heard that there was no Diesel, he snapped, "Then hold the train, of course!" When he heard about Mr. Chalmers, he said, his voice suddenly subdued, "Hm . . . Kip Chalmers? Of Washington? . . . Well, I don't know. That would be a matter for Mr. Locey to decide." When Mitchum said, "Mr. Locey ordered me to arrange it, but—" the chief engineer snapped in great relief, "Then do exactly as Mr. Locey says!" and hung up. Dave Mitchum replaced the telephone receiver cautiously. He did not scream any longer. Instead, he-tiptoed to a chair, almost as if he were sneaking. He sat looking at Mr. Locey's order for a long time. Then he snatched a glance about the room. The dispatcher was busy at his telephone. The trainmaster and the road foreman were there, but they --------------------------------------- 456 pretended that they were not waiting. He wished Bill Brent, the chief dispatcher, would go home; Bill Brent stood in a corner, watching him. Brent was a short, thin man with broad shoulders; he was forty, but looked younger; he had the pale face of an office worker and the hard, lean features of a cowboy. He was the best dispatcher on the system. Mitchum rose abruptly and walked upstairs to his office, clutching Locey's order in his hand. Dave Mitchum was not good at understanding problems of engineering and transportation, but he understood men like Clifton Locey. He understood the kind of game the New York executives were playing and what they were now doing to him. The order did not tell him to give Mr. Chalmers a coal-burning engine—just "an engine." If the time came to answer questions, wouldn't Mr. Locey gasp in shocked indignation that he had expected a division superintendent to know that only a Diesel engine could be meant in that order? The order stated that he was to send the Comet through "safely"—wasn't a division superintendent expected to know what was safe?—"and without unnecessary delay." What was an unnecessary delay? If the possibility of a major disaster was involved, wouldn't a delay of a week or a month be considered necessary? The New York executives did not care, thought Mitchum; they did not care whether Mr. Chalmers reached his meeting on time, or whether an unprecedented catastrophe struck their rails; they cared only about making sure that they would not be blamed for either. If he held the train, they would make him the scapegoat to appease the anger of Mr. Chalmers; if he sent the train through and it did not reach the western portal of the tunnel, they would put the blame on his incompetence; they would claim that he had acted against their orders, in either case. What would he be able to prove? To whom? One could prove nothing to a tribunal that had no stated policy, no defined procedure, no rules of evidence, no binding principles—a tribunal, such as the Unification Board, that pronounced men guilty or innocent as it saw fit, with no standard of guilt or innocence. Dave Mitchum knew nothing about the philosophy of law; but he knew that when a court is not bound by any rules, it is not bound by any facts, and then a hearing is not an issue of justice, but an issue of men, and your fate depends not on what you have or have not done, but on whom you do or do not know. He asked himself what chance he would have at such a hearing against Mr. James Taggart, Mr. Clifton Locey, Mr. Kip Chalmers and their powerful friends. Dave Mitchum had spent his life slipping around the necessity of ever making a decision; he had done it by waiting to be told and never being certain of anything. All that he now allowed into his brain was a long, indignant whine against injustice. Fate, he thought, had singled him out for an unfair amount of bad luck: he was being framed by his superiors on the only good job he had ever held. He had never been taught to understand that the manner in which he obtained this job, and the frame-up, were inextricable parts of a single whole. As he looked at Locey's order, he thought that he could hold the Comet, attach Mr. Chalmers1 car to an engine and send it into the tunnel, alone. But he shook his head before the thought was fully formed: he knew that this would force Mr. Chalmers to recognize the nature of the risk; Mr. Chalmers would refuse; he would continue to demand a safe and non-existent engine. And more: this would mean that he, Mitchum, would have to assume responsibility, admit full knowledge of the danger, stand in the open and identify the exact nature of the situation—the one act which the policy of his superiors was based on evading, the one key to their game. Dave Mitchum was not the man to rebel against his background or to question the moral code of those in charge. The choice he made was not to --------------------------------------- 457 challenge, but to follow the policy of his superiors. Bill Brent could have- beaten him in any contest of technology, but here was an endeavor at which he could beat Bill Brent without effort. There had once been a society where men needed the particular talents of Bill Brent, if they wished to survive; what they needed now was the talent of Dave Mitchum. Dave Mitchum sat down at his secretary's typewriter and, by means of two fingers, carefully typed out an order to the trainmaster and another to the road foreman. The first instructed the trainmaster to summon a locomotive crew at once, for a purpose described only as "an emergency"; the second instructed the road foreman to "send the best engine available to Winston, to stand by for emergency assistance." He put carbon copies of the orders into his own pocket, then opened the door, yelled for the night dispatcher to come up and handed him the two orders for the two men downstairs. The night dispatcher was a conscientious young boy who trusted his superiors and knew that discipline was the first rule of the railroad business. He was astonished that Mitchum should wish to send written orders down one flight of stairs, but he asked no questions, Mitchum waited nervously. After a while, he saw the figure of the road foreman walking across the yards toward the roundhouse. He felt relieved: the two men had not come up to confront him in person; they had understood and they would play the game as he was playing it. The road foreman walked across the yards, looking down at the ground. He was thinking of his wife, his two children and the house which he had spent a lifetime to own. He knew what his superiors were doing and he wondered whether he should refuse to obey them. He had never been afraid of losing his job; with the confidence of a competent man, he had known that if he quarreled with one employer, he would always be able to find another. Now, he was afraid; he had no right to quit or to seek a job; if he defied an employer, he would be delivered into the unanswerable power of a single Board, and if the Board ruled against him, it would mean being sentenced to the slow death of starvation: it would mean being barred from any employment. He knew that the Board would rule against him; he knew that the key to the dark, capricious mystery of the Board's contradictory decisions was the secret power of pull. What chance would he have against Mr. Chalmers? There had been a time when the self-interest of his employers had demanded that he exercise his utmost ability. Now, ability was not wanted any longer. There had been a time when he had been required to do his best and rewarded accordingly. Now, he could expect nothing but punishment, if he tried to follow his conscience. There had been a time when he had been expected to think. Now, they did not want him to think, only to obey. They did not want him to have a conscience any longer. Then why should he raise his voice? For whose sake? He thought of the passengers—the three hundred passengers aboard the Comet. He thought of his children. He had a son in high school and a daughter, nineteen, of whom he was fiercely, painfully proud, because she was recognized as the most beautiful girl in town. He asked himself whether he could deliver his children to the fate of the children of the unemployed, as he had seen them in the blighted areas, in the settlements around closed factories and along the tracks of discontinued railroads. He saw, in astonished horror, that the choice which he now had to make was between the lives of his children and the lives of the passengers on the Comet. A conflict of this kind had never been possible before. It was by protecting the safety of the passengers that he had earned the security of his children; he had served one by serving the other; there had been no clash of interests, no call for victims. Now, if he wanted to save the passengers, he had to do it at the price of his children. --------------------------------------- 458 He remembered dimly the sermons he had heard about the beauty of self- immolation, about the virtue of sacrificing to others that which was one's dearest. He knew nothing about the philosophy of ethics; but he knew suddenly—not in words, but in the form of a dark, angry, savage pain—that if this was virtue, then he wanted no part of it. He walked into the roundhouse and ordered a large, ancient coal burning locomotive to be made ready for the run to Winston. The trainmaster reached for the telephone in the dispatcher's office, to summon an engine crew, as ordered. But his hand stopped, holding the receiver. It struck him suddenly that he was summoning men to their death, and that of the twenty lives listed on the sheet before him, two would be ended by his choice. He felt a physical sensation of cold, nothing more; he felt no concern, only a puzzled, indifferent astonishment. It had never been his job to call men out to die; his job had been to call them out to earn their living. It was strange, he thought; and it was strange that his hand had stopped; what made it stop was like something he would have felt twenty years ago—no, he thought, strange, only one month ago, not longer. He was forty-eight years old. He had no family, no friends, no ties to any living being in the world. Whatever capacity for devotion he had possessed, the capacity which others scatter among many random concerns, he had given it whole to the person of his young brother —the brother, his junior by twenty- five years, whom he had brought up. He had sent him through a technological college, and he had known, as had all the teachers, that the boy had the mark of genius on the forehead of his grim, young face. With the same single- tracked devotion as his brother's, the boy had cared for nothing but his studies, not for sports or parties or girls, only for the vision of the things he was going to create as an inventor. He had graduated from college and had gone, on a salary unusual for his age, into the research laboratory of a great electrical concern in Massachusetts. This was now May 28, thought the trainmaster. It was on May 1 that Directive 10-289 had been issued. It was on the evening of May I that he had been informed that his brother had committed suicide. The trainmaster had heard it said that the directive was necessary to save the country. He could not know whether this was true or not; he had no way of knowing what was necessary to save a country. But driven by some feeling which he could not express, he had walked into the office of the editor of the local newspaper and demanded that they publish the story of his brother's death. "People have to know it," had been all he could give as his reason. He had been unable to explain that the bruised connections of his mind had formed the wordless conclusion that if this was done by the will of the people, then the people had to know it; he could not believe that they would do it, if they knew. The editor had refused; he had stated that it would be bad for the country's morale. The trainmaster knew nothing about political philosophy; but he knew that that had been the moment when he lost all concern for the life or death of any human being or of the country. He thought, holding the telephone receiver, that maybe he should warn the men whom he was about to call. They trusted him; it would never occur to them that he could knowingly send them to their death. But he shook his head: this was only an old thought, last year's thought, a remnant of the time when he had trusted them, too. It did not matter now. His brain worked slowly, as if he were dragging his thoughts through a vacuum where no emotion responded to spur them on; he thought that there would be trouble if he warned anyone, there would be some sort of fight and it was he who had to make some great effort to start it. He had forgotten what it was that one started this sort of fight for. Truth? Justice? Brother-love? He did not want to make an effort. He was very tired. If he warned all the men on --------------------------------------- 459 his list, he thought, there would be no one to run that engine, so he would save two lives and also three hundred lives aboard the Comet. But nothing responded to the figures in his mind; "lives" was just a word, it had no meaning. He raised the telephone receiver to his ear, he called two numbers, he summoned an engineer and a fireman to report for duty at once. Engine Number 306 had left for Winston, when Dave Mitchum came downstairs. "Get a track motor car ready for me," he ordered, "I'm going to run up to Fairmount." Fairmount was a small station, twenty miles east on the line. The men nodded, asking no questions. Bill Brent was not among them. Mitchum walked into Brent's office. Brent was there, sitting silently at his desk; he seemed to be waiting. "I'm going to Fairmount," said Mitchum; his voice was aggressively too casual, as if implying that no answer was necessary. "They had a Diesel there couple of weeks ago . . . you know, emergency repairs or something. . . . I'm going down to see if we could use it." He paused, but Brent said nothing. "The way things stack up," said Mitchum, not looking at him, "we can't hold that train till morning. We've got to take a chance, one way or another. Now I think maybe this Diesel will do it, but that's the last one we can try for. So if you don't hear from me in half an hour, sign the order and send the Comet through with Number 306 to pull her." Whatever Brent had thought, he could not believe it when he heard it. He did not answer at once; then he said, very quietly, "No." "What do you mean, no?" "I won't do it." "What do you mean, you won't? It's an order!” "I won't do it." Brent's voice had the firmness of certainty unclouded by any emotion. "Are you refusing to obey an order?" "I am." "But you have no right to refuse! And I'm not going to argue about it, either. It's what I've decided, it's my responsibility and I'm not asking for your opinion. Your job is to take my orders." "Will you give me that order in writing?" "Why, God damn you, are you hinting that you don't trust me? Are you . . . ?" "Why do you have to go to Fairmount, Dave? Why can't you telephone them about that Diesel, if you think that they have one?" "You're not going to tell me how to do my job! You're not going to sit there and question me! You're going to keep your trap shut and do as you're told or I'll give you a chance to talk—to the Unification Board!" It was hard to decipher emotions on Brent's cowboy face, but Mitchum saw something that resembled a look of incredulous horror; only it was horror at some sight of his own, not at the words, and it had no quality of fear, not the kind of fear Mitchum had hoped for. Brent knew that tomorrow morning the issue would be his word against Mitchum's; Mitchum would deny having given the order; Mitchum would show written proof that Engine Number 306 had been sent to Winston only "to stand by," and would produce witnesses that he had gone to Fairmount in search of a Diesel; Mitchum would claim that the fatal order had been issued by and on the sole responsibility of Bill Brent, the chief dispatcher, it would not be much of a case, not a case that could bear close study, but it would be enough for the Unification Board, whose policy was consistent only in not permitting anything to be studied closely. Brent knew that he could play the same game and pass the frame-up on to another victim, he knew that he had the brains to work it out—except that he would rather be dead than do it. --------------------------------------- 460 It was not the sight of Mitchum that made him sit still in horror. It was the realization that there was no one whom he could call to expose this thing and stop it—no superior anywhere on the line, from Colorado to Omaha to New York. They were in on it, all of them, they were doing the same, they had given Mitchum the lead and the method. It was Dave Mitchum who now belonged on this railroad and he, Bill Brent, who did not. As Bill Brent had learned to see, by a single glance at a few numbers on a sheet of paper, the entire trackage of a division—so he was now able to see the whole of his own life and the full price of the decision he was making. He had not fallen in love until he was past his youth; he had been thirty-six when he had found the woman he wanted. He had been engaged to her for the last four years; he had had to wait, because he had a mother to support and a widowed sister with three children. He had never been afraid of burdens, because he had known his ability to carry them, and he had never assumed an obligation unless he was certain that he could fulfill it. He had waited, he had saved his money, and now he had reached the time when he felt himself free to be happy. He was to be married in a few weeks, this coming June. He thought of it, as he sat at his desk, looking at Dave Mitchum, but the thought aroused no hesitation, only regret and a distant sadness—distant, because he knew that he could not let it be part of this moment. Bill Brent knew nothing about epistemology; but he knew that man must live by his own rational perception of reality, that he cannot act against it or escape it or find a substitute for it—and that there is no other way for him to live. He rose to his feet. "It's true that so long as I hold this job, I cannot refuse to obey you," he said. "But I can, if I quit. So I'm quitting." "You're what?" "I'm quitting, as of this moment." "But you have no right to quit, you goddamn bastard! Don't you know that? Don't you know that I'll have you thrown in jail for it?" "If you want to send the sheriff for me in the morning, I'll be at home. I won't try to escape. There's no place to go." Dave Mitchum was six-foot-two and had the build of a bruiser, but he stood shaking with fury and terror over the delicate figure of Bill Brent. "You can't quit! There's a law against it! I've got a law! You can't walk out on me! I won't let you out! I won't let you leave this building tonight!" Brent walked to the door. "Will you repeat that order you gave me, in front of the others? No? Then I will!" As he pulled the door open, Mitchum's fist shot out, smashed into his face and knocked him down. The trainmaster and the road foreman stood in the open doorway. "He quit!" screamed Mitchum. "The yellow bastard quit at a time like this! He's a law-breaker and a coward!" In the slow effort of rising from the floor, through the haze of blood running into his eyes, Bill Brent looked up at the two men. He saw that they understood, but he saw the closed faces of men who did not want to understand, did not want to interfere and hated him for putting them on the spot in the name of justice. He said nothing, rose to his feet and walked out of the building. Mitchum avoided looking at the others. "Hey, you," he called, jerking his head at the night dispatcher across the room. "Come here. You've got to take over at once." With the door closed, he repeated to the boy the story of the Diesel at Fairmount, as he had given it to Brent, and the order to send the Comet through with Engine Number 306, if the boy did not hear from him in half an hour. The boy was in no condition to think, to speak or to understand anything: he kept seeing the blood on the face of Bill Brent, who had been --------------------------------------- 461 his idol. "Yes, sir," he answered numbly Dave Mitchum departed for Fairmount, announcing to every yardman, switchman and wiper in sight, as he boarded the track motor car that he was going in search of a Diesel for the Comet. The night dispatcher sat at his desk, watching the clock and the telephone, praying that the telephone would ring and let him hear from Mr. Mitchum. But the half-hour went by in silence, and whet there were only three minutes left, the boy felt a terror he could not explain, except that he did not want to send that order, He turned to the trainmaster and the road foreman, asking hesitantly, "Mr. Mitchum gave me an order before he left, but I wonder whether I ought to send it, because I . . . I don't think it's right. He said—" The trainmaster turned away; he felt no pity: the boy was about the same age as his brother had been. The road foreman snapped, "Do just as Mr. Mitchum told you. You're not supposed to think," and walked out of the room. The responsibility that James Taggart and Clifton Locey had evaded now rested on the shoulders of a trembling, bewildered boy. He hesitated, then he buttressed his courage with the thought that one did not doubt the good faith and the competence of railroad executives. He did not know that his vision of a railroad and its executives was that of a century ago. With the conscientious precision of a railroad man, in the moment when the hand of the clock ended the half-hour, he signed his name to the order instructing the Comet to proceed with Engine Number 306, and transmitted the order to Winston Station. The station agent at Winston shuddered when he looked at the order, but he was not the man to defy authority. He told himself that the tunnel was not, perhaps, as dangerous as he thought. He told himself that the best policy, these days, was not to think. When he handed their copies of the order to the conductor and the engineer of the Comet, the conductor glanced slowly about the room, from face to face, folded the slip of paper, put it into his pocket and walked out without a word. The engineer stood looking at the paper for a moment, then threw it down and said, "I'm not going to do it. And if it's come to where this railroad hands out orders like this one, I'm not going to work for it, either. Just list me as having quit." "But you can't quit!" cried the station agent, "They'll arrest you for it!" "If they find me," said the engineer, and walked out of the station into the vast darkness of the mountain night. The engineer from Silver Springs, who had brought in Number 306, was sitting in a corner of the room. He chuckled and said, "He's yellow." The station agent turned to him. "Will you do it, Joe? Will you take the Comet?" Joe Scott was drunk. There had been a time when a railroad man, reporting for duty with any sign of intoxication, would have been regarded as a doctor arriving for work with sores of smallpox on his face. But Joe Scott was a privileged person. Three months ago, he had been fired for an infraction of safety rules, which had caused a major wreck; two weeks ago, he had been reinstated in his job by order of the Unification Board. He was a friend of Fred Kinnan; he protected Kinnan's interests in his union, not against the employers, but against the membership. "Sure," said Joe Scott. "I'll take the Comet. I'll get her through, if I go fast enough." The fireman of Number 306 had remained in the cab of his engine. He looked up uneasily, when they came to switch his engine to the head end of the Comet; he looked up at the red and green lights of the tunnel, hanging --------------------------------------- 462 in the distance above twenty miles of curves. But he was a placid, amicable fellow, who made a good fireman with no hope of ever rising to engineer; his husky muscles were his only asset. He felt certain that his superiors knew what they were doing, so he did not venture any questions. The conductor stood by the rear end of the Comet. He looked at the lights of the tunnel, then at the long chain of the Comet's windows. A few windows were lighted, but most of them showed only the feeble blue glow of night lamps edging the lowered blinds. He thought that he should rouse the passengers and warn them. There had been a time when he had placed the safety of the passengers above his own, not by reason of love for his fellow men, but because that responsibility was part of his job, which he accepted and felt pride in fulfilling. Now, he felt a contemptuous indifference and no desire to save them. They had asked for and accepted Directive 10-289, he thought, they went on living and daily turning away in evasion from the kind of verdicts that the Unification Board was passing on defenseless victims—why shouldn't he now turn away from them? If he saved their lives, not one of them would come forward to defend him when the Unification Board would convict him for disobeying orders, for creating a panic, for delaying Mr. Chalmers. He had no desire to be a martyr for the sake of allowing people safely to indulge in their own irresponsible evil. When the moment came, he raised his lantern and signaled the engineer to start. "See?" said Kip Chalmers triumphantly to Lester Tuck, as the wheels under their feet shuddered forward. "Fear is the only practical means to deal with people." The conductor stepped onto the vestibule of the last car. No one saw him as he went down the steps of the other side, slipped off the train and vanished into the darkness of the mountains. A switchman stood ready to throw the switch that would send the Comet from the siding onto the main track. He looked at the Comet as it came slowly toward him. It was only a blazing white globe with a beam stretching high above his head, and a jerky thunder trembling through the rail under his feet. He knew that the switch should not be thrown. He thought of the night, ten years ago, when he had risked his life in a flood to save a train from a washout. But he knew that times had changed. In the moment when he threw the switch and saw the headlight jerk sidewise, he knew that he would now hate his job for the rest of his life. The Comet uncoiled from the siding into a thin, straight line, and went on into the mountains, with the beam of the headlight like an extended arm pointing the way, and the lighted glass curve of the observation lounge ending it off. Some of the passengers aboard the Comet were awake. As the train started its coiling ascent, they saw the small cluster of Winston's lights at the bottom of the darkness beyond their windows, then the same darkness, but with red and green lights by the hole of a tunnel on the upper edge of the windowpanes. The lights of Winston kept growing smaller, each time they appeared; the black hole of the tunnel kept growing larger. A black veil went streaking past the windows at times, dimming the lights: it was the heavy smoke from the coal-burning engine. As the tunnel came closer, they saw, on the edge of the sky far to the south, in a void of space and rock, a spot of living fire twisting in the wind. They did not know what it was and did not care to learn. It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet were not guilty or responsible for the thing that happened to them. --------------------------------------- 463 The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 1, was a professor of sociology who taught that individual ability is of no consequence, that individual effort is futile, that an individual conscience is a useless luxury, that there is no individual mind or character or achievement, that everything is achieved collectively, and that it's masses that count, not men. The man in Roomette 7, Car No. 2, was a journalist who wrote that it is proper and moral to use compulsion "for a good cause," who believed that he had the right to unleash physical force upon others— to wreck lives, throttle ambitions, strangle desires, violate convictions, to imprison, to despoil, to murder—for the sake of whatever he chose to consider as his own idea of "a good cause," which did not even have to be an idea, since he had never defined what he regarded as the good, but had merely stated that he went by "a feeling"—a feeling unrestrained by any knowledge, since he considered emotion superior to knowledge and relied solely on his own "good intentions" and on the power of a gun. The woman in Roomette 10, Car No. 3, was an elderly schoolteacher who had spent her life turning class after class of helpless children into miserable cowards, by teaching them that the will of the majority is the only standard of good and evil, that a majority may do anything it pleases, that they must not assert their own personalities, but must do as others were doing. The man in Drawing Room B, Car No, 4, was a newspaper publisher who believed that men are evil by nature and unfit for freedom, that their basic instincts, if left unchecked, are to lie, to rob and to murder one another— and, therefore, men must be ruled by means of lies, robbery and murder, which must be made the exclusive privilege of the rulers, for the purpose of forcing men to work, teaching them to be moral and keeping them within the bounds of order and justice. The man in Bedroom H, Car No. 5, was a businessman who had acquired his business, an ore mine, with the help of a government loan, under the Equalization of Opportunity Bill. The man in Drawing Room A, Car No. 6, was a financier who had made a fortune by buying "frozen" railroad bonds and getting his friends in Washington to "defreeze" them. The man in Seat 5, Car No, 7, was a worker who believed that he had "a right" to a job, whether his employer wanted him or not. The woman in Roomette 6, Car No. 8, was a lecturer who believed that, as a consumer, she had "a right" to transportation, whether the railroad people wished to provide it or not. The man in Roomette 2, Car No. 9, was a professor of economics who advocated the abolition of private property, explaining that intelligence plays no part in industrial production, that man's mind is conditioned by material tools, that anybody can run a factory or a railroad and it's only a matter of seizing the machinery. The woman in Bedroom D, Car No. 10, was a mother who had put her two children to sleep in the berth above her, carefully tucking them in, protecting them from drafts and jolts; a mother whose husband held a government job enforcing directives, which she defended by saying, "I don't care, it's only the rich that they hurt. After all, I must think of my children." The man in Roomette 3, Car No. 11, was a sniveling little neurotic who wrote cheap little plays into which, as a social message, he inserted cowardly little obscenities to the effect that all businessmen were scoundrels. The woman in Roomette 9, Car No. 12, was a housewife who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing, to control giant industries, of which she had no knowledge. --------------------------------------- 464 The man in Bedroom F, Car No. 13, was a lawyer who had said, "Me? I'll find a way to get along under any political system." The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 14, was a professor of philosophy who taught that there is no mind—how do you know that the tunnel is dangerous?—-no reality—how can you prove that the tunnel exists?— no logic—why do you claim that trains cannot move without motive power?—no principles—why should you be bound by the law of cause and-effect?—no rights— why shouldn't you attach men to their jobs by force?—no morality—what's moral about running a railroad?—no absolutes—what difference does it make to you whether you live or die, anyway? He taught that we know nothing—why oppose the orders of your superiors?—that we can never be certain of anything—how do you know you're right?—that we must act on the expediency of the moment—you don't want to risk your job, do you? The man in Drawing Room B, Car No. 15, was an heir who had inherited his fortune, and who had kept repeating, "Why should Rearden be the only one permitted to manufacture Rearden Metal?" The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 16, was a humanitarian who had said, "The men of ability? I do not care what or if they are made to suffer. They must be penalized in order to support the incompetent. Frankly, I do not care whether this is just or not. I take pride in not caring to grant any justice to the able, where mercy to the needy is concerned." These passengers were awake; there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas. As the train went into the tunnel, the flame of Wyatt's Torch was the last thing they saw on earth. --------------------------------------- 465 CHAPTER VIII BY OUR LOVE The sun touched the tree tops on the slope of the hill, and they looked a bluish-silver, catching the color of the sky. Dagny stood at the door of the cabin, with the first sunrays on her forehead and miles of forest spread under her feet. The leaves went down from silver to green to the smoky blue of the shadows on the road below. The light trickled down through the branches and shot upward in sudden spurts when it hit a clump of ferns that became a fountain of green rays. It gave her pleasure to watch the motion of the light over a stillness where nothing else could move. She had marked the date, as she did each morning, on the sheet of paper she had tacked to the wall of her room. The progression of the dates on that paper was the only movement in the stillness of her days, like the record kept by a prisoner on a desert island. This morning's date was May 28. She had intended the dates to lead to a purpose, but she could not say whether she had reached it or not. She had come here with three assignments given, as orders, to herself: rest—learn to live without the railroad—get the pain out of the way. Get it out of the way, were the words she used. She felt as if she were tied to some wounded stranger who could be stricken at any moment by an attack that would drown her in his screams. She felt no pity for the stranger, only a contemptuous impatience; she had to fight him and destroy him, then her way would be clear to decide what she wished to do; but the stranger was not easy to fight. The assignment to rest had been easier. She found that she liked the solitude; she awakened in the morning with a feeling of confident benevolence, the sense that she could venture forth and be willing to deal with whatever she found. In the city, she had lived in chronic tension to withstand the shock of anger, indignation, disgust, contempt. The only danger to threaten her here was the simple pain of some physical accident; it seemed innocent and easy by comparison, The cabin was far from any traveled road; it had remained as her father had left it. She cooked her meals on a wood-burning stove and gathered the wood on the hillsides. She cleared the brush from under her walls, she reshingled the roof, she repainted the door and the frames of the windows. Rains, weeds and brush had swallowed the steps of what had once been a terraced path rising up the hill from the road to the cabin. She rebuilt it, clearing the terraces, re-laying the stones, bracing the banks of soft earth with walls of boulders. It gave her pleasure to devise complex systems of levers and pulleys out of old scraps of iron and rope, then to move weights of rock that were much beyond her physical power. She planted a few seeds of nasturtiums and morning glories, to see one spreading slowly over the ground and the other climbing up the tree trunks, to see them grow, to see progression and movement. The work gave her the calm she needed; she had not noticed how she began it or why; she had started without conscious intention, but she saw it growing under her hands, pulling her forward, giving her a healing sense of peace. Then she understood that what she needed was the motion to a purpose, no matter how small or in what form, the sense of an activity going step by step to some chosen end across a span of time. The work of cooking a meal was like a closed circle, completed and gone, leading nowhere. But the work of building a path was a living sum, so that no day was left to die behind her, but each day contained all those that preceded it, each day acquired its immortality on every succeeding tomorrow. A circle, she thought, is the movement proper to physical nature, they say that there's nothing but circular motion in the inanimate universe around us, but the straight line is the badge of man, the straight line of a geometrical abstraction that makes --------------------------------------- 466 roads, rails and bridges, the straight line that cuts the curving aimlessness of nature by a purposeful motion from a start to an end. The cooking of meals, she thought, is like the feeding of coal to an engine for the sake of a great run, but what would be the imbecile torture of coaling an engine that had no run to make? It is not proper for man's life to be a circle, she thought, or a string of circles dropping off like zeros behind him—man's life must be a straight line of motion from goal to farther goal, each leading to the next and to a single growing sum, like a journey down the track of a railroad, from station to station to—oh, stop it! Stop it—she told herself in quiet severity, when the scream of the wounded stranger was choked off—don't think of that, don't look too far, you like building this path, build it, don't look beyond the foot of the hill. She had driven a few times to the store in Woodstock, twenty miles away, to buy supplies and food. Woodstock was a small huddle of dying structures, built generations ago for some reason and hope long since forgotten. There was no railroad to feed it, no electric power, nothing but a county highway growing emptier year by year. The only store was a wooden hovel, with spider-eaten corners and a rotted patch in the middle of the floor, eaten by the rains that came through the leaking roof. The storekeeper was a fat, pallid woman who moved with effort, but seemed indifferent to her own discomfort. The stock of food consisted of dusty cans with faded labels, some grain, and a few vegetables rotting in ancient bins outside the door. "Why don't you move those vegetables out of the sun?" Dagny asked once. The woman looked at her blankly, as if unable to understand the possibility of such a question. "They've always been there," she answered indifferently. Driving back to the cabin, Dagny looked up at a mountain stream that fell with ferocious force down a sheer granite wall, its spray hanging like a mist of rainbows in the sun. She thought that one could build a hydroelectric plant, just large enough to supply the power for her cabin and for the town of Woodstock—Woodstock could be made to be productive—those wild apple trees she saw in such unusual numbers among the dense growth on the hillsides, were the remnants of orchards—suppose one were to reclaim them, then build a small spur to the nearest railroad—oh, stop it! "No kerosene today," the storekeeper told her on her next trip to Woodstock. "It rained Thursday night, and when it rains, the trucks can't get through Fairfield gorge, the road's flooded, and the kerosene truck won't be back this way till next month." "If you know that the road gets flooded every time it rains, why don't you people repair it?" The woman answered, "The road's always been that way." Driving back, Dagny stopped on the crest of a hill and looked down at the miles of countryside below. She looked at Fairfield gorge where the county road, twisting through marshy soil below the level of a river, got trapped in a crack between two hills. It would be simple to bypass those hills, she thought, to build a road on the other side of the river—the people of Woodstock had nothing to do, she could teach them—cut a road straight to the southwest, save miles, connect with the state highway at the freight depot of—oh, stop it! She put her kerosene lamp aside and sat in her cabin after dark by the light of a candle, listening to the music of a small portable radio. She hunted for symphony concerts and twisted the dial rapidly past whenever she caught the raucous syllables of a news broadcast; she did not want any news from the city. Don't think of Taggart Transcontinental—she had told herself on her first night in the cabin—don't think of it until you're able to hear the words as if they were "Atlantic Southern" or "Associated Steel," But the weeks passed and no scar would grow over the wound. --------------------------------------- 467 It seemed to her as if she were fighting the unpredictable cruelty of her own mind. She would lie in bed, drifting off to sleep—then find herself suddenly thinking that the conveyor belt was worn at the coaling station at Willow Bend, Indiana, she had seen it from the window of her car on her last trip, she must tell them to replace it or they— and then she would be sitting up in bed, crying, Stop it!—and stopping it, but remaining awake for the rest of that night. She would sit at the door of the cabin at sunset and watch the motion of the leaves growing still in the twilight—then she would see the sparks of the fireflies rising from the grass, flashing on and off in every darkening corner, flashing slowly, as if holding one moment's warning—they were like the lights of signals winking at night over the track of a—Stop it! It was the times when she could not stop it that she dreaded, the times when, unable to stand up—as in physical pain, with no limit to divide it from the pain of her mind—she would fall down on the floor of the cabin or on the earth of the woods and sit still, with her face pressed to a chair or a rock, and fight not to let herself scream aloud, while they were suddenly as close to her and as real as the body of a lover: the two lines of rail going off to a single point in the distance—the front of an engine cutting space apart by means of the letters TT—the sound of the wheels clicking in accented rhythm under the floor of her car—the statue of Nat Taggart in the concourse of the Terminal. Fighting not to know them, not to feel them, her body rigid but for the grinding motion of her face against her arm, she would draw whatever power over her consciousness still remained to her into the soundless, toneless repetition of the words: Get it over with, There were long stretches of calm, when she was able to face her problem with the dispassionate clarity of weighing a problem in engineering. But she could find no answer. She knew that her desperate longing for the railroad would vanish, were she to convince herself that it was impossible or improper. But the longing came from the certainty that the truth and the right were hers—that the enemy was the irrational and the unreal—that she could not set herself another goal or summon the love to achieve it, while her rightful achievement had been lost, not to some superior power, but to a loathsome evil that conquered by means of impotence. She could renounce the railroad, she thought; she could find contentment here, in this forest; but she would build the path, then reach the road below, then rebuild the road—and then she would reach the storekeeper of Woodstock and that would be the end, and the empty white face staring at the universe in stagnant apathy would be the limit placed on her effort. Why?—she heard herself screaming aloud, There was no answer. Then stay here until you answer it, she thought. You have no place to go, you can't move, you can't start grading a right-of-way until . . . until you know enough to choose a terminal. There were long, silent evenings when the emotion that made her sit still and look at the unattainable distance beyond the fading light to the south, was loneliness for Hank Rearden. She wanted the sight of his unyielding face, the confident face looking at her with the hint of a smile. But she knew that she could not see him until her battle was won. His smile had to be deserved, it was intended for an adversary who traded her strength against his, not for a pain-beaten wretch who would seek relief in that smile and thus destroy its meaning. He could help her to live; he could not help her to decide for what purpose she wished to go on living. She had felt a faint touch of anxiety since the morning when she marked "May 15" on her calendar. She had forced herself to listen to news broadcasts, once in a while; she had heard no mention of his name. Her fear for him was her last link to the city; it kept drawing her eyes to the horizon at the south and down to the road at the foot of the hill. She found --------------------------------------- 468 herself waiting for him to come. She found herself listening for the sound of a motor. But the only sound to give her a futile start of hope at times, was the sudden crackle of some large bird's wings hurtling through the branches into the sky. There was another link to the past, that still remained as an unsolved question: Quentin Daniels and the motor that he was trying to rebuild. By June 1, she would owe him his monthly check. Should she tell him that she had quit, that she would never need that motor and neither would the world? Should she tell him to stop and to let the remnant of the motor vanish in rust on some such junk pile as the one where she had found it? She could not force herself to do it. It seemed harder than leaving the railroad. That motor, she thought, was not a link to the past: it was her last link to the future. To kill it seemed like an act, not of murder, but of suicide: her order to stop it would be her signature under the certainty that there was no terminal for her to seek ahead. But it is not true—she thought, as she stood at the door of her cabin, on this morning of May 28—it is not true that there is no place in the future for a superlative achievement of man's mind; it can never be true. No matter what her problem, this would always remain to her—this immovable conviction that evil was unnatural and temporary. She felt it more clearly than ever this morning: the certainty that the ugliness of the men in the city and the ugliness of her suffering were transient accidents—while the smiling sense of hope within her at the sight of a sun-flooded forest, the sense of an unlimited promise, was the permanent and the real. She stood at the door, smoking a cigarette. In the room behind her, the sounds of a symphony of her grandfather's time were coming from the radio. She barely listened, she was conscious only of the flow of chords that seemed to play an underscoring harmony for the flow of the smoke curving slowly from her cigarette, for the curving motion of her arm moving the cigarette to her lips once in a while. She closed her eyes and stood still, feeling the rays of the sun on her body. This was the achievement, she thought—to enjoy this moment, to let no memory of pain blunt her capacity to feel as she felt right now; so long as she could preserve this feeling, she would have the fuel to go on. She was barely aware of a faint noise that came through the music, like the scratching of an old record. The first thing to reach her consciousness was the sudden jerk of her own hand flinging the cigarette aside. It came in the same instant as the realization that the noise was growing loader and that it was the sound of a motor. Then she knew that she had not admitted to herself how much she had wanted to hear that sound, how desperately she had waited for Hank Rearden. She heard her own chuckle—it was humbly, cautiously low, as if not to disturb the drone of revolving metal which was now the unmistakable sound of a car rising up the mountain road. She could not see the road—the small stretch under the arch of branches at the foot of the hill was her only view of it—but she watched the car's ascent by the growing, imperious strain of the motor against the grades and the screech of the tires on curves. The car stopped under the arch of branches. She did not recognize it —it was not the black Hammond, but a long, gray convertible. She saw the driver step out: it was a man whose presence here could not be possible. It was Francisco d'Anconia. The shock she felt was not disappointment, it was more like the sensation that disappointment would now be irrelevant. It was eagerness and an odd, solemn stillness, the sudden certainty that she was facing the approach of something unknown and of the gravest importance. --------------------------------------- 469 The swiftness of Francisco's movements was carrying him toward the hill while he was raising his head to glance up. He saw her above, at the door of the cabin, and stopped. She could not distinguish the expression on his face. He stood still for a long moment, his face raised to her. Then he started up the hill. She felt—almost as if she had expected it—that this was a scene from their childhood. He was coming toward her, not running, but moving upward with a kind of triumphant, confident eagerness. No, she thought, this was not their childhood—it was the future as she would have seen it then, in the days when she waited for him as for her release from prison. It was a moment's view of a morning they would have reached, if her vision of life had been fulfilled, if they had both gone the way she had then been so certain of going. Held motionless by wonder, she stood looking at him, taking this moment, not in the name of the present, but as a salute to their past. When he was close enough and she could distinguish his face, she saw the look of that luminous gaiety which transcends the solemn by proclaiming the great innocence of a man who has earned the right to be light-hearted. He was smiling and whistling some piece of music that seemed to flow like the long, smooth, rising flight of his steps. The melody seemed distantly familiar to her, she felt that it belonged with this moment, yet she felt also that there was something odd about it, something important to grasp, only she could not think of it now. "Hi, Slug!" "Hi, Frisco!" She knew—by the way he looked at her, by an instant's drop of his eyelids closing his eyes, by the brief pull of his head striving to lean back and resist, by the faint, half-smiling, half-helpless relaxation of his lips, then by the sudden harshness of his arms as he seized her— that it was involuntary, that he had not intended it, and that it was irresistibly right for both of them. The desperate violence of the way he held her, the hurting pressure of his mouth on hers, the exultant surrender of his body to the touch of hers, were not the form of a moment's pleasure— she knew that no physical hunger could bring a man to this—she knew that it was the statement she had never heard from him, the greatest confession of love a man could make. No matter what he had done to wreck his life, this was still the Francisco d'Anconia in whose bed she had been so proud of belonging—no matter what betrayals she had met from the world, her vision of life had been true and some indestructible part of it had remained within him—and in answer to it, her body responded to his, her arms and mouth held him, confessing her desire, confessing an acknowledgment she had always given him and always would. Then the rest of his years came back to her, with a stab of the pain of knowing that the greater his person, the more terrible his guilt hi destroying it. She pulled herself away from him, she shook her head, she said, in answer to both of them, "No." He stood looking at her, disarmed and smiling. "Not yet. You have a great deal to forgive me, first. But I can tell you everything now." She had never heard that low, breathless quality of helplessness in his voice. He was fighting to regain control, there was almost a touch of apology in his smile, the apology of a child pleading for indulgence, but there was also an adult's amusement, the laughing declaration that he did not have to hide his struggle, since it was happiness that he was wrestling with, not pain. She backed away from him; she felt as if emotion had flung her ahead of her own consciousness, and questions were now catching up with her, groping toward the form of words.' --------------------------------------- 470 "Dagny, that torture you've been going through, here, for the last month . . . answer me as honestly as you can . . . do you think you could have borne it twelve years ago?" "No," she answered; he smiled. "Why do you ask that?" "To redeem twelve years of my life, which I won't have to regret." "What do you mean? And"—her questions had caught up with her—"and what do you know about my torture here?" "Dagny, aren't you beginning to see that I would know everything about it?" "How did you . . . Francisco! What were you whistling when you were coming up the hill?" "Why, was I? I don't know." "It was the Fifth Concerto by Richard Halley, wasn't it?" "Oh . . . ]” He looked startled, then smiled in amusement at himself, then answered gravely, "I'll tell you that later." "How did you find out where I was?" "I'll tell you that, too." "You forced it out of Eddie." "I haven't seen Eddie for over a year." "He was the only one who knew it." "It wasn't Eddie who told me." "I didn't want anybody to find me." He glanced slowly about him, she saw his eyes stop on the path she had built, on the planted flowers, on the fresh-shingled roof. He chuckled, as if he understood and as if it hurt him. "You shouldn't have been left here for a month," he said. "God, you shouldn't have! It's my first failure, at the one time when I didn't want to fail. But I didn't think you were ready to quit. Had I known it, I would have watched you day and night." "Really? What for?" "To spare you"—he pointed at her work—"all this." "Francisco," she said, her voice low, "if you're concerned about my torture, don't you know that I don't want to hear you speak of it, because—" She stopped; she had never complained to him, not in all those years; her voice flat, she 'said only, "—that I don't want to hear it?" "Because I'm the one man who has no right to speak of it? Dagny, if you think that I don't know how much I've hurt you, I'll tell you about the years when I . . . But it's over. Oh, darling, it's over!" "Is it?" "Forgive me, I mustn't say that. Not until you say it," He was trying to control his voice, but the look of happiness was beyond his power of control. "Are you happy because I've lost everything I lived for? All right, I'll say it, if this is what you've come to hear: you were the first thing I lost— does it amuse you now to see that I've lost the rest?" He glanced straight at her, his eyes drawn narrow by such an intensity of earnestness that the glance was almost a threat, and she knew that whatever the years had meant to him, "amusement" was the one word she had no right to utter. "Do you really think that?" he asked. She whispered, "No . . ." "Dagny, we can never lose the things we live for. We may have to change their form at times, if we've made an error, but the purpose remains the same and the forms are ours to make." "'That is what I've been telling myself for a month. But there's no way left open toward any purpose whatever." He did not answer. He sat down on a boulder by the door of the cabin, watching her as if he did not want to miss a single shadow of reaction on her face. "What do you think now of the men who quit and vanished?" he asked. --------------------------------------- 471 She shrugged, with a faint smile of helpless sadness, and sat down on the ground beside him. "You know," she said, "I used to think that there was some destroyer who came after them and made them quit. But I guess there wasn't. There have been times, this past month, when I've almost wished he would come for me, too. But nobody came." "No?" "No. I used to think that he gave them some inconceivable reason to make them betray everything they loved. But that wasn't necessary. I know how they felt. I can't blame them any longer. What I don't know is how they learned to exist afterward—if any of them still exist." "Do you feel that you've betrayed Taggart Transcontinental?" "No. I . . . I feel that I would have betrayed it by remaining at work." "You would have." "If I had agreed to serve the looters, it's . . . it's Nat Taggart that I would have delivered to them. I couldn't. I couldn't let his achievement, and mine, end up with the looters as our final goal." "No, you couldn't. Do you call this indifference? Do you think that you love the railroad less than you did a month ago?" "I think that I would give my life for just one more year on the railroad . . . But I can't go back to it." "Then you know what they felt, all the men who quit, and what it was that they loved when they gave up." "Francisco," she asked, not looking at him, her head bent, "why did you ask me whether I could have given it up twelve years ago?" "Don't you know what night I am thinking of, just as you are?" "Yes . . ." she whispered. "That was the night I gave up d'Anconia Copper." Slowly, with a long effort, she moved her head to glance up at him. His face had the expression she had seen then, on that next morning, twelve years ago: the look of a smile, though he was not smiling, the quiet look of victory over pain, the look of a man's pride in the price he paid and in that which made it worth paying. "But you didn't give it up," she said. "You didn't quit. You're still the President of d'Anconia Copper, only it means nothing to you now." "It means as much to me now as it did that night." "Then how can you let it go to pieces?" "Dagny, you're more fortunate than I. Taggart Transcontinental is a delicate piece of precision machinery. It will not last long without you. It cannot be run by slave labor. They will mercifully destroy it for you and you won't have to see it serving the looters. But copper mining is a simpler job. D'Anconia Copper could have lasted for generations of looters and slaves. Crudely, miserably, ineptly—but it could have lasted and helped them to last. I had to destroy it myself." -You—what?" "I am destroying d'Anconia Copper, consciously, deliberately, by plan and by my own hand. I have to plan it as carefully and work as hard as if I were producing a fortune—in order not to let them notice it and stop me, in order not to let them seize the mines until it is too late. AH the effort and energy I had hoped to spend on d'Anconia Copper, I'm spending them, only . . . only it's not to make it grow. I shall destroy every last bit of it and every last penny of my fortune and every ounce of copper that could feed the looters. I shall not leave it as I found it—I shall leave it as Sebastian d'Anconia found it—then let them try to exist without him or me!" "Francisco!" she screamed. "How could you make yourself do it?" "By the grace of the same love as yours," he answered quietly, "my love for d'Anconia Copper, for the spirit of which it was the shape. Was—and, some day, will be again." --------------------------------------- 472 She sat still, trying to grasp all the implications of what she now grasped only as the numbness of shock. In the silence, the music of the radio symphony went on, and the rhythm of the chords reached her like the slow, solemn pounding of steps, while she struggled to see at once the whole progression of twelve years: the tortured boy who called for help on her breasts—the man who sat on the floor of a drawing room, playing marbles and laughing at the destruction of great industries—the man who cried, "My love, I can't!" while refusing to help her—the man who drank a toast, in the dim booth of a barroom, to the years which Sebastian d'Anconia had had to wait. . . . "Francisco . . . of all the guesses I tried to make about you . . . I never thought of it . . . I never thought that you were one of those men who had quit . . ." "I was one of the first of them." "I thought that they always vanished . . ." "Well, hadn't I? Wasn't it the worst of what I did to you—that I left you looking at a cheap playboy who was not the Francisco d'Anconia you had known?" "Yes . . ." she whispered, "only the worst was that I couldn't believe it . . . I never did . . . It was Francisco d'Anconia that I kept seeing every time I saw you. . . ." "I know. And I know what it did to you. I tried to help you understand, but it was too soon to tell you. Dagny, if I had told you— that night or the day when you came to damn me for the San Sebastian Mines—that I was not an aimless loafer, that I was out to speed up the destruction of everything we had held sacred together, the destruction of d'Anconia Copper, of Taggart Transcontinental, of Wyatt Oil, of Rearden Steel—would you have found it easier to take?" "Harder," she whispered. "I'm not sure T can take it, even now. Neither your kind of renunciation nor my own . . . But, Francisco"— she threw her head back suddenly to look up at him—"if this was your secret, then of all the hell you had to take, I was—" "Oh yes, my darling, yes, you were the worst of it!" It was a desperate cry, its sound of laughter and of release confessing all the agony he wanted to sweep away. He seized her hand, he pressed his mouth to it, then his face, not to let her see the reflection of what his years had been like. "If it's any kind of atonement, which it isn't . . . whatever I made you suffer, that's how I paid for it . . . by knowing what I was doing to you and having to do it . . . and waiting, waiting to . . . But it's over." He raised his head, smiling, he looked down at her and she saw a look of protective tenderness come into his face, which told her of the despair he saw in hers. "Dagny, don't think of that. I won't claim any suffering of mine as my excuse. Whatever my reason, I knew what I was doing and I've hurt you terribly. I'll need years to make up for it. Forget what"—she knew that he meant: what his embrace had confessed—"what I haven't said. Of all the things I have to tell you, that is the one I'll say last." But his eyes, his smile, the grasp of his fingers on her wrist were saying it against his will. "You've borne too much, and there's a great deal that you have to learn to understand in order to lose every scar of the torture you never should have had to bear. All that matters now is that you're free to recover. We're free, both of us, we're free of the looters, we're out of their reach." She said, her voice quietly desolate, "That's what I came here for— to try to understand. But I can't. It seems monstrously wrong to surrender the world to the looters, and monstrously wrong to live under their rule. I can neither give up nor go back. I can neither exist without work nor work as --------------------------------------- 473 a serf. I had always thought that any sort of battle was proper, anything, except renunciation. I'm not sure we're right to quit, you and f, when we should have fought them. But there is no way to fight. It's surrender, if we leave—and surrender, if we remain. I don't know what is right any longer." "Check your premises, Dagny. Contradictions don't exist." "But I can't find any answer. I can't condemn you for what you're doing, yet it's horror that I feel—admiration and horror, at the same time. You, the heir of the d'Anconias, who could have surpassed all his ancestors of the miraculous hand that produced, you're turning your matchless ability to the job of destruction. And I—I'm playing with cobblestones and shingling a roof, while a transcontinental railroad system is collapsing in the hands of congenital ward heelers. Yet you and I were the kind who determine the fate of the world. If this is what we let it come to, then it must have been our own guilt. But I can't see the nature of our error." "Yes, Dagny, it was our own guilt." "Because we didn't work hard enough?" "Because we worked too hard—and charged too little." "What do you mean?" "We never demanded the one payment that the world owed us—and we let our best reward go to the worst of men. The error was made centuries ago, it was made by Sebastian d'Anconia, by Nat Taggart, by every man who fed the world and received no thanks in return. You don't know what is right any longer? Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish—we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world— but we let our enemies write its moral code." "But we never accepted their code. We lived by our own standards." "Yes—and paid ransoms for it! Ransoms in matter and in spirit—in money, which our enemies received, but did not deserve, and in honor, which we deserved, but did not receive. That was our guilt— that we were willing to pay. We kept mankind alive, yet we allowed men to despise us and to worship our destroyers. We allowed them to worship incompetence and brutality, the recipients and the dispensers of the unearned. By accepting punishment, not for any sins, but for our virtues, we betrayed our code and made theirs possible. Dagny, theirs is the morality of kidnappers. They use your love of virtue as a hostage. They know that you'll bear anything in order to work and produce, because you know that achievement is man's highest moral purpose, that he can't exist without it, and your love of virtue is your love of life. They count on you to assume any burden. They count on you to feel that no effort is too great in the service of your love. Dagny, your enemies are destroying you by means of your own power. Your generosity and your endurance are their only tools. Your unrequited rectitude is the only hold they have upon you. They know it. You don't. The day when you'll discover it is the only thing they dread. You must learn to understand them. You won't be free of them, until you do. But when you do, you'll reach such a stage of rightful anger that you'll blast every rail of Taggart Transcontinental, rather than let it serve them!" "But to leave it to them!" she moaned. "To abandon it . . . To abandon Taggart Transcontinental . . . when it's . . . it's almost like a living person . . ." "It was. It isn't any longer. Leave it to them. It won't do them any good. Let it go. We don't need it. We can rebuild it. They can't. We'll survive without it. They won't." "But we, brought down to renouncing and giving up!" --------------------------------------- 474 "Dagny, we who've been called 'materialists' by the killers of the human spirit, we're the only ones who know how little value or meaning there is in material objects as such, because we're the ones who create their value and meaning. We can afford to give them up, for a short while, in order to redeem something much more precious. We are the soul, of which railroads, copper mines, steel mills and oil wells are the body—and they are living entities that beat day and night, like our hearts, in the sacred function of supporting human life, but only so long as they remain our body, only so long as they remain the expression, the reward and the property of achievement. Without us, they are corpses and their sole product is poison, not wealth or food, the poison of disintegration that turns men into hordes of scavengers. Dagny, learn to understand the nature of your own power and you'll understand the paradox you now see around you. You do not have to depend on any material possessions, they depend on you, you create them, you own the one and only tool of production. Wherever you are, you will always be able to produce. But the looters—by their own stated theory—are in desperate, permanent, congenital need and at the blind mercy of matter. Why don't you take them at their word? They need railroads, factories, mines, motors, which they cannot make or run. Of what use will your railroad be to them without you? Who held it together? Who kept it alive? Who saved it, time and time again? Was it your brother James? Who fed him? Who fed the looters? Who produced their weapons? Who gave them the means to enslave you? The impossible spectacle of shabby little incompetents holding control over the products of genius—who made it possible? Who supported your enemies, who forged your chains, who destroyed your achievement?" The motion that threw her upright was like a silent cry. He shot to his feet with the stored abruptness of a spring uncoiling, his voice driving on in merciless triumph: "You're beginning to see, aren't you? Dagny! Leave them the carcass of that railroad, leave them all the rusted rails and rotted ties and gutted engines—but don't leave them your mind! Don't leave them your mind! The fate of the world rests on that decision!" "Ladies and gentlemen," said the panic-pregnant voice of a radio announcer, breaking off the chords of the symphony, "we interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special news bulletin. The greatest disaster in railroad history occurred in the early hours of the morning on the main line of Taggart Transcontinental, at Winston, Colorado, demolishing the famous Taggart Tunnel!" Her scream sounded like the screams that had rung out in the one last moment in the darkness of the tunnel. Its sound remained with him through the rest of the broadcast—as they both ran to the radio in the cabin and stood, in equal terror, her eyes staring at the radio, his eyes watching her face. "The details of the story were obtained from Luke Beal, fireman of the Taggart luxury main liner, the Comet, who was found unconscious at the western portal of the tunnel this morning, and who appears to be the sole survivor of the catastrophe. Through some astounding infraction of safety rules—in circumstances not yet fully established—the Comet, westbound for San Francisco, was sent into the tunnel with a coal-burning steam locomotive. The Taggart Tunnel, an eight-mile bore, cut through the summit of the Rocky Mountains and regarded as an engineering achievement not to be equaled in our time, was built by the grandson of Nathaniel Taggart, in the great age of the clean, smokeless Diesel-electric engine. The tunnel's ventilation system was not designed to provide for the heavy smoke and fumes of coal-burning locomotives—and it was known to every railroad employee in the district that to send a train into the tunnel with such a locomotive would mean death by suffocation for everyone aboard. The Comet, none the less, was so ordered to proceed. According to Fireman Beal, the effects of the fumes began to be felt --------------------------------------- 475 when the train was about three miles inside the tunnel. Engineer Joseph Scott threw the throttle wide open, in a desperate attempt to gain speed, but the old, worn engine was inadequate for the weight of the long train and the rising grade of the track. Struggling through the thickening fumes, engineer and fireman had barely managed to force the leaking steam boilers up to a speed of forty miles per hour—when some passenger, prompted undoubtedly by the panic of choking, pulled the emergency brake cord. The sudden jolt of the stop apparently broke the engine's airhose, for the train could not be started again. There were screams coming from the cars. Passengers were breaking windows. Engineer Scott struggled frantically to make the engine start, but collapsed at the throttle, overcome by the fumes. Fireman Beal leaped from the engine and ran. He was within sight of the western portal, when he heard the blast of the explosion, which is the last thing he remembers. The rest of the story was gathered from railroad employees at Winston Station. It appears that an Army Freight Special, westbound, carrying a heavy load of explosives, had been given no warning about the presence of the Comet on the track just ahead. Both trains had encountered delays and were running off their schedules. It appears that the Freight Special had been ordered to proceed regardless of signals, because the tunnel's signal system was out of order. It is said that in spite of speed regulations and in view of the frequent breakdowns of the ventilating system, it was the tacit custom of all engineers to go full speed while in the tunnel. It appears, as far as can be established at present, that the Comet was stalled just beyond the point where the tunnel makes a sharp curve. It is believed that everyone aboard was dead by that time. It is doubted that the engineer of the Freight Special, turning a curve at eighty miles an hour, would have been able to see, in time, the observation window of the Comet's last car, which was brightly lighted when it left Winston Station. What is known is that the Freight Special crashed into the rear of the Comet. The explosion of the Special's cargo broke windows in a farmhouse five miles away and brought down such a weight of rock upon the tunnel that rescue parties have not yet been able to come within three miles of where either train had been. It is not expected that any survivors will be found—and it is not believed that the Taggart Tunnel can ever be rebuilt." She stood still. She looked as if she were seeing, not the room around her, but the scene in Colorado. Her sudden movement had the abruptness of a convulsion. With the single-tracked rationality of a somnambulist,, she whirled to find her handbag, as if it were the only object in existence, she seized it, she whirled to the door and ran. "Dagny!" he screamed. "Don't go back!" The scream had no more power to reach her than if he were calling to her across the miles between him and the mountains of Colorado. He ran after her, he caught her, seizing her by both elbows, and he cried, "Don't go back! Dagny! In the name of anything sacred to you, don't go back!" She looked as if she did not know who he was. In a contest of physical strength, he could have broken the bones of her arms without effort. But with the force of a living creature fighting for life, she tore herself loose so violently that she threw him off balance for a moment. When he regained his footing, she was running down the hill—running as he had run at the sound of the alarm siren in Rearden's mills—running to her car on the road below. His letter of resignation lay on the desk before him—and James Taggart sat staring at it, hunched by hatred. He felt as if his enemy were this piece of paper, not the words on it, but the sheet and the ink that had given the words a material finality. He had always regarded thoughts and words as inconclusive, but a material shape was that which he had spent his life escaping: a commitment. --------------------------------------- 476 He had not decided to resign—not really, he thought; he had dictated the letter for a motive which he identified to himself only as "just in case." The letter, he felt, was a form of protection; but he had not signed it yet, and that was his protection against the protection. The hatred was directed at whatever had brought him to feel that he would not be able to continue extending this process much longer. He had received word of the catastrophe at eight o'clock this morning; by noon, he had arrived at his office. An instinct that came from reasons which he knew, but spent his whole effort on not knowing, had told him that he had to be there, this time. The men who had been his marked cards—in a game he knew how to play—were gone. Clifton Locey was barricaded behind the statement of a doctor who had announced that Mr. Locey was suffering from a heart condition which made it impossible to disturb him at present. One of Taggart's executive assistants was said to have left for Boston last night, and the other was said to have been called unexpectedly to an unnamed hospital, to the bedside of a father nobody had ever suspected him of having. There was no answer at the home of the chief engineer. The vice-president in charge of public relations could not be found. Driving through the streets to his office, Taggart had seen the black letters of the headlines. Walking down the corridors of Taggart Transcontinental, he had heard the voice of a speaker pouring from a radio in someone's office, the kind of voice one expects to hear on unlighted street corners: it was screaming demands for the nationalization of the railroads. He had walked through the corridors, his steps noisy, in order to be seen, and hasty, in order not to be stopped for questions. He had locked the door of his office, ordering his secretary not to admit any person or phone call and to tell all comers that Mr. Taggart was busy. Then he sat at his desk, alone with blank terror. He felt as if he were trapped in a subterranean vault and the lock could never be broken again—and as if he were held on display in the sight of the whole city below, hoping that the lock would hold out for eternity. He had to be here, in this office, it was required of him, he had to sit idly and wait—wait for the unknown to descend upon him and to determine his actions—and the terror was both of who would come for him and of the fact that nobody came, nobody to tell him what to do. The ringing of the telephones in the outer office sounded like screams for help. He looked at the door with a sensation of malevolent triumph at the thought of all those voices being defeated by the innocuous figure of his secretary, a young man expert at nothing but the art of evasion, which he practiced with the gray, rubber limpness of the amoral. The voices, thought Taggart, were coming from Colorado, from every center of the Taggart system, from every office of the building around him. He was safe so long as he did not have to hear them. His emotions had clogged into a still, solid, opaque ball within him, which the thought of the men who operated the Taggart system could not pierce; those men were merely enemies to be outwitted. The sharper bites of fear came from the thought of the men on the Board of Directors; but his letter of resignation was his fire escape, which would leave them stuck with the fire. The sharpest fear came from the thought of the men in Washington. If they called, he would have to answer; his rubber secretary would know whose voices superseded his orders. But Washington did not call. The fear went through him in spasms, once in a while, leaving his mouth dry. He did not know what he dreaded. He knew that it was not the threat of the radio speaker. What he had experienced at the sound of the snarling voice had been more like a terror which he felt because he was expected to feel it, a duty-terror, something that went with his position, like well-tailored --------------------------------------- 477 suits and luncheon speeches. But under it, he had felt a sneaking little hope, swift and furtive like the course of a cockroach: if that threat took form, it would solve everything, save him from decision, save him from signing the letter . . . he would not be President of Taggart Transcontinental any longer, but neither would anyone else . . . neither would anyone else. . . . He sat, looking down at his desk, keeping his eyes and his mind out of focus. It was as if he were immersed in a pool of fog, struggling not to let it reach the finality of any form. That which exists possesses identity; he could keep it out of existence by refusing to identify it. He did not examine the events in Colorado, he did not attempt to grasp their cause, he did not consider their consequences. He did not think. The clogged ball of emotion was like a physical weight in his chest, filling his consciousness, releasing him from the responsibility of thought. The bah1 was hatred—hatred as his only answer, hatred as the sole reality, hatred without object, cause, beginning or end, hatred as his claim against the universe, as a justification, as a right, as an absolute. The screaming of the telephones went on through the silence. He knew that those pleas for help were not addressed to him, but to an entity whose shape he had stolen. It was this shape that the screams were now tearing away from him; he felt as if the ringing ceased to be sounds and became a succession of slashes hitting his skull. The object of the hatred began to take form, as if summoned by the bells. The solid ball exploded within him and flung him blindly into action. Rushing out of the room, in defiance of all the faces around him, he went running down the halls to the Operating Department and into the anteroom of the Operating Vice-President's office. The door to the office was open: he saw the sky in the great windows beyond an empty desk. Then he saw the staff in the anteroom around him, and the blond head of Eddie Willers in the glass cubbyhole. He walked purposefully straight toward Eddie Willers, he flung the glass door open and, from the threshold, in the sight and hearing of the room, he screamed: "Where is she?" Eddie Willers rose slowly to his feet and stood looking at Taggart with an odd kind of dutiful curiosity, as if this were one more phenomenon to observe among all the unprecedented things he had observed. He did not answer. "Where is she?" "I cannot tell you." "Listen, you stubborn little punk, this is no time for ceremony! If you're trying to make me believe that you don't know where she is, I don't believe you! You know it and you're going to tell me, or I'll report you to the Unification Board! I'll swear to them that you know it—then try and prove that you don't!" There was a faint tone of astonishment in Eddie's voice as he answered, "I've never attempted to imply that I don't know where she is, Jim, I know it. But I won't tell you." Taggart's scream rose to the shrill, impotent sound that confesses a miscalculation: "Do you realize what you're saying?" "Why, yes, of course." "Will you repeat it"—he waved at the room—"for these witnesses?" Eddie raised his voice a little, more in precision and clarity than in volume: "I know where she is. But I will not tell you." "You're confessing that you're an accomplice who's aiding and abetting a deserter?" "If that's what you wish to call it." "But it's a crime! It's a crime against the nation. Don't you know that?" "No." --------------------------------------- 478 "It's against the law!" "Yes." "This is a national emergency! You have no right to any private secrets! You're withholding vital information! I'm the President of this railroad! I'm ordering you to tell me! You can't refuse to obey an order! It's a penitentiary offense! Do you understand?" "Yes." "Do you refuse?" "I do." Years of training had made Taggart able to watch any audience around him, without appearing to do so. He saw the tight, closed faces of the staff, faces that were not his allies. All had a look of despair, except the face of Eddie Willers. The "feudal serf" of Taggart Transcontinental was the only one who seemed untouched by the disaster. He looked at Taggart with the lifelessly conscientious glance of a scholar confronted by a field of knowledge he had never wanted to study. "Do you realize that you're a traitor?" yelled Taggart. Eddie asked quietly, 'To whom?" "To the people! It's treason to shield a deserter! It's economic treason! Your duty to feed the people comes first, above anything else whatever! Every public authority has said so! Don't you know it? Don't you know what they'll do to you?" "Don't you see that I don't give a damn about that?" "Oh, you don't? I'll quote that to the Unification Board! I have all these witnesses to prove that you said—" "Don't bother about witnesses, Jim. Don't put them on the spot. I'll write down everything I said, I'll sign it, and you can take it to the Board." The sudden explosion of Taggart's voice sounded as if he had been slapped: "Who are you to stand against the government? Who are you, you miserable little office rat, to judge national policies and hold opinions of your own? Do you think the country has time to bother about your opinions, your wishes or your precious little conscience? You're going to learn a lesson—all of you!—all of you spoiled, self- indulgent, undisciplined little two-bit clerks, who strut as if that crap about your rights was serious! You're going to learn that these are not the days of Nat Taggart!" Eddie said nothing. For an instant, they stood looking at each other across the desk. Taggart's face was distorted by terror, Eddie's remained sternly serene. James Taggart believed the existence of an Eddie Willers too well; Eddie Willers could not believe the existence of a James Taggart. "Do you think the nation will bother about your wishes or hers?" screamed Taggart. "It's her duty to come back! It's her duty to work! What do we care whether she wants to work or not? We need her!" "Do you, Jim?" An impulse pertaining to self-preservation made Taggart back a step away from the sound of that particular tone, a very quiet tone, in the voice of Eddie Willers. But Eddie made no move to follow. He remained standing behind his desk, in a manner suggesting the civilized tradition of a business office. "You won't find her," he said, "She won't be back. I'm glad she won't. You can starve, you can close the railroad, you can throw me in jail, you can have me shot—what does it matter? I won't tell you where she is. If I see the whole country crashing, I won't tell you. You won't find her. You—" They whirled at the sound of the entrance door flung open. They saw Dagny standing on the threshold. She wore a wrinkled cotton dress, and her hair was disheveled by hours of driving. She stopped for the duration of a glance around her, as if to --------------------------------------- 479 recapture the place, but there was no recognition of persons in her eyes, the glance merely swept through the room, as if making a swift inventory of physical objects. Her face was not the face they remembered; it had aged, not by means of lines, but by means of a still, naked look stripped of any quality save ruthlessness. Yet their first response, ahead of shock or wonder, was a single emotion that went through the room like a gasp of relief. It was in all their faces but one: Eddie Willers, who alone had been calm a moment ago, collapsed with his face down on his desk; he made no sound, but the movements of his shoulders were sobs. Her face gave no sign of acknowledgment to anyone, no greeting, as if her presence here were inevitable and no words were necessary. She went straight to the door of her office; passing the desk of her secretary, she said, her voice like the sound of a business machine, neither rude nor gentle, "Ask Eddie to come in." James Taggart was the first one to move, as if dreading to let her out of his sight. He rushed in after her, he cried, "I couldn't help it!" and then, life returning to him, his own, his normal kind of life, he screamed, "It was your fault! You did it! You're to blame for it! Because you left!" He wondered whether his scream had been an illusion inside his own ears. Her face remained blank; yet she had turned to him; she looked as if sounds had reached her, but not words, not the communication of a mind. What he felt for a moment was his closest approach to a sense of his own non-existence. Then he saw the faintest change in her face, merely the indication of perceiving a human presence, but she was looking past him and he turned and saw that Eddie Willers had entered the office. There were traces of tears in Eddie's eyes, but he made no attempt to hide them, he stood straight, as if the tears or any embarrassment or any apology for them were as irrelevant to him as to her. She said, "Get Ryan on the telephone, tell him I'm here, then let me speak to him." Ryan had been the general manager of the railroad's Central Region. Eddie gave her a warning by not answering at once, then said, his voice as even as hers, "Ryan's gone, Dagny. He quit last week." They did not notice Taggart, as they did not notice the furniture around them. She had not granted him even the recognition of ordering him out of her office. Like a paralytic, uncertain of his muscles' obedience, he gathered his strength and slipped out. But he was certain of the first thing he had to do: he hurried to his office to destroy his letter of resignation. She did not notice his exit; she was looking at Eddie. "Is Knowland here?" she asked. "No. He's gone." "Andrews?" "Gone." "McGuire?" "Gone." He went on quietly to recite the list of those he knew she would ask for, those most needed in this hour, who had resigned and vanished within the past month. She listened without astonishment or emotion, as one listens to the casualty list of a battle where all are doomed and it makes no difference whose names fall first. When he finished, she made no comment, but asked, "What has been done since this morning?" "Nothing." "Nothing?" "Dagny, any office boy could have issued orders here since this morning and everybody would have obeyed him, But even the office boys know that --------------------------------------- 480 whoever makes the first move today will be held responsible for the future, the present and the past—when the buck passing begins. He would not save the system, he would merely lose his job by the time he saved one division. Nothing has been done. It's stopped still. Whatever is moving, is moving on anyone's blind guess— out on the line where they don't know whether they're to move or to stop. Some trains are held at stations, others are going on, waiting to be stopped before they reach Colorado. It's whatever the local dispatchers decide. The Terminal manager downstairs has cancelled all transcontinental traffic for today, including tonight's Comet. I don't know what the manager in San Francisco is doing. Only the wrecking crews are working. At the tunnel. They haven't come anywhere near the wreck as yet. I don't think they will." "Phone the Terminal manager downstairs and tell him to put all transcontinental trains back on the schedule at once, including tonight's Comet. Then come back here." When he came back, she was bending over the maps she had spread on a table, and she spoke while he made rapid notes: "Route all westbound trains south from Kirby, Nebraska, down the spur track to Hastings, down the track of the Kansas Western to Laurel, Kansas, then to the track of the Atlantic Southern at Jasper, Oklahoma. West on the Atlantic Southern to Flagstaff, Arizona, north on the track of the Flagstaff-Homedale to Elgin, Utah, north to Midland, northwest on the track of the Wasatch Railway to Salt Lake City. The Wasatch Railway is an abandoned narrow-gauge. Buy it. Have the gauge spread to standard. If the owners are afraid, since sales are illegal, pay them twice the money and proceed with the work. There is no rail between Laurel, Kansas, and Jasper, Oklahoma—three miles, no rail between Elgin and Midland, Utah—five and a half miles. Have the rail laid. Have construction crews start at once—recruit every local man available, pay twice the legal wages, three times, anything they ask—put three shifts on—and have the job done overnight. For rail, tear up the sidings at Winston, Colorado, at Silver Springs, Colorado, at Leeds, Utah, at Benson, Nevada. If any local stooges of the Unification Board come to stop the work—give authority to our local men, the ones you trust, to bribe them. Don't put that through the Accounting Department, charge it to me, I'll pay it. If they find some case where it doesn't work, have them tell the stooge that Directive 10- 289 does not provide for local injunctions, that an injunction has to be brought against our headquarters and that they have to sue me, if they wish to stop us." "Is that true?" "How do I know? How can anybody know? But by the time they untangle it and decide whatever it is they please to decide—our track will be built." "I see." "I'll go over the lists and give you the names of our local men to put in charge—if they're still there. By the time tonight's Comet Teaches Kirby, Nebraska, the track will be ready. It will add about thirty-six hours to the transcontinental schedule—but there will be a transcontinental schedule. Then have them get for me out of the files the old maps of our road as it was before Nat Taggart's grandson built the tunnel." "The . . . what?" He did not raise his voice, but the catch of his breath was the break of emotion he had wanted to avoid. Her face did not change, but a fault note in her voice acknowledged him, a note of gentleness, not reproof: "The old maps of the days before the tunnel. We're going back, Eddie. Let's hope we can. No, we won't rebuild the tunnel. There's no way to do it now. But the old grade that crossed the Rockies is still there. It can be reclaimed. Only it will be hard to get the rail for it and the men to do it. Particularly the men." --------------------------------------- 481 He knew, as he had known from the first, that she had seen his tears and that she had not walked past in indifference, even though her clear, toneless voice and unmoving face gave him no sign of feeling. There was some quality in her manner, which he sensed but could not translate. Yet the feeling it gave him, translated, was as if she were saying to him: I know, I understand, I would feel compassion and gratitude, if we were alive and free to feel, but we're not, are we, Eddie?—we're on a dead planet, like the moon, where we must move, but dare not stop for a breath of feeling or we'll discover that there is no air to breathe. "We have today and tomorrow to get things started," she said. "I'll leave for Colorado tomorrow night." "If you want to fly, I'll have to rent a plane for you somewhere. Yours is still in the shops, they can't get the parts for it." "No, I'll go by rail. I have to see the line. I'll take tomorrow's Comet." It was two hours later, in a brief pause between long-distance phone calls, that she asked him suddenly the first question which did not pertain to the railroad: "What have they done to Hank Rearden?" Eddie caught himself in the small evasion of looking away, forced his glance back to meet hers, and answered, "He gave in. He signed their Gift Certificate, at the last moment." "Oh." The sound conveyed no shock or censure, it was merely a vocal punctuation mark, denoting the acceptance of a fact. "Have you heard from Quentin Daniels?" "No." "He sent no letter or message for me?" "No." He guessed the thing she feared and it reminded him of a matter he had not reported. "Dagny, there's another problem that's been growing all over the system since you left. Since May first. It's the frozen trains," "The what?" "We've had trains abandoned on the line, on some passing track, in the middle of nowhere, usually at night—with the entire crew gone. They just leave the train and vanish. There's never any warning given or any special reason, it's more like an epidemic, it hits the men suddenly and they go. It's been happening on other railroads, too. Nobody can explain it. But I think that everybody understands. It's the directive that's doing it. It's our men's form of protest. They try to go on and then they suddenly reach a moment when they can't take it any longer. What can we do about it?" He shrugged. "Oh well, who is John Galt?" She nodded thoughtfully; she did not look astonished. The telephone rang and the voice of her secretary said, "Mr. Wesley Mouch calling from Washington, Miss Taggart." Her lips stiffened a little, as at the unexpected touch of an insect. "It must be for my brother," she said. "No, Miss Taggart. For you." "All right. Put him on." "Miss Taggart," said the voice of Wesley Mouch in the tone of a cocktail- party host, "I was so glad to hear you've regained your health that I wanted to welcome you back in person. I know that your health required a long rest and I appreciate the patriotism that made you cut your leave of absence short in this terrible emergency. I wanted to assure you that you can count on our co-operation in any step you now find it necessary to take. Our fullest co- operation, assistance and support. If there are any . . . special exceptions you might require, please feel certain that they can be granted." She let him speak, even though he had made several small pauses inviting an answer. When his pause became long enough, she said, "I would be much obliged if you would let me speak to Mr. Weatherby." --------------------------------------- 482 "Why, of course, Miss Taggart, any time you wish . . . why . . . that is . . . do you mean, now?" "Yes. Right now." He understood. But he said, "Yes, Miss Taggart." When Mr. Weatherby's voice came on the wire, it sounded cautious: "Yes, Miss Taggart? Of what service can I be to you?" "You can tell your boss that if he doesn't want me to quit again, as he knows I did, he is never to call me or speak to me. Anything your gang has to tell me, let them send you to tell it. I'll speak to you, but not to him. You may tell him that my reason is what he did to Hank Rearden when he was on Rearden's payroll. If everybody else has forgotten it, I haven't." "It is my duty to assist the nation's railroads at any time, Miss Taggart." Mr. Weatherby sounded as if he were trying to avoid the commitment of having heard what he had heard; but a sudden note of interest crept into his voice as he asked slowly, thoughtfully, with guarded shrewdness, "Am I to understand, Miss Taggart, that it is your wish to deal exclusively with me in all official matters? May I take this as your policy?" She gave a brief, harsh chuckle. "Go ahead," she said. "You may list me as your exclusive property, use me as a special item of pull, and trade me all over Washington. But I don't know what good that will do you, because I'm not going to play the game, I'm not going to trade favors, I'm simply going to start breaking your laws right now—and you can arrest me when you feel that you can afford to." "I believe that you have an old-fashioned idea about law, Miss Taggart. Why speak of rigid, unbreakable laws? Our modern laws are elastic and open to interpretation according to . . . circumstances." "Then start being elastic right now, because I'm not and neither are railroad catastrophes." She hung up, and said to Eddie, in the tone of an estimate passed on physical objects, "They'll leave us alone for a while." She did not seem to notice the changes in her office: the absence of Nat Taggart's portrait, the new glass coffee table where Mr. Locey had spread, for the benefit of visitors, a display of the loudest humanitarian magazines with titles of articles headlined on their covers. She heard—with the attentive look of a machine equipped to record, not to react—Eddie's account of what one month had done to the railroad. She heard his report on what he guessed about the causes of the catastrophe. She faced, with the same look of detachment, a succession of men who went in and out of her office with over hurried steps and hands fumbling in superfluous gestures. He thought that she had become impervious to anything. But suddenly—while pacing the office, dictating to him a list of track-laying materials and where to obtain them illegally—she stopped and looked down at the magazines on the coffee table. Their headlines said: "The New Social Conscience," "Our Duty to the Underprivileged," "Need versus Greed." With a single movement of her arm, the abrupt, explosive movement of sheer physical brutality, such as he had never seen from her before, she swept the magazines off the table and went on, her voice reciting a list of figures without a break, as if there were no connection between her mind and the violence of her body. Late in the afternoon, finding a moment alone in her office, she telephoned Hank Rearden. She gave her name to his secretary—and she heard, in the way he said it, the haste with which he had seized the receiver: "Dagny?" "Hello, Hank. I'm back." "Where?" "In my office." --------------------------------------- 483 She heard the things he did not say, in the moment's silence on the wire, then he said, "1 suppose I'd better start bribing people at once to get the ore to start pouring rail for you." "Yes. As much of it as you can. It doesn't have to be Rearden Metal. It can be—" The break in her voice was almost too brief to notice, but what it held was the thought: Rearden Metal rail for going back to the time before heavy steel?—perhaps back to the time of wooden rails with strips of iron? "It can be steel, any weight, anything you can give me." "All right. Dagny, do you know that I've surrendered Rearden Metal to them? I've signed the Gift Certificate." "Yes, I know." "I've given in." "Who am I to blame you? Haven't I?" He did not answer, and she said, "Hank, I don't think they care whether there's a train or a blast furnace left on earth. We do. They're holding us by our love of it, and we'll go on paying so long as there's still one chance left to keep one single wheel alive and moving in token of human intelligence. We'll go on holding it afloat, like our drowning child, and when the flood swallows it, we'll go down with the last wheel and the last syllogism. I know what we're paying, but—price is no object any longer." "I know." "Don't be afraid for me, Hank, I'll be all right by tomorrow morning." "I'll never be afraid for you, darling. I'll see you tonight." --------------------------------------- 484 CHAPTER IX THE FACE WITHOUT PAIN OR FEAR OR GUILT The silence of her apartment and the motionless perfection of objects that had remained just as she had left them a month before, struck her with a sense of relief and desolation together, when she entered her living room. The silence gave her an illusion of privacy and ownership; the sight of the objects reminded her that they were preserving a moment she could not recapture, as she could not undo the events that had happened since. There was still a remnant of daylight beyond the windows. She had left the office earlier than, she intended, unable to summon the effort for any task that could be postponed till morning. This was new to her —and it was new that she should now feel more at home in her apartment than in her office. She took a shower, and stood for long, blank minutes, letting the water run over her body, but stepped out hastily when she realized that what she wanted to wash off was not the dust of the drive from the country, but the feel of the office. She dressed, lighted a cigarette and walked into the living room, to stand at the window, looking at the city, as she had stood looking at the countryside at the start of this day. She had said she would give her life for one more year on the railroad. She was back; but this was not the joy of working; it was only the clear, cold peace of a decision reached—and the stillness of unadmitted pain. Clouds had wrapped the sky and had descended as fog to wrap the streets below, as if the sky were engulfing the city. She could see the whole of Manhattan Island, a long, triangular shape cutting into an invisible ocean. It looked like the prow of a sinking ship; a few tall buildings still rose above it, like funnels, but the rest was disappearing under gray-blue coils, going down slowly into vapor and space. This was how they had gone—she thought—Atlantis, the city that sank into the ocean, and all the other kingdoms that vanished, leaving the same legend in all the languages of men, and the same longing. She felt—-as she had felt it one spring night, slumped across her desk in the crumbling office of the John Galt Line, by a window facing a dark alley— the sense and vision of her own world, which she would never reach. , , . You—she thought—whoever you are, whom ,1 have always loved and never found, you whom I expected to see at the end of the rails beyond the horizon, you whose presence I had always felt in the streets of the city and whose world I had wanted to build, it is my love for you that had kept me moving, my love and my hope to reach you and my wish to be worthy of you on the day when I would stand before you face to face. Now I know that I shall never find you— that it is not to be reached or lived—but what is left of my life is still yours, and I will go on in your name, even though it is a name I'll never learn, I will go on serving you, even though I'm never to win, I will go on, to be worthy of you on the day when I would have met you, even though I won't. . . . She had never accepted hopelessness, but she stood at the window and, addressed to the shape of a fogbound city, it was her self-dedication to unrequited love. The doorbell rang. She turned with indifferent astonishment to open, the door—but she knew that she should have expected him, when she saw that it was Francisco d'Anconia. She felt no shock and no rebellion, only the cheerless serenity of her assurance—and she raised her head to face him, with a slow, deliberate --------------------------------------- 485 movement, as if telling him that she had chosen her stand and that she stood in the open. His face was grave and calm; the look of happiness was gone, but the amusement of the playboy had not returned. He looked as if all masks were down, he looked direct, tightly disciplined, intent upon a purpose, he looked like a man able to know the earnestness of action, as she had once expected him to look—he had never seemed so attractive as he did in this moment—and she noted, in astonishment, her sudden feeling that he was not a man who had deserted her, but a man whom she had deserted. "Dagny, are you able to talk about it now?" "Yes—if you wish. Come in." He glanced briefly at her living room, her home which he had never entered, then his eyes came back to her. He was watching her attentively. He seemed to know that the quiet simplicity of her manner was the worst of all signs for his purpose, that it was like a spread of ashes where no flicker of pain could be revived, that even pain would have been a form of fire. "Sit down, Francisco." She remained standing before him, as if consciously letting him see that she had nothing to hide, not even the weariness of her posture, the price she had paid for this day and her carelessness of price. "I don't think I can stop you now," he said, "if you've made your choice. But if there's one chance left to stop you, it's a chance I have to take." She shook her head slowly. "There isn't. And—what for, Francisco? You've given up. What difference does it make to you whether I perish with the railroad or away from it?" "I haven't given up the future," "What future?" "The day when the looters will perish, but we won't." "If Taggart Transcontinental is to perish with the looters, then so am I." He did not take his eyes off her face and he did not answer. She added dispassionately, "I thought I could live without it. I can't. I'll never try it again. Francisco, do you remember?—we both believed, when we started, that the only sin on earth was to do things badly, I still believe it." The first note of life shuddered in her voice. "I can't stand by and watch what they did at that tunnel. I can't accept what they're all accepting—Francisco, it's the thing we thought so monstrous, you and I!—the belief that disasters are one's natural fate, to be borne, not fought. I can't accept submission. I can't accept helplessness. I can't accept renunciation. So long as there's a railroad left to run, I'll run it." "In order to maintain the looters' world?" "In order to maintain the last strip of mine." "Dagny," he said slowly, "I know why one loves one's work. I know what it means to you, the job of running trains. But you would not run them if they were empty. Dagny, what is it you see when you think of a moving train?" She glanced at the city. "The life of a man of ability who might have perished in that catastrophe, but will escape the next one, which I'll prevent—a man who has an intransigent mind and an unlimited ambition, and is in love with his own life . . . the kind of man who is what we were when we started, you and I. You gave him up. I can't." He closed his eyes for an instant, and the tightening movement of his mouth was a smile, a smile substituting for a moan of understanding, amusement and pain. He asked, his voice gravely gentle, "Do you think that you can still serve him—that kind of man—by running the railroad?" "Yes." "All right, Dagny. I won't try to stop you. So long as you still think that, nothing can stop you, or should. You will stop on the day when you'll --------------------------------------- 486 discover that your work has been placed in the service, not of that man's life, but of his destruction." "Francisco!" It was a cry of astonishment and despair. "You do understand it, you know what I mean by that kind of man, you see him, too!" "Oh yes," he said simply, casually, looking at some point in space within the room, almost as if he were seeing a real person. He added, "Why should you be astonished? You said that we were of his kind once, you and I. We still are. But one of us has betrayed him." "Yes," she said sternly, "one of us has. We cannot serve him by renunciation." "We cannot serve him by making terms with his destroyers." "I'm not making terms with them. They need me. They know it. It's my terms that I'll make them accept." "By playing a game in which they gain benefits in exchange for harming you?" "If I can keep Taggart Transcontinental in existence, it's the only benefit I want. What do I care if they make me pay ransoms? Let them have what they want. I'll have the railroad." He smiled. "Do you think so? Do you think that their need of you is your protection? Do you think that you can give them what they want? No, you won't quit until you see, of your own sight and judgment, what it is that they really want. You know, Dagny, we were taught that some things belong to God and others to Caesar. Perhaps their God would permit it. But the man you say we're serving—he docs not permit it. He permits no divided allegiance, no war between your mind and your body, no gulf between your values and your actions, no tributes to Caesar. He permits no Caesars." "For twelve years," she said softly, "I would have thought it inconceivable that there might come a day when I would have to beg your forgiveness on my knees. Now I think it's possible. If I come to see that you're right, I will. But not until then." "You will. But not on your knees." He was looking at her, as if he were seeing her body as she stood before him, even though his eyes were directed at her face, and his glance told her what form of atonement and surrender he was seeing in the future. She saw the effort he made to look away, his hope that she had not seen his glance or understood it, his silent struggle, betrayed by the tension of a few muscles under the skin of his face—the face she knew so well, "Until then, Dagny, remember that we're enemies. I didn't want to tell you this, but you're the first person who almost stepped into heaven and came back to earth. You've glimpsed too much, so you have to know this clearly. It's you that I'm fighting, not your brother James or Wesley Mouch. It's you that I have to defeat. I am out to end all the things that are most precious to you right now. While you'll struggle to save Taggart Transcontinental, I will be working to destroy it. Don't ever ask me for help or money. You know my reasons. Now you may hate me—as, from your stand, you should." She raised her head a little, there was no perceptible change in her posture, it was no more than her awareness of her own body and of its meaning to him, but for the length of one sentence she stood as a woman, the suggestion of defiance coming only from the faintly stressed spacing of her words: "And what will it do to you?" He looked at her, in full understanding, but neither admitting nor denying the confession she wanted to tear from him. "That is no one's concern but mine," he answered. It was she who weakened, but realized, while saying it, that this was still more cruel: "I don't hate you. I've tried to, for years, but I never will, no matter what we do, either one of us." --------------------------------------- 487 "I know it," he said, his voice low, so that she did not hear the pain, but felt it within herself as if by direct reflection from him. "Francisco!" she cried, in desperate defense of him against herself. "How can you do what you're doing?" "By the grace of my love"—for you, said his eyes—"for the man," said his voice, "who did not perish in your catastrophe and who will never perish," She stood silently still for a moment, as if in respectful acknowledgment. "I wish I could spare you what you're going to go through," he said, the gentleness of his voice saying: It's not me that you should pity. "But I can't. Every one of us has to travel that road by his own steps. But it's the same road." "Where does it lead?" He smiled, as if softly closing a door on the questions that he would not answer. "To Atlantis," he said. "What?" she asked, startled. "Don't you remember?—the lost city that only the spirits of heroes can enter." The connection that struck her suddenly had been struggling in her mind since morning, like a dim anxiety she had had no time to identify. She had known it, but she had thought only of his own fate and his personal decision, she had thought of him as acting alone. Now she remembered a wider danger and sensed the vast, undefined shape of the enemy she was facing. "You're one of them," she said slowly, "aren't you?" "Of whom?" "Was it you in Ken Danagger's office?" He smiled. "No." But she noted that he did not ask what she meant. "Is there—you would know it—is there actually a destroyer loose in the world?" "Of course." "Who is it?" "You." She shrugged; her face was growing hard. "The men who've quit, are they still alive or dead?" "They're dead—as far as you're concerned. But there's to be a Second Renaissance in the world. I'll wait for it." "No!" The sudden violence of her voice was in personal answer to him, to one of the two things he had wanted her to hear in his words. "No, don't wait for me!" "I'll always wait for you, no matter what we do, either one of us." The sound they heard was the turning of a key in the lock of the entrance door. The door opened and Hank Rearden came in. He stopped briefly on the threshold, then walked slowly into the living room, his hand slipping the key into his pocket. She knew that he had seen Francisco's face before he had seen hers. He glanced at her, but his eyes came back to Francisco, as if this were the only face he was now able to see. It was at Francisco's face that she was afraid to look. The effort she made to pull her glance along the curve of a few steps felt as if she were pulling a weight beyond her power. Francisco had risen to his feet, as if in the unhurried, automatic manner of a d'Anconia trained to the code of courtesy. There was nothing that Rearden could see in his face. But what she saw in it was worse than she had feared. "What are you doing here?" asked Rearden, in the tone one would use to address a menial caught in a drawing room. --------------------------------------- 488 "I see that I have no right to ask you the same question," said Francisco. She knew what effort was required to achieve the clear, toneless quality of his voice. His eyes kept returning to Rearden's right hand, as if he were still seeing the key between, his fingers. "Then answer it," said Rearden. "Hank, any questions you wish to ask should be asked of me," she said. Rearden did not seem to see or hear her. "Answer it," he repeated. "There is only one answer which you would have the right to demand," said Francisco, "so I will answer you that that is not the reason of my presence here." "There is only one reason for your presence in the house of any woman," said Rearden. "And I mean, any woman—as far as you're concerned. Do you think that I believe it now, that confession of yours or anything you ever said to me?" "I have given you grounds not to trust me, but none to include Miss Taggart." "Don't tell me that you have no chance here, never had and never will. I know it. But that I should find you here on the first—" "Hank, if you wish to accuse me—" she began, but Rearden whirled to her. "God, no, Dagny, I don't! But you shouldn't be seen speaking to him. You shouldn't deal with him in any way. You don't know him. I do." He turned to Francisco. "What are you after? Are you hoping to include her among your kind of conquests or—" "No!" It was an involuntary cry and it sounded futile, with its passionate sincerity offered—to be rejected—as its only proof. "No? Then are you here on a matter of business? Are you setting a trap, as you -did for me? What sort of double-cross are you preparing for her?" "My purpose . . . was not . . . a matter of business." "Then what was it?" "If you still care to believe me, I can tell you only that it involved no . . . betrayal of any kind." "Do you think that you may still discuss betrayal, in my presence?” "I will answer you some day. I cannot answer you now." "You don't like to be reminded of it, do you? You've stayed away from me since, haven't you? You didn't expect to see me here? You didn't want to face me?" But he knew that Francisco was facing him as no one else did these days— he saw the eyes held straight to meet his, the features composed, without emotion, without defense or appeal, set to endure whatever was coming—he saw the open, unprotected look of courage—this was the face of the man he had loved, the man who had set him free of guilt—and he found himself fighting against the knowledge that this face still held him, above all else, above his month of impatience for the sight of Dagny. "Why don't you defend yourself, if you have nothing to hide? Why are you here? Why were you stunned to see me enter?" "Hank, stop it!" Dagny's voice was a cry, and she drew back, knowing that violence was the most dangerous element to introduce into this moment. Both men turned to her. "Please let me be the one to answer," Francisco said quietly. "I told you that I hoped I'd never see him again," said Rearden. 'Tm sorry if it has to be here. It doesn't concern you, but there's something he must be paid for." "If that is . . . your purpose," Francisco said with effort, "haven't you . . . achieved it already?" "What's the matter?" Rearden's face was frozen, his lips barely moving, but his voice had the sound of a chuckle. "Is this your way of asking for mercy?" The instant of silence was Francisco's strain to a greater effort. --------------------------------------- 489 "Yes . . . if you wish," he answered. "Did you grant it when you held my future in your hands?" "You are justified in anything you wish to think of me. But since it doesn't concern Miss Taggart . . . would you now permit me to leave?" "No! Do you want to evade it, like all those other cowards? Do you want to escape?" "I will come anywhere you require any time you wish. But I would rather it were not in Miss Taggart's presence." "Why not? I want it to be in her presence, since this is the one place you had no right to come. I have nothing left to protect from you, you've taken more than the looters can ever take, you've destroyed everything you've touched, but here is one thing you're not -going to touch." He knew that the rigid absence of emotion in Francisco's face was the strongest evidence of emotion, the evidence of some abnormal effort at control—he knew that this was torture and that he, Rearden, was driven blindly by a feeling which resembled a torturer's enjoyment, except that he was now unable to tell whether he was torturing Francisco or himself. "You're worse than the looters, because you betray with full understanding of that which you're betraying. I don't know what form of corruption is your motive—but I want you to learn that there are things beyond your reach, beyond your aspiration or your malice." "You have nothing . . . to fear from me . . . now." "I want you to learn that you are not to think of her, not to look at her, not to approach her. Of all men, it's you who're not to appear in her presence." He knew that he was driven by a desperate anger at his own feeling for this man, that the feeling still lived, that it was this feeling which he had to outrage and destroy. "Whatever your motive, it's from any contact with you that she has to be protected." "IE I gave you my word—" He stopped. Rearden chuckled. "I know what they mean, your words, your convictions, your friendship and your oath by the only woman you ever—" He stopped. They all knew what this meant, in the same instant that Rearden knew it. He made a step toward Francisco; he asked, pointing at Dagny, his voice low and strangely unlike his own voice, as if it neither came from nor were addressed to a living person, "Is this the woman you love?" Francisco closed his eyes. "Don't ask him that!" The cry was Dagny's. "Is this the woman you love?" Francisco answered, looking at her, "Yes." Rearden's hand rose, swept down and slapped Francisco's face. The scream came from Dagny. When she could see again—after an instant that felt as if the blow had struck her own cheek—Francisco's hands were the first thing she saw. The heir of the d'Anconias stood thrown back against a table, clasping the edge behind him, not to support himself, but to stop his own hands. She saw the rigid stillness of his body,, a body that was pulled too straight but seemed broken, with the slight, unnatural angles of his waistline and shoulders, with his arms held stiff but slanted back—he stood as if the effort not to move were turning the force of his violence against himself, as if the motion he resisted were running through his muscles as a tearing pain. She saw his convulsed fingers struggling to grow fast to the table's edge, she wondered which would break first, the wood of the table or the bones of the man, and she knew that Rearden's life hung in the balance. When her eyes moved up to Francisco's face, she saw no sign of struggle, only the skin of his temples pulled tight and the planes of his cheeks drawn inward, seeming faintly more hollow than usual. It made his face look naked, pure and young. She felt terror because she was seeing in his eyes the tears --------------------------------------- 490 which were not there. His eyes were brilliant and dry. He was looking at Rearden, but it was not Rearden that he was seeing. He looked as if he were facing another presence in the room and as if his glance were saying: If this is what you demand of me, then even this is yours, yours to accept and mine to endure, there is no more than this in me to offer you, but let me be proud to know that I can offer so much. She saw—with a single artery beating under the skin of his throat, with a froth of pink in the corner of his mouth— the look of an enraptured dedication which was almost a smile, and she knew that she was witnessing Francisco d'Anconia's greatest achievement. When she felt herself shaking and heard her own voice, it seemed to meet the last echo of her scream in the air of the room—and she realized how brief a moment had passed between. Her voice had the savage sound of rising to deliver a blow and it was crying to Rearden: "—to protect me from him? Long before you ever—" "Don't!" Francisco's head jerked to her, the brief snap of his voice held all of his unreleased violence, and she knew it was an order that had to be obeyed. Motionless but for the slow curve of his head, Francisco turned to Rearden. She saw his hands leave the edge of the table and hang relaxed by his sides. It was Rearden that he was now seeing, and there was nothing in Francisco's face except the exhaustion of effort, but Rearden knew suddenly how much this man had loved him. "Within the extent of your knowledge," Francisco said quietly, "you are right." Neither expecting nor permitting an answer, he turned to leave. He bowed to Dagny, inclining his head in a manner that appeared as a simple gesture of leave-taking to Rearden, as a gesture of acceptance to her. Then he left. Rearden stood looking after him, knowing—without context and with absolute certainty—that he would give his life for the power not to have committed the action he had committed. When he turned to Dagny, his face looked drained, open and faintly attentive, as if he were not questioning her about the words she had cut off, but were waiting for them to come. A shudder of pity ran through her body and ended in the movement of shaking her head: she did not know for which of the two men the pity was intended, but it made her unable to speak and she shook her head over and over again, as if trying desperately to negate some vast, impersonal suffering that had made them all its victims. "If there's something that must be said, say it." His voice was toneless. The sound she made was half-chuckle, half-moan—it was not a desire for vengeance, but a desperate sense of justice that drove the cutting bitterness of her voice, as she cried, consciously throwing the words at his face, "You wanted to know the name of that other man? The man. I slept with? The man who had me first? It was Francisco d'Anconia!" She saw the force of the blow by seeing his face swept blank. She knew that if justice was her purpose, she had achieved it—because this slap was worse than the one he had dealt. She felt suddenly calm, knowing that her words had had to be said for the sake of all three of them. The despair of a helpless victim left her, she was not a victim any longer, she was one of the contestants, willing to bear the responsibility of action. She stood facing him, waiting for any answer he would choose to give her, feeling almost as if it were her turn to be subjected to violence. She did not know what form of torture he was enduring, or what he saw being wrecked within him and kept himself the only one to see. --------------------------------------- 491 There was no sign of pain to give her any warning; he looked as if he were just a man who stood still in the middle of a room, making his consciousness absorb a fact that it refused to absorb. Then she noticed that he did not change his posture, that even his hands hung by his sides with the fingers half-bent as they had been for a long time, it seemed to her that she could feel the heavy numbness of the blood stopping in his fingers—and this was the only clue to his suffering she was able to find, but it told her that that which he felt left him no power to feel anything else, not even the existence of his own body. She waited, her pity vanishing and becoming respect. Then she saw his eyes move slowly from her face down the length of her body, and she knew the sort of torture he was now choosing to experience, because it was a glance of a nature he could not hide from her. She knew that he was seeing her as she had been at seventeen, he was seeing her with the rival he hated, he was seeing them together as they would be now, a sight he could neither endure nor resist. She saw the protection of control dropping from his face, but he did not care whether he let her see his face alive and naked, because there now was nothing to read in it except an unrevealing violence, some part of which resembled hatred. He seized her shoulders, and she felt prepared to accept that he would now kill her or beat her into unconsciousness, and in the moment when she felt certain that he had thought of it, she felt her body thrown against him and his mouth falling on hers, more brutally than the act of a beating would have permitted. She found herself, in terror, twisting her body to resist, and, in exultation, twisting her arms around him, holding him, letting her lips bring blood to his, knowing that she had never wanted him as she did in this moment. When he threw her down on the couch, she knew, to the rhythm of the beat of his body, that it was the act of his victory over his rival and of his surrender to him, the act of ownership brought to unendurable violence by the thought of the man whom it was defying, the act of transforming his hatred for the pleasure that man had known into the intensity of his own pleasure, his conquest of that man by means of her body—she felt Francisco's presence through Rearden's mind, she felt as if she were surrendering to both men, to that which she had worshipped in both of them, that which they held in common, that essence of character which had made of her love for each an act of loyalty to both. She knew also that this was his rebellion against the world around them, against its worship of degradation, against the long torment of his wasted days and lightless struggle—this was what he wished to assert and, alone with her in the half-darkness high in space above a city of ruins, to hold as the last of his property. Afterwards, they lay still, his face on her shoulder. The reflection of a distant electric sign kept beating in faint flashes on the ceiling above her head. He reached for her hand and slipped her fingers under his face to let his mouth rest against her palm for a moment, so gently that she felt his motive more than his touch. After a while, she got up, she reached for a cigarette, lighted it, then held it out to him with a slight, questioning lift of her hand; he nodded, still sitting half-stretched on the couch; she placed the cigarette between his lips and lighted another for herself. She felt a great sense of peace between them, and the intimacy of the unimportant gestures underscored the importance of the things they were not saying to each other. Everything was said, she thought—but knew that it waited to be acknowledged. She saw his eyes move to the entrance door once in a while and remain on it for long moments, as if he were still seeing the man who had left. --------------------------------------- 492 He said quietly, "He could have beaten me by letting me have the truth, any time he wished. Why didn't he?" She shrugged, spreading her hands in a gesture of helpless sadness, because they both knew the answer. She asked, "He did mean a great deal to you, didn't he?" "He does." The two dots of fire at the tips of their cigarettes had moved slowly to the tips of their fingers, with the small glow of an occasional flare and the soft crumbling of ashes as sole movement in the silence, when the doorbell rang. They knew that it was not the man they wished but could not hope to see return, and she frowned with sudden anger as she went to open the door. It took her a moment to remember that the innocuously courteous figure she saw bowing to her with a standard smile of welcome was the assistant manager of the apartment house. "Good evening, Miss Taggart. We're so glad to see you back. I just came on duty and heard that you had returned and wanted to greet you in person." "Thank you." She stood at the door, not moving to admit him. "I have a letter that came for you about a week ago, Miss Taggart," he said, reaching into his pocket. "It looked as if it might be important, but being marked 'personal,' it was obviously not intended to be sent to your office and, besides, they did not know your address, either—so not knowing where to forward it, I kept it in our safe and I thought I'd deliver it to you in person." The envelope he handed to her was marked: Registered—Air Mail —Special Delivery—Personal. The return address said: Quentin Daniels, Utah Institute of Technology;. Afton, Utah. "Oh . . . Thank you." The assistant manager noted that her voice went dropping toward a whisper, the polite disguise for a gasp, he noted that she stood looking down at the sender's name much longer than was necessary, so he repeated his good wishes and departed. She was tearing the envelope open as she walked toward Rearden, and she stopped in the middle of the room to read the letter. It was typewritten on thin paper—he could see the black rectangles of the paragraphs through the transparent sheets—and he could see her face as she read them. He expected it, by the time he saw her come to the end: she leaped to the telephone, he heard the violent whirl of the dial and her voice saying with trembling urgency, "Long-distance, please . . . Operator, get me the Utah Institute of Technology at Afton, Utah!" He asked, approaching, "What is it?" She extended the letter, not looking at him, her eyes fixed on the telephone, as if she could force it to answer. The letter said: Dear Miss Taggart: I have fought it out for three weeks, I did not want to do it, I know how this will hit you and I know every argument you could offer me, because I have used them all against myself—but this is to tell you that I am quitting. I cannot work under the terms of Directive 10-289—though not for the reason its perpetrators intended. I know that their abolition of all scientific research does not mean a damn to you or me, and that you would want me to continue. But I have to quit, because I do not wish to succeed any longer. I do not wish to work in a world that regards me as a slave. I do not wish to be of any value to people. If I succeeded in rebuilding the motor, I would not let you place it in their service. I would not take it upon my conscience that anything produced by my mind should be used to bring them comfort. I know that if we succeed, they will be only too eager to expropriate the motor. And for the sake of that prospect, we have to accept the position of --------------------------------------- 493 criminals, you and I, and live under the threat of being arrested at any moment at their whim. And this is the thing that I cannot take, even were I able to take all the rest: that in order to give them an inestimable benefit, we should be made martyrs to the men who, but for us, could not have conceived of it. I might have forgiven the rest, but when I think of this, I say: May they be damned, I will see them all die of starvation, myself included, rather than forgive them for this or permit it! To tell you the full truth, I want to succeed, to solve the secret of the motor, as much as ever. So I shall continue to work on it for my own sole pleasure and for as long as I last. But if I solve it, it will remain my private secret. I will not release it for any commercial use. Therefore, I cannot take your money any longer. Commercialism is supposed to be despicable, so all those people should truly approve of my decision, and I—I'm tired of helping those who despise me. I don't know how long I will last or what I will do in the future. For the moment, I intend to remain in my job at this Institute. But if any of its trustees or receivers should remind me that I am now legally forbidden to cease being a janitor, I will 'quit. You had given me my greatest chance and if I am now giving you a painful blow, perhaps T should ask you to forgive me, I think that you love your work as much as I loved mine, so you will know that my decision was not easy to make, but that I had to make it. It is a strange feeling—writing this letter. I do not intend to die, but I am giving up the world and this feels like the letter of a suicide. So I want to say that of all the people I have known, you are the only person I regret leaving behind. Sincerely yours, Quentin Daniels When he looked up from the letter, he heard her saying, as he had heard her through the words of the typewritten lines, her voice rising closer to despair each time: "Keep ringing, Operator! . . . Please keep ringing!" "What can you tell him?" he asked. "There are no arguments to offer." "I won't have a chance to tell him! He's gone by now. It was a week ago. I'm sure he's gone. They've got him." "Who got him?" "Yes, Operator, I'll hold the line, keep trying!" "What would you tell him if he answered?" "I'd beg him to go on taking my money, with no strings attached, no conditions, just so he'll have the means to continue! I'll promise him that if we're still in a looters' world when and if he succeeds, I won't ask him to give me the motor or even to tell me its secret. But if, by that time, we're free—" She stopped. "If we're free . . ." "All I want from him now is that he doesn't give up and vanish, like . . . like all those others. I don't want to let them get him. If it's not too late—oh God, I don't want them to get him! . . . Yes, Operator, keep ringing!" "What good will it do us, even if he continues to work?" "That's all I'll beg him to do—just to continue. Maybe we'll never get a chance to use the motor in the future. But I want to know that somewhere in the world there's still a great brain at work on a great attempt—and that we still have a chance at a future. , , . If that motor is abandoned again, then there's nothing but Starnesville ahead of us." "Yes. I know." She held the receiver pressed to her ear, her arm stiff with the effort not to tremble. She waited, and he heard, in the silence, the futile clicking of the unanswered call. --------------------------------------- 494 "He's gone," she said. 'They got him. A week is much longer than they need. I don't know how they learn when the time is right, but this" —she pointed at the letter—"this was their time and they wouldn't have missed it." "Who?" "The destroyer's agents," "Are you beginning to think that they really exist?" "Yes." "Are you serious?" "I am. I've met one of them." "Who?" "I'll tell you later. I don't know who their leader is, but I'm going to find out, one of these days. I'm going to find out. I'll be damned if I let them—" She broke off on a gasp; he saw the change in her face the moment before he heard the click of a distant receiver being lifted and the sound of a man's voice saying, across the wire, "Hello?" "Daniels! Is that you? You're alive? You're still there?" "Why, yes. Is this you, Miss Taggart? What's the matter?" "I . . . I thought you were gone." "Oh, I'm sorry, I just heard the phone ringing, I was out in the back lot, gathering carrots." '"Carrots?" She was laughing with hysterical relief. "I have my own vegetable patch out there. Used to be the Institute's parking lot. Are you calling from New York, Miss Taggart?" "Yes. I just received your letter. Just now. I . . . I had been away." "Oh." There was a pause, then he said quietly, "There's really nothing more to be said about it, Miss Taggart." "Tell me, are you going away?" "No." "You're not planning to go?" "No. Where?" "Do you intend to remain at the Institute?" "Yes." "For how long? Indefinitely?" "Yes—as far as I know." "Has anyone approached you?" "About what?" "About leaving." "No. Who?" "Listen, Daniels, I won't try to discuss your letter over the phone. But I must speak to you. I'm coming to see you. I'll get there as fast as I can." "I don't want you to do that, Miss Taggart. I don't want you to go to such an effort, when it's useless." "Give me a chance, won't you? You don't have to promise to change your mind, you don't have to commit yourself to anything—only to give me a hearing. If I want to come, it's my risk, I'm taking it. There are things I want to say to you, I'm asking you only-for the chance to say them." "You know that I will always give you that chance, Miss Taggart." "I'm leaving for Utah at once. Tonight. But there's one thing I want you to promise me. Will you promise to wait for me? Will you promise to be there when I arrive?" "Why . . . of course, Miss Taggart. Unless I die or something happens outside my power—but I don't expect it to happen." "Unless you die, will you wait for me no matter what happens?" "Of course." --------------------------------------- 495 "Do you give me your word that you'll wait?" "Yes, Miss Taggart." "Thank you. Good night." "Good night, Miss Taggart." She pressed the receiver down and picked it up again in the same sweep of her hand and rapidly dialed a number. "Eddie? . . . Have them hold the Comet for me. . . . Yes, tonight's Comet. Give orders to have my car attached, then come here, to my place, at once," She glanced at her watch. "It's eight-twelve. I have an hour to make it. I don't think I'll hold them up too long. I'll talk to you while I pack." She hung up and turned to Rearden. "Tonight?" he said. "I have to." "I guess so. Don't you have to go to Colorado, anyway?" "Yes. I intended to leave tomorrow night. But I think Eddie can manage to take care of my office, and I'd better start now. It takes three days"—she remembered—"it will now take five days to reach Utah. I have to go by train, there are people I have to see on the line—this can't be delayed, either." "How long will you stay in Colorado?" "Hard to tell." "Wire me when you get there, will you? If it looks as if it's going to be long, I'll join you there." This was the only expression he could give to the words he had desperately wished to say to her, had waited for, had come here to say, and now wished to pronounce more than ever, but knew that it must not be said tonight. She knew, by a faint, solemn stress in the tone of his voice, that this was his acceptance of her confession, his surrender, his forgiveness. She asked, "Can you leave the mills?" "It will take me a few days to arrange, but I can." He knew what her words were admitting, acknowledging and forgiving him, when she said, "Hank, why don't you meet me in Colorado in a week? If you fly your plane, we'll both get there at the same time. And then we'll come back together." "All right . . . dearest." She dictated a list of instructions, while pacing her bedroom, gathering her clothes, hastily packing a suitcase. Rearden had left; Eddie Willers sat at her dressing table, making notes. He seemed to work in his usual manner of unquestioning efficiency, as if he were not aware of the perfume bottles and powder boxes, as if the dressing table were a desk and the room were only an office. 'I'll phone you from Chicago, Omaha, Flagstaff and Afton," she said, tossing underwear into the suitcase. "If you need me in between, call any operator along the line, with orders to flag the train." "The Comet?" he asked mildly. "Hell, yes!—the Comet.” "Okay." "Don't hesitate to call, if you have to." "Okay. But I don't think I'll have to." "We'll manage. We'll work by long-distance phone, just as we did when we—" She stopped. "—when we were building the John Galt Line?" he asked quietly. They glanced at each other, but said nothing else. "What's the latest report on the construction crews?" she asked. "Everything's under way. I got word, just after you left the office, that the grading gangs have started—out of Laurel, Kansas, and out of Jasper, Oklahoma. The rail is on its way to them from Silver Springs. --------------------------------------- 496 It will be all right. The hardest thing to find was—M "The men?" "Yes. The men to put in charge. We had trouble out West, over the Elgin to Midland stretch. All the men we were counting on are gone. I couldn't find anyone able to assume responsibility, neither on our line nor elsewhere. I even tried to get Dan Conway, but—" "Dan Conway?" she asked, stopping. "Yes. I did. I tried. Do you remember how he used to have rail laid at the rate of five miles a day, right in that part of the country? Oh, I know he'd have reason to hate our guts, but what does it matter now? I found him—he's living on a ranch out in Arizona. I phoned him myself and I begged him to save us. Just to take charge, for one night, of building five and a half miles of track. Five and a half miles, Dagny, that we're stuck with—and he's the greatest railroad builder living! I told him that I was asking him to do it as a gesture of charity to us, if he would. You know, I think he understood me. He wasn't angry. He sounded sad. But he wouldn't do it. He said one must not try to bring people back out of the grave. . . . He wished me luck. I think he meant it. . . . You know, I don't think he's one of those that the destroyer knocked out. I think he just broke by himself." "Yes. I know he did." Eddie saw the expression on her face and pulled himself up hastily. "Oh, we finally found a man to put in charge at Elgin," he said, forcing his voice to sound confident. "Don't worry, the track will be built long before you get there." She glanced at him with the faint suggestion of a smile, thinking of how often she had said these words to him and of the desperate bravery with which he was now trying to tell her: Don't worry. He caught her glance, he understood, and the answering hint of his smile had a touch of embarrassed apology. He turned back to his note pad, feeling anger at himself, sensing that he had broken his own unstated commandment: Don't make it harder for her. He should not have told her about Dan Conway, he thought; he should not have said anything to remind them both of the despair they would feel, if they felt. He wondered what was the matter with him: he thought it inexcusable that he should find his discipline slipping just because this was a room, not an office. She went on speaking—and he listened, looking down at his pad, making a brief notation once in a while. He did not permit himself to look at her again. She threw the door of her closet open, jerked a suit off a hanger and folded it rapidly, while her voice went on with unhurried precision. He did not look up, he was aware of her only by means of sound: the sound of the swift movements and of the measured voice. He knew what was wrong with him, he thought; he did not want her to leave, he did not want to lose her again, after so brief a moment of reunion. But to indulge any personal loneliness, at a time when he knew how desperately the railroad needed her in Colorado, was an act of disloyalty he had never committed before—and he felt a vague, desolate sense of guilt. ('Send out orders that the Comet is to stop at every division point," she said, "and that all division superintendents are to prepare for me a report on—" He glanced up—then his glance stopped and he did not hear the rest of the words. He saw a man's dressing gown hanging on the back of the open closet door, a dark blue gown with the white initials HR on its breast pocket. He remembered where he had seen that gown before, he remembered the man facing him across a breakfast table in the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, he remembered that man coming, unannounced, to her office late on a Thanksgiving --------------------------------------- 497 night—and the realization that he should have known it, came to him as two subterranean jolts of a single earthquake: it came with a feeling that screamed "No!" so savagely that the scream, not the sight, brought down every girder within him. It was not the shock of the discovery, but the more terrible shock of what it made him discover about himself. He hung on to a single thought; that he must not let her see what he had noticed or what it had done to him. He felt a sensation of embarrassment magnified to the point of physical torture; it was the dread of violating her privacy twice: by learning her secret and by revealing his own. He bent lower over the note pad and concentrated on an immediate purpose: to stop his pencil from shaking. ". . . fifty miles of mountain trackage to build, and we can count on nothing but whatever material we own." "I beg your pardon," he said, his voice barely audible, "I didn't hear what you said.” "I said I want a report from all superintendents on every foot of rail and every piece of equipment available on their divisions." "Okay." "I will confer with each one of them in turn. Have them meet me in my car aboard the Comet." "Okay." "Send word out—unofficially—that the engineers are to make up time for the stops by going seventy, eighty, a hundred miles an hour, anything they wish as and when they need to, and that I will . . . Eddie?" "Yes. Okay." "Eddie, what's the matter?" He had to look up, to face her and, desperately, to lie for the first time in his life. "I'm . . . I'm afraid of the trouble we'll get into with the law," he said. "Forget it. Don't you see that there isn't any law left? Anything goes now, for whoever can get away with it—and, for the moment, it's we who're setting the terms." When she was ready, he carried her suitcase to a taxicab, then down the platform of the Taggart Terminal to her office car, the last at the end of the Comet. He stood on the platform, saw the train jerk forward and watched the red markers on the back of her car slipping slowly away from him into the long darkness of the exit tunnel. When they were gone, he felt what one feels at the loss of a dream one had not known till after it was lost. There were few people on the platform around him and they seemed to move with self-conscious strain, as if a sense of disaster clung to the rails and to the girders above their heads. He thought indifferently that after a century of safety, men were once more regarding the departure of a train as an event involving a gamble with death. He remembered that he had had no dinner, and he felt no desire to eat, but the underground cafeteria of the Taggart Terminal was more truly his home than the empty cube of space he now thought of as his apartment—so he walked to the cafeteria, because he had no other place to go. The cafeteria was almost deserted—but the first thing he saw, as he entered, was a thin column of smoke rising from the cigarette of the worker, who sat alone at a table in a dark corner. Not noticing what he put on his tray, Eddie carried it to the worker's table, said, "Hello," sat down and said nothing else. He looked at the silverware spread before him, wondered about its purpose, remembered the use of a fork and attempted to perform the motions of eating, but found that it was beyond his power. After a while, he looked up and saw that the worker's eyes were studying him attentively. --------------------------------------- 498 "No," said Eddie, "no, there's nothing the matter with me. . . . Oh yes, a lot has happened, but what difference does it make now? . . . Yes, she's back. . . . What else do you want me to say about it? . . . How did you know she's back? Oh well, I suppose the whole company knew it within the first ten minutes. . . . No, I don't know whether I'm glad that she's back. . . . Sure, she'll save the railroad— for another year or month. . . . What do you want me to say? . . . No, she didn't. She didn't tell me what she's counting on. She didn't tell me what she thought or felt. . . . Well, how do you suppose she'd feel? It's hell for her—all right, for me, too! Only my kind of hell is my own fault. . . . No. Nothing. I can't talk about it—talk?—I mustn't even think about it, I've got to stop it, stop thinking of her and—of her, I mean." He remained silent and he wondered why the worker's eyes—the eyes that always seemed to see everything within him—made him feel uneasy tonight. He glanced down at the table, and he noticed the butts of many cigarettes among the remnants of food on the worker's plate. "Are you in trouble, too?" asked Eddie. "Oh, just that you've sat here for a long time tonight, haven't you? . . . For me? Why should you have wanted to wait for me? . . . You know, I never thought you cared whether you saw me or not, me or anybody, you seemed so complete in yourself, and that's why I liked to talk to you, because I felt that you always understood, but nothing could hurt you—you looked as if nothing had ever hurt you—and it made me feel free, as if . . . as if there were no pain in the world. . . . Do you know what's strange about your face? You look as if you've never known pain or fear or guilt. . . . I'm sorry I'm so late tonight. I had to see her off—she has just left, on the Comet. . . . Yes, tonight, just now. . . . Yes, she's gone. . . . Yes, it was a sudden decision—within the past hour. She intended to leave tomorrow night, but something unexpected happened and she had to go at once. . . . Yes, she's going to Colorado—afterwards. . . . To Utah—first. . . . Because she got a letter from Quentin Daniels that he's quitting—and the one thing she won't give up, couldn't stand to give up, is the motor. You remember, the motor I told you about, the remnant that she found. . . . Daniels? He's a physicist who's been working for the past year, at the Utah Institute of Technology, trying to solve the secret of the motor and to rebuild it. . . . Why do you look at me like that? . . . No, I haven't told you about him before, because it was a secret. It was a private, secret project of her own—and of what interest would it have been to you, anyway? . . . I guess I can talk about it now, because he's quit. . . . Yes, he told her his reasons. He said that he won't give anything produced by his mind to a world that regards him as a slave. He said that he won't be made a martyr to people in exchange for giving them an inestimable benefit. . . . What—what are you laughing at? . . . Stop it, will you? Why do you laugh like that? . . . The whole secret? What do you mean, the whole secret? He hasn't found the whole secret of the motor, if that's what you meant, but he seemed to be doing well, he had a good chance. Now it's lost. She's rushing to him, she wants to plead, to hold him, to make him go on—but I think it's useless. Once they stop, they don't come back again. Not one of them has. . . . No, I don't care, not any more, we've taken so many losses that I'm getting used to it. . . . Oh no! It's not Daniels that I can't take, it's—no, drop it. Don't question me about it. The whole world is going to pieces, she's still fighting to save it, and I—I sit here damning her for something I had no right to know. . . . No! She's done nothing to be damned, nothing—and, besides, it doesn't concern the railroad. . . . Don't pay any attention to me, it's not true, it's not her that I'm damning, it's myself. . . . Listen, I've always known that you loved Taggart Transcontinental as I loved it, that it meant something special to you, --------------------------------------- 499 something personal, and that was why you liked to hear me talk about it. But this—the thing I learned today—this has nothing to do with the railroad. It would be of no importance to you. Forget it. . . . It's something that I didn't know about her, that's all. . . . I grew up with her. I thought I knew her. I didn't. . . . I don't know what it was that I expected. I suppose I just thought that she had no private life of any kind. To me, she was not a person and not . . . not a woman. She was the railroad. And I didn't think that anyone would ever have the audacity to look at her in any other way. . . . Well, it serves me right. Forget it. . . . Forget it, I said! Why do you question me like this? It's only her private life. What can it matter to you? . . . Drop it, for God's sake! Don't you see that I can't talk about it? . . . Nothing happened, nothing's wrong with me, I just —oh, why am I lying? I can't lie to you, you always seem to see everything, it's worse than trying to lie to myself! . . . I have lied to myself. I didn't know what I felt for her. The railroad? I'm a rotten hypocrite. If the railroad was all she meant to me, it wouldn't have hit me like this. I wouldn't have felt that I wanted to kill him! . . . What's the matter with you tonight? Why do you look at me like that? . . . Oh, what's the matter with all of us? Why is there nothing but misery left for anyone? Why do we suffer so much? We weren't meant to. I always thought that we were to be happy, all of us, as our natural fate. What are we doing? What have we lost? A year ago, I wouldn't have damned her for finding something she wanted. But I know that they're doomed, both of them, and so am I, and so is everybody, and she was all I had left. . . . It was so great, to be alive, it was such a wonderful chance, I didn't know that I loved it and that that was our love, hers and mine and yours—but the world is perishing and we cannot stop it. Why are we destroying ourselves? Who will tell us the truth? Who will save us? Oh, who is John Galt?! . . . No, it's no use. It doesn't matter now. Why should I feel anything? We won't last much longer. Why should I care what she does? Why should I care that she's sleeping with Hank Rearden? . . . Oh God!—what's the matter with you? Don't go! Where are you going?" --------------------------------------- 500 CHAPTER X THE SIGN OF THE DOLLAR She sat at the window of the train, her head thrown back, not moving, wishing she would never have to move again. The telegraph poles went racing past the window, but the train seemed lost in a void, between a brown stretch of prairie and a solid spread of rusty, graying clouds. The twilight was draining the sky without the wound of a sunset; it looked more like the fading of an anemic body in the process of exhausting its last drops of blood and light. The train was going west, as if it, too, were pulled to follow the sinking rays and quietly to vanish from the earth. She sat still, feeling no desire to resist it. She wished she would not hear the sound of the wheels. They knocked in an even rhythm, every fourth knock accented—and it seemed to her that through the rapid, running clatter of some futile stampede to escape, the beat of the accented knocks was like the steps of an enemy moving toward some inexorable purpose. She had never experienced it before, this sense of apprehension at the sight of a prairie, this feeling that the rail was only a fragile thread stretched across an enormous emptiness, like a worn nerve ready to break. She had never expected that she, who had felt as if she were the motive power aboard a train, would now sit wishing, like a child or a savage, that this train would move, that it would not stop, that it would get her there on time—wishing it, not like an act of will, but like a plea to a dark unknown. She thought of what a difference one month had made. She had seen it in the faces of the men at the stations. The track workers, the switchmen, the yardmen, who had always greeted her, anywhere along the line, their cheerful grins boasting that they knew who she was—had now looked at her stonily, turning away, their faces wary and closed. She had wanted to cry to them in apology, "It's not I who've done it to you!"—then had remembered that she had accepted it and that they now had the right to hate her, that she was both a slave and a driver of slaves, and so was every human being in the country, and hatred was the only thing that men could now feel for one another. She had found reassurance, for two days, in the sight of the cities moving past her window—the factories, the bridges, the electric signs, the billboards pressing down upon the roofs of homes—the crowded, grimy, active, living conflux of the industrial East. But the cities had been left behind. The train was now diving into the prairies of Nebraska, the rattle of its couplers sounding as if it were shivering with cold. She saw lonely shapes that had been farmhouses in the vacant stretches that had been fields. But the great burst of energy, in the East, generations ago, had splattered bright trickles to run through the emptiness; some were gone, but some still lived. She was startled when the lights of a small town swept across her car and, vanishing, left it darker than it had been before. She would not move to turn on the light. She sat still, watching the rare towns. Whenever an electric beam went flashing briefly at her face, it was like a moment's greeting. She saw them as they went by, written on the walls of modest structures, over sooted roofs, down slender smokestacks, on the curves of tanks: Reynolds Harvesters—Macey Cement—Quinlan & Jones Pressed Alfalfa—Home of the Crawford Mattress—Benjamin Wylie Grain and Feed—words raised like flags to the empty darkness of the sky, the motionless forms of movement, of effort, of courage, of hope, the monuments to how much had been achieved on the edge of nature's void by men who had once been free to achieve—she saw the homes built in scattered privacy, the small shops, the wide streets with electric lighting, --------------------------------------- 501 like a few luminous strokes criss-crossed on the black sheet of the wastelands—she saw the ghosts between, the remnants of towns, the skeletons of factories with crumbling smokestacks, the corpses of shops with broken panes, the slanting poles with shreds of wire—she saw a sudden blaze, the rare sight of a gas station, a glittering white island of glass and metal under the huge black weight of space and sky —she saw an ice-cream cone made of radiant tubing, hanging above the corner of a street, and a battered car being parked below, with a young boy at the wheel and a girl stepping out, her white dress blowing in the summer wind—she shuddered for the two of them, thinking: I can't look at you, I who know what it has taken to give you your youth, to give you this evening, this car and the ice-cream cone you're going to buy for a quarter—she saw, on the edge beyond a town, a building glowing with tiers of pale blue light, the industrial light she loved, with the silhouettes of machines in its windows and a billboard in the darkness above its roof—and suddenly her head fell on her arm, and she sat shaking, crying soundlessly to the night, to herself, to whatever was human in any living being: Don't let it go! . . . Don't let it go! . . . She jumped to her feet and snapped on the light. She stood still, fighting to regain control, knowing that such moments were her greatest danger. The lights of the town were past, her window was now an empty rectangle, and she heard, in the silence, the progression of the fourth knocks, the steps of the enemy moving on, not to be hastened or stopped. In desperate need of the sight of some living activity, she decided she would not order dinner in her car, but would go to the diner. As if stressing and mocking her loneliness, a voice came back to her mind: "But you would not run trains if they were empty." Forget it!—she told herself angrily, walking hastily to the door of her car. She was astonished, approaching her vestibule, to hear the sound of voices close by. As she pulled the door open, she heard a shout: "Get off, God damn you!" An aging tramp had taken refuge in the corner of her vestibule. He sat on the floor, his posture suggesting that he had no strength left to stand up or to care about being caught. He was looking at the conductor, his eyes observant, fully conscious, but devoid of any reaction. The train was slowing down for a bad stretch of track, the conductor had opened the door to a cold gust of wind, and was waving at the speeding black void, ordering, "Get going! Get off as you got on or I'll kick you off head first!" There was no astonishment in the tramp's face, no protest, no anger, no hope; he looked as if he had long since abandoned any judgment of any human action. He moved obediently to rise, his hand groping upward along the rivets of the car's wall. She saw him glance at her and glance away, as if she were merely another inanimate fixture of the train. He did not seem to be aware of her person, any more than of his own, he was indifferently ready to comply with an order which, in his condition, meant certain death. She glanced at the conductor. She saw nothing in his face except the blind malevolence of pain, of some long-repressed anger that broke out upon the first object available, almost without consciousness of the object's identity. The two men were not human beings to each other any longer. The tramp's suit was a mass of careful patches on a cloth so stiff and shiny with wear that one expected it to crack like glass if bent; but she noticed the collar of his shirt: it was bone-white from repeated laundering and it still preserved a semblance of shape. He had pulled himself up to his feet, he was looking indifferently at the black hole open upon miles of uninhabited wilderness where no one would see the body or hear the voice of a mangled man, but the only gesture of concern he made was to tighten his grip on a small, dirty bundle, as if to make sure he would not lose it in leaping off the train. --------------------------------------- 502 It was the laundered collar and this gesture for the last of his possessions—the gesture of a sense of property—that made her feel an emotion like a sudden, burning twist within her. "Wait," she said. The two men turned to her. "Let him be my guest," she said to the conductor, and held her door open for the tramp, ordering, "Come in." The tramp followed her, obeying as blankly as he had been about to obey the conductor. He stood in the middle of her car, holding his bundle, looking around him with the same observant, unreacting glance. "Sit down," she said. He obeyed—and looked at her, as if waiting for further orders. There was a kind of dignity in his manner, the honesty of the open admission that he had no claim to make, no plea to offer, no questions to ask, that he now had to accept whatever was done to him and was ready to accept it. He seemed to be in his early fifties; the structure of his bones and the looseness of his suit suggested that he had once been muscular. The lifeless indifference of his eyes did not fully hide that they had been intelligent; the wrinkles cutting his face with the record of some incredible bitterness, had not fully erased the fact that the face had once possessed the kindliness peculiar to honesty. "When did you eat last?" she asked. "Yesterday," he said, and added, "I think." She rang for the porter and ordered dinner for two, to be brought to her car from the diner. The tramp had watched her silently, but when the porter departed, he offered the only payment it was in his power to offer: "I don't want to get you in trouble, ma'am," he said. She smiled. "What trouble?" "You're traveling with one of those railroad tycoons, aren't you?" "No, alone." "Then you're the wife of one of them?" "No." "Oh." She saw his effort at a look of something like respect, as if to make up for having forced an improper confession, and she laughed. "No, not that, either. I guess I'm one of the tycoons myself. My name is Dagny Taggart and I work for this railroad." "Oh . . . I think I've heard of you, ma'am—in the old days." It was hard to tell what "the old days" meant to him, whether it was a month or a year or whatever period of time had passed since he had given up. He was looking at her with a sort of interest in the past tense, as if he were thinking that there had been a time when he would have considered her a personage worth seeing. "You were the lady who ran a railroad," he said. "Yes," she said. "I was." He showed no sign of astonishment at the fact that she had chosen to help him. He looked as if so much brutality had confronted him that he had given up the attempt to understand, to trust or to expect anything. "When did you get aboard the train?" she asked. "Back at the division point, ma'am. Your door wasn't locked." He added, "I figured maybe nobody would notice me till morning on account of it being a private car." "Where are you going?" "I don't know." Then, almost as if he sensed that this could sound too much like an appeal for pity, he added, "I guess I just wanted to keep moving till I saw some place that looked like there might be a chance to find work there." This was his attempt to assume the responsibility of a purpose, --------------------------------------- 503 rather than to throw the burden of his aimlessness upon her mercy—an attempt of the same order as his shirt collar. "What kind of work are you looking for?" "People don't look for kinds of work any more, ma'am," he answered impassively. "They just look for work." "What sort of place did you hope to find?" "Oh . . . well . . . where there's factories, I guess.” "Aren't you going in the wrong direction for that? The factories are in the East." "No." He said it with the firmness of knowledge. "There are too many people in the East. The factories are too well watched. I figured there might be a better chance some place where there's fewer people and less law." "Oh, running away? A fugitive from the law, are you?" "Not as you'd mean it in the old days, ma'am. But as things are now, I guess I am. I want to work." "What do you mean?" "There aren't any jobs back East. And a man couldn't give you a job, if he had one to give—he'd go to jail for it. He's watched. You can't get work except through the Unification Board. The Unification Board has a gang of its own friends waiting in line for the jobs, more friends than a millionaire's got relatives. Well, me—I haven't got either." "Where did you work last?" "I've been bumming around the country for six months—no, longer, I guess—I guess it's closer to about a year—I can't tell any more— mostly day work it was. Mostly on farms. But it's getting to be no use now. I know how the farmers look at you—they don't like to see a man starving, but they're only one jump ahead of starvation themselves, they haven't any work to give you, they haven't any food, and whatever they save, if the tax collectors don't get it, then the raiders do—you know, the gangs that rove all through the country— deserters, they call them." "Do you think that it's any better in the West?" "No. I don't." "Then why are you going there?" "Because I haven't tried it before. That's all there is left to try. It's somewhere to go. Just to keep moving . . . You know," he added suddenly, "I don't think it will be any use. But there's nothing to do in the East except sit under some hedge and wait to die. I don't think I'd mind it much now, the dying. I know it would be a lot easier. Only I think that it's a sin to sit down and let your life go, without making a try for it." She thought suddenly of those modern college-infected parasites who assumed a sickening air of moral self-righteousness whenever they uttered the standard bromides about their concern for the welfare of others. The tramp's last sentence was one of the most profoundly moral statements she had ever heard; but the man did not know it; he had said it in his impassive, extinguished voice, simply, dryly, as a matter of fact. "What part of the country do you come from?" she asked. "Wisconsin," he answered. The waiter came in, bringing their dinner. He set a table and courteously moved two chairs, showing no astonishment at the nature of the occasion. She looked at the table; she thought that the magnificence of a world where men could afford the time and the effortless concern for such things as starched napkins and tinkling ice cubes, offered to travelers along with their meals for the price of a few dollars, was a remnant of the age when the sustenance of one's life had not been made a crime and a meal had not been a matter of running a race with death—a remnant which was soon to vanish, like the white filling station on the edge of the weeds of the jungle. --------------------------------------- 504 She noticed that the tramp, who had lost the strength to stand up, had not lost the respect for the meaning of the things spread before him. He did not pounce upon the food; he fought to keep his movements slow, to unfold his napkin, to pick up his fork in tempo with hers, his hand shaking—as if he still knew that this, no matter what indignity was ever forced upon them, was the manner proper to men. "What was your line of work—in the old days?" she asked, when the waiter left. "Factories, wasn't it?" "Yes, ma'am." "What trade?" "Skilled lathe-operator." "Where did you work at it last?" "In Colorado, ma'am. For the Hammond Car Company." "Oh . . . !" "Ma'am?" "No, nothing. Worked there long?" "No, ma'am. Just two weeks." "How come?" "Well, I'd waited a year for it, hanging around Colorado just to get that job. They had a waiting list too, the Hammond Car Company, only they didn't go by friendships and they didn't go by seniority, they went by a man's record. I had a good record. But it was just two weeks after I got the job that Lawrence Hammond quit. He quit and disappeared. They closed the plant. Afterwards, there was a citizens' committee that reopened it. I got called back. But five days was all it lasted. They started layoffs just about at once. By seniority. So I had to go. I heard they lasted for about three months, the citizens' committee. Then they had to close the plant for good." "Where did you work before that?" "Just about in every Eastern state, ma'am. But it was never more than a month or two. The plants kept closing." "Did that happen on every job you've held?" He glanced at her, as if he understood her question. "No, ma'am," he answered and, for the first time, she caught a faint echo of pride in his voice. "The first job I had, I held it for twenty years. Not the same job, but the same place, I mean—I got to be shop foreman. That was twelve years ago. Then the owner of the plant died, and the heirs who took it over, ran it into the ground. Times were bad then, but it was since then that things started going to pieces everywhere faster and faster. Since then, it seems like anywhere I turned—the place cracked and went. At first, we thought it was only one state or another. A lot of us thought that Colorado would last. But it went, too. Anything you tried, anything you touched—it fell. Anywhere you looked, work was stopping—the factories were stopping—the machines were stopping—" he added slowly, in a whisper, as if seeing some secret terror of his own, "the motors . . . were . . . stopping." His voice rose: "Oh God, who is—" and broke off. "—John Galt?" she asked. "Yes," he said, and shook his head as if to dispel some vision, "only I don't like to say that." "I don't, either. I wish I knew why people are saying it and who started it." "That's it, ma'am. That's what I'm afraid of. It might have been me who started it." "What?" "Me or about six thousand others. We might have. I think we did. I hope we're wrong." --------------------------------------- 505 "What do you mean?" "Well, there was something that happened at that plant where I worked for twenty years. It was when the old man died and his heirs took over. There were three of them, two sons and a daughter, and they brought a new plan to run the factory. They let us vote on it, too, and everybody—almost everybody— voted for it. We didn't know. We thought it was good. No, that's not true, either. We thought that we were supposed to think it was good. The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need. We—what's the matter, ma'am? Why do you look like that?" "What was the name of the factory?" she asked, her voice barely audible. "The Twentieth Century Motor Company, ma'am, of Starnesville, Wisconsin." "Go on." "We voted for that plan at a big meeting, with all of us present, six thousand of us, everybody that worked in the factory. The Starnes heirs made long speeches about it, and it wasn't too clear, but nobody asked any questions. None of us knew just how the plan would work, but every one of us thought that the next fellow knew it. And if anybody had doubts, he felt guilty and kept his mouth shut—because they made it sound like anyone who'd oppose the plan was a child killer at heart and less than a human being. They told us that this plan would achieve a noble ideal. Well, how were we to know otherwise? Hadn't we heard it all our lives—from our parents and our schoolteachers and our ministers, and in every newspaper we ever read and every movie and every public speech? Hadn't we always been told that this was righteous and just? Well, maybe there's some excuse for what we did at that meeting. Still, we voted for the plan—and what we got, we had it coming to us. You know, ma'am, we are marked men, in a way, those of us who lived through the four years of that plan in the Twentieth Century factory. What is it that hell is supposed to be? Evil—plain, naked, smirking evil, isn't it? Well, that's what we saw and helped to make—and I think we're damned, every one of us, and maybe we'll never be forgiven. . . . "Do you know how it worked, that plan, and what it did to people? Try pouring water into a tank where there's a pipe at the bottom draining it out faster than you pour it, and each bucket you bring breaks that pipe an inch wider, and the harder you work the more is demanded of you, and you stand slinging buckets forty hours a week, then forty-eight, then fifty-six— for your neighbor's supper—for his wife's operation—for his child's measles— for his mother's wheel chair —for his uncle's shirt—for his nephew's schooling—for the baby next door—for the baby to be born—for anyone anywhere around you— it's theirs to receive, from diapers to dentures—and yours to work, from sunup to sundown, month after month, year after year, with nothing to show for it but your sweat, with nothing in sight for you but their pleasure, for the whole of your life, without rest, without hope, without end. . . . From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. . . . "We're all one big family, they told us, we're all in this together. But you don't all stand working an acetylene torch ten hours a day— together, and you don't all get a bellyache—together. What's whose ability and which of whose needs comes first? When it's all one pot, you can't let any man decide what his own needs are, can you? If you did, he might claim that he needs a yacht—and if his feelings is all you have to go by, he might prove it, too. Why not? If it's not right for me to own a car until I've worked myself into a hospital ward, earning a car for every loafer and every naked savage on earth—why can't he demand a yacht from me, too, if I still have the ability not to have collapsed? No? He can't? Then why can he demand that I go without cream for my coffee until he's replastered his living room? --------------------------------------- 506 . . . Oh well . . . Well, anyway, it was decided that nobody had the right to judge his own need or ability. We voted on it. Yes, ma'am, we voted on it in a public meeting twice a year. How else could it be done? Do you care to think what would happen at such a meeting? It took us just one meeting to discover that we had become beggars—rotten, whining, sniveling beggars, all of us, because no man could claim his pay as his rightful earning, he had no rights and no earnings, his work didn't belong to him, it belonged to 'the family,' and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his 'need' —so he had to beg in public for relief from his needs, like any lousy moocher, listing all his troubles and miseries, down to his patched drawers and his wife's head colds, hoping that 'the family' would throw him the alms. He had to claim miseries, because it's miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm—so it turned into a contest among six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that his need was worse than his brother's. How else could it be done? Do you care to guess what happened, what sort of men kept quiet, feeling shame, and what sort got away with the jackpot? "But that wasn't all. There was something else that we discovered at the same meeting. The factory's production had fallen by forty per cent, in that first half-year, so it was decided that somebody hadn't delivered 'according to his ability’ Who? How would you tell it? 'The family' voted on that, too. They voted which men were the best, and these men were sentenced to work overtime each night for the next six months. Overtime without pay—because you weren't paid by tune and you weren't paid by work, only by need. "Do I have to tell you what happened after that—and into what sort of creatures we all started turning, we who had once been human? We began to hide whatever ability we had, to slow down and watch like hawks that we never worked any faster or better than the next fellow. What else could we do, when we knew that if we did our best for 'the family,' it's not thanks or rewards that we'd get, but punishment? We knew that for every stinker who'd ruin a batch of motors and cost the company money—either through his sloppiness, because he didn't have to care, or through plain incompetence—it's we who'd have to pay with our nights and our Sundays. So we did our best to be no good. "There was one young boy who started out, full of fire for the noble ideal, a bright kid without any schooling, but with a wonderful head on his shoulders. The first year, he figured out a work process that saved us thousands of man-hours. He gave it to 'the family,' didn't ask anything for it, either, couldn't ask, but that was all right with him. It was for the ideal, he said. But when he found himself voted as one of our ablest and sentenced to night work, because we hadn't gotten enough from him, he shut his mouth and his brain. You can bet he didn't come up with any ideas, the second year. "What was it they'd always told us about the vicious competition of the profit system, where men had to compete for who'd do a better job than his fellows? Vicious, wasn't it? Well, they should have seen what it was like when we all had to compete with one another for who'd do the worst job possible. There's no surer way to destroy a man than to force him into a spot where he has to aim at not doing his best, where he has to struggle to do a bad job, day after day. That will finish him quicker than drink or idleness or pulling stick-ups for a living. But there was nothing else for us to do except to fake unfitness. The one accusation we feared was to be suspected of ability. Ability was like a mortgage on you that you could never pay off. And what was there to work for? You knew that your basic pittance would be given to you anyway, whether you worked or not—your 'housing and feeding allowance,' it was called—and above that pittance, you had no chance to get anything, no matter --------------------------------------- 507 how hard you tried. You couldn't count on buying a new suit of clothes next year—they might give you a 'clothing allowance' or they might not, according to whether nobody broke a leg, needed an operation or gave birth to more babies. And if there wasn't enough money for new suits for everybody, then you couldn't get yours, either. "There was one man who'd worked hard all his life, because he'd always wanted to send his son through college. Well, the boy graduated from high school in the second year of the plan—but 'the family' wouldn't give the father any 'allowance’ for the college. They said his son couldn't go to college, until we had enough to send everybody's sons to college—and that we first had to send everybody's children through high school, and we didn't even have enough for that. The father died the following year, in a knife fight with somebody in a saloon, a fight over nothing in particular—such fights were beginning to happen among us all the time. "Then there was an old guy, a widower with no family, who had one hobby: phonograph records. I guess that was all he ever got out of life. In the old days, he used to skip meals just to buy himself some new recording of classical music. Well, they didn't give him any 'allowance' for records— 'personal luxury,' they called it. But at that same meeting, Millie Bush, somebody's daughter, a mean, ugly little eight-year-old, was voted a pair of gold braces for her buck teeth— this was 'medical need,' because the staff psychologist had said that the poor girl would get an inferiority complex if her teeth weren't straightened out. The old guy' who loved music, turned to drink, instead. He got so you never saw him fully conscious any more. But it seems like there was one tiling he couldn't forget. One night, he came staggering down the street, saw Millie Bush, swung his fist and knocked all her teeth out. Every one of them. "Drink, of course, was what we all turned to, some more, some less. Don't ask how we got the money for it. When all the decent pleasures are forbidden, there's always ways to get the rotten ones. You don't break into grocery stores after dark and you don't pick your fellow's pockets to buy classical symphonies or fishing tackle, but if it's to get stinking drunk and forget—you do. Fishing tackle? Hunting guns? Snapshot cameras? Hobbies? There wasn't any 'amusement allowance' for anybody. 'Amusement' was the first thing they dropped. Aren't you always supposed to be ashamed to object when anybody asks you to give up anything, if it's something that gave you pleasure? Even our 'tobacco allowance' was cut to where we got two packs of cigarettes a month—and this, they told us, was because the money had to go into the babies' milk fund. Babies was the only item of production that didn't fall, but rose and kept on rising—because people had nothing else to do, I guess, and because they didn't have to care, the baby wasn't their burden, it was 'the family's.' In fact, the best chance you had of getting a raise and breathing easier for a while was a 'baby allowance.' Either that, or a major disease. "It didn't take us long to see how it all worked out. Any man who tried to play straight, had to refuse himself everything. He lost his taste for any pleasure, he hated to smoke a nickel's worth of tobacco or chew a stick of gum, worrying whether somebody had more need for that nickel. He felt ashamed of every mouthful of food he swallowed, wondering whose weary nights of overtime had paid for it, knowing that his food was not his by right, miserably wishing to be cheated rather than to cheat, to be a sucker, but not a blood-sucker. He wouldn't marry, he wouldn't help his folks back home, he wouldn't put an extra burden on 'the family.' Besides, if he still had some sort of sense of responsibility, he couldn't marry or bring children into the world, when he could plan nothing, promise nothing, count on nothing. --------------------------------------- 508 But the shiftless and the irresponsible had a field day of it. They bred babies, they got girls into trouble, they dragged in every worthless relative they had from all over the country, every unmarried pregnant sister, for an extra 'disability allowance,' they got more sicknesses than any doctor could disprove, they ruined their clothing, their furniture, their homes—what the hell, 'the family' was paying for it! They found more ways of getting in 'need' than the rest of us could ever imagine —they developed a special skill for it, which was the only ability they showed. "God help us, ma'am! Do you see what we saw? We saw that we'd been given a law to live by, a moral law, they called it, which punished those who observed it—for observing it. The more you tried to live up to it, the more you suffered; the more you cheated it, the bigger reward you got. Your honesty was like a tool left at the mercy of the next man's dishonesty. The honest ones paid, the dishonest collected. The honest lost, the dishonest won. How long could men stay good under this sort of a law of goodness? We were a pretty decent bunch of fellows when we started. There weren't many chiselers among us. We knew our jobs and we were proud of it and we worked for the best factory in the country, where old man Starnes hired nothing but the pick of the country's labor. Within one year under the new plan, there wasn't an honest man left among us. That was the evil, the sort of hell-horror evil that preachers used to scare you with, but you never thought to see alive. Not that the plan encouraged a few bastards, but that it turned decent people into bastards, and there was nothing else that it could do—and it was called a moral ideal! "What was it we were supposed to want to work for? For the love of our brothers? What brothers? For the bums, the loafers, the moochers we saw all around us? And whether they were cheating or plain incompetent, whether they were unwilling or unable—what difference did that make to us? If we were tied for life to the level of their unfitness, faked or real, how long could we care to go on? We had no way of knowing their ability, we had no way of controlling their needs—all we knew was that we were beasts of burden struggling blindly in some sort of place that was half-hospital, half- stockyards—a place geared to nothing but disability, disaster, disease—beasts put there for the relief of whatever whoever chose to say was whichever's need. "Love of our brothers? That's when we learned to hate our brothers for the first time in our lives. We began to hate them for every meal they swallowed, for every small pleasure they enjoyed, for one man's new shirt, for another's wife's hat, for an outing with their family, for a paint job on their house— it was taken from us, it was paid for by our privations, our denials, our hunger. We began to spy on one another, each hoping to catch the others lying about their needs, so as to cut their 'allowance' at the next meeting. We began to have stool pigeons who informed on people, who reported that somebody had bootlegged a turkey to his family on some Sunday—which he'd paid for by gambling, most likely. We began to meddle into one another's lives. We provoked family quarrels, to get somebody's relatives thrown out. Any time we saw a man starting to go steady with a girl, we made life miserable for him. We broke up many engagements. We didn't want anyone to marry, we didn't want any more dependents to feed. "In the old days, we used to celebrate if somebody had a baby, we used to chip in and help him out with the hospital bills, if he happened to be hard- pressed for the moment. Now, if a baby was born, we didn't speak to the parents for weeks. Babies, to us, had become what locusts were to farmers. In the old days, we used to help a man if he had a bad illness in the family. Now—well, I’ll tell you about just one case. It was the mother of a man who --------------------------------------- 509 had been with us for fifteen years. She was a kindly old lady, cheerful and wise, she knew us all by our first names and we all liked her—we used to like her. One day, she slipped on the cellar stairs and fell and broke her hip. We knew what that meant at her age. The staff doctor said that she'd have to be sent to a hospital in town, for expensive treatments that would take a long time. The old lady died the night before she was to leave for town. They never established the cause of death. No, I don't know whether she was murdered. Nobody said that. Nobody would talk about it at all. All I know is that I—and that's what I can't forget!—I, too, had caught myself wishing that she would die. This—may God forgive us!—was the brotherhood, the security, the abundance that the plan was supposed to achieve for us! "Was there any reason why this sort of horror would ever be preached by anybody? Was there anybody who got any profit from it? There was. The Starnes heirs. I hope you're not going to remind me that they'd sacrificed a fortune and turned the factory over to us as a gift. We were fooled by that one, too. Yes, they gave up the factory. But profit, ma'am, depends on what it is you're after. And what the Starnes heirs were after, no money on earth could buy. Money is too clean and innocent for that. "Eric Starnes, the youngest—he was a jellyfish that didn't have the guts to be after anything in particular. He got himself voted as Director of our Public Relations Department, which didn't do anything, except that he had a staff for the not doing of anything, so he didn't have to bother sticking around the office. The pay he got—well, I shouldn't call it 'pay,' none of us was 'paid'—the alms voted to him was fairly modest, about ten times what I got, but that wasn't riches. Eric didn't care for money—he wouldn't have known what to do with it. He spent his time hanging around among us, showing how chummy he was and democratic. He wanted to be loved, it seems. The way he went about it was to keep reminding us that he had given us the factory. We couldn't stand him. "Gerald Starnes was our Director of Production. We never learned just what the size of his rake-off—his alms—had been. It would have taken a staff of accountants to figure that out, and a staff of engineers to trace the way it was piped, directly or indirectly, into his office. None of it was supposed to be for him—it was all for company expenses. Gerald had three cars, four secretaries, five telephones, and he used to throw champagne and caviar parties that no tax-paying tycoon in the country could have afforded. He spent more money in one year than his father had earned in profits in the last two years of his life. We saw a hundred-pound stack—a hundred pounds, we weighed them—of magazines in Gerald's office, full of stories about our factory and our noble plan, with big pictures of Gerald Starnes, calling him a great social crusader. Gerald liked to come into the shops at night, dressed in his formal clothes, flashing diamond cuff links the size of a nickel and shaking cigar ashes all over. Any cheap show-off who's got nothing to parade but his cash, is bad enough—except that he makes no bones about the cash being his, and you're free to gape at him or not, as you wish, and mostly you don't. But when a bastard like Gerald Starnes puts on an act and keeps spouting that he doesn't care for material wealth, that he's only serving 'the family,' that all the lushness is not for himself, but for our sake and for the common good, because it's necessary to keep up the prestige of the company and of the noble plan in the eyes of the public—then that's when you learn to hate the creature as you've never hated anything human. "But his sister Ivy was worse. She really did not care for material wealth. The alms she got was no bigger than ours, and she went about in scuffed, flat-heeled shoes and shirtwaists—just to show how selfless she was. She was our Director of Distribution. She was the lady in charge of our --------------------------------------- 510 needs. She was the one who held us by the throat. Of course, distribution was supposed to be decided by voting—by the voice of the people. But when the people are six thousand howling voices, trying to decide without yardstick, rhyme or reason, when there are no rules to the game and each can demand anything, but has a right to nothing, when everybody holds power over everybody's life except his own—then it turns out, as it did, that the voice of the people is Ivy Starnes. By the end of the second year, we dropped the pretense of the 'family meetings'—in the name of 'production efficiency and time economy,' one meeting used to take ten days—and all the petitions of need were simply sent to Miss Starnes' office. No, not sent. They had to be recited to her in person by every petitioner. Then she made up a distribution list, which she read to us for our vote of approval at a meeting that lasted three-quarters of an hour. We voted approval. There was a ten-minute period on the agenda for discussion and objections. We made no objections. We knew better by that time. Nobody can divide a factory's income among thousands of people, without some sort of a gauge to measure people's value. Her gauge was bootlicking. Selfless? In her father's time, all of his money wouldn't have given him a chance to speak to his lousiest wiper and get away with it, as she spoke to our best skilled workers and their wives. She had pale eyes that looked fishy, cold and dead. And if you ever want to see pure evil, you should have seen the way her eyes glinted when she watched some man who'd talked back to her once and who'd just heard his name on the list of those getting nothing above basic pittance. And when you saw it, you saw the real motive of any person who's ever preached the slogan: 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,' "This was the whole secret of it. At first, I kept wondering how it could be possible that the educated, the cultured, the famous men of the world could make a mistake of this size and preach, as righteousness, this sort of abomination—when five minutes of thought should have told them what would happen if somebody tried to practice what they preached. Now I know that they didn't do it by any kind of mistake. Mistakes of this size are never made innocently. If men fall for some vicious piece of insanity, when they have no way to make it work and no possible reason to explain their choice—it's because they have a reason that they do not wish to tell. And we weren't so innocent either, when we voted for that plan at the first meeting. We didn't do it just because we believed that the drippy old guff they spewed was good. We had another reason, but the guff helped us to hide it from our neighbors and from ourselves. The guff gave us a chance to pass off as virtue something that we'd be ashamed to admit otherwise. There wasn't a man voting for it who didn't think that under a setup of this kind he'd muscle in on the profits of the men abler than himself. There wasn't a man rich and smart enough but that he didn't think that somebody was richer and smarter, and this plan would give him a share of his better's wealth and brain. But while he was thinking that he'd get unearned benefits from the men above, he forgot about the men below who'd get unearned benefits, too. He forgot about all his inferiors who'd rush to drain him just as he hoped to drain his superiors. The worker who liked the idea that his need entitled him to a limousine like his boss's, forgot that every bum and beggar on earth would come howling that their need entitled them to an icebox like his own. That was our real motive when we voted— that was the truth of it—but we didn't like to think it, so the less we liked it, the louder we yelled about our love for the common good. "Well, we got what we asked for. By the time we saw what it was that we'd asked for, it was too late. We were trapped, with no place to go. The best men among us left the factory in the first week of the plan. We lost our best --------------------------------------- 511 engineers, superintendents, foremen and highest skilled workers. A man of self-respect doesn't turn into a milch cow for anybody. Some able fellows tried to stick it out, but they couldn't take it for long. We kept losing our men, they kept escaping from the factory like from a pesthole—till we had nothing left except the men of need, but none of the men of ability. "And the few of us who were still any good, but stayed on, were only those who had been there too long. In the old days, nobody ever quit the Twentieth Century—and, somehow, we couldn't make ourselves believe that it was gone. After a while, we couldn't quit, because no other employer would have us—for which I can't blame him. Nobody would deal with us in any way, no respectable person or firm. All the small shops, where we traded, started moving out of Starnesville fast—till we had nothing left but saloons, gambling joints and crooks who sold us trash at gouging prices. The alms we got kept falling, but the cost of our living went up. The list of the factory's needy kept stretching, but the list of its customers shrank. There was less and less income to divide among more and more people. In the old days, it used to be said that the Twentieth Century Motor trademark was as good as the karat mark on gold. I don't know what it was that the Starnes heirs thought, if they thought at all, but I suppose that like all social planners and like savages, they thought that this trademark was a magic stamp which did the trick by some sort of voodoo power and that it would keep them rich, as it had kept their father. Well, when our customers began to see that we never delivered an order on time and never put out a motor that didn't have something wrong with it—the magic stamp began to work the other way around: people wouldn't take a motor as a gift, if it was marked Twentieth Century, And it came to where our only customers were men who never paid and never meant to pay their bills. But Gerald Starnes, doped by his own publicity, got huffy and went around, with an air of moral superiority, demanding that businessmen place orders with us, not because our motors were good, but because we needed the orders so badly. "By that time, a village half-wit could see what generations of professors had pretended not to notice. What good would our need do to a power plant when its generators stopped because of our defective engines? What good would it do to a man caught on an operating table when the electric light went out? What good would it do to the passengers of a plane when its motor failed in mid-air? And if they bought our product, not because of its merit, but because of our need, would that be the good, the right, the moral thing to do for the owner of that power plant, the surgeon in that hospital, the maker of that plane? "Yet this was the moral law that the professors and leaders and thinkers had wanted to establish all over the earth. If this is what it did in a single small town where we all knew one another, do you care to think what it would do on a world scale? Do you care to imagine what it would be like, if you had to live and to work, when you're tied to all the disasters and all the malingering of the globe? To work —and whenever any men failed anywhere, it's you who would have to make up for it. To work—with no chance to rise, with your meals and your clothes and your home and your pleasure depending on any swindle, any famine, any pestilence anywhere on earth. To work— with no chance for an extra ration, till the Cambodians have been fed and the Patagonians have been sent through college. To work—on a blank check held by every creature born, by men whom you'll never see, whose needs you'll never know, whose ability or laziness or sloppiness or fraud you have no way to learn and no right to question —just to work and work and work—and leave it up to the Ivys and the Geralds of the world to decide whose stomach will --------------------------------------- 512 consume the effort, the dreams and the days of your life. And this is the moral law to accept? This—a moral ideal? "Well, we tried it—and we learned. Our agony took four years, from our first meeting to our last, and it ended the only way it could end: in bankruptcy. At our last meeting, Ivy Starnes was the one who tried to brazen it out. She made a short, nasty, snippy little speech in which she said that the plan had failed because the rest of the country had not accepted it, that a single community could not succeed in the midst of a selfish, greedy world— and that the plan was a noble ideal, but human nature was not good enough for it. A young boy—the one who had been punished for giving us a useful idea in our first year—got up, as we all sat silent, and walked straight to Ivy Starnes on the platform. He said nothing. He spat in her face. That was the end of the noble plan and of the Twentieth Century." The man had spoken as if the burden of his years of silence had slipped suddenly out of his grasp. She knew that this was his tribute to her: he had shown no reaction to her kindness, he had seemed numbed to human value or human hope, but something within him had been reached and his response was this confession, this long, desperate cry of rebellion against injustice, held back for years, but breaking out in recognition of the first person he had met in whose hearing an appeal for justice would not be hopeless. It was as if the life he had been about to renounce were given back to him by the two essentials he needed: by his food and by the presence of a rational being. "But what about John Galt?" she asked. "Oh . . ." he said, remembering. "Oh, yes . . ." "You were going to tell me why people started asking that question." "Yes . . ." He was looking off, as if at some sight which he had studied for years, but which remained unchanged and unsolved; his face had an odd, questioning look of terror. "You were going to tell me who was the John Galt they mean—if there ever was such a person." "I hope there wasn't, ma'am. I mean, I hope that it's just a coincidence, just a sentence that hasn't any meaning." "You had something in mind. What?" "It was . . . it was something that happened at that first meeting at the Twentieth Century factory. Maybe that was the start of it, maybe not. I don't know . . . The meeting was held on a spring night, twelve years ago. The six thousand of us were crowded on bleachers built way up to the rafters of the plant's largest hangar. We had just voted for the new plan and we were in an edgy sort of mood, making too much noise, cheering the people's victory, threatening some kind of unknown enemies and spoiling for a fight, like bullies with an uneasy conscience. There were white arclights beating down on us and we felt kind of touchy and raw, and we were an ugly, dangerous mob in that moment. Gerald Starnes, who was chairman, kept hammering his gavel for order, and we quieted down some, but not much, and you could see the whole place moving restlessly from side to side, like water in a pan that's being rocked. 'This is a crucial moment in the history of mankind!' Gerald Starnes yelled through the noise. 'Remember that none of us may now leave this place, for each of us belongs to all the others by the moral law which we all accept!' 'I don't," said one man and stood up. He was one of the young engineers. Nobody knew much about him. He'd always kept mostly by himself. When he stood up, we suddenly turned dead-still. It was the way he held his head. He was tall and slim—and I remember thinking that any two of us could have broken his neck without trouble—but what we all felt was fear. He stood like a man who knew that he was right. 'I will put an end to this, once and for all,' he said. His voice was clear and without any feeling. That was all he said and started --------------------------------------- 513 to walk out. He walked down the length of the place, in the white light, not hurrying and not noticing any of us. Nobody moved to stop him. Gerald Starnes cried suddenly after him, 'How?' He turned and answered, 'I will stop the motor of the world. Then he walked out. We never saw him again. We never heard what became of him. But years later, when we saw the lights going out, one after another, in the great factories that had stood solid like mountains for generations, when we saw the gates closing and the conveyor belts turning still, when we saw the roads growing empty and the stream of cars draining off, when it began to look as if some silent power were stopping the generators of the world and the world was crumbling quietly, like a body when its spirit is gone—then we began to wonder and to ask questions about him. We began to ask it of one another, those of us who had heard him say it. We began to think that he had kept his word, that he, who had seen and known the truth we refused to know, was the retribution we had called upon our heads, the avenger, the man of that justice which we had defied. We began to think that he had damned us and there was no escape from his verdict and we would never be able to get away from him—and this was the more terrible because he was not pursuing us, it was we who were suddenly looking for him and he had merely gone without a trace. We found no answer about him anywhere. We wondered by what sort of impossible power he could have done what he had promised to do. There was no answer to that. We began to think of him whenever we saw another collapse in the world, which nobody could explain, whenever we took another blow, whenever we lost another hope, whenever we felt caught in this dead, gray fog that's descending all over the earth. Perhaps people heard us crying that question and they did not know what we meant, but they knew too well the feeling that made us cry it. They, too, felt that something had gone from the world. Perhaps this was why they began to say it, whenever they felt that there was no hope. I'd like to think that I am wrong, that those words mean nothing, that there's no conscious intention and no avenger behind the ending of the human race. But when I hear them repeating that question, I feel afraid. I think of the man who said that he would stop the motor of the world. You see, his name was John Galt." She awakened, because the sound of the wheels had changed. It was an irregular beat, with sudden screeches and short, sharp cracks, a sound like the broken laughter of hysteria, with the fitful jerking of the car to match it. She knew, before she glanced at her watch, that this was the track of the Kansas Western and that the train had started on its long detour south from Kirby, Nebraska. The train was half-empty; few people had ventured across the continent on the first Comet since the tunnel disaster. She had given a bedroom to the tramp, and then had remained alone with his story. She had wanted to think of it, of all the questions she intended to ask him tomorrow—but she had found her mind frozen and still, like a spectator staring at the story, unable to function, only to stare. She had felt as if she knew the meaning of that spectacle, knew it with no further questions and had to escape it. To move—had been the words beating in her mind with peculiar urgency—to move—as if movement had become an end in itself, crucial, absolute and doomed. Through a thin layer of sleep, the sound of the wheels had kept running a race with the growth of her tension. She had kept awakening, as in a causeless start of panic, finding herself upright in the darkness, thinking blankly: What was it?—then telling herself in reassurance: We're moving . . . we're still moving. . . . The track of the Kansas Western was worse than she had expected— she thought, listening to the wheels. The train was now carrying her hundreds of miles away from Utah. She had felt a desperate desire to get off --------------------------------------- 514 the train on the main line, abandon all the problems of Taggart Transcontinental, find an airplane and fly straight to Quentin Daniels. It had taken a cheerless effort of will to remain in her car. She lay in the darkness, listening to the wheels, thinking that only Daniels and his motor still remained like a point of fire ahead, pulling her forward. Of what use would the motor now be to her? She had no answer. Why did she feel so certain of the desperate need to hurry? She had no answer. To reach him in time, was the only ultimatum left in her mind. She held onto it, asking no questions. Wordlessly, she knew the real answer: the motor was needed, not to move trains, but to keep her moving. She could not hear the beat of the fourth knocks any longer in the jumbled screeching of metal, she could not hear the steps of the enemy she was racing, only the hopeless stampede of panic. . . . I'll get there in time, she thought, I'll get there first, I'll save the motor. There's one motor he's not going to stop, she thought . . . he's not going to stop . . . he's not going to stop . . . He's not going to stop, she thought—awakening with a jolt, jerking her head off the pillow. The wheels had stopped. For a moment, she remained still, trying to grasp the peculiar stillness around her. It felt like the impossible attempt to create a sensory image of non-existence. There were no attributes of reality to perceive, nothing but their absence: no sound, as if she were alone on the train—no motion, as if this were not a train, but a room in a building—no light, as if this were neither train nor room, but space without objects—no sign of violence or physical disaster, as if this were the state where disaster is no longer possible. In the moment when she grasped the nature of the stillness, her body sprang upright with a single curve of motion, immediate and violent like a cry of rebellion. The loud screech of the window shade went like a knife-cut through the silence, as she threw the shade upward. There was nothing outside but anonymous stretches of prairie; a strong wind was breaking the clouds, and a shaft of moonlight fell through, but it fell upon plains that seemed as dead as those from which it came. The sweep of her hand pressed the light switch and the bell to summon the porter. The electric light came on and brought her back to a rational world. She glanced at her watch: it was a few minutes past midnight. She looked out of the rear window: the track went off in a straight line and, at the prescribed distance, she saw the red lanterns left on the ground, placed conscientiously to protect the rear of the train. The sight seemed reassuring. She pressed the porter's bell once more. She waited. She went to the vestibule, unlocked the door and leaned out to look down the line of the train. A few windows were lighted in the long, tapering band of steel, but she saw no figures, no sign of human activity. She slammed the door, came back and started to dress, her movements suddenly calm and swift. No one came to answer her bell. When she hastened across to the next car, she felt no fear, no uncertainty, no despair, nothing but the urgency of action. There was no porter in the cubbyhole of the next car, no porter in the car beyond. She hurried down the narrow passageways, meeting no one. But a few compartment doors were open. The passengers sat inside, dressed or half- dressed, silently, as if waiting. They watched her rush by with oddly furtive glances, as if they knew what she was after, as if they had expected someone to come and to face what they had not faced. She went on, running down the spinal cord of a dead train, noting the peculiar combination of lighted --------------------------------------- 515 compartments, open doors and empty passages: no one had ventured to step out. No one had wanted to ask the first question. She ran through the train's only coach, where some passengers slept in contorted poses of exhaustion, while others, awake and still, sat hunched, like animals waiting for a blow, making no move to avert it In the vestibule of the coach, she stopped. She saw a man, who had unlocked the door and was leaning out, looking inquiringly ahead through the darkness, ready to step off. He turned at the sound of her approach. She recognized his face: it was Owen Kellogg, the man who had rejected the future she had once offered him. "Kellogg!" she gasped, the sound of laughter in her voice like a cry of relief at the sudden sight of a man in a desert. "Hello, Miss Taggart," he answered, with an astonished smile that held a touch of incredulous pleasure—and of wistfulness. "I didn't know you were aboard." "Come on," she ordered, as if he were still an employee of the railroad. "I think we're on a frozen train." "We are," he said, and followed her with prompt, disciplined obedience. No explanations were necessary. It was as if, in unspoken understanding, they were answering a call to duty—and it seemed natural that of the hundreds aboard, it was the two of them who should be partners-in-danger. "Any idea how long we've been standing?" she asked, as they hurried on through the next car. "No," he said. "We were standing when I woke up." They went the length of the train, finding no porters, no waiters in the diner, no brakemen, no conductor. They glanced at each other once in a while, but kept silent. They knew the stories of abandoned trains, of the crews that vanished in sudden bursts of rebellion against serfdom. They got off at the head end of the train, with no motion around them save the wind on their faces, and they climbed swiftly aboard the engine. The engine's headlight was on, stretching like an accusing arm into the void of the night. The engine's cab was empty. Her cry of desperate triumph broke out in answer to the shock of the sight: "Good for them! They're human beings!" She stopped, aghast, as at the cry of a stranger. She noticed that Kellogg stood watching her curiously, with the faint hint of a smile. It was an old steam engine, the best that the railroad had been able to provide for the Comet. The fire was banked in the grates, the steam gauge was low, and in the great windshield before them the headlight fell upon a band of ties that should have been running to meet them, but lay still instead, like a ladder's steps, counted, numbered and ended. She reached for the logbook and looked at the names of the train's last crew. The engineer had been Pat Logan. Her head dropped slowly, and she closed her eyes. She thought of the first run on a green-blue track, that must have been in Pat Logan's mind—as it was now in hers—through the silent hours of his last run on any rail. "Miss Taggart?" said Owen Kellogg softly. She jerked her head up. "Yes," she said, "yes . . . Well"—her voice had no color except the metallic tinge of decision—"we'll have to get to a phone and call for another crew." She glanced at her watch. "At the rate we were running, I think we must be about eighty miles from the Oklahoma state line. I believe Bradshaw is this road's nearest division point to call. We're somewhere within thirty miles of it." "Are there any Taggart trains following us?" "The next one is Number 253, the transcontinental freight, but it won't get here till about seven A.M., if it's running on time, which 1 doubt." "Only one freight in seven hours?" He said it involuntarily, with a note of outraged loyalty to the great railroad he had once been proud to serve. --------------------------------------- 516 Her mouth moved in the brief snap of a smile. "Our transcontinental traffic is not what it was in your day." He nodded slowly. "I don't suppose there are any Kansas Western trains coming tonight, either?" "I can't remember offhand, but I think not." He glanced at the poles by the side of the track. "I hope that the Kansas Western people have kept their phones in order." "You mean that the chances are they haven't, if we judge by the state of their track. But we'll have to try it," "Yes." She turned to go, but stopped. She knew it was useless to comment, but the words came involuntarily. "You know," she said, "it's those lanterns our men put behind the train to protect us that's the hardest thing to take. They . . . they felt more concern for human lives than their country had shown for theirs." His swift glance at her was like a shot of deliberate emphasis, then he answered gravely, "Yes, Miss Taggart." Climbing down the ladder on the side of the engine, they saw a cluster of passengers gathered by the track and more figures emerging from the train to join them. By some special instinct of their own, the men who had sat waiting knew that someone had taken charge, someone had assumed the responsibility and it was now safe to show signs of life. They all looked at her with an air of inquiring expectation, as she approached. The unnatural pallor of the moonlight seemed to dissolve the differences of their faces and to stress the quality they all had in common: a look of cautious appraisal, part fear, part plea, part impertinence held in abeyance. "Is there anyone here who wishes to be spokesman for the passengers?" she asked. They looked at one another. There was no answer. "Very well," she said. "You don't have to speak. I'm Dagny Taggart, the Operating Vice-President of this railroad, and"—there was a rustle of response from the group, half-movement, half-whisper, resembling relief—"and I'll do the speaking. We are on a train that has been abandoned by its crew. There was no physical accident. The engine is intact. But there is no one to run it. This is what the newspapers call a frozen train. You all know what it means—and you know the reasons. Perhaps you knew the reasons long before they were discovered by the men who deserted you tonight. The law forbade them to desert. But this will not help you now." A woman shrieked suddenly, with the demanding petulance of hysteria, "What are we going to do?" Dagny paused to look at her. The woman was pushing forward, to squeeze herself into the group, to place some human bodies between herself and the sight of the great vacuum—the plain stretching off and dissolving into moonlight, the dead phosphorescence of impotent, borrowed energy. The woman had a coat thrown over a nightgown; the coat was slipping open and her stomach protruded under the gown's thin cloth, with that loose obscenity of manner which assumes all human self-revelation to be ugliness and makes no effort to conceal it. For a moment, Dagny regretted the necessity to continue. "I shall go down the track to a telephone," she continued, her voice clear and as cold as the moonlight. "There are emergency telephones at intervals of five miles along the right-of-way. I shall call for another crew to be sent here. This will take some time. You will please stay aboard and maintain such order as you are capable of maintaining." "What about the gangs of raiders?" asked another woman's nervous voice. --------------------------------------- 517 "That's true," said Dagny. "I'd better have someone to accompany me. Who wishes to go?" She had misunderstood the woman's motive. There was no answer. There were no glances directed at her or at one another. There were no eyes—only moist ovals glistening in the moonlight. There they were, she thought, the men of the new age, the demanders and recipients of self- sacrifice. She was struck by a quality of anger in their silence— an anger saying that she was supposed to spare them moments such as this— and, with a feeling of cruelty new to her, she remained silent by conscious intention. She noticed that Owen Kellogg, too, was waiting; but he was not watching the passengers, he was watching her face. When he became certain that there would be no answer from the crowd, he said quietly, "I'll go with you, of course, Miss Taggart." "Thank you." "What about us?" snapped the nervous woman. Dagny turned to her, answering in the formal, inflectionless monotone of a business executive, "There have been no cases of raider gang attacks upon frozen trains—unfortunately." "Just where are we?" asked a bulky man with too expensive an overcoat and too flabby a face; his voice had a tone intended for servants by a man unfit to employ them. "In what part of what state?" "I don't know," she answered. "How long will we be kept here?" asked another, in the tone of a creditor who is imposed upon by a debtor. "1 don't know." "When will we get to San Francisco?" asked a third, in the manner of a sheriff addressing a suspect. "I don't know." The demanding resentment was breaking loose, in small, crackling puffs, like chestnuts popping open in the dark oven of the minds who now felt certain that they were taken care of and safe. "This is perfectly outrageous!" yelled a woman, springing forward, throwing her words at Dagny's face. "You have no right to let this happen! I don't intend to be kept waiting in the middle of nowhere! I expect transportation!" "Keep your mouth shut," said Dagny, "or I'll lock the train doors and leave you where you are." "You can't do that! You're a common carrier! You have no right to discriminate against me! I'll report it to the Unification Board!" "—if I give you a train to get you within sight or hearing of your Board," said Dagny, turning away. She saw Kellogg looking at her, his glance like a line drawn under her words, underscoring them for her own attention. "Get a flashlight somewhere," she said, "while I go to get my handbag, then we'll start." When they started out on their way to the track phone, walking past the silent line of cars, they saw another figure descending from the train and hurrying to meet them. She recognized the tramp. "Trouble, ma'am?" he asked, stopping. "The crew has deserted." "Oh. What's to be done?" "I'm going to a phone to call the division point." "You can't go alone, ma'am. Not these days. I'd better go with you." She smiled. "Thanks. But I'll be all right. Mr. Kellogg here is going with me. Say—what's your name?" "Jeff Alien, ma'am." --------------------------------------- 518 "Listen, Alien, have you ever worked for a railroad?" "No, ma'am." "Well, you're working for one now. You're deputy-conductor and proxy-vice- president-in-charge-of-operation. Your job is to take charge of this train in my absence, to preserve order and to keep the cattle from stampeding. Tell them that I appointed you. You don't need any proof. They'll obey anybody who expects obedience." "Yes, ma'am," he answered firmly, with a look of understanding. She remembered that money inside a man's pocket had the power to turn into confidence inside his mind; she took a hundred-dollar bill from her bag and slipped it into his hand. "As advance on wages," she said. "Yes, ma'am." She had started off, when he called after her, "Miss Taggart!" She turned. "Yes?" "Thank you," he said. She smiled, half-raising her hand in a parting salute, and walked on. "Who is that?" asked Kellogg. "A tramp who was caught stealing a ride." "He'll do the job, I think." "He will." They walked silently past the engine and on in the direction of its headlight. At first, stepping from tie to tie, with the violent light beating against them from behind, they still felt as if they were at home in the normal realm of a railroad. Then she found herself watching the light on the ties under her feet, watching it ebb slowly, trying to hold it, to keep seeing its fading glow, until she knew that the hint of a glow on the wood was no longer anything but moonlight. She could not prevent the shudder that made her turn to look back. The headlight still hung behind them, like the liquid silver globe of a planet, deceptively close, but belonging to another orbit and another system. Owen Kellogg walked silently beside her, and she felt certain that they knew each other's thoughts. "He couldn't have. Oh God, he couldn't!" she said suddenly, not realizing that she had switched to words. "Who?" "Nathaniel Taggart. He couldn't have worked with people like those passengers. He couldn't have run trains for them. He couldn't have employed them. He couldn't have used them at all, neither as customers nor as workers." Kellogg smiled. "You mean that he couldn't have grown rich by exploiting them, Miss Taggart?" She nodded. "They . . ." she said, and he heard the faint trembling of her voice, which was love and pain and indignation, "they've said for years that he rose by thwarting the ability of others, by leaving them no chance, and that . . . that human incompetence was to his selfish interest. . . . But he . . . it wasn't obedience that he required of people." "Miss Taggart," he said, with an odd note of sternness in his voice, "just remember that he represented a code of existence which—for a brief span in all human history—drove slavery out of the civilized world. Remember it, when you feel baffled by the nature of his enemies," "Have you ever heard of a woman named Ivy Starnes?" "Oh yes." "I keep thinking that this was what she would have enjoyed—the spectacle of those passengers tonight. This was what she's after. But we—we can't live with it, you and I, can we? No one can live with it. It's not possible to live with it." --------------------------------------- 519 "What makes you think that Ivy Starnes's purpose is life?" Somewhere on the edge of her mind—like the wisps she saw floating on the edges of the prairie, neither quite rays nor fog nor cloud— she felt some shape which she could not grasp, half-suggested and demanding to be grasped. She did not speak, and—like the links of a chain unrolling through their silence—the rhythm of their steps went on, spaced to the ties, scored by the dry, swift beat of heels on wood. She had not had time to be aware of him, except as of a providential comrade-in-competence; now she glanced at him with conscious attention. His face had the clear, hard look she remembered having liked in the past. But the face had grown calmer, as if more serenely at peace. His clothes were threadbare. He wore an old leather jacket, and even in the darkness she could distinguish the scuffed blotches streaking across the leather. "What have you been doing since you left Taggart Transcontinental?" she asked. "Oh, many things." "Where are you working now?" "On special assignments, more or less." "Of what kind?" "Of every kind." "You're not working for a railroad?" "No." The sharp brevity of the sound seemed to expand it into an eloquent statement. She knew that he knew her motive. "Kellogg, if I told you that I don't have a single first-rate man left on the Taggart system, if I offered you any job, any terms, any money you cared to name—would you come back to us?" "No." "You were shocked by our loss of traffic. I don't think you have any idea of what our loss of men has done to us. I can't tell you the sort of agony I went through three days ago, trying to find somebody able to build five miles of temporary track. I have fifty miles to build through the Rockies. I see no way to do it. But it has to be done. I've combed the country for men. There aren't any. And then to run into you suddenly, to find you here, in a day coach, when I'd give half the system for one employee like you—do you understand why I can't let you go? Choose anything you wish. Want to be general manager of a region? Or assistant operating vice-president?" "No." "You're still working for a living, aren't you?" "Yes." "You don't seem to be making very much." "I'm making enough for my needs—and for nobody else's." "Why are you willing to work for anyone but Taggart Transcontinental?" "Because you wouldn't give me the kind of job I'd want." "I?" She stopped still. "Good God, Kellogg!—haven't you understood? I'd give you any job you name!" "All right. Track walker." "What?" "Section hand. Engine wiper." He smiled at the look on her face. "No? You see, I said you wouldn't." "Do you mean that you'd take a day laborer's job?" "Any time you offered it." "But nothing better?" "That's right, nothing better." "Don't you understand that I have too many men who're able to do those jobs, but nothing better?" --------------------------------------- 520 "I understand it, Miss Taggart. Do you?" "What I need is your—" "—mind, Miss Taggart? My mind is not on the market any longer." She stood looking at him, her face growing harder. "You're one of them, aren't you?" she said at last. "Of whom?" She did not answer, shrugged and went on, "Miss Taggart," he asked, "how long will you remain willing to be a common carrier?" "I won't surrender the world to the creature you're quoting." "The answer you gave her was much more realistic." The chain of their steps had stretched through many silent minutes before she asked, "Why did you stand by me tonight? Why were you willing to help me?" He answered easily, almost gaily, "Because there isn't a passenger on that train who needs to get where he's going more urgently than I do. If the train can be started, none will profit more than I. But when I need something, I don't sit and expect transportation, like that creature of yours." "You don't? And what if all trains stopped running?" "Then I wouldn't count on making a crucial journey by train." "Where are you going?" "West." "On a 'special assignment'?" "No. For a month's vacation with some friends." "A vacation? And it's that important to you?" "More important than anything on earth." They had walked two miles when they came to the small gray box on a post by the trackside, which was the emergency telephone. The box hung sidewise, beaten by storms. She jerked it open. The telephone was there, a familiar, reassuring object, glinting in the beam of Kellogg's flashlight. But she knew, the moment she pressed the receiver to her ear, and he knew, when he saw her finger tapping sharply against the hook, that the telephone was dead. She handed the receiver to him without a word. She held the flashlight, while he went swiftly over the instrument, then tore it off the wall and studied the wires. "The wire's okay," he said. "The current's on. It's this particular instrument that's out of order. There's a chance that the next one might be working." He added, "The next one is five miles away." "Let's go," she said. Far behind them, the engine's headlight was still visible, not a planet any longer, but a small star winking, through mists of distance. Ahead of them, the rail went off into bluish space, with nothing to mark its end. She realized how often she had glanced back at that headlight; so long as it remained in sight, she had felt as if a life-line were holding them anchored safely; now they had to break it and dive into . . . and dive off this planet, she thought. She noticed that Kellogg, too, stood looking back at the headlight. They glanced at each other, but said nothing. The crunch of a pebble under her shoe sole burst like a firecracker in the silence. With a coldly intentional movement, he kicked the telephone instrument and sent it rolling into a ditch: the violence of the noise shattered the vacuum. "God damn him," he said evenly, not raising his voice, with a loathing past any display of emotion. "He probably didn't feel like attending to his job, and since he needed his pay check, nobody had the right to ask that he keep the phones in order." "Come on," she said. --------------------------------------- 521 "We can rest, if you feel tired, Miss Taggart." "I'm all right. We have no time to feel tired." "That's our great error, Miss Taggart. We ought to take the time, some day." She gave a brief chuckle, she stepped onto a tie of the track, stressing the step as her answer, and they went on. It was hard, walking on ties, but when they tried to walk along the trackside, they found that it was harder. The soil, half-sand, half-dust, sank under their heels, like the soft, unresisting spread of some substance that was neither liquid nor solid. They went back to walking from tie to tie; it was almost like stepping from log to log in the midst of a river. She thought of what an enormous distance five miles had suddenly become, and that a division point thirty miles away was now unattainable—after an era of railroads built by men who thought in thousands of transcontinental miles. That net of rails and lights, spreading from ocean to ocean, hung on the snap of a wire, on a broken connection inside a rusty phone—no, she thought, on something much more powerful and much more delicate. It hung on the connections in the minds of the men who knew that the existence of a wire, of a train, of a job, of themselves and their actions was an absolute not to be escaped. When such minds were gone, a two thousand-ton train was left at the mercy of the muscles of her legs. Tired?—she thought; even the strain of walking was a value, a small piece of reality in the stillness around them. The sensation of effort was a specific experience, it was pain and could be nothing else—in the midst of a space which was neither light nor dark, a soil which neither gave nor resisted, a fog which neither moved nor hung still. Their strain was the only evidence of their motion: nothing changed in the emptiness around them, nothing took form to mark their progress. She had always wondered, in incredulous contempt, about the sects that preached the annihilation of the universe as the ideal to be attained. There, she thought, was their world and the content of their minds made real. When the green light of a signal appeared by the track, it gave them a point to reach and pass, but—incongruous in the midst of the floating dissolution—it brought them no sense of relief. It seemed to come from a long since extinguished world, like those stars whose light remains after they are gone. The green circle glowed in space, announcing a clear track, inviting motion where there was nothing to move. Who was that philosopher, she thought, who preached that motion exists without any moving entities? This was his world, too. T! She found herself pushing forward with increasing effort, as if against some resistance that was, not pressure, but suction. Glancing at Kellogg, she saw that he, too, was walking like a man braced against a storm. She felt as if the two of them were the sole survivors of . . . of reality, she thought— two lonely figures fighting, not through a storm, but worse: through non- existence. It was Kellogg who glanced back, after a while, and she followed his glance: there was no headlight behind them. They did not stop. Looking straight ahead, he reached absently into his pocket; she felt certain that the movement was involuntary; he produced a package of cigarettes and extended it to her. She was about to take a cigarette—then, suddenly, she seized his wrist and tore the package out of his hand. It was a plain white package that bore, as single imprint, the sign of the dollar. "Give me the flashlight!" she ordered, stopping. --------------------------------------- 522 He stopped obediently and sent the beam of the flashlight at the package in her hands. She caught a glimpse of his face: he looked a little astonished and very amused. There was no printing on the package, no trade name, no address, only the dollar sign stamped in gold. The cigarettes bore the same sign. "Where did you get this?" she asked. He was smiling. "If you know enough to ask that, Miss Taggart, you should know that I won't answer." "I know that this stands for something." "The dollar sign? For a great deal. It stands on the vest of every fat, pig like figure in every cartoon, for the purpose of denoting a crook, a grafter, a scoundrel—as the one sure-fire brand of evil. It stands—as the money of a free country—for achievement, for success, for ability, for man's creative power—and, precisely for these reasons, it is used as a brand of infamy. It stands stamped on the forehead of a man like Hank Rearden, as a mark of damnation. Incidentally, do you know where that sign comes from? It stands for the initials of the United States." He snapped the flashlight off, but he did not move to go; she could distinguish the hint of his bitter smile. "Do you know that the United States is the only country in history that has ever used its own monogram as a symbol of depravity? Ask yourself why. Ask yourself how long a country that did that could hope to exist, and whose moral standards have destroyed it. It was the only country in history where wealth was not acquired by looting, but by production, not by force, but by trade, the only country whose money was the symbol of man's right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself. If this is evil, by the present standards of the world, if this is the reason for damning us, then we —we, the dollar chasers and makers—accept it and choose to be damned by that world. We choose to wear the sign of the dollar on our foreheads, proudly, as our badge of nobility—the badge we are willing to live for and, if need be, to die." He extended his hand for the package. She held it as if her fingers would not let it go, but gave up and placed it on his palm. With deliberate slowness, as if to underscore the meaning of his gesture, he offered her a cigarette. She took it and placed it between her lips. He took one for himself, struck a match, lighted both, and they walked on. They walked, over rotting logs that sank without resistance into the shifting ground, through a vast, uncongealed globe of moonlight and coiling mist—with two spots of living fire in their hands and the glow of two small circles to light their faces. "Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips . . ." she remembered the old man saying to her, the old man who had said that these cigarettes were not made anywhere on earth. "When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind—and it's proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression." "I wish you'd tell me who makes them," she said, in the tone of a hopeless plea. He chuckled good-naturedly. "I can tell you this much: they're made by a friend of mine, for sale, but—not being a common carrier —he sells them only to his friends." "Sell me that package, will you?" "I don't think you'll be able to afford it, Miss Taggart, but—all right, if you wish." "How much is it?" "Five cents." "Five cents?" she repeated, bewildered. "Five cents—" he said, and added, "in gold." --------------------------------------- 523 She stopped, staring at him. "In gold?" "Yes, Miss Taggart." "Well, what's your rate of exchange? How much is it in our normal money?" "There is no rate of exchange, Miss Taggart. No amount of physical—or spiritual—currency, whose sole standard of value is the decree of Mr. Wesley Mouch, will buy these cigarettes." "I see." He reached into his pocket, took out the package and handed it to her. "I'll give them to you, Miss Taggart," he said, "because you've earned them many times over—and because you need them for the same purpose we do." "What purpose?" "To remind us—in moments of discouragement, in the loneliness of exile—of our true homeland, which has always been yours, too, Miss Taggart." 'Thank you," she said. She put the cigarettes in her pocket; he saw that her hand was trembling. When they reached the fourth of the five mileposts, they had been silent for a long time, with no strength left for anything but the effort of moving their feet. Far ahead, they saw a dot of light, too low on the horizon and too harshly clear to be a star. They kept watching it, as they walked, and said nothing until they became certain that it was a powerful electric beacon blazing in the midst of the empty prairie. "What is that?" she asked. "I don't know," he said. "It looks like—" "No," she broke in hastily, "it couldn't be. Not around here." She did not want to hear him name the hope which she had felt for many minutes past. She could not permit herself to think of it or to know that the thought was hope. They found the telephone box at the fifth milepost. The beacon hung like a violent spot of cold fire, less than half a mile farther south. The telephone was working. She heard the buzz of the wire, like the breath of a living creature, when she lifted the receiver. Then a drawling voice answered, "Jessup, at Bradshaw." The voice sounded sleepy. "This is Dagny Taggart, speaking from—" "Who?" "Dagny Taggart, of Taggart Transcontinental, speaking—" "Oh . . . Oh yes . . . I see . . . Yes?" "—speaking from your track phone Number 83. The Comet is stalled seven miles north of here. It's been abandoned. The crew has deserted." There was a pause. "Well, what do you want me to do about it?" She had to pause in turn, in order to believe it. "Are you the night dispatcher?” "Yeah." "Then send another crew out to us at once." "A full passenger train crew?" "Of course." "Now?" "Yes." There was a pause. "The rules don't say anything about that." "Get me the chief dispatcher," she said, choking. "He's away on his vacation." "Get the division superintendent." "He's gone down to Laurel for a couple of days." "Get me somebody who's in charge." "I'm in charge." "Listen," she said slowly, fighting for patience, "do you understand that there's a train, a passenger limited, abandoned in the middle of the prairie?" --------------------------------------- 524 "Yeah, but how am I to know what I'm supposed to do about it? The rules don't provide for it. Now if you had an accident, we'd send out the wrecker, but if there was no accident . . . you don't need the wrecker, do you?" "No. We don't need the wrecker. We need men. Do you understand? Living men to run an engine." "The rules don't say anything about a train without men. Or about men without a train. There's no rule for calling out a full crew in the middle of the night and sending them to hunt for a train somewhere. I've never heard of it before," "You're hearing it now. Don't you know what you have to do?" "Who am I to know?" "Do you know that your job is to keep trains moving?" "My job is to obey the rules. If I send out a crew when I'm not supposed to, God only knows what's going to happen! What with the Unification Board and all the regulations they've got nowadays, who am I to take it upon myself?" "And what's going to happen if you leave a train stalled on the line?" "That's not my fault. I had nothing to do with it. They can't blame me. I couldn't help it." "You're to help it now." "Nobody told me to." "I'm telling you to!" "How do I know whether you're supposed to tell me or not? We're not supposed to furnish any Taggart crews. You people were to run with your own crews. That's what we were told." "But this is an emergency!" "Nobody told me anything about an emergency." She had to take a few seconds to control herself. She saw Kellogg watching her with a bitter smile of amusement. "Listen," she said into the phone, "do you know that the Comet was due at Bradshaw over three hours ago?" "Oh, sure. But nobody's going to make any trouble about that. No train's ever on schedule these days," "Then do you intend to leave us blocking your track forever?" "We've got nothing due till Number 4, the northbound passenger out of Laurel, at eight thirty-seven A.M. You can wait till then. The day-trick dispatcher will be on then. You can speak to him," "You blasted idiot! This is the Comet!" "What's that to me? This isn't Taggart Transcontinental. You people expect a lot for your money. You've been nothing but a headache to us7 with all the extra work at no extra pay for the little fellows." His voice was slipping into whining insolence. "You can't talk to me that way. The time's past when you could talk to people that way." She had never believed that there were men with whom a certain method, which she had never used, would work; such men were not hired by Taggart Transcontinental and she had never been forced to deal with them before. "Do you know who I am?" she asked, in the cold, overbearing tone of a personal threat. It worked. "I . . . I guess so," he answered. "Then let me tell you that if you don't send a crew to me at once, you'll be out of a job within one hour after I reach Bradshaw, which I'll reach sooner or later. You'd better make it sooner." "Yes, ma'am," he said. "Call out a full passenger train crew and give them orders to run us to Laurel, where we have our own men." --------------------------------------- 525 "Yes, ma'am.” He added, "Will you tell headquarters that it was you who told me to do it?" "I will." "And that it's you who're responsible for it?" "I am." There was a pause, then he asked helplessly, "Now how am I going to call the men? Most of them haven't got any phones." "Do you have a call boy?" "Yes, but he won't get here till morning." "Is there anybody in the yards right now?" "There's the wiper in the roundhouse." "Send him out to call the men." "Yes, ma'am. Hold the line." She leaned against the side of the phone box, to wait. Kellogg was smiling. "And you propose to run a railroad—a transcontinental railroad— with that?" he asked. She shrugged. She could not keep her eyes off the beacon. It seemed so close, so easily within her reach. She felt as if the unconfessed thought were struggling furiously against her, splattering bits of the struggle all over her mind: A man able to harness an untapped source of energy, a man working on a motor to make all other motors useless . . . she could be talking to him, to his kind of brain, in a few hours . . . in just a few hours. . . . What if there was no need to hurry to him? It was what she wanted to do. It was all she wanted. . . . Her work? What was her work: to move on to the fullest, most exacting use of her mind—or to spend the rest of her life doing his thinking for a man unfit to be a night dispatcher? Why had she chosen to work? Was it in order to remain where she had started—night operator of Rockdale Station—no, lower than that—she had been better than that dispatcher, even at Rockdale—was this to be the final sum: an end lower than her beginning? . . . There was no reason to hurry? She was the reason. . . . They needed the trains, but they did not need the motor? She needed the motor. . . . Her duty? To whom? The dispatcher was gone for a long time; when he came back, his voice sounded sulky: "Well, the wiper says he can get the men all right, but it's no use, because how am I going to send them out to you? We have no engine." "No engine?" "No. The superintendent took one to run down to Laurel, and the other's in the shops, been there for weeks, and the switch engine jumped a rail this morning, they'll be working on her till tomorrow afternoon." "What about the wrecker's engine that you were offering to send us?" "Oh, she's up north. They had a wreck there yesterday. She hasn't come back yet." "Have you a Diesel car?" "Never had any such thing. Not around here." "Have you a track motor car?" "Yes. We have that." "Send them out on the track motor car." "Oh . . . Yes, ma'am." "Tell your men to stop here, at track phone Number 83, to pick up Mr. Kellogg and myself." She was looking at the beacon, "Yes, ma'am." "Call the Taggart trainmaster at Laurel, report the Comet's delay and explain to him what happened." She put her hand into her pocket and suddenly clutched her fingers: she felt the package of cigarettes. "Say—" she asked, "what's that beacon, about half a mile from here?" --------------------------------------- 526 "From where you are? Oh, that must be the emergency landing field of the Flagship Airlines." "I see . . . Well, that's all. Get your men started at once. Tell them to pick up Mr. Kellogg by track phone Number 83." "Yes, ma'am." She hung up. Kellogg was grinning. "An airfield, isn't it?" he asked. "Yes." She stood looking at the beacon, her hand still clutching the cigarettes in her pocket. "So they're going to pick up Mr. Kellogg, are they?" She whirled to him, realizing what decision her mind had been reaching without her conscious knowledge. "No," she said, "no, I didn't mean to abandon you here. It's only that I, too, have a crucial purpose out West, where I ought to hurry, so I was thinking of trying to catch a plane, but I can't do it and it's not necessary." "Come on," he said, starting in the direction of the airfield. "But I—" "If there's anything you want to do more urgently than to nurse those morons—go right ahead." "More urgently than anything in the world," she whispered. "I'll undertake to remain in charge for you and to deliver the Comet to your man at Laurel." "Thank you . . . But if you're hoping . . . I'm not deserting, you know." "I know." "Then why are you so eager to help me?" "I just want you to see what it's like to do something you want, for once." "There's not much chance that they'll have a plane at that field." "There's a good chance that they will." There were two planes on the edge of the airfield: one, the half charred remnant of a wreck, not worth salvaging for scrap—the other, a Dwight Sanders monoplane, brand-new, the kind of ship that men were pleading for, in vain, all over the country. There was one sleepy attendant at the airfield, young, pudgy and, but for a faint smell of college about his vocabulary, a brain brother of the night dispatcher of Bradshaw. He knew nothing about the two planes: they had been there when he first took this job a year ago. He had never inquired about them and neither had anybody else. In whatever silent crumbling had gone on at the distant headquarters, in the slow dissolution of a great airline company, the Sanders monoplane had been forgotten—as assets of this nature were being forgotten everywhere . . . as the model of the motor had been forgotten on a junk pile and, left in plain sight, had conveyed nothing to the inheritors and the takers-over. . . . There were no rules to tell the young attendant whether he was expected to keep the Sanders plane or not. The decision was made for him by the brusque, confident manner of the two strangers—by the credentials of Miss Dagny Taggart, Vice-President of a railroad— by brief hints about a secret, emergency mission, which sounded like Washington to him—by the mention of an agreement with the airline's top officials in New York, whose names he had never heard before—by a check for fifteen thousand dollars, written by Miss Taggart, as deposit against the return of the Sanders plane—and by another check, for two hundred bucks, for his own, personal courtesy. He fueled the plane, he checked it as best he could, he found a map of the country's airports—and she saw that a landing field on the outskirts of Afton, Utah, was marked as still in existence. She had been too tensely, swiftly active to feel anything, but at the last moment, when the attendant --------------------------------------- 527 switched on the floodlights, when she was about to climb aboard, she paused to glance at the emptiness of the sky, then at Owen Kellogg. He stood, alone in the white glare, his feet planted firmly apart, on an island of cement in a ring of blinding lights, with nothing beyond the ring but an irredeemable night—and she wondered which one of them was taking the greater chance and facing the more desolate emptiness, "In case anything happens to me," she said, "will you tell Eddie Willers in my office to give Jeff Alien a job, as I promised?" "I will. . . . Is this all you wish to be done . . . in case anything happens?" She considered it and smiled sadly, in astonishment at the realization. "Yes, I guess that's all . . . Except, tell Hank Rearden what happened and that I asked you to tell him." "I will." She lifted her head and said firmly, "I don't expect it to happen, however. When you reach Laurel, call Winston, Colorado, and tell them that I will be there tomorrow by noon." "Yes, Miss Taggart." She wanted to extend her hand in parting, but it seemed inadequate, and then she remembered what he had said about times of loneliness. She took out the package and silently offered him one of his own cigarettes. His smile was a full statement of understanding, and the small flame of his match lighting their two cigarettes was their most enduring handshake. Then she climbed aboard—and the next span of her consciousness was not separate moments and movements, but the sweep of a single motion and a single unit of time, a progression forming one entity, like the notes of a piece of music: from the touch of her hand on the starter—to the blast of the motor's sound that broke off, like a mountain rockslide, all contact with the time behind her—to the circling fall of a blade that vanished in a fragile sparkle of whirling air that cut the space ahead—to the start for the runway—to the brief pause—then to the forward thrust—to the long, perilous run, the run not to be obstructed, the straight line ran that gathers power by spending it on a harder and harder and ever-accelerating effort, the straight line to a purpose—to the moment, unnoticed., when the earth drops off and the line, unbroken, goes on into space in the simple, natural act of rising. She saw the telegraph wires of the trackside slipping past at the tip of her toes. The earth was falling downward, and she felt as if its weight were dropping off her ankles, as if the globe would go shrinking to the size of a ball, a convict's ball she had dragged and lost. Her body swayed, drunk with the shock of a discovery, and her craft rocked with her body, and it was the earth below that reeled with the rocking of her craft—the discovery that her life was now in her own hands, that there was no necessity to argue, to explain, to teach, to plead, to fight—nothing but to see and think and act. Then the earth steadied into a wide black sheet that grew wider and wider as she circled, rising. When she glanced down for the last time, the lights of the field were extinguished, there was only the single beacon left and it looked like the tip of Kellogg's cigarette, glowing as a last salute in the darkness. Then she was left with the lights on her instrument panel and the spread of stars beyond her film of glass. There was nothing to support her but the beat of the engine and the minds of the men who had made the plane. But what else supports one anywhere?—she thought. The line of her course went northwest, to cut a diagonal across the state of Colorado. She knew she had chosen the most dangerous route, over too long a stretch of the worst mountain barrier—but it was the shortest line, and safety lay in altitude, and no mountains seemed dangerous compared to the dispatcher of Bradshaw. --------------------------------------- 528 The stars were like foam and the sky seemed full of flowing motion, the motion of bubbles settling and forming, the floating of circular waves without progression. A spark of light flared up on earth once in a while, and it seemed brighter than all the static blue above. But it hung alone, between the black of ashes and the blue of a crypt, it seemed to fight for its fragile foothold, it greeted her and went. The pale streak of a river came rising slowly from the void, and for a long stretch of time it remained in sight, gliding imperceptibly to meet her. It looked like a phosphorescent vein showing through the skin of the earth, a delicate vein without blood. When she saw the lights of a town, like a handful of gold coins flung upon the prairie, the brightly violent lights fed by an electric current, they seemed as distant as the stars and now as unattainable. The energy that had lighted them was gone, the power that created power stations in empty prairies had vanished, and she knew of no journey to recapture it. Yet these had been her stars—she thought, looking down—these had been her goal, her beacon, the aspiration drawing her upon her upward course. That which others claimed to feel at the sight of the stars—stars safely distant by millions of years and thus imposing no obligation to act, but serving as the tinsel of futility—she had felt at the sight of electric bulbs lighting the streets of a town. It was this earth below that had been the height she had wanted to reach, and she wondered how she had come to lose it, who had made of it a convict's ball to drag through muck, who had turned its promise of greatness into a vision never to be reached. But the town was past, and she had to look ahead, to the mountains of Colorado rising in her way. The small glass dial on her panel showed that she was now climbing. The sound of the engine, beating through the metal shell around her, trembling in the wheel against her palms, like the pounding of a heart strained to a solemn effort, told her of the power carrying her above the peaks. The earth was now a crumpled sculpture that swayed from side to side, the shape of an explosion still shooting sudden spurts to reach the plane. She saw them as dented black cuts ripping through the milky spread of stars, straight in her path and tearing wider. Her mind one with her body and her body one with the plane, she fought the invisible suction drawing her downward, she fought the sudden gusts that tipped the earth as if she were about to roll off into the sky, with half of the mountains rolling after. It was like fighting a frozen ocean where the touch of a single spray would be fatal. There were stretches of rest when the mountains shrank down, over valleys filled with fog. Then the fog rose higher to swallow the earth and she was left suspended in space, left motionless but for the sound of the engine. But she did not need to see the earth. The instrument panel was now her power of sight'—it was the condensed sight of the best minds able to guide her on her way. Their condensed sight, she thought, offered to hers and requiring only that she be able to read it. How had they been paid for it, they, the sight-givers? From condensed milk to condensed music to the condensed sight of precision instruments—what wealth had they not given to the world and what had they received in return? Where were they now? Where was Dwight Sanders? Where was the inventor of her motor? The fog was lifting—and in a sudden clearing, she saw a drop of fire on a spread of rock. It was not an electric light, it was a lonely flame in the darkness of the earth. She knew where she was and she knew that flame: it was Wyatt's Torch. She was coming close to her goal. Somewhere behind her, in the northeast, stood the summits pierced by the Taggart Tunnel. The mountains were sliding --------------------------------------- 529 in a long descent into the steadier soil of Utah. She let her plane slip closer to the earth. The stars were vanishing, the sky was growing darker, but in the bank of clouds to the east thin cracks were beginning to appear—first as threads, then faint spots of reflection, then straight bands that were not yet pink, but no longer blue, the color of a future light, the first hints of the coming sunrise. They kept appearing and vanishing, slowly growing clearer, leaving the sky darker, then breaking it wider apart, like a promise struggling to be fulfilled. She heard a piece of music beating in her mind, one she seldom liked to recall: not Halley's Fifth Concerto, but his Fourth, the cry of a tortured struggle, with the chords of its theme breaking through, like a distant vision to be reached. She saw the Afton airport from across a span of miles, first as a square of sparks, then as a sunburst of white rays. It was lighted for a plane about to take off, and she had to wait for her landing. Circling in the outer darkness above the field, she saw the silver body of a plane rising like a phoenix out of the white fire and—in a straight line, almost leaving an instant's trail of light to hang in space behind it—going off toward the east. Then she swept down in its stead, to dive into the luminous funnel of beams—she saw a strip of cement flying at her face, she felt the jolt of the wheels stopping it in time, then the streak of her motion ebbing out and the plane being tamed to the safety of a car, as it taxied smoothly off the runway. It was a small private airfield, serving the meager traffic of a few industrial concerns still remaining in Afton, She saw a lone attendant hurrying to meet her. She leaped down to the ground the moment the plane stood still, the hours of the flight swept from her mind by the impatience over the stretch of a few more minutes. "Can I get a car somewhere to drive me to the Institute of Technology at once?" she asked. The attendant looked at her, puzzled. "Why, yes, I guess so, ma'am. But . . . but what for? There's nobody there." "Mr. Quentin Daniels is there." The attendant shook his head slowly—then jerked his thumb, pointing east to the shrinking taillights of the plane. "There's Mr. Daniels going now." "What?" "He just left." "Left? Why?" "He went with the man who flew in for him two-three hours ago." "What man?" "Don't know, never saw him before, but, boy!—he's got a beauty of a ship!" She was back at the wheel, she was speeding down the runway, she was rising into the air, her plane like a bullet aimed at two sparks of red and green light that were twinkling away into the eastern sky—while she was still repeating, "Oh no, they don't! They don't! They don't! They don't!" Once and for all—she thought, clutching the wheel as if it were the enemy not to be relinquished, her words like separate explosions with a trail of fire in her mind to link them—once and for all . . . to meet the destroyer face to face . . . to learn who he is and where he goes to vanish . . . not the motor . . . he is not to carry the motor away into the darkness of his monstrously closed unknown . . . he is not to escape, this time. . . . A band of light was rising in the east and it seemed to come from the earth, as a breath long-held and released. In the deep blue above it, the stranger's plane was a single spark changing color and flashing from side to side, like the tip of a pendulum swinging in the darkness, beating time. --------------------------------------- 530 The curve of distance made the spark drop closer to the earth, and she pushed her throttle wide open, not to let the spark out of her sight, not to let it touch the horizon and vanish. The light was flowing into the sky, as if drawn from the earth by the stranger's plane. The plane was headed southeast, and she was following it into the coming sunrise. From the transparent green of ice, the sky melted into pale gold, and the gold spread into a lake under a fragile film of pink glass, the color of that forgotten morning which was the first she had seen on earth. The clouds were dropping away in long shreds of smoky blue. She kept her eyes on the stranger's plane, as if her glance were a towline pulling her ship. The stranger's plane was now a small black cross, like a shrinking check mark on the glowing sky. Then she noticed that the clouds were not dropping, that they stood congealed on the edge of the earth—and she realized that the plane was headed toward the mountains of Colorado, that the struggle against the invisible storm lay ahead for her once more. She noted it without emotion; she did not wonder whether her ship or her body had the power to attempt it again. So long as she was able to move, she would move to follow the speck that was fleeing away with the last of her world. She felt nothing but the emptiness left by a fire that had been hatred and anger and the desperate impulse of a fight to the kill; these had fused into a single icy streak, the single resolve to follow the stranger, whoever he was, wherever he took her, to follow and . . . she added nothing in her mind, but, unstated, what lay at the bottom of the emptiness was: and give her life, if she could take his first. Like an instrument set to automatic control, her body was performing the motions of driving the plane—with the mountains reeling in a bluish fog below and the dented peaks rising in her path as smoky formations of a deadlier blue. She noticed that the distance to the stranger's plane had shrunk: he had checked his speed for the dangerous crossing, while she had gone on, unconscious of the danger, with only the muscles of her arms and legs fighting to keep her plane aloft. A brief, tight movement of her lips was as close as she could come to a smile: it was he who was flying her plane for her, she thought; he had given her the power to follow him with a somnambulist's unerring skill. As if responding of itself to his control, the needle of her altimeter was slowly moving upward. She was rising and she went on rising and she wondered when her breath and her propeller would fail. He was going southeast, toward the highest mountains that obstructed the path of the sun. It was his plane that was struck by the first sunray. It flashed for an instant, like a burst of white fire, sending rays to shoot from its wings. The peaks of the mountains came next: she saw the sunlight reaching the snow in the crevices, then trickling down the granite sides; it cut violent shadows on the ledges and brought the mountains into the Jiving finality of a form. They were flying over the wildest stretch of Colorado, uninhabited, uninhabitable, inaccessible to men on foot or plane. No landing was possible within a radius of a hundred miles; she glanced at her fuel gauge: she had one half-hour left. The stranger was heading straight toward another, higher range. She wondered why he chose a course no air route did or ever would travel. She wished this range were behind her; it was the last effort she could hope to make. The stranger's plane was suddenly slacking its speed. He was losing altitude just when she had expected him to climb. The granite barrier was rising In his path, moving to meet him, reaching for his wings—but the long, smooth line of his motion was sliding down. She could detect no break, no --------------------------------------- 531 jolt, no sign of mechanical failure; it looked like the even movement of a controlled intention. With a sudden flash of sunlight on its wings, the plane banked into a long curve, rays dripping like water from its body—then went into the broad, smooth circles of a spiral, as if circling for a landing where no landing was conceivable. She watched, not trying to explain it, not believing what she saw, waiting for the upward thrust that would throw him back on his course. But the easy, gliding circles went on dropping, toward a ground she could not see and dared not think of. . . Like remnants of broken jaws, strings of granite dentures stood between her ship and his; she could not tell what lay at the bottom of his spiral motion. She knew only that it did not look like, but was certain to be, the motion of a suicide. She saw the sunlight glitter on his wings for an instant. Then, like the body of a man diving chest-first and arms outstretched, serenely abandoned to the sweep of the fall, the plane went down and vanished behind the ridges of rock. She flew on, almost waiting for it to reappear, unable to believe that she had witnessed a horrible catastrophe taking place so simply and quietly. She flew on to where the plane had dropped. It seemed to be a valley in a ring of granite walls. She reached the valley and looked down. There was no possible place for a landing. There was no sign of a plane. The bottom of the valley looked like a stretch of the earth's crust mangled in the days when the earth was cooling, left irretrievable ever since. It was a stretch of rocks ground against one another, with boulders hanging in precarious formations, with long, dark crevices and a few contorted pine trees growing half-horizontally into the air. There was no level piece of soil the size of a handkerchief. There was no place for a plane to hide. There was no remnant of a plane's wreck. She banked sharply, circling above the valley, dropping down a little. By some trick of light, which she could not explain, the floor of the valley seemed more clearly visible than the rest of the earth. She could distinguish it well enough to, know that the plane was not there; yet this was not possible. She circled, dropping down farther. She glanced around her—and for one frightening moment, she thought that it was a quiet summer morning, that she was alone, lost in a region of the Rocky Mountains which no plane should ever venture to approach, and, with the last of her fuel burning away, she was looking for a plane that had never existed, in quest of a destroyer who had vanished as he always vanished; perhaps it was only his vision that had led her here to be destroyed. In the next moment, she shook her head, pressed her mouth tighter and dropped farther. She thought that she could not abandon an incalculable wealth such as the brain of Quentin Daniels on one of those rocks below, if he was still alive and within her reach to help. She had dropped inside the circle of the valley's walls. It was a dangerous job of flying, the space was much too tight, but she went on circling and dropping lower, her life hanging on her eyesight, and her eyesight flashing between two tasks: searching the floor of the valley and watching the granite walls that seemed about to rip her wings. She knew the danger only as part of the job. It had no personal meaning any longer. The savage thing she felt was almost enjoyment. It was the last rage of a lost battle. No!—she was crying in her mind, crying it to the destroyer, to the world she had left, to the years behind her, to the long progression of defeat—No! . . .No! . . . No! . . . --------------------------------------- 532 Her eyes swept past the instrument panel—and then she sat still but for the sound of a gasp. Her altimeter had stood at 11,000 feet the last time she remembered seeing it. Now it stood at 10,000. But the floor of the valley had not changed. It had come no closer. It remained as distant as at her first glance down. She knew that the figure 8,000 meant the level of the ground in this part of Colorado. She had not noticed the length of her descent. She had not noticed that the ground, which had seemed too clear and too close from the height, was now too dim and too far. She was looking at the same rocks from the same perspective, they had grown no larger, their shadows had not moved, and the oddly unnatural light still hung over the bottom of the valley. She thought that her altimeter was off, and she went on circling downward. She saw the needle of her dial moving down;, she saw the walls of granite moving up, she saw the ring of mountains growing higher, its peaks coming closer together in the sky—but the floor of the valley remained unchanged, as if she were dropping down a well with a bottom never to be reached. The needle moved to 9,500— to 9,300—to 9,000—to 8,700. The flash of light that hit her had no source. It was as if the air within and beyond the plane became an explosion of blinding cold fire, sudden and soundless. The shock threw her back, her hands off the wheel and over her eyes. In the break of an instant, when she seized the wheel again, the light was gone, but her ship was spinning. her ears were bursting with silence and her propeller stood stiffly straight before her: her motor was dead. She tried to pull for a rise, but the ship was going down—and what she saw flying at her face was not the spread of mangled boulders, but the green grass of a field where no field had been before. There was no time to see the rest. There was no time to think of explanations. There was no time to come out of the spin. The earth was a green ceiling coming down upon her, a few hundred swiftly shrinking feet away. Flung from side to side, like a battered pendulum, clinging to the wheel, half in her seat, half on her knees, she fought to pull the ship into a glide, for an attempt to make a belly-landing, while the green ground was whirling about her, sweeping above her, then below, its spiral coils coming closer. Her arms pulling at the wheel, with no chance to know whether she could succeed, with her space and time running out—she felt, in a flash of its full, violent purity, that special sense of existence which had always been hers. In a moment's consecration to her love—to her rebellious denial of disaster, to her love of life and of the matchless value that was herself—she felt the fiercely proud certainty that she would survive. And in answer to the earth that flew to meet her, she heard in her mind, as her mockery at fate, as her cry of defiance, the words of the sentence she hated—the words of defeat, of despair and of a plea for help: "Oh hell! Who is John Galt?" --------------------------------------- 533