Atlas Shrugged 4

PART III A is A --------------------------------------- 534 CHAPTER I ATLANTIS When she opened her eyes, she saw sunlight, green leaves and a man's face. She thought: I know what this is. This was the world as she had expected to see it at sixteen—and now she had reached it—and it seemed so simple, so unastonishing, that the thing she felt was like a blessing pronounced upon the universe by means of three words: But of course. She was looking up at the face of a man who knelt by her side, and she knew that in all the years behind her, this was what she would have given her life to see: a face that bore no mark of pain or fear or guilt. The shape of his mouth was pride, and more: it was as if he took pride in being proud. The angular planes of his cheeks made her think of arrogance, of tension, of scorn—yet the face had none of these qualities, it had their final sum: a look of serene determination and of certainty, and the look of a ruthless innocence which would not seek forgiveness or grant it. It was a face that had nothing to hide or to escape, a face with no fear of being seen, or of seeing, so that the first thing she grasped about him was the intense perceptiveness of his eyes—he looked as if his faculty of sight were his best-loved tool and its exercise were a limitless, joyous adventure, as if his eyes imparted a superlative value to himself and to the world—to himself for his ability to see, to the world for being a place so eagerly worth seeing. It seemed to her for a moment that she was in the presence of a being who was pure consciousness—yet she had never been so aware of a man's body. The light cloth of his shirt seemed to stress, rather than hide, the structure of his figure, his skin was suntanned, his body had the hardness, the gaunt, tensile strength, the clean precision of a foundry casting, he looked as if he were poured out of metal, but some dimmed, soft-lustered metal, like an aluminum-copper alloy, the color of his skin blending with the chestnut-brown of his hair, the loose strands of the hair shading from brown to gold in the sun, and his eyes completing the colors, as the one part of the casting left undimmed and harshly lustrous: his eyes were the deep, dark green of light glinting on metal. He was looking down at her with the faint trace of a smile, it was not a look of discovery, but of familiar contemplation—as if he, too, were seeing the long-expected and the never-doubted. This was her world, she thought, this was the way men were meant to be and to face their existence—and all the rest of it, all the years of ugliness and struggle were only someone's senseless joke. She smiled at him, as at a fellow conspirator, in relief, in deliverance, in radiant mockery of all the things she would never have to consider important again. He smiled in answer, it was the same smile as her own, as if he felt what she felt and knew what she meant. "We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?" she whispered. "No, we never had to." And then, her consciousness returning fully, she realized that this man was a total stranger. She tried to draw away from him, but it was only a faint movement of her head on the grass she felt under her hair. She tried to rise. A shot of pain across her back threw her down again. "Don't move, Miss Taggart. You're hurt." "You know me?" Her voice was impersonal and hard. "I've known you for many years." "Have I known you?" "Yes, I think so." "What is your name?" --------------------------------------- 535 "John Galt." She looked at him, not moving. "Why are you frightened?" he asked. "Because I believe it." He smiled, as if grasping a full confession of the meaning she attached to his name; the smile held an adversary's acceptance of a challenge—and an adult's amusement at the self-deception of a child. She felt as if she were returning to consciousness after a crash that had shattered more than an airplane. She could not reassemble the pieces now, she could not recall the things she had known about his name, she knew only that it stood for a dark vacuum which she would slowly have to fill. She could not do it now, this man was too blinding a presence, like a spotlight that would not let her see the shapes strewn hi the outer darkness. "Was it you that I was following?" she asked. "Yes." She glanced slowly around her. She was lying in the grass of a field at the foot of a granite drop that came down from thousands of feet away in the blue sky. On the other edge of the field, some crags and pines and the glittering leaves of birch trees hid the space that stretched to a distant wall of encircling mountains. Her plane was not shattered— it was there, a few feet away, flat on its belly in the grass. There was no other plane in sight, no structures, no sign of human habitation. "What is this valley?" she asked. He smiled, "The Taggart Terminal." "What do you mean?" "You'll find out." A dim impulse, like the recoil of an antagonist, made her want to check on what strength was left to her. She could move her arms and legs; she could lift her head; she felt a stabbing pain when she breathed deeply; she saw a thin thread of blood running down her stocking. "Can one get out of this place?" she asked. His voice seemed earnest, but the glint of the metal-green eyes was a smile: "Actually—no. Temporarily—yes." She made a movement to rise. He bent to lift her, but she gathered her strength in a swift, sudden jolt and slipped out of his grasp, struggling to stand up. "I think I can—" she started saying, and collapsed against him the instant her feet rested on the ground, a stab of pain shooting up from an ankle that would not hold her. He lifted her in his arms and smiled. "No, you can't, Miss Taggart," he said, and started off across the field. She lay still, her arms about him, her head on his shoulder, and she thought: For just a few moments—while this lasts—it is all right to surrender completely—to forget everything and just permit yourself to feel. . . . When had she experienced it before?—she wondered; there had been a moment when these had been the words in her mind, but she could not remember it now. She had known it, once—this feeling of certainty, of the final, the reached, the not-to-be-questioned. But it was new to feel protected, and to feel that it was right to accept the protection, to surrender—right, because this peculiar sense of safety was not protection against the future, but against the past, not the protection of being spared from battle, but of having won it, not a protection granted to her weakness, but to her strength. . . . Aware with abnormal intensity of the pressure of his hands against her body, of the gold and copper threads of his hair, the shadows of his lashes on the skin of his face a few inches away from hers, she wondered dimly: Protected, from what? . . . it's he who was the enemy . . . was he? --------------------------------------- 536 . . . why? . . . She did not know, she could not think of it now. It took an effort to remember that she had had a goal and a motive a few hours ago. She forced herself to recapture it. "Did you know that I was following you?" she asked. "No." "Where is your plane?" "At the landing field." "Where is the landing field?" "On the other side of the valley." "There was no landing field in this valley, when I looked down, There was no meadow, either. How did it get here?" He glanced at the sky. "Look carefully. Do you see anything up there?" She dropped her head back, looking straight into the sky, seeing nothing but the peaceful blue of morning. After a while she distinguished a few faint strips of shimmering air. "Heat waves," she said. "Refractor rays," he answered. "The valley bottom that you saw is a mountain top eight thousand feet high, five miles away from here." "A . . . what?" "A mountain top that no flyer would ever choose for a landing. What you saw was its reflection projected over this valley." "How?" "By the same method as a mirage on a desert: an image refracted from a layer of heated air." "How?" "By a screen of rays calculated against everything—except a courage such as yours." "What do you mean?" "I never thought that any plane would attempt to drop within seven hundred feet of the ground. You hit the ray screen. Some of the rays are the kind that kill magnetic motors. Well, that's the second time you beat me: I've never been followed, either," "Why do you keep that screen?" "Because this place is private property intended to remain as such." "What is this place?" "I'll show it to you, now that you're here, Miss Taggart. I'll answer questions after you've seen it." She remained silent. She noticed that she had asked questions about every subject, but not about him. It was as if he were a single whole, grasped by her first glance at him, like some irreducible absolute, like an axiom not to be explained any further, as if she knew everything about him by direct perception, and what awaited her now was only the process of identifying her knowledge. He was carrying her down a narrow trail that went winding to the bottom of the valley. On the slopes around them, the tall, dark pyramids of firs stood immovably straight, in masculine simplicity, like sculpture reduced to an essential form, and they clashed with the complex, feminine, over detailed lace-work of the birch leaves trembling in the sun. The leaves let the sunrays fall through to sweep across his hair, across both their faces. She could not see what lay below, beyond the turns of the trail. Her eyes kept coming back to his face. He glanced down at her once in a while. At first, she looked away, as if she had been caught. Then, as if learning it from him, she held his glance whenever he chose to look down—knowing that he knew what she felt and that he did not hide from her the meaning of his glance. --------------------------------------- 537 She knew that his silence was the same confession as her own. He did not hold her in the impersonal manner of a man carrying a wounded woman. It was an embrace, even though she felt no suggestion of it in his bearing; she felt it only by means of her certainty that his whole body was aware of holding hers. She heard the sound of the waterfall before she saw the fragile thread that fell in broken strips of glitter down the ledges. The sound came through some dim beat in her mind, some faint rhythm that seemed no louder than a struggling memory—but they went past and the beat remained; she listened to the sound of the water, but another sound seemed to grow clearer, rising, not in her mind, but from somewhere among the leaves. The trail turned, and in a sudden clearing she saw a small house on a ledge below, with a flash of sun on the pane of an open window. In the moment when she knew what experience had once made her want to surrender to the immediate present—it had been the night in a dusty coach of the Comet, when she had heard the. theme of Halley's Fifth Concerto for the first time—she knew that she was hearing it now, hearing it rise from the keyboard of a piano, in the clear, sharp chords of someone's powerful, confident touch. She snapped the question at his face, as if hoping to catch him unprepared: "That's the Fifth Concerto by Richard Halley, isn't it?" "Yes." "When did he write it?" "Why don't you ask him that in person?" "Is he here?" "It's he who's playing it. That's his house." "Oh . . . !" "You'll meet him, later. He'll be glad to speak to you. He knows that his works are the only records you like to play, in the evening, when you are alone." "How does he know that?" "I told him." The look on her face was like a question that would have begun with "How in hell . . . ?"—but she saw the look of his eyes, and she laughed, her laughter giving sound to the meaning of his glance. She could not question anything, she thought, she could not doubt, not now—not with the sound of that music rising triumphantly through the sun- drenched leaves, the music of release, of deliverance, played as it was intended to be played, as her mind had struggled to hear it in a rocking coach through the beat of wounded wheels—it was this that her mind had seen in the sounds, that night—this valley and the morning sun and— And then she gasped, because the trail had turned and from the height of an open ledge she saw the town on the floor of the valley. It was not a town, only a cluster of houses scattered at random from the bottom to the rising steps of the mountains that went on rising above their roofs, enclosing them within an abrupt, impassable circle. They were homes, small and new, with naked, angular shapes and the glitter of broad windows. Far in the distance, some structures seemed taller, and the faint coils of smoke above them suggested an industrial district. But close before her, rising on a slender granite column from a ledge below to the level of her eyes, blinding her by its glare, dimming the rest, stood a dollar sign three feet tall, made of solid gold. It hung in space above the town, as its coat-of-arms, its trademark, its beacon— and it caught the sunrays, like some transmitter of energy that sent them in shining blessing to stretch horizontally through the air above the roofs, "What's that?" she gasped, pointing at the sign. "Oh, that's Francisco's private joke." "Francisco—who?" she whispered, knowing the answer. --------------------------------------- 538 "Francisco d'Anconia." "Is he here, too?" "He will be, any day now." "What do you mean, his joke?" "He gave that sign as an anniversary present to the owner of this place. And then we all adopted it as our particular emblem. We liked the idea." "Aren't you the owner of this place?" "I? No." He glanced down at the foot of the ledge and added, pointing, "There's the owner of this place, coming now." A car had stopped at the end of a dirt road below, and two men were hurrying up the trail. She could not distinguish their faces; one of them was slender and tall, the other shorter, more muscular. She lost sight of them behind the twists of the trail, as he went on carrying her down to meet them. She met them when they emerged suddenly from behind a rocky corner a few feet away. The sight of their faces hit her with the abruptness of a collision. "Well, I'll be goddamned!" said the muscular man, whom she did not know, staring at her. She was staring at the tall, distinguished figure of his companion: it was Hugh Akston. It was Hugh Akston who spoke first, bowing to her with a courteous smile of welcome. "Miss Taggart, this is the first time anyone has ever proved me wrong, I didn't know—when I told you you'd never find him —that the next time I saw you, you would be in his arms." "In whose arms?" "Why, the inventor of the motor." She gasped, closing her eyes; this was one connection she knew she should have made. When she opened her eyes, she was looking at Galt, He was smiling, family, derisively, as if he knew fully what this meant to her. "It would have served you right if you'd broken your neck!" the muscular man snapped at her, with the anger of concern, almost of affection. "What a stunt to pull—for a person who'd have been admitted here so eagerly, if she'd chosen to come through the front door!" "Miss Taggart, may I present Midas Mulligan?" said Galt. "Oh," she said weakly, and laughed; she had no capacity for astonishment any longer. "Do you suppose I was killed in that crash—and this is some other kind of existence?" "It is another kind of existence," said Galt. "But as for being killed, doesn't it seem more like the other way around?" "Oh yes," she whispered, "yes . . ." She smiled at Mulligan. "Where is the front door?" "Here," he said, pointing to his forehead. "I've lost the key," she said simply, without resentment. "I've lost all keys, right now." "You'll find them. But what in blazes were you doing in that plane?" "Following." "Him?" He pointed at Galt. "Yes." "You're lucky to be alive! Are you badly hurt?" "I don't think so." "You'll have a few questions to answer, after they patch you up." He turned brusquely, leading the way down to the car, then glanced at Galt. "Well, what do we do now? There's something we hadn't provided for: the first scab." "The first . . . what?" she asked. "Skip it," said Mulligan, and looked at Galt. "What do we do?" --------------------------------------- 539 "It will be my charge," said Galt. "I will be responsible. You take Quentin Daniels." "Oh, he's no problem at all. He needs nothing but to get acquainted with the place. He seems to know all the rest," "Yes. He had practically gone the whole way by himself." He saw her watching him in bewilderment, and said, "There's one thing I must thank you for, Miss Taggart: you did pay me a compliment when you chose Quentin Daniels as my understudy. He was a plausible one." "Where is he?" she asked. "Will you tell me what happened?" "Why, Midas met us at the landing field, drove me to my house and took Daniels with him. I was going to join them for breakfast, but I saw your plane spinning and plunging for that pasture. I was the closest one to the scene." "We got here as fast as we could," said Mulligan. "I thought he deserved to get himself killed—whoever was in that plane. I never dreamed that it was one of the only two persons in the whole world whom I'd exempt." "Who is the other one?" she asked. "Hank Rearden." She winced; it was like a sudden blow from another great distance. She wondered why it seemed to her that Galt was watching her face intently and that she saw an instant's change in his, too brief to define. They had come to the car. It was a Hammond convertible, its top down, one of the costliest models, some years old, but kept in the shining trim of efficient handling. Galt placed her cautiously in the back seat and held her in the circle of his arm. She felt a stabbing pain once in a while, but she had no attention to spare for it. She watched the distant houses of the town, as Mulligan pressed the starter and the car moved forward, as they went past the sign of the dollar and a golden ray hit her eyes, sweeping over her forehead. "Who is the owner of this place?" she asked. "I am," said Mulligan. "What is he?" She pointed to Galt. Mulligan chuckled. "He just works here." "And you, Dr. Akston?" she asked. He glanced at Galt, "I'm one of his two fathers, Miss Taggart. The one who didn't betray him." "Oh!" she said, as another connection fell into place. "Your third pupil?" "That's right." "The second assistant bookkeeper!" she moaned suddenly, at one more memory. "What's that?" "That's what Dr. Stadler called him. That's what Dr. Stadler told me he thought his third pupil had become." "He overestimated," said Galt. "I'm much lower than that by the scale of his standards and of his world." The car had swerved into a lane rising toward a lonely house that stood on a ridge above the valley. She saw a man walking down a path, ahead of them, hastening in the direction of the town. He wore blue denim overalls and carried a lunchbox. There was something faintly familiar in the swift abruptness of his Galt. As the car went past him, she caught a glimpse of his face—and she jerked backward, her voice rising to a scream from the pain of the movement and from the shock of the sight: "Oh, stop! Stop! Don't let him go!" It was Ellis Wyatt. The three men laughed, but Mulligan stopped the car. "Oh . . . " she said weakly, in apology, realizing she had forgotten that this was the place from which Wyatt would not vanish. --------------------------------------- 540 Wyatt was running toward them: he had recognized her, too. When he seized the edge of the car, to brake his speed, she saw the face and the young, triumphant smile that she had seen but once before: on the platform of Wyatt Junction. "Dagny! You, too, at last? One of us?" "No," said Galt. "Miss Taggart is a castaway." "What?" "Miss Taggart's plane crashed. Didn't you see it?" "Crashed—here?" "Yes." "I heard a plane, but I . . ." His look of bewilderment changed to a smile, regretful, amused and friendly. "I see. Oh, hell, Dagny, it's preposterous!" She was staring at him helplessly, unable to reconnect the past to the present. And helplessly—as one would say to a dead friend, in a dream, the words one regrets having missed the chance to say in life— she said, with the memory of a telephone ringing, unanswered, almost two years ago, the words she had hoped to say if she ever caught sight of him again, "I . . . I tried to reach you." He smiled gently. "We've been trying to reach you ever since, Dagny. . . . I'll see you tonight. Don't worry, I won't vanish—and I don't think you will, either." He waved to the others and went off, swinging his lunchbox. She glanced up, as Mulligan started the car, and saw Galt's eyes watching her attentively. Her face hardened, as if in open admission of pain and in defiance of the satisfaction it might give him. "All right," she said. "I see what sort of show you want to put me through the shock of witnessing." But there was neither cruelty nor pity in his face, only the level look of justice. "Our first rule here, Miss Taggart," he answered, "is that one must always see for oneself." The car stopped in front of the lonely house. It was built of rough granite blocks, with a sheet of glass for most of its front wall. "I'll send the doctor over," said Mulligan, driving off, while Galt carried her up the path. "Your house?" she asked. "Mine," he answered, kicking the door open. He carried her across the threshold into the glistening space of his living room, where shafts of sunlight hit walls of polished pine. She saw a few pieces of furniture made by hand, a ceiling of bare rafters, an archway open upon a small kitchen with rough shelves, a bare wooden table and the astonishing sight of chromium glittering on an electric stove; the place had the primitive simplicity of a frontiersman's cabin, reduced to essential necessities, but reduced with a super-modern skill. He carried her across the sunrays into a small guest room and placed her down on a bed. She noticed a window open upon a long slant of rocky steps and pines going off into the sky. She noticed small streaks that looked like inscriptions cut into the wood of the walls, a few scattered lines that seemed made by different handwritings; she could not distinguish the words. She noticed another door, left half-open; it led to his bedroom. "Am I a guest here or a prisoner?" she asked. "The choice will be yours, Miss Taggart." "I can make no choice when I'm dealing with a stranger." "But you're not Didn't you name a railroad line after me?" "Oh! . . . Yes . . ." It was the small jolt of another connection falling into place. "Yes, I—" She was looking at the tall figure with the sun- streaked hair, with the suppressed smile in the mercilessly perceptive eyes— she was seeing the struggle to build her Line and the summer day of the first --------------------------------------- 541 train's run—she was thinking that if a human figure could be fashioned as an emblem of that Line, this was the figure. "Yes . . . I did . . . " Then, remembering the rest, she added, "But I named it after an enemy." He smiled. "That's the contradiction you had to resolve sooner or later, Miss Taggart." "It was you . . . wasn't it? . . . who destroyed my Line. . . ." "Why, no. It was the contradiction." She closed her eyes; in a moment, she asked, "All those stories I heard about you—which of them were true?" "All of them." "Was it you who spread them?" "No. What for? I never had any wish to be talked about." "But you do know that you've become a legend?" "Yes." "The young inventor of the Twentieth Century Motor Company is the one real version of the legend, isn't it?" "The one that's concretely real—yes." She could not say it indifferently; there was still a breathless tone and the drop of her voice toward a whisper, when she asked, "The motor . . . the motor I found . . . it was you who made it?" "Yes." She could not prevent the jolt of eagerness that threw her head up. "The secret of transforming energy—" she began, and stopped, "I could tell it to you in fifteen minutes," he said, in answer to the desperate plea she had not uttered, "but there's no power on earth that can force me to tell it. If you understand this, you'll understand everything that's baffling you." "That night . . . twelve years ago . . . a spring night when you walked out of a meeting of six thousand murderers—that story is true, isn't it?" "Yes." "You told them that you would stop the motor of the world." "I have." "What have you done?" "I've done nothing, Miss Taggart. And that's the whole of my secret." She looked at him silently for a long moment. He stood waiting, as if he could read her thoughts. "The destroyer—" she said in a tone of wonder and helplessness. "—the most evil creature that's ever existed," he said in the tone of a quotation, and she recognized her own words, "the man who's draining the brains of the world." "How thoroughly have you been watching me," she asked, "and for how long?" It was only an instant's pause, his eyes did not move, but it seemed to her that his glance was stressed, as if in special awareness of seeing her, and she caught the sound of some particular intensity in his voice as he answered quietly, "For years." She closed her eyes, relaxing and giving up. She felt an odd, lighthearted indifference, as if she suddenly wanted nothing but the comfort of surrendering to helplessness. The doctor who arrived was a gray-haired man with a mild, thoughtful face and a firmly, unobtrusively confident manner. "Miss Taggart, may I present Dr. Hendricks?" said Galt. "Not Dr, Thomas Hendricks?" she gasped, with the involuntary rudeness of a child; the name belonged to a great surgeon, who had retired and vanished six years ago. "Yes, of course," said Galt. --------------------------------------- 542 Dr. Hendricks smiled at her, in answer. "Midas told me that Miss Taggart has to be treated for shock," he said, "not for the one sustained, but for the ones to come." "I'll leave you to do it," said Galt, "while I go to the market to get supplies for breakfast." She watched the rapid efficiency of Dr. Hendricks' work, as he examined her injuries. He had brought an object she had never seen before: a portable X-ray machine. She learned that she had torn the cartilage of two ribs, that she had sprained an ankle, ripped patches of skin off one knee and one elbow, and acquired a few bruises spread in purple blotches over her body. By the time Dr. Hendricks' swift, competent hands had wound the bandages and the tight lacings of tape, she felt as if her body were an engine checked by an expert mechanic, and no further care was necessary, "I would advise you to remain in bed, Miss Taggart." "Oh no! If I'm careful and move slowly, I'll be all right." "You ought to rest." "Do you think I can?" He smiled. "I guess not." She was dressed by the time Galt came back. Dr. Hendricks gave him an account of her condition, adding, "I'll be back to check up, tomorrow." "Thanks," said Galt. "Send the bill to me." "Certainly not!" she said indignantly. "I will pay it myself." The two men glanced at each other, in amusement, as at the boast of a beggar. "We'll discuss that later," said Galt. Dr. Hendricks left, and she tried to stand up, limping, catching at the furniture for support. Galt lifted her in his arms, carried her to the kitchen alcove and placed her on a chair by the table set for two. She noticed that she was hungry, at the sight of the coffee pot boiling on the stove, the two glasses of orange juice, the heavy white pottery dishes sparkling in the sun on the polished table top. "When did you sleep or eat last?" he asked. "I don't know . . . I had dinner on the train, with—" She shook her head in helplessly bitter amusement: with the tramp, she thought, with a desperate voice pleading for escape from an avenger who would not pursue or be found— the avenger who sat facing her across the table, drinking a glass of orange juice. "I don't know . . . it seems centuries and continents away." "How did you happen to be following me?" "I landed at the Alton airport just as you were taking off. The man there told me that Quentin Daniels had gone with you." "I remember your plane circling to land. But that was the one and only time when I didn't think of you. I thought you were coming by train." She asked, looking straight at him, "How do you want me to understand that?" "What?" "The one and only time when you didn't think of me." He held her glance; she saw the faint movement she had noted as typical of him: the movement of his proudly intractable mouth curving into the hint of a smile. "In any way you wish," he answered. She let a moment pass to underscore her choice by the severity of her face, then asked coldly, in the tone of an enemy's accusation, "You knew that I was coming for Quentin Daniels?" "Yes." "You got him first and fast, in order not to let me reach him? In order to beat me—knowing fully what sort of beating that would mean for me?" "Sure." --------------------------------------- 543 It was she who looked away and remained silent. He rose to cook the rest of their breakfast. She watched him as he stood at the stove, toasting bread, frying eggs and bacon. There was an easy, relaxed skill about the way he worked, but it was a skill that belonged to another profession; his hands moved with the rapid precision of an engineer pulling the levers of a control board. She remembered suddenly where she had seen as expert and preposterous a performance. "Is that what you learned from Dr. Akston?" she asked, pointing at the stove. "That, among other things." "Did he teach you to spend your time—your time!—" she could not keep the shudder of indignation out of her voice—"on this sort of work?" "I've spent time on work of much lesser importance." When he put her plate before her, she asked, "Where did you get that food? Do they have a grocery store here?" "The best one in the world. It's run by Lawrence Hammond." "What?" "Lawrence Hammond, of Hammond Cars. The bacon is from the farm of Dwight Sanders—of Sanders Aircraft. The eggs and the butter from Judge Narragansett— of the Superior Court of the State of Illinois." She looked at her plate, bitterly, almost as if she were afraid to touch it. "It's the most expensive breakfast I'll ever eat, considering the value of the cook's time and of all those others." "Yes—from one aspect. But from another, it's the cheapest breakfast you'll ever eat—because no part of it has gone to feed the looters who'll make you pay for it through year after year and leave you to starve in the end." After a long silence, she asked simply, almost wistfully, "What is it that you're all doing here?" "Living." She had never heard that word sound so real, "What is your job?" she asked. "Midas Mulligan said that you work here." "I'm the handy man, I guess." "The what?" "I'm on call whenever anything goes wrong with any of the installations— with the power system, for instance." She looked at him—and suddenly she tore forward, staring at the electric stove, but fell back on her chair, stopped by pain. He chuckled. "Yes, that's true—but take it easy or Dr. Hendricks will order you back to bed." "The power system . . ." she said, choking, "the power system here . . . it's run by means of your motor?" "Yes." "It's built? It's working? It's functioning?" "It has cooked your breakfast." "I want to see it!" "Don't bother crippling yourself to look at that stove. It's just a plain electric stove like any other, only about a hundred times cheaper to run. And that's all you'll have a chance to see, Miss Taggart." "You promised to show me this valley." "I'll show it to you. But not the power generator." "Will you take me to see the place now, as soon as we finish?" "If you wish—and if you're able to move." "I am." He got up, went to the telephone and dialed a number. "Hello, Midas? . . . Yes. . . . He did? Yes, she's all right. . . . Will you rent me your car for the day? . . . Thanks. At the usual rate— --------------------------------------- 544 twenty-five cents, . . . . Can you send it over? . . . Do you happen to have some sort of cane? She'll need it. . . . Tonight? Yes, I think so. We will. Thanks." He hung up. She was staring at him incredulously. "Did I understand you to say that Mr. Mulligan—who's worth about two hundred million dollars, I believe—is going to charge you twenty-five cents for the use of his car?" "That's right." "Good heavens, couldn't he give it to you as a courtesy?" He sat looking at her for a moment, studying her face, as if deliberately letting her see the amusement in his. "Miss Taggart," he said, "we have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind. We come here because we want to rest. But we have certain customs, which we all observe, because they pertain to the things we need to rest from. So I'll warn you now that there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word 'give,' " "I'm sorry," she said. "You're right." He refilled her cup of coffee and extended a package of cigarettes. She smiled, as she took a cigarette: it bore the sign of the dollar. "If you're not too tired by evening," he said, "Mulligan has invited us for dinner. He'll have some guests there whom, I think, you'll want to meet." "Oh, of course! I won't be too tired. I don't think I’ll ever feel tired again." They were finishing breakfast when she saw Mulligan's car stopping in front of the house. The driver leaped out, raced up the path and rushed into the room, not pausing to ring or knock. It took her a moment to realize that the eager, breathless, disheveled young man was Quentin Daniels. "Miss Taggart," he gasped, "I'm sorry!" The desperate guilt in his voice clashed with the joyous excitement in his face, "I've never broken my word before! There's no excuse for it, I can't ask you to forgive me, and I know that you won't believe it, but the truth is that I— I forgot!" She glanced at Galt, "I believe you." "I forgot that I promised to wait, I forgot everything—until a few minutes ago, when Mr. Mulligan told me that you'd crashed here in a plane, and then I knew it was my fault, and if anything had happened to you—oh God, are you all right?" "Yes. Don't worry. Sit down." "I don't know how one can forget one's word of honor. I don't know what happened to me." "I do." "Miss Taggart, I had been working on it for months, on that one particular hypothesis, and the more I worked, the more hopeless it seemed to become. I'd been in my laboratory for the last two days, trying to solve a mathematical equation that looked impossible. I felt I'd die at that blackboard, but wouldn't give up. It was late at night when he came in. I don't think I even noticed him, not really. He said he wanted to speak to me and I asked him to wait and went right on. I think I forgot his presence. I don't know how long he stood there, watching me, but what I remember is that suddenly his hand reached over, swept all my figures off the blackboard and wrote one brief equation. And then I noticed him! Then I screamed—because it wasn't the full answer to the motor, but it was the way to it, a way I hadn't seen, hadn't suspected, but I knew where it led! I remember I cried, 'How could you know it?'—and he answered, pointing at a photograph of your motor, 'I'm the man who made it in the first place.' And that's the last I remember, Miss Taggart—I mean, the --------------------------------------- 545 last I remember of my own existence, because after that we talked about static electricity and the conversion of energy and the motor." "We talked physics all the way down here," said Galt. "Oh, I remember when you asked me whether I'd go with you," said Daniels, "whether I'd be willing to go and never come back and give up everything . . . Everything? Give up a dead Institute that's crumbling back into the jungle, give up my future as a janitor-slave-by-law, give up Wesley Mouch and Directive 10-289 and sub-animal creatures who crawl on their bellies, grunting that there is no mind! . . . Miss Taggart"—he laughed exultantly—"he was asking me whether I'd give that up to go with him! He had to ask it twice, I couldn't believe it at first, I couldn't believe that any human being would need to be asked or would think of it as a choice. To go? I would have leaped off a skyscraper just to follow him—and to hear his formula before we hit the pavement!" "I don't blame you," she said; she looked at him with a tinge of wistfulness that was almost envy. "Besides, you've fulfilled your contract. You've led me to the secret of the motor." "I'm going to be a janitor here, too," said Daniels, grinning happily. "Mr. Mulligan said he'd give me the job of janitor—at the power plant. And when I learn, I'll rise to electrician. Isn't he great—Midas Mulligan? That's what I want to be when I reach his age. I want to make money. I want to make millions. I want to make as much as he did!" "Daniels!" She laughed, remembering the quiet self-control, the strict precision, the stern logic of the young scientist she had known. "What's the matter with you? Where are you? Do you know what you're saying?" "I'm here, Miss Taggart—and there's no limit to what's possible here! I'm going to be the greatest electrician in the world and the richest! I'm going to—" "You're going to go back to Mulligan's house," said Galt, "and sleep for twenty-four hours—or I won't let you near the power plant." "Yes, sir," said Daniels meekly. The sun had trickled down the peaks and drawn a circle of shining granite and glittering snow to enclose the valley—when they stepped out of the house. She felt suddenly as if nothing existed beyond that circle, and she wondered at the joyous, proud comfort to be found in a sense of the finite, in the knowledge that the field of one's concern lay within the realm of one's sight. She wanted to stretch out her arms over the roofs of the town below, feeling that her fingertips would touch the peaks across. But she could not raise her arms; leaning on a cane with one hand and on Galt's arm with the other, moving her feet by a slow, conscientious effort, she walked down to the car like a child learning to walk for the first time. She sat by Galt's side as he drove, skirting the town, to Midas Mulligan's house. It stood on a ridge, the largest house of the valley, the only one built two stories high, an odd combination of fortress and pleasure resort, with stout granite walls and broad, open terraces. He stopped to let Daniels off, then drove on up a winding road rising slowly into the mountains. It was the thought of Mulligan's wealth, the luxurious car and the sight of Galt's hands on the wheel that made her wonder for the first time whether Galt, too, was wealthy. She glanced at his clothes: the gray slacks and white shirt seemed of a quality intended for long wear; the leather of the narrow belt about his waistline was cracked; the watch on his wrist was a precision instrument, but made of plain stainless steel. The sole suggestion of luxury was the color of his hair—the strands stirring in the wind like liquid gold and copper. Abruptly, behind a turn of the road, she saw the green acres of pastures stretching to a distant farmhouse. There were herds of sheep, some horses, the fenced squares of pigpens under the sprawling shapes of wooden barns and, --------------------------------------- 546 farther away, a metal hangar of a type that did not belong on a farm, A man in a bright cowboy shirt was hurrying toward them. Galt stopped the car and waved to him, but said nothing in answer to her questioning glance. He let her discover for herself, when the man came closer, that it was Dwight Sanders, "Hello, Miss Taggart," he said, smiling. She looked silently at his rolled shirt sleeves, at his heavy boots, at the herds of cattle. "So that's all that's left of Sanders Aircraft," she said. "Why, no. There's that excellent monoplane, my best model, which you flattened up in the foothills." "Oh, you know about that? Yes, it was one of yours. It was a wonderful ship. But I'm afraid I've damaged it pretty badly." "You ought to have it fixed." "I think I've ripped the bottom. Nobody can fix it." "I can." These were the words and the tone of confidence that she had not heard for years, this was the manner she had given up expecting—but the start of her smile ended in a bitter chuckle. "How?" she asked. "On a hog farm?" "Why, no. At Sanders Aircraft." "Where is it?" "Where did you think it was? In that building in New Jersey, which Tinky Holloway's cousin bought from my bankrupt successors by means of a government loan and a tax suspension? In that building where he produced six planes that never left the ground and eight that did, but crashed with forty passengers each?" "Where is it, then?" "Wherever I am." He pointed across the road. Glancing down through the tops of the pine trees, she saw the concrete rectangle of an airfield on the bottom of the valley. "We have a few planes here and it's my job to take care of them," he said. "I'm the hog farmer and the airfield attendant. I'm doing quite well at producing ham and bacon, without the men from whom I used to buy it. But those men cannot produce airplanes without me—and, without me, they cannot even produce their ham and bacon," "But you—you have not been designing airplanes, either." "No, I haven't. And I haven't been manufacturing the Diesel engines I once promised you. Since the time I saw you last, I have designed and manufactured just one new tractor. I mean, one—I tooled it by hand—no mass production was necessary. But that tractor has cut an eight-hour workday down to four hours on"—the straight line of his arm, extended to point across the valley, moved like a royal scepter; her eyes followed it and she saw the terraced green of hanging gardens on a distant mountainside—"the chicken and dairy farm of Judge Narragansett"—his arm moved slowly to a long, flat stretch of greenish gold at the foot of a canyon, then to a band of violent green—"in the wheat fields and tobacco patch of Midas Mulligan"—his arm rose to a granite flank striped by glistening tiers of leaves—"in the orchards of Richard Halley." Her eyes went slowly over the curve his arm had traveled, over and over again, long after the arm had dropped; but she said only, "I see." "Now do you believe that I can fix your plane?" he asked. "Yes. But have you seen it?" "Sure. Midas called two doctors immediately—Hendricks for you, and me for your plane. It can be fixed. But it will be an expensive job." "How much?" "Two hundred dollars." "Two hundred dollars?" she repeated incredulously; the price seemed much too low. --------------------------------------- 547 "In gold, Miss Taggart." "Oh . . . ! Well, where can I buy the gold?" "You can't," said Galt. She jerked her head to face him defiantly. "No?" "No. Not where you come from. Your laws forbid it." "Yours don't?" "No." "Then sell it to me. Choose your own rate of exchange. Name any sum you want—in my money." "What money? You're penniless, Miss Taggart." "What?" It was a word that a Taggart heiress could not ever expect to hear. "You're penniless in this valley. You own millions of dollars in Taggart Transcontinental stock—but it will not buy one pound of bacon from the Sanders hog farm." "1 see." Galt smiled and turned to Sanders. "Go ahead and fix that plane. Miss Taggart will pay for it eventually." He pressed the starter and drove on, while she sat stiffly straight, asking no questions. A stretch of violent turquoise blue split the cliffs ahead, ending the road; it took her a second to realize that it was a lake. The motionless water seemed to condense the blue of the sky and the green of the pine- covered mountains into so brilliantly pure a color that it made the sky look a dimmed pale gray. A streak of boiling foam came from among the pines and went crashing down the rocky steps to vanish in the placid water. A small granite structure stood by the stream. Galt stopped the car just as a husky man in overalls stepped out to the threshold of the open doorway. It was Dick McNamara, who had once been her best contractor. "Good day, Miss Taggart!" he said happily. "I'm glad to see that you weren't hurt badly.” She inclined her head in silent greeting—it was like a greeting to the loss and the pain of the past, to a desolate evening and the desperate face of Eddie Willers telling her the news of this man's disappearance— hurt badly? she thought—I was, but not in the plane crash—on that evening, in an empty office. . . . Aloud, she asked, "What are you doing here? What was it that you betrayed me for, at the worst time possible?" He smiled, pointing at the stone structure and down at the rocky drop where the tube of a water main went vanishing into the underbrush. "I'm the utilities man," he said. "I take care of the water lines, the power lines and the telephone service." "Alone?" "Used to. But we've grown so much in the past year that I've had to hire three men to help me." "What men? From where?" "Well, one of them is a professor of economics who couldn't get a job outside, because he taught that you can't consume more than you have produced—one is a professor of history who couldn't get a job because he taught that the inhabitants of slums were not the men who made this country— and one is a professor of psychology who couldn't get a job because he taught that men are capable of thinking." "They work for you as plumbers and linesmen?" "You'd be surprised how good they are at it." "And to whom have they abandoned our colleges?" "To those who're wanted there." He chuckled, "How long ago was it that I betrayed you, Miss Taggart? Not quite three years ago, wasn't it? it's the --------------------------------------- 548 John Galt Line that I refused to build for you. Where is your Line now? But my lines have grown, in that time, from the couple of miles that Mulligan had built when I took over, to hundreds of miles of pipe and wire, all within the space of this valley." He saw the swift, involuntary look of eagerness on her face, the look of a competent person's appreciation; he smiled, glanced at her companion and said softly, "You know, Miss Taggart, when it comes to the John Galt Line—maybe it's I who've followed it and you who're betraying it." She glanced at Galt. He was watching her face, but she could read nothing in his. As they drove on along the edge of the lake, she asked, "You've mapped this route deliberately, haven't you? You're showing me all the men whom"—she stopped, feeling inexplicably reluctant to say it, and said, instead—"whom I have lost?" "I'm showing you all the men whom I have taken away from you," he answered firmly. This was the root, she thought, of the guiltlessness of his face: he had guessed and named the words she had wanted to spare him, he had rejected a good will that was not based on his values—and in proud certainty of being right, he had made a boast of that which she had intended as an accusation. Ahead of them, she saw a wooden pier projecting into the water of the lake. A young woman lay stretched on the sun-flooded planks, watching a battery of fishing rods. She glanced up at the sound of the car, then leaped to her feet in a single swift movement, a shade too swift, and ran to the road. She wore slacks, rolled above the knees of her bare legs, she had dark, disheveled hair and large eyes. Galt waved to her. "Hello, John! When did you get in?" she called. "This morning," he answered, smiling and driving on. Dagny jerked her head to look back and saw the glance with which the young woman stood looking after Galt. And even though hopelessness, serenely accepted, was part of the worship in that glance, she experienced a feeling she had never known before: a stab of jealousy. "Who is that?" she asked. "Our best fishwife. She provides the fish for Hammond's grocery market." "What else is she?" "You've noticed that there's a 'what else' for every one of us here? She's a writer. The kind of writer who wouldn't be published outside. She believes that when one deals with words, one deals with the mind." The car turned into a narrow path, climbing steeply into a wilderness of brush and pine trees. She knew what to expect when she saw a handmade sign nailed to a tree, with an arrow pointing the way: The Buena Esperanza Pass. It was not a pass, it was a wall of laminated rock with a complex chain of pipes, pumps and valves climbing like a vine up its narrow ledges, but it bore, on its crest, a huge wooden sign—and the proud violence of the letters announcing their message to an impassable tangle of ferns and pine branches, was more characteristic, more familiar than the words: Wyatt Oil. It was oil that ran in a glittering curve from the mouth of a pipe into a tank at the foot of the wall, as the only confession of the tremendous secret struggle inside the stone, as the unobtrusive purpose of all the intricate machinery—but the machinery did not resemble the installations of an oil derrick, and she knew that she was looking at the unborn secret of the Buena Esperanza Pass, she knew that this was oil drawn out of shale by some method men had considered impossible. Ellis Wyatt stood on a ridge, watching the glass dial of a gauge imbedded in the rock. He saw the car stopping below, and called, "Hi, Dagny! Be with you in a minute!" --------------------------------------- 549 There were two other men working with him: a big, muscular roughneck, at a pump halfway up the wall, and a young boy, by the tank on the ground. The young boy had blond hair and a face with an unusual purity of form. She felt certain that she knew this face, but she could not recall where she had seen it. The boy caught her puzzled glance, grinned and, as if to help her, whistled softly, almost inaudibly the first notes of Halley's Fifth Concerto. It was the young brakeman of the Comet. She laughed. "It was the Fifth Concerto by Richard Halley, wasn't it?" "Sure," he answered. "But do you think I'd tell that to a scab?" "A what?" "What am I paying you for?" asked Ellis Wyatt, approaching; the boy chuckled, darting back to seize the lever he had abandoned for a moment. "It's Miss Taggart who couldn't fire you, if you loafed on the job. lean." "That's one of the reasons why I quit the railroad, Miss Taggart," said the boy. "Did you know that I stole him from you?" said Wyatt. "He used to be your best brakeman and now he's my best grease-monkey, but neither one of us is going to hold him permanently." "Who is?" "Richard Halley. Music. He's Halley's best pupil." She smiled, "I know, this is a place where one employs nothing but aristocrats for the lousiest kinds of jobs." "They're all aristocrats, that's true," said Wyatt, "because they know that there's no such thing as a lousy job—only lousy men who don't care to do it." The roughneck was watching them from above, listening with curiosity. She glanced up at him, he looked like a truck driver, so she asked, "What were you outside? A professor of comparative philology, I suppose?" "No, ma'am," he answered. "I was a truck driver." He added, "But that's not what I wanted to remain." Ellis Wyatt was looking at the place around them with a kind of youthful pride eager for acknowledgment: it was the pride of a host at a formal reception in a drawing room, and the eagerness of an artist at the opening of his show in a gallery. She smiled and asked, pointing at the machinery, "Shale oil?" "Uh-huh." "That's the process which you were working to develop while you were on earth?" She said it involuntarily and she gasped a little at her own words. He laughed. "While I was in hell—yes. I'm on earth now." "How much do you produce?" "Two hundred barrels a day." A note of sadness came back into her voice: "It's the process by which you once intended to fill five tank-trains a day." "Dagny," he said earnestly, pointing at his tank, "one gallon of it is worth more than a trainful back there in hell—because this is mine, all of it, every single drop of it, to be spent on nothing but myself." He raised his smudged hand, displaying the greasy stains as a treasure, and a black drop on the tip of his finger flashed like a gem in the sun. "Mine," he said. "Have you let them beat you into forgetting what that word means, what it feels like? You should give yourself a chance to relearn it." "You're hidden in a hole in the wilderness," she said bleakly, "and you're producing two hundred barrels of oil, when you could have flooded the world with it." "What for? To feed the looters?" "No! To earn the fortune you deserve." --------------------------------------- 550 "But I'm richer now than I was in the world. What's wealth but the means of expanding one's life? There's two ways one can do it: either by producing more or by producing it faster. And that's what I'm doing: I'm manufacturing time." "What do you mean?" "I'm producing everything I need, I'm working to improve my methods, and every hour I save is an hour added to my life. It used to take me five hours to fill that tank. It now takes three. The two I saved are mine—as pricelessly mine as if I moved my grave two further hours away for every five I've got. It's two hours released from one task, to be invested in another— two more hours in which to work, to grow, to move forward. That's the savings account I'm -hoarding. Is there any sort of safety vault that could protect this account in the outside world?" "But what space do you have for moving forward? Where's your market?" He chuckled. "Market? I now work for use, not for profit—my use, not the looters' profit. Only those who add to my life, not those who devour it, are my market. Only those who produce, not those who consume, can ever be anybody's market. I deal with the life-givers, not with the cannibals. If my oil takes less effort to produce, I ask less of the men to whom I trade it for the things I need. I add an extra span of time to their lives with every gallon of my oil that they burn. And since they're men like me, they keep inventing faster ways to make the things they make—so every one of them grants me an added minute, hour or day with the bread I buy from them, with the clothes, the lumber, the metal"—he glanced at Galt—"an added year with every month of electricity I purchase. That's our market and that's how it works for us—but that was not the way it worked in the outer world. Down what drain were they poured out there, our days, our lives and our energy? Into what bottomless, futureless sewer of the unpaid-for? Here, we trade achievements, not failures—values, not needs. We're free of one another, yet we all grow together. Wealth, Dagny? What greater wealth is there than to own your Me and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow. It can't stand still. It must grow or perish. Look—" He pointed at a plant fighting upward from under the weight of a rock—a long, gnarled stem, contorted by an unnatural struggle, with drooping, yellow remnants of unformed leaves and a single green shoot thrust upward to the sun with the desperation of a last, spent, inadequate effort. "That's what they're doing to us back there in hell. Do you see me submitting to it?" "No," she whispered. "Do you see him submitting?" He pointed at Galt. "God, no!" "Then don't be astonished by anything you see in this valley." She remained silent when they drove on. Galt said nothing. On a distant mountainside, in the dense green of a forest, she saw a. pine tree slanting down suddenly, tracing a curve, like the hand of a clock, then crashing abruptly out of sight. She knew that it was a manmade motion. "Who's the lumberjack around here?" she asked. "Ted Nielsen." The road was relaxing into wider curves and gentler grades, among the softer shapes of hillsides. She saw a rust-brown slope patched by two squares of unmatching green: the dark, dusty green of potato plants, and the pale, greenish-silver of cabbages, A man in a red shirt was riding a small tractor, cutting weeds, "Who's the cabbage tycoon?" she asked. "Roger Marsh." --------------------------------------- 551 She closed her eyes. She thought of the weeds that were climbing up the steps of a closed factory, over its lustrous tile front, a few hundred miles away, beyond the mountains. The road was descending to the bottom of the valley. She saw the roofs of the town straight below, and the small, shining spot of the dollar sign in the distance at the other end. Galt stopped the car in front of the first structure on a ledge above the roofs, a brick building with a faint tinge of red trembling over its smokestack. It almost shocked her to see so logical a sign as "Stockton Foundry" above its door. When she walked, leaning on her cane, out of the sunlight into the dank gloom of the building, the shock she felt was part sense of anachronism, part homesickness. This was the industrial East which, in the last few hours, had seemed to be centuries behind her. This was the old, the familiar, the loved sight of reddish billows rising to steel rafters, of sparks shooting in sunbursts from invisible sources, of sudden flames streaking through a black fog, of sand molds glowing with white metal. The fog hid the walls of the structure, dissolving its size— and for a moment, this was the great, dead foundry at Stockton, Colorado, it was Nielsen Motors . . . it was Rearden Steel. "Hi, Dagny!" The smiling face that approached her out of the fog was Andrew Stockton's, and she saw a grimy hand extended to her with a gesture of confident pride, as if it held all of her moment's vision on its palm. She clasped the hand. "Hello," she said softly, not knowing whether she was greeting the past or the future. Then she shook her head and added, "How come you're not planting potatoes or making shoes around here? You've actually remained in your own profession." "Oh, Calvin Atwood of the Atwood Light and Power Company of New York City is making the shoes. Besides, my profession is one of the oldest and most immediately needed anywhere. Still, I had to fight for it. I had to ruin a competitor, first." "What?" He grinned and pointed to the glass door of a sun-flooded room. "There's my ruined competitor," he said. She saw a young man bent over a long table, working on a complex model for the mold of a drill head. He had the slender, powerful hands of a concert pianist and the grim face of a surgeon concentrating on his task. "He's a sculptor," said Stockton. "When I came here, he and his partner had a sort of combination hand-forge and repair shop. I opened a real foundry, and took all their customers away from them. The boy couldn't do the kind of job I did, it was only a part-time business for him, anyway—sculpture is his real business—so he came to work for me. He's making more money now, in shorter hours, than he used to make in his own foundry. His partner was a chemist, so he went into agriculture and he's produced a chemical fertilizer that's doubled some of the crops around here—did you mention potatoes?— potatoes, in particular." "Then somebody could put you out of business, too?" "Sure. Any time. I know one man who could and probably will, when he gets here. But, boy!—I'd work for him as a cinder sweeper. He'd blast through this valley like a rocket. He'd triple everybody's production." "Who's that?" "Hank Rearden." "Yes . . ." she whispered, "Oh yes!" She wondered what had made her say it with such immediate certainty. She felt, simultaneously, that Hank Rearden's presence in this valley was impossible—and that this was his place, peculiarly his, this was the place of his youth, of his start, and, together, the place he had been seeking all his --------------------------------------- 552 life, the land he had struggled to reach, the goal of his tortured battle. . . . It seemed to her that the spirals of flame tinged fog were drawing time into an odd circle—and while a dim thought went floating through her mind like the streamer of an unfollowed sentence: To hold an unchanging youth is to reach, at the end, the vision with which one started—she heard the voice of a tramp in a diner, saying, "John Galt found the fountain of youth which he wanted to bring down to men. Only he never came back . . . because he found that it couldn't be brought down." A sheaf of sparks went up in the depth of the fog—and she saw the broad back of a foreman whose arm made the sweeping gesture of a signal, directing some invisible task. He jerked his head to snap an order—she caught a glimpse of his profile—and she caught her breath. Stockton saw it, chuckled and called into the fog: "Hey, Ken! Come here! Here's an old friend of yours!" She looked at Ken Danagger as he approached them. The great industrialist, whom she had tried so desperately to hold to his desk, was now dressed in smudged overalls. "Hello, Miss Taggart. I told you we'd soon meet again." Her head dropped, as if in assent and in greeting, but her hand bore down heavily upon her cane, for a moment, while she stood reliving their last encounter: the tortured hour of waiting, then the gently distant face at the desk and the tinkling of a glass-paneled door closing upon a stranger. It was so brief a moment that two of the men before her could take it only as a greeting—but it was at Galt that she looked when she raised her head, and she saw him looking at her as if he knew what she felt—she saw him seeing in her face the realization that it was he who had walked out of Danagger's office, that day. His face gave her nothing in answer: it had that look of respectful severity with which a man stands before the fact that the truth is the truth. "I didn't expect it," she said softly, to Danagger. "I never expected to see you again." Danagger was watching her as if she were a promising child he had once discovered and was now affectionately amused to watch. "I know," he said. "But why are you so shocked?" "I . . . oh, it's just that it's preposterous!" She pointed at his clothes. "What's wrong with it?" "Is this, then, the end of your road?" "Hell, no! The beginning." "What are you aiming at?" "Mining. Not coal, though. Iron." "Where?" He pointed toward the mountains. "Right here. Did you ever know Midas Mulligan to make a bad investment? You'd be surprised what one can find in that stretch of rock, if one knows how to look. That's what I've been doing— looking." "And if you don't find any iron ore?" He shrugged. "There's other things to do. I've always been short on time in my life, never on what to use it for." She glanced at Stockton with curiosity. "Aren't you training a man who could become your most dangerous competitor?" "That's the only sort of men I like to hire. Dagny, have you lived too long among the looters? Have you come to think that one man's ability is a threat to another?" "Oh no! But I thought I was almost the only one left who didn't think that." --------------------------------------- 553 "Any man who's afraid of hiring the best ability he can find, is a cheat who's in a business where he doesn't belong. To me—the foulest man on earth, more contemptible than a criminal, is the employer who rejects men for being too good. That's what I've always thought and— say, what are you laughing at?" She was listening to him with an eager, incredulous smile. "It's so startling to hear," she said, "because it's so right!" "What else can one think?" She chuckled softly. "You know, when I was a child, I expected every businessman to think it." "And since then?" "Since then, I've learned not to expect it." "But it's right, isn't it?" "I've learned not to expect the right." "But it stands to reason, doesn't it?" "I've given up expecting reason." "That's what one must never give up," said Ken Danagger. They had returned to the car and had started down the last, descending curves of the road, when she glanced at Galt and he turned to her at once, as if he had expected it. "It was you in Danagger's office that day, wasn't it?" she asked. "Yes." "Did you know, then, that I was waiting outside?" "Yes." "Did you know what it was like, to wait behind that closed door?" She could not name the nature of the glance with which he looked at her. It was not pity, because she did not seem to be its object; it was the kind of glance with which one looks at suffering, but it was not her suffering that he seemed to be seeing. "Oh yes," he answered quietly, almost lightly. The first shop to rise by the side of the valley's single street was like the sudden sight of an open theater: a frame box without front wall, its stage set in the bright colors of a musical comedy—with red cubes, green circles, gold triangles, which were bins of tomatoes, barrels of lettuce, pyramids of oranges, and a spangled backdrop where the sun hit shelves of metal containers. The name on the marquee said; Hammond Grocery Market. A distinguished man in shirt sleeves, with a stern profile and gray temples, was weighing a chunk of butter for an attractive young woman who stood at the counter, her posture light as a show girl's, the skirt of her cotton dress swelling faintly in the wind, like a dance costume. Dagny smiled involuntarily, even though the man was Lawrence Hammond. The shops were small one-story structures, and as they moved past her, she caught familiar names on their signs, like headings on the pages of a book riffled by the car's motion: Mulligan General Store—Atwood Leather Goods— Nielsen Lumber—then the sign of the dollar above the door of a small brick factory with the inscription: Mulligan Tobacco Company. "Who's the Company, besides Midas Mulligan?" she asked. "Dr. Akston," he answered. There were few passers-by, some men, fewer women, and they walked with purposeful swiftness, as if bound on specific errands. One after another, they stopped at the sight of the car, they waved to Galt and they looked at her with the unastonished curiosity of recognition. "Have I been expected here for a long time?" she asked, "You still are," he answered. On the edge of the road, she saw a structure made of glass sheets held together by a wooden framework, but for one instant it seemed to her that it was only a frame for the painting of a woman—a tall, fragile woman with pale blond hair and a face of such beauty that it seemed veiled by distance, as if --------------------------------------- 554 the artist had been merely able to suggest it, not to make it quite real. In the next instant the woman moved her head—and Dagny realized that there were people at the tables inside the structure, that it was a cafeteria, that the woman stood behind the counter, and that she was Kay Ludlow, the movie star who, once seen, could never be forgotten; the star who had retired and vanished five years ago, to be replaced by girls of indistinguishable names and interchangeable faces. But at the shock of the realization, Dagny thought of the sort of movies that were now being made—and then she felt that the glass cafeteria was a cleaner use for Kay Ludlow's beauty than a role in a picture glorifying the commonplace for possessing no glory. The building that came next was a small, squat block of rough granite, sturdy, solid, neatly built, the lines of its rectangular bulk as severely precise as the creases of a formal garment—but she saw, like an instant's ghost, the long streak of a skyscraper rising into the coils of Chicago's fog, the skyscraper that had once borne the sign she now saw written in gold letters above a modest pine-wood door: Mulligan Bank. Galt slowed the car while moving past the bank, as if placing the motion in some special italics. A small brick structure came next, bearing the sign: Mulligan Mint. "A mint?" she asked. "What's Mulligan doing with a mint?" Galt reached into his pocket and dropped two small coins into the palm of her hand. They were miniature disks of shining gold, smaller than pennies, the kind that had not been in circulation since the days of Nat Taggart; they bore the head of the Statue of Liberty on one side, the words "United States of America—One Dollar" on the other, but the dates stamped upon them were of the past two years. "That's the money we use here," he said. "It's minted by Midas Mulligan." "But . . . on whose authority?" "That's stated on the coin—on both sides of it." "What do you use for small change?" "Mulligan mints that, too, in silver. We don't accept any other currency in this valley. We accept nothing but objective values." She was studying the coins. "This looks like . . . like something from the first morning in the age of my ancestors." He pointed at the valley, "Yes, doesn't it?" She sat looking at the two thin, delicate, almost weightless drops of gold in the palm of her hand, knowing that the whole of the Taggart Transcontinental system had rested upon them, that this had been the keystone supporting all the keystones, all the arches, all the girders of the Taggart track, the Taggart Bridge, the Taggart Building. . . . She shook her head and slipped the coins back into his hand. "You're not making it easier for me," she said, her voice low. "I'm making it as hard as possible." "Why don't you say it? Why don't you tell me all the things you want me to learn?" The gesture of his arm pointed at the town, at the road behind them. "What have I been doing?" he asked. They drove on in silence. After a while, she asked, in the tone of a dryly statistical inquiry, "How much of a fortune has Midas Mulligan amassed in this valley?" He pointed ahead. "Judge for yourself." The road was winding through stretches of unleveled soil toward the homes of the valley. The homes were not lined along a street, they were spread at irregular intervals over the rises and hollows of the ground, they were small and simple, built of local materials, mostly of granite and pine, with a prodigal ingenuity of thought and a tight economy of physical effort. Every house looked as if it had been put up by the labor of one man, no two houses --------------------------------------- 555 were alike, and the only quality they had in common was the stamp of a mind grasping a problem and solving it. Galt pointed out a house, once in a while, choosing the names she knew—and it sounded to her like a list of quotations from the richest stock exchange in the world, or like a roll call of honor: "Ken Danagger . . . Ted Nielsen . . . Lawrence Hammond . . . Roger Marsh . . . Ellis Wyatt . . . Owen Kellogg . . . Dr. Akston." The home of Dr. Akston was the last, a small cottage with a large terrace, lifted on the crest of a wave against the rising walls of the mountains. The road went past it and climbed on into the coils of an ascending grade. The pavement shrank to a narrow path between two walls of ancient pines, their tall, straight trunks pressing against it like a grim colonnade, their branches meeting above, swallowing the path into sudden silence and twilight. There were no marks of wheels on the thin strip of earth, it looked unused and forgotten, a few minutes and a few turns seemed to take the car miles away from human habitation— and then there was nothing to break the pressure of the stillness but a rare wedge of sunlight cutting across the trunks in the depth of the forest once in a while. The sudden sight of a house on the edge of the path struck her like the shock of an unexpected sound: built in loneliness, cut off from all ties to human existence, it looked like the secret retreat of some great defiance or sorrow. It was the humblest home of the valley, a log cabin beaten in dark streaks by the tears of many rains, only its great windows withstanding the storms with the smooth, shining, untouched serenity of glass. "Whose house is . . . Oh!"—she caught her breath and jerked her head away. Above the door, hit by a ray of sun, its design blurred and worn, battered smooth by the winds of centuries, hung the silver coat of-arms of Sebastian d'Anconia. As if in deliberate answer to her involuntary movement of escape, Galt stopped the car in front of the house. For a moment, they held each other's eyes: her glance was a question, his a command, her face had a defiant frankness, his an unrevealing severity; she understood his purpose, but not his motive. She obeyed. Leaning on her cane, she stepped out of the car, then stood erect, facing the house. She looked at the silver crest that had come from a marble palace in Spain to a shack in the Andes to a log cabin in Colorado—the crest of the men who would not submit. The door of the cabin was locked, the sun did not reach into the glazed darkness beyond the windows, and pine branches hung outstretched above the roof like arms spread in protection, in compassion, in solemn blessing. With no sound but the snap of a twig or the ring of a drop falling somewhere in the forest through long stretches of moments, the silence seemed to hold all the pain that had been hidden here, but never given voice. She stood, listening with a gentle, resigned, unlamenting respect: Let's see who'll do greater honor, you—to Nat Taggart, or I—to Sebastian d'Anconia. . . . Dagny! Help me to remain. To refuse. Even though he's right! . . . She turned to look at Galt, knowing that he was the man against whom she had had no help to offer. He sat at the wheel of the car, he had not followed her or moved to assist her, as if he had wanted her to acknowledge the past and had respected the privacy of her lonely salute. She noticed that he still sat as she had left him, his forearm leaning against the wheel at the same angle, the fingers of his hand hanging down in the same sculptured position. His eyes were watching her, but that was all she could read in his face: that he had watched her intently, without moving. When she was seated beside him once more, he said, "That was the first man I took away from you." --------------------------------------- 556 She asked, her face stern, open and quietly defiant, "How much do you know about that?" "Nothing that he told me in words. Everything that the tone of his voice told me whenever he spoke of you." She inclined her head. She had caught the sound of suffering in the faintest exaggeration of evenness in his voice. He pressed the starter, the motor's explosion blasted the story contained in the silence, and they drove on., The path widened a little, streaming toward a pool of sunlight ahead. She saw a brief glitter of wires among the branches, as they drove out into a clearing. An unobtrusive little structure stood against a hillside, on a rising slant of rocky ground. It was a simple cube of granite, the size of a toolshed, it had no windows, no apertures of any kind, only a door of polished steel and a complex set of wire antennae branching out from the roof. Galt was driving past, leaving it unnoticed, when she asked with a sudden start, "What's that?" She saw the faint break of his smile. "The powerhouse." "Oh, stop, please!" He obeyed, backing the car to the foot of the hillside. It was her first few steps up the rocky incline that stopped her, as if there were no need to move forward, no further place to rise—and she stood as in the moment when she had opened her eyes on the earth of the valley, a moment uniting her beginning to her goal. She stood looking up at the structure, her consciousness surrendered to a single sight and a single, wordless emotion—but she had always known that an emotion was a sum totaled by an adding machine of the mind, and what she now felt was the instantaneous total of the thoughts she did not have to name, the final sum of a long progression, like a voice telling her by means of a feeling: If she had held onto Ouentin Daniels, with no hope of a chance to use the motor, for the sole sake of knowing that achievement had not died on earth—if, like a weighted diver sinking in an ocean of mediocrity, under the pressure of men with gelatin eyes, rubber voices, spiral-shaped convictions, noncommittal souls and non-committing hands, she had held, as her life line and oxygen tube, the thought of a superlative achievement of the human mind— if, at the sight of the motor's remnant, in a sudden gasp of suffocation, as a last protest from his corruption-eaten lungs, Dr. Stadler had cried for something, not to look down at, but up to, and this had been the cry, the longing and the fuel of her life—if she had moved, drawn by the hunger of her youth for a sight of clean, hard, radiant competence—then here it was before her, reached and done, the power of an incomparable mind given shape in a net of wires sparkling peacefully under a summer sky, drawing an incalculable power out of space into the secret interior of a small stone hovel. She thought of this structure, half the size of a boxcar, replacing the power plants of the country, the enormous conglomerations of steel, fuel and effort—she thought of the current flowing from this structure, lifting ounces, pounds, tons of strain from the shoulders of those who would make it or use it, adding hours, days and years of liberated time to their lives, be it an extra moment to lift one's head from one's task and glance at the sunlight, or an extra pack of cigarettes bought with the money saved from one's electric bill, or an hour cut from the workday of every factory using power, or a month's journey through the whole, open width of the world, on a ticket paid for by one day of one's labor, on a train pulled by the power of this motor—with all the energy of that weight, that strain, that time replaced and paid for by the energy of a single mind who had known how to make connections of wire follow the connections of his thought. But she knew that there was no meaning in motors or factories or trains, that their only --------------------------------------- 557 meaning was in man's enjoyment of his life, which they served—and that her swelling admiration at the sight of an achievement was for the man from whom it came, for the power and the radiant vision within him which had seen the earth as a place of enjoyment and had known that the work of achieving one's happiness was the purpose, the sanction and the meaning of life. The door of the structure was a straight, smooth sheet of stainless steel, softly lustrous and bluish in the sun. Above it, cut in the granite, as the only feature of the building's rectangular austerity, there stood an inscription: I SWEAR BY MY LIFE AND MY LOVE OF IT THAT I WILL NEVER LIVE FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER MAN, NOR ASK ANOTHER MAN TO LIVE FOR MINE. She turned to Galt. He stood beside her; he had followed her, he had known that this salute was his. She was looking at the inventor of the motor, but what she saw was the easy, casual figure of a workman in his natural setting and function—she noted the uncommon lightness of his posture, a weightless way of standing that showed an expert control of the use of his body—a tall body in simple garments: a thin shirt, light slacks, a belt about a slender waistline—and loose hair made to glitter like metal by the current of a sluggish wind. She looked at him as she had looked at his structure. Then she knew that the first two sentences they had said to each other still hung between them, filling the silence—that everything said since, had been said over the sound of those words, that he had known it, had held it, had not let her forget it. She was suddenly aware that they were alone; it was an awareness that stressed the fact, permitting no further implication, yet holding the full meaning of the unnamed in that special stress. They were alone in a silent forest, at the foot of a structure that looked like an ancient temple—and she knew what rite was the proper form of worship to be offered on an altar of that kind. She felt a sudden pressure at the base of her throat, her head leaned back a little, no more than to feel the faint shift of a current against her hair, but it was as if she were lying back in space, against the wind, conscious of nothing but his legs and the shape of his mouth. He stood watching her, his face still but for the faint movement of his eyelids drawing narrow as if against too strong a light. It was like the beat of three instants—this was the first—and in the next, she felt a stab of ferocious triumph at the knowledge that his effort and his struggle were harder to endure than hers— and, then he moved his eyes and raised his head to look at the inscription on the temple. She let him look at it for a moment, almost as an act of condescending mercy to an adversary struggling to refuel his strength, then she asked, with a note of imperious pride in her voice, pointing at the inscription, "What's that?" "It's the oath that was taken by every person in this valley, but you." She said, looking at the words, "This has always been my own rule of living." "I know it." "But I don't think that yours is the way to practice it." "Then you'll have to learn which one of us is wrong." She walked up to the steel door of the structure, with a sudden confidence faintly stressed in the movements of her body, a mere hint of stress, no more than her awareness of the power she held by means of his pain—and she tried, asking no permission, to turn the knob of the door. But the door was locked, and she felt no tremor under the pressure of her hand, as if the lock were poured and sealed to the stone with the solid steel of the sheet. "Don't try to open that door, Miss Taggart" He approached her, his steps a shade too slow, as if stressing his knowledge of her awareness of every step. "No amount of physical force will --------------------------------------- 558 do it," he said. "Only a thought can open that door. If you tried to break it down by means of the best explosives in the world, the machinery inside would collapse into rubble long before the door would give way. But reach the thought which it requires—and the secret of the motor will be yours, as well as"—it was the first break she had heard in his voice—"as well as any other secret you might wish to know." He faced her for a moment, as if leaving himself open to her full understanding, then smiled oddly, quietly at some thought of his own, and added, "I'll show you how it's done." He stepped back. Then, standing still, his face raised to the words carved in the stone, he repeated them slowly, evenly, as if taking that oath once more. There was no emotion in his voice, nothing but the spaced clarity of the sounds he pronounced with full knowledge of their meaning—but she knew that she was witnessing the most solemn moment it would ever be given her to witness, she was seeing a man's naked soul and the cost it had paid to utter these words, she was hearing an echo of the day when he had pronounced that oath for the first time and with full knowledge of the years ahead—she knew what manner of man had stood up to face six thousand others on a dark spring night and why they had been afraid of him, she knew that this was the birth and the core of all the things that had happened to the world in the twelve years since, she knew that this was of far greater import than the motor hidden inside the structure—she knew it, to the sound of a man's voice pronouncing in self-reminder and rededication: "I swear by my life . . . and my love of it . . . that I will never live for the sake of another man . . . nor ask another man . . . to live . . . for mine." It did not startle her, it seemed unastonishing and almost unimportant, that at the end of the last sound, she saw the door opening slowly, without human touch, moving inward upon a growing strip of darkness. In the moment when an electric light went on inside the structure, he seized the knob and pulled the door shut, its lock clicking sealed once more. "It's a sound lock," he said; his face was serene. "That sentence is the combination of sounds needed to open it. I don't mind telling you this secret—because I know that you won't pronounce those words until you mean them the way I intended them to be meant." She inclined her head. "I won't." She followed him down to the car, slowly, feeling suddenly too exhausted to move. She fell back against the seat, closing her eyes, barely hearing the sound of the starter. The accumulated strain and shock of her sleepless hours hit her at once, breaking through the barrier of the tension her nerves had held to delay it. She lay still, unable to think, to react or to struggle, drained of all emotions but one. She did not speak. She did not open her eyes until the car stopped in front of his house. "You'd better rest," he said, "and go to sleep right now, if you want to attend Mulligan's dinner tonight." She nodded obediently. She staggered to the house, avoiding his help. She made an effort to tell him, "I'll be all right," then to escape to the safety of her room and last long enough to close the door. She collapsed, face down, on the bed. It was not the mere fact of physical exhaustion. It was the sudden monomania of a sensation too complete to endure. While the strength of her body was gone, while her mind had lost the faculty of consciousness, a single emotion drew on her remnants of energy, of understanding, of judgment, of control, leaving her nothing to resist it with or to direct it, making her unable to desire, only to feel, reducing her to a mere sensation—a static sensation without start or goal. She kept seeing his figure in her mind—his figure as he had stood at the door of the structure— she felt nothing else, no wish, no hope, no estimate of her feeling, no name --------------------------------------- 559 for it, no relation to herself—there was no entity such as herself, she was not a person, only a function, the function of seeing him, and the sight was its own meaning and purpose, with no further end to reach. Her face buried in the pillow, she recalled dimly, as a faint sensation, the moment of her take-off from the floodlighted strip of the Kansas airfield. She felt the beat of the engine, the streak of accelerating motion gathering power in a straight-line run to a single goal—and in the moment when the wheels left the ground, she was asleep. The floor of the valley was like a pool still reflecting the glow of the sky, but the light was thickening from gold to copper, the shores were fading and the peaks were smoke-blue—when they drove to Mulligan's house. There was no trace of exhaustion left in her bearing and no remnant of violence. She had awakened at sundown; stepping out of her room, she had found Galt waiting, sitting idly motionless in the light of a lamp. He had glanced up at her; she had stood in the doorway, her face composed, her hair smooth, her posture relaxed and confident —she had looked as she would have looked on the threshold of her office in the Taggart Building, but for the slight angle of her body leaning on a cane. He had sat looking at her for a moment, and she had wondered why she had felt certain that this was the image he was seeing—he was seeing the doorway of her office, as if it were a sight long-imagined and long-forbidden. She sat beside him in the car, feeling no desire to speak, knowing that neither of them could conceal the meaning of their silence. She watched a few lights come up in the distant homes of the valley, then the lighted windows of Mulligan's house on the ledge ahead. She asked, "Who will be there?" "Some of your last friends," he answered, "and some of my first." Midas Mulligan met them at the door. She noticed that his grim, square face was not as harshly expressionless as she had thought: he had a look of satisfaction, but satisfaction could not soften his features, it merely struck them like flint and sent sparks of humor to glitter faintly in the corners of his eyes, a humor that was shrewder, more demanding, yet warmer than a smile. He opened the door of his house, moving his arm a shade more slowly than normal, giving an imperceptibly solemn emphasis to his gesture. Walking into the living room, she faced seven men who rose to their feet at her entrance. "Gentlemen—Taggart Transcontinental," said Midas Mulligan. He said it smiling, but only half-jesting; some quality in his voice made the name of the railroad sound as it would have sounded in the days of Nat Taggart, as a sonorous title of honor. She inclined her head, slowly, in acknowledgment to the men before her, knowing that these were the men whose standards of value and honor were the same as her own, the men who recognized the glory of that title as she recognized it, knowing with a sudden stab of wistfulness how much she had longed for that recognition through all her years. Her eyes moved slowly, in greeting, from face to face: Ellis Wyatt— Ken Danagger—Hugh Akston—Dr. Hendricks—Quentin Daniels— Mulligan's voice pronounced the names of the two others: "Richard Halley— Judge Narragansett." The faint smile on Richard Halley's face seemed to tell her that they had known each other for years—as, in her lonely evenings by the side of her phonograph, they had. The austerity of Judge Narragansett's white-haired figure reminded her that she had once heard him described as a marble statue— a blindfolded marble statue; it was the kind of figure that had vanished from the courtrooms of the country when the gold coins had vanished from the country's hands. --------------------------------------- 560 "You have belonged here for a long time, Miss Taggart," said Midas Mulligan. "This was not the way we expected you to come, but—welcome home." No!—she wanted to answer, but heard herself answering softly, "Thank you." "Dagny, how many years is it going to take you to learn to be yourself?” It was Ellis Wyatt, grasping her elbow, leading her to a chair, grinning at her look of helplessness, at the struggle between a smile and a tightening resistance in her face. "Don't pretend that you don't understand us. You do." "We never make assertions, Miss Taggart," said Hugh Akston. "That is the moral crime peculiar to our enemies. We do not tell—we show. We do not claim—we prove. It is not your obedience that we seek to win, but your rational conviction. You have seen all the elements of our secret. The conclusion is now yours to draw—we can help you to name it, but not to accept it—the sight, the knowledge and the acceptance must be yours." "I feel as if I know it," she answered simply, "and more: I feel as if I've always known it, but never found it, and now I'm afraid, not afraid to hear it, just afraid that it's coming so close." Akston smiled. "What does this look like to you, Miss Taggart?" He pointed around the room. "This?" She laughed suddenly, looking at the faces of the men against the golden sunburst of rays filling the great windows. "This looks like . . . You know, I never hoped to see any of you again, I wondered at times how much I'd give for just one more glimpse or one more word—and now—now this is like that dream you imagine in childhood, when you think that some day, in heaven, you will see those great departed whom you had not seen on earth, and you choose, from all the past centuries, the great men you would like to meet." "Well, that's one clue to the nature of our secret," said Akston. "Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves—or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth." "I know," she whispered. "And if you met those great men in heaven," asked Ken Danagger, "what would you want to say to them?" "Just . . . just 'hello,' I guess." "That's not all," said Danagger. "There's something you'd want to hear from them. I didn't know it, either, until I saw him for the first time"—he pointed to Galt—"and he said it to me, and then I knew what it was that I had missed all my life. Miss Taggart, you'd want them to look at you and to say, 'Well done’ " She dropped her head and nodded silently, head down, not to let him see the sudden spurt of tears to her eyes. "All right, then: Well done, Dagny!—well done—too well—and now it's time for you to rest from that burden which none of us should ever have had to carry." "Shut up," said Midas Mulligan, looking at her bowed head with anxious concern. But she raised her head, smiling. "Thank you," she said to Danagger. "If you talk about resting, then let her rest,” said Mulligan. "She's had too much for one day." "No." She smiled. "Go ahead, say it—whatever it is." "Later," said Mulligan. It was Mulligan and Akston who served dinner, with Quentin Daniels to help them. They served it on small silver trays, to be placed on the arms of the chairs—and they all sat about the room, with the fire of the sky fading in the windows and sparks of electric light glittering in the wine glasses. There was an air of luxury about the room, but it was the luxury of expert simplicity; she noted the costly furniture, carefully chosen for comfort, bought somewhere at a time when luxury had still been an art. There were no superfluous objects, but she noticed a small canvas by a great master of the Renaissance, worth a fortune, she noticed an Oriental rug of a texture and --------------------------------------- 561 color that belonged under glass in a museum. This was Mulligan's concept of wealth, she thought—the wealth of selection, not of accumulation. Quentin Daniels sat on the floor, with his tray on his lap; he seemed completely at home, and he glanced up at her once in a while, grinning like an impudent kid brother who had beaten her to a secret she had not discovered. He had preceded her into the valley by some ten minutes, she thought, but he was one of them, while she was still a stranger. Galt sat aside, beyond the circle of lamplight, on the arm of Dr. Akston's chair. He had not said a word, he had stepped back and turned her over to the others, and he sat watching it as a spectacle in which he had no further part to play. But her eyes kept coming back to him, drawn by the certainty that the spectacle was of his choice and staging, that he had set it in motion long ago, and that all the others knew it as she knew it. She noticed another person who was intensely aware of Galt's presence: Hugh Akston glanced up at him once in a while, involuntarily, almost surreptitiously, as if struggling not to confess the loneliness of a long separation. Akston did not speak to him, as if taking his presence for granted. But once, when Galt bent forward and a strand of hair fell down across his face, Akston reached over and brushed it back, his hand lingering for an imperceptible instant on his pupil's forehead: it was the only break of emotion he permitted himself, the only greeting; it was the gesture of a father. She found herself talking to the men around her, relaxing in lighthearted comfort. No, she thought, what she felt was not strain, it was a dim astonishment at the strain which she should, but did not, feel; the abnormality of it was that it seemed so normal and simple. She was barely aware of her questions, as she spoke to one man after another, but their answers were printing a record in her mind, moving sentence by sentence to a goal. "The Fifth Concerto?" said Richard Halley, in answer to her question. "I wrote it ten years ago. We call it the Concerto of Deliverance. Thank you for recognizing it from a few notes whistled in the night. . . . Yes, I know about that. . . . Yes, since you knew my work, you would know, when you heard it, that this Concerto said everything I had been struggling to say and reach. It's dedicated to him." He pointed to Galt. "Why, no, Miss Taggart, I haven't given up music, What makes you think so? I've written more in the last ten years than in any other period of my life. I will play it for you, any of it, when you come to my house. . . . No, Miss Taggart, it will not be published outside. Not a note of it will be heard beyond these mountains." "No, Miss Taggart, I have not given up medicine," said Dr. Hendricks, in answer to her question. "I have spent the last six years on research. I have discovered a method to protect the blood vessels of the brain from that fatal rupture which is known as a brain stroke. It will remove from human existence the terrible threat of sudden paralysis. . . . No, not a word of my method will be heard outside.” "The law, Miss Taggart?" said Judge Narragansett. "What law? I did not give it up—it has ceased to exist. But I am still working in the profession I had chosen, which was that of serving the cause of justice. . . . No, justice has not ceased to exist. How could it? It is possible for men to abandon their sight of it, and then it is justice that destroys them. But it is not possible for justice to go out of existence, because one is an attribute of the other, because justice is the act of acknowledging that which exists. . . . Yes, I am continuing in my profession. I am writing a treatise on the philosophy of law, I shall demonstrate that humanity's darkest evil, the most destructive horror machine among all the devices of --------------------------------------- 562 men, is non-objective law. . . . No, Miss Taggart, my treatise will not be published outside." "My business, Miss Taggart?" said Midas Mulligan. "My business is blood transfusion—and I'm still doing it. My job is to feed a life-fuel into the plants that are capable of growing. But ask Dr. Hendricks whether any amount of blood will save a body that refuses to function, a rotten hulk that expects to exist without effort. My blood bank is gold. Gold is a fuel that will perform wonders, but no fuel can work where there is no motor. . . . No, I haven't given up. I merely got fed up with the job of running a slaughter house, where one drains blood out of healthy living beings and pumps it into gutless half-corpses." "Given up?" said Hugh Akston. "Check your premises, Miss Taggart. None of us has given up. It is the world that has. . . . What is wrong with a philosopher running a roadside diner? Or a cigarette factory, as I am doing now? All work is an act of philosophy. And when men will learn to consider productive work—and that which is its source—as the standard of their moral values, they will reach that state of perfection which is the birthright they lost. . . . The source of work? Man's mind, Miss Taggart, man's reasoning mind. I am writing a book on this subject, defining a moral philosophy that I learned from my own pupil. . . . Yes, it could save the world. . . . No, it will not be published outside." "Why?" she cried. "Why? What are you doing, all of you?" "We are on strike," said John Galt. They all turned to him, as if they had been waiting for his voice and for that word. She heard the empty beat of time within her, which was the sudden silence of the room, as she looked at him across a span of lamplight. He sat slouched casually on the arm of a chair, leaning forward, his forearm across his knees, his hand hanging down idly— and it was the faint smile on his face that gave to his words the deadly sound of the irrevocable: "Why should this seem so startling? There is only one kind of men who have never been on strike in human history. Every other kind and class have stopped, when they so wished, and have presented demands to the world, claiming to be indispensable—except the men who have carried the world on their shoulders, have kept it alive, have endured torture as sole payment, but have never walked out on the human race. Well, their turn has come. Let the world discover who they are, what they do and what happens when they refuse to function. This is the strike of the men of the mind, Miss Taggart. This is the mind on strike." She did not move, except for the fingers of one hand that moved slowly up her cheek to her temple. "Through all the ages," he said, "the mind has been regarded as evil, and every form of insult: from heretic to materialist to exploiter— every form of iniquity: from exile to disfranchisement to expropriation— every form of torture: from sneers to rack to firing squad— have been brought down upon those who assumed the responsibility of looking at the world through the eyes of a living consciousness and performing the crucial act of a rational connection. Yet only to the extent to which—in chains, in dungeons, in hidden corners, in the cells of philosophers, in the shops of traders—some men continued to think, only to that extent was humanity able to survive. Through all the centuries of the worship of the mindless, whatever stagnation humanity chose to endure, whatever brutality to practice—it was only by the grace of the men who perceived that wheat must have water in order to grow, that stones laid in a curve will form an arch, that two and two make four, that love is not served by torture and life is not fed by destruction—only by the grace of those men did the rest of them learn to experience moments when they caught the spark of being human, and only the sum of such moments permitted them to continue --------------------------------------- 563 to exist. It was the man of the mind who taught them to bake their bread, to heal their wounds, to forge their weapons and to build the jails into which they threw him. He was the man of extravagant energy—and reckless generosity— who knew that stagnation is not man's fate, that impotence is not his nature, that the ingenuity of his mind is his noblest and most joyous power—and in service to that love of existence he was alone to feel, he went on working, working at any price, working for his despoilers, for his jailers, for his torturers, paying with his life for the privilege of saving theirs. This was his glory and his guilt—that he let them teach him to feel guilty of his glory, to accept the part of a sacrificial animal and, in punishment for the sin of intelligence, to perish on the altars of the brutes. The tragic joke of human history is that on any of the altars men erected, it was always man whom they immolated and the animal whom they enshrined. It was always the animal's attributes, not man's, that humanity worshipped: the idol of instinct and the idol of force—the mystics and the kings—the mystics, who longed for an irresponsible consciousness and ruled by means of the claim that their dark emotions were superior to reason, that knowledge came in blind, causeless fits, blindly to be followed, not doubted—and the kings, who ruled by means of claws and muscles, with conquest as their method and looting as their aim, with a club or a gun as sole sanction of their power. The defenders of man's soul were concerned with his feelings, and the defenders of man's body were concerned with his stomach—but both were united against his mind. Yet no one, not the lowest of humans, is ever able fully to renounce his brain. No one has ever believed in the irrational; what they do believe in is the unjust. Whenever a man denounces the mind, it is because his goal is of a nature the mind would not permit him to confess. When he preaches contradictions, he does so in the knowledge that someone will accept the burden of the impossible, someone will make it work for him at the price of his own suffering or life; destruction is the price of any contradiction. It is the victims who made injustice possible. It is the men of reason who made it possible for the rule of the brute to work. The despoiling of reason has been the motive of every anti-reason creed on earth. The despoiling of ability has been the purpose of every creed that preached self-sacrifice. The despoilers have always known it. We haven't. The time has come for us to see. What we are now asked to worship, what had once been dressed as God or king, is the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human Incompetent. This is the new ideal, the goal to aim at, the purpose to live for, and all men are to be rewarded according to how close they approach it. This is the age of the common man, they tell us—a title which any man may claim to the extent of such distinction as he has managed not to achieve. He will rise to a rank of nobility by means of the effort he has failed to make, he will be honored for such virtue as he has not displayed, and he will be paid for the goods which he did not produce. But we—we, who must atone for the guilt of ability—we will work to support him as he orders, with his pleasure as our only reward. Since we have the most to contribute, we will have the least to say. Since we have the better capacity to think, we will not be permitted a thought of our own. Since we have the judgment to act, we will not be permitted an action of our choice. We will work under directives and controls, issued by those who are incapable of working. They will dispose of our energy, because they have none to offer, and of our product, because they can't produce. Do you say that this is impossible, that it cannot be made to work? They know it, but it is you who don't—and they are counting on you not to know it. They are counting on you to go on, to work to the limit of the inhuman and to feed them while you last—and when you collapse, there will be another victim starting out and feeding them, while struggling to survive—and the span of each succeeding victim will be shorter, and while you'll die to leave them a --------------------------------------- 564 railroad, your last descendant-in-spirit will die to leave them a loaf of bread. This does not worry the looters of the moment. Their plan—like all the plans of all the royal looters of the past—is only that the loot shall last their lifetime. It has always lasted before, because in one generation they could not run out of victims. But this time—it will not last. The victims are on strike. We are on strike against martyrdom—and against the moral code that demands it. We are on strike against those who believe that one man must exist for the sake of another. We are on strike against the morality of cannibals, be it practiced in body or in spirit. We will not deal with men on any terms but ours—and our terms are a moral code which holds that man is an end in himself and not the means to any end of others. We do not seek to force our code upon them. They are free to believe what they please. But, for once, they will have to believe it and to exist—without our help. And, once and for all, they will learn the meaning of their creed. That creed has lasted for centuries solely by the sanction of the victims—by means of the victims' acceptance of punishment for breaking a code impossible to practice. But that code was intended to be broken. It is a code that thrives not on those who observe it, but on those who don't, a morality kept in existence not by virtue of its saints, but by the grace of its shiners. We have decided not to be sinners any longer. We have ceased breaking that moral code. We shall blast it out of existence forever by the one method that it can't withstand: by obeying it. We are obeying it. We are complying. In dealing with our fellow men, we are observing their code of values to the letter and sparing them all the evils they denounce. The mind is evil? We have withdrawn the works of our minds from society, and not a single idea of ours is to be known or used by men. Ability is a selfish evil that leaves no chance to those who are less able? We have withdrawn from the competition and left all chances open to incompetents. The pursuit of wealth is greed, the root of all evil? We do not seek to make fortunes any longer. It is evil to earn more than one's bare sustenance? We take nothing but the lowliest jobs and we produce, by the effort of our muscles, no more than we consume for our immediate needs—with not a penny nor an inventive thought left over to harm the world. It is evil to succeed, since success is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? We have ceased burdening the weak with our ambition and have left them free to prosper without us. It is evil to be an employer? We have no employment to offer. It is evil to own property? We own nothing. It is evil to enjoy one's existence in this world? There is no form of enjoyment that we seek from their world, and—this was hardest for us to attain—what we now feel for their world is that emotion which they preach as an ideal: indifference—the blank—the zero—the mark of death. . . . We are giving men everything they've professed to want and to seek as virtue for centuries. Now let them see whether they want it." "It was you who started this strike?" she asked. "I did." He got up, he stood, hands in pockets, his face in the light—and she saw him smile with the easy, effortless, implacable amusement of certainty. "We've heard so much about strikes," he said, "and about the dependence of the uncommon man upon the common. We've heard it shouted that the industrialist is a parasite, that his workers support him, create his wealth, make his luxury possible—and what would happen to him if they walked out? Very well. I propose to show to the world who depends on whom, who supports whom, who is the source of wealth, who makes whose livelihood possible and what happens to whom when who walks out." The windows were now sheets of darkness, reflecting the dots of lighted cigarettes. He picked a cigarette from a table beside him, and in the flare --------------------------------------- 565 of a match she saw the brief sparkle of gold, the dollar sign, between his fingers. "I quit and joined him and went on strike," said Hugh Akston, "because I could not share my profession with men who claim that the qualification of an intellectual consists of denying the existence of the intellect. People would not employ a plumber who'd attempt to prove his professional excellence by asserting that there's no such thing as plumbing—but, apparently, the same standards of caution are not considered necessary in regard to philosophers. I learned from my own pupil, however, that it was I who made this possible. When thinkers accept those who deny the existence of thinking, as fellow thinkers of a different school of thought—it is they who achieve the destruction of the mind. They grant the enemy's basic premise, thus granting the sanction of reason to formal dementia, A basic premise is an absolute that permits no co-operation with its antithesis and tolerates no tolerance. In the same manner and for the same reason as a banker may not accept and pass counterfeit money, granting it the sanction, honor and prestige of his bank, just as he may not grant the counterfeiter's demand for tolerance of a mere difference of opinion—so I may not grant the title of philosopher to Dr. Simon Pritchett or compete with him for the minds of men. Dr. Pritchett has nothing to deposit to the account of philosophy, except his declared intention to destroy it. He seeks to cash in—by means of denying it—on the power of reason among men. He seeks to stamp the mint-mark of reason upon the plans of his looting masters. He seeks to use the prestige of philosophy to purchase the enslavement of thought. But that prestige is an account which can exist only so long as I am there to sign the checks. Let him do it without me. Let him—and those who entrust to him their children's minds—have exactly that which they demand: a world of intellectuals without intellect and of thinkers who proclaim that they cannot think. I am conceding it. I am complying. And when they see the absolute reality of their non-absolute world, I will not be there and it will not be I who will pay the price of their contradictions." "Dr. Akston quit on the principle of sound banking," said Midas Mulligan. "I quit on the principle of love. Love is the ultimate form of recognition one grants to superlative values. It was the Hunsacker case that made me quit—that case when a court of law ordered that I honor, as first right to my depositors' funds, the demand of those who would offer proof that they had no right to demand it. I was ordered to hand out money earned by men, to a worthless rotter whose only claim consisted of his inability to earn it. I was born on a farm. I knew the meaning of money. I had dealt with many men in my life. I had watched them grow. I had made my fortune by being able to spot a certain kind of man. The kind who never asked you for faith, hope and charity, but offered you facts, proof and profit. Did you know that I invested in Hank Rearden's business at the time when he was rising, when he had just beaten his way out of Minnesota to buy the steel mills in Pennsylvania? Well, when I looked at that court order on my desk, I had a vision. I saw a picture, and I saw it so clearly that it changed the looks of everything for me. I saw the bright face and the eyes of young Rearden, as he'd been when I'd met him first. I saw him lying at the foot of an altar, with his blood running down into the earth—and what stood on that altar was Lee Hunsacker, with the mucus-filled eyes, whining that he'd never had a chance. . . . It's strange how simple things become, once you see them clearly. It wasn't hard for me to close the bank and go: I kept seeing, for the first time in my life, what it was that I had lived for and loved." She looked at Judge Narragansett. "You quit over the same case, didn't you?" "Yes," said Judge Narragansett. "I quit when the court of appeals reversed my ruling. The purpose for which I had chosen my work, was my resolve to be a --------------------------------------- 566 guardian of justice. But the laws they asked me to enforce made me the executor of the vilest injustice conceivable. I was asked to use force to violate the rights of disarmed men, who came before me to seek my protection for their rights. Litigants obey the verdict of a tribunal solely on the premise that there is an objective rule of conduct, which they both accept. Now I saw that one man was to be bound by it, but the other was not, one was to obey a rule, the other was to assert an arbitrary wish—his need—and the law was to stand on the side of the wish. Justice was to consist of upholding the unjustifiable. I quit—because I could not have borne to hear the words 'Your Honor' addressed to me by an honest man." Her eyes moved slowly to Richard Halley, as if she were both pleading and afraid to hear his story. He smiled. "I would have forgiven men for my struggle," said Richard Halley. "It was their view of my success that I could not forgive. I had felt no hatred in all the years when they rejected me. If my work was new, I had to give them time to learn, if I took pride in being first to break a trail to a height of my own, I had no right to complain if others were slow to follow. That was what I had told myself through all those years —except on some nights, when I could neither wait nor believe any longer, when I cried 'why?' but found no answer. Then, on the night when they chose to cheer me, I stood before them on the stage of a theater, thinking that this was the moment I had struggled to reach, wishing to feel it, but feeling nothing. I was seeing all the other nights behind me, hearing the 'why?' which still had no answer— and their cheers seemed as empty as their snubs. If they had said, 'Sorry to be so late, thank you for waiting—I would have asked for nothing else and they could have had anything I had to give them. But what I saw in their faces, and in the way they spoke when they crowded to praise me, was the thing I had heard being preached to artists—only I had never believed that anyone human could mean it. They seemed to say that they owed me nothing, that their deafness had provided me with a moral goal, that it had been my duty to struggle, to suffer, to bear—for their sake—whatever sneers, contempt, injustice, torture they chose to inflict upon me, to bear it in order to teach them to enjoy my work, that this was their rightful due and my proper purpose. And then I understood the nature of the looter-in-spirit, a thing I had never been able to conceive. I saw them reaching into my soul, just as they reach into Mulligan's pocket, reaching to expropriate the value of my person, just as they reach to expropriate his wealth—I saw the impertinent malice of mediocrity boastfully holding up its own emptiness as an abyss to be filled by the bodies of its betters—I saw them seeking, just as they seek to feed on Mulligan's money, to feed on those hours when I wrote my music and on that which made me write it, seeking to gnaw their way to self-esteem by extorting from me the admission that they were the goal of my music, so that precisely by reason of my achievement, it would not be they who'd acknowledge my value, but I who would bow to theirs. . . . It was that night that I took the oath never to let them hear another note of mine. The streets were empty when I left that theater, I was the last one to leave—and I saw a man whom I had never seen before, waiting for me in the light of a lamppost. He did not have to tell me much. But the concerto I dedicated to him is called the Concerto of Deliverance." She looked at the others. "Please tell me your reasons," she said, with a faint stress of firmness in her voice, as if she were taking a beating, but wished to take it to the end. "I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me --------------------------------------- 567 was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything—except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the 'welfare' of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.' That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards—never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind—yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it—and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't." "I quit," said Ellis Wyatt, "because I didn't wish to serve as the cannibals' meal and to do the cooking, besides," "I discovered," said Ken Danagger, "that the men I was fighting were impotent. The shiftless, the purposeless, the irresponsible, the irrational— it was not I who needed them, it was not theirs to dictate terms to me, it was not mine to obey demands. I quit, to let them discover it, too." "I quit," said Quentin Daniels, "because, if there are degrees of damnation, the scientist who places his mind in the service of brute force is the longest-range murderer on earth." They were silent. She turned to Galt. "And you?" she asked. "You were first. What made you come to it?" He chuckled, "My refusal to be born with any original sin." "What do you mean?" "I have never felt guilty of my ability. I have never felt guilty of my mind. I have never felt guilty of being a man. I accepted no unearned guilt, and thus was free to earn and to know my own value. Ever since I can remember, I had felt that I would kill the man who'd claim that I exist for the sake of his need—and I had known that this was the highest moral feeling. That night, at the Twentieth Century meeting, when I heard an unspeakable evil being spoken in a tone of moral righteousness, I saw the root of the world's tragedy, the key to it and the solution. I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it." "And the motor?" she asked. "Why did you abandon it? Why did you leave it to the Starnes heirs?" "It was then- father's property. He paid me for it. It was made on his time. But I knew that it would be of no benefit to them and that no one would ever hear of it again. It was my first experimental model. Nobody but me or my equivalent could have been able to complete it or even to grasp what it was. And I knew that no equivalent of mine would come near that factory from then on." "You knew the kind of achievement your motor represented?" "Yes." "And you knew you were leaving it to perish?" --------------------------------------- 568 "Yes." He looked off into the darkness beyond the windows and chuckled softly, but it was not a sound of amusement. "I looked at my motor for the last tune, before I left. I thought of the men who claim that wealth is a matter of natural resources—and of the men who claim that wealth is a matter of seizing the factories—and of the men who claim that machines condition their brains. Well, there was the motor to condition them, and there it remained as just exactly what it is without man's mind—as a pile of metal scraps and wires, going to rust. You have been thinking of the great service which that motor could have rendered to mankind, if it had been put into production. I think that on the day when men understand the meaning of its fate in that factory's junk heap—it will have rendered a greater one." "Did you expect to see that day, when you left it?" "No." "Did you expect a chance to rebuild it elsewhere?” "No." "And you were willing to let it remain in a junk heap?" "For the sake of what that motor meant to me," he said slowly, "I had to be willing to let it crumble and vanish forever"—he looked straight at her and she heard the steady, unhesitant, uninflected ruthlessness of his voice— "just as you will have to be willing to let the rail of Taggart Transcontinental crumble and vanish." She held his eyes, her head was lifted, and she said softly, in the tone of a proudly open plea, "Don't make me answer you now." "I won't. We'll tell you whatever you wish to know. We won't urge you to make a decision." He added, and she was shocked by the sudden gentleness of his voice, "I said that that kind of indifference toward a world which should have been ours was the hardest thing to attain. I know. We've all gone through it." She looked at the quiet, impregnable room, and at the light—the light that came from his motor—on the faces of men who were the most serene and confident gathering she had ever attended. "What did you do, when you walked out of the Twentieth Century?" she asked. "I went out to become a flame-spotter. I made it my job to watch for those bright flares in the growing night of savagery, which were the men of ability, the men of the mind—to watch their course, their struggle and their agony—and to pull them out, when I knew that they had seen enough." "What did you tell them to make them abandon everything?" "I told them that they were right." In answer to the silent question of her glance, he added, "I gave them the pride they did not know they had. I gave them the words to identify it. I gave them that priceless possession which they had missed, had longed for, yet had not known they needed: a moral sanction. Did you call me the destroyer and the hunter of men? I was the walking delegate of this strike, the leader of the victims' rebellion, the defender of the oppressed, the disinherited, the exploited—and when I use these words, they have, for once, a literal meaning." "Who were the first to follow you?" He let a moment pass, in deliberate emphasis, then answered, "My two best friends. You know one of them. You know, perhaps better than anyone else, what price he paid for it. Our own teacher, Dr. Akston, was next. He joined us within one evening's conversation. William Hastings, who had been my boss in the research laboratory of Twentieth Century Motors, had a hard time, fighting it out with himself. It took him a year. But he joined. Then Richard Halley. Then Midas Mulligan." "—who took fifteen minutes," said Mulligan. She turned to him. "It was you who established this valley?" --------------------------------------- 569 "Yes," said Mulligan. "It was just my own private retreat, at first. I bought it years ago, I bought miles of these mountains, section by section, from ranchers and cattlemen who didn't know what they owned. The valley is not listed on any map. I built this house, when I decided to quit. I cut off all possible avenues of approach, except one road—and it's camouflaged beyond anyone's power to discover—and I stocked this place to be self-supporting, so that I could live here for the rest of my life and never have to see the face of a looter. When I heard that John had got Judge Narragansett, too, I invited the Judge to come here. Then we asked Richard Halley to join us. The others remained outside, at first." "We had no rules of any kind,” said Galt, "except one. When a man took our oath, it meant a single commitment: not to work in his own profession, not to give to the world the benefit of his mind. Each of us carried it out in any manner he chose. Those who had money, retired to live on their savings. Those who had to work, took the lowest jobs they could find. Some of us had been famous; others—like that young brakeman of yours, whom Halley discovered—were stopped by us before they had set out to get tortured. But we did not give up our minds or the work we loved. Each of us continued in his real profession, in whatever manner and spare time he could manage—but he did it secretly, for his own sole benefit, giving nothing to men, sharing nothing. We were scattered all over the country, as the outcasts we had always been, only now we accepted our parts with conscious intention. Our sole relief were the rare occasions when we could see one another. We found that we liked to meet—in order to be reminded that human beings still existed. So we came to set aside one month a year to spend in this valley—to rest, to live in a rational world, to bring our real work out of hiding, to trade our achievements—here, where achievements meant payment, not expropriation. Each of us built his own house here, at his own expense—for one month of life out of twelve. It made the eleven easier to bear." "You see, Miss Taggart," said Hugh Akston, "man is a social being, but not in the way the looters preach." "It's the destruction of Colorado that started the growth of this valley," said Midas Mulligan. "Ellis Wyatt and the others came to live here permanently, because they had to hide. Whatever part of their wealth they could salvage, they converted into gold or machines, as I had, and they brought it here. There were enough of us to develop the place and to create jobs for those who had had to earn their living outside. We have now reached the stage where most of us can live here full time. The valley is almost self-supporting—and as to the goods that we can't yet produce, I purchase them from the outside through a pipe line of my own. It's a special agent, a man who does not let my money reach the looters. We are not a state here, not a society of any kind— we're just a voluntary association of men held together by nothing but every man's self-interest. I own the valley and I sell the land to the others, when they want it. Judge Narragansett is to act as our arbiter, hi case of disagreements. He hasn't had to be called upon, as yet. They say that it's hard for men to agree. You'd be surprised how easy it is— when both parties hold as their moral absolute that neither exists for the sake of the other and that reason is their only means of trade. The time is approaching when all of us will have to be called to live here— because the world is falling apart so fast that it will soon be starving. But we will be able to support ourselves in this valley." "The world is crashing faster than we expected," said Hugh Akston. "Men are stopping and giving up. Your frozen trains, the gangs of raiders, the deserters, they're men who've never heard of us, and they're not part of our strike, they are acting on their own—it's the natural response of --------------------------------------- 570 whatever rationality is still left in them—it's the same kind of protest as ours." "We started with no time limit in view," said Galt. "We did not know whether we'd live to see the liberation of the world or whether we'd have to leave our battle and our secret to the next generations. We knew only that this was the only way we cared to live. But now we think that we will see, and soon, the day of our victory and of our return." "When?" she whispered. "When the code of the looters has collapsed." He saw her looking at him, her glance half-question, half-hope, and he added, "When the creed of self-immolation has run, for once, its undisguised course—when men find no victims ready to obstruct the path of justice and to deflect the fall of retribution on themselves— when the preachers of self-sacrifice discover that those who are willing to practice it, have nothing to sacrifice, and those who have, are not willing any longer—when men see that neither their hearts nor their muscles can save them, but the mind they damned is not there to answer then: screams for help—when they collapse as they must, as men without mind—when they have no pretense of authority left, no remnant of law, no trace of morality, no hope, no food and no way to obtain it—when they collapse and the road is clear—then we'll come back to rebuild the world." The Taggart Terminal, she thought; she heard the words beating through the numbness of her mind, as the sum of a burden she had not had time to weigh. This was the Taggart Terminal, she thought, this room, not the giant concourse in New York—this was her goal, the end of track, the point beyond the curve of the earth where the two straight lines of rail met and vanished, drawing her forward—as they had drawn Nathaniel Taggart—this was the goal Nathaniel Taggart had seen in the distance and this was the point still holding the straight-line glance of his lifted head above the spiral motion of men in the granite concourse. It was for the sake of this that she had dedicated herself to the rail of Taggart Transcontinental, as to the body of a spirit yet to be found. She had found it, everything she had ever wanted, it was here in this room, reached and hers—but the price was that net of rail behind her, the rail that would vanish, the bridges that would crumble, the signal lights that would go out. . . . And yet . . . Everything I had ever wanted, she thought—looking away from the figure of a man with sun-colored hair and implacable eyes. "You don't have to answer us now." She raised her head; he was watching her as if he had followed the steps in her mind. "We never demand agreement," he said. "We never tell anyone more than he is ready to hear You are the first person who has learned our secret ahead of time. But you're here and you had to know. Now you know the exact nature of the choice you'll have to make. If it seems hard, it's because you still think that it does not have to be one or the other. You will learn that it does." "Will you give me time?" "Your time is not ours to give. Take your time. You alone can decide what you'll choose to do, and when. We know the cost of that decision. We've paid it. That you've come here might now make it easier for you—or harder." "Harder," she whispered. "I know." He said it, his voice as low as hers, with the same sound of being forced past one's breath, and she missed an instant of time, as in the stillness after a blow, because she felt that this—not the moments when he had carried her in his arms down the mountainside, but this meeting of their voices—had been the closest physical contact between them. --------------------------------------- 571 A full moon stood in the sky above the valley, when they drove back to his house; it stood like a flat, round lantern without rays, with a haze of light hanging in space, not reaching the ground, and the illumination seemed to come from the abnormal white brightness of the soil. In the unnatural stillness of sight without color, the earth seemed veiled by a film of distance, its shapes did not merge into a landscape, but went slowly flowing past, like the print of a photograph on a cloud. She noticed suddenly that she was smiling. She was looking down at the houses of the valley. Their lighted windows were dimmed by a bluish cast, the outlines of their walls were dissolving, long bands of mist were coiling among them in torpid, unhurried waves. It looked like a city sinking under water. "What do they call this place?" she asked. "I call it Mulligan's Valley," he said. "The others call it Galt's Gulch." "I'd call it—" but she did not finish. He glanced at her. She knew what he saw in her face. He turned away. She saw a faint movement of his lips, like the release of a breath that he was forcing to function. She dropped her glance, her arm falling against the side of the car, as if her hand were suddenly too heavy for the weakness in the crook of her elbow. The road grew darker, as it went higher, and pine branches met over their heads. Above a slant of rock moving to meet them, she saw the moonlight on the windows of his house. Her head fell back against the seat and she lay still, losing awareness of the car, feeling only the motion that carried her forward, watching the glittering drops of water in the pine branches, which were the stars. When the car stopped, she did not permit herself to know why she did not look at him as she stepped, out. She did not know that she stood still for an instant, looking up at the dark windows. She did not hear him approach; but she felt the impact of his hands with shocking intensity, as if it were the only awareness she could now experience. He lifted her in his arms and started slowly up the path to the house. He walked, not looking at her, holding her tight, as if trying to hold a progression of time, as if his arms were still locked over the moment when he had lifted her against his chest. She felt his steps as if they were a single span of motion to a goal and as if each step were a separate moment in which she dared not think of the next. Her head was close to his, his hair brushing her cheek, and she knew that neither of them would move his face that one breath closer. It was a sudden, stunned state of quiet drunkenness, complete in itself, their hair mingled like the rays of two bodies in space that had achieved their meeting, she saw that he walked with his eyes closed, as if even sight would now be an intrusion. He entered the house, and as he moved across the living room, he did not look to his left and neither did she, but she knew that both of them were seeing the door on his left that led to his bedroom. He walked the length of the darkness to the wedge of moonlight that fell across the guest-room bed, he placed her down upon it, she felt an instant's pause of his hands still holding her shoulder and waistline, and when his hands left her body, she knew that the moment was over. He stepped back and pressed a switch, surrendering the room to the harshly public glare of light. He stood still, as if demanding that she look at him, his face expectant and stern. "Have you forgotten that you wanted to shoot me on sight?" he asked. It was the unprotected stillness of his figure that made it real. The shudder that threw her upright was like a cry of terror and denial; but she held his glance and answered evenly, "That's true. I did." --------------------------------------- 572 "Then stand by it." Her voice was low, its intensity was both a surrender and a scornful reproach: "You know better than that, don't you?" He shook his head. "No. I want you to remember that that had been your wish. You were right, in the past. So long as you were part of the outer world, you had to seek to destroy me. And of the two courses now open to you, one will lead you to the day when you will find yourself forced to do it." She did not answer, she sat looking down, he saw the strands of her hair swing jerkily as she shook her head in desperate protest. "You are my only danger. You are the only person who could deliver me to my enemies. If you remain with them, you will. Choose that, if you wish, but choose it with full knowledge. Don't answer me now. But until you do"—the stress of severity in his voice was the sound of effort directed against himself—"remember that I know the meaning of either answer." "As fully as I do?" she whispered. "As fully." He turned to go, when her eyes fell suddenly upon the inscriptions she had noticed, and forgotten, on the walls of the room. They were cut into the polish of the wood, still showing the force of the pencil's pressure in the hands that had made them, each in his own violent writing: "You'll get over it—Ellis Wyatt" "It will be all right by morning— Ken Danagger" "It's worth it—Roger Marsh." There were others, "What is that?" she asked. He smiled. "This is the room where they spent their first night in the valley. The first night is the hardest. It's the last pull of the break with one's memories, and the worst. I let them stay here, so they can call for me, if they want me. I speak to them, if they can't sleep. Most of them can't. But they're free of it by morning. . . . They've all gone through this room. Now they call it the torture chamber or the anteroom— because everyone has to enter the valley through my house.” He turned to go, he stopped on the threshold and added: "This is the room I never intended you to occupy. Good night, Miss Taggart." --------------------------------------- 573 CHAPTER II THE UTOPIA OF GREED "Good morning." She looked at him across the living room from the threshold of her door. In the windows behind him, the mountains had that tinge of silver-pink which seems brighter than daylight, with the promise of a light to come. The sun. had risen somewhere over the earth, but it had not reached the top of the barrier, and the sky was glowing in its stead, announcing its motion. She had heard the joyous greeting to the sunrise, which was not the song of birds, but the ringing of the telephone a moment ago; she saw the start of day, not in the shining green of the branches outside, but in the glitter of chromium on the stove, the sparkle of a glass ashtray on a table, and the crisp whiteness of his shirt sleeves. Irresistibly, she heard the sound of a smile in her own voice, matching his, as she answered: "Good morning." He was gathering notes of penciled calculations from his desk and stuffing them into his pocket. "I have to go down to the powerhouse," he said. "They've just phoned me that they're having trouble with the ray screen. Your plane seems to have knocked it off key. I'll be back in half an hour and then I'll cook our breakfast" It was the casual simplicity of his voice, the manner of taking her presence and their domestic routine for granted, as if it were of no significance to them, that gave her the sense of an underscored significance and the feeling that he knew it. She answered as casually, "If you'll bring me the cane I left in the car, I'll have breakfast ready for you by the time you come back." He glanced at her with a slight astonishment; his eyes moved from her bandaged ankle to the short sleeves of the blouse that left her arms bare to display the heavy bandage on her elbow. But the transparent blouse, the open collar, the hair falling down to the shoulders that seemed innocently naked under a thin film of cloth, made her look like a schoolgirl, not an invalid, and her posture made the bandages look irrelevant. He smiled, not quite at her, but as if in amusement at some sudden memory of his own. "If you wish," he said. It was strange to be left alone in his house. Part of it was an emotion she had never experienced before: an awed respect that made her hesitantly conscious of her hands, as if to touch any object around her would be too great an intimacy. The other part was a reckless sense of ease, a sense of being at home in this place, as if she owned its owner. It was strange to feel so pure a joy in the simple task of preparing a breakfast. The work seemed an end in itself, as if the motions of filling a coffee pot, squeezing oranges, slicing bread were performed for their own sake, for the sort of pleasure one expects, but seldom finds, in the motions of dancing. It startled her to realize that she had not experienced this kind of pleasure in her work since her days at the operator's desk in Rockdale Station. She was setting the table, when she saw the figure of a man hurrying up the path to the house, a swift, agile figure that leaped over boulders with the casual ease of a flight. He threw the door open, calling, "Hey, John!"— and stopped short as he saw her. He wore a dark blue sweater and slacks, he had gold hair and a face of such shocking perfection of beauty that she stood still, staring at him, not in admiration, at first, but in simple disbelief. He looked at her as if he had not expected to find a woman in this house. Then she saw a look of recognition melting into a different kind of astonishment, part amusement, part triumph melting into a chuckle. "Oh, have you joined us?" he asked. --------------------------------------- 574 "No," she answered dryly, "I haven't. I'm a scab." He laughed, like an adult at a child who uses technological words beyond its understanding. "If you know what you're saying, you know that it's not possible," he said. "Not here." "I crashed the gate. Literally." He looked at her bandages, weighing the question, his glance almost insolent in its open curiosity. "When?" "Yesterday." "How?" "In a plane." "What were you doing in a plane in this part of the country?" He had the direct, imperious manner of an aristocrat or a roughneck; he looked like one and was dressed like the other. She considered him for a moment, deliberately letting him wait. "I was trying to land on a prehistorical mirage," she answered. "And I have." "You are a scab," he said, and chuckled, as if grasping all the implications of the problem. "Where's John?" "Mr. Galt is at the powerhouse. He should be back any moment." He sat down in an armchair, asking no permission, as if he were at home. She turned silently to her work. He sat watching her movements with an open grin, as if the sight of her laying out cutlery on a kitchen table were the spectacle of some special paradox. "What did Francisco say when he saw you here?" he asked. She turned to him with a slight jolt, but answered evenly, "He is not here yet." "Not yet?" He seemed startled. "Are you sure?" "So I was told." He lighted a cigarette. She wondered, watching him, what profession he had chosen, loved and abandoned in order to join this valley. She could make no guess; none seemed to fit; she caught herself in the preposterous feeling of wishing that he had no profession at all, because any work seemed too dangerous for his incredible kind of beauty. It was an impersonal feeling, she did not look at him as at a man, but as at an animated work of art—and it seemed to be a stressed indignity of the outer world that a perfection such as his should be subjected to the shocks, the strains, the scars reserved for any man who loved his work. But the feeling seemed the more preposterous, because the lines of his face had the sort of hardness for which no danger on earth was a match, "No, Miss Taggart," he said suddenly, catching her glance, "you've never seen me before." She was shocked to realize that she had been studying him openly. "How do you happen to know who I am?" she asked. "First, I've seen your pictures in the papers many times. Second, you're the only woman left in the outer world, to the best of our knowledge, who'd be allowed to enter Galt's Gulch, Third, you're the only woman who'd have the courage—and prodigality—still to remain a scab." "What made you certain that I was a scab?" "If you weren't, you'd know that it's not this valley, but the view of life held by men in the outer world that is a prehistorical mirage." They heard the sound of the motor and saw the car stopping below, in front of the house. She noticed the swiftness with which he rose to his feet at the sight of Galt in the car; if it were not for the obvious personal eagerness, it would have looked like an instinctive gesture of military respect. She noticed the way Galt stopped, when he entered and saw his visitor. She noticed that Galt smiled, but that his voice was oddly low, almost solemn, as if weighted with unconfessed relief,, when he said very quietly, "Hello." "Hi, John," said the visitor gaily. --------------------------------------- 575 She noticed that their handshake came an instant too late and lasted an instant too long, like the handshake of men who had not been certain that their previous meeting would not be their last. Galt turned to her. "Have you met?" he asked, addressing them both. "Not exactly," said the visitor. "Miss Taggart, may I present Ragnar Danneskjold?" She knew what her face had looked like, when she heard Danneskjold's voice as from a great distance: "You don't have to be frightened, Miss Taggart I'm not dangerous to anyone in Galt's Gulch." She could only shake her head, before she recaptured her voice to say, "It's not what you're doing to anyone . . . it's what they're doing to you. . . . " His laughter swept her out of her moment's stupor, "Be careful, Miss Taggart. If that's how you're beginning to feel, you won't remain a scab for long." He added, "But you ought to start by adopting the right things from the people in Galt's Gulch, not their mistakes: they've spent twelve years worrying about me—needlessly." He glanced at Galt. "When did you get in?" asked Galt. "Late last night." "Sit down. You're going to have breakfast with us." "But where's Francisco? Why isn't he here yet?" "I don't know," said Galt, frowning slightly. "I asked at the airport, just now. Nobody's heard from him." As she turned to the kitchen, Galt moved to follow. "No," she said, "it's my job today." "Let me help you." "This is the place where one doesn't ask for help, isn't it?" He smiled. "That's right." She had never experienced the pleasure of motion, of walking as if her feet had no weight to carry, as if the support of the cane in her hand were merely a superfluous touch of elegance, the pleasure of feeling her steps trace swift, straight lines, of sensing the faultless, spontaneous precision of her gestures—as she experienced it while placing their food on the table in front of the two men. Her bearing told them that she knew they were watching her—she held her head like an actress on a stage, like a woman in a ballroom, like the winner of a silent contest. "Francisco will be glad to know that it's you who were his stand-in today," said Danneskjold, when she joined them at the table. "His what?" "You see, today is June first, and the three of us—John, Francisco and I— have had breakfast together on every June first for twelve years." "Here?" "Not when we started. But here, ever since this house was built eight years ago." He shrugged, smiling. "For a man who has more centuries of tradition behind him than I have, it's odd that Francisco should be the first to break our own tradition." "And Mr. Galt?" she asked. "How many centuries does he have behind him?" "John? None at all. None behind him—but all of those ahead." "Never mind the centuries," said Galt. "Tell me what sort of year you've had behind you. Lost any men?" "No." "Lost any of your time?" "You mean, was I wounded? No. I haven't had a scratch since that one time, ten years ago, when I was still an amateur, which you ought to forget by now. I wasn't in any danger whatever, this year—in fact, I was much more safe than if I were running a small-town drugstore under Directive 10-289." "Lost any battles?" --------------------------------------- 576 "No. The losses were all on the other side, this year. The looters lost most of their ships to me—and most of their men to you. You've had a good year, too, haven't you? I know, I've kept track of it. Since our last breakfast together, you got everyone you wanted from the state of Colorado, and a few others besides, such as Ken Danagger, who was a great prize to get. But let me tell you about a still greater one, who is almost yours. You're going to get him soon, because he's hanging by a thin thread and is just about ready to fall at your feet. He's a man who saved my life—so you can see how far he's gone." Galt leaned back, his eyes narrowing. "So you weren't in any danger whatever, were you?" Danneskjold laughed. "Oh, I took a slight risk. It was worth it. It was the most enjoyable encounter I've ever had. I've been waiting to tell you about it in person. It's a story you'll want to hear. Do you know who the man was? Hank Rearden. I—" "No!" It was Galt's voice; it was a command; the brief snap of sound had a tinge of violence neither of them had ever heard from him before. "What?" asked Danneskjold softly, incredulously. "Don't tell me about it now." "But you've always said that Hank Rearden was the one man you wanted to see here most." "I still do. But you'll tell me later." She studied Galt's face intently, but she could find no clue, only a closed, impersonal look, either of determination or of control, that tightened the skin of his cheekbones and the line of his mouth. No matter what he knew about her, she thought, the only knowledge that could explain this, was a knowledge he had had no way of acquiring. "You've met Hank Rearden?" she asked, turning to Danneskjold. "And he saved your life?" "Yes." "I want to hear about it." "I don't," said Galt. "Why not?" "You're not one of us, Miss Taggart." "I see." She smiled, with a faint touch of defiance. "Were you thinking that I might prevent you from getting Hank Rearden?" "No, that was not what I was thinking," She noticed that Danneskjold was studying Galt's face, as if he, too, found the incident inexplicable. Galt held his glance, deliberately and openly, as if challenging him to find the explanation and promising that he would fail. She knew that Danneskjold had failed, when she saw a faint crease of humor softening Galt's eyelids. "What else," asked Galt, "have you accomplished this year?" "I've defied the law of gravitation." "You've always done that. In what particular form now?" "In the form of a flight from mid-Atlantic to Colorado in a plane loaded with gold beyond the safety point of its capacity. Wait till Midas sees the amount I have to deposit. My customers, this year, will become richer by— Say, have you told Miss Taggart that she's one of my customers?" "No, not yet You may tell her, if you wish." "I'm—What did you say I am?" she asked. "Don't be shocked, Miss Taggart," said Danneskjold. "And don't object. I'm used to objections. I'm a sort of freak here, anyway. None of them approve of my particular method of fighting our battle. John doesn't, Dr. Akston doesn't. They think that my life is too valuable for it. But, you see, my --------------------------------------- 577 father was a bishop—and of all his teachings there was only one sentence that I accepted: 'All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.' " "What do you mean?" "That violence is not practical. If my fellow men believe that the force of the combined tonnage of their muscles is a practical means to rule me—let them learn the outcome of a contest in which there's nothing but brute force on one side, and force ruled by a mind, on the other. Even John grants me that in our age I had the moral right to choose the course I've chosen. I am doing just what he is doing— only in my own way. He is withdrawing man's spirit from the looters, I'm withdrawing the products of man's spirit. He is depriving them of reason, I'm depriving them of wealth. He is draining the soul of the world, I'm draining its body. His is the lesson they have to learn, only I'm impatient and I'm hastening their scholastic progress. But, like John, I'm simply complying with their moral code and refusing to grant them a double standard at my expense. Or at Rearden's expense. Or at yours." "What are you talking about?" "About a method of taxing the income taxers. All methods of taxation are complex, but this one is very simple, because it's the naked essence of all the others. Let me explain it to you." She listened. She heard a sparkling voice reciting, in the tone of a dryly meticulous bookkeeper, a report about financial transfers, bank accounts, income-tax returns, as if he were reading the dusty pages of a ledger—a ledger where every entry was made by means of offering his own blood as the collateral to be drained at any moment, at any slip of his bookkeeping pen. As she listened, she kept seeing the perfection of his face—and she kept thinking that this was the head on which the world had placed a price of millions for the purpose of delivering it to the rot of death. . . . The face she had thought too beautiful for the scars of a productive career—she kept thinking numbly, missing half his words—the face too beautiful to risk. . . . Then it struck her that his physical perfection was only a simple illustration, a childish lesson given to her in crudely obvious terms on the nature of the outer world and on the fate of any human value in a subhuman age. Whatever the justice or the evil of his course, she thought, how could they . . . no! she thought, his course was just, and this was the horror of it, that there was no other course for justice to select, that she could not condemn him, that she could neither approve nor utter a word of reproach. ". . . and the names of my customers, Miss Taggart, were chosen slowly, one by one. I had to be certain of the nature of their character and career. On my list of restitution, your name was one of the first." She forced herself to keep her face expressionlessly tight, and she answered only, "I see." "Your account is one of the last left unpaid. It is here, at the Mulligan Bank, to be claimed by you on the day when you join us." "I see." "Your account, however, is not as large as some of the others, even though huge sums were extorted from you by force in the past twelve years. You will find—as it is marked on the copies o£ your income-tax returns which Mulligan will hand over to you—that I have refunded only those taxes which you paid on the salary you earned as Operating Vice-President, but not the taxes you paid on your income from your Taggart Transcontinental stock. You deserved every penny of that stock, and in the days of your father I would have refunded every penny of your profit—but under your brother's management, Taggart Transcontinental has taken its share of the looting, it has made profits by force, by means of government favors, subsidies, moratoriums, directives. You were not responsible for it, you were, in fact, the greatest victim of that --------------------------------------- 578 policy—but I refund only the money which was made by pure productive ability, not the money any part of which was loot taken by force." "I see." They had finished their breakfast. Danneskjold lighted a cigarette and watched her for an instant through the first jet of smoke, as if he knew the violence of the conflict in her mind—then he grinned at Galt and rose to his feet. "I'll run along," he said. "My wife is waiting for me." "What?" she gasped. "My wife," he repeated gaily, as if he had not understood the reason of her shock. "Who is your wife?" "Kay Ludlow." The implications that struck her were more than she could bear to consider. "When . . . when were you married?" "Four years ago." "How could you show yourself anywhere long enough to go through a wedding ceremony?" "We were married here, by Judge Narragansett." "How can"—she tried to stop, but the words burst involuntarily, in helplessly indignant protest, whether against him, fate or the outer world, she could not tell—"how can she live through eleven months of thinking that you, at any moment, might be . . . ?" She did not finish. He was smiling, but she saw the enormous solemnity of that which he and his wife had needed to earn their right to this kind of smile. "She can live through it, Miss Taggart, because we do not hold the belief that this earth is a realm of misery where man is doomed to destruction. We do not think that tragedy is our natural fate and we do not live in chronic dread of disaster. We do not expect disaster until we have specific reason to expect it—and when we encounter it, we are free to fight it. It is not happiness, but suffering that we consider unnatural. It is not success, but calamity that we regard as the abnormal exception in human life." Galt accompanied him to the door, then came back, sat down at the table and in a leisurely manner reached for another cup of coffee. She shot to her feet, as if flung by a jet of pressure breaking a safety valve. "Do you think that I'll ever accept his money?" He waited until the curving streak of coffee had filled his cup, then glanced up at her and answered, "Yes, I think so." "Well, I won't! I won't let him risk his life for it!" "You have no choice about that." "I have the choice never to claim it!" "Yes, you have." "Then it will lie in that bank till doomsday!" "No, it won't. If you don't claim it, some part of it—a very small part— will be turned over to me in your name." "In my name? Why?" "To pay for your room and board." She stared at him, her look of anger switching to bewilderment, then dropped slowly back on her chair. He smiled. "How long did you think you were going to stay here, Miss Taggart?" He saw her startled look of helplessness. "You haven't thought of it? I have. You're going to stay here for a month. For the one month of our vacation, like the rest of us. I am not asking for your consent—you did not ask for ours when you came here. You broke our rules, so you'll have to take the consequences. Nobody leaves the valley during this month. I could let you go, of course, but I won't. --------------------------------------- 579 There's no rule demanding that I hold you, but by forcing your way here, you've given me the right to any choice I make—and I'm going to hold you simply because I want you here. If, at the end of a month, you decide that you wish to go back, you will be free to do so. Not until then." She sat straight, the planes of her face relaxed, the shape of her mouth softened by the faint, purposeful suggestion of a smile; it was the dangerous smile of an adversary, but her eyes were coldly brilliant and veiled at once, like the eyes of an adversary who fully intends to fight, but hopes to lose. "Very well," she said, "I shall charge you for your room and board—it is against our rules to provide the unearned sustenance of another human being. Some of us have wives and children, but there is a mutual trade involved in that, and a mutual payment"—he glanced at her—"of a kind I am not entitled to collect. So I shall charge you fifty cents a day and you will pay me when you accept the account that lies in your name at the Mulligan Bank. If you don't accept the account, Mulligan will charge your debt against it and he will give me the money when I ask for it." "I shall comply with your terms," she answered; her voice had the shrewd, confident, deliberating slowness of a trader. "But I shall not permit the use of that money for my debts." "How else do you propose to comply?" "I propose to earn my room and board." "By what means?" "By working." "In what capacity?" "In the capacity of your cook and housemaid." For the first time, she saw him take the shock of the unexpected, in a manner and with a violence she had not foreseen. It was only an explosion of laughter on his part—but he laughed as if he were hit beyond his defenses, much beyond the immediate meaning of her words; she felt that she had struck his past, tearing loose some memory and meaning of his own which she could not know. He laughed as if he were seeing some distant image, as if he were laughing in its face, as if this were his victory—and hers. "If you will hire me," she said, her face severely polite, her tone harshly clear, impersonal and businesslike, "I shall cook your meals, clean your house, do your laundry and perform such other duties as are required of a servant—in exchange for my room, board and such money as I will need for some items of clothing. I may be slightly handicapped by my injuries for the next few days, but that will not last and I will be able to do the job fully." "Is that what you want to do?" he asked. "That is what I want to do—" she answered, and stopped before she uttered the rest of the answer in her mind: more than anything else in the world. He was still smiling, it was a smile of amusement, but it was as if amusement could be transmuted into some shining glory. "All right, Miss Taggart," he said, "I'll hire you." She inclined her head in a dryly formal acknowledgment. "Thank you," "I will pay you ten dollars a month, in addition to your room and board." "Very well," "I shall be the first man in this valley to hire a servant." He got up, reached into his pocket and threw a five-dollar gold piece down on the table. "As advance on your wages," he said. She was startled to discover, as her hand reached for the gold piece, that she felt the eager, desperate, tremulous hope of a young girl on her first job: the hope that she would be able to deserve it. "Yes, sir," she said, her eyes lowered. Owen Kellogg arrived on the afternoon of her third day in the valley. --------------------------------------- 580 She did not know which shocked him most: the sight of her standing on the edge of the airfield as he descended from the plane—the sight of her clothes: her delicate, transparent blouse, tailored by the most expensive shop in New York, and the wide, cotton-print skirt she had bought in the valley for sixty cents—her cane, her bandages or the basket of groceries on her arm. He descended among a group of men, he saw her, he stopped, then ran to her as if flung forward by some emotion so strong that, whatever its nature, it looked like terror. "Miss Taggart . . ." he whispered—and said nothing else, while she laughed, trying to explain how she had come to beat him to his destination. He listened, as if it were irrelevant, and then he uttered the thing from which he had to recover, "But we thought you were dead." "Who thought it?" "All of us . . . I mean, everybody in the outside world." Then she suddenly stopped smiling, while his voice began to recapture his story and his first sound of joy. "Miss Taggart, don't you remember? You told me to phone Winston, Colorado, and to tell them that you'd be there by noon of the next day. That was to be the day before yesterday, May thirty-first. But you did not reach Winston—and by late afternoon, the news was on all the radios that you were lost in a plane crash somewhere in the Rocky Mountains." She nodded slowly, grasping the events she had not thought of considering. "I heard it aboard the Comet," he said. "At a small station in the middle of New Mexico, The conductor held us there for an hour, while I helped him to check the story on long-distance phones. He was hit by the news just as I was. They all were—the train crew, the station agent, the switchmen. They huddled around me while I called the city rooms of newspapers in Denver and New York. We didn't learn much. Only that you had left the Afton airfield just before dawn on May thirty- first, that you seemed to be following some stranger's plane, that the attendant had seen you go off southeast—and that nobody had seen you since . . . And that searching parties were combing the Rockies for the wreckage of your plane." She asked involuntarily, "Did the Comet reach San Francisco?" "I don't know. She was crawling north through Arizona, when I gave up. There were too many delays, too many things going wrong, and a total confusion of orders. I got off and spent the night hitchhiking my way to Colorado, bumming rides on trucks, on buggies, on horse carts, to get there on time—to get to our meeting place, I mean, where we gather for Midas' ferry plane to pick us up and bring us here." She started walking slowly up the path toward the car she had left in front of Hammond's Grocery Market. Kellogg followed, and when he spoke again, his voice dropped a little, slowing down with their steps, as if there were something they both wished to delay. "I got a job for Jeff Alien," he said; his voice had the peculiarly solemn tone proper for saying: I have carried out your last will. "Your agent at Laurel grabbed him and put him to work the moment we got there. The agent needed every able-bodied—no, able-minded—man he could find." They had reached the car, but she did not get in. "Miss Taggart, you weren't hurt badly, were you? Did you say you crashed, but it wasn't serious?" "No, not serious at all. I'll be able to get along without Mr. Mulligan's car by tomorrow—and in a day or two I won't need this thing, either." She swung her cane and tossed it contemptuously into the car. They stood in silence; she was waiting. "The last long-distance call I made from that station in New Mexico," he said slowly, "was to Pennsylvania. I spoke to Hank Rearden. --------------------------------------- 581 I told him everything I knew. He listened, and then there was a pause, and then he said, 'Thank you for calling me.' " Kellogg's eyes were lowered; he added, “I never want to hear that kind of pause again as long as I live." He raised his eyes to hers; there was no reproach in his glance, only the knowledge of that which he had not suspected when he heard her request, but had guessed since. "Thank you," she said, and threw the door of the car open. "Can I give you a lift? I have to get back and get dinner ready before my employer comes home." It was in the first moment of returning to Galt's house, of standing alone in the silent, sun-filled room, that she faced the full meaning of what she felt. She looked at the window, at the mountains barring the sky in the east. She thought of Hank Rearden as he sat at his desk, now, two thousand miles away, his face tightened into a retaining wall against agony, as it had been tightened under all the blows of all his years—and she felt a desperate wish to fight his battle, to fight for him, for his past, for that tension of his face and the courage that fed it— as she wanted to fight for the Comet that crawled by a last effort across a desert on a crumbling track. She shuddered, closing her eyes, feeling as if she were guilty of double treason, feeling as if she were suspended in space between this valley and the rest of the earth, with no right to either. The feeling vanished when she sat facing Galt across the dinner table. He was watching her, openly and with an untroubled look, as if her presence were normal—and as if the sight of her were all he wished to allow into his consciousness. She leaned back a little, as if complying with the meaning of his glance, and said dryly, efficiently, in deliberate denial, "I have checked your shirts and found one with two buttons missing, and another with the left elbow worn through. Do you wish me to mend them?" "Why, yes—if you can do it.” "I can do it." It did not seem to alter the nature of his glance; it merely seemed to stress its satisfaction, as if this were what he had wished her to say — except that she was not certain whether satisfaction was the name for the thing she saw in his eyes and fully certain that he had not wished her to say anything. Beyond the window, at the edge of the table, storm clouds had wiped out the last remnants of light in the eastern sky. She wondered why she felt a sudden reluctance to look out, why she felt as if she wanted to cling to the golden patches of light on the wood of the table, on the buttered crust of the rolls, on the copper coffee pot, on Galt's hair —to cling as to a small island on the edge of a void. Then she heard her own voice asking suddenly, involuntarily, and she knew that this was the treason she had wanted to escape, "Do you permit any communication with the outside world?" "No." "Not any? Not even a note without return address?" "No." "Not even a message, if no secret of yours were given away?" "Not from here. Not during this month. Not to outsiders at any time," She noticed that she was avoiding his eyes, and she forced herself to lift her head and face him. His glance had changed; it was watchful, unmoving, implacably perceptive. He asked, looking at her as if he knew the reason of her query, "Do you wish to ask for a special exception?" "No," she answered, holding his glance. Next morning, after breakfast, when she sat in her room, carefully placing a patch on the sleeve of Galt's shirt, with her door closed, not to let him --------------------------------------- 582 see her fumbling effort at an unfamiliar task, she heard the sound of a car stopping in front of the house. She heard Galt's steps hurrying across the living room, she heard him jerk the entrance door open and call out with the joyous anger of relief: "It's about time!" She rose to her feet, but stopped: she heard his voice, its tone abruptly changed and grave, as if in answer to the shock of some sight confronting him: "What's the matter?" "Hello, John," said a clear, quiet voice that sounded steady, but weighted with exhaustion. She sat down on her bed, feeling suddenly drained of strength: the voice was Francisco's. She heard Galt asking, his tone severe with concern, "What is it?" "I'll tell you afterwards." "Why are you so late?" "I have to leave again in an hour." "To leave?" "John, I just came to tell you that I won't be able to stay here this year." There was a pause, then Galt asked gravely, his voice low, "Is it as bad as that—whatever it is?" "Yes. I . . . I might be back before the month is over. I don't know." He added, with the sound of a desperate effort, "I don't know whether to hope to be done with it quickly or . . . or not," "Francisco, could you stand a shock right now?" "I? Nothing could shock me now." "There's a person, here, in my guest room, whom you have to see. It will be a shock to you, so I think I'd better warn you in advance that this person is still a scab." "What? A scab? In your house?" "Let me tell you how—" "That's something I want to see for myself!" She heard Francisco's contemptuous chuckle and the rush of his steps, she saw her door flung open, and she noticed dimly that it was Galt who closed it, leaving them alone. She did not know how long Francisco stood looking at her, because the first moment that she grasped fully was when she saw him on his knees, holding onto her, his face pressed to her legs, the moment when she felt as if the shudder that ran through his body and left him still, had run into hers and made her able to move. She saw, in astonishment, that her hand was moving gently over his hair, while she was thinking that she had no right to do it and feeling as if a current of serenity were flowing from her hand, enveloping them both, smoothing the past. He did not move, he made no sound, as if the act of holding her said everything he had to say. When he raised his head, he looked as she had felt when she had opened her eyes in the valley: he looked as if no pain had ever existed in the world. He was laughing. "Dagny, Dagny, Dagny"—his voice sounded, not as if a confession resisted for years were breaking out, but as if he were repeating the long since known, laughing at the pretense that it had ever been unsaid —"of course I love you. Were you afraid when he made me say it? I'll say it as often as you wish—I love you, darling, I love you, I always will—don't be afraid for me, I don't care if I'll never have you again, what does that matter?—you're alive and you're here and you know everything now. And it's so simple, isn't it? Do you see what it was and why I had to desert you?" His arm swept out to point at the valley. "There it is—it's your earth, --------------------------------------- 583 your kingdom, your kind of world—Dagny, I've always loved you and that I deserted you, that was my love." He took her hands and pressed them to his lips and held them, not moving, not as a kiss, but as a long moment of rest—as if the effort of speech were a distraction from the fact of her presence, and as if he were torn by too many things to say, by the pressure of all the words stored in the silence of years. "The women I chased—you didn't believe that, did you? I've never touched one of them—but I think you knew it, I think you've known it all along. The playboy—it was a part that I had to play in order not to let the looters suspect me while I was destroying d'Anconia Copper in plain sight of the whole world. That's the joker in their system, they're out to fight any man of honor and ambition, but let them see a worthless rotter and they think he's a friend, they think he's safe—safe!—that's their view of life, but are they learning!—are they learning whether evil is safe and incompetence practical! . . . Dagny, it was the night when I knew, for the first time, that I loved you— it was then that I knew I had to go. It was when you entered my hotel room, that night, when I saw what you looked like, what you were, what you meant to me—and what awaited you in the future. Had you been less, you might have stopped me for a while. But it was you, you who were the final argument that made me leave you. I asked for your help, that night—against John Galt. But I knew that you were his best weapon against me, though neither you nor he could know it. You were everything that he was seeking, everything he told us to live for or die, if necessary. . . . I was ready for him, when he called me suddenly to come to New York, that spring. I had not heard from him for some time. He was fighting the same problem I was. He solved it. . . . Do you remember? It was the time when you did not hear from me for three years. Dagny, when I took over my father's business, when I began to deal with the whole industrial system of the world, it was then that I began to see the nature of the evil I had suspected, but thought too monstrous to believe. I saw the tax-collecting vermin that had grown for centuries like mildew on d'Anconia Copper, draining us by no right that anyone could name—I saw the government regulations passed to cripple me, because I was successful, and to help my competitors, because they were loafing failures—I saw the labor unions who won every claim against me, by reason of my ability to make their livelihood possible—I saw that any man's desire for money he could not earn was regarded as a righteous wish, but if he earned it, it was damned as greed—I saw the politicians who winked at me, telling me not to worry, because I could just work a little harder and outsmart them all. I looked past the profits of the moment, and I saw that the harder I worked, the more I tightened the noose around my throat, I saw that my energy was being poured down a sewer, that the parasites who fed on me were being fed upon in their turn, that they were caught in their own trap—and that there was no reason for it, no answer known to anyone, that the sewer pipes of the world, draining its productive blood, led into some dank fog nobody had dared to pierce, while people merely shrugged and said that life on earth could be nothing but evil. And then I saw that the whole industrial establishment of the world, with all of its magnificent machinery, its thousand-ton furnaces, its transatlantic cables, its mahogany offices, its stock exchanges, its blazing electric signs, its power, its wealth—all of it was run, not by bankers and boards of directors, but by any unshaved humanitarian in any basement beer joint, by any face pudgy with malice, who preached that virtue must be penalized for being virtue, that the purpose of ability is to serve incompetence, that man has no right to exist except for the sake of others. . . . I knew it. I saw no way to fight it. John found the way. There were just --------------------------------------- 584 the two of us with him, the night when we came to New York in answer to his call, Ragnar and I. He told us what we had to do and what sort of men we had to reach. He had quit the Twentieth Century. He was living in a garret in a slum neighborhood. He stepped to the window and pointed at the skyscrapers of the city. He said that we had to extinguish the lights of the world, and when we would see the lights of New York go out, we would know that our job was done. He did not ask us to join him at once. He told us to think it over and to weigh everything it would do to our lives. I gave him my answer on the morning of the second day, and Ragnar a few hours later, in the afternoon. . . . Dagny, that was the morning after our last night together. I had seen, in a manner of vision that I couldn't escape, what it was that I had to fight for. It was for the way you looked that night, for the way you talked about your railroad—for the way you had looked when we tried to see the skyline of New York from the top of a rock over the Hudson—I had to save you, to clear the way for you, to let you find your city—not to let you stumble the years of your life away, struggling on through a poisoned fog, with your eyes still held straight ahead, still looking as they had looked in the sunlight, struggling on to find, at the end of your road, not the towers of a city, but a fat, soggy, mindless cripple performing his enjoyment of life by means of swallowing the gin your life had gone to pay for! You,—to know no joy in order that he may know it? You—to serve as fodder for the pleasure of others? You—as the means for the subhuman as the end? Dagny, that was what I saw and that was what I couldn't let them do to you! Not to you, not to any child who had your kind of look when-he faced the future, not to any man who had your spirit and was able to experience a moment of being proudly, guiltlessly, confidently, joyously alive. That was my love, that state of the human spirit, and I left you to fight for it, and I knew that if I were to lose you, it was still you that I would be winning with every year of the battle. But you see it now, don't you? You've seen this valley. It's the place we set out to reach when we were children, you and I. We've reached it. What else can I ask for now? Just to see you here—did John say you're still a scab?—oh well, it's only a matter of tune, but you'll be one of us, because you've always been, if you don't see it fully, we'll wait, I don't care— so long as you're alive, so long as I don't have to go on flying over the Rockies, looking for the wreckage of your plane!" She gasped a little, realizing why he had not come to the valley on time. He laughed. "Don't look like that. Don't look at me as if I were a wound that you're afraid to touch." "Francisco, I've hurt you in so many different ways—" "No! No, you haven't hurt me—and he hasn't either, don't say anything about it, it's he who's hurt, but we'll save him and he'll come here, too, where he belongs, and he'll know, and then he, too, will be able to laugh about it. Dagny, I didn't expect you to wait, I didn't hope, I knew the chance I'd taken, and if it had to be anyone, I'm glad it's he." She closed her eyes, pressing her lips together not to moan. "Darling, don't! Don't you see that I've accepted it?" But it isn't—she thought—it isn't he, and I can't tell you the truth, because it's a man who might never hear it from me and whom I might never have. "Francisco, I did love you—" she said, and caught her breath, shocked, realizing that she had not intended to say it and, simultaneously, that this was not the tense she had wanted to use. "But you do," he said calmly, smiling. "You still love me—even if there's one expression of it that you'll always feel and want, but will not give me any longer. I'm still what I was, and you'll always see it, and you'll always grant me the same response, even if there's a greater one that you grant to --------------------------------------- 585 another man. No matter what you feel for him, it will not change what you feel for me, and it won't be treason to either, because it comes from the same root, it's the same payment in answer to the same values. No matter what happens in the future, we'll always be what we were to each other, you and I, because you'll always love me." "Francisco," she whispered, "do you know that?" "Of course. Don't you understand it now? Dagny, every form of happiness is one, every desire is driven by the same motor—by our love for a single value, for the highest potentiality of our own existence—and every achievement is an expression of it. Look around you. Do you see how much is open to us here, on an unobstructed earth? Do you see how much I am free to do, to experience, to achieve? Do you see that all of it is part of what you are to me—as I am part of it for you? And if I'll see you smile with admiration at a new copper smelter that I built, it will be another form of what I felt when I lay in bed beside you. Will I want to sleep with you? Desperately. Will I envy the man who does? Sure. But what does that matter? It's so much—just to have you here, to love you and to be alive." Her eyes lowered, her face stern, holding her head bowed as in an act of reverence, she said slowly, as if fulfilling a solemn promise, "Will you forgive me?" He looked astonished, then chuckled gaily, remembering, and answered, "Not yet. There's nothing to forgive, but I'll forgive it when you join us." He rose, he drew her to her feet—and when his arms closed about her, their kiss was the summation of their past, its end and their seal of acceptance. Galt turned to them from across the living room, when they came out. He had been standing at a window, looking at the valley—and she felt certain that he had stood there all that time. She saw his eyes studying their faces, his glance moving slowly from one to the other. His face relaxed a little at the sight of the change in Francisco's. Francisco smiled, asking him, "Why do you stare at me?" "Do you know what you looked like when you came in?" "Oh, did I? That's because I hadn't slept for three nights. John, will you invite me to dinner? I want to know how this scab of yours got here, but I think that I might collapse sound asleep in the middle of a sentence—even though right now I feel as if I'll never need any sleep at all—so I think I'd better go home and stay there till evening." Galt was watching him with a faint smile. "But aren't you going to leave the valley in an hour?" "What? No . . ." he said mildly, in momentary astonishment. "No!" he laughed exultantly. "I don't have to! That's right, I haven't told you what it was, have I? I was searching for Dagny. For . . . for the wreck of her plane. She'd been reported lost in a crash in the Rockies." "I see," said Galt quietly. "I could have thought of anything, except that she would choose to crash in Galt's Gulch," Francisco said happily; he had the tone of that joyous relief which almost relishes the horror of the past, defying it by means of the present. "I kept flying over the district between Afton, Utah, and Winston, Colorado, over every peak and crevice of it, over every remnant of a car in any gully below, and whenever I saw one, I—" He stopped; it looked like a shudder. "Then at night, we went out on foot—the searching parties of railroad men from Winston— we went climbing at random, with no clues, no plan, on and on, until it was daylight again, and—" He shrugged, trying to dismiss it and to smile. "I wouldn't wish it on my worst—" He stopped short; his smile vanished and a dim reflection of the look he had worn for three days came back to his face, as if at the sudden presence of an image he had forgotten. --------------------------------------- 586 After a long moment, he turned to Galt. "John," his voice sounded peculiarly solemn, "could we notify those outside that Dagny is alive . . . in case there's somebody who . . . who'd feel as I did?" Galt was looking straight at him. "Do you wish to give any outsider any relief from the consequences of remaining outside?" Francisco dropped his eyes, but answered firmly, "No." "Pity, Francisco?" "Yes. Forget it. You're right." Galt turned away with a movement that seemed oddly out of character: it had the unrhythmical abruptness of the involuntary. He did not turn back; Francisco watched him in astonishment, then asked softly, "What's the matter?" Galt turned and looked at him for a moment, not answering. She could not identify the emotion that softened the lines of Galt's face: it had the quality of a smile, of gentleness, of pain, and of something greater that seemed to make these concepts superfluous. "Whatever any of us has paid for this battle," said Galt, "you're the one who's taken the hardest beating, aren't you?" "Who? I?" Francisco grinned with shocked, incredulous amusement. "Certainly not! What's the matter with you?" He chuckled and added, "Pity, John?" "No," said Galt firmly. She saw Francisco watching him with a faint, puzzled frown—because Galt had said it, looking, not at him, but at her. The emotional sum that struck her as an immediate impression of Francisco's house, when she entered it for the first time, was not the sum she had once drawn from the sight of its silent, locked exterior. She felt, not a sense of tragic loneliness, but of invigorating brightness. The rooms were bare and crudely simple, the house seemed built with the skill, the decisiveness and the impatience typical of Francisco; it looked like a frontiersman's shanty thrown together to serve as a mere springboard for a long flight into the future—a future where so great a field of activity lay waiting that no time could be wasted on the comfort of its start. The place had the brightness, not of a home, but of a fresh wooden scaffolding erected to shelter the birth of a skyscraper. Francisco, in shirt sleeves, stood in the middle of his twelve-foot square living room, with the look of a host in a palace. Of all the places where she had ever seen him, this was the background that seemed most properly his. Just as the simplicity of his clothes, added to his bearing, gave him the air of a superlative aristocrat, so the crudeness of the room gave it the appearance of the most patrician retreat; a single royal touch was added to the crudeness: two ancient silver goblets stood in a small niche cut in a wall of bare logs; their ornate design had required the luxury of some craftsman's long and costly labor, more labor than had gone to build the shanty, a design dimmed by the polish of more centuries than had gone to grow the log wall's pines. In the midst of that room, Francisco's easy, natural manner had a touch of quiet pride, as if his smile were silently saying to her: This is what I am and what I have been all these years. She looked up at the silver goblets. "Yes," he said, in answer to her silent guess, "they belonged to Sebastian d'Anconia and his wife. That's the only thing I brought here from my palace in Buenos Aires. That, and the crest over the door. It's all I wanted to save. Everything else will go, in a very few months now." He chuckled. "They'll seize it, all of it, the last dregs of d'Anconia Copper, but they'll be surprised. They won't find much for their trouble. And as to that palace, they won't be able to afford even its heating bill." "And then?" she asked. "Where will you go from there?" --------------------------------------- 587 "I? I will go to work for d'Anconia Copper." "What do you mean?" "Do you remember that old slogan: "The king is dead, long live the king'? When the carcass of my ancestors' property is out of the way, then my mine will become the young new body of d'Anconia Copper, the kind of property my ancestors had wanted, had worked for, had deserved, but had never owned." "Your mine? What mine? Where?" "Here," he said, pointing toward the mountain peaks. "Didn't you know it?" "No." "I own a copper mine that the looters won't reach. It's here, in these mountains. I did the prospecting, I discovered it, I broke the first excavation. It was over eight years ago. I was the first man to whom Midas sold land in this valley. I bought that mine. I started it with my own hands, as Sebastian d'Anconia had started. I have a superintendent 77! in charge of it now, who used to be my best metallurgist in Chile. The mine produces all the copper we require. My profits are deposited at the Mulligan Bank. That will be all I'll have, a few months from now. That will be all I'll need." —to conquer the world, was the way his voice sounded on his last sentence— and she marveled at the difference between that sound and the shameful, mawkish tone, half-whine, half-threat, the tone of beggar and thug combined, which the men of their century had given to the word "need." "Dagny," he was saying, standing at the window, as if looking out at the peaks, not of mountains, but of time, "the rebirth of d'Anconia Copper—and of the world—has to start here, in the United States. This country was the only country in history born, not of chance and blind tribal warfare, but as a rational product of man's mind. This country was built on the supremacy of reason—and, for one magnificent century, it redeemed the world. It will have to do so again. The first step of d'Anconia Copper, as of any other human value, has to come from here—because the rest of the earth has reached the consummation of the beliefs it has held through the ages: mystic faith, the supremacy of the irrational, which has but two monuments at the end of its course: the lunatic asylum and the graveyard. . . . Sebastian d'Anconia committed one error: he accepted a system which declared that the property he had earned by right, was to be his, not by right, but by permission. His descendants paid for that error. I have made the last payment. . . . I think that I will see the day when, growing out from their root in this soil, the mines, the smelters, the ore docks of d'Anconia Copper will spread again through the world and down to my native country, and I will be the first to start my country's rebuilding. I may see it, but I cannot be certain. No man can predict the time when others will choose to return to reason. It may be that at the end of my life, I shall have established nothing but this single mine— d'Anconia Copper No. 1, Galt's Gulch, Colorado, U.S.A. But, Dagny, do you remember that my ambition was to double my father's production of copper? Dagny, if at the end of my life, I produce but one pound of copper a year, I will be richer than my father, richer than all my ancestors with all their thousands of tons—because that one pound will be mine by right and will be used to maintain a world that knows it!" This was the Francisco of their childhood, in bearing, in manner, in the unclouded brilliance of his eyes—and she found herself questioning him about his copper mine, as she had questioned him about his industrial projects on their walks on the shore of the Hudson, recapturing the sense of an unobstructed future. "I'll take you to see the mine," he said, "as soon as your ankle recovers completely. We have to climb a steep trail to get there, just a mule trail, there's no truck road as yet. Let me show you the new smelter I'm designing. --------------------------------------- 588 I've been working on it for some time, it's too complex for our present volume of production, but when the mine's output grows to justify it—just take a look at the time, labor and money that it will save!" They were sitting together on the floor, bending over the sheets of paper he spread before her, studying the intricate sections of the smelter—with the same joyous earnestness they had once brought to the study of scraps in a junk yard. She leaned forward just as he moved to reach for another sheet, and she found herself leaning against his shoulder.-Involuntarily, she held still for one instant, no longer than for a small break in the flow of a single motion, while her eyes rose to his. He was looking down at her, neither hiding what he felt nor implying any further demand. She drew back, knowing that she had felt the same desire as his. Then, still holding the recaptured sensation of what she had felt for him in the past, she grasped a quality that had always been part of it, now suddenly clear to her for the first time: if that desire was a celebration of one's life, then what she had felt for Francisco had always been a celebration of her future, like a moment of splendor gained in part payment of an unknown, total, affirming some promise to come. In the instant when she grasped it, she knew also the only desire she had ever experienced not in token of the future but of the full and final present She knew it by means of an image—the image of a man's figure standing at the door of a small granite structure. The final form of the promise that had kept her moving, she thought, was the man who would, perhaps, remain a promise never to be reached. But this—she thought in consternation—was that view of human destiny which she had most passionately hated and rejected: the view that man was ever to be drawn by some vision of the unattainable shining ahead, doomed ever to aspire, but not to achieve. Her life and her values could not bring her to that, she thought; she had never found beauty in longing for the impossible and had never found the possible to be beyond her reach. But she had come to it and she could find no answer. She could not give him up or give up the world—she thought, looking at Galt, that evening. The answer seemed harder to find in his presence. She felt that no problem existed, that nothing could stand beside the fact of seeing him and nothing would ever have the power to make her leave—and, simultaneously, that she would have no right to look at him if she were to renounce her railroad. She felt that she owned him, that the unnamed had been understood between them from the start—and, simultaneously, that he was able to vanish from her Me and, on some future street of the outside world, to pass her by in unweighted indifference. She noted that he did not question her about Francisco. When she spoke of her visit, she could find no reaction in his face, neither of approval nor of resentment. It seemed to her that she caught an imperceptible shading in his gravely attentive expression: he looked as if this were a matter about which he did not choose to feel. Her faint apprehension grew into a question mark, and the question mark turned into a drill, cutting deeper and deeper into her mind through the evenings that followed—when Galt left the house and she remained alone. He went out every other night, after dinner, not telling her where he went, returning at midnight or later. She tried not to allow herself fully to discover with what tension and. restlessness she waited for his return. She did not ask him where he spent his evenings. The reluctance that stopped her was her too urgent desire to know; she kept silent in some dimly intentional form of defiance, half in defiance of him, half of her own anxiety. She would not acknowledge the things she feared or give them the solid shape of words, she knew them only by the ugly, nagging pull of an unadmitted --------------------------------------- 589 emotion. Part of it was a savage resentment, of a kind she had never experienced before, which was her answer to the dread that there might be a woman in his life; yet the resentment was softened by some quality of health in the thing she feared, as if the threat could be fought and even, if need be, accepted. But there was another, uglier dread: the sordid shape of self- sacrifice, the suspicion, not to be uttered about him, that he wished to remove himself from her path and let its emptiness force her back to the man who was his best-loved friend. Days passed before she spoke of it. Then, at dinner, on an evening when he was to leave, she became suddenly aware of the peculiar pleasure she experienced while watching him eat the food she had prepared—and suddenly, involuntarily, as if that pleasure gave her a right she dared not identify, as if enjoyment, not pain, broke her resistance, she heard herself asking him, "What is it you're doing every other evening?" He answered simply, as if he had taken for granted that she knew it, "Lecturing." "What?" "Giving a course of lectures on physics, as I do every year during this month. It's my . . . What are you laughing at?" he asked, seeing the look of relief, of silent laughter that did not seem to be directed at his words—and then, before she answered, he smiled suddenly, as if he had guessed the answer, she saw some particular, intensely personal quality in his smile, which was almost a quality of insolent intimacy—in contrast to the calmly impersonal, casual manner with which he went on. "You know that this is the month when we all trade the achievements of our real professions. Richard Halley is to give concerts, Kay Ludlow is to appear in two plays written by authors who do not write for the outside world—and I give lectures, reporting on the work I've done during the year." "Free lectures?" "Certainly not. It's ten dollars per person for the course." "I want to hear you." He shook his head. "No. You'll be allowed to attend the concerts, the plays or any form of presentation for your own enjoyment, but not my lectures or any other sale of ideas which you might carry out of this valley. Besides, my customers, or students, are only those who have a practical purpose in taking my course: Dwight Sanders, Lawrence Hammond, Dick McNamara, Owen Kellogg, a few others. I've added one beginner this year: Quentin Daniels." "Really?" she said, almost with a touch of jealousy. "How can he afford anything that expensive?" "On credit. I've given him a time-payment plan. He's worth it." "Where do you lecture?" "In the hangar, on Dwight Sanders' farm." "And where do you work during the year?" "In my laboratory." She asked cautiously, "Where is your laboratory? Here, in the valley?" He held her eyes for a moment, letting her see that his glance was amused and that he knew her purpose, then answered, "No." "You've lived in the outside world for all of these twelve years?" "Yes." "Do you"—the thought seemed unbearable—"do you hold some such job as the others?" "Oh yes." The amusement in his eyes seemed stressed by some special meaning. "Don't tell me that you're a second assistant bookkeeper!" "No, I'm not." "Then what do you do?" "I hold the kind of job that the world wishes me to hold." --------------------------------------- 590 "Where?" He shook his head. "No, Miss Taggart. If you decide to leave the valley, this is one of the things that you are not to know." He smiled again with that insolently personal quality which now seemed to say that he knew the threat contained in his answer and what it meant to her, then he rose from the table. When he had gone, she felt as if the motion of time were an oppressive weight in the stillness of the house, like a stationary, half-solid mass slithering slowly into some faint elongation by a tempo that left her no measure to know whether minutes had passed or hours. She lay half-stretched in an armchair of the living room, crumpled by that heavy, indifferent lassitude which is not the will to laziness, but the frustration of the will to a secret violence that no lesser action can satisfy. That special pleasure she had felt in watching him eat the food she had prepared—she thought, lying still, her eyes closed, her mind moving, like time, through some realm of veiled slowness—it had been the pleasure of knowing that she had provided him with a sensual enjoyment, that one form of his body's satisfaction had come from her. . . . There is reason, she thought, why a woman would wish to cook for a man . . . oh, not as a duty, not as a chronic career, only as a rare and special rite in symbol of . . . but what have they made of it, the preachers of woman's duty? . . . The castrated performance of a sickening drudgery was held to be a woman's proper virtue—while that which gave it meaning and sanction was held as a shameful sin . . . the work of dealing with grease, steam and slimy peelings in a reeking kitchen was held to be a spiritual matter, an act of compliance with her moral duty—while the meeting of two bodies in a bedroom was held to be a physical indulgence, an act of surrender to an animal instinct, with no glory, meaning or pride of spirit to be claimed by the animals involved. She leaped abruptly to her feet. She did not want to think of the outer world or of its moral code. But she knew that that was not the subject of her thoughts. And she did not want to think of the subject her mind was intent on pursuing, the subject to which it kept returning against her will, by some will of its own. . . . She paced the room, hating the ugly, jerky, uncontrolled looseness of her movements—torn between the need to let her motion break the stillness, and the knowledge that this was not the form of break she wanted. She lighted cigarettes, for an instant's illusion of purposeful action—and discarded them within another instant, feeling the weary distaste of a substitute purpose. She looked at the room like a restless beggar, pleading with physical objects to give her a motive, wishing she could find something to clean, to mend, to polish—while knowing that no task was worth the effort. When nothing seems worth the effort— said some stern voice in her mind—it's a screen to hide a wish that's worth too much; what do you want? . . . She snapped a match, viciously jerking the flame to the tip of a cigarette she noticed hanging, unlighted, in the corner of her mouth. . . . What do you want?—repeated the voice that sounded severe as a judge. I want him to come back!—she answered, throwing the words, as a soundless cry, at some accuser within her, almost as one would throw a bone to a pursuing beast, in the hope of distracting it from pouncing upon the rest. I want him back—she said softly, in answer to the accusation that there was no reason for so great an impatience. . . . I want him back —she said pleadingly, in answer to the cold reminder that her answer did not balance the judge's scale. . . . I want him back!—she cried defiantly, fighting not to drop' the one superfluous, protective word in that sentence. --------------------------------------- 591 She felt her head drooping with exhaustion, as after a prolonged beating. The cigarette she saw between her fingers had burned the mere length of half an inch. She ground it out and fell into the armchair again. I'm not evading it—she thought—I'm not evading it, it's just that I can see no way to any answer. . . . That which you want—said the voice, while she stumbled through a thickening fog—is yours for the taking, but anything less than your full acceptance, anything less than your full conviction, is a betrayal of everything he is. . . . Then let him damn me—she thought, as if the voice were now lost in the fog and would not hear her—let him damn me tomorrow. . . . I want him . . . back. . . . She heard no answer, because her head had fallen softly against the chair; she was asleep. When she opened her eyes, she saw him standing three feet away, looking down at her, as if he had been watching her for some time. She saw his face and, with the clarity of undivided perception, she saw the meaning of the expression on his face: it was the meaning she had fought for hours. She saw it without astonishment, because she had not yet regained her awareness of any reason why it should astonish her. "This is the way you look," he said softly, "when you fall asleep in your office," and she knew that he, too, was not fully aware of letting her hear it: the way he said it told her how often he had thought of it and for what reason. "You look as if you would awaken in a world where you had nothing to hide or to fear," and she knew that the first movement of her face had been a smile, she knew it in the moment when it vanished, when she grasped that they were both awake. He added quietly, with full awareness, "But here, it's true." Her first emotion of the realm of reality was a sense of power. She sat up with a flowing, leisurely movement of confidence, feeling the flow of the motion from muscle to muscle through her body. She asked, and it was the slowness, the sound of casual curiosity, the tone of taking the implications for granted, that gave to her voice the faintest sound of disdain, "How did you know what I look like in . . . my office?" "I told you that I've watched you for years." "How were you able to watch me that thoroughly? From where?" "I will not answer you now," he said, simply, without defiance. The slight movement of her shoulder leaning back, the pause, then the lower, huskier tone of her voice, left a hint of smiling triumph to trail behind her words: "When did you see me for the first time?" "Ten years ago," he answered, looking straight at her, letting her see that he was answering the full, unnamed meaning of her question. "Where?" The word was almost a command. He hesitated, then she saw a faint smile that touched only his lips, not his eyes, the kind of smile with which one contemplates—with longing, bitterness and pride—a possession purchased at an excruciating cost; his eyes seemed directed, not at her, but at the girl of that time. "Underground, in the Taggart Terminal," he answered. She became suddenly conscious of her posture: she had let her shoulder blades slide down against the chair, carelessly, half-lying, one leg stretched forward—and with her sternly tailored, transparent blouse, her wide peasant skirt hand-printed in violent colors, her thin stocking and high- heeled pump, she did not look like a railroad executive—the consciousness of it struck her in answer to his eyes that seemed to be seeing the unattainable—she looked like that which she was: his servant girl. She knew the moment when some faintest stress of the brilliance in his dark green eyes removed the veil of distance, replacing the vision of the past by the act of seeing her immediate person. She met his eyes with that insolent glance which is a smile without movement of facial muscles. --------------------------------------- 592 He turned away, but as he moved across the room his steps were as eloquent as the sound of a voice. She knew that he wanted to leave the room, as he always left it, he had never stayed for longer than a brief good night when he came home. She watched the course of his struggle, whether by means of his steps, begun in one direction and swerving in another, or by means of her certainty that her body had become an instrument for the direct perception of his, like a screen reflecting both movements and motives—she could not tell. She knew only that he who had never started or lost a battle against himself, now had no power to leave this room. His manner seemed to show no sign of strain. He took off his coat, throwing it aside, remaining in shirt sleeves, and sat down, facing her, at the window across the room. But he sat down on the arm of a chair, as if he were neither leaving nor staying. She felt the light-headed, the easy, the almost frivolous sensation of triumph in the knowledge that she was holding him as surely as by a physical touch; for the length of a moment, brief and dangerous to endure, it was a more satisfying form of contact. Then she felt a sudden, blinding shock, which was half-blow, half scream within her, and she groped, stunned, for its cause—only to realize that he had leaned a little to one side and it had been no more than the sight of an accidental posture, of the long line running from his shoulder to the angle of his waist, to his hips, down his legs. She looked away, not to let him see that she was trembling—and she dropped all thoughts of triumph and of whose was the power. "I've seen you many times since," he said, quietly, steadily, but a little more slowly than usual, as if he could control everything except his need to speak. "Where have you seen me?" "Many places." "But you made certain to remain unseen?" She knew that his was a face she could not have failed to notice. "Yes." "Why? Were you afraid?" "Yes." He said it simply, and it took her a moment to realize that he was admitting he knew what the sight of his person would have meant to her. "Did you know who I was, when you saw me for the first time?" "Oh yes. My worst enemy but one." "What?" She had not expected it; she added, more quietly, "Who's the worst one?" "Dr. Robert Stadler." "Did you have me classified with him?" "No. He's my conscious enemy. He's the man who sold his soul. We don't intend to reclaim him. You—you were one of us. I knew it, long before I saw you. I knew also that you would be the last to join us and the hardest one to defeat." "Who told you that?" "Francisco." She let a moment pass, then asked, "What did he say?" "He said that of all the names on our list, you'd be the one most difficult to win. That was when I heard of you for the first time. It was Francisco who put your name on our list. He told me that you were the sole hope and future of Taggart Transcontinental, that you'd stand against us for a long time, that you'd fight a desperate battle for your railroad—because you had too much endurance, courage and consecration to your work." He glanced at her. "He told me nothing else. --------------------------------------- 593 He spoke of you as if he were merely discussing one of our future strikers. I knew that you and he had been childhood friends, that was all." "When did you see me?" "Two years later." "How?" "By chance. It was late at night . . . on a passenger platform of the Taggart Terminal." She knew that this was a form of surrender, he did not want to say it, yet he had to speak, she heard both the muted intensity and the pull of resistance in his voice—he had to speak, because he had to give himself and her this one form of contact. "You wore an evening gown. You had a cape half-slipping off your body—I saw, at first, only your bare shoulders, your back and your profile—it looked for a moment as if the cape would slip further and you would stand there naked. Then I saw that you wore a long gown, the color of ice, like the tunic of a Grecian goddess, but had the short hair and the imperious profile of an American woman. You looked preposterously out of place on a railroad platform—and it was not on a railroad platform that I was seeing you, I was seeing a setting that had never haunted me before—but then, suddenly, I knew that you did belong among the rails, the soot and the girders, that that was the proper setting for a flowing gown and naked shoulders and a face as alive as yours—a railroad platform, not a curtained apartment—you looked like a symbol of luxury and you belonged in the place that was its source—you seemed to bring wealth, grace, extravagance and the enjoyment of life back to their rightful owners, to the men who created railroads and factories—you had a look of energy and of its reward, together, a look of competence and luxury combined—and I was the first man who had ever stated in what manner these two were inseparable— and I thought that if our age gave form to its proper gods and erected a statue to the meaning of an American railroad, yours would be that statue. . . . Then I saw what you were doing—and I knew who you were. You were giving orders to three Terminal officials, I could not hear your words, but your voice sounded swift, clear-cut and confident. I knew that you were Dagny Taggart. I came closer, close enough to hear two sentences. 'Who said so?' asked one of the men. 'I did,' you answered. That was all I heard. That was enough." "And then?" He raised his eyes slowly to hold hers across the room, and the submerged intensity that pulled his voice down, blurring its tone to softness, gave it a sound of self-mockery that was desperate and almost gentle: "Then I knew that abandoning my motor was not the hardest price I would have to pay for this strike." She wondered which anonymous shadow—among the passengers who had hurried past her, as insubstantial as the steam of the engines and as ignored—which shadow and face had been his; she wondered how close she had come to him for the length of that unknown moment. "Oh, why didn't you speak to me, then or later?" "Do you happen to remember what you were doing in the Terminal that night?" "I remember vaguely a night when they called me from some party I was attending. My father was out of town and the new Terminal manager had made some sort of error that tied up all traffic in the tunnels. The old manager had quit unexpectedly the week before," "It was I who made him quit." "I see . . ." Her voice trailed off, as if abandoning sound, as her eyelids dropped, abandoning sight. If he had not withstood it then—she thought—if he had come to claim her, then or later, what( sort of tragedy would they have had to --------------------------------------- 594 reach? . . . She remembered what she had felt when she had cried that she would shoot the destroyer on sight. . . . I would have—the thought was not in words, she knew it only as a trembling pressure in her stomach—I would have shot him, afterward, if I discovered his role . . . and I would have had to discover it . . . and yet—she shuddered, because she knew she still wished he had come to her, because the thought not to be admitted into her mind. but flowing as a dark warmth through her body, was: I would have shot him, but not before— She raised her eyelids—and she knew that that thought was as naked to him in her eyes, as it was to her in his. She saw his veiled glance and the tautness of his mouth, she saw him reduced to agony, she felt herself drowned by the exultant wish to cause him pain, to see it, to watch it, to watch it beyond her own endurance and his, then to reduce him to the helplessness of pleasure. He got up, he looked away, and she could not tell whether it was the slight lift of his head or the tension of his features that made his face look oddly calm and clear, as if it were stripped of emotion down to the naked purity of its structure. "Every man that your railroad needed and lost in the past ten years," he said, "it was I who made you lose him." His voice had the single toned flatness and the luminous simplicity of an accountant who reminds a reckless purchaser that cost is an absolute which cannot be escaped, "I have pulled every girder from under Taggart Transcontinental and, if you choose to go back, I will see it collapse upon your head." He turned to leave the room. She stopped him. It was her voice, more than her words, that made him stop: her voice was low, it had no quality of emotion, only of a sinking weight, and its sole color was some dragging undertone, like an inner echo, resembling a threat; it was the voice of the plea of a person who still retains a concept of honor, but is long past caring for it: "You want to hold me here, don't you?" "More than anything else in the world." "You could hold me." "I know it" His voice had said it with the same sound as hers. He waited, to regain his breath. When he spoke, his voice was low and clear, with some stressed quality of awareness, which was almost the quality of a smile of understanding: "It's your acceptance of this place that I want. What good would it do me, to have your physical presence without any meaning? That's the kind of faked reality by which most people cheat themselves of their lives. I'm not capable of it." He turned to go. "And neither are you. Good night, Miss Taggart." He walked out, into his bedroom, closing the door. She was past the realm of thought—as she lay in bed in the darkness of her room, unable to think or to sleep—and the moaning violence that filled her mind seemed only a sensation of her muscles, but its tone and its twisting shades were like a pleading cry, which she knew, not as words, but as pain: Let him come here, let him break —let it be damned, all of it, my railroad and his strike and everything we've lived by!—let it be damned, everything we've been and are!— he would, if tomorrow I were to die—then let me die, but tomorrow —let him come here, be it any price he names, I have nothing left that's not for sale to him any longer—is this what it means to be an animal?—it does and I am. . . . She lay on her back, her palms pressed to the sheet at her sides, to stop herself from rising and walking into his room, knowing that she was capable even of that. . . . --------------------------------------- 595 It's not I, it's a body I can neither endure nor control. . . . But somewhere within her, not as words, but as a radiant point of stillness, there was the presence of the judge who seemed to observe her, not in stern condemnation any longer, but in approval and amusement, as if saying: Your body?—if he were not what you know him to be, would your body bring you to this?—why is it his body that you want, and no other?—do you think that you are damning them, the things you both have lived by?—are you damning that which you are honoring in this very moment, by your very desire? . . . She did not have to hear the words, she knew them, she had always known them. . . . After a while, she lost the glow of that knowledge, and there was nothing left but pain and the palms that were pressed to the sheet—and the almost indifferent wonder whether he, too, was awake and fighting the same torture. She heard no sound in the house and saw no light from his window on the tree trunks outside. After a long while she heard, from the darkness of his room, two sounds that gave her a full answer; she knew that he was awake and that he would not come; it was the sound of a step and the click of a cigarette lighter. Richard Halley stopped playing, turned away from the piano and glanced at Dagny, He saw her drop her face with the involuntary movement of hiding too strong an emotion, he rose, smiled and said softly, "Thank you." "Oh no . . ." she whispered, knowing that the gratitude was hers and that it was futile to express it. She was thinking of the years when the works he had just played for her were being written, here, in his small cottage on a ledge of the valley, when all this prodigal magnificence of sound was being shaped by him as a flowing monument to a concept which equates the sense of life with the sense of beauty—while she had walked through the streets of New York in a hopeless quest for some form of enjoyment, with the screeches of a modern symphony running after her, as if spit by the infected throat of a loud-speaker coughing its malicious hatred of existence. "But I mean it," said Richard Halley, smiling. "I'm a businessman and I never do anything without payment. You've paid me. Do you see why I wanted to play for you tonight?" She raised her head. He stood in the middle of his living room, they were alone, with the window open to the summer night, to the dark trees on a long sweep of ledges descending toward the glitter of the valley's distant lights. "Miss Taggart, how many people are there to whom my work means as much as it does to you?" "Not many," she answered simply, neither as boast nor flattery, but as an impersonal tribute to the exacting values involved. "That is the payment I demand. Not many can afford it. I don't mean your enjoyment, I don't mean your emotion—emotions be damned!—I mean your understanding and the fact that your enjoyment was of the same nature as mine, that it came from the same source: from your intelligence, from the conscious judgment of a mind able to judge my work by the standard of the same values that went to write it—I mean, not the fact that you felt, but that you felt what I wished you to feel, not the fact that you admire my work, but that you admire it for the things I wished to be admired." He chuckled. "There's only one passion in most artists more violent than their desire for admiration: their fear of identifying the nature of such admiration as they do receive. But it's a fear I've never shared. I do not fool myself about my work or the response I seek—I value both too highly. I do not care to be admired causelessly, emotionally, intuitively, instinctively—or blindly, I do not care for blindness in any form, I have too much to show—or for deafness, I have too much to say. I do not care to be admired by anyone's heart—only by someone's head. And when I find a customer --------------------------------------- 596 with that invaluable capacity, then my performance is a mutual trade to mutual profit. An artist is a trader, Miss Taggart, the hardest and most exacting of all traders. Now do you understand me?" "Yes," she said incredulously, "I do," incredulously because she was hearing her own symbol of moral pride, chosen by a man she had least expected to choose it. "If you do, why did you look quite so tragic just a moment ago? What is it that you regret?" "The years when your work has remained unheard." "But it hasn't. I've given two or three concerts every year. Here, in Galt's Gulch. I am giving one next week. I hope you'll come. The price of admission is twenty-five cents." She could not help laughing. He smiled, then his face slipped slowly into earnestness, as under the tide of some unspoken contemplation of his own. He looked at the darkness beyond the window, at a spot where, in a clearing of the branches, with the moonlight draining its color, leaving only its metallic luster, the sign of the dollar hung like a curve of shining steel engraved on the sky. "Miss Taggart, do you see why I'd give three dozen modern artists for one real businessman? Why I have much more in common with Ellis Wyatt or Ken Danagger—who happens to be tone deaf—than with men like Mort Liddy and Balph Eubank? Whether it's a symphony or a coal mine, all work is an act of creating and comes from the same source: from an inviolate capacity to see through one's own eyes—which means: the capacity to perform a rational identification -—which means: the capacity to sew, to connect and to make what had not been seen, connected and made before. That shining vision which they talk about as belonging to the authors of symphonies and novels—what do they think is the driving faculty of men who discover how to use oil, how to run a mine, how to build an electric motor? That sacred fire which is said to burn within musicians and poets—what do they suppose moves an industrialist to defy the whole world for the sake of his new metal, as the inventors of the airplane, the builders of the railroads, the discoverers of new germs or new continents have done through all the ages? . . . An intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth, Miss Taggart? Have you heard the moralists and the art lovers of the centuries talk about the artist's intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth? Name me a greater example of such devotion than the act of a man who says that the earth does turn, or the act of a man who says that an alloy of steel and copper has certain properties which enable it to do certain things, that it is and does—and let the world rack him or ruin him, he will not bear false witness to the evidence of his mind! This, Miss Taggart, this sort of spirit, courage and love for truth—as against a sloppy bum who goes around proudly assuring you that he has almost reached the perfection of a lunatic, because he's an artist who hasn't the faintest idea what his art work is or means, he's not restrained by such crude concepts as 'being' or 'meaning’ he's the vehicle of higher mysteries, he doesn't know how he created his work or why, it just came out of him spontaneously, like vomit out of a drunkard, he did not think, he wouldn't stoop to thinking, he just felt it, all he has to do is feel— he feels, the flabby, loose-mouthed, shifty-eyed, drooling, shivering, uncongealed bastard! I, who know what discipline, what effort, what tension of mind, what unrelenting strain upon one's power of clarity are needed to produce a work of art—I, who know that it requires a labor which makes a chain gang look like rest and a severity no army drilling sadist could impose—I'll take the operator of a coal mine over any walking vehicle of higher mysteries. The operator knows that it's not his feelings that keep the coal carts moving under the earth—and he knows what does keep them moving. --------------------------------------- 597 Feelings? Oh yes, we do feel, he, you and I—we are, in fact, the only people capable of feeling— and we know where our feelings come from. But what we did not know and have delayed learning for too long is the nature of those who claim that they cannot account for their feelings. We did not know what it is that they feel. We are learning it now. It was a costly error. And those most guilty of it, will pay the hardest price—as, in justice, they must. Those most guilty of it were the real artists, who will now see that they are first to be exterminated and that they had prepared the triumph of their own exterminators by helping to destroy their only protectors. For if there is more tragic a fool than the businessman who doesn't know that he's an exponent of man's highest creative spirit—it's the artist who thinks that the businessman is his enemy." It was true—she thought, when she walked through the streets of the valley, looking with a child's excitement at the shop windows sparkling in the sun—that the businesses here had the purposeful selectiveness of art—and that the art—she thought, when she sat in the darkness of a clapboard concert hall, listening to the controlled violence and the mathematical precision of Halley's music—had the stern discipline of business. Both had the radiance of engineering—she thought, when she sat among rows of benches under the open sky, watching Kay Ludlow on the stage. It was an experience she had not known since childhood —the experience of being held for three hours by a play that told a story she had not seen before, in lines she had not heard, uttering a theme that had not been picked from the hand- me-downs of the centuries. It was the forgotten delight of being held in rapt attention by the reins of the ingenious, the unexpected, the logical, the purposeful, the new—and of seeing it embodied in a performance of superlative artistry by a woman playing a character whose beauty of spirit matched her own physical perfection. "That's why I'm here, Miss Taggart," said Kay Ludlow, smiling in answer to her comment, after the performance. "Whatever quality of human greatness I have the talent to portray—that was the quality the outer world sought to degrade. They let me play nothing but symbols of depravity, nothing but harlots, dissipation-chasers and home-wreckers, always to be beaten at the end by the little girl next door, personifying the virtue of mediocrity. They used my talent—for the defamation of itself. That was why I quit." Not since childhood, thought Dagny, had she felt that sense of exhilaration after witnessing the performance of a play—the sense that life held things worth reaching, not the sense of having studied some aspect of a sewer there had been no reason to see. As the audience filed away into the darkness from the lighted rows of benches, she noticed Ellis Wyatt, Judge Narragansett, Ken Danagger, men who had once been said to despise all forms of art. The last image she caught, that evening, was the sight of two tall, straight, slender figures walking away together down a trail among the rocks, with the beam of a spotlight flashing once on the gold of their hair. They were Kay Ludlow and Ragnar Danneskjold—and she wondered whether she could bear to return to a world where these were the two doomed to destruction. The recaptured sense of her own childhood kept coming back to her whenever she met the two sons of the young woman who owned the bakery shop. She often saw them wandering down the trails of the valley—two fearless beings, aged seven and four. They seemed to face life as she had faced it. They did not have the look she had seen in the children of the outer world—a look of fear, half-secretive, half sneering, the look of a child's defense against an adult, the look of a being in the process of discovering that he is hearing lies and of learning to feel hatred. The two boys had the open, joyous, friendly confidence of kittens who do not expect to get hurt, they had an --------------------------------------- 598 innocently natural, non-boastful sense of their own value and as innocent a trust in any stranger's ability to recognize it, they had the eager curiosity that would venture anywhere with the certainty that life held nothing unworthy of or closed to discovery, and they looked as if, should they encounter malevolence, they would reject it contemptuously, not as dangerous, but as stupid, they would not accept it in bruised resignation as the law of existence, "They represent my particular career, Miss Taggart," said the young mother in answer to her comment, wrapping a loaf of fresh bread and smiling at her across the counter. "They're the profession I've chosen to practice, which, in spite of all the guff about motherhood, one can't practice successfully in the outer world. I believe you've met my husband, he's the teacher of economics who works as linesman for Dick McNamara. You know, of course, that there can be no collective commitments in this valley and that families or relatives are not allowed to come here, unless each person takes the striker's oath by his own independent conviction. I came here, not merely for the sake of my husband's profession, but for the sake of my own. I came here in order to bring up my sons as human beings. I would not surrender them to the educational systems devised to stunt a child's brain, to convince him that reason is impotent, that existence is an irrational chaos with which he's unable to deal, and thus reduce him to a state of chronic terror. You marvel at the difference between my children and those outside, Miss Taggart? Yet the cause is so simple. The cause is that here, in Galt's Gulch, there's no person who would not consider it monstrous ever to confront a child with the slightest suggestion of the irrational." She thought of the teachers whom the schools of the world had lost —when she looked at the three pupils of Dr. Akston, on the evening of their yearly reunion. The only other guest he had invited was Kay Ludlow. The six of them sat in the back yard of his house, with the light of the sunset on their faces, and the floor of the valley condensing into a soft blue vapor far below. She looked at his pupils, at the three pliant, agile figures half stretched on canvas chairs in poses of relaxed contentment, dressed in slacks, windbreakers and open-collared shirts: John Galt, Francisco d'Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjold. "Don't be astonished, Miss Taggart," said Dr. Akston, smiling, "and don't make the mistake of thinking that these three pupils of mine are some sort of superhuman creatures. They're something much greater and more astounding than that: they're normal men—a thing the world has never seen—and their feat is that they managed to survive as such. It does take an exceptional mind and a still more exceptional integrity to remain untouched by the brain-destroying influences of the world's doctrines, the accumulated evil of centuries—to remain human, since the human is the rational." She felt some new quality in Dr. Akston's attitude, some change in the sternness of his usual reserve; he seemed to include her in their circle, as if she were more than a guest. Francisco acted as if her presence at their reunion were natural and to be taken gaily for granted. Galt's face gave no hint of any reaction; his manner was that of a courteous escort who had brought her here at Dr. Akston's request. She noticed that Dr. Akston's eyes kept coming back to her, as if with the quiet pride of displaying his students to an appreciative observer. His conversation kept returning to a single theme, in the manner of a father who has found a listener interested in his most cherished subject: "You should have seen them, when they were in college, Miss Taggart. You couldn't have found three boys 'conditioned' to such different backgrounds, but— conditioners be damned!—they must have picked one another at first sight, among the thousands on that campus. --------------------------------------- 599 Francisco, the richest hen- in the world—Ragnar, the European aristocrat— and John, the self-made man, self-made in every sense, out of nowhere, penniless, parentless, tie-less. Actually, he was the son of a gas-station mechanic at some forsaken crossroads in Ohio, and he had left home at the age of twelve to make his own way—but I've always thought of him as if he had come into the world like Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, who sprang forth from Jupiter's head, fully grown and fully armed. . . . I remember the day when I saw the three of them for the first time. They were sitting at the back of the classroom—I was giving a special course for postgraduate students, so difficult a course that few outsiders ever ventured to attend these particular lectures. Those three looked too young even for freshmen— they were sixteen at the time, as I learned later. At the end of that lecture, John got up to ask me a question. It was a question which, as a teacher, I would have been proud to hear from a student who'd taken six years of philosophy. It was a question pertaining to Plato's metaphysics, which Plato hadn't had the sense to ask of himself. I answered—and I asked John to come to my office after the lecture. He came—all three of them came—I saw the two others in my anteroom and let them in. I talked to them for an hour—then I cancelled all my appointments and talked to them for the rest of the day. After which, I arranged to let them take that course and receive their credits for it. They took the course. They got the highest grades in the class. . . . They were majoring in two subjects: physics and philosophy. Their choice amazed everybody but me: modern thinkers considered it unnecessary to perceive reality, and modern physicists considered it unnecessary to think. I knew better; what amazed me was that these children knew it, too. . . . Robert Stadler was head of the Department of Physics, as I was head of the Department of Philosophy. He and I suspended all rules and restrictions for these three students, we spared them all the routine, unessential courses, we loaded them with nothing but the hardest tasks, and we cleared their way to major in our two subjects within their four years. They worked for it. And, during those four years, they worked for their living, besides. Francisco and Ragnar were receiving allowances from their parents, John had nothing, but all three of them held part-time jobs to earn their own experience and money. Francisco worked in a copper foundry, John worked in a railroad roundhouse, and Ragnar—no, Miss Taggart, Ragnar was not the least, but the most studiously sedate of the three— he worked as clerk in the university library. They had time for everything they wanted, but no time for people or for any communal campus activities. They . . . Ragnar!" he interrupted himself suddenly, sharply. "Don't sit on the ground!" Danneskjold had slipped down and was now sitting on the grass, with his head leaning against Kay Ludlow's knees. He rose obediently, chuckling. Dr. Akston smiled with a touch of apology. "It's an old habit of mine," he explained to Dagny. "A 'conditioned' reflex, I guess. I used to tell him that in those college years, when I'd catch him sitting on the ground in my back yard, on cold, foggy evenings—he was reckless that way, he made me worry, he should have known it was dangerous and—" He stopped abruptly; he read in Dagny's startled eyes the same thought as his own: the thought of the kind of dangers the adult Ragnar had chosen to face. Dr. Akston shrugged, spreading his hands in a gesture of helpless self- mockery. Kay Ludlow smiled at him in understanding. "My house stood just outside the campus," he continued, sighing, "on a tall bluff over Lake Erie. We spent many evenings together, the four of us. We would sit just like this, in my back yard, on the nights of early fall or in the spring, only instead of this granite mountainside, we had the spread --------------------------------------- 600 of the lake before us, stretching off into a peacefully unlimited distance. I had to work harder on those nights than in any classroom, answering all the questions they'd ask me, discussing the kind of issues they'd raise. About midnight, I would fix some hot chocolate and force them to drink it—the one thing I suspected was that they never took time to eat properly—and then we'd go on talking, while the lake vanished into solid darkness and the sky seemed lighter than the earth. There were a few tunes when we stayed there till I noticed suddenly that the sky was turning darker and the lake was growing pale and we were within a few sentences of daylight. I should have known better, I knew that they weren't getting enough sleep as it was, but I forgot it occasionally, I lost my sense of time— you see, when they were there, I always felt as ft it were early morning and a long, inexhaustible day were stretching ahead before us. They never spoke of what they wished they might do in the future, they never wondered whether some mysterious omnipotence had favored them with some unknowable talent to achieve the things they wanted— they spoke of what they would do. Does affection tend to make one a coward? I know that the only times I felt fear were occasional moments when I listened to them and thought of what the world was becoming and what they would have to encounter in the future. Fear? Yes—but it was more than fear. It was the kind of emotion that makes men capable of killing—when I thought that the purpose of the world's trend was to destroy these children, that these three sons of mine were marked for immolation. Oh yes, I would have killed— but whom was there to kill? It was everyone and no one, there was no single enemy, no center and no villain, it was not the simpering social worker incapable of earning a penny or the thieving bureaucrat scared of his own shadow, it was the whole of the earth rolling into an obscenity of horror, pushed by the hand of every would-be decent man who believed that need is holier than ability, and pity is holier than justice. But these were only occasional moments. It was not my constant feeling. I listened to my children and I knew that nothing would defeat them. I looked at them, as they sat in my back yard, and beyond my house there were the tall, dark buildings of what was still a monument to unenslaved thought—the Patrick Henry University— and farther in the distance there were the lights of Cleveland, the orange glow of steel mills behind batteries of smokestacks, the twinkling red dots of radio towers, the long white rays of airports on the black edge of the sky—and I thought that in the name of any greatness that had ever existed and moved this world, the greatness of which they were the last descendants, they would win, . . . I remember one night when I noticed that John had been silent for a long time —and I saw that he had fallen asleep, stretched there on the ground. The two others confessed that he had not slept for three days. I sent the two of them home at once, but I didn't have the heart to disturb him. It was a warm spring night, I brought a blanket to cover him, and I let him sleep where he was. I sat there beside him till morning—and as I watched his face in the starlight, then the first ray of the sun on his untroubled forehead and closed eyelids, what I experienced was not a prayer, I do not pray, but that state of spirit at which a prayer is a misguided attempt: a full, confident, affirming self-dedication to my love of the right, to the certainty that the right would win and that this boy would have the kind of future he deserved." He moved his arm, pointing to the valley. "I did not expect it to be as great as this—or as hard." It had grown dark and the mountains had blended with the sky. --------------------------------------- 601 Hanging detached in space, there were the lights of the valley below them, the red breath of Stockton's foundry above, and the lighted string of windows of Mulligan's house, like a railroad car imbedded in the sky. "I did have a rival," said Dr. Akston slowly. "It was Robert Stadler. . . . Don't frown, John—it's past. . . . John- did love him, once. Well, so did I—no, not quite, but what one felt for a mind like Stadler's was painfully close to love, it was that rarest of pleasures: admiration. No, I did not love him, but he and I had always felt as if we were fellow survivors from some vanishing age or land, in the gibbering swamp of mediocrity around us. The mortal sin of Robert Stadler was that he never identified his proper homeland. . . . He hated stupidity. It was the only emotion I had ever seen him display toward people—a biting, bitter, weary hatred for any ineptitude that dared to oppose him. He wanted his own way, he wanted to be left alone to pursue it, he wanted to brush people out of his path— and he never identified the means to it or the nature of his path and of his enemies. He took a short cut. Are you smiling, Miss Taggart? You hate him, don't you? Yes, you know the kind of short cut he took. . . . He told you that we were rivals for these three students. That was true—or rather, that was not the way I thought of it, but I knew that he did. Well, if we were rivals, I had one advantage: I knew why they needed both our professions; he never understood their interest in mine. He never understood its importance to himself— which, incidentally, is what destroyed him. But in those years he was still alive enough to grasp at these three students. 'Grasp' was the word for it. Intelligence being the only value he worshipped, he clutched them as if they were a private treasure of his own. He had always been a very lonely man. I think that in the whole of his life, Francisco and Ragnar were his only love, and John was his only passion. It was John whom he regarded as his particular heir, as his future, as his own immortality. John intended to be an inventor, which meant that he was to be a physicist; he was to take his postgraduate course under Robert Stadler. Francisco intended to leave after graduation and go to work; he was to be the perfect blend of both of us, his two intellectual fathers: an industrialist. And Ragnar—you didn't know what profession Ragnar had chosen, Miss Taggart? No, it wasn't stunt pilot, or jungle explorer, or deep-sea diver. It was something much more courageous than these. Ragnar intended to be a philosopher. An abstract, theoretical, academic, cloistered, ivory-tower philosopher. . . . Yes, Robert Stadler loved them. And yet—I have said that I would have killed to protect them, only there was no one to kill. If that were the solution—which, of course, it isn't—the man to kill was Robert Stadler. Of any one person, of any single guilt for the evil which is now destroying the world—his was the heaviest guilt. He had the mind to know better. His was the only name of honor and achievement, used to sanction the rule of the looters. He was the man who delivered science into the power of the looters' guns. John did not expect it. Neither did I. . . . John came back for his postgraduate course in physics. But he did not finish it. He left, on the day when Robert Stadler endorsed the establishment of a State Science Institute. I met Stadler by chance in a corridor of the university, as he came out of his office after his last conversation with John. He looked changed. I hope that I shall never have to see again a change of that kind in a man's face. He saw me approaching—and he did not know, but I knew, what made him whirl upon me and cry, Tin so sick of all of you Impractical idealists!1 I turned away. I knew that I had heard a man pronounce a death sentence upon himself. . . . Miss Taggart, do you remember the question you asked me about my three pupils?" "Yes," she whispered. --------------------------------------- 602 "I could gather, from your question, the nature of what Robert Stadler had said to you about them. Tell me, why did he speak of them at all?" He saw the faint movement of her bitter smile. "He told me their story as a justification for his belief in the futility of human intelligence. He told it to me as an example of his disillusioned hope. Theirs was the kind of ability,' he said, 'one expects to see, in the future, changing the course of the world'." "Well, haven't they done so?" She nodded, slowly, holding her head inclined for a long moment hi acquiescence and in homage. "What I want you to understand, Miss Taggart, is the full evil of those who claim to have become convinced that this earth, by its nature, is a realm of malevolence where the good has no chance to win. Let them check their premises. Let them check their standards of value. Let them check—before they grant themselves the unspeakable license of evil-as-necessity—whether they know what is the good and what are the conditions it requires. Robert Stadler now believes that intelligence is futile and that human life can be nothing but irrational. Did he expect John Galt to become a great scientist, willing to work under the orders of Dr. Floyd Ferris? Did he expect Francisco d'Anconia to become a great industrialist, willing to produce under the orders and for the benefit of Wesley Mouch? Did he expect Ragnar Danneskjold to become a great philosopher, willing to preach, under the orders of Dr. Simon Pritchett, that there is no mind and that might is right? Would that have been a future which Robert Stadler would have considered rational? I want you to observe, Miss Taggart, that those who cry the loudest about their disillusionment, about the failure of virtue, the futility of reason, the impotence of logic— are those who have achieved the full, exact, logical result of the ideas they preached, so mercilessly logical that they dare not identify it. In a world that proclaims the non-existence of the mind, the moral righteousness of rule by brute force, the penalizing of the competent in favor of the incompetent, the sacrifice of the best to the worst —in such a world, the best have to turn against society and have to become its deadliest enemies. In such a world John Galt, the man of incalculable intellectual power, will remain an unskilled laborer— Francisco d'Anconia, the miraculous producer of wealth, will become a wastrel—and Ragnar Danneskjold, the man of enlightenment, will become the man of violence. Society—and Dr. Robert Stadler—have achieved everything they advocated. What complaint do they now have to make? That the universe is irrational? Is it?" He smiled; his smile had the pitiless gentleness of certainty. "Every man builds his world in his own image," he said. "He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice. If he abdicates his power, he abdicates the status of man, and the grinding chaos of the irrational is what he achieves as his sphere of existence—by his own choice. Whoever preserves a single thought uncorrupted by any concession to the will of others, whoever brings into reality a matchstick or a patch of garden made in the image of his thought—he, and to that extent, is a man, and that extent is the sole measure of his virtue. They"—he pointed at his pupils— "made no concessions. This"—he pointed at the valley—"is the measure of what they preserved and of what they are. . . . Now I can repeat my answer to the question you asked me, knowing that you will understand it fully. You asked me whether I was proud of the way my three sons had turned out. I am more proud than I had ever hoped to be. I am proud of their every action, of their every goal— and of every value they've chosen. And this, Dagny, is my full answer." --------------------------------------- 603 The sudden sound of her first name was pronounced in the tone of a father; he spoke his last two sentences, looking, not at her, but at Galt. She saw Galt answering him by an open glance held steady for an instant, like a signal of affirmation. Then Galt's eyes moved to hers. She saw him looking at her as if she bore the unspoken title that hung in the silence between them, the title Dr. Akston had granted her, but had not pronounced and none of the others had caught— she saw, in Galt's eyes, a glance of amusement at her shock, of support and, incredibly, of tenderness. D'Anconia Copper No. I was a small cut on the face of the mountain, that looked as if a knife had made a few angular slashes, leaving shelves of rock, red as a wound, on the reddish-brown flank. The sun beat down upon it. Dagny stood at the edge of a path, holding on to Galt's arm on one side and to Francisco's on the other, the wind blowing against their faces and out over the valley, two thousand feet below. This—she thought, looking at the mine—was the story of human wealth written across the mountains: a few pine trees hung over the cut, contorted by the storms that had raged through the wilderness for centuries, six men worked on the shelves, and an inordinate amount of complex machinery traced delicate lines against the sky; the machinery did most of the work. She noticed that Francisco was displaying his domain to Galt as much as to her, as much or more. "You haven't seen it since last year, John. . . . John, wait till you see it a year from now. I'll be through, outside, in just a few months—and then this will be my full-time job." "Hell, no, John!" he said, laughing, in answer to a question—but she caught suddenly the particular quality of his glance whenever it rested on Galt: it was the quality she had seen in his eyes when he had stood in her room, clutching the edge of a table to outlive an unlivable moment; he had looked as if he were seeing someone before him; it was Galt, she thought; it was Galt's image that had carried him through. Some part of her felt a dim dread: the effort which Francisco had made in that moment to accept her loss and his rival, as the payment demanded of him for his battle, had cost him so much that he was now unable to suspect the truth Dr. Akston had guessed. What will it do to him when he learns?—she wondered, and felt a bitter voice reminding her that there would, perhaps, never be any truth of this kind to learn. Some part of her felt a dim tension as she watched the way Galt looked at Francisco: it was an open, simple, unreserved glance of surrender to an unreserved feeling. She felt the anxious wonder she had never fully named or dismissed: wonder whether this feeling would bring him down to the ugliness of renunciation. But most of her mind seemed swept by some enormous sense of release, as if she were laughing at all doubts. Her glance kept going back over the path they had traveled to get here, over the two exhausting miles of a twisted trail that ran, like a precarious corkscrew, from the tip of her feet down to the floor of the valley. Her eyes kept studying it, her mind racing with some purpose of its own. Brush, pines and a clinging carpet of moss went climbing from the green slopes far below, up the granite ledges. The moss and the brush vanished gradually, but the pines went on, struggling upward in thinning strands, till only a few dots of single trees were left, rising up the naked rock toward the white sunbursts of snow in the crevices at the peaks. She looked at the spectacle of the most ingenious mining machinery she had ever seen, then at the trail where the plodding hoofs and swaying shapes of mules provided the most ancient form of transportation. "Francisco," she asked, pointing, "who designed the machines?" "They're just adaptations of standard equipment." --------------------------------------- 604 "Who designed them?" "I did. We don't have many men to spare. We had to make up for it." "You're wasting an unconscionable amount of manpower and time, carting your ore on muleback. You ought to build a railroad down to the valley." She was looking down and did not notice the sudden, eager shot of his glance to her face or the sound of caution in his voice: "I know it, but it's such a difficult job that the mine's output won't justify it at present." "Nonsense! It's much simpler than it looks. There's a pass to the east where there's an easier grade and softer stone, I watched it on the way up, it wouldn't take so many curves, three miles of rail or less would do it." She was pointing east, she did not notice the intensity with which the two men were watching her face. "Just a narrow-gauge track is all you’ll need . . . like the first railroads . . . that's where the first railroads started—at mines, only they were coal mines. . . . Look, do you see that ridge? There's plenty of clearance for a three-foot gauge, you wouldn't need to do any blasting or widening. Do you see where there's a slow rise for a stretch of almost half a mile? That would be no worse than a four per cent grade, any engine could manage it." She was speaking with a swift, bright certainty, conscious of nothing but the joy of performing her natural function in her natural world where nothing could take precedence over the act of offering a solution to a problem. "The road will pay for itself within three years. I think, at a rough glance, that the costliest part of the job will be a couple of steel trestles—and there's one spot where I might have to blast a tunnel, but it's only for a hundred feet or less. I'll need a steel trestle to throw the track across that gorge and bring it here, but it's not as hard as it looks—let me show you, have you got a piece of paper?" She did not notice with what speed Galt produced a notebook and a pencil and thrust them into her hands—she seized them, as if she expected them to be there, as if she were giving orders on a construction site where details of this kind were not to delay her. "Let me give you a rough idea of what I mean. If we drive diagonal piles into the rock"—she was sketching rapidly—"the actual steel span would be only six hundred feet long—it would cut off this last half mile of your corkscrew turns—I could have the rail laid in three months and—" She stopped. When she looked up at their faces, the fire had gone out of hers. She crumpled her sketch and flung it aside into the red dust of the gravel. "Oh, what for?" she cried, the despair breaking out for the first time. "To build three miles of railroad and abandon a transcontinental system!" The two men were looking at her, she saw no reproach in their faces, only a look of understanding which was almost compassion. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, dropping her eyes. "If you change your mind," said Francisco, "I'll hire you on the spot-—or Midas will give you a loan in five minutes to finance that railroad, if you want to own it yourself." She shook her head. "I can't . . ." she whispered, "not yet . . ." She raised her eyes, knowing that they knew the nature of her despair and that it was useless to hide her struggle. "I've tried it once," she said. "I've tried to give it up . . . I know what it will mean . . . I'll think of it with every crosstie I'll see laid here, with every spike driven . . . I'll think of that other tunnel and . . . and of Nat Taggart's bridge. . . . Oh, if only I didn't have to hear about it! If only I could stay here and never know what they're doing to the railroad, and never learn when it goes!" "You'll have to hear about it," said Galt; it was that ruthless tone, peculiarly his, which sounded implacable by being simple, devoid of any --------------------------------------- 605 emotional value, save the quality of respect for facts. "You'll hear the whole course of the last agony of Taggart Transcontinental. You'll hear about every wreck. You'll hear about every discontinued train. You'll hear about every abandoned line. You'll hear about the collapse of the Taggart Bridge. Nobody stays in this valley except by a full, conscious choice based on a full, conscious knowledge of every fact involved in his decision. Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever." She looked at him, her head lifted, knowing what chance he was rejecting. She thought that no man of the outer world would have said this to her at this moment—she thought of the world's code that worshipped white lies as an act of mercy—she felt a stab of revulsion against that code, suddenly seeing its full ugliness for the first time— she felt an enormous pride for the tight, clean face of the man before her—he saw the shape of her mouth drawn firm in self-control, yet softened by some tremulous emotion, while she answered quietly, "Thank you. You're right." "You don't have to answer me now," he said. "You'll tell me when you've decided. There's still a week left." "Yes," she said calmly, "just one more week." He turned, picked up her crumpled sketch, folded it neatly and slipped it into his pocket. "Dagny," said Francisco, "when you weigh your decision, consider the first time you quit, if you wish, but consider everything about it. In this valley, you won't have to torture yourself by shingling roofs and building paths that lead nowhere." "Tell me," she asked suddenly, "how did you find out where I was, that time?'1 He smiled. "It was John who told me. The destroyer, remember? You wondered why the destroyer had not sent anyone after you. But he had. It was he who sent me there." "He sent you?" "Yes." "What did he say to you?" "Nothing much. Why?" "What did he say? Do you remember the exact words?" "Yes, I do remember. He said, 'If you want your chance, take it. You’ve earned it.' I remember, because—" He turned to Galt with the untroubled frown of a slight, casual puzzle. "John, I never quite understood why you said it. Why that? Why—my chance?" "Do you mind if I don't answer you now?" "No, but—" Someone hailed him from the ledges of the mine, and he went off swiftly, as if the subject required no further attention. She was conscious of the long span of moments she took while turning her head to Galt. She knew that she would find him looking at her. She could read nothing in his eyes, except a hint of derision, as if he knew what answer she was seeking and that she would not find it in his face. "You gave him a chance that you wanted?" "I could have no chance till he'd had every chance possible to him." "How did you know what he had earned?" "I had been questioning him about you for ten years, every time I could, in every way, from every angle. No, he did not tell me—it was the way he spoke of you that did. He didn't want to speak, but he spoke too eagerly, eagerly and reluctantly together—and then I knew that it had not been just a childhood friendship. I knew how much he had given up for the strike and how desperately he hadn't given it up forever. I? I was merely questioning him --------------------------------------- 606 about one of our most important future strikers—as I questioned him about many others," The hint of derision remained in his eyes; he knew that she had wanted to hear this, but that this was not the answer to the one question she feared. She looked from his face to Francisco's approaching figure, not hiding from herself any longer that her sudden, heavy, desolate anxiety was the fear that Galt might throw the three of them into the hopeless waste of self- sacrifice. Francisco approached, looking at her thoughtfully, as if weighing some question of his own, but some question that gave a sparkle of reckless gaiety to his eyes. "Dagny, there's only one week left," he said. "If you decide to go back, it will be the last, for a long time," There was no reproach and no sadness in his voice, only some softened quality as sole evidence of emotion. "If you leave now—oh yes, you'll still come back —but it won't be soon. And I—in a few months, I'll come to live here permanently, so if you go, I won't see you again, perhaps for years. I'd like you to spend this last week with me. I'd like you to move to my house. As my guest, nothing else, for no reason, except that I'd like you to." He said it simply, as if nothing were or could be hidden among the three of them. She saw no sign of astonishment in Galt's face. She felt some swift tightening in her chest, something hard, reckless and almost vicious that had the quality of a dark excitement driving her blindly into action. "But I'm an employee," she said, with an odd smile, looking at Galt, "I have a job to finish." "I won't hold you to it," said Galt, and she felt anger at the tone of his voice, a tone that granted her no hidden significance and answered nothing but the literal meaning of her words. "You can quit the job any time you wish. It's up to you." "No, it isn't. I'm a prisoner here. Don't you remember? I'm to take orders. I have no preferences to follow, no wishes to express, no decisions to make. I want the decision to be yours." "You want it to be mine?" "Yes!" "You've expressed a wish." The mockery of his voice was in its seriousness—and she threw at him defiantly, not smiling, as if daring him to continue pretending that he did not understand: "All right. That's what I wish!" He smiled, as at a child's complex scheming which he had long since seen through. "Very well." But he did not smile, as he said, turning to Francisco, "Then—no." The defiance toward an adversary who was the sternest of teachers, was all that Francisco had read in her face. He shrugged, regretfully, but gaily. "You're probably right. If you can't prevent her from going back—nobody can." She was not hearing Francisco's words. She was stunned by the magnitude of the relief that hit her at the sound of Galt's answer, a relief that told her the magnitude of the fear it swept away. She knew, only after it was over, what had hung for her on his decision; she knew that had his answer been different, it would have destroyed the valley in her eyes. She wanted to laugh, she wanted to embrace them both and laugh with them in celebration., it did not seem to matter whether she would stay here or return to the world, a week was like an endless span of time, either course seemed flooded by an unchanging sunlight—and no struggle was hard, she thought, if this was the nature of existence. The relief did not come from the knowledge that he would not renounce her, nor from arty assurance that --------------------------------------- 607 she would win—the relief came from the certainty that he would always remain what he was. "I don't know whether I'll go back to the world or not," she said soberly, but her voice was trembling with a subdued violence, which was pure gaiety. "I'm sorry that I'm still unable to make a decision. I'm certain of only one thing: that I won't be afraid to decide." Francisco took the sudden brightness of her face as proof that the incident had been of no significance. But Galt understood; he glanced at her and the glance was part amusement, part contemptuous reproach. He said nothing, until they were alone, walking down the trail to the valley. Then he glanced at her again, the amusement sharper in his eyes, and said, "You had to put me to a test in order to learn whether I'd fall to the lowest possible stage of altruism?" She did not answer, but looked at him in open, undefensive admission. He chuckled and looked away, and a few steps later said slowly, in the tone of a quotation, "Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever." Part of the intensity of her relief—she thought, as she walked silently by his side—was the shock of a contrast: she had seen, with the sudden, immediate vividness of sensory perception, an exact picture of what the code of self-sacrifice would have meant, if enacted by the three of them. Galt, giving up the woman he wanted, for the sake of his friend, faking his greatest feeling out of existence and himself out of her life, no matter what the cost to him and to her, then dragging the rest of his years through the waste of the unreached and unfulfilled —she, turning for consolation to a second choice, faking a love she did not feel, being willing to fake, since her will to self-deceit was the essential required for Galt's self-sacrifice, then living out her years in hopeless longing, accepting, as relief for an unhealing wound, some moments of weary affection, plus the tenet that love is futile and happiness is not to be found on earth—Francisco, struggling in the elusive fog of a counterfeit reality, his life a fraud staged by the two who were dearest to him and most trusted, struggling to grasp what was missing from his happiness, struggling down the brittle scaffold of a lie over the abyss of the discovery that he was not the man she loved, but only a resented substitute, half-charity-patient, half-crutch, his perceptiveness becoming his danger and only his surrender to lethargic stupidity protecting the shoddy structure of his joy, struggling and giving up and settling into the dreary routine of the conviction that fulfillment is impossible to man—the three of them, who had had all the gifts of existence spread out before them, ending up as embittered hulks, who cry in despair that life is frustration— the frustration of not being able to make unreality real. But this—she thought—was men's moral code in the outer world, a code that told them to act on the premise of one another's weakness, deceit and stupidity, and this was the pattern of their lives, this struggle through a fog of the pretended and unacknowledged, this belief that facts are not solid or final, this state where, denying any form to reality, men stumble through life, unreal and unformed, and die having never been born. Here—she thought, looking down through green branches at the glittering roofs of the valley—one dealt with men as clear and firm as sun and rocks, and the immense light- heartedness of her relief came from the knowledge that no battle was hard, no decision was dangerous where there was no soggy uncertainty, no shapeless evasion to encounter. "Did it ever occur to you, Miss Taggart," said Galt, in the casual tone of an abstract discussion, but as if he had known her thoughts, "that there is no conflict of interests among men, neither in business nor in trade nor in their most personal desires—if they omit the irrational from their view of the possible and destruction from their view of the practical? There is no --------------------------------------- 608 conflict, and no call for sacrifice, and no man is a threat to the aims of another—if men understand that reality is an absolute not to be faked, that lies do not work, that the unearned cannot be had, that the undeserved cannot be given, that the destruction of a value which is, will not bring value to that which isn't. The businessman who wishes to gain a market by throttling a superior competitor, the worker who wants a share of his employer's wealth, the artist who envies a rival's higher talent—they're all wishing facts out of existence, and destruction is the only means of their wish. If they pursue it, they will not achieve a market, a fortune or an immortal fame— they will merely destroy production, employment and art. A wish for the irrational is not to be achieved, whether the sacrificial victims are willing or not. But men will not cease to desire the impossible and will not lose their longing to destroy—so long as self-destruction and self-sacrifice are preached to them as the practical means of achieving the happiness of the recipients." He glanced at her and added slowly, a slight emphasis as sole change in the impersonal tone of his voice, "No one's happiness but my own is in my power to achieve or to destroy. You should have had more respect for him and for me than to fear what you had feared." She did not answer, she felt as if a word would overfill the fullness of this moment, she merely turned to him with a look of acquiescence that was disarmed, childishly humble and would have been an apology but for its shining joy, He smiled—in amusement, in understanding, almost in comradeship of the things they shared and in sanction of the things she felt. They went on in silence, and it seemed to her that this was a summer day out of a carefree youth she had never lived, it was just a walk through the country by two people who were free for the pleasure of motion and sunlight, with no unsolved burdens left to carry. Her sense of lightness blended with the weightless sense of walking downhill, as if she needed no effort to walk, only to restrain herself from flying, and she walked, fighting the speed of the downward pull, her body leaning back, the wind blowing her skirt like a sail to brake her motion. They parted at the bottom of the trail; he went to keep an appointment with Midas Mulligan, while she went to Hammond's Market with a list of items for the evening's dinner as the sole concern of her world. His wife—she thought, letting herself hear consciously the word Dr. Akston had not pronounced, the word she had long since felt, but never named—for three weeks she had been his wife in every sense but one, and that final one was still to be earned, but this much was real and today she could permit herself to know it, to feel it, to live with that one thought for this one day. The groceries, which Lawrence Hammond was lining up at her order on the polished counter of his store, had never appeared to her as such shining objects—and, intent upon them, she was only half-conscious of some disturbing element, of something that was wrong but that her mind was too full to notice. She noticed it only when she saw Hammond pause, frown and stare upward, at the sky beyond his open store front. In time with his words: "I think somebody's trying to repeat your stunt, Miss Taggart," she realized that it was the sound of an airplane overhead and that it had been there for some time, a sound which was not to be heard in the valley after the first of this month. They rushed out to the street. The small silver cross of a plane was circling above the ring of mountains, like a sparkling dragonfly about to brush the peaks with its wings. "What does he think he's doing?" said Lawrence Hammond. There were people at the doors of the shops and standing still all down the street, looking up. --------------------------------------- 609 "Is . . . is anyone expected?" she asked and was astonished by the anxiety of her own voice. "No," said Hammond. "Everyone who's got any business here is here." He did not sound disturbed, but grimly curious. The plane was now a small dash, like a silver cigarette, streaking against the flanks of the mountains: it had dropped lower. "Looks like a private monoplane," said Hammond, squinting against the sun. "Not an army model." "Will the ray screen hold out?" she asked tensely, in a tone of defensive resentment against the approach of an enemy. He chuckled. "Hold out?" "Will he see us?" "That screen is safer than an underground vault, Miss Taggart. As you ought to know." The plane rose, and for a moment it was only a bright speck, like a bit of paper blown by the wind—it hovered uncertainly., then dropped down again into another circling spiral. "What in hell is he after?" said Hammond. Her eyes shot suddenly to his face. "He's looking for something," said Hammond. "What?" "Is there a telescope somewhere?" "Why—yes, at the airfield, but—" He was about to ask what was the matter with her voice—but she was running across the road, down the path to the airfield, not knowing that she was running, driven by a reason she had no time and no courage to name. She found Dwight Sanders at the small telescope of the control tower; he was watching the plane attentively, with a puzzled frown. "Let me see it!" she snapped. She clutched the metal tube, she pressed her eye to the lens, her hand guiding the tube slowly to follow the plane—then he saw that her hand had stopped, but her fingers did not open and her face remained bent over the telescope, pressed to the lens, until he looked closer and saw that the lens was pressed to her forehead. "What's the matter, Miss Taggart?" She raised her head slowly. "Is it anyone you know, Miss Taggart?" She did not answer. She hurried away, her steps rushing with the zigzagging aimlessness of uncertainty—she dared not run, but she had to escape, she had to hide, she did not know whether she was afraid to be seen by the men around her or by the plane above—the plane whose silver wings bore the number that belonged to Hank Rearden. She stopped when she stumbled over a rock and fell and noticed that she had been running. She was on a small ledge in the cliffs above the airfield, hidden from the sight of the town, open to the view of the sky. She rose, her hands groping for support along a granite wall, feeling the warmth of the sun on the rock under her palms—she stood, her back pressed to the wall, unable to move or to take her eyes off the plane. The plane was circling slowly, dipping down, then rising again, struggling—she thought—as she had struggled, to distinguish the sight of a wreck in a hopeless spread of crevices and boulders, an elusive spread neither clear enough to abandon nor to survey. He was searching for the wreck of her plane, he had not given up, and whatever the three weeks of it had cost him, whatever he felt, the only evidence he would give to the world and his only answer was this steady, insistent, monotonous drone of a motor carrying a fragile craft over every deadly foot of an inaccessible chain of mountains. --------------------------------------- 610 Through the brilliant purity of the summer air, the plane seemed intimately close, she could see it rock on precarious currents and bank under the thrusts of wind. She could see, and it seemed impossible that so clear a sight was closed to his eyes. The whole of the valley lay below him, flooded by sunlight, flaming with glass panes and green lawns, screaming to be seen— the end of his tortured quest, the fulfillment of more than his wishes, not the wreck of her plane and her body, but her living presence and his freedom— all that he was seeking or had ever sought was now spread open before him, open and waiting, his to be reached by a straight-line dive through the pure, clear air— his and asking nothing of him but the capacity to see. "Hank!" she screamed, waving her arms in desperate signal. "Hank!" She fell back against the rock, knowing that she had no way to reach him, that she had no power to give him sight, that no power on earth could pierce that screen except his own mind and vision. Suddenly and for the first time, she felt the screen, not as the most intangible, but as the most grimly absolute barrier in the world. Slumped against the rock, she watched, in silent resignation, the hopeless circles of the plane's struggle and its motor's uncomplaining cry for help, a cry she had no way to answer. The plane swooped down abruptly, but it was only the start of its final rise, it cut a swift diagonal across the mountains and shot into the open sky. Then, as if caught in the spread of a lake with no shores and no exit, it went sinking slowly and drowning out of sight. She thought, in bitter compassion, of how much he had failed to see. And I?—she thought. If she left the valley, the screen would close for her as tightly, Atlantis would descend under a vault of rays more impregnable than the bottom of the ocean, and she, too, would be left to struggle for the things she had not known how to see, she, too, would be left to fight a mirage of primordial savagery, while the reality of all that she desired would never come again within her reach, But the pull of the outer world, the pull that drew her to follow the plane, was not the image of Hank Rearden—she knew that she could not return to him, even if she returned to the world—the pull was the vision of Hank Rearden's courage and the courage of all those still fighting to stay alive. He would not give up the search for her plane, when all others had long since despaired, as he would not give up his mills, as he would not give up any goal he had chosen if a single chance was left. Was she certain that no chance remained for the world of Taggart Transcontinental? Was she certain that the terms of the battle were such that she could not care to win? They were right, the men of Atlantis, they were right to vanish if they knew that they left no value behind them—but until and unless she saw that no chance was untaken and no battle unfought, she had no right to remain among them. This was the question that had lashed her for weeks, but had not driven her to a glimpse of the answer. She lay awake, through the hours of that night, quietly motionless, following—like an engineer and like Hank Rearden—a process of dispassionate, precise, almost mathematical consideration, with no regard for cost or feeling. The agony which he lived in his plane, she lived it in a soundless cube of darkness, searching, but finding no answer. She looked at the inscriptions on the walls of her room, faintly visible in patches of starlight, but the help those men had called in their darkest hour was not hers to call. "Yes or no, Miss Taggart?" She looked at the faces of the four men in the soft twilight of Mulligan's living room: Galt, whose face had the serene, impersonal attentiveness of a scientist—Francisco, whose face was made expressionless by the hint of a smile, the kind of smile that would fit either answer— --------------------------------------- 611 Hugh Akston who looked compassionately gentle—Midas Mulligan, who had asked the question with no touch of rancor in his voice. Somewhere two thousand miles away, at this sunset hour, the page of a calendar was springing into light over the roofs of New York, saying: June 28—and it seemed to her suddenly that she was seeing it, as if it were hanging over the heads of these men. "I have one more day," she said steadily. "Will you let me have it? I think I've reached my decision, but I am not fully certain of it and I'll need all the certainty possible to me." "Of course," said Mulligan. "You have, in fact, until morning of the day after tomorrow. We'll wait." "We'll wait after that as well," said Hugh Akston, "though in your absence, if that be necessary." She stood by the window, facing them, and she felt a moment's satisfaction in the knowledge that she stood straight, that her hands did not tremble, that her voice sounded as controlled, uncomplaining and unpitying as theirs; it gave her a moment's feeling of a bond to them. "If any part of your uncertainty,” said Galt, "is a conflict between your heart and your mind—follow your mind." "Consider the reasons which make us certain that we are right," said Hugh Akston, "but not the fact that we are certain. If you are not convinced, ignore our certainty. Don't be tempted to substitute our judgment for your own," "Don't rely on our knowledge of what's best for your future," said Mulligan. "We do know, but it can't be best until you know it." "Don't consider our interests or desires," said Francisco. "You have no duty to anyone but yourself." She smiled, neither sadly nor gaily, thinking that none of it was the sort of advice she would have been given in the outer world. And knowing how desperately they wished to help her where no help was possible, she felt it was her part to give them reassurance. "I forced my way here," she said quietly, "and I was to bear responsibility for the consequences. I'm bearing it." Her reward was to see Galt smile; the smile was like a military decoration bestowed upon her. Looking away, she remembered suddenly Jeff Alien, the tramp aboard the Comet, in the moment when she had admired him for attempting to tell her that he knew where he was going, to spare her the burden of his aimlessness. She smiled faintly, thinking that she had now experienced it in both roles and knew that no action could be lower or more futile than for one person to throw upon another the burden of his abdication of choice. She felt an odd calm, almost a confident repose; she knew that it was tension, but the tension of a great clarity. She caught herself thinking: She's functioning well in an emergency, I'll be all right with her—and realized that she was thinking of herself. "Let it go till day after tomorrow, Miss Taggart," said Midas Mulligan. "Tonight you're still here." "Thank you," she said. She remained by the window, while they went on discussing the valley's business; it was their closing conference of the month. They had just finished dinner—and she thought of her first dinner in this house a month ago; she was wearing, as she had then worn, the gray suit that belonged in her office, not the peasant skirt that had been so easy to wear hi the sun. I'm still here tonight, she thought, her hand pressed possessively to the window sill. The sun had not yet vanished beyond the mountains, but the sky was an even, deep, deceptively clear blue that blended with the blue of invisible --------------------------------------- 612 clouds into a single spread, hiding the sun; only the edges of the clouds were outlined by a thin thread of flame, and it looked like a glowing, twisted net of neon tubing, she thought . . . like a chart of winding rivers . . . like . . . like the map of a railroad traced in white fire on the sky. She heard Mulligan giving Galt the names of those who were not returning to the outer world. "We have jobs for all of them," said Mulligan. "In fact, there's only ten or twelve men who're going back this year—mostly to finish off, convert whatever they own and come here permanently. I think this was our last vacation month, because before another year is over we'll all be living in this valley." "Good," said Galt. "We'll have to, from the way things are going outside." "Yes." "Francisco," said Mulligan, "you'll come back in a few months?" "In November at the latest," said Francisco. "I'll send you word by short wave, when I'm ready to come back—will you turn the furnace on in my house?" "I will," said Hugh Akston. "And I'll have your supper ready for you when you arrive." "John, I take it for granted," said Mulligan, "that you're not returning to New York this time." Galt took a moment to glance at him, then answered evenly, "I have not decided it yet." She noticed the shocked swiftness with which Francisco and Mulligan bent forward to stare at him—and the slowness with which Hugh Akston's glance moved to his face; Akston did not seem to be astonished. "You're not thinking of going back to that hell for another year, are you?" said Mulligan. "I am." "But—good God, John!—what for?" "I'll tell you, when I've decided." "But there's nothing left there for you to do. We got everybody we knew of or can hope to know of. Our list is completed, except for Hank Rearden—and we'll get him before the year is over—and Miss Taggart, if she so chooses. That's all. Your job is done. There's nothing to look for, out there—except the final crash, when the roof comes down on their heads." "I know it." "John, yours is the one head I don't want to be there when it happens." "You've never had to worry about me." "But don't you realize what stage they're coming to? They're only one step away from open violence—hell, they've taken the step and sealed and declared it long ago!—but in one more moment they'll see the full reality of what they've taken, exploding in their damned faces—plain, open, blind, arbitrary, blood shedding violence, running amuck, hitting anything and anyone at random. That's what I don't want to see you in the midst of." "I can take care of myself." "John, there's no reason for you to take the risk," said Francisco. "What risk?" "The looters are. worried about the men who've disappeared. They're suspecting something. You, of all people, shouldn't stay there any longer. There's always a chance that they might discover just who and what you are." "There's some chance. Not much." "But there's no reason whatever to take it. There's nothing left that Ragnar and I can't finish." Hugh Akston was watching them silently, leaning back in his chair; his face had that look of intensity, neither quite bitterness nor quite a SOS smile, with which a man watches a progression that interests him, but that lags a few steps behind his vision. --------------------------------------- 613 "If I go back," said Galt, "it won't be for our work. It will be to win the only thing I want from the world for myself, now that the work is done. I've taken nothing from the world and I've wanted nothing. But there's one thing which it's still holding and which is mine and which I won't let it have. No, I don't intend to break my oath, I won't deal with the looters, I won't be of any value or help to anyone out there, neither to looters nor neutrals—nor scabs. If I go, it won't be for anyone's sake but mine—and I don't think I'm risking my life, but if I am—well, I'm now free to risk it." He was not looking at her, but she had to turn away and stand pressed against the window frame, because her hands were trembling. "But, John!" cried Mulligan, waving his arm at the valley, "if anything happens to you, what would we—" He stopped abruptly and guiltily. Galt chuckled. "What were you about to say?" Mulligan waved his hand sheepishly, in a gesture of dismissal. "Were you about to say that if anything happens to me, I'll die as the worst failure in the world?" "All right," said Mulligan guiltily, "I won't say it. I won't say that we couldn't get along without you—we can, I won't beg you to stay here for our sake—I didn't think I'd ever revert to that rotten old plea, but, boy! —what a temptation it was, I can almost see why people do it. I know that whatever it is you want, if you wish to risk your life, that's all there is to it—but I'm thinking only that it's . . . oh God, John, it's such a valuable life!" Galt smiled. "I know it. That's why I don't think I'm risking it—I think I'll win." Francisco was now silent, he was watching Galt intently, with a frown of wonder, not as if he had found an answer, but as if he had suddenly glimpsed a question. "Look, John," said Mulligan, "since you haven't decided whether you'll go— you haven't decided it yet, have you?" "No, not yet." "Since you haven't, would you let me remind you of a few things, just for you to consider?" "Go ahead." "It's the chance dangers that I'm afraid of—the senseless, unpredictable dangers of a world falling apart. Consider the physical risks of complex machinery in the hands of blind fools and fear-crazed cowards. Just think of their railroads—you'd be taking a chance on some such horror as that Winston tunnel incident every time you stepped aboard a train—and there will be more incidents of that kind, coming faster and faster. They'll reach the stage where no day will pass without a major wreck." "I know it." "And the same will be happening in every other industry, wherever machines are used—the machines which they thought could replace our minds. Plane crashes, oil tank explosions, blast-furnace break-outs, high-tension wire electrocutions, subway cave-ins and trestle collapses —they'll see them all. The very machines that had made their life so safe, will now make it a continuous peril." "I know it." "I know that you know it, but have you considered it in every specific detail? Have you allowed yourself to visualize it? I want you to see the exact picture of what it is that you propose to enter—before you decide whether anything can justify your entering it. You know that the cities will be hit worst of all. The cities were made by the railroads and will go with them." "That's right." "When the rails are cut, the city of New York will starve in two days. --------------------------------------- 614 That's all the supply of food it's got. It's fed by a continent three thousand miles long. How will they carry food to New York? By directive and oxcart? But first, before it happens, they'll go through the whole of the agony—through the shrinking, the shortages, the hunger riots, the stampeding violence in the midst of the growing stillness." "They will." "They'll lose their airplanes first, then their automobiles, then their trucks, then their horse carts." "They will." "Their factories will stop, then their furnaces and their radios. Then their electric light system will go." "It will." "There's only a worn thread holding that continent together. There will be one train a day, then one train a week—then the Taggart Bridge will collapse and—" "No, it won't!" It was her voice and they whirled to her. Her face was white, but calmer than it had been when she had answered them last. Slowly, Galt rose to his feet and inclined his head, as in acceptance of a verdict. "You've made your decision," he said. "I have." "Dagny," said Hugh Akston, "I'm sorry." He spoke softly, with effort, as if his words were struggling and failing to fill the silence of the room. "I wish it were possible not to see this happen, I would have preferred anything—except to see you stay here by default of the courage of your convictions." She spread her hands, palms out, her arms at her sides, in a gesture of simple frankness, and said, addressing them all, her manner so calm that she could afford to show emotion, "I want you to know this: I have wished it were possible for me to die in one more month, so that I could spend it in this valley. This is how much I've wanted to remain. But so long as I choose to go on living, I can't desert a battle which I think is mine to fight" "Of course," said Mulligan respectfully, "if you still think it." "If you want to know the one reason that's taking me back, 111 tell you; I cannot bring myself to abandon to destruction all the greatness of the world, all that which was mine and yours, which was made by us and is still ours by right—because I cannot believe that men can refuse to see, that they can remain blind and deaf to us forever, when the truth is ours and their lives depend on accepting it. They still love their lives—and that is the uncorrupted remnant of their minds. So long as men desire to live, I cannot lose my battle." "Do they?" said Hugh Akston softly. "Do they desire it? No, don't answer me now. I know that the answer was the hardest thing for any of us to grasp and to accept. Just take that question back with you, as the last premise left for you to check." "You're leaving as our friend," said Midas Mulligan, "and we'll be fighting everything you'll do, because we know you're wrong, but it's not you that we'll be damning." "You'll come back," said Hugh Akston, "because yours is an error of knowledge, not a moral failure, not an act of surrender to evil, but only the last act of being victim to your own virtue. We'll wait for you—and, Dagny, when you come back, you will have discovered that there need never be any conflict among your desires, nor so tragic a clash of values as the one you've borne so well." "Thank you," she said, closing her eyes. --------------------------------------- 615 "We must discuss the conditions of your departure," said Galt; he spoke in the dispassionate manner of an executive. "First, you must give us your word that you will not disclose our secret or any part of it— neither our cause nor our existence nor this valley nor your whereabouts for the past month—to anyone in the outer world, not at any time or for any purpose whatsoever." "I give you my word." "Second, you must never attempt to find this valley again. You are not to come here uninvited. Should you break the first condition, it will not place us in serious danger. Should you break the second—it will. It is not our policy ever to be at the arbitrary mercy of the good faith of another person, or at the mercy of a promise that cannot be enforced. Nor can we expect you to place our interests above your own. Since you believe that your course is right, the day may come when you may find it necessary to lead our enemies to this valley. We shall, therefore, leave you no means to do it. You will be taken out of the valley by plane, blindfolded, and you will be flown a distance sufficient to make it impossible for you ever to retrace the course." She inclined her head. "You are right." "Your plane has been repaired. Do you wish to reclaim it by signing a draft on your account at the Mulligan Bank?" "No." "Then we shall hold it, until such time as you choose to pay for it. Day after tomorrow, I will take you in my plane to a point outside the valley and leave you within reach of further transportation." She inclined her head. "Very well." It had grown dark, when they left Midas Mulligan's. The trail back to Galt's house led across the valley, past Francisco's cabin, and the three of them walked home together. A few squares of lighted windows hung scattered through the darkness, and the first streams of mist were weaving slowly across the panes, like shadows cast by a distant sea. They walked in silence, but the sound of their steps, blending into a single, steady beat, was like a speech to be grasped and not to be uttered in any other form. After a while, Francisco said, "It changes nothing, it only makes the span a little longer, and the last stretch is always the hardest—but it's the last." "I will hope so," she said. In a moment, she repeated quietly, "The last is the hardest." She turned to Galt. "May I make one request?" "Yes." "Will you let me go tomorrow?" "If you wish." When Francisco spoke again, moments later, it was as if he were addressing the unnamed wonder in her mind; his voice had the tone of answering, a question: "Dagny, all three of us are in love"—she jerked her head to him— "with the same thing, no matter what its forms. Don't wonder why you feel no breach among us. You'll be one of us, so long as you'll remain in love with your rails and your engines—and they'll lead you back to us, no matter how many times you lose your way. The only man never to be redeemed is the man without passion." "Thank you," she said softly. "For what?" "For . . . for the way you sound." "How do I sound? Name it, Dagny." "You sound . . . as if you're happy." "I am—in exactly the same way you are. Don't tell me what you feel. I know it. But, you see, the measure of the hell you're able to endure is the --------------------------------------- 616 measure of your love. The hell I couldn't bear to witness would be to see you being indifferent." She nodded silently, unable to name as joy any part of the things she felt, yet feeling that he was right. Clots of mist were drifting, like smoke, across the moon, and in the diffused glow she could not distinguish the expressions of their faces, as she walked between them: the only expressions to perceive were the straight silhouettes of their bodies, the unbroken sound of then- steps and her own feeling that she wished to walk on and on, a feeling she could not define, except that it was neither doubt nor pain, When they approached his cabin, Francisco stopped, the gesture of his hand embracing them both as he pointed to his door. "Will you come in —since it's to be our last night together for some time? Let's have a drink to that future of which all three of us are certain." "Are we?" she asked. "Yes," said Galt, "we are." She looked at their faces when Francisco switched on the light in his house. She could not define their expressions, it was not happiness or any emotion pertaining to joy, their faces were taut and solemn, but it was a glowing solemnity—she thought—if this were possible, and the odd glow she felt within her, told her that her own face had the same look. Francisco reached for three glasses from a cupboard, but stopped, as at a sudden thought. He placed one glass on the table, then reached for the two silver goblets of Sebastian d'Anconia and placed them beside it. "Are you going straight to New York, Dagny?" he asked, in the calm, unstrained tone of a host, bringing out a bottle of old wine, "Yes," she answered as calmly. "I'm flying to Buenos Aires day after tomorrow," he said, uncorking the bottle. "I'm not sure whether I'll be back in New York later, but if I am, it will be dangerous for you to see me." "I won't care about that," she said, "unless you feel that I'm not entitled to see you any longer." "True, Dagny. You're not. Not in New York." He was pouring the wine and he glanced up at Galt. "John, when will you decide whether you're going back or staying here?" Galt looked straight at him, then said slowly, in the tone of a man who knows all the consequences of his words, "I have decided, Francisco. I'm going back." Francisco's hand stopped. For a long moment, he was seeing nothing but Galt's face. Then his eyes moved to hers. He put the bottle down and he did not step back, but it was as if his glance drew back to a wide range, to include them both, "But of course," he said. He looked as if he had moved still farther and were now seeing the whole spread of their years; his voice had an even, uninflected sound, quality that matched the size of the vision. "I knew it twelve years ago," he said. "I knew it before you could have known, and it's I who should have seen that you would see. That night, when you called us to New York, I thought of it then as"—he was speaking to Galt, but his eyes moved to Dagny—"as everything that you were seeking . . . everything you told us to live for or die, if necessary. I should have seen that you would think it, too. It could not have been otherwise. It is as it had—and ought—to be. It was set then, twelve years ago." He looked at Galt and chuckled softly. "And you say that it's I who've taken the hardest beating?" He turned with too swift a movement—then, too slowly, as if in deliberate emphasis, he completed the task of pouring the wine, filling the three vessels on the table. He picked up the two silver goblets, looked down at --------------------------------------- 617 them for the pause of an instant, then extended one to Dagny, the other to Galt. "Take it," he said. "You've earned it—and it wasn't chance." Galt took the goblet from his hand, but it was as if the acceptance was done by their eyes as they looked at each other. "I would have given anything to let it be otherwise," said Galt, "except that which is beyond giving." She held her goblet, she looked at Francisco and she let him see her eyes glance at Galt. "Yes,” she said in the tone of an answer, "But I have not earned it—and what you've paid, I'm paying it now, and I don't know whether I'll ever earn enough to hold clear title, but if hell is the price—and the measure—then let me be the greediest of the three of us." As they drank, as she stood, her eyes closed, feeling the liquid motion of the wine inside her throat, she knew that for all three of them this was the most tortured—and the most exultant—moment they had ever reached. She did not speak to Galt, as they walked down the last stretch of the trail to his house. She did not turn her head to him, feeling that even a glance would be too dangerous. She felt, in their silence, both the calm of a total understanding and the tension of the knowledge that they were not to name the things they understood. But she faced him, when they were in his living room, with full confidence and as if in sudden certainty of a right—the certainty that she would not break and that it was now safe to speak. She said evenly, neither as plea nor as triumph, merely as the statement of a fact, "You are going back to the outer world because I will be there." "Yes." "I do not want you to go." "You have no choice about it." "You are going for my sake." "No, for mine." "Will you allow me to see you there?" "No." "I am not to see you?" "No." "I am not to know where you are or what you do?" "You're not." "Will you be watching me, as you did before?" "More so." "Is your purpose to protect me?" "No." "What is it, then?" "To be there on the day when you decide to join us." She looked at him attentively, permitting herself no other reaction, but as if groping for an answer to the first point she had not fully understood. "All the rest of us will be gone," he explained. "It will become too dangerous to remain. I will remain as your last key, before the door of this valley closes altogether." "Oh!" She choked it off before it became a moan. Then, regaining the manner of impersonal detachment, she asked, "Suppose I were to tell you that my decision is final and that I am never to join you?" "It would be a lie." "Suppose I were now to decide that I wish to make it final and to stand by it, no matter what the future?" "No matter what future evidence you observe and what convictions you form?" "Yes." "That would be worse than a lie.” --------------------------------------- 618 "You are certain that I have made the wrong decision?” "I am." "Do you believe that one must be responsible for one's own errors?" "I do." "Then why aren't you letting me bear the consequences of mine?" "I am and you will." "If I find, when it is too late, that I want to return to this valley —why should you have to bear the risk of keeping that door open to me?" "I don't have to. I wouldn't do it if I had no selfish end to gain." "What selfish end?" "I want you here." She closed her eyes and inclined her head in open admission of defeat— defeat in the argument and in her attempt to face calmly the full meaning of that which she was leaving. Then she raised her head and, as if she had absorbed his kind of frankness, she looked at him, hiding neither her suffering nor her longing nor her calm, knowing that all three were in her glance. His face was as it had been in the sunlight of the moment when she had seen it for the first time: a face of merciless serenity and unflinching perceptiveness, without pain or fear or guilt. She thought that were it possible for her to stand looking at him, at the straight lines of his eyebrows over the dark green eyes, at the curve of the shadow underscoring the shape of his mouth, at the poured-metal planes of his skin in the open collar of his shirt and the casually immovable posture of his legs—she would wish to spend the rest of her life on this spot and in this manner. And in the next instant she knew that if her wish were granted, the contemplation would lose all meaning, because she would have betrayed all the things that gave it value. Then, not as memory, but as an experience of the present, she felt herself reliving the moment when she had stood at the window of her room in New York, looking at a fogbound city, at the unattainable shape of Atlantis sinking out of reach—and she knew that she was now seeing the answer to that moment. She felt, not the words she had then addressed to the city, but that untranslated sensation from which the words had come: You, whom I have always loved and never found, you whom I expected to see at the end of the rails beyond the horizon— Aloud, she said, "I want you to know this. I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle"—you whose presence I had always felt in the streets of the city, the wordless voice within her was saying, and whose world I had wanted to build—"Now I know that I was fighting for this valley"—it is my love for you that had kept me moving—"It was this valley that I saw as possible and would exchange for nothing less and would not give up to a mindless evil"—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—"I am going back to fight for this valley—to release it from its underground, to regain for it its full and rightful realm, to let the earth belong to you in fact, as it does in spirit— and to meet you again on the day when I'm able to deliver to you the whole of the world—or, if I fail, to remain in exile from this valley to the end of my life"—but what is left of my life will still be yours, and I will go on in your name, even though it is a name I'm never to pronounce, 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—"I will fight for it, even if I have to fight against you, even if you damn me as a traitor . . . even if I am never to see you again." --------------------------------------- 619 He had stood without moving, he had listened with no change in his face, only his eyes had looked at her as if he were hearing every word, even the words she had not pronounced. He answered, with the same look, as if the look were holding some circuit not yet to be broken, his voice catching some tone of hers, as if in signal of the same code, a voice with no sign of emotion except in the spacing of the words: "If you fail, as men have failed in their quest for a vision that should have been possible, yet has remained forever beyond their reach—if, like them, you come to think that one's highest values are not to be attained and one's greatest vision is not to be made real— don't damn this earth, as they did. don't damn existence. You have seen the Atlantis they were seeking, it is here, it exists—but one must enter it naked and alone, with no rags from the falsehoods of centuries, with the purest clarity of mind—not an innocent heart, but that which is much rarer: an intransigent mind—as one's only possession and key. You will not enter it until you learn that you do not need to convince or to conquer the world. When you learn it, you will see that through all the years of your struggle, nothing had barred you from Atlantis and there were no chains to hold you, except the chains you were willing to wear. Through all those years, that which you most wished to win was waiting for you"—he looked at her as if he were speaking to the unspoken words in her mind—"waiting as unremittingly as you were fighting, as passionately, as desperately—but with a greater certainty than yours. Go out to continue your struggle. Go on carrying unchosen burdens, taking undeserved punishment and believing that justice can be served by the offer of your own spirit to the most unjust of tortures. But in your worst and darkest moments, remember that you have seen another kind of world. Remember that you can reach it whenever you choose to see. Remember that it will be waiting and that it's real, it's possible—it's yours." Then, turning his head a little, his voice as clear, but his eyes breaking the circuit, he asked, "What time do you wish to leave tomorrow?" "Oh . . . ! As early as it will be convenient for you." "Then have breakfast ready at seven and we'll take off at eight." "I will." He reached into his pocket and extended to her a small, shining disk which she could not distinguish at first. He dropped it on the palm of her hand: it was a five-dollar gold piece. "The last of your wages for the month," he said. Her fingers snapped closed over the coin too tightly, but she answered calmly and tonelessly, "Thank you." "Good night, Miss Taggart." "Good night." She did not sleep in the hours that were still left to her. She sat on the floor of her room, her face pressed to the bed, feeling nothing but the sense of his presence beyond the wall. At times, she felt as if he were before her, as if she were sitting at his feet. She spent her last night with him in this manner. She left the valley as she had come, carrying away nothing that belonged to it. She left the few possessions she had acquired—her peasant skirt, a blouse, an apron, a few pieces of underwear—folded neatly in a drawer of the chest in her room. She looked at them for a moment, before she closed the drawer, thinking that if she came back, she would, perhaps, still find them there. She took nothing with her but the five-dollar gold piece and the band of tape still wound about her ribs. The sun touched the peaks of the mountains, drawing a shining circle as a frontier of the valley—when she climbed aboard the plane. She leaned back in the seat beside him and looked at Galt's face bent over her, as it had been bent when she had opened her eyes on the first morning. --------------------------------------- 620 Then she closed her eyes and felt his hands tying the blindfold across her face. She heard the blast of the motor, not as sound, but as the shudder of an explosion inside her body; only it felt like a distant shudder, as if the person feeling it would have been hurt if she were not so far away. She did not know when the wheels left the ground or when the plane crossed the circle of the peaks. She lay still, with the pounding beat of the motor as her only perception of space, as if she were carried inside a current of sound that rocked once in a while. The sound came from his engine, from the control of his hands on the wheel; she held onto that; the rest was to be endured, not resisted. She lay still, her legs stretched forward, her hands on the arms of the seat, with no sense of motion, not even her own, to give her a sense of time, with no space, no sight, no future, with the night of closed eyelids under the pressure of the cloth—and with the knowledge of his presence beside her as her single, unchanging reality, They did not speak. Once, she said suddenly, "Mr. Galt." "Yes?" "No. Nothing. I just wanted to know whether you were still there." "I will always be there." She did not know for how many miles the memory of the sound of words seemed like a small landmark rolling away into the distance, then vanishing. Then there was nothing but the stillness of an indivisible present. She did not know whether a day had passed or an hour, when she felt the downward, plunging motion which meant that they were about to land or to crash; the two possibilities seemed equal to her mind. She felt the jolt of the wheels against the ground as an oddly delayed sensation: as if some fraction of time had gone to make her believe it. She felt the running streak of jerky motion, then the jar of the stop and of silence, then the touch of his hands on her hair, removing the blindfold. She saw a glaring sunlight, a stretch of scorched weeds going off into the sky, with no mountains to stop it, a deserted highway and the hazy outline of a town about a mile away. She glanced at her watch: forty seven minutes ago, she had still been in the valley. "You'll find a Taggart station there," he said, pointing at the town, "and you'll be able to take a train." She nodded, as if she understood. He did not follow her as she descended to the ground. He leaned across the wheel toward the open door of the plane, and they looked at each other. She stood, her face raised to him, a faint wind stirring her hair, the straight line of her shoulders sculptured by the trim suit of a business executive amidst the flat immensity of an empty prairie. The movement of his hand pointed east, toward some invisible cities. "Don't look for me out there," he said. "You will not find me—until you want me for what I am. And when you'll want me, I'll be the easiest man to find." She heard the sound of the door falling closed upon him; it seemed louder than the blast of the propeller that followed. She watched the run of the plane's wheels and the trail of weeds left flattened behind them. Then she saw a strip of sky between wheels and weeds. She looked around her. A reddish haze of heat hung over the shapes of the town in the distance, and the shapes seemed to sag under a rusty tinge; above their roofs, she saw the remnant of a crumbled smokestack. She saw a dry, yellow scrap rustling faintly in the weeds beside her: it was a piece of newspaper. She looked at these objects blankly, unable to make them real. She raised her eyes to the plane. She watched the spread of its wings grow smaller in the sky, draining away in its wake the sound of its motor. It kept --------------------------------------- 621 rising, wings first, like a long silver cross; then the curve of its motion went following the sky, dropping slowly closer to the earth; then it seemed not to move any longer, but only to shrink. She watched it like a star in the process of extinction, while it shrank from cross to dot to a burning spark which she was no longer certain of seeing. When she saw that the spread of the sky was strewn with such sparks all over, she knew that the plane was gone. --------------------------------------- 622 CHAPTER III ANTI-GREED "What am I doing here?" asked Dr. Robert Stadler. "Why was I asked to come here? I demand an explanation. I'm not accustomed to being dragged halfway across a continent without rhyme, reason or notice." Dr, Floyd Ferris smiled. "Which makes me appreciate it all the more that you did come, Dr. Stadler." It was impossible to tell whether his voice had a tone of gratitude—or of gloating. The sun was beating down upon them and Dr. Stadler felt a streak of perspiration oozing along his temple. He could not hold an angrily, embarrassingly private discussion in the middle of a crowd streaming to fill the benches of the grandstand around them—the discussion which he had tried and failed to obtain for the last three days. It occurred to him that that was precisely the reason why his meeting with Dr. Ferris had been delayed to this moment; but he brushed the thought aside, just as he brushed some insect buzzing to reach his wet temple. "Why was I unable to get in touch with you?" he asked. The fraudulent weapon of sarcasm now seemed to sound less effective than ever, but it was Dr. Stadler's only weapon: "Why did you find it necessary to send me messages on official stationery worded in a style proper, I'm sure, for Army"—orders, he was about to say, but didn't—"communications, but certainly not for scientific correspondence?" "It is a government matter," said Dr. Ferris gently. "Do you realize that I was much too busy and that this meant an interruption of my work?" "Oh yes," said Dr. Ferris noncommittally. "Do you realize that I could have refused to come?" "But you didn't," said Dr. Ferris softly. "Why was I given no explanation? Why didn't you come for me in person, instead of sending those incredible young hooligans with their mysterious gibberish that sounded half-science, half-pulp-magazine?" "I was too busy," said Dr. Ferris blandly. "Then would you mind telling me what you're doing in the middle of a plain in Iowa—and what I'm doing here, for that matter?" He waved contemptuously at the dusty horizon of an empty prairie and at the three wooden grandstands. The stands were newly erected, and the wood, too, seemed to perspire; he could see drops of resin sparkling in the sun. "We are about to witness an historical event, Dr. Stadler. An occasion which will become a milestone on the road of science, civilization, social welfare and political adaptability." Dr. Ferris' voice had the tone of a public relations man's memorized handout. "The turning point of a new era." "What event? What new era?" "As you will observe, only the most distinguished citizens, the cream of our intellectual elite, have been chosen for the special privilege of witnessing this occasion. We could not omit your name, could we?—and we feel certain, of course, that we can count on your loyalty and cooperation." He could not catch Dr. Ferris' eyes. The grandstands were rapidly filling with people, and Dr. Ferris kept interrupting himself constantly to wave to nondescript newcomers, whom Dr. Stadler had never seen before, but who were personages, as he could tell by the particular shade of gaily informal deference in Ferns' waving. They all seemed to know Dr. Ferris and to seek him out, as if he were the master of ceremonies —or the star—of the occasion. "If you would kindly be specific for a moment," said Dr. Stadler, "and tell me what—" --------------------------------------- 623 "Hi, Spud!" called Dr. Ferris, waving to a portly, white-haired man who filled the full-dress uniform of a general. Dr. Stadler raised his voice: "I said, if you would kindly concentrate long enough to explain to me what in hell is going on—" "But it's very simple. It's the final triumph of . . . You'll have to excuse me a minute, Dr. Stadler," said Dr. Ferris hastily, tearing forward, like an over trained lackey at the sound of a bell, in the direction of what looked like a group of aging rowdies; he turned back long enough to add two words which he seemed reverently to consider as a full explanation: "The press!" Dr. Stadler sat down on the wooden bench, feeling unaccountably reluctant to brush against anything around him. The three grandstands were spaced at intervals in a semi-curve, like the tiers of a small, private circus, with room for some three hundred people; they seemed built for the viewing of some spectacle—but they faced the emptiness of a flat prairie stretching off to the horizon, with nothing in sight but the dark blotch of a farmhouse miles away. There were radio microphones in front of one stand, which seemed reserved for the press. There was a contraption resembling a portable switchboard in front of the stand reserved for officials; a few levers of polished metal sparkled in the sun on the face of the switchboard. In an improvised parking lot behind the stands, the glitter of luxurious new cars seemed a brightly reassuring sight. But it was the building that stood on a knoll some thousand feet away that gave Dr. Stadler a vague sense of uneasiness. It was a small, squat structure of unknown purpose, with massive stone walls, no windows except a few slits protected by stout iron bars, and a large dome, grotesquely too heavy for the rest, that seemed to press the structure down into the soil. A few outlets protruded from the base of the dome, in loose, irregular shapes, resembling badly poured clay funnels; they did not seem to belong to an industrial age or to any known usage. The building had an air of silent malevolence, like a puffed, venomous mushroom; it was obviously modern, but its sloppy, rounded, ineptly unspecific lines made it look like a primitive structure unearthed in the heart of the jungle, devoted to some secret rites of savagery. Dr. Stadler sighed with irritation; he was tired of secrets. "Confidential" and "Top Confidential" had been the words stamped on the invitation which had demanded that he travel to Iowa on a two-day notice and for an unspecified purpose. Two young men, who called themselves physicists, had appeared at the Institute to escort him; his calls to Ferris' office in Washington had remained unanswered. The young men had talked—through an exhausting trip by government plane, then a clammy ride in a government car— about science, emergencies, social equilibriums and the need of secrecy, till he knew less than he had known at the start; he noticed only that two words kept recurring in their jabber, which had also appeared in the text of the invitation, two words that had an ominous sound when involving an unknown issue: the demands for his "loyalty" and "co-operation." The young men had deposited him on a bench in the front row of the grandstand and had vanished, like the folding gear of a mechanism, leaving him to the sudden presence of Dr. Ferris in person. Now, watching the scene around him, watching Dr. Ferris' vague, excited, loosely casual gestures in the midst of a group of newsmen, he had an impression of bewildering confusion, of senseless, chaotic inefficiency—and of a smooth machine working to produce the exact degree of that impression needed at the exact moment. He felt a single, sudden flash of panic, in which, as in a flash of lightning, he permitted himself to know that he felt a desperate desire to escape. But he slammed his mind shut against it. He knew that the darkest secret of the occasion—more crucial, more untouchable, more deadly than --------------------------------------- 624 whatever was hidden in the mushroom building—was that which had made him agree to come. He would never have to learn his own motive, he thought; he thought it, not by means of words, but by means of the brief, vicious spasm of an emotion that resembled irritation and felt like acid. The words that stood in his mind, as they had stood when he had agreed to come, were like a voodoo formula which one recites when it is needed and beyond which one must not look: What can you do when you have to deal with people? He noticed that the stand reserved for those whom Ferris had called the intellectual elite was larger than the stand prepared for government officials. He caught himself feeling a swift little sneak of pleasure at the thought that he had been placed in the front row. He turned to glance at the tiers behind him. The sensation he experienced was like a small, gray shock: that random, faded, shopworn assembly was not his conception of an intellectual elite. He saw defensively belligerent men and tastelessly dressed women—he saw mean, rancorous, suspicious faces that bore the one mark incompatible with a standard bearer of the intellect: the mark of uncertainty. He could find no face he knew, no face to recognize as famous and none likely ever to achieve such recognition. He wondered by what standard these people had been selected. Then he noticed a gangling figure in the second row, the figure of an elderly man with a long, slack face that seemed faintly familiar to him, though he could recall nothing about it, except a vague' memory, as of a photograph seen in some unsavory publication. He leaned toward a woman and asked, pointing, "Could you tell me. the name of that gentleman?" The woman answered in a whisper of awed respect, "That is Dr. Simon Pritchett!" Dr. Stadler turned away, wishing no one would see him, wishing no one would ever learn that he had been a member of that group. He raised his eyes and saw that Ferris was leading the whole press gang toward him. He saw Ferris sweeping his arm at him, in the manner of a tourist guide, and declaring, when they were close enough to be heard, "But why should you waste your time on me, when there is the source of today's achievement, the man who made it all possible— Dr. Robert Stadler!" It seemed to him for an instant that he saw an incongruous look on the worn, cynical faces of the newsmen, a look that was not quite respect, expectation or hope, but more like an echo of these, like a faint reflection of the look they might have worn in their youth on hearing the name of Robert Stadler. In that instant, he felt an impulse which he would not acknowledge: the impulse to tell them that he knew nothing about today's event, that his power counted for less than theirs, that he had been brought here as a pawn in some confidence game, almost as . . . as a prisoner. Instead, he heard himself answering their questions in the smug, condescending tone of a man who shares all the secrets of the highest authorities: "Yes, the State Science Institute is proud of its record of public service. . . . The State Science Institute is not the tool of any private interests or personal greed, it is devoted to the welfare of mankind, to the good of humanity as a whole—" spouting, like a dictaphone, the sickening generalities he had heard from Dr. Ferns. He would not permit himself to know that what he felt was self loathing; he identified the emotion, but not its object; it was loathing for the men around him, he thought; it was they who were forcing him to go through this shameful performance. What can you do—he thought— when you have to deal with people? The newsmen were making brief notes of his answers. Their faces now had the look of automatons acting out the routine of pretending that they were hearing news in the empty utterances of another automaton. --------------------------------------- 625 "Dr. Stadler," asked one of them, pointing at the building on the knoll, "is it true that you consider Project X the greatest achievement of the State Science Institute?" There was a dead drop of silence. "Project . . . X . . . ?" said Dr. Stadler. He knew that something was ominously wrong in the tone of his voice, because he saw the heads of the newsmen go up, as at the sound of an alarm; he saw them waiting, their pencils poised. For one instant, while he felt the muscles of his face cracking into the fraud of a smile, he felt a formless, an almost supernatural terror, as if he sensed again the silent working of some smooth machine, as if he were caught in it, part of it and doing its irrevocable will. "Project X?" he said softly, in the mysterious tone of a conspirator. "Well, gentlemen, the value— and the motive—of any achievement of the State Science Institute are not to be doubted, since it is a non-profit venture—need I say more?" He raised his head and noticed that Dr. Ferris had stood on the edge of the group through the whole of the interview. He wondered whether he imagined that the look on Dr. Ferris' face now seemed less tense—and more impertinent. Two resplendent cars came shooting at full speed into the parking lot and stopped with a flourish of screeching brakes. The newsmen deserted him in the middle of a sentence and went running to meet the group alighting from the cars. Dr. Stadler turned to Ferris. "What is Project X?" he asked sternly. Dr. Ferris smiled in a manner of innocence and insolence together. "A non-profit venture," he answered—and went running off to meet the newcomers. From the respectful whispers of the crowd, Dr. Stadler learned that the little man in a wilted linen suit, who looked like a shyster, striding briskly in the center of the new group, was Mr. Thompson, the Head of the State. Mr. Thompson was smiling, frowning and barking answers to the newsmen. Dr. Ferris was weaving through the group, with the grace of a cat rubbing against sundry legs. The group came closer and he saw Ferris steering them in his direction. "Mr. Thompson," said Dr. Ferris sonorously, as they approached, "may I present Dr. Robert Stadler?" Dr. Stadler saw the little shyster's eyes studying him for the fraction of a second: the eyes had a touch of superstitious awe, as at the sight of a phenomenon from a mystical realm forever incomprehensible to Mr. Thompson—and they had the piercing, calculating shrewdness of a ward heeler who feels certain that nothing is immune from his standards, a glance like the visual equivalent of the words: What's your angle? "It's an honor, Doctor, an honor, I'm sure," said Mr. Thompson briskly, shaking his hand. He learned that the tall, stoop-shouldered man with a crew haircut was Mr. Wesley Mouch. He did not catch the names of the others, whose hands he shook. As the group proceeded toward the officials' grandstand, he was left with the burning sensation of a discovery he dared not face: the discovery that he had felt anxiously pleased by the little shyster's nod of approval. A party of young attendants, who looked like movie theater ushers, appeared- from, somewhere with handcarts of glittering objects, which they proceeded to distribute to the assembly. The objects were field glasses. Dr. Ferns took his place at the microphone of a public-address system by the officials' stand. At a signal from Wesley Mouch, his voice boomed suddenly over the prairie, an unctuous, fraudulently solemn voice magnified by the microphone inventor's ingenuity into the sound and power of a giant: "Ladies and gentlemen . . . !" --------------------------------------- 626 The crowd was struck into silence, all heads jerking unanimously toward the graceful figure of Dr. Floyd Ferris. "Ladies and gentlemen, you have been chosen—in recognition of your distinguished public service and social loyalty—to witness the unveiling of a scientific achievement of such tremendous importance, such staggering scope, such epoch-making possibilities that up to this moment it has been known only to a very few and only as Project X." Dr. Stadler focused his field glasses on the only thing in sight—on the blotch of the distant farm. He saw that it was the deserted ruin of a farmhouse, which had obviously been abandoned years ago. The light of the sky showed through the naked ribs of the roof, and jagged bits of glass framed the darkness of empty windows. He saw a sagging barn, the rusted tower of a water wheel, and the remnant of a tractor lying upturned with its treads in the air. Dr. Ferris was talking about the crusaders of science and about the years of selfless devotion, unremitting toil and persevering research that had gone into Project X. It was odd—thought Dr. Stadler, studying the ruins of the farm— that there should be a herd of goats in the midst of such desolation. There were six or seven of them, some drowsing, some munching lethargically at whatever grass they could find among the sun-scorched weeds. "Project X," Dr. Ferris was saying, "was devoted to some special research in the field of sound. The science of sound has astonishing aspects, which laymen would scarcely suspect. . . ." Some fifty feet away from the farmhouse, Dr. Stadler saw a structure, obviously new and of no possible purpose whatever: it looked like a few spans of a steel trestle, rising into empty space, supporting nothing, leading nowhere. Dr. Ferris was now talking about the nature of sound vibrations. Dr. Stadler aimed his field glasses at the horizon beyond the farm, but there was nothing else to be seen for dozens of miles. The sudden, straining motion of one of the goats brought his eyes back to the herd. He noticed that the goats were chained to stakes driven at intervals into the ground. ". . . And it was discovered," said Dr. Ferris, "that there are certain frequencies of sound vibration which no structure, organic or inorganic, can withstand. . . ." Dr. Stadler noticed a silvery spot bouncing over the weeds among the herd. It was a kid that had not been chained; it kept leaping and weaving about its mother. ". . . The sound ray is controlled by a panel inside the giant underground laboratory," said Dr. Ferris, pointing at the building on the knoll. "That panel is known to us affectionately as the 'Xylophone'— because one must be darn careful to strike the right keys, or, rather, to pull the right levers. For this special occasion, an extension Xylophone, connected to the one inside, has been erected here"—he pointed to the switchboard in front of the officials1 stand—"so that you may witness the entire operation and see the simplicity of the whole procedure. . . ." Dr. Stadler found pleasure in watching the kid, a soothing, reassuring kind of pleasure. The little creature seemed barely a week old, it looked like a ball of white fur with graceful long legs, it kept bounding in a manner of deliberate, gaily ferocious awkwardness, all four of its legs held stiff and straight. It seemed to be leaping at the sunrays, at the summer air, at the joy of discovering its own existence. ". . . The sound ray is invisible, inaudible and fully controllable in respect to target, direction and range. Its first public test, which you are about to witness, has been set to cover a small sector, a mere two miles, in --------------------------------------- 627 perfect safety, with all space cleared for twenty miles beyond. The present generating equipment in our laboratory is capable of producing rays to cover— through the outlets which you may observe under the dome—the entire countryside within a radius of a hundred miles, a circle with a periphery extending from the shore of the Mississippi, roughly from the bridge of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad, to Des Moines and Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Austin, Minnesota, to Woodman, Wisconsin, to Rock Island, Illinois. This is only a modest beginning. We possess the technical knowledge to build generators with a range of two and three hundred miles—but due to the fact that we were unable to obtain in time a sufficient quantity of a highly heat resistant metal, such as Rearden Metal, we had to be satisfied with our present equipment and radius of control. In honor of our great executive, Mr. Thompson, under whose far-sighted administration the State Science Institute was granted the funds without which Project X would not have been possible, this great invention will henceforth be known as the Thompson Harmonizer!" The crowd applauded. Mr. Thompson sat motionless, with his face held self- consciously stiff. Dr. Stadler felt certain that this small-time shyster had had as little to do with the Project as any of the movie usher attendants, that he possessed neither the mind nor the initiative nor even the sufficient degree of malice to cause a new gopher trap to be brought into the world, that he, too, was only the pawn of a silent machine—a machine that had no center, no leader, no direction, a machine that had not been set in motion by Dr. Ferris or Wesley Mouch, or any of the cowed creatures in the grandstands, or any of the creatures behind the scenes—an impersonal, unthinking, unembodied machine, of which none was the driver and all were the pawns, each to the degree of his evil. Dr. Stadler gripped the edge of the bench: he felt a desire to leap to his feet and run. ". . . As to the function and the purpose of the sound ray, I shall say nothing. I shall let it speak for itself. You will now see it work. When Dr. Blodgett pulls the levers of the Xylophone, I suggest that you keep your eyes on the target—which is that farmhouse two miles away. There will be nothing else to see. The ray itself is invisible. It has long been conceded by all progressive thinkers that there are no entities, only actions—and no values, only consequences. Now, ladies and gentlemen, you will see the action and the consequences of the Thompson Harmonizer." Dr. Ferris bowed, walked slowly away from the microphone and came to take his seat on the bench beside Dr. Stadler. A youngish, fattish kind of man took his stand by the switchboard— and raised his eyes expectantly toward Mr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson looked blankly bewildered for an instant, as if something had slipped his mind, until Wesley Mouch leaned over and whispered some word into his ear. "Contact!" said Mr. Thompson loudly. Dr. Stadler could not bear to watch the graceful, undulating, effeminate motion of Dr. Blodgett's hand as it pulled the first lever of the switchboard, then the next. He raised his field glasses and looked at the farmhouse. In the instant when he focused his lens, a goat was pulling at its chain, reaching placidly for a tall, dry thistle. In the next instant, the goat rose into the air, upturned, its legs stretched upward and jerking, then fell into a gray pile made of seven goats in convulsions. By the time Dr. Stadler believed it, the pile was motionless, except for one beast's leg sticking out of the mass, stiff as a rod and shaking as in a strong wind. The farmhouse tore into strips of clapboard and went down, followed by a geyser of the bricks of its chimney. The tractor vanished into a pancake. The water tower cracked and its shreds hit the ground white its wheel was still describing a long curve through the air, as if of its own leisurely volition. The steel beams and girders of the solid new trestle collapsed like a structure of --------------------------------------- 628 matchsticks under the breath of a sigh. It was so swift, so uncontested, so simple, that Dr. Stadler felt no horror, he felt nothing, it was not the reality he had known, it was the realm of a child's nightmare where material objects could be dissolved by means of a single malevolent wish. He moved the field glasses from his eyes. He was looking at an empty prairie. There was no farm, there was nothing in the distance except a darkish strip that looked like the shadow of a cloud. A single, high, thin scream rose from the tiers behind him, as some woman fainted. He wondered why she should scream so long after the fact-and then he realized that the time elapsed since the touch of the first lever was not a full minute. He raised his field glasses again, almost as if he were suddenly hoping that the cloud shadow would be all he would see. But the material objects were still there; they were a mount of refuse. He moved his glasses over the wreckage; in a moment, he realized that he was looking for the kid. He could not find it; there was nothing but a pile of gray fur. When he lowered the glasses and turned, he found Dr. Ferns looking at him. He felt certain that through the whole of the test, it was not the target, it was his face that Ferris had watched, as if to see whether he, Robert Stadler, could withstand the ray. "That's all there is to it," the fattish Dr. Blodgett announced through the microphone, in the ingratiating sales tone of a department-store floorwalker. "There is no nail or rivet remaining in the frame of the structures and there is no blood vessel left unbroken in the bodies of the animals." The crowd was rustling with jerky movements and high-pitched whispers. People were looking at one another, rising uncertainly and dropping down again, restlessly demanding anything but this pause. There was a sound of submerged hysteria in the whispers. They seemed to be waiting to be told what to think. Dr. Stadler saw a woman being escorted down the steps from the back row, her head bent, a handkerchief pressed to her mouth: she was sick at her stomach. He turned away and saw that Dr. Ferris was still watching him. Dr. Stadler leaned back a little, his face austere and scornful, the face of the nation's greatest scientist, and asked, "Who invented that ghastly thing?" "You did." Dr. Stadler looked at him, not moving. "It is merely a practical appliance," said Dr. Ferris pleasantly, "based upon your theoretical discoveries. It was derived from your invaluable research into the nature of cosmic rays and of the spatial transmission of energy." "Who worked on the Project?" "A few third-raters, as you would call them. Really, there was very little difficulty. None of them could have begun to conceive of the first step toward the concept of your energy-transmission formula, but given that—the rest was easy." "What is the practical purpose of this invention? What are the 'epoch- making possibilities'?" "Oh, but don't you see? It is an invaluable instrument of public security. No enemy would attack the possessor of such a weapon. It will set the country free from the fear of aggression and permit it to plan its future in undisturbed safety." His voice had an odd carelessness, a tone of offhand improvisation, as if he were neither expecting nor attempting to be believed. --------------------------------------- 629 "It will relieve social frictions. It will promote peace, stability and—as we have indicated—harmony. It will eliminate all danger of war." "What war? What aggression? With the whole world starving and all those People's States barely subsisting on handouts from this country—where do you see any danger of war? Do you expect those ragged savages to attack you?" Dr. Ferris looked straight into his eyes. "Internal enemies can be as great a danger to the people as external ones," he answered. "Perhaps greater." This time his voice sounded as if he expected and was certain to be understood. "Social systems are so precarious. But think of what stability could be achieved by a few scientific installations at strategic key points. It would guarantee a state of permanent peace—don't you think so?" Dr. Stadler did not move or answer; as the seconds clicked past and his face still held an unchanged expression, it began to look paralyzed. His eyes had the stare of a man who suddenly sees that which he had known, had known from the first, had spent years trying not to see, and who is now engaged in a contest between the sight and his power to deny its existence. "I don't know what you're talking about!" he snapped at last. Dr. Ferris smiled. "No private businessman or greedy industrialist would have financed Project X," he said softly, in the tone of an idle, informal discussion. "He couldn't have afforded it. It's an enormous investment, with no prospect of material gain. What profit could he expect from it? There are no profits henceforth to be derived from that farm." He pointed at the dark strip in the distance. "But, as you have so well observed, Project X had to be a non-profit venture. Contrary to a business firm, the State Science Institute had no trouble in obtaining funds for the Project. You have not heard of the Institute having any financial difficulties in the past two years, have you? And it used to be such a problem—getting them to vote the funds necessary for the advancement of science. They always demanded gadgets for their cash, as you used to say. Well, here was a gadget which some people in power could fully appreciate. They got the others to vote for it. It wasn't difficult. In fact, a great many of those others felt safe in voting money for a project that was secret—they felt certain it was important, since they were not considered important enough to be let in on it. There were, of course, a few skeptics and doubters. But they gave in when they were reminded that the head of the State Science Institute was Dr. Robert Stadler—whose judgment and integrity they could not doubt." Dr. Stadler was looking down at his fingernails. The sudden screech of the microphone jerked the crowd into an instantaneous attentiveness; people seemed to be a second's worth of self- control away from panic. An announcer, with a voice like a machine gun spitting smiles, barked cheerily that they were now to witness the radio broadcast that would break the news of the great discovery to the whole nation. Then, with a glance at his watch, his script and the signaling arm of Wesley Mouch, he yelled into the sparkling snake-head of the microphone—into the living rooms, the offices, the studies, the nurseries of the country: "Ladies and gentlemen! Project X!" Dr. Ferris leaned toward Dr. Stadler—through the staccato hoof beats of the announcer's voice galloping across the continent with a description of the new invention—and said in the tone of a casual remark, "It is vitally important that there be no criticism of the Project in the country at this precarious time," then added semi-accidentally, as a semi-joke, "that there be no criticism of anything at any time." "—and the nation's political, cultural, intellectual and moral leaders," the announcer was yelling into the microphone, "who have witnessed this great event, as your representatives and in your name, will now tell you their views of it in person!" --------------------------------------- 630 Mr. Thompson was the first to mount the wooden steps to the platform of the microphone. He snapped his way through a brief speech, hailing a new era and declaring—in the belligerent tone of a challenge to unidentified enemies— that science belonged to the people and that every man on the face of the globe had a right to a share of the advantages created by technological progress. Wesley Mouch came next. He spoke about social planning and the necessity of unanimous rallying in support of the planners. He spoke about discipline, unity, austerity and the patriotic duty of bearing temporary hardships. "We have mobilized the best brains of the country to work for your welfare. This great invention was the product of the genius of a man whose devotion to the cause of humanity is not to be questioned, a man acknowledged by all as the greatest mind of the century—Dr. Robert Stadler!" "What?" gasped Dr. Stadler, whirling toward Ferris. Dr. Ferris looked at him with a glance of patient mildness. "He didn't ask my permission to say that!" Dr. Stadler half-snapped, half- whispered. Dr. Ferris spread out his hands in a gesture of reproachful helplessness. "Now you see, Dr. Stadler, how unfortunate it is if you allow yourself to be disturbed by political matters, which you have always considered unworthy of your attention and knowledge. You see, it is not Mr. Mouch's function to ask permissions." The figure now slouching against the sky on the speakers platform, coiling itself about the microphone, talking in the bored, contemptuous tone of an off-color story, was Dr. Simon Pritchett. He was declaring that the new invention was an instrument of social welfare, which guaranteed general prosperity, and that anyone who doubted this self evident fact was an enemy of society, to be treated accordingly. "This invention, the product of Dr. Robert Stadler, the pre-eminent lover of freedom—" Dr. Ferris opened a briefcase, produced some pages of neatly typed copy and turned to Dr. Stadler. "You are to be the climax of the broadcast," he said. "You will speak last, at the end of the hour." He extended the pages. "Here's the speech you'll make," His eyes said the rest: they said that his choice of words had not been accidental. Dr. Stadler took the pages, but held them between the tips of two straight fingers, as one might hold a scrap of waste paper about to be tossed aside. "I haven't asked you to appoint yourself as my ghost writer," he said. The sarcasm of the voice gave Ferris his clue: this was not a moment for sarcasm. "I couldn't have allowed your invaluable time to be taken up by the writing of radio speeches," said Dr. Ferris. "I felt certain that you would appreciate it." He said it in a tone of spurious politeness intended to be recognized as spurious, the tone of tossing to a beggar the alms of face- saving. Dr. Stadler's answer disturbed him: Dr. Stadler did not choose to answer or to glance down at the manuscript. "Lack of faith," a beefy speaker was snarling on the platform, in the tone of a street brawl, "lack of faith is the only thing we got to fear! If we 4iave faith in the plans of our leaders, why, the plans will work and we'll all have prosperity and ease and plenty. It's the fellows who go around doubting and destroying our morale, it's they who're keeping us in shortages and misery. But we're not going to let them do it much longer, we're here to protect the people—and if any of those doubting smarties come around, believe you me, we'll take care of them!" "It would be unfortunate," said Dr. Ferris in a soft voice, "to arouse popular resentment against the State Science Institute at an explosive time like the present. There's a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest in the --------------------------------------- 631 country—and if people should misunderstand the nature of the new invention, they're liable to vent their rage on all scientists. Scientists have never been popular with the masses." "Peace," a tall, willowy woman was signing into the microphone, "this invention is a great, new instrument of peace. It will protect us from the aggressive designs of selfish enemies, it will allow us to breathe freely and to learn to love our fellow men." She had a bony face with a mouth embittered at cocktail parties, and wore a flowing pale blue gown, suggesting the concert garment of a harpist. "It may well be considered as that miracle which was thought impossible in history—the dream of the ages—the final synthesis of science and love!" Dr. Stadler looked at the faces in the grandstands. They were sitting quietly now, they were listening, but their eyes had an ebbing look of twilight, a look of fear in the process of being accepted as permanent, the look of raw wounds being dimmed by the veil of infection. They knew, as he knew it, that they were the targets of the shapeless funnels protruding from the mushroom building's dome—and he wondered in what manner they were now extinguishing their minds and escaping that knowledge; he knew that the words they were eager to absorb and believe were the chains slipping in to hold them, like the goats, securely within the range of those funnels. They were eager to believe; he saw the tightening lines of their lips, he saw the occasional glances of suspicion they threw at their neighbors—as if the horror that threatened them was not the sound ray, but the men who would make them acknowledge it as horror. Their eyes were veiling over, but the remnant look of a wound was a cry for help. "Why do you think they think?" said Dr. Ferris softly. "Reason is the scientist's only weapon—and reason has no power over men, has it? At a time like ours, with the country falling apart, with the mob driven by blind desperation to the edge of open riots and violence— order must be maintained by any means available. What can we do when we have to deal with people?" Dr. Stadler did not answer. A fat, jellied woman, with an inadequate brassiere under a dark, perspiration-stained dress, was saying into the microphone—Dr. Stadler could not believe it at first—that the new invention was to be greeted with particular gratitude by the mothers of the country. Dr. Stadler turned away; watching him, Ferris could see nothing but the noble line of the high forehead and the deep cut of bitterness at the corner of the mouth. Suddenly, without context or warning, Robert Stadler whirled to face him. It was like a spurt of blood from a sudden crack in a wound that had almost closed: Stadler's face was open, open in pain, in horror, in sincerity, as if, for that moment, both he and Ferris were human beings, while he moaned with incredulous despair: "In a civilized century, Ferris, in a civilized century!" Dr. Ferris took his time to produce and prolong a soft chuckle. "I don't know what you're talking about," he answered in the tone of a quotation. Dr. Stadler lowered his eyes. When Ferris spoke again, his voice had the faintest edge of a tone which Stadler could not define, except that it did not belong in any civilized discussion: "It would be unfortunate if anything were to happen to jeopardize the State Science Institute. It would be most unfortunate if the Institute were to be closed—or if any one of us were to be forced to leave it. Where would we go? Scientists are an inordinate luxury these days—and there aren't many people or establishments left who're able to afford necessities, let alone luxuries. There are no doors left open to us. We wouldn't be welcome in the research department of an industrial concern, such as—let us say—Rearden --------------------------------------- 632 Steel. Besides, if we should happen to make enemies, the same enemies would be feared by any person tempted to employ our talents. A man like Rearden would have fought for us. Would a man like Orren Boyle? But this is purely theoretical speculation, because, as a matter of practical fact, all private establishments of scientific research have been closed by law—by Directive 10-289, issued, as you might not realize, by Mr. Wesley Mouch. Are you thinking, perhaps, of universities? They are in the same position. They can't afford to make enemies. Who would speak up for us? I believe that some such man as Hugh Akston would have come to our defense—but to think of that is to be guilty of an anachronism. He belonged to a different age. The conditions set up in our social and economic reality have long since made his continued existence impossible. And I don't think that Dr. Simon Pritchett, or the generation reared under his guidance, would be able or willing to defend us. I have never believed in the efficacy of idealists—have you?— and this is no age for impractical idealism. If anyone wished to oppose a government policy, how would he make himself heard? Through these gentlemen of the press, Dr. Stadler? Through this microphone? Is there an independent newspaper left in the country? An uncontrolled radio station? A private piece of property, for that matter—or a personal opinion?" The tone of the voice was obvious now: it was the tone of a thug. "A personal opinion is the one luxury that nobody can afford today." Dr. Stadler's lips moved stiffly, as stiffly as the muscles of the goats, "You are speaking to Robert Stadler." "I have not forgotten that. It is precisely because I have not forgotten it that I am speaking, 'Robert Stadler' is an illustrious name, which I would hate to see destroyed. But what is an illustrious name nowadays? In whose eyes?" His arm swept over the grandstands. "In the eyes of people such as you see around you? If they will believe, when so told, that an instrument of death is a tool of prosperity—would they not believe it if they were told that Robert Stadler is a traitor and an enemy of the State? Would you then rely on the fact that this is not true? Are you thinking of truth, Dr. Stadler? Questions of truth do not enter into social issues. Principles have no influence on public affairs. Reason has no power over human beings. Logic is impotent. Morality is superfluous. Do not answer me now, Dr. Stadler. You will answer me over the microphone. You're the next speaker." Looking off at the dark strip of the farm in the distance, Dr. Stadler knew that what he felt was terror, but he would not permit himself to know its nature. He, who had been able to study the particles and sub particles of cosmic space, would not permit himself to examine his feeling and to know that it was made of three parts: one part was terror of a vision that seemed to stand before his eyes, the vision of the inscription cut, in his honor, over the door of the Institute: "To the fearless mind, to the inviolate truth"—another part was a plain, brute, animal fear of physical destruction, a humiliating fear which, in the civilized world of his youth, he had not expected ever to experience— and the third was the terror of the knowledge that by betraying the first, one delivers oneself into the realm of the second. He walked toward the speaker's scaffold, his steps firm and slow, his head lifted, the manuscript of the speech held crumpled in his fingers. It looked like a walk to mount either a pedestal or a guillotine. As the whole of a man's life flashes before him in his dying moment, so he walked to the sound of the announcer's voice reading to the country the list of Robert Stadler's achievements and career. A faint convulsion ran over Robert Stadler's face at the words: "—former head of the Department of Physics of the Patrick Henry University." He knew, distantly, not as if the knowledge were within him, but as if it were within some person he was leaving behind, --------------------------------------- 633 that the crowd was about to witness an act of destruction more terrible than the destruction of. the farm. He had mounted the first three steps of the scaffold, when a young newsman tore forward, ran to him and, from below, seized the railing to stop him. "Dr. Stadler!" he cried in a desperate whisper. "Tell them the truth! Tell them that you had nothing to do with it! Tell them what sort of infernal machine it is and for what purpose it's intended to be used! Tell the country what sort of people are trying to rule it! Nobody can doubt your word! Tell them the truth! Save us! You're the only one who can!" Dr. Stadler looked down at him. He was young; his movements and voice had that swift, sharp clarity which belongs to competence; among his aged, corrupt, favor-ridden and pull-created colleagues, he had managed to achieve the rank of elite of the political press, by means and in the role of a last, irresistible spark of ability. His eyes had the look of an eager, unfrightened intelligence; they were the kind of eyes Dr. Stadler had seen looking up at him from the benches of classrooms. He noticed that this boy's eyes were hazel; they had a tinge of green. Dr. Stadler turned his head and saw that Ferris had come rushing to his side, like a servant or a jailer. "I do not expect to be insulted by disloyal young punks with treasonable motives," said Dr. Stadler loudly. Dr. Ferris whirled upon the young man and snapped, his face out of control, distorted by rage at the unexpected and unplanned, "Give me your press card and your work permit!" "I am proud," Dr. Robert Stadler read-into the microphone and into the attentive silence of a nation, "that my years of work in the service of science have brought me the honor of placing into the hands of our great leader, Mr. Thompson, a new instrument with an incalculable potential for a civilizing and liberating influence upon the mind of man. . . . " The sky had the stagnant breath of a furnace and the streets of New York were like pipes running, not with air and light, but with melted dust. Dagny stood on a street corner, where the airport bus had left her, looking at the city in passive astonishment. The buildings seemed worn by weeks of summer heat, but the people seemed worn by centuries of anguish. She stood watching them, disarmed by an enormous sense of unreality. That sense of unreality had been her only feeling since the early hours of the morning—since the moment when, at the end of an empty highway, she had walked into an unknown town and stopped the first passer-by to ask where she was. "Watsonville," he answered. "What state, please?" she asked. The man glanced at her, said, "Nebraska," and walked hastily away. She smiled mirthlessly, knowing that he wondered where she had come from and that no explanation he could imagine would be as fantastic as the truth. Yet it was Watsonville that seemed fantastic to her, as she walked through its streets to the railroad station. She had lost the habit of observing despair as the normal and dominant aspect of human existence, so normal as to become unnoticed—and the sight of it struck her in all of its senseless futility. She was seeing the brand of pain and fear on the faces of people, and the look of evasion that refuses to know it—they seemed to be going through the motions of some enormous pretense, acting out a ritual to ward off reality, letting the earth remain unseen and their lives unlived, in dread of something namelessly forbidden— yet the forbidden was the simple act of looking at the nature of their pain and questioning their duty to bear it. She was seeing it so clearly that she kept wanting to approach strangers, to shake them, to laugh in their faces and to cry, "Snap out of it!" --------------------------------------- 634 There was no reason for people to be as unhappy as that, she thought, no reason whatever . . . and then she remembered that reason was the one power they had banished from their existence. She boarded a Taggart train for the nearest airfield; she did not identify herself to anyone: it seemed irrelevant. She sat at the window of a coach, like a stranger who has to learn the incomprehensible language of those around her. She picked up a discarded newspaper; she managed, with effort, to understand what was written, but not why it should ever have been written: it all seemed so childishly senseless. She stared in astonishment at a paragraph in a syndicated column from New York, which stated over emphatically that Mr. James Taggart wished it to be known that his sister had died in an airplane crash, any unpatriotic rumors to the contrary notwithstanding. Slowly, she remembered Directive 10-289 and realized that Jim was embarrassed by the public suspicion that she had vanished as a deserter. The wording of the paragraph suggested that her disappearance had been a prominent public issue, not yet dropped. There were other suggestions of it: a mention of Miss Taggart's tragic death, in a story about the growing number of plane crashes—and, on the back page, an ad, offering a $100,000 reward to the person who would find the wreckage of her plane, signed by Henry Rearden. The last gave her a stab of urgency; the rest seemed meaningless. Then, slowly, she realized that her return was a public event which would be taken as big news. She felt a lethargic weariness at the prospect of a dramatic homecoming, of facing Jim and the press, of witnessing the excitement. She wished they would get it over with in her absence. At the airfield, she saw a small-town reporter interviewing some departing officials. She waited till he had finished, then she approached him, extended her credentials and said quietly, to the gaping stare of his eyes, "I'm Dagny Taggart. Would you make it known, please, that I'm alive and that I'll be in New York this afternoon?" The plane was about to take off and she escaped the necessity of answering questions. She watched the prairies, the rivers, the towns slipping past at an untouchable distance below—and she noted that the sense of detachment one feels when looking at the earth from a plane was the same sense she felt when looking at people: only her distance from people seemed longer, The passengers were listening to some radio broadcast, which appeared to be important, judging by their earnest attentiveness. She caught brief snatches of fraudulent voices talking about some sort of new invention that was to bring some undefined benefits to some undefined public's welfare. The words were obviously chosen to convey no specific meaning whatever; she wondered how one could pretend that one was hearing a speech; yet that was what the passengers were doing. They were going through the performance of a child who, not yet able to read, holds a book open and spells out anything he wishes to spell, pretending that it is contained in the incomprehensible black lines. But the child, she thought, knows that he is playing a game; these people pretend to themselves that they are not pretending; they know no other state of existence. The sense of unreality remained as her only feeling, when she landed, when she escaped a crowd of reporters without being seen— by avoiding the taxi stands and leaping into the airport bus—when she rode on the bus, then stood on a street corner, looking et New York, She felt as if she were seeing an abandoned city. She felt no sense of homecoming, when she entered her apartment; the place seemed to be a convenient machine that she could use for some purpose of no significance whatever. --------------------------------------- 635 But she felt a quickened touch of energy, like the first break in a fog —a touch of meaning—when she picked up the telephone receiver and called Rearden's office in Pennsylvania. "Oh, Miss Taggart . . . Miss Taggart!" said, in a joyous moan, the voice of the severe, unemotional Miss Ives. "Hello, Miss Ives. I haven't startled you, have I? You knew that I was alive?" "Oh yes! I heard it on the radio this morning." "Is Mr. Rearden in his office?" "No, Miss Taggart. He . . . he's in the Rocky Mountains, searching for . . . that is . . ." "Yes, I know. Do you know where we can reach him?" "I expect to hear from him at any moment. He's stopping in Los Gatos, Colorado, right now. I phoned him, the moment I heard the news, but he was out and I left a message for him to call me. You see, he's out flying, most of the day . . . but he'll call me when he comes back to the hotel." "What hotel is it?" "The Eldorado Hotel, in Los Gatos." "Thank you, Miss Ives." She was about to hang up. "Oh, Miss Taggart!" "Yes?" "What was it that happened to you? Where were you?" "I . . . I'll tell you when I see you. I'm in New York now. When Mr. Rearden calls, tell him please that I'll be in my office." "Yes, Miss Taggart." She hung up, but her hand remained on the receiver, clinging to her first contact with a matter that had importance. She looked at her apartment and at the city in the window, feeling reluctant to sink again into the dead fog of the meaningless. She raised the receiver and called Los Gatos. "Eldorado Hotel," said a woman's drowsily resentful voice. "Would you take a message for Mr. Henry Rearden? Ash him, when he comes in, to—" "Just a minute, please," drawled the voice, in the impatient tone that resents any effort as an imposition. She heard the clicking of switches, some buzzing, some breaks of silence and then a man's clear, firm voice answering: "Hello?" It was Hank Rearden. She stared at the receiver as at the muzzle of a gun, feeling trapped, unable to breathe. "Hello?" he repeated. "Hank, is that you?" She heard a low sound, more a sigh than a gasp, and then the long, empty crackling of the wire. "Hank'" There was no answer. "Hank!" she screamed in terror. She thought she heard the effort of a breath—then she heard a whisper, which was not a question, but a statement saying everything: "Dagny." "Hank, I'm sorry—oh, darling, I'm sorry!—didn't you know?" "Where are you, Dagny?" "Are you all right?" "Of course." "Didn't you know that I was back and . . . and alive?" "No . . . I didn't know it." "Oh God, I'm sorry I called, I—" "What are you talking about? Dagny, where are you?" "In New York. Didn't you hear about it on the radio?" "No. I've just come in." "Didn't they give you a message to call Miss Ives?" "No." --------------------------------------- 636 "Are you all right?" "Now?" She heard his soft, low chuckle. She was hearing the sound of unreleased laughter, the sound of youth, growing in his voice with every word. "When did you come back?" "This morning." "Dagny, where were you?" She did not answer at once. "My plane crashed," she said. "In the Rockies. I was picked up by some people who helped me, but I could not send word to anyone." The laughter went out of his voice. "As bad as that?" "Oh . . . oh, the crash? No, it wasn't bad. I wasn't hurt. Not seriously." "Then why couldn't you send word?" "There were no . . . no means of communication." "Why did it take you so long to get back?" “I . . . can't answer that now," "Dagny, were you in danger?" The half-smiling, half-bitter tone of her voice was almost regret, as she answered, "No." "Were you held prisoner?" "No—not really." "Then you could have returned sooner, but didn't?" "That's true—but that's all I can tell you," "Where were you, Dagny?" "Do you mind if we don't talk about it now? Let's wait until I see you." "Of course. I won't ask any questions. Just tell me: are you safe now?" "Safe? Yes." "I mean, have you suffered any permanent injuries or consequences?" She answered, with the same sound of a cheerless smile, "Injuries— no, Hank. I don't know, as to the permanent consequences." "Will you still be in New York tonight?" "Why, yes. I'm . . . I'm back for good." "Are you?" "Why do you ask that?" "I don't know. I guess I'm too used to what it's like when . . . when I can't find you." "I'm back." "Yes. I'll see you in a few hours." His voice broke off, as if the sentence were too enormous to believe. "In a few hours," he repeated firmly. "I'll be here." "Dagny—" "Yes?" He chuckled softly. "No, nothing. Just wanted to hear your voice awhile longer. Forgive me. I mean, not now. I mean, I don't want to say anything now." "Hank, I—" "When I see you, my darling. So long." She stood looking at the silent receiver. For the first time since her return, she felt pain, a violent pain, but it made her alive, because it was worth feeling. She telephoned her secretary at Taggart Transcontinental, to say briefly that she would be in the office in half an hour. The statue of Nathaniel Taggart was real—when she stood facing it in the concourse of the Terminal. It seemed to her that they were alone in a vast, echoing temple, with fog coils of formless ghosts weaving and vanishing around them. She stood still, looking up at the statue, as for a brief moment of dedication. I'm back—were the only words she had to offer. --------------------------------------- 637 "Dagny Taggart" was still the inscription on the frosted glass panel of the door to her office. The look on the faces of her staff, as she entered the anteroom, was the look of drowning persons at the sight of a lifeline. She saw Eddie Willers standing at his desk in his glass enclosure, with some man before him. Eddie made a move in her direction, but stopped; he looked imprisoned. She let her glance greet every face in turn, smiling at them gently as at doomed children, then walked toward Eddie's desk. Eddie was watching her approach as if he were seeing nothing else in the world, but his rigid posture seemed designed to pretend that he was listening to the man before him. "Motive power?" the man was saying in a voice that had a brusque, staccato snap and a slurred, nasal drawl, together. "There's no problem about motive power. You just take—" "Hello," said Eddie softly, with a muted smile, as to a distant vision. The man turned to glance at her. He had a yellow complexion, curly hair, a hard face made of soft muscles, and the revolting handsomeness belonging to the esthetic standards of barroom corners; his blurred brown eyes had the empty flatness of glass. "Miss Taggart," said Eddie, in a resonant tone of severity, the tone of slapping the man into the manners of a drawing room he had never entered, "may I present Mr. Meigs?" "How d' do," said the man without interest, then turned to Eddie and proceeded, as if she were not present: "You just take the Comet off the schedule for tomorrow and Tuesday, and shoot the engines to Arizona for the grapefruit special, with the rolling stock from the Scranton coal run I mentioned. Send the orders out at once." "You'll do nothing of the kind!" she gasped, too incredulous to be angry. Eddie did not answer. Meigs glanced at her with what would have been astonishment if his eyes were capable of registering a reaction. "Send the orders," he said to Eddie, with no emphasis, and walked out. Eddie was jotting notations on a piece of paper. "Are you crazy?" she asked. He raised his eyes to her, as though exhausted by hours of beating. "We'll have to, Dagny” he said, his voice dead. "What is that?" she asked, pointing at the outer door that had closed on Mr. Meigs. "The Director of Unification." "What?" "The Washington representative, in charge of the Railroad Unification Plan." "What's that?" "It's . . . Oh, wait, Dagny, are you all right? Were you hurt? Was it a plane crash?" She had never imagined what the face of Eddie Willers would look like in the process of aging, but she was seeing it now—aging at thirty-five and within the span of one month. It was not a matter of texture or wrinkles, it was the same face with the same muscles, but saturated by the withering look of resignation to a pain accepted as hopeless. She smiled, gently and confidently, in understanding, in dismissal of all problems, and said, extending her hand, "All right, Eddie. Hello." He took her hand and pressed it to his lips, a thing he had never done before, his manner neither daring nor apologetic, but simply and openly personal. "It was a plane crash," she said, "and, Eddie, so that you won't worry, 111 tell you the truth: I wasn't hurt, not seriously. But that's not the --------------------------------------- 638 story I'm going to give to the press and to all the others. So you're never to mention it." "Of course." "I had no way to communicate with anyone, but not because I was hurt. It's all I can tell you, Eddie. Don't ask me where I was or why it took me so long to return." "I won't." "Now tell me, what is the Railroad Unification Plan?" "It's . . . Oh, do you mind?—let Jim tell you. He will, soon enough. I just don't have the stomach—unless you want me to," he added, with a conscientious effort at discipline, "No, you don't have to. Just tell me whether I understood that Unificator correctly: he wants you to cancel the Comet for two days in order to give her engines to a grapefruit special in Arizona?" "That's right." "And he's cancelled a coal train in order to get cars to lug grapefruit?" "Yes." "Grapefruit?" "That's right." "Why?" "Dagny, 'why' is a word nobody uses any longer." After a moment, she asked, "Have you any guess about the reason?" "Guess? I don't have to guess. I know." "All right, what is it?" "The grapefruit special is for the Smather brothers. The Smather brothers bought a fruit ranch in Arizona a year ago, from a man who went bankrupt under the Equalization of Opportunity Bill. He had owned the ranch for thirty years. The Smather brothers were in the punchboard business the year before. They bought the ranch by means of a loan from Washington under a project for the reclamation of distressed areas, such as Arizona. The Smather brothers have friends in. Washington." "Well?" "Dagny, everybody knows it. Everybody knows how train schedules have been run in the past three weeks, and why some districts and some shippers get transportation, while others don't. What we're not supposed to do is say that we know it. We're supposed to pretend to believe that 'public welfare is the only reason for any decision—and that the public welfare of the city of New York requires the immediate delivery of a large quantity of grapefruit." He paused, then added, "The Director of Unification is sole judge of the public welfare and has sole authority over the allocation of any motive power and rolling stock on any railroad anywhere in the United States." There was a moment of silence. "I see," she said. In another moment, she asked, "What has been done about the Winston tunnel?" "Oh, that was abandoned three weeks ago. They never unearthed the trains. The equipment gave out." "What has been done about rebuilding the old line around the tunnel?" "That was shelved." "Then are we running any transcontinental traffic?" He gave her an odd glance. "Oh yes," he said bitterly. "Through the detour of the Kansas Western?" "No." "Eddie, what has been happening here in the past month?" He smiled as if his words were an ugly confession. "We've been making money in the past month," he answered. She saw the outer door open and James Taggart come in, accompanied by Mr. Meigs. "Eddie, do you want to be present at the conference?" --------------------------------------- 639 she asked. "Or would you rather miss this one?" "No. I want to be present." Jim's face looked like a crumpled piece of paper, though its soft, puffed flesh had acquired no additional lines. "Dagny, there's a lot of things to discuss, a lot of important changes which—" he said shrilly, his voice rushing in ahead of his person. "Oh, I'm glad to see you back, I'm happy that you're alive," he added impatiently, remembering. "Now there are some urgent—" "Let's go to my office," she said. Her office was like a historical reconstruction, restored and maintained by Eddie Willers. Her map, her calendar, the picture of Nat Taggart were on the walls, and no trace was left of the Clifton Locey era, "I understand that I am still the Operating Vice-President of this railroad?" she asked, sitting down at her desk. "You are," said Taggart hastily, accusingly, almost defiantly. "You certainly are—and don't you forget it—you haven't quit, you're still —have you?" "No, I haven't quit." "Now the most urgent thing to do is to tell that to the press, tell them that you're back on the job and where you were and—and, by the way, where were you?" "Eddie," she said, "will you make a note on this and send it to the press? My plane developed engine trouble while I was flying over the Rocky Mountains to the Taggart Tunnel. I lost my way, looking for an emergency landing, and crashed in an uninhabited mountain section— of Wyoming. I was found by an old sheepherder and his wife, who took me to their cabin, deep in the wilderness, fifty miles away from the nearest settlement. I was badly injured and remained unconscious for most of two weeks. The old couple had no telephone, no radio, no means of communication or transportation, except an old truck that broke down when they attempted to use it. I had to remain with them until I recovered sufficient strength to walk. I walked the fifty miles to the foothills, then hitchhiked my way to a Taggart station in Nebraska." "I see," said Taggart. "Well, that's fine. Now when you give the press interview—" "I'm not going to give any press interviews." "What? But they've been calling me all day! They're waiting! It's essential!" He had an air of panic. "It's most crucially essential!" "Who's been calling you all day?" "People in Washington and . . . and others . . . They're waiting for your statement." She pointed at Eddie's notes. "There's my statement." "But that's not enough! You must say that you haven't quit." "That's obvious, isn't it? I'm back." "You must say something about it." "Such as what?" "Something personal." "To whom?" "To the country. People were worried about you. You must reassure them." "The story will reassure them, if anyone was worried about me." "That's not what I mean!" "Well, what do you mean?" "I mean—" He stopped, his eyes avoiding hers. "I mean—" He sat, searching for words, cracking his knuckles. Jim was going to pieces, she thought; the jerky impatience, the shrillness, the aura of panic were new; crude outbreaks of a tone of ineffectual menace had replaced his pose of cautious smoothness. --------------------------------------- 640 "I mean—" He was searching for words to name his meaning without naming it, she thought, to make her understand that which he did not want to be understood, "I mean, the public—" "I know what you mean," she said. "No, Jim, I'm not going to reassure the public about the state of our industry." "Now you're—" "The public had better be as unreassured as it has the wits to be. Now proceed to business." "I-" "Proceed to business, Jim." He glanced at Mr. Meigs. Mr. Meigs sat silently, his legs crossed, smoking a cigarette. He wore a jacket which was not, but looked like, a military uniform. The flesh of his neck bulged over the collar, and the flesh of his body strained against the narrow waistline intended to disguise it. He wore a ring with a large yellow diamond that flashed when he moved his stubby fingers. "You've met Mr. Meigs," said Taggart. "I'm. so glad that the two of you will get along well together." He made an expectant half-pause, but received no answer from either. "Mr. Meigs is the representative of the Railroad Unification Plan. You'll have many opportunities to cooperate with him." "What is the Railroad Unification Plan?" "It is a . . . a new national setup that went into effect three weeks ago, which you will appreciate and approve of and find extremely practical." She marveled at the futility of his method: he was acting as if, by naming her opinion in advance, he would make her unable to alter it. "It is an emergency setup which has saved the country's transportation system." "What is the plan?" "You realize, of course, the insurmountable difficulties of any sort of construction job during this period of emergency. It is—temporarily— impossible to lay new track. Therefore, the country's top problem is to preserve the transportation industry as a whole, to preserve its existing plant and all of its existing facilities. The national survival requires—" "What is the plan?" "As a policy of national survival, the railroads of the country have been unified into a single team, pooling their resources. All of their gross revenue is turned over to the Railroad Pool Board in Washington, which acts as trustee for the industry as a whole, and divides the total income among the various railroads, according to a . . . a more modern principle of distribution." "What principle?" "Now don't worry, property rights have been fully preserved and protected, they've merely been given a new form. Every railroad retains independent responsibility for its own operations, its train schedules and the maintenance of its track and equipment. As its contribution to the national pool, every railroad permits any other, when conditions so require, to use its track and facilities without charge. At the end of the year, the Pool Board distributes the total gross income, and every individual railroad is paid, not on the haphazard, old-fashioned basis of the number of trains run or the tonnage of freight carried, but on the basis of its need—that is, the preservation of its track being its main need, every individual railroad is paid according to the mileage of the track which it owns and maintains." She heard the words; she understood the meaning; she was unable to make it real—to grant the respect of anger, concern, opposition to a nightmare piece of insanity that rested on nothing but people's willingness to pretend to believe that it was sane. She felt a numbed emptiness —and the sense of being thrown far below the realm where moral indignation is pertinent. --------------------------------------- 641 "Whose track are we using for our transcontinental traffic?" she asked, her voice flat and dry. "Why, our own, of course," said Taggart hastily, "that is, from New York to Bedford, Illinois. We run our trains out of Bedford on the track of the Atlantic Southern." "To San Francisco?" "Well, it's much faster than that long detour you tried to establish." "We run our trains without charge for the use of the track?" "Besides, your detour couldn't have lasted, the Kansas Western rail was shot, and besides—" "Without charge for the use of the Atlantic Southern track?" "Well, we're not charging them for the use of our Mississippi bridge, either." After a moment, she asked, "Have you looked at a map?" "Sure," said Meigs unexpectedly. "You own the largest track mileage of any railroad in the country. So you've got nothing to worry about." Eddie Willers burst out laughing. Meigs glanced at him blankly, "What's the matter with you?" he asked. "Nothing," said Eddie wearily, "nothing." "Mr. Meigs," she said, "if you look at a map, you will see that two thirds of the cost of maintaining a track for our transcontinental traffic is given to us free and is paid by our competitor." "Why, sure," he said, but his eyes narrowed, watching her suspiciously, as if he were wondering what motive prompted her to so explicit a statement. "While we're paid for owning miles of useless track which carries no traffic," she said. Meigs understood—and leaned back as if he had lost all further interest in the discussion. "That's not true!" snapped Taggart. "We're running a great number of local trains to serve the region of our former transcontinental line— through Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado—and, on the other side of the tunnel, through California, Nevada and Utah." "We're running two locals a day," said Eddie Willers, in the dry, blankly innocent tone of a business report. "Fewer, some places." "What determines the number of trains which any given railroad is obligated to run?" she asked. "The public welfare," said Taggart "The Pool Board," said Eddie. "How many trains have been discontinued in the country in the past three weeks?" "As a matter of fact," said Taggart eagerly, "the plan has helped to harmonize the industry and to eliminate cutthroat competition." "It has eliminated thirty per cent of the trains run in-the country," said Eddie. "The only competition left is in the applications to the Board for permission to cancel trains. The railroad to survive will be the one that manages to run no trains at all." "Has anybody calculated how long the Atlantic Southern is expected to be able to remain in business?" "That's no skin off your—" started Meigs. "Please, Cuffy!" cried Taggart. "The president of the Atlantic Southern," said Eddie impassively, "has committed suicide." "That had nothing to do with this!" yelled Taggart. "It was over a personal matter!" She remained silent. She sat, looking at their faces. There was still an element of wonder in the numbed indifference of her mind: Jim had always managed to switch the weight of his failures upon the strongest plants around him and to survive by destroying them to pay for his errors, as he had done --------------------------------------- 642 with Dan Conway, as he had done with the industries of Colorado; but this did not have even the rationality of a looter—this pouncing upon the drained carcass of a weaker, a half bankrupt competitor for a moment's delay, with nothing but a cracking bone between the pouncer and the abyss. The impulse of the habit of reason almost pushed her to speak, to argue, to demonstrate the self-evident—but she looked at their faces and she saw that they knew it. In some terms different from hers, in some inconceivable manner of consciousness, they knew all that she could tell them, it was useless to prove to them the irrational horror of their course and of its consequences, both Meigs and Taggart knew it— and the secret of their consciousness was the means by which they escaped the finality of their knowledge, "I see," she said quietly. "Well, what would you rather have had me do?" screamed Taggart. "Give up our transcontinental traffic? Go bankrupt? Turn the railroad into a miserable East Coast local?" Her two words seemed to have hit him worse than any indignant objection; he seemed to be shaking with terror at that which the quiet "I see” had acknowledged seeing. "I couldn't help it! We had to have a transcontinental track! There was no way to get around the tunnel! We had no money to pay for any extra costs! Something had to be done! We had to have a track!" Meigs was looking at him with a glance of part-astonishment, part disgust, "I am not arguing, Jim," she said dryly. "We couldn't permit a railroad like Taggart Transcontinental to crash! It would have been a national catastrophe! We had to think of all the cities and industries and shippers and passengers and employees and stockholders whose lives depend on us! It wasn't just for ourselves, it was for the public welfare! Everybody agrees that the Railroad Unification Plan is practical! The best-informed—" "Jim," she said, "if you have any further business to discuss with me — discuss it." "You've never considered the social angle of anything," he said, in a sullen, retreating voice. She noticed that this form of pretense was as unreal to Mr. Meigs as it was to her, though for an antipodal reason. He was looking at Jim with bored contempt. Jim appeared to her suddenly as a man who had tried to find a middle course between two poles—Meigs and herself —and who was now seeing that his course was narrowing and that he was to be ground between two straight walls. "Mr. Meigs," she asked, prompted by a touch of bitterly amused curiosity, "what is your economic plan for day after tomorrow?" She saw his bleary brown eyes focus upon her without expression. "You're impractical," he said. "It's perfectly useless to theorize about the future," snapped Taggart, "when we have to take care of the emergency of the moment. In the long run—" "In the long run, we'll all be dead," said Meigs. Then, abruptly, he shot to his feet. "I'll run along, Jim," he said. "I've got no time to waste on conversations." He added, "You talk to her about that matter of doing something to stop all those train wrecks—if she's the little girl who's such a wizard at railroading." It was said inoffensively; he was a man who would not know when he was giving offense or taking it. "I'll see you later, Cuffy," said Taggart, as Meigs walked out with no parting glance at any of them. Taggart looked at her, expectantly and fearfully, as if dreading her comment, yet desperately hoping to hear some word, any word. "Well?" she asked. "What do you mean?" "Have you anything else to discuss?" --------------------------------------- 643 "Well, I . . . " He sounded disappointed. "Yes!" he cried, in the tone of a desperate plunge. "I have another matter to discuss, the most important one of all, the—" "Your growing number of train wrecks?" "No! Not that." "What, then?" "It's . . . that you're going to appear on Bertram Scudder's radio program tonight." She leaned back. "Am I?" "Dagny, it's imperative, it's crucial, there's nothing to be done about it, to refuse is out of the question, in times like these one has no choice, and—" She glanced at her watch. "I'll give you three minutes to explain— if you want to be heard at all. And you'd better speak straight." "All right!" he said desperately. "It's considered most important— on the highest levels, I mean Chick Morrison and Wesley Mouch and Mr. Thompson, as high as that—that you should make a speech to the nation, a morale-building speech, you know, saying that you haven't quit." "Why?" "Because everybody thought you had! . . . You don't know what's been going on lately, but . . . but it's sort of uncanny. The country is full of rumors, all sorts of rumors, about everything, all of them dangerous. Disruptive, I mean. People seem to do nothing but whisper. They don't believe the newspapers, they don't believe the best speakers, they believe every vicious, scare-mongering piece of gossip that comes floating around. There's no confidence left, no faith, no order, no . . . no respect for authority. People . . . people seem to be on the verge of panic." "Well?" "Well, for one thing, it's that damnable business of all those big industrialists who've vanished into thin air! Nobody's been able to explain it and it's giving them the jitters. There's all sorts of hysterical stuff being whispered about it, but what they whisper mostly is that 'no decent man will work for those people.' They mean the people in Washington. Now do you see? You wouldn't suspect that you were so famous, but you are, or you've become, ever since your plane crash. Nobody believed the plane crash. They all thought you had broken the law, that is, Directive 10-289, and deserted. There's a lot of popular . . . misunderstanding of Directive 10-289, a lot of . . . well, unrest. Now you see how important it is that you go on the air and tell people that it isn't true that Directive 10-289 is destroying industry, that it's a sound piece of legislation devised for everybody's good, and that if they'll just be patient a little longer, things will improve and prosperity will return. They don't believe any public official any more. You . . . you're an industrialist, one of the few left of the old school, and the only one who's ever come back after they thought you'd gone. You're known as . . . as a reactionary who's opposed to Washington policies. So the people will believe you. It would have a great influence on them, it would buttress their confidence, it would help their morale. Now do you see?" He had rushed on, encouraged by the odd look of her face, a look of contemplation that was almost a faint half-smile. She had listened, hearing, through his words, the sound of Rearden's voice saying to her on a spring evening over a year ago: "They need some sort of sanction from us. I don't know the nature of that sanction -—but, Dagny, I know that if we value our lives, we must not give it to them. If they put you on a torture rack, don't give it to them. Let them destroy your railroad and my mills, but don't give it to them." "Now do you see?" --------------------------------------- 644 "Oh yes, Jim, I see!" He could not interpret the sound of her voice, it was low, it was part- moan, part-chuckle, part-triumph—but it was the first sound of emotion to come from her, and he plunged on, with no choice but to hope. "I promised them in Washington that you'd speak! We can't fail them—not in an issue of this kind! We can't afford to be suspected of disloyalty. It's alt arranged. You'll be the guest speaker on Bertram Scudder's program, tonight, at ten- thirty. He's got a radio program where he interviews prominent public figures, it's a national hookup, he has a large following, he reaches over twenty million people. The office of the Morale Conditioner has—" "The what?" "The Morale Conditioner—that's Chick Morrison—has called me three times, to make sure that nothing would go wrong. They've issued orders to all the news broadcasters, who've been announcing it all day, all over the country, telling people to listen to you tonight on Bertram Scudder's hour." He looked at her as if he were demanding both an answer and the recognition that her answer was the element of least importance in these circumstances. She said, "You know what I think of the Washington policies and of Directive 10-289." "At a time like this, we can't afford the luxury of thinking!" She laughed aloud. "But don't you see that you can't refuse them now?" he yelled. "If you don't appear after all those announcements, it will support the rumors, it will amount to an open declaration of disloyalty!" "The trap won't work, Jim." "What trap?" "The one you're always setting up." "I don't know what you mean!" "Yes, you do. You knew—all of you knew it—that I would refuse. So you pushed me into a public trap, where my refusal would become an embarrassing scandal for you, more embarrassing than you thought I'd dare to cause. You were counting on me to save your faces and the necks you stuck out. I won't save them." "But I promised it!" "I didn't." "But we can't refuse them! Don't you see that they've got us hogtied? That they're holding us by the throat? Don't you know what they can do to us through this Railroad Pool, or through the Unification Board, or through the moratorium on our bonds?" "I knew that two years ago." He was shaking; there was some formless, desperate, almost superstitious quality in his terror, out of proportion to the dangers he named. She felt suddenly certain that it came from something deeper than his fear of bureaucratic reprisal, that the reprisal was the only identification of it which he would permit himself to know, a reassuring identification which had a semblance of rationality and hid his true motive. She felt certain that it was not the country's panic he wanted to stave off, but his own—that he, and Chick Morrison and Wesley Mouch and all the rest of the looting crew needed her sanction, not to reassure their victims, but to reassure themselves, though the allegedly crafty, the allegedly practical idea of deluding their victims was the only identification they gave to their own motive and their hysterical insistence. With an awed contempt—awed by the enormity of the sight—she wondered what inner degradation those men had to reach in order to arrive at a level of self-deception where they would seek the extorted approval of an unwilling victim as the moral sanction they needed, they who thought that they were merely deceiving the world. "We have no choice!" he cried. "Nobody has any choice!" --------------------------------------- 645 "Get out of here," she said, her voice very quiet and low. Some tonal quality in the sound of her voice struck the note of the unconfessed within him, as ft, never allowing it into words, he knew from what knowledge that sound had come. He got out. She glanced at Eddie; he looked like a man worn by fighting one more of the attacks of disgust which he was learning to endure as a chronic condition. After a moment, he asked, "Dagny, what became of Quentin Daniels? You were flying after him, weren't you?" "Yes," she said. "He's gone." 'To the destroyer?" The word hit her like a physical blow. It was the first touch of the outer world upon that radiant presence which she had kept within her all day, as a silent, changeless vision, a private vision, not to be affected by any of the things around her, not to be thought about, only to be felt as the source of her strength. The destroyer, she realized, was the name of that vision, here, in their world. "Yes," she said dully, with effort, "to the destroyer." Then she closed her hands over the edge of the desk, to steady her purpose and her posture, and said, with the bitter hint of a smile, "Well, Eddie, let's see what two impractical persons, like you and me, can do about preventing the tram wrecks." It was two hours later—when she was alone at her desk, bent over sheets of paper that bore nothing but figures, yet were like a motion picture film unrolling to tell her the whole story of the railroad in the past four weeks— that the buzzer rang and her secretary's voice said, "Mrs. Rearden to see you, Miss Taggart." "Mr. Rearden?" she asked incredulously, unable to believe either. "No. Mrs. Rearden." She let a moment pass, then said, "Please ask her to come in." There was some peculiar touch of emphasis in Lillian Rearden's bearing when she entered and walked toward the desk. She wore a tailored suit, with a loose, bright bow hanging casually sidewise for a note of elegant incongruity, and a small hat tilted at an angle considered smart by virtue of being considered amusing; her face was a shade too smooth, her steps a shade too slow, and she walked almost as if she were swinging her hips. "How do you do, Miss Taggart," she said in a lazily gracious voice, a drawing-room voice which seemed to strike, in that office, the same style of incongruity as her suit and her bow. Dagny inclined her head gravely. Lillian glanced about the office; her glance had the same style of amusement as her hat: an amusement purporting to express maturity by the conviction that life could be nothing but ridiculous. "Please sit down," said Dagny. Lillian sat down, relaxing Into a confident, gracefully casual posture. When she turned her face to Dagny, the amusement was still there, but its shading was now different: it seemed to suggest that they shared a secret, which would make her presence here seem preposterous to the world, but self- evidently logical to the two of them. She stressed it by remaining silent. "What can I do for you?" "I came to tell you," said Lillian pleasantly, "that you will appear on Bertram Scudder's broadcast tonight." She detected no astonishment in Dagny's face, no shock, only the glance of an engineer studying a motor that makes an irregular sound. "I assume," said Dagny, "that you are fully aware of the form of your sentence." "Oh yes!" said Lillian. --------------------------------------- 646 "Then proceed to support it." "I beg your pardon?" "Proceed to tell me." Lillian gave a brief little laugh, its forced brevity betraying that this was not quite the attitude she had expected. "I am sure that no lengthy explanations will be necessary," she said. "You know why your appearance on that broadcast is important to those in power. I know why you have refused to appear. I know your convictions on the subject. You may have attached no importance to it, but you do know that my sympathy has always been on the side of the system now in power. Therefore, you will understand my interest in the issue and my place in it. When your brother told me that you had refused, I decided to take a hand in the matter—because, you see, I am one of the very few who know that you are not in a position to refuse." "I am not one of those few, as yet," said Dagny. Lillian smiled. "Well, yes, I must explain a little further. You realize that your radio appearance will have the same value for those in power as—as the action of my husband when he signed the Gift Certificate that turned Rearden Metal over to them. You know how frequently and how usefully they have been mentioning it in all of their propaganda." "I didn't know that," said Dagny sharply. "Oh, of course, you have been away for most of the last two months, so you might have missed the constant reminders—in the press, on the radio, in public speeches—that even Hank Rearden approves of and supports Directive 10- 289, since he has voluntarily signed his Metal over to the nation. Even Hank Rearden. That discourages a great many recalcitrants and helps to keep them in line." She leaned back and asked in the tone of a casual aside, "Have you ever asked him why he signed?" Dagny did not answer; she did not seem to hear that it was a question; she sat still and her face was expressionless, but her eyes seemed too large and they were fixed on Lillian's, as if she were now intent upon nothing but hearing Lillian to the end. "No, I didn't think you knew it. I didn't think that he would ever tell you," said Lillian, her voice smoother, as if recognizing the signposts and sliding comfortably down the anticipated course. "Yet you must learn the reason that made him sign—because it is the same reason that will make you appear on Bertram Scudder's broadcast tonight." She paused, wishing to be urged; Dagny waited. "It is a reason," said Lillian, "which should please you—as far as my husband's action is concerned. Consider what that signature meant to him. Rearden Metal was his greatest achievement, the summation of the best in his life, the final symbol of his pride—and my husband, as you have reason to know, is an extremely passionate man, his pride in himself being, perhaps, his greatest passion. Rearden Metal was more than an achievement to him, it was the symbol of his ability to achieve, of his independence, of his struggle, of his rise. It was his property, his by right—and you know what rights mean to a man as strict as he, and what property means to a man as possessive. He would have gladly died to defend it, rather than surrender it to the men he despised. This is what it meant to him—and this is what he gave up. You will be glad to know that he gave it up for your sake, Miss Taggart. For the sake of your reputation and your honor. He signed the Gift Certificate surrendering Rearden Metal—under the threat that the adultery he was carrying on with you would be exposed to the eyes of the world. Oh yes, we had full proof of it, in every intimate detail. I believe that you hold a philosophy which disapproves of sacrifice—but in this case, you are most certainly a woman, so I'm sure that you will feel gratification at the magnitude of the sacrifice a man has made for the privilege of using your --------------------------------------- 647 body. You have undoubtedly taken great pleasure in the nights which he spent in your bed. You may now take pleasure in the knowledge of what those nights have cost him. And since—you like bluntness, don't you, Miss Taggart?—since your chosen status is that of a whore, I take my hat off to you in regard to the price you exacted, which none of your sisters could ever have hoped to match." Lillian's voice had kept growing reluctantly sharper, like a drill head that kept breaking by being unable to find the line of the fault in the stone. Dagny was still looking at her, but the intensity had vanished from Dagny's eyes and posture. Lillian wondered why she felt as if Dagny's face were hit by a spotlight. She could detect no particular expression, it was simply a face in natural repose—and the clarity seemed to come from its structure, from the precision of its sharp planes, the firmness of the mouth, the steadiness of the eyes. She could not decipher the expression of the eyes, it seemed incongruous, it resembled the calm, not of a woman, but of a scholar, it had that peculiar, luminous quality which is the fearlessness of satisfied knowledge. "It was I," said Lillian softly, "who informed the bureaucrats about my husband's adultery." Dagny noticed the first flicker of feeling in Lillian's lifeless eyes: it resembled pleasure, but so distantly that it looked like sunlight reflected from the dead surface of the moon to the stagnant water of a swamp; it flickered for an instant and went. "It was I," said Lillian, "who took Rearden Metal away from him." It sounded almost like a plea. It was not within the power of Dagny's consciousness ever to understand that plea or to know what response Lillian had hoped to find; she knew only that she had not found it, when she heard the sudden shrillness of Lillian's voice: "Have you understood me?" "Yes." "Then you know what I demand and why you'll obey me. You thought you were invincible, you and he, didn't you?" The voice was attempting smoothness, but it was jerking unevenly. "You have always acted on no will but your own—a luxury I have not been able to afford. For once and in compensation, I will see you acting on mine. You can't fight me. You can't buy your way out of it, with those dollars which you're able to make and I'm not. There's no profit you can offer me—I'm devoid of greed. I'm not paid by the bureaucrats for doing this—I am doing it without gain. Without gain. Do you understand me?" "Yes." "Then no further explanations are necessary, only the reminder that all the factual evidence—hotel registers, jewelry bills and stuff like that—is still in the possession of the right persons and will be broadcast on every radio program tomorrow, unless you appear on one radio program tonight. Is this clear?" "Yes." "Now what is your answer?" She saw the luminous scholar-eyes looking at her, and suddenly she felt as if too much of her were seen and as if she were not seen at all. "I am glad that you have told me," said Dagny. "I will appear on Bertram Scudder's broadcast tonight." There was a beam of white light beating down upon the glittering metal of a microphone—in the center of a glass cage imprisoning her with Bertram Scudder. The spark of glitter were greenish-blue; the microphone was made of Rearden Metal. Above them, beyond a sheet of glass, she could distinguish a booth with two rows of faces looking down at her: the lax, anxious face of James --------------------------------------- 648 Taggart, with Lillian Rearden beside him, her hand resting reassuringly on his arm—a man who had arrived by plane from Washington and had been introduced to her as Chick Morrison—and a group of young men from his staff, who talked about percentage curves of intellectual influence and acted like motorcycle cops. Bertram Scudder seemed to be afraid of her. He clung to the microphone, spitting words into its delicate mesh, into the ears of the country, introducing the subject of his program. He was laboring to sound cynical, skeptical, superior and hysterical together, to sound like a man who sneers at the vanity of all human beliefs and thereby demands an instantaneous belief from his listeners. A small patch of moisture glistened on the back of his neck. He was describing in over colored detail her month of convalescence in the lonely cabin of a sheepherder, then her heroic trudging down fifty miles of mountain trails for the sake of resuming her duties to the people in this grave hour of national emergency. ". . . And if any of you have been deceived by vicious rumors aimed to undermine your faith in the great social program of our leaders— you may trust the word of Miss Taggart, who—" She stood, looking up at the white beam. Specks of dust were whirling in the beam and she noticed that one of them was alive: it was a gnat with a tiny sparkle in place of its beating wings, it was struggling for some frantic purpose of its own, and she watched it, feeling as distant from its purpose as from that of the world. ". . . Miss Taggart is an impartial observer, a brilliant businesswoman who has often been critical of the government in the past and who may be said to represent the extreme, conservative viewpoint held by such giants of industry as Hank Rearden. Yet even she—" She wondered at how easy it felt, when one did not have to feel; she seemed to be standing naked on public display, and a beam of light was enough to support her, because there was no weight of pain in her, no hope, no regret, no concern, no future. ". . . And now, ladies and gentlemen, I will present to you the heroine of this night, our most uncommon guest, the—" Pain came back to her in a sudden, piercing stab, like a long splinter from the glass of a protective wall shattered by the knowledge that the next words would be hers; it came back for the brief length of a name in her mind, the name of the man she had called the destroyer: she did not want him to hear what she would now have to say. If you hear it—the pain was like a voice crying it to him—you won't believe the things I have said to you—no, worse, the things which I have not said, but which you knew and believed and accepted —you will think that I was not free to offer them and that my days with you were a lie—this will destroy my one month and ten of your years— this was not the way I wanted you to learn it, not like this, not tonight —but you will, you who've watched and known my every movement, you who're watching me now, wherever you are—you will hear it—but it has to be said. "—the last descendant of an illustrious name in our industrial history, the woman executive possible only in America, the Operating Vice-President of a great railroad—Miss Dagny Taggart!" Then she felt the touch of Rearden Metal, as her hand closed over the stem of the microphone, and it was suddenly easy, not with the drugged ease of indifference, but with the bright, clear, living ease of action. "I came here to tell you about the social program, the political system and the moral philosophy under which you are now living." There was so calm, so natural, so total a certainty in the sound of her voice that the mere sound seemed to carry an immense persuasiveness. "You have heard it said that I believe that this system has depravity as its motive, plunder as its goal, lies, fraud and force as its method, and --------------------------------------- 649 destruction as its only result. You have also heard it said that, like Hank Rearden, I am a loyal supporter of this system and that I give my voluntary co-operation to present policies, such as Directive 10-289.1 have come here to tell you the truth about it. "It is true that I share the stand of Hank Rearden. His political convictions are mine. You have heard him denounced in the past as a reactionary who opposed every step, measure, slogan and premise of the present system. Now you hear him praised as our greatest industrialist, whose judgment on the value of economic policies may safely be trusted. It is true. You may trust his judgment. If you are now beginning to fear that you are in the power of an irresponsible evil, that the country is collapsing and that you will soon be left to starve—consider the views of our ablest industrialist, who knows what conditions are necessary to make production possible and to permit a country to survive. Consider all that you know about his views. At such times as he was able to speak, you have heard him tell you that this government's policies were leading you to enslavement and destruction. Yet he did not denounce the final climax of these policies—Directive 10-289. You have heard him fighting for his rights—his and yours—for his independence, for his property. Yet he did not fight Directive 10-289. He signed voluntarily, so you have been told, the Gift Certificate that surrendered Rearden Metal to his enemies. He signed the one paper which, by all of his previous record, you had expected him to fight to the death. What could this mean—you have constantly been told— unless it meant that even he recognized the necessity of Directive 10289 and sacrificed his personal interests for the sake of the country? Judge his views by the motive of that action, you have constantly been told. And with this I agree unreservedly: judge his views by the motive of that action. And—for whatever value you attach to my opinion and to any warning I may give you—judge my views also by the motive of that action, because his convictions are mine. "For two years, I had been Hank Rearden's mistress. Let there be no misunderstanding about it: I am saying this, not as a shameful confession, but with the highest sense of pride. I had been his mistress. I had slept with him, in his bed, in his arms. There is nothing anyone might now say to you about me, which I will not tell you first. It will be useless to defame me—I know the nature of the accusations and I will state them to you myself. Did I feel a physical desire for him? I did. Was I moved by a passion of my body? I was. Have I experienced the most violent form of sensual pleasure? I have. If this now makes me a disgraced woman in your eyes—let your estimate be your own concern. I will stand on mine." Bertram Scudder was staring at her; this was not the speech he had expected and he felt, in dim panic, that it was not proper to let it continue, but she was the special guest whom the Washington rulers had ordered him to treat cautiously; he could not be certain whether he was now supposed to interrupt her or not; besides, he enjoyed hearing this sort of story. In the audience booth, James Taggart and Lillian Rearden sat frozen, like animals paralyzed by the headlight of a train rushing down upon them; they were the only ones present who knew the connection between the words they were hearing and the theme of the broadcast; it was too late for them to move; they dared not assume the responsibility of a movement or of whatever was to follow. In the control room, a young intellectual of Chick Morrison's staff stood ready to cut the broadcast off the air in case of trouble, but he saw no political significance in the speech he was hearing, no element he could construe as dangerous to his masters. He was accustomed to hearing speeches extorted by unknown pressure from unwilling victims, and he concluded that this was the case of a reactionary forced to confess a scandal and that, --------------------------------------- 650 therefore, the speech had, perhaps, some political value; besides, he was curious to hear it "I am proud that he had chosen me to give him pleasure and that it was he who had been my choice. It was not—as it is for most of you— an act of casual indulgence and mutual contempt. It was the ultimate form of our admiration for each other, with full knowledge of the values by which we made our choice. We are those who do not disconnect the values of their minds from the actions of their bodies, those who do not leave their values to empty dreams, but bring them into existence, those who give material form to thoughts, and reality to values—those who make steel, railroads and happiness. And to such among you who hate the thought of human joy, who wish to see men's life as chronic suffering and failure, who wish men to apologize for happiness—or for success, or ability, or achievement, or wealth— to such among you, I am now saying: I wanted him, I had him, I was happy, I had known joy, a pure, full, guiltless joy, the joy you dread to hear confessed by any human being, the joy of which your only knowledge is in your hatred for those who are worthy of reaching it. Well, hate me, then—because I reached it!" "Miss Taggart," said Bertram Scudder nervously, "aren't we departing from the subject of . . . After all, your personal relationship with Mr. Rearden has no political significance which—" "[ didn't think it had, either. And, of course, I came here to tell you about the political and moral system under which you are now living. Well, I thought that I knew everything about Hank Rearden, but there was one thing which I did not learn until today. It was the blackmail threat that our relationship would be made public that forced Hank Rearden to sign the Gift Certificate surrendering Rearden Metal. It was blackmail—blackmail by your government officials, by your rulers, by your—" In the instant when Scudder's hand swept out to knock the microphone over, a faint click came from its throat as it crashed to the floor, signifying that the intellectual cop had cut the broadcast off the air. She laughed—but there was no one to see her and to hear the nature of her laughter. The figures rushing into the glass enclosure were screaming at one another. Chick Morrison was yelling unprintable curses at Bertram Scudder— Bertram Scudder was shouting that he had been opposed to the whole idea, but had been ordered to do it—James Taggart looked like an animal baring its teeth, while he snarled at two of Morrison's youngest assistants and avoided the snarls of an older third. The muscles of Lillian Rearden's face had an odd slackness, like the limbs of an animal lying in the road, intact but dead. The morale conditioners were shrieking what they guessed they thought Mr. Mouch would think. "What am I to say to them?" the program announcer was crying, pointing at the microphone. "Mr. Morrison, there's an audience waiting, what am I to say?" Nobody answered him. They were not fighting over what to do, but over whom to blame. Nobody said a word to Dagny or glanced in her direction. Nobody stopped her, when she walked out. She stepped into the first taxicab in sight, giving the address of her apartment. As the cab started, she noticed that the dial of the radio on the driver's panel was lighted and silent, crackling with the brief, tense coughs of static: it was tuned to Bertram Scudder's program. She lay back against the seat, feeling nothing but the desolation of the knowledge that the sweep of her action had, perhaps, swept away the man who might never wish to see her again. She felt, for the first time, the immensity of the hopelessness of finding him—if he did not choose to be found—in the streets of the city, in the towns of a continent, in the canyons of the Rocky Mountains where the goal was closed by a screen of rays. But one thing remained to her, like a log floating on a void, the log to which she --------------------------------------- 651 had clung through the broadcast—and she knew that this was the thing she could not abandon, even were she to lose all the rest; it was the sound of his voice saying to her: "Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever." "Ladies and gentlemen,'1 the voice of Bertram Scudder's announcer crackled suddenly out of the static, "due to technical difficulties over which we have no control, this station will remain off the air, pending the necessary readjustments." The taxi driver gave a brief, contemptuous chuckle—and snapped the radio off. When she stepped out and handed him a bill, he extended the change to her and, suddenly, leaned forward for a closer look at her face. She felt certain that he recognized her and she held his glance austerely for an instant. His bitter face and his over patched shirt were worn out by a hopeless, losing struggle. As she handed him. a tip, he said quietly, with too earnest, too solemn an emphasis for a mere acknowledgment of the corns, "Thank you, ma'am," She turned swiftly and hurried into the building, not to let him see the emotion which was suddenly more than she could bear. Her head was drooping, as she unlocked the door of her apartment, and the light struck her from below, from the carpet, before she jerked her head up in astonishment at finding the apartment lighted. She took a step forward—and saw Hank Rearden standing across the room. She was held still by two shocks: one was the sight of his presence, she had not expected him to be back so soon; the other was the sight of his face. His face had so firm, so confident, so mature a look of calm, in the faint half-smile, in the clarity of the eyes, that she felt as if he had aged decades within one month, but aged in the proper sense of human growth, aged in vision, in stature, in power. She felt that he who had lived through a month of agony, he whom she had hurt so deeply and was about to hurt more deeply still, he would now be the one to give her support and consolation, his would be the strength to protect them both. She stood motionless for only an instant, but she saw his smile deepening as if he were reading her thoughts and telling her that she had nothing to fear. She heard a slight, crackling sound and saw, on a table beside him, the lighted dial of a silent radio. Her eyes moved to his as a question and he answered by the faintest nod, barely more than a lowering of his eyelids; he had heard her broadcast. They moved toward each other in the same moment. He seized her shoulders to support her, her face was raised to his, but he did not touch her lips, he took her hand and kissed her wrist, her fingers, her palm, as the sole form of the greeting which so much of his suffering had gone to await. And suddenly, broken by the whole of this day and of that month, she was sobbing in his arms, slumped against him, sobbing as she had never done in her life, as a woman, in surrender to pain and in a last, futile protest against it. Holding her so that she stood and moved only by means of his body, not hers, he led her to the couch and tried to make her sit down beside him, but she slipped to the floor, to sit at his feet and bury her face in his knees and sob without defense or disguise. He did not lift her, he let her cry, with his arm tight about her. She felt his hand on her head, on. her shoulder, she felt the protection of his firmness, a firmness which seemed to tell her that as her tears were for both of them, so was his knowledge, that he knew her pain and felt it and understood, yet was able to witness it calmly—and his calm seemed to lift her burden, by granting her the right to break, here, at his feet, by telling her that he was able to carry what she could not carry any longer. She knew dimly that this was the real Hank Rearden, and no matter what form of insulting cruelty he had once given to their first nights together, no matter how often she had seemed as the stronger of the two, this had always been within him --------------------------------------- 652 and at the root of their bond—this strength of his which would protect her if ever hers were gone. When she raised her head, he was smiling down at her. "Hank . . ." she whispered guiltily, in desperate astonishment at her own break. "Quiet, darling." She let her face drop back on his knees; she lay still, fighting for rest, fighting against the pressure of a wordless thought: he had been able to bear and to accept her broadcast only as a confession of her love; it made the truth she now had to tell him more inhuman a blow than anyone had the right to deliver. She felt terror at the thought that she would not have the strength to do it, and terror at the thought that she would. When she looked up at him again, he ran his hand over her forehead, brushing the hair o2 her face. "It's over, darling," he said. "The worst of it is over, for both of us." "No, Hank, it isn't." He smiled. He drew her to sit beside him, with her head on his shoulder. "Don't say anything now,” he said. "You know that we both understand all that has to be said, and we'll speak of it, but not until it has ceased to hurt you quite so much." His hand moved down the line of her sleeve, down a fold of her skirt, with so light a pressure that it seemed as if the hand did not feel the body inside the clothes, as if he were regaining possession, not of her body, but only of its vision. "You've taken too much," he said. "So have I. Let them batter us. There's no reason why we should add to it. No matter what we have to face, there can be no suffering between the two of us. No added pain. Let that come from their world. It won't come from us. Don't be afraid. We won't hurt each other. Not now." She raised her head, shaking it with a bitter smile—there was a desperate violence in her movement, but the smile was a sign of recovery: of the determination to face the despair. "Hank, the kind of hell I let you go through in the last month—" Her voice was trembling. "It's nothing, compared to the kind of hell I let you go through in the last hour." His voice was steady. She got up, to pace the room, to prove her strength—her steps like words telling him that she was not to be spared any longer. When she stopped and turned to face him, he rose, as if he understood her motive. "I know that I've made it worse for you," she said, pointing at the radio. He shook his head. "No." "Hank, there's something I have to tell you." "So have I. Will you let me speak first? You see, it's something I should have said to you long ago. Will you let me speak and not answer me until I finish?" She nodded. He took a moment to look at her as she stood before him, as if to hold the full sight of her figure, of this moment and of everything that had led them to it. "I love you, Dagny," he said quietly, with the simplicity of an unclouded, yet unsmiling happiness. She was about to speak, but knew that she couldn't, even if he had permitted it, she caught her unuttered words, the movement of her lips was her only answer, then she inclined her head in acceptance. "I love you. As the same value, as the same expression, with the same pride and the same meaning as I love my work, my mills, my Metal, my hours at --------------------------------------- 653 a desk, at a furnace, in a laboratory, in an ore mine, as I love my ability to work, as I love the act of sight and knowledge, as I love the action of my mind when it solves a chemical equation or grasps a sunrise, as I love the things I've made and the things I've felt, as my product, as my choice, as a shape of my world, as my best mirror, as the wife I've never had, as that which makes all the rest of it possible: as my power to live." She did not drop her face, but kept it level and open, to hear and accept, as he wanted her to and as he deserved. "I loved you from the first day I saw you, on a flatcar on a siding of Milford Station. I loved you when we rode in the cab of the first engine on the John Galt Line. I loved you on the gallery of Ellis Wyatt's house. I loved you on that next morning. You knew it. But it's I who must say it to you, as I'm saying it now—if I am to redeem all those days and to let them be fully what they were for both of us, I loved you. You knew it. I didn't. And because I didn't, I had to learn it when I sat at my desk and looked at the Gift Certificate for Rearden Metal." She closed her eyes. But there was no suffering in his face, nothing but the immense and quiet happiness of clarity. " 'We are those who do not disconnect the values of their minds from the actions of their bodies.' You said it in your broadcast tonight. But you knew it, then, on that morning in Ellis Wyatt's house. You knew that all those insults I was throwing at you were the fullest confession of love a man could make. You knew that the physical desire I was damning as our mutual shame, is neither physical nor an expression of one's body, but the expression of one's mind's deepest values, whether one has the courage to know it or not. That was why you laughed at me as you did, wasn't it?" "Yes," she whispered. "You said, 'I do not want your mind, your will, your being or your soul—so long as it's to me that you will come for that lowest one of your desires.' You knew, when you said it, that it was my mind, my will, my being and my soul that I was giving you by means of that desire. And I want to say it now, to let that morning mean what it meant: my mind, my will, my being and my soul, Dagny—yours, for as long as I shall live." He was looking straight at her and she saw a brief sparkle in his eyes, which was not a smile, but almost as if he had heard the cry she had not uttered. "Let me finish, dearest. I want you to know how fully I know what I am saying. I, who thought that I was fighting them, I had accepted the worst of our enemies' creed—and that is what I've paid for ever since, as I am paying now and as I must. I had accepted the one tenet by which they destroy a man before he's started, the killer-tenet: the breach between his mind and body. I had accepted it, like most of their victims, not knowing it, not knowing even that the issue existed. I rebelled against their creed of human impotence and I took pride in my ability to think, to act, to work for the satisfaction of my desires. But I did not know that this was virtue, I never identified it as a moral value, as the highest of moral values, to be defended above one's life, because it's that which makes life possible. And I accepted punishment for it, punishment for virtue at the hands of an arrogant evil, made arrogant solely by my ignorance and my submission. "1 accepted their insults, their frauds, their extortions. I thought I could afford to ignore them—all those impotent mystics who prattle about their souls and are unable to build a roof over their heads. I thought that the world was mine, and that those jabbering incompetents were no threat to my strength. I could not understand why I kept losing every battle. I did not know that the force unleashed against me was my own. While I was busy conquering matter, I had surrendered to them the realm of the mind, of --------------------------------------- 654 thought, of principle, of law, of values, of morality. I had accepted, unwittingly and by default, the tenet that ideas were of no consequence to one's existence, to one's work, to reality, to this earth—as if ideas were not the province of reason, but of that mystic faith which I despised. This was all they wanted me to concede. It was enough. I had surrendered that which all of their claptrap is designed to subvert and to destroy: man's reason. No, they were not able to deal with matter, to produce abundance, to control this earth. They did not have to. They controlled me. "I, who knew that wealth is only a means to an end, created the means and let them prescribe my ends. I, who took pride in my ability to achieve the satisfaction of my desires, let them prescribe the code of values by which I judged my desires. I, who shaped matter to serve my purpose, was left with a pile of steel and gold, but with my every purpose defeated, my every desire betrayed, my every attempt at happiness frustrated. "1 had cut myself in two, as the mystics preached, and I ran my business by one code of rules, but my own life by another. I rebelled against the looters' attempt to set the price and value of my steel—but I let them set the moral values of my life. I rebelled against demands for an unearned wealth—but I thought it was my duty to grant an unearned love to a wife I despised, an unearned respect to a mother who hated me, an unearned support to a brother who plotted for my destruction. I rebelled against undeserved financial injury—but I accepted a life of undeserved pain. I rebelled against the doctrine that my productive ability was guilt—but I accepted, as guilt, my capacity for happiness. I rebelled against the creed that virtue is some disembodied unknowable of the spirit—but I damned you, you, my dearest one, for the desire of your body and mine. But if the body is evil; then so are those who provide the means of its survival, so is material wealth and those who produce it—and if moral values are set in contradiction to our physical existence, then it's right that rewards should be unearned, that virtue should consist of the undone, that there should be no tie between achievement and profit, that the inferior animals who're able to produce should serve those superior beings whose superiority in spirit consists of incompetence in the flesh. "If some man like Hugh Akston had told me, when I started, that by accepting the mystics' theory of sex I was accepting the looters' theory of economics, I would have laughed in his face. I would not laugh at him now. Now I see Rearden Steel being ruled by human scum—I see the achievement of my life serving to enrich the worst of my enemies—and as to the only two persons I ever loved, I've brought a deadly insult to one and public disgrace to the other. I slapped the face of the man who was my friend, my defender, my teacher, the man who set me free by helping me to learn what I've learned, I loved him, Dagny, he was the brother, the son, the comrade I never had—but I knocked him out of my life, because he would not help me to produce for the looters. I'd give anything now to have him back, but I own nothing to offer in such repayment, and I'll never see him again, because it's I who'll know that there is no way to deserve even the right to ask forgiveness. "But what I've done to you, my dearest, is still worse. Your speech and that you had to make it—that's what I've brought upon the only woman I loved, in payment for the only happiness I've known. Don't tell me that it was your choice from the first and that you accepted all consequences, including tonight—it does not redeem the fact that it was I who had no better choice to offer you. And that the looters forced you to speak, that you spoke to avenge me and set me free— does not redeem the fact that it was I who made their tactics possible. It was not then own convictions of sin and dishonor that they could use to disgrace you—it was mine. They merely carried out the things I believed and --------------------------------------- 655 said in Ellis Wyatt's house. It was I who kept our love bidden as a guilty secret—they merely treated it for what it was by my own appraisal. It was I who was willing to counterfeit reality for the sake of appearance in their eyes—they merely cashed in on the right I had given them. "People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I've learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one's reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one's master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person's view requires to be faked. And if one gains the immediate purpose of the lie—the price one pays is the destruction of that which the gain was intended to serve. The man who lies to the world, is the world's slave from then on- When I chose to hide my love for you, to disavow it in public and live it as a lie, I made it public property—and the public has claimed it in a fitting sort of manner. I had no way to avert it and no power to save you. When I gave in to the looters, when I signed their Gift Certificate, to protect you—I was still faking reality, there was nothing else left open to me—and, Dagny, I'd rather have seen us both dead than permit them to do what they threatened. But there are no white lies, there is only the blackness of destruction, and a white lie is the blackest of all. I was still faking reality, and it had the inexorable result: instead of protection, it brought you a more terrible kind of ordeal, instead of saving your name, it forced you to offer yourself for a public stoning and to throw the stones by your own hand. I know that you were proud of the things you said, and I was proud to hear you—but that was the pride we should have claimed two years ago. "No, you did not make it worse for me, you set me free, you saved us both, you redeemed our past. I can't ask you to forgive me, we're far beyond such terms—and the only atonement I can offer you is the fact that I am happy. That I am happy, my darling, not that I suffer. I am happy that I have seen the truth—even if my power of sight is all that's left to me now. Were I to surrender to pain and give up in futile regret that my own error has wrecked my past—that would be the act of final treason, the ultimate failure toward that truth I regret having failed. But if my love of truth is left as my only possession, then the greater the loss behind me, the greater the pride I may take in the price I have paid for that love. Then the wreckage will not become a funereal mount above me, but will serve as a height I have climbed to attain a wider field of vision. My pride and my power of vision were all that I owned when I started—and whatever I achieved, was achieved by means of them. Both are greater now, Now I have the knowledge of the superlative value I had missed: of my right to be proud of my vision. The rest is mine to reach. "And, Dagny, the one thing I wanted, as the first step of my future, was to say that I love you—as I'm saying it now. I love you, my dearest, with that blindest passion of my body which comes from the clearest perception of my mind—and my love for you is the only attainment of my past that will be left to me, unchanged, through all the years ahead. I wanted to say it to you while I still had the right to say it. And because I had not said it at our beginning, this is the way I have to say it—at the end. Now I'll tell you what it was that you wanted to tell me—because, you see, I know it and I accept: somewhere within the past month, you have met the man you love, and if love means one's final, irreplaceable choice, then he is the only man you've ever loved." "Yes!" Her voice was half-gasp, half-scream, as under a physical blow, with shock as her only awareness. "Hank!—how did you know it?" He smiled and pointed at the radio. "My darling, you used nothing but the past tense." "Oh . . . !” Her voice was now half-gasp, half-moan, and she closed her eyes. --------------------------------------- 656 "You never pronounced the one word you would have rightfully thrown at them, were it otherwise. You said, 'I wanted him,' not, 'I love him.' You told me on the phone today that you could have returned sooner. No other reason would have made you leave me as you did. Only that one reason was valid and right." She was leaning back a little, as if fighting for balance to stand, yet she was looking straight at him, with a smile that did not part her lips, but softened her eyes to a glance of admiration and her mouth to a shape of pain. "It's true. I've met the man I love and will always love, I've seen him, I've spoken to him—but he's a man whom I can't have, whom I may never have and, perhaps, may never see again." "I think I've always known that you would find him. I knew what you felt for me, I knew how much it was, but I knew that I was not your final choice. What you'll give him is not taken away from me, it's what I've never had. I can't rebel against it. What I've had means too much to me—and that I've had it, can never be changed." "Do you want me to say it, Hank? Will you understand it, if I say that I'll always love you?" "I think I've understood it before you did." "I've always seen you as you are now. That greatness of yours which you are just beginning to allow yourself to know—I've always known it and I've watched your struggle to discover it. Don't speak of atonement, you have not hurt me, your mistakes came from your magnificent integrity under the torture of an impossible code—and your fight against it did not bring me suffering, it brought me the feeling I've found too seldom: admiration. If you will accept it, it will always be yours. What you meant to me can never be changed. But the man I met—he is the love I had wanted to reach long before I knew that he existed, and I think he will remain beyond my reach, but that I love him will be enough to keep me living." He took her hand and pressed it to his lips. "Then you know what I feel," he said, "and why I am still happy." Looking up at his face, she realized that for the first time he was what she had always thought him intended to be: a man with an immense capacity for the enjoyment of existence. The taut look of endurance, of fiercely unadmitted pain, was gone; now, in the midst of the wreckage and of his hardest hour, his face had the serenity of pure strength; it had the look she had seen in the faces of the men in the valley. "Hank," she whispered, "I don't think I can explain it, but I feel that I have committed no treason, either to you or to him." "You haven't." Her eyes seemed abnormally alive in a face drained of color, as if her consciousness remained untouched in a body broken by exhaustion. He made her sit down and slipped his arm along the back of the couch, not touching her, yet holding her in a protective embrace. "Now tell me," he asked, "where were you?" "I can't tell you that. I've given my word never to reveal anything about it. I can say only that it's a place I found by accident, when I crashed, and I left it blindfolded—and I wouldn't be able to find it again." "Couldn't you trace your way back to it?" "I won't try." "And the man?" "I won't look for him." "He remained there?" "I don't know." "Why did you leave him?" "I can't tell you." "Who is he?" --------------------------------------- 657 Her chuckle of desperate amusement was involuntary. "Who is John Galt?" He glanced at her, astonished—but realized that she was not joking. "So there is a John Galt?" he asked slowly, "Yes." "That slang phrase refers to him?" "Yes." "And it has some special meaning?" "Oh yes! . . . There's one thing I can tell you about him, because I discovered it earlier, without promise of secrecy: he is the man who invented the motor we found." "Oh!" He smiled, as if he should have known it. Then he said softly, with a glance that was almost compassion, "He's the destroyer, isn't he?" He saw her look of shock, and added, "No, don't answer me, if you can't. I think I know where you were. It was Quentin Daniels that you wanted to save from the destroyer, and you were following Daniels when you crashed, weren't you?" "Yes." "Good God, Dagny!—does such a place really exist? Are they all alive? Is there . . . ? I'm sorry. Don't answer." She smiled. "It does exist." He remained silent for a long time. "Hank, could you give up Rearden Steel?" "No!" The answer was fiercely immediate, but he added, with the first sound of hopelessness in his voice, "Not yet." Then he looked at her, as if, in the transition of his three words, he had lived the course of her agony of the past month. "I see," he said. He ran his hand over her forehead, with a gesture of understanding, of compassion, of an almost incredulous wonder. "What hell you've now undertaken to endure!" he said, his voice low. She nodded. She slipped down, to lie stretched, her face on his knees. He stroked her hair; he said, "We'll fight the looters as long as we can. I don't know what future is possible to us, but we'll win or we'll learn that it's hopeless. Until we do, we'll fight for our world. We're all that's left of it." She fell asleep, lying there, her hand clasping his. Her last awareness, before she surrendered the responsibility of consciousness, was the sense of an enormous void, the void of a city and of a continent where she would never be able to find the man whom she had no right to seek. --------------------------------------- 658