Atlas Shrugged 5

CHAPTER IV ANTI-LIFE James Taggart reached into the pocket of his dinner jacket, pulled out the first wad of paper he found, which was a hundred-dollar bill, and dropped it into the beggar's hand. He noticed that the beggar pocketed the money in a manner as indifferent as his own. "Thanks, bud." said the beggar contemptuously, and walked away. James Taggart remained still in the middle of the sidewalk, wondering what gave him a sense of shock and dread. It was not the man's insolence—he had not sought any gratitude, he had not been moved by pity, his gesture had been automatic and meaningless. It was that the beggar acted as if he would have been indifferent had he received a hundred dollars or a dime or, failing to find any help whatever, had seen himself dying of starvation within this night. Taggart shuddered and walked brusquely on, the shudder serving to cut off the realization that the beggar's mood matched his own. The walls of the street around him had the stressed, unnatural clarity of a summer twilight, while an orange haze filled the channels of intersections and veiled the tiers of roofs, leaving him on a shrinking remnant of ground. The calendar in the sky seemed to stand insistently out of the haze, yellow like a page of old parchment, saying: August 5, No—he thought, in answer to things he had not named—it was not true, he felt fine, that's why he wanted to do something tonight. He could not admit to himself that his peculiar restlessness came from a desire to experience pleasure; he could not admit that the particular pleasure he wanted was that of celebration, because he could not admit what it was that he wanted to celebrate. This had been a day of intense activity, spent on words floating as vaguely as cotton, yet achieving a purpose as precisely as an adding machine, summing up to his full satisfaction. But his purpose and the nature of his satisfaction had to be kept as carefully hidden from himself as they had been from others; and his sudden craving for pleasure was a dangerous breach. The day had started with a small luncheon in the hotel suite of a visiting Argentinian legislator, where a few people of various nationalities had talked at leisurely length about the climate of Argentina, its soil, its resources, the needs of its people, the value of a dynamic, progressive attitude toward the future—and had mentioned, as the briefest topic of conversation, that Argentina would be declared a People's State within two weeks. It had been followed by a few cocktails at the home of Orren Boyle, with only one unobtrusive gentleman from Argentina sitting silently in a corner, while two executives from Washington and a few friends of unspecified positions had talked about national resources, metallurgy, mineralogy, neighborly duties and the welfare of the globe—and had mentioned that a loan of four billion dollars would be granted within three weeks to the People's State of Argentina and the People's State of Chile. It had been followed by a small cocktail party in a private room of the bar built like a cellar on the roof of a skyscraper, an informal party given by him, James Taggart, for the directors of a recently formed company, The Interneighborly Amity and Development Corporation, of which Orren Boyle was president and a slender, graceful, overactive man from Chile was treasurer, a man whose name was Senor Mario Martinez, but whom Taggart was tempted, by some resemblance of spirit, to call Senor Cuffy Meigs. Here they had talked about golf, horse races, boat races, automobiles and women. It had not been necessary to mention, since they all knew it, that the Interneighborly Amity and Development Corporation had an exclusive contract to operate, on a --------------------------------------- 659 twenty-year "managerial lease," all the industrial properties of the People's States of the Southern Hemisphere. The last event of the day had been a large dinner reception at the home of Senor Rodrigo Gonzales, a diplomatic representative of Chile. No one had heard of Senor Gonzales a year ago, but he had become famous for the parties he had given in the past six months, ever since his arrival in New York. His guests described him as a progressive businessman. He had lost his property—it was said—when Chile, becoming a People's State, had nationalized all properties, except those belonging to citizens of backward, non-People's countries, such as Argentina; but he had adopted an enlightened attitude and had joined the new regime, placing himself in the service of his country. His home in New York occupied an entire floor of an exclusive residential hotel. He had a fat, blank face and the eyes of a killer. Watching him at tonight's reception, Taggart had concluded that the man was impervious to any sort of feeling, he looked as if a knife could slash, unnoticed, through his pendulous layers of flesh—except that there was a lewd, almost sexual relish in the way he rubbed his feet against the rich pile of his Persian rugs, or patted the polished arm of his chair, or folded his lips about a cigar. His wife, the Senora Gonzales, was a small, attractive woman, not as beautiful as she assumed, but enjoying the reputation of a beauty by means of a violent nervous energy and an odd manner of loose, warm, cynical self-assertiveness that seemed to promise anything and to absolve anyone. It was known that her particular brand of trading was her husband's chief asset, in an age when one traded, not goods, but favors—and, watching her among the guests, Taggart had found amusement in wondering what deals had been made, what directives issued, what industries destroyed in exchange for a few chance nights, which most of those men had had no reason to seek and, perhaps, could no longer remember. The party had bored him, there had been only half a dozen persons for whose sake he had put in an appearance, and it had not been necessary to speak to that half-dozen, merely to be seen and to exchange a few glances. Dinner had been about to be served, when he had heard what he had come to hear: Senor Gonzales had mentioned—the smoke of his cigar weaving over the half-dozen men who had drifted toward his armchair—that by agreement with the future People's State of Argentina, the properties of d'Anconia Copper would be nationalized by the People's State of Chile, in less than a month, on September 2. It had all gone as Taggart had expected; the unexpected had come when, on hearing those words, he had felt an irresistible urge to escape. He had felt incapable of enduring the boredom of the dinner, as if some other form of activity were needed to greet the achievement of this night. He had walked out into the summer twilight of the streets, feeling as if he were both pursuing and pursued: pursuing a pleasure which nothing could give him, in celebration of a feeling which he dared not name—pursued by the dread of discovering what motive had moved him through the planning of tonight's achievement and what aspect of it now gave him this feverish sense of gratification. He reminded himself that he would sell his d'Anconia Copper stock, which had never rallied fully after its crash of last year, and he would purchase shares of the Inter-neighborly Amity and Development Corporation, as agreed with his friends, which would bring him a fortune. But the thought brought him nothing but boredom; this was not the thing he wanted to celebrate. He tried to force himself to enjoy it: money, he thought, had been his motive, money, nothing worse. Wasn't that a normal motive? A valid one? Wasn't that what they all were after, the Wyatts, the Reardens, the d'Anconias? . . . He jerked his head to stop it: he felt as if his thoughts --------------------------------------- 660 were slipping down a dangerous blind alley, the end of which he must never permit himself to see. No—he thought bleakly, in reluctant admission—money meant nothing to him any longer. He had thrown dollars about by the hundreds— at that party he had given today—for unfinished drinks, for uneaten delicacies, for unprovoked tips and unexpected whims, for a long distance phone call to Argentina because one of the guests had wanted to check the exact version of a smutty story he had started telling, for the spur of any moment, for the clammy stupor of knowing that it was easier to pay than to think. "You've got nothing to worry about, under that Railroad Unification Plan," Orren Boyle had giggled to him drunkenly. Under the Railroad Unification Plan, a local railroad had gone bankrupt in North Dakota, abandoning the region to the fate of a blighted area, the local banker had committed suicide, first killing his wife and children—a freight train had been taken oil the schedule in Tennessee, leaving a local factory without transportation at a day's notice, the factory owner's son had quit college and was now in jail, awaiting execution for a murder committed with a gang of raiders—a way station had been closed in Kansas, and the station agent, who had wanted to be a scientist, had given up his studies and become a dishwasher—that he, James Taggart, might sit in a private barroom and pay for the alcohol pouring down Orren Boyle's throat, for the waiter who sponged Boyle's garments when he spilled his drink over his chest, for the carpet burned by the cigarettes of an ex-pimp from Chile who did not want to take the trouble of reaching for an ashtray across a distance of three feet. It was not the knowledge of his indifference to money that now gave him a shudder of dread. It was the knowledge that he would be equally indifferent, were he reduced to the state of the beggar. There had been a time when he had felt some measure of guilt—in no clearer a form than a touch of irritation—at the thought that he shared the sin of greed, which he spent his time denouncing. Now he was hit by the chill realization that, in fact, he had never been a hypocrite: in full truth, he had never cared for money. This left another hole gaping open before him, leading into another blind alley which he could not risk seeing. I just want to do something tonight!—he cried soundlessly to someone at large, in protest and in demanding anger—in protest against whatever it was that kept forcing these thoughts into his mind—in anger at a universe where some malevolent power would not permit him to find enjoyment without the need to know what he wanted or why. What do you want?—some enemy voice kept asking, and he walked faster, trying to escape it. It seemed to him that his brain was a maze where a blind alley opened at every turn, leading into a fog that hid an abyss. It seemed to him that he was running, while the small island of safety was shrinking and nothing but those alleys would soon be left. It was like the remnant of clarity in the street around him, with the haze rolling in to fill all exits. Why did it have to shrink?—he thought in panic. This was the way he had lived all his life—keeping his eyes stubbornly, safely on the immediate pavement before him, craftily avoiding the sight of his road, of corners, of distances, of pinnacles. He had never intended going anywhere, he had wanted to be free of progression, free of the yoke of a straight line, he had never wanted his years to add up to any sum—what had summed them up?—why had he reached some unchosen destination where one could no longer stand still or retreat? "Look where you're going, brother!" snarled some voice, while an elbow pushed him back—and he realized that he had collided with some large, ill-smelling figure and that he had been running. He slowed his steps and admitted into his mind a recognition of the streets he had chosen in his random escape. He had not wanted to know that he --------------------------------------- 661 was going home to his wife. That, too, was a fogbound alley, but there was no other left to him. He knew—the moment he saw Cherryl's silent, poised figure as she rose at his entrance into her room—that this was more dangerous than he had allowed himself to know and that he would not find what he wanted. But danger, to him, was a signal to shut off his sight, suspend his judgment and pursue an unaltered course, on the unstated premise that the danger would remain unreal by the sovereign power of his wish not to see it—like a foghorn within him, blowing, not to sound a warning, but to summon the fog. "Why, yes, I did have an important business banquet to attend, but I changed my mind, I felt like having dinner with you tonight," he said in the tone of a compliment—but a quiet "I see" was the only answer he obtained. He felt irritation at her unastonished manner and her pale, unrevealing face. He felt irritation at the smooth efficiency with which she gave instructions to the servants, then at finding himself in the candlelight of the dining room, facing her across a perfectly appointed table, with two crystal cups of fruit in silver bowls of ice between them. It was her poise that irritated him most; she was no longer an incongruous little freak, dwarfed by the luxury of the residence which a famous artist had designed; she matched it. She sat at the table as if she were the kind of hostess that room had the right to demand. She wore a tailored housecoat of russet-colored brocade that blended with the bronze of her hair, the severe simplicity of its lines serving as her only ornament. He would have preferred the jingling bracelets and rhinestone buckles of her past. Her eyes disturbed him, as they had for months: they were neither friendly nor hostile, but watchful and questioning. "I closed a big deal today," he said, his tone part boastful, part pleading. "A deal involving this whole continent and half a dozen governments." He realized that the awe, the admiration, the eager curiosity he had expected, belonged to the face of the little shop girl who had ceased to exist. He saw none of it in the face of his wife; even anger or hatred would have been preferable to her level, attentive glance; the glance was worse than accusing, it was inquiring. "What deal, Jim?" "What do you mean, what deal? Why are you suspicious? Why do you have to start prying at once?" "I'm sorry. I didn't know it was confidential. You don't have to answer me." "It's not confidential." He waited, but she remained silent. "Well? Aren't you going to say anything?" "Why, no." She said it simply, as if to please him. "So you're not interested at all?" "But I thought you didn't want to discuss it." "Oh, don't be so tricky!" he snapped. "It's a big business deal. That's what you admire, isn't it, big business? Well, it's bigger than anything those boys ever dreamed of. They spend their lives grubbing for their fortunes penny by penny, while I can do it like that"—he snapped his fingers— "just like that. It's the biggest single stunt ever pulled." "Stunt, Jim?" "Deal!" "And you did it? Yourself?" "You bet I did it! That fat fool, Orren Boyle, couldn't have swung it in a million years. This took knowledge and skill and timing"—he saw a spark of interest in her eyes—"and psychology." The spark vanished, but he went rushing heedlessly on. "One had to know how to approach Wesley, and how to keep the wrong influences away from him, and how to get Mr. Thompson --------------------------------------- 662 interested without letting him know too much, and how to cut Chick Morrison in on it, but keep Tinky Holloway out, and how to get the right people to give a few parties for Wesley at the right time, and . . . Say, Cherryl, is there any champagne in this house?" "Champagne?" "Can't we do something special tonight? Can't we have a sort of celebration together?" "We can have champagne, yes, Jim, of course." She rang the bell and gave the orders, in her odd, lifeless, uncritical manner, a manner of meticulous compliance with his wishes while volunteering none of her own. "You don't seem to be very impressed," he said. "But what would you know about business, anyway? You wouldn't be able to understand anything on so large a scale. Wait till September second. Wait till they hear about it." "They? Who?" He glanced at her, as if he had let a dangerous word slip out involuntarily, "We've organized a setup where we—me, Orren and a few friends— are going to control every industrial property south of the border." "Whose property?" "Why . . . the people's. This is not an old-fashioned grab for private profit. It's a deal with a mission—a worthy, public-spirited mission—to manage the nationalized properties of the various People's States of South America, to teach their workers our modern techniques of production, to help the underprivileged who've never had a chance, to—" He broke off abruptly, though she had merely sat looking at him without shifting her glance. "You know," he said suddenly, with a cold little chuckle, "if you're so damn anxious to hide that you came from the slums, you ought to be less indifferent to the philosophy of social welfare. It's always the poor who lack humanitarian instincts. One has to be born to wealth in order to know the finer feelings of altruism." "I've never tried to hide that I came from the slums," she said in the simple, impersonal tone of a factual correction. "And I haven't any sympathy for that welfare philosophy. I've seen enough of them to know what makes the kind of poor who want something for nothing." He did not answer, and she added suddenly, her voice astonished, but firm, as if in final confirmation of a long-standing doubt, "Jim, you don't care about it, either. You don't care about any of that welfare hogwash." "Well, if money is all that you're interested in," he snapped, "let me tell you that that deal will bring me a fortune. That's what you've always admired, isn't it, wealth?" "It depends." "I think I'll end up as one of the richest men in the world," he said; he did not ask what her admiration depended upon. "There's nothing I won't be able to afford. Nothing. Just name it. I can give you anything you want. Go on, name it." "I don't want anything, Jim." "But I'd like to give you a present! To celebrate the occasion, see? Anything you take it into your head to ask. Anything. I can do it. I want to show you that I can do it. Any fancy you care to name." "I haven't any fancies." "Oh, come on! Want a yacht?" "No." "Want me to buy you the whole neighborhood where you lived in Buffalo?" "No." "Want the crown jewels of the People's State of England? They can be had, you know. That People's State has been hinting about it on the black market for a long time. But there aren't any old-fashioned tycoons left who're able --------------------------------------- 663 to afford it. I'm able to afford it—or will be, after September second. Want it?" "No." "Then what do you want?" "I don't want anything, Jim." "But you've got to! You've got to want something, damn you!" She looked at him, faintly startled, but otherwise indifferent. "Oh, all right, I'm sorry," he said; he seemed astonished by his own 87! outbreak. "I just wanted to please you," he added sullenly, "but I guess you can't understand it at all. You don't know how important it is. You don't know how big a man you're married to." "I'm trying to find out," she said slowly, "Do you still think, as you used to, that Hank Rearden is a great man?" "Yes, Jim, I do." "Well, I've got him beaten. I'm greater than any of them, greater than Rearden and greater than that other lover of my sister's, who—" He stopped, as if he had slid too far. "Jim," she asked evenly, "what is going to happen on September second?" He glanced up at her, from under his forehead—a cold glance, while his muscles creased into a semi-smile, as if in cynical breach of some hallowed restraint. "They're going to nationalize d'Anconia Copper," he said. He heard the long, harsh roll of a motor, as a plane went by somewhere in the darkness above the roof, then a thin tinkle, as a piece of ice settled, melting, in the silver bowl of his fruit cup—before she answered. She said, "He was your friend, wasn't he?" "Oh, shut up!" He remained silent, not looking at her. When his eyes came back to her face, she was still watching him and she spoke first, her voice oddly stern: "What your sister did in her radio broadcast was great." "Yes, I know, I know, you've been saying that for a month." "You've never answered me." "What is there to ans . . . ?" "Just as your friends in Washington have never answered her." He remained silent. "Jim, I'm not dropping the subject." He did not answer. "Your friends in Washington never uttered a word about it. They did not deny the things she said, they did not explain, they did not try to justify themselves. They acted as if she had never spoken. I think they're hoping that people will forget it. Some people will. But the rest of us know what she said and that your friends were afraid to fight her." "That's not true! The proper action was taken and the incident is closed and I don't see why you keep bringing it up." "What action?" "Bertram Scudder was taken off the air, as a program not in the public interest at the present time." "Does that answer her?" "It closes the issue and there's nothing more to be said about it." "About a government that works by blackmail and extortion?" "You can't say that nothing was done. It's been publicly announced that Scudder's programs were disruptive, destructive and untrustworthy." "Jim, I want to understand this. Scudder wasn't on her side—he was on yours. He didn't even arrange that broadcast. He was acting on orders from Washington, wasn't he?" "I thought you didn't like Bertram Scudder." "I didn't and I don't, but—" "Then what do you care?" "But he was innocent, as far as your friends were concerned, wasn't he?" "I wish you wouldn't bother with politics. You talk like a fool." --------------------------------------- 664 "He was innocent, wasn't he?" "So what?" She looked at him, her eyes incredulously wide. "Then they just made him the scapegoat, didn't they?" "Oh, don't sit there looking like Eddie Willers!" "Do I? I like Eddie Willers. He's honest." "He's a damn half-wit who doesn't have the faintest idea of how to deal with practical reality!" "But you do, don't you, Jim?" "You bet I do!" "Then couldn't you have helped Scudder?" "I?" He burst into helpless, angry laughter. "Oh, why don't you grow up? I did my best to get Scudder thrown to the lions! Somebody had to be. Don't you know that it was my neck, if some other hadn't been found?" "Your neck? Why not Dagny's, if she was wrong? Because she wasn't?" "Dagny is in an entirely different category! It had to be Scudder or me." "Why?" "And it's much better for national policy to let it be Scudder. This way, it's not necessary to argue about what she said—and if anybody brings it up, we start howling that it was said on Scudder's program and that Scudder's programs have been discredited and that Scudder is a proven fraud and liar, etc., etc.—and do you think the public will be able to unscramble it? Nobody's ever trusted Bertram Scudder, anyway. Oh, don't stare at me like that! Would you rather they'd picked me to discredit?" "Why not Dagny? Because her speech could not be discredited?" "If you're so damn sorry for Bertram Scudder, you should have seen him try his damndest to make them break my neck! He's been doing that for years—how do you think he got to where he was, except by climbing on carcasses? He thought he was pretty powerful, too—you should have seen how the big business tycoons used to be afraid of him! But he got himself outmaneuvered, this time. This time, he belonged to the wrong faction." Dimly, through the pleasant stupor of relaxing, of sprawling back in his chair and smiling, he knew that this was the enjoyment he wanted: to be himself. To be himself—he thought, in the drugged, precarious state of floating past the deadliest of his blind alleys, the one that led to the question of what was himself. "You see, he belonged to the Tinky Holloway faction. It was pretty much of a seesaw for a while, between the Tinky Holloway faction and the Chick Morrison faction. But we won. Tinky made a deal and agreed to scuttle his pal Bertram in exchange for a few things he needed from us. You should have heard Bertram howl! But he was a dead duck and he knew it." He started on a rolling chuckle, but choked it off, as the haze cleared and he saw his wife's face. "Jim," she whispered, "is that the sort of . . . victories you're winning?" "Oh, for Christ's sake!" he screamed, smashing his fist down on the table. "Where have you been all these years? What sort of world do you think you're living in?" His blow had upset his water glass and the water went spreading in dark stains over the lace of the tablecloth. "I'm trying to find out," she whispered. Her shoulders were sagging and her face looked suddenly worn, an odd, aged look that seemed haggard and lost. "I couldn't help it!" he burst out in the silence. "I'm not to blame! I have to take things as I find them! It's not I who've made this world!" He was shocked to see that she smiled—a smile of so fiercely bitter a contempt that it seemed incredible on her gently patient face; she was not --------------------------------------- 665 looking at him, but at some image of her own. "That's what my father used to say when he got drunk at the corner saloon instead of looking for work." "How dare you try comparing me to—" he started, but did not finish, because she was not listening. Her words, when she looked at him again, astonished him as completely irrelevant. "The date of that nationalization, September second," she asked, her voice wistful, "was it you who picked it?" "No. I had nothing to do with it. It's the date of some special session of their legislature. Why?" "It's the date of our first wedding anniversary." "Oh? Oh, that's right!" He smiled, relieved at the change to a safe subject. "We'll have been married a year. My, it doesn't seem that long!" "It seems much longer," she said tonelessly. She was looking off again, and he felt in sudden uneasiness that the subject was not safe at all; he wished she would not look as if she were seeing the whole course of that year and of their marriage. . . . not to get scared, but to learn—she thought—the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn . . . The words came from a sentence she had repeated to herself so often that it felt like a pillar polished smooth by the helpless weight of her body, the pillar that had supported her through the past year. She tried to repeat it, but she felt as if her hands were slipping on the polish, as if the sentence would not stave off terror any longer—because she was beginning to understand. If you don't know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn. . . . It was in the bewildered loneliness of the first weeks of her marriage that she said it to herself for the first time. She could not understand Jim's behavior, or his sullen anger, which looked like weakness, or his evasive, incomprehensible answers to her questions, which sounded like cowardice; such traits were not possible in the James Taggart whom she had married. She told herself that she could not condemn without understanding, that she knew nothing about his world, that the extent of her ignorance was the extent to which she misinterpreted his actions. She took the blame, she took the beating of self reproach—against some bleakly stubborn certainty which told her that something was wrong and that the thing she felt was fear. "I must learn everything that Mrs. James Taggart is expected to know and to be." was the way she explained her purpose to a teacher of etiquette. She set out to learn with the devotion, the discipline, the drive of a military cadet or a religious novice. It was the only way, she thought, of earning the height which her husband had granted her on trust, of living up to his vision of her, which it was now her duty to achieve. And, not wishing to confess it to herself, she felt also that at the end of the long task she would recapture her vision of him, that knowledge would bring back to her the man she had seen on the night of his railroad's triumph. She could not understand Jim's attitude when she told him about her lessons. He burst out laughing; she was unable to believe that the laughter had a sound of malicious contempt. "Why, Jim? Why? What are you laughing at?" He would not explain—almost as if the fact of his contempt were sufficient and required no reasons. She could not suspect him of malice: he was too patiently generous about her mistakes. He seemed eager to display her in the best drawing rooms of the city, and he never uttered a word of reproach for her ignorance, for her awkwardness, for those terrible moments when a silent exchange of glances among the guests and a burst of blood to her cheekbones told her that she had said the wrong thing again. He showed no embarrassment, he merely watched her with a faint smile. --------------------------------------- 666 When they came home after one of those evenings, his mood seemed affectionately cheerful. He was trying to make it easier for her, she thought—and gratitude drove her to study the harder. She expected her reward on the evening when, by some imperceptible transition, she found herself enjoying a party for the first time. She felt free to act, not by rules, but at her own pleasure, with sudden confidence that the rules had fused into a natural habit—she knew that she was attracting attention, but now, for the first time, it was not the attention of ridicule, but of admiration—she was sought after, on her own merit, she was Mrs. Taggart, she had ceased being an object of charity weighing Jim down, painfully tolerated for his sake—she was laughing gaily and seeing the smiles of response, of appreciation on the faces around her—and she kept glancing at him across the room, radiantly, like a child handing him a report card with a perfect score, begging him to be proud of her. Jim sat alone in a corner, watching her with an undecipherable glance. He would not speak to her on their way home. "I don't know why I keep dragging myself to those parties," he snapped suddenly, tearing off his dress tie in the middle of their living room, "I've never sat through such a vulgar, boring waste of time!" "Why, Jim," she said, stunned, "I thought it was wonderful." "You would! You seemed to be quite at home—quite as if it were Coney Island. I wish you'd learn to keep your place and not to embarrass me in public." "[ embarrassed you? Tonight?" "You did!" "How?" "If you don't understand it, I can't explain," he said in the tone of a mystic who implies that a lack of understanding is the confession of a shameful inferiority. "I don't understand it," she said firmly. He walked out of the room, slamming the door. She felt that the inexplicable was not a mere blank, this time: it had a tinge of evil. From that night on, a small, hard point of fear remained within her, like the spot of a distant headlight advancing upon her down an invisible track. Knowledge did not seem to bring her a clearer vision of Jim's world, but to make the mystery greater. She could not believe that she was supposed to feel respect for the dreary senselessness of the art shows which his friends attended, of the novels they read, of the political magazines they discussed— the art shows, where she saw the kind of drawings she had seen chalked on any pavement of her childhood's slums—the novels, that purported to prove the futility of science, industry, civilization and love, using language that her father would not have used in his drunkenest moments—the magazines, that propounded cowardly generalities, less clear and more stale than the sermons for which she had condemned the preacher of the slum mission as a mealy- mouthed old fraud. She could not believe that these things were the culture she had so reverently looked up to and so eagerly waited to discover. She felt as if she had climbed a mountain toward a jagged shape that had looked like a castle and had found it to be the crumbling ruin of a gutted warehouse. "Jim," she said once, after an evening spent among the men who were called the intellectual leaders of the country, "Dr. Simon Pritchett is a phony—a mean, scared old phony." "Now, really," he answered, "do you think you're qualified to pass judgment on philosophers?" "I'm qualified to pass judgment on con men. I've seen enough of them to know one when I see him." "Now this is why I say that you'll never outgrow your background. If you had, you would have learned to appreciate Dr. Pritchett's philosophy." "What philosophy?" "If you don't understand it, I can't explain." She would not let him end the conversation on that favorite formula of his. "Jim," she said, "he's a phony, he and Balph Eubank and that whole gang of theirs—and I think you've been taken in by them." Instead of --------------------------------------- 667 the anger she expected, she saw a brief flash of amusement in the lift of his eyelids. "That's what you think," he answered. She felt an instant of terror at the first touch of a concept she had not known to be possible: What if Jim was not taken in by them? She could understand the phoniness of Dr. Pritchett, she thought—it was a racket that gave him an undeserved income; she could even admit the possibility, by now, that Jim might be a phony in his own business; what she could not hold inside her mind was the concept of Jim as a phony in a racket from which he gained nothing, an unpaid phony, an unvenal phony; the phoniness of a cardsharp or a con man seemed innocently wholesome by comparison. She could not conceive of his motive; she felt only that the headlight moving upon her had grown larger. She could not remember by what steps, what accumulation of pain, first as small scratches of uneasiness, then as stabs of bewilderment, then as the chronic, nagging pull of fear, she had begun to doubt Jim's position on the railroad. It was his sudden, angry "so you don't trust me?" snapped in answer to her first, innocent questions that made her realize that she did not—when the doubt had not yet formed in her mind and she had fully expected that his answers would reassure her. She had learned, in the slums of her childhood, that honest people were never touchy about the matter of being trusted, "I don't care to talk shop," was his answer whenever she mentioned the railroad. She tried to plead with him once. "Jim, you know what I think of your work and how much I admire you for it." "Oh, really? What is it you married, a man or a railroad president?" "I . . . I never thought of separating the two." "Well, it is not very flattering to me." She looked at him, baffled: she had thought it was. "I'd like to believe," he said, "that you love me for myself, and not for my railroad." "Oh God, Jim," she gasped, "you didn't think that I—!" "No," he said, with a sadly generous smile, "I didn't think that you married me for my money or my position. I have never doubted you." Realizing, in stunned confusion and in tortured fairness, that she might have given him ground to misinterpret her feeling, that she had forgotten how many bitter disappointments he must have suffered at the hands of fortune-hunting women, she could do nothing but shake her head and moan, "Oh, Jim, that's not what I meant!" He chuckled softly, as at a child, and slipped his arm around her. "Do you love me?" he asked. "Yes," she whispered. "Then you must have faith in me. Love is faith, you know. Don't you see that I need it? I don't trust anyone around me, I have nothing but enemies, I am very lonely. Don't you know that I need you?" The thing that made her pace her room—hours later, in tortured restlessness—was that she wished desperately to believe him and did not believe a word of it, yet knew that it was true. It was true, but not in the manner he implied, not in any manner or meaning she could ever hope to grasp. It was true that he needed her, but the nature of his need kept slipping past her every effort to define it. She did not know what he wanted of her. It was not flattery that he wanted, she had seen him listening to the obsequious compliments of liars, listening with a look of resentful inertness—almost the look of a drug addict at a dose inadequate to rouse him. But she had seen him look at her as if he were waiting for some reviving shot and, at times, as if he were begging. She had seen a flicker of life in his eyes whenever she granted him some sign of admiration—yet a burst of anger was his answer, whenever she named a reason for admiring him. He seemed to want her to consider him great, but never dare ascribe any specific content to his greatness. She did not understand the night, in mid-April, when he returned from a trip to Washington. "Hi, kid!" he said loudly, dropping a sheaf of lilac into --------------------------------------- 668 her arms. "Happy days are here again! Just saw those flowers and thought of you. Spring is coming, baby!" He poured himself a drink and paced the room, talking with too light, too brash a manner of gaiety. There was a feverish sparkle in his eyes, and his voice seemed shredded by some unnatural excitement. She began to wonder whether he was elated or crushed. "I know what it is that they're planning!" he said suddenly, without transition, and she glanced up at him swiftly: she knew the sound of one of his inner explosions. "There's not a dozen people in the whole country who know it, but I do! The top boys are keeping it secret till they're ready to spring it on the nation. Will it surprise a lot of people! Will it knock them flat! A lot of people? Hell, every single person in this country! It will affect every single person. That's how important it is." "Affect—how, Jim?" "It will affect them! And they don't know what's coming, but I do. There they sit tonight"—he waved at the lighted windows of the city— "making plans, counting their money, hugging their children or their dreams, and they don't know, but I do, that all of it will be struck, stopped, changed!" "Changed—for the worse or the better?" "For the better, of course," he answered impatiently, as if it were irrelevant; his voice seemed to lose its fire and to slip into the fraudulent sound of duty. "It's a plan to save the country, to stop our economic decline, to hold things still, to achieve stability and security." "What plan?" "I can't tell you. It's secret. Top secret. You have no idea how many people would like to know it. There's no industrialist who wouldn't give a dozen of his best furnaces for just one hint of warning, which he's not going to get! Like Hank Rearden, for instance, whom you admire so much." He chuckled, looking off into the future. "Jim," she asked, the sound of fear in her voice telling him what the sound of his chuckle had been like, "why do you hate Hank Rearden?" "I don't hate him!" He whirled to her, and his face, incredibly, looked anxious, almost frightened. "I never said I hated him. Don't worry, he'll approve of the plan. Everybody will. It's for everybody's good." He sounded as if he were pleading. She felt the dizzying certainty that he was lying, yet that the plea was sincere—as if he had a desperate need to reassure her, but not about the things he said. She forced herself to smile. "Yes, Jim, of course," she answered, wondering what instinct in what impossible kind of chaos had made her say it as if it were her part to reassure him. The look she saw on his face was almost a smile and almost of gratitude. "1 had to tell you about it tonight. I had to tell you. I wanted you to know what tremendous issues I deal with. You always talk about my work, but you don't understand it at all, it's so much wider than you imagine. You think that running a railroad is a matter of track laying and fancy metals and getting trains there on time. But it's not. Any underling can do that. The real heart of a railroad is in Washington. My job is politics. Politics. Decisions made on a national scale, affecting everything, controlling everybody. A few words on paper, a directive—changing the life of every person in every nook, cranny and penthouse of this country!" "Yes, Jim," she said, wishing to believe that he was, perhaps, a man of stature in the mysterious realm of Washington. "You'll see," he said, pacing the room. "You think they're powerful —those giants of industry who're so clever with motors and furnaces? --------------------------------------- 669 They'll be stopped! They'll be stripped! They'll be brought down! They'll be—" He noticed the way she was staring at him. "It's not for ourselves," he snapped hastily, "it's for the people. That's the difference between business and politics—we have no selfish ends in view, no private motives, we're not after profit, we don't spend our lives scrambling for money, we don't have to! That's why we're slandered and misunderstood by all the greedy profit- chasers who can't conceive of a spiritual motive or a moral ideal or . . . We couldn't help it!" he cried suddenly, whirling to her. "We had to have that plan! With everything falling to pieces and stopping, something had to be done! We had to stop them from stopping! We couldn't help it!" His eyes were desperate; she did not know whether he was boasting or begging for forgiveness; she did not know whether this was triumph or terror. "Jim, don't you feel well? Maybe you've worked too hard and you're worn out and—" "I've never felt better in my life!" he snapped, resuming his pacing. "You bet I've worked hard. My work is bigger than any job you can hope to imagine. It's above anything that grubbing mechanics like Rearden and my sister, are doing. Whatever they do, I can undo it. Let them build a track—I can come and break it, just like that!" He snapped his fingers. "Just like breaking a spine'" "You want to break spines?" she whispered, trembling. "I haven't said that!" he screamed. "What's the matter with you? I haven't said it!" "I'm sorry, Jim!" she gasped, shocked by her own words and by the terror in his eyes. "It's just that I don't understand, but . . . but I know I shouldn't bother you with questions when you're so tired"— she was struggling desperately to convince herself—"when you have so many things on your mind . . . such . . . such great things . . . things I can't even begin to think of . . ." His shoulders sagged, relaxing. He approached her and dropped wearily down on his knees, slipping his arms around her. "You poor little fool," he said affectionately. She held onto him, moved by something that felt like tenderness and almost like pity. But he raised his head to glance up at her face, and it seemed to her that the look she saw in his eyes was part-gratification, part-contempt— almost as if, by some unknown kind of sanction, she had absolved him and damned herself. It was useless—she found in the days that followed—to tell herself that these things were beyond her understanding, that it was her duty to believe in him, that love was faith. Her doubt kept growing—doubt of his incomprehensible work and of his relation to the railroad. She wondered why it kept growing in direct proportion to her self-admonitions that faith was the duty she owed him. Then, one sleepless night, she realized that her effort to fulfill that duty consisted of turning away whenever people discussed his job, of refusing to look at newspaper mentions of Taggart Transcontinental, of slamming her mind shut against any evidence and every contradiction. She stopped, aghast, struck by the question: What is it, then— faith versus truth? And realizing that part of her zeal to believe was her fear to know, she set out to learn the truth, with a cleaner, calmer sense of Tightness than the effort at dutiful self-fraud had ever given her. It did not take her long to learn. The evasiveness of the Taggart executives, when she asked a few casual questions, the stale generalities of their answers, the strain of their manner at the mention of their boss, and their obvious reluctance to discuss him—told her nothing concrete, but gave her a feeling equivalent to knowing the worst. The railroad workers were more specific—the switchmen, the gatemen, the ticket sellers whom she drew into chance conversations in the Taggart Terminal and who did not know her. "Jim --------------------------------------- 670 Taggart? That whining, sniveling, speech-making deadhead!" "Jimmy the President? Well, I'll tell you: he's the hobo on the gravy train." "The boss? Mr. Taggart? You mean Miss Taggart, don't you?" It was Eddie Willers who told her the whole truth. She heard that he had known Jim since childhood, and she asked him to lunch with her. When she faced him at the table, when she saw the earnest, questioning directness of his eyes and the severely literal simplicity of his words, she dropped all attempts at casual prodding, she told him what she wanted to know and why, briefly, impersonally, not appealing for help or for pity, only for truth. He answered her in the same manner. He told her the whole story, quietly, impersonally, pronouncing no verdict, expressing no opinion, never encroaching on her emotions by any sign of concern for them, speaking with the shining austerity and the awesome power of facts. He told her who ran Taggart Transcontinental. He told her the story of the John Galt Line. She listened, and what she felt was not shock, but worse: the lack of shock, as if she had always known it. "Thank you, Mr. Willers," was all that she said when he finished. She waited for Jim to come home, that evening, and the thing that eroded any pain or indignation, was a feeling of her own detachment, as if it did not matter to her any longer, as if some action were required of her, but it made no difference what the action would be or the consequences. It was not anger that she felt when she saw Jim enter the room, but a murky astonishment, almost as if she wondered who he was and why it should now be necessary to speak to him. She told him what she knew, briefly, in a tired, extinguished voice. It seemed to her that he understood it from her first few sentences, as if he had expected this to come sooner or later. "Why didn't you tell me the truth?" she asked. "So that's your idea of gratitude?" he screamed. "So that's how you feel after everything I've done for you? Everybody told me that crudeness and selfishness was all I could expect for lifting a cheap little alley cat by the scruff of her neck!" She looked at him as if he were making inarticulate sounds that connected to nothing inside her mind. "Why didn't you tell me the truth?" "Is that all the love you felt for me, you sneaky little hypocrite? Is. that all I get in return for my faith in you?" "Why did you lie? Why did you let me think what I thought?" "You should be ashamed of yourself, you should be ashamed to face me or speak to me!" "1?" The inarticulate sounds had connected, but she could not believe the sum they made. "What are you trying to do, Jim?" she asked, her voice incredulous and distant. "Have you thought of my feelings? Have you thought of what this. would do to my feelings? You should have considered my feelings first! That's the first obligation of any wife—and of a woman in your position in particular! There's nothing lower and uglier than ingratitude!" For the flash of one instant, she grasped the unthinkable fact of a man who was guilty and knew it and was trying to escape by inducing an emotion of guilt in his victim. But she could not hold the fact inside her brain. She felt a stab of horror, the convulsion of a mind rejecting a sight that would destroy it—a stab like a swift recoil from the edge of insanity. By the time she dropped her head, closing her eyes, she knew only that she felt disgust, a sickening disgust for a nameless reason. When she raised her head, it seemed to her-that she caught a glimpse of him watching her with the uncertain, retreating, calculating look of a man whose trick has not worked. But before she had time to believe it, his face was hidden again under an expression of injury and anger. --------------------------------------- 671 She said, as if she were naming her thoughts for the benefit of the rational being who was not present, but whose presence she had to assume, since no other could be addressed, "That night . . . those headlines . . . that glory . . . it was not you at all . . . it was Dagny." "Shut up, you rotten little bitch!" She looked at him blankly, without reaction. She looked as if nothing could reach her, because her dying words had been uttered. He made the sound of a sob. "Cherryl, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I take it back, I didn't mean it . . ." She remained standing, leaning against the wall, as she had stood from the first. He dropped down on the edge of a couch, in a posture of helpless dejection. "How could I have explained it to you?" he said in the tone of abandoning hope. "It's all so big and so complex. How could I have told you anything about a transcontinental railroad, unless you knew all the details and ramifications? How could I have explained to you my years of work, my . . . Oh, what's the use? I've always been misunderstood and I should have been accustomed to it by now, only I thought that you were different and that I had a chance." "Jim, why did you marry me?" He chuckled sadly. "That's what everybody kept asking me. I didn't think you'd ever ask it. Why? Because I love you." She wondered at how strange it was that this word—which was supposed to be the simplest in the human language, the word understood by all, the universal bond among men—conveyed to her no meaning whatever. She did not know what it was that it named in his mind. "Nobody's ever loved me," he said. "There isn't any love in the world. People don't feel. I feel things. Who cares about that? All they care for is time schedules and freight loads and money. I can't live among those people. I'm very lonely. I've always longed to find understanding. Maybe I'm just a hopeless idealist, looking for the impossible. Nobody will ever understand me." "Jim," she said, with an odd little note of severity in her voice, "what I've struggled for all this time is to understand you." He dropped his hand in a motion of brushing her words aside, not offensively, but sadly. "I thought you could. You're all I have. But maybe understanding is just not possible between human beings." "Why should it be impossible? Why don't you tell me what it is that you want? Why don't you help me to understand you?" He sighed. "That's it. That's the trouble—your asking all those why's. Your constant asking of a why for everything. What I'm talking about can't be put into words. It can't be named. It has to be felt. Either you feel it or you don't. It's not a thing of the mind, but of the heart. Don't you ever feel? Just feel, without asking all those questions? Can't you understand me as a human being, not as if I were a scientific object in a laboratory? The great understanding that transcends our shabby words and helpless minds . . . No, I guess I shouldn't look for it. But I'll always seek and hope. You're my last hope. You're all I have." She stood at the wall, without moving. "I need you," he wailed softly. "Fm all alone. You're not like the others. I believe in you. I trust you. What has all that money and fame and business and struggle given me? You're all I have . . . " She stood without moving and the direction of her glance, lowered to look down at him, was the only form of recognition she gave him. The things he said about his suffering were lies, she thought; but the suffering was real; he was a man torn by some continual anguish, which he seemed unable to tell her, but which, perhaps, she could learn to understand. --------------------------------------- 672 She still owed him this much—she thought, with the grayness of a sense of duty—in payment for the position he had given her, which, perhaps, was all he had to give, she owed him an effort to understand him. It was strange to feel, in the days that followed, that she had become a stranger to herself, a stranger who had nothing to want or to seek. In place of a love made by the brilliant fire of hero worship, she was left with the gnawing drabness of pity. In place of the men she had struggled to find, men who fought for their goals and refused to suffer—she was left with a man whose suffering was his only claim to value and his only offer in exchange for her life. But it made no difference to her any longer. The one who was she, had looked with eagerness at the turn of every corner ahead; the passive stranger who had taken her place, was like all the over groomed people around her, the people who said that they were adult because they did not try to think or to desire. But the stranger was still haunted by a ghost who was herself, and the ghost had a mission to accomplish. She had to learn to understand the things that had destroyed her. She had to know, and she lived with a sense of ceaseless waiting. She had to know, even though she felt that the headlight was closer and in the moment of knowledge she would be struck by the wheels. What do you want of me?—was the question that kept beating in her mind as a clue. What do you want of me?—she kept crying soundlessly, at dinner tables, in drawing rooms, on sleepless nights— crying it to Jim and those who seemed to share his secret, to Balph Eubank, to Dr. Simon Pritchett—what do you want of me? She did not ask it aloud; she knew that they would not answer. What do you want of me? —she asked, feeling as if she were running, but no way were open to escape. What do you want of me?—she asked, looking at the whole long torture of her marriage that had not lasted the full span of one year. "What do you want of me?" she asked aloud—and saw that she was sitting at the table in her dining room, looking at Jim, at his feverish face, and at a drying stain of water on the table. She did not know how long a span of silence had stretched between them, she was startled by her own voice and by the--question she had not intended to utter. She did not expect him to understand it, he had never seemed to understand much simpler queries—and she shook her head, struggling to recapture the reality of the present. She was startled to see him looking at her with a touch of derision, as if he were mocking her estimate of his understanding. "Love," he answered. She felt herself sagging with hopelessness, in the face of that answer which was at once so simple and so meaningless. "You don't love me," he said accusingly. She did not answer. "You don't love me or you wouldn't ask such a question." "I did love you once," she said dully, "but it wasn't what you wanted. I loved you for your courage, your ambition, your ability. But it wasn't real, any of it." His lower lip swelled a little in a faint, contemptuous thrust. "What a shabby idea of love!" he said. "Jim, what is it that you want to be loved for?" "What a cheap shopkeeper's attitude!" She did not speak; she looked at him, her eyes stretched by a silent question. "To be loved for!" he said, his voice grating with mockery and righteousness. "So you think that love is a matter of mathematics, of exchange, of weighing and measuring, like a pound of butter on a grocery counter? I don't want to be loved for anything. I want to be loved for --------------------------------------- 673 myself—not for anything I do or have or say or think. For myself—not for my body or mind or words or works or actions." "But then . . . what is yourself?" "If you loved me, you wouldn't ask it." His voice had a shrill note of nervousness, as if he were swaying dangerously between caution and some blindly heedless impulse. "You wouldn't ask. You'd know. You'd feel it. Why do you always try to tag and label everything? Can't you rise above those petty materialistic definitions? Don't you ever feel— just feel?" "Yes. Jim, I do," she said, her voice low. "But I am trying not to, because . . . because what T feel is fear." "Of me?" he asked hopefully. "No, not exactly. Not fear of what you can do to me, but of what you are." He dropped his eyelids with the swiftness of slamming a door—but she caught a flash of his eyes and the flash, incredibly, was terror. "You're not capable of love, you cheap little gold-digger!" he cried suddenly, in a tone stripped of all color but the desire "to hurt. "Yes, I said gold-digger. There are many forms of it, other than greed for money, other and worse. You're a gold-digger of the spirit. You didn't marry me for my cash—but you married me for my ability or courage or whatever value it was that you set as the price of your love!" "Do you want . . . love . . . to be . . . causeless?" "Love is its own cause! Love is above causes and reasons. Love is blind. But you wouldn't be capable of it. You have the mean, scheming, calculating little soul of a shopkeeper who trades', but never gives! Love is a gift—a great, free, unconditional gift that transcends and forgives everything. What's the generosity of loving a man for his virtues? What do you give him? Nothing. It's no more than cold justice. No more than he's earned." Her eyes were dark with the dangerous intensity of glimpsing her goal. "You want it to be unearned," she said, not in the tone of a question, but of a verdict. "Oh, you don't understand!" "Yes, Jim, I do. That's what you want—that's what all of you really want— not money, not material benefits, not economic security, not any of the handouts you keep demanding." She spoke in a flat monotone, as if reciting her thoughts to herself, intent upon giving the solid identity of words to the torturous shreds of chaos twisting in her mind. "All of you welfare preachers—it's not unearned money that you're after. You want handouts, but of a different kind. I'm a gold-digger of the spirit, you said, because I look for value. Then you, the welfare preachers . . . it's the spirit that you want to loot. I never thought and nobody ever told us how it could be thought of and what it would mean—the unearned in spirit. But that is what you want. You want unearned love. You want unearned admiration. You want unearned greatness. You want to be a man like Hank Rearden without the necessity of being what he is. Without the necessity of being anything. Without . . . the necessity . . . of being." "Shut up!" he screamed. They looked at each other, both in terror, both feeling as if they were swaying on an edge which she could not and he would not name, both knowing that one more step would be fatal. "What do you think you're saying?" he asked in a tone of petty anger, which sounded almost benevolent by bringing them back into the realm of the normal, into the near-wholesomeness of nothing worse than a family quarrel. "What sort of metaphysical subject are you trying to deal with?" --------------------------------------- 674 "I don't know . . ." she said wearily, dropping her head, as if some shape she had tried to capture had slipped once more out of her grasp. "I don't know . . . It doesn't seem possible . . ." "You'd better not try to wade in way over your head or—" But he had to stop, because the butler entered, bringing the glittering ice bucket with the champagne ordered for celebration. They remained silent, letting the room be filled by the sounds which centuries of men and of struggle had established as the symbol of joyous attainment: the blast of the cork, the laughing tinkle of a pale gold liquid running into two broad cups filled with the weaving reflections of candles, the whisper of bubbles rising through two crystal stems, almost demanding that everything in sight rise, too, in the same aspiration. They remained silent, till the butler had gone. Taggart sat looking down at the bubbles, holding the stem of his glass between two limply casual fingers. Then his hand closed suddenly about the stem into an awkwardly convulsed fist and he raised it, not as one lifts a glass of champagne, but as one would lift a butcher knife. "To Francisco d'Anconia!" he said. She put her glass down. "No," she answered. "Drink it!" he screamed. "No," she answered, her voice like a drop of lead. They held each other's glances for a moment, the light playing on the golden liquid, not reaching their faces or eyes. "Oh, go to hell!" he cried, leaping to his feet, flinging his glass to smash on the floor and rushing out of the room. She sat at the table, not moving, for a long time, then rose slowly and pressed the bell. She walked to her room, her steps unnaturally even, she opened the door of a closet, she reached for a suit and a pair of shoes, she took off the housecoat, moving with cautious precision, as if her life depended on not jarring anything about or within her. She held onto a single thought: that she had to get out of this house—just get out of it for a while, if only for the next hour—and then, later, she would be able to face all that had to be faced. The lines were blurring on the paper before her and, raising her head, Dagny realized that it had long since grown dark. She pushed the papers aside, unwilling to turn on the lamp, permitting herself the luxury of idleness and darkness. It cut her off from the city beyond the windows of her living room. The calendar in the distance said: August 5. The month behind her had gone, leaving nothing but the blank of dead time. It had gone into the planless, thankless work of racing from emergency to emergency, of delaying the collapse of a railroad—a month like a waste pile of disconnected days, each given to averting the disaster of the moment. It had not been a sum of achievements brought into existence, but only a sum of zeros, of that which had not happened, a sum of prevented catastrophes—not a task in the service of life, but only a race against death. There had been times when an unsummoned vision—a sight of the valley—had seemed to rise before her, not as a sudden appearance, but as a constant, hidden presence that suddenly chose to assume an insistent reality. She had faced it, through moments of blinded stillness, in a contest between an unmoving decision and an unyielding pain, a pain to be fought by acknowledgment, by saying: All right, even this. There had been mornings when, awakening with rays of sunlight on her face, she had thought that she must hurry to Hammond's Market to get fresh eggs for breakfast; then, recapturing full consciousness, seeing the haze of New York beyond the window of her bedroom, she had felt a tearing stab, like a touch --------------------------------------- 675 of death, the touch of rejecting reality. You knew it—she had told herself severely—you knew what it would be like when you made your choice. And dragging her body, like an unwilling weight, out of bed to face an unwelcome day, she would whisper: All right, even this. The worst of the torture had been the moments when, walking down the street, she had caught a sudden glimpse of chestnut-gold, a glowing streak of hair among the heads of strangers, and had felt as if the city had vanished, as if nothing but the violent stillness within her were delaying the moment when she would rush to him and seize him; but that next moment had come as the sight of some meaningless face—and she had stood, not wishing to live through the following step, not wishing to generate the energy of living. She had tried to avoid such moments; she had tried to forbid herself to look; she had walked, keeping her eyes on the pavements. She had failed: by some will of their own, her eyes had kept leaping to every streak of gold. She had kept the blinds raised on the windows of her office, remembering his promise, thinking only: If you are watching me, wherever you are . . . There were no buildings close to the height of her office, but she had looked at the distant towers, wondering which window was his observation post, wondering whether some invention of his own, some device of rays and lenses, permitted him to observe her every movement from some skyscraper a block or a mile away. She had sat at her desk, at her uncurtained windows, thinking: Just to know that you're seeing me, even if I'm never to see you again. And remembering it, now, in the darkness of her room, she leaped to her feet and snapped on the light. Then she dropped her head for an instant, smiling in mirthless amusement at herself. She wondered whether her lighted windows, in the black immensity of the city, were a flare of distress, calling for his help—or a lighthouse still protecting the rest of the world. The doorbell rang. When she opened the door, she saw the silhouette of a girl with a faintly familiar face—and it took her a moment of startled astonishment to realize that it was Cherryl Taggart. Except for a formal exchange of greetings on a few chance encounters in the halls of the Taggart Building, they had not seen each other since the wedding. Cherryl's face was composed and unsmiling. "Would you permit me to speak to you"—she hesitated and ended on—"Miss Taggart?" "Of course," said Dagny gravely. "Come in." She sensed some desperate emergency in the unnatural calm of Cherryl's manner; she became certain of it when she looked at the girl's face in the light of the living room. "Sit down," she said, but Cherryl remained standing. "I came to pay a debt," said Cherryl, her voice solemn with the effort to permit herself no sound of emotion. "I want to apologize for the things I said to you at my wedding. There's no reason why you should forgive me, but it's my place to tell you that I know I was insulting everything I admire and defending everything I despise. I know that admitting it now, doesn't make up for it, and even coming here is only another presumption, there's no reason why you should want to hear it, so I can't even cancel the debt, I can only ask for a favor— that you let me say the things I want to say to you." Dagny's shock of emotion, incredulous, warm and painful, was the wordless equivalent of the sentence: What a distance to travel in less than a year . . . ! She answered, the unsmiling earnestness of her voice like a hand extended in support, knowing that a smile would upset some precarious balance, "But it does make up for it, and I do want to hear it." "I know that it was you who ran Taggart Transcontinental. It was you who built the John Galt Line. It was you who had the mind and the courage that --------------------------------------- 676 kept all of it alive. I suppose you thought that I married Jim for his money— as what shop girl wouldn't have? But, you see, I married Jim because I . . . I thought that he was you. I thought that he was Taggart Transcontinental. Now I know that he's"— she hesitated, then went on firmly, as if not to spare herself anything— "he's some sort of vicious moocher, though I can't understand of what kind or why. When I spoke to you at my wedding, I thought that I was defending greatness and attacking its enemy . . . but it was in reverse . . . it was in such horrible, unbelievable reverse! . . . So I wanted to tell you that I know the truth . . . not so much for your sake, I have no right to presume that you'd care, but . . . but for the sake of the things I loved." Dagny said slowly, "Of course I forgive it." "Thank you," she whispered, and turned to go. "Sit down." She shook her head. "That . . . that was all, Miss Taggart." Dagny allowed herself the first touch of a smile, no more than in the look of her eyes, as she said, "Cherryl, my name is Dagny." Cherryl's answer was no more than a faint, tremulous crease of her mouth, as if, together, they had completed a single smile. "I . . . I didn't know whether I should—" "We're sisters, aren't we?" "No! Not through Jim!" It was an involuntary cry. "No, through our own choice. Sit down, Cherryl." The girl obeyed, struggling not to show the eagerness of her acceptance, not to grasp for support, not to break. "You've had a terrible time, haven't you?" "Yes . . . but that doesn't matter . . . that's my own problem . . . and my own fault." "I don't think it was your own fault." Cherryl did not answer, then said suddenly, desperately, "Look . . . what I don't want is charity." "Jim must have told you—and it's true—that I never engage in charity." "Yes, he did . . . But what I mean is—" "I know what you mean." "But there's no reason why you should have to feel concern for me . . . I didn't come here to complain and . . . and load another burden on your shoulders . . . That I happen to suffer, doesn't give me a claim on you." "No, it doesn't. But that you value all the things I value, does." "You mean . . . if you want to talk to me, it's not alms? Not just because you feel sorry for me?" "I feel terribly sorry for you, Cherryl, and I'd like to help you— not because you suffer, but because you haven't deserved to suffer." "You mean, you wouldn't be kind to anything weak or whining or rotten about me? Only to whatever you see in me that's good?" "Of course." Cherryl did not move her head, but she looked as if it were lifted— as if some bracing current were relaxing her features into that rare look which combines pain and dignity. "It's not alms, Cherryl. Don't be afraid to speak to me." "It's strange . . . You're the first person I can talk to . . . and it feels so easy . . . yet I . . . I was afraid to speak to you. I wanted to ask your forgiveness long ago . . . ever since I learned the truth, I went as far as the door of your office, but I stopped and stood there in the hall and didn't have the courage to go in. . . . I didn't intend to come here tonight. I went out only to . . . to think something over, and then, suddenly, I knew that I wanted to see you, that in the whole of the city this was the only place for me to go and the only thing still left for me to do." "I'm glad you did." --------------------------------------- 677 "You know, Miss Tag—Dagny," she said softly, in wonder, "you're not as I expected you to be at all. . . . They, Jim and his friends, they said you were hard and cold and unfeeling." "But it's true, Cherryl. I am, in the sense they mean—only have they ever told you in just what sense they mean it?" "No. They never do. They only sneer at me when I ask them what they mean by anything . . . about anything. What did they mean about you?" "Whenever anyone accuses some person of being 'unfeeling,' he means that that person is just. He means that that person has no causeless emotions and will not grant him a feeling which he does not deserve. He means that 'to feel' is to go against reason, against moral values, against reality. He means . . . What's the matter?" she asked, seeing the abnormal intensity of the girl's face. "It's . . . it's something I've tried so hard to understand . . . for such a long time. . . ." "Well, observe that you never hear that accusation in defense of innocence, but always in defense of guilt. You never hear it said by a good person about those who fail to do him justice. But you always hear it said by a rotter about those who treat him as a rotter, those who don't feel any sympathy for the evil he's committed or for the pain he suffers as a consequence. Well, it's true—that is what I do not feel. But those who feel it, feel nothing for any quality of human greatness, for any person or action that deserves admiration, approval, esteem. These are the things 7 feel. You'll find that it's one or the other. Those who grant sympathy to guilt, grant none to innocence. Ask yourself which, of the two, are the unfeeling persons. And then you'll see what motive is the opposite of charity." "What?" she whispered. "Justice, Cherryl." Cherryl shuddered suddenly and dropped her head. "Oh God!" she moaned. "If you knew what hell Jim has been giving me because I believed just what you said!" She raised her face in the sweep of another shudder, as if the things she had tried to control had broken through; the look in her eyes was terror. "Dagny," she whispered, "Dagny, I'm afraid of them . . . of Jim and all the others . . . not afraid of something they'll do . . . if it were that, I could escape . . . but afraid, as if there's no way out . . . afraid of what they are and . . . and that they exist." Dagny came forward swiftly to sit on the arm of her chair and seize her shoulder in a steadying grasp. "Quiet, kid," she said. "You're wrong. You must never feel afraid of people in that way. You must never think that their existence is a reflection on yours—yet that's what you're thinking." "Yes . . . Yes, I feel that there's no chance for me to exist, if they do . . . no chance, no room, no world I can cope with. . . . I don't want to feel it, I keep pushing it back, but it's coming closer and 1 know I have no place to run. . . . I can't explain what it feels like, I can't catch hold of it—and that's part of the terror, that you can't catch hold of anything—it's as if the whole world were suddenly destroyed, but not by an explosion—an explosion is something hard and solid—but destroyed by . . . by some horrible kind of softening . . . as if nothing were solid, nothing held any shape at all, and you could poke your finger through stone walls and the stone would give, like jelly, and mountains would slither, and buildings would switch their shapes like clouds—and that would be the end of the world, not fire and brimstone, but goo." --------------------------------------- 678 "Cherryl . . . Cherryl, you poor kid, there have been centuries of philosophers plotting to turn the world into just that—to destroy people's minds by making them believe that that's what they're seeing. But you don't have to accept it. You don't have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is—say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise." "But . . . but nothing is, any more. Jim and his friends—they're not. I don't know what I'm looking at, when I'm among them, I don't know what I'm hearing when they speak . . . it's not real, any of it, it's some ghastly sort of act that they're all going through . . . and I don't know what they're after. . . . Dagny! We've always been told that human beings have such a great power of knowledge, so much greater than animals, but I—I feel blinder than any animal right now, blinder and more helpless. An animal knows who are its friends and who are its enemies, and when to defend itself. It doesn't expect a friend to step on it or to cut its throat. It doesn't expect to be told that love is blind, that plunder is achievement, that gangsters are statesmen and that it's great to break the spine of Hank Rearden!—oh God, what am I saying?" "I know what you're saying." "I mean, how am I to deal with people? I mean, if nothing held firm for the length of one hour—we couldn't go on, could we? Well, I know that things are solid—but people? Dagny! They're nothing and anything, they're not beings, they're only switches, just constant switches without any shape. But I have to live among them. How am I to do it?" "Cherryl, what you've been struggling with is the greatest problem in history, the one that has caused ail of human suffering. You've understood much more than most people, who suffer and die, never knowing what killed them. I'll help you to understand. It's a big subject and a hard battle—but first, above all, don't be afraid." The look on Cherryl's face was an odd, wistful longing, as if, seeing Dagny from a great distance, she were straining and failing to come closer, "I wish I could wish to fight," she said softly, "but I don't. I don't even want to win any longer. There's one change that I don't seem to have the strength to make. You see, I had never expected anything like my marriage to Jim, Then when it happened, I thought that life was much more wonderful than I had expected. And now to get used to the idea that life and people are much more horrible than anything I had imagined and that my marriage was not a glorious miracle, but some unspeakable kind of evil which I'm still afraid to learn fully—that is what I can't force myself to take. I can't get past it." She glanced up suddenly. "Dagny, how did you do it? How did you manage to remain unmangled?" "By holding to just one rule." "Which?" "To place nothing—nothing—above the verdict of my own mind." "You've taken some terrible beatings . . . maybe worse than I did . . . worse than any of us. . . . What held you through it?" "The knowledge that my life is the highest of values, too high to give up without a fight." She saw a look of astonishment, of incredulous recognition on Cherryl's face, as if the girl were struggling to recapture some sensation across a span of years. "Dagny"—her voice was a whisper—"that's . . . that's what I felt when I was a child . . . that's what I seem to remember most about myself . . . that kind of feeling . . . and I never lost it, it's there, it's always been there, but as I grew up, I thought it was something that I must hide. . . . I never had any name for it, but just now, when you said it, it --------------------------------------- 679 struck me that that's what it was. . . . Dagny, to feel that way about your own life—is that good?" "Cherryl, listen to me carefully: that feeling—with everything which it requires and implies—is the highest, noblest and only good on earth." "The reason I ask is because I . . . I wouldn't have dared to think that. Somehow, people always made me feel as if they thought it was a sin . . . as if that were the thing in me which they resented and . . . and wanted to destroy." "It's true. Some people do want to destroy it. And when you learn to understand their motive, you'll know the darkest, ugliest and only evil in the world, but you'll be safely out of its reach." Cherryl's smile was like a feeble flicker struggling to retain its hold upon a few drops of fuel, to catch them, to flare up. "It's the first time in months," she whispered, "that I've felt as if . . . as if there's still a chance." She saw Dagny's eyes watching her with attentive concern, and she added, "I'll be all right . . . Let me get used to it—to you, to all the things you said. I think I'll come to believe it . . . to believe that it's real . . . and that Jim doesn't matter." She rose to her feet, as if trying to retain the moment of assurance. Prompted by a sudden, causeless certainty, Dagny said sharply, "Cherryl, I don't want you to go home tonight." "Oh no! I'm all right. I'm not afraid, that way. Not of going home." "Didn't something happen there tonight?" "No . . . not really . . . nothing worse than usual. It was just that I began to see things a little more clearly, that was all . . . I'm all right. I have to think, think harder than I ever did before . . . and then I'll decide what I must do. May I—" She hesitated. "Yes?'1 "May I come back to talk to you again?" "Of course." "Thank you, I . . . I'm very grateful to you." "Will you promise me that you'll come back?" "I promise." Dagny saw her walking off down the hall toward the elevator, saw the slump of her shoulders, then the effort that lifted them, saw the slender figure that seemed to sway then marshal all of its strength to remain erect. She looked like a plant with a broken stem, still held together by a single fiber, struggling to heal the breach, which one more gust of wind would finish. Through the open door of his study, James Taggart had seen Cherryl cross the anteroom and walk out of the apartment. He had slammed his door and slumped down on the davenport, with patches of spilled champagne still soaking the cloth of his trousers, as if his own discomfort were a revenge upon his wife and upon a universe that would not provide him with the celebration he had wanted. After a while, he leaped to his feet, tore off his coat and threw it across the room. He reached for a cigarette, but snapped it in half and flung it at a painting over the fireplace. He noticed a vase of Venetian glass—a museum piece, centuries old, with an intricate system of blue and gold arteries twisting through its transparent body. He seized it and flung it at the wall; it burst into a rain of glass as thin as a shattered light bulb. He had bought that vase for the satisfaction of thinking of all the connoisseurs who could not afford it. Now he experienced the satisfaction of a revenge upon the centuries which had prized it—and the satisfaction of thinking that there were millions of desperate families, any one of whom could have lived for a year on the price of that vase. --------------------------------------- 680 He kicked off his shoes, and fell back on the davenport, letting his stocking feet dangle in mid-air. The sound of the doorbell startled him: it seemed to match his mood. It was the kind of brusque, demanding, impatient snap of sound he would have produced if he were now jabbing his finger at someone's doorbell. He listened to the butler's steps, promising himself the pleasure of refusing admittance to whoever was seeking it. In a moment, he heard the knock at his door and the butler entered to announce, "Mrs. Rearden to see you, sir." "What? . . . Oh . . . Well! Have her come in!" He swung his feet down to the floor, but made no other concession, and waited with half a smile of alerted curiosity, choosing not to rise until a moment after Lillian had entered the room. She wore a wine-colored dinner gown, an imitation of an Empire traveling suit, with a miniature double-breasted jacket gripping her high waistline over the long sweep of the skirt, and a small hat clinging to one ear, with a feather sweeping down to curl under her chin. She entered with a brusque, unrhythmical motion, the train of her dress and the feather of her hat swirling, then flapping against her legs and throat, like pennants signaling nervousness. "Lillian, my dear, am I to be flattered, delighted or just plain flabbergasted?" "Oh, don't make a fuss about it! I had to see you, and it had to be immediately, that's all." The impatient tone, the peremptory movement with which she sat down were a confession of weakness: by the rules of their unwritten language, one did not assume a demanding manner unless one were seeking a favor and had no value—no threat—to barter. "Why didn't you stay at the Gonzales reception?" she asked, her casual smile failing to hide the tone of irritation. "I dropped in on them after dinner, just to catch hold of you—but they said you hadn't been feeling well and had gone home." He crossed the room and picked up a cigarette, for the pleasure of padding in his stocking feet past the formal elegance of her costume. "I was bored," he answered. "I can't stand them," she said, with a little shudder; he glanced at her in astonishment: the words sounded involuntary and sincere. "I can't stand Senor Gonzales and that whore he's got himself for a wife. It's disgusting that they've become so fashionable, they and their parties. I don't feel like going anywhere any longer. It's not the same style any more, not the same spirit. I haven't run into Balph Eubank for months, or Dr. Pritchett, or any of the boys. And all those new faces that look like butcher's assistants! After all, our crowd were gentlemen." "Yeah," he said reflectively. "Yeah, there's some funny kind of difference. It's like on the railroad, too: I could get along with Gem Weatherby, he was civilized, but Cuffy Meigs—that's something else again, that's . . ."He stopped abruptly. "It's perfectly preposterous," she said, in the tone of a challenge to the space at large. "They can't get away with it." She did not explain "who" or "with what." He knew what she meant. Through a moment of silence, they looked as if they were clinging to each other for reassurance. In the next moment, he was thinking with pleasurable amusement that Lillian was beginning to show her age. The deep burgundy color of her gown was unbecoming, it seemed to draw a purplish tinge out of her skin, a tinge that gathered, like twilight, in the small gullies of her face, softening her --------------------------------------- 681 flesh to a texture of tired slackness, changing her look of bright mockery into a look of stale malice. He saw her studying him, smiling and saying crisply, with the smile as license for insult, "You are unwell, aren't you, Jim? You look like a disorganized stable boy." He chuckled. "I can afford it." "I know it, darling. You're one of the most powerful men in New York City." She added, "It's a good joke on New York City." "It is." "I concede that you're in a position to do anything. That's why I had to see you." She added a small, grunt like sound of amusement, to dilute her statement's frankness. "Good," he said, his voice comfortable and noncommittal. "I had to come here, because I thought it best, in this particular matter, not to be seen together in public." "That is always wise." "I seem to remember having been useful to you in the past." "In the past—yes." "I am sure that I can count on you." "Of course—only isn't that an old-fashioned, unphilosophical remark? How can we ever be sure of anything?" "Jim," she snapped suddenly, "you've got to help me!" "My dear, I'm at your disposal, I'd do anything to help you," he answered, the rules of their language requiring that any open statement be answered by a blatant lie. Lillian was slipping, he thought—and he experienced the pleasure of dealing with an inadequate adversary. She was neglecting, he noted, even the perfection of her particular trademark: her grooming. A few strands were escaping from the drilled waves of her hair—her nails, matching her gown, were the deep shade of coagulated blood, which made it easy to notice the chipped polish at their tips—and against the broad, smooth, creamy expanse of her skin in the low, square cut of her gown, he observed the tiny glitter of a safety pin holding the strap of her slip. "You've got to prevent it!" she said, in the belligerent tone of a plea disguised as a command. "You've got to stop it!" "Really? What?" "My divorce." "Oh . . . !" His features dropped into sudden earnestness. "You know that he's going to divorce me, don't you?" "I've heard some rumors about it." "It's set for next month. And when I say set, that's just what I mean. Oh, it's cost him plenty—but he's bought the judge, the clerks, the bailiffs, their backers, their backers1 backers, a few legislators, half a dozen administrators—he's bought the whole legal process, like a private thoroughfare, and there's no single crossroad left for me to squeeze through to stop it!" "I see." "You know, of course, what made him start divorce proceedings?" "I can guess." "And I did it as a favor to you!" Her voice was growing anxiously shrill. "I told you about your sister in order to let you get that Gift Certificate for your friends, which—" "I swear I don't know who let it out!" he cried hastily. "Only a very few at the top knew that you'd been our informer, and I'm sure nobody would dare mention—" "Oh, I'm sure nobody did. He'd have the brains to guess it, wouldn't he?" "Yes, I suppose so. Well, then you knew that you were taking a chance." --------------------------------------- 682 "I didn't think he'd go that far. I didn't think he'd ever divorce me. I didn't—" He chuckled suddenly, with a glance of astonishing perceptiveness. "You didn't think that guilt is a rope that wears thin, did you, Lillian?" She looked at him, startled, then answered stonily, "I don't think it does." "It does, my dear—for men such as your husband." "I don't want him to divorce me!" It was a sudden scream. "I don't want to let him go free! I won't permit it! I won't let the whole of my life be a total failure!" She stopped abruptly, as if she had admitted too much. He was chuckling softly, nodding his head with a slow movement that had an air of intelligence, almost of dignity, by signifying a complete understanding. "I mean . . . after all, he's my husband," she said defensively. "Yes, Lillian, yes, I know." "Do you know what he's planning? He's going to get the decree and he's going to cut me off without a penny—no settlement, no alimony, nothing! He's going to have the last word. Don't you see? If he gets away with it, then . . . then the Gift Certificate was no victory for me at all!" "Yes, my dear, I see." "And besides . . . It's preposterous that I should have to think of it, but what am I going to live on? The little money I had of my own is worth nothing nowadays. It's mainly stock in factories of my father's time, that have closed long ago. What am I going to do?" "But, Lillian," he said softly, "I thought you had no concern for money or for any material rewards." "You don't understand! I'm not talking about money—I'm talking about poverty! Real, stinking, hall-bedroom poverty! That's out of bounds for any civilized person! I—I to have to worry about food and rent?" He was watching her with a faint smile; for once, his soft, aging face seemed tightened into a look of wisdom; he was discovering the pleasure of full perception—in a reality which he could permit himself to perceive. "Jim, you've got to help me! My lawyer is powerless. I've spent the little I had, on him and on his investigators, friends and fixers—but all they could do for me was find out that they can do nothing. My lawyer gave me his final report this afternoon. He told me bluntly that I haven't a chance. I don't seem to know anyone who can help against a setup of this kind. I had counted on Bertram Scudder, but . . . well, you know what happened to Bertram. And that, too, was because I had tried to help you. You pulled yourself out of that one. Jim, you're the only person who can pull me out now. You've got your gopher-hole pipe line straight up to the top. You can reach the big boys. Slip a word to your friends to slip a word to their friends. One word from Wesley would do it. Have them order that divorce decree to be refused. Just have it be refused." He shook his head slowly, almost compassionately, like a tired professional at an overzealous amateur. "It can't be done, Lillian," he said firmly. "I'd like to do it—for the same reasons as yours—and I think you know it. But whatever power I have is not enough in this case." She was looking at him, her eyes dark with an odd, lifeless stillness; when she spoke, the motion of her lips was twisted by so evil a contempt that he did not dare identify it beyond knowing that it embraced them both; she said, "I know that you'd like to do it." He felt no desire to pretend; oddly, for the first time, for this one chance, truth seemed much more pleasurable—truth, for once, serving his particular kind of enjoyment. "I think you know that it can't be done," he said. "Nobody does favors nowadays, if there's nothing to gain in return. And the stakes are getting higher and higher. The gopher holes, as you called --------------------------------------- 683 them, are so complex, so twisted and intertwisted that everybody has something on everybody else, and nobody dares move because he can't tell who'll crack which way or when. So he'll move only when he has to, when the stakes are life or death—and that's practically the only kind of stakes we're playing for now. Well, what's your private life to any of those boys? That you'd like to hold your husband—what's in it for them, one way or another? And my personal stock-in-trade—well, there's nothing I could offer them at the moment in exchange for trying to blast a whole court clique out of a highly profitable deal. Besides, right now, the top boys wouldn't do it at any price. They have to be mighty careful of your husband—he's the man who's safe from them right now—ever since that radio broadcast of my sister's." "You asked me to force her to speak on that broadcast!" "I know, Lillian. We lost, both of us, that time. And we lose, both of us, now." "Yes," she said, with the same darkness of contempt in her eyes, "both of us." It was the contempt that pleased him; it was the strange, heedless, unfamiliar pleasure of knowing that this woman saw him as he was, yet remained held by his presence, remained and leaned back in her chair, as if declaring her bondage. "You're a wonderful person, Jim," she said. It had the sound of damnation. Yet it was a tribute, and she meant it as such, and his pleasure came from the knowledge that they were in a realm where damnation was value. "You know," he said suddenly, "you're wrong about those butcher's assistants, like Gonzales. They have their uses. Have you ever liked Francisco d'Anconia?" "I can't stand him." "Well, do you know the real purpose of that cocktail-swilling occasion staged by Senor Gonzales tonight? It was to celebrate the agreement to nationalize d'Anconia Copper in about a month." She looked at him for a moment, the corners of her lips lifting slowly into a smile. "He was your friend, wasn't he?" Her voice had a tone he had never earned before, the tone of an emotion which he had drawn from people only by fraud, but which now, for the first time, was granted with full awareness to the real, the actual nature of his deed: a tone of admiration. Suddenly, he knew that this was the goal of his restless hours, this was the pleasure he had despaired of finding, this was the celebration he had wanted. "Let's have a drink, Lil." he said. Pouring the liquor, he glanced at her across the room, as she lay stretched limply in her chair. "Let him get his divorce," he said, "He won't have the last word. They will. The butcher's assistants. Senor Gonzales and Cuffy Meigs." She did not answer. When he approached, she took the glass from him with a sloppily indifferent sweep of her hand. She drank, not in the manner of a social gesture, but like a lonely drinker in a saloon—for the physical sake of the liquor. He sat down on the arm of the davenport, improperly close to her, and sipped his drink, watching her face. After a while, he asked, "What does he think of me?" The question did not seem to astonish her. "He thinks you're a fool," she answered. "He thinks life's too short to have to notice your existence." "He'd notice it, if—" He stopped. "—if you bashed him over the head with a club? I'm not too sure. He'd merely blame himself for not having moved out of the club's reach. Still, that would be your only chance." --------------------------------------- 684 She shifted her body, sliding lower in the armchair, stomach forward, as if relaxation were ugliness, as if she were granting him the kind of intimacy that required no poise and no respect. "That was the first thing I noticed about him," she said, "when I met him for the first time: that he was not afraid. He looked as if he felt certain that there was nothing any of us could do to him—so certain that he didn't even know the issue or the nature of what he felt." "How long since you saw him last?" "Three months. I haven't seen him since . . . since the Gift Certificate . . ." "I saw him at an industrial meeting two weeks ago. He still looks that way—only more so. Now, he looks as if he knows it." He added, "You have failed, Lillian." She did not answer. She pushed her hat off with the back of her hand; it rolled down to the carpet, its feather curling like a question mark. "I remember the first time I saw his mills," she said. "His mills! You can't imagine what he felt about them. You wouldn't know the kind of intellectual arrogance it takes to feel as if anything pertaining to him, anything he touched, were made sacred by the touch. His mills, his Metal, his money, his bed, his wife!" She glanced up at him, a small flicker piercing the lethargic emptiness of her eyes. "He never noticed your existence. He did notice mine. I'm still Mrs. Rearden—at least for another month." "Yes . . ." he said, looking down at her with a sudden, new interest. "Mrs. Rearden!" she chuckled. "You wouldn't know what that meant to him. No feudal lord ever felt or demanded such reverence for the title of his wife—or held it as such a symbol of honor. Of his unbending, untouchable, inviolate, stainless honor!" She waved her hand in a vague motion, indicating the length of her sprawled body. "Caesar's wife!" she chuckled. "Do you remember what she was supposed to be? No, you wouldn't. She was supposed to be above reproach," He was staring down at her with the heavy, blind stare of impotent hatred— a hatred of which she was the sudden symbol, not the object. "He didn't like it when his Metal was thrown into common, public use, for any chance passer-by to make . . . did he?" "No, he didn't." His words were blurring a little, as if weighted with drops of the liquor he had swallowed: "Don't tell me that you helped us to get that Gift Certificate as a favor to me and that you gained nothing. . . . I know why you did it." "You knew it at the time." "Sure. That's why I like you, Lillian." His eyes kept coming back to the low cut of her gown. It was not the smooth skin that attracted his glance, not the exposed rise of her breasts, but the fraud of the safety pin beyond the edge. "I'd like to see him beaten," he said. "I'd like to hear him scream with pain, just once." "You won't, Jimmy." "Why does he think he's better than the rest of us—he and that sister of mine?" She chuckled, He rose as if she had slapped him. He went to the bar and poured himself another drink, not offering to refill her glass. She was speaking into space, staring past him. "He did notice my existence—even though I can't lay railroad tracks for him and erect bridges to the glory of his Metal. I can't build his mills—but I can destroy them. I can't produce his Metal—but I can take it away from him. I can't bring men down to their knees in admiration—but I can bring them down to their knees." --------------------------------------- 685 "Shut up!" he screamed in terror, as if she were coming too close to that fogbound alley which had to remain unseen. She glanced up at his face. "You're such a coward, Jim." "Why don't you get drunk?" he snapped, sticking his unfinished drink at her mouth, as if he wanted to strike her. Her fingers half-closed limply about the glass, and she drank, spilling the liquor down her chin, her breast and her gown. "Oh hell, Lillian, you're a mess!" he said and, not troubling to reach for his handkerchief, he stretched out his hand to wipe the liquor with the flat of his palm. His fingers slipped under the gown's neckline, closing over her breast, his breath catching in a sudden gulp, like a hiccough. His eyelids were drawing closed, but he caught a glimpse of her face leaning back unresistingly, her mouth swollen with revulsion. When he reached for her mouth, her arms embraced him obediently and her mouth responded, but the response was just a pressure, not a kiss. He raised his head to glance at her face. Her teeth were bared in a smile, but she was staring past him, as if mocking some invisible presence, her smile lifeless, yet loud with malice, like the grin of a fleshless skull. He jerked her closer, to stifle the sight and his own shudder. His hands were going through the automatic motions of intimacy—and she complied, but in a manner that made him feel as if the beats of her arteries under his touch were snickering giggles. They were both performing an expected routine, a routine invented by someone and imposed upon them, performing it in mockery, in hatred, in defiling parody on its inventors. He felt a sightless, heedless fury, part-horror, part-pleasure—the horror of committing an act he would never dare confess to anyone— the pleasure of committing it in blasphemous defiance of those to whom he would not dare confess it. He was himself!—the only conscious part of his rage seemed to be screaming to him—he was, at last, himself! They did not speak. They knew each other's motive. Only two words were pronounced between them. "Mrs. Rearden," he said. They did not look at each other when he pushed her into his bedroom and onto his bed, falling against her body, as against a soft. stuffed object. Their faces had a look of secrecy, the look of partners in guilt, the furtive, smutty look of children defiling someone's clean fence by chalking sneaky scratches intended as symbols of obscenity. Afterward, it did not disappoint him that what he had possessed was an inanimate body without resistance or response. It was not a woman that he had wanted to possess. It was not an act in celebration of life that he had wanted to perform—but an act in celebration of the triumph of impotence. Cherryl unlocked the door and slipped in quietly, almost surreptitiously, as if hoping not to be seen or to see the place which was her home. The sense of Dagny's presence—of Dagny's world—had supported her on her way back, but when she entered her own apartment the walls seemed to swallow her again into the suffocation of a trap. The apartment was silent; a wedge of light cut across the anteroom from a door left half-open. She dragged herself mechanically in the direction of her room. Then she stopped. The open band of light was the door of Jim's study, and on the illuminated strip of its carpet she saw a woman's hat with a feather stirring faintly in a draft. She took a step forward. The room was empty, she saw two glasses, one on a table, the other on the floor, and a woman's purse lying on the seat of an armchair. She stood, in unexacting stupor, until she heard the muffled drawl of two voices behind the door of Jim's bedroom; she could not distinguish the words, only the quality of the sounds: Jim's voice had a tone of irritation, the woman's—of contempt. --------------------------------------- 686 Then she found herself in her own room, fumbling frantically to lock her door. She had been flung here by the blind panic of escape, as if it were she who had to hide, she who had to run from the ugliness of being seen in the act of seeing them—a panic made of revulsion, of pity, of embarrassment, of that mental chastity which recoils from confronting a man with the unanswerable proof of his evil. She stood in the middle of her room, unable to grasp what action was now possible to her. Then her knees gave way, folding gently, she found herself sitting on the floor and she stayed there, staring at the carpet, shaking. It was neither anger nor jealousy nor indignation, but the blank horror of dealing with the grotesquely senseless. It was the knowledge that neither their marriage nor his love for her nor his insistence on holding her nor his love for that other woman nor this gratuitous adultery had any meaning whatever, that there was no shred of sense in any of it and no use to grope for explanations. She had always thought of evil as purposeful, as a means to some end; what she was seeing now was evil for evil's sake. She did not know how long she had sat there, when she heard their steps and voices, then the sound of the front door closing. She got up, with no purpose in mind, but impelled by some instinct from the past, as if acting in a vacuum where honesty was not relevant any longer, but knowing no other way to act. She met Jim in the anteroom. For a moment, they looked at each other as if neither could believe the other's reality. "When did you come back?" he snapped. "How long have you been home?" "I don't know . . ." He was looking at her face. "What's the matter with you?" "Jim, I—" She struggled, gave up and waved her hand toward his bedroom. "Jim, I know." "What do you know?" "You were there . . . with a woman." His first action was to push her into his study and slam the door, as if to hide them both, he could no longer say from whom. An unadmitted rage was boiling in his mind, struggling between escape and explosion, and it blew up into the sensation that this negligible little wife of his was depriving him of his triumph, that he would not surrender to her his new enjoyment. "Sure!" he screamed. "So what? What are you going to do about it?" She stared at him blankly. "Sure! I was there with a woman! That's what I did, because that's what I felt like doing! Do you think you're going to scare me with your gasps, your stares, your whimpering virtue?" He snapped his fingers. "That for your opinion! I don't give a hoot in hell about your opinion! Take it and like it!" It was her white, defenseless face that drove him on, lashing him into a state of pleasure, the pleasure of feeling as if his words were blows disfiguring a human face. "Do you think you're going to make me hide? I'm sick of having to put on an act for your righteous satisfaction! Who the hell are you, you cheap little nobody? I'll do as I please, and you'll keep your mouth shut and go through the right tricks in public, like everybody else, and stop demanding that I act in my own home!—nobody is virtuous in his own home, the show is only for company!—but if you expect me to mean it—to mean it, you damn little fool!— you'd better grow up in a hurry!" It was not her face that he was seeing, it was the face of the man at whom he wanted and would never be able to throw his deed of this night—but she had always stood as the worshipper, the defender, the agent of that man in his eyes, he had married her for it, so she could serve his purpose now, and he screamed, "Do you know who she was, the woman I laid? It was—" "No!" she cried. "Jim! I don't have to know it!" --------------------------------------- 687 "It was Mrs. Rearden! Mrs. Hank Rearden!" She stepped back. He felt a brief flash of terror—because she was looking at him as if she were seeing that which had to remain unadmitted to himself. She asked, in a dead voice that had the incongruous sound of common sense, "I suppose you will now want us to get divorced?" He burst out laughing. "You goddamn fool! You still mean it! You still want it big and pure' I wouldn't think of divorcing you—and don't go imagining that I'll let you divorce me! You think it's as important as that? Listen, you fool, there isn't a husband who doesn't sleep with other women and there isn't a wife who doesn't know it, but they don't talk about it! I'll lay anybody I please, and you go and do the same, like all those bitches, and keep your mouth shut!" He saw the sudden, startling sight of a look of hard, unclouded, unfeeling, almost inhuman intelligence in her eyes. "Jim, if I were the kind who did or would, you wouldn't have married me." "No. I wouldn't have." "Why did you marry me?" He felt himself drawn as by a whirlpool, part in relief that the moment of danger was past, part in irresistible defiance of the same danger. "Because you were a cheap, helpless, preposterous little guttersnipe, who'd never have a chance at anything to equal me! Because I thought you'd love me! I thought you'd know that you had to love me!" "As you are?" "Without daring to ask what I am! Without reasons! Without putting me on the spot always to live up to reason after reason after reason, like being on some goddamn dress parade to the end of my days!" "You loved me . . . because I was worthless?" "Well, what did you think you were?" "You loved me for being rotten?" "What else did you have to offer? But you didn't have the humility to appreciate it. I wanted to be generous, I wanted to give you security—what security is there in being loved for one's virtues? The competition's wide open, like a jungle market place, a better person will always come along to beat you! But I—I was willing to love you for your flaws, for your faults and weaknesses, for your ignorance, your crudeness, your vulgarity—and that's safe, you'd have nothing to fear, nothing to hide, you could be yourself, your real, stinking, sinful, ugly self—everybody's self is a gutter—but you could hold my love, with nothing demanded of you!" "You wanted me to . . . accept your love . . . as alms'"' "Did you imagine that you could earn it? Did you imagine that you could deserve to marry me, you poor little tramp? I used to buy the likes of you for the price of a meal! I wanted you to know, with every step you took, with every mouthful of caviar you swallowed, that you owed it all to me, that you had nothing and were nothing and could never hope to equal, deserve or repay!" "I . . . tried . . . to deserve it." "Of what use would you be to me, if you had?" "You didn't want me to?" "Oh, you goddamn fool!" "You didn't want me to improve? You didn't want me to rise? You thought me rotten and you wanted me to stay rotten?" "Of what use would you be to me, if you earned it all, and I had to work to hold you, and you could trade elsewhere if you chose?" "You wanted it to be alms . . . for both of us and from both? You wanted us to be two beggars chained to each other?" "Yes, you goddamn evangelist! Yes, you goddamn hero worshipper! Yes!" --------------------------------------- 688 "You chose me because I was worthless?" "Yes!" "You're lying, Jim." His answer was only a startled glance of astonishment. "Those girls that you used to buy for the price of a meal, they would have been glad to let their real selves become a gutter, they would have taken your alms and never tried to rise, but you would not marry one of them. You married me, because you knew that I did not accept the gutter, inside or out, that I was struggling to rise and would go on struggling—didn't you?" "Yes!" he cried. Then the headlight she had felt rushing upon her, hit its goal—and she screamed in the bright explosion of the impact—she screamed in physical terror, backing away from him. "What's the matter with you?" he cried, shaking, not daring to see in her eyes the thing she had seen. She moved her hands in groping gestures, half-waving it away, half trying to grasp it; when she answered, her words did not quite name it, but they were the only words she could find: "You . . . you're a killer . . . for the sake of killing . . ." It was too close to the unnamed; shaking with terror, he swung out blindly and struck her in the face. She fell against the side of an armchair, her head striking the floor, but she raised her head in a moment and looked up at him blankly, without astonishment, as if physical reality were merely taking the form she had expected. A single pear-shaped drop of blood went slithering slowly from the corner of her mouth. He stood motionless—and for a moment they looked at each other, as if neither dared to move. She moved first. She sprang to her feet—and ran. She ran out of the room, out of the apartment—he heard her running down the hall, tearing open the iron door of the emergency stairway, not waiting to ring for the elevator. She ran down the stairs, opening doors on random landings, running through the twisting hallways of the building, then down the stairs again, until she found herself in the lobby and ran to the street. After a while, she saw that she was walking down a littered sidewalk in a dark neighborhood, with an electric bulb glaring in the cave of a subway entrance and a lighted billboard advertising soda crackers on the black roof of a laundry. She did not remember how she had come here. Her mind seemed to work in broken spurts, without connections. She knew only that she had to escape and that escape was impossible. She had to escape from Jim, she thought. Where?—she asked, looking around her with a glance like a cry of prayer. She would have seized upon a job in a five-and-ten, or in that laundry, or in any of the dismal shops she passed. But she would work, she thought, and the harder she worked, the more malevolence she would draw from the people around her, and she would not know when truth would be expected of her and when a lie, but the stricter her honesty, the greater the fraud she would be asked to suffer at their hands. She had seen it before and had borne it, in the home of her family, in the shops of the slums, but she had thought that these were vicious exceptions, chance evils, to escape and forget. Now she knew that they were not exceptions, that theirs was the code accepted by the world, that it was a creed of living, known by all, but kept unnamed, leering at her from people's eyes in that sly, guilty look she had never been able to understand—and at the root of the creed, hidden by silence, lying in wait for her in the cellars of the city and in the cellars of their souls, there was a thing with which one could not live. --------------------------------------- 689 Why are you doing it to me?—she cried soundlessly to the darkness around her. Because you're good—some enormous laughter seemed to be answering from the roof tops and from the sewers. Then I won't want to be good any longer— But you will—I don't have to—You will— I can't bear it—You will. She shuddered and walked faster—but ahead of her, in the foggy distance, she saw the calendar above the roofs of the city—it was long past midnight and the calendar said: August 6, but it seemed to her suddenly that she saw September 2 written above the city in letters of blood—and she thought: If she worked, if she struggled, if she rose., she would take a harder beating with each step of her climb, until, at the end, whatever she reached, be it a copper company or an unmortgaged cottage, she would see it seized by Jim on some September 2 and she would see it vanish to pay for the parties where Jim made his deals with his friends. Then I won't!—she screamed and whirled around and went running back along the street—but it seemed to her that in the black sky. grinning at her from the steam of the laundry, there weaved an enormous figure that would hold no shape, but its grin remained the same on its changing faces, and its face was Jim's and her childhood preacher's and the woman social worker's from the personnel department of the five-and-ten—and the grin seemed to say to her: People like you will always stay honest, people like you will always struggle to rise, people like you will always work, so we're safe and you have no choice. She ran. When she looked around her once more, she was walking down a quiet street, past the glass doorways where lights were burning in the carpeted lobbies of luxurious buildings. She noticed that she was limping, and saw that the heel of her pump was loose; she had broken it somewhere in her blank span of running. From the sudden space of a broad intersection, she looked at the great skyscrapers in the distance. They were vanishing quietly into a veil of fog, with the faint breath of a glow behind them, with a few lights like a smile of farewell. Once, they had been a promise, and from the midst of the stagnant sloth around her she had looked to them for proof that another kind of men existed. Now she knew that they were tombstones, slender obelisks soaring in memory of the men who had been destroyed for having created them, they were the frozen shape of the silent cry that the reward of achievement was martyrdom. Somewhere in one of those vanishing towers, she thought, there was Dagny— but Dagny was a lonely victim, fighting a losing battle, to be destroyed and to sink into fog like the others. There is no place to go, she thought and stumbled on—T can't stand still, nor move much longer—I can neither work nor rest—I can neither surrender nor fight—but this . . . this is what they want of me, this is where they want me—neither living nor dead, neither thinking nor insane, but just a chunk of pulp that screams with fear, to be shaped by them as they please, they who have no shape of their own. She plunged into the darkness behind a corner, shrinking in dread from any human figure. No, she thought, they're not evil, not all people . . . they're only their own first victims, but they all believe in Jim's creed, and I can't deal with them, once I know it . . . and if I spoke to them, they would try to grant me their good will, but I'd know what it is that they hold as the good and I would see death staring out of their eyes. The sidewalk had shrunk to a broken strip, and splashes of garbage ran over from the cans at the stoops of crumbling houses. Beyond the dusty glow of a saloon, she saw a lighted sign "Young Women's Rest Club" above a locked door. --------------------------------------- 690 She knew the institutions of that kind and the women who ran them, the women who said that theirs was the job of helping sufferers. If she went in—she thought, stumbling past—if she faced them and begged them for help, "What is your guilt?" they would ask her. "Drink? Dope? Pregnancy? Shoplifting?" She would answer, "I have no guilt, I am innocent, but I'm—" "Sorry. We have no concern for the pain of the innocent." She ran. She stopped, regaining her eyesight, on the corner of a long, wide street. The buildings and pavements merged with the sky—and two lines of green lights hung in open space, going off into an endless distance, as if stretching into other towns and oceans and foreign lands, to encircle the earth. The green glow had a look of serenity, like an inviting, unlimited path open to confident travel. Then the lights switched to red, dropping heavily lower, turning from sharp circles into foggy smears, into a warning of unlimited danger. She stood and watched a giant truck-go by, its enormous wheels crushing one more layer of shiny polish into the flattened cobbles of the street. The lights went back to the green of safety—but she stood trembling, unable to move. That's how it works for the travel of one's body, she thought, but what have they done to the traffic of the soul? They have set the signals in reverse—and the road is safe when the lights are the red of evil—but when the lights are the green of virtue, promising that yours is the right-of-way, you venture forth and are ground by the wheels. All over the world, she thought—those inverted lights go reaching into every land, they go on, encircling the earth. And the earth is littered with mangled cripples, who don't know what has hit them or why, who crawl as best they can on their crushed limbs through their lightless days, with no answer save that pain is the core of existence— and the traffic cops of morality chortle and tell them that man, by his nature, is unable to walk. These were not words in her mind, these were the words which would have named, had she had the power to find them, what she knew only as a sudden fury that made her beat her fists in futile horror against the iron post of the traffic light beside her, against the hollow tube where the hoarse, rusty chuckle of a relentless mechanism went grating on and on. She could not smash it with her fists, she could not batter one by one all the posts of the street stretching off beyond eyesight—as she could not smash that creed from the souls of the men she would encounter, one by one. She could not deal with people any longer, she could not take the paths they took—but what could she say to them, she who had no words to name the thing she knew and no voice that people would hear? What could she tell them? How could she reach them all? Where were the men who could have spoken? These were not words in her mind, these were only the blows of: her fists against metal—then she saw herself suddenly, battering her knuckles to blood against an immovable post, and the sight made her shudder—and she stumbled away. She went on, seeing nothing around her, feeling trapped in a maze with no exit. No exit—her shreds of awareness were saying, beating it into the pavements in the sound of her steps—no exit . . . no refuge . . . no signals . . . no way to tell destruction from safety, or enemy from friend. . . . Like that dog she had heard about, she thought . . . somebody's dog in somebody's laboratory . . . the dog who got his signals switched on him, and saw no way to tell satisfaction from torture, saw food changed to beatings and beatings to food, saw his eyes and ears deceiving him and his judgment futile and his consciousness impotent in a shifting, --------------------------------------- 691 swimming, shapeless world—and gave up, refusing to eat at that price or to live in a world of that kind. . . . No!— was the only conscious word in her brain—no!—no!—no!—not your way, not your world—even if this "no" is all that's to be left of mine! It was in the darkest hour of the night, in an alley among wharfs and warehouses that the social worker saw her. The social worker was a woman whose gray face and gray coat blended with the walls of the district. She saw a young girl wearing a suit too smart and expensive for the neighborhood, with no hat, no purse, with a broken heel, disheveled hair and a bruise at the corner of her mouth, a girl staggering blindly, not knowing sidewalks from pavements. The street was only a narrow crack between the sheer, blank walls of storage structures, but a ray of light fell through a fog dank with the odor of rotting water; a stone parapet ended the street on the edge of a vast black hole merging river and sky. The social worker approached her and asked severely, "Are you in trouble?"—and saw one wary eye, the other hidden by a lock of hair, and the face of a wild creature who has forgotten the sound of human voices, but listens as to a distant echo, with suspicion, yet almost with hope. The social worker seized her arm. "It's a disgrace to come to such a state . . . if you society girls had something to do besides indulging your desires and chasing pleasures, you wouldn't be wandering, drunk as a tramp, at this hour of the night . . . if you stopped living for your own enjoyment, stopped thinking of yourself and found some higher—" Then the girl screamed—and the scream went beating against the blank walls of the street as in a chamber of torture, an animal scream of terror. She tore her arm loose and sprang back, then screamed in articulate sounds: "No! No! Not your kind of world!" Then she ran, ran by the sudden propulsion of a burst of power, the power of a creature running for its life, she ran straight down the street that ended at the river—and in a single streak of speed, with no break, no moment of doubt, with full consciousness of acting in self-preservation, she kept running till the parapet barred her way and, not stopping, went over into space. --------------------------------------- 692 CHAPTER V THEIR BROTHERS' KEEPERS On the morning of September 2, a copper wire broke in California, between two telephone poles by the track of the Pacific branch line of Taggart Transcontinental. A slow, thin rain had been falling since midnight, and there had been no sunrise, only a gray light seeping through a soggy sky—and the brilliant raindrops hanging on the telephone wires had been the only sparks glittering against the chalk of the clouds, the lead of the ocean and the steel of the oil derricks descending as lone bristles down a desolate hillside. The wires had been worn by more rains and years than they had been intended to carry; one of them had kept sagging, through the hours of that morning, under the fragile load of raindrops; then its one last drop had grown on the wire's curve and had hung like a crystal bead, gathering the weight of many seconds; the bead and the wire had given up together and, as soundless as the fall of tears, the wire had broken and fallen with the fall of the bead. The men at the Division Headquarters of Taggart Transcontinental avoided looking at one another, when the break of the telephone line was discovered and reported. They made statements painfully miscalculated to seem to refer to the problem, yet to state nothing, none fooling the others. They knew that copper wire was a vanishing commodity, more precious than gold or honor; they knew that the division storekeeper had sold their stock of wire weeks ago, to unknown dealers who came by night and were not businessmen in the daytime, but only men who had friends in Sacramento and in Washington—just as the storekeeper, recently appointed to the division, had a friend in New York, named Cuffy Meigs, about whom one asked no questions. They knew that the man who would now assume the responsibility of ordering repairs and initiating the action which would lead to the discovery that the repairs could not be made, would incur retaliation from unknown enemies, that his fellow workers would become mysteriously silent and would not testify to help him, that he would prove nothing, and if he attempted to do his job, it would not be his any longer. They did not know what was safe or dangerous these days, when the guilty were not punished, but the accusers were; and, like animals, they knew that immobility was the only protection when in doubt and in danger. They remained immobile; they spoke about the appropriate procedure of sending reports to the appropriate authorities on the appropriate dates. A young roadmaster walked out of the room and out of the headquarters building to the safety of a telephone booth in a drugstore and, at his own expense, ignoring the continent and the tiers of appropriate executives between, he telephoned Dagny Taggart in New York. She received the call in her brother's office, interrupting an emergency conference. The young roadmaster told her only that the telephone line was broken and that there was no wire to repair it; he said nothing else and he did not explain why he had found it necessary to call her in person. She did not question him; she understood. "Thank you," was all that she answered. An emergency file in her office kept a record of all the crucial materials still on hand, on every division of Taggart Transcontinental. Like the file of a bankrupt, it kept registering losses, while the rare additions of new supplies seemed like the malicious chuckles of some tormentor throwing crumbs at a starving continent. She looked through the file, closed it, sighed and said, "Montana, Eddie. Phone the Montana Line to ship half their stock of wire to California. Montana might be able to last without it—for another week." And as Eddie Willers was about to protest, she added, "Oil, Eddie. California is one of the last producers of oil left in --------------------------------------- 693 the country. We don't dare lose the Pacific Line." Then she went back to the conference in her brother's office. "Copper wire?" said James Taggart, with an odd glance that went from her face to the city beyond the window. "In a very short while, we won't have any trouble about copper." "Why?" she asked, but he did not answer. There was nothing special to see beyond the window, only the clear sky of a sunny day, the quiet light of early afternoon on the roofs of the city and, above them, the page of the calendar, saying: September 2. She did not know why he had insisted on holding this conference in his own office, why he had insisted on speaking to her alone, which he had always tried to avoid, or why he kept glancing at his wrist watch. "Things are, it seems to me, going wrong," he said. "Something has to be done. There appears to exist a state of dislocation and confusion tending toward an uncoordinated, unbalanced policy. What I mean is, there's a tremendous national demand for transportation, yet we're losing money. It seems to me—" She sat looking at the ancestral map of Taggart Transcontinental on the wall of his office, at the red arteries winding across a yellowed continent. There had been a time when the railroad was called the blood system of the nation, and the stream of trains had been like a living circuit of blood, bringing growth and wealth to every patch of wilderness it touched. Now. it was still like a stream of blood, but like the one-way stream that runs from a wound, draining the last of a body's sustenance and life. One-way traffic— she thought indifferently—consumers' traffic. There was Train Number 193, she thought. Six weeks ago, Train Number 193 had been sent with a load of steel, not to Faulkton, Nebraska, where the Spencer Machine Tool Company, the best machine tool concern still in existence, had been idle for two weeks, waiting for the shipment—but to Sand Creek, Illinois, where Confederated Machines had been wallowing in debt for over a year, producing unreliable goods at unpredictable times. The steel had been allocated by a directive which explained that the Spencer Machine Tool Company was a rich concern, able to wait, while Confederated Machines was bankrupt and could not be allowed to collapse, being the sole source of livelihood of the community of Sand Creek, Illinois. The Spencer Machine Tool Company had closed a month ago. Confederated Machines had closed two weeks later. The people of Sand Creek, Illinois, had been placed on national relief, but no food could be found for them in the empty granaries of the nation at the frantic call of the moment—so the seed grain of the farmers of Nebraska had been seized by order of the Unification Board—and Train Number 194 had carried the unplanted harvest and the future of the people of Nebraska to be consumed by the people of Illinois. "In this enlightened age," Eugene Lawson had said in a radio broadcast, "we have come, at last, to realize that each one of us is his brother's keeper." "In a precarious period of emergency, like the present," James Taggart was saying, while she looked at the map, "it is dangerous to find ourselves forced to miss pay days and accumulate wage arrears on some of our divisions, a temporary condition, of course, but—" She chuckled. "The Railroad Unification Plan isn't working, is it, Jim?" "I beg your pardon?" "You're to receive a big cut of the Atlantic Southern's gross income, out of the common pool at the end of the year—only there won't be any gross income left for the pool to seize, will there?" "That's not true! It's just that the bankers are sabotaging the Plan. Those bastards—who used to give us loans in the old days, with no security at all except our own railroad—now refuse to let me have a few measly --------------------------------------- 694 hundred-thousands, on short term, just to take care of a few payrolls, when I have the entire plant of all the railroads of the country to offer them as security for my loan!" She chuckled. "We couldn't help it!" he cried. "It's not the fault of the Plan that some people refuse to carry their fair share of our burdens!" "Jim, was this all you wanted to tell me? If it is, I'll go. I have work to do." His eyes shot to his wrist watch. "No, no, that's not all! It's most urgent that we discuss the situation and arrive at some decision, which—" She listened blankly to the next stream of generalities, wondering about his motive. He was marking time, yet he wasn't, not fully; she felt certain that he was holding her here for some specific purpose and, simultaneously, that he was holding her for the mere sake of her presence. It was some new trait in him, which she had begun to notice ever since Cherryl's death. He had come running to her, rushing, unannounced, into her apartment on the evening of the day when Cherryl's body had been found and the story of her suicide had filled the newspapers, given by some social worker who had witnessed it; "an. inexplicable suicide," the newspapers had called it, unable to discover any motive. "It wasn't my fault!" he had screamed to her, as if she were the only judge whom he had to placate. "I'm not to blame for it! I'm not to blame!" He had been shaking with terror—yet she had caught a few glances thrown shrewdly at her face, which had seemed, inconceivably, to convey a touch of triumph. "Get out of here, Jim," was all she had said to him. He had never spoken to her again about Cherry], but he had started coming to her office more often than usual, he had stopped her in the halls for snatches of pointless discussions—and such moments had grown into a sum that gave her an incomprehensible sensation: as if, while clinging to her for support and protection against some nameless terror, his arms were sliding to embrace her and to plunge a knife into her back. "I am eager to know your views," he was saying insistently, as she looked away. "It is most urgent that we discuss the situation and . . . and you haven't said anything." She did not turn. "It's not as if there were no money to be had out of the railroad business, but—" She glanced at him sharply; his eyes scurried away. "What I mean is, some constructive policy has to be devised," he droned on hastily. "Something has to be done . . . by somebody. In times of emergency—" She knew what thought he had scurried to avoid, what hint he had given her, yet did not want her to acknowledge or discuss. She knew that no train schedules could be maintained any longer, no promises kept, no contracts observed, that regular trains were cancelled at a moment's notice and transformed into emergency specials sent by unexplained orders to unexpected destinations—and that the orders came from Cuffy Meigs, sole judge of emergencies and of the public welfare. She knew that factories were closing, some with their machinery stilled for lack of supplies that had not been received, others with their warehouses full of goods that could not be delivered. She knew that the old industries— the giants who had built their power by a purposeful course projected over a span of time—were left to exist at the whim of the moment, a moment they could not foresee or control. She knew that the best among them, those of the longest range and most complex function, had long since gone—and those still struggling to produce, struggling savagely to preserve the code of an age when production had been possible, were now inserting into their contracts a line shameful to a descendant of Nat Taggart: "Transportation permitting." --------------------------------------- 695 And yet there were men—and she knew it—who were able to obtain transportation whenever they wished, as by a mystic secret, as by the grace of some power which one was not to question or explain. They were the men whose dealings with Cuffy Meigs were regarded by people as that unknowable of mystic creeds which smites the observer for the sin of looking, so people kept their eyes closed, dreading, not ignorance, but knowledge. She knew that deals were made whereby those men sold a commodity known as "transportation pull"—a term which all understood, but none would dare define. She knew that these were the men of the emergency specials, the men who could cancel her scheduled trains and send them to any random spot of the continent which they chose to strike with their voodoo stamp, the stamp superseding contract, property, justice, reason and lives, the stamp stating that "the public welfare" required the immediate salvation of that spot. These were the men who sent trains to the relief of the Smather Brothers and their grapefruit in Arizona—to the relief of a factory in Florida engaged in the production of pin-ball machines— to the relief of a horse farm in Kentucky—to the relief of Orren Boyle's Associated Steel. These were the men who made deals with desperate industrialists to provide transportation for the goods stalled in their warehouses—or, failing to obtain the percentage demanded, made deals to purchase the goods, when the factory closed, at the bankruptcy sale, at ten cents on the dollar, and to speed the goods away in freight cars suddenly available, away to markets where dealers of the same kind were ready for the kill. These were the men who hovered over factories, waiting for the last breath of a furnace, to pounce upon the equipment—and over desolate sidings, to pounce upon the freight cars of undelivered goods— these were a new biological species, the hit-and-run businessmen, who did not stay in any line of business longer than the span of one deal, who had no payrolls to meet, no overhead to carry, no real estate to own, no equipment to build, whose only asset and sole investment consisted of an item known as "friendship." These were the men whom official speeches described as "the progressive businessmen of our dynamic age," but whom people called "the pull peddlers"—the species included many breeds, those of "transportation pull," and of "steel pull" and "oil pull'1 and "wage-raise pull" and "suspended sentence pull"—men who were dynamic, who kept darting all over the country while no one else could move, men who were active and mindless, active, not like animals, but like that which breeds, feeds and moves upon the stillness of a corpse. She knew that there was money to be had out of the railroad business and she knew who was now obtaining it Cuffy Meigs was selling trains as he was selling the last of the railroad's supplies, whenever he could rig a setup which would not let it be discovered or proved— selling rail to roads in Guatemala or to trolley companies in Canada, selling wire to manufacturers of juke boxes, selling crossties for fuel in resort hotels. Did it matter—she thought, looking at the map—which part of the corpse had been consumed by which type of maggot, by those who gorged themselves or by those who gave the food to other maggots? So long as living flesh was prey to be devoured, did it matter whose stomachs it had gone to fill? There was no way to tell which devastation had been accomplished by the humanitarians and which by undisguised gangsters. There was no way to tell which acts of plunder had been prompted by the charity-lust of the Lawsons and which by the gluttony of Cuffy Meigs—no way to tell which communities had been immolated to feed another community one week closer to starvation and which to provide yachts for the pull-peddlers. Did it matter? Both were alike in fact as they were alike in spirit, both were in need and need was regarded as sole title --------------------------------------- 696 to property, both were acting in strictest accordance with the same code of morality. Both held the immolation of men as proper and both were achieving it. There wasn't even any way to tell who were the cannibals and who the victims—the communities that accepted as their rightful due the confiscated clothing or fuel of a town to the east of them, found, next week, their granaries confiscated to feed a town to the west—men had achieved the ideal of the centuries, they were practicing it in unobstructed perfection, they were serving need as their highest ruler, need as first claim upon them, need as their standard of value, as the coin of their realm, as more sacred than right and life. Men had been pushed into a pit where, shouting that man is his brother's keeper, each was devouring his neighbor and was being devoured by his neighbor's brother, each was proclaiming the righteousness of the unearned and wondering who was stripping the skin off his back, each was devouring himself, while screaming in terror that some unknowable evil was destroying the earth. "What complaint do they now have to make?" she heard Hugh Akston's voice in her mind. "That the universe is irrational? Is it?" She sat looking at the map, her glance dispassionately solemn, as if no emotion save respect were permissible when observing the awesome power of logic. She was seeing—in the chaos of a perishing continent —the precise, mathematical execution of all the ideas men had held. They had not wanted to know that this was what they wanted, they had not wanted to see that they had the power to wish, but not the power to fake—and they had achieved their wish to the letter, to the last bloodstained comma of it. What were they thinking now, the champions of need and the lechers of pity?—she wondered. What were they counting on? Those who had once simpered: "I don't want to destroy the rich, I only want to seize a little of their surplus to help the poor, just a little, they'll never miss it!"—then, later, had snapped: "The tycoons can stand being squeezed, they've amassed enough to last them for three generations"— then, later, had yelled: "Why should the people suffer while businessmen have reserves to last a year?"—now were screaming: "Why should we starve while some people have reserves to last a week?" What were they counting on?— she wondered. "You must do something!" cried James Taggart. She whirled to face him. "I?" "It's your job, it's your province, it's your duty!" "What is?" "To act. To do." "To do—what?" "How should I know? It's your special talent. You're the doer." She glanced at him: the statement was so oddly perceptive and so incongruously irrelevant. She rose to her feet. "Is this all, Jim?" "No! No! I want a discussion!" "Go ahead." "But you haven't said anything!" "You haven't, either." "But . . . What I mean is, there are practical problems to solve, which . . . For instance, what was that matter of our last allocation of new rail vanishing from the storehouse in Pittsburgh?" "Cuffy Meigs stole it and sold it." "Can you prove it?" he snapped defensively. "Have your friends left any means, methods, rules or agencies of proof?" "Then don't talk about it, don't be theoretical, we've got to deal with facts! We've got to deal with facts as they are today . . . I mean, we've got --------------------------------------- 697 to be realistic and devise some practical means to protect our supplies under existing conditions, not under unprovable assumptions, which—" She chuckled. There was the form of the formless, she thought, there was the method of his consciousness: he wanted her to protect him from Cuffy Meigs without acknowledging Meigs' existence, to fight it without admitting its reality, to defeat it without disturbing its game. "What do you find so damn funny?" he snapped angrily. "You know it" "I don't know what's the matter with you! I don't know what's happened to you . . . in the last two months . . . ever since you came back. . . . You've never been so uncooperative!" "Why, Jim, I haven't argued with you in the last two months." "That's what I mean!" He caught himself hastily, but not fast enough to miss her smile. "I mean, I wanted to have a conference, I wanted to know your view of the situation—" "You know it." "But you haven't said a word!" "I said everything I had to say, three years ago. I told you where your course would take you. It has." "Now there you go again! What's the use of theorizing? We're here, we're not back three years ago. We've got to deal with the present, not the past. Maybe things would have been different, if we had followed your opinion, maybe, but the fact is that we didn't—and we've got to deal with facts. We've got to take reality as it is now, today!" "Well, take it." "I beg your pardon?" "Take your reality. I'll merely take your orders." "That's unfair! I'm asking for your opinion—" "You're asking for reassurance, Jim. You're not going to get it." "I beg your pardon?" "I'm not going to help you pretend—by arguing with you—that the reality you're talking about is not what it is, that there's still a way to make it work and to save your neck. There isn't." "Well . . ." There was no explosion, no anger—only the feebly uncertain voice of a man on the verge of abdication. "Well . . . what would you want me to do?" "Give up." He looked at her blankly. "Give up—all of you, you and your Washington friends and your looting planners and the whole of your cannibal philosophy. Give up and get out of the way and let those of us who can, start from scratch out of the ruins." "No!" The explosion came, oddly, now; it was the scream of a man who would die rather than betray his idea, and it came from a man who had spent his life evading the existence of ideas, acting with the expediency of a criminal. She wondered whether she had ever understood the essence of criminals. She wondered about the nature of the loyalty to the idea of denying ideas. "No!" he cried, his voice lower, hoarser and more normal, sinking from the tone of a zealot to the tone of an overbearing executive. "That's impossible! That's out of the question!" "Who said so?" "Never mind! It's so! Why do you always think of the impractical? Why don't you accept reality as it is and do something about it? You're the realist, you're the doer, the mover, the producer, the Nat Taggart, you're the person who's able to achieve any goal she chooses! You could save us now, you could find a way to make things work—if you wanted to!" She burst out laughing. --------------------------------------- 698 There, she thought, was the ultimate goal of all that loose academic prattle which businessmen had ignored for years, the goal of all the slipshod definitions, the sloppy generalities, the soupy abstractions, all claiming that obedience to objective reality is the same as obedience to the State, that there is no difference between a law of nature and a bureaucrat's directive, that a hungry man is not free, that man must be released from the tyranny of food, shelter and clothing—all of it, for years, that the day might come when Nat Taggart, the realist, would be asked to consider the will of Cuffy Meigs as a fact of nature, irrevocable and absolute like steel, rails and gravitation, to accept the Meigs made world as an objective, unchangeable reality—then to continue producing abundance in that world. There was the goal of all those con men of library and classroom, who sold their revelations as reason, their "instincts" as science, their cravings as knowledge, the goal of all the savages of the non-objective, the non- absolute, the relative, the tentative, the probable—the savages who, seeing a farmer gather a harvest, can consider it only as a mystic phenomenon unbound by the law of causality and created by the farmer's omnipotent whim, who then proceed to seize the farmer, to chain him, to deprive him of tools, of seeds, of water, of soil, to push him out on a barren rock and to command: "Now grow a harvest and feed us!" No—she thought, expecting Jim to ask it—it would be useless to try to explain what she was laughing at, he would not be able to understand it. But he did not ask it. Instead, she saw him slumping and heard him say— terrifyingly, because his words were so irrelevant, if he did not understand, and so monstrous, if he did, "Dagny, I'm your brother . . ." She drew herself up, her muscles growing rigid, as if she were about to face a killer's gun. "Dagny"—his voice was the soft, nasal, monotonous whine of a beggar—"I want to be president of a railroad. I want it. Why can't I have my wish as you always have yours? Why shouldn't I be given the fulfillment of my desires as you always fulfill any desire of your own? Why should you be happy while I suffer? Oh yes, the world is yours, you're the one who has the brains to run it. Then why do you permit suffering in your world? You proclaim the pursuit of happiness, but you doom me to frustration. Don't I have the right to demand any form of happiness I choose? Isn't that a debt which you owe me? Am I not your brother?" His glance was like a prowler's flashlight searching her face for a shred of pity. It found nothing but a look of revulsion. "It's your sin if I suffer! It's your moral failure! I'm your brother, therefore I'm your responsibility, but you've failed to supply my wants, therefore you're guilty! All of mankind's moral leaders have said so for centuries—who are you to say otherwise? You're so proud of yourself, you think that you're pure and good—but you can't be good, so long as I'm wretched. My misery is the measure of your sin. My contentment is the measure of your virtue. I want this kind of world, today's world, it gives me my share of authority, it allows me to feel important-make it work for me!—do something!—how do I know what?—it's your problem and your duty! You have the privilege of strength, but I—I have the right of weakness! That's a moral absolute! Don't you know it? Don't you? Don't you?" His glance was now like the hands of a man hanging over an abyss, groping frantically for the slightest fissure of doubt, but slipping on the clean, polished rock of her face. "You bastard," she said evenly, without emotion, since the words were not addressed to anything human. --------------------------------------- 699 It seemed to her that she saw him fall into the abyss—even though there was nothing to see in his face except the look of a con man whose trick has not worked. There was no reason to feel more revulsion than usual, she thought; he had merely uttered the things which were preached, heard and accepted everywhere; but this creed was usually expounded in the third person, and Jim had had the open effrontery to expound it in the first. She wondered whether people accepted the doctrine of sacrifice provided its recipients did not identify the nature of their own claims and actions. She turned to leave. "No! No! Wait!" he cried, leaping to his feet, with a glance at his wrist watch. "It's time now! There's a particular news broadcast that I want you to hear!" She stopped, held by curiosity. He pressed the switch of the radio, watching her face openly, intently, almost insolently. His eyes had a look of fear and of oddly lecherous anticipation. "Ladies and gentlemen!" the voice of the radio speaker leaped forth abruptly; it had a tone of panic. "News of a shocking development has just reached us from Santiago, Chile!" She saw the jerk of Taggart's head and a sudden anxiety in his bewildered frown, as if something about the words and voice were not what he had expected. "A special session of the legislature of the People's State of Chile had been called for ten o'clock this morning, to pass an act of utmost importance to the people of Chile, Argentina and other South American People's States. In line with the enlightened policy of Senior Ramirez, the new Head of the Chilean State—who came to power on the moral slogan that man is his brother's keeper—the legislature was to nationalize the Chilean properties of d'Anconia Copper, thus opening the way for the People's State of Argentina to nationalize the rest of the d'Anconia properties the world over. This, however, was known only to a very few of the top-level leaders of both nations. The measure had been kept secret in order to avoid debate and reactionary opposition. The seizure of the multi-billion dollar d'Anconia Copper was to come as a munificent surprise to the country. "On the stroke of ten, in the exact moment when the chairman's gavel struck the rostrum, opening the session—almost as if the gavel's blow had set it off—the sound of a tremendous explosion rocked the hall, shattering the glass of its windows. It came from the harbor, a few streets away—and when the legislators rushed to the windows, they saw a long column of flame where once there had risen the familiar silhouettes of the ore docks of d'Anconia Copper. The ore docks had been blown to bits. "The chairman averted panic and called the session to order. The act of nationalization was read to the assembly, to the sound of fire alarm sirens and distant cries. It was a gray morning, dark with rain clouds, the explosion had broken an electric transmitter—so that the assembly voted on the measure by the light of candles, while the red glow of the fire kept sweeping over the great vaulted ceiling above their heads. "But more terrible a shock came later, when the legislators called a hasty recess to announce to the nation the good news that the people now owned d'Anconia Copper. While they were voting, word had come from the closest and farthest points of the globe that there was no d'Anconia Copper left on earth. Ladies and gentlemen, not anywhere. In that same instant, on the stroke of ten, by an infernal marvel of synchronization, every property of d'Anconia Copper on the face of the globe, --------------------------------------- 700 from Chile to Siam to Spain to Pottsville, Montana, had been blown up and swept away. "The d'Anconia workers everywhere had been handed their last pay checks, in cash, at nine A.M., and by nine-thirty had been moved off the premises. The ore docks, the smelters, the laboratories, the office buildings were demolished. Nothing was left of the d'Anconia ore ships which had been in port—and only lifeboats carrying the crews were left of those ships which had been at sea. As to the d'Anconia mines, some were buried under tons of blasted rock, while others were found not to be worth the price of blasting. An astounding number of these mines, as reports pouring in seem to indicate, had continued to be run, even though exhausted years ago. "Among the thousands of d'Anconia employees, the police have found no one with any knowledge of how this monstrous plot had been conceived, organized and carried out. But the cream of the d'Anconia staff are not here any longer. The most efficient of the executives, mineralogists, engineers, superintendents have vanished—all the men upon whom the People's State had been counting to carry on the work and cushion the process of readjustment. The most able—correction: the most selfish—of the men are gone. Reports from the various banks indicate that there are no d'Anconia accounts left anywhere; the money has been spent down to the last penny, "Ladies and gentlemen, the d'Anconia fortune—the greatest fortune on earth, the legendary fortune of the centuries—has ceased to exist. In place of the golden dawn of a new age, the People's States of Chile and Argentina are left with a pile of rubble and hordes of unemployed on their hands. "No clue has been found to the fate or the whereabouts of Senor Francisco d'Anconia. He has vanished, leaving nothing behind him, not even a message of farewell." Thank you, my darling—thank you in the name of the last of us, even if you will not hear it and will not care to hear. . . . It was not a sentence, but the silent emotion of a prayer in her mind, addressed to the laughing face of a boy she had known at sixteen. Then she noticed that she was clinging to the radio, as if the faint electric beat within it still held a tie to the only living force on earth, which it had transmitted for a few brief moments and which now filled the room where all else was dead. As distant remnants of the explosion's wreckage, she noticed a sound that came from Jim, part-moan, part-scream, part-growl—then the sight of Jim's shoulders shaking over a telephone and his distorted voice screaming, "But, Rodrigo, you said it was safe! Rodrigo—oh God!—do you know how much I'd sunk into it?"—then the shriek of another phone on his desk, and his voice snarling into another receiver, his hand still clutching the first, "Shut your trap, Orren! What are you to do? What do I care, God damn you!" There were people rushing into the office, the telephones were screaming and, alternating between pleas and curses, Jim kept yelling into one receiver, "Get me Santiago! . . . Get Washington to get me Santiago!" Distantly, as on the margin of her mind, she could see what sort of game the men behind the shrieking phones had played and lost. They seemed far away, like tiny commas squirming on the white field under the lens of a microscope. She wondered how they could ever expect to be taken seriously when a Francisco d'Anconia was possible on earth. She saw the glare of the explosion in every face she met through the rest of the day—and in every face she passed in the darkness of the streets, that evening. If Francisco had wanted a worthy funeral pyre for d'Anconia Copper, she thought, he -had succeeded. There it was, in the streets of New York City, the only city on earth still able to understand it—in the faces of people, in their whispers, the whispers crackling tensely like small tongues --------------------------------------- 701 of fire, the faces lighted by a look that was both solemn and frantic, the shadings of expressions appearing to sway and weave, as if cast by a distant flame, some frightened, some angry, most of them uneasy, uncertain, expectant, but all of them acknowledging a fact much beyond an industrial catastrophe, all of them knowing what it meant, though none would name Us meaning, all of them carrying a touch of laughter, a laughter of amusement and defiance, the bitter laughter of perishing victims who feel that they are avenged. She saw it in the face of Hank Rearden, when she met him for dinner that evening. As his tall, confident figure walked toward her— the only figure that seemed at home in the costly setting of a distinguished restaurant—she saw the look of eagerness fighting the sternness of his features, the look of a young boy still open to the enchantment of the unexpected. He did not speak of this day's event, but she knew that it was the only image in his mind. They had been meeting whenever he came to the city, spending a brief, rare evening together—with their past still alive in their silent acknowledgment— with no future in their work and in their common struggle, but with the knowledge that they were allies gaining support from the fact of each other's existence. He did not want to mention today's event, he did not want to speak of Francisco, but she noticed, as they sat at the table, that the strain of a resisted smile kept pulling at the hollows of his cheeks. She knew whom he meant, when he said suddenly, his voice soft and low with the weight of admiration, "He did keep his oath, didn't he?" "His oath?" she asked, startled, thinking of the inscription on the temple of Atlantis. "He said to me, 'I swear—by the woman I love—that I am your friend,' He was." "He is." He shook his head. "I have no right to think of him. I have no right to accept what he's done as an act in my defense. And yet . . ." He stopped. "But it was, Hank. In defense of all of us—and of you, most of all." He looked away, out at the city. They sat at the side of the room, with a sheet of glass as an invisible protection against the sweep of space and streets sixty floors below. The city seemed abnormally distant: it lay flattened down to the pool of its lowest stories. A few blocks away, its tower merging into darkness, the calendar hung at the level of their faces, not as a small, disturbing rectangle, but as an enormous screen, eerily close and large, flooded by the dead, white glow of light projected through an empty film, empty but for the letters: September 2. "Rearden Steel is now working at capacity," he was saying indifferently. "They've lifted the production quotas off my mills—for the next five minutes, I guess. I don't know how many of their own regulations they've suspended, I don't think they know it, either, they don't bother keeping track of legality any longer, I'm sure I'm a law-breaker on five or six counts, which nobody could prove or disprove—all I know is that the gangster of the moment told me to go full steam ahead." He shrugged. "When another gangster kicks him out tomorrow, I'll probably be shut down, as penalty for illegal operation. But according to the plan of the present split-second, they've begged me to keep pouring my Metal, in any amount and by any means I choose." She noticed the occasional, surreptitious glances that people were throwing in their direction. She had noticed it before, ever since her broadcast, ever since the two of them had begun to appear in public together. Instead of the disgrace he had dreaded, there was an air of awed uncertainty in people's manner—uncertainty of their own moral precepts, awe in the --------------------------------------- 702 presence of two persons who dared to be certain of being right. People were looking at them with anxious curiosity, with envy, with respect, with the fear of offending an unknown, proudly rigorous standard, some almost with an air of apology that seemed to say: "Please forgive us for being married." There were some who had a look of angry malice, and a few who had a look of admiration. "Dagny," he asked suddenly, "do you suppose he's in New York?" "No. I've called the Wayne-Falkland. They told me that the lease on his suite had expired a month ago and he did not renew it." "They're looking for him all over the world," he said, smiling. "They'll never find him." The smile vanished. "Neither will I." His voice slipped back to the flat, gray tone of duty: "Well, the mills are working, but I'm not. I'm doing nothing but running around the country like a scavenger, searching for illegal ways to purchase raw materials. Hiding, sneaking, lying—just to get a few tons of ore or coal or copper. They haven't lifted their regulations off my raw materials. They know that I'm pouring more Metal than the quotas they give me could produce. They don't care." He added, "They think I do." "Tired, Hank?" "Bored to death." There was a time, she thought, when his mind, his energy, his inexhaustible resourcefulness had been given to the task of a producer devising better ways to deal with nature; now, they were switched to the task of a criminal outwitting men. She wondered how long a man could endure a change of that kind. "It's becoming almost impossible to get iron ore," he said indifferently, then added, his voice suddenly alive, "Now it's going to be completely impossible to get copper." He was grinning. She wondered how long a man could continue to work against himself, to work when his deepest desire was not to succeed, but to fail. She understood the connection of his thoughts when he said, "I've never told you, but I've met Ragnar Danneskjold." "He told me." "What? Where did you ever—" He stopped. "Of course," he said, his voice tense and low. "He would be one of them. You would have met him. Dagny, what are they like, those men who . . . No. Don't answer me." In a moment he added, "So I've met one of their agents." "You've met two of them." His response was a span of total stillness. "Of course," he said dully. "I knew it . . . I just wouldn't admit to myself that I knew . . . He was their recruiting agent, wasn't he?" "One of their earliest and best." He chuckled; it was a sound of bitterness and longing. 'That night . . . when they got Ken Danagger . . . I thought that they had not sent anyone after me. . . ." The effort by which he made his face grow rigid, was almost like the slow, resisted turn of a key locking a sunlit room he could not permit himself to examine. After a while, he said impassively, "Dagny, that new rail we discussed last month—I don't think I'll be able to deliver it. They haven't lifted their regulations off my output, they're still controlling my sales and disposing of my Metal as they please. But the bookkeeping is in such a snarl that I'm smuggling a few thousand tons into the black market every week. I think they know it. They're pretending not to. They don't want to antagonize me, right now. But, you see, I've been shipping every ton I could snatch, to some emergency customers of mine. Dagny, I was in Minnesota last month. I've seen what's going on there. The country will starve, not next year, but this winter, unless a few of us act and act fast. There are no --------------------------------------- 703 grain reserves left anywhere. With Nebraska gone, Oklahoma wrecked, North Dakota abandoned, Kansas barely subsisting—there isn't going to be any wheat this winter, not for the city of New York nor for any Eastern city. Minnesota is our last granary. They've had two bad years in succession, but they have a bumper crop this fall—and they have to be able to harvest it. Have you had a chance to take a look at the condition of the farm-equipment industry? They're not big enough, any of them, to keep a staff of efficient gangsters in Washington or to pay percentages to pull-peddlers. So they haven't been getting many allocations of materials. Two-thirds of them have shut down and the rest are about to. And farms are perishing all over the country—for lack of tools. You should have seen those farmers in Minnesota. They've been spending more time fixing old tractors that can't be fixed than plowing their fields. I don't know how they managed to survive till last spring. I don't know how they managed to plant their wheat. But they did. They did." There was a look of intensity on his face, as if he were contemplating a rare, forgotten sight: a vision of men—and she knew what motive was still holding him to his job. "Dagny, they had to have tools for their harvest. I've been selling all the Metal I could steal out of my own mills to the manufacturers of farm equipment. On credit. They've been sending the equipment to Minnesota as fast as they could put it out. Selling it in the same way—illegally and on credit. But they will be paid, this fall, and so will I. Charity, hell! We're helping producers— and what tenacious producers!—not lousy, mooching 'consumers.1 We're giving loans, not alms. We're supporting ability, not need. I'll be damned if I'll stand by and let those men be destroyed while the pull peddlers grow rich!" He was looking at the image of a sight he had seen in Minnesota: the silhouette of an abandoned factory, with the light of the sunset streaming, unopposed, through the holes of its windows and the cracks of its roof, with the remnant of a sign: Ward Harvester Company. "Oh, I know," he said. "We'll save them this winter, but the looters will devour them next year. Still, we'll save them this winter. . . . Well, that's why I won't be able to smuggle any rail for you. Not in the immediate future—and there's nothing left to us but the immediate future. I don't know what is the use of feeding a country, if it loses its railroads— but what is the use of railroads where there is no food? What is the use, anyway?" "It's all right, Hank, We'll last with such rail as we have, for—" She stopped. "For a month?" "For the winter—I hope." Cutting across their silence, a shrill voice reached them from another table, and they turned to look at a man who had the jittery manner of a cornered gangster about to reach for his gun. "An act of anti-social destruction," he was snarling to a sullen companion, "at a time when there's such a desperate shortage of copper! . . . We can't permit it! We can't permit it to be true!" Rearden turned abruptly to look off, at the city. "I'd give anything to know where he is," he said, his voice low. "Just to know where he is, right now, at this moment." "What would you do, if you knew it?" He dropped his hand in a gesture of futility. "[ wouldn't approach him. The only homage I can still pay him is not to cry for forgiveness where no forgiveness is possible." They remained silent. They listened to the voices around them, to the splinters of panic trickling through the luxurious room. --------------------------------------- 704 She had not been aware that the same presence seemed to be an invisible guest at every table, that the same subject kept breaking through the attempts at any other conversation. People sat in a manner, not quite of cringing, but as if they found the room too large and too exposed—a room of glass, blue velvet, aluminum and gentle lighting. They looked as if they had come to this room at the price of countless evasions, to let it help them pretend that theirs was still a civilized existence—but an act o£ primeval violence had blasted the nature of their world into the open and they were no longer able not to see. "How could he? How could he?" a woman was demanding with petulant terror. "He had no right to do it!" "It was an accident," said a young man with a staccato voice and an odor of public payroll. "It was a chain of coincidences, as any statistical curve of probabilities can easily prove. It is unpatriotic to spread rumors exaggerating the power of the people's enemies." "Right and wrong is all very well for academic conversations," said a woman with a schoolroom voice and a barroom mouth, "but how can anybody take his own ideas seriously enough to destroy a fortune when people need it?" "f don't understand it," an old man was saying with quavering bitterness. "After centuries of efforts to curb man's innate brutality, after centuries of teaching, training and indoctrination with the gentle and the humane!" A woman's bewildered voice rose uncertainly and trailed off: "I thought we were living in an age of brotherhood . . ." "I'm scared," a young girl was repeating, "I'm scared . . . oh, I don't know! . . . I'm just scared . . ." "He couldn't have done it!" . . . "He did!" . . . "But why?" . . . "I refuse to believe it!" . . . "It's not human!" . . . "But why?" . . . "Just a worthless playboy!" . . . "But why?" The muffled scream of a woman across the room and some half grasped signal on the edge of Dagny's vision, came simultaneously and made her whirl to look at the city. The calendar was run by a mechanism locked in a room behind the screen, unrolling the same film year after year, projecting the dates in steady rotation, in changeless rhythm, never moving but on the stroke of midnight. The speed of Dagny's turn gave her time to see a phenomenon as unexpected as if a planet had reversed its orbit in the sky: she saw the words "September 2" moving upward and vanishing past the edge of the screen. Then, written across the enormous page, stopping time, as a last message to the world and to the world's motor which was New York, she saw the lines of a sharp, intransigent handwriting: Brother, you asked for it! Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d'Anconia She did not know which shock was greater: the sight of the message or the sound of Rearden's laughter—Rearden, standing on his feet, in full sight and hearing of the room behind him, laughing above their moans of panic, laughing in greeting, in salute, in acceptance of the gift he had tried to reject, in release, in triumph, in surrender. On the evening of September 7, a copper wire broke in Montana, stopping the motor of a loading crane on a spur track of Taggart Transcontinental, at the rim of the Stanford Copper Mine. The mine had been working on three shifts, its days and nights blending into a single stretch of struggle to lose no minute, no drop of copper it could squeeze from the shelves of a mountain into the nation's industrial desert. The crane broke down at the task of loading a train; it stopped abruptly and hung still against the evening sky, between a string of empty cars and piles of suddenly immovable ore. The men of the railroad and of the mine stopped in dazed bewilderment: they found that in all the complexity of their equipment, among the drills, --------------------------------------- 705 the motors, the derricks, the delicate gauges, the ponderous floodlights beating down into the pits and ridges of a mountain—there was no wire to mend the crane. They stopped, like men on an ocean liner propelled by ten- thousand-horsepower generators, but perishing for lack of a safety pin. The station agent, a young man with a swift body and a brusque voice, stripped the wiring from the station building and set the crane in motion again—and while the ore went clattering to fill the cars, the light of candles came trembling through the dusk from the windows of the station. "Minnesota, Eddie," said Dagny grimly, closing the drawer of her special file. "Tell the Minnesota Division to ship half their stock of wire to Montana." "But good God, Dagny!—with the peak of the harvest rush approaching—" "They'll hold through it—I think. We don't dare lose a single supplier of copper." "But I have!" screamed James Taggart, when she reminded him once more. "I have obtained for you the top priority on copper wire, the first claim, the uppermost ration level, I've given you all the cards, certificates, documents and requisitions—what else do you want?" "The copper wire." "I've done all I could! Nobody can blame me!" She did not argue. The afternoon newspaper was lying on his desk— and she was staring at an item on the back page: An Emergency State Tax had been passed in California for the relief of the state's unemployed, in the amount of fifty per cent of any local corporation's gross income ahead of other taxes; the California oil companies had gone out of business. "Don't worry, Mr. Rearden," said an unctuous voice over a long distance telephone line from Washington, "I just wanted to assure you that you will not have to worry." "About what?" asked Rearden, baffled. "About that temporary bit of confusion in California. We'll straighten it out in no time, it was an act of illegal insurrection, their state government had no right to impose local taxes detrimental to national taxes, we'll negotiate an equitable arrangement immediately— but in the meantime, if you have been disturbed by any unpatriotic rumors about the California oil companies, I just wanted to tell you that Rearden Steel has been placed in the top category of essential need, with first claim upon any oil available anywhere in the nation, very top category, Mr. Rearden—so I just wanted you to know that you won't have to worry about the problem of fuel this winter!" Rearden hung up the telephone receiver, with a frown of worry, not about the problem of fuel and the end of the California oil fields— disasters of this kind had become habitual—but about the fact that the Washington planners found it necessary to placate him. This was new; he wondered what it meant. Through the years of his struggle, he had learned that an apparently causeless antagonism was not hard to deal with, but an apparently causeless solicitude was an ugly danger. The same wonder struck him again, when, walking down an alley between the mill structures, he caught sight of a slouching figure whose posture combined an air of insolence with an air of expecting to be swatted: it was his brother Philip. Ever since he had moved to Philadelphia, Rearden had not visited his former home and had not heard a word from his family, whose bills he went on paying. Then, inexplicably, twice in the last few weeks, he had caught Philip wandering through the mills for no apparent reason. He had been unable to tell whether Philip was sneaking to avoid him or waiting to catch his attention; it had looked like both. He had been unable to discover any clue to Philip's purpose, only some incomprehensible solicitude, of a kind Philip had never displayed before. The first time, in answer to his startled "What are you doing here?" —Philip had said vaguely, “Well, I know that you don't like me to come to your office." "What do you want?" "Oh, nothing . . . but . . . well, Mother --------------------------------------- 706 is worried about you." "Mother can call me any time she wishes." Philip had not answered, but had proceeded to question him, in an unconvincingly casual manner, about his work, his health, his business; the questions had kept hitting oddly beside the point, not questions about business, but more about his, Rearden's, feelings toward business. Rearden had cut him short and waved him away, but had been left with the small, nagging sense of an incident that remained inexplicable. The second time, Philip had said, as sole explanation, "We just want to know how you feel." "Who's we?" "Why . . . Mother and I. These are difficult times and . . . well, Mother wants to know how you feel about it all." "Tell her that I don't." The words had seemed to hit Philip in some peculiar manner, almost as if this were the one answer he dreaded. "Get out of here," Rearden had ordered wearily, "and the next time you want to see me, make an appointment and come to my office. But don't come unless you have something to say. This is not a place where one discusses feelings, mine or anybody else's." Philip had not called for an appointment—but now there he was again, slouching among the giant shapes of the furnaces, with an air of guilt and snobbishness together, as if he were both snooping and slumming. "But I do have something to say! I do!" he cried hastily, in answer to the angry frown on Rearden's face. "Why didn't you come to my office?" "You don't want me in your office." "I don't want you here, either." "But I'm only . . . I'm only trying to be considerate and not to take your time when you're so busy and . . . you are very busy, aren't you?" "And?" "And . . . well, I just wanted to catch you in a spare moment . . . to talk to you." "About what?" "I . . . Well, I need a job." He said it belligerently and drew back a little. Rearden stood looking at him blankly. "Henry, I want a job. I mean, here, at the mills. I want you to give me something to do. I need a job, I need to earn my living. I'm tired of alms." He was groping for something to say, his voice both offended and pleading, as if the necessity to justify the plea were an unfair imposition upon him. "I want a livelihood of my own, I'm not asking you for charity, I'm asking you to give me a chance!" "This is a factory, Philip, not a gambling joint," "Uh?" "We don't take chances or give them." 'I’m asking you to give me a job!" "Why should I?" "Because I need it!" Rearden pointed to the red spurts of flame shooting from the black shape of a furnace, shooting safely into space four hundred feet of steel-clay-and- steam-embodied thought above them. "I needed that furnace, Philip. "It wasn't my need that gave it to me." Philip's face assumed a look of not having heard. "You're not officially supposed to hire anybody, bat that's just a technicality, if you'll put me on, my friends will okay it without any trouble and—" Something about Rearden's eyes made him stop abruptly, then ask in an angrily impatient voice, "Well, what's the matter? What have I said that's wrong?" "What you haven't said." "I beg your pardon?" "What you're squirming to leave unmentioned." --------------------------------------- 707 "What?" "That you'd be of no use to me whatever." "Is that what you—" Philip started with automatic righteousness, but stopped and did not finish. "Yes," said Rearden, smiling, "that's what I think of first." Philip's eyes oozed away; when he spoke, his voice sounded as if it were darting about at random, picking stray sentences: "Everybody is entitled to a livelihood . . . How am I going to get it, if nobody gives me my chance?" "How did I get mine?" "I wasn't born owning a steel plant." "Was I?" "I can do anything you can—if you'll teach me." "Who taught me?" "Why do you keep saying that? I'm not talking about you!" "I am." In a moment, Philip muttered, "What do you have to worry about? It's not your livelihood that's in question!" Rearden pointed to the figures of men in the steaming rays of the furnace. "Can you do what they're doing?" "I don't see what you're—" "What will happen if I put you there and you ruin a heat of steel for me?" "What's more important, that your damn steel gets poured or that I eat?" "How do you propose to eat if the steel doesn't get poured?" Philip's face assumed a look of reproach. "I'm not in a position to argue with you right now, since you hold the upper hand." "Then don't argue." "Uh?" "Keep your mouth shut and get out of here." "But I meant—" He stopped. Rearden chuckled. "You meant that it's I who should keep my mouth shut, because I hold the upper hand, and should give in to you, because you hold no hand at all?" "That's a peculiarly crude way of stating a moral principle." "But that's what your moral principle amounts to, doesn't it?" "You can't discuss morality in materialistic terms." "We're discussing a job in a steel plant—and, boy! is that a materialistic place!" Philip's 'body drew a shade tighter together and his eyes became a shade more glazed, as if in fear of the place around him, in resentment of its sight, in an effort not to concede its reality. He said, in the soft, stubborn whine of a voodoo incantation, "It's a moral imperative, universally conceded in our day and age, that every man is entitled to a job." His voice rose: "I'm entitled to it!" "You are? Go on, then, collect your claim." "Uh?" "Collect your job. Pick it off the bush where you think it grows." "I mean—" "You mean that it doesn't? You mean that you need it, but can't create it? You mean that you're entitled to a job which I must create for you?" "Yes!" "And if I don't?" The silence went stretching through second after second. "I don't understand you," said Philip; his voice had the angry bewilderment of a man who recites the formulas of a well-tested role, but keeps getting the wrong cues in answer. "I don't understand why one can't talk to you any more. I don't understand what sort of theory you're propounding and—" "Oh yes, you do." --------------------------------------- 708 As if refusing to believe that the formulas could fail, Philip burst out with: "Since when did you take to abstract philosophy? You're only a businessman, you're not qualified to deal with questions of principle, you ought to leave it to the experts who have conceded for centuries—" "Cut it, Philip. What's the gimmick?" “Gimmick?" "Why the sudden ambition?" "Well, at a time like this . . ." "Like what?" "Well, every man has the right to have some means of support and . . . and not be left to be tossed aside . . . When things are so uncertain, a man's got to have some security . . . some foothold . . . I mean, at a time like this, if anything happened to you, I'd have no—" "What do you expect to happen to me?" "Oh, I don't! I don't!" The cry was oddly, incomprehensibly genuine. "I don't expect anything to happen] . . . Do you?" "Such as what?" "How do I know? . . . But I've got nothing except the pittance you give me and . . . and you might change your mind any time." "I might." "And I haven't any hold on you at all." "Why did it take you that many years to realize it and start worrying? Why now?" "Because . . . because you've changed. You . . . you used to have a sense of duty and moral responsibility, but . . . you're losing it. You're losing it, aren't you?" Rearden stood studying him silently; there was something peculiar in Philip's manner of sliding toward questions, as if his words were accidental, but the too casual, the faintly Insistent questions were the key to his purpose. "Well, I'll be glad to take the burden off your shoulders, if I'm a burden to you!" Philip snapped suddenly. "Just give me a job, and your conscience won't have to bother you about me any longer!" "It doesn't." "That's what I mean! You don't care. You don't care what becomes of any of us, do you?" "Of whom?" "Why . . . Mother and me and . . . and mankind in general. But I'm not going to appeal to your better self. I know that you're ready to ditch me at a moment's notice, so—" "You're lying, Philip. That's not what you're worried about. If it were, you'd be angling for a chunk of cash, not for a job, not—" "No! I want a job!" The cry was immediate and almost frantic. "Don't try to buy me off with cash! I want a job!" "Pull yourself together, you poor louse. Do you hear what you're saying?" Philip spit out his answer with impotent hatred: "You can't talk to me that way!" "Can you?" "I only—" "To buy you off? Why should I try to buy you off—instead of kicking you out, as I should have, years ago?" "Well, after all, I'm your brother!” "What is that supposed to mean?" "One's supposed to have some sort of feeling for one's brother." "Do you?" --------------------------------------- 709 Philip's mouth swelled petulantly; he did not answer; he waited; Rearden let him wait. Philip muttered, "You're supposed . . . at least . . . to have some consideration for my feelings . . . but you haven't." "Have you for mine?" "Yours? Your feelings?" It was not malice in Philip's voice, but worse: it was a genuine, indignant astonishment. "You haven't any feelings. You've never felt anything at all. You've never suffered!" It was as if a sum of years hit Rearden in the face, by means of a sensation and a sight: the exact sensation of what he had felt in the cab of the first train's engine on the John Galt Line—and the sight of Philip's eyes, the pale, half-liquid eyes presenting the uttermost of human degradation: an uncontested pain, and, with the obscene insolence of a skeleton toward a living being, demanding that this pain be held as the highest of values. You've never suffered, the eyes were saying to him accusingly—while he was seeing the night in his office when his ore mines were taken away from him—the moment when he had signed the Gift Certificate surrendering Rearden Metal—the month of days inside a plane that searched for the remains of Dagny's body. You've never suffered, the eyes were saying with self-righteous scorn—while he remembered the sensation of proud chastity with which he had fought through those moments, refusing to surrender to pain, a sensation made of his love, of his loyalty, of his knowledge that joy is the goal of existence, and joy is not to be stumbled upon, but to be achieved, and the act of treason is to let its vision drown in the swamp of the moment's torture. You've never suffered, the dead stare of the eyes was saying, you've never felt anything, because only to suffer is to feel—there's no such thing as joy, there's only pain and the absence of pain, only pain and the zero, when one feels nothing—I suffer, I'm twisted by suffering, I'm made of undiluted suffering, that's my purity, that's my virtue—and yours, you the untwisted one, you the uncomplaining, yours is to relieve me of my pain—cut your unsuffering body to patch up mine, cut your unfeeling soul to stop mine from feeling—and we'll achieve the ultimate ideal, the triumph over life, the zero! He was seeing the nature of those who, for centuries, had not recoiled from the preachers of annihilation—he was seeing the nature of the enemies he had been fighting all his life. "Philip," he said, "get out of here." His voice was like a ray of sunlight in a morgue, it was the plain, dry, daily voice of a businessman, the sound of health, addressed to an enemy one could not honor by anger, nor even by horror. "And don't ever try to enter these mills again, because there will be orders at every gate to throw you out, if you try it.'1 "Well, after all," said Philip, in the angry and cautious tone of a tentative threat, "I could have my friends assign me to a job here and compel you to accept it!" Rearden had started to go, but he stopped and turned to look at his brother. Philip's moment of grasping a sudden revelation was not accomplished by means of thought, but by means of that dark sensation which was his only mode of consciousness: he felt a sensation of terror, squeezing his throat, shivering down into his stomach—he was seeing the spread of the mills, with the roving streamers of flame, with the ladles of molten metal sailing through space on delicate cables, with open pits the color of glowing coal, with cranes coming at his head, pounding past, holding tons of steel by the invisible power of magnets—and he knew that he was afraid of this place, afraid to the death, that he dared not move without the protection and guidance of the man before him— then he looked at the tall, straight figure standing casually still, the figure with the unflinching eyes whose sight had cut through rock and flame to build this place—and then he knew how easily the man he was proposing to --------------------------------------- 710 compel could let a single bucket of metal tilt over a second ahead of its time or let a single crane drop its load a foot short of its goal, and there would be nothing left of him, of Philip the claimant— and his only protection lay in the fact that his mind would think of such actions, but the mind of Hank Rearden would not. "But we'd better keep it on a friendly basis," said Philip. "You'd better," said Rearden and walked away. Men who worship pain—thought Rearden, staring at the image of the enemies he had never been able to understand—they're men who worship pain. It seemed monstrous, yet peculiarly devoid of importance. He felt nothing. It was like trying to summon emotion toward inanimate objects, toward refuse sliding down a mountainside to crush him. One could flee from the slide or build retaining walls against it or be crushed —but one could not grant any anger, indignation or moral concern to the senseless motions of the un-living; no, worse, he thought—the antiliving. The same sense of detached unconcern remained with him while he sat in a Philadelphia courtroom and watched men perform the motions which were to grant him his divorce. He watched them utter mechanical generalities, recite vague phrases of fraudulent evidence, play an intricate game of stretching words to convey no facts and no meaning. He had paid them to do it—he whom the law permitted no other way to gain his freedom, no right to state the facts and plead the truth—the law which delivered his fate, not to objective rules objectively defined, but to the arbitrary mercy of a judge with a wizened face and a look of empty cunning. Lillian was not present in the courtroom; her attorney made gestures once in a while, with the energy of letting water run through his fingers. They all knew the verdict in advance and they knew its reason; no other reason had existed for years, where no standards, save whim, had existed. They seemed to regard it as their rightful prerogative; they acted as if the purpose of the procedure were not to try a case, but to give them jobs, as if their jobs were to recite the appropriate formulas with no responsibility to know what the formulas accomplished, as if a courtroom were the one place where questions of right and wrong were irrelevant and they, the men in charge of dispensing justice, were safely wise enough to know that no justice existed. They acted like savages performing a ritual devised to set them free of objective reality. But the ten years of his marriage had been real, he thought—and these were the men who assumed the power to dispose of it, to decide whether he would have a chance of contentment on earth or be condemned to torture for the rest of his lifetime. He remembered the austerely pitiless respect he had felt for his contract of marriage, for all his contracts and all his legal obligations—and he saw what sort of legality his scrupulous observance was expected to serve. He noticed that the puppets of the courtroom had started by glancing at him in the sly, wise manner of fellow conspirators sharing a common guilt, mutually safe from moral condemnation. Then, when they observed that he was the only man in the room who looked steadily straight at anyone's face, he saw resentment growing in their eyes. Incredulously, he realized what it was that had been expected of him: he, the victim, chained, bound, gagged and left with no recourse save to bribery, had been expected to believe that the farce he had purchased was a process of law, that the edicts enslaving him had moral validity, that he was guilty of corrupting the integrity of the guardians of justice, and that the blame was his, not theirs. It was like blaming the victim of a holdup for corrupting the integrity of the thug. And yet—he thought —through all the generations of political extortion, it was not the looting bureaucrats who had taken the blame, but the chained industrialists, not the men who peddled legal favors, but the men who were --------------------------------------- 711 forced to buy them; and through all those generations of crusades against corruption, the remedy had always been, not the liberating of the victims, but the granting of wider powers for extortion to the extortionists. The only guilt of the victims, he thought, had been that they accepted it as guilt. When he walked out of the courtroom into the chilly drizzle of a gray afternoon, he felt as if he had been divorced, not only from Lillian, but from the whole of the human society that supported the procedure he had witnessed. The face of his attorney, an elderly man of the old-fashioned school, wore an expression that made it look as if he longed to take a bath. "Say, Hank,” he asked as sole comment, "is there something the looters are anxious to get from you right now?" "Not that I know of. Why?" "The thing went too smoothly. There were a few points at which I expected pressure and hints for some extras, but the boys sailed past and took no advantage of it. Looks to me as if orders had come from on high to treat you gently and let you have your way. Are they planning something new against your mills?" "Not that I know of," said Rearden —and was astonished to hear in his mind: Not that I care. It was on the same afternoon, at the mills, that he saw the Wet Nurse hurrying toward him—a gangling, coltish figure with a peculiar mixture of brusqueness, awkwardness and decisiveness. "Mr. Rearden, I would like to speak to you." His voice was diffident, yet oddly firm. "Go ahead." "There's something I want to ask you." The boy's face was solemn and taut. "I want you to know that I know you should refuse me, but I want to ask it just the same . . . and . . . and if it's presumptuous, then just tell me to go to hell." "Okay. Try it." "Mr. Rearden, would you give me a job?" It was the effort to sound normal that betrayed the days of struggle behind the question. "I want to quit what I'm doing and go to work. I mean, real work—in steel making, like I thought I'd started to, once. I want to earn my keep. I'm tired of being a bedbug." Rearden could not resist smiling and reminding him, in the tone of a quotation, "Now why use such words, Non-Absolute? If we don't use ugly words, we won't have any ugliness and—" But he saw the desperate earnestness of the boy's face and stopped, his smile vanishing. "I mean it, Mr. Rearden. And I know what the word means and it's the right word. I'm tired of being paid, with your money, to do nothing except make it impossible for you to make any money at all. I know that anyone who works today is only a sucker for bastards like me, but . . . well, God damn it, I'd rather be a sucker, if that's all there's left to be!" His voice had risen to a cry. "I beg your pardon, Mr. Rearden," he said stiffly, looking away. In a moment, he went on in his woodenly unemotional tone. "I want to get out of the Deputy-Director-of-Distribution racket. I don't know that I'd be of much use to you, I've got a college diploma in metallurgy, but that's not worth the paper it's printed on. But I think I've learned a little about the work in the two years I've been here—and if you could use me at all, as sweeper or scrap man or whatever you'd trust me with, I'd tell them where to put the deputy directorship and I'd go to work for you tomorrow, next week, this minute or whenever you say." He avoided looking at Rearden, not in a manner of evasion, but as if he had no right to do it. "Why were you afraid to ask me?" said Rearden gently. The boy glanced at him with indignant astonishment, as if the answer were self-evident. "Because after the way I started here and the way I acted and --------------------------------------- 712 what I'm deputy of, if I come asking you for favors, you ought to kick me in the teeth!" "You have learned a great deal in the two years you've been here." "No, I—" He glanced at Rearden, understood, looked away and said woodenly, "Yeah . . . if that's what you mean." "Listen, kid, I'd give you a job this minute and I'd trust you with more than a sweeper's job, if it were up to me. But have you forgotten the Unification Board? I'm not allowed to hire you and you're not allowed to quit. Sure, men are quitting all the time, and we're hiring others under phony names and fancy papers proving that they've worked here for years. You know it, and thanks for keeping your mouth shut. But do you think that if I hired you that way, your friends in Washington would miss it?" The boy shook his head slowly. "Do you think that if you quit their service to become a sweeper, they wouldn't understand your reason?" The boy nodded. "Would they let you go?" The boy shook his head. After a moment, he said in a tone of forlorn astonishment, "I hadn't thought of that at all, Mr. Rearden. I forgot them. I kept thinking of whether you'd want me or not and that the only thing that counted was your decision.” "I know." "And . . . it is the only thing that counts, in fact." "Yes, Non-Absolute, in fact." The boy's mouth jerked suddenly into the brief, mirthless twist of a smile. "I guess I'm tied worse than any sucker . . ." "Yes. There's nothing you can do now, except apply to the Unification Board for permission to change your job. I'll support your application, if you want to try—only I don't think they'll grant it. I don't think they'll let you work for me." "No. They won't." "If you maneuver enough and lie enough, they might permit you to transfer to a private job—with some other steel company." "No! I don't want to go anywhere else! I don't want to leave this place!” He stood looking off at the invisible vapor of rain over the flame of the furnaces. After a while, he said quietly, "I'd better stay put, I guess. I'd better go on being a deputy looter. Besides, if I left, God only knows what sort of bastard they'd saddle you with in my place!" He turned. "They're up to something, Mr. Rearden. I don't know what it is, but they're getting ready to spring something on you." "What?" "I don't know. But they've been watching every opening here, in the last few weeks, every desertion, and slipping their own gang in. A queer sort of gang, too—real goons, some of them, that I'd swear never stepped inside a steel plant before. I've had orders to get as many of 'our boys' in as possible. They wouldn't tell me why. I don't know what it is they're planning. I've tried to pump them, but they're acting pretty cagey about it. I don't think they trust me any more. I'm losing the right touch, I guess. All I know is they're getting set to pull something here." "Thanks for warning me." "I'll try to get the dope on it. I'll try my damndest to get it in time." He turned brusquely and started off, but stopped. "Mr. Rearden, if it were up to you, you would have hired me?" "I would have, gladly and at once." "Thank you, Mr. Rearden," he said, his voice solemn and low, then walked away. --------------------------------------- 713 Rearden stood looking after him, seeing, with a tearing smile of pity, what it was that the ex-relativist, the ex-pragmatist, the ex-amoralist was carrying away with him for consolation. On the afternoon of September 11, a copper wire broke in Minnesota, stopping the belts of a grain elevator at a small country station of Taggart Transcontinental. A flood of wheat was moving down the highways, the roads, the abandoned trails of the countryside, emptying thousands of acres of farmland upon the fragile dams of the railroad's stations. It was moving day and night, the first trickles growing into streams, then rivers, then torrents—moving on palsied trucks with coughing, tubercular motors—on wagons pulled by the rusty skeletons of starving horses—on carts pulled by oxen—on the nerves and last energy of men who had lived through two years of disaster for the triumphant reward of this autumn's giant harvest, men who had patched their trucks and carts with wire, blankets, ropes and sleepless nights, to make them hold together for this one more journey, to carry the grain and collapse at destination, but to give their owners a chance at survival. Every year, at this season, another movement had gone clicking across the country, drawing freight cars from all corners of the continent to the Minnesota Division of Taggart Transcontinental, the beat of train wheels preceding the creak of the wagons, like an advance echo rigorously planned, ordered and timed to meet the flood. The Minnesota Division drowsed through the year, to come to violent life for the weeks of the harvest; fourteen thousand freight cars had jammed its yards each year; fifteen thousand were expected this time. The first of the wheat trains had started to channel the flood into the hungry flour mills, then bakeries, then stomachs of the nation—but every train, car and storage elevator counted, and there was no minute or inch of space to spare. Eddie Willers watched Dagny's face as she went through the cards of her emergency file; he could tell the content of the cards by her expression. "The Terminal," she said quietly, closing the file. "Phone the Terminal downstairs and have them ship half their stock of wire to Minnesota." Eddie said nothing and obeyed. He said nothing, the morning when he put on her desk a telegram from the Taggart office in Washington, informing them of the directive which, due to the critical shortage of copper, ordered government agents to seize all copper mines and operate them as a public utility. "Well," she said, dropping the telegram into the wastebasket, "that's the end of Montana." She said nothing when James Taggart announced to her that he was issuing an order to discontinue all dining cars on Taggart trains. "We can't afford it any longer," he explained, "we've always lost money on those goddamn diners, and when there's no food to get, when restaurants are closing because they can't grab hold of a pound of horse meat anywhere, how can railroads be expected to do it? Why in hell should we have to feed the passengers, anyway? They're lucky if we give them transportation, they'd travel in cattle cars if necessary, let 'em pack their own box lunches, what do we care?—they've got no other trains to take!" The telephone on her desk had become, not a voice of business, but an alarm siren for the desperate appeals of disaster. "Miss Taggart. we have no copper wire!" "Nails, Miss Taggart, plain nails, could you tell somebody to send us a keg of nails?" "Can you find any paint. Miss Taggart, any sort of waterproof paint anywhere?" But thirty million dollars of subsidy money from Washington had been plowed into Project Soybean—an enormous acreage in Louisiana, where a harvest of soybeans was ripening, as advocated and organized by Emma Chalmers, for the purpose of reconditioning the dietary habits of the nation. Emma --------------------------------------- 714 Chalmers, better known as Kip's Ma, was an old sociologist who had hung about Washington for years, as other women of her age and type hang about barrooms. For some reason which nobody could define, the death of her son in the tunnel catastrophe had given her in Washington an aura of martyrdom, heightened by her recent conversion to Buddhism. "The soybean is a much more sturdy, nutritious and economical plant than all the extravagant foods which our wasteful, self-indulgent diet has conditioned us to expect," Kip's Ma had said over the radio; her voice always sounded as if it were falling in drops, not of water, but of mayonnaise. "Soybeans make an excellent substitute for bread, meat, cereals and coffee—and if all of us were compelled to adopt soybeans as our staple diet, it would solve the national food crisis and make it possible to feed more people. The greatest food for the greatest number—that's my slogan. At a time of desperate public need, it's our duty to sacrifice our luxurious tastes and eat our way back to prosperity by adapting ourselves to the simple, wholesome foodstuff on which the peoples of the Orient have so nobly subsisted for centuries. There's a great deal that we could learn from the peoples of the Orient." "Copper tubing, Miss Taggart, could you get some copper tubing for us somewhere?" the voices were pleading over her telephone. "Rail spikes, Miss Taggart!" "Screwdrivers, Miss Taggart!" "Light bulbs, Miss Taggart, there's no electric light bulbs to be had anywhere within two hundred miles of us!" But five million dollars was being spent by the office of Morale Conditioning on the People's Opera Company, which traveled through the country, giving free performances to people who, on one meal a day, could not afford the energy to walk to the opera house. Seven million dollars had been granted to a psychologist in charge of a project to solve the world crisis by research into the nature of brother-love. Ten million dollars had been granted to the manufacturer of a new electronic cigarette lighter—but there were no cigarettes in the shops of the country. There were flashlights on the market, but no batteries; there were radios, but no tubes; there were cameras, but no film. The production of airplanes had been declared "temporarily suspended." Air travel for private purposes had been forbidden, and reserved exclusively for missions of "public need." An industrialist traveling to save his factory was not considered as publicly needed and could not get aboard a plane; an official traveling to collect taxes was and could. "People are stealing nuts and bolts out of rail plates, Miss Taggart, stealing them at night, and our stock is running out, the division storehouse is bare, what are we to do, Miss Taggart?" But a super-color-four-foot-screen television set was being erected for tourists in a People's Park in Washington—and a super-cyclotron for the study of cosmic rays was being erected at the State Science Institute, to be completed in ten years. "The trouble with our modern world," Dr. Robert Stadler said over the radio, at the ceremonies launching the construction of the cyclotron, "is that too many people think too much. It is the cause of all our current fears and doubts. An enlightened citizenry should abandon the superstitious worship of logic and the outmoded reliance on reason. Just as laymen leave medicine to doctors and electronics to engineers, so people who are not qualified to think should leave all thinking to the experts and have faith in the experts' higher authority. Only experts are able to understand the discoveries of modern science, which have proved that thought is an illusion and that the mind is a myth." "This age of misery is God's punishment to man for the sin of relying on his mind!" snarled the triumphant voices of mystics of every sect and sort, on street corners, in rain-soaked tents, in crumbling temples. "This world ordeal is the result of man's attempt to live by reason! This is where --------------------------------------- 715 thinking, logic and science have brought you! And there's to be no salvation until men realize that their mortal mind is impotent to solve their problems and go back to faith, faith in God, faith in a higher authority!" And confronting her daily there was the final product of it all, the heir and collector—Cuffy Meigs, the man impervious to thought. Cuffy Meigs strode through the offices of Taggart Transcontinental, wearing a semi-military tunic and slapping a shiny leather briefcase against his shiny leather leggings. He carried an automatic pistol in one pocket and a rabbit's foot in the other. Cuffy Meigs tried to avoid her; his manner was part scorn, as if he considered her an impractical idealist, part superstitious awe, as if she possessed some incomprehensible power with which he preferred not to tangle. He acted as if her presence did not belong to his view of a railroad, yet as if hers were the one presence he dared not challenge. There was a touch of impatient resentment in his manner toward Jim, as if it were Jim's duty to deal with her and to protect him; just as he expected Jim to keep the railroad in running order and leave him free for activities of more practical a nature, so he expected Jim to keep her in line, as part of the equipment. Beyond the window of her office, like a patch of adhesive plaster stuck over a wound on the sky, the page of the calendar hung blank in the distance. The calendar had never been repaired since the night of Francisco's farewell. The officials who had rushed to the tower, that night, had knocked the calendar's motor to a stop, while tearing the film out of the projector. They had found the small square of Francisco's message, pasted into the strip of numbered days, but who had pasted it there, who had entered the locked room and when and how, was never discovered by the three commissions still investigating the case. Pending the outcome of their efforts, the page hung blank and still above the city. It was blank on the afternoon of September 14, when the telephone rang in her office. "A man from Minnesota," said the voice of her secretary. She had told her secretary that she would accept all calls of this kind. They were the appeals for help and her only source of information. At a time when the voices of railroad officials uttered nothing but sounds designed to avoid communication, the voices of nameless men were her last link to the system, the last sparks of reason and tortured honesty flashing briefly through the miles of Taggart track. "Miss Taggart, it is not my place to call you, but nobody else will," said the voice that came on the wire, this time; the voice sounded young and too calm. "In another day or two, a disaster's going to happen here the like of which they've never seen, and they won't be able to hide it any longer, only it will be too late by then, and maybe it's too late already." "What is it? Who are you?" "One of your employees of the Minnesota Division, Miss Taggart. In another day or two, the trains will stop running out of here—and you know what that means, at the height of the harvest. At the height of the biggest harvest we've ever had. They'll stop, because we have no cars. The harvest freight cars have not been sent to us this year." "What did you say?" She felt as if minutes went by between the words of the unnatural voice that did not sound like her own. "The cars have not been sent. Fifteen thousand should have been here by now. As far as I could learn, about eight thousand cars is all we got. I've been calling Division Headquarters for a week. They've been telling me not to worry. Last time, they told me to mind my own damn business. Every shed, silo, elevator, warehouse, garage and dance hall along the track is filled with wheat. At the Sherman elevators, there's a line of farmers' trucks and wagons two miles long, waiting on the road. At Lakewood Station, the square --------------------------------------- 716 is packed solid and has been for three nights. They keep telling us it's only temporary, the cars are coming and we'll catch up. We won't. There aren't any cars coming. I've called everyone I could. I know, by the way they answer. They know, and not one of them wants to admit it. They're scared, scared to move or speak or ask or answer. All they're thinking of is who will be blamed when that harvest rots here around the stations—and not of who's going to move it. Maybe nobody can, now. Maybe there's nothing you can do about it, either. But I thought you're the only person left who'd want to know and that somebody had to tell you." "I . . ." She made an effort to breathe. "I see . . . Who are you?" "The name wouldn't matter. When I hang up, I will have become a deserter. I don't want to stay here to see it when it happens. I don't want any part of it any more. Good luck to you, Miss Taggart." She heard the click. "Thank you," she said over a dead wire. The next time she noticed the office around her and permitted herself to feel, it was noon of the following day. She stood in the middle of the office, running stiff, spread fingers through a strand of hair, brushing it back off her face—and for an instant, she wondered where she was and what was the unbelievable thing that had happened in the last twenty hours. What she felt was horror, and she knew that she had felt it from the first words of the man on the wire, only there had been no time to know it. There was not much that remained in her mind of the last twenty hours, only disconnected bits, held together by the single constant that had made them possible—by the soft, loose faces of men who fought to hide from themselves that they knew the answers to the questions she asked. From the moment when she was told that the manager of the Car Service Department had been out of town for a week and had left no address where one could reach him—she knew that the report of the man from Minnesota was true. Then came the faces of the assistants in the Car Service Department, who would neither confirm the report nor deny it, but kept showing her papers, orders, forms, file cards that bore words in the English language, but no connection to intelligible facts. "Were the freight cars sent to Minnesota?" "Form 357W is filled out in every particular, as required by the office of the Co-ordinator in conformance with the instructions of the comptroller and by Directive 11-493." "Were the freight cars sent to Minnesota?" "The entries for the months of August and September have been processed by—" "Were the freight cars sent to Minnesota?" "My files indicate the locations of freight cars by state, date, classification and—" "Do you know whether the cars were sent to Minnesota?" "As to the interstate motion of freight cars, I would have to refer you to the files of Mr. Benson and of—" There was nothing to learn from the files. There were careful entries, each conveying four possible meanings, with references which led to references which led to a final reference which was missing from the files. It did not take her long to discover that the cars had not been sent to Minnesota and that the order had come from Cuffy Meigs— but who had carried it out, who had tangled the trail, what steps had been taken by what compliant men to preserve the appearance of a safely normal operation, without a single cry of protest to arouse some braver man's attention, who had falsified the reports, and where the cars had gone—seemed, at first, impossible to learn. Through the hours of that night—while a small, desperate crew under the command of Eddie Willers kept calling every division point, every yard, depot, station, spur and siding of Taggart Transcontinental for every freight car in sight or reach, ordering them to unload, drop, dump, scuttle anything and proceed to Minnesota at once, while they kept calling the yards, stations --------------------------------------- 717 and presidents of every railroad still half in existence anywhere across the map, begging for cars for Minnesota—she went through the task of tracing from face to coward's face the destination of the freight cars that had vanished. She went from railroad executives to wealthy shippers to Washington officials and back to the railroad—by cab, by phone, by wire—pursuing a trail of half-uttered hints. The trail approached its end when she heard the pinch- lipped voice of a public relations, woman in a Washington office, saying resentfully over the telephone wire, "Well, after all, it is a matter of opinion whether wheat is essential to a nation's welfare— there are those of more progressive views who feel that the soybean is, perhaps, of far greater value"—and then, by noon, she stood in the middle of her office, knowing that the freight cars intended for the wheat of Minnesota had been sent, instead, to carry the soybeans from the Louisiana swamps of Kip's Ma's project. The first story of the Minnesota disaster appeared in the newspapers three days later. It reported that the farmers who had waited in. the streets of Lakewood for six days, with no place to store their wheat and no trains to carry it, had demolished the local courthouse, the mayor's home and the railroad station. Then the stories vanished abruptly and the newspapers kept silent, then began to print admonitions urging people not to believe unpatriotic rumors. While the flour mills and grain markets of the country were screaming over the phones and the telegraph wires, sending pleas to New York and delegations to Washington, while strings of freight cars from random corners of the continent were crawling like rusty caterpillars across the map in the direction of Minnesota—the wheat and hope of the country were waiting to perish along an empty track, under the unchanging green lights of signals that called for motion to trains that were not there. At the communication desks of Taggart Transcontinental, a small crew kept calling for freight cars, repeating, like the crew of a sinking ship, an S.O.S, that remained unheard. There were freight cars held loaded for months in the yards of the companies owned by the friends of pull-peddlers, who ignored the frantic demands to unload the cars and release them. "You can tell that railroad to—" followed by untransmissible words, was the message of the Smather Brothers of Arizona in answer to the S.O.S. of New York. In Minnesota, they were seizing cars from every siding, from the Mesabi Range, from the ore mines of Paul Larkin where the cars had stood waiting for a dribble of iron. They were pouring wheat into ore cars, into coal cars, into boarded stock cars that went spilling thin gold trickles along the track as they clattered off. They were pouring wheat into passenger coaches, over seats, racks and fixtures, to send it off, to get it moving, even if it went moving into track-side ditches in the sudden crash of breaking springs, in the explosions set off by burning journal boxes. They fought for movement, for movement with no thought of destination, for movement as such, like a paralytic under a stroke, struggling in wild, stiff, incredulous jerks against the realization that movement was suddenly impossible. There were no other railroads: James Taggart had killed them; there were no boats on the Lakes: Paul Larkin had destroyed them. There was only the single line of rail and a net of neglected highways. The trucks and wagons of waiting farmers started trickling blindly down the roads, with no maps, no gas, no feed for horses—moving south, south toward the vision of flour mills awaiting them somewhere, with no knowledge of the distances ahead, but with the knowledge of death behind them—moving, to collapse on the roads, in the gullies, in the breaks of rotted bridges. One farmer was found, half a mile south of the wreck of his truck, lying dead in a ditch, face down, still clutching a sack of wheat on his shoulders. Then rain clouds burst over the prairies of Minnesota; the rain went eating the --------------------------------------- 718 wheat into rot at the waiting railroad stations; it went hammering the piles spilled along the roads, washing gold kernels into the soil. The men in Washington were last to be reached by the panic. They watched, not the news from Minnesota, but the precarious balance of their friendships and commitments; they weighed, not the fate of the harvest, but the unknowable result of unpredictable emotions in unthinking men of unlimited power. They waited, they evaded all pleas, they declared, "Oh, ridiculous, there's nothing to worry about! Those Taggart people have always moved that wheat on schedule, they'll find some way to move it!" Then, when the State Chief Executive of Minnesota sent a request to Washington for the assistance of the Army against the riots he was unable to control—three directives burst forth within two hours, stopping all trains in the country, commandeering all cars to speed to Minnesota. An order signed by Wesley Mouch demanded the immediate release of the freight cars held in the service of Kip's Ma. But by that time, it was too late. Ma's freight cars were in California, where the soybeans had been sent to a progressive concern made up of sociologists preaching the cult of Oriental austerity, and of businessmen formerly in the numbers racket. In Minnesota, farmers were setting fire to their own farms, they were demolishing grain elevators and the homes of county officials, they were fighting along the track of the railroad, some to tear it up, some to defend it with their lives—and, with no goal to reach save violence, they were dying in the streets of gutted towns and in the silent gullies of a roadless night. Then there was only the acrid stench of grain rotting in half-smouldering piles—a few columns of smoke rising from the plains, standing still in the air over blackened ruins—and, in an office in Pennsylvania, Hank Rearden sitting at his desk, looking at a list of men who had gone bankrupt: they were the manufacturers of farm equipment, who could not be paid and would not be able to pay him. The harvest of soybeans did not reach the markets of the country: it had been reaped prematurely, it was moldy and unfit for consumption. On the night of October 15, a copper wire broke in New York City, in an underground control tower of the Taggart Terminal, extinguishing the lights of the signals. It was only the breach of one wire, but it produced a short circuit in the interlocking traffic system, and the signals of motion or danger disappeared from the panels of the control towers and from among the strands of rail. The red and green lenses remained red and green, not with the living radiance of sight, but with the dead stare of glass eyes. On the edge of the city, a cluster of trains gathered at the entrance to the Terminal tunnels and grew through the minutes of stillness, like blood dammed by a clot inside a vein, unable to rush into the chambers of the heart. Dagny, that night, was sitting at a table in a private dining room of the Wayne-Falkland. The wax of candles was dripping down on the white camellias and laurel leaves at the base of the silver candlesticks, arithmetical calculations were penciled on the damask linen tablecloth, and a cigar butt was swimming in a finger bowl. The six men in formal dinner jackets, facing her about the table, were Wesley Mouch, Eugene Lawson, Dr. Floyd Ferris, Clem Weatherby, James Taggart and Cuffy Meigs. "Why?" she had asked, when Jim had told her that she had to attend that dinner. "Well . . . because our Board of Directors is to meet next week." "And?" "You're interested in what's going to be decided about our Minnesota Line, aren't you?" "Is that going to be decided at the Board meeting?'1 "Well, not exactly." "Is it going to be decided at this dinner?" "Not exactly, but . . . oh, why do you always have to be so definite? Nothing's --------------------------------------- 719 ever definite. Besides, they insisted that they wanted you to come." "Why?" "Isn't that sufficient?" She did not ask why those men chose to make all their crucial decisions at parties of this kind; she knew that they did. She knew that behind the clattering, lumbering pretense of their council sessions, committee meetings and mass debates, the decisions were made in advance, in furtive informality, at luncheons, dinners and bars, the graver the issue, the more casual the method of settling it. It was the first time that they had asked her, the outsider, the enemy, to one of those secret sessions; it was, she thought, an acknowledgment of the fact that they needed her and, perhaps, the first step of their surrender; it was a chance she could not leave untaken. But as she sat in the candlelight of the dining room, she felt certain that she had no chance; she felt restlessly unable to accept that certainty, since she could not grasp its reason, yet lethargically reluctant to pursue any inquiry. "As, I think, you will concede, Miss Taggart, there now seems to be no economic justification for the continued existence of a railroad line in Minnesota, which . . ." "And even Miss Taggart will, I'm sure, agree that certain temporary retrenchments seem to be indicated, until . . ." "Nobody, not even Miss Taggart, will deny that there are times when it is necessary to sacrifice the parts for the sake of the whole . . ." As she listened to the mentions of her name tossed into the conversation at half-hour intervals, tossed perfunctorily, with the speaker's eyes never glancing in her direction, she wondered what motive had made them want her to be present. It was not an attempt to delude her into believing that they were consulting her, but worse: an attempt to delude themselves into believing that she had agreed. They asked her questions at times and interrupted her before she had completed the first sentence of the answer. They seemed to want her approval, without having to know whether she approved or not. Some crudely childish form of self-deception had made them choose to give to this occasion the decorous setting of a formal dinner. They acted as if they hoped to gain, from the objects of gracious luxury, the power and the honor of which those objects had once been the product and symbol—they acted, she thought, like those savages who devour the corpse of an adversary in the hope of acquiring his strength and his virtue. She regretted that she was dressed as she was. "It's formal," Jim had told her, "but don't overdo it . . . what I mean is, don't look too rich . . . business people should avoid any appearance of arrogance these days . . . not that you should look shabby, but if you could just seem to suggest . . . well, humility . . . it would please them, you know, it would make them feel big." "Really?" she had said, turning away. She wore a black dress that looked as if it were no more than a piece of cloth crossed over her breasts and falling to her feet in the soft folds of a Grecian tunic; it was made of satin, a satin so light and thin that it could have served as the stuff of a nightgown. The luster of the cloth, streaming and shifting with her movements, made it look as if the light of the room she entered were her personal property, sensitively obedient to-the motions of her body, wrapping her in a sheet of radiance more luxurious than the texture of brocade, underscoring the pliant fragility of her figure, giving her an air of so natural an elegance that it could afford to be scornfully casual. She wore a single piece of jewelry, a diamond clip at the edge of the black neckline, that kept flashing with the imperceptible motion of her breath, like a transformer converting a flicker into fire, making one conscious, not of the gems, but of the living beat behind them; it flashed like a military decoration, like wealth worn as a badge of honor. She wore no other ornament, only the sweep of a black velvet cape, more arrogantly, ostentatiously patrician than any spread of sables. --------------------------------------- 720 She regretted it now, as she looked at the men before her; she felt the embarrassing guilt of pointlessness, as if she had tried to defy the figures in a waxworks. She saw a mindless resentment in their eyes and a sneaking trace of the lifeless, sexless, smutty leer with which men look at a poster advertising burlesque. "It's a great responsibility," said Eugene Lawson, "to hold the decision of life or death over thousands of people and to sacrifice them when necessary, but we mast have the courage to do it." His soft lips seemed to twist into a smile. "The only factors to consider are land acreage and population figures," said Dr. Ferris in a statistical voice, blowing smoke rings at the ceiling. "Since it is no longer possible to maintain both the Minnesota Line and the transcontinental traffic of this railroad, the choice is between Minnesota and those states west of the Rockies which were cut off by the failure of the Taggart Tunnel, as well as the neighboring states of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, which means, practically speaking, the whole of the Northwest. When you compute the acreage and the number of heads in both areas, it's obvious that we should scuttle Minnesota rather than give up our lines of communication over a third of a continent." "1 won't give up the continent," said Wesley Mouch, staring down at his dish of ice cream, his voice hurt and stubborn. She was thinking of the Mesabi Range, the last of the major sources of iron ore, she was thinking of the Minnesota farmers, such as were left of them, the best producers of wheat in the country—she was thinking that the end of Minnesota would end Wisconsin, then Michigan, then Illinois—she was seeing the red breath of the factories dying out over the industrial East—as against the empty miles of western sands, of scraggly pastures and abandoned ranches. "The figures indicate," said Mr. Weatherby primly, "that the continued maintenance of both areas seems to be impossible. The railway track and equipment of one has to be dismantled to provide the material for the maintenance of the other." She noticed that Clem Weatherby, their technical expert on railroads, was the man of least influence among them, and Cuffy Meigs—of most. Cuffy Meigs sat sprawled in his chair, with a look of patronizing tolerance for their game of wasting time on discussions. He spoke little, but when he did, it was to snap decisively, with a contemptuous grin, "Pipe down, Jimmy!" or, "Nuts, Wes, you're talking through your hat!" She noticed that neither Jim nor Mouch resented it. They seemed to welcome the authority of his assurance; they were accepting him as their master. "We have to be practical," Dr. Ferris kept saying. "We have to. be scientific." "I need the economy of the country as a whole," Wesley Mouch kept repeating. "I need the production of a nation." "Is it economics that you're talking about? Is it production?" she said, whenever her cold, measured voice was able to seize a brief stretch of their tune. "If it is, then give us leeway to save the Eastern states. That's all that's left of the country—and of the world. If you let us save that, we'll have a chance to rebuild the rest. If not, it's the end. Let the Atlantic Southern take care of such transcontinental traffic as still exists. Let the local railroads take care of the Northwest. But let Taggart Transcontinental drop everything else—yes, everything—and devote all our resources, equipment and rail to the traffic of the Eastern states. Let us shrink back to the start of this country, but let us hold that start. We'll run no trains west of the Missouri. We'll become a local railroad—the local of the industrial East. Let us save our industries. --------------------------------------- 721 There's nothing left to save in the West. You can run agriculture for centuries by manual labor and oxcarts. But destroy the last of this country's industrial plant—and centuries of effort won't be able to rebuild it or to gather the economic strength to make a start. How do you expect our industries—or railroads—to survive without steel? How do you expect any steel to be produced if you cut off the supply of iron ore? Save Minnesota, whatever's left of it. The country? You have no country to save, if its industries perish. You can sacrifice a leg or an arm. You can't save a body by sacrificing its heart and brain. Save our industries. Save Minnesota. Save the Eastern Seaboard." It was no use. She said it as many times, with as many details, statistics, figures, proofs, as she could force out of her weary mind into their evasive hearing. It was no use. They neither refuted nor agreed; they merely looked as if her arguments were beside the point. There was a sound of hidden emphasis in their answers, as if they were giving her an explanation, but in a code to which she had no key. "There's trouble in California," said Wesley Mouch sullenly. "Their state legislature's been acting pretty huffy. There's talk of seceding from the Union." "Oregon is overrun by gangs of deserters," said Clem Weatherby cautiously. "They murdered two tax collectors within the last three months." "The importance of industry to a civilization has been grossly overemphasized," said Dr. Ferris dreamily. "What is now known as the People's State of India has existed for centuries without any industrial development whatever." "People could do with fewer material gadgets and a sterner discipline of privations," said Eugene Lawson eagerly. "It would be good for them." "Oh hell, are you going to let that dame talk you into letting the richest country on earth slip through your fingers?" said Cuffy Meigs, leaping to his feet. "It's a fine time to give up a whole continent—and in exchange for what? For a dinky little state that's milked dry, anyway! I say ditch Minnesota, but hold onto your transcontinental dragnet. With trouble and riots everywhere, you won't be able to keep people in line unless you have transportation—troop transportation—unless you hold your soldiers within a few days' journey of any point on the continent. This is no time to retrench. Don't get yellow, listening to all that talk. You've got the country in your pocket. Just keep it there." "In the long run—" Mouch started uncertainly. "In the long run, we'll all be dead," snapped Cuffy Meigs. He was pacing restlessly. "Retrenching, hell! There's plenty of pickings left in California and Oregon and all those places. What I've been thinking is, we ought to think of expanding—the way things are, there's nobody to stop us, it's there for the taking—Mexico, and Canada maybe—it ought to be a cinch." Then she saw the answer; she saw the secret premise behind their words. With all of their noisy devotion to the age of science, their hysterically technological jargon, their cyclotrons, their sound rays, these men were moved forward, not by the image of an industrial skyline, but by the vision of that form of existence which the industrialists had swept away—the vision of a fat, unhygienic rajah of India, with vacant eyes staring in indolent stupor out of stagnant layers of flesh, with nothing to do but run precious gems through his fingers and, once in a while, stick a knife into the body of a starved, toil-dazed, germeaten creature, as a claim to a few grains of the creature's rice, then claim it from hundreds of millions of such creatures and thus let the rice grains gather into gems. She had thought that industrial production was a value not to be questioned by anyone; she had thought that these men's urge to expropriate the factories of others was their acknowledgment of the factories value. She, --------------------------------------- 722 born of the industrial revolution, had not held as conceivable, had forgotten along with the tales of astrology and alchemy, what these men knew in their secret, furtive souls, knew not by means of thought, but by means of that nameless muck which they called their instincts and emotions: that so long as men struggle to stay alive, they'll never produce so little but that the man with the club won't be able to seize it and leave them still less, provided millions of them are willing to submit—that the harder their work and the less their gain, the more submissive the fiber of their spirit—that men who live by pulling levers at an electric switchboard, are not easily ruled, but men who live by digging the soil with their naked fingers, are—that the feudal baron did not need electronic factories in order to drink his brains away out of jeweled goblets, and neither did the rajahs of the People's State of India. She saw what they wanted and to what goal their "instincts," which they called unaccountable, were leading them. She saw that Eugene Lawson, the humanitarian, took pleasure at the prospect of human starvation—and Dr. Ferris, the scientist, was dreaming of the day when men would return to the hand-plow. Incredulity and indifference were her only reaction: incredulity, because she could not conceive of what would bring human beings to such a state— indifference, because she could not regard those who reached it, as human any longer. They went on talking, but she was unable to speak or to listen. She caught herself feeling that her only desire was now to get home and fall asleep. "Miss Taggart," said a politely rational, faintly anxious voice—and jerking her head up, she saw the courteous figure of a waiter, "the assistant manager of the Taggart Terminal is on the telephone, requesting permission to speak to you at once. He says it's an emergency.” It was a relief to leap to her feet and get out of that room, even if in answer to the call of some new disaster. It was a relief to hear the assistant manager's voice, even though it was saying, "The interlocker system is out, Miss Taggart. The signals are dead. There are eight incoming trains held up and six outgoing. We can't move them in or out of the tunnels, we can't find the chief engineer, we can't locate the breach of the circuit, we have no copper wire for repairs, we don't know what to do, we—" "111 be right down," she said, dropping the receiver. Hurrying to the elevator, then half-running through the stately lobby of the Wayne-Falkland, she felt herself returning to life at the summons of the possibility of action. Taxicabs were rare, these days, and none came in answer to the doorman's whistle. She started rapidly down the street, forgetting what she wore, wondering why the touch of the wind seemed too cold and too ultimately close. Her mind on the Terminal ahead, she was startled by the loveliness of a sudden sight: she saw the slender figure of a woman hurrying toward her, the ray of a lamppost sweeping over lustrous hair, naked arms, the swirl of a black cape and the flame of a diamond on her breast, with the long, empty corridor of a city street behind her and skyscrapers drawn by lonely dots of light. The knowledge that she was seeing her own reflection in the side mirror of a florist's window, came an instant too late: she had felt the enchantment of the full context to which that image and city belonged. Then she felt a stab of desolate loneliness, much wider a loneliness than the span of an empty street— and a stab of anger at herself, at the preposterous contrast between her appearance and the context of this night and age. She saw a taxi turn a corner, she waved to it and leaped in, slamming the door against a feeling which she hoped to leave behind her, on the empty pavement by a florist's window. But she knew—in self mockery, in bitterness, --------------------------------------- 723 in longing—that this feeling was the sense of expectation she had felt at her first ball and at those rare times when she had wanted the outward beauty of existence to match its inner splendor. What a time to think of it! she told herself in mockery—not now! she cried to herself in anger—but a desolate voice kept asking her quietly to the rattle of the taxi's wheels: You who believed you must live for your happiness, what do you now have left of it?— what are you gaining from your struggle?—yes! say it honestly: what's in it for you?—or are you becoming one of those abject altruists who has no answer to that question any longer? . . . Not now!—she ordered, as the glowing entrance to the Taggart Terminal flared up in the rectangle of the taxi's windshield. The men in the Terminal manager's office were like extinguished signals, as if here, too, a circuit were broken and there were no living current to make them move. They looked at her with a kind of inanimate passivity, as if it made no difference whether she let them stay still or threw a switch to set them in motion. The Terminal manager was absent. The chief engineer could not be found; he had been seen at the Terminal two hours ago, not since. The assistant manager had exhausted his power of initiative by volunteering to call her. The others volunteered nothing. The signal engineer was a college-boyish man in his thirties, who kept saying aggressively, "But this has never happened before, Miss Taggart! The interlocker has never failed. It's not supposed to fail. We know our jobs, we can take care of it as well as anybody can—but not if it breaks down when it's not supposed to!" She could not tell whether the dispatcher, an elderly man with years of railroad work behind him, still retained his intelligence but chose to hide it, or whether months of suppressing it had choked it for good, granting him the safety of stagnation, "We don't know what to do, Miss Taggart." "We don't know whom to call for what sort of permission." "There are no rules to cover an emergency of this kind." "There aren't even any rules about who's to lay down the rules for it!" She listened, she reached for the telephone without a word of explanation, she ordered the operator to get her the operating vice-president of the Atlantic Southern in Chicago, to get him at his home and out of bed, if necessary. "George? Dagny Taggart," she said, when the voice of her competitor came on the wire. "Will you lend me the signal engineer of your Chicago terminal, Charles Murray, for twenty-four hours? . . . Yes. . . . Right. . . . Put him aboard a plane and get him here as fast as you can. Tell him we'll pay three thousand dollars. . . . Yes, for the one day. . . . Yes, as bad as that. . . . Yes, I'll pay him in cash, out of my own pocket, if necessary. I'll pay whatever it takes to bribe his way aboard a plane, but get him on the first plane out of Chicago. . . . No, George, not one—not a single mind left on Taggart Transcontinental. . . . Yes, I'll get all the papers, exemptions, exceptions and emergency permissions. . . . Thanks, George. So long." She hung up and spoke rapidly to the men before her, not to hear the stillness of the room and of the Terminal, where no sound of wheels was beating any longer, not to hear the bitter words which the stillness seemed to repeat: Not a single mind left on Taggart Transcontinental. . . . "Get a wrecking train and crew ready at once,'1 she said. "Send them out on the Hudson Line, with orders to tear down every foot of copper wire, any copper wire, lights, signals, telephone, everything that's company property. Have it here by morning." "But, Miss Taggart! Our service on the Hudson Line is only temporarily suspended and the Unification Board has refused us permission to dismantle the line!" "I'll be responsible." "But how are we going to get the wrecking train out of here, when there aren't any signals?" --------------------------------------- 724 "There will be signals in half an hour." "How?" "Come on," she said, rising to her feet. They followed her as she hurried down the passenger platforms, past the huddling, shifting groups of travelers by the motionless trains. She hurried down a narrow catwalk, through a maze of rail, past blinded signals and frozen switches, with nothing but the beat of her satin sandals to fill the great vaults of the underground tunnels of Taggart Transcontinental, with the hollow creaking of planks under the slower steps of men trailing her like a reluctant echo—she hurried to the lighted glass cube of Tower A, that hung in the darkness like a crown without a body, the crown of a deposed ruler above a realm of empty tracks. The tower director was too expert a man at too exacting a job to be able wholly to conceal the dangerous burden of intelligence. He understood what she wanted him to do from her first few words and answered only with an abrupt "Yes, ma'am," but he was bent over his charts by the time the others came following her up the iron stairway, he was grimly at work on the most humiliating job of calculation he had ever had to perform in his long career. She knew how fully he understood it, from a single glance he threw at her, a glance of indignation and endurance that matched some emotion he had caught in her face, "We'll do it first and feel about it afterwards," she said, even though he had made no comment. "Yes, ma'am," he answered woodenly. His room, on the top of an underground tower, was like a glass verandah overlooking what had once been the swiftest, richest and most orderly stream in the world. He had been trained to chart the course of over ninety trains an hour and to watch them roll safely through a maze of tracks and switches in and out of the Terminal, under his glass walls and his fingertips. Now, for the first time, he was looking out at the empty darkness of a dried channel. Through the open door of the relay room, she saw the tower men standing grimly idle—the men whose jobs had never permitted a moment's relaxation— standing by the long rows that looked like vertical copper pleats, like shelves of books and as much of a monument to human intelligence. The pull of one of the small levers, which protruded like bookmarks from the shelves, threw thousands of electric circuits into motion, made thousands of contacts and broke as many others, set dozens of switches to clear a chosen course and dozens of signals to light it, with no error left possible, no chance, no contradiction —an enormous complexity of thought condensed into one movement of a human hand to set and insure the course of a train, that hundreds of trains might safely rush by, that thousands of tons of metal and lives might pass in speeding streaks a breath away from one another, protected by nothing but a thought, the thought of the man who devised the levers. But they—she looked at the face of her signal engineer —they believed that that muscular contraction of a hand was the only thing required to move the traffic—and now the tower men stood idle— and on the great panels in front of the tower director, the red and green lights, which had flashed announcing the progress of trains at a distance of miles, were now so many glass beads—like the glass beads for which another breed of savages had once sold the Island of Manhattan. "Calf all of your unskilled laborers," she said to the assistant manager, "the section hands, trackwalkers, engine wipers, whoever's in the Terminal right now, and have them come here at once." "Here?" "Here," she said, pointing at the tracks outside the tower. "Call all your switchmen, too. Phone your storehouse and have them bring here every lantern they can lay their hands on, any sort of lantern, conductors' lanterns, storm lanterns, anything." "Lanterns, Miss Taggart?" --------------------------------------- 725 "Get going." "Yes, ma'am." "What is it we're doing, Miss Taggart?" asked the dispatcher. "We're going to move trains and we're going "to move them manually." "Manually?" said the signal engineer. "Yes, brother! Now why should you be shocked?" She could not resist it. "Man is only muscles, isn't he? We're going back—back to where there were no interlocking systems, no semaphores, no electricity —back to the time when train signals were not steel and wire, but men holding lanterns. Physical men, serving as lampposts. You've advocated it long enough—you got what you wanted. Oh, you thought that your tools would determine your ideas? But it happens to be the other way around—and now you're going to see the kind of tools your ideas have determined!" But even to go back took an act of intelligence—she thought, feeling the paradox of her own position, as she looked at the lethargy of the faces around her. "How will we work the switches, Miss Taggart?" "By hand." "And the signals?" "By hand." "How?" "By placing a man with a lantern at every signal post." "How? There's not enough clearance." "We'll use alternate tracks." "How will the men know which way to throw the switches?" "By written orders." "Uh?" "By written orders—just as in the old days." She pointed to the tower director. "He's working out a schedule of how to move the trains and which tracks to use. He'll write out an. order for every signal and switch, he'll pick some men as runners and they'll keep delivering the orders to every post—and it will take hours to do what used to take minutes, but we'll get those waiting trains into the Terminal and out on the road-" "We're to work it that way all night?" "And all day tomorrow—until the engineer who's got the brains for it, shows you how to repair the interlocker." "There's nothing in the union contracts about men standing with lanterns. There's going to be trouble. The union will object." "Let them come to me." "The Unification Board will object." "I'll be responsible." "Well, I wouldn't want to be held for giving the orders—" "I'll give the orders." She stepped out on the landing of the iron stairway that hung on the side of the tower; she was fighting for self-control. It seemed to her for a moment as if she, too, were a precision instrument of high technology, left without electric current, trying to run a transcontinental railroad by means of her two hands. She looked out at the great, silent darkness of the Taggart underground—and she felt a stab of burning humiliation that she should now see it brought down to the level where human lampposts would stand in its tunnels as its last memorial statues. She could barely distinguish the faces of the men when they gathered at the foot of the tower. They came streaming silently through the darkness and stood without moving in the bluish murk, with blue bulbs on the walls behind them and patches of light falling on their shoulders from the tower's windows. She could see the greasy garments, the slack, muscular bodies, the limply hanging arms of men drained by the unrewarding exhaustion of a labor --------------------------------------- 726 that required no thought. These were the dregs of the railroad, the younger men who could now seek no chance to rise and the older men who had never wanted to seek it. They stood in silence, not with the apprehensive curiosity of workmen, but with the heavy indifference of convicts. "The orders which you are about to receive have come from me," she said, standing above them on the iron stairs, speaking with resonant clarity. "The men who'll issue them are acting under my instructions. The interlocking control system has broken down. It will now be replaced by human labor. Train service will be resumed at once." She noticed some faces in the crowd staring at her with a peculiar look: with a veiled resentment and the kind of insolent curiosity that made her suddenly conscious of being a woman. Then she remembered what she wore, and thought that it did look preposterous—and then, at the sudden stab of some violent impulse that felt like defiance and like loyalty to the full, real meaning of the moment, she threw her cape back and stood in the raw glare of light, under the sooted columns, like a figure at a formal reception, sternly erect, flaunting the luxury of naked arms, of glowing black satin, of a diamond flashing like a military cross. "The tower director will assign switchmen to their posts. He will select men for the job of signaling trains by means of lanterns and for the task of transmitting his orders. Trains will—" She was fighting to drown a bitter voice that seemed to be saying: That's all they're fit for, these men, if even that . . . there's not a single mind left anywhere on Taggart Transcontinental. . . . "Trains will continue to be moved in and out of the Terminal. You will remain at your posts until—" Then she stopped. It was his eyes and hair that she saw first—the ruthlessly perceptive eyes, the streaks of hair shaded from gold to copper that seemed to reflect the glow of sunlight in the murk of the underground— she saw John Galt among the chain gang of the mindless, John Galt in greasy overalls and rolled shirt sleeves, she saw his weightless way of standing, his face held lifted, his eyes looking at her as if he had seen this moment many moments ago. "What's the matter, Miss Taggart?" It was the soft voice of the tower director, who stood by her side, with some sort of paper in his hand—and she thought it was strange to emerge from a span of unconsciousness which had been the span of the sharpest awareness she had ever experienced, only she did not know how long it had lasted or where she was or why. She had been aware of Galt's face, she had been seeing, in the shape of his mouth, in the planes of his cheeks, the crackup of that implacable serenity which had always been his, but he still retained it in his look of acknowledging the breach, of admitting that this moment was too much even for him. She knew that she went on speaking, because those around her looked as if they were listening, though she could not hear a sound, she went on speaking as if carrying out a hypnotic order given to herself some endless time ago, knowing only that the completion of that order was a form of defiance against him, neither knowing nor hearing her own words. She felt as if she were standing in a radiant silence where sight was her only capacity and his face was its only object, and the sight of his face was like a speech in the form of a pressure at the base of her throat. It seemed so natural that he should be here, it seemed so unendurably simple—she felt as if the shock were not his presence, but the presence of others on the tracks of her railroad, where he belonged and they did not. She was seeing those moments aboard a train when, at its plunge into the tunnels, she had felt a sudden, solemn tension, as if this place were showing her in naked --------------------------------------- 727 simplicity the essence of her railroad and of her life, the union of consciousness and matter, the frozen form of a mind's ingenuity giving physical existence to its purpose; she had felt a sense of sudden hope, as if this place held the meaning of all of her values, and a sense of secret excitement, as if a nameless promise were awaiting her under the ground—it was right that she should now meet him here, he had been the meaning and the promise—she was not seeing his clothing any longer, nor to what level her railroad had reduced him—she was seeing only the vanishing torture of the months when he had been outside her reach—she was seeing in his face the confession of what those months had cost him —the only speech she heard was as if she were saying to him: This is the reward for all my days—and as if he were answering: For all of mine. She knew that she had finished speaking to the strangers when she saw that the tower director had stepped forward and was saying something to them, glancing at a list in his hand. Then, drawn by a sense of irresistible certainty, she found herself descending the stairs, slipping away from the crowd, not toward the platforms and the exit, but into the darkness of the abandoned tunnels. You will follow me, she thought —and felt as if the thought were not in words, but in the tension of her muscles, the tension of her will to accomplish a thing she knew to be outside her power, yet she knew with certainty that it would be accomplished and by her wish . . . no, she thought, not by her wish, but by its total Tightness. You will follow me—it was neither plea nor prayer nor demand., but the quiet statement of a fact, it contained the whole of her power of knowledge and the whole of the knowledge she had earned through the years. You will follow me, if we are what we are, you and I, if we live, if the world exists, if you know the meaning of this moment and can't let it slip by, as others let it slip, into the senselessness of the unwilled and unreached. You will follow me—she felt an exultant assurance, which was neither hope nor faith, but an act of worship for the logic of existence. She was hurrying down the remnants of abandoned rails, down the long, dark corridors twisting through granite. She lost the sound of the director's voice behind her. Then she felt the beat of her arteries and heard, in answering rhythm, the beat of the city above her head, but she felt as if she heard the motion of her blood as a sound filling the silence, and the motion of the city as the beat inside her body—and, far behind her, she heard the sound of steps. She did not glance back. She went faster. She went past the locked iron door where the remnant of his motor was still hidden, she did not stop, but a faint shudder was her answer to the sudden glimpse of the unity and logic in the events of the last two years. A string of blue lights went on into the darkness, over patches of glistening granite, over broken sandbags spilling drifts on the rails, over rusty piles of scrap metal. When she heard the steps coming closer, she stopped and turned to look back. She saw a sweep of blue light flash briefly on the shining strands of Galt's hair, she caught the pale outline of his face and the dark hollows of his eyes. The face disappeared, but the sound of his steps served as the link to the next blue light that swept across the line of his eyes, the eyes that remained held level, directed ahead—and she felt certain that she had stayed in his sight from the moment he had seen her at the tower. She heard the beat of the city above them—these tunnels, she had once thought, were the roots of the city and of all the motion reaching to the sky—but they, she thought, John Galt and she, were the living power within these roots, they were the start and aim and meaning—he, too, she thought, heard the beat of the city as the beat of his body. --------------------------------------- 728 She threw her cape back, she stood defiantly straight, as he had seen her stand on the steps of the tower—as he had seen her for the first time, ten years ago, here, under the ground—she was hearing the words of his confession, not as words, but by means of that beating which made it so difficult to breathe: You looked like a symbol of luxury and you belonged in the place that was its source . . . you seemed to bring the enjoyment of life back to its rightful owners . . . you had a look of energy and of its reward, together . . . and I was the first man who had ever stated in what manner these two were inseparable. . . . The next span of moments was like flashes of light in stretches of blinded unconsciousness—the moment when she saw his face, as he stopped beside her, when she saw the unastonished calm, the leashed intensity, the laughter of understanding in the dark green eyes—the moment when she knew what he saw in her face, by the tight, drawn harshness of his lips—the moment when she felt his mouth on hers, when she felt the shape of his mouth both as an absolute shape and as a liquid filling her body—then the motion of his lips down the line of her throat, a drinking motion that left a trail of bruises—then the sparkle of her diamond clip against the trembling copper of his hair. Then she was conscious of nothing but the sensations of her body, because her body acquired the sudden power to let her know her most complex values by direct perception. Just as her eyes had the power to translate wave lengths of energy into sight, just as her ears had the power to translate vibrations into sound, so her body now had the power to translate the energy that had moved all the choices of her life, into immediate sensory perception. It was not the pressure of a hand that made her tremble, but the instantaneous sum of its meaning, the knowledge that it was his hand, that it moved as if her flesh were his possession, that its movement was his signature of acceptance under the whole of that achievement which was herself—it was only a sensation of physical pleasure, but it contained her worship of him, of everything that was his person and his life—from the night of the mass meeting in a factory in Wisconsin, to the Atlantis of a valley hidden in the Rocky Mountains, to the triumphant mockery of the green eyes of the superlative intelligence above a worker's figure at the foot of the tower—it contained her pride in herself and that it should be she whom he had chosen as his mirror, that it should be her body which was now giving him the sum of his existence, as his body was giving her the sum of hers. These were the things it contained—but what she knew was only the sensation of the movement of his hand on her breasts. He tore off her cape and she felt the slenderness of her own body by means of the circle of his arms, as if his person were only a tool for her triumphant awareness of herself, but that self were only a tool for her awareness of him. It was as if she were reaching the limit of her capacity to feel, yet what she felt was like a cry of impatient demand, which she was now incapable of naming, except that it had the same quality of ambition as the course of her life, the same inexhaustible quality of radiant greed. He pulled her head back for a moment, to look straight into her eyes, to let her see his, to let her know the full meaning of their actions, as if throwing the spotlight of consciousness upon them for the meeting of their eyes in a moment of intimacy greater than the one to come. Then she felt the mesh of burlap striking the skin of her shoulders, she found herself lying on the broken sandbags, she saw the long, tight gleam of her stockings, she felt his mouth pressed to her ankle, then rising in a tortured motion up the line of her leg, as if he wished to own its shape by means of his lips, then she felt her teeth sinking into the flesh of his arm, she felt the sweep of his elbow knocking her head aside and his mouth seizing her lips with a pressure more viciously painful than hers—then she felt, when --------------------------------------- 729 it hit her throat, that which she knew only as an upward streak of motion that released and united her body into a single shock of pleasure—then she knew nothing but the motion of his body and the driving greed that went reaching on and on, as if she were not a person any longer, only a sensation of endless reaching for the impossible—then she knew that it was possible, and she gasped and lay still, knowing that nothing more could be desired, ever. He lay beside her, on his back, looking up at the darkness of the granite vault above them, she saw him stretched on the jagged slant of sandbags as if his body were fluid in relaxation, she saw the black wedge of her cape flung across the rails at their feet, there were beads of moisture twinkling on the vault, shifting slowly, running into invisible cracks, like the lights of a distant traffic. When he spoke, his voice sounded as if he were quietly continuing a sentence in answer to the questions in her mind, as if he had nothing to hide from her any longer and what he owed her now was only the act of undressing his soul, as simply as he would have undressed his body: ". . . this is how I've watched you for ten years . . . from here, from under the ground under your feet . . . knowing every move you made in your office at the top of the building, but never seeing you, never enough . . . ten years of nights, spent waiting to catch a glimpse of you, here, on the platforms, when you boarded a train. . . . Whenever the order came down to couple your car, I'd know of it and wait and see you come down the ramp, and wish you didn't walk so fast . . . it was so much like you, that walk, I'd know it anywhere . . . your walk and those legs of yours . . . it was always your legs that I'd see first, hurrying down the ramp, going past me as I looked up at you from a dark side track below. . . . I think I could have molded a sculpture of your legs, I knew them, not with my eyes, but with the palms of my hands when I watched you go by . . . when I turned back to my work . . . when I went home just before sunrise for the three hours of sleep which I didn't get . . ." "I love you," she said, her voice quiet and almost toneless except for a fragile sound of youth. He closed his eyes, as if letting the sound travel through the years behind them. "Ten years, Dagny . . ., except that once there were a few weeks when I had you before me, in plain sight, within reach, not hurrying away, but held still, as on a lighted stage, a private stage for me to watch . . . and I watched you for hours through many evenings . . . in the lighted window of an office that was called the John Galt Line. . . . And one night—" Her breath was a faint gasp. "Was it you, that night?" "Did you see me?" "I saw your shadow . . . on the pavement . . . pacing back and forth . . . it looked like a struggle . . . it looked like—" She stopped; she did not want to say "torture." "It was," he said quietly. "That night, I wanted to walk in, to face you, to speak, to . . . That was the night I came closest to breaking my oath, when I saw you slumped across your desk, when I saw you broken by the burden you were carrying—" "John, that night, it was you that I was thinking of . . . only I didn't know it . . ." "But, you see, 7 knew it," ". . . it was you, all my life, through everything I did and everything I wanted . . . " "I know it." "John, the hardest was not when I left you in the valley . . . it was—" "Your radio speech, the day you returned?" "Yes! Were you listening?" --------------------------------------- 730 "Of course. I'm glad you did it. It was a magnificent thing to do. And I—I knew it, anyway." "You knew . . . about Hank Rearden?" "Before I saw you in the valley." "Was it . . . when you learned about him, had you expected it?" "No." "Was it . . . ?" she stopped. "Hard? Yes. But only for the first few days. That next night . . . Do you want me to tell you what I did the night after I learned it?" "Yes." "I had never seen Hank Rearden, only pictures of him in the newspapers. I knew that he was in New York, that night, at some conference of big industrialists. I wanted to have just one look at him. I went to wait at the entrance of the hotel where that conference was held. There were bright lights under the marquee of the entrance, but it was dark beyond, on the pavement, so I could see without being seen, there were a few loafers and vagrants hanging around, there was a drizzle of rain and we clung to the walls of the building. One could tell the members of the conference when they began filing out, by their clothes and their manner—ostentatiously prosperous clothes and a manner of overbearing timidity, as if they were guiltily trying to pretend that they were what they appeared to be for that moment. There were chauffeurs driving up their cars, there were a few reporters delaying them for questions and hangers-on trying to catch a word from them. They were worn men, those industrialists, aging, flabby, frantic with the effort to disguise uncertainty. And then I saw him. He wore an expensive trenchcoat and a hat slanting across his eyes. He walked swiftly, with the kind of assurance that has to be earned, as he'd earned it. Some of his fellow industrialists pounced on him with questions, and those tycoons were acting like hangers-on around him. I caught a glimpse of him as he stood with his hand on the door of his car, his head lifted, I saw the brief flare of a smile under the slanting brim, a confident smile, impatient and a little amused. And then, for one instant, I did what I had never done before, what most men wreck their lives on doing—I saw that moment out of context, I saw the world as he made it look, as if it matched him, as if he were its symbol—I saw a world of achievement, of unenslaved energy, of unobstructed drive through purposeful years to the enjoyment of one's reward—I saw, as I stood in the rain in a crowd of vagrants, what my years would have brought me, if that world had existed, and I felt a desperate longing—he was the image of everything I should have been . . . and he had everything that should have been mine. . . . But it was only a moment. Then I saw the scene in full context again and in all of its actual meaning—I saw what price he was paying for his brilliant ability, what torture he was enduring in silent bewilderment, struggling to understand what I had understood—I saw that the world he suggested, did not exist and was yet to be made, I saw him again for what he was, the symbol of my battle, the unrewarded hero whom I was to avenge and to release—and then . . . then I accepted what I had learned about you and him. I saw that it changed nothing, that I should have expected it—that it was right." He heard the faint sound of her moan and he chuckled softly. "Dagny, it's not that I don't suffer, it's that I know the unimportance of suffering, I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one's soul and as a permanent scar across one's view of existence. Don't feel sorry for me. It was gone right then." She turned her head to look at him in silence, and he smiled, lifting himself on an elbow to look down at her face as she lay helplessly still. She whispered, "You've been a track laborer, here—here!—for twelve years . . .” "Yes." --------------------------------------- 731 "Ever since—" "Ever since I quit the Twentieth Century." "The night when you saw me for the first time . . . you were working here, then?" "Yes. And the morning when you offered to work for me as my cook, I was only your track laborer on leave of absence. Do you see why I laughed as I did?" She was looking up at his face; hers was a smile of pain, his—of pure gaiety, "John . . ." "Say it. But say it all." "You were here . . . all those years . . ." "Yes." ". . . all those years . . . while the railroad was perishing . . . while I was searching for men of intelligence . . . while I was struggling to hold onto any scrap of it I could find . . ." ". . . while you were combing the country for the inventor of my motor, while you were feeding James Taggart and Wesley Mouch, while you were naming your best achievement after the enemy whom you wanted to destroy.” She closed her eyes. "I was here all those years," he said, "within your reach, inside your own realm, watching your struggle, your loneliness, your longing, watching you in a battle you thought you were fighting for me, a battle in which you were supporting my enemies and taking an endless defeat —I was here, hidden by nothing but an error of your sight, as Atlantis is hidden from men by nothing but an optical illusion—I was here, waiting for the day when you would see, when you would know that by the code of the world you were supporting, it's to the darkest bottom of the underground that all the things you valued would have to be consigned and that it's there that you would have to look. I was here. I was waiting for you. I love you, Dagny. I love you more than my life, I who have taught men how life is to be loved. I've taught them also never to expect the unpaid for—and what I did tonight, I did it with full knowledge that I would pay for it and that my life might have to be the price," "No!" He smiled, nodding. "Oh yes. You know that you've broken me for once, that I broke the decision I had set for myself—but I did it consciously, knowing what it meant, I did it, not in blind surrender to the moment, but with full sight of the consequences and full willingness to bear them. I could not let this kind of moment pass us by, it was ours, my love, we had earned it. But you're not ready to quit and join me— you don't have to tell me, I know—and since I chose to take what I wanted before it was fully mine, I'll have to pay for it, I have no way of knowing how or when, I know only that if I give in to an enemy, I'll take the consequences." He smiled in answer to the look on her face. "No, Dagny, you're not my enemy in mind—and that is what brought me to this—but you are in fact, in the course you're pursuing, though you don't see it yet, but I do. My actual enemies are of no danger to me. You are. You're the only one who can lead them to find me. They would never have the capacity to know what I am, but with your help —they will." "No!" "No, not by your intention. And you're free to change your course, but so long as you follow it, you're not free to escape its logic. Don't frown, the choice was mine and it's a danger I chose to accept. I am a trader, Dagny, in all things. I wanted you, I had no power to change your decision, I had only the power to consider the price and decide whether I could afford it. I could. My life is mine to spend or to invest —and you, you're"—as if his gesture were continuing his sentence, he raised her across his arm and kissed her mouth, while her body hung limply in surrender, her hair streaming down, --------------------------------------- 732 her head falling back, held only by the pressure of his lips—"you're the one reward I had to have and chose to buy. I wanted you, and if my life is the price, I'll give it. My life—but not my mind." There was a sudden glint of hardness in his eyes, as he sat up and smiled and asked, "Would you want me to join you and go to work? Would you like me to repair that interlocking signal system of yours within an hour?" "No!" The cry was immediate—in answer to the flash of a sudden image, the image of the men in the private dining room of the Wayne Falkland. He laughed. "Why not?" "I don't want to see you working as their serf!" "And yourself?" "I think that they're crumbling and that I'll win. I can stand it just a little longer." "True, it's just a little longer—not till you win, but till you learn." "I can't let it go!" It was a cry of despair. "Not yet," he said quietly. He got up, and she rose obediently, unable to speak. "I will remain here, on my job," he said. "But don't try to see me. You'll have to endure what I've endured and wanted to spare you— you'll have to go on, knowing where I am, wanting me as I'll want you, but never permitting yourself to approach me. Don't seek me here. Don't come to my home. Don't ever let them see us together. And when you reach the end, when you're ready to quit, don't tell them, just chalk a dollar sign on the pedestal of Nat Taggart's statue—where it belongs —then go home and wait. I'll come for you in twenty-four hours." She inclined her head in silent promise. But when he turned to go, a sudden shudder ran through her body, like a first jolt of awakening or a last convulsion of life, and it ended in an involuntary cry: "Where are you going?" "To be a lamppost and stand holding a lantern till dawn—which is the only work your world relegates me to and the only work it's going to get." She seized his arm, to hold him, to follow, to follow him blindly, abandoning everything but the sight of his face. "John!" He gripped her wrist, twisted her hand and threw it off. "No," he said. Then he took her hand and raised it to his lips and the pressure of his mouth was more passionate a statement than any he had chosen to confess. Then he walked away, down the vanishing line of rail, and it seemed to her that both the rail and the figure were abandoning her at the same time. When she staggered out into the concourse of the Terminal, the first blast of rolling wheels went shuddering through the walls of the building, like the sudden beat of a heart that had stopped. The temple of Nathaniel Taggart was silent and empty, its changeless light beating down on a deserted stretch of marble. Some shabby figures shuffled across it, as if lost in its shining expanse. On the steps of the pedestal, under the statue of the austere, exultant figure, a ragged bum sat slumped in passive resignation, like a wing-plucked bird with no place to go, resting on any chance cornice. She fell down on the steps of the pedestal, like another derelict, her dust-smeared cape wrapped tightly about her, she sat still, her head on her arm, past crying or reeling or moving. It seemed to her only that she kept seeing a figure with a raised arm holding a light, and it looked at times like the Statue of Liberty and then it looked like a man with sun-streaked hair, holding a lantern against a midnight sky, a red lantern that stopped the movement of the world. "Don't take it to heart, lady, whatever it is," said the bum, in a tone of exhausted compassion. "Nothing's to be done about it, anyway. . . . What's the use, lady? Who is John Galt?" --------------------------------------- 733 CHAPTER VI THE CONCERTO OF DELIVERANCE On October 20, the steel workers' union of Rearden Steel demanded a raise in wages. Hank Rearden learned it from the newspaper; no demand had been presented to him and it had not been considered necessary to inform him. The demand was made to the Unification Board; it was not explained why no other steel company was presented with a similar claim. He was unable to tell whether the demanders did or did not represent his workers, the Board's rules on union elections having made it a matter impossible to define. He learned only that the group consisted of those newcomers whom the Board had slipped into his mills in the past few months. On October 23, the Unification Board rejected the union's petition, refusing to grant the raise. If any hearings had been held on the matter, Rearden had not known about it. He had not been consulted, informed or notified. He had waited, volunteering no questions. On October 25, the newspapers of the country, controlled by the same men who controlled the Board, began a campaign of commiseration with the workers of Rearden Steel. They printed stories about the refusal of the wage raise, omitting any mention of who had refused it or who held the exclusive legal power to refuse, as if counting on the public to forget legal technicalities under a barrage of stories implying that an employer was the natural cause of all miseries suffered by employees. They printed a story describing the hardships of the workers of Rearden Steel under the present rise in the cost of their living—next to a story describing Hank Rearden's profits, of five years ago. They printed a story on the plight of a Rearden worker's wife trudging from store to store in a hopeless quest for food—next to a story about a champagne bottle broken over somebody's head at a drunken party given by an unnamed steel tycoon at a fashionable hotel; the steel tycoon had been Orren Boyle, but the story mentioned no names. "Inequalities still exist among us," the newspapers were saying, "and cheat us of the benefits of our enlightened age." "Privations have worn the nerves and temper of the people. The situation is reaching the danger point. We fear an outbreak of violence." "We fear an outbreak of violence," the newspapers kept repeating, On October 28, a group of the new workers at Rearden Steel attacked a foreman and knocked the tuyeres off a blast furnace. Two days later, a similar group broke the ground-floor windows of the administration building. A new worker smashed the gears of a crane, upsetting a ladle of molten metal within a yard of five bystanders. "Guess I went nuts, worrying about my hungry kids," he said, when arrested. "This is no time to theorize about who's right or wrong," the newspapers commented. "Our sole concern is the fact that an inflammatory situation is endangering the steel output of the country." Rearden watched, asking no questions. He waited, as if some final knowledge were in the process of unraveling before him, a process not to be hastened or stopped. No—he thought through the early dusk of autumn evenings, looking out the window of his office—no, he was not indifferent to his mills;4but the feeling which had once been passion for a living entity was now like the wistful tenderness one feels for the memory of the loved and dead. The special quality of what one feels for the dead, he thought, is that no action is possible any longer. On the morning of October 31, he received a notice informing him that all of his property, including his bank accounts and safety deposit boxes, had been attached to satisfy a delinquent judgment obtained against him in a trial involving a deficiency in his personal income tax of three years ago. It was a formal notice, complying with every requirement of the law—except --------------------------------------- 734 that no such deficiency had ever existed and no such trial had ever taken place. "No," he said to his indignation-choked attorney, "don't question them, don't answer, don't object." "But this is fantastic!" "Any more fantastic than the rest?" "Hank, do you want me to do nothing? To take it lying down?" "No, standing up. And I mean, standing. Don't move. Don't act." "But they've left you helpless." "Have they?" he asked softly, smiling. He had a few hundred dollars in cash, left in his wallet, nothing else. But the odd, glowing warmth in his mind, like the feel of a distant handshake, was the thought that in a secret safe of his bedroom there lay a bar of solid gold, given to him by a gold-haired pirate. Next day, on November 1, he received a telephone call from Washington, from a bureaucrat whose voice seemed to come sliding down the wire on its knees in protestations of apology. "A mistake, Mr. Rearden! It was nothing but an unfortunate mistake! That attachment was not intended for you. You know how it is nowadays, with the inefficiency of all office help and with the amount of red tape we're tangled in, some bungling fool mixed the records and processed the attachment order against you—when it wasn't your case at all, it was, in fact, the case of a soap manufacturer! Please accept our apologies, Mr. Rearden, our deepest personal apologies at the top level." The voice slid to a slight, expectant pause. "Mr. Rearden . . . ?" "I'm listening." "I can't tell you how sorry we are to have caused you any embarrassment or inconvenience. And with all those damn formalities that we have to go through—you know how it is, red tape!—it will take a few days, perhaps a week, to de-process that order and to lift the attachment. . . . Mr. Rearden?" "I heard you." "We're desperately sorry and ready to make any amends within our power. You will, of course, be entitled to claim damages for any inconvenience this might cause you, and we are prepared to pay. We won't contest it. You will, of course, file such a claim and—" "I have not said that." "Uh? No, you haven't . . . that is . . . well, what have you said, Mr. Rearden?" "I have said nothing." Late on the next afternoon, another voice came pleading from Washington. This one did not seem to slide, but to bounce on the telephone wire with the gay virtuosity of a tight-rope walker. It introduced itself as Tinky Holloway and pleaded that Rearden attend a conference, "an informal little conference, just a few of us, the top-level few," to be held in New York, at the Wayne- Falkland Hotel, day after next. "There have been so many misunderstandings in the past few weeks!" said Tinky Holloway. "Such unfortunate misunderstandings— and so unnecessary! We could straighten everything out in a jiffy, Mr. Rearden, if we had a chance to have a little talk with you. We're extremely anxious to see you." "You can issue a subpoena for me any time you wish." "Oh, no! no! no!" The voice sounded frightened. "No, Mr. Rearden —why think of such things? You don't understand us, we're anxious to meet you on a friendly basis, we're seeking nothing but your voluntary co-operation." Holloway paused tensely, wondering whether he had heard the faint sound of a distant chuckle; he waited, but heard nothing else. "Mr. Rearden?" "Yes?" "Surely, Mr. Rearden, at a time like this, a conference with us could be to your great advantage." "A conference—about what?" "You've encountered so many difficulties—and we're anxious to help you in any way we can." "I have not asked for help." --------------------------------------- 735 "These are precarious times, Mr. Rearden, the public mood is so uncertain and inflammatory, so . . . so dangerous . . . and we want to be able to protect you." "I have not asked for protection." "But surely you realize that we're in a position to be of value to you. and if there's anything you want from us, any . . ." "There isn't." "But you must have problems you'd like to discuss with us." "I haven't." "Then . . . well, then" —giving up the attempt at the play of granting a favor, Holloway switched to an open plea—"then won't you just give us a hearing?" "If you have anything to say to me," "We have, Mr. Rearden, we certainly have! That's all we're asking for—a hearing. Just give us a chance. Just come to this conference. You wouldn't be committing yourself to anything—" He said it involuntarily, and stopped, hearing a bright, mocking stab of life in Rearden's voice, an unpromising-sound, as Rearden answered: "I know it." "Well, I mean . . . that is . . . well, then, will you come?" "All Tight," said Rearden. "I'll come." He did not listen to Holloway's assurances of gratitude, he noted only that Holloway kept repeating, "At seven P.M., November fourth, Mr. Rearden . . . November fourth . . ." as if the date had some special significance. Rearden dropped the receiver and lay back in his chair, looking at the glow of furnace flames on the ceiling of his office. He knew that the conference was a trap; he knew also that he was walking into it with nothing for any trappers to gain. Tinky Holloway dropped the receiver, in his Washington office, and sat up tensely, frowning. Claude Slagenhop, president of Friends of Global Progress, who had sat in an armchair, nervously chewing a matchstick, glanced up at him and asked, "Not so good?" Holloway shook his head. "He'll come, but . . . no, not so good." He added, "I don't think he'll take it." "That's what my punk told me." "I know." "The punk said we'd better not try it." "God damn your punk! We've got to! We'll have to risk it!" The punk was Philip Rearden who, weeks ago, had reported to Claude Slagenhop: "No, he won't let me in, he won't give me a job, I've tried, as you wanted me to, I've tried my best, but it's no use, he won't let me set foot inside his mills. And as to his frame of mind— listen, it's bad. It's worse than anything I expected. I know him and I can tell you that you won't have a chance. He's pretty much at the end of his rope. One more squeeze will snap it. You said the big boys wanted to know. Tell them not to do it. Tell them he . . . Claude, God help us, if they do it, they'll lose him!" "Well, you're not of much help," Slagenhop had said dryly, turning away. Philip had seized his sleeve and asked, his voice shrinking suddenly into open anxiety, "Say, Claude - . . according to . . . to Directive 10-289 . . . if he goes, there's . . . there's to be no heirs?" "That's right." "They'd seize the mills and . . . and everything?" 'That's the law." "But . . . Claude, they wouldn't do that to me, would they?" "They don't want him to go. You know that. Hold him, if you can." "But I can't! You know I can't! Because of my political ideas and . . . and everything I've done for you, you know what he thinks of me! I have no hold on him at all!" "Well, that's your tough luck." "Claude!" Philip had cried in panic. "Claude, they won't leave me out in the cold, will they? I belong, don't I? --------------------------------------- 736 They've always said I belonged, they've always said they needed me . . . they said they needed men like me, not like him, men with my . . . my sort of spirit, remember? And after all I've done for them, after all my faith and service and loyalty to the cause—" "You damn fool," Slagenhop had snapped, "of what use are you to us without him?" On the morning of November 4, Hank Rearden was awakened by the ringing of the telephone. He opened his eyes to the sight of a clear, pale sky, the sky of early dawn, in the window of his bedroom, a sky the delicate color of aquamarine, with the first rays of an invisible sun giving a shade of porcelain pink to Philadelphia's ancient roof tops. For a moment, while his consciousness had a purity to equal the sky's, while he was aware of nothing but himself and had not yet reharnessed his soul to the burden of alien memories, he lay still, held by the sight and by the enchantment of a world to match it, a world where the style of existence would be a continuous morning. The telephone threw him back into exile: it was screaming at spaced intervals, like a nagging, chronic cry for help, the kind of cry that did not belong in his world. He lifted the receiver, frowning. "Hello?" "Good morning, Henry," said a quavering voice; it was his mother. "Mother—at this hour?" he asked dryly. "Oh, you're always up at dawn, and I wanted to catch you before you went to the office." "Yes? What is it?" "I've got to see you, Henry. I've got to speak to you. Today. Sometime today. It's important." "Has anything happened?" "No . . . yes . . . that is . . . I've got to have a talk with you in person. Will you come?" "I'm sorry, I can't. I have an appointment in New York tonight. If you want me to come tomorrow—" "No! No, not tomorrow. It's got to be today. It's got to." There was a dim tone of panic in her voice, but it was the stale panic of chronic helplessness, not the sound of an emergency—except for an odd echo of fear in her mechanical insistence. "What is it, Mother?" "I can't talk about it over the telephone, I've got to see you." "Then if you wish to come to the office—" "No! Not at the office! I've got to sec you alone, where we can talk. Can't you come here today, as a favor? It's your mother who's asking you a favor. You've never come to see us at all. And maybe you're not the one to blame for it, either. But can't you do it for me this once, if I beg you to?" "All right, Mother. I'll be there at four o'clock this afternoon." "That will be fine, Henry. Thank you, Henry. That will be fine.” It seemed to him that there was a touch of tension in the air of the mills, that day. It was a touch too slight to define—but the mills, to him, were like the face of a loved wife where he could catch shades of feeling almost ahead of expression. He noticed small clusters of the new workers, just three or four of them huddling together in conversation —once or twice too often. He noticed their manner, a manner suggesting a poolroom corner, not a factory. He noticed a few glances thrown at him as he went by, glances a shade too pointed and lingering. He dismissed it; it was not quite enough to wonder about—and he had no time to wonder. When he drove up to his former home, that afternoon, he stopped his car abruptly at the foot of the hill. He had not seen the house since that May 15, six months ago, when he had walked out of it— and the sight brought back to him the sum of all he had felt in ten years of daily home-coming: the strain, the bewilderment, the gray weight of --------------------------------------- 737 unconfessed unhappiness, the stern endurance that forbade him to confess it, the desperate innocence of the effort to understand his family . . . the effort to be just. He walked slowly up the path toward the door. He felt no emotion, only the sense of a great, solemn clarity. He knew that this house was a monument of guilt—of his guilt toward himself. He had expected to see his mother and Philip; he had not expected the third person who rose, as they did, at his entrance into the living room: it was Lillian. He stopped on the threshold. They stood looking at his face and at the open door behind him. Their faces had a look of fear and cunning, the look of that blackmail-through-virtue which he had learned to understand, as if they hoped to get away with it by means of nothing but his pity, to hold him trapped, when a single step back could take him out of their reach. They had counted on his pity and dreaded his anger; they had not dared consider the third alternative; his indifference. "What is she doing here?" he asked, turning to his mother, his voice dispassionately flat. "Lillian's been living here ever since your divorce," she answered defensively. "I couldn't let her starve on the city pavements, could I?" The look in his mother's eyes was half-plea, as if she were begging him not to slap her face, half-triumph, as if she had slapped his. He knew her motive: it was not compassion, there had never been much love between Lillian and her, it was their common revenge against him, it was the secret satisfaction of spending his money on the ex-wife he had refused to support. Lillian's head was poised to bow in greeting, with the tentative hint of a smile on her lips, half-timid, half-brash. He did not pretend to ignore her; he looked at her, as if he were seeing her fully, yet as if no presence were being registered in his mind. He said nothing, closed the door and stepped into the room. His mother gave a small sigh of uneasy relief and dropped hastily into the nearest chair, watching him, nervously uncertain of whether he would follow her example. "What was it you wanted?" he asked, sitting down. His mother sat erect and oddly hunched, her shoulders raised, her head half-lowered. "Mercy, Henry," she whispered. "What do you mean?" "Don't you understand me?" "No." "Well"—she spread her hands in an untidily fluttering gesture of helplessness—"well . . . " Her eyes darted about, struggling to escape his attentive glance. "Well, there are so many things to say and . . . and I don't know how to say them, but . . . well, there's one practical matter, but it's not important by itself . . . it's not why I called you here . . . " "What is it?" "The practical matter? Our allowance checks—Philip's and mine. It's the first of the month, but on account of that attachment order, the checks couldn't come through. You know that, don't you?" "I know it." "Well, what are we going to do?" "I don't know." "I mean, what are you going to do about it?" "Nothing," His mother sat staring at him, as if counting the seconds of silence. "Nothing, Henry?" "I have no power to do anything." --------------------------------------- 738 They were watching his face with a kind of searching intensity; he felt certain that his mother had told him the truth, that immediate financial worry was not their purpose, that it was only the symbol of a much wider issue. "But, Henry, we're caught short." "So was I." "But can't you send us some cash or something?" "They gave me no warning, no time to get any cash." "Then . . . Look, Henry, the thing was so unexpected, it scared people, I guess—the grocery store refuses to give us credit, unless you ask for it. I think they want you to sign a credit card or something. So will you speak to them and arrange it?" "I will not." "You won't?" She choked on a small gasp. "Why?" "I will not assume obligations that I can't fulfill." "What do you mean?" "I will not assume debts I have no way of repaying." "What do you mean, no way? That attachment is only some sort of technicality, it's only temporary, everybody knows that!" "Do they? I don't." "But, Henry—a grocery bill! You're not sure you'll be able to pay a grocery bill, you, with all the millions you own?" "I'm not going to defraud the grocer by pretending that I own those millions." "What are you talking about? Who owns them?" "Nobody." "What do you mean?" "Mother, I think you understand me fully. I think you understood it before I did. There isn't any ownership left in existence or any property. It's what you've approved of and believed in for years. You wanted me tied. I'm tied. Now it's too late to play any games about it." "Are you going to let some political ideas of yours—" She saw the look on his face and stopped abruptly. Lillian sat looking down at the floor, as if afraid to glance up at this moment. Philip sat cracking his knuckles. His mother dragged her eyes into focus again and whispered, "Don't abandon us, Henry." Some faint stab of life in her voice told him that the lid of her real purpose was cracking open. "These are terrible times, and we're scared. That's the truth of it, Henry, we're scared, because you're turning away from us. Oh, I don't mean just that grocery bill, but that's a sign—a year ago you wouldn't have let that happen to us. Now . . . now you don't care." She made an expectant pause. "Do you?" "No." "Well . . . well, I guess the blame is ours. That's what I wanted to tell you—that we know we're to blame. We haven't treated you right, all these years. We've been unfair to you, we've made you suffer, we've used you and given you no thanks in return. We're guilty, Henry, we've sinned against you, and we confess it. What more can we say to you now? Will you find it in your heart to forgive us?" "What is it you want me to do?" he asked, in the clear, flat tone of a business conference. "I don't know! Who am I to know? But that's not what I'm talking of right now. Not of doing, only of feeling. It's your feeling that I'm begging you for, Henry—just your feeling—even if we don't deserve it. You're generous and strong. Will you cancel the past, Henry? Will you forgive us?" --------------------------------------- 739 The look of terror in her eyes was real. A year ago, he would have told himself that this was her way of making amends; he would have choked his revulsion against her words, words which conveyed nothing to him but the fog of the meaningless; he would have violated his mind to give them meaning, even if he did not understand; he would have ascribed to her the virtue of sincerity in her own terms, even if they were not his. But he was through with granting respect to any terms other than his own. "Will you forgive us?" "Mother, it would be best not to speak of that. Don't press me to tell you why. I think you know it as well as I do. If there's anything you want done, tell me what it is. There's nothing else to discuss. "But I don't understand you! I don't! That's what I called you here for—to ask your forgiveness! Are you going to refuse to answer me?" "Very well. What would it mean, my forgiveness?" "Uh?" "I said, what would it mean?" . She spread her hands out in an astonished gesture to indicate the self- evident. "Why, it . . . it would make us feel better." "Will it change the past?" "It would make us feel better to know that you've forgiven it." "Do you wish me to pretend that the past has not existed?" "Oh God, Henry, can't you see? All we want is only to know that you . . . that you feel some concern for us." "I don't feel it. Do you wish me to fake it?" "But that's what I'm begging you for—to feel it!" "On what ground?" "Ground?" "In exchange for what?" "Henry, Henry, it's not business we're talking about, not steel tonnages and bank balances, it's feelings—and you talk like a trader!" "I am one." What he saw in her eyes was terror—not the helpless terror of struggling and failing to understand, but the terror of being pushed toward the edge where to avoid understanding would no longer be possible. "Look, Henry," said Philip hastily, "Mother can't understand those things. We don't know how to approach you. We can't speak your language." "I don't speak yours." "What she's trying to say is that we're sorry. We're terribly sorry that we've hurt you. You think we're not paying for it, but we are. We're suffering remorse." The pain in Philip's face was real. A year ago, Rearden would have felt pity. Now, he knew that they had held him through nothing but his reluctance to hurt them, his fear of their pain. He was not afraid of it any longer, "We're sorry, Henry. We know we've harmed you. We wish we could atone for it. But what can we do? The past is past. We can't undo it." "Neither can I." "You can accept our repentance," said Lillian, in a voice glassy with caution. "I have nothing to gain from you now. I only want you to know that whatever I've done, I've done it because I loved you." He turned away, without answering. "Henry!" cried his mother. "What's happened to you? What's changed you like that? You don't seem to be human any more! You keep pressing us for answers, when we haven't any answers to give. You keep beating us with logic— what's logic at a time like this?—what's logic when people are suffering?" "We can't help it!" cried Philip. "We're at your mercy," said Lillian. They were throwing their pleas at a face that could not be reached. --------------------------------------- 740 They did not know—and their panic was the last of their struggle to escape the knowledge—that his merciless sense of justice, which had been their only hold on him, which had made him take any punishment and give them the benefit of every doubt, was now turned against them—that the same force that had made him tolerant, was now the force that made him ruthless—that the justice which would forgive miles of innocent errors of knowledge, would not forgive a single step taken in conscious evil. "Henry, don't you understand us?" his mother was pleading. "I do," he said quietly. She looked away, avoiding the clarity of his eyes. "Don't you care what becomes of us?" "I don't." "Aren't you human?" Her voice grew shrill with anger. "Aren't you capable of any love at all? It's your heart I'm trying to reach, not your mind! Love is not something to argue and reason and bargain about! It's something to give! To feel! Oh God, Henry, can't you feel without thinking?" "I never have." In a moment, her voice came back, low and droning: "We're not as smart as you are, not as strong. If we've sinned and blundered, it's because we're helpless. We need you, you're all we've got—and we're losing you—and we're afraid. These are terrible times, and getting worse, people are scared to death, scared and blind and not knowing what to do. How are we to cope with it, if you leave us? We're small and weak and we'll be swept like driftwood in that terror that's running loose in the world. Maybe we had our share of guilt for it, maybe we helped to bring it about, not knowing any better, but what's done is done—and we can't stop it now. If you abandon us, we're lost. If you give up and vanish, like all those men who—" It was not a sound that stopped her, it was only a movement of his eyebrows, the brief, swift movement of a check mark. Then they saw him smile; the nature of the smile was the most terrifying of answers. "So that's what you're afraid of," he said slowly. "You can't quit!" his mother screamed in blind panic. "You can't quit now! You could have, last year, but not now! Not today! You can't turn deserter, because now they take it out on your family! They'll leave us penniless, they'll seize everything, they'll leave us to starve, they'll—" "Keep still!" cried Lillian, more adept than the others at reading danger signs in Rearden's face. His face held the remnant of a smile, and they knew that he was not seeing them any longer, but it was not in their power to know why his smile now seemed to hold pain and an almost wistful longing, or why he was looking across the room, at the niche of the farthest window. He was seeing a finely sculptured face held composed under the lashing of his insults, he was hearing a voice that had said to him quietly, here, in this room: "It is against the sin of forgiveness that I wanted to warn you." You who had known it then, he thought . . . but he did not finish the sentence in his mind, he let it end in the bitter twist of his smile, because he knew what he had been about to think: You who had known it then—forgive me. There it was—he thought, looking at his family—the nature of their pleas for mercy, the logic of those feelings they so righteously proclaimed as non- logical—there was the simple, brutal essence of all men who speak of being able to feel without thought and of placing mercy over justice. They had known what to fear; they had grasped and named, before he had, the only way of deliverance left open to him; they had understood the hopelessness of his industrial position, the futility of his struggle, the impossible burdens descending to crush him; they had known that in reason, in --------------------------------------- 741 justice, in self-preservation, his only course was to drop it all and run—yet they wanted to hold him, to keep him in the sacrificial furnace, to make him let them devour the last of him in the name of mercy, forgiveness and brother-cannibal love. "If you still want me to explain it, Mother," he said very quietly, "if you're still hoping that I won't be cruel enough to name what you're pretending not to know, then here's what's wrong with your idea of forgiveness: You regret that you've hurt me and, as your atonement for it, you ask that I offer myself to total immolation." "Logic!" she screamed. "There you go again with your damn logic! It's pity that we need, pity, not logic!" He rose to his feet. "Wait! Don't go! Henry, don't abandon us! Don't sentence us to perish! Whatever we are, we're human! We want to live!" "Why, no—" he started in quiet astonishment and ended in quiet horror, as the thought struck him fully, "I don't think you do. If you did, you would have known how to value me." As if in silent proof and answer, Philip's face went slowly into an expression intended as a smile of amusement, yet holding nothing but fear and malice. "You won't be able to quit and run away," said Philip. "You can't run away without money." It seemed to strike its goal; Rearden stopped short, then chuckled, "Thanks, Philip," he said. "Uh?" Philip gave a nervous jerk of bewilderment. "So that's the purpose of the attachment order. That's what your friends are afraid of. I knew they were getting set to spring something on me today. I didn't know that the attachment was their idea of cutting off escape." He turned incredulously to look at his mother. "And that's why you had to see me today, before the conference in New York." "Mother didn't know it!" cried Philip, then caught himself and cried louder, "I don't know what you're talking about! I haven't said anything! I haven't said it!" His fear now seemed to have some much less mystic and much more practical quality. "Don't worry, you poor little louse, I won't tell them that you've told me anything. And if you were trying—" He did not finish; he looked at the three faces before him, and a sudden smile ended his sentence, a smile of weariness, of pity, of incredulous revulsion. He was seeing the final contradiction, the grotesque absurdity at the end of the irrationalists' game: the men in Washington had hoped to hold him by prompting these three to try for the role of hostages. "You think you're so good, don't you?" It was a sudden cry and it came from Lillian; she had leaped to her feet to bar his exit; her face was distorted, as he had seen it once before, on that morning when she had learned the name of his mistress. "You're so good! You're so proud of yourself! Well, I have something to tell you!" She looked as if she had not believed until this moment that her game was lost. The sight of her face struck him like a last shred completing a circuit, and in sudden clarity he knew what her game had been and why she had married him. If to choose a person as the constant center of one's concern, as the focus of one's view of life, was to love—he thought—then it was true that she loved him; but if, to him, love was a celebration of one's self and of existence—then, to the self-haters and life-haters, the pursuit of destruction was the only form and equivalent of love. It was for the best of his virtues that Lillian had chosen him, for his strength, his confidence, his pride—she had chosen him as one chooses an object of love, as the symbol of man's living power, but the destruction of that power had been her goal. --------------------------------------- 742 He saw them as they had been at their first meeting: he, the man of violent energy and passionate ambition, the man of achievement, lighted by the flame of his success and flung into the midst of those pretentious ashes who called themselves an intellectual elite, the burned out remnants of undigested culture, feeding on the afterglow of the minds of others, offering their denial of the mind as their only claim to distinction, and a craving to control the world as their only lust—she, the woman hanger-on of that elite, wearing their shopworn sneer as her answer to the universe, holding impotence as superiority and emptiness as virtue—he, unaware of their hatred, innocently scornful of their posturing fraud—she, seeing him as the danger to their world, as a threat, as a challenge, as a reproach. The lust that drives others to enslave an empire, had become, in her limits, a passion for power over him. She had set out to break him, as if, unable to equal his value, she could surpass it by destroying it, as if the measure of his greatness would thus become the measure of hers, as if—he thought with a shudder—as if the vandal who smashed a statue were greater than the artist who had made it, as if the murderer who killed a child were greater than the mother who had given it birth. He remembered her hammering derision of his work, his mills, his Metal, his success, he remembered her desire to see him drunk, just once, her attempts to push him into infidelity, her pleasure at the thought that he had fallen to the level of some sordid romance, her terror on discovering that that romance had been an attainment, not a degradation. Her line of attack, which he had found so baffling, had been constant and clear—it was his self- esteem she had sought to destroy, knowing that a man who surrenders his value is at the mercy of anyone's will; it was his moral purity she had struggled to breach, it was his confident rectitude she had wanted to shatter by means of the poison of guilt—as if, were he to collapse, his depravity would give her a right to hers. For the same purpose and motive, for the same satisfaction, as others weave complex systems of philosophy to destroy generations, of establish dictatorships to destroy a country, so she, possessing no weapons except femininity, had made it her goal to destroy one man. Yours was the code of life—he remembered the voice of his lost young teacher—what, then, is theirs? "I have something to tell you!" cried Lillian, with the sound of that impotent rage which wishes that words were brass knuckles. "You're so proud of yourself, aren't you? You're so proud of your name! Rearden Steel, Rearden Metal, Rearden Wife! That's what I was, wasn't I? Mrs. Rearden! Mrs. Henry Rearden!" The sounds she was making were now a string of cackling gasps, an unrecognizable corruption of laughter. "Well, I think you'd like to know that your wife's been laid by another man! I've been unfaithful to you, do you hear me? I've been unfaithful, not with some great, noble lover, but with the scummiest louse, with Jim Taggart! Three months ago! Before your divorce! While I was your wife! While I was still your wife!" He stood listening like a scientist studying a subject of no personal relevance whatever. There, he thought, was the final abortion of the creed of collective interdependence, the creed of non-identity, nonproperty, non-fact: the belief that the moral stature of one is at the mercy of the action of another. "I've been unfaithful to you! Don't you hear me, you stainless Puritan? I've slept with Jim Taggart, you incorruptible hero! Don't you hear me? . . . Don't you hear me? . . . Don't you . . . ?" He was looking at her as he would have looked if a strange woman had approached him on the street with a personal confession—a look like the equivalent of the words: Why tell it to me? --------------------------------------- 743 Her voice trailed off. He had not known what the destruction of a person would be like; but he knew that he was seeing the destruction of Lillian. He saw it in the collapse of her face, in the sudden slackening of features, as if there were nothing to hold them together, in the eyes, blind, yet staring, staring inward, filled with that terror which no outer threat can equal. It was not the look of a person losing her mind, but the look of a mind seeing total defeat and, in the same instant, seeing, her own nature for the first time—the look of a person seeing that after years of preaching non-existence, she had achieved it. He turned to go. His mother stopped him at the door, seizing his arm. With a look of stubborn bewilderment, with the last of her effort at self-deceit, she moaned in a voice of tearfully petulant reproach, "Are you really incapable of forgiveness?" "No, Mother," he answered, "I'm not. I would have forgiven the past—if, today, you had urged me to quit and disappear." There was a cold wind outside, tightening his overcoat about him like an embrace, there was the great, fresh sweep of country stretching at the foot of the hill, and the clear, receding sky of twilight. Like two sunsets ending the day, the red glow of the sun was a straight, still band in the west, and the breathing red band in the east was the glow of his mills. The feel of the steering wheel under his hands and of the smooth highway streaming past, as he sped to New York, had an oddly bracing quality. It was a sense of extreme precision and of relaxation, together, a sense of action without strain, which seemed inexplicably youthful—until he realized that this was the way he had acted and had expected always to act, in his youth— and what he now felt was like the simple, astonished question: Why should one ever have to act in any other manner? It seemed to him that the skyline of New York, when it rose before him, had a strangely luminous clarity, though its shapes were veiled by distance, a clarity that did not seem to rest in the object, but felt as if the illumination came from him. He looked at the great city, with no tie to any view or usage others had made of it, it was not a city of gangsters or panhandlers or derelicts or whores, it was the greatest industrial achievement in the history of man, its only meaning was that which it meant to him, there was a personal quality in his sight of it, a quality of possessiveness and of unhesitant perception, as if he were seeing it for the first time—or the last. He paused in the silent corridor of the Wayne-Falkland, at the door of the suite he was to enter; it took him a long moment's effort to lift his hand and knock; it was the suite that had belonged to Francisco d'Anconia. There were coils of cigarette smoke weaving through the air of the drawing room, among the velvet drapes and bare, polished tables. With its costly furniture and the absence of all personal belongings, the room had that air of dreary luxury which pertains to transient occupancy, as dismal as the air of a flophouse. Five figures rose in. the fog at his entrance: Wesley Mouch, Eugene Lawson, James Taggart, Dr. Floyd Ferris and a slim, slouching man who looked like a rat-faced tennis player and was introduced to him as Tinky Holloway. "All right," said Rearden, cutting off the greetings, the smiles, the offers of drinks and the comments on the national emergency, "what did you want?" "We're here as your friends, Mr. Rearden," said Tinky Holloway, "purely as your friends, for an informal conversation with a view to closer mutual teamwork." "We're anxious to avail ourselves of your outstanding ability," said Lawson, "and your expert advice on the country's industrial problems." "It's men like you that we need in Washington," said Dr. Ferris. --------------------------------------- 744 "There's no reason why you should have remained an outsider for so long, when your voice is needed at the top level of national leadership.” The sickening thing about it, thought Rearden, was that the speeches were only half-lies; the other half, in their tone of hysterical urgency, was the unstated wish to have it somehow be true. "What did you want?" he asked. "Why . . . to listen to you, Mr. Rearden," said Wesley Mouch, the jerk of his features imitating a frightened smile; the smile was faked, the fear was real. "We . . . we want the benefit of your opinion on the nation's industrial crisis." "I have nothing to say." "But, Mr. Rearden," said Dr. Ferris, "all we want is a chance to co- operate with you." "I've told you once, publicly, that I don't co-operate at the point of a gun." "Can't we bury the hatchet at a time like this?" said Lawson beseechingly. "The gun? Go ahead." "Uh?" "It's you who're holding it. Bury it, if you think you can." "That . . . that was just a figure of speech," Lawson explained, blinking, "I was speaking metaphorically." >78 "I wasn't." "Can't we all stand together for the sake of the country in this hour of emergency?" said Dr. Ferris. "Can't we disregard our differences of opinion? We're willing to meet you halfway. If there's any aspect of our policy which you oppose, just tell us and we'll issue a directive to—" "Cut it, boys. I didn't come here to help you pretend that I'm not in the position I'm in and that any halfway is possible between us. Now come to the point. You've prepared some new gimmick to spring on the steel industry. What is it?" "As a matter of fact," said Mouch, "we do have a vital question to discuss in regard to the steel industry, but . . . but your language, Mr. Rearden!" "We don't want to spring anything on you," said Holloway. "We asked you here to discuss it with you." "I came here to take orders. Give them." "But, Mr. Rearden, we don't want to look at it that way. We don't want to give you orders. We want your voluntary consent." Rearden smiled. "I know it." "You do?" Holloway started eagerly, but something about Rearden's smile made him slide into uncertainty. "Well, then—" "And you, brother," said Rearden, "know that that is the flaw in your game, the fatal flaw that will blast it sky-high. Now do you tell me what clout on my head you're working so hard not to let me notice—or do I go home?" "Oh no, Mr. Rearden!" cried Lawson, with a sudden dart of his eyes to his wrist watch. "You can't go now!—That is, I mean, you wouldn't want to go without hearing what we have to say." "Then let me hear it." He saw them glancing at one another. Wesley Mouch seemed afraid to address him; Mouch's face assumed an expression of petulant stubbornness, like a signal of command pushing the others forward; whatever their qualifications to dispose of the fate of the steel industry, they had been brought here to act as Mouch's conversational bodyguards. Rearden wondered about the reason for the presence of James Taggart; Taggart sat in gloomy silence, sullenly sipping a drink, never glancing in his direction. --------------------------------------- 745 "We have worked out a plan," said Dr. Ferris too cheerfully, "which will solve the problems of the steel industry and which will meet with your full approval, as a measure providing for the general welfare, while protecting your interests and insuring your safety in a—" "Don't try to tell me what I'm going to think. Give me the facts." "It is a plan which is fair, sound, equitable and—" "Don't tell me your evaluation. Give me the facts." "It is a plan which—" Dr. Ferris stopped; he had lost the habit of naming facts. "Under this plan," said Wesley Mouch, "we will grant the industry a five per cent increase in the price of steel." He paused triumphantly. Rearden said nothing. "Of course, some minor adjustments will be necessary," said Holloway airily, leaping into the silence as onto a vacant tennis court. "A certain increase in prices will have to be granted to the producers of iron ore—oh, three per cent at most—in view of the added hardships which some of them, Mr. Larkin of Minnesota, for instance, will now encounter, inasmuch as they'll have to ship their ore by the costly means of trucks, since Mr. James Taggart has had to sacrifice his Minnesota branch line to the public welfare. And, of course, an increase in freight rates will have to be granted to the country's railroads—let's say, seven per cent, roughly speaking—in view of the absolutely essential need for—" Holloway stopped, like a player emerging from a whirlwind activity to notice suddenly that no opponent was answering his shots. "But there will be no increase in wages," said Dr. Ferris hastily. "An essential point of the plan is that we will grant no increase in wages to the steel workers, in spite of their insistent demands. We do wish to be fair to you, Mr. Rearden, and to protect your interests—even at the risk of popular resentment and indignation." "Of course, if we expect labor to make a sacrifice," said Lawson, "we must show them that management, too, is making certain sacrifices for the sake of the country. The mood of labor in the steel industry is extremely tense at present, Mr. Rearden, it is dangerously explosive and . . . and in order to protect you from . . . from . . . " He stopped. "Yes?" said Rearden. "From?" "From possible . . . violence, certain measures are necessary, which . . . Look, Jim"—he turned suddenly to James Taggart—"why don't you explain it to Mr. Rearden, as a fellow industrialist?" "Well, somebody's got to support the railroads," said Taggart sullenly, not looking at him. "The country needs railroads and somebody's got to help us carry the load, and if we don't get an increase in freight rates—" "No, no, no!" snapped Wesley Mouch. "Tell Mr. Rearden about the working of the Railroad Unification Plan." "Well, the Plan is a full success," said Taggart lethargically, "except for the not fully controllable element of time. It is only a question of time before our unified teamwork puts every railroad in the country back on its feet. The Plan, I'm in a position to assure you, would work as successfully for any other industry." "No doubt about that," said Rearden, and turned to Mouch. "Why do you ask the stooge to waste my time? What has the Railroad Unification Plan to do with me?" "But, Mr. Rearden," cried Mouch with desperate cheerfulness, "that's the pattern we're to follow! That's what we called you here to discuss!" "What?" "The Steel Unification Plan!" There was an instant of silence, as of breaths drawn after a plunge. --------------------------------------- 746 Rearden sat looking at them with a glance that seemed to be a glance of interest. "In view of the critical plight of the steel industry," said Mouch with a sudden rush, as if not to give himself time to know what made him uneasy about the nature of Rearden's glance, "and since steel is the most vitally, crucially basic commodity, the foundation of our entire industrial structure, drastic measures must be taken to preserve the country's steel-making facilities, equipment and plant." The tone and impetus of public speaking carried him that far and no farther. "With this objective in view, our Plan is . . . our Plan is . . ." "Our Plan Is really very simple," said Tinky Holloway, striving to prove it by the gaily bouncing simplicity of his voice. "We'll lift all restrictions from the production of steel and every company will produce all it can, according to its ability. But to avoid the waste and danger of dog- eat-dog competition, all the companies will deposit their gross earnings into a common pool, to be known as the Steel Unification Pool, in charge of a special Board. At the end of the year, the Board will distribute these earnings by totaling the nation's steel output and dividing it by the number of open-hearth furnaces in existence, thus arriving at an average which will be fair to all—and every company will be paid according to its need. The preservation of its furnaces being its basic need, every company will be paid according to the number of furnaces it owns." He stopped, waited, then added, "That's it, Mr. Rearden," and getting no answer, said, "Oh, there's a lot of wrinkles to be ironed out, but . . . but that's it." Whatever reaction they had expected, it was not the one they saw. Rearden leaned back in his chair, his eyes attentive, but fixed on space, as if looking at a not too distant distance, then he asked, with an odd note of quietly impersonal amusement, "Will you tell me just one thing, boys: what is it you're counting on?" He knew that they understood. He saw, on their faces, that stubbornly evasive look which he had once thought to be the look of a liar cheating a victim, but which he now knew to be worse: the look of a man cheating himself of his own consciousness. They did not answer. They remained silent, as if struggling, not to make him forget his question, but to make themselves forget that they had heard it. "It's a sound, practical Plan!" snapped James Taggart unexpectedly, with an angry edge of sudden animation in his voice. "It will work! It has to work! We want it to work!" No one answered him. "Mr. Rearden . . . ?" said Holloway timidly. "Well, let me see," said Rearden. "Orren Boyle's Associated Steel owns 60 open-hearth furnaces, one-third of them standing idle and the rest producing an average of 300 tons of steel per furnace per day. I own 20 open-hearth furnaces, working at capacity, producing tons of Rearden Metal per furnace per day. So we own SO 'pooled' furnaces with a 'pooled' output of 27,000 tons, which makes an average of 337.5 tons per furnace. Each day of the year, I, producing 15,000 tons, will be paid for 6,750 tons. Boyle, producing 12,000 tons, will be paid for 20,250 tons. Never mind the other members of the pool, they won't change the scale, except to bring the average still lower, most of them doing worse than Boyle, none of them producing as much as I. Now how long do you expect me to last under your Plan?" There was no answer, then Lawson cried suddenly, blindly, righteously, "In time of national peril, it is your duty to serve, suffer and work for the salvation of the country!" --------------------------------------- 747 "I don't see why pumping my earnings into Orren Boyle's pocket is going to save the country." "You have to make certain sacrifices to the public welfare!" "I don't see why Orren Boyle is more 'the public' than I am." "Oh, it's not a question of Mr. Boyle at all! It's much wider than any one person. It's a matter of preserving the country's natural resources—such as factories—and saving the whole of the nation's industrial plant. We cannot permit the ruin of an establishment as vast as Mr. Boyle's. The country needs it." "I think," said Rearden slowly, "that the country needs me much more than it needs Orren Boyle." "But of course!" cried Lawson with startled enthusiasm. "The country needs you, Mr. Rearden! You do realize that, don't you?" But Lawson's avid pleasure at the familiar formula of self-immolation, vanished abruptly at the sound of Rearden's voice, a cold, trader's voice answering: "I do." "It's not Boyle alone who's involved," said Holloway pleadingly. "The country's economy would not be able to stand a major dislocation at the present moment. There are thousands of Boyle's workers, suppliers and customers. What would happen to them if Associated Steel went bankrupt?" "What will happen to the thousands of my workers, suppliers and customers when I go bankrupt?" "You, Mr. Rearden?" said Holloway incredulously. "But you're the richest, safest and strongest industrialist in the country at this moment!" "What about the moment after next?" "Uh?" "How long do you expect me to be able to produce at a loss?" "Oh, Mr. Rearden, I have complete faith in you!" "To hell with your faith! How do you expect me to do it?" "You'll manage!" "How?" There was no answer. "We can't theorize about the future," cried Wesley Mouch, "when here's an immediate national collapse to avoid! We've got to save the country's economy! We've got to do something!" Rearden's imperturbible glance of curiosity drove him to heedlessness. "If you don't like it, do you have a better solution to offer?" "Sure," said Rearden easily. "If it's production that you want, then get out of the way, junk all of your damn regulations, let Orren Boyle go broke, let me buy the plant of Associated Steel—and it will be pouring a thousand tons a day from every one of its sixty furnaces." "Oh, but . . . but we couldn't!" gasped Mouch. "That would be monopoly!" Rearden chuckled. "Okay," he said indifferently, "then let my mills superintendent buy it. Hell do a better job than Boyle." "Oh, but that would be letting the strong have an advantage over the weak! We couldn't do that!" "Then don't talk about saving the country's economy." "All we want is—" He stopped. "All you want is production without men who're able to produce, isn't it?" "That . . . that's theory. That's just a theoretical extreme. All we want is a temporary adjustment." "You've been making those temporary adjustments for years. Don't you see that you've run out of time?" "That's just theo . . ." His voice trailed off and stopped. "Well, now, look here," said Holloway cautiously, "it's not as if Mr. Boyle were actually . . . weak. Mr. Boyle is an extremely able man. --------------------------------------- 748 It's just that he's suffered some unfortunate reverses, quite beyond his control. He had invested large sums in a public-spirited project to assist the undeveloped peoples of South America, and that copper crash of theirs has dealt him a severe financial blow. So it's only a matter of giving him a chance to recover, a helping hand to bridge the gap, a bit of temporary assistance, nothing more. All we have to do is just equalize the sacrifice— then everybody will recover and prosper." "You've been equalizing sacrifice for over a hundred"—he stopped —"for thousands of years," said Rearden slowly. "Don't you see that you're at the end of the road?" "That's just theory!" snapped Wesley Mouch. Rearden smiled. "I know your practice," he said softly. "It's your theory that I'm trying to understand." He knew that the specific reason behind the Plan was Orren Boyle; he knew that the working of an intricate mechanism, operated by pull, threat, pressure, blackmail—a mechanism like an irrational adding machine run amuck and throwing up any chance sum at the whim of any moment—had happened to add up to Boyle's pressure upon these men to extort for him this last piece of plunder. He knew also that Boyle was not the cause of it or the essential to consider, that Boyle was only a chance rider, not the builder, of the infernal machine that had destroyed the world, that it was not Boyle who had made it possible, nor any of the men in this room. They, too, were only riders on a machine without a driver, they were trembling hitchhikers who knew that their vehicle was about to crash into its final abyss—and it was not love or fear of Boyle that made them cling to their course and press on toward their end, it was something else, it was some one nameless element which they knew and evaded knowing, something which was neither thought nor hope, something he identified only as a certain look in their faces, a furtive look saying: I can get away with it. Why? —he thought. Why do they think they can? "We can't afford any theories!" cried Wesley Mouch. "We've got to act!" "Well, then, I'll offer you another solution. Why don't you take over my mills and be done with it?" The jolt that shook them was genuine terror. "Oh no!" gasped Mouch. "We wouldn't think of it!" cried Holloway. "We stand for free enterprise!" cried Dr. Ferris. "We don't want to harm you!" cried Lawson. "We're your friends, Mr. Rearden. Can't we all work together? We're your friends." There, across the room, stood a table with a telephone, the same table, most likely, and the same instrument—and suddenly Rearden felt as if he were seeing the convulsed figure of a man bent over that telephone, a man who had then known what he, Rearden, was now beginning to learn, a man fighting to refuse him the same request which he was now refusing to the present tenants of this room—he saw the finish of that fight, a man's tortured face lifted to confront him and a desperate voice saying steadily: "Mr. Rearden, I swear to you . . . by the woman I love . . . that I am your friend." This was the act he had then called treason, and this was the man he had rejected in order to go on serving the men confronting him now. Who, then, had been the traitor?—he thought; he thought it almost without feeling, without right to feel, conscious of nothing but a solemnly reverent clarity. Who had chosen to give its present tenants the means to acquire this room? Whom had he sacrificed and to whose profit? "Mr. Rearden!" moaned Lawson. "What's the matter?" He turned his head, saw Lawson's eyes watching him fearfully and guessed what look Lawson had caught in his face. "We don't want to seize your mills!" cried Mouch. --------------------------------------- 749 "We don't want to deprive you of your property!" cried Dr. Ferris. "You don't understand us!" "I'm beginning to." A year ago, he thought, they would have shot him; two years ago, they would have confiscated his property; generations ago, men of their kind had been able to afford the luxury of murder and expropriation, the safety of pretending to themselves and their victims that material loot was their only objective. But their time was running out and his fellow victims had gone, gone sooner than any historical schedule had promised, and they, the looters, were now left to face the undisguised reality of their own goal. "Look, boys," he said wearily. "I know what you want. You want to eat my mills and have them, too. And all I want to know is this: what makes you think it's possible?" "I don't know what you mean," said Mouch in an injured tone of voice. "We said we didn't want your mills." "All right, I'll say it more precisely: You want to eat me and have me, too. How do you propose to do it?" "I don't know how you can say that, after we've given you every assurance that we consider you of invaluable importance to the country, to the steel industry, to—" "I believe you. That's what makes the riddle Harder. You consider me of invaluable importance to the country? Hell, you consider me of invaluable importance even to your own necks. You sit there trembling, because you know that I'm the last one left to save your lives—and you know that time is as short as that. Yet you propose a plan to destroy me, a plan which demands, with an idiot's crudeness, without loopholes, detours or escape, that I work at a loss—that I work, with every ton I pour costing me more than I'll get for it—that I feed the last of my wealth away until we all starve together. That much irrationality is not possible to any man or any looter. For your own sake—never mind the country's or mine—you must be counting on something. What?" He saw the getting-away-with-it look on their faces, a peculiar look that seemed secretive, yet resentful, as if, incredibly, it were he who was hiding some secret from them. "I don't see why you should choose to take such a defeatist view of the situation," said Mouch sullenly. "Defeatist? Do you really expect me to be able to remain in business under your Plan?" "But it's only temporary!" "There's no such thing as a temporary suicide." "But it's only for the duration of the emergency! Only until the country recovers!" "How do you expect it to recover?" There was no answer. "How do you expect me to produce after I go bankrupt?" "You won't go bankrupt. You'll always produce," said Dr. Ferris indifferently, neither in praise nor in blame, merely in the tone of stating a fact of nature, as he would have said to another man: You'll always be a bum, "You can't help it. It's in your blood. Or, to be more scientific: you're conditioned that way." Rearden sat up: it was as if he had been struggling to find the secret combination of a lock and felt, at those words, a faint click within, as of the first tumbrel falling into place. "It's only a matter of weathering this crisis," said Mouch, "of giving people a reprieve, a chance to catch up." "And then?" "Then things will improve." --------------------------------------- 750 "How?" There was no answer. "What will improve them?" There was no answer. "Who will improve them?" "Christ, Mr. Rearden, people don't just stand still!" cried Holloway, "They do things, they grow, they move forward!" "What people?" Holloway waved his hand vaguely. "People," he said. "What people? The people to whom you're going to feed the last of Rearden Steel, without getting anything in return? The people who'll go on consuming more than they produce?" "Conditions will change." "Who'll change them?" There was no answer. "Have you anything left to loot? If you didn't see the nature of your policy before—it's not possible that you don't see it now. Look around you. All those damned People's States all over the earth have been existing only on the handouts which you squeezed for them out of this country. But you—you have no place left to sponge on or mooch from. No country on the face of the globe. This was the greatest and last. You've drained it. You've milked it dry. Of all that irretrievable splendor, I'm only one remnant, the last, What will you do, you and your People's Globe, after you've finished me? What are you hoping for? What do you see ahead—except plain, stark, animal starvation?" They did not answer. They did not look at him. Their faces wore expressions of stubborn resentment, as if his were the plea of a liar. Then Lawson said softly, half in reproach, half in scorn, "Well, after all, you businessmen have kept predicting disasters for years, you've cried catastrophe at every progressive measure and told us that we'll perish—but we haven't." He started a smile, but drew back from the sudden intensity of Rearden’s eyes. Rearden had felt another click in his mind, the sharper click of the second tumbrel connecting the circuits of the lock. He leaned forward. "What are you counting on?" he asked; his tone had changed, it was low, it had the steady, pressing, droning sound of a drill. "It's only a matter of gaining time!" cried Mouch. "There isn't any time left to gain." "All we need is a chance!" cried Lawson. "There are no chances left." "It's only until we recover!" cried Holloway. "There is no way to recover." "Only until our policies begin to work!" cried Dr. Ferris. "There's no way to make the irrational work.'1 There was no answer. "What can save you now?" "Oh, you'll do something!" cried James Taggart. Then—even though it was only a sentence he had heard all his life—he felt a deafening crash within him, as of a steel door dropping open at the touch of the final tumbrel, the one small number completing the sum and releasing the intricate lock, the answer uniting all the pieces, the questions and the unsolved wounds of his life. In the moment of silence after the crash, it seemed to him that he heard Francisco's voice, asking him quietly in the ballroom of this building, yet asking it also here and now: "Who is the guiltiest man in this room?" He heard his own answer of the past: "I suppose— --------------------------------------- 751 James Taggart?" and Francisco's voice saying without reproach: "No, Mr. Rearden, it's not James Taggart,"—but here, in this room and this moment, his mind answered: "I am." He had cursed these looters for their stubborn blindness? It was he who had made it possible. From the first extortion he had accepted, from the first directive he had obeyed, he had given them cause to believe that reality was a thing to be cheated, that one could demand the irrational and someone somehow would provide it. If he had accepted the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, if he had accepted Directive 10-289, if he had accepted the law that those who could not equal his ability had the right to dispose of it, that those who had not earned were to profit, but he who had was to lose, that those who could not think were to command, but he who could was to obey them—then were they illogical in believing that they existed in an irrational universe? He had made it for them, he had provided it. Were they illogical in believing that theirs was only to wish, to wish with no concern for the possible—and that his was to fulfill their wishes, by means they did not have to know or name? They, the impotent mystics, struggling to escape the responsibility of reason, had known that he, the rationalist, had undertaken to serve their whims. They had known that he had given them a blank check on reality— his was not to ask why?—theirs was not to ask how?—let them demand that he give them a share of his wealth, then all that he owns, then more than he owns—impossible?—no, he'll do something! He did not know that he had leaped to his feet, that he stood staring down at James Taggart, seeing in the unbridled shapelessness of Taggart's features the answer to all the devastation he had witnessed through the years of his life. "What's the matter, Mr. Rearden? What have I said?" Taggart was asking with rising anxiety—but he was out of the reach of Taggart's voice. He was seeing the progression of the years, the monstrous extortions, the impossible demands, the inexplicable victories of evil, the preposterous plans and unintelligible goals proclaimed in volumes of muddy philosophy, the desperate wonder of the victims who thought that some complex, malevolent wisdom was moving the powers destroying the world—and all of it had rested on one tenet behind the shifty eyes of the victors: he'll do something! . . . We'll get away with it—he'll let us—he'll do something! . . . You businessmen kept predicting that we'd perish, but we haven't. . . . It was true, he thought. They had not been blind to reality, he had— blind to the reality he himself had created. No, they had not perished, but who had? Who had perished to pay for their manner of survival? Ellis Wyatt . . . Ken Danagger . . . Francisco d'Anconia. He was reaching for his hat and coat, when he noticed that the men in the room were trying to stop him, that their faces had a look of panic and their voices were crying in bewilderment: "What's the matter, Mr. Rearden? . . . Why? . . . But why? . . . What have we said? . . . You're not going! . . . You can't go! . . . It's too early! . . . Not yet! Oh, not yet!" He felt as if he were seeing them from the rear window of a speeding express, as if they stood on the track behind him, waving their arms in futile gestures and screaming indistinguishable sounds, their figures growing smaller in the distance, their voices fading. One of them tried to stop him as he turned to the door. He pushed him out of his way, not roughly, but with a simple, smooth sweep of his arm, as one brushes aside an obstructing curtain, then walked out. Silence was his only sensation, as he sat at the wheel of his car, speeding back down the road to Philadelphia. It was the silence of immobility within him, as if, possessing knowledge, he could now afford to rest, with no --------------------------------------- 752 further activity of soul. He felt nothing, neither anguish nor elation. It was as if, by an effort of years, he had climbed a mountain to gain a distant view and, having reached the top, had fallen to lie still, to rest before he looked, free to spare himself for the first time. He was aware of the long, empty road streaming, then curving, then streaming straight before him, of the effortless pressure of his hands on the wheel and the screech of the tires on the curves. But he felt as if he were speeding down a skyway suspended and coiling in empty space. The passers-by at the factories, the bridges, the power plants along his road saw a sight that had once been natural among them: a trim, expensively powerful car driven by a confident man, with the concept of success proclaimed more loudly than by any electric sign, proclaimed by the driver's garments, by his expert steering, by his purposeful speed. They watched him go past and vanish into the haze equating earth with night. He saw his mills rising in the darkness, as a black silhouette against a breathing glow. The glow was the color of burning gold, and "Rearden Steel" stood written across the sky in the cool, white fire of crystal. He looked at the long silhouette, the curves of blast furnaces standing like triumphal arches, the smokestacks rising like a solemn colonnade along an avenue of honor in an imperial city, the bridges hanging like garlands, the cranes saluting like lances, the smoke waving slowly like flags. The sight broke the stillness within him and he smiled in greeting. It was a smile of happiness, of love, of dedication. He had never loved his mills as he did in that moment, for—seeing them by an act of his own vision, cleared of all but his own code of values, in a luminous reality that held no contradictions—he was seeing the reason of his love: the mills were an achievement of his mind, devoted to his enjoyment of existence, erected in a rational world to deal with rational men. If those men had vanished, if that world was gone, if his mills had ceased to serve his values—then the mills were only a pile of dead scrap, to be left to crumble, the sooner the better— to be left, not as an act of treason, but as an act of loyalty to their actual meaning. The mills were still a mile ahead when a small spurt of flame caught his sudden attention. Among all the shades of fire in the vast spread of structures, he could tell the abnormal and the out-of-place: this one was too raw a shade of yellow and it was darting from a spot where no fire had reason to be, from a structure by the gate of the main entrance. In the next instant, he heard the dry crack of a gunshot, then three answering cracks in swift succession, like an angry hand slapping a sudden assailant. Then the black mass barring the road in the distance took shape, it was not mere darkness and it did not recede as he came closer—it was a mob squirming at the main gate, trying to storm the mills. He had time to distinguish waving arms, some with clubs, some with crowbars, some with rifles—the yellow flames of burning wood gushing from the window of the gatekeeper's office—the blue cracks of gunfire darting out of the mob and the answers spitting from the roofs of the structures—he had time to see a human figure twisting backward and falling from the top of a car— then he sent his wheels into a shrieking curve, turning into the darkness of a side road. He was going at the rate of sixty miles an hour down the ruts of an unpaved soil, toward the eastern gate of the mills—and the gate was in sight when the impact of tires on a gully threw the car off the road, to the edge of a ravine where an ancient slag heap lay at the bottom. With the weight of his chest and elbow on the wheel, pitted against two tons of speeding metal, the curve of his body forced the curve of the car to complete its screaming --------------------------------------- 753 half-circle, sweeping it back onto the road and into the control of his hands. It had taken one instant, but in the next his foot went down on the brake, tearing the engine to a stop: for in the moment when his headlights had swept the ravine, he had glimpsed an oblong shape, darker than the gray of the weeds on the slope, and it had seemed to him that a brief white blur had been a human hand waving for help. Throwing off his overcoat, he went hurrying down the side of the ravine, lumps of earth giving way under his feet, he went catching at the dried coils of brush, half-running, half-sliding toward the long black form which he could now distinguish to be a human body. A scum of cotton was swimming against the moon, he could see the white of a hand and the shape of an arm lying stretched in the weeds, but the body lay still, with no sign of motion. "Mr. Rearden . . ." It was a whisper struggling to be a cry, it was the terrible sound of eagerness fighting against a voice that could be nothing but a moan of pain. He did not know which came first, it felt like a single shock: his thought that the voice was familiar, a ray of moonlight breaking through the cotton, the movement of falling down on his knees by the white oval of a face, and the recognition. It was the Wet Nurse. He felt the boy's hand clutching his with the abnormal strength of agony, while he was noticing the tortured lines of the face, the drained lips, the glazing eyes and the thin, dark trickle from a small, black hole in too wrong, too close a spot on the left side of the boy's chest. "Mr. Rearden . . . I wanted to stop them . . . I wanted to save you . . ." "What happened to you, kid?" "They shot me, so I wouldn't talk . . . I wanted to prevent"—his hand fumbled toward the red glare in the sky—"what they're doing . . . I was too late, but I've tried to . . . I've tried . . . And . . . and I'm still able . . . to talk . . . Listen, they—" "You need help. Let's get you to a hospital and—" "No! Wait! I . . . I don't think I have much time left to me and . . . and I've got to tell you . . . Listen, that riot . . . it's staged . . . on orders from Washington . . . It's not workers . . . not your workers . . . it's those new boys of theirs and . . . and a lot of goons hired on the outside . . . Don't believe a word they'll tell you about it . . . It's a frame-up . . . it's their rotten kind of frame-up . . ." There was a desperate intensity in the boy's face, the intensity of a crusader's battle, his voice seemed to gain a sound of life from some fuel burning in broken spurts within him—-and Rearden knew that the greatest assistance he could now render was to listen. "They . . . they've got a Steel Unification Plan ready . . . and they need an excuse for it . . . because they know that the country won't take it . . . and you won't stand for it . . . They're afraid this one's going to be too much for everybody . . . it's just a plan to skin you alive, that's all . . . So they want to make it look like you're starving your workers . . . and the workers are running amuck and you're unable to control them . . . and the government's got to step in for your own protection and for public safety . . . That's going to be their pitch, Mr. Rearden . . ." Rearden was noticing the torn flesh of the boy's hands, the drying mud of blood and dust on his palms and his clothing, gray patches of dust on knees and stomach, scrambled with the needles of burs. In the intermittent fits of moonlight, he could see the trail of flattened weeds and glistening smears going off into the darkness below. He dreaded to think how far the boy had crawled and for how long. "They didn't want you to be here tonight, Mr. Rearden . . . They didn't want you to see their 'People's rebellion' . . . Afterwards . . . --------------------------------------- 754 you know how they screw up the evidence . . . there won't be a straight story to get anywhere . . . and they hope to fool the country . . . and you . . . that they're acting to protect you from violence . . . Don't let them get away with it, Mr. Rearden! . . . Tell the country . . . tell the people . . . tell the newspapers . . . Tell them that I told you . . . it's under oath . . . I swear it . . . that makes it legal, doesn't it? . . . doesn't it? . . . that gives you a chance?" Rearden pressed the boy's hand in his. "Thank you, kid." "I . . . I'm sorry I'm late, Mr. Rearden, but . . . but they didn't let me in on it till the last minute . . . till just before it started . . . They called me in on a . . . a strategy conference . . . there was a man there by the name of Peters . . . from the Unification Board . . . he's a stooge of Tinky Holloway . . . who's a stooge of Orren Boyle . . . What they wanted from me was . . . they wanted me to sign a lot of passes . . . to let some of the goons in . . . so they'd start trouble from the inside and the outside together . . . to make it look like they really were your workers . . . I refused to sign the passes." "You did? After they'd let you in on their game?" "But . . . but, of course, Mr. Rearden . . . Did you think I'd play that kind of game?" "No, kid, no, I guess not. Only—" "What?" "Only that's when you stuck your neck out." "But I had to! . . . I couldn't help them wreck the mills, could I? . . . How long was I to keep from sticking my neck out? Till they broke yours? . . . And what would I do with my neck, if that's how I had to keep it? . . . You . . . you understand it, don't you, Mr. Rearden?" "Yes. I do." "I refused them . . . I ran out of the office . . . I ran to look for the superintendent . . . to tell him everything . . . but I couldn't find him . . . and then I heard shots at the main gate and I knew it had started . . . I tried to phone your home . . . the phone wires were cut . . . I ran to get my car, I wanted to reach you or a policeman or a newspaper or somebody . . . but they must have been following me . . . that's when they shot me . . . in the parking lot . . . from behind . . . all I remember is falling and . . . and then, when I opened my eyes, they had dumped me here . . . on the slag heap . . . " "On the slag heap?" said Rearden slowly, knowing that the heap was a hundred feet below. The boy nodded, pointing vaguely down into the darkness. "Yeah . . . down there . . . And then I . . . I started crawling . . . crawling up . . . I wanted . . . I wanted to last till I told somebody who'd tell you." The pain-twisted lines of his face smoothed suddenly into a smile; his voice had the sound of a lifetime's triumph as he added, "I have." Then he jerked his head up and asked, in the tone of a child's astonishment at a sudden discovery, "Mr. Rearden, is this how it feels to . . . to want something very much . . . very desperately much . . . and to make it?" "Yes, kid, that's how it feels." The boy's head dropped back against Rearden's arm, the eyes closing, the mouth relaxing, as if to hold a moment's profound contentment. "But you can't stop there. You're not through. You've got to hang on till I get you to a doctor and—" He was lifting the boy cautiously, but a convulsion of pain ran through the boy's face, his mouth twisting to stop a cry—and Rearden had to lower him gently back to the ground. The boy shook his head with a glance that was almost apology. "I won't make it, Mr. Rearden . . . No use fooling myself . . . I know I'm through." --------------------------------------- 755 Then, as if by some dim recoil against self-pity, he added, reciting a memorized lesson, his voice a desperate attempt at his old, cynical, intellectual tone, "What does it matter, Mr. Rearden? . . . Man is only a collection of . . . conditioned chemicals . . . and a man's dying doesn't make . . . any more difference than an animal's." "You know better than that." "Yes," he whispered. "Yes, I guess I do." His eyes wandered over the vast darkness, then rose to Rearden's face; the eyes were helpless, longing, childishly bewildered. "I know . . . it's crap, all those things they taught us . . . all of it, everything they said . . . about living or . . . or dying . . . Dying . . . it wouldn't make any difference to chemicals, but—" he stopped, and all of his desperate protest was only in the intensity of his voice dropping lower to say, "—but it does, to me . . . And . . . and, I guess, it makes a difference to an animal, too . . . But they said there are no values . . . only social customs . . . No values!" His hand clutched blindly at the hole in his chest, as if trying to hold that which he was losing. "No . . . values . . .” Then his eyes opened wider, with the sudden calm of full frankness. "I'd like to live, Mr. Rearden. God, how I'd like to!" His voice was passionately quiet. "Not because I'm dying . . . but because I've just discovered it tonight, what it means, really to be alive . . . And . . . it's funny . . . do you know when [ discovered it? . . . In the office . . . when I stuck my neck out . . . when I told the bastards to go to hell . . . There's . . . there's so many things I wish I'd known sooner . . . But . . . well, it's no use crying over spilled milk." He saw Rearden's involuntary glance at the flattened trail below and added, "Over spilled anything, Mr. Rearden." "Listen, kid," said Rearden sternly, "I want you to do me a favor." "Now, Mr. Rearden?" "Yes. Now." "Why, of course, Mr. Rearden . . . if I can." "You've done me a big favor tonight, but I want you to do a still bigger one. You've done a great job, climbing out of that slag heap. Now will you try for something still harder? You were willing to die to save my mills. Will you try to live for me?" "For you, Mr. Rearden?" "For me. Because I'm asking you to. Because I want you to. Because we still have a great distance to climb together, you and I." "Does it . . . does it make a difference to you, Mr. Rearden?" "It does. Will you make up your mind that you want to live—just as you did down there on the slag heap? That you want to last and live? Will you fight for it? You wanted to fight my battle. Will you fight this one with me, as our first?" He felt the clutching of the boy's hand; it conveyed the violent eagerness of the answer; the voice was only a whisper: "I'll try, Mr. Rearden." "Now help me to get you to a doctor. Just relax, take it easy and let me lift you." "Yes, Mr. Rearden." With the jerk of a sudden effort, the boy pulled himself up to lean on an elbow. "Take it easy, Tony." He saw a sudden flicker in the boy's face, an attempt at his old, bright, impudent grin. "Not 'Non-Absolute' any more?" "No, not any more. You're a full absolute now, and you know it." "Yes. I know several of them, now. There's one"—he pointed at the wound in his chest—"that's an absolute, isn't it? And"—he went on speaking while Rearden was lifting him from the ground by imperceptible seconds and inches, --------------------------------------- 756 speaking as if the trembling intensity of his words were serving as an anesthetic against the pain—"and men can't live . . . if rotten bastards . . . like the ones in Washington . . . get away with things like . . . like the one they're doing tonight . . . if everything becomes a stinking fake . . . and nothing is real . . . and nobody is anybody . . . men can't live that way . . . that's an absolute, isn't it?" "Yes, Tony, that's an absolute." Rearden rose to his feet by a long, cautious effort; he saw the tortured spasm of the boy's features, as he settled him slowly against his chest, like a baby held tight in his arms—but the spasm twisted into another echo of the impudent grin, and the boy asked, "Who's the Wet Nurse now?" "I guess I am." He took the first steps up the slant of crumbling soil, his body tensed to the task of shock absorber for his fragile burden, to the task of maintaining a steady progression where there was no foothold to find. The boy's head dropped on Rearden's shoulder, hesitantly, almost as if this were a presumption. Rearden bent down and pressed his lips to the dust- streaked forehead. The boy jerked back, raising his head with a shock of incredulous, indignant astonishment. "Do you know what you did?" he whispered, as if unable to believe that it was meant for him. "Put your head down," said Rearden, "and I'll do it again." The boy's head dropped and Rearden kissed his forehead; it was like a father's recognition granted to a son's battle. The boy lay still, his face hidden, his hands clutching Rearden's shoulders. Then, with no hint of sound, with only the sudden beat of faint, spaced, rhythmic shudders to show it, Rearden knew that the boy was crying— crying in surrender, in admission of all the things which he could not put into the words he had never found. Rearden went on moving slowly upward, step by groping step, fighting for firmness of motion against the weeds, the drifts of dust, the chunks of scrap metal, the refuse of a distant age. He went on, toward the line where the red glow of his mills marked the edge of the pit above him, his movement a fierce struggle that had to take the form of a gentle, unhurried flow. He heard no sobs, but he felt the rhythmic shudders, and, through the cloth of his shirt, in place of tears, he felt the small, warm, liquid spurts flung from the wound by the shudders. He knew that the tight pressure of his arms was the only answer which the boy was now able to hear and understand— and he held the trembling body as if the strength of his arms could transfuse some part of his living power into the arteries beating ever fainter against him. Then the sobbing stopped and the boy raised his head. His face seemed thinner and paler, but the eyes were lustrous, and he looked up at Rearden, straining for the strength to speak. "Mr. Rearden . . . I . . . I liked you very much." "I know it." The boy's features had no power to form a smile, but it was a smile that spoke in his glance, as he looked at Rearden's face—as he looked at that which he had not known he had been seeking through the brief span of his life, seeking as the image of that which he had not known to be his values. Then his head fell back, and there was no convulsion in his face, only his mouth relaxing to a shape of serenity—but there was a brief stab of convulsion in his body, like a last cry of protest—and Rearden went on slowly, not altering his pace, even though he knew that no caution was necessary any longer because what he was carrying in his arms was now that which had been the boy's teachers' idea of man— --------------------------------------- 757 a collection of chemicals. He walked, as if this were his form of last tribute and funeral procession for the young life that had ended in his arms. He felt an anger too intense to identify except as a pressure within him: it was a desire to kill. The desire was not directed at the unknown thug who had sent a bullet through the boy's body, or at the looting bureaucrats who had hired the thug to do it, but at the boy's teachers who had delivered him, disarmed, to the thug's gun—at the soft, safe assassins of college classrooms who, incompetent to answer the queries of a quest for reason, took pleasure in crippling the young minds entrusted to their care. Somewhere, he thought, there was this boy's mother, who had trembled with protective concern over his groping steps, while teaching him to walk, who had measured his baby formulas with a jeweler's caution, who had obeyed with a zealot's fervor the latest words of science on his diet and hygiene, protecting his unhardened body from germs—then had sent him to be turned into a tortured neurotic by the men who taught him that he had no mind and must never attempt to think. Had she fed him tainted refuse, he thought, had she mixed poison into his food, it would have been more kind and less fatal. He thought of all the living species that train their young in the art of survival, the cats who teach their kittens to hunt, the birds who spend such strident effort on teaching their fledglings to fly—yet man, whose tool of survival is the mind, does not merely fail to teach