Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged

there was nothing he wished or needed to buy

any goods; made by men to be used by men.

enjoy the sight of prosperous street.

tree as symbol of strength

reach for the best within us.

discover what is the best within us.

don’t know what people think; we can just see what they do.

blood vessel

blood is supposed to feed; give life.

how can i create value for society?

keep creating things of value for society— never stop creating and hustling.

make risks and chances for the greater good.

look for sparks of competence

don’t consult others before acting!

metal stronger than steel.

happiness was the greatest agent of purification

humility vs what is best for humankind?

fulfill the potential in every human being!

avoid sense of boredom in life!

give a living transfusion of my overabundant vitality to those who are anemic!

feel a sudden spurt of rebellion; a need to recapture and defiantly to reassert his own view of existence

looking at those: they were bewildered, unhappy children. don’t resent their ineptitude; it came from helplessness; not from malice. i have to make myself learn to understand others; because i have so much to give— and they can never share my sense of joyous, boundless power.

what is the reason i exist and alive?

feel excitement of solving problems; delight of taking up challenges, for harder tests!

keep growing my own ability.

what are my motives?

think of myself before others; or think of others before yself?

What lessons from history; to instruct the future?

  • Memento mori: all mortal is mortal.

Smartphone camera app; with rule of thirds grid overlay and golden rectangle? smartphone app to teach people composition?

What to learn from Rick Ross?

what purpose that drives me?

wish to see a sign of greatness to inspire me; to create! joy is one’s fuel.

how can i offer more?

have a quality of the heroic!

the music belongs to mankind. it is the product and the expression of the greatness of th epeople.

enrich the lives of others

smile of a man who is able to see; to know; and to create the glory of existence!

The government of the People’s State of Mexico has nationalized the San Sebastian Mines and the San Sebastian Railroad.”

‘anti dog eat dog rule’

Seneca on benefits

how to have mercy on people?

stand for the common good

dont penalize people from ability; dont add weights to people!

how to be a man of action?

Why pleasure?

  • please just endorphin in my brain; can simulate that experiecne in easier, cheaper, more accessible ways— like being in a state of flow; creating, learning, experiencing?

save the country!

the office suited him; it contained nothing but the few pieces of furniture he needed; all of them harshly simplified down to their essential purpose; all of them exorbinatly expensive in the quality of materials and the skill of design.

‘this is great’


feel free to acknowledge my own greatnes!

standing on a mountain top; seeing a limitless plain below the roads open in all directions.

reality ; sense of clear outlines, of purpose, of lightness, of hope— this is how i should expect to live! take action in life!

‘joy is the aim and core of existence’

only do what gives me joy.

all I’m after is material things?

all im after is to create!

calm; involitate self-confidence.

on guilt, no doubt,

it is me who moves the world; and it is me who will pull it through!

become me; dont inherit me.

as a child; live in the future— in the world where i would not have to feel contempt or boredom!

how to live a life without feeling boredom?

be selfish for the sake of helping humanity?

increase fortune more than i received it!

power of the saints; to PRODUCE!

only leave pure talent! Entity devoid of the acidental.

i can do anything i undertake; and do it better than anyone else, without effort. no boasting or cnsciousness; no thought of comparison!

never compare myself with anyone; do it without effort or boasting.

dont have attitude: ‘i can do it better than you’ — but I CAN DO IT


assume i can do anything.

i dont need discipline; i just do it.

whatever i was ordered to study; i master it with effortless amusement.

achieve the zenith!

path over the head!

two things impossible: to stand still or move aimlessly.


LETS MAKE IT (only form of enjoyment)


HAVE pride in myself!

never enter contests; because i can win any and every game.

ignore clubs.

learn how to be more selfish; for greater good.

set off on fun adventures of my own.

dismantle carcass of automobile; in pile of junk yard.

**have a selfish attitude **

increase wealth and production by 100x // become my own google.

follow Jesus; increase the inheritance ive been given.

after more money — to help more people?

greatest virtue of all; made money

do great things.

expect excitement and danger in life

most depraved man:

man without a purpose.

know and think i am good.

see how far ill rise; no matter how good i am, wring everything ive got; still try to be better. when ive worn myself out to reach a goal; start another goal.

theres nothing of any importance in life; except how well i do my work.

my measure of human value: how well i work.

code of competence is the only system of morality on golden standard.

people dislike me; because i do things well (not bcaause i do things poorly)

dislike me; i always do well without trying.

don’t be a fool; whatever made you think i cared about being popular?

i dont care to be popular; i care to do my work damn well.

strip down my life to the bright simplicity of a geometrical drawing; few straight lines // avoid any superfluous movement or activity that prevents me from doing my work!

my work damn well; blog, video, make information, teach.

**look of an untouched purity of enjoyment! **

no hand outs; gotta hustle.

accept things with inexplicable eagerness like a child.

have confident; dangerous power!

in an age of casual, cynical, indifferent routine — it almost looks indecent.

have meaning; admiration of daring; ackonlowegeedb y high adventure.

write things which are meat for people; to nourish their souls.

live a life full of purpose and meaning.

have a desire to win in the game of life.

make my own clothes; cars; stuff — don’t just buy into consumerist shit; be a producer.

design my own clothes, programs, etc.

what if i can design my own online website platform; to vote, critique, etc?





easier to buy a t shirt than a tattoo.

fibonacci or golden spiral shirt; golden rectangle shirt.

use futura font; don’t follow trends of others.


double shot coffee cup?

instant’s knowledge of a feeling greater than happiness; the feeling of ones blessing upon the whole of earth; the feeling of being in love with the fact that one exists and in this kind of world; express that feeling via action.

joy is not sin.

working ‘too hard’: unnaturally bright look of my face; look of exhileration that comes from driving ones energy beyond its limit.

defiance is good.

i like to learn for things myself.

theres something wrong in the world.

dont think of skyscraper as limit; we must go beyond them; let it speed— why should there be a limit?

avoid dumb entertainment.

tear the lid off hell and let men see it.


be conscious of the purpose; not jst the need of purpose.

follow my own gut; dont feel any guilt.

dont spare myself; see what error i make; no fault of others by my own.

demand perfection of myself.

grant myself no mercy.

hours to spend watching the eyes of the guests getting heavy with boredom

be selfish; but give a damn for others!

how to build more rationality in life?

Write each blog post like it were my last!

what is the purpose of philosophy ? how to be more useful.

philosophy; help men find the meaning of life!

follow morality; free will; achivement; happy endings— our life can e heroic!

make more choices in my life.

i dont need people to agree; just do my shit. dont cares bout the ‘opinion’ of others

disregard the opinions of others.

write useful things for humanity.

practice what the world preaches;

– to be selifsh
– evil to pursue a personal interest
– evil to work for profit
– purpose of industrial enterprise; not production but livelihood of employees

  • dont burden anyone
  • isnt it generally conded that when you hire a man for a job; its his need that counts, not his ability?
  • i have carried out every moral precept of our age — i don’t understand why I’m being damned?

don’t get drunk

do lots of camera reviews; for page reviews— but as a way to spread good moral philosophy?

i don’t like people who speak or think in terms of gaining anybody confidence. if ones actions are honest; one does not need the confidence of others, only their ‘rational perception.’

appreciate the meaning of being a man?

i don’t need the gratitude of others; i do it for the sake of it.

go ahead; say im evil; selfish; conceited; heartless, cruel— i am. I’m not working for others?

allow people to call me evil and selfish; admit it.

Tip: just agree with others assessment of you, and say ‘you’re right’

work for my own sake; not for the sake of others.

Have a purpose in life.

to me; theres only one form of human depravity: a person without a purpose.


Avoid parasites

celebrations should be only for things for people to celebrate .

mans fate; to hpe, and to achieve!

wise man: ATTEMPTS; hopes, and DOES!


a plce where hero-spirits live in happiness unkonwn to the rest of the world.
a place where only the spirits of heroes could enter; and reach it without dying— because we carried the secret of life.

America is atlantis:

John Galt” Millionaire (billionaire; trillionaire)


rearden bracelet; as precious — man-made concept of precious?

put my name ERIC KIM on everything; like ALEXANDER WANG

my indifference to others makes me spectacular.

pleasure of rejecting snobby society.


move toward my goal; sweeping aside vertying that did not pertain to it and the world

burn the impurity out of metal.

i am incapable of halfway concerns.

i used to give a fuck; now i give a fuck less.

love my desire.

learn to literally ignore everyone; even my loved ones— follow my own spirit, guidance.

i have the choice to shape matter to my own wishes by the power of my brain; i can control the matter of my own body.

next time you do anyting dear; do what you want.

how hungry was i in college?

write more satire; be mysterious.

how do you know if something has never been done before? fuck it; ill try.

dont own anything; everytihing on loan.

What if I earned $100 million a year?

Earn $100 million a year, for 7 years — ill have $700 million!

What if I were worth $700 million like JAY Z?

strength and lightness.

if theres no competent person to do it; ill have to mine my own copper myself; and mine my own iron ore! i cannot be held up by failures, shortages, and others.

100% dependent on myself; not others.

the sun will never be exhausted; I AM THE SON/ SUN!

Don’t be humble

fuck experts and committees ; fuck the universities.

what if everyone decides against it? let them.

ignore the authorities and doubters.

avoid vultures.

yes i am greedy.

ERIC KIM as brand; empower others— like people wear yeezy sneaker? eric kim shirt.

believe in dreams about the human spirit!!!

go through life looking for beauty; greatness, and sublime beauty.

sublime achievement.

story of mans mind; spirit; ideals and sense of **UNLIMITED AMBItiON! **

i used to be ambitious; that is what attracted cindy to me.

how to be more ambitious to change the world.

john galt” explorer; the greatest explorer that ever lived— the man who found the fountain of youth.

10 years to climb mountain; fountain of youth — broke every bone in my body, tore the skin off my hands; lose my home, name, love.

is it good or not?

if good; fucking do it.

why should i wait? don’t cooperate.

1.5 million dollars to develop something.

blank check for the rights of my blog; to censor or delete all the materials? fuck that— not even a billion?

what if i had a blank check; unlimited account. what else would i want? name my price.

my legacy: open source; never go back o my word— id rather sacrifice a billion dollars for unlimited legacy of openness, than shortness of money for 100 years (at best).

why are you doing this?

because it is good.

they haven’t said it is bad.

to the fearless mind; to the inviolate truth.

be fearless; share the truth!

demolish the theories of those who came before me.

have a cheap room.

scientist: assume nothing; discard emotion; seek to only observe and understand.

promote the work of my haters?

what is the practical matter of reality; dealing with science?

what is true science; pure science— truth?

i need to sacrifice myself for the truth.

let myself be crucified for the truth //

always be young; have the same faith in unlimited power of reason— brilliant vision of man as a rational being. never be disillusioned.

be illusioned

physics x philosophy.

this is not a proposal; it is an ultimatum.

if i fail; ill go down alone.

the john galt line.

I’m “begging; give it to me as alms.

by any means necessary.

JOHN GALT: the impossible; unattainable.

symbolism that i can do the impossible.

don’t live half of my level.

go and claim it.

recognize your own greatness.

what is my rules of morality?

if i can do this; i can do anything.

feel as if this were a world where nothing was impossible.

thought is a weapon one uses in order to act. any action is possible. thought is the tool by which one makes a choice. unlimited choices.

i have never known fear; because i have always had the ‘omnipotent cure of being able to act.’

goo on; let nothing stop me.

never betray my soul.

like new place: it saved money; the rooms have no superfluous furniture or people.

dont notice the room i work; only serve my purpose.

coal is a natural material we mine; that is valuable, and humans profit off it- like spice?

who cares if i am unpopular? just laugh 🙂

‘the public be damned!’

Profit: 20% !!!!

Earn a profit; don’t worry.
who is john galt? WE ARE!

physical sensation of physical movement through space

noble pursuit

stand unaware of the crowds; indifferent to admiration.

stripped for action!

be immodest; no humility— be GREAT! Granduer; like magnanimity.

joyous sense of confidence!

the motors were a moral code cast in steel.

they are alive; because they are the physical shape of the ACTION of a living power of the mind — to set purpose; to give it form.

they are alive; but their soul operates them by remote control.

to be human: have a SOUL — have a soul to have the capacity to equal achievement!

the power of a living mind; the power of thought andc hoicse and PURPOSE

cheapest oil; unlimited supply; an untapped supply— wait until you see the new process I’ve developed!

im sorry; i dont like to be careless; but i was too excited.

life is about excitement!!!

no limit on output

to hell with diesel gas oil, coal, or refueling station! future is electric 🙂

cleanest, swiftest, cheaper mens of motion ever devised.

ten times the power, self-generator; working on little energy.

invest in the future of smartphone photography?

how to create a factory; art factory?

no principle has ever filled anybody’s milk bottle.

the only thing that counts in life is solid; material assets.

theres no time for theories.

i dont want ideas; i just want my 1 meal a day.

why buy a factory?\

dry goods.

‘preservation of livelihood law’

‘fair share law’?

we have an unlimited market.


4-image set (pairing)

squeeze every last ounce of value out of a penny

pay for what i want; give value for value; ask of nothing of nature without trading my effort in return — ask nothing of men without trading the product of his effort.

only give people the truth?

pride myself on being different from lesser men.

What ppurpose do you live for?

What purpose do you live for?

enlightenment; know what purpose you live for.

what do you do with your time?

you are what you spend your time on.

dont suffer for ideals?

never stop creating value.

seek value for myself; and self-interest for the greater good.

i am perfectly innocent since i lost my money for a good cause. my motives were pure, i wanted nothing for myself. I’ve never sought anything for myself. i can proudly say that in all my life i have never made a profit


What i need:
1. peace
2. concentration
3. to not get distracted.

rich: taking risks.

disregard personal need.

dont use pity as a weapon.

pride in my criticism; call myself selfish— call myself midas.









any enlightened person knows that man is made by the material factors of his background; that a mans mind i sshaped by hist ools of production.


how to have deep, human significance?

I would have written my novel a long time ago; if I had the proper tools of production. I can’t write on this damn typewriter— it skips spaces. How can I get any inspiration and write a best seller with a typewriter that skips spaces?

rewards were based on need; and penalties on ability.

NEVER penalize those with ability!

love my work; it is my whole life.

calm, self-confident, happy.

I hate to seee ability and talent wasted.

Hugh Akston

philosopher; last of the ‘advocate of reason’

don’t run rap; run the map.

dont run photography; run the blogging world.

i want to tap an unlimited source of creativity and think of a ‘second renaissance’

Blog posts as letters to myself; meditations on mays elf.


know i am rational; and see reality.

know i am able to think!

believe in achievement of man!

people don want to think; the more trouble; less they want to think.

dont allow public to distract me from the work alone on earth; im the only one of capable of doing!

Play in your sandbox; playground.

how to turn 33 cents into a whole dollar?

new concept of energy; discard all old standard assumptions.

solve secret of convert static energy into kinetic energy.

Mail chimp: 1000 free; then pay money?

dont allow degeneracy of human race.

‘fair share law’

words are just symbols; they dont do anything.

”Run along, punk. Go and try to pour a ton of steel without rigid principles, on the expediency of the moment.”

start new venture; new research; new experiments.

‘a sale requires the seller’s consent’

slender tunic of dusty blue. — unprotected simplicity.

i like giving things to you; because you dont need them.

be okay with vicious self-indulgence by myself.

how can i enjoy my wealth?

gold— money; should be turned into any shape i want? how can i enjoy it?

dont just sit; being an amusement seeker and luxury lover.

they sit there; waiting for this place to give them meaning.

Rather, we should give the place meaning! ***

celebration; uncultured vision of gaiety .

the lights and flowers dont make us brilliant; we make the lights and flower brilliant.

life is motion; life is hustling.

mans life is purposeful motion

’purposeful hustling’

what is the state of my life; when my purpose and motion are being denied— being held in chains?

self confidence; self confidence of my value

have confidence in my own value!

others should look up to me; not other way around.

celebration of myself; and my will to live!

id rather die than stop working.

impossible to quit.

chain myself to my desk; not to leave it.

dont turn kinetic energy to static; turn static energy to kinetic.

create more things— make my static potential; into kinetic energy — study physics?

do research work for my own pleasure.

dont force myself to be useful to society?

i refuse: i will never accept something for nothing; and dont allow to give something for nothing?

if i spend the rest of my life on it and succeed; i will die satisfied.

i need to have problems to solve.

never do anything i dont want to do.

dont let nobody force me against my will.

what is ‘social responsibility’?

put my money where my mouth is.

dont use nothing i wouldn’t front my own money for ***

what is ‘humanitarian’?

they’re not human.

be selfish for the greater good.

these people hate me because they envy me?

nobody has achievements similar to mine.

people were mean and small.

everyone looks same; same look of static grooming. frozen in static amusement.

he could not find a single straight statement in the conversation of the men.

your presence; best gift.

dont sacrifice my full capacity; my full potential.

allow my top speed to be shown; dont waste my great power!!!

why do i care to be noticed or seen? like random eyes staring at me — i can simulate this?

why crowd-source your self-esteem; to just eyeballs — in organisms?

what if a bunch of dogs were looking at me in admiration; would I care? ***

‘olympian detachment’

a new adversary; a woman who refused to be hurt ***

refuse to let others hurt me ***

dont let nobody have power over me.

never feel the desire to flatter or offend anybody.

‘i understand you; but i will not give it back’

consider practical reality; not indulge in abstract theory.

i dont understand; can you be more explicit?

dont let nobody coerce me into doing anything i dont want to do.

pay rightfully for stuff!

i need to put in effort to get something; practice what i preach?

dont despise and look down on the achievements of others; look up to achievements of others

brag ok.

What is money?

root of money: tool of exchange, which cannot exist unless there are good produced, and men able to produce them.

”So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce.
Is this what you consider evil?

money: material shape of the concept and principle that money deal with each other via trade; and give value for value

money in itself is a piece of paper.

money is made possible by the men who produce

production = wealth! ***

“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor-your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?

accept money in payment for my effort; exchange it for products of efforts of others.

dont give value to money; give money to value?

money in wallet cannot turn into bread to survive. piece of paper; token of trust — claim on energy who produce. money is a statement of hope that somewhere in the world, there will be men who will not default on the moral principle of production.

”Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions-and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

root of production: through knowledge.

”But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made-before it can be looted or mooched-made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.

money is made not of strength, of guns, or muscle. wealth is the product of mans capacity to think.

the more i can think; the more wealth i will have?

honest man: i cannot consume more than i produce

to be a real man: produce more than I consume ***

to trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his own mind and effort.

money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return.

money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to men who buy them.

money deals with mutual benefit; by unforced judgement of the traders.

money demands: recognition that men must work for their own benefit— for their gain; not loss. to recognize that men are not beasts of burden!!!! but exchange of goods.

Don’t feel an ‘atlas complex’ — of trying to bear the weight of the whole world on my shoulders.

you sell your talent to the reasons of others; and you buy, the best your money can find ***

buy the best money can buy!

men live with trade; with reason, not force — as final arbiter.

‘it is the best product that wins’ — the best performance, man of best judgement and the highest ability. the degree of a mans productiveness is the degree of his reward.

the more productive i am; the more reward i have.

money is a tool. it will take you wherever i want; but will not replace me as the driver. i need to drive my money like a car.

money will give you the means of the satisfaction of my desires; but will not provide me with desires.

money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants; money will not give him a code of values.

wha do i value in life?

what is my purpose in life?

money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent.

money is my means of survival; to purchase food, coffee, shelter.

i cannot get more money than my ability deserves.

dont lower my standards for myself.

do work that brings me joy.

having virtue will lead to money. money will not give me virtue.

money is the creation of the best power within you.

know that i deserve money.

earn money respectfully.

run from men who say money is evil

money demands highest virtues; either to make it, or to keep it.

i need to have courage, self esteem, and pride!!!

have a moral sense of their right to my own money.

money is the barometer of a society’s virtue

only fortune from work!

real maker of wealth; greatest worker!

highest type of human being- the self-made man; the american industrialist.

american: to make money; value.

dont see money or wealth as a static quantity— to be seized; begged, inherited, shared, looted, or obtained as favor.


american were first to realize: wealth has to be created

‘to make money’ holds the essence of human morality.

‘if you can refute a single sentence i uttered; i shall hear it gratefully’

‘i dont feel that you’re right; so i know that you’re wrong’

‘i feel it; i dont go by my head, but my heart.’

how can you waste your life?

Don’t waste your life

how can you waste a mind like yours?

why dont you practice what you preach?

dont refuse to recognize reality

only evil: refusal to think.


dont ignore your own desires ***

what are my desires in life?

dont sacrifice my desires; examine their cause— there is a limit to how much i should have to bear.

are you boasting? you bet i am!

look of a man of action.

be proud of my success.

deliberate destruction?

dont read books; just do.

wisdom: knowing what to remember; and when to forget.

consistency: follow my gut.

foolishness of consistency — dont compromise.

what is a principle?

animals can smell fear.

be practical ; always put my self-interest above all else!

Freedom: Just blog on wordpress (open source)

sit leaning back in chair; feet on desk, posture of nobility.

pose of a young crusader



‘im discovering a new continent’

what kind of ambition did i have when i was 20 years old?

deliverance ?

dont feel like i have a burden of mankind.

name what i live by.

dont allow myself to destroy myself.

what is the reward for my work? happiness.

right or wrong?

hold to the purpose of my life!!!

make things in order to make money?

why choose the hardest way to make money?

exchange my best effort for the best effort of others.

bring out the best in others?

help others fulfill your personal maximum

how can i get the fruit of my labor; to make life easier for myself?

how to use fruit of my labor; use my money, to have less stress and anxiety and frustration in life?

how can i use my money; to make myself more creative?

rouse myself to purposeful hustle!

use my genius for benefit.

i am a producer; not a consumer.

‘the sanction of the victim’?

submit to the hardships of nature; to conquer it, to place it in the service of my joy and comfort.

be cheered for my virtues!

im hated not for my mistakes; but my achievements.

why others call me selfish; for having the courage to act on my own judgement? bear the sole responsibility for my own life.

I’ve been called arrogant for having an independent mind?

im cruel— for following my integrity?

im anti-social; to pursue the vision that made me venture upon undiscovered roads?

im ruthless for strength, self-discipline for the drive of my purpose?

im greedy— for the magnificence of my power to create wealth?

I’ve expended inconceivable flow of energy!

I’ve created abundance for others.

’the worst guilt is to accept an undeserved guilt’ — i dont deserve any guilt

dont feel any guilt ***

i follow the code of life.

what is my ultimate purpose?

”if you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders-what would you tell him to do?”
“I . . . don’t know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?”
“To shrug.”

what is the nature of my burden?

Upload unlisted videos; to purchase link?

allow people to follow

the day of the hero is not past!

her only sense of honor; weapon of enforcement

dont let people use bullshit ‘honor’ and ‘family’ as blackmail or weapon against me!

dont let people use guilt as a weapon against me ***

feel no guilt; no shame; no regret; no dishonor.

feel no concern for the verdict of others on me; lose respect for the judgement of others (false)

no pity.

the dishonest will escape unhurt.

dont let others use my virtue as an instrument of torture to myself!

fuck bringing ‘disgrace’ unto family; etc.

‘by what right; what code?’ — what standard?

create my own moral virtue.

for a while; stop reading philosophy of others— follow my own gut.

have no pity for dad.

no prey on conscience.

i dont have pity;

i am selfish ***

you have freedom of speech; but not in my house ***

you have a right to your own ideas; at your own expense; not at my own.

i dont tolerate differences of opinion; when im paying the bills.

‘im not your slave’ — am i yours?

dont let others get food unearned.

you’re an object of charity whose exhausted his credit long ago.

i havent the slightest interest in you; your fate, or your future.

i havent any reason whatever for wishing to feed you.

be grateful for your existence and life on earth; dont waste it!!!

Thanksgiving; holiday by productive people, celebrate the success of my work!

people come to see the inventor!

gray suit — suit had an expensive simplicity — not flaunted.

be civilized.

admiration and curiosity — defiance

self-confident wealth!

‘i do not recognize this court’s right to try me’

dont recognize the right of anyone to judge me.

only i can judge me.

i will not play the part of defending myself; where no defense is possible.

illusion of tribunal of justice.

highest principle is public good — should it be?

who is the public; and what does it hold as good?


i hold my own interests above the interests of the public.

society of cannibal?

i dont throw myself at the mercy of nobody.

freedom to make money

‘i work for nothing but my own profit; i earn it’

i work for nothing but my own profit; sell a profit and people are able to buy it.

sell ebook for $50, $100, $300?

sell online workshop for $300, $500, $1000?

month-long online workshop for $1,000 — 4 assignments, week; 1:1 hour talk with me?

dont need testimonials.

i am rich and proud of every penny i own.

i made my own money by my own effort; in free exchange, and through voluntary consent.

people voluntarily buy my product.

dont pay my worker more than their services are worth to me.

dont sell my product for less than my customers are willing to pay me ***

dont sell things at loss.

follow my own standards; earn my own living.

refuse to accept guilt as the fact of my own existence.

refuse to feel guilty that my work is of greater value than the work of my neighbors.

dont apologize for my superior ability.

success; i refuse to apologize for my money.

i do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist.

look of admiration and hope

How to Hope

first sign of emotion.

what is sacrifice?

“I do not co-operate at the point of a gun.”

dont see my highest moments as a sin.

dont betray the best within me.

ill never be tempted to quit **

the right always works and always wins.

know what is right.

disregard if others resent me ***

disregard indignation

dont care if i give ammunition to the enemy.

seek to EXPRESS my value

dont feel guilty about making money **

you’re incapable of self-contempt

dont need to defend myself, just say it.

shape matter to the purpose of my mind ***

what kind of idealist can i be?

pleasure seeking; why the more i get, the less i feel? dont chase women.

camouflage — be hidden.

make my blog more poppy— more click baity for the better good?


“But can we get away with it?” asked Wesley Mouch. His voice was high with anger and thin with fear.
Nobody answered him. James Taggart sat on the edge of an armchair, not moving, looking up at him from under his forehead, Orren Boyle gave a vicious tap against an ashtray, shaking the ash off his cigar. Dr.
Floyd Ferris smiled. Mr. Weatherby folded his lips and hands. Fred Kinnan, head of the Amalgamated Labor of America, stopped pacing the office, sat down on the window sill and crossed his arms. Eugene Lawson, who had sat hunched downward, absent-mindedly rearranging a display of flowers on a low glass table, raised his torso resentfully and glanced up. Mouch sat at his desk, with his fist on a sheet of paper.
It was Eugene Lawson who answered. “That’s not, it seems to me, the way to put it. We must not let vulgar difficulties obstruct our feeling that it’s a noble plan motivated solely by the public welfare. It’s for the good of the people. The people need it. Need comes first, so we don’t have to consider anything else.”
Nobody objected or picked it up; they looked as if Lawson had merely made it harder to continue the discussion. But a small man who sat unobtrusively in the best armchair of the room, apart from the others, content to be ignored and fully aware that none of them could be unconscious of his presence, glanced at Lawson, then at Mouch, and said with brisk cheerfulness, “That’s the line, Wesley. Tone it down and dress it up and get your press boys to chant it-and you won’t have to worry.”
“Yes, Mr. Thompson,” said Mouch glumly.
Mr. Thompson, the Head of the State, was a man who possessed the quality of never being noticed. In any group of three, his person became indistinguishable, and when seen alone it seemed to evoke a group of its own, composed of the countless persons he resembled.
The country had no clear image of what he looked like: his photographs had appeared on the covers of magazines as frequently as those of his predecessors in office, but people could never be quite certain which photographs were his and which were pictures of “a mail clerk”
or “a white-collar worker,” accompanying articles about the daily life of the undifferentiated-except that Mr. Thompson’s collars were usually wilted. He had broad shoulders and a slight body. He had stringy hair, a wide mouth and an elastic age range that made him look like a harassed forty or an unusually vigorous sixty. Holding enormous official powers, he schemed ceaselessly to expand them, because it was expected of him by those who had pushed him into office. He had the cunning of the unintelligent and the frantic energy of the lazy. The sole secret of his rise in life was the fact that he was a product of chance and knew it and aspired to nothing else.
“It’s obvious that measures have to be taken. Drastic measures,”
said James Taggart, speaking, not to Mr. Thompson, but to Wesley Mouch. “We can’t let things go the way they’re going much longer.”
His voice was belligerent and shaky.
“Take it easy, Jim,” said Orren Boyle.
“Something’s got to be done and done fast!”
“Don’t look at me,” snapped Wesley Mouch. “I can’t help it. I can’t help it if people refuse to co-operate. I’m tied. I need wider powers.”
Mouch had summoned them all to Washington, as his friends and personal advisers, for a private, unofficial conference on the national crisis. But, watching him, they were unable to decide whether his manner was overbearing or whining, whether he was threatening them or pleading for their help.
“Fact is,” said Mr. Weatherby primly, in a statistical tone of voice, “that in the twelve-month period ending on the first of this year, the rate of business failures has doubled, as compared with the preceding twelve-month period. Since the first of this year, it has trebled.”
“Be sure they think it’s their own fault,” said Dr. Ferris casually.
“Huh?” said Wesley Mouch, his eyes darting to Ferris.
“Whatever you do, don’t apologize,” said Dr, Ferris. “Make them feel guilty.”
“I’m not apologizing!” snapped Mouch. “I’m not to blame. I need wider powers.”
“But it is their own fault,” said Eugene Lawson, turning aggressively to Dr. Ferris. “It’s their lack of social spirit. They refuse to recognize that production is not a private choice, but a public duty. They have no right to fail, no matter what conditions happen to come up. They’ve got to go on producing. It’s a social imperative. A man’s work is not a personal matter, it’s a social matter. There’s no such thing as a personal matter-or a personal life. That’s what we’ve got to force them to learn.”
“Gene Lawson knows what I’m talking about,” said Dr. Ferris, with a slight smile, “even though he hasn’t the faintest idea that he does.”
“What do you think you mean?” asked Lawson, his voice rising.
“Skip it,” ordered Wesley Mouch.
“I don’t care what you decide to do, Wesley,” said Mr. Thompson, “and I don’t care if the businessmen squawk about it. Just be sure you’ve got the press with you. Be damn sure about that.”
“I’ve got ’em,” said Mouch.
“One editor who’d open his trap at the wrong time could do us more harm than ten disgruntled millionaires.”
“That’s true, Mr. Thompson,” said Dr. Ferris. “But can you name one editor who knows it?”
“Guess not,” said Mr. Thompson; he sounded pleased.
“Whatever type of men we’re counting on and planning for,” said Dr. Ferris, “there’s a certain old-fashioned quotation which we may safely forget: the one about counting on the wise and the honest. We don’t have to consider them. They’re out of date.”
James Taggart glanced at the window. There were patches of blue in the sky above the spacious streets of Washington, the faint blue of mid-April, and a few beams breaking through the clouds, A monument stood shining in the distance, hit by a ray of sun: it was a tall, white obelisk, erected to the memory of the man Dr. Ferris was quoting, the man in whose honor this city had been named. James Taggart looked away.
“I don’t like the professor’s remarks,” said Lawson loudly and sullenly.
“Keep still,” said Wesley Mouch. “Dr. Ferris is not talking theory, but practice.”
“Well, if you want to talk practice,” said Fred Kinnan, “then let me tell you that we can’t worry about businessmen at a time like this.
What we’ve got to think about is jobs. More jobs for the people. In my unions, every man who’s working is feeding five who aren’t, not counting his own pack of starving relatives. If you want my advice-
oh, I know you won’t go for it, but it’s just a thought-issue a directive making it compulsory to add, say, one-third more men to every payroll in the country.”
“Good God!” yelled Taggart. “Are you crazy? We can barely meet our payrolls as it is! There’s not enough work for the men we’ve got now! One-third more? We wouldn’t have any use for them whatever!”
“Who cares whether you’d have any use for them?” said Fred Kinnan. “They need jobs. That’s what comes first-need-doesn’t it?-
not your profits.”
“It’s not a question of profits!” yelled Taggart hastily. “I haven’t said anything about profits. I haven’t given you any grounds to insult me.
It’s just a question of where in hell we’d get the money to pay your men-when half our trains are running empty and there’s not enough freight to fill a trolley car.” His voice slowed down suddenly to a tone of cautious thoughtfulness: “However, we do understand the plight of the working men, and-it’s just a thought -we could, perhaps, take on a certain extra number, if we were permitted to double our freight rates, which-”
“Have you lost your mind?” yelled Orren Boyle. “I’m going broke on the rates you’re charging now, I shudder every time a damn boxcar pulls in or out of the mills, they’re bleeding me to death, I can’t afford it-and you want to double it?”
“It is not essential whether you can afford it or not,” said Taggart coldly, “You have to be prepared to make some sacrifices. The public needs railroads. Need conies first-above your profits.”
“What profits?” yelled Orren Boyle. “When did I ever make any profits? Nobody can accuse me of running a profit-making business!
Just look at my balance sheet-and then look at the books of a certain competitor of mine, who’s got all the customers, all the raw materials, all the technical advantages and a monopoly on secret formulas-then tell me who’s the profiteer! . . . But, of course, the public does need railroads, and perhaps I could manage to absorb a certain raise in rates, if I were to get-it’s just a thought-if I were to get a subsidy to carry me over the next year or two, until I catch my stride and-”
“What? Again?” yelled Mr. Weatherby, losing his primness. “How many loans have you got from us and how many extensions, suspensions and moratoriums? You haven’t repaid a penny-and with all of you boys going broke and the tax receipts crashing, where do you expect us to get the money to hand you a subsidy?”
“There are people who aren’t broke,” said Boyle slowly. “You boys have no excuse for permitting all that need and misery to spread through the country-so long as there are people who aren’t broke.”
“I can’t help it!” yelled Wesley Mouch. “I can’t do anything about it!
I need wider powers!”
They could not tell what had prompted Mr. Thompson to attend this particular conference. He had said little, but had listened with interest. It seemed as if there were something which he had wanted to learn, and now he looked as if he had learned it. He stood up and smiled cheerfully.
“Go ahead, Wesley,” he said. “Go ahead with Number 10-289. You won’t have any trouble at all,”
They had all risen to their feet, in gloomily reluctant deference. Wesley Mouch glanced down at his sheet of paper, then said in a petulant tone of voice, “If you want me to go ahead, you’ll have to declare a state of total emergency.”
“I’ll declare it any time you’re ready.”
“There are certain difficulties, which-”
“I’ll leave it up to you. Work it out any way you wish. It’s your job.
Let me see the rough draft, tomorrow or next day, but don’t bother me about the details. I’ve got a speech to make on the radio in half an hour.”
“The chief difficulty is that I’m not sure whether the law actually grants us the power to put into effect certain provisions of Directive Number 10-289.1 fear they might be open to challenge.”
“Oh hell, we’ve passed so many emergency laws that if you hunt through them, you’re sure to dig up something that will cover it.”
Mr. Thompson turned to the others with a smile of good fellowship.
“I’ll leave you boys to iron out the wrinkles,” he said. “I appreciate your coming to Washington to help us out. Glad to have seen you.”
They waited until the door closed after him, then resumed their seats; they did not look at one another.
They had not heard the text of Directive No. 10-289, but they knew what it would contain. They had known it for a long time, in that special manner which consisted of keeping secrets from oneself and leaving knowledge untranslated into words. And, by the same method, they now wished it were possible for them not to hear the words of the directive. It was to avoid moments such as this that all the complex twistings of their minds had been devised, They wished the directive to go into effect. They wished it could be put into effect without words, so that they would not have to know that what they were doing was what it was. Nobody had ever announced that Directive No. 10-289 was the final goal of his efforts.
Yet, for generations past, men had worked to make it possible, and for months past, every provision of it had been prepared for by countless speeches, articles, sermons, editorials-by purposeful voices that screamed with anger if anyone named their purpose.
‘The picture now is this,” said Wesley Mouch. “The economic condition of the country was better the year before last than it was last year, and last year it was better than it is at present. It’s obvious that we would not be able to survive another year of the same progression.
Therefore, our sole objective must now be to hold the line. To stand still in order to catch our stride. To achieve total stability. Freedom has been given a chance and has failed. Therefore, more stringent controls are necessary. Since men are unable and unwilling to solve their problems voluntarily, they must be forced to do it.” He paused, picked up the sheet of paper, then added in a less formal tone of voice, “Hell, what it comes down to is that we can manage to exist as and where we are, but we can’t afford to move! So we’ve got to stand still. We’ve got to stand still. We’ve got to make those bastards stand still!”
His head drawn into his shoulders, he was looking at them with the anger of a man declaring that the country’s troubles were a personal affront to him. So many men seeking favors had been afraid of him that he now acted as if his anger were a solution to everything, as if his anger were omnipotent, as if all he had to do was to get angry.
Yet, facing him, the men who sat in a silent semicircle before his desk were uncertain whether the presence of fear in the room was their own emotion or whether the hunched figure behind the desk generated the panic of a cornered rat.
Wesley Mouch had a long, square face and a flat-topped skull, made more so by a brush haircut. His lower lip was a petulant bulb and the pale, brownish pupils of his eyes looked like the yolks of eggs smeared under the not fully translucent whites. His facial muscles moved abruptly, and the movement vanished, having conveyed no expression.
No one had ever seen him smile.
Wesley Mouch came from a family that had known neither poverty nor wealth nor distinction for many generations; it had clung, however, to a tradition of its own: that of being college-bred and, therefore, of despising men who were in business. The family’s diplomas had always hung on the wall in the manner of a reproach to the world, because the diplomas had not automatically produced the material equivalents of their attested spiritual value. Among the family’s numerous relatives, there was one rich uncle. He had married his money and, in his widowed old age, he had picked Wesley as his favorite from among his many nephews and nieces, because Wesley was the least distinguished of the lot and therefore, thought Uncle Julius, the safest. Uncle Julius did not care for people who were brilliant. He did not care for the trouble of managing his money, either; so he turned the job over to Wesley. By the time Wesley graduated from college, there was no money left to manage. Uncle Julius blamed it on Wesley’s cunning and cried that Wesley was an unscrupulous schemer.
But there had been no scheme about it; Wesley could not have said just where the money had gone. In high school, Wesley Mouch had been one of the worst students and had passionately envied those who were the best. College taught him that he did not have to envy them at all. After graduation, he took a job in the advertising department of a company that manufactured a bogus corn-cure. The cure sold well and he rose to be the head of his department. He left it to take charge of the advertising of a hair-restorer, then of a patented brassiere, then of a new soap, then of a soft drink-and then he became advertising vice-president of an automobile concern. He tried to sell automobiles as if they were a bogus corn-cure. They did not sell.
He blamed it on the insufficiency of his advertising budget. It was the president of the automobile concern who recommended him to Rearden. It was Rearden who introduced him to Washington-Rearden, who knew no standard by which to judge the activities of his Washington man. It was James Taggart who gave him a start in the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources-in exchange for double crossing Rearden in order to help Orren Boyle in exchange for destroying Dan Conway. From then on, people helped Wesley Mouch to advance, for the same reason as that which had prompted Uncle Julius: they were people who believed that mediocrity was safe. The men who now sat in front of his desk had been taught that the law of causality was a superstition and that one had to deal with the situation of the moment without considering its cause. By the situation of the moment, they had concluded that Wesley Mouch was a man of superlative skill and cunning, since millions aspired to power, but he was the one who had achieved it. It was not within their method of thinking to know that Wesley Mouch was the zero at the meeting point of forces unleashed in destruction against one another.
“This is just a rough draft of Directive Number 10-289,” said Wesley Mouch, “which Gene, Clem and I have dashed off just to give you the general idea. We want to hear your opinions, suggestions and so forth-you being the representatives of labor, industry, transportation and the professions.”
Fred Kinnan got off the window sill and sat down on the arm of a chair. Orren Boyle spit out the butt of his cigar. James Taggart looked down at his own hands. Dr. Ferris was the only one who seemed to be at ease.
“In the name of the general welfare,” read Wesley Mouch, “to protect the people’s security, to achieve full equality and total stability, it is decreed for the duration of the national emergency that-
“Point One. All workers, wage earners and employees of any kind whatsoever shall henceforth be attached to their jobs and shall not leave nor be dismissed nor change employment, under penalty of a term in jail. The penalty shall be determined by the Unification Board, such Board to be appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources. All persons reaching the age of twenty-one shall report to the Unification Board, which shall assign them to where, in its opinion, their services will best serve the interests of the nation.
“Point Two. All industrial, commercial, manufacturing and business establishments of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth remain in operation, and the owners of such establishments shall not quit nor leave nor retire, nor close, sell or transfer their business, under penalty of the nationalization of their establishment and of any and all of their property.
“Point Three. All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift by means of Gift Certificates to be signed voluntarily by the owners of all such patents and copyrights. The Unification Board shall then license the use of such patents and copyrights to all applicants, equally and without discrimination, for the purpose of eliminating monopolistic practices, discarding obsolete products and making the best available to the whole nation. No trademarks, brand names or copyrighted titles shall be used. Every formerly patented product shall be known by a new name and sold by all manufacturers under the same name, such name to be selected by the Unification Board. All private trademarks and brand names are hereby abolished.
“Point Four. No new devices, inventions, products, or goods of any nature whatsoever, not now on the market, shall be produced, invented, manufactured or sold after the date of this directive. The Office of Patents and Copyrights is hereby suspended.
“Point Five. Every establishment, concern, corporation or person engaged in production of any nature whatsoever shall henceforth produce the same amount of goods per year as it, they or he produced during the Basic Year, no more and no less. The year to be known as the Basic or Yardstick Year is to be the year ending on the date of this directive. Over or under production shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.
“Point Six. Every person of any age, sex, class or income, shall henceforth spend the same amount of money on the purchase of goods per year as he or she spent during the Basic Year, no more and no less.
Over or under purchasing shall be fined, such fines to be determined by the Unification Board.
“Point Seven. All wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits, interest rates and forms of income of any nature whatsoever, shall be frozen at their present figures, as of the date of this directive.
“Point Eight. All cases arising from and rules not specifically provided for in this directive, shall be settled and determined by the Unification Board, whose decisions will be final.”
There was, even within the four men who had listened, a remnant of human dignity, which made them sit still and feel sick for the length of one minute.
James Taggart spoke first. His voice was low, but it had the trembling intensity of an involuntary scream: “Well, why not? Why should they have it, if we don’t? Why should they stand above us? If we are to perish, let’s make sure that we all perish together. Let’s make sure that we leave them no chance to survive!”
“That’s a damn funny thing to say about a very practical plan that will benefit everybody,” said Orren Boyle shrilly, looking at Taggart in frightened astonishment.
Dr. Ferris chuckled.
Taggart’s eyes seemed to focus, and he said, his voice louder, “Yes, of course. It’s a very practical plan. It’s necessary, practical and just.
It will solve everybody’s problems. It will give everybody a chance to feel safe. A chance to rest.”
“It will give security to the people,” said Eugene Lawson, his mouth slithering into a smile. “Security-that’s what the people want. If they want it, why shouldn’t they have it? Just because a handful of rich will object?”
“It’s not the rich who’ll object,” said Dr. Ferris lazily. “The rich drool for security more than any other sort of animal-haven’t you discovered that yet?”
“Well, who’ll object?” snapped Lawson.
Dr. Ferris smiled pointedly, and did not answer.
Lawson looked away. “To hell with them! Why should we worry about them? We’ve got to run the world for the sake of the little people. It’s intelligence that’s caused all the troubles of humanity. Man’s mind is the root of all evil. This is the day of the heart. It’s the weak, the meek, the sick and the humble that must be the only objects of our concern,” His lower Up was twisting in soft, lecherous motions.
“Those who’re big are here to serve those who aren’t. If they refuse to do their moral duty, we’ve got to force them. There once was an Age of Reason, but we’ve progressed beyond it. This is the Age of Love.”
“Shut up!” screamed James Taggart.
They all stared at him. “For Christ’s sake, Jim, what’s the matter?”
said Orren Boyle, shaking.
“Nothing,” said Taggart, “nothing . . . Wesley, keep him still, will you?”
Mouch said uncomfortably, “But I fail to see-”
“Just keep him still. We don’t have to listen to him, do we?”
“Why, no, but-”
“Then let’s go on.”
“What is this?” demanded Lawson, “I resent it. I most emphatically-” But he saw no support in the faces around him and stopped, his mouth sagging into an expression of pouting hatred.
“Let’s go on,” said Taggart feverishly.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked Orren Boyle, trying not to know what was the matter with himself and why he felt frightened.
“Genius is a superstition, Jim,” said Dr. Ferris slowly, with an odd kind of emphasis, as if knowing that he was naming the unnamed in all their minds. “There’s no such thing as the intellect. A man’s brain is a social product. A sum of influences that he’s picked up from those around him. Nobody invents anything, he merely reflects what’s floating in the social atmosphere. A genius is an intellectual scavenger and a greedy hoarder of the ideas which rightfully belong to society, from which he stole them. All thought is theft. If we do away with private fortunes, we’ll have a fairer distribution of wealth. If we do away with the genius, we’ll have a faker distribution of ideas.”
“Are we here to talk business or are we here to kid one another?”
asked Fred Kinnan.
They turned to him. He was a muscular man with large features, but his face had the astonishing property of finely drawn lines that raised the corners of his mouth into the permanent hint of a wise, sardonic grin. He sat on the arm of the chair, hands in pockets, looking at Mouch with the smiling glance of a hardened policeman at a shoplifter.
“All I’ve got to say is that you’d better staff that Unification Board with my men,” he said. “Better make sure of it, brother-or I’ll blast your Point One to hell.”
“I intend, of course, to have a representative of labor on that Board,” said Mouch dryly, “as well as a representative of industry, of the professions and of every cross-section of-”
“No cross-sections,” said Fred Kinnan evenly. “Just representatives of labor. Period.”
“What the hell!” yelled Orren Boyle. “That’s stacking the cards, isn’t it?”
“Sure,” said Fred Kinnan.
“But that will give you a stranglehold on every business in the country!”
“What do you think I’m after?”
“That’s unfair!” yelled Boyle. “I won’t stand for it! You have no right! You-”
“Right?” said Kinnan innocently. “Are we talking about rights?”
“But, I mean, after all, there are certain fundamental property rights which-”
“Listen, pal, you want Point Three, don’t you?”
“Well, I-”
“Then you’d better keep your trap shut about property rights from now on. Keep it shut tight.”
“Mr. Kinnan,” said Dr. Ferris, “you must not make the old fashioned mistake of drawing wide generalizations. Our policy has to be flexible. There are no absolute principles which-”
“Save it for Jim Taggart, Doc,” said Fred Kinnan. “I know what I’m talking about. That’s because I never went to college.”
“I object,” said Boyle, “to your dictatorial method of-”
Kinnan turned his back on him and said, “Listen, Wesley, my boys won’t like Point One. If I get to run things, I’ll make them swallow it. If not, not. Just make up your mind,”
“Well-” said Mouch, and stopped.
“For Christ’s sake, Wesley, what about us?” yelled Taggart.
“You’ll come to me,” said Kinnan, “when you’ll need a deal to fix the Board. But I’ll run that Board. Me and Wesley.”
“Do you think the country will stand for it?” yelled Taggart.
“Stop kidding yourself,” said Kinnan. “The country? If there aren’t any principles any more-and I guess the doc is right, because there sure aren’t-if there aren’t any rules to this game and it’s only a question of who robs whom-then I’ve got more votes than the bunch of you, there are more workers than employers, and don’t you forget it, boys!”
“That’s a funny attitude to take,” said Taggart haughtily, “about a measure which, after all, is not designed for the selfish benefit of workers or employers, but for the general welfare of the public.”
“Okay,” said Kinnan amiably, “let’s talk your lingo. Who is the public? If you go by quality-then it ain’t you, Jim, and it ain’t Orrie Boyle. If you go by quantity-then it sure is me, because quantity is what I’ve got behind me.” His smile disappeared, and with a sudden, bitter look of weariness he added, “Only I’m not going to say that I’m working for the welfare of my public, because I know I’m not. I know that I’m delivering the poor bastards into slavery, and that’s all there is to it. And they know it, too. But they know that I’ll have to throw them a crumb once in a while, if I want to keep my racket, while with the rest of you they wouldn’t have a chance in hell. So that’s why, if they’ve got to be under a whip, they’d rather I held it, not you-you drooling, tear-jerking, mealy-mouthed bastards of the public welfare!
Do you think that outside of your college-bred pansies there’s one village idiot whom you’re fooling? I’m a racketeer-but I know it and my boys know it, and they know that I’ll pay off. Not out of the kindness of my heart, either, and not a cent more than I can get away with, but at least they can count on that much. Sure, it makes me sick sometimes, it makes me sick right now, but it’s not me who’s built this kind of world-you did-so I’m playing the game as you’ve set it up and I’m going to play it for as long as it lasts-which isn’t going to be long for any of us!”
He stood up. No one answered him. He let his eyes move slowly from face to face and stop on Wesley Mouch.
“Do I get the Board, Wesley?” he asked casually.
“The selection of the specific personnel is only a technical detail,”
said Mouch pleasantly. “Suppose we discuss it later, you and I?”
Everybody in the room knew that this meant the answer Yes.
“Okay, pal,” said Kinnan. He went back to the window, sat down on the sill and lighted a cigarette.
For some unadmitted reason, the others were looking at Dr. Ferris, as if seeking guidance.
“Don’t be disturbed by oratory,” said Dr. Ferris smoothly. “Mr.
Kinnan is a fine speaker, but he has no sense of practical reality. He is unable to think dialectically.”
There was another silence, then James Taggart spoke up suddenly.
“I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. He’ll have to hold things still. Everything will have to remain as it is. Just as it is. Nobody will be permitted to change anything. Except-” He turned sharply to Wesley Mouch.
“Wesley, under Point Four, we’ll have to close all research departments, experimental laboratories, scientific foundations and all the rest of the institutions of that kind. They’ll have to be forbidden.”
“Yes, that’s right,” said Mouch. “I hadn’t thought of that. We’ll have to stick in a couple of lines about that.” He hunted around for a pencil and made a few scrawls on the margin of his paper.
“It will end wasteful competition,” said James Taggart. “We’ll stop scrambling to beat one another to the untried and the unknown. We won’t have to worry about new inventions upsetting the market. We won’t have to pour money down the drain in useless experiments just to keep up with over ambitious competitors.”
“Yes,” said Orren Boyle. “Nobody should be allowed to waste money on the new until everybody has plenty of the old. Close all those damn research laboratories-and the sooner, the better.”
“Yes,” said Wesley Mouch. “We’ll close them. All of them.”
“The State Science Institute, too?” asked Fred Kinnan.
“Oh, no!” said Mouch. “That’s different. That’s government. Besides, it’s a non-profit institution. And it will be sufficient to take care of all scientific progress.”
“Quite sufficient,” said Dr. Ferris.
“And what will become of all the engineers, professors and such, when you close all those laboratories?” asked Fred Kinnan. “What are they going to do for a living, with all the other jobs and businesses frozen?”
“Oh,” said Wesley Mouch. He scratched his head. He turned to Mr.
Weatherby. “Do we put them on relief, Clem?”
“No,” said Mr. Weatherby. “What for? There’s not enough of them to raise a squawk. Not enough to matter.”
“I suppose,” said Mouch, turning to Dr. Ferris, “that you’ll be able to absorb some of them, Floyd?”
“Some,” said Dr. Ferris slowly, as if relishing every syllable of his answer. “Those who prove co-operative.”
“What about the rest?” asked Fred Kinnan.
“They’ll have to wait till the Unification Board finds some use for them,” said Wesley Mouch.
“What will they eat while they’re waiting?”
Mouch shrugged. “There’s got to be some victims in times of national emergency. It can’t be helped.”
“We have the right to do it!” cried Taggart suddenly, in defiance to the stillness of the room. “We need it. We need it, don’t we?” There was no answer. “We have the right to protect our livelihood!” Nobody opposed him, but he went on with a shrill, pleading insistence. “We’ll be safe for the first time in centuries. Everybody will know his place and job, and everybody else’s place and job-and we won’t be at the mercy of every stray crank with a new idea. Nobody will push us out of business or steal our markets or undersell us or make us obsolete.
Nobody will come to us offering some damn new gadget and putting us on the spot to decide whether we’ll lose our shirt if we buy it, or whether we’ll lose our shirt if we don’t but somebody else does! We won’t have to decide. Nobody will be permitted to decide anything.
It will be decided once and for all.” His glance moved pleadingly from face to face. “There’s been enough invented already-enough for everybody’s comfort-why should they be allowed to go on inventing?
Why should we permit them to blast the ground from under our feet every few steps? Why should we be kept on the go in eternal uncertainty? Just because of a few restless, ambitious adventurers? Should we sacrifice the contentment of the whole of mankind to the greed of a few non-conformists? We don’t need them. We don’t need them at all.
I wish we’d get rid of that hero worship! Heroes? They’ve done nothing but harm, all through history. They’ve kept mankind running a wild race, with no breathing spell, no rest, no ease, no security. Running to catch up with them . . . always, without end . . . Just as -we catch up, they’re years ahead. . . . They leave us no chance . . . They’ve never left us a chance. . . .” His eyes were moving restlessly; he glanced at the window, but looked hastily away: he did not want to see the white obelisk in the distance. “We’re through with them. We’ve won. This is our age. Our world. We’re going to have security-for the first time in centuries-for the first time since the beginning of the industrial revolution!”
“Well, this, I guess,” said Fred Kinnan, “is the anti-industrial revolution.”
“That’s a damn funny thing for you to say!” snapped Wesley Mouch. “We can’t be permitted to say that to the public.”
“Don’t worry, brother. I won’t say it to the public.”
“It’s a total fallacy,” said Dr. Ferris. “It’s a statement prompted by ignorance. Every expert has conceded long ago that a planned economy achieves the maximum of productive efficiency and that centralization leads to super-industrialization.”
“Centralization destroys the blight of monopoly,” said Boyle.
“How’s that again?” drawled Kinnan.
Boyle did not catch the tone of mockery, and answered earnestly, “It destroys the blight of monopoly. It leads to the democratization of industry. It makes everything available to everybody. Now, for instance, at a time like this, when there’s such a desperate shortage of iron ore, is there any sense in my wasting money, labor and national resources on making old-fashioned steel, when there exists a much better metal that I could be making? A metal that everybody wants, but nobody can get. Now is that good economics or sound social efficiency or democratic justice? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to manufacture that metal and why shouldn’t the people get it when they need it?
Just because of the private monopoly of one selfish individual? Should we sacrifice our rights to his personal interests?”
“Skip it, brother,” said Fred Kinnan. “I’ve read it all in the same newspapers you did.”
“I don’t like your attitude,” said Boyle, in a sudden tone of righteousness, with a look which, in a barroom, would have signified a prelude to a fist fight. He sat up straight, buttressed by the columns of paragraphs on yellow-tinged paper, which he was seeing in his mind: “At a time of crucial public need, are we to waste social effort on the manufacture of obsolete products? Are we to let the many remain in want while the few withhold from us the better products and methods available? Are we to be stopped by the superstition of patent rights?”
“Is it not obvious that private industry is unable to cope with the present economic crisis? How long, for instance, are we going to put up with the disgraceful shortage of Rearden Metal? There is a crying public demand for it, which Rearden has failed to supply.”
“When are we going to put an end to economic injustice and special privileges? Why should Rearden be the only one permitted to manufacture Rearden Metal?”
“I don’t like your attitude,” said Orren Boyle. “So long as we respect the rights of the workers, we’ll want you to respect the rights of the industrialists.”
“Which rights of which industrialists?” drawled Kinnan.
“I’m inclined to think,” said Dr. Ferris hastily, “that Point Two, perhaps, is the most essential one of all at present. We must put an end to that peculiar business of industrialists retiring and vanishing. We must stop them. It’s playing havoc with our entire economy.”
“Why are they doing it?” asked Taggart nervously. “Where are they all going?”
“Nobody knows,” said Dr. Ferris. “We’ve been unable to find any information or explanation. But it must be stopped. In times of crisis, economic service to the nation is just as much of a duty as military service. Anyone who abandons it should be regarded as a deserter. I have recommended that we introduce the death penalty for those men, but Wesley wouldn’t agree to it.”
“Take it easy, boy,” said Fred Kinnan in an odd, slow voice. He sat suddenly and perfectly still, his arms crossed, looking at Ferris in a manner that made it suddenly real to the room that Ferris had proposed murder. “Don’t let me hear you talk about any death penalties in industry.”
Dr. Ferris shrugged.
“We don’t have to go to extremes,” said Mouch hastily. “We don’t want to frighten people. We want to have them on our side. Our top problem is, will they . . . will they accept it at all?”
“They will,” said Dr. Ferris.
“I’m a little worried,” said Eugene Lawson, “about Points Three and Four. Taking over the patents is fine. Nobody’s going to defend industrialists. But I’m worried about taking over the copyrights. That’s going to antagonize the intellectuals. It’s dangerous. It’s a spiritual issue. Doesn’t Point Four mean that no new books are to be written or published from now on?”
“Yes,” said Mouch, “it does. But we can’t make an exception for the book-publishing business. It’s an industry like any other. When we say ‘no new products,’ it’s got to mean ‘no new products.’ ”
“But this is a matter of the spirit,” said Lawson; his voice had a tone, not of rational respect, but of superstitious awe.
“We’re not interfering with anybody’s spirit. But when you print a book on paper, it becomes a material commodity-and if we grant an exception to one commodity, we won’t be able to hold the others in line and we won’t be able to make anything stick.”
“Yes, that’s true. But-”
“Don’t be a chump, Gene,” said Dr. Ferris. “You don’t want some recalcitrant hacks to come out with treatises that will wreck our entire program, do you? If you breathe the word ‘censorship’ now, they’ll all scream bloody murder. They’re not ready for it-as yet. But if you leave the spirit alone and make it a simple material issue-not a matter of ideas, but just a matter of paper, ink and printing presses-
you accomplish your purpose much more smoothly. You’ll make sure that nothing dangerous gets printed or heard-and nobody is going to fight over a material issue.”
“Yes, but . . . but I don’t think the writers will like it.”
“Are you sure?” asked Wesley Mouch, with a glance that was almost a smile, “Don’t forget that under Point Five, the publishers will have to publish as many books as they did in the Basic Year. Since there will be no new ones, they will have to reprint-and the public will have to buy-some of the old ones. There are many very worthy books that have never had a fair chance.”
“Oh,” said Lawson; he remembered that he had seen Mouch lunching with Balph Eubank two weeks ago. Then he shook his head and frowned. “Still, I’m worried. The intellectuals are our friends. We don’t want to lose them. They can make an awful lot of trouble.”
“They won’t,” said Fred Kinnan. “Your kind of intellectuals are the first to scream when it’s safe-and the first to shut their traps at the first sign of danger. They spend years spitting at the man who feeds them-and they lick the hand of the man who slaps their drooling faces. Didn’t they deliver every country of Europe, one after another, to committees of goons, just like this one here? Didn’t they scream their heads off to shut out every burglar alarm and to break every padlock open for the goons? Have you heard a peep out of them since? Didn’t they scream that they were the friends of labor? Do you hear them raising their voices about the chain gangs, the slave camps, the fourteen-hour workday and the mortality from scurvy in the People’s States of Europe? No, but you do hear them telling the whip-beaten wretches that starvation is prosperity, that slavery is freedom, that torture chambers arc brother-love and that if the wretches don’t understand it, then it’s their own fault that they suffer, and it’s the mangled corpses in the jail cellars who’re to blame for all their troubles, not the benevolent leaders! Intellectuals? You might have to worry about any other breed of men, but not about the modern intellectuals: they’ll swallow anything. I don’t feel so safe about the lousiest wharf rat in the longshoremen’s union: he’s liable to remember suddenly that he is a man-and then I won’t be able to keep him in line. But the intellectuals? That’s the one thing they’ve forgotten long ago. I guess it’s the one thing that all their education was aimed to make them forget. Do anything you please to the intellectuals. They’ll take it.”
“For once,” said Dr. Ferns, “I agree with Mr. Kinnan. I agree with his facts, if not with his feelings. You don’t have to worry about the intellectuals, Wesley. Just put a-few of them on the government payroll and send them out to preach precisely the sort of thing Mr.
Kinnan mentioned: that the blame rests on the victims. Give them moderately comfortable salaries and extremely loud titles-and they’ll forget their copyrights and do a better job for you than whole squads of enforcement officers.”
“Yes,” said Mouch. “I know.”
“The danger that I’m worried about will come from a different quarter,” said Dr. Ferris thoughtfully. “You might run into quite a bit of trouble on that ‘voluntary Gift Certificate1 business, Wesley.”
“I know,” said Mouch glumly. “That’s the point I wanted Thompson to help us out on. But I guess he can’t. We don’t actually have the legal power to seize the patents. Oh, there’s plenty of clauses in dozens of laws that can be stretched to cover it-almost, but not quite. Any tycoon who’d want to make a test case would have a very good chance to beat us. And we have to preserve a semblance of legality-or the populace won’t take it.”
“Precisely,” said Dr. Ferris. “It’s extremely important to get those patents turned over to us voluntarily. Even if we had a law permitting outright nationalization, it would be much better to get them as a gift, We want to leave to people the illusion that they’re still preserving their private property rights. And most of them will play along. They’ll sign the Gift Certificates. Just raise a lot of noise about its being a patriotic duty and that anyone who refuses is a prince of greed, and they’ll sign. But-” He stopped.
“I know,” said Mouch; he was growing visibly more nervous. “There will be, I think, a few old-fashioned bastards here and there who’ll refuse to sign-but they won’t be prominent enough to make a noise, nobody will hear about it, their own communities and friends will turn against them for their being selfish, so it won’t give us any trouble.
We’ll just take the patents over, anyway-and those guys won’t have the nerve or the money to start a test case. But-” He stopped.
James Taggart leaned back in his chair, watching them; he was beginning to enjoy the conversation.
“Yes,” said Dr. Ferris, “I’m thinking of it, too. I’m thinking of a certain’ tycoon who is in a position to blast us to pieces. Whether we’ll recover the pieces or not, is hard to tell. God knows what is liable to happen at a hysterical time like the present and in a situation as delicate as this. Anything can throw everything off balance. Blow up the whole works. And if there’s anyone who wants to do it, he does. He does and can. He knows the real issue, he knows the things which must not be said-and he is not afraid to say them. He knows the one dangerous, fatally dangerous weapon. He is our deadliest adversary.”
“Who?” asked Lawson.
Dr. Ferris hesitated, shrugged and answered, “The guiltless man.”
Lawson stared blankly. “What do you mean and whom are you talking about?”
James Taggart smiled.
“I mean that there is no way to disarm any man,” said Dr. Ferris, “except through guilt. Through that which he himself has accepted as guilt. If a man has ever stolen a dime, you can impose on him the punishment intended for a bank robber and he will take it. He’ll bear any form of misery, he’ll feel that he deserves no better. If there’s not enough guilt in the world, we must create it. If we teach a man that it’s evil to look at spring flowers and he believes us and then does it -we’ll be able to do whatever we please with him. He won’t defend himself. He won’t feel he’s worth it. He won’t fight. But save us from the man who lives up to his own- standards. Save us from the man of clean conscience. He’s the man who’ll beat us.”
“Are you talking about Henry Rearden?” asked Taggart, his voice peculiarly clear.
The one name they had not wanted to pronounce struck them into an instant’s silence.
“What if I were?” asked Dr. Ferris cautiously.
“Oh, nothing,” said Taggart. “Only, if you were, I would tell you that I can deliver Henry Rearden. He’ll sign.”
By the rules of their unspoken language, they all knew-from the tone of his voice-that he was not bluffing.
“God, Jim! No!” gasped Wesley Mouch.
“Yes,” said Taggart. “I was stunned, too, when I learned-what I learned. I didn’t expect that. Anything but that.”
“I am glad to hear it,” said Mouch cautiously. “It’s a constructive piece of information. It might be very valuable indeed.”
“Valuable-yes,” said Taggart pleasantly. “When do you plan to put the directive into effect?”
“Oh, we have to move fast. We don’t want any news of it to leak out. I expect you all to keep this most strictly confidential. I’d say that we’ll be ready to spring it on them in a couple of weeks.”
“Don’t you think that it would be advisable-before all prices are frozen-to adjust the matter of the railroad rates? I was thinking of a raise. A small but most essentially needed raise.”
“We’ll discuss it, you and I,” said Mouch amiably. “It might be arranged.” He turned to the others; Boyle’s face was sagging. “There are many details still to be worked out, but I’m sure that our program won’t encounter any major difficulties.” He was assuming the tone and manner of a public address; he sounded brisk and almost cheerful. “Rough spots are to be expected. If one thing doesn’t work, we’ll try another.
Trial-and-error is the only pragmatic rule of action. We’ll just keep on trying. If any hardships come up, remember that it’s only temporary.
Only for the duration of the national emergency.”
“Say,” asked Kinnan, “how is the emergency to end if everything is to stand still?”
“Don’t be theoretical,” said Mouch impatiently. “We’ve got to deal with the situation of the moment. Don’t bother about minor details, so long as the broad outlines of our policy are clear. We’ll have the power. We’ll be able to solve any problem and answer any question.”
Fred Kinnan chuckled. “Who is John Galt?”
“Don’t say that!” cried Taggart.
“I have a question to ask about Point Seven,” said Kinnan. “It says that al! wages, prices, salaries, dividends, profits and so forth will be frozen on the date of the directive. Taxes, too?”
“Oh no!” cried Mouch. “How can we tell what funds we’ll need in the future?” Kinnan seemed to be smiling. “Well?” snapped Mouch.
“What about it?”
“Nothing,” said Kinnan. “I just asked.”
Mouch leaned back in his chair. “I must say to all of you that I appreciate your coming here and giving us the benefit of your opinions. It has been very helpful.” He leaned forward to look at his desk calendar and sat over it for a moment, toying with his pencil, Then the pencil came down, struck a date and drew a circle around it. “Directive 10-289 will go into effect on the morning of May first.”
All nodded approval. None looked at his neighbor.
James Taggart rose, walked to the window and pulled the blind down over the white obelisk.
In the first moment of awakening, Dagny was astonished to find herself looking at the spires of unfamiliar buildings against a glowing, pale blue sky. Then she saw the twisted seam of the thin stocking on her own leg, she felt a wrench of discomfort in the muscles of her waistline, and she realized that she was lying on the couch in her office, with the clock on her desk saying 6:15 and the first rays of the sun giving silver edges to the silhouettes of the skyscrapers beyond the window. The last thing she remembered was that she had dropped down on the couch, intending to rest for ten minutes, when the window was black and the clock stood at 3:30.
She twisted herself to her feet, feeling an enormous exhaustion. The lighted lamp on the desk looked futile in the glow of the morning, over the piles of paper which were her cheerless, unfinished task. She tried not to think of the work for a few minutes longer, while she dragged herself past the desk to her washroom and let handfuls of cold water run over her face.
The exhaustion was gone by the time she stepped back into the office. No matter what night preceded it, she had never known a morning when she did not feel the rise of a quiet excitement that became a tightening energy in her body and a hunger for action in her mind-
because this was the beginning of day and it was a day of her life.
She looked down at the city. The streets were still empty, it made them look wider, and in the luminous cleanliness of the spring air they seemed to be waiting for the promise of all the greatness that would take form in the activity about to pour through them. The calendar in the distance said: May 1.
She sat down at her desk, smiling in defiance at the distastefulness of her job. She hated the reports that she had to finish reading, but it was her job, it was her railroad, it was morning. She lighted a cigarette, thinking that she would finish this task before breakfast; she turned off the lamp and pulled the papers forward.
There were reports from the general managers of the four Regions of the Taggart system, their pages a typewritten cry of despair over the breakdowns of equipment. There was a report about a wreck on the main line near Winston, Colorado. There was the new budget of the Operating Department, the revised budget based on the raise in rates which Jim had obtained last week. She tried to choke the exasperation of hopelessness as she went slowly over the budget’s figures: all those calculations had been made on the assumption that the volume of freight would remain unchanged and that the raise would bring them added revenue by the end of the year; she knew that the freight tonnage would go on shrinking, that the raise would make little difference, that by the end of this year their losses would be greater than ever.
When she looked up from the pages, she saw with a small jolt of astonishment that the clock said 9:25. She had been dimly aware of the usual sound of movement and voices in the anteroom of her office, as her staff had arrived to begin their day; she wondered why nobody had entered her office and why her telephone had remained silent; as a daily rule, there should have been a rush of business by this hour. She glanced at her calendar; there was a note that the McNeil Car Foundry of Chicago was to phone her at nine A.M. in regard to the new freight cars which Taggart Transcontinental had been expecting for six months.
She flicked the switch of the interoffice communicator to call her secretary. The girl’s voice answered with a startled little gasp: “Miss Taggart! Are you here, in your office?”
“I slept here last night, again. Didn’t intend to, but did. Was there a call for me from the McNeil Car Foundry?”
“No, Miss Taggart.”
“Put them through to me immediately, when they call,”
“Yes, Miss Taggart.”
Switching the communicator off, she wondered whether she imagined it or whether there had been something strange in the girl’s voice: it had sounded unnaturally tense.
She felt the faint light-headedness of hunger and thought that she should go down to get a cup of coffee, but there was still the report of the chief engineer to finish, so she lighted one more cigarette.
The chief engineer was out on the road, supervising the reconstruction of the main track with the Rearden Metal rail taken from the corpse of the John Galt Line; she had chosen the sections most urgently in need of repair. Opening his report, she read-with a shock of incredulous anger-that he had stopped work in the mountain section of Winston, Colorado. He recommended a change of plans: he suggested that the rail intended for Winston be used, instead, to repair the track of their Washington-to-Miami branch. He gave his reasons: a derailment had occurred on that branch last week, and Mr. Tinky Holloway of Washington, traveling with a party of friends, had been delayed for three hours; it had been reported to the chief engineer that Mr. Holloway had expressed extreme displeasure. Although, from a purely technological viewpoint-said the chief engineer’s report-the rail of the Miami branch was in better condition than that of the Winston section, one had to remember, from a sociological viewpoint, that the Miami branch carried a much more important class of passenger traffic; therefore, the chief engineer suggested that Winston could be kept waiting a little longer, and recommended the sacrifice of an obscure section of mountain trackage for the sake of a branch where “Taggart Transcontinental could not afford to create an unfavorable impression.”
She read, slashing furious pencil marks on the margins of the pages, thinking that her first duty of the day, ahead of any other, was to stop this particular piece of insanity.
The telephone rang.
“Yes?” she asked, snatching the receiver. “McNeil Car Foundry?”
“No,” said the voice of her secretary. “Senor Francisco d’Anconia.”
She looked at the phone’s mouthpiece for the instant of a brief shock. “All right. Put him on.”
The next voice she heard was Francisco’s. “I see that you’re in your office just the same,” he said; his voice was mocking, harsh and tense.
“Where did you expect me to be?”
“How do you like the new suspension?”
“What suspension?”
“The moratorium on brains.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Haven’t you seen today’s newspapers?”
There was a pause; then his voice came slowly, changed and grave: “Better take a look at them, Dagny.”
“All right.”
“I’ll call you later.”
She hung up and pressed the switch of the communicator on her desk. “Get me a newspaper,” she said to her secretary.
“Yes, Miss Taggart,” the secretary’s voice answered grimly.
It was Eddie Willers who came in and put the newspaper down on her desk. The meaning of the look on his face’ was the same as the tone she had caught in Francisco’s voice: the advance notice of some inconceivable disaster.
“None of us wanted to be first to tell you,” he said very quietly and walked out.
When she rose from her desk, a few moments later, she felt that she had full control of her body and that she was not aware of her body’s existence. She felt lifted to her feet and it seemed to her that she stood straight, not touching the ground. There was an abnormal clarity about every object in the room, yet she was seeing nothing around her, but she knew that she would be able to see the thread of a cobweb if her purpose required it, just as she would be able to walk with a somnambulist’s assurance along the edge of a roof. She could not know that she was looking at the room with the eyes of a person who had lost the capacity and the concept of doubt, and what remained to her was the simplicity of a single perception and of a single goal. She did not know that the thing which seemed so violent, yet felt like such a still, unfamiliar calm within her, was the power of full certainty-and that the anger shaking her body, the anger which made her ready, with the same passionate indifference, either to kill or to die, was her love of rectitude, the only love to which all the years of her life had been given.
Holding the newspaper in her hand, she walked out of her office and on toward the hall. She knew, crossing the anteroom, that the faces of her staff were turned to her, but they seemed to be many years away.
She walked down the hall, moving swiftly but without effort, with the same sensation of knowing that her feet were probably touching the ground but that she did not feel it. She did not know how many rooms she crossed to reach Jim’s office, or whether there had been any people in her way, she knew the direction to take and the door to pull open to enter unannounced and walk toward his desk.
The newspaper was twisted into a roll by the time she stood before him. She threw it at his face, it struck his cheek and fell down to the carpet.
“There’s my resignation, Jim,” she said. “I won’t work as a slave or as a slave-driver.”
She did not hear the sound of his gasp; it came with the sound of the door closing after her.
She went back to her office and, crossing the anteroom, signaled Eddie to follow her inside.
She said, her voice calm and clear, “I have resigned.”
He nodded silently.
“I don’t know as yet what I’ll do in the future. I’m going away, to think it over and to decide. If you want to follow me, I’ll be at the lodge in Woodstock.” It was an old hunting cabin in a forest of the Berkshire Mountains, which she had inherited from her father and had not visited for years.
“I want to follow,” he whispered, “I want to quit, and . . . and I can’t. I can’t make myself do it.”
“Then will you do me a favor?”
“Of course.”
“Don’t communicate with me about the railroad. I don’t want to hear it. Don’t tell anyone where I am, except Hank Rearden. If he asks, tell him about the cabin and how to get there. But no one else. I don’t want to see anybody.”
“AU right.”
“Of course.”
“When I decide what’s to become of me, I’ll let you know.”
“Ill wait.”
“That’s all, Eddie.”
He knew that every word was measured and that nothing else could be said between them at this moment. He inclined his head, letting it say the rest, then walked out of the office.
She saw the chief engineer’s report still lying open on her desk, and thought that she had to order him at once to resume the work on the Winston section, then remembered that it was not her problem any longer. She felt no pain. She knew that the pain would come later and that it would be a tearing agony of pain, and that the numbness of this moment was a rest granted to her, not after, but before, to make her ready to bear it. But it did not matter. If that is required of me, then I’ll bear it-she thought.
She sat down at her desk and telephoned Rearden at his mills in Pennsylvania.
“Hello, dearest,” he said. He said it simply and clearly, as if he wanted to say it because it was real and right, and he needed to hold on to the concepts of reality and Tightness.
“Hank, I’ve quit.”
“I see.” He sounded as if he had expected it.
“Nobody came to get me, no destroyer, perhaps there never was any destroyer, after all. I don’t know what I’ll do next, but I have to get away, so that I won’t have to see any of them for a while. Then I’ll decide. I know that you can’t go with me right now.”
“No. I have two weeks in which they expect me to sign their Gift Certificate. I want to be right here when the two weeks expire.”
“Do you need me-for the two weeks?”
“No. It’s worse for you than for me. You have no way to fight them. I have. I think I’m glad they did it. It’s clear and final. Don’t worry about me. Rest. Rest from all of it, first.”
“Where are you going?”
“To the country. To a cabin I own in the Berkshires. If you want to see me, Eddie Willers will tell you the way to get there. I’ll be back in two weeks.”
“Will you do me a favor?”
“Don’t come back until I come for you.”
“But I want to be here, when it happens.”
“Leave that up to me.”
“Whatever they do to you, I want it done to me also.”
“Leave it up to me. Dearest, don’t you understand? I think that what I want most right now is what you want: not to see any of them. But I have to stay here for a while. So it will help me if I know that you, at least, are out of their reach. I want to keep one clean point in my mind, to lean against. It will be only a short while-and then I’ll come for you. Do you understand?”
“Yes, my darling. So long.”
It was weightlessly easy to walk out of her office and down the stretching halls of Taggart Transcontinental. She walked, looking ahead, her steps advancing with the unbroken, unhurried rhythm of finality.
Her face was held level and it had a look of astonishment, of acceptance, of repose.
She walked across the concourse of the Terminal. She saw the statue of Nathaniel Taggart. But she felt no pain from it and no reproach, only the rising fullness of her love, only the feeling that she was going to join him, not in death, but in that which had been his life.
The first man to quit at Rearden Steel was Tom Colby, rolling mill foreman, head of the Rearden Steel Workers Union. For ten years, he had heard himself denounced throughout the country, because his was a “company union” and because he had never engaged in a violent conflict with the management. This was true: no conflict had ever been necessary; Rearden paid a higher wage scale than any union scale in the country, for which he demanded-and got-the best labor force to be found anywhere.
When Tom Colby told him that he was quitting, Rearden nodded, without comment or questions.
“I won’t work under these conditions, myself,” Colby added quietly, “and I won’t help, to keep the men working. They trust me. I won’t be the Judas goat leading them to the stockyards.”
“What are you going to do for a living?” asked Rearden.
“I’ve saved enough to last me for about a year.”
“And after that?”
Colby shrugged.
Rearden thought of the boy with the angry eyes, who mined coal at night as a criminal. He thought of all the dark roads, the alleys, the back yards of the country, where the best of the country’s men would now exchange their services in jungle barter, in chance jobs, in unrecorded transactions. He thought of the end of that road.
Tom Colby seemed to know what he was thinking. “You’re on your way to end up right alongside of me, Mr. Rearden,” he said. “Are you going to sign your brains over to them?”
“And after that?”
Rearden shrugged.
Colby’s eyes watched him for a moment, pale, shrewd eyes in a furnace-tanned face with soot-engraved wrinkles. “They’ve been telling us for years that it’s you against me, Mr. Rearden. But it isn’t. It’s Orren Boyle and Fred Kinnan against you and me.”
“I know it.”
The Wet Nurse had never entered Rearden’s office, as if sensing that that was a place he had no right to enter. He always waited to catch a glimpse of Rearden outside. The directive had attached him to his job, as the mills’ official watchdog of over-or-under-production. He stopped Rearden, a few days later, in an alley between the rows of open-hearth furnaces. There was an odd look of fierceness on the boy’s face.
“Mr. Rearden,” he said, “I wanted to tell you that if you want to pour ten times the quota of Rearden Metal or steel or pig iron or anything, and bootleg it all over the place to anybody at any price-I wanted to tell you to go ahead. Ill fix it up. I’ll juggle the books, I’ll fake the reports, I’ll get phony witnesses, I’ll forge affidavits, I’ll commit perjury-so you don’t have to worry, there won’t be any trouble!”
“Now why do you want to do that?” asked Rearden, smiling, but his smile vanished when he heard the boy answer earnestly: “Because I want, for once, to do something moral.”
“That’s not the way to be moral-” Rearden started, and stopped abruptly, realizing that- it was the way, the only way left, realizing through how many twists of intellectual corruption upon corruption this boy had to struggle toward his momentous discovery.
“I guess that’s not the word,” the boy said sheepishly. “I know it’s a stuffy, old-fashioned word. That’s not what I meant. I meant-” It was a sudden, desperate cry of incredulous anger: “Mr. Rearden, they have no right to do it!”
“Take Rearden Metal away from you.”
Rearden smiled and, prompted by a desperate pity, said, “Forget it, Non-Absolute. There are no rights.”
“I know there aren’t. But I mean . . . what I mean is that they can’t do it.”
“Why not?” He could not help smiling.
“Mr. Rearden, don’t sign the Gift Certificate! Don’t sign it, on principle.”
“I won’t sign it. But there aren’t any principles.”
“I know there aren’t.” He was reciting it in full earnestness, with the honesty of a conscientious student: “I know that everything is relative and that nobody can know anything and that reason is an illusion and that there isn’t any reality. But I’m just talking about Rearden Metal.
Don’t sign, Mr. Rearden. Morals or no morals, principles or no principles, just don’t sign it-because it isn’t right!”
No one else mentioned the directive in Rearden’s presence. Silence was the new aspect about the mills. The men did not speak to him when he appeared in the workshops, and he noticed that they did not speak to one another. The personnel office received no formal resignations. But every other morning, one or two men failed to appear and never appeared again. Inquiries at their homes found the homes abandoned and the men gone. The personnel office did not report these desertions, as the directive required; instead, Rearden began to see unfamiliar faces among the workers, the drawn, beaten faces of the long unemployed, and heard them addressed by the names of the men who had quit. He asked no questions.
There was silence throughout the country. He did not know how many industrialists had retired and vanished on May I and 2, leaving their plants to be seized. He counted ten among his own customers, including McNeil of the McNeil Car Foundry in Chicago. He had no way of learning about the others; no reports appeared in the newspapers.
The front pages of the newspapers were suddenly full of stories about spring floods, traffic accidents, school picnics and golden-wedding anniversaries.
There was silence in his own home. Lillian had departed on a vacation trip to Florida, in mid-April; it had astonished him, as an inexplicable whim; it was the first trip she had taken alone since their marriage. Philip avoided him, with a look of panic. His mother stared at Rearden in reproachful bewilderment; she said nothing, but she kept bursting into tears in his presence, her manner suggesting that her tears were the most important aspect to consider in whatever disaster it was that she sensed approaching.
On the morning of May 15, he sat at the desk in his office, above the spread of the mills, and watched the colors of the smoke rising to the clear, blue sky. There were spurts of transparent smoke, like waves of heat, invisible but for the structures that shivered behind them; there were streaks of red smoke, and sluggish columns of yellow, and light, floating spirals of blue-and the thick, tight, swiftly pouring coils that looked like twisted bolts of satin tinged a mother-of-pearl pink by the summer sun.
The buzzer rang on his desk, and Miss Ives voice said, “Dr. Floyd Ferris to see you, without appointment, Mr. Rearden.” In spite of its rigid formality, her tone conveyed the question: Shall I throw him out?
There was a faint movement of astonishment in Rearden’s face, barely above the line of indifference: he had not expected that particular emissary. He answered evenly, “Ask him to come in.”
Dr. Ferris did not smile as he walked toward Rearden’s desk; he merely wore a look suggesting that Rearden knew full well that he had good reason to smile and so he would abstain from the obvious.
He sat down in front of the desk, not waiting for an invitation; he carried a briefcase, which he placed across his knees; he acted as if words were superfluous, since his reappearance in this office had made everything clear.
Rearden sat watching him in patient silence.
“Since the deadline for the signing of the national Gift Certificates expires tonight at midnight,” said Dr. Ferris, in the tone of a salesman extending a special courtesy to a customer, “I have come to obtain your signature, Mr. Rearden.”
He paused, with an air of suggesting that the formula now called for an answer.
“Go on,” said Rearden. “I am listening.”
“Yes, I suppose I should explain,” said Dr. Ferris, “that we wish to get your signature early in the day in order to announce the fact on a national news broadcast. Although the gift program has gone through quite smoothly, there are still a few stubborn individualists left, who have failed to sign-small fry, really, whose patents are of no crucial value, but we cannot let them remain unbound, as a matter of principle, you understand. They are, we believe, waiting to follow your lead. You have a great popular following, Mr. Rearden, much greater than you suspected or knew how to use. Therefore, the announcement that you have signed will remove the last hopes of resistance and, by midnight, will bring in the last signatures, thus completing the program on schedule.”
Rearden knew that of all possible speeches, this was the last Dr.
Ferris would make if any doubt of his surrender remained in the man’s mind.
“Go on,” said Rearden evenly. “You haven’t finished.”
“You know-as you have demonstrated at your trial-how important it is, and why, that we obtain all that property with the voluntary consent of the victims.” Dr. Ferris opened his briefcase. “Here is the Gift Certificate, Mr. Rearden. We have filled it out and all you have to do is to sign your name at the bottom.”
The piece of paper, which he placed in front of Rearden, looked like a small college diploma, with the text printed in old-fashioned script and the particulars inserted by typewriter. The thing stated that he, Henry Rearden, hereby transferred to the nation all rights to the metal alloy now known as “Rearden Metal,” which would henceforth be manufactured by all who so desired, and which would bear the name of “Miracle Metal,” chosen by the representatives of the people.
Glancing at the paper, Rearden wondered whether it was a deliberate mockery of decency, or so low an estimate of their victims’ intelligence, that had made the designers of this paper print the text across a faint drawing of the Statue of Liberty.
His eyes moved slowly to Dr. Ferris’ face. “You would not have come here,” he said, “unless you had some extraordinary kind of blackjack to use on me. What is it?”
“Of course,” said Dr. Ferris. “I would expect you to understand that. That is why no lengthy explanations are necessary.” He opened his briefcase. “Do you wish to see my blackjack? I have brought a few samples.”
In the manner of a cardsharp whisking out a long fan of cards with one snap of the hand, he spread before Rearden a line of glossy photographic prints. They were photostats of hotel and auto court registers, bearing in Rearden’s handwriting the names of Mr. and Mrs. J.
“You know, of course,” said Dr. Ferris softly, “but you might wish to see whether we know it, that Mrs. J. Smith is Miss Dagny Taggart.”
He found nothing to observe in Rearden’s face. Rearden had not moved to bend over the prints, but sat looking down at them with grave attentiveness, as if, from the perspective of distance, he were discovering something about them which he had not known.
“We have a great deal of additional evidence,” said Dr. Ferris, and tossed down on the desk a photostat of the jeweler’s bill for the ruby pendant. “You wouldn’t care to see the sworn statements of apartment house doormen and night clerks-they contain nothing that would be new to you, except the number of witnesses who know where you spent your nights in New York, for about the last two years. You mustn’t blame those people too much. It’s an interesting characteristic of epochs such as ours that people begin to be afraid of saying the things they want to say-and afraid, when questioned, to remain silent about things they’d prefer never to utter. That is to be expected. But you would be astonished if you knew who gave us the original tip.”
“I know it,” said Rearden; his voice conveyed no reaction. The trip to Florida was not inexplicable to him any longer.
“There is nothing in this blackjack of mine that can harm you personally,” said Dr. Ferris, “We knew that no form of personal injury would ever make you give in. Therefore, I am telling you frankly that this will not hurt you at all. It will only hurt Miss Taggart”
Rearden was looking straight at him now, but Dr. Ferris wondered why it seemed to him that the calm, closed face was moving away into a greater and greater distance.
“If this affair of yours is spread from one end of the country to the other,” said Dr, Ferris, “by such experts in the art of smearing as Bertram Scudder, it will do no actual damage to your reputation.
Beyond a few glances of curiosity and a few raised eyebrows in a few of the stuffier drawing rooms, you will get off quite easily. Affairs of this sort are expected of a man. In fact, it will enhance your reputation.
It will give you an aura of romantic glamour among the women and, among the men, it will give you a certain kind of prestige, in the nature of envy for an unusual conquest. But what it will do to Miss Taggart-with her spotless name, her reputation for being above scandal, her peculiar position of a woman in a strictly masculine business-
what it will do to her, what she will see in the eyes of everyone she meets, what she will hear from every man she deals with-I will leave that up to your own mind to imagine. And to consider.”
Rearden felt nothing but a great stillness and a great clarity. It was as if some voice were telling him sternly: This is the time-the scene is lighted-now look. And standing naked in the great light, he was looking quietly, solemnly, stripped of fear, of pain, of hope, with nothing left to him but the desire to know.
Dr. Ferris was astonished to hear him say slowly, in the dispassionate tone of an abstract statement that did not seem to be addressed to his listener, “But all your calculations rest on the fact that Miss Taggart is a virtuous woman, not the slut you’re going to call her.”
“Yes, of course,” said Dr. Ferris.
“And that this means much more to me than a casual affair.”
“Of course.”
“If she and I were the kind of scum you’re going to make us appear, your blackjack wouldn’t work.”
“No, it wouldn’t.”
“If our relationship were the depravity you’re going to proclaim it to be, you’d have no way to harm us.”
“We’d be outside your power.”
It was not to Dr. Ferris that Rearden was speaking. He was seeing a long line of men stretched through the centuries from Plato onward, whose heir and final product was an incompetent little professor with the appearance of a gigolo and the soul of a thug.
“I offered you, once, a chance to join us,” said Dr. Ferris. “You refused. Now you can see the consequences. How a man of your intelligence thought that he could win by playing it straight, I can’t imagine.”
“But if I had joined you,” said Rearden with the same detachment, as if he were not speaking about himself, “what would I have found worth looting from Orren Boyle?”
“Oh hell, there’s always enough suckers to expropriate in the world!”
“Such as Miss Taggart? As Ken Danagger? As Ellis Wyatt? As I?”
“Such as any man who wants to be impractical.”
“You mean that it is not practical to live on earth, is it?”
He did not know whether Dr. Ferris answered him. He was not listening any longer. He was seeing the pendulous face of Orren Boyle with the small slits of pig’s eyes, the doughy face of Mr. Mowen with the eyes that scurried away from any speaker and any fact-he was seeing them go through the jerky motions of an ape performing a routine it had learned to copy by muscular habit, performing it in order to manufacture Rearden Metal, with no knowledge and no capacity to know what had taken place in the experimental laboratory of Rearden Steel through ten years of passionate devotion to an excruciating effort. It was proper that they should now call it “Miracle Metal”.-a miracle was the only name they could give to those ten years and to that faculty from which Rearden Metal was born-a miracle was all that the Metal could be in their eyes, the product of an unknown, unknowable cause, an object in nature, not to be explained, but to be seized, like a stone or a weed, theirs for the seizing-“are we to let the many remain in want while the few withhold from us the better products and methods available?”
If I had not known that my life depends on my mind and my effort-he was saying soundlessly to the line of men stretched through the centuries-if I had not made it my highest moral purpose to exercise the best of my effort and the fullest capacity of my mind in order to support and expand my life, you would have found nothing to loot from me, nothing to support your own existence. It is not my sins that you’re using to injure me, but my virtues-my virtues by your own acknowledgment, since your own life depends on them, since you need them, since you do not seek to destroy my achievement but to seize it.
He remembered the voice of the gigolo of science saying to him: “We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick.” We were not after power-he said to the gigolo’s ancestors-in-spirit-and we did not live by means of that which we condemned. We regarded productive ability as virtue-and we let the degree of his virtue be the measure of a man’s reward. We drew no advantage from the things we regarded as evil-we did not require the existence of bank robbers in order to operate our banks, or of burglars in order to provide for our homes, or of murderers in order to protect our lives. But you need the products of a man’s ability-yet you proclaim that productive ability is a selfish evil and you turn the degree of a man’s productiveness into the measure of his loss. We lived by that which we held to be good and punished that which we held to be evil. You live by that which you denounce as evil and punish that which you know to be good.
He remembered the formula of the punishment that Lillian had sought to impose on him, the formula he had considered too monstrous to believe-and he saw it now in its full application, as a system of thought, as a way of life and on a world scale. There it was: the punishment that required the victim’s own virtue as the fuel to make it work-his invention of Rearden Metal being used as the cause of his expropriation-Dagny’s honor and the depth of their feeling for each other being used as a tool of blackmail, a blackmail from which the depraved would be immune-and, in the People’s States of Europe, millions of men being held in bondage by means of their desire to live, by means of their energy drained in forced labor, by means of their ability to feed their masters, by means of the hostage system, of their love for their children or wives or friends-by means of love, ability and pleasure as the fodder for threats and the bait for extortion, with love tied to fear, ability to punishment, ambition to confiscation, with blackmail as law, with escape from pain, not quest for pleasure, as the only incentive to effort and the only reward of achievement-men held enslaved by means of whatever living power they possessed and of whatever joy they found in life. Such was the code that the world had accepted and such was the key to the code: that it hooked man’s love of existence to a circuit of torture, so that only the man who had nothing to offer would have nothing to fear, so that the virtues which made life possible and the values which gave it meaning became the agents of its destruction, so that one’s best became the tool of one’s agony, and man’s life on earth became impractical.
“Yours was the code of life,” said the voice of a man whom he could not forget. “What, then, is theirs?”
Why had the world accepted it?-he thought. How had the victims come to sanction a code that pronounced them guilty of the fact of existing? . . . And then the violence of an inner blow became the total stillness of his body as he sat looking at a sudden vision: Hadn’t he done it also? Hadn’t he given his sanction to the code of self damnation? Dagny-he thought-and the depth of their feeling for each other . . . the blackmail from which the depraved would be immune . . . hadn’t he, too, once called it depravity? Hadn’t he been first to throw at her all the insults which the human scum was now threatening to throw at her in public? Hadn’t he accepted as guilt the highest happiness he had ever found?
“You who won’t allow one per cent of impurity into an alloy of metal,” the unforgotten voice was saying to him, “what have you allowed into your moral code?”
“Well, Mr. Rearden?” said the voice of Dr, Ferris. “Do you understand me now? Do we get the Metal or do we make a public showplace out of Miss Taggart’s bedroom?”
He was not seeing Dr. Ferris. He was seeing-in the violent clarity that was like a spotlight tearing every riddle open to him-the day he met Dagny for the first time.
It was a few months after she had become Vice-President of Taggart Transcontinental. He had been hearing skeptically, for some time, the rumors that the railroad was run by Jim Taggart’s sister. That summer, when he grew exasperated at Taggart’s delays and contradictions over an order of rail for a new cutoff, an order which Taggart kept placing, altering and withdrawing, somebody told him that if he wished to get any sense or action out of Taggart Transcontinental, he’d better speak to Jim’s sister. He telephoned her office to make an appointment and insisted on having it that same afternoon. Her secretary told him that Miss Taggart would be at the construction site of the new cutoff, that afternoon, at Milford Station between New York and Philadelphia, but would be glad to see him there if he wished. He went to the appointment resentfully; he did not like such businesswomen as he had met, and he felt that railroads were no business for a woman to play with; he expected a spoiled heiress who used her name and sex as substitute for ability, some eyebrow-plucked, over groomed female, like the lady executives of department stores.
He got off the last car of a long train, far beyond the platform of Milford Station. There was a clutter of sidings, freight cars, cranes and steam shovels around him, descending from the main track down the slope of a ravine where men were grading the roadbed of the new cutoff. He started walking between the sidings toward the station building. Then he stopped.
He saw a girl standing on top of a pile of machinery on a flatcar.
She was looking off at the ravine, her head lifted, strands of disordered hair stirring in the wind. Her plain gray suit was like a thin coating of metal over a slender body against the spread of sun-flooded space and sky. Her posture had the lightness and unself-conscious precision of an arrogantly pure self-confidence. She was watching the work, her glance intent and purposeful, the glance of competence enjoying its own function. She looked as if this were her place, her moment and her world, she looked as if enjoyment were her natural state, her face was the living form of an active, living intelligence., a young girl’s face with a woman’s mouth, she seemed unaware of her body except as of a taut instrument ready to serve her purpose in any manner she wished.
Had he asked himself a moment earlier whether he carried in his mind an image of what he wanted a woman to look like, he would have answered that he did not; yet, seeing her, he knew that this was the image and that it had been for years. But he was not looking at her as at a woman. He had forgotten where he was and on what errand, he was held by a child’s sensation of joy in the immediate moment, by the delight of the unexpected and undiscovered, he was held by the astonishment of realizing how seldom he came upon a sight he truly liked, liked in complete acceptance and for its own sake, he was looking up at her with a faint smile, as he would have looked at a statue or a landscape, and what he felt was the sheer pleasure of the sight, the purest esthetic pleasure he had ever experienced.
He saw a switchman going by and he asked, pointing, “Who is that?”
“Dagny Taggart,” said the man, walking on.
Rearden felt as if the words struck him inside his throat. He felt the start of a current that cut his breath for a moment, then went slowly down his body, carrying in its wake a sense of weight, a drained heaviness that left him no capacity but one. He was aware-with an abnormal clarity-of the place, the woman’s name, and everything it implied, but all of it had receded into some outer ring and had become a pressure that left him alone in the center, as the ring’s meaning and essence-and his only reality was the desire to have this woman, now, here, on top of the flatcar in the open sun-to have her before a word was spoken between them, as the first act of their meeting, because it would say everything and because they had earned it long ago.
She turned her head. In the slow curve of the movement, her eyes came to his and stopped. He felt certain that she saw the nature of his glance, that she was held by it, yet did not name it to herself.
Her eyes moved on and he saw her speak to some man who stood beside the flatcar, taking notes.
Two things struck him together: his return to his normal reality, and the shattering impact of guilt. He felt a moment’s approach to that which no man may feel fully and survive: a sense of self-hatred-the more terrible because some part of him refused to accept it and made him feel guiltier. It was not a progression of words, but the instantaneous verdict of an emotion, a verdict that told him: This, then, was his nature, this was his depravity-that the shameful desire he had never been able to conquer, came to him in response to the only sight of beauty he had found, that it came with a violence he had not known to be possible, and that the only freedom now left to him was to hide it and to despise himself, but never to be rid of it so long as he and this woman were alive.
He did not know how long he stood there or what devastation that span of time left within him. All that he could preserve was the will to decide that she must never know it.
He waited until she had descended to the ground and the man with the notes had departed; then he approached her and said coldly: “Miss Taggart? I am Henry Rearden.”
“Oh!” It was just a small break, then he heard the quietly natural “How do you do, Mr. Rearden.”
He knew, not admitting it to himself, that the break came from some faint equivalent of his own feeling: she was glad that a face she had liked belonged to a man she could admire. When he proceeded to speak to her about business, his manner was more harshly abrupt than it had ever been with any of his masculine customers.
Now, looking from the memory of the girl on the flatcar to the Gift Certificate lying on his desk, he felt as if the two met in a single shock, fusing all the days and doubts he had lived between them, and, by the glare of the explosion, in a moment’s vision of a final sum, he saw the answer to all his questions.
He thought: Guilty?-guiltier than I had known, far guiltier than I had thought, that day-guilty of the evil of damning as guilt that which was my best. I damned the fact that my mind and body were a unit, and that my body responded to the values of my mind. I damned the fact that joy is the core of existence, the motive power of every living being, that it is the need of one’s body as it is the goal of one’s spirit, that my body was not a weight of inanimate muscles, but an instrument able to give me an experience of superlative joy to unite my flesh and my spirit. That capacity, which I damned as shameful, had left me indifferent to sluts, but gave me my one desire in answer to a woman’s greatness. That desire, which I damned as obscene, did not come from the sight of her body, but from the knowledge that the lovely form I saw, did express the spirit I was seeing-
it was not her body that I wanted, but her person-it was not the girl in gray that I had to possess, but the woman who ran a railroad.
But I damned my body’s capacity to express what I felt, I damned, as an affront to her, the highest tribute I could give her-just as they damn my ability to translate the work of my mind into Rearden Metal, just as they damn me for the power to transform matter to serve my needs. I accepted their code and believed, as they taught me, that the values of one’s spirit must remain as an impotent longing, unexpressed in action, untranslated into reality, while the life of one’s body must be lived in misery, as a senseless, degrading performance, and those who attempt to enjoy it must be branded as inferior animals.
I broke their code, but I fell into the trap they intended, the trap of a code devised to be broken. I took no pride in my rebellion, I took it as guilt, I did not damn them, I damned myself, I did not damn their code, I damned existence-and I hid my happiness as a shameful secret. I should have lived it openly, as of our right-or made her my wife, as in truth she was. But I branded my happiness as evil and made her bear it as a disgrace. What they want to do to her now, I did it first. I made it possible.
I did it-in the name of pity for the most contemptible woman I know. That, too, was their code, and I accepted it. I believed that one person owes a duty to another with no payment for it in return. I believed that it was my duty to love a woman who gave me nothing, who betrayed everything I lived for, who demanded her happiness at the price of mine. I believed that love is some static gift which, once granted, need no longer be deserved-just as they believe that wealth is a static possession which can be seized and held without further effort. I believed that love is a gratuity, not a reward to be earned-
just as they believe it is their right to demand an unearned wealth.
And just as they believe that their need is a claim on my energy, so I believed that her unhappiness was a claim on my life. For the sake of pity, not justice, T endured ten years of self-torture. I placed pity above my own conscience, and this is the core of my guilt. My crime was committed when I said to her, “By every standard of mine, to maintain our marriage will be a vicious fraud. But my standards are not yours.
I do not understand yours, I never have, but I will accept them.”
Here they are, lying on my desk, those standards I accepted without understanding, here is the manner of her love for me, that love which I never believed, but tried to spare. Here is the final product of the unearned. I thought that it was proper to commit injustice, so long as I would be the only one to suffer. But nothing can justify injustice.
And this is the punishment for accepting as proper that hideous evil which is self-immolation. I thought that I would be the only victim.
Instead, I’ve sacrificed the noblest woman to the vilest. When one acts on pity against justice, it is the good whom one punishes for the sake of the evil; when one saves the guilty from suffering, it is the innocent whom one forces to suffer. There is no escape from justice, nothing can be unearned and unpaid for in the universe, neither in matter nor in spirit-and if the guilty do not pay, then the innocent have to pay it.
It was not the cheap little looters of wealth who have beaten me-
it was I. They did not disarm me-I threw away my weapon. This is a battle that cannot be fought except with clean hands-because the enemy’s sole power is in the sores of one’s conscience-and I accepted a code that made me regard the strength of my hands as a sin and a stain.
“Do we get the Metal, Mr. Rearden?”
He looked from the Gift Certificate on his desk to the memory of the girl on the flatcar. He asked himself whether he could deliver the radiant being he had seen in that moment, to the looters of the mind and the thugs of the press. Could he continue to let the innocent bear punishment? Could he let her take the stand he should have taken?
Could he now defy the enemy’s code, when the disgrace would be hers, not his-when the muck would be thrown at her, not at him-
when she would have to fight, while he’d be spared? Could he let her existence be turned into a hell he would have no way of sharing?
He sat still, looking up at her, I love you, he said to the girl on the flatcar, silently pronouncing the words that had been the meaning of that moment four years ago, feeling the solemn happiness that belonged with the words, even though this was how he had to say it to her for the first time.
He looked down at the. Gift Certificate. Dagny, he thought, you would not let me do it if you knew, you will hate me for it if you learn-but I cannot let you pay my debts. The fault was mine and I will not shift to you the punishment which is mine to take. Even if I have nothing else now left to me, I have this much: that I see the truth, that I am free of their guilt, that I can now stand guiltless in my own eyes, that I know I am right, right fully and for the first time-and that I will remain faithful to the one commandment of my code which I have never broken: to be a man who pays his own way.
I love you, he said to the girl on the flatcar, feeling as if the light of that summer’s sun were touching his forehead, as if he, too, were standing under an open sky over an unobstructed earth, with nothing left to him except himself.
“Well, Mr. Rearden? Are you going to sign?’1 asked Dr. Ferris.
Rearden’s eyes moved to him. He had forgotten that Ferris was there, he did not know whether Ferris had been speaking, arguing or waiting in silence.
“Oh, that?” said Rearden.
He picked up a pen and with no second glance, with the easy gesture of a millionaire signing a check, he signed his name at the foot of the Statue of Liberty and pushed the Gift Certificate across the desk.


“Where have you been all this time?” Eddie Willers asked the worker in the underground cafeteria, and added, with a smile that was an appeal, an apology and a confession of despair, “Oh, I know it’s I who’ve stayed away from here for weeks.” The smile looked like the effort of a crippled child groping for a gesture that he could not perform any longer. “I did come here once, about two weeks ago, but you weren’t here that night. I was afraid you’d gone . . . so many people are vanishing without notice. I hear there’s hundreds of them roving around the country. The police have been arresting them for leaving their jobs-they’re called deserters-but there’s too many of them and no food to feed them in jail, so nobody gives a damn any more, one way or another. I hear the deserters are just wandering about, doing odd jobs or worse-who’s got any odd jobs to offer these days? . . . It’s our best men that we’re losing, the kind who’ve been with the company for twenty years or more. Why did they have to chain them to their jobs? Those men never intended to quit-but now they’re quitting at the slightest disagreement, just dropping their tools and walking off, any hour of the day or night, leaving us in all sorts of jams-the men who used to leap out of bed and come running if the railroad needed them. . . . You should see the kind of human driftwood we’re getting to fill the vacancies. Some of them mean well, but they’re scared of their own shadows. Others are the kind of scum I didn’t think existed-they get the jobs and they know that we can’t throw them out once they’re in, so they make it clear that they don’t intend to work for their pay and never did intend. They’re the kind of men who like it-who like the way things are now. Can you imagine that there are human beings who like it? Well, there are. . . . You know, I don’t think that I really believe it-all that’s happening to us these days. It’s happening all right, but I don’t believe it. I keep thinking that insanity is a state where a person can’t tell what’s real.
Well, what’s real now is insane-and if I accepted it as real, I’d have to lose my mind, wouldn’t I? . . . I go on working and I keep telling myself that this is Taggart Transcontinental. I keep waiting for her to come back-for die door to open at any moment and-oh God, I’m not supposed to say that! . . . What? You knew it? You knew that she’s gone? . . . They’re keeping it secret. But I guess everybody knows it, only nobody is supposed to say it. They’re telling people that she’s away on a leave of absence. She’s still listed as our Vice-President in Charge of Operation. I think Jim and I are the only ones who know that she has resigned for good. Jim is scared to death that his friends in Washington will take it out on him, if it becomes known that she’s quit. It’s supposed to be disastrous for public morale, if any prominent person quits, and Jim doesn’t want them to know that he’s got a deserter right in his own family. . . . But that’s not all. Jim is scared that the stockholders, the employees and whoever we do business with, will lose the last of their confidence in Taggart Transcontinental if they learn that she’s gone. Confidence! You’d think that it wouldn’t matter now, since there’s nothing any of them can do about it. And yet, Jim knows that we have to preserve some semblance of the greatness that Taggart Transcontinental once stood for. And he knows that the last of it went with her. . . . No, they don’t know where she is. . . . Yes, I do, but I won’t tell them. I’m the only one who knows. . . . Oh yes, they’ve been trying to find out. They’ve tried to pump me in every way they could think of, but it’s no use.
I won’t tell anyone. . . . You should see the trained seal that we now have in her place-our new Operating Vice-President. Oh sure, we have one-that is, we have and we haven’t. It’s like everything they do today-it is and it ain’t, at the same tune. His name is Clifton Locey-
he’s from Jim’s personal staff-a bright, progressive young man of fortyseven and a friend of Jim’s. He’s only supposed to be pinch-hitting for her, but he sits in her office and we all know that that’s the new Operating Vice-President. He gives the orders-that is, he sees to it that he’s never caught actually giving an order. He works very hard at making sure that no decision can ever be pinned down on him, so that he won’t be blamed for anything. You see, his purpose is not to operate a railroad, but to hold a job. He doesn’t want to run trains-
he wants to please Jim. He doesn’t give a damn whether there’s a single train moving or not, so long as he can make a good impression on Jim and on the boys in Washington. So far, Mr. Clifton Locey has managed to frame up two men: a young third assistant, for not relaying an order which Mr. Locey had never given-and the freight manager, for issuing an order which Mr. Locey did give, only the freight manager couldn’t prove it. Both men were fired, officially, by ruling of the Unification Board. . . . When things go well-which is never longer than half an hour-Mr. Locey makes it a point to remind us that ‘these are not the days of Miss Taggart.’ At the first sign of trouble, he calls me into his office and asks me-casually, in the midst of the most irrelevant drivel-what Miss Taggart used to do in such an emergency. I tell him, whenever I can. I tell myself that it’s Taggart Transcontinental, and . . . and there’s thousands of lives on dozens of trains that hang on our decisions. Between emergencies, Mr. Locey goes out of his way to be rude to me-that’s so I wouldn’t think that he needs me. He’s made it a point to change everything she used to do, in every respect that doesn’t matter, but he’s damn cautious not to change anything that matters. The only trouble is that he can’t always tell which is which. . . . On his first day in her office, he told me that it wasn’t a good idea to have a picture of Nat Taggart on the wall-
‘Nat Taggart,’ he said, ‘belongs to a dark past, to the age of selfish greed, he is not exactly a symbol of our modern, progressive policies, so it could make a bad impression, people could identify me with him.’ ‘No, they couldn’t,’ I said-but I took the picture off his wall. . . . What?
. . . No, she doesn’t know any of it. I haven’t communicated with her.
Not once. She told me not to. . . . Last week, I almost quit. It was over Chick’s Special. Mr. Chick Morrison of Washington, whoever the hell he is, has gone on a speaking tour of the whole country-to speak about the directive and build up the people’s morale, as things are getting to be pretty wild everywhere. He demanded a special train, for himself and party-a sleeper, a parlor car and a diner with barroom and lounge. The Unification Board gave him permission to travel at a hundred miles an hour-by reason, the ruling said, of this being a non-profit journey. Well, so it is. It’s just a journey to talk people into continuing to break their backs at making profits in order to support men who are superior by reason of not making any. Well, our trouble came when Mr. Chick Morrison demanded a Diesel engine for his train. We had none to give him. Every Diesel we own is out on the road, pulling the Comet and the transcontinental freights, and there wasn’t a spare one anywhere on the system, except-well, that was an exception I wasn’t going to mention to Mr. Clifton Locey.
Mr. Locey raised the roof, screaming that come hell or high water we couldn’t refuse a demand of Mr. Chick Morrison. I don’t know what damn fool finally told him about the extra Diesel that was kept at Winston, Colorado, at the mouth of the tunnel. You know the way our Diesels break down nowadays, they’re all breathing their last-so you can understand why that extra Diesel had to be kept at the tunnel. I explained it to Mr. Locey, I threatened him, I pleaded, I told him that she had made it our strictest rule that Winston Station was never to be left without an extra Diesel. He told me to remember that he was not Miss Taggart-as if I could ever forget it!-and that the rule was nonsense, because nothing had happened all these years, so Winston could do without a Diesel for a couple of months, and he wasn’t going to worry about some theoretical disaster in the future when we were up against the very real, practical, immediate disaster of getting Mr.
Chick Morrison angry at us. Well, Chick’s Special got the Diesel. The superintendent of the Colorado Division quit. Mr. Locey gave that job to a friend of his own. I wanted to quit. I had never wanted to so badly. But I didn’t. . . . No, I haven’t heard from her. I haven’t heard a word since she left. Why do you keep questioning me about her? Forget it. She won’t be back, . . . I don’t know what it is that I’m hoping for. Nothing, I guess. I just go day by day, and I try not to look ahead. At first, I hoped that somebody would save us. I thought maybe it would be Hank Rearden. But he gave in. I don’t know what they did to him to make him sign, but I know that it must have been something terrible. Everybody thinks so. Everybody’s whispering about it, wondering what sort of pressure was used on him. . . . No, nobody knows. He’s made no public statements and he’s refused to see anyone, . . . But, listen, I’ll tell you something else that everybody’s whispering about. Lean closer, will you?-I don’t want to speak too loudly. They say that Orren Boyle seems to have known about that directive long ago, weeks or months in advance, because he had started, quietly and secretly, to reconstruct his furnaces for the production of Rearden Metal, in one of his lesser steel plants, an obscure little place way out on the coast of Maine, He was ready to start pouring the Metal the moment Rearden’s extortion paper-I mean, Gift Certificate-was signed. But-listen-the night before they were to start, Boyle’s men were heating the furnaces in that place on the coast, when they heard a voice, they didn’t know whether it came from a plane or a radio or some sort of loud-speaker, but it was a man’s voice and it said that he would give them ten minutes to get out of the place.
They got out. They started going and they kept on going-because the man’s voice had said that he was Ragnar Danneskjold. In the next half-hour, Boyle’s mills were razed to the ground. Razed, wiped out, not a brick of them left standing. They say it was done by long-range naval guns, from somewhere way out on the Atlantic. Nobody saw Danneskjold’s ship. . . . That’s what people are whispering. The newspapers haven’t printed a word about it. The boys in Washington say that it’s only a rumor spread by panic-mongers. . . . I don’t know whether the story is true. I think it is. I hope it is. . . . You know, when I was fifteen years old, I used to wonder how any man could become a criminal, I couldn’t understand what would make it possible.
Now-now I’m glad that Ragnar Danneskjold has blown up those mills. May God bless him and never let them find him, whatever and wherever he is! . . . Yes, that’s what I’ve come to feel. Well, how much do they think people can take? . . . It’s not so bad for me in the daytime, because I can keep busy and not think, but it gets me at night. I can’t sleep any more, I lie awake for hours. . . . Yes!-if you want to know it-yes, it’s because I’m worried about her! I’m scared to death for her. Woodstock is just a miserable little hole of a place, miles away from everything, and the Taggart lodge is twenty miles farther, twenty miles of a twisting trail in a godforsaken forest. How do I know what might happen to her there, alone, and with the kind of gangs that are roving all through the country these nights-just through such desolate parts of the country as the Berkshires? . . . I know I shouldn’t think about it. I know that she can take care of herself. Only I wish she’d drop me a line. I wish I could go there. But she told me not to.
I told her I’d wait. . . . You know, I’m glad you’re here tonight. It helps me-talking to you and . . . just seeing you here. You won’t vanish, like all the others, will you? . . . What? Next week? . . . Oh, on your vacation. For how long? . . . How do you rate a whole month’s vacation? . . . I wish I could do that, too-take a month off at my own expense. But they wouldn’t let me. . . . Really? I envy you. . . . I wouldn’t have envied you a few years ago. But now-now I’d like to get away. Now I envy you-if you’ve been able to take a month off every summer for twelve years.”
It was a dark road, but it led in a new direction. Rearden walked from his mills, not toward his house, but toward the city of Philadelphia.
It was a great distance to walk, but he had wanted to do it tonight, as he had done it every evening of the past week. He felt at peace in the empty darkness of the countryside, with nothing but the black shapes of trees around him, with no motion but that of his own body and of branches stirring in the wind, with no lights but the slow sparks of the fireflies flickering through the hedges. The two hours between mills and city were his span of rest.
He had moved out of his home to an apartment in Philadelphia. He had given no explanation to his mother and Philip, he had said nothing except that they could remain in the house if they wished and that Miss Ives would take care of their bills. He had asked them to tell Lillian, when she returned, that she was not to attempt to see him.
They had stared at him in terrified silence.
He had handed to his attorney a signed blank check and said, “Get me a divorce. On any grounds and at any cost. I don’t care what means you use, how many of their judges you purchase or whether you find it necessary to stage a frame-up of my wife. Do whatever you wish.
But there is to be no alimony and no property settlement.” The attorney had looked at him with the hint of a wise, sad smile, as if this were an event he had expected to happen long ago. He had answered, “Okay, Hank. It can be done. But it will take some time.” “Make it as fast as you can.”
No one had questioned him about his signature on the Gift Certificate. But he had noticed that the men at the mills looked at him with a kind of searching curiosity, almost as if they expected to find the scars of some physical torture on his body.
He felt nothing-nothing but the sense of an even, restful twilight, like a spread of slag over a molten metal, when it crusts and swallows the last brilliant spurt of the white glow within. He felt nothing at the thought of the looters who were now going to manufacture Rearden Metal. His desire to hold his right to it and proudly to be the only one to sell it, had been his form of respect for his fellow men, his belief that to trade with them was an act of honor. The belief, the respect and the desire were gone. He did not care what men made, what they sold, where they bought his Metal or whether any of them would know that it had been his. The human shapes moving past him in the streets of the city were physical objects without any meaning. The countryside -with the darkness washing away all traces of human activity, leaving only an untouched earth which he had once been able to handle-was real.
He carried a gun in his pocket, as advised by the policemen of the radio car that patrolled the roads; they had warned him that no road was safe after dark, these days. He felt, with a touch of mirthless amusement, that the gun had been needed at the mills, not in the peaceful safety of loneliness and night; what could some starving vagrant take from him, compared to what had been taken by men who claimed to be his protectors?
He walked with an effortless speed, feeling relaxed by a form of activity that was natural to him. This was his period of training for solitude, he thought; he had to learn to live without any awareness of people, the awareness that now paralyzed him with revulsion. He had once built his fortune, starting out with empty hands; now he had to rebuild his life, starting out with an empty spirit.
He would give himself a short span of time for the training, he thought, and then he would claim the one incomparable value still left to him, the one desire that had remained pure and whole: he would go to Dagny. Two commandments had grown in his mind; one was a duty, the other a passionate wish. The first was never to let her learn the reason of his surrender to the looters; the second was to say to her the words which he should have known at their first meeting and should have said on the gallery of Ellis Wyatt’s house.
There was nothing but the strong summer starlight to guide him, as he walked, but he could distinguish the highway and the remnant of a stone fence ahead, at the corner of a country crossroad. The fence had nothing to protect any longer, only a spread of weeds, a willow tree bending over the road and, farther in the distance, the ruin of a farmhouse with the starlight showing through its roof.
He walked, thinking that even this sight still retained the power to be of value: it gave him the promise of a long stretch of space undisturbed by human intrusion.
The man who stepped suddenly out into the road must have come from behind the willow tree, but so swiftly that it seemed as if he had sprung up from the middle of the highway. Rearden’s hand went to the gun in his pocket, but stopped: he knew-by the proud posture of the body standing in the open, by the straight line of the shoulders against the starlit sky-that the man was not a bandit. When he heard the voice, he knew that the man was not a beggar.
“I should like to speak to you, Mr. Rearden.”
The voice had the firmness, the clarity and the special courtesy peculiar to men who are accustomed to giving orders.
“Go ahead,” said Rearden, “provided you don’t intend to ask me for help or money.”
The man’s garments were rough, but efficiently trim. He wore dark trousers and a dark blue windbreaker closed tight at his throat, prolonging the lines of his long, slender figure. He wore a dark blue cap, and all that could be seen of him in the night were his hands, his face and a patch of gold-blond hair on his temple. The hands held no weapon, only a package wrapped in burlap, the size of a carton of cigarettes.
“No, Mr. Rearden,” he said, “I don’t intend to ask you for money, but to return it to you.”
“To return money?”
“What money?”
“A small refund on a very large debt.”
“Owed by you?”
“No, not by me. It is only a token payment, but I want you to accept it as proof that if we live long enough, you and I, every dollar of that debt will be returned to you.”
“What debt?”
“The money that was taken from you by force.”
He extended the package to Rearden, flipping the burlap open.
Rearden saw the starlight run like fire along a mirror-smooth surface.
He knew, by its weight and texture, that what he held was a bar of solid gold.
He looked from the bar to the man’s face, but the face seemed harder and less revealing than the surface of the metal.
“Who are you?” asked Rearden.
“The friend of the friendless.”
“Did you come here to give this to me?”
“Do you mean that you had to stalk me at night, on a lonely road, in order, not to rob me, but to hand me a bar of gold?”
“When robbery is done in open daylight by sanction of the law, as it is done today, then any act of honor or restitution has to be hidden underground.”
“What made you think that I’d accept a gift of this kind?”
“It is not a gift, Mr. Rearden. It is your own money. But I have one favor to ask of you. It is a request, not a condition, because there can be no such thing as conditional property. The gold is yours, so you are free to use it as you please. But I risked my life to bring it to you tonight, so I am asking, as a favor, that you save it for the future or spend it on yourself. On nothing but your own comfort and pleasure. Do not give it away and, above all, do not put it into your business.”
“Because I don’t want it to be of any benefit to anybody but you.
Otherwise, I will have broken an oath taken long ago-as I am breaking every rule I had set for myself by speaking to you tonight.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have been collecting this money for you for a long time. But I did not intend to see you or tell you about it or give it to you until much later.”
“Then why did you?”
“Because I couldn’t stand it any longer.”
“Stand what?”
“I thought that I had seen everything one could see and that there was nothing I could not stand seeing. But when they took Rearden Metal away from you, it was too much, even for me. I know that you don’t need this gold at present. What you need is the justice which it represents, and the knowledge that there are men who care for justice.”
Struggling not to give in to an emotion which he felt rising through his bewilderment, past all his doubts, Rearden tried to study the man’s face, searching for some clue to help him understand. But the face had no expression; it had not changed once while speaking; it looked as if the man had lost the capacity to feel long ago, and what remained of him were only features that seemed implacable and dead. With a shudder of astonishment, Rearden found himself thinking that it was not the face of a man, but of an avenging angel.
“Why did you care?” asked Rearden. “What do I mean to you?”
“Much more than you have reason to suspect. And I have a friend to whom you mean much more than you will ever learn. He would have given anything to stand by you today. But he can’t come to you. So I came in his place.”
“What friend?”
“I prefer not to name him.”
“Did you say that you’ve spent a long time collecting this money for me?”
“I have collected much more than this.” He pointed at the gold. “I am holding it in your name and I will turn it over to you when the time comes. This is only a sample, as proof that it does exist. And if you reach the day when you find yourself robbed of the last of your fortune, I want you to remember that you have a large bank account waiting for you.”
“What account?”
“If you try to think of all the money that has been taken from you by force, you will know that your account represents a considerable sum.”
“How did you collect it? Where did this gold come from?”
“It was taken from those who robbed you.”
“Taken by whom?”
“By me.”
“Who are you?”
“Ragnar Danneskjold.”
Rearden looked at him for a long, still moment, then let the gold fall out of his hands.
Danneskjold’s eyes did not follow it to the ground, but remained fixed on Rearden with no change of expression. “Would you rather I were a law-abiding citizen, Mr. Rearden? If so, which law should I abide by? Directive 10-289?”
“Ragnar Danneskjold . . .” said Rearden, as if he were seeing the whole of the past decade, as if he were looking at the enormity of a crime spread through ten years and held within two words.
“Look more carefully, Mr. Rearden. There are only two modes of living left to us today: to be a looter who robs disarmed victims or to be a victim who works for the benefit of his own despoilers. I did not choose to be either.”
“You chose to live by means of force, like the rest of them,”
“Yes-openly. Honestly, if you will. I do not rob men who are tied and gagged, I do not demand that my victims help me, I do not tell them that I am acting for their own good. I stake my life in every encounter with men, and they have a chance to match their guns and their brains against mine in fair battle. Fair? It’s I against the organized strength, the guns, the planes, the battleships of five continents. If it’s a moral judgment that you wish to pronounce, Mr. Rearden, then who is the man of higher morality: I or Wesley Mouch?”
“I have no answer to give you,” said Rearden, his voice low.
“Why should you be shocked, Mr. Rearden? I am merely complying with the system which my fellow men have established. If they believe that force is the proper means to deal with one another, I am giving them what they ask for. If they believe that the purpose of my life is to serve them, let them try to enforce their creed. If they believe that my mind is their property-let them come and get it.”
“But what sort of life have you chosen? To what purpose are you giving your mind?”
“To the cause of my love.”
“Which is what?”
“Served by being a pirate?”
“By working for the day when I won’t have to be a pirate any longer.”
“Which day is that?”
“The day when you’ll be free to make a profit on Rearden Metal.”
“Oh God!” said Rearden, laughing, his voice desperate. “Is that your ambition?”
Danneskjold’s face did not change. “It is.”
“Do you expect to live to see that day?”
“Yes. Don’t you?”
“Then what are you looking forward to, Mr. Rearden?”
“What are you working for?”
Rearden glanced at him. “Why do you ask that?”
“To make you understand why I’m not.”
“Don’t expect me ever to approve of a criminal.”
“I don’t expect it. But there are a few things I want to help you to see.”
“Even if they’re true, the things you said, why did you choose to be a bandit? Why didn’t you simply step out, like-” He stopped.
“Like Ellis Wyatt, Mr. Rearden? Like Andrew Stockton? Like your friend Ken Danagger?”
“Would you approve of that?”
“I-” He stopped, shocked by his own words.
The shock that came next was to see Danneskjold smile: it was like seeing the first green of spring on the sculptured planes of an iceberg. Rearden realized suddenly, for the first time, that Danneskjold’s face was more than handsome, that it had the startling beauty of physical perfection-the hard, proud features, the scornful mouth of a Viking’s statue-yet he had not been aware of it, almost as if the dead sternness of the face had forbidden the impertinence of an appraisal.
But the smile was brilliantly alive.
“I do approve of it, Mr. Rearden. But I’ve chosen a special mission of my own. I’m after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men’s minds, we will not have a decent world to live in.”
“What man?”
“Robin Hood.”
Rearden looked at him blankly, not understanding.
“He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I’m the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich-or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.”
“What in blazes do you mean?”
“If you remember the stories you’ve read about me in the newspapers, before they stopped printing them, you know that I have never robbed a private ship and never taken any private property. Nor have I ever robbed a military vessel-because the purpose of a military fleet is to protect from violence the citizens who paid for it, which is the proper function of a government. But I have seized every loot carrier that came within range of my guns, every government relief ship, subsidy ship, loan ship, gift ship, every vessel with a cargo of goods taken by force from some men for the unpaid, unearned benefit of others. I seized the boats that sailed under the flag of the idea which I am fighting: the idea that need is a sacred idol requiring human sacrifices-that the need of some men is the knife of a guillotine hanging over others-that all of us must live with our work, our hopes, our plans, our efforts at the mercy of the moment when that knife will descend upon us-and that the extent of our ability is the extent of our danger, so that success will bring our heads down on the block, while failure will give us the right to pull the cord. This is the horror which Robin Hood immortalized as an ideal of righteousness. It is said that he fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. He became a justification for every mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, has demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters, by proclaiming his willingness to devote his life to his inferiors at the price of robbing his superiors. It is this foulest of creatures-the double-parasite who lives on the sores, of the poor and the blood of the rich-whom men have come to regard as a moral ideal. And this has brought us to a world where the more a man produces, the closer he comes to the loss of all his rights, until, if his ability is great enough, he becomes a rightless creature delivered as prey to any claimant-while in order to be placed above rights, above principles, above morality, placed where anything is permitted to him, even plunder and murder, all a man has to do is to be in need. Do you wonder why the world is collapsing around us? That is what I am fighting, Mr.
Rearden. Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive.”
Rearden listened, feeling numb. But under the numbness, like the first thrust of a seed breaking through, he felt an emotion he could not identify except that it seemed familiar and very distant, like something experienced and renounced long ago.
“What I actually am, Mr. Rearden, is a policeman. It is a policeman’s duty to protect men from criminals-criminals being those who seize wealth by force. It is a policeman’s duty to retrieve stolen property and return it to its owners. But when robbery becomes the purpose of the law, and the policeman’s duty becomes, not the protection, but the plunder of property-then it is an outlaw who has to become a policeman. I have been selling the cargoes I retrieved to some special customers of mine in this country, who pay me in gold. Also, I have been selling my cargoes to the smugglers and the black-market traders of the People’s States of Europe. Do you know the conditions of existence in those People’s States? Since production and trade-not violence-were decreed to be crimes, the best men of Europe had no choice but to become criminals. The slave-drivers of those States are kept in power by the handouts from their fellow looters in countries not yet fully drained, such as this country. I do not let the handouts reach them. I sell the goods to Europe’s law-breakers, at the highest prices I can get, and I make them pay me in gold. Gold is the objective value, the means of preserving one’s wealth and one’s future. Nobody is permitted to have gold in Europe, except the whip-wielding friends of humanity, who claim that they spend it for the welfare of their victims. That is the gold which my smuggler-customers obtain to pay me.
How? By the same method I use to obtain the goods. And then I return the gold to those from whom the goods were stolen-to you, Mr.
Rearden, and to other men like you.”
Rearden grasped the nature of the emotion he had forgotten. It was the emotion he had felt when, at the age of fourteen, he had looked at his first pay check-when, at the age of twenty-four, he had been made superintendent of the ore mines-when, as the owner of the mines, he had placed, in his own name, his first order for new equipment from the best concern of the time, Twentieth Century Motors-
an emotion of solemn, joyous excitement, the sense of winning his place in a world he respected and earning the recognition of men he admired. For almost two decades, that emotion had been buried under a mount of wreckage, as the years had added layer upon gray layer of contempt, of indignation, of his struggle not to look around him, not to see those he dealt with, not to expect anything from men and to keep, as a private vision within the four walls of his office, the sense of that world into which he had hoped to rise. Yet there it was again, breaking through from under the wreckage, that feeling of quickened interest, of listening to the luminous voice of reason, with which one could communicate and deal and live. But it was the voice of a pirate speaking about acts of violence, offering him this substitute for his world of reason and justice. He could not accept it; he could not lose whatever remnant of his vision he still retained. He listened, wishing he could escape, yet knowing that he would not miss a word of it.
“I deposit the gold in a bank-in a gold-standard bank, Mr. Rearden -to the account of men who are its rightful owners. They are the men of superlative ability who made their fortunes by personal effort, in free trade, using no compulsion, no help from the government. They are the great victims who have contributed the most and suffered the worst injustice in return. Their names are written in my book of restitution. Every load of gold which I bring back is divided among them and deposited to their accounts.”
“Who are they?”
“You’re one of them, Mr. Rearden. I cannot compute all the money that has been extorted from you-in hidden taxes, in regulations, in wasted time, in lost effort, in energy spent to overcome artificial obstacles. I cannot compute the sum, but if you wish to see its magnitude -look around you. The extent of the misery now spreading through this once prosperous country is the extent of the injustice which you have suffered. If men refuse to pay the debt they owe you, this is the manner in which they will pay for it. But there is one part of the debt which is computed and on record. That is the part which I have made it my purpose to collect and return to you.”
“What is that?”
“Your income tax, Mr. Rearden.”
“Your income tax for the last twelve years.”
“You intend to refund that?”
“In full and in gold, Mr. Rearden.”
Rearden burst out laughing; he laughed like a young boy, in simple amusement, in enjoyment of the incredible. “Good God! You’re a policeman and a collector of Internal Revenue, too?”
“Yes,” said Danneskjold gravely.
“You’re not serious about this, are you?”
“Do I look as if I’m joking?”
“But this is preposterous!”
“Any more preposterous than Directive 10-289?”
“It’s not real or possible!”
“Is only evil real and possible?”
“Are you thinking that death and taxes are our only certainty, Mr.
Rearden? Well, there’s nothing I can do about the first, but if I lift the burden of the second, men might learn to see the connection between the two and what a longer, happier life they have the power to achieve. They might learn to hold, not death and taxes, but life and production as their two absolutes and as the base of their moral code.”
Rearden looked at him, not smiling. The tall, slim figure, with the windbreaker stressing its trained muscular agility, was that of a highwayman; the stern marble face was that of a judge; the dry, clear voice was that of an efficient bookkeeper.
“The looters are not the only ones who have kept records on you, Mr. Rearden. So have I. I have, in my files, copies of all your income tax returns for the last twelve years, as well as the returns of all my other clients. I have friends in some astonishing places, who obtain the copies I need. I divide the money among my clients in proportion to the sums extorted from them. Most of my accounts have now been paid to their owners. Yours is the largest one left to settle. On the day when you will be ready to claim it-the day when I’ll know that no penny of it will go back to support the looters-I will turn your account over to you. Until then-” He glanced down at the gold on the ground. “Pick it up, Mr. Rearden. It’s not stolen. It’s yours.”
Rearden would not move or answer or look down.
“Much more than that lies in the bank, in your name.”
“What bank?”
“Do you remember Midas Mulligan of Chicago?”
“Yes, of course.”
“All my accounts are deposited at the Mulligan Bank.”
“There is no Mulligan Bank in Chicago.”
“It is not in Chicago.”
Rearden let a moment pass. “Where is it?”
“I think that you will know it before long, Mr. Rearden. But I cannot tell you now.” He added, “I must tell you, however, that I am the only one responsible for this undertaking. It is my own personal mission. No one is involved in it but me and the men of my ship’s crew.
Even my banker has no part in it, except for keeping the money I deposit. Many of my friends do not approve of the course I’ve chosen.
But we all choose different ways to fight the same battle-and this is mine.”
Rearden smiled contemptuously, “Aren’t you one of those damn altruists who spends his time on a non-profit venture and risks his life merely to serve others?”
“No, Mr. Rearden. I am investing my time in my own future.
When we are free and have to start rebuilding from out of the ruins, I want to see the world reborn as fast as possible. If there is, then, some working capital in the right hands-in the hands of our best, our most productive men-it will save years for the rest of us and, incidentally, centuries for the history of the country. Did you ask what you meant to me? Everything I admire, everything I want to be on the day when the earth will have a place for such state of being, everything I want to deal with-even if this is the only way I can deal with you and be of use to you at present.”
“Why?” whispered Rearden.
“Because my only love, the only value I care to live for, is that which has never been loved by the world, has never won recognition or friends or defenders: human ability. That is the love I am serving-and if I should lose my life, to what better purpose could I give it?”
The man who had lost the capacity to feel?-thought Rearden, and knew that the austerity of the marble face was the form of a disciplined capacity to feel too deeply. The even voice was continuing dispassionately: “I wanted you to know this. I wanted you to know it now, when it most seem to you that you’re abandoned at the bottom of a pit among subhuman creatures who are all that’s left of mankind. I wanted you to know, in your most hopeless hour, that the day of deliverance is much closer than you think. And there was one special reason why I had to speak to you and tell you my secret ahead of the proper time.
Have you heard of what happened to Orren Boyle’s steel mills on the coast of Maine?”
“Yes,” said Rearden-and was shocked to hear that the word came as a gasp out of the sudden jolt of eagerness within him. “I didn’t know whether it was true.”
“It’s true. I did it. Mr. Boyle is not going to manufacture Rearden Metal on the coast of Maine. He is not going to manufacture it anywhere. Neither is any other looting louse who thinks that a directive can give him a right to your brain. Whoever attempts to produce that Metal, will find his furnaces blown up, his machinery blasted, his shipments wrecked, his plant set on fire-so many things will happen to any man who tries it, that people will say there’s a curse on it, and there will soon be no worker in the country willing to enter the plant of any new producer of Rearden Metal. If men like Boyle think that force is all they need to rob their betters-let them see what happens when one of their betters chooses to resort to force. I wanted you to know, Mr. Rearden, that none of them will produce your Metal nor make a penny on it.”
Because he felt an exultant desire to laugh-as he had laughed at the news of Wyatt’s fire, as he had laughed at the crash of d’Anconia Copper-and knew that if he did, the thing he feared would hold him, would not release him this time, and he would never see his mills again-Rearden drew back and, for a moment, kept his lips closed tight to utter no sound. When the moment was over, he said quietly, his voice firm and dead, “Take that gold of yours and get away from here. I won’t accept the help of a criminal.”
Danneskjold’s face showed no reaction. “I cannot force you to accept the gold, Mr. Rearden. But I will not take it back. You may leave it lying where it is, if you wish.”
“I don’t want your help and I don’t intend to protect you. If I were within reach of a phone, I would call the police. I would and I will, if you ever attempt to approach me again. I’ll do it-in self-protection.”
“I understand exactly what you mean.”
“You know-because I’ve listened to you, because you’ve seen me eager to hear it-that I haven’t damned you as I should. I can’t damn you or anyone else. There are no standards left for men to live by, so I don’t care to judge anything they do today or in what manner they attempt to endure the unendurable. If this is your manner, I will let you go to hell in your own way, but I want no part of it. Neither as your inspiration nor as your accomplice. Don’t expect me ever to accept your bank account, if it does exist. Spend it on some extra armor plate for yourself-because I’m going to report this to the police and give them every clue I can to set them on your trail.”
Danneskjold did not move or answer. A freight train was rolling by, somewhere in the distance and darkness; they could not see it, but they heard the pounding beat of wheels filling the silence, and it seemed close, as if a disembodied train, reduced to a long string of sound, were going past them in the night.
“You wanted to help me in my most hopeless hour?” said Rearden.
“If I am brought to where my only defender is a pirate, then I don’t care to be defended any longer. You speak some remnant of a human language, so in the name of that, I’ll tell you that I have no hope left, but I have the knowledge that when the end comes, I will have lived by my own standards, even while I was the only one to whom they remained valid. I will have lived in the world in which I started and J will go down with the last of it. I don’t think you’ll want to understand me, but-”
A beam of light hit them with the violence of a physical blow. The clangor of the train had swallowed the noise of the motor and they had not heard the approach of the car that swept out of the side road, from behind the farmhouse. They were not in the car’s path, yet they heard the screech of brakes behind the two headlights, pulling an invisible shape to a stop. It was Rearden who jumped back involuntarily and had time to marvel at his companion: the swiftness of Danneskjold’s self-control was that he did not move.
It was a police car and it stopped beside them.
The driver leaned out. “Oh, it’s you, Mr. Rearden!” he said, touching his fingers to his cap. “Good evening, sir.”
“Hello,” said Rearden, fighting to control the unnatural abruptness of his voice.
There were two patrolmen in the front seat of the car and their faces had a tight look of purpose, not the look of their usual friendly intention to stop for a chat.
“Mr. Rearden, did you walk from the mills by way of Edgewood Road, past Blacksmith Cove?”
“Yes. Why?”
“Did you happen to see a man anywhere around these parts, a stranger moving along in a hurry?”
“He’d be either on foot or in a battered wreck of a car that’s got a million-dollar motor.”
“What man?”
“A tall man with blond hair.”
“Who is he?”
“You wouldn’t believe it if I told you, Mr. Rearden. Did you see him?”
Rearden was not aware of his own questions, only of the astonishing fact that he was able to force sounds past some beating barrier inside his throat. He was looking straight at the policeman, but he felt as if the focus of his eyes had switched to his side vision, and what he saw most clearly was Danneskjold’s face watching him with no expression, with no line’s, no muscle’s worth of feeling. He saw Danneskjold’s arms hanging idly by his sides, the hands relaxed, with no sign of intention to reach for a weapon, leaving the tall, straight body defenseless and open-open as to a firing squad. He saw, in the light, that the face looked younger than he had thought and that the eyes were sky-blue.
He felt that his one danger would be to glance directly at Danneskjold-and he kept his eyes on the policeman, on the brass buttons of a blue uniform, but the object filling his consciousness, more forcefully than a visual perception, was Danneskjold’s body, the naked body under the clothes, the body that would be wiped out of existence. He did not hear his own words, because he kept hearing a single sentence in his mind, without context except the feeling that it was the only thing that mattered to him in the world: “If I should lose my life, to what better purpose could I give it?”
“Did you see him, Mr. Rearden?”
“No,” said Rearden. “I didn’t.”
The policeman shrugged regretfully and closed his hands about the steering wheel. “You didn’t see any man that looked suspicious?”
“Nor any strange car passing you on the road?”
The policeman reached for the starter. “They got word that he was seen ashore in these parts tonight, and they’ve thrown a dragnet over five counties. We’re not supposed to mention his name, not to scare the folks, but he’s a man whose head is worth three million dollars in rewards from all over the world.”
He had pressed the starter and the motor was churning the air with bright cracks of sound, when the second policeman leaned forward.
He had been looking at the blond hair under Danneskjold’s cap.
“Who is that, Mr. Rearden?” he asked.
“My new bodyguard,” said Rearden.
“Oh . . . ! A sensible precaution, Mr. Rearden, in times like these.
Good night, sir.”
The motor jerked forward. The red taillights of the car went shrinking down the road. Danneskjold watched it go, then glanced pointedly at Rearden’s right hand. Rearden realized that he had stood facing the policemen with his hand clutching the gun in his pocket and that he had been prepared to use it.
He opened his fingers and drew his hand out hastily. Danneskjold smiled. It was a smile of radiant amusement, the silent laughter of a clear, young spirit greeting a moment it was glad to have lived.
And although the two did not resemble each other, the smile made Rearden think of Francisco d’Anconia.
“You haven’t told a lie,” said Ragnar Danneskjold. “Your bodyguard-that’s what I am and what I’ll deserve to be, in many more ways than you can know at present. Thanks, Mr. Rearden, and so long-we’ll meet again much sooner than I had hoped.”
He was gone before Rearden could answer. He vanished beyond the stone fence, as abruptly and soundlessly as he had come. When Rearden turned to look through the farm field, there was no trace of him and no sign of movement anywhere in the darkness.
Rearden stood on the edge of an empty road in a spread of loneliness vaster than it had seemed before. Then he saw, lying at his feet, an object wrapped in burlap, with one corner exposed and glistening in the moonlight, the color of the pirate’s hair. He bent, picked it up and walked on.
Kip Chalmers swore as the train lurched and spilled his cocktail over the table top. He slumped forward, his elbow in the puddle, and said: “God damn these railroads! What’s the matter with their track?
You’d think with all the money they’ve got they’d disgorge a little, so we wouldn’t have to bump like farmers on a hay cart!”
His three companions did not take the trouble to answer. It was late, and they remained in the lounge merely because an effort was needed to retire to their compartments. The lights of the lounge looked like feeble portholes in a fog of cigarette smoke dank with the odor of alcohol. It was a private car, which Chalmers had demanded and obtained for his journey; it was attached to the end of the Comet and it swung like the tail of a nervous animal as the Comet coiled through the curves of the mountains.
“I’m going to campaign for the nationalization of the railroads,”
said Kip Chalmers, glaring defiantly at a small, gray man who looked at him without interest. ‘That’s going to be my platform plank. I’ve got to have a platform plank. I don’t like Jim Taggart. He looks like a soft-boiled clam. To hell with the railroads! It’s time we took them over.”
“Go to bed,” said the man, “if you expect to look like anything human at the big rally tomorrow.”
“Do you think we’ll make it?”
“You’ve got to make it.”
“I know I’ve got to. But I don’t think we’ll get there on time. This goddamn snail of a super-special is hours late.”
“You’ve got to get there, Kip,” said the man ominously, in that stubborn monotone of the unthinking which asserts an end without concern for the means.
“God damn you, don’t you suppose I know it?”
Kip Chalmers had curly blond hair and a shapeless mouth. He came from a semi-wealthy, semi-distinguished family, but he sneered at wealth and distinction in a manner which implied that only a top rank aristocrat could permit himself such a degree of cynical indifference. He had graduated from a college which specialized in breeding that kind of aristocracy. The college had taught him that the purpose of ideas is to fool those who are stupid enough to think. He had made his way in Washington with the grace of a cat-burglar, climbing from bureau to bureau as from ledge to ledge of a crumbling structure. He was ranked as semi-powerful, but his manner made laymen mistake him for nothing less than Wesley Mouch.
For reasons of his own particular strategy, Kip Chalmers had decided to enter popular politics and to run for election as Legislator from California, though he knew nothing about that state except the movie industry and the beach clubs. His campaign manager had done the preliminary work, and Chalmers was now on his way to face his future constituents for the first time at an over publicized rally in San Francisco tomorrow night. The manager had wanted him to start a day earlier, but Charmers had stayed in Washington to attend a cocktail party and had taken the last train possible. He had shown no concern about the rally until this evening, when he noticed that the Comet was running six hours late.
His three companions did not mind his mood: they liked his liquor, tester Tuck, his campaign manager, was a small, aging man with a face that looked as if it had once been punched in and had never rebounded. He was an attorney who, some generations earlier, would have represented shoplifters and people who stage accidents on the premises of rich corporations; now he found that he could do better by representing men like Kip Chalmers.
Laura Bradford was Chalmers’ current mistress; he liked her because his predecessor had been Wesley Mouch. She was a movie actress who had forced her way from competent featured player to incompetent star, not by means of sleeping with studio executives, but by taking the long-distance short cut of sleeping with bureaucrats. She talked economics, instead of glamor, for press interviews, in the belligerently righteous style of a third-rate tabloid; her economics consisted of the assertion that “we’ve got to help the poor.”
Gilbert Keith-Worthing was Chalmers’ guest, for no reason that either of them could discover. He was a British novelist of world fame, who had been popular thirty years ago; since then, nobody bothered to read what he wrote, but everybody accepted him as a walking classic.
He had been considered profound for uttering such things as: “Freedom? Do let’s stop talking about freedom. Freedom is impossible. Man can never be free of hunger, of cold, of disease, of physical accidents.
He can never be free of the tyranny of nature. So why should he object to the tyranny of a political dictatorship?” When all of Europe put into practice the ideas which he bad preached, he came to live in America. Through the years, his style of writing and his body had grown flabby. At seventy, he was an obese old man with retouched hair and a manner of scornful cynicism retouched by quotations from the yogis about the futility of all human endeavor. Kip Chalmers had invited him, because it seemed to look distinguished. Gilbert Keith Worthing had come along, because he had no particular place to go.
“God damn these railroad people!” said Kip Chalmers. “They’re doing it on purpose. They want to ruin my campaign. I can’t miss that rally! For Christ’s sake, Lester, do something!”
“I’ve tried,” said Lester Tuck. At the train’s last stop, he had tried, by long-distance telephone, to find air transportation to complete their journey; but there were no commercial flights scheduled for the next two days.
“If they don’t get me there on time, I’ll have their scalps and their railroad! Can’t we tell that damn conductor to hurry?”
“You’ve told him three times,”
“I’ll get him fired. He’s given me nothing but a lot of alibis about all their messy technical troubles. I expect transportation, not alibis. They can’t treat me like one of their day-coach passengers. I expect them to get me where I want to go when I want it. Don’t they know that I’m on this train?”
“They know it by now,” said Laura Bradford. “Shut up, Kip. You bore me.”
Chalmers refilled his glass. The car was rocking and the glassware tinkled faintly on the shelves of the bar. The patches of starlit sky in the windows kept swaying jerkily, and it seemed as if the stars were tinkling against one another. They could see nothing beyond the glass bay of the observation window at the end of the car, except the small halos of red and green lanterns marking the rear of the train, and a brief stretch of rail running away from them into the darkness. A wall of rock was racing the train, and the stars dipped occasionally into a sudden break that outlined, high above them, the peaks of the mountains of Colorado.
“Mountains . . .” said Gilbert Keith-Worthing, with satisfaction.
“It is a spectacle of this kind that makes one feel the insignificance of man.’ What is this presumptuous little bit of rail, which crude materialists are so proud of building-compared to that eternal grandeur? No more than the basting thread of a seamstress on the hem of the garment of nature. If a single one of those granite giants chose to crumble, it would annihilate this train.”
“Why should it choose to crumble?” asked Laura Bradford, without any particular interest.
“I think this damn train is going slower,” said Kip Chalmers. “Those bastards are slowing down,, in spite of what I told them!”
“Well . . . it’s the mountains, you know . . .” said Lester Tuck.
“Mountains be damned! Lester, what day is this? With all those damn changes of time, I can’t tell which-”
“It’s May twenty-seventh,” sighed Lester Tuck.
“It’s May twenty-eighth,” said Gilbert Keith-Worthing, glancing at his watch. “It is now twelve minutes past midnight.”
“Jesus!” cried Chalmers. “Then the rally is today?”
“Yep,” said Lester Tuck.
“We won’t make it! We-”
The train gave a sharper lurch, knocking the glass out of his hand.
The thin sound of its crash against the floor mixed with the screech of the wheel-flanges tearing against the rail of a sharp curve.
“I say,” asked Gilbert Keith-Worthing nervously, “are your railroads safe?”
“Hell, yes!” said Kip Chalmers. “We’ve got so many rules, regulations and controls that those bastards wouldn’t dare not to be safe!
. . . Lester, how far are we now? What’s the next stop?’1
“There won’t be any stop till Salt Lake City.”
“I mean, what’s the next station?”
Lester Tuck produced a soiled map, which he had been consulting every few minutes since nightfall. “Winston,” he said. “Winston, Colorado.”
Kip Chalmers reached for another glass.
“Tinky Holloway said that Wesley said that if you don’t win this election, you’re through,” said Laura Bradford. She sat sprawled in her chair, looking past Chalmers, studying her own face in a mirror on the wall of the lounge; she was bored and it amused her to needle his impotent anger.
“Oh, he did, did he?”
“Uh-huh. Wesley doesn’t want what’s-his-name-whoever’s running against you-to get into the Legislature. If you don’t win, Wesley will be sore as hell. Tinky said-”
“Damn that bastard! He’d better watch his own neck!”
“Oh, I don’t know. Wesley likes him very much.” She added, “Tinky Holloway wouldn’t allow some miserable train to make him miss an important meeting. They wouldn’t dare to hold him up.”
Kip Chalmers sat staring at his glass. “I’m going to have the government seize all the railroads,” he said, his voice low.
“Really,” said Gilbert Keith-Worthing, “I don’t see why you haven’t done it long ago. This is the only country on earth backward enough to permit private ownership of railroads.”
“Well, we’re catching up with you,” said Kip Chalmers.
“Your country is so incredibly naive. It’s such an anachronism. All that talk about liberty and human rights-I haven’t heard it since the days of my great-grandfather. It’s nothing but a verbal luxury of the rich. After all, it doesn’t make any difference to the poor whether their livelihood is at the mercy of an industrialist or of a bureaucrat.”
“The day of the industrialists is over. This is the day of-”
The jolt felt as if the air within the car smashed them forward while the floor stopped under their feet. Kip Chalmers was flung down to the carpet, Gilbert Keith-Worthing was thrown across the table top, the lights were blasted out. Glasses crashed off the shelves, the steel of the walls screamed as if about to rip open, while a long, distant thud went like a convulsion through the wheels of the train.
When he raised his head, Chalmers saw that the car stood intact and still; he heard the moans of his companions and the first shriek of Laura Bradford’s hysterics. He crawled along the floor to the doorway, wrenched it open, and tumbled down the steps. Far ahead, on the side of a curve, he saw moving flashlights and a red glow at a spot where the engine had no place to be. He stumbled through the darkness, bumping into half-clothed figures that waved the futile little flares of matches.
Somewhere along the line, he saw a man with a flashlight and seized his arm. It was the conductor.
“What happened?” gasped Chalmers.
“Split rail,” the conductor answered impassively. “The engine went off the track.”
“Off . . . ?M
“On its side.”
“Anybody . . . killed?”
“No. The engineer’s all right. The fireman is hurt.”
“Split rail? What do you mean, split rail?”
The conductor’s face had an odd look: it was grim, accusing and closed. “Rail wears out, Mr. Chalmers,” he answered with a strange kind of emphasis. “Particularly on curves.”
“Didn’t you know that it was worn out?”
“We knew.”
“Well, why didn’t you have it replaced?”
“It was going to be replaced. But Mr. Locey cancelled that.”
“Who is Mr. Locey?”
“The man who is not our Operating Vice-President.”
Chalmers wondered why the conductor seemed to look at him as if something about the catastrophe were his fault. “Well . . . well, aren’t you going to put the engine back on the track?”
“That engine’s never going to be put back on any track, from the looks of it.”
“But . . . but it’s got to move us!”
“It can’t.”
Beyond the few moving flares and the dulled sounds of screams, Chalmers sensed suddenly, not wanting to look at it, the black immensity of the mountains, the silence of hundreds of uninhabited miles, and the precarious strip of a ledge hanging between a wall of rock and an abyss. He gripped the conductor’s arm tighter.
“But . . . but what are we going to do?”
“The engineer’s gone to call Winston.”
“Call? How?”
“There’s a phone couple of miles down the track.”
“Will they get us out of here?”
“They will.”
“But . . .” Then his mind made a connection with the past and the future, and his voice rose to a scream for the first time: “How long will we have to wait?”
“I don’t know,” said the conductor. He threw Chalmers’ hand off his arm, and walked away.
The night operator of Winston Station listened to the phone message, dropped the receiver and raced up the stairs to shake the station agent out of bed. The station agent was a husky, surly drifter who had been assigned to the job ten days ago, by order of the new division superintendent. He stumbled dazedly to his feet, but he was knocked awake when the operator’s words reached his brain.
“What?” he gasped. “Jesus! The Comet? . . . Well, don’t stand there shaking! Call Silver Springs!”
The night dispatcher of the Division Headquarters at Silver Springs listened to the message, then telephoned Dave Mitchum, the new superintendent of the Colorado Division.
“The Comet?” gasped Mitchum, his hand pressing the telephone receiver to his ear, his feet hitting the floor and throwing him upright, out of bed. “The engine done for? The Diesel?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Oh God! Oh, God Almighty! What are we going to do?” Then, remembering his position, he added, “Well, send out the wrecking train.”
“I have.”
“Call the operator at Sherwood to hold all traffic.”
“I have.”
“What have you got on the sheet?”
“The Army Freight Special, westbound. But it’s not due for about four hours. It’s running late.”
“I’ll be right down. . . . Wait, listen, get Bill, Sandy and Clarence down by the time I get there. There’s going to be hell to pay!”
Dave Mitchum had always complained about injustice, because, he said, he had always had bad luck. He explained it by speaking darkly about the conspiracy of the big fellows, who would never give him a chance, though he did not explain just whom he meant by “the big fellows.” Seniority of service was his favorite topic of complaint and sole standard of value; he had been in the railroad business longer than many men who had advanced beyond him; this, he said, was proof of the social system’s injustice-though he never explained just what he meant by “the social system.” He had worked for many railroads, but had not stayed long with any one of them. His employers had had no specific misdeeds to charge against him, but had simply eased him out, because he said, “Nobody told me to!” too often. He did not know that he owed his present job to a deal between James Taggart and Wesley Mouch: when Taggart traded to Mouch the secret of his sister’s private life, in exchange for a raise in rates, Mouch made him throw in an extra favor, by their customary rules of bargaining, which consisted of squeezing all one could out of any given trade. The extra was a job for Dave Mitchum, who was the brother-in-law of Claude Slagenhop, who was the president of the Friends of Global Progress, who were regarded by Mouch as a valuable influence on public opinion. James Taggart pushed the responsibility of finding a job for Mitchum onto Clifton Locey. Locey pushed Mitchum into the first job that came up-superintendent of the Colorado Division-when the man holding it quit without notice. The man quit when the extra Diesel engine of Winston Station was given to Chick Morrison’s Special.
“What are we going to do?” cried Dave Mitchum, rushing, half-dressed and groggy with sleep, into his office, where the chief dispatcher, the trainmaster and the road foreman of engines were waiting for him.
The three men did not answer. They were middle-aged men with years of railroad service behind them. A month ago, they would have volunteered their advice in any emergency; but they were beginning to learn that things had changed and that it was dangerous to speak.
“What in hell are we going to do?”
“One thing is certain,” said Bill Brent, the chief dispatcher. “We can’t send a train into the tunnel with a coal-burning engine.”
Dave Mitchum’s eyes grew sullen: he knew that this was the one thought on all their minds; he wished Brent had not named it.
“Well, where do we get a Diesel?” he asked angrily.
“We don’t,” said the road foreman.
“But we can’t keep the Comet waiting on a siding all night!”
“Looks like we’ll have to,” said the trainmaster. “What’s the use of talking about it, Dave? You know that there is no Diesel anywhere on the division.”
“But Christ Almighty, how do they expect us to move trains without engines?”
“Miss Taggart didn’t,” said the road foreman. “Mr. Locey does.”
“Bill,” asked Mitchum, in the tone of pleading for a favor, “isn’t there anything transcontinental that’s due tonight, with any sort of a Diesel?”
“The first one to come,” said Bill Brent implacably, “will be Number 236, the fast freight from San Francisco, which is due at Winston at seven-eighteen A.M.” He added, “That’s the Diesel closest to us at this moment. I’ve checked,”
“What about the Army Special?”
“Better not think about it, Dave. That one has superiority over everything on the line, including the Comet, by order of the Army.
They’re running late as it is-journal boxes caught fire twice. They’re carrying munitions for the West Coast arsenals. Better pray that nothing stops them on your division. If you think we’ll catch hell for holding the Comet, it’s nothing to what we’ll catch if we try to stop that Special.”
They remained silent. The windows were open to the summer night and they could hear the ringing of the telephone in the dispatcher’s office downstairs. The signal lights winked over the deserted yards that had once been a busy division point.
Mitchum looked toward the roundhouse, where the black silhouettes of a few steam engines stood outlined in a dim light.
“The tunnel-” he said and stopped.
“-is eight miles long,” said the trainmaster, with a harsh emphasis.
“I was only thinking,” snapped Mitchum.
“Better not think of it,” said Brent softly.
“I haven’t said anything!”
“What was that talk you had with Dick Horton before he quit?” the road foreman asked too innocently, as if the subject were irrelevant.
“Wasn’t it something about the ventilation system of the tunnel being on the bum? Didn’t he say that that tunnel was hardly safe nowadays even for Diesel engines?”
“Why do you bring that up?” snapped Mitchum. “I haven’t said anything!” Dick Horton, the division chief engineer, had quit three days after Mitchum’s arrival.
“I thought I’d just mention it,” the road foreman answered innocently.
“Look, Dave,” said Bill Brent, knowing that Mitchum would stall for another hour rather than formulate a decision, “you know that there’s only one thing to do: hold the Comet at Winston till morning, wait for Number 236, have her Diesel take the Comet through the tunnel, then let the Comet finish her run with the best coal-burner we can give her on the other side,”
“But how late will that make her?”
Brent shrugged. “Twelve hours-eighteen hours-who knows?”
“Eighteen hours-for the Comet? Christ, that’s never happened before!”
“None of what’s been happening to us has ever happened before,”
said Brent, with an astonishing sound of weariness in his brisk, competent voice.
“But they’ll blame us for it in New York! They’ll put all the blame on us!”
Brent shrugged. A month ago, he would have considered such an injustice inconceivable; today, he knew better.
“I guess . . .” said Mitchum miserably, “I guess there’s nothing else that we can do.”
“There isn’t, Dave,”
“Oh God! Why did this have to happen to us?”
“Who is John Galt?”
It was half-past two when the Comet, pulled by an old switch engine, jerked to a stop on a siding of Winston Station. Kip Chalmers glanced out with incredulous anger at the few shanties on a desolate mountainside and at the ancient hovel of a station.
“Now what? What in hell are they stopping here for?” he cried, and rang for the conductor.
With the return of motion and safety, his terror had turned into rage. He felt almost as if he had been cheated by having been made to experience an unnecessary fear. His companions were still clinging to the tables of the lounge; they felt too shaken to sleep.
“How long?” the conductor said impassively, in answer to his question. “Till morning, Mr. Chalmers.”
Chalmers stared at him, stupefied. “We’re going to stand here till morning?”
“Yes, Mr. Chalmers.”
“But I have a rally in San Francisco in the evening!”
The conductor did not answer.
“Why? Why do we have to stand? Why in hell? What happened?”
Slowly, patiently, with contemptuous politeness, the conductor gave him an exact account of the situation. But years ago, in grammar school, in high school, in college, Kip Chalmers had been taught that man does not and need not live by reason.
“Damn your tunnel!” he screamed. “Do you think I’m going to let you hold me up because of some miserable tunnel? Do you want to wreck vital national plans on account of a tunnel? Tell your engineer that I must be in San Francisco by evening and that he’s got to get me there!”
“That’s your job, not mine!”
“There is no way to do it.”
“Then find a way, God damn you!”
The conductor did not answer.
“Do you think I’ll let your miserable technological problems interfere with crucial social issues? Do you know who I am? Tell that engineer to start moving, if he values his job!”
“The engineer has his orders.”
“Orders be damned! I give the orders these days! Tell him to start at once!”
“Perhaps you’d better speak to the station agent, Mr. Chalmers. I have no authority to answer you as I’d like to,” said the conductor, and walked out.
Chalmers leaped to his feet. “Say, Kip . . .” said Lester Tuck uneasily, “maybe it’s true . . . maybe they can’t do it.”
“They can if they have to!” snapped Chalmers, marching resolutely to the door.
Years ago, in college, he had been taught that the only effective means to impel men to action was fear.
In the dilapidated office of Winston Station, he confronted a sleepy man with slack, worn features, and a frightened young boy who sat at the operator’s desk. They listened, in silent stupor, to a stream of profanity such as they had never heard from any section gang.
“-and it’s not my problem how you get the train through the tunnel, that’s for you to figure out!” Chalmers concluded. “But if you don’t get me an engine and don’t start that train, you can kiss good-bye to your jobs, your work permits and this whole goddamn railroad!”
The station agent had never heard of Kip Chalmers and did not know the nature of his position. But he knew that this was the day when unknown men in undefined positions held unlimited power-the power of life or death.
“It’s not up to us, Mr. Chalmers,” he said pleadingly. “We don’t issue the orders out here. The order came from Silver Springs. Suppose you telephone Mr. Mitchum and-”
“Who’s Mr. Mitchum?”
“He’s the division superintendent at Silver Springs. Suppose you send him a message to-”
“I should bother with a division superintendent! I’ll send a message to Jim Taggart-that’s what I’m going to do!”
Before the station agent had time to recover, Chalmers whirled to the boy, ordering, “You-take this down and send it at once!”
It was a message which, a month ago, the station agent would not have accepted from any passenger; the rules forbade it; but he was not certain about any rules any longer: Mr. James Taggart, New York City. Am held up on the Comet at Winston, Colorado, by the incompetence of your men, who refuse to give me an engine. Have meeting in San Francisco in the evening of top-level national importance. If you don’t move my train at once, I’ll let you guess the consequences. Kip Chalmers.
After the boy had transmitted the words onto the wires that stretched from pole to pole across a continent as guardians of the Taggart track-after Kip Chalmers had returned to Ms car to wait for an answer-the station agent telephoned Dave Mitchum, who was his friend, and read to him the text of the message. He heard Mitchum groan in answer.
“I thought I’d tell you, Dave. I never heard of the guy before, but maybe he’s somebody important.”
“I don’t know!” moaned Mitchum. “Kip Chalmers? You see his name in the newspapers all the time, right in with all the top-level boys, I don’t know what he is, but if he’s from Washington, we can’t take any chances. Oh Christ, what are we going to do?”
We can’t take any chances-thought the Taggart operator in New York, and transmitted the message by telephone to James Taggart’s home. It was close to six A.M. in New York, and James Taggart was awakened out of the fitful sleep of a restless night. He listened to the telephone, his face sagging. He felt the same fear as the station agent of Winston, and for the same reason.
He called the home of Clifton Locey. All the rage which he could not pour upon Kip Chalmers, was poured over the telephone wire upon Clifton Locey. “Do something!” screamed Taggart. “I don’t care what you do, it’s your job, not mine, but see to it that that train gets through! What in hell is going on? I never heard of the Comet being held up! Is that how you run your department? It’s a fine thing when important passengers have to start sending messages to me! At least, when my sister ran the place, I wasn’t awakened in the middle of the night over every spike that broke in Iowa-Colorado, I mean!”
“I’m so sorry, Jim,” said Clifton Locey smoothly, in a tone that balanced apology, reassurance and the right degree of patronizing confidence. “It’s just a misunderstanding. It’s somebody’s stupid mistake.
Don’t worry, 111 take care of it. I was, as a matter of fact, in bed, but I’ll attend to it at once.”
Clifton Locey was not in bed; he had just returned from a round of night clubs, in the company of a young lady. He asked her to wait and hurried to the offices of Taggart Transcontinental. None of the night staff who saw him there could say why he chose to appear in person, but neither could they say that it had been unnecessary. He rushed in and out of several offices, was seen by many people and gave an impression of great activity. The only physical result of it was an order that went over the wires to Dave Mitchum, superintendent of the Colorado Division: “Give an engine to Mr. Chalmers at once. Send the Comet through safely and without unnecessary delay. If you are unable to perform your duties, I shall hold you responsible before the Unification Board, Clifton Locey,”
Then, calling his girl friend to join him, Clifton Locey drove to a country roadhouse-to make certain that no one would be able to find him in the next few hours.
The dispatcher at Silver Springs was baffled by the order that he handed to Dave Mitchum, but Dave Mitchum understood. He knew that no railroad order would ever speak in such terms as giving an engine to a passenger; he knew that the thing was a show piece, he guessed what sort of show was being staged, and he felt a cold sweat at the realization of who was being framed as the goat of the show.
“What’s the matter, Dave?” asked the trainmaster.
Mitchum did not answer. He seized the telephone, his hands shaking as he begged for a connection to the Taggart operator in New York, He looked like an animal in a trap.
He begged the New York operator to get him Mr. Clifton Locey’s home. The operator tried. There was no answer. He begged the operator to keep on trying and to try every number he could think of, where Mr. Locey might be found. The operator promised and Mitchum hung up, but knew that it was useless to wait or to speak to anyone in Mr. Locey’s department.
“What’s the matter, Dave?”
Mitchum handed him the order-and saw by the look on the trainmaster’s face that the trap was as bad as he had suspected.
He called the Region Headquarters of Taggart Transcontinental at Omaha, Nebraska, and begged to speak to the general manager of the region. There was a brief silence on the wire, then the voice of the Omaha operator told him that the general manager had resigned and vanished three days ago-“over a little trouble with Mr. Locey,” the voice added.
He asked to speak to the assistant general manager in charge of his particular district; but the assistant was out of town for the week end and could not be reached.
“Get me somebody else!” Mitchum screamed. “Anybody, of any district! For Christ’s sake, get me somebody who’ll tell me what to do!”
The man who came on the wire was the assistant general manager of the Iowa-Minnesota District.
“What?” he interrupted at Mitchum’s first words. “At Winston, Colorado? Why in hell are you calling me? . . . No, don’t tell me what happened, I don’t want to know it! . . . No, I said! No! You’re not going to frame me into having to explain afterwards why I did or didn’t do anything about whatever it is. It’s not my problem! . . . Speak to some region executive, don’t pick on me, what do I have to do with Colorado? . . . Oh hell, I don’t know, get the chief engineer, speak to him!”
The chief engineer of the Central Region answered impatiently, “Yes? What? What is it?”-and Mitchum rushed desperately to explain. When the chief engineer heard that there was no Diesel, he snapped, “Then hold the train, of course!” When he heard about Mr.
Chalmers, he said, his voice suddenly subdued, “Hm . . . Kip Chalmers? Of Washington? . . . Well, I don’t know. That would be a matter for Mr. Locey to decide.” When Mitchum said, “Mr. Locey ordered me to arrange it, but-” the chief engineer snapped in great relief, “Then do exactly as Mr. Locey says!” and hung up.
Dave Mitchum replaced the telephone receiver cautiously. He did not scream any longer. Instead, he-tiptoed to a chair, almost as if he were sneaking. He sat looking at Mr. Locey’s order for a long time.
Then he snatched a glance about the room. The dispatcher was busy at his telephone. The trainmaster and the road foreman were there, but they pretended that they were not waiting. He wished Bill Brent, the chief dispatcher, would go home; Bill Brent stood in a corner, watching him.
Brent was a short, thin man with broad shoulders; he was forty, but looked younger; he had the pale face of an office worker and the hard, lean features of a cowboy. He was the best dispatcher on the system.
Mitchum rose abruptly and walked upstairs to his office, clutching Locey’s order in his hand.
Dave Mitchum was not good at understanding problems of engineering and transportation, but he understood men like Clifton Locey. He understood the kind of game the New York executives were playing and what they were now doing to him. The order did not tell him to give Mr. Chalmers a coal-burning engine-just “an engine.” If the time came to answer questions, wouldn’t Mr. Locey gasp in shocked indignation that he had expected a division superintendent to know that only a Diesel engine could be meant in that order? The order stated that he was to send the Comet through “safely”-wasn’t a division superintendent expected to know what was safe?-“and without unnecessary delay.” What was an unnecessary delay? If the possibility of a major disaster was involved, wouldn’t a delay of a week or a month be considered necessary?
The New York executives did not care, thought Mitchum; they did not care whether Mr. Chalmers reached his meeting on time, or whether an unprecedented catastrophe struck their rails; they cared only about making sure that they would not be blamed for either. If he held the train, they would make him the scapegoat to appease the anger of Mr. Chalmers; if he sent the train through and it did not reach the western portal of the tunnel, they would put the blame on his incompetence; they would claim that he had acted against their orders, in either case. What would he be able to prove? To whom? One could prove nothing to a tribunal that had no stated policy, no defined procedure, no rules of evidence, no binding principles-a tribunal, such as the Unification Board, that pronounced men guilty or innocent as it saw fit, with no standard of guilt or innocence.
Dave Mitchum knew nothing about the philosophy of law; but he knew that when a court is not bound by any rules, it is not bound by any facts, and then a hearing is not an issue of justice, but an issue of men, and your fate depends not on what you have or have not done, but on whom you do or do not know. He asked himself what chance he would have at such a hearing against Mr. James Taggart, Mr. Clifton Locey, Mr. Kip Chalmers and their powerful friends.
Dave Mitchum had spent his life slipping around the necessity of ever making a decision; he had done it by waiting to be told and never being certain of anything. All that he now allowed into his brain was a long, indignant whine against injustice. Fate, he thought, had singled him out for an unfair amount of bad luck: he was being framed by his superiors on the only good job he had ever held. He had never been taught to understand that the manner in which he obtained this job, and the frame-up, were inextricable parts of a single whole.
As he looked at Locey’s order, he thought that he could hold the Comet, attach Mr. Chalmers1 car to an engine and send it into the tunnel, alone. But he shook his head before the thought was fully formed: he knew that this would force Mr. Chalmers to recognize the nature of the risk; Mr. Chalmers would refuse; he would continue to demand a safe and non-existent engine. And more: this would mean that he, Mitchum, would have to assume responsibility, admit full knowledge of the danger, stand in the open and identify the exact nature of the situation-the one act which the policy of his superiors was based on evading, the one key to their game.
Dave Mitchum was not the man to rebel against his background or to question the moral code of those in charge. The choice he made was not to challenge, but to follow the policy of his superiors. Bill Brent could have- beaten him in any contest of technology, but here was an endeavor at which he could beat Bill Brent without effort. There had once been a society where men needed the particular talents of Bill Brent, if they wished to survive; what they needed now was the talent of Dave Mitchum.
Dave Mitchum sat down at his secretary’s typewriter and, by means of two fingers, carefully typed out an order to the trainmaster and another to the road foreman. The first instructed the trainmaster to summon a locomotive crew at once, for a purpose described only as “an emergency”; the second instructed the road foreman to “send the best engine available to Winston, to stand by for emergency assistance.”
He put carbon copies of the orders into his own pocket, then opened the door, yelled for the night dispatcher to come up and handed him the two orders for the two men downstairs. The night dispatcher was a conscientious young boy who trusted his superiors and knew that discipline was the first rule of the railroad business. He was astonished that Mitchum should wish to send written orders down one flight of stairs, but he asked no questions, Mitchum waited nervously. After a while, he saw the figure of the road foreman walking across the yards toward the roundhouse. He felt relieved: the two men had not come up to confront him in person; they had understood and they would play the game as he was playing it.
The road foreman walked across the yards, looking down at the ground. He was thinking of his wife, his two children and the house which he had spent a lifetime to own. He knew what his superiors were doing and he wondered whether he should refuse to obey them. He had never been afraid of losing his job; with the confidence of a competent man, he had known that if he quarreled with one employer, he would always be able to find another. Now, he was afraid; he had no right to quit or to seek a job; if he defied an employer, he would be delivered into the unanswerable power of a single Board, and if the Board ruled against him, it would mean being sentenced to the slow death of starvation: it would mean being barred from any employment. He knew that the Board would rule against him; he knew that the key to the dark, capricious mystery of the Board’s contradictory decisions was the secret power of pull. What chance would he have against Mr. Chalmers? There had been a time when the self-interest of his employers had demanded that he exercise his utmost ability.
Now, ability was not wanted any longer. There had been a time when he had been required to do his best and rewarded accordingly. Now, he could expect nothing but punishment, if he tried to follow his conscience. There had been a time when he had been expected to think.
Now, they did not want him to think, only to obey. They did not want him to have a conscience any longer. Then why should he raise his voice? For whose sake? He thought of the passengers-the three hundred passengers aboard the Comet. He thought of his children. He had a son in high school and a daughter, nineteen, of whom he was fiercely, painfully proud, because she was recognized as the most beautiful girl in town. He asked himself whether he could deliver his children to the fate of the children of the unemployed, as he had seen them in the blighted areas, in the settlements around closed factories and along the tracks of discontinued railroads. He saw, in astonished horror, that the choice which he now had to make was between the lives of his children and the lives of the passengers on the Comet. A conflict of this kind had never been possible before. It was by protecting the safety of the passengers that he had earned the security of his children; he had served one by serving the other; there had been no clash of interests, no call for victims. Now, if he wanted to save the passengers, he had to do it at the price of his children.
He remembered dimly the sermons he had heard about the beauty of self-immolation, about the virtue of sacrificing to others that which was one’s dearest. He knew nothing about the philosophy of ethics; but he knew suddenly-not in words, but in the form of a dark, angry, savage pain-that if this was virtue, then he wanted no part of it.
He walked into the roundhouse and ordered a large, ancient coal burning locomotive to be made ready for the run to Winston.
The trainmaster reached for the telephone in the dispatcher’s office, to summon an engine crew, as ordered. But his hand stopped, holding the receiver. It struck him suddenly that he was summoning men to their death, and that of the twenty lives listed on the sheet before him, two would be ended by his choice. He felt a physical sensation of cold, nothing more; he felt no concern, only a puzzled, indifferent astonishment. It had never been his job to call men out to die; his job had been to call them out to earn their living. It was strange, he thought; and it was strange that his hand had stopped; what made it stop was like something he would have felt twenty years ago-no, he thought, strange, only one month ago, not longer.
He was forty-eight years old. He had no family, no friends, no ties to any living being in the world. Whatever capacity for devotion he had possessed, the capacity which others scatter among many random concerns, he had given it whole to the person of his young brother -the brother, his junior by twenty-five years, whom he had brought up. He had sent him through a technological college, and he had known, as had all the teachers, that the boy had the mark of genius on the forehead of his grim, young face. With the same single-tracked devotion as his brother’s, the boy had cared for nothing but his studies, not for sports or parties or girls, only for the vision of the things he was going to create as an inventor. He had graduated from college and had gone, on a salary unusual for his age, into the research laboratory of a great electrical concern in Massachusetts.
This was now May 28, thought the trainmaster. It was on May 1
that Directive 10-289 had been issued. It was on the evening of May I that he had been informed that his brother had committed suicide.
The trainmaster had heard it said that the directive was necessary to save the country. He could not know whether this was true or not; he had no way of knowing what was necessary to save a country. But driven by some feeling which he could not express, he had walked into the office of the editor of the local newspaper and demanded that they publish the story of his brother’s death. “People have to know it,” had been all he could give as his reason. He had been unable to explain that the bruised connections of his mind had formed the wordless conclusion that if this was done by the will of the people, then the people had to know it; he could not believe that they would do it, if they knew. The editor had refused; he had stated that it would be bad for the country’s morale.
The trainmaster knew nothing about political philosophy; but he knew that that had been the moment when he lost all concern for the life or death of any human being or of the country.
He thought, holding the telephone receiver, that maybe he should warn the men whom he was about to call. They trusted him; it would never occur to them that he could knowingly send them to their death.
But he shook his head: this was only an old thought, last year’s thought, a remnant of the time when he had trusted them, too. It did not matter now. His brain worked slowly, as if he were dragging his thoughts through a vacuum where no emotion responded to spur them on; he thought that there would be trouble if he warned anyone, there would be some sort of fight and it was he who had to make some great effort to start it. He had forgotten what it was that one started this sort of fight for. Truth? Justice? Brother-love? He did not want to make an effort. He was very tired. If he warned all the men on his list, he thought, there would be no one to run that engine, so he would save two lives and also three hundred lives aboard the Comet.
But nothing responded to the figures in his mind; “lives” was just a word, it had no meaning.
He raised the telephone receiver to his ear, he called two numbers, he summoned an engineer and a fireman to report for duty at once.
Engine Number 306 had left for Winston, when Dave Mitchum came downstairs. “Get a track motor car ready for me,” he ordered, “I’m going to run up to Fairmount.” Fairmount was a small station, twenty miles east on the line. The men nodded, asking no questions. Bill Brent was not among them. Mitchum walked into Brent’s office. Brent was there, sitting silently at his desk; he seemed to be waiting.
“I’m going to Fairmount,” said Mitchum; his voice was aggressively too casual, as if implying that no answer was necessary. “They had a Diesel there couple of weeks ago . . . you know, emergency repairs or something. . . . I’m going down to see if we could use it.”
He paused, but Brent said nothing.
“The way things stack up,” said Mitchum, not looking at him, “we can’t hold that train till morning. We’ve got to take a chance, one way or another. Now I think maybe this Diesel will do it, but that’s the last one we can try for. So if you don’t hear from me in half an hour, sign the order and send the Comet through with Number 306 to pull her.”
Whatever Brent had thought, he could not believe it when he heard it. He did not answer at once; then he said, very quietly, “No.”
“What do you mean, no?”
“I won’t do it.”
“What do you mean, you won’t? It’s an order!”
“I won’t do it.” Brent’s voice had the firmness of certainty unclouded by any emotion.
“Are you refusing to obey an order?”
“I am.”
“But you have no right to refuse! And I’m not going to argue about it, either. It’s what I’ve decided, it’s my responsibility and I’m not asking for your opinion. Your job is to take my orders.”
“Will you give me that order in writing?”
“Why, God damn you, are you hinting that you don’t trust me? Are you . . . ?”
“Why do you have to go to Fairmount, Dave? Why can’t you telephone them about that Diesel, if you think that they have one?”
“You’re not going to tell me how to do my job! You’re not going to sit there and question me! You’re going to keep your trap shut and do as you’re told or I’ll give you a chance to talk-to the Unification Board!”
It was hard to decipher emotions on Brent’s cowboy face, but Mitchum saw something that resembled a look of incredulous horror; only it was horror at some sight of his own, not at the words, and it had no quality of fear, not the kind of fear Mitchum had hoped for.
Brent knew that tomorrow morning the issue would be his word against Mitchum’s; Mitchum would deny having given the order; Mitchum would show written proof that Engine Number 306 had been sent to Winston only “to stand by,” and would produce witnesses that he had gone to Fairmount in search of a Diesel; Mitchum would claim that the fatal order had been issued by and on the sole responsibility of Bill Brent, the chief dispatcher, it would not be much of a case, not a case that could bear close study, but it would be enough for the Unification Board, whose policy was consistent only in not permitting anything to be studied closely. Brent knew that he could play the same game and pass the frame-up on to another victim, he knew that he had the brains to work it out-except that he would rather be dead than do it.
It was not the sight of Mitchum that made him sit still in horror.
It was the realization that there was no one whom he could call to expose this thing and stop it-no superior anywhere on the line, from Colorado to Omaha to New York. They were in on it, all of them, they were doing the same, they had given Mitchum the lead and the method. It was Dave Mitchum who now belonged on this railroad and he, Bill Brent, who did not.
As Bill Brent had learned to see, by a single glance at a few numbers on a sheet of paper, the entire trackage of a division-so he was now able to see the whole of his own life and the full price of the decision he was making. He had not fallen in love until he was past his youth; he had been thirty-six when he had found the woman he wanted. He had been engaged to her for the last four years; he had had to wait, because he had a mother to support and a widowed sister with three children. He had never been afraid of burdens, because he had known his ability to carry them, and he had never assumed an obligation unless he was certain that he could fulfill it. He had waited, he had saved his money, and now he had reached the time when he felt himself free to be happy. He was to be married in a few weeks, this coming June. He thought of it, as he sat at his desk, looking at Dave Mitchum, but the thought aroused no hesitation, only regret and a distant sadness-distant, because he knew that he could not let it be part of this moment.
Bill Brent knew nothing about epistemology; but he knew that man must live by his own rational perception of reality, that he cannot act against it or escape it or find a substitute for it-and that there is no other way for him to live.
He rose to his feet. “It’s true that so long as I hold this job, I cannot refuse to obey you,” he said. “But I can, if I quit. So I’m quitting.”
“You’re what?”
“I’m quitting, as of this moment.”
“But you have no right to quit, you goddamn bastard! Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that I’ll have you thrown in jail for it?”
“If you want to send the sheriff for me in the morning, I’ll be at home. I won’t try to escape. There’s no place to go.”
Dave Mitchum was six-foot-two and had the build of a bruiser, but he stood shaking with fury and terror over the delicate figure of Bill Brent. “You can’t quit! There’s a law against it! I’ve got a law! You can’t walk out on me! I won’t let you out! I won’t let you leave this building tonight!”
Brent walked to the door. “Will you repeat that order you gave me, in front of the others? No? Then I will!”
As he pulled the door open, Mitchum’s fist shot out, smashed into his face and knocked him down.
The trainmaster and the road foreman stood in the open doorway.
“He quit!” screamed Mitchum. “The yellow bastard quit at a time like this! He’s a law-breaker and a coward!”
In the slow effort of rising from the floor, through the haze of blood running into his eyes, Bill Brent looked up at the two men. He saw that they understood, but he saw the closed faces of men who did not want to understand, did not want to interfere and hated him for putting them on the spot in the name of justice. He said nothing, rose to his feet and walked out of the building.
Mitchum avoided looking at the others. “Hey, you,” he called, jerking his head at the night dispatcher across the room. “Come here.
You’ve got to take over at once.”
With the door closed, he repeated to the boy the story of the Diesel at Fairmount, as he had given it to Brent, and the order to send the Comet through with Engine Number 306, if the boy did not hear from him in half an hour. The boy was in no condition to think, to speak or to understand anything: he kept seeing the blood on the face of Bill Brent, who had been his idol. “Yes, sir,” he answered numbly Dave Mitchum departed for Fairmount, announcing to every yardman, switchman and wiper in sight, as he boarded the track motor car that he was going in search of a Diesel for the Comet.
The night dispatcher sat at his desk, watching the clock and the telephone, praying that the telephone would ring and let him hear from Mr. Mitchum. But the half-hour went by in silence, and whet there were only three minutes left, the boy felt a terror he could not explain, except that he did not want to send that order, He turned to the trainmaster and the road foreman, asking hesitantly, “Mr. Mitchum gave me an order before he left, but I wonder whether I ought to send it, because I . . . I don’t think it’s right. He said-”
The trainmaster turned away; he felt no pity: the boy was about the same age as his brother had been.
The road foreman snapped, “Do just as Mr. Mitchum told you.
You’re not supposed to think,” and walked out of the room.
The responsibility that James Taggart and Clifton Locey had evaded now rested on the shoulders of a trembling, bewildered boy. He hesitated, then he buttressed his courage with the thought that one did not doubt the good faith and the competence of railroad executives. He did not know that his vision of a railroad and its executives was that of a century ago.
With the conscientious precision of a railroad man, in the moment when the hand of the clock ended the half-hour, he signed his name to the order instructing the Comet to proceed with Engine Number 306, and transmitted the order to Winston Station.
The station agent at Winston shuddered when he looked at the order, but he was not the man to defy authority. He told himself that the tunnel was not, perhaps, as dangerous as he thought. He told himself that the best policy, these days, was not to think.
When he handed their copies of the order to the conductor and the engineer of the Comet, the conductor glanced slowly about the room, from face to face, folded the slip of paper, put it into his pocket and walked out without a word.
The engineer stood looking at the paper for a moment, then threw it down and said, “I’m not going to do it. And if it’s come to where this railroad hands out orders like this one, I’m not going to work for it, either. Just list me as having quit.”
“But you can’t quit!” cried the station agent, “They’ll arrest you for it!”
“If they find me,” said the engineer, and walked out of the station into the vast darkness of the mountain night.
The engineer from Silver Springs, who had brought in Number 306, was sitting in a corner of the room. He chuckled and said, “He’s yellow.”
The station agent turned to him. “Will you do it, Joe? Will you take the Comet?”
Joe Scott was drunk. There had been a time when a railroad man, reporting for duty with any sign of intoxication, would have been regarded as a doctor arriving for work with sores of smallpox on his face.
But Joe Scott was a privileged person. Three months ago, he had been fired for an infraction of safety rules, which had caused a major wreck; two weeks ago, he had been reinstated in his job by order of the Unification Board. He was a friend of Fred Kinnan; he protected Kinnan’s interests in his union, not against the employers, but against the membership.
“Sure,” said Joe Scott. “I’ll take the Comet. I’ll get her through, if I go fast enough.”
The fireman of Number 306 had remained in the cab of his engine.
He looked up uneasily, when they came to switch his engine to the head end of the Comet; he looked up at the red and green lights of the tunnel, hanging in the distance above twenty miles of curves. But he was a placid, amicable fellow, who made a good fireman with no hope of ever rising to engineer; his husky muscles were his only asset.
He felt certain that his superiors knew what they were doing, so he did not venture any questions.
The conductor stood by the rear end of the Comet. He looked at the lights of the tunnel, then at the long chain of the Comet’s windows. A few windows were lighted, but most of them showed only the feeble blue glow of night lamps edging the lowered blinds. He thought that he should rouse the passengers and warn them. There had been a time when he had placed the safety of the passengers above his own, not by reason of love for his fellow men, but because that responsibility was part of his job, which he accepted and felt pride in fulfilling. Now, he felt a contemptuous indifference and no desire to save them. They had asked for and accepted Directive 10-289, he thought, they went on living and daily turning away in evasion from the kind of verdicts that the Unification Board was passing on defenseless victims-why shouldn’t he now turn away from them? If he saved their lives, not one of them would come forward to defend him when the Unification Board would convict him for disobeying orders, for creating a panic, for delaying Mr. Chalmers. He had no desire to be a martyr for the sake of allowing people safely to indulge in their own irresponsible evil.
When the moment came, he raised his lantern and signaled the engineer to start.
“See?” said Kip Chalmers triumphantly to Lester Tuck, as the wheels under their feet shuddered forward. “Fear is the only practical means to deal with people.”
The conductor stepped onto the vestibule of the last car. No one saw him as he went down the steps of the other side, slipped off the train and vanished into the darkness of the mountains.
A switchman stood ready to throw the switch that would send the Comet from the siding onto the main track. He looked at the Comet as it came slowly toward him. It was only a blazing white globe with a beam stretching high above his head, and a jerky thunder trembling through the rail under his feet. He knew that the switch should not be thrown. He thought of the night, ten years ago, when he had risked his life in a flood to save a train from a washout. But he knew that times had changed. In the moment when he threw the switch and saw the headlight jerk sidewise, he knew that he would now hate his job for the rest of his life.
The Comet uncoiled from the siding into a thin, straight line, and went on into the mountains, with the beam of the headlight like an extended arm pointing the way, and the lighted glass curve of the observation lounge ending it off.
Some of the passengers aboard the Comet were awake. As the train started its coiling ascent, they saw the small cluster of Winston’s lights at the bottom of the darkness beyond their windows, then the same darkness, but with red and green lights by the hole of a tunnel on the upper edge of the windowpanes. The lights of Winston kept growing smaller, each time they appeared; the black hole of the tunnel kept growing larger. A black veil went streaking past the windows at times, dimming the lights: it was the heavy smoke from the coal-burning engine.
As the tunnel came closer, they saw, on the edge of the sky far to the south, in a void of space and rock, a spot of living fire twisting in the wind. They did not know what it was and did not care to learn.
It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet were not guilty or responsible for the thing that happened to them.
The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 1, was a professor of sociology who taught that individual ability is of no consequence, that individual effort is futile, that an individual conscience is a useless luxury, that there is no individual mind or character or achievement, that everything is achieved collectively, and that it’s masses that count, not men.
The man in Roomette 7, Car No. 2, was a journalist who wrote that it is proper and moral to use compulsion “for a good cause,” who believed that he had the right to unleash physical force upon others-
to wreck lives, throttle ambitions, strangle desires, violate convictions, to imprison, to despoil, to murder-for the sake of whatever he chose to consider as his own idea of “a good cause,” which did not even have to be an idea, since he had never defined what he regarded as the good, but had merely stated that he went by “a feeling”-a feeling unrestrained by any knowledge, since he considered emotion superior to knowledge and relied solely on his own “good intentions” and on the power of a gun.
The woman in Roomette 10, Car No. 3, was an elderly schoolteacher who had spent her life turning class after class of helpless children into miserable cowards, by teaching them that the will of the majority is the only standard of good and evil, that a majority may do anything it pleases, that they must not assert their own personalities, but must do as others were doing.
The man in Drawing Room B, Car No, 4, was a newspaper publisher who believed that men are evil by nature and unfit for freedom, that their basic instincts, if left unchecked, are to lie, to rob and to murder one another-and, therefore, men must be ruled by means of lies, robbery and murder, which must be made the exclusive privilege of the rulers, for the purpose of forcing men to work, teaching them to be moral and keeping them within the bounds of order and justice.
The man in Bedroom H, Car No. 5, was a businessman who had acquired his business, an ore mine, with the help of a government loan, under the Equalization of Opportunity Bill.
The man in Drawing Room A, Car No. 6, was a financier who had made a fortune by buying “frozen” railroad bonds and getting his friends in Washington to “defreeze” them.
The man in Seat 5, Car No, 7, was a worker who believed that he had “a right” to a job, whether his employer wanted him or not.
The woman in Roomette 6, Car No. 8, was a lecturer who believed that, as a consumer, she had “a right” to transportation, whether the railroad people wished to provide it or not.
The man in Roomette 2, Car No. 9, was a professor of economics who advocated the abolition of private property, explaining that intelligence plays no part in industrial production, that man’s mind is conditioned by material tools, that anybody can run a factory or a railroad and it’s only a matter of seizing the machinery.
The woman in Bedroom D, Car No. 10, was a mother who had put her two children to sleep in the berth above her, carefully tucking them in, protecting them from drafts and jolts; a mother whose husband held a government job enforcing directives, which she defended by saying, “I don’t care, it’s only the rich that they hurt. After all, I must think of my children.”
The man in Roomette 3, Car No. 11, was a sniveling little neurotic who wrote cheap little plays into which, as a social message, he inserted cowardly little obscenities to the effect that all businessmen were scoundrels.
The woman in Roomette 9, Car No. 12, was a housewife who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing, to control giant industries, of which she had no knowledge.
The man in Bedroom F, Car No. 13, was a lawyer who had said, “Me? I’ll find a way to get along under any political system.”
The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 14, was a professor of philosophy who taught that there is no mind-how do you know that the tunnel is dangerous?–no reality-how can you prove that the tunnel exists?-
no logic-why do you claim that trains cannot move without motive power?-no principles-why should you be bound by the law of cause and-effect?-no rights-why shouldn’t you attach men to their jobs by force?-no morality-what’s moral about running a railroad?-no absolutes-what difference does it make to you whether you live or die, anyway? He taught that we know nothing-why oppose the orders of your superiors?-that we can never be certain of anything-how do you know you’re right?-that we must act on the expediency of the moment-you don’t want to risk your job, do you?
The man in Drawing Room B, Car No. 15, was an heir who had inherited his fortune, and who had kept repeating, “Why should Rearden be the only one permitted to manufacture Rearden Metal?”
The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 16, was a humanitarian who had said, “The men of ability? I do not care what or if they are made to suffer. They must be penalized in order to support the incompetent.
Frankly, I do not care whether this is just or not. I take pride in not caring to grant any justice to the able, where mercy to the needy is concerned.”
These passengers were awake; there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas. As the train went into the tunnel, the flame of Wyatt’s Torch was the last thing they saw on earth.


The sun touched the tree tops on the slope of the hill, and they looked a bluish-silver, catching the color of the sky. Dagny stood at the door of the cabin, with the first sunrays on her forehead and miles of forest spread under her feet. The leaves went down from silver to green to the smoky blue of the shadows on the road below. The light trickled down through the branches and shot upward in sudden spurts when it hit a clump of ferns that became a fountain of green rays. It gave her pleasure to watch the motion of the light over a stillness where nothing else could move.
She had marked the date, as she did each morning, on the sheet of paper she had tacked to the wall of her room. The progression of the dates on that paper was the only movement in the stillness of her days, like the record kept by a prisoner on a desert island. This morning’s date was May 28.
She had intended the dates to lead to a purpose, but she could not say whether she had reached it or not. She had come here with three assignments given, as orders, to herself: rest-learn to live without the railroad-get the pain out of the way. Get it out of the way, were the words she used. She felt as if she were tied to some wounded stranger who could be stricken at any moment by an attack that would drown her in his screams. She felt no pity for the stranger, only a contemptuous impatience; she had to fight him and destroy him, then her way would be clear to decide what she wished to do; but the stranger was not easy to fight.
The assignment to rest had been easier. She found that she liked the solitude; she awakened in the morning with a feeling of confident benevolence, the sense that she could venture forth and be willing to deal with whatever she found. In the city, she had lived in chronic tension to withstand the shock of anger, indignation, disgust, contempt.
The only danger to threaten her here was the simple pain of some physical accident; it seemed innocent and easy by comparison, The cabin was far from any traveled road; it had remained as her father had left it. She cooked her meals on a wood-burning stove and gathered the wood on the hillsides. She cleared the brush from under her walls, she reshingled the roof, she repainted the door and the frames of the windows. Rains, weeds and brush had swallowed the steps of what had once been a terraced path rising up the hill from the road to the cabin. She rebuilt it, clearing the terraces, re-laying the stones, bracing the banks of soft earth with walls of boulders. It gave her pleasure to devise complex systems of levers and pulleys out of old scraps of iron and rope, then to move weights of rock that were much beyond her physical power. She planted a few seeds of nasturtiums and morning glories, to see one spreading slowly over the ground and the other climbing up the tree trunks, to see them grow, to see progression and movement.
The work gave her the calm she needed; she had not noticed how she began it or why; she had started without conscious intention, but she saw it growing under her hands, pulling her forward, giving her a healing sense of peace. Then she understood that what she needed was the motion to a purpose, no matter how small or in what form, the sense of an activity going step by step to some chosen end across a span of time. The work of cooking a meal was like a closed circle, completed and gone, leading nowhere. But the work of building a path was a living sum, so that no day was left to die behind her, but each day contained all those that preceded it, each day acquired its immortality on every succeeding tomorrow. A circle, she thought, is the movement proper to physical nature, they say that there’s nothing but circular motion in the inanimate universe around us, but the straight line is the badge of man, the straight line of a geometrical abstraction that makes roads, rails and bridges, the straight line that cuts the curving aimlessness of nature by a purposeful motion from a start to an end.
The cooking of meals, she thought, is like the feeding of coal to an engine for the sake of a great run, but what would be the imbecile torture of coaling an engine that had no run to make? It is not proper for man’s life to be a circle, she thought, or a string of circles dropping off like zeros behind him-man’s life must be a straight line of motion from goal to farther goal, each leading to the next and to a single growing sum, like a journey down the track of a railroad, from station to station to-oh, stop it!
Stop it-she told herself in quiet severity, when the scream of the wounded stranger was choked off-don’t think of that, don’t look too far, you like building this path, build it, don’t look beyond the foot of the hill.
She had driven a few times to the store in Woodstock, twenty miles away, to buy supplies and food. Woodstock was a small huddle of dying structures, built generations ago for some reason and hope long since forgotten. There was no railroad to feed it, no electric power, nothing but a county highway growing emptier year by year.
The only store was a wooden hovel, with spider-eaten corners and a rotted patch in the middle of the floor, eaten by the rains that came through the leaking roof. The storekeeper was a fat, pallid woman who moved with effort, but seemed indifferent to her own discomfort. The stock of food consisted of dusty cans with faded labels, some grain, and a few vegetables rotting in ancient bins outside the door. “Why don’t you move those vegetables out of the sun?” Dagny asked once. The woman looked at her blankly, as if unable to understand the possibility of such a question. “They’ve always been there,” she answered indifferently.
Driving back to the cabin, Dagny looked up at a mountain stream that fell with ferocious force down a sheer granite wall, its spray hanging like a mist of rainbows in the sun. She thought that one could build a hydroelectric plant, just large enough to supply the power for her cabin and for the town of Woodstock-Woodstock could be made to be productive-those wild apple trees she saw in such unusual numbers among the dense growth on the hillsides, were the remnants of orchards-suppose one were to reclaim them, then build a small spur to the nearest railroad-oh, stop it!
“No kerosene today,” the storekeeper told her on her next trip to Woodstock. “It rained Thursday night, and when it rains, the trucks can’t get through Fairfield gorge, the road’s flooded, and the kerosene truck won’t be back this way till next month.” “If you know that the road gets flooded every time it rains, why don’t you people repair it?”
The woman answered, “The road’s always been that way.”
Driving back, Dagny stopped on the crest of a hill and looked down at the miles of countryside below. She looked at Fairfield gorge where the county road, twisting through marshy soil below the level of a river, got trapped in a crack between two hills. It would be simple to bypass those hills, she thought, to build a road on the other side of the river-the people of Woodstock had nothing to do, she could teach them-cut a road straight to the southwest, save miles, connect with the state highway at the freight depot of-oh, stop it!
She put her kerosene lamp aside and sat in her cabin after dark by the light of a candle, listening to the music of a small portable radio.
She hunted for symphony concerts and twisted the dial rapidly past whenever she caught the raucous syllables of a news broadcast; she did not want any news from the city.
Don’t think of Taggart Transcontinental-she had told herself on her first night in the cabin-don’t think of it until you’re able to hear the words as if they were “Atlantic Southern” or “Associated Steel,” But the weeks passed and no scar would grow over the wound.
It seemed to her as if she were fighting the unpredictable cruelty of her own mind. She would lie in bed, drifting off to sleep-then find herself suddenly thinking that the conveyor belt was worn at the coaling station at Willow Bend, Indiana, she had seen it from the window of her car on her last trip, she must tell them to replace it or they-
and then she would be sitting up in bed, crying, Stop it!-and stopping it, but remaining awake for the rest of that night.
She would sit at the door of the cabin at sunset and watch the motion of the leaves growing still in the twilight-then she would see the sparks of the fireflies rising from the grass, flashing on and off in every darkening corner, flashing slowly, as if holding one moment’s warning-they were like the lights of signals winking at night over the track of a-Stop it!
It was the times when she could not stop it that she dreaded, the times when, unable to stand up-as in physical pain, with no limit to divide it from the pain of her mind-she would fall down on the floor of the cabin or on the earth of the woods and sit still, with her face pressed to a chair or a rock, and fight not to let herself scream aloud, while they were suddenly as close to her and as real as the body of a lover: the two lines of rail going off to a single point in the distance-the front of an engine cutting space apart by means of the letters TT-the sound of the wheels clicking in accented rhythm under the floor of her car-the statue of Nat Taggart in the concourse of the Terminal. Fighting not to know them, not to feel them, her body rigid but for the grinding motion of her face against her arm, she would draw whatever power over her consciousness still remained to her into the soundless, toneless repetition of the words: Get it over with, There were long stretches of calm, when she was able to face her problem with the dispassionate clarity of weighing a problem in engineering. But she could find no answer. She knew that her desperate longing for the railroad would vanish, were she to convince herself that it was impossible or improper. But the longing came from the certainty that the truth and the right were hers-that the enemy was the irrational and the unreal-that she could not set herself another goal or summon the love to achieve it, while her rightful achievement had been lost, not to some superior power, but to a loathsome evil that conquered by means of impotence.
She could renounce the railroad, she thought; she could find contentment here, in this forest; but she would build the path, then reach the road below, then rebuild the road-and then she would reach the storekeeper of Woodstock and that would be the end, and the empty white face staring at the universe in stagnant apathy would be the limit placed on her effort. Why?-she heard herself screaming aloud, There was no answer.
Then stay here until you answer it, she thought. You have no place to go, you can’t move, you can’t start grading a right-of-way until . . .
until you know enough to choose a terminal.
There were long, silent evenings when the emotion that made her sit still and look at the unattainable distance beyond the fading light to the south, was loneliness for Hank Rearden. She wanted the sight of his unyielding face, the confident face looking at her with the hint of a smile. But she knew that she could not see him until her battle was won. His smile had to be deserved, it was intended for an adversary who traded her strength against his, not for a pain-beaten wretch who would seek relief in that smile and thus destroy its meaning. He could help her to live; he could not help her to decide for what purpose she wished to go on living.
She had felt a faint touch of anxiety since the morning when she marked “May 15” on her calendar. She had forced herself to listen to news broadcasts, once in a while; she had heard no mention of his name. Her fear for him was her last link to the city; it kept drawing her eyes to the horizon at the south and down to the road at the foot of the hill. She found herself waiting for him to come. She found herself listening for the sound of a motor. But the only sound to give her a futile start of hope at times, was the sudden crackle of some large bird’s wings hurtling through the branches into the sky.
There was another link to the past, that still remained as an unsolved question: Quentin Daniels and the motor that he was trying to rebuild.
By June 1, she would owe him his monthly check. Should she tell him that she had quit, that she would never need that motor and neither would the world? Should she tell him to stop and to let the remnant of the motor vanish in rust on some such junk pile as the one where she had found it? She could not force herself to do it. It seemed harder than leaving the railroad. That motor, she thought, was not a link to the past: it was her last link to the future. To kill it seemed like an act, not of murder, but of suicide: her order to stop it would be her signature under the certainty that there was no terminal for her to seek ahead.
But it is not true-she thought, as she stood at the door of her cabin, on this morning of May 28-it is not true that there is no place in the future for a superlative achievement of man’s mind; it can never be true. No matter what her problem, this would always remain to her-this immovable conviction that evil was unnatural and temporary. She felt it more clearly than ever this morning: the certainty that the ugliness of the men in the city and the ugliness of her suffering were transient accidents-while the smiling sense of hope within her at the sight of a sun-flooded forest, the sense of an unlimited promise, was the permanent and the real.
She stood at the door, smoking a cigarette. In the room behind her, the sounds of a symphony of her grandfather’s time were coming from the radio. She barely listened, she was conscious only of the flow of chords that seemed to play an underscoring harmony for the flow of the smoke curving slowly from her cigarette, for the curving motion of her arm moving the cigarette to her lips once in a while. She closed her eyes and stood still, feeling the rays of the sun on her body. This was the achievement, she thought-to enjoy this moment, to let no memory of pain blunt her capacity to feel as she felt right now; so long as she could preserve this feeling, she would have the fuel to go on.
She was barely aware of a faint noise that came through the music, like the scratching of an old record. The first thing to reach her consciousness was the sudden jerk of her own hand flinging the cigarette aside. It came in the same instant as the realization that the noise was growing loader and that it was the sound of a motor. Then she knew that she had not admitted to herself how much she had wanted to hear that sound, how desperately she had waited for Hank Rearden.
She heard her own chuckle-it was humbly, cautiously low, as if not to disturb the drone of revolving metal which was now the unmistakable sound of a car rising up the mountain road.
She could not see the road-the small stretch under the arch of branches at the foot of the hill was her only view of it-but she watched the car’s ascent by the growing, imperious strain of the motor against the grades and the screech of the tires on curves.
The car stopped under the arch of branches. She did not recognize it -it was not the black Hammond, but a long, gray convertible. She saw the driver step out: it was a man whose presence here could not be possible. It was Francisco d’Anconia.
The shock she felt was not disappointment, it was more like the sensation that disappointment would now be irrelevant. It was eagerness and an odd, solemn stillness, the sudden certainty that she was facing the approach of something unknown and of the gravest importance.
The swiftness of Francisco’s movements was carrying him toward the hill while he was raising his head to glance up. He saw her above, at the door of the cabin, and stopped. She could not distinguish the expression on his face. He stood still for a long moment, his face raised to her. Then he started up the hill.
She felt-almost as if she had expected it-that this was a scene from their childhood. He was coming toward her, not running, but moving upward with a kind of triumphant, confident eagerness. No, she thought, this was not their childhood-it was the future as she would have seen it then, in the days when she waited for him as for her release from prison. It was a moment’s view of a morning they would have reached, if her vision of life had been fulfilled, if they had both gone the way she had then been so certain of going. Held motionless by wonder, she stood looking at him, taking this moment, not in the name of the present, but as a salute to their past.
When he was close enough and she could distinguish his face, she saw the look of that luminous gaiety which transcends the solemn by proclaiming the great innocence of a man who has earned the right to be light-hearted. He was smiling and whistling some piece of music that seemed to flow like the long, smooth, rising flight of his steps.
The melody seemed distantly familiar to her, she felt that it belonged with this moment, yet she felt also that there was something odd about it, something important to grasp, only she could not think of it now.
“Hi, Slug!”
“Hi, Frisco!”
She knew-by the way he looked at her, by an instant’s drop of his eyelids closing his eyes, by the brief pull of his head striving to lean back and resist, by the faint, half-smiling, half-helpless relaxation of his lips, then by the sudden harshness of his arms as he seized her-
that it was involuntary, that he had not intended it, and that it was irresistibly right for both of them.
The desperate violence of the way he held her, the hurting pressure of his mouth on hers, the exultant surrender of his body to the touch of hers, were not the form of a moment’s pleasure- she knew that no physical hunger could bring a man to this-she knew that it was the statement she had never heard from him, the greatest confession of love a man could make. No matter what he had done to wreck his life, this was still the Francisco d’Anconia in whose bed she had been so proud of belonging-no matter what betrayals she had met from the world, her vision of life had been true and some indestructible part of it had remained within him-and in answer to it, her body responded to his, her arms and mouth held him, confessing her desire, confessing an acknowledgment she had always given him and always would.
Then the rest of his years came back to her, with a stab of the pain of knowing that the greater his person, the more terrible his guilt hi destroying it. She pulled herself away from him, she shook her head, she said, in answer to both of them, “No.”
He stood looking at her, disarmed and smiling. “Not yet. You have a great deal to forgive me, first. But I can tell you everything now.”
She had never heard that low, breathless quality of helplessness in his voice. He was fighting to regain control, there was almost a touch of apology in his smile, the apology of a child pleading for indulgence, but there was also an adult’s amusement, the laughing declaration that he did not have to hide his struggle, since it was happiness that he was wrestling with, not pain.
She backed away from him; she felt as if emotion had flung her ahead of her own consciousness, and questions were now catching up with her, groping toward the form of words.’
“Dagny, that torture you’ve been going through, here, for the last month . . . answer me as honestly as you can . . . do you think you could have borne it twelve years ago?”
“No,” she answered; he smiled. “Why do you ask that?”
“To redeem twelve years of my life, which I won’t have to regret.”
“What do you mean? And”-her questions had caught up with her-“and what do you know about my torture here?”
“Dagny, aren’t you beginning to see that I would know everything about it?”
“How did you . . . Francisco! What were you whistling when you were coming up the hill?”
“Why, was I? I don’t know.”
“It was the Fifth Concerto by Richard Halley, wasn’t it?”
“Oh . . . ]” He looked startled, then smiled in amusement at himself, then answered gravely, “I’ll tell you that later.”
“How did you find out where I was?”
“I’ll tell you that, too.”
“You forced it out of Eddie.”
“I haven’t seen Eddie for over a year.”
“He was the only one who knew it.”
“It wasn’t Eddie who told me.”
“I didn’t want anybody to find me.”
He glanced slowly about him, she saw his eyes stop on the path she had built, on the planted flowers, on the fresh-shingled roof. He chuckled, as if he understood and as if it hurt him. “You shouldn’t have been left here for a month,” he said. “God, you shouldn’t have! It’s my first failure, at the one time when I didn’t want to fail. But I didn’t think you were ready to quit. Had I known it, I would have watched you day and night.”
“Really? What for?”
“To spare you”-he pointed at her work-“all this.”
“Francisco,” she said, her voice low, “if you’re concerned about my torture, don’t you know that I don’t want to hear you speak of it, because-” She stopped; she had never complained to him, not in all those years; her voice flat, she ‘said only, “-that I don’t want to hear it?”
“Because I’m the one man who has no right to speak of it? Dagny, if you think that I don’t know how much I’ve hurt you, I’ll tell you about the years when I . . . But it’s over. Oh, darling, it’s over!”
“Is it?”
“Forgive me, I mustn’t say that. Not until you say it,” He was trying to control his voice, but the look of happiness was beyond his power of control.
“Are you happy because I’ve lost everything I lived for? All right, I’ll say it, if this is what you’ve come to hear: you were the first thing I lost-does it amuse you now to see that I’ve lost the rest?”
He glanced straight at her, his eyes drawn narrow by such an intensity of earnestness that the glance was almost a threat, and she knew that whatever the years had meant to him, “amusement” was the one word she had no right to utter.
“Do you really think that?” he asked.
She whispered, “No . . .”
“Dagny, we can never lose the things we live for. We may have to change their form at times, if we’ve made an error, but the purpose remains the same and the forms are ours to make.”
“‘That is what I’ve been telling myself for a month. But there’s no way left open toward any purpose whatever.”
He did not answer. He sat down on a boulder by the door of the cabin, watching her as if he did not want to miss a single shadow of reaction on her face. “What do you think now of the men who quit and vanished?” he asked.
She shrugged, with a faint smile of helpless sadness, and sat down on the ground beside him. “You know,” she said, “I used to think that there was some destroyer who came after them and made them quit.
But I guess there wasn’t. There have been times, this past month, when I’ve almost wished he would come for me, too. But nobody came.”
“No. I used to think that he gave them some inconceivable reason to make them betray everything they loved. But that wasn’t necessary.
I know how they felt. I can’t blame them any longer. What I don’t know is how they learned to exist afterward-if any of them still exist.”
“Do you feel that you’ve betrayed Taggart Transcontinental?”
“No. I . . . I feel that I would have betrayed it by remaining at work.”
“You would have.”
“If I had agreed to serve the looters, it’s . . . it’s Nat Taggart that I would have delivered to them. I couldn’t. I couldn’t let his achievement, and mine, end up with the looters as our final goal.”
“No, you couldn’t. Do you call this indifference? Do you think that you love the railroad less than you did a month ago?”
“I think that I would give my life for just one more year on the railroad . . . But I can’t go back to it.”
“Then you know what they felt, all the men who quit, and what it was that they loved when they gave up.”
“Francisco,” she asked, not looking at him, her head bent, “why did you ask me whether I could have given it up twelve years ago?”
“Don’t you know what night I am thinking of, just as you are?”
“Yes . . .” she whispered.
“That was the night I gave up d’Anconia Copper.”
Slowly, with a long effort, she moved her head to glance up at him.
His face had the expression she had seen then, on that next morning, twelve years ago: the look of a smile, though he was not smiling, the quiet look of victory over pain, the look of a man’s pride in the price he paid and in that which made it worth paying.
“But you didn’t give it up,” she said. “You didn’t quit. You’re still the President of d’Anconia Copper, only it means nothing to you now.”
“It means as much to me now as it did that night.”
“Then how can you let it go to pieces?”
“Dagny, you’re more fortunate than I. Taggart Transcontinental is a delicate piece of precision machinery. It will not last long without you. It cannot be run by slave labor. They will mercifully destroy it for you and you won’t have to see it serving the looters. But copper mining is a simpler job. D’Anconia Copper could have lasted for generations of looters and slaves. Crudely, miserably, ineptly-but it could have lasted and helped them to last. I had to destroy it myself.”
“I am destroying d’Anconia Copper, consciously, deliberately, by plan and by my own hand. I have to plan it as carefully and work as hard as if I were producing a fortune-in order not to let them notice it and stop me, in order not to let them seize the mines until it is too late. AH the effort and energy I had hoped to spend on d’Anconia Copper, I’m spending them, only . . . only it’s not to make it grow. I shall destroy every last bit of it and every last penny of my fortune and every ounce of copper that could feed the looters. I shall not leave it as I found it-I shall leave it as Sebastian d’Anconia found it-then let them try to exist without him or me!”
“Francisco!” she screamed. “How could you make yourself do it?”
“By the grace of the same love as yours,” he answered quietly, “my love for d’Anconia Copper, for the spirit of which it was the shape.
Was-and, some day, will be again.”
She sat still, trying to grasp all the implications of what she now grasped only as the numbness of shock. In the silence, the music of the radio symphony went on, and the rhythm of the chords reached her like the slow, solemn pounding of steps, while she struggled to see at once the whole progression of twelve years: the tortured boy who called for help on her breasts-the man who sat on the floor of a drawing room, playing marbles and laughing at the destruction of great industries-the man who cried, “My love, I can’t!” while refusing to help her-the man who drank a toast, in the dim booth of a barroom, to the years which Sebastian d’Anconia had had to wait. . . .
“Francisco . . . of all the guesses I tried to make about you . . . I never thought of it . . . I never thought that you were one of those men who had quit . . .”
“I was one of the first of them.”
“I thought that they always vanished . . .”
“Well, hadn’t I? Wasn’t it the worst of what I did to you-that I left you looking at a cheap playboy who was not the Francisco d’Anconia you had known?”
“Yes . . .” she whispered, “only the worst was that I couldn’t believe it . . . I never did . . . It was Francisco d’Anconia that I kept seeing every time I saw you. . . .”
“I know. And I know what it did to you. I tried to help you understand, but it was too soon to tell you. Dagny, if I had told you-
that night or the day when you came to damn me for the San Sebastian Mines-that I was not an aimless loafer, that I was out to speed up the destruction of everything we had held sacred together, the destruction of d’Anconia Copper, of Taggart Transcontinental, of Wyatt Oil, of Rearden Steel-would you have found it easier to take?”
“Harder,” she whispered. “I’m not sure T can take it, even now.
Neither your kind of renunciation nor my own . . . But, Francisco”-
she threw her head back suddenly to look up at him-“if this was your secret, then of all the hell you had to take, I was-”
“Oh yes, my darling, yes, you were the worst of it!” It was a desperate cry, its sound of laughter and of release confessing all the agony he wanted to sweep away. He seized her hand, he pressed his mouth to it, then his face, not to let her see the reflection of what his years had been like. “If it’s any kind of atonement, which it isn’t . . .
whatever I made you suffer, that’s how I paid for it . . . by knowing what I was doing to you and having to do it . . . and waiting, waiting to . . . But it’s over.”
He raised his head, smiling, he looked down at her and she saw a look of protective tenderness come into his face, which told her of the despair he saw in hers.
“Dagny, don’t think of that. I won’t claim any suffering of mine as my excuse. Whatever my reason, I knew what I was doing and I’ve hurt you terribly. I’ll need years to make up for it. Forget what”-she knew that he meant: what his embrace had confessed-“what I haven’t said. Of all the things I have to tell you, that is the one I’ll say last.” But his eyes, his smile, the grasp of his fingers on her wrist were saying it against his will. “You’ve borne too much, and there’s a great deal that you have to learn to understand in order to lose every scar of the torture you never should have had to bear. All that matters now is that you’re free to recover. We’re free, both of us, we’re free of the looters, we’re out of their reach.”
She said, her voice quietly desolate, “That’s what I came here for-
to try to understand. But I can’t. It seems monstrously wrong to surrender the world to the looters, and monstrously wrong to live under their rule. I can neither give up nor go back. I can neither exist without work nor work as a serf. I had always thought that any sort of battle was proper, anything, except renunciation. I’m not sure we’re right to quit, you and f, when we should have fought them. But there is no way to fight. It’s surrender, if we leave-and surrender, if we remain. I don’t know what is right any longer.”
“Check your premises, Dagny. Contradictions don’t exist.”
“But I can’t find any answer. I can’t condemn you for what you’re doing, yet it’s horror that I feel-admiration and horror, at the same time. You, the heir of the d’Anconias, who could have surpassed all his ancestors of the miraculous hand that produced, you’re turning your matchless ability to the job of destruction. And I-I’m playing with cobblestones and shingling a roof, while a transcontinental railroad system is collapsing in the hands of congenital ward heelers. Yet you and I were the kind who determine the fate of the world. If this is what we let it come to, then it must have been our own guilt. But I can’t see the nature of our error.”
“Yes, Dagny, it was our own guilt.”
“Because we didn’t work hard enough?”
“Because we worked too hard-and charged too little.”
“What do you mean?”
“We never demanded the one payment that the world owed us-and we let our best reward go to the worst of men. The error was made centuries ago, it was made by Sebastian d’Anconia, by Nat Taggart, by every man who fed the world and received no thanks in return.
You don’t know what is right any longer? Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It’s a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish-we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world-
but we let our enemies write its moral code.”
“But we never accepted their code. We lived by our own standards.”
“Yes-and paid ransoms for it! Ransoms in matter and in spirit-in money, which our enemies received, but did not deserve, and in honor, which we deserved, but did not receive. That was our guilt-
that we were willing to pay. We kept mankind alive, yet we allowed men to despise us and to worship our destroyers. We allowed them to worship incompetence and brutality, the recipients and the dispensers of the unearned. By accepting punishment, not for any sins, but for our virtues, we betrayed our code and made theirs possible. Dagny, theirs is the morality of kidnappers. They use your love of virtue as a hostage. They know that you’ll bear anything in order to work and produce, because you know that achievement is man’s highest moral purpose, that he can’t exist without it, and your love of virtue is your love of life. They count on you to assume any burden. They count on you to feel that no effort is too great in the service of your love.
Dagny, your enemies are destroying you by means of your own power. Your generosity and your endurance are their only tools. Your unrequited rectitude is the only hold they have upon you. They know it.
You don’t. The day when you’ll discover it is the only thing they dread.
You must learn to understand them. You won’t be free of them, until you do. But when you do, you’ll reach such a stage of rightful anger that you’ll blast every rail of Taggart Transcontinental, rather than let it serve them!”
“But to leave it to them!” she moaned. “To abandon it . . . To abandon Taggart Transcontinental . . . when it’s . . . it’s almost like a living person . . .”
“It was. It isn’t any longer. Leave it to them. It won’t do them any good. Let it go. We don’t need it. We can rebuild it. They can’t. We’ll survive without it. They won’t.”
“But we, brought down to renouncing and giving up!”
“Dagny, we who’ve been called ‘materialists’ by the killers of the human spirit, we’re the only ones who know how little value or meaning there is in material objects as such, because we’re the ones who create their value and meaning. We can afford to give them up, for a short while, in order to redeem something much more precious. We are the soul, of which railroads, copper mines, steel mills and oil wells are the body-and they are living entities that beat day and night, like our hearts, in the sacred function of supporting human life, but only so long as they remain our body, only so long as they remain the expression, the reward and the property of achievement. Without us, they are corpses and their sole product is poison, not wealth or food, the poison of disintegration that turns men into hordes of scavengers.
Dagny, learn to understand the nature of your own power and you’ll understand the paradox you now see around you. You do not have to depend on any material possessions, they depend on you, you create them, you own the one and only tool of production. Wherever you are, you will always be able to produce. But the looters-by their own stated theory-are in desperate, permanent, congenital need and at the blind mercy of matter. Why don’t you take them at their word? They need railroads, factories, mines, motors, which they cannot make or run. Of what use will your railroad be to them without you? Who held it together? Who kept it alive? Who saved it, time and time again?
Was it your brother James? Who fed him? Who fed the looters? Who produced their weapons? Who gave them the means to enslave you?
The impossible spectacle of shabby little incompetents holding control over the products of genius-who made it possible? Who supported your enemies, who forged your chains, who destroyed your achievement?”
The motion that threw her upright was like a silent cry. He shot to his feet with the stored abruptness of a spring uncoiling, his voice driving on in merciless triumph: “You’re beginning to see, aren’t you? Dagny! Leave them the carcass of that railroad, leave them all the rusted rails and rotted ties and gutted engines-but don’t leave them your mind! Don’t leave them your mind! The fate of the world rests on that decision!”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the panic-pregnant voice of a radio announcer, breaking off the chords of the symphony, “we interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special news bulletin. The greatest disaster in railroad history occurred in the early hours of the morning on the main line of Taggart Transcontinental, at Winston, Colorado, demolishing the famous Taggart Tunnel!”
Her scream sounded like the screams that had rung out in the one last moment in the darkness of the tunnel. Its sound remained with him through the rest of the broadcast-as they both ran to the radio in the cabin and stood, in equal terror, her eyes staring at the radio, his eyes watching her face.
“The details of the story were obtained from Luke Beal, fireman of the Taggart luxury main liner, the Comet, who was found unconscious at the western portal of the tunnel this morning, and who appears to be the sole survivor of the catastrophe. Through some astounding infraction of safety rules-in circumstances not yet fully established-the Comet, westbound for San Francisco, was sent into the tunnel with a coal-burning steam locomotive. The Taggart Tunnel, an eight-mile bore, cut through the summit of the Rocky Mountains and regarded as an engineering achievement not to be equaled in our time, was built by the grandson of Nathaniel Taggart, in the great age of the clean, smokeless Diesel-electric engine. The tunnel’s ventilation system was not designed to provide for the heavy smoke and fumes of coal-burning locomotives-and it was known to every railroad employee in the district that to send a train into the tunnel with such a locomotive would mean death by suffocation for everyone aboard. The Comet, none the less, was so ordered to proceed. According to Fireman Beal, the effects of the fumes began to be felt when the train was about three miles inside the tunnel. Engineer Joseph Scott threw the throttle wide open, in a desperate attempt to gain speed, but the old, worn engine was inadequate for the weight of the long train and the rising grade of the track. Struggling through the thickening fumes, engineer and fireman had barely managed to force the leaking steam boilers up to a speed of forty miles per hour-when some passenger, prompted undoubtedly by the panic of choking, pulled the emergency brake cord. The sudden jolt of the stop apparently broke the engine’s airhose, for the train could not be started again. There were screams coming from the cars. Passengers were breaking windows. Engineer Scott struggled frantically to make the engine start, but collapsed at the throttle, overcome by the fumes.
Fireman Beal leaped from the engine and ran. He was within sight of the western portal, when he heard the blast of the explosion, which is the last thing he remembers. The rest of the story was gathered from railroad employees at Winston Station. It appears that an Army Freight Special, westbound, carrying a heavy load of explosives, had been given no warning about the presence of the Comet on the track just ahead. Both trains had encountered delays and were running off their schedules. It appears that the Freight Special had been ordered to proceed regardless of signals, because the tunnel’s signal system was out of order. It is said that in spite of speed regulations and in view of the frequent breakdowns of the ventilating system, it was the tacit custom of all engineers to go full speed while in the tunnel. It appears, as far as can be established at present, that the Comet was stalled just beyond the point where the tunnel makes a sharp curve. It is believed that everyone aboard was dead by that time. It is doubted that the engineer of the Freight Special, turning a curve at eighty miles an hour, would have been able to see, in time, the observation window of the Comet’s last car, which was brightly lighted when it left Winston Station. What is known is that the Freight Special crashed into the rear of the Comet. The explosion of the Special’s cargo broke windows in a farmhouse five miles away and brought down such a weight of rock upon the tunnel that rescue parties have not yet been able to come within three miles of where either train had been. It is not expected that any survivors will be found-and it is not believed that the Taggart Tunnel can ever be rebuilt.”
She stood still. She looked as if she were seeing, not the room around her, but the scene in Colorado. Her sudden movement had the abruptness of a convulsion. With the single-tracked rationality of a somnambulist,, she whirled to find her handbag, as if it were the only object in existence, she seized it, she whirled to the door and ran.
“Dagny!” he screamed. “Don’t go back!”
The scream had no more power to reach her than if he were calling to her across the miles between him and the mountains of Colorado.
He ran after her, he caught her, seizing her by both elbows, and he cried, “Don’t go back! Dagny! In the name of anything sacred to you, don’t go back!”
She looked as if she did not know who he was. In a contest of physical strength, he could have broken the bones of her arms without effort.
But with the force of a living creature fighting for life, she tore herself loose so violently that she threw him off balance for a moment. When he regained his footing, she was running down the hill-running as he had run at the sound of the alarm siren in Rearden’s mills-running to her car on the road below.
His letter of resignation lay on the desk before him-and James Taggart sat staring at it, hunched by hatred. He felt as if his enemy were this piece of paper, not the words on it, but the sheet and the ink that had given the words a material finality. He had always regarded thoughts and words as inconclusive, but a material shape was that which he had spent his life escaping: a commitment.
He had not decided to resign-not really, he thought; he had dictated the letter for a motive which he identified to himself only as “just in case.” The letter, he felt, was a form of protection; but he had not signed it yet, and that was his protection against the protection. The hatred was directed at whatever had brought him to feel that he would not be able to continue extending this process much longer.
He had received word of the catastrophe at eight o’clock this morning; by noon, he had arrived at his office. An instinct that came from reasons which he knew, but spent his whole effort on not knowing, had told him that he had to be there, this time.
The men who had been his marked cards-in a game he knew how to play-were gone. Clifton Locey was barricaded behind the statement of a doctor who had announced that Mr. Locey was suffering from a heart condition which made it impossible to disturb him at present. One of Taggart’s executive assistants was said to have left for Boston last night, and the other was said to have been called unexpectedly to an unnamed hospital, to the bedside of a father nobody had ever suspected him of having. There was no answer at the home of the chief engineer. The vice-president in charge of public relations could not be found.
Driving through the streets to his office, Taggart had seen the black letters of the headlines. Walking down the corridors of Taggart Transcontinental, he had heard the voice of a speaker pouring from a radio in someone’s office, the kind of voice one expects to hear on unlighted street corners: it was screaming demands for the nationalization of the railroads.
He had walked through the corridors, his steps noisy, in order to be seen, and hasty, in order not to be stopped for questions. He had locked the door of his office, ordering his secretary not to admit any person or phone call and to tell all comers that Mr. Taggart was busy.
Then he sat at his desk, alone with blank terror. He felt as if he were trapped in a subterranean vault and the lock could never be broken again-and as if he were held on display in the sight of the whole city below, hoping that the lock would hold out for eternity. He had to be here, in this office, it was required of him, he had to sit idly and wait-wait for the unknown to descend upon him and to determine his actions-and the terror was both of who would come for him and of the fact that nobody came, nobody to tell him what to do.
The ringing of the telephones in the outer office sounded like screams for help. He looked at the door with a sensation of malevolent triumph at the thought of all those voices being defeated by the innocuous figure of his secretary, a young man expert at nothing but the art of evasion, which he practiced with the gray, rubber limpness of the amoral. The voices, thought Taggart, were coming from Colorado, from every center of the Taggart system, from every office of the building around him. He was safe so long as he did not have to hear them.
His emotions had clogged into a still, solid, opaque ball within him, which the thought of the men who operated the Taggart system could not pierce; those men were merely enemies to be outwitted. The sharper bites of fear came from the thought of the men on the Board of Directors; but his letter of resignation was his fire escape, which would leave them stuck with the fire. The sharpest fear came from the thought of the men in Washington. If they called, he would have to answer; his rubber secretary would know whose voices superseded his orders. But Washington did not call.
The fear went through him in spasms, once in a while, leaving his mouth dry. He did not know what he dreaded. He knew that it was not the threat of the radio speaker. What he had experienced at the sound of the snarling voice had been more like a terror which he felt because he was expected to feel it, a duty-terror, something that went with his position, like well-tailored suits and luncheon speeches. But under it, he had felt a sneaking little hope, swift and furtive like the course of a cockroach: if that threat took form, it would solve everything, save him from decision, save him from signing the letter . . . he would not be President of Taggart Transcontinental any longer, but neither would anyone else . . . neither would anyone else. . . .
He sat, looking down at his desk, keeping his eyes and his mind out of focus. It was as if he were immersed in a pool of fog, struggling not to let it reach the finality of any form. That which exists possesses identity; he could keep it out of existence by refusing to identify it.
He did not examine the events in Colorado, he did not attempt to grasp their cause, he did not consider their consequences. He did not think. The clogged ball of emotion was like a physical weight in his chest, filling his consciousness, releasing him from the responsibility of thought. The bah1 was hatred-hatred as his only answer, hatred as the sole reality, hatred without object, cause, beginning or end, hatred as his claim against the universe, as a justification, as a right, as an absolute.
The screaming of the telephones went on through the silence. He knew that those pleas for help were not addressed to him, but to an entity whose shape he had stolen. It was this shape that the screams were now tearing away from him; he felt as if the ringing ceased to be sounds and became a succession of slashes hitting his skull. The object of the hatred began to take form, as if summoned by the bells. The solid ball exploded within him and flung him blindly into action.
Rushing out of the room, in defiance of all the faces around him, he went running down the halls to the Operating Department and into the anteroom of the Operating Vice-President’s office.
The door to the office was open: he saw the sky in the great windows beyond an empty desk. Then he saw the staff in the anteroom around him, and the blond head of Eddie Willers in the glass cubbyhole. He walked purposefully straight toward Eddie Willers, he flung the glass door open and, from the threshold, in the sight and hearing of the room, he screamed: “Where is she?”
Eddie Willers rose slowly to his feet and stood looking at Taggart with an odd kind of dutiful curiosity, as if this were one more phenomenon to observe among all the unprecedented things he had observed. He did not answer.
“Where is she?”
“I cannot tell you.”
“Listen, you stubborn little punk, this is no time for ceremony! If you’re trying to make me believe that you don’t know where she is, I don’t believe you! You know it and you’re going to tell me, or I’ll report you to the Unification Board! I’ll swear to them that you know it-then try and prove that you don’t!”
There was a faint tone of astonishment in Eddie’s voice as he answered, “I’ve never attempted to imply that I don’t know where she is, Jim, I know it. But I won’t tell you.”
Taggart’s scream rose to the shrill, impotent sound that confesses a miscalculation: “Do you realize what you’re saying?”
“Why, yes, of course.”
“Will you repeat it”-he waved at the room-“for these witnesses?”
Eddie raised his voice a little, more in precision and clarity than in volume: “I know where she is. But I will not tell you.”
“You’re confessing that you’re an accomplice who’s aiding and abetting a deserter?”
“If that’s what you wish to call it.”
“But it’s a crime! It’s a crime against the nation. Don’t you know that?”
“It’s against the law!”
“This is a national emergency! You have no right to any private secrets! You’re withholding vital information! I’m the President of this railroad! I’m ordering you to tell me! You can’t refuse to obey an order!
It’s a penitentiary offense! Do you understand?”
“Do you refuse?”
“I do.”
Years of training had made Taggart able to watch any audience around him, without appearing to do so. He saw the tight, closed faces of the staff, faces that were not his allies. All had a look of despair, except the face of Eddie Willers. The “feudal serf” of Taggart Transcontinental was the only one who seemed untouched by the disaster. He looked at Taggart with the lifelessly conscientious glance of a scholar confronted by a field of knowledge he had never wanted to study.
“Do you realize that you’re a traitor?” yelled Taggart.
Eddie asked quietly, ‘To whom?”
“To the people! It’s treason to shield a deserter! It’s economic treason! Your duty to feed the people comes first, above anything else whatever! Every public authority has said so! Don’t you know it?
Don’t you know what they’ll do to you?”
“Don’t you see that I don’t give a damn about that?”
“Oh, you don’t? I’ll quote that to the Unification Board! I have all these witnesses to prove that you said-”
“Don’t bother about witnesses, Jim. Don’t put them on the spot. I’ll write down everything I said, I’ll sign it, and you can take it to the Board.”
The sudden explosion of Taggart’s voice sounded as if he had been slapped: “Who are you to stand against the government? Who are you, you miserable little office rat, to judge national policies and hold opinions of your own? Do you think the country has time to bother about your opinions, your wishes or your precious little conscience?
You’re going to learn a lesson-all of you!-all of you spoiled, self-indulgent, undisciplined little two-bit clerks, who strut as if that crap about your rights was serious! You’re going to learn that these are not the days of Nat Taggart!”
Eddie said nothing. For an instant, they stood looking at each other across the desk. Taggart’s face was distorted by terror, Eddie’s remained sternly serene. James Taggart believed the existence of an Eddie Willers too well; Eddie Willers could not believe the existence of a James Taggart.
“Do you think the nation will bother about your wishes or hers?”
screamed Taggart. “It’s her duty to come back! It’s her duty to work!
What do we care whether she wants to work or not? We need her!”
“Do you, Jim?”
An impulse pertaining to self-preservation made Taggart back a step away from the sound of that particular tone, a very quiet tone, in the voice of Eddie Willers. But Eddie made no move to follow. He remained standing behind his desk, in a manner suggesting the civilized tradition of a business office.
“You won’t find her,” he said, “She won’t be back. I’m glad she won’t. You can starve, you can close the railroad, you can throw me in jail, you can have me shot-what does it matter? I won’t tell you where she is. If I see the whole country crashing, I won’t tell you. You won’t find her. You-”
They whirled at the sound of the entrance door flung open. They saw Dagny standing on the threshold.
She wore a wrinkled cotton dress, and her hair was disheveled by hours of driving. She stopped for the duration of a glance around her, as if to recapture the place, but there was no recognition of persons in her eyes, the glance merely swept through the room, as if making a swift inventory of physical objects. Her face was not the face they remembered; it had aged, not by means of lines, but by means of a still, naked look stripped of any quality save ruthlessness.
Yet their first response, ahead of shock or wonder, was a single emotion that went through the room like a gasp of relief. It was in all their faces but one: Eddie Willers, who alone had been calm a moment ago, collapsed with his face down on his desk; he made no sound, but the movements of his shoulders were sobs.
Her face gave no sign of acknowledgment to anyone, no greeting, as if her presence here were inevitable and no words were necessary. She went straight to the door of her office; passing the desk of her secretary, she said, her voice like the sound of a business machine, neither rude nor gentle, “Ask Eddie to come in.”
James Taggart was the first one to move, as if dreading to let her out of his sight. He rushed in after her, he cried, “I couldn’t help it!” and then, life returning to him, his own, his normal kind of life, he screamed, “It was your fault! You did it! You’re to blame for it! Because you left!”
He wondered whether his scream had been an illusion inside his own ears. Her face remained blank; yet she had turned to him; she looked as if sounds had reached her, but not words, not the communication of a mind. What he felt for a moment was his closest approach to a sense of his own non-existence.
Then he saw the faintest change in her face, merely the indication of perceiving a human presence, but she was looking past him and he turned and saw that Eddie Willers had entered the office.
There were traces of tears in Eddie’s eyes, but he made no attempt to hide them, he stood straight, as if the tears or any embarrassment or any apology for them were as irrelevant to him as to her.
She said, “Get Ryan on the telephone, tell him I’m here, then let me speak to him.” Ryan had been the general manager of the railroad’s Central Region.
Eddie gave her a warning by not answering at once, then said, his voice as even as hers, “Ryan’s gone, Dagny. He quit last week.”
They did not notice Taggart, as they did not notice the furniture around them. She had not granted him even the recognition of ordering him out of her office. Like a paralytic, uncertain of his muscles’
obedience, he gathered his strength and slipped out. But he was certain of the first thing he had to do: he hurried to his office to destroy his letter of resignation.
She did not notice his exit; she was looking at Eddie. “Is Knowland here?” she asked.
“No. He’s gone.”
He went on quietly to recite the list of those he knew she would ask for, those most needed in this hour, who had resigned and vanished within the past month. She listened without astonishment or emotion, as one listens to the casualty list of a battle where all are doomed and it makes no difference whose names fall first.
When he finished, she made no comment, but asked, “What has been done since this morning?”
“Dagny, any office boy could have issued orders here since this morning and everybody would have obeyed him, But even the office boys know that whoever makes the first move today will be held responsible for the future, the present and the past-when the buck passing begins. He would not save the system, he would merely lose his job by the time he saved one division. Nothing has been done. It’s stopped still. Whatever is moving, is moving on anyone’s blind guess-
out on the line where they don’t know whether they’re to move or to stop. Some trains are held at stations, others are going on, waiting to be stopped before they reach Colorado. It’s whatever the local dispatchers decide. The Terminal manager downstairs has cancelled all transcontinental traffic for today, including tonight’s Comet. I don’t know what the manager in San Francisco is doing. Only the wrecking crews are working. At the tunnel. They haven’t come anywhere near the wreck as yet. I don’t think they will.”
“Phone the Terminal manager downstairs and tell him to put all transcontinental trains back on the schedule at once, including tonight’s Comet. Then come back here.”
When he came back, she was bending over the maps she had spread on a table, and she spoke while he made rapid notes: “Route all westbound trains south from Kirby, Nebraska, down the spur track to Hastings, down the track of the Kansas Western to Laurel, Kansas, then to the track of the Atlantic Southern at Jasper, Oklahoma.
West on the Atlantic Southern to Flagstaff, Arizona, north on the track of the Flagstaff-Homedale to Elgin, Utah, north to Midland, northwest on the track of the Wasatch Railway to Salt Lake City. The Wasatch Railway is an abandoned narrow-gauge. Buy it. Have the gauge spread to standard. If the owners are afraid, since sales are illegal, pay them twice the money and proceed with the work. There is no rail between Laurel, Kansas, and Jasper, Oklahoma-three miles, no rail between Elgin and Midland, Utah-five and a half miles. Have the rail laid.
Have construction crews start at once-recruit every local man available, pay twice the legal wages, three times, anything they ask-put three shifts on-and have the job done overnight. For rail, tear up the sidings at Winston, Colorado, at Silver Springs, Colorado, at Leeds, Utah, at Benson, Nevada. If any local stooges of the Unification Board come to stop the work-give authority to our local men, the ones you trust, to bribe them. Don’t put that through the Accounting Department, charge it to me, I’ll pay it. If they find some case where it doesn’t work, have them tell the stooge that Directive 10-289 does not provide for local injunctions, that an injunction has to be brought against our headquarters and that they have to sue me, if they wish to stop us.”
“Is that true?”
“How do I know? How can anybody know? But by the time they untangle it and decide whatever it is they please to decide-our track will be built.”
“I see.”
“I’ll go over the lists and give you the names of our local men to put in charge-if they’re still there. By the time tonight’s Comet Teaches Kirby, Nebraska, the track will be ready. It will add about thirty-six hours to the transcontinental schedule-but there will be a transcontinental schedule. Then have them get for me out of the files the old maps of our road as it was before Nat Taggart’s grandson built the tunnel.”
“The . . . what?” He did not raise his voice, but the catch of his breath was the break of emotion he had wanted to avoid.
Her face did not change, but a fault note in her voice acknowledged him, a note of gentleness, not reproof: “The old maps of the days before the tunnel. We’re going back, Eddie. Let’s hope we can. No, we won’t rebuild the tunnel. There’s no way to do it now. But the old grade that crossed the Rockies is still there. It can be reclaimed. Only it will be hard to get the rail for it and the men to do it. Particularly the men.”
He knew, as he had known from the first, that she had seen his tears and that she had not walked past in indifference, even though her clear, toneless voice and unmoving face gave him no sign of feeling.
There was some quality in her manner, which he sensed but could not translate. Yet the feeling it gave him, translated, was as if she were saying to him: I know, I understand, I would feel compassion and gratitude, if we were alive and free to feel, but we’re not, are we, Eddie?-we’re on a dead planet, like the moon, where we must move, but dare not stop for a breath of feeling or we’ll discover that there is no air to breathe.
“We have today and tomorrow to get things started,” she said. “I’ll leave for Colorado tomorrow night.”
“If you want to fly, I’ll have to rent a plane for you somewhere.
Yours is still in the shops, they can’t get the parts for it.”
“No, I’ll go by rail. I have to see the line. I’ll take tomorrow’s Comet.”
It was two hours later, in a brief pause between long-distance phone calls, that she asked him suddenly the first question which did not pertain to the railroad: “What have they done to Hank Rearden?”
Eddie caught himself in the small evasion of looking away, forced his glance back to meet hers, and answered, “He gave in. He signed their Gift Certificate, at the last moment.”
“Oh.” The sound conveyed no shock or censure, it was merely a vocal punctuation mark, denoting the acceptance of a fact. “Have you heard from Quentin Daniels?”
“He sent no letter or message for me?”
He guessed the thing she feared and it reminded him of a matter he had not reported. “Dagny, there’s another problem that’s been growing all over the system since you left. Since May first. It’s the frozen trains,”
“The what?”
“We’ve had trains abandoned on the line, on some passing track, in the middle of nowhere, usually at night-with the entire crew gone.
They just leave the train and vanish. There’s never any warning given or any special reason, it’s more like an epidemic, it hits the men suddenly and they go. It’s been happening on other railroads, too. Nobody can explain it. But I think that everybody understands. It’s the directive that’s doing it. It’s our men’s form of protest. They try to go on and then they suddenly reach a moment when they can’t take it any longer.
What can we do about it?” He shrugged. “Oh well, who is John Galt?”
She nodded thoughtfully; she did not look astonished.
The telephone rang and the voice of her secretary said, “Mr. Wesley Mouch calling from Washington, Miss Taggart.”
Her lips stiffened a little, as at the unexpected touch of an insect. “It must be for my brother,” she said.
“No, Miss Taggart. For you.”
“All right. Put him on.”
“Miss Taggart,” said the voice of Wesley Mouch in the tone of a cocktail-party host, “I was so glad to hear you’ve regained your health that I wanted to welcome you back in person. I know that your health required a long rest and I appreciate the patriotism that made you cut your leave of absence short in this terrible emergency. I wanted to assure you that you can count on our co-operation in any step you now find it necessary to take. Our fullest co-operation, assistance and support. If there are any . . . special exceptions you might require, please feel certain that they can be granted.”
She let him speak, even though he had made several small pauses inviting an answer. When his pause became long enough, she said, “I would be much obliged if you would let me speak to Mr. Weatherby.”
“Why, of course, Miss Taggart, any time you wish . . . why . . .
that is . . . do you mean, now?”
“Yes. Right now.”
He understood. But he said, “Yes, Miss Taggart.”
When Mr. Weatherby’s voice came on the wire, it sounded cautious: “Yes, Miss Taggart? Of what service can I be to you?”
“You can tell your boss that if he doesn’t want me to quit again, as he knows I did, he is never to call me or speak to me. Anything your gang has to tell me, let them send you to tell it. I’ll speak to you, but not to him. You may tell him that my reason is what he did to Hank Rearden when he was on Rearden’s payroll. If everybody else has forgotten it, I haven’t.”
“It is my duty to assist the nation’s railroads at any time, Miss Taggart.” Mr. Weatherby sounded as if he were trying to avoid the commitment of having heard what he had heard; but a sudden note of interest crept into his voice as he asked slowly, thoughtfully, with guarded shrewdness, “Am I to understand, Miss Taggart, that it is your wish to deal exclusively with me in all official matters? May I take this as your policy?”
She gave a brief, harsh chuckle. “Go ahead,” she said. “You may list me as your exclusive property, use me as a special item of pull, and trade me all over Washington. But I don’t know what good that will do you, because I’m not going to play the game, I’m not going to trade favors, I’m simply going to start breaking your laws right now-and you can arrest me when you feel that you can afford to.”
“I believe that you have an old-fashioned idea about law, Miss Taggart. Why speak of rigid, unbreakable laws? Our modern laws are elastic and open to interpretation according to . . . circumstances.”
“Then start being elastic right now, because I’m not and neither are railroad catastrophes.”
She hung up, and said to Eddie, in the tone of an estimate passed on physical objects, “They’ll leave us alone for a while.”
She did not seem to notice the changes in her office: the absence of Nat Taggart’s portrait, the new glass coffee table where Mr. Locey had spread, for the benefit of visitors, a display of the loudest humanitarian magazines with titles of articles headlined on their covers.
She heard-with the attentive look of a machine equipped to record, not to react-Eddie’s account of what one month had done to the railroad. She heard his report on what he guessed about the causes of the catastrophe. She faced, with the same look of detachment, a succession of men who went in and out of her office with over hurried steps and hands fumbling in superfluous gestures. He thought that she had become impervious to anything. But suddenly-while pacing the office, dictating to him a list of track-laying materials and where to obtain them illegally-she stopped and looked down at the magazines on the coffee table. Their headlines said: “The New Social Conscience,” “Our Duty to the Underprivileged,” “Need versus Greed.” With a single movement of her arm, the abrupt, explosive movement of sheer physical brutality, such as he had never seen from her before, she swept the magazines off the table and went on, her voice reciting a list of figures without a break, as if there were no connection between her mind and the violence of her body.
Late in the afternoon, finding a moment alone in her office, she telephoned Hank Rearden.
She gave her name to his secretary-and she heard, in the way he said it, the haste with which he had seized the receiver: “Dagny?”
“Hello, Hank. I’m back.”
“In my office.”
She heard the things he did not say, in the moment’s silence on the wire, then he said, “1 suppose I’d better start bribing people at once to get the ore to start pouring rail for you.”
“Yes. As much of it as you can. It doesn’t have to be Rearden Metal. It can be-” The break in her voice was almost too brief to notice, but what it held was the thought: Rearden Metal rail for going back to the time before heavy steel?-perhaps back to the time of wooden rails with strips of iron? “It can be steel, any weight, anything you can give me.”
“All right. Dagny, do you know that I’ve surrendered Rearden Metal to them? I’ve signed the Gift Certificate.”
“Yes, I know.”
“I’ve given in.”
“Who am I to blame you? Haven’t I?” He did not answer, and she said, “Hank, I don’t think they care whether there’s a train or a blast furnace left on earth. We do. They’re holding us by our love of it, and we’ll go on paying so long as there’s still one chance left to keep one single wheel alive and moving in token of human intelligence. We’ll go on holding it afloat, like our drowning child, and when the flood swallows it, we’ll go down with the last wheel and the last syllogism. I know what we’re paying, but-price is no object any longer.”
“I know.”
“Don’t be afraid for me, Hank, I’ll be all right by tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll never be afraid for you, darling. I’ll see you tonight.”


The silence of her apartment and the motionless perfection of objects that had remained just as she had left them a month before, struck her with a sense of relief and desolation together, when she entered her living room. The silence gave her an illusion of privacy and ownership; the sight of the objects reminded her that they were preserving a moment she could not recapture, as she could not undo the events that had happened since.
There was still a remnant of daylight beyond the windows. She had left the office earlier than, she intended, unable to summon the effort for any task that could be postponed till morning. This was new to her -and it was new that she should now feel more at home in her apartment than in her office.
She took a shower, and stood for long, blank minutes, letting the water run over her body, but stepped out hastily when she realized that what she wanted to wash off was not the dust of the drive from the country, but the feel of the office.
She dressed, lighted a cigarette and walked into the living room, to stand at the window, looking at the city, as she had stood looking at the countryside at the start of this day.
She had said she would give her life for one more year on the
railroad. She was back; but this was not the joy of working; it
was only the clear, cold peace of a decision reached-and the
stillness of unadmitted pain.
Clouds had wrapped the sky and had descended as fog to wrap the streets below, as if the sky were engulfing the city. She could see the whole of Manhattan Island, a long, triangular shape cutting into an invisible ocean. It looked like the prow of a sinking ship; a few tall buildings still rose above it, like funnels, but the rest was disappearing under gray-blue coils, going down slowly into vapor and space.
This was how they had gone-she thought-Atlantis, the city that sank into the ocean, and all the other kingdoms that vanished, leaving the same legend in all the languages of men, and the same longing.
She felt–as she had felt it one spring night, slumped across her desk in the crumbling office of the John Galt Line, by a window facing a dark alley-the sense and vision of her own world, which she would never reach. , , . You-she thought-whoever you are, whom ,1
have always loved and never found, you whom I expected to see at the end of the rails beyond the horizon, you whose presence I had always felt in the streets of the city and whose world I had wanted to build, it is my love for you that had kept me moving, my love and my hope to reach you and my wish to be worthy of you on the day when I would stand before you face to face. Now I know that I shall never find you-
that it is not to be reached or lived-but what is left of my life is still yours, and I will go on in your name, even though it is a name I’ll never learn, I will go on serving you, even though I’m never to win, I will go on, to be worthy of you on the day when I would have met you, even though I won’t. . . . She had never accepted hopelessness, but she stood at the window and, addressed to the shape of a fogbound city, it was her self-dedication to unrequited love.
The doorbell rang.
She turned with indifferent astonishment to open, the door-but she knew that she should have expected him, when she saw that it was Francisco d’Anconia. She felt no shock and no rebellion, only the cheerless serenity of her assurance-and she raised her head to face him, with a slow, deliberate movement, as if telling him that she had chosen her stand and that she stood in the open.
His face was grave and calm; the look of happiness was gone, but the amusement of the playboy had not returned. He looked as if all masks were down, he looked direct, tightly disciplined, intent upon a purpose, he looked like a man able to know the earnestness of action, as she had once expected him to look-he had never seemed so attractive as he did in this moment-and she noted, in astonishment, her sudden feeling that he was not a man who had deserted her, but a man whom she had deserted.
“Dagny, are you able to talk about it now?”
“Yes-if you wish. Come in.”
He glanced briefly at her living room, her home which he had never entered, then his eyes came back to her. He was watching her attentively. He seemed to know that the quiet simplicity of her manner was the worst of all signs for his purpose, that it was like a spread of ashes where no flicker of pain could be revived, that even pain would have been a form of fire.
“Sit down, Francisco.”
She remained standing before him, as if consciously letting him see that she had nothing to hide, not even the weariness of her posture, the price she had paid for this day and her carelessness of price.
“I don’t think I can stop you now,” he said, “if you’ve made your choice. But if there’s one chance left to stop you, it’s a chance I have to take.”
She shook her head slowly. “There isn’t. And-what for, Francisco?
You’ve given up. What difference does it make to you whether I perish with the railroad or away from it?”
“I haven’t given up the future,”
“What future?”
“The day when the looters will perish, but we won’t.”
“If Taggart Transcontinental is to perish with the looters, then so am I.”
He did not take his eyes off her face and he did not answer.
She added dispassionately, “I thought I could live without it. I can’t.
I’ll never try it again. Francisco, do you remember?-we both believed, when we started, that the only sin on earth was to do things badly, I still believe it.” The first note of life shuddered in her voice. “I can’t stand by and watch what they did at that tunnel. I can’t accept what they’re all accepting-Francisco, it’s the thing we thought so monstrous, you and I!-the belief that disasters are one’s natural fate, to be borne, not fought. I can’t accept submission. I can’t accept helplessness. I can’t accept renunciation. So long as there’s a railroad left to run, I’ll run it.”
“In order to maintain the looters’ world?”
“In order to maintain the last strip of mine.”
“Dagny,” he said slowly, “I know why one loves one’s work. I know what it means to you, the job of running trains. But you would not run them if they were empty. Dagny, what is it you see when you think of a moving train?”
She glanced at the city. “The life of a man of ability who might have perished in that catastrophe, but will escape the next one, which I’ll prevent-a man who has an intransigent mind and an unlimited ambition, and is in love with his own life . . . the kind of man who is what we were when we started, you and I. You gave him up. I can’t.”
He closed his eyes for an instant, and the tightening movement of his mouth was a smile, a smile substituting for a moan of understanding, amusement and pain. He asked, his voice gravely gentle, “Do you think that you can still serve him-that kind of man-by running the railroad?”
“All right, Dagny. I won’t try to stop you. So long as you still think that, nothing can stop you, or should. You will stop on the day when you’ll discover that your work has been placed in the service, not of that man’s life, but of his destruction.”
“Francisco!” It was a cry of astonishment and despair. “You do understand it, you know what I mean by that kind of man, you see him, too!”
“Oh yes,” he said simply, casually, looking at some point in space within the room, almost as if he were seeing a real person. He added, “Why should you be astonished? You said that we were of his kind once, you and I. We still are. But one of us has betrayed him.”
“Yes,” she said sternly, “one of us has. We cannot serve him by renunciation.”
“We cannot serve him by making terms with his destroyers.”
“I’m not making terms with them. They need me. They know it.
It’s my terms that I’ll make them accept.”
“By playing a game in which they gain benefits in exchange for harming you?”
“If I can keep Taggart Transcontinental in existence, it’s the only benefit I want. What do I care if they make me pay ransoms? Let them have what they want. I’ll have the railroad.”
He smiled. “Do you think so? Do you think that their need of you is your protection? Do you think that you can give them what they want? No, you won’t quit until you see, of your own sight and judgment, what it is that they really want. You know, Dagny, we were taught that some things belong to God and others to Caesar. Perhaps their God would permit it. But the man you say we’re serving-he docs not permit it. He permits no divided allegiance, no war between your mind and your body, no gulf between your values and your actions, no tributes to Caesar. He permits no Caesars.”
“For twelve years,” she said softly, “I would have thought it inconceivable that there might come a day when I would have to beg your forgiveness on my knees. Now I think it’s possible. If I come to see that you’re right, I will. But not until then.”
“You will. But not on your knees.”
He was looking at her, as if he were seeing her body as she stood before him, even though his eyes were directed at her face, and his glance told her what form of atonement and surrender he was seeing in the future. She saw the effort he made to look away, his hope that she had not seen his glance or understood it, his silent struggle, betrayed by the tension of a few muscles under the skin of his face-the face she knew so well, “Until then, Dagny, remember that we’re enemies. I didn’t want to tell you this, but you’re the first person who almost stepped into heaven and came back to earth. You’ve glimpsed too much, so you have to know this clearly. It’s you that I’m fighting, not your brother James or Wesley Mouch. It’s you that I have to defeat. I am out to end all the things that are most precious to you right now. While you’ll struggle to save Taggart Transcontinental, I will be working to destroy it. Don’t ever ask me for help or money. You know my reasons. Now you may hate me-as, from your stand, you should.”
She raised her head a little, there was no perceptible change in her posture, it was no more than her awareness of her own body and of its meaning to him, but for the length of one sentence she stood as a woman, the suggestion of defiance coming only from the faintly stressed spacing of her words: “And what will it do to you?”
He looked at her, in full understanding, but neither admitting nor denying the confession she wanted to tear from him. “That is no one’s concern but mine,” he answered.
It was she who weakened, but realized, while saying it, that this was still more cruel: “I don’t hate you. I’ve tried to, for years, but I never will, no matter what we do, either one of us.”
“I know it,” he said, his voice low, so that she did not hear the pain, but felt it within herself as if by direct reflection from him.
“Francisco!” she cried, in desperate defense of him against herself.
“How can you do what you’re doing?”
“By the grace of my love”-for you, said his eyes-“for the man,”
said his voice, “who did not perish in your catastrophe and who will never perish,”
She stood silently still for a moment, as if in respectful acknowledgment.
“I wish I could spare you what you’re going to go through,” he said, the gentleness of his voice saying: It’s not me that you should pity.
“But I can’t. Every one of us has to travel that road by his own steps.
But it’s the same road.”
“Where does it lead?”
He smiled, as if softly closing a door on the questions that he would not answer. “To Atlantis,” he said.
“What?” she asked, startled.
“Don’t you remember?-the lost city that only the spirits of heroes can enter.”
The connection that struck her suddenly had been struggling in her mind since morning, like a dim anxiety she had had no time to identify.
She had known it, but she had thought only of his own fate and his personal decision, she had thought of him as acting alone. Now she remembered a wider danger and sensed the vast, undefined shape of the enemy she was facing.
“You’re one of them,” she said slowly, “aren’t you?”
“Of whom?”
“Was it you in Ken Danagger’s office?”
He smiled. “No.” But she noted that he did not ask what she meant.
“Is there-you would know it-is there actually a destroyer loose in the world?”
“Of course.”
“Who is it?”
She shrugged; her face was growing hard. “The men who’ve quit, are they still alive or dead?”
“They’re dead-as far as you’re concerned. But there’s to be a Second Renaissance in the world. I’ll wait for it.”
“No!” The sudden violence of her voice was in personal answer to him, to one of the two things he had wanted her to hear in his words.
“No, don’t wait for me!”
“I’ll always wait for you, no matter what we do, either one of us.”
The sound they heard was the turning of a key in the lock of the entrance door. The door opened and Hank Rearden came in.
He stopped briefly on the threshold, then walked slowly into the living room, his hand slipping the key into his pocket.
She knew that he had seen Francisco’s face before he had seen hers.
He glanced at her, but his eyes came back to Francisco, as if this were the only face he was now able to see.
It was at Francisco’s face that she was afraid to look. The effort she made to pull her glance along the curve of a few steps felt as if she were pulling a weight beyond her power. Francisco had risen to his feet, as if in the unhurried, automatic manner of a d’Anconia trained to the code of courtesy. There was nothing that Rearden could see in his face. But what she saw in it was worse than she had feared.
“What are you doing here?” asked Rearden, in the tone one would use to address a menial caught in a drawing room.
“I see that I have no right to ask you the same question,” said Francisco. She knew what effort was required to achieve the clear, toneless quality of his voice. His eyes kept returning to Rearden’s right hand, as if he were still seeing the key between, his fingers.
“Then answer it,” said Rearden.
“Hank, any questions you wish to ask should be asked of me,” she said.
Rearden did not seem to see or hear her. “Answer it,” he repeated.
“There is only one answer which you would have the right to demand,” said Francisco, “so I will answer you that that is not the reason of my presence here.”
“There is only one reason for your presence in the house of any woman,” said Rearden. “And I mean, any woman-as far as you’re concerned. Do you think that I believe it now, that confession of yours or anything you ever said to me?”
“I have given you grounds not to trust me, but none to include Miss Taggart.”
“Don’t tell me that you have no chance here, never had and never will. I know it. But that I should find you here on the first-”
“Hank, if you wish to accuse me-” she began, but Rearden whirled to her.
“God, no, Dagny, I don’t! But you shouldn’t be seen speaking to him. You shouldn’t deal with him in any way. You don’t know him. I do.” He turned to Francisco. “What are you after? Are you hoping to include her among your kind of conquests or-”
“No!” It was an involuntary cry and it sounded futile, with its passionate sincerity offered-to be rejected-as its only proof.
“No? Then are you here on a matter of business? Are you setting a trap, as you -did for me? What sort of double-cross are you preparing for her?”
“My purpose . . . was not . . . a matter of business.”
“Then what was it?”
“If you still care to believe me, I can tell you only that it involved no . . . betrayal of any kind.”
“Do you think that you may still discuss betrayal, in my presence?”
“I will answer you some day. I cannot answer you now.”
“You don’t like to be reminded of it, do you? You’ve stayed away from me since, haven’t you? You didn’t expect to see me here? You didn’t want to face me?” But he knew that Francisco was facing him as no one else did these days-he saw the eyes held straight to meet his, the features composed, without emotion, without defense or appeal, set to endure whatever was coming-he saw the open, unprotected look of courage-this was the face of the man he had loved, the man who had set him free of guilt-and he found himself fighting against the knowledge that this face still held him, above all else, above his month of impatience for the sight of Dagny. “Why don’t you defend yourself, if you have nothing to hide? Why are you here? Why were you stunned to see me enter?”
“Hank, stop it!” Dagny’s voice was a cry, and she drew back, knowing that violence was the most dangerous element to introduce into this moment.
Both men turned to her. “Please let me be the one to answer,” Francisco said quietly.
“I told you that I hoped I’d never see him again,” said Rearden.
‘Tm sorry if it has to be here. It doesn’t concern you, but there’s something he must be paid for.”
“If that is . . . your purpose,” Francisco said with effort, “haven’t you . . . achieved it already?”
“What’s the matter?” Rearden’s face was frozen, his lips barely moving, but his voice had the sound of a chuckle. “Is this your way of asking for mercy?”
The instant of silence was Francisco’s strain to a greater effort.
“Yes . . . if you wish,” he answered.
“Did you grant it when you held my future in your hands?”
“You are justified in anything you wish to think of me. But since it doesn’t concern Miss Taggart . . . would you now permit me to leave?”
“No! Do you want to evade it, like all those other cowards? Do you want to escape?”
“I will come anywhere you require any time you wish. But I would rather it were not in Miss Taggart’s presence.”
“Why not? I want it to be in her presence, since this is the one place you had no right to come. I have nothing left to protect from you, you’ve taken more than the looters can ever take, you’ve destroyed everything you’ve touched, but here is one thing you’re not -going to touch.” He knew that the rigid absence of emotion in Francisco’s face was the strongest evidence of emotion, the evidence of some abnormal effort at control-he knew that this was torture and that he, Rearden, was driven blindly by a feeling which resembled a torturer’s enjoyment, except that he was now unable to tell whether he was torturing Francisco or himself. “You’re worse than the looters, because you betray with full understanding of that which you’re betraying. I don’t know what form of corruption is your motive-but I want you to learn that there are things beyond your reach, beyond your aspiration or your malice.”
“You have nothing . . . to fear from me . . . now.”
“I want you to learn that you are not to think of her, not to look at her, not to approach her. Of all men, it’s you who’re not to appear in her presence.” He knew that he was driven by a desperate anger at his own feeling for this man, that the feeling still lived, that it was this feeling which he had to outrage and destroy. “Whatever your motive, it’s from any contact with you that she has to be protected.”
“IE I gave you my word-” He stopped.
Rearden chuckled. “I know what they mean, your words, your convictions, your friendship and your oath by the only woman you ever-”
He stopped. They all knew what this meant, in the same instant that Rearden knew it.
He made a step toward Francisco; he asked, pointing at Dagny, his voice low and strangely unlike his own voice, as if it neither came from nor were addressed to a living person, “Is this the woman you love?”
Francisco closed his eyes.
“Don’t ask him that!” The cry was Dagny’s.
“Is this the woman you love?”
Francisco answered, looking at her, “Yes.”
Rearden’s hand rose, swept down and slapped Francisco’s face.
The scream came from Dagny. When she could see again-after an instant that felt as if the blow had struck her own cheek-Francisco’s hands were the first thing she saw. The heir of the d’Anconias stood thrown back against a table, clasping the edge behind him, not to support himself, but to stop his own hands. She saw the rigid stillness of his body,, a body that was pulled too straight but seemed broken, with the slight, unnatural angles of his waistline and shoulders, with his arms held stiff but slanted back-he stood as if the effort not to move were turning the force of his violence against himself, as if the motion he resisted were running through his muscles as a tearing pain. She saw his convulsed fingers struggling to grow fast to the table’s edge, she wondered which would break first, the wood of the table or the bones of the man, and she knew that Rearden’s life hung in the balance.
When her eyes moved up to Francisco’s face, she saw no sign of struggle, only the skin of his temples pulled tight and the planes of his cheeks drawn inward, seeming faintly more hollow than usual. It made his face look naked, pure and young. She felt terror because she was seeing in his eyes the tears which were not there. His eyes were brilliant and dry. He was looking at Rearden, but it was not Rearden that he was seeing. He looked as if he were facing another presence in the room and as if his glance were saying: If this is what you demand of me, then even this is yours, yours to accept and mine to endure, there is no more than this in me to offer you, but let me be proud to know that I can offer so much. She saw-with a single artery beating under the skin of his throat, with a froth of pink in the corner of his mouth-
the look of an enraptured dedication which was almost a smile, and she knew that she was witnessing Francisco d’Anconia’s greatest achievement.
When she felt herself shaking and heard her own voice, it seemed to meet the last echo of her scream in the air of the room-and she realized how brief a moment had passed between. Her voice had the savage sound of rising to deliver a blow and it was crying to Rearden: “-to protect me from him? Long before you ever-”
“Don’t!” Francisco’s head jerked to her, the brief snap of his voice held all of his unreleased violence, and she knew it was an order that had to be obeyed.
Motionless but for the slow curve of his head, Francisco turned to Rearden. She saw his hands leave the edge of the table and hang relaxed by his sides. It was Rearden that he was now seeing, and there was nothing in Francisco’s face except the exhaustion of effort, but Rearden knew suddenly how much this man had loved him.
“Within the extent of your knowledge,” Francisco said quietly, “you are right.”
Neither expecting nor permitting an answer, he turned to leave. He bowed to Dagny, inclining his head in a manner that appeared as a simple gesture of leave-taking to Rearden, as a gesture of acceptance to her. Then he left.
Rearden stood looking after him, knowing-without context and with absolute certainty-that he would give his life for the power not to have committed the action he had committed.
When he turned to Dagny, his face looked drained, open and faintly attentive, as if he were not questioning her about the words she had cut off, but were waiting for them to come.
A shudder of pity ran through her body and ended in the movement of shaking her head: she did not know for which of the two men the pity was intended, but it made her unable to speak and she shook her head over and over again, as if trying desperately to negate some vast, impersonal suffering that had made them all its victims.
“If there’s something that must be said, say it.” His voice was toneless.
The sound she made was half-chuckle, half-moan-it was not a desire for vengeance, but a desperate sense of justice that drove the cutting bitterness of her voice, as she cried, consciously throwing the words at his face, “You wanted to know the name of that other man?
The man. I slept with? The man who had me first? It was Francisco d’Anconia!”
She saw the force of the blow by seeing his face swept blank. She knew that if justice was her purpose, she had achieved it-because this slap was worse than the one he had dealt.
She felt suddenly calm, knowing that her words had had to be said for the sake of all three of them. The despair of a helpless victim left her, she was not a victim any longer, she was one of the contestants, willing to bear the responsibility of action. She stood facing him, waiting for any answer he would choose to give her, feeling almost as if it were her turn to be subjected to violence.
She did not know what form of torture he was enduring, or what he saw being wrecked within him and kept himself the only one to see.
There was no sign of pain to give her any warning; he looked as if he were just a man who stood still in the middle of a room, making his consciousness absorb a fact that it refused to absorb. Then she noticed that he did not change his posture, that even his hands hung by his sides with the fingers half-bent as they had been for a long time, it seemed to her that she could feel the heavy numbness of the blood stopping in his fingers-and this was the only clue to his suffering she was able to find, but it told her that that which he felt left him no power to feel anything else, not even the existence of his own body.
She waited, her pity vanishing and becoming respect.
Then she saw his eyes move slowly from her face down the length of her body, and she knew the sort of torture he was now choosing to experience, because it was a glance of a nature he could not hide from her. She knew that he was seeing her as she had been at seventeen, he was seeing her with the rival he hated, he was seeing them together as they would be now, a sight he could neither endure nor resist. She saw the protection of control dropping from his face, but he did not care whether he let her see his face alive and naked, because there now was nothing to read in it except an unrevealing violence, some part of which resembled hatred.
He seized her shoulders, and she felt prepared to accept that he would now kill her or beat her into unconsciousness, and in the moment when she felt certain that he had thought of it, she felt her body thrown against him and his mouth falling on hers, more brutally than the act of a beating would have permitted.
She found herself, in terror, twisting her body to resist, and, in exultation, twisting her arms around him, holding him, letting her lips bring blood to his, knowing that she had never wanted him as she did in this moment.
When he threw her down on the couch, she knew, to the rhythm of the beat of his body, that it was the act of his victory over his rival and of his surrender to him, the act of ownership brought to unendurable violence by the thought of the man whom it was defying, the act of transforming his hatred for the pleasure that man had known into the intensity of his own pleasure, his conquest of that man by means of her body-she felt Francisco’s presence through Rearden’s mind, she felt as if she were surrendering to both men, to that which she had worshipped in both of them, that which they held in common, that essence of character which had made of her love for each an act of loyalty to both. She knew also that this was his rebellion against the world around them, against its worship of degradation, against the long torment of his wasted days and lightless struggle-this was what he wished to assert and, alone with her in the half-darkness high in space above a city of ruins, to hold as the last of his property.
Afterwards, they lay still, his face on her shoulder. The reflection of a distant electric sign kept beating in faint flashes on the ceiling above her head.
He reached for her hand and slipped her fingers under his face to let his mouth rest against her palm for a moment, so gently that she felt his motive more than his touch.
After a while, she got up, she reached for a cigarette, lighted it, then held it out to him with a slight, questioning lift of her hand; he nodded, still sitting half-stretched on the couch; she placed the cigarette between his lips and lighted another for herself. She felt a great sense of peace between them, and the intimacy of the unimportant gestures underscored the importance of the things they were not saying to each other. Everything was said, she thought-but knew that it waited to be acknowledged.
She saw his eyes move to the entrance door once in a while and remain on it for long moments, as if he were still seeing the man who had left.
He said quietly, “He could have beaten me by letting me have the truth, any time he wished. Why didn’t he?”
She shrugged, spreading her hands in a gesture of helpless sadness, because they both knew the answer. She asked, “He did mean a great deal to you, didn’t he?”
“He does.”
The two dots of fire at the tips of their cigarettes had moved slowly to the tips of their fingers, with the small glow of an occasional flare and the soft crumbling of ashes as sole movement in the silence, when the doorbell rang. They knew that it was not the man they wished but could not hope to see return, and she frowned with sudden anger as she went to open the door. It took her a moment to remember that the innocuously courteous figure she saw bowing to her with a standard smile of welcome was the assistant manager of the apartment house.
“Good evening, Miss Taggart. We’re so glad to see you back. I just came on duty and heard that you had returned and wanted to greet you in person.”
“Thank you.” She stood at the door, not moving to admit him.
“I have a letter that came for you about a week ago, Miss Taggart,”
he said, reaching into his pocket. “It looked as if it might be important, but being marked ‘personal,’ it was obviously not intended to be sent to your office and, besides, they did not know your address, either-so not knowing where to forward it, I kept it in our safe and I thought I’d deliver it to you in person.”
The envelope he handed to her was marked: Registered-Air Mail -Special Delivery-Personal. The return address said: Quentin Daniels, Utah Institute of Technology;. Afton, Utah.
“Oh . . . Thank you.”
The assistant manager noted that her voice went dropping toward a whisper, the polite disguise for a gasp, he noted that she stood looking down at the sender’s name much longer than was necessary, so he repeated his good wishes and departed.
She was tearing the envelope open as she walked toward Rearden, and she stopped in the middle of the room to read the letter. It was typewritten on thin paper-he could see the black rectangles of the paragraphs through the transparent sheets-and he could see her face as she read them.
He expected it, by the time he saw her come to the end: she leaped to the telephone, he heard the violent whirl of the dial and her voice saying with trembling urgency, “Long-distance, please . . . Operator, get me the Utah Institute of Technology at Afton, Utah!”
He asked, approaching, “What is it?”
She extended the letter, not looking at him, her eyes fixed on the telephone, as if she could force it to answer.
The letter said: Dear Miss Taggart: I have fought it out for three weeks, I did not want to do it, I know how this will hit you and I know every argument you could offer me, because I have used them all against myself-but this is to tell you that I am quitting.
I cannot work under the terms of Directive 10-289-though not for the reason its perpetrators intended. I know that their abolition of all scientific research does not mean a damn to you or me, and that you would want me to continue. But I have to quit, because I do not wish to succeed any longer.
I do not wish to work in a world that regards me as a slave. I do not wish to be of any value to people. If I succeeded in rebuilding the motor, I would not let you place it in their service. I would not take it upon my conscience that anything produced by my mind should be used to bring them comfort.
I know that if we succeed, they will be only too eager to expropriate the motor. And for the sake of that prospect, we have to accept the position of criminals, you and I, and live under the threat of being arrested at any moment at their whim. And this is the thing that I cannot take, even were I able to take all the rest: that in order to give them an inestimable benefit, we should be made martyrs to the men who, but for us, could not have conceived of it. I might have forgiven the rest, but when I think of this, I say: May they be damned, I will see them all die of starvation, myself included, rather than forgive them for this or permit it!
To tell you the full truth, I want to succeed, to solve the secret of the motor, as much as ever. So I shall continue to work on it for my own sole pleasure and for as long as I last. But if I solve it, it will remain my private secret. I will not release it for any commercial use. Therefore, I cannot take your money any longer.
Commercialism is supposed to be despicable, so all those people should truly approve of my decision, and I-I’m tired of helping those who despise me.
I don’t know how long I will last or what I will do in the future.
For the moment, I intend to remain in my job at this Institute.
But if any of its trustees or receivers should remind me that I am now legally forbidden to cease being a janitor, I will ‘quit.
You had given me my greatest chance and if I am now giving you a painful blow, perhaps T should ask you to forgive me, I think that you love your work as much as I loved mine, so you will know that my decision was not easy to make, but that I had to make it.
It is a strange feeling-writing this letter. I do not intend to die, but I am giving up the world and this feels like the letter of a suicide. So I want to say that of all the people I have known, you are the only person I regret leaving behind.
Sincerely yours, Quentin Daniels When he looked up from the letter, he heard her saying, as he had heard her through the words of the typewritten lines, her voice rising closer to despair each time: “Keep ringing, Operator! . . . Please keep ringing!”
“What can you tell him?” he asked. “There are no arguments to offer.”
“I won’t have a chance to tell him! He’s gone by now. It was a week ago. I’m sure he’s gone. They’ve got him.”
“Who got him?”
“Yes, Operator, I’ll hold the line, keep trying!”
“What would you tell him if he answered?”
“I’d beg him to go on taking my money, with no strings attached, no conditions, just so he’ll have the means to continue! I’ll promise him that if we’re still in a looters’ world when and if he succeeds, I won’t ask him to give me the motor or even to tell me its secret. But if, by that time, we’re free-” She stopped.
“If we’re free . . .”
“All I want from him now is that he doesn’t give up and vanish, like . . . like all those others. I don’t want to let them get him. If it’s not too late-oh God, I don’t want them to get him! . . . Yes, Operator, keep ringing!”
“What good will it do us, even if he continues to work?”
“That’s all I’ll beg him to do-just to continue. Maybe we’ll never get a chance to use the motor in the future. But I want to know that somewhere in the world there’s still a great brain at work on a great attempt-and that we still have a chance at a future. , , . If that motor is abandoned again, then there’s nothing but Starnesville ahead of us.”
“Yes. I know.”
She held the receiver pressed to her ear, her arm stiff with the effort not to tremble. She waited, and he heard, in the silence, the futile clicking of the unanswered call.
“He’s gone,” she said. ‘They got him. A week is much longer than they need. I don’t know how they learn when the time is right, but this”
-she pointed at the letter-“this was their time and they wouldn’t have missed it.”
“The destroyer’s agents,”
“Are you beginning to think that they really exist?”
“Are you serious?”
“I am. I’ve met one of them.”
“I’ll tell you later. I don’t know who their leader is, but I’m going to find out, one of these days. I’m going to find out. I’ll be damned if I let them-”
She broke off on a gasp; he saw the change in her face the moment before he heard the click of a distant receiver being lifted and the sound of a man’s voice saying, across the wire, “Hello?”
“Daniels! Is that you? You’re alive? You’re still there?”
“Why, yes. Is this you, Miss Taggart? What’s the matter?”
“I . . . I thought you were gone.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I just heard the phone ringing, I was out in the back lot, gathering carrots.”
‘”Carrots?” She was laughing with hysterical relief.
“I have my own vegetable patch out there. Used to be the Institute’s parking lot. Are you calling from New York, Miss Taggart?”
“Yes. I just received your letter. Just now. I . . . I had been away.”
“Oh.” There was a pause, then he said quietly, “There’s really nothing more to be said about it, Miss Taggart.”
“Tell me, are you going away?”
“You’re not planning to go?”
“No. Where?”
“Do you intend to remain at the Institute?”
“For how long? Indefinitely?”
“Yes-as far as I know.”
“Has anyone approached you?”
“About what?”
“About leaving.”
“No. Who?”
“Listen, Daniels, I won’t try to discuss your letter over the phone.
But I must speak to you. I’m coming to see you. I’ll get there as fast as I can.”
“I don’t want you to do that, Miss Taggart. I don’t want you to go to such an effort, when it’s useless.”
“Give me a chance, won’t you? You don’t have to promise to change your mind, you don’t have to commit yourself to anything-only to give me a hearing. If I want to come, it’s my risk, I’m taking it. There are things I want to say to you, I’m asking you only-for the chance to say them.”
“You know that I will always give you that chance, Miss Taggart.”
“I’m leaving for Utah at once. Tonight. But there’s one thing I want you to promise me. Will you promise to wait for me? Will you promise to be there when I arrive?”
“Why . . . of course, Miss Taggart. Unless I die or something happens outside my power-but I don’t expect it to happen.”
“Unless you die, will you wait for me no matter what happens?”
“Of course.”
“Do you give me your word that you’ll wait?”
“Yes, Miss Taggart.”
“Thank you. Good night.”
“Good night, Miss Taggart.”
She pressed the receiver down and picked it up again in the same sweep of her hand and rapidly dialed a number.
“Eddie? . . . Have them hold the Comet for me. . . . Yes, tonight’s Comet. Give orders to have my car attached, then come here, to my place, at once,” She glanced at her watch. “It’s eight-twelve. I have an hour to make it. I don’t think I’ll hold them up too long. I’ll talk to you while I pack.”
She hung up and turned to Rearden.
“Tonight?” he said.
“I have to.”
“I guess so. Don’t you have to go to Colorado, anyway?”
“Yes. I intended to leave tomorrow night. But I think Eddie can manage to take care of my office, and I’d better start now. It takes three days”-she remembered-“it will now take five days to reach Utah.
I have to go by train, there are people I have to see on the line-this can’t be delayed, either.”
“How long will you stay in Colorado?”
“Hard to tell.”
“Wire me when you get there, will you? If it looks as if it’s going to be long, I’ll join you there.”
This was the only expression he could give to the words he had desperately wished to say to her, had waited for, had come here to say, and now wished to pronounce more than ever, but knew that it must not be said tonight.
She knew, by a faint, solemn stress in the tone of his voice, that this was his acceptance of her confession, his surrender, his forgiveness. She asked, “Can you leave the mills?”
“It will take me a few days to arrange, but I can.”
He knew what her words were admitting, acknowledging and forgiving him, when she said, “Hank, why don’t you meet me in Colorado in a week? If you fly your plane, we’ll both get there at the same time. And then we’ll come back together.”
“All right . . . dearest.”
She dictated a list of instructions, while pacing her bedroom, gathering her clothes, hastily packing a suitcase. Rearden had left; Eddie Willers sat at her dressing table, making notes. He seemed to work in his usual manner of unquestioning efficiency, as if he were not aware of the perfume bottles and powder boxes, as if the dressing table were a desk and the room were only an office.
‘I’ll phone you from Chicago, Omaha, Flagstaff and Afton,” she said, tossing underwear into the suitcase. “If you need me in between, call any operator along the line, with orders to flag the train.”
“The Comet?” he asked mildly.
“Hell, yes!-the Comet.”
“Don’t hesitate to call, if you have to.”
“Okay. But I don’t think I’ll have to.”
“We’ll manage. We’ll work by long-distance phone, just as we did when we-” She stopped.
“-when we were building the John Galt Line?” he asked quietly.
They glanced at each other, but said nothing else.
“What’s the latest report on the construction crews?” she asked.
“Everything’s under way. I got word, just after you left the office, that the grading gangs have started-out of Laurel, Kansas, and out of Jasper, Oklahoma. The rail is on its way to them from Silver Springs.
It will be all right. The hardest thing to find was-M
“The men?”
“Yes. The men to put in charge. We had trouble out West, over the Elgin to Midland stretch. All the men we were counting on are gone. I couldn’t find anyone able to assume responsibility, neither on our line nor elsewhere. I even tried to get Dan Conway, but-”
“Dan Conway?” she asked, stopping.
“Yes. I did. I tried. Do you remember how he used to have rail laid at the rate of five miles a day, right in that part of the country? Oh, I know he’d have reason to hate our guts, but what does it matter now?
I found him-he’s living on a ranch out in Arizona. I phoned him myself and I begged him to save us. Just to take charge, for one night, of building five and a half miles of track. Five and a half miles, Dagny, that we’re stuck with-and he’s the greatest railroad builder living! I told him that I was asking him to do it as a gesture of charity to us, if he would. You know, I think he understood me. He wasn’t angry. He sounded sad. But he wouldn’t do it. He said one must not try to bring people back out of the grave. . . . He wished me luck. I think he meant it. . . . You know, I don’t think he’s one of those that the destroyer knocked out. I think he just broke by himself.”
“Yes. I know he did.”
Eddie saw the expression on her face and pulled himself up hastily.
“Oh, we finally found a man to put in charge at Elgin,” he said, forcing his voice to sound confident. “Don’t worry, the track will be built long before you get there.”
She glanced at him with the faint suggestion of a smile, thinking of how often she had said these words to him and of the desperate bravery with which he was now trying to tell her: Don’t worry. He caught her glance, he understood, and the answering hint of his smile had a touch of embarrassed apology.
He turned back to his note pad, feeling anger at himself, sensing that he had broken his own unstated commandment: Don’t make it harder for her. He should not have told her about Dan Conway, he thought; he should not have said anything to remind them both of the despair they would feel, if they felt. He wondered what was the matter with him: he thought it inexcusable that he should find his discipline slipping just because this was a room, not an office.
She went on speaking-and he listened, looking down at his pad, making a brief notation once in a while. He did not permit himself to look at her again.
She threw the door of her closet open, jerked a suit off a hanger and folded it rapidly, while her voice went on with unhurried precision.
He did not look up, he was aware of her only by means of sound: the sound of the swift movements and of the measured voice. He knew what was wrong with him, he thought; he did not want her to leave, he did not want to lose her again, after so brief a moment of reunion. But to indulge any personal loneliness, at a time when he knew how desperately the railroad needed her in Colorado, was an act of disloyalty he had never committed before-and he felt a vague, desolate sense of guilt.
(‘Send out orders that the Comet is to stop at every division point,”
she said, “and that all division superintendents are to prepare for me a report on-”
He glanced up-then his glance stopped and he did not hear the rest of the words. He saw a man’s dressing gown hanging on the back of the open closet door, a dark blue gown with the white initials HR on its breast pocket.
He remembered where he had seen that gown before, he remembered the man facing him across a breakfast table in the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, he remembered that man coming, unannounced, to her office late on a Thanksgiving night-and the realization that he should have known it, came to him as two subterranean jolts of a single earthquake: it came with a feeling that screamed “No!” so savagely that the scream, not the sight, brought down every girder within him. It was not the shock of the discovery, but the more terrible shock of what it made him discover about himself.
He hung on to a single thought; that he must not let her see what he had noticed or what it had done to him. He felt a sensation of embarrassment magnified to the point of physical torture; it was the dread of violating her privacy twice: by learning her secret and by revealing his own. He bent lower over the note pad and concentrated on an immediate purpose: to stop his pencil from shaking.
“. . . fifty miles of mountain trackage to build, and we can count on nothing but whatever material we own.”
“I beg your pardon,” he said, his voice barely audible, “I didn’t hear what you said.”
“I said I want a report from all superintendents on every foot of rail and every piece of equipment available on their divisions.”
“I will confer with each one of them in turn. Have them meet me in my car aboard the Comet.”
“Send word out-unofficially-that the engineers are to make up time for the stops by going seventy, eighty, a hundred miles an hour, anything they wish as and when they need to, and that I will . . .
“Yes. Okay.”
“Eddie, what’s the matter?”
He had to look up, to face her and, desperately, to lie for the first time in his life. “I’m . . . I’m afraid of the trouble we’ll get into with the law,” he said.
“Forget it. Don’t you see that there isn’t any law left? Anything goes now, for whoever can get away with it-and, for the moment, it’s we who’re setting the terms.”
When she was ready, he carried her suitcase to a taxicab, then down the platform of the Taggart Terminal to her office car, the last at the end of the Comet. He stood on the platform, saw the train jerk forward and watched the red markers on the back of her car slipping slowly away from him into the long darkness of the exit tunnel. When they were gone, he felt what one feels at the loss of a dream one had not known till after it was lost.
There were few people on the platform around him and they seemed to move with self-conscious strain, as if a sense of disaster clung to the rails and to the girders above their heads. He thought indifferently that after a century of safety, men were once more regarding the departure of a train as an event involving a gamble with death.
He remembered that he had had no dinner, and he felt no desire to eat, but the underground cafeteria of the Taggart Terminal was more truly his home than the empty cube of space he now thought of as his apartment-so he walked to the cafeteria, because he had no other place to go.
The cafeteria was almost deserted-but the first thing he saw, as he entered, was a thin column of smoke rising from the cigarette of the worker, who sat alone at a table in a dark corner.
Not noticing what he put on his tray, Eddie carried it to the worker’s table, said, “Hello,” sat down and said nothing else. He looked at the silverware spread before him, wondered about its purpose, remembered the use of a fork and attempted to perform the motions of eating, but found that it was beyond his power. After a while, he looked up and saw that the worker’s eyes were studying him attentively.
“No,” said Eddie, “no, there’s nothing the matter with me. . . .
Oh yes, a lot has happened, but what difference does it make now?
. . . Yes, she’s back. . . . What else do you want me to say about it? . . . How did you know she’s back? Oh well, I suppose the whole company knew it within the first ten minutes. . . . No, I don’t know whether I’m glad that she’s back. . . . Sure, she’ll save the railroad-
for another year or month. . . . What do you want me to say? . . .
No, she didn’t. She didn’t tell me what she’s counting on. She didn’t tell me what she thought or felt. . . . Well, how do you suppose she’d feel? It’s hell for her-all right, for me, too! Only my kind of hell is my own fault. . . . No. Nothing. I can’t talk about it-talk?-I mustn’t even think about it, I’ve got to stop it, stop thinking of her and-of her, I mean.”
He remained silent and he wondered why the worker’s eyes-the eyes that always seemed to see everything within him-made him feel uneasy tonight. He glanced down at the table, and he noticed the butts of many cigarettes among the remnants of food on the worker’s plate.
“Are you in trouble, too?” asked Eddie. “Oh, just that you’ve sat here for a long time tonight, haven’t you? . . . For me? Why should you have wanted to wait for me? . . . You know, I never thought you cared whether you saw me or not, me or anybody, you seemed so complete in yourself, and that’s why I liked to talk to you, because I felt that you always understood, but nothing could hurt you-you looked as if nothing had ever hurt you-and it made me feel free, as if . . . as if there were no pain in the world. . . . Do you know what’s strange about your face? You look as if you’ve never known pain or fear or guilt. . . . I’m sorry I’m so late tonight. I had to see her off-she has just left, on the Comet. . . . Yes, tonight, just now.
. . . Yes, she’s gone. . . . Yes, it was a sudden decision-within the past hour. She intended to leave tomorrow night, but something unexpected happened and she had to go at once. . . . Yes, she’s going to Colorado-afterwards. . . . To Utah-first. . . . Because she got a letter from Quentin Daniels that he’s quitting-and the one thing she won’t give up, couldn’t stand to give up, is the motor. You remember, the motor I told you about, the remnant that she found. . . . Daniels?
He’s a physicist who’s been working for the past year, at the Utah Institute of Technology, trying to solve the secret of the motor and to rebuild it. . . . Why do you look at me like that? . . . No, I haven’t told you about him before, because it was a secret. It was a private, secret project of her own-and of what interest would it have been to you, anyway? . . . I guess I can talk about it now, because he’s quit. . . . Yes, he told her his reasons. He said that he won’t give anything produced by his mind to a world that regards him as a slave.
He said that he won’t be made a martyr to people in exchange for giving them an inestimable benefit. . . . What-what are you laughing at? . . . Stop it, will you? Why do you laugh like that? . . . The whole secret? What do you mean, the whole secret? He hasn’t found the whole secret of the motor, if that’s what you meant, but he seemed to be doing well, he had a good chance. Now it’s lost. She’s rushing to him, she wants to plead, to hold him, to make him go on-but I think it’s useless. Once they stop, they don’t come back again. Not one of them has. . . . No, I don’t care, not any more, we’ve taken so many losses that I’m getting used to it. . . . Oh no! It’s not Daniels that I can’t take, it’s-no, drop it. Don’t question me about it. The whole world is going to pieces, she’s still fighting to save it, and I-I sit here damning her for something I had no right to know. . . . No! She’s done nothing to be damned, nothing-and, besides, it doesn’t concern the railroad. . . . Don’t pay any attention to me, it’s not true, it’s not her that I’m damning, it’s myself. . . . Listen, I’ve always known that you loved Taggart Transcontinental as I loved it, that it meant something special to you, something personal, and that was why you liked to hear me talk about it. But this-the thing I learned today-this has nothing to do with the railroad. It would be of no importance to you.
Forget it. . . . It’s something that I didn’t know about her, that’s all.
. . . I grew up with her. I thought I knew her. I didn’t. . . . I don’t know what it was that I expected. I suppose I just thought that she had no private life of any kind. To me, she was not a person and not . . . not a woman. She was the railroad. And I didn’t think that anyone would ever have the audacity to look at her in any other way.
. . . Well, it serves me right. Forget it. . . . Forget it, I said! Why do you question me like this? It’s only her private life. What can it matter to you? . . . Drop it, for God’s sake! Don’t you see that I can’t talk about it? . . . Nothing happened, nothing’s wrong with me, I just -oh, why am I lying? I can’t lie to you, you always seem to see everything, it’s worse than trying to lie to myself! . . . I have lied to myself. I didn’t know what I felt for her. The railroad? I’m a rotten hypocrite. If the railroad was all she meant to me, it wouldn’t have hit me like this. I wouldn’t have felt that I wanted to kill him! . . .
What’s the matter with you tonight? Why do you look at me like that?
. . . Oh, what’s the matter with all of us? Why is there nothing but misery left for anyone? Why do we suffer so much? We weren’t meant to. I always thought that we were to be happy, all of us, as our natural fate. What are we doing? What have we lost? A year ago, I wouldn’t have damned her for finding something she wanted. But I know that they’re doomed, both of them, and so am I, and so is everybody, and she was all I had left. . . . It was so great, to be alive, it was such a wonderful chance, I didn’t know that I loved it and that that was our love, hers and mine and yours-but the world is perishing and we cannot stop it. Why are we destroying ourselves? Who will tell us the truth? Who will save us? Oh, who is John Galt?! . . . No, it’s no use.
It doesn’t matter now. Why should I feel anything? We won’t last much longer. Why should I care what she does? Why should I care that she’s sleeping with Hank Rearden? . . . Oh God!-what’s the matter with you? Don’t go! Where are you going?”


She sat at the window of the train, her head thrown back, not moving, wishing she would never have to move again.
The telegraph poles went racing past the window, but the train seemed lost in a void, between a brown stretch of prairie and a solid spread of rusty, graying clouds. The twilight was draining the sky without the wound of a sunset; it looked more like the fading of an anemic body in the process of exhausting its last drops of blood and light. The train was going west, as if it, too, were pulled to follow the sinking rays and quietly to vanish from the earth. She sat still, feeling no desire to resist it.
She wished she would not hear the sound of the wheels. They knocked in an even rhythm, every fourth knock accented-and it seemed to her that through the rapid, running clatter of some futile stampede to escape, the beat of the accented knocks was like the steps of an enemy moving toward some inexorable purpose.
She had never experienced it before, this sense of apprehension at the sight of a prairie, this feeling that the rail was only a fragile thread stretched across an enormous emptiness, like a worn nerve ready to break. She had never expected that she, who had felt as if she were the motive power aboard a train, would now sit wishing, like a child or a savage, that this train would move, that it would not stop, that it would get her there on time-wishing it, not like an act of will, but like a plea to a dark unknown.
She thought of what a difference one month had made. She had seen it in the faces of the men at the stations. The track workers, the switchmen, the yardmen, who had always greeted her, anywhere along the line, their cheerful grins boasting that they knew who she was-had now looked at her stonily, turning away, their faces wary and closed.
She had wanted to cry to them in apology, “It’s not I who’ve done it to you!”-then had remembered that she had accepted it and that they now had the right to hate her, that she was both a slave and a driver of slaves, and so was every human being in the country, and hatred was the only thing that men could now feel for one another.
She had found reassurance, for two days, in the sight of the cities moving past her window-the factories, the bridges, the electric signs, the billboards pressing down upon the roofs of homes-the crowded, grimy, active, living conflux of the industrial East.
But the cities had been left behind. The train was now diving into the prairies of Nebraska, the rattle of its couplers sounding as if it were shivering with cold. She saw lonely shapes that had been farmhouses in the vacant stretches that had been fields. But the great burst of energy, in the East, generations ago, had splattered bright trickles to run through the emptiness; some were gone, but some still lived.
She was startled when the lights of a small town swept across her car and, vanishing, left it darker than it had been before. She would not move to turn on the light. She sat still, watching the rare towns. Whenever an electric beam went flashing briefly at her face, it was like a moment’s greeting.
She saw them as they went by, written on the walls of modest structures, over sooted roofs, down slender smokestacks, on the curves of tanks: Reynolds Harvesters-Macey Cement-Quinlan & Jones Pressed Alfalfa-Home of the Crawford Mattress-Benjamin Wylie Grain and Feed-words raised like flags to the empty darkness of the sky, the motionless forms of movement, of effort, of courage, of hope, the monuments to how much had been achieved on the edge of nature’s void by men who had once been free to achieve-she saw the homes built in scattered privacy, the small shops, the wide streets with electric lighting, like a few luminous strokes criss-crossed on the black sheet of the wastelands-she saw the ghosts between, the remnants of towns, the skeletons of factories with crumbling smokestacks, the corpses of shops with broken panes, the slanting poles with shreds of wire-she saw a sudden blaze, the rare sight of a gas station, a glittering white island of glass and metal under the huge black weight of space and sky -she saw an ice-cream cone made of radiant tubing, hanging above the corner of a street, and a battered car being parked below, with a young boy at the wheel and a girl stepping out, her white dress blowing in the summer wind-she shuddered for the two of them, thinking: I can’t look at you, I who know what it has taken to give you your youth, to give you this evening, this car and the ice-cream cone you’re going to buy for a quarter-she saw, on the edge beyond a town, a building glowing with tiers of pale blue light, the industrial light she loved, with the silhouettes of machines in its windows and a billboard in the darkness above its roof-and suddenly her head fell on her arm, and she sat shaking, crying soundlessly to the night, to herself, to whatever was human in any living being: Don’t let it go! . . . Don’t let it go! . . .
She jumped to her feet and snapped on the light. She stood still, fighting to regain control, knowing that such moments were her greatest danger. The lights of the town were past, her window was now an empty rectangle, and she heard, in the silence, the progression of the fourth knocks, the steps of the enemy moving on, not to be hastened or stopped.
In desperate need of the sight of some living activity, she decided she would not order dinner in her car, but would go to the diner. As if stressing and mocking her loneliness, a voice came back to her mind: “But you would not run trains if they were empty.” Forget it!-she told herself angrily, walking hastily to the door of her car.
She was astonished, approaching her vestibule, to hear the sound of voices close by. As she pulled the door open, she heard a shout: “Get off, God damn you!”
An aging tramp had taken refuge in the corner of her vestibule.
He sat on the floor, his posture suggesting that he had no strength left to stand up or to care about being caught. He was looking at the conductor, his eyes observant, fully conscious, but devoid of any reaction. The train was slowing down for a bad stretch of track, the conductor had opened the door to a cold gust of wind, and was waving at the speeding black void, ordering, “Get going! Get off as you got on or I’ll kick you off head first!”
There was no astonishment in the tramp’s face, no protest, no anger, no hope; he looked as if he had long since abandoned any judgment of any human action. He moved obediently to rise, his hand groping upward along the rivets of the car’s wall. She saw him glance at her and glance away, as if she were merely another inanimate fixture of the train. He did not seem to be aware of her person, any more than of his own, he was indifferently ready to comply with an order which, in his condition, meant certain death.
She glanced at the conductor. She saw nothing in his face except the blind malevolence of pain, of some long-repressed anger that broke out upon the first object available, almost without consciousness of the object’s identity. The two men were not human beings to each other any longer.
The tramp’s suit was a mass of careful patches on a cloth so stiff and shiny with wear that one expected it to crack like glass if bent; but she noticed the collar of his shirt: it was bone-white from repeated laundering and it still preserved a semblance of shape. He had pulled himself up to his feet, he was looking indifferently at the black hole open upon miles of uninhabited wilderness where no one would see the body or hear the voice of a mangled man, but the only gesture of concern he made was to tighten his grip on a small, dirty bundle, as if to make sure he would not lose it in leaping off the train.
It was the laundered collar and this gesture for the last of his possessions-the gesture of a sense of property-that made her feel an emotion like a sudden, burning twist within her. “Wait,” she said.
The two men turned to her.
“Let him be my guest,” she said to the conductor, and held her door open for the tramp, ordering, “Come in.”
The tramp followed her, obeying as blankly as he had been about to obey the conductor.
He stood in the middle of her car, holding his bundle, looking around him with the same observant, unreacting glance.
“Sit down,” she said.
He obeyed-and looked at her, as if waiting for further orders.
There was a kind of dignity in his manner, the honesty of the open admission that he had no claim to make, no plea to offer, no questions to ask, that he now had to accept whatever was done to him and was ready to accept it.
He seemed to be in his early fifties; the structure of his bones and the looseness of his suit suggested that he had once been muscular.
The lifeless indifference of his eyes did not fully hide that they had been intelligent; the wrinkles cutting his face with the record of some incredible bitterness, had not fully erased the fact that the face had once possessed the kindliness peculiar to honesty.
“When did you eat last?” she asked.
“Yesterday,” he said, and added, “I think.”
She rang for the porter and ordered dinner for two, to be brought to her car from the diner.
The tramp had watched her silently, but when the porter departed, he offered the only payment it was in his power to offer: “I don’t want to get you in trouble, ma’am,” he said.
She smiled. “What trouble?”
“You’re traveling with one of those railroad tycoons, aren’t you?”
“No, alone.”
“Then you’re the wife of one of them?”
“Oh.” She saw his effort at a look of something like respect, as if to make up for having forced an improper confession, and she laughed.
“No, not that, either. I guess I’m one of the tycoons myself. My name is Dagny Taggart and I work for this railroad.”
“Oh . . . I think I’ve heard of you, ma’am-in the old days.” It was hard to tell what “the old days” meant to him, whether it was a month or a year or whatever period of time had passed since he had given up. He was looking at her with a sort of interest in the past tense, as if he were thinking that there had been a time when he would have considered her a personage worth seeing. “You were the lady who ran a railroad,” he said.
“Yes,” she said. “I was.”
He showed no sign of astonishment at the fact that she had chosen to help him. He looked as if so much brutality had confronted him that he had given up the attempt to understand, to trust or to expect anything.
“When did you get aboard the train?” she asked.
“Back at the division point, ma’am. Your door wasn’t locked.” He added, “I figured maybe nobody would notice me till morning on account of it being a private car.”
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.” Then, almost as if he sensed that this could sound too much like an appeal for pity, he added, “I guess I just wanted to keep moving till I saw some place that looked like there might be a chance to find work there.” This was his attempt to assume the responsibility of a purpose, rather than to throw the burden of his aimlessness upon her mercy-an attempt of the same order as his shirt collar.
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
“People don’t look for kinds of work any more, ma’am,” he answered impassively. “They just look for work.”
“What sort of place did you hope to find?”
“Oh . . . well . . . where there’s factories, I guess.”
“Aren’t you going in the wrong direction for that? The factories are in the East.”
“No.” He said it with the firmness of knowledge. “There are too many people in the East. The factories are too well watched. I figured there might be a better chance some place where there’s fewer people and less law.”
“Oh, running away? A fugitive from the law, are you?”
“Not as you’d mean it in the old days, ma’am. But as things are now, I guess I am. I want to work.”
“What do you mean?”
“There aren’t any jobs back East. And a man couldn’t give you a job, if he had one to give-he’d go to jail for it. He’s watched. You can’t get work except through the Unification Board. The Unification Board has a gang of its own friends waiting in line for the jobs, more friends than a millionaire’s got relatives. Well, me-I haven’t got either.”
“Where did you work last?”
“I’ve been bumming around the country for six months-no, longer, I guess-I guess it’s closer to about a year-I can’t tell any more-
mostly day work it was. Mostly on farms. But it’s getting to be no use now. I know how the farmers look at you-they don’t like to see a man starving, but they’re only one jump ahead of starvation themselves, they haven’t any work to give you, they haven’t any food, and whatever they save, if the tax collectors don’t get it, then the raiders do-you know, the gangs that rove all through the country-
deserters, they call them.”
“Do you think that it’s any better in the West?”
“No. I don’t.”
“Then why are you going there?”
“Because I haven’t tried it before. That’s all there is left to try. It’s somewhere to go. Just to keep moving . . . You know,” he added suddenly, “I don’t think it will be any use. But there’s nothing to do in the East except sit under some hedge and wait to die. I don’t think I’d mind it much now, the dying. I know it would be a lot easier. Only I think that it’s a sin to sit down and let your life go, without making a try for it.”
She thought suddenly of those modern college-infected parasites who assumed a sickening air of moral self-righteousness whenever they uttered the standard bromides about their concern for the welfare of others. The tramp’s last sentence was one of the most profoundly moral statements she had ever heard; but the man did not know it; he had said it in his impassive, extinguished voice, simply, dryly, as a matter of fact.
“What part of the country do you come from?” she asked.
“Wisconsin,” he answered.
The waiter came in, bringing their dinner. He set a table and courteously moved two chairs, showing no astonishment at the nature of the occasion.
She looked at the table; she thought that the magnificence of a world where men could afford the time and the effortless concern for such things as starched napkins and tinkling ice cubes, offered to travelers along with their meals for the price of a few dollars, was a remnant of the age when the sustenance of one’s life had not been made a crime and a meal had not been a matter of running a race with death-a remnant which was soon to vanish, like the white filling station on the edge of the weeds of the jungle.
She noticed that the tramp, who had lost the strength to stand up, had not lost the respect for the meaning of the things spread before him. He did not pounce upon the food; he fought to keep his movements slow, to unfold his napkin, to pick up his fork in tempo with hers, his hand shaking-as if he still knew that this, no matter what indignity was ever forced upon them, was the manner proper to men.
“What was your line of work-in the old days?” she asked, when the waiter left. “Factories, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“What trade?”
“Skilled lathe-operator.”
“Where did you work at it last?”
“In Colorado, ma’am. For the Hammond Car Company.”
“Oh . . . !”
“No, nothing. Worked there long?”
“No, ma’am. Just two weeks.”
“How come?”
“Well, I’d waited a year for it, hanging around Colorado just to get that job. They had a waiting list too, the Hammond Car Company, only they didn’t go by friendships and they didn’t go by seniority, they went by a man’s record. I had a good record. But it was just two weeks after I got the job that Lawrence Hammond quit. He quit and disappeared. They closed the plant. Afterwards, there was a citizens’
committee that reopened it. I got called back. But five days was all it lasted. They started layoffs just about at once. By seniority. So I had to go. I heard they lasted for about three months, the citizens’
committee. Then they had to close the plant for good.”
“Where did you work before that?”
“Just about in every Eastern state, ma’am. But it was never more than a month or two. The plants kept closing.”
“Did that happen on every job you’ve held?”
He glanced at her, as if he understood her question. “No, ma’am,” he answered and, for the first time, she caught a faint echo of pride in his voice. “The first job I had, I held it for twenty years. Not the same job, but the same place, I mean-I got to be shop foreman. That was twelve years ago. Then the owner of the plant died, and the heirs who took it over, ran it into the ground. Times were bad then, but it was since then that things started going to pieces everywhere faster and faster. Since then, it seems like anywhere I turned-the place cracked and went. At first, we thought it was only one state or another. A lot of us thought that Colorado would last. But it went, too.
Anything you tried, anything you touched-it fell. Anywhere you looked, work was stopping-the factories were stopping-the machines were stopping-” he added slowly, in a whisper, as if seeing some secret terror of his own, “the motors . . . were . . . stopping.” His voice rose: “Oh God, who is-” and broke off.
“-John Galt?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, and shook his head as if to dispel some vision, “only I don’t like to say that.”
“I don’t, either. I wish I knew why people are saying it and who started it.”
“That’s it, ma’am. That’s what I’m afraid of. It might have been me who started it.”
“Me or about six thousand others. We might have. I think we did.
I hope we’re wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there was something that happened at that plant where I worked for twenty years. It was when the old man died and his heirs took over. There were three of them, two sons and a daughter, and they brought a new plan to run the factory. They let us vote on it, too, and everybody-almost everybody-voted for it. We didn’t know. We thought it was good. No, that’s not true, either. We thought that we were supposed to think it was good. The plan was that everybody in the factory would work according to his ability, but would be paid according to his need. We-what’s the matter, ma’am? Why do you look like that?”
“What was the name of the factory?” she asked, her voice barely audible.
“The Twentieth Century Motor Company, ma’am, of Starnesville, Wisconsin.”
“Go on.”
“We voted for that plan at a big meeting, with all of us present, six thousand of us, everybody that worked in the factory. The Starnes heirs made long speeches about it, and it wasn’t too clear, but nobody asked any questions. None of us knew just how the plan would work, but every one of us thought that the next fellow knew it. And if anybody had doubts, he felt guilty and kept his mouth shut-because they made it sound like anyone who’d oppose the plan was a child killer at heart and less than a human being. They told us that this plan would achieve a noble ideal. Well, how were we to know otherwise? Hadn’t we heard it all our lives-from our parents and our schoolteachers and our ministers, and in every newspaper we ever read and every movie and every public speech? Hadn’t we always been told that this was righteous and just? Well, maybe there’s some excuse for what we did at that meeting. Still, we voted for the plan-and what we got, we had it coming to us. You know, ma’am, we are marked men, in a way, those of us who lived through the four years of that plan in the Twentieth Century factory. What is it that hell is supposed to be?
Evil-plain, naked, smirking evil, isn’t it? Well, that’s what we saw and helped to make-and I think we’re damned, every one of us, and maybe we’ll never be forgiven. . . .
“Do you know how it worked, that plan, and what it did to people?
Try pouring water into a tank where there’s a pipe at the bottom draining it out faster than you pour it, and each bucket you bring breaks that pipe an inch wider, and the harder you work the more is demanded of you, and you stand slinging buckets forty hours a week, then forty-eight, then fifty-six-for your neighbor’s supper-for his wife’s operation-for his child’s measles-for his mother’s wheel chair -for his uncle’s shirt-for his nephew’s schooling-for the baby next door-for the baby to be born-for anyone anywhere around you-
it’s theirs to receive, from diapers to dentures-and yours to work, from sunup to sundown, month after month, year after year, with nothing to show for it but your sweat, with nothing in sight for you but their pleasure, for the whole of your life, without rest, without hope, without end. . . . From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. . . .
“We’re all one big family, they told us, we’re all in this together.
But you don’t all stand working an acetylene torch ten hours a day-
together, and you don’t all get a bellyache-together. What’s whose ability and which of whose needs comes first? When it’s all one pot, you can’t let any man decide what his own needs are, can you? If you did, he might claim that he needs a yacht-and if his feelings is all you have to go by, he might prove it, too. Why not? If it’s not right for me to own a car until I’ve worked myself into a hospital ward, earning a car for every loafer and every naked savage on earth-why can’t he demand a yacht from me, too, if I still have the ability not to have collapsed? No? He can’t? Then why can he demand that I go without cream for my coffee until he’s replastered his living room? . . . Oh well . . . Well, anyway, it was decided that nobody had the right to judge his own need or ability. We voted on it. Yes, ma’am, we voted on it in a public meeting twice a year. How else could it be done? Do you care to think what would happen at such a meeting? It took us just one meeting to discover that we had become beggars-rotten, whining, sniveling beggars, all of us, because no man could claim his pay as his rightful earning, he had no rights and no earnings, his work didn’t belong to him, it belonged to ‘the family,’ and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his ‘need’
-so he had to beg in public for relief from his needs, like any lousy moocher, listing all his troubles and miseries, down to his patched drawers and his wife’s head colds, hoping that ‘the family’ would throw him the alms. He had to claim miseries, because it’s miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm-so it turned into a contest among six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that his need was worse than his brother’s. How else could it be done? Do you care to guess what happened, what sort of men kept quiet, feeling shame, and what sort got away with the jackpot?
“But that wasn’t all. There was something else that we discovered at the same meeting. The factory’s production had fallen by forty per cent, in that first half-year, so it was decided that somebody hadn’t delivered ‘according to his ability’ Who? How would you tell it? ‘The family’ voted on that, too. They voted which men were the best, and these men were sentenced to work overtime each night for the next six months. Overtime without pay-because you weren’t paid by tune and you weren’t paid by work, only by need.
“Do I have to tell you what happened after that-and into what sort of creatures we all started turning, we who had once been human?
We began to hide whatever ability we had, to slow down and watch like hawks that we never worked any faster or better than the next fellow. What else could we do, when we knew that if we did our best for ‘the family,’ it’s not thanks or rewards that we’d get, but punishment? We knew that for every stinker who’d ruin a batch of motors and cost the company money-either through his sloppiness, because he didn’t have to care, or through plain incompetence-it’s we who’d have to pay with our nights and our Sundays. So we did our best to be no good.
“There was one young boy who started out, full of fire for the noble ideal, a bright kid without any schooling, but with a wonderful head on his shoulders. The first year, he figured out a work process that saved us thousands of man-hours. He gave it to ‘the family,’
didn’t ask anything for it, either, couldn’t ask, but that was all right with him. It was for the ideal, he said. But when he found himself voted as one of our ablest and sentenced to night work, because we hadn’t gotten enough from him, he shut his mouth and his brain. You can bet he didn’t come up with any ideas, the second year.
“What was it they’d always told us about the vicious competition of the profit system, where men had to compete for who’d do a better job than his fellows? Vicious, wasn’t it? Well, they should have seen what it was like when we all had to compete with one another for who’d do the worst job possible. There’s no surer way to destroy a man than to force him into a spot where he has to aim at not doing his best, where he has to struggle to do a bad job, day after day. That will finish him quicker than drink or idleness or pulling stick-ups for a living. But there was nothing else for us to do except to fake unfitness.
The one accusation we feared was to be suspected of ability. Ability was like a mortgage on you that you could never pay off. And what was there to work for? You knew that your basic pittance would be given to you anyway, whether you worked or not-your ‘housing and feeding allowance,’ it was called-and above that pittance, you had no chance to get anything, no matter how hard you tried. You couldn’t count on buying a new suit of clothes next year-they might give you a ‘clothing allowance’ or they might not, according to whether nobody broke a leg, needed an operation or gave birth to more babies. And if there wasn’t enough money for new suits for everybody, then you couldn’t get yours, either.
“There was one man who’d worked hard all his life, because he’d always wanted to send his son through college. Well, the boy graduated from high school in the second year of the plan-but ‘the family’
wouldn’t give the father any ‘allowance’ for the college. They said his son couldn’t go to college, until we had enough to send everybody’s sons to college-and that we first had to send everybody’s children through high school, and we didn’t even have enough for that. The father died the following year, in a knife fight with somebody in a saloon, a fight over nothing in particular-such fights were beginning to happen among us all the time.
“Then there was an old guy, a widower with no family, who had one hobby: phonograph records. I guess that was all he ever got out of life. In the old days, he used to skip meals just to buy himself some new recording of classical music. Well, they didn’t give him any ‘allowance’ for records-‘personal luxury,’ they called it. But at that same meeting, Millie Bush, somebody’s daughter, a mean, ugly little eight-year-old, was voted a pair of gold braces for her buck teeth-
this was ‘medical need,’ because the staff psychologist had said that the poor girl would get an inferiority complex if her teeth weren’t straightened out. The old guy’ who loved music, turned to drink, instead. He got so you never saw him fully conscious any more. But it seems like there was one tiling he couldn’t forget. One night, he came staggering down the street, saw Millie Bush, swung his fist and knocked all her teeth out. Every one of them.
“Drink, of course, was what we all turned to, some more, some less.
Don’t ask how we got the money for it. When all the decent pleasures are forbidden, there’s always ways to get the rotten ones. You don’t break into grocery stores after dark and you don’t pick your fellow’s pockets to buy classical symphonies or fishing tackle, but if it’s to get stinking drunk and forget-you do. Fishing tackle? Hunting guns?
Snapshot cameras? Hobbies? There wasn’t any ‘amusement allowance’
for anybody. ‘Amusement’ was the first thing they dropped. Aren’t you always supposed to be ashamed to object when anybody asks you to give up anything, if it’s something that gave you pleasure? Even our ‘tobacco allowance’ was cut to where we got two packs of cigarettes a month-and this, they told us, was because the money had to go into the babies’ milk fund. Babies was the only item of production that didn’t fall, but rose and kept on rising-because people had nothing else to do, I guess, and because they didn’t have to care, the baby wasn’t their burden, it was ‘the family’s.’ In fact, the best chance you had of getting a raise and breathing easier for a while was a ‘baby allowance.’ Either that, or a major disease.
“It didn’t take us long to see how it all worked out. Any man who tried to play straight, had to refuse himself everything. He lost his taste for any pleasure, he hated to smoke a nickel’s worth of tobacco or chew a stick of gum, worrying whether somebody had more need for that nickel. He felt ashamed of every mouthful of food he swallowed, wondering whose weary nights of overtime had paid for it, knowing that his food was not his by right, miserably wishing to be cheated rather than to cheat, to be a sucker, but not a blood-sucker.
He wouldn’t marry, he wouldn’t help his folks back home, he wouldn’t put an extra burden on ‘the family.’ Besides, if he still had some sort of sense of responsibility, he couldn’t marry or bring children into the world, when he could plan nothing, promise nothing, count on nothing.
But the shiftless and the irresponsible had a field day of it. They bred babies, they got girls into trouble, they dragged in every worthless relative they had from all over the country, every unmarried pregnant sister, for an extra ‘disability allowance,’ they got more sicknesses than any doctor could disprove, they ruined their clothing, their furniture, their homes-what the hell, ‘the family’ was paying for it! They found more ways of getting in ‘need’ than the rest of us could ever imagine -they developed a special skill for it, which was the only ability they showed.
“God help us, ma’am! Do you see what we saw? We saw that we’d been given a law to live by, a moral law, they called it, which punished those who observed it-for observing it. The more you tried to live up to it, the more you suffered; the more you cheated it, the bigger reward you got. Your honesty was like a tool left at the mercy of the next man’s dishonesty. The honest ones paid, the dishonest collected.
The honest lost, the dishonest won. How long could men stay good under this sort of a law of goodness? We were a pretty decent bunch of fellows when we started. There weren’t many chiselers among us.
We knew our jobs and we were proud of it and we worked for the best factory in the country, where old man Starnes hired nothing but the pick of the country’s labor. Within one year under the new plan, there wasn’t an honest man left among us. That was the evil, the sort of hell-horror evil that preachers used to scare you with, but you never thought to see alive. Not that the plan encouraged a few bastards, but that it turned decent people into bastards, and there was nothing else that it could do-and it was called a moral ideal!
“What was it we were supposed to want to work for? For the love of our brothers? What brothers? For the bums, the loafers, the moochers we saw all around us? And whether they were cheating or plain incompetent, whether they were unwilling or unable-what difference did that make to us? If we were tied for life to the level of their unfitness, faked or real, how long could we care to go on? We had no way of knowing their ability, we had no way of controlling their needs-all we knew was that we were beasts of burden struggling blindly in some sort of place that was half-hospital, half-stockyards-a place geared to nothing but disability, disaster, disease-beasts put there for the relief of whatever whoever chose to say was whichever’s need.
“Love of our brothers? That’s when we learned to hate our brothers for the first time in our lives. We began to hate them for every meal they swallowed, for every small pleasure they enjoyed, for one man’s new shirt, for another’s wife’s hat, for an outing with their family, for a paint job on their house-it was taken from us, it was paid for by our privations, our denials, our hunger. We began to spy on one another, each hoping to catch the others lying about their needs, so as to cut their ‘allowance’ at the next meeting. We began to have stool pigeons who informed on people, who reported that somebody had bootlegged a turkey to his family on some Sunday-which he’d paid for by gambling, most likely. We began to meddle into one another’s lives. We provoked family quarrels, to get somebody’s relatives thrown out. Any time we saw a man starting to go steady with a girl, we made life miserable for him. We broke up many engagements.
We didn’t want anyone to marry, we didn’t want any more dependents to feed.
“In the old days, we used to celebrate if somebody had a baby, we used to chip in and help him out with the hospital bills, if he happened to be hard-pressed for the moment. Now, if a baby was born, we didn’t speak to the parents for weeks. Babies, to us, had become what locusts were to farmers. In the old days, we used to help a man if he had a bad illness in the family. Now-well, I’ll tell you about just one case. It was the mother of a man who had been with us for fifteen years. She was a kindly old lady, cheerful and wise, she knew us all by our first names and we all liked her-we used to like her. One day, she slipped on the cellar stairs and fell and broke her hip. We knew what that meant at her age. The staff doctor said that she’d have to be sent to a hospital in town, for expensive treatments that would take a long time. The old lady died the night before she was to leave for town. They never established the cause of death. No, I don’t know whether she was murdered. Nobody said that. Nobody would talk about it at all. All I know is that I-and that’s what I can’t forget!-I, too, had caught myself wishing that she would die. This-may God forgive us!-was the brotherhood, the security, the abundance that the plan was supposed to achieve for us!
“Was there any reason why this sort of horror would ever be preached by anybody? Was there anybody who got any profit from it? There was. The Starnes heirs. I hope you’re not going to remind me that they’d sacrificed a fortune and turned the factory over to us as a gift. We were fooled by that one, too. Yes, they gave up the factory. But profit, ma’am, depends on what it is you’re after. And what the Starnes heirs were after, no money on earth could buy.
Money is too clean and innocent for that.
“Eric Starnes, the youngest-he was a jellyfish that didn’t have the guts to be after anything in particular. He got himself voted as Director of our Public Relations Department, which didn’t do anything, except that he had a staff for the not doing of anything, so he didn’t have to bother sticking around the office. The pay he got-well, I shouldn’t call it ‘pay,’ none of us was ‘paid’-the alms voted to him was fairly modest, about ten times what I got, but that wasn’t riches.
Eric didn’t care for money-he wouldn’t have known what to do with it. He spent his time hanging around among us, showing how chummy he was and democratic. He wanted to be loved, it seems. The way he went about it was to keep reminding us that he had given us the factory. We couldn’t stand him.
“Gerald Starnes was our Director of Production. We never learned just what the size of his rake-off-his alms-had been. It would have taken a staff of accountants to figure that out, and a staff of engineers to trace the way it was piped, directly or indirectly, into his office.
None of it was supposed to be for him-it was all for company expenses. Gerald had three cars, four secretaries, five telephones, and he used to throw champagne and caviar parties that no tax-paying tycoon in the country could have afforded. He spent more money in one year than his father had earned in profits in the last two years of his life. We saw a hundred-pound stack-a hundred pounds, we weighed them-of magazines in Gerald’s office, full of stories about our factory and our noble plan, with big pictures of Gerald Starnes, calling him a great social crusader. Gerald liked to come into the shops at night, dressed in his formal clothes, flashing diamond cuff links the size of a nickel and shaking cigar ashes all over. Any cheap show-off who’s got nothing to parade but his cash, is bad enough-except that he makes no bones about the cash being his, and you’re free to gape at him or not, as you wish, and mostly you don’t. But when a bastard like Gerald Starnes puts on an act and keeps spouting that he doesn’t care for material wealth, that he’s only serving ‘the family,’ that all the lushness is not for himself, but for our sake and for the common good, because it’s necessary to keep up the prestige of the company and of the noble plan in the eyes of the public-then that’s when you learn to hate the creature as you’ve never hated anything human.
“But his sister Ivy was worse. She really did not care for material wealth. The alms she got was no bigger than ours, and she went about in scuffed, flat-heeled shoes and shirtwaists-just to show how selfless she was. She was our Director of Distribution. She was the lady in charge of our needs. She was the one who held us by the throat. Of course, distribution was supposed to be decided by voting-by the voice of the people. But when the people are six thousand howling voices, trying to decide without yardstick, rhyme or reason, when there are no rules to the game and each can demand anything, but has a right to nothing, when everybody holds power over everybody’s life except his own-then it turns out, as it did, that the voice of the people is Ivy Starnes. By the end of the second year, we dropped the pretense of the ‘family meetings’-in the name of ‘production efficiency and time economy,’ one meeting used to take ten days-and all the petitions of need were simply sent to Miss Starnes’ office. No, not sent. They had to be recited to her in person by every petitioner.
Then she made up a distribution list, which she read to us for our vote of approval at a meeting that lasted three-quarters of an hour.
We voted approval. There was a ten-minute period on the agenda for discussion and objections. We made no objections. We knew better by that time. Nobody can divide a factory’s income among thousands of people, without some sort of a gauge to measure people’s value. Her gauge was bootlicking. Selfless? In her father’s time, all of his money wouldn’t have given him a chance to speak to his lousiest wiper and get away with it, as she spoke to our best skilled workers and their wives. She had pale eyes that looked fishy, cold and dead. And if you ever want to see pure evil, you should have seen the way her eyes glinted when she watched some man who’d talked back to her once and who’d just heard his name on the list of those getting nothing above basic pittance. And when you saw it, you saw the real motive of any person who’s ever preached the slogan: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,’
“This was the whole secret of it. At first, I kept wondering how it could be possible that the educated, the cultured, the famous men of the world could make a mistake of this size and preach, as righteousness, this sort of abomination-when five minutes of thought should have told them what would happen if somebody tried to practice what they preached. Now I know that they didn’t do it by any kind of mistake. Mistakes of this size are never made innocently.
If men fall for some vicious piece of insanity, when they have no way to make it work and no possible reason to explain their choice-it’s because they have a reason that they do not wish to tell. And we weren’t so innocent either, when we voted for that plan at the first meeting. We didn’t do it just because we believed that the drippy old guff they spewed was good. We had another reason, but the guff helped us to hide it from our neighbors and from ourselves. The guff gave us a chance to pass off as virtue something that we’d be ashamed to admit otherwise. There wasn’t a man voting for it who didn’t think that under a setup of this kind he’d muscle in on the profits of the men abler than himself. There wasn’t a man rich and smart enough but that he didn’t think that somebody was richer and smarter, and this plan would give him a share of his better’s wealth and brain. But while he was thinking that he’d get unearned benefits from the men above, he forgot about the men below who’d get unearned benefits, too. He forgot about all his inferiors who’d rush to drain him just as he hoped to drain his superiors. The worker who liked the idea that his need entitled him to a limousine like his boss’s, forgot that every bum and beggar on earth would come howling that their need entitled them to an icebox like his own. That was our real motive when we voted-
that was the truth of it-but we didn’t like to think it, so the less we liked it, the louder we yelled about our love for the common good.
“Well, we got what we asked for. By the time we saw what it was that we’d asked for, it was too late. We were trapped, with no place to go. The best men among us left the factory in the first week of the plan. We lost our best engineers, superintendents, foremen and highest skilled workers. A man of self-respect doesn’t turn into a milch cow for anybody. Some able fellows tried to stick it out, but they couldn’t take it for long. We kept losing our men, they kept escaping from the factory like from a pesthole-till we had nothing left except the men of need, but none of the men of ability.
“And the few of us who were still any good, but stayed on, were only those who had been there too long. In the old days, nobody ever quit the Twentieth Century-and, somehow, we couldn’t make ourselves believe that it was gone. After a while, we couldn’t quit, because no other employer would have us-for which I can’t blame him.
Nobody would deal with us in any way, no respectable person or firm.
All the small shops, where we traded, started moving out of Starnesville fast-till we had nothing left but saloons, gambling joints and crooks who sold us trash at gouging prices. The alms we got kept falling, but the cost of our living went up. The list of the factory’s needy kept stretching, but the list of its customers shrank. There was less and less income to divide among more and more people. In the old days, it used to be said that the Twentieth Century Motor trademark was as good as the karat mark on gold. I don’t know what it was that the Starnes heirs thought, if they thought at all, but I suppose that like all social planners and like savages, they thought that this trademark was a magic stamp which did the trick by some sort of voodoo power and that it would keep them rich, as it had kept their father. Well, when our customers began to see that we never delivered an order on time and never put out a motor that didn’t have something wrong with it-the magic stamp began to work the other way around: people wouldn’t take a motor as a gift, if it was marked Twentieth Century, And it came to where our only customers were men who never paid and never meant to pay their bills. But Gerald Starnes, doped by his own publicity, got huffy and went around, with an air of moral superiority, demanding that businessmen place orders with us, not because our motors were good, but because we needed the orders so badly.
“By that time, a village half-wit could see what generations of professors had pretended not to notice. What good would our need do to a power plant when its generators stopped because of our defective engines? What good would it do to a man caught on an operating table when the electric light went out? What good would it do to the passengers of a plane when its motor failed in mid-air?
And if they bought our product, not because of its merit, but because of our need, would that be the good, the right, the moral thing to do for the owner of that power plant, the surgeon in that hospital, the maker of that plane?
“Yet this was the moral law that the professors and leaders and thinkers had wanted to establish all over the earth. If this is what it did in a single small town where we all knew one another, do you care to think what it would do on a world scale? Do you care to imagine what it would be like, if you had to live and to work, when you’re tied to all the disasters and all the malingering of the globe? To work -and whenever any men failed anywhere, it’s you who would have to make up for it. To work-with no chance to rise, with your meals and your clothes and your home and your pleasure depending on any swindle, any famine, any pestilence anywhere on earth. To work-
with no chance for an extra ration, till the Cambodians have been fed and the Patagonians have been sent through college. To work-on a blank check held by every creature born, by men whom you’ll never see, whose needs you’ll never know, whose ability or laziness or sloppiness or fraud you have no way to learn and no right to question -just to work and work and work-and leave it up to the Ivys and the Geralds of the world to decide whose stomach will consume the effort, the dreams and the days of your life. And this is the moral law to accept? This-a moral ideal?
“Well, we tried it-and we learned. Our agony took four years, from our first meeting to our last, and it ended the only way it could end: in bankruptcy. At our last meeting, Ivy Starnes was the one who tried to brazen it out. She made a short, nasty, snippy little speech in which she said that the plan had failed because the rest of the country had not accepted it, that a single community could not succeed in the midst of a selfish, greedy world-and that the plan was a noble ideal, but human nature was not good enough for it. A young boy-the one who had been punished for giving us a useful idea in our first year-got up, as we all sat silent, and walked straight to Ivy Starnes on the platform. He said nothing. He spat in her face. That was the end of the noble plan and of the Twentieth Century.”
The man had spoken as if the burden of his years of silence had slipped suddenly out of his grasp. She knew that this was his tribute to her: he had shown no reaction to her kindness, he had seemed numbed to human value or human hope, but something within him had been reached and his response was this confession, this long, desperate cry of rebellion against injustice, held back for years, but breaking out in recognition of the first person he had met in whose hearing an appeal for justice would not be hopeless. It was as if the life he had been about to renounce were given back to him by the two essentials he needed: by his food and by the presence of a rational being.
“But what about John Galt?” she asked.
“Oh . . .” he said, remembering. “Oh, yes . . .”
“You were going to tell me why people started asking that question.”
“Yes . . .” He was looking off, as if at some sight which he had studied for years, but which remained unchanged and unsolved; his face had an odd, questioning look of terror.
“You were going to tell me who was the John Galt they mean-if there ever was such a person.”
“I hope there wasn’t, ma’am. I mean, I hope that it’s just a coincidence, just a sentence that hasn’t any meaning.”
“You had something in mind. What?”
“It was . . . it was something that happened at that first meeting at the Twentieth Century factory. Maybe that was the start of it, maybe not. I don’t know . . . The meeting was held on a spring night, twelve years ago. The six thousand of us were crowded on bleachers built way up to the rafters of the plant’s largest hangar. We had just voted for the new plan and we were in an edgy sort of mood, making too much noise, cheering the people’s victory, threatening some kind of unknown enemies and spoiling for a fight, like bullies with an uneasy conscience. There were white arclights beating down on us and we felt kind of touchy and raw, and we were an ugly, dangerous mob in that moment. Gerald Starnes, who was chairman, kept hammering his gavel for order, and we quieted down some, but not much, and you could see the whole place moving restlessly from side to side, like water in a pan that’s being rocked. ‘This is a crucial moment in the history of mankind!’ Gerald Starnes yelled through the noise. ‘Remember that none of us may now leave this place, for each of us belongs to all the others by the moral law which we all accept!’ ‘I don’t,”
said one man and stood up. He was one of the young engineers. Nobody knew much about him. He’d always kept mostly by himself. When he stood up, we suddenly turned dead-still. It was the way he held his head. He was tall and slim-and I remember thinking that any two of us could have broken his neck without trouble-but what we all felt was fear. He stood like a man who knew that he was right. ‘I will put an end to this, once and for all,’ he said. His voice was clear and without any feeling. That was all he said and started to walk out. He walked down the length of the place, in the white light, not hurrying and not noticing any of us. Nobody moved to stop him. Gerald Starnes cried suddenly after him, ‘How?’ He turned and answered, ‘I will stop the motor of the world. Then he walked out. We never saw him again.
We never heard what became of him. But years later, when we saw the lights going out, one after another, in the great factories that had stood solid like mountains for generations, when we saw the gates closing and the conveyor belts turning still, when we saw the roads growing empty and the stream of cars draining off, when it began to look as if some silent power were stopping the generators of the world and the world was crumbling quietly, like a body when its spirit is gone-then we began to wonder and to ask questions about him. We began to ask it of one another, those of us who had heard him say it.
We began to think that he had kept his word, that he, who had seen and known the truth we refused to know, was the retribution we had called upon our heads, the avenger, the man of that justice which we had defied. We began to think that he had damned us and there was no escape from his verdict and we would never be able to get away from him-and this was the more terrible because he was not pursuing us, it was we who were suddenly looking for him and he had merely gone without a trace. We found no answer about him anywhere. We wondered by what sort of impossible power he could have done what he had promised to do. There was no answer to that. We began to think of him whenever we saw another collapse in the world, which nobody could explain, whenever we took another blow, whenever we lost another hope, whenever we felt caught in this dead, gray fog that’s descending all over the earth. Perhaps people heard us crying that question and they did not know what we meant, but they knew too well the feeling that made us cry it. They, too, felt that something had gone from the world. Perhaps this was why they began to say it, whenever they felt that there was no hope. I’d like to think that I am wrong, that those words mean nothing, that there’s no conscious intention and no avenger behind the ending of the human race. But when I hear them repeating that question, I feel afraid. I think of the man who said that he would stop the motor of the world. You see, his name was John Galt.”
She awakened, because the sound of the wheels had changed. It was an irregular beat, with sudden screeches and short, sharp cracks, a sound like the broken laughter of hysteria, with the fitful jerking of the car to match it. She knew, before she glanced at her watch, that this was the track of the Kansas Western and that the train had started on its long detour south from Kirby, Nebraska.
The train was half-empty; few people had ventured across the continent on the first Comet since the tunnel disaster. She had given a bedroom to the tramp, and then had remained alone with his story.
She had wanted to think of it, of all the questions she intended to ask him tomorrow-but she had found her mind frozen and still, like a spectator staring at the story, unable to function, only to stare. She had felt as if she knew the meaning of that spectacle, knew it with no further questions and had to escape it. To move-had been the words beating in her mind with peculiar urgency-to move-as if movement had become an end in itself, crucial, absolute and doomed.
Through a thin layer of sleep, the sound of the wheels had kept running a race with the growth of her tension. She had kept awakening, as in a causeless start of panic, finding herself upright in the darkness, thinking blankly: What was it?-then telling herself in reassurance: We’re moving . . . we’re still moving. . . .
The track of the Kansas Western was worse than she had expected-
she thought, listening to the wheels. The train was now carrying her hundreds of miles away from Utah. She had felt a desperate desire to get off the train on the main line, abandon all the problems of Taggart Transcontinental, find an airplane and fly straight to Quentin Daniels.
It had taken a cheerless effort of will to remain in her car.
She lay in the darkness, listening to the wheels, thinking that only Daniels and his motor still remained like a point of fire ahead, pulling her forward. Of what use would the motor now be to her? She had no answer. Why did she feel so certain of the desperate need to hurry?
She had no answer. To reach him in time, was the only ultimatum left in her mind. She held onto it, asking no questions. Wordlessly, she knew the real answer: the motor was needed, not to move trains, but to keep her moving.
She could not hear the beat of the fourth knocks any longer in the jumbled screeching of metal, she could not hear the steps of the enemy she was racing, only the hopeless stampede of panic. . . .
I’ll get there in time, she thought, I’ll get there first, I’ll save the motor.
There’s one motor he’s not going to stop, she thought . . . he’s not going to stop . . . he’s not going to stop . . . He’s not going to stop, she thought-awakening with a jolt, jerking her head off the pillow. The wheels had stopped.
For a moment, she remained still, trying to grasp the peculiar stillness around her. It felt like the impossible attempt to create a sensory image of non-existence. There were no attributes of reality to perceive, nothing but their absence: no sound, as if she were alone on the train-no motion, as if this were not a train, but a room in a building-no light, as if this were neither train nor room, but space without objects-no sign of violence or physical disaster, as if this were the state where disaster is no longer possible.
In the moment when she grasped the nature of the stillness, her body sprang upright with a single curve of motion, immediate and violent like a cry of rebellion. The loud screech of the window shade went like a knife-cut through the silence, as she threw the shade upward. There was nothing outside but anonymous stretches of prairie; a strong wind was breaking the clouds, and a shaft of moonlight fell through, but it fell upon plains that seemed as dead as those from which it came.
The sweep of her hand pressed the light switch and the bell to summon the porter. The electric light came on and brought her back to a rational world. She glanced at her watch: it was a few minutes past midnight. She looked out of the rear window: the track went off in a straight line and, at the prescribed distance, she saw the red lanterns left on the ground, placed conscientiously to protect the rear of the train. The sight seemed reassuring.
She pressed the porter’s bell once more. She waited. She went to the vestibule, unlocked the door and leaned out to look down the line of the train. A few windows were lighted in the long, tapering band of steel, but she saw no figures, no sign of human activity. She slammed the door, came back and started to dress, her movements suddenly calm and swift.
No one came to answer her bell. When she hastened across to the next car, she felt no fear, no uncertainty, no despair, nothing but the urgency of action.
There was no porter in the cubbyhole of the next car, no porter in the car beyond. She hurried down the narrow passageways, meeting no one. But a few compartment doors were open. The passengers sat inside, dressed or half-dressed, silently, as if waiting. They watched her rush by with oddly furtive glances, as if they knew what she was after, as if they had expected someone to come and to face what they had not faced. She went on, running down the spinal cord of a dead train, noting the peculiar combination of lighted compartments, open doors and empty passages: no one had ventured to step out. No one had wanted to ask the first question.
She ran through the train’s only coach, where some passengers slept in contorted poses of exhaustion, while others, awake and still, sat hunched, like animals waiting for a blow, making no move to avert it In the vestibule of the coach, she stopped. She saw a man, who had unlocked the door and was leaning out, looking inquiringly ahead through the darkness, ready to step off. He turned at the sound of her approach. She recognized his face: it was Owen Kellogg, the man who had rejected the future she had once offered him.
“Kellogg!” she gasped, the sound of laughter in her voice like a cry of relief at the sudden sight of a man in a desert.
“Hello, Miss Taggart,” he answered, with an astonished smile that held a touch of incredulous pleasure-and of wistfulness. “I didn’t know you were aboard.”
“Come on,” she ordered, as if he were still an employee of the railroad. “I think we’re on a frozen train.”
“We are,” he said, and followed her with prompt, disciplined obedience.
No explanations were necessary. It was as if, in unspoken understanding, they were answering a call to duty-and it seemed natural that of the hundreds aboard, it was the two of them who should be partners-in-danger.
“Any idea how long we’ve been standing?” she asked, as they hurried on through the next car.
“No,” he said. “We were standing when I woke up.”
They went the length of the train, finding no porters, no waiters in the diner, no brakemen, no conductor. They glanced at each other once in a while, but kept silent. They knew the stories of abandoned trains, of the crews that vanished in sudden bursts of rebellion against serfdom.
They got off at the head end of the train, with no motion around them save the wind on their faces, and they climbed swiftly aboard the engine. The engine’s headlight was on, stretching like an accusing arm into the void of the night. The engine’s cab was empty.
Her cry of desperate triumph broke out in answer to the shock of the sight: “Good for them! They’re human beings!”
She stopped, aghast, as at the cry of a stranger. She noticed that Kellogg stood watching her curiously, with the faint hint of a smile.
It was an old steam engine, the best that the railroad had been able to provide for the Comet. The fire was banked in the grates, the steam gauge was low, and in the great windshield before them the headlight fell upon a band of ties that should have been running to meet them, but lay still instead, like a ladder’s steps, counted, numbered and ended.
She reached for the logbook and looked at the names of the train’s last crew. The engineer had been Pat Logan.
Her head dropped slowly, and she closed her eyes. She thought of the first run on a green-blue track, that must have been in Pat Logan’s mind-as it was now in hers-through the silent hours of his last run on any rail.
“Miss Taggart?” said Owen Kellogg softly.
She jerked her head up. “Yes,” she said, “yes . . . Well”-her voice had no color except the metallic tinge of decision-“we’ll have to get to a phone and call for another crew.” She glanced at her watch. “At the rate we were running, I think we must be about eighty miles from the Oklahoma state line. I believe Bradshaw is this road’s nearest division point to call. We’re somewhere within thirty miles of it.”
“Are there any Taggart trains following us?”
“The next one is Number 253, the transcontinental freight, but it won’t get here till about seven A.M., if it’s running on time, which 1 doubt.”
“Only one freight in seven hours?” He said it involuntarily, with a note of outraged loyalty to the great railroad he had once been proud to serve.
Her mouth moved in the brief snap of a smile. “Our transcontinental traffic is not what it was in your day.”
He nodded slowly. “I don’t suppose there are any Kansas Western trains coming tonight, either?”
“I can’t remember offhand, but I think not.”
He glanced at the poles by the side of the track. “I hope that the Kansas Western people have kept their phones in order.”
“You mean that the chances are they haven’t, if we judge by the state of their track. But we’ll have to try it,”
She turned to go, but stopped. She knew it was useless to comment, but the words came involuntarily. “You know,” she said, “it’s those lanterns our men put behind the train to protect us that’s the hardest thing to take. They . . . they felt more concern for human lives than their country had shown for theirs.”
His swift glance at her was like a shot of deliberate emphasis, then he answered gravely, “Yes, Miss Taggart.”
Climbing down the ladder on the side of the engine, they saw a cluster of passengers gathered by the track and more figures emerging from the train to join them. By some special instinct of their own, the men who had sat waiting knew that someone had taken charge, someone had assumed the responsibility and it was now safe to show signs of life.
They all looked at her with an air of inquiring expectation, as she approached. The unnatural pallor of the moonlight seemed to dissolve the differences of their faces and to stress the quality they all had in common: a look of cautious appraisal, part fear, part plea, part impertinence held in abeyance.
“Is there anyone here who wishes to be spokesman for the passengers?” she asked.
They looked at one another. There was no answer.
“Very well,” she said. “You don’t have to speak. I’m Dagny Taggart, the Operating Vice-President of this railroad, and”-there was a rustle of response from the group, half-movement, half-whisper, resembling relief-“and I’ll do the speaking. We are on a train that has been abandoned by its crew. There was no physical accident. The engine is intact. But there is no one to run it. This is what the newspapers call a frozen train. You all know what it means-and you know the reasons. Perhaps you knew the reasons long before they were discovered by the men who deserted you tonight. The law forbade them to desert. But this will not help you now.”
A woman shrieked suddenly, with the demanding petulance of hysteria, “What are we going to do?”
Dagny paused to look at her. The woman was pushing forward, to squeeze herself into the group, to place some human bodies between herself and the sight of the great vacuum-the plain stretching off and dissolving into moonlight, the dead phosphorescence of impotent, borrowed energy. The woman had a coat thrown over a nightgown; the coat was slipping open and her stomach protruded under the gown’s thin cloth, with that loose obscenity of manner which assumes all human self-revelation to be ugliness and makes no effort to conceal it. For a moment, Dagny regretted the necessity to continue.
“I shall go down the track to a telephone,” she continued, her voice clear and as cold as the moonlight. “There are emergency telephones at intervals of five miles along the right-of-way. I shall call for another crew to be sent here. This will take some time. You will please stay aboard and maintain such order as you are capable of maintaining.”
“What about the gangs of raiders?” asked another woman’s nervous voice.
“That’s true,” said Dagny. “I’d better have someone to accompany me. Who wishes to go?”
She had misunderstood the woman’s motive. There was no answer.
There were no glances directed at her or at one another. There were no eyes-only moist ovals glistening in the moonlight. There they were, she thought, the men of the new age, the demanders and recipients of self-sacrifice. She was struck by a quality of anger in their silence-
an anger saying that she was supposed to spare them moments such as this-and, with a feeling of cruelty new to her, she remained silent by conscious intention.
She noticed that Owen Kellogg, too, was waiting; but he was not watching the passengers, he was watching her face. When he became certain that there would be no answer from the crowd, he said quietly, “I’ll go with you, of course, Miss Taggart.”
“Thank you.”
“What about us?” snapped the nervous woman.
Dagny turned to her, answering in the formal, inflectionless monotone of a business executive, “There have been no cases of raider gang attacks upon frozen trains-unfortunately.”
“Just where are we?” asked a bulky man with too expensive an overcoat and too flabby a face; his voice had a tone intended for servants by a man unfit to employ them. “In what part of what state?”
“I don’t know,” she answered.
“How long will we be kept here?” asked another, in the tone of a creditor who is imposed upon by a debtor.
“1 don’t know.”
“When will we get to San Francisco?” asked a third, in the manner of a sheriff addressing a suspect.
“I don’t know.”
The demanding resentment was breaking loose, in small, crackling puffs, like chestnuts popping open in the dark oven of the minds who now felt certain that they were taken care of and safe.
“This is perfectly outrageous!” yelled a woman, springing forward, throwing her words at Dagny’s face. “You have no right to let this happen! I don’t intend to be kept waiting in the middle of nowhere!
I expect transportation!”
“Keep your mouth shut,” said Dagny, “or I’ll lock the train doors and leave you where you are.”
“You can’t do that! You’re a common carrier! You have no right to discriminate against me! I’ll report it to the Unification Board!”
“-if I give you a train to get you within sight or hearing of your Board,” said Dagny, turning away.
She saw Kellogg looking at her, his glance like a line drawn under her words, underscoring them for her own attention.
“Get a flashlight somewhere,” she said, “while I go to get my handbag, then we’ll start.”
When they started out on their way to the track phone, walking past the silent line of cars, they saw another figure descending from the train and hurrying to meet them. She recognized the tramp.
“Trouble, ma’am?” he asked, stopping.
“The crew has deserted.”
“Oh. What’s to be done?”
“I’m going to a phone to call the division point.”
“You can’t go alone, ma’am. Not these days. I’d better go with you.”
She smiled. “Thanks. But I’ll be all right. Mr. Kellogg here is going with me. Say-what’s your name?”
“Jeff Alien, ma’am.”
“Listen, Alien, have you ever worked for a railroad?”
“No, ma’am.”
“Well, you’re working for one now. You’re deputy-conductor and proxy-vice-president-in-charge-of-operation. Your job is to take charge of this train in my absence, to preserve order and to keep the cattle from stampeding. Tell them that I appointed you. You don’t need any proof. They’ll obey anybody who expects obedience.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered firmly, with a look of understanding.
She remembered that money inside a man’s pocket had the power to turn into confidence inside his mind; she took a hundred-dollar bill from her bag and slipped it into his hand. “As advance on wages,”
she said.
“Yes, ma’am.”
She had started off, when he called after her, “Miss Taggart!”
She turned. “Yes?”
“Thank you,” he said.
She smiled, half-raising her hand in a parting salute, and walked on.
“Who is that?” asked Kellogg.
“A tramp who was caught stealing a ride.”
“He’ll do the job, I think.”
“He will.”
They walked silently past the engine and on in the direction of its headlight. At first, stepping from tie to tie, with the violent light beating against them from behind, they still felt as if they were at home in the normal realm of a railroad. Then she found herself watching the light on the ties under her feet, watching it ebb slowly, trying to hold it, to keep seeing its fading glow, until she knew that the hint of a glow on the wood was no longer anything but moonlight. She could not prevent the shudder that made her turn to look back. The headlight still hung behind them, like the liquid silver globe of a planet, deceptively close, but belonging to another orbit and another system.
Owen Kellogg walked silently beside her, and she felt certain that they knew each other’s thoughts.
“He couldn’t have. Oh God, he couldn’t!” she said suddenly, not realizing that she had switched to words.
“Nathaniel Taggart. He couldn’t have worked with people like those passengers. He couldn’t have run trains for them. He couldn’t have employed them. He couldn’t have used them at all, neither as customers nor as workers.”
Kellogg smiled. “You mean that he couldn’t have grown rich by exploiting them, Miss Taggart?”
She nodded. “They . . .” she said, and he heard the faint trembling of her voice, which was love and pain and indignation, “they’ve said for years that he rose by thwarting the ability of others, by leaving them no chance, and that . . . that human incompetence was to his selfish interest. . . . But he . . . it wasn’t obedience that he required of people.”
“Miss Taggart,” he said, with an odd note of sternness in his voice, “just remember that he represented a code of existence which-for a brief span in all human history-drove slavery out of the civilized world. Remember it, when you feel baffled by the nature of his enemies,”
“Have you ever heard of a woman named Ivy Starnes?”
“Oh yes.”
“I keep thinking that this was what she would have enjoyed-the spectacle of those passengers tonight. This was what she’s after. But we-we can’t live with it, you and I, can we? No one can live with it.
It’s not possible to live with it.”
“What makes you think that Ivy Starnes’s purpose is life?”
Somewhere on the edge of her mind-like the wisps she saw floating on the edges of the prairie, neither quite rays nor fog nor cloud-
she felt some shape which she could not grasp, half-suggested and demanding to be grasped.
She did not speak, and-like the links of a chain unrolling through their silence-the rhythm of their steps went on, spaced to the ties, scored by the dry, swift beat of heels on wood.
She had not had time to be aware of him, except as of a providential comrade-in-competence; now she glanced at him with conscious attention. His face had the clear, hard look she remembered having liked in the past. But the face had grown calmer, as if more serenely at peace. His clothes were threadbare. He wore an old leather jacket, and even in the darkness she could distinguish the scuffed blotches streaking across the leather.
“What have you been doing since you left Taggart Transcontinental?” she asked.
“Oh, many things.”
“Where are you working now?”
“On special assignments, more or less.”
“Of what kind?”
“Of every kind.”
“You’re not working for a railroad?”
The sharp brevity of the sound seemed to expand it into an eloquent statement. She knew that he knew her motive. “Kellogg, if I told you that I don’t have a single first-rate man left on the Taggart system, if I offered you any job, any terms, any money you cared to name-would you come back to us?”
“You were shocked by our loss of traffic. I don’t think you have any idea of what our loss of men has done to us. I can’t tell you the sort of agony I went through three days ago, trying to find somebody able to build five miles of temporary track. I have fifty miles to build through the Rockies. I see no way to do it. But it has to be done. I’ve combed the country for men. There aren’t any. And then to run into you suddenly, to find you here, in a day coach, when I’d give half the system for one employee like you-do you understand why I can’t let you go? Choose anything you wish. Want to be general manager of a region? Or assistant operating vice-president?”
“You’re still working for a living, aren’t you?”
“You don’t seem to be making very much.”
“I’m making enough for my needs-and for nobody else’s.”
“Why are you willing to work for anyone but Taggart Transcontinental?”
“Because you wouldn’t give me the kind of job I’d want.”
“I?” She stopped still. “Good God, Kellogg!-haven’t you understood? I’d give you any job you name!”
“All right. Track walker.”
“Section hand. Engine wiper.” He smiled at the look on her face.
“No? You see, I said you wouldn’t.”
“Do you mean that you’d take a day laborer’s job?”
“Any time you offered it.”
“But nothing better?”
“That’s right, nothing better.”
“Don’t you understand that I have too many men who’re able to do those jobs, but nothing better?”
“I understand it, Miss Taggart. Do you?”
“What I need is your-”
“-mind, Miss Taggart? My mind is not on the market any longer.”
She stood looking at him, her face growing harder. “You’re one of them, aren’t you?” she said at last.
“Of whom?”
She did not answer, shrugged and went on, “Miss Taggart,” he asked, “how long will you remain willing to be a common carrier?”
“I won’t surrender the world to the creature you’re quoting.”
“The answer you gave her was much more realistic.”
The chain of their steps had stretched through many silent minutes before she asked, “Why did you stand by me tonight? Why were you willing to help me?”
He answered easily, almost gaily, “Because there isn’t a passenger on that train who needs to get where he’s going more urgently than I do. If the train can be started, none will profit more than I. But when I need something, I don’t sit and expect transportation, like that creature of yours.”
“You don’t? And what if all trains stopped running?”
“Then I wouldn’t count on making a crucial journey by train.”
“Where are you going?”
“On a ‘special assignment’?”
“No. For a month’s vacation with some friends.”
“A vacation? And it’s that important to you?”
“More important than anything on earth.”
They had walked two miles when they came to the small gray box on a post by the trackside, which was the emergency telephone.
The box hung sidewise, beaten by storms. She jerked it open. The telephone was there, a familiar, reassuring object, glinting in the beam of Kellogg’s flashlight. But she knew, the moment she pressed the receiver to her ear, and he knew, when he saw her finger tapping sharply against the hook, that the telephone was dead.
She handed the receiver to him without a word. She held the flashlight, while he went swiftly over the instrument, then tore it off the wall and studied the wires.
“The wire’s okay,” he said. “The current’s on. It’s this particular instrument that’s out of order. There’s a chance that the next one might be working.” He added, “The next one is five miles away.”
“Let’s go,” she said.
Far behind them, the engine’s headlight was still visible, not a planet any longer, but a small star winking, through mists of distance.
Ahead of them, the rail went off into bluish space, with nothing to mark its end.
She realized how often she had glanced back at that headlight; so long as it remained in sight, she had felt as if a life-line were holding them anchored safely; now they had to break it and dive into . . .
and dive off this planet, she thought. She noticed that Kellogg, too, stood looking back at the headlight.
They glanced at each other, but said nothing. The crunch of a pebble under her shoe sole burst like a firecracker in the silence.
With a coldly intentional movement, he kicked the telephone instrument and sent it rolling into a ditch: the violence of the noise shattered the vacuum.
“God damn him,” he said evenly, not raising his voice, with a loathing past any display of emotion. “He probably didn’t feel like attending to his job, and since he needed his pay check, nobody had the right to ask that he keep the phones in order.”
“Come on,” she said.
“We can rest, if you feel tired, Miss Taggart.”
“I’m all right. We have no time to feel tired.”
“That’s our great error, Miss Taggart. We ought to take the time, some day.”
She gave a brief chuckle, she stepped onto a tie of the track, stressing the step as her answer, and they went on.
It was hard, walking on ties, but when they tried to walk along the trackside, they found that it was harder. The soil, half-sand, half-dust, sank under their heels, like the soft, unresisting spread of some substance that was neither liquid nor solid. They went back to walking from tie to tie; it was almost like stepping from log to log in the midst of a river.
She thought of what an enormous distance five miles had suddenly become, and that a division point thirty miles away was now unattainable-after an era of railroads built by men who thought in thousands of transcontinental miles. That net of rails and lights, spreading from ocean to ocean, hung on the snap of a wire, on a broken connection inside a rusty phone-no, she thought, on something much more powerful and much more delicate. It hung on the connections in the minds of the men who knew that the existence of a wire, of a train, of a job, of themselves and their actions was an absolute not to be escaped. When such minds were gone, a two thousand-ton train was left at the mercy of the muscles of her legs.
Tired?-she thought; even the strain of walking was a value, a small piece of reality in the stillness around them. The sensation of effort was a specific experience, it was pain and could be nothing else-in the midst of a space which was neither light nor dark, a soil which neither gave nor resisted, a fog which neither moved nor hung still. Their strain was the only evidence of their motion: nothing changed in the emptiness around them, nothing took form to mark their progress. She had always wondered, in incredulous contempt, about the sects that preached the annihilation of the universe as the ideal to be attained. There, she thought, was their world and the content of their minds made real.
When the green light of a signal appeared by the track, it gave them a point to reach and pass, but-incongruous in the midst of the floating dissolution-it brought them no sense of relief. It seemed to come from a long since extinguished world, like those stars whose light remains after they are gone. The green circle glowed in space, announcing a clear track, inviting motion where there was nothing to move. Who was that philosopher, she thought, who preached that motion exists without any moving entities? This was his world, too.
She found herself pushing forward with increasing effort, as if against some resistance that was, not pressure, but suction. Glancing at Kellogg, she saw that he, too, was walking like a man braced against a storm. She felt as if the two of them were the sole survivors of . . . of reality, she thought-two lonely figures fighting, not through a storm, but worse: through non-existence.
It was Kellogg who glanced back, after a while, and she followed his glance: there was no headlight behind them.
They did not stop. Looking straight ahead, he reached absently into his pocket; she felt certain that the movement was involuntary; he produced a package of cigarettes and extended it to her.
She was about to take a cigarette-then, suddenly, she seized his wrist and tore the package out of his hand. It was a plain white package that bore, as single imprint, the sign of the dollar.
“Give me the flashlight!” she ordered, stopping.
He stopped obediently and sent the beam of the flashlight at the package in her hands. She caught a glimpse of his face: he looked a little astonished and very amused.
There was no printing on the package, no trade name, no address, only the dollar sign stamped in gold. The cigarettes bore the same sign.
“Where did you get this?” she asked.
He was smiling. “If you know enough to ask that, Miss Taggart, you should know that I won’t answer.”
“I know that this stands for something.”
“The dollar sign? For a great deal. It stands on the vest of every fat, pig like figure in every cartoon, for the purpose of denoting a crook, a grafter, a scoundrel-as the one sure-fire brand of evil. It stands-as the money of a free country-for achievement, for success, for ability, for man’s creative power-and, precisely for these reasons, it is used as a brand of infamy. It stands stamped on the forehead of a man like Hank Rearden, as a mark of damnation. Incidentally, do you know where that sign comes from? It stands for the initials of the United States.”
He snapped the flashlight off, but he did not move to go; she could distinguish the hint of his bitter smile.
“Do you know that the United States is the only country in history that has ever used its own monogram as a symbol of depravity? Ask yourself why. Ask yourself how long a country that did that could hope to exist, and whose moral standards have destroyed it. It was the only country in history where wealth was not acquired by looting, but by production, not by force, but by trade, the only country whose money was the symbol of man’s right to his own mind, to his work, to his life, to his happiness, to himself. If this is evil, by the present standards of the world, if this is the reason for damning us, then we -we, the dollar chasers and makers-accept it and choose to be damned by that world. We choose to wear the sign of the dollar on our foreheads, proudly, as our badge of nobility-the badge we are willing to live for and, if need be, to die.”
He extended his hand for the package. She held it as if her fingers would not let it go, but gave up and placed it on his palm. With deliberate slowness, as if to underscore the meaning of his gesture, he offered her a cigarette. She took it and placed it between her lips.
He took one for himself, struck a match, lighted both, and they walked on.
They walked, over rotting logs that sank without resistance into the shifting ground, through a vast, uncongealed globe of moonlight and coiling mist-with two spots of living fire in their hands and the glow of two small circles to light their faces.
“Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips . . .” she remembered the old man saying to her, the old man who had said that these cigarettes were not made anywhere on earth. “When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind-and it’s proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.”
“I wish you’d tell me who makes them,” she said, in the tone of a hopeless plea.
He chuckled good-naturedly. “I can tell you this much: they’re made by a friend of mine, for sale, but-not being a common carrier -he sells them only to his friends.”
“Sell me that package, will you?”
“I don’t think you’ll be able to afford it, Miss Taggart, but-all right, if you wish.”
“How much is it?”
“Five cents.”
“Five cents?” she repeated, bewildered.
“Five cents-” he said, and added, “in gold.”
She stopped, staring at him. “In gold?”
“Yes, Miss Taggart.”
“Well, what’s your rate of exchange? How much is it in our normal money?”
“There is no rate of exchange, Miss Taggart. No amount of physical-or spiritual-currency, whose sole standard of value is the decree of Mr. Wesley Mouch, will buy these cigarettes.”
“I see.”
He reached into his pocket, took out the package and handed it to her. “I’ll give them to you, Miss Taggart,” he said, “because you’ve earned them many times over-and because you need them for the same purpose we do.”
“What purpose?”
“To remind us-in moments of discouragement, in the loneliness of exile-of our true homeland, which has always been yours, too, Miss Taggart.”
‘Thank you,” she said. She put the cigarettes in her pocket; he saw that her hand was trembling.
When they reached the fourth of the five mileposts, they had been silent for a long time, with no strength left for anything but the effort of moving their feet. Far ahead, they saw a dot of light, too low on the horizon and too harshly clear to be a star. They kept watching it, as they walked, and said nothing until they became certain that it was a powerful electric beacon blazing in the midst of the empty prairie.
“What is that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It looks like-”
“No,” she broke in hastily, “it couldn’t be. Not around here.”
She did not want to hear him name the hope which she had felt for many minutes past. She could not permit herself to think of it or to know that the thought was hope.
They found the telephone box at the fifth milepost. The beacon hung like a violent spot of cold fire, less than half a mile farther south.
The telephone was working. She heard the buzz of the wire, like the breath of a living creature, when she lifted the receiver. Then a drawling voice answered, “Jessup, at Bradshaw.” The voice sounded sleepy.
“This is Dagny Taggart, speaking from-”
“Dagny Taggart, of Taggart Transcontinental, speaking-”
“Oh . . . Oh yes . . . I see . . . Yes?”
“-speaking from your track phone Number 83. The Comet is stalled seven miles north of here. It’s been abandoned. The crew has deserted.”
There was a pause. “Well, what do you want me to do about it?”
She had to pause in turn, in order to believe it. “Are you the night dispatcher?”
“Then send another crew out to us at once.”
“A full passenger train crew?”
“Of course.”
There was a pause. “The rules don’t say anything about that.”
“Get me the chief dispatcher,” she said, choking.
“He’s away on his vacation.”
“Get the division superintendent.”
“He’s gone down to Laurel for a couple of days.”
“Get me somebody who’s in charge.”
“I’m in charge.”
“Listen,” she said slowly, fighting for patience, “do you understand that there’s a train, a passenger limited, abandoned in the middle of the prairie?”
“Yeah, but how am I to know what I’m supposed to do about it?
The rules don’t provide for it. Now if you had an accident, we’d send out the wrecker, but if there was no accident . . . you don’t need the wrecker, do you?”
“No. We don’t need the wrecker. We need men. Do you understand? Living men to run an engine.”
“The rules don’t say anything about a train without men. Or about men without a train. There’s no rule for calling out a full crew in the middle of the night and sending them to hunt for a train somewhere.
I’ve never heard of it before,”
“You’re hearing it now. Don’t you know what you have to do?”
“Who am I to know?”
“Do you know that your job is to keep trains moving?”
“My job is to obey the rules. If I send out a crew when I’m not supposed to, God only knows what’s going to happen! What with the Unification Board and all the regulations they’ve got nowadays, who am I to take it upon myself?”
“And what’s going to happen if you leave a train stalled on the line?”
“That’s not my fault. I had nothing to do with it. They can’t blame me. I couldn’t help it.”
“You’re to help it now.”
“Nobody told me to.”
“I’m telling you to!”
“How do I know whether you’re supposed to tell me or not? We’re not supposed to furnish any Taggart crews. You people were to run with your own crews. That’s what we were told.”
“But this is an emergency!”
“Nobody told me anything about an emergency.”
She had to take a few seconds to control herself. She saw Kellogg watching her with a bitter smile of amusement.
“Listen,” she said into the phone, “do you know that the Comet was due at Bradshaw over three hours ago?”
“Oh, sure. But nobody’s going to make any trouble about that. No train’s ever on schedule these days,”
“Then do you intend to leave us blocking your track forever?”
“We’ve got nothing due till Number 4, the northbound passenger out of Laurel, at eight thirty-seven A.M. You can wait till then. The day-trick dispatcher will be on then. You can speak to him,”
“You blasted idiot! This is the Comet!”
“What’s that to me? This isn’t Taggart Transcontinental. You people expect a lot for your money. You’ve been nothing but a headache to us7 with all the extra work at no extra pay for the little fellows.”
His voice was slipping into whining insolence. “You can’t talk to me that way. The time’s past when you could talk to people that way.”
She had never believed that there were men with whom a certain method, which she had never used, would work; such men were not hired by Taggart Transcontinental and she had never been forced to deal with them before.
“Do you know who I am?” she asked, in the cold, overbearing tone of a personal threat.
It worked. “I . . . I guess so,” he answered.
“Then let me tell you that if you don’t send a crew to me at once, you’ll be out of a job within one hour after I reach Bradshaw, which I’ll reach sooner or later. You’d better make it sooner.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
“Call out a full passenger train crew and give them orders to run us to Laurel, where we have our own men.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He added, “Will you tell headquarters that it was you who told me to do it?”
“I will.”
“And that it’s you who’re responsible for it?”
“I am.”
There was a pause, then he asked helplessly, “Now how am I going to call the men? Most of them haven’t got any phones.”
“Do you have a call boy?”
“Yes, but he won’t get here till morning.”
“Is there anybody in the yards right now?”
“There’s the wiper in the roundhouse.”
“Send him out to call the men.”
“Yes, ma’am. Hold the line.”
She leaned against the side of the phone box, to wait. Kellogg was smiling.
“And you propose to run a railroad-a transcontinental railroad-
with that?” he asked.
She shrugged.
She could not keep her eyes off the beacon. It seemed so close, so easily within her reach. She felt as if the unconfessed thought were struggling furiously against her, splattering bits of the struggle all over her mind: A man able to harness an untapped source of energy, a man working on a motor to make all other motors useless . . . she could be talking to him, to his kind of brain, in a few hours . . . in just a few hours. . . . What if there was no need to hurry to him? It was what she wanted to do. It was all she wanted. . . . Her work?
What was her work: to move on to the fullest, most exacting use of her mind-or to spend the rest of her life doing his thinking for a man unfit to be a night dispatcher? Why had she chosen to work?
Was it in order to remain where she had started-night operator of Rockdale Station-no, lower than that-she had been better than that dispatcher, even at Rockdale-was this to be the final sum: an end lower than her beginning? . . . There was no reason to hurry? She was the reason. . . . They needed the trains, but they did not need the motor? She needed the motor. . . . Her duty? To whom?
The dispatcher was gone for a long time; when he came back, his voice sounded sulky: “Well, the wiper says he can get the men all right, but it’s no use, because how am I going to send them out to you? We have no engine.”
“No engine?”
“No. The superintendent took one to run down to Laurel, and the other’s in the shops, been there for weeks, and the switch engine jumped a rail this morning, they’ll be working on her till tomorrow afternoon.”
“What about the wrecker’s engine that you were offering to send us?”
“Oh, she’s up north. They had a wreck there yesterday. She hasn’t come back yet.”
“Have you a Diesel car?”
“Never had any such thing. Not around here.”
“Have you a track motor car?”
“Yes. We have that.”
“Send them out on the track motor car.”
“Oh . . . Yes, ma’am.”
“Tell your men to stop here, at track phone Number 83, to pick up Mr. Kellogg and myself.” She was looking at the beacon, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Call the Taggart trainmaster at Laurel, report the Comet’s delay and explain to him what happened.” She put her hand into her pocket and suddenly clutched her fingers: she felt the package of cigarettes. “Say-” she asked, “what’s that beacon, about half a mile from here?”
“From where you are? Oh, that must be the emergency landing field of the Flagship Airlines.”
“I see . . . Well, that’s all. Get your men started at once. Tell them to pick up Mr. Kellogg by track phone Number 83.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
She hung up. Kellogg was grinning.
“An airfield, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes.” She stood looking at the beacon, her hand still clutching the cigarettes in her pocket.
“So they’re going to pick up Mr. Kellogg, are they?”
She whirled to him, realizing what decision her mind had been reaching without her conscious knowledge. “No,” she said, “no, I didn’t mean to abandon you here. It’s only that I, too, have a crucial purpose out West, where I ought to hurry, so I was thinking of trying to catch a plane, but I can’t do it and it’s not necessary.”
“Come on,” he said, starting in the direction of the airfield.
“But I-”
“If there’s anything you want to do more urgently than to nurse those morons-go right ahead.”
“More urgently than anything in the world,” she whispered.
“I’ll undertake to remain in charge for you and to deliver the Comet to your man at Laurel.”
“Thank you . . . But if you’re hoping . . . I’m not deserting, you know.”
“I know.”
“Then why are you so eager to help me?”
“I just want you to see what it’s like to do something you want, for once.”
“There’s not much chance that they’ll have a plane at that field.”
“There’s a good chance that they will.”
There were two planes on the edge of the airfield: one, the half charred remnant of a wreck, not worth salvaging for scrap-the other, a Dwight Sanders monoplane, brand-new, the kind of ship that men were pleading for, in vain, all over the country.
There was one sleepy attendant at the airfield, young, pudgy and, but for a faint smell of college about his vocabulary, a brain brother of the night dispatcher of Bradshaw. He knew nothing about the two planes: they had been there when he first took this job a year ago. He had never inquired about them and neither had anybody else. In whatever silent crumbling had gone on at the distant headquarters, in the slow dissolution of a great airline company, the Sanders monoplane had been forgotten-as assets of this nature were being forgotten everywhere . . . as the model of the motor had been forgotten on a junk pile and, left in plain sight, had conveyed nothing to the inheritors and the takers-over. . . .
There were no rules to tell the young attendant whether he was expected to keep the Sanders plane or not. The decision was made for him by the brusque, confident manner of the two strangers-by the credentials of Miss Dagny Taggart, Vice-President of a railroad-
by brief hints about a secret, emergency mission, which sounded like Washington to him-by the mention of an agreement with the airline’s top officials in New York, whose names he had never heard before-by a check for fifteen thousand dollars, written by Miss Taggart, as deposit against the return of the Sanders plane-and by another check, for two hundred bucks, for his own, personal courtesy.
He fueled the plane, he checked it as best he could, he found a map of the country’s airports-and she saw that a landing field on the outskirts of Afton, Utah, was marked as still in existence. She had been too tensely, swiftly active to feel anything, but at the last moment, when the attendant switched on the floodlights, when she was about to climb aboard, she paused to glance at the emptiness of the sky, then at Owen Kellogg. He stood, alone in the white glare, his feet planted firmly apart, on an island of cement in a ring of blinding lights, with nothing beyond the ring but an irredeemable night-and she wondered which one of them was taking the greater chance and facing the more desolate emptiness, “In case anything happens to me,” she said, “will you tell Eddie Willers in my office to give Jeff Alien a job, as I promised?”
“I will. . . . Is this all you wish to be done . . . in case anything happens?”
She considered it and smiled sadly, in astonishment at the realization. “Yes, I guess that’s all . . . Except, tell Hank Rearden what happened and that I asked you to tell him.”
“I will.”
She lifted her head and said firmly, “I don’t expect it to happen, however. When you reach Laurel, call Winston, Colorado, and tell them that I will be there tomorrow by noon.”
“Yes, Miss Taggart.”
She wanted to extend her hand in parting, but it seemed inadequate, and then she remembered what he had said about times of loneliness. She took out the package and silently offered him one of his own cigarettes. His smile was a full statement of understanding, and the small flame of his match lighting their two cigarettes was their most enduring handshake.
Then she climbed aboard-and the next span of her consciousness was not separate moments and movements, but the sweep of a single motion and a single unit of time, a progression forming one entity, like the notes of a piece of music: from the touch of her hand on the starter-to the blast of the motor’s sound that broke off, like a mountain rockslide, all contact with the time behind her-to the circling fall of a blade that vanished in a fragile sparkle of whirling air that cut the space ahead-to the start for the runway-to the brief pause-then to the forward thrust-to the long, perilous run, the run not to be obstructed, the straight line ran that gathers power by spending it on a harder and harder and ever-accelerating effort, the straight line to a purpose-to the moment, unnoticed., when the earth drops off and the line, unbroken, goes on into space in the simple, natural act of rising.
She saw the telegraph wires of the trackside slipping past at the tip of her toes. The earth was falling downward, and she felt as if its weight were dropping off her ankles, as if the globe would go shrinking to the size of a ball, a convict’s ball she had dragged and lost.
Her body swayed, drunk with the shock of a discovery, and her craft rocked with her body, and it was the earth below that reeled with the rocking of her craft-the discovery that her life was now in her own hands, that there was no necessity to argue, to explain, to teach, to plead, to fight-nothing but to see and think and act. Then the earth steadied into a wide black sheet that grew wider and wider as she circled, rising. When she glanced down for the last time, the lights of the field were extinguished, there was only the single beacon left and it looked like the tip of Kellogg’s cigarette, glowing as a last salute in the darkness.
Then she was left with the lights on her instrument panel and the spread of stars beyond her film of glass. There was nothing to support her but the beat of the engine and the minds of the men who had made the plane. But what else supports one anywhere?-she thought.
The line of her course went northwest, to cut a diagonal across the state of Colorado. She knew she had chosen the most dangerous route, over too long a stretch of the worst mountain barrier-but it was the shortest line, and safety lay in altitude, and no mountains seemed dangerous compared to the dispatcher of Bradshaw.
The stars were like foam and the sky seemed full of flowing motion, the motion of bubbles settling and forming, the floating of circular waves without progression. A spark of light flared up on earth once in a while, and it seemed brighter than all the static blue above. But it hung alone, between the black of ashes and the blue of a crypt, it seemed to fight for its fragile foothold, it greeted her and went.
The pale streak of a river came rising slowly from the void, and for a long stretch of time it remained in sight, gliding imperceptibly to meet her. It looked like a phosphorescent vein showing through the skin of the earth, a delicate vein without blood.
When she saw the lights of a town, like a handful of gold coins flung upon the prairie, the brightly violent lights fed by an electric current, they seemed as distant as the stars and now as unattainable. The energy that had lighted them was gone, the power that created power stations in empty prairies had vanished, and she knew of no journey to recapture it. Yet these had been her stars-she thought, looking down-these had been her goal, her beacon, the aspiration drawing her upon her upward course. That which others claimed to feel at the sight of the stars-stars safely distant by millions of years and thus imposing no obligation to act, but serving as the tinsel of futility-she had felt at the sight of electric bulbs lighting the streets of a town. It was this earth below that had been the height she had wanted to reach, and she wondered how she had come to lose it, who had made of it a convict’s ball to drag through muck, who had turned its promise of greatness into a vision never to be reached. But the town was past, and she had to look ahead, to the mountains of Colorado rising in her way.
The small glass dial on her panel showed that she was now climbing.
The sound of the engine, beating through the metal shell around her, trembling in the wheel against her palms, like the pounding of a heart strained to a solemn effort, told her of the power carrying her above the peaks. The earth was now a crumpled sculpture that swayed from side to side, the shape of an explosion still shooting sudden spurts to reach the plane. She saw them as dented black cuts ripping through the milky spread of stars, straight in her path and tearing wider. Her mind one with her body and her body one with the plane, she fought the invisible suction drawing her downward, she fought the sudden gusts that tipped the earth as if she were about to roll off into the sky, with half of the mountains rolling after. It was like fighting a frozen ocean where the touch of a single spray would be fatal.
There were stretches of rest when the mountains shrank down, over valleys filled with fog. Then the fog rose higher to swallow the earth and she was left suspended in space, left motionless but for the sound of the engine.
But she did not need to see the earth. The instrument panel was now her power of sight’-it was the condensed sight of the best minds able to guide her on her way. Their condensed sight, she thought, offered to hers and requiring only that she be able to read it. How had they been paid for it, they, the sight-givers? From condensed milk to condensed music to the condensed sight of precision instruments-what wealth had they not given to the world and what had they received in return?
Where were they now? Where was Dwight Sanders? Where was the inventor of her motor?
The fog was lifting-and in a sudden clearing, she saw a drop of fire on a spread of rock. It was not an electric light, it was a lonely flame in the darkness of the earth. She knew where she was and she knew that flame: it was Wyatt’s Torch.
She was coming close to her goal. Somewhere behind her, in the northeast, stood the summits pierced by the Taggart Tunnel. The mountains were sliding in a long descent into the steadier soil of Utah. She let her plane slip closer to the earth.
The stars were vanishing, the sky was growing darker, but in the bank of clouds to the east thin cracks were beginning to appear-first as threads, then faint spots of reflection, then straight bands that were not yet pink, but no longer blue, the color of a future light, the first hints of the coming sunrise. They kept appearing and vanishing, slowly growing clearer, leaving the sky darker, then breaking it wider apart, like a promise struggling to be fulfilled. She heard a piece of music beating in her mind, one she seldom liked to recall: not Halley’s Fifth Concerto, but his Fourth, the cry of a tortured struggle, with the chords of its theme breaking through, like a distant vision to be reached.
She saw the Afton airport from across a span of miles, first as a square of sparks, then as a sunburst of white rays. It was lighted for a plane about to take off, and she had to wait for her landing. Circling in the outer darkness above the field, she saw the silver body of a plane rising like a phoenix out of the white fire and-in a straight line, almost leaving an instant’s trail of light to hang in space behind it-going off toward the east.
Then she swept down in its stead, to dive into the luminous funnel of beams-she saw a strip of cement flying at her face, she felt the jolt of the wheels stopping it in time, then the streak of her motion ebbing out and the plane being tamed to the safety of a car, as it taxied smoothly off the runway.
It was a small private airfield, serving the meager traffic of a few industrial concerns still remaining in Afton, She saw a lone attendant hurrying to meet her. She leaped down to the ground the moment the plane stood still, the hours of the flight swept from her mind by the impatience over the stretch of a few more minutes.
“Can I get a car somewhere to drive me to the Institute of Technology at once?” she asked.
The attendant looked at her, puzzled. “Why, yes, I guess so, ma’am.
But . . . but what for? There’s nobody there.”
“Mr. Quentin Daniels is there.”
The attendant shook his head slowly-then jerked his thumb, pointing east to the shrinking taillights of the plane. “There’s Mr. Daniels going now.”
“He just left.”
“Left? Why?”
“He went with the man who flew in for him two-three hours ago.”
“What man?”
“Don’t know, never saw him before, but, boy!-he’s got a beauty of a ship!”
She was back at the wheel, she was speeding down the runway, she was rising into the air, her plane like a bullet aimed at two sparks of red and green light that were twinkling away into the eastern sky-while she was still repeating, “Oh no, they don’t! They don’t! They don’t!
They don’t!”
Once and for all-she thought, clutching the wheel as if it were the enemy not to be relinquished, her words like separate explosions with a trail of fire in her mind to link them-once and for all . . . to meet the destroyer face to face . . . to learn who he is and where he goes to vanish . . . not the motor . . . he is not to carry the motor away into the darkness of his monstrously closed unknown . . . he is not to escape, this time. . . .
A band of light was rising in the east and it seemed to come from the earth, as a breath long-held and released. In the deep blue above it, the stranger’s plane was a single spark changing color and flashing from side to side, like the tip of a pendulum swinging in the darkness, beating time.
The curve of distance made the spark drop closer to the earth, and she pushed her throttle wide open, not to let the spark out of her sight, not to let it touch the horizon and vanish. The light was flowing into the sky, as if drawn from the earth by the stranger’s plane. The plane was headed southeast, and she was following it into the coming sunrise.
From the transparent green of ice, the sky melted into pale gold, and the gold spread into a lake under a fragile film of pink glass, the color of that forgotten morning which was the first she had seen on earth. The clouds were dropping away in long shreds of smoky blue. She kept her eyes on the stranger’s plane, as if her glance were a towline pulling her ship. The stranger’s plane was now a small black cross, like a shrinking check mark on the glowing sky.
Then she noticed that the clouds were not dropping, that they stood congealed on the edge of the earth-and she realized that the plane was headed toward the mountains of Colorado, that the struggle against the invisible storm lay ahead for her once more. She noted it without emotion; she did not wonder whether her ship or her body had the power to attempt it again. So long as she was able to move, she would move to follow the speck that was fleeing away with the last of her world. She felt nothing but the emptiness left by a fire that had been hatred and anger and the desperate impulse of a fight to the kill; these had fused into a single icy streak, the single resolve to follow the stranger, whoever he was, wherever he took her, to follow and . . . she added nothing in her mind, but, unstated, what lay at the bottom of the emptiness was: and give her life, if she could take his first.
Like an instrument set to automatic control, her body was performing the motions of driving the plane-with the mountains reeling in a bluish fog below and the dented peaks rising in her path as smoky formations of a deadlier blue. She noticed that the distance to the stranger’s plane had shrunk: he had checked his speed for the dangerous crossing, while she had gone on, unconscious of the danger, with only the muscles of her arms and legs fighting to keep her plane aloft. A brief, tight movement of her lips was as close as she could come to a smile: it was he who was flying her plane for her, she thought; he had given her the power to follow him with a somnambulist’s unerring skill.
As if responding of itself to his control, the needle of her altimeter was slowly moving upward. She was rising and she went on rising and she wondered when her breath and her propeller would fail.
He was going southeast, toward the highest mountains that obstructed the path of the sun.
It was his plane that was struck by the first sunray. It flashed for an instant, like a burst of white fire, sending rays to shoot from its wings.
The peaks of the mountains came next: she saw the sunlight reaching the snow in the crevices, then trickling down the granite sides; it cut violent shadows on the ledges and brought the mountains into the Jiving finality of a form.
They were flying over the wildest stretch of Colorado, uninhabited, uninhabitable, inaccessible to men on foot or plane. No landing was possible within a radius of a hundred miles; she glanced at her fuel gauge: she had one half-hour left. The stranger was heading straight toward another, higher range. She wondered why he chose a course no air route did or ever would travel. She wished this range were behind her; it was the last effort she could hope to make.
The stranger’s plane was suddenly slacking its speed. He was losing altitude just when she had expected him to climb. The granite barrier was rising In his path, moving to meet him, reaching for his wings-but the long, smooth line of his motion was sliding down. She could detect no break, no jolt, no sign of mechanical failure; it looked like the even movement of a controlled intention. With a sudden flash of sunlight on its wings, the plane banked into a long curve, rays dripping like water from its body-then went into the broad, smooth circles of a spiral, as if circling for a landing where no landing was conceivable.
She watched, not trying to explain it, not believing what she saw, waiting for the upward thrust that would throw him back on his course. But the easy, gliding circles went on dropping, toward a ground she could not see and dared not think of. . . Like remnants of broken jaws, strings of granite dentures stood between her ship and his; she could not tell what lay at the bottom of his spiral motion.
She knew only that it did not look like, but was certain to be, the motion of a suicide.
She saw the sunlight glitter on his wings for an instant. Then, like the body of a man diving chest-first and arms outstretched, serenely abandoned to the sweep of the fall, the plane went down and vanished behind the ridges of rock.
She flew on, almost waiting for it to reappear, unable to believe that she had witnessed a horrible catastrophe taking place so simply and quietly. She flew on to where the plane had dropped. It seemed to be a valley in a ring of granite walls.
She reached the valley and looked down. There was no possible place for a landing. There was no sign of a plane.
The bottom of the valley looked like a stretch of the earth’s crust mangled in the days when the earth was cooling, left irretrievable ever since. It was a stretch of rocks ground against one another, with boulders hanging in precarious formations, with long, dark crevices and a few contorted pine trees growing half-horizontally into the air.
There was no level piece of soil the size of a handkerchief. There was no place for a plane to hide. There was no remnant of a plane’s wreck.
She banked sharply, circling above the valley, dropping down a little. By some trick of light, which she could not explain, the floor of the valley seemed more clearly visible than the rest of the earth.
She could distinguish it well enough to, know that the plane was not there; yet this was not possible.
She circled, dropping down farther. She glanced around her-and for one frightening moment, she thought that it was a quiet summer morning, that she was alone, lost in a region of the Rocky Mountains which no plane should ever venture to approach, and, with the last of her fuel burning away, she was looking for a plane that had never existed, in quest of a destroyer who had vanished as he always vanished; perhaps it was only his vision that had led her here to be destroyed. In the next moment, she shook her head, pressed her mouth tighter and dropped farther.
She thought that she could not abandon an incalculable wealth such as the brain of Quentin Daniels on one of those rocks below, if he was still alive and within her reach to help. She had dropped inside the circle of the valley’s walls. It was a dangerous job of flying, the space was much too tight, but she went on circling and dropping lower, her life hanging on her eyesight, and her eyesight flashing between two tasks: searching the floor of the valley and watching the granite walls that seemed about to rip her wings.
She knew the danger only as part of the job. It had no personal meaning any longer. The savage thing she felt was almost enjoyment. It was the last rage of a lost battle. No!-she was crying in her mind, crying it to the destroyer, to the world she had left, to the years behind her, to the long progression of defeat-No! . . .No!
. . . No! . . .
Her eyes swept past the instrument panel-and then she sat still but for the sound of a gasp. Her altimeter had stood at 11,000 feet the last time she remembered seeing it. Now it stood at 10,000. But the floor of the valley had not changed. It had come no closer. It remained as distant as at her first glance down.
She knew that the figure 8,000 meant the level of the ground in this part of Colorado. She had not noticed the length of her descent.
She had not noticed that the ground, which had seemed too clear and too close from the height, was now too dim and too far. She was looking at the same rocks from the same perspective, they had grown no larger, their shadows had not moved, and the oddly unnatural light still hung over the bottom of the valley.
She thought that her altimeter was off, and she went on circling downward. She saw the needle of her dial moving down;, she saw the walls of granite moving up, she saw the ring of mountains growing higher, its peaks coming closer together in the sky-but the floor of the valley remained unchanged, as if she were dropping down a well with a bottom never to be reached. The needle moved to 9,500-
to 9,300-to 9,000-to 8,700.
The flash of light that hit her had no source. It was as if the air within and beyond the plane became an explosion of blinding cold fire, sudden and soundless. The shock threw her back, her hands off the wheel and over her eyes. In the break of an instant, when she seized the wheel again, the light was gone, but her ship was spinning.
her ears were bursting with silence and her propeller stood stiffly straight before her: her motor was dead.
She tried to pull for a rise, but the ship was going down-and what she saw flying at her face was not the spread of mangled boulders, but the green grass of a field where no field had been before.
There was no time to see the rest. There was no time to think of explanations. There was no time to come out of the spin. The earth was a green ceiling coming down upon her, a few hundred swiftly shrinking feet away.
Flung from side to side, like a battered pendulum, clinging to the wheel, half in her seat, half on her knees, she fought to pull the ship into a glide, for an attempt to make a belly-landing, while the green ground was whirling about her, sweeping above her, then below, its spiral coils coming closer. Her arms pulling at the wheel, with no chance to know whether she could succeed, with her space and time running out-she felt, in a flash of its full, violent purity, that special sense of existence which had always been hers. In a moment’s consecration to her love-to her rebellious denial of disaster, to her love of life and of the matchless value that was herself-she felt the fiercely proud certainty that she would survive.
And in answer to the earth that flew to meet her, she heard in her mind, as her mockery at fate, as her cry of defiance, the words of the sentence she hated-the words of defeat, of despair and of a plea for help: “Oh hell! Who is John Galt?”


A is A


When she opened her eyes, she saw sunlight, green leaves and a man’s face. She thought: I know what this is. This was the world as she had expected to see it at sixteen-and now she had reached it-and it seemed so simple, so unastonishing, that the thing she felt was like a blessing pronounced upon the universe by means of three words: But of course.
She was looking up at the face of a man who knelt by her side, and she knew that in all the years behind her, this was what she would have given her life to see: a face that bore no mark of pain or fear or guilt. The shape of his mouth was pride, and more: it was as if he took pride in being proud. The angular planes of his cheeks made her think of arrogance, of tension, of scorn-yet the face had none of these qualities, it had their final sum: a look of serene determination and of certainty, and the look of a ruthless innocence which would not seek forgiveness or grant it. It was a face that had nothing to hide or to escape, a face with no fear of being seen, or of seeing, so that the first thing she grasped about him was the intense perceptiveness of his eyes-he looked as if his faculty of sight were his best-loved tool and its exercise were a limitless, joyous adventure, as if his eyes imparted a superlative value to himself and to the world-to himself for his ability to see, to the world for being a place so eagerly worth seeing. It seemed to her for a moment that she was in the presence of a being who was pure consciousness-yet she had never been so aware of a man’s body. The light cloth of his shirt seemed to stress, rather than hide, the structure of his figure, his skin was suntanned, his body had the hardness, the gaunt, tensile strength, the clean precision of a foundry casting, he looked as if he were poured out of metal, but some dimmed, soft-lustered metal, like an aluminum-copper alloy, the color of his skin blending with the chestnut-brown of his hair, the loose strands of the hair shading from brown to gold in the sun, and his eyes completing the colors, as the one part of the casting left undimmed and harshly lustrous: his eyes were the deep, dark green of light glinting on metal.
He was looking down at her with the faint trace of a smile, it was not a look of discovery, but of familiar contemplation-as if he, too, were seeing the long-expected and the never-doubted.
This was her world, she thought, this was the way men were meant to be and to face their existence-and all the rest of it, all the years of ugliness and struggle were only someone’s senseless joke. She smiled at him, as at a fellow conspirator, in relief, in deliverance, in radiant mockery of all the things she would never have to consider important again. He smiled in answer, it was the same smile as her own, as if he felt what she felt and knew what she meant.
“We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?” she whispered.
“No, we never had to.”
And then, her consciousness returning fully, she realized that this man was a total stranger.
She tried to draw away from him, but it was only a faint movement of her head on the grass she felt under her hair. She tried to rise.
A shot of pain across her back threw her down again.
“Don’t move, Miss Taggart. You’re hurt.”
“You know me?” Her voice was impersonal and hard.
“I’ve known you for many years.”
“Have I known you?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“What is your name?”
“John Galt.”
She looked at him, not moving.
“Why are you frightened?” he asked.
“Because I believe it.”
He smiled, as if grasping a full confession of the meaning she attached to his name; the smile held an adversary’s acceptance of a challenge-and an adult’s amusement at the self-deception of a child.
She felt as if she were returning to consciousness after a crash that had shattered more than an airplane. She could not reassemble the pieces now, she could not recall the things she had known about his name, she knew only that it stood for a dark vacuum which she would slowly have to fill. She could not do it now, this man was too blinding a presence, like a spotlight that would not let her see the shapes strewn hi the outer darkness.
“Was it you that I was following?” she asked.
She glanced slowly around her. She was lying in the grass of a field at the foot of a granite drop that came down from thousands of feet away in the blue sky. On the other edge of the field, some crags and pines and the glittering leaves of birch trees hid the space that stretched to a distant wall of encircling mountains. Her plane was not shattered-
it was there, a few feet away, flat on its belly in the grass. There was no other plane in sight, no structures, no sign of human habitation.
“What is this valley?” she asked.
He smiled, “The Taggart Terminal.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll find out.”
A dim impulse, like the recoil of an antagonist, made her want to check on what strength was left to her. She could move her arms and legs; she could lift her head; she felt a stabbing pain when she breathed deeply; she saw a thin thread of blood running down her stocking.
“Can one get out of this place?” she asked.
His voice seemed earnest, but the glint of the metal-green eyes was a smile: “Actually-no. Temporarily-yes.”
She made a movement to rise. He bent to lift her, but she gathered her strength in a swift, sudden jolt and slipped out of his grasp, struggling to stand up. “I think I can-” she started saying, and collapsed against him the instant her feet rested on the ground, a stab of pain shooting up from an ankle that would not hold her.
He lifted her in his arms and smiled. “No, you can’t, Miss Taggart,”
he said, and started off across the field.
She lay still, her arms about him, her head on his shoulder, and she thought: For just a few moments-while this lasts-it is all right to surrender completely-to forget everything and just permit yourself to feel. . . . When had she experienced it before?-she wondered; there had been a moment when these had been the words in her mind, but she could not remember it now. She had known it, once-this feeling of certainty, of the final, the reached, the not-to-be-questioned. But it was new to feel protected, and to feel that it was right to accept the protection, to surrender-right, because this peculiar sense of safety was not protection against the future, but against the past, not the protection of being spared from battle, but of having won it, not a protection granted to her weakness, but to her strength. . . . Aware with abnormal intensity of the pressure of his hands against her body, of the gold and copper threads of his hair, the shadows of his lashes on the skin of his face a few inches away from hers, she wondered dimly: Protected, from what? . . . it’s he who was the enemy . . . was he?
. . . why? . . . She did not know, she could not think of it now. It took an effort to remember that she had had a goal and a motive a few hours ago. She forced herself to recapture it.
“Did you know that I was following you?” she asked.
“Where is your plane?”
“At the landing field.”
“Where is the landing field?”
“On the other side of the valley.”
“There was no landing field in this valley, when I looked down, There was no meadow, either. How did it get here?”
He glanced at the sky. “Look carefully. Do you see anything up there?”
She dropped her head back, looking straight into the sky, seeing nothing but the peaceful blue of morning. After a while she distinguished a few faint strips of shimmering air.
“Heat waves,” she said.
“Refractor rays,” he answered. “The valley bottom that you saw is a mountain top eight thousand feet high, five miles away from here.”
“A . . . what?”
“A mountain top that no flyer would ever choose for a landing.
What you saw was its reflection projected over this valley.”
“By the same method as a mirage on a desert: an image refracted from a layer of heated air.”
“By a screen of rays calculated against everything-except a courage such as yours.”
“What do you mean?”
“I never thought that any plane would attempt to drop within seven hundred feet of the ground. You hit the ray screen. Some of the rays are the kind that kill magnetic motors. Well, that’s the second time you beat me: I’ve never been followed, either,”
“Why do you keep that screen?”
“Because this place is private property intended to remain as such.”
“What is this place?”
“I’ll show it to you, now that you’re here, Miss Taggart. I’ll answer questions after you’ve seen it.”
She remained silent. She noticed that she had asked questions about every subject, but not about him. It was as if he were a single whole, grasped by her first glance at him, like some irreducible absolute, like an axiom not to be explained any further, as if she knew everything about him by direct perception, and what awaited her now was only the process of identifying her knowledge.
He was carrying her down a narrow trail that went winding to the bottom of the valley. On the slopes around them, the tall, dark pyramids of firs stood immovably straight, in masculine simplicity, like sculpture reduced to an essential form, and they clashed with the complex, feminine, over detailed lace-work of the birch leaves trembling in the sun.
The leaves let the sunrays fall through to sweep across his hair, across both their faces. She could not see what lay below, beyond the turns of the trail.
Her eyes kept coming back to his face. He glanced down at her once in a while. At first, she looked away, as if she had been caught.
Then, as if learning it from him, she held his glance whenever he chose to look down-knowing that he knew what she felt and that he did not hide from her the meaning of his glance.
She knew that his silence was the same confession as her own. He did not hold her in the impersonal manner of a man carrying a wounded woman. It was an embrace, even though she felt no suggestion of it in his bearing; she felt it only by means of her certainty that his whole body was aware of holding hers.
She heard the sound of the waterfall before she saw the fragile thread that fell in broken strips of glitter down the ledges. The sound came through some dim beat in her mind, some faint rhythm that seemed no louder than a struggling memory-but they went past and the beat remained; she listened to the sound of the water, but another sound seemed to grow clearer, rising, not in her mind, but from somewhere among the leaves. The trail turned, and in a sudden clearing she saw a small house on a ledge below, with a flash of sun on the pane of an open window. In the moment when she knew what experience had once made her want to surrender to the immediate present-it had been the night in a dusty coach of the Comet, when she had heard the. theme of Halley’s Fifth Concerto for the first time-she knew that she was hearing it now, hearing it rise from the keyboard of a piano, in the clear, sharp chords of someone’s powerful, confident touch.
She snapped the question at his face, as if hoping to catch him unprepared: “That’s the Fifth Concerto by Richard Halley, isn’t it?”
“When did he write it?”
“Why don’t you ask him that in person?”
“Is he here?”
“It’s he who’s playing it. That’s his house.”
“Oh . . . !”
“You’ll meet him, later. He’ll be glad to speak to you. He knows that his works are the only records you like to play, in the evening, when you are alone.”
“How does he know that?”
“I told him.”
The look on her face was like a question that would have begun with “How in hell . . . ?”-but she saw the look of his eyes, and she laughed, her laughter giving sound to the meaning of his glance.
She could not question anything, she thought, she could not doubt, not now-not with the sound of that music rising triumphantly through the sun-drenched leaves, the music of release, of deliverance, played as it was intended to be played, as her mind had struggled to hear it in a rocking coach through the beat of wounded wheels-it was this that her mind had seen in the sounds, that night-this valley and the morning sun and-
And then she gasped, because the trail had turned and from the height of an open ledge she saw the town on the floor of the valley.
It was not a town, only a cluster of houses scattered at random from the bottom to the rising steps of the mountains that went on rising above their roofs, enclosing them within an abrupt, impassable circle.
They were homes, small and new, with naked, angular shapes and the glitter of broad windows. Far in the distance, some structures seemed taller, and the faint coils of smoke above them suggested an industrial district. But close before her, rising on a slender granite column from a ledge below to the level of her eyes, blinding her by its glare, dimming the rest, stood a dollar sign three feet tall, made of solid gold. It hung in space above the town, as its coat-of-arms, its trademark, its beacon-
and it caught the sunrays, like some transmitter of energy that sent them in shining blessing to stretch horizontally through the air above the roofs, “What’s that?” she gasped, pointing at the sign.
“Oh, that’s Francisco’s private joke.”
“Francisco-who?” she whispered, knowing the answer.
“Francisco d’Anconia.”
“Is he here, too?”
“He will be, any day now.”
“What do you mean, his joke?”
“He gave that sign as an anniversary present to the owner of this place. And then we all adopted it as our particular emblem. We liked the idea.”
“Aren’t you the owner of this place?”
“I? No.” He glanced down at the foot of the ledge and added, pointing, “There’s the owner of this place, coming now.”
A car had stopped at the end of a dirt road below, and two men were hurrying up the trail. She could not distinguish their faces; one of them was slender and tall, the other shorter, more muscular. She lost sight of them behind the twists of the trail, as he went on carrying her down to meet them.
She met them when they emerged suddenly from behind a rocky corner a few feet away. The sight of their faces hit her with the abruptness of a collision.
“Well, I’ll be goddamned!” said the muscular man, whom she did not know, staring at her.
She was staring at the tall, distinguished figure of his companion: it was Hugh Akston.
It was Hugh Akston who spoke first, bowing to her with a courteous smile of welcome. “Miss Taggart, this is the first time anyone has ever proved me wrong, I didn’t know-when I told you you’d never find him -that the next time I saw you, you would be in his arms.”
“In whose arms?”
“Why, the inventor of the motor.”
She gasped, closing her eyes; this was one connection she knew she should have made. When she opened her eyes, she was looking at Galt, He was smiling, family, derisively, as if he knew fully what this meant to her.
“It would have served you right if you’d broken your neck!” the muscular man snapped at her, with the anger of concern, almost of affection. “What a stunt to pull-for a person who’d have been admitted here so eagerly, if she’d chosen to come through the front door!”
“Miss Taggart, may I present Midas Mulligan?” said Galt.
“Oh,” she said weakly, and laughed; she had no capacity for astonishment any longer. “Do you suppose I was killed in that crash-and this is some other kind of existence?”
“It is another kind of existence,” said Galt. “But as for being killed, doesn’t it seem more like the other way around?”
“Oh yes,” she whispered, “yes . . .” She smiled at Mulligan. “Where is the front door?”
“Here,” he said, pointing to his forehead.
“I’ve lost the key,” she said simply, without resentment. “I’ve lost all keys, right now.”
“You’ll find them. But what in blazes were you doing in that plane?”
“Him?” He pointed at Galt.
“You’re lucky to be alive! Are you badly hurt?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You’ll have a few questions to answer, after they patch you up.” He turned brusquely, leading the way down to the car, then glanced at Galt. “Well, what do we do now? There’s something we hadn’t provided for: the first scab.”
“The first . . . what?” she asked.
“Skip it,” said Mulligan, and looked at Galt. “What do we do?”
“It will be my charge,” said Galt. “I will be responsible. You take Quentin Daniels.”
“Oh, he’s no problem at all. He needs nothing but to get acquainted with the place. He seems to know all the rest,”
“Yes. He had practically gone the whole way by himself.” He saw her watching him in bewilderment, and said, “There’s one thing I must thank you for, Miss Taggart: you did pay me a compliment when you chose Quentin Daniels as my understudy. He was a plausible one.”
“Where is he?” she asked. “Will you tell me what happened?”
“Why, Midas met us at the landing field, drove me to my house and took Daniels with him. I was going to join them for breakfast, but I saw your plane spinning and plunging for that pasture. I was the closest one to the scene.”
“We got here as fast as we could,” said Mulligan. “I thought he deserved to get himself killed-whoever was in that plane. I never dreamed that it was one of the only two persons in the whole world whom I’d exempt.”
“Who is the other one?” she asked.
“Hank Rearden.”
She winced; it was like a sudden blow from another great distance.
She wondered why it seemed to her that Galt was watching her face intently and that she saw an instant’s change in his, too brief to define.
They had come to the car. It was a Hammond convertible, its top down, one of the costliest models, some years old, but kept in the shining trim of efficient handling. Galt placed her cautiously in the back seat and held her in the circle of his arm. She felt a stabbing pain once in a while, but she had no attention to spare for it. She watched the distant houses of the town, as Mulligan pressed the starter and the car moved forward, as they went past the sign of the dollar and a golden ray hit her eyes, sweeping over her forehead.
“Who is the owner of this place?” she asked.
“I am,” said Mulligan.
“What is he?” She pointed to Galt.
Mulligan chuckled. “He just works here.”
“And you, Dr. Akston?” she asked.
He glanced at Galt, “I’m one of his two fathers, Miss Taggart. The one who didn’t betray him.”
“Oh!” she said, as another connection fell into place. “Your third pupil?”
“That’s right.”
“The second assistant bookkeeper!” she moaned suddenly, at one more memory.
“What’s that?”
“That’s what Dr. Stadler called him. That’s what Dr. Stadler told me he thought his third pupil had become.”
“He overestimated,” said Galt. “I’m much lower than that by the scale of his standards and of his world.”
The car had swerved into a lane rising toward a lonely house that stood on a ridge above the valley. She saw a man walking down a path, ahead of them, hastening in the direction of the town. He wore blue denim overalls and carried a lunchbox. There was something faintly familiar in the swift abruptness of his Galt. As the car went past him, she caught a glimpse of his face-and she jerked backward, her voice rising to a scream from the pain of the movement and from the shock of the sight: “Oh, stop! Stop! Don’t let him go!” It was Ellis Wyatt.
The three men laughed, but Mulligan stopped the car. “Oh . . . ”
she said weakly, in apology, realizing she had forgotten that this was the place from which Wyatt would not vanish.
Wyatt was running toward them: he had recognized her, too. When he seized the edge of the car, to brake his speed, she saw the face and the young, triumphant smile that she had seen but once before: on the platform of Wyatt Junction.
“Dagny! You, too, at last? One of us?”
“No,” said Galt. “Miss Taggart is a castaway.”
“Miss Taggart’s plane crashed. Didn’t you see it?”
“I heard a plane, but I . . .” His look of bewilderment changed to a smile, regretful, amused and friendly. “I see. Oh, hell, Dagny, it’s preposterous!”
She was staring at him helplessly, unable to reconnect the past to the present. And helplessly-as one would say to a dead friend, in a dream, the words one regrets having missed the chance to say in life-
she said, with the memory of a telephone ringing, unanswered, almost two years ago, the words she had hoped to say if she ever caught sight of him again, “I . . . I tried to reach you.”
He smiled gently. “We’ve been trying to reach you ever since, Dagny.
. . . I’ll see you tonight. Don’t worry, I won’t vanish-and I don’t think you will, either.”
He waved to the others and went off, swinging his lunchbox. She glanced up, as Mulligan started the car, and saw Galt’s eyes watching her attentively. Her face hardened, as if in open admission of pain and in defiance of the satisfaction it might give him. “All right,” she said. “I see what sort of show you want to put me through the shock of witnessing.”
But there was neither cruelty nor pity in his face, only the level look of justice. “Our first rule here, Miss Taggart,” he answered, “is that one must always see for oneself.”
The car stopped in front of the lonely house. It was built of rough granite blocks, with a sheet of glass for most of its front wall. “I’ll send the doctor over,” said Mulligan, driving off, while Galt carried her up the path.
“Your house?” she asked.
“Mine,” he answered, kicking the door open.
He carried her across the threshold into the glistening space of his living room, where shafts of sunlight hit walls of polished pine. She saw a few pieces of furniture made by hand, a ceiling of bare rafters, an archway open upon a small kitchen with rough shelves, a bare wooden table and the astonishing sight of chromium glittering on an electric stove; the place had the primitive simplicity of a frontiersman’s cabin, reduced to essential necessities, but reduced with a super-modern skill.
He carried her across the sunrays into a small guest room and placed her down on a bed. She noticed a window open upon a long slant of rocky steps and pines going off into the sky. She noticed small streaks that looked like inscriptions cut into the wood of the walls, a few scattered lines that seemed made by different handwritings; she could not distinguish the words. She noticed another door, left half-open; it led to his bedroom.
“Am I a guest here or a prisoner?” she asked.
“The choice will be yours, Miss Taggart.”
“I can make no choice when I’m dealing with a stranger.”
“But you’re not Didn’t you name a railroad line after me?”
“Oh! . . . Yes . . .” It was the small jolt of another connection falling into place. “Yes, I-” She was looking at the tall figure with the sun-streaked hair, with the suppressed smile in the mercilessly perceptive eyes-she was seeing the struggle to build her Line and the summer day of the first train’s run-she was thinking that if a human figure could be fashioned as an emblem of that Line, this was the figure.
“Yes . . . I did . . . ” Then, remembering the rest, she added, “But I named it after an enemy.”
He smiled. “That’s the contradiction you had to resolve sooner or later, Miss Taggart.”
“It was you . . . wasn’t it? . . . who destroyed my Line. . . .”
“Why, no. It was the contradiction.”
She closed her eyes; in a moment, she asked, “All those stories I heard about you-which of them were true?”
“All of them.”
“Was it you who spread them?”
“No. What for? I never had any wish to be talked about.”
“But you do know that you’ve become a legend?”
“The young inventor of the Twentieth Century Motor Company is the one real version of the legend, isn’t it?”
“The one that’s concretely real-yes.”
She could not say it indifferently; there was still a breathless tone and the drop of her voice toward a whisper, when she asked, “The motor . . . the motor I found . . . it was you who made it?”
She could not prevent the jolt of eagerness that threw her head up.
“The secret of transforming energy-” she began, and stopped, “I could tell it to you in fifteen minutes,” he said, in answer to the desperate plea she had not uttered, “but there’s no power on earth that can force me to tell it. If you understand this, you’ll understand everything that’s baffling you.”
“That night . . . twelve years ago . . . a spring night when you walked out of a meeting of six thousand murderers-that story is true, isn’t it?”
“You told them that you would stop the motor of the world.”
“I have.”
“What have you done?”
“I’ve done nothing, Miss Taggart. And that’s the whole of my secret.”
She looked at him silently for a long moment. He stood waiting, as if he could read her thoughts. “The destroyer-” she said in a tone of wonder and helplessness.
“-the most evil creature that’s ever existed,” he said in the tone of a quotation, and she recognized her own words, “the man who’s draining the brains of the world.”
“How thoroughly have you been watching me,” she asked, “and for how long?”
It was only an instant’s pause, his eyes did not move, but it seemed to her that his glance was stressed, as if in special awareness of seeing her, and she caught the sound of some particular intensity in his voice as he answered quietly, “For years.”
She closed her eyes, relaxing and giving up. She felt an odd, lighthearted indifference, as if she suddenly wanted nothing but the comfort of surrendering to helplessness.
The doctor who arrived was a gray-haired man with a mild, thoughtful face and a firmly, unobtrusively confident manner.
“Miss Taggart, may I present Dr. Hendricks?” said Galt.
“Not Dr, Thomas Hendricks?” she gasped, with the involuntary rudeness of a child; the name belonged to a great surgeon, who had retired and vanished six years ago.
“Yes, of course,” said Galt.
Dr. Hendricks smiled at her, in answer. “Midas told me that Miss Taggart has to be treated for shock,” he said, “not for the one sustained, but for the ones to come.”
“I’ll leave you to do it,” said Galt, “while I go to the market to get supplies for breakfast.”
She watched the rapid efficiency of Dr. Hendricks’ work, as he examined her injuries. He had brought an object she had never seen before: a portable X-ray machine. She learned that she had torn the cartilage of two ribs, that she had sprained an ankle, ripped patches of skin off one knee and one elbow, and acquired a few bruises spread in purple blotches over her body. By the time Dr. Hendricks’ swift, competent hands had wound the bandages and the tight lacings of tape, she felt as if her body were an engine checked by an expert mechanic, and no further care was necessary, “I would advise you to remain in bed, Miss Taggart.”
“Oh no! If I’m careful and move slowly, I’ll be all right.”
“You ought to rest.”
“Do you think I can?”
He smiled. “I guess not.”
She was dressed by the time Galt came back. Dr. Hendricks gave him an account of her condition, adding, “I’ll be back to check up, tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” said Galt. “Send the bill to me.”
“Certainly not!” she said indignantly. “I will pay it myself.”
The two men glanced at each other, in amusement, as at the boast of a beggar.
“We’ll discuss that later,” said Galt.
Dr. Hendricks left, and she tried to stand up, limping, catching at the furniture for support. Galt lifted her in his arms, carried her to the kitchen alcove and placed her on a chair by the table set for two.
She noticed that she was hungry, at the sight of the coffee pot boiling on the stove, the two glasses of orange juice, the heavy white pottery dishes sparkling in the sun on the polished table top.
“When did you sleep or eat last?” he asked.
“I don’t know . . . I had dinner on the train, with-” She shook her head in helplessly bitter amusement: with the tramp, she thought, with a desperate voice pleading for escape from an avenger who would not pursue or be found-the avenger who sat facing her across the table, drinking a glass of orange juice. “I don’t know . . . it seems centuries and continents away.”
“How did you happen to be following me?”
“I landed at the Alton airport just as you were taking off. The man there told me that Quentin Daniels had gone with you.”
“I remember your plane circling to land. But that was the one and only time when I didn’t think of you. I thought you were coming by train.”
She asked, looking straight at him, “How do you want me to understand that?”
“The one and only time when you didn’t think of me.”
He held her glance; she saw the faint movement she had noted as typical of him: the movement of his proudly intractable mouth curving into the hint of a smile. “In any way you wish,” he answered.
She let a moment pass to underscore her choice by the severity of her face, then asked coldly, in the tone of an enemy’s accusation, “You knew that I was coming for Quentin Daniels?”
“You got him first and fast, in order not to let me reach him? In order to beat me-knowing fully what sort of beating that would mean for me?”
It was she who looked away and remained silent. He rose to cook the rest of their breakfast. She watched him as he stood at the stove, toasting bread, frying eggs and bacon. There was an easy, relaxed skill about the way he worked, but it was a skill that belonged to another profession; his hands moved with the rapid precision of an engineer pulling the levers of a control board. She remembered suddenly where she had seen as expert and preposterous a performance.
“Is that what you learned from Dr. Akston?” she asked, pointing at the stove.
“That, among other things.”
“Did he teach you to spend your time-your time!-” she could not keep the shudder of indignation out of her voice-“on this sort of work?”
“I’ve spent time on work of much lesser importance.”
When he put her plate before her, she asked, “Where did you get that food? Do they have a grocery store here?”
“The best one in the world. It’s run by Lawrence Hammond.”
“Lawrence Hammond, of Hammond Cars. The bacon is from the farm of Dwight Sanders-of Sanders Aircraft. The eggs and the butter from Judge Narragansett-of the Superior Court of the State of Illinois.”
She looked at her plate, bitterly, almost as if she were afraid to touch it. “It’s the most expensive breakfast I’ll ever eat, considering the value of the cook’s time and of all those others.”
“Yes-from one aspect. But from another, it’s the cheapest breakfast you’ll ever eat-because no part of it has gone to feed the looters who’ll make you pay for it through year after year and leave you to starve in the end.”
After a long silence, she asked simply, almost wistfully, “What is it that you’re all doing here?”
She had never heard that word sound so real, “What is your job?” she asked. “Midas Mulligan said that you work here.”
“I’m the handy man, I guess.”
“The what?”
“I’m on call whenever anything goes wrong with any of the installations-with the power system, for instance.”
She looked at him-and suddenly she tore forward, staring at the electric stove, but fell back on her chair, stopped by pain.
He chuckled. “Yes, that’s true-but take it easy or Dr. Hendricks will order you back to bed.”
“The power system . . .” she said, choking, “the power system here . . . it’s run by means of your motor?”
“It’s built? It’s working? It’s functioning?”
“It has cooked your breakfast.”
“I want to see it!”
“Don’t bother crippling yourself to look at that stove. It’s just a plain electric stove like any other, only about a hundred times cheaper to run.
And that’s all you’ll have a chance to see, Miss Taggart.”
“You promised to show me this valley.”
“I’ll show it to you. But not the power generator.”
“Will you take me to see the place now, as soon as we finish?”
“If you wish-and if you’re able to move.”
“I am.”
He got up, went to the telephone and dialed a number. “Hello, Midas? . . . Yes. . . . He did? Yes, she’s all right. . . . Will you rent me your car for the day? . . . Thanks. At the usual rate-
twenty-five cents, . . . . Can you send it over? . . . Do you happen to have some sort of cane? She’ll need it. . . . Tonight? Yes, I think so.
We will. Thanks.”
He hung up. She was staring at him incredulously.
“Did I understand you to say that Mr. Mulligan-who’s worth about two hundred million dollars, I believe-is going to charge you
twenty-five cents for the use of his car?”
“That’s right.”
“Good heavens, couldn’t he give it to you as a courtesy?”
He sat looking at her for a moment, studying her face, as if deliberately letting her see the amusement in his. “Miss Taggart,” he said, “we have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind. We come here because we want to rest. But we have certain customs, which we all observe, because they pertain to the things we need to rest from. So I’ll warn you now that there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word ‘give,’ ”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “You’re right.”
He refilled her cup of coffee and extended a package of cigarettes.
She smiled, as she took a cigarette: it bore the sign of the dollar.
“If you’re not too tired by evening,” he said, “Mulligan has invited us for dinner. He’ll have some guests there whom, I think, you’ll want to meet.”
“Oh, of course! I won’t be too tired. I don’t think I’ll ever feel tired again.”
They were finishing breakfast when she saw Mulligan’s car stopping in front of the house. The driver leaped out, raced up the path and rushed into the room, not pausing to ring or knock. It took her a moment to realize that the eager, breathless, disheveled young man was Quentin Daniels.
“Miss Taggart,” he gasped, “I’m sorry!” The desperate guilt in his voice clashed with the joyous excitement in his face, “I’ve never broken my word before! There’s no excuse for it, I can’t ask you to forgive me, and I know that you won’t believe it, but the truth is that I-
I forgot!”
She glanced at Galt, “I believe you.”
“I forgot that I promised to wait, I forgot everything-until a few minutes ago, when Mr. Mulligan told me that you’d crashed here in a plane, and then I knew it was my fault, and if anything had happened to you-oh God, are you all right?”
“Yes. Don’t worry. Sit down.”
“I don’t know how one can forget one’s word of honor. I don’t know what happened to me.”
“I do.”
“Miss Taggart, I had been working on it for months, on that one particular hypothesis, and the more I worked, the more hopeless it seemed to become. I’d been in my laboratory for the last two days, trying to solve a mathematical equation that looked impossible. I felt I’d die at that blackboard, but wouldn’t give up. It was late at night when he came in. I don’t think I even noticed him, not really. He said he wanted to speak to me and I asked him to wait and went right on.
I think I forgot his presence. I don’t know how long he stood there, watching me, but what I remember is that suddenly his hand reached over, swept all my figures off the blackboard and wrote one brief equation. And then I noticed him! Then I screamed-because it wasn’t the full answer to the motor, but it was the way to it, a way I hadn’t seen, hadn’t suspected, but I knew where it led! I remember I cried, ‘How could you know it?’-and he answered, pointing at a photograph of your motor, ‘I’m the man who made it in the first place.’ And that’s the last I remember, Miss Taggart-I mean, the last I remember of my own existence, because after that we talked about static electricity and the conversion of energy and the motor.”
“We talked physics all the way down here,” said Galt.
“Oh, I remember when you asked me whether I’d go with you,” said Daniels, “whether I’d be willing to go and never come back and give up everything . . . Everything? Give up a dead Institute that’s crumbling back into the jungle, give up my future as a janitor-slave-by-law, give up Wesley Mouch and Directive 10-289 and sub-animal creatures who crawl on their bellies, grunting that there is no mind! . . . Miss Taggart”-he laughed exultantly-“he was asking me whether I’d give that up to go with him! He had to ask it twice, I couldn’t believe it at first, I couldn’t believe that any human being would need to be asked or would think of it as a choice. To go? I would have leaped off a skyscraper just to follow him-and to hear his formula before we hit the pavement!”
“I don’t blame you,” she said; she looked at him with a tinge of wistfulness that was almost envy. “Besides, you’ve fulfilled your contract. You’ve led me to the secret of the motor.”
“I’m going to be a janitor here, too,” said Daniels, grinning happily.
“Mr. Mulligan said he’d give me the job of janitor-at the power plant.
And when I learn, I’ll rise to electrician. Isn’t he great-Midas Mulligan? That’s what I want to be when I reach his age. I want to make money. I want to make millions. I want to make as much as he did!”
“Daniels!” She laughed, remembering the quiet self-control, the strict precision, the stern logic of the young scientist she had known. “What’s the matter with you? Where are you? Do you know what you’re saying?”
“I’m here, Miss Taggart-and there’s no limit to what’s possible here!
I’m going to be the greatest electrician in the world and the richest! I’m going to-”
“You’re going to go back to Mulligan’s house,” said Galt, “and sleep for twenty-four hours-or I won’t let you near the power plant.”
“Yes, sir,” said Daniels meekly.
The sun had trickled down the peaks and drawn a circle of shining granite and glittering snow to enclose the valley-when they stepped out of the house. She felt suddenly as if nothing existed beyond that circle, and she wondered at the joyous, proud comfort to be found in a sense of the finite, in the knowledge that the field of one’s concern lay within the realm of one’s sight. She wanted to stretch out her arms over the roofs of the town below, feeling that her fingertips would touch the peaks across. But she could not raise her arms; leaning on a cane with one hand and on Galt’s arm with the other, moving her feet by a slow, conscientious effort, she walked down to the car like a child learning to walk for the first time.
She sat by Galt’s side as he drove, skirting the town, to Midas Mulligan’s house. It stood on a ridge, the largest house of the valley, the only one built two stories high, an odd combination of fortress and pleasure resort, with stout granite walls and broad, open terraces. He stopped to let Daniels off, then drove on up a winding road rising slowly into the mountains.
It was the thought of Mulligan’s wealth, the luxurious car and the sight of Galt’s hands on the wheel that made her wonder for the first time whether Galt, too, was wealthy. She glanced at his clothes: the gray slacks and white shirt seemed of a quality intended for long wear; the leather of the narrow belt about his waistline was cracked; the watch on his wrist was a precision instrument, but made of plain stainless steel. The sole suggestion of luxury was the color of his hair-the strands stirring in the wind like liquid gold and copper.
Abruptly, behind a turn of the road, she saw the green acres of pastures stretching to a distant farmhouse. There were herds of sheep, some horses, the fenced squares of pigpens under the sprawling shapes of wooden barns and, farther away, a metal hangar of a type that did not belong on a farm, A man in a bright cowboy shirt was hurrying toward them. Galt stopped the car and waved to him, but said nothing in answer to her questioning glance. He let her discover for herself, when the man came closer, that it was Dwight Sanders, “Hello, Miss Taggart,” he said, smiling.
She looked silently at his rolled shirt sleeves, at his heavy boots, at the herds of cattle. “So that’s all that’s left of Sanders Aircraft,” she said.
“Why, no. There’s that excellent monoplane, my best model, which you flattened up in the foothills.”
“Oh, you know about that? Yes, it was one of yours. It was a wonderful ship. But I’m afraid I’ve damaged it pretty badly.”
“You ought to have it fixed.”
“I think I’ve ripped the bottom. Nobody can fix it.”
“I can.”
These were the words and the tone of confidence that she had not heard for years, this was the manner she had given up expecting-but the start of her smile ended in a bitter chuckle. “How?” she asked. “On a hog farm?”
“Why, no. At Sanders Aircraft.”
“Where is it?”
“Where did you think it was? In that building in New Jersey, which Tinky Holloway’s cousin bought from my bankrupt successors by means of a government loan and a tax suspension? In that building where he produced six planes that never left the ground and eight that did, but crashed with forty passengers each?”
“Where is it, then?”
“Wherever I am.”
He pointed across the road. Glancing down through the tops of the pine trees, she saw the concrete rectangle of an airfield on the bottom of the valley.
“We have a few planes here and it’s my job to take care of them,”
he said. “I’m the hog farmer and the airfield attendant. I’m doing quite well at producing ham and bacon, without the men from whom I used to buy it. But those men cannot produce airplanes without me-and, without me, they cannot even produce their ham and bacon,”
“But you-you have not been designing airplanes, either.”
“No, I haven’t. And I haven’t been manufacturing the Diesel engines I once promised you. Since the time I saw you last, I have designed and manufactured just one new tractor. I mean, one-I tooled it by hand-no mass production was necessary. But that tractor has cut an eight-hour workday down to four hours on”-the straight line of his arm, extended to point across the valley, moved like a royal scepter; her eyes followed it and she saw the terraced green of hanging gardens on a distant mountainside-“the chicken and dairy farm of Judge Narragansett”-his arm moved slowly to a long, flat stretch of greenish gold at the foot of a canyon, then to a band of violent green-“in the wheat fields and tobacco patch of Midas Mulligan”-his arm rose to a granite flank striped by glistening tiers of leaves-“in the orchards of Richard Halley.”
Her eyes went slowly over the curve his arm had traveled, over and over again, long after the arm had dropped; but she said only, “I see.”
“Now do you believe that I can fix your plane?” he asked.
“Yes. But have you seen it?”
“Sure. Midas called two doctors immediately-Hendricks for you, and me for your plane. It can be fixed. But it will be an expensive job.”
“How much?”
“Two hundred dollars.”
“Two hundred dollars?” she repeated incredulously; the price seemed much too low.
“In gold, Miss Taggart.”
“Oh . . . ! Well, where can I buy the gold?”
“You can’t,” said Galt.
She jerked her head to face him defiantly. “No?”
“No. Not where you come from. Your laws forbid it.”
“Yours don’t?”
“Then sell it to me. Choose your own rate of exchange. Name any sum you want-in my money.”
“What money? You’re penniless, Miss Taggart.”
“What?” It was a word that a Taggart heiress could not ever expect to hear.
“You’re penniless in this valley. You own millions of dollars in Taggart Transcontinental stock-but it will not buy one pound of bacon from the Sanders hog farm.”
“1 see.”
Galt smiled and turned to Sanders. “Go ahead and fix that plane.
Miss Taggart will pay for it eventually.”
He pressed the starter and drove on, while she sat stiffly straight, asking no questions.
A stretch of violent turquoise blue split the cliffs ahead, ending the road; it took her a second to realize that it was a lake. The motionless water seemed to condense the blue of the sky and the green of the pine-covered mountains into so brilliantly pure a color that it made the sky look a dimmed pale gray. A streak of boiling foam came from among the pines and went crashing down the rocky steps to vanish in the placid water. A small granite structure stood by the stream.
Galt stopped the car just as a husky man in overalls stepped out to the threshold of the open doorway. It was Dick McNamara, who had once been her best contractor.
“Good day, Miss Taggart!” he said happily. “I’m glad to see that you weren’t hurt badly.”
She inclined her head in silent greeting-it was like a greeting to the loss and the pain of the past, to a desolate evening and the desperate face of Eddie Willers telling her the news of this man’s disappearance-
hurt badly? she thought-I was, but not in the plane crash-on that evening, in an empty office. . . . Aloud, she asked, “What are you doing here? What was it that you betrayed me for, at the worst time possible?”
He smiled, pointing at the stone structure and down at the rocky drop where the tube of a water main went vanishing into the underbrush. “I’m the utilities man,” he said. “I take care of the water lines, the power lines and the telephone service.”
“Used to. But we’ve grown so much in the past year that I’ve had to hire three men to help me.”
“What men? From where?”
“Well, one of them is a professor of economics who couldn’t get a job outside, because he taught that you can’t consume more than you have produced-one is a professor of history who couldn’t get a job because he taught that the inhabitants of slums were not the men who made this country-and one is a professor of psychology who couldn’t get a job because he taught that men are capable of thinking.”
“They work for you as plumbers and linesmen?”
“You’d be surprised how good they are at it.”
“And to whom have they abandoned our colleges?”
“To those who’re wanted there.” He chuckled, “How long ago was it that I betrayed you, Miss Taggart? Not quite three years ago, wasn’t it? it’s the John Galt Line that I refused to build for you. Where is your Line now? But my lines have grown, in that time, from the couple of miles that Mulligan had built when I took over, to hundreds of miles of pipe and wire, all within the space of this valley.”
He saw the swift, involuntary look of eagerness on her face, the look of a competent person’s appreciation; he smiled, glanced at her companion and said softly, “You know, Miss Taggart, when it comes to the John Galt Line-maybe it’s I who’ve followed it and you who’re betraying it.”
She glanced at Galt. He was watching her face, but she could read nothing in his.
As they drove on along the edge of the lake, she asked, “You’ve mapped this route deliberately, haven’t you? You’re showing me all the men whom”-she stopped, feeling inexplicably reluctant to say it, and said, instead-“whom I have lost?”
“I’m showing you all the men whom I have taken away from you,”
he answered firmly.
This was the root, she thought, of the guiltlessness of his face: he had guessed and named the words she had wanted to spare him, he had rejected a good will that was not based on his values-and in proud certainty of being right, he had made a boast of that which she had intended as an accusation.
Ahead of them, she saw a wooden pier projecting into the water of the lake. A young woman lay stretched on the sun-flooded planks, watching a battery of fishing rods. She glanced up at the sound of the car, then leaped to her feet in a single swift movement, a shade too swift, and ran to the road. She wore slacks, rolled above the knees of her bare legs, she had dark, disheveled hair and large eyes. Galt waved to her.
“Hello, John! When did you get in?” she called.
“This morning,” he answered, smiling and driving on.
Dagny jerked her head to look back and saw the glance with which the young woman stood looking after Galt. And even though hopelessness, serenely accepted, was part of the worship in that glance, she experienced a feeling she had never known before: a stab of jealousy.
“Who is that?” she asked.
“Our best fishwife. She provides the fish for Hammond’s grocery market.”
“What else is she?”
“You’ve noticed that there’s a ‘what else’ for every one of us here?
She’s a writer. The kind of writer who wouldn’t be published outside.
She believes that when one deals with words, one deals with the mind.”
The car turned into a narrow path, climbing steeply into a wilderness of brush and pine trees. She knew what to expect when she saw a handmade sign nailed to a tree, with an arrow pointing the way: The Buena Esperanza Pass.
It was not a pass, it was a wall of laminated rock with a complex chain of pipes, pumps and valves climbing like a vine up its narrow ledges, but it bore, on its crest, a huge wooden sign-and the proud violence of the letters announcing their message to an impassable tangle of ferns and pine branches, was more characteristic, more familiar than the words: Wyatt Oil.
It was oil that ran in a glittering curve from the mouth of a pipe into a tank at the foot of the wall, as the only confession of the tremendous secret struggle inside the stone, as the unobtrusive purpose of all the intricate machinery-but the machinery did not resemble the installations of an oil derrick, and she knew that she was looking at the unborn secret of the Buena Esperanza Pass, she knew that this was oil drawn out of shale by some method men had considered impossible.
Ellis Wyatt stood on a ridge, watching the glass dial of a gauge imbedded in the rock. He saw the car stopping below, and called, “Hi, Dagny! Be with you in a minute!”
There were two other men working with him: a big, muscular roughneck, at a pump halfway up the wall, and a young boy, by the tank on the ground. The young boy had blond hair and a face with an unusual purity of form. She felt certain that she knew this face, but she could not recall where she had seen it. The boy caught her puzzled glance, grinned and, as if to help her, whistled softly, almost inaudibly the first notes of Halley’s Fifth Concerto. It was the young brakeman of the Comet.
She laughed. “It was the Fifth Concerto by Richard Halley, wasn’t it?”
“Sure,” he answered. “But do you think I’d tell that to a scab?”
“A what?”
“What am I paying you for?” asked Ellis Wyatt, approaching; the boy chuckled, darting back to seize the lever he had abandoned for a moment. “It’s Miss Taggart who couldn’t fire you, if you loafed on the job. lean.”
“That’s one of the reasons why I quit the railroad, Miss Taggart,”
said the boy.
“Did you know that I stole him from you?” said Wyatt. “He used to be your best brakeman and now he’s my best grease-monkey, but neither one of us is going to hold him permanently.”
“Who is?”
“Richard Halley. Music. He’s Halley’s best pupil.”
She smiled, “I know, this is a place where one employs nothing but aristocrats for the lousiest kinds of jobs.”
“They’re all aristocrats, that’s true,” said Wyatt, “because they know that there’s no such thing as a lousy job-only lousy men who don’t care to do it.”
The roughneck was watching them from above, listening with curiosity. She glanced up at him, he looked like a truck driver, so she asked, “What were you outside? A professor of comparative philology, I suppose?”
“No, ma’am,” he answered. “I was a truck driver.” He added, “But that’s not what I wanted to remain.”
Ellis Wyatt was looking at the place around them with a kind of youthful pride eager for acknowledgment: it was the pride of a host at a formal reception in a drawing room, and the eagerness of an artist at the opening of his show in a gallery. She smiled and asked, pointing at the machinery, “Shale oil?”
“That’s the process which you were working to develop while you were on earth?” She said it involuntarily and she gasped a little at her own words.
He laughed. “While I was in hell-yes. I’m on earth now.”
“How much do you produce?”
“Two hundred barrels a day.”
A note of sadness came back into her voice: “It’s the process by which you once intended to fill five tank-trains a day.”
“Dagny,” he said earnestly, pointing at his tank, “one gallon of it is worth more than a trainful back there in hell-because this is mine, all of it, every single drop of it, to be spent on nothing but myself.” He raised his smudged hand, displaying the greasy stains as a treasure, and a black drop on the tip of his finger flashed like a gem in the sun.
“Mine,” he said. “Have you let them beat you into forgetting what that word means, what it feels like? You should give yourself a chance to relearn it.”
“You’re hidden in a hole in the wilderness,” she said bleakly, “and you’re producing two hundred barrels of oil, when you could have flooded the world with it.”
“What for? To feed the looters?”
“No! To earn the fortune you deserve.”
“But I’m richer now than I was in the world. What’s wealth but the means of expanding one’s life? There’s two ways one can do it: either by producing more or by producing it faster. And that’s what I’m doing: I’m manufacturing time.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m producing everything I need, I’m working to improve my methods, and every hour I save is an hour added to my life. It used to take me five hours to fill that tank. It now takes three. The two I saved are mine-as pricelessly mine as if I moved my grave two further hours away for every five I’ve got. It’s two hours released from one task, to be invested in another-two more hours in which to work, to grow, to move forward. That’s the savings account I’m -hoarding. Is there any sort of safety vault that could protect this account in the outside world?”
“But what space do you have for moving forward? Where’s your market?”
He chuckled. “Market? I now work for use, not for profit-my use, not the looters’ profit. Only those who add to my life, not those who devour it, are my market. Only those who produce, not those who consume, can ever be anybody’s market. I deal with the life-givers, not with the cannibals. If my oil takes less effort to produce, I ask less of the men to whom I trade it for the things I need. I add an extra span of time to their lives with every gallon of my oil that they burn. And since they’re men like me, they keep inventing faster ways to make the things they make-so every one of them grants me an added minute, hour or day with the bread I buy from them, with the clothes, the lumber, the metal”-he glanced at Galt-“an added year with every month of electricity I purchase. That’s our market and that’s how it works for us-but that was not the way it worked in the outer world. Down what drain were they poured out there, our days, our lives and our energy?
Into what bottomless, futureless sewer of the unpaid-for? Here, we trade achievements, not failures-values, not needs. We’re free of one another, yet we all grow together. Wealth, Dagny? What greater wealth is there than to own your Me and to spend it on growing?
Every living thing must grow. It can’t stand still. It must grow or perish.
Look-” He pointed at a plant fighting upward from under the weight of a rock-a long, gnarled stem, contorted by an unnatural struggle, with drooping, yellow remnants of unformed leaves and a single green shoot thrust upward to the sun with the desperation of a last, spent, inadequate effort. “That’s what they’re doing to us back there in hell.
Do you see me submitting to it?”
“No,” she whispered.
“Do you see him submitting?” He pointed at Galt.
“God, no!”
“Then don’t be astonished by anything you see in this valley.”
She remained silent when they drove on. Galt said nothing.
On a distant mountainside, in the dense green of a forest, she saw a.
pine tree slanting down suddenly, tracing a curve, like the hand of a clock, then crashing abruptly out of sight. She knew that it was a manmade motion.
“Who’s the lumberjack around here?” she asked.
“Ted Nielsen.”
The road was relaxing into wider curves and gentler grades, among the softer shapes of hillsides. She saw a rust-brown slope patched by two squares of unmatching green: the dark, dusty green of potato plants, and the pale, greenish-silver of cabbages, A man in a red shirt was riding a small tractor, cutting weeds, “Who’s the cabbage tycoon?” she asked.
“Roger Marsh.”
She closed her eyes. She thought of the weeds that were climbing up the steps of a closed factory, over its lustrous tile front, a few hundred miles away, beyond the mountains.
The road was descending to the bottom of the valley. She saw the roofs of the town straight below, and the small, shining spot of the dollar sign in the distance at the other end. Galt stopped the car in front of the first structure on a ledge above the roofs, a brick building with a faint tinge of red trembling over its smokestack. It almost shocked her to see so logical a sign as “Stockton Foundry” above its door.
When she walked, leaning on her cane, out of the sunlight into the dank gloom of the building, the shock she felt was part sense of anachronism, part homesickness. This was the industrial East which, in the last few hours, had seemed to be centuries behind her. This was the old, the familiar, the loved sight of reddish billows rising to steel rafters, of sparks shooting in sunbursts from invisible sources, of sudden flames streaking through a black fog, of sand molds glowing with white metal. The fog hid the walls of the structure, dissolving its size-
and for a moment, this was the great, dead foundry at Stockton, Colorado, it was Nielsen Motors . . . it was Rearden Steel.
“Hi, Dagny!”
The smiling face that approached her out of the fog was Andrew Stockton’s, and she saw a grimy hand extended to her with a gesture of confident pride, as if it held all of her moment’s vision on its palm.
She clasped the hand. “Hello,” she said softly, not knowing whether she was greeting the past or the future. Then she shook her head and added, “How come you’re not planting potatoes or making shoes around here? You’ve actually remained in your own profession.”
“Oh, Calvin Atwood of the Atwood Light and Power Company of New York City is making the shoes. Besides, my profession is one of the oldest and most immediately needed anywhere. Still, I had to fight for it. I had to ruin a competitor, first.”
He grinned and pointed to the glass door of a sun-flooded room.
“There’s my ruined competitor,” he said.
She saw a young man bent over a long table, working on a complex model for the mold of a drill head. He had the slender, powerful hands of a concert pianist and the grim face of a surgeon concentrating on his task.
“He’s a sculptor,” said Stockton. “When I came here, he and his partner had a sort of combination hand-forge and repair shop. I opened a real foundry, and took all their customers away from them. The boy couldn’t do the kind of job I did, it was only a part-time business for him, anyway-sculpture is his real business-so he came to work for me. He’s making more money now, in shorter hours, than he used to make in his own foundry. His partner was a chemist, so he went into agriculture and he’s produced a chemical fertilizer that’s doubled some of the crops around here-did you mention potatoes?-potatoes, in particular.”
“Then somebody could put you out of business, too?”
“Sure. Any time. I know one man who could and probably will, when he gets here. But, boy!-I’d work for him as a cinder sweeper. He’d blast through this valley like a rocket. He’d triple everybody’s production.”
“Who’s that?”
“Hank Rearden.”
“Yes . . .” she whispered, “Oh yes!”
She wondered what had made her say it with such immediate certainty. She felt, simultaneously, that Hank Rearden’s presence in this valley was impossible-and that this was his place, peculiarly his, this was the place of his youth, of his start, and, together, the place he had been seeking all his life, the land he had struggled to reach, the goal of his tortured battle. . . . It seemed to her that the spirals of flame tinged fog were drawing time into an odd circle-and while a dim thought went floating through her mind like the streamer of an unfollowed sentence: To hold an unchanging youth is to reach, at the end, the vision with which one started-she heard the voice of a tramp in a diner, saying, “John Galt found the fountain of youth which he wanted to bring down to men. Only he never came back . . . because he found that it couldn’t be brought down.”
A sheaf of sparks went up in the depth of the fog-and she saw the broad back of a foreman whose arm made the sweeping gesture of a signal, directing some invisible task. He jerked his head to snap an order-she caught a glimpse of his profile-and she caught her breath.
Stockton saw it, chuckled and called into the fog: “Hey, Ken! Come here! Here’s an old friend of yours!”
She looked at Ken Danagger as he approached them. The great industrialist, whom she had tried so desperately to hold to his desk, was now dressed in smudged overalls.
“Hello, Miss Taggart. I told you we’d soon meet again.”
Her head dropped, as if in assent and in greeting, but her hand bore down heavily upon her cane, for a moment, while she stood reliving their last encounter: the tortured hour of waiting, then the gently distant face at the desk and the tinkling of a glass-paneled door closing upon a stranger.
It was so brief a moment that two of the men before her could take it only as a greeting-but it was at Galt that she looked when she raised her head, and she saw him looking at her as if he knew what she felt-she saw him seeing in her face the realization that it was he who had walked out of Danagger’s office, that day. His face gave her nothing in answer: it had that look of respectful severity with which a man stands before the fact that the truth is the truth.
“I didn’t expect it,” she said softly, to Danagger. “I never expected to see you again.”
Danagger was watching her as if she were a promising child he had once discovered and was now affectionately amused to watch. “I know,” he said. “But why are you so shocked?”
“I . . . oh, it’s just that it’s preposterous!” She pointed at his clothes.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Is this, then, the end of your road?”
“Hell, no! The beginning.”
“What are you aiming at?”
“Mining. Not coal, though. Iron.”
He pointed toward the mountains. “Right here. Did you ever know Midas Mulligan to make a bad investment? You’d be surprised what one can find in that stretch of rock, if one knows how to look. That’s what I’ve been doing-looking.”
“And if you don’t find any iron ore?”
He shrugged. “There’s other things to do. I’ve always been short on time in my life, never on what to use it for.”
She glanced at Stockton with curiosity. “Aren’t you training a man who could become your most dangerous competitor?”
“That’s the only sort of men I like to hire. Dagny, have you lived too long among the looters? Have you come to think that one man’s ability is a threat to another?”
“Oh no! But I thought I was almost the only one left who didn’t think that.”
“Any man who’s afraid of hiring the best ability he can find, is a cheat who’s in a business where he doesn’t belong. To me-the foulest man on earth, more contemptible than a criminal, is the employer who rejects men for being too good. That’s what I’ve always thought and-
say, what are you laughing at?”
She was listening to him with an eager, incredulous smile. “It’s so startling to hear,” she said, “because it’s so right!”
“What else can one think?”
She chuckled softly. “You know, when I was a child, I expected every businessman to think it.”
“And since then?”
“Since then, I’ve learned not to expect it.”
“But it’s right, isn’t it?”
“I’ve learned not to expect the right.”
“But it stands to reason, doesn’t it?”
“I’ve given up expecting reason.”
“That’s what one must never give up,” said Ken Danagger.
They had returned to the car and had started down the last, descending curves of the road, when she glanced at Galt and he turned to her at once, as if he had expected it.
“It was you in Danagger’s office that day, wasn’t it?” she asked.
“Did you know, then, that I was waiting outside?”
“Did you know what it was like, to wait behind that closed door?”
She could not name the nature of the glance with which he looked at her. It was not pity, because she did not seem to be its object; it was the kind of glance with which one looks at suffering, but it was not her suffering that he seemed to be seeing.
“Oh yes,” he answered quietly, almost lightly.
The first shop to rise by the side of the valley’s single street was like the sudden sight of an open theater: a frame box without front wall, its stage set in the bright colors of a musical comedy-with red cubes, green circles, gold triangles, which were bins of tomatoes, barrels of lettuce, pyramids of oranges, and a spangled backdrop where the sun hit shelves of metal containers. The name on the marquee said; Hammond Grocery Market. A distinguished man in shirt sleeves, with a stern profile and gray temples, was weighing a chunk of butter for an attractive young woman who stood at the counter, her posture light as a show girl’s, the skirt of her cotton dress swelling faintly in the wind, like a dance costume. Dagny smiled involuntarily, even though the man was Lawrence Hammond.
The shops were small one-story structures, and as they moved past her, she caught familiar names on their signs, like headings on the pages of a book riffled by the car’s motion: Mulligan General Store-Atwood Leather Goods-Nielsen Lumber-then the sign of the dollar above the door of a small brick factory with the inscription: Mulligan Tobacco Company. “Who’s the Company, besides Midas Mulligan?” she asked. “Dr. Akston,” he answered.
There were few passers-by, some men, fewer women, and they walked with purposeful swiftness, as if bound on specific errands. One after another, they stopped at the sight of the car, they waved to Galt and they looked at her with the unastonished curiosity of recognition.
“Have I been expected here for a long time?” she asked, “You still are,” he answered.
On the edge of the road, she saw a structure made of glass sheets held together by a wooden framework, but for one instant it seemed to her that it was only a frame for the painting of a woman-a tall, fragile woman with pale blond hair and a face of such beauty that it seemed veiled by distance, as if the artist had been merely able to suggest it, not to make it quite real. In the next instant the woman moved her head-and Dagny realized that there were people at the tables inside the structure, that it was a cafeteria, that the woman stood behind the counter, and that she was Kay Ludlow, the movie star who, once seen, could never be forgotten; the star who had retired and vanished five years ago, to be replaced by girls of indistinguishable names and interchangeable faces. But at the shock of the realization, Dagny thought of the sort of movies that were now being made-and then she felt that the glass cafeteria was a cleaner use for Kay Ludlow’s beauty than a role in a picture glorifying the commonplace for possessing no glory.
The building that came next was a small, squat block of rough granite, sturdy, solid, neatly built, the lines of its rectangular bulk as severely precise as the creases of a formal garment-but she saw, like an instant’s ghost, the long streak of a skyscraper rising into the coils of Chicago’s fog, the skyscraper that had once borne the sign she now saw written in gold letters above a modest pine-wood door: Mulligan Bank.
Galt slowed the car while moving past the bank, as if placing the motion in some special italics.
A small brick structure came next, bearing the sign: Mulligan Mint.
“A mint?” she asked. “What’s Mulligan doing with a mint?” Galt reached into his pocket and dropped two small coins into the palm of her hand. They were miniature disks of shining gold, smaller than pennies, the kind that had not been in circulation since the days of Nat Taggart; they bore the head of the Statue of Liberty on one side, the words “United States of America-One Dollar” on the other, but the dates stamped upon them were of the past two years.
“That’s the money we use here,” he said. “It’s minted by Midas Mulligan.”
“But . . . on whose authority?”
“That’s stated on the coin-on both sides of it.”
“What do you use for small change?”
“Mulligan mints that, too, in silver. We don’t accept any other currency in this valley. We accept nothing but objective values.”
She was studying the coins. “This looks like . . . like something from the first morning in the age of my ancestors.”
He pointed at the valley, “Yes, doesn’t it?”
She sat looking at the two thin, delicate, almost weightless drops of gold in the palm of her hand, knowing that the whole of the Taggart Transcontinental system had rested upon them, that this had been the keystone supporting all the keystones, all the arches, all the girders of the Taggart track, the Taggart Bridge, the Taggart Building. . . . She shook her head and slipped the coins back into his hand.
“You’re not making it easier for me,” she said, her voice low.
“I’m making it as hard as possible.”
“Why don’t you say it? Why don’t you tell me all the things you want me to learn?”
The gesture of his arm pointed at the town, at the road behind them.
“What have I been doing?” he asked.
They drove on in silence. After a while, she asked, in the tone of a dryly statistical inquiry, “How much of a fortune has Midas Mulligan amassed in this valley?”
He pointed ahead. “Judge for yourself.”
The road was winding through stretches of unleveled soil toward the homes of the valley. The homes were not lined along a street, they were spread at irregular intervals over the rises and hollows of the ground, they were small and simple, built of local materials, mostly of granite and pine, with a prodigal ingenuity of thought and a tight economy of physical effort. Every house looked as if it had been put up by the labor of one man, no two houses were alike, and the only quality they had in common was the stamp of a mind grasping a problem and solving it. Galt pointed out a house, once in a while, choosing the names she knew-and it sounded to her like a list of quotations from the richest stock exchange in the world, or like a roll call of honor: “Ken Danagger . . . Ted Nielsen . . . Lawrence Hammond . . . Roger Marsh . . . Ellis Wyatt . . . Owen Kellogg . . . Dr. Akston.”
The home of Dr. Akston was the last, a small cottage with a large terrace, lifted on the crest of a wave against the rising walls of the mountains. The road went past it and climbed on into the coils of an ascending grade. The pavement shrank to a narrow path between two walls of ancient pines, their tall, straight trunks pressing against it like a grim colonnade, their branches meeting above, swallowing the path into sudden silence and twilight. There were no marks of wheels on the thin strip of earth, it looked unused and forgotten, a few minutes and a few turns seemed to take the car miles away from human habitation-
and then there was nothing to break the pressure of the stillness but a rare wedge of sunlight cutting across the trunks in the depth of the forest once in a while.
The sudden sight of a house on the edge of the path struck her like the shock of an unexpected sound: built in loneliness, cut off from all ties to human existence, it looked like the secret retreat of some great defiance or sorrow. It was the humblest home of the valley, a log cabin beaten in dark streaks by the tears of many rains, only its great windows withstanding the storms with the smooth, shining, untouched serenity of glass.
“Whose house is . . . Oh!”-she caught her breath and jerked her head away. Above the door, hit by a ray of sun, its design blurred and worn, battered smooth by the winds of centuries, hung the silver coat of-arms of Sebastian d’Anconia.
As if in deliberate answer to her involuntary movement of escape, Galt stopped the car in front of the house. For a moment, they held each other’s eyes: her glance was a question, his a command, her face had a defiant frankness, his an unrevealing severity; she understood his purpose, but not his motive. She obeyed. Leaning on her cane, she stepped out of the car, then stood erect, facing the house.
She looked at the silver crest that had come from a marble palace in Spain to a shack in the Andes to a log cabin in Colorado-the crest of the men who would not submit. The door of the cabin was locked, the sun did not reach into the glazed darkness beyond the windows, and pine branches hung outstretched above the roof like arms spread in protection, in compassion, in solemn blessing. With no sound but the snap of a twig or the ring of a drop falling somewhere in the forest through long stretches of moments, the silence seemed to hold all the pain that had been hidden here, but never given voice. She stood, listening with a gentle, resigned, unlamenting respect: Let’s see who’ll do greater honor, you-to Nat Taggart, or I-to Sebastian d’Anconia. . . .
Dagny! Help me to remain. To refuse. Even though he’s right! . . .
She turned to look at Galt, knowing that he was the man against whom she had had no help to offer. He sat at the wheel of the car, he had not followed her or moved to assist her, as if he had wanted her to acknowledge the past and had respected the privacy of her lonely salute. She noticed that he still sat as she had left him, his forearm leaning against the wheel at the same angle, the fingers of his hand hanging down in the same sculptured position. His eyes were watching her, but that was all she could read in his face: that he had watched her intently, without moving.
When she was seated beside him once more, he said, “That was the first man I took away from you.”
She asked, her face stern, open and quietly defiant, “How much do you know about that?”
“Nothing that he told me in words. Everything that the tone of his voice told me whenever he spoke of you.”
She inclined her head. She had caught the sound of suffering in the faintest exaggeration of evenness in his voice.
He pressed the starter, the motor’s explosion blasted the story contained in the silence, and they drove on., The path widened a little, streaming toward a pool of sunlight ahead.
She saw a brief glitter of wires among the branches, as they drove out into a clearing. An unobtrusive little structure stood against a hillside, on a rising slant of rocky ground. It was a simple cube of granite, the size of a toolshed, it had no windows, no apertures of any kind, only a door of polished steel and a complex set of wire antennae branching out from the roof. Galt was driving past, leaving it unnoticed, when she asked with a sudden start, “What’s that?”
She saw the faint break of his smile. “The powerhouse.”
“Oh, stop, please!”
He obeyed, backing the car to the foot of the hillside. It was her first few steps up the rocky incline that stopped her, as if there were no need to move forward, no further place to rise-and she stood as in the moment when she had opened her eyes on the earth of the valley, a moment uniting her beginning to her goal.
She stood looking up at the structure, her consciousness surrendered to a single sight and a single, wordless emotion-but she had always known that an emotion was a sum totaled by an adding machine of the mind, and what she now felt was the instantaneous total of the thoughts she did not have to name, the final sum of a long progression, like a voice telling her by means of a feeling: If she had held onto Ouentin Daniels, with no hope of a chance to use the motor, for the sole sake of knowing that achievement had not died on earth-if, like a weighted diver sinking in an ocean of mediocrity, under the pressure of men with gelatin eyes, rubber voices, spiral-shaped convictions, noncommittal souls and non-committing hands, she had held, as her life line and oxygen tube, the thought of a superlative achievement of the human mind-if, at the sight of the motor’s remnant, in a sudden gasp of suffocation, as a last protest from his corruption-eaten lungs, Dr.
Stadler had cried for something, not to look down at, but up to, and this had been the cry, the longing and the fuel of her life-if she had moved, drawn by the hunger of her youth for a sight of clean, hard, radiant competence-then here it was before her, reached and done, the power of an incomparable mind given shape in a net of wires sparkling peacefully under a summer sky, drawing an incalculable power out of space into the secret interior of a small stone hovel.
She thought of this structure, half the size of a boxcar, replacing the power plants of the country, the enormous conglomerations of steel, fuel and effort-she thought of the current flowing from this structure, lifting ounces, pounds, tons of strain from the shoulders of those who would make it or use it, adding hours, days and years of liberated time to their lives, be it an extra moment to lift one’s head from one’s task and glance at the sunlight, or an extra pack of cigarettes bought with the money saved from one’s electric bill, or an hour cut from the workday of every factory using power, or a month’s journey through the whole, open width of the world, on a ticket paid for by one day of one’s labor, on a train pulled by the power of this motor-with all the energy of that weight, that strain, that time replaced and paid for by the energy of a single mind who had known how to make connections of wire follow the connections of his thought. But she knew that there was no meaning in motors or factories or trains, that their only meaning was in man’s enjoyment of his life, which they served-and that her swelling admiration at the sight of an achievement was for the man from whom it came, for the power and the radiant vision within him which had seen the earth as a place of enjoyment and had known that the work of achieving one’s happiness was the purpose, the sanction and the meaning of life.
The door of the structure was a straight, smooth sheet of stainless steel, softly lustrous and bluish in the sun. Above it, cut in the granite, as the only feature of the building’s rectangular austerity, there stood an inscription: I SWEAR BY MY LIFE AND MY LOVE OF IT THAT I WILL NEVER LIVE FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER
She turned to Galt. He stood beside her; he had followed her, he had known that this salute was his. She was looking at the inventor of the motor, but what she saw was the easy, casual figure of a workman in his natural setting and function-she noted the uncommon lightness of his posture, a weightless way of standing that showed an expert control of the use of his body-a tall body in simple garments: a thin shirt, light slacks, a belt about a slender waistline-and loose hair made to glitter like metal by the current of a sluggish wind. She looked at him as she had looked at his structure.
Then she knew that the first two sentences they had said to each other still hung between them, filling the silence-that everything said since, had been said over the sound of those words, that he had known it, had held it, had not let her forget it. She was suddenly aware that they were alone; it was an awareness that stressed the fact, permitting no further implication, yet holding the full meaning of the unnamed in that special stress. They were alone in a silent forest, at the foot of a structure that looked like an ancient temple-and she knew what rite was the proper form of worship to be offered on an altar of that kind.
She felt a sudden pressure at the base of her throat, her head leaned back a little, no more than to feel the faint shift of a current against her hair, but it was as if she were lying back in space, against the wind, conscious of nothing but his legs and the shape of his mouth. He stood watching her, his face still but for the faint movement of his eyelids drawing narrow as if against too strong a light. It was like the beat of three instants-this was the first-and in the next, she felt a stab of ferocious triumph at the knowledge that his effort and his struggle were harder to endure than hers-and, then he moved his eyes and raised his head to look at the inscription on the temple.
She let him look at it for a moment, almost as an act of condescending mercy to an adversary struggling to refuel his strength, then she asked, with a note of imperious pride in her voice, pointing at the inscription, “What’s that?”
“It’s the oath that was taken by every person in this valley, but you.”
She said, looking at the words, “This has always been my own rule of living.”
“I know it.”
“But I don’t think that yours is the way to practice it.”
“Then you’ll have to learn which one of us is wrong.”
She walked up to the steel door of the structure, with a sudden confidence faintly stressed in the movements of her body, a mere hint of stress, no more than her awareness of the power she held by means of his pain-and she tried, asking no permission, to turn the knob of the door. But the door was locked, and she felt no tremor under the pressure of her hand, as if the lock were poured and sealed to the stone with the solid steel of the sheet.
“Don’t try to open that door, Miss Taggart”
He approached her, his steps a shade too slow, as if stressing his knowledge of her awareness of every step. “No amount of physical force will do it,” he said. “Only a thought can open that door. If you tried to break it down by means of the best explosives in the world, the machinery inside would collapse into rubble long before the door would give way. But reach the thought which it requires-and the secret of the motor will be yours, as well as”-it was the first break she had heard in his voice-“as well as any other secret you might wish to know.”
He faced her for a moment, as if leaving himself open to her full understanding, then smiled oddly, quietly at some thought of his own, and added, “I’ll show you how it’s done.”
He stepped back. Then, standing still, his face raised to the words carved in the stone, he repeated them slowly, evenly, as if taking that oath once more. There was no emotion in his voice, nothing but the spaced clarity of the sounds he pronounced with full knowledge of their meaning-but she knew that she was witnessing the most solemn moment it would ever be given her to witness, she was seeing a man’s naked soul and the cost it had paid to utter these words, she was hearing an echo of the day when he had pronounced that oath for the first time and with full knowledge of the years ahead-she knew what manner of man had stood up to face six thousand others on a dark spring night and why they had been afraid of him, she knew that this was the birth and the core of all the things that had happened to the world in the twelve years since, she knew that this was of far greater import than the motor hidden inside the structure-she knew it, to the sound of a man’s voice pronouncing in self-reminder and rededication: “I swear by my life . . . and my love of it . . . that I will never live for the sake of another man . . . nor ask another man . . . to live . . . for mine.”
It did not startle her, it seemed unastonishing and almost unimportant, that at the end of the last sound, she saw the door opening slowly, without human touch, moving inward upon a growing strip of darkness.
In the moment when an electric light went on inside the structure, he seized the knob and pulled the door shut, its lock clicking sealed once more.
“It’s a sound lock,” he said; his face was serene. “That sentence is the combination of sounds needed to open it. I don’t mind telling you this secret-because I know that you won’t pronounce those words until you mean them the way I intended them to be meant.”
She inclined her head. “I won’t.”
She followed him down to the car, slowly, feeling suddenly too exhausted to move. She fell back against the seat, closing her eyes, barely hearing the sound of the starter. The accumulated strain and shock of her sleepless hours hit her at once, breaking through the barrier of the tension her nerves had held to delay it. She lay still, unable to think, to react or to struggle, drained of all emotions but one.
She did not speak. She did not open her eyes until the car stopped in front of his house.
“You’d better rest,” he said, “and go to sleep right now, if you want to attend Mulligan’s dinner tonight.”
She nodded obediently. She staggered to the house, avoiding his help. She made an effort to tell him, “I’ll be all right,” then to escape to the safety of her room and last long enough to close the door.
She collapsed, face down, on the bed. It was not the mere fact of physical exhaustion. It was the sudden monomania of a sensation too complete to endure. While the strength of her body was gone, while her mind had lost the faculty of consciousness, a single emotion drew on her remnants of energy, of understanding, of judgment, of control, leaving her nothing to resist it with or to direct it, making her unable to desire, only to feel, reducing her to a mere sensation-a static sensation without start or goal. She kept seeing his figure in her mind-his figure as he had stood at the door of the structure-she felt nothing else, no wish, no hope, no estimate of her feeling, no name for it, no relation to herself-there was no entity such as herself, she was not a person, only a function, the function of seeing him, and the sight was its own meaning and purpose, with no further end to reach.
Her face buried in the pillow, she recalled dimly, as a faint sensation, the moment of her take-off from the floodlighted strip of the Kansas airfield. She felt the beat of the engine, the streak of accelerating motion gathering power in a straight-line run to a single goal-and in the moment when the wheels left the ground, she was asleep.
The floor of the valley was like a pool still reflecting the glow of the sky, but the light was thickening from gold to copper, the shores were fading and the peaks were smoke-blue-when they drove to Mulligan’s house.
There was no trace of exhaustion left in her bearing and no remnant of violence. She had awakened at sundown; stepping out of her room, she had found Galt waiting, sitting idly motionless in the light of a lamp. He had glanced up at her; she had stood in the doorway, her face composed, her hair smooth, her posture relaxed and confident -she had looked as she would have looked on the threshold of her office in the Taggart Building, but for the slight angle of her body leaning on a cane. He had sat looking at her for a moment, and she had wondered why she had felt certain that this was the image he was seeing-he was seeing the doorway of her office, as if it were a sight long-imagined and long-forbidden.
She sat beside him in the car, feeling no desire to speak, knowing that neither of them could conceal the meaning of their silence. She watched a few lights come up in the distant homes of the valley, then the lighted windows of Mulligan’s house on the ledge ahead. She asked, “Who will be there?”
“Some of your last friends,” he answered, “and some of my first.”
Midas Mulligan met them at the door. She noticed that his grim, square face was not as harshly expressionless as she had thought: he had a look of satisfaction, but satisfaction could not soften his features, it merely struck them like flint and sent sparks of humor to glitter faintly in the corners of his eyes, a humor that was shrewder, more demanding, yet warmer than a smile.
He opened the door of his house, moving his arm a shade more slowly than normal, giving an imperceptibly solemn emphasis to his gesture.
Walking into the living room, she faced seven men who rose to their feet at her entrance.
“Gentlemen-Taggart Transcontinental,” said Midas Mulligan.
He said it smiling, but only half-jesting; some quality in his voice made the name of the railroad sound as it would have sounded in the days of Nat Taggart, as a sonorous title of honor.
She inclined her head, slowly, in acknowledgment to the men before her, knowing that these were the men whose standards of value and honor were the same as her own, the men who recognized the glory of that title as she recognized it, knowing with a sudden stab of wistfulness how much she had longed for that recognition through all her years.
Her eyes moved slowly, in greeting, from face to face: Ellis Wyatt-
Ken Danagger-Hugh Akston-Dr. Hendricks-Quentin Daniels-
Mulligan’s voice pronounced the names of the two others: “Richard Halley-Judge Narragansett.”
The faint smile on Richard Halley’s face seemed to tell her that they had known each other for years-as, in her lonely evenings by the side of her phonograph, they had. The austerity of Judge Narragansett’s white-haired figure reminded her that she had once heard him described as a marble statue-a blindfolded marble statue; it was the kind of figure that had vanished from the courtrooms of the country when the gold coins had vanished from the country’s hands.
“You have belonged here for a long time, Miss Taggart,” said Midas Mulligan. “This was not the way we expected you to come, but-welcome home.”
No!-she wanted to answer, but heard herself answering softly, “Thank you.”
“Dagny, how many years is it going to take you to learn to be yourself?” It was Ellis Wyatt, grasping her elbow, leading her to a chair, grinning at her look of helplessness, at the struggle between a smile and a tightening resistance in her face. “Don’t pretend that you don’t understand us. You do.”
“We never make assertions, Miss Taggart,” said Hugh Akston. “That is the moral crime peculiar to our enemies. We do not tell-we show.
We do not claim-we prove. It is not your obedience that we seek to win, but your rational conviction. You have seen all the elements of our secret. The conclusion is now yours to draw-we can help you to name it, but not to accept it-the sight, the knowledge and the acceptance must be yours.”
“I feel as if I know it,” she answered simply, “and more: I feel as if I’ve always known it, but never found it, and now I’m afraid, not afraid to hear it, just afraid that it’s coming so close.”
Akston smiled. “What does this look like to you, Miss Taggart?” He pointed around the room.
“This?” She laughed suddenly, looking at the faces of the men against the golden sunburst of rays filling the great windows. “This looks like . . . You know, I never hoped to see any of you again, I wondered at times how much I’d give for just one more glimpse or one more word-and now-now this is like that dream you imagine in childhood, when you think that some day, in heaven, you will see those great departed whom you had not seen on earth, and you choose, from all the past centuries, the great men you would like to meet.”
“Well, that’s one clue to the nature of our secret,” said Akston.
“Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be left waiting for us in our graves-or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.”
“I know,” she whispered.
“And if you met those great men in heaven,” asked Ken Danagger, “what would you want to say to them?”
“Just . . . just ‘hello,’ I guess.”
“That’s not all,” said Danagger. “There’s something you’d want to hear from them. I didn’t know it, either, until I saw him for the first time”-he pointed to Galt-“and he said it to me, and then I knew what it was that I had missed all my life. Miss Taggart, you’d want them to look at you and to say, ‘Well done’ ” She dropped her head and nodded silently, head down, not to let him see the sudden spurt of tears to her eyes. “All right, then: Well done, Dagny!-well done-too well-and now it’s time for you to rest from that burden which none of us should ever have had to carry.”
“Shut up,” said Midas Mulligan, looking at her bowed head with anxious concern.
But she raised her head, smiling. “Thank you,” she said to Danagger.
“If you talk about resting, then let her rest,” said Mulligan. “She’s had too much for one day.”
“No.” She smiled. “Go ahead, say it-whatever it is.”
“Later,” said Mulligan.
It was Mulligan and Akston who served dinner, with Quentin Daniels to help them. They served it on small silver trays, to be placed on the arms of the chairs-and they all sat about the room, with the fire of the sky fading in the windows and sparks of electric light glittering in the wine glasses. There was an air of luxury about the room, but it was the luxury of expert simplicity; she noted the costly furniture, carefully chosen for comfort, bought somewhere at a time when luxury had still been an art. There were no superfluous objects, but she noticed a small canvas by a great master of the Renaissance, worth a fortune, she noticed an Oriental rug of a texture and color that belonged under glass in a museum. This was Mulligan’s concept of wealth, she thought-the wealth of selection, not of accumulation.
Quentin Daniels sat on the floor, with his tray on his lap; he seemed completely at home, and he glanced up at her once in a while, grinning like an impudent kid brother who had beaten her to a secret she had not discovered. He had preceded her into the valley by some ten minutes, she thought, but he was one of them, while she was still a stranger.
Galt sat aside, beyond the circle of lamplight, on the arm of Dr.
Akston’s chair. He had not said a word, he had stepped back and turned her over to the others, and he sat watching it as a spectacle in which he had no further part to play. But her eyes kept coming back to him, drawn by the certainty that the spectacle was of his choice and staging, that he had set it in motion long ago, and that all the others knew it as she knew it.
She noticed another person who was intensely aware of Galt’s presence: Hugh Akston glanced up at him once in a while, involuntarily, almost surreptitiously, as if struggling not to confess the loneliness of a long separation. Akston did not speak to him, as if taking his presence for granted. But once, when Galt bent forward and a strand of hair fell down across his face, Akston reached over and brushed it back, his hand lingering for an imperceptible instant on his pupil’s forehead: it was the only break of emotion he permitted himself, the only greeting; it was the gesture of a father.
She found herself talking to the men around her, relaxing in lighthearted comfort. No, she thought, what she felt was not strain, it was a dim astonishment at the strain which she should, but did not, feel; the abnormality of it was that it seemed so normal and simple.
She was barely aware of her questions, as she spoke to one man after another, but their answers were printing a record in her mind, moving sentence by sentence to a goal.
“The Fifth Concerto?” said Richard Halley, in answer to her question. “I wrote it ten years ago. We call it the Concerto of Deliverance.
Thank you for recognizing it from a few notes whistled in the night.
. . . Yes, I know about that. . . . Yes, since you knew my work, you would know, when you heard it, that this Concerto said everything I had been struggling to say and reach. It’s dedicated to him.” He pointed to Galt. “Why, no, Miss Taggart, I haven’t given up music, What makes you think so? I’ve written more in the last ten years than in any other period of my life. I will play it for you, any of it, when you come to my house. . . . No, Miss Taggart, it will not be published outside. Not a note of it will be heard beyond these mountains.”
“No, Miss Taggart, I have not given up medicine,” said Dr. Hendricks, in answer to her question. “I have spent the last six years on research. I have discovered a method to protect the blood vessels of the brain from that fatal rupture which is known as a brain stroke. It will remove from human existence the terrible threat of sudden paralysis.
. . . No, not a word of my method will be heard outside.”
“The law, Miss Taggart?” said Judge Narragansett. “What law? I did not give it up-it has ceased to exist. But I am still working in the profession I had chosen, which was that of serving the cause of justice.
. . . No, justice has not ceased to exist. How could it? It is possible for men to abandon their sight of it, and then it is justice that destroys them. But it is not possible for justice to go out of existence, because one is an attribute of the other, because justice is the act of acknowledging that which exists. . . . Yes, I am continuing in my profession. I am writing a treatise on the philosophy of law, I shall demonstrate that humanity’s darkest evil, the most destructive horror machine among all the devices of men, is non-objective law. . . . No, Miss Taggart, my treatise will not be published outside.”
“My business, Miss Taggart?” said Midas Mulligan. “My business is blood transfusion-and I’m still doing it. My job is to feed a life-fuel into the plants that are capable of growing. But ask Dr. Hendricks whether any amount of blood will save a body that refuses to function, a rotten hulk that expects to exist without effort. My blood bank is gold. Gold is a fuel that will perform wonders, but no fuel can work where there is no motor. . . . No, I haven’t given up. I merely got fed up with the job of running a slaughter house, where one drains blood out of healthy living beings and pumps it into gutless half-corpses.”
“Given up?” said Hugh Akston. “Check your premises, Miss Taggart.
None of us has given up. It is the world that has. . . . What is wrong with a philosopher running a roadside diner? Or a cigarette factory, as I am doing now? All work is an act of philosophy. And when men will learn to consider productive work-and that which is its source-as the standard of their moral values, they will reach that state of perfection which is the birthright they lost. . . . The source of work? Man’s mind, Miss Taggart, man’s reasoning mind. I am writing a book on this subject, defining a moral philosophy that I learned from my own pupil. . . . Yes, it could save the world. . . . No, it will not be published outside.”
“Why?” she cried. “Why? What are you doing, all of you?”
“We are on strike,” said John Galt.
They all turned to him, as if they had been waiting for his voice and for that word. She heard the empty beat of time within her, which was the sudden silence of the room, as she looked at him across a span of lamplight. He sat slouched casually on the arm of a chair, leaning forward, his forearm across his knees, his hand hanging down idly-
and it was the faint smile on his face that gave to his words the deadly sound of the irrevocable: “Why should this seem so startling? There is only one kind of men who have never been on strike in human history. Every other kind and class have stopped, when they so wished, and have presented demands to the world, claiming to be indispensable-except the men who have carried the world on their shoulders, have kept it alive, have endured torture as sole payment, but have never walked out on the human race.
Well, their turn has come. Let the world discover who they are, what they do and what happens when they refuse to function. This is the strike of the men of the mind, Miss Taggart. This is the mind on strike.”
She did not move, except for the fingers of one hand that moved slowly up her cheek to her temple.
“Through all the ages,” he said, “the mind has been regarded as evil, and every form of insult: from heretic to materialist to exploiter-
every form of iniquity: from exile to disfranchisement to expropriation-every form of torture: from sneers to rack to firing squad-
have been brought down upon those who assumed the responsibility of looking at the world through the eyes of a living consciousness and performing the crucial act of a rational connection. Yet only to the extent to which-in chains, in dungeons, in hidden corners, in the cells of philosophers, in the shops of traders-some men continued to think, only to that extent was humanity able to survive. Through all the centuries of the worship of the mindless, whatever stagnation humanity chose to endure, whatever brutality to practice-it was only by the grace of the men who perceived that wheat must have water in order to grow, that stones laid in a curve will form an arch, that two and two make four, that love is not served by torture and life is not fed by destruction-only by the grace of those men did the rest of them learn to experience moments when they caught the spark of being human, and only the sum of such moments permitted them to continue to exist. It was the man of the mind who taught them to bake their bread, to heal their wounds, to forge their weapons and to build the jails into which they threw him. He was the man of extravagant energy-and reckless generosity-who knew that stagnation is not man’s fate, that impotence is not his nature, that the ingenuity of his mind is his noblest and most joyous power-and in service to that love of existence he was alone to feel, he went on working, working at any price, working for his despoilers, for his jailers, for his torturers, paying with his life for the privilege of saving theirs. This was his glory and his guilt-that he let them teach him to feel guilty of his glory, to accept the part of a sacrificial animal and, in punishment for the sin of intelligence, to perish on the altars of the brutes. The tragic joke of human history is that on any of the altars men erected, it was always man whom they immolated and the animal whom they enshrined. It was always the animal’s attributes, not man’s, that humanity worshipped: the idol of instinct and the idol of force-the mystics and the kings-the mystics, who longed for an irresponsible consciousness and ruled by means of the claim that their dark emotions were superior to reason, that knowledge came in blind, causeless fits, blindly to be followed, not doubted-and the kings, who ruled by means of claws and muscles, with conquest as their method and looting as their aim, with a club or a gun as sole sanction of their power. The defenders of man’s soul were concerned with his feelings, and the defenders of man’s body were concerned with his stomach-but both were united against his mind. Yet no one, not the lowest of humans, is ever able fully to renounce his brain. No one has ever believed in the irrational; what they do believe in is the unjust.
Whenever a man denounces the mind, it is because his goal is of a nature the mind would not permit him to confess. When he preaches contradictions, he does so in the knowledge that someone will accept the burden of the impossible, someone will make it work for him at the price of his own suffering or life; destruction is the price of any contradiction. It is the victims who made injustice possible. It is the men of reason who made it possible for the rule of the brute to work. The despoiling of reason has been the motive of every anti-reason creed on earth. The despoiling of ability has been the purpose of every creed that preached self-sacrifice. The despoilers have always known it. We haven’t. The time has come for us to see. What we are now asked to worship, what had once been dressed as God or king, is the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human Incompetent. This is the new ideal, the goal to aim at, the purpose to live for, and all men are to be rewarded according to how close they approach it. This is the age of the common man, they tell us-a title which any man may claim to the extent of such distinction as he has managed not to achieve. He will rise to a rank of nobility by means of the effort he has failed to make, he will be honored for such virtue as he has not displayed, and he will be paid for the goods which he did not produce. But we-we, who must atone for the guilt of ability-we will work to support him as he orders, with his pleasure as our only reward. Since we have the most to contribute, we will have the least to say. Since we have the better capacity to think, we will not be permitted a thought of our own. Since we have the judgment to act, we will not be permitted an action of our choice. We will work under directives and controls, issued by those who are incapable of working. They will dispose of our energy, because they have none to offer, and of our product, because they can’t produce. Do you say that this is impossible, that it cannot be made to work? They know it, but it is you who don’t-and they are counting on you not to know it. They are counting on you to go on, to work to the limit of the inhuman and to feed them while you last-and when you collapse, there will be another victim starting out and feeding them, while struggling to survive-and the span of each succeeding victim will be shorter, and while you’ll die to leave them a railroad, your last descendant-in-spirit will die to leave them a loaf of bread.
This does not worry the looters of the moment. Their plan-like all the plans of all the royal looters of the past-is only that the loot shall last their lifetime. It has always lasted before, because in one generation they could not run out of victims. But this time-it will not last. The victims are on strike. We are on strike against martyrdom-and against the moral code that demands it. We are on strike against those who believe that one man must exist for the sake of another. We are on strike against the morality of cannibals, be it practiced in body or in spirit. We will not deal with men on any terms but ours-and our terms are a moral code which holds that man is an end in himself and not the means to any end of others. We do not seek to force our code upon them. They are free to believe what they please. But, for once, they will have to believe it and to exist-without our help. And, once and for all, they will learn the meaning of their creed. That creed has lasted for centuries solely by the sanction of the victims-by means of the victims’ acceptance of punishment for breaking a code impossible to practice. But that code was intended to be broken. It is a code that thrives not on those who observe it, but on those who don’t, a morality kept in existence not by virtue of its saints, but by the grace of its shiners. We have decided not to be sinners any longer. We have ceased breaking that moral code. We shall blast it out of existence forever by the one method that it can’t withstand: by obeying it. We are obeying it. We are complying. In dealing with our fellow men, we are observing their code of values to the letter and sparing them all the evils they denounce. The mind is evil? We have withdrawn the works of our minds from society, and not a single idea of ours is to be known or used by men. Ability is a selfish evil that leaves no chance to those who are less able? We have withdrawn from the competition and left all chances open to incompetents. The pursuit of wealth is greed, the root of all evil? We do not seek to make fortunes any longer. It is evil to earn more than one’s bare sustenance? We take nothing but the lowliest jobs and we produce, by the effort of our muscles, no more than we consume for our immediate needs-with not a penny nor an inventive thought left over to harm the world. It is evil to succeed, since success is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? We have ceased burdening the weak with our ambition and have left them free to prosper without us. It is evil to be an employer? We have no employment to offer. It is evil to own property? We own nothing. It is evil to enjoy one’s existence in this world? There is no form of enjoyment that we seek from their world, and-this was hardest for us to attain-what we now feel for their world is that emotion which they preach as an ideal: indifference-the blank-the zero-the mark of death. . . .
We are giving men everything they’ve professed to want and to seek as virtue for centuries. Now let them see whether they want it.”
“It was you who started this strike?” she asked.
“I did.”
He got up, he stood, hands in pockets, his face in the light-and she saw him smile with the easy, effortless, implacable amusement of certainty.
“We’ve heard so much about strikes,” he said, “and about the dependence of the uncommon man upon the common. We’ve heard it shouted that the industrialist is a parasite, that his workers support him, create his wealth, make his luxury possible-and what would happen to him if they walked out? Very well. I propose to show to the world who depends on whom, who supports whom, who is the source of wealth, who makes whose livelihood possible and what happens to whom when who walks out.”
The windows were now sheets of darkness, reflecting the dots of lighted cigarettes. He picked a cigarette from a table beside him, and in the flare of a match she saw the brief sparkle of gold, the dollar sign, between his fingers.
“I quit and joined him and went on strike,” said Hugh Akston, “because I could not share my profession with men who claim that the qualification of an intellectual consists of denying the existence of the intellect. People would not employ a plumber who’d attempt to prove his professional excellence by asserting that there’s no such thing as plumbing-but, apparently, the same standards of caution are not considered necessary in regard to philosophers. I learned from my own pupil, however, that it was I who made this possible. When thinkers accept those who deny the existence of thinking, as fellow thinkers of a different school of thought-it is they who achieve the destruction of the mind. They grant the enemy’s basic premise, thus granting the sanction of reason to formal dementia, A basic premise is an absolute that permits no co-operation with its antithesis and tolerates no tolerance. In the same manner and for the same reason as a banker may not accept and pass counterfeit money, granting it the sanction, honor and prestige of his bank, just as he may not grant the counterfeiter’s demand for tolerance of a mere difference of opinion-so I may not grant the title of philosopher to Dr. Simon Pritchett or compete with him for the minds of men. Dr. Pritchett has nothing to deposit to the account of philosophy, except his declared intention to destroy it. He seeks to cash in-by means of denying it-on the power of reason among men. He seeks to stamp the mint-mark of reason upon the plans of his looting masters. He seeks to use the prestige of philosophy to purchase the enslavement of thought. But that prestige is an account which can exist only so long as I am there to sign the checks.
Let him do it without me. Let him-and those who entrust to him their children’s minds-have exactly that which they demand: a world of intellectuals without intellect and of thinkers who proclaim that they cannot think. I am conceding it. I am complying. And when they see the absolute reality of their non-absolute world, I will not be there and it will not be I who will pay the price of their contradictions.”
“Dr. Akston quit on the principle of sound banking,” said Midas Mulligan. “I quit on the principle of love. Love is the ultimate form of recognition one grants to superlative values. It was the Hunsacker case that made me quit-that case when a court of law ordered that I honor, as first right to my depositors’ funds, the demand of those who would offer proof that they had no right to demand it. I was ordered to hand out money earned by men, to a worthless rotter whose only claim consisted of his inability to earn it. I was born on a farm. I knew the meaning of money. I had dealt with many men in my life. I had watched them grow. I had made my fortune by being able to spot a certain kind of man. The kind who never asked you for faith, hope and charity, but offered you facts, proof and profit. Did you know that I invested in Hank Rearden’s business at the time when he was rising, when he had just beaten his way out of Minnesota to buy the steel mills in Pennsylvania? Well, when I looked at that court order on my desk, I had a vision. I saw a picture, and I saw it so clearly that it changed the looks of everything for me. I saw the bright face and the eyes of young Rearden, as he’d been when I’d met him first. I saw him lying at the foot of an altar, with his blood running down into the earth-and what stood on that altar was Lee Hunsacker, with the mucus-filled eyes, whining that he’d never had a chance. . . . It’s strange how simple things become, once you see them clearly. It wasn’t hard for me to close the bank and go: I kept seeing, for the first time in my life, what it was that I had lived for and loved.”
She looked at Judge Narragansett. “You quit over the same case, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Judge Narragansett. “I quit when the court of appeals reversed my ruling. The purpose for which I had chosen my work, was my resolve to be a guardian of justice. But the laws they asked me to enforce made me the executor of the vilest injustice conceivable. I was asked to use force to violate the rights of disarmed men, who came before me to seek my protection for their rights. Litigants obey the verdict of a tribunal solely on the premise that there is an objective rule of conduct, which they both accept. Now I saw that one man was to be bound by it, but the other was not, one was to obey a rule, the other was to assert an arbitrary wish-his need-and the law was to stand on the side of the wish. Justice was to consist of upholding the unjustifiable. I quit-because I could not have borne to hear the words ‘Your Honor’ addressed to me by an honest man.”
Her eyes moved slowly to Richard Halley, as if she were both pleading and afraid to hear his story. He smiled.
“I would have forgiven men for my struggle,” said Richard Halley.
“It was their view of my success that I could not forgive. I had felt no hatred in all the years when they rejected me. If my work was new, I had to give them time to learn, if I took pride in being first to break a trail to a height of my own, I had no right to complain if others were slow to follow. That was what I had told myself through all those years -except on some nights, when I could neither wait nor believe any longer, when I cried ‘why?’ but found no answer. Then, on the night when they chose to cheer me, I stood before them on the stage of a theater, thinking that this was the moment I had struggled to reach, wishing to feel it, but feeling nothing. I was seeing all the other nights behind me, hearing the ‘why?’ which still had no answer-and their cheers seemed as empty as their snubs. If they had said, ‘Sorry to be so late, thank you for waiting-I would have asked for nothing else and they could have had anything I had to give them. But what I saw in their faces, and in the way they spoke when they crowded to praise me, was the thing I had heard being preached to artists-only I had never believed that anyone human could mean it. They seemed to say that they owed me nothing, that their deafness had provided me with a moral goal, that it had been my duty to struggle, to suffer, to bear-for their sake-whatever sneers, contempt, injustice, torture they chose to inflict upon me, to bear it in order to teach them to enjoy my work, that this was their rightful due and my proper purpose. And then I understood the nature of the looter-in-spirit, a thing I had never been able to conceive. I saw them reaching into my soul, just as they reach into Mulligan’s pocket, reaching to expropriate the value of my person, just as they reach to expropriate his wealth-I saw the impertinent malice of mediocrity boastfully holding up its own emptiness as an abyss to be filled by the bodies of its betters-I saw them seeking, just as they seek to feed on Mulligan’s money, to feed on those hours when I wrote my music and on that which made me write it, seeking to gnaw their way to self-esteem by extorting from me the admission that they were the goal of my music, so that precisely by reason of my achievement, it would not be they who’d acknowledge my value, but I who would bow to theirs. . . . It was that night that I took the oath never to let them hear another note of mine. The streets were empty when I left that theater, I was the last one to leave-and I saw a man whom I had never seen before, waiting for me in the light of a lamppost. He did not have to tell me much. But the concerto I dedicated to him is called the Concerto of Deliverance.”
She looked at the others. “Please tell me your reasons,” she said, with a faint stress of firmness in her voice, as if she were taking a beating, but wished to take it to the end.
“I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago,” said Dr. Hendricks. “Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything-except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the ‘welfare’ of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only ‘to serve.’ That a man who’s willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards-never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind-yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it-and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.”
“I quit,” said Ellis Wyatt, “because I didn’t wish to serve as the cannibals’ meal and to do the cooking, besides,”
“I discovered,” said Ken Danagger, “that the men I was fighting were impotent. The shiftless, the purposeless, the irresponsible, the irrational-it was not I who needed them, it was not theirs to dictate terms to me, it was not mine to obey demands. I quit, to let them discover it, too.”
“I quit,” said Quentin Daniels, “because, if there are degrees of damnation, the scientist who places his mind in the service of brute force is the longest-range murderer on earth.”
They were silent. She turned to Galt. “And you?” she asked. “You were first. What made you come to it?”
He chuckled, “My refusal to be born with any original sin.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have never felt guilty of my ability. I have never felt guilty of my mind. I have never felt guilty of being a man. I accepted no unearned guilt, and thus was free to earn and to know my own value. Ever since I can remember, I had felt that I would kill the man who’d claim that I exist for the sake of his need-and I had known that this was the highest moral feeling. That night, at the Twentieth Century meeting, when I heard an unspeakable evil being spoken in a tone of moral righteousness, I saw the root of the world’s tragedy, the key to it and the solution. I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.”
“And the motor?” she asked. “Why did you abandon it? Why did you leave it to the Starnes heirs?”
“It was then- father’s property. He paid me for it. It was made on his time. But I knew that it would be of no benefit to them and that no one would ever hear of it again. It was my first experimental model.
Nobody but me or my equivalent could have been able to complete it or even to grasp what it was. And I knew that no equivalent of mine would come near that factory from then on.”
“You knew the kind of achievement your motor represented?”
“And you knew you were leaving it to perish?”
“Yes.” He looked off into the darkness beyond the windows and chuckled softly, but it was not a sound of amusement. “I looked at my motor for the last tune, before I left. I thought of the men who claim that wealth is a matter of natural resources-and of the men who claim that wealth is a matter of seizing the factories-and of the men who claim that machines condition their brains. Well, there was the motor to condition them, and there it remained as just exactly what it is without man’s mind-as a pile of metal scraps and wires, going to rust. You have been thinking of the great service which that motor could have rendered to mankind, if it had been put into production. I think that on the day when men understand the meaning of its fate in that factory’s junk heap-it will have rendered a greater one.”
“Did you expect to see that day, when you left it?”
“Did you expect a chance to rebuild it elsewhere?”
“And you were willing to let it remain in a junk heap?”
“For the sake of what that motor meant to me,” he said slowly, “I had to be willing to let it crumble and vanish forever”-he looked straight at her and she heard the steady, unhesitant, uninflected ruthlessness of his voice-“just as you will have to be willing to let the rail of Taggart Transcontinental crumble and vanish.”
She held his eyes, her head was lifted, and she said softly, in the tone of a proudly open plea, “Don’t make me answer you now.”
“I won’t. We’ll tell you whatever you wish to know. We won’t urge you to make a decision.” He added, and she was shocked by the sudden gentleness of his voice, “I said that that kind of indifference toward a world which should have been ours was the hardest thing to attain. I know. We’ve all gone through it.”
She looked at the quiet, impregnable room, and at the light-the light that came from his motor-on the faces of men who were the most serene and confident gathering she had ever attended.
“What did you do, when you walked out of the Twentieth Century?”
she asked.
“I went out to become a flame-spotter. I made it my job to watch for those bright flares in the growing night of savagery, which were the men of ability, the men of the mind-to watch their course, their struggle and their agony-and to pull them out, when I knew that they had seen enough.”
“What did you tell them to make them abandon everything?”
“I told them that they were right.”
In answer to the silent question of her glance, he added, “I gave them the pride they did not know they had. I gave them the words to identify it. I gave them that priceless possession which they had missed, had longed for, yet had not known they needed: a moral sanction. Did you call me the destroyer and the hunter of men? I was the walking delegate of this strike, the leader of the victims’ rebellion, the defender of the oppressed, the disinherited, the exploited-and when I use these words, they have, for once, a literal meaning.”
“Who were the first to follow you?”
He let a moment pass, in deliberate emphasis, then answered, “My two best friends. You know one of them. You know, perhaps better than anyone else, what price he paid for it. Our own teacher, Dr.
Akston, was next. He joined us within one evening’s conversation. William Hastings, who had been my boss in the research laboratory of Twentieth Century Motors, had a hard time, fighting it out with himself. It took him a year. But he joined. Then Richard Halley. Then Midas Mulligan.”
“-who took fifteen minutes,” said Mulligan.
She turned to him. “It was you who established this valley?”
“Yes,” said Mulligan. “It was just my own private retreat, at first. I bought it years ago, I bought miles of these mountains, section by section, from ranchers and cattlemen who didn’t know what they owned. The valley is not listed on any map. I built this house, when I decided to quit. I cut off all possible avenues of approach, except one road-and it’s camouflaged beyond anyone’s power to discover-and I stocked this place to be self-supporting, so that I could live here for the rest of my life and never have to see the face of a looter. When I heard that John had got Judge Narragansett, too, I invited the Judge to come here. Then we asked Richard Halley to join us. The others remained outside, at first.”
“We had no rules of any kind,” said Galt, “except one. When a man took our oath, it meant a single commitment: not to work in his own profession, not to give to the world the benefit of his mind. Each of us carried it out in any manner he chose. Those who had money, retired to live on their savings. Those who had to work, took the lowest jobs they could find. Some of us had been famous; others-like that young brakeman of yours, whom Halley discovered-were stopped by us before they had set out to get tortured. But we did not give up our minds or the work we loved. Each of us continued in his real profession, in whatever manner and spare time he could manage-but he did it secretly, for his own sole benefit, giving nothing to men, sharing nothing. We were scattered all over the country, as the outcasts we had always been, only now we accepted our parts with conscious intention.
Our sole relief were the rare occasions when we could see one another.
We found that we liked to meet-in order to be reminded that human beings still existed. So we came to set aside one month a year to spend in this valley-to rest, to live in a rational world, to bring our real work out of hiding, to trade our achievements-here, where achievements meant payment, not expropriation. Each of us built his own house here, at his own expense-for one month of life out of twelve.
It made the eleven easier to bear.”
“You see, Miss Taggart,” said Hugh Akston, “man is a social being, but not in the way the looters preach.”
“It’s the destruction of Colorado that started the growth of this valley,” said Midas Mulligan. “Ellis Wyatt and the others came to live here permanently, because they had to hide. Whatever part of their wealth they could salvage, they converted into gold or machines, as I had, and they brought it here. There were enough of us to develop the place and to create jobs for those who had had to earn their living outside. We have now reached the stage where most of us can live here full time. The valley is almost self-supporting-and as to the goods that we can’t yet produce, I purchase them from the outside through a pipe line of my own. It’s a special agent, a man who does not let my money reach the looters. We are not a state here, not a society of any kind-
we’re just a voluntary association of men held together by nothing but every man’s self-interest. I own the valley and I sell the land to the others, when they want it. Judge Narragansett is to act as our arbiter, hi case of disagreements. He hasn’t had to be called upon, as yet. They say that it’s hard for men to agree. You’d be surprised how easy it is-
when both parties hold as their moral absolute that neither exists for the sake of the other and that reason is their only means of trade. The time is approaching when all of us will have to be called to live here-
because the world is falling apart so fast that it will soon be starving.
But we will be able to support ourselves in this valley.”
“The world is crashing faster than we expected,” said Hugh Akston.
“Men are stopping and giving up. Your frozen trains, the gangs of raiders, the deserters, they’re men who’ve never heard of us, and they’re not part of our strike, they are acting on their own-it’s the natural response of whatever rationality is still left in them-it’s the same kind of protest as ours.”
“We started with no time limit in view,” said Galt. “We did not know whether we’d live to see the liberation of the world or whether we’d have to leave our battle and our secret to the next generations.
We knew only that this was the only way we cared to live. But now we think that we will see, and soon, the day of our victory and of our return.”
“When?” she whispered.
“When the code of the looters has collapsed.”
He saw her looking at him, her glance half-question, half-hope, and he added, “When the creed of self-immolation has run, for once, its undisguised course-when men find no victims ready to obstruct the path of justice and to deflect the fall of retribution on themselves-
when the preachers of self-sacrifice discover that those who are willing to practice it, have nothing to sacrifice, and those who have, are not willing any longer-when men see that neither their hearts nor their muscles can save them, but the mind they damned is not there to answer then: screams for help-when they collapse as they must, as men without mind-when they have no pretense of authority left, no remnant of law, no trace of morality, no hope, no food and no way to obtain it-when they collapse and the road is clear-then we’ll come back to rebuild the world.”
The Taggart Terminal, she thought; she heard the words beating through the numbness of her mind, as the sum of a burden she had not had time to weigh. This was the Taggart Terminal, she thought, this room, not the giant concourse in New York-this was her goal, the end of track, the point beyond the curve of the earth where the two straight lines of rail met and vanished, drawing her forward-as they had drawn Nathaniel Taggart-this was the goal Nathaniel Taggart had seen in the distance and this was the point still holding the straight-line glance of his lifted head above the spiral motion of men in the granite concourse. It was for the sake of this that she had dedicated herself to the rail of Taggart Transcontinental, as to the body of a spirit yet to be found. She had found it, everything she had ever wanted, it was here in this room, reached and hers-but the price was that net of rail behind her, the rail that would vanish, the bridges that would crumble, the signal lights that would go out. . . . And yet . . . Everything I had ever wanted, she thought-looking away from the figure of a man with sun-colored hair and implacable eyes.
“You don’t have to answer us now.”
She raised her head; he was watching her as if he had followed the steps in her mind.
“We never demand agreement,” he said. “We never tell anyone more than he is ready to hear You are the first person who has learned our secret ahead of time. But you’re here and you had to know. Now you know the exact nature of the choice you’ll have to make. If it seems hard, it’s because you still think that it does not have to be one or the other. You will learn that it does.”
“Will you give me time?”
“Your time is not ours to give. Take your time. You alone can decide what you’ll choose to do, and when. We know the cost of that decision. We’ve paid it. That you’ve come here might now make it easier for you-or harder.”
“Harder,” she whispered.
“I know.”
He said it, his voice as low as hers, with the same sound of being forced past one’s breath, and she missed an instant of time, as in the stillness after a blow, because she felt that this-not the moments when he had carried her in his arms down the mountainside, but this meeting of their voices-had been the closest physical contact between them.
A full moon stood in the sky above the valley, when they drove back to his house; it stood like a flat, round lantern without rays, with a haze of light hanging in space, not reaching the ground, and the illumination seemed to come from the abnormal white brightness of the soil. In the unnatural stillness of sight without color, the earth seemed veiled by a film of distance, its shapes did not merge into a landscape, but went slowly flowing past, like the print of a photograph on a cloud.
She noticed suddenly that she was smiling. She was looking down at the houses of the valley. Their lighted windows were dimmed by a bluish cast, the outlines of their walls were dissolving, long bands of mist were coiling among them in torpid, unhurried waves. It looked like a city sinking under water.
“What do they call this place?” she asked.
“I call it Mulligan’s Valley,” he said. “The others call it Galt’s Gulch.”
“I’d call it-” but she did not finish.
He glanced at her. She knew what he saw in her face. He turned away.
She saw a faint movement of his lips, like the release of a breath that he was forcing to function. She dropped her glance, her arm falling against the side of the car, as if her hand were suddenly too heavy for the weakness in the crook of her elbow.
The road grew darker, as it went higher, and pine branches met over their heads. Above a slant of rock moving to meet them, she saw the moonlight on the windows of his house. Her head fell back against the seat and she lay still, losing awareness of the car, feeling only the motion that carried her forward, watching the glittering drops of water in the pine branches, which were the stars.
When the car stopped, she did not permit herself to know why she did not look at him as she stepped, out. She did not know that she stood still for an instant, looking up at the dark windows. She did not hear him approach; but she felt the impact of his hands with shocking intensity, as if it were the only awareness she could now experience.
He lifted her in his arms and started slowly up the path to the house.
He walked, not looking at her, holding her tight, as if trying to hold a progression of time, as if his arms were still locked over the moment when he had lifted her against his chest. She felt his steps as if they were a single span of motion to a goal and as if each step were a separate moment in which she dared not think of the next.
Her head was close to his, his hair brushing her cheek, and she knew that neither of them would move his face that one breath closer. It was a sudden, stunned state of quiet drunkenness, complete in itself, their hair mingled like the rays of two bodies in space that had achieved their meeting, she saw that he walked with his eyes closed, as if even sight would now be an intrusion.
He entered the house, and as he moved across the living room, he did not look to his left and neither did she, but she knew that both of them were seeing the door on his left that led to his bedroom. He walked the length of the darkness to the wedge of moonlight that fell across the guest-room bed, he placed her down upon it, she felt an instant’s pause of his hands still holding her shoulder and waistline, and when his hands left her body, she knew that the moment was over.
He stepped back and pressed a switch, surrendering the room to the harshly public glare of light. He stood still, as if demanding that she look at him, his face expectant and stern.
“Have you forgotten that you wanted to shoot me on sight?” he asked.
It was the unprotected stillness of his figure that made it real. The shudder that threw her upright was like a cry of terror and denial; but she held his glance and answered evenly, “That’s true. I did.”
“Then stand by it.”
Her voice was low, its intensity was both a surrender and a scornful reproach: “You know better than that, don’t you?”
He shook his head. “No. I want you to remember that that had been your wish. You were right, in the past. So long as you were part of the outer world, you had to seek to destroy me. And of the two courses now open to you, one will lead you to the day when you will find yourself forced to do it.” She did not answer, she sat looking down, he saw the strands of her hair swing jerkily as she shook her head in desperate protest. “You are my only danger. You are the only person who could deliver me to my enemies. If you remain with them, you will. Choose that, if you wish, but choose it with full knowledge.
Don’t answer me now. But until you do”-the stress of severity in his voice was the sound of effort directed against himself-“remember that I know the meaning of either answer.”
“As fully as I do?” she whispered.
“As fully.”
He turned to go, when her eyes fell suddenly upon the inscriptions she had noticed, and forgotten, on the walls of the room.
They were cut into the polish of the wood, still showing the force of the pencil’s pressure in the hands that had made them, each in his own violent writing: “You’ll get over it-Ellis Wyatt” “It will be all right by morning-Ken Danagger” “It’s worth it-Roger Marsh.”
There were others, “What is that?” she asked.
He smiled. “This is the room where they spent their first night in the valley. The first night is the hardest. It’s the last pull of the break with one’s memories, and the worst. I let them stay here, so they can call for me, if they want me. I speak to them, if they can’t sleep.
Most of them can’t. But they’re free of it by morning. . . . They’ve all gone through this room. Now they call it the torture chamber or the anteroom-because everyone has to enter the valley through my house.”
He turned to go, he stopped on the threshold and added: “This is the room I never intended you to occupy. Good night, Miss Taggart.”


“Good morning.”
She looked at him across the living room from the threshold of her door. In the windows behind him, the mountains had that tinge of silver-pink which seems brighter than daylight, with the promise of a light to come. The sun. had risen somewhere over the earth, but it had not reached the top of the barrier, and the sky was glowing in its stead, announcing its motion. She had heard the joyous greeting to the sunrise, which was not the song of birds, but the ringing of the telephone a moment ago; she saw the start of day, not in the shining green of the branches outside, but in the glitter of chromium on the stove, the sparkle of a glass ashtray on a table, and the crisp whiteness of his shirt sleeves. Irresistibly, she heard the sound of a smile in her own voice, matching his, as she answered: “Good morning.”
He was gathering notes of penciled calculations from his desk and stuffing them into his pocket. “I have to go down to the powerhouse,”
he said. “They’ve just phoned me that they’re having trouble with the ray screen. Your plane seems to have knocked it off key. I’ll be back in half an hour and then I’ll cook our breakfast”
It was the casual simplicity of his voice, the manner of taking her presence and their domestic routine for granted, as if it were of no significance to them, that gave her the sense of an underscored significance and the feeling that he knew it.
She answered as casually, “If you’ll bring me the cane I left in the car, I’ll have breakfast ready for you by the time you come back.”
He glanced at her with a slight astonishment; his eyes moved from her bandaged ankle to the short sleeves of the blouse that left her arms bare to display the heavy bandage on her elbow. But the transparent blouse, the open collar, the hair falling down to the shoulders that seemed innocently naked under a thin film of cloth, made her look like a schoolgirl, not an invalid, and her posture made the bandages look irrelevant.
He smiled, not quite at her, but as if in amusement at some sudden memory of his own. “If you wish,” he said.
It was strange to be left alone in his house. Part of it was an emotion she had never experienced before: an awed respect that made her hesitantly conscious of her hands, as if to touch any object around her would be too great an intimacy. The other part was a reckless sense of ease, a sense of being at home in this place, as if she owned its owner.
It was strange to feel so pure a joy in the simple task of preparing a breakfast. The work seemed an end in itself, as if the motions of filling a coffee pot, squeezing oranges, slicing bread were performed for their own sake, for the sort of pleasure one expects, but seldom finds, in the motions of dancing. It startled her to realize that she had not experienced this kind of pleasure in her work since her days at the operator’s desk in Rockdale Station.
She was setting the table, when she saw the figure of a man hurrying up the path to the house, a swift, agile figure that leaped over boulders with the casual ease of a flight. He threw the door open, calling, “Hey, John!”-and stopped short as he saw her. He wore a dark blue sweater and slacks, he had gold hair and a face of such shocking perfection of beauty that she stood still, staring at him, not in admiration, at first, but in simple disbelief.
He looked at her as if he had not expected to find a woman in this house. Then she saw a look of recognition melting into a different kind of astonishment, part amusement, part triumph melting into a chuckle.
“Oh, have you joined us?” he asked.
“No,” she answered dryly, “I haven’t. I’m a scab.”
He laughed, like an adult at a child who uses technological words beyond its understanding. “If you know what you’re saying, you know that it’s not possible,” he said. “Not here.”
“I crashed the gate. Literally.”
He looked at her bandages, weighing the question, his glance almost insolent in its open curiosity. “When?”
“In a plane.”
“What were you doing in a plane in this part of the country?”
He had the direct, imperious manner of an aristocrat or a roughneck; he looked like one and was dressed like the other. She considered him for a moment, deliberately letting him wait. “I was trying to land on a prehistorical mirage,” she answered. “And I have.”
“You are a scab,” he said, and chuckled, as if grasping all the implications of the problem. “Where’s John?”
“Mr. Galt is at the powerhouse. He should be back any moment.”
He sat down in an armchair, asking no permission, as if he were at home. She turned silently to her work. He sat watching her movements with an open grin, as if the sight of her laying out cutlery on a kitchen table were the spectacle of some special paradox.
“What did Francisco say when he saw you here?” he asked.
She turned to him with a slight jolt, but answered evenly, “He is not here yet.”
“Not yet?” He seemed startled. “Are you sure?”
“So I was told.”
He lighted a cigarette. She wondered, watching him, what profession he had chosen, loved and abandoned in order to join this valley. She could make no guess; none seemed to fit; she caught herself in the preposterous feeling of wishing that he had no profession at all, because any work seemed too dangerous for his incredible kind of beauty. It was an impersonal feeling, she did not look at him as at a man, but as at an animated work of art-and it seemed to be a stressed indignity of the outer world that a perfection such as his should be subjected to the shocks, the strains, the scars reserved for any man who loved his work.
But the feeling seemed the more preposterous, because the lines of his face had the sort of hardness for which no danger on earth was a match, “No, Miss Taggart,” he said suddenly, catching her glance, “you’ve never seen me before.”
She was shocked to realize that she had been studying him openly.
“How do you happen to know who I am?” she asked.
“First, I’ve seen your pictures in the papers many times. Second, you’re the only woman left in the outer world, to the best of our knowledge, who’d be allowed to enter Galt’s Gulch, Third, you’re the only woman who’d have the courage-and prodigality-still to remain a scab.”
“What made you certain that I was a scab?”
“If you weren’t, you’d know that it’s not this valley, but the view of life held by men in the outer world that is a prehistorical mirage.”
They heard the sound of the motor and saw the car stopping below, in front of the house. She noticed the swiftness with which he rose to his feet at the sight of Galt in the car; if it were not for the obvious personal eagerness, it would have looked like an instinctive gesture of military respect.
She noticed the way Galt stopped, when he entered and saw his visitor. She noticed that Galt smiled, but that his voice was oddly low, almost solemn, as if weighted with unconfessed relief,, when he said very quietly, “Hello.”
“Hi, John,” said the visitor gaily.
She noticed that their handshake came an instant too late and lasted an instant too long, like the handshake of men who had not been certain that their previous meeting would not be their last.
Galt turned to her. “Have you met?” he asked, addressing them both.
“Not exactly,” said the visitor.
“Miss Taggart, may I present Ragnar Danneskjold?”
She knew what her face had looked like, when she heard Danneskjold’s voice as from a great distance: “You don’t have to be frightened, Miss Taggart I’m not dangerous to anyone in Galt’s Gulch.”
She could only shake her head, before she recaptured her voice to say, “It’s not what you’re doing to anyone . . . it’s what they’re doing to you. . . . ”
His laughter swept her out of her moment’s stupor, “Be careful, Miss Taggart. If that’s how you’re beginning to feel, you won’t remain a scab for long.” He added, “But you ought to start by adopting the right things from the people in Galt’s Gulch, not their mistakes: they’ve spent twelve years worrying about me-needlessly.” He glanced at Galt.
“When did you get in?” asked Galt.
“Late last night.”
“Sit down. You’re going to have breakfast with us.”
“But where’s Francisco? Why isn’t he here yet?”
“I don’t know,” said Galt, frowning slightly. “I asked at the airport, just now. Nobody’s heard from him.”
As she turned to the kitchen, Galt moved to follow. “No,” she said, “it’s my job today.”
“Let me help you.”
“This is the place where one doesn’t ask for help, isn’t it?”
He smiled. “That’s right.”
She had never experienced the pleasure of motion, of walking as if her feet had no weight to carry, as if the support of the cane in her hand were merely a superfluous touch of elegance, the pleasure of feeling her steps trace swift, straight lines, of sensing the faultless, spontaneous precision of her gestures-as she experienced it while placing their food on the table in front of the two men. Her bearing told them that she knew they were watching her-she held her head like an actress on a stage, like a woman in a ballroom, like the winner of a silent contest.
“Francisco will be glad to know that it’s you who were his stand-in today,” said Danneskjold, when she joined them at the table.
“His what?”
“You see, today is June first, and the three of us-John, Francisco and I-have had breakfast together on every June first for twelve years.”
“Not when we started. But here, ever since this house was built eight years ago.” He shrugged, smiling. “For a man who has more centuries of tradition behind him than I have, it’s odd that Francisco should be the first to break our own tradition.”
“And Mr. Galt?” she asked. “How many centuries does he have behind him?”
“John? None at all. None behind him-but all of those ahead.”
“Never mind the centuries,” said Galt. “Tell me what sort of year you’ve had behind you. Lost any men?”
“Lost any of your time?”
“You mean, was I wounded? No. I haven’t had a scratch since that one time, ten years ago, when I was still an amateur, which you ought to forget by now. I wasn’t in any danger whatever, this year-in fact, I was much more safe than if I were running a small-town drugstore under Directive 10-289.”
“Lost any battles?”
“No. The losses were all on the other side, this year. The looters lost most of their ships to me-and most of their men to you. You’ve had a good year, too, haven’t you? I know, I’ve kept track of it. Since our last breakfast together, you got everyone you wanted from the state of Colorado, and a few others besides, such as Ken Danagger, who was a great prize to get. But let me tell you about a still greater one, who is almost yours. You’re going to get him soon, because he’s hanging by a thin thread and is just about ready to fall at your feet. He’s a man who saved my life-so you can see how far he’s gone.”
Galt leaned back, his eyes narrowing. “So you weren’t in any danger whatever, were you?”
Danneskjold laughed. “Oh, I took a slight risk. It was worth it. It was the most enjoyable encounter I’ve ever had. I’ve been waiting to tell you about it in person. It’s a story you’ll want to hear. Do you know who the man was? Hank Rearden. I-”
It was Galt’s voice; it was a command; the brief snap of sound had a tinge of violence neither of them had ever heard from him before.
“What?” asked Danneskjold softly, incredulously.
“Don’t tell me about it now.”
“But you’ve always said that Hank Rearden was the one man you wanted to see here most.”
“I still do. But you’ll tell me later.”
She studied Galt’s face intently, but she could find no clue, only a closed, impersonal look, either of determination or of control, that tightened the skin of his cheekbones and the line of his mouth. No matter what he knew about her, she thought, the only knowledge that could explain this, was a knowledge he had had no way of acquiring.
“You’ve met Hank Rearden?” she asked, turning to Danneskjold.
“And he saved your life?”
“I want to hear about it.”
“I don’t,” said Galt.
“Why not?”
“You’re not one of us, Miss Taggart.”
“I see.” She smiled, with a faint touch of defiance. “Were you thinking that I might prevent you from getting Hank Rearden?”
“No, that was not what I was thinking,”
She noticed that Danneskjold was studying Galt’s face, as if he, too, found the incident inexplicable. Galt held his glance, deliberately and openly, as if challenging him to find the explanation and promising that he would fail. She knew that Danneskjold had failed, when she saw a faint crease of humor softening Galt’s eyelids.
“What else,” asked Galt, “have you accomplished this year?”
“I’ve defied the law of gravitation.”
“You’ve always done that. In what particular form now?”
“In the form of a flight from mid-Atlantic to Colorado in a plane loaded with gold beyond the safety point of its capacity. Wait till Midas sees the amount I have to deposit. My customers, this year, will become richer by- Say, have you told Miss Taggart that she’s one of my customers?”
“No, not yet You may tell her, if you wish.”
“I’m-What did you say I am?” she asked.
“Don’t be shocked, Miss Taggart,” said Danneskjold. “And don’t object. I’m used to objections. I’m a sort of freak here, anyway. None of them approve of my particular method of fighting our battle. John doesn’t, Dr. Akston doesn’t. They think that my life is too valuable for it. But, you see, my father was a bishop-and of all his teachings there was only one sentence that I accepted: ‘All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.’ ”
“What do you mean?”
“That violence is not practical. If my fellow men believe that the force of the combined tonnage of their muscles is a practical means to rule me-let them learn the outcome of a contest in which there’s nothing but brute force on one side, and force ruled by a mind, on the other. Even John grants me that in our age I had the moral right to choose the course I’ve chosen. I am doing just what he is doing-
only in my own way. He is withdrawing man’s spirit from the looters, I’m withdrawing the products of man’s spirit. He is depriving them of reason, I’m depriving them of wealth. He is draining the soul of the world, I’m draining its body. His is the lesson they have to learn, only I’m impatient and I’m hastening their scholastic progress. But, like John, I’m simply complying with their moral code and refusing to grant them a double standard at my expense. Or at Rearden’s expense. Or at yours.”
“What are you talking about?”
“About a method of taxing the income taxers. All methods of taxation are complex, but this one is very simple, because it’s the naked essence of all the others. Let me explain it to you.”
She listened. She heard a sparkling voice reciting, in the tone of a dryly meticulous bookkeeper, a report about financial transfers, bank accounts, income-tax returns, as if he were reading the dusty pages of a ledger-a ledger where every entry was made by means of offering his own blood as the collateral to be drained at any moment, at any slip of his bookkeeping pen. As she listened, she kept seeing the perfection of his face-and she kept thinking that this was the head on which the world had placed a price of millions for the purpose of delivering it to the rot of death. . . . The face she had thought too beautiful for the scars of a productive career-she kept thinking numbly, missing half his words-the face too beautiful to risk. . . . Then it struck her that his physical perfection was only a simple illustration, a childish lesson given to her in crudely obvious terms on the nature of the outer world and on the fate of any human value in a subhuman age. Whatever the justice or the evil of his course, she thought, how could they . . . no!
she thought, his course was just, and this was the horror of it, that there was no other course for justice to select, that she could not condemn him, that she could neither approve nor utter a word of reproach.
“. . . and the names of my customers, Miss Taggart, were chosen slowly, one by one. I had to be certain of the nature of their character and career. On my list of restitution, your name was one of the first.”
She forced herself to keep her face expressionlessly tight, and she answered only, “I see.”
“Your account is one of the last left unpaid. It is here, at the Mulligan Bank, to be claimed by you on the day when you join us.”
“I see.”
“Your account, however, is not as large as some of the others, even though huge sums were extorted from you by force in the past twelve years. You will find-as it is marked on the copies o? your income-tax returns which Mulligan will hand over to you-that I have refunded only those taxes which you paid on the salary you earned as Operating Vice-President, but not the taxes you paid on your income from your Taggart Transcontinental stock. You deserved every penny of that stock, and in the days of your father I would have refunded every penny of your profit-but under your brother’s management, Taggart Transcontinental has taken its share of the looting, it has made profits by force, by means of government favors, subsidies, moratoriums, directives. You were not responsible for it, you were, in fact, the greatest victim of that policy-but I refund only the money which was made by pure productive ability, not the money any part of which was loot taken by force.”
“I see.”
They had finished their breakfast. Danneskjold lighted a cigarette and watched her for an instant through the first jet of smoke, as if he knew the violence of the conflict in her mind-then he grinned at Galt and rose to his feet.
“I’ll run along,” he said. “My wife is waiting for me.”
“What?” she gasped.
“My wife,” he repeated gaily, as if he had not understood the reason of her shock.
“Who is your wife?”
“Kay Ludlow.”
The implications that struck her were more than she could bear to consider. “When . . . when were you married?”
“Four years ago.”
“How could you show yourself anywhere long enough to go through a wedding ceremony?”
“We were married here, by Judge Narragansett.”
“How can”-she tried to stop, but the words burst involuntarily, in helplessly indignant protest, whether against him, fate or the outer world, she could not tell-“how can she live through eleven months of thinking that you, at any moment, might be . . . ?” She did not finish.
He was smiling, but she saw the enormous solemnity of that which he and his wife had needed to earn their right to this kind of smile. “She can live through it, Miss Taggart, because we do not hold the belief that this earth is a realm of misery where man is doomed to destruction.
We do not think that tragedy is our natural fate and we do not live in chronic dread of disaster. We do not expect disaster until we have specific reason to expect it-and when we encounter it, we are free to fight it. It is not happiness, but suffering that we consider unnatural. It is not success, but calamity that we regard as the abnormal exception in human life.”
Galt accompanied him to the door, then came back, sat down at the table and in a leisurely manner reached for another cup of coffee.
She shot to her feet, as if flung by a jet of pressure breaking a safety valve. “Do you think that I’ll ever accept his money?”
He waited until the curving streak of coffee had filled his cup, then glanced up at her and answered, “Yes, I think so.”
“Well, I won’t! I won’t let him risk his life for it!”
“You have no choice about that.”
“I have the choice never to claim it!”
“Yes, you have.”
“Then it will lie in that bank till doomsday!”
“No, it won’t. If you don’t claim it, some part of it-a very small part-will be turned over to me in your name.”
“In my name? Why?”
“To pay for your room and board.”
She stared at him, her look of anger switching to bewilderment, then dropped slowly back on her chair.
He smiled. “How long did you think you were going to stay here, Miss Taggart?” He saw her startled look of helplessness. “You haven’t thought of it? I have. You’re going to stay here for a month. For the one month of our vacation, like the rest of us. I am not asking for your consent-you did not ask for ours when you came here. You broke our rules, so you’ll have to take the consequences. Nobody leaves the valley during this month. I could let you go, of course, but I won’t.
There’s no rule demanding that I hold you, but by forcing your way here, you’ve given me the right to any choice I make-and I’m going to hold you simply because I want you here. If, at the end of a month, you decide that you wish to go back, you will be free to do so. Not until then.”
She sat straight, the planes of her face relaxed, the shape of her mouth softened by the faint, purposeful suggestion of a smile; it was the dangerous smile of an adversary, but her eyes were coldly brilliant and veiled at once, like the eyes of an adversary who fully intends to fight, but hopes to lose.
“Very well,” she said, “I shall charge you for your room and board-it is against our rules to provide the unearned sustenance of another human being.
Some of us have wives and children, but there is a mutual trade involved in that, and a mutual payment”-he glanced at her-“of a kind I am not entitled to collect. So I shall charge you fifty cents a day and you will pay me when you accept the account that lies in your name at the Mulligan Bank. If you don’t accept the account, Mulligan will charge your debt against it and he will give me the money when I ask for it.”
“I shall comply with your terms,” she answered; her voice had the shrewd, confident, deliberating slowness of a trader. “But I shall not permit the use of that money for my debts.”
“How else do you propose to comply?”
“I propose to earn my room and board.”
“By what means?”
“By working.”
“In what capacity?”
“In the capacity of your cook and housemaid.”
For the first time, she saw him take the shock of the unexpected, in a manner and with a violence she had not foreseen. It was only an explosion of laughter on his part-but he laughed as if he were hit beyond his defenses, much beyond the immediate meaning of her words; she felt that she had struck his past, tearing loose some memory and meaning of his own which she could not know. He laughed as if he were seeing some distant image, as if he were laughing in its face, as if this were his victory-and hers.
“If you will hire me,” she said, her face severely polite, her tone harshly clear, impersonal and businesslike, “I shall cook your meals, clean your house, do your laundry and perform such other duties as are required of a servant-in exchange for my room, board and such money as I will need for some items of clothing. I may be slightly handicapped by my injuries for the next few days, but that will not last and I will be able to do the job fully.”
“Is that what you want to do?” he asked.
“That is what I want to do-” she answered, and stopped before she uttered the rest of the answer in her mind: more than anything else in the world.
He was still smiling, it was a smile of amusement, but it was as if amusement could be transmuted into some shining glory. “All right, Miss Taggart,” he said, “I’ll hire you.”
She inclined her head in a dryly formal acknowledgment. “Thank you,”
“I will pay you ten dollars a month, in addition to your room and board.”
“Very well,”
“I shall be the first man in this valley to hire a servant.” He got up, reached into his pocket and threw a five-dollar gold piece down on the table. “As advance on your wages,” he said.
She was startled to discover, as her hand reached for the gold piece, that she felt the eager, desperate, tremulous hope of a young girl on her first job: the hope that she would be able to deserve it.
“Yes, sir,” she said, her eyes lowered.
Owen Kellogg arrived on the afternoon of her third day in the valley.
She did not know which shocked him most: the sight of her standing on the edge of the airfield as he descended from the plane-the sight of her clothes: her delicate, transparent blouse, tailored by the most expensive shop in New York, and the wide, cotton-print skirt she had bought in the valley for sixty cents-her cane, her bandages or the basket of groceries on her arm.
He descended among a group of men, he saw her, he stopped, then ran to her as if flung forward by some emotion so strong that, whatever its nature, it looked like terror.
“Miss Taggart . . .” he whispered-and said nothing else, while she laughed, trying to explain how she had come to beat him to his destination.
He listened, as if it were irrelevant, and then he uttered the thing from which he had to recover, “But we thought you were dead.”
“Who thought it?”
“All of us . . . I mean, everybody in the outside world.”
Then she suddenly stopped smiling, while his voice began to recapture his story and his first sound of joy.
“Miss Taggart, don’t you remember? You told me to phone Winston, Colorado, and to tell them that you’d be there by noon of the next day. That was to be the day before yesterday, May thirty-first. But you did not reach Winston-and by late afternoon, the news was on all the radios that you were lost in a plane crash somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.”
She nodded slowly, grasping the events she had not thought of considering.
“I heard it aboard the Comet,” he said. “At a small station in the middle of New Mexico, The conductor held us there for an hour, while I helped him to check the story on long-distance phones. He was hit by the news just as I was. They all were-the train crew, the station agent, the switchmen. They huddled around me while I called the city rooms of newspapers in Denver and New York. We didn’t learn much.
Only that you had left the Afton airfield just before dawn on May thirty-first, that you seemed to be following some stranger’s plane, that the attendant had seen you go off southeast-and that nobody had seen you since . . . And that searching parties were combing the Rockies for the wreckage of your plane.”
She asked involuntarily, “Did the Comet reach San Francisco?”
“I don’t know. She was crawling north through Arizona, when I gave up. There were too many delays, too many things going wrong, and a total confusion of orders. I got off and spent the night hitchhiking my way to Colorado, bumming rides on trucks, on buggies, on horse carts, to get there on time-to get to our meeting place, I mean, where we gather for Midas’ ferry plane to pick us up and bring us here.”
She started walking slowly up the path toward the car she had left in front of Hammond’s Grocery Market. Kellogg followed, and when he spoke again, his voice dropped a little, slowing down with their steps, as if there were something they both wished to delay.
“I got a job for Jeff Alien,” he said; his voice had the peculiarly solemn tone proper for saying: I have carried out your last will. “Your agent at Laurel grabbed him and put him to work the moment we got there. The agent needed every able-bodied-no, able-minded-man he could find.”
They had reached the car, but she did not get in.
“Miss Taggart, you weren’t hurt badly, were you? Did you say you crashed, but it wasn’t serious?”
“No, not serious at all. I’ll be able to get along without Mr. Mulligan’s car by tomorrow-and in a day or two I won’t need this thing, either.” She swung her cane and tossed it contemptuously into the car.
They stood in silence; she was waiting.
“The last long-distance call I made from that station in New Mexico,” he said slowly, “was to Pennsylvania. I spoke to Hank Rearden.
I told him everything I knew. He listened, and then there was a pause, and then he said, ‘Thank you for calling me.’ ” Kellogg’s eyes were lowered; he added, “I never want to hear that kind of pause again as long as I live.”
He raised his eyes to hers; there was no reproach in his glance, only the knowledge of that which he had not suspected when he heard her request, but had guessed since.
“Thank you,” she said, and threw the door of the car open. “Can I give you a lift? I have to get back and get dinner ready before my employer comes home.”
It was in the first moment of returning to Galt’s house, of standing alone in the silent, sun-filled room, that she faced the full meaning of what she felt. She looked at the window, at the mountains barring the sky in the east. She thought of Hank Rearden as he sat at his desk, now, two thousand miles away, his face tightened into a retaining wall against agony, as it had been tightened under all the blows of all his years-and she felt a desperate wish to fight his battle, to fight for him, for his past, for that tension of his face and the courage that fed it-
as she wanted to fight for the Comet that crawled by a last effort across a desert on a crumbling track. She shuddered, closing her eyes, feeling as if she were guilty of double treason, feeling as if she were suspended in space between this valley and the rest of the earth, with no right to either.
The feeling vanished when she sat facing Galt across the dinner table. He was watching her, openly and with an untroubled look, as if her presence were normal-and as if the sight of her were all he wished to allow into his consciousness.
She leaned back a little, as if complying with the meaning of his glance, and said dryly, efficiently, in deliberate denial, “I have checked your shirts and found one with two buttons missing, and another with the left elbow worn through. Do you wish me to mend them?”
“Why, yes-if you can do it.”
“I can do it.”
It did not seem to alter the nature of his glance; it merely seemed to stress its satisfaction, as if this were what he had wished her to say -except that she was not certain whether satisfaction was the name for the thing she saw in his eyes and fully certain that he had not wished her to say anything.
Beyond the window, at the edge of the table, storm clouds had wiped out the last remnants of light in the eastern sky. She wondered why she felt a sudden reluctance to look out, why she felt as if she wanted to cling to the golden patches of light on the wood of the table, on the buttered crust of the rolls, on the copper coffee pot, on Galt’s hair -to cling as to a small island on the edge of a void.
Then she heard her own voice asking suddenly, involuntarily, and she knew that this was the treason she had wanted to escape, “Do you permit any communication with the outside world?”
“Not any? Not even a note without return address?”
“Not even a message, if no secret of yours were given away?”
“Not from here. Not during this month. Not to outsiders at any time,”
She noticed that she was avoiding his eyes, and she forced herself to lift her head and face him. His glance had changed; it was watchful, unmoving, implacably perceptive. He asked, looking at her as if he knew the reason of her query, “Do you wish to ask for a special exception?”
“No,” she answered, holding his glance.
Next morning, after breakfast, when she sat in her room, carefully placing a patch on the sleeve of Galt’s shirt, with her door closed, not to let him see her fumbling effort at an unfamiliar task, she heard the sound of a car stopping in front of the house.
She heard Galt’s steps hurrying across the living room, she heard him jerk the entrance door open and call out with the joyous anger of relief: “It’s about time!”
She rose to her feet, but stopped: she heard his voice, its tone abruptly changed and grave, as if in answer to the shock of some sight confronting him: “What’s the matter?”
“Hello, John,” said a clear, quiet voice that sounded steady, but weighted with exhaustion.
She sat down on her bed, feeling suddenly drained of strength: the voice was Francisco’s.
She heard Galt asking, his tone severe with concern, “What is it?”
“I’ll tell you afterwards.”
“Why are you so late?”
“I have to leave again in an hour.”
“To leave?”
“John, I just came to tell you that I won’t be able to stay here this year.”
There was a pause, then Galt asked gravely, his voice low, “Is it as bad as that-whatever it is?”
“Yes. I . . . I might be back before the month is over. I don’t know.” He added, with the sound of a desperate effort, “I don’t know whether to hope to be done with it quickly or . . . or not,”
“Francisco, could you stand a shock right now?”
“I? Nothing could shock me now.”
“There’s a person, here, in my guest room, whom you have to see.
It will be a shock to you, so I think I’d better warn you in advance that this person is still a scab.”
“What? A scab? In your house?”
“Let me tell you how-”
“That’s something I want to see for myself!”
She heard Francisco’s contemptuous chuckle and the rush of his steps, she saw her door flung open, and she noticed dimly that it was Galt who closed it, leaving them alone.
She did not know how long Francisco stood looking at her, because the first moment that she grasped fully was when she saw him on his knees, holding onto her, his face pressed to her legs, the moment when she felt as if the shudder that ran through his body and left him still, had run into hers and made her able to move.
She saw, in astonishment, that her hand was moving gently over his hair, while she was thinking that she had no right to do it and feeling as if a current of serenity were flowing from her hand, enveloping them both, smoothing the past. He did not move, he made no sound, as if the act of holding her said everything he had to say.
When he raised his head, he looked as she had felt when she had opened her eyes in the valley: he looked as if no pain had ever existed in the world. He was laughing.
“Dagny, Dagny, Dagny”-his voice sounded, not as if a confession resisted for years were breaking out, but as if he were repeating the long since known, laughing at the pretense that it had ever been unsaid -“of course I love you. Were you afraid when he made me say it?
I’ll say it as often as you wish-I love you, darling, I love you, I always will-don’t be afraid for me, I don’t care if I’ll never have you again, what does that matter?-you’re alive and you’re here and you know everything now. And it’s so simple, isn’t it? Do you see what it was and why I had to desert you?” His arm swept out to point at the valley. “There it is-it’s your earth, your kingdom, your kind of world-Dagny, I’ve always loved you and that I deserted you, that was my love.”
He took her hands and pressed them to his lips and held them, not moving, not as a kiss, but as a long moment of rest-as if the effort of speech were a distraction from the fact of her presence, and as if he were torn by too many things to say, by the pressure of all the words stored in the silence of years.
“The women I chased-you didn’t believe that, did you? I’ve never touched one of them-but I think you knew it, I think you’ve known it all along. The playboy-it was a part that I had to play in order not to let the looters suspect me while I was destroying d’Anconia Copper in plain sight of the whole world. That’s the joker in their system, they’re out to fight any man of honor and ambition, but let them see a worthless rotter and they think he’s a friend, they think he’s safe-safe!-that’s their view of life, but are they learning!-are they learning whether evil is safe and incompetence practical! . . .
Dagny, it was the night when I knew, for the first time, that I loved you-it was then that I knew I had to go. It was when you entered my hotel room, that night, when I saw what you looked like, what you were, what you meant to me-and what awaited you in the future. Had you been less, you might have stopped me for a while. But it was you, you who were the final argument that made me leave you. I asked for your help, that night-against John Galt. But I knew that you were his best weapon against me, though neither you nor he could know it.
You were everything that he was seeking, everything he told us to live for or die, if necessary. . . . I was ready for him, when he called me suddenly to come to New York, that spring. I had not heard from him for some time. He was fighting the same problem I was. He solved it.
. . . Do you remember? It was the time when you did not hear from me for three years. Dagny, when I took over my father’s business, when I began to deal with the whole industrial system of the world, it was then that I began to see the nature of the evil I had suspected, but thought too monstrous to believe. I saw the tax-collecting vermin that had grown for centuries like mildew on d’Anconia Copper, draining us by no right that anyone could name-I saw the government regulations passed to cripple me, because I was successful, and to help my competitors, because they were loafing failures-I saw the labor unions who won every claim against me, by reason of my ability to make their livelihood possible-I saw that any man’s desire for money he could not earn was regarded as a righteous wish, but if he earned it, it was damned as greed-I saw the politicians who winked at me, telling me not to worry, because I could just work a little harder and outsmart them all. I looked past the profits of the moment, and I saw that the harder I worked, the more I tightened the noose around my throat, I saw that my energy was being poured down a sewer, that the parasites who fed on me were being fed upon in their turn, that they were caught in their own trap-and that there was no reason for it, no answer known to anyone, that the sewer pipes of the world, draining its productive blood, led into some dank fog nobody had dared to pierce, while people merely shrugged and said that life on earth could be nothing but evil. And then I saw that the whole industrial establishment of the world, with all of its magnificent machinery, its thousand-ton furnaces, its transatlantic cables, its mahogany offices, its stock exchanges, its blazing electric signs, its power, its wealth-all of it was run, not by bankers and boards of directors, but by any unshaved humanitarian in any basement beer joint, by any face pudgy with malice, who preached that virtue must be penalized for being virtue, that the purpose of ability is to serve incompetence, that man has no right to exist except for the sake of others. . . . I knew it. I saw no way to fight it. John found the way. There were just the two of us with him, the night when we came to New York in answer to his call, Ragnar and I. He told us what we had to do and what sort of men we had to reach. He had quit the Twentieth Century. He was living in a garret in a slum neighborhood. He stepped to the window and pointed at the skyscrapers of the city. He said that we had to extinguish the lights of the world, and when we would see the lights of New York go out, we would know that our job was done. He did not ask us to join him at once. He told us to think it over and to weigh everything it would do to our lives. I gave him my answer on the morning of the second day, and Ragnar a few hours later, in the afternoon. . . . Dagny, that was the morning after our last night together. I had seen, in a manner of vision that I couldn’t escape, what it was that I had to fight for.
It was for the way you looked that night, for the way you talked about your railroad-for the way you had looked when we tried to see the skyline of New York from the top of a rock over the Hudson-I had to save you, to clear the way for you, to let you find your city-not to let you stumble the years of your life away, struggling on through a poisoned fog, with your eyes still held straight ahead, still looking as they had looked in the sunlight, struggling on to find, at the end of your road, not the towers of a city, but a fat, soggy, mindless cripple performing his enjoyment of life by means of swallowing the gin your life had gone to pay for! You,-to know no joy in order that he may know it? You-to serve as fodder for the pleasure of others? You-as the means for the subhuman as the end? Dagny, that was what I saw and that was what I couldn’t let them do to you! Not to you, not to any child who had your kind of look when-he faced the future, not to any man who had your spirit and was able to experience a moment of being proudly, guiltlessly, confidently, joyously alive. That was my love, that state of the human spirit, and I left you to fight for it, and I knew that if I were to lose you, it was still you that I would be winning with every year of the battle. But you see it now, don’t you? You’ve seen this valley. It’s the place we set out to reach when we were children, you and I. We’ve reached it. What else can I ask for now? Just to see you here-did John say you’re still a scab?-oh well, it’s only a matter of tune, but you’ll be one of us, because you’ve always been, if you don’t see it fully, we’ll wait, I don’t care-
so long as you’re alive, so long as I don’t have to go on flying over the Rockies, looking for the wreckage of your plane!”
She gasped a little, realizing why he had not come to the valley on time.
He laughed. “Don’t look like that. Don’t look at me as if I were a wound that you’re afraid to touch.”
“Francisco, I’ve hurt you in so many different ways-”
“No! No, you haven’t hurt me-and he hasn’t either, don’t say anything about it, it’s he who’s hurt, but we’ll save him and he’ll come here, too, where he belongs, and he’ll know, and then he, too, will be able to laugh about it. Dagny, I didn’t expect you to wait, I didn’t hope, I knew the chance I’d taken, and if it had to be anyone, I’m glad it’s he.”
She closed her eyes, pressing her lips together not to moan.
“Darling, don’t! Don’t you see that I’ve accepted it?”
But it isn’t-she thought-it isn’t he, and I can’t tell you the truth, because it’s a man who might never hear it from me and whom I might never have.
“Francisco, I did love you-” she said, and caught her breath, shocked, realizing that she had not intended to say it and, simultaneously, that this was not the tense she had wanted to use.
“But you do,” he said calmly, smiling. “You still love me-even if there’s one expression of it that you’ll always feel and want, but will not give me any longer. I’m still what I was, and you’ll always see it, and you’ll always grant me the same response, even if there’s a greater one that you grant to another man. No matter what you feel for him, it will not change what you feel for me, and it won’t be treason to either, because it comes from the same root, it’s the same payment in answer to the same values. No matter what happens in the future, we’ll always be what we were to each other, you and I, because you’ll always love me.”
“Francisco,” she whispered, “do you know that?”
“Of course. Don’t you understand it now? Dagny, every form of happiness is one, every desire is driven by the same motor-by our love for a single value, for the highest potentiality of our own existence-and every achievement is an expression of it. Look around you. Do you see how much is open to us here, on an unobstructed earth? Do you see how much I am free to do, to experience, to achieve? Do you see that all of it is part of what you are to me-as I am part of it for you? And if I’ll see you smile with admiration at a new copper smelter that I built, it will be another form of what I felt when I lay in bed beside you. Will I want to sleep with you? Desperately. Will I envy the man who does? Sure. But what does that matter? It’s so much-just to have you here, to love you and to be alive.”
Her eyes lowered, her face stern, holding her head bowed as in an act of reverence, she said slowly, as if fulfilling a solemn promise, “Will you forgive me?”
He looked astonished, then chuckled gaily, remembering, and answered, “Not yet. There’s nothing to forgive, but I’ll forgive it when you join us.”
He rose, he drew her to her feet-and when his arms closed about her, their kiss was the summation of their past, its end and their seal of acceptance.
Galt turned to them from across the living room, when they came out. He had been standing at a window, looking at the valley-and she felt certain that he had stood there all that time. She saw his eyes studying their faces, his glance moving slowly from one to the other.
His face relaxed a little at the sight of the change in Francisco’s.
Francisco smiled, asking him, “Why do you stare at me?”
“Do you know what you looked like when you came in?”
“Oh, did I? That’s because I hadn’t slept for three nights. John, will you invite me to dinner? I want to know how this scab of yours got here, but I think that I might collapse sound asleep in the middle of a sentence-even though right now I feel as if I’ll never need any sleep at all-so I think I’d better go home and stay there till evening.”
Galt was watching him with a faint smile. “But aren’t you going to leave the valley in an hour?”
“What? No . . .” he said mildly, in momentary astonishment. “No!”
he laughed exultantly. “I don’t have to! That’s right, I haven’t told you what it was, have I? I was searching for Dagny. For . . . for the wreck of her plane. She’d been reported lost in a crash in the Rockies.”
“I see,” said Galt quietly.
“I could have thought of anything, except that she would choose to crash in Galt’s Gulch,” Francisco said happily; he had the tone of that joyous relief which almost relishes the horror of the past, defying it by means of the present. “I kept flying over the district between Afton, Utah, and Winston, Colorado, over every peak and crevice of it, over every remnant of a car in any gully below, and whenever I saw one, I-” He stopped; it looked like a shudder. “Then at night, we went out on foot-the searching parties of railroad men from Winston-
we went climbing at random, with no clues, no plan, on and on, until it was daylight again, and-” He shrugged, trying to dismiss it and to smile. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst-”
He stopped short; his smile vanished and a dim reflection of the look he had worn for three days came back to his face, as if at the sudden presence of an image he had forgotten.
After a long moment, he turned to Galt. “John,” his voice sounded peculiarly solemn, “could we notify those outside that Dagny is alive . . . in case there’s somebody who . . . who’d feel as I did?”
Galt was looking straight at him. “Do you wish to give any outsider any relief from the consequences of remaining outside?”
Francisco dropped his eyes, but answered firmly, “No.”
“Pity, Francisco?”
“Yes. Forget it. You’re right.”
Galt turned away with a movement that seemed oddly out of character: it had the unrhythmical abruptness of the involuntary.
He did not turn back; Francisco watched him in astonishment, then asked softly, “What’s the matter?”
Galt turned and looked at him for a moment, not answering. She could not identify the emotion that softened the lines of Galt’s face: it had the quality of a smile, of gentleness, of pain, and of something greater that seemed to make these concepts superfluous.
“Whatever any of us has paid for this battle,” said Galt, “you’re the one who’s taken the hardest beating, aren’t you?”
“Who? I?” Francisco grinned with shocked, incredulous amusement.
“Certainly not! What’s the matter with you?” He chuckled and added, “Pity, John?”
“No,” said Galt firmly.
She saw Francisco watching him with a faint, puzzled frown-because Galt had said it, looking, not at him, but at her.
The emotional sum that struck her as an immediate impression of Francisco’s house, when she entered it for the first time, was not the sum she had once drawn from the sight of its silent, locked exterior. She felt, not a sense of tragic loneliness, but of invigorating brightness. The rooms were bare and crudely simple, the house seemed built with the skill, the decisiveness and the impatience typical of Francisco; it looked like a frontiersman’s shanty thrown together to serve as a mere springboard for a long flight into the future-a future where so great a field of activity lay waiting that no time could be wasted on the comfort of its start. The place had the brightness, not of a home, but of a fresh wooden scaffolding erected to shelter the birth of a skyscraper.
Francisco, in shirt sleeves, stood in the middle of his twelve-foot square living room, with the look of a host in a palace. Of all the places where she had ever seen him, this was the background that seemed most properly his. Just as the simplicity of his clothes, added to his bearing, gave him the air of a superlative aristocrat, so the crudeness of the room gave it the appearance of the most patrician retreat; a single royal touch was added to the crudeness: two ancient silver goblets stood in a small niche cut in a wall of bare logs; their ornate design had required the luxury of some craftsman’s long and costly labor, more labor than had gone to build the shanty, a design dimmed by the polish of more centuries than had gone to grow the log wall’s pines. In the midst of that room, Francisco’s easy, natural manner had a touch of quiet pride, as if his smile were silently saying to her: This is what I am and what I have been all these years.
She looked up at the silver goblets.
“Yes,” he said, in answer to her silent guess, “they belonged to Sebastian d’Anconia and his wife. That’s the only thing I brought here from my palace in Buenos Aires. That, and the crest over the door.
It’s all I wanted to save. Everything else will go, in a very few months now.” He chuckled. “They’ll seize it, all of it, the last dregs of d’Anconia Copper, but they’ll be surprised. They won’t find much for their trouble. And as to that palace, they won’t be able to afford even its heating bill.”
“And then?” she asked. “Where will you go from there?”
“I? I will go to work for d’Anconia Copper.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you remember that old slogan: “The king is dead, long live the king’? When the carcass of my ancestors’ property is out of the way, then my mine will become the young new body of d’Anconia Copper, the kind of property my ancestors had wanted, had worked for, had deserved, but had never owned.”
“Your mine? What mine? Where?”
“Here,” he said, pointing toward the mountain peaks. “Didn’t you know it?”
“I own a copper mine that the looters won’t reach. It’s here, in these mountains. I did the prospecting, I discovered it, I broke the first excavation. It was over eight years ago. I was the first man to whom Midas sold land in this valley. I bought that mine. I started it with my own hands, as Sebastian d’Anconia had started. I have a superintendent 77!
in charge of it now, who used to be my best metallurgist in Chile.
The mine produces all the copper we require. My profits are deposited at the Mulligan Bank. That will be all I’ll have, a few months from now. That will be all I’ll need.”
-to conquer the world, was the way his voice sounded on his last sentence-and she marveled at the difference between that sound and the shameful, mawkish tone, half-whine, half-threat, the tone of beggar and thug combined, which the men of their century had given to the word “need.”
“Dagny,” he was saying, standing at the window, as if looking out at the peaks, not of mountains, but of time, “the rebirth of d’Anconia Copper-and of the world-has to start here, in the United States. This country was the only country in history born, not of chance and blind tribal warfare, but as a rational product of man’s mind. This country was built on the supremacy of reason-and, for one magnificent century, it redeemed the world. It will have to do so again. The first step of d’Anconia Copper, as of any other human value, has to come from here-because the rest of the earth has reached the consummation of the beliefs it has held through the ages: mystic faith, the supremacy of the irrational, which has but two monuments at the end of its course: the lunatic asylum and the graveyard. . . . Sebastian d’Anconia committed one error: he accepted a system which declared that the property he had earned by right, was to be his, not by right, but by permission. His descendants paid for that error. I have made the last payment. . . . I think that I will see the day when, growing out from their root in this soil, the mines, the smelters, the ore docks of d’Anconia Copper will spread again through the world and down to my native country, and I will be the first to start my country’s rebuilding.
I may see it, but I cannot be certain. No man can predict the time when others will choose to return to reason. It may be that at the end of my life, I shall have established nothing but this single mine-
d’Anconia Copper No. 1, Galt’s Gulch, Colorado, U.S.A. But, Dagny, do you remember that my ambition was to double my father’s production of copper? Dagny, if at the end of my life, I produce but one pound of copper a year, I will be richer than my father, richer than all my ancestors with all their thousands of tons-because that one pound will be mine by right and will be used to maintain a world that knows it!”
This was the Francisco of their childhood, in bearing, in manner, in the unclouded brilliance of his eyes-and she found herself questioning him about his copper mine, as she had questioned him about his industrial projects on their walks on the shore of the Hudson, recapturing the sense of an unobstructed future.
“I’ll take you to see the mine,” he said, “as soon as your ankle recovers completely. We have to climb a steep trail to get there, just a mule trail, there’s no truck road as yet. Let me show you the new smelter I’m designing. I’ve been working on it for some time, it’s too complex for our present volume of production, but when the mine’s output grows to justify it-just take a look at the time, labor and money that it will save!”
They were sitting together on the floor, bending over the sheets of paper he spread before her, studying the intricate sections of the smelter-with the same joyous earnestness they had once brought to the study of scraps in a junk yard.
She leaned forward just as he moved to reach for another sheet, and she found herself leaning against his shoulder.-Involuntarily, she held still for one instant, no longer than for a small break in the flow of a single motion, while her eyes rose to his. He was looking down at her, neither hiding what he felt nor implying any further demand. She drew back, knowing that she had felt the same desire as his.
Then, still holding the recaptured sensation of what she had felt for him in the past, she grasped a quality that had always been part of it, now suddenly clear to her for the first time: if that desire was a celebration of one’s life, then what she had felt for Francisco had always been a celebration of her future, like a moment of splendor gained in part payment of an unknown, total, affirming some promise to come. In the instant when she grasped it, she knew also the only desire she had ever experienced not in token of the future but of the full and final present She knew it by means of an image-the image of a man’s figure standing at the door of a small granite structure. The final form of the promise that had kept her moving, she thought, was the man who would, perhaps, remain a promise never to be reached.
But this-she thought in consternation-was that view of human destiny which she had most passionately hated and rejected: the view that man was ever to be drawn by some vision of the unattainable shining ahead, doomed ever to aspire, but not to achieve. Her life and her values could not bring her to that, she thought; she had never found beauty in longing for the impossible and had never found the possible to be beyond her reach. But she had come to it and she could find no answer.
She could not give him up or give up the world-she thought, looking at Galt, that evening. The answer seemed harder to find in his presence. She felt that no problem existed, that nothing could stand beside the fact of seeing him and nothing would ever have the power to make her leave-and, simultaneously, that she would have no right to look at him if she were to renounce her railroad. She felt that she owned him, that the unnamed had been understood between them from the start-and, simultaneously, that he was able to vanish from her Me and, on some future street of the outside world, to pass her by in unweighted indifference.
She noted that he did not question her about Francisco. When she spoke of her visit, she could find no reaction in his face, neither of approval nor of resentment. It seemed to her that she caught an imperceptible shading in his gravely attentive expression: he looked as if this were a matter about which he did not choose to feel.
Her faint apprehension grew into a question mark, and the question mark turned into a drill, cutting deeper and deeper into her mind through the evenings that followed-when Galt left the house and she remained alone. He went out every other night, after dinner, not telling her where he went, returning at midnight or later. She tried not to allow herself fully to discover with what tension and. restlessness she waited for his return. She did not ask him where he spent his evenings. The reluctance that stopped her was her too urgent desire to know; she kept silent in some dimly intentional form of defiance, half in defiance of him, half of her own anxiety.
She would not acknowledge the things she feared or give them the solid shape of words, she knew them only by the ugly, nagging pull of an unadmitted emotion. Part of it was a savage resentment, of a kind she had never experienced before, which was her answer to the dread that there might be a woman in his life; yet the resentment was softened by some quality of health in the thing she feared, as if the threat could be fought and even, if need be, accepted. But there was another, uglier dread: the sordid shape of self-sacrifice, the suspicion, not to be uttered about him, that he wished to remove himself from her path and let its emptiness force her back to the man who was his best-loved friend.
Days passed before she spoke of it. Then, at dinner, on an evening when he was to leave, she became suddenly aware of the peculiar pleasure she experienced while watching him eat the food she had prepared-and suddenly, involuntarily, as if that pleasure gave her a right she dared not identify, as if enjoyment, not pain, broke her resistance, she heard herself asking him, “What is it you’re doing every other evening?”
He answered simply, as if he had taken for granted that she knew it, “Lecturing.”
“Giving a course of lectures on physics, as I do every year during this month. It’s my . . . What are you laughing at?” he asked, seeing the look of relief, of silent laughter that did not seem to be directed at his words-and then, before she answered, he smiled suddenly, as if he had guessed the answer, she saw some particular, intensely personal quality in his smile, which was almost a quality of insolent intimacy-in contrast to the calmly impersonal, casual manner with which he went on. “You know that this is the month when we all trade the achievements of our real professions. Richard Halley is to give concerts, Kay Ludlow is to appear in two plays written by authors who do not write for the outside world-and I give lectures, reporting on the work I’ve done during the year.”
“Free lectures?”
“Certainly not. It’s ten dollars per person for the course.”
“I want to hear you.”
He shook his head. “No. You’ll be allowed to attend the concerts, the plays or any form of presentation for your own enjoyment, but not my lectures or any other sale of ideas which you might carry out of this valley. Besides, my customers, or students, are only those who have a practical purpose in taking my course: Dwight Sanders, Lawrence Hammond, Dick McNamara, Owen Kellogg, a few others. I’ve added one beginner this year: Quentin Daniels.”
“Really?” she said, almost with a touch of jealousy. “How can he afford anything that expensive?”
“On credit. I’ve given him a time-payment plan. He’s worth it.”
“Where do you lecture?”
“In the hangar, on Dwight Sanders’ farm.”
“And where do you work during the year?”
“In my laboratory.”
She asked cautiously, “Where is your laboratory? Here, in the valley?”
He held her eyes for a moment, letting her see that his glance was amused and that he knew her purpose, then answered, “No.”
“You’ve lived in the outside world for all of these twelve years?”
“Do you”-the thought seemed unbearable-“do you hold some such job as the others?”
“Oh yes.” The amusement in his eyes seemed stressed by some special meaning.
“Don’t tell me that you’re a second assistant bookkeeper!”
“No, I’m not.”
“Then what do you do?”
“I hold the kind of job that the world wishes me to hold.”
He shook his head. “No, Miss Taggart. If you decide to leave the valley, this is one of the things that you are not to know.”
He smiled again with that insolently personal quality which now seemed to say that he knew the threat contained in his answer and what it meant to her, then he rose from the table.
When he had gone, she felt as if the motion of time were an oppressive weight in the stillness of the house, like a stationary, half-solid mass slithering slowly into some faint elongation by a tempo that left her no measure to know whether minutes had passed or hours. She lay half-stretched in an armchair of the living room, crumpled by that heavy, indifferent lassitude which is not the will to laziness, but the frustration of the will to a secret violence that no lesser action can satisfy.
That special pleasure she had felt in watching him eat the food she had prepared-she thought, lying still, her eyes closed, her mind moving, like time, through some realm of veiled slowness-it had been the pleasure of knowing that she had provided him with a sensual enjoyment, that one form of his body’s satisfaction had come from her.
. . . There is reason, she thought, why a woman would wish to cook for a man . . . oh, not as a duty, not as a chronic career, only as a rare and special rite in symbol of . . . but what have they made of it, the preachers of woman’s duty? . . . The castrated performance of a sickening drudgery was held to be a woman’s proper virtue-while that which gave it meaning and sanction was held as a shameful sin . . . the work of dealing with grease, steam and slimy peelings in a reeking kitchen was held to be a spiritual matter, an act of compliance with her moral duty-while the meeting of two bodies in a bedroom was held to be a physical indulgence, an act of surrender to an animal instinct, with no glory, meaning or pride of spirit to be claimed by the animals involved.
She leaped abruptly to her feet. She did not want to think of the outer world or of its moral code. But she knew that that was not the subject of her thoughts. And she did not want to think of the subject her mind was intent on pursuing, the subject to which it kept returning against her will, by some will of its own. . . .
She paced the room, hating the ugly, jerky, uncontrolled looseness of her movements-torn between the need to let her motion break the stillness, and the knowledge that this was not the form of break she wanted. She lighted cigarettes, for an instant’s illusion of purposeful action-and discarded them within another instant, feeling the weary distaste of a substitute purpose. She looked at the room like a restless beggar, pleading with physical objects to give her a motive, wishing she could find something to clean, to mend, to polish-while knowing that no task was worth the effort. When nothing seems worth the effort-
said some stern voice in her mind-it’s a screen to hide a wish that’s worth too much; what do you want? . . . She snapped a match, viciously jerking the flame to the tip of a cigarette she noticed hanging, unlighted, in the corner of her mouth. . . . What do you want?-repeated the voice that sounded severe as a judge. I want him to come back!-she answered, throwing the words, as a soundless cry, at some accuser within her, almost as one would throw a bone to a pursuing beast, in the hope of distracting it from pouncing upon the rest.
I want him back-she said softly, in answer to the accusation that there was no reason for so great an impatience. . . . I want him back -she said pleadingly, in answer to the cold reminder that her answer did not balance the judge’s scale. . . . I want him back!-she cried defiantly, fighting not to drop’ the one superfluous, protective word in that sentence.
She felt her head drooping with exhaustion, as after a prolonged beating. The cigarette she saw between her fingers had burned the mere length of half an inch. She ground it out and fell into the armchair again.
I’m not evading it-she thought-I’m not evading it, it’s just that I can see no way to any answer. . . . That which you want-said the voice, while she stumbled through a thickening fog-is yours for the taking, but anything less than your full acceptance, anything less than your full conviction, is a betrayal of everything he is. . . . Then let him damn me-she thought, as if the voice were now lost in the fog and would not hear her-let him damn me tomorrow. . . . I want him . . . back. . . . She heard no answer, because her head had fallen softly against the chair; she was asleep.
When she opened her eyes, she saw him standing three feet away, looking down at her, as if he had been watching her for some time.
She saw his face and, with the clarity of undivided perception, she saw the meaning of the expression on his face: it was the meaning she had fought for hours. She saw it without astonishment, because she had not yet regained her awareness of any reason why it should astonish her.
“This is the way you look,” he said softly, “when you fall asleep in your office,” and she knew that he, too, was not fully aware of letting her hear it: the way he said it told her how often he had thought of it and for what reason. “You look as if you would awaken in a world where you had nothing to hide or to fear,” and she knew that the first movement of her face had been a smile, she knew it in the moment when it vanished, when she grasped that they were both awake. He added quietly, with full awareness, “But here, it’s true.”
Her first emotion of the realm of reality was a sense of power. She sat up with a flowing, leisurely movement of confidence, feeling the flow of the motion from muscle to muscle through her body. She asked, and it was the slowness, the sound of casual curiosity, the tone of taking the implications for granted, that gave to her voice the faintest sound of disdain, “How did you know what I look like in . . . my office?”
“I told you that I’ve watched you for years.”
“How were you able to watch me that thoroughly? From where?”
“I will not answer you now,” he said, simply, without defiance.
The slight movement of her shoulder leaning back, the pause, then the lower, huskier tone of her voice, left a hint of smiling triumph to trail behind her words: “When did you see me for the first time?”
“Ten years ago,” he answered, looking straight at her, letting her see that he was answering the full, unnamed meaning of her question.
“Where?” The word was almost a command.
He hesitated, then she saw a faint smile that touched only his lips, not his eyes, the kind of smile with which one contemplates-with longing, bitterness and pride-a possession purchased at an excruciating cost; his eyes seemed directed, not at her, but at the girl of that time.
“Underground, in the Taggart Terminal,” he answered.
She became suddenly conscious of her posture: she had let her shoulder blades slide down against the chair, carelessly, half-lying, one leg stretched forward-and with her sternly tailored, transparent blouse, her wide peasant skirt hand-printed in violent colors, her thin stocking and high-heeled pump, she did not look like a railroad executive-the consciousness of it struck her in answer to his eyes that seemed to be seeing the unattainable-she looked like that which she was: his servant girl. She knew the moment when some faintest stress of the brilliance in his dark green eyes removed the veil of distance, replacing the vision of the past by the act of seeing her immediate person.
She met his eyes with that insolent glance which is a smile without movement of facial muscles.
He turned away, but as he moved across the room his steps were as eloquent as the sound of a voice. She knew that he wanted to leave the room, as he always left it, he had never stayed for longer than a brief good night when he came home. She watched the course of his struggle, whether by means of his steps, begun in one direction and swerving in another, or by means of her certainty that her body had become an instrument for the direct perception of his, like a screen reflecting both movements and motives-she could not tell. She knew only that he who had never started or lost a battle against himself, now had no power to leave this room.
His manner seemed to show no sign of strain. He took off his coat, throwing it aside, remaining in shirt sleeves, and sat down, facing her, at the window across the room. But he sat down on the arm of a chair, as if he were neither leaving nor staying.
She felt the light-headed, the easy, the almost frivolous sensation of triumph in the knowledge that she was holding him as surely as by a physical touch; for the length of a moment, brief and dangerous to endure, it was a more satisfying form of contact.
Then she felt a sudden, blinding shock, which was half-blow, half scream within her, and she groped, stunned, for its cause-only to realize that he had leaned a little to one side and it had been no more than the sight of an accidental posture, of the long line running from his shoulder to the angle of his waist, to his hips, down his legs. She looked away, not to let him see that she was trembling-and she dropped all thoughts of triumph and of whose was the power.
“I’ve seen you many times since,” he said, quietly, steadily, but a little more slowly than usual, as if he could control everything except his need to speak.
“Where have you seen me?”
“Many places.”
“But you made certain to remain unseen?” She knew that his was a face she could not have failed to notice.
“Why? Were you afraid?”
He said it simply, and it took her a moment to realize that he was admitting he knew what the sight of his person would have meant to her. “Did you know who I was, when you saw me for the first time?”
“Oh yes. My worst enemy but one.”
“What?” She had not expected it; she added, more quietly, “Who’s the worst one?”
“Dr. Robert Stadler.”
“Did you have me classified with him?”
“No. He’s my conscious enemy. He’s the man who sold his soul. We don’t intend to reclaim him. You-you were one of us. I knew it, long before I saw you. I knew also that you would be the last to join us and the hardest one to defeat.”
“Who told you that?”
She let a moment pass, then asked, “What did he say?”
“He said that of all the names on our list, you’d be the one most difficult to win. That was when I heard of you for the first time. It was Francisco who put your name on our list. He told me that you were the sole hope and future of Taggart Transcontinental, that you’d stand against us for a long time, that you’d fight a desperate battle for your railroad-because you had too much endurance, courage and consecration to your work.” He glanced at her. “He told me nothing else.
He spoke of you as if he were merely discussing one of our future strikers. I knew that you and he had been childhood friends, that was all.”
“When did you see me?”
“Two years later.”
“By chance. It was late at night . . . on a passenger platform of the Taggart Terminal.” She knew that this was a form of surrender, he did not want to say it, yet he had to speak, she heard both the muted intensity and the pull of resistance in his voice-he had to speak, because he had to give himself and her this one form of contact. “You wore an evening gown. You had a cape half-slipping off your body-I saw, at first, only your bare shoulders, your back and your profile-it looked for a moment as if the cape would slip further and you would stand there naked. Then I saw that you wore a long gown, the color of ice, like the tunic of a Grecian goddess, but had the short hair and the imperious profile of an American woman. You looked preposterously out of place on a railroad platform-and it was not on a railroad platform that I was seeing you, I was seeing a setting that had never haunted me before-but then, suddenly, I knew that you did belong among the rails, the soot and the girders, that that was the proper setting for a flowing gown and naked shoulders and a face as alive as yours-a railroad platform, not a curtained apartment-you looked like a symbol of luxury and you belonged in the place that was its source-you seemed to bring wealth, grace, extravagance and the enjoyment of life back to their rightful owners, to the men who created railroads and factories-you had a look of energy and of its reward, together, a look of competence and luxury combined-and I was the first man who had ever stated in what manner these two were inseparable-and I thought that if our age gave form to its proper gods and erected a statue to the meaning of an American railroad, yours would be that statue. . . . Then I saw what you were doing-and I knew who you were. You were giving orders to three Terminal officials, I could not hear your words, but your voice sounded swift, clear-cut and confident. I knew that you were Dagny Taggart. I came closer, close enough to hear two sentences. ‘Who said so?’ asked one of the men. ‘I did,’ you answered. That was all I heard. That was enough.”
“And then?”
He raised his eyes slowly to hold hers across the room, and the submerged intensity that pulled his voice down, blurring its tone to softness, gave it a sound of self-mockery that was desperate and almost gentle: “Then I knew that abandoning my motor was not the hardest price I would have to pay for this strike.”
She wondered which anonymous shadow-among the passengers who had hurried past her, as insubstantial as the steam of the engines and as ignored-which shadow and face had been his; she wondered how close she had come to him for the length of that unknown moment. “Oh, why didn’t you speak to me, then or later?”
“Do you happen to remember what you were doing in the Terminal that night?”
“I remember vaguely a night when they called me from some party I was attending. My father was out of town and the new Terminal manager had made some sort of error that tied up all traffic in the tunnels. The old manager had quit unexpectedly the week before,”
“It was I who made him quit.”
“I see . . .”
Her voice trailed off, as if abandoning sound, as her eyelids dropped, abandoning sight. If he had not withstood it then-she thought-if he had come to claim her, then or later, what( sort of tragedy would they have had to reach? . . . She remembered what she had felt when she had cried that she would shoot the destroyer on sight. . . .
I would have-the thought was not in words, she knew it only as a trembling pressure in her stomach-I would have shot him, afterward, if I discovered his role . . . and I would have had to discover it . . .
and yet-she shuddered, because she knew she still wished he had come to her, because the thought not to be admitted into her mind.
but flowing as a dark warmth through her body, was: I would have shot him, but not before-
She raised her eyelids-and she knew that that thought was as naked to him in her eyes, as it was to her in his. She saw his veiled glance and the tautness of his mouth, she saw him reduced to agony, she felt herself drowned by the exultant wish to cause him pain, to see it, to watch it, to watch it beyond her own endurance and his, then to reduce him to the helplessness of pleasure.
He got up, he looked away, and she could not tell whether it was the slight lift of his head or the tension of his features that made his face look oddly calm and clear, as if it were stripped of emotion down to the naked purity of its structure.
“Every man that your railroad needed and lost in the past ten years,”
he said, “it was I who made you lose him.” His voice had the single toned flatness and the luminous simplicity of an accountant who reminds a reckless purchaser that cost is an absolute which cannot be escaped, “I have pulled every girder from under Taggart Transcontinental and, if you choose to go back, I will see it collapse upon your head.”
He turned to leave the room. She stopped him. It was her voice, more than her words, that made him stop: her voice was low, it had no quality of emotion, only of a sinking weight, and its sole color was some dragging undertone, like an inner echo, resembling a threat; it was the voice of the plea of a person who still retains a concept of honor, but is long past caring for it: “You want to hold me here, don’t you?”
“More than anything else in the world.”
“You could hold me.”
“I know it”
His voice had said it with the same sound as hers. He waited, to regain his breath. When he spoke, his voice was low and clear, with some stressed quality of awareness, which was almost the quality of a smile of understanding: “It’s your acceptance of this place that I want. What good would it do me, to have your physical presence without any meaning? That’s the kind of faked reality by which most people cheat themselves of their lives. I’m not capable of it.” He turned to go. “And neither are you. Good night, Miss Taggart.”
He walked out, into his bedroom, closing the door.
She was past the realm of thought-as she lay in bed in the darkness of her room, unable to think or to sleep-and the moaning violence that filled her mind seemed only a sensation of her muscles, but its tone and its twisting shades were like a pleading cry, which she knew, not as words, but as pain: Let him come here, let him break -let it be damned, all of it, my railroad and his strike and everything we’ve lived by!-let it be damned, everything we’ve been and are!-
he would, if tomorrow I were to die-then let me die, but tomorrow -let him come here, be it any price he names, I have nothing left that’s not for sale to him any longer-is this what it means to be an animal?-it does and I am. . . . She lay on her back, her palms pressed to the sheet at her sides, to stop herself from rising and walking into his room, knowing that she was capable even of that. . . .
It’s not I, it’s a body I can neither endure nor control. . . . But somewhere within her, not as words, but as a radiant point of stillness, there was the presence of the judge who seemed to observe her, not in stern condemnation any longer, but in approval and amusement, as if saying: Your body?-if he were not what you know him to be, would your body bring you to this?-why is it his body that you want, and no other?-do you think that you are damning them, the things you both have lived by?-are you damning that which you are honoring in this very moment, by your very desire? . . . She did not have to hear the words, she knew them, she had always known them.
. . . After a while, she lost the glow of that knowledge, and there was nothing left but pain and the palms that were pressed to the sheet-and the almost indifferent wonder whether he, too, was awake and fighting the same torture.
She heard no sound in the house and saw no light from his window on the tree trunks outside. After a long while she heard, from the darkness of his room, two sounds that gave her a full answer; she knew that he was awake and that he would not come; it was the sound of a step and the click of a cigarette lighter.
Richard Halley stopped playing, turned away from the piano and glanced at Dagny, He saw her drop her face with the involuntary movement of hiding too strong an emotion, he rose, smiled and said softly, “Thank you.”
“Oh no . . .” she whispered, knowing that the gratitude was hers and that it was futile to express it. She was thinking of the years when the works he had just played for her were being written, here, in his small cottage on a ledge of the valley, when all this prodigal magnificence of sound was being shaped by him as a flowing monument to a concept which equates the sense of life with the sense of beauty-while she had walked through the streets of New York in a hopeless quest for some form of enjoyment, with the screeches of a modern symphony running after her, as if spit by the infected throat of a loud-speaker coughing its malicious hatred of existence.
“But I mean it,” said Richard Halley, smiling. “I’m a businessman and I never do anything without payment. You’ve paid me. Do you see why I wanted to play for you tonight?”
She raised her head. He stood in the middle of his living room, they were alone, with the window open to the summer night, to the dark trees on a long sweep of ledges descending toward the glitter of the valley’s distant lights.
“Miss Taggart, how many people are there to whom my work means as much as it does to you?”
“Not many,” she answered simply, neither as boast nor flattery, but as an impersonal tribute to the exacting values involved.
“That is the payment I demand. Not many can afford it. I don’t mean your enjoyment, I don’t mean your emotion-emotions be damned!-I mean your understanding and the fact that your enjoyment was of the same nature as mine, that it came from the same source: from your intelligence, from the conscious judgment of a mind able to judge my work by the standard of the same values that went to write it-I mean, not the fact that you felt, but that you felt what I wished you to feel, not the fact that you admire my work, but that you admire it for the things I wished to be admired.” He chuckled.
“There’s only one passion in most artists more violent than their desire for admiration: their fear of identifying the nature of such admiration as they do receive. But it’s a fear I’ve never shared. I do not fool myself about my work or the response I seek-I value both too highly.
I do not care to be admired causelessly, emotionally, intuitively, instinctively-or blindly, I do not care for blindness in any form, I have too much to show-or for deafness, I have too much to say. I do not care to be admired by anyone’s heart-only by someone’s head. And when I find a customer with that invaluable capacity, then my performance is a mutual trade to mutual profit. An artist is a trader, Miss Taggart, the hardest and most exacting of all traders. Now do you understand me?”
“Yes,” she said incredulously, “I do,” incredulously because she was hearing her own symbol of moral pride, chosen by a man she had least expected to choose it.
“If you do, why did you look quite so tragic just a moment ago?
What is it that you regret?”
“The years when your work has remained unheard.”
“But it hasn’t. I’ve given two or three concerts every year. Here, in Galt’s Gulch. I am giving one next week. I hope you’ll come. The price of admission is twenty-five cents.”
She could not help laughing. He smiled, then his face slipped slowly into earnestness, as under the tide of some unspoken contemplation of his own. He looked at the darkness beyond the window, at a spot where, in a clearing of the branches, with the moonlight draining its color, leaving only its metallic luster, the sign of the dollar hung like a curve of shining steel engraved on the sky.
“Miss Taggart, do you see why I’d give three dozen modern artists for one real businessman? Why I have much more in common with Ellis Wyatt or Ken Danagger-who happens to be tone deaf-than with men like Mort Liddy and Balph Eubank? Whether it’s a symphony or a coal mine, all work is an act of creating and comes from the same source: from an inviolate capacity to see through one’s own eyes-which means: the capacity to perform a rational identification –which means: the capacity to sew, to connect and to make what had not been seen, connected and made before. That shining vision which they talk about as belonging to the authors of symphonies and novels-what do they think is the driving faculty of men who discover how to use oil, how to run a mine, how to build an electric motor? That sacred fire which is said to burn within musicians and poets-what do they suppose moves an industrialist to defy the whole world for the sake of his new metal, as the inventors of the airplane, the builders of the railroads, the discoverers of new germs or new continents have done through all the ages? . . . An intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth, Miss Taggart? Have you heard the moralists and the art lovers of the centuries talk about the artist’s intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth? Name me a greater example of such devotion than the act of a man who says that the earth does turn, or the act of a man who says that an alloy of steel and copper has certain properties which enable it to do certain things, that it is and does-and let the world rack him or ruin him, he will not bear false witness to the evidence of his mind! This, Miss Taggart, this sort of spirit, courage and love for truth-as against a sloppy bum who goes around proudly assuring you that he has almost reached the perfection of a lunatic, because he’s an artist who hasn’t the faintest idea what his art work is or means, he’s not restrained by such crude concepts as ‘being’ or ‘meaning’ he’s the vehicle of higher mysteries, he doesn’t know how he created his work or why, it just came out of him spontaneously, like vomit out of a drunkard, he did not think, he wouldn’t stoop to thinking, he just felt it, all he has to do is feel-
he feels, the flabby, loose-mouthed, shifty-eyed, drooling, shivering, uncongealed bastard! I, who know what discipline, what effort, what tension of mind, what unrelenting strain upon one’s power of clarity are needed to produce a work of art-I, who know that it requires a labor which makes a chain gang look like rest and a severity no army drilling sadist could impose-I’ll take the operator of a coal mine over any walking vehicle of higher mysteries. The operator knows that it’s not his feelings that keep the coal carts moving under the earth-and he knows what does keep them moving. Feelings? Oh yes, we do feel, he, you and I-we are, in fact, the only people capable of feeling-
and we know where our feelings come from. But what we did not know and have delayed learning for too long is the nature of those who claim that they cannot account for their feelings. We did not know what it is that they feel. We are learning it now. It was a costly error. And those most guilty of it, will pay the hardest price-as, in justice, they must. Those most guilty of it were the real artists, who will now see that they are first to be exterminated and that they had prepared the triumph of their own exterminators by helping to destroy their only protectors. For if there is more tragic a fool than the businessman who doesn’t know that he’s an exponent of man’s highest creative spirit-it’s the artist who thinks that the businessman is his enemy.”
It was true-she thought, when she walked through the streets of the valley, looking with a child’s excitement at the shop windows sparkling in the sun-that the businesses here had the purposeful selectiveness of art-and that the art-she thought, when she sat in the darkness of a clapboard concert hall, listening to the controlled violence and the mathematical precision of Halley’s music-had the stern discipline of business.
Both had the radiance of engineering-she thought, when she sat among rows of benches under the open sky, watching Kay Ludlow on the stage. It was an experience she had not known since childhood -the experience of being held for three hours by a play that told a story she had not seen before, in lines she had not heard, uttering a theme that had not been picked from the hand-me-downs of the centuries. It was the forgotten delight of being held in rapt attention by the reins of the ingenious, the unexpected, the logical, the purposeful, the new-and of seeing it embodied in a performance of superlative artistry by a woman playing a character whose beauty of spirit matched her own physical perfection.
“That’s why I’m here, Miss Taggart,” said Kay Ludlow, smiling in answer to her comment, after the performance. “Whatever quality of human greatness I have the talent to portray-that was the quality the outer world sought to degrade. They let me play nothing but symbols of depravity, nothing but harlots, dissipation-chasers and home-wreckers, always to be beaten at the end by the little girl next door, personifying the virtue of mediocrity. They used my talent-for the defamation of itself. That was why I quit.”
Not since childhood, thought Dagny, had she felt that sense of exhilaration after witnessing the performance of a play-the sense that life held things worth reaching, not the sense of having studied some aspect of a sewer there had been no reason to see. As the audience filed away into the darkness from the lighted rows of benches, she noticed Ellis Wyatt, Judge Narragansett, Ken Danagger, men who had once been said to despise all forms of art.
The last image she caught, that evening, was the sight of two tall, straight, slender figures walking away together down a trail among the rocks, with the beam of a spotlight flashing once on the gold of their hair. They were Kay Ludlow and Ragnar Danneskjold-and she wondered whether she could bear to return to a world where these were the two doomed to destruction.
The recaptured sense of her own childhood kept coming back to her whenever she met the two sons of the young woman who owned the bakery shop. She often saw them wandering down the trails of the valley-two fearless beings, aged seven and four. They seemed to face life as she had faced it. They did not have the look she had seen in the children of the outer world-a look of fear, half-secretive, half sneering, the look of a child’s defense against an adult, the look of a being in the process of discovering that he is hearing lies and of learning to feel hatred. The two boys had the open, joyous, friendly confidence of kittens who do not expect to get hurt, they had an innocently natural, non-boastful sense of their own value and as innocent a trust in any stranger’s ability to recognize it, they had the eager curiosity that would venture anywhere with the certainty that life held nothing unworthy of or closed to discovery, and they looked as if, should they encounter malevolence, they would reject it contemptuously, not as dangerous, but as stupid, they would not accept it in bruised resignation as the law of existence, “They represent my particular career, Miss Taggart,” said the young mother in answer to her comment, wrapping a loaf of fresh bread and smiling at her across the counter. “They’re the profession I’ve chosen to practice, which, in spite of all the guff about motherhood, one can’t practice successfully in the outer world. I believe you’ve met my husband, he’s the teacher of economics who works as linesman for Dick McNamara. You know, of course, that there can be no collective commitments in this valley and that families or relatives are not allowed to come here, unless each person takes the striker’s oath by his own independent conviction. I came here, not merely for the sake of my husband’s profession, but for the sake of my own. I came here in order to bring up my sons as human beings. I would not surrender them to the educational systems devised to stunt a child’s brain, to convince him that reason is impotent, that existence is an irrational chaos with which he’s unable to deal, and thus reduce him to a state of chronic terror. You marvel at the difference between my children and those outside, Miss Taggart? Yet the cause is so simple. The cause is that here, in Galt’s Gulch, there’s no person who would not consider it monstrous ever to confront a child with the slightest suggestion of the irrational.”
She thought of the teachers whom the schools of the world had lost -when she looked at the three pupils of Dr. Akston, on the evening of their yearly reunion.
The only other guest he had invited was Kay Ludlow. The six of them sat in the back yard of his house, with the light of the sunset on their faces, and the floor of the valley condensing into a soft blue vapor far below.
She looked at his pupils, at the three pliant, agile figures half stretched on canvas chairs in poses of relaxed contentment, dressed in slacks, windbreakers and open-collared shirts: John Galt, Francisco d’Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjold.
“Don’t be astonished, Miss Taggart,” said Dr. Akston, smiling, “and don’t make the mistake of thinking that these three pupils of mine are some sort of superhuman creatures. They’re something much greater and more astounding than that: they’re normal men-a thing the world has never seen-and their feat is that they managed to survive as such. It does take an exceptional mind and a still more exceptional integrity to remain untouched by the brain-destroying influences of the world’s doctrines, the accumulated evil of centuries-to remain human, since the human is the rational.”
She felt some new quality in Dr. Akston’s attitude, some change in the sternness of his usual reserve; he seemed to include her in their circle, as if she were more than a guest. Francisco acted as if her presence at their reunion were natural and to be taken gaily for granted. Galt’s face gave no hint of any reaction; his manner was that of a courteous escort who had brought her here at Dr. Akston’s request.
She noticed that Dr. Akston’s eyes kept coming back to her, as if with the quiet pride of displaying his students to an appreciative observer. His conversation kept returning to a single theme, in the manner of a father who has found a listener interested in his most cherished subject: “You should have seen them, when they were in college, Miss Taggart. You couldn’t have found three boys ‘conditioned’ to such different backgrounds, but-conditioners be damned!-they must have picked one another at first sight, among the thousands on that campus.
Francisco, the richest hen- in the world-Ragnar, the European aristocrat-and John, the self-made man, self-made in every sense, out of nowhere, penniless, parentless, tie-less. Actually, he was the son of a gas-station mechanic at some forsaken crossroads in Ohio, and he had left home at the age of twelve to make his own way-but I’ve always thought of him as if he had come into the world like Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, who sprang forth from Jupiter’s head, fully grown and fully armed. . . . I remember the day when I saw the three of them for the first time. They were sitting at the back of the classroom-I was giving a special course for postgraduate students, so difficult a course that few outsiders ever ventured to attend these particular lectures. Those three looked too young even for freshmen-
they were sixteen at the time, as I learned later. At the end of that lecture, John got up to ask me a question. It was a question which, as a teacher, I would have been proud to hear from a student who’d taken six years of philosophy. It was a question pertaining to Plato’s metaphysics, which Plato hadn’t had the sense to ask of himself. I answered-and I asked John to come to my office after the lecture.
He came-all three of them came-I saw the two others in my anteroom and let them in. I talked to them for an hour-then I cancelled all my appointments and talked to them for the rest of the day. After which, I arranged to let them take that course and receive their credits for it. They took the course. They got the highest grades in the class.
. . . They were majoring in two subjects: physics and philosophy.
Their choice amazed everybody but me: modern thinkers considered it unnecessary to perceive reality, and modern physicists considered it unnecessary to think. I knew better; what amazed me was that these children knew it, too. . . . Robert Stadler was head of the Department of Physics, as I was head of the Department of Philosophy. He and I suspended all rules and restrictions for these three students, we spared them all the routine, unessential courses, we loaded them with nothing but the hardest tasks, and we cleared their way to major in our two subjects within their four years. They worked for it. And, during those four years, they worked for their living, besides. Francisco and Ragnar were receiving allowances from their parents, John had nothing, but all three of them held part-time jobs to earn their own experience and money. Francisco worked in a copper foundry, John worked in a railroad roundhouse, and Ragnar-no, Miss Taggart, Ragnar was not the least, but the most studiously sedate of the three-
he worked as clerk in the university library. They had time for everything they wanted, but no time for people or for any communal campus activities. They . . . Ragnar!” he interrupted himself suddenly, sharply. “Don’t sit on the ground!”
Danneskjold had slipped down and was now sitting on the grass, with his head leaning against Kay Ludlow’s knees. He rose obediently, chuckling. Dr. Akston smiled with a touch of apology.
“It’s an old habit of mine,” he explained to Dagny. “A ‘conditioned’ reflex, I guess. I used to tell him that in those college years, when I’d catch him sitting on the ground in my back yard, on cold, foggy evenings-he was reckless that way, he made me worry, he should have known it was dangerous and-”
He stopped abruptly; he read in Dagny’s startled eyes the same thought as his own: the thought of the kind of dangers the adult Ragnar had chosen to face. Dr. Akston shrugged, spreading his hands in a gesture of helpless self-mockery. Kay Ludlow smiled at him in understanding.
“My house stood just outside the campus,” he continued, sighing, “on a tall bluff over Lake Erie. We spent many evenings together, the four of us. We would sit just like this, in my back yard, on the nights of early fall or in the spring, only instead of this granite mountainside, we had the spread of the lake before us, stretching off into a peacefully unlimited distance. I had to work harder on those nights than in any classroom, answering all the questions they’d ask me, discussing the kind of issues they’d raise. About midnight, I would fix some hot chocolate and force them to drink it-the one thing I suspected was that they never took time to eat properly-and then we’d go on talking, while the lake vanished into solid darkness and the sky seemed lighter than the earth. There were a few tunes when we stayed there till I noticed suddenly that the sky was turning darker and the lake was growing pale and we were within a few sentences of daylight. I should have known better, I knew that they weren’t getting enough sleep as it was, but I forgot it occasionally, I lost my sense of time-
you see, when they were there, I always felt as ft it were early morning and a long, inexhaustible day were stretching ahead before us. They never spoke of what they wished they might do in the future, they never wondered whether some mysterious omnipotence had favored them with some unknowable talent to achieve the things they wanted-
they spoke of what they would do. Does affection tend to make one a coward? I know that the only times I felt fear were occasional moments when I listened to them and thought of what the world was becoming and what they would have to encounter in the future. Fear?
Yes-but it was more than fear. It was the kind of emotion that makes men capable of killing-when I thought that the purpose of the world’s trend was to destroy these children, that these three sons of mine were marked for immolation. Oh yes, I would have killed-
but whom was there to kill? It was everyone and no one, there was no single enemy, no center and no villain, it was not the simpering social worker incapable of earning a penny or the thieving bureaucrat scared of his own shadow, it was the whole of the earth rolling into an obscenity of horror, pushed by the hand of every would-be decent man who believed that need is holier than ability, and pity is holier than justice. But these were only occasional moments. It was not my constant feeling. I listened to my children and I knew that nothing would defeat them. I looked at them, as they sat in my back yard, and beyond my house there were the tall, dark buildings of what was still a monument to unenslaved thought-the Patrick Henry University-
and farther in the distance there were the lights of Cleveland, the orange glow of steel mills behind batteries of smokestacks, the twinkling red dots of radio towers, the long white rays of airports on the black edge of the sky-and I thought that in the name of any greatness that had ever existed and moved this world, the greatness of which they were the last descendants, they would win, . . . I remember one night when I noticed that John had been silent for a long time -and I saw that he had fallen asleep, stretched there on the ground.
The two others confessed that he had not slept for three days. I sent the two of them home at once, but I didn’t have the heart to disturb him. It was a warm spring night, I brought a blanket to cover him, and I let him sleep where he was. I sat there beside him till morning-and as I watched his face in the starlight, then the first ray of the sun on his untroubled forehead and closed eyelids, what I experienced was not a prayer, I do not pray, but that state of spirit at which a prayer is a misguided attempt: a full, confident, affirming self-dedication to my love of the right, to the certainty that the right would win and that this boy would have the kind of future he deserved.” He moved his arm, pointing to the valley. “I did not expect it to be as great as this-or as hard.”
It had grown dark and the mountains had blended with the sky.
Hanging detached in space, there were the lights of the valley below them, the red breath of Stockton’s foundry above, and the lighted string of windows of Mulligan’s house, like a railroad car imbedded in the sky.
“I did have a rival,” said Dr. Akston slowly. “It was Robert Stadler.
. . . Don’t frown, John-it’s past. . . . John- did love him, once.
Well, so did I-no, not quite, but what one felt for a mind like Stadler’s was painfully close to love, it was that rarest of pleasures: admiration. No, I did not love him, but he and I had always felt as if we were fellow survivors from some vanishing age or land, in the gibbering swamp of mediocrity around us. The mortal sin of Robert Stadler was that he never identified his proper homeland. . . . He hated stupidity. It was the only emotion I had ever seen him display toward people-a biting, bitter, weary hatred for any ineptitude that dared to oppose him. He wanted his own way, he wanted to be left alone to pursue it, he wanted to brush people out of his path-
and he never identified the means to it or the nature of his path and of his enemies. He took a short cut. Are you smiling, Miss Taggart?
You hate him, don’t you? Yes, you know the kind of short cut he took. . . . He told you that we were rivals for these three students.
That was true-or rather, that was not the way I thought of it, but I knew that he did. Well, if we were rivals, I had one advantage: I knew why they needed both our professions; he never understood their interest in mine. He never understood its importance to himself-
which, incidentally, is what destroyed him. But in those years he was still alive enough to grasp at these three students. ‘Grasp’ was the word for it. Intelligence being the only value he worshipped, he clutched them as if they were a private treasure of his own. He had always been a very lonely man. I think that in the whole of his life, Francisco and Ragnar were his only love, and John was his only passion. It was John whom he regarded as his particular heir, as his future, as his own immortality. John intended to be an inventor, which meant that he was to be a physicist; he was to take his postgraduate course under Robert Stadler. Francisco intended to leave after graduation and go to work; he was to be the perfect blend of both of us, his two intellectual fathers: an industrialist. And Ragnar-you didn’t know what profession Ragnar had chosen, Miss Taggart? No, it wasn’t stunt pilot, or jungle explorer, or deep-sea diver. It was something much more courageous than these. Ragnar intended to be a philosopher. An abstract, theoretical, academic, cloistered, ivory-tower philosopher. . . .
Yes, Robert Stadler loved them. And yet-I have said that I would have killed to protect them, only there was no one to kill. If that were the solution-which, of course, it isn’t-the man to kill was Robert Stadler. Of any one person, of any single guilt for the evil which is now destroying the world-his was the heaviest guilt. He had the mind to know better. His was the only name of honor and achievement, used to sanction the rule of the looters. He was the man who delivered science into the power of the looters’ guns. John did not expect it. Neither did I. . . . John came back for his postgraduate course in physics. But he did not finish it. He left, on the day when Robert Stadler endorsed the establishment of a State Science Institute.
I met Stadler by chance in a corridor of the university, as he came out of his office after his last conversation with John. He looked changed.
I hope that I shall never have to see again a change of that kind in a man’s face. He saw me approaching-and he did not know, but I knew, what made him whirl upon me and cry, Tin so sick of all of you Impractical idealists!1 I turned away. I knew that I had heard a man pronounce a death sentence upon himself. . . . Miss Taggart, do you remember the question you asked me about my three pupils?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“I could gather, from your question, the nature of what Robert Stadler had said to you about them. Tell me, why did he speak of them at all?”
He saw the faint movement of her bitter smile. “He told me their story as a justification for his belief in the futility of human intelligence. He told it to me as an example of his disillusioned hope.
Theirs was the kind of ability,’ he said, ‘one expects to see, in the future, changing the course of the world’.”
“Well, haven’t they done so?”
She nodded, slowly, holding her head inclined for a long moment hi acquiescence and in homage.
“What I want you to understand, Miss Taggart, is the full evil of those who claim to have become convinced that this earth, by its nature, is a realm of malevolence where the good has no chance to win. Let them check their premises. Let them check their standards of value. Let them check-before they grant themselves the unspeakable license of evil-as-necessity-whether they know what is the good and what are the conditions it requires. Robert Stadler now believes that intelligence is futile and that human life can be nothing but irrational. Did he expect John Galt to become a great scientist, willing to work under the orders of Dr. Floyd Ferris? Did he expect Francisco d’Anconia to become a great industrialist, willing to produce under the orders and for the benefit of Wesley Mouch? Did he expect Ragnar Danneskjold to become a great philosopher, willing to preach, under the orders of Dr. Simon Pritchett, that there is no mind and that might is right? Would that have been a future which Robert Stadler would have considered rational? I want you to observe, Miss Taggart, that those who cry the loudest about their disillusionment, about the failure of virtue, the futility of reason, the impotence of logic-
are those who have achieved the full, exact, logical result of the ideas they preached, so mercilessly logical that they dare not identify it. In a world that proclaims the non-existence of the mind, the moral righteousness of rule by brute force, the penalizing of the competent in favor of the incompetent, the sacrifice of the best to the worst -in such a world, the best have to turn against society and have to become its deadliest enemies. In such a world John Galt, the man of incalculable intellectual power, will remain an unskilled laborer-
Francisco d’Anconia, the miraculous producer of wealth, will become a wastrel-and Ragnar Danneskjold, the man of enlightenment, will become the man of violence. Society-and Dr. Robert Stadler-have achieved everything they advocated. What complaint do they now have to make? That the universe is irrational? Is it?”
He smiled; his smile had the pitiless gentleness of certainty.
“Every man builds his world in his own image,” he said. “He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.
If he abdicates his power, he abdicates the status of man, and the grinding chaos of the irrational is what he achieves as his sphere of existence-by his own choice. Whoever preserves a single thought uncorrupted by any concession to the will of others, whoever brings into reality a matchstick or a patch of garden made in the image of his thought-he, and to that extent, is a man, and that extent is the sole measure of his virtue. They”-he pointed at his pupils-
“made no concessions. This”-he pointed at the valley-“is the measure of what they preserved and of what they are. . . . Now I can repeat my answer to the question you asked me, knowing that you will understand it fully. You asked me whether I was proud of the way my three sons had turned out. I am more proud than I had ever hoped to be. I am proud of their every action, of their every goal-
and of every value they’ve chosen. And this, Dagny, is my full answer.”
The sudden sound of her first name was pronounced in the tone of a father; he spoke his last two sentences, looking, not at her, but at Galt.
She saw Galt answering him by an open glance held steady for an instant, like a signal of affirmation. Then Galt’s eyes moved to hers.
She saw him looking at her as if she bore the unspoken title that hung in the silence between them, the title Dr. Akston had granted her, but had not pronounced and none of the others had caught-
she saw, in Galt’s eyes, a glance of amusement at her shock, of support and, incredibly, of tenderness.
D’Anconia Copper No. I was a small cut on the face of the mountain, that looked as if a knife had made a few angular slashes, leaving shelves of rock, red as a wound, on the reddish-brown flank.
The sun beat down upon it. Dagny stood at the edge of a path, holding on to Galt’s arm on one side and to Francisco’s on the other, the wind blowing against their faces and out over the valley, two thousand feet below.
This-she thought, looking at the mine-was the story of human wealth written across the mountains: a few pine trees hung over the cut, contorted by the storms that had raged through the wilderness for centuries, six men worked on the shelves, and an inordinate amount of complex machinery traced delicate lines against the sky; the machinery did most of the work.
She noticed that Francisco was displaying his domain to Galt as much as to her, as much or more. “You haven’t seen it since last year, John. . . . John, wait till you see it a year from now. I’ll be through, outside, in just a few months-and then this will be my full-time job.”
“Hell, no, John!” he said, laughing, in answer to a question-but she caught suddenly the particular quality of his glance whenever it rested on Galt: it was the quality she had seen in his eyes when he had stood in her room, clutching the edge of a table to outlive an unlivable moment; he had looked as if he were seeing someone before him; it was Galt, she thought; it was Galt’s image that had carried him through.
Some part of her felt a dim dread: the effort which Francisco had made in that moment to accept her loss and his rival, as the payment demanded of him for his battle, had cost him so much that he was now unable to suspect the truth Dr. Akston had guessed. What will it do to him when he learns?-she wondered, and felt a bitter voice reminding her that there would, perhaps, never be any truth of this kind to learn.
Some part of her felt a dim tension as she watched the way Galt looked at Francisco: it was an open, simple, unreserved glance of surrender to an unreserved feeling. She felt the anxious wonder she had never fully named or dismissed: wonder whether this feeling would bring him down to the ugliness of renunciation.
But most of her mind seemed swept by some enormous sense of release, as if she were laughing at all doubts. Her glance kept going back over the path they had traveled to get here, over the two exhausting miles of a twisted trail that ran, like a precarious corkscrew, from the tip of her feet down to the floor of the valley. Her eyes kept studying it, her mind racing with some purpose of its own.
Brush, pines and a clinging carpet of moss went climbing from the green slopes far below, up the granite ledges. The moss and the brush vanished gradually, but the pines went on, struggling upward in thinning strands, till only a few dots of single trees were left, rising up the naked rock toward the white sunbursts of snow in the crevices at the peaks. She looked at the spectacle of the most ingenious mining machinery she had ever seen, then at the trail where the plodding hoofs and swaying shapes of mules provided the most ancient form of transportation.
“Francisco,” she asked, pointing, “who designed the machines?”
“They’re just adaptations of standard equipment.”
“Who designed them?”
“I did. We don’t have many men to spare. We had to make up for it.”
“You’re wasting an unconscionable amount of manpower and time, carting your ore on muleback. You ought to build a railroad down to the valley.”
She was looking down and did not notice the sudden, eager shot of his glance to her face or the sound of caution in his voice: “I know it, but it’s such a difficult job that the mine’s output won’t justify it at present.”
“Nonsense! It’s much simpler than it looks. There’s a pass to the east where there’s an easier grade and softer stone, I watched it on the way up, it wouldn’t take so many curves, three miles of rail or less would do it.”
She was pointing east, she did not notice the intensity with which the two men were watching her face.
“Just a narrow-gauge track is all you’ll need . . . like the first railroads . . . that’s where the first railroads started-at mines, only they were coal mines. . . . Look, do you see that ridge? There’s plenty of clearance for a three-foot gauge, you wouldn’t need to do any blasting or widening. Do you see where there’s a slow rise for a stretch of almost half a mile? That would be no worse than a four per cent grade, any engine could manage it.” She was speaking with a swift, bright certainty, conscious of nothing but the joy of performing her natural function in her natural world where nothing could take precedence over the act of offering a solution to a problem. “The road will pay for itself within three years. I think, at a rough glance, that the costliest part of the job will be a couple of steel trestles-and there’s one spot where I might have to blast a tunnel, but it’s only for a hundred feet or less. I’ll need a steel trestle to throw the track across that gorge and bring it here, but it’s not as hard as it looks-let me show you, have you got a piece of paper?”
She did not notice with what speed Galt produced a notebook and a pencil and thrust them into her hands-she seized them, as if she expected them to be there, as if she were giving orders on a construction site where details of this kind were not to delay her.
“Let me give you a rough idea of what I mean. If we drive diagonal piles into the rock”-she was sketching rapidly-“the actual steel span would be only six hundred feet long-it would cut off this last half mile of your corkscrew turns-I could have the rail laid in three months and-”
She stopped. When she looked up at their faces, the fire had gone out of hers. She crumpled her sketch and flung it aside into the red dust of the gravel. “Oh, what for?” she cried, the despair breaking out for the first time. “To build three miles of railroad and abandon a transcontinental system!”
The two men were looking at her, she saw no reproach in their faces, only a look of understanding which was almost compassion.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, dropping her eyes.
“If you change your mind,” said Francisco, “I’ll hire you on the spot–or Midas will give you a loan in five minutes to finance that railroad, if you want to own it yourself.”
She shook her head. “I can’t . . .” she whispered, “not yet . . .”
She raised her eyes, knowing that they knew the nature of her despair and that it was useless to hide her struggle. “I’ve tried it once,”
she said. “I’ve tried to give it up . . . I know what it will mean . . .
I’ll think of it with every crosstie I’ll see laid here, with every spike driven . . . I’ll think of that other tunnel and . . . and of Nat Taggart’s bridge. . . . Oh, if only I didn’t have to hear about it! If only I could stay here and never know what they’re doing to the railroad, and never learn when it goes!”
“You’ll have to hear about it,” said Galt; it was that ruthless tone, peculiarly his, which sounded implacable by being simple, devoid of any emotional value, save the quality of respect for facts. “You’ll hear the whole course of the last agony of Taggart Transcontinental.
You’ll hear about every wreck. You’ll hear about every discontinued train. You’ll hear about every abandoned line. You’ll hear about the collapse of the Taggart Bridge. Nobody stays in this valley except by a full, conscious choice based on a full, conscious knowledge of every fact involved in his decision. Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever.”
She looked at him, her head lifted, knowing what chance he was rejecting. She thought that no man of the outer world would have said this to her at this moment-she thought of the world’s code that worshipped white lies as an act of mercy-she felt a stab of revulsion against that code, suddenly seeing its full ugliness for the first time-
she felt an enormous pride for the tight, clean face of the man before her-he saw the shape of her mouth drawn firm in self-control, yet softened by some tremulous emotion, while she answered quietly, “Thank you. You’re right.”
“You don’t have to answer me now,” he said. “You’ll tell me when you’ve decided. There’s still a week left.”
“Yes,” she said calmly, “just one more week.”
He turned, picked up her crumpled sketch, folded it neatly and slipped it into his pocket.
“Dagny,” said Francisco, “when you weigh your decision, consider the first time you quit, if you wish, but consider everything about it.
In this valley, you won’t have to torture yourself by shingling roofs and building paths that lead nowhere.”
“Tell me,” she asked suddenly, “how did you find out where I was, that time?’1
He smiled. “It was John who told me. The destroyer, remember?
You wondered why the destroyer had not sent anyone after you. But he had. It was he who sent me there.”
“He sent you?”
“What did he say to you?”
“Nothing much. Why?”
“What did he say? Do you remember the exact words?”
“Yes, I do remember. He said, ‘If you want your chance, take it.
You’ve earned it.’ I remember, because-” He turned to Galt with the untroubled frown of a slight, casual puzzle. “John, I never quite understood why you said it. Why that? Why-my chance?”
“Do you mind if I don’t answer you now?”
“No, but-”
Someone hailed him from the ledges of the mine, and he went off swiftly, as if the subject required no further attention.
She was conscious of the long span of moments she took while turning her head to Galt. She knew that she would find him looking at her. She could read nothing in his eyes, except a hint of derision, as if he knew what answer she was seeking and that she would not find it in his face.
“You gave him a chance that you wanted?”
“I could have no chance till he’d had every chance possible to him.”
“How did you know what he had earned?”
“I had been questioning him about you for ten years, every time I could, in every way, from every angle. No, he did not tell me-it was the way he spoke of you that did. He didn’t want to speak, but he spoke too eagerly, eagerly and reluctantly together-and then I knew that it had not been just a childhood friendship. I knew how much he had given up for the strike and how desperately he hadn’t given it up forever. I? I was merely questioning him about one of our most important future strikers-as I questioned him about many others,”
The hint of derision remained in his eyes; he knew that she had wanted to hear this, but that this was not the answer to the one question she feared.
She looked from his face to Francisco’s approaching figure, not hiding from herself any longer that her sudden, heavy, desolate anxiety was the fear that Galt might throw the three of them into the hopeless waste of self-sacrifice.
Francisco approached, looking at her thoughtfully, as if weighing some question of his own, but some question that gave a sparkle of reckless gaiety to his eyes.
“Dagny, there’s only one week left,” he said. “If you decide to go back, it will be the last, for a long time,” There was no reproach and no sadness in his voice, only some softened quality as sole evidence of emotion. “If you leave now-oh yes, you’ll still come back -but it won’t be soon. And I-in a few months, I’ll come to live here permanently, so if you go, I won’t see you again, perhaps for years.
I’d like you to spend this last week with me. I’d like you to move to my house. As my guest, nothing else, for no reason, except that I’d like you to.”
He said it simply, as if nothing were or could be hidden among the three of them. She saw no sign of astonishment in Galt’s face. She felt some swift tightening in her chest, something hard, reckless and almost vicious that had the quality of a dark excitement driving her blindly into action.
“But I’m an employee,” she said, with an odd smile, looking at Galt, “I have a job to finish.”
“I won’t hold you to it,” said Galt, and she felt anger at the tone of his voice, a tone that granted her no hidden significance and answered nothing but the literal meaning of her words. “You can quit the job any time you wish. It’s up to you.”
“No, it isn’t. I’m a prisoner here. Don’t you remember? I’m to take orders. I have no preferences to follow, no wishes to express, no decisions to make. I want the decision to be yours.”
“You want it to be mine?”
“You’ve expressed a wish.”
The mockery of his voice was in its seriousness-and she threw at him defiantly, not smiling, as if daring him to continue pretending that he did not understand: “All right. That’s what I wish!”
He smiled, as at a child’s complex scheming which he had long since seen through. “Very well.” But he did not smile, as he said, turning to Francisco, “Then-no.”
The defiance toward an adversary who was the sternest of teachers, was all that Francisco had read in her face. He shrugged, regretfully, but gaily. “You’re probably right. If you can’t prevent her from going back-nobody can.”
She was not hearing Francisco’s words. She was stunned by the magnitude of the relief that hit her at the sound of Galt’s answer, a relief that told her the magnitude of the fear it swept away. She knew, only after it was over, what had hung for her on his decision; she knew that had his answer been different, it would have destroyed the valley in her eyes.
She wanted to laugh, she wanted to embrace them both and laugh with them in celebration., it did not seem to matter whether she would stay here or return to the world, a week was like an endless span of time, either course seemed flooded by an unchanging sunlight-and no struggle was hard, she thought, if this was the nature of existence. The relief did not come from the knowledge that he would not renounce her, nor from arty assurance that she would win-the relief came from the certainty that he would always remain what he was.
“I don’t know whether I’ll go back to the world or not,” she said soberly, but her voice was trembling with a subdued violence, which was pure gaiety. “I’m sorry that I’m still unable to make a decision.
I’m certain of only one thing: that I won’t be afraid to decide.”
Francisco took the sudden brightness of her face as proof that the incident had been of no significance. But Galt understood; he glanced at her and the glance was part amusement, part contemptuous reproach.
He said nothing, until they were alone, walking down the trail to the valley. Then he glanced at her again, the amusement sharper in his eyes, and said, “You had to put me to a test in order to learn whether I’d fall to the lowest possible stage of altruism?”
She did not answer, but looked at him in open, undefensive admission.
He chuckled and looked away, and a few steps later said slowly, in the tone of a quotation, “Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever.”
Part of the intensity of her relief-she thought, as she walked silently by his side-was the shock of a contrast: she had seen, with the sudden, immediate vividness of sensory perception, an exact picture of what the code of self-sacrifice would have meant, if enacted by the three of them. Galt, giving up the woman he wanted, for the sake of his friend, faking his greatest feeling out of existence and himself out of her life, no matter what the cost to him and to her, then dragging the rest of his years through the waste of the unreached and unfulfilled -she, turning for consolation to a second choice, faking a love she did not feel, being willing to fake, since her will to self-deceit was the essential required for Galt’s self-sacrifice, then living out her years in hopeless longing, accepting, as relief for an unhealing wound, some moments of weary affection, plus the tenet that love is futile and happiness is not to be found on earth-Francisco, struggling in the elusive fog of a counterfeit reality, his life a fraud staged by the two who were dearest to him and most trusted, struggling to grasp what was missing from his happiness, struggling down the brittle scaffold of a lie over the abyss of the discovery that he was not the man she loved, but only a resented substitute, half-charity-patient, half-crutch, his perceptiveness becoming his danger and only his surrender to lethargic stupidity protecting the shoddy structure of his joy, struggling and giving up and settling into the dreary routine of the conviction that fulfillment is impossible to man-the three of them, who had had all the gifts of existence spread out before them, ending up as embittered hulks, who cry in despair that life is frustration-the frustration of not being able to make unreality real.
But this-she thought-was men’s moral code in the outer world, a code that told them to act on the premise of one another’s weakness, deceit and stupidity, and this was the pattern of their lives, this struggle through a fog of the pretended and unacknowledged, this belief that facts are not solid or final, this state where, denying any form to reality, men stumble through life, unreal and unformed, and die having never been born. Here-she thought, looking down through green branches at the glittering roofs of the valley-one dealt with men as clear and firm as sun and rocks, and the immense light-heartedness of her relief came from the knowledge that no battle was hard, no decision was dangerous where there was no soggy uncertainty, no shapeless evasion to encounter.
“Did it ever occur to you, Miss Taggart,” said Galt, in the casual tone of an abstract discussion, but as if he had known her thoughts, “that there is no conflict of interests among men, neither in business nor in trade nor in their most personal desires-if they omit the irrational from their view of the possible and destruction from their view of the practical? There is no conflict, and no call for sacrifice, and no man is a threat to the aims of another-if men understand that reality is an absolute not to be faked, that lies do not work, that the unearned cannot be had, that the undeserved cannot be given, that the destruction of a value which is, will not bring value to that which isn’t. The businessman who wishes to gain a market by throttling a superior competitor, the worker who wants a share of his employer’s wealth, the artist who envies a rival’s higher talent-they’re all wishing facts out of existence, and destruction is the only means of their wish. If they pursue it, they will not achieve a market, a fortune or an immortal fame-
they will merely destroy production, employment and art. A wish for the irrational is not to be achieved, whether the sacrificial victims are willing or not. But men will not cease to desire the impossible and will not lose their longing to destroy-so long as self-destruction and self-sacrifice are preached to them as the practical means of achieving the happiness of the recipients.”
He glanced at her and added slowly, a slight emphasis as sole change in the impersonal tone of his voice, “No one’s happiness but my own is in my power to achieve or to destroy. You should have had more respect for him and for me than to fear what you had feared.”
She did not answer, she felt as if a word would overfill the fullness of this moment, she merely turned to him with a look of acquiescence that was disarmed, childishly humble and would have been an apology but for its shining joy, He smiled-in amusement, in understanding, almost in comradeship of the things they shared and in sanction of the things she felt.
They went on in silence, and it seemed to her that this was a summer day out of a carefree youth she had never lived, it was just a walk through the country by two people who were free for the pleasure of motion and sunlight, with no unsolved burdens left to carry. Her sense of lightness blended with the weightless sense of walking downhill, as if she needed no effort to walk, only to restrain herself from flying, and she walked, fighting the speed of the downward pull, her body leaning back, the wind blowing her skirt like a sail to brake her motion.
They parted at the bottom of the trail; he went to keep an appointment with Midas Mulligan, while she went to Hammond’s Market with a list of items for the evening’s dinner as the sole concern of her world.
His wife-she thought, letting herself hear consciously the word Dr. Akston had not pronounced, the word she had long since felt, but never named-for three weeks she had been his wife in every sense but one, and that final one was still to be earned, but this much was real and today she could permit herself to know it, to feel it, to live with that one thought for this one day.
The groceries, which Lawrence Hammond was lining up at her order on the polished counter of his store, had never appeared to her as such shining objects-and, intent upon them, she was only half-conscious of some disturbing element, of something that was wrong but that her mind was too full to notice. She noticed it only when she saw Hammond pause, frown and stare upward, at the sky beyond his open store front.
In time with his words: “I think somebody’s trying to repeat your stunt, Miss Taggart,” she realized that it was the sound of an airplane overhead and that it had been there for some time, a sound which was not to be heard in the valley after the first of this month.
They rushed out to the street. The small silver cross of a plane was circling above the ring of mountains, like a sparkling dragonfly about to brush the peaks with its wings.
“What does he think he’s doing?” said Lawrence Hammond.
There were people at the doors of the shops and standing still all down the street, looking up.
“Is . . . is anyone expected?” she asked and was astonished by the anxiety of her own voice.
“No,” said Hammond. “Everyone who’s got any business here is here.” He did not sound disturbed, but grimly curious.
The plane was now a small dash, like a silver cigarette, streaking against the flanks of the mountains: it had dropped lower.
“Looks like a private monoplane,” said Hammond, squinting against the sun. “Not an army model.”
“Will the ray screen hold out?” she asked tensely, in a tone of defensive resentment against the approach of an enemy.
He chuckled. “Hold out?”
“Will he see us?”
“That screen is safer than an underground vault, Miss Taggart. As you ought to know.”
The plane rose, and for a moment it was only a bright speck, like a bit of paper blown by the wind-it hovered uncertainly., then dropped down again into another circling spiral.
“What in hell is he after?” said Hammond.
Her eyes shot suddenly to his face.
“He’s looking for something,” said Hammond. “What?”
“Is there a telescope somewhere?”
“Why-yes, at the airfield, but-” He was about to ask what was the matter with her voice-but she was running across the road, down the path to the airfield, not knowing that she was running, driven by a reason she had no time and no courage to name.
She found Dwight Sanders at the small telescope of the control tower; he was watching the plane attentively, with a puzzled frown.
“Let me see it!” she snapped.
She clutched the metal tube, she pressed her eye to the lens, her hand guiding the tube slowly to follow the plane-then he saw that her hand had stopped, but her fingers did not open and her face remained bent over the telescope, pressed to the lens, until he looked closer and saw that the lens was pressed to her forehead.
“What’s the matter, Miss Taggart?”
She raised her head slowly.
“Is it anyone you know, Miss Taggart?”
She did not answer. She hurried away, her steps rushing with the zigzagging aimlessness of uncertainty-she dared not run, but she had to escape, she had to hide, she did not know whether she was afraid to be seen by the men around her or by the plane above-the plane whose silver wings bore the number that belonged to Hank Rearden.
She stopped when she stumbled over a rock and fell and noticed that she had been running. She was on a small ledge in the cliffs above the airfield, hidden from the sight of the town, open to the view of the sky. She rose, her hands groping for support along a granite wall, feeling the warmth of the sun on the rock under her palms-she stood, her back pressed to the wall, unable to move or to take her eyes off the plane.
The plane was circling slowly, dipping down, then rising again, struggling-she thought-as she had struggled, to distinguish the sight of a wreck in a hopeless spread of crevices and boulders, an elusive spread neither clear enough to abandon nor to survey. He was searching for the wreck of her plane, he had not given up, and whatever the three weeks of it had cost him, whatever he felt, the only evidence he would give to the world and his only answer was this steady, insistent, monotonous drone of a motor carrying a fragile craft over every deadly foot of an inaccessible chain of mountains.
Through the brilliant purity of the summer air, the plane seemed intimately close, she could see it rock on precarious currents and bank under the thrusts of wind. She could see, and it seemed impossible that so clear a sight was closed to his eyes. The whole of the valley lay below him, flooded by sunlight, flaming with glass panes and green lawns, screaming to be seen-the end of his tortured quest, the fulfillment of more than his wishes, not the wreck of her plane and her body, but her living presence and his freedom-all that he was seeking or had ever sought was now spread open before him, open and waiting, his to be reached by a straight-line dive through the pure, clear air-
his and asking nothing of him but the capacity to see. “Hank!” she screamed, waving her arms in desperate signal. “Hank!”
She fell back against the rock, knowing that she had no way to reach him, that she had no power to give him sight, that no power on earth could pierce that screen except his own mind and vision.
Suddenly and for the first time, she felt the screen, not as the most intangible, but as the most grimly absolute barrier in the world.
Slumped against the rock, she watched, in silent resignation, the hopeless circles of the plane’s struggle and its motor’s uncomplaining cry for help, a cry she had no way to answer. The plane swooped down abruptly, but it was only the start of its final rise, it cut a swift diagonal across the mountains and shot into the open sky. Then, as if caught in the spread of a lake with no shores and no exit, it went sinking slowly and drowning out of sight.
She thought, in bitter compassion, of how much he had failed to see.
And I?-she thought. If she left the valley, the screen would close for her as tightly, Atlantis would descend under a vault of rays more impregnable than the bottom of the ocean, and she, too, would be left to struggle for the things she had not known how to see, she, too, would be left to fight a mirage of primordial savagery, while the reality of all that she desired would never come again within her reach, But the pull of the outer world, the pull that drew her to follow the plane, was not the image of Hank Rearden-she knew that she could not return to him, even if she returned to the world-the pull was the vision of Hank Rearden’s courage and the courage of all those still fighting to stay alive. He would not give up the search for her plane, when all others had long since despaired, as he would not give up his mills, as he would not give up any goal he had chosen if a single chance was left. Was she certain that no chance remained for the world of Taggart Transcontinental? Was she certain that the terms of the battle were such that she could not care to win? They were right, the men of Atlantis, they were right to vanish if they knew that they left no value behind them-but until and unless she saw that no chance was untaken and no battle unfought, she had no right to remain among them. This was the question that had lashed her for weeks, but had not driven her to a glimpse of the answer.
She lay awake, through the hours of that night, quietly motionless, following-like an engineer and like Hank Rearden-a process of dispassionate, precise, almost mathematical consideration, with no regard for cost or feeling. The agony which he lived in his plane, she lived it in a soundless cube of darkness, searching, but finding no answer. She looked at the inscriptions on the walls of her room, faintly visible in patches of starlight, but the help those men had called in their darkest hour was not hers to call.
“Yes or no, Miss Taggart?”
She looked at the faces of the four men in the soft twilight of Mulligan’s living room: Galt, whose face had the serene, impersonal attentiveness of a scientist-Francisco, whose face was made expressionless by the hint of a smile, the kind of smile that would fit either answer-
Hugh Akston who looked compassionately gentle-Midas Mulligan, who had asked the question with no touch of rancor in his voice. Somewhere two thousand miles away, at this sunset hour, the page of a calendar was springing into light over the roofs of New York, saying: June 28-and it seemed to her suddenly that she was seeing it, as if it were hanging over the heads of these men.
“I have one more day,” she said steadily. “Will you let me have it? I think I’ve reached my decision, but I am not fully certain of it and I’ll need all the certainty possible to me.”
“Of course,” said Mulligan. “You have, in fact, until morning of the day after tomorrow. We’ll wait.”
“We’ll wait after that as well,” said Hugh Akston, “though in your absence, if that be necessary.”
She stood by the window, facing them, and she felt a moment’s satisfaction in the knowledge that she stood straight, that her hands did not tremble, that her voice sounded as controlled, uncomplaining and unpitying as theirs; it gave her a moment’s feeling of a bond to them.
“If any part of your uncertainty,” said Galt, “is a conflict between your heart and your mind-follow your mind.”
“Consider the reasons which make us certain that we are right,” said Hugh Akston, “but not the fact that we are certain. If you are not convinced, ignore our certainty. Don’t be tempted to substitute our judgment for your own,”
“Don’t rely on our knowledge of what’s best for your future,” said Mulligan. “We do know, but it can’t be best until you know it.”
“Don’t consider our interests or desires,” said Francisco. “You have no duty to anyone but yourself.”
She smiled, neither sadly nor gaily, thinking that none of it was the sort of advice she would have been given in the outer world. And knowing how desperately they wished to help her where no help was possible, she felt it was her part to give them reassurance.
“I forced my way here,” she said quietly, “and I was to bear responsibility for the consequences. I’m bearing it.”
Her reward was to see Galt smile; the smile was like a military decoration bestowed upon her.
Looking away, she remembered suddenly Jeff Alien, the tramp aboard the Comet, in the moment when she had admired him for attempting to tell her that he knew where he was going, to spare her the burden of his aimlessness. She smiled faintly, thinking that she had now experienced it in both roles and knew that no action could be lower or more futile than for one person to throw upon another the burden of his abdication of choice. She felt an odd calm, almost a confident repose; she knew that it was tension, but the tension of a great clarity. She caught herself thinking: She’s functioning well in an emergency, I’ll be all right with her-and realized that she was thinking of herself.
“Let it go till day after tomorrow, Miss Taggart,” said Midas Mulligan. “Tonight you’re still here.”
“Thank you,” she said.
She remained by the window, while they went on discussing the valley’s business; it was their closing conference of the month. They had just finished dinner-and she thought of her first dinner in this house a month ago; she was wearing, as she had then worn, the gray suit that belonged in her office, not the peasant skirt that had been so easy to wear hi the sun. I’m still here tonight, she thought, her hand pressed possessively to the window sill.
The sun had not yet vanished beyond the mountains, but the sky was an even, deep, deceptively clear blue that blended with the blue of invisible clouds into a single spread, hiding the sun; only the edges of the clouds were outlined by a thin thread of flame, and it looked like a glowing, twisted net of neon tubing, she thought . . . like a chart of winding rivers . . . like . . . like the map of a railroad traced in white fire on the sky.
She heard Mulligan giving Galt the names of those who were not returning to the outer world. “We have jobs for all of them,” said Mulligan. “In fact, there’s only ten or twelve men who’re going back this year-mostly to finish off, convert whatever they own and come here permanently. I think this was our last vacation month, because before another year is over we’ll all be living in this valley.”
“Good,” said Galt.
“We’ll have to, from the way things are going outside.”
“Francisco,” said Mulligan, “you’ll come back in a few months?”
“In November at the latest,” said Francisco. “I’ll send you word by short wave, when I’m ready to come back-will you turn the furnace on in my house?”
“I will,” said Hugh Akston. “And I’ll have your supper ready for you when you arrive.”
“John, I take it for granted,” said Mulligan, “that you’re not returning to New York this time.”
Galt took a moment to glance at him, then answered evenly, “I have not decided it yet.”
She noticed the shocked swiftness with which Francisco and Mulligan bent forward to stare at him-and the slowness with which Hugh Akston’s glance moved to his face; Akston did not seem to be astonished.
“You’re not thinking of going back to that hell for another year, are you?” said Mulligan.
“I am.”
“But-good God, John!-what for?”
“I’ll tell you, when I’ve decided.”
“But there’s nothing left there for you to do. We got everybody we knew of or can hope to know of. Our list is completed, except for Hank Rearden-and we’ll get him before the year is over-and Miss Taggart, if she so chooses. That’s all. Your job is done. There’s nothing to look for, out there-except the final crash, when the roof comes down on their heads.”
“I know it.”
“John, yours is the one head I don’t want to be there when it happens.”
“You’ve never had to worry about me.”
“But don’t you realize what stage they’re coming to? They’re only one step away from open violence-hell, they’ve taken the step and sealed and declared it long ago!-but in one more moment they’ll see the full reality of what they’ve taken, exploding in their damned faces-plain, open, blind, arbitrary, blood shedding violence, running amuck, hitting anything and anyone at random. That’s what I don’t want to see you in the midst of.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“John, there’s no reason for you to take the risk,” said Francisco.
“What risk?”
“The looters are. worried about the men who’ve disappeared. They’re suspecting something. You, of all people, shouldn’t stay there any longer. There’s always a chance that they might discover just who and what you are.”
“There’s some chance. Not much.”
“But there’s no reason whatever to take it. There’s nothing left that Ragnar and I can’t finish.”
Hugh Akston was watching them silently, leaning back in his chair; his face had that look of intensity, neither quite bitterness nor quite a SOS
smile, with which a man watches a progression that interests him, but that lags a few steps behind his vision.
“If I go back,” said Galt, “it won’t be for our work. It will be to win the only thing I want from the world for myself, now that the work is done. I’ve taken nothing from the world and I’ve wanted nothing. But there’s one thing which it’s still holding and which is mine and which I won’t let it have. No, I don’t intend to break my oath, I won’t deal with the looters, I won’t be of any value or help to anyone out there, neither to looters nor neutrals-nor scabs. If I go, it won’t be for anyone’s sake but mine-and I don’t think I’m risking my life, but if I am-well, I’m now free to risk it.”
He was not looking at her, but she had to turn away and stand pressed against the window frame, because her hands were trembling.
“But, John!” cried Mulligan, waving his arm at the valley, “if anything happens to you, what would we-” He stopped abruptly and guiltily.
Galt chuckled. “What were you about to say?” Mulligan waved his hand sheepishly, in a gesture of dismissal. “Were you about to say that if anything happens to me, I’ll die as the worst failure in the world?”
“All right,” said Mulligan guiltily, “I won’t say it. I won’t say that we couldn’t get along without you-we can, I won’t beg you to stay here for our sake-I didn’t think I’d ever revert to that rotten old plea, but, boy!
-what a temptation it was, I can almost see why people do it. I know that whatever it is you want, if you wish to risk your life, that’s all there is to it-but I’m thinking only that it’s . . . oh God, John, it’s such a valuable life!”
Galt smiled. “I know it. That’s why I don’t think I’m risking it-I think I’ll win.”
Francisco was now silent, he was watching Galt intently, with a frown of wonder, not as if he had found an answer, but as if he had suddenly glimpsed a question.
“Look, John,” said Mulligan, “since you haven’t decided whether you’ll go-you haven’t decided it yet, have you?”
“No, not yet.”
“Since you haven’t, would you let me remind you of a few things, just for you to consider?”
“Go ahead.”
“It’s the chance dangers that I’m afraid of-the senseless, unpredictable dangers of a world falling apart. Consider the physical risks of complex machinery in the hands of blind fools and fear-crazed cowards.
Just think of their railroads-you’d be taking a chance on some such horror as that Winston tunnel incident every time you stepped aboard a train-and there will be more incidents of that kind, coming faster and faster. They’ll reach the stage where no day will pass without a major wreck.”
“I know it.”
“And the same will be happening in every other industry, wherever machines are used-the machines which they thought could replace our minds. Plane crashes, oil tank explosions, blast-furnace break-outs, high-tension wire electrocutions, subway cave-ins and trestle collapses -they’ll see them all. The very machines that had made their life so safe, will now make it a continuous peril.”
“I know it.”
“I know that you know it, but have you considered it in every specific detail? Have you allowed yourself to visualize it? I want you to see the exact picture of what it is that you propose to enter-before you decide whether anything can justify your entering it. You know that the cities will be hit worst of all. The cities were made by the railroads and will go with them.”
“That’s right.”
“When the rails are cut, the city of New York will starve in two days.
That’s all the supply of food it’s got. It’s fed by a continent three thousand miles long. How will they carry food to New York? By directive and oxcart? But first, before it happens, they’ll go through the whole of the agony-through the shrinking, the shortages, the hunger riots, the stampeding violence in the midst of the growing stillness.”
“They will.”
“They’ll lose their airplanes first, then their automobiles, then their trucks, then their horse carts.”
“They will.”
“Their factories will stop, then their furnaces and their radios. Then their electric light system will go.”
“It will.”
“There’s only a worn thread holding that continent together. There will be one train a day, then one train a week-then the Taggart Bridge will collapse and-”
“No, it won’t!”
It was her voice and they whirled to her. Her face was white, but calmer than it had been when she had answered them last.
Slowly, Galt rose to his feet and inclined his head, as in acceptance of a verdict. “You’ve made your decision,” he said.
“I have.”
“Dagny,” said Hugh Akston, “I’m sorry.” He spoke softly, with effort, as if his words were struggling and failing to fill the silence of the room. “I wish it were possible not to see this happen, I would have preferred anything-except to see you stay here by default of the courage of your convictions.”
She spread her hands, palms out, her arms at her sides, in a gesture of simple frankness, and said, addressing them all, her manner so calm that she could afford to show emotion, “I want you to know this: I have wished it were possible for me to die in one more month, so that I could spend it in this valley. This is how much I’ve wanted to remain. But so long as I choose to go on living, I can’t desert a battle which I think is mine to fight”
“Of course,” said Mulligan respectfully, “if you still think it.”
“If you want to know the one reason that’s taking me back, 111 tell you; I cannot bring myself to abandon to destruction all the greatness of the world, all that which was mine and yours, which was made by us and is still ours by right-because I cannot believe that men can refuse to see, that they can remain blind and deaf to us forever, when the truth is ours and their lives depend on accepting it. They still love their lives-and that is the uncorrupted remnant of their minds. So long as men desire to live, I cannot lose my battle.”
“Do they?” said Hugh Akston softly. “Do they desire it? No, don’t answer me now. I know that the answer was the hardest thing for any of us to grasp and to accept. Just take that question back with you, as the last premise left for you to check.”
“You’re leaving as our friend,” said Midas Mulligan, “and we’ll be fighting everything you’ll do, because we know you’re wrong, but it’s not you that we’ll be damning.”
“You’ll come back,” said Hugh Akston, “because yours is an error of knowledge, not a moral failure, not an act of surrender to evil, but only the last act of being victim to your own virtue. We’ll wait for you-and, Dagny, when you come back, you will have discovered that there need never be any conflict among your desires, nor so tragic a clash of values as the one you’ve borne so well.”
“Thank you,” she said, closing her eyes.
“We must discuss the conditions of your departure,” said Galt; he spoke in the dispassionate manner of an executive. “First, you must give us your word that you will not disclose our secret or any part of it-
neither our cause nor our existence nor this valley nor your whereabouts for the past month-to anyone in the outer world, not at any time or for any purpose whatsoever.”
“I give you my word.”
“Second, you must never attempt to find this valley again. You are not to come here uninvited. Should you break the first condition, it will not place us in serious danger. Should you break the second-it will. It is not our policy ever to be at the arbitrary mercy of the good faith of another person, or at the mercy of a promise that cannot be enforced. Nor can we expect you to place our interests above your own. Since you believe that your course is right, the day may come when you may find it necessary to lead our enemies to this valley. We shall, therefore, leave you no means to do it. You will be taken out of the valley by plane, blindfolded, and you will be flown a distance sufficient to make it impossible for you ever to retrace the course.”
She inclined her head. “You are right.”
“Your plane has been repaired. Do you wish to reclaim it by signing a draft on your account at the Mulligan Bank?”
“Then we shall hold it, until such time as you choose to pay for it.
Day after tomorrow, I will take you in my plane to a point outside the valley and leave you within reach of further transportation.”
She inclined her head. “Very well.”
It had grown dark, when they left Midas Mulligan’s. The trail back to Galt’s house led across the valley, past Francisco’s cabin, and the three of them walked home together. A few squares of lighted windows hung scattered through the darkness, and the first streams of mist were weaving slowly across the panes, like shadows cast by a distant sea.
They walked in silence, but the sound of their steps, blending into a single, steady beat, was like a speech to be grasped and not to be uttered in any other form.
After a while, Francisco said, “It changes nothing, it only makes the span a little longer, and the last stretch is always the hardest-but it’s the last.”
“I will hope so,” she said. In a moment, she repeated quietly, “The last is the hardest.” She turned to Galt. “May I make one request?”
“Will you let me go tomorrow?”
“If you wish.”
When Francisco spoke again, moments later, it was as if he were addressing the unnamed wonder in her mind; his voice had the tone of answering, a question: “Dagny, all three of us are in love”-she jerked her head to him-“with the same thing, no matter what its forms. Don’t wonder why you feel no breach among us. You’ll be one of us, so long as you’ll remain in love with your rails and your engines-and they’ll lead you back to us, no matter how many times you lose your way. The only man never to be redeemed is the man without passion.”
“Thank you,” she said softly.
“For what?”
“For . . . for the way you sound.”
“How do I sound? Name it, Dagny.”
“You sound . . . as if you’re happy.”
“I am-in exactly the same way you are. Don’t tell me what you feel. I know it. But, you see, the measure of the hell you’re able to endure is the measure of your love. The hell I couldn’t bear to witness would be to see you being indifferent.”
She nodded silently, unable to name as joy any part of the things she felt, yet feeling that he was right.
Clots of mist were drifting, like smoke, across the moon, and in the diffused glow she could not distinguish the expressions of their faces, as she walked between them: the only expressions to perceive were the straight silhouettes of their bodies, the unbroken sound of then- steps and her own feeling that she wished to walk on and on, a feeling she could not define, except that it was neither doubt nor pain, When they approached his cabin, Francisco stopped, the gesture of his hand embracing them both as he pointed to his door. “Will you come in -since it’s to be our last night together for some time? Let’s have a drink to that future of which all three of us are certain.”
“Are we?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Galt, “we are.”
She looked at their faces when Francisco switched on the light in his house. She could not define their expressions, it was not happiness or any emotion pertaining to joy, their faces were taut and solemn, but it was a glowing solemnity-she thought-if this were possible, and the odd glow she felt within her, told her that her own face had the same look.
Francisco reached for three glasses from a cupboard, but stopped, as at a sudden thought. He placed one glass on the table, then reached for the two silver goblets of Sebastian d’Anconia and placed them beside it.
“Are you going straight to New York, Dagny?” he asked, in the calm, unstrained tone of a host, bringing out a bottle of old wine, “Yes,” she answered as calmly.
“I’m flying to Buenos Aires day after tomorrow,” he said, uncorking the bottle. “I’m not sure whether I’ll be back in New York later, but if I am, it will be dangerous for you to see me.”
“I won’t care about that,” she said, “unless you feel that I’m not entitled to see you any longer.”
“True, Dagny. You’re not. Not in New York.”
He was pouring the wine and he glanced up at Galt. “John, when will you decide whether you’re going back or staying here?”
Galt looked straight at him, then said slowly, in the tone of a man who knows all the consequences of his words, “I have decided, Francisco. I’m going back.”
Francisco’s hand stopped. For a long moment, he was seeing nothing but Galt’s face. Then his eyes moved to hers. He put the bottle down and he did not step back, but it was as if his glance drew back to a wide range, to include them both, “But of course,” he said.
He looked as if he had moved still farther and were now seeing the whole spread of their years; his voice had an even, uninflected sound, quality that matched the size of the vision.
“I knew it twelve years ago,” he said. “I knew it before you could have known, and it’s I who should have seen that you would see. That night, when you called us to New York, I thought of it then as”-he was speaking to Galt, but his eyes moved to Dagny-“as everything that you were seeking . . . everything you told us to live for or die, if
necessary. I should have seen that you would think it, too. It could not have been otherwise. It is as it had-and ought-to be. It was set then, twelve years ago.” He looked at Galt and chuckled softly. “And you say that it’s I who’ve taken the hardest beating?”
He turned with too swift a movement-then, too slowly, as if in deliberate emphasis, he completed the task of pouring the wine, filling the three vessels on the table. He picked up the two silver goblets, looked down at them for the pause of an instant, then extended one to Dagny, the other to Galt.
“Take it,” he said. “You’ve earned it-and it wasn’t chance.”
Galt took the goblet from his hand, but it was as if the acceptance was done by their eyes as they looked at each other.
“I would have given anything to let it be otherwise,” said Galt, “except that which is beyond giving.”
She held her goblet, she looked at Francisco and she let him see her eyes glance at Galt. “Yes,” she said in the tone of an answer, “But I have not earned it-and what you’ve paid, I’m paying it now, and I don’t know whether I’ll ever earn enough to hold clear title, but if hell is the price-and the measure-then let me be the greediest of the three of us.”
As they drank, as she stood, her eyes closed, feeling the liquid motion of the wine inside her throat, she knew that for all three of them this was the most tortured-and the most exultant-moment they had ever reached.
She did not speak to Galt, as they walked down the last stretch of the trail to his house. She did not turn her head to him, feeling that even a glance would be too dangerous. She felt, in their silence, both the calm of a total understanding and the tension of the knowledge that they were not to name the things they understood.
But she faced him, when they were in his living room, with full confidence and as if in sudden certainty of a right-the certainty that she would not break and that it was now safe to speak. She said evenly, neither as plea nor as triumph, merely as the statement of a fact, “You are going back to the outer world because I will be there.”
“I do not want you to go.”
“You have no choice about it.”
“You are going for my sake.”
“No, for mine.”
“Will you allow me to see you there?”
“I am not to see you?”
“I am not to know where you are or what you do?”
“You’re not.”
“Will you be watching me, as you did before?”
“More so.”
“Is your purpose to protect me?”
“What is it, then?”
“To be there on the day when you decide to join us.”
She looked at him attentively, permitting herself no other reaction, but as if groping for an answer to the first point she had not fully understood.
“All the rest of us will be gone,” he explained. “It will become too dangerous to remain. I will remain as your last key, before the door of this valley closes altogether.”
“Oh!” She choked it off before it became a moan. Then, regaining the manner of impersonal detachment, she asked, “Suppose I were to tell you that my decision is final and that I am never to join you?”
“It would be a lie.”
“Suppose I were now to decide that I wish to make it final and to stand by it, no matter what the future?”
“No matter what future evidence you observe and what convictions you form?”
“That would be worse than a lie.”
“You are certain that I have made the wrong decision?”
“I am.”
“Do you believe that one must be responsible for one’s own errors?”
“I do.”
“Then why aren’t you letting me bear the consequences of mine?”
“I am and you will.”
“If I find, when it is too late, that I want to return to this valley -why should you have to bear the risk of keeping that door open to me?”
“I don’t have to. I wouldn’t do it if I had no selfish end to gain.”
“What selfish end?”
“I want you here.”
She closed her eyes and inclined her head in open admission of defeat-defeat in the argument and in her attempt to face calmly the full meaning of that which she was leaving.
Then she raised her head and, as if she had absorbed his kind of frankness, she looked at him, hiding neither her suffering nor her longing nor her calm, knowing that all three were in her glance.
His face was as it had been in the sunlight of the moment when she had seen it for the first time: a face of merciless serenity and unflinching perceptiveness, without pain or fear or guilt. She thought that were it possible for her to stand looking at him, at the straight lines of his eyebrows over the dark green eyes, at the curve of the shadow underscoring the shape of his mouth, at the poured-metal planes of his skin in the open collar of his shirt and the casually immovable posture of his legs-she would wish to spend the rest of her life on this spot and in this manner. And in the next instant she knew that if her wish were granted, the contemplation would lose all meaning, because she would have betrayed all the things that gave it value.
Then, not as memory, but as an experience of the present, she felt herself reliving the moment when she had stood at the window of her room in New York, looking at a fogbound city, at the unattainable shape of Atlantis sinking out of reach-and she knew that she was now seeing the answer to that moment. She felt, not the words she had then addressed to the city, but that untranslated sensation from which the words had come: You, whom I have always loved and never found, you whom I expected to see at the end of the rails beyond the horizon-
Aloud, she said, “I want you to know this. I started my life with a single absolute: that the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle”-you whose presence I had always felt in the streets of the city, the wordless voice within her was saying, and whose world I had wanted to build-“Now I know that I was fighting for this valley”-it is my love for you that had kept me moving-“It was this valley that I saw as possible and would exchange for nothing less and would not give up to a mindless evil”-my love and my hope to reach you and my wish to be worthy of you on the day when I would stand before you face to face-“I am going back to fight for this valley-to release it from its underground, to regain for it its full and rightful realm, to let the earth belong to you in fact, as it does in spirit-and to meet you again on the day when I’m able to deliver to you the whole of the world-or, if I fail, to remain in exile from this valley to the end of my life”-but what is left of my life will still be yours, and I will go on in your name, even though it is a name I’m never to pronounce, I will go on serving you, even though I’m never to win, I will go on, to be worthy of you on the day when I would have met you, even though I won’t-“I will fight for it, even if I have to fight against you, even if you damn me as a traitor . . . even if I am never to see you again.”
He had stood without moving, he had listened with no change in his face, only his eyes had looked at her as if he were hearing every word, even the words she had not pronounced. He answered, with the same look, as if the look were holding some circuit not yet to be broken, his voice catching some tone of hers, as if in signal of the same code, a voice with no sign of emotion except in the spacing of the words: “If you fail, as men have failed in their quest for a vision that should have been possible, yet has remained forever beyond their reach-if, like them, you come to think that one’s highest values are not to be attained and one’s greatest vision is not to be made real-
don’t damn this earth, as they did. don’t damn existence. You have seen the Atlantis they were seeking, it is here, it exists-but one must enter it naked and alone, with no rags from the falsehoods of centuries, with the purest clarity of mind-not an innocent heart, but that which is much rarer: an intransigent mind-as one’s only possession and key. You will not enter it until you learn that you do not need to convince or to conquer the world. When you learn it, you will see that through all the years of your struggle, nothing had barred you from Atlantis and there were no chains to hold you, except the chains you were willing to wear. Through all those years, that which you most wished to win was waiting for you”-he looked at her as if he were speaking to the unspoken words in her mind-“waiting as unremittingly as you were fighting, as passionately, as desperately-but with a greater certainty than yours. Go out to continue your struggle. Go on carrying unchosen burdens, taking undeserved punishment and believing that justice can be served by the offer of your own spirit to the most unjust of tortures. But in your worst and darkest moments, remember that you have seen another kind of world. Remember that you can reach it whenever you choose to see. Remember that it will be waiting and that it’s real, it’s possible-it’s yours.”
Then, turning his head a little, his voice as clear, but his eyes breaking the circuit, he asked, “What time do you wish to leave tomorrow?”
“Oh . . . ! As early as it will be convenient for you.”
“Then have breakfast ready at seven and we’ll take off at eight.”
“I will.”
He reached into his pocket and extended to her a small, shining disk which she could not distinguish at first. He dropped it on the palm of her hand: it was a five-dollar gold piece.
“The last of your wages for the month,” he said.
Her fingers snapped closed over the coin too tightly, but she answered calmly and tonelessly, “Thank you.”
“Good night, Miss Taggart.”
“Good night.”
She did not sleep in the hours that were still left to her. She sat on the floor of her room, her face pressed to the bed, feeling nothing but the sense of his presence beyond the wall. At times, she felt as if he were before her, as if she were sitting at his feet. She spent her last night with him in this manner.
She left the valley as she had come, carrying away nothing that belonged to it. She left the few possessions she had acquired-her peasant skirt, a blouse, an apron, a few pieces of underwear-folded neatly in a drawer of the chest in her room. She looked at them for a moment, before she closed the drawer, thinking that if she came back, she would, perhaps, still find them there. She took nothing with her but the five-dollar gold piece and the band of tape still wound about her ribs.
The sun touched the peaks of the mountains, drawing a shining circle as a frontier of the valley-when she climbed aboard the plane.
She leaned back in the seat beside him and looked at Galt’s face bent over her, as it had been bent when she had opened her eyes on the first morning. Then she closed her eyes and felt his hands tying the blindfold across her face.
She heard the blast of the motor, not as sound, but as the shudder of an explosion inside her body; only it felt like a distant shudder, as if the person feeling it would have been hurt if she were not so far away.
She did not know when the wheels left the ground or when the plane crossed the circle of the peaks. She lay still, with the pounding beat of the motor as her only perception of space, as if she were carried inside a current of sound that rocked once in a while. The sound came from his engine, from the control of his hands on the wheel; she held onto that; the rest was to be endured, not resisted.
She lay still, her legs stretched forward, her hands on the arms of the seat, with no sense of motion, not even her own, to give her a sense of time, with no space, no sight, no future, with the night of closed eyelids under the pressure of the cloth-and with the knowledge of his presence beside her as her single, unchanging reality, They did not speak. Once, she said suddenly, “Mr. Galt.”
“No. Nothing. I just wanted to know whether you were still there.”
“I will always be there.”
She did not know for how many miles the memory of the sound of words seemed like a small landmark rolling away into the distance, then vanishing. Then there was nothing but the stillness of an indivisible present.
She did not know whether a day had passed or an hour, when she felt the downward, plunging motion which meant that they were about to land or to crash; the two possibilities seemed equal to her mind.
She felt the jolt of the wheels against the ground as an oddly delayed sensation: as if some fraction of time had gone to make her believe it.
She felt the running streak of jerky motion, then the jar of the stop and of silence, then the touch of his hands on her hair, removing the blindfold.
She saw a glaring sunlight, a stretch of scorched weeds going off into the sky, with no mountains to stop it, a deserted highway and the hazy outline of a town about a mile away. She glanced at her watch: forty seven minutes ago, she had still been in the valley.
“You’ll find a Taggart station there,” he said, pointing at the town, “and you’ll be able to take a train.”
She nodded, as if she understood.
He did not follow her as she descended to the ground. He leaned across the wheel toward the open door of the plane, and they looked at each other. She stood, her face raised to him, a faint wind stirring her hair, the straight line of her shoulders sculptured by the trim suit of a business executive amidst the flat immensity of an empty prairie.
The movement of his hand pointed east, toward some invisible cities.
“Don’t look for me out there,” he said. “You will not find me-until you want me for what I am. And when you’ll want me, I’ll be the easiest man to find.”
She heard the sound of the door falling closed upon him; it seemed louder than the blast of the propeller that followed. She watched the run of the plane’s wheels and the trail of weeds left flattened behind them.
Then she saw a strip of sky between wheels and weeds.
She looked around her. A reddish haze of heat hung over the shapes of the town in the distance, and the shapes seemed to sag under a rusty tinge; above their roofs, she saw the remnant of a crumbled smokestack. She saw a dry, yellow scrap rustling faintly in the weeds beside her: it was a piece of newspaper. She looked at these objects blankly, unable to make them real.
She raised her eyes to the plane. She watched the spread of its wings grow smaller in the sky, draining away in its wake the sound of its motor. It kept rising, wings first, like a long silver cross; then the curve of its motion went following the sky, dropping slowly closer to the earth; then it seemed not to move any longer, but only to shrink. She watched it like a star in the process of extinction, while it shrank from cross to dot to a burning spark which she was no longer certain of seeing. When she saw that the spread of the sky was strewn with such sparks all over, she knew that the plane was gone.


“What am I doing here?” asked Dr. Robert Stadler. “Why was I asked to come here? I demand an explanation. I’m not accustomed to being dragged halfway across a continent without rhyme, reason or notice.”
Dr, Floyd Ferris smiled. “Which makes me appreciate it all the more that you did come, Dr. Stadler.” It was impossible to tell whether his voice had a tone of gratitude-or of gloating.
The sun was beating down upon them and Dr. Stadler felt a streak of perspiration oozing along his temple. He could not hold an angrily, embarrassingly private discussion in the middle of a crowd streaming to fill the benches of the grandstand around them-the discussion which he had tried and failed to obtain for the last three days. It occurred to him that that was precisely the reason why his meeting with Dr. Ferris had been delayed to this moment; but he brushed the thought aside, just as he brushed some insect buzzing to reach his wet temple.
“Why was I unable to get in touch with you?” he asked. The fraudulent weapon of sarcasm now seemed to sound less effective than ever, but it was Dr. Stadler’s only weapon: “Why did you find it necessary to send me messages on official stationery worded in a style proper, I’m sure, for Army”-orders, he was about to say, but didn’t-“communications, but certainly not for scientific correspondence?”
“It is a government matter,” said Dr. Ferris gently.
“Do you realize that I was much too busy and that this meant an interruption of my work?”
“Oh yes,” said Dr. Ferris noncommittally.
“Do you realize that I could have refused to come?”
“But you didn’t,” said Dr. Ferris softly.
“Why was I given no explanation? Why didn’t you come for me in person, instead of sending those incredible young hooligans with their mysterious gibberish that sounded half-science, half-pulp-magazine?”
“I was too busy,” said Dr. Ferris blandly.
“Then would you mind telling me what you’re doing in the middle of a plain in Iowa-and what I’m doing here, for that matter?” He waved contemptuously at the dusty horizon of an empty prairie and at the three wooden grandstands. The stands were newly erected, and the wood, too, seemed to perspire; he could see drops of resin sparkling in the sun.
“We are about to witness an historical event, Dr. Stadler. An occasion which will become a milestone on the road of science, civilization, social welfare and political adaptability.” Dr. Ferris’ voice had the tone of a public relations man’s memorized handout. “The turning point of a new era.”
“What event? What new era?”
“As you will observe, only the most distinguished citizens, the cream of our intellectual elite, have been chosen for the special privilege of witnessing this occasion. We could not omit your name, could we?-and we feel certain, of course, that we can count on your loyalty and cooperation.”
He could not catch Dr. Ferris’ eyes. The grandstands were rapidly filling with people, and Dr. Ferris kept interrupting himself constantly to wave to nondescript newcomers, whom Dr. Stadler had never seen before, but who were personages, as he could tell by the particular shade of gaily informal deference in Ferns’ waving. They all seemed to know Dr. Ferris and to seek him out, as if he were the master of ceremonies -or the star-of the occasion.
“If you would kindly be specific for a moment,” said Dr. Stadler, “and tell me what-”
“Hi, Spud!” called Dr. Ferris, waving to a portly, white-haired man who filled the full-dress uniform of a general.
Dr. Stadler raised his voice: “I said, if you would kindly concentrate long enough to explain to me what in hell is going on-”
“But it’s very simple. It’s the final triumph of . . . You’ll have to excuse me a minute, Dr. Stadler,” said Dr. Ferris hastily, tearing forward, like an over trained lackey at the sound of a bell, in the direction of what looked like a group of aging rowdies; he turned back long enough to add two words which he seemed reverently to consider as a full explanation: “The press!”
Dr. Stadler sat down on the wooden bench, feeling unaccountably reluctant to brush against anything around him. The three grandstands were spaced at intervals in a semi-curve, like the tiers of a small, private circus, with room for some three hundred people; they seemed built for the viewing of some spectacle-but they faced the emptiness of a flat prairie stretching off to the horizon, with nothing in sight but the dark blotch of a farmhouse miles away.
There were radio microphones in front of one stand, which seemed reserved for the press. There was a contraption resembling a portable switchboard in front of the stand reserved for officials; a few levers of polished metal sparkled in the sun on the face of the switchboard. In an improvised parking lot behind the stands, the glitter of luxurious new cars seemed a brightly reassuring sight. But it was the building that stood on a knoll some thousand feet away that gave Dr. Stadler a vague sense of uneasiness. It was a small, squat structure of unknown purpose, with massive stone walls, no windows except a few slits protected by stout iron bars, and a large dome, grotesquely too heavy for the rest, that seemed to press the structure down into the soil. A few outlets protruded from the base of the dome, in loose, irregular shapes, resembling badly poured clay funnels; they did not seem to belong to an industrial age or to any known usage. The building had an air of silent malevolence, like a puffed, venomous mushroom; it was obviously modern, but its sloppy, rounded, ineptly unspecific lines made it look like a primitive structure unearthed in the heart of the jungle, devoted to some secret rites of savagery.
Dr. Stadler sighed with irritation; he was tired of secrets. “Confidential” and “Top Confidential” had been the words stamped on the invitation which had demanded that he travel to Iowa on a two-day notice and for an unspecified purpose. Two young men, who called themselves physicists, had appeared at the Institute to escort him; his calls to Ferris’ office in Washington had remained unanswered. The young men had talked-through an exhausting trip by government plane, then a clammy ride in a government car-about science, emergencies, social equilibriums and the need of secrecy, till he knew less than he had known at the start; he noticed only that two words kept recurring in their jabber, which had also appeared in the text of the invitation, two words that had an ominous sound when involving an unknown issue: the demands for his “loyalty” and “co-operation.”
The young men had deposited him on a bench in the front row of the grandstand and had vanished, like the folding gear of a mechanism, leaving him to the sudden presence of Dr. Ferris in person. Now, watching the scene around him, watching Dr. Ferris’ vague, excited, loosely casual gestures in the midst of a group of newsmen, he had an impression of bewildering confusion, of senseless, chaotic inefficiency-and of a smooth machine working to produce the exact degree of that impression needed at the exact moment.
He felt a single, sudden flash of panic, in which, as in a flash of lightning, he permitted himself to know that he felt a desperate desire to escape. But he slammed his mind shut against it. He knew that the darkest secret of the occasion-more crucial, more untouchable, more deadly than whatever was hidden in the mushroom building-was that which had made him agree to come.
He would never have to learn his own motive, he thought; he thought it, not by means of words, but by means of the brief, vicious spasm of an emotion that resembled irritation and felt like acid. The words that stood in his mind, as they had stood when he had agreed to come, were like a voodoo formula which one recites when it is needed and beyond which one must not look: What can you do when you have to deal with people?
He noticed that the stand reserved for those whom Ferris had called the intellectual elite was larger than the stand prepared for government officials. He caught himself feeling a swift little sneak of pleasure at the thought that he had been placed in the front row. He turned to glance at the tiers behind him. The sensation he experienced was like a small, gray shock: that random, faded, shopworn assembly was not his conception of an intellectual elite. He saw defensively belligerent men and tastelessly dressed women-he saw mean, rancorous, suspicious faces that bore the one mark incompatible with a standard bearer of the intellect: the mark of uncertainty. He could find no face he knew, no face to recognize as famous and none likely ever to achieve such recognition.
He wondered by what standard these people had been selected.
Then he noticed a gangling figure in the second row, the figure of an elderly man with a long, slack face that seemed faintly familiar to him, though he could recall nothing about it, except a vague’ memory, as of a photograph seen in some unsavory publication. He leaned toward a woman and asked, pointing, “Could you tell me. the name of that gentleman?” The woman answered in a whisper of awed respect, “That is Dr. Simon Pritchett!” Dr. Stadler turned away, wishing no one would see him, wishing no one would ever learn that he had been a member of that group.
He raised his eyes and saw that Ferris was leading the whole press gang toward him. He saw Ferris sweeping his arm at him, in the manner of a tourist guide, and declaring, when they were close enough to be heard, “But why should you waste your time on me, when there is the source of today’s achievement, the man who made it all possible-
Dr. Robert Stadler!”
It seemed to him for an instant that he saw an incongruous look on the worn, cynical faces of the newsmen, a look that was not quite respect, expectation or hope, but more like an echo of these, like a faint reflection of the look they might have worn in their youth on hearing the name of Robert Stadler. In that instant, he felt an impulse which he would not acknowledge: the impulse to tell them that he knew nothing about today’s event, that his power counted for less than theirs, that he had been brought here as a pawn in some confidence game, almost as . . . as a prisoner.
Instead, he heard himself answering their questions in the smug, condescending tone of a man who shares all the secrets of the highest authorities: “Yes, the State Science Institute is proud of its record of public service. . . . The State Science Institute is not the tool of any private interests or personal greed, it is devoted to the welfare of mankind, to the good of humanity as a whole-” spouting, like a dictaphone, the sickening generalities he had heard from Dr. Ferns.
He would not permit himself to know that what he felt was self loathing; he identified the emotion, but not its object; it was loathing for the men around him, he thought; it was they who were forcing him to go through this shameful performance. What can you do-he thought-
when you have to deal with people?
The newsmen were making brief notes of his answers. Their faces now had the look of automatons acting out the routine of pretending that they were hearing news in the empty utterances of another automaton.
“Dr. Stadler,” asked one of them, pointing at the building on the knoll, “is it true that you consider Project X the greatest achievement of the State Science Institute?”
There was a dead drop of silence.
“Project . . . X . . . ?” said Dr. Stadler.
He knew that something was ominously wrong in the tone of his voice, because he saw the heads of the newsmen go up, as at the sound of an alarm; he saw them waiting, their pencils poised.
For one instant, while he felt the muscles of his face cracking into the fraud of a smile, he felt a formless, an almost supernatural terror, as if he sensed again the silent working of some smooth machine, as if he were caught in it, part of it and doing its irrevocable will. “Project X?” he said softly, in the mysterious tone of a conspirator. “Well, gentlemen, the value-and the motive-of any achievement of the State Science Institute are not to be doubted, since it is a non-profit venture-need I say more?”
He raised his head and noticed that Dr. Ferris had stood on the edge of the group through the whole of the interview. He wondered whether he imagined that the look on Dr. Ferris’ face now seemed less tense-and more impertinent.
Two resplendent cars came shooting at full speed into the parking lot and stopped with a flourish of screeching brakes. The newsmen deserted him in the middle of a sentence and went running to meet the group alighting from the cars.
Dr. Stadler turned to Ferris. “What is Project X?” he asked sternly.
Dr. Ferris smiled in a manner of innocence and insolence together.
“A non-profit venture,” he answered-and went running off to meet the newcomers.
From the respectful whispers of the crowd, Dr. Stadler learned that the little man in a wilted linen suit, who looked like a shyster, striding briskly in the center of the new group, was Mr. Thompson, the Head of the State. Mr. Thompson was smiling, frowning and barking answers to the newsmen. Dr. Ferris was weaving through the group, with the grace of a cat rubbing against sundry legs.
The group came closer and he saw Ferris steering them in his direction. “Mr. Thompson,” said Dr. Ferris sonorously, as they approached, “may I present Dr. Robert Stadler?”
Dr. Stadler saw the little shyster’s eyes studying him for the fraction of a second: the eyes had a touch of superstitious awe, as at the sight of a phenomenon from a mystical realm forever incomprehensible to Mr. Thompson-and they had the piercing, calculating shrewdness of a ward heeler who feels certain that nothing is immune from his standards, a glance like the visual equivalent of the words: What’s your angle?
“It’s an honor, Doctor, an honor, I’m sure,” said Mr. Thompson briskly, shaking his hand.
He learned that the tall, stoop-shouldered man with a crew haircut was Mr. Wesley Mouch. He did not catch the names of the others, whose hands he shook. As the group proceeded toward the officials’
grandstand, he was left with the burning sensation of a discovery he dared not face: the discovery that he had felt anxiously pleased by the little shyster’s nod of approval.
A party of young attendants, who looked like movie theater ushers, appeared- from, somewhere with handcarts of glittering objects, which they proceeded to distribute to the assembly. The objects were field glasses. Dr. Ferns took his place at the microphone of a public-address system by the officials’ stand. At a signal from Wesley Mouch, his voice boomed suddenly over the prairie, an unctuous, fraudulently solemn voice magnified by the microphone inventor’s ingenuity into the sound and power of a giant: “Ladies and gentlemen . . . !”
The crowd was struck into silence, all heads jerking unanimously toward the graceful figure of Dr. Floyd Ferris.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you have been chosen-in recognition of your distinguished public service and social loyalty-to witness the unveiling of a scientific achievement of such tremendous importance, such staggering scope, such epoch-making possibilities that up to this moment it has been known only to a very few and only as Project X.”
Dr. Stadler focused his field glasses on the only thing in sight-on the blotch of the distant farm.
He saw that it was the deserted ruin of a farmhouse, which had obviously been abandoned years ago. The light of the sky showed through the naked ribs of the roof, and jagged bits of glass framed the darkness of empty windows. He saw a sagging barn, the rusted tower of a water wheel, and the remnant of a tractor lying upturned with its treads in the air.
Dr. Ferris was talking about the crusaders of science and about the years of selfless devotion, unremitting toil and persevering research that had gone into Project X.
It was odd-thought Dr. Stadler, studying the ruins of the farm-
that there should be a herd of goats in the midst of such desolation.
There were six or seven of them, some drowsing, some munching lethargically at whatever grass they could find among the sun-scorched weeds.
“Project X,” Dr. Ferris was saying, “was devoted to some special research in the field of sound. The science of sound has astonishing aspects, which laymen would scarcely suspect. . . .”
Some fifty feet away from the farmhouse, Dr. Stadler saw a structure, obviously new and of no possible purpose whatever: it looked like a few spans of a steel trestle, rising into empty space, supporting nothing, leading nowhere.
Dr. Ferris was now talking about the nature of sound vibrations.
Dr. Stadler aimed his field glasses at the horizon beyond the farm, but there was nothing else to be seen for dozens of miles. The sudden, straining motion of one of the goats brought his eyes back to the herd.
He noticed that the goats were chained to stakes driven at intervals into the ground.
“. . . And it was discovered,” said Dr. Ferris, “that there are certain frequencies of sound vibration which no structure, organic or inorganic, can withstand. . . .”
Dr. Stadler noticed a silvery spot bouncing over the weeds among the herd. It was a kid that had not been chained; it kept leaping and weaving about its mother.
“. . . The sound ray is controlled by a panel inside the giant underground laboratory,” said Dr. Ferris, pointing at the building on the knoll. “That panel is known to us affectionately as the ‘Xylophone’-
because one must be darn careful to strike the right keys, or, rather, to pull the right levers. For this special occasion, an extension Xylophone, connected to the one inside, has been erected here”-he pointed to the switchboard in front of the officials1 stand-“so that you may witness the entire operation and see the simplicity of the whole procedure. . . .”
Dr. Stadler found pleasure in watching the kid, a soothing, reassuring kind of pleasure. The little creature seemed barely a week old, it looked like a ball of white fur with graceful long legs, it kept bounding in a manner of deliberate, gaily ferocious awkwardness, all four of its legs held stiff and straight. It seemed to be leaping at the sunrays, at the summer air, at the joy of discovering its own existence.
“. . . The sound ray is invisible, inaudible and fully controllable in respect to target, direction and range. Its first public test, which you are about to witness, has been set to cover a small sector, a mere two miles, in perfect safety, with all space cleared for twenty miles beyond. The present generating equipment in our laboratory is capable of producing rays to cover-through the outlets which you may observe under the dome-the entire countryside within a radius of a hundred miles, a circle with a periphery extending from the shore of the Mississippi, roughly from the bridge of the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad, to Des Moines and Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Austin, Minnesota, to Woodman, Wisconsin, to Rock Island, Illinois. This is only a modest beginning. We possess the technical knowledge to build generators with a range of two and three hundred miles-but due to the fact that we were unable to obtain in time a sufficient quantity of a highly heat resistant metal, such as Rearden Metal, we had to be satisfied with our present equipment and radius of control. In honor of our great executive, Mr. Thompson, under whose far-sighted administration the State Science Institute was granted the funds without which Project X would not have been possible, this great invention will henceforth be known as the Thompson Harmonizer!”
The crowd applauded. Mr. Thompson sat motionless, with his face held self-consciously stiff. Dr. Stadler felt certain that this small-time shyster had had as little to do with the Project as any of the movie usher attendants, that he possessed neither the mind nor the initiative nor even the sufficient degree of malice to cause a new gopher trap to be brought into the world, that he, too, was only the pawn of a silent machine-a machine that had no center, no leader, no direction, a machine that had not been set in motion by Dr. Ferris or Wesley Mouch, or any of the cowed creatures in the grandstands, or any of the creatures behind the scenes-an impersonal, unthinking, unembodied machine, of which none was the driver and all were the pawns, each to the degree of his evil. Dr. Stadler gripped the edge of the bench: he felt a desire to leap to his feet and run.
“. . . As to the function and the purpose of the sound ray, I shall say nothing. I shall let it speak for itself. You will now see it work.
When Dr. Blodgett pulls the levers of the Xylophone, I suggest that you keep your eyes on the target-which is that farmhouse two miles away. There will be nothing else to see. The ray itself is invisible. It has long been conceded by all progressive thinkers that there are no entities, only actions-and no values, only consequences. Now, ladies and gentlemen, you will see the action and the consequences of the Thompson Harmonizer.”
Dr. Ferris bowed, walked slowly away from the microphone and came to take his seat on the bench beside Dr. Stadler.
A youngish, fattish kind of man took his stand by the switchboard-
and raised his eyes expectantly toward Mr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson looked blankly bewildered for an instant, as if something had slipped his mind, until Wesley Mouch leaned over and whispered some word into his ear. “Contact!” said Mr. Thompson loudly.
Dr. Stadler could not bear to watch the graceful, undulating, effeminate motion of Dr. Blodgett’s hand as it pulled the first lever of the switchboard, then the next. He raised his field glasses and looked at the farmhouse.
In the instant when he focused his lens, a goat was pulling at its chain, reaching placidly for a tall, dry thistle. In the next instant, the goat rose into the air, upturned, its legs stretched upward and jerking, then fell into a gray pile made of seven goats in convulsions. By the time Dr. Stadler believed it, the pile was motionless, except for one beast’s leg sticking out of the mass, stiff as a rod and shaking as in a strong wind. The farmhouse tore into strips of clapboard and went down, followed by a geyser of the bricks of its chimney. The tractor vanished into a pancake. The water tower cracked and its shreds hit the ground white its wheel was still describing a long curve through the air, as if of its own leisurely volition. The steel beams and girders of the solid new trestle collapsed like a structure of matchsticks under the breath of a sigh. It was so swift, so uncontested, so simple, that Dr.
Stadler felt no horror, he felt nothing, it was not the reality he had known, it was the realm of a child’s nightmare where material objects could be dissolved by means of a single malevolent wish.
He moved the field glasses from his eyes. He was looking at an empty prairie. There was no farm, there was nothing in the distance except a darkish strip that looked like the shadow of a cloud.
A single, high, thin scream rose from the tiers behind him, as some woman fainted. He wondered why she should scream so long after the fact-and then he realized that the time elapsed since the touch of the first lever was not a full minute.
He raised his field glasses again, almost as if he were suddenly hoping that the cloud shadow would be all he would see. But the material objects were still there; they were a mount of refuse. He moved his glasses over the wreckage; in a moment, he realized that he was looking for the kid. He could not find it; there was nothing but a pile of gray fur.
When he lowered the glasses and turned, he found Dr. Ferns looking at him. He felt certain that through the whole of the test, it was not the target, it was his face that Ferris had watched, as if to see whether he, Robert Stadler, could withstand the ray.
“That’s all there is to it,” the fattish Dr. Blodgett announced through the microphone, in the ingratiating sales tone of a department-store floorwalker. “There is no nail or rivet remaining in the frame of the structures and there is no blood vessel left unbroken in the bodies of the animals.”
The crowd was rustling with jerky movements and high-pitched whispers. People were looking at one another, rising uncertainly and dropping down again, restlessly demanding anything but this pause. There was a sound of submerged hysteria in the whispers. They seemed to be waiting to be told what to think.
Dr. Stadler saw a woman being escorted down the steps from the back row, her head bent, a handkerchief pressed to her mouth: she was sick at her stomach.
He turned away and saw that Dr. Ferris was still watching him. Dr.
Stadler leaned back a little, his face austere and scornful, the face of the nation’s greatest scientist, and asked, “Who invented that ghastly thing?”
“You did.”
Dr. Stadler looked at him, not moving.
“It is merely a practical appliance,” said Dr. Ferris pleasantly, “based upon your theoretical discoveries. It was derived from your invaluable research into the nature of cosmic rays and of the spatial transmission of energy.”
“Who worked on the Project?”
“A few third-raters, as you would call them. Really, there was very little difficulty. None of them could have begun to conceive of the first step toward the concept of your energy-transmission formula, but given that-the rest was easy.”
“What is the practical purpose of this invention? What are the ‘epoch-making possibilities’?”
“Oh, but don’t you see? It is an invaluable instrument of public security. No enemy would attack the possessor of such a weapon. It will set the country free from the fear of aggression and permit it to plan its future in undisturbed safety.” His voice had an odd carelessness, a tone of offhand improvisation, as if he were neither expecting nor attempting to be believed. “It will relieve social frictions. It will promote peace, stability and-as we have indicated-harmony. It will eliminate all danger of war.”
“What war? What aggression? With the whole world starving and all those People’s States barely subsisting on handouts from this country-where do you see any danger of war? Do you expect those ragged savages to attack you?”
Dr. Ferris looked straight into his eyes. “Internal enemies can be as great a danger to the people as external ones,” he answered. “Perhaps greater.” This time his voice sounded as if he expected and was certain to be understood. “Social systems are so precarious. But think of what stability could be achieved by a few scientific installations at strategic key points. It would guarantee a state of permanent peace-don’t you think so?”
Dr. Stadler did not move or answer; as the seconds clicked past and his face still held an unchanged expression, it began to look paralyzed.
His eyes had the stare of a man who suddenly sees that which he had known, had known from the first, had spent years trying not to see, and who is now engaged in a contest between the sight and his power to deny its existence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” he snapped at last.
Dr. Ferris smiled. “No private businessman or greedy industrialist would have financed Project X,” he said softly, in the tone of an idle, informal discussion. “He couldn’t have afforded it. It’s an enormous investment, with no prospect of material gain. What profit could he expect from it? There are no profits henceforth to be derived from that farm.” He pointed at the dark strip in the distance. “But, as you have so well observed, Project X had to be a non-profit venture. Contrary to a business firm, the State Science Institute had no trouble in obtaining funds for the Project. You have not heard of the Institute having any financial difficulties in the past two years, have you? And it used to be such a problem-getting them to vote the funds necessary for the advancement of science. They always demanded gadgets for their cash, as you used to say. Well, here was a gadget which some people in power could fully appreciate. They got the others to vote for it. It wasn’t difficult. In fact, a great many of those others felt safe in voting money for a project that was secret-they felt certain it was important, since they were not considered important enough to be let in on it.
There were, of course, a few skeptics and doubters. But they gave in when they were reminded that the head of the State Science Institute was Dr. Robert Stadler-whose judgment and integrity they could not doubt.”
Dr. Stadler was looking down at his fingernails.
The sudden screech of the microphone jerked the crowd into an instantaneous attentiveness; people seemed to be a second’s worth of self-control away from panic. An announcer, with a voice like a machine gun spitting smiles, barked cheerily that they were now to witness the radio broadcast that would break the news of the great discovery to the whole nation. Then, with a glance at his watch, his script and the signaling arm of Wesley Mouch, he yelled into the sparkling snake-head of the microphone-into the living rooms, the offices, the studies, the nurseries of the country: “Ladies and gentlemen! Project X!”
Dr. Ferris leaned toward Dr. Stadler-through the staccato hoof beats of the announcer’s voice galloping across the continent with a description of the new invention-and said in the tone of a casual remark, “It is vitally important that there be no criticism of the Project in the country at this precarious time,” then added semi-accidentally, as a semi-joke, “that there be no criticism of anything at any time.”
“-and the nation’s political, cultural, intellectual and moral leaders,” the announcer was yelling into the microphone, “who have witnessed this great event, as your representatives and in your name, will now tell you their views of it in person!”
Mr. Thompson was the first to mount the wooden steps to the platform of the microphone. He snapped his way through a brief speech, hailing a new era and declaring-in the belligerent tone of a challenge to unidentified enemies-that science belonged to the people and that every man on the face of the globe had a right to a share of the advantages created by technological progress.
Wesley Mouch came next. He spoke about social planning and the necessity of unanimous rallying in support of the planners. He spoke about discipline, unity, austerity and the patriotic duty of bearing temporary hardships. “We have mobilized the best brains of the country to work for your welfare. This great invention was the product of the genius of a man whose devotion to the cause of humanity is not to be questioned, a man acknowledged by all as the greatest mind of the century-Dr. Robert Stadler!”
“What?” gasped Dr. Stadler, whirling toward Ferris.
Dr. Ferris looked at him with a glance of patient mildness.
“He didn’t ask my permission to say that!” Dr. Stadler half-snapped, half-whispered.
Dr. Ferris spread out his hands in a gesture of reproachful helplessness. “Now you see, Dr. Stadler, how unfortunate it is if you allow yourself to be disturbed by political matters, which you have always considered unworthy of your attention and knowledge. You see, it is not Mr. Mouch’s function to ask permissions.”
The figure now slouching against the sky on the speakers platform, coiling itself about the microphone, talking in the bored, contemptuous tone of an off-color story, was Dr. Simon Pritchett. He was declaring that the new invention was an instrument of social welfare, which guaranteed general prosperity, and that anyone who doubted this self evident fact was an enemy of society, to be treated accordingly.
“This invention, the product of Dr. Robert Stadler, the pre-eminent lover of freedom-”
Dr. Ferris opened a briefcase, produced some pages of neatly typed copy and turned to Dr. Stadler. “You are to be the climax of the broadcast,” he said. “You will speak last, at the end of the hour.” He extended the pages. “Here’s the speech you’ll make,” His eyes said the rest: they said that his choice of words had not been accidental.
Dr. Stadler took the pages, but held them between the tips of two straight fingers, as one might hold a scrap of waste paper about to be tossed aside. “I haven’t asked you to appoint yourself as my ghost writer,” he said. The sarcasm of the voice gave Ferris his clue: this was not a moment for sarcasm.
“I couldn’t have allowed your invaluable time to be taken up by the writing of radio speeches,” said Dr. Ferris. “I felt certain that you would appreciate it.” He said it in a tone of spurious politeness intended to be recognized as spurious, the tone of tossing to a beggar the alms of face-saving.
Dr. Stadler’s answer disturbed him: Dr. Stadler did not choose to answer or to glance down at the manuscript.
“Lack of faith,” a beefy speaker was snarling on the platform, in the tone of a street brawl, “lack of faith is the only thing we got to fear! If we 4iave faith in the plans of our leaders, why, the plans will work and we’ll all have prosperity and ease and plenty. It’s the fellows who go around doubting and destroying our morale, it’s they who’re keeping us in shortages and misery. But we’re not going to let them do it much longer, we’re here to protect the people-and if any of those doubting smarties come around, believe you me, we’ll take care of them!”
“It would be unfortunate,” said Dr. Ferris in a soft voice, “to arouse popular resentment against the State Science Institute at an explosive time like the present. There’s a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest in the country-and if people should misunderstand the nature of the new invention, they’re liable to vent their rage on all scientists. Scientists have never been popular with the masses.”
“Peace,” a tall, willowy woman was signing into the microphone, “this invention is a great, new instrument of peace. It will protect us from the aggressive designs of selfish enemies, it will allow us to breathe freely and to learn to love our fellow men.” She had a bony face with a mouth embittered at cocktail parties, and wore a flowing pale blue gown, suggesting the concert garment of a harpist. “It may well be considered as that miracle which was thought impossible in history-the dream of the ages-the final synthesis of science and love!”
Dr. Stadler looked at the faces in the grandstands. They were sitting quietly now, they were listening, but their eyes had an ebbing look of twilight, a look of fear in the process of being accepted as permanent, the look of raw wounds being dimmed by the veil of infection. They knew, as he knew it, that they were the targets of the shapeless funnels protruding from the mushroom building’s dome-and he wondered in what manner they were now extinguishing their minds and escaping that knowledge; he knew that the words they were eager to absorb and believe were the chains slipping in to hold them, like the goats, securely within the range of those funnels. They were eager to believe; he saw the tightening lines of their lips, he saw the occasional glances of suspicion they threw at their neighbors-as if the horror that threatened them was not the sound ray, but the men who would make them acknowledge it as horror. Their eyes were veiling over, but the remnant look of a wound was a cry for help.
“Why do you think they think?” said Dr. Ferris softly. “Reason is the scientist’s only weapon-and reason has no power over men, has it? At a time like ours, with the country falling apart, with the mob driven by blind desperation to the edge of open riots and violence-
order must be maintained by any means available. What can we do when we have to deal with people?”
Dr. Stadler did not answer.
A fat, jellied woman, with an inadequate brassiere under a dark, perspiration-stained dress, was saying into the microphone-Dr. Stadler could not believe it at first-that the new invention was to be greeted with particular gratitude by the mothers of the country.
Dr. Stadler turned away; watching him, Ferris could see nothing but the noble line of the high forehead and the deep cut of bitterness at the corner of the mouth.
Suddenly, without context or warning, Robert Stadler whirled to face him. It was like a spurt of blood from a sudden crack in a wound that had almost closed: Stadler’s face was open, open in pain, in horror, in sincerity, as if, for that moment, both he and Ferris were human beings, while he moaned with incredulous despair: “In a civilized century, Ferris, in a civilized century!”
Dr. Ferris took his time to produce and prolong a soft chuckle. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he answered in the tone of a quotation.
Dr. Stadler lowered his eyes.
When Ferris spoke again, his voice had the faintest edge of a tone which Stadler could not define, except that it did not belong in any civilized discussion: “It would be unfortunate if anything were to happen to jeopardize the State Science Institute. It would be most unfortunate if the Institute were to be closed-or if any one of us were to be forced to leave it. Where would we go? Scientists are an inordinate luxury these days-and there aren’t many people or establishments left who’re able to afford necessities, let alone luxuries. There are no doors left open to us. We wouldn’t be welcome in the research department of an industrial concern, such as-let us say-Rearden Steel. Besides, if we should happen to make enemies, the same enemies would be feared by any person tempted to employ our talents. A man like Rearden would have fought for us. Would a man like Orren Boyle? But this is purely theoretical speculation, because, as a matter of practical fact, all private establishments of scientific research have been closed by law-by Directive 10-289, issued, as you might not realize, by Mr. Wesley Mouch. Are you thinking, perhaps, of universities? They are in the same position. They can’t afford to make enemies. Who would speak up for us? I believe that some such man as Hugh Akston would have come to our defense-but to think of that is to be guilty of an anachronism. He belonged to a different age. The conditions set up in our social and economic reality have long since made his continued existence impossible. And I don’t think that Dr. Simon Pritchett, or the generation reared under his guidance, would be able or willing to defend us. I have never believed in the efficacy of idealists-have you?-
and this is no age for impractical idealism. If anyone wished to oppose a government policy, how would he make himself heard? Through these gentlemen of the press, Dr. Stadler? Through this microphone? Is there an independent newspaper left in the country? An uncontrolled radio station? A private piece of property, for that matter-or a personal opinion?” The tone of the voice was obvious now: it was the tone of a thug. “A personal opinion is the one luxury that nobody can afford today.”
Dr. Stadler’s lips moved stiffly, as stiffly as the muscles of the goats, “You are speaking to Robert Stadler.”
“I have not forgotten that. It is precisely because I have not forgotten it that I am speaking, ‘Robert Stadler’ is an illustrious name, which I would hate to see destroyed. But what is an illustrious name nowadays? In whose eyes?” His arm swept over the grandstands. “In the eyes of people such as you see around you? If they will believe, when so told, that an instrument of death is a tool of prosperity-would they not believe it if they were told that Robert Stadler is a traitor and an enemy of the State? Would you then rely on the fact that this is not true? Are you thinking of truth, Dr. Stadler? Questions of truth do not enter into social issues. Principles have no influence on public affairs.
Reason has no power over human beings. Logic is impotent. Morality is superfluous. Do not answer me now, Dr. Stadler. You will answer me over the microphone. You’re the next speaker.”
Looking off at the dark strip of the farm in the distance, Dr. Stadler knew that what he felt was terror, but he would not permit himself to know its nature. He, who had been able to study the particles and sub particles of cosmic space, would not permit himself to examine his feeling and to know that it was made of three parts: one part was terror of a vision that seemed to stand before his eyes, the vision of the inscription cut, in his honor, over the door of the Institute: “To the fearless mind, to the inviolate truth”-another part was a plain, brute, animal fear of physical destruction, a humiliating fear which, in the civilized world of his youth, he had not expected ever to experience-
and the third was the terror of the knowledge that by betraying the first, one delivers oneself into the realm of the second.
He walked toward the speaker’s scaffold, his steps firm and slow, his head lifted, the manuscript of the speech held crumpled in his fingers.
It looked like a walk to mount either a pedestal or a guillotine. As the whole of a man’s life flashes before him in his dying moment, so he walked to the sound of the announcer’s voice reading to the country the list of Robert Stadler’s achievements and career. A faint convulsion ran over Robert Stadler’s face at the words: “-former head of the Department of Physics of the Patrick Henry University.” He knew, distantly, not as if the knowledge were within him, but as if it were within some person he was leaving behind, that the crowd was about to witness an act of destruction more terrible than the destruction of. the farm.
He had mounted the first three steps of the scaffold, when a young newsman tore forward, ran to him and, from below, seized the railing to stop him. “Dr. Stadler!” he cried in a desperate whisper. “Tell them the truth! Tell them that you had nothing to do with it! Tell them what sort of infernal machine it is and for what purpose it’s intended to be used! Tell the country what sort of people are trying to rule it! Nobody can doubt your word! Tell them the truth! Save us! You’re the only one who can!”
Dr. Stadler looked down at him. He was young; his movements and voice had that swift, sharp clarity which belongs to competence; among his aged, corrupt, favor-ridden and pull-created colleagues, he had managed to achieve the rank of elite of the political press, by means and in the role of a last, irresistible spark of ability. His eyes had the look of an eager, unfrightened intelligence; they were the kind of eyes Dr.
Stadler had seen looking up at him from the benches of classrooms.
He noticed that this boy’s eyes were hazel; they had a tinge of green.
Dr. Stadler turned his head and saw that Ferris had come rushing to his side, like a servant or a jailer. “I do not expect to be insulted by disloyal young punks with treasonable motives,” said Dr. Stadler loudly.
Dr. Ferris whirled upon the young man and snapped, his face out of control, distorted by rage at the unexpected and unplanned, “Give me your press card and your work permit!”
“I am proud,” Dr. Robert Stadler read-into the microphone and into the attentive silence of a nation, “that my years of work in the service of science have brought me the honor of placing into the hands of our great leader, Mr. Thompson, a new instrument with an incalculable potential for a civilizing and liberating influence upon the mind of man. . . . ”
The sky had the stagnant breath of a furnace and the streets of New York were like pipes running, not with air and light, but with melted dust. Dagny stood on a street corner, where the airport bus had left her, looking at the city in passive astonishment. The buildings seemed worn by weeks of summer heat, but the people seemed worn by centuries of anguish. She stood watching them, disarmed by an enormous sense of unreality.
That sense of unreality had been her only feeling since the early hours of the morning-since the moment when, at the end of an empty highway, she had walked into an unknown town and stopped the first passer-by to ask where she was.
“Watsonville,” he answered. “What state, please?” she asked. The man glanced at her, said, “Nebraska,” and walked hastily away. She smiled mirthlessly, knowing that he wondered where she had come from and that no explanation he could imagine would be as fantastic as the truth. Yet it was Watsonville that seemed fantastic to her, as she walked through its streets to the railroad station. She had lost the habit of observing despair as the normal and dominant aspect of human existence, so normal as to become unnoticed-and the sight of it struck her in all of its senseless futility. She was seeing the brand of pain and fear on the faces of people, and the look of evasion that refuses to know it-they seemed to be going through the motions of some enormous pretense, acting out a ritual to ward off reality, letting the earth remain unseen and their lives unlived, in dread of something namelessly forbidden-
yet the forbidden was the simple act of looking at the nature of their pain and questioning their duty to bear it. She was seeing it so clearly that she kept wanting to approach strangers, to shake them, to laugh in their faces and to cry, “Snap out of it!”
There was no reason for people to be as unhappy as that, she thought, no reason whatever . . . and then she remembered that reason was the one power they had banished from their existence.
She boarded a Taggart train for the nearest airfield; she did not identify herself to anyone: it seemed irrelevant. She sat at the window of a coach, like a stranger who has to learn the incomprehensible language of those around her. She picked up a discarded newspaper; she managed, with effort, to understand what was written, but not why it should ever have been written: it all seemed so childishly senseless.
She stared in astonishment at a paragraph in a syndicated column from New York, which stated over emphatically that Mr. James Taggart wished it to be known that his sister had died in an airplane crash, any unpatriotic rumors to the contrary notwithstanding. Slowly, she remembered Directive 10-289 and realized that Jim was embarrassed by the public suspicion that she had vanished as a deserter.
The wording of the paragraph suggested that her disappearance had been a prominent public issue, not yet dropped. There were other suggestions of it: a mention of Miss Taggart’s tragic death, in a story about the growing number of plane crashes-and, on the back page, an ad, offering a $100,000 reward to the person who would find the wreckage of her plane, signed by Henry Rearden.
The last gave her a stab of urgency; the rest seemed meaningless.
Then, slowly, she realized that her return was a public event which would be taken as big news. She felt a lethargic weariness at the prospect of a dramatic homecoming, of facing Jim and the press, of witnessing the excitement. She wished they would get it over with in her absence.
At the airfield, she saw a small-town reporter interviewing some departing officials. She waited till he had finished, then she approached him, extended her credentials and said quietly, to the gaping stare of his eyes, “I’m Dagny Taggart. Would you make it known, please, that I’m alive and that I’ll be in New York this afternoon?” The plane was about to take off and she escaped the necessity of answering questions.
She watched the prairies, the rivers, the towns slipping past at an untouchable distance below-and she noted that the sense of detachment one feels when looking at the earth from a plane was the same sense she felt when looking at people: only her distance from people seemed longer, The passengers were listening to some radio broadcast, which appeared to be important, judging by their earnest attentiveness. She caught brief snatches of fraudulent voices talking about some sort of new invention that was to bring some undefined benefits to some undefined public’s welfare. The words were obviously chosen to convey no specific meaning whatever; she wondered how one could pretend that one was hearing a speech; yet that was what the passengers were doing.
They were going through the performance of a child who, not yet able to read, holds a book open and spells out anything he wishes to spell, pretending that it is contained in the incomprehensible black lines. But the child, she thought, knows that he is playing a game; these people pretend to themselves that they are not pretending; they know no other state of existence.
The sense of unreality remained as her only feeling, when she landed, when she escaped a crowd of reporters without being seen-
by avoiding the taxi stands and leaping into the airport bus-when she rode on the bus, then stood on a street corner, looking et New York, She felt as if she were seeing an abandoned city.
She felt no sense of homecoming, when she entered her apartment; the place seemed to be a convenient machine that she could use for some purpose of no significance whatever.
But she felt a quickened touch of energy, like the first break in a fog -a touch of meaning-when she picked up the telephone receiver and called Rearden’s office in Pennsylvania. “Oh, Miss Taggart . . . Miss Taggart!” said, in a joyous moan, the voice of the severe, unemotional Miss Ives.
“Hello, Miss Ives. I haven’t startled you, have I? You knew that I was alive?”
“Oh yes! I heard it on the radio this morning.”
“Is Mr. Rearden in his office?”
“No, Miss Taggart. He . . . he’s in the Rocky Mountains, searching for . . . that is . . .”
“Yes, I know. Do you know where we can reach him?”
“I expect to hear from him at any moment. He’s stopping in Los Gatos, Colorado, right now. I phoned him, the moment I heard the news, but he was out and I left a message for him to call me. You see, he’s out flying, most of the day . . . but he’ll call me when he comes back to the hotel.”
“What hotel is it?”
“The Eldorado Hotel, in Los Gatos.”
“Thank you, Miss Ives.” She was about to hang up.
“Oh, Miss Taggart!”
“What was it that happened to you? Where were you?”
“I . . . I’ll tell you when I see you. I’m in New York now. When Mr. Rearden calls, tell him please that I’ll be in my office.”
“Yes, Miss Taggart.”
She hung up, but her hand remained on the receiver, clinging to her first contact with a matter that had importance. She looked at her apartment and at the city in the window, feeling reluctant to sink again into the dead fog of the meaningless.
She raised the receiver and called Los Gatos.
“Eldorado Hotel,” said a woman’s drowsily resentful voice.
“Would you take a message for Mr. Henry Rearden? Ash him, when he comes in, to-”
“Just a minute, please,” drawled the voice, in the impatient tone that resents any effort as an imposition.
She heard the clicking of switches, some buzzing, some breaks of silence and then a man’s clear, firm voice answering: “Hello?” It was Hank Rearden.
She stared at the receiver as at the muzzle of a gun, feeling trapped, unable to breathe.
“Hello?” he repeated.
“Hank, is that you?”
She heard a low sound, more a sigh than a gasp, and then the long, empty crackling of the wire.
“Hank'” There was no answer. “Hank!” she screamed in terror.
She thought she heard the effort of a breath-then she heard a whisper, which was not a question, but a statement saying everything: “Dagny.”
“Hank, I’m sorry-oh, darling, I’m sorry!-didn’t you know?”
“Where are you, Dagny?”
“Are you all right?”
“Of course.”
“Didn’t you know that I was back and . . . and alive?”
“No . . . I didn’t know it.”
“Oh God, I’m sorry I called, I-”
“What are you talking about? Dagny, where are you?”
“In New York. Didn’t you hear about it on the radio?”
“No. I’ve just come in.”
“Didn’t they give you a message to call Miss Ives?”
“Are you all right?”
“Now?” She heard his soft, low chuckle. She was hearing the sound of unreleased laughter, the sound of youth, growing in his voice with every word. “When did you come back?”
“This morning.”
“Dagny, where were you?”
She did not answer at once. “My plane crashed,” she said. “In the Rockies. I was picked up by some people who helped me, but I could not send word to anyone.”
The laughter went out of his voice. “As bad as that?”
“Oh . . . oh, the crash? No, it wasn’t bad. I wasn’t hurt. Not seriously.”
“Then why couldn’t you send word?”
“There were no . . . no means of communication.”
“Why did it take you so long to get back?”
“I . . . can’t answer that now,”
“Dagny, were you in danger?”
The half-smiling, half-bitter tone of her voice was almost regret, as she answered, “No.”
“Were you held prisoner?”
“No-not really.”
“Then you could have returned sooner, but didn’t?”
“That’s true-but that’s all I can tell you,”
“Where were you, Dagny?”
“Do you mind if we don’t talk about it now? Let’s wait until I see you.”
“Of course. I won’t ask any questions. Just tell me: are you safe now?”
“Safe? Yes.”
“I mean, have you suffered any permanent injuries or consequences?”
She answered, with the same sound of a cheerless smile, “Injuries-
no, Hank. I don’t know, as to the permanent consequences.”
“Will you still be in New York tonight?”
“Why, yes. I’m . . . I’m back for good.”
“Are you?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’m too used to what it’s like when . . . when I can’t find you.”
“I’m back.”
“Yes. I’ll see you in a few hours.” His voice broke off, as if the sentence were too enormous to believe. “In a few hours,” he repeated firmly.
“I’ll be here.”
He chuckled softly. “No, nothing. Just wanted to hear your voice awhile longer. Forgive me. I mean, not now. I mean, I don’t want to say anything now.”
“Hank, I-”
“When I see you, my darling. So long.”
She stood looking at the silent receiver. For the first time since her return, she felt pain, a violent pain, but it made her alive, because it was worth feeling.
She telephoned her secretary at Taggart Transcontinental, to say briefly that she would be in the office in half an hour.
The statue of Nathaniel Taggart was real-when she stood facing it in the concourse of the Terminal. It seemed to her that they were alone in a vast, echoing temple, with fog coils of formless ghosts weaving and vanishing around them. She stood still, looking up at the statue, as for a brief moment of dedication. I’m back-were the only words she had to offer.
“Dagny Taggart” was still the inscription on the frosted glass panel of the door to her office. The look on the faces of her staff, as she entered the anteroom, was the look of drowning persons at the sight of a lifeline. She saw Eddie Willers standing at his desk in his glass enclosure, with some man before him. Eddie made a move in her direction, but stopped; he looked imprisoned. She let her glance greet every face in turn, smiling at them gently as at doomed children, then walked toward Eddie’s desk.
Eddie was watching her approach as if he were seeing nothing else in the world, but his rigid posture seemed designed to pretend that he was listening to the man before him.
“Motive power?” the man was saying in a voice that had a brusque, staccato snap and a slurred, nasal drawl, together. “There’s no problem about motive power. You just take-”
“Hello,” said Eddie softly, with a muted smile, as to a distant vision.
The man turned to glance at her. He had a yellow complexion, curly hair, a hard face made of soft muscles, and the revolting handsomeness belonging to the esthetic standards of barroom corners; his blurred brown eyes had the empty flatness of glass.
“Miss Taggart,” said Eddie, in a resonant tone of severity, the tone of slapping the man into the manners of a drawing room he had never entered, “may I present Mr. Meigs?”
“How d’ do,” said the man without interest, then turned to Eddie and proceeded, as if she were not present: “You just take the Comet off the schedule for tomorrow and Tuesday, and shoot the engines to Arizona for the grapefruit special, with the rolling stock from the Scranton coal run I mentioned. Send the orders out at once.”
“You’ll do nothing of the kind!” she gasped, too incredulous to be angry.
Eddie did not answer.
Meigs glanced at her with what would have been astonishment if his eyes were capable of registering a reaction. “Send the orders,” he said to Eddie, with no emphasis, and walked out.
Eddie was jotting notations on a piece of paper.
“Are you crazy?” she asked.
He raised his eyes to her, as though exhausted by hours of beating.
“We’ll have to, Dagny” he said, his voice dead.
“What is that?” she asked, pointing at the outer door that had closed on Mr. Meigs.
“The Director of Unification.”
“The Washington representative, in charge of the Railroad Unification Plan.”
“What’s that?”
“It’s . . . Oh, wait, Dagny, are you all right? Were you hurt? Was it a plane crash?”
She had never imagined what the face of Eddie Willers would look like in the process of aging, but she was seeing it now-aging at thirty-five and within the span of one month. It was not a matter of texture or wrinkles, it was the same face with the same muscles, but saturated by the withering look of resignation to a pain accepted as hopeless.
She smiled, gently and confidently, in understanding, in dismissal of all problems, and said, extending her hand, “All right, Eddie. Hello.”
He took her hand and pressed it to his lips, a thing he had never done before, his manner neither daring nor apologetic, but simply and openly personal.
“It was a plane crash,” she said, “and, Eddie, so that you won’t worry, 111 tell you the truth: I wasn’t hurt, not seriously. But that’s not the story I’m going to give to the press and to all the others. So you’re never to mention it.”
“Of course.”
“I had no way to communicate with anyone, but not because I was hurt. It’s all I can tell you, Eddie. Don’t ask me where I was or why it took me so long to return.”
“I won’t.”
“Now tell me, what is the Railroad Unification Plan?”
“It’s . . . Oh, do you mind?-let Jim tell you. He will, soon enough. I just don’t have the stomach-unless you want me to,” he added, with a conscientious effort at discipline, “No, you don’t have to. Just tell me whether I understood that Unificator correctly: he wants you to cancel the Comet for two days in order to give her engines to a grapefruit special in Arizona?”
“That’s right.”
“And he’s cancelled a coal train in order to get cars to lug grapefruit?”
“That’s right.”
“Dagny, ‘why’ is a word nobody uses any longer.”
After a moment, she asked, “Have you any guess about the reason?”
“Guess? I don’t have to guess. I know.”
“All right, what is it?”
“The grapefruit special is for the Smather brothers. The Smather brothers bought a fruit ranch in Arizona a year ago, from a man who went bankrupt under the Equalization of Opportunity Bill. He had owned the ranch for thirty years. The Smather brothers were in the punchboard business the year before. They bought the ranch by means of a loan from Washington under a project for the reclamation of distressed areas, such as Arizona. The Smather brothers have friends in.
“Dagny, everybody knows it. Everybody knows how train schedules have been run in the past three weeks, and why some districts and some shippers get transportation, while others don’t. What we’re not supposed to do is say that we know it. We’re supposed to pretend to believe that ‘public welfare is the only reason for any decision-and that the public welfare of the city of New York requires the immediate delivery of a large quantity of grapefruit.” He paused, then added, “The Director of Unification is sole judge of the public welfare and has sole authority over the allocation of any motive power and rolling stock on any railroad anywhere in the United States.”
There was a moment of silence. “I see,” she said. In another moment, she asked, “What has been done about the Winston tunnel?”
“Oh, that was abandoned three weeks ago. They never unearthed the trains. The equipment gave out.”
“What has been done about rebuilding the old line around the tunnel?”
“That was shelved.”
“Then are we running any transcontinental traffic?”
He gave her an odd glance. “Oh yes,” he said bitterly.
“Through the detour of the Kansas Western?”
“Eddie, what has been happening here in the past month?”
He smiled as if his words were an ugly confession. “We’ve been making money in the past month,” he answered.
She saw the outer door open and James Taggart come in, accompanied by Mr. Meigs. “Eddie, do you want to be present at the conference?”
she asked. “Or would you rather miss this one?”
“No. I want to be present.”
Jim’s face looked like a crumpled piece of paper, though its soft, puffed flesh had acquired no additional lines.
“Dagny, there’s a lot of things to discuss, a lot of important changes which-” he said shrilly, his voice rushing in ahead of his person. “Oh, I’m glad to see you back, I’m happy that you’re alive,” he added impatiently, remembering. “Now there are some urgent-”
“Let’s go to my office,” she said.
Her office was like a historical reconstruction, restored and maintained by Eddie Willers. Her map, her calendar, the picture of Nat Taggart were on the walls, and no trace was left of the Clifton Locey era, “I understand that I am still the Operating Vice-President of this railroad?” she asked, sitting down at her desk.
“You are,” said Taggart hastily, accusingly, almost defiantly. “You certainly are-and don’t you forget it-you haven’t quit, you’re still -have you?”
“No, I haven’t quit.”
“Now the most urgent thing to do is to tell that to the press, tell them that you’re back on the job and where you were and-and, by the way, where were you?”
“Eddie,” she said, “will you make a note on this and send it to the press? My plane developed engine trouble while I was flying over the Rocky Mountains to the Taggart Tunnel. I lost my way, looking for an emergency landing, and crashed in an uninhabited mountain section-
of Wyoming. I was found by an old sheepherder and his wife, who took me to their cabin, deep in the wilderness, fifty miles away from the nearest settlement. I was badly injured and remained unconscious for most of two weeks. The old couple had no telephone, no radio, no means of communication or transportation, except an old truck that broke down when they attempted to use it. I had to remain with them until I recovered sufficient strength to walk. I walked the fifty miles to the foothills, then hitchhiked my way to a Taggart station in Nebraska.”
“I see,” said Taggart. “Well, that’s fine. Now when you give the press interview-”
“I’m not going to give any press interviews.”
“What? But they’ve been calling me all day! They’re waiting! It’s essential!” He had an air of panic. “It’s most crucially essential!”
“Who’s been calling you all day?”
“People in Washington and . . . and others . . . They’re waiting for your statement.”
She pointed at Eddie’s notes. “There’s my statement.”
“But that’s not enough! You must say that you haven’t quit.”
“That’s obvious, isn’t it? I’m back.”
“You must say something about it.”
“Such as what?”
“Something personal.”
“To whom?”
“To the country. People were worried about you. You must reassure them.”
“The story will reassure them, if anyone was worried about me.”
“That’s not what I mean!”
“Well, what do you mean?”
“I mean-” He stopped, his eyes avoiding hers. “I mean-” He sat, searching for words, cracking his knuckles.
Jim was going to pieces, she thought; the jerky impatience, the shrillness, the aura of panic were new; crude outbreaks of a tone of ineffectual menace had replaced his pose of cautious smoothness.
“I mean-” He was searching for words to name his meaning without naming it, she thought, to make her understand that which he did not want to be understood, “I mean, the public-”
“I know what you mean,” she said. “No, Jim, I’m not going to reassure the public about the state of our industry.”
“Now you’re-”
“The public had better be as unreassured as it has the wits to be.
Now proceed to business.”
“Proceed to business, Jim.”
He glanced at Mr. Meigs. Mr. Meigs sat silently, his legs crossed, smoking a cigarette. He wore a jacket which was not, but looked like, a military uniform. The flesh of his neck bulged over the collar, and the flesh of his body strained against the narrow waistline intended to disguise it. He wore a ring with a large yellow diamond that flashed when he moved his stubby fingers.
“You’ve met Mr. Meigs,” said Taggart. “I’m. so glad that the two of you will get along well together.” He made an expectant half-pause, but received no answer from either. “Mr. Meigs is the representative of the Railroad Unification Plan. You’ll have many opportunities to cooperate with him.”
“What is the Railroad Unification Plan?”
“It is a . . . a new national setup that went into effect three weeks ago, which you will appreciate and approve of and find extremely practical.” She marveled at the futility of his method: he was acting as if, by naming her opinion in advance, he would make her unable to alter it. “It is an emergency setup which has saved the country’s transportation system.”
“What is the plan?”
“You realize, of course, the insurmountable difficulties of any sort of construction job during this period of emergency. It is-temporarily-
impossible to lay new track. Therefore, the country’s top problem is to preserve the transportation industry as a whole, to preserve its existing plant and all of its existing facilities. The national survival requires-”
“What is the plan?”
“As a policy of national survival, the railroads of the country have been unified into a single team, pooling their resources. All of their gross revenue is turned over to the Railroad Pool Board in Washington, which acts as trustee for the industry as a whole, and divides the total income among the various railroads, according to a . . . a more modern principle of distribution.”
“What principle?”
“Now don’t worry, property rights have been fully preserved and protected, they’ve merely been given a new form. Every railroad retains independent responsibility for its own operations, its train schedules and the maintenance of its track and equipment. As its contribution to the national pool, every railroad permits any other, when conditions so require, to use its track and facilities without charge. At the end of the year, the Pool Board distributes the total gross income, and every individual railroad is paid, not on the haphazard, old-fashioned basis of the number of trains run or the tonnage of freight carried, but on the basis of its need-that is, the preservation of its track being its main need, every individual railroad is paid according to the mileage of the track which it owns and maintains.”
She heard the words; she understood the meaning; she was unable to make it real-to grant the respect of anger, concern, opposition to a nightmare piece of insanity that rested on nothing but people’s willingness to pretend to believe that it was sane. She felt a numbed emptiness -and the sense of being thrown far below the realm where moral indignation is pertinent.
“Whose track are we using for our transcontinental traffic?” she asked, her voice flat and dry.
“Why, our own, of course,” said Taggart hastily, “that is, from New York to Bedford, Illinois. We run our trains out of Bedford on the track of the Atlantic Southern.”
“To San Francisco?”
“Well, it’s much faster than that long detour you tried to establish.”
“We run our trains without charge for the use of the track?”
“Besides, your detour couldn’t have lasted, the Kansas Western rail was shot, and besides-”
“Without charge for the use of the Atlantic Southern track?”
“Well, we’re not charging them for the use of our Mississippi bridge, either.”
After a moment, she asked, “Have you looked at a map?”
“Sure,” said Meigs unexpectedly. “You own the largest track mileage of any railroad in the country. So you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Eddie Willers burst out laughing.
Meigs glanced at him blankly, “What’s the matter with you?” he asked.
“Nothing,” said Eddie wearily, “nothing.”
“Mr. Meigs,” she said, “if you look at a map, you will see that two thirds of the cost of maintaining a track for our transcontinental traffic is given to us free and is paid by our competitor.”
“Why, sure,” he said, but his eyes narrowed, watching her suspiciously, as if he were wondering what motive prompted her to so explicit a statement.
“While we’re paid for owning miles of useless track which carries no traffic,” she said.
Meigs understood-and leaned back as if he had lost all further interest in the discussion.
“That’s not true!” snapped Taggart. “We’re running a great number of local trains to serve the region of our former transcontinental line-
through Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado-and, on the other side of the tunnel, through California, Nevada and Utah.”
“We’re running two locals a day,” said Eddie Willers, in the dry, blankly innocent tone of a business report. “Fewer, some places.”
“What determines the number of trains which any given railroad is obligated to run?” she asked.
“The public welfare,” said Taggart “The Pool Board,” said Eddie.
“How many trains have been discontinued in the country in the past three weeks?”
“As a matter of fact,” said Taggart eagerly, “the plan has helped to harmonize the industry and to eliminate cutthroat competition.”
“It has eliminated thirty per cent of the trains run in-the country,”
said Eddie. “The only competition left is in the applications to the Board for permission to cancel trains. The railroad to survive will be the one that manages to run no trains at all.”
“Has anybody calculated how long the Atlantic Southern is expected to be able to remain in business?”
“That’s no skin off your-” started Meigs.
“Please, Cuffy!” cried Taggart.
“The president of the Atlantic Southern,” said Eddie impassively, “has committed suicide.”
“That had nothing to do with this!” yelled Taggart. “It was over a personal matter!”
She remained silent. She sat, looking at their faces. There was still an element of wonder in the numbed indifference of her mind: Jim had always managed to switch the weight of his failures upon the strongest plants around him and to survive by destroying them to pay for his errors, as he had done with Dan Conway, as he had done with the industries of Colorado; but this did not have even the rationality of a looter-this pouncing upon the drained carcass of a weaker, a half bankrupt competitor for a moment’s delay, with nothing but a cracking bone between the pouncer and the abyss.
The impulse of the habit of reason almost pushed her to speak, to argue, to demonstrate the self-evident-but she looked at their faces and she saw that they knew it. In some terms different from hers, in some inconceivable manner of consciousness, they knew all that she could tell them, it was useless to prove to them the irrational horror of their course and of its consequences, both Meigs and Taggart knew it-
and the secret of their consciousness was the means by which they escaped the finality of their knowledge, “I see,” she said quietly.
“Well, what would you rather have had me do?” screamed Taggart.
“Give up our transcontinental traffic? Go bankrupt? Turn the railroad into a miserable East Coast local?” Her two words seemed to have hit him worse than any indignant objection; he seemed to be shaking with terror at that which the quiet “I see” had acknowledged seeing. “I couldn’t help it! We had to have a transcontinental track! There was no way to get around the tunnel! We had no money to pay for any extra costs! Something had to be done! We had to have a track!”
Meigs was looking at him with a glance of part-astonishment, part disgust, “I am not arguing, Jim,” she said dryly.
“We couldn’t permit a railroad like Taggart Transcontinental to crash! It would have been a national catastrophe! We had to think of all the cities and industries and shippers and passengers and employees and stockholders whose lives depend on us! It wasn’t just for ourselves, it was for the public welfare! Everybody agrees that the Railroad Unification Plan is practical! The best-informed-”
“Jim,” she said, “if you have any further business to discuss with me -discuss it.”
“You’ve never considered the social angle of anything,” he said, in a sullen, retreating voice.
She noticed that this form of pretense was as unreal to Mr. Meigs as it was to her, though for an antipodal reason. He was looking at Jim with bored contempt. Jim appeared to her suddenly as a man who had tried to find a middle course between two poles-Meigs and herself -and who was now seeing that his course was narrowing and that he was to be ground between two straight walls.
“Mr. Meigs,” she asked, prompted by a touch of bitterly amused curiosity, “what is your economic plan for day after tomorrow?”
She saw his bleary brown eyes focus upon her without expression.
“You’re impractical,” he said.
“It’s perfectly useless to theorize about the future,” snapped Taggart, “when we have to take care of the emergency of the moment. In the long run-”
“In the long run, we’ll all be dead,” said Meigs.
Then, abruptly, he shot to his feet. “I’ll run along, Jim,” he said. “I’ve got no time to waste on conversations.” He added, “You talk to her about that matter of doing something to stop all those train wrecks-if she’s the little girl who’s such a wizard at railroading.” It was said inoffensively; he was a man who would not know when he was giving offense or taking it.
“I’ll see you later, Cuffy,” said Taggart, as Meigs walked out with no parting glance at any of them.
Taggart looked at her, expectantly and fearfully, as if dreading her comment, yet desperately hoping to hear some word, any word.
“Well?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Have you anything else to discuss?”
“Well, I . . . ” He sounded disappointed. “Yes!” he cried, in the tone of a desperate plunge. “I have another matter to discuss, the most important one of all, the-”
“Your growing number of train wrecks?”
“No! Not that.”
“What, then?”
“It’s . . . that you’re going to appear on Bertram Scudder’s radio program tonight.”
She leaned back. “Am I?”
“Dagny, it’s imperative, it’s crucial, there’s nothing to be done about it, to refuse is out of the question, in times like these one has no choice, and-”
She glanced at her watch. “I’ll give you three minutes to explain-
if you want to be heard at all. And you’d better speak straight.”
“All right!” he said desperately. “It’s considered most important-
on the highest levels, I mean Chick Morrison and Wesley Mouch and Mr. Thompson, as high as that-that you should make a speech to the nation, a morale-building speech, you know, saying that you haven’t quit.”
“Because everybody thought you had! . . . You don’t know what’s been going on lately, but . . . but it’s sort of uncanny. The country is full of rumors, all sorts of rumors, about everything, all of them dangerous. Disruptive, I mean. People seem to do nothing but whisper. They don’t believe the newspapers, they don’t believe the best speakers, they believe every vicious, scare-mongering piece of gossip that comes floating around. There’s no confidence left, no faith, no order, no . . . no respect for authority. People . . . people seem to be on the verge of panic.”
“Well, for one thing, it’s that damnable business of all those big industrialists who’ve vanished into thin air! Nobody’s been able to explain it and it’s giving them the jitters. There’s all sorts of hysterical stuff being whispered about it, but what they whisper mostly is that ‘no decent man will work for those people.’ They mean the people in Washington. Now do you see? You wouldn’t suspect that you were so famous, but you are, or you’ve become, ever since your plane crash. Nobody believed the plane crash. They all thought you had broken the law, that is, Directive 10-289, and deserted. There’s a lot of popular . . . misunderstanding of Directive 10-289, a lot of . . . well, unrest.
Now you see how important it is that you go on the air and tell people that it isn’t true that Directive 10-289 is destroying industry, that it’s a sound piece of legislation devised for everybody’s good, and that if they’ll just be patient a little longer, things will improve and prosperity will return. They don’t believe any public official any more. You . . .
you’re an industrialist, one of the few left of the old school, and the only one who’s ever come back after they thought you’d gone. You’re known as . . . as a reactionary who’s opposed to Washington policies. So the people will believe you. It would have a great influence on them, it would buttress their confidence, it would help their morale. Now do you see?”
He had rushed on, encouraged by the odd look of her face, a look of contemplation that was almost a faint half-smile.
She had listened, hearing, through his words, the sound of Rearden’s voice saying to her on a spring evening over a year ago: “They need some sort of sanction from us. I don’t know the nature of that sanction –but, Dagny, I know that if we value our lives, we must not give it to them. If they put you on a torture rack, don’t give it to them. Let them destroy your railroad and my mills, but don’t give it to them.”
“Now do you see?”
“Oh yes, Jim, I see!”
He could not interpret the sound of her voice, it was low, it was part-moan, part-chuckle, part-triumph-but it was the first sound of emotion to come from her, and he plunged on, with no choice but to hope. “I promised them in Washington that you’d speak! We can’t fail them-not in an issue of this kind! We can’t afford to be suspected of disloyalty. It’s alt arranged. You’ll be the guest speaker on Bertram Scudder’s program, tonight, at ten-thirty. He’s got a radio program where he interviews prominent public figures, it’s a national hookup, he has a large following, he reaches over twenty million people. The office of the Morale Conditioner has-”
“The what?”
“The Morale Conditioner-that’s Chick Morrison-has called me three times, to make sure that nothing would go wrong. They’ve issued orders to all the news broadcasters, who’ve been announcing it all day, all over the country, telling people to listen to you tonight on Bertram Scudder’s hour.”
He looked at her as if he were demanding both an answer and the recognition that her answer was the element of least importance in these circumstances. She said, “You know what I think of the Washington policies and of Directive 10-289.”
“At a time like this, we can’t afford the luxury of thinking!”
She laughed aloud.
“But don’t you see that you can’t refuse them now?” he yelled. “If you don’t appear after all those announcements, it will support the rumors, it will amount to an open declaration of disloyalty!”
“The trap won’t work, Jim.”
“What trap?”
“The one you’re always setting up.”
“I don’t know what you mean!”
“Yes, you do. You knew-all of you knew it-that I would refuse.
So you pushed me into a public trap, where my refusal would become an embarrassing scandal for you, more embarrassing than you thought I’d dare to cause. You were counting on me to save your faces and the necks you stuck out. I won’t save them.”
“But I promised it!”
“I didn’t.”
“But we can’t refuse them! Don’t you see that they’ve got us hogtied?
That they’re holding us by the throat? Don’t you know what they can do to us through this Railroad Pool, or through the Unification Board, or through the moratorium on our bonds?”
“I knew that two years ago.”
He was shaking; there was some formless, desperate, almost superstitious quality in his terror, out of proportion to the dangers he named.
She felt suddenly certain that it came from something deeper than his fear of bureaucratic reprisal, that the reprisal was the only identification of it which he would permit himself to know, a reassuring identification which had a semblance of rationality and hid his true motive. She felt certain that it was not the country’s panic he wanted to stave off, but his own-that he, and Chick Morrison and Wesley Mouch and all the rest of the looting crew needed her sanction, not to reassure their victims, but to reassure themselves, though the allegedly crafty, the allegedly practical idea of deluding their victims was the only identification they gave to their own motive and their hysterical insistence. With an awed contempt-awed by the enormity of the sight-she wondered what inner degradation those men had to reach in order to arrive at a level of self-deception where they would seek the extorted approval of an unwilling victim as the moral sanction they needed, they who thought that they were merely deceiving the world.
“We have no choice!” he cried. “Nobody has any choice!”
“Get out of here,” she said, her voice very quiet and low.
Some tonal quality in the sound of her voice struck the note of the unconfessed within him, as ft, never allowing it into words, he knew from what knowledge that sound had come. He got out.
She glanced at Eddie; he looked like a man worn by fighting one more of the attacks of disgust which he was learning to endure as a chronic condition.
After a moment, he asked, “Dagny, what became of Quentin Daniels?
You were flying after him, weren’t you?”
“Yes,” she said. “He’s gone.”
‘To the destroyer?”
The word hit her like a physical blow. It was the first touch of the outer world upon that radiant presence which she had kept within her all day, as a silent, changeless vision, a private vision, not to be affected by any of the things around her, not to be thought about, only to be felt as the source of her strength. The destroyer, she realized, was the name of that vision, here, in their world.
“Yes,” she said dully, with effort, “to the destroyer.”
Then she closed her hands over the edge of the desk, to steady her purpose and her posture, and said, with the bitter hint of a smile, “Well, Eddie, let’s see what two impractical persons, like you and me, can do about preventing the tram wrecks.”
It was two hours later-when she was alone at her desk, bent over sheets of paper that bore nothing but figures, yet were like a motion picture film unrolling to tell her the whole story of the railroad in the past four weeks-that the buzzer rang and her secretary’s
voice said, “Mrs. Rearden to see you, Miss Taggart.”
“Mr. Rearden?” she asked incredulously, unable to believe either.
“No. Mrs. Rearden.”
She let a moment pass, then said, “Please ask her to come in.”
There was some peculiar touch of emphasis in Lillian Rearden’s bearing when she entered and walked toward the desk. She wore a tailored suit, with a loose, bright bow hanging casually sidewise for a note of elegant incongruity, and a small hat tilted at an angle considered smart by virtue of being considered amusing; her face was a shade too smooth, her steps a shade too slow, and she walked almost as if she were swinging her hips.
“How do you do, Miss Taggart,” she said in a lazily gracious voice, a drawing-room voice which seemed to strike, in that office, the same style of incongruity as her suit and her bow.
Dagny inclined her head gravely.
Lillian glanced about the office; her glance had the same style of amusement as her hat: an amusement purporting to express maturity by the conviction that life could be nothing but ridiculous.
“Please sit down,” said Dagny.
Lillian sat down, relaxing Into a confident, gracefully casual posture.
When she turned her face to Dagny, the amusement was still there, but its shading was now different: it seemed to suggest that they shared a secret, which would make her presence here seem preposterous to the world, but self-evidently logical to the two of them. She stressed it by remaining silent.
“What can I do for you?”
“I came to tell you,” said Lillian pleasantly, “that you will appear on Bertram Scudder’s broadcast tonight.”
She detected no astonishment in Dagny’s face, no shock, only the glance of an engineer studying a motor that makes an irregular sound.
“I assume,” said Dagny, “that you are fully aware of the form of your sentence.”
“Oh yes!” said Lillian.
“Then proceed to support it.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Proceed to tell me.”
Lillian gave a brief little laugh, its forced brevity betraying that this was not quite the attitude she had expected. “I am sure that no lengthy explanations will be necessary,” she said. “You know why your appearance on that broadcast is important to those in power. I know why you have refused to appear. I know your convictions on the subject.
You may have attached no importance to it, but you do know that my sympathy has always been on the side of the system now in power.
Therefore, you will understand my interest in the issue and my place in it. When your brother told me that you had refused, I decided to take a hand in the matter-because, you see, I am one of the very few who know that you are not in a position to refuse.”
“I am not one of those few, as yet,” said Dagny.
Lillian smiled. “Well, yes, I must explain a little further. You realize that your radio appearance will have the same value for those in power as-as the action of my husband when he signed the Gift Certificate that turned Rearden Metal over to them. You know how frequently and how usefully they have been mentioning it in all of their propaganda.”
“I didn’t know that,” said Dagny sharply.
“Oh, of course, you have been away for most of the last two months, so you might have missed the constant reminders-in the press, on the radio, in public speeches-that even Hank Rearden approves of and supports Directive 10-289, since he has voluntarily signed his Metal over to the nation. Even Hank Rearden. That discourages a great many recalcitrants and helps to keep them in line.” She leaned back and asked in the tone of a casual aside, “Have you ever asked him why he signed?”
Dagny did not answer; she did not seem to hear that it was a question; she sat still and her face was expressionless, but her eyes seemed too large and they were fixed on Lillian’s, as if she were now intent upon nothing but hearing Lillian to the end.
“No, I didn’t think you knew it. I didn’t think that he would ever tell you,” said Lillian, her voice smoother, as if recognizing the signposts and sliding comfortably down the anticipated course. “Yet you must learn the reason that made him sign-because it is the same reason that will make you appear on Bertram Scudder’s broadcast tonight.”
She paused, wishing to be urged; Dagny waited.
“It is a reason,” said Lillian, “which should please you-as far as my husband’s action is concerned. Consider what that signature meant to him. Rearden Metal was his greatest achievement, the summation of the best in his life, the final symbol of his pride-and my husband, as you have reason to know, is an extremely passionate man, his pride in himself being, perhaps, his greatest passion. Rearden Metal was more than an achievement to him, it was the symbol of his ability to achieve, of his independence, of his struggle, of his rise. It was his property, his by right-and you know what rights mean to a man as strict as he, and what property means to a man as possessive. He would have gladly died to defend it, rather than surrender it to the men he despised. This is what it meant to him-and this is what he gave up. You will be glad to know that he gave it up for your sake, Miss Taggart. For the sake of your reputation and your honor. He signed the Gift Certificate surrendering Rearden Metal-under the threat that the adultery he was carrying on with you would be exposed to the eyes of the world. Oh yes, we had full proof of it, in every intimate detail. I believe that you hold a philosophy which disapproves of sacrifice-but in this case, you are most certainly a woman, so I’m sure that you will feel gratification at the magnitude of the sacrifice a man has made for the privilege of using your body. You have undoubtedly taken great pleasure in the nights which he spent in your bed. You may now take pleasure in the knowledge of what those nights have cost him. And since-you like bluntness, don’t you, Miss Taggart?-since your chosen status is that of a whore, I take my hat off to you in regard to the price you exacted, which none of your sisters could ever have hoped to match.”
Lillian’s voice had kept growing reluctantly sharper, like a drill head that kept breaking by being unable to find the line of the fault in the stone. Dagny was still looking at her, but the intensity had vanished from Dagny’s eyes and posture. Lillian wondered why she felt as if Dagny’s face were hit by a spotlight. She could detect no particular expression, it was simply a face in natural repose-and the clarity seemed to come from its structure, from the precision of its sharp planes, the firmness of the mouth, the steadiness of the eyes. She could not decipher the expression of the eyes, it seemed incongruous, it resembled the calm, not of a woman, but of a scholar, it had that peculiar, luminous quality which is the fearlessness of satisfied knowledge.
“It was I,” said Lillian softly, “who informed the bureaucrats about my husband’s adultery.”
Dagny noticed the first flicker of feeling in Lillian’s lifeless eyes: it resembled pleasure, but so distantly that it looked like sunlight reflected from the dead surface of the moon to the stagnant water of a swamp; it flickered for an instant and went.
“It was I,” said Lillian, “who took Rearden Metal away from him.”
It sounded almost like a plea.
It was not within the power of Dagny’s consciousness ever to understand that plea or to know what response Lillian had hoped to find; she knew only that she had not found it, when she heard the sudden shrillness of Lillian’s voice: “Have you understood me?”
“Then you know what I demand and why you’ll obey me. You thought you were invincible, you and he, didn’t you?” The voice was attempting smoothness, but it was jerking unevenly. “You have always acted on no will but your own-a luxury I have not been able to afford. For once and in compensation, I will see you acting on mine.
You can’t fight me. You can’t buy your way out of it, with those dollars which you’re able to make and I’m not. There’s no profit you can offer me-I’m devoid of greed. I’m not paid by the bureaucrats for doing this-I am doing it without gain. Without gain. Do you understand me?”
“Then no further explanations are necessary, only the reminder that all the factual evidence-hotel registers, jewelry bills and stuff like that-is still in the possession of the right persons and will be broadcast on every radio program tomorrow, unless you appear on one radio program tonight. Is this clear?”
“Now what is your answer?” She saw the luminous scholar-eyes looking at her, and suddenly she felt as if too much of her were seen and as if she were not seen at all.
“I am glad that you have told me,” said Dagny. “I will appear on Bertram Scudder’s broadcast tonight.”
There was a beam of white light beating down upon the glittering metal of a microphone-in the center of a glass cage imprisoning her with Bertram Scudder. The spark of glitter were greenish-blue; the microphone was made of Rearden Metal.
Above them, beyond a sheet of glass, she could distinguish a booth with two rows of faces looking down at her: the lax, anxious face of James Taggart, with Lillian Rearden beside him, her hand resting reassuringly on his arm-a man who had arrived by plane from Washington and had been introduced to her as Chick Morrison-and a group of young men from his staff, who talked about percentage curves of intellectual influence and acted like motorcycle cops.
Bertram Scudder seemed to be afraid of her. He clung to the microphone, spitting words into its delicate mesh, into the ears of the country, introducing the subject of his program. He was laboring to sound cynical, skeptical, superior and hysterical together, to sound like a man who sneers at the vanity of all human beliefs and thereby demands an instantaneous belief from his listeners. A small patch of moisture glistened on the back of his neck. He was describing in over colored detail her month of convalescence in the lonely cabin of a sheepherder, then her heroic trudging down fifty miles of mountain trails for the sake of resuming her duties to the people in this grave hour of national emergency.
“. . . And if any of you have been deceived by vicious rumors aimed to undermine your faith in the great social program of our leaders-
you may trust the word of Miss Taggart, who-”
She stood, looking up at the white beam. Specks of dust were whirling in the beam and she noticed that one of them was alive: it was a gnat with a tiny sparkle in place of its beating wings, it was struggling for some frantic purpose of its own, and she watched it, feeling as distant from its purpose as from that of the world.
“. . . Miss Taggart is an impartial observer, a brilliant businesswoman who has often been critical of the government in the past and who may be said to represent the extreme, conservative viewpoint held by such giants of industry as Hank Rearden. Yet even she-”
She wondered at how easy it felt, when one did not have to feel; she seemed to be standing naked on public display, and a beam of light was enough to support her, because there was no weight of pain in her, no hope, no regret, no concern, no future.
“. . . And now, ladies and gentlemen, I will present to you the heroine of this night, our most uncommon guest, the-”
Pain came back to her in a sudden, piercing stab, like a long splinter from the glass of a protective wall shattered by the knowledge that the next words would be hers; it came back for the brief length of a name in her mind, the name of the man she had called the destroyer: she did not want him to hear what she would now have to say. If you hear it-the pain was like a voice crying it to him-you won’t believe the things I have said to you-no, worse, the things which I have not said, but which you knew and believed and accepted -you will think that I was not free to offer them and that my days with you were a lie-this will destroy my one month and ten of your years-
this was not the way I wanted you to learn it, not like this, not tonight -but you will, you who’ve watched and known my every movement, you who’re watching me now, wherever you are-you will hear it-but it has to be said.
“-the last descendant of an illustrious name in our industrial history, the woman executive possible only in America, the Operating Vice-President of a great railroad-Miss Dagny Taggart!”
Then she felt the touch of Rearden Metal, as her hand closed over the stem of the microphone, and it was suddenly easy, not with the drugged ease of indifference, but with the bright, clear, living ease of action.
“I came here to tell you about the social program, the political system and the moral philosophy under which you are now living.”
There was so calm, so natural, so total a certainty in the sound of her voice that the mere sound seemed to carry an immense persuasiveness.
“You have heard it said that I believe that this system has depravity as its motive, plunder as its goal, lies, fraud and force as its method, and destruction as its only result. You have also heard it said that, like Hank Rearden, I am a loyal supporter of this system and that I give my voluntary co-operation to present policies, such as Directive 10-289.1 have come here to tell you the truth about it.
“It is true that I share the stand of Hank Rearden. His political convictions are mine. You have heard him denounced in the past as a reactionary who opposed every step, measure, slogan and premise of the present system. Now you hear him praised as our greatest industrialist, whose judgment on the value of economic policies may safely be trusted. It is true. You may trust his judgment. If you are now beginning to fear that you are in the power of an irresponsible evil, that the country is collapsing and that you will soon be left to starve-consider the views of our ablest industrialist, who knows what conditions are necessary to make production possible and to permit a country to survive.
Consider all that you know about his views. At such times as he was able to speak, you have heard him tell you that this government’s policies were leading you to enslavement and destruction. Yet he did not denounce the final climax of these policies-Directive 10-289. You have heard him fighting for his rights-his and yours-for his independence, for his property. Yet he did not fight Directive 10-289. He signed voluntarily, so you have been told, the Gift Certificate that surrendered Rearden Metal to his enemies. He signed the one paper which, by all of his previous record, you had expected him to fight to the death. What could this mean-you have constantly been told-
unless it meant that even he recognized the necessity of Directive 10289 and sacrificed his personal interests for the sake of the country?
Judge his views by the motive of that action, you have constantly been told. And with this I agree unreservedly: judge his views by the motive of that action. And-for whatever value you attach to my opinion and to any warning I may give you-judge my views also by the motive of that action, because his convictions are mine.
“For two years, I had been Hank Rearden’s mistress. Let there be no misunderstanding about it: I am saying this, not as a shameful confession, but with the highest sense of pride. I had been his mistress. I had slept with him, in his bed, in his arms. There is nothing anyone might now say to you about me, which I will not tell you first. It will be useless to defame me-I know the nature of the accusations and I will state them to you myself. Did I feel a physical desire for him? I did. Was I moved by a passion of my body? I was. Have I experienced the most violent form of sensual pleasure? I have. If this now makes me a disgraced woman in your eyes-let your estimate be your own concern. I will stand on mine.”
Bertram Scudder was staring at her; this was not the speech he had expected and he felt, in dim panic, that it was not proper to let it continue, but she was the special guest whom the Washington rulers had ordered him to treat cautiously; he could not be certain whether he was now supposed to interrupt her or not; besides, he enjoyed hearing this sort of story. In the audience booth, James Taggart and Lillian Rearden sat frozen, like animals paralyzed by the headlight of a train rushing down upon them; they were the only ones present who knew the connection between the words they were hearing and the theme of the broadcast; it was too late for them to move; they dared not assume the responsibility of a movement or of whatever was to follow.
In the control room, a young intellectual of Chick Morrison’s staff stood ready to cut the broadcast off the air in case of trouble, but he saw no political significance in the speech he was hearing, no element he could construe as dangerous to his masters. He was accustomed to hearing speeches extorted by unknown pressure from unwilling victims, and he concluded that this was the case of a reactionary forced to confess a scandal and that, therefore, the speech had, perhaps, some political value; besides, he was curious to hear it “I am proud that he had chosen me to give him pleasure and that it was he who had been my choice. It was not-as it is for most of you-
an act of casual indulgence and mutual contempt. It was the ultimate form of our admiration for each other, with full knowledge of the values by which we made our choice. We are those who do not disconnect the values of their minds from the actions of their bodies, those who do not leave their values to empty dreams, but bring them into existence, those who give material form to thoughts, and reality to values-those who make steel, railroads and happiness. And to such among you who hate the thought of human joy, who wish to see men’s life as chronic suffering and failure, who wish men to apologize for happiness-or for success, or ability, or achievement, or wealth-
to such among you, I am now saying: I wanted him, I had him, I was happy, I had known joy, a pure, full, guiltless joy, the joy you dread to hear confessed by any human being, the joy of which your only knowledge is in your hatred for those who are worthy of reaching it. Well, hate me, then-because I reached it!”
“Miss Taggart,” said Bertram Scudder nervously, “aren’t we departing from the subject of . . . After all, your personal relationship with Mr.
Rearden has no political significance which-”
“[ didn’t think it had, either. And, of course, I came here to tell you about the political and moral system under which you are now living. Well, I thought that I knew everything about Hank Rearden, but there was one thing which I did not learn until today. It was the blackmail threat that our relationship would be made public that forced Hank Rearden to sign the Gift Certificate surrendering Rearden Metal. It was blackmail-blackmail by your government officials, by your rulers, by your-”
In the instant when Scudder’s hand swept out to knock the microphone over, a faint click came from its throat as it crashed to the floor, signifying that the intellectual cop had cut the broadcast off the air.
She laughed-but there was no one to see her and to hear the nature of her laughter. The figures rushing into the glass enclosure were screaming at one another. Chick Morrison was yelling unprintable curses at Bertram Scudder-Bertram Scudder was shouting that he had been opposed to the whole idea, but had been ordered to do it-James Taggart looked like an animal baring its teeth, while he snarled at two of Morrison’s youngest assistants and avoided the snarls of an older third. The muscles of Lillian Rearden’s face had an odd slackness, like the limbs of an animal lying in the road, intact but dead. The morale conditioners were shrieking what they guessed they thought Mr.
Mouch would think. “What am I to say to them?” the program announcer was crying, pointing at the microphone. “Mr. Morrison, there’s an audience waiting, what am I to say?” Nobody answered him. They were not fighting over what to do, but over whom to blame.
Nobody said a word to Dagny or glanced in her direction. Nobody stopped her, when she walked out.
She stepped into the first taxicab in sight, giving the address of her apartment. As the cab started, she noticed that the dial of the radio on the driver’s panel was lighted and silent, crackling with the brief, tense coughs of static: it was tuned to Bertram Scudder’s program.
She lay back against the seat, feeling nothing but the desolation of the knowledge that the sweep of her action had, perhaps, swept away the man who might never wish to see her again. She felt, for the first time, the immensity of the hopelessness of finding him-if he did not choose to be found-in the streets of the city, in the towns of a continent, in the canyons of the Rocky Mountains where the goal was closed by a screen of rays. But one thing remained to her, like a log floating on a void, the log to which she had clung through the broadcast-and she knew that this was the thing she could not abandon, even were she to lose all the rest; it was the sound of his voice saying to her: “Nobody stays here by faking reality in any manner whatever.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,’1 the voice of Bertram Scudder’s announcer crackled suddenly out of the static, “due to technical difficulties over which we have no control, this station will remain off the air, pending the necessary readjustments.” The taxi driver gave a brief, contemptuous chuckle-and snapped the radio off.
When she stepped out and handed him a bill, he extended the change to her and, suddenly, leaned forward for a closer look at her face.
She felt certain that he recognized her and she held his glance austerely for an instant. His bitter face and his over patched shirt were worn out by a hopeless, losing struggle. As she handed him. a tip, he said quietly, with too earnest, too solemn an emphasis for a mere acknowledgment of the corns, “Thank you, ma’am,”
She turned swiftly and hurried into the building, not to let him see the emotion which was suddenly more than she could bear.
Her head was drooping, as she unlocked the door of her apartment, and the light struck her from below, from the carpet, before she jerked her head up in astonishment at finding the apartment lighted. She took a step forward-and saw Hank Rearden standing across the room.
She was held still by two shocks: one was the sight of his presence, she had not expected him to be back so soon; the other was the sight of his face. His face had so firm, so confident, so mature a look of calm, in the faint half-smile, in the clarity of the eyes, that she felt as if he had aged decades within one month, but aged in the proper sense of human growth, aged in vision, in stature, in power. She felt that he who had lived through a month of agony, he whom she had hurt so deeply and was about to hurt more deeply still, he would now be the one to give her support and consolation, his would be the strength to protect them both. She stood motionless for only an instant, but she saw his smile deepening as if he were reading her thoughts and telling her that she had nothing to fear. She heard a slight, crackling sound and saw, on a table beside him, the lighted dial of a silent radio. Her eyes moved to his as a question and he answered by the faintest nod, barely more than a lowering of his eyelids; he had heard her broadcast.
They moved toward each other in the same moment. He seized her shoulders to support her, her face was raised to his, but he did not touch her lips, he took her hand and kissed her wrist, her fingers, her palm, as the sole form of the greeting which so much of his suffering had gone to await. And suddenly, broken by the whole of this day and of that month, she was sobbing in his arms, slumped against him, sobbing as she had never done in her life, as a woman, in surrender to pain and in a last, futile protest against it.
Holding her so that she stood and moved only by means of his body, not hers, he led her to the couch and tried to make her sit down beside him, but she slipped to the floor, to sit at his feet and bury her face in his knees and sob without defense or disguise.
He did not lift her, he let her cry, with his arm tight about her. She felt his hand on her head, on. her shoulder, she felt the protection of his firmness, a firmness which seemed to tell her that as her tears were for both of them, so was his knowledge, that he knew her pain and felt it and understood, yet was able to witness it calmly-and his calm seemed to lift her burden, by granting her the right to break, here, at his feet, by telling her that he was able to carry what she could not carry any longer. She knew dimly that this was the real Hank Rearden, and no matter what form of insulting cruelty he had once given to their first nights together, no matter how often she had seemed as the stronger of the two, this had always been within him and at the root of their bond-this strength of his which would protect her if ever hers were gone.
When she raised her head, he was smiling down at her.
“Hank . . .” she whispered guiltily, in desperate astonishment at her own break.
“Quiet, darling.”
She let her face drop back on his knees; she lay still, fighting for rest, fighting against the pressure of a wordless thought: he had been able to bear and to accept her broadcast only as a confession of her love; it made the truth she now had to tell him more inhuman a blow than anyone had the right to deliver. She felt terror at the thought that she would not have the strength to do it, and terror at the thought that she would.
When she looked up at him again, he ran his hand over her forehead, brushing the hair o2 her face.
“It’s over, darling,” he said. “The worst of it is over, for both of us.”
“No, Hank, it isn’t.”
He smiled.
He drew her to sit beside him, with her head on his shoulder. “Don’t say anything now,” he said. “You know that we both understand all that has to be said, and we’ll speak of it, but not until it has ceased to hurt you quite so much.”
His hand moved down the line of her sleeve, down a fold of her skirt, with so light a pressure that it seemed as if the hand did not feel the body inside the clothes, as if he were regaining possession, not of her body, but only of its vision.
“You’ve taken too much,” he said. “So have I. Let them batter us.
There’s no reason why we should add to it. No matter what we have to face, there can be no suffering between the two of us. No added pain.
Let that come from their world. It won’t come from us. Don’t be afraid.
We won’t hurt each other. Not now.”
She raised her head, shaking it with a bitter smile-there was a desperate violence in her movement, but the smile was a sign of recovery: of the determination to face the despair.
“Hank, the kind of hell I let you go through in the last month-”
Her voice was trembling.
“It’s nothing, compared to the kind of hell I let you go through in the last hour.” His voice was steady.
She got up, to pace the room, to prove her strength-her steps like words telling him that she was not to be spared any longer. When she stopped and turned to face him, he rose, as if he understood her motive.
“I know that I’ve made it worse for you,” she said, pointing at the radio.
He shook his head. “No.”
“Hank, there’s something I have to tell you.”
“So have I. Will you let me speak first? You see, it’s something I should have said to you long ago. Will you let me speak and not answer me until I finish?”
She nodded.
He took a moment to look at her as she stood before him, as if to hold the full sight of her figure, of this moment and of everything that had led them to it.
“I love you, Dagny,” he said quietly, with the simplicity of an unclouded, yet unsmiling happiness.
She was about to speak, but knew that she couldn’t, even if he had permitted it, she caught her unuttered words, the movement of her lips was her only answer, then she inclined her head in acceptance.
“I love you. As the same value, as the same expression, with the same pride and the same meaning as I love my work, my mills, my Metal, my hours at a desk, at a furnace, in a laboratory, in an ore mine, as I love my ability to work, as I love the act of sight and knowledge, as I love the action of my mind when it solves a chemical equation or grasps a sunrise, as I love the things I’ve made and the things I’ve felt, as my product, as my choice, as a shape of my world, as my best mirror, as the wife I’ve never had, as that which makes all the rest of it possible: as my power to live.”
She did not drop her face, but kept it level and open, to hear and accept, as he wanted her to and as he deserved.
“I loved you from the first day I saw you, on a flatcar on a siding of Milford Station. I loved you when we rode in the cab of the first engine on the John Galt Line. I loved you on the gallery of Ellis Wyatt’s house. I loved you on that next morning. You knew it. But it’s I who must say it to you, as I’m saying it now-if I am to redeem all those days and to let them be fully what they were for both of us, I loved you. You knew it. I didn’t. And because I didn’t, I had to learn it when I sat at my desk and looked at the Gift Certificate for Rearden Metal.”
She closed her eyes. But there was no suffering in his face, nothing but the immense and quiet happiness of clarity.
” ‘We are those who do not disconnect the values of their minds from the actions of their bodies.’ You said it in your broadcast tonight.
But you knew it, then, on that morning in Ellis Wyatt’s house. You knew that all those insults I was throwing at you were the fullest confession of love a man could make. You knew that the physical desire I was damning as our mutual shame, is neither physical nor an expression of one’s body, but the expression of one’s mind’s deepest values, whether one has the courage to know it or not. That was why you laughed at me as you did, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“You said, ‘I do not want your mind, your will, your being or your soul-so long as it’s to me that you will come for that lowest one of your desires.’ You knew, when you said it, that it was my mind, my will, my being and my soul that I was giving you by means of that desire. And I want to say it now, to let that morning mean what it meant: my mind, my will, my being and my soul, Dagny-yours, for as long as I shall live.”
He was looking straight at her and she saw a brief sparkle in his eyes, which was not a smile, but almost as if he had heard the cry she had not uttered.
“Let me finish, dearest. I want you to know how fully I know what I am saying. I, who thought that I was fighting them, I had accepted the worst of our enemies’ creed-and that is what I’ve paid for ever since, as I am paying now and as I must. I had accepted the one tenet by which they destroy a man before he’s started, the killer-tenet: the breach between his mind and body. I had accepted it, like most of their victims, not knowing it, not knowing even that the issue existed. I rebelled against their creed of human impotence and I took pride in my ability to think, to act, to work for the satisfaction of my desires.
But I did not know that this was virtue, I never identified it as a moral value, as the highest of moral values, to be defended above one’s life, because it’s that which makes life possible. And I accepted punishment for it, punishment for virtue at the hands of an arrogant evil, made arrogant solely by my ignorance and my submission.
“1 accepted their insults, their frauds, their extortions. I thought I could afford to ignore them-all those impotent mystics who prattle about their souls and are unable to build a roof over their heads. I thought that the world was mine, and that those jabbering incompetents were no threat to my strength. I could not understand why I kept losing every battle. I did not know that the force unleashed against me was my own. While I was busy conquering matter, I had surrendered to them the realm of the mind, of thought, of principle, of law, of values, of morality. I had accepted, unwittingly and by default, the tenet that ideas were of no consequence to one’s existence, to one’s work, to reality, to this earth-as if ideas were not the province of reason, but of that mystic faith which I despised. This was all they wanted me to concede. It was enough. I had surrendered that which all of their claptrap is designed to subvert and to destroy: man’s reason.
No, they were not able to deal with matter, to produce abundance, to control this earth. They did not have to. They controlled me.
“I, who knew that wealth is only a means to an end, created the means and let them prescribe my ends. I, who took pride in my ability to achieve the satisfaction of my desires, let them prescribe the code of values by which I judged my desires. I, who shaped matter to serve my purpose, was left with a pile of steel and gold, but with my every purpose defeated, my every desire betrayed, my every attempt at happiness frustrated.
“1 had cut myself in two, as the mystics preached, and I ran my business by one code of rules, but my own life by another. I rebelled against the looters’ attempt to set the price and value of my steel-but I let them set the moral values of my life. I rebelled against demands for an unearned wealth-but I thought it was my duty to grant an unearned love to a wife I despised, an unearned respect to a mother who hated me, an unearned support to a brother who plotted for my destruction. I rebelled against undeserved financial injury-but I accepted a life of undeserved pain. I rebelled against the doctrine that my productive ability was guilt-but I accepted, as guilt, my capacity for happiness. I rebelled against the creed that virtue is some disembodied unknowable of the spirit-but I damned you, you, my dearest one, for the desire of your body and mine. But if the body is evil; then so are those who provide the means of its survival, so is material wealth and those who produce it-and if moral values are set in contradiction to our physical existence, then it’s right that rewards should be unearned, that virtue should consist of the undone, that there should be no tie between achievement and profit, that the inferior animals who’re able to produce should serve those superior beings whose superiority in spirit consists of incompetence in the flesh.
“If some man like Hugh Akston had told me, when I started, that by accepting the mystics’ theory of sex I was accepting the looters’ theory of economics, I would have laughed in his face. I would not laugh at him now. Now I see Rearden Steel being ruled by human scum-I see the achievement of my life serving to enrich the worst of my enemies-and as to the only two persons I ever loved, I’ve brought a deadly insult to one and public disgrace to the other. I slapped the face of the man who was my friend, my defender, my teacher, the man who set me free by helping me to learn what I’ve learned, I loved him, Dagny, he was the brother, the son, the comrade I never had-but I knocked him out of my life, because he would not help me to produce for the looters. I’d give anything now to have him back, but I own nothing to offer in such repayment, and I’ll never see him again, because it’s I who’ll know that there is no way to deserve even the right to ask forgiveness.
“But what I’ve done to you, my dearest, is still worse. Your speech and that you had to make it-that’s what I’ve brought upon the only woman I loved, in payment for the only happiness I’ve known. Don’t tell me that it was your choice from the first and that you accepted all consequences, including tonight-it does not redeem the fact that it was I who had no better choice to offer you. And that the looters forced you to speak, that you spoke to avenge me and set me free-
does not redeem the fact that it was I who made their tactics possible.
It was not then own convictions of sin and dishonor that they could use to disgrace you-it was mine. They merely carried out the things I believed and said in Ellis Wyatt’s house. It was I who kept our love bidden as a guilty secret-they merely treated it for what it was by my own appraisal. It was I who was willing to counterfeit reality for the sake of appearance in their eyes-they merely cashed in on the right I had given them.
“People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked. And if one gains the immediate purpose of the lie-the price one pays is the destruction of that which the gain was intended to serve. The man who lies to the world, is the world’s slave from then on- When I chose to hide my love for you, to disavow it in public and live it as a lie, I made it public property-and the public has claimed it in a fitting sort of manner. I had no way to avert it and no power to save you. When I gave in to the looters, when I signed their Gift Certificate, to protect you-I was still faking reality, there was nothing else left open to me-and, Dagny, I’d rather have seen us both dead than permit them to do what they threatened. But there are no white lies, there is only the blackness of destruction, and a white lie is the blackest of all. I was still faking reality, and it had the inexorable result: instead of protection, it brought you a more terrible kind of ordeal, instead of saving your name, it forced you to offer yourself for a public stoning and to throw the stones by your own hand. I know that you were proud of the things you said, and I was proud to hear you-but that was the pride we should have claimed two years ago.
“No, you did not make it worse for me, you set me free, you saved us both, you redeemed our past. I can’t ask you to forgive me, we’re far beyond such terms-and the only atonement I can offer you is the fact that I am happy. That I am happy, my darling, not that I suffer. I am happy that I have seen the truth-even if my power of sight is all that’s left to me now. Were I to surrender to pain and give up in futile regret that my own error has wrecked my past-that would be the act of final treason, the ultimate failure toward that truth I regret having failed. But if my love of truth is left as my only possession, then the greater the loss behind me, the greater the pride I may take in the price I have paid for that love. Then the wreckage will not become a funereal mount above me, but will serve as a height I have climbed to attain a wider field of vision. My pride and my power of vision were all that I owned when I started-and whatever I achieved, was achieved by means of them. Both are greater now, Now I have the knowledge of the superlative value I had missed: of my right to be proud of my vision. The rest is mine to reach.
“And, Dagny, the one thing I wanted, as the first step of my future, was to say that I love you-as I’m saying it now. I love you, my dearest, with that blindest passion of my body which comes from the clearest perception of my mind-and my love for you is the only attainment of my past that will be left to me, unchanged, through all the years ahead. I wanted to say it to you while I still had the right to say it. And because I had not said it at our beginning, this is the way I have to say it-at the end. Now I’ll tell you what it was that you wanted to tell me-because, you see, I know it and I accept: somewhere within the past month, you have met the man you love, and if love means one’s final, irreplaceable choice, then he is the only man you’ve ever loved.”
“Yes!” Her voice was half-gasp, half-scream, as under a physical blow, with shock as her only awareness. “Hank!-how did you know it?”
He smiled and pointed at the radio. “My darling, you used nothing but the past tense.”
“Oh . . . !” Her voice was now half-gasp, half-moan, and she closed her eyes.
“You never pronounced the one word you would have rightfully thrown at them, were it otherwise. You said, ‘I wanted him,’ not, ‘I love him.’ You told me on the phone today that you could have returned sooner. No other reason would have made you leave me as you did. Only that one reason was valid and right.”
She was leaning back a little, as if fighting for balance to stand, yet she was looking straight at him, with a smile that did not part her lips, but softened her eyes to a glance of admiration and her mouth to a shape of pain.
“It’s true. I’ve met the man I love and will always love, I’ve seen him, I’ve spoken to him-but he’s a man whom I can’t have, whom I may never have and, perhaps, may never see again.”
“I think I’ve always known that you would find him. I knew what you felt for me, I knew how much it was, but I knew that I was not your final choice. What you’ll give him is not taken away from me, it’s what I’ve never had. I can’t rebel against it. What I’ve had means too much to me-and that I’ve had it, can never be changed.”
“Do you want me to say it, Hank? Will you understand it, if I say that I’ll always love you?”
“I think I’ve understood it before you did.”
“I’ve always seen you as you are now. That greatness of yours which you are just beginning to allow yourself to know-I’ve always known it and I’ve watched your struggle to discover it. Don’t speak of atonement, you have not hurt me, your mistakes came from your magnificent integrity under the torture of an impossible code-and your fight against it did not bring me suffering, it brought me the feeling I’ve found too seldom: admiration. If you will accept it, it will always be yours. What you meant to me can never be changed. But the man I met-he is the love I had wanted to reach long before I knew that he existed, and I think he will remain beyond my reach, but that I love him will be enough to keep me living.”
He took her hand and pressed it to his lips. “Then you know what I feel,” he said, “and why I am still happy.”
Looking up at his face, she realized that for the first time he was what she had always thought him intended to be: a man with an immense capacity for the enjoyment of existence. The taut look of endurance, of fiercely unadmitted pain, was gone; now, in the midst of the wreckage and of his hardest hour, his face had the serenity of pure strength; it had the look she had seen in the faces of the men in the valley.
“Hank,” she whispered, “I don’t think I can explain it, but I feel that I have committed no treason, either to you or to him.”
“You haven’t.”
Her eyes seemed abnormally alive in a face drained of color, as if her consciousness remained untouched in a body broken by exhaustion. He made her sit down and slipped his arm along the back of the couch, not touching her, yet holding her in a protective embrace.
“Now tell me,” he asked, “where were you?”
“I can’t tell you that. I’ve given my word never to reveal anything about it. I can say only that it’s a place I found by accident, when I crashed, and I left it blindfolded-and I wouldn’t be able to find it again.”
“Couldn’t you trace your way back to it?”
“I won’t try.”
“And the man?”
“I won’t look for him.”
“He remained there?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why did you leave him?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Who is he?”
Her chuckle of desperate amusement was involuntary. “Who is John Galt?”
He glanced at her, astonished-but realized that she was not joking.
“So there is a John Galt?” he asked slowly, “Yes.”
“That slang phrase refers to him?”
“And it has some special meaning?”
“Oh yes! . . . There’s one thing I can tell you about him, because I discovered it earlier, without promise of secrecy: he is the man who invented the motor we found.”
“Oh!” He smiled, as if he should have known it. Then he said softly, with a glance that was almost compassion, “He’s the destroyer, isn’t he?” He saw her look of shock, and added, “No, don’t answer me, if you can’t. I think I know where you were. It was Quentin Daniels that you wanted to save from the destroyer, and you were following Daniels when you crashed, weren’t you?”
“Good God, Dagny!-does such a place really exist? Are they all alive? Is there . . . ? I’m sorry. Don’t answer.”
She smiled. “It does exist.”
He remained silent for a long time.
“Hank, could you give up Rearden Steel?”
“No!” The answer was fiercely immediate, but he added, with the first sound of hopelessness in his voice, “Not yet.”
Then he looked at her, as if, in the transition of his three words, he had lived the course of her agony of the past month. “I see,” he said. He ran his hand over her forehead, with a gesture of understanding, of compassion, of an almost incredulous wonder. “What hell you’ve now undertaken to endure!” he said, his voice low.
She nodded.
She slipped down, to lie stretched, her face on his knees. He stroked her hair; he said, “We’ll fight the looters as long as we can. I don’t know what future is possible to us, but we’ll win or we’ll learn that it’s hopeless. Until we do, we’ll fight for our world. We’re all that’s left of it.”
She fell asleep, lying there, her hand clasping his. Her last awareness, before she surrendered the responsibility of consciousness, was the sense of an enormous void, the void of a city and of a continent where she would never be able to find the man whom she had no right to seek.


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 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 dri