Atlas Shruggedby Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff
intellectual mystery story that integrates ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics, and sex.
Set in a near-future U.S.A. whose economy is collapsing as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators and industrialists, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life-from the productive genius who becomes a worthless… See more details below
intellectual mystery story that integrates ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics, and sex.
Set in a near-future U.S.A. whose economy is collapsing as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators and industrialists, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life-from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy...to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction...to the philosopher who becomes a pirate...to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad...to the lowest track worker in her train tunnels.
Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller.
Read an Excerpt
Ayn Rand held that art is a “re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value judgments.” By its nature, therefore, a novel (like a statue or a symphony) does not require or tolerate an explanatory preface; it is a self-contained universe, aloof from commentary, beckoning the reader to enter, perceive, respond.
Ayn Rand would never have approved of a didactic (or laudatory) introduction to her book, and I have no intention of flouting her wishes. Instead, I am going to give her the floor. I am going to let you in on some of the thinking she did as she was preparing to write Atlas Shrugged.
Before starting a novel, Ayn Rand wrote voluminously in her journals about its theme, plot, and characters. She wrote not for any audience, but strictly for herself—that is, for the clarity of her own understanding. The journals dealing with Atlas Shrugged are powerful examples of her mind in action, confident even when groping, purposeful even when stymied, luminously eloquent even though wholly unedited. These journals are also a fascinating record of the step-by-step birth of an immortal work of art.
In due course, all of Ayn Rand’s writings will be published. For this 35th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged,however, I have selected, as a kind of advance bonus for her fans, four typical journal entries. Let me warn new readers that the passages reveal the plot and will spoil the book for anyone who reads them before knowing the story.
As I recall, “Atlas Shrugged” did not become the novel’s title until Miss Rand’s husband made the suggestion in 1956. The working title throughout the writing was “The Strike.”
The earliest of Miss Rand’s notes for “The Strike” are dated January 1, 1945, about a year after the publication ofThe Fountainhead. Naturally enough, the subject on her mind was how to differentiate the present novel from its predecessor.
Theme. What happens to the world when the Prime Movers go on strike.
This means—a picture of the world with its motor cut off. Show: what, how, why. The specific steps and incidents—in terms of persons, their spirits, motives, psychology and actions—and, secondarily, proceeding from persons, in terms of history, society and the world.
The theme requires: to show who are the prime movers and why, how they function. Who are their enemies and why, what are the motives behind the hatred for and the enslavement of the prime movers; the nature of the obstacles placed in their way, and the reasons for it.
This last paragraph is contained entirely in The Fountainhead. Roark and Toohey are the complete statement of it. Therefore, this is not the direct theme of The Strike—but it is part of the theme and must be kept in mind, stated again (though briefly) to have the theme clear and complete.
First question to decide is on whom the emphasis must be placed—on the prime movers, the parasites or the world. The answer is: The world. The story must be primarily a picture of the whole.
In this sense, The Strike is to be much more a “social” novel than The Fountainhead. The Fountainhead was about “individualism and collectivism within man’s soul”; it showed the nature and function of the creator and the second-hander. The primary concern there was with Roark and Toohey—showing what they are. The rest of the characters were variations of the theme of the relation of the ego to others—mixtures of the two extremes, the two poles: Roark and Toohey. The primary concern of the story was the characters, the people as such—their natures. Their relations to each other—which is society, men in relation to men—were secondary, an unavoidable, direct consequence of Roark set against Toohey. But it was not the theme.
Now, it is this relation that must be the theme. Therefore, the personal becomes secondary. That is, the personal is necessary only to the extent needed to make the relationships clear. In The Fountainhead I showed that Roark moves the world—that the Keatings feed upon him and hate him for it, while the Tooheys are out consciously to destroy him. But the theme was Roark—not Roark’s relation to the world. Now it will be the relation.
In other words, I must show in what concrete, specific way the world is moved by the creators. Exactly how do the second-handers live on the creators. Both in spiritual matters—and (most particularly) in concrete, physical events. (Concentrate on the concrete, physical events—but don’t forget to keep in mind at all times how the physical proceeds from the spiritual.) . . .
However, for the purpose of this story, I do not start by showing how the second-handers live on the prime movers in actual, everyday reality—nor do I start by showing a normal world. (That comes in only in necessary retrospect, or flashback, or by implication in the events themselves.) I start with the fantastic premise of the prime movers going on strike. This is the actual heart and center of the novel. A distinction carefully to be observed here: I do not set out to glorify the prime mover (that was The Fountainhead). I set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers, and how viciously it treats them. And I show it on a hypothetical case—what happens to the world without them.
In The Fountainhead I did not show how desperately the world needed Roark—except by implication. I did show how viciously the world treated him, and why. I showed mainly what he is. It was Roark’s story. This must be the world’s story—in relation to its prime movers. (Almost—the story of a body in relation to its heart—a body dying of anemia.)
I don’t show directly what the prime movers do—that’s shown only by implication. I show what happens when they don’t do it. (Through that, you see the picture of what they do, their place and their role.) (This is an important guide for the construction of the story.)
In order to work out the story, Ayn Rand had to understand fully why the prime movers allowed the second-handers to live on them—why the creators had not gone on strike throughout history—what errors even the best of them made that kept them in thrall to the worst. Part of the answer is dramatized in the character of Dagny Taggart, the railroad heiress who declares war on the strikers. Here is a note on her psychology, dated April 18, 1946:
Her error—and the cause of her refusal to join the strike—is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last). Over-optimism—in that she thinks men are better than they are, she doesn’t really understand them and is generous about it.
Over-confidence—in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent; not by forcing them, of course, not by enslaving them and giving orders—but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they’ll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.)
On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied. . . .
The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specificmen. First, it’s not necessary, the creator’s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it’s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being.
Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind(as a collective). These are two entirely different conceptions, with entirely—(immensely and diametrically opposed)—different consequences.
Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself. . . .Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational being, who acts according to his nature.)
It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the “optimism” about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize—and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately wantsthem to be better)—and to be tied to the world by that hope.
It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it’s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason . . .) [But] here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes—if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator’s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander.
Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can’t—and he shouldn’t even wish to try it—and the mere attempt is improper.) He must not think that he can . . . somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others. . . .
Now, in Dagny’s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; with herself, in effect, being the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can’t be done. This is her crucial error.
This is where she fails.
Ayn Rand’s basic purpose as a novelist was to present not villains or even heroes with errors, but the ideal man—the consistent, the fully integrated, the perfect. In Atlas Shrugged, this is John Galt, the towering figure who moves the world and the novel, yet does not appear onstage until Part III. By his nature (and that of the story) Galt is necessarily central to the lives of all the characters. In one note, “Galt’s relation to the others,” dated June 27, 1946, Miss Rand defines succinctly what Galt represents to each of them:
For Dagny—the ideal. The answer to her two quests: the man of genius and the man she loves. The first quest is expressed in her search for the inventor of the engine. The second—her growing conviction that she will never be in love . . .
For Rearden—the friend. The kind of understanding and appreciation he has always wanted and did not know he wanted (or he thought he had it—he tried to find it in those around him, to get it from his wife, his mother, brother and sister).
For Francisco d’Anconia—the aristocrat. The only man who represents a challenge and a stimulant—almost the “proper kind” of audience, worthy of stunning for the sheer joy and color of life.
For Danneskjöld—the anchor. The only man who represents land and roots to a restless, reckless wanderer, like the goal of a struggle, the port at the end of a fierce sea-voyage—the only man he can respect.
For the Composer—the inspiration and the perfect audience.
For the Philosopher—the embodiment of his abstractions.
For Father Amadeus—the source of his conflict. The uneasy realization that Galt is the end of his endeavors, the man of virtue, the perfect man—and that his means do not fit this end (and that he is destroying this, his ideal, for the sake of those who are evil).
To James Taggart—the eternal threat. The secret dread. The reproach. The guilt (his own guilt). He has no specific tie-in with Galt—but he has that constant, causeless, unnamed, hysterical fear. And he recognizes it when he hears Galt’s broadcast and when he sees Galt in person for the first time.
To the Professor—his conscience. The reproach and reminder. The ghost that haunts him through everything he does, without a moment’s peace. The thing that says: “No” to his whole life.
Some notes on the above: Rearden’s sister, Stacy, was a minor character later cut from the novel.
“Francisco” was spelled “Francesco” in these early years, while Danneskjöld’s first name at this point was Ivar, presumably after Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish “match king,” who was the real-life model of Bjorn Faulkner in Night of January 16th.
Father Amadeus was Taggart’s priest, to whom he confessed his sins. The priest was supposed to be a positive character, honestly devoted to the good but practicing consistently the morality of mercy. Miss Rand dropped him, she told me, when she found that it was impossible to make such a character convincing.
The Professor is Robert Stadler.
This brings me to a final excerpt. Because of her passion for ideas, Miss Rand was often asked whether she was primarily a philosopher or a novelist. In later years, she was impatient with this question, but she gave her own answer, to and for herself, in a note dated May 4, 1946. The broader context was a discussion of the nature of creativity.
I seem to be both a theoretical philosopher and a fiction writer. But it is the last that interests me most; the first is only the means to the last; the absolutely necessary means, but only the means; the fiction story is the end. Without an understanding and statement of the right philosophical principle, I cannot create the right story; but the discovery of the principle interests me only as the discovery of the proper knowledge to be used for my life purpose; and my life purpose is the creation of the kind of world (people and events) that I like—that is, that represents human perfection.
Philosophical knowledge is necessary in order to define human perfection. But I do not care to stop at the definition. I want to use it, to apply it—in my work (in my personal life, too—but the core, center and purpose of my personal life, of my whole life, is my work).
This is why, I think, the idea of writing a philosophical nonfiction book bored me. In such a book, the purpose would actually be to teach others, to present my idea to them. In a book of fiction the purpose is to create, for myself, the kind of world I want and to live in it while I am creating it; then, as a secondary consequence, to let others enjoy this world, if, and to the extent that they can.
It may be said that the first purpose of a philosophical book is the clarification or statement of your new knowledge to and for yourself; and then, as a secondary step, the offering of your knowledge to others. But here is the difference, as far as I am concerned: I have to acquire and state to myself the new philosophical knowledge or principle I used in order to write a fiction story as its embodiment and illustration; I do not care to write a story on a theme or thesis of old knowledge, knowledge stated or discovered by someone else, that is, someone else’s philosophy (because those philosophies are wrong). To this extent, I am an abstract philosopher (I want to present the perfect man and his perfect life—and I must also discover my own philosophical statement and definition of this perfection).
But when and if I have discovered such new knowledge, I am not interested in stating it in its abstract, general form, that is, as knowledge. I am interested in using it, in applying it—that is, in stating it in the concrete form of men and events, in the form of a fiction story. This last is my final purpose, my end; the philosophical knowledge or discovery is only the means to it. For my purpose, the non-fiction form of abstract knowledge doesn’t interest me; the final, applied form of fiction, of story, does. (I state the knowledge to myself, anyway; but I choose the final form of it, the expression, in the completed cycle that leads back to man.)
I wonder to what extent I represent a peculiar phenomenon in this respect. I think I represent the proper integration of a complete human being. Anyway, this should be my lead for the character of John Galt. He, too, is a combination of an abstract philosopher and a practical inventor; the thinker and the man of action together . . .
In learning, we draw an abstraction from concrete objects and events. In creating, we make our own concrete objects and events out of the abstraction; we bring the abstraction down and back to its specific meaning, to the concrete; but the abstraction has helped us to make the kind of concrete we want the concrete to be. It has helped us to create—to reshape the world as we wish it to be for our purposes.
I cannot resist quoting one further paragraph. It comes a few pages later in the same discussion.
Incidentally, as a sideline observation: if creative fiction writing is a process of translating an abstraction into the concrete, there are three possible grades of such writing: translating an old (known) abstraction (theme or thesis) through the medium of old fiction means (that is, characters, events or situations used before for that same purpose, that same translation)—this is most of the popular trash; translating an old abstraction through new, original fiction means—this is most of the good literature; creating a new, original abstraction and translating it through new, original means. This, as far as I know, is only me— my kind of fiction writing. May God forgive me (Metaphor!) if this is mistaken conceit! As near as I can now see it, it isn’t. (A fourth possibility—translating a new abstraction through old means—is impossible, by definition: if the abstraction is new, there can be no means used by anybody else before to translate it.)
Is her conclusion “mistaken conceit”? It is now forty-five years since she wrote this note, and you are holding Ayn Rand’s master-work in your hands.
“Who is John Galt?”
The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum’s face. The bum had said it simply, without expression. But from the sunset far at the end of the street, yellow glints caught his eyes, and the eyes looked straight at Eddie Willers, mocking and still—as if the question had been addressed to the causeless uneasiness within him.
“Why did you say that?” asked Eddie Willers, his voice tense.
The bum leaned against the side of the doorway; a wedge of broken glass behind him reflected the metal yellow of the sky.
“Why does it bother you?” he asked.
“It doesn’t,” snapped Eddie Willers.
He reached hastily into his pocket. The bum had stopped him and asked for a dime, then had gone on talking, as if to kill that moment and postpone the problem of the next. Pleas for dimes were so frequent in the streets these days that it was not necessary to listen to explanations and he had no desire to hear the details of this bum’s particular despair.
“Go get your cup of coffee,” he said, handing the dime to the shadow that had no face.
“Thank you, sir,” said the voice, without interest, and the face leaned forward for a moment. The face was wind-browned, cut by lines of weariness and cynical resignation; the eyes were intelligent.
Eddie Willers walked on, wondering why he always felt it at this time of day, this sense of dread without reason. No, he thought, not dread, there’s nothing to fear: just an immense, diffused apprehension, with no source or object. He had become accustomed to the feeling, but he could find no explanation for it; yet the bum had spoken as if he knew that Eddie felt it, as if he thought that one should feel it, and more: as if he knew the reason.
Eddie Willers pulled his shoulders straight, in conscientious self-discipline. He had to stop this, he thought; he was beginning to imagine things. Had he always felt it? He was thirty-two years old. He tried to think back. No, he hadn’t; but he could not remember when it had started. The feeling came to him suddenly, at random intervals, and now it was coming more often than ever. It’s the twilight, he thought; I hate the twilight.
The clouds and the shafts of skyscrapers against them were turning brown, like an old painting in oil, the color of a fading masterpiece. Long streaks of grime ran from under the pinnacles down the slender, soot-eaten walls. High on the side of a tower there was a crack in the shape of a motionless lightning, the length of ten stories. A jagged object cut the sky above the roofs; it was half a spire, still holding the glow of the sunset; the gold leaf had long since peeled off the other half. The glow was red and still, like the reflection of a fire: not an active fire, but a dying one which it is too late to stop.
No, thought Eddie Willers, there was nothing disturbing in the sight of the city. It looked as it had always looked.
He walked on, reminding himself that he was late in returning to the office. He did not like the task which he had to perform on his return, but it had to be done. So he did not attempt to delay it, but made himself walk faster.
He turned a corner. In the narrow space between the dark silhouettes of two buildings, as in the crack of a door, he saw the page of a gigantic calendar suspended in the sky.
It was the calendar that the mayor of New York had erected last year on the top of a building, so that citizens might tell the day of the month as they told the hours of the day, by glancing up at a public tower. A white rectangle hung over the city, imparting the date to the men in the streets below. In the rusty light of this evening’s sunset, the rectangle said: September 2.
Eddie Willers looked away. He had never liked the sight of that calendar. It disturbed him, in a manner he could not explain or define. The feeling seemed to blend with his sense of uneasiness; it had the same quality.
He thought suddenly that there was some phrase, a kind of quotation, that expressed what the calendar seemed to suggest. But he could not recall it. He walked, groping for a sentence that hung in his mind as an empty shape. He could neither fill it nor dismiss it. He glanced back. The white rectangle stood above the roofs, saying in immovable finality: September 2.
Eddie Willers shifted his glance down to the street, to a vegetable pushcart at the stoop of a brownstone house. He saw a pile of bright gold carrots and the fresh green of onions. He saw a clean white curtain blowing at an open window. He saw a bus turning a corner, expertly steered. He wondered why he felt reassured—and then, why he felt the sudden, inexplicable wish that these things were not left in the open, unprotected against the empty space above.
When he came to Fifth Avenue, he kept his eyes on the windows of the stores he passed. There was nothing he needed or wished to buy; but he liked to see the display of goods, any goods, objects made by men, to be used by men. He enjoyed the sight of a prosperous street; not more than every fourth one of the stores was out of business, its windows dark and empty.
He did not know why he suddenly thought of the oak tree. Nothing had recalled it. But he thought of it—and of his childhood summers on the Taggart estate. He had spent most of his childhood with the Taggart children, and now he worked for them, as his father and grandfather had worked for their father and grandfather.
The great oak tree had stood on a hill over the Hudson, in a lonely spot on the Taggart estate. Eddie Willers, aged seven, liked to come and look at that tree. It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there. Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and the whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string. He felt safe in the oak tree’s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength.
One night, lightning struck the oak tree. Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago; there was nothing inside—just a thin gray dust that was being dispersed by the whim of the faintest wind. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it.
Years later, he heard it said that children should be protected from shock, from their first knowledge of death, pain or fear. But these had never scarred him; his shock came when he stood very quietly, looking into the black hole of the trunk. It was an immense betrayal—the more terrible because he could not grasp what it was that had been betrayed. It was not himself, he knew, nor his trust; it was something else. He stood there for a while, making no sound, then he walked back to the house. He never spoke about it to anyone, then or since.
Eddie Willers shook his head, as the screech of a rusty mechanism changing a traffic light stopped him on the edge of a curb. He felt anger at himself. There was no reason that he had to remember the oak tree tonight. It meant nothing to him any longer, only a faint tinge of sadness—and somewhere within him, a drop of pain moving briefly and vanishing, like a raindrop on the glass of a window, its course in the shape of a question mark.
He wanted no sadness attached to his childhood; he loved its memories: any day of it he remembered now seemed flooded by a still, brilliant sunlight. It seemed to him as if a few rays from it reached into his present: not rays, more like pinpoint spotlights that gave an occasional moment’s glitter to his job, to his lonely apartment, to the quiet, scrupulous progression of his existence.
He thought of a summer day when he was ten years old. That day, in a clearing of the woods, the one precious companion of his childhood told him what they would do when they grew up. The words were harsh and glowing, like the sunlight. He listened in admiration and in wonder. When he was asked what he would want to do, he answered at once, “Whatever is right,” and added, “You ought to do something great . . . I mean, the two of us together.” “What?” she asked. He said, “I don’t know. That’s what we ought to find out. Not just what you said. Not just business and earning a living. Things like winning battles, or saving people out of fires, or climbing mountains.” “What for?” she asked. He said, “The minister said last Sunday that we must always reach for the best within us. What do you suppose is the best within us?” “I don’t know.” “We’ll have to find out.” She did not answer; she was looking away, up the railroad track.
Eddie Willers smiled. He had said, “Whatever is right,” twenty-two years ago. He had kept that statement unchallenged ever since; the other questions had faded in his mind; he had been too busy to ask them. But he still thought it self-evident that one had to do what was right; he had never learned how people could want to do otherwise; he had learned only that they did. It still seemed simple and incomprehensible to him: simple that things should be right, and incomprehensible that they weren’t. He knew that they weren’t. He thought of that, as he turned a corner and came to the great building of Taggart Transcontinental.
The building stood over the street as its tallest and proudest structure. Eddie Willers always smiled at his first sight of it. Its long bands of windows were unbroken, in contrast to those of its neighbors. Its rising lines cut the sky, with no crumbling corners or worn edges. It seemed to stand above the years, untouched. It would always stand there, thought Eddie Willers.
Whenever he entered the Taggart Building, he felt relief and a sense of security. This was a place of competence and power. The floors of its hallways were mirrors made of marble. The frosted rectangles of its electric fixtures were chips of solid light. Behind sheets of glass, rows of girls sat at typewriters, the clicking of their keys like the sound of speeding train wheels. And like an answering echo, a faint shudder went through the walls at times, rising from under the building, from the tunnels of the great terminal where trains started out to cross a continent and stopped after crossing it again, as they had started and stopped for generation after generation. Taggart Transcontinental, thought Eddie Willers, From Ocean to Ocean—the proud slogan of his childhood, so much more shining and holy than any commandment of the Bible. From Ocean to Ocean, forever—thought Eddie Willers, in the manner of a rededication, as he walked through the spotless halls into the heart of the building, into the office of James Taggart, President of Taggart Transcontinental.
James Taggart sat at his desk. He looked like a man approaching fifty, who had crossed into age from adolescence, without the intermediate stage of youth. He had a small, petulant mouth, and thin hair clinging to a bald forehead. His posture had a limp, decentralized sloppiness, as if in defiance of his tall, slender body, a body with an elegance of line intended for the confident poise of an aristocrat, but transformed into the gawkiness of a lout. The flesh of his face was pale and soft. His eyes were pale and veiled, with a glance that moved slowly, never quite stopping, gliding off and past things in eternal resentment of their existence. He looked obstinate and drained. He was thirty-nine years old.
He lifted his head with irritation, at the sound of the opening door.
“Don’t bother me, don’t bother me, don’t bother me,” said James Taggart.
Eddie Willers walked toward the desk.
“It’s important, Jim,” he said, not raising his voice.
“All right, all right, what is it?”
Eddie Willers looked at a map on the wall of the office. The map’s colors had faded under the glass—he wondered dimly how many Taggart presidents had sat before it and for how many years. The Taggart Transcontinental Railroad, the network of red lines slashing the faded body of the country from New York to San Francisco, looked like a system of blood vessels. It looked as if once, long ago, the blood had shot down the main artery and, under the pressure of its own overabundance, had branched out at random points, running all over the country. One red streak twisted its way from Cheyenne, Wyoming, down to El Paso, Texas—the Rio Norte Line of Taggart Transcontinental. New tracing had been added recently and the red streak had been extended south beyond El Paso—but Eddie Willers turned away hastily when his eyes reached that point.
He looked at James Taggart and said, “It’s the Rio Norte Line.” He noticed Taggart’s glance moving down to a corner of the desk. “We’ve had another wreck.”
“Railroad accidents happen every day. Did you have to bother me about that?”
“You know what I’m saying, Jim. The Rio Norte is done for. That track is shot. Down the whole line.”
“We are getting a new track.”
Eddie Willers continued as if there had been no answer: “That track is shot. It’s no use trying to run trains down there. People are giving up trying to use them.”
“There is not a railroad in the country, it seems to me, that doesn’t have a few branches running at a deficit. We’re not the only ones. It’s a national condition—a temporary national condition.”
Eddie stood looking at him silently. What Taggart disliked about Eddie Willers was this habit of looking straight into people’s eyes. Eddie’s eyes were blue, wide and questioning; he had blond hair and a square face, unremarkable except for that look of scrupulous attentiveness and open, puzzled wonder.
“What do you want?” snapped Taggart.
“I just came to tell you something you had to know, because somebody had to tell you.”
“That we’ve had another accident?”
“That we can’t give up the Rio Norte Line.”
James Taggart seldom raised his head; when he looked at people, he did so by lifting his heavy eyelids and staring upward from under the expanse of his bald forehead.
“Who’s thinking of giving up the Rio Norte Line?” he asked. “There’s never been any question of giving it up. I resent your saying it. I resent it very much.”
“But we haven’t met a schedule for the last six months. We haven’t completed a run without some sort of breakdown, major or minor. We’re losing all our shippers, one after another. How long can we last?”
“You’re a pessimist, Eddie. You lack faith. That’s what undermines the morale of an organization.”
“You mean that nothing’s going to be done about the Rio Norte Line?”
“I haven’t said that at all. Just as soon as we get the new track—”
“Jim, there isn’t going to be any new track.” He watched Taggart’s eyelids move up slowly. “I’ve just come back from the office of Associated Steel. I’ve spoken to Orren Boyle.”
“What did he say?”
“He spoke for an hour and a half and did not give me a single straight answer.”
“What did you bother him for? I believe the first order of rail wasn’t due for delivery until next month.”
“And before that, it was due for delivery three months ago.”
“Unforeseen circumstances. Absolutely beyond Orren’s control.”
“And before that, it was due six months earlier. Jim, we have waited for Associated Steel to deliver that rail for thirteen months.”
“What do you want me to do? I can’t run Orren Boyle’s business.”
“I want you to understand that we can’t wait.”
Taggart asked slowly, his voice half-mocking, half-cautious, “What did my sister say?”
“She won’t be back until tomorrow.”
“Well, what do you want me to do?”
“That’s for you to decide.”
“Well, whatever else you say, there’s one thing you’re not going to mention next—and that’s Rearden Steel.”
Eddie did not answer at once, then said quietly, “All right, Jim. I won’t mention it.”
“Orren is my friend.” He heard no answer. “I resent your attitude. Orren Boyle will deliver that rail just as soon as it’s humanly possible. So long as he can’t deliver it, nobody can blame us.”
“Jim! What are you talking about? Don’t you understand that the Rio Norte Line is breaking up—whether anybody blames us or not?”
“People would put up with it—they’d have to—if it weren’t for the Phoenix-Durango.” He saw Eddie’s face tighten. “Nobody ever complained about the Rio Norte Line, until the Phoenix-Durango came on the scene.”
“The Phoenix-Durango is doing a brilliant job.”
“Imagine a thing called the Phoenix-Durango competing with Taggart Transcontinental! It was nothing but a local milk line ten years ago.”
“It’s got most of the freight traffic of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado now.” Taggart did not answer. “Jim, we can’t lose Colorado. It’s our last hope. It’s everybody’s last hope. If we don’t pull ourselves together, we’ll lose every big shipper in the state to the Phoenix-Durango. We’ve lost the Wyatt oil fields.”
“I don’t see why everybody keeps talking about the Wyatt oil fields.”
“Because Ellis Wyatt is a prodigy who—”
“Damn Ellis Wyatt!”
Those oil wells, Eddie thought suddenly, didn’t they have something in common with the blood vessels on the map? Wasn’t that the way the red stream of Taggart Transcontinental had shot across the country, years ago, a feat that seemed incredible now? He thought of the oil wells spouting a black stream that ran over a continent almost faster than the trains of the Phoenix-Durango could carry it. That oil field had been only a rocky patch in the mountains of Colorado, given up as exhausted long ago. Ellis Wyatt’s father had managed to squeeze an obscure living to the end of his days, out of the dying oil wells. Now it was as if somebody had given a shot of adrenaline to the heart of the mountain, the heart had started pumping, the black blood had burst through the rocks—of course it’s blood, thought Eddie Willers, because blood is supposed to feed, to give life, and that is what Wyatt Oil had done. It had shocked empty slopes of ground into sudden existence, it had brought new towns, new power plants, new factories to a region nobody had ever noticed on any map. New factories, thought Eddie Willers, at a time when the freight revenues from all the great old industries were dropping slowly year by year; a rich new oil field, at a time when the pumps were stopping in one famous field after another; a new industrial state where nobody had expected anything but cattle and beets. One man had done it, and he had done it in eight years; this, thought Eddie Willers, was like the stories he had read in school books and never quite believed, the stories of men who had lived in the days of the country’s youth. He wished he could meet Ellis Wyatt. There was a great deal of talk about him, but few had ever met him; he seldom came to New York. They said he was thirty-three years old and had a violent temper. He had discovered some way to revive exhausted oil wells and he had proceeded to revive them.
“Ellis Wyatt is a greedy bastard who’s after nothing but money,” said James Taggart. “It seems to me that there are more important things in life than making money.”
“What are you talking about, Jim? What has that got to do with—”
“Besides, he’s double-crossed us. We served the Wyatt oil fields for years, most adequately. In the days of old man Wyatt, we ran a tank train a week.”
“These are not the days of old man Wyatt, Jim. The Phoenix-Durango runs two tank trains a day down there—and it runs them on schedule.”
“If he had given us time to grow along with him—”
“He has no time to waste.”
“What does he expect? That we drop all our other shippers, sacrifice the interests of the whole country and give him all our trains?”
“Why, no. He doesn’t expect anything. He just deals with the Phoenix-Durango.”
“I think he’s a destructive, unscrupulous ruffian. I think he’s an irresponsible upstart who’s been grossly overrated.” It was astonishing to hear a sudden emotion in James Taggart’s lifeless voice.
“I’m not so sure that his oil fields are such a beneficial achievement. It seems to me that he’s dislocated the economy of the whole country. Nobody expected Colorado to become an industrial state. How can we have any security or plan anything if everything changes all the time?”
“Good God, Jim! He’s—”
“Yes, I know, I know, he’s making money. But that is not the standard, it seems to me, by which one gauges a man’s value to society. And as for his oil, he’d come crawling to us, and he’d wait his turn along with all the other shippers, and he wouldn’t demand more than his fair share of transportation—if it weren’t for the Phoenix-Durango. We can’t help it if we’re up against destructive competition of that kind. Nobody can blame us.”
The pressure in his chest and temples, thought Eddie Willers, was the strain of the effort he was making; he had decided to make the issue clear for once, and the issue was so clear, he thought, that nothing could bar it from Taggart’s understanding, unless it was the failure of his own presentation. So he had tried hard, but he was failing, just as he had always failed in all of their discussions; no matter what he said, they never seemed to be talking about the same subject.
“Jim, what are you saying? Does it matter that nobody blames us—when the road is falling apart?”
James Taggart smiled; it was a thin smile, amused and cold. “It’s touching, Eddie,” he said. “It’s touching—your devotion to Taggart Transcontinental. If you don’t look out, you’ll turn into one of those real feudal serfs.”
“That’s what I am, Jim.”
“But may I ask whether it is your job to discuss these matters with me?”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Then why don’t you learn that we have departments to take care of things? Why don’t you report all this to whoever’s concerned? Why don’t you cry on my dear sister’s shoulder?”
“Look, Jim, I know it’s not my place to talk to you. But I can’t understand what’s going on. I don’t know what it is that your proper advisers tell you, or why they can’t make you understand. So I thought I’d try to tell you myself.”
“I appreciate our childhood friendship, Eddie, but do you think that that should entitle you to walk in here unannounced whenever you wish? Considering your own rank, shouldn’t you remember that I am president of Taggart Transcontinental?”
This was wasted. Eddie Willers looked at him as usual, not hurt, merely puzzled, and asked, “Then you don’t intend to do anything about the Rio Norte Line?”
“I haven’t said that. I haven’t said that at all.” Taggart was looking at the map, at the red streak south of El Paso. “Just as soon as the San Sebastián Mines get going and our Mexican branch begins to pay off—”
“Don’t let’s talk about that, Jim.”
Taggart turned, startled by the unprecedented phenomenon of an implacable anger in Eddie’s voice. “What’s the matter?”
“You know what’s the matter. Your sister said—”
“Damn my sister!” said James Taggart.
Eddie Willers did not move. He did not answer. He stood looking straight ahead. But he did not see James Taggart or anything in the office.
After a moment, he bowed and walked out.
In the anteroom, the clerks of James Taggart’s personal staff were switching off the lights, getting ready to leave for the day. But Pop Harper, chief clerk, still sat at his desk, twisting the levers of a half-dismembered typewriter. Everybody in the company had the impression that Pop Harper was born in that particular corner at that particular desk and never intended to leave it. He had been chief clerk for James Taggart’s father.
Pop Harper glanced up at Eddie Willers as he came out of the president’s office. It was a wise, slow glance; it seemed to say that he knew that Eddie’s visit to their part of the building meant trouble on the line, knew that nothing had come of the visit, and was completely indifferent to the knowledge. It was the cynical indifference which Eddie Willers had seen in the eyes of the bum on the street corner.
“Say, Eddie, know where I could get some woolen undershirts?” he asked. “Tried all over town, but nobody’s got ’em.”
“I don’t know,” said Eddie, stopping. “Why do you ask me?”
“I just ask everybody. Maybe somebody’ll tell me.”
Eddie looked uneasily at the blank, emaciated face and white hair.
“It’s cold in this joint,” said Pop Harper. “It’s going to be colder this winter.”
“What are you doing?” Eddie asked, pointing at the pieces of typewriter.
“The damn thing’s busted again. No use sending it out, took them three months to fix it the last time. Thought I’d patch it up myself. Not for long, I guess.” He let his fist drop down on the keys. “You’re ready for the junk pile, old pal. Your days are numbered.”
Eddie started. That was the sentence he had tried to remember: Your days are numbered. But he had forgotten in what connection he had tried to remember it.
“It’s no use, Eddie,” said Pop Harper.
“What’s no use?”
“What’s the matter, Pop?”
“I’m not going to requisition a new typewriter. The new ones are made of tin. When the old ones go, that will be the end of typewriting. There was an accident in the subway this morning, their brakes wouldn’t work. You ought to go home, Eddie, turn on the radio and listen to a good dance band. Forget it, boy. Trouble with you is you never had a hobby. Somebody stole the electric light bulbs again, from off the staircase, down where I live. I’ve got a pain in my chest. Couldn’t get any cough drops this morning, the drugstore on our corner went bankrupt last week. The Texas-Western Railroad went bankrupt last month. They closed the Queensborough Bridge yesterday for temporary repairs. Oh well, what’s the use? Who is John Galt?”
She sat at the window of the train, her head thrown back, one leg stretched across to the empty seat before her. The window frame trembled with the speed of the motion, the pane hung over empty darkness, and dots of light slashed across the glass as luminous streaks, once in a while.
Her leg, sculptured by the tight sheen of the stocking, its long line running straight, over an arched instep, to the tip of a foot in a high-heeled pump, had a feminine elegance that seemed out of place in the dusty train car and oddly incongruous with the rest of her. She wore a battered camel’s hair coat that had been expensive, wrapped shapelessly about her slender, nervous body. The coat collar was raised to the slanting brim of her hat. A sweep of brown hair fell back, almost touching the line of her shoulders. Her face was made of angular planes, the shape of her mouth clear-cut, a sensual mouth held closed with inflexible precision. She kept her hands in the coat pockets, her posture taut, as if she resented immobility, and unfeminine, as if she were unconscious of her own body and that it was a woman’s body.
She sat listening to the music. It was a symphony of triumph. The notes flowed up, they spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and the form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean, and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. Only a faint echo within the sounds spoke of that from which the music had escaped, but spoke in laughing astonishment at the discovery that there was no ugliness or pain, and there never had had to be. It was the song of an immense deliverance.
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. She thought: Let go—drop the controls—this is it.
Somewhere on the edge of her mind, under the music, she heard the sound of train wheels. They knocked in an even rhythm, every fourth knock accented, as if stressing a conscious purpose. She could relax, because she heard the wheels. She listened to the symphony, thinking: This is why the wheels have to be kept going, and this is where they’re going.
She had never heard that symphony before, but she knew that it was written by Richard Halley. She recognized the violence and the magnificent intensity. She recognized the style of the theme; it was a clear, complex melody—at a time when no one wrote melody any longer. . . . She sat looking up at the ceiling of the car, but she did not see it and she had forgotten where she was. She did not know whether she was hearing a full symphony orchestra or only the theme; perhaps she was hearing the orchestration in her own mind.
She thought dimly that there had been premonitory echoes of this theme in all of Richard Halley’s work, through all the years of his long struggle, to the day, in his middle-age, when fame struck him suddenly and knocked him out. This—she thought, listening to the symphony—had been the goal of his struggle. She remembered half-hinted attempts in his music, phrases that promised it, broken bits of melody that started but never quite reached it; when Richard Halley wrote this, he . . . She sat up straight. When did Richard Halley write this?
In the same instant, she realized where she was and wondered for the first time where that music came from.
A few steps away, at the end of the car, a brakeman was adjusting the controls of the air-conditioner. He was blond and young. He was whistling the theme of the symphony. She realized that he had been whistling it for some time and that this was all she had heard.
She watched him incredulously for a while, before she raised her voice to ask, “Tell me please what are you whistling?”
The boy turned to her. She met a direct glance and saw an open, eager smile, as if he were sharing a confidence with a friend. She liked his face—its lines were tight and firm, it did not have that look of loose muscles evading the responsibility of a shape, which she had learned to expect in people’s faces.
“It’s the Halley Concerto,” he answered, smiling.
She let a moment pass, before she said slowly and very carefully, “Richard Halley wrote only four concertos.”
The boy’s smile vanished. It was as if he were jolted back to reality, just as she had been a few moments ago. It was as if a shutter were slammed down, and what remained was a face without expression, impersonal, indifferent and empty.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “I’m wrong. I made a mistake.”
“Then what was it?”
“Something I heard somewhere.”
“I don’t know.”
“Where did you hear it?”
“I don’t remember.”
She paused helplessly; he was turning away from her without further interest.
“It sounded like a Halley theme,” she said. “But I know every note he’s ever written and he never wrote that.”
There was still no expression, only a faint look of attentiveness on the boy’s face, as he turned back to her and asked, “You like the music of Richard Halley?”
“Yes,” she said, “I like it very much.”
He considered her for a moment, as if hesitating, then he turned away. She watched the expert efficiency of his movements as he went on working. He worked in silence.
She had not slept for two nights, but she could not permit herself to sleep; she had too many problems to consider and not much time: the train was due in New York early in the morning. She needed the time, yet she wished the train would go faster; but it was the Taggart Comet, the fastest train in the country.
She tried to think; but the music remained on the edge of her mind and she kept hearing it, in full chords, like the implacable steps of something that could not be stopped. . . . She shook her head angrily, jerked her hat off and lighted a cigarette.
She would not sleep, she thought; she could last until tomorrow night. . . . The train wheels clicked in accented rhythm. She was so used to them that she did not hear them consciously, but the sound became a sense of peace within her. . . . When she extinguished her cigarette, she knew that she needed another one, but thought that she would give herself a minute, just a few minutes, before she would light it. . . .
She had fallen asleep and she awakened with a jolt, knowing that something was wrong, before she knew what it was: the wheels had stopped. The car stood soundless and dim in the blue glow of the night lamps. She glanced at her watch: there was no reason for stopping. She looked out the window: the train stood still in the middle of empty fields.
She heard someone moving in a seat across the aisle, and asked, “How long have we been standing?”
A man’s voice answered indifferently, “About an hour.”
The man looked after her, sleepily astonished, because she leaped to her feet and rushed to the door.
There was a cold wind outside, and an empty stretch of land under an empty sky. She heard weeds rustling in the darkness. Far ahead, she saw the figures of men standing by the engine—and above them, hanging detached in the sky, the red light of a signal.
She walked rapidly toward them, past the motionless line of wheels. No one paid attention to her when she approached. The train crew and a few passengers stood clustered under the red light. They had stopped talking, they seemed to be waiting in placid indifference.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
The engineer turned, astonished. Her question had sounded like an order, not like the amateur curiosity of a passenger. She stood, hands in pockets, coat collar raised, the wind beating, her hair in strands across her face.
“Red light, lady,” he said, pointing up with his thumb.
“How long has it been on?”
“We’re off the main track, aren’t we?”
“I don’t know.”
The conductor spoke up. “I don’t think we had any business being sent off on a siding, that switch wasn’t working right, and this thing’s not working at all.” He jerked his head up at the red light. “I don’t think the signal’s going to change. I think it’s busted.”
“Then what are you doing?”
“Waiting for it to change.”
In her pause of startled anger, the fireman chuckled. “Last week, the crack special of the Atlantic Southern got left on a siding for two hours—just somebody’s mistake.”
“This is the Taggart Comet,” she said. “The Comet has never been late.”
“She’s the only one in the country that hasn’t,” said the engineer.
“There’s always a first time,” said the fireman.
“You don’t know about railroads, lady,” said a passenger. “There’s not a signal system or a dispatcher in the country that’s worth a damn.”
She did not turn or notice him, but spoke to the engineer. “If you know that the signal is broken, what do you intend to do?”
He did not like her tone of authority, and he could not understand why she assumed it so naturally. She looked like a young girl; only her mouth and eyes showed that she was a woman in her thirties. The dark gray eyes were direct and disturbing, as if they cut through things, throwing the inconsequential out of the way. The face seemed faintly familiar to him, but he could not recall where he had seen it.
“Lady, I don’t intend to stick my neck out,” he said.
“He means,” said the fireman, “that our job’s to wait for orders.”
“Your job is to run this train.”
“Not against a red light. If the light says stop, we stop.”
“A red light means danger, lady,” said the passenger.
“We’re not taking any chances,” said the engineer. “Whoever’s responsible for it, he’ll switch the blame to us if we move. So we’re not moving till somebody tells us to.”
“And if nobody does?”
“Somebody will turn up sooner or later.”
“How long do you propose to wait?”
The engineer shrugged. “Who is John Galt?”
“He means,” said the fireman, “don’t ask questions nobody can answer.”
She looked at the red light and at the rail that went off into the black, untouched distance.
She said, “Proceed with caution to the next signal. If it’s in order, proceed to the main track. Then stop at the first open office.”
“Yeah? Who says so?”
“Who are you?”
It was only the briefest pause, a moment of astonishment at a question she had not expected, but the engineer looked more closely at her face, and in time with her answer he gasped, “Good God!”
She answered, not offensively, merely like a person who does not hear the question often:
“Well, I’ll be—” said the fireman, and then they all remained silent.
She went on, in the same tone of unstressed authority. “Proceed to the main track and hold the train for me at the first open office.”
“Yes, Miss Taggart.”
“You’ll have to make up time. You’ve got the rest of the night to do it. Get the Comet in on schedule.”
“Yes, Miss Taggart.”
She was turning to go, when the engineer asked, “If there’s any trouble, are you taking the responsibility for it, Miss Taggart?”
The conductor followed her as she walked back to her car. He was saying, bewildered, “But . . . just a seat in a day coach, Miss Taggart? But how come? But why didn’t you let us know?”
She smiled easily. “Had no time to be formal. Had my own car attached to Number 22 out of Chicago, but got off at Cleveland—and Number 22 was running late, so I let the car go. The Comet came next and I took it. There was no sleeping-car space left.”
The conductor shook his head. “Your brother—he wouldn’t have taken a coach.”
She laughed. “No, he wouldn’t have.”
The men by the engine watched her walking away. The young brakeman was among them. He asked, pointing after her, “Who is that?”
“That’s who runs Taggart Transcontinental,” said the engineer; the respect in his voice was genuine. “That’s the Vice-President in Charge of Operation.”
When the train jolted forward, the blast of its whistle dying over the fields, she sat by the window, lighting another cigarette. She thought: It’s cracking to pieces, like this, all over the country, you can expect it anywhere, at any moment. But she felt no anger or anxiety; she had no time to feel.
This would be just one more issue, to be settled along with the others. She knew that the superintendent of the Ohio Division was no good and that he was a friend of James Taggart. She had not insisted on throwing him out long ago only because she had no better man to put in his place. Good men were so strangely hard to find. But she would have to get rid of him, she thought, and she would give his post to Owen Kellogg, the young engineer who was doing a brilliant job as one of the assistants to the manager of the Taggart Terminal in New York; it was Owen Kellogg who ran the Terminal. She had watched his work for some time; she had always looked for sparks of competence, like a diamond prospector in an unpromising wasteland. Kellogg was still too young to be made superintendent of a division; she had wanted to give him another year, but there was no time to wait. She would have to speak to him as soon as she returned.
The strip of earth, faintly visible outside the window, was running faster now, blending into a gray stream. Through the dry phrases of calculations in her mind, she noticed that she did have time to feel something: it was the hard, exhilarating pleasure of action.
With the first whistling rush of air, as the Comet plunged into the tunnels of the Taggart Terminal under the city of New York, Dagny Taggart sat up straight. She always felt it when the train went underground—this sense of eagerness, of hope and of secret excitement. It was as if normal existence were a photograph of shapeless things in badly printed colors, but this was a sketch done in a few sharp strokes that made things seem clean, important—and worth doing.
She watched the tunnels as they flowed past: bare walls of concrete, a net of pipes and wires, a web of rails that went off into black holes where green and red lights hung as distant drops of color. There was nothing else, nothing to dilute it, so that one could admire naked purpose and the ingenuity that had achieved it. She thought of the Taggart Building standing above her head at this moment, growing straight to the sky, and she thought: These are the roots of the building, hollow roots twisting under the ground, feeding the city.
When the train stopped, when she got off and heard the concrete of the platform under her heels, she felt light, lifted, impelled to action. She started off, walking fast, as if the speed of her steps could give form to the things she felt. It was a few moments before she realized that she was whistling a piece of music—and that it was the theme of Halley’s Fifth Concerto.
She felt someone looking at her and turned. The young brakeman stood watching her tensely.
She sat on the arm of the big chair facing James Taggart’s desk, her coat thrown open over a wrinkled traveling suit. Eddie Willers sat across the room, making notes once in a while. His title was that of Special Assistant to the Vice-President in Charge of Operation, and his main duty was to be her bodyguard against any waste of time. She asked him to be present at interviews of this nature, because then she never had to explain anything to him afterwards. James Taggart sat at his desk, his head drawn into his shoulders.
“The Rio Norte Line is a pile of junk from one end to the other,” she said. “It’s much worse than I thought. But we’re going to save it.”
“Of course,” said James Taggart.
“Some of the rail can be salvaged. Not much and not for long. We’ll start laying new rail in the mountain sections, Colorado first. We’ll get the new rail in two months.”
“Oh, did Orren Boyle say he’ll—”
“I’ve ordered the rail from Rearden Steel.”
The slight, choked sound from Eddie Willers was his suppressed desire to cheer.
James Taggart did not answer at once. “Dagny, why don’t you sit in the chair as one is supposed to?” he said at last; his voice was petulant. “Nobody holds business conferences this way.”
She waited. He asked, his eyes avoiding hers, “Did you say that you have ordered the rail from Rearden?”
“Yesterday evening. I phoned him from Cleveland.”
“But the Board hasn’t authorized it. I haven’t authorized it. You haven’t consulted me.”
She reached over, picked up the receiver of a telephone on his desk and handed it to him.
“Call Rearden and cancel it,” she said.
James Taggart moved back in his chair. “I haven’t said that,” he answered angrily. “I haven’t said that at all.”
“Then it stands?”
“I haven’t said that, either.”
She turned. “Eddie, have them draw up the contract with Rearden Steel. Jim will sign it.” She took a crumpled piece of notepaper from her pocket and tossed it to Eddie. “There’s the figures and terms.”
Taggart said, “But the Board hasn’t—”
“The Board hasn’t anything to do with it. They authorized you to buy the rail thirteen months ago. Where you buy it is up to you.”
“I don’t think it’s proper to make such a decision without giving the Board a chance to express an opinion. And I don’t see why I should be made to take the responsibility.”
“I am taking it.”
“What about the expenditure which—”
“Rearden is charging less than Orren Boyle’s Associated Steel.”
“Yes, and what about Orren Boyle?”
“I’ve cancelled the contract. We had the right to cancel it six months ago.”
“When did you do that?”
“But he hasn’t called to have me confirm it.”
Taggart sat looking down at his desk. She wondered why he resented the necessity of dealing with Rearden, and why his resentment had such an odd, evasive quality. Rearden Steel had been the chief supplier of Taggart Transcontinental for ten years, ever since the first Rearden furnace was fired, in the days when their father was president of the railroad. For ten years, most of their rail had come from Rearden Steel. There were not many firms in the country who delivered what was ordered, when and as ordered. Rearden Steel was one of them. If she were insane, thought Dagny, she would conclude that her brother hated to deal with Rearden because Rearden did his job with superlative efficiency; but she would not conclude it, because she thought that such a feeling was not within the humanly possible.
“It isn’t fair,” said James Taggart.
“That we always give all our business to Rearden. It seems to me we should give somebody else a chance, too. Rearden doesn’t need us; he’s plenty big enough. We ought to help the smaller fellows to develop. Otherwise, we’re just encouraging a monopoly.”
“Don’t talk tripe, Jim.”
“Why do we always have to get things from Rearden?”
“Because we always get them.”
“I don’t like Henry Rearden.”
“I do. But what does that matter, one way or the other? We need rails and he’s the only one who can give them to us.”
“The human element is very important. You have no sense of the human element at all.”
“We’re talking about saving a railroad, Jim.”
“Yes, of course, of course, but still, you haven’t any sense of the human element.”
“No. I haven’t.”
“If we give Rearden such a large order for steel rails—”
“They’re not going to be steel. They’re Rearden Metal.”
She had always avoided personal reactions, but she was forced to break her rule when she saw the expression on Taggart’s face. She burst out laughing.
Rearden Metal was a new alloy, produced by Rearden after ten years of experiments. He had placed it on the market recently. He had received no orders and had found no customers.
Taggart could not understand the transition from the laughter to the sudden tone of Dagny’s voice; the voice was cold and harsh: “Drop it, Jim. I know everything you’re going to say. Nobody’s ever used it before. Nobody approves of Rearden Metal. Nobody’s interested in it. Nobody wants it. Still, our rails are going to be made of Rearden Metal.”
“But . . .” said Taggart, “but . . . but nobody’s ever used it before!”
He observed, with satisfaction, that she was silenced by anger. He liked to observe emotions; they were like red lanterns strung along the dark unknown of another’s personality, marking vulnerable points. But how one could feel a personal emotion about a metal alloy, and what such an emotion indicated, was incomprehensible to him; so he could make no use of his discovery.
“The consensus of the best metallurgical authorities,” he said, “seems to be highly skeptical about Rearden Metal, contending—”
“Drop it, Jim.”
“Well, whose opinion did you take?”
“I don’t ask for opinions.”
“What do you go by?”
“Well, whose judgment did you take?”
“But whom did you consult about it?”
“Then what on earth do you know about Rearden Metal?”
“That it’s the greatest thing ever put on the market.”
“Because it’s tougher than steel, cheaper than steel and will outlast any hunk of metal in existence.”
“But who says so?”
“Jim, I studied engineering in college. When I see things, I see them.”
“What did you see?”
“Rearden’s formula and the tests he showed me.”
“Well, if it were any good, somebody would have used it, and nobody has.” He saw the flash of anger, and went on nervously: “How can you know it’s good? How can you be sure? How can you decide?”
“Somebody decides such things, Jim. Who?”
“Well, I don’t see why we have to be the first ones. I don’t see it at all.”
“Do you want to save the Rio Norte Line or not?” He did not answer. “If the road could afford it, I would scrap every piece of rail over the whole system and replace it with Rearden Metal. All of it needs replacing. None of it will last much longer. But we can’t afford it. We have to get out of a bad hole, first. Do you want us to pull through or not?”
“We’re still the best railroad in the country. The others are doing much worse.”
“Then do you want us to remain in the hole?”
“I haven’t said that! Why do you always oversimplify things that way? And if you’re worried about money, I don’t see why you want to waste it on the Rio Norte Line, when the Phoenix-Durango has robbed us of all our business down there. Why spend money when we have no protection against a competitor who’ll destroy our investment?”
“Because the Phoenix-Durango is an excellent railroad, but I intend to make the Rio Norte Line better than that. Because I’m going to beat the Phoenix-Durango, if necessary—only it won’t be necessary, because there will be room for two or three railroads to make fortunes in Colorado. Because I’d mortgage the system to build a branch to any district around Ellis Wyatt.”
“I’m sick of hearing about Ellis Wyatt.”
He did not like the way her eyes moved to look at him and remained still, looking, for a moment.
“I don’t see any need for immediate action,” he said; he sounded offended. “Just what do you consider so alarming in the present situation of Taggart Transcontinental?”
“The consequences of your policies, Jim.”
“That thirteen months’ experiment with Associated Steel, for one. Your Mexican catastrophe, for another.”
“The Board approved the Associated Steel contract,” he said hastily. “The Board voted to build the San Sebastián Line. Besides, I don’t see why you call it a catastrophe.”
“Because the Mexican government is going to nationalize your line any dAy now.”
“That’s a lie!” His voice was almost a scream. “That’s nothing but vicious rumors! I have it on very good inside authority that—”
“Don’t show that you’re scared, Jim,” she said contemptuously.
He did not answer.
“It’s no use getting panicky about it now,” she said. “All we can do is try to cushion the blow. It’s going to be a bad blow. Forty million dollars is a loss from which we won’t recover easily. But Taggart Transcontinental has withstood many bad shocks in the past. I’ll see to it that it withstands this one.”
“I refuse to consider, I absolutely refuse to consider the possibility of the San Sebastián Line being nationalized!”
“All right. Don’t consider it.”
She remained silent. He said defensively, “I don’t see why you’re so eager to give a chance to Ellis Wyatt, yet you think it’s wrong to take part in developing an underprivileged country that never had a chance.”
“Ellis Wyatt is not asking anybody to give him a chance. And I’m not in business to give chances. I’m running a railroad.”
“That’s an extremely narrow view, it seems to me. I don’t see why we should want to help one man instead of a whole nation.”
“I’m not interested in helping anybody. I want to make money.”
“That’s an impractical attitude. Selfish greed for profit is a thing of the past. It has been generally conceded that the interests of society as a whole must always be placed first in any business undertaking which—”
“How long do you intend to talk in order to evade the issue, Jim?”
“The order for Rearden Metal.”
He did not answer. He sat studying her silently. Her slender body, about to slump from exhaustion, was held erect by the straight line of the shoulders, and the shoulders were held by a conscious effort of will. Few people liked her face: the face was too cold, the eyes too intense; nothing could ever lend her the charm of a soft focus. The beautiful legs, slanting down from the chair’s arm in the center of his vision, annoyed him; they spoiled the rest of his estimate.
She remained silent; he was forced to ask, “Did you decide to order it just like that, on the spur of the moment, over a telephone?”
“I decided it six months ago. I was waiting for Hank Rearden to get ready to go into production.”
“Don’t call him Hank Rearden. It’s vulgar.”
“That’s what everybody calls him. Don’t change the subject.”
“Why did you have to telephone him last night?”
“Couldn’t reach him sooner.”
“Why didn’t you wait until you got back to New York and—”
“Because I had seen the Rio Norte Line.”
“Well, I need time to consider it, to place the matter before the Board, to consult the best—”
“There is no time.”
“You haven’t given me a chance to form an opinion.”
“I don’t give a damn about your opinion. I am not going to argue with you, with your Board or with your professors. You have a choice to make and you’re going to make it now. Just say yes or no.”
“That’s a preposterous, high-handed, arbitrary way of—”
“Yes or no?”
“That’s the trouble with you. You always make it ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ Things are never absolute like that. Nothing is absolute.”
“Metal rails are. Whether we get them or not, is.”
She waited. He did not answer.
“Well?” she asked.
“Are you taking the responsibility for it?”
“Go ahead,” he said, and added, “but at your own risk. I won’t cancel it, but I won’t commit myself as to what I’ll say to the Board.”
“Say anything you wish.”
She rose to go. He leaned forward across the desk, reluctant to end the interview and to end it so decisively.
“You realize, of course, that a lengthy procedure will be necessary to put this through,” he said; the words sounded almost hopeful. “It isn’t as simple as that.”
“Oh sure,” she said. “I’ll send you a detailed report, which Eddie will prepare and which you won’t read. Eddie will help you put it through the works. I’m going to Philadelphia tonight to see Rearden. He and I have a lot of work to do.” She added, “It’s as simple as that, Jim.”
She had turned to go, when he spoke again—and what he said seemed bewilderingly irrelevant. “That’s all right for you, because you’re lucky. Others can’t do it.”
“Other people are human. They’re sensitive. They can’t devote their whole life to metals and engines. You’re lucky—you’ve never had any feelings. You’ve never felt anything at all.”
As she looked at him, her dark gray eyes went slowly from astonishment to stillness, then to a strange expression that resembled a look of weariness, except that it seemed to reflect much more than the endurance of this one moment.
“No, Jim,” she said quietly, “I guess I’ve never felt anything at all.”
Eddie Willers followed her to her office. Whenever she returned, he felt as if the world became clear, simple, easy to face—and he forgot his moments of shapeless apprehension. He was the only person who found it completely natural that she should be the Operating Vice-President of a great railroad, even though she was a woman. She had told him, when he was ten years old, that she would run the railroad some day. It did not astonish him now, just as it had not astonished him that day in a clearing of the woods.
When they entered her office, when he saw her sit down at the desk and glance at the memos he had left for her—he felt as he did in his car when the motor caught on and the wheels could move forward.
He was about to leave her office, when he remembered a matter he had not reported. “Owen Kellogg of the Terminal Division asked me for an appointment to see you,” he said.
She looked up, astonished. “That’s funny. I was going to send for him. Have him come up. I want to see him. . . . Eddie,” she added suddenly, “before I start, tell them to get me Ayers of the Ayers Music Publishing company on the phone.”
“The Music Publishing Company?” he repeated incredulously.
“Yes. There’s something I want to ask him.”
When the voice of Mr. Ayers, courteously eager, inquired of what service he could be to her, she asked, “Can you tell me whether Richard Halley has written a new piano concerto, the Fifth?”
“A fifth concerto, Miss Taggart? Why, no, of course he hasn’t.”
“Are you sure?”
“Quite sure, Miss Taggart. He has not written anything for eight years.”
“Is he still alive?”
“Why, yes—that is, I can’t say for certain, he has dropped out of public life entirely—but I’m sure we would have heard of it if he had died.”
“If he wrote anything, would you know about it?”
“Of course. We would be the first to know. We publish all of his work. But he has stopped writing.”
“I see. Thank you.”
When Owen Kellogg entered her office, she looked at him with satisfaction. She was glad to see that she had been right in her vague recollection of his appearance—his face had the same quality as that of the young brakeman on the train, the face of the kind of man with whom she could deal.
“Sit down, Mr. Kellogg,” she said, but he remained standing in front of her desk.
“You had asked me once to let you know if I ever decided to change my employment, Miss Taggart,” he said. “So I came to tell you that I am quitting.”
She had expected anything but that; it took her a moment before she asked quietly, “Why?”
“For a personal reason.”
“Were you dissatisfied here?”
“Have you received a better offer?”
“What railroad are you going to?”
“I’m not going to any railroad, Miss Taggart.”
“Then what job are you taking?”
“I have not decided that yet.”
She studied him, feeling slightly uneasy. There was no hostility in his face; he looked straight at her, he answered simply, directly; he spoke like one who has nothing to hide, or to show; the face was polite and empty.
“Then why should you wish to quit?”
“It’s a personal matter.”
“Are you ill? Is it a question of your health?”
“Are you leaving the city?”
“Have you inherited money that permits you to retire?”
“Do you intend to continue working for a living?”
“But you do not wish to work for Taggart Transcontinental?”
“In that case, something must have happened here to cause your decision. What?”
“Nothing, Miss Taggart.”
“I wish you’d tell me. I have a reason for wanting to know.”
“Would you take my word for it, Miss Taggart?”
“No person, matter or event connected with my job here had any bearing upon my decision.”
“You have no specific complaint against Taggart Transcontinental?”
“Then I think you might reconsider when you hear what I have to offer you.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Taggart. I can’t.”
“May I tell you what I have in mind?”
“Yes, if you wish.”
“Would you take my word for it that I decided to offer you the post I’m going to offer, before you asked to see me? I want you to know that.”
“I will always take your word, Miss Taggart.”
“It’s the post of Superintendent of the Ohio Division. It’s yours, if you want it.”
His face showed no reaction, as if the words had no more significance for him than for a savage who had never heard of railroads.
“I don’t want it, Miss Taggart,” he answered.
After a moment, she said, her voice tight, “Write your own ticket, Kellogg. Name your price. I want you to stay. I can match anything any other railroad offers you.”
“I am not going to work for any other railroad.”
“I thought you loved your work.”
This was the first sign of emotion in him, just a slight widening of his eyes and an oddly quiet emphasis in his voice when he answered, “I do.”
“Then tell me what it is that I should say in order to hold you!”
It had been involuntary and so obviously frank that he looked at her as if it had reached him.
“Perhaps I am being unfair by coming here to tell you that I’m quitting, Miss Taggart. I know that you asked me to tell you because you wanted to have a chance to make me a counter-offer. So if I came, it looks as if I’m open to a deal. But I’m not. I came only because I . . . I wanted to keep my word to you.”
That one break in his voice was like a sudden flash that told her how much her interest and her request had meant to him; and that his decision had not been an easy one to make.
“Kellogg, is there nothing I can offer you?” she asked.
“Nothing, Miss Taggart. Nothing on earth.”
He turned to go. For the first time in her life, she felt helpless and beaten.
“Why?” she asked, not addressing him.
He stopped. He shrugged and smiled—he was alive for a moment and it was the strangest smile she had ever seen: it held secret amusement, and heartbreak, and an infinite bitterness. He answered:
“Who is John Galt?”
It began with a few lights. As a train of the Taggart line rolled toward Philadelphia, a few brilliant, scattered lights appeared in the darkness; they seemed purposeless in the empty plain, yet too powerful to have no purpose. The passengers watched them idly, without interest.
The black shape of a structure came next, barely visible against the sky, then a big building, close to the tracks; the building was dark, and the reflections of the train lights streaked across the solid glass of its walls.
An oncoming freight train hid the view, filling the windows with a rushing smear of noise. In a sudden break above the flat cars, the passengers saw distant structures under a faint, reddish glow in the sky; the glow moved in irregular spasms, as if the structures were breathing.
When the freight train vanished, they saw angular buildings wrapped in coils of steam. The rays of a few strong lights cut straight sheafs through the coils. The steam was red as the sky.
The thing that came next did not look like a building, but like a shell of checkered glass enclosing girders, cranes and trusses in a solid, blinding, orange spread of flame.
The passengers could not grasp the complexity of what seemed to be a city stretched for miles, active without sign of human presence. They saw towers that looked like contorted skyscrapers, bridges hanging in mid-air, and sudden wounds spurting fire from out of solid walls. They saw a line of glowing cylinders moving through the night; the cylinders were red-hot metal.
An office building appeared, close to the tracks. The big neon sign on its roof lighted the interiors of the coaches as they went by. It said: REARDEN STEEL.
A passenger, who was a professor of economics, remarked to his companion: “Of what importance is an individual in the titanic collective achievements of our industrial age?” Another, who was a journalist, made a note for future use in his column: “Hank Rearden is the kind of man who sticks his name on everything he touches. You may, from this, form your own opinion about the character of Hank Rearden.”
The train was speeding on into the darkness when a red gasp shot to the sky from behind a long structure. The passengers paid no attention; one more heat of steel being poured was not an event they had been taught to notice.
It was the first heat for the first order of Rearden Metal.
To the men at the tap-hole of the furnace inside the mills, the first break of the liquid metal into the open came as a shocking sensation of morning. The narrow streak pouring through space had the pure white color of sunlight. Black coils of steam were boiling upward, streaked with violent red. Fountains of sparks shot in beating spasms, as from broken arteries. The air seemed torn to rags, reflecting a raging flame that was not there, red blotches whirling and running through space, as if not to be contained within a man-made structure, as if about to consume the columns, the girders, the bridges of cranes overhead. But the liquid metal had no aspect of violence. It was a long white curve with the texture of satin and the friendly radiance of a smile. It flowed obediently through a spout of clay, with two brittle borders to restrain it, it fell through twenty feet of space, down into a ladle that held two hundred tons. A flow of stars hung above the stream, leaping out of its placid smoothness, looking delicate as lace and innocent as children’s sparklers. Only at a closer glance could one notice that the white satin was boiling. Splashes flew out at times and fell to the ground below: they were metal and, cooling while hitting the soil, they burst into flame.
Two hundred tons of metal which was to be harder than steel, running liquid at a temperature of four thousand degrees, had the power to annihilate every wall of the structure and every one of the men who worked by the stream. But every inch of its course, every pound of its pressure and the content of every molecule within it, were controlled and made by a conscious intention that had worked upon it for ten years.
Swinging through the darkness of the shed, the red glare kept slashing the face of a man who stood in a distant corner; he stood leaning against a column, watching. The glare cut a moment’s wedge across his eyes, which had the color and quality of pale blue ice—then across the black web of the metal column and the ash-blond strands of his hair—then across the belt of his trenchcoat and the pockets where he held his hands. His body was tall and gaunt; he had always been too tall for those around him. His face was cut by prominent cheekbones and by a few sharp lines; they were not the lines of age, he had always had them; this had made him look old at twenty, and young now, at forty-five. Ever since he could remember, he had been told that his face was ugly, because it was unyielding, and cruel, because it was expressionless. It remained expressionless now, as he looked at the metal. He was Hank Rearden.
The metal came rising to the top of the ladle and went running over with arrogant prodigality. Then the blinding white trickles turned to glowing brown, and in one more instant they were black icicles of metal, starting to crumble off. The slag was crusting in thick, brown ridges that looked like the crust of the earth. As the crust grew thicker, a few craters broke open, with the white liquid still boiling within.
A man came riding through the air, in the cab of a crane overhead. He pulled a lever by the casual movement of one hand: steel hooks came down on a chain, seized the handles of the ladle, lifted it smoothly like a bucket of milk—and two hundred tons of metal went sailing through space toward a row of molds waiting to be filled.
Hank Rearden leaned back, closing his eyes. He felt the column trembling with the rumble of the crane. The job was done, he thought.
A worker saw him and grinned in understanding, like a fellow accomplice in a great celebration, who knew why that tall, blond figure had had to be present here tonight. Rearden smiled in answer: it was the only salute he had received. Then he started back for his office, once again a figure with an expressionless face.
It was late when Hank Rearden left his office that night to walk from his mills to his house. It was a walk of some miles through empty country, but he had felt like doing it, without conscious reason.
He walked, keeping one hand in his pocket, his fingers closed about a bracelet. It was made of Rearden Metal, in the shape of a chain. His fingers moved, feeling its texture once in a while. It had taken ten years to make that bracelet. Ten years, he thought, is a long time.
The road was dark, edged with trees. Looking up, he could see a few leaves against the stars; the leaves were twisted and dry, ready to fall. There were distant lights in the windows of houses scattered through the countryside; but the lights made the road seem lonelier.
He never felt loneliness except when he was happy. He turned, once in a while, to look back at the red glow of the sky over the mills.
He did not think of the ten years: What remained of them tonight was only a feeling which he could not name, except that it was quiet and solemn. The feeling was a sum, and he did not have to count again the parts that had gone to make it. But the parts, unrecalled, were there, within the feeling. They were the nights spent at scorching ovens in the research laboratory of the mills—
—the nights spent in the workshop of his home, over sheets of paper which he filled with formulas, then tore up in angry failure—
—the days when the young scientists of the small staff he had chosen to assist him waited for instructions like soldiers ready for a hopeless battle, having exhausted their ingenuity, still willing, but silent, with the unspoken sentence hanging in the air: “Mr. Rearden, it can’t be done—”
—the meals, interrupted and abandoned at the sudden flash of a new thought, a thought to be pursued at once, to be tried, to be tested, to be worked on for months, and to be discarded as another failure—
—the moments snatched from conferences, from contracts, from the duties of running the best steel mills in the country, snatched almost guiltily, as for a secret love—
—the one thought held immovably across a span of ten years, under everything he did and everything he saw, the thought held in his mind when he looked at the buildings of a city, at the track of a railroad, at the light in the windows of a distant farmhouse, at the knife in the hands of a beautiful woman cutting a piece of fruit at a banquet, the thought of a metal alloy that would do more than steel had ever done, a metal that would be to steel what steel had been to iron—
—the acts of self-racking when he discarded a hope or a sample, not permitting himself to know that he was tired, not giving himself time to feel, driving himself through the wringing torture of: “not good enough . . . still not good enough . . .” and going on with no motor save the conviction that it could be done—
—then the day when it was done and its result was called Rearden Metal—
—these were the things that had come to white heat, had melted and fused within him, and their alloy was a strange, quiet feeling that made him smile at the countryside in the darkness and wonder why happiness could hurt.
After a while, he realized that he was thinking of his past, as if certain days of it were spread before him, demanding to be seen again. He did not want to look at them; he despised memories as a pointless indulgence. But then he understood that he thought of them tonight in honor of that piece of metal in his pocket. Then he permitted himself to look.
He saw the day when he stood on a rocky ledge and felt a thread of sweat running from his temple down his neck. He was fourteen years old and it was his first day of work in the iron mines of Minnesota. He was trying to learn to breathe against the scalding pain in his chest. He stood, cursing himself, because he had made up his mind that he would not be tired. After a while, he went back to his task; he decided that pain was not a valid reason for stopping.
He saw the day when he stood at the window of his office and looked at the mines; he owned them as of that morning. He was thirty years old. What had gone on in the years between did not matter, just as pain had not mattered. He had worked in mines, in foundries, in the steel mills of the north, moving toward the purpose he had chosen. All he remembered of those jobs was that the men around him had never seemed to know what to do, while he had always known. He remembered wondering why so many iron mines were closing, just as these had been about to close until he took them over. He looked at the shelves of rock in the distance. Workers were putting up a new sign above a gate at the end of a road: Rearden Ore.
He saw an evening when he sat slumped across his desk in that office. It was late and his staff had left; so he could lie there alone, unwitnessed. He was tired. It was as if he had run a race against his own body, and all the exhaustion of years, which he had refused to acknowledge, had caught him at once and flattened him against the desk top. He felt nothing, except the desire not to move. He did not have the strength to feel—not even to suffer. He had burned everything there was to burn within him; he had scattered so many sparks to start so many things—and he wondered whether someone could give him now the spark he needed, now when he felt unable ever to rise again. He asked himself who had started him and kept him going. Then he raised his head. Slowly, with the greatest effort of his life, he made his body rise until he was able to sit upright with only one hand pressed to the desk and a trembling arm to support him. He never asked that question again.
He saw the day when he stood on a hill and looked at a grimy wasteland of structures that had been a steel plant. It was closed and given up. He had bought it the night before. There was a strong wind and a gray light squeezed from among the clouds. In that light, he saw the brown-red of rust, like dead blood, on the steel of the giant cranes—and bright, green, living weeds, like gorged cannibals, growing over piles of broken glass at the foot of walls made of empty frames. At a gate in the distance, he saw the black silhouettes of men. They were the unemployed from the rotting hovels of what had once been a prosperous town. They stood silently, looking at the glittering car he had left at the gate of the mills; they wondered whether the man on the hill was the Hank Rearden that people were talking about, and whether it was true that the mills were to be reopened. “The historical cycle of steel-making in Pennsylvania is obviously running down,” a newspaper had said, “and experts agree that Henry Rearden’s venture into steel is hopeless. You may soon witness the sensational end of the sensational Henry Rearden.”
That was ten years ago. Tonight, the cold wind on his face felt like the wind of that day. He turned to look back. The red glow of the mills breathed in the sky, a sight as life-giving as a sunrise.
These had been his stops, the stations which an express had reached and passed. He remembered nothing distinct of the years between them; the years were blurred, like a streak of speed.
Whatever it was, he thought, whatever the strain and the agony, they were worth it, because they had made him reach this day—this day when the first heat of the first order of Rearden Metal had been poured, to become rails for Taggart Transcontinental.
He touched the bracelet in his pocket. He had had it made from that first poured metal. It was for his wife.
As he touched it, he realized suddenly that he had thought of an abstraction called “his wife”—not of the woman to whom he was married. He felt a stab of regret, wishing he had not made the bracelet, then a wave of self-reproach for the regret.
He shook his head. This was not the time for his old doubts. He felt that he could forgive anything to anyone, because happiness was the greatest agent of purification. He felt certain that every living being wished him well tonight. He wanted to meet someone, to face the first stranger, to stand disarmed and open, and to say, “Look at me.” People, he thought, were as hungry for a sight of joy as he had always been—for a moment’s relief from that gray load of suffering which seemed so inexplicable and unnecessary. He had never been able to understand why men should be unhappy.
The dark road had risen imperceptibly to the top of the hill. He stopped and turned. The red glow was a narrow strip, far to the west. Above it, small at a distance of miles, the words of a neon sign stood written on the blackness of the sky: REARDEN STEEL.
He stood straight, as if before a bench of judgment. He thought that in the darkness of this night other signs were lighted over the country: Rearden Ore—Rearden Coal—Rearden Limestone. He thought of the days behind him. He wished it were possible to light a neon sign above them, saying: Rearden Life.
He turned sharply and walked on. As the road came closer to his house, he noticed that his steps were slowing down and that something was ebbing away from his mood. He felt a dim reluctance to enter his home, which he did not want to feel. No, he thought, not tonight; they’ll understand it, tonight. But he did not know, he had never defined, what it was that he wanted them to understand.
He saw lights in the windows of the living room, when he approached his house. The house stood on a hill, rising before him like a big white bulk; it looked naked, with a few semi-colonial pillars for reluctant ornament; it had the cheerless look of a nudity not worth revealing.
He was not certain whether his wife noticed him when he entered the living room. She sat by the fireplace, talking, the curve of her arm floating in graceful emphasis of her words. He heard a small break in her voice, and thought that she had seen him, but she did not look up and her sentence went on smoothly; he could not be certain.
“—but it’s just that a man of culture is bored with the alleged wonders of purely material ingenuity,” she was saying. “He simply refuses to get excited about plumbing.”
Then she turned her head, looked at Rearden in the shadows across the long room, and her arms spread gracefully, like two swan necks by her sides.
“Why, darling,” she said in a bright tone of amusement, “isn’t it too early to come home? Wasn’t there some slag to sweep or tuyères to polish?”
They all turned to him—his mother, his brother Philip and Paul Larkin, their old friend.
“I’m sorry,” he answered. “I know I’m late.”
“Don’t say you’re sorry,” said his mother. “You could have telephoned.” He looked at her, trying vaguely to remember something. “You promised to be here for dinner tonight.”
“Oh, that’s right, I did. I’m sorry. But today at the mills, we poured—” He stopped; he did not know what made him unable to utter the one thing he had come home to say; he added only, “It’s just that I . . . forgot.”
“That’s what Mother means,” said Philip.
“Oh, let him get his bearings, he’s not quite here yet, he’s still at the mills,” his wife said gaily. “Do take your coat off, Henry.”
Paul Larkin was looking at him with the devoted eyes of an inhibited dog. “Hello, Paul,” said Rearden. “When did you get in?”
“Oh, I just hopped down on the five thirty-five from New York.” Larkin was smiling in gratitude for the attention.
“Who hasn’t got trouble these days?” Larkin’s smile became resigned, to indicate that the remark was merely philosophical. “But no, no special trouble this time. I just thought I’d drop in to see you.”
His wife laughed. “You’ve disappointed him, Paul.” She turned to Rearden. “Is it an inferiority complex or a superiority one, Henry? Do you believe that nobody can want to see you just for your own sake, or do you believe that nobody can get along without your help?”
He wanted to utter an angry denial, but she was smiling at him as if this were merely a conversational joke, and he had no capacity for the sort of conversations which were not supposed to be meant, so he did not answer. He stood looking at her, wondering about the things he had never been able to understand.
Lillian Rearden was generally regarded as a beautiful woman. She had a tall, graceful body, the kind that looked well in high-waisted gowns of the Empire style, which she made it a practice to wear. Her exquisite profile belonged to a cameo of the same period: its pure, proud lines and the lustrous, light brown waves of her hair, worn with classical simplicity, suggested an austere, imperial beauty. But when she turned full face, people experienced a small shock of disappointment. Her face was not beautiful. The eyes were the flaw: they were vaguely pale, neither quite grAy nor brown, lifelessly empty of expression. Rearden had always wondered, since she seemed amused so often, why there was no gaiety in her face.
“We have met before, dear,” she said, in answer to his silent scrutiny, “though you don’t seem to be sure of it.”
“Have you had any dinner, Henry?” his mother asked; there was a reproachful impatience in her voice, as if his hunger were a personal insult to her.
“Yes . . . No . . . I wasn’t hungry.”
“I’d better ring to have them—”
“No, Mother, not now, it doesn’t matter.”
“That’s the trouble I’ve always had with you.” She was not looking at him, but reciting words into space. “It’s no use trying to do things for you, you don’t appreciate it. I could never make you eat properly.”
“Henry, you work too hard,” said Philip. “It’s not good for you.”
Rearden laughed. “I like it.”
“That’s what you tell yourself. It’s a form of neurosis, you know. When a man drowns himself in work, it’s because he’s trying to escape from something. You ought to have a hobby.”
“Oh, Phil, for Christ’s sake!” he said, and regretted the irritation in his voice.
Philip had always been in precarious health, though doctors had found no specific defect in his loose, gangling body. He was thirty-eight, but his chronic weariness made people think at times that he was older than his brother.
“You ought to learn to have some fun,” said Philip. “Otherwise, you’ll become dull and narrow. Single-tracked, you know. You ought to get out of your little private shell and take a look at the world. You don’t want to miss life, the way you’re doing.”
Fighting anger, Rearden told himself that this was Philip’s form of solicitude. He told himself that it would be unjust to feel resentment: they were all trying to show their concern for him—and he wished these were not the things they had chosen for concern.
“I had a pretty good time today, Phil,” he answered, smiling—and wondered why Philip did not ask him what it was.
He wished one of them would ask him. He was finding it hard to concentrate. The sight of the running metal was still burned into his mind, filling his consciousness, leaving no room for anything else.
“You might have apologized, only I ought to know better than to expect it.” It was his mother’s voice; he turned: she was looking at him with that injured look which proclaims the long-bearing patience of the defenseless.
“Mrs. Beacham was here for dinner,” she said reproachfully.
“Mrs. Beacham. My friend Mrs. Beacham.”
“I told you about her, I told you many times, but you never remember anything I say. Mrs. Beacham was so anxious to meet you, but she had to leave after dinner, she couldn’t wait, Mrs. Beacham is a very busy person. She wanted so much to tell you about the wonderful work we’re doing in our parish school, and about the classes in metal craftsmanship, and about the beautiful wrought-iron doorknobs that the little slum children are making all by themselves.”
It took the whole of his sense of consideration to force himself to answer evenly, “I’m sorry if I disappointed you, Mother.”
“You’re not sorry. You could’ve been here if you’d made the effort. But when did you ever make an effort for anybody but yourself? You’re not interested in any of us or in anything we do. You think if you pay the bills, that’s enough, don’t you? Money! That’s all you know. And all you give us is money. Have you ever given us any time?”
If this meant that she missed him, he thought, then it meant affection, and if it meant affection, then he was unjust to experience a heavy, murky feeling which kept him silent lest his voice betray that the feeling was disgust.
“You don’t care,” her voice went half-spitting, half-begging on. “Lillian needed you today for a very important problem, but I told her it was no use waiting to discuss it with you.”
“Oh, Mother, it’s not important!” said Lillian. “Not to Henry.”
He turned to her. He stood in the middle of the room, with his trenchcoat still on, as if he were trapped in an unreality that would not become real to him.
“It’s not important at all,” said Lillian gaily; he could not tell whether her voice was apologetic or boastful. “It’s not business. It’s purely non-commercial.”
“What is it?”
“Just a party I’m planning to give.”
“Oh, don’t look frightened, it’s not for tomorrow night. I know that you’re so very busy, but it’s for three months from now and I want it to be a very big, very special affair, so would you promise me to be here that night and not in Minnesota or Colorado or California?”
She was looking at him in an odd manner, speaking too lightly and too purposefully at once, her smile overstressing an air of innocence and suggesting something like a hidden trump card.
“Three months from now?” he said. “But you know that I can’t tell what urgent business might come up to call me out of town.”
“Oh, I know! But couldn’t I make a formal appointment with you, way in advance, just like any railroad executive, automobile manufacturer or junk—I mean, scrap—dealer? They say you never miss an appointment. Of course, I’d let you pick the date to suit your convenience.” She was looking up at him, her glance acquiring some special quality of feminine appeal by being sent from under her lowered forehead up toward his full height; she asked, a little too casually and too cautiously, “The date I had in mind was December tenth, but would you prefer the ninth or the eleventh?”
“It makes no difference to me.”
She said gently, “December tenth is our wedding anniversary, Henry.”
They were all watching his face; if they expected a look of guilt, what they saw, instead, was a faint smile of amusement. She could not have intended this as a trap, he thought, because he could escape it so easily, by refusing to accept any blame for his forgetfulness and by leaving her spurned; she knew that his feeling for her was her only weapon. Her motive, he thought, was a proudly indirect attempt to test his feeling and to confess her own. A party was not his form of celebration, but it was hers. It meant nothing in his terms; in hers, it meant the best tribute she could offer to him and to their marriage. He had to respect her intention, he thought, even if he did not share her standards, even if he did not know whether he still cared for any tribute from her. He had to let her win, he thought, because she had thrown herself upon his mercy.
He smiled, an open, unresentful smile in acknowledgment of her victory. “All right, Lillian,” he said quietly, “I promise to be here on the night of December tenth.”
“Thank you, dear.” Her smile had a closed, mysterious quality; he wondered why he had a moment’s impression that his attitude had disappointed them all.
If she trusted him, he thought, if her feeling for him was still alive, then he would match her trust. He had to say it; words were a lens to focus one’s mind, and—he could not use words for anything else tonight. “I’m sorry I’m late, Lillian, but today at the mills we poured the first heat of Rearden Metal.”
There was a moment of silence. Then Philip said, “Well, that’s nice.”
The others said nothing.
He put his hand in his pocket. When he touched it, the reality of the bracelet swept out everything else; he felt as he had felt when the liquid metal had poured through space before him.
“I brought you a present, Lillian.”
He did not know that he stood straight and that the gesture of his arm was that of a returning crusader offering his trophy to his love, when he dropped a small chain of metal into her lap.
Lillian Rearden picked it up, hooked on the tips of two straight fingers, and raised it to the light. The links were heavy, crudely made, the shining metal had an odd tinge, it was greenish-blue.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“The first thing made from the first heat of the first order of Rearden Metal.”
“You mean,” she said, “it’s fully as valuable as a piece of railroad rails?”
He looked at her blankly.
She jingled the bracelet, making it sparkle under the light. “Henry, it’s perfectly wonderful! What originality! I shall be the sensation of New York, wearing jewelry made of the same stuff as bridge girders, truck motors, kitchen stoves, typewriters, and—what was it you were saying about it the other day, darling?—soup kettles?”
“God, Henry, but you’re conceited!” said Philip.
Lillian laughed. “He’s a sentimentalist. All men are. But, darling, I do appreciate it. It isn’t the gift, it’s the intention, I know.”
“The intention’s plain selfishness, if you ask me,” said Rearden’s mother. “Another man would bring a diamond bracelet, if he wanted to give his wife a present, because it’s her pleasure he’d think of, not his own. But Henry thinks that just because he’s made a new kind of tin, why, it’s got to be more precious than diamonds to everybody, just because it’s he that’s made it. That’s the way he’s been since he was five years old—the most conceited brat you ever saw—and I knew he’d grow up to be the most selfish creature on God’s earth.”
“No, it’s sweet,” said Lillian. “It’s charming.” She dropped the bracelet down on the table. She got up, put her hands on Rearden’s shoulders, and raising herself on tiptoe, kissed him on the cheek, saying, “Thank you, dear.”
He did not move, did not bend his head down to her.
After a while, he turned, took off his coat and sat down by the fire, apart from the others. He felt nothing but an immense exhaustion.
He did not listen to their talk. He heard dimly that Lillian was arguing, defending him against his mother.
“I know him better than you do,” his mother was saying. “Hank Rearden’s not interested in man, beast or weed unless it’s tied in some way to himself and his work. That’s all he cares about. I’ve tried my best to teach him some humility, I’ve tried all my life, but I’ve failed.”
He had offered his mother unlimited means to live as and where she pleased; he wondered why she had insisted that she wanted to live with him. His success, he had thought, meant something to her, and if it did, then it was a bond between them, the only kind of bond he recognized; if she wanted a place in the home of her successful son, he would not deny it to her.
“It’s no use hoping to make a saint out of Henry, Mother,” said Philip. “He wasn’t meant to be one.”
“Oh but, Philip, you’re wrong!” said Lillian. “You’re so wrong! Henry has all the makings of a saint. That’s the trouble.”
What did they seek from him?—thought Rearden—what were they after? He had never asked anything of them; it was they who wished to hold him, they who pressed a claim on him—and the claim seemed to have the form of affection, but it was a form which he found harder to endure than any sort of hatred. He despised causeless affection, just as he despised unearned wealth. They professed to love him for some unknown reason and they ignored all the things for which he could wish to be loved. He wondered what response they could hope to obtain from him in such manner—if his response was what they wanted. And it was, he thought; else why those constant complaints, those unceasing accusations about his indifference? Why that chronic air of suspicion, as if they were waiting to be hurt? He had never had a desire to hurt them, but he had always felt their defensive, reproachful expectation; they seemed wounded by anything he said, it was not a matter of his words or actions, it was almost . . . almost as if they were wounded by the mere fact of his being. Don’t start imagining the insane—he told himself severely, struggling to face the riddle with the strictest of his ruthless sense of justice. He could not condemn them without understanding; and he could not understand.
Did he like them? No, he thought; he had wanted to like them, which was not the same. He had wanted it in the name of some unstated potentiality which he had once expected to see in any human being. He felt nothing for them now, nothing but the merciless zero of indifference, not even the regret of a loss. Did he need any person as part of his life? Did he miss the feeling he had wanted to feel? No, he thought. Had he ever missed it? Yes, he thought, in his youth; not any longer.
His sense of exhaustion was growing; he realized that it was boredom. He owed them the courtesy of hiding it, he thought—and sat motionless, fighting a desire for sleep that was turning into physical pain.
His eyes were closing, when he felt two soft, moist fingers touching his hand: Paul Larkin had pulled a chair to his side and was leaning over for a private conversation.
“I don’t care what the industry says about it, Hank, you’ve got a great product in Rearden Metal, a great product, it will make a fortune, like everything you touch.”
“Yes,” said Rearden, “it will.”
“I just. . . . I just hope you don’t run into trouble.”
“Oh, I don’t know . . . the way things are nowadays . . . there’s people, who . . . but how can we tell? . . . anything can happen . . .”
Larkin sat hunched, looking up with his gentle, pleading eyes. His short, plumpish figure always seemed unprotected and incomplete, as if he needed a shell to shrink into at the slightest touch. His wistful eyes, his lost, helpless, appealing smile served as substitute for the shell. The smile was disarming, like that of a boy who throws himself at the mercy of an incomprehensible universe. He was fifty-three years old.
“Your public relations aren’t any too good, Hank,” he said. “You’ve always had a bad press.”
“You’re not popular, Hank.”
“I haven’t heard any complaints from my customers.”
“That’s not what I mean. You ought to hire yourself a good press agent to sell you to the public.”
“What for? It’s steel that I’m selling.”
“But you don’t want to have the public against you. Public opinion, you know—it can mean a lot.”
“I don’t think the public’s against me. And I don’t think that it means a damn, one way or another.”
“The newspapers are against you.”
“They have time to waste. I haven’t.”
“I don’t like it, Hank. It’s not good.”
“What they write about you.”
“What do they write about me?”
“Well, you know the stuff. That you’re intractable. That you’re ruthless. That you won’t allow anyone any voice in the running of your mills. That your only goal is to make steel and to make money.”
“But that is my only goal.”
“But you shouldn’t say it.”
“Why not? What is it I’m supposed to say?”
“Oh, I don’t know . . . But your mills—”
“They’re my mills, aren’t they?”
“Yes, but—but you shouldn’t remind people of that too loudly. . . . You know how it is nowadays. . . . They think that your attitude is anti-social.”
“I don’t give a damn what they think.”
Paul Larkin sighed.
“What’s the matter, Paul? What are you driving at?”
“Nothing . . . nothing in particular. Only one never knows what can happen in times like these. . . . One has to be so careful . . .”
Rearden chuckled. “You’re not trying to worry about me, are you?”
“It’s just that I’m your friend, Hank. I’m your friend. You know how much I admire you.”
Paul Larkin had always been unlucky. Nothing he touched ever came off quite well, nothing ever quite failed or succeeded. He was a businessman, but he could not manage to remain for long in any one line of business. At the moment, he was struggling with a modest plant that manufactured mining equipment.
He had clung to Rearden for years, in awed admiration. He came for advice, he asked for loans at times, but not often; the loans were modest and were always repaid, though not always on time. His motive in the relationship seemed to resemble the need of an anemic person who receives a kind of living transfusion from the mere sight of a savagely overabundant vitality.
Watching Larkin’s efforts, Rearden felt what he did when he watched an ant struggling under the load of a matchstick. It’s so hard for him, thought Rearden, and so easy for me. So he gave advice, attention and a tactful, patient interest, whenever he could.
“I’m your friend, Hank.”
Rearden looked at him inquiringly.
Larkin glanced away, as if debating something in his mind. After a while, he asked cautiously, “How is your man in Washington?”
“Okay, I guess.”
“You ought to be sure of it. It’s important.” He looked up at Rearden, and repeated with a kind of stressed insistence, as if discharging a painful moral duty, “Hank, it’s very important.”
“I suppose so.”
“In fact, that’s what I came here to tell you.”
“For any special reason?”
Larkin considered it and decided that the duty was discharged. “No,” he said.
Rearden disliked the subject. He knew that it was necessary to have a man to protect him from the legislature; all industrialists had to employ such men. But he had never given much attention to this aspect of his business; he could not quite convince himself that it was necessary. An inexplicable kind of distaste, part fastidiousness, part boredom, stopped him whenever he tried to consider it.
“Trouble is, Paul,” he said, thinking aloud, “that the men one has to pick for that job are such a crummy lot.”
Larkin looked away. “That’s life,” he said.
“Damned if I see why. Can you tell me that? What’s wrong with the world?”
Larkin shrugged sadly. “Why ask useless questions? How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky? Who is John Galt?”
Rearden sat up straight. “No,” he said sharply. “No. There’s no reason to feel that way.”
He got up. His exhaustion had gone while he talked about his business. He felt a sudden spurt of rebellion, a need to recapture and defiantly to reassert his own view of existence, that sense of it which he had held while walking home tonight and which now seemed threatened in some nameless manner.
He paced the room, his energy returning. He looked at his family. They were bewildered, unhappy children—he thought—all of them, even his mother, and he was foolish to resent their ineptitude; it came from their helplessness, not from malice. It was he who had to make himself learn to understand them, since he had so much to give, since they could never share his sense of joyous, boundless power.
He glanced at them from across the room. His mother and Philip were engaged in some eager discussion; but he noted that they were not really eager, they were nervous. Philip sat in a low chair, his stomach forward, his weight on his shoulder blades, as if the miserable discomfort of his position were intended to punish the onlookers.
“What’s the matter, Phil?” Rearden asked, approaching him. “You look done in.”
“I’ve had a hard day,” said Philip sullenly.
“You’re not the only one who works hard,” said his mother. “Others have problems, too—even if they’re not billion-dollar, transsupercontinental problems like yours.”
“Why, that’s good. I always thought that Phil should find some interest of his own.”
“Good? You mean you like to see your brother sweating his health away? It amuses you, doesn’t it? I always thought it did.”
“Why, no, Mother. I’d like to help.”
“You don’t have to help. You don’t have to feel anything for any of us.”
Rearden had never known what his brother was doing or wished to do. He had sent Philip through college, but Philip had not been able to decide on any specific ambition. There was something wrong, by Rearden’s standards, with a man who did not seek any gainful employment, but he would not impose his standards on Philip; he could afford to support his brother and never notice the expense. Let him take it easy, Rearden had thought for years, let him have a chance to choose his career without the strain of struggling for a livelihood.
“What were you doing today, Phil?” he asked patiently.
“It wouldn’t interest you.”
“It does interest me. That’s why I’m asking.”
“I had to see twenty different people all over the place, from here to Redding to Wilmington.”
“What did you have to see them about?”
“I am trying to raise money for Friends of Global Progress.”
Rearden had never been able to keep track of the many organizations to which Philip belonged, nor to get a clear idea of their activities. He had heard Philip talking vaguely about this one for the last six months. It seemed to be devoted to some sort of free lectures on psychology, folk music and co-operative farming. Rearden felt contempt for groups of that kind and saw no reason for a closer inquiry into their nature.
He remained silent. Philip added without being prompted, “We need ten thousand dollars for a vital program, but it’s a martyr’s task, trying to raise money. There’s not a speck of social conscience left in people. When I think of the kind of bloated money-bags I saw today—why, they spend more than that on any whim, but I couldn’t squeeze just a hundred bucks apiece out of them, which was all I asked. They have no sense of moral duty, no . . . What are you laughing at?” he asked sharply. Rearden stood before him, grinning.
It was so childishly blatant, thought Rearden, so helplessly crude: the hint and the insult, offered together. It would be so easy to squash Philip by returning the insult, he thought—by returning an insult which would be deadly because it would be true—that he could not bring himself to utter it. Surely, he thought, the poor fool knows he’s at my mercy, knows he’s opened himself to be hurt, so I don’t have to do it, and my not doing it is my best answer, which he won’t be able to miss. What sort of misery does he really live in, to get himself twisted quite so badly?
And then Rearden thought suddenly that he could break through Philip’s chronic wretchedness for once, give him a shock of pleasure, the unexpected gratification of a hopeless desire. He thought: What do I care about the nature of his desire?—it’s his, just as Rearden Metal was mine—it must mean to him what that meant to me—let’s see him happy just once, it might teach him something—didn’t I say that happiness is the agent of purification?—I’m celebrating tonight, so let him share in it—it will be so much for him, and so little for me.
“Philip,” he said, smiling, “call Miss Ives at my office tomorrow. She’ll have a check for you for ten thousand dollars.”
Philip stared at him blankly; it was neither shock nor pleasure; it was just the empty stare of eyes that looked glassy.
“Oh,” said Philip, then added, “We’ll appreciate it very much.” There was no emotion in his voice, not even the simple one of greed.
Rearden could not understand his own feeling: it was as if something leaden and empty were collapsing within him, he felt both the weight and the emptiness, together. He knew it was disappointment, but he wondered why it was so gray and ugly.
“It’s very nice of you, Henry,” Philip said dryly. “I’m surprised. I didn’t expect it of you.”
“Don’t you understand it, Phil?” said Lillian, her voice peculiarly clear and lilting. “Henry’s poured his metal today.” She turned to Rearden. “Shall we declare it a national holiday, darling?”
“You’re a good man, Henry,” said his mother, and added, “but not often enough.”
Rearden stood looking at Philip, as if waiting.
Philip looked away, then raised his eyes and held Rearden’s glance, as if engaged in a scrutiny of his own.
“You don’t really care about helping the underprivileged, do you?” Philip asked—and Rearden heard, unable to believe it, that the tone of his voice was reproachful.
“No, Phil, I don’t care about it at all. I only wanted you to be happy.”
“But that money is not for me. I am not collecting it for any personal motive. I have no selfish interest in the matter whatever.” His voice was cold, with a note of self-conscious virtue.
Rearden turned away. He felt a sudden loathing: not because the words were hypocrisy, but because they were true; Philip meant them.
“By the way, Henry,” Philip added, “do you mind if I ask you to have Miss Ives give me the money in cash?” Rearden turned back to him, puzzled. “You see, Friends of Global Progress are a very progressive group and they have always maintained that you represent the blackest element of social retrogression in the country, so it would embarrass us, you know, to have your name on our list of contributors, because somebody might accuse us of being in the pay of Hank Rearden.”
He wanted to slap Philip’s face. But an almost unendurable contempt made him close his eyes instead.
“All right,” he said quietly, “you can have it in cash.”
He walked away, to the farthest window of the room, and stood looking at the glow of the mills in the distance.
He heard Larkin’s voice crying after him, “Damn it, Hank, you shouldn’t have given it to him!”
Then Lillian’s voice came, cold and gay: “But you’re wrong, Paul, you’re so wrong! What would happen to Henry’s vanity if he didn’t have us to throw alms to? What would become of his strength if he didn’t have weaker people to dominate? What would he do with himself if he didn’t keep us around as dependents? It’s quite all right, really, I’m not criticizing him, it’s just a law of human nature.”
She took the metal bracelet and held it up, letting it glitter in the lamplight.
“A chain,” she said. “Appropriate, isn’t it? It’s the chain by which he holds us all in bondage.”
THE TOP AND THE BOTTOM
The ceiling was that of a cellar, so heavy and low that people stooped when crossing the room, as if the weight of the vaulting rested on their shoulders. The circular booths of dark red leather were built into walls of stone that looked eaten by age and dampness. There were no windows, only patches of blue light shooting from dents in the masonry, the dead blue light proper for use in blackouts. The place was entered by way of narrow steps that led down, as if descending deep under the ground. This was the most expensive barroom in New York and it was built on the roof of a skyscraper.
Four men sat at a table. Raised sixty floors above the city, they did not speak loudly as one speaks from a height in the freedom of air and space; they kept their voices low, as befitted a cellar.
“Conditions and circumstances, Jim,” said Orren Boyle. “Conditions and circumstances absolutely beyond human control. We had everything mapped to roll those rails, but unforeseen developments set in, which nobody could have prevented. If you’d only given us a chance, Jim.”
“Disunity,” drawled James Taggart, “seems to be the basic cause of all social problems. My sister has a certain influence with a certain element among our stockholders. Their disruptive tactics cannot always be defeated.”
“You said it, Jim. Disunity, that’s the trouble. It’s my absolute opinion that in our complex industrial society, no business enterprise can succeed without sharing the burden of the problems of other enterprises.”
Taggart took a sip of his drink and put it down again. “I wish they’d fire that bartender,” he said.
“For instance, consider Associated Steel. We’ve got the most modern plant in the country and the best organization. That seems to me to be an indisputable fact, because we got the Industrial Efficiency Award of Globe magazine last year. So we can maintain that we’ve done our best and nobody can blame us. But we cannot help it if the iron ore situation is a national problem. We could not get the ore, Jim.”
Taggart said nothing. He sat with his elbows spread wide on the table top. The table was uncomfortably small, and this made it more uncomfortable for his three companions, but they did not seem to question his privilege.
“Nobody can get ore any longer,” said Boyle. “Natural exhaustion of the mines, you know, and the wearing out of equipment, and shortages of materials, and difficulties of transportation, and other unavoidable conditions.”
“The ore industry is crumbling. That’s what’s killing the mining equipment business,” said Paul Larkin.
“It’s been proved that every business depends upon every other business,” said Orren Boyle. “So everybody ought to share the burdens of everybody else.”
“That is, I think, true,” said Wesley Mouch. But nobody ever paid any attention to Wesley Mouch.
“My purpose,” said Orren Boyle, “is the preservation of a free economy. It’s generally conceded that free economy is now on trial. Unless it proves its social value and assumes its social responsibilities, the people won’t stand for it. If it doesn’t develop a public spirit, it’s done for, make no mistake about that.”
Orren Boyle had appeared from nowhere, five years ago, and had since made the cover of every national news magazine. He had started out with a hundred thousand dollars of his own and a two-hundred-million-dollar loan from the government. Now he headed an enormous concern which had swallowed many smaller companies. This proved, he liked to say, that individual ability still had a chance to succeed in the world.
“The only justification of private property,” said Orren Boyle, “is public service.”
“That is, I think, indubitable,” said Wesley Mouch.
Orren Boyle made a noise, swallowing his liquor. He was a large man with big, virile gestures; everything about his person was loudly full of life, except the small black slits of his eyes.
“Jim,” he said, “Rearden Metal seems to be a colossal kind of swindle.”
“Uh-huh,” said Taggart.
“I hear there’s not a single expert who’s given a favorable report on it.”
“No, not one.”
“We’ve been improving steel rails for generations, and increasing their weight. Now, is it true that these Rearden Metal rails are to be lighter than the cheapest grade of steel?”
“That’s right,” said Taggart. “Lighter.”
“But it’s ridiculous, Jim. It’s physically impossible. For your heavy-duty, high-speed, main-line track?”
“But you’re just inviting disaster.”
“My sister is.”
Taggart made the stem of his glass whirl slowly between two fingers. There was a moment of silence.
“The National Council of Metal Industries,” said Orren Boyle, “passed a resolution to appoint a committee to study the question of Rearden Metal, inasmuch as its use may be an actual public hazard.”
“That is, in my opinion, wise,” said Wesley Mouch.
“When everybody agrees,” Taggart’s voice suddenly went shrill, “when people are unanimous, how does one man dare to dissent? By what right? That’s what I want to know—by what right?”
Boyle’s eyes darted to Taggart’s face, but the dim light of the room made it impossible to see faces clearly: he saw only a pale, bluish smear.
“When we think of the natural resources, at a time of critical shortage,” Boyle said softly, “when we think of the critical raw materials that are being wasted on an irresponsible private experiment, when we think of the ore . . .”
He did not finish. He glanced at Taggart again. But Taggart seemed to know that Boyle was waiting and to find the silence enjoyable.
“The public has a vital stake in natural resources, Jim, such as iron ore. The public can’t remain indifferent to reckless, selfish waste by an anti-social individual. After all, private property is a trusteeship held for the benefit of society as a whole.”
Taggart glanced at Boyle and smiled; the smile was pointed, it seemed to say that something in his words was an answer to something in the words of Boyle. “The liquor they serve here is swill. I suppose that’s the price we have to pay for not being crowded by all kinds of rabble. But I do wish they’d recognize that they’re dealing with experts. Since I hold the purse strings, I expect to get my money’s worth and at my pleasure.”
Boyle did not answer; his face had become sullen. “Listen, Jim . . .” he began heavily.
Taggart smiled. “What? I’m listening.”
“Jim, you will agree, I’m sure, that there’s nothing more destructive than a monopoly.”
“Yes,” said Taggart, “on the one hand. On the other, there’s the blight of unbridled competition.”
“That’s true. That’s very true. The proper course is always, in my opinion, in the middle. So it is, I think, the duty of society to snip the extremes, now isn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Taggart, “it is.”
“Consider the picture in the iron-ore business. The national output seems to be falling at an ungodly rate. It threatens the existence of the whole steel industry. Steel mills are shutting down all over the country. There’s only one mining company that’s lucky enough not to be affected by the general conditions. Its output seems to be plentiful and always available on schedule. But who gets the benefit of it? Nobody except its owner. Would you say that that’s fair?”
“No,” said Taggart, “it isn’t fair.”
“Most of us don’t own iron mines: How can we compete with a man who’s got a corner on God’s natural resources? Is it any wonder that he can always deliver steel, while we have to struggle and wait and lose our customers and go out of business? Is it in the public interest to let one man destroy an entire industry?”
“No,” said Taggart, “it isn’t.”
“It seems to me that the national policy ought to be aimed at the objective of giving everybody a chance at his fair share of iron ore, with a view toward the preservation of the industry as a whole. Don’t you think so?”
“I think so.”
Boyle sighed. Then he said cautiously, “But I guess there aren’t many people in Washington capable of understanding a progressive social policy.”
Taggart said slowly, “There are. No, not many and not easy to approach, but there are. I might speak to them.”
Boyle picked up his drink and swallowed it in one gulp, as if he had heard all he had wanted to hear.
“Speaking of progressive policies, Orren,” said Taggart, “you might ask yourself whether at a time of transportation shortages, when so many railroads are going bankrupt and large areas are left without rail service, whether it is in the public interest to tolerate wasteful duplication of services and the destructive, dog-eat-dog competition of newcomers in territories where established companies have historical priority.”
“Well, now,” said Boyle pleasantly, “that seems to be an interesting question to consider. I might discuss it with a few friends in the National Alliance of Railroads.”
“Friendships,” said Taggart in the tone of an idle abstraction, “are more valuable than gold.” Unexpectedly, he turned to Larkin. “Don’t you think so, Paul?”
“Why . . . yes,” said Larkin, astonished. “Yes, of course.”
“I am counting on yours.”
“I am counting on your many friendships.”
They all seemed to know why Larkin did not answer at once; his shoulders seemed to shrink down, closer to the table. “If everybody could pull for a common purpose, then nobody would have to be hurt!” he cried suddenly, in a tone of incongruous despair; he saw Taggart watching him and added, pleading, “I wish we didn’t have to hurt anybody.”
“That is an anti-social attitude,” drawled Taggart. “People who are afraid to sacrifice somebody have no business talking about a common purpose.”
“But I’m a student of history,” said Larkin hastily. “I recognize historical necessity.”
“Good,” said Taggart.
“I can’t be expected to buck the trend of the whole world, can I?” Larkin seemed to plead, but the plea was not addressed to anyone. “Can I?”
“You can’t, Mr. Larkin,” said Wesley Mouch. “You and I are not to be blamed, if we—”
Larkin jerked his head away; it was almost a shudder; he could not bear to look at Mouch.
“Did you have a good time in Mexico, Orren?” asked Taggart, his voice suddenly loud and casual. All of them seemed to know that the purpose of their meeting was accomplished and whatever they had come here to understand was understood.
“Wonderful place, Mexico,” Boyle answered cheerfully. “Very stimulating and thought-provoking. Their food rations are something awful, though. I got sick. But they’re working mighty hard to put their country on its feet.”
“How are things down there?”
“Pretty splendid, it seems to me, pretty splendid. Right at the moment, however, they’re . . . But then, what they’re aiming at is the future. The People’s State of Mexico has a great future. They’ll beat us all in a few years.”
“Did you go down to the San Sebastián Mines?”
The four figures at the table sat up straighter and tighter; all of them had invested heavily in the stock of the San Sebastián Mines.
Boyle did not answer at once, so that his voice seemed unexpected and unnaturally loud when it burst forth: “Oh, sure, certainly, that’s what I wanted to see most.”
“How are things going?”
“Great. Great. They must certainly have the biggest deposits of copper on earth, down inside that mountain!”
“Did they seem to be busy?”
“Never saw such a busy place in my life.”
“What were they busy doing?”
“Well, you know, with the kind of Spic superintendent they have down there, I couldn’t understand half of what he was talking about, but they’re certainly busy.”
“Any . . . trouble of any kind?”
“Trouble? Not at San Sebastián. It’s private property, the last piece of it left in Mexico, and that does seem to make a difference.”
“Orren,” Taggart asked cautiously, “what about those rumors that they’re planning to nationalize the San Sebastián Mines?”
“Slander,” said Boyle angrily, “plain vicious slander. I know it for certain. I had dinner with the Minister of Culture and lunches with all the rest of the boys.”
“There ought to be a law against irresponsible gossip,” said Taggart sullenly. “Let’s have another drink.”
He waved irritably at a waiter. There was a small bar in a dark corner of the room, where an old, wizened bartender stood for long stretches of time without moving. When called upon, he moved with contemptuous slowness. His job was that of servant to men’s relaxation and pleasure, but his manner was that of an embittered quack ministering to some guilty disease.
The four men sat in silence until the waiter returned with their drinks. The glasses he placed on the table were four spots of faint blue glitter in the semi-darkness, like four feeble jets of gas flame. Taggart reached for his glass and smiled suddenly.
“Let’s drink to the sacrifices to historical necessity,” he said, looking at Larkin.
There was a moment’s pause; in a lighted room, it would have been the contest of two men holding each other’s eyes; here, they were merely looking at each other’s eye sockets. Then Larkin picked up his glass.
“It’s my party, boys,” said Taggart, as they drank.
Nobody found anything else to say, until Boyle spoke up with indifferent curiosity: “Say, Jim, I meant to ask you, what in hell’s the matter with your train-service down on the San Sebastián Line?”
“Why, what do you mean? What is the matter with it?”
“Well, I don’t know, but running just one passenger train a day is—”
“—is pretty measly service, it seems to me, and what a train! You must have inherited those coaches from your great-grandfather, and he must have used them pretty hard. And where on earth did you get that wood-burning locomotive?”
“That’s what I said, wood-burning. I never saw one before, except in photographs. What museum did you drag it out of? Now don’t act as if you didn’t know it, just tell me what’s the gag?”
“Yes, of course I knew it,” said Taggart hastily. “It was just . . . You just happened to choose the one week when we had a little trouble with our motive power—our new engines are on order, but there’s been a slight delay—you know what a problem we’re having with the manufacturers of locomotives—but it’s only temporary.”
“Of course,” said Boyle. “Delays can’t be helped. It’s the strangest train I ever rode on, though. Nearly shook my guts out.”
Within a few minutes, they noticed that Taggart had become silent. He seemed preoccupied with a problem of his own. When he rose abruptly, without apology, they rose, too, accepting it as a command.
Larkin muttered, smiling too strenuously, “It was a pleasure, Jim. A pleasure. That’s how great projects are born—over a drink with friends.”
“Social reforms are slow,” said Taggart coldly. “It is advisable to be patient and cautious.” For the first time, he turned to Wesley Mouch. “What I like about you, Mouch, is that you don’t talk too much.”
Wesley Mouch was Rearden’s Washington man.
There was still a remnant of sunset light in the sky, when Taggart and Boyle emerged together into the street below. The transition was faintly shocking to them—the enclosed barroom led one to expect midnight darkness. A tall building stood outlined against the sky, sharp and straight like a raised sword. In the distance beyond it, there hung the calendar.
Taggart fumbled irritably with his coat collar, buttoning it against the chill of the streets. He had not intended to go back to the office tonight, but he had to go back. He had to see his sister.
“ . . . a difficult undertaking ahead of us, Jim,” Boyle was saying, “a difficult undertaking, with so many dangers and complications and so much at stake . . .”
“It all depends,” James Taggart answered slowly, “on knowing the people who make it possible. . . . That’s what has to be known—who makes it possible.”
Dagny Taggart was nine years old when she decided that she would run the Taggart Transcontinental Railroad some day. She stated it to herself when she stood alone between the rails, looking at the two straight lines of steel that went off into the distance and met in a single point. What she felt was an arrogant pleasure at the way the track cut through the woods: it did not belong in the midst of ancient trees, among green branches that hung down to meet green brush and the lonely spears of wild flowers—but there it was. The two steel lines were brilliant in the sun, and the black ties were like the rungs of a ladder which she had to climb.
It was not a sudden decision, but only the final seal of words upon something she had known long ago. In unspoken understanding, as if bound by a vow it had never been necessary to take, she and Eddie Willers had given themselves to the railroad from the first conscious days of their childhood.
She felt a bored indifference toward the immediate world around her, toward other children and adults alike. She took it as a regrettable accident, to be borne patiently for a while, that she happened to be imprisoned among people who were dull. She had caught a glimpse of another world and she knew that it existed somewhere, the world that had created trains, bridges, telegraph wires and signal lights winking in the night. She had to wait, she thought, and grow up to that world.
She never tried to explain why she liked the railroad. Whatever it was that others felt, she knew that this was one emotion for which they had no equivalent and no response. She felt the same emotion in school, in classes of mathematics, the only lessons she liked. She felt the excitement of solving problems, the insolent delight of taking up a challenge and disposing of it without effort, the eagerness to meet another, harder test. She felt, at the same time, a growing respect for the adversary, for a science that was so clean, so strict, so luminously rational. Studying mathematics, she felt, quite simply and at once: “How great that men have done this” and “How wonderful that I’m so good at it.” It was the joy of admiration and of one’s own ability, growing together. Her feeling for the railroad was the same: worship of the skill that had gone to make it, of the ingenuity of someone’s clean, reasoning mind, worship with a secret smile that said she would know how to make it better some day. She hung around the tracks and the round-houses like a humble student, but the humility had a touch of future pride, a pride to be earned.
“You’re unbearably conceited,” was one of the two sentences she heard throughout her childhood, even though she never spoke of her own ability. The other sentence was: “You’re selfish.” She asked what was meant, but never received an answer. She looked at the adults, wondering how they could imagine that she would feel guilt from an undefined accusation.
She was twelve years old when she told Eddie Willers that she would run the railroad when they grew up. She was fifteen when it occurred to her for the first time that women did not run railroads and that people might object. To hell with that, she thought—and never worried about it again.
She went to work for Taggart Transcontinental at the age of sixteen. Her father permitted it: he was amused and a little curious.
She started as night operator at a small country station. She had to work nights for the first few years, while attending a college of engineering.
James Taggart began his career on the railroad at the same time; he was twenty-one. He started in the Department of Public Relations.
Dagny’s rise among the men who operated Taggart Transcontinental was swift and uncontested. She took positions of responsibility because there was no one else to take them. There were a few rare men of talent around her, but they were becoming rarer every year. Her superiors, who held the authority, seemed afraid to exercise it, they spent their time avoiding decisions, so she told people what to do and they did it. At every step of her rise, she did the work long before she was granted the title. It was like advancing through empty rooms. Nobody opposed her, yet nobody approved of her progress.
Her father seemed astonished and proud of her, but he said nothing and there was sadness in his eyes when he looked at her in the office. She was twenty-nine years old when he died. “There has always been a Taggart to run the railroad,” was the last thing he said to her. He looked at her with an odd glance: it had the quality of a salute and of compassion, together.
The controlling stock of Taggart Transcontinental was left to James Taggart. He was thirty-four when he became President of the railroad. Dagny had expected the Board of Directors to elect him, but she had never been able to understand why they did it so eagerly. They talked about tradition, the president had always been the eldest son of the Taggart family; they elected James Taggart in the same manner as they refused to walk under a ladder, to propitiate the same kind of fear. They talked about his gift of “making railroads popular,” his “good press,” his “Washington ability.” He seemed unusually skillful at obtaining favors from the Legislature.
Dagny knew nothing about the field of “Washington ability” or what such an ability implied. But it seemed to be necessary, so she dismissed it with the thought that there were many kinds of work which were offensive, yet necessary, such as cleaning sewers; somebody had to do it, and Jim seemed to like it.
She had never aspired to the presidency; the Operating Department was her only concern. When she went out on the line, old railroad men, who hated Jim, said, “There will always be a Taggart to run the railroad,” looking at her as her father had looked. She was armed against Jim by the conviction that he was not smart enough to harm the railroad too much and that she would always be able to correct whatever damage he caused.
At sixteen, sitting at her operator’s desk, watching the lighted windows of Taggart trains roll past, she had thought that she had entered her kind of world. In the years since, she learned that she hadn’t. The adversary she found herself forced to fight was not worth matching or beating; it was not a superior ability which she would have found honor in challenging; it was ineptitude—a gray spread of cotton that seemed soft and shapeless, that could offer no resistance to anything or anybody, yet managed to be a barrier in her way. She stood, disarmed, before the riddle of what made this possible. She could find no answer.
It was only in the first few years that she felt herself screaming silently, at times, for a glimpse of human ability, a single glimpse of clean, hard, radiant competence. She had fits of tortured longing for a friend or an enemy with a mind better than her own. But the longing passed. She had a job to do. She did not have time to feel pain; not often.
The first step of the policy that James Taggart brought to the railroad was the construction of the San Sebastián Line. Many men were responsible for it; but to Dagny, one name stood written across the venture, a name that wiped out all others whenever she saw it. It stood across five years of struggle, across miles of wasted track, across sheets of figures that recorded the losses of Taggart Transcontinental like a red trickle from a wound which would not heal—as it stood on the ticker tape of every stock exchange left in the world—as it stood on smokestacks in the red glare of furnaces melting copper—as it stood in scandalous headlines—as it stood on parchment pages recording the nobility of the centuries—as it stood on cards attached to flowers in the boudoirs of women scattered through three continents.
The name was Francisco d’Anconia.
At the age of twenty-three, when he inherited his fortune, Francisco d’Anconia had been famous as the copper king of the world. Now, at thirty-six, he was famous as the richest man and the most spectacularly worthless playboy on earth. He was the last descendant of one of the noblest families of Argentina. He owned cattle ranches, coffee plantations and most of the copper mines of Chile. He owned half of South America and sundry mines scattered through the United States as small change.
When Francisco d’Anconia suddenly bought miles of bare mountains in Mexico, news leaked out that he had discovered vast deposits of copper. He made no effort to sell stock in his venture; the stock was begged out of his hands, and he merely chose those whom he wished to favor from among the applicants. His financial talent was called phenomenal; no one had ever beaten him in any transaction—he added to his incredible fortune with every deal he touched and every step he made, when he took the trouble to make it. Those who censured him most were first to seize the chance of riding on his talent, toward a share of his new wealth. James Taggart, Orren Boyle and their friends were among the heaviest stockholders of the project which Francisco d’Anconia had named the San Sebastián Mines.
Dagny was never able to discover what influences prompted James Taggart to build a railroad branch from Texas into the wilderness of San Sebastián. It seemed likely that he did not know it himself: like a field without a windbreak, he seemed open to any current, and the final sum was made by chance. A few among the Directors of Taggart Transcontinental objected to the project. The company needed all its resources to rebuild the Rio Norte Line; it could not do both. But James Taggart was the road’s new president. It was the first year of his administration. He won.
The People’s State of Mexico was eager to co-operate, and signed a contract guaranteeing for two hundred years the property right of Taggart Transcontinental to its railroad line in a country where no property rights existed. Francisco d’Anconia had obtained the same guaranty for his mines.
Dagny fought against the building of the San Sebastián Line. She fought by means of whoever would listen to her; but she was only an assistant in the Operating Department, too young, without authority, and nobody listened.
She was unable, then or since, to understand the motives of those who decided to build the line. Sitting as a helpless spectator, a minority member, at one of the Board meetings, she felt a strange evasiveness in the air of the room, in every speech, in every argument, as if the real reason of their decision were never stated, but clear to everyone except herself.
They spoke about the future importance of the trade with Mexico, about a rich stream of freight, about the large revenues assured to the exclusive carrier of an inexhaustible supply of copper. They proved it by citing Francisco d’Anconia’s past achievements. They did not mention any mineralogical facts about the San Sebastián Mines. Few facts were available; the information which d’Anconia had released was not very specific; but they did not seem to need facts.
They spoke at great length about the poverty of the Mexicans and their desperate need of railroads. “They’ve never had a chance.” “It is our duty to help an underprivileged nation to develop. A country, it seems to me, is its neighbors’ keeper.”
She sat, listening, and she thought of the many branch lines which Taggart Transcontinental had had to abandon; the revenues of the great railroad had been falling slowly for many years. She thought of the ominous need of repairs, ominously neglected over the entire system. Their policy on the problem of maintenance was not a policy, but a game they seemed to be playing with a piece of rubber that could be stretched a little, then a little more.
“The Mexicans, it seems to me, are a very diligent people, crushed by their primitive economy. How can they become industrialized if nobody lends them a hand?” “When considering an investment, we should, in my opinion, take a chance on human beings, rather than on purely material factors.”
She thought of an engine that lay in a ditch beside the Rio Norte Line, because a splice bar had cracked. She thought of the five days when all traffic was stopped on the Rio Norte Line, because a retaining wall had collapsed, pouring tons of rock across the track.
“Since a man must think of the good of his brothers before he thinks of his own, it seems to me that a nation must think of its neighbors before it thinks of itself.”
She thought of a newcomer called Ellis Wyatt whom people were beginning to watch, because his activity was the first trickle of a torrent of goods about to burst from the dying stretches of Colorado.
The Rio Norte Line was being allowed to run its way to a final collapse, just when its fullest efficiency was about to be needed and used.
“Material greed isn’t everything. There are non-material ideals to consider.” “I confess to a feeling of shame when I think that we own a huge network of railways, while the Mexican people have nothing but one or two inadequate lines.” “The old theory of economic self-sufficiency has been exploded long ago. It is impossible for one country to prosper in the midst of a starving world.”
She thought that to make Taggart Transcontinental what it had been once, long before her time, every available rail, spike and dollar was needed—and how desperately little of it was available.
They spoke also, at the same session, in the same speeches, about the efficiency of the Mexican government that held complete control of everything. Mexico had a great future, they said, and would become a dangerous competitor in a few years. “Mexico’s got discipline,” the men of the Board kept saying, with a note of envy in their voices.
James Taggart let it be understood—in unfinished sentences and undefined hints—that his friends in Washington, whom he never named, wished to see a railroad line built in Mexico, that such a line would be of great help in matters of international diplomacy, that the good will of the public opinion of the world would more than repay Taggart Transcontinental for its investment.
They voted to build the San Sebastián Line at a cost of thirty million dollars.
When Dagny left the Board room and walked through the clean, cold air of the streets, she heard two words repeated clearly, insistently in the numbed emptiness of her mind: Get out . . . Get out . . . Get out.
She listened, aghast. The thought of leaving Taggart Transcontinental did not belong among the things she could hold as conceivable. She felt terror, not at the thought, but at the question of what had made her think it. She shook her head angrily; she told herself that Taggart Transcontinental would now need her more than ever.
Two of the Directors resigned; so did the Vice-President in Charge of Operation. He was replaced by a friend of James Taggart.
Steel rail was laid across the Mexican desert—while orders were issued to reduce the speed of trains on the Rio Norte Line, because the track was shot. A depot of reinforced concrete, with marble columns and mirrors, was built amidst the dust of an unpaved square in a Mexican village—while a train of tank cars carrying oil went hurtling down an embankment and into a blazing junk pile, because a rail had split on the Rio Norte Line. Ellis Wyatt did not wait for the court to decide whether the accident was an act of God, as James Taggart claimed. He transferred the shipping of his oil to the Phoenix-Durango, an obscure railroad which was small and struggling, but struggling well. This was the rocket that sent the Phoenix-Durango on its way. From then on, it grew, as Wyatt Oil grew, as factories grew in nearby valleys—as a band of rails and ties grew, at the rate of two miles a month, across the scraggly fields of Mexican corn.
Dagny was thirty-two years old, when she told James Taggart that she would resign. She had run the Operating Department for the past three years, without title, credit or authority. She was defeated by loathing for the hours, the days, the nights she had to waste circumventing the interference of Jim’s friend who bore the title of Vice-President in Charge of Operation. The man had no policy, and any decision he made was always hers, but he made it only after he had made every effort to make it impossible. What she delivered to her brother was an ultimatum. He gasped, “But, Dagny, you’re a woman! A woman as Operating Vice-President? It’s unheard of! The Board won’t consider it!”
“Then I’m through,” she answered.
She did not think of what she would do with the rest of her life. To face leaving Taggart Transcontinental was like waiting to have her legs amputated; she thought she would let it happen, then take up the load of whatever was left.
She never understood why the Board of Directors voted unanimously to make her Vice-President in Charge of Operation.
It was she who finally gave them their San Sebastián Line. When she took over, the construction had been under way for three years; one third of its track was laid; the cost to date was beyond the authorized total. She fired Jim’s friends and found a contractor who completed the job in one year.
The San Sebastián Line was now in operation. No surge of trade had come across the border, nor any trains loaded with copper. A few carloads came clattering down the mountains from San Sebastián, at long intervals. The mines, said Francisco d’Anconia, were still in the process of development. The drain on Taggart Transcontinental had not stopped.
Now she sat at the desk in her office, as she had sat for many evenings, trying to work out the problem of what branches could save the system and in how many years.
The Rio Norte Line, when rebuilt, would redeem the rest. As she looked at the sheets of figures announcing losses and more losses, she did not think of the long, senseless agony of the Mexican venture. She thought of a telephone call. “Hank, can you save us? Can you give us rail on the shortest notice and the longest credit possible?” A quiet, steady voice had answered, “Sure.”
The thought was a point of support. She leaned over the sheets of paper on her desk, finding it suddenly easier to concentrate. There was one thing, at least, that could be counted upon not to crumble when needed.
James Taggart crossed the anteroom of Dagny’s office, still holding the kind of confidence he had felt among his companions at the barroom half an hour ago. When he opened her door, the confidence vanished. He crossed the room to her desk like a child being dragged to punishment, storing the resentment for all his future years.
He saw a head bent over sheets of paper, the light of the desk lamp glistening on strands of disheveled hair, a white shirt clinging to her shoulders, its loose folds suggesting the thinness of her body.
“What is it, Jim?”
“What are you trying to pull on the San Sebastián Line?”
She raised her head. “Pull? Why?”
“What sort of schedule are we running down there and what kind of trains?”
She laughed; the sound was gay and a little weary. “You really ought to read the reports sent to the president’s office, Jim, once in a while.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve been running that schedule and those trains on the San Sebastián for the last three months.”
“One passenger train a day?”
“—in the morning. And one freight train every other night.”
“Good God! On an important branch like that?”
“The important branch can’t pay even for those two trains.”
“But the Mexican people expect real service from us!”
“I’m sure they do.”
“They need trains!”
“For . . . To help them develop local industries. How do you expect them to develop if we don’t give them transportation?”
“I don’t expect them to develop.”
“That’s just your personal opinion. I don’t see what right you had to take it upon yourself to cut our schedules. Why, the copper traffic alone will pay for everything.”
He looked at her; his face assumed the satisfaction of a person about to utter something that has the power to hurt. “You don’t doubt the success of those copper mines, do you?—when it’s Francisco d’Anconia who’s running them?” He stressed the name, watching her.
She said, “He may be your friend, but—”
“My friend? I thought he was yours.”
She said steadily, “Not for the last ten years.”
“That’s too bad, isn’t it? Still, he’s one of the smartest operators on earth. He’s never failed in a venture—I mean, abusiness venture—and he’s sunk millions of his own money into those mines, so we can rely on his judgment.”
“When will you realize that Francisco d’Anconia has turned into a worthless bum?”
He chuckled. “I always thought that that’s what he was—as far as his personal character is concerned. But you didn’t share my opinion. Yours was opposite. Oh my, how opposite! Surely you remember our quarrels on the subject? Shall I quote some of the things you said about him? I can only surmise as to some of the things you did.”
“Do you wish to discuss Francisco d’Anconia? Is that what you came here for?”
His face showed the anger of failure—because hers showed nothing. “You know damn well what I came here for!” he snapped. “I’ve heard some incredible things about our trains in Mexico.”
“What sort of rolling stock are you using down there?”
“The worst I could find.”
“You admit that?”
“I’ve stated it on paper in the reports I sent you.”
“Is it true that you’re using wood-burning locomotives?”
“Eddie found them for me in somebody’s abandoned roundhouse down in Louisiana. He couldn’t even learn the name of the railroad.”
“And that’s what you’re running as Taggart trains?”
“What in hell’s the big idea? What’s going on? I want to know what’s going on!”
She spoke evenly, looking straight at him. “If you want to know, I have left nothing but junk on the San Sebastián Line, and as little of that as possible. I have moved everything that could be moved—switch engines, shop tools, even typewriters and mirrors—out of Mexico.”
“Why in blazes?”
“So that the looters won’t have too much to loot when they nationalize the line.”
He leaped to his feet. “You won’t get away with that! This is one time you won’t get away with it! To have the nerve to pull such a low, unspeakable . . . just because of some vicious rumors, when we have a contract for two hundred years and . . .”
“Jim,” she said slowly, “there’s not a car, engine or ton of coal that we can spare anywhere on the system.”
“I won’t permit it, I absolutely won’t permit such an outrageous policy toward a friendly people who need our help. Material greed isn’t everything. After all, there are non-material considerations, even though you wouldn’t understand them!”
She pulled a pad forward and picked up a pencil. “All right, Jim. How many trains do you wish me to run on the San Sebastián Line?”
“Which runs do you wish me to cut and on which of our lines—in order to get the Diesels and the steel coaches?”
“I don’t want you to cut any runs!”
“Then where do I get the equipment for Mexico?”
“That’s for you to figure out. It’s your job.”
“I am not able to do it. You will have to decide.”
“That’s your usual rotten trick—switching the responsibility to me!”
“I’m waiting for orders, Jim.”
“I’m not going to let you trap me like that!”
She dropped the pencil. “Then the San Sebastián schedule will remain as it is.”
“Just wait till the Board meeting next month. I’ll demand a decision, once and for all, on how far the Operating Department is to be permitted to exceed its authority. You’re going to have to answer for this.”
“I’ll answer for it.”
She was back at her work before the door had closed on James Taggart.
When she finished, pushed the papers aside and glanced up, the sky was black beyond the window, and the city had become a glowing spread of lighted glass without masonry. She rose reluctantly. She resented the small defeat of being tired, but she knew that she was, tonight.
The outer office was dark and empty; her staff had gone. Only Eddie Willers was still there, at his desk in his glass-partitioned enclosure that looked like a cube of light in a corner of the large room. She waved to him on her way out.
She did not take the elevator to the lobby of the building, but to the concourse of the Taggart Terminal. She liked to walk through it on her way home.
She had always felt that the concourse looked like a temple. Glancing up at the distant ceiling, she saw dim vaults supported by giant granite columns, and the tops of vast windows glazed by darkness. The vaulting held the solemn peace of a cathedral, spread in protection high above the rushing activity of men.
Dominating the concourse, but ignored by the travelers as a habitual sight, stood a statue of Nathaniel Taggart, the founder of the railroad. Dagny was the only one who remained aware of it and had never been able to take it for granted. To look at that statue whenever she crossed the concourse, was the only form of prayer she knew.
Nathaniel Taggart had been a penniless adventurer who had come from somewhere in New England and built a railroad across a continent, in the days of the first steel rails. His railroad still stood; his battle to build it had dissolved into a legend, because people preferred not to understand it or to believe it possible.
He was a man who had never accepted the creed that others had the right to stop him. He set his goal and moved toward it, his way as straight as one of his rails. He never sought any loans, bonds, subsidies, land grants or legislative favors from the government. He obtained money from the men who owned it, going from door to door—from the mahogany doors of bankers to the clapboard doors of lonely farmhouses. He never talked about the public good. He merely told people that they would make big profits on his railroad, he told them why he expected the profits and he gave his reasons. He had good reasons. Through all the generations that followed, Taggart Transcontinental was one of the few railroads that never went bankrupt and the only one whose controlling stock remained in the hands of the founder’s descendants.
In his lifetime, the name “Nat Taggart” was not famous, but notorious; it was repeated, not in homage, but in resentful curiosity; and if anyone admired him, it was as one admires a successful bandit. Yet no penny of his wealth had been obtained by force or fraud; he was guilty of nothing, except that he earned his own fortune and never forgot that it was his.
Many stories were whispered about him. It was said that in the wilderness of the Middle West, he murdered a state legislator who attempted to revoke a charter granted to him, to revoke it when his rail was laid halfway across the state; some legislators had planned to make a fortune on Taggart stock—by selling it short. Nat Taggart was indicted for the murder, but the charge could never be proved. He had no trouble with legislators from then on.
It was said that Nat Taggart had staked his life on his railroad many times; but once, he staked more than his life. Desperate for funds, with the construction of his line suspended, he threw down three flights of stairs a distinguished gentleman who offered him a loan from the government. Then he pledged his wife as security for a loan from a millionaire who hated him and admired her beauty. He repaid the loan on time and did not have to surrender his pledge. The deal had been made with his wife’s consent. She was a great beauty from the noblest family of a southern state, and she had been disinherited by her family because she eloped with Nat Taggart when he was only a ragged young adventurer.
Dagny regretted at times that Nat Taggart was her ancestor. What she felt for him did not belong in the category of unchosen family affections. She did not want her feeling to be the thing one was supposed to owe an uncle or a grandfather. She was incapable of love for any object not of her own choice and she resented anyone’s demand for it. But had it been possible to choose an ancestor, she would have chosen Nat Taggart, in voluntary homage and with all of her gratitude.
Nat Taggart’s statue was copied from an artist’s sketch of him, the only record ever made of his appearance. He had lived far into old age, but one could never think of him except as he was on that sketch—as a young man. In her childhood, his statue had been Dagny’s first concept of the exalted. When she was sent to church or to school, and heard people using that word, she thought that she knew what they meant: she thought of the statue.
The statue was of a young man with a tall, gaunt body and an angular face. He held his head as if he faced a challenge and found joy in his capacity to meet it. All that Dagny wanted of life was contained in the desire to hold her head as he did.
Tonight, she looked at the statue when she walked across the concourse. It was a moment’s rest; it was as if a burden she could not name were lightened and as if a faint current of air were touching her forehead.
In a corner of the concourse, by the main entrance, there was a small newsstand. The owner, a quiet, courteous old man with an air of breeding, had stood behind his counter for twenty years. He had owned a cigarette factory once, but it had gone bankrupt, and he had resigned himself to the lonely obscurity of his little stand in the midst of an eternal whirlpool of strangers. He had no family or friends left alive. He had a hobby which was his only pleasure; he gathered cigarettes from all over the world for his private collection; he knew every brand made or that had ever been made.
Dagny liked to stop at his newsstand on her way out. He seemed to be part of the Taggart Terminal, like an old watchdog too feeble to protect it, but reassuring by the loyalty of his presence. He liked to see her coming, because it amused him to think that he alone knew the importance of the young woman in a sports coat and a slanting hat, who came hurrying anonymously through the crowd.
She stopped tonight, as usual, to buy a package of cigarettes. “How is the collection?” she asked him. “Any new specimens?”
He smiled sadly, shaking his head. “No, Miss Taggart. There aren’t any new brands made anywhere in the world. Even the old ones are going, one after another. There’s only five or six kinds left selling now. There used to be dozens. People aren’t making anything new any more.”
“They will. That’s only temporary.”
He glanced at her and did not answer. Then he said, “I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind—and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.”
“Do they ever think?” she asked involuntarily, and stopped; the question was her one personal torture and she did not want to discuss it.
The old man looked as if he had noticed the sudden stop and understood it; but he did not start discussing it; he said, instead, “I don’t like the thing that’s happening to people, Miss Taggart.”
“I don’t know. But I’ve watched them here for twenty years and I’ve seen the change. They used to rush through here, and it was wonderful to watch, it was the hurry of men who knew where they were going and were eager to get there. Now they’re hurrying because they are afraid. It’s not a purpose that drives them, it’s fear. They’re not going anywhere, they’re escaping. And I don’t think they know what it is that they want to escape. They don’t look at one another. They jerk when brushed against. They smile too much, but it’s an ugly kind of smiling: it’s not joy, it’s pleading. I don’t know what it is that’s happening to the world.” He shrugged. “Oh, well, who is John Galt?”
“He’s just a meaningless phrase!”
She was startled by the sharpness of her own voice, and she added in apology, “I don’t like that empty piece of slang. What does it mean? Where did it come from?”
“Nobody knows,” he answered slowly.
“Why do people keep saying it? Nobody seems able to explain just what it stands for, yet they all use it as if they knew the meaning.”
“Why does it disturb you?” he asked.
“I don’t like what they seem to mean when they say it.”
“I don’t, either, Miss Taggart.”
Eddie Willers ate his dinners in the employees’ cafeteria of the Taggart Terminal. There was a restaurant in the building, patronized by Taggart executives, but he did not like it. The cafeteria seemed part of the railroad, and he felt more at home.
The cafeteria lay underground. It was a large room with walls of white tile that glittered in the reflections of electric lights and looked like silver brocade. It had a high ceiling, sparkling counters of glass and chromium, a sense of space and light.
There was a railroad worker whom Eddie Willers met at times in the cafeteria. Eddie liked his face. They had been drawn into a chance conversation once, and then it became their habit to dine together whenever they happened to meet.
Eddie had forgotten whether he had ever asked the worker’s name or the nature of his job; he supposed that the job wasn’t much, because the man’s clothes were rough and grease-stained. The man was not a person to him, but only a silent presence with an enormous intensity of interest in the one thing which was the meaning of his own life: in Taggart Transcontinental.
Tonight, coming down late, Eddie saw the worker at a table in a corner of the half-deserted room. Eddie smiled happily, waving to him, and carried his tray of food to the worker’s table.
In the privacy of their corner, Eddie felt at ease, relaxing after the long strain of the day. He could talk as he did not talk anywhere else, admitting things he would not confess to anyone, thinking aloud, looking into the attentive eyes of the worker across the table.
“The Rio Norte Line is our last hope,” said Eddie Willers. “But it will save us. We’ll have at least one branch in good condition, where it’s needed most, and that will help to save the rest. . . . It’s funny—isn’t it?—to speak about a last hope for Taggart Transcontinental. Do you take it seriously if somebody tells you that a meteor is going to destroy the earth? . . . I don’t, either. . . . ‘From Ocean to Ocean, forever’—that’s what we heard all through our childhood, she and I. No, they didn’t say ‘forever,’ but that’s what it meant. . . . You know, I’m not any kind of a great man. I couldn’t have built that railroad. If it goes, I won’t be able to bring it back. I’ll have to go with it. . . . Don’t pay any attention to me. I don’t know why I should want to say things like that. Guess I’m just a little tired tonight. . . . Yes, I worked late. She didn’t ask me to stay, but there was a light under her door, long after all the others had gone... Yes, she’s gone home now. . . . Trouble? Oh, there’s always trouble in the office. But she’s not worried. She knows she can pull us through. . . . Of course, it’s bad. We’re having many more accidents than you hear about. We lost two Diesels again, last week. One—just from old age, the other—in a head-on collision. . . . Yes, we have Diesels on order, at the United Locomotive Works, but we’ve waited for them for two years. I don’t know whether we’ll ever get them or not. . . . God, do we need them! Motive power—you can’t imagine how important that is. That’s the heart of everything. . . . What are you smiling at? . . . Well, as I was saying, it’s bad. But at least the Rio Norte Line is set. The first shipment of rail will get to the site in a few weeks. In a year, we’ll run the first train on the new track. Nothing’s going to stop us, this time. . . . Sure, I know who’s going to lay the rail. McNamara, of Cleveland. He’s the contractor who finished the San Sebastián Line for us. There, at least, is one man who knows his job. So we’re safe. We can count on him. There aren’t many good contractors left. . . . We’re rushed as hell, but I like it. I’ve been coming to the office an hour earlier than usual, but she beats me to it. She’s always there first. . . . What? . . . I don’t know what she does at night. Nothing much, I guess. . . . No, she never goes out with anyone. She sits at home, mostly, and listens to music. She plays records. . . . What do you care, which records? Richard Halley. She loves the music of Richard Halley. Outside the railroad, that’s the only thing she loves.”
THE IMMOVABLE MOVERS
Motive power—thought Dagny, looking up at the Taggart Building in the twilight—was its first need; motive power, to keep that building standing; movement, to keep it immovable. It did not rest on piles driven into granite; it rested on the engines that rolled across a continent.
She felt a dim touch of anxiety. She was back from a trip to the plant of the United Locomotive Works in New Jersey, where she had gone to see the president of the company in person. She had learned nothing: neither the reason for the delays nor any indication of the date when the Diesel engines would be produced. The president of the company had talked to her for two hours. But none of his answers had connected to any of her questions. His manner had conveyed a peculiar note of condescending reproach whenever she attempted to make the conversation specific, as if she were giving proof of ill-breeding by breaking some unwritten code known to everyone else.
On her way through the plant, she had seen an enormous piece of machinery left abandoned in a corner of the yard. It had been a precision machine tool once, long ago, of a kind that could not be bought anywhere now. It had not been worn out; it had been rotted by neglect, eaten by rust and the black drippings of a dirty oil. She had turned her face away from it. A sight of that nature always blinded her for an instant by the burst of too violent an anger. She did not know why; she could not define her own feeling; she knew only that there was, in her feeling, a scream of protest against injustice, and that it was a response to something much beyond an old piece of machinery.
The rest of her staff had gone, when she entered the anteroom of her office, but Eddie Willers was still there, waiting for her. She knew at once that something had happened, by the way he looked and the way he followed her silently into her office.
“What’s the matter, Eddie?”
She looked at him blankly. “What do you mean, quit?”
“Left. Retired. Went out of business.”
“McNamara, our contractor?”
“But that’s impossible!”
“I know it.”
“What happened? Why?”
Taking her time deliberately, she unbuttoned her coat, sat down at her desk, started to pull off her gloves. Then she said, “Begin at the beginning, Eddie. Sit down.”
He spoke quietly, but he remained standing. “I talked to his chief engineer, long distance. The chief engineer called from Cleveland, to tell us. That’s all he said. He knew nothing else.”
“What did he say?”
“That McNamara has closed his business and gone.”
“He doesn’t know. Nobody knows.”
She noticed that she was holding with one hand two empty fingers of the glove of the other, the glove half-removed and forgotten. She pulled it off and dropped it on the desk.
Eddie said, “He’s walked out on a pile of contracts that are worth a fortune. He had a waiting list of clients for the next three years. . . .” She said nothing. He added, his voice low, “I wouldn’t be frightened if I could understand it. . . . But a thing that can’t have any possible reason . . .” She remained silent. “He was the best contractor in the country.”
They looked at each other. What she wanted to say was, “Oh God, Eddie!” Instead, her voice even, she said, “Don’t worry. We’ll find another contractor for the Rio Norte Line.”
It was late when she left her office. Outside, on the sidewalk at the door of the building, she paused, looking at the streets. She felt suddenly empty of energy, of purpose, of desire, as if a motor had crackled and stopped.
A faint glow streamed from behind the buildings into the sky, the reflection of thousands of unknown lights, the electric breath of the city. She wanted to rest. To rest, she thought, and to find enjoyment somewhere.
Her work was all she had or wanted. But there were times, like tonight, when she felt that sudden, peculiar emptiness, which was not emptiness, but silence, not despair, but immobility, as if nothing within her were destroyed, but everything stood still. Then she felt the wish to find a moment’s joy outside, the wish to be held as a passive spectator by some work or sight of greatness. Not to make it, she thought, but to accept; not to begin, but to respond; not to create, but to admire. I need it to let me go on, she thought, because joy is one’s fuel.
She had always been—she closed her eyes with a faint smile of amusement and pain—the motive power of her own happiness. For once, she wanted to feel herself carried by the power of someone else’s achievement. As men on a dark prairie liked to see the lighted windows of a train going past, her achievement, the sight of power and purpose that gave them reassurance in the midst of empty miles and night—so she wanted to feel it for a moment, a brief greeting, a single glimpse, just to wave her arm and say: Someone is going somewhere. . . .
She started walking slowly, her hands in the pockets of her coat, the shadow of her slanting hat brim across her face. The buildings around her rose to such heights that her glance could not find the sky. She thought: It has taken so much to build this city, it should have so much to offer.
Above the door of a shop, the black hole of a radio loudspeaker was hurling sounds at the streets. They were the sounds of a symphony concert being given somewhere in the city. They were a long screech without shape, as of cloth and flesh being torn at random. They scattered with no melody, no harmony, no rhythm to hold them. If music was emotion and emotion came from thought, then this was the scream of chaos, of the irrational, of the helpless, of man’s self-abdication.
She walked on. She stopped at the window of a bookstore. The window displayed a pyramid of slabs in brownish-purple jackets, inscribed: The Vulture Is Molting. “The novel of our century,” said a placard. “The penetrating study of a businessman’s greed. A fearless revelation of man’s depravity.”
She walked past a movie theater. Its lights wiped out half a block, leaving only a huge photograph and some letters suspended in blazing mid-air. The photograph was of a smiling young woman; looking at her face, one felt the weariness of having seen it for years, even while seeing it for the first time. The letters said: “. . . in a momentous drama giving the answer to the great problem: Should a woman tell?”
She walked past the door of a night club. A couple came staggering out to a taxicab. The girl had blurred eyes, a perspiring face, an ermine cape and a beautiful evening gown that had slipped off one shoulder like a slovenly housewife’s bathrobe, revealing too much of her breast, not in a manner of daring, but in the manner of a drudge’s indifference. Her escort steered her, gripping her naked arm; his face did not have the expression of a man anticipating a romantic adventure, but the sly look of a boy out to write obscenities on fences.
What had she hoped to find?—she thought, walking on. These were the things men lived by, the forms of their spirit, of their culture, of their enjoyment. She had seen nothing else anywhere, not for many years.
At the corner of the street where she lived, she bought a newspaper and went home.
Her apartment was two rooms on the top floor of a skyscraper. The sheets of glass in the corner window of her living room made it look like the prow of a ship in motion, and the lights of the city were like phosphorescent sparks on the black waves of steel and stone. When she turned on a lamp, long triangles of shadow cut the bare walls, in a geometrical pattern of light rays broken by a few angular pieces of furniture.
She stood in the middle of the room, alone between sky and city. There was only one thing that could give her the feeling she wanted to experience tonight; it was the only form of enjoyment she had found. She turned to a phonograph and put on a record of the music of Richard Halley.
It was his Fourth Concerto, the last work he had written. The crash of its opening chords swept the sights of the streets away from her mind. The Concerto was a great cry of rebellion. It was a “No” flung at some vast process of torture, a denial of suffering, a denial that held the agony of the struggle to break free. The sounds were like a voice saying: There is no necessity for pain—why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity?—we who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom? . . . The sounds of torture became defiance, the statement of agony became a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything was worth enduring, even this. It was the song of rebellion—and of a desperate quest.
She sat still, her eyes closed, listening.
No one knew what had happened to Richard Halley, or why. The story of his life had been like a summary written to damn greatness by showing the price one pays for it. It had been a procession of years spent in garrets and basements, years that had taken the gray tinge of the walls imprisoning a man whose music overflowed with violent color. It had been the gray of a struggle against long flights of unlighted tenement stairs, against frozen plumbing, against the price of a sandwich in an ill-smelling delicatessen store, against the faces of men who listened to music, their eyes empty. It had been a struggle without the relief of violence, without the recognition of finding a conscious enemy, with only a deaf wall to batter, a wall of the most effective soundproofing: indifference, that swallowed blows, chords and screams—a battle of silence, for a man who could give to sounds a greater eloquence than they had ever carried—the silence of obscurity, of loneliness, of the nights when some rare orchestra played one of his works and he looked at the darkness, knowing that his soul went in trembling, widening circles from a radio tower through the air of the city, but there were no receivers tuned to hear it.
“The music of Richard Halley has a quality of the heroic. Our age has outgrown that stuff,” said one critic. “The music of Richard Halley is out of key with our times. It has a tone of ecstasy. Who cares for ecstasy nowadays?” said another.
His life had been a summary of the lives of all the men whose reward is a monument in a public park a hundred years after the time when a reward can matter—except that Richard Halley did not die soon enough. He lived to see the night which, by the accepted laws of history, he was not supposed to see. He was forty-three years old and it was the opening night of Phaëthon, an opera he had written at the age of twenty-four. He had changed the ancient Greek myth to his own purpose and meaning: Phaëthon, the young son of Helios, who stole his father’s chariot and, in ambitious audacity, attempted to drive the sun across the sky, did not perish, as he perished in the myth; in Halley’s opera, Phaëthon succeeded. The opera had been performed then, nineteen years ago, and had closed after one performance, to the sound of booing and catcalls. That night, Richard Halley had walked the streets of the city till dawn, trying to find an answer to a question, which he did not find.
On the night when the opera was presented again, nineteen years later, the last sounds of the music crashed into the sounds of the greatest ovation the opera house had ever heard. The ancient walls could not contain it, the sounds of cheering burst through to the lobbies, to the stairs, to the streets, to the boy who had walked those streets nineteen years ago.
Dagny was in the audience on the night of the ovation. She was one of the few who had known the music of Richard Halley much earlier; but she had never seen him. She saw him being pushed out on the stage, saw him facing the enormous spread of waving arms and cheering heads. He stood without moving, a tall, emaciated man with graying hair. He did not bow, did not smile; he just stood there, looking at the crowd. His face had the quiet, earnest look of a man staring at a question.
“The music of Richard Halley,” wrote a critic next morning, “belongs to mankind. It is the product and the expression of the greatness of the people.” “There is an inspiring lesson,” said a minister, “in the life of Richard Halley. He has had a terrible struggle, but what does that matter? It is proper, it is noble that he should have endured suffering, injustice, abuse at the hands of his brothers—in order to enrich their lives and teach them to appreciate the beauty of great music.”
On the day after the opening, Richard Halley retired.
He gave no explanation. He merely told his publishers that his career was over. He sold them the rights to his works for a modest sum, even though he knew that his royalties would now bring him a fortune. He went away, leaving no address. It was eight years ago; no one had seen him since.
Dagny listened to the Fourth Concerto, her head thrown back, her eyes closed. She lay half-stretched across the corner of a couch, her body relaxed and still; but tension stressed the shape of her mouth on her motionless face, a sensual shape drawn in lines of longing.
After a while, she opened her eyes. She noticed the newspaper she had thrown down on the couch. She reached for it absently, to turn the vapid headlines out of sight. The paper fell open. She saw the photograph of a face she knew, and the heading of a story. She slammed the pages shut and flung them aside.
It was the face of Francisco d’Anconia. The heading said that he had arrived in New York. What of it?—she thought. She would not have to see him. She had not seen him for years.
She sat looking at the newspaper on the floor. Don’t read it, she thought; don’t look at it. But the face, she thought, had not changed. How could a face remain the same when everything else was gone? She wished they had not caught a picture of him when he smiled. That kind of smile did not belong in the pages of a newspaper. It was the smile of a man who is able to see, to know and to create the glory of existence. It was the mocking, challenging smile of a brilliant intelligence. Don’t read it, she thought; not now—not to that music—oh, not to that music!
She reached for the paper and opened it.
The story said that Señor Francisco d’Anconia had granted an interview to the press in his suite at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel. He said that he had come to New York for two important reasons: a hatcheck girl at the Cub Club, and the liverwurst at Moe’s Delicatessen on Third Avenue. He had nothing to say about the coming divorce trial of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Vail. Mrs. Vail, a lady of noble breeding and unusual loveliness, had taken a shot at her distinguished young husband, some months ago, publicly declaring that she wished to get rid of him for the sake of her lover, Francisco d’Anconia. She had given to the press a detailed account of her secret romance, including a description of the night of last New Year’s Eve which she had spent at d’Anconia’s villa in the Andes. Her husband had survived the shot and had sued for divorce. She had countered with a suit for half of her husband’s millions, and with a recital of his private life which, she said, made hers look innocent. All of that had been splashed over the newspapers for weeks. But Señor d’Anconia had nothing to say about it, when the reporters questioned him. Would he deny Mrs. Vail’s story, they asked. “I never deny anything,” he answered. The reporters had been astonished by his sudden arrival in town; they had thought that he would not wish to be there just when the worst of the scandal was about to explode on the front pages. But they had been wrong. Francisco d’Anconia added one more comment to the reasons for his arrival. “I wanted to witness the farce,” he said.
Dagny let the paper slip to the floor. She sat, bent over, her head on her arms. She did not move, but the strands of hair, hanging down to her knees, trembled in sudden jolts once in a while.
The great chords of Halley’s music went on, filling the room, piercing the glass of the windows, streaming out over the city. She was hearing the music. It was her quest, her cry.
James Taggart glanced about the living room of his apartment, wondering what time it was; he did not feel like moving to find his watch. He sat in an armchair, dressed in wrinkled pajamas, barefooted; it was too much trouble to look for his slippers. The light of the gray sky in the windows hurt his eyes, still sticky with sleep. He felt, inside his skull, the nasty heaviness which is about to become a headache. He wondered angrily why he had stumbled out into the living room. Oh yes, he remembered, to look for the time.
He slumped sidewise over the arm of the chair and caught sight of a clock on a distant building: it was twenty minutes past noon.
Through the open door of the bedroom, he heard Betty Pope washing her teeth in the bathroom beyond. Her girdle lay on the floor, by the side of a chair with the rest of her clothes; the girdle was a faded pink, with broken strands of rubber.
“Hurry up, will you?” he called irritably. “I’ve got to dress.”
She did not answer. She had left the door of the bathroom open; he could hear the sound of gargling.
Why do I do those things? he thought, remembering last night. But it was too much trouble to look for an answer.
Betty Pope came into the living room, dragging the folds of a satin harlequin negligee—checkered in orange and purple. She looked awful in a negligee, thought Taggart; she was ever so much better in a riding habit, in the photographs on the society pages of the newspapers. She was a lanky girl, all bones and loose joints that did not move smoothly. She had a homely face, a bad complexion and a look of impertinent condescension derived from the fact that she belonged to one of the very best families.
“Aw, hell!” she said at nothing in particular, stretching herself to limber up. “Jim, where are your nail clippers? I’ve got to trim my toenails.”
“I don’t know. I have a headache. Do it at home.”
“You look unappetizing in the morning,” she said indifferently. “You look like a snail.”
“Why don’t you shut up?”
She wandered aimlessly about the room. “I don’t want to go home,” she said with no particular feeling. “I hate morning. Here’s another day and nothing to do. I’ve got a tea session on for this afternoon, at Liz Blane’s. Oh well, it might be fun, because Liz is a bitch.” She picked up a glass and swallowed the stale remnant of a drink. “Why don’t you have them repair your air-conditioner? This place smells.”
“Are you through in the bathroom?” he asked. “I have to dress. I have an important engagement today.”
“Go right in. I don’t mind. I’ll share the bathroom with you. I hate to be rushed.”
While he shaved, he saw her dressing in front of the open bathroom door. She took a long time twisting herself into her girdle, hooking garters to her stockings, pulling on an ungainly, expensive tweed suit. The harlequin negligee, picked from an advertisement in the smartest fashion magazine, was like a uniform which she knew to be expected on certain occasions, which she had worn dutifully for a specified purpose and then discarded.
The nature of their relationship had the same quality. There was no passion in it, no desire, no actual pleasure, not even a sense of shame. To them, the act of sex was neither joy nor sin. It meant nothing. They had heard that men and women were supposed to sleep together, so they did.
“Jim, why don’t you take me to the Armenian restaurant tonight?” she asked. “I love shish-kebab.”
“I can’t,” he answered angrily through the soap lather on his face. “I’ve got a busy day ahead.”
“Why don’t you cancel it?”
“Whatever it is.”
“It is very important, my dear. It is a meeting of our Board of Directors.”
“Oh, don’t be stuffy about your damn railroad. It’s boring. I hate businessmen. They’re dull.”
He did not answer.
She glanced at him slyly, and her voice acquired a livelier note when she drawled, “Jock Benson said that you have a soft snap on that railroad anyway, because it’s your sister who runs the whole works.”
“Oh, he did, did he?”
“I think that your sister is awful. I think it’s disgusting—a woman acting like a grease-monkey and posing around like a big executive. It’s so unfeminine. Who does she think she is, anyway?”
Taggart stepped out to the threshold. He leaned against the door-jamb, studying Betty Pope. There was a faint smile on his face, sarcastic and confident. They had, he thought, a bond in common.
“It might interest you to know, my dear,” he said, “that I’m putting the skids under my sister this afternoon.”
“No?” she said, interested. “Really?”
“And that is why this Board meeting is so important.”
“Are you really going to kick her out?”
“No. That’s not necessary or advisable. I shall merely put her in her place. It’s the chance I’ve been waiting for.”
“You got something on her? Some scandal?”
“No, no. You wouldn’t understand. It’s merely that she’s gone too far, for once, and she’s going to get slapped down. She’s pulled an inexcusable sort of stunt, without consulting anybody. It’s a serious offense against our Mexican neighbors. When the Board hears about it, they’ll pass a couple of new rulings on the Operating Department, which will make my sister a little easier to manage.”
“You’re smart, Jim,” she said.
“I’d better get dressed.” He sounded pleased. He turned back to the washbowl, adding cheerfully, “Maybe I will take you out tonight and buy you some shish-kebab.”
The telephone rang.
He lifted the receiver. The operator announced a long-distance call from Mexico City.
The hysterical voice that came on the wire was that of his political man in Mexico.
“I couldn’t help it, Jim!” it gulped. “I couldn’t help it! . . . We had no warning, I swear to God, nobody suspected, nobody saw it coming, I’ve done my best, you can’t blame me, Jim, it was a bolt out of the blue! The decree came out this morning, just five minutes ago, they sprang it on us like that, without any notice! The government of the People’s State of Mexico has nationalized the San Sebastián Mines and the San Sebastián Railroad.”
“. . . and, therefore, I can assure the gentlemen of the Board that there is no occasion for panic. The event of this morning is a regrettable development, but I have full confidence—based on my knowledge of the inner processes shaping our foreign policy in Washington—that our government will negotiate an equitable settlement with the government of the People’s State of Mexico, and that we will receive full and just compensation for our property.”
James Taggart stood at the long table, addressing the Board of Directors. His voice was precise and monotonous; it connoted safety.
“I’m glad to report, however, that I foresaw the possibility of such a turn of events and took every precaution to protect the interests of Taggart Transcontinental. Some months ago, I instructed our Operating Department to cut the schedule on the San Sebastián Line down to a single train a day, and to remove from it our best motive power and rolling stock, as well as every piece of equipment that could be moved. The Mexican government was able to seize nothing but a few wooden cars and one superannuated locomotive. My decision has saved the company many millions of dollars—I shall have the exact figures computed and submit them to you. I do feel, however, that our stockholders will be justified in expecting that those who bore the major responsibility for this venture should now bear the consequences of their negligence. I would suggest, therefore, that we request the resignation of Mr. Clarence Eddington, our economic consultant, who recommended the construction of the San Sebastián Line, and of Mr. Jules Mott, our representative in Mexico City.”
The men sat around the long table, listening. They did not think of what they would have to do, but of what they would have to say to the men they represented. Taggart’s speech gave them what they needed.
Orren Boyle was waiting for him, when Taggart returned to his office. Once they were alone, Taggart’s manner changed. He leaned against the desk, sagging, his face loose and white.
“Well?” he asked.
Boyle spread his hands out helplessly. “I’ve checked, Jim,” he said. “It’s straight all right: d’Anconia’s lost fifteen million dollars of his own money in those mines. No, there wasn’t anything phony about that, he didn’t pull any sort of trick, he put up his own cash and now he’s lost it.”
“Well, what’s he going to do about it?”
“That—I don’t know. Nobody does.”
“He’s not going to let himself be robbed, is he? He’s too smart for that. He must have something up his sleeve.”
“I sure hope so.”
“He’s outwitted some of the slickest combinations of money-grubbers on earth. Is he going to be taken by a bunch of Greaser politicians with a decree? He must have something on them, and he’ll get the last word, and we must be sure to be in on it, too!”
“That’s up to you, Jim. You’re his friend.”
“Friend be damned! I hate his guts.”
He pressed a button for his secretary. The secretary entered uncertainly, looking unhappy; he was a young man, no longer too young, with a bloodless face and the well-bred manner of genteel poverty.
“Did you get me an appointment with Francisco d’Anconia?” snapped Taggart.
“But, God damn it, I told you to call the—”
“I wasn’t able to, sir. I have tried.”
“Well, try again.”
“I mean I wasn’t able to obtain the appointment, Mr. Taggart.”
“He declined it.”
“You mean he refused to see me?”
“Yes, sir, that is what I mean.”
“He wouldn’t see me?”
“No, sir, he wouldn’t.”
“Did you speak to him in person?”
“No, sir, I spoke to his secretary.”
“What did he tell you? Just what did he say?” The young man hesitated and looked more unhappy. “What did he say?”
“He said that Señor d’Anconia said that you bore him, Mr. Taggart.”
The proposal which they passed was known as the “Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule.” When they voted for it, the members of the National Alliance of Railroads sat in a large hall in the deepening twilight of a late autumn evening and did not look at one another.
The National Alliance of Railroads was an organization formed, it was claimed, to protect the welfare of the railroad industry. This was to be achieved by developing methods of co-operation for a common purpose; this was to be achieved by the pledge of every member to subordinate his own interests to those of the industry as a whole; the interests of the industry as a whole were to be determined by a majority vote, and every member was committed to abide by any decision the majority chose to make.
“Members of the same profession or of the same industry should stick together,” the organizers of the Alliance had said. “We all have the same problems, the same interests, the same enemies. We waste our energy fighting one another, instead of presenting a common front to the world. We can all grow and prosper together, if we pool our efforts.” “Against whom is this Alliance being organized?” a skeptic had asked. The answer had been: “Why, it’s not ‘against’ anybody. But if you want to put it that way, why, it’s against shippers or supply manufacturers or anyone who might try to take advantage of us. Against whom is any union organized?” “That’s what I wonder about,” the skeptic had said.
When the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule was offered to the vote of the full membership of the National Alliance of Railroads at its annual meeting, it was the first mention of this Rule in public. But all the members had heard of it; it had been discussed privately for a long time, and more insistently in the last few months. The men who sat in the large hall of the meeting were the presidents of the railroads. They did not like the Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule; they had hoped it would never be brought up. But when it was brought up, they voted for it.
No railroad was mentioned by name in the speeches that preceded the voting. The speeches dealt only with the public welfare. It was said that while the public welfare was threatened by shortages of transportation, railroads were destroying one another through vicious competition, on “the brutal policy of dog-eat-dog.” While there existed blighted areas where rail service had been discontinued, there existed at the same time large regions where two or more railroads were competing for a traffic barely sufficient for one. It was said that there were great opportunities for younger railroads in the blighted areas. While it was true that such areas offered little economic incentive at present, a public-spirited railroad, it was said, would undertake to provide transportation for the struggling inhabitants, since the prime purpose of a railroad was public service, not profit.
Then it was said that large, established railroad systems were essential to the public welfare; and that the collapse of one of them would be a national catastrophe; and that if one such system had happened to sustain a crushing loss in a public-spirited attempt to contribute to international good will, it was entitled to public support to help it survive the blow.
No railroad was mentioned by name. But when the chairman of the meeting raised his hand, as a solemn signal that they were about to vote, everybody looked at Dan Conway, president of the Phoenix-Durango.
There were only five dissenters who voted against it. Yet when the chairman announced that the measure had passed, there was no cheering, no sounds of approval, no movement, nothing but a heavy silence. To the last minute, every one of them had hoped that someone would save them from it.
The Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule was described as a measure of “voluntary self-regulation” intended “the better to enforce” the laws long since passed by the country’s Legislature. The Rule provided that the members of the National Alliance of Railroads were forbidden to engage in practices defined as “destructive competition”; that in regions declared to be restricted, no more than one railroad would be permitted to operate; that in such regions, seniority belonged to the oldest railroad now operating there, and that the newcomers, who had encroached unfairly upon its territory, would suspend operations within nine months after being so ordered; that the Executive Board of the National Alliance of Railroads was empowered to decide, at its sole discretion, which regions were to be restricted.
When the meeting adjourned, the men hastened to leave. There were no private discussions, no friendly loitering. The great hall became deserted in an unusually short time. Nobody spoke to or looked at Dan Conway.
In the lobby of the building, James Taggart met Orren Boyle. They had made no appointment to meet, but Taggart saw a bulky figure outlined against a marble wall and knew who it was before he saw the face. They approached each other, and Boyle said, his smile less soothing than usual, “I’ve delivered. Your turn now, Jimmy.” “You didn’t have to come here. Why did you?” said Taggart sullenly. “Oh, just for the fun of it,” said Boyle.
Dan Conway sat alone among rows of empty seats. He was still there when the charwoman came to clean the hall. When she hailed him, he rose obediently and shuffled to the door. Passing her in the aisle, he fumbled in his pocket and handed her a five dollar bill, silently, meekly, not looking at her face. He did not seem to know what he was doing; he acted as if he thought that he was in some place where generosity demanded that he give a tip before leaving.
Dagny was still at her desk when the door of her office flew open and James Taggart rushed in. It was the first time he had ever entered in such manner. His face looked feverish.
She had not seen him since the nationalization of the San Sebastián Line. He had not sought to discuss it with her, and she had said nothing about it. She had been proved right so eloquently, she had thought, that comments were unnecessary. A feeling which was part courtesy, part mercy had stopped her from stating to him the conclusion to be drawn from the events. In all reason and justice, there was but one conclusion he could draw. She had heard about his speech to the Board of Directors. She had shrugged, contemptuously amused; if it served his purpose, whatever that was, to appropriate her achievements, then, for his own advantage, if for no other reason, he would leave her free to achieve, from now on.
“So you think you’re the only one who’s doing anything for this railroad?”
She looked at him, bewildered. His voice was shrill; he stood in front of her desk, tense with excitement.
“So, you think that I’ve ruined the company, don’t you?” he yelled. “And now you’re the only one who can save us? Think I have no way to make up for the Mexican loss?”
She asked slowly, “What do you want?”
“I want to tell you some news. Do you remember the Anti-dog-eat-dog proposal of the Railroad Alliance that I told you about months ago? You didn’t like the idea. You didn’t like it at all.”
“I remember. What about it?”
“It has been passed.”
“What has been passed?”
“The Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule. Just a few minutes ago. At the meeting. Nine months from now, there’s not going to be any Phoenix-Durango Railroad in Colorado!”
A glass ashtray crashed to the floor off the desk, as she leaped to her feet.
“You rotten bastards!”
He stood motionless. He was smiling.
She knew that she was shaking, open to him, without defense, and that this was the sight he enjoyed, but it did not matter to her. Then she saw his smile—and suddenly the blinding anger vanished. She felt nothing. She studied that smile with a cold, impersonal curiosity.
They stood facing each other. He looked as if, for the first time, he was not afraid of her. He was gloating. The event meant something to him much beyond the destruction of a competitor. It was not a victory over Dan Conway, but over her. She did not know why or in what manner, but she felt certain that he knew.
For the flash of one instant, she thought that here, before her, in James Taggart and in that which made him smile, was a secret she had never suspected, and it was crucially important that she learn to understand it. But the thought flashed and vanished.
She whirled to the door of a closet and seized her coat.
“Where are you going?” Taggart’s voice had dropped; it sounded disappointed and faintly worried.
She did not answer. She rushed out of the office.
“Dan, you have to fight them. I’ll help you. I’ll fight for you with everything I’ve got.”
Dan Conway shook his head.
He sat at his desk, the empty expanse of a faded blotter before him, one feeble lamp lighted in a corner of the room. Dagny had rushed straight to the city office of the Phoenix-Durango. Conway was there, and he still sat as she had found him. He had smiled at her entrance and said, “Funny, I thought you would come,” his voice gentle, lifeless. They did not know each other well, but they had met a few times in Colorado.
“No,” he said, “it’s no use.”
“Do you mean because of that Alliance agreement that you signed? It won’t hold. This is plain expropriation. No court will uphold it. And if Jim tries to hide behind the usual looters’ slogan of ‘public welfare,’ I’ll go on the stand and swear that Taggart Transcontinental can’t handle the whole traffic of Colorado. And if any court rules against you, you can appeal and keep on appealing for the next ten years.”
“Yes,” he said, “I could . . . I’m not sure I’d win, but I could try and I could hang onto the railroad for a few years longer, but . . . No, it’s not the legal points that I’m thinking about, one way or the other. It’s not that.”
“I don’t want to fight it, Dagny.”
She looked at him incredulously. It was the one sentence which, she felt sure, he had never uttered before; a man could not reverse himself so late in life.
Dan Conway was approaching fifty. He had the square, stolid, stubborn face of a tough freight engineer, rather than a company president; the face of a fighter, with a young, tanned skin and graying hair. He had taken over a shaky little railroad in Arizona, a road whose net revenue was less than that of a successful grocery store, and he had built it into the best railroad of the Southwest. He spoke little, seldom read books, had never gone to college. The whole sphere of human endeavors, with one exception, left him blankly indifferent; he had no touch of that which people called culture. But he knew railroads.
“Why don’t you want to fight?”
“Because they had the right to do it.”
“Dan,” she asked, “have you lost your mind?”
“I’ve never gone back on my word in my life,” he said tonelessly. “I don’t care what the courts decide. I promised to obey the majority. I have to obey.”
“Did you expect the majority to do this to you?”
“No.” There was a kind of faint convulsion in the stolid face. He spoke softly, not looking at her, the helpless astonishment still raw within him. “No. I didn’t expect it. I heard them talking about it for over a year, but I didn’t believe it. Even when they were voting, I didn’t believe it.”
“What did you expect?”
“I thought . . . They said all of us were to stand for the common good. I thought what I had done down there in Colorado was good. Good for everybody.”
“Oh, you damn fool! Don’t you see that that’s what you’re being punished for—because it was good?”
He shook his head. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “But I see no way out.”
“Did you promise them to agree to destroy yourself?”
“There doesn’t seem to be any choice for any of us.”
“What do you mean?”
“Dagny, the whole world’s in a terrible state right now. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but something’s very wrong. Men have to get together and find a way out. But who’s to decide which way to take, unless it’s the majority? I guess that’s the only fair method of deciding, I don’t see any other. I suppose somebody’s got to be sacrificed. If it turned out to be me, I have no right to complain. The right’s on their side. Men have to get together.”
She made an effort to speak calmly; she was trembling with anger. “If that’s the price of getting together, then I’ll be damned if I want to live on the same earth with any human beings! If the rest of them can survive only by destroying us, then why should we wish them to survive? Nothing can make self-immolation proper. Nothing can give them the right to turn men into sacrificial animals. Nothing can make it moral to destroy the best. One can’t be punished for being good. One can’t be penalized for ability. If that is right, then we’d better start slaughtering one another, because there isn’t any right at all in the world!”
He did not answer. He looked at her helplessly.
“If it’s that kind of world, how can we live in it?” she asked.
“I don’t know . . .” he whispered.
“Dan, do you really think it’s right? In all truth, deep down, do you think it’s right?”
He closed his eyes. “No,” he said. Then he looked at her and she saw a look of torture for the first time. “That’s what I’ve been sitting here trying to understand. I know that I ought to think it’s right—but I can’t. It’s as if my tongue wouldn’t turn to say it. I keep seeing every tie of the track down there, every signal light, every bridge, every night that I spent when . . .” His head dropped down on his arms. “Oh God, it’s so damn unjust!”
“Dan,” she said through her teeth, “fight it.”
He raised his head. His eyes were empty. “No,” he said. “It would be wrong. I’m just selfish.”
“Oh, damn that rotten tripe! You know better than that!”
“I don’t know . . .” His voice was very tired. “I’ve been sitting here, trying to think about it . . . I don’t know what is right any more. . . .” He added, “I don’t think I care.”
She knew suddenly that all further words were useless and that Dan Conway would never be a man of action again. She did not know what made her certain of it. She said, wondering, “You’ve never given up in the face of a battle before.”
“No, I guess I haven’t. . . .” He spoke with a quiet, indifferent astonishment. “I’ve fought storms and floods and rock slides and rail fissure. . . . I knew how to do it, and I liked doing it. . . . But this kind of battle—it’s one I can’t fight.”
“I don’t know. Who knows why the world is what it is? Oh, who is John Galt?”
She winced. “Then what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know . . .”
“I mean—” She stopped.
He knew what she meant. “Oh, there’s always something to do. . . .” He spoke without conviction. “I guess it’s only Colorado and New Mexico that they’re going to declare restricted. I’ll still have the line in Arizona to run.” He added, “As it was twenty years ago . . . Well, it will keep me busy. I’m getting tired, Dagny. I didn’t take time to notice it, but I guess I am.”
She could sAy nothing.
“I’m not going to build a line through one of their blighted areas,” he said in the same indifferent voice. “That’s what they tried to hand me for a consolation prize, but I think it’s just talk. You can’t build a railroad where there’s nothing for hundreds of miles but a couple of farmers who’re not growing enough to feed themselves. You can’t build a road and make it pay. If you don’t make it pay, who’s going to? It doesn’t make sense to me. They just didn’t know what they were saying.”
“Oh, to hell with their blighted areas! It’s you I’m thinking about.” She had to name it. “What will you do with yourself?”
“I don’t know . . . Well, there’s a lot of things I haven’t had time to do. Fishing, for instance. I’ve always liked fishing. Maybe I’ll start reading books, always meant to. Guess I’ll take it easy now. Guess I’ll go fishing. There’s some nice places down in Arizona, where it’s peaceful and quiet and you don’t have to see a human being for miles. . . .” He glanced up at her and added, “Forget it. Why should you worry about me?”
“It’s not about you, it’s . . . Dan,” she said suddenly, “I hope you know it’s not for your sake that I wanted to help you fight.”
He smiled; it was a faint, friendly smile. “I know,” he said.
“It’s not out of pity or charity or any ugly reason like that. Look, I intended to give you the battle of your life, down there in Colorado. I intended to cut into your business and squeeze you to the wall and drive you out, if necessary.”
He chuckled faintly; it was appreciation. “You would have made a pretty good try at it, too,” he said.
“Only I didn’t think it would be necessary. I thought there was enough room there for both of us.”
“Yes,” he said. “There was.”
“Still, if I found that there wasn’t, I would have fought you, and if I could make my road better than yours, I’d have broken you and not given a damn about what happened to you. But this . . . Dan, I don’t think I want to look at our Rio Norte Line now. I . . . Oh God, Dan, I don’t want to be a looter!”
He looked at her silently for a moment. It was an odd look, as if from a great distance. He said softly, “You should have been born about a hundred years earlier, kid. Then you would have had a chance.”
“To hell with that. I intend to make my own chance.”
“That’s what I intended at your age.”
She sat still, suddenly unable to move.
He sat up straight and said sharply, almost as if he were issuing orders. “You’d better look at that Rio Norte Line of yours, and you’d better do it—fast. Get it ready before I move out, because if you don’t, that will be the end of Ellis Wyatt and all the rest of them down there, and they’re the best people left in the country. You can’t let that happen. It’s all on your shoulders now. It would be no use trying to explain to your brother that it’s going to be much tougher for you down there without me to compete with. But you and I know it. So go to it. Whatever you do, you won’t be a looter. No looter could run a railroad in that part of the country and last at it. Whatever you make down there, you will have earned it. Lice like your brother don’t count, anyway. It’s up to you now.”
She sat looking at him, wondering what it was that had defeated a man of this kind; she knew that it was not James Taggart.
She saw him looking at her, as if he were struggling with a question mark of his own. Then he smiled, and she saw, incredulously, that the smile held sadness and pity.
“You’d better not feel sorry for me,” he said. “I think, of the two of us, it’s you who have the harder time ahead. And I think you’re going to get it worse than I did.”
She had telephoned the mills and made an appointment to see Hank Rearden that afternoon. She had just hung up the receiver and was bending over the maps of the Rio Norte Line spread on her desk, when the door opened. Dagny looked up, startled; she did not expect the door of her office to open without announcement.
The man who entered was a stranger. He was young, tall, and something about him suggested violence, though she could not say what it was, because the first trait one grasped about him was a quality of self-control that seemed almost arrogant. He had dark eyes, disheveled hair, and his clothes were expensive, but worn as if he did not care or notice what he wore.
“Ellis Wyatt,” he said in self-introduction.
She leaped to her feet, involuntarily. She understood why nobody had or could have stopped him in the counter office.
“Sit down, Mr. Wyatt,” she said, smiling.
“It won’t be necessary.” He did not smile. “I don’t hold long conferences.”
Slowly, taking her time by conscious intention, she sat down and leaned back, looking at him.
“Well?” she asked.
“I came to see you because I understand you’re the only one who’s got any brains in this rotten outfit.”
“What can I do for you?”
“You can listen to an ultimatum.” He spoke distinctly, giving an unusual clarity to every syllable. “I expect Taggart Transcontinental, nine months from now, to run trains in Colorado as my business requires them to be run. If the snide stunt you people perpetrated on the Phoenix-Durango was done for the purpose of saving yourself from the necessity of effort, this is to give you notice that you will not get away with it. I made no demands on you when you could not give me the kind of service I needed. I found someone who could. Now you wish to force me to deal with you. You expect to dictate terms by leaving me no choice. You expect me to hold my business down to the level of your incompetence. This is to tell you that you have miscalculated.”
She said slowly, with effort, “Shall I tell you what I intend to do about our service in Colorado?”
“No. I have no interest in discussions and intentions. I expect transportation. What you do to furnish it and how you do it, is your problem, not mine. I am merely giving you a warning. Those who wish to deal with me, must do so on my terms or not at all. I do not make terms with incompetence. If you expect to earn money by carrying the oil I produce, you must be as good at your business as I am at mine. I wish this to be understood.”
She said quietly, “I understand.”
“I shan’t waste time proving to you why you’d better take my ultimatum seriously. If you have the intelligence to keep this corrupt organization functioning at all, you have the intelligence to judge this for yourself. We both know that if Taggart Transcontinental runs trains in Colorado the way it did five years ago, it will ruin me. I know that this is what you people intend to do. You expect to feed off me while you can and to find another carcass to pick dry after you have finished mine. That is the policy of most of mankind today. So here is my ultimatum: it is now in your power to destroy me; I may have to go; but if I go, I’ll make sure that I take all the rest of you along with me.”
Somewhere within her, under the numbness that held her still to receive the lashing, she felt a small point of pain, hot like the pain of scalding. She wanted to tell him of the years she had spent looking for men such as he to work with; she wanted to tell him that his enemies were hers, that she was fighting the same battle; she wanted to cry to him: I’m not one of them! But she knew that she could not do it. She bore the responsibility for Taggart Transcontinental and for everything done in its name; she had no right to justify herself now.
Sitting straight, her glance as steady and open as his, she answered evenly, “You will get the transportation you need, Mr. Wyatt.”
She saw a faint hint of astonishment in his face; this was not the manner or the answer he had expected; perhaps it was what she had not said that astonished him most: that she offered no defense, no excuses. He took a moment to study her silently. Then he said, his voice less sharp:
“All right. Thank you. Good day.”
She inclined her head. He bowed and left the office.
“That’s the story, Hank. I had worked out an almost impossible schedule to complete the Rio Norte Line in twelve months. Now I’ll have to do it in nine. You were to give us the rail over a period of one year. Can you give it to us within nine months? If there’s any human way to do it, do it. If not, I’ll have to find some other means to finish it.”
Rearden sat behind his desk. His cold, blue eyes made two horizontal cuts across the gaunt planes of his face; they remained horizontal, impassively half-closed; he said evenly, without emphasis:
“I’ll do it.”
Dagny leaned back in her chair. The short sentence was a shock. It was not merely relief: it was the sudden realization that nothing else was necessary to guarantee that it would be done; she needed no proofs, no questions, no explanations; a complex problem could rest safely on three syllables pronounced by a man who knew what he was saying.
“Don’t show that you’re relieved.” His voice was mocking. “Not too obviously.” His narrowed eyes were watching her with an unrevealing smile. “I might think that I hold Taggart Transcontinental in my power.”
“You know that, anyway.”
“I do. And I intend to make you pay for it.”
“I expect to. How much?”
“Twenty dollars extra per ton on the balance of the order delivered after today.”
“Pretty steep, Hank. Is that the best price you can give me?”
“No. But that’s the one I’m going to get. I could ask twice that and you’d pay it.”
“Yes, I would. And you could. But you won’t.”
“Why won’t I?”
“Because you need to have the Rio Norte Line built. It’s your first showcase for Rearden Metal.”
He chuckled. “That’s right. I like to deal with somebody who has no illusions about getting favors.”
“Do you know what made me feel relieved, when you decided to take advantage of it?”
“That I was dealing, for once, with somebody who doesn’t pretend to give favors.”
His smile had a discernible quality now: it was enjoyment. “You always play it open, don’t you?” he asked.
“I’ve never noticed you doing otherwise.”
“I thought I was the only one who could afford to.”
“I’m not broke, in that sense, Hank.”
“I think I’m going to break you some day—in that sense.”
“I’ve always wanted to.”
“Don’t you have enough cowards around you?”
“That’s why I’d enjoy trying it—because you’re the only exception. So you think it’s right that I should squeeze every penny of profit I can, out of your emergency?”
“Certainly. I’m not a fool. I don’t think you’re in business for my convenience.”
“Don’t you wish I were?”
“I’m not a moocher, Hank.”
“Aren’t you going to find it hard to pay?”
“That’s my problem, not yours. I want that rail.”
“At twenty dollars extra per ton?”
“Fine. You’ll get the rail. I may get my exorbitant profit—or Taggart Transcontinental may crash before I collect.”
She said, without smiling, “If I don’t get that line built in nine months, Taggart Transcontinental will crash.”
“It won’t, so long as you run it.”
When he did not smile, his face looked inanimate, only his eyes remained alive, active with a cold, brilliant clarity of perception. But what he was made to feel by the things he perceived, no one would be permitted to know, she thought, perhaps not even himself.
“They’ve done their best to make it harder for you, haven’t they?” he said.
“Yes. I was counting on Colorado to save the Taggart system. Now it’s up to me to save Colorado. Nine months from now, Dan Conway will close his road. If mine isn’t ready, it won’t be any use finishing it. You can’t leave those men without transportation for a single day, let alone a week or a month. At the rate they’ve been growing, you can’t stop them dead and then expect them to continue. It’s like slamming brakes on an engine going two hundred miles an hour.”
“I can run a good railroad. I can’t run it across a continent of sharecroppers who’re not good enough to grow turnips successfully. I’ve got to have men like Ellis Wyatt to produce something to fill the trains I run. So I’ve got to give him a train and a track nine months from now, if I have to blast all the rest of us into hell to do it!”
He smiled, amused. “You feel very strongly about it, don’t you?”
He would not answer, but merely held the smile.
“Aren’t you concerned about it?” she asked, almost angrily.
“Then you don’t realize what it means?”
“I realize that I’m going to get the rail rolled and you’re going to get the track laid in nine months.”
She smiled, relaxing, wearily and a little guiltily. “Yes. I know we will. I know it’s useless—getting angry at people like Jim and his friends. We haven’t any time for it. First, I have to undo what they’ve done. Then afterwards”—she stopped, wondering, shook her head and shrugged—“afterwards, they won’t matter.”
“That’s right. They won’t. When I heard about that Anti-dog-eat-dog business, it made me sick. But don’t worry about the goddamn bastards.” The two words sounded shockingly violent, because his face and voice remained calm. “You and I will always be there to save the country from the consequences of their actions.” He got up; he said, pacing the office, “Colorado isn’t going to be stopped. You’ll pull it through. Then Dan Conway will be back, and others. All that lunacy is temporary. It can’t last. It’s demented, so it has to defeat itself. You and I will just have to work a little harder for a while, that’s all.”
She watched his tall figure moving across the office. 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 exorbitantly expensive in the quality of materials and the skill of design. The room looked like a motor—a motor held within the glass case of broad windows. But she noticed one astonishing detail: a vase of jade that stood on top of a filing cabinet. The vase was a solid, dark green stone carved into plain surfaces; the texture of its smooth curves provoked an irresistible desire to touch it. It seemed startling in that office, incongruous with the sternness of the rest: it was a touch of sensuality.
“Colorado is a great place,” he said. “It’s going to be the greatest in the country. You’re not sure that I’m concerned about it? That state’s becoming one of my best customers, as you ought to know if you take time to read the reports on your freight traffic.”
“I know. I read them.”
“I’ve been thinking of building a plant there in a few years. To save them your transportation charges.” He glanced at her. “You’ll lose an awful lot of steel freight, if I do.”
“Go ahead. I’ll be satisfied with carrying your supplies, and the groceries for your workers, and the freight of the factories that will follow you there—and perhaps I won’t have time to notice that I’ve lost your steel. . . . What are you laughing at?”
“The way you don’t react as everybody else does nowadays.”
“Still, I must admit that for the time being you’re the most important single shipper of Taggart Transcontinental.”
“Don’t you suppose I know it?”
“So I can’t understand why Jim—” She stopped.
“—tries his best to harm my business? Because your brother Jim is a fool.”
“He is. But it’s more than that. There’s something worse than stupidity about it.”
“Don’t waste time trying to figure him out. Let him spit. He’s no danger to anyone. People like Jim Taggart just clutter up the world.”
“I suppose so.”
“Incidentally, what would you have done if I’d said I couldn’t deliver your rails sooner?”
“I would have torn up sidings or closed some branch line, any branch line, and I would have used the rails to finish the Rio Norte track on time.”
He chuckled. “That’s why I’m not worried about Taggart Transcontinental. But you won’t have to start getting rail out of old sidings. Not so long as I’m in business.”
She thought suddenly that she was wrong about his lack of emotion: the hidden undertone of his manner was enjoyment. She realized that she had always felt a sense of light-hearted relaxation in his presence and known that he shared it. He was the only man she knew to whom she could speak without strain or effort. This, she thought, was a mind she respected, an adversary worth matching. Yet there had always been an odd sense of distance between them, the sense of a closed door; there was an impersonal quality in his manner, something within him that could not be reached.
He had stopped at the window. He stood for a moment, looking out. “Do you know that the first load of rail is being delivered to you today?” he asked.
“Of course I know it.”
She approached him. He pointed silently. Far in the distance, beyond the mill structures, she saw a string of gondolas waiting on a siding. The bridge of an overhead crane cut the sky above them. The crane was moving. Its huge magnet held a load of rails glued to a disk by the sole power of contact. There was no trace of sun in the gray spread of clouds, yet the rails glistened, as if the metal caught light out of space. The metal was a greenish-blue. The great chain stopped over a car, descended, jerked in a brief spasm and left the rails in the car. The crane moved back in majestic indifference; it looked like the giant drawing of a geometrical theorem moving above the men and the earth.
They stood at the window, watching silently, intently. She did not speak, until another load of green-blue metal came moving across the sky. Then the first words she said were not about rail, track or an order completed on time. She said, as if greeting a new phenomenon of nature:
“Rearden Metal . . .”
He noticed that, but said nothing. He glanced at her, then turned back to the window.
“Hank, this is great.”
He said it simply, openly. There was no flattered pleasure in his voice, and no modesty. This, she knew, was a tribute to her, the rarest one person could pay another: the tribute of feeling free to acknowledge one’s own greatness, knowing that it is understood.
She said, “When I think of what that metal can do, what it will make possible . . . Hank, this is the most important thing happening in the world today, and none of them know it.”
“We know it.”
They did not look at each other. They stood watching the crane. On the front of the locomotive in the distance, she could distinguish the letters TT. She could distinguish the rails of the busiest industrial siding of the Taggart system.
“As soon as I can find a plant able to do it,” she said, “I’m going to order Diesels made of Rearden Metal.”
“You’ll need them. How fast do you run your trains on the Rio Norte track?”
“Now? We’re lucky if we manage to make twenty miles an hour.”
He pointed at the cars. “When that rail is laid, you’ll be able to run trains at two hundred and fifty, if you wish.”
“I will, in a few years, when we’ll have cars of Rearden Metal, which will be half the weight of steel and twice as safe.”
“You’ll have to look out for the airlines. We’re working on a plane of Rearden Metal. It will weigh practically nothing and lift anything. You’ll see the day of long-haul, heavy-freight air traffic.”
“I’ve been thinking of what that metal will do for motors, any motors, and what sort of thing one can design now.”
“Have you thought of what it will do for chicken wire? Just plain chicken-wire fences, made of Rearden Metal, that will cost a few pennies a mile and last two hundred years. And kitchenware that will be bought at the dime store and passed on from generation to generation. And ocean liners that one won’t be able to dent with a torpedo.”
“Did I tell you that I’m having tests made of communications wire of Rearden Metal?”
“I’m making so many tests that I’ll never get through showing people what can be done with it and how to do it.”
They spoke of the metal and of the possibilities which they could not exhaust. It was as if they were standing on a mountain top, seeing a limitless plain below and roads open in all directions. But they merely spoke of mathematical figures, of weights, pressures, resistances, costs.
She had forgotten her brother and his National Alliance. She had forgotten every problem, person and event behind her; they had always been clouded in her sight, to be hurried past, to be brushed aside, never final, never quite real.This was reality, she thought, this sense of clear outlines, of purpose, of lightness, of hope. This was the way she had expected to live—she had wanted to spend no hour and take no action that would mean less than this.
She looked at him in the exact moment when he turned to look at her. They stood very close to each other. She saw, in his eyes, that he felt as she did. If joy is the aim and the core of existence, she thought, and if that which has the power to give one joy is always guarded as one’s deepest secret, then they had seen each other naked in that moment.
He made a step back and said in a strange tone of dispassionate wonder, “We’re a couple of blackguards, aren’t we?”
“We haven’t any spiritual goals or qualities. All we’re after is material things. That’s all we care for.”
She looked at him, unable to understand. But he was looking past her, straight ahead, at the crane in the distance. She wished he had not said it. The accusation did not trouble her, she never thought of herself in such terms and she was completely incapable of experiencing a feeling of fundamental guilt. But she felt a vague apprehension which she could not define, the suggestion that there was something of grave consequence in whatever had made him say it, something dangerous to him. He had not said it casually. But there had been no feeling in his voice, neither plea nor shame. He had said it indifferently, as a statement of fact.
Then, as she watched him, the apprehension vanished. He was looking at his mills beyond the window; there was no guilt in his face, no doubt, nothing but the calm of an inviolate self-confidence.
“Dagny,” he said, “whatever we are, it’s we who move the world and it’s we who’ll pull it through.”
THE CLIMAX OF THE D’ANCONIAS
The newspaper was the first thing she noticed. It was clutched tightly in Eddie’s hand, as he entered her office. She glanced up at his face: it was tense and bewildered.
“Dagny, are you very busy?”
“I know that you don’t like to talk about him. But there’s something here I think you ought to see.”
She extended her hand silently for the newspaper.
The story on the front page announced that upon taking over the San Sebastián Mines, the government of the People’s State of Mexico had discovered that they were worthless—blatantly, totally, hopelessly worthless. There was nothing to justify the five years of work and the millions spent; nothing but empty excavations, laboriously cut. The few traces of copper were not worth the effort of extracting them. No great deposits of metal existed or could be expected to exist there, and there were no indications that could have permitted anyone to be deluded. The government of the People’s State of Mexico was holding emergency sessions about their discovery, in an uproar of indignation; they felt that they had been cheated.
Watching her, Eddie knew that Dagny sat looking at the newspaper long after she had finished reading. He knew that he had been right to feel a hint of fear, even though he could not tell what frightened him about that story.
He waited. She raised her head. She did not look at him. Her eyes were fixed, intent in concentration, as if trying to discern something at a great distance.
He said, his voice low, “Francisco is not a fool. Whatever else he may be, no matter what depravity he’s sunk to—and I’ve given up trying to figure out why—he is not a fool. He couldn’t have made a mistake of this kind. It is not possible. I don’t understand it.”
“I’m beginning to.”
She sat up, jolted upright by a sudden movement that ran through her body like a shudder. She said:
“Phone him at the Wayne-Falkland and tell the bastard that I want to see him.”
“Dagny,” he said sadly, reproachfully, “it’s Frisco d’Anconia.”
She walked through the early twilight of the city streets to the Wayne-Falkland Hotel. “He says, any time you wish,” Eddie had told her. The first lights appeared in a few windows high under the clouds. The skyscrapers looked like abandoned lighthouses sending feeble, dying signals out into an empty sea where no ships moved any longer. A few snowflakes came down, past the dark windows of empty stores, to melt in the mud of the sidewalks. A string of red lanterns cut the street, going off into the murky distance.
She wondered why she felt that she wanted to run, that she should be running; no, not down this street: down a green hillside in the blazing sun to the road on the edge of the Hudson, at the foot of the Taggart estate. That was the way she always ran when Eddie yelled, “It’s Frisco d’Anconia!” and they both flew down the hill to the car approaching on the road below.
He was the only guest whose arrival was an event in their childhood, their biggest event. The running to meet him had become part of a contest among the three of them. There was a birch tree on the hillside, halfway between the road and the house; Dagny and Eddie tried to get past the tree, before Francisco could race up the hill to meet them. On all the many days of his arrivals, in all the many summers, they never reached the birch tree; Francisco reached it first and stopped them when he was way past it. Francisco always won, as he always won everything.
His parents were old friends of the Taggart family. He was an only son and he was being brought up all over the world; his father, it was said, wanted him to consider the world as his future domain. Dagny and Eddie could never be certain of where he would spend his winter; but once a year, every summer, a stern South American tutor brought him for a month to the Taggart estate.
Francisco found it natural that the Taggart children should be chosen as his companions: they were the crown heirs of Taggart Transcontinental, as he was of d’Anconia Copper. “We are the only aristocracy left in the world—the aristocracy of money,” he said to Dagny once, when he was fourteen. “It’s the only real aristocracy, if people understood what it means, which they don’t.”
He had a caste system of his own: to him, the Taggart children were not Jim and Dagny, but Dagny and Eddie. He seldom volunteered to notice Jim’s existence. Eddie asked him once, “Francisco, you’re some kind of very high nobility, aren’t you?” He answered, “Not yet. The reason my family has lasted for such a long time is that none of us has ever been permitted to think he is born a d’Anconia. We are expected to become one.” He pronounced his name as if he wished his listeners to be struck in the face and knighted by the sound of it.
Sebastián d’Anconia, his ancestor, had left Spain many centuries ago, at a time when Spain was the most powerful country on earth and his was one of Spain’s proudest figures. He left, because the lord of the Inquisition did not approve of his manner of thinking and suggested, at a court banquet, that he change it. Sebastián d’Anconia threw the contents of his wine glass at the face of the lord of the Inquisition, and escaped before he could be seized. He left behind him his fortune, his estate, his marble palace and the girl he loved—and he sailed to a new world.
His first estate in Argentina was a wooden shack in the foothills of the Andes. The sun blazed like a beacon on the silver coat-of-arms of the d’Anconias, nailed over the door of the shack, while Sebastián d’Anconia dug for the copper of his first mine. He spent years, pickax in hand, breaking rock from sunrise till darkness, with the help of a few stray derelicts: deserters from the armies of his countrymen, escaped convicts, starving Indians.
Fifteen years after he left Spain, Sebastián d’Anconia sent for the girl he loved; she had waited for him. When she arrived, she found the silver coat-of-arms above the entrance of a marble palace, the gardens of a great estate, and mountains slashed by pits of red ore in the distance. He carried her in his arms across the threshold of his home. He looked younger than when she had seen him last.
“My ancestors and yours,” Francisco told Dagny, “would have liked each other.”
Through the years of her childhood, Dagny lived in the future—in the world she expected to find, where she would not have to feel contempt or boredom. But for one month each year, she was free. For one month, she could live in the present. When she raced down the hill to meet Francisco d’Anconia, it was a release from prison.
They had both resented the nicknames, at first. She had asked him angrily, “What do you think you mean?” He had answered, “In case you don’t know it, ‘Slug’ means a great fire in a locomotive firebox.” “Where did you pick that up?” “From the gentlemen along the Taggart iron.” He spoke five languages, and he spoke English without a trace of accent, a precise, cultured English deliberately mixed with slang. She had retaliated by calling him Frisco. He had laughed, amused and annoyed. “If you barbarians had to degrade the name of a great city of yours, you could at least refrain from doing it to me.” But they had grown to like the nicknames.
It had started in the days of their second summer together, when he was twelve years old and she was ten. That summer, Frisco began vanishing every morning for some purpose nobody could discover. He went off on his bicycle before dawn, and returned in time to appear at the white and crystal table set for lunch on the terrace, his manner courteously punctual and a little too innocent. He laughed, refusing to answer, when Dagny and Eddie questioned him. They tried to follow him once, through the cold, pre-morning darkness, but they gave it up; no one could track him when he did not want to be tracked.
After a while, Mrs. Taggart began to worry and decided to investigate. She never learned how he had managed to by-pass all the child-labor laws, but she found Francisco working—by an unofficial deal with the dispatcher—as a call boy for Taggart Transcontinental, at a division point ten miles away. The dispatcher was stupefied by her personal visit; he had no idea that his call boy was a house guest of the Taggarts. The boy was known to the local railroad crews as Frankie, and Mrs. Taggart preferred not to enlighten them about his full name. She merely explained that he was working without his parents’ permission and had to quit at once. The dispatcher was sorry to lose him; Frankie, he said, was the best call boy they had ever had. “I’d sure like to keep him on. Maybe we could make a deal with his parents?” he suggested. “I’m afraid not,” said Mrs. Taggart faintly.
“Francisco,” she asked, when she brought him home, “what would your father say about this, if he knew?”
“My father would ask whether I was good at the job or not. That’s all he’d want to know.”
“Come now, I’m serious.”
Francisco was looking at her politely, his courteous manner suggesting centuries of breeding and drawing rooms; but something in his eyes made her feel uncertain about the politeness. “Last winter,” he answered, “I shipped out as a cabin boy on a cargo steamer that carried d’Anconia copper. My father looked for me for three months, but that’s all he asked me when I came back.”
“So that’s how you spend your winters?” said Jim Taggart. Jim’s smile had a touch of triumph, the triumph of finding cause to feel contempt.
“That was last winter,” Francisco answered pleasantly, with no change in the innocent, casual tone of his voice. “The winter before last I spent in Madrid, at the home of the Duke of Alba.”
“Why did you want to work on a railroad?” asked Dagny.
They stood looking at each other: hers was a glance of admiration, his of mockery; but it was not the mockery of malice—it was the laughter of a salute.
“To learn what’s it’s like, Slug,” he answered, “and to tell you that I’ve had a job with Taggart Transcontinental before you did.”
Dagny and Eddie spent their winters trying to master some new skill, in order to astonish Francisco and beat him, for once. They never succeeded. When they showed him how to hit a ball with a bat, a game he had never played before, he watched them for a few minutes, then said, “I think I get the idea. Let me try.” He took the bat and sent the ball flying over a line of oak trees far at the end of the field.
When Jim was given a motorboat for his birthday, they all stood on the river landing, watching the lesson, while an instructor showed Jim how to run it. None of them had ever driven a motorboat before. The sparkling white craft, shaped like a bullet, kept staggering clumsily across the water, its wake a long record of shivering, its motor choking with hiccoughs, while the instructor, seated beside him, kept seizing the wheel out of Jim’s hands. For no apparent reason, Jim raised his head suddenly and yelled at Francisco, “Do you think you can do it any better?” “I can do it.” “Try it!”
When the boat came back and its two occupants stepped out, Francisco slipped behind the wheel. “Wait a moment,” he said to the instructor, who remained on the landing. “Let me take a look at this.” Then, before the instructor had time to move, the boat shot out to the middle of the river, as if fired from a gun. It was streaking away before they grasped what they were seeing. As it went shrinking into the distance and sunlight, Dagny’s picture of it was three straight lines: its wake, the long shriek of its motor, and the aim of the driver at its wheel.
She noticed the strange expression of her father’s face as he looked at the vanishing speedboat. He said nothing; he just stood looking. She remembered that she had seen him look that way once before. It was when he inspected a complex system of pulleys which Francisco, aged twelve, had erected to make an elevator to the top of a rock; he was teaching Dagny and Eddie to dive from the rock into the Hudson. Francisco’s notes of calculations were still scattered about on the ground; her father picked them up, looked at them, then asked, “Francisco, how many years of algebra have you had?” “Two years.” “Who taught you to do this?” “Oh, that’s just something I figured out.” She did not know that what her father held on the crumpled sheets of paper was the crude version of a differential equation.
The heirs of Sebastián d’Anconia had been an unbroken line of first sons, who knew how to bear his name. It was a tradition of the family that the man to disgrace them would be the heir who died, leaving the d’Anconia fortune no greater than he had received it. Throughout the generations, that disgrace had not come. An Argentinian legend said that the hand of a d’Anconia had the miraculous power of the saints—only it was not the power to heal, but the power to produce.
The d’Anconia heirs had been men of unusual ability, but none of them could match what Francisco d’Anconia promised to become. It was as if the centuries had sifted the family’s qualities through a fine mesh, had discarded the irrelevant, the inconsequential, the weak, and had let nothing through except pure talent; as if chance, for once, had achieved an entity devoid of the accidental.
Francisco could do anything he undertook, he could do it better than anyone else, and he did it without effort. There was no boasting in his manner and consciousness, no thought of comparison. His attitude was not: “I can do it better than you,” but simply: “I can do it.” What he meant by doing was doing superlatively.
No matter what discipline was required of him by his father’s exacting plan for his education, no matter what subject he was ordered to study, Francisco mastered it with effortless amusement. His father adored him, but concealed it carefully, as he concealed the pride of knowing that he was bringing up the most brilliant phenomenon of a brilliant family line. Francisco, it was said, was to be the climax of the d’Anconias.
“I don’t know what sort of motto the d’Anconias have on their family crest,” Mrs. Taggart said once, “but I’m sure that Francisco will change it to ‘What for?’ ” It was the first question he asked about any activity proposed to him—and nothing would make him act, if he found no valid answer. He flew through the days of his summer month like a rocket, but if one stopped him in midflight, he could always name the purpose of his every random moment. Two things were impossible to him: to stand still or to move aimlessly.
“Let’s find out” was the motive he gave to Dagny and Eddie for anything he undertook, or “Let’s make it.” These were his only forms of enjoyment.
“I can do it,” he said, when he was building his elevator, clinging to the side of a cliff, driving metal wedges into rock, his arms moving with an expert’s rhythm, drops of blood slipping, unnoticed, from under a bandage on his wrist. “No, we can’t take turns, Eddie, you’re not big enough yet to handle a hammer. Just cart the weeds off and keep the way clear for me, I’ll do the rest. . . . What blood? Oh, that’s nothing; just a cut I got yesterday. Dagny, run to the house and bring me a clean bandage.”
Jim watched them. They left him alone, but they often saw him standing in the distance, watching Francisco with a peculiar kind of intensity.
He seldom spoke in Francisco’s presence. But he would corner Dagny and he would smile derisively, saying, “All those airs you put on, pretending that you’re an iron woman with a mind of her own! You’re a spineless dishrag, that’s all you are. It’s disgusting, the way you let that conceited punk order you about. He can twist you around his little finger. You haven’t any pride at all. The way you run when he whistles and wait on him! Why don’t you shine his shoes?” “Because he hasn’t told me to,” she answered.
Francisco could win any game in any local contest. He never entered contests. He could have ruled the junior country club. He never came within sight of their clubhouse, ignoring their eager attempts to enroll the most famous heir in the world. Dagny and Eddie were his only friends. They could not tell whether they owned him or were owned by him completely; it made no difference; either concept made them happy.
The three of them set out every morning on adventures of their own kind. Once, an elderly professor of literature, Mrs. Taggart’s friend, saw them on top of a pile in a junk yard, dismantling the carcass of an automobile. He stopped, shook his head and said to Francisco, “A young man of your position ought to spend his time in libraries, absorbing the culture of the world.” “What do you think I’m doing?” asked Francisco.
There were no factories in the neighborhood, but Francisco taught Dagny and Eddie to steal rides on Taggart trains to distant towns, where they climbed fences into mill yards or hung on window sills, watching machinery as other children watched movies. “When I run Taggart Transcontinental . . .” Dagny would say at times. “When I run d’Anconia Copper . . .” said Francisco. They never had to explain the rest to each other; they knew each other’s goal and motive.
Railroad conductors caught them, once in a while. Then a stationmaster a hundred miles away would telephone Mrs. Taggart: “We’ve got three young tramps here who say that they are—” “Yes,” Mrs. Taggart would sigh, “they are. Please send them back.”
“Francisco,” Eddie asked him once, as they stood by the tracks of the Taggart station, “you’ve been just about everywhere in the world. What’s the most important thing on earth?” “This,” answered Francisco, pointing to the emblem TT on the front of an engine. He added, “I wish I could have met Nat Taggart.”
He noticed Dagny’s glance at him. He said nothing else. But minutes later, when they went on through the woods, down a narrow path of damp earth, ferns and sunlight, he said, “Dagny, I’ll always bow to a coat-of-arms. I’ll always worship the symbols of nobility. Am I not supposed to be an aristocrat? Only I don’t give a damn for moth-eaten turrets and tenth-hand unicorns. The coats-of-arms of our day are to be found on billboards and in the ads of popular magazines.” “What do you mean?” asked Eddie. “Industrial trademarks, Eddie,” he answered. Francisco was fifteen years old, that summer.
“When I run d’Anconia Copper . . .” “I’m studying mining and mineralogy, because I must be ready for the time when I run d’Anconia Copper. . . .” “I’m studying electrical engineering, because power companies are the best customers of d’Anconia Copper . . .” “I’m going to study philosophy, because I’ll need it to protect d’Anconia Copper . . .”
“Don’t you ever think of anything but d’Anconia Copper?” Jim asked him once.
“It seems to me that there are other things in the world.”
“Let others think about them.”
“Isn’t that a very selfish attitude?”
“What are you after?”
“Don’t you have enough?”
“In his lifetime, every one of my ancestors raised the production of d’Anconia Copper by about ten per cent. I intend to raise it by one hundred.”
“What for?” Jim asked, in sarcastic imitation of Francisco’s voice.
“When I die, I hope to go to heaven—whatever the hell that is—and I want to be able to afford the price of admission.”
“Virtue is the price of admission,” Jim said haughtily.
“That’s what I mean, James. So I want to be prepared to claim the greatest virtue of all—that I was a man who made money.”
“Any grafter can make money.”
“James, you ought to discover some day that words have an exact meaning.”
Francisco smiled; it was a smile of radiant mockery. Watching them, Dagny thought suddenly of the difference between Francisco and her brother Jim. Both of them smiled derisively. But Francisco seemed to laugh at things because he saw something much greater. Jim laughed as if he wanted to let nothing remain great.
She noticed the particular quality of Francisco’s smile again, one night, when she sat with him and Eddie at a bonfire they had built in the woods. The glow of the fire enclosed them within a fence of broken, moving strips that held pieces of tree trunks, branches and distant stars. She felt as if there were nothing beyond that fence, nothing but black emptiness, with the hint of some breath-stopping, frightening promise . . . like the future. But the future, she thought, would be like Francisco’s smile, there was the key to it, the advance warning of its nature—in his face in the firelight under the pine branches—and suddenly she felt an unbearable happiness, unbearable because it was too full and she had no way to express it. She glanced at Eddie. He was looking at Francisco. In some quiet way of his own, Eddie felt as she did.
“Why do you like Francisco?” she asked him weeks later, when Francisco was gone.
Eddie looked astonished; it had never occurred to him that the feeling could be questioned. He said, “He makes me feel safe.”
She said, “He makes me expect excitement and danger.”
Francisco was sixteen, next summer, the day when she stood alone with him on the summit of a cliff by the river, their shorts and shirts torn in their climb to the top. They stood looking down the Hudson; they had heard that on clear days one could see New York in the distance. But they saw only a haze made of three different kinds of light merging together: the river, the sky and the sun.
She knelt on a rock, leaning forward, trying to catch some hint of the city, the wind blowing her hair across her eyes. She glanced back over her shoulder—and saw that Francisco was not looking at the distance: he stood looking at her. It was an odd glance, intent and unsmiling. She remained still for a moment, her hands spread flat on the rock, her arms tensed to support the weight of her body; inexplicably, his glance made her aware of her pose, of her shoulder showing through the torn shirt, of her long, scratched, sunburned legs slanting from the rock to the ground. She stood up angrily and backed away from him. And while throwing her head up, resentment in her eyes to meet the sternness in his, while feeling certain that his was a glance of condemnation and hostility, she heard herself asking him, a tone of smiling defiance in her voice:
“What do you like about me?”
He laughed; she wondered, aghast, what had made her say it. He answered, “There’s what I like about you,” pointing to the glittering rails of the Taggart station in the distance.
“It’s not mine,” she said, disappointed.
“What I like is that it’s going to be.”
She smiled, conceding his victory by being openly delighted. She did not know why he had looked at her so strangely; but she felt that he had seen some connection, which she could not grasp, between her body and something within her that would give her the strength to rule those rails some day.
He said brusquely, “Let’s see if we can see New York,” and jerked her by the arm to the edge of the cliff. She thought that he did not notice that he twisted her arm in a peculiar way, holding it down along the length of his side; it made her stand pressed against him, and she felt the warmth of the sun in the skin of his legs against hers. They looked far out into the distance, but they saw nothing ahead except a haze of light.
When Francisco left, that summer, she thought that his departure was like the crossing of a frontier which ended his childhood: he was to start college, that fall. Her turn would come next. She felt an eager impatience touched by the excitement of fear; as if he had leaped into an unknown danger. It was like the moment, years ago, when she had seen him dive first from a rock into the Hudson, had seen him vanish under the black water and had stood, knowing that he would reappear in an instant and that it would then be her turn to follow.
She dismissed the fear; dangers, to Francisco, were merely opportunities for another brilliant performance; there were no battles he could lose, no enemies to beat him. And then she thought of a remark she had heard a few years earlier. It was a strange remark—and it was strange that the words had remained in her mind, even though she had thought them senseless at the time. The man who said it was an old professor of mathematics, a friend of her father, who came to their country house for just that one visit. She liked his face, and she could still see the peculiar sadness in his eyes when he said to her father one evening, sitting on the terrace in the fading light, pointing to Francisco’s figure in the garden, “That boy is vulnerable. He has too great a capacity for joy. What will he do with it in a world where there’s so little occasion for it?”
Francisco went to a great American school, which his father had chosen for him long ago. It was the most distinguished institution of learning left in the world, the Patrick Henry University of Cleveland. He did not come to visit her in New York, that winter, even though he was only a night’s journey away. They did not write to each other, they had never done it. But she knew that he would come back to the country for one summer month.
There were a few times, that winter, when she felt an undefined apprehension: the professor’s words kept returning to her mind, as a warning which she could not explain. She dismissed them. When she thought of Francisco, she felt the steadying assurance that she would have another month as an advance against the future, as a proof that the world she saw ahead was real, even though it was not the world of those around her.
Standing on the hillside, in the first moment of seeing him again, she grasped suddenly the nature of that world which they, together, held against all others. It was only an instant’s pause, she felt her cotton skirt beating in the wind against her knees, felt the sun on her eyelids, and the upward thrust of such an immense relief that she ground her feet into the grass under her sandals, because she thought she would rise, weightless, through the wind.
It was a sudden sense of freedom and safety—because she realized that she knew nothing about the events of his life, had never known and would never need to know. The world of chance—of families, meals, schools, people, of aimless people dragging the load of some unknown guilt—was not theirs, could not change him, could not matter. He and she had never spoken of the things that happened to them, but only of what they thought and of what they would do. . . . She looked at him silently, as if a voice within her were saying: Not the things that are, but the things we’ll make . . . We are not to be stopped, you and I . . . Forgive me the fear, if I thought I could lose you to them—forgive me the doubt, they’ll never reach you—I’ll never be afraid for you again. . . .
He, too, stood looking at her for a moment—and it seemed to her that it was not a look of greeting after an absence, but the look of someone who had thought of her every day of that year. She could not be certain, it was only an instant, so brief that just as she caught it, he was turning to point at the birch tree behind him and saying in the tone of their childhood game:
“I wish you’d learn to run faster: I’ll always have to wait for you.”
“Will you wait for me?” she asked gaily.
He answered, without smiling, “Always.”
As they went up the hill to the house, he spoke to Eddie, while she walked silently by his side. She felt that there was a new reticence between them which, strangely, was a new kind of intimacy.
She did not question him about the university. Days later, she asked him only whether he liked it.
“They’re teaching a lot of drivel nowadays,” he answered, “but there are a few courses I like.”
“Have you made any friends there?”
He told her nothing else.
Jim was approaching his senior year in a college in New York. His studies had given him a manner of odd, quavering belligerence, as if he had found a new weapon. He addressed Francisco once, without provocation, stopping him in the middle of the lawn to say in a tone of aggressive self-righteousness:
“I think that now that you’ve reached college age, you ought to learn something about ideals. It’s time to forget your selfish greed and give some thought to your social responsibilities, because I think that all those millions you’re going to inherit are not for your personal pleasure, they are a trust for the benefit of the underprivileged and the poor, because I think that the person who doesn’t realize this is the most depraved type of human being.”
Francisco answered courteously, “It is not advisable, James, to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener.”
Dagny asked him, as they walked away, “Are there many men like Jim in the world?”
Francisco laughed. “A great many.”
“Don’t you mind it?”
“No. I don’t have to deal with them. Why do you ask that?”
“Because I think they’re dangerous in some way . . . I don’t know how . . .”
“Good God, Dagny! Do you expect me to be afraid of an object like James?”
It was days later, when they were alone, walking through the woods on the shore of the river, that she asked:
“Francisco, what’s the most depraved type of human being?”
“The man without a purpose.”
She was looking at the straight shafts of the trees that stood against the great, sudden, shining spread of space beyond. The forest was dim and cool, but the outer branches caught the hot, silver sun-rays from the water. She wondered why she enjoyed the sight, when she had never taken any notice of the country around her, why she was so aware of her enjoyment, of her movements, of her body in the process of walking. She did not want to look at Francisco. She felt that his presence seemed more intensely real when she kept her eyes away from him, almost as if the stressed awareness of herself came from him, like the sunlight from the water.
“You think you’re good, don’t you?” he asked.
“I always did,” she answered defiantly, without turning.
“Well, let me see you prove it. Let me see how far you’ll rise with Taggart Transcontinental. No matter how good you are, I’ll expect you to wring everything you’ve got, trying to be still better. And when you’ve worn yourself out to reach a goal, I’ll expect you to start for another.”
“Why do you think that I care to prove anything to you?” she asked.
“Want me to answer?”
“No,” she whispered, her eyes fixed upon the other shore of the river in the distance.
She heard him chuckling, and after a while he said, “Dagny, there’s nothing of any importance in life—except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It’s the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they’ll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that’s on a gold standard. When you grow up, you’ll know what I mean.”
“I know it now. But . . . Francisco, why are you and I the only ones who seem to know it?”
“Why should you care about the others?”
“Because I like to understand things, and there’s something about people that I can’t understand.”
“Well, I’ve always been unpopular in school and it didn’t bother me, but now I’ve discovered the reason. It’s an impossible kind of reason. They dislike me, not because I do things badly, but because I do them well. They dislike me because I’ve always had the best grades in class. I don’t even have to study. I always get A’s. Do you suppose I should try to get D’s for a change and become the most popular girl in school?”
Francisco stopped, looked at her and slapped her face.
What she felt was contained in a single instant, while the ground rocked under her feet, in a single blast of emotion within her. She knew that she would have killed any other person who struck her; she felt the violent fury which would have given her the strength for it—and as violent a pleasure that Francisco had done it. She felt pleasure from the dull, hot pain in her cheek and from the taste of blood in the corner of her mouth. She felt pleasure in what she suddenly grasped about him, about herself and about his motive.
She braced her feet to stop the dizziness, she held her head straight and stood facing him in the consciousness of a new power, feeling herself his equal for the first time, looking at him with a mocking smile of triumph.
“Did I hurt you as much as that?” she asked.
He looked astonished; the question and the smile were not those of a child. He answered, “Yes—if it pleases you.”
“Don’t ever do that again. Don’t crack jokes of that kind.”
“Don’t be a fool. Whatever made you think that I cared about being popular?”
“When you grow up, you’ll understand what sort of unspeakable thing you said.”
“I understand it now.”
He turned abruptly, took out his handkerchief and dipped it in the water of the river. “Come here,” he ordered.
She laughed; stepping back. “Oh, no. I want to keep it as it is. I hope it swells terribly. I like it.”
He looked at her for a long moment. He said slowly, very earnestly, “Dagny, you’re wonderful.”
“I thought that you always thought so,” she answered, her voice insolently casual.
When she came home, she told her mother that she had cut her lip by falling against a rock. It was the only lie she ever told. She did not do it to protect Francisco; she did it because she felt, for some reason which she could not define, that the incident was a secret too precious to share.
Next summer, when Francisco came, she was sixteen. She started running down the hill to meet him, but stopped abruptly. He saw it, stopped, and they stood for a moment, looking at each other across the distance of a long, green slope. It was he who walked up toward her, walked very slowly, while she stood waiting.
When he approached, she smiled innocently, as if unconscious of any contest intended or won.
“You might like to know,” she said, “that I have a job on the railroad. Night operator at Rockdale.”
He laughed. “All right, Taggart Transcontinental, now it’s a race. Let’s see who’ll do greater honor, you—to Nat Taggart, or I—to Sebastián d’Anconia.”
That winter, she stripped her life down to the bright simplicity of a geometrical drawing: a few straight lines—to and from the engineering college in the city each day, to and from her job at Rockdale Station each night—and the closed circle of her room, a room littered with diagrams of motors, blueprints of steel structures, and railroad timetables.
Mrs. Taggart watched her daughter in unhappy bewilderment. She could have forgiven all the omissions, but one: Dagny showed no sign of interest in men, no romantic inclination whatever. Mrs. Taggart did not approve of extremes; she had been prepared to contend with an extreme of the opposite kind, if necessary; she found herself thinking that this was worse. She felt embarrassed when she had to admit that her daughter, at seventeen, did not have a single admirer.
“Dagny and Francisco d’Anconia?” she said, smiling ruefully, in answer to the curiosity of her friends. “Oh no, it’s not a romance. It’s an international industrial cartel of some kind. That’s all they seem to care about.”
Mrs. Taggart heard James say one evening, in the presence of guests, a peculiar tone of satisfaction in his voice, “Dagny, even though you were named after her, you really look more like Nat Taggart than like that first Dagny Taggart, the famous beauty who was his wife.” Mrs. Taggart did not know which offended her most: that James said it or that Dagny accepted it happily as a compliment.
She would never have a chance, thought Mrs. Taggart, to form some conception of her own daughter. Dagny was only a figure hurrying in and out of the apartment, a slim figure in a leather jacket, with a raised collar, a short skirt and long show-girl legs. She walked, cutting across a room, with a masculine, straight-line abruptness, but she had a peculiar grace of motion that was swift, tense and oddly, challengingly feminine.
At times, catching a glimpse of Dagny’s face, Mrs. Taggart caught an expression which she could not quite define: it was much more than gaiety, it was the look of such an untouched purity of enjoyment that she found it abnormal, too: no young girl could be so insensitive as to have discovered no sadness in life. Her daughter, she concluded, was incapable of emotion.
“Dagny,” she asked once, “don’t you ever want to have a good time?” Dagny looked at her incredulously and answered, “What do you think I’m having?”
The decision to give her daughter a formal debut cost Mrs. Taggart a great deal of anxious thought. She did not know whether she was introducing to New York society Miss Dagny Taggart of the Social Register or the night operator of Rockdale Station; she was inclined to believe it was more truly this last; and she felt certain that Dagny would reject the idea of such an occasion. She was astonished when Dagny accepted it with inexplicable eagerness, for once like a child.
She was astonished again, when she saw Dagny dressed for the party. It was the first feminine dress she had ever worn—a gown of white chiffon with a huge skirt that floated like a cloud. Mrs. Taggart had expected her to look like a preposterous contrast. Dagny looked like a beauty. She seemed both older and more radiantly innocent than usual; standing in front of the mirror, she held her head as Nat Taggart’s wife would have held it.
“Dagny,” Mrs. Taggart said gently, reproachfully, “do you see how beautiful you can be when you want to?”
“Yes,” said Dagny, without any astonishment.
The ballroom of the Wayne-Falkland Hotel had been decorated under Mrs. Taggart’s direction; she had an artist’s taste, and the setting of that evening was her masterpiece. “Dagny, there are things I would like you to learn to notice,” she said, “lights, colors, flowers, music. They are not as negligible as you might think.” “I’ve never thought they’re negligible,” Dagny answered happily. For once, Mrs. Taggart felt a bond between them; Dagny was looking at her with a child’s grateful trust. “They’re the things that make life beautiful,” said Mrs. Taggart. “I want this evening to be very beautiful for you, Dagny. The first ball is the most romantic event of one’s life.”
To Mrs. Taggart, the greatest surprise was the moment when she saw Dagny standing under the lights, looking at the ballroom. This was not a child, not a girl, but a woman of such confident, dangerous power that Mrs. Taggart stared at her with shocked admiration. In an age of casual, cynical, indifferent routine, among people who held themselves as if they were not flesh, but metal—Dagny’s bearing seemed almost indecent, because this was the way a woman would have faced a ballroom centuries ago, when the act of displaying one’s half-naked body for the admiration of men was an act of daring, when it had meaning, and but one meaning, acknowledged by all as a high adventure. And this—thought Mrs. Taggart, smiling—was the girl she had believed to be devoid of sexual capacity. She felt an immense relief, and a touch of amusement at the thought that a discovery of this kind should make her feel relieved.
The relief lasted only for a few hours. At the end of the evening, she saw Dagny in a corner of the ballroom, sitting on a balustrade as if it were a fence rail, her legs dangling under the chiffon skirt as if she were dressed in slacks. She was talking to a couple of helpless young men, her face contemptuously empty.
Neither Dagny nor Mrs. Taggart said a word when they rode home together. But hours later, on a sudden impulse, Mrs. Taggart went to her daughter’s room. Dagny stood by the window, still wearing the white evening gown; it looked like a cloud supporting a body that now seemed too thin for it, a small body with sagging shoulders. Beyond the window, the clouds were gray in the first light of morning.
When Dagny turned, Mrs. Taggart saw only puzzled helplessness in her face; the face was calm, but something about it made Mrs. Taggart wish she had not wished that her daughter should discover sadness.
“Mother, do they think it’s exactly in reverse?” she asked.
“What?” asked Mrs. Taggart, bewildered.
“The things you were talking about. The lights and the flowers. Do they expect those things to make them romantic, not the other way around?”
“Darling, what do you mean?”
“There wasn’t a person there who enjoyed it,” she said, her voice lifeless, “or who thought or felt anything at all. They moved about, and they said the same dull things they say anywhere. I suppose they thought the lights would make it brilliant.”
“Darling, you take everything too seriously. One is not supposed to be intellectual at a ball. One is simply supposed to be gay.”
“How? By being stupid?”
“I mean, for instance, didn’t you enjoy meeting the young men?”
“What men? There wasn’t a man there I couldn’t squash ten of.”
Days later, sitting at her desk at Rockdale Station, feeling lightheartedly at home, Dagny thought of the party and shrugged in contemptuous reproach at her own disappointment. She looked up: it was spring and there were leaves on the tree branches in the darkness outside; the air was still and warm. She asked herself what she had expected from that party. She did not know. But she felt it again, here, now, as she sat slouched over a battered desk, looking out into the darkness: a sense of expectation without object, rising through her body slowly, like a warm liquid. She slumped forward across the desk, lazily, feeling neither exhaustion nor desire to work.
When Francisco came, that summer, she told him about the party and about her disappointment. He listened silently, looking at her for the first time with that glance of unmoving mockery which he reserved for others, a glance that seemed to see too much. She felt as if he heard, in her words, more than she knew she told him.
She saw the same glance in his eyes on the evening when she left him too early. They were alone, sitting on the shore of the river. She had another hour before she was due at Rockdale. There were long, thin strips of fire in the sky, and red sparks floating lazily on the water. He had been silent for a long time, when she rose abruptly and told him that she had to go. He did not try to stop her; he leaned back, his elbows in the grass, and looked at her without moving; his glance seemed to say that he knew her motive. Hurrying angrily up the slope to the house, she wondered what had made her leave; she did not know; it had been a sudden restlessness that came from a feeling she did not identify till now: a feeling of expectation.
Each night, she drove the five miles from the country house to Rockdale. She came back at dawn, slept a few hours and got up with the rest of the household. She felt no desire to sleep. Undressing for bed in the first rays of the sun, she felt a tense, joyous, causeless impatience to face the day that was starting.
She saw Francisco’s mocking glance again, across the net of a tennis court. She did not remember the beginning of that game; they had often played tennis together and he had always won. She did not know at what moment she decided that she would win, this time. When she became aware of it, it was no longer a decision or a wish, but a quiet fury rising within her. She did not know why she had to win; she did not know why it seemed so crucially, urgently necessary; she knew only that she had to and that she would.
It seemed easy to play; it was as if her will had vanished and someone’s power were playing for her. She watched Francisco’s figure—a tall, swift figure, the suntan of his arms stressed by his short white shirt sleeves. She felt an arrogant pleasure in seeing the skill of his movements, because this was the thing which she would beat, so that his every expert gesture became her victory, and the brilliant competence of his body became the triumph of hers.
She felt the rising pain of exhaustion—not knowing that it was pain, feeling it only in sudden stabs that made her aware of some part of her body for an instant, to be forgotten in the next: her arm socket—her shoulder blades—her hips, with the white shorts sticking to her skin—the muscles of her legs, when she leaped to meet the ball, but did not remember whether she came down to touch the ground again—her eyelids, when the sky went dark red and the ball came at her through the darkness like a whirling white flame—the thin, hot wire that shot from her ankle, up her back, and went on shooting straight across the air, driving the ball at Francisco’s figure. . . . She felt an exultant pleasure—because every stab of pain begun in her body had to end in his, because he was being exhausted as she was—what she did to herself, she was doing it also to him—this was what he felt—this was what she drove him to—it was not her pain that she felt or her body, but his.
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It is a decent read, one that people should read at one point or another. You will either love it, or hate it, there are very few of us in between-ers. Much like Catcher in the Rye, there are those who will be offended, and those who will take it up as their personal dogma. Personally, I found it enjoyable, but that's about it. Where I do have a problem is the price of this and all Ayn Rand ebooks, they are higher priced than their hardcover counterpart. That's just ridiculous. I'd suggest picking this up from the library. If you fall into the 'love it' group, you'll have your own copy soon. If you fall into the 'hate it' category, you haven't spent anything, and you can check off one of the 'books you should read at one time or another' list.
The first time I ever heard of this book was about 10 years ago. I never gave it much thought, but over time it would cross my path and finally before Christmas 2009 I picked it up at BN. I now realize that had I read this book 10 years ago (I would have been 18), I never would have appreciated what this book offers. Someone in another review wrote how this book has changed their life and how they look at things. Let me assure you, that was not a lie. Ayn Rand is an amazing author whose vision and philosophy is woven throughout the fabric of this book. I have been found reading this book in sandwich shops, coffee shops, airports, etc. and it amazes me the people that stop by when they see you are reading this book. I've had 2-minute conversations and 20-minute conversations about the concepts, philosophy and principles shared in this book. You can interpret the premise of this book in any way you would like. I even had someone tell me that this is "The Republican Handbook." I mean no offense to any political party, but to affiliate this work with any political agenda is not only an insult to Ms. Rand, but providing too much credit to any political official and his/her party. Do you ever sit in frustration as you watch those around you literally take no accountability for their actions or explain failure as an act of God? Do you wonder where the principles of work ethic, honor, integrity, the love, passion, pride and desire to be the best and to give your absolute best in everything you do; the foundation that this country was built upon has gone? Have you found yourself wondering why people refuse to think?! If you're looking for a "beach read" to take yourself away from reality and not "think" for a while, then I would not recommend this book. If you want answers to questions you've always asked or to find the questions you never knew to ask about life and purpose, then please buy this, or let me know and I'll let you borrow/have mine. If you want to read something that will stay with you for a while; if you want to read something that will challenge you to examine yourself and your virtues, then please buy this book. This book is my all time favorite and I am already looking forward to a few years down the road, picking it back up and re-reading it again (the highest compliment to any author).
I read The Fountainhead while a junior in High School, in '66 and loved it, and tried to get into Atlas Shrugged three or four times, but just didn't have a noggin sufficiently developed to deal with it. Now I am thoroughly into it, being about 60 and having experienced alot of stuff in life. So I recently bought a hardcopy edition, knowing I'll be using it alot. I just wish someone would publish a large print, two volume edition! People should approach Atlas Shrugged as a work of fiction by a person with a very strong philosophical bent, who is using the various devices of fiction novel writing to convey her ideas. In other words, don't think of it as a great work of fiction . . .she has bent all those devices to serve her purposes in laying out her ideas. So focus on the points she makes. Underline and take notes. It will change you! I think people assume that Ayn Rand presented her philosophy solely with the intention of striking a chord in the best minds, the most intelligent, among us. Actually, she intended it to appeal to anyone who has a functioning brain, anyone who is capable of optimizing their use of reason. Hey, that includes me! How about you? We may not be the intellectual cream of the crop, but we can think and live great productive lives. We can read and study Atlas Shrugged and benefit from it. Also, let me suggest that one need not be an atheist to grasp Ayn Rand's philosophy. God made man with the capacity to reason, and I am sure He would be delighted if we would commit ourselves to getting better at it. He knows we would be much happier just by using the brains He gave us! Yes, God must hate collectivist thinking, pc, and all the Doom and Gloom crowd has to offer us today.
Everytime I think I have a handle on your E Book pricing something like the Ayn Rand book comes along. The Nook is great but why should we download books for more than the material sells for at BJ's or Costco????? You guys should really review your pricing!!!!!!
I can not believe that you would charge more for the e book than you would for the paper back.
I love the novel; it is one of my all-time favorites. However, this eBook was clearly scanned from a printed source and sold directly without any sort of proofing. Each page has one or two errors. They are usually insignificant, but occasionally you will need to re-read a segment to determine the meaning of a sentence. Even the minor mis-scans jarringly pulled me out of the story. I have more of an editing-geared mind, so I'm sure some readers won't be as bothered. My hardcover (the Centennial Edition), has none of these typos. Was this 1992 edition not printed from a digital source? These errors would be entirely forgivable (although still likely fixed with updates) from Project Gutenberg, but not in a copy that costs as much as the paperback.
Ayn Rand may have given us the best work of fiction of the 20th Century. She doesn't have the body of work of Hemingway or Bellow, but with Atlas Shrugged she gave us the single most important piece of literature from 1900 to 1999. Atlas Shrugged addresses the single most important question of the 20th Century: democracy vs. tyranny/capitalism vs. scoialism. What each one of us believes is our choice, but Rand gives us a good example of what can go wrong when we take altruism to its ridiculous extremes. Unlike Hemingway's man vs. nature examples Rand presents us with the ultimate problem, man vs. man, capitalism vs. the virtue-less socialistic beliefs of the anti John Galt crowd.
I would love to read Atlas Shrugged and the main reason I have a nook is to read books like this one; books that are much too large to carry around wherever you go. It's very disappointing that this is the only version of Atlas Shrugged available for nook and it is so ridiculously priced. I hope to come back and write a true review once B&N has lowered the price of this book to what it could be bought for in the store.
Charging more for the paperback than the Nook? Where's the benefit of the Nook especially when you've just lowered the price of the Nook.
The Print is SOOO Small the sentences all run together it makes it impossible to read. I Love This Book but not this edition. Save yourself the time and order an upgrade copy.
I am a true beleiver that if all people read this book the world would be a much better place to live. Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand are incredibly complex and this book should be read carefully. If you are an altruist you are going to hate this book, but you already hate reality so much it wouldn't do you much good anyways. Rand constructs probably the most involved fictional story ever written. Throughout the book she addresses topics such as politics, indiviudalism, love, selfishness, religion, and much more. This book is cited as the second most influential book behind the bible, it would be the first if as many people had read it.
A word of caution, Rand's personal life violated her own philosophy and a person probably should be aware of this fact. Not a book that is completely grasped on one read either.
On the suggestion of someone else, I picked up a copy of this book about six months ago. I have read it twice and each time it had a profound impact on me.
This book is simply the story of Capitalism being overcome by Socialism, the idea of "fair" and "right" being what is best for others who need but don't earn, and the fight against that by the movers of the world.
Before I read this book, I wasn't really sure where I stood. I liked the idea of free markets, but also liked the idea of taking care of others. Rand, in this work, pointed out to me the ugly side of socialism that plenty of folks prefer to keep hidden. This is the side of socialism and communism that toppled the Soviet Union, and Rand brought it into the US.
Now, more than ever, is the time for people to read this work and understand what Rand was saying. Never before has a book of any type changed my outlook on the world. This one did.
Ayn Rand's prophecy for America is coming true today. Reading this book, written by a person who comes from Post Revolution Russia, written in the 50s is like reading the headlines of today's papers.
She captures the true essence of how liberalism destroys economic process and breaks man's ability and desire to succeed. Too bad we don't have a John Galt to right things today!
Who is John Galt?
You will have to read the book to find out.
I definitely recommend this book. It's over a thousand pages so plan it for a weekend or a long plane trip.
When I saw this I immediately went to purchase as I have an old paperback copy but wanted the NC version; and I thought - great - $5.95 - I get another ebook and B&N gets additional business with me touting their Nook Color to everyone I meet. BUT NOOOOOOOO ... the ebook is $18.95!!!! Way to go B&N - best way to loose customers and good will. At least make both the ebook and the paperback the same price - what are you thinking?
Almost twice the price of paperback for an ebook? Save your money and purchase the paperback until the publisher wakes up!
Rand's writings are as topically and socially relevant in 2009 as they were 50 years ago...if not moreso. If this novel were written today, it would be excoriated by the media, but celebrated by conservatively-minded, logical thinkers. Part of the beauty of Atlas Shrugged today is the very fact that so much time has elapsed since she penned this story. It underscores the enduring nature of the philosophical debate between so-called "progressive thinking" and the "libertarian philosophical" point of view. This should be required reading for anyone just entering adulthood, or for those already there. The issues she addresses are clearly and objectively delineated. Atlas Shrugged not only entertains, but makes you think.
If you've ever wanted to read a book that lifted you up while it disgusts you, this is the book for you. The characters are such that it is imperative that you either love or hate them immediately. Every time I've read this book it inspires me to become a better person while simultaneously making me feel as if I am a complete sell-out. It's easy to admire these uncompromising characters and try to act like them, but in the real world it is difficult to do so without giving up our comforts. Every politician in the world should read this book and shudder at their ineptitude.
This is my fourth or fifth read of this book the first when I was in college some forty years ago. It is more appropriate now than ever before in my lifetime with the government reaching out to socialize just about every aspect of our lives. Our very own president (Stanley Mauch?) is an advocate of redistribution of wealth. Slowly Atlas is beginning to shrug and we'll all be looking for the rise of John Galt. Truly a fascinating and classic book worthy of the true reader's attention.
This book used to be required reading for many decades. I am younger and it was not required to be read in high school. I kept hearing people talking about this book during the 2008 election so I decided to invest my time in this book and I was not disappointed! Ayn Rand was a genius! She saw first hand, the effects of socialism and fasism and wrote this book as a warning. It transcends the ages. You won't be disappointed!
Who is John Galt haunts you the entire novel even if you can guess who he is. The impact of his decisions stays with you as you watch the evening news and you wonder how or if this could really be an outcome for the world. All the characters have a major role in the novel from Darcy to John to Hank Reardon and the John Gault Line. The innovation coming from Ayn Rand in the 1950's from a socialist escape bring to the forefront the reality of what could happen to our country. We have so much going for us and Ms Rand shows how easily we could loose it. Free enterprise is so precious when you are deprived of it, as Ms. Rand shows. For all readers you must start wth an open mind and take the novel as it progresses. Food for thought is that there are political science courses in colleges and universities that study this novel and are based on ideas that it brings forth. It in no way reads like a college study but it grips you and makes you think. I could not put it down. A classic for all to read even if you do not agree with or have ever heard of Objectivism. Inever had before reading Atlas Shrugged but have followed up with adding Fountainhead to my library. I truly recommend this novel for all who like a good story and especially those who want to think.
Too expensive when it can be had for free.
Ayn Rand's prescient novel is a must read for every American. Her character development is only out done by the foreboding description of what is happening in the US today. Not even Cuffy Meigs or James Taggert could have come up with the "making work pay" tax of the Obama administration. While her characters are mythical in the sense that few men could acheive thier level of purity and consciousness, it is men like these that created this country. Unfortunately, it is only the looters who are given power by the weak majority, that can take it down too. We are witnessing this before our eyes and must wake up before the last scene in thebook comes true! Require your children read this book. And most importantly get the true meaning of it. This can be done in readin the "about theauthor" section.
Why would I spend $18.99 for this when I can borrow the ebook of Atlas Shrugged and read it on my Nook for FREE through my public library?
How does an electronic file EVER cost more than an actual book? If this had a standard profit margin it would cost about $2.00
This was going to be my first Nook purchase, but for this price I'll have to wait!