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The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (chapter 3)

2006-07-07 18:44

<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  Taggart took a sip of his drink and put it down again. “I wish they'd fire that bartender,” he said.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “The ore industry is crumbling. That's what's killing the mining equipment business,” said Paul Larkin.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “That is, I think, true,” said Wesley Mouch. But nobody ever paid any attention to Wesley Mouch.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “The only justification of private property,” said Orren Boyle, “is public service.”</P>
<P>  “That is, I think, indubitable,” said Wesley Mouch.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “Jim,” he said, “Rearden Metal seems to be a colossal kind of swindle.”</P>
<P>  “Uh-huh,” said Taggart.</P>
<P>  “I hear there's not a single expert who's given a favorable report on it.”</P>
<P>  “No, not one.”</P>
<P>  “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?”</P>
<P>  “That's right,” said Taggart. “Lighter.”</P>
<P>  “But it's ridiculous, Jim. It's physically impossible. For your heavy-duty, high-speed, main-line track?”</P>
<P>  “That's right.”</P>
<P>  “But you're just inviting disaster.”</P>
<P>  “My sister is.”</P>
<P>  Taggart made the stem of his glass whirl slowly between two fingers.</P>
<P>  There was a moment of silence.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “That is, in my opinion, wise,” said Wesley Mouch.</P>
<P>  “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?”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “When we think of the natural resources, at a time of critical shortage,” Boyle said softly, “when we think of the crucial raw materials that are being wasted on an irresponsible private experiment, when we think of the ore . . .”</P>
<P>  He did not finish. He glanced at Taggart again. But Taggart seemed to know that Boyle was waiting and to find the silence enjoyable.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  Since I hold the purse strings, I expect to get my money's worth and at my pleasure.“</P>
<P>  Boyle did not answer; his face had become sullen. “Listen, Jim . . .”</P>
<P>  he began heavily.</P>
<P>  Taggart smiled. “What? I'm listening.”</P>
<P>  “Jim, you will agree, I'm sure, that there's nothing more destructive than a monopoly.”</P>
<P>  “Yes,” said Taggart, “on the one hand. On the other, there's the blight of unbridled competition.”</P>
<P>  “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?”</P>
<P>  “Yes,” said Taggart, “it is.”</P>
<P>  “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.</P>
<P>  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?“</P>
<P>  “No,” said Taggart, “it isn't fair.”</P>
<P>  “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?”</P>
<P>  “No,” said Taggart, “it isn't.”</P>
<P>  “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?”</P>
<P>  “I think so.”</P>
<P>  Boyle sighed. Then he said cautiously, “But I guess there aren't many people in Washington capable of understanding a progressive social policy.”</P>
<P>  Taggart said slowly, “There are. No, not many and not easy to approach, but there are. I might speak to them.”</P>
<P>  Boyle picked up his drink and swallowed it in one gulp, as if he had heard all he had wanted to hear.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “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?”</P>
<P>  “Why . . . yes,” said Larkin, astonished. “Yes, of course.”</P>
<P>  “I am counting on yours.”</P>
<P>  “Huh?”</P>
<P>  “I am counting on your many friendships.”</P>
<P>  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!”</P>
<P>  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.”</P>
<P>  “That is an anti-social attitude,” drawled Taggart. “People who are afraid, to sacrifice somebody have no business talking about a common purpose.”</P>
<P>  “But I'm a student of history,” said Larkin hastily. “I recognize historical necessity.”</P>
<P>  “Good,” said Taggart.</P>
<P>  “I can't be expected to buck the trend of the whole world, can I?”</P>
<P>  Larkin seemed to plead, but the plea was not addressed to anyone.</P>
<P>  “Can I?”</P>
<P>  “You can't, Mr. Larkin,” said Wesley Mouch. “You and I are not to be blamed, if we-”</P>
<P>  Larkin jerked his head away; it was almost a shudder; he could not bear to look at Mouch.</P>
<P>  “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.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “How are things going down there?”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “Did you go down to the San Sebastian Mines?”</P>
<P>  The four figures at the table sat up straighter and tighter; all of them had invested heavily in the stock of the San Sebastian Mines.</P>
<P>  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.”</P>
<P>  “And?”</P>
<P>  “And what?”</P>
<P>  “How are things going?”</P>
<P>  “Great. Great. They must certainly have the biggest deposits of copper on earth, down inside that mountain!”</P>
<P>  “Did they seem to be busy?”</P>
<P>  “Never saw such a busy place in my life.”</P>
<P>  “What were they busy doing?”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “Any . . . trouble of any kind?”</P>
<P>  “Trouble? Not at San Sebastian. It's private property, the last piece of it left in Mexico, and that does seem to make a difference.”</P>
<P>  “Orren,” Taggart asked cautiously, “what about those rumors that they're planning to nationalize the San Sebastian Mines?”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “There ought to be a law against irresponsible gossip,” said Taggart sullenly. “Let's have another drink.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “Let's drink to the sacrifices to historical necessity,” he said, looking at Larkin.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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 Sebastian Line?”</P>
<P>  “Why, what do you mean? What is the matter with it?”</P>
<P>  “Well, I don't know, but running just one passenger train a day is-”</P>
<P>  “One train?”</P>
<P>  “-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?”</P>
<P>  “Wood-burning?'</P>
<P>  “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?”</P>
<P>  “Yes, of course I knew it,” said Taggart hastily. “It was just . . .</P>
<P>  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.“</P>
<P>  “Of course,” said Boyle. “Delays can't be helped. It's the strangest train I ever rode on, though. Nearly shook my guts out.”</P>
<P>  Within a few minutes, they noticed that Taggart had become silent.</P>
<P>  He seemed preoccupied with a problem of his own. When he rose abruptly, without apology, they rose, too, accepting it as a command.</P>
<P>  Larkin muttered, smiling too strenuously, “It was a pleasure, Jim.</P>
<P>  A pleasure. That's how great projects are born-over a drink with friends.“</P>
<P>  “Social reforms are slow,” said Taggart coldly. “It is advisable to be patient and cautious.” For the first time, he turned to Wesley Mouch.</P>
<P>  “What I like about you, Mouch, is that you don't talk too much.”</P>
<P>  Wesley Mouch was Rearden's Washington man.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “。 . . a difficult undertaking ahead of us, Jim,” Boyle was saying, “a difficult undertaking, with so many dangers and complications and so much at stake . . .”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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 roundhouses like a humble student, but the humility had a touch of future pride, a pride to be earned.</P>
<P>  “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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  She went to work for Taggart Transcontinental at the age of sixteen.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  James Taggart began his career on the railroad at the same time; he was twenty-one. He started in the Department of Public Relations.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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 deemed 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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  The first step of the policy that James Taggart brought to the railroad was the construction of the San Sebastian Line. Many men were responsible for it; but to Dagny, one name stood written across that venture, a name that wiped out all others wherever 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.</P>
<P>  The name was Francisco d'Anconia.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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 Sebastian Mines.</P>
<P>  Dagny was never able to discover what influences prompted James Taggart to build a railroad branch from Texas into the wilderness of San Sebastian. 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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  Dagny fought against the building of the San Sebastian 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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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 Sebastian Mines. Few facts were available; the information which d'Anconia had released was not very specific; but they did not seem to need facts.</P>
<P>  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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  They voted to build the San Sebastian Line at a cost of thirty million dollars.</P>
<P>  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 . . .</P>
<P>  Get out.</P>
<P>  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.</P>

<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  She never understood why the Board of Directors voted unanimously to make her Vice-President in Charge of Operation.</P>
<P>  It was she who finally gave them their San Sebastian 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.</P>
<P>  The San Sebastian 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 Sebastian, at long intervals. The mines, said Francisco d'Anconia, were still in the process of development. The drain on Taggart Transcontinental had not stopped.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  “What is it, Jim?”</P>
<P>  “What are you trying to pull on the San Sebastian Line?”</P>
<P>  She raised her head. “Pull? Why?”</P>
<P>  “What sort of schedule are we running down there and what kind of trains?”</P>
<P>  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.”</P>
<P>  “What do you mean?”</P>
<P>  “We've been running that schedule and those trains on the San Sebastian for the last three months.”</P>
<P>  “One passenger train a day?”</P>
<P>  “-in the morning. And one freight train every other night.”</P>
<P>  “Good God! On an important branch like that?”</P>
<P>  “The important branch can't pay even for those two trams.”</P>
<P>  “But the Mexican people expect real service from us!”</P>
<P>  “I'm sure they do.”</P>
<P>  “They need trains!”</P>
<P>  “For what?”</P>
<P>  “For . . . To help them develop local industries. How do you expect them to develop if we don't give them transportation?”</P>
<P>  “I don't expect them to develop,”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “When?”</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  She said, “He may be your friend, but-”</P>
<P>  “My friend? I thought he was yours.”</P>
<P>  She said steadily, “Not for the last ten years.”</P>
<P>  “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, a business venture-and he's sunk millions of his own money into those mines, so we can rely on his judgment.”</P>
<P>  “When will you realize that Francisco d'Anconia has turned into a worthless bum?”</P>
<P>  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.”</P>
<P>  “Do you wish to discuss Francisco d'Anconia? Is that what you came here for?”</P>
<P>  His face showed the anger of failure-because hers showed nothing.</P>
<P>  “You know damn well what I came here for!” he snapped. “I've heard some incredible things about our trains in Mexico.”</P>
<P>  “What things?”</P>
<P>  “What sort of rolling stock are you using down there?”</P>
<P>  “The worst I could find.”</P>
<P>  “You admit that?”</P>
<P>  “I've stated it on paper in the reports I sent you.”</P>
<P>  “Is it true that you're using wood-burning locomotives?”</P>
<P>  “Eddie found them for me in somebody's abandoned roundhouse down in Louisiana. He couldn't even learn the name of the railroad.”</P>
<P>  “And that's what you're running as Taggart trains?”</P>
<P>  “Yes.”</P>
<P>  “What in hell's the big idea? What's going on? I want to know what's going on!”</P>
<P>  She spoke evenly, looking straight at him. “If you want to know, I have left nothing but junk on the San Sebastian 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.”</P>
<P>  “Why in blazes?”</P>
<P>  “So that the looters won't have too much to loot when they nationalize the line.”</P>
<P>  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 . . .”</P>
<P>  “Jim,” she said slowly, “there's not a car, engine or ton of coal that we can spare anywhere on the system.”</P>
<P>  “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!”</P>
<P>  She pulled a pad forward and picked up a pencil. “All right, Jim.</P>
<P>  How many trains do you wish me to run on the San Sebastian Line?“</P>
<P>  “Huh?”</P>
<P>  “Which runs do you wish me to cut and on which of our lines-in order to get the Diesels and the steel coaches?”</P>
<P>  “I don't want you to cut any runs!”</P>
<P>  “Then where do I get the equipment for Mexico?”</P>
<P>  “That's for you to figure out. It's your job.”</P>
<P>  “I am not able to do it. You will have to decide.”</P>
<P>  “That's your usual rotten trick-switching the responsibility to me!”</P>
<P>  “I'm waiting for orders, Jim.”</P>
<P>  'Tm not going to let you trap me like that!“</P>
<P>  She dropped the pencil. “Then the San Sebastian schedule will remain as it is.”</P>
<P>  “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.”</P>
<P>  “Ill answer for it.”</P>
<P>  She was back at her work before the door had closed on James Taggart.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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 comer of the large room. She waved to him on her way out.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  Dominating the concourse, but ignored by the travelers as a habitual sight, stood a statue of Nathaniel Taggart, the founder of the railroad.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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.</P>
<P>  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

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