He did not take his eyes of her face and he did not answer.
She added dispassionately, “I thought I could live without it. I can’t. I’ll never try it again. Francisco, do you remember?—we both believed, when we started, that the only sin on earth was to do things badly. I still believe it.” The first note of life shuddered in her voice. “I can’t stand by and watch what they did at that tunnel. I can’t accept what they’re all accepting—Francisco, it’s the thing we thought so monstrous, you and I!—the belief that disasters are one’s natural fate, to be borne, not fought. I can’t accept submission. I can’t accept helplessness. I can’t accept renunciation. So long as there’s a railroad left to run, I’ll run it.”
“In order to maintain the looters’ world?”
“In order to maintain the last strip of mine.”
“Dagny,” he said slowly, “I know why one loves one’s work. I know what it means to you, the job of running trains. But you would not run them if they were empty. Dagny, what is it you see when you think of a moving train?”
She glanced at the city. “The life of a man of ability who might have perished in that catastrophe, but will escape the next one, which I’ll prevent—a man who has an intransigent mind and an unlimited ambition, an is in love with his own life… the kind of man who is what we were when we started, you and I. You gave him up. I can’t.”
He closed his eyes for an instant, and the tightening movement of his mouth was a smile, a smile substituting for a moan of understanding, amusement and pain. He asked, his voice gravely gentle, “Do you think that you can still serve him—that kind of man—by running the railroad?”
All right, Dagny. I won’t try to stop you. So long as you still think that, nothing can stop you, or should. You will stop on the day when you’ll discover that your work has been placed in the service, not of that man’s life, but of his destruction.”
“Francsico!” It was a cry of astonishment and despair. “You do understand it, you know what I mean by that kind of man, you see him, too!”
“Oh yes,” he said simply, casually, looking at some point in the space within the room, almost as if he were seeing a real person. He added, “Why should you be astonished? You said that we were of his kind once, you and I. We still are. But one of us has betrayed him.”
“Yes,” she said sternly, “one of us has. We cannot serve him by renunciation.”
“We cannot serve him by making terms with his destroyers.”
“I’m not making terms with them. They need me. They know it. It’s my terms that I’ll make them accept.”
“By playing a game in which they gain benefits in exchange for harming you?”
“If I can keep Taggart Transcontinental in existence, it’s the only benefit I want. What do you I care if they make me pay ransoms? Let them have what they want. I’ll have the railroad.”
He smiled. “Do you think so?” Do you think that their need of you is your protection? Do you think that you can give them what they want? No, you won’t quit until you see, of your own sight and judgment, what it is that they really want. You know, Dagny, we were taught that some things belong to God and others to Caesar. Perhaps their God would permit it. But the man you say we’re serving—he does not permit it. He permits no divided allegiance, no war between your mind and your body, no gulf between your values and your actions, no tributes to Caesar. He permits no Caesars.”
“For twelve years,” she said softly. “I would have thought it inconceivable that there might come a day when I would have to beg your forgiveness on my knees. Now I think it’s possible. If I come to see that you’re right, I will. But not until then.”
“You will. But not on your knees.”
He was looking at her, as if he were seeing her body as she stood before him, even though his eyes were directed at her face, and his glance told her what form of atonement and surrender he was seeing in the future. She saw the effort he made to look away, his hope that she had not seen his glance or understood it, his silent struggle, betrayed by the tension of a few muscles under the skin of his face—the face she know so well.
“Until then, Dagny, remember that we’re enemies. I didn’t want to tell you this, but you’re the first person who almost stepped into heaven and came back to earth. You’ve glimpsed too much, so you have to know this clearly. It’s you that I’m fighting, not your brother James or Wesley Mouch. It’s you that I have to defeat. I am out to end all the things that are most precious to you right now. While you’ll struggle to save Taggart Transcontinental, I will be working to destroy it. Don’t ever ask me for help or money. You know my reasons. Now you may hate me—as, from your stand, you should.”
She raised her head a little, there was no perceptible change in her posture, it was no more than her awareness of her own body and of its meaning to him, but for the length of one sentence she stood as a woman, the suggestion of defiance coming only from the faintly stressed spacing of her words: “And what will it do to you?”
He looked at her, in full understanding, but neither admitting nor denying the confession she wanted to tear from him. “That is no one’s concern but mine,” he answered.
–Atlas Shrugged, Part II Chapter IX