Fountain Head

Fountain head

Victor Hugo: If a writer wrote merely for his time, I would have to break my pen and throw it away.

dojnt live; think, or write on the range of the moment.

dont let things fade rapidly like magazines.

longevity is the place of romanticism.

Romanticism: conceptual school of art. not with random trivia, but with timeless, fundamental, universal problems and values of human existence.

dont just record or hotograph; it creates and projects (into the future)

concerned not with things as they are, but with things as they might be ought (aristotle)

consider my time and my relevance of upmost crucial importance!

And for the benefit of those who consider relevance to one’s own time as of crucial importance, I will add, in regard to our age, that never has there been a time when men have so desperately needed a projection of things as they ought to be.
I do not mean to imply that I knew, when I wrote it, that The Fountainhead would remain in print for twenty-five years. I did not think of any specific time period. I knew only that it was a book that ought to live. It did.
But that I knew it over twenty-five years ago–that I knew it while The Fountainhead was being rejected by twelve publishers, some of whom declared that it was “too intellectual,”
“too controversial” and would not sell because no audience existed for it–that was the difficult part of its history; difficult for me to bear. I mention it here for the sake of any other writer of my kind who might have to face the same battle–as a reminder of the fact that it can be done.
It would be impossible for me to discuss The Fountainhead or any part of its history without mentioning the man who made it possible for me to write it: my husband, Frank O’Connor.
In a play I wrote in my early thirties, Ideal, the heroine, a screen star, speaks for me when she
says: “I want to see, real, living, and in the hours of my own days, that glory I create as an illusion. I want it real. I want to know that there is someone, somewhere, who wants it, too. Or else what is the use of seeing it, and working, and burning oneself for an impossible vision? A spirit, too, needs fuel. It can run dry.”
Frank was the fuel. He gave me, in the hours of my own days, the reality of that sense of life, which created The Fountainhead–and he helped me to maintain it over a long span of years when there was nothing around us but a gray desert of people and events that evoked nothing but contempt and revulsion. The essence of the bond between us is the fact that neither of us has ever wanted or been tempted to settle for anything less than the world presented in The Fountainhead. We never will.
If there is in me any touch of the Naturalistic writer who records “real-life” dialogue for use in a novel, it has been exercised only in regard to Frank. For instance, one of the most effective lines in The Fountainhead comes at the end of Part II, when, in reply to Toohey’s question: “Why don’t you tell me what you think of me?” Roark answers: “But I don’t think of you.” That line was Frank’s answer to a different type of person, in a somewhat similar context. “You’re casting pearls without getting even a pork chop in return,” was said by Frank to me, in regard to my professional position. I gave that line to Dominique at Roark’s trial.
I did not feel discouragement very often, and when I did, it did not last longer than overnight. But there was one evening, during the writing of The Fountainhead, when I felt so profound an indignation at the state of “things as they are” that it seemed as if I would never regain the energy to move one step farther toward “things as they ought to be.” Frank talked to me for hours, that night. He convinced me of why one cannot give up the world to those one despises. By the time he finished, my discouragement was gone; it never came back in so intense a form.
I had been opposed to the practice of dedicating books; I had held that a book is addressed to any reader who proves worthy of it. But, that night, I told Frank that I would dedicate The Fountainhead to him because he had saved it. And one of my happiest moments, about two years later, was given to me by the look on his face when he came home, one day, and saw the page-proofs of the book, headed by the page that stated in cold, clear, objective print: To Frank O’Connor.
I have been asked whether I have changed in these past twenty-five years. No, I am the same–only more so. Have my ideas changed? No, my fundamental convictions, my view of life and of man, have never changed, from as far back as I can remember, but my knowledge of their applications has grown, in scope and in precision. What is my present evaluation of The Fountainhead? I am as proud of it as I was on the day when I finished writing it.
Was The Fountainhead written for the purpose of presenting my philosophy? Here, I shall quote from The Goal of My Writing, an address I gave at Lewis and Clark College, on October 1, 1963: “This is the motive and purpose of my writing; the projection of an ideal man. The portrayal of a moral ideal, as my ultimate literary goal, as an end in itself–to which any didactic, intellectual or philosophical values contained in a novel are only the means.
“Let me stress this: my purpose is not the philosophical enlightenment of my readers…My purpose, first cause and prime mover is the portrayal of Howard Roark [or the heroes of Atlas Shrugged} as an end in himself…
“I write–and read–for the sake of the story…My basic test for any story is: ‘Would I want to meet these characters and observe these events in real life? Is this story an experience worth living through for its own sake? Is the pleasure of contemplating these characters an end in itself?’…
“Since my purpose is the presentation of an ideal man, I had to define and present the conditions which make him possible and which his existence requires. Since man’s character is the product of his premises, I had to define and present the kinds of premises and values that create the character of an ideal man and motivate his actions; which means that I had to define and present a rational code of ethics. Since man acts among and deals with other men, I had to present the kind of social system that makes it possible for ideal men to exist and to function–a free, productive, rational system which demands and rewards the best in every
man, and which is, obviously, laissez-faire capitalism.
“But neither politics nor ethics nor philosophy is an end in itself, neither in life nor in literature. Only Man is an end in himself.”
Are there any substantial changes I would want to make in The Fountainhead? No–and, therefore, I have left its text untouched. I want it to stand as it was written. But there is one minor error and one possibly misleading sentence which I should like to clarify, so I shall mention them here.
The error is semantic: the use of the word “egotist” in Roark’s courtroom speech, while actually the word should have been “egoist.” The error was caused by my reliance on a dictionary which gave such misleading definitions of these two words that “egotist” seemed closer to the meaning I intended (Webster’s Daily Use Dictionary, 1933). (Modern philosophers, however, are guiltier than lexicographers in regard to these two terms.)
The possibly misleading sentence is in Roark’s speech: “From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man–the function of his reasoning mind.”
This could be misinterpreted to mean an endorsement of religion or religious ideas. I remember hesitating over that sentence, when I wrote it, and deciding that Roark’s and my atheism, as well as the overall spirit of the book, were so clearly established that no one would misunderstand it, particularly since I said that religious abstractions are the product of man’s mind, not of supernatural revelation.
But an issue of this sort should not be left to implications. What I was referring to was not religion as such, but a special category of abstractions, the most exalted one, which, for centuries, had been the near-monopoly of religion: ethics–not the particular content of religious ethics, but the abstraction “ethics,” the realm of values, man’s code of good and evil, with the emotional connotations of height, uplift, nobility, reverence, grandeur, which pertain to the realm of man’s values, but which religion has arrogated to itself.
The same meaning and considerations were intended and are applicable to another passage of the book, a brief dialogue between Roark and Hopton Stoddard, which may be misunderstood if taken out of context:
“‘You’re a profoundly religious man, Mr. Roark–in your own way. I can see that in your buildings.’
“‘That’s true,’ said Roark.”
In the context of that scene, however, the meaning is clear: it is Roark’s profound dedication to values, to the highest and best, to the ideal, that Stoddard is referring to (see his explanation of the nature of the proposed temple). The erection of the Stoddard Temple and the subsequent trial state the issue explicitly.
This leads me to a wider issue which is involved in every line of The Fountainhead and which has to be understood if one wants to understand the causes of its lasting appeal.
Religion’s monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life. Just as religion has preempted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man’s reach. “Exaltation” is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. “Worship” means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man. “Reverence” means the emotion of a sacred respect, to be experienced on one’s knees. “Sacred” means superior to and not-to-be-touched-by any concerns of man or of this earth. Etc.
But such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire
emotional realm of man’s dedication to a moral ideal. Yet apart from the man-degrading aspects introduced by religion, that emotional realm is left unidentified, without concepts, words or recognition.
It is this highest level of man’s emotions that has to be redeemed from the murk of mysticism and redirected at its proper object: man.
It is in this sense, with this meaning and intention, that I would identify the sense of life dramatized in The Fountainhead as man-worship.
It is an emotion that a few–a very few–men experience consistently; some men experience it in rare, single sparks that flash and die without consequences; some do not know what I am talking about; some do and spend their lives as frantically virulent spark-extinguishers.
Do not confuse “man-worship” with the many attempts, not to emancipate morality from religion and bring it into the realm of reason, but to substitute a secular meaning for the worst, the most profoundly irrational elements of religion. For instance, there are all the variants of modern collectivism (communist, fascist, Nazi, etc.), which preserve the religious-altruist ethics in full and merely substitute “society” for God as the beneficiary of man’s self- immolation. There are the various schools of modern philosophy which, rejecting the law of identity, proclaim that reality is an indeterminate flux ruled by miracles and shaped by whims– not God’s whims, but man’s or “society’s.” These neo-mystics are not man-worshipers; they are merely the secularizers of as profound a hatred for man as that of their avowedly mystic predecessors.
A cruder variant of the same hatred is represented by those concrete-bound, “statistical” mentalities who–unable to grasp the meaning of man’s volition–declare that man cannot be an object of worship, since they have never encountered any specimens of humanity who deserved it.
The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man’s highest potential and strive to actualize it. The man-haters are those who regard man as a helpless, depraved, contemptible creature–and struggle never to let him discover otherwise. It is important here to remember that the only direct, introspective knowledge of man anyone possesses is of himself.
More specifically, the essential division between these two camps is: those dedicated to the exaltation of man’s self-esteem and the sacredness of his happiness on earth–and those determined not to allow either to become possible. The majority of mankind spend their lives and psychological energy in the middle, swinging between these two, struggling not to allow the issue to be named. This does not change the nature of the issue.
Perhaps the best way to communicate The Fountainhead’s sense of life is by means of the quotation which had stood at the head of my manuscript, but which I removed from the final, published book. With this opportunity to explain it, I am glad to bring it back.
I removed it, because of my profound disagreement with the philosophy of its author, Friedrich Nietzsche. Philosophically, Nietzsche is a mystic and an irrationalist. His metaphysics consists of a somewhat “Byronic” and mystically “malevolent” universe; his epistemology subordinates reason to “will,” or feeling or instinct or blood or innate virtues of character. But, as a poet, he projects at times (not consistently) a magnificent feeling for man’s greatness, expressed in emotional, not intellectual terms.
This is especially true of the quotation I had chosen. I could not endorse its literal meaning: it proclaims an indefensible tenet–psychological determinism. But if one takes it as a poetic projection of an emotional experience (and if, intellectually, one substitutes the concept of an acquired “basic premise” for the concept of an innate “fundamental certainty”), then that quotation communicates the inner state of an exalted self-esteem–and sums up the emotional consequences for which The Fountainhead provides the rational, philosophical base:
“It is not the works, but the belief which is here decisive and determines the order of rank–to employ once more an old religious formula with a new and deeper meaning,–it is some fundamental certainty which a noble soul has about itself, something which is not to be
sought, is not to be found, and perhaps, also, is not to be lost.–The noble soul has reverence for itself.–” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.)
This view of man has rarely been expressed in human history. Today, it is virtually non- existent. Yet this is the view with which–in various degrees of longing, wistfulness, passion and agonized confusion–the best of mankind’s youth start out in life. It is not even a view, for most of them, but a foggy, groping, undefined sense made of raw pain and incommunicable happiness. It is a sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one’s life is important, that great achievements are within one’s capacity, and that great things lie ahead.
It is not in the nature of man–nor of any living entity–to start out by giving up, by spitting in one’s own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption whose rapidity differs from man to man. Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run down by imperceptible degrees and lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lost it. Then all of these vanish in the vast swamp of their elders who tell them persistently that maturity consists of abandoning one’s mind; security, of abandoning one’s values; practicality, of losing self-esteem. Yet a few hold on and move on, knowing that that fire is not to be betrayed, learning how to give it shape, purpose and reality. But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential.
There are very few guideposts to find. The Fountainhead is one of them.
This is one of the cardinal reasons of The Fountainhead’s lasting appeal: it is a confirmation of the spirit of youth, proclaiming man’s glory, showing how much is possible.
It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man’s proper stature–and that the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning–and it is those few that I have always sought to address. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or The Fountainhead that they will betray: it is their own souls.
AYN RAND New York, May 1968
Peter Keating
PART TWO Ellsworth M. Toohey PART THREE
Gail Wynand PART FOUR Howard Roark
I offer my profound gratitude to the great profession of architecture and its heroes who have given us some of the highest expressions of man’s genius, yet have remained unknown, undiscovered by the majority of men. And to the architects who gave me their generous assistance in the technical matters of this book.
No person or event in this story is intended as a reference to any real person or event. The titles of the newspaper columns were invented and used by me in the first draft of this novel five years ago. They were not taken from and have no reference to any actual newspaper columns or features.
–AYN RAND March 10, 1943
He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. The water seemed immovable, the stone– flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed, wet with sunrays.
The lake below was only a thin steel ring that cut the rocks in half. The rocks went on into the depth, unchanged. They began and ended in the sky. So that the world seemed suspended in space, an island floating on nothing, anchored to the feet of the man on the cliff.
His body leaned back against the sky. It was a body of long straight lines and angles, each curve broken into planes. He stood, rigid, his hands hanging at his sides, palms out. He felt his shoulder blades drawn tight together, the curve of his neck, and the weight of the blood in his hands. He felt the wind behind him, in the hollow of his spine. The wind waved his hair against the sky. His hair was neither blond nor red, but the exact color of ripe orange rind.
He laughed at the thing which had happened to him that morning and at the things which now lay ahead.
He knew that the days ahead would be difficult. There were questions to be faced and a plan of action to be prepared. He knew that he should think about it. He knew also that he would not think, because everything was clear to him already, because the plan had been set long ago, and because he wanted to laugh.
He tried to consider it. But he forgot. He was looking at the granite.
He did not laugh as his eyes stopped in awareness of the earth around him. His face was like a law of nature–a thing one could not question, alter or implore. It had high cheekbones over gaunt, hollow cheeks; gray eyes, cold and steady; a contemptuous mouth, shut tight, the mouth of an executioner or a saint.
He looked at the granite. To be cut, he thought, and made into walls. He looked at a tree. To be split and made into rafters. He looked at a streak of rust on the stone and thought of iron ore under the ground. To be melted and to emerge as girders against the sky.
These rocks, he thought, are here for me; waiting for the drill, the dynamite and my voice; waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn; waiting for the shape my hands will give them.
Then he shook his head, because he remembered that morning and that there were many things to be done. He stepped to the edge, raised his arms, and dived down into the sky below.
He cut straight across the lake to the shore ahead. He reached the rocks where he had left his clothes. He looked regretfully about him. For three years, ever since he had lived in Stanton, he had come here for his only relaxation, to swim, to rest, to think, to be alone and alive, whenever he could find one hour to spare, which had not been often. In his new freedom the first thing he had wanted to do was to come here, because he knew that he was coming for the last time. That morning he had been expelled from the Architectural School of the Stanton Institute of Technology. He pulled his clothes on: old denim trousers, sandals, a shirt with short sleeves and most of its buttons missing. He swung down a narrow trail among the
boulders, to a path running through a green slope, to the road below.
He walked swiftly, with a loose, lazy expertness of motion. He walked down the long road, in the sun. Far ahead Stanton lay sprawled on the coast of Massachusetts, a little town as a setting for the gem of its existence–the great institute rising on a hill beyond.
The township of Stanton began with a dump. A gray mound of refuse rose in the grass. It smoked faintly. Tin cans glittered in the sun. The road led past the first houses to a church. The church was a Gothic monument of shingles painted pigeon blue. It had stout wooden buttresses supporting nothing. It had stained-glass windows with heavy traceries of imitation stone. It opened the way into long streets edged by tight, exhibitionist lawns. Behind the lawns stood wooden piles tortured out of all shape: twisted into gables, turrets, dormers; bulging with porches; crushed under huge, sloping roofs. White curtains floated at the windows. A garbage can stood at a side door, flowing over. An old Pekinese sat upon a cushion on a door step, its mouth drooling. A line of diapers fluttered in the wind between the columns of a porch.
People turned to look at Howard Roark as he passed. Some remained staring after him with sudden resentment. They could give no reason for it: it was an instinct his presence awakened in most people. Howard Roark saw no one. For him, the streets were empty. He could have walked there naked without concern. He crossed the heart of Stanton, a broad green edged by shop windows. The windows displayed new placards announcing:
WELCOME TO THE CLASS OF ’22! GOOD LUCK, CLASS OF ’22! The Class of ’22 of the Stanton Institute of Technology was holding its commencement exercises that afternoon.
Roark swung into a side street, where at the end of a long row, on a knoll over a green ravine, stood the house of Mrs. Keating. He had boarded at that house for three years.
Mrs. Keating was out on the porch. She was feeding a couple of canaries in a cage suspended over the railing. Her pudgy little hand stopped in mid-air when she saw him. She watched him with curiosity. She tried to pull her mouth into a proper expression of sympathy; she succeeded only in betraying that the process was an effort.
He was crossing the porch without noticing her. She stopped him.
“Mr. Roark!”
“Mr. Roark, I’m so sorry about–” she hesitated demurely, “–about what happened this morning.”
“What?” he asked.
“Your being expelled from the Institute. I can’t tell you how sorry I am. I only want you to know that I feel for you.”
He stood looking at her. She knew that he did not see her. No, she thought, it was not that exactly. He always looked straight at people and his damnable eyes never missed a thing, it was only that he made people feel as if they did not exist. He just stood looking. He would not answer.
“But what I say,” she continued, “is that if one suffers in this world, it’s on account of error. Of course, you’ll have to give up the architect profession now, won’t you? But then a young man can always earn a decent living clerking or selling or something.”
He turned to go.
”Oh, Mr. Roark!” she called.
”The Dean phoned for you while you were out.”
For once, she expected some emotion from him; and an emotion would be the equivalent of seeing him broken. She did not know what it was about him that had always made her want to see him broken.
“Yes?” he asked.
“The Dean,” she repeated uncertainly, trying to recapture her effect. “The Dean himself through his secretary.”
“W ell?”
“She said to tell you that the Dean wanted to see you immediately the moment you got back.”
“Thank you.”
“What do you suppose he can want now?”
“I don’t know.”
He had said: “I don’t know.” She had heard distinctly: “I don’t give a damn.” She stared at him incredulously.
“By the way,” she said, “Petey is graduating today.” She said it without apparent relevance. “Today? Oh, yes.”
“It’s a great day for me. When I think of how I skimped and slaved to put my boy through school. Not that I’m complaining. I’m not one to complain. Petey’s a brilliant boy.”
She stood drawn up. Her stout little body was corseted so tightly under the starched folds of her cotton dress that it seemed to squeeze the fat out to her wrists and ankles.
“But of course,” she went on rapidly, with the eagerness of her favorite subject, “I’m not one to boast. Some mothers are lucky and others just aren’t. We’re all in our rightful place. You just watch Petey from now on. I’m not one to want my boy to kill himself with work and I’ll thank the Lord for any small success that comes his way. But if that boy isn’t the greatest architect of this U.S.A., his mother will want to know the reason why!”
He moved to go.
“But what am I doing, gabbing with you like that!” she said brightly. “You’ve got to hurry and change and run along. The Dean’s waiting for you.”
She stood looking after him through the screen door, watching his gaunt figure move across the rigid neatness of her parlor. He always made her uncomfortable in the house, with a vague feeling of apprehension, as if she were waiting to see him swing out suddenly and smash her coffee tables, her Chinese vases, her framed photographs. He had never shown any inclination to do so. She kept expecting it, without knowing why.
Roark went up the stairs to his room. It was a large, bare room, made luminous by the clean glow of whitewash. Mrs. Keating had never had the feeling that Roark really lived there. He had not added a single object to the bare necessities of furniture which she had provided; no pictures, no pennants, no cheering human touch. He had brought nothing to the room but his clothes and his drawings; there were few clothes and too many drawings; they were stacked high in one comer; sometimes she thought that the drawings lived there, not the man.
Roark walked now to these drawings; they were the first things to be packed. He lifted one of them, then the next, then another. He stood looking at the broad sheets.
They were sketches of buildings such as had never stood on the face of the earth. They were as the first houses built by the first man born, who had never heard of others building before him. There was nothing to be said of them, except that each structure was inevitably what it
had to be. It was not as if the draftsman had sat over them, pondering laboriously, piecing together doors, windows and columns, as his whim dictated and as the books prescribed. It was as if the buildings had sprung from the earth and from some living force, complete, unalterably right. The hand that had made the sharp pencil lines still had much to learn. But not a line seemed superfluous, not a needed plane was missing. The structures were austere and simple, until one looked at them and realized what work, what complexity of method, what tension of thought had achieved the simplicity. No laws had dictated a single detail. The buildings were not Classical, they were not Gothic, they were not Renaissance. They were only Howard Roark.
He stopped, looking at a sketch. It was one that had never satisfied him. He had designed it as an exercise he had given himself, apart from his schoolwork; he did that often when he found some particular site and stopped before it to think of what building it should bear. He had spent nights staring at this sketch, wondering what he had missed. Glancing at it now, unprepared, he saw the mistake he had made.
He flung the sketch down on the table, he bent over it, he slashed lines straight through his neat drawing. He stopped once in a while and stood looking at it, his fingertips pressed to the paper; as if his hands held the building. His hands had long fingers, hard veins, prominent joints and wristbones.
An hour later he heard a knock at his door. “Come in!” he snapped, without stopping.
“Mr. Roark!” gasped Mrs. Keating, staring at him from the threshold. “What on earth are you doing?”
He turned and looked at her, trying to remember who she was.
“How about the Dean?” she moaned. “The Dean that’s waiting for you?”
“Oh,” said Roark. “Oh, yes. I forgot.”
“Yes.” There was a note of wonder in his voice, astonished by her astonishment.
“Well, all I can say,” she choked, “is that it serves you right! It just serves you right. And with the commencement beginning at four-thirty, how do you expect him to have time to see you?”
“I’ll go at once, Mrs. Keating.”
It was not her curiosity alone that prompted her to action; it was a secret fear that the sentence of the Board might be revoked. He went to the bathroom at the end of the hall; she watched him washing his hands, throwing his loose, straight hair back into a semblance of order. He came out again, he was on his way to the stairs before she realized that he was leaving.
“Mr. Roark!” she gasped, pointing at his clothes. “You’re not going like this?” “Why not?”
”But it’s your Dean!”
”Not any more, Mrs. Keating.”
She thought, aghast, that he said it as if he were actually happy.
The Stanton Institute of Technology stood on a hill, its crenelated walls raised as a crown over the city stretched below. It looked like a medieval fortress, with a Gothic cathedral grafted to its belly. The fortress was eminently suited to its purpose, with stout, brick walls, a few slits wide enough for sentries, ramparts behind which defending archers could hide, and corner
turrets from which boiling oil could be poured upon the attacker–should such an emergency arise in an institute of learning. The cathedral rose over it in lace splendor, a fragile defense against two great enemies: light and air.
The Dean’s office looked like a chapel, a pool of dreamy twilight fed by one tall window of stained glass. The twilight flowed in through the garments of stiff saints, their arms contorted at the elbows. A red spot of light and a purple one rested respectively upon two genuine gargoyles squatting at the corners of a fireplace that had never been used. A green spot stood in the center of a picture of the Parthenon, suspended over the fireplace.
When Roark entered the office, the outlines of the Dean’s figure swam dimly behind his desk, which was carved like a confessional. He was a short, plumpish gentleman whose spreading flesh was held in check by an indomitable dignity.
“Ah, yes, Roark,” he smiled. “Do sit down, please.”
Roark sat down. The Dean entwined his fingers on his stomach and waited for the plea he expected. No plea came. The Dean cleared his throat.
“It will be unnecessary for me to express my regret at the unfortunate event of this morning,” he began, “since I take it for granted that you have always known my sincere interest in your welfare.”
“Quite unnecessary,” said Roark.
The Dean looked at him dubiously, but continued:
“Needless to say, I did not vote against you. I abstained entirely. But you may be glad to know that you had quite a determined little group of defenders at the meeting. Small, but determined. Your professor of structural engineering acted quite the crusader on your behalf. So did your professor of mathematics. Unfortunately, those who felt it their duty to vote for your expulsion quite outnumbered the others. Professor Peterkin, your critic of design, made an issue of the matter. He went so far as to threaten us with his resignation unless you were expelled. You must realize that you have given Professor Peterkin great provocation.”
“I do,” said Roark.
“That, you see, was the trouble. I am speaking of your attitude towards the subject of architectural design. You have never given it the attention it deserves. And yet, you have been excellent in all the engineering sciences. Of course, no one denies the importance of structural engineering to a future architect, but why go to extremes? Why neglect what may be termed the artistic and inspirational side of your profession and concentrate on all those dry, technical, mathematical subjects? You intended to become an architect, not a civil engineer.”
“Isn’t this superfluous?” Roark asked. “It’s past. There’s no point in discussing my choice of subjects now.”
“I am endeavoring to be helpful, Roark. You must be fair about this. You cannot say that you were not given many warnings before this happened.”
“I was.”
The Dean moved in his chair. Roark made him uncomfortable. Roark’s eyes were fixed on him politely. The Dean thought, there’s nothing wrong with the way he’s looking at me, in fact it’s quite correct, most properly attentive; only, it’s as if I were not here.
“Every problem you were given,” the Dean went on, “every project you had to design–what did you do with it? Every one of them done in that–well, I cannot call it a style–in that incredible manner of yours. It is contrary to every principle we have tried to teach you, contrary to all established precedents and traditions of Art. You may think you are what is called a modernist, but it isn’t even that. It is…it is sheer insanity, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind.”
“When you were given projects that left the choice of style up to you and you turned in one of your wild stunts–well, frankly, your teachers passed you because they did not know what to make of it. But, when you were given an exercise in the historical styles, a Tudor chapel or a French opera house to design–and you turned in something that looked like a lot of boxes piled together without rhyme or reason–would you say it was an answer to an assignment or plain insubordination?”
“It was insubordination,” said Roark.
“We wanted to give you a chance–in view of your brilliant record in all other subjects. But when you turn in this–” the Dean slammed his fist down on a sheet spread before him–“this as a Renaissance villa for your final project of the year–really, my boy, it was too much!”
The sheet bore a drawing–a house of glass and concrete. In the comer there was a sharp, angular signature: Howard Roark.
“How do you expect us to pass you after this?” “I don’t.”
“You left us no choice in the matter. Naturally, you would feel bitterness toward us at this moment, but…”
“I feel nothing of the kind,” said Roark quietly. “I owe you an apology. I don’t usually let things happen to me. I made a mistake this time. I shouldn’t have waited for you to throw me out. I should have left long ago.”
“Now, now, don’t get discouraged. This is not the right attitude to take. Particularly in view of what I am going to tell you.”
The Dean smiled and leaned forward confidentially, enjoying the overture to a good deed.
“Here is the real purpose of our interview. I was anxious to let you know as soon as possible. I did not wish to leave you disheartened. Oh, I did, personally, take a chance with the President’s temper when I mentioned this to him, but…Mind you, he did not commit himself, but…Here is how things stand: now that you realize how serious it is, if you take a year off, to rest, to think it over–shall we say to grow up?–there might be a chance of our taking you back. Mind you, I cannot promise anything–this is strictly unofficial–it would be most unusual, but in view of the circumstances and of your brilliant record, there might be a very good chance.”
Roark smiled. It was not a happy smile, it was not a grateful one. It was a simple, easy smile and it was amused.
“I don’t think you understood me,” said Roark. “What made you suppose that I want to come back?”
“I won’t be back. I have nothing further to learn here.”
“I don’t understand you,” said the Dean stiffly.
“Is there any point in explaining? It’s of no interest to you any longer.”
“You will kindly explain yourself.”
“If you wish. I want to be an architect, not an archeologist. I see no purpose in doing Renaissance villas. Why learn to design them, when I’ll never build them?”
“My dear boy, the great style of the Renaissance is far from dead. Houses of that style are being erected every day.”
“They are. And they will be. But not by me.”
“Come, come, now, this is childish.”
“I came here to learn about building. When I was given a project, its only value to me was to learn to solve it as I would solve I a real one in the future. I did them the way I’ll build them. I’ve | learned all I could learn here–in the structural sciences of which you don’t approve. One more year of drawing Italian post cards would give me nothing.” ‘
An hour ago the Dean had wished that this interview would proceed as calmly as possible. Now he wished that Roark would display some emotion; it seemed unnatural for him to be so quietly natural in the circumstances.
“Do you mean to tell me that you’re thinking seriously of building that way, when and if you are an architect?”
”My dear fellow, who will let you?”
”That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?”
“Look here, this is serious. I am sorry that I haven’t had a long, earnest talk with you much earlier…I know, I know, I know, don’t interrupt me, you’ve seen a modernistic building or two, and it gave you ideas. But do you realize what a passing fancy that whole so-called modern movement is? You must learn to understand–and it has been proved by all authorities–that everything beautiful in architecture has been done already. There is a treasure mine in every style of the past. We can only choose from the great masters. Who are we to improve upon them? We can only attempt, respectfully, to repeat.”
“Why?” asked Howard Roark.
No, thought the Dean, no, he hasn’t said anything else; it’s a perfectly innocent word; he’s not threatening me.
“But it’s self-evident!” said the Dean.
“Look,” said Roark evenly, and pointed at the window. “Can you see the campus and the town? Do you see how many men are walking and living down there? Well, I don’t give a damn what any or all of them think about architecture–or about anything else, for that matter. Why should I consider what their grandfathers thought of it?”
“That is our sacred tradition.”
“For heaven’s sake, can’t you stop being so naive about it?”
“But I don’t understand. Why do you want me to think that this is great architecture?” He pointed to the picture of the Parthenon.
“That,” said the Dean, “is the Parthenon.”
“So it is.”
“I haven’t the time to waste on silly questions.”
“All right, then.” Roark got up, he took a long ruler from the desk, he walked to the picture. “Shall I tell you what’s rotten about it?”
“It’s the Parthenon!” said the Dean.
“Yes, God damn it, the Parthenon!”
The ruler struck the glass over the picture.
“Look,” said Roark. “The famous flutings on the famous columns–what are they there for? To hide the joints in wood–when columns were made of wood, only these aren’t, they’re marble. The triglyphs, what are they? Wood. Wooden beams, the way they had to be laid when people began to build wooden shacks. Your Greeks took marble and they made copies of their wooden structures out of it, because others had done it that way. Then your masters of the Renaissance came along and made copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Now here we are, making copies in steel and concrete of copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Why?”
The Dean sat watching him curiously. Something puzzled him, not in the words, but in Roark’s manner of saying them.
“Rules?” said Roark. “Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. A man doesn’t borrow pieces of his body. A building doesn’t borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it.”
“But all the proper forms of expression have been discovered long ago.”
“Expression–of what? The Parthenon did not serve the same purpose as its wooden ancestor. An airline terminal does not serve the same purpose as the Parthenon. Every form has its own meaning. Every man creates his meaning and form and goal. Why is it so important–what others have done? Why does it become sacred by the mere fact of not being your own? Why is anyone and everyone right–so long as it’s not yourself? Why does the number of those others take the place of truth? Why is truth made a mere matter of arithmetic–and only of addition at that? Why is everything twisted out of all sense to fit everything else? There must be some reason. I don’t know. I’ve never known it. I’d like to understand.”
“For heaven’s sake,” said the Dean. “Sit down….That’s better….Would you mind very much putting that ruler down?…Thank you….Now listen to me. No one has ever denied the importance of modern technique to an architect. We must learn to adapt the beauty of the past to the needs of the present. The voice of the past is the voice of the people. Nothing has ever been invented by one man in architecture. The proper creative process is a slow, gradual, anonymous, collective one, in which each man collaborates with all the others and subordinates himself to the standards of the majority.”
“But you see,” said Roark quietly, “I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards–and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”
“How old are you?” asked the Dean. “Twenty-two,” said Roark.
“Quite excusable,” said the Dean; he seemed relieved. “You’ll outgrow all that.” He smiled. “The old standards have lived for thousands of years and nobody has been able to improve upon them. What are your modernists? A transient mode, exhibitionists trying to attract attention. Have you observed the course of their careers? Can you name one who has achieved any permanent distinction? Look at Henry Cameron. A great man, a leading architect twenty years ago. What is he today? Lucky if he gets–once a year–a garage to remodel. A bum and a drunkard, who…”
“We won’t discuss Henry Cameron.” “Oh? Is he a friend of yours?”
”No. But I’ve seen his buildings.” “And you found them…”
“I said we won’t discuss Henry Cameron.”
“Very well. You must realize that I am allowing you a great deal of…shall we say, latitude? I am not accustomed to hold a discussion with a student who behaves in your manner. However, I am anxious to forestall, if possible, what appears to be a tragedy, the spectacle of a young man of your obvious mental gifts setting out deliberately to make a mess of his life.”
The Dean wondered why he had promised the professor of mathematics to do all he could for this boy. Merely because the professor had said: “This,” and pointed to Roark’s project, “is a great man.” A great man, thought the Dean, or a criminal. The Dean winced. He did not approve of either.
He thought of what he had heard about Roark’s past. Roark’s father had been a steel puddler somewhere in Ohio and had died long ago. The boy’s entrance papers showed no record of nearest relatives. When asked about it, Roark had said indifferently: “I don’t think I have any relatives. I may have. I don’t know.” He had seemed astonished that he should be expected to have any interest in the matter. He had not made or sought a single friend on the campus. He had refused to join a fraternity. He had worked his way through high school and through the three years here at the Institute. He had worked as a common laborer in the building trades since childhood. He had done plastering, plumbing, steel work, anything he could get, going from one small town to another, working his way east, to the great cities. The Dean had seen him, last summer, on his vacation, catching rivets on a skyscraper in construction in Boston; his long body relaxed under greasy overalls, only his eyes intent, and his right arm swinging forward, once in a while, expertly, without effort, to catch the flying ball of fire at the last moment, when it seemed that the hot rivet would miss the bucket and strike him in the face.
“Look here, Roark,” said the Dean gently. “You have worked hard for your education. You had only one year left to go. There is something important to consider, particularly for a boy in your position. There’s the practical side of an architect’s career to think about. An architect is not an end in himself. He is only a small part of a great social whole. Co-operation is the key word to our modern world and to the profession of architecture in particular. Have you thought of your potential clients?”
“Yes,” said Roark.
“The Client,” said the Dean. “The Client. Think of that above all. He’s the one to live in the house you build. Your only purpose is to serve him. You must aspire to give the proper artistic expression to his wishes. Isn’t that all one can say on the subject?”
“Well, I could say that I must aspire to build for my client the most comfortable, the most logical, the most beautiful house that can be built. I could say that I must try to sell him the best I have and also teach him to know the best. I could say it, but I won’t. Because I don’t intend to build in order to serve or help anyone. I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build.”
“How do you propose to force your ideas on them?”
“I don’t propose to force or be forced. Those who want me will come to me.”
Then the Dean understood what had puzzled him in Roark’s manner.
“You know,” he said, “you would sound much more convincing if you spoke as if you cared whether I agreed with you or not.”
“That’s true,” said Roark. “I don’t care whether you agree with me or not.” He said it so simply
that it did not sound offensive, it sounded like the statement of a fact which he noticed, puzzled, for the first time.
“You don’t care what others think–which might be understandable. But you don’t care even to make them think as you do?”
”But that’s…that’s monstrous.” “Is it? Probably. I couldn’t say.”
“I’m glad of this interview,” said the Dean, suddenly, too loudly. “It has relieved my conscience. I believe, as others stated at the meeting, that the profession of architecture is not for you. I have tried to help you. Now I agree with the Board. You are a man not to be encouraged. You are dangerous.”
“To whom?” asked Roark.
But the Dean rose, indicating that the interview was over.
Roark left the room. He walked slowly through the long halls, down the stairs, out to the lawn below. He had met many men such as the Dean; he had never understood them. He knew only that there was some important difference between his actions and theirs. It had ceased to disturb him long ago. But he always looked for a central theme in buildings and he looked for a central impulse in men. He knew the source of his actions; he could not discover theirs. He did not care. He had never learned the process of thinking about other people. But he wondered, at times, what made them such as they were. He wondered again, thinking of the Dean. There was an important secret involved somewhere in that question, he thought. There was a principle which he must discover.
But he stopped. He saw the sunlight of late afternoon, held still in the moment before it was to fade, on the gray limestone of a stringcourse running along the brick wall of the Institute building. He forgot men, the Dean and the principle behind the Dean, which he wanted to discover. He thought only of how lovely the stone looked in the fragile light and of what he could have done with that stone.
He thought of a broad sheet of paper, and he saw, rising on the paper, bare walls of gray limestone with long bands of glass, admitting the glow of the sky into the classrooms. In the comer of the sheet stood a sharp, angular signature–HOWARD ROARK.
“…ARCHITECTURE, my friends, is a great Art based on two cosmic principles: Beauty and Utility. In a broader sense, these are but part of the three eternal entities: Truth, Love and Beauty. Truth–to the traditions of our Art, Love–for our fellow men whom we are to serve, Beauty–ah, Beauty is a compelling goddess to all artists, be it in the shape of a lovely woman or a building….Hm….Yes….In conclusion, I should like to say to you, who are about to embark upon your careers in architecture, that you are now the custodians of a sacred heritage….Hm….Yes….So, go forth into the world, armed with the three eternal entities–armed with courage and vision, loyal to the standards this great school has represented for many years. May you all serve faithfully, neither as slaves to the past nor as those parvenus who preach originality for its own sake, which attitude is only ignorant vanity. May you all have many rich, active years before you and leave, as you depart from this world, your mark on the sands of time!”
Guy Francon ended with a flourish, raising his right arm in a sweeping salute; informal, but with an air, that gay, swaggering air which Guy Francon could always permit himself. The huge hall before him came to life in applause and approval.
A sea of faces, young, perspiring and eager, had been raised solemnly–for forty-five minutes–
to the platform where Guy Francon had held forth as the speaker at the commencement exercises of the Stanton Institute of Technology, Guy Francon who had brought his own person from New York for the occasion; Guy Francon, of the illustrious firm of Francon & Heyer, vice-president of the Architects’ Guild of America, member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, member of the National Fine Arts Commission, Secretary of the Arts and Crafts League of New York, chairman of the Society for Architectural Enlightenment of the U.S.A.; Guy Francon, knight of the Legion of Honor of France, decorated by the governments of Great Britain, Belgium, Monaco and Siam; Guy Francon, Stanton’s greatest alumnus, who had designed the famous Frink National Bank Building of New York City, on the top of which, twenty-five floors above the pavements, there burned in a miniature replica of the Hadrian Mausoleum a wind-blown torch made of glass and the best General Electric bulbs.
Guy Francon descended from the platform, fully conscious of his timing and movements. He was of medium height and not too heavy, with just an unfortunate tendency to stoutness. Nobody, he knew, would give him his real age, which was fifty-one. His face bore not a wrinkle nor a single straight line; it was an artful composition in globes, circles, arcs and ellipses, with bright little eyes twinkling wittily. His clothes displayed an artist’s infinite attention to details. He wished, as he descended the steps, that this were a co-educational school.
The hall before him, he thought, was a splendid specimen of architecture, made a bit stuffy today by the crowd and by the neglected problem of ventilation. But it boasted green marble dadoes, Corinthian columns of cast iron painted gold, and garlands of gilded fruit on the walls; the pineapples particularly, thought Guy Francon, had stood the test of years very well. It is, thought Guy Francon, touching; it was I who built this annex and this very hall, twenty years ago; and here I am.
The hall was packed with bodies and faces, so tightly that one could not distinguish at a glance which faces belonged to which bodies. It was like a soft, shivering aspic made of mixed arms, shoulders, chests and stomachs. One of the heads, pale, dark haired and beautiful, belonged to Peter Keating.
He sat, well in front, trying to keep his eyes on the platform, because he knew that many people were looking at him and would look at him later. He did not glance back, but the consciousness of those centered glances never left him. His eyes were dark, alert, intelligent. His mouth, a small upturned crescent faultlessly traced, was gentle and generous, and warm with the faint promise of a smile. His head had a certain classical perfection in the shape of the skull, in the natural wave of black ringlets about finely hollowed temples. He held his head in the manner of one who takes his beauty for granted, but knows that others do not. He was Peter Keating, star student of Stanton, president of the student body, captain of the track team, member of the most important fraternity, voted the most popular man on the campus.
The crowd was there, thought Peter Keating, to see him graduate, and he tried to estimate the capacity of the hall. They knew of his scholastic record and no one would beat his record today. Oh, well, there was Shlinker. Shlinker had given him stiff competition, but he had beaten Shlinker this last year. He had worked like a dog, because he had wanted to beat Shlinker. He had no rivals today….Then he felt suddenly as if something had fallen down, inside his throat, to his stomach, something cold and empty, a blank hole rolling down and leaving that feeling on its way: not a thought, just the hint of a question asking him whether he was really as great as this day would proclaim him to be. He looked for Shlinker in the crowd; he saw his yellow face and gold-rimmed glasses. He stared at Shlinker warmly, in relief, in reassurance, in gratitude. It was obvious that Shlinker could never hope to equal his own appearance or ability; he had nothing to doubt; he would always beat Shlinker and all the Shlinkers of the world; he would let no one achieve what he could not achieve. Let them all watch him. He would give them good reason to stare. He felt the hot breaths about him and the expectation, like a tonic. It was wonderful, thought Peter Keating, to be alive.
His head was beginning to reel a little. It was a pleasant feeling. The feeling carried him, unresisting and unremembering, to the platform in front of all those faces. He stood–slender, trim, athletic–and let the deluge break upon his head. He gathered from its roar that he had graduated with honors, that the Architects’ Guild of America had presented him with a gold medal and that he had been awarded the Prix de Paris by the Society for Architectural Enlightenment of the U.S.A.–a four-year scholarship at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Then he was shaking hands, scratching the perspiration off his face with the end of a rolled parchment, nodding, smiling, suffocating in his black gown and hoping that people would not notice his mother sobbing with her arms about him. The President of the Institute shook his hand, booming: “Stanton will be proud of you, my boy.” The Dean shook his hand, repeating: “…a glorious future…a glorious future…a glorious future…” Professor Peterkin shook his hand, and patted his shoulder, saying: “…and you’ll find it absolutely essential; for example, I had the experience when I built the Peabody Post Office…” Keating did not listen to the rest, because he had heard the story of the Peabody Post Office many times. It was the only structure anyone had ever known Professor Peterkin to have erected, before he sacrificed his practice to the responsibilities of teaching. A great deal was said about Keating’s final project–a Palace of Fine Arts. For the life of him, Keating could not remember at the moment what that project was.
Through all this, his eyes held the vision of Guy Francon shaking his hand, and his ears held the sounds of Francon’s mellow voice: “…as I have told you, it is still open, my boy. Of course, now that you have this scholarship…you will have to decide…a Beaux-Arts diploma is very important to a young man…but I should be delighted to have you in our office….”
The banquet of the Class of ’22 was long and solemn. Keating listened to the speeches with interest; when he heard the endless sentences about “young men as the hope of American Architecture” and “the future opening its golden gates,” he knew that he was the hope and his was the future, and it was pleasant to hear this confirmation from so many eminent lips. He looked at the gray-haired orators and thought of how much younger he would be when he reached their positions, theirs and beyond them.
Then he thought suddenly of Howard Roark. He was surprised to find that the flash of that name in his memory gave him a sharp little twinge of pleasure, before he could know why. Then he remembered: Howard Roark had been expelled this morning. He reproached himself silently; he made a determined effort to feel sorry. But the secret glow came back, whenever he thought of that expulsion. The event proved conclusively that he had been a fool to imagine Roark a dangerous rival; at one time, he had worried about Roark more than about Shlinker, even though Roark was two years younger and one class below him. If he had ever entertained any doubts on their respective gifts, hadn’t this day settled it all? And, he remembered, Roark had been very nice to him, helping him whenever he was stuck on a problem…not stuck, really, just did not have the time to think it out, a plan or something. Christ! how Roark could untangle a plan, like pulling a string and it was open…well, what if he could? What did it get him? He was done for now. And knowing this, Peter Keating experienced at last a satisfying pang of sympathy for Howard Roark.
When Keating was called upon to speak, he rose confidently. He could not show that he was terrified. He had nothing to say about architecture. But he spoke, his head high, as an equal among equals, just subtly diffident, so that no great name present could take offense. He remembered saying: “Architecture is a great art…with our eyes to the future and the reverence of the past in our hearts…of all the crafts, the most important one sociologically…and, as the man who is an inspiration to us all has said today, the three eternal entities are: Truth, Love and Beauty….”
Then, in the corridors outside, in the noisy confusion of leave-taking, a boy had thrown an arm about Keating’s shoulders and whispered: “Run on home and get out of the soup-and-fish, Pete, and it’s Boston for us tonight, just our own gang; I’ll pick you up in an hour.” Ted Shlinker had urged: “Of course you’re coming, Pete. No fun without you. And, by the way, congratulations and all that sort of thing. No hard feelings. May the best man win.” Keating had thrown his arm about Shlinker’s shoulders; Keating’s eyes had glowed with an insistent kind of warmth, as if Shlinker were his most precious friend; Keating’s eyes glowed like that on everybody. He had said: “Thanks, Ted, old man. I really do feel awful about the A.G.A. medal–I think you were the one for it, but you never can tell what possesses those old
fogies.” And now Keating was on his way home through the soft darkness, wondering how to get away from his mother for the night.
His mother, he thought, had done a great deal for him. As she pointed out frequently, she was a lady and had graduated from high school; yet she had worked hard, had taken boarders into their home, a concession unprecedented in her family.
His father had owned a stationery store in Stanton. Changing times had ended the business and a hernia had ended Peter Keating, Sr., twelve years ago. Louisa Keating had been left with the home that stood at the end of a respectable street, an annuity from an insurance kept up accurately–she had seen to that–and her son. The annuity was a modest one, but with the help of the boarders and of a tenacious purpose Mrs. Keating had managed. In the summers her son helped, clerking in hotels or posing for hat advertisements. Her son, Mrs. Keating had decided, would assume his rightful place in the world, and she had clung to this as softly, as inexorably as a leech….It’s funny, Keating remembered, at one time he had wanted to be an artist. It was his mother who had chosen a better field in which to exercise his talent for drawing. “Architecture,” she had said, “is such a respectable profession. Besides, you meet the best people in it.” She had pushed him into his career, he had never known when or how. It’s funny, thought Keating, he had not remembered that youthful ambition of his for years. It’s funny that it should hurt him now–to remember. Well, this was the night to remember it–and to forget it forever.
Architects, he thought, always made brilliant careers. And once on top, did they ever fail? Suddenly, he recalled Henry Cameron; builder of skyscrapers twenty years ago; old drunkard with offices on some waterfront today. Keating shuddered and walked faster.
He wondered, as he walked, whether people were looking at him. He watched the rectangles of lighted windows; when a curtain fluttered and a head leaned out, he tried to guess whether it had leaned to watch his passing; if it hadn’t, some day it would; some day, they all would.
Howard Roark was sitting on the porch steps when Keating approached the house. He was leaning back against the steps, propped up on his elbows, his long legs stretched out. A morning-glory climbed over the porch pillars, as a curtain between the house and the light of a lamppost on the corner.
It was strange to see an electric globe in the air of a spring night. It made the street darker and softer; it hung alone, like a gap, and left nothing to be seen but a few branches heavy with leaves, standing still at the gap’s edges. The small hint became immense, as if the darkness held nothing but a flood of leaves. The mechanical ball of glass made the leaves seem more living; it took away their color and gave the promise that in daylight they would be a brighter green than had ever existed; it took away one’s sight and left a new sense instead, neither smell nor touch, yet both, a sense of spring and space.
Keating stopped when he recognized the preposterous orange hair in the darkness of the porch. It was the one person whom he had wanted to see tonight. He was glad to find Roark alone, and a little afraid of it.
“Congratulations, Peter,” said Roark.
“Oh…Oh, thanks….” Keating was surprised to find that he felt more pleasure than from any other compliment he had received today. He was timidly glad that Roark approved, and he called himself inwardly a fool for it. “…I mean…do you know or…” He added sharply: “Has mother been telling you?”
“She has.”
“She shouldn’t have!”
“Why not?”
“Look, Howard, you know that I’m terribly sorry about your being…”
Roark threw his head back and looked up at him.
“Forget it,” said Roark.
“I…there’s something I want to speak to you about, Howard, to ask your advice. Mind if I sit down?”
“What is it?”
Keating sat down on the steps beside him. There was no part that he could ever play in Roark’s presence. Besides, he did not feel like playing a part now. He heard a leaf rustling in its fall to the earth; it was a thin, glassy, spring sound.
He knew, for the moment, that he felt affection for Roark; an affection that held pain, astonishment and helplessness.
“You won’t think,” said Keating gently, in complete sincerity, “that it’s awful of me to be asking about my business, when you’ve just been…?”
“I said forget about that. What is it?”
“You know,” said Keating honestly and unexpectedly even to himself, “I’ve often thought that you’re crazy. But I know that you know many things about it–architecture, I mean–which those fools never knew. And I know that you love it as they never will.”
“W ell?”
“Well, I don’t know why I should come to you, but–Howard, I’ve never said it before, but you see, I’d rather have your opinion on things than the Dean’s–I’d probably follow the Dean’s, but it’s just that yours means more to me myself, I don’t know why. I don’t know why I’m saying this, either.”
Roark turned over on his side, looked at him, and laughed. It was a young, kind, friendly laughter, a thing so rare to hear from Roark that Keating felt as if someone had taken his hand in reassurance; and he forgot that he had a party in Boston waiting for him.
“Come on,” said Roark, “you’re not being afraid of me, are you? What do you want to ask about?”
“It’s about my scholarship. The Paris prize I got.” “Yes?”
“It’s for four years. But, on the other hand, Guy Francon offered me a job with him some time ago. Today he said it’s still open. And I don’t know which to take.”
Roark looked at him; Roark’s fingers moved in slow rotation, beating against the steps.
“If you want my advice, Peter,” he said at last, “you’ve made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don’t you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?”
“You see, that’s what I admire about you, Howard. You always know.” “Drop the compliments.”
”But I mean it. How do you always manage to decide?”
”How can you let others decide for you?”
“But you see, I’m not sure, Howard. I’m never sure of myself. I don’t know whether I’m as good as they all tell me I am. I wouldn’t admit that to anyone but you. I think it’s because you’re always so sure that I…”
“Petey!” Mrs. Keating’s voice exploded behind them. “Petey, sweetheart! What are you doing there?”
She stood in the doorway, in her best dress of burgundy taffeta, happy and angry.
“And here I’ve been sitting all alone, waiting for you! What on earth are you doing on those filthy steps in your dress suit? Get up this minute! Come on in the house, boys. I’ve got hot
chocolate and cookies ready for you.”
“But, Mother. I wanted to speak to Howard about something important,” said Keating. But he rose to his feet.
She seemed not to have heard. She walked into the house. Keating followed. Roark looked after them, shrugged, rose and went in also.
Mrs. Keating settled down in an armchair, her stiff skirt crackling.
”Well?” she asked. “What were you two discussing out there?”
Keating fingered an ash tray, picked up a matchbox and dropped it, then, ignoring her, turned to Roark.
“Look, Howard, drop the pose,” he said, his voice high. “Shall I junk the scholarship and go to work, or let Francon wait and grab the Beaux-Arts to impress the yokels? What do you think?”
Something was gone. The one moment was lost.
”Now, Petey, let me get this straight…” began Mrs. Keating.
“Oh, wait a minute, Mother!…Howard, I’ve got to weigh it carefully. It isn’t everyone who can get a scholarship like that. You’re pretty good when you rate that. A course at the Beaux-Arts– you know how important that is.”
“I don’t,” said Roark.
“Oh, hell, I know your crazy ideas, but I’m speaking practically, for a man in my position. Ideals aside for a moment, it certainly is…”
“You don’t want my advice,” said Roark. “Of course I do! I’m asking you!”
But Keating could never be the same when he had an audience, any audience. Something was gone. He did not know it, but he felt that Roark knew; Roark’s eyes made him uncomfortable and that made him angry.
“I want to practice architecture,” snapped Keating, “not talk about it! Gives you a great prestige–the old École. Puts you above the rank and file of the ex-plumbers who think they can build. On the other hand, an opening with Francon–Guy Francon himself offering it!”
Roark turned away.
“How many boys will match that?” Keating went on blindly. “A year from now they’ll be boasting they’re working for Smith or Jones if they find work at all. While I’ll be with Francon & Heyer!”
“You’re quite right, Peter,” said Mrs. Keating, rising. “On a question like that you don’t want to consult your mother. It’s too important. I’ll leave you to settle it with Mr. Roark.”
He looked at his mother. He did not want to hear what she thought of this; he knew that his only chance to decide was to make the decision before he heard her; she had stopped, looking at him, ready to turn and leave the room; he knew it was not a pose–she would leave if he wished it; he wanted her to go; he wanted it desperately. He said:
“Why, Mother, how can you say that? Of course I want your opinion. What…what do you think?”
She ignored the raw irritation in his voice. She smiled.
“Petey, I never think anything. It’s up to you. It’s always been up to you.”
“Well…” he began hesitantly, watching her, “if I go to the Beaux-Arts…”
“Fine,” said Mrs. Keating, “go to the Beaux-Arts. It’s a grand place. A whole ocean away from your home. Of course, if you go, Mr. Francon will take somebody else. People will talk about that. Everybody knows that Mr. Francon picks out the best boy from Stanton every year for his office. I wonder how it’ll look if some other boy gets the job? But I guess that doesn’t matter.”
“What…what will people say?”
“Nothing much, I guess. Only that the other boy was the best man of his class. I guess he’ll take Shlinker.”
“No!” he gulped furiously. “Not Shlinker!”
”Yes,” she said sweetly. “Shlinker.”
”But why should you care what people will say? All you have to do is please yourself.” “And you think that Francon…”
“Why should I think of Mr. Francon? It’s nothing to me.” “Mother, you want me to take the job with Francon?”
”I don’t want anything, Petey. You’re the boss.”
He wondered whether he really liked his mother. But she was his mother and this fact was recognized by everybody as meaning automatically that he loved her, and so he took for granted mat whatever he felt for her was love. He did not know whether there was any reason why he should respect her judgment. She was his mother; this was supposed to take the place of reasons.
“Yes, of course, Mother….But…Yes, I know, but.. Howard?”
It was a plea for help. Roark was there, on a davenport in the corner, half lying, sprawled limply like a kitten. It had often astonished Keating; he had seen Roark moving with the soundless tension, the control, the precision of a cat; he had seen him relaxed, like a cat, in shapeless ease, as if his body held no single solid bone. Roark glanced up at him. He said:
“Peter, you know how I feel about either one of your opportunities. Take your choice of the lesser evil. What will you learn at the Beaux-Arts? Only more Renaissance palaces and operetta settings. They’ll kill everything you might have in you. You do good work, once in a while, when somebody lets you. If you really want to learn, go to work. Francon is a bastard and a fool, but you will be building. It will prepare you for going on your own that much sooner.”
“Even Mr. Roark can talk sense sometimes,” said Mrs. Keating, “even if he does talk like a truck driver.”
“Do you really think that I do good work?” Keating looked at him, as if his eyes still held the reflection of that one sentence–and nothing else mattered.
“Occasionally,” said Roark. “Not often.”
”Now that it’s all settled…” began Mrs. Keating.
”I…I’ll have to think it over, Mother.”
”Now that it’s all settled, how about the hot chocolate? I’ll have it out to you in a jiffy!”
She smiled at her son, an innocent smile that declared her obedience and gratitude, and she rustled out of the room.
Keating paced nervously, stopped, lighted a cigarette, stood spitting the smoke out in short jerks, then looked at Roark.
“What are you going to do now, Howard?” “I?”
“Very thoughtless of me, I know, going on like that about myself. Mother means well, but she drives me crazy….Well, to hell with that. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to New York.” “Oh, swell. To get a job?” “To get a job.”
”In…in architecture?”
“In architecture, Peter.”
”That’s grand. I’m glad. Got any definite prospects?
”I’m going to work for Henry Cameron.”
”Oh, no, Howard!”
Roark smiled slowly, the corners of his mouth sharp, and said nothing. “Oh, no, Howard!”
”Yes ”
“But he’s nothing, nobody any more! Oh, I know he has a name but he’s done for! He never gets any important buildings, hasn’t had any for years! They say he’s got a dump for an office. What kind of future will you get out of him? What will you learn?”
“Not much. Only how to build.”
“For God’s sake, you can’t go on like that, deliberately ruining yourself! I thought…well, yes, I thought you’d learned something today!”
“I have.”
“Look, Howard, if it’s because you think that no one else will have you now, no one better, why, I’ll help you. I’ll work old Francon and I’ll get connections and…”
“Thank you, Peter. But it won’t be necessary. It’s settled. “What did he say?”
”W ho?”
“I’ve never met him.”
Then a horn screamed outside. Keating remembered, started off to change his clothes, collided with his mother at the door and knocked a cup off her loaded tray.
“Never mind, Mother!” He seized her elbows. “I’m in a hurry, sweetheart. A little party with the boys–now, now, don’t say anything–I won’t be late and–look! We’ll celebrate my going with Francon & Heyer!”
He kissed her impulsively, with the gay exuberance that made him irresistible at times, and flew out of the room, up the stairs. Mrs. Keating shook her head, flustered, reproving and happy.
In his room, while flinging his clothes in all directions, Keating thought suddenly of a wire he would send to New York. That particular subject had not been in his mind all day, but it came to him with a sense of desperate urgency; he wanted to send that wire now, at once. He scribbled it down on a piece of paper:
“Katie dearest coming New York job Francon love ever “Peter”
That night Keating raced toward Boston, wedged in between two boys, the wind and the road whistling past him. And he thought that the world was opening to him now, like the darkness fleeing before the bobbing headlights. He was free. He was ready. In a few years–so very soon, for time did not exist in the speed of that car–his name would ring like a horn, ripping people out of sleep. He was ready to do great things, magnificent things, things unsurpassed in…in…oh, hell…in architecture.
PETER KEATING looked at the streets of New York. The people, he observed, were extremely well dressed.
He had stopped for a moment before the building on Fifth Avenue, where the office of Francon & Heyer and his first day of work awaited him. He looked at the men who hurried past. Smart, he thought, smart as hell. He glanced regretfully at his own clothes. He had a great deal to learn in New York.
When he could delay it no longer, he turned to the door. It was a miniature Doric portico, every inch of it scaled down to the exact proportions decreed by the artists who had worn flowing Grecian tunics; between the marble perfection of the columns a revolving door sparkled with nickel plate, reflecting the streaks of automobiles flying past. Keating walked through the revolving door, through the lustrous marble lobby, to an elevator of gilt and red lacquer that brought him, thirty floors later, to a mahogany door. He saw a slender brass plate with delicate letters:
The reception room of the office of Francon & Heyer, Architects, looked like a cool, intimate ballroom in a Colonial mansion. The silver white walls were paneled with flat pilasters; the pilasters were fluted and curved into Ionic snails; they supported little pediments broken in the middle to make room for half a Grecian urn plastered against the wall. Etchings of Greek temples adorned the panels, too small to be distinguished, but presenting the unmistakable columns, pediments and crumbling stone.
Quite incongruously, Keating felt as if a conveyor belt was under his feet, from the moment he crossed the threshold. It carried him to the reception clerk who sat at a telephone switchboard behind the white balustrade of a Florentine balcony. It transferred him to the threshold of a huge drafting room. He saw long, flat tables, a forest of twisted rods descending from the ceiling to end in green-shaded lamps, enormous blueprint files, towers of yellow drawers, papers, tin boxes, sample bricks, pots of glue and calendars from construction companies, most of them bearing pictures of naked women. The chief draftsman snapped at Keating, without quite seeing him. He was bored and crackling with purpose simultaneously. He jerked
his thumb in the direction of a locker room, thrust his chin out toward the door of a locker, and stood, rocking from heels to toes, while Keating pulled a pearl-gray smock over his stiff, uncertain body. Francon had insisted on that smock. The conveyor belt stopped at a table in a corner of the drafting room, where Keating found himself with a set of plans to expand, the scaggy back of the chief draftsman retreating from him in the unmistakable manner of having forgotten his existence.
Keating bent over his task at once, his eyes fixed, his throat rigid. He saw nothing but the pearly shimmer of the paper before him. The steady lines he drew surprised him, for he felt certain that his hand was jerking an inch back and forth across the sheet. He followed the lines, not knowing where they led or why. He knew only that the plan was someone’s tremendous achievement which he could neither question nor equal. He wondered why he had ever thought of himself as a potential architect.
Much later, he noticed the wrinkles of a gray smock sticking to a pair of shoulder blades over the next table. He glanced about him, cautiously at first, then with curiosity, then with pleasure, then with contempt. When he reached this last, Peter Keating became himself again and felt love for mankind. He noticed sallow cheeks, a funny nose, a wart on a receding chin, a stomach squashed against the edge of a table. He loved these sights. What these could do, he could do better. He smiled. Peter Keating needed his fellow men.
When he glanced at his plans again, he noticed the flaws glaring at him from the masterpiece. It was the floor of a private residence, and he noted the twisted hallways that sliced great hunks of space for no apparent reason, the long, rectangular sausages of rooms doomed to darkness. Jesus, he thought, they’d have flunked me for this in the first term. After which, he proceeded with his work swiftly, easily, expertly–and happily.
Before lunchtime. Keating had made friends in the room, not any definite friends, but a vague soil spread and ready from which friendship would spring. He had smiled at his neighbors and winked in understanding over nothing at all. He had used each trip to the water cooler to caress those he passed with the soft, cheering glow of his eyes, the brilliant eyes that seemed to pick each man in turn out of the room, out of the universe, as the most important specimen of humanity and as Keating’s dearest friend. There goes–there seemed to be left in his wake– a smart boy and a hell of a good fellow.
Keating noticed that a tall blond youth at the next table was doing the elevation of an office building. Keating leaned with chummy respect against the boy’s shoulder and looked at the laurel garlands entwined about fluted columns three floors high.
“Pretty good for the old man,” said Keating with admiration.
“Who?” asked the boy.
“Why, Francon,” said Keating.
“Francon hell,” said the boy placidly. “He hasn’t designed a doghouse in eight years.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, at a glass door behind them. “Him.”
“What?” asked Keating, turning.
”Him,” said the boy. “Stengel. He does all these things.”
Behind the glass door Keating saw a pair of bony shoulders above the edge of a desk, a small, triangular head bent intently, and two blank pools of light in the round frames of glasses.
It was late in the afternoon when a presence seemed to have passed beyond the closed door, and Keating learned from the rustle of whispers around him that Guy Francon had arrived and had risen to his office on the floor above. Half an hour later the glass door opened and Stengel came out, a huge piece of cardboard dangling between his fingers.
“Hey, you,” he said, his glasses stopping on Keating’s face. “You doing the plans for this?” He swung the cardboard forward. “Take this up to the boss for the okay. Try to listen to what he’ll
say and try to look intelligent. Neither of which matters anyway.”
He was short and his arms seemed to hang down to his ankles; arms swinging like ropes in the long sleeves, with big, efficient hands. Keating’s eyes froze, darkening, for one-tenth of a second, gathered in a tight stare at the blank lenses. Then Keating smiled and said pleasantly:
“Yes, sir.”
He carried the cardboard on the tips of his ten fingers, up the crimson-plushed stairway to Guy Francon’s office. The cardboard displayed a water-color perspective of a gray granite mansion with three tiers of dormers, five balconies, four bays, twelve columns, one flagpole and two lions at the entrance. In the corner, neatly printed by hand, stood: “Residence of Mr. and Mrs. James S. Whattles. Francon & Heyer, Architects.” Keating whistled softly: James S. Whattles was the multimillionaire manufacturer of shaving lotions.
Guy Francon’s office was polished. No, thought Keating, not polished, but shellacked; no, not shellacked, but liquid with mirrors melted and poured over every object. He saw splinters of his own reflection let loose like a swarm of butterflies, following him across the room, on the Chippendale cabinets, on the Jacobean chairs, on the Louis XV mantelpiece. He had time to note a genuine Roman statue in a corner, sepia photographs of the Parthenon, of Rheims Cathedral, of Versailles and of the Frink National Bank Building with the eternal torch.
He saw his own legs approaching him in the side of the massive mahogany desk. Guy Francon sat behind the desk. Guy Francon’s face was yellow and his cheeks sagged. He looked at Keating for an instant as if he had never seen him before, then remembered and smiled expansively.
“Well, well, well, Kittredge, my boy, here we are, all set and at home! So glad to see you. Sit down, boy, sit down, what have you got there? Well, there’s no hurry, no hurry at all. Sit down. How do you like it here?”
“I’m afraid, sir, that I’m a little too happy,” said Keating, with an expression of frank, boyish helplessness. “I thought I could be businesslike on my first job, but starting in a place like this…I guess it knocked me out a little….I’ll get over it, sir,” he promised.
“Of course,” said Guy Francon. “It might be a bit overwhelming for a boy, just a bit. But don’t you worry. I’m sure you’ll make good.”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“Of course you will. What’s this they sent me?” Francon extended his hand to the drawing, but his fingers came to rest limply on his forehead instead. “It’s so annoying, this headache….No, no, nothing serious–” he smiled at Keating’s prompt concern–“just a little mal de tête. One works so hard.”
“Is there anything I can get for you, sir?”
“No, no, thank you. It’s not anything you can get for me, it’s if only you could take something away from me.” He winked. “The champagne. Entre nous, that champagne of theirs wasn’t worth a damn last night. I’ve never cared for champagne anyway. Let me tell you, Kittredge, it’s very important to know about wines, for instance when you’ll take a client out to dinner and will want to be sure of the proper thing to order. Now I’ll tell you a professional secret. Take quail, for instance. Now most people would order Burgundy with it. What do you do? You call for Clos Vougeot 1904. See? Adds that certain touch. Correct, but original. One must always be original….Who sent you up, by the way?”
“Mr. Stengel, sir.”
“Oh, Stengel.” The tone in which he pronounced the name clicked like a shutter in Keating’s mind: it was a permission to be stored away for future use. “Too grand to bring his own stuff up, eh? Mind you, he’s a great designer, the best designer in New York City, but he’s just getting to be a bit too grand lately. He thinks he’s the only one doing any work around here, just because he smudges at a board all day long. You’ll learn, my boy, when you’ve been in
the business longer, that the real work of an office is done beyond its walls. Take last night, for instance. Banquet of the Clarion Real Estate Association. Two hundred guests–dinner and champagne–oh, yes, champagne!” He wrinkled his nose fastidiously, in self-mockery. “A few words to say informally in a little after-dinner speech–you know, nothing blatant, no vulgar sales talk–only a few well-chosen thoughts on the responsibility of realtors to society, on the importance of selecting architects who are competent, respected and well established. You know, a few bright little slogans that will stick in the mind.”
“Yes, sir, like ‘Choose the builder of your home as carefully as you choose the bride to inhabit it.'”
“Not bad. Not bad at all, Kittredge. Mind if I jot it down?”
“My name is Keating, sir,” said Keating firmly. “You are very welcome to the idea. I’m happy if it appeals to you.”
“Keating, of course! Why, of course, Keating,” said Francon with a disarming smile. “Dear me, one meets so many people. How did you say it? Choose the builder…it was very well put.”
He made Keating repeat it and wrote it down on a pad, picking a pencil from an array before him, new, many-colored pencils, sharpened to a professional needle point, ready, unused.
Then he pushed he pad aside, sighed, patted the smooth waves of his hair and said wearily: “Well, all right, I suppose I’ll have to look at the thing.”
Keating extended the drawing respectfully. Francon leaned back, held the cardboard out at arm’s length and looked at it. He closed his left eye, then his right eye, then moved the cardboard an inch farther. Keating expected wildly to see him turn the drawing upside down. But Francon just held it and Keating knew suddenly that he had long since stopped seeing it. Francon was studying it for his, Keating’s, benefit; and then Keating felt light, light as air, and he saw the road to his future, clear and open.
“Hm…yes,” Francon was saying, rubbing his chin with the tips of two soft fingers. “Hm…yes…” He turned to Keating.
“Not bad,” said Francon. “Not bad at all….Well…perhaps…it would have been more distinguished, you know, but…well, the drawing is done so neatly….What do you think, Keating?”
Keating thought that four of the windows faced four mammoth granite columns. But he looked at Francon’s fingers playing with a petunia-mauve necktie, and decided not to mention it. He said instead:
“If I may make a suggestion, sir, it seems to me that the cartouches between the fourth and fifth floors are somewhat too modest for so imposing a building. It would appear that an ornamented stringcourse would be so much more appropriate.”
“That’s it. I was just going to say it. An ornamented stringcourse….But…but look, it would mean diminishing the fenestration, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Keating, a faint coating of diffidence over the tone he had used in discussions with his classmates, “but windows are less important than the dignity of a building’s facade.”
“That’s right. Dignity. We must give our clients dignity above all. Yes, definitely, an ornamented stringcourse….Only…look, I’ve approved the preliminary drawings, and Stengel has had this done up so neatly.”
“Mr. Stengel will be delighted to change it if you advise him to.”
Francon’s eyes held Keating’s for a moment. Then Francon’s lashes dropped and he picked a piece of lint off his sleeve.
“Of course, of course…” he said vaguely. “But…do you think the stringcourse is really important?”
“I think,” said Keating slowly, “it is more important to make changes you find necessary than to okay every drawing just as Mr. Stengel designed it.”
Because Francon said nothing, but only looked straight at him, because Francon’s eyes were focused and his hands limp, Keating knew that he had taken a terrible chance and won; he became frightened by the chance after he knew he had won.
They looked silently across the desk, and both saw that they were two men who could understand each other.
“We’ll have an ornamented stringcourse,” said Francon with calm, genuine authority. “Leave this here. Tell Stengel that I want to see him.”
He had turned to go. Francon stopped him. Francon’s voice was gay and warm:
“Oh, Keating, by the way, may I make a suggestion? Just between us, no offense intended, but a burgundy necktie would be so much better than blue with your gray smock, don’t you think so?”
“Yes, sir,” said Keating easily. “Thank you. You’ll see it tomorrow.” He walked out and closed the door softly.
On his way back through the reception room, Keating saw a distinguished, gray-haired gentleman escorting a lady to the door. The gentleman wore no hat and obviously belonged to the office; the lady wore a mink cape, and was obviously a client.
The gentleman was not bowing to the ground, he was not unrolling a carpet, he was not waving a fan over her head; he was only holding the door for her. It merely seemed to Keating that the gentleman was doing all of that.
The Frink National Bank Building rose over Lower Manhattan, and its long shadow moved, as the sun traveled over the sky, like a huge clock hand across grimy tenements, from the Aquarium to Manhattan Bridge. When the sun was gone, the torch of Hadrian’s Mausoleum flared up in its stead, and made glowing red smears on the glass of windows for miles around, on the top stories of buildings high enough to reflect it. The Frink National Bank Building displayed the entire history of Roman art in well-chosen specimens; for a long time it had been considered the best building of the city, because no other structure could boast a single Classical item which it did not possess. It offered so many columns, pediments, friezes, tripods, gladiators, urns and volutes that it looked as if it had not been built of white marble, but squeezed out of a pastry tube. It was, however, built of white marble. No one knew that but the owners who had paid for it. It was now of a streaked, blotched, leprous color, neither brown nor green but the worst tones of both, the color of slow rot, the color of smoke, gas fumes and acids eating into a delicate stone intended for clean air and open country. The Frink National Bank Building, however, was a great success. It had been so great a success that it was the last structure Guy Francon ever designed; its prestige spared him the bother from then on.
Three blocks east of the Frink National Bank stood the Dana Building. It was some stories lower and without any prestige whatever. Its lines were hard and simple, revealing, emphasizing the harmony of the steel skeleton within, as a body reveals the perfection of its bones. It had no other ornament to offer. It displayed nothing but the precision of its sharp angles, the modeling of its planes, the long streaks of its windows like streams of ice running down from the roof to the pavements. New Yorkers seldom looked at the Dana Building. Sometimes, a rare country visitor would come upon it unexpectedly in the moonlight and stop and wonder from what dream that vision had come. But such visitors were rare. The tenants of the Dana Building said that they would not exchange it for any structure on earth; they appreciated the light, the air, the beautiful logic of the plan in their halls and offices. But the tenants of the Dana Building were not numerous; no prominent man wished his business to be
located in a building that looked “like a warehouse.”
The Dana Building had been designed by Henry Cameron.
In the eighteen-eighties, the architects of New York fought one another for second place in their profession. No one aspired to the first. The first was held by Henry Cameron. Henry Cameron was hard to get in those days. He had a waiting list two years in advance; he designed personally every structure that left his office. He chose what he wished to build. When he built, a client kept his mouth shut. He demanded of all people the one thing he had never granted anybody: obedience. He went through the years of his fame like a projectile flying to a goal no one could guess. People called him crazy. But they took what he gave them, whether they understood it or not, because it was a building “by Henry Cameron.”
At first, his buildings were merely a little different, not enough to frighten anyone. He made startling experiments, once in a while, but people expected it and one did not argue with Henry Cameron. Something was growing in him with each new building, struggling, taking shape, rising dangerously to an explosion. The explosion came with the birth of the skyscraper. When structures began to rise not in tier on ponderous tier of masonry, but as arrows of steel shooting upward without weight or limit, Henry Cameron was among the first to understand this new miracle and to give it form. He was among the first and the few who accepted the truth that a tall building must look tall. While architects cursed, wondering how to make a twenty-story building look like an old brick mansion, while they used every horizontal device available in order to cheat it of its height, shrink it down to tradition, hide the shame of its steel, make it small, safe and ancient–Henry Cameron designed skyscrapers in straight, vertical lines, flaunting their steel and height. While architects drew friezes and pediments, Henry Cameron decided that the skyscraper must not copy the Greeks. Henry Cameron decided that no building must copy any other.
He was thirty-nine years old then, short, stocky, unkempt; he worked like a dog, missed his sleep and meals, drank seldom but then brutally, called his clients unprintable names, laughed at hatred and fanned it deliberately, behaved like a feudal lord and a longshoreman, and lived in a passionate tension that stung men in any room he entered, a fire neither they nor he could endure much longer. It was the year 1892.
The Columbian Exposition of Chicago opened in the year 1893.
The Rome of two thousand years ago rose on the shores of Lake Michigan, a Rome improved by pieces of France, Spain, Athens and every style that followed it. It was a “Dream City” of columns, triumphal arches, blue lagoons, crystal fountains and popcorn. Its architects competed on who could steal best, from the oldest source and from the most sources at once. It spread before the eyes of a new country every structural crime ever committed in all the old ones. It was white as a plague, and it spread as such.
People came, looked, were astounded, and carried away with them, to the cities of America, the seeds of what they had seen. The seeds sprouted into weeds; into shingled post offices with Doric porticos, brick mansions with iron pediments, lofts made of twelve Parthenons piled on top of one another. The weeds grew and choked everything else.
Henry Cameron had refused to work for the Columbian Exposition, and had called it names that were unprintable, but repeatable, though not in mixed company. They were repeated. It was repeated also that he had thrown an inkstand at the face of a distinguished banker who had asked him to design a railroad station in the shape of the temple of Diana at Ephesus. The banker never came back. There were others who never came back.
Just as he reached the goal of long, struggling years, just as he gave shape to the truth he had sought–the last barrier fell closed before him. A young country had watched him on his way, had wondered, had begun to accept the new grandeur of his work. A country flung two thousand years back in an orgy of Classicism could find no place for him and no use.
It was not necessary to design buildings any longer, only to photograph them; the architect with the best library was the best architect Imitators copied imitations. To sanction it there was Culture; there were twenty centuries unrolling in moldering ruins; there was the great Exposition; there was every European post card in every family album.
Henry Cameron had nothing to offer against this; nothing but a faith he held merely because it was his own. He had nobody to quote and nothing of importance to say. He said only that the form of a building must follow its function; that the structure of a building is the key to its beauty; that new methods of construction demand new forms; that he wished to build as he wished and for that reason only. But people could not listen to him when they were discussing Vitruvius, Michelangelo and Sir Christopher Wren.
Men hate passion, any great passion. Henry Cameron made a mistake: he loved his work. That was why he fought. That was why he lost.
People said he never knew that he had lost. If he did, he never let them see it. As his clients became rarer, his manner to them grew more overbearing. The less the prestige of his name, the more arrogant the sound of his voice pronouncing it. He had had an astute business manager, a mild, self-effacing little man of iron who, in the days of his glory, faced quietly the storms of Cameron’s temper and brought him clients; Cameron insulted the clients, but the little man made them accept it and come back. The little man died.
Cameron had never known how to face people. They did not matter to him, as his own life did not matter, as nothing mattered but buildings. He had never learned to give explanations, only orders. He had never been liked. He had been feared. No one feared him any longer.
He was allowed to live. He lived to loathe the streets of the city he had dreamed of rebuilding. He lived to sit at the desk in his empty office, motionless, idle, waiting. He lived to read in a well-meaning newspaper account a reference to “the late Henry Cameron.” He lived to begin drinking, quietly, steadily, terribly, for days and nights at a time; and to hear those who had driven him to it say, when his name was mentioned for a commission: “Cameron? I should say not. He drinks like a fish. That’s why he never gets any work.” He lived to move from the offices that occupied three floors of a famous building to one floor on a less expensive street, then to a suite farther downtown, then to three rooms facing an air shaft, near the Battery. He chose these rooms because, by pressing his face to the window of his office, he could see, over a brick wall, the top of the Dana Building.
Howard Roark looked at the Dana Building beyond the windows, stopping at each landing, as he mounted the six flights of stairs to Henry Cameron’s office; the elevator was out of order. The stairs had been painted a dirty file-green a long time ago; a little of the paint remained to grate under shoe soles in crumbling patches. Roark went up swiftly, as if he had an appointment, a folder of his drawings under his arm, his eyes on the Dana Building. He collided once with a man descending the stairs; this had happened to him often in the last two days; he had walked through the streets of the city, his head thrown back, noticing nothing but the buildings of New York.
In the dark cubbyhole of Cameron’s anteroom stood a desk with a telephone and a typewriter. A gray-haired skeleton of a man sat at the desk, in his shirt sleeves, with a pair of limp suspenders over his shoulders. He was typing specifications intently, with two fingers and incredible speed. The light from a feeble bulb made a pool of yellow on his back, where the damp shirt stuck to his shoulder blades.
The man raised his head slowly, when Roark entered. He looked at Roark, said nothing and waited, his old eyes weary, unquestioning, incurious.
“I should like to see Mr. Cameron,” said Roark.
”Yeah?” said the man, without challenge, offense or meaning. “About what?” “About a job.”
”What job?”
The man sat looking at him blankly. It was a request that had not confronted him for a long time. He rose at last, without a word, shuffled to a door behind him and went in.
He left the door half open. Roark heard him drawling:
“Mr. Cameron, there’s a fellow outside says he’s looking for a job here.”
Then a voice answered, a strong, clear voice that held no tones of age:
“Why, the damn fool! Throw him out…Wait! Send him in!”
The old man returned, held the door open and jerked his head at it silently. Roark went in. The door closed behind him.
Henry Cameron sat at his desk at the end of a long, bare room. He sat bent forward, his forearms on the desk, his two hands closed before him. His hair and his beard were coal black, with coarse threads of white. The muscles of his short, thick neck bulged like ropes. He wore a white shirt with the sleeves rolled above the elbows; the bare arms were hard, heavy and brown. The flesh of his broad face was rigid, as if it had aged by compression. The eyes were dark, young, living.
Roark stood on the threshold and they looked at each other across the long room.
The light from the air shaft was gray, and the dust on the drafting table, on the few green files, looked like fuzzy crystals deposited by the light. But on the wall, between the windows, Roark saw a picture. It was the only picture in the room. It was the drawing of a skyscraper that had never been erected.
Roark’s eyes moved first and they moved to the drawing. He walked across the office, stopped before it and stood looking at it. Cameron’s eyes followed him, a heavy glance, like a long, thin needle held fast at one end, describing a slow circle, its point piercing Roark’s body, keeping it pinned firmly. Cameron looked at the orange hair, at the hand hanging by his side, its palm to the drawing, the fingers bent slightly, forgotten not in a gesture but in the overture to a gesture of asking or seizing something.
“Well?” said Cameron at last. “Did you come to see me or did you come to look at pictures?” Roark turned to him.
”Both,” said Roark.
He walked to the desk. People had always lost their sense of existence in Roark’s presence; but Cameron felt suddenly that he had never been as real as in the awareness of the eyes now looking at him.
“What do you want?” snapped Cameron. “I should like to work for you,” said Roark quietly. The voice said: “I should like to work for you.” The tone of the voice said: “I’m going to work for you.”
“Are you?” said Cameron, not realizing that he answered the unpronounced sentence. “What’s the matter? None of the bigger and better fellows will have you?”
“I have not applied to anyone else.”
“Why not? Do you think this is the easiest place to begin? Think anybody can walk in here without trouble? Do you know who I am?”
“Yes. That’s why I’m here.”
”Who sent you?”
”No one.”
”Why the hell should you pick me?”
“I think you know that.”
“What infernal impudence made you presume that I’d want you? Have you decided that I’m so hard up that I’d throw the gates open for any punk who’d do me the honor? ‘Old Cameron,’ you’ve said to yourself, ‘is a has-been, a drunken…” come on, you’ve said it!…’a drunken failure who can’t be particular!’ Is that it?…Come on, answer me! Answer me, damn you! What are you staring at? Is that it? Go on! Deny it!”
“It’s not necessary.”
”Where have you worked before?”
”I’m just beginning.”
”What have you done?”
”I’ve had three years at Stanton.”
”Oh? The gentleman was too lazy to finish?” “I have been expelled.”
“Great!” Cameron slapped the desk with his fist and laughed. “Splendid! You’re not good enough for the lice nest at Stanton, but you’ll work for Henry Cameron! You’ve decided this is the place for refuse! What did they kick you out for? Drink? Women? What?”
“These,” said Roark, and extended his drawings. Cameron looked at the first one, then at the next, then at every one of them to the bottom. Roark heard the paper rustling as Cameron slipped one sheet behind another. Then Cameron raised his head. “Sit down.”
Roark obeyed. Cameron stared at him, his thick fingers drumming against the pile of drawings.
“So you think they’re good?’ said Cameron. “Well, they’re awful. It’s unspeakable. It’s a crime. Look,” he shoved a drawing at Roark’s face, “look at that. What in Christ’s name was your idea? What possessed you to indent that plan here? Did you just want to make it pretty, because you had to patch something together? Who do you think you are? Guy Francon, God help you?…Look at this building, you fool! You get an idea like this and you don’t know what to do with it! You stumble on a magnificent thing and you have to ruin it! Do you know how much you’ve got to learn?”
“Yes. That’s why I’m here.”
“And look at that one! I wish I’d done that at your age! But why did you have to botch it? Do you know what I’d do with that? Look, to hell with your stairways and to hell with your furnace room! When you lay the foundations…”
He spoke furiously for a long time. He cursed. He did not find one sketch to satisfy him. But Roark noticed that he spoke as of buildings that were in construction.
He broke off abruptly, pushed the drawings aside, and put his fist over them. He asked: “When did you decide to become an architect?”
”When I was ten years old.”
”Men don’t know what they want so early in life, if ever. You’re lying.”
“Am I?”
“Don’t stare at me like that! Can’t you look at something else? Why did you decide to be an architect?”
“I didn’t know it then. But it’s because I’ve never believed in God.” “Come on, talk sense.”
“Because I love this earth. That’s all I love. I don’t like the shape of things on this earth. I want to change them.”
“For whom?”
”For myself.”
”How old are you?”
”When did you hear all that?”
”I didn’t.”
”Men don’t talk like that at twenty-two. You’re abnormal.” “Probably.”
”I didn’t mean it as a compliment.”
”I didn’t either.”
”Got any family?”
”Worked through school?”
”At what?”
”In the building trades.”
”How much money have you got left?”
”Seventeen dollars and thirty cents.”
”When did you come to New York?”
Cameron looked at the white pile under his fist.
”God damn you,” said Cameron softly.
“God damn you!” roared Cameron suddenly, leaning forward. “I didn’t ask you to come here! I don’t need any draftsmen! There’s nothing here to draft! I don’t have enough work to keep myself and my men out of the Bowery Mission! I don’t want any fool visionaries starving around here! I don’t want the responsibility. I didn’t ask for it. I never thought I’d see it again. I’m through with it. I was through with that many years ago. I’m perfectly happy with the drooling dolts I’ve got here, who never had anything and never will have and it makes no difference what becomes of them. That’s all I want Why did you have to come here? You’re setting out to ruin yourself, you know that, don’t you? And I’ll help you to do it. I don’t want to see you. I don’t like you. I don’t like your face. You look like an insufferable egotist. You’re impertinent. You’re too sure of yourself. Twenty years ago I’d have punched your face with the greatest of pleasure. You’re coming to work here tomorrow at nine o’clock sharp.”
“Yes,” said Roark, rising.
“Fifteen dollars a week. That’s all I can pay you.”
“You’re a damn fool. You should have gone to someone else. I’ll kill you if you go to anyone else. What’s your name?”
“Howard Roark.”
”If you’re late, I’ll fire you.”
Roark extended his hand for the drawings.
”Leave these here!” bellowed Cameron. “Now get out!”
“TOOHEY,” said Guy Francon, “Ellsworth Toohey. Pretty decent of him, don’t you think? Read it, Peter.”
Francon leaned jovially across his desk and handed to Keating the August issue of New Frontiers. New Frontiers had a white cover with a black emblem that combined a palette, a lyre, a hammer, a screw driver and a rising sun; it had a circulation of thirty thousand and a following that described itself as the intellectual vanguard of the country; no one had ever risen to challenge the description. Keating read from an article entitled “Marble and Mortar,” by Ellsworth M. Toohey:
“…And now we come to another notable achievement of the metropolitan skyline. We call the attention of the discriminating to the new Melton Building by Francon & Heyer. It stands in white serenity as an eloquent witness to the triumph of Classical purity and common sense. The discipline of an immortal tradition has served here as a cohesive factor in evolving a structure whose beauty can reach, simply and lucidly, the heart of every man in the street. There is no freak exhibitionism here, no perverted striving for novelty, no orgy of unbridled egotism. Guy Francon, its designer, has known how to subordinate himself to the mandatory canons which generations of craftsmen behind him have proved inviolate, and at the same time how to display his own creative originality, not in spite of, but precisely because of the Classical dogma he has accepted with the humility of a true artist. It may be worth mentioning, in passing, that dogmatic discipline is the only thing which makes true originality possible….
“More important, however, is the symbolic significance of a building such as this rising in our imperial city. As one stands before its southern facade, one is stricken with the realization that the stringcourses, repeated with deliberate and gracious monotony from the third to the eighteenth story, these long, straight, horizontal lines are the moderating, leveling principle, the lines of equality. They seem to bring the towering structure down to the humble level of the observer. They are the lines of the earth, of the people, of the great masses. They seem to tell us that none may rise too high above the restraint of the common human level, that all is held and shall be checked, even as this proud edifice, by the stringcourses of men’s brotherhood….”
There was more. Keating read it all, then raised his head. “Gee!” he said, awed. Francon smiled happily.
“Pretty good, eh? And from Toohey, no less. Not many people might have heard the name, but they will, mark my word, they will. I know the signs….So he doesn’t think I’m so bad? And he’s got a tongue like an icepick, when he feels like using it. You should see what he says about others, more often than not. You know Durkin’s latest mousetrap? Well, I was at a party where Toohey said–” Francon chuckled–“he said: ‘If Mr. Durkin suffers under the delusion
that he is an architect, someone should mention to him the broad opportunities offered by the shortage of skilled plumbers.’ That’s what he said, imagine, in public!”
“I wonder,” said Keating wistfully, “what he’ll say about me, when the times comes.”
“What on earth does he mean by the symbolic significance stuff and the stringcourses of men’s brotherhood?…Oh, well, if that’s what he praises us for, we should worry!”
“It’s the critic’s job to interpret the artist, Mr. Francon, even to the artist himself. Mr. Toohey has merely stated the hidden significance that was subconsciously in your own mind.”
“Oh,” said Francon vaguely. “Oh, do you think so?” he added brightly. “Quite possible….Yes, quite possible….You’re a smart boy, Peter.”
“Thank you, Mr. Francon.” Keating made a movement to rise.
”Wait. Don’t go. One more cigarette and then we’ll both return to the drudgery.”
Francon was smiling over the article, reading it again. Keating had never seen him so pleased; no drawing in the office, no work accomplished had ever made him as happy as these words from another man on a printed page to be read by other eyes.
Keating sat easily in a comfortable chair. His month with the firm had been well spent. He had said nothing and done nothing, but the impression had spread through the office that Guy Francon liked to see this particular boy sent to him whenever anyone had to be sent. Hardly a day passed without the pleasant interlude of sitting across the desk from Guy Francon, in a respectful, growing intimacy, listening to Francon’s sighs about the necessity of being surrounded by men who understood him.
Keating had learned all he could team about Guy Francon, from his fellow draftsmen. He had teamed that Guy Francon ate moderately and exquisitely, and prided himself on the title of gourmet; that he had graduated with distinction from the École des Beaux-Arts; that he had married a great deal of money and that the marriage had not been a happy one; that he matched meticulously his socks with his handkerchiefs, but never with his neckties; that he had a great preference for designing buildings of gray granite; that he owned a quarry of gray granite in Connecticut, which did a thriving business; that he maintained a magnificent bachelor apartment done in plum-colored Louis XV; that his wife, of a distinguished old name, had died, leaving her fortune to their only daughter, that the daughter, now nineteen, was away at college.
These last facts interested Keating a great deal. He mentioned to Francon, tentatively in passing, the subject of his daughter. “Oh, yes…” Francon said thinly. “Yes, indeed…” Keating abandoned all further research into the matter, for the time being; Francon’s face had declared mat the thought of his daughter was painfully annoying to him, for some reason which Keating could not discover.
Keating had met Lucius N. Heyer, Francon’s partner, and had seen him come to the office twice in three weeks, but had been unable to learn what service Heyer rendered to the firm. Heyer did not have haemophilia, but looked as though he should have it He was a withered aristocrat, with a long, thin neck, pate, bulging eyes and a manner of frightened sweetness toward everyone. He was the relic of an ancient family, and it was suspected mat Francon had taken him into partnership for the sake of his social connections. People felt sorry for poor dear Lucius, admired him for the effort of undertaking a professional career, and thought it would be nice to let him build their homes. Francon built them and required no further service from Lucius. This satisfied everybody.
The men in the drafting rooms loved Peter Keating. He made them feel as if he had been there for a long time; he had always known how to become part of any place he entered; he came soft and bright as a sponge to be filled, unresisting, with the air and the mood of the place. His warm smile, his gay voice, the easy shrug of his shoulders seemed to say that nothing weighed too much within his soul and so he was not one to blame, to demand, to accuse anything.
As he sat now, watching Francon read the article, Francon raised his head to glance at him. Francon saw two eyes looking at him with immense approval–and two bright little points of contempt in the corners of Keating’s mouth, like two musical notes of laughter visible the second before they were to be heard. Francon felt a great wave of comfort. The comfort came from the contempt. The approval, together with that wise half-smile, granted him a grandeur he did not have to earn; a blind admiration would have been precarious; a deserved admiration would have been a responsibility; an undeserved admiration was precious.
“When you go, Peter, give this to Miss Jeffers to put in my scrapbook.”
On his way down the stairs, Keating flung the magazine high in the air and caught it smartly, his lips pursed to whistle without sound.
In the drafting room he found Tim Davis, his best friend, slouched despondently over a drawing. Tim Davis was the tall, blond boy at the next table, whom Keating had noticed long ago, because he had known, with no tangible evidence, but with certainty, as Keating always knew such things, that this was the favored draftsman of the office. Keating managed to be assigned, as frequently as possible, to do parts of the projects on which Davis worked. Soon they were going out to lunch together, and to a quiet little speak-easy after the day’s work, and Keating was listening with breathless attention to Davis’ talk about his love for one Elaine Duffy, not a word of which Keating ever remembered afterward.
He found Davis now in black gloom, his mouth chewing furiously a cigarette and a pencil at once. Keating did not have to question him. He merely bent his friendly face over Davis’ shoulder. Davis spit out the cigarette and exploded. He had just been told that he would have to work overtime tonight, for the third time this week.
“Got to stay late, God knows how late! Gotta finish this damn tripe tonight!” He slammed the sheets spread before him. “Look at it! Hours and hours and hours to finish it! What am I going to do?”
“Well, it’s because you’re the best man here, Tim, and they need you.”
“To hell with that! I’ve got a date with Elaine tonight! How’m I going to break it? Third time!
She won’t believe me! She told me so last time! That’s the end! I’m going up to Guy the Mighty and tell him where he can put his plans and his job! I’m through!”
“Wait,” said Keating, and leaned closer to him. “Wait! There’s another way. I’ll finish them for you.”
“I’ll stay. I’ll do them. Don’t be afraid. No one’ll tell the difference.”
“Pete! Would you?”
“Sure. I’ve nothing to do tonight. You just stay till they all go home, then skip.”
“Oh, gee, Pete!” Davis sighed, tempted. “But look, if they find out, they’ll can me. You’re too new for this kind of job.”
“They won’t find out.”
“I can’t lose my job, Pete. You know I can’t. Elaine and I are going to be married soon. If anything happens…”
“Nothing will happen.”
Shortly after six, Davis departed furtively from the empty drafting room, leaving Keating at his table.
Bending under a solitary green lamp. Keating glanced at the desolate expanse of three long rooms, oddly silent after the day’s rush, and he felt that he owned them, that he would own
them, as surely as the pencil moved in his hand.
It was half past nine when he finished the plans, stacked them neatly on Davis’ table, and left the office. He walked down the street, glowing with a comfortable, undignified feeling, as though after a good meal. Then the realization of his loneliness struck him suddenly. He had to share this with someone tonight. He had no one. For the first time he wished his mother were in New York. But she had remained in Stanton, awaiting the day when he would be able to send for her. He had nowhere to go tonight, save to the respectable little boardinghouse on West Twenty-Eighth Street, where he could climb three flights of stairs to his clean, airless little room. He had met people in New York, many people, many girls, with one of whom he remembered spending a pleasant night, though he could not remember her last name; but he wished to see none of them. And then he thought of Catherine Halsey.
He had sent her a wire on the night of his graduation and forgotten her ever since. Now he wanted to see her; the desire was intense and immediate with the first sound of her name in his memory. He leaped into a bus for the long ride to Greenwich Village, climbed to the deserted top and, sitting alone on the front bench, cursed the traffic lights whenever they turned to red. It had always been like this where Catherine was concerned; and he wondered dimly what was the matter with him.
He had met her a year ago in Boston, where she had lived with her widowed mother. He had found Catherine homely and dull, on that first meeting, with nothing to her credit but her lovely smile, not a sufficient reason ever to see her again. He had telephoned her the next evening. Of the countless girls he had known in his student years she was the only one with whom he had never progressed beyond a few kisses. He could have any girl he met and he knew it; he knew that he could have Catherine; he wanted her; she loved him and had admitted it simply, openly, without fear or shyness, asking nothing of him, expecting nothing; somehow, he had never taken advantage of it. He had felt proud of the girls whom he escorted in those days, the most beautiful girls, the most popular, the best dressed, and he had delighted in the envy of his schoolmates. He had been ashamed of Catherine’s thoughtless sloppiness and of the fact that no other boy would look at her twice. But he had never been as happy as when he took her to fraternity dances. He had had many violent loves, when he swore he could not live without this girl or that; he forgot Catherine for weeks at a time and she never reminded him. He had always come back to her, suddenly, inexplicably, as he did tonight.
Her mother, a gentle little schoolteacher, had died last winter. Catherine had gone to live with an uncle in New York. Keating had answered some of her letters immediately, others–months later. She had always replied at once, and never written during his long silences, waiting patiently. He had felt, when he thought of her, that nothing would ever replace her. Then, in New York, within reach of a bus or a telephone, he had forgotten her again for a month.
He never thought, as he hurried to her now, that he should have announced his visit. He never wondered whether he would find her at home. He had always come back like this and she had always been there. She was there again tonight.
She opened the door for him, on the top floor of a shabby, pretentious brownstone house. “Hello, Peter,” she said, as if she had seen him yesterday.
She stood before him, too small, too thin for her clothes. The short black skirt flared out from the slim band of her waist; the boyish shirt collar hung loosely, pulled to one side, revealing the knob of a thin collarbone; the sleeves were too long over the fragile hands. She looked at him, her head bent to one side; her chestnut hair was gathered carelessly at the back of her neck, but it looked as though it were bobbed, standing, light and fuzzy, as a shapeless halo about her face. Her eyes were gray, wide and nearsighted; her mouth smiled slowly, delicately, enchantingly, her lips glistening. “Hello, Katie,” he said.
He felt at peace. He felt he had nothing to fear, in this house or anywhere outside. He had prepared himself to explain how busy he’d been in New York; but explanations seemed irrelevant now.
“Give me your hat,” she said, “be careful of that chair, it’s not very steady, we have better ones in the living room, come in.” The living room, he noticed, was modest but somehow distinguished, and in surprisingly good taste. He noticed the books; cheap shelves rising to the
ceiling, loaded with precious volumes; the volumes stacked carelessly, actually being used. He noticed, over a neat, shabby desk, a Rembrandt etching, stained and yellow, found, perhaps, in some junk shop by the eyes of a connoisseur who had never parted with it, though its price would have obviously been of help to him. He wondered what business her uncle could be in; he had never asked.
He stood looking vaguely at the room, feeling her presence behind him, enjoying that sense of certainty which he found so rarely. Then he turned and took her in his arms and kissed her; her lips met his softly, eagerly; but she was neither frightened nor excited, too happy to accept this in any way save by taking it for granted.
“God, I’ve missed you!” he said, and knew that he had, every day since he’d seen her last and most of all, perhaps, on the days when he had not thought of her.
“You haven’t changed much,” she said. “You look a little thinner. It’s becoming. You’ll be very attractive when you’re fifty, Peter.”
“That’s not very complimentary–by implication.”
”Why? Oh, you mean I think you’re not attractive now? Oh, but you are.” “You shouldn’t say that right out to me like that.”
“Why not? You know you are. But I’ve been thinking of what you’ll look like at fifty. You’ll have gray temples and you’ll wear a gray suit–I saw one in a window last week and I thought that would be the one–and you’ll be a very great architect.”
“You really think so?”
“Why, yes.” She was not flattering him. She did not seem to realize that it could be flattery. She was merely stating a fact, too certain to need emphasis.
He waited for the inevitable questions. But instead, they were talking suddenly of their old Stanton days together, and he was laughing, holding her across his knees, her thin shoulders leaning against the circle of his arm, her eyes soft, contented. He was speaking of their old bathing suits, of the runs in her stockings, of their favorite ice-cream parlor in Stanton, where they had spent so many summer evenings together–and he was thinking dimly that it made no sense at all; he had more pertinent things to tell and to ask her; people did not talk like that when they hadn’t seen each other for months. But it seemed quite normal to her; she did not appear to know that they had been parted.
He was first to ask finally:
”Did you get my wire?”
”Oh, yes. Thanks.”
”Don’t you want to know how I’m getting along in the city?” “Sure. How are you getting along in the city?”
“Look here, you’re not terribly interested.”
”Oh, but I am! I want to know everything about you.” “Why don’t you ask?”
”You’ll tell me when you want to.”
”It doesn’t matter much to you, does it?”
”W hat?”
“What I’ve been doing.”
“Oh…Yes, it does, Peter. No, not too much.”
“That’s sweet of you!”
“But, you see, it’s not what you do that matters really. It’s only you.”
“Me what?”
“Just you here. Or you in the city. Or you somewhere in the world. I don’t know. Just that.”
“You know, you’re a fool, Katie. Your technique is something awful.”
“My what?”
“Your technique. You can’t tell a man so shamelessly, like that, that you’re practically crazy about him.”
“But I am.”
“But you can’t say so. Men won’t care for you.”
“But I don’t want men to care for me.”
“You want me to, don’t you?”
“But you do, don’t you?”
“I do,” he said, his arms tightening about her. “Damnably. I’m a bigger fool than you are.”
“Well, then it’s perfectly all right,” she said, her fingers in his hair, “isn’t it?”
“It’s always been perfectly all right, that’s the strangest part about it….But look, I want to tell you about what’s happened to me, because it’s important.”
“I’m really very interested, Peter.”
“Well, you know I’m working for Francon & Heyer and…Oh, hell, you don’t even know what that means!”
“Yes, I do. I’ve looked them up in Who’s Who in Architecture. It said some very nice things about them. And I asked Uncle. He said they were tops in the business.”
“You bet they are. Francon–he’s the greatest designer in New York, in the whole country, in the world maybe. He’s put up seventeen skyscrapers, eight cathedrals, six railroad terminals and God knows what else….Of course, you know, he’s an old fool and a pompous fraud who oils his way into everything and…” He stopped, his mouth open, staring at her. He had not intended to say that. He had never allowed himself to think that before.
She was looking at him serenely. “Yes?” she asked. “And…?”
“Well…and…” he stammered, and he knew that he could not speak differently, not to her, “and that’s what I really think of him. And I have no respect for him at all. And I’m delighted to be working for him. See?”
“Sure,” she said quietly. “You’re ambitious, Peter.”
”Don’t you despise me for it?”
”No. That’s what you wanted.”
”Sure, that’s what I wanted. Well, actually, it’s not as bad as that. It’s a tremendous firm, the
best in the city. I’m really doing good work, and Francon is very pleased with me. I’m getting ahead. I think I can have any job I want in the place eventually….Why, only tonight I took over a man’s work and he doesn’t know that he’ll be useless soon, because…Katie! What am I saying?”
“It’s all right, dear. I understand.”
”If you did, you’d call me the names I deserve and make me stop it.”
”No, Peter. I don’t want to change you. I love you, Peter.”
”God help you!”
”I know that.”
”You know that? And you say it like this? Like you’d say, ‘Hello, it’s a beautiful evening’?” “Well, why not? Why worry about it? I love you.”
”No, don’t worry about it! Don’t ever worry about it!…Katie….I’ll never love anyone else….” “I know that too.”
He held her close, anxiously, afraid that her weightless little body would vanish. He did not know why her presence made him confess things unconfessed in his own mind. He did not know why the victory he came here to share had faded. But it did not matter. He had a peculiar sense of freedom–her presence always lifted from him a pressure he could not define–he was alone–he was himself. All that mattered to him now was the feeling of her coarse cotton blouse against his wrist.
Then he was asking her about her own life in New York and she was speaking happily about her uncle.
“He’s wonderful, Peter. He’s really wonderful. He’s quite poor, but he took me in and he was so gracious about it he gave up his study to make a room for me and now he has to work here, in the living room. You must meet him, Peter. He’s away now, on a lecture tour, but you must meet him when he comes back.”
“Sure, I’d love to.”
“You know, I wanted to go to work, and be on my own, but he wouldn’t let me. ‘My dear child,’ he said, ‘not at seventeen. You don’t want me to be ashamed of myself, do you? I don’t believe in child labor.’ That was kind of a funny idea, don’t you think? He has so many funny ideas–I don’t understand them all, but they say he’s a brilliant man. So he made it look as if I were doing him a favor by letting him keep me, and I think that was really very decent of him.”
“What do you do with yourself all day long?”
“Nothing much of anything now. I read books. On architecture. Uncle has tons of books on architecture. But when he’s here I type his lectures for him. I really don’t think he likes me to do it, he prefers the typist he had, but I love it and he lets me. And he pays me her salary. I didn’t want to take it, but he made me.”
“What does he do for a living?”
“Oh, so many things, I don’t know, I can’t keep track of them. He teaches art history, for one, he’s a kind of professor.”
“And when are you going to college, by the way?”
“Oh…Well…well, you see, I don’t think Uncle approves of the idea. I told him how I’d always planned to go and that I’d work my own way through, but he seems to think it’s not for me. He doesn’t say much, only: ‘God made the elephant for toil and the mosquito for flitting about, and
it’s not advisable, as a rule, to experiment with the laws of nature, however, if you want to try it, my dear child…’ But he’s not objecting really, it’s up to me, only…”
“Well, don’t let him stop you.”
“Oh, he wouldn’t want to stop me. Only, I was thinking, I was never any great shakes in high school, and, darling, I’m really quite utterly lousy at mathematics, and so I wonder…but then, there’s no hurry, I’ve got plenty of time to decide.”
“Listen, Katie, I don’t like that. You’ve always planned on college. If that uncle of yours…”
“You shouldn’t say it like this. You don’t know him. He’s the most amazing man. I’ve never met anyone quite like him. He’s so kind, so understanding. And he’s such fun, always joking, he’s so clever at it, nothing that you thought was serious ever seems to be when he’s around, and yet he’s a very serious man. You know, he spends hours talking to me, he’s never too tired and he’s not bored with my stupidity, he tells me all about strikes, and conditions in the slums, and the poor people in the sweatshops, always about others, never about himself. A friend of his told me that Uncle could be a very rich man if he tried, he’s so clever, but he won’t, he just isn’t interested in money.”
“That’s not human.”
“Wait till you see him. Oh, he wants to meet you, too. I’ve told him about you. He calls you ‘the T-square Romeo.'”
“Oh, he does, does he?”
“But you don’t understand. He means it kindly. It’s the way he says things. You’ll have a lot in common. Maybe he could help you. He knows something about architecture, too. You’ll love Uncle Ellsworth.”
“Who?” said Keating.
“My uncle.”
“Say,” Keating asked, his voice a little husky, “what’s your
uncle’s name?”
“Ellsworth Toohey. Why?” His hands fell limply. He sat staring at her. “What’s the matter, Peter?”
He swallowed. She saw the jerking motion of his throat. Then he said, his voice hard:
“Listen, Katie, I don’t want to meet your uncle.”
“But why?”
“I don’t want to meet him. Not through you….You see, Katie, you don’t know me. I’m the kind that uses people. I don’t want to use you. Ever. Don’t let me. Not you.”
“Use me how? What’s the matter? Why?”
“It’s just this: I’d give my eyeteeth to meet Ellsworth Toohey, that’s all.” He laughed harshly. “So he knows something about architecture, does he? You little fool! He’s the most important man in architecture. Not yet, maybe, but that’s what he’ll be in a couple of years–ask Francon, that old weasel knows. He’s on his way to becoming the Napoleon of all architectural critics, your Uncle Ellsworth is, just watch him. In the first place, there aren’t many to bother writing about our profession, so he’s the smart boy who’s going to comer the market. You should see the big shots in our office lapping up every comma he puts out in print! So you think maybe he could help me? Well, he could make me, and he will, and I’m going to meet him some day, when I’m ready for him, as I met Francon, but not here, not through you. Understand? Not from you!”
“But, Peter, why not?”
“Because I don’t want it that way! Because it’s filthy and I hate it, all of it, ray work and my profession, and what I’m doing and what I’m going to do! It’s something I want to keep you out of. You’re all I really have. Just keep out of it, Katie!”
“Out of what?” “I don’t know!”
She rose and stood in the circle of his arms, his face hidden against her hip; she stroked his hair, looking down at him.
“All right, Peter. I think I know. You don’t have to meet him until you want to. Just tell me when you want it. You can use me if you have to. It’s all right. It won’t change anything.”
When he raised his head, she was laughing softly.
“You’ve worked too hard, Peter. You’re a little unstrung. Suppose I make you some tea?”
“Oh, I’d forgotten all about it, but I’ve had no dinner today. Had no time.”
“Well, of all things! Well, how perfectly disgusting! Come on to the kitchen, this minute, I’ll see what I can fix up for you!”
He left her two hours later, and he walked away feeling light, clean, happy, his fears forgotten, Toohey and Francon forgotten. He thought only that he had promised to come again tomorrow and that it was an unbearably long time to wait. She stood at the door, after he had gone, her hand on the knob he had touched, and she thought that he might come tomorrow–or three months later.

“When you finish tonight,” said Henry Cameron, “I want to see you in my office.”
“Yes,” said Roark.
Cameron veered sharply on his heels and walked out of the drafting room. It had been the longest sentence he had addressed to Roark in a month.
Roark had come to this room every morning, had done his task, and had heard no word of comment. Cameron would enter the drafting room and stand behind Roark for a long time, looking over his shoulder. It was as if his eyes concentrated deliberately on trying to throw the steady hand off its course on the paper. The two other draftsmen botched their work from the mere thought of such an apparition standing behind them. Roark did not seem to notice it. He went on, his hand unhurried, he took his time about discarding a blunted pencil and picking out another. “Uh-huh,” Cameron would grunt suddenly. Roark would turn his head then, politely attentive. “What is it?” he would ask. Cameron would turn away without a word, his narrowed eyes underscoring contemptuously the fact that he considered an answer unnecessary, and would leave the drafting room. Roark would go on with his drawing.
“Looks bad,” Loomis, the young draftsman, confided to Simpson, his ancient colleague. “The old man doesn’t like this guy. Can’t say that I blame him, either. Here’s one that won’t last long.”
Simpson was old and helpless; he had survived from Cameron’s three-floor office, had stuck and had never understood it Loomis was young, with the face of a drugstore-corner lout; he was here because he had been fired from too many other places.
Both men disliked Roark. He was usually disliked, from the first sight of his face, anywhere he went His face was closed like the door of a safety vault; things locked in safety vaults are valuable; men did not care to feel that. He was a cold, disquieting presence in the room; his presence had a strange quality: it made itself felt and yet it made them feel that he was not
there; or perhaps that he was and they weren’t.
After work he walked the long distance to his home, a tenement near the East River. He had chosen that tenement because he had been able to get, for two-fifty a week, its entire top floor, a huge room that had been used for storage: it had no ceiling and the roof leaked between its naked beams. But it had a long row of windows, along two of its walls, some panes filled with glass, others with cardboard, and the windows opened high over the river on one side and the city on the other.
A week ago Cameron had come into the drafting room and had thrown down on Roark’s table a violent sketch of a country residence. “See if you can make a house out of this!” he had snapped and gone without further explanation. He had not approached Roark’s table during the days that followed. Roark had finished the drawings last night and left them on Cameron’s desk. This morning, Cameron had come in, thrown some sketches of steel joints to Roark, ordered him to appear in his office later and had not entered the drafting room again for the rest of the day. The others were gone. Roark pulled an old piece of oilcloth over his table and went to Cameron’s office. His drawings of the country house were spread on the desk. The light of the lamp fell on Cameron’s cheek, on his beard, the white threads glistening, on his fist, on a corner of the drawing, its black lines bright and hard as if embossed on the paper. “You’re fired,” said Cameron.
Roark stood, halfway across the long room, his weight on one leg, his arms hanging by his sides, one shoulder raised. “Am I?” he asked quietly, without moving. “Come here,” said Cameron. “Sit down.” Roark obeyed.
“You’re too good,” said Cameron. “You’re too good for what you want to do with yourself. It’s no use, Roark. Better now than later.”
“What do you mean?’
“It’s no use wasting what you’ve got on an ideal that you’ll never reach, that they’ll never let you reach. It’s no use, taking that marvelous thing you have and making a torture rack for yourself out of it. Sell it, Roark. Sell it now. It won’t be the same, but you’ve got enough in you. You’ve got what they’ll pay you for, and pay plenty, if you use it their way. Accept them, Roark. Compromise. Compromise now, because you’ll have to later, anyway, only then you’ll have gone through things you’ll wish you hadn’t. You don’t know. I do. Save yourself from that. Leave me. Go to someone else.”
“Did you do that?”
“You presumptuous bastard! How good do you think I said you were? Did I tell you to compare yourself to…” He stopped because he saw that Roark was smiling.
He looked at Roark, and suddenly smiled in answer, and it was the most painful thing that Roark had ever seen.
“No,” said Cameron softly, “that won’t work, huh? No, it won’t…Well, you’re right. You’re as good as you think you are. But I want to speak to you. I don’t know exactly how to go about it. I’ve lost the habit of speaking to men like you. Lost it? Maybe I’ve never had it. Maybe that’s what frightens me now. Will you try to understand?”
“I understand. I think you’re wasting your time.”
“Don’t be rude. Because I can’t be rude to you now. I want you to listen. Will you listen and not answer me?”
“Yes. I’m sorry. I didn’t intend it as rudeness.”
“You see, of all men, I’m the last one to whom you should have come. I’ll be committing a crime if I keep you here. Somebody should have warned you against me. I won’t help you at all. I won’t discourage you. I won’t teach you any common sense. Instead, I’ll push you on. I’ll drive you the way you’re going now. I’ll beat you into remaining what you are, and I’ll make you worse….Don’t you see? In another month I won’t be able to let you go. I’m not sure I can now.
So don’t argue with me and go. Get out while you can.”
”But can I? Don’t you think it’s too late for both of us? It was too late for me twelve years ago.”
“Try it, Roark. Try to be reasonable for once. There’s plenty of big fellows who’ll take you, expulsion or no expulsion, if I say so. They may laugh at me in their luncheon speeches, but they steal from me when it suits them, and they know that I know a good draftsman when I see one. I’ll give you a letter to Guy Francon. He worked for me once, long ago. I think I fired him, but that wouldn’t matter. Go to him. You won’t like it at first, but you’ll get used to it. And you’ll thank me for it many years from now.”
“Why are you saying all this to me? That’s not what you want to say. That’s not what you did.”
“That’s why I’m saying it! Because that’s not what I did!…Look, Roark, there’s one thing about you, the thing I’m afraid of. It’s not just the kind of work you do; I wouldn’t care, if you were an exhibitionist who’s being different as a stunt, as a lark, just to attract attention to himself. It’s a smart racket, to oppose the crowd and amuse it and collect admission to the side show. If you did that, I wouldn’t worry. But it’s not that. You love your work. God help you, you love it! And that’s the curse. That’s the brand on your forehead for all of them to see. You love it, and they know it, and they know they have you. Do you ever look at the people in the street? Aren’t you afraid of them? I am. They move past you and they wear hats and they carry bundles. But that’s not the substance of them. The substance of them is hatred for any man who loves his work. That’s the only kind they fear. I don’t know why. You’re opening yourself up, Roark, for each and every one of them.”
“But I never notice the people in the streets.”
”Do you notice what they’ve done to me?”
”I notice only that you weren’t afraid of them. Why do you ask me to be?”
“That’s just why I’m asking it!” He leaned forward, his fists closing on the desk before him. “Roark, do you want me to say it? You’re cruel, aren’t you? All right, I’ll say it: do you want to end up like this? Do you want to be what I am?” Roark got up and stood against the edge of light on the desk. “If,” said Roark, “at the end of my life, I’ll be what you are today here, in this office, I shall consider it an honor that I could not have deserved.”
“Sit down!” roared Cameron. “I don’t like demonstrations!” Roark looked down at himself, at the desk, astonished to find himself standing. He said: “I’m sorry. I didn’t know I got up.”
“Well, sit down. Listen. I understand. And it’s very nice of you. But you don’t know. I thought a few days here would be enough to take the hero worship out of you. I see it wasn’t. Here you are, saying to yourself how grand old Cameron is, a noble fighter, a martyr to a lost cause, and you’d just love to die on the barricades with me and to eat in dime lunch-wagons with me for the rest of your life. I know, it looks pure and beautiful to you now, at your great old age of twenty-two. But do you know what it means? Thirty years of a lost cause, that sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? But do you know how many days there are in thirty years? Do you know what happens in those days? Roark! Do you know what happens?”
“You don’t want to speak of that.”
“No! I don’t want to speak of that! But I’m going to. I want you to hear. I want you to know what’s in store for you. There will be days when you’ll look at your hands and you’ll want to take something and smash every bone in them, because they’ll be taunting you with what they could do, if you found a chance for them to do it, and you can’t find that chance, and you can’t bear your living body because it has failed those hands somewhere. There will be days when a bus driver will snap at you as you enter a bus, and he’ll be only asking for a dime, but that won’t be what you’ll hear; you’ll hear that you’re nothing, that he’s laughing at you, that it’s written on your forehead, that thing they hate you for. There will be days when you’ll stand in the corner of a hall and listen to a creature on a platform talking about buildings, about that work which you love, and the things he’ll say will make you wait for somebody to rise and crack him open between two thumbnails; and then you’ll hear the people applauding him, and you’ll want to scream, because you won’t know whether they’re real or you are, whether you’re
in a room full of gored skulls, or whether someone has just emptied your own head, and you’ll say nothing, because the sounds you could make–they’re not a language in that room any longer; but if you’d want to speak, you won’t anyway, because you’ll be brushed aside, you who have nothing to tell them about buildings! Is that what you want?”
Roark sat still, the shadows sharp on his face, a black wedge on a sunken cheek, a long triangle of black cutting across his chin, his eyes on Cameron.
“Not enough?” asked Cameron. “All right. Then, one day, you’ll see on a piece of paper before you a building that will make you want to kneel; you won’t believe that you’ve done it, but you will have done it; then you’ll think that the earth is beautiful and the air smells of spring and you love your fellow men, because there is no evil in the world. And you’ll set out from your house with this drawing, to have it erected, because you won’t have any doubt that it will be erected by the first man to see it. But you won’t get very far from your house. Because you’ll be stopped at the door by the man who’s come to turn off the gas. You hadn’t had much food, because you saved money to finish your drawing, but still you had to cook something and you hadn’t paid for it….All right, that’s nothing, you can laugh at that. But finally you’ll get into a man’s office with your drawing, and you’ll curse yourself for taking so much space of his air with your body, and you’ll try to squeeze yourself out of his sight, so that he won’t see you, but only hear your voice begging him, pleading, your voice licking his knees; you’ll loathe yourself for it, but you won’t care, if only he’d let you put up that building, you won’t care, you’ll want to rip your insides open to show him, because if he saw what’s there he’d have to let you put it up. But he’ll say that he’s very sorry, only the commission has just been given to Guy Francon. And you’ll go home, and do you know what you’ll do there? You’ll cry. You’ll cry like a woman, like a drunkard, like an animal. That’s your future, Howard Roark. Now, do you want it?”
“Yes,” said Roark.
Cameron’s eyes dropped; then his head moved down a little, then a little farther; his head went on dropping slowly, in long, single jerks, then stopped; he sat still, his shoulders hunched, his arms huddled together in his lap.
“Howard,” whispered Cameron, “I’ve never told it to anyone….”
“Thank you….” said Roark.
After a long time, Cameron raised his head.
“Go home now,” said Cameron, his voice flat. “You’ve worked too much lately. And you have a hard day ahead.” He
pointed to the drawings of the country house. “This is all very well, and I wanted to see what you’d do, but it’s not good enough to build. You’ll have to do it over. I’ll show you what I want tomorrow.”
A YEAR with the firm of Francon & Heyer had given Keating the whispered title of crown prince without portfolio. Still only a draftsman, he was Francon’s reigning favorite. Francon took him out to lunch–an unprecedented honor for an employee. Francon called him to be present at interviews with clients. The clients seemed to like seeing so decorative a young man in an architect’s office.
Lucius N. Heyer had the annoying habit of asking Francon suddenly: “When did you get the new man?” and pointing to an employee who had been there for three years. But Heyer surprised everybody by remembering Keating’s name and by greeting him, whenever they met, with a smile of positive recognition. Keating had had a long conversation with him, one dreary November afternoon, on the subject of old porcelain. It was Heyer’s hobby; he owned a famous collection, passionately gathered. Keating displayed an earnest knowledge of the subject, though he had never heard of old porcelain till the night before, which he had spent at the public library. Heyer was delighted; nobody in the office cared about his hobby, few ever
noticed his presence. Heyer remarked to his partner: “You’re certainly good at picking your men, Guy. There’s one boy I wish we wouldn’t lose, what’s his name?–Keating.”
“Yes, indeed,” Francon answered, smiling, “yes, indeed.”
In the drafting room, Keating concentrated on Tim Davis. Work and drawings were only unavoidable details on the surface of his days; Tim Davis was the substance and the shape of the first step in his career.
Davis let him do most of his own work; only night work, at first, then parts of his daily assignments as well; secretly, at first, then openly. Davis had not wanted it to be known. Keating made it known, with an air of naive confidence which implied that he was only a tool, no more than Tim’s pencil or T-square, that his help enhanced Tim’s importance rather than diminished it and, therefore, he did not wish to conceal it.
At first, Davis relayed instructions to Keating; then the chief draftsman took the arrangement for granted and began coming to Keating with orders intended for Davis. Keating was always there, smiling, saying: “I’ll do it; don’t bother Tim with those little things, I’ll take care of it.” Davis relaxed and let himself be carried along; he smoked a great deal, he lolled about, his legs twisted loosely over the rungs of a stool, his eyes closed, dreaming of Elaine; he uttered once in a while: “Is the stuff ready, Pete?”
Davis had married Elaine that spring. He was frequently late for work. He had whispered to Keating: “You’re in with the old man, Pete, slip a good word for me, once in a while, will you?– so they’ll overlook a few things. God, do I hate to have to be working right now!” Keating would say to Francon: “I’m sorry, Mr. Francon, that the Murray job sub-basement plans were so late, but Tim Davis had a quarrel with his wife last night, and you know how newlyweds are, you don’t want to be too hard on them,” or “It’s Tim Davis again, Mr. Francon, do forgive him, he can’t help it, he hasn’t got his mind on his work at all!”
When Francon glanced at the list of his employees’ salaries, he noticed that his most expensive draftsman was the man least needed in the office.
When Tim Davis lost his job, no one in the drafting room was surprised but Tim Davis. He could not understand it. He set his lips defiantly in bitterness against a world he would hate forever. He felt he had no friend on earth save Peter Keating.
Keating consoled him, cursed Francon, cursed the injustice of humanity, spent six dollars in a speak-easy, entertaining the secretary of an obscure architect of his acquaintance and arranged a new job for Tim Davis.
Whenever he thought of Davis afterward, Keating felt a warm pleasure; he had influenced the course of a human being, had thrown him off one path and pushed him into another; a human being–it was not Tim Davis to him any longer, it was a living frame and a mind, a conscious mind–why had he always feared that mysterious entity of consciousness within others?–and he had twisted that frame and that mind to his own will. By a unanimous decision of Francon, Heyer and the chief draftsman, Tim’s table, position and salary were given to Peter Keating. But this was only part of his satisfaction; there was another sense of it, warmer and less real– and more dangerous. He said brightly and often: ‘Tim Davis? Oh yes, I got him his present job.”
He wrote to his mother about it. She said to her friends: “Petey is such an unselfish boy.”
He wrote to her dutifully each week; his letters were short and respectful; hers, long, detailed and full of advice which he seldom finished reading.
He saw Catherine Halsey occasionally. He had not gone to her on that following evening, as he had promised. He had awakened in the morning and remembered the things he had said to her, and hated her for his having said them. But he had gone to her again, a week later; she had not reproached him and they had not mentioned her uncle. He saw her after that every month or two; he was happy when he saw her, but he never spoke to her of his career.
He tried to speak of it to Howard Roark; the attempt failed. He called on Roark twice; he
climbed, indignantly, the five flights of stairs to Roark’s room. He greeted Roark eagerly; he waited for reassurance, not knowing what sort of reassurance he needed nor why it could come only from Roark. He spoke of his job and he questioned Roark, with sincere concern, about Cameron’s office. Roark listened to him, answered all his questions willingly, but Keating felt that he was knocking against a sheet of iron in Roark’s unmoving eyes, and that they were not speaking about the same things at all. Before the visit was over, Keating was taking notice of Roark’s frayed cuffs, of his shoes, of the patch on the knee of his trousers, and he felt satisfied. He went away chuckling, but he went away miserably uneasy, and wondered why, and swore never to see Roark again, and wondered why he knew that he would have to see him.

“Well,” said Keating, “I couldn’t quite work it to ask her to lunch, but she’s coming to Mawson’s exhibition with me day after tomorrow. Now what?”
He sat on the floor, his head resting against the edge of a couch, his bare feet stretched out, a pair of Guy Francon’s chartreuse pyjamas floating loosely about his limbs.
Through the open door of the bathroom he saw Francon standing at the washstand, his stomach pressed to its shining edge, brushing his teeth.
“That’s splendid,” said Francon, munching through a thick foam of toothpaste. “That’ll do just as well. Don’t you see?”
“Lord, Pete, I explained it to you yesterday before we started. Mrs. Dunlop’s husband’s planning to build a home for her.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Keating weakly, brushing the matted black curls off his face. “Oh, yeah…I remember now…Jesus, Guy, I got a head on me!…”
He remembered vaguely the party to which Francon had taken him the night before, he remembered the caviar in a hollow iceberg, the black net evening gown and the pretty face of Mrs. Dunlop, but he could not remember how he had come to end up in Francon’s apartment. He shrugged; he had attended many parties with Francon in the past year and had often been brought here like this.
“It’s not a very large house,” Francon was saying, holding the toothbrush in his mouth; it made a lump on his cheek and its green handle stuck out. “Fifty thousand or so, I understand. They’re small fry anyway. But Mrs. Dunlop’s brother-in-law is Quimby–you know, the big real estate fellow. Won’t hurt to get a little wedge into that family, won’t hurt at all. You’re to see where that commission ends up, Pete. Can I count on you, Pete?”
“Sure,” said Keating, his head drooping. “You can always count on me, Guy….”
He sat still, watching his bare toes and thinking of Stengel, Francon’s designer. He did not want to think, but his mind leaped to Stengel automatically, as it always did, because Stengel represented his next step.
Stengel was impregnable to friendship. For two years, Keating’s attempts had broken against the ice of Stengel’s glasses. What Stengel thought of him was whispered in the drafting rooms, but few dared to repeat it save in quotes; Stengel said it aloud, even though he knew that the corrections his sketches bore, when they returned to him from Francon’s office, were made by Keating’s hand. But Stengel had a vulnerable point: he had been planning for some time to leave Francon and open an office of his own. He had selected a partner, a young architect of no talent but of great inherited wealth. Stengel was waiting only for a chance. Keating had thought about this a great deal He could think of nothing else. He thought of it again, sitting there on the floor of Francon’s bedroom.
Two days later, when he escorted Mrs. Dunlop through the gallery exhibiting the paintings of one Frederic Mawson, his course of action was set. He piloted her through the sparse crowd, his fingers closing over her elbow once in a while, letting her catch his eyes directed at her
young face more often than at the paintings.
“Yes,” he said as she stared obediently at a landscape featuring an auto dump and tried to compose her face into the look of admiration expected of her; “magnificent work. Note the colors, Mrs. Dunlop….They say this fellow Mawson had a terribly hard time. It’s an old story– trying to get recognition. Old and heartbreaking. It’s the same in all the arts. My own profession included.”
“Oh, indeed?” said Mrs. Dunlop, who quite seemed to prefer architecture at the moment.
“Now this,” said Keating, stopping before the depiction of an old hag picking at her bare toes on a street curb, “this is art as a social document. It takes a person of courage to appreciate this.”
“It’s simply wonderful,” said Mrs. Dunlop.
“Ah, yes, courage. It’s a rare quality….They say Mawson was starving in a garret when Mrs. Stuyvesant discovered him. It’s glorious to be able to help young talent on its way.”
“It must be wonderful,” agreed Mrs. Dunlop.
“If I were rich,” said Keating wistfully, “I’d make it my hobby: to arrange an exhibition for a new artist, to finance the concert of a new pianist, to have a house built by a new architect….”
“Do you know, Mr. Keating?–my husband and I are planning to build a little home on Long Island.”
“Oh, are you? How very charming of you, Mrs. Dunlop, to confess such a thing to me. You’re so young, if you’ll forgive my saying this. Don’t you know that you run the danger of my becoming a nuisance and trying to interest you in my firm? Or are you safe and have chosen an architect already?”
“No, I’m not safe at all,” said Mrs. Dunlop prettily, “and I wouldn’t mind the danger really. I’ve thought a great deal about the firm of Francon & Heyer in these last few days. And I’ve heard they are so terribly good.”
“Why, thank you, Mrs. Dunlop.” “Mr. Francon is a great architect.” “Oh, yes.”
”What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. Nothing really.”
”No, what’s the matter?”
”Do you really want me to tell you?” “Why, certainly.”
“Well, you see, Guy Francon–it’s only a name. He would have nothing to do with your house. It’s one of those professional secrets that I shouldn’t divulge, but I don’t know what it is about you that makes me want to be honest. All the best buildings in our office are designed by Mr. Stengel.”
“W ho?”
“Claude Stengel. You’ve never heard the name, but you will, when someone has the courage to discover him. You see, he does all the work, he’s the real genius behind the scenes, but Francon puts his signature on it and gets all the credit. That’s the way it’s done everywhere.”
“But why does Mr. Stengel stand for it?”
“What can he do? No one will give him a start. You know how most people are, they stick to the beaten path, they pay three times the price for the same thing, just to have the trademark. Courage, Mrs. Dunlop, they lack courage. Stengel is a great artist, but there are so few discerning people to see it. He’s ready to go on his own, if only he could find some outstanding person like Mrs. Stuyvesant to give him a chance.”
“Really?” said Mrs. Dunlop. “How very interesting! Tell me more about it.”
He told her a great deal more about it. By the time they had finished the inspection of the works of Frederic Mawson, Mrs. Dunlop was shaking Keating’s hand and saying:
“It’s so kind, so very unusually kind of you. Are you sure that it won’t embarrass you with your office if you arrange for me to meet Mr. Stengel? I didn’t quite dare to suggest it and it was so kind of you not to be angry at me. It’s so unselfish of you and more than anyone else would have done in your position.”
When Keating approached Stengel with the suggestion of a proposed luncheon, the man listened to him without a word. Then he jerked his head and snapped:
“What’s in it for you?”
Before Keating could answer, Stengel threw his head back suddenly. “Oh,” said Stengel. “Oh, I see.”
Then he leaned forward, his mouth drawn thin in contempt:
”Okay. I’ll go to that lunch.”
When Stengel left the firm of Francon & Heyer to open his own office and proceed with the construction of the Dunlop house, his first commission, Guy Francon smashed a ruler against the edge of his desk and roared to Keating:
“The bastard! The abysmal bastard! After all I’ve done for him.”
”What did you expect?” said Keating, sprawled in a low armchair before him. “Such is life.”
“But what beats me is how did that little skunk ever hear of it? To snatch it right from under our nose!”
“Well, I’ve never trusted him anyway.” Keating shrugged. “Human nature…”
The bitterness in his voice was sincere. He had received no gratitude from Stengel. Stengel’s parting remark to him had been only: “You’re a worse bastard than I thought you were. Good luck. You’ll be a great architect some day.”
Thus Keating achieved the position of chief designer for Francon & Heyer.
Francon celebrated the occasion with a modest little orgy at one of the quieter and costlier restaurants. “In a coupla years,” he kept repeating, “in a coupla years you’ll see things happenin’. Pete….You’re a good boy and I like you and I’ll do things for you….Haven’t I done things for you?…You’re going places, Pete…in a coupla years….”
“Your tie’s crooked, Guy,” said Keating dryly, “and you’re spilling brandy all over your vest….”
Facing his first task of designing, Keating thought of Tim Davis, of Stengel, of many others who had wanted it, had struggled for it, had tried, had been beaten–by him. It was a triumphant feeling. It was a tangible affirmation of his greatness. Then he found himself suddenly in his glass-enclosed office, looking down at a blank sheet of paper–alone. Something rolled in his throat down to his stomach, cold and empty, his old feeling of the dropping hole. He leaned against the table, closing his eyes. It had never been quite real to
him before that this was the thing actually expected of him–to fill a sheet of paper, to create something on a sheet of paper.
It was only a small residence. But instead of seeing it rise before him, he saw it sinking; he saw its shape as a pit in the ground; and as a pit within him; as emptiness, with only Davis and Stengel rattling uselessly within it. Francon had said to him about the building: “It must have dignity, you know, dignity…nothing freaky…a structure of elegance…and stay within the budget,” which was Francon’s conception of giving his designer ideas and letting him work them out. Through a cold stupor, Keating thought of the clients laughing in his face; he heard the thin, omnipotent voice of Ellsworth Toohey calling his attention to the opportunities open to him in the field of plumbing. He hated every piece of stone on the face of the earth. He hated himself for having chosen to be an architect.
When he began to draw, he tried not to think of the job he was doing; he thought only that Francon had done it, and Stengel, even Heyer, and all the others, and that he could do it, if they could.
He spent many days on his preliminary sketches. He spent long hours in the library of Francon & Heyer, selecting from Classic photographs the appearance of his house. He felt the tension melting in his mind. It was right and it was good, that house growing under his hand, because men were still worshipping the masters who had done it before him. He did not have to wonder, to fear or to take chances; it had been done for him.
When the drawings were ready, he stood looking at them uncertainly. Were he to be told that this was the best or the ugliest house in the world, he would agree with either. He was not sure. He had to be sure. He thought of Stanton and of what he had relied upon when working on his assignments there. He telephoned Cameron’s office and asked for Howard Roark.
He came to Roark’s room, that night, and spread before him the plans, the elevations, the perspective of his first building. Roark stood over it, his arms spread wide, his hands holding the edge of the table, and he said nothing for a long time.
Keating waited anxiously; he felt anger growing with his anxiety–because he could see no reason for being so anxious. When he couldn’t stand it, he spoke:
“You know, Howard, everybody says Stengel’s the best designer in town, and I don’t think he was really ready to quit, but I made him and I took his place. I had to do some pretty fine thinking to work that, I…”
He stopped. It did not sound bright and proud, as it would have sounded anywhere else. It sounded like begging.
Roark turned and looked at him. Roark’s eyes were not contemptuous; only a little wider than usual, attentive and puzzled. He said nothing and turned back to the drawings.
Keating felt naked. Davis, Stengel, Francon meant nothing here. People were his protection against people. Roark had no sense of people. Others gave Keating a feeling of his own value. Roark gave him nothing. He thought that he should seize his drawings and run. The danger was not Roark. The danger was that he, Keating, remained. Roark turned to him.
“Do you enjoy doing this sort of thing, Peter?” he asked. “Oh, I know,” said Keating, his voice shrill, “I know you don’t approve of it, but this is business, I just want to know what you think of this practically, not philosophically, not…”
“No, I’m not going to preach to you. I was only wondering.”
“If you could help me, Howard, if you could just help me with it a little. It’s my first house, and it means so much to me at the office, and I’m not sure. What do you think? Will you help me, Howard?”
“All right.”
Roark threw aside the sketch of the graceful facade with the fluted pilasters, the broken
pediments, the Roman fasces over the windows and the two eagles of Empire by the entrance. He picked up the plans. He took a sheet of tracing paper, threw it over the plan and began to draw. Keating stood watching the pencil in Roark’s hand. He saw his imposing entrance foyer disappearing, his twisted corridors, his lightless corners; he saw an immense living room growing in the space he had thought too limited; a wall of giant windows facing the garden, a spacious kitchen. He watched for a long time. “And the facade?” he asked, when Roark threw the pencil down. “I can’t help you with that. If you must have it Classic, have it good Classic at least. You don’t need three pilasters where one will do. And take those ducks off the door, it’s too much.”
Keating smiled at him gratefully, when he was leaving, his drawings under his arm; he descended the stairs, hurt and angry; he worked for three days making new plans from Roark’s sketches, and a new, simpler elevation; and he presented his house to Francon with a proud gesture that looked like a flourish. “Well,” said Francon, studying it, “well, I declare!…What an imagination you have, Peter…I wonder…It’s a bit daring, but I wonder…” He coughed and added: “It’s just what I had in mind.”
“Of course,” said Keating. “I studied your buildings, and I tried to think of what you’d do, and if it’s good, it’s because I think I know how to catch your ideas.”
Francon smiled. And Keating thought suddenly that Francon did not really believe it and knew that Keating did not believe it, and yet they were both contented, bound tighter together by a common method and a common guilt.
The letter on Cameron’s desk informed him regretfully that after earnest consideration, the board of directors of the Security Trust Company had not been able to accept his plans for the building to house the new Astoria branch of the Company and that the commission had been awarded to the firm of Gould & Pettingill. A check was attached to the letter, in payment for his preliminary drawings, as agreed; the amount was not enough to cover the expense of making those drawings.
The letter lay spread out on the desk. Cameron sat before it, drawn back, not touching the desk, his hands gathered in his lap, the back of one in the palm of the other, the fingers tight. It was only a small piece of paper, but he sat huddled and still, because it seemed to be a supernatural thing, like radium, sending forth rays that would hurt him if he moved and exposed his skin to them.
For three months, he had awaited the commission of the Security Trust Company. One after another, the chances that had loomed before him at rare intervals, in the last two years, had vanished, looming in vague promises, vanishing in firm refusals. One of his draftsmen had had to be discharged long ago. The landlord had asked questions, politely at first, then dryly, then rudely and openly. But no one in the office had minded that nor the usual arrears in salaries: there had been the commission of the Security Trust Company. The vice-president, who had asked Cameron to submit drawings, had said: “I know, some of the directors won’t see it as I do. But go ahead, Mr. Cameron. Take the chance with me and I’ll fight for you.”
Cameron had taken the chance. He and Roark had worked savagely–to have the plans ready on time, before time, before Gould & Pettingill could submit theirs. Pettingill was a cousin of the Bank president’s wife and a famous authority on the ruins of Pompeii; the Bank president was an ardent admirer of Julius Caesar and had once, while in Rome, spent an hour and a quarter in reverent inspection of the Coliseum.
Cameron and Roark and a pot of black coffee had lived in the office from dawn till frozen dawn for many days, and Cameron had thought involuntarily of the electric bill, but made himself forget it. The lights still burned in the drafting room in the early hours when he sent Roark out for sandwiches, and Roark found gray morning in the streets while it was still night in the office, in the windows facing a high brick wall. On the last day, it was Roark who had ordered Cameron home after midnight, because Cameron’s hands were jerking and his knees kept seeking the tall drafting stool for support, leaning against it with a slow, cautious, sickening precision. Roark had taken him down to a taxi and in the light of a street lamp Cameron had seen Roark’s face, drawn, the eyes kept wide artificially, the lips dry. The next morning Cameron had entered the drafting room, and found the coffee pot on the floor, on its
side over a black puddle, and Roark’s hand in the puddle, palm up, fingers half closed, Roark’s body stretched out on the floor, his head thrown back, fast asleep. On the table, Cameron had found the plans, finished….
He sat looking at the letter on his desk. The degradation was that he could not think of those nights behind him, he could not think of the building that should have risen in Astoria and of the building that would now take its place; it was that he thought only of the bill unpaid to the electric company….
In these last two years Cameron had disappeared from his office for weeks at a time, and Roark had not found him at home, and had known what was happening, but could only wait, hoping for Cameron’s safe return. Then, Cameron had lost even the shame of his agony, and had come to his office reeling, recognizing no one, openly drunk and flaunting it before the walls of the only place on earth he had respected.
Roark learned to face his own landlord with the quiet statement that he could not pay him for another week; the landlord was afraid of him and did not insist. Peter Keating heard of it somehow, as he always heard everything he wanted to know. He came to Roark’s unheated room, one evening, and sat down, keeping his overcoat on. He produced a wallet, pulled out five ten-dollar bills, and handed them to Roark. “You need it, Howard. I know you need it. Don’t start protesting now. You can pay me back any time.” Roark looked at him, astonished, took the money, saying: “Yes, I need it. Thank you, Peter.” Then Keating said: “What in hell are you doing, wasting yourself on old Cameron? What do you want to live like this for? Chuck it, Howard, and come with us. All I have to do is say so. Francon’ll be delighted. We’ll start you at sixty a week.” Roark took the money out of his pocket and handed it back to him. “Oh, for God’s sake, Howard! I…I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“I didn’t either.”
”But please, Howard, keep it anyway.” “Good night, Peter.”
Roark was thinking of that when Cameron entered the drafting room, the letter from the Security Trust Company in his hand. He gave the letter to Roark, said nothing, turned and walked back to his office. Roark read the letter and followed him. Whenever they lost another commission Roark knew that Cameron wanted to see him in the office, but not to speak of it; just to see him there, to talk of other things, to lean upon the reassurance of his presence.
On Cameron’s desk Roark saw a copy of the New York Banner.
It was the leading newspaper of the great Wynand chain. It was a paper he would have expected to find in a kitchen, in a barbershop, in a third-rate drawing room, in the subway; anywhere but in Cameron’s office. Cameron saw him looking at it and grinned.
“Picked it up this morning, on my way here. Funny, isn’t it? I didn’t know we’d…get that letter today. And yet it seems appropriate together–this paper and that letter. Don’t know what made me buy it. A sense of symbolism, I suppose. Look at it, Howard. It’s interesting.”
Roark glanced through the paper. The front page carried the picture of an unwed mother with thick glistening lips, who had shot her lover; the picture headed the first installment of her autobiography and a detailed account of her trial. The other pages ran a crusade against utility companies; a daily horoscope; extracts from church sermons; recipes for young brides; pictures of girls with beautiful legs; advice on how to hold a husband; a baby contest; a poem proclaiming that to wash dishes was nobler than to write a symphony; an article proving that a woman who had borne a child was automatically a saint.
“That’s our answer, Howard. That’s the answer given to you and to me. This paper. That it exists and that it’s liked. Can you fight that? Have you any words to be heard and understood by that? They shouldn’t have sent us the letter. They should have sent a copy of Wynand’s Banner. It would be simpler and clearer. Do you know that in a few years that incredible bastard, Gail Wynand, will rule the world? It will be a beautiful world. And perhaps he’s right.”
Cameron held the paper outstretched, weighing it on the palm of his hand.
“To give them what they want, Howard, and to let them worship you for it, for licking their feet– or…or what? What’s the use?…Only it doesn’t matter, nothing matters, not even that it doesn’t matter to me any more….” Then he looked at Roark. He added:
“If only I could hold on until I’ve started you on your own, Howard….” “Don’t speak of that.”
“I want to speak of that…. It’s funny, Howard, next spring it will be three years that you’ve been here. Seems so much longer, doesn’t it? Well, have I taught you anything? I’ll tell you: I’ve taught you a great deal and nothing. No one can teach you anything, not at the core, at the source of it. What you’re doing–it’s yours, not mine, I can only teach you to do it better. I can give you the means, but the aim–the aim’s your own. You won’t be a little disciple putting up anemic little things in early Jacobean or late Cameron. What you’ll be…if only I could live to see it!”
“You’ll live to see it. And you know it now.” Cameron stood looking at the bare walls of his office, at the white piles of bills on his desk, at the sooty rain trickling slowly down the windowpanes.
“I have no answer to give them, Howard. I’m leaving you to face them. You’ll answer them. All of them, the Wynand papers and what makes the Wynand papers possible and what lies behind that. It’s a strange mission to give you. I don’t know what our answer is to be. I know only that there is an answer and that you’re holding it, that you’re the answer, Howard, and some day you’ll find the words for it.”
SERMONS IN STONE by Ellsworth M. Toohey was published in January of the year 1925.
It had a fastidious jacket of midnight blue with plain silver letters and a silver pyramid in one corner. It was subtitled “Architecture for Everybody” and its success was sensational. It presented the entire history of architecture, from mud hut to skyscraper, in the terms of the man in the street, but it made these terms appear scientific. Its author stated in his preface that it was an attempt “to bring architecture where it belongs–to the people.” He stated further that he wished to see the average man “think and speak of architecture as he speaks of baseball.” He did not bore his readers with the technicalities of the Five Orders, the post and lintel, the flying buttress or reinforced concrete. He filled his pages with homey accounts of the daily life of the Egyptian housekeeper, the Roman shoe-cobbler, the mistress of Louis XIV, what they ate, how they washed, where they shopped and what effect their buildings had upon their existence. But he gave his readers the impression that they were learning all they had to know about the Five Orders and the reinforced concrete. He gave his readers the impression that there were no problems, no achievements, no reaches of thought beyond the common daily routine of people nameless in the past as they were in the present; that science had no goal and no expression beyond its influence on this routine; that merely by living through their own obscure days his readers were representing and achieving all the highest objectives of any civilization. His scientific precision was impeccable and his erudition astounding; no one could refute him on the cooking utensils of Babylon or the doormats of Byzantium. He wrote with the flash and the color of a first-hand observer. He did not plod laboriously through the centuries; he danced, said the critics, down the road of the ages, as a jester, a friend and a prophet.
He said that architecture was truly the greatest of the arts, because it was anonymous, as all greatness. He said that the world had many famous buildings, but few renowned builders, which was as it should be, since no one man had ever created anything of importance in architecture, or elsewhere, for that matter. The few whose names had lived were really impostors, expropriating the glory of the people as others expropriated its wealth. “When we gaze at the magnificence of an ancient monument and ascribe its achievement to one man, we are guilty of spiritual embezzlement. We forget the army of craftsmen, unknown and
unsung, who preceded him in the darkness of the ages, who toiled humbly–all heroism is humble–each contributing his small share to the common treasure of his time. A great building is not the private invention of some genius or other. It is merely a condensation of the spirit of a people.”
He explained that the decadence of architecture had come when private property replaced the communal spirit of the Middle Ages, and that the selfishness of individual owners–who built for no purpose save to satisfy their own bad taste, “all claim to an individual taste is bad taste”–had ruined the planned effect of cities. He demonstrated that there was no such thing as free will, since men’s creative impulses were determined, as all else, by the economic structure of the epoch in which they lived. He expressed admiration for all the great historical styles, but admonished against their wanton mixture. He dismissed modern architecture, stating that: “So far, it has represented nothing but the whim of isolated individuals, has borne no relation to any great, spontaneous mass movement, and as such is of no consequence.” He predicted a better world to come, where all men would be brothers and their buildings would become harmonious and all alike, in the great tradition of Greece, “the Mother of Democracy.” When he wrote this, he managed to convey–with no tangible break in the detached calm of his style–that the words now seen in ordered print had been blurred in manuscript by a hand unsteady with emotion. He called upon architects to abandon their selfish quest for individual glory and dedicate themselves to the embodiment of the mood of their people. “Architects are servants, not leaders. They are not to assert their little egos, but to express the soul of their country and the rhythm of their time. They are not to follow the delusions of their personal fancy, but to seek the common denominator, which will bring their work close to the heart of the masses. Architects–ah, my friends, theirs is not to reason why. Theirs is not to command, but to be commanded.”
The advertisements for Sermons in Stone carried quotations from critics: “Magnificent!” “A stupendous achievement!”
”Unequaled in all art history!”
”Your chance to get acquainted with a charming man and a profound thinker.” “Mandatory reading for anyone aspiring to the title of intellectual.”
There seemed to be a great many aspiring to that title. Readers acquired erudition without study, authority without cost, judgment without effort. It was pleasant to look at buildings and criticize them with a professional manner and with the memory of page 439; to hold artistic discussions and exchange the same sentences from the same paragraphs. In distinguished drawing rooms one could soon hear it said: “Architecture? Oh, yes, Ellsworth Toohey.”
According to his principles, Ellsworth M. Toohey listed no architect by name in the text of his book–“the myth-building, hero-worshipping method of historical research has always been obnoxious to me.” The names appeared only in footnotes. Several of these referred to Guy Francon, “who has a tendency to the overornate, but must be commended for his loyalty to the strict tradition of Classicism.” One note referred to Henry Cameron, “prominent once as one of the fathers of the so-called modern school of architecture and relegated since to a well- deserved oblivion. Vox populi vox dei.”
In February of 1925 Henry Cameron retired from practice.
For a year, he had known that the day would come. He had not spoken of it to Roark, but they both knew and went on, expecting nothing save to go on as long as it was still possible. A few commissions had dribbled into their office in the past year, country cottages, garages, remodeling of old buildings. They took anything. But the drops stopped. The pipes were dry. The water had been turned off by a society to whom Cameron had never paid his bill.
Simpson and the old man in the reception room had been dismissed long ago. Only Roark remained, to sit still through the winter evenings and look at Cameron’s body slumped over his desk, arms flung out, head on arms, a bottle glistening under the lamp.
Then, one day in February, when Cameron had touched no alcohol for weeks, he reached for
a book on a shelf and collapsed at Roark’s feet, suddenly, simply, finally. Roark took him home and the doctor stated that an attempt to leave his bed would be all the death sentence Cameron needed. Cameron knew it. He lay still on his pillow, his hands dropped obediently one at each side of his body, his eyes unblinking and empty. Then he said:
“You’ll close the office for me, Howard, will you?” “Yes,” said Roark.
Cameron closed his eyes, and would say nothing else, and Roark sat all night by his bed, not knowing whether the old man slept or not.
A sister of Cameron’s appeared from somewhere in New Jersey. She was a meek little old lady with white hair, trembling hands and a face one could never remember, quiet, resigned and gently hopeless. She had a meager little income and she assumed the responsibility of taking her brother to her home in New Jersey; she had never been married and had no one else in the world; she was neither glad nor sorry of the burden; she had lost all capacity for emotion many years ago.
On the day of his departure Cameron handed to Roark a letter he had written in the night, written painfully, an old drawing board on his knees, a pillow propping his back. The letter was addressed to a prominent architect; it was Roark’s introduction to a job. Roark read it and, looking at Cameron, not at his own hands, tore the letter across, folded the pieces and tore it again. “No,” said Roark. “You’re not going to ask them for anything. Don’t worry about me.”
Cameron nodded and kept silent for a long time. Then he said:
“You’ll close up the office, Howard. You’ll let them keep the furniture for their rent. But you’ll take the drawing that’s on the wall in my room there and you’ll ship it to me. Only that. You’ll burn everything else. All the papers, the files, the drawings, the contracts, everything.”
“Yes,” said Roark.
Miss Cameron came with the orderlies and the stretcher, and they rode in an ambulance to the ferry. At the entrance to the ferry, Cameron said to Roark:
“You’re going back now.” He added: “You’ll come to see me, Howard….Not too often…”
Roark turned and walked away, while they were carrying Cameron to the pier. It was a gray morning and there was the cold, rotting smell of the sea in the air. A gull dipped low over the street, gray like a floating piece of newspaper, against a corner of damp, streaked stone.
That evening, Roark went to Cameron’s closed office. He did not turn on the lights. He made a fire in the Franklin heater in Cameron’s room, and emptied drawer after drawer into the fire, not looking down at them. The papers rustled dryly in the silence, a thin odor of mold rose through the dark room, and the fire hissed, crackling, leaping in bright streaks. At times a white flake with charred edges would flutter out of the flames. He pushed it back with the end of a steel ruler.
There were drawings of Cameron’s famous buildings and of buildings unbuilt; there were blueprints with the thin white lines that were girders still standing somewhere; there were contracts with famous signatures; and at times, from out of the red glow, there flashed a sum of seven figures written on yellowed paper, flashed and went down, in a thin burst of sparks.
From among the letters in an old folder, a newspaper clipping fluttered to the floor. Roark picked it up. It was dry, brittle and yellow, and it broke at the folds, in his fingers. It was an interview given by Henry Cameron, dated May 7, 1892. It said: “Architecture is not a business, not a career, but a crusade and a consecration to a joy that justifies the existence of the earth.” He dropped the clipping into the fire and reached for another folder.
He gathered every stub of pencil from Cameron’s desk and threw them in also.
He stood over the heater. He did not move, he did not look down; he felt the movement of the
glow, a faint shudder at the edge of his vision. He looked at the drawing of the skyscraper that had never been built, hanging on the wall before him.
It was Peter Keating’s third year with the firm of Francon & Heyer. He carried his head high, his body erect with studied uprightness; he looked like the picture of a successful young man in advertisements for high-priced razors or medium-priced cars.
He dressed well and watched people noticing it. He had an apartment off Park Avenue, modest but fashionable, and he bought three valuable etchings as well as a first edition of a classic he had never read nor opened since. Occasionally, he escorted clients to the Metropolitan Opera. He appeared, once, at a fancy-dress Arts Ball and created a sensation by his costume of a medieval stonecutter, scarlet velvet and tights; he was mentioned in a society-page account of the event–the first mention of his name in print–and he saved the clipping.
He had forgotten his first building, and the fear and doubt of its birth. He had learned that it was so simple. His clients would accept anything, so long as he gave them an imposing facade, a majestic entrance and a regal drawing room, with which to astound their guests. It worked out to everyone’s satisfaction: Keating did not care so long as his clients were impressed, the clients did not care so long as their guests were impressed, and the guests did not care anyway.
Mrs. Keating rented her house in Stanton and came to live with him in New York. He did not want her; he could not refuse–because she was his mother and he was not expected to refuse. He met her with some eagerness; he could at least impress her by his rise in the world. She was not impressed; she inspected his rooms, his clothes, his bank books and said only: “It’ll do, Petey–for the time being.”
She made one visit to his office and departed within a half-hour. That evening he had to sit still, squeezing and cracking his knuckles, for an hour and a half, while she gave him advice. “That fellow Whithers had a much more expensive suit than yours, Petey. That won’t do. You’ve got to watch your prestige before those boys. The little one who brought in those blueprints–I didn’t like the way he spoke to you….Oh, nothing, nothing, only I’d keep my eye on him….The one with the long nose is no friend of yours….Never mind, I just know….Watch out for the one they called Bennett. I’d get rid of him if I were you. He’s ambitious. I know the signs….”
Then she asked:
“Guy Francon…has he any children?”
“One daughter.”
“Oh…” said Mrs. Keating. “What is she like?”
“I’ve never met her.”
“Really, Peter,” she said, “it’s downright rude to Mr. Francon if you’ve made no effort to meet his family.”
“She’s been away at college, Mother. I’ll meet her some day. It’s getting late, Mother, and I’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow….”
But he thought of it that night and the following day. He had thought of it before and often. He knew that Francon’s daughter had graduated from college long ago and was now working on the Banner, where she wrote a small column on home decoration. He had been able to learn nothing else about her. No one in the office seemed to know her. Francon never spoke of her.
On that following day, at luncheon, Keating decided to face the subject. “I hear such nice things about your daughter,” he said to
Francon. “Where did you hear nice things about her?” Francon asked ominously. “Oh, well, you know how it is, one hears things. And she writes brilliantly.”
”Yes, she writes brilliantly.” Francon’s mouth snapped shut.
”Really, Guy, I’d love to meet her.”
Francon looked at him and sighed wearily.
“You know she’s not living with me,” said Francon. “She has an apartment of her own–I’m not sure that I even remember the address….Oh, I suppose you’ll meet her some day. You won’t like her, Peter.”
“Now, why do you say that?”
“It’s one of those things, Peter. As a father I’m afraid I’m a total failure….Say, Peter, what did Mrs. Mannering say about that new stairway arrangement?”
Keating felt angry, disappointed–and relieved. He looked at Francon’s squat figure and wondered what appearance his daughter must have inherited to earn her father’s so obvious disfavor. Rich and ugly as sin–like most of them, he decided. He thought that this need not stop him–some day. He was glad only that the day was postponed. He thought, with new eagerness, that he would go to see Catherine tonight.
Mrs. Keating had met Catherine in Stanton. She had hoped that Peter would forget. Now she knew that he had not forgotten, even though he seldom spoke of Catherine and never brought her to his home. Mrs. Keating did not mention Catherine by name. But she chatted about penniless girls who hooked brilliant young men, about promising boys whose careers had been wrecked by marriage to the wrong woman; and she read to him every newspaper account of a celebrity divorcing his plebeian wife who could not live up to his eminent position.
Keating thought, as he walked toward Catherine’s house that night, of the few times he had seen her; they had been such unimportant occasions, but they were the only days he remembered of his whole life in New York.
He found, in the middle of her uncle’s living room, when she let him in, a mess of letters spread all over the carpet, a portable typewriter, newspapers, scissors, boxes and a pot of glue.
“Oh dear!” said Catherine, flopping limply down on her knees in the midst of the litter. “Oh dear!”
She looked up at him, smiling disarmingly, her hands raised and spread over the crinkling white piles. She was almost twenty now and looked no older than she had looked at seventeen.
“Sit down, Peter. I thought I’d be through before you came, but I guess I’m not. It’s Uncle’s fan mail and his press clippings. I’ve got to sort it out, and answer it and file it and write notes of thanks and…Oh, you should see some of the things people write to him! It’s wonderful. Don’t stand there. Sit down, will you? I’ll be through in a minute.”
“You’re through right now,” he said, picking her up in his arms, carrying her to a chair.
He held her and kissed her and she laughed happily, her head buried on his shoulder. He said:
“Katie, you’re an impossible little fool and your hair smells so nice!” She said: “Don’t move, Peter. I’m comfortable.”
“Katie, I want to tell you, I had a wonderful time today. They opened the Bordman Building officially this afternoon. You know, down on Broadway, twenty-two floors and a Gothic spire.
Francon had indigestion, so I went there as his representative. I designed that building anyway and…Oh, well, you know nothing about it.”
“But I do, Peter. I’ve seen all your buildings. I have pictures of them. I cut them out of the papers. And I’m making a scrap-book, just like Uncle’s. Oh, Peter, it’s so wonderful!”
“W hat?”
“Uncle’s scrapbooks, and his letters…all this…” She stretched her hands out over the papers on the floor, as if she wanted to embrace them. “Think of it, all these letters coming from all over the country, perfect strangers and yet he means so much to them. And here I am, helping him, me, just nobody, and look what a responsibility I have! It’s so touching and so big, what do they matter–all the little things that can happen to us?–when this concerns a whole nation!”
“Yeah? Did he tell you that?”
“He told me nothing at all. But you can’t live with him for years without getting some of that…that wonderful selflessness of his.” He wanted to be angry, but he saw her twinkling smile, her new kind of fire, and he had to smile in answer.
“I’ll say this, Katie: it’s becoming to you, becoming as hell. You know, you could look stunning if you learned something about clothes. One of these days, I’ll take you bodily and drag you down to a good dressmaker. I want you to meet Guy Francon some day. You’ll like him.”
“Oh? I thought you said once that I wouldn’t.”
“Did I say that? Well, I didn’t really know him. He’s a grand fellow. I want you to meet them all. You’d be…hey, where are you going?” She had noticed the watch on his wrist and was edging away from him.
“I…It’s almost nine o’clock, Peter, and I’ve got to have this finished before Uncle Ellsworth gets home. He’ll be back by eleven, he’s making a speech at a labor meeting tonight. I can work while we’re talking, do you mind?”
“I certainly do! To hell with your dear uncle’s fans! Let him untangle it all himself. You stay just where you are.”
She sighed, but put her head on his shoulder obediently. “You mustn’t talk like that about Uncle Ellsworth. You don’t understand him at all. Have you read his book?”
“Yes! I’ve read his book and it’s grand, it’s stupendous, but I’ve heard nothing but talk of his damn book everywhere I go, so do you mind if we change the subject?”
“You still don’t want to meet Uncle Ellsworth?”
”Why? What makes you say that? I’d love to meet him.”
”What’s the matter?”
”You said once that you didn’t want to meet him through me.”
”Did I? How do you always remember all the nonsense I happen to say?” “Peter, I don’t want you to meet Uncle Ellsworth.”
”Why not?”
”I don’t know. It’s kind of silly of me. But now I just don’t
want you to. I don’t know why.”
“Well, forget it then. I’ll meet him when the time comes. Katie, listen, yesterday I was standing at the window in my room, and I thought of you, and I wanted so much to have you with me, I almost called you, only it was too late. I get so terribly lonely for you like that, I…”
She listened, her arms about his neck. And then he saw her looking suddenly past him, her mouth opened in consternation; she jumped up, dashed across the room, and crawled on her hands and knees to reach a lavender envelope lying under a desk.
“Now what on earth?” he demanded angrily.
“It’s a very important letter,” she said, still kneeling, the envelope held tightly in her little fist, “it’s a very important letter and there it was, practically in the wastebasket, I might have swept it out without noticing. It’s from a poor widow who has five children and her eldest son wants to be an architect and Uncle Ellsworth is going to arrange a scholarship for him.”
“Well,” said Keating, rising, “I’ve had just about enough of this. Let’s get out of here, Katie. Let’s go for a walk. It’s beautiful out tonight. You don’t seem to belong to yourself in here.”
“Oh, fine! Let’s go for a walk.”
Outside, there was a mist of snow, a dry, fine, weightless snow that hung still in the air, filling the narrow tanks of streets. They walked together, Catherine’s arm pressed to his, their feet leaving long brown smears on the white sidewalks.
They sat down on a bench in Washington Square. The snow enclosed the Square, cutting them off from the houses, from the city beyond. Through the shadow of the arch, little dots of light rolled past them, steel-white, green and smeared red.
She sat huddled close to him. He looked at the city. He had always been afraid of it and he was afraid of it now; but he had two fragile protections: the snow and the girl beside him. “Katie,” he whispered, “Katie…”
“I love you, Peter….”
“Katie,” he said, without hesitation, without emphasis, because the certainty of his words allowed no excitement, “we’re engaged, aren’t we?”
He saw her chin move faintly as it dropped and rose to form one word. “Yes,” she said calmly, so solemnly that the word sounded indifferent.
She had never allowed herself to question the future, for a question would have been an admission of doubt. But she knew, when she pronounced the “yes,” that she had waited for this and that she would shatter it if she were too happy.
“In a year or two,” he said holding her hand tightly, “we’ll be married. Just as soon as I’m on my feet and set with the firm for good. I have mother to take care of, but in another year it will be all right.” He tried to speak as coldly, as practically as he could, not to spoil the wonder of what he felt. “I’ll wait, Peter,” she whispered. “We don’t have to hurry.”
“We won’t tell anyone, Katie….It’s our secret, just ours until…” And suddenly a thought came to him, and he realized, aghast, that he could not prove it had never occurred to him before; yet he knew, in complete honesty, even though it did astonish him, that he had never thought of this before. He pushed her aside. He said angrily: “Katie! You won’t think that it’s because of that great, damnable uncle of yours?”
She laughed; the sound was light and unconcerned, and he knew that he was vindicated. “Lord, no, Peter! He won’t like it, of course, but what do we care?”
”He won’t like it? Why?”
“Oh, I don’t think he approves of marriage. Not that he preaches anything immoral, but he’s always told me marriage is old-fashioned, an economic device to perpetuate the institution of private property, or something like that or anyway that he doesn’t like it.”
“Well, that’s wonderful! We’ll show him.”
In all sincerity, he was glad of it. It removed, not from his mind which he knew to be innocent, but from all other minds where it could occur, the suspicion that there had been in his feeling for her any hint of such considerations as applied to…to Francon’s daughter, for instance. He thought it was strange that this should seem so important; that he should wish so desperately to keep his feeling for her free from ties to all other people.
He let his head fall back, he felt the bite of snowflakes on his lips. Then he turned and kissed her. The touch of her mouth was soft and cold with the snow.
Her hat had slipped to one side, her lips were half open, her eyes round, helpless, her lashes glistening. He held her hand, palm up, and looked at it: she wore a black woolen glove and her fingers were spread out clumsily like a child’s; he saw beads of melted snow in the fuzz of the glove; they sparkled radiantly once in the light of a car flashing past.
THE BULLETIN of the Architects’ Guild of America carried, in its Miscellaneous Department, a short item announcing Henry Cameron’s retirement. Six lines summarized his achievements in architecture and misspelled the names of his two best buildings.
Peter Keating walked into Francon’s office and interrupted Francon’s well-bred bargaining with an antique dealer over a snuffbox that had belonged to Madame Pompadour. Francon was precipitated into paying nine dollars and twenty-five cents more than he had intended to pay. He turned to Keating testily, after the dealer had left, and asked:
“Well, what is it, Peter, what is it?”
Keating threw the bulletin down on Francon’s desk, his thumbnail underscoring the paragraph about Cameron.
“I’ve got to have that man,” said Keating.
“What man?”
“Howard Roark.”
“Who the hell,” asked Francon, “is Howard Roark?”
“I’ve told you about him. Cameron’s designer.”
“Oh…oh, yes, I believe you did. Well, go and get him.”
“Do you give me a free hand on how I hire him?”
“What the hell? What is there about hiring another draftsman? Incidentally, did you have to interrupt me for that?”
“He might be difficult. And I want to get him before he decides on anyone else.”
“Really? He’s going to be difficult about it, is he? Do you intend to beg him to come here after Cameron’s? Which is not great recommendation for a young man anyway.”
“Come on, Guy. Isn’t it?”
“Oh well…well, speaking structurally, not esthetically, Cameron does give them a thorough grounding and…Of course, Cameron was pretty important in his day. As a matter of fact, I was one of his best draftsmen myself once, long ago. There’s something to be said for old Cameron when you need that sort of thing. Go ahead. Get your Roark if you think you need him.”
“It’s not that I really need him. But he’s an old friend of mine, and out of a job, and I thought it would be a nice thing to do for him.”
“Well, do anything you wish. Only don’t bother me about it….Say, Peter, don’t you think this is as lovely a snuffbox as you’ve ever seen?”
That evening, Keating climbed, unannounced, to Roark’s room and knocked, nervously, and entered cheerfully. He found Roark sitting on the window sill, smoking.
“Just passing by,” said Keating, “with an evening to kill and happened to think that that’s where you live, Howard, and thought I’d drop in to say hello, haven’t seen you for such a long time.”
“I know what you want,” said Roark. “All right. How much?” “What do you mean, Howard?”
”You know what I mean.”
“Sixty-five a week,” Keating blurted out. This was not the elaborate approach he had prepared, but he had not expected to find that no approach would be necessary. “Sixty-five to start with. If you think it’s not enough, I could maybe…”
“Sixty-five will do.”
”You…you’ll come with us, Howard?” “When do you want me to start?” “Why…as soon as you can! Monday?” “ALL right.”
”Thanks, Howard!”
“On one condition,” said Roark. “I’m not going to do any designing. Not any. No details. No Louis XV skyscrapers. Just keep me off esthetics if you want to keep me at all. Put me in the engineering department. Send me on inspections, out in the field. Now, do you still want me?”
“Certainly. Anything you say. You’ll like the place, just wait and see. You’ll like Francon. He’s one of Cameron’s men himself.”
“He shouldn’t boast about it.” “W ell…”
“No. Don’t worry. I won’t say it to his face. I won’t say anything to anyone. Is that what you wanted to know?”
“Why, no, I wasn’t worried, I wasn’t even thinking of that.”
”Then it’s settled. Good night. See you Monday.”
”Well, yes…but I’m in no special hurry, really I came to see you and…” “What’s the matter, Peter? Something bothering you?”
“You want to know why I’m doing it?” Roark smiled, without resentment or interest. “Is that it? I’ll tell you, if you want to know. I don’t give a damn where I work next. There’s no architect in town that I’d want to work for. But I have to work somewhere, so it might as well be your Francon–if I can get what I want from you. I’m selling myself, and I’ll play the game that way– for the time being.”
“Really, Howard, you don’t have to look at it like that. There’s no limit to how far you can go with us, once you get used to it. You’ll see, for a change, what a real office looks like. After Cameron’s dump…”
“We’ll shut up about that, Peter, and we’ll do it damn fast.”
“I didn’t mean to criticize or…I didn’t mean anything.” He did not know what to say nor what he should feel. It was a victory, but it seemed hollow. Still, it was a victory and he felt that he wanted to feel affection for Roark.
“Howard, let’s go out and have a drink, just sort of to celebrate the occasion.” “Sorry, Peter. That’s not part of the job.”
Keating had come here prepared to exercise caution and tact to the limit of his ability; he had achieved a purpose he had not expected to achieve; he knew he should take no chances, say nothing else and leave. But something inexplicable, beyond all practical considerations, was pushing him on. He said unheedingly:
“Can’t you be human for once in your life?” “W hat?”
”Human! Simple. Natural.”
”But I am.”
“Can’t you ever relax?”
Roark smiled, because he was sitting on the window sill, leaning sloppily against the wall, his long legs hanging loosely, the cigarette held without pressure between limp fingers.
“That’s not what I mean!” said Keating. “Why can’t you go out for a drink with me?” “What for?”
“Do you always have to have a purpose? Do you always have to be so damn serious? Can’t you ever do things without reason, just like everybody else? You’re so serious, so old. Everything’s important with you, everything’s great, significant in some way, every minute, even when you keep still. Can’t you ever be comfortable–and unimportant?”
“Don’t you get tired of the heroic?”
“What’s heroic about me?”
“Nothing. Everything. I don’t know. It’s not what you do. It’s what you make people feel around you.”
“W hat?”
“The un-normal. The strain. When I’m with you–it’s always like a choice. Between you–and the rest of the world. I don’t want that kind of a choice. I don’t want to be an outsider. I want to belong. There’s so much in the world that’s simple and pleasant. It’s not all fighting and
renunciation. It is–with you.” “What have I ever renounced?”
“Oh, you’ll never renounce anything! You’d walk over corpses for what you want. But it’s what you’ve renounced by never wanting it.”
“That’s because you can’t want both.” “Both what?”
“Look, Peter. I’ve never told you any of those things about me. What makes you see them? I’ve never asked you to make a choice between me and anything else. What makes you feel that there is a choice involved? What makes you uncomfortable when you feel that–since you’re so sure I’m wrong?”
“I…I don’t know.” He added: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And then he asked suddenly:
“Howard, why do you hate me?”
“I don’t hate you.”
“Well, that’s it! Why don’t you hate me at least?”
“Why should I?”
“Just to give me something. I know you can’t like me. You can’t like anybody. So it would be kinder to acknowledge people’s existence by hating them.”
“I’m not kind, Peter.”
And as Keating found nothing to say, Roark added:
“Go home, Peter. You got what you wanted. Let it go at that. See you Monday.” #
Roark stood at a table in the drafting room of Francon & Heyer, a pencil in his hand, a strand of orange hair hanging down over his face, the prescribed pearl-gray smock like a prison uniform on his body.
He had learned to accept his new job. The lines he drew were to be the clean lines of steel beams, and he tried not to think of what these beams would carry. It was difficult, at times. Between him and the plan of the building on which he was working stood the plan of that building as it should have been. He saw what he could make of it, how to change the lines he drew, where to lead them in order to achieve a thing of splendor. He had to choke the knowledge. He had to kill the vision. He had to obey and draw the lines as instructed. It hurt him so much that he shrugged at himself in cold anger. He thought: difficult?–well, learn it.
But the pain remained–and a helpless wonder. The thing he saw was so much more real than the reality of paper, office and commission. He could not understand what made others blind to it, and what made their indifference possible. He looked at the paper before him. He wondered why ineptitude should exist and have its say. He had never known that. And the reality which permitted it could never become quite real to him.
But he knew that this would not last–he had to wait–it was his only assignment, to wait–what he felt didn’t matter–it had to be done–he had to wait.
“Mr. Roark, are you ready with the steel cage for the Gothic lantern for the American Radio Corporation Building?”
He had no friends in the drafting room. He was there like a piece of furniture, as useful, as impersonal and as silent. Only the chief of the engineering department, to which Roark was
assigned, had said to Keating after the first two weeks: “You’ve got more sense than I gave you credit for, Keating. Thanks.”
“For what?” asked Keating. “For nothing that was intentional, I’m sure,” said the chief.
Once in a while, Keating stopped by Roark’s table to say softly: “Will you drop in at my office when you’re through tonight, Howard? Nothing important.”
When Roark came, Keating began by saying: “Well, how do you like it here, Howard? If there’s anything you want, just say so and I’ll…” Roark interrupted to ask: “Where is it, this time?” Keating produced sketches from a drawer and said: “I know it’s perfectly right, just as it is, but what do you think of it, generally speaking?” Roark looked at the sketches, and even though he wanted to throw them at Keating’s face and resign, one thought stopped him: the thought that it was a building and that he had to save it, as others could not pass a drowning man without leaping in to the rescue.
Then he worked for hours, sometimes all night, while Keating sat and watched. He forgot Keating’s presence. He saw only a building and his chance to shape it. He knew that the shape would be changed, torn, distorted. Still, some order and reason would remain in its plan. It would be a better building than it would have been if he refused.
Sometimes, looking at the sketch of a structure simpler, cleaner, more honest than the others, Roark would say: “That’s not so bad, Peter. You’re improving.” And Keating would feel an odd little jolt inside, something quiet, private and precious, such as he never felt from the compliments of Guy Francon, of his clients, of all others. Then he would forget it and feel much more substantially pleased when a wealthy lady murmured over a teacup: “You’re the coming architect of America, Mr. Keating,” though she had never seen his buildings.
He found compensations for his submission to Roark. He would enter the drafting room in the morning, throw a tracing boy’s assignment down on Roark’s table and say: “Howard, do this up for me, will you?–and make it fast.” In the middle of the day, he would send a boy to Roark’s table to say loudly: “Mr. Keating wishes to see you in his office at once.” He would come out of the office and walk in Roark’s direction and say to the room at large: “Where the hell are those Twelfth Street plumbing specifications? Oh, Howard, will you look through the files and dig them up for me?”
At first, he was afraid of Roark’s reaction. When he saw no reaction, only a silent obedience, he could restrain himself no longer. He felt a sensual pleasure in giving orders to Roark; and he felt also a fury of resentment at Roark’s passive compliance. He continued, knowing that he could continue only so long as Roark exhibited no anger, yet wishing desperately to break him down to an explosion. No explosion came.
Roark liked the days when he was sent out to inspect buildings in construction. He walked through the steel hulks of buildings more naturally than on pavements. The workers observed with curiosity that he walked on narrow planks, on naked beams hanging over empty space, as easily as the best of them.
It was a day in March, and the sky was a faint green with the first hint of spring. In Central Park, five hundred feet below, the earth caught the tone of the sky in a shade of brown that promised to become green, and the lakes lay like splinters of glass under the cobwebs of bare branches. Roark walked through the shell of what was to be a gigantic apartment hotel, and stopped before an electrician at work.
The man was toiling assiduously, bending conduits around a beam. It was a task for hours of strain and patience, in a space overfilled against all calculations. Roark stood, his hands in his pockets, watching the man’s slow, painful progress.
The man raised his head and turned to him abruptly. He had a big head and a face so ugly that it became fascinating; it was neither old nor flabby, but it was creased in deep gashes and the powerful jowls drooped like a bulldog’s; the eyes were startling–wide, round and china- blue.
“Well?” the man asked angrily, “what’s the matter, Brick-top?”
“You’re wasting your time,” said Roark. “Yeah?”
”You don’t say!”
“It will take you hours to get your pipes around that beam.” “Know a better way to do it?”
”Run along, punk. We don’t like college smarties around here.” “Cut a hole in that beam and put your pipes through.”
“W hat?”
”Cut a hole through the beam.”
”The hell I will!”
”The hell you won’t.”
”It ain’t done that way.”
”I’ve done it.”
”It’s done everywhere.”
”It ain’t gonna be done here. Not by me.”
”Then I’ll do it for you.”
The man roared. “That’s rich! When did office boys learn to do a man’s work?” “Give me your torch.”
”Look out, boy! It’ll burn your pretty pink toes!”
Roark took the man’s gloves and goggles, took the acetylene torch, knelt, and sent a thin jet of blue fire at the center of the beam. The man stood watching him. Roark’s arm was steady, holding the tense, hissing streak of flame in leash, shuddering faintly with its violence, but holding it aimed straight. There was no strain, no effort in the easy posture of his body, only in his arm. And it seemed as if the blue tension eating slowly through metal came not from the flame but from the hand holding it.
He finished, put the torch down, and rose.
”Jesus!” said the electrician. “Do you know how to handle a torch!”
“Looks like it, doesn’t it?” He removed the gloves, the goggles, and handed them back. “Do it that way from now on. Tell the foreman I said so.”
The electrician was staring reverently at the neat hole cut through the beam. He muttered: “Where did you learn to handle it like that, Red?”
Roark’s slow, amused smile acknowledged this concession of victory. “Oh, I’ve been an
electrician, and a plumber, and a rivet catcher, and many other things.” “And went to school besides?”
”Well, in a way.”
”Gonna be an architect?”
“Well, you’ll be the first one that knows something besides pretty pictures and tea parties. You should see the teacher’s pets they send us down from the office.”
“If you’re apologizing, don’t. I don’t like them either. Go back to the pipes. So long.”
“So long, Red.”
The next time Roark appeared on that job, the blue-eyed electrician waved to him from afar, and called him over, and asked advice about his work which he did not need; he stated that his name was Mike and that he had missed Roark for several days. On the next visit the day shift was just leaving, and Mike waited outside for Roark to finish the inspection. “How about a glass of beer, Red?” he invited, when Roark came out. “Sure,” said Roark, “thanks.”
They sat together at a table in the corner of a basement speakeasy, and they drank beer, and Mike related his favorite tale of how he had fallen five stories when a scaffolding gave way under him, how he had broken three ribs but lived to tell it, and Roark spoke of his days in the building trades. Mike did have a real name, which was Sean Xavier Donnigan, but everyone had forgotten it long ago; he owned a set of tools and an ancient Ford, and existed for the sole purpose of traveling around the country from one big construction job to another. People meant very little to Mike, but their performance a great deal. He worshipped expertness of any kind. He loved his work passionately and had no tolerance for anything save for other single- track devotions. He was a master in his own field and he felt no sympathy except for mastery. His view of the world was simple: there were the able and there were the incompetent; he was not concerned with the latter. He loved buildings. He despised, however, all architects.
“There was one, Red,” he said earnestly, over his fifth beer, “one only and you’d be too young to know about him, but that was the only man that knew building. I worked for him when I was your age.”
“Who was that?”
”Henry Cameron was his name. He’s dead, I guess, these many years.”
Roark looked at him for a long time, then said: “He’s not dead, Mike,” and added: “I’ve worked for him.”
“You did?”
“For almost three years.”
They looked at each other silently, and that was the final seal on their friendship.
Weeks later, Mike stopped Roark, one day, at the building, his ugly face puzzled, and asked:
“Say, Red, I heard the super tell a guy from the contractor’s that you’re stuck-up and stubborn and the lousiest bastard he’s ever been up against. What did you do to him?”
”What the hell did he mean?”
”I don’t know,” said Roark. “Do you?”
Mike looked at him, shrugged and grinned. “No,” said Mike.
EARLY IN May, Peter Keating departed for Washington, to supervise the construction of a museum donated to the city by a great philanthropist easing his conscience. The museum building, Keating pointed out proudly, was to be decidedly different: it was not a reproduction of the Parthenon, but of the Maison Carrée at Nîmes.
Keating had been away for some time when an office boy approached Roark’s table and informed him that Mr. Francon wished to see him in his office. When Roark entered the sanctuary, Francon smiled from behind the desk and said cheerfully: “Sit down, my friend. Sit down….” but something in Roark’s eyes, which he had never seen at close range before, made Francon’s voice shrink and stop, and he added dryly: “Sit down.” Roark obeyed. Francon studied him for a second, but could reach no conclusion beyond deciding that the man had a most unpleasant face, yet looked quite correctly attentive.
“You’re the one who’s worked for Cameron, aren’t you?” Francon asked. “Yes,” said Roark.
“Mr. Keating has been telling me very nice things about you,” Francon tried pleasantly and stopped. It was wasted courtesy; Roark just sat looking at him, waiting. “Listen…what’s your name?”
“Listen, Roark. We have a client who is a little…odd, but he’s an important man, a very important man, and we have to satisfy him. He’s given us a commission for an eight-million- dollar office building, but the trouble is that he has very definite ideas on what he wants it to look like. He wants it–” Francon shrugged apologetically, disclaiming all blame for the preposterous suggestion–“he wants it to look like this.” He handed Roark a photograph. It was a photograph of the Dana Building.
Roark sat quite still, the photograph hanging between his fingers. “Do you know that building?” asked Francon.
“Well, that’s what he wants. And Mr. Keating’s away. I’ve had Bennett and Cooper and Williams make sketches, but he’s turned them down. So I thought I’d give you a chance.”
Francon looked at him, impressed by the magnanimity of his own offer. There was no reaction. There was only a man who still looked as if he’d been struck on the head.
“Of course,” said Francon, “it’s quite a jump for you, quite an assignment, but I thought I’d let you try. Don’t be afraid. Mr. Keating and I will go over it afterward. Just draw up the plans and a good sketch of it. You must have an idea of what the man wants. You know Cameron’s tricks. But of course, we can’t let a crude thing like this come out of our office. We must please him, but we must also preserve our reputation and not frighten all our other clients away. The point is to make it simple and in the general mood of this, but also artistic. You know, the more severe kind of Greek. You don’t have to use the Ionic order, use the Doric. Plain pediments and simple moldings, or something like that. Get the idea? Now take this along and show me what you can do. Bennett will give you all the particulars and…What’s the mat–”
Francon’s voice cut itself off.
”Mr. Francon, please let me design it the way the Dana Building was designed.” “Huh?”
“Let me do it. Not copy the Dana Building, but design it as Henry Cameron would have wanted it done, as I will.”
“You mean modernistic?” “I…well, call it that.”
”Are you crazy?”
“Mr. Francon, please listen to me.” Roark’s words were like the steps of a man walking a tightwire, slow, strained, groping for the only right spot, quivering over an abyss, but precise. “I don’t blame you for the things you’re doing. I’m Working for you, I’m taking your money, I have no right to express objections. But this time…this time the client is asking for it. You’re risking nothing. He wants it. Think of it, there’s a man, one man who sees and understands and wants it and has the power to build it. Are you going to fight a client for the first time in your life–and fight for what? To cheat him and to give him the same old trash, when you have so many others asking for it, and one, only one, who comes with a request like this?”
“Aren’t you forgetting yourself?” asked Francon, coldly. “What difference would it make to you? Just let me do it my way and show it to him. Only show it to him. He’s already turned down three sketches, what if he turns down a fourth? But if he doesn’t…if he doesn’t…” Roark had never known how to entreat and he was not doing it well; his voice was hard, toneless, revealing the effort, so that the plea became an insult to the man who was making him plead. Keating would have given a great deal to see Roark in that moment. But Francon could not appreciate the triumph he was the first ever to achieve; he recognized only the insult.
“Am I correct in gathering,” Francon asked, “that you are criticizing me and teaching me something about architecture?”
“I’m begging you,” said Roark, closing his eyes. “If you weren’t a protégé of Mr. Keating’s, I wouldn’t bother to discuss the matter with you any further. But since you are quite obviously naive and inexperienced, I shall point out to you that I am not in the habit of asking for the esthetic opinions of my draftsmen. You will kindly take this photograph–and I do not wish any building as Cameron might have designed it, I wish the scheme of this adapted to our site– and you will follow my instructions as to the Classic treatment of the facade.”
“I can’t do it,” said Roark, very quietly. “What? Are you speaking to me? Are you actually saying: ‘Sorry, I can’t do it’?”
“I haven’t said ‘sorry,’ Mr. Francon.” “What did you say?”
”That I can’t do it.”
“You don’t want to know why. Don’t ask me to do any designing. I’ll do any other kind of job you wish. But not that. And not to Cameron’s work.”
“What do you mean, no designing? You expect to be an architect some day–or do you?” “Not like this.”
”Oh…I see…So you can’t do it? You mean you won’t?”
”If you prefer.”
“Listen, you impertinent fool, this is incredible!” Roark got up. “May I go, Mr. Francon?”
“In all my life,” roared Francon, “in all my experience, I’ve never seen anything like it! Are you here to tell me what you’ll do and what you won’t do? Are you here to give me lessons and
criticize my taste and pass judgment?”
“I’m not criticizing anything,” said Roark quietly. “I’m not passing judgment. There are some things that I can’t do. Let it go at that. May I leave now?”
“You may leave this room and this firm now and from now on! You may go straight to the devil! Go and find yourself another employer! Try and find him! Go get your check and get out!”
“Yes, Mr. Francon.”
That evening Roark walked to the basement speak-easy where he could always find Mike after the day’s work. Mike was now employed on the construction of a factory by the same contractor who was awarded most of Francon’s biggest jobs. Mike had expected to see Roark on an inspection visit to the factory that afternoon, and greeted him angrily:
“What’s the matter, Red? Lying down on the job?”
When he heard the news, Mike sat still and looked like a bulldog baring its teeth. Then he swore savagely.
“The bastards,” he gulped between stronger names, “the bastards…”
“Keep still, Mike.”
“Well…what now, Red?”
“Someone else of the same kind, until the same thing happens again.” #
When Keating returned from Washington he went straight up to Francon’s office. He had not stopped in the drafting room and had heard no news. Francon greeted him expansively:
“Boy, it’s great to see you back! What’ll you have? A whisky-and-soda or a little brandy?”
“No, thanks. Just give me a cigarette.”
“Here….Boy, you look fine! Better than ever. How do you do it, you lucky bastard? I have so many things to tell you! How did it go down in Washington? Everything all right?” And before Keating could answer, Francon rushed on: “Something dreadful’s happened to me. Most disappointing. Do you remember Lili Landau? I thought I was all set with her, but last time I saw her, did I get the cold shoulder! Do you know who’s got her? You’ll be surprised. Gail Wynand, no less! The girl’s flying high. You should see her pictures and her legs all over his newspapers. Will it help her show or won’t it! What can I offer against that? And do you know what he’s done? Remember how she always said that nobody could give her what she wanted most–her childhood home, the dear little Austrian village where she was born? Well, Wynand bought it, long ago, the whole damn village, and had it shipped here–every bit of it!–and had it assembled again down on the Hudson, and there it stands now, cobbles, church, apple trees, pigsties and all! Then he springs it on Lili, two weeks ago. Wouldn’t you just know it? If the King of Babylon could get hanging gardens for his homesick lady, why not Gail Wynand? Lili’s all smiles and gratitude–but the poor girl was really miserable. She’d have much preferred a mink coat. She never wanted the damn village. And Wynand knew it, too. But there it stands, on the Hudson. Last week, he gave a party for her, right there, in that village–a costume party, with Mr. Wynand dressed as Cesare Borgia–wouldn’t he, though?–and what a party!–if you can believe what you hear, but you know how it is, you can never prove anything on Wynand. Then what does he do the next day but pose up there himself with little schoolchildren who’d never seen an Austrian village–the philanthropist!–and plasters the photos all over his papers with plenty of sob stuff about educational values, and gets mush notes from women’s clubs! I’d like to know what he’ll do with the village when he gets rid of Lili! He will, you know, they never last long with him. Do you think I’ll have a chance with her then?”
“Sure,” said Keating. “Sure, you will. How’s everything here in the office?”
“Oh, fine. Same as usual. Lucius had a cold and drank up all of my best Bas Armagnac. It’s bad for his heart, and a hundred dollars a case!…Besides, Lucius got himself caught in a nasty little mess. It’s that phobia of his, his damn porcelain. Seems he went and bought a teapot from a fence. He knew it was stolen goods, too. Took me quite a bit of bother to save us from a scandal….Oh, by the way, I fired that friend of yours, what’s his name?–Roark.”
“Oh,” said Keating, and let a moment pass, then asked: “Why?”
”The insolent bastard! Where did you ever pick him up?” “What happened?”
“I thought I’d be nice to him, give him a real break. I asked him to make a sketch for the Farrell Building–you know, the one Brent finally managed to design and we got Farrell to accept, you know, the simplified Doric–and your friend just up and refused to do it. It seems he has ideals or something. So I showed him the gate….What’s the matter? What are you smiling at?”
“Nothing. I can just see it.”
”Now don’t you ask me to take him back!” “No, of course not.”
For several days, Keating thought that he should call on Roark. He did not know what he would say, but felt dimly that he should say something. He kept postponing it. He was gaining assurance in his work. He felt that he did not need Roark, after all. The days went by, and he did not call on Roark, and he felt relief in being free to forget him.
Beyond the windows of his room Roark saw the roofs, the water tanks, the chimneys, the cars speeding far below. There was a threat in the silence of his room, in the empty days, in his hands hanging idly by his sides. And he felt another threat rising from the city below, as if each window, each strip of pavement, had set itself closed grimly, in wordless resistance. It did not disturb him. He had known and accepted it long ago.
He made a list of the architects whose work he resented least, in the order of their lesser evil, and he set out upon the search for a job, coldly, systematically, without anger or hope. He never knew whether these days hurt him; he knew only that it was a thing which had to be done.
The architects he saw differed from one another. Some looked at him across the desk, kindly and vaguely, and their manner seemed to say that it was touching, his ambition to be an architect, touching and laudable and strange and attractively sad as all the delusions of youth. Some smiled at him with thin, drawn lips and seemed to enjoy his presence in the room, because it made them conscious of their own accomplishment. Some spoke coldly, as if his ambition were a personal insult. Some were brusque, and the sharpness of their voices seemed to say that they needed good draftsmen, they always needed good draftsmen, but this qualification could not possibly apply to him, and would he please refrain from being rude enough to force them to express it more plainly.
It was not malice. It was not a judgment passed upon his merit. They did not think he was worthless. They simply did not care to find out whether he was good. Sometimes, he was asked to show his sketches; he extended them across a desk, feeling a contraction of shame in the muscles of his hand; it was like having the clothes torn off his body, and the shame was not, that his body was exposed, but that it was exposed to indifferent eyes. Once in a while he made a trip to New Jersey, to see Cameron. They sat together on the porch of a house on a hill, Cameron in a wheel chair, his hands on an old blanket spread over his knees. “How is it, Howard? Pretty hard?”
“Want me to give you a letter to one of the bastards?” “No.”
Then Cameron would not speak of it any more, he did not want to speak of it, he did not want the thought of Roark rejected by their city to become real. When Roark came to him, Cameron spoke of architecture with the simple confidence of a private possession. They sat together, looking at he city in the distance, on the edge of the sky, beyond the river. The sky was growing dark and luminous as blue-green glass; the buildings looked like clouds condensed on the glass, gray-blue clouds frozen for an instant in straight angles and vertical shafts, with the sunset caught in the spires….
As the summer months passed, as his list was exhausted and he returned again to the places that had refused him once, Roark found that a few things were known about him and he heard the same words–spoken bluntly or timidly or angrily or apologetically–“You were kicked out of Stanton. You were kicked out of Francon’s office.” All the different voices saying it had one note in common: a note of relief in the certainty that the decision had been made for them.
He sat on the window sill, in the evening, smoking, his hand spread on the pane, the city under his fingers, the glass cold against his skin.
In September, he read an article entitled “Make Way For Tomorrow” by Gordon L. Prescott, A.G.A. in the Architectural Tribune. The article stated that the tragedy of the profession was the hardships placed in the way of its talented beginners; that great gifts had been lost in the struggle, unnoticed; that architecture was perishing from a lack of new blood and new thought, a lack of originality, vision and courage; that the author of the article made it his aim to search for promising beginners, to encourage them, develop them and give them the chance they deserved. Roark had never heard of Gordon L. Prescott, but there was a tone of honest conviction in the article. He allowed himself to start for Prescott’s office with the first hint of hope.
The reception room of Gordon L. Prescott’s office was done in gray, black and scarlet; it was correct, restrained and daring all at once. A young and very pretty secretary informed Roark that one could not see Mr. Prescott without an appointment, but that she would be very glad to make an appointment for next Wednesday at two-fifteen. On Wednesday at two-fifteen, the secretary smiled at Roark and asked him please to be seated for just a moment. At four forty- five he was admitted into Gordon L. Prescott’s office. Gordon L. Prescott wore a brown checkered tweed jacket and a white turtle-neck sweater of angora wool. He was tall, athletic and thirty-five, but his face combined a crisp air of sophisticated wisdom with the soft skin, the button nose, the small, puffed mouth of a college hero. His face was sun-scorched, his blond hair clipped short, in a military Prussian haircut. He was frankly masculine, frankly unconcerned about elegance and frankly conscious of the effect.
He listened to Roark silently, and his eyes were like a stop watch registering each separate second consumed by each separate word of Roark’s. He let the first sentence go by; on the second he interrupted to say curtly: “Let me see your drawings,” as if to make it clear that anything Roark might say was quite well known to him already.
He held the drawings in his bronzed hands. Before he looked down at them, he said: “Ah, yes, so many young men come to me for advice, so many.” He glanced at the first sketch, but raised his head before he had seen it. “Of course, it’s the combination of the practical and the transcendental that is so hard for beginners to grasp.” He slipped the sketch to the bottom of the pile. “Architecture is primarily a utilitarian conception, and the problem is to elevate the principle of pragmatism into the realm of esthetic abstraction. All else is nonsense.” He glanced at two sketches and slipped them to the bottom. “I have no patience with visionaries who see a holy crusade in architecture for architecture’s sake. The great dynamic principle is the common principle of the human equation.” He glanced at a sketch and slipped it under. “The public taste and the public heart are the final criteria of the artist. The genius is the one who knows how to express the general. The exception is to tap the unexceptional.” He weighed the pile of sketches in his hand, noted that he had gone through half of them and dropped them down on the desk.
“Ah, yes,” he said, “your work. Very interesting. But not practical. Not mature. Unfocused and
undisciplined. Adolescent. Originality for originality’s sake. Not at all in the spirit of the present day. If you want an idea of the sort of thing for which there is a crying need–here–let me show you.” He took a sketch out of a drawer of the desk. “Here’s a young man who came to me totally unrecommended, a beginner who had never worked before. When you can produce stuff like this, you won’t find it necessary to look for a job. I saw this one sketch of his and I took him on at once, started him at twenty-five a week, too. There’s no question but that he is a potential genius.” He extended the sketch to Roark. The sketch represented a house in the shape of a grain silo incredibly merged with the simplified, emaciated shadow of the Parthenon.
“That,” said Gordon L. Prescott, “is originality, the new in the eternal. Try toward something like this. I can’t really say that I predict a great deal for your future. We must be frank, I wouldn’t want to give you illusions based on my authority. You have a great deal to learn. I couldn’t venture a guess on what talent you might possess or develop later. But with hard work, perhaps…Architecture is a difficult profession, however, and the competition is stiff, you know, very stiff…And now, if you’ll excuse me, my secretary has an appointment waiting for me….”

Roark walked home late on an evening in October. It had been another of the many days that stretched into months behind him, and he could not tell what had taken place in the hours of that day, whom he had seen, what form the words of refusal had taken. He concentrated fiercely on the few minutes at hand, when he was in an office, forgetting everything else; he forgot these minutes when he left the office; it had to be done, it had been done, it concerned him no longer. He was free once more on his way home.
A long street stretched before him, its high banks, coming close together ahead, so narrow that he felt as if he could spread his arms, seize the spires and push them apart. He walked swiftly, the pavements as a springboard throwing his steps forward.
He saw a lighted triangle of concrete suspended somewhere hundreds of feet above the ground. He could not see what stood below, supporting it; he was free to think of what he’d want to see there, what he would have made to be seen. Then he thought suddenly that now, in this moment, according to the city, according to everyone save that hard certainty within him, he would never build again, never–before he had begun. He shrugged. Those things happening to him, in those offices of strangers, were only a kind of sub-reality, unsubstantial incidents in the path of a substance they could not reach or touch.
He turned into side streets leading to the East River. A lonely traffic light hung far ahead, a spot of red in a bleak darkness. The old houses crouched low to the ground, hunched under the weight of the sky. The street was empty and hollow, echoing to his footsteps. He went on, his collar raised, his hands in his pockets. His shadow rose from under his heels, when he passed a light, and brushed a wall in a long black arc, like the sweep of a windshield wiper.
JOHN ERIK SNYTE looked through Roark’s sketches, flipped three of them aside, gathered the rest into an even pile, glanced again at the three, tossed them down one after another on top of the pile, with three sharp thuds, and said:
“Remarkable. Radical, but remarkable. What are you doing tonight?” “Why?” asked Roark, stupefied.
“Are you free? Mind starting in at once? Take your coat off, go to the drafting room, borrow tools from somebody and do me up a sketch for a department store we’re remodeling. Just a quick sketch, just a general idea, but I must have it tomorrow. Mind staying late tonight? The heat’s on and I’ll have Joe send you up some dinner. Want black coffee or Scotch or what? Just tell Joe. Can you stay?”
“Yes,” said Roark, incredulously. “I can work all night.”
“Fine! Splendid! that’s just what I’ve always needed–a Cameron man. I’ve got every other kind. Oh, yes, what did they pay you at Francon’s?”
“Well, I can’t splurge like Guy the Epicure. Fifty’s tops. Okay? Fine. Go right in. I’ll have Billings explain about the store to you. I want something modern. Understand? Modern, violent, crazy, to knock their eye out. Don’t restrain yourself. Go the limit. Pull any stunt you can think of, the goofier the better. Come on!”
John Erik Snyte shot to his feet, flung a door open into a huge drafting room, flew in, skidded against a table, stopped, and said to a stout man with a grim moon-face: “Billings–Roark. He’s our modernist. Give him the Benton store. Get him some instruments. Leave him your keys and show him what to lock up tonight. Start him as of this morning. Fifty. What time was my appointment with Dolson Brothers? I’m late already. So long, I won’t be back tonight.”
He skidded out, slamming the door. Billings evinced no surprise. He looked at Roark as if Roark had always been there. He spoke impassively, in a weary drawl. Within twenty minutes he left Roark at a drafting table with paper, pencils, instruments, a set of plans and photographs of the department store, a set of charts and a long list of instructions.
Roark looked at the clean white sheet before him, his fist closed tightly about the thin stem of a pencil. He put the pencil down, and picked it up again, his thumb running softly up and down the smooth shaft; he saw that the pencil was trembling. He put it down quickly, and he felt anger at himself for the weakness of allowing this job to mean so much to him, for the sudden knowledge of what the months of idleness behind him had really meant. His fingertips were pressed to the paper, as if the paper held them, as a surface charged with electricity will hold the flesh of a man who has brushed against it, hold and hurt. He tore his fingers off the paper. Then he went to work….
John Erik Snyte was fifty years old; he wore an expression of quizzical amusement, shrewd and unwholesome, as if he shared with each man he contemplated a lewd secret which he would not mention because it was so obvious to them both. He was a prominent architect; his expression did not change when he spoke of this fact. He considered Guy Francon an impractical idealist; he was not restrained by an Classic dogma; he was much more skillful and liberal: he built anything. He had no distaste for modern architecture and built cheerfully, when a rare client asked for it, bare boxes with flat roofs, which he called progressive; he built Roman mansions which he called fastidious; he built Gothic churches which he called spiritual. He saw no difference among any of them. He never became angry, except when somebody called him eclectic.
He had a system of his own. He employed five designers of various types and he staged a contest among them on each commission he received. He chose the winning design and improved it with bits of the four others. “Six minds,” he said, “are better than one.”
When Roark saw the final drawing of the Benton Department Store, he understood why Snyte had not been afraid to hire him. He recognized his own planes of space, his windows, his system of circulation; he saw, added to it, Corinthian capitals, Gothic vaulting, Colonial chandeliers and incredible moldings, vaguely Moorish. The drawing was done in water-color, with miraculous delicacy, mounted on cardboard, covered with a veil of tissue paper. The men in the drafting room were not allowed to look at it, except from a safe distance; all hands had to be washed, all cigarettes discarded. John Erik Snyte attached a great importance to the proper appearance of a drawing for submission to clients, and kept a young Chinese student of architecture employed solely upon the execution of these masterpieces.
Roark knew what to expect of his job. He would never see his work erected, only pieces of it, which he preferred not to see; but he would be free to design as he wished and he would have the experience of solving actual problems. It was less than he wanted and more than he could expect. He accepted it at that. He met his fellow designers, the four other contestants, and learned that they were unofficially nicknamed in the drafting room as “Classic,”
“Renaissance” and “Miscellaneous.” He winced a little when he was addressed as “Hey, Modernistic.”
The strike of the building-trades unions infuriated Guy Francon. The strike had started against the contractors who were erecting the Noyes-Belmont Hotel, and had spread to all the new structures of the city. It had been mentioned in the press that the architects of the Noyes- Belmont were the firm of Francon & Heyer.
Most of the press helped the fight along, urging the contractors not to surrender. The loudest attacks against the strikers came from the powerful papers of the great Wynand chain.
“We have always stood,” said the Wynand editorials, “for the rights of the common man against the yellow sharks of privilege, but we cannot give our support to the destruction of law and order.” It had never been discovered whether the Wynand papers led the public or the public led the Wynand papers; it was known only that the two kept remarkably in step. It was not known to anyone, however, save to Guy Francon and a very few others, that Gail Wynand owned the corporation which owned the corporation which owned the Noyes-Belmont Hotel.
This added greatly to Francon’s discomfort. Gail Wynand’s real-estate operations were rumored to be vaster than his journalistic empire. It was the first chance Francon had ever had at a Wynand commission and he grasped it avidly, thinking of the possibilities which it could open. He and Keating had put their best efforts into designing the most ornate of all Rococo palaces for future patrons who could pay twenty-five dollars per day per room and who were fond of plaster flowers, marble cupids and open elevator cages of bronze lace. The strike had shattered the future possibilities; Francon could not be blamed for it, but one could never tell whom Gail Wynand would blame and for what reason. The unpredictable, unaccountable shifts of Wynand’s favor were famous, and it was well known that few architects he employed once were ever employed by him again.
Francon’s sullen mood led him to the unprecedented breach of snapping over nothing in particular at the one person who had always been immune from it–Peter Keating. Keating shrugged, and turned his back to him in silent insolence. Then Keating wandered aimlessly through the halls, snarling at young draftsmen without provocation. He bumped into Lucius N. Heyer in a doorway and snapped: “Look where you’re going!” Heyer stared after him, bewildered, blinking.
There was little to do in the office, nothing to say and everyone to avoid. Keating left early and walked home through a cold December twilight.
At home, he cursed aloud the thick smell of paint from the overheated radiators. He cursed the chill, when his mother opened a window. He could find no reason for his restlessness, unless it was the sudden inactivity that left him alone. He could not bear to be left alone.
He snatched up the telephone receiver and called Catherine Halsey. The sound of her clear voice was like a hand pressed soothingly against his hot forehead. He said: “Oh, nothing important, dear, I just wondered if you’d be home tonight. I thought I’d drop in after dinner.”
“Of course, Peter. I’ll be home.”
”Swell. About eight-thirty?”
”Yes…Oh, Peter, have you heard about Uncle Ellsworth?”
“Yes, God damn it, I’ve heard about your Uncle Ellsworth!…I’m sorry, Katie…Forgive me, darling, I didn’t mean to be rude, but I’ve been hearing about your uncle all day long. I know, it’s wonderful and all that, only look, we’re not going to talk about him again tonight!”
“No, of course not. I’m sorry. I understand. I’ll be waiting for you.” “So long, Katie.”
He had heard the latest story about Ellsworth Toohey, but he did not want to think of it because it brought him back to the annoying subject of the strike. Six months ago, on the wave of his success with Sermons in Stone, Ellsworth Toohey had been signed to write “One Small Voice,” a daily syndicated column for the Wynand papers. It appeared in the Banner and had started as a department of art criticism, but grown into an informal tribune from which Ellsworth M. Toohey pronounced verdicts on art, literature, New York restaurants, international crises and sociology–mainly sociology. It had been a great success. But the building strike had placed Ellsworth M. Toohey in a difficult position. He made no secret of his sympathy with the strikers, but he had said nothing in his column, for no one could say what he pleased on the papers owned by Gail Wynand save Gail Wynand. However, a mass meeting of strike sympathizers had been called for this evening. Many famous men were to speak, Ellsworth Toohey among them. At least, Toohey’s name had been announced.
The event caused a great deal of curious speculation and bets were made on whether Toohey would dare to appear. “He will,” Keating had heard a draftsman insist vehemently, “he’ll sacrifice himself. He’s that kind. He’s the only honest man in print.”
“He won’t,” another had said. “Do you realize what it means to pull a stunt like that on Wynand? Once Wynand gets it in for a man, he’ll break the guy for sure as hell’s fire. Nobody knows when he’ll do it or how he’ll do it, but he’ll do it, and nobody’ll prove a thing on him, and you’re done for once you get Wynand after you.” Keating did not care about the issue one way or another, and the whole matter annoyed him.
He ate his dinner, that evening, in grim silence and when Mrs. Keating began, with an “Oh, by the way…” to lead the conversation in a direction he recognized, he snapped: “You’re not going to talk about Catherine. Keep still.” Mrs. Keating said nothing further and concentrated on forcing more food on his plate.
He took a taxi to Greenwich Village. He hurried up the stairs. He jerked at the bell. He waited. There was no answer. He stood, leaning against the wall, ringing, for a long time. Catherine wouldn’t be out when she knew he was coming; she couldn’t be. He walked incredulously down the stairs, out to the street, and looked up at the windows of her apartment. The windows were dark.
He stood, looking up at the windows as at a tremendous betrayal. Then came a sick feeling of loneliness, as if he were homeless in a great city; for the moment, he forgot his own address or its existence. Then he thought of the meeting, the great mass meeting where her uncle was publicly to make a martyr of himself tonight. That’s where she went, he thought, the damn little fool! He said aloud: “To hell with her!”…And he was walking rapidly in the direction of the meeting hall.
There was one naked bulb of light over the square frame of the hall’s entrance, a small, blue- white lump glowing ominously, too cold and too bright. It leaped out of the dark street, lighting one thin trickle of rain from some ledge above, a glistening needle of glass, so thin and smooth that Keating thought crazily of stories where men had been killed by being pierced with an icicle. A few curious loafers stood indifferently in the rain around the entrance, and a few policemen. The door was open. The dim lobby was crowded with people who could not get into the packed hall, they were listening to a loud-speaker installed there for the occasion. At the door three vague shadows were handing out pamphlets to passers-by. One of the shadows was a consumptive, unshaved young man with a long, bare neck; the other was a trim youth with a fur collar on an expensive coat; the third was Catherine Halsey.
She stood in the rain, slumped, her stomach jutting forward in weariness, her nose shiny, her eyes bright with excitement. Keating stopped, staring at her.
Her hand shot toward him mechanically with a pamphlet, then she raised her eyes and saw him. She smiled without astonishment and said happily:
“Why, Peter! How sweet of you to come here!”
”Katie…” He choked a little. “Katie, what the hell…”
”But I had to, Peter.” Her voice had no trace of apology. “You don’t understand, but I…”
“Get out of the rain. Get inside.” “But I can’t! I have to…”
“Get out of the rain at least, you fool!” He pushed her roughly through the door, into a corner of the lobby.
“Peter darling, you’re not angry, are you? You see, it was like this: I didn’t think Uncle would let me come here tonight, but at the last minute he said I could if I wanted to, and that I could help with the pamphlets. I knew you’d understand, and I left you a note on the living room table, explaining, and…”
“You left me a note? Inside?”
“Yes…Oh…Oh, dear me, I never thought of that, you couldn’t get in of course, how silly of me, but I was in such a rush! No, you’re not going to be angry, you can’t! Don’t you see what this means to him? Don’t you know what he’s sacrificing by coming here? And I knew he would. I told them so, those people who said not a chance, it’ll be the end of him–and it might be, but he doesn’t care. That’s what he’s like. I’m frightened and I’m terribly happy, because what he’s done–it makes me believe in all human beings. But I’m frightened, because you see, Wynand will…”
“Keep still! I know it all. I’m sick of it. I don’t want to hear about your uncle or Wynand or the damn strike. Let’s get out of here.”
“Oh, no, Peter! We can’t! I want to hear him and…”
”Shut up over there!” someone hissed at them from the crowd.
“We’re missing it all,” she whispered. “That’s Austen Heller speaking. Don’t you want to hear Austen Heller?”
Keating looked up at the loud-speaker with a certain respect, which he felt for all famous names. He had not read much of Austen Heller, but he knew that Heller was the star columnist of the Chronicle, a brilliant, independent newspaper, arch-enemy of the Wynand publications; that Heller came from an old, distinguished family and had graduated from Oxford; that he had started as a literary critic and ended by becoming a quiet fiend devoted to the destruction of all forms of compulsion, private or public, in heaven or on earth; that he had been cursed by preachers, bankers, club-women and labor organizers; that he had better manners than the social elite whom he usually mocked, and a tougher constitution than the laborers whom he usually defended; that he could discuss the latest play on Broadway, medieval poetry or international finance; that he never donated to charity, but spent more of his own money than he could afford, on defending political prisoners anywhere.
The voice coming from the loud-speaker was dry, precise, with the faint trace of a British accent.
“…and we must consider,” Austen Heller was saying unemotionally, “that since– unfortunately–we are forced to live together, the most important thing for us to remember is that the only way in which we can have any law at all is to have as little of it as possible. I see no ethical standard to which to measure the whole unethical conception of a State, except in the amount of time, of thought, of money, of effort and of obedience, which a society extorts from its every member. Its value and its civilization are in inverse ratio to that extortion. There is no conceivable law by which a man can be forced to work on any terms except those he chooses to set. There is no conceivable law to prevent him from setting them–just as there is none to force his employer to accept them. The freedom to agree or disagree is the foundation of our kind of society–and the freedom to strike is a part of it. I am mentioning this as a reminder to a certain Petronius from Hell’s Kitchen, an exquisite bastard who has been rather noisy lately about telling us that this strike represents a destruction of law and order.”
The loud-speaker coughed out a high, shrill sound of approval and a clatter of applause. There were gasps among the people in the lobby. Catherine grasped Keating’s arm. “Oh,
Peter!” she whispered. “He means Wynand! Wynand was born in Hell’s Kitchen. He can afford to say that, but Wynand will take it out on Uncle Ellsworth!”
Keating could not listen to the rest of Heller’s speech, because his head was swimming in so violent an ache that the sounds hurt his eyes and he had to keep his eyelids shut tightly. He leaned against the wall.
He opened his eyes with a jerk, when he became aware of the peculiar silence around him. He had not noticed the end of Heller’s speech. He saw the people in the lobby standing in tense, solemn expectation, and the blank rasping of the loud-speaker pulled every glance into its dark funnel. Then a voice came through the silence, loudly and slowly:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have the great honor of presenting to you now Mr. Ellsworth Monkton Toohey!”
Well, thought Keating, Bennett’s won his six bits down at the office. There were a few seconds of silence. Then the thing which happened hit Keating on the back of the head; it was not a sound nor a blow, it was something that ripped time apart, that cut the moment from the normal one preceding it. He knew only the shock, at first; a distinct, conscious second was gone before he realized what it was and that it was applause. It was such a crash of applause that he waited for the loud-speaker to explode; it went on and on and on, pressing against the walls of the lobby, and he thought he could feel the walls buckling out to the street.
The people around him were cheering. Catherine stood, her lips parted, and he felt certain that she was not breathing at all.
It was a long time before silence came suddenly, as abrupt and shocking as the roar; the loud- speaker died, choking on a high note. Those in the lobby stood still. Then came the voice.
“My friends,” it said, simply and solemnly. “My brothers,” it added softly, involuntarily, both full of emotion and smiling apologetically at the emotion. “I am more touched by this reception than I should allow myself to be. I hope I shall be forgiven for a trace of the vain child which is in all of us. But I realize–and in that spirit I accept it–that this tribute was paid not to my person, but to a principle which chance has granted me to represent in all humility tonight.”
It was not a voice, it was a miracle. It unrolled as a velvet banner. It spoke English words, but the resonant clarity of each syllable made it sound like a new language spoken for the first time. It was the voice of a giant.
Keating stood, his mouth open. He did not hear what the voice was saying. He heard the beauty of the sounds without meaning. He felt no need to know the meaning; he could accept anything, he would be led blindly anywhere.
“…and so, my friends,” the voice was saying, “the lesson to be learned from our tragic struggle is the lesson of unity. We shall unite or we shall be defeated. Our will–the will of the disinherited, the forgotten, the oppressed–shall weld us into a solid bulwark, with a common faith and a common goal. This is the time for every man to renounce the thoughts of his petty little problems, of gain, of comfort, of self-gratification. This is the time to merge his self in a great current, in the rising tide which is approaching to sweep us all, willing or unwilling, into the future. History, my friends, does not ask questions or acquiescence. It is irrevocable, as the voice of the masses that determine it. Let us listen to the call. Let us organize, my brothers. Let us organize. Let us organize. Let us organize.”
Keating looked at Catherine. There was no Catherine; there was only a white face dissolving in the sounds of the loudspeaker. It was not that she heard her uncle; Keating could feel no jealousy of him; he wished he could. It was not affection. It was something cold and impersonal that left her empty, her will surrendered and no human will holding hers, but a nameless thing in which she was being swallowed.
“Let’s get out of here,” he whispered. His voice was savage. He was afraid.
She turned to him, as if she were emerging from unconsciousness. He knew that she was trying to recognize him and everything he implied. She whispered: “Yes. Let’s get out.” They
walked through the streets, through the rain, without direction. It was cold, but they went on, to move, to feel the movement, to know the sensation of their own muscles moving.
“We’re getting drenched,” Keating said at last, as bluntly and naturally as he could; their silence frightened him; it proved that they both knew the same thing and that the thing had been real. “Let’s find some place where we can have a drink.”
“Yes,” said Catherine, “let’s. It’s so cold….Isn’t it stupid of me? Now I’ve missed Uncle’s speech and I wanted so much to hear it.” It was all right. She had mentioned it. She had mentioned it quite naturally, with a healthy amount of proper regret. The thing was gone. “But I wanted to be with you, Peter…I want to be with you always.” The thing gave a last jerk, not in the meaning of what she said, but in the reason that had prompted her to say it. Then it was gone, and Keating smiled; his fingers sought her bare wrist between her sleeve and glove, and her skin was warm against his….
Many days later Keating heard the story that was being told all over town. It was said that on the day after the mass meeting Gail Wynand had given Ellsworth Toohey a raise in salary. Toohey had been furious and had tried to refuse it. “You cannot bribe me, Mr. Wynand,” he said. “I’m not bribing you,” Wynand had answered; “don’t flatter yourself.”

When the strike was settled, interrupted construction went forward with a spurt throughout the city, and Keating found himself spending days and nights at work, with new commissions pouring into the office. Francon smiled happily at everybody and gave a small party for his staff, to erase the memory of anything he might have said. The palatial residence of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Ainsworth on Riverside Drive, a pet project of Keating’s, done in Late Renaissance and gray granite, was complete at last. Mr. and Mrs. Dale Ainsworth gave a formal reception as a housewarming, to which Guy Francon and Peter Keating were invited, but Lucius N. Heyer was ignored, quite accidentally, as always happened to him of late. Francon enjoyed the reception, because every square foot of granite in the house reminded him of the stupendous payment received by a certain granite quarry in Connecticut. Keating enjoyed the reception, because the stately Mrs. Ainsworth said to him with a disarming smile: “But I was certain that you were Mr. Francon’s partner! It’s Francon and Heyer, of course! How perfectly careless of me! All I can offer by way of excuse is that if you aren’t his partner, one would certainly say you were entitled to be!” Life in the office rolled on smoothly, in one of those periods when everything seemed to go well.
Keating was astonished, therefore, one morning shortly after the Ainsworth reception, to see Francon arrive at the office with a countenance of nervous irritation. “Oh, nothing,” he waved his hand at Keating impatiently, “nothing at all.” In the drafting room Keating noticed three draftsmen, their heads close together, bent over a section of the New York Banner, reading with a guilty kind of avid interest; he heard an unpleasant chuckle from one of them. When they saw him the paper disappeared, too quickly. He had no time to inquire into this; a contractor’s job runner was waiting for him in his office, also a stack of mail and drawings to be approved.
He had forgotten the incident three hours later in a rush of appointments. He felt light, clear- headed, exhilarated by his own energy. When he had to consult his library on a new drawing which he wished to compare with its best prototypes, he walked out of his office, whistling, swinging the drawing gaily.
His motion had propelled him halfway across the reception room, when he stopped short; the drawing swung forward and flapped back against his knees. He forgot that it was quite improper for him to pause there like that in the circumstances.
A young woman stood before the railing, speaking to the reception clerk. Her slender body seemed out of all scale in relation to a normal human body; its lines were so long, so fragile, so exaggerated that she looked like a stylized drawing of a woman and made the correct proportions of a normal being appear heavy and awkward beside her. She wore a plain gray suit; the contrast between its tailored severity and her appearance was deliberately exorbitant–and strangely elegant. She let the fingertips of one hand rest on the railing, a narrow hand ending the straight imperious line of her arm. She had gray eyes that were not ovals, but two long, rectangular cuts edged by parallel lines of lashes; she had an air of cold
serenity and an exquisitely vicious mouth. Her face, her pale gold hair, her suit seemed to have no color, but only a hint, just on the verge of the reality of color, making the full reality seem vulgar. Keating stood still, because he understood for the first time what it was that artists spoke about when they spoke of beauty.
“I’ll see him now, if I see him at all,” she was saying to the reception clerk. “He asked me to come and this is the only time I have.” It was not a command; she spoke as if it were not necessary for her voice to assume the tones of commanding.
“Yes, but…” A light buzzed on the clerk’s switchboard; she plugged the connection through, hastily. “Yes, Mr. Francon…” She listened and nodded with relief. “Yes, Mr. Francon.” She turned to the visitor: “Will you go right in, please?”
The young woman turned and looked at Keating as she passed him on her way to the stairs. Her eyes went past him without stopping. Something ebbed from his stunned admiration. He had had time to see her eyes; they seemed weary and a little contemptuous, but they left him with a sense of cold cruelty.
He heard her walking up the stairs, and the feeling vanished, but the admiration remained. He approached the reception clerk eagerly.
“Who was that?” he asked.
The clerk shrugged:
”That’s the boss’s little girl.”
”Why, the lucky stiff!” said Keating. “He’s been holding out on me.”
”You misunderstood me,” the clerk said coldly. “It’s his daughter. It’s Dominique Francon.” “Oh,” said Keating. “Oh, Lord!”
“Yeah?” the girl looked at him sarcastically. “Have you read this morning’s Banner?” “No. Why?”
”Read it.”
Her switchboard buzzed and she turned away from him.
He sent a boy for a copy of the Banner, and turned anxiously to the column, “Your House,” by Dominique Francon. He had heard that she’d been quite successful lately with descriptions of the homes of prominent New Yorkers. Her field was confined to home decoration, but she ventured occasionally into architectural criticism. Today her subject was the new residence of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Ainsworth on Riverside Drive. He read, among many other things, the following:
“You enter a magnificent lobby of golden marble and you think that this is the City Hall or the Main Post Office, but it isn’t. It has, however, everything: the mezzanine with the colonnade and the stairway with a goitre and the cartouches in the form of looped leather belts. Only it’s not leather, it’s marble. The dining room has a splendid bronze gate, placed by mistake on the ceiling, in the shape of a trellis entwined with fresh bronze grapes. There are dead ducks and rabbits hanging on the wall panels, in bouquets of carrots, petunias and string beans. I do not think these would have been very attractive if real, but since they are bad plaster imitations, it is all right….The bedroom windows face a brick wall, not a very neat wall, but nobody needs to see the bedrooms….The front windows are large enough and admit plenty of light, as well as the feet of the marble cupids that roost on the outside. The cupids are well fed and present a pretty picture to the street, against the severe granite of the façade; they are quite commendable, unless you just can’t stand to look at dimpled soles every time you glance out to see whether it’s raining. If you get tired of it, you can always look out of the central windows of the third floor, and into the cast-iron rump of Mercury who sits on top of the pediment over the entrance. It’s a very beautiful entrance. Tomorrow, we shall visit the home of Mr. and Mrs.
Keating had designed the house. But he could not help chuckling through his fury when he thought of what Francon must have felt reading this, and of how Francon was going to face Mrs. Dale Ainsworth. Then he forgot the house and the article. He remembered only the girl who had written it.
He picked three sketches at random from his table and started for Francon’s office to ask his approval of the sketches, which he did not need.
On the stair landing outside Francon’s closed door he stopped. He heard Francon’s voice behind the door, loud, angry and helpless, the voice he always heard when Francon was beaten.
“…to expect such an outrage! From my own daughter! I’m used to anything from you, but this beats it all. What am I going to do? How am I going to explain? Do you have any kind of a vague idea of my position?”
Then Keating heard her laughing; it was a sound so gay and so cold that he knew it was best not to go in. He knew he did not want to go in, because he was afraid again, as he had been when he’d seen her eyes.
He turned and descended the stairs. When he had reached the floor below, he was thinking that he would meet her, that he would meet her soon and that Francon would not be able to prevent it now. He thought of it eagerly, laughing in relief at the picture of Francon’s daughter as he had imagined her for years, revising his vision of his future; even though he felt dimly that it would be better if he never met her again.
RALSTON HOLCOMBE had no visible neck, but his chin took care of that. His chin and jaws formed an unbroken arc, resting on his chest. His cheeks were pink, soft to the touch, with the irresilient softness of age, like the skin of a peach that has been scalded. His rich white hair rose over his forehead and fell to his shoulders in the sweep of a medieval mane. It left dandruff on the back of his collar.
He walked through the streets of New York, wearing a broad-brimmed hat, a dark business suit, a pale green satin shirt, a vest of white brocade, a huge black bow emerging from under his chin, and he carried a staff, not a cane, but a tall ebony staff surmounted by a bulb of solid gold. It was as if his huge body were resigned to the conventions of a prosaic civilization and to its drab garments, but the oval of his chest and stomach sallied forth, flying the colors of his inner soul.
These things were permitted to him, because he was a genius. He was also president of the Architects’ Guild of America. Ralston Holcombe did not subscribe to the views of his colleagues in the organization. He was not a grubbing builder nor a businessman. He was, he stated firmly, a man of ideals.
He denounced the deplorable state of American architecture and the unprincipled eclecticism of its practitioners. In any period of history, he declared, architects built in the spirit of their own time, and did not pick designs from the past; we could be true to history only in heeding her law, which demanded that we plant the roots of our art firmly in the reality of our own life. He decried the stupidity of erecting buildings that were Greek, Gothic or Romanesque; let us, he begged, be modern and build in the style that belongs to our days. He had found that style. It was Renaissance.
He stated his reasons clearly. Inasmuch, he pointed out, as nothing of great historical importance had happened in the world since the Renaissance, we should consider ourselves still living in that period; and all the outward forms of our existence should remain faithful to the examples of the great masters of the sixteenth century.
He had no patience with the few who spoke of a modern architecture in terms quite different from his own; he ignored them; he stated only that men who wanted to break with all of the past were lazy ignoramuses, and that one could not put originality above Beauty. His voice trembled reverently on that last word. He accepted nothing but stupendous commissions. He specialized in the eternal and the monumental. He built a great many memorials and capitols. He designed for International Expositions.
He built like a composer improvising under the spur of a mystic guidance. He had sudden inspirations. He would add an enormous dome to the flat roof of a finished structure, or encrust a long vault with gold-leaf mosaic, or rip off a facade of limestone to replace it with marble. His clients turned pale, stuttered–and paid. His imperial personality carried him to victory in any encounter with a client’s thrift; behind him stood the stern, unspoken, overwhelming assertion that he was an Artist. His prestige was enormous.
He came from a family listed in the Social Register. In his middle years he had married a young lady whose family had not made the Social Register, but made piles of money instead, in a chewing-gum empire left to an only daughter.
Ralston Holcombe was now sixty-five, to which he added a few years, for the sake of his friends’ compliments on his wonderful physique; Mrs. Ralston Holcombe was forty-two, from which she deducted considerably.
Mrs. Ralston Holcombe maintained a salon that met informally every Sunday afternoon. “Everybody who is anybody in architecture drops in on us,” she told her friends. “They’d better,” she added.
On a Sunday afternoon in March, Keating drove to the Holcombe mansion–a reproduction of a Florentine palazzo–dutifully, but a little reluctantly. He had been a frequent guest at these celebrated gatherings and he was beginning to be bored, for he knew everybody he could expect to find there. He felt, however, that he had to attend this time, because the occasion was to be in honor of the completion of one more capitol by Ralston Holcombe in some state or another.
A substantial crowd was lost in the marble ballroom of the Holcombes, scattered in forlorn islets through an expanse intended for court receptions. The guests stood about, self- consciously informal, working at being brilliant. Steps rang against the marble with the echoing sound of a crypt. The flames of tall candles clashed desolately with the gray of the light from the street; the light made the candles seem dimmer, the candles gave to the day outside a premonitory tinge of dusk. A scale model of the new state capitol stood displayed on a pedestal in the middle of the room, ablaze with tiny electric bulbs.
Mrs. Ralston Holcombe presided over the tea table. Each guest accepted a fragile cup of transparent porcelain, took two delicate sips and vanished in the direction of the bar. Two stately butlers went about collecting the abandoned cups.
Mrs. Ralston Holcombe, as an enthusiastic girl friend had described her, was “petite, but intellectual.” Her diminutive stature was her secret sorrow, but she had learned to find compensations. She could talk, and did, of wearing dresses size ten and of shopping in the junior departments. She wore high-school garments and short socks in summer, displaying spindly legs with hard blue veins. She adored celebrities. That was her mission in life. She hunted them grimly; she faced them with wide-eyed admiration and spoke of her own insignificance, of her humility before achievement; she shrugged, tight-lipped and rancorous, whenever one of them did not seem to take sufficient account of her own views on life after death, the theory of relativity, Aztec architecture, birth control and the movies. She had a great many poor friends and advertised the fact. If a friend happened to improve his financial position, she dropped him, feeling that he had committed an act of treason. She hated the wealthy in all sincerity: they shared her only badge of distinction. She considered architecture her private domain. She had been christened Constance and found it awfully clever to be known as “Kiki,” a nickname she had forced on her friends when she was well past thirty.
Keating had never felt comfortable in Mrs. Holcombe’s presence, because she smiled at him too insistently and commented on his remarks by winking and saying: “Why, Peter, how naughty of you!” when no such intention had been in his mind at all. He bowed over her hand,
however, this afternoon as usual, and she smiled from behind the silver teapot. She wore a regal gown of emerald velvet, and a magenta ribbon in her bobbed hair with a cute little bow in front. Her skin was tanned and dry, with enlarged pores showing on her nostrils. She handed a cup to Keating, a square-cut emerald glittering on her finger in the candlelight.
Keating expressed his admiration for the capitol and escaped to examine the model. He stood before it for a correct number of minutes, scalding his lips with the hot liquid that smelled of cloves. Holcombe, who never looked in the direction of the model and never missed a guest stopping before it, slapped Keating’s shoulder and said something appropriate about young fellows learning the beauty of the style of the Renaissance. Then Keating wandered off, shook a few hands without enthusiasm, and glanced at his wrist watch, calculating the time when it would be permissible to leave. Then he stopped.
Beyond a broad arch, in a small library, with three young men beside her, he saw Dominique Francon.
She stood leaning against a column, a cocktail glass in her hand. She wore a suit of black velvet; the heavy cloth, which transmitted no light rays, held her anchored to reality by stopping the light that flowed too freely through the flesh of her hands, her neck, her face. A white spark of fire flashed like a cold metallic cross in the glass she held, as if it were a lens gathering the diffused radiance of her skin.
Keating tore forward and found Francon in the crowd. “Well, Peter!” said Francon brightly. “Want me to get you a drink? Not so hot,” he added, lowering his voice, “but the Manhattans aren’t too bad.”
“No,” said Keating, “thanks.”
”Entre nous,” said Francon, winking at the model of the capitol, “it’s a holy mess, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Keating. “Miserable proportions….That dome looks like Holcombe’s face imitating a sunrise on the roof….” They had stopped in full view of the library and Keating’s eyes were fixed on the girl in black, inviting Francon to notice it; he enjoyed having Francon in a trap.
“And the plan! The plan! Do you see that on the second floor…oh,” said Francon, noticing.
He looked at Keating, then at the library, then at Keating again.
“Well,” said Francon at last, “don’t blame me afterward. You’ve asked for it. Come on.”
They entered the library together. Keating stopped, correctly, but allowing his eyes an improper intensity, while Francon beamed with unconvincing cheeriness:
“Dominique, my dear! May I present?–this is Peter Keating, my own right hand. Peter–my daughter.”
“How do you do,” said Keating, his voice soft.
Dominique bowed gravely.
“I have waited to meet you for such a long time, Miss Francon.”
“This will be interesting,” said Dominique. “You will want to be nice to me, of course, and yet that won’t be diplomatic.”
“What do you mean, Miss Francon?”
”Father would prefer you to be horrible with me. Father and I don’t get along at all.” “Why, Miss Francon, I…”
“I think it’s only fair to tell you this at the beginning. You may want to redraw some conclusions.” He was looking for Francon, but Francon had vanished. “No,” she said softly,
“Father doesn’t do these things well at all. He’s too obvious. You asked him for the introduction, but he shouldn’t have let me notice that. However, it’s quite all right, since we both admit it. Sit down.”
She slipped into a chair and he sat down obediently beside her. The young men whom he did not know stood about for a few minutes, trying to be included in the conversation by smiling blankly, then wandered off. Keating thought with relief that there was nothing frightening about her; there was only a disquieting contrast between her words and the candid innocence of the manner she used to utter them; he did not know which to trust.
“I admit I asked for the introduction,” he said. “That’s obvious anyway, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t ask for it? But don’t you think that the conclusions I’ll draw may have nothing to do with your father?”
“Don’t say that I’m beautiful and exquisite and like no one you’ve ever met before and that you’re very much afraid that you’re going to fall in love with me. You’ll say it eventually, but let’s postpone it. Apart from that, I think we’ll get along very nicely.”
“But you’re trying to make it very difficult for me, aren’t you?” “Yes. Father should have warned you.”
”He did.”
“You should have listened. Be very considerate of Father. I’ve met so many of his own right hands that I was beginning to be skeptical. But you’re the first one who’s lasted. And who looks like he’s going to last. I’ve heard a great deal about you. My congratulations.”
“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you for years. And I’ve been reading your column with so much…” He stopped. He knew he shouldn’t have mentioned that; and, above all, he shouldn’t have stopped.
“So much…?” she asked gently.
”…so much pleasure,” he finished, hoping that she would let it go at that.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “The Ainsworth house. You designed it. I’m sorry. You just happened to be the victim of one of my rare attacks of honesty. I don’t have them often. As you know, if you’re read my stuff yesterday.”
“I’ve read it. And–well, I’ll follow your example and I’ll be perfectly frank. Don’t take it as a complaint–one must never complain against one’s critics. But really that capitol of Holcombe’s is much worse in all those very things that you blasted us for. Why did you give him such a glowing tribute yesterday? Or did you have to?”
“Don’t flatter me. Of course I didn’t have to. Do you think anyone on the paper pays enough attention to a column on home decoration to care what I say in it? Besides, I’m not even supposed to write about capitols. Only I’m getting tired of home decorations.”
“Then why did you praise Holcombe?”
“Because that capitol of his is so awful that to pan it would have been an anticlimax. So I thought it would be amusing to praise it to the sky. It was.”
“Is that the way you go about it?”
“That’s the way I go about it. But no one reads my column, except housewives who can never afford to decorate their homes, so it doesn’t matter at all.”
“But what do you really like in architecture?” “I don’t like anything in architecture.”
“Well, you know of course that I won’t believe that. Why do you write if you have nothing you want to say?”
“To have something to do. Something more disgusting than many other things I could do. And more amusing.”
“Come on, that’s not a good reason.” “I never have any good reasons.” “But you must be enjoying your work.” “I am. Don’t you see that I am?”
“You know, I’ve actually envied you. Working for a magnificent enterprise like the Wynand papers. The largest organization in the country, commanding the best writing talent and…”
“Look,” she said, leaning toward him confidentially, “let me help you. If you had just met Father, and he were working for the Wynand papers, that would be exactly the right thing to say. But not with me. That’s what I’d expect you to say and I don’t like to hear what I expect. It would be much more interesting if you said that the Wynand papers are a contemptible dump heap of yellow journalism and all their writers put together aren’t worth two bits.”
“Is that what you really think of them?”
”Not at all. But I don’t like people who try to say only what they think I think.”
“Thanks. I’ll need your help. I’ve never met anyone…oh, no, of course, that’s what you didn’t want me to say. But I really meant it about your papers. I’ve always admired Gail Wynand. I’ve always wished I could meet him. What is he like?”
“Just what Austen Heller called him–an exquisite bastard.” He winced. He remembered where he had heard Austen Heller say that. The memory of Catherine seemed heavy and vulgar in the presence of the thin white hand he saw hanging over the arm of the chair before him.
“But, I mean,” he asked, “what’s he like in person?” “I don’t know. I’ve never met him.”
”You haven’t?”
“Oh, I’ve heard he’s so interesting!”
”Undoubtedly. When I’m in a mood for something decadent I’ll probably meet him.” “Do you know Toohey?”
“Oh,” she said. He saw what he had seen in her eyes before, and he did not like the sweet gaiety of her voice. “Oh, Ellsworth Toohey. Of course I know him. He’s wonderful. He’s a man I always enjoy talking to. He’s such a perfect black-guard.”
“Why, Miss Francon! You’re the first person who’s ever…”
“I’m not trying to shock you. I meant all of it. I admire him. He’s so complete. You don’t meet perfection often in this world one way or the other, do you? And he’s just that. Sheer perfection in his own way. Everyone else is so unfinished, broken up into so many different pieces that don’t fit together. But not Toohey. He’s a monolith. Sometimes, when I feel bitter against the world, I find consolation in thinking that it’s all right, that I’ll be avenged, that the world will get what’s coming to it–because there’s Ellsworth Toohey.”
“What do you want to be avenged for?” She looked at him, her eyelids lifted for a moment, so
that her eyes did not seem rectangular, but soft and clear.
”That was very clever of you,” she said. “That was the first clever thing you’ve said.” “Why?”
“Because you knew what to pick out of all the rubbish I uttered. So I’ll have to answer you. I’d like to be avenged for the fact that I have nothing to be avenged for. Now let’s go on about Ellsworth Toohey.”
“Well, I’ve always heard, from everybody, that he’s a sort of saint, the one pure idealist, utterly incorruptible and…”
“That’s quite true. A plain grafter would be much safer. But Toohey is like a testing stone for people. You can learn about them by the way they take him.”
“Why? What do you actually mean?” She leaned back in her chair, and stretched her arms down to her knees, twisting her wrists, palms out, the fingers of her two hands entwined. She laughed easily.
“Nothing that one should make a subject of discussion at a tea party. Kiki’s right. She hates the sight of me, but she’s got to invite me once in a while. And I can’t resist coming, because she’s so obvious about not wanting me. You know, I told Ralston tonight what I really thought of his capitol, but he wouldn’t believe me. He only beamed and said that I was a very nice little girl.”
“Well, aren’t you?” “W hat?”
”A very nice little girl.”
“No. Not today. I’ve made you thoroughly uncomfortable. So I’ll make up for it. I’ll tell you what I think of you, because you’ll be worrying about that. I think you’re smart and safe and obvious and quite ambitious and you’ll get away with it. And I like you. I’ll tell Father that I approve of his right hand very much, so you see you have nothing to fear from the boss’s daughter. Though it would be better if I didn’t say anything to Father, because my recommendation would work the other way with him.”
“May I tell you only one thing that I think about you?” “Certainly. Any number of them.”
“I think it would have been better if you hadn’t told me that you liked me. Then I would have had a better chance of its being true.”
She laughed.
”If you understand that,” she said, “then we’ll get along beautifully. Then it might even be true.”
Gordon L. Prescott appeared in the arch of the ballroom, glass in hand. He wore a gray suit and a turtle-neck sweater of silver wool. His boyish face looked freshly scrubbed, and he had his usual air of soap, tooth paste and the outdoors.
“Dominique, darling!” he cried, waving his glass. “Hello, Keating,” he added curtly. “Dominique, where have you been hiding yourself? I heard you were here and I’ve had a hell of a time looking for you!”
“Hello, Gordon,” she said. She said it quite correctly; there was nothing offensive in the quiet politeness of her voice; but following his high note of enthusiasm, her voice struck a tone that seemed flat and deadly in its indifference–as if the two sounds mingled into an audible counterpoint around the melodic thread of her contempt.
Prescott had not heard. “Darling,” he said, “you look lovelier every time I see you. One wouldn’t think it were possible.”
“Seventh time,” said Dominique.
“W hat?”
“Seventh time that you’ve said it when meeting me, Gordon. I’m counting them.”
“You simply won’t be serious, Dominique. You’ll never be serious.”
“Oh, yes, Gordon. I was just having a very serious conversation here with my friend Peter Keating.”
A lady waved to Prescott and he accepted the opportunity, escaping, looking very foolish. And Keating delighted in the thought that she had dismissed another man for a conversation she wished to continue with her friend Peter Keating.
But when he turned to her, she asked sweetly: “What was it we were talking about, Mr. Keating?” And then she was staring with too great an interest across the room, at the wizened figure of a little man coughing over a whisky glass. “Why,” said Keating, “we were…”
“Oh, there’s Eugene Pettingill. My great favorite. I must say hello to Eugene.”
And she was up, moving across the room, her body leaning back as she walked, moving toward the most unattractive septuagenarian present.
Keating did not know whether he had been made to join the brotherhood of Gordon L. Prescott, or whether it had been only an accident.
He returned to the ballroom reluctantly. He forced himself to join groups of guests and to talk. He watched Dominique Francon as she moved through the crowd, as she stopped in conversation with others. She never glanced at him again. He could not decide whether he had succeeded with her or failed miserably.
He managed to be at the door when she was leaving. She stopped and smiled at him enchantingly.
“No,” she said, before he could utter a word, “you can’t take me home. I have a car waiting. Thank you just the same.”
She was gone and he stood at the door, helpless and thinking furiously that he believed he was blushing.
He felt a soft hand on his shoulder and turned to find Francon beside him. “Going home, Peter? Let me give you a lift.”
”But I thought you had to be at the club by seven.”
“Oh, that’s all right, I’ll be a little late, doesn’t matter, I’ll drive you home, no trouble at all.” There was a peculiar expression of purpose on Francon’s face, quite unusual for him and unbecoming.
Keating followed him silently, amused, and said nothing when they were alone in the comfortable twilight of Francon’s car.
“Well?” Francon asked ominously.
Keating smiled. “You’re a pig, Guy. You don’t know how to appreciate what you’ve got. Why didn’t you tell me? She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
“Oh, yes,” said Francon darkly. “Maybe that’s the trouble.” “What trouble? Where do you see any trouble?”
“What do you really think of her, Peter? Forget the looks. You’ll see how quickly you’ll forget that. What do you think?”
“Well, I think she has a great deal of character.” “Thanks for the understatement.”
Francon was gloomily silent, and then he said with an awkward little note of something like hope in his voice:
“You know, Peter, I was surprised. I watched you, and you had quite a long chat with her. That’s amazing. I fully expected her to chase you away with one nice, poisonous crack. Maybe you could get along with her, after all. I’ve concluded that you just can’t tell anything about her. Maybe…You know, Peter, what I wanted to tell you is this: Don’t pay any attention to what she said about my wanting you to be horrible with her.”
The heavy earnestness of that sentence was such a hint that Keating’s lips moved to shape a soft whistle, but he caught himself in time. Francon added heavily: “I don’t want you to be horrible with her at all.”
“You know, Guy,” said Keating, in a tone of patronizing reproach, “you shouldn’t have run away like that.”
“I never know how to speak to her.” He sighed. “I’ve never learned to. I can’t understand what in blazes is the matter with her, but something is. She just won’t behave like a human being. You know, she’s been expelled from two finishing schools. How she ever got through college I can’t imagine, but I can tell you that I dreaded to open my mail for four solid years, waiting for word of the inevitable. Then I thought, well, once she’s on her own I’m through and I don’t have to worry about it, but she’s worse than ever.”
“What do you find to worry about?”
“I don’t. I try not to. I’m glad when I don’t have to think of her at all. I can’t help it, I just wasn’t cut out for a father. But sometimes I get to feel that it’s my responsibility after all, though God knows I don’t want it, but still there it is, I should do something about it, there’s no one else to assume it.”
“You’ve let her frighten you, Guy, and really there’s nothing to be afraid of.” “You don’t think so?”
“Maybe you’re the man to handle her. I don’t regret your meeting her now, and you know that I didn’t want you to. Yes, I think you’re the one man who could handle her. You…you’re quite determined–aren’t you, Peter?–when you’re after something?”
“Well,” said Keating, throwing one hand up in a careless gesture, “I’m not afraid very often.”
Then he leaned back against the cushions, as if he were tired, as if he had heard nothing of importance, and he kept silent for the rest of the drive. Francon kept silent also.
“Boys,” said John Erik Snyte, “don’t spare yourselves on this. It’s the most important thing we’ve had this year. Not much money, you understand, but the prestige, the connections! If we do land it, won’t some of those great architects turn green! You see, Austen Heller has told me frankly that we’re the third firm he’s approached. He would have none of what those big fellows tried to sell him. So it’s up to us, boys. You know, something different, unusual, but in good taste, and you know, different. Now do your best.”
His five designers sat in a semicircle before him. “Gothic” looked bored and “Miscellaneous” looked discouraged in advance; “Renaissance” was following the course of a fly on the ceiling. Roark asked:
“What did he actually say, Mr. Snyte?”
Snyte shrugged and looked at Roark with amusement, as if he and Roark shared a shameful secret about the new client, not worth mentioning.
“Nothing that makes great sense–quite between us, boys,” said Snyte. “He was somewhat inarticulate, considering his great command of the English language in print. He admitted he knew nothing about architecture. He didn’t say whether he wanted it modernistic or period or what. He said something to the effect that he wanted a house of his own, but he’s hesitated for a long time about building one because all houses look alike to him and they all look like hell and he doesn’t see how anyone can become enthusiastic about any house, and yet he has the idea that he wants a building he could love. ‘A building that would mean something’ is what he said, though he added that he ‘didn’t know what or how.’ There. That’s about all he said. Not much to go on, and I wouldn’t have undertaken to submit sketches if it weren’t Austen Heller. But I grant you that it doesn’t make sense….What’s the matter, Roark?”
“Nothing,” said Roark.
This ended the first conference on the subject of a residence for Austen Heller.
Later that day Snyte crowded his five designers into a train, and they went to Connecticut to see the site Heller had chosen. They stood on a lonely, rocky stretch of shore, three miles beyond an unfashionable little town; they munched sandwiches and peanuts, and they looked at a cliff rising in broken ledges from the ground to end in a straight, brutal, naked drop over the sea, a vertical shaft of rock forming a cross with the long, pale horizontal of the sea.
“There,” said Snyte. “That’s it.” He twirled a pencil in his hand. “Damnable, eh?” He sighed. “I tried to suggest a more respectable location, but he didn’t take it so well so I had to shut up.” He twirled the pencil. “That’s where he wants the house, right on top of that rock.” He scratched the tip of his nose with the point of the pencil. “I tried to suggest setting it farther back from the shore and keeping the damn rock for a view, but that didn’t go so well either.” He bit the eraser between the tips of his teeth. “Just think of the blasting, the leveling one’s got to do on that top.” He cleaned his fingernail with the lead, leaving a black mark. “Well, that’s that….Observe the grade, and the quality of the stone. The approach will be difficult….I have all the surveys and the photographs in the office….Well…Who’s got a cigarette?…Well, I think that’s about all….I’ll help you with suggestions anytime….Well…What time is that damn train back?”
Thus the five designers were started on their task. Four of them proceeded immediately at their drawing boards. Roark returned alone to the site, many times.
Roark’s five months with Snyte stretched behind him like a blank. Had he wished to ask himself what he had felt, he would have found no answer, save in the fact that he remembered nothing of these months. He could remember each sketch he had made. He could, if he tried, remember what had happened to those sketches; he did not try.
But he had not loved any of them as he loved the house of Austen Heller. He stayed in the drafting room through evening after evening, alone with a sheet of paper and the thought of a cliff over the sea. No one saw his sketches until they were finished.
When they were finished, late one night, he sat at his table, with the sheets spread before him, sat for many hours, one hand propping his forehead, the other hanging by his side, blood gathering in the fingers, numbing them, while the street beyond the window became deep blue, then pale gray. He did not look at the sketches. He felt empty and very tired.
The house on the sketches had been designed not by Roark, but by the cliff on which it stood. It was as if the cliff had grown and completed itself and proclaimed the purpose for which it had been waiting. The house was broken into many levels, following the ledges of the rock,
rising as it rose, in gradual masses, in planes flowing together up into one consummate harmony. The walls, of the same granite as the rock, continued its vertical lines upward; the wide, projecting terraces of concrete, silver as the sea, followed the line of the waves, of the straight horizon.
Roark was still sitting at his table when the men returned to begin their day in the drafting room. Then the sketches were sent to Snyte’s office.
Two days later, the final version of the house to be submitted to Austen Heller, the version chosen and edited by John Erik Snyte, executed by the Chinese artist, lay swathed in tissue paper on a table. It was Roark’s house. His competitors had been eliminated. It was Roark’s house, but its walls were now of red brick, its windows were cut to conventional size and equipped with green shutters, two of its projecting wings were omitted, the great cantilevered terrace over the sea was replaced by a little wrought-iron balcony, and the house was provided with an entrance of Ionic columns supporting a broken pediment, and with a little spire supporting a weather vane.
John Erik Snyte stood by the table, his two hands spread in the air over the sketch, without touching the virgin purity of its delicate colors.
“That is what Mr. Heller had in mind, I’m sure,” he said. “Pretty good…Yes, pretty good…Roark, how many times do I have to ask you not to smoke around a final sketch? Stand away. You’ll get ashes on it.”
Austen Heller was expected at twelve o’clock. But at half past eleven Mrs. Symington arrived unannounced and demanded to see Mr. Snyte immediately. Mrs. Symington was an imposing dowager who had just moved into her new residence designed by Mr. Snyte; besides, Snyte expected a commission for an apartment house from her brother. He could not refuse to see her and he bowed her into his office, where she proceeded to state without reticence of expression that the ceiling of her library had cracked and the bay windows of her drawing room were hidden under a perpetual veil of moisture which she could not combat. Snyte summoned his chief engineer and they launched together into detailed explanations, apologies and damnations of contractors. Mrs. Symington showed no sign of relenting when a signal buzzed on Snyte’s desk and the reception clerk’s voice announced Austen Heller.
It would have been impossible to ask Mrs. Symington to leave or Austen Heller to wait. Snyte solved the problem by abandoning her to the soothing speech of his engineer and excusing himself for a moment. Then he emerged into the reception room, shook Heller’s hand and suggested: “Would you mind stepping into the drafting room, Mr. Heller? Better light in there, you know, and the sketch is all ready for you, and I didn’t want to take the chance of moving it.”
Heller did not seem to mind. He followed Snyte obediently into the drafting room, a tall, broad- shouldered figure in English tweeds, with sandy hair and a square face drawn in countless creases around the ironical calm of the eyes.
The sketch lay on the Chinese artist’s table, and the artist stepped aside diffidently, in silence. The next table was Roark’s. He stood with his back to Heller; he went on with his drawing, and did not turn. The employees had been trained not to intrude on the occasions when Snyte brought a client into the drafting room.
Snyte’s fingertips lifted the tissue paper, as if raising the veil of a bride. Then he stepped back and watched Heller’s face. Heller bent down and stood hunched, drawn, intent, saying nothing for a long time.
“Listen, Mr. Snyte,” he began at last. “Listen, I think…” and stopped.
Snyte waited patiently, pleased, sensing the approach of something he didn’t want to disturb.
“This,” said Heller suddenly, loudly, slamming his fist down on the drawing, and Snyte winced, “this is the nearest anyone’s ever come to it!”
“I knew you’d like it, Mr. Heller,” said Snyte.
“I don’t,” said Heller. Snyte blinked and waited.
“It’s so near somehow,” said Heller regretfully, “but it’s not right. I don’t know where, but it’s not. Do forgive me, if this sounds vague, but I like things at once or I don’t. I know that I wouldn’t be comfortable, for instance, with that entrance. It’s a lovely entrance, but you won’t even notice it because you’ve seen it so often.”
“Ah, but allow me to point out a few considerations, Mr. Heller. One wants to be modern, of course, but one wants to preserve the appearance of a home. A combination of stateliness and coziness, you understand, a very austere house like this must have a few softening touches. It is strictly correct architecturally.”
“No doubt,” said Heller. “I wouldn’t know about that. I’ve never been strictly correct in my life.” “Just let me explain this scheme and you’ll see that it’s…”
“I know,” said Heller wearily. “I know. I’m sure you’re right. Only…” His voice had a sound of the eagerness he wished he could feel. “Only, if it had some unity, some…some central idea…which is there and isn’t…if it seemed to live…which it doesn’t…It lacks something and it has too much….If it were cleaner, more clear-cut…what’s the word I’ve heard used?–if it were integrated….”
Roark turned. He was at the other side of the table. He seized the sketch, his hand flashed forward and a pencil ripped across the drawing, slashing raw black lines over the untouchable water-color. The lines blasted off the Ionic columns, the pediment, the entrance, the spire, the blinds, the bricks; they flung up two wings of stone; they rent the windows wide; they splintered the balcony and hurled a terrace over the sea.
It was being done before the others had grasped the moment when it began. Then Snyte jumped forward, but Heller seized his wrist and stopped him. Roark’s hand went on razing walls, splitting, rebuilding in furious strokes.
Roark threw his head up once, for a flash of a second, to look at Heller across the table. It was all the introduction they needed; it was like a handshake. Roark went on, and when he threw the pencil down, the house–as he had designed it–stood completed in an ordered pattern of black streaks. The performance had not lasted five minutes.
Snyte made an attempt at a sound. As Heller said nothing, Snyte felt free to whirl on Roark and scream: “You’re fired, God damn you! Get out of here! You’re fired!”
“We’re both fired,” said Austen Heller, winking to Roark. “Come on. Have you had any lunch? Let’s go some place. I want to talk to you.”
Roark went to his locker to get his hat and coat. The drafting room witnessed a stupefying act and all work stopped to watch it: Austen Heller picked up the sketch, folded it over four times, cracking the sacred cardboard, and slipped it into his pocket.
“But, Mr. Heller…” Snyte stammered, “let me explain…It’s perfectly all right if that’s what you want, we’ll do the sketch over…let me explain…”
“Not now,” said Heller. “Not now.” He added at the door: “I’ll send you a check.”
Then Heller was gone, and Roark with him; and the door, as Heller swung it shut behind them, sounded like the closing paragraph in one of Heller’s articles. Roark had not said a word.
In the softly lighted booth of the most expensive restaurant that Roark had ever entered, across the crystal and silver glittering between them, Heller was saying:
“…because that’s the house I want, because that’s the house I’ve always wanted. Can you build it for me, draw up the plans and supervise the construction?”
“Yes,” said Roark.
“How long will it take if we start at once?”
“About eight months.”
“I’ll have the house by late fall?”
“Just like that sketch?”
“Just like that.”
“Look, I have no idea what kind of a contract one makes with an architect and you must know, so draw up one and let my lawyer okay it this afternoon, will you?”
Heller studied the man who sat facing him. He saw the hand lying on the table before him. Heller’s awareness became focused on that hand. He saw the long fingers, the sharp joints, the prominent veins. He had the feeling that he was not hiring this man, but surrendering himself into his employment. “How old are you,” asked Heller, “whoever you are?”
“Twenty-six. Do you want any references?”
“Hell, no. I have them, here in my pocket. What’s your name?”
“Howard Roark.”
Heller produced a checkbook, spread it open on the table and reached for his fountain pen.
“Look,” he said, writing, “I’ll give you five hundred dollars on account. Get yourself an office or whatever you have to get, and go ahead.”
He tore off the check and handed it to Roark, between the tips of two straight fingers, leaning forward on his elbow, swinging his wrist in a sweeping curve. His eyes were narrowed, amused, watching Roark quizzically. But the gesture had the air of a salute.
The check was made out to “Howard Roark, Architect.”
HOWARD ROARK opened his own office.
It was one large room on the top of an old building, with a broad window high over the roofs. He could see the distant band of the Hudson at his window sill, with the small streaks of ships moving under his fingertips when he pressed them to the glass. He had a desk, two chairs, and a huge drafting table. The glass entrance door bore the words: “Howard Roark, Architect.” He stood in the hall for a long time, looking at the words. Then he went in, and slammed his door, he picked up a T-square from the table and flung it down again, as if throwing an anchor.
John Erik Snyte had objected. When Roark came to the office for his drawing instruments Snyte emerged into the reception room, shook his hand warmly and said: “Well, Roark! Well, how are you? Come in, come right in, I want to speak to you!”
And with Roark seated before his desk Snyte proceeded loudly:
”Look, fellow, I hope you’ve got sense enough not to hold it against me, anything that I
might’ve said yesterday. You know how it is, I lost my head a little, and it wasn’t what you did, but that you had to go and do it on that sketch, that sketch…well, never mind. No hard feelings?”
“No,” said Roark. “None at all.”
“Of course, you’re not fired. You didn’t take me seriously, did you? You can go right back to work here this very minute.”
“What for, Mr. Snyte?”
“What do you mean, what for? Oh, you’re thinking of the Heller house? But you’re not taking Heller seriously, are you? You saw how he is, that madman can change his mind sixty times a minute. He won’t really give you that commission, you know, it isn’t as simple as that, it isn’t being done that way.”
“We’ve signed the contract yesterday.”
“Oh, you have? Well, that’s splendid! Well, look, Roark, I’ll tell you what we’ll do: you bring the commission back to us and I’ll let you put your name on it with mine–‘John Erik Snyte & Howard Roark.’ And we’ll split the fee. That’s in addition to your salary–and you’re getting a raise, incidentally. Then we’ll have the same arrangement on any other commission you bring in. And…Lord, man, what are you laughing at?”
“Excuse me, Mr. Snyte. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t believe you understand,” said Snyte, bewildered. “Don’t you see? It’s your insurance. You don’t want to break loose just yet. Commissions won’t fall into your lap like this. Then what will you do? This way, you’ll have a steady job and you’ll be building toward independent practice, if that’s what you’re after. In four or five years, you’ll be ready to take the leap. That’s the way everybody does it. You see?”
”Then you agree?” “No.”
“But, good Lord, man, you’ve lost your mind! To set up alone now! Without experience, without connections, without…well, without anything at all! I never heard of such a thing. Ask anybody in the profession. See what they’ll tell you. It’s preposterous!”
”Listen. Roark, won’t you please listen?”
“I’ll listen if you want me to, Mr. Snyte. But I think I should tell you now that nothing you can say will make any difference. If you don’t mind that, I don’t mind listening.”
Snyte went on speaking for a long time and Roark listened, without objecting, explaining or answering.
“Well, if that’s how you are, don’t expect me to take you back when you find yourself on the pavement.”
“I don’t expect it, Mr. Snyte.”
“Don’t expect anyone else in the profession to take you in, after they hear what you’ve done to me.”
“I don’t expect that either.”
For a few days Snyte thought of suing Roark and Heller. But he decided against it, because
there was no precedent to follow under the circumstances: because Heller had paid him for his efforts, and the house had been actually designed by Roark; and because no one ever sued Austen Heller. The first visitor to Roark’s office was Peter Keating. He walked in, without warning, one noon, walked straight across the room and sat down on Roark’s desk, smiling gaily, spreading his arms wide in a sweeping gesture: “Well, Howard!” he said. “Well, fancy that!” He had not seen Roark for a year. “Hello, Peter,” said Roark.
“Your own office, your own name and everything! Already! Just imagine!” “Who told you, Peter?”
“Oh, one hears things. You wouldn’t expect me not to keep track of your career, now would you? You know what I’ve always thought of you. And I don’t have to tell you that I congratulate you and wish you the very best.”
“No, you don’t have to.”
“Nice place you got here. Light and roomy. Not quite as imposing as it should be, perhaps, but what can one expect at the beginning? And then, the prospects are uncertain, aren’t they, Howard?”
“It’s an awful chance that you’ve taken.”
“Are you really going to go through with it? I mean, on your
“Looks that way, doesn’t it?”
“Well, it’s not too late, you know. I thought, when I heard the story, that you’d surely turn it over to Snyte and make a smart deal with him.”
“I didn’t.”
”Aren’t you really going to?” “No.”
Keating wondered why he should experience that sickening feeling of resentment; why he had come here hoping to find the story untrue, hoping to find Roark uncertain and willing to surrender. That feeling had haunted him ever since he’d heard the news about Roark; the sensation of something unpleasant that remained after he’d forgotten the cause. The feeling would come back to him, without reason, a blank wave of anger, and he would ask himself: now what the hell?–what was it I heard today? Then he would remember: Oh, yes, Roark– Roark’s opened his own office. He would ask himself impatiently: So what?–and know at the same time that the words were painful to face, and humiliating like an insult.
“You know, Howard, I admire your courage. Really, you know, I’ve had much more experience and I’ve got more of a standing in the profession, don’t mind my saying it–I’m only speaking objectively–but I wouldn’t dare take such a step.”
“No, you wouldn’t.”
“So you’ve made the jump first. Well, well. Who would have thought it?…I wish you all the luck in the world.”
“Thank you, Peter.”
”I know you’ll succeed. I’m sure of it.”
“Are you?”
“Of course! Of course, I am. Aren’t you?”
“I haven’t thought of it.”
“You haven’t thought of it?”
“Not much.”
“Then you’re not sure, Howard? You aren’t?”
“Why do you ask that so eagerly?”
“What? Why…no, not eagerly, but of course, I’m concerned, Howard, it’s bad psychology not to be certain now, in your position. So you have doubts?”
“None at all.”
“But you said…”
“I’m quite sure of things, Peter.”
“Have you thought about getting your registration?”
“I’ve applied for it.”
“You’ve got no college degree, you know. They’ll make it difficult for you at the examination.”
“What are you going to do if you don’t get the license?”
“I’ll get it.”
“Well, I guess I’ll be seeing you now at the A.G.A., if you don’t go high hat on me, because you’ll be a full-fledged member and I’m only a junior.”
“I’m not joining the A.G.A.”
“What do you mean, you’re not joining? You’re eligible now.”
“You’ll be invited to join.”
“Tell them not to bother.”
“You know, Peter, we had a conversation just like this seven years ago, when you tried to talk me into joining your fraternity at Stanton. Don’t start it again.”
“You won’t join the A.G.A. when you have a chance to?” “I won’t join anything, Peter, at any time.”
”But don’t you realize how it helps?”
”In what?”
“In being an architect.”
“I don’t like to be helped in being an architect.” “You’re just making things harder for yourself.” “I am.”
”And it will be plenty hard, you know.”
“I know.”
”You’ll make enemies of them if you refuse such an invitation.” “I’ll make enemies of them anyway.”
The first person to whom Roark had told the news was Henry Cameron. Roark went to New Jersey the day after he signed the contract with Heller. It had rained and he found Cameron in the garden, shuffling slowly down the damp paths, leaning heavily on a cane. In the past winter, Cameron had improved enough to walk a few hours each day. He walked with effort, his body bent.
He looked at the first shoots of green on the earth under his feet. He lifted his cane, once in a while, bracing his legs to stand firm for a moment; with the tip of the cane, he touched a folded green cup and watched it spill a glistening drop in the twilight. He saw Roark coming up the hill, and frowned. He had seen Roark only a week ago, and because these visits meant too much to both of them, neither wished the occasion to be too frequent.
“Well?” Cameron asked gruffly. “What do you want here again?” “I have something to tell you.”
”It can wait.”
”I don’t think so.”
“W ell?”
”I’m opening my own office. I’ve just signed for my first building.”
Cameron rotated his cane, the tip pressed into the earth, the shaft describing a wide circle, his two hands bearing down on the handle, the palm of one on the back of the other. His head nodded slowly, in rhythm with the motion, for a long time, his eyes closed. Then he looked at Roark and said:
“Well, don’t brag about it.”
He added: “Help me to sit down.” It was the first time Cameron had ever pronounced this sentence; his sister and Roark had long since learned that the one outrage forbidden in his presence was any intention of helping him to move.
Roark took his elbow and led him to a bench. Cameron asked harshly, staring ahead at the sunset:
“What? For whom? How much?”
He listened silently to Roark’s story. He looked for a long time at the sketch on cracked cardboard with the pencil lines over the watercolor. Then he asked many questions about the stone, the steel, the roads, the contractors, the costs. He offered no congratulations. He made no comment.
Only when Roark was leaving, Cameron said suddenly:
”Howard, when you open your office, take snapshots of it–and show them to me.”
Then he shook his head, looked away guiltily, and swore. “I’m being senile. Forget it.”
Roark said nothing.
Three days later he came back. “You’re getting to be a nuisance,” said Cameron. Roark handed him an envelope, without a word. Cameron looked at the snapshots, at the one of the broad, bare office, of the wide window, of the entrance door. He dropped the others, and held the one of the entrance door for a long time.
“Well,” he said at last, “I did live to see it.”
He dropped the snapshot.
“Not quite exactly,” he added. “Not in the way I had wanted to, but I did. It’s like the shadows some say we’ll see of the earth in that other world. Maybe that’s how I’ll see the rest of it. I’m learning.”
He picked up the snapshot. “Howard,” he said. “Look at it.” He held it between them.
“It doesn’t say much. Only ‘Howard Roark, Architect.’ But it’s like those mottoes men carved over the entrance of a castle and died for. It’s a challenge in the face of something so vast and so dark, that all the pain on earth–and do you know how much suffering there is on earth?–all the pain comes from that thing you are going to face. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know why it should be unleashed against you. I know only that it will be. And I know that if you carry these words through to the end, it will be a victory, Howard, not just for you, but for something that should win, that moves the world–and never wins acknowledgment. It will vindicate so many who have fallen before you, who have suffered as you will suffer. May God bless you–or whoever it is that is alone to see the best, the highest possible to human hearts. You’re on your way into hell, Howard.”
Roark walked up the path to the top of the cliff where the steel hulk of the Heller house rose into a blue sky. The skeleton was up and the concrete was being poured; the great mats of the terraces hung over the silver sheet of water quivering far below; plumbers and electricians had started laying their conduits.
He looked at the squares of sky delimited by the slender lines of girders and columns, the empty cubes of space he had torn out of the sky. His hands moved involuntarily, filling in the planes of walls to come, enfolding the future rooms. A stone clattered from under his feet and went bouncing down the hill, resonant drops of sound rolling in the sunny clarity of the summer air.
He stood on the summit, his legs planted wide apart, leaning back against space. He looked at the materials before him, the knobs of rivets in steel, the sparks in blocks of stone, the weaving spirals in fresh, yellow planks.
Then he saw a husky figure enmeshed in electric wires, a bulldog face spreading into a huge grin and china-blue eyes gloating in a kind of unholy triumph.
“Mike!” he said incredulously.
Mike had left for a big job in Philadelphia months ago, long before the appearance of Heller in Snyte’s office, and Mike had never heard the news–or so he supposed.
“Hello, Red,” said Mike, much too casually, and added: “Hello, boss.”
“Mike, how did you…?”
“You’re a hell of an architect. Neglecting the job like that. It’s my third day here, waiting for you to show up.”
“Mike, how did you get here? Why such a come-down?” He had never known Mike to bother with small private residences.
“Don’t play the sap. You know how I got here. You didn’t think I’d miss it, your first house, did you? And you think it’s a come-down? Well, maybe it is. And maybe it’s the other way around.”
Roark extended his hand and Mike’s grimy fingers closed about it ferociously, as if the smudges he left implanted in Roark’s skin said everything he wanted to say. And because he was afraid that he might say it, Mike growled:
“Run along, boss, run along. Don’t clog up the works like that.”
Roark walked through the house. There were moments when he could be precise, impersonal, and stop to give instructions as if this were not his house but only a mathematical problem; when he felt the existence of pipes and rivets, while his own person vanished.
There were moments when something rose within him, not a thought nor a feeling, but a wave of some physical violence, and then he wanted to stop, to lean back, to feel the reality of his person heightened by the frame of steel that rose dimly about the bright, outstanding existence of his body as its center. He did not stop. He went on calmly. But his hands betrayed what he wanted to hide. His hands reached out, ran slowly down the beams and joints. The workers in the house had noticed it. They said: “That guy’s in love with the thing. He can’t keep his hands off.”
The workers liked him. The contractor’s superintendents did not. He had had trouble in finding a contractor to erect the house. Several of the better firms had refused the commission. “We don’t do that kinda stuff.”
“Nan, we won’t bother. Too complicated for a small job like that.”
“Who the hell wants that kind of house? Most likely we’ll never collect from the crank afterwards. To hell with it.”
“Never did anything like it. Wouldn’t know how to go about it. I’ll stick to construction that is construction.” One contractor had looked at the plans briefly and thrown them aside, declaring with finality: “It won’t stand.”
“It will,” said Roark. The contractor drawled indifferently. “Yeah? And who are you to tell me, Mister?”
He had found a small firm that needed the work and undertook it, charging more than the job warranted–on the ground of the chance they were taking with a queer experiment. The construction went on, and the foremen obeyed sullenly, in disapproving silence, as if they were waiting for their predictions to come true and would be glad when the house collapsed about their heads. Roark had bought an old Ford and drove down to the job more often than was necessary. It was difficult to sit at a desk in his office, to stand at a table, forcing himself to stay away from the construction site. At the site there were moments when he wished to forget his office and his drawing board, to seize the men’s tools and go to work on the actual erection of the house, as he had worked in his childhood, to build that house with his own hands.
He walked through the structure, stepping lightly over piles of planks and coils of wire, he made notes, he gave brief orders in a harsh voice. He avoided looking in Mike’s direction. But Mike was watching him, following his progress through the house. Mike winked at him in understanding, whenever he passed by. Mike said once:
“Control yourself, Red. You’re open like a book. God, it’s indecent to be so happy!”
Roark stood on the cliff, by the structure, and looked at the countryside, at the long, gray ribbon of the road twisting past along the shore. An open car drove by, fleeing into the country. The car was overfilled with people bound for a picnic. There was a jumble of bright sweaters, and scarves fluttering in the wind; a jumble of voices shrieking without purpose over the roar of the motor, and overstressed hiccoughs of laughter; a girl sat sidewise, her legs flung over the side of the car; she wore a man’s straw hat slipping down to her nose and she yanked savagely at the strings of a ukulele, ejecting raucous sounds, yelling “Hey!” These people were enjoying a day of their existence; they were shrieking to the sky their release from the work and the burdens of the days behind them; they had worked and carried the burdens in order to reach a goal–and this was the goal.
He looked at the car as it streaked past. He thought that there was a difference, some important difference, between the consciousness of this day in him and in them. He thought that he should try to grasp it. But he forgot. He was looking at a truck panting up the hill, loaded with a glittering mound of cut granite.
Austen Heller came to look at the house frequently, and watched it grow, curious, still a little astonished. He studied Roark and the house with the same meticulous scrutiny; he felt as if he could not quite tell them apart.
Heller, the fighter against compulsion, was baffled by Roark, a man so impervious to compulsion that he became a kind of compulsion himself, an ultimatum against things Heller could not define. Within a week, Heller knew that he had found the best friend he would ever have; and he knew that the friendship came from Roark’s fundamental indifference. In the deeper reality of Roark’s existence there was no consciousness of Heller, no need for Heller, no appeal, no demand. Heller felt a line drawn, which he could not touch; beyond that line, Roark asked nothing of him and granted him nothing. But when Roark looked at him with approval, when Roark smiled, when Roark praised one of his articles, Heller felt the strangely clean joy of a sanction that was neither a bribe nor alms.
In the summer evenings they sat together on a ledge halfway up the hill, and talked while darkness mounted slowly up the beams of the house above them, the last sunrays retreating to the tips of the steel uprights.
“What is it that I like so much about the house you’re building for me, Howard?” “A house can have integrity, just like a person,” said Roark, “and just as seldom.” “In what way?”
“Well, look at it. Every piece of it is there because the house needs it–and for no other reason. You see it from here as it is inside. The rooms in which you’ll live made the shape. The relation of masses was determined by the distribution of space within. The ornament was determined by the method of construction, an emphasis of the principle that makes it stand. You can see each stress, each support that meets it. Your own eyes go through a structural process when you look at the house, you can follow each step, you see it rise, you know what made it and why it stands. But you’ve seen buildings with columns that support nothing, with purposeless cornices, with pilasters, moldings, false arches, false windows. You’ve seen buildings that look as if they contained a single large hall, they have solid columns and single, solid windows six floors high. But you enter and find six stories inside. Or buildings that contain a single hall, but with a facade cut up into floor lines, band courses, tiers of windows. Do you understand the difference? Your house is made by its own needs. Those others are made by the need to impress. The determining motive of your house is in the house. The determining motive of the others is in the audience.”
“Do you know that that’s what I’ve felt in a way? I’ve felt that when I move into this house, I’ll have a new sort of existence, and even my simple daily routine will have a kind of honesty or dignity that I can’t quite define. Don’t be astonished if I tell you that I feel as if I’ll have to live up to that house.”
“I intended that,” said Roark.
“And, incidentally, thank you for all the thought you seem to have taken about my comfort. There are so many things I notice that had never occurred to me before, but you’ve planned them as if you knew all my needs. For instance, my study is the room I’ll need most and you’ve given it the dominant spot–and, incidentally, I see where you’ve made it the dominant mass from the outside, too. And then the way it connects with the library, and the living room well out of my way, and the guest rooms where I won’t hear too much of them–and all that. You were very considerate of me.”
“You know,” said Roark. “I haven’t thought of you at all. I thought of the house.” He added: “Perhaps that’s why I knew how to be considerate of you.”
The Heller house was completed in November of 1926.
In January of 1927 the Architectural Tribune published a survey of the best American homes erected during the past year. It devoted twelve large, glossy pages to photographs of the twenty-four houses its editors had selected as the worthiest architectural achievements. The Heller house was not mentioned.
The real-estate sections of the New York papers presented, each Sunday, brief accounts of the notable new residences in the vicinity. There was no account of the Heller house.
The year book of the Architects’ Guild of America, which presented magnificent reproductions of what it chose as the best buildings of the country, under the title “Looking Forward,” gave no reference to the Heller house.
There were many occasions when lecturers rose to platforms and addressed trim audiences on the subject of the progress of American architecture. No one spoke of the Heller house.
In the club rooms of the A.G.A. some opinions were expressed.
“It’s a disgrace to the country,” said Ralston Holcombe, “that a thing like that Heller house is allowed to be erected. It’s a blot on the profession. There ought to be a law.”
“That’s what drives clients away,” said John Erik Snyte. “They see a house like that and they think all architects are crazy.”
“I see no cause for indignation,” said Gordon L. Prescott. “I think it’s screamingly funny. It looks like a cross between a filling station and a comic-strip idea of a rocket ship to the moon.”
“You watch it in a couple of years,” said Eugene Pettingill, “and see what happens. The thing’ll collapse like a house of cards.”
“Why speak in terms of years?” said Guy Francon. “Those modernistic stunts never last more than a season. The owner will get good and sick of it and he’ll come running home to a good old early Colonial.”
The Heller house acquired fame throughout the countryside surrounding it. People drove out of their way to park on the road before it, to stare, point and giggle. Gas-station attendants snickered when Heller’s car drove past. Heller’s cook had to endure the derisive glances of shopkeepers when she went on her errands. The Heller house was known in the neighborhood as “The Booby Hatch.”
Peter Keating told his friends in the profession, with an indulgent smile: “Now, now, you shouldn’t say that about him. I’ve known Howard Roark for a long time, and he’s got quite a talent, quite. He’s even worked for me once. He’s just gone haywire on that house. He’ll learn. He has a future….Oh, you don’t think he has? You really don’t think he has?”
Ellsworth M. Toohey, who let no stone spring from the ground of America without his comment, did not know that the Heller house had been erected, as far as his column was concerned. He did not consider it necessary to inform his readers about it, if only to damn it. He said nothing.
A COLUMN entitled “Observations and Meditations” by Alvah Scarret appeared daily on the front page of the New York Banner. It was a trusted guide, a source of inspiration and a molder of public philosophy in small towns throughout the country. In this column there had appeared, years ago, the famous statement: “We’d all be a heap sight better off if we’d forget the highfalutin notions of our fancy civilization and mind more what the savages knew long before us: to honor our mother.” Alvah Scarret was a bachelor, had made two millions dollars, played golf expertly and was editor-in-chief of the Wynand papers.
It was Alvah Scarret who conceived the idea of the campaign against living conditions in the slums and “Landlord Sharks,” which ran in the Banner for three weeks. This was material such as Alvah Scarret relished. It had human appeal and social implications. It lent itself to Sunday-supplement illustrations of girls leaping into rivers, their skirts flaring well above their knees. It boosted circulation. It embarrassed the sharks who owned a stretch of blocks by the East River, selected as the dire example of the campaign. The sharks had refused to sell these blocks to an obscure real-estate company; at the end of the campaign they surrendered and sold. No one could prove that the real-estate company was owned by a company owned by Gail Wynand.
The Wynand papers could not be left without a campaign for long. They had just concluded one on the subject of modern aviation. They had run scientific accounts of the history of aviation in the Sunday Family Magazine supplement, with pictures ranging from Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of flying machines to the latest bomber; with the added attraction of Icarus writhing in scarlet flames, his nude body blue-green, his wax wings yellow and the smoke purple; also of a leprous hag with flaming eyes and a crystal ball, who had predicted in the XIth century that man would fly; also of bats, vampires and werewolves.
They had run a model plane construction contest; it was open to all boys under the age of ten who wished to send in three new subscriptions to the Banner. Gail Wynand, who was a licensed pilot, had made a solo flight from Los Angeles to New York, establishing a transcontinental speed record, in a small, specially built craft costing one hundred thousand dollars. He had made a slight miscalculation on reaching New York and had been forced to land in a rocky pasture; it had been a hair-raising landing, faultlessly executed; it had just so happened that a battery of photographers from the Banner were present in the neighborhood. Gail Wynand had stepped out of the plane. An ace pilot would have been shaken by the experience. Gail Wynand had stood before the cameras, an immaculate gardenia in the lapel of his flying jacket, his hand raised with a cigarette held between two fingers that did not tremble. When questioned about his first wish on returning to earth, he had expressed the desire to kiss the most attractive woman present, had chosen the dowdiest old hag from the crowd and bent to kiss her gravely on the forehead, explaining that she reminded him of his mother.
Later, at the start of the slum campaign, Gail Wynand had said to Alvah Scarret; “Go ahead. Squeeze all you can out of the thing,” and had departed on his yacht for a world cruise, accompanied by an enchanting aviatrix of twenty-four to whom he had made a present of his transcontinental plane.
Alvah Scarret went ahead. Among many other steps of his campaign he assigned Dominique Francon to investigate the condition of homes in the slums and to gather human material. Dominique Francon had just returned from a summer in Biarritz; she always took a whole summer’s vacation and Alvah Scarret granted it, because she was one of his favorite employees, because he was baffled by her and because he knew that she could quit her job whenever she pleased.
Dominique Francon went to live for two weeks in the hall bedroom of an East-Side tenement. The room had a skylight, but no windows; there were five flights of stairs to climb and no running water. She cooked her own meals in the kitchen of a numerous family on the floor below; she visited neighbors, she sat on the landings of fire escapes in the evenings and went to dime movies with the girls of the neighborhood.
She wore frayed skirts and blouses. The abnormal fragility of her normal appearance made her look exhausted with privation in these surroundings; the neighbors felt certain that she had TB. But she moved as she had moved in the drawing room of Kiki Holcombe–with the same cold poise and confidence. She scrubbed the floor of her room, she peeled potatoes, she bathed in a tin pan of cold water. She had never done these things before; she did them expertly. She had a capacity for action, a competence that clashed incongruously with her appearance. She did not mind this new background; she was indifferent to the slums as she had been indifferent to the drawing rooms.
At the end of two weeks she returned to her penthouse apartment on the roof of a hotel over Central Park, and her articles on life in the slums appeared in the Banner. They were a merciless, brilliant account.
She heard baffled questions at a dinner party. “My dear, you didn’t actually write those things?”
“Dominique, you didn’t really live in that place?”
“Oh, yes,” she answered. “The house you own on East Twelfth Street, Mrs. Palmer,” she said, her hand circling lazily from under the cuff of an emerald bracelet too broad and heavy for her thin wrist, “has a sewer that gets clogged every other day and runs over, all through the courtyard. It looks blue and purple in the sun, like a rainbow.”
“The block you control for the Claridge estate, Mr. Brooks, has the most attractive stalactites growing on all the ceilings,” she said, her golden head leaning to her corsage of white gardenias with drops of water sparkling on the lusterless petals.
She was asked to speak at a meeting of social workers. It was an important meeting, with a militant, radical mood, led by some of the most prominent women in the field. Alvah Scarret was pleased and gave her his blessing. “Go to it, kid,” he said, “lay it on thick. We want the social workers.” She stood in the speaker’s pulpit of an unaired hall and looked at a flat sheet of faces, faces lecherously eager with the sense of their own virtue. She spoke evenly, without inflection. She said, among many other things: “The family on the first floor rear do not bother to pay their rent, and the children cannot go to school for lack of clothes. The father has a charge account at a corner speak-easy. He is in good health and has a good job….The couple on the second floor have just purchased a radio for sixty-nine dollars and ninety-five cents cash. In the fourth floor front, the father of the family has not done a whole day’s work in his life, and does not intend to. There are nine children, supported by the local parish. There is a tenth one on its way…” When she finished there were a few claps of angry applause. She raised her hand and said: “You don’t have to applaud. I don’t expect it.” She asked politely: “Are there any questions?” There were no questions.
When she returned home she found Alvah Scarret waiting for her. He looked incongruous in the drawing room of her penthouse, his huge bulk perched on the edge of a delicate chair, a hunched gargoyle against the glowing spread of the city beyond a solid wall of glass. The city was like a mural designed to illuminate and complete the room: the fragile lines of spires on a black sky continued the fragile lines of the furniture; the lights glittering in distant windows threw reflections on the bare, lustrous floor; the cold precision of the angular structures outside answered the cold, inflexible grace of every object within. Alvah Scarret broke the harmony. He looked like a kindly country doctor and like a cardsharp. His heavy face bore the benevolent, paternal smile that had always been his passkey and his trademark. He had the knack of making the kindliness of his smile add to, not detract from his solemn appearance of dignity; his long, thin, hooked nose did detract from the kindliness, but it added to the dignity; his stomach, cantilevered over his legs, did detract from the dignity, but it added to the kindliness. He rose, beamed and held Dominique’s hand. “Thought I’d drop in on my way home,” he said. “I’ve got something to tell you. How did it go, kid?”
“As I expected it.”
She tore her hat off and threw it down on the first chair in sight. Her hair slanted in a flat curve across her forehead and fell in a straight line to her shoulders; it looked smooth and tight, like a bathing cap of pale, polished metal. She walked to the window and stood looking out over the city. She asked without turning: “What did you want to tell me?”
Alvah Scarret watched her pleasurably. He had long since given up any attempts beyond holding her hand when not necessary or patting her shoulder; he had stopped thinking of the subject, but he had a dim, half-conscious feeling which he summed up to himself in the words: You never can tell.
“I’ve got good news for you, child,” he said. “I’ve been working out a little scheme, just a bit of reorganization, and I’ve figured where I’ll consolidate a few things together into a Women’s Welfare Department. You know, the schools, the home economics, the care of babies, the juvenile delinquents and all the rest of it–all to be under one head. And I see no better woman for the job than my little girl.”
“Do you mean me?” she asked, without turning.
“No one else but. Just as soon as Gail comes back, I’ll get his okay.”
She turned and looked at him, her arms crossed, her hands holding her elbows. She said:
“Thank you, Alvah. But I don’t want it.”
“What do you mean, you don’t want it?”
“I mean that I don’t want it.”
“For heaven’s sake, do you realize what an advance that would be?”
“Toward what?”
“Your career.”
“I never said I was planning a career.”
“But you don’t want to be running a dinky back-page column forever!”
“Not forever. Until I get bored with it.”
“But think of what you could do in the real game! Think of what Gail could do for you once you come to his attention!”
“I have no desire to come to his attention.”
“But, Dominique, we need you. The women will be for you solid after tonight.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why, I’ve ordered two columns held for a yarn on the meeting and your speech.”
She reached for the telephone and handed the receiver to him. She said:
“You’d better tell them to kill it.”
She searched through a litter of papers on a desk, found some typewritten sheets and handed them to him. “Here’s the speech I made tonight,” she said.
He glanced through it. He said nothing, but clasped his forehead once. Then he seized the telephone and gave orders to run as brief an account of the meeting as possible, and not to mention the speaker by name.
“All right,” said Dominique, when he dropped the receiver. “Am I fired?” He shook his head dolefully. “Do you want to be?”
“Not necessarily.”
“I’ll squash the business,” he muttered. “I’ll keep it from Gail.”
“If you wish. I don’t really care one way or the other.”
“Listen, Dominique–oh I know, I’m not to ask any questions–only why on earth are you always doing things like that?”
“For no reason on earth.”
“Look, you know, I’ve heard about that swank dinner where you made certain remarks on this same subject. And then you go and say things like these at a radical meeting.”
“They’re true, though, both sides of it, aren’t they?”
”Oh, sure, but couldn’t you have reversed the occasions when you chose to express them?” “There wouldn’t have been any point in that.”
”Was there any in what you’ve done?”
”No. None at all. But it amused me.”
“I can’t figure you out, Dominique. You’ve done it before. You go along so beautifully, you do brilliant work and just when you’re about to make a real step forward–you spoil it by pulling something like this. Why?”
“Perhaps that is precisely why.”
“Will you tell me–as a friend, because I like you and I’m interested in you–what are you really after?”
“I should think that’s obvious. I’m after nothing at all.” He spread his hands open, shrugging helplessly. She smiled gaily.
“What is there to look so mournful about? I like you, too, Alvah, and I’m interested in you. I even like to talk to you, which is better. Now sit still and relax and I’ll get you a drink. You need a drink, Alvah.”
She brought him a frosted glass with ice cubes ringing in the silence. “You’re just a nice child, Dominique,” he said.
“Of course. That’s what I am.”
She sat down on the edge of a table, her hands flat behind her, leaning back on two straight arms, swinging her legs slowly. She said:
“You know, Alvah, it would be terrible if I had a job I really wanted.”
”Well, of all things! Well, of all fool things to say! What do you mean?”
”Just that. That it would be terrible to have a job I enjoyed and did not want to lose.” “Why?”
“Because I would have to depend on you–you’re a wonderful person, Alvah, but not exactly inspiring and I don’t think it would be beautiful to cringe before a whip in your hand–oh, don’t protest, it would be such a polite little whip, and that’s what would make it uglier. I would have
to depend on our boss Gail–he’s a great man, I’m sure, only I’d just as soon never set eyes on him.”
“Whatever gives you such a crazy attitude? When you know that Gail and I would do anything for you, and I personally…”
“It’s not only that, Alvah. It’s not you alone. If I found a job, a project, an idea or a person I wanted–I’d have to depend on the whole world. Everything has strings leading to everything else. We’re all so tied together. We’re all in a net, the net is waiting, and we’re pushed into it by one single desire. You want a thing and it’s precious to you. Do you know who is standing ready to tear it out of your hands? You can’t know, it may be so involved and so far away, but someone is ready, and you’re afraid of them all. And you cringe and you crawl and you beg and you accept them–just so they’ll let you keep it. And look at whom you come to accept.”
“If I’m correct in gathering that you’re criticizing mankind in general…”
“You know, it’s such a peculiar thing–our idea of mankind in general. We all have a sort of vague, glowing picture when we say that, something solemn, big and important. But actually all we know of it is the people we meet in our lifetime. Look at them. Do you know any you’d feel big and solemn about? There’s nothing but housewives haggling at pushcarts, drooling brats who write dirty words on the sidewalks, and drunken debutantes. Or their spiritual equivalent. As a matter of fact, one can feel some respect for people when they suffer. They have a certain dignity. But have you ever looked at them when they’re enjoying themselves? That’s when you see the truth. Look at those who spend the money they’ve slaved for–at amusement parks and side shows. Look at those who’re rich and have the whole world open to them. Observe what they pick out for enjoyment. Watch them in the smarter speak-easies. That’s your mankind in general. I don’t want to touch it.”
“But hell! That’s not the way to look at it. That’s not the whole picture. There’s some good in the worst of us. There’s always a redeeming feature.”
“So much the worse. Is it an inspiring sight to see a man commit a heroic gesture, and then learn that he goes to vaudeville shows for relaxation? Or see a man who’s painted a magnificent canvas–and learn that he spends his time sleeping with every slut he meets?”
“What do you want? Perfection?”
”–or nothing. So, you see, I take the nothing.”
”That doesn’t make sense.”
”I take the only desire one can really permit oneself. Freedom, Alvah, freedom.” “You call that freedom?”
”To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”
”What if you found something you wanted?”
“I won’t find it. I won’t choose to see it. It would be part of that lovely world of yours. I’d have to share it with all the rest of you–and I wouldn’t. You know, I never open again any great book I’ve read and loved. It hurts me to think of the other eyes that have read it and of what they were. Things like that can’t be shared. Not with people like that.”
“Dominique, it’s abnormal to feel so strongly about anything.” “That’s the only way I can feel. Or not at all.”
“Dominique, my dear,” he said, with earnest, sincere concern, “I wish I’d been your father. What kind of a tragedy did you have in your childhood?”
“Why, none at all. I had a wonderful childhood. Free and peaceful and not bothered too much by anybody. Well, yes, I did feel bored very often. But I’m used to that.”
“I suppose you’re just an unfortunate product of our times. That’s what I’ve always said. We’re too cynical, too decadent. If we went back in all humility to the simple virtues…”
“Alvah, how can you start on that stuff? That’s only for your editorials and…” She stopped, seeing his eyes; they looked puzzled and a little hurt. Then she laughed. “I’m wrong. You really do believe all that. If it’s actually believing, or whatever it is you do that takes its place. Oh, Alvah! That’s why I love you. That’s why I’m doing again right now what I did tonight at the meeting.”
“What?” he asked, bewildered.
“Talking as I am talking–to you as you are. It’s nice, talking to you about such things. Do you know, Alvah, that primitive people made statues of their gods in man’s likeness? Just think of what a statue of you would look like–of you nude, your stomach and all.”
“Now what’s that in relation to?”
“To nothing at all, darling. Forgive me.” She added: “You know, I love statues of naked men. Don’t look so silly. I said statues. I had one in particular. It was supposed to be Helios. I got it out of a museum in Europe. I had a terrible time getting it–it wasn’t for sale, of course. I think I was in love with it, Alvah. I brought it home with me.”
“Where is it? I’d like to see something you like, for a change.” “It’s broken.”
”Broken? A museum piece? How did that happen?”
”I broke it.”
“I threw it down the air shaft. There’s a concrete floor below.”
“Are you totally crazy? Why?”
“So that no one else would ever see it.”
She jerked her head, as if to shake off the subject; the straight mass of her hair stirred in a heavy ripple, like a wave through a half-liquid pool of mercury. She said:
“I’m sorry, darling. I didn’t want to shock you. I thought I could speak to you because you’re the one person who’s impervious to any sort of shock. I shouldn’t have. It’s no use, I guess.”
She jumped lightly off the table.
“Run on home, Alvah,” she said. “It’s getting late. I’m tired. See you tomorrow.” #
Guy Francon read his daughter’s articles; he heard of the remarks she had made at the reception and at the meeting of social workers. He understood nothing of it, but he understood that it had been precisely the sequence of events to expect from his daughter. It preyed on his mind, with the bewildered feeling of apprehension which the thought of her always brought him. He asked himself whether he actually hated his daughter.
But one picture came back to his mind, irrelevantly, whenever he asked himself that question. It was a picture of her childhood, of a day from some forgotten summer on his country estate in Connecticut long ago. He had forgotten the rest of that day and what had led to the one moment he remembered. But he remembered how he stood on the terrace and saw her leaping over a high green hedge at the end of the lawn. The hedge seemed too high for her
little body; he had time to think that she could not make it, in the very moment when he saw her flying triumphantly over the green barrier. He could not remember the beginning nor the end of that leap; but he still saw, clearly and sharply, as on a square of movie film cut out and held motionless forever, the one instant when her body hung in space, her long legs flung wide, her thin arms thrown up, hands braced against the air, her white dress and blond hair spread in two broad, flat mats on the wind, a single moment, the flash of a small body in the greatest burst of ecstatic freedom he had ever witnessed in his life.
He did not know why that moment remained with him, what significance, unheeded at the time, had preserved it for him when so much else of greater import had been lost. He did not know why he had to see that moment again whenever he felt bitterness for his daughter, nor why, seeing it, he felt that unbearable twinge of tenderness. He told himself merely that his paternal affection was asserting itself quite against his will. But in an awkward, unthinking way he wanted to help her, not knowing, not wanting to know what she had to be helped against.
So he began to look more frequently at Peter Keating. He began to accept the solution which he never quite admitted to himself. He found comfort in the person of Peter Keating, and he felt that Keating’s simple, stable wholesomeness was just the support needed by the unhealthy inconstancy of his daughter.
Keating would not admit that he had tried to see Dominique again, persistently and without results. He had obtained her telephone number from Francon long ago, and he had called her often. She had answered, and laughed gaily, and told him that of course she’d see him, she knew she wouldn’t be able to escape it, but she was so busy for weeks to come and would he give her a ring by the first of next month?
Francon guessed it. He told Keating he would ask Dominique to lunch and bring them together again. “That is,” he added, “I’ll try to ask her. She’ll refuse, of course.” Dominique surprised him again: she accepted, promptly and cheerfully.
She met them at a restaurant, and she smiled as if this were a reunion she welcomed. She talked gaily, and Keating felt enchanted, at ease, wondering why he had ever feared her. At the end of a half hour she looked at Francon and said:
“It was wonderful of you to take time off to see me, Father. Particularly when you’re so busy and have so many appointments.”
Francon’s face assumed a look of consternation. “My God, Dominique, that reminds me!”
“You have an appointment you forgot?” she asked gently. “Confound it, yes! It slipped my mind entirely. Old Andrew Colson phoned this morning and I forgot to make a note of it and he insisted on seeing me at two o’clock, you know how it is, I just simply can’t refuse to see Andrew Colson, confound it!–today of all…” He added, suspiciously: “How did you know it?”
“Why, I didn’t know it at all. It’s perfectly all right, Father. Mr. Keating and I will excuse you, and we’ll have a lovely luncheon together, and I have no appointments at all for the day, so you don’t have to be afraid that I’ll escape from him.”
Francon wondered whether she knew that that had been the excuse he’d prepared in advance in order to leave her alone with Keating. He could not be sure. She was looking straight at him; her eyes seemed just a bit too candid. He was glad to escape.
Dominique turned to Keating with a glance so gentle that it could mean nothing but contempt.
“Now let’s relax,” she said. “We both know what Father is after, so it’s perfectly all right. Don’t let it embarrass you. It doesn’t embarrass me. It’s nice that you’ve got Father on a leash. But I know it’s not helpful to you to have him pulling ahead of the leash. So let’s forget it and eat our lunch.”
He wanted to rise and walk out; and knew, in furious helplessness, that he wouldn’t. She said:
“Don’t frown, Peter. You might as well call me Dominique, because we’ll come to that anyway, sooner or later. I’ll probably see a great deal of you, I see so many people, and if it will please
Father to have you as one of them–why not?”
For the rest of the luncheon she spoke to him as to an old friend, gaily and openly; with a disquieting candor which seemed to show that there was nothing to conceal, but showed that it was best to attempt no probe. The exquisite kindliness of her manner suggested that their relationship was of no possible consequence, that she could not pay him the tribute of hostility. He knew that he disliked her violently. But he watched the shape of her mouth, the movements of her lips framing words; he watched the way she crossed her legs, a gesture smooth and exact, like an expensive instrument being folded; and he could not escape the feeling of incredulous admiration he had experienced when he had seen her for the first time. When they were leaving, she said:
“Will you take me to the theater tonight, Peter? I don’t care what play, any one of them. Call for me after dinner. Tell Father about it. It will please him.”
“Though, of course, he should know better than to be pleased,” said Keating, “and so should I, but I’ll be delighted just the same, Dominique.”
“Why should you know better?”
“Because you have no desire to go to a theater or to see me tonight.”
“None whatever. I’m beginning to like you, Peter. Call for me at half past eight.”
When Keating returned to the office, Francon called him upstairs at once.
“Well?” Francon asked anxiously.
“What’s the matter, Guy?” said Keating, his voice innocent. “Why are you so concerned?”
“Well, I…I’m just…frankly, I’m interested to see whether you two could get together at all. I think you’d be a good influence for her. What happened?”
“Nothing at all. We had a lovely time. You know your restaurants–the food was wonderful…Oh, yes, I’m taking your daughter to a show tonight.”
”Why, yes.”
”How did you ever manage that?”
Keating shrugged. “I told you one mustn’t be afraid of Dominique.”
“I’m not afraid, but…Oh, is it ‘Dominique’ already? My congratulations, Peter….I’m not afraid, it’s only that I can’t figure her out. No one can approach her. She’s never had a single girl friend, not even in kindergarten. There’s always a mob around her, but never a friend. I don’t know what to think. There she is now, living all alone, always with a crowd of men around and…”
“Now, Guy, you mustn’t think anything dishonorable about your own daughter.”
“I don’t! That’s just the trouble–that I don’t. I wish I could. But she’s twenty-four, Peter, and she’s a virgin–I know, I’m sure of it. Can’t you tell just by looking at a woman? I’m no moralist, Peter, and I think that’s abnormal. It’s unnatural at her age, with her looks, with the kind of utterly unrestricted existence that she leads. I wish to God she’d get married. I honestly do….Well, now, don’t repeat that, of course, and don’t misinterpret it, I didn’t mean it as an invitation.”
“Of course not.”
“By the way, Peter, the hospital called while you were out. They said poor Lucius is much better. They think he’ll pull through.” Lucius N. Heyer had had a stroke, and Keating had
exhibited a great deal of concern for his progress, but had not gone to visit him at the hospital. “I’m so glad,” said Keating.
“But I don’t think he’ll ever be able to come back to work. He’s getting old, Peter….Yes, he’s getting old….One reaches an age when one can’t be burdened with business any longer.” He let a paper knife hang between two fingers and tapped it pensively against the edge of a desk calendar. “It happens to all of us, Peter, sooner or later….One must look ahead….”

Keating sat on the floor by the imitation logs in the fireplace of his living room, his hands clasped about his knees, and listened to his mother’s questions on what did Dominique look like, what did she wear, what had she said to him and how much money did he suppose her mother had actually left her.
He was meeting Dominique frequently now. He had just returned from an evening spent with her on a round of night clubs. She always accepted his invitations. He wondered whether her attitude was a deliberate proof that she could ignore him more completely by seeing him often than by refusing to see him. But each time he met her, he planned eagerly for the next meeting. He had not seen Catherine for a month. She was busy with research work which her uncle had entrusted to her, in preparation for a series of his lectures.
Mrs. Keating sat under a lamp, mending a slight tear in the lining of Peter’s dinner jacket, reproaching him, between questions, for sitting on the floor in his dress trousers and best formal shirt. He paid no attention to the reproaches or the questions. But under his bored annoyance he felt an odd sense of relief; as if the stubborn stream of her words were pushing him on and justifying him. He answered once in a while: “Yes….No….I don’t know….Oh, yes, she’s lovely. She’s very lovely….It’s awfully late, Mother. I’m tired. I think I’ll go to bed….” The doorbell rang.
“Well,” said Mrs. Keating. “What can that be, at this hour?” Keating rose, shrugging, and ambled to the door. It was Catherine. She stood, her two hands clasped on a large, old, shapeless pocketbook. She looked determined and hesitant at once. She drew back a little. She said: “Good evening, Peter. Can I come in? I’ve got to speak to you.”
“Katie! Of course! How nice of you! Come right in. Mother, it’s Katie.”
Mrs. Keating looked at the girl’s feet which stepped as if moving on the rolling deck of a ship; she looked at her son, and she knew that something had happened, to be handled with great caution.
“Good evening, Catherine,” she said softly.
Keating was conscious of nothing save the sudden stab of joy he had felt on seeing her; the joy told him that nothing had changed, that he was safe in certainty, that her presence resolved all doubts. He forgot to wonder about the lateness of the hour, about her first, uninvited appearance in his apartment.
“Good evening, Mrs. Keating,” she said, her voice bright and hollow. “I hope I’m not disturbing you, it’s late probably, is it?”
“Why, not at all, child,” said Mrs. Keating.
Catherine hurried to speak, senselessly, hanging on to the sound of words:
“I’ll just take my hat off….Where can I put it, Mrs. Keating? Here on the table? Would that be all right?…No, maybe I’d better put it on this bureau, though it’s a little damp from the street, the hat is, it might hurt the varnish, it’s a nice bureau, I hope it doesn’t hurt the varnish….”
“What’s the matter, Katie?” Keating asked, noticing at last.
She looked at him and he saw that her eyes were terrified. Her lips parted; she was trying to smile. “Katie!” he gasped. She said nothing. “Take your coat off. Come here, get yourself
warm by the fire.”
He pushed a low bench to the fireplace, he made her sit down. She was wearing a black sweater and an old black skirt, school-girlish house garments which she had not changed for her visit. She sat hunched, her knees drawn tight together. She said, her voice lower and more natural, with the first released sound of pain in it:
“You have such a nice place….So warm and roomy….Can you open the windows any time you want to?”
“Katie darling,” he said gently, “what happened?”
”Nothing. It’s not that anything really happened. Only I had to speak to you. Now. Tonight.” He looked at Mrs. Keating. “If you’d rather…”
“No. It’s perfectly all right. Mrs. Keating can hear it. Maybe it’s better if she hears it.” She turned to his mother and said very simply: “You see, Mrs. Keating, Peter and I are engaged.” She turned to him and added, her voice breaking: “Peter, I want to be married now, tomorrow, as soon as possible.”
Mrs. Keating’s hand descended slowly to her lap. She looked at Catherine, her eyes expressionless. She said quietly, with a dignity Keating had never expected of her:
“I didn’t know it, I am very happy, my dear.”
”You don’t mind? You really don’t mind at all?” Catherine asked desperately.
”Why, child, such things are to be decided only by you and my son.”
”Katie!” he gasped, regaining his voice. “What happened? Why as soon as possible?”
“Oh! oh, it did sound as if…as if I were in the kind of trouble girls are supposed to…” She blushed furiously. “Oh, my God! No! It’s not that! You know it couldn’t be! Oh, you couldn’t think, Peter, that I…that…”
“No, of course not,” he laughed, sitting down on the floor by her side, slipping an arm around her. “But pull yourself together. What is it? You know I’d marry you tonight if you wanted me to. Only what happened?”
“Nothing. I’m all right now. I’ll tell you. You’ll think I’m crazy. I just suddenly had the feeling that I’d never marry you, that something dreadful was happening to me and I had to escape from it.”
“What was happening to you?”
“I don’t know. Not a thing. I was working on my research notes all day, and nothing had happened at all. No calls or visitors. And then suddenly tonight, I had that feeling, it was like a nightmare, you know, the kind of horror that you can’t describe, that’s not like anything normal at all. Just the feeling that I was in mortal danger, that something was closing in on me, that I’d never escape it, because it wouldn’t let me and it was too late.”
“That you’d never escape what?”
“I don’t know exactly. Everything. My whole life. You know, like quicksand. Smooth and natural. With not a thing that you can notice about it or suspect. And you walk on it easily. When you’ve noticed, it’s too late….And I felt that it would get me, that I’d never marry you, that I had to run, now, now or never. Haven’t you ever had a feeling like that, just fear that you couldn’t explain?”
“Yes,” he whispered.
”You don’t think I’m crazy?”
“No, Katie. Only what was it exactly that started it? Anything in particular?”
“Well…it seems so silly now.” She giggled apologetically. “It was like this: I was sitting in my room and it was a little chilly, so I didn’t open the window. I had so many papers and books on the table, I hardly had room to write and every time I made a note my elbow’d push something off. There were piles of things on the floor all around me, all paper, and it rustled a little, because I had the door to the living room half open and there was a little draft, I guess. Uncle was working too, in the living room. I was getting along fine, I’d been at it for hours, didn’t even know what time it was. And then suddenly it got me. I don’t know why. Maybe the room was stuffy, or maybe it was the silence, I couldn’t hear a thing, not a sound in the living room, and there was that paper rustling, so softly, like somebody being choked to death. And then I looked around and…and I couldn’t see Uncle in the living room, but I saw his shadow on the wall, a huge shadow, all hunched, and it didn’t move, only it was so huge!”
She shuddered. The thing did not seem silly to her any longer. She whispered:
“That’s when it got me. It wouldn’t move, that shadow, but I thought all that paper was moving, I thought it was rising very slowly off the floor, and it was going to come to my throat and I was going to drown. That’s when I screamed. And, Peter, he didn’t hear. He didn’t hear it! Because the shadow didn’t move. Then I seized my hat and coat and I ran. When I was running through the living room, I think he said: ‘Why, Catherine, what time is it?–Where are you going?’ Something like that, I’m not sure. But I didn’t look back and I didn’t answer–I couldn’t. I was afraid of him. Afraid of Uncle Ellsworth who’s never said a harsh word to me in his life!…That was all, Peter. I can’t understand it, but I’m afraid. Not so much any more, not here with you, but I’m afraid….” Mrs. Keating spoke, her voice dry and crisp: “Why, it’s plain what happened to you, my dear. You worked too hard and overdid it, and you just got a mite hysterical.”
“No,” said Keating dully, “no, it wasn’t that….” He was thinking of the loud-speaker in the lobby of the strike meeting. Then he added quickly: “Yes, Mother’s right. You’re killing yourself with work, Katie. That uncle of yours–I’ll wring his neck one of these days.”
“Oh, but it’s not his fault! He doesn’t want me to work. He often takes the books away from me and tells me to go to the movies. He’s said that himself, that I work too hard. But I like it. I think that every note I make, every little bit of information–it’s going to be taught to hundreds of young students, all over the country, and I think it’s me who’s helping to educate people, just my own little bit in such a big cause–and I feel proud and I don’t want to stop. You see? I’ve really got nothing to complain about. And then…then, like tonight…I don’t know what’s the matter with me.”
“Look, Katie, we’ll get the license tomorrow morning and then we’ll be married at once, anywhere you wish.”
“Let’s, Peter,” she whispered. “You really don’t mind? I have no real reasons, but I want it. I want it so much. Then I’ll know that everything’s all right. We’ll manage. I can get a job if you…if you’re not quite ready or…”
“Oh, nonsense. Don’t talk about that. We’ll manage. It doesn’t matter. Only let’s get married and everything else will take care of itself.”
“Darling, you understand? You do understand?” “Yes, Katie.”
“Now that it’s all settled,” said Mrs. Keating, “I’ll fix you a cup of hot tea, Catherine. You’ll need it before you go home.” She prepared the tea, and Catherine drank it gratefully and said, smiling:
“I…I’ve often been afraid that you wouldn’t approve, Mrs. Keating.”
“Whatever gave you that idea,” Mrs. Keating drawled, her voice not in the tone of a question. “Now you run on home like a good girl and get a good night’s sleep.”
“Mother, couldn’t Katie stay here tonight? She could sleep with you.” “Well, now, Peter, don’t get hysterical. What would her uncle think?” “Oh, no, of course not. I’ll be perfectly all right, Peter. I’ll go home.” “Not if you…”
“I’m not afraid. Not now. I’m fine. You don’t think that I’m really scared of Uncle Ellsworth?” “Well, all right. But don’t go yet.”
“Now, Peter,” said Mrs. Keating, “you don’t want her to be running around the streets later than she has to.”
“I’ll take her home.”
”No,” said Catherine. “I don’t want to be sillier than I am. No, I won’t let you.”
He kissed her at the door and he said: “I’ll come for you at ten o’clock tomorrow morning and we’ll go for the license.”
“Yes, Peter,” she whispered.
He closed the door after her and he stood for a moment, not noticing that he was clenching his fists. Then he walked defiantly back to the living room, and he stopped, his hands in his pockets, facing his mother. He looked at her, his glance a silent demand. Mrs. Keating sat looking at him quietly, without pretending to ignore the glance and without answering it.
Then she asked:
”Do you want to go to bed, Peter?”
He had expected anything but that. He felt a violent impulse to seize the chance, to turn, leave the room and escape. But he had to learn what she thought; he had to justify himself.
“Now, Mother, I’m not going to listen to any objections.” “I’ve made no objections,” said Mrs. Keating.
“Mother, I want you to understand that I love Katie, that nothing can stop me now, and that’s that.”
“Very well, Peter.”
”I don’t see what it is that you dislike about her.”
”What I like or dislike is of no importance to you any more.”
”Oh yes, Mother, of course it is! You know it is. How can you say that?”
“Peter, I have no likes or dislikes as far as I’m concerned. I have no thought for myself at all, because nothing in the world matters to me, except you. It might be old-fashioned, but that’s the way I am. I know I shouldn’t be, because children don’t appreciate it nowadays, but I can’t help it.”
“Oh, Mother, you know that I appreciate it! You know that I wouldn’t want to hurt you.” “You can’t hurt me, Peter, except by hurting yourself. And that…that’s hard to bear.”
“How am I hurting myself?”
“Well, if you won’t refuse to listen to me…”
“I’ve never refused to listen to you!”
“If you do want to hear my opinion, I’ll say that this is the funeral of twenty-nine years of my life, of all the hopes I’ve had for you.”
“But why? Why?”
“It’s not that I dislike, Catherine, Peter. I like her very much. She’s a nice girl–if she doesn’t let herself go to pieces often and pick things out of thin air like that. But she’s a respectable girl and I’d say she’d make a good wife for anybody. For any nice, plodding, respectable boy. But to think of it for you, Peter! For you!”
“You’re modest, Peter. You’re too modest. That’s always been your trouble. You don’t appreciate yourself. You think you’re just like anybody else.”
“I certainly don’t! and I won’t have anyone think that!”
“Then use your head! Don’t you know what’s ahead of you? Don’t you see how far you’ve come already and how far you’re going? You have a chance to become–well, not the very best, but pretty near the top in the architectural profession, and…”
“Pretty near the top? Is that what you think? If I can’t be the very best, if I can’t be the one architect of this country in my day–I don’t want any damn part of it!”
“Ah, but one doesn’t get to that, Peter, by falling down on the job. One doesn’t get to be first in anything without the strength to make some sacrifices.”
“Your life doesn’t belong to you, Peter, if you’re really aiming high. You can’t allow yourself to indulge every whim, as ordinary people can, because with them it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s not you or me or what we feel. Peter. It’s your career. It takes strength to deny yourself in order to win other people’s respect.”
“You just dislike Katie and you let your own prejudice…”
“Whatever would I dislike about her? Well, of course, I can’t say that I approve of a girl who has so little consideration for her man that she’ll run to him and upset him over nothing at all, and ask him to chuck his future out the window just because she gets some crazy notion. That shows what help you can expect from a wife like that. But as far as I’m concerned, if you think that I’m worried about myself–well, you’re just blind, Peter. Don’t you see that for me personally it would be a perfect match? Because I’d have no trouble with Catherine, I could get along with her beautifully, she’d be respectful and obedient to her mother-in-law. While, on the other hand, Miss Francon…”
He winced. He had known that this would come. It was the one subject he had been afraid to hear mentioned.
“Oh yes, Peter,” said Mrs. Keating quietly, firmly, “we’ve got to speak of that. Now, I’m sure I could never manage Miss Francon, and an elegant society girl like that wouldn’t even stand for a dowdy, uneducated mother like me. She’d probably edge me out of the house. Oh, yes, Peter. But you see, it’s not me that I’m thinking of.”
“Mother,” he said harshly, “that part of it is pure drivel–about my having a chance with Dominique. That hell-cat–I’m not sure she’d ever look at me.”
“You’re slipping, Peter. There was a time when you wouldn’t have admitted that there was
anything you couldn’t get.” “But I don’t want her, Mother.”
“Oh, you don’t, don’t you? Well, there you are. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying? Look at yourself! There you’ve got Francon, the best architect in town, just where you want him! He’s practically begging you to take a partnership–at your age, over how many other, older men’s heads? He’s not permitting, he’s asking you to marry his daughter! And you’ll walk in tomorrow and you’ll present to him the little nobody you’ve gone and married! Just stop thinking of yourself for a moment and think of others a bit. How do you suppose he’ll like that? How will he like it when you show him the little guttersnipe that you’ve preferred to his daughter?”
“He won’t like it,” Keating whispered.
“You bet your life he won’t! You bet your life he’ll kick you right out on the street! He’ll find plenty who’ll jump at the chance to take your place. How about that Bennett fellow?”
“Oh, no!” Keating gasped so furiously that she knew she had struck right. “Not Bennett!”
“Yes,” she said triumphantly. “Bennett! That’s what it’ll be–Francon & Bennett, while you’ll be pounding the pavements looking for a job! But you’ll have a wife! Oh, yes, you’ll have a wife!”
“Mother, please…” he whispered, so desperately that she could allow herself to go on without restraint.
“This is the kind of a wife you’ll have. A clumsy little girl who won’t know where to put her hands or feet. A sheepish little thing who’ll run and hide from any important person that you’ll want to bring to the house. So you think you’re so good? Don’t kid yourself, Peter Keating! No great man ever got there alone. Don’t you shrug it off, how much the right woman’s helped the best of them. Your Francon didn’t marry a chambermaid, you bet your life he didn’t! Just try to see things through other people’s eyes for a bit. What will they think of your wife? What will they think of you? You don’t make your living building chicken coops for soda jerkers, don’t you forget that! You’ve got to play the game as the big men of this world see it. You’ve got to live up to them. What will they think of a man who’s married to a common little piece of baggage like that? Will they admire you? Will they trust you? Will they respect you?”
“Shut up!” he cried.
But she went on. She spoke for a long time, while he sat, cracking his knuckles savagely, moaning once in a while: “But I love her….I can’t, Mother! I can’t….I love her….”
She released him when the streets outside were gray with the light of morning. She let him stumble off to his room, to the accompaniment of the last, gentle, weary sounds of her voice:
“At least, Peter, you can do that much. Just a few months. Ask her to wait just a few months. Heyer might die any moment and then, once you’re a partner, you can marry her and you might get away with it. She won’t mind waiting just that little bit longer, if she loves you….Think it over, Peter….And while you’re thinking it over, think just a bit that if you do this now, you’ll be breaking your mother’s heart. It’s not important, but take just a tiny notice of that. Think of yourself for an hour, but give one minute to the thought of others….”
He did not try to sleep. He did not undress, but sat on his bed for hours, and the thing clearest in his mind was the wish to find himself transported a year ahead when everything would have been settled, he did not care how.
He had decided nothing when he rang the doorbell of Catherine’s apartment at ten o’clock. He felt dimly that she would take his hand, that she would lead him, that she would insist–and thus the decision would be made.
Catherine opened the door and smiled, happily and confidently, as if nothing had happened. She led him to her room, where broad shafts of sunlight flooded the columns of books and papers stacked neatly on her desk. The room was clean, orderly, the pile of the rug still striped in bands left by a carpet sweeper. Catherine wore a crisp organdy blouse, with sleeves
standing stiffly, cheerfully about her shoulders; little fluffy needles glittered through her hair in the sunlight. He felt a brief wrench of disappointment that no menace met him in her house; a wrench of relief also, and of disappointment.
“I’m ready, Peter,” she said. “Get me my coat.”
“Did you tell your uncle?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. I told him last night. He was still working when I got back.”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing. He just laughed and asked me what I wanted for a wedding present. But he laughed so much!”
“Where is he? Didn’t he want to meet me at least?”
“He had to go to his newspaper office. He said he’d have plenty of time to see more than enough of you. But he said it so nicely!”
“Listen, Katie, I…there’s one thing I wanted to tell you.” He hesitated, not looking at her. His voice was flat. “You see, it’s like this: Lucius Heyer, Francon’s partner, is very ill and they don’t expect him to live. Francon’s been hinting quite openly mat I’m to take Heyer’s place. But Francon has the crazy idea that he wants me to marry his daughter. Now don’t misunderstand me, you know there’s not a chance, but I can’t tell him so. And I thought…I thought that if we waited…for just a few weeks…I’d be set with the firm and then Francon could do nothing to me when I come and tell him that I’m married….But, of course it’s up to you.” He looked at her and his voice was eager. “If you want to do it now, we’ll go at once.”
“But, Peter,” she said calmly, serene and astonished. “But of course. We’ll wait.” He smiled in approval and relief. But he closed his eyes.
“Of course, we’ll wait,” she said firmly. “I didn’t know this and it’s very important. There’s really no reason to hurry at all.”
“You’re not afraid that Francon’s daughter might get me?” She laughed. “Oh, Peter! I know you too well.”
”But if you’d rather…”
“No, it’s much better. You see, to tell you the truth, I thought this morning that it would be better if we waited, but I didn’t want to say anything if you had made up your mind. Since you’d rather wait, I’d much rather too, because, you see, we got word this morning that Uncle’s invited to repeat this same course of lectures at a terribly important university on the West Coast this summer. I felt horrible about leaving him flat, with the work unfinished. And then I thought also that perhaps we were being foolish, we’re both so young. And Uncle Ellsworth laughed so much. You see, it’s really wiser to wait a little.”
“Yes. Well, that’s fine. But, Katie, if you feel as you did last night…”
“But I don’t! I’m so ashamed of myself. I can’t imagine what ever happened to me last night. I try to remember it and I can’t understand. You know how it is, you feel so silly afterward. Everything’s so clear and simple the next day. Did I say a lot of awful nonsense last night?”
“Well, forget it. You’re a sensible little girl. We’re both sensible. And we’ll wait just a while, it won’t be long.”
“Yes, Peter.”
He said suddenly, fiercely:
“Insist on it now, Katie.”
And then he laughed stupidly, as if he had not been quite serious.
She smiled gaily in answer. “You see?” she said, spreading her hands out.
“Well…” he muttered. “Well, all right, Katie. We’ll wait. It’s better, of course. I…I’ll run along then. I’ll be late at the office.” He felt he had to escape her room for the moment, for that day. “I’ll give you a ring. Let’s have dinner together tomorrow.”
“Yes, Peter. That will be nice.”
He went away, relieved and desolate, cursing himself for the dull, persistent feeling that told him he had missed a chance which would never return; that something was closing in on them both and they had surrendered. He cursed, because he could not say what it was that they should have fought. He hurried on to his office where he was being late for an appointment with Mrs. Moorehead.
Catherine stood in the middle of the room, after he had left, and wondered why she suddenly felt empty and cold; why she hadn’t known until this moment that she had hoped he would force her to follow him. Then she shrugged, and smiled reproachfully at herself, and went back to the work on her desk.
ON A DAY in October, when the Heller house was nearing completion, a lanky young man in overalls stepped out of a small group that stood watching the house from the road and approached Roark.
“You the fellow who built the Booby Hatch?” he asked, quite diffidently. “If you mean this house, yes,” Roark answered.
“Oh, I beg your pardon, sir. It’s only that that’s what they call the place around here. It’s not what I’d call it. You see, I’ve got a building job…well, not exactly, but I’m going to build a filling station of my own about ten miles from here, down on the Post Road. I’d like to talk to you.”
Later, on a bench in front of the garage where he worked, Jimmy Gowan explained in detail. He added: “And how I happened to think of you, Mr. Roark, is that I like it, that funny house of yours. Can’t say why, but I like it. It makes sense to me. And then again I figured everybody’s gaping at it and talking about it, well, that’s no use to a house, but that’d be plenty smart for a business, let them giggle, but let them talk about it. So I thought I’d get you to build it, and then they’ll all say I’m crazy, but do you care? I don’t.”
Jimmy Gowan had worked like a mule for fifteen years, saving money for a business of his own. People voiced indignant objections to his choice of architect; Jimmy uttered no word of explanation or self-defense; he said politely: “Maybe so, folks, maybe so,” and proceeded to have Roark build his station.
The station opened on a day in late December. It stood on the edge of the Boston Post Road, two small structures of glass and concrete forming a semicircle among the trees: the cylinder of the office and the long, low oval of the diner, with the gasoline pumps as the colonnade of a forecourt between them. It was a study in circles; there were no angles and no straight lines; it looked like shapes caught in a flow, held still at the moment of being poured, at the precise moment when they formed a harmony that seemed too perfect to be intentional. It looked like a cluster of bubbles hanging low over the ground, not quite touching it, to be swept aside in an instant on a wind of speed; it looked gay, with the hard, bracing gaiety of efficiency, like a powerful airplane engine.
Roark stayed at the station on the day of its opening. He drank coffee in a clean, white mug, at the counter of the diner, and he watched the cars stopping at the door. He left late at night.
He looked back once, driving down the long, empty road. The lights of the station winked, flowing away from him. There it stood, at the crossing of two roads, and cars would be streaming past it day and night, cars coming from cities in which there was no room for buildings such as this, going to cities in which there would be no buildings such as this. He turned his face to the road before him, and he kept his eyes off the mirror which still held, glittering softly, dots of light that moved away far behind him….
He drove back to months of idleness. He sat in his office each morning, because he knew that he had to sit there, looking at a door that never opened, his fingers forgotten on a telephone that never rang. The ash trays he emptied each day, before leaving, contained nothing but the stubs of his own cigarettes.
“What are you doing about it, Howard?” Austen Heller asked him at dinner one evening. “Nothing.”
”But you must.”
”There’s nothing I can do.”
“You must learn how to handle people.”
”I can’t.”
”I don’t know how. I was born without some one particular sense.” “It’s something one acquires.”
“I have no organ to acquire it with. I don’t know whether it’s something I lack, or something extra I have that stops me. Besides, I don’t like people who have to be handled.”
“But you can’t sit still and do nothing now. You’ve got to go after commissions.”
“What can I tell people in order to get commissions? I can only show my work. If they don’t hear that, they won’t hear anything I say. I’m nothing to them, but my work–my work is all we have in common. And I have no desire to tell them anything else.”
“Then what are you going to do? You’re not worried?” “No. I expected it. I’m waiting.”
”For what?”
”My kind of people.”
“What kind is that?”
“I don’t know. Yes, I do know, but I can’t explain it. I’ve often wished I could. There must be some one principle to cover it, but I don’t know what it is.”
“Yes…no, only partly. Guy Francon is an honest man, but it isn’t that. Courage? Ralston Holcombe has courage, in his own manner….I don’t know. I’m not that vague on other things. But I can tell my kind of people by their faces. By something in their faces. There will be thousands passing by your house and by the gas station. If out of those thousands, one stops and sees it–that’s all I need.”
“Then you do need other people, after all, don’t you, Howard?” “Of course. What are you laughing at?”
“I’ve always thought that you were the most anti-social animal I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.”
“I need people to give me work. I’m not building mausoleums. Do you suppose I should need them in some other way? In a closer, more personal way?”
“You don’t need anyone in a very personal way.” “No.”
”You’re not even boasting about it.”
”Should I?”
You can’t. You’re too arrogant to boast.”
”Is that what I am?”
”Don’t you know what you are?”
”No. Not as far as you’re seeing me, or anyone else.”
Heller sat silently, his wrist describing circles with a cigarette. Then Heller laughed, and said: “That was typical.”
“W hat?”
”That you didn’t ask me to tell you what you are as I see you. Anybody else would have.”
“I’m sorry. It wasn’t indifference. You’re one of the few friends I want to keep. I just didn’t think of asking.”
“I know you didn’t. That’s the point. You’re a self-centered monster, Howard. The more monstrous because you’re utterly innocent about it.”
“That’s true.”
”You should show a little concern when you admit that.” “Why?”
“You know, there’s a thing that stumps me. You’re the coldest man I know. And I can’t understand why–knowing that you’re actually a fiend in your quiet sort of way–why I always feel, when I see you, that you’re the most life-giving person I’ve ever met.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. Just that.”
The weeks went by, and Roark walked to his office each day, sat at his desk for eight hours, and read a great deal. At five o’clock, he walked home. He had moved to a better room, near the office; he spent little; he had enough money for a long time to come.
On a morning in February the telephone rang in his office. A brisk, emphatic feminine voice asked for an appointment with Mr. Roark, the architect. That afternoon, a brisk, small, dark- skinned woman entered the office; she wore a mink coat and exotic earrings that tinkled when she moved her head. She moved her head a great deal, in sharp little birdlike jerks. She was Mrs. Wayne Wilmot of Long Island and she wished to build a country house. She had selected Mr. Roark to build it, she explained, because he had designed the home of Austen Heller. She adored Austen Heller; he was, she stated, an oracle to all those pretending just the tiniest bit to the title of progressive intellectual, she thought–“don’t you?”–and she followed Heller like a
zealot, “yes, literally, like a zealot.” Mr. Roark was very young, wasn’t he?–but she didn’t mind that, she was very liberal and glad to help youth. She wanted a large house, she had two children, she believed in expressing their individuality–“don’t you?”–and each had to have a separate nursery, she had to have a library–“I read to distraction”–a music room, a conservatory–“we grow lilies-of-the-valley, my friends tell me it’s my flower”–a den for her husband, who trusted her implicitly and let her plan the house–“because I’m so good at it, if I weren’t a woman I’m sure I’d be an architect”–servants’ rooms and all that, and a three-car garage. After an hour and a half of details and explanations, she said:
“And of course, as to the style of the house, it will be English Tudor. I adore English Tudor.” He looked at her. He asked slowly:
”Have you seen Austen Heller’s house?”
“No, though I did want to see it, but how could I?–I’ve never met Mr. Heller, I’m only his fan, just that, a plain, ordinary fan, what is he like in person?–you must tell me, I’m dying to hear it–no, I haven’t seen his house, it’s somewhere up in Maine, isn’t it?”
Roark took photographs out of the desk drawer and handed them to her. “This,” he said, “is the Heller house.”
She looked at the photographs, her glance like water skimming off their glossy surfaces, and threw them down on the desk.
“Very interesting,” she said. “Most unusual. Quite stunning. But, of course, that’s not what I want. That kind of a house wouldn’t express my personality. My friends tell me I have the Elizabethan personality.”
Quietly, patiently, he tried to explain to her why she should not build a Tudor house. She interrupted him in the middle of a sentence.
“Look here, Mr. Roark, you’re not trying to teach me something, are you? I’m quite sure that I have good taste, and I know a great deal about architecture, I’ve taken a special course at the club. My friends tell me that I know more than many architects. I’ve quite made up my mind that I shall have an English Tudor house. I do not care to argue about it.”
“You’ll have to go to some other architect, Mrs. Wilmot.” She stared at him incredulously.
”You mean, you’re refusing the commission?”
“You don’t want my commission?” “No.”
”But why?”
”I don’t do this sort of thing.”
“But I thought architects…”
”Yes. Architects will build you anything you ask for. Any other architect in town will.” “But I gave you first chance.”
“Will you do me a favor, Mrs. Wilmot? Will you tell me why you came to me if all you wanted was a Tudor house?”
“Well, I certainly thought you’d appreciate the opportunity. And then, I thought I could tell my friends that I had Austen Heller’s architect.”
He tried to explain and to convince. He knew, while he spoke, that it was useless, because his words sounded as if they were hitting a vacuum. There was no such person as Mrs. Wayne Wilmot; there was only a shell containing the opinions of her friends, the picture post cards she had seen, the novels of country squires she had read; it was this that he had to address, this immateriality which could not hear him or answer, deaf and impersonal like a wad of cotton.
“I’m sorry,” said Mrs. Wayne Wilmot, “but I’m not accustomed to dealing with a person utterly incapable of reason. I’m quite sure I shall find plenty of bigger men who’ll be glad to work for me. My husband was opposed to my idea of having you, in the first place, and I’m sorry to see that he was right. Good day, Mr. Roark.”
She walked out with dignity, but she slammed the door. He slipped the photographs back into the drawer of his desk.
Mr. Robert L. Mundy, who came to Roark’s office in March, had been sent by Austin Heller. Mr. Mundy’s voice and hair were gray as steel, but his eyes were blue, gentle and wistful. He wanted to build a house in Connecticut, and he spoke of it tremulously, like a young bridegroom and like a man groping for his last, secret goal.
“It’s not just a house, Mr. Roark,” he said with timid diffidence, as if he were speaking to a man older and more prominent than himself, “it’s like…like a symbol to me. It’s what I’ve been waiting and working for all these years. It’s so many years now….I must tell you this, so you’ll understand. I have a great deal of money now, more than I care to think about. I didn’t always have it. Maybe it came too late. I don’t know. Young people think that you forget what happens on the way when you get there. But you don’t. Something stays. I’ll always remember how I was a boy–in a little place down in Georgia, that was–and how I ran errands for the harness maker, and the kids laughed when carriages drove by and splashed mud all over my pants. That’s how long ago I decided that some day I’d have a house of my own, the kind of house that carriages stop before. After that, no matter how hard it got to be at times, I’d always think of that house, and it helped. Afterward, there were years when I was afraid of it–I could have built it, but I was afraid. Well, now the time has come. Do you understand, Mr. Roark? Austen said you’d be just the man who’d understand.”
“Yes,” said Roark eagerly, “I do.”
“There was a place,” said Mr. Mundy, “down there, near my home town. The mansion of the whole county. The Randolph place. An old plantation house, as they don’t build them any more. I used to deliver things there sometimes, at the back door. That’s the house I want, Mr. Roark. Just like it. But not back there in Georgia. I don’t want to go back. Right here, near the city. I’ve bought the land. You must help me to have it landscaped just like the Randolph place. We’ll plant trees and shrubs, the kind they have in Georgia, the flowers and everything. We’ll find a way to make them grow. I don’t care how much it costs. Of course, we’ll have electric lights and garages now, not carriages. But I want the electric lights made like candles and I want the garages to look like the stables. Everything, just as it was. I have photographs of the Randolph place. And I’ve bought some of their old furniture.”
When Roark began to speak Mr. Mundy listened, in polite astonishment. He did not seem to resent the words. They did not penetrate.
“Don’t you see?” Roark was saying. “It’s a monument you want to build, but not to yourself. Not to your own life or your own achievement. To other people. To their supremacy over you. You’re not challenging that supremacy. You’re immortalizing it. You haven’t thrown it off– you’re putting it up forever. Will you be happy if you seal yourself for the rest of your life in that borrowed shape? Or if you strike free, for once, and build a new house, your own? You don’t want the Randolph place. You want what it stood for. But what it stood for is what you’ve fought all your life.”
Mr. Mundy listened blankly. And Roark felt again a bewildered helplessness before unreality: there was no such person as Mr. Mundy; there were only the remnants, long dead, of the
people who had inhabited the Randolph place; one could not plead with remnants or convince them.
“No,” said Mr. Mundy, at last. “No. You may be right, but that’s not what I want at all. I don’t say you haven’t got your reasons, and they sound like good reasons, but I like the Randolph place.”
”Just because I like it. Just because that’s what I like.”
When Roark told him that he would have to select another architect, Mr. Mundy said unexpectedly:
“But I like you. Why can’t you build it for me? What difference would it make to you?” Roark did not explain.
Later, Austen Heller said to him: “I expected it. I was afraid you’d turn him down. I’m not blaming you, Howard. Only he’s so rich. It could have helped you so much. And, after all, you’ve got to live.”
“Not that way,” said Roark. #
In April Mr. Nathaniel Janss, of the Janss-Stuart Real Estate Company, called Roark to his office. Mr. Janss was frank and blunt. He stated that his company was planning the erection of a small office building–thirty stories–on lower Broadway, and that he was not sold on Roark as the architect, in fact he was more or less opposed to him, but his friend Austen Heller had insisted that he should meet Roark and talk to him about it; Mr. Janss did not think very much of Roark’s stuff, but Heller had simply bullied him and he would listen to Roark before deciding on anyone, and what did Roark have to say on the subject?
Roark had a great deal to say. He said it calmly, and this was difficult, at first, because he wanted that building, because what he felt was the desire to wrench that building out of Mr. Janss at the point of a gun, if he’d had one. But after a few minutes, it became simple and easy, the thought of the gun vanished, and even his desire for the building; it was not a commission to get and he was not there to get it; he was only speaking of buildings.
“Mr. Janss, when you buy an automobile, you don’t want it to have rose garlands about the windows, a lion on each fender and an angel sitting on the roof. Why don’t you?”
“That would be silly,” stated Mr. Janss.
“Why would it be silly? Now I think it would be beautiful. Besides, Louis the Fourteenth had a carriage like that and what was good enough for Louis is good enough for us. We shouldn’t go in for rash innovations and we shouldn’t break with tradition.”
“Now you know damn well you don’t believe anything of the sort!”
“I know I don’t. But that’s what you believe, isn’t it? Now take a human body. Why wouldn’t you like to see a human body with a curling tail with a crest of ostrich feathers at the end? And with ears shaped like acanthus leaves? It would be ornamental, you know, instead of the stark, bare ugliness we have now. Well, why don’t you like the idea? Because it would be useless and pointless. Because the beauty of the human body is that it hasn’t a single muscle which doesn’t serve its purpose; that there’s not a line wasted; that every detail of it fits one idea, the idea of a man and the life of a man. Will you tell me why, when it comes to a building, you don’t want it to look as if it had any sense or purpose, you want to choke it with trimmings, you want to sacrifice its purpose to its envelope–not knowing even why you want that kind of an envelope? You want it to look like a hybrid beast produced by crossing the bastards of ten different species until you get a creature without guts, without heart or brain, a creature all pelt, tail, claws and feathers? Why? You must tell me, because I’ve never been able to understand it.”
“Well,” said Mr. Janss, “I’ve never thought of it that way.” He added, without great conviction: “But we want our building to have dignity, you know, and beauty, what they call real beauty.”
“What who calls what beauty?” “W ell-l-l…”
“Tell me, Mr. Janss, do you really think that Greek columns and fruit baskets are beautiful on a modern, steel office building?”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever thought anything about why a building was beautiful, one way or another,” Mr. Janss confessed, “but I guess that’s what the public wants.”
“Why do you suppose they want it?”
”I don’t know.”
”Then why should you care what they want?” “You’ve got to consider the public.”
“Don’t you know that most people take most things because that’s what’s given them, and they have no opinion whatever? Do you wish to be guided by what they expect you to think they think or by your own judgment?”
“You can’t force it down their throats.”
“You don’t have to. You must only be patient. Because on your side you have reason–oh, I know, it’s something no one really wants to have on his side–and against you, you have just a vague, fat, blind inertia.”
“Why do you think that I don’t want reason on my side?”
“It’s not you, Mr. Janss. It’s the way most people feel. They have to take a chance, everything they do is taking a chance, but they feel so much safer when they take it on something they know to be ugly, vain and stupid.”
“That’s true, you know,” said Mr. Janss.
At the conclusion of the interview, Mr. Janss said thoughtfully: “I can’t say that it doesn’t make sense, Mr. Roark. Let me think it over. You’ll hear from me shortly.”
Mr. Janss called him a week later. “It’s the board of directors that will have to decide. Are you willing to try, Roark? Draw up the plans and some preliminary sketches. I’ll submit them to the board. I can’t promise anything. But I’m for you and I’ll fight them on it.”
Roark worked on the plans for two weeks of days and nights. The plans were submitted. Then he was called before the board of directors of the Janss-Stuart Real Estate Company. He stood at the side of a long table and he spoke, his eyes moving slowly from face to face. He tried not to look down at the table, but on the lower rim of his vision there remained the white spot of his drawings spread before the twelve men. He was asked a great many questions. Mr. Janss jumped up at times to answer instead, to pound the table with his fist, to snarl: “Don’t you see? Isn’t it clear?…What of it, Mr. Grant? What if no one has ever built anything like it?…Gothic, Mr. Hubbard? Why must we have Gothic?…I’ve a jolly good mind to resign if you turn this down!”
Roark spoke quietly. He was the only man in the room who felt certain of his own words. He felt also that he had no hope. The twelve faces before him had a variety of countenances, but there was something, neither color nor feature, upon all of them, as a common denominator, something that dissolved their expressions, so that they were not faces any longer but only empty ovals of flesh. He was addressing everyone. He was addressing no one. He felt no answer, not even the echo of his own words striking against the membrane of an eardrum. His
words were falling down a well, hitting stone salients on their way, and each salient refused to stop them, threw them farther, tossed them from one another, sent them to seek a bottom that did not exist.
He was told that he would be informed of the board’s decision. He knew that decision in advance. When he received the letter, he read it without feeling. The letter was from Mr. Janss and it began: “Dear Mr. Roark, I am sorry to inform you that our board of directors find themselves unable to grant you the commission for…” There was a plea in the letter’s brutal, offensive formality: the plea of a man who could not face him.

John Fargo had started in life as a pushcart peddler. At fifty he owned a modest fortune and a prosperous department store on lower Sixth Avenue. For years he had fought successfully against a large store across the street, one of many inherited by a numerous family. In the fall of last year the family had moved that particular branch to new quarters, farther uptown. They were convinced that the center of the city’s retail business was shifting north and they had decided to hasten the downfall of their former neighborhood by leaving their old store vacant, a grim reminder and embarrassment to their competitor across the street. John Fargo had answered by announcing that he would build a new store of his own, on the very same spot, next door to his old one; a store newer and smarter than any the city had seen; he would, he declared, keep the prestige of his old neighborhood.
When he called Roark to his office he did not say that he would have to decide later or think things over. He said: “You’re the architect.” He sat, his feet on his desk, smoking a pipe, snapping out words and puffs of smoke together. “I’ll tell you what space I need and how much I want to spend. If you need more–say so. The rest is up to you. I don’t know much about buildings. But I know a man who knows when I see him. Go ahead.”
Fargo had chosen Roark because Fargo had driven, one day, past Gowan’s Service Station, and stopped, and gone in, and asked a few questions. After that, he bribed Heller’s cook to show him through the house in Heller’s absence. Fargo needed no further argument.
Late in May, when the drafting table in Roark’s office was buried deep in sketches for the Fargo store, he received another commission.
Mr. Whitford Sanborn, the client, owned an office building that had been built for him many years ago by Henry Cameron. When Mr. Sanborn decided that he needed a new country residence he rejected his wife’s suggestions of other architects; he wrote to Henry Cameron. Cameron wrote a ten-page letter in answer; the first three lines of the letter stated that he had retired from practice; the rest of it was about Howard Roark. Roark never learned what had been said in that letter; Sanborn would not show it to him and Cameron would not tell him. But Sanborn signed him to build the country residence, in spite of Mrs. Sanborn’s violent objections.
Mrs. Sanborn was the president of many charity organizations and this had given her an addiction to autocracy such as no other avocation could develop. Mrs. Sanborn wished a French chateau built upon their new estate on the Hudson. She wished it to look stately and ancient, as if it had always belonged to the family; of course, she admitted, people would know that it hadn’t, but it would appear as if it had.
Mr. Sanborn signed the contract after Roark had explained to him in detail the kind of a house he was to expect; Mr. Sanborn had agreed to it readily, had not wished even to wait for sketches. “But of course, Fanny,” Mr. Sanborn said wearily, “I want a modern house. I told you that long ago. That’s what Cameron would have designed.”
“What in heaven’s name does Cameron mean now?” she asked. “I don’t know, Fanny. I know only that there’s no building in New York like the one he did for me.”
The arguments continued for many long evenings in the dark, cluttered, polished mahogany splendor of the Sanborns’ Victorian drawing room. Mr. Sanborn wavered. Roark asked, his arm sweeping out at the room around them: “Is this what you want?”
“Well, if you’re going to be impertinent…” Mrs. Sanborn began, but Mr. Sanborn exploded: “Christ, Fanny! He’s right! That’s just what I don’t want! That’s just what I’m sick of!”
Roark saw no one until his sketches were ready. The house–of plain fieldstone, with great windows and many terraces–stood in the gardens over the river, as spacious as the spread of water, as open as the gardens, and one had to follow its lines attentively to find the exact steps by which it was tied to the sweep of the gardens, so gradual was the rise of the terraces, the approach to and the full reality of the walls; it seemed only that the trees flowed into the house and through it; it seemed that the house was not a barrier against the sunlight, but a bowl to gather it, to concentrate it into brighter radiance than that of the air outside.
Mr. Sanborn was first to see the sketches. He studied them, and then he said: “I…I don’t know quite how to say it, Mr. Roark. It’s great. Cameron was right about you.”
After others had seen the sketches Mr. Sanborn was not certain of this any longer. Mrs. Sanborn said that the house was awful. And the long evening arguments were resumed. “Now why, why can’t we add turrets there, on the corners?” Mrs. Sanborn asked. “There’s plenty of room on those flat roofs.” When she had been talked out of the turrets, she inquired: “Why can’t we have mullioned windows? What difference would that make? God knows, the windows are large enough–though why they have to be so large I fail to see, it gives one no privacy at all–but I’m willing to accept your windows, Mr. Roark, if you’re so stubborn about it, but why can’t you put mullions on the panes? It will soften things, and it gives a regal air, you know, a feudal sort of mood.”
The friends and relatives to whom Mrs. Sanborn hurried with the sketches did not like the house at all. Mrs. Walling called it preposterous, and Mrs. Hooper–crude. Mr. Melander said he wouldn’t have it as a present. Mrs. Applebee stated that it looked like a shoe factory. Miss Davitt glanced at the sketches and said with approval: “Oh, how very artistic, my dear! Who designed it?…Roark?…Roark?…Never heard of him….Well, frankly, Fanny, it looks like something phony.”
The two children of the family were divided on the question. June Sanborn, aged nineteen, had always thought that all architects were romantic, and she had been delighted to learn that they would have a very young architect; but she did not like Roark’s appearance and his indifference to her hints, so she declared that the house was hideous and she, for one, would refuse to live in it. Richard Sanborn, aged twenty-four, who had been a brilliant student in college and was now slowly drinking himself to death, startled his family by emerging from his usual lethargy and declaring that the house was magnificent. No one could tell whether it was esthetic appreciation or hatred of his mother or both.
Whitford Sanborn swayed with every new current. He would mutter: “Well, now, not mullions, of course, that’s utter rubbish, but couldn’t you give her a cornice, Mr. Roark, to keep peace in the family? Just a kind of a crenelated cornice, it wouldn’t spoil anything. Or would it?”
The arguments ended when Roark declared that he would not build the house unless Mr. Sanborn approved the sketches just as they were and signed his approval on every sheet of the drawings. Mr. Sanborn signed.
Mrs. Sanborn was pleased to learn, shortly afterward, that no reputable contractor would undertake the erection of the house. “You see?” she stated triumphantly. Mr. Sanborn refused to see. He found an obscure firm that accepted the commission, grudgingly and as a special favor to him. Mrs. Sanborn learned that she had an ally in the contractor, and she broke social precedent to the extent of inviting him for tea. She had long since lost all coherent ideas about the house; she merely hated Roark. Her contractor hated all architects on principle.
The construction of the Sanborn house proceeded through the months of summer and fall, each day bringing new battles. “But, of course, Mr. Roark, I told you I wanted three closets in my bedroom, I remember distinctly, it was on a Friday and we were sitting in the drawing room and Mr. Sanborn was sitting in the big chair by the window and I was…What about the plans? What plans? How do you expect me to understand plans?”
“Aunt Rosalie says she can’t possibly climb a circular stairway, Mr. Roark. What are we going to do? Select our guests to fit your house?”
“Mr. Hulburt says that kind of ceiling won’t hold….Oh yes, Mr. Hulburt knows a lot about architecture. He’s spent two summers in Venice.”
“June, poor darling, says her room will be dark as a cellar….Well, that’s the way she feels, Mr. Roark. Even if it isn’t dark, but if it makes her feel dark, it’s the same thing.” Roark stayed up nights, redrafting the plans for the alterations which he could not avoid. It meant days of tearing down floors, stairways, partitions already erected; it meant extras piling up on the contractor’s budget. The contractor shrugged and said: “I told you so. That’s what always happens when you get one of those fancy architects. You wait and see what this thing will cost you before he gets through.”
Then, as the house took shape, it was Roark who found that he wanted to make a change. The eastern wing had never quite satisfied him. Watching it rise, he saw the mistake he had made and the way to correct it; he knew it would bring the house into a more logical whole. He was making his first steps in building and they were his first experiments. He could admit it openly. But Mr. Sanborn refused to allow the change; it was his turn. Roark pleaded with him; once the picture of that new wing had become clear in Roark’s mind he could not bear to look at the house as it stood. “It’s not that I disagree with you,” Mr. Sanborn said coldly, “in fact, I do think you’re right. But we cannot afford it. Sorry.”
“It will cost you less than the senseless changes Mrs. Sanborn has forced me to make.” “Don’t bring that up again.”
“Mr. Sanborn,” Roark asked slowly, “will you sign a paper that you authorize this change provided it costs you nothing?”
“Certainly. If you can conjure up a miracle to work that.”
He signed. The eastern wing was rebuilt. Roark paid for it himself. It cost him more than the fee he received. Mr. Sanborn hesitated: he wanted to repay it. Mrs. Sanborn stopped him. “It’s just a low trick,” she said, “just a form of high-pressure. He’s blackmailing you on your better feelings. He expects you to pay. Wait and see. He’ll ask for it. Don’t let him get away with that.” Roark did not ask for it. Mr. Sanborn never paid him.
When the house was completed, Mrs. Sanborn refused to live in it. Mr. Sanborn looked at it wistfully, too tired to admit that he loved it, that he had always wanted a house just like it. He surrendered. The house was not furnished. Mrs. Sanborn took herself, her husband and her daughter off to Florida for the winter, “where,” she said, “we have a house that’s a decent Spanish, thank God!–because we bought it ready-made. This is what happens when you venture to build for yourself, with some half-baked idiot of an architect!” Her son, to everybody’s amazement, exhibited a sudden burst of savage will power: he refused to go to Florida; he liked the new house, he would live nowhere else. So three of the rooms were furnished for him. The family left and he moved alone into the house on the Hudson. At night, one could see from the river a single rectangle of yellow, small and lost, among the windows of the huge, dead house.
The bulletin of the Architects’ Guild of America carried a small item:
“A curious incident, which would be amusing if it were not deplorable, is reported to us about a home recently built by Mr. Whitford Sanborn, noted industrialist. Designed by one Howard Roark and erected at a cost of well over $100,000, this house was found by the family to be uninhabitable. It stands now, abandoned, as an eloquent witness to professional incompetence.”
LUCIUS N. Heyer stubbornly refused to die. He had recovered from the stroke and returned to his office, ignoring the objections of his doctor and the solicitous protests of Guy Francon. Francon offered to buy him out. Heyer refused, his pale, watering eyes staring obstinately at
nothing at all. He came to his office every two or three days; he read the copies of correspondence left in his letter basket according to custom; he sat at his desk and drew flowers on a clean pad; then he went home. He walked, dragging his feet slowly; he held his elbows pressed to his sides and his forearms thrust forward, with the fingers half closed, like claws; the fingers shook; he could not use his left hand at all. He would not retire. He liked to see his name on the firm’s stationery.
He wondered dimly why he was no longer introduced to prominent clients, why he never saw the sketches of their new buildings, until they were half erected. If he mentioned this, Francon protested: “But, Lucius, I couldn’t think of bothering you in your condition. Any other man would have retired, long ago.”
Francon puzzled him mildly. Peter Keating baffled him. Keating barely bothere