"I should like to speak to you, Mr. Rearden." The voice had the firmness, the clarity and the special courtesy peculiar to men who are accustomed to giving orders.
"Go ahead," said Rearden, "provided you don't intend to ask me for help or money."
"No, Mr. Rearden," he said, "I don't intend to ask you for money, but to return it to you."
"To return money?"
"A small refund on a very large debt."
"Owed by you?"
"No, not by me. It is only a token payment, but I want you to accept it as proof that if we live long enough, you and I, every dollar of that debt will be returned to you."
"The money that was taken from you by force."
... [Rearden notices/is given a bar of solid gold] ...
"Who are you?" asked Rearden.
"The friend of the friendless."
"Did you come here to give this to me?"
"Do you mean that you had to stalk me at night, on a lonely road, in order, not to rob me, but to hand me a bar of gold?"
"When robbery is done in open daylight by sanction of the law, as it is done today, then any act of honor or restitution has to be hidden underground."
"What made you think that I'd accept a gift of this kind?"
"It is not a gift, Mr. Rearden. It is your own money. But I have one favor to ask of you. It is a request, not a condition, because there can be no such thing as conditional property. The gold is yours, so you are free to use it as you please. But I risked my life to bring it to you tonight, so I am asking, as a favor, that you save it for the future or spend it on yourself. On nothing but your own comfort and pleasure. Do not give it away and, above all, do not put it into your business."
"Because I don't want it to be of any benefit to anybody but you. Otherwise, I will have broken an oath taken long ago -- as I am breaking every rule I had set for myself by speaking to you tonight."
"What do you mean?"
"I have been collecting this money for you for a long time. But I did not intend to see you or tell you about it or give it to you until much later."
"Then why did you?"
"Because I couldn't stand it any longer."
"I thought that I had seen everything one could see and that there was nothing I could not stand seeing. But when they took Rearden Metal away from you, it was too much, even for me. I know that you don't need this gold at present. What you need is the justice which it represents, and the knowledge that there are men who care for justice."
"Why did you care?" asked Rearden. "What do I mean to you?"
"Much more than you have reason to suspect. And I have a friend to whom you mean much more than you will ever learn. He would have given anything to stand by you today. But he can't come to you. So I came in his place."
"I prefer not to name him."
"Did you say that you've spent a long time collecting this money for me?"
"I have collected much more than this." ... "I am holding it in your name and I will turn it over to you when the time comes. This is only a sample, as proof that it does exist. And if you reach the day when you find yourself robbed of the last of your fortune, I want you to remember that you have a large bank account waiting for you."
"If you try to think of all the money that has been taken from you by force, you will know that your account represents a considerable sum."
"How did you collect it? Wheere did this gold come from?"
"It was taken from those who robbed you."
"Taken by whom?"
"Who are you?"
"Ragnar Danneskjold." ... "Would you rather I were a law-abiding citizen, Mr. Rearden? If so, which law should I abide by? Directive 10-289?" ... "Look more carefully, Mr. Rearden. There are only two modes of living left to us today: to be a looter who robs disarmed victims or to be a victim who works for the benefit of his own despoilers. I did not choose to be either."
"You chose to live by means of force, like the rest of them."
"Yes -- openly. Honestly, if you will. I do not rob men who are tied and gagged, I do not demand that my victims help me, I do not tell them that I am acting for their own good. I stake my life in every encounter with men, and they have a chance to match their guns and their brains against mine in fair battle. Fair? It's I against the organized strength, the guns, the planes, the battleships of five continents. If it's a moral judgment that you wish to pronounce, Mr. Rearden, then who is the man of higher morality: I or Wesley Mouch?"
"I have no answer to give you," said Rearden, his voice low.
"Why should you be shocked, Mr. Rearden? I am merely complying with the system which my fellow men have established. If they believe that force is the proper means to deal with one another, I am giving them what they ask for. If they believe that the purpose of my life is to serve them, let them try to enforce their creed. If they believe that my mind is their property -- let them come and get it."
"But what sort of life have you chosen? To what purpose are you giving your mind?"
"To the cause of my love."
"Which is what?"
"Served by being a pirate?"
"By working for the day when I won't have to be a pirate any longer."
"Which day is that?"
"The day when you'll be free to make a profit on Rearden Metal."
"Oh God!" said Rearden, laughing, his voice desperate. "Is that your ambition?"
... "It is."
"Do you expect to live to see that day?"
"Yes. Don't you?"
"Then what are you looking forward to, Mr. Rearden?"
"What are you working for?"
... "Why do you ask that?"
"To make you understand why I'm not."
"Don't expect me ever to approve of a criminal."
"I don't expect it. But there are a few things I want to help you to see."
"Even if they're true, the things you said, why did you choose to be a bandit? Why didn't you simply step out, like --" He stopped.
"Like Ellis Wyatt, Mr. Rearden? Like Andrew Stockton? Like your friend Ken Danagger?"
"Would you approve of that?"
"I --" He stopped, shocked by his own words.
"I do approve of it, Mr. Rearden. But I've chosen a special mission of my own. I'm after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men's minds, we will not have a decent world to live in."
Rearden looked at him blankly, not understanding.
"He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich -- or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich."
"What in blazes do you mean?"
"If you remember the stories you've read about me in the newspapers, before they stopped printing them, you know that I have never robbed a private ship and never taken any private property. Nor have I ever robbed a military vessel -- because the purpose of a military fleet is to protect from violence the citizens who paid for it, which is the proper function of a government. But I have seized every loot-carrier that came within range of my guns, every government relief ship, subsidy ship, loan ship, gift ship, every vessel with a cargo of goods taken by force from some men for the unpaid, unearned benefit of others. I seized the boats that sailed under the flag of the idea which I am fighting: the idea that need is a sacred idol requiring human sacrinces -- that the need of some men is the knife of a guillotine hanging over others -- that all of us must live with our work, our hopes, our plans, our efforts at the mercy of the moment when that knife will descend upon us -- and that the extent of our ability is the extent of our danger, so that success will bring our heads down on the block, while failure will give us the right to pull the cord. This is the horror which Robin Hood immortalized as an ideal of righteousness. It is said that he fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. He became a justification for every mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, has demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters, by proclaiming his willingness to devote his life to his inferiors at the price of robbing his superiors. It is this foulest of creatures — the double-parasite who lives on the sores of the poor and the blood of the rich — whom men have come to regard as a moral ideal. And this has brought us to a world where the more a man produces, the closer he comes to the loss of all his rights, until, if his ability is great enough, he becomes a rightless creature delivered as prey to any claimant — while in order to be placed above rights, above principles, above morality, placed where anything is permitted to him, even plunder and murder, all a man has to do is be in need. Do you wonder why the world is collapsing around us? That is what I am fighting… Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive.”[needs completing].