PREVIOUSLY: Hank Rearden and his wife Lillian are hosting an anniversary party. Hank hates the party and everybody at the party. Then Francisco D’Anconia shows up. Wild card!
The room is abuzz as people notice Francisco’s arrival. Dagny in particular avoids him like the plague. But not to worry, his first stop is the conversation with the philosophy professor, who is still arguing that ‘nothing is anything.’
“Ah Dr. Pritchett, you teach at Patrick Henry U? That’s my alma mater! Though I was taught by your predecessor, Dr. Akston.” Some random asks whatever happened to Akston. “Oh he disappeared mysteriously, forever, nine years ago,” Francisco shrugs. And what was his philosophical argument? ‘That everything is something.’
Jim Taggart sidles up, laughing falsely, and quickly pulls the man aside. “Oh Frisco, you card. Why haven’t you returned my calls? How are we going to get our money back from the mining fiasco?”
Francisco laughs in Jim’s face. “We’re not! Wasn’t it the perfect project? I disregarded my greed and only paid attention to my social responsibilities. I operated at a loss so that the poor needy people of Mexico could stay employed. They needed the cash so I refused to shut down. Then I let them have the whole thing! Sure it cost me a lot of money, but that only goes to show how wonderfully selfless I was, right? Isn’t that how we’re doing things these days?”
Jim is agog, but Frankie ditches him and hunts down Hank Rearden in his corner of solitude. Hank steels himself for a stream of bullshit, yet Francisco’s tone is now genuine and reverent instead of ironic and mocking. D’Anconia explains that he came specifically to meet Hank.
‘Why, so you can make me lose all my money?’
“Sort of,” Frank admits. But for now he’s just sizing Hank up.
Now Francisco’s smirking again. “Don’t worry about it.”
Before Hank can blow him off, Frankie gets real. “Listen, I know why you’re standing alone in this corner. You know you’ve earned a big party, but not this one. When you look around all you see is people living large on your tab while they denigrate you and your work and your beliefs. You’re the one left miserable at your own celebration, because the only thing it’s missing is worthwhile guests.”
Hank is taken aback by Francisco’s
flattery insight. “Nice parlor trick, asshole, but you’re the worst of the bunch.”
“Maybe, but nobody else will offer you gratitude. They can’t admit how needy and dependent they are; they’re scared you might realize it.”
Frankie’s charms are slowly working their magic, but that only pisses Hank off more. “It only makes you an even greater hypocrite if you can see all that clearly and still live your life as a worthless playboy. You are a man without a purpose, Senor D’Anconia, and that’s the worst kind of person.”
Francisco dons his poker face. With an “It certainly seems that way, doesn’t it?” he departs, but Hank is too intrigued for his own good and pulls him back for one last question. “What kind of game are you playing, anyway?”
Another sly look from Frisco. “I told you don’t worry about that. You’re winning it.”
Hank still hasn’t had that stiff drink he so very much deserves, but just as he sets off in pursuit once more, Dagny darts into his way determined to have a more amicable conversation than the one she attempted while he was standing next to his wife. This poor bastard. Dags, get a clue.
“So what’s with Bertram Scudder being here? Didn’t he trash you in a national publication?” she asks. Great ice-breaker. I’m sure that’ll improve his mood. Sure enough he keeps stonewalling her, claiming that he invited the muckraking Scudder because he doesn’t give a shit about this party so why not. Dagny is discouraged. “Yeah, this party’s lame. I totally don’t care either. I mean, I like parties but… I don’t know. Everyone is just so frivolous. Shouldn’t a party feel like a celebration of… something?” and then she looks down at her shoes.
Okay Dags it’s not gonna happen. Time to walk away now. Just… walk away.
She does, thank God, and takes refuge in a ring of people discussing the pirate problem. The what? PIRATES? Amazing. Why is this only coming up now?
Yes, the Dread Pirate Ragnar Danneskjold (fuck that; Ragbeard) has apparently begun to loot the American side of the Atlantic. Ragbeard’s former targets, by the way, include the “People’s States” of Norway, France, England, Portugal, and Turkey. That’s a lot of socialism.
Someone says it makes sense Ragbeard came to America. He went to school here don’t you know. Does that sound ridiculous? Well, you try getting into piracy without a bachelor’s degree. Oh, and he went to Patrick Henry University, just like Francisco and the philosopher who mysteriously disappeared. Small world!
The guests agree that with no end to Ragbeard’s scourge in sight the only thing left to say is ‘Oh well, who is John Galt?’
And then some lady pipes up: “I know who John Galt is.”
“He discovered Atlantis! He was out boating and saw it, and he sank the boat to get there.”
How curious. But Dagny will not abide nonsense and checked out right around “Atlantis.” Out of the blue Francisco is behind her and tells the woman he totally believes her. She thinks he’s making fun, and she and Dagny both attempt to leave in a huff, but Francisco holds Dagny up for hard-boiled banter.
They agree everyone here sucks, but he finds that amusing and she’s depressed. He finds that amusing too. She does not. He wistfully tells her she’s the only worthwhile guest here and eyes her in her elegant black dress. ‘What a magnificent waste,’ he says, and that strikes a chord with Dagny. The “bottomless pit of loneliness” chord. Which when she opens her mouth sounds like “Fuck off, Francisco.”
But she fails to execute the obligatory storm-away maneuver because as she heads for the exit she passes Lillian Rearden explaining Hank’s gift bracelet to someone. Naturally Lily’s giving it a back-handed compliment. It’s very valuable, but so ugly that nobody will trade her for some proper diamonds! What a bitch, I assume Dagny must think. This is the woman keeping me from getting laid?
Our heroine butts in, the diamond bracelet she was wearing now in her palm. She calls Lillian a coward to her face and demands she fork over the Rearden Metal ornament. Everybody gets quiet and stares. Some lady literally cries out ‘This is horrible!’ like she’s watching war footage, which is hysterical by two definitions.
Then Lillian plays it cool and exchanges the wristlets just as Hank shows up to defuse the tension. He clasps the diamonds to his wife’s arm and kisses her hand. The “we have a functional marriage” act is far more convincing all of a sudden. Dagny is wearing the Rearden Metal now, but she’s appropriately embarrassed and apologizes, weakly offering Hank an ‘I had to do it.’
His eyes remained expressionless. Yet she was suddenly certain that she knew what he felt: he wanted to slap her face.
Don’t worry Hank, she’s into that. But he just tells her the gesture was ‘unnecessary’ and she leaves in defeat. Aaand scene.
Much later, Hank visits his wife’s bedroom (separate bedrooms? Is this The Dick Van Dyke Show?) with an intent to hate-fuck (guess not), but he simply can’t get it up for this bitter, frigid woman anymore. Not now that he’s got the hots for another bitter, frigid woman.
He considers the arc of his relationship and it becomes very clear that he’s Catholic, because sex makes him feel dirty and he’s got a huge madonna/whore complex. He finally admits to himself that he hates his wife and his marriage. But he made a vow, dammit, and he’s a man of his word. Yep, definitely Catholic.
His dick flaccid but his mind resolute, Hank declares, “Tonight sucked. Don’t invite Dagny Taggart over here anymore,” and reassured of his self-righteousness retires to his room. Pretty sure he never poured himself that drink, either.
NEXT: Chapter 1:7 The Exploiters & the Exploited , “Mad Science”