At the beginning of January, while the first steel columns rose from the excavations that were to become the Cord Building and the Aquitania Hotel, Roark worked on the drawings for the Temple.
When the first sketches were finished, he said to his secretary:
"Get me Steve Mallory."
"Mallory, Mr. Roark? Who ... Oh, yes, the shooting sculptor."
"He took a shot at Ellsworth Toohey, didn't he?"
"Did he? Yes, that's right."
"Is that the one you want, Mr. Roark?"
"That's the one."
For two days the secretary telephoned art dealers, galleries, architects, newspapers. No one could tell her what had become of Steven Mallory or where he could be found. On the third day she reported to Roark: "I've found an address, in the Village, which I'm told might be his. There's no telephone." Roark dictated a letter asking Mallory to telephone his office.
The letter was not returned, but a week passed without answer. Then Steven Mallory telephoned.
"Hello?" said Roark, when the secretary switched the call to him.
"Steven Mallory speaking," said a young, hard voice, in a way that left an impatient, belligerent silence after the words.
"I should like to see you, Mr. Mallory. Can we make an appointment for you to come to my office?"
"What do you want to see me about?"
"About a commission, of course. I want you to do some work for a building of mine." There was a long silence.
"All right," said Mallory; his voice sounded dead. He added: "Which building?"
"The Stoddard Temple. You may have heard ... "
"Yeah, I heard. You're doing it. Who hasn't heard? Will you pay me as much as you're paying your press agent?"
"I'm not paying the press agent. I'll pay you whatever you wish to ask."
"You know that can't be much."
"What time would it be convenient for you to come here?"
"Oh, hell, you name it. You know I'm not busy."
"Two o'clock tomorrow afternoon?"
"All right." He added: "I don't like your voice." Roark laughed. "I like yours. Cut it out and be here tomorrow at two."
"Okay." Mallory hung up.
Roark dropped the receiver, grinning. But the grin vanished suddenly, and he sat looking at the telephone, his face grave.
Mallory did not keep the appointment. Three days passed without a word from him. Then Roark went to find him in person.
The rooming house where Mallory lived was a dilapidated brownstone in an unlighted street that smelled of a fish market. There was a laundry and a cobbler on the ground floor, at either side of a narrow entrance. A slatternly landlady said: "Mallory? Fifth floor rear," and shuffled away indifferently. Roark climbed sagging wooden stairs lighted by bulbs stuck in a web of pipes. He knocked at a grimy door.
The door opened. A gaunt young man stood on the threshold; he had disheveled hair, a strong mouth with a square lower lip, and the most expressive eyes that Roark had ever seen. "What do you want?" he snapped. "Mr. Mallory?"
"I'm Howard Roark."
Mallory laughed, leaning against the doorjamb, one arm stretched across the opening, with no intention of stepping aside. He was obviously drunk. "Well, well!" he said. "In person."
"May I come in?"
Roark sat down on the stair banister. "Why didn't you keep your appointment?"
"Oh, the appointment? Oh, yes. Well, I'll tell you," Mallory said gravely. "It was like this: I really intended to keep it, I really did, and I started out for your office, but on my way there I passed a movie theater that was showing Two Heads on a Pillow, so I went in. I just had to see Two Heads on a Pillow." He grinned, sagging against his stretched arm. "You'd better let me come in," said Roark quietly. "Oh, what the hell, come in."
The room was a narrow hole. There was an unmade bed in a corner, a litter of newspapers and old clothes, a gas ring, a framed landscape from the five-and-ten, representing some sort of sick brown meadows with sheep; there were no drawings or figures, no hints of the occupant's profession.
Roark pushed some books and a skillet off the only chair, and sat down. Mallory stood before him, grinning, swaying a little.
"You're doing it all wrong," said Mallory. "That's not the way it's done. You must be pretty hard up to come running after a sculptor. The way it's done is like this: You make me come to your office, and the first time I come you mustn't be there. The second time you must keep me waiting for an hour and a half, then come out into the reception room and shake hands and ask me whether I know the Wilsons of Podunk and say how nice that we have mutual friends, but you're in an awful hurry today and you'll call me up for lunch soon and then we'll talk business. Then you keep this up for two months. Then you give me the commission. Then you tell me that I'm no good and wasn't any good in the first place, and you throw the thing into the ash can. Then you hire Valerian Bronson and he does the job. That's the way it's done. Only not this time."
But his eyes were studying Roark intently, and his eyes had the certainty of a professional. As he spoke, his voice kept losing its swaggering gaiety, and it slipped to a dead flatness on the last sentences.
"No," said Roark, "not this time."
The boy stood looking at him silently.
"You're Howard Roark?" he asked. "I like your buildings. That's why I didn't want to meet you. So I wouldn't have to be sick every time I looked at them. I wanted to go on thinking that they had to be done by somebody who matched them."
"What if I do?"
"That doesn't happen."
But he sat down on the edge of the crumpled bed and slumped forward, his glance like a sensitive scale weighing Roark's features, impertinent in its open action of appraisal.
"Listen," said Roark, speaking clearly and very carefully, "I want you to do a statue for the Stoddard Temple. Give me a piece of paper and I'll write you a contract right now, stating that I will owe you a million dollars damages if I hire another sculptor or if your work is not used."
"You can speak normal. I'm not drunk. Not all the way. I understand."
"Why did you pick me?"
"Because you're a good sculptor."
"That's not true."
"That you're good?"
"No. That it's your reason. Who asked you to hire me?"
"Some woman I laid?"
"I don't know any women you laid."
"Stuck on your building budget?"
"No. The budget's unlimited."
"Feel sorry for me?"
"No. Why should I?"
"Want to get publicity out of that shooting Toohey business?"
"Good God, no!"
"Well, what then?"
"Why did you fish for all that nonsense instead of the simplest reason?"
"That I like your work."
"Sure. That's what they all say. That's what we're all supposed to say and to believe. Imagine what would happen if somebody blew the lid off that one! So, all right, you like my work. What's the real reason?"
"I like your work."
Mallory spoke earnestly, his voice sober.
"You mean you saw the things I've done, and you like them — you — yourself — alone — without anyone telling you that you should like them or why you should like them — and you decided that you wanted me, for that reason — only for that reason — without knowing anything about me or giving a damn — only because of the things I've done and ... and what you saw in them — only because of that, you decided to hire me, and you went to the bother of finding me and coming here, and being insulted — only because you saw — and what you saw made me important to you, made you want me? Is that what you mean?"
"Just that," said Roark.
The things that pulled Mallory's eyes wide were frightening to see. Then he shook his head, and said very simply, in the tone of soothing himself:
He leaned forward. His voice sounded dead and pleading.
"Listen, Mr. Roark. I won't be mad at you. I just want to know. All right, I see that you're set on having me work for you, and you know you can get me, for anything you say, you don't have to sign any million-dollar contract, look at this room, you know you've got me, so why shouldn't you tell me the truth? It won't make any difference to you — and it's very important to me."
"What's very important to you?"
"Not to ... not to ... Look. I didn't think anybody'd ever want me again. But you do. All right. I'll go through it again. Only I don't want to think again that I'm working for somebody who ... who likes my work. That, I couldn't go through any more. I'll feel better if you tell me, I'll ... I'll feel calmer. Why should you put on an act for me? I'm nothing. I won't think less of you, if that's what you're afraid of. Don't you see? It's much more decent to tell me the truth. Then it will be simple and honest. I'll respect you more. Really, I will."
"What's the matter with you, kid? What have they done to you? Why do you want to say things like that?"
"Because ... " Mallory roared suddenly, and then his voice broke, and his head dropped, and he finished in a flat whisper: "because I've spent two years" — his hand circled limply indicating the room — "that's how I've spent them — trying to get used to the fact that what you're trying to tell me doesn't exist ... "
Roark walked over to him, lifted his chin, knocking it upward, and said:
"You're a God-damn fool. You have no right to care what I think of your work, what I am or why I'm here. You're too good for that. But if you want to know it — I think you're the best sculptor we've got. I think it, because your figures are not what men are, but what men could be — and should be. Because you've gone beyond the probable and made us see what is possible, but possible only through you. Because your figures are more devoid of contempt for humanity than any work I've ever seen. Because you have a magnificent respect for the human being. Because your figures are the heroic in man. And so I didn't come here to do you a favor or because I felt sorry for you or because you need a job pretty badly. I came for a simple, selfish reason — the same reason that makes a man choose the cleanest food he can find. It's a law of survival, isn't it? — to seek the best. I didn't come for your sake. I came for mine."
Mallory jerked himself away from him, and dropped face down on the bed, his two arms stretched out, one on each side of his head, hands closed into fists. The thin trembling of the shirt cloth on his back showed that he was sobbing; the shirt cloth and the fists that twisted slowly, digging into the pillow. Roark knew that he was looking at a man who had never cried before. He sat down on the side of the bed and could not take his eyes off the twisting wrists, even though the sight was hard to bear.
After a while Mallory sat up. He looked at Roark and saw the calmest, kindest face — a face without a hint of pity. It did not look like the countenance of men who watch the agony of another with a secret pleasure, uplifted by the sight of a beggar who needs their compassion; it did not bear the cast of the hungry soul that feeds upon another's humiliation. Roark's face seemed tired, drawn at the temples, as if he had just taken a beating. But his eyes were serene and they looked at Mallory quietly, a hard, clean glance of understanding — and respect.
"Lie down now," said Roar. "Lie still for a while."
"How did they ever let you survive?"
"Lie down. Rest. We'll talk afterward."
Mallory got up. Roark took him by the shoulders, forced him down, lifted his legs off the floor, lowered his head on the pillow. The boy did not resist.
Stepping back, Roark brushed against a table loaded with junk. Something clattered to the floor. Mallory jerked forward, trying to reach it first. Roark pushed his arm aside and picked up the object.
It was a small plaster plaque, the kind sold in cheap gift shops. It represented a baby sprawled on its stomach, dimpled rear forward, peeking coyly over its shoulder. A few lines, the structure of a few muscles showed a magnificent talent that could not be hidden, that broke fiercely through the rest; the rest was a deliberate attempt to be obvious, vulgar and trite, a clumsy effort, unconvincing and tortured. It was an object that belonged in a chamber of horrors.
Mallory saw Roark's hand begin to shake. Then Roark's arm went back and up, over his head, slowly, as if gathering the weight of air in the crook of his elbow; it was only a flash, but it seemed to last for minutes, the arm stood lifted and still — then it slashed forward, the plaque shot across the room and burst to pieces against the wall. It was the only time anyone had ever seen Roark murderously angry.
"Roark, I wish I'd met you before you had a job to give me." He spoke without expression, his head lying back on the pillow, his eyes closed. "So that there would be no other reason mixed in. Because, you see, I'm very grateful to you. Not for giving me a job. Not for coming here. Not for anything you'll ever do for me. Just for what you are."
Then he lay without moving, straight and limp, like a man long past the stage of suffering. Roark stood at the window, looking at the wrenched room and at the boy on the bed. He wondered why he felt as if he were waiting. He was waiting for an explosion over their heads. It seemed senseless. Then he understood. He thought, this is how men feel, trapped in a shell hole; this room is not an accident of poverty, it's the footprint of a war; it's the devastation torn by explosives more vicious than any stored in the arsenals of the world. A war ... against? ... The enemy had no name and no face. But this boy was a comrade-in-arms, hurt in battle, and Roark stood over him, feeling a strange new thing, a desire to lift him in his arms and carry him to safety ... Only the hell and the safety had no known designations ... He kept thinking of Kent Lansing, trying to remember something Kent Lansing had said ...
Then Mallory opened his eyes, and lifted himself up on one elbow. Roark pulled the chair over to the bed and sat down.
"Now," he said, "talk. Talk about the things you really want said. Don't tell me about your family, your childhood, your friends or your feelings. Tell me about the things you think."
Mallory looked at him incredulously and whispered:
"How did you know that?"
Roark smiled and said nothing.
"How did you know what's been killing me? Slowly, for years, driving me to hate people when I don't want to hate ... Have you felt it, too? Have you seen how your best friends love everything about you — except the things that count? And your most important is nothing to them, nothing, not even a sound they can recognize. You mean, you want to hear? You want to know what I do and why I do it, you want to know what I think! It's not boring to you? It's important?"
"Go ahead," said Roark.
Then he sat for hours, listening, while Mallory spoke of his work, of the thoughts behind his work, of the thoughts that shaped his life, spoke gluttonously, like a drowning man flung out to shore, getting drunk on huge, clean snatches of air.
Mallory came to Roark's office on the following morning, and Roark showed him the sketches of the Temple. When he stood at a drafting table, with a problem to consider, Mallory changed; there was no uncertainty in him, no remembrance of pain; the gesture of his hand taking the drawing was sharp and sure, like that of a soldier on duty. The gesture said that nothing ever done to him could alter the function of the thing within him that was now called into action. He had an unyielding, impersonal confidence; he faced Roark as an equal.
He studied the drawings for a long time, then raised his head. Everything about his face was controlled, except his eyes.
"Like it?" Roark asked.
"Don't use stupid words."
He held one of the drawings, walked to the window, stood looking down the sketch to the street to Roark's face and back again.
"It doesn't seem possible," he said. "Not this — and that." He waved the sketch at the street.
There was a poolroom on the corner of the street below; a rooming house with a Corinthian portico; a billboard advertising a Broadway musical; a line of pink-gray underwear fluttering on a roof.
"Not in the same city. Not on the same earth," said Mallory. "But you made it happen. It's possible ... I'll never be afraid again."
Mallory put the sketch down on the table, cautiously. He answered:
"You said something yesterday about a first law. A law demanding that man seek the best ... It was funny ... The unrecognized genius — that's an old story. Have you ever thought of a much worse one — the genius recognized too well? ... That a great many men are poor fools who can't see the best — that's nothing. One can't get angry at that. But do you understand about the men who see it and don't want it?"
"No. You wouldn't. I spent all night thinking about you. I didn't sleep at all. Do you know what your secret is? It's your terrible innocence."
Roark laughed aloud, looking at the boyish face.
"No," said Mallory, "it's not funny. I know what I'm talking about — and you don't. You can't know. It's because of that absolute health of yours. You're so healthy that you can't conceive of disease. You know of it. But you don't really believe it. I do. I'm wiser than you are about some things, because I'm weaker. I understand — the other side. That's what did it to me ... what you saw yesterday."
"Probably. But not quite. I'm not afraid any more. But I know that the terror exists. I know the kind of terror it is. You can't conceive of that kind. Listen, what's the most horrible experience you can imagine? To me — it's being left, unarmed, in a sealed cell with a drooling beast of prey or a maniac who's had some disease that's eaten his brain out. You'd have nothing then but your voice — your voice and your thought. You'd scream to that creature why it should not touch you, you'd have the most eloquent words, the unanswerable words, you'd become the vessel of the absolute truth. And you'd see living eyes watching you and you'd know that the thing can't hear you, that it can't be reached, not reached, not in any way, yet it's breathing and moving there before you with a purpose of its own. That's horror. Well, that's what's hanging over the world, prowling somewhere through mankind, that same thing, something closed, mindless, utterly wanton, but something with an aim and a cunning of its own. I don't think I'm a coward, but I'm afraid of it. And that's all I know — only that it exists. I don't know its purpose, I don't know its nature."
"The principle behind the Dean," said Roark.
"It's something I wonder about once in a while ... Mallory, why did you try to shoot Ellsworth Toohey?" He saw the boy's eyes, and he added: "You don't have to tell me if you don't like to talk about it."
"I don't like to talk about it," said Mallory, his voice tight. "But it was the right question to ask."
"Sit down," said Roark. "We'll talk about your commission."
Then Mallory listened attentively while Roark spoke of the building and of what he wanted from the sculptor. He concluded:
"Just one figure. It will stand here." He pointed to a sketch. "The place is built around it. The statue of a naked woman. If you understand the building, you understand what the figure must be. The human spirit. The heroic in man. The aspiration and the fulfillment, both. Uplifted in its quest — and uplifting by its own essence. Seeking God — and finding itself. Showing that there is no higher reach beyond its own form ... You're the only one who can do it for me."
"You'll work as I work for my clients. You know what I want — the rest is up to you. Do it any way you wish. I'd like to suggest the model, but if she doesn't fit your purpose, choose anyone you prefer."