Chapter 26: The Concerto of Deliverance
The chapter begins with Rearden receiving an odd attachment order, a vague threat that he hasn't been straight with his personal income taxes. He doesn't react to it, and the day later, a Washington bureaucrat calls him, making the excuse that it was all a mistake, going through the same apologizing spiel twice to see his reaction. Even though the bureaucrat directly encourages him to file a claim against the file, Rearden still doesn't react, saying and doing nothing. Shortly later, Tinky Holloway calls him to attend a dinner conference, pleading for a hearing. Rearden agrees to go. The morning of the meeting, Rearden's mother calls him with a desperate insistence that he comes by, that whatever it is she needs to tell him can't be said over the phone. Rearden also agrees to her, setting her meeting before the dinner conferenec.
The above events that start the chapter are all meant to bind Rearden into staying; the looters have caught on with the latest rage and have finally figured out who would go next.
Rearden's family attempts to wring pity, guilt, and forgiveness from him. However, their method, although yellow enough to incite pity, betrays their true intent. One one level, they are desperate to keep him because if Rearden leaves, they would be left with nothing--the looting government wouldn't help the family of deserters and Rearden Steel would be nationalized. They apologize profusely, attempting to blame their mistakes on their ignorance and inability to think; they urge that Rearden feels. They're his family. Yet, their idea of forgiveness is twisted: they regret that they've hurt Rearden and to atone, they would ask for total immolation from Rearden--begging him to stay, when the hopelessness of his industrial position and the futility of his struggle should have provoked a truly loving family to tell him to leave. Indeed, his family wishes "to make him let them devour the last of him in the name of mercy, forgiveness and brother-cannibal love. (891)"
When Philip accidentally blurts out that they had to see him before the dinner conference, he reveals that the purpose of the attachment order is to bind Rearden from escaping, but limiting the avail of funds at Rearden's disposal. "You can't run away... without money." The looters have machinated the practical back-up of keeping his money away from him in case the trio who occupied the bodies of his family members failed as hostages to get Rearden to stay.
Lillian attempts to deal her last blow at Rearden by revealing her infidelity to him--as his wife, as "Rearden Wife." It is as if unable to have his value, she could surpass it by destroying it, as if she would thus obtain a measure of his greatness. Lillian had chosen Rearden for his best virtues and placed him as the center of her life, as one's love should be, but if love to Rearden is the celebration of one's existence and of existence, then self-haters and life-haters would see love as the pursuit of destruction--Lillian's goal in life had been to destroy Rearden. She had tried myriad times to lower his self-esteem, attempting to get him drunk, to interest in an extramarital affair--her attempt to steal Rearden's self-esteem is based on her knowledge that if a man surrenders his value, he would be at the mercy of anyone's will. As if by destroying Rearden, his moral purity and confident rectitude, his resultant depravity would give her the right to hers. But, Rearden is not affected by Lillian's final confession of her breaking of the purity of Rearden Wife; Rearden had long ago discredited her with the title and, moreover, he does not hold the belief that one's moral stature is at the mercy of action of another.
Rearden walks away from his family's last attempt to leech him for alms unharmed, only the wiser. When he arrives at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, he finds that the men are meeting in the room Francisco used to occupy. As he goes through more revelations, he is haunted glimpses of Francisco's wraith. The men attempt to sell him the Steel Unification Plan, and Rearden attempts to explain to them how it wouldn't work, how it's perfectly absurd, how if they want the alleviate this mess of national emergencies, they ought to just sit back and let him take hold. But, the looters are adament in stating that that wouldn't work. They give their stream of excuses--"it's only a matter of gaining time, all we need is a chance." What are they counting on? Rearden realizes that they are counting on him. That Rearden himself had allowed them to put over his head the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, Directive 10-289, "that he had accepted the law that those who could not equal his ability had the right to dispose of it, that those who had not earned were to profit, but he who had was to lose, that those who could not think were to command, but he who could was to obey them." He had given them cause to believe that reality was a thing to be cheated, he had made their irrational universe work: he had provided for it. He was always to do without asking why, and they were always to receive and demand without asking how. Their ultimate weapon that has prevented their world from collapsing as it should have was that no matter what "he'll do something!" Rearden leaves them, realizing the full significance of the sanction of the victim.
When he returns to his mill, he finds that it is under seige by a mob attack. His Wet Nurse had attempted to save it, by voiding Washington's demand for him to let the mob into the mill. (Apparently, the looters had another backup in their machinations in case Rearden doesn't agree. They want the Steel Unifiaction Plan, and they had planned the mob attack so that the media would muckrack it to appear as if Rearden's workers are underpaid and thus that a Steel Unification Plan was necessary.) Tragically, he is fatally wounded. The Wet Nurse represents an honest man's attempt to find the right path in the midst of the evil world of the looters; if he good man gets in the looters' way, they die. Moreover, the looters would plague their children with the belief of the non-absolute to keep them in line. The vicious cycle of their world...
When Francisco d'Anconia under the nom de guerre of Frank Adams comes to reap his greatest conquest, Rearden is ready. He reacts with indifference to the destruction of his mill because he knows that if he does anything to save it, he would only be helping the looters continue to avoid reality: he is ready to leave the world behind.