He glanced at her and did not answer. Then he said, “I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind—and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.”
“Do they ever think?” she asked involuntarily, and stopped; the question was her one personal torture and she did not want to discuss it.
The old man looked as if he had noticed the sudden stop and understood it; but he did not start discussing it; he said, instead, “I don’t like the thing that’s happening to people, Miss Taggart.”
“I don’t know. But I’ve watched them here for twenty years and I’ve seen the change. They used to rush through here, and it was wonderful to watch, it was the hurry of men who knew where they were going and were eager to get there. Now they’re hurrying because they are afraid. It’s not a purpose that drives them, it’s fear. They’re not going anywhere, they’re escaping. And I don’t think they know what it is that they want to escape.
Rand, Ayn (2005-04-21). Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (p. 64). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.