Enter your details here to receive news and original content from Penguin Classics and Modern Classics, as well as information on forthcoming events, special offers and competitions.
Book: Hardback | 153 x 234mm | 208 pages | ISBN 9780141394084 | 04 Mar 2014 | Penguin Classics
In 1944, twenty-two year old Jack Kerouac lost a novella-length manuscript called The Haunted Life. It turned up thirteen years later in a Columbia University dormitory, and then in 2002, at a Sotheby's auction house. Now, 70 years after Kerouac wrote it, his second novel will be published for the first time.
The Haunted Life is the coming-of-age story of Peter Martin, a college track star determined to idle away what he knows will be one of his last innocent summers in his tranquil New England home town. But with the war escalating in Europe and his two closest friends both plotting their escapes, he realises how sheltered his upbringing has been. As he surveys the competing influences of his youth, he struggles to determine what might lead to an intellectually authentic life.
The Haunted Life is ultimately a meditation on intellectual truth, male friendship and the desire for movement - all themes that would dominate Kerouac's later work.
“America isn’t the same country anymore; it isn’t even America anymore.” Mr. Martin drew on his cigar with nodding and angry finality. “It’s become a goddamn pesthole for every crummy race from the other side. America isn’t America anymore. A white man can’t walk down the street, or go in a restaurant, or do busi- ness, or do anything for that matter without having to mix up with these goddamn greasers from the other side.”
On the couch across the unlit room, Peter Martin grinned over his cigarette.
“Crapule!” cried Mr. Martin, coughing smoke.
The light from the kitchen, where Aunt Marie was washing the dishes, fell into the dim front room where Mr. Martin was still coughing when his sister called from her dishpan, “Are you starting again?”
“You goddamn right I am!” he choked.
Peter reached for the radio dial to turn up the volume of a
Benny Goodman record which had just begun. He repressed the
impulse to announce the title of the number to the room in gen- eral; in a juke joint he would have cried it out triumphantly, an- nouncing his knowledge of jazz.
“Wops!” resumed Mr. Martin, his voice thick. “Jews! Greeks! Niggers! Armenians, Syrians, every scummy race in the world. They’ve all come here, and they’re still coming, and they’ll keep on coming by the boatloads. Mark my word, you’ll see the day when a real American won’t have a chance to work and live de- cently in his own country, a day when ruin and bankruptcy will fall on this nation because all these damned foreigners will have taken everything over and made a holy mess of it.”
Mr. Martin paused to puff quickly on his cigar. Peter was half listening. Aunt Marie was singing an aria from Carmen over her dishes in a small sweet voice.
“By God, that trip to New York opened my eyes plenty. I’d never dreamed things had reached this point . . . never! That city is crawling with dirty foreigners, and niggers! I’ve never seen so many niggers in all my life. A couple of days was all I needed to get the lay of the land. Black faces, greasy faces, all kinds of faces. I ask myself how can a white man live in that stinking town? What’s happened to this country? Who is the cause of all this?”
“Roosevelt?” supplied Peter slyly.
“You don’t need to mention it. You ought to know it as well as I do.”
Peter leaned forward. “Oh I don’t know, Pop . . . ”
“Of course you don’t know. You’re only a kid. You haven’t lived sixty years in this country. You didn’t see America and work in America when it was really America . . . ”
Peter blanked his cigarette.
“Now you take around here,” went on the father from the dark
corner, the cigar glowing an orange arc, “as it was fifty years ago, right in little Galloway, Massachusetts. We were all white people, working together. Your grandfather was only a carpenter, but he was an honest man, a hardworking man. None of this grasping and foreign conning for him. He got up in the morning, went to work for eleven hours a day, came home, ate supper, sat in the kitchen for a few hours thinking, and then went to bed. Like that! No shrewdness to him, just a straightforward, honest old boy. Ah God, he was . . . ”
“What was Galloway like in those days?” prompted Peter. “Well, like I was saying, we were all white people . . . a sprin-
kling of Irishmen, French-Canadians like ourselves, old En- glish families, and a few Germans. You would have to see it to understand what I’m trying to tell you. We were . . . well, we were honest, the community was honest. Of course, there were a few thieves and cardsharps and peanut politicians, like you’ll find anywhere in the world. But what I mean is, the general run of these people were on the up and up. Why, boy, it was a re- markable thing, now that I really look back on it. Life was a sim- ple and quiet affair in those days; people were real and sincere and . . . friendly. They weren’t ready to trim you the moment you turned your back, like these New York Jews; in those days it wasn’t a matter of selling the cheapest goods for the highest price. It was, by God, a matter of selling the best possible. Look, you like those long-winded economic words, those they throw around at Boston College, well now, listen . . . competition in those days was based on who could put up the best goods for sale . . . the baker who made the best chocolate pie . . . and not on who could afford to undersell the others without regard to quality . . . ”
“Why blame New York Jews for this change?” frowned Peter, intent on creating logic.
“You’re right, I guess. It’s not only the New York Jew. It’s Jews all over the country, the Wop and all the others who bring with them from the other side ideas which are not American, and with it all their filthy ways . . . ”
Aunt Marie had finished the dishes. She entered the front room, a statuesque lady with white hair braided close to her head, wearing a blue and white cotton housedress and a pair of worn house slippers. She sat in the chair by the window, where the last pink glow of dusk hovered behind the screen. June crick- ets were beginning their numberless chorale.
“These foreigners don’t understand the real America . . . that’s why they’re so dangerous. They bring with them the old ways of Europe, the haggling cheesy manners, the crooked dealings, the damned smoke-screening . . . ”
“What do you mean by smoke-screening?” interposed Peter.
“I mean just that! They say one thing, and they mean some- thing else. They lie in your face. A man comes to a point where he can’t figure out what they’re after. If they want something, they don’t come right out with it! They throw up a damned smoke- screen. They haven’t got the guts, nor the honesty, to come out with it straight . . . ”
Aunt Marie lit a Fatima and glazed placidly out the window. A commentator was speaking on the radio about the retreat of the Russians toward Moscow.
“These foreigners know which side their bread is buttered on. Roosevelt! The more foreigners, the more votes for him; he plays up to them, and they think it’s wonderful. As for the rest of the American people, to hell with them! Roosevelt knows
the real Americans won’t be the fall guys to finance and support his dreams of dictatorship, so he turns to these foreigners, and they fall for it blissfully because that’s all they knew back in the
‘old country’—inflated balloons like Roosevelt! I tell you, the country is going to pot, and we’re going to be dragged into the war by Roosevelt and the Jews and the British Empire! Mark my word! And someday, when people get a little more sense in their heads, they’re going to catch on to Roosevelt’s schemes.” Mr. Martin rose to his feet, a tall spare man of sixty, white- haired and bespectacled, and moved across the dark room. “And he will go down in history as the greatest enemy to mankind America ever had!”
Mr. Martin was in the kitchen.
“Mark my word!” he shouted back, and slammed the bath- room door shut.
Aunt Marie sighed deeply. “He’s getting worse year by year,” she said, weighing her words with portent. “Worse and worse, year by year.”
Peter got up and went over to the piano stool, grinning.
“Your poor mother was frightened to death of him, Petey. Even when he was a boy, he would rage around the house like a lion. Even father couldn’t calm him down or tame him; he was always angry about something, always going around with a chip on his shoulder, always getting into trouble. I tell you, he’s get- ting worse and worse, year by year . . . ”
Peter struck a few keys on the old square back piano. He said, “Pop’s always been a man with opinions, and he voices them good and loud, that’s all.”
“Well,” said Aunt Marie, “you can say what you want, but I
know Joe Martin, he’s my brother, I’ve known him ever since he
was so high, and I tell you he’s never been all there, and he’s get- ting worse year by year . . . ”
Peter giggled and spun around in the piano stool to face the keyboard. He began to play chords, striking them at random, a discordant cat-on-the-keys performance. Aunt Marie turned on the chair lamp and peered at the pile of newspapers and mag- azines in a rack beneath an arm of Mr. Martin’s easy chair. The announcer said it was eight-thirty.
Peter went to the radio and dialed for the baseball scores. Mr. Martin returned munching a last season’s Mackintosh apple. “I’m listening to Fibber McGee and Molly at nine o’clock,” he
told his son, grinning. “Until then, the radio is yours . . . ”
“Wow! Teddy Williams got three more hits today,” cried Peter. Searching around for his reading glasses, Mr. Martin said:
“He’s a good one, that Williams.”
Peter returned to the couch and lit another cigarette. Aunt
Marie looked up from her Saturday Evening Post.
“Petey, don’t smoke so much. You smoke almost as much as
Wesley used to . . . ” “Did he smoke a lot?”
“My lord, yes. The doctor told him to stop smoking many times, but he never did. For all we know he may be consumptive by now . . . ”
Mr. Martin looked up, frowning. His eyes were dark. “Smoke? That fool kid drinks like ten men.”
“That’s what they teach them at sea. There’s no harder life than the sailor’s . . . ”
Martin went on, ignoring his sister: “He was a high school punk when he started drinking. I remember one afternoon I stopped in at McTigue’s bar on Woolcott Street, and there was my own
sixteen-year-old son sitting drunk at the bar, with a dozen empty shot glasses around him . . . smoking a cigarette. It didn’t faze him that I happened to catch him . . . ” Mr. Martin’s voice was softened in recollection. “By God, Marie, he was a strange little tyke . . . a strange lad . . . ”
Peter listened with soft wonder. Whenever they spoke about Wesley he felt that way, sad and filled with mystery. He had a brother, surely, Wesley Martin; but Wesley Martin was a dark and haunting legend. Wesley had not been home for nine or ten years. He was a seaman. Occasionally, a letter would find its way to Galloway, always written in a strange yet simple script; always worded simply, yet strangely. Peter shook his head slowly, puzzled.
“How old is he by now?” asked Mr. Martin, turning a suddenly drawn and helpless face on Aunt Marie.
She knew it instantly, but performed a little ritual of recol- lection, counting on her fingers and mumbling. “He’ll be twen- ty-seven in December. He left home in the Spring of 1932, that will be ten years come next Spring . . . ”
“And you were just a little lad, Petey,” said Mr. Martin, gazing on his son blankly.
“I was ten years old. Tell me, Pop, why did Wesley leave home? I mean, was there any particular reason, or was it just . . . that business about Helen Copley . . . ”
“That was reason enough for Wesley.” Mr. Martin relit his cigar slowly. “He was driving, so he felt responsible for everything that happened. The Copley girl’s face was smashed up. Young Wilson lost a couple of fingers. Wesley himself wasn’t hurt much, which made it worse for his conscience. He was a sensitive lad . . . ”
Aunt Marie leaned forward in her chair. “Why, Helen Copley
looks just as good as ever today. Her scars healed up in a year’s time.”
“Yep, I guess . . . ” Mr. Martin sighed heavily. “I guess Wesley’s leaving home was just a matter of time anyway. The accident, and the remorse that followed it, only saw to it that he went off a few years ahead of schedule. Restless boy, he was, like all the Martins. Why, my brother Frank . . . ”
“Helen Copley’s married today and has children. She has a lovely husband. I wrote and told Wesley a dozen times, but he doesn’t seem to listen.”
Aunt Marie bit her lip and went on. “He had no true reason for leaving a good home and going off as he did—at seventeen, for the love of God—a child . . . ”
“It was in the cards,” said Mr. Martin. “He was restless, like all the Martins. And I guess he’s done alright for himself . . . those seaman make good money and live in the open. By God,” Mr. Martin grinned slyly, “by God, I’ve always wanted to travel around the world in a freighter myself.”
“But it’s so dangerous now,” objected Aunt Marie. “Don’t you read the papers? The Germans are sinking all the ships, American or otherwise. Soon there may be war and . . . ”
“Wesley’ll get more pay,” piped in Peter, almost enthusiasti- cally. “They pay them big bonuses for taking the submarine risk.” “I don’t care how much they pay them,” insisted Aunt Ma-
rie in the face of the grinning males, both of whom were now launched on thoughts of the sea. “Human life is more important than money. I expect Wesley to come home someday, the poor child, when he gets a chance; and I want him to come home all in one piece. I’m only saying what his poor mother would have said.”
In the silence that followed, in the middle of a pause on the radio, a large June moth smashed headlong into the screen and dropped in a dizzy flutter on the windowpane. The McCarthy dog barked from down the street. The Western sky was a cool pale blue, made alive by one dazzling silver star.
“He’s seeing the world,” went on Mr. Martin, extending a monologue he’d been having with himself. “That’s more than I can say for myself. Selling insurance in this town wasn’t so bad in the old days. I liked it. But now,” he smashed the arm of the chair with a big fist, “now Galloway’s getting to be a crumbhole! Every store downtown that was ever worth a cent or two is now being run by Jews! And if not Jews, Greeks and Armenians! The Wops are pouring in from Lawrence and Haverhill! I tell you, I’m glad Wesley cleared out of this town; sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t the smartest of the bunch.”
“Don’t start that again,” cried Aunt Marie almost savagely. Martin stared at her as though she were some indescribable
creature from Mars.
“Women,” he yelled, “never knew and never will know a damned thing! Right under your big nose this country is going to the dogs, and you want me to shut up! Good God Almighty, your brains don’t add up, I think, to more than a teaspoonful of sawdust!”
“You don’t have to yell!”
“Why not? This is my house, isn’t it? If the neighbors don’t like it, they can all go to hell!”
Peter walked to the kitchen for a glass of water and snickered gleefully.
“You can’t sell these foreigners a policy,” his father was shout- ing, “without having to sign your life’s blood away. They don’t
know what a man’s word means—where they come from every- body is so damn dishonest and downright crooked they all have to sleep with one eye open. They don’t know a thing about Amer- ica and the way people live here, and yet here they come! Here they come by the boatloads! Why the hell didn’t they stay in their cheesy European towns? Why the hell don’t they go back? When will they learn that the American people don’t want them here? Will we have to ship them back, ass baggage and all, before they find out we don’t want them here?”
Chuckling mildly at the outburst, Aunt Marie now lit another Fatima and settled back with her reading. Peter was standing in the doorway.
Martin suddenly remembered. “What time is it?” “Three minutes past nine.”
“Fibber McGee!” cried Mr. Martin, jumping out of the chair. “Missed part of it!”
Peter’s kid sister Diane came in from the front porch carrying her high school books. She dashed across the room toward the living room, calling: “Aunt Marie, did you make some lemonade tonight?”
“It’s on the icebox.”
Diane, in a neat blouse and skirt, her brown hair falling straight down to the shoulders, rummaged furiously through the living room buffet drawer. Peter watched her from the doorway, tooth- pick in mouth.
“What you looking for?” “None of your business.”
Annoyed, Peter said: “Huh! Big stuff now that you’re finished with Junior year.” Diane did not reply.
Aunt Marie called: “Diane, I thought you said rehearsals would end in time for supper?”
“Didn’t! Miss Merriom wanted us to make up for lost time. I
ate at Jacqueline’s house.”
“Quiet!” yelled Mr. Martin. “I want to hear this program.” Diane emerged from the living room with a dangle of blue
ribbon. She said, “Rose said she was coming with Billie tonight.” “I know,” mumbled Aunt Marie. “She should be here any
“Rose!” exploded Mr. Martin.
“Yes, Rose, my daughter Rose. Did you ever hear of her?”
taunted Aunt Marie.
“She’ll bring the kid! I’ll never hear the program! Goddamnit! He cries like a baby!”
“He is a baby.”
Peter, grinning, went out to the screened porch and sat in the creaking hammock. It was a chilly night, thick with odorous dew, swarming with stars and cricket sounds. The radio blared behind; across the street, in the cluster of trees where he had played as a boy, fireflies blinked erratically. Over the cooling fields toward the Merrimac River a train whistle howled.
Rose Largay, Aunt Marie’s only daughter, came at quarter past nine with her four-year-old son, Billie, and her neighbor, Mag- gie Sidelinker, a newlywed bride. Mr. Martin took refuge on the screened porch with Diane’s portable radio; and Peter escaped up to his room, turned on the reading lamp and slumped in a sagging leather easy chair with Patterns for Living. It was hot in the room from the latent heat of a sunblazing June afternoon. A
June bug raged at the bay window screen. Peter could hear the portable from the porch where his father sat, an exile from the front room with its flurry of gossip and smells of sticky lollipops and women.
“Young Writer Remembering Chicago.” Peter read slowly, ad- miring the young Halper’s tragic sense of youth and lonesome- ness. “My arms are heavy, I’ve got the blues; there’s a locomotive in my chest and that’s a fact.”
Peter leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and tried to visu- alize the young Albert Halper in a cheap rooming house in Man- hattan, his arms heavy, his spirit driven and wearied by a heavy, vital drive. Someday, he, Peter, would rent a cheap room in Man- hattan, and sit in a chair to stare at the flecked plaster wall. There would be the fundamental challenges of reality! There he would be pitted against the problems of the spirit (and of the stomach), a lonely youth, friendless in the great city, whose chief occupa- tion would be that of ferreting out whatever beauty was left to be seen and smelled and touched and felt. A mission of that sort, ap- pealing to the romantic instincts he knew he had inherited from something essentially American in his boyhood, held a billion fer- tile possibilities. He must try that sometime! There were many jobs to be had in New York . . . all the way down to dishwashing. Suppose he were to go to New York someday, get a job washing dishes in a big hotel, and it turned out that his fellow dishwashers were (1) a discontented Communist, (2) a careless vagabond from New Orleans, and (3) a young artist seeking to sell his watercol- ors. What a world of promise New York must hold!
Here in Galloway—
Peter kneeled at the bay window and looked out at the sum- mer night. Down by the corner the streetlight shone, illuminating
the front porch of Dick Sheffield’s house. Beyond, over a cluster of homes partly buried in heavy oak and maple foliage—with soft squares of gold light falling from parlor windows onto green lawns—in the hazy summer night distance, the lights of down- town Galloway glowed, topped by the gangling red-lighted frame of the WGLH radio station antenna.
Straight across the street, a cluster of trees, and beyond, the field where the boys played ball, rolling toward the railroad tracks and the river. Silent night fields, with perhaps a couple or two strolling in search of thick bramble.
Down toward the other corner, where the streetlamp illu- mined a heavy, rustling mass of foliage and threw a faint glow across the street to the rambling McCarthy house. Light from the McCarthy porch.
Such was Galloway. What could a man do in a burg like this? What cultural opportunities flowered, what learning and art flourished here?
Field smell, flower smell, and the smell of cooling black tar in the night. The air misty and drooping with its weight of odors, the river’s moist gust of breeze, the rotting cherry blossoms in the backyard, and the strong green smell of tree leaves trembling against the bay window screen.
Peter held his breath to listen . . . the voices of the McCarthys drinking lemonade on their porch. The radio next door, Mary Quigley and her girlfriend from Riverside St., dancing to a sooth- ing Bob Eberly ballad in the living room littered with new and old recordings. The McCarthy dog barking at the kids who slink by in the dark playing gangsters or cowboys or maybe war.
Again the train . . . moving north to Montreal . . . howling long and hoarse, a mournful night sound . . .
Silence now for a moment . . . and the river hush, and the trem- bling of tree leaves. Far across the field, over the tracks and over to the boulevard across the river, where the cars move endlessly back and forth from the city to the ice cream road stands, the fried clam restaurants, the pink-lit roadhouses all crowded with shuffling dancers, the faint beep of klaxons returns.
Now the sound of crickets, and that old bullfrog from the reeds in Haley’s Creek. And Pop’s Fibber McGee program from below on the porch, the audience crashing with sudden laughter. And Aunt Marie, Cousin Rose, her little brat, her friend, and Diane bubbling about trifles in the parlor; high laughter . . .
As such, Galloway—
Peter got up off his knees and stood surveying his room, idly lighting a fresh cigarette. It was a small but useful room, useful in the sense that it fitted his personality. Peter was the “den-type.” He wanted a place to retreat to, a place—a room—containing certain necessities which he felt, as perhaps an Alaskan trapper might feel, would be near at hand in an emergency unpredictable in length. Here were stored his rations of the spirit . . . books, a typewriter, paper, pencils and pens, envelopes, old letters, re- cent letters, mementos of childhood and boyhood, scrapbooks containing pertinent clippings and notebooks containing imperti- nent remarks, clusters of junk bearing no relation to one another and long out of purpose—pieces of colored crayon and chalk, marbles and migs, buttons, Yale locks, rolls of tape and string, seashore rocks and shells, matchbooks filled with assortments of tacks and small magnets and bottle caps, pieces of elastic and
bunting, empty inkbottles, old keys: all the minutiae a lad collects and, when he is fortunate enough, keeps, as a trinket-link with the always golden past.
Of a more singular nature, Peter here also hoarded the cun- ning achievements of his boyhood—a large slat-ribbed box over- flowing with notebooks and stacks of paper now yellowed and crinkling. These notebooks contained systematic records of his imaginary “events” . . . a complicated system of nations, and their wars and sports, with appropriate native historian’s bombast, mellow sentimentality, elaborate detail, and proud, neat script. Thousands of names were buried in this slat-ribbed box, names culled from phonebooks for personalities of high or low estate conjured from the mind of boyhood . . . kings of nations, the official maps of which were preserved in great cracking scrolls; giants of the battlefield whose achievements dwarfed, as can be expected, the Napoleons; athletes of mellow renown, whose ex- ploits were eked out in a hundred thousand hours bent over an arrangement of marbles and sticks and stacks of paraphernalia incomprehensible, of course, to anyone but Peter Martin for- ever. Here were files upon files, painstakingly accurate, record- ing forever in the boy’s mind the fruits of a weird but original imagination.
And then there were the first watercolors, stiff landscapes, the inevitable island with palm leaning over the surf at sunset, the riotously green trees and mad blues and purples of sky and wa- ter. And the first novel . . . printed by hand in a notebook, a hun- dred pages on the adventures of “Jack” with illustrations. And the countless strips of cartoon drawings, extending adventure upon adventure to the square-jawed, pipe-smoking, angularly built hero, “Bart Lawson” or “Secret Operative K-11.”
Too, the attempts at humor . . . the morbidly ridiculous little cartoon character who forever gets in trouble and is not funny at all, but somehow vaguely insane. All of this, and more . . . piles of handwritten “daily newspapers,” telling of the news in a loud and insolent voice; containing editorials which somehow resem- ble real grown-up editorials, strangely enough, in that they strain to fill up the allotted space and say nothing worth one line of the news itself. And, of course, diaries abounding with tempera- ment, stoic admissions of ennui, and gleefully excited eyewitness reports of flood, fire, and hurricane.
Along with this—and everything else—Peter had stored in his den all the old toys, bats-balls-and-gloves, puppy love presents and rings, and photographs necessary to round out the whole- ness of his past.
Now, on top of this stratum with its deep undercurrents— fecund and psychological—of boyhood, Peter had and was amassing a new private civilization. He had a radio-phonograph, complete with a growing collection of classical, swing, and jazz records. The music covered a wide field, from Gershwin with his romantic hint of far Manhattan, or back to Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw—whose rhythms excited the present younger gener- ation and prepared them, or at least Peter and a few scattered others, for the serious side of the new music, call it jazz or swing, which culminated in the highly complicated and quite profound melodic improvisations of soloists Coleman Hawkins, Roy El- dridge, and Lester Young to mention a few, Negroes all, to whom the music actually belonged—and over to Delius, whose haunting lyrics struck Peter at first hearing (something compatibly mystic in his nature) and paved the way for an appreciation of like mod- erns, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich; which
in turn developed the senses, groomed and prepared them, for the masters themselves—Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms.
Foremost on Peter’s bookshelf, that is standing on the top in an elite group, were Thoreau, Homer, the Bible, Melville’s Moby Dick, Ulysses, Thomas Wolfe, Shakespeare, Whitman, Faust, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. On the next shelf, Peter had relegated several authors of more than passing interest to him, but of less than passing interest, he feared, to Homer-Bible-Shakespeare and company. These flickering lights included William Saroyan, Sher- wood Anderson, Albert Halper, and a few other whimsical favor- ites such as Rupert Brooke, Carl Sandburg, and Edna St. Vincent Millay—and the Hemingway–Fitzgerald–Dos Passos group.
In a pile on the desk lay Peter’s periodical reading, a smattering of liberal publications running from The Nation on—or back, or up or down—to New York’s daily PM and over the side to the New Masses and whatever few copies of the Daily Worker he was able to pick up. These he read a great deal puzzled—but he read with intent to learn. He mistrusted political texts, preferred glancing simultaneously at two divergently opinionated organs to get each side’s opinion of the other, and thus achieve a glimpse of motives, split propaganda from fact, and try to understand the issue as it was. In this vein, he often sought opinions on the same subject in the two papers PM and Hearst’s Boston Daily Record. Here he found people at each other’s throats and wondered mildly—with his eye searching for motives, even for the vital motive behind the motives—what warranted such agitation.
Above the old working desk were emblems also representative of Peter’s present life—a Boston College banner and a brilliant constellation of track medals of honor. This display, sophomoric though it was, served mainly to identify—in this strange bedlam
of a room—a phase of Peter’s life. The room’s purpose justified the conceit. It told the legend of his scholarship at Boston Col- lege, partly athletic and partly scholastic, while the large “44” in- dicated he had completed his freshman year.
These, in part, were the objects which lived in Peter’s room, and which more or less manifested his life up to the summer of
1941. On to Africa as an explorer, and return with a Kenyan’s spear, and he would lean it in a corner to show for that. With satisfaction and a pride touched with humor, Peter thus surveyed his room.
It was furnished not the way he would have desired, how- ever; it bore Aunt Marie’s daily touch. The wallpaper suggested a nursery or a playroom, it was that bright and flowery. The new bookcase she had replaced the old brown one with had that new varnished maple look that seemed somehow unintellectual— more, unscholarly. The curtains sang with sunshine and joy, the quilted rug before the dresser needed only an angora kitten play- ing with a ball of darning.
But the old brown leather easy chair was still there, and the lit- tered desk with the stuffed pigeonholes, the dusty big typewriter, the spare simple floor lamp, the old-fashioned living room chair with wooden back and leather seat, and the old iron bedstead with its brown paint chipping off to show an older integument of scholar’s brown—these remained; and somehow, Aunt Marie’s light and cheerful touch did not do too much harm. Her bright, neat spirit hovered over the stuffy brownness, vowing dust and disrepair could never turn this room, in spite of its stiff book- shelvean resistance, into a Faustian dungeon. This was a secure thought for one who lived in, but was not responsible entirely for, a room.