Returning to the center of the universe of this story, I remind the reader:
“Mr. Simon, whom my grandmother always claimed was actually Mr. Simony, a name that HE shortened….; ‘Simony’ occurred to my grandmother from direct observation. Mr. Simon came to my grandmother’s acquaintance through… a local minister. …. She always served sherry to the local minister.” (Summer Place – Part Three).
As the dominoes of Mr. Simon ‘dropping dead’ in ‘the Maine woods’ tumbled down in the far, far greater worlds beyond the local village world-viewed-from-a-glass-of-sherry “oh won’t you!” of my grandmother… she found herself… should she have bothered to review… ‘low’ on the totem pole of Mr. Simon’s …simony. Evidently… the New York minister ‘took care of everything’ and that everything was whisked away from anything to do with “MAINE; he has a SUMMER PLACE UP THERE”. My grandmother “heard” “he died”. “The poor man” and… “poor Mr. Simon” was my grandmother mantra for THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS. She had no idea what had happened. She did come to understand that Mr. Simon’s summer place continued to be that and was “kept” by “the family”. My grandmother had “never seen his wife”. This was Mr. Simon’s wife; the one Mr. Simon bought the antiques for. The wife… Mr. Simon bought Sophia Kimball’s chest for. No: NOTHING more ever happened “there” (the summer place) that she “knew of”.
In August, several months after selling Mr. Simon the Sophia Kimball chest, the local minister “came by”. He, after seating and “oh won’t you” a glass of sherry, smoothly related the saga of Mr. Simon ‘dropping dead’ AS coming from the inner knowing source of his friend the New York minister. As was usual… in the confident chamber of my grandmother’s sherry parlor, the local Minster gave a few more details… and a few more personal opinions of those details… then he ‘normally would’. Plied with a third glass of sherry, MORE would have been coughed up BUT my grandmother was “not interested” in Mr. Simon anymore particularly when the coughing up turned to the “disaster” (my grandmother’s word) of Mr. Simon’s simony “drying up”. Evidently simony was the right deduction by my grandmother and the New York minister’s ‘church’ was no longer on the simony list AND… this simony list had also come to include the local minister’s ‘church’ so the HE was having a “drying up”. Too.
“What am I going to do?” came from the local minister. At that point my grandmother knew what SHE was going to do and number one was ‘no third glass of sherry’ , number two was ‘no money coming from me you old wretch’ and number three was ‘change the subject’. To alleviate the reader’s concern I note that this ‘disaster’ was temporary and soon, soon enough that New York Minister had “the FAMILY is very GENEROUS” back up to the simony list’s standard and THAT did include “the church where the summer place” “is”.
The subject change was easily done for the local Minister was NOT visiting because of Mr. Simon. He was NOT visiting to… query after an obscure point of local history. He was NOT visiting to ‘gossip’ about the village. No and my grandmother “brought him around to his business”. SHE had noted the crumpled paper bag the local minister carried and she knew that it contained his latest purloined plunder and SHE knew that he had oddly mentioned a ‘been by on a visit’ to “ANNIE HUTCHINS” who, it was well known to my grandmother “cleaned houses” “a little too very well” of the local well-to-do AND the rising number of …summer places. Annie, my grandmother knew well too, was always adding income to her income by any means possible AND she knew well …too… that the minister was her most comfortable agent to realize the cash value of her… income added to income purloined plunder. Purloined plunder became the minister’s purloined plunder and HE “scampers right over” “with it”. What was purloined and WAS IT plunder was a stumbling for these two ‘wretches’ but the eye of my grandmother was awfully sharp and with no verbal coaching at all the paper bag on the local minister’s lap began to have “fished out” what proved to be the LONGEST ‘charm string’ my grandmother’s sharp eye… had ever seen.
“A little more of the sherry?” she said and the minister’s glass DID come forward while the long string of ‘old buttons’ creeped off to the floor and around his black shoes. “MUST BE eight FEET could it BE?” mentally communicated my grandmother to herself as she ‘poured’ from her decanter and casually eyed the button rope’s cascade. Never bothering to feel along the edge of opportunity my grandmother “OH an old BUTTON ROPE” and took hold of its snake body to pull it back with her as she reset the decanter and …reset her butt back down in her …business chair.
“A button rope you call it?” said the local minister as the wiggling serpentine form did …rope… away from him… never to return… and …dark in its Victorian colored cabling of sewn buttons, one upon the next ‘forever’, writhed into a two handed coil upon my grandmother’s lap.
“FOOLISH old women MAKE THEM FOOLISH” said my grandmother herself making… direct eye contact with the minister at the second ‘foolish’. He sherried back in his chair with complacent acceptance that HIS bewilderments of this object were now vaporized by a ‘knowing eye’ and he ‘game over’. A lot-in-life roll over of “JUST TEN DOLLARS for ONE OF THOSE is ALL I’ll GIVE you” she blasted across the space between the two seated …adversaries… and did faint to gather up the coiled button serpent to RETURN IT to the paper bag holder who said “OH FINE” and gestured with his sherry free left hand that… there was no need for a ‘return’.
Annie cleans the Moore estate Tuesdays an this being Wednesday so my grandmother said boldly that “HATTIE MOORE always said she HAD ONE her GRANDMOTHER made”.
“She SAID it was Hattie’s” said the minister while denoting a … rubber banded roll of money appear on top of the button rope in my grandmother’s lap. A ten dollar bill bridged the space between the two. The rubber banded money wad vanished. My grandmother settled the coiled button rope… on top of an old brass bucket filled with kindling sitting between her and the fireplace. She then turned her attention to the minister and “getting rid of him”. Here, at this moment, began the usage of the mantra “The poor man. Poor Mr. Simon” that my grandmother would forever utter EVERY time Mr. Simon was ever mentioned within her hearing.
The biggest feature of this meeting was what was NOT discussed. Sophia Kimball’s chest of drawers was not mentioned. This is because my grandmother assumed that Mr. Simon’s wife “has it in their summer place”. It was unknown to all …except Charles… that the chest was actually stored under an old tablecloth in the hay in the BARN of the summer place. Charles never ever gave THAT knowledge ‘any thought’. Mr. Simon’s family knew noting of the chest. The local minister knew nothing of the chest. The New York minister knew nothing of the chest. All that ever came of the chest for the next twenty years was the brief lament toned saga repeated by my grandmother of “selling Sophia Kimball’s chest to Mr. Simon” and a “they (therefore) have it in there (their summer place)”. After twenty years (1962-1982) THAT ceased.
As for the local minister’s purloined “what do you do with it?” charm string, it was the very best ‘eight feet long’ Victorian Maine made ‘button rope’ my grandmother “ever owned”. Charm strings, given an aura of mystical being… particularly when they are ‘from Maine”, ‘old’, dating from the Civil War, preciously hand gathered (the buttons) and hand sewn by a “foolish old woman” with HER forever gathered and found ‘clutches’ of ‘good buttons’ that here included the ‘old uniform buttons’ from the family’s Civil War soldiers… visiting foreigners gift buttons, sea captain’s gifts of exotic buttons and… a regular handful of “train to Boston shopping trip” buttons…: This ‘charm string’ included the black velvet embroidered tag …crumpled and frayed at its head… stating “Ada Moore (*****), Maine. Began July 4th 1852 Finished (unfinished with no date)”. My grandmother sold this charm string to the judge from Portland for sixty dollars on his next visit… that included two bottle of sherry as “gifts for you”. The judge gave it to his wife. She gave it to her daughter. That daughter’s daughter still has it. It is not for sale and continues to be “the best charm string anyone’s ever seen”. “They say”.
My grandmother did not care about any of this. She was then currently obsessed with “the antiques” in the Captain Merritt Kimball’s farm “being sold to summer people”. THAT was the most important activity of my grandmother in that summer in 1962. We must returned to this.