We also knew just how old they all were, and how the H. in Mr. Jameson’s name stood for Hiram. We knew that Mrs. Jameson had never liked the name—might, in fact, have refused to marry on that score had not Grandma Cobb reasoned with her and told her that he was a worthy man with money, and she not as young as she had been; and how she compromised by always using the abbreviation, both in writing and speaking. “She always calls him H,” said Grandma Cobb, “and I tell her sometimes it doesn’t look quite respectful to speak to her husband as if he were part of the alphabet.” Grandma Cobb, if the truth had been told, was always in a state of covert rebellion against her daughter.
Grandma Cobb was always dressed in a black silk gown which seemed sumptuous to the women of our village. They could scarcely reconcile it with the statement that the Jamesons had lost their money. Black silk of a morning was stupendous to them, when they reflected how they had, at the utmost, but one black silk, and that guarded as if it were cloth of gold, worn only upon the grandest occasions, and designed, as they knew in their secret hearts, though they did not proclaim it, for their last garment of earth. Grandma Cobb always wore a fine lace cap also, which should, according to the opinions of the other old ladies of the village, have been kept sacred for other women’s weddings or her own funeral. She used her best gold-bowed spectacles every day, and was always leaving them behind her in the village houses, and little Tommy or Annie had to run after her with a charge not to lose them, for nobody knew how much they cost.
Grandma Cobb always carried about with her a paper-covered novel and a box of cream peppermints. She ate the peppermints and freely bestowed them upon others; the novel she never read. She said quite openly that she only carried it about to please her daughter, who had literary tastes. “She belongs to a Shakespeare Club, and a Browning Club, and a Current Literature Club,” said Grandma Cobb.
We concluded that she had, feeling altogether incapable of even carrying about Shakespeare and Browning, compromised with peppermints and current literature.
“That book must be current literature,” said Mrs. Ketchum one day, “but I looked into it when she was at our house, and I should not want Adeline to read it.”
After a while people looked upon Grandma Cobb’s book with suspicion; but since she always carried it, thereby keeping it from her grandchildren, and never read it, we agreed that it could not do much harm.
The very first time that I saw Grandma Cobb, at Caroline Liscom’s, she had that book. I knew it by the red cover and a baking-powder advertisement on the back; and the next time also—that was at the seventeenth-of-June picnic.
The whole Jameson family went to the picnic, rather to our surprise. I think people had a fancy that Mrs. H. Boardman Jameson would be above our little rural picnic. We had yet to understand Mrs. Jameson, and learn that, however much she really held herself above and aloof, she had not the slightest intention of letting us alone, perhaps because she thoroughly believed in her own nonmixable quality. Of course it would always be quite safe for oil to go to a picnic with water, no matter how exclusive it might be.