Curious Case of Benjamin Button
As long ago as 1860 it was the proper thing to be born at home. At
Present, so I am told, the high gods of medicine have decreed that the
First cries of the young shall be uttered upon the anaesthetic air of
A hospital, preferably a fashionable one. So young Mr. and Mrs. Roger
Button were fifty years ahead of style when they decided, one day in
The summer of 1860, that their first baby should be born in a
Hospital. Whether this anachronism had any bearing upon the
Astonishing history I am about to set down will never be known.
I shall tell you what occurred, and let you judge for yourself.
The Roger Buttons held an enviable position, both social and
Financial, in Antebellum Baltimore. They were related to the This
Family and the That Family, which, as every Southerner knew, entitled
Them to membership in that enormous peerage which largely populated
The Confederacy. This was their first experience with the charming old
Custom of having babies – Mr. Button was naturally nervous. He hoped it
Would be a boy so that he could be sent to Yale College in
Connecticut, at which institution Mr. Button himself had been known
For four years by the somewhat obvious nickname of “Cuff.”
On the September morning consecrated to the enormous event he arose
Nervously at six o’clock dressed himself, adjusted an impeccable
Stock, and hurried forth through the streets of Baltimore to the
Hospital, to determine whether the darkness of the night had borne in
New life upon its bosom.
When he was approximately a hundred yards from the Maryland Private
Hospital for Ladies and Gentlemen he saw Doctor Keene, the family
Physician, descending the front steps, rubbing his hands together with
A washing movement – as all doctors are required to do by the unwritten
/> Ethics of their profession.
Mr. Roger Button, the president of Roger Button & Co., Wholesale
Hardware, began to run toward Doctor Keene with much less dignity than
Was expected from a Southern gentleman of that picturesque period.
“Doctor Keene!” he called. “Oh, Doctor Keene!”
The doctor heard him, faced around, and stood waiting, a curious
Expression settling on his harsh, medicinal face as Mr. Button drew
“What happened?” demanded Mr. Button, as he came up in a gasping rush.
“What was it? How is she” A boy? Who is it? What – -”
“Talk sense!” said Doctor Keene sharply, He appeared somewhat
“Is the child born?” begged Mr. Button.
Doctor Keene frowned. “Why, yes, I suppose so – after a fashion.” Again
He threw a curious glance at Mr. Button.
“Is my wife all right?”
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“Here now!” cried Doctor Keene in a perfect passion of irritation,”
I’ll ask you to go and see for yourself. Outrageous!” He snapped the
Last word out in almost one syllable, then he turned away muttering:
“Do you imagine a case like this will help my professional reputation?
One more would ruin me – ruin anybody.”
“What’s the matter?” demanded Mr. Button appalled. “Triplets?”
“No, not triplets!” answered the doctor cuttingly. “What’s more, you
Can go and see for yourself. And get another doctor. I brought you
Into the world, young man, and I’ve been physician to your family for
Forty years, but I’m through with you! I don’t want to see you or any
Of your relatives ever again! Good-bye!”
Then he turned sharply, and without another word climbed into his
Phaeton, which was waiting at the curbstone, and drove severely away.