Chapter 7 – Thirties
One of the rumors, at least, was certainly not true. The wholesale hardware store was not a risky business. It profited amazingly. In the fifteen years between Benjamin Button’s marriage in 1880 and his father’s retirement in 1895, the family fortune was doubled – and this was largely due to Benjamin’s hard work.
Needless to say, Baltimore eventually grew to adore the Button family. Even old General Moncrief started to respect his son-in-law when Benjamin gave him the money to publish the books that he had been working on. He wrote “History of the Civil War” in twenty volumes, and it had been refused by nine popular publishers.
Benjamin, too, had gone through many changes in fifteen years. It seemed that his blood flowed through his veins with new energy and life. He started to enjoy waking up in the morning, walking briskly along the busy streets, and going to work at the hardware store without taking a break.
It was in 1890 that he made his best business move:
At the time, all shipments and deliveries came in wood boxes that were hammered shut with nails. He suggested that all the nails that are used for the boxes don’t belong to the person who received the package – They still belong to the person who sent the package.
This proposal was accepted and became a standard business custom. Because of this, every year, more than six hundred nails were returned and Roger Button & Co., Wholesale Hardware saved a lot of money.
In addition, Benjamin discovered that he was becoming more and more attracted to the wild side of life. In fact, Benjamin took pleasure in driving the latest models of cars. When people saw him driving around in his flashy car, they stared with envy. Not just because of his wealth, but because of how youthful he was.
“He seems to grow younger every year,” they would say.
Finally, old Roger Button, who was now sixty-five, could finally stand next to him and they would look like a father-son pair.
And now, we are coming to an unpleasant subject. I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I will mention it as quickly as possible:
There was only one thing that worried Benjamin Button. His wife was no longer attractive to him.
At that time, Hildegarde was thirty-five years old, and they had a son, Roscoe, who was fourteen. In the early days of their marriage, Benjamin had worshipped Hildegarde. But, as the years passed, her honey-colored hair had become an unexciting brown. Her dazzling blue eyes became faded. And most of all, she had become bored with life.
Hildegarde followed the same routine, day after day. She was too content and not easily excited. As a bride, she had dragged Benjamin to dances and dinners and more. Now the conditions were reversed. She went out socially with him, but without enthusiasm. She always seemed tired.
Benjamin became more and more unhappy with her.
In 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out. Benjamin’s home had no charm anymore, so he decided to join the army. Because of his business influence, he quickly became an army captain. He did so well at his job, that he was promoted to a major, and then promoted again to a lieutenant-colonel. He fought in the battle of San Juan Hill and was slightly wounded, but he received a medal.
Benjamin had been so attached to the activity and excitement of army life, that he was sad to give it up. His hardware business required attention, so he resigned from the army and returned home. He was met at the station by a brass band and he was paraded to his house.