Chapter 2: Buying clothes and taking "the baby" home

While you listen:

While listening to the audio book you can simultaneously read the audio book script below. If you do not want to read along, just listen and then skip directly to the comprehension exercises at the end of this page.
"Good-morning," Mr. Button said nervously, to the clerk in the Chesapeake Dry Goods Company. "I want to buy some clothes for my child." "How old is your child, sir?" "About six hours," answered Mr. Button, without due consideration. "Babies' supply department in the rear." "Why, I don't think—I'm not sure that's what I want. It's—he's an unusually large-size child. Exceptionally—ah large." "They have the largest child's sizes." "Where is the boys' department?" inquired Mr. Button, shifting his ground desperately. He felt that the clerk must surely scent his shameful secret. "Right here." "Well—" He hesitated. The notion of dressing his son in men's clothes was repugnant to him. If, say, he could only find a very large boy's suit, he might cut off that long and awful beard, dye the white hair brown, and thus manage to conceal the worst, and to retain something of his own self-respect—not to mention his position in Baltimore society.
But a frantic inspection of the boys' department revealed no suits to fit the new-born Button. He blamed the store, of course— in such cases it is the thing to blame the store. "How old did you say that boy of yours was?" demanded the clerk curiously. "He's—sixteen." "Oh, I beg your pardon. I thought you said six hours. You'll find the youths' department in the next aisle." Mr. Button turned miserably away. Then he stopped, brightened, and pointed his finger toward a dressed dummy in the window display. "There!" he exclaimed. "I'll take that suit, out there on the dummy." The clerk stared. "Why," he protested, "that's not a child's suit. At least it is, but it's for fancy dress. You could wear it yourself!" "Wrap it up," insisted his customer nervously. "That's what I want." The astonished clerk obeyed.
Back at the hospital Mr. Button entered the nursery and almost threw the package at his son. "Here's your clothes," he snapped out. The old man untied the package and viewed the contents with a quizzical eye. "They look sort of funny to me," he complained, "I don't want to be made a monkey of—" "You've made a monkey of me!" retorted Mr. Button fiercely. "Never you mind how funny you look. Put them on—or I'll—or I'll spank you." He swallowed uneasily at the penultimate word, feeling nevertheless that it was the proper thing to say. "All right, father"—this with a grotesque simulation of filial respect—"you've lived longer; you know best. Just as you say." As before, the sound of the word "father" caused Mr. Button to start violently. "And hurry." "I'm hurrying, father."
When his son was dressed Mr. Button regarded him with depression. The costume consisted of dotted socks, pink pants, and a belted blouse with a wide white collar. Over the latter waved the long whitish beard, drooping almost to the waist. The effect was not good. "Wait!" Mr. Button seized a hospital shears and with three quick snaps amputated a large section of the beard. But even with this improvement the ensemble fell far short of perfection. The remaining brush of scraggly hair, the watery eyes, the ancient teeth, seemed oddly out of tone with the gaiety of the costume. Mr. Button, however, was obdurate —he held out his hand. "Come along!" he said sternly. His son took the hand trustingly. "What are you going to call me, dad?" he quavered as they walked from the nursery—"just 'baby' for a while? till you think of a better name?" Mr. Button grunted. "I don't know," he answered harshly. "I think we'll call you Methuselah."

After you listened:

After you listened, decide whether these statements about the story are true or false.
  1. Mr. Button cuts off his son's beard before they leave the hospital.
    • true
    • false
  2. In the shop, Mr. Button says that his child is exceptionally small.
    • true
    • false
  3. In the shop, Mr. Button pretends that his son is 16 years old.
    • true
    • false
Why does Mr. Button call his son Methuselah? Read the following text to find out where this name comes from.


Methuselah (estimated germination 2832 BC) is a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine in the White Mountains of California, which was 4,789 years old when sampled in 1957 by Schulman and Harlan. Until today, it is the oldest known living non-clonal organism at about 4,841 years.Other longer-lived discoveries are clonal organisms, such as the 9,500 year old Norway spruce clonal colony known as Old Tjikko in Sweden, and an 11,700 year old creosote plant, named "King Clone", near Lucerne Valley, California. The tree is named after Methuselah, a Biblical figure reputed to have lived 969 years. Growing in the "Forest of Ancients" in the Methuselah Grove at 2,900–3,000 m (9,500–9,800 ft) above sea level, its exact location is currently undisclosed to the public as a protection against vandalism.
Why do you think Mr. Button calls his son Methuselah? Write down your answer in a few sentences. Afterwards, you can compare your answer with a sample solution.
Mr. Button calls his son Methuselah because he reminds him of the biblical figure who lived for 969 years (and the pine tree which lived for 4,789 years). His new-born son should look like a baby, but he looks like an old man. This makes his son appear to him as old as Methuselah.


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