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"She Liked His Face" from Green Book

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from Green Book
She Liked His Face
by Ellis Parker Butler

I think the reason Carden went to France was because he knew Kate was going to refuse him. I don't think she did actually refuse him, but a man knows such things sometimes without being told, and we were both rather sensitive instruments where Kate was concerned.

We were all three born and raised here in Westcote, -- went to school together and all that, -- and I imagine Carden was in love with Kate from the time she was a fluttery little thing in the kindergarten. I know I was. Along about then she promised to marry both of us. That was all settled satisfactorily, and it gave us all great comfort -- until we became old enough to know about bigamy and such things. Then we saw it wouldn't do, and Carden and I were obliged to hit out each for himself and try to win Kate.

She was well worth winning. I sha'n't try to tell what Kate is like, because a lover always spills over when he tries to pour forth his cup of praises, but she was and is all of that and more. She is yet, bless her and curse her!

I think that at first Carden had a lead over me in the race for her affections. Kate liked a certain impetuosity of speech and action he had; I am slower I am the sort of fellow who is pretty sure to work faithfully, rise slowly but surely and become an important man. I am doing all these things. I adopted a profession, am working at it faithfully; and I am already highly respected for work I have done. I am going to succeed, and I know it. The profession I took up was that of surgeon. Kate has no objection to that, and she has no objection to me. Kate does like me immensely, and she has often admitted it.

'She Liked His Face' from Green Book Magazine, March 1917

But there was Carden. For some reasons I should call Carden flighty, and that is really a joke, because Carden took to the air like a duck to water. He went down to Hempstead and studied flying from the ground up -- and that is another joke, although I did not mean it. What I am trying to explain is that Carden is pretty sure to do the unusual. On Kate's birthday I gave her flowers, candy and a handsome book, because those are the things a fellow can give. Carden would fret about her birthday for a month and then run over to New York, all puzzled and worried; then, possibly, he'd stop before a pawnbroker's window. He might see a four-inch stuffed alligator that no sane human would ever think of buying, and Carden would dash in and buy it and give it to Kate. And Kate would love it, because it was so unusual.

That was the secret of Carden's hold on Kate's liking -- he was always doing the unexpected. His father meant him to be a lawyer, and he took up aviation. I imagine Kate thought it was a bit romantic, and all girls like romance. I will say frankly that I would not have been in the running if it had not been for Carden's face and my face.

Kate liked my face. I don't dislike it myself. While I might never be chosen as an artist's model, I have a clean-cut, strong face such as an American should have, and I am not ashamed to say so. My face has character. It is my own face and not a "type." It is a face one remembers. I have a good chin and a good mouth. Kate loved to look at it; I knew that from the way her eyes dwelt on it at times.

He might see a four-inch stuffed alligator ... dash in and buy it and give it to Kate ... That was the secret of his hold on Kate's liking.

But Carden's face -- murder! I have one of his photographs here on my desk, and I think the worst thing about it is the lack of chin. It makes him look weak, although he is not. Nature was grouchy and wanted to perpetrate a mean paradox when she gave Carden that chin, but she did not stop there. His mouth is ugly. If you know what I mean, his face is the face of a gawk.

Well, my face won against Carden's volatility. I could see that, and Carden could see it; and he knew that if he asked he would be refused, and I knew that if I asked I would be accepted. So he went away. He went to France. You probably remember that the papers were full of what he did there as one of the American members of the French flying corps. We heard a great deal about him in Paris.

For I went to Paris too. It was not that I was much afraid that Kate would turn to Carden because of his romantic aerial service; that would not change her dislike of his face -- her thought of what life would be with that face at the breakfast table every morning. No, I was a surgeon and a young man, and Europe offered a vast and unexampled field for practical study. It was my opportunity. So I went. A month later Kate went also. Many of our women volunteered for Red Cross work, as you know.

On the eighth of June, this year, I was standing with Kate at the cot-side of one of my patients in the American Hospital. My patient was Carden. He was asleep and sleeping as a healthy, normal man should sleep, for he was ready to be discharged. He was a well man again, and he owed it to me. When they brought him in, with his filthy "first aid" bandages, Carden was as good as dead. He had four wounds, each enough to kill a man if neglected, and the exploding anti-aircraft shell that had brought his aeroplane to ground had torn his face so shockingly that when we unbandaged it, the nurse fainted; and our nurses were used to some horrid sights.

I worked over him long and faithfully. There were weeks when I gave him the best that was in me, and already I had won some fame by my facial surgery. Kate wanted to nurse him, of course, but I would not have her transferred to my division. She was bearing enough with her sympathy for the poor fellows under her care, without having the closer sympathy for Carden to rack her tenderness.

Carden had been up and around the ward, his two bright eyes peeping out of his wholly bandaged face, helping us, as all our convalescents were eager to help us, and it happened that I mentioned to Kate that Carden would be through and his bandages removed in a few days. That was why Kate came to me in my division and why she was standing by Carden's cot.

We had had little enough time for love-making. We were a busy lot over there, and love had to wait while suffering was being fought, but now Kate touched me on my arm.

"Can we go out awhile?" she asked. "I want to talk to you, Roger."

I glanced about. I was not needed at the moment, and we went out into the pure air. Kate put her hand in mine.

"Roger, dear," she said, "you know you have asked me to marry you many, many times, but I have never been ready to give you your answer. I am ready now. Do you still want me, Roger?"

"A thousand times more than ever," I began.

"Then I am ready, Roger," she said. "I will marry you."

My heart leaped. I don't know what foolish lover-business I would have performed, but she stopped me.

"I want you to marry me tomorrow," she said, putting her hand on my sleeve and looking up into my face. If you want to marry me at all, will you marry me tomorrow, Roger?"

Would I indeed!

"Because I am so sorry for Jack Carden," she said. "But I must not say that; it is not all the truth. I am so tired; I have been working so hard; I am almost broken down with work, Roger, and I am so afraid Jack will begin making love to me again. I just could not stand it," she cried, wringing her hands. "I could not marry him, and I am so sorry for him, and I would be so miserable. I could not bear it, Roger; I would break down!"

"Why, Kate," I said, "of course we will be married tomorrow if you wish -- tonight, if you desire it."

"No, tomorrow," she smiled. "We must have some lovers'-moon, Roger, even if only these few hours."

The darling! It would be a short engagement, certainly. It would be easy enough to arrange the wedding. The American church had a minister we all loved; not a few weddings had been performed by him, and there were no difficulties. We all had our "documents" -- our passports and birth certificates and so on. Even if we had lacked them, we could have been married without delay at the American Ministry, that being American ground by international law.

I was mad with happiness. Kate was excused from duty for twenty-four hours and set about her wedding preparations. Mine were small enough; I saw the American clergyman, got some polish on my boots and laid out my street garments. Then it was back to work for me -- and with a vengeance, for a new lot of wounded had arrived.

We were to be married at ten the next morning. I saw Kate a few minutes at about eight o'clock and suddenly remembered I had bought no ring. I tried to find Dr. Merch, who was going to act as my best man, but he was nowhere. I told Dr. Hinton to look after Carden, and I set out on a run to find the nearest shop in which I could buy a ring. At the first turn one of the cursed military automobiles came around the corner and tossed me across the street. My head struck the curb as I went down, and I knew no more for two hours.

I was not badly damaged. Not a bone was broken; a few bruises and the lump on the back of my head were all the marks the accident left. They tried to keep me in bed, but I explained -- wildly enough, I dare say -- that it was my wedding day; and I got into my clothes and ran all the way to the hospital. Hinton was the first man I met. He began to tell me that he had unbandaged Carden and had discharged him as cured, but I had no time to listen to him, and I asked for Kate. He knew nothing about her, and I ran to her division. They told me she had waited until almost ten and had gone then, thinking I must have gone to the church. I hardly waited to hear this before I was out of the building and hurrying to Kate.

I was not greatly disturbed. We learn to meet most emergencies calmly over there, and I knew a word from me would be sufficient to make it all right with Kate -- my accident would excuse me amply. Kate would know I was not late for any but the best of reasons. As I neared the church, I dropped out of the run and walked as hastily as I could. I stopped at the door to mop my face and catch my breath.

I was standing there as they came out -- Kate and Miss Miller and Dr. Merch and the other. The other, on whose arm Kate was leaning, was Carden. He was looking down and a little backward, into her face, and my heart turned cold as I saw his air of loving proprietorship. I knew then that they were married. I stood like a frozen man, one hand extended, and, I dare say, my mouth open, and then Carden turned his head and looked toward me. He was not Carden; he was myself!

That was what I had done with my facial surgery! I had labored over Carden's shattered face-bones and torn flesh for weeks, building up and building up, until he had a new face, -- as I may say, -- and then I had placed the final bandages and had left him to heal; and by the one chance in a hundred million, his new face was an exact replica of my own! Of the hundreds of millions of men in the world whom he might have resembled when those bandages were taken off, I was the one he had to be like! I had built my face on Jim Carden!

Well, what is the use of saying more? The rest was all simple enough. Kate had waited for me, and I had not come. Dr. Hinton had removed Carden's bandages and sent him forth. Kate had decided I was at the church and had set out with Miss Miller and had met Carden. I think she half laughed and half cried when she saw him. Miss Miller said she seemed hysterical. She grasped Carden's arm and addressed him as "Sweetheart," and said she knew he would come and that she must not keep the clergyman waiting, and I don't know what all.

I think perhaps Carden knew. He must have known his new face was an exact replica of mine. Probably I would have done as he did had I been in his place. He knew that Kate liked him the better, except for the one impossible matter of his face, and now he had the features she loved. He was no longer Carden alone; he was all Kate loved in Carden and me in one. So he did not undeceive her; he married her.

They are very happy, I am told. Of course, I would say nothing to Kate to spoil her happiness, but there is just a bit of wicked wonder in my heart. I am wondering about heredity. I am wondering how heredity is going to work out in their case. I am wondering whether their children will have faces like the admirable one I gave Carden or whether they will be gawks. I hope -- well, I am not just sure what I hope!



Saturday, October 07 at 1:21:03am USA Central
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