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0105_001E Strictly Business O Henry

XVIII. The Girl And The Habit

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The young men who broke bread at Hinkle's never settled with the cashier without an exchange of badinage and open compliment. Many of them went to greater lengths and dropped promissory hints of theatre tickets and chocolate. The older spoke plainly of orange blossoms, generally withering the tentative petals by after-allusions to Harlem flats. One broker, who had been squeezed by copper proposed to Miss Merriam more regularly than he ate.

During a brisk luncheon hour Miss Merriam's conversation, while she took money for checks, would run something like this:

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"Good morning, Mr. Haskins--sir?--it's natural, thank you--don't be quite so fresh. . . Hello, Johnny--ten, fifteen, twenty--chase along now or they'll take the letters off your cap. . . Beg pardon--count it again, please--Oh, don't mention it. . . Vaudeville?--thanks; not on your moving picture--I was to see Carter in Hedda Gabler on Wednesday night with Mr. Simmons. . . 'Scuse me, I thought that was a quarter. . . Twenty-five and seventy-five's a dollar--got that ham-and-cabbage habit yet. I see, Billy. . . Who are you addressing? --say--you'll get all that's coming to you in a minute. . . Oh, fudge! Mr. Bassett--you're always fooling--no--? Well, maybe I'll marry you some day--three, four and sixty-five is five. . . Kindly keep them remarks to yourself, if you please. . . Ten cents? --'scuse me; the check calls for seventy--well, maybe it is a one instead of a seven. . . Oh, do you like it that way, Mr. Saunders?-- some prefer a pomp; but they say this Cleo de Merody does suit refined features. . . and ten is fifty. . . Hike along there, buddy; don't take this for a Coney Island ticket booth. . . Huh?--why, Macy's--don't it fit nice? Oh, no, it isn't too cool--these lightweight fabrics is all the go this season. . . Come again, please-- that's the third time you've tried to--what?--forget it--that lead quarter is an old friend of mine. . . Sixty-five?--must have had your salary raised, Mr. Wilson. . . I seen you on Sixth Avenue Tuesday afternoon, Mr. De Forest--swell?--oh, my!--who is she? . . . What's the matter with it?--why, this ain't South America. . . Yes, I like the mixed best--Friday?--awfully sorry, but I take my jiu-jitsu lesson on Friday--Thursday, then. . . Thanks--that's sixteen times I've been told that this morning--I guess I must be beautiful. . . Cut that out, please--who do you think I am? . . . Why, Mr. Westbrook--do you really think so?--the idea!--one--eighty and twenty's a dollar--thank you ever so much, but I don't ever go automobile riding with gentlemen--your aunt?--well, that's different--perhaps. . . Please don't get fresh--your check was fifteen cents, I believe--kindly step aside and let. . . Hello, Ben--coming around Thursday evening?--there's a gentleman going to send around a box of chocolates, and . . . forty and sixty is a dollar, and one is two . . ."

About the middle of one afternoon the dizzy goddess Vertigo--whose other name is Fortune--suddenly smote an old, wealthy and eccentric banker while he was walking past Hinkle's, on his way to a street car. A wealthy and eccentric banker who rides in street cars is--move up, please; there are others.

A Samaritan, A Pharisee, a man and a policeman who were first on the spot lifter Banker McRamsey and carried him into Hinkle's restaurant. When the aged but indestructible banker opened his eyes he saw a beautikful vision bending over him with a pitiful, tender smile, bathing his forehead with beef tea and chafing his hands with something frapp'e out of a chafing-dish. Mr. McRamsey sighed, lost a vest button, gazed with deep gratitude upon his fair preserveress, and then recovered consciousness.

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