The Girl and the Habit (Henry)

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The Girl and the Habit
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A beautiful young cashier at a restaurant caught the attention of an elderly couple who decided to adopt her, giving her a chance at a better life, but her past habits proved difficult to overcome.

Miss Merriam was a beautiful and charming young woman who worked as a cashier at Hinkle's, a popular restaurant in the financial district.

Miss Merriam (Miss McRamsey) — young lady cashier; beautiful, charming, witty, and adaptable.

She was known for her ability to handle customers with ease, exchanging witty banter and flirtatious remarks with the many men who frequented the establishment. Her beauty and charm made her the object of affection for many of the patrons, who often tried to woo her with compliments, invitations to dinner, and even marriage proposals.

Miss Merriam sat on a stool at a desk inclosed on three sides by a strong, high fencing of woven brass wire.

One day, an elderly and wealthy banker named McRamsey suffered a sudden attack of vertigo and was carried into Hinkle's for assistance.

Banker McRamsey — elderly, wealthy, eccentric man; kind-hearted and generous.

Miss Merriam tended to him, and when he recovered, he was so grateful that he and his wife decided to adopt her as their own daughter.

Mrs. McRamsey — elderly, kind, and loving woman; wife of Banker McRamsey.

They had a married daughter living in Brooklyn, but they were childless and saw Miss Merriam as the perfect addition to their family.

Miss Merriam accepted their offer and left her job at Hinkle's to live with the McRamseys in their luxurious home. They spared no expense in providing her with the finest education, clothing, and experiences, and she quickly adapted to her new life. She even began to forget her days as a cashier, although she occasionally missed the excitement and camaraderie of her former job.

They’re going to adopt me. They’re funny old people, but regular dears.

One evening, Miss Merriam attended a charity bazaar with her adoptive parents, where she was assigned to work in a booth selling items to raise money for the poor. The Earl of Hitesbury, a British nobleman who had been showing interest in Miss Merriam, approached her booth and began to flirt with her.

Earl of Hitesbury — British nobleman; polite, delicate, and interested in Miss McRamsey.

However, her old habits from her days as a cashier suddenly resurfaced, and she responded to his advances with a cool and businesslike demeanor, asking for his check and causing a scene.

Cut that joshing out. Who do you think you are talking to? Your check, please. Oh, Lordy!

Miss Merriam fainted from the shock of her sudden return to her old ways, and the Earl was left confused and embarrassed. The incident served as a reminder that, despite her new life and opportunities, Miss Merriam's past experiences and habits were still a part of her.