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The Hypotheses Of Failure
by [?]

“My name is Gooch,” at length the lawyer admitted. Upon pressure he would also have confessed to the Phineas C. But he did not consider it good practice to volunteer information. “I did not receive your card,” he continued, by way of rebuke, “so I–“

“I know you didn’t,” remarked the visitor, coolly; “And you won’t just yet. Light up?” He threw a leg over an arm of his chair, and tossed a handful of rich-hued cigars upon the table. Lawyer Gooch knew the brand. He thawed just enough to accept the invitation to smoke.

“You are a divorce lawyer,” said the cardless visitor. This time there was no interrogation in his voice. Nor did his words constitute a simple assertion. They formed a charge–a denunciation–as one would say to a dog: “You are a dog.” Lawyer Gooch was silent under the imputation.

“You handle,” continued the visitor, “all the various ramifications of busted-up connubiality. You are a surgeon, we might saw, who extracts Cupid’s darts when he shoots ’em into the wrong parties. You furnish patent, incandescent lights for premises where the torch of Hymen has burned so low you can’t light a cigar at it. Am I right, Mr. Gooch?”

“I have undertaken cases,” said the lawyer, guardedly, “in the line to which your figurative speech seems to refer. Do you wish to consult me professionally, Mr.–” The lawyer paused, with significance.

“Not yet,” said the other, with an arch wave of his cigar, “not just yet. Let us approach the subject with the caution that should have been used in the original act that makes this pow-wow necessary. There exists a matrimonial jumble to be straightened out. But before I give you names I want your honest–well, anyhow, your professional opinion on the merits of the mix-up. I want you to size up the catastrophe–abstractly–you understand? I’m Mr. Nobody; and I’ve got a story to tell you. Then you say what’s what. Do you get my wireless?”

“You want to state a hypothetical case?” suggested Lawyer Gooch.

“That’s the word I was after. ‘Apothecary’ was the best shot I could make at it in my mind. The hypothetical goes. I’ll state the case. Suppose there’s a woman–a deuced fine-looking woman–who has run away from her husband and home? She’s badly mashed on another man who went to her town to work up some real estate business. Now, we may as well call this woman’s husband Thomas R. Billings, for that’s his name. I’m giving you straight tips on the cognomens. The Lothario chap is Henry K. Jessup. The Billingses lived in a little town called Susanville–a good many miles from here. Now, Jessup leaves Susanville two weeks ago. The next day Mrs. Billings follows him. She’s dead gone on this man Jessup; you can bet your law library on that.”

Lawyer Gooch’s client said this with such unctuous satisfaction that even the callous lawyer experienced a slight ripple of repulsion. He now saw clearly in his fatuous visitor the conceit of the lady-killer, the egoistic complacency of the successful trifler.

“Now,” continued the visitor, “suppose this Mrs. Billings wasn’t happy at home? We’ll say she and her husband didn’t gee worth a cent. They’ve got incompatibility to burn. The things she likes, Billings wouldn’t have as a gift with trading-stamps. It’s Tabby and Rover with them all the time. She’s an educated woman in science and culture, and she reads things out loud at meetings. Billings is not on. He don’t appreciate progress and obelisks and ethics, and things of that sort. Old Billings is simply a blink when it comes to such things. The lady is out and out above his class. Now, lawyer, don’t it look like a fair equalization of rights and wrongs that a woman like that should be allowed to throw down Billings and take the man that can appreciate her?

“Incompatibility,” said Lawyer Gooch, “is undoubtedly the source of much marital discord and unhappiness. Where it is positively proved, divorce would seem to be the equitable remedy. Are you–excuse me–is this man Jessup one to whom the lady may safely trust her future?”