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The Hypotheses Of Failure
by [?]

“Oh, you can bet on Jessup,” said the client, with a confident wag of his head. “Jessup’s all right. He’ll do the square thing. Why, he left Susanville just to keep people from talking about Mrs. Billings. But she followed him up, and now, of course, he’ll stick to her. When she gets a divorce, all legal and proper, Jessup will do the proper thing.”

“And now,” said Lawyer Gooch, “continuing the hypothesis, if you prefer, and supposing that my services should be desired in the case, what–“

The client rose impulsively to his feet.

“Oh, dang the hypothetical business,” he exclaimed, impatiently. “Let’s let her drop, and get down to straight talk. You ought to know who I am by this time. I want that woman to have her divorce. I’ll pay for it. The day you set Mrs. Billings free I’ll pay you five hundred dollars.”

Lawyer Gooch’s client banged his fist upon the table to punctuate his generosity.

“If that is the case–” began the lawyer.

“Lady to see you, sir,” bawled Archibald, bouncing in from his anteroom. He had orders to always announce immediately any client that might come. There was no sense in turning business away.

Lawyer Gooch took client number one by the arm and led him suavely into one of the adjoining rooms. “Favour me by remaining here a few minutes, sir,” said he. “I will return and resume our consultation with the least possible delay. I am rather expecting a visit from a very wealthy old lady in connection with a will. I will not keep you waiting long.”

The breezy gentleman seated himself with obliging acquiescence, and took up a magazine. The lawyer returned to the middle office, carefully closing behind him the connecting door.

“Show the lady in, Archibald,” he said to the office boy, who was awaiting the order.

A tall lady, of commanding presence and sternly handsome, entered the room. She wore robes–robes; not clothes–ample and fluent. In her eye could be perceived the lambent flame of genius and soul. In her hand was a green bag of the capacity of a bushel, and an umbrella that also seemed to wear a robe, ample and fluent. She accepted a chair.

“Are you Mr. Phineas C. Gooch, the lawyer?” she asked, in formal and unconciliatory tones.

“I am,” answered Lawyer Gooch, without circumlocution. He never circumlocuted when dealing with a woman. Women circumlocute. Time is wasted when both sides in debate employ the same tactics.

“As a lawyer, sir,” began the lady, “you may have acquired some knowledge of the human heart. Do you believe that the pusillanimous and petty conventions of our artificial social life should stand as an obstacle in the way of a noble and affectionate heart when it finds its true mate among the miserable and worthless wretches in the world that are called men?”

“Madam,” said Lawyer Gooch, in the tone that he used in curbing his female clients, “this is an office for conducting the practice of law. I am a lawyer, not a philosopher, nor the editor of an ‘Answers to the Lovelorn’ column of a newspaper. I have other clients waiting. I will ask you kindly to come to the point.”

“Well, you needn’t get so stiff around the gills about it,” said the lady, with a snap of her luminous eyes and a startling gyration of her umbrella. “Business is what I’ve come for. I want your opinion in the matter of a suit for divorce, as the vulgar would call it, but which is really only the readjustment of the false and ignoble conditions that the short-sighted laws of man have interposed between a loving–“

“I beg your pardon, madam,” interrupted Lawyer Gooch, with some impatience, “for reminding you again that this is a law office. Perhaps Mrs. Wilcox–“

“Mrs. Wilcox is all right,” cut in the lady, with a hint of asperity. “And so are Tolstoi, and Mrs. Gertrude Atherton, and Omar Khayyam, and Mr. Edward Bok. I’ve read ’em all. I would like to discuss with you the divine right of the soul as opposed to the freedom-destroying restrictions of a bigoted and narrow-minded society. But I will proceed to business. I would prefer to lay the matter before you in an impersonal way until you pass upon its merits. That is to describe it as a supposable instance, without–“