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The Hypotheses Of Failure
by [?]

First he called to the office boy: “Lock the outer door, Archibald, and admit no one.” Then he moved, with long, silent strides into the room in which client number one waited. That gentleman sat, patiently scanning the pictures in the magazine, with a cigar in his mouth and his feet upon a table.

“Well,” he remarked, cheerfully, as the lawyer entered, “have you made up your mind? Does five hundred dollars go for getting the fair lady a divorce?”

“You mean that as a retainer?” asked Lawyer Gooch, softly interrogative.

“Hey? No; for the whole job. It’s enough, ain’t it?”

“My fee,” said Lawyer Gooch, “would be one thousand five hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars down, and the remainder upon issuance of the divorce.”

A loud whistle came from client number one. His feet descended to the floor.

“Guess we can’t close the deal,” he said, arising, “I cleaned up five hundred dollars in a little real estate dicker down in Susanville. I’d do anything I could to free the lady, but it out-sizes my pile.”

“Could you stand one thousand two hundred dollars?” asked the lawyer, insinuatingly.

“Five hundred is my limit, I tell you. Guess I’ll have to hunt up a cheaper lawyer.” The client put on his hat.

“Out this way, please,” said Lawyer Gooch, opening the door that led into the hallway.

As the gentleman flowed out of the compartment and down the stairs, Lawyer Gooch smiled to himself. “Exit Mr. Jessup,” he murmured, as he fingered the Henry Clay tuft of hair at his ear. “And now for the forsaken husband.” He returned to the middle office, and assumed a businesslike manner.

“I understand,” he said to client number three, “that you agree to pay one thousand dollars if I bring about, or am instrumental in bringing about, the return of Mrs. Billings to her home, and her abandonment of her infatuated pursuit of the man for whom she has conceived such a violent fancy. Also that the case is now unreservedly in my hands on that basis. Is that correct?”

“Entirely”, said the other, eagerly. “And I can produce the cash any time at two hours’ notice.”

Lawyer Gooch stood up at his full height. His thin figure seemed to expand. His thumbs sought the arm-holes of his vest. Upon his face was a look of sympathetic benignity that he always wore during such undertakings.

“Then, sir,” he said, in kindly tones, “I think I can promise you an early relief from your troubles. I have that much confidence in my powers of argument and persuasion, in the natural impulses of the human heart toward good, and in the strong influence of a husband’s unfaltering love. Mrs. Billings, sir, is here–in that room–” the lawyer’s long arm pointed to the door. “I will call her in at once; and our united pleadings–“

Lawyer Gooch paused, for client number three had leaped from his chair as if propelled by steel springs, and clutched his satchel.

“What the devil,” he exclaimed, harshly, “do you mean? That woman in there! I thought I shook her off forty miles back.”

He ran to the open window, looked out below, and threw one leg over the sill.

“Stop!” cried Lawyer Gooch, in amazement. “What would you do? Come, Mr. Billings, and face your erring but innocent wife. Our combined entreaties cannot fail to–“

“Billings!” shouted the now thoroughly moved client. “I’ll Billings you, you old idiot!”

Turning, he hurled his satchel with fury at the lawyer’s head. It struck that astounded peacemaker between the eyes, causing him to stagger backward a pace or two. When Lawyer Gooch recovered his wits he saw that his client had disappeared. Rushing to the window, he leaned out, and saw the recreant gathering himself up from the top of a shed upon which he had dropped from the second-story window. Without stopping to collect his hat he then plunged downward the remaining ten feet to the alley, up which he flew with prodigious celerity until the surrounding building swallowed him up from view.

Lawyer Gooch passed his hand tremblingly across his brow. It was a habitual act with him, serving to clear his thoughts. Perhaps also it now seemed to soothe the spot where a very hard alligator-hide satchel had struck.

The satchel lay upon the floor, wide open, with its contents spilled about. Mechanically, Lawyer Gooch stooped to gather up the articles. The first was a collar; and the omniscient eye of the man of law perceived, wonderingly, the initials H. K. J. marked upon it. Then came a comb, a brush, a folded map, and a piece of soap. Lastly, a handful of old business letters, addressed–every one of them–to “Henry K. Jessup, Esq.”

Lawyer Gooch closed the satchel, and set it upon the table. He hesitated for a moment, and then put on his hat and walked into the office boy’s anteroom.

“Archibald,” he said mildly, as he opened the hall door, “I am going around to the Supreme Court rooms. In five minutes you may step into the inner office, and inform the lady who is waiting there that”– here Lawyer Gooch made use of the vernacular–“that there’s nothing doing.”