The Allen House, or Twenty Years Ago and Now by T.S. Arthur
As my profession kept me going about all the while, I had opportunities for observing the movements of other people. The day following the meeting referred to in the last chapter, I saw Dewey, the Judge, and the Squire together several times, and always in earnest talk. As I came home, towards evening, I saw them all entering Mr. Dewey's residence. It was plain that there was trouble in the camp.
On the next day, Mr. Dewey left town. I noticed him going into a car at the depot. When the time came for our meeting, a postponement was asked for. I felt like demurring, but Mr. Wallingford readily consented.
"Give them a little more time," said he, as we walked away from Judge Bigelow's office. "It will come out as we desired. The easiest way for them to arrange with us, is to let us have the Allen House property, which is owned by the firm of which Dewey is a member; and it is with a view to this, I have no doubt, that he is now in New York."
So we waited a few days longer. The return of Mr. Dewey took place in the course of a week, when I received a note from Judge Bigelow, asking a private interview. I found him and his nephew alone. They received me in a pleasant, affable way; and the Judge said that he wished to have a little talk with me before another formal meeting of the executors. I answered that it would give me pleasure to confer with him; though I could neither accept nor propose any thing, standing alone.
"It is not with a view to that, Doctor," replied the Judge, his countenance putting on a shade of gravity that nearly obliterated the smiles with which he at first received me. "But I thought it might help to a better issue, if two of the parties representing the opposite interests in this case were to have a little informal conversation."
"I am ready to hear any thing you have to say, Judge, and shall be very happy if I can aid, in any thing, the satisfactory adjustment of these matters." My answer, I thought, appeared to give him confidence, and he said--
"Without doubt you can aid, Doctor. The position in which Squire Floyd and myself find ourselves placed, is one of some embarrassment. In making investments of the property which came into our hands, we had reference, of course, to its security and productiveness; at the same time looking to a period, still some years in advance, when our trust would cease, and the property pass in due course to the heir-at-law. To realize on these investments now, would be to damage the interests of others; and I cannot feel that it would be right for you to urge this. The discovery of a new will, bearing a later date, is a thing wholly unexpected. We had no warning to prepare for the summary action growing out of its appearance, and, as I have just intimated, cannot proceed without injury to others."
"I do not believe," said Mr. Dewey, "that the court, if the case was fairly stated, would require this speedy settlement of the trust. And it is my advice, that the whole matter be referred back for a new award as to time. A year longer should be conceded to the executors under the old will."
"That would be equitable," said the Judge.
"I am afraid," I made answer to this, "that Mr. Wallingford will not consent to any postponement."
"He won't? The hound!" I was startled by the fierceness of Dewey's tone of voice, and, turning to look at him, saw on his countenance an expression of malignant hatred.
"Ralph!" said Judge Bigelow, in a warning voice.
"I can't repress my indignation," answered the nephew. "What demons from the nether hell have conspired to give him power over us? If it had been any other man in the world I could have borne it patiently."
"Ralph! Ralph!" interposed the Judge, in a deprecating voice.
"It is no use, uncle. I cannot keep down my feeling," was replied. "To see you hunted by this hound, who owes you everything."
"Pardon me, Mr. Dewey," said I, "but I cannot hear such language used towards a gentleman of irreproachable character. Mr. Wallingford is not entitled to the epithet you give; and I warn you, not to repeat that, or anything like it, in my presence."
"You warn me!"
A gleam shot towards me from his evil eyes.
"Ralph! silence!" The Judge spoke sternly.
"Yes, in all soberness, I warn you," said I, fixing my gaze upon him, and holding his eyes until they fell to the floor. "Mr. Wallingford is not the man to permit any one to use language about him, such as you have indulged in. If you make use of another opprobrious epithet, I will communicate the fact to him immediately. And let me say, that, unless a different temper is manifested, I must terminate this interview at once."
Judge Bigelow drew his nephew aside, and talked for some time with him, in a low, earnest tone; after which the latter apologized, though with an ill grace, for the intemperance of his manner--alleging that an old wound smarted whenever Wallingford crossed his path.
The result of this confidential talk was not as favorable on my mind as Judge Bigelow had hoped to make it. I pitied his embarrassment; but the conduct of Dewey confirmed my previous view of the case, which was to require a transfer of the property specified by Mr. Wallingford, or press for an immediate foreclosure of the mill investments. There was, I felt satisfied, hazard in delay.
When our next formal meeting took place, Dewey was again present. It was in my thought to suggest that he was not a party covered by the business to be considered, when Mr. Wallingford said, in his mild, grave way--
"I believe this is a meeting of the Executors under the two wills of Captain Allen."
The meaning of his remark could not be misunderstood, for he glanced towards Mr. Dewey as he spoke. That individual, however, did not choose to regard himself as referred to, and made no sign. But Mr. Wallingford was not the man to let a deliberate purpose fall to the ground. He had come with the intention of objecting to Dewey's presence at the conference, and to insist upon his retiring, as a preliminary to business.
No one replying to Mr. Wallingford's remark, he said, further--
"I do not mean to be uncourteous, but I must suggest the propriety of Mr. Dewey's withdrawal."
"I am an interested party," said Dewey, with ill-concealed anger.
"Ah! I was not before aware of this," replied Wallingford, and he looked inquiringly towards the Judge and Squire. They showed an uneasy perplexity of manner, but did not respond.
"In what way are you interested?" queried Mr. Wallingford.
"I am one of the guardians to the heir under an existing will."
"A will that the decision of our court has rendered null and void," was promptly answered. "We have not met to consider questions in which Leon Garcia, or his representative, has any concern. Our business refers to other matters."
Dewey moved uneasily, and seemed struggling to keep down his rising displeasure. But he did not, manifest any intention to withdraw.
"Had we not better proceed to business?" suggested Squire Floyd.
"Not while Mr. Dewey remains," said I, firmly taking the side of Mr. Wallingford.
"Somebody will repent himself of this!" exclaimed the ill-governed man, passionately, starting to his feet, and striding from the office.
"I don't understand this individual's conduct," remarked Wallingford, in a serious way. "Why has he presumed to intermeddle in our business? It has a bad look."
He knit his brows closely, and put on a stern aspect, very unusual to him.
"You probably forget," said Judge Bigelow, "that you have proposed a change of ownership in property now occupied by him?"
"That was simply to give you more latitude in settling up the estate in your hands. I said we were willing to accept that property at a fair valuation, thinking it would offer a desirable mode of liquidation. It is for you to say yea or nay to us; not Ralph Dewey. If you cannot gain his consent to the transfer, there is an end of that proposal."
I really commiserated the embarrassment shown by the Judge and Squire. They seemed to be in a maze, without perceiving the right way of extrication. Dewey appeared to have over them some mysterious influence, above which they had not power to rise.
"If Ralph will not consent--"
"Ralph must consent!" exclaimed Squire Floyd, with a sudden energy of manner, and the exhibition of a degree of will not shown before. "Ralph must consent! The mode of adjustment proposed by Mr. Wallingford is the one easiest for us to accomplish, and I shall insist on Dewey's giving up his opposition. There is a vast deal more of pride than principle involved in his objection."
The Squire was breaking away from his fetters.
"It is plain," added Squire Floyd, "that his partners wish that property to go in preference to any other. And it must go."
This was a style of remark quite unexpected on our part; and only added firmness to our purpose. The interview was not prolonged in discussion. We merely reaffirmed our ultimatum, and gave one week for the two men to decide in what manner to close their trust.