Chapter Twenty Three.

Kennedy’s Wine-Party, and what came of it.

“Et je n’ai moi
Par la sang Dieu!
Ni foi, ni loi,
Ni jeu, ni lieu,
Ni roi, ni Dieu.”
Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris.

“Nay, that’s certain but yet the pity of it,
Iago!—O Iago, the pity of it, Iago!”
Othello, Act 4, Scene 1.

“Are you going to Kennedy’s, Julian?” asked De Vayne.


“I wish he’d asked you.”

Julian a little wondered why he had not, but remembered, with a sigh, that there was something, he knew not what, between him and Kennedy. Yet Kennedy was engaged to Violet! The thought carried him back to the beautiful memories of Grindelwald and Mürrem,—perhaps of Eva Kennedy: I will not say.

As De Vayne glanced round at the men assembled at Kennedy’s rooms, he felt a little vexation, and half wished he had not come. Why on earth did Kennedy see so much of these Bruces and Brogtens when he was so thoroughly unlike them? But De Vayne consoled himself with the reflection that the evening could not fail to be pleasant, as Kennedy was there; for he liked Kennedy both for Julian’s sake and for his own. Happily for him he did not know as yet that Kennedy was affianced to Violet Home.

Kennedy sat at the end of the table with a gloomy cloud on his brow. “Here, De Vayne,” he said; “I’m so really glad to see you at last. Sit by me—here’s a chair.”

De Vayne took the proffered seat, and Bruce immediately seated himself at his left hand. At first, as the wine was passed round, there seemed likely to be but little conversation, but suddenly some one started the subject of a “cause célèbre” which was then filling the papers, and Kennedy began at once to discuss it with some interest with De Vayne, who sat nearly facing him, almost with his back turned to Bruce, who did not seem particularly anxious to attract De Vayne’s attention.

“What execrable wash,” said Brogten, emptying his glass.

De Vayne, surprised and disgusted at the rudeness of the remark, turned hastily round, and, while Bruce as hastily withdrew his hand, raised the wine-glass to his lips.

“Stop, stop, De Vayne,” said Bruce eagerly; “there’s a fly in your glass.”

“I see no fly,” said De Vayne, glancing at it, and immediately draining it, with the intention of saying something to smooth Kennedy’s feelings, which he supposed would have been hurt by Brogten’s want of common politeness.

“I think it very—” Why did his words fail, and what was the reason of that scared look with which he regarded the blank faces of the other undergraduates? And what is the meaning of that gasp, and the rapid dropping of the head upon the breast, and the deadly pallor that suddenly put out the fair colour in his cheeks? There was no fly—but, good heavens! was there death in the glass?

The whole party leapt up from their places, and gathered round him.

“What is the matter, De Vayne?” said Kennedy tenderly, as he knelt down and supported the young man in his arms. But there was no answer. “Here D’Acres, or somebody, for heaven’s sake fetch a doctor; he must have been seized with a fit.”

What have you been doing, Bruce?” thundered Brogten.

“Bruce doing!” said Kennedy wildly, as he sprang to his feet. “By the God above us, if I thought this was any of your devilish machinations, I would strike you to the earth!”

“Doing? I?” stammered Bruce. “What do you mean?” He trembled in every limb, and his face was as pale as that of his victim; yet, though perhaps De Vayne’s life depended on it, the young wretch would not say what he had done. He had meant but to put four or five drops into his glass, but De Vayne had turned round suddenly and startled him in the very act, and in the hurried agitation of the moment, his hand had slipped, and he had poured in all the contents of the bottle, with barely time to hurry it empty into his pocket, or to prevent the consequences of what he had done, when De Vayne lifted the glass to his lips.

The men all stood round De Vayne and Kennedy in a helpless crowd, and Kennedy said, “Here, fetch a doctor, somebody, and let all go except D’Acres; so many are only in the way.”

The little group dispersed, and two of them ran off to find a doctor; but Bruce stood there still with open mouth, and a countenance as pale in its horror as that of the fainting viscount. He was anxious to tell the truth about the matter in order to avert worse consequences, and yet he dared not—the words died away upon his lips.

“Don’t stand like that, Bruce,” said Brogten indignantly, “the least you can do is to make yourself useful. Go and get the key of De Vayne’s rooms from the porter’s lodge. Stop, though! it will probably be in his pocket. Yes, here it is. Run and unlock his door, while we carry him to bed.”

Bruce took the key with trembling hand, and shook so violently with nervous agitation that he could hardly make his way across the court. The others carried De Vayne to his bedroom as quickly as they could, and anxiously awaited the doctor’s arrival. The livid face, with the dry foam upon the lips, filled them with alarm, but they had not any conception what to do, and fancied that De Vayne was in a fit.

It took Dr Masham a very short time to see that his patient was suffering from the influence of some poison, and when he discovered this, he cleared the room, and at once applied the proper remedies. But time had been lost already, and he was the less able to set to work at first from his complete ignorance of what had happened. He sat up all night with his patient, but was more than doubtful whether it was not too late to save his life.

The news that De Vayne had been seized with a fit at Kennedy’s rooms soon changed into a darker rumour. Men had not forgotten the affair of Hazlet, and they suspected that some foul play had been practised on one whom all who knew him loved, and whom all, though personally unacquainted with him, heartily respected. That this was really the fact soon ceased to be a secret; but who was guilty, and what had been the manner or motives of the crime remained unknown, and this uncertainty left room for the wildest surmises.

The dons were not slow to hear of what had happened, and they regarded the matter in so serious a light, that they summoned a Seniority for its immediate investigation. Kennedy was obviously the first person of whom to make inquiries, and he told them exactly what had occurred, viz, that De Vayne after drinking a single glass of wine, fell back in his chair in the condition wherein he still continued. “Was anything the matter with the wine, Mr Kennedy?” asked Mr Norton, who, as one of the tutors, had a seat on the board.

“Nothing, sir; it was the same which we were all drinking.”

“And without any bad effects?”

“Yes, sir.”

“But, Mr Kennedy, there seems strong reason to believe that some one drugged Lord De Vayne’s wine. Were you privy to any such plan?”

“No, sir—not exactly,” said Kennedy slowly, and with hesitation.

“Really, sir,” said the Master of Saint Werner’s, “such an answer is grossly to your discredit. Favour us by being more explicit; what do you mean by ‘not exactly’?”

Kennedy’s passionate and fiery pride, which had recently increased with the troubles and self-reprobation of his life, could ill brook such questioning as this, and he answered haughtily:

“I was not aware that anything of this kind was intended.”

“Anything of this kind; you did then expect something to take place?”

“I thought I had taken sufficient precautions against it.”

“Against it; against what?” asked Mr Norton.

Kennedy looked up at his questioner, as though he read in his face the decision as to whether he should speak or not. He would hardly have answered the Master or any of the others, but Mr Norton was his friend, and there was something so manly and noble about his look and character, that Kennedy was encouraged to proceed, and he said slowly:

“I suspected, sir, that there was some intention of attempting to make De Vayne drunk.”

“You suspected that,” said Mr Norton with astonishment and scorn, “and yet you lent your rooms for such a purpose. I am ashamed of you, Kennedy; heartily, and utterly ashamed.”

Kennedy’s spirit was roused by this bitter and public apostrophe. “I lent my rooms for no such purpose; on the contrary, if it existed, I did my best to defeat it.”

“What made you suspect it?” asked Dr Rhodes, the Master.

“Because a similar attempt was practised on another.”

“At which it seems that you were present?”

“I was not.” Kennedy was too fiercely angry to answer in more words than were absolutely required.

“I am sorry to say, Mr Kennedy, you have not cleared yourself from the great disgrace of giving an invitation, though you supposed that it would be made the opportunity for perpetrating an infamous piece of mischief. Can you throw no more light on the subject?”


“Will you bring the decanter out of which Lord De Vayne drank?” said one of the seniors after a pause, and with an intense belief in the acuteness of the suggestion.

“I don’t see what good it will do, but I will order my gyp to carry it here if you wish.”

“Do so, sir. And let me add,” said the Master, “that a little more respectfulness of manner would be becoming in your present position.”

Kennedy’s lip curled, and without answer he left the room to fetch the wine, grimly chuckling at the effect which the mixture would produce on Mr Norton’s fastidious taste. When he reached his rooms, he stumbled against the table in his hurry, and upset a little glass dish which held his pencils, one of which rolled away under the fender. In lifting the fender to pick it up, a piece of paper caught his eye, which the bedmaker in cleaning the room had swept out of sight in the morning. He looked at it, and saw in legible characters, “Laudanum, Poison.” It was the label which had been loosely tied on Bruce’s phial, and which had slipped off as he hurried it into his pocket.

He read it, and as the horrid truth flashed across his mind, stood for a moment stupefied and dumb. His plan was instantly formed. Instead of returning to the conclave of Seniors he ran straight off to the chemist’s, which was close by Saint Werner’s.

“Do you know anything of this label?” he said, thrusting it into the chemist’s hands.

“Yes,” said the man, after looking at it for a moment; “it is the label of a bottle of laudanum which I sold yesterday morning to Mr Bruce of Saint Werner’s.”

Without a word, Kennedy snatched it from him, and rushed back to the Seniority, who were already beginning to wonder at his long absence. He threw down the piece of paper before. Mr Norton, who handed it to the Master.

“I found that, sir, on the floor of my room.”

“And you know nothing of it?”

“Yes. It belongs to a bottle purchased yesterday by Bruce.”

Amazement and horror seemed to struggle in the minds of the old clergymen and lecturers as they sat at the table.

“We must send instantly for this young man,” said Mr Norton; and in ten minutes Bruce entered, pale indeed, but in a faultless costume, with a bow of easy grace, and a smile of polite recognition towards such of the board as he personally knew. He was totally unaware of what had been going on during Kennedy’s cross-examination.

“Mr Bruce,” said Mr Norton, to whom they all seemed gladly to resign the task of discovering the truth, “do you know anything of the cause of Lord De Vayne’s sudden attack of illness last night?”

“I, sir? Certainly not.”

“He sat next to you, did he not?”

“He did, I believe. Yes. I can’t be quite sure—but I think he did.”

“You know he did as well as I do,” said Kennedy.

“Mr Kennedy, let me request you to be silent. Mr Bruce, had you any designs against Lord De Vayne?”

“Designs, sir? Excuse me, but I am at a loss to understand your meaning.”

“You had no intention then of making him drunk?”

“Really, sir, you astonish me by such coarse imputations. Is it you,” he said, turning angrily to Kennedy, “who have been saying such things of me?”

Kennedy deigned no reply.

“I should think the testimony of a man who doesn’t scruple secretly to read examination-papers before they are set, ought not to stand for much.” Brogten, as we have already mentioned, had revealed to him the secret of Kennedy’s dishonour. This remark fell quite dead: Kennedy sat unmoved, and Mr Norton replied—

“Pray don’t introduce your personal altercations here, Mr Bruce, on irrelevant topics. Mr Bruce,” he continued, suddenly giving him the label, “have you ever seen that before?”

With a cry of agony, Bruce saw the paper, and struck his forehead with his hand. The sudden blow of shameful detection with all its train of consequences utterly unmanned him, and falling on his knees, he cried incoherently—

“Oh! I did it, I did it. I didn’t mean to; my hand slipped: indeed, indeed it did. For God’s sake forgive me, and let this not be known. I will give you thousands to hush it up—”

A general exclamation of indignation and disgust stopped his prayers, and the Master gave orders that he should be removed and watched. He was dragged away, tearing his hair and sobbing like a child. Kennedy, too, was ordered to retire.

It took the Seniors but a short time to deliberate, and then Bruce was summoned. He would have spoken, but the Master sternly ordered him to be silent, and said to him:

“Vyvyan Bruce, you are convicted by your own confession, extorted after deliberate falsehood, of having wished to drug the wine of a fellow-student for the purpose of entrapping him into a sin, to which you would otherwise have failed to tempt him. What fearful results may follow from your wickedness we cannot yet know, and you may have to answer for this crime before another tribunal. Be that as it may, it is hardly necessary to tell you that your time as a student at Saint Werner’s has ended. You are expelled, and I now proceed to erase your name from the books.” (Here the Master ran his pen two or three times through Bruce’s signature in the college register). “Your rooms must be finally vacated to-morrow. You need say nothing in self-defence, and may go.” As Bruce seemed determined to plead his own cause, they ordered the attendant to remove him immediately.

Kennedy was then sent for, and they could not help pitying him, for he was a favourite with them all.

“Mr Kennedy,” said the senior Dean, “the Master desires me to admonish you for your very culpable connivance—for I have no other name for it—in the great folly and wickedness of which Bruce has been convicted—”

“I did not connive,” said Kennedy.

“Silence, sir!”

“But I will not keep silence; you accuse me falsely.”

“We shall be obliged to take further measures, Mr Kennedy, if you behave in this refractory way.”

“I don’t care what measures you take. I cannot listen in silence to an accusation which I loathe—of a crime of which I am wholly innocent.”

“Why, sir, you confessed that you suspected some unfair design.”

“But not this design. Proceed, sir; I will not interrupt you again; but let me say that I am totally indifferent to any blame which you throw on me for a brutality of which the whole responsibility rests on others.”

The thread of the Dean’s oration was quite broken by Kennedy’s impetuous interruption, and he merely added—“Well, Mr Kennedy, I am sorry to see you so little penitent for the position in which you have placed yourself. You have disappointed the expectation of all your friends, and however you may brazen it out, your character has contracted a stain.”

“You can say so, sir, if you choose,” said Kennedy; and he left the room with a formal bow.

A few days after, Mr Grayson asked him to what Bruce had alluded in his insinuation about an examination-paper.

“He alludes, sir, to an event which happened some time ago.”

Further questions were useless; nevertheless Kennedy saw that his tutor’s suspicions were not only aroused, but that they had taken the true direction. Mr Grayson despised him, and in Saint Werner’s he had lost caste.

That evening Bruce vanished from Camford, with the regrets of few except his tailors and his duns. To this day he has not paid his college debts or discharged the bill for the gorgeous furniture of his rooms. But we shall hear of him again.

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