The Baronet of Burra: Episode II

The_art_of_english_shooting_(1778)_(14802586143)fowling pieceOf Melsetter, situated in the beautiful island of Walls.

The lady of this mansion was a distant relative of Sir James Stuart; and thither he and his brother Archibald would repair, to partake of the sports of the muirs – the island abounding with grouse and a variety of other game.

The proprietor of this fine estate was a distinguished naval officer; had performed a series of brilliant exploits, both on the coast of Spain and in the West Indies; and had very recently returned to enjoy himself in the bosom of his family. Captain M_____ having perceived that shoals of strangers were constantly traversing his estates in quest of game, gave rigid orders, to both servants and tenants, to take by force all fowling pieces from such as had not his written permission to use them.

The haughty aristocrat, and his equally haughty brother, never dreamt that the order applied to them, and accordingly pursued their sport when it suited their convenience. One unfortunate day, however, when the brothers were birding on the confines of Hoy, certain of Captain M.’s servants came in contact with them, and demanded their fowling pieces. How two such resolute men surrendered their pieces to a few hinds remains a mystery; but certain it is that the servants brought them in triumph to the mansion-house, and delivered them to their master.

When the Captain learned to whom the arms belonged, he was quite confounded; and well knowing the implacable disposition of his lady’s relatives, he dispatched  a boat to the island of Burra with the fowling pieces, and with a sealed letter, containing the most ample apology, and inviting them on all occasions, when they so pleased, to use every liberty on his estate, assuring them that their doing so would be a high compliment. No apology, however, could be listened to by the exasperated brothers; nor were the intercessions of mutual friends at all available for what they conceived to be a moral affront; and the country rang from one end to the other with their threats of vengeance.

The winter now approached, and Captain M. with his family retired to their town house in Kirkwall. Thither also repaired the enraged brothers, burning with revenge, and making no secret of their hostile inclinations. Lady M., well aware of the implacable dispositions of her kinsmen, prevailed on her husband to keep the house after night fall. To indulge his wife, whose health was at that time rather delicate, he reluctantly consented, and for several weeks kept within doors, especially after twilight.

But weary of restraint, and considering it as dishonourable to his profession, he, at the request of two pretended friends, who, it afterwards appeared, had leagued with the two Stuarts, walked forth one evening, unknown to his lady. He had not been a moment before his own gate, when a bullet whizzed past him and struck the wall. A hoarse voice was immediately heard from the church yard opposite, exclaiming:

“Fire again! the Hanoverian dog still stands.”

Instantaneously another explosion was heard, and the gallant Captain M. was stretched in the dust, mortally wounded.

Mind on David Vedder published this in Orcadian Sketches in 1832

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