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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


296 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. where he supposed the prisoner had taken refuge, and he gave notice that, if Jefferson was not instantly delivered up, he would blow the town to atoms. A shot or two soon had the desired effect. About three thousand of the natives were seen approaching towards the fort, with Jefferson in the centre. No sooner had the prisoner been brought into the court than the Captain gave him to understand that he had not a moment to live. Then ordering one of the cannons to be prepared, had him instantly lashed to the muzzle of the piece. The prisoner bade one of his comrades beg for one half hour to say his prayers‘; but the answer the Captain returned was-“ No, you rascal ; if any man speaks a word in his favour I will blow out his brains ;I’ at the same time brandishing the pistol which he held in his hand. A portion of the burial-service being read to the prisoner, the Captain ordered the prayer-book to be pulled out of his hands. Jefferson than hastily took leave of his comrades ; and, after upbraiding the tyrant, as he called the Captain, gave the signal. In a moment the match was applied, and the next the prisoner was blown over the wall. His remains were afterwards .picked up by the men and interred. In defence of such an extraordinary and savage stretch of power, Captain M‘Kenzie endeavoured to prove that his company were mutinous-that Jefferson had been a ringleader, and had been repeatedly heard to threaten the life of the Captain. The evidence was by no means conclusive as to this allegation ; and the implicit obedience displayed by the men in the execution of an illegal and shocking sentence does not strengthen his assertion. It appeared, however, from unquestionable authority, that he had a very worthless set of characters under his command ‘--the garrison being mostly composed of convicts ; and besides, he had not the means of forming a court-martial for the trial of the prisoner. The jury found M‘Kenzie guilty of wilful murder ; but, in consideration of the “ desperate crew he had to command,” they recommended him to mercy. During the trial and passing of sentence, the Captain behaved with the utmost composure. His execution was first delayed for a week-then he was respitedand ultimately pardoned. After obtaining his liberty, the Captain returned to his native country ; and, during his stay in Edinburgh, afforded Kay an opportunity of taking his likeness as one of “ The Bucks.’’ On observing the Print in the booksellers’ windows, the Captain was offended at being classed, as he said, “with fiddlers and madmen.” He called on the artist, and offered a guinea to have it altered ; but, finding his entreaty vain, he insisted on leaving half-a-guinea, for which he soon after got a miniature painting of himself. Although M‘Kenzie had incapacitated himself for the British service, yet being still “intent on war,” he resolved to try his hand against the Turks. The unfortunate Murray M‘Kenzie alias Jefferson had been a drummer in the 3d Regiment of Foot Guards ; but unluckily, about twelve years previous to his death, he fell in with a gang of shoplifters. He had been ten times tried, and four times sentenced to be hanged ; but always found friends to obtain a mitigation of his sentence.
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 297 With this view he entered the ranks of the Russian army, and served in the war against the Turks. He was at last killed in a duel with a fellow-officer, not far from Constantinople. THE fourth figure, or last of “ The Bucks,” our readers will recognise as an old acquaintance-the LAIRD of MACNAB. The eccentricities of the Laird have been already pretty amply detailed in No. 111. of the Portraits. There is, however, one other anecdote which may be added. Macnab was proceeding from the west, on one occasion, to Dunfermline, with a company of the Breadalbane Fencibles, of which he had the command. In those days the Highlanders were notorious for incurable smuggling propensities ; and an excursion to the Lowlands, whatever might be its cause or import, was an opportunity by no means to be neglected. The Breadalbane men had accordingly contrived to stow a considerable quantity of the genuine “ peat reek ” into the baggage carts. All went well with the party for some time.* On passing Alloa, however, the excisemen there having got a hint as to what the carts contained, hurried out by a shorter path to intercept them. In the meantime, Macnab, accompanied by a gillie, in the true feudal style, was proceeding slowly at the head of his men, not far in the rear of the baggage. Soon after leaving Alloa, one of the party in charge of the carts came running back and informed their chief that they had all been seized by a posse of excisemen. This intelligence at once roused the blood of Macnab. “Did the lousy villains dare to obstruct the march of the Breadalbane Highlanders ! ” he exclaimed, inspired with the wrath of a thousand heroes ; and away he rushed to the scene of contention. There, sure enough, he found a party of excisemen in possession of the carts. “ Who the devil are you 1” demanded the angry chieftain. “ Gentlemen of the excise,” was the answer. “ Robbers ! thieves ! you mean ; how dare you lay hands on his Majesty’s stores P If you be gaugers, show me your commissions.” Unfortunately for the excisemen, they had not deemed it necessary in their haste to bring such documents with them. In vain they asserted their authority, and declared they were well known in the neighbourhood. “ Ay, just what I took ye for ; a parcel of highway robbers and scoundrels.” “ Come, my good ’fellows ” (addressing the soldiers in charge of the baggage, and extending his voice with the lungs of a stentor), “ Prime !-load !-” The excisemen did not wait the completion of the sentence; away they fled at top speed towards Alloa, no doubt glad they had not caused the waste of his Majesty’s ammunition, “ Now, my lads,” said Macnab, “ proceed -your whisky’s safe.”
Volume 8 Page 416
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