"The Shootings at Achnaleish"
by E.F. Benson
A small English family party rents a Scottish hunting lodge for a couple of months, eager for fishing and shooting in the fresh, cool surroundings. They soon discover, however, that the locals have some very strange-- and potentially deadly-- ideas...
My Reaction (with SPOILERS):
An interesting read. Very strange story. Reminds me of The Wicker Man. These primitive villagers are not quite so wicked and conniving as those were-- but they're still plenty frightening. This is the kind of thing that could actually happen, too. (No, not the part about people turning into hares. The part about people having such bizarre beliefs and behaving crazily as a result.) Less likely these days, in civilized countries, but still possible.
-- The description of the "taboo" in action was a bit spooky-- not to mention the fact that on the night the villagers planned to burn down the lodge, "every window and door on the ground floor was wired up".
-- So... Who exactly was renting out this hunting lodge? Did someone in the village own it, or an outsider? (Maybe it was mentioned early in the story and I simply missed it.) If a villager owned it, it seems like they'd make it clear from the start that the hares were off limits-- but with the low rent, it seems more likely that an unscrupulous outsider owned the land and lodge.
-- "Now, we had Achnaleish for two months, but we had no wish to be burned or otherwise murdered. What we wanted was not a prosecution of our head-keeper, but peace, the necessaries of life, and beaters. For that we were willing to shoot no hares, and release Maclaren. An hour's conclave next morning settled these things; the ensuing two months were most enjoyable, and relations were the friendliest." Ha! That's amusing, but I wouldn't be willing to stay. (And I'd be asking for a refund!) Maclaren's mother was still dead-- and he still blamed them for her death. He might take it into his head to make another attempt at murder. The party's willingness to stay two months in the place is just weird enough to be funny.