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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


died, in the old house, of the plague. His widow survived him, and the street was named Lady Gray?s Close till the advent of Lady Stair, in whose time the house had a terraced garden that descended towards the North Loch. Lady Eleanor Campbell, widow of the great marshal and diplomatist, John Earl of Stair, was by paternal descent related to one of the most celebrated historical figures of the seventeenth century, being the grand-daughter of the Lord High Chancellor Loudon, whose talents and influence on the Covenanting side procured him the enmity of Charles I. In her girlhood she had the misfortune to be united to James Viscount Primrose, of Castlefield, who died in 1706, a man of dissipated habits and intolerable temper, who treated her so barbarously that there were times when she had every reason to feel that her life was in peril. One morning she was dressing herself before her mirror, near an open window, when she saw the viscount suddenly appear in the room behind her with a drawn rapier in his hand. He had softly opened the door, and in the mirror she could see that his face, set white and savage, indicated that he had nothing less than murder in his mind, She threw herself out ol window into the street, and, half-dressed as she was, fled, with great good sense, to Lord Primrose?s mother, who had been Mary Scott of Thirlstane, and received protection ; but no attempt was made to bring about a. reconciliation, and, though they had four children, she never lived with him again, and soon after he went abroad. During his absence there came to Edinburgh a certain foreign conjuror, who, among other occuli powers, professed to be able to inform those preseni of the movements of the absent, however far the) might be apart; and the young viscountess wa: prompted by curiosity to go with a lady friend tc the abode of the wise man in the Canongate, wear ing over their heads, by way of disguise, the tartar plaid then worn by women of the lower classes After describing the individual in whose move ments she was interested, and expressing a desirt to know what he was then about, the conjuror lec her before a large mirror, in which a number o colours and forms rapidly assumed the appearanct of a church with a marriage party before the altar and in the shadowy bridegroom shk instant11 recognised her absent husband ! She gazed upor the delineation as if turned to stone, while thc ceremonial of the marriage seemed to proceed, anc the clergyman to be on the point of bidding thc bride and bridegroom join hands, when suddenly i gentleman in whose face she recognised a brothel )f her own, came forward, and paused. His face tssumed an expression of wrath ; drawing his sword ie rushed upon the bridegroom, who also drew to iefend himself ; the whole phantasmagoria then iecame tumultuous and indistinct, and faded comiletely away. When the viscountess reached home ;he wrote a minute narrative of the event, noting ;he day and hour. This narrative she sealed up in ?resence of a witness and deposited it in a cabinet Soon after this her brother returned from his travels tbroad-which brother we are not told, and she lad three : Hugh the Master of Loudon, Colonel rohn Campbell of Shankeston, and James, who was Colonel of the Scots Greys, and was killed at Fontenoy. She asked him if he heard aught of :he viscount in his wanderings. He answered, iniously, ?I wish I may never again hear the name of that detestable personage mentioned !? On being questioned he confessed to ?( having met nis lordship under very strange circumstances.? While spending some time at Rotterdam he made the acquaintance of a wealthy merchant who had % very beautiful daughter, an only child, who, he informed him, was on the eve of her marriage with 5 Scottish gentleman, and he was invited to the wedding as a countryman of the bridegroom. He went accordingly, and though a little too late for the commencement of the ceremony, was yet in time to save an innocent girl from becoming the victim of his own brother-in-law, Viscount Primrose ! Though the deserted wife had proved her willingness to believe in the magic mirror, by having committed to writing what she had seen, yet she was so astonished by her brother?s, tidings, that she nearly fainted; but something more was to be learned still. She asked her brother on what day the circumstance took place, and having been informed, she gave him her key, and desired him to bring to her the sealed paper. On its being opened, it was then found, that at the very moment when she had seen the roughly-interrupted nuptial ceremony it had actually been in progress. Primrose died, as we have said, in the year before the Union. His widow was still young and beautiful, but made a resolution never again, after her past experience, to become a wife ; but the great Earl Stair, who had been now resident some twenty years in Edinburgh, and whose public and private character was irreproachable, earnestly sued for her hand, yet she firmly announced her intention of remaining unwedded ; and in his love and desperation the Earl bethought him of an expedient indicative of the roughness and indelicacy of the age. By dint of powerfully bribing her household he got himself introduced over-night into a small
Volume 1 Page 103
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