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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


BARBARA NAPIER 3?9 The West Bow.] tlength, involving that of many others; but a portion of the charges against her will suffice as a sample of the whole, from U Pitcairn?s Trials.? ?? Satan had informed the witches that James VI. sf Scotland was the greatest enemy he had, and the latter?s visit to Norway, to bring over his queen, seemed to afford an opportunity for his destrucition. Accordingly, Dr. Fiar of Tranent, the .devil?s secretary, summoned a great gathering of witches on Hallow Eve, when zoo of them embarked, each in a riddle or sieve, with much mirth .and jollity; and after cruising about somewhere on the ocean with Satan, who rolled himself before them on the waves, dimly seen, but resembling a huge haystack in size and aspect, he delivered to -one of the company, named Robert Grierson, a cat, which had been drawn previously nine times through a crook, giving the order to ?cast the same into the sea.? ? This remarkable charm was intended to raise such a furious tempest as would infallibly drown the king and queen, then on their homeward lroyage from Christiania, which, if any credit may be given to the declaration of James (who greedily swallowed the story), was not without some effect, as the ship which conveyed him encountered a furious contrary wind, while all the rest of the fleet .had a fair one and a smooth sea. On this, Barbara Napier and her infernal companions, after regaling themselves with wine out of their sieves, landed, and proceeded in procession t o North Berwick Kirk, where the devil awaited them in the pulpit, singing as they went- ?? Cummer go ye before, cummer go ye ; Cif ye winna gang before, cummer let me.? Sir James Melville gives us a most distinct account -of the devil?s appearance on this auspicious ocusion. His body was like iron; ?his faice was terrible; his nose like the bek of an egle;? he had claws like those of a griffin on his hands and >feet. He then called the roll to see that all were present, and all did him homage in a manner .equally humiliating and indecorous, which does not admit of description here. All this absurdity being proved against Barbara Napier, she was sentenced, with many others, on the 11th of May, 1590, to be burnt ?at a stake sett on the Castle HiU, with barrells, coales, heather, and powder;? but when the torch was about to be applied, pregnancy was alleged, according to ? Calderwood?s Historie,? as a just and sufficient Cause for staying proceedings; the execution was delayed, and ultimately the unfortunate creature was set at liberty by order of James VI, Now nothing remains of these Napiers but their tomb and burial-place on the north side of the choir of St. Giles?s. In the basement of the house which was once theirs was the booth from which the rioters, on the night of the 7th September, 1736, obtained the rope with which they hanged Porteous. It was then rented by a woman named Jeffrey, a dealer in miscellaneous wares, who offered them the rope gratis when she learned for what purpose it was required, but one of the conspirators threw a guinea on the counter as payment. The house of the Napiers was demolished in 1833. Opposite the mansion of Provost Stewart, and also outside the Bow Port, but on the east side of the bend, was a tenement known as ?the Clockmaker?s Land,? which was demolished in 1835, to make way for what is now Victoria Street, but which ?took its name from an eminent watchmaker, a native of France, named Paul ,Romieu, who is said to have occupied it from the time of Charles 11. (about 1675) till the beginning of the eighteenth century. In front of the house there remained, until its demolition, one of the wonders of the Bow-a curious piece of mechanism, which formed the sign of the ingenious Paul Romieu. It projected over the street from the third storey-a gilded ball representing the moon, which was made to revolve by means of clockwork. A large iron key of antique form, which was found among the ruins of this house, is preserved in the hfuseum of Antiquities. Among the oldest edifices in ]this part of the street was one which bore the singular name of the ?? Mahogany Land,? having an outer stair protected by a screen of wood. There was no date to record its erection, but its ceilings were curiously adorned by paintings precisely similar to those which were found in the palace of Mary of Guise in the Castle Hill ; and no record remained of its generations of inmates, save that, like others about to be mentioned, it bore the iron cross of the Temple, and also the legend-which, from being a simply moral apophthegm, and not Biblical, was supposed to be anterior to the Reformation-22 . yt. fhZis . overcommis, (i.e., ?He that bears overcomes.?) There was also a half-obliterated shield. For ages the Bow was famous as the chief place for whitesmiths, and till about the time of its demcr lition there was scarcely a shop in it occupied by any other tradesmen, and even on Sunday the ceaseless clatter of their hammers on all hands rang from morning till night. Behind the Mahogany Land ? lay several steep, narrow, and gloomy closes, containing the most
Volume 2 Page 319
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