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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


High Street.] MARY KINGS CLOSE 227 net tells us that he was a man of such unflagging zeal that he barely allowed himself three hours? sleep out of the twenty-four. On the renewal of the Covenant, in 1638, he and the celebrated Alexander Henderson were appointed to revise and adapt that national document to the circumstances of the times; and at the memorable assembly which met at Glasgow Johnston was unanimously elected clerk, and was constituted Procurator for the Church. ? He took a prominent share in resisting the unjust interference of Charles I: in Scottish affairs, and in 1638, on the royal edict being proclaimed from the Cross of Edinburgh, which set at defiance the popular opposition to Episcopacy, he boldly appeared on the scaffold erected near it, and read aloud the famous protest drawn up in the name of the Tables, while the mob compelled the six royal heralds to remain while this counterdefiance in the name of Scotland was being read In 1641, when Charles visited Edinburgh for the second time, Johnston was knighted and made a Lord of Session, and after sitting in the Parliament of Scotland in 1644, he attended, as one of the Commissioners, the assembly of divines at Westminster. In the following year he was Lord Advocate; and in 1649 he performed one of his last official duties, proclaiming Charles 11. King of Scotland, on the 5th of February, 1650. After the battle of Dunbar he was weak enough to accept ofice under the Protectorate, as Clerk Registrar; and after the death of Cromwell he acted as one of the Committee of Public Safety, when the feeble and timid Richard Cromwell withdrew from public life ; and this last portion of his career, together with the mode in which he had prosecuted and persecuted the fallen Cavaliers, and refused to concur in the treaty of Breda, sealed his doom when the Restoration came. He was forfeited in exile and condemned to death on the 15th of May, 1651. An emissary of the Scottish ministry discovered his retreat at Rouen, and, with the aid of the French authorities, he was sent to the Tower, and from thence to Edinburgh, where, with every mark of indignity, he was publicly executed on the same spot where, five-and-twenty years before, he had defied the proclamation of Charles I. This was on the n2nd of July, 1663, and he died with the utmost constancy and Christian fortitude. And now the busy establishment of one of the most enterprising of Scottish publishing firms occupies the site of the old mansion, in which he must many a time have entertained such men as Alexander Henderson, the Marquises Argyle, Rothes, and Callander, the gallant Sir Alexander Leslie, the somewhat double-dealing Monk, perhaps Cromwell too. CHAPTER XXVI. HIGH STREET (continued). Mary King?s Close-Who was Mary ?-Scourged by the Plague of 1645-Its Mystery-Drummond?s Epigram-Prof. Sinclair?s ?I Satan?s Invisible World Discovered?--Mr. and Mrs. Coltheart?s Ghostly Visitors-The Clox finally abandoned to Goblins-Craig?s Close-Andro Hart, Bookseller and Printer-Andro?s Spear-A Menagerie in Craig?s CIosc-The Isle of Man Arms--The Cape Club-Its Mysteries and O f f i c a ~ --Installation of a Knight-ProvinciaI Cape Clubs-The Poker Club-How it Originated-Members-Office-bearers-Old Stamp Office Court-Fortune?s Tavern-The beautiful Countess of EgIinton-Her Patronage of Lettters-Her Family-Interview with Dr. Johnson- Murderous Riot in the Close-Removal of the Stamp Office. MARY KING?S Close was long a place of terror to the superstitious, as one of the last retreats of the desolating plague of 1645. ?Who Mary King was is now unknown, but though the alley is roofless and ruined,? says one, writing of it in 1845, ?with weeds, wall-flowers, grass, and even little trees, flourishing luxuriantly among the falling walls, her name may still be seen painted on the street corner.? For some generations after the plague-in which most of itsinhabitants perished-its houses remained closed, and gradually it became a place of mystery and horror, the abode of a thousand spectres and nameless terrors, for superstition peopled it with inhabitants, whom all feared and none cared to succeed. ?Those who had been foolhardy enough to peep through the windows after nightfall saw the spectres of the long-departed denizens engaged in their wonted occupations ; headless forms danced through the moonlit apartments ; on one occasion a godly minister and two pious elders were scared out of their senses by the terrible vision of a raw head and blood-dripping arm, which protruded from the wall in this terrible street, and flourished a sword above their heads ; and many other terrors, which are duly chronicled in ?Satan?s Invisible World;?? yet it was down this place that the wild young Master of Gray dragged the fair Mistress Carnegie, whom, sword in hand, he had abducted from her father?s house at the head of twelve men-at
Volume 2 Page 227
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