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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


6 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Canongate attendants to say such prayers by her bedside as ? the seventeenth century, and the lofty buildings on were fitting for a person not expected to survive a mortal disorder. ? He ventured to remonstrate, and observed that her safe delivery warranted better hopes; but he was sternly commanded to obey the orders first given, and with difficulty recollected himself sufficiently to acquit himself of the task imposed on him, He was then again hurried into the chair ; but as they conducted him down-stairs he heard the report of a pistol! He was safely conducted home, and a purse of gold was forced upon him; but he was warned at the same time that the least allusion to this dark transaction would cost him his life. He betook himself to rest, and after long and broken musing, fell into a deep sleep. From this he was awakened with the dismal news that a fire of uncommon fury had broken out in the house of -, near the head of the Canongate, and that it was totally consumed, with the shocking addition that the daughter of the proprietor, a young lady eminent for beauty and accomplishments, had perished in the flames. The clergyman had his suspicions ; but to have made them public would have availed gothing. He was timid ; the family was of the first distinction; above all, the deed was done, and could not be amended. ?Time wore away, and with it his terrors; but he became unhappy at being the solitary depositary -of this fearful mystery, and mentioned it to some of his brethren, through whom the anecdote acquired a sort of publicity. The divine had long been dead when a fire broke out on the same spot where the house of - had formerly stood, and which was now occupied by buildings of an inferior description. When the flames were at their height, the tumult that usually apends such a scene was. suddenly suspended by an unexpected apparition. A beautiful female in a nightdress, extremely rich, but at least half a century old, appeared in ,the very midst of the fire, and uttered these tremendous words in her vernacular idiom :-? Anes bumeddwice burned-the third time 1?11 scare you all ! ? The belief in this story was so strong, that on a fire breaking out, and seeming to approach the fatal spot, there was a good deal of anxiety testified lest the apparition should make good her denunciation.? I According to a statement in Nates and Queries, this story was current in Edinburgh before the childhood of Scott, and the murder part of it was generally credited, He mentions a person acquainted with the city in 1743 who used to tell ithe tale and point out the site of the house. It is Remarkable that a great fire did happen there in . the spot date from that time. Of the plague, which in 1645 nearly depopu- . lated the Canongate as well as the rest of Edinburgh, a singular memorial still remains, a little lower down the street, on the north side, in the form of a huge square tenement, called the Morocco Land, from the effigy of a turbaned Moor, which projects from a recess above the second floor, and having an alley passing under it, inscribed with the following legend :- ? MISERERE MEI, DOMINE : A PECCATO, PKOBRO, DEBITO, ET MORTE SUBITA. LIBERA ~~1.6.18.? Of the origin of this edifice various romantic stories are told: one by Chambers, to the effect t5at a young woman belonging to Edinburgh, having been taken upon the sea by an African rover, was sold to the harem of the Emperor of Morocco, whose favourite wife she became, and enabled her brother to raise a fortune by merchandise, and that in building this stately edifice he erected the black nude figure, with turban and necklace of beads, as a memorial of his royal brother-in-law; but the most complete and consistent outline of its history is that given by Wilson in his ? Memorials,? from which it would appear that during one of the turnults which occurred in the city after the accession of Charles I., the house of the Provost, who had rendered himself obnoxious to the rioters, was assaulted and set on fire. Among those arrested as a ringleader was Andrew Gray, a younger son of the Master of Gray, whose descendants inherit the ancient honours of Kinfauns, and who, notwithstanding the influence of his family, was tried, and sentenced to be executed on the second day thereafter. On the very night that the scaffold was being erected at the Cross he effected his escape from the City Tolbooth by means of a rope conveyed to him by a friend, who had previously given some drugged liquor to the sentinel at the Puir-folkspurses, and provided a boat for him, by which he crossed the North Loch and fled beyond pursuit. Time passed on, and the days of the great civil war came. ? Gloom and terror now pervaded the streets of the capital. It was the terrible pear 1645-the last visitation of the pestilence to Edinburgh- when, as tradition tells us,? says Wilson, ?grass grew thickly .about the Cross, once as crowded a centre of thoroughfare as Europe could boast of.? The Parliament was compelled to sit at Stirling, and the Town Council, on the 10th of April, agreed with Joannes Paulitius, M.D., that he should visit the infected at a salary of AS0 Scot
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Canongate.] , THE MOROCCO LAND. 7 per month. A number of the ailing were hutted in the King?s Park, a few were kept at home, and aid for all was invoked from the pulpits. The Session of the Canongate ordained, on the 27th of June, that, ?to avoid contention in this fearful time,? all those who died in the park should be buried therein ; for it would seem that those who perished by the plague were buried in places apart from churchyards, lest the infection might burst forth anew if ever the graves were reopened.? Maitland records. that such was the terror prevailing at this period that the prisoners in the Tolbooth were all set at liberty, and all who were not free men were compelled, under severe penalties, to quit the city, until at length, ? by the unparalleled ravages committed by the plague, it was spoiled of its inhabitants to such a degree that there were scarcely sixty men left . capable of assisting in the defence of the town in case of an attack,? At this crisis a large armed vessel of peculiar rig and aspect entered the Firth of Forth, and came to anchor in Leith Roads. By experienced seamen she was at once pronounced to be an Algenne rover, and dismay spread over all the city. This soon reached a culminating point when a strong band landed from her, and, entering the Canongate by Moors. After some conference with his men he intimated his possession of an elixir of wondrous potency, and demanded that the Provost?s daughter should be entrusted to his skill, engaging that if he did not cure her immediately to embark with his men, and free the city without ransom. After considerable parley the Provost proposed that the leader should enter the city and take up an abode in his house.? This was rejected, together with higher offers of ransom, till Sir John Smith yielded to the exhortations of his friends, and the proposal of the Moor was accepted, and the fair sufferer was borne to a house at the head of the Canongate, wherein the corsair had taken up his residence, and from thence she went forth quickly restored and in health. The most singular part of this story is its denouement, from which it would appear that the corsair and physician proved to be no other than the condemned fugitive Andrew Gray, who had risen high in the favour and service of the Emperor of Morocco. ?He had returned to Scotland,? says Wilson, ?? bent on revenging his own early wrongs on the magis-. trates of Edinburgh, when, to his surprise, he found in the destined object of his special vengeance relation of his own. He married the Provost?s daughter, and settled EFFIGY OF THE MOOR, MOROCCO LAND. the.Water Gate, advanced to the Netherbow Port and required admittance. The magistrates parleyed with their leader, who demanded an exorbitant ransom, and scoffed at the risk to be run in a plague-stricken city. The Provost at this time was Sir John Smith, of Groat Hall, a small mansion-house near Craigleith, and he, together with his brother-in-law, Sir William Gray, Bart., of Pittendrum, a staunch Cavalier, and one of ?the wealthiest among the citizens, to whom we have referred in our account of Lady Stair?s Close, agreed to ransom the city for a large sum, while at the same time his eldest son was demanded by the pirates as a hostage. ? It seems, however,? says Wilson, ?that the Provost?s only child was a daughter, who then lay stricken of the plague, of which her cousin, Egidia Gray, had recently died. This information seemed to work an immediate change on the leader of the - ?Dom. Ann.,? Vol. 11. down a wealthy citizen in the burgh of Canongate. The house to which his fair patient. was borne, and whither he afterwards brought her as his bride, is still adorned with an effigy of his royal patron, the Emperor of Morocco, and the tenement has ever since borne the name of the Morocco Land. . . . . We have had the curiosity to obtain a sight of the title-deeds of the property, which prove to be of recent date. The earliest, a disposition of 1731, so far confirms the tale that the proprietor at that date is John Gray, merchant, a descendant, it may be, of the Algerine rover and the Provost?s daughter. The figure of the Moor has ever been a subject of pcapular admiration and wonder, and a variety of legends are told to account for its existence. Most of them, though differing in almost every other point, seem to agree in connecting it with the last visitation of the plague.?? Near this tenement, a little to the eastward, was the mansion of John Oliphant of Newland, second
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