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ghost." -"A ghaist!—Preserve us a I hope it's naething o' that kind; but I am sure it canna be for me, for I am nae waur than my neighbours, and that's 's a good deal to say. "Never mind," said I to Betty; "if it does no more harm, it may e'en ring the bell as long as it pleases. You may go away."-" Awa! 'deed, sir, to tell ye the truth, I'm fear'd to gang down the stair my lane, in case it's something uncanny. "Go, you stupid fool, there is no such thing as ghosts," replied I, in a tone of assurance" all nursery tales." Betty went away, not without apprehensions of something supernatural; but in place of going down to the kitchen, she went up stairs.
I now began to think of the cause of the bell ringing so unexpectedly, and at such an hour, for it was near twelve o'clock; and as I myself had heard it distinctly, I could not be persuaded it was altogether an illusion. The sight of the bell-rope still vibrating, to which I now turned my eyes, also shewed that there was something in it more than the poor girl's apprehensions. I trust I am not very deficient in personal courage upon proper occasions; but I thought at this moment that the candle gave a fainter light than usual, and another look convinced me that the flame was actually of a deeper blue than ordinary. To ascertain if any thing was wrong with the bell, I applied my hand to the cord, and pulled it once or twice. It rung violently, and a loud scream, and the sound as of a heavy body falling on the floor above, instantly succeeded. Fear is sympathetic, and I now began to feel that I was not insensible to terror. My stick also lost its balance, from some unknown cause, and fell from its situation in the corner; and though at any other time this circumstance should not have alarmed me, yet I cannot say I was free from apprehension. I looked round the room to see if the other articles in it retained their quiescent posture, and in dread that the poker and tongs might take it into their heads to waltz,-my pen and ink dance a saraband before my astonished eyes,-and the tables and chairs arrange themselves for a country dance. After a moment's hesitation, I snatched up the candle, and rushed towards the door; but, O horror!-a gust of wind blew out the
light, and the candlestick dropt from my hand. Darkness was now added to my other terrors deep groans and moaning were heard, and a hissing noise, like the rushing of water, sounded in my ears.
Deprived for a few seconds of my muscular strength, I attempted in vain to move from the spot; a cold dew trickled down my forehead, and I felt all the horrors of a premature connec tion with the invisible world. Recovering my recollection, I rushed up stairs. The groans now swelled louder on my ear, the hissing noise again began, and to escape from both, I bounded up like an antelope, taking the reach of two steps at one. I had almost reached the second floor, when my foot, striking a soft substance violently, I lost my balance, and tumbled over a human body. Gracious powers! what is this!" I involuntarily exclaimed. "Lord have mercy upon me!" cried out a voice in a stifled tone of anguish, "and preserve me from the Evil One! I'm gone now!-I'm murdered outright. Luckily for us all, I had by this time become so accustomed to fear, that it did not deprive me of the use of my voice; and I cried out with vehemence," Lights! a light here!
there is a body in the stair." A chamber-lamp now peeped from the nursery door. "There it's again!" said the voice; see till't coming again!-the awfu' thing's coming!"
The whole house was now alarmed, at least all the grown-up inmates; Mrs Columbus appeared half-dressedlights were procured,—and I found by this means that one cause of my terror was removed. The body upon which I had stumbled was that of poor Betty, who had fallen down in a fainting fit at the second ringing of the bell; and the terror occasioned by my violent fall, and perhaps pain by the prostration so suddenly of my specific gravity, (I weigh ten stone, jockeyweight,) made her think the Enemy of Mankind had clutched, and was going to fly away with her out at the window.
"What a ridiculous business is this," said Mrs Columbus; "and how does it happen that you and your mas ter are scrambling in the stair together at this time of night?" and she eyed me, as if she had detected me in lesemajesty to her highness." It's some thing no canny in the house, mem,
answered Betty, with great simplicis "for as I was sitting in the kit chen all the bells rung at once; and when I went up the stair and found it was naebody ringing, I was gaun up to cry on Jenny, for I was feart, when they a' rung again; a flash of fire glanced in my een, and an unearthly ery, like a howlet's whusht, made me fa' down in a dwaum."-The other girl seemed to swallow the narration greedily, and the expression of her countenance, and the trembling of her hand which held the candle, shewed that she was prepared to be as terrified as possible, did any thing occur to alarm her fears.
I have broken my shins on your account, Mrs Betty," said I; you tripped me up so completely, as I was running up stairs."-" Lordsake, sir, was it you that fell aboon me! I'm glad o' that, for I thought it was the ghaist, or that the ceiling o' the house had fa'en down." '—" Well, well," said Mrs Columbus, "I don't understand this story, but we will see about it all to-morrow. Meantime, go you, Betty, and get the candle from the parlour, and go to bed."-" Me gang for the candle, mem!" answered Betty, "I wadna gang down the stair again the night, if ye war to gie me the haill house to mysell. I winna sleep anither hight in't. I'm sure I wad gang out o' my judgment if I did."-" Jenny, go you; Mr Columbus will go with you, and take this light in your hand.” r Eh, mem, you manna ask me to gang, for if I war to see ony thing untanny, I am sure it would drive me dementit."- "Come, give me the light and I'll go myself," said I; " we cannot stop here all night." Just as I was about to take the light and descend, a long-sounding "hush" was heard, which was followed by a noise like the report of a pistol, but which, increased by the silence, resounded in our ears like a peal of thunder. Mrs Columbus exclaimed in terror, seizing my arm, Gracious, what's that! Christopher, you must not go !" The two girls yell ed in chorus, their eyes like to start from their sockets, and likewise clung round me for protection, ejaculating such portions of Scripture as fear had not totally banished from their mo mory.
We now, by common consent, adjourned to a bed-room, leaving the children to take care of themselves, as
no persuasion could induce the girls to move from my side. Here, in close conclave, it was resolved, in the first place, that the house was certainly haunted by some perturbed spirit" or other; and, in the second place, upon the suggestion of Mrs Columbus, it was unanimously agreed on, that, in case the alarming sounds had proceeded from thieves, (though that was scarcely possible, considering the care had in locking the doors,) it would be necessary to arm, and examine the dining-room, from which apartment the noise seemed to have proceeded. The order of march was the next consider
ation. I had the honour to be selected as the forlorn hope, and was armed with a poker, the only weapon which was at hand. The two girls followed, one of them carrying a light, linked arm in arm, like a Macedonian phalanx; and Mrs Columbus brought up the rear, protected by one of the children's school Bibles, which she was forced to take up, on the asseverations of the lassies, that its possession would keep us unhurt should the Enemy of Mankind dare to shew his face. We descended the stair cautiously, and in silence, except the muttering of occasional wishes for our preservation, by the frightened maidens. The hissing noise had ceased; no groans were heard; but at the bottom of the stair lay the candlestick which I had dropped. The dining-room door was partially open; I grasped the poker more firmly in my hand, and set my teeth in firm defiance. Before entering, however, I listened for a moment, my left hand in the act of pushing up the door. My female companions, with eyes like saucers, stood two or three steps behind me, ready to scream at the sight of the terrible apparition. I pushed the door hastily open; the hissing sound again was heard; a loud noise succeeded, mingled with the crashing as of glass; the candle dropt from the hand that held it, and was extinguished; and the screams of the females added to the horrors of a scene already almost overpowering. Had the devil, or a robber, now appeared, he would have been in perfect safety for me, for my arms and coat were seized, and that so firmly, by the womankind, that I could not move. By common consent, or rather instinct, we again retreated up stairs, in hollow square, as well as three indi
viduals could form a square; and, after some further deliberations, in which I reassured myself it could not be thieves, I procured a light, and went down boldly, the candle in one hand, and the poker in the other. The females, as usual, persuaded me not to venture; but, as I saw there was to be no end to the business without a little risk, I determined to persevere. At the fatal door, I hesitated a moment, whether or not I should enter, but at last I rushed in, and found-how shall I tell it?- that the cause of our terror was -the bursting of two beer-bottles, under the side-board.
The extremes of passion are nearly allied, and laughing and crying often accompany one another on any strong excitement. I was almost ready to drop the candle once more with downright laughter; and all my alarm was changed to mirth, by the appearance of the beerless and shattered bottles. The noise I made reached the apartment above, and I understood afterwards, before I had communicated the true reason, it was conjectured that my laughter was hysterical, or the sportive effusions of mirth-loving fiends, enjoying the trepidation of me, Christopher Columbus. But I soon put an end to all apprehensions for my safety, by calling out,-" Betty! Betty! come down, and wipe up the heart's blood of the murdered beerbottles!"-" Eh! what!" said Betty, "is a' safe? Is there naething to be fear'd for?"-"Nothing but your own foolish imaginations," replied I. The party now descended. “Gude sake, is that a'?" said Jenny. "Quite enough at once," said Mrs Columbus; "but you must never leave your beer there again all night, Betty.-It is monstrously teasing to have the house turned upside down for such a silly thing."
Our fears were now at an end. The hissing noise, which sounded in the moment of alarm like the fall of a distant cataract, was now easily traced to the action of the fermenting liquid, and the noise that had alarmed us so much proceeded from the action of the same agent, in expelling the unwilling corks. The groans I heard, on first leaving my apartment, were traced to the fear of Mrs Betty, which made her fall in the stair; and the gust of wind, which extinguished my candle, was found to be owing to the hurried
opening of the door. One thing alone remained to be accounted for, and that was, the supernatural ringing of the bell. This was also, after some experiments on the bell-rope, satisfactorily ascertained to have proceeded from some slight injury to the spring.
The family were now about to retire, when the noise of a distant drum was heard. "What can that be?" said Mrs Columbus; and new seriousness, if not terror, again began to overspread our countenances. "It sounds very like the fire-drum," said I.-"You're right, sir, you're quite right; I'm sure it's just the firedrum," said Betty. "Eh! it sounds awfu' at this time o' night." The conjecture was but too true. It was the fire-drum ; and a gleam of light to the northward, and a confused noise of voices, shewed that the fire was at no great distance. Fire is a dreadful calamity; and even excess of caution is laudable to prevent or lessen its devastations. In a few minutes the partial appearance of the flames waving beyond the chimney-tops pointed out the precise spot, and we were rivetted to the window looking at its incontrollable progress. I was on the eve of putting on my hat, and going to see if proper assistance had been procured; but was stopped by the persuasions of Mrs Columbus, who said that on these occasions in Edinburgh there were always too many people assembled. "Besides," said she, 66 you will catch cold, not being accustomed to be out at night, and I should be afraid to be left alone after what has happened.' I allowed myself to be persuaded; though we could not think of going to bed, but stood fascinated at the window, gazing in hopeless concern for the preservation of the little furniture of the inmates.
The flames now ascended to a great height, and illuminated the surrounding streets to a distance. The chimneys rose in striking outline amidst the general darkness. It was a sublime sight; and could one have divested one's self of the apprehension of danger or ruin to those who occupied the houses in flames, it might have furnished a desirable study for a painter. It struck one o'clock in St Giles's. The noise increased, and the rattling of the fire-engines to the spot conveyed the idea of a city taken by storm. The exertions to moderate the violence
of the fire, seemed to little purpose. "God preserve us from accidents by fire!" said Mrs Columbus." It's a terrible flame that!-we hear the very joists crackling," answered Mrs Betty." If the folks' lives be safe, let their gudes gang," remarked Jenny; "the warld's aye to the fore for the winning."
In a little time the roof fell with a tremendous crash, and the flames ascended with redoubled violence, far above the surrounding buildings, carrying with them the embers of the wood, which were thrown like rockets to a considerable distance. A kind of shout accompanied the falling in of the roof, and the noise of the voices was heard in louder command and reply. The appearance of the fire was now strikingly grand; the whole surrounding houses and projecting chimney stalks were lighted up with the glare; and the venerable spire of St Giles rose in magnificence, one side gilded by the light, while the other was in deep shadow. Every scene in nature acquires a deeper interest as human beings are connected with it either as actors or sufferers; and had we known the melancholy fate of some of the inhabitants of the pile now in flames before us, we should have felt an interest incalculably deeper in the spectacle of the destructive element, whose rapid progress had rendered means of escape to them impossible. As it was, we were fascinated to the spot, expressing vain regrets for the loss which must be occasioned to the poor inhabitants, who very seldom avail themselves of the protection of insurance against fire. The structure of most of
the houses in Edinburgh, being built of stone, and their division-walls and stairs of the same material, fortunately renders loss of life an uncommon accident. It was not till next morning we learned that the fire we had witnessed had occasioned the death of three unfortunate creatures, and what was more melancholy still, all of one family. They had been roused from their beds by the progress of the flames, which had already cut off their retreat; and in the agony of despair, the poor man, with a hatchet, had begun, it is said, to open a way through the partition-wall of the neighbouring house, when the hatchet unfortunately broke with the violence of the strokes. There was now no alternative but in leaping from a height (three stories) which would render death as certain, though not so terrible, as being destroyed by fire. The alarm at this time had scarcely been given the crowd had not collected-when the man, an old soldier who had served in the Peninsula, taking a child in his hand, (a boy of about six years of age,) took the fatal leap. The child was killed on the spot, and the man severely bruised. His wife, a Portuguese woman, whom he had married in his campaigns, followed the fatal example, with an infant in her arms not a year old. The unfortunate woman and the little innocent were found a few minutes after beyond hopes of recovery; and the husband, whom his overpowering calamity had, it is said, almost driven to distraction, deposited (with a solitary exception) his whole family in one grave, two days after.
PRIVATE NOTE, TO ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.
This is to be carefully read once a-day by all the citizens of Edinburgh, till further notice.
I already tremble for the honour of the Scottish capital, when the King and his Court shall visit us next summer; and I blush even now to think that our city state must be beholden to John Wells's hackney-coaches. What will the nobles of England and Ireland, and the Mayors of London and Dublin think of us, hat we cannot afford a state coach for our chief magistrate, nor pay the exence of a mansion-house! Upon my word, dearly as I should like to see the Parthenon of Athens perched on the top of the Calton-hill, I would almost vote to take the cash subscribed for this purpose, and cover our nakedness by The building of a mansion-house, and the purchase of a coach, for the credit of he city. Charles Oman is a good enough fellow in his way; but will it be ecorous on the part of the city rulers to ask his Majesty to a tavern dinner VOL. X.
either at Charlie's or in the Assembly-rooms? Or is it consistent with the pride of Scotsmen to allow the first magistrate of their chief city to be obliged for the display of his brief dignity to John Wells? No, fellow-citizens! Let a coach be commissioned this instant from Messrs Crichton and Co.; let it be a good, thrifty, substantial article, with plenty of room inside, (magistrates are sometimes bulky men ;) and let the large building in the west of George'sstreet, called the Tontine, be immediately purchased, and fitted up as a mansion for our Provosts, where these right honourable gentlemen may do the honours of the city to illustrious strangers, as becomes the modern Athens. The thing is not yet too late. The building above-mentioned may be put in order in less than three months, provided it be immediately set about; and before his Majesty arrives, we may be in a situation to shew that we have a mansion for our Provost, as well as a palace for our Prince.
As I am on city politics, I take the liberty of suggesting, that in place of carrying our races in future to Musselburgh, it would be desirable to confine them to our own neighbourhood. For this purpose no place is so well adapted as the parks in the neighbourhood of the Palace, called St Anne's Yards, and the Duke's Walk ; and were Comely Garden and the park and garden to the N. E., (now divided from the Duke's Walk by an old dike,) purchased by Government, along with the two old houses, and the wretched cottages and cow-houses at Croftangrie removed, it would not only be a permanent improvement to the palace and city, but afford a racing ground no where to be surpassed. The unrivalled amphitheatre of hills by which this level track is surrounded, including the Calton-Hill and Arthur's Seat, would form a grand feature in the scene, and afford accommodation to twice the population of the capital to behold the races in safety. The tents and stalls for drinking, puppet shows, and all the other little requisites expected by the crowd at a horse-race, might be snugly arranged in the neighbouring valley; and there might our humble fellow-citizens amuse themselves at the rowley powley and quoits, or get tipsey in rural retirement, and sleep without danger of horses and carriages, till the bleating of sheep and the shrill cries of the wild birds aroused them to work and sobriety.
But whether or not it were desirable to convert this fine piece of ground into a racing-course, I do insist that the said property be purchased, the dikes levelled, and the old houses removed, for the purpose of making a proper entrance to the Palace, and forming a corresponding lawn. The old flower plot at the back of the Palace must also be removed, its enclosure taken down, and the ground levelled to the bottom of the walls. In this case, what a splendid approach might be formed, connected with the eastern termination of the road over the Calton-Hill, to our Palace of Holyroodhouse;" and another, still more splendid, might be formed at the other termination of the Park, near to what is now called the Watering-Stane. One or other, or both of these approaches, is absolutely necessary to avoid the long, dirty, and narrow suburb of Canongate, and the still more horrible entrance by Croftangrie. No gentleman of moderate fortune, were such a piece of ground, and such a house, his property, but would adopt something of the kind I have now suggested; and so satisfied am I of even its advantage to increase the beauty and grandeur of " mine own romantic town," that I, for one, shall not advise his Majesty to come to Edinburgh if this be not done; nay, so far as my influence goes, endeavour to prevent the royal visit altogether. It is far better that the King should dream or read of having a fine Palace called Holyroodhouse in the capital of Scotland, where his ancestors, and our native princes, held their royal courts, than that he should come unawares upon us, and find himself obliged to engage a bed at