Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/108

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


had declared his love as they breakfasted togetlur, and look care not to attempt " to weave them into a system." As they passed into the Lawn market they had not before them that wide expanse which in the present day makes so noble an end to the High Street. The view was obstructed by the Weigh House, the Lucken- booths, the Tolbooth, anil the Guard House. 1 At the Weigh House the boast, perhaps, was made that so great was the trade of the town that the public weighing-machine which was there kept brought in no less than a sum of ,500 every year. At the Tolbooth and the Guard House, that " long low ugly building," which looked like " a black snail crawling up the High Street," 1 ' something, perhaps, was said of the Porteous riots. But the real story of the Heart of Mid- Lothian could only have been told them by that little child of scarce two years in the College Wynd, how the wild mob on that September night, seven-and-thirty years before, burnt down the massive gate of the jail, and dragged their wretched prisoner by torchlight to the gallows, and how Jeanie Deans could not tell a lie even to save her sister from a shameful death. There was no one but this bright-eyed boy who could have even pointed out in the Luckenbooths the stall where poor Peter Peebles and Paul Plainstanes had for years carried on " that great line of business as mercers and linendrapers," which in the end led to a lawsuit that is famous all the world over. Having no one to tell them of all this they passed on through Parliament Close, " which new-fangled affectation has termed a square," :! to the Parliament House, which still showed " the grave grey hue that had been breathed over it by one hundred and fifty years," and which was still free from the disgrace of " bright freestone anil contemptible decorations." The " sorrow and indignation," which the restorer's wanton changes aroused troubled a later generation.' Here it was that the Court of Session sat, the High Court of Justice of Scotland. It was in these August days empty of lawyers, for the Vacation had just begun ; but Johnson on his return saw it also in term time, and thought "the pleading too vehement and too much addressed to the passions of the judges. It was not the Areopagus," he said. Here Henry Erskine, the brother of the famous Chan- cellor, slipped a shilling into Boswell's hands, who had introduced

1 See ante, p. 52. ' Cockburn's Memorials, p. 106, and Heart

'* Heart of Mid-Lothian, ed. 1860, i. 247. of Mid-Lotluan, ii. 117.

3 Redgauntlet, ed. 1860, i. 253.

�� �