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The Fair Maid of Perth Or, St. Valentine's Day   By: (1771-1832)

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THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH

or

ST. VALENTINE'S DAY

By Sir Walter Scott

INTRODUCTORY.

The ashes here of murder'd kings Beneath my footsteps sleep; And yonder lies the scene of death, Where Mary learn'd to weep.

CAPTAIN MARJORIBANKS.

Every quarter of Edinburgh has its own peculiar boast, so that the city together combines within its precincts, if you take the word of the inhabitants on the subject, as much of historical interest as of natural beauty. Our claims in behalf of the Canongate are not the slightest. The Castle may excel us in extent of prospect and sublimity of site; the Calton had always the superiority of its unrivalled panorama, and has of late added that of its towers, and triumphal arches, and the pillars of its Parthenon. The High Street, we acknowledge, had the distinguished honour of being defended by fortifications, of which we can show no vestiges. We will not descend to notice the claims of more upstart districts, called Old New Town and New New Town, not to mention the favourite Moray Place, which is the Newest New Town of all. We will not match ourselves except with our equals, and with our equals in age only, for in dignity we admit of one. We boast being the court end of the town, possessing the Palace and the sepulchral remains of monarchs, and that we have the power to excite, in a degree unknown to the less honoured quarters of the city, the dark and solemn recollections of ancient grandeur, which occupied the precincts of our venerable Abbey from the time of St. David till her deserted halls were once more made glad, and her long silent echoes awakened, by the visit of our present gracious sovereign.

My long habitation in the neighbourhood, and the quiet respectability of my habits, have given me a sort of intimacy with good Mrs. Policy, the housekeeper in that most interesting part of the old building called Queen Mary's Apartments. But a circumstance which lately happened has conferred upon me greater privileges; so that, indeed, I might, I believe, venture on the exploit of Chatelet, who was executed for being found secreted at midnight in the very bedchamber of Scotland's mistress.

It chanced that the good lady I have mentioned was, in the discharge of her function, showing the apartments to a cockney from London not one of your quiet, dull, commonplace visitors, who gape, yawn, and listen with an acquiescent "umph" to the information doled out by the provincial cicerone. No such thing: this was the brisk, alert agent of a great house in the city, who missed no opportunity of doing business, as he termed it that is, of putting off the goods of his employers, and improving his own account of commission. He had fidgeted through the suite of apartments, without finding the least opportunity to touch upon that which he considered as the principal end of his existence. Even the story of Rizzio's assassination presented no ideas to this emissary of commerce, until the housekeeper appealed, in support of her narrative, to the dusky stains of blood upon the floor.

"These are the stains," she said; "nothing will remove them from the place: there they have been for two hundred and fifty years, and there they will remain while the floor is left standing neither water nor anything else will ever remove them from that spot."

Now our cockney, amongst other articles, sold Scouring Drops, as they are called, and a stain of two hundred and fifty years' standing was interesting to him, not because it had been caused by the blood of a queen's favourite, slain in her apartment, but because it offered so admirable an opportunity to prove the efficacy of his unequalled Detergent Elixir. Down on his knees went our friend, but neither in horror nor devotion.

"Two hundred and fifty years, ma'am, and nothing take it away? Why, if it had been five hundred, I have something in my pocket will fetch it out in five minutes. D'ye see this elixir, ma'am? I will show you the stain vanish in a moment."

Accordingly, wetting one end of his handkerchief with the all deterging specific, he began to rub away on the planks, without heeding the remonstrances of Mrs... Continue reading book >>




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