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Memoirs of a Highland Lady

Author(s): Grant, Elizabeth

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MEMOIRS
OF A HIGHLAND LADY
MEMOIRS OF A
HIGHLAND LADY
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ELIZABETH GRANT
OF ROTHIEMURCHUS AFTERWARDS
MRS. SMITH OF BALTIBOYS
1797-1830
EDITED BY
LADY STRACHEY
SECOND IMPRESSION
LONDON
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET
1898'
PREFACE
THESE Memoirs were written by Mrs. Smith for her own
children, and the daughter of her sister Mrs. Gardiner, with no
thought but to interest them in those scenes of her early life
which she recalled so vividly, and has narrated with such lively
simplicity. They were privately printed by subscription in
order to make them more accessible to those whose interest in
the actors and the deeds of that past time is a personal one;
and in this form they have proved so attractive that the writer's
daughter, Mrs. King, has consented to publish them. The fact
that their issue was at first a private one will account for the
closeness of the printed text; which is, however, so clear that it
is hoped the reader will not be deterred by it from a perusal of
the volume.
Mrs. Smith began writing her recollections in 1845, during
a visit of some length to Avranches, and concluded the portion
here printed in 1867. That they should contain some errors
and inaccuracies is natural in the circumstances; but these are
of small importance, and the picture of the writer's life and
surroundings is unmistakably a genuine and faithful reflection
of her impressions.
Mrs. Smith lived to a great age, dying on the 16th November
1885 in her 89th year. Her sight began to fail in 1867, and
for a time she was totally blind, till an operation for cataract
restored the use of one eye; with this exception she had full
possession of her faculties to the last, reading, writing, sewing,
and maintaining her keen interest in the questions of the day;
in the latest page of her journal, written a month before her
death, she alludes to the political situation with all her old
vigour of style. Her life from the date at which the Memoirs
end was spent in Ireland on Colonel Smith's estate, of which she
was for many years the manager, first for her husband, whose
health during the latter part of his life prevented his taking an
active share in the management, then for her son during his
absence with his regiment; and after his death, during the
minority of his daughter, she rented the house and farm, and
continued to live among the people whose welfare had been for
so many years her chief aim.
When Colonel and Mrs. Smith first settled at Baltiboys on
their return from India, they found the estate in a condition of
utter neglect, the tenants poverty-stricken and ignorant — poor
ragged creatures with small holdings, no knowledge of farming,
and hopelessly in arrear with their rent. The old house had
been destroyed in the rebellion of 1798, and the preceding
owner had left the country in disgust and lived and died in
Paris. To begin with, work was found for the tenants in building
a new house; mason, carpenter, and labourers, were all on the
spot: those who had horses and carts drew the materials; all
took an interest in the work, and a pride in what they ever
afterwards called "the Building," while mason and carpenter
became thriving men. By degrees, year after year, small holders
were bought out; they were helped to emigrate, and their
holdings thrown into the larger farms, and this delicate business
was managed without causing a murmur; opportunities were
watched for, and those departing were always furnished with
the means of setting up elsewhere. Mud cabins disappeared by
degrees, and were replaced by neat stone houses. A national school
was built, one of the first in Ireland; the tenants on the estate
included Protestants and Roman Catholics, and a scheme was
prepared for their mixed education which was approved by both
the archbishops; much patience, however, was required, through
long years, to overcome the difficulties continually cropping up.
But the school did its work; the number of intelligent young men
and women who grew up and prospered around her repaid "the
Manager" for all her trouble. To the school was added a
lending library, with books carefully selected not to offend the
religious views of the people; but though it prospered for a year
or two, the Roman Catholic clergy mistrusted it, and finally
forbade the use of it.
The disastrous years of 1846-47 with their famine and fever
were severely felt, but were met with courage. All unnecessary
expenses were cut off, a soup-kitchen established in the farmyard,
and Mrs. Smith's pen once more helped her and many
others out of difficulties. She lived to see round her comfortable
homesteads, large, well-tilled fields, well-dressed, thriving people,
instead of the rags and misery and unsightly mud cabins of old;
and all this had been done with a small income by thrift and
patience. Late in her life the "Aunt Mary" so often referred
to in the Memoirs left her a large sum of money, part of which
she spent in the purchase of an estate adjoining her husband's.
On this she built a large national school, and during her last
years did much to benefit the poorer tenants. To the very end
of her busy life she was occupied about the welfare of others,
and old or young, merry or sad, all could count upon the ready
sympathy which was throughout one of her most characteristic
qualities.
J. M. S.
CONTENTS
CHAPTER I
1797-1803
Birth — Marriage and descent of parents — Father's up-bringing — Account of
his father, Doctor William Grant — His marriage with Miss Raper — Their
children — Her death — The Doctor's death — Father's education — Mother's
education — Uncle Rothie's (Patrick Grant's) death — Father succeeds to
Rothiemurchus — Passes his law-trials for the Scotch bar — Marries —
Succeeds to Thorley Hall — The young people's income — First recollections
in Edinburgh — Of the Highlands — Birth of William — Baby
jealousy — Birth of Jane — Early days at the Doune — In Bury Place,
London — Needlework — Children's books — First recollections of father and
mother — Father gives up the Scotch for the English bar — William and
the hair trunk — Aunt Lissy Grant — A visit to Tunbridge Wells — A
ballad-singer — Battle Abbey — Early accomplishments — Established in
31 Lincoln's Inn Fields — Ironside aunts and uncle — The play — Mary's
birth — The journey North — A stay at Scarborough — The Liddells — The
great storm — Strolling-players — Scarlet fever — A visit to Houghton-le-Spring
— The village — Ironside Grandparents' love — story — Their life —
Their family — Other Ironside relatives — Changes at Houghton — Edinburgh
— Queen's Ferry — Perth — Great-uncle Sandy Grant — From Perth
to Rothiemurchus — Enduring love for the Duchus . . Page 1
CHAPTER II
1803-1804
Welcome home — The Doune hill — The Doune house — Inverdruie house —
Doctor Grant's improvements at the Doune — An old-style Highland
home — Country neighbours — Hospitalities at Castle Grant — "Miss
Jennie" — Father's improvements at the Doune — The broom island —
Summer days in the Highlands — Return to Lincoln's Inn Fields — Early
education — Miss Gardiner — Her downfall — Uncle Edward Ironside —
Jane's shower-bath — Edward's departure to India — Visit to Richmond —
Aunt Lissy — Journey to the Highlands — Scenes on the road — Neil Gow
— Dancing lessons — The Duchess of Gordon — Her life at Kinrara — Lady
Georgina Gordon — Changes at the Doune — Summer Gaieties — English
visitors — A difference with the Chief. . . . Page 20
CHAPTER III
1805-1807
Visits to Kilmerdinny and Tennochside — Return to Lincoln's Inn Fields
— Daily life in London — Helping mother to dress for a rout — An
absorbing book — Grants of Glenmoriston — Annie Grant — Cousins and
playmates — Nurse Millar — Teachers — The play — Visit to Tunbridge
Wells — M. Beckvelt — Description of Twyford — Courtship of Aunt Lissy —
Her marriage to Mr. Frere — Life at Twyford — Hardships — SeveritiesSpartan
discipline — Happy hours — Birth of John Frere — Music lessons —
Father stands for Morayshire — Is defeated — Charles Grant and Indian
patronage — Scotch farming in Hertfordshire — Sale of Thorley Hall —
Neighbours at Twyford — A farmer's family . . . 38
CHAPTER IV
1701-1808
Family history of the Rapers — John Raper of Twyford — Matthew Raper of
Thorley Hall — Elizabeth Raper — She marries Doctor William Grant —
Birth of their children — Her death — Her visit to Rothiemurchus — Mrs.
Sandy and the laird's heir — The Doctor's grief — Last summer at Twyford
— Aunt Mary and the frogs — Little Mary and roast goose — Return
to town — Birth of John — William goes to Eton — Playfellows — Some
Scotch cousins — Visit to Seaham — The Inn there — The Rectory family
— Miss Milbanke's companion — Nanny Appleby — Dress turbans — A
mysterious language — Edinburgh — Uncle Sandy's disappointment —
Misunderstood . . . . . . . 59
CHAPTER V
1808-1809
Changes at the Doune — Cousin James Griffith — Sketching parties — Forest
scenery — Loch-an-Eilan — Marriage preparations — Cousin James and Aunt
Mary — The bridal party start for Inverness — The bride robbed of her
outfit — Nurse Millar's cruelty — Plot to get rid of her — Successful — Her
dismissal — She nearly drowns her next charge — Is sent to a lunatic
asylum — Ingratitude in the nursery — Mr. Peter Grant, the minister of
Duthil and Rothiemurchus — His duties— Mrs. Grant of Duthil — Her
pretensions — An uncomfortable home — Miss Ramsay engaged as
governess at the Doune — William's journey north from Eton — Highland
volunteers — Fear of invasion — Autumn visitors — Miss Baillie's adventure
— The Swiss valet — Successful fishing — Colonel Gordon — Lovat — His
strange fancies — Jubilee of King George — Mrs. Clarke and Colonel
Wardle — A tour of visits — Inverness — Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Cooper — The
Miss Grants of Kinchurdie — The Lady Glenmoriston — Nairn — Mrs.
Baillie — Description of Forres — Dunbar of Burgie — His figure and
costume — His marriage — The chest in the tower — Miss Jean Pro —
Courtesy of the Duchess of Gordon — A successful family — More visits —
Moy — Porridge breakfasts — Peep-hole view of St. Helena — Elgin — Duffus
— The Dunbar family — Gordonstown — Roman remains at Burghead —
Rothiemurchus timber-yard at Garmouth — Leitchison — Colonel Gordon's
family — Logie — The Laird and his family — The Lady Logie — Matrimonial
projects — The "Passage of the Spey" — Relugas — Gay scenes —
Mr. and Mrs. Lander's marriage — Return home — Highland laddies —
Their successful careers — How to treat poor relations — Return to London
— Miss Ramsay is left at Newcastle . . . . Page 75
CHAPTER VI
1809-1810
Life in London — Defective education — The children's friends — The mother's
friends — Mrs. Sophy Williams — Mrs. Piozzi — And others — Shopping —
Driving in Rotten Row — Father's busy evenings — Amusements — A
Scotch Strathspey in London — Hanover Square Concerts — First visit to
the Opera — William's illnesses — Dinner guests — Visit to Tunbridge — Life
at the Wells — Visitors at Tunbridge — Belleville and Johnnie — At a rout
with the Persian ambassador — Aunt Mary's invitation to Oxford —
Journey in a post-chaise — Loneliness at Lincoln's Inn Fields — A strange
purchase — A mob in the Square — Sir Francis Burdett's release from the
Tower — A crippled young lady's dexterity — To Oxford in a post-chaise —
The Master's lodgings at University College — Aunt Judy's costume —
Installation gaieties — Life in Oxford — Uncle and Aunt Griffith's pursuits
— Their household — Jane's arrival . . . . 102
CHAPTER VII
1810-1811
University College — The Master's lodgings — Lessons — Uncle Griffith's kindness
— Walks about Oxford — Uncle Griffith's recreations — Dons and
undergraduates — Society — Letters from home — Mulberries and a French
horn — Darning and a dramatic recitation — Fox-hunting in the quadrangle
— Mr. Shelley's misdoings — He is dismissed from College — The
destruction of the pear-tree — A visit to Cheltenham — Return to Oxford —
Society there — Stories of Lady Eldon — Of Lady Scott — Parents arrive
— Jane's accident in Great Tom — Return to London. . 120
CHAPTER VIII
1811-1812
Annie Grant — Her early career — Comes to live with the family — Her happy
influence — Mr. Nattes the drawing-master — Different dispositions of the
sisters — Days at Windsor — Visit to Ramsgate — Lady Augusta Murray
and her children — Daily life at Ramsgate — Mrs. Peter Grant's school —
Visit to the Bellerophon at Deal — Ramsgate society — Temptations of
smuggling — The acting of Macbeth — The great comet — The China, fleet
— Return to Lincoln's Inn Fields — Ursula Launder's marriage — Uncle
Frere's illness — Fashionable acquaintances — Macbeth again — Death of
the Duchess of Gordon — Mrs. Siddons' farewell performance — Mr.
Perceval shot — The king's illness — A premature purchase — The English
bar given up — The house in Lincoln's Inn Fields sold — Parting with
Annie Grant — A new governess . . . . Page 135
CHAPTER IX
1812
The journey north — Childe Harold — The travelling library — Miss Elphick's
bewilderment — The Border — Romantic associations — French prisoners
Neil Gow dead — On the road to the Highlands — Discomforts of the
journey — Rothiemurchus reached — Changes at the Doune — The new
garden — Comparison with the Doune at the time of writing — An era in
life — Servants and retainers — Miss Elphick's antecedents — Father elected
member for Great Grimsby — Visitors at the Doune — Sir William Gordon-Cumming
— His early liking for Eliza — Miss Elphick's incompetence —
Tom Walker's historical knowledge — Discord in the schoolroom — Reprimands
from mother and father — Affairs improve — Daily routine — Hardships
of the winter — Education — Romantic surroundings . 155
CHAPTER X
1570-1813
The farms and the forest of Rothiemurchus — History of the Grants of Rothiemurchus
— Their fights with the Shaws — Story of Laird James — Grizzel
Mor — Macalpine — Stories of him — John Corrour — Macalpine's second
wife — Their sons — Colonel William — Captain Lewis — His first wife — His
second wife — The Spreckled Laird — His wife's Jacobite leanings — Her
unkindness to Macalpine's widow — The White Laird — His brothers — Mr.
Cameron — Duncan Mackintosh of the Dell farm — Local society — The
Little Laird — His English wife gained favour with the Highlanders —
Household duties — Daily rambles — Visiting on the estate — The Captain
and Mrs. Grant at Inverdruie — An awkward meeting on the bridge of
Coylam — Mr. and Mrs. Mackintosh at the Dell — Mr. and Mrs. Cameron
at the Croft — Description of the scenery — Tradition concerning the
river Druie — The Castle of Loch-an-Eilan — Highland moss-trooping —
Miss Elphick's correspondence — The minister's sermons — The kirk — The
congregation — Parson John of Abernethy — Mr. Macdonald of Alvie —
Parson John and the cream — "A' lees" — George Ross's wake — Effect of
bad news — Death and burial of Major Shaw — Macpherson of Belleville
and Mrs. Macpherson — Harvest-homes at the Croft, the Dell, and the
Doune — Sandy Mackintosh — Christmas Eve at Belleville . Page 171
CHAPTER XI
1813
Christmas, Old style, at the Doune — The Floaters' ball — Work in the forest —
Sawing and log-floating — The Spey floaters — Universal dram-drinking —
An accident at the floating — Tragic death of a floater — His old mother —
Sad tale of a shepherd — His young widow — Highland reserve — The Spey
float — The Lady's perquisite — Winter fuelling — The Captain comes to the
help of the schoolroom — Daily routine — Reading for the little ones — A
fire at the Croft — Crochallan — The new Croft — William Cameron's sons
— The Laird's activity — The school — Sawyers' studies — Theatricals — As
You Like It — Macbeth — The Doune re-furnished — The measles — A doctor
installed — Father re-elected for Great Grimsby — Painting and papering
— The Doune pictures — Tom Lauder and Dr. Gordon — Improved hygiene
— William leaves Eton for College at Edinburgh — A new mail-coach —
Warlike news — Defective education of boys . . . 199
CHAPTER XII
1813-1814
Cataloguing the library — The Captain's death — A Highland widow — Funeral
Ceremonies — Lord Huntly's marriage — A successful plan for teaching
French — Reading aloud — Miss Elphick goes for a holiday — Mary's improvement
— Johnnie — The Dell of Killiehuntly — John and Betty Campbell
— The inn at Aviemore — Mrs. Mackenzie's trials — Mr. Cooper's gossip
— Cottage building — The West Lodge — The Polchar — The widows' house
— Discontent of the widows — Their house burnt down 224
CHAPTER XIII
1814
Story of General William Grant — His mother — Loch-an-Eilan cottage built
— Young ladyhood — Costume as a child — A new wardrobe — Aunt Frere's
conservatism — Mathematics as a bridle to imagination — Autumn visitors
— Accidental poisoning of Logie — Visit from Lord and Lady Huntly —
The bride's equipage — They dine at the Doune — Eliza's first dinnerparty
— The house-warming at the Croft — Mrs. Cameron's death — Charles
Grant — The Pitmain Tryst — After-festivities — Mrs. Macintosh of Borlam
— Her husband the freebooter — Origin of the Northern Meeting — The
start to attend it — On the road to Inverness — Arrival there — The first
ball — A decided success . . . . . Page 238
CHAPTER XIV
1814-1815
Removal to Edinburgh decided on — Last farewell of Mr. Cameron — Fire at
the Doune — No. 4 Heriot Row — Daily life there — Miss Elphick goes on
a holiday — High jinks in the schoolroom — The effects of dissipation —
Whig friends — Gaieties — Fashions — A rout and a disturbance — A lesson
in courtesy — Miss Grace Baillie's evening party — The wit's verses — First
love — Parents' disapproval — Romeo and Juliet — Lord Gillies intervenes
in vain — Interview with the lover's mother — The engagement broken off
— Unkind treatment — Its results — Return to the Highlands — Perth — Mr.
Anderson Blair — Dunkeld — Uncle Ralph's joke — The Bruar — Back at
the Doune — Civilities from Mr. Blair — Autumn guests — A day at Glen
Ennich — Rival Bodachs — Expedition to the parallel roads — The Inverness
Meeting — A handsome present — An old prophecy fulfilled 255
CHAPTER XV
1815-1817
Back to Edinburgh — No. 11 Queen Street — A long illness — Marriages of
Uncle Edward Ironside and Annie Need — Partners and friends — The
Goodchilds — Waterloo fashions — Changes in the Courts of Justice —
Serious occupations — Return to the Doune — Stupid sportsmen — Returned
half-pay officers — The Duchess's grave at Kinrara — Her daughters'
marriages — Her grand-daughters — Trouble in the Duchus — A fatal scuffle
— The trial and verdict — Return to Edinburgh — George Street — Various
Edinburgh sets — The Lord Provost — The Cumming-Gordons — Pleasant
evenings with them — Curious likeness between the Argyll Campbells and
the Rothiemurchus Grants — Lady Ashburton — Lord Ashburton's eccentricity
— The first quadrille in Edinburgh — Its great success — Future of
the dancers — Basil Hall — His family — Professors and lawyers — Sophistry
resisted — Jane sprains her ankle — Aunt Leitch and two nieces take
lodgings at Leith — Misfortunes of the Goodchilds and Carrs — Mrs. Gillio
Amelia Gillio — A visit from Colonel d'Este — Royalty and finger-glasses
Removal to Charlotte Square — A visit to Lord Lauderdale — Brag — Sir
Philip Dirom's star — A visit to the Erskines at Almondell — Life in
Charlotte Square — A fête at sea — Jane's début — The Goodchild family in
Edinburgh — A fashionable walking-costume — Bessy Goodchild on a
visit . . . . . . . . 275
CHAPTER XVI
1817-1818
Removal to Picardy Place — Intimacy with the Jeffreys — Dr. Gordon's death
— The Highlands — Father goes to Ireland to defend some rebels — The
Marquis of Donegal's marriage — Mr. Blair and the Duc de Berri — Return
to Picardy Place — Father loses Great Grimsby — His figure in Parliament
— Is put in for Tavistock by the Duke of Bedford — Mother's social success
— A graver set of acquaintances — John Clerk of Eldin — Stories of him —
His sister Bessy — His brother William — Sir Adam Ferguson — The
Waverley Novels — Sir Walter Scott — Anecdote of Professor Dalzel — Mrs.
Henry Siddons — The Gibson Craigs — Other friends — Elderly admirers —
Mrs. Cumming of Logie in Edinburgh — Her son Willie's entrance into
fashionable life — Tier housekeeping — Her son George's eccentricity — Miss
Carr on a visit — Uncomfortable management of Eliza and Jane's private
expenses — Miss Carr's love-affairs — Bessy Goodchild again — M. Elouis'
classes for the harp — An intruder — The class broken up — Singing lessons
from Mrs. Bianchi Lacey — Mr. Loder's Opera Company — Music at home
— The Assemblies — Macleod of Harris' ball . . . Page 299
CHAPTER XVII
1818-1819
Excursions to Craigcrook — Social entertainments there — Visits to the Gibson
Craigs at Woodside — A sailor's impromptu party — A concert in Lilliput —
Left in charge of Miss Elphick — Mrs. Gillio's family troubles — Miss
Amelia's beaux — Their trip to Roslin — Jane's drawing lessons — A picture
exhibition in York Place — A visit to the Gillieses at Hermandstone — Lord
Gillies' poor relations — His nieces' successful efforts at independence —
Sir David Brewster — The kaleidoscope — Handsome heiresses — Miss
Maclean started as a beauty — Her career — M. de Flahault — Lady Wiseman
— Mrs. Siddons' return to the stage — Liston — Unnecessary consideration
for the footman — Johnnie goes to Eton — His father takes him to
Tavistock — Dugald Stewart's opinion of him — Family visits — Inferiority
of Glasgow society — Tom Walker's disappointment — General Need and
Annie settled near Nottingham — A tour to the Continent decided on —
Miss Elphick's grief on leaving the family . . . 317
CHAPTER XVIII
A TOUR, IN HOLLAND
1819
The passage in the Van Egmont — Rotterdam — The Kermess — Appearance of
the people — Of the streets — English acquaintances at the table d'hôteMeeting
with Mr. Canning — General Scott's will — Sir Alexander Ferrier
and his family — A cargo from Batavia — Leave Rotterdam — Dowran's
escapade — The Hague — The House in the Wood — Amsterdam — Across
the Zuyder Zee — Saardam — Brock — A toy estate — Leyden — Haarlem —
Good advice to the travellers — Zeist — The Moravian mission-house — On
the canal to Arnheim — Dutch phlegm — Liege — An English Milor — From
Liège to Aix-la-Chapelle — The waters — Gaming-tables at Spa — A happy
ménage — Maestricht — Mr. Hare's attentions — Namur — Vandyke's Crucifixion
— Gemappes — Mementoes of Quatre Bras — Brussels — Apartments
in the Place Royale — A modern Gil Blas — Masters — Society — The
Houlton family — Mrs. G. — Queer company — A queer story — A day
in the country — The town — Louvain — Lacken — Waterloo — Flemish
farming and superstitions — Ghent — Antwerp — Rubens' Descent from the
Cross — Rotterdam — Dinner at a Dutch merchant's — Return home —
Erroneous impressions concerning the travellers — Welcomed by Dowran
Page 331
CHAPTER XIX
1820-1822
Last winter in Edinburgh — Riots in the West country — William Gibson Craig —
Uncle Ralph in Edinburgh — Miss Hunter's marriage — Deaths and births
— An execution in the house — Conscience awakened — Return to the Highlands
— William turns farmer — Improvements in forest management —
The new saw-mill — John arrives from Eton — Home amusements —
Autumn guests — Queen Caroline's trial — Uncle Griffith's death — Jane
hard to please — Domestic economy — John Bain's revelations — Aunt
Mary arrives — Eliza's illness — Highland laddies — George the Fourth's
visit to Scotland — Quiet days in Rothiemurchus — Serious study — A new
employment — An unsuspected neighbour . . . 362
CHAPTER XX
1822-1826
Invitations to India — Travelling by coach — On a visit to Studley — Mrs.
Lawrence and her surroundings — Miss G.'s elopement — Visit to Annie
Need at Fountain Dale — Mr. and Mrs. Walker at Berry Hill — Mercantile
Society — The Strutts at Belper — Luncheon at Mr. Arkwright's — Colonel
Pennington — Newstead — Haddon Hall — A visit to the Freres at Hampstead
— Routine of life — Music — Visitors — Coleridge — Joanna Baillie —
Irving — Five minutes beside the Great Duke — Friends in London — A
review at Hounslow — A ticket for Almack's — Return to the Doune with
the two Eton boys — Liverpool — Glasgow — Mother and sisters there
attending on aunt Leitch in her last illness — Jane remains with her
mother — The rest go on to the Doune — Aunt Leitch's death — John
accepts an Indian appointment — Altyre — The brothers Sobieski — Jane
visits Relugas — And Abbotsford — "Lochandhu" — Visitors to the Doune
— Mary at the Northern Meeting — Colonel Pennington and Jane — Mary
goes with the Needs to Fountain Dale — Fatal wreck of a steamer — Colonel
Pennington leaves — Jane announces her engagement to him — The
wedding takes place — They settle at Malshanger . . Page 376
CHAPTER XXI
1826-1827
William imprisoned for debt — The establishment reduced — William released
— Mary returns — Aunt Mary marries Doctor Bourne — The last winter in
the Duchus — Supplies fall short — A kind friend's advice — A successful
literary effort — Work in the barrack-room — Favourable criticism — The
secret told to mother — A visit to Huntly — Death of William Ironside of
Houghton-le-Spring — The end comes — Tavistock given up to Lord John
Russell — Father goes abroad to escape arrest — Is appointed to a Judgeship
in Bombay — The family prepare to leave the country — Preparations for
a sale — Old drives in the pony-carriage — The last day — The last walk in
the Duchus — The departure — Kindness of Mrs. Macpherson of Belleville
— The carriage seized at Perth — Creditors in Edinburgh — Farewell to
friends there — By sea to London — Passengers on board — Lodgings in
London — Difficulties there — Preparations for the voyage and outfit — A
short stay at Malshanger — Parting gifts — By coach to Portsmouth — Go
on board at Spithead — Parting friends — Father and brothers taken on
board off Jersey — Farewell to William . . . . 394
CHAPTER XXII
1827-1828
Life on board — Mr. Gardiner — Sunday at sea — Astronomy — Diversions —
Stormy weather — Ceylon — On shore at Point de Galle — Off again — A
narrow escape from a sunken rock — Landing at Bombay — Arrival at
Uncle Edward's country house — Engagement of Mary and Mr. Gardiner
— Visitors to the new burra sahibs — Mary's marriage — Busily employed
— Remove to the Retreat — Description of the house and grounds — The
establishment — Daily routine — Ironside cousins — Dinners and balls —
The high officials — Civilians and others . . . 409
CHAPTER XXIII
1828-1829
Near neighbours — The Parsee burying-place — The hot weather — Opening of
the monsoon — The rains — The cold weather — Eliza's success in society —
Whom will she marry? — Colonel Smith arrives in Bombay — Morning
rides — Birth of a niece — An expedition to Khandalla with the Gardiners
— The encampment — The encampment shifted — A beautiful spot — A
night alarm from a tiger — Return to Bombay — A trip arranged to the
Mahableishwa Hills — The journey — A hot day — Ascending the hills by
torchlight — A night in tents — A picturesque messenger — The journey's
end — Society — Dispute between the Supreme Court and the Company —
Sir John Grant closes the Court — The Governor's friendliness to Eliza —
Morning meetings with Colonel Smith — Daily routine — An escape from
a snake — Engaged to Colonel Smith — Mother insists on a marriage in
Bombay — Another wedding dilemma — The Governor's bungalows —
Arrival in Bombay — Colonel Smith's accident . . Page 426
CHAPTER XXIV
1829
The Gardiners leave for England — Death of Colonel Smith's brother — The
marriage — Honeymoon journey to Satara — Hill scenery — Poonah —
Friends to dinner — A picturesque escort — Arrival at Satara — The bungalow
— Its situation — Society — Daily routine — The fort and town of Satara
— Domestic concerns — The hat and feathers — The Colonel's asthma
becomes serious — Ordered to Bombay — The home broken up — The Rajah
of Satara — His fate — His troops — Miss Jemima Dunlop's matrimonial
requirements — Hospitality at Poonah — A military display — Heading a
charge — End of the hat and feathers — Sir Charles and Lady Malcolm —
Bombay — A. consultation — Colonel Smith ordered home — In tents at
Khandalla — Tiger and buffalo fight — Arrival of two more Ironside cousins
— Derangement of Uncle Ralph's affairs — Mr. Bourchier's masquerade
party — A visit to Elephanta — Ellora — Young Ironside's commission —
Mother's unfortunate temper — Its effect in the dispute between her
husband and the Government — Passage taken in the Childe Harold
— Preparations for the voyage — Father resigns his judgeship — Eliza's last
sight of him — Little Willy Anderson — Indian partings . 443
CHAPTER XXV
1829-1830
Fellow-passengers — Three weeks in Colombo — Government House gaieties —
Sir Hudson Lowe — New passengers — Mrs. X. — Her marriage — Her
flirtations on board — A month in the Isle of France — The colonists — The
slaves — Good cooking — Society — Sir Charles and Lady Colville — A sugar
plantation for sale — At sea again — Badly provisioned — Discontented
passengers — The Cape — Results of the wrong liquor — Wretched fare —
St. Helena — A painful walk — Cost of provisions — Visit to Napoleon's
house and tomb — On to Ascension — A suspicious-looking craft — Prepared
for defence — The craft sheers off — The Colonel's ill-health — Present of a
milch goat at Ascension — Nearly run down in the Channel — Anchored
off Portsmouth — The landing — The Colonel's recovery — Civility of
Custom-house officers — A visit to Lady Burgoyne — The journey to
Malshanger — Family party assembled there — The Colonel leaves for
London — Willy Anderson made over to Miss Elphick — The Gardiners
established near Malshanger — William's engagement to Miss Sarah
Siddons — Consent of his parents received — Birth of Eliza's baby girl —
End of Memoirs. . . . . . . Page 458
NOTES. . . . . . . . . " 479
PEDIGREE . . . . . . . To face " 484
INDEX . . . . . . . . " 485
CHAPTER I
1797-1803
I WAS born on the 7th of May 1797 of a Sunday evening at
No. 6 (north side) of Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in my
father's own lately built house, and I am the eldest of the five
children he and my mother reared to maturity.
My parents had married young; my father wanted a few
weeks of twenty-two and my mother a very few of twenty-one
when they went together for better for worse. My poor
mother!
They were married on the 2nd of August 1796 in the church
of the little village of Houghton-le-Spring in the county of Durham.
I have no genealogical tree of either family at hand, so
not liking to trust to memory in particulars of this nature, I
must be content with stating that my father was descended not
very remotely from the Chief of the Clan Grant, and that these
cadets of that great house having been provided for handsomely
in the way of property, and having also been generally men of
abilities in their rude times, had connected themselves well in
marriage, and held rather a high position among the lesser barons
of their wild country.
My mother was also of ancient birth, the Ironsides having
held their small estate near Houghton-le-Spring from the times
of our early Norman kings, the cross they wear for arms having
been won in the holy wars; the tradition in the family indeed
carried back their origin to the Saxon era to which their name
belongs, and it may be so, for Saxon remains abound in that
part of England.
My parents met in Glasgow in their dancing days, and there
formed an attachment which lasted to the very close of their
long lives through many troubles, many checks, and many
changes; but they did not marry immediately, my father at the
period of their first acquaintance not being exactly his own
master. His childhood had been passed strangely without any
fixed plan, and in various homes under widely different systems,
but with the certain future of wealth and station if he lived.
The beautiful plain of Rothiemurchus, with its lakes and rivers
and forest and mountain glens, offered in those old days but a few
cleared sunny patches fit for tillage; black cattle were its staple
products; its real wealth, its timber, was unthought of, so that
as its sons multiplied the laird of the period felt some difficulty
in maintaining them; the result in the generation to which my
grandfather, Dr. William Grant, belonged, was that he with
a younger brother, and a set of half-uncles much about their own
age, were all shoved off about the world to scramble through it
as they best could with little but their good blood to help them.
The fortunes of this set of adventurers were various; some fared
well, others worse, but all who survived returned to end their
days where they began them, for no change of circumstances can
change the heart of a Highlander; faithful to the impressions of
his youth wherever he may have wandered, whatever may have
befallen him, to his own hills he must return in his old age, if
only to lay his bones beneath the heather; at least it was so in
my grandfather's day, for he died at the Doune,¹ still but the
laird's brother, surrounded by his relations. He had prospered
in his struggle for independence, beginning his medical studies
at Aberdeen and pursuing them through several of the continental
hospitals, remaining some time at Leyden and then fixing
in London, where he got into good practice; turned author so
successfully that one of his works, a treatise on fever, was
translated into both French and German; and then married an
heiress of the name of Raper of a very respectable and highly
talented family.
They were for some years — twelve, I think — childless, then
came my father, and four years afterwards his only sister, my
aunt Mrs. Frere, at whose birth her mother died. Good Mrs.
Sophy Williams, my father's attendant, bonne or nursery governess,
soon removed with both her charges to their grandfather
Raper's country-house at Twyford, near Bishop's-Stortford, where
they remained till his death. My aunt was then adopted by
other Raper relations, and my father went back to his father,
who just at that time was retiring from his profession. In due
course he accompanied the Doctor to Rothiemurchus, and on his
death, which happened shortly and very suddenly, his uncle
Rothie took entire charge of his heir. The summers were passed
at Inverdruie,² the winters at Elgin, and a succession of tutors —
¹ The name of the house on the Rothiemurchus estate.
² A small house on the property.
queer men enough, by their pupil's account of them — were
engaged to superintend the studies of this wilful boy and a whole
ost of cousins, who helped to spoil him. This plan not exactly
answering, one country school after another was tried, and at
last the High School of Edinburgh, where his time wore away
till the period of college arrived. He was sent to Glasgow with
the intention of being prepared for the bar; there he met my
mother: she was on a visit to her elder sister, Mrs. Leitch, a
very beautiful woman, the wife of one of the principal merchants
of that eminently mercantile city.
My mother's education had been a very simple matter. She
had grown up healthy and happy in her own village among a
crowd of brothers and sisters, and cousins amounting to a multitude,
learning the mere rudiments of knowledge from the village
schoolmistress, catching up stray bits of better things from the
lessons of her brothers, and enjoying any chance gaiety that now
and then wakened up the quiet but very sociable neighbourhood.
My grandfather Ironside was a clergyman, rector of an adjoining
parish, curate of his own, and with his little private income
might have done more for his children had he not had so many
of them, and been besides a man of rather expensively hospitable
habits. My aunt Leitch's marriage opened the world to the
family, and my mother's engagement to my father was the first
result.
As I have mentioned, the marriage was deferred a while,
and before it took place both the bride's father and the bridegroom's
uncle died. My grandfather Ironside had been so long
helplessly paralytic, that his death was really a release from a very
pitiable existence. My uncle Rothie died suddenly in the full
vigour of a green old age. He was found in his study, leaning
back in his chair, a corpse, with his large Bible open before him.
This event altered my father's position, it enabled him to marry
when he liked, and it would have released him from his legal
studies had he been inclined to give them up; but besides that
he thought a knowledge of law necessary to the usefulness of a
country gentleman, he really liked the profession; and the French
Revolution, in the startling shake it had given to the aristocracy
of all Europe while it was annihilating its own, had made it a
fashion for all men to provide themselves with some means of
earning a future livelihood, should the torrent of democracy
reach to other lands. He therefore, during the year of mourning
requisite on both sides, took a lodging in Edinburgh, where
he gave a succession of bachelor entertainments, got through his
law trials, and then, to make sure of the fidelity of his attachment,
went over to Ireland with an Irish college friend, and
made a gay tour through Cork, Limerick, and Wicklow before
appearing at Houghton. My mother expected him, but she had
not thought herself justified in formally announcing this; she
had therefore to meet some frowns for having rejected noble and
wealthy suitors, for the sake of him who was considered to have
been trifling with her, and whom she must have loved for himself
alone — for mind and manner only — as neither he nor she
had any idea of the extent of his inheritance, and in person he
was not handsome.
On their marriage my parents settled in Edinburgh, which
was to be their home, and where my father had purchased one of
the only three houses then finished in Charlotte Square. Here
he was to pursue his profession, spending the summer vacations
either on the beautiful Highland property, or in travels which
were sometimes to extend to the south of England, a pretty
estate in Hertfordshire having fallen to him just at this time by
the death of his uncle Raper.
The house at Thorley Hall was so small as to be inconvenient,
but its furniture was valuable; a fine library, some good pictures,
portfolios of prints, and all sorts of philosophical instruments
formed part of it, all of which were removed to the Doune. The
land was worth about £1200 a year. The rents of Rothiemurchus
were small, not more than £800, but the timber was
beginning to be marketable; three or four thousand a year could
easily have been cut out of that extensive forest for ever, and
hardly have been missed. My grandfather Grant had left his
son £10,000 in ready money, and my aunt Frere inherited her
mother's fortune, so that life began well with these happy young
people. To assist in the spending of what was then a fine
income, there were numberless relations on both sides to bring
gay spirits, a good deal of talent, a good deal of beauty, with
healthy appetites to the hospitable board where they were so
welcome. Bachelor friends, too, were not wanting, and as at
that time gentlemen seldom reappeared in the drawing-room after
dinner, they made, as the wine merchant thought, excellent use
of their freedom from ladies' society.
My memory, however, does not go back to these scenes, it is
very indistinct as to all that happened before I was four years
old. I remember nothing of Edinburgh but a certain waggon
full of black sacks which represented coals, which I vainly
attempted to pull or push up some steps in the garden, and
which I think was taken from me for crying, so that its possession
must have been very near my baby heart when the impression
was so vivid. I have a dreamy recollection of beating
a boy in a red jacket who was playing with me, and of shutting
up another in some cupboard, while I went about with his drum
which he had refused me. My victims were my regular companions,
the children of the houses on each side of us; the red
jacket was the present Sir George Sinclair, agricultural Sir
John's eldest son, and the drum boy was poor little Johnny
Redfearn, who died at five years of age, to the abiding grief of
his parents; he was the last survivor of their once well-filled
nursery. Beyond this, I have no remembrance of Charlotte
Square, which, considering that I was but three years and a half
old when we left it for ever, is not surprising.
Of the Highlands, that dear home of all our young hearts, I
have more perfect glimmerings. My father and mother had
spent there the summer following my birth, and I fancy the
winter also, and the next summer, at the end of which, in
September, my brother William was born. I had been named
Elizabeth after my two grandmothers and two aunts, one of
each side, Mrs. Leitch and Mrs. Frere. William Patrick was
called after both grandfathers, and my great-uncle Rothie, whom
my father had immediately succeeded. He was christened by
the Presbyterian parson, and nursed by my mother, so that
perhaps that nursing winter was the one they all spent at the
Doune, with my two aunts, Mrs. Frere and Mrs. Bourne, then
Lissy Grant and Mary Ironside, for company.
It was when I was wearied there had come a tall randy kind
of woman from Forres, a "Meg Merrilies," to take care of me;
our much-loved Betty Glass in those days, Betty Campbell afterwards
when she married the grieve. She had William from his
birth, and to test the strength of the young heir, she gave him,
before she washed him, a spoonful of gin in Highland fashion,
which medicine he survived to my great sorrow; for spoiled as
I had been, the darling of so many, I so much disliked the
arrival of this brother near the throne, that I very early tried
to make away with him. One day that I had been left alone
in his room before his dressing time I seized his clothes, which
had been all stitched together and laid upon the bed ready to
put on him, and carrying the bundle to the fire tried to throw
it on the flaming peats, saying with all the spite of a baby not a
year and a half old, "Dere! burn! nassy sing!" which exclamation
brought in an aunt, horror-struck. But all this is hearsay.
Of my own impressions I have a clear recollection of some West
Indian seeds, pretty, red and shiny, with black spots on them,
sweet-smelling beans, and a variety of small shells, all of which
were kept in a lower drawer of a japanned dressing-table in my
mother's room, for the purpose, it appeared to me, of my playing
with them.
I recollect also the bookcases in my father's study, a set of
steps by which he used to reach the upper shelves, and up which
I used to climb in terror, not of a fall, but of being set in the
corner as a punishment — a fox-tail for dusting, and a dark place
in the wall where the peats were kept, so that I think while my
mother was taken up with her baby boy I must have been the
companion of my father.
I remember building materials lying about, an old woman
with a wooden leg warning me from some mischief, and a lady
in a blue gown assisting me to play see-saw, she and I sitting on
the ends of a plank laid across a trestle, and a clapping of hands
around answering my laughter. I have also a painful remembrance
of a very tearful parting from our clear Betty, who
declined accompanying us when we left the Doune.
All these clearer visions of the past must relate to a summer
spent in the Highlands after the birth of my sister Jane, which
took place in Edinburgh in the month of June of the year 1800.
I do not imagine we ever returned to Charlotte Square afterwards.

My mother nursed Jane herself, and Betty, unassisted, took
charge of us all three. Our nursery at the Doune was the room
at the head of the back-stairs my mother afterwards took for
her own; it had two windows looking towards Inverdruie, a
fire on the hearth, two wooden cribs made by Donald Maclean,
a cot cradle, a press bed for Betty into which we all of us
scrambled every morning, a creepie apiece for William and me,
and a low table of suitable height on which our porridge was set
in the mornings. I hated mine, and Betty used to strew brown
sugar over it to make it more palatable. She washed us well,
dressed us after a fashion, set us to look at pictures while she
tidied the room, and then set off out of doors, where she kept us
all day. We were a great deal in the fields with John Campbell
the grieve, and we talked to everybody we met, and Betty
sang to us and told us fairy tales, and made rush crowns for us,
and kept us as happy as I wish all children were. I don't feel
that I remember all these details, there is just an idea of some
of them fixed by after-allusions.
In the winter of 1802, after a season of all blank, I wake up
in a gloomy house in London in Bury Place; there were no
aunts, no Betty, a cross nurse, Mrs. Day, who took us to walk
somewhere where there was gravel, and nothing and nobody to
play with; the few objects round us new and disagreeable.
William and Jane were kept in great order by Mrs. Day.
William she bullied. Jane she was fond of; everybody was
fond of Jane, she was always so good; me she did not like, I was
so self-willed. I therefore gave her very little of my company,
but spent most of my time with Mrs. Lynch, my mother's maid,
an Englishwoman who had been with us some time, engaged in
London soon after my mother's marriage when they first visited
Thorley Hall. Mrs. Lynch taught me to sew, for I was always
very fond of my needle and my scissors too. I shaped and cut
out and stitched up my doll's clothes from very early days. I
used to read to her too, she was so good-natured! I fancy my
aunts had taught me to read, though I do not remember this or
them up to this date.
My books had gaudy paper backs, red, and green, and all
manner of colours, with dashes of gold dabbled on, in size
vigesimo quartos, paper coarse, printing black, and the contents
enchanting; Puss in boots, Riquet with the Tuft, Blue
Beard, Cinderella, The Genii and the Fisherman; and in a
plain marble cover on finer paper, full of prints, a small history
of Rome, where one print so shocked me — Tullia in her car
riding over the body of her father — that I never would open
that classic page again.
It is here in Bury Place that the first distinct notion of the
appearance of my parents presents itself; I see my father in his
study at a table writing; a little sallow man without any remarkable
feature, his hair all drawn back over his head, powdered
and tied in a queue with a great bow of black ribbon.
He has on drab-coloured stocking pantaloons and little boots up
to the knee, from the two-pointed front of which dangles a
tassel. The last Duke of Gloucester wore the very dittoes,
stocking pantaloons and all, when we saw him in the year 1832
at Cheltenham. Strange, as this figure rises before my mental
eye, it is one which always produces recollections of happiness,
for my father's voice was the herald of joy to us children, he
was the king of all our romping plays, had always something
agreeable to say, and even when too much occupied to attend to
us, would refuse our petitioning faces with a kindness and an
air of truthful regret so sympathetic that he gave us nearly as
much pleasure as if he could have assented. There was a charm
in his manner I have never known any one of any age or station
capable of resisting, and which my dear sister Mary inherited.
My mother, though accounted such a handsome person, impresses
my memory much less agreeably. A very small mouth, dark
hair curling all over her head in a bush close to her eyes, white
shapeless gowns, apparently bundled up near the chin without
any waist visible, her form extended on the sofa, a book in her
hands, and a resident nervous headache which precluded her
from enduring noise, is the early recollection that remains with
me concerning her. She had probably been ill in Bury Place,
which had contributed to make our residence there so melancholy.

The reason for our removal from Edinburgh to London was
my father's having determined on giving up the Scotch for the
English bar. Why, with his large fortune, and plenty to do both
on his Highland and his Hertfordshire properties, he should have
followed any profession but that of managing them, nobody
could very well tell; but as his wish was to be a great lawyer,
some of his clear friends, in whose way he stood in Edinburgh,
easily persuaded him that his abilities were too superior to be
frittered away in a mere provincial town, and that Westminster
Hall was the only sphere for such talents — the road to St.
Stephen's! the fit arena for display! No one thought of their
country's good in those days, the general interest was of little
account compared with the individual's fame for speaking — very
little being done in Pitt and Fox days. I have often thought
my poor mother's headaches had something to do with all these
mistakes of her young, much-loved husband. She had certainly,
as far as I remember, very little of his company, only just during
dinner, and for the little while he sat to drink his wine afterwards.
William and I always came to them at that time, and
when my mother went up to the drawing-room to make the tea
we two went on further to bed. Though so young, we were
always sent upstairs by ourselves to our nursery at the top of
the house in the dark; that is, we had no candle, but a glimmering
of light fell in rays on the windings of the crooked stairs
from a lamp on some landing above. On the small gallery on
the second floor, which we had to pass on our ascent to our
attics, there stood a big hair trunk into which I had often seen
Mrs. Lynch dive for various necessaries required in her needlework.
Poor William, who was kept in the nursery by Mrs.
Day, and who during his periodical descents and ascents seldom
looked beyond his own two little feet, which he had some
difficulty in placing and pulling up and down after him while
she was tugging him along by whichever unfortunate arm she
happened to have hold of, had never noticed in the sunlight this
object, which appealing large and dark in the gloomy evenings,
and feeling rough to the touch, he took for a wild beast, the
wolf, in fact, which had eaten Red Riding Hood. He began
at first to shrink, and then to shudder, and then to stop, till soon
I could not get him past the trunk at all. Our delay being
noticed by Mrs. Day, that enlightened person, on being informed
of the cause, took upon herself to put an end to all such
nonsense in a summary manner. She shook me out of the way,
and well thumped poor William. The next night the terrors of
the journey and his probable warm reception at the end of it
so worked upon the poor child's mind that he became quite
nervous long before his bedtime, and this sort of agony increased
so much in the course of a day or two that my father noticed it;
but as we kept our secret faithfully our misery continued a little
longer, till my father, certain there was something wrong, followed
us as hand and hand we very slowly withdrew. He found
William stifling his sobs and trembling in every limb some steps
below the fatal landing, and I, with my arm round him, kissing
him and trying to encourage him to proceed. My father called
for lights, and without a word of anger or mockery showed his
boy the true nature of this object of dread. He was led gently
to it, to look at it, feel it, sit on it, see it opened, not only then,
but in the morning; and though we had still to go to bed by
ourselves, the drawing-room door was henceforward left open till
our little steps were heard no more.
About this time, that is, during the course of the two years
which followed our arrival in London, various perceptions
dawned on my young mind to which I can prefix no date,
neither can I remember the order in which I learned them. My
aunt Lissy became known to me. She had lived generally with
my father since his marriage; it was her home; but though she
was the lady in the blue gown, I have no distinct idea of her
before this, when she returned from some visit she had been
paying and brought to Jane and me a pretty basket each. Mine
went to bed with me, was settled at my feet that I might see it
the first thing ill the morning. I see it now, as plainly as then,
an oval open basket of fine straw, not by any means small, and
with a handle apparently tied on by two knots of blue ribbon.
In the summer of this year we must have gone to Tunbridge
Wells, for I remember perfectly a house near the common there
where we were allowed to run about all day, and where to
our delight we found some heather which we greeted as an old
friend. I recollect too a green paper on the walls of the room
in which I slept covered all over with sprigs in a regular pattern,
that it amused me extremely to wake up in the morning and
fall a-counting. In the autumn we must have gone to Eastbourne,
for I remember the seashore, splashing my feet into the
cool green water in the little pools between the rocks, picking
up seaweed, star-fish, and jelly blobs, and filling my dear
basket with quantities of shells. At some inn on our way to or
from one of these places, while we little people were at our bread-and-milk
supper at one table, and the elders at their dinner at
another, we were all startled by the sounds of a beautiful voice
outside, clear and sweet and tuneful, singing "Over the
mountains and over the moors, Hungry and barefoot I wander
forlorn." It was one of the fashionable ballads of the day out
of a favourite farce — "No song no supper," I think, and not
inappropriate to the condition of the poor creature who was
wandering about singing it. My father opened the window and
threw out "some charity," when the "kind gentlefolks " were
rewarded by another verse which enabled me to pick up the air,
and it became my favourite for many a month to come, piped in
a childish treble very unlike the silvery tones I had learned it
from.
William and I were taken to see a ruin near Eastbourne,
and what was called the field of Battle Abbey, and my mother,
in that sack of a white gown with a little hat stuck round with
bows of ribbon on one side of her head, showed us the spot where
brave King Harold fell, for she was a Saxon in name and feeling,
and in her historical lessons she never omitted the scanty praise
she could now and then bestow faithfully on the race she gloried
in descending from. It is curious that I have no recollection of
learning anything from anybody except this, by chance as it
were, though I have understood I was a little wonder, my
aunts having amused themselves in making a sort of show of me.
I read well at three years old, had long ballads off by heart,
counted miraculously, danced heel and toe, the Highland fling,
and Highland shuffle, and sang, perched upon the table, ever so
many Scotch songs, "Toming soo ze eye" and such like, to the
amusement of the partial assembly. I fancy I was indebted to
aunt Mary for these higher accomplishments; counting I know
my aunt Lissy taught me, with a general notion of the four first
rules of arithmetic by the help of little bags of beans, which were
kept in one of the compartments of an immense box full of all
sorts of tangible helps to knowledge. My further progress might
have been checked had my father and mother been so unwise as
to carry out an intention they frequently reverted to: that of
going over from Eastbourne to France. The short peace with
France had been signed early in the year. I can remember the
illuminations in London on account of it. On a clear day the
French coast was distinctly visible through a telescope from Eastbourne,
and so many fishing-boats came over with cheap poultry,
eggs, and other market wares that people were quite bit with a
wish to make so short a voyage. Some that did never returned,
war having been declared again, and Buonaparte retaining all
travellers unlucky enough to have trusted themselves to his ill-temper.

Before Christmas we were established in the tall house in
Lincoln's Inn Fields, which continued for ten years to be the
principal home of the family. 1803 therefore saw us settled in
this new abode, where our fine, airy nurseries, though reached
at the expense of a weary climb, were a delightful change from
the gloom of Bury Place. We had the Square to play in, were
allowed to run about there without a maid, and soon made
acquaintance with plenty of children as well pleased with new
companions as ourselves. From this time our town life was
never an unhappy one. In the winter my aunt Mary, who
had been away, returned with aunt Fanny, my mother's only
other unmarried sister. They remained some months, which we
children liked. Aunt Mary was dearly loved by us all; she
knew how to manage us, could amuse without letting us plague
her — an art poor aunt Fanny did not understand so well. My
mother's youngest brother, my uncle Edward, who was pursuing
his studies at Woolwich with the intention of proceeding to
India, spent his vacations frequently with us. Besides these
there were Highland cousins innumerable, who, on their periodical
flights from the wild hills where they could find nothing, to the
broad world where they never failed to gather plenty if they
lived, were sure of a resting-place with my father on their
passage. It was a strange household for London, this hotel for
all relations. We were playthings for every one, and perhaps a
little more made of than was good for all of us.
Amongst other indulgences this spring I was taken twice to
the play, and once to Sadler's Wells with William. The first
play was "The Caravan." John Kemble acted in it; the lover,
and a very lugubrious one he seemed to be. The actor that
delighted me was a dog, a real Newfoundland trained to leap into
a cataract and bring dripping out of the water, recd water, a doll
representing a child which had spoken in the scene a few minutes
before, and had then appeared to be dropped by a lady in distress
while flying across a plank up at the top of the stage, the only
bridge across the torrent. They could not persuade me the doll
was not the real child; I thought it dead, drowned, and cried
and sobbed so violently I was hardly to be pacified, — not till all
the audience had been attracted by the noise. The other play
was "The Busy Body." Bannister in all sorts of scrapes, doing
mischief continually from over-officiousness, hid in a chimney,
discovered when least welcome, etc., a collection of contretemps
that fidgeted and annoyed much more than they amused me.
The horsemanship with the tumblers, rope dancers, etc., frightened
me. William, little as he was, was in ecstasies.
In the month of May of this year, 1803, on the 21st, in the
evening, my sister Mary was born. From this point I date all
my perfect recollections; all that happened stands clearly before
me now at the end of a long life as if that one event had
wakened up a sleeping intellect. It was indeed a matter of
moment to me, for in some way the new baby and I were thrown
upon each other from her birth. Jane was so engrossingly the
pet of my mother and the companion of my brother, that she
was less my associate than the mere difference in our ages
warranted. My father was always busy, my mother generally
ill, William, the heir, was the child of consequence to all the
family connections, more noticed, of course, by them than either
of us his sisters. I was not romp enough for him, so that he
did not seek me unless Jane was out of the way; therefore
when my aunts were away I was often lonely. The baby just
suited me for a playmate, to watch her, amuse her, help to
attend upon her, and by and by to work for her and teach her,
were my delight, and as I was six years old when she was born,
I was quite a little mother to her, preferring her infinitely to
the dolls which had hitherto chiefly occupied me. I was never
weary of watching her; cross Mrs. Day had been replaced by a
good-natured Mrs. Herbert, a widow, who had seen better days,
and whose son, her only child, was in the blue-coat school;
he was now and then allowed to come and see his mother
in his curious dress — the queer petticoat coat and yellow
stockings. Mrs. Lynch was still with us. We spent most of
our time in the Square with plenty of companions, so that
altogether this spring in London has left a sweet memory
behind it.
My mother had been alarmingly ill after the birth of this
her finest child. She had lost the use of her limbs, and was
carried up and down stairs, and to and from the carriage, when she
took her airings. As my father found it necessary to go to the
Highlands in the summer, and had to attend circuit somewhere
in the north of England, it was resolved that she and we should
have a few weeks of sea-bathing at Scarborough on our way:a
sort of couch was contrived for her, on which she lay comfortably
in the large berline we had hitherto used, and which the four
horses must have found heavy enough when weighted with all
its imperials, hat boxes, and the great hair trunk that had been
poor William's terror. Mrs. Lynch and Mackenzie, who had
been my father's valet before he married, were on the outside;
my father, Jane, and I within with my mother, and we travelled
with our own horses ridden by two postillions in green jackets
and jockey caps, leaving London, I think, in July. In the
heavy post-chariot behind were the two nurses, the baby in a
swinging cot, William, who was too riotous to be near my
mother, and a footman in charge of them. What it must have
cost to have carried such a party from London to the Highlands!
and how often we travelled that north road! Every good inn
became a sort of home, every obliging landlord or landlady an
old friend. We had cakes here, a garden with a summer-house
there, a parrot farther on, all to look forward to on every
migration, along with the pleasant flatteries on our growth and
our looks of health; as if such a train would not have been
greeted joyously by every publican! We travelled slowly, thirty
miles a day on an average, starting late and stopping early, with
a bait soon after noon, when we children dined. I forget when
we reached Scarborough, nor can I recollect any particular impression
made by the town itself or the country around, but I
do remember feeling astonishment at the sight of the sea, and
also surprise and annoyance — who would have believed this in
such a child? — at our not having a whole house to ourselves,
but lodging in the lower and very upper part of a house, the
rest of which was occupied by the family of Sir Thomas Liddell.
Another merry set of children to play with might have reconciled
me to the humiliation of sharing our temporary abode with
our neighbour, had we been able to secure such companions as
the first few days promised. Overtures on both parts were
answered on both parts, and Lady Williamson, Lady Normanby,
Lady Barrington, and two little white-faced brothers had arrived
at blowing soap-bubbles most merrily with William and me.
When laughing too loud one unfortunate morning, our respective
attendants were attracted by the uproar and flew to separate us.
They shook us well, Grants and Liddells, scolded us well, and
soon divided us, wondering what our mammas would say at our
offering to make strange acquaintance, when we knew we were
forbidden to speak to any one they did not know; so we Grants
used to listen to the Liddells, who monopolised the garden, and
to their mother who played delightfully on the harp, and amuse
ourselves as we best could, alone.
We were a great deal out upon the beach, sometimes wandering
about the sands with the nurses, and always taking one
drive along that beautiful shore close to the sea with my
mother; the sands are very extensive at Scarborough, very fine
and very even, and there are caves and curiously-shaped rocks,
and an old castle on a height, if I recollect rightly.
My father returned some time before we left, for I remember
his explaining all about the lifeboat, taking us to see it, and
telling us tales of wrecks and storms in which it had been useful,
reading to us about the sea, and about ships and sailors and
commerce, using the occasion to impress upon our minds all
sorts of information on these subjects, which was indeed the
way he generally taught us. There was a violent storm of
thunder and lightning about this time, which introduced us to
electricity and Dr. Franklin, and did an immensity of damage
in and around Scarborough, killing cattle and people and
destroying a great deal of property. It was unusually terrific,
so as often to have been alluded to in after-years as the "frightful
thunderstorm of 1803," a point of comparison with others.
A company of strolling-players happening to arrive in the
town, William and I were taken to see them; the state of their
playhouse astonished us not a little. The small dirty house,
though wretchedly lighted, brought the audience and the stage
so close together that the streaks of paint on the actors' faces
were plainly visible, also the gauze coverings on the necks and
arms of the actresses; then the bungling machinery, the prompter's
voice, the few scenes and the shabby scene-shifters, all so revealed
the business that illusion there was none, and we who
at Drury Lane and Astley's and Covent Garden had felt ourselves
transported to fairyland, were quite pained by the preparations
for deception which the poor strollers so clumsily
betrayed to us. The play was Rosina, an opera, and the
prima donna so old, so wrinkled, so rouged, that had she warbled
like my own Janey she would have been ill-selected as the
heroine; but she sang vilely, screamed, and I must have thought
so, for I learned none of her songs, and I generally picked up
every air I heard.
Soon after the play I was laid up with scarlet fever, which I
notice as I had it twice afterwards, and have had returns of the
scarlatina throat all my life.
Upon leaving Scarborough we proceeded to Houghton, where
I must have been before, as many changes in the place struck
me. I have no recollection, however, of a former visit; as I
remember it from this one, the village consisted of one long,
wide, straggling, winding street, containing every variety of
house, from the hall standing far back beyond the large courtyard,
and the low, square, substantial mansion even with the
road, to the cottage of every size. A few shops here and there
offered a meagre supply of indifferent wares. About the middle
of the village was the church half concealed by a grove of fine
old trees, the Rectory, and the then celebrated boys' school
near it. The finest-looking of the court-dignified halls belonged
to the Nesham family, from amongst whom my grandfather
Ironside had chosen his wife. She had had but to move across
the little street to the most ancient — looking of the low substantial
houses which offered a long double row of windows and
a wide doorway to the dusty path, protected only by posts and
chains from the close approach of passengers. A kitchen wing
had been added on one side; behind this were piled the roofs of
the offices. A clump of old trees sheltered the east end. A
large well-filled garden at the back stretched down a long slope
to a small brook that drained the neighbouring banks, and all
around lay the fields that had descended from father to son, they
said, for at least 700 years. In this quiet abode my grandmother
Ironside had passed her life of trials. Her Nesham home had
not been happy; a violent, positive, money-making father, no
mother, one sister who never married, and two brothers, one at
sea, the other as busy in the coal mines as her father, these
composed the interior of the second house in size in the village,
Houghton Hall, belonging to the Huttons, being the first; my
grandfather's ranked third. My grandmother's love was another
Romeo and Juliet story. The rich coalowner despised the
curate suitor, while the pride of seven centuries, collected in the
bosoms of all having the remotest affinity to that much-prized
holy cross, revolted at so inferior a connection for an Ironside as
the graceful gentle daughter of an upstart who had built his
own house himself. Temper was very uncontrolled in those
days, people, moving little, got into a set of prejudices they had
no means of shaking by intercourse with either men or books,
the reading of the period being of the most limited kind. After
habit had a little softened bitter feelings, children came fast and
noisy, funds were small, and my grandfather, a hospitable careless
man, left his farm to his man Jacky Bee, his tithes to his
clerk, Cuddy Kitson, his children to the pure air of his fields,
and his wife to herself and her cares as soon as he found it
pleasanter to be elsewhere; he was rather an increase than a
help to her difficulties, and for ten years the poor man was bed-rid,
paying assistants to do his duty, thus further diminishing
the little my grandmother could reckon on for the support of
their numerous offspring. Only nine of her fifteen children
grew up to be provided for; my mother and three sisters, the
eldest of whom was married when very young to Mr. Leitch;
the eldest son, my uncle William, went early into the army;
uncle Ralph was in the law, my uncles John and Edmund were
taken into Mr. Leitch's counting-house; uncle Edward was a boy at
school when my grandfather died. His wife did not long survive
him, she lived but to bless me; and in the old family house at
Houghton she had been succeeded by a pretty young woman of
most engaging manners but small fortune, who had persuaded
my uncle William to give up his profession for her sake, and in
the full vigour of his manhood to settle down on the few acres
he had not the skill to make productive, and which in a less
luxurious age had been found insufficient for the wants of a
family.
My mother always went to Houghton well provided with trifling
presents for her numerous connections there. There had never
been any lack of daughters in the house of the reigning Ironside,
and they formed quite a Saxon colony by their marriages. We
had a great-aunt Blackburn, Horseman, Potter, Goodchild, with
cousins to match, all the degradations in name possible bestowed
on the serf Saxon by his conquering Norman lord — with one
redeeming great-aunt Griffith who, however, had never recovered
caste among her relations for her misalliance with, I believe, a
schoolmaster, though had they followed my clever Welsh great-uncle
to his mountains his maligners might have heard of a
princely ancestry.
Two maiden sisters of this generation, my great-aunts Peggy
and Elsie, lived in the village in a square low house very near
to, and very like my uncle's, but it stood back from the road,
and was kept delightfully dark by some large elm trees which
grew in front in a courtyard. This retreat was apparently
sacred to the ancient virgins of the family, for their aunts Patience
and Prudence had been established there before them. I hardly
remember these old ladies, aunt Elsie not at all, though it was
in their house that Jane and I were domiciled. Aunt Peggy
made more impression, she was fat, rosy, merry, idle, told funny
stories, made faces, and winked her eyes at good jokes when
sometimes her laughing listeners rather blushed for her. My
mother was much more attached to her aunt Nesham, the only
and the maiden sister of her mother; her house was just
opposite to my uncle's, and it was the home of my two unmarried
Ironside aunts, Mary and Fanny. Aunt Mary was not
often there, she went on long visits to Mrs. Leitch and to my
mother, and to an Indian Colonel and Mrs. Ironside, distant
relations who lived in London in Brook Street. Aunt Jane
Nesham was a charming little old lady with powdered hair
turned over a cushion, and a little white muslin turban stuck up
on the top of it. She wore tight fitting cross-folded gowns with
full skirts. the whitest and the clearest of muslin kerchiefs puffed
over her neck, a row of pearls round her throat, and high-heeled
shoes. Her house was order itself, her voice gentle and her
smile the sweetest. She had been in the Highlands with my
father and mother before my recollection. The cousins Nesham
lived in the village, at least the then head of the family with one
or two of his unmarried sisters and a young wife. Mrs. Griffith
and a disagreeable daughter had a small house there, and the
clergyman, the schoolmaster, the doctor and Squire Hutton, and
there was a populous neighbourhood. Such was Houghton as
I first remember it. How different from what it is now! There
are no gentry, the few neat rows of pitmen's houses have grown
into streets belonging to a town. It is all dirt and bustle and
huge machinery and tramways, one of which cuts through the
fields of the Ironside inheritance. These frightful tramways
were our childish delight; such a string of waggons running
along without horses reminded us of our fairy tales, and the
splendid fires blazing on all sides enchanted us, after the
economical management of scanty fuel we had been accustomed
to in London. We liked our young cousins too, three or four
of whom were old enough to play with us.
The next stoppage on our northern journey was at Edinburgh,
where we remained long enough for an abiding impression of
that beautiful city to be made on a young mind. The width of
the streets, the size of the houses, the brightness and the cleanliness,
with the quantity of gooseberries to be bought for a penny,
impressed me before I was capable of appreciating the grandeur
of its position. It was then very far from being what it became
a few years later, how very very far from what we see it now
The New Town was but in progress, the untidy appendages of
building encumbered the half-finished streets, and where afterwards
the innumerable gardens spread in every quarter to embellish
the city of palaces, there were then only unsightly greens
abandoned to the washerwomen. My father had always business
to detain him here. We put up at Blackwood's Hotel, at
the corner of the North Bridge in Princes Street, where my
mother received a quantity of visitors of all degrees, amongst
whom was my nurse, an ill-conducted woman, never a favourite,
yet who managed to keep up a claim to assistance by dint of persevering
pretence of tenderness for her nursling. The same
scene was rehearsed regularly; she had always a long string of
misfortunes to bewail, disappointments and losses and cares of
one kind or another, the death of fine children among the rest,
but somehow my foster — sister bore a charmed life, for not
only did she exist and flourish, but she actually got younger
occasionally, even to my father's short-seeing eyes my mother
was always clearer-sighted — a miracle that at length put an end
to their forbearance.
The Queen's Ferry was the next landmark, to speak in Irish
fashion; no steamer in those days, no frame to run the carriage
on from quay to deck. Ugly, dirty, miserable sailing vessels, an
hour at the quickest crossing, sometimes two or three, it was the
great drawback to the journey. The landing at Inverkeithing
was as disagreeable as the embarking, as tedious too; we seldom
got beyond Kinross that night, where Queen Mary, the Castle,
the lake, red trout, and a splendid parrot all combined to make
it one of our favourite resting-places. At Perth we were always
met by my father's only surviving uncle, Sandy, the parson, his
mother the Lady Jean's favourite son, and her youngest. He
was of the Episcopalian Church, and had at this time the care
of a chapel at Dundee. He was a popular preacher, had published
very fair sermons, was an accomplished person for his
times, gentlemanly in manner, taller than the "little Grants,"
more of a Gordon, in fact, in appearance. He had had a good
deal to do with my father's education, and his own five illbrought-up
sons had been my father's principal companions
towards his college days. My mother never thought kindly of
this uncle, to whom my father was much attached. She judged
him perhaps harshly, an easiness of temper may have been fully
as much the cause of the loose discipline he maintained as want
of principle, to which she ascribed his errors.
It took us three days to reach home from Perth, Blackbird,
Smiler, and their pairs (whose names I have not remembered)
who met us there, not being in as great a hurry to
return to the Doune as we were. There was no good ford near
the house in those days, the shifting river not having revealed
the rather deep one near the offices that we used so constantly
afterwards; besides, there was then no road from the bridge of
Alvie down the heathery bank to the boyack and so round its
shallow waters to the river-side. We had to drive on, after a
good peep of our dear home, two or three miles past the burn
at Lynwilg, towards Aviemore, and then turn off down a seldom-travelled
road through the birch woods — I smell them now — to
the ford at Inverdruie, where there was a carriage-boat at the
ferry a little higher up the stream, so that travellers could cross
in all states of the river.
Once over the water we were at home in Rothiemurchus, our
beloved Duchus,¹ which, through all the changes of our lives, has
remained the spot on earth dearest to every one of us. We
have been scattered far and wide, separated, never now all to
meet again; we have grown up and married and have had new
interests engrafted on our old feelings, and have changed our
homes and changed all our surroundings, and most of us have
lived long, busy years far away from the Highlands, yet have we
never any one of us ceased to feel that there was the magnet to
¹ A Gaelic word having much the same signification as domain. The crest of
the family is an armed hand holding a broadsword, with the motto "For my
Duchus."
which all our purest, warmest, earliest, and latest affections were
steadily drawn. No other spot ever replaced it, no other
scenery ever surpassed it, no other young happiness ever seemed
to approach within a comprehensible distance of our childhood
at Rothiemurchus.
CHAPTER II
1803-1804
IT was in July or August then in 1803 we crossed the Spey in
the big boat at Inverdruie in a perfect fever of happiness.
Every mountain, every hill, every bank, fence, path, tree, cottage
was known to me, every face we met revealed a friend,
and our acquaintance was by no means limited, for the "wide
plain of the fir trees," which lies in the bosom of the Grampians,
cut off by the rapid Spey from every neighbour, has its beautiful
variety of mountain scenery, its heights, its dells, and glens, its
lakes and plains and haughs, and it had then its miles and miles
of dark pine forest through which were little clearings by the
side of rapid burnies, and here and there a sawmill. We were
expected, so from the boathouse to the Doune it was one long
gathering, all our people flocking to meet us and to shout the
"welcome home"; the only time that I remember so great an
assemblage to meet us on our arrival, the custom becoming
obsolete, warm and hearty as it was. William and I knew
every one, remembered everything. Our dear Betty waited for
us at the house anxiously; she had married the grieve, John
Campbell, and was now a great lady in her high cap and shawl,
and she had a baby to show us, a little daughter, the only child
she ever had, called after me, to whom I was bringing a real
silver coral with more than the usual complement of bells.
Betty had been left in charge of the house, and beautifully clean
she delivered it. We thought the floors so white, the polish so
bright, the beds so snowy, all so light, so airy, our nursery so
enchanting with its row of little plain deal stools — creepies — and
our own dear low table, round which we could ourselves place
them. We were certainly easily pleased with anything Highland,
for a less luxurious abode than the charmingly situated
Doune at that date could hardly have been the residence of a
lady and gentleman.
It took its name from a long low hill in the form of a boat
with its keel upwards, at the end of which it had been rather
ill-advisedly built, and which had been fortified in the ruder
clays when the dwelling of our ancestors had been upon the top
of it. I never saw the vestige of a ruin there, but the moat is
perfect, and two or three steep terraces along the side. When
improving times permitted our ancestors to descend from their
Doune, a formal Scotch house was built at the foot of it, with
a wide door in the centre, over which were emblazoned the arms
in a shield, and as many narrow windows were stuck in rows
over the wall as were required to light the rooms within. A
kitchen built of black turf was patched on to one end; it had
an open chimney and bare rafters overhead. A green duck-pond
and such offices as were at the period necessary were
popped down anywhere in front and all round, wherever and
whenever they were wanted. There were a barn, a smithy, and
a carpenter's shop and poultry-houses, all in full view from the
principal rooms, as was the duck-pond. A perfect network of
sluggish streams, backwater from the Spey, crept round a little
knot of wooded islands close at hand, and a garden lay at the
foot of the hill. My uncle Rothie had not latterly lived here;
he had married a very delicate woman, a daughter of Mr. Grant
of Elchies, commonly known as a Lord of Session by his legal
title of Lord Elchies. She had persuaded him that the situation
of this old family mansion was unhealthy, which, considering all
the wood and water on this side of the Spey, and the swamp of
the boyack on the other, was probably a correct opinion. He
had therefore built at Inverdruie, to please her, a modern mansion
very like a crab with four extended claws, for there was a
dumpy centre to live in, with four low wings, one at each corner,
for offices; and this was set down on a bare heath, with a small
walled garden behind and a pump standing all alone a little way
off in front. Here with them my father had spent his boyhood,
always, however, preferring the Doune, which had been, when
deserted, let to various half-uncles and second cousins, retired
half-pay captains and lieutenants, who all, after their wandering
youth, returned to farm out their old age in the Highlands.
A few years before his death my grandfather, the Doctor, had
taken possession of it, and anticipating a much longer tenure,
undertook many improvements. To the end of the old house
opposite the black kitchen he stuck an outrigger of an overwhelming
size, containing a cellar to which the descent was by
stone steps outside, a large dining-room on the ground-floor, and
a couple of good bedrooms above reached by a turning-stair; as
an additional object from the windows he erected a high stable,
where as long as it stood my brother William spent his leisure,
and he increased the old garden, laid it out anew, and stocked it
from Hertfordshire. The entrance to this paradise of our childhood
was by a white gate between two cherry trees — such cherry
trees — large white heart, still standing there to prove my taste,
and by no means dwarfish, even beside the fine row of lime trees
that extended on either side. The old house had a few low
rooms on the ground-floor with many dark closets; the principal
apartment was on the first floor, and reached by a wide and easy
stair; the family bedroom was on the one hand, a large hall on
the other for the reception of guests, and the state bedroom
through it. Up in the attics, beneath the steep grey roof, were
little rooms again. This was the Highland home to which my
mother had been brought a bride.
I imagine that the furniture had been very much suited to
the style of the house; there was some plate, some fine old china
and glass, and a few valuables of little use but as curiosities.
The state bed and bedroom were curtained with rich green silk
damask heavily fringed, and the japanned toilet-table — in which
was my drawer of shells — with a mirror to match, and numberless
boxes, trays, and baskets of japanned ware belonged to this
chamber; the other rooms were, I fancy, rather bare. There was,
however, never any lack of living furniture. My mother found
established there my great-uncle Sandy with his English wife,
her sister, and all their carpet work, two of the five sons, an old
Donald — a faithful servant of my grandfather's, who had been
pensioned for his merits — an old Christy, who had gone from
Strathspey to wait on my father and my aunt Lissy, and their
bonne good Mrs. Sophy Williams. She had her pension and her
attic, and so had Mr. Dallas, one of the line of tutors, when he
chose to come to it. Then there were college friends, bachelor
cousins, and it was the fashion of the country for any of the
nearer neighbours, when they came in their full dress to pay
their occasional morning visits, to expect to be pressed to remain
the day, often the night, as the distances are considerable in
that thinly-peopled district. My father and mother never
wanted for company, and the house was as full of servants as an
Indian or an Irish one, strange, ignorant creatures, running
about in each other's way, wondering at the fine English maids
who could make so little of them. Amongst the rest was a piper,
who, for fear of spoiling the delicacy of the touch of his fingers,
declined any work unconnected with whisky, which with plenty
of oat-bread and cheese was given to all-corners all day long.
Most of the farms were occupied by relations. Colonel
William Grant was at the croft, Captain Lewis at Inverdruie.
These were my father's great-uncles. Lieutenant Cameron, a
cousin, came to Kinapol from Kinrara as soon as a former
tenant left it. Up in Badenoch and down in Strathspey there
were endless humble connections most attentive in observing the
visiting customs of the country. Relations at a greater distance
were not wanting, — Cummings in Morayshire, Mackenzies in
Ross-shire, Grants in Urquhart, etc. Of great neighbours
there were few. Highland properties are so extensive that
there can be neither walks nor rides in general to the homes of
equals. Each proprietor holds, or held, perhaps I should say,
his own little court in his own domains. When he paid a
brother laird a visit it was in a stately manner befitting the
rareness of the event, and the number of miles he had to travel.
Our great house then was Castle Grant, the residence of our
Chief. It was about twenty miles off down Speyside. My
father and mother were much there when they first married,
my aunts Mary and Lissy delighting in the gaiety of a scene so
new to them. Generally about fifty people sat down to dinner
there in the great hail in the shooting season, of all ranks.
There was not exactly a "below the salt" division so marked
at the table, but the company at the lower end was of a very
different description from those at the top, and treated accordingly
with whisky punch instead of wine. Neither was there a
distinct "yellow drawing-room" party, though a large portion
of the guests seldom obtruded themselves on the more refined
section of the company unless on a dancing evening, when all
again united in the cleared hall. Sir James Grant was hospitable
in the feudal style; his house was open to all; to each
and all he bade a hearty welcome, and he was glad to see his table
filled, and scrupulous to pay fit attention to every individual
present; but in spite of much cordiality of manner it was all
somewhat in the king style, the Chief condescending to the Clan,
above the best of whom he considered himself extremely. It
was a rough royalty too, plenty, but rude plenty, a footman in
the gorgeous green and scarlet livery behind every chair, but
they were mere gullies, lads quite untutored, sons of small tenants
brought in for the occasion, the autumn gathering, and fitted
into the suit that they best filled. Lady Grant was quiet and
ladylike, Miss Grant a favourite, the rest of the family of less
account. This was my mother's account to me years afterwards,
when all connection between us and the head of our house had
unhappily ceased.
A permanent member of our family at this time I must not
forget, for I bore her great affection. She was indeed very kind
to us, and very careful of us the few years she remained in the
household. She was a natural daughter of my grandfather's,
born long after his wife's death, and had been brought up by his
sister the Lady Logie. When this great-aunt of mine died,
"Miss Jenny" removed as matter of course to the family
asylum, as I may call my father's house. She was entrusted
with the storeroom keys, and was employed as a general superintendent
of the family business till she married, which event,
luckily for her, poor thing, was not very long delayed. A Forres
beau, a Mr. Arthur Cooper, learned in the law, became her husband,
and so relieved my mother of one of her burdens. It was
indeed a strange mixture of ranks and positions and interests,
of which my mother was the head. I do not imagine that it
was always harmony among them. My parents were both too
young, too inexperienced, to be very patient with such a heterogeneous
assemblage. It might do rely well in the bright
summer weather when an out-door life in the pure air occupied
all the day and produced a glow of spirits for all the night, but
there were wintry weeks in this gay sphere of theirs, clouds and
storms and chills, when annoyances gloomed into grievances, and
worry brought on ill-humour. In those days, unluckily, education
had not extended to the temper. My mother's family cares
were principally confined to such as she could reach with her
needle, in the use of which she was very dexterous. As for the
rest, after the dinner was ordered and the windows opened,
matters were left very much to the direction of the chances.
My father was a much more active person, very despotic
when called on to decide, yet much beloved. An eye everywhere,
nursery, kitchen, farm, garden, tenantry, but not a steady
eye, no prevention in it, fitful glances seeing sometimes too
much, and very summary in the punishment of detected
offences. He was occupied principally at this time with his
mason and carpenter, as he was making great changes in and
about the Doune. These changes, indeed, employed him most
of his life, for he so frequently altered in the present year what
had been executed the year before, that neither he nor his
allies, Donald Maclean and the Colleys, were ever out of work.
The changes effected up to this period, the autumn of 1803,
when we reached our beloved Highland home from Scarborough
and Houghton, were of some importance. My grandfather's
outrigger hadbeen heightened and lengthened, and carried back
beyond the old house, the windows in it had all been changed
and enlarged, and ornamented with cut granite; in fact, a
handsome modern wing appeared in place of an ill-contrived
ugly appendage. It was intended at no very distant time to
have matched it with another, and to have connected the two by
a handsome portico, all in front of the old house, which would
have been entirely concealed, and being single, was to have had
all its windows turned to the back, looking on a neat square of
offices, some of which were now in progress. My grandfather's
new dining-room was thus made into a pleasant drawing-room,
his turning-stair was replaced by an easier one in a hall which
divided the drawing-room from a new dining-room, and in which
was the door of entrance to this modern part of the house.
Above were the spare bedrooms and dressing-rooms, and over
them two large attics, barrack-rooms, one for the maids, the
other for visiting maidens, young ladies who in this primitive
age were quite in the habit of being thus huddled up in company.
In the old part of the house my father's study, the
ancient reception hall, had been cut short by a window to give
him a dressing-room, and the black kitchen outside had vanished,
much to the satisfaction of my mother and Mrs. Lynch, who
declared no decent dinner could by possibility be cooked in it.
It was indeed a rude apology for a set of kitchen offices. A
mouse one day fell into the soup from the rafters, a sample of
a hundred such accidents.
To make room for the new range of servants' rooms, part of
the end of the hill had to be cut away, spoiling entirely the boat
shape of our Doune. The soil thus removed was thrown into
the nearest channel of the backwater, it being my father's intention
to fill these up by degrees; an improvement to which
William and I were decidedly opposed, for on the broom island,
the largest of the group amidst this maze of waters, our very
merriest hours were spent. A couple of wide, well-worn planks
formed the bridge by which we crossed to our Elysian field; two
large alder trees grew close to the opposite end of this charming
bridge, making the shallow water underneath look as dark and
dangerous as "Annan Water" did to Annie's lover; an additional
delight to us. Between the two large alders hung in
gipsy fashion the large cauldron used for the washing; a rude
open shed, just sufficient to protect the officiating damsels from
the weather; tubs, cogues, lippies, a watering-pot and a beetle —
a bit of wood, bottle-shaped, with which the clothes were
thumped, Indian and French fashion lay all about among the
yellow broom under the alders and hazels on this happy island,
the scene of as much mirth and as much fun as ever lightened
heavy labour, for be it remembered the high stable was in very
close neighbourhood! William and I were never-failing parts of
the merry group, for our time was pretty much at our own
disposal, Jane joining us only occasionally. We two elder ones
were of an age to say our lessons every day to my mother, and
we always faithfully learned our twelve words — that is, I did —
out of a red-marble-covered book filled with columns of words in
large, black print; but my mother was not often able to hear us;
sometimes she was ill, and sometimes she was busy, and sometimes
she was from home, and sometimes she had company
at home, and our lessons had oftentime to be got pretty
perfect before we were called upon to say them. But we
had plenty of story books to read on rainy days, and we had
pleasure in reading to ourselves, for even Jane at three years
old could read her "Cobwebs to catch Flies." I was fond, too,
of dressing my doll by the side of Mrs. Lynch, and of learning
to write from Mackenzie. On fine days we were always out,
either by ourselves or with a son of the old gardener, George
Boss, to attend us. There was also a Highland nursery-maid
and Mrs. Acres, the baby's nurse, superintending. Amongst
them they did not take very good care of us, for William was
found one sunny morning very near the Spey, sailing away in a
washing-tub, paddling along the backwater with a crooked stick
in his hand for an oar, and his pocket-handkerchief knotted on to
another he had stuck between his knees for a flag. A summerset
into the rapid river, had he reached it, would have made an end
of him, but for my voice of rapturous delight from the bank
where I stood clapping my hands at his progress, which directed
some one to our doings, and thus saved the young laird from his
perilous situation.
So passed our summer days; we grew strong and healthy,
and we were very happy, revelling among the blackberries on
the Doune till we were tattooed, frocks and all, like American
Indians; in the garden, stung into objects by the mosquitoes in
the fruit bushes; in our dear broom island, or farther off
sometimes in the forest, gathering cranberries and lying half
asleep upon the fragrant heather, listening to tales of the fairy
guardians of all the beautiful scenery around us. I was a tall,
pale, slight, fair child to look at, but I seldom ailed anything.
William, fat and rosy and sturdy, was the picture of a robust
boy. Jane was the beauty, small and well formed, with a
healthy colour and her Ironside eyes. She was the flower of the
little flock, for Mary was a mere large, white baby, very inanimate,
nor anyway engaging to any one but my mother, who
always made the youngest her favourite.
In winter we returned to Lincoln's Inn Fields, and then
began our sorrows. Two short walks in the Square every day,
sauntering behind a new nurse, Mrs. Millar, who had come to
wean the baby; an illness of my mother's, whose room being
just beneath our nursery, prevented all the noisy plays we loved;
and next, a governess, a young timid girl, a Miss Gardiner, quite
new to her business, who was always in a fright lest neither we
nor herself were doing right, and whom we soon tyrannised over
properly; for my father and mother and my aunts went to Bath
to meet Mr. and Mrs. Leitch, and we were left with this poor
Miss Gardiner, who from the beginning had always lived up in
the schoolroom with us, and never entered the drawing-room
unless invited. How well I remember the morning after her
arrival! She had charge of William, Jane, and me. We were
all brought in by Mrs. Millar and seated together upon a low
sofa without a back which had been made for us. Our schoolroom
was the large front nursery, curtained anew and carpeted.
There were besides the sofa, four chairs, two tables, one in the
middle of the room, one against the wall; a high fender, of
course, two hanging bookcases, six framed maps, one on Mercator's
projection, which we never could understand; a crib in
which William slept — I slept in my mother's dressing-room, Jane
in the nursery — and between the two windows a large office
desk, opening on each side, with two high stools belonging to it.
To increase the enjoyment of this prospect, into my hands was
put the large edition of Lindley Murray's grammar, William was
presented with "Geography by a Lady for the use of her own
Children," not one word of which he was capable of reading, and
Jane — who had fine easy times of it in our eyes, though I question
whether at three years of age she thought so — had a spelling-book
given to her. Such was the commencement to us of the year 1804.
We were soon as thoroughly miserable as from this method of
instruction our anxious parents could expect. The lessons were
hard enough and numerous enough, considering the mere infants
who had to learn them, but for my part, though I would rather
not have had them, they were very little in my way, although
the notes of the whole music gamut were included, with the
names of all the keys and the various times, etc., all at a blow,
as it were. It was never any trouble to me to have to get whole
pages off by rote; I was not asked to take the further trouble of
thinking about them. No explanations were either asked or
given, so that the brain was by no means over-excited, and the
writing and cyphering and pianoforte lesson which followed the
drier studies of the morning pleased me exceedingly. Hook's
easy lessons were soon heard in great style, played by ear after
the first painful reading, without any one but the performer being
the wiser. But what we wanted was our fun, flying from crib to
crib on awakening in the morning, dancing in our night-clothes
all about the room, making horses of the overturned chairs, and
acting plays dressed up in old trumpery. We had only sedate
amusements now. How delighted I was to escape sometimes to
my aunts, from one of whom, aunt Mary, I heard stories, now
real, now fabulous, always containing some moral, however, which
I had wit enough to apply silently, as occasion offered. By my
aunt Lissy I was diverted and instructed through the contents of
the big box full of every sort of object likely to interest a child.
Poor Miss Gardiner! She was neither reasoning nor
reasonable, too young for her situation, without sufficient mind,
or heart, or experience for it, a mere school-girl, which at that
time meant a zero; her system of restraint became intolerable,
when from the absence of the heads of the family we had no
relief from it. Still a certain awe of a person placed in authority
over us had prevented our annoying her otherwise than by our
petulance, till one day that she desired us to remain very quiet
while she wrote a letter, rather a serious business with her; it
was to my mother to give an account of our health and behaviour.
She took a small packet of very small pens from a box near her,
and a sheet of very shiny paper, and after some moments of
reflection she began. I observed her accurately. "What do
you call those pretty little pens?" said I. "Crow quills, my
dear," said she, for she was very kind in her manner to us.
"William," said I in a low aside, "I don't think we need mind
her any more, nor learn any more lessons, for she can't really
teach us. She is a fool, I shan't mind her any more." "Very
well," said William, "nor I, nor I shan't learn my lessons."
He never yet had learned one, for a more thorough dunce in his
childish days than this very clever brother of mine never performed
the part of booby in a village school, but it was very
disagreeable to him to have to try to sit quiet behind a book for
half an hour two or three times a day, poor child! He was but
five years old, and he was of course satisfied with any suggestion
that would release him.
Some weeks before, my mother had received a note in my
father's absence, which appeared greatly to irritate her. The
contents I did not know, but on my father's return she imparted
them to him with some lively comments to the disparagement of
the writer. "I always knew she was a fool," cried she, for she
spoke strongly when excited; "but I did not expect such an
extreme proof of her folly." "My dear," said my father, in his
quietest and calmest manner, "what did you expect from a
woman who writes on satin paper with a crow quill!" In my
corner with my doll and pictures I saw and heard a great
deal that passed. Miss Gardiner fell her proud height on the
day she wrote her letter, and she never regained a shadow of
authority over us, for I led all, even good little Jane. Like Sir
Robert Peel, Louis XIV. and other dictators, je fus l'état moi, and
respect for our poor governess had vanished. The next time the
crow quills and satin paper occupied her, William and I, provided
with the necessary strings got ready beforehand, tied her by her
dress and her feet to the legs of the chair and table, so that as
she rose from her engrossing composition the crash that ensued
was astounding, the fright and even pain not small. She was
extremely agitated, almost angry, but so gentle in her expostulations
that, like Irish servants, we were encouraged to continue
a system of annoyance that must have made her very uncomfortable.
We behaved very ill, there is no doubt of it, and she
had not any way of putting a stop to our impertinence. When
Mrs. Millar found out these proceedings and remonstrated, I told
her it was of little consequence how we acted, as I knew my papa
would send her away when he came home; which he did. She
was not supposed to be equal to the situation, and her father
came to take her home. The state of anarchy the schoolroom
exhibited was perhaps as much against her as the finely penned
account of it, but I have since thought that her beauty and my
uncle Edward's undisguised admiration of it had as much to do
with her departure as the crow quills. We heard a few years
afterwards that she had married happily, and had a fine set of
children of her own who would be all the better managed for the
apprenticeship she had served with us.
Uncle Edward was now studying at Woolwich, expecting to
proceed to India as a cadet. Fortunately old Charles Grant was
able to change his appointment and give him a writership, so he
came to us to prepare his equipment. Being quite a boy, full
of spirits and not the least studious, he romped with his little
nephew and nieces to our heart's content, particularly after the
departure of the governess, when William and I resumed our
spellings with my mother, and Jane roamed "fancy free."
Lindley Murray and Geography by a Lady retired from our
world, but a Mr. Thompson who was teaching uncle Edward
mathematics was engaged to continue our lessons in writing and
cyphering. A young Mr. Jones took charge of my music, in
which I really progressed, though I never practised. I rattled
away so mercilessly, wrong notes or right ones, that I was considered
to have great execution, and I was not ashamed to
receive this undeserved praise when in point of fact I
deserved censure for extreme carelessness. I had a turn
for drawing, too, as was found by the alterations I made
one rainy day in my young uncle's designs. He had
been studying fortifications; his plans were said to be very
neatly executed, but they were not finished to please me. I
therefore extended the patches of colour laid on here and there,
round the whole works, filled up vacant spaces, etc., and I wonder
now when I know all the mischief I did how my good-natured
uncle could ever have forgiven me, for he had been much
flattered on his skill as a draughtsman. He blamed himself for
having left his plans within my reach, and for having given me
leave to amuse myself with his paint-box. He got into a
great scrape himself this spring. He slept in my mother's
dressing-room, I being removed to Miss Gardiner's room.
The shower-bath stood there, although my mother had given
up the use of it, and it was supposed to be empty. We were
all in this room at play with our uncle, and I suppose teasing
him, for he suddenly caught up Jane, the most riotous of
the set, and popped her into the shower-bath, threatening a
ducking, and touching, to prove his sincerity, the string; down
came the whole bucketful of water on the poor child's head!
Both the man and the baby were frightened near to death. He
actually waited till the deluge was over before his presence of
mind returned, and then the piteous object he rescued, stunned
almost and dripping! At last she spoke. "Oh my soos, my
red soos!" it was a new pair put on that morning. I suppose
no words ever gave more relief to an anxious listener. The
hubbub brought my mother, who, in the impartial manner
customary in nursery dealings at that time, scolded us all heartily,
We three departed in tears to have "that naughty little girl"
dried, leaving uncle Edward looking very sheepish.
My three maiden aunts were with us at this time, and uncle
Ralph came for a short visit, then Mr. and Mrs. Leitch, all to
take leave of poor uncle Edward, whom we observed begin to
look very grave. He went often out in the carriage with my
father, sometimes they remained away a long time, once, all
day; and trunks came, and parcels to fill them, and Mrs. Lynch
was marking stockings, changing buttons, and sewing on strings
for ever. She made also a long, large chintz housewife full of
pockets, with a thread-case, and a curiously nicked leaf of scarlet
flannel filled with needles; it was her modest offering to Mr.
Edward, who truly promised to keep it for her sake, for he showed
it to me more than twenty years afterwards at his house at
Camballa in Bombay.
At length came a sad day; all the eyes in the house were
red; on meeting, every one talked with assumed cheerfulness on
indifferent subjects, to which no one seemed really to attend. A
sort of nervousness spread from old to young; we children felt
afraid of what was coming, and as the hours wore away the
gloom spread. We were all in the dining-room when Mackenzie
opened the door; uncle Edward rose and kissed each child;
Mary was his darling, he doted on her with a love that never
left him. "When shall I see you again, little woman? " said he
as he sat her down out of his arms; — little any one there thought
then where the next meeting would be, and when — his heart was
too full for another word; he folded my mother silently to his
breast and followed my father out, while she fell back in a passion
of tears very rare in a woman of her calm, reserved nature.
I watched through the blind and saw them turn the corner of
Sir Griffin Wilson's garden wall next door to us, my father leaning
on my uncle's arm, and my uncle with his hat slouched over
his brows and his head held down. It was my first idea of grief;
I had never lost anybody I had loved, and it was long ere even my
gay spirits recovered from the first. scene of distress I had noticed.
One of my employments at this time was to hold the skeins
of cotton thread which my mother wound off neatly on two
square pieces of card placed one over the other, so as to form
eight corners between which the thread was secured. This cotton
thread was a great invention, a wonderful improvement on the
flax thread in previous use, which it was difficult to get of sufficient
fineness for some works, and hardly possible to find evenly
spun. When one thinks of the machine-spinning of these days,
the cotton and flax threads like the fibres of spiders' webs which
we produce in tons weight now, we may indeed wonder at the
difficulties in needlework overcome by our mothers.
Evenings at Home, Sandford and Merton, and a short Roman
history in which very little mention was made of Tullia, were
added to our library. In imitation of aunt Mary I began to
take upon myself to tell fairy tales to "the little ones," sometimes
relating, embellishing, sometimes embellishin sometimes inventing,
choosing historical heroes to place in situations of my own imagining,
turning all occurrences into romance. We acted too occasionally,
or played at ladies and gentlemen, copying the style of
my mother's various visitors, supporting these characters for
days together at our play-hours. We began to feel great interest
in Shakespeare's plays, several of which we were taken to
see, my father talking them over with us afterwards. I remember
thinking they were all extemporised by the players as
they proceeded in their parts, as we did ourselves in our own
dramas, and wondering whether we should ever, any of us, attain
to the dignified declamation of John Kemble.
This spring of 1804 aunt Mary had a long, serious illness;
she was so weakened by it that country air was recommended,
so she and aunt Fanny took lodgings at Richmond, and I was
sent with them. We lived in the house of a widow who had a
parrot which talked to me just as much as I wished, and a maid
who was pleased to have my company on all her errands. I recollect
perfectly, delighting in the view of the river with so many
pretty boats on it and gardens down to its edge. I liked to hear
the sound of my jumping steps on the hard pathway, and I was
charmed with what I called Rosamond's labyrinth — two high
walls turning off at annular corners for ever, between which a
narrow road led, I think, to Kew, and where the view was limited
the whole way to a few yards before us. Then I only wondered
when we should escape out to the open country again, now a
feeling of suffocation would come over me in such a place.
Mrs. Bonner, our landlady, allowed me also to help her to
make my aunts' puddings, the family preserves, pickles, etc., an
honour I was extremely proud of. She lent me an old tea-caddy
to put my work in; the sugar-bowl and canister had been
broken, so the empty compartments exactly suited the patches I
was engaged on, and made me as perfectly happy as if it had
been the handsomest in the land. I was so improved by this
visit to Richmond, that as my aunts determined on remaining
there during the summer, my father resolved to leave his two
youngest children near them under the care of Nurse, Millar, in
whom they had full confidence. Lodgings were taken for them
not far from Mrs. Bonner, where they were to sleep and be sent
whenever my aunts were tired of them in the day. William
and I were to accompany our parents to the Doune.
I can't remember where aunt Lissy was all this time. I
often recollect her with us, and then I miss her for long whiles.
Though my father's house was nominally her home she was perfectly
independent, being now of age, and inheriting all that
would have been her mother's property by the will of her grandfather
Raper. She had Twyford House, near Thorley Hall, in
Hertfordshire, and a considerable sum of money from the savings
during her minority. I have always heard her income called
about £800 a year. She was not pretty, short, thick-set, plain
features, with an agreeable expression and clear skin, and quiet
manners. She was possessed of a good understanding, her
temper was charming, yet she and my mother never got on well
together. She had odd, quaint old-maidish ways adopted from
old Raper relations, with whom she lived very much. She had
also continued an acquaintance with school friends, the results of
which appeared again. She certainly did not go with us this
year to the Highlands.
We set off some time in July, my father and mother, William
and I, Mrs. Lynch and Mackenzie, in a new carriage — a sociable —
with a cane body, a roof on four supports hung round with
leather curtains, which we were continually letting down or
tying up according to the weather, which we never managed
to arrange in time for either wet or dry, and which, in spite of
hooks and buttons, let in the rain when the showers were heavy.
A superior description of horses replaced the Smiler and
Blackbird of former years, and the four bloods which formed
the present team — two bays and two greys, cross-cornered — were
driven by the smart coachman, William Millar, from the box.
These horses for beauty were each a picture; they had cost proportionate
sums, and they did their work, as the coachman said,
"like jewels," never giving in nor shirking when once started —
but to make the start was the difficulty. Mr. Coxe, named
after his last master, and the most sedate of the set, merely
indulged in a few plunges; but Highflier, the other bay,
regularly lay clown, and it took all the hostlers and half the
post-boys at every inn, with plentiful applications of William
Millar's long whip, to bring him to his feet again. He was
cured of this trick afterwards by having lighted straw put under
him. The two greys were merely awkward. Such a crowd as
used to gather round us! To add to the tumult, my mother,
the most nervous woman in the world, kept screaming at the top
of her voice all the time, standing up in the carriage and entreating
all the collected mob to have pity on her and open the door.
This scene continued during the journey, till we got quite
accustomed to what had at first frightened William and me.
We were pleased with the queer new carriage, glad to see our
landlady acquaintance, the boats at Boroughbridge, and other
recollected objects; but we were not happy. We missed our
little sisters, we talked over and over again when we were put
to bed at night of all the tears shed on both sides at parting,
particularly by poor Jane, who was a most affectionate little
creature. William was long before he became reconciled to the
want of his favourite companion, and I regretted equally dear
Mary, my live doll. It was not till we reached the Doune that
we at all got over this painful separation. We were a less time
than usual upon the road, as we did not go to Houghton, and
were but a short time in Edinburgh.
On this journey I first remember old Neil Gow being sent
for to play to us at the inn at Inver — not Dunkeld — that little
village we passed through, and went on to the ferry at Inver,
which we crossed the following morning in a large boat. It was
a beautiful ferry, the stream full and deep and dark, the banks
overhung by fine timber trees, a glimpse of a newly-planted
conical hill up the stream, only thick wooding the other way. I
don't know whether this did not make more impression upon me
than Neil Gow's delightful violin, though it had so over-excited me
the night before that my father had had to take me a little walk
by the river-side in the moonlight before I was rational enough
to be left to sleep. We were odd children, "full of nonsense,"
my mother said. Left to her, a good scold and a slap would have
apparently quieted her little daughter, though a sleepless night
would have left her but a poor object for the morrow. My
father understood my temperament better. As for William, he
took all in an easy Ironside way, remarking nothing but the
peat reek, which neither he nor I had noticed before.
We passed a very happy season at the Doune. We did no
lessons; we had a Jock Mackenzie to play with us in the stead of
George Ross, who had been made a groom of. We rode on the
old grey pony; we paid quantities of visits to our friends all
through Rothiemurchus, and we often had a brace of muir-fowl
for our dinner, each carving our bird. A dancing-master taught
us every variety of wonderful Highland step — that is, he taught
me, for William never could learn anything, though he liked
hopping about to the fiddle — and we did "Merrily dance the
quaker's wife" together, quite to the satisfaction of the servants,
who all took lessons too, in common with the rest of the population,
the Highlanders considering this art an essential in the
education of all classes, and never losing an opportunity of
acquiring a few more flings and shuffles. The dancing-master
had, however, other most distinguished pupils, the present Duke
of Manchester and his elder sister, Lady Jane Montague, who
were then living in our close neighbourhood with their grandmother,
the Duchess of Gordon.
This beautiful and very cultivated woman had never, I
fancy, lived happily with her duke. His habits and her
temper not suiting, they had found it a wise plan to separate,
and she had for the last few years spent her summers at a
little farm on the Badenoch property, a couple of miles higher
up the Spey than our Doune, and on the opposite side of
the water. She inhabited the real old farmhouse of Kinrara,
the same our good cousin Cameron had lived in, and where
I have heard my mother say that the Duchess was happier and
more agreeable, and the society she gathered round her far
pleasanter, than it ever was afterwards in the new cottage villa
she built about a mile nearer to us. It was a sort of backwoods
life, charming to young people amid such scenery, a dramatic
emancipation from the forms of society that for a little while
every season was delightful, particularly as there was no real
roughing in it. In the "but" and the "ben," constituting the
small farm cabin it was, she and her daughter Lady Georgina
dwelt. By the help of white calico, a little whitewash, a little
paint, and plenty of flowers they made their apartment quite
pretty. What had been kitchen at one end of the house was
elevated by various contrivances into a sitting-room; a barn was
fitted up into a barrack for ladies, a stable for gentlemen; a
kitchen was easily formed out of some of the out-offices, and in it,
without his battery, without his stove, without his thousand-andone
assistants and resources, her French cook sent up dinners
still talked of by the few remaining partakers. The entrées were
all prepared in one black pot — a large potato chaudron, which
he had ingeniously divided within into four compartments by
means of two pieces of tin-sheet crossed, the only inconvenience
of this clever plan being that the company had to put up with
all white sauces one day and all brown the next. Her favourite
footman, Long James, a very handsome, impudent person, but an
excellent servant for that sort of wild life, able to put his hand
to any work, played the violin remarkably well, and as every
tenth Highlander at least plays on the same instrument tolerably,
there was no difficulty in getting up a highly satisfactory band
on any evening that the guests were disposed for dancing. Half
the London world of fashion, all the clever people that could be
hunted out from all parts, all the north country, all the neighbourhood
from far and near without regard to wealth or station,
and all the kith and kin of both Gordons and Maxwells, flocked
to this encampment in the wilderness during the fine autumns to
enjoy the free life, the pure air, and the wit and fun the Duchess
brought with her to the mountains.
Lady Georgina Gordon, the youngest of the fair sisters of
that, the last generation of that noble name, and the only one
then unmarried, was much liked; kind-hearted she has all
through her life shown herself to be; then, in her early youth,
she was quiet and pleasing as well as lively. Unchangeable in
amiability of manner, she was variable in her looks; one
day almost beautiful, the next, almost plain; so my mother
described her when she spoke of those merry doings in the old
cottage at Kinrara in days quite beyond my memory. Lady
Georgina had been some years married to the Duke of Bedford,
and the Duchess of Gordon was living in her new house in this
summer of 1804 when I first recollect them as neighbours. Our
two dwellings were little more than a mile apart, but as I have
said, the river was between us, a river not always in the mood
for assisting intercourse. There were fords which allowed of
carriage and pony communication at several points, but only
when the water was low. At flood times passengers had to go
down the stream to Inverdruie, or up the stream to near Loch
Inch to the big boats, when they carried their vehicles with them;
those who walked could always find a little boat near every
residence, and our ferries were in constant requisition, for no
day passed without a meeting between the Doune and Kinrara.
When the Duchess had miscalculated her supplies, or more
guests arrived than she could possibly accommodate, the over-plus
as matter of course came over to us. Morning, noon, and
night there was a coming and going. All our spare rooms were
often filled even to the many beds in the barrack, and at Kinrara
shakes-down in the dining-room and the sofas in the drawing-room
were constantly resorted to for gentlemen who were too
late for a corner in the "wooden room," a building erected a
short way from the house in the midst of the birch thicket upon
the banks.
Many changes had happened in our house since my baby
recollections. Old Donald was dead, old Christy was pensioned
and settled with some relations in Duthil; Miss Jenny was
married, my uncle Sandy's five sons were all sent about the
world, and my father's first cousins, Logie and Glenmoriston, who
used to he a good deal with us as bachelors, were both married and
fixed in their beautiful homes. There were still the Captain and
Mrs. Grant at Inverdruie, and the Colonel at the Croft, and Mr.
Cameron at Kinapol, and there were at a little distance, up in
Badenoch, old Invereshie and his wife, and young Belleville and
his bride. Cluny beyond in Laggan; down the Spey, Castle
Grant, Ballindalloch, Arndilly and Altyre; Moy, Burgie, etc., in
Morayshire; parties from which houses were frequently with us
— all except our Chief. I do not remember my father and
mother going much from home this season, or indeed at all,
except to Kinrara; they had not time, for so many English
travellers were in the habit of making hotels of the houses of the
Highland proprietors, there was a sort of running stream of them
during the latter part of summer. Mrs. Thrale and her
daughters, and Mr. and Mrs. Murray Aust, my mother afterwards
continued an acquaintance with. In general, these chance
guests were hardly agreeable enough to be remembered.
William and I joined in all the fun of this gay summer.
We were often over at Kinrara, the Duchess having perpetual
dances, either in the drawing-room or the servants' hall, and my
father returning these entertainments in the same style. A few
candles lighted up bare walls at short warning, fiddles and whisky
punch were always at hand, and the gentles and simples reeled
away in company until the ladies thought the scene becoming
more boisterous than they liked remaining in, — nothing more,
however, — a Highlander never forgets his place, never loses his
native inborn politeness, never presumes upon favour. We
children sometimes displayed our accomplishments on these
occasions in a prominent manner, to the delight, at any rate, of
our dancing-master. Lady Jane was really clever in the
Gillie Callum and the Shean Trews, I little behind her in the
single, and double fling, the shuffle and heel-and-toe step. The
boys were more blundering, and had to bear the good-natured
laugh of many a hard-working lass and lad who, after the toil of
the day, footed it neatly and lightly in the ball-room till near
midnight. Lord Huntly was the life of all these meetings; he
was young, gay, handsome, fond of his mother, and often with
her, and so general a favourite, that all the people seemed to
wake up when he came amongst them.
There had been some coolness between my father and Castle
Grant about election matters; the Chief and the Chieftain differed
in politics, and had in some way been opposed to each other, a
difference that very foolishly had been allowed to influence their
social relations. Many and many a family jar was caused in those
times by the absurd violence of party feeling.
CHAPTER III
1805-1807
WE were now to travel back to London in the sociable, rather
cold work in cold autumn weather. We had to drive unicorn,
for one of the grey horses was gone; the other therefore had
the honour of leading, a triangular style not then common,
which ensured us an abundant amount of staring during our
journey, a long one, for we made a round by the west country
in order to pay two visits. My uncle Leitch had bought a
pretty place near Glasgow, and made a handsome house out of
the shabby one he found there by adding to the front a great
building in very good taste. We two were quite astonished at
the first aspect of Kilmerdinny. Large, wide steps led to a
portico, a good hall, and then a circular saloon the height of the
house, out of which all the rooms opened, those on the upper
floor being reached by a gallery which ran round the saloon.
Fine gardens, greenhouse, hothouses, hot walls, plenty of fruit,
a lake with two swans on it — and butter at our breakfast — made
us believe ourselves in Paradise! There was a beautiful
drawing-room and a sunny little parlour, and a window somewhere
above at which our handsome aunt appeared and threw
out pears to us. We were sorry to go away, although there
were no children to play with. The house was full of company,
but they did not interfere with us, and when we did see any of
these strangers they were very kind to us. But the day of
departure came, the sociable was packed, and we set off for
Tennochside in Lanarkshire, near the Clyde, near Hamilton,
and about eight miles from Glasgow.
Uncle Ralph, my mother's second brother, had been bred to
the law; he had entered the office of a friend, Mr. Kinderley,
an attorney of repute in London, but he never liked the business,
and on one of his visits to aunt Leitch, an acquaintance
of old standing with the heiress of Tennochside suddenly blazed
up into a love-fit on her side, which he, vain and idle, could not
resist, and they were married. My poor aunt Judy, a good excellent
woman, not the very least suited to him, plain in person,
poor in intellect, without imagination or accomplishment, had
not money enough to make up for the life of privation such a
man had to lead with her. He was certainly punished for his
mercenary marriage. Still, in an odd way of their own they
got on, each valuing the other, though not exactly agreeing,
save in two essential points — love for Tennochside and for their
two children. Eliza, the elder, was at this time exactly five
years old, Edmund, still in arms, a mere baby. Here we had
no fine house, but a very comfortable one, no finery, but every
luxury, and the run through the woods or by the river-side was
something like our own home to us. We did not like our
cousin Eliza, though she was a pretty child, and seemingly fond
of us; she was so petted, and spoiled and fretful, that she teased
us. The night that I danced my Shean Trews — in a new pair
of yellow (!) slippers bought at Perth on our way — she cried so
much because she could not do the same, that she had to be sent
to bed. Next day therefore I was sent for to help my aunt Judy
in the storeroom, where she made the sweet things for the second
course at dinner, and she had a great cry again; a lesson that
did neither of us any good, for I was conceited enough without
any additional flatteries, and she only ran away to the old
parlour where her great-aunt old Miss Jopplin always sat, who
petted her up into a sort of sulky good humour again. We did
not leave Tennochside with as much regret as we had quitted
Kilmerdinny.
Aunt Mary and our two little sisters were in Lincoln's Inn
Fields to receive us; how we flew to them! Jane and William
were in ecstasies; they had always been inseparable play-fellows,
and were overjoyed to be together again. Mary did not know
us, at which I cried. She was amazingly grown, quite a large
child, almost as tall as Jane and stouter, quiet, silent, and yet
loved by all of us. Jane and William had a deal to say; she
really was a boy in all her tastes; she played top, bat, leapfrog,
fought, climbed trees, rode astride on the rocking-horse,
and always put on her spencers and pinafores the wrong way to
make believe they were jackets. I was forced to turn to Mary,
who understood my quiet plays with my doll, her dress, and
meals, and visitors. I daresay we were as happy as were our
more boisterous companions, who, indeed, sometimes tamed
down to associate with us. We were loving and happy
children.
For the next three years we lived entirely in England; my
father went north during this time once, if not twice, to look
after various matters; none of us went with him. Our winters
were passed in Lincoln's Inn Fields, our summers at Twyford,
which place my father rented of my aunt Lissy, having let his
own, Thorley. We were also one spring at Tunbridge Wells
for my mother, whom I never remember well for long together.
She took little exercise, she did a great deal of plain work, and
when in London she very seldom left the sofa in the back
drawing-room, a dark dull place looking on the back windows of
a low commercial hotel in Serle Street, the near neighbourhood
of which obliged her always to keep the blinds down. The
front drawing-room was cheerful, large, airy, light, looking to
the square, one of the largest open spaces in London, with the
gardens belonging to the Inns of Court on one side instead of a
row of houses. It was well furnished in the untasteful style of
the day, and kept for company, never entered except upon
occasion of the three or four solemn dinner-parties, which repaid
the eating debts of the winter; dismal days for us, Mackenzie
and Mrs. Lynch both too busy to be plagued with us, my
mother less disposed for noise than ever; and on the melancholy
day itself we were dressed so early to be ready that we had to
stay still in all our finery a full hour, till the formal circle
invited had been seated long enough to be glad of such a break
in the stately proceedings as the introduction of four timid
children, who, after a bow and three curtseys at the door, had
to make the round of the awful circle.
In the cold, empty-looking best drawing-room there were
chairs, tables, sofas, lights, looking-glasses, and the company!
How the evening was passed I know not; when they went
down to dinner, we went up to supper, a miserable meal, for
we were tied up to our chins for fear of spilling the milk on our
dresses. We appeared again at dessert, to give annoyance by
having room made for us, and to be hurt ourselves by flattery
and sweetmeats. When the ladies left the gentlemen, we accompanied
them to the drawing-room door, when we bade goodnight,
and after some kissing were let away to bed, a little sick
and very tired. These formal inflictions apart, my mother had
little society, the large family connection to whom ours was
certainly a home house, not affording many brilliant companions.
It must have been often dull for her. When she was well
enough she diversified her sober life by taking us to the play,
and me to the Hanover Square and other concerts. She very
rarely went out to private parties. Once I remember sitting up
to help her toilette on a grand occasion — a rout at the Duchess
of Gordon's; the hours were then more rational than they are
now, she was dressed and off by nine o'clock, very little later
than my bedtime. Her appearance has often recurred to me,
for she was very lovely; her gown was white satin trimmed with
white velvet, cut in a formal pattern, then quite the rage, a
copy from some of the Grecian borders in Mr. Hope's book; she
had feathers in her hair and a row of pearls round her neck,
from which depended a large diamond locket; the gown was
short-waisted and narrow-skirted, but we thought it beautiful;
a touch of rouge finished matters; and then Mrs. Lynch taking
a candle, preceded her lady downstairs. My mother stooped
to kiss me as she passed, and to thank me for holding the pins
so nicely. The candle carried away, there remained another
lit, which had been moved to a small table close to the wardrobe
where Mrs. Lynch had been searching for something
wanted; a book lay near it, I took it up. It was the first
volume of the Letters of Lady Hertford and Lady Pomfret, the
old edition, good-sized print and not over many lines on the
octavo page. I read a line, some more lines, went on, sat
down; and there, Heaven knows how long afterwards, I was
found tucked up in the arm-chair absorbed in my occupation,
well scolded of course, — that followed as a matter of necessity
for wasting the candle when every one supposed me to be in
bed; why my nurse did not see that I was safe there she did not
explain. I was half afraid to allude to my book in the morning,
but finding no complaints had been made, took courage and asked
permission to read it, which being readily granted, many a happy
hour was spent over those delightful volumes. They were read
and read again, and my father, finding I understood them, and
could give a good reason for preferring Lady Hertford's charming
way of telling her home news to the more exciting letters
of her travelling correspondent, gave me Lady Mary Wortley
Montagu. We were also introduced this spring of 1805 or 6,
I am not sure which, to Miss Edgeworth's Parent's Assistant,
and the Arabian Tales. I somehow mix up the transactions of
these three years, recollecting only the general progress we
made and confusing the details; the three winters in London
are all jumbled up together, the summers stand out more
prominently.
My mother's large family circle was now reduced to three
brothers and three sisters, my uncles John and Edmund having
both died in the West Indies, and my uncle Gilbert while at
College. My father had only one sister, but the cousinhood on
both sides was extensive, and we saw so much of so many of
these near relations, that on looking back to our London life, I
do not think my mother could have found it so dull as she
fancied afterwards when talking of it; gay, it was not, but she
was far from being lonely. In the spring of 1805 four orphan
cousins, children of Glenmoriston, came to London to my father's
care; he was their joint guardian, with their uncle James
Grant, a Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh, and as he wished
to educate them in the best manner, he determined to put them
to school in the south. Patrick and James, who were the
youngest, were placed with a Dr. Somebody at Kensington,
Harriet and Anne at a school of reputation in the same neighbourhood;
their holidays they sometimes spent with us. There
was also a pretty Annie Grant, whose parentage I shall allude
to again. She had been apprenticed to the Miss Stewarts, the
great dressmakers in Albemarle Street; generally passed her
Sundays with us. Sometimes, when work was slack, she got
leave to come on a week-day, and her short summer holiday
was always spent with us while we remained in England. She
was a nice dear creature, very popular, she played Highland
reels delightfully, we liked no music so well to dance to. Miss
Bessy Maling, a first cousin of my mother's, was another of the
home circle. Her father was a man of fortune in the Houghton
neighbourhood; his first wife, my mother's aunt, died in giving
birth to this, their only child; he had married again and come
to live in London with his second wife, a clever woman and a
fine musician. She brought him two or three sons and many
handsome daughters — Mrs. Welch, Mrs. Ward (Tremaine),
Mrs. Hunter, Lady Warre, Lady Jackson, Lady Mulgrave —
who had all so well connected themselves that they would have
been great additions to my mother's society, had not adverse
politics prevented intimacy. Politics were war to the knife
in those bickering times. Bessy Maling, however, kept clear of
them. We had cousin James Griffith too, a clergyman, son of
the Welsh schoolmaster, who drew in every sort of style beautifully.
He had a small living which he held along with a
Fellowship at Oxford, yet contrived to spend a good deal of
time with us, both in town and country, particularly if aunt
Mary were with us. There was also a clever and very queer
cousin Horseman, a clergyman, and an old sailor cousin
Nesham, whom we did not like, he found so much fault with
us. Another sailor cousin Raper was a favourite, with his
merry Irish wife and two sons who were great allies of ours;
a spoiled daughter we did not approve of. Young Harry
Raper, who was determined on a sea life, brought us Robinson
Crusoe, the charm of many an after-hour. He thought it would
determine William to fix his affections on the navy, but no such
thing! William was not adventurous; Jane was much more
impressed by Harry's book and Harry's enthusiasm, and had
he been a boy, might have been tempted even to a desert
island in such company.
Besides these occasional companions, we children had a
large acquaintance in the Square. We played at every game
that ever children tried, in large merry bands, seldom watched
by our attendants; indeed we were so safe when locked within
those creaking iron gates, there was no need for other care.
Our nurse Mrs. Millar used to signal for us when we were
wanted. She was a very respectable woman for her class;
she could see that we learned our lessons, she taught my
sisters and me to sew; and she sang, with a voice that Mrs.
Billington could but have equalled, so clear, so full and sweet
it was though quite untaught, all the old English ballads about
Robin Hood, all the favourite opera songs of the day — "Bonny
tawny Moor," "When the hollow drum," "Betty Blowsy," etc.
Above all, Dibdin's sea songs, "All in the Downs," "A sweet
little Cherub," "By the deep nine," and a hundred others — with
the inspiration of a sailor's wife — widow, poor thing! for her
young husband, whose long black curls and merry eye and
love for her we almost daily heard of, had been drowned at
sea many years before, soon after their early marriage. I
could not like Millar, for she was not just to me, she thought
my father and my aunts spoilt me. I had been six months in
Scotland almost my own mistress, away from her, and did not
bear quietly returning under control. I was too quick too, and
too pert, for a servant to manage. She took very good care of
us, better than any one we had had about us before, although
her temper was imperfect. Mr. Thompson came as before. In
addition to writing and cyphering, we now learned geography,
astronomy, and history with him; to my mother we read and
spelt — a part of education unwisely given up now — those arranged
columns of words alike in sound, black, pack, track, etc., were great
helps to memory. Mr. Jones taught me music. Mr. Foothead
began William with Latin. Good old M. Beckvelt was our
French master. One way or another we picked up a good
deal. As my mother's health improved we were more with
her, and though she took little trouble with us herself, she
was seldom alone, and as our eyes and ears were always
open, we made the most of our advantages in this respect.
Our principal London pleasure was the play, to which we
went frequently, generally to Covent Garden, which we soon
learned to consider as more decidedly our house. We had the
Duke of Bedford's private box, sometimes meeting the Duchess
of Gordon there, which we liked above all things, for then we
had ices, fruits, and cakes in the little ante-room adjoining. In
spite of all these amusements, the first note of preparation for
the country caused a sort of delirium in our nursery; it was as
if we had been prisoners expecting freedom, so much more
natural to the young are green fields and shady lanes than
the confinement of a city.
In the spring of 1805 we went for a few weeks to Tunbridge
Wells, while some of the servants were getting Twyford ready.
We lodged in a gloomy house near the Pantiles, with no
garden, only a courtyard before it, which got very slippery
in showery weather; but M. Beckvelt was with us, and took us
long wandering walks over the heath, and to the rocks, and up
to Sion Hill, as happy as we were ourselves, as much a child
too. He laughed and chattered French, and ran and climbed
and gathered flowers as we did, always in the tight nankins,
with the snuff-box and the powdered hair. I know not what he
had been before the Revolution in his own country — only a
bourgeois he told us — but he was a dear, kind old man, like the
good fathers or tutors we read about in L'Ami des Enfants. He
brought some Contes de Fées down with him to Tunbridge, with
which we got on very quickly; we made, however, greater
progress in Le Boulanger, which we danced on the heath like
witches, screaming out the chorus like possessed things; the
people must have thought us crazy when any passed our magic
circle. I think the Phippses were here at this time with Lady
Mulgrave. I recollect meeting and speaking, and nothing more,
so I fancy the families had not commingled. They were very
plain, all but Henry, afterwards Lord Normanby.
The wells were very pretty, two bubbling springs rising uncovered
from small round marble basins; rows of little glasses
stood on tables near, and were dipped into the fountains by
neat old women, who presented them with a sprig of sage to
the drinkers; the sage was for rubbing the teeth, as the steel
water discoloured them.
The remainder of this summer, and the two summers
following, 1806 and 1807, we spent entirely at Twyford, the
winters in London, as I said before, never all this time going
near the Highlands. My father took a run to the north when
he thought it necessary, but my mother was glad to remain
quiet with her children in the south, which part of the world,
I think, she had begun to prefer to her more romantic home,
now that the novelty of her Highland life had worn off a little.
In London she had frequent opportunities of seeing many of
her own relations, most of whom, at one time or another, had
to pass the capital on their journeys. At Twyford she had a
good house, and quiet, both of which were luxuries she valued,
for though there were neighbours, she saw little of them. I
never remember her dining out there, and as there was plenty
of accommodation, she had always some of her own friends with
her.
Twyford was one of the most comfortable, modernised old
residences that any one need wish to live in. It was ugly
enough on the outside, a heavy, square, red brick building
with little windows and dumpy chimneys; a small, squat dome
upon the top, within which was a great church clock, and an
observatory stuck up at one end like an ear, or a tall factory
chimney, ending in a glass lantern. In front was a small bit of
shrubbery hardly hiding the road, and beyond a short double
avenue of lime trees stretching across a green field; behind
was a more extensive shrubbery and flower-garden, divided
by a light railing from pretty meadows dotted over with fruit
trees. On one side was a walled garden and the farm offices,
on the other the kitchen court, stables and stable-yard, and an
immense flour mill, all upon the river Stort, a sluggish stream
moving along, canal fashion, close to the premises. Barges
heavily laden plied all day long backwards and forwards on
this dingy water, and as there was a lock just underneath the
laundry windows, scenes as merry as those in the broom island
took place on the flat banks of the lazy Stort among the bargemen,
the dusty millers, and the men and maids of the kitchen
court. To the elder part of the family all this commotion
must have been a nuisance, to us children such noisy doings
were a delight. We had a post of observation contrived by
ourselves in the middle of the wide yew hedge which bounded
the back shrubbery on the river-side, and there, from what we
called our summer parlour, we made many more observations
than were always agreeable to the observed. There was a
large establishment of servants, and no very steady head over
them, for Lynch had married Mackenzie, and they had gone to
keep the inn at Aviemore, a melancholy change for us little
people; but we had to bear a worse.
In the summer of 1806 aunt Lissy married. Her particular
friend was a Miss Susan Frere, who had been her
favourite companion at the school in Queen's Square where
she had been educated. Miss Frere's father, a gentleman of
consideration in the county of Norfolk, had seven sons, and it
was his fourth son, George, who was lucky enough to gain the
heart of one of the best of women. The courtship had begun
by means of letters through the sister; it had been carried on
at the Hanover Square concert rooms at rare intervals, for no
one was aware of the progress of this seldom-noticed lover till
the engagement was announced. My mother thought the pair
had met in Wimpole Street, and Mrs. Raper was sure he visited
at Lincoln's Inn Fields, and both houses felt amazed at such an
affair having been managed unknown to either. The first time
that I became aware of what was going on was one day in the
spring before our removal to Twyford in 1806. I was sitting
near an open window in the front drawing-room beside my
aunt Lissy, who had been ill, and was only sufficiently recovered
to be nursed up carefully. Sonic humble friend had called to
see her, and while they were conversing on their charity affairs,
I was amusing myself watching the progress along the dead
wall which supported the terrace walk of the Lincoln's Inn
gardens, of the tall Mr. Frere who had lately begun to come
among us, and whose nankins always attracted me. As I
expected, he was lost to sight for a moment only to emerge the
brighter, for he soon appeared round the corner of the Griffin
Wilsons' garden, and across our courtyard up to the door.
His knock brought the colour into my aunt's pale face; she
also dismissed the humble friend, and then, forgetting me, she
rose briskly to receive Mr. Frere, and told him laughing how
she had sent away an inconvenient third. Of course my turn
soon came, but I was so busy arranging all my conjectures
that they had to tell me twice to run away and play before I
recollected to obey. When I reached the nursery I announced
without more ado the impending marriage, which soon after
was officially proclaimed. Both bride and bridegroom set
about the preparations for their change of condition in a quiet,
straightforward, business-like manner that much amused my
mother and my aunt Mary. Mr. Frere took a house in Brunswick
Square, which aunt Lissy went with him to see. After
due consideration they decided on buying all the furniture left
in it by the late proprietor, to which my aunt added a great
deal belonging to her from the stores at Twyford of beautiful
Indian wares, and all that she had gathered together for her
own comfort while her home was with us. Her bedroom
looked very bare when all in it belonging to her had left it; and
the back drawing-room we always lived in, deprived of pictures,
flower-stands, bookcases, china and other pretty things, with
a really nice collection of books, was nearly empty, and it
never quite recovered the loss, for my mother had no turn for
adornments; she kept a clean house, a good table, a tidy
room, always putting in the stitch in time, but she did not care
for knick-knacks, at least she did not care to buy them; parting
with them was a different affair; she was angry at the loss
of what she had been used to see around her, and while my
imperturbable aunt Lissy day by day continued her dismantlings
and her careful packings, my mother's surprise grew to indignation,
as Jane and I were quick enough to find out by means of
certain mysterious conversations between her and aunt Mary.
They fancied that the low tone in which they spoke and the
curious language they employed effectually veiled the meaning
of their gossip; instead, therefore, of sending us away when
they had private communications to make, they merely bid us
go to some other part of the room, while they tried to conceal
the subject of their whisperings by the ingenious addition of
"vus" to every word they spoke, as "Didvus youvus evervus
hearvus ofvus," etc. At first we supposed this was another
continental language different from French, which we were
ourselves learning, but the proper names sometimes used
instead of hevus shevus gave us a clue to the cypher, which
soon enabled us to translate it.
The marriage took place at Twyford in the month, I think,
of August, and my father was not present at it, for I remember
that some of the wedding cake was kept for him; he was in
the north canvassing busily for the representation of Morayshire,
a dissolution of Parliament being expected. Who gave
his only sister away I do not recollect, I suppose it must have
been Mr. Matthew Raper, the then head of the family. An
old Mr. Pickering performed the ceremony in Thorley Church;
he had christened both my aunt and my father, and his sisters
had had the charge of my aunt for some years before she went
to Queen's Square. It was a very private wedding, aunt Mary
and Harriet Grant Glenmoriston the bridesmaids, and one or
two of the brother Freres to attend them. The bride and
bridegroom drove off in a carriage and four to make a lazy
journey of it to Roydon, the father's place in Norfolk, and we
were left in spirits the very reverse of gay to think over their
departure.
Our first summer at Twyford had been very happy, both
our aunts, Mary and Lissy, were with us, and cousin James
Griffith, who was a great favourite. The queer old house
particularly pleased us; there was the long garret under the
roof, a capital place for romping, and such hiding-places! — the
great clock chamber, turrets and turret stairs, observatory and
crooked corners, and odd closets, all charming! then such a yew
hedge! a famous gravel-walk beside it, a garden so well stocked,
such an orchard, fruits hardly known by more than sight
showering down their treasures when we shook the trees.
Another amusement of that first year was bat-hunting; the
house had been so long shut up, so little looked after, that the
cellars and even the kitchen offices were actually swarming with
bats; they hung down from the rafters in hundreds, and were
infinitely more hard to dislodge than the mice in the Highlands.
We were so used to them flapping about our ears within and
without after dark, that even the servants gave up complaining
of them, and only that they were unpleasant to the sense of
smell, vigorous war would hardly have been waged against
them. We had merry walks, too, through the fields, a firm
pathway, and stile after stile all the way to Bishop's-Stortford;
and in the autumn such nutting parties, the hedges full of
blackberries, sloes, nuts, and bullaces; and then the walnuts!
we were stained to the colour of gipsies. The second summer
was even happier, for good M. Beckvelt came for a month or
more. He took us long walks all over the country, to Thorley
Wood and Thorleyhurst, and among the pretty shady lanes
abounding in every direction. We preferred him to the
nursery-maids, for he really had no pleasure but ours.
The peasantry were uninteresting, so after a few cottage
visits we gave up any attempt at acquaintance in that sphere,
but the fields were charming. We went to church at Thorley
always, sitting in the old Raper pew, and so pretty was that
old church, so very pretty the old Raper Hall in which my
father's tenant Mr. Voules lived, that we used to wonder we
did not live there ourselves. Mr. Frere came frequently to see
us, and sometimes a tall brother with him. These were our
gala clays, for they played bat and ball, battledoor and shuttlecock,
cricket, hunt the slipper, puss in the corner, and a
hundred other games, which they had the knack of making
every one, young and old, join in out on the lawn in the back
shrubbery, under the shade of a fine chestnut tree. They
seldom came either without a cargo of presents for the children;
the clan Frere therefore was so much in favour that we hardly
regretted the parting from our hind aunt, little understanding
then how much our childish happiness had depended on the
little quiet woman who seemed to be of no account.
Our dear aunt Lissy had never interfered with the baby,
little Mary. She was now at three years of age Mrs. Millar's
principal charge and my mother's pet. We three elder ones
had been her care, and how she had managed us we only found
out by comparing it with the mismanagement that followed.
Having few lessons and no employment but such as we contrived
for ourselves, our play-hours were so many as to tire us,
our tempers suffered, and Mrs. Millar, not possessing the best
herself, sadly annoyed ours. I was active, pert, violent, Jane
indolent and sulky, William impracticable, never out of humour,
but quietly and thoroughly self-willed. One mode was applied
to all; perpetual fault-finding, screams, tears, sobs, thumps,
formed the staple of the nursery history from this time forward.
We were as little upstairs as we could help, though we were
not always much better off below, for if my mother or aunt
Mary was not in the vein for hearing our lessons, they had
little patience with our mistakes or our questions; my mother
would box our ears with her pretty white hand, and aunt Mary
had a spiteful fillip with the thimble-finger which gave a painful
sting; bursts of crying, of course, followed, when the
delinquents were despatched to dark closets, where they were
sometimes forgotten for hours. There was no kind Mrs. Lynch
to watch us, steal to our prison door and carry us off to her
room to be employed and kept from mischief. She was as
great a loss as aunt Lissy, in one particular, — a serious matter
to me, my breakfast — a greater. Our nursery breakfast was
ordered, without reference to any but Houghton customs, to be
dry bread and cold milk the year round, with the exception of
three winter months, when in honour of our Scotch blood we
were favoured with porridge; the meal came from Scotland
with the kegs of butter and barrels of eggs and bags of cheese,
etc., but it was boiled by the English maids in any but north
country fashion. Had we been strong children this style of
food might have suited us, many large healthy families have
thriven on the like; but though seldom ailing, we inherited
from my father a delicacy of constitution demanding great care
during our infancy. In those days it was the fashion to take
none; all children alike were plunged into the coldest water,
sent abroad in the worst weather, fed on the same food, clothed
in the same light manner. From the wintry icy bath aunt Lissy
had saved us; our good nurse Herbert first, and then Mrs.
Lynch, had always made us independent of the hated milk
breakfast; but when they were gone and the conscientious Mrs.
Millar, my mother's "treasure," reigned alone, our life was one
long misery, at least to William and me who were not favourites.
In town, a large, long tub stood in the kitchen court, the ice
on the top of which had often to be broken before our horrid
plunge into it; we were brought. down from the very top of the
house, four pair of stairs, with only a cotton cloak over our
night-gowns, just to chill us completely before the dreadful
shock. How I screamed, begged, prayed, entreated to be
saved, half the tender-hearted maids in tears beside me; all no
use, Millar had her orders (so had our dear Betty, but did she
always obey them?). Nearly senseless I have been taken to
the housekeeper's room, which was always warm, to be dried;
there we dressed, without any flannel, and in cotton frocks with
short sleeves and low necks. Revived by the fire, we were
enabled to endure the next bit of martyrdom, an hour upon the
low sofa, so many yards from the nursery hearth, our books in
our hands, while our cold breakfast was preparing. My
stomach entirely rejecting milk, bread and tears generally did
for me, a diet the consequences of which soon manifested themselves.
From being a bright, merry, though slight, child, I
became thin, pale and peaky, and woefully changed in disposition,
slyness being added to my natural violence, as I can
recollect now with shame. William told fibs by the dozen,
because he used to be asked whether he had done, or not done,
so and so, and did not dare answer truthfully on account of
the severity of the punishments to which he was subjected.
We began all our ill behaviour soon after aunt Lissy's marriage.
On my father's return from his canvass in Morayshire he received
bad accounts of our misconduct. The recapitulation of all our
offences to my father drove us to despair, for we loved him with
an intensity of affection that made his good opinion essential
to our happiness; we also dreaded his sternness, all his judgments
being à la Brutus, nor did he ever remit a sentence once
pronounced. The milk rebellion was crushed immediately; in
his dressing-gown, with his whip in his hand, he attended our
breakfast — the tub at this season we liked, so he had no occasion
to superintend the bathing — but that disgusting milk! He
began with me; my beseeching look was answered by a sharp
cut, followed by as many more as were necessary to empty the
basin; Jane obeyed at once, and William after one good hint.
They suffered less than I did; William cared less, he did not
enjoy this breakfast, but he could take it; Jane always got rid
of it, she had therefore only hunger to endure; I, whose
stomach was either weaker or stronger, had to bear an aching
head, a heavy, sick painful feeling which spoilt my whole
morning, and prevented any appetite for dinner, where again
we constantly met with sorrow. Whatever was on the table
we were each to eat, no choice was allowed us. The dinners
were very good, one dish of meat with vegetables, one tart or
pudding. On broth or fish days no pudding, these days were
therefore not in favour; but our maigre days, two in the week
during summer, we delighted in, fruit and eggs being our
favourite dishes. How happy our dinner hour was when aunt
Lissy was with us! a scene of distress often afterwards. My
mother never had such an idea as that of entering her nursery,
when she wanted her children or her maids she rang for them;
aunt Mary, of course, had no business there; the cook was pretty
sure of this, the broth got greasy, the vegetables heavy with
water, the puddings were seldom brown. Mrs. Millar allowed
no orts, our shoulders of mutton — we ate all the shoulders —
were to be cut fair, fat and lean, and to he eaten fair, a hard
task for Jane and me. The stomachs which rejected milk could
not easily manage fat except when we were under the lash, then
indeed the fat and the tears were swallowed together; but my
father could not always be found to act overseer, and we had
sometimes a good fight for it with our upright nurse, a fight
ending in victory as regarded the fat, though we suffered in
another way the pains of defeat, as on these occasions we were
deprived of pudding; then, if I were saucy, or Jane in a sulky
fit, the scene often ended in the dark closet, where we cried
for an hour or more, while William and little Mary finished the
pudding.
This barbarity lasted only a short time, owing to my
ingenious manufacture of small paper bags which we concealed
in our laps under the table, and took opportunities of filling
with our bits of fat; these we afterwards warily disposed of, at
Twyford through the yew hedge into the river, in town elsewhere.

Another serious grief we had connected with our food. We
could refuse nothing that was prepared for us; if we did we not
only got nothing else, but the dish declined was put by to
appear again at the next meal, and be disposed of before we
were permitted to have what else there was. Jane greatly disliked
green vegetables, spinach or cabbage in particular; it was
nature speaking (poor nature! so unheeded in those times), for
these plants disagreed with her, yet she must eat them. I have
known a plate of spinach kept for her from dinner one day to
supper the next, offered at each meal and refused, and not even
a bit of bread substituted all those long hours, till sheer hunger
got the better of her dislike, and she gave herself a night of
sickness by swallowing the mess. Fancy a young child kept
thirty hours without food and then given poison! the dungeons
of feudal times were in their degree not more iniquitous than
these proceedings.
Of course under this regime the rhubarb bottle became a
necessity in the nursery. I had my French beans antipathy,
and it was to be overcome in the same way, followed by the
same cure for its effects. In addition to the dose of rhubarb,
nauseous enough in itself, our breakfast on medicine mornings
was water gruel — I can see it now, unstrained, thick, black, and
seasoned with salt; this frightful bowl gave me an obstinate fit
in Jane's style, from which I suffered in the same way; breakfast,
dinner, and supper passed, and the cold gruel remained
untouched; faint from hunger I lay down in the evening on the
floor of the closet where I had passed the summer's day, and
sobbed out that I wished to die! One of the housemaids on
her tour of window-shutting, a Hertfordshire girl named Sally
Withan, whom I remember with gratitude to this hour, unturned
the key which kept me prisoner, and threw beside me some red-streaked
apples. I have loved apples ever since. Good-humoured,
rosy-cheeked Sally Withan! She said if she could
find that nasty gruel, it should not plague her sweet young
lady no more, she'd answer for it! I was not slow to give the
hint, and certainly on being called to bed, whither I went
without a kiss or a good-night or even appearing downstairs,
fresh gruel, better it seemed to me, warm at any rate, and a
slice of bread, were thankfully received after the miserable day
of fasting.
Even poor little Mary did not escape the Spartan rules of my
father's discipline; for her baby errors she had to bear her punishment.
She used to be set on the lowest step of the stair at
"naughty times," and not be allowed to move from there till
permission was given. One night my father forgot her, so, I
suppose, had every one else, for on ringing for wine and water
at midnight, the footman who brought it up found the poor little
thing lying there asleep. She had sat there since dinner. We
used to comfort one another in our troubles when we could
manage it, and many a "goody" the good children secreted and
carried to be given with kisses and hugs to the poor desolate
culprit, who all the time believed him or herself to be disgracefully
guilty.
This is the dark side of the picture; we had very happy
hours as well; despotically as we were ruled in some respects,
we were left in other ways to our own devices. We disposed
of our time very much according to our own fancies, subject to
certain rules. We were always to appear at the breakfast-table
of our father and mother some time between ten and eleven
o'clock; the last of the three regular singings of my father's
dressing-room hell was our signal for leaving our plays; we ran
off to brush our hair, wash our hands, and seize our books, with
which provided we repaired to the breakfast-room, where our
duties were to run messages; in summer to amuse ourselves
quietly till called upon to stir; in winter to make tile toast. Breakfast
over, we said our few lessons to my mother, and read in turns.
I was supposed to have practised the pianoforte, early. If we were
wanted again during the day we were sent for, though frequently
we spent the whole morning in the drawing-room, where we
employed ourselves as we liked, provided we made no noise.
The prettily-wound cotton balls had already superseded the
skeins, so that we were saved that piece of business. In the
hot summer days aunt Mary often read to us fairy tales, or bits
from the Elegant Extracts, latterly Pope's Homer, which with
her explanations we enjoyed extremely, all but the Shield of
Achilles, the long description of which I feared was never to
end. When my father was away my mother dined with us
early, and in the evenings we took long drives in the open
landau and four. When he was at home, and the late dinner
proceeded in full form — and what a tedious ceremony it was! —
we all appeared at the dessert, or rather at the second course,
in full dress like the footmen. We sat in a row — we four,
little Mary and all, on four chairs placed against the wall —
trained to perfect quiet; we were to see and to smell, but to
taste nothing, to hear and not to speak; but on the dessert
appearing we were released, called forward to receive a little
wine, a little fruit, and a biscuit, and then to have our game at
romps; the riot generally forced our nervous mother to retire,
and then quite at ease, in good earnest began the fun.
Sometimes my father was an ogre groping about for little
children, whom he caught and tickled nearly into fits; sometimes
he was a sleeping giant whom we besieged in his castle of
chairs, could hardly waken, and yet dreaded to hear snore.
Whatever the play was it was always charming, and redeemed
all troubles. We looked forward to this happy hour as to a
glimpse of heaven; milk, cabbage, fat, rhubarb, and gruel were
all forgotten, and the whippings too; he was no longer the
severe master, he was the best of play-fellows. We dreaded
hearing of his absence, as all our joy went with him; we
hailed his return as our chief blessing. He soon found out that
no punishment had such effect upon any of us as exclusion from
the romping hour. Once or twice it was my fate to remain
upon my chair in that row against the wall, while the romp
went on around me; to be told to remain there as unworthy of
my share in the fun. I don't think I ever needed a third lesson,
although the faults had not been very heinous; the most flagrant
was my having provided myself with a private store of apples,
gathered only from underneath the trees, but concealed in one
of the queer little triangular cupboards scattered up and down
the turret stairs, and intended to furnish out our play banquets
up in the haunted attic.
The summer of 1807 was the last we spent at Twyford.
Grant was a few weeks with us, and Bessy Maling and
James Griffith and aunt Mary — not all at the same time.
Harriet Grant, too, came for a long visit. She was grown up
and had left school; the one she and her sister had first gone
to at Kensington did not turn out good, so Harriet had been
placed with a very ladylike Mrs. Pope in Bloomsbury Square,
who took only a certain number of pupils; and Anne, who was
very delicate, had been sent to the sea under the care of Mrs.
Peter Grant, a cousin, the widow of one of the five ne'er-do-weel
sons of my great-uncle Sandy. We wore mourning for the first
time this very summer for uncle Leitch, such mourning as
suited my mother's economy. Our white frocks were decorated
with black crape sashes, the long tails of which did charmingly
for playing at horses.
Just before leaving town we had seen our dear aunt Lissy's
little boy, poor John Frere, a fine plain, healthy baby, when as
a secret I was told to expect a little brother or sister shortly at
home, for whose arrival many preparations were making. Jane
hemmed some new soft towels for it — very badly — and I made
all the little cambric shirts so neatly, that I was allowed to
begin a sampler as a reward, and to go to Bishop's-Stortford to
buy the canvas and the coloured worsteds necessary.
There was less disturbance in the nursery this summer;
whether we were better children, or Millar more occupied
working for the expected baby, or that private instructions had
been given her to forbear such strict enforcement of her rules,
I know not, but we were all in better humour certainly. For
one thing, we had more to do. Harriet Grant undertook the
lessons, and under her they were not quite child's play; besides
this, a Mr. Morris came over from Epping, I think, where he
was organist, to give me a music lesson twice a week. My
mother gave him a good luncheon, and he in return let William
have a scamper on his poor little tired pony, for he was good-natured
to everybody but me.
On our first introduction I seated myself in full confidence
before Pleyel's Concertante, and rattled it off in my own peculiar
style, looking for the usual amount of praise as a matter of
course. Old Mr. Morris gravely put on his spectacles, and
after surveying the music, the instrument, and me, he soberly
asked me who had been my teacher. He said no more, but
the tone was quite enough. I knew as well as if I had been
his pupil for a twelvemonth that no sleight-of-finger practices
would pass under his severe eye. We turned back to Clementi's
first book of instructions, and beginning with the scales again
I may say that I then began to learn the pianoforte, with more
trouble to both of us than if I had never touched its keys
before. I felt thoroughly ashamed of myself, I don't know
why, except that Mr. Morris had laid peculiar stress on what
he called honest playing. "Play by yourself," he said, "as
if I were beside you, leave no difficulty behind, get every
passage smooth." I got Harriet to watch the practisings, and
for the single hour a day allowed for this purpose made good
progress, delighting my father on his return with many neatly
given passages from his favourite Corelli. He had been in the
north. Parliament had been dissolved, and he had set up for
Morayshire; his opponent was Colonel Francis Grant, the second
son of his Chief, who had all the Tory interest and a deal of
clannish help besides; feudal feeling being still strong in the
Highlands, although personally there was no doubt as to the
popularity of the two candidates. My father ran up to within
two votes of his cousin; all the consolation he had for setting
the county in a flame, losing his time, wasting his money, and
dividing irremediably the House of Grant against itself. Years
before he had canvassed Inverness, Sir James giving all his
interest to the East India Director, Charles Grant, who to
secure his seat promised my father unlimited Indian appointments
if he would give in. This was the secret of my father's
Indian patronage, through which he provided ultimately for so
many poor cadets. How much each of such appointments cost
him unluckily he never calculated. He was very little cast
down by his ill success.
My father turned the remainder of his time in the Highlands
to farming account, for he was exceedingly interested in agriculture,
particularly anxious to open the eyes of the Hertfordshire
people, who at that time pursued the most miserable of the
old-fashioned English systems. The first year we went to Twyford
he had established a Scotch grieve there; he built a proper
set of offices, introduced rotation crops, deep ploughing, weeding,
hay made in three days, corn cut with a scythe, and housed as
cut, cattle stall-fed; and I remember above all a field of
turnips that all, far and near, came to look and wonder at —
turnips in drills, and two feet apart in the rows, each turnip
the size of a man's head. It was the first such field ever seen
in those parts, and so much admired by two-footed animals
that little was left for the four-footed. All the lanes in the
neighbourhood were strewn with the green tops cut of by the
depredators. The Scotch farming made the Hertfordshire
bumpkins stare, but it produced no imitators during the short
period it was tried by us. The speculation did not enrich the
speculator. We ate our own mutton, poultry, and vegetables
in town, as well as in the country, the market-cart coming to
Lincoln's Inn Fields weekly with all supplies; we had a cow,
too, in the London stables, changed as required. But Mr. Reid
got to drink too much gin, Mrs. Reid lay in bed in the
mornings and saw company in the evenings. The laundry-maids
also entertained a large acquaintance with the dairy
produce, for they united the two conditions; so that though
we lived in luxury we paid well for it, made no friends, and
were cheated by our servants, for besides the liberal way in
which they helped themselves they neglected their master's
business.
My father had gone to the Trysts after losing Moray, and
bought a large drove of fine young black cattle, for no small
penny. These were sent south under the care of two Highland
drovers. The fine field of turnips during the winter and the
rich grass of the Hertfordshire meadows being expected to
feed such beef for the London market as, to say the truth, the
English people of that day had little notion of. There were
above a hundred head; they were put to rest in the small
paddock between the orchard and the river bordered on the
shrubbery side by the yew hedge. Poor beasts! I forget how
many survived; it was heart-breaking to see them next day
lying about the field dying from the effects of the poison.
This unfortunate business disgusted my father with his
English improvements; at least after this summer we never
saw Twyford again. He sold Thorley Hall to Lord Ellenborough
for £20,000, I have heard, £10,000 of which bought
Kinloss near Forres, the remainder helping off the accounts of
the Morayshire canvass.
Had we known when we left for London in November that
we were never to run wild in those happy gardens again, we
should have grieved bitterly, for life was very bright to us in
the summers there; green and flowery, and sweet — scented,
sunny, comfortable; all home pleasures were perfect. It was
easy to run out and in, it was warm and cheerful everywhere,
and the farm labours, the fruit harvest, the nutting, all close
round us, coming in a rotation of enjoyment, with sunshine
pervading the atmosphere, left a glow over the remembrance of
our childhood there that lives still through every recollection of
Twyford. To our parents it could not have been so rose-coloured.
The few neighbours of their own degree within visiting distance
were uninteresting, primitive families, rich, self — important,
ignorant of the world, which indeed they despised, for they
were illiberally limited in the few ideas they had. We kept
up no after — acquaintance with any but one house, the
Archer — Houblons, originally Dutch, who had come over as
merchants in the reign of the third William, and had been
some way connected with the Rapers, and were not considered
altogether on an equality with the older and stupider
county families.
The clergyman of our parish, a tall thin Mr. Pennington,
was clever in an odd way, and agreeable, but he had so very
queer a wife, and such an ill-brought-up daughter, that his
visits when accompanied by them were not agreeable. He
lives in my recollection as the donor of the first quarto volume
I had ever held in my hands, and actually to read a book of this
size, know it was my own, and lay it myself upon its side on
the shelf in the nursery bookcase appropriated to my literary
property, was a proud pleasure only equalled by another
afforded me at the same time, which I will mention presently.
The book was the letters of that prodigy Mrs. Elizabeth
Carter, with some notice of her studious life, not very interesting
to me, for my turn did not lie in the scientific line;
but the lady being a relation of Mr. Pennington, good breeding
kept me silent as to my opinion. They lived, this dreamy old
clergyman, his managing wife, and spoilt child, in a baby-house
of a parsonage standing actually in one of the shady lanes
leading to Thorley, for the line of the front wall of the house
was the line of the hedge that stretched along on either hand.
The entrance was into the parlour without any passage or hall,
and a staircase from the parlour led up to a play-room over it,
where we could have passed many happy hours, it was so filled
with children's treasures, had not the wayward humours of its
young mistress turned it generally into a scene of strife.
As we had no other acquaintance of our own age, we
deplored this the more, for the walk to the parsonage, first
through fields and along the shady lane, was delightful, and
there were a thousand objects in that little curiosity shop
which interested us. Above all, a microscope, and good Mr.
Pennington was ever ready to let us peep into it.
I do not remember any other neighbours of whom we saw
anything. Of a low degree I recollect none, they were all
stupid, cloddish drones, speaking a language we could not
understand, and getting vacantly through their labouring lives
as if existence had no pleasures. There were no family
retainers save one ancient pair, farmer Dugard and his neat
old wife, and their pretty tidy niece Nancy Raymus, who
lived in a picture of a cottage close to our offices, with only the
road between their little flower garden and the grieve's. I
forget now whether their cottage was thatched or tiled, but it
had several gable-ends with latticed windows, and high-peaked
roofs; the entrance was into a kitchen kept for show, with
sanded floor, bright barred grate, and shelves loaded with
glittering brass and pewter. Other rooms used by the family
opened out of this, the glory of Nancy's busy hands, where too
she had her bird in its cage, her geraniums in the window,
shaded from the summer's sun by the white muslin curtain
daintily trimmed with a plaited frill.
We sometimes drank tea here, a real fête, for we had
syllabub made with currant wine spiced, and we helped to
hold the real china bowl under the cow, whose name was
Cherry. On Sundays we used to see these good friends
proceed to church in real English country fashion; old Dugard
always first, in his brown bob-wig, large coat, and gold-headed
cane, with gloves on; next came the wife in a black mode
cloak and sharp-pointed shoes, carrying her prayer-book in a
handkerchief; and last came Nancy, of whom I remember only
her rosy cheeks and bright kind eyes, and that she held both
her own prayer-book and her uncle's and an umbrella. They
used to whisper that one of the miller's men liked attending
Thorley Church, and so would meet the little party at the stile.
Whether more came of this I cannot tell.
Dear sunny Twyford! it was not always what I remember
it; my father altered both house and grounds to suit the times.
CHAPTER IV
1701-1808
THE Rapers are an old Buckinghamshire family of Norman
descent, as their name anciently spelt Rapier attests. Where
they came from, or when they came, or what they were, I really
do not know, but so strong a leaven of Puritanism pervaded the
Christian names of the family, that I cannot but think they were
known in the days of the Commonwealth for more stirring
deeds than suited them in after-times; they descended to us as
scientific men, calm, quiet, retired, accomplished oddities.
How any of them came to settle in Hertfordshire was not explained,
but it so happened that two brothers established themselves
in that county within a mile of one another; Matthew
at Thorley Hall, John at Twyford. Matthew never married,
John took to wife Elizabeth [Hale, daughter of Elizabeth]
Beaumont, descended in the direct line from Sir John Beaumont,
the author of Bosworth Field and the elder brother of
the dramatist. I remember mentioning this with no little pride
to Lord Jeffrey, when he answered quietly he would rather himself
be able to claim kindred with Fletcher; and soon after he
announced in one of his reviews that Beaumont was but the
French polish upon the fine sound material of Fletcher — or
something to that effect; which may be true, though at this
distance of time, I don't see how such accurate division of labour
could be tested; and what would the rough material have been
unpolished? I myself believe that Beaumont was more than
the varnish, he was the edge-tool too, and I am proud of such
parentage, and value the red bound copy of Bosworth Field with
my great [great] grandmother's name in it, and the little silver
sugar-basket with the Lion of England in the centre of it, which
she brought with her into the Raper family.
She must have been a person of acquirements too, for her
death so affected her husband that he was never seen out of his
own house afterwards. I do not know how he managed the
education of his only child, my grandmother; for she was well
educated in a higher style than was common then, and yet he
lived on at Twyford alone almost, except for visits from a few
relations.
His horses died in their stables, his carriages decayed in
their coach-houses, his servants continued with him till their
marriage or death, when the supernumeraries were not replaced,
and he lived on year after year in one uniform round of dulness
till roused by the arrival of his grandchildren.
Aunt Lissy did not remain long with him, but my father
was his charge till his death. He did not appear to have
devoted himself to him, and yet the boy was very constantly his
companion within doors, for all the old man's queer methodical
ways had impressed themselves vividly on his grandson's mind.
When altering the house my father would permit no change to be
made in the small room on the ground-floor of the hall, which had
been his grandfather's dressing-room, and which was now his own.
We often attended on my father towards the end of his
toilet, on the third ringing of that bell — a sound that acted
through our house like the "sharp" in the royal palaces, sending
every one to his duty in all haste — and there we found the
same oddly contrived wardrobe which had been made so many
years ago. Two or three broad shelves were below, and underneath
the lowest one a row of small pegs for hanging boots and
shoes on; at the top were a number of pigeon-holes, employed
by my father for holding papers, but which in Raper days had
held each the proper supply of linen for one day; shirt, stock,
stockings, handkerchief, all along in a row, tier above tier. My
great-grandfather began at No. 1 and went regularly through
the pigeon-holes, the washerwoman refilling those he had emptied.
This methodical habit pervaded his actions; he walked by
rule at stated times, and only in his garden, and for a definite
period; so many times round the formal parterre, bounded by
the yew-tree hedge. He did not, however, interrupt his thoughts
to count his paces, he filled a pocket of his flapped waistcoat
with so many beans, and each time that he passed the door he
dropped a bean into a box placed upon the sill of a window for
the purpose of receiving them; when the beans had all been
dropped the walk was done.
He was a calm and placid man, and acted like oil on waves
to the impatient spirit he had to deal with. Some baby fury
had excited my father once to that degree, he took a fine handkerchief
that had been given to him and threw it angrily upon
the fire, then seeing the flames rise over it, he started forward
as suddenly to rescue it. "No, Jack," said his grandfather,
"let it burn, the loss of a handkerchief is little, the loss of
temper is much; watch it burning and try to remember what
irremediable mischief an uncontrolled temper works." My
father said this scene often recurred to him and checked many
a, fit of passion, fortunately, as his Highland maid Christy and
others did their best to spoil him.
The Thorley brother, Matthew, was quite as eccentric as my
great-grandfather; they were much together, and he it was who
built the observatory at Twyford, that when he dined there
and took a fancy to consult the stars, he need not have to
return home to spend an hour with them. He was a true lover
of learning; he had built a large room to hold his books at
Thorley. The best of those we loved so much at the Doune
came from thence, and the maps and prints and volumes of rare
engravings, coins, mathematical instruments, and curiosities.
He played on both violin and violoncello. Our poor cousin
George Grant took possession of the violoncello, on which he
was a proficient. The violin was lent to Duncan Macintosh, who
enlarged the sound-holes, as he thought the tone of this
Cremona too low for the proper expression of Highland music !
There was an observatory at Thorley too, from whence my
great — uncle surveyed the earth as well as the heavens; a
favourite occupation of his being the care of some grass walks
he was very particular in defending from the feet of passengers.
He had planted a wood at a short distance from his house,
laid out a kind of problem in action; an oval pond full of fish
for centre, and gravel walks diverging from it at regular intervals
towards an exterior square; the walks were bordered by very
wide turf edging, and thick plantations of young trees were
made between. It was a short cut through this mathematical
plantation from one farmhouse to another, and in rainy weather
the women in their pattens destroyed the grass borders when
they disobeyed the order to keep to the gravel path.
From his tower of observation Matthew Raper detected
every delinquent, and being provided with a speaking-trumpet,
no sooner did a black gipsy bonnet and red cloak beneath it
appear on the forbidden edge, than "Off with your pattens"
echoed in rough seaman's voice to the terror of the sinners.
These two old brothers, the one a bachelor, the other a
widower, had their hearts set upon the same earthly object, the
only child of the one, my grandmother. To judge of her from
the fragments of her journals, her scraps of poetry, some copied,
some original, her pocket-books full of witty memoranda, her
receipt-books, songs, and the small library, in each volume of
which her name was beautifully written, she must have been an
accomplished woman and passing clever, with rather more than
a touch of the coarseness of her times.
She had a temper! for dear, good Mrs. Sophy used to tell
us, as a warning to me, how every one in her household used to
fly from her presence when it was up, hiding till the brief
storm was over. She was not handsome, short in figure, with
the Raper face, and undecided complexion; but she had lovers.
In early youth a cousin Harry figured in her private MS., he
must have been the Admiral's father; and after came a more
serious business, an engagement to Bishop Horsley; there was
an illness, and when the heiress recovered she married her
Doctor! — my grandfather — whether with or without the consent
of her family I do not know; it certainly was not with their
approbation, for they looked on my grandfather as a mere
adventurer, and did not thoroughly forgive my grandmother for
years; not till my great-uncle Rothie, with his graceful wife,
came to London to visit their brother the Doctor, when the
Raper connection was relieved to see that the honour of the
alliance was at least mutual.
Although my grandfather lived to get into great practice as
a physician, his income at the time of his marriage was not considerable;
the Raper addition to it was extremely welcome.
Her father allowed Mrs. Grant a guinea a day, paid punctually
to herself in advance on the first of the month in a little rouleau
of gold pieces; as I understood, this was never promised, but
never failed. The uncle at Thorley, too, kindly assisted the
housekeeping. On New Year's Day he regularly gave or sent
his niece a piece of plate and a hundred pounds, so regularly
that she quite reckoned on it, unwisely; for one day the uncle,
talking with her confidentially upon the Doctor's improved ways
and means, trusting matters were really comfortable; "Oh dear,
yes," replied she; "fees are becoming plenty, and the lectures
bring so much, and my father gives so much, and then, uncle,
there is your hundred pounds." "True, niece," answered the
odd uncle, and to the day of his death he never gave her
another guinea! He saved all the more for my father, little
thinking all his hoards were destined for that odious S—
G— and the electors of Great Grimsby.
My grandfather and grandmother were married twelve years
before they had a child, then came my father, and four years
after, in giving birth to my aunt Lissy, her mother died. The
Highlanders saw the hand of a rewarding providence in the
arrival of these children to a lonely home, my grandmother
having signally approved herself in their eyes by her behaviour on
a memorable occasion; I don't know how they accounted, on the
same principles, for her early death in the midst of these
blessings.
The visit that the Laird and the Lady of Rothiemurchus had
paid to Doctor and Mrs. Grant at their large house in Lime Street
was to be returned, but, after repeated delays, his professional
business preventing the Doctor from taking such a holiday, his
wife was to go north without him, but with his younger brother,
Alexander the clergyman, who was then curate at Henley, where
he had been for some time with his wife and her sister Miss;
Neale. Besides his clerical duties, he at this time took pupils,
who must have been at home for the holidays, when he could
propose to take his wife and his sister-in-law to the Highlands.
My great-uncle Rothie was unluckily living at Elgin, his
delicate wife having found the mountain air too keen for her,
but the object of the journey being principally to see Rothiemurchus,
the English party proceeded there under the charge of
their cousin, Mr. James Cameron, of Kinrara, Kinapol, and
latterly, in my remembrance, of the Croft.
My grandmother rode up from Elgin on a pillion behind
Mr. Cameron. She wore high-heeled, pointed-toed shoes, with
large rosettes, a yellow silk quilted petticoat, a chintz sacque or
fardingale bundled up behind, and a little black hat and
feather stuck on one side of her powdered head. She sang the
Beggar's Opera through during the journey with a voice of
such power that Mr. Cameron never lost the recollection of it.
One of the scenes they went to view was that from the churchyard;
the old church is beautifully situated on a rising ground
in a field not far from the house of the Doune, well backed by
a bank of birch wooding, and commanding a fine prospect both
up and down the valley of the Spey. My grandmother looked
round in admiration, and then, turning to Mr. Cameron, she
lamented in simple good faith that the Laird had no son
to inherit such a property. ”Both a loss and a gain," said Mrs.
Alexander in a blithe voice, "the parson and I have five fine
sons to heir it for him." Poor woman! she outlived them all,
and the following year my grandmother produced the delicate
boy, whose birth ended their expectations.
The Doctor and his rather eccentric true Raper wife lived
happily together, save for a slight occasional coolness on his
part, and some extra warmth now and then on hers. From the
time of her death, Mrs. Sophy told us, he never entered her
drawing-room, where all remained precisely as she had left it;
her harpsichord on one side of the fireplace, and her Japan
cabinet on the other, both remained locked: her bookcases were
undisturbed; a small round table that held a set of egg-shell
china out of which her favoured guests had received their tea,
had been covered with a cambric handkerchief by his own hand,
and no one ventured to remove the veil. All her wardrobe,
which was rich, and her trinkets, were left as she had left them,
never touched till they were packed in chests when he left
London, which chests were not opened till aunt Lissy came of
age, and then the contents were divided between her and my
father.
More than all, he laid aside his violin: they had been long
married before she knew he played. She had seen the violin
in its case, and wondered what it did there. At last she asked,
and was surprised and pleased to find him no mean performer.
How very odd, how individualised were the people of those old
days! On the death of her whom he had never seemed to
care to please, he laid aside the instrument he had really loved,
nor ever resumed it till he retired to the Doune, when my
father remembered his often bringing sweet music from it in
an evening. I can't tell why, but I was always much interested
in those old-world days.
My father never liked speaking of his childhood, it had
probably not been happy; he was reserved, too, on matters of
personal feeling. Not till I had nearly grown up did I hear
much from him of his boyhood, and even then it was drawn
from him by my evident pleasure in the answers this cross-questioning
elicited. He had only one recollection of his
mother, seeing her in long diamond earrings on some company
occasion, and sleeping with her by an accident when, tired out
with his chattering (my silent father!), she invented a new play
— a trial of who should go to sleep first. Her voice, he said,
was like aunt Lissy's, low and sweet. Aunt Lissy was a
Raper, and she loved Twyford, and after her marriage tried to
live there, but before the railway crossed the orchard, the distance
was great from chambers for so complete a man of business
as uncle Frere.
That last summer at Twyford, how fresh it comes back to
me! My father was away; we lived entirely with my mother,
Harriet, Bessy Maling, aunt Mary, cousin James, and Annie
Grant. Harriet was not a demonstrative person, but she had a
warm Scotch heart beneath her cool manner; she was very kind
to us, and amused us often when we should otherwise have
been in the way. She made us half-a-dozen ladies and gentlemen
of pasteboard, whose arms and legs were all made in
separate joints, just held together by a stitch of silk. Through
the bodies was passed a stronger thread, one end of which was
pinned to the carpet, the other was held in the hand and jerked
up and down in time to music, when the loose-limbed figure
capered like the wildest opera-dancer. They were refined
Souple Tams. Harriet painted their faces, we helping to mix
the colours. Annie dressed them in bits of finery brought from
Albemarle Street, and what shouts of merry laughter accompanied
the pianoforte which set our corps de ballet dancing !
We were sometimes, however, in the way, in spite of the
pains taken to amuse us. I remember Jane and Mary persisting
in standing by the table where cousin James was drawing,
and aunt Mary "patching" — two arts we never tired of
watching; no delicate hints sufficing to remove them, my
mother at last bid them go off and gather their aunt Mary
some green frogs. Aunt Mary was always nervous, so much so
as to be often called affected, and above every other antipathy
of the many she indulged in, was her utter horror of frogs.
She never strolled out on moonlight evenings for fear of seeing
these harmless creatures. Pleasant was the laugh, therefore,
with which the unconscious children were dismissed, none of the
party being more amused than aunt Mary. Very soon, however,
she gave an appalling shriek, for back came Jane and
Mary, their pinafores held well up, and Mary, advancing first,
opened her burden upon aunt Mary's knee — a dozen of little
green frogs! It banished her from the drawing-room for the
evening — the aunt, not the child; no one could persuade her
those odious animals had not hidden under all the chairs.
We dined with my mother, early for her, but late enough
for us, and following up the discipline to which we had been
accustomed, whatever dainties might adorn the table, our plain
dishes were always there. One day at the bottom was placed
boiled mutton, to which William, Jane, and I were helped. At
the top was a roast goose, very savoury with its stuffing and
rich gravy and apple sauce. It was a favourite dish with the
whole Houghton connection, and as tastes descend by inheritance,
little Mary quite naturally affected the goose, and declined
the offered mutton. "What's the matter, little Mary? not
hungry, my dear? ill? she looks very red," etc. — no answer.
There she sat, flushed certainly, but not otherwise remarkable,
except for her empty plate. At last the truth dawned upon my
mother, who rose and boxed the tiny ears. It was the ordinary
routine of education in all nurseries then. Mary cried, but
never spoke; she went without her dinner, and she passed an
hour or two in our condemned cell — the large Dutch-tiled fireplace
in the entrance hall — but she never gave up her secret,
except to Annie Grant, who, after a little tender coaxing,
learned that "I wanted duck."
The entrance hall was a large, low, square room panelled in
dark oak; floor the same, in a (heed pattern bright rubbed, with
an old-fashioned fireplace; it had a hanging chimney, a small
settle within on each side of the hearth; two dogs with antelopes'
heads on the ends of them — the Raper crest — the whole
lined with clean blue Dutch tiles representing Bible history.
There was Tobit and his dog and the whole story of his blindness
and its cure, and a great deal more that amused the culprits
placed on the settle of repentance. My mother sometimes dined
in this hall in the very height of summer, for the dining-room
looked to the south, and in spite of closed venetians was often
oppressively hot. The grape parlour was cool too, but the
narrow windows high on the wall made it dreary. The prettiest
room in the house was my mother's bedroom looking on the
orchard; it had three windows in a bow, and on one side at either
hand of the fireplace were two light closets in two turrets, one
she used as her washing closet, the other was neatly fitted up
for reading in. No wonder she ever after regretted the comforts
of Twyford.
Early in November 1807 we removed to town, and before
the end of the month my brother John was born, the youngest,
and most talented of us all. He was a small, thin, ugly baby,
and he remained a plain child, little of his age for many years,
no way remarkable. In the spring of 1808 William was sent
to Eton, not ten, poor child! very unfit for the buffetings of that
large public school, where the little boys were utterly neglected
by the masters, and made mere slaves and drudges by the elder
boys, many of whom used their fags unmercifully. William
was fortunate in this respect, his first master was the present
Duke of Leinster, a very good-natured lad; his dame, too, Mrs.
Denton, was kind to all her boys in a sort of way; but poor
William was far from happy, he told us in confidence at midsummer,
though it would have been incorrect to allow this
publicly. We were proud of having a brother at Eton then,
now I look back with horror on that school of corruption, where
weak characters made shipwreck of all worth.
We passed a very happy winter. My mother was more out
in society than usual, having Harriet to introduce. We had
hardly any lessons except such as we chose to do for our masters,
M. Beckvelt, Mr. Thompson, and Mr. Jones, which very often
was little enough; we were a great deal in Brunswick Square
with uncle and aunt Frere, we had the two babies to play with,
John Frere and our own Johnnie, and we had now a large
acquaintance in the Square. We had great games of "Tom
Tiddler," "Thread the needle," "Follow the Leader," "Hen and
Chickens," and many more, our merry laughter ringing round
the gardens, where we were so safe, so uncontrolled, and so
happy, though we were not among the élite of our little world.
An elder set kept itself quite distinct from the younger ones,
and a grander set walked in stately pride apart from either.
Sir John Nicholls' daughters and Mr. Spencer Percival's never
turned their exclusive looks upon meaner neighbours, while
Justice Park's, with Daniels, Scarletts, Bennets, and others growing
up, would only smile upon the children they passed occasionally.
We, all unknowing and equally uncaring, romped merrily
on in our gleesome play-hours, Tyndales, Huttons, Grants,
Williams, Vivians. Besides, we had a grade or two below ourselves
with which on no account were we to commingle; some
coarse-shoed, cotton-gloved children, and a set who entered with
borrowed keys, and certainly appeared out of their proper place.
Home was quite as pleasant as the Square, the baby made us so
merry. I worked for him too; this employment was quite a
passion with me; from very early days down to this very hour
generations of little people might have thanked my busy fingers
for their outfit. My box of baby clothing has never been empty
since I first began to dress my doll. Many a weary hour has
been beguiled by this useful plain work, for there are times
when reading, writing, or more active employments only irritate,
and when needlework is really soothing, particularly when there
is an object in the labour. It used as a child to give me a glow
of delight to see the work of my fingers on my sisters and
brothers, and on the Rothiemurchus babies; for it was only for
our own poor that I busied myself, everybody giving me scraps
for this purpose, and sometimes help and patterns. My sisters
never worked from choice; they much preferred to the quiet
occupations, the famous romps in Brunswick Square, where,
aunt Lissy having no nerves, her tall brothers-in-law, who were
all uncles Frere to us, made perfect bedlam in her drawing-room,
and after dinner made for us rabbits of the doyleys, cut
apples into swans and wells, and their pips into mice.
Uncle John, the ambassador, was rather stately; but uncle
Bartle, his secretary, was our grand ally; William, the sergeant,
came next in our esteem; Edward was quieter; the two
younger, Harley and Temple, were all we could wish. The two
sisters we hardly knew, Lady Orde was in the country, and Miss
Frere, my aunt's friend Susan, was generally ill. There was a
friend, however, Sir Robert Ainslie, whom we thought charming,
and a Lady Laurie and her brother, Captain Hatley, who were
very likeable. We were pretty well off for friends at home;
Captain Stevenson and his brother Colonel Barnes were famous
playfellows, and our cousin Harry Raper, and the old set besides.
Also we helped to dress my mother and Harriet for their parties,
and had once great fun preparing them for a masquerade, when,
with the assistance of some friends, they all went as the country
party in the Journey to London, my mother being such a
pretty Miss Jenny. Another time Harriet went as a Highland
girl, in some fantastic guise of Miss Stewart's invention,
and meeting with a kilted, belted, well-plumed Highlander, had
fun enough to address him in Gaelic, and he, not understanding
one word of what should have been his native tongue, retreated
confounded, she following, till he turned and fled, to the delight
of the lookers-on who somehow always seem to enjoy the discomfiture
of a fellow-creature. It was Harriet's last exploit in
London. She went north to some of her Highland aunts, in
company with her brother Patrick the laird this spring; her
sister Anne remaining with her far-away cousin, Mrs. Peter
Grant, at Ramsgate. Anne was a stiff, formal, reserved girl,
good-natured enough, yet not a favourite with any of us. I
remember admiring the beauty of her needlework; she generally
brought little presents of embroidery for my mother, dolls'
clothes for us, and a pin-cushion or pen-wiper for the study-table
when she came to visit us. Mrs. Peter Grant was a great amusement
to us, a very pretty, obliging little woman, dissolved in
excess of feeling. The Malings were sentimental, soft and
gentle and sighing, but she was sentiment run mad. Her
widowed griefs were perpetually paraded, she nursed her sorrows
and got fat on them, for she was quite a comfortable roundabout
body, and both astonished and diverted us by this habit she had
got into, — it did not seem much more; and we, who were
brought up to annoy no one, to put self out of the way, to keep
our own feelings to our own selves, to sacrifice them if necessary,
could not understand this perpetual whining over the memory of
a scapegrace of a cousin whom we had never known. She was a
good creature after all, worth a thousand of her impassable pupil.
Early in the summer of 1808, we all started together for the
Highlands. The greater part of the furniture had been sent
from Twyford to the Doune, where, truth to say, it was very
much wanted. The servants all went north with it by sea, excepting
those in immediate attendance on ourselves. A new
barouche landau was started this season, which served for many
a year, and was a great improvement upon either the old heavy
close coach or the leather-curtained sociable. Four bays in
hand conducted us to Houghton, where after a visit of a few
days my father proceeded on his circuit, and my mother removed
with the children to Seaham, a little bathing hamlet on
the coast of Durham, hardly six miles from Houghton. She had
often passed an autumn there when a child, with some of her
numerous brothers and sisters, and she said it made her feel
young again to find herself there once more, wandering over all
the ground she knew so well. She was indeed in charming
spirits during the whole of our sojourn at this pretty place. We
lived entirely with her, she bathed with us, walked with us, we
gladly drove in turn with her. We took our meals with her,
and she taught us how to make necklaces of the seaweed and
the small shells we found, and how to clean and polish the large
shells for fancy works she had done in her own childhood, when
she, our grave, distant mother, had run about and laughed like
us. How very happy parents have it in their power to make
their children! We grew fat and rosy, required no punishments,
hardly indeed a reprimand; but then Mrs. Millar had
left us, she had gone on a visit to her friends at Stockton, taking
the baby with her, for as far as care of him was concerned she
was quite to be trusted.
We lived in a little public-house, the only inn in the place.
We entered at once into the kitchen, bright and clean, and full
of cottage valuables; a bright "sea-coal" fire burned always
cheerily in the grate, and on the settle at one side generally sat
the old grandfather of the family, with his pipe, or an old worn
newspaper, or a friend. The daughter, who was mistress of the
house, kept bustling about in the back kitchen where all the
business went on, which was quite as clean, though not so
handsomely furnished, as the one where the old man sat. There
was a scullery besides for dirty work, such as baking, brewing,
washing, and preparing the cookery. A yard behind held a
large water-butt and several outhouses; a neatly-kept flower-garden,
a mere strip, lay beneath the windows in the front, opening
into a large kitchen garden on one side. The sea, though
not distant, could only be seen from the upper windows; for
this and other reasons we generally sat upstairs. Roses and
woodbine clustered round the lattices, the sun shone in, the
scent of the flowers, and the hum of the bees and the chirp of the
birds, all entered the open casements freely; and the polished
floors and furniture, and the clean white dimity hangings, added
to the cheerfulness of our suite of small attics. The parlour
below was dull by comparison. It could only be reached
through the front kitchen; tall shrubs overshaded the window,
it had green walls, hair-bottomed chairs set all round by them;
one round table in the middle of the room oiled till it was nearly
black, and rubbed till it shone like a mirror; a patch of carpet
was spread beneath this table, and a paper net for catching flies
hung from the ceiling over it; a corner cupboard full of tall
glasses and real old china tea-cups, and a large china punchbowl
on the top, and a corner-set arm-chair with a patch-work
cover on the cushion, are all the extras I remember. We were
very little in this "guest-chamber," only at our meals or on
rainy days. We were for ever on the beach, strolling along the
sands, which were beautiful; sitting on the rocks or in the caves,
penetrating as far into them as we dared. When we bathed we
undressed in a cave and then walked into the sea, generally
hand in hand, my mother heading us. How we used to laugh
and dance, and splash, and push, anything but dip, we avoided
that as much as possible; then in consideration of our cold bath
we had a warm tea breakfast and felt so light. It was a very
happy time at Seaham. Some of the Houghton cousins were
often with us, Kate and Eliza constantly. We had all straw
bonnets alike, coarse dunstables lined and trimmed with green,
with deep curtains on the neck, pink gingham frocks and holland
pinafores, baskets in our hands, and gloves in our pockets. We
did enjoy the seashore scrambles. On Sundays we were what
we thought very fine, white frocks all of us; the cousins had
white cambric bonnets and tippets, and long kid gloves to meet
the short sleeves. We had fine straw bonnets trimmed with
white, and black silk spencers. My mother wore gipsy hats, in
which she looked beautiful; they were tied on with half-handkerchiefs
of various colours, and had a single sprig of artificial
flowers inside over one eye. We went to church either at Sea-ham
or Houghton, the four bays carrying us quickly to my
uncle Ironside's, when we spent the remainder of the day there
always, our own feet bearing us to the little church on the cliffs
when it suited my mother to stay at home.
The name of the old Rector of Seaham I cannot recollect; he
was a nice kind old man, who most good-naturedly, when we
drank tea at the parsonage, played chess with me, and once or
twice let me beat him. He had a kind homely wife too, our
great ally. She had many housekeeping ways of pleasing
children. The family, a son and two or three daughters, were
more aspiring; they had annual opportunities of seeing the
ways of more fashionable people, and so tried a little finery at
home, in particular drilling an awkward lout of a servant boy
into a caricature of a lady's page. One evening, in the drawing-room,
the old quiet mamma observing that she had left her knitting
in the parlour, the sprucest of the daughters immediately
rose and rang the bell and desired this attendant to fetch it,
which he did upon a silver salver; the thick grey woollen stocking
for the parson's winter wear, presented with a bow — such a
bow! to his mistress. No comments that I heard were made
upon this scene, but it haunted me as in some way incongruous.
Next day, when we were at our work in the parlour, I
came out with, "Mamma, wouldn't you rather have run down
yourself and brought up that knitting?" "You would, I hope,
my dear," answered she with her smile — she had such a sweet
smile when she was pleased — "you would any of you." How
merrily we worked on, though our work was most particularly
disagreeable, an economical invention of our aunt Mary's. She
had counselled my mother to cut up some fine old cambric petticoats
into pocket-handkerchiefs for us, thus giving us four hems
to each, so that they were very long in hand. Jane never got
through one during the whole time we were at Seaham; it was
so dragged, and so wetted with tears, and so dirtied from being
often begun and ripped and begun again, I believe at last it went
into the rag bag, while I, in time, finished the set for both, not,
however, without a little private grudge against the excellent
management of aunt Mary. Aunt Mary was then living at
Houghton with her maiden aunt, Miss Jane Nesham. She and
aunt Fanny had been there for some months, but aunt Mary
was to go on to the Highlands with us whenever my father
returned from circuit, and in the meantime she often came over
for a day or two to Seaham.
Except the clergyman's family there was none of gentle
degree in the village, it was the most primitive hamlet ever met
with, a dozen or so of cottages, no trade, no manufacture, no
business doing that we could see: the owners were mostly servants
of Sir Ralph Milbanke's. He had a pretty villa on the
cliff surrounded by well-kept grounds, where Lady Milbanke
liked very much to retire in the autumn with her little
daughter, the unfortunate child granted to her after eighteen
years of childless married life. She generally lived quite
privately here, seeing only the Rector's family, when his daughters
took their lessons in high breeding; and for a companion for
the future Lady Byron at these times she selected the
daughter of our landlady, a pretty, quiet, elegant-looking girl,
who bore very ill with the public-house ways after living for
weeks in Miss Milbanke's apartments. I have often wondered
since what became of little Bessy. She liked being with us. She
was in her element only with refined people, and unless Lady
Milbanke took her entirely and provided for her, she had done
her irremediable injury by raising her ideas beyond her home.
Her mother seemed to feel this, but they were dependants, and
did not like to refuse "my lady." Surely it could not have been
that modest graceful girl, who was " born in the garret, in the
kitchen bred"? I remember her mother and herself washing
their hands in a tub in the back-yard after some work they had
been engaged in, and noticing sadly, I know not why, the
bustling hurry with which one pair of red, rough hands was
yellow-soaped, well plunged, and then dried off on a dish-cloth;
and the other pale, thin delicate pair was gently soaped and
slowly rinsed, and softly wiped on a towel brought down for the
purpose. What strangely curious incidents make an impression
upon some minds! Bessy could make seaweed necklaces and
shell bags and work very neatly. She could understand our
books too, and was very grateful for having them lent to her.
My mother never objected to her being with us, but our Houghton
cousins did not like playing with her, their father and mother,
they thought, would not approve of it; so when they were with
us our more humble companion retired out of sight, giving us a
melancholy smile if we chanced to meet her. My mother had
no finery. She often let us, when at Houghton, drink tea with
an old Nanny Appleby, who had been their nursery-maid. She
lived in a very clean house with a niece, an eight-day clock, a
chest of drawers, a corner-set chair, and a quantity of bright
pewter. The niece had twelve caps, all beautifully done up,
though of various degrees of rank; one was on her head, the other
eleven in one of the drawers of this chest, as we counted, for we
were taken to inspect them. The aunt gave us girdle cakes,
some plain, some spiced, and plenty of tea, Jane getting hers in
a real china cup, which was afterwards given to her on account
of her possessing the virtue of being named after my mother.
There were grander parties, too, at Houghton, among the aunts
and the uncles and the cousins. At these gayer meetings my great-aunts
Peggy and Elsie appeared in the very handsome headgear
my mother had brought them from London, which particularly
impressed me as I watched the old ladies bowing and jingling
at the tea-table night after night. They were called dress
turbans, and were made alike of rolls of muslin folded round a
catgut headpiece and festooned with large loops of large beads
ending in bead tassels, after the most approved prints of Tippoo
Sahib. They were considered extremely beautiful as well as
fashionable, and were much admired. We also drove in the
mornings to visit different connections, on one occasion going
as far as Sunderland, where the iron bridges so delighted Jane
and me, and the shipping and the busy quays, that we were
reproved afterwards for a state of over-excitement that prevented
our responding properly to the attentions of our great-aunt
Blackburn, a remarkably handsome woman, though then upwards
of eighty.
It was almost with sorrow that we heard circuit was over;
whether sufficient business had been done on it to pay the
travelling expenses, no one ever heard, or I believe inquired, for
my father was not communicative upon his business matters;
he returned in his usual good spirits. Mrs. Millar and Johnnie
also reappeared; aunt Mary packed up; she took rather a doleful
leave of all and started. There had been a great many mysterious
conversations of late between my mother and aunt Mary,
and as they had begun to suspect the old how-vus do-vus
language was become in some degree comprehensible to us, they
had substituted a more difficult style of disguised English. This
took us a much longer time to translate into common sense.
"Herethegee isthegee athegee letthegee terthegee fromthegee," etc. I
often wondered how with words of many syllables they managed
to make out such a puzzle, or even to speak it themselves. It
baffled us for several days; at last we discovered the key, or the
clue, and then we found a marriage was preparing — whose,
never struck us — it was merely a marriage in which my mother
and my aunts were interested, the arrangements for which were
nearly completed, so that the event itself was certain to take
place in the course of the summer. We were very indifferent
about it, almost grudging the pains we had taken to master the
gibberish that concealed the parties from us, no fragment of a
name having ever been uttered in our hearing.
At Edinburgh, of course, my father's affairs detained him as
usual; this time my mother had something to do there. Aunt
Mary had been so long rusticating at Houghton — four months, I
think — that her wardrobe had become very old-fashioned, and
as there was always a great deal of company in the Highlands
during the shooting season, it was necessary for her to add considerably
to it. Dressmakers consequently came to fit on dresses,
and we went to silk mercers, linen-drapers, haberdashers, etc.
Very amusing indeed, and no way extraordinary; and so we
proceeded to Perth, where, for the last time, we met our great-uncle
Sandy. This meeting made the more impression on me,
not because of his death soon after, for we did not much care for
him, but for his openly expressed disappointment at my changed
looks. I had given promise of resembling his handsome mother,
the Lady Jean Gordon, with her fair oval face, her golden hair,
and brilliant skin; I had grown into a Raper, to his dismay,
and he was so ungallant as to enter into particulars — yellow,
peaky, skinny, drawn up, lengthened out, everything disparaging;
true enough, I believe, for I was not strong, and many a
long year had to pass before a gleam of the Gordon beauty
settled on me again. It passed whole and entire to Mary, who
grew up an embodiment of all the perfection of the old family
portraits. Jane was a true Ironside then and ever, William
ditto, John like me, a cross between Grant and Raper.
They did not understand me, and they did not use me well.
The physical constitution of children nobody thought it necessary
to attend to then, the disposition was equally neglected, no
peculiarities were ever studied; how many early graves were the
consequence! I know now that my constitution was eminently
nervous; this extreme susceptibility went by many names in
my childhood, and all were linked with evil. I was affected, sly,
sullen, insolent, everything but what I really was, nervously shy
when noticed. Jealous too, they called me, jealous of dear good
Jane, because her fearless nature, fine healthy temperament,
as shown in her general activity, her bright eyes and rosy cheeks,
made her a much more satisfactory plaything than her timid
sister. Her mind, too, was precocious; she loved poetry, understood
it, learned it by heart, and expressed it with the feeling of
a much older mind, acting bits from her favourite Shakespeare
like another Roscius. These exhibitions and her dancing made
her quite a little show, while I, called up on second thoughts to
avoid distinctions, cut but a sorry figure beside her; this
inferiority I felt, and felt it still further paralyse me. Then
came the unkind, cutting rebuke, which my loving heart could
ill bear with. I have been taunted with affectation when my
fault was ignorance, called sulky when I have been spirit-crushed.
I have been sent supperless to bed for not, as Cassius, giving the
cue to Brutus, whipped by my father at my mother's representation
of the insolence of my silence, or the impudence of the pert
reply I was goaded on to make; jeered at as the would-be
modest, flouted as envious. How little they guessed the depth
of the affection thus tortured. They did it ignorantly, but how
much after-grief this want of wisdom caused; a very unfavourable
effect on my temper was the immediate result, and health
and temper go together.
CHAPTER V
1803-1809
ON reaching the Doune a great many changes at first perplexed
us. The stables in front of the house were gone, also the old
barn, the poultry-house, the duck-pond; every appurtenance of
the old farmyard was removed to the new offices at the back of
the hill; a pretty lawn extended round two sides of the house,
and the backwater was gone, the broom island existed no longer,
no thickets of beech and alder intercepted the view of the Spey.
A green field dotted over with trees stretched from the broad
terrace on which the house now stood to the river, and the
washing-shed was gone. All that scene of fun was over, pots,
tubs, baskets and kettles were removed with the maids and their
attendants to a new building, always at the back of the hill,
better adapted, I daresay, to the purposes of a regular laundry,
but not near so picturesque, although quite as merry, as our
beloved broom island. I am sure I have backwoods tastes, like
my aunt Frere, whom I never could, by letter or in conversation,
interest in the Rothiemurchus improvements. She said the
whole romance of the place was gone. She prophesied, and
truly, that with the progress of knowledge all the old feudal
affections would be overwhelmed, individuality of character would
cease, manners would change, the Highlands would become like
the rest of the world, all that made life most charming there
would fade away, little would be left of the olden time, and
life there would become as uninteresting as in other little-remarkable
places. The change had not begun yet, however.
There was plenty of all in the rough as yet in and about the
Doune, where we passed a very happy summer, for though just
round the house were alterations, all else was the same. The
old servants were there, and the old relations were there, and
the lakes and the burnies, and the paths through the forest,
and we enjoyed our out-of-door life more this season than usual,
for cousin James Griffith arrived shortly after ourselves with his
sketch-book and paint-boxes, and he passed the greater part of
the day wandering through all that beautiful scenery, Jane and
I his constant companions. Mary was a mere baby, but William,
Jane, and I, who rode in turns on the grey pony, thought ourselves
very big little people, and expected quite as matter of right to belong
to all the excursion trains, were they large or small. Cousin
James was fond of the Lochans with their pretty fringe of birch-wood,
and the peeps through it of the Croft, Tullochgrue, and
the mountains. A sheep path running along by the side of the
burn which fed these picturesque small lochs was a favourite
walk of aunt Mary's, and my father had christened it by her
name. It started from the Polchar, and followed the water to
the entrance of the forest, where, above all, we loved to lose ourselves,
wandering on amongst the immense roots of the fir trees,
and then scattering to gather cranberries, while our artist companion
made his sketches. He liked best to draw the scenery
round Loch-an-Eilan; he also talked to us if we were near him,
explaining the perspective and the colouring and the lights and
shadows, in a way we never forgot, and which made these same
scenes very clear to us afterwards. It was, indeed, hardly possible
to choose amiss; at every step there lay a picture. All through the
forest, which then measured in extent nearly twenty square
miles, small rivers ran with sometimes narrow strips of meadow-land
beside them; many lochs of various sizes spread their
tranquil waters here and there in lonely beauty. In one of them,
as its name implied, was a small island quite covered by the
ruins of a stronghold, a memento of the days of the Bruce, for
it was built by the Red Comyns, who then owned all Strathspey
and Badenoch. A low square tower at the end of the ruin
supported an eagle's nest. Often the birds rose as we were
watching their eyrie, and wheeled skimming over the loch in
search of the food required by the young eaglets, who could be
seen peeping over the pile of sticks that formed their home. Up
towards the mountains the mass of fir broke into straggling
groups of trees at the entrance of the glens which ran far up
among the bare rocky crags of the Grampians. Here and there
upon the forest streams rude sawmills were constructed, where
one or at most two trees were cut up into planks at one time.
The sawmiller's hut close beside, a cleared field at hand with a
slender crop of oats growing on it, the peat-stack near the door,
the cow, and of course a pony, grazing at will among the
wooding. Nearer to the Spey the fir wood yielded to banks of
lovely birch, the one small field expanded into a farm; yet over
all hung the wild charm of Nature, mountain scenery in mountain
solitude beautiful under any aspect of the sky.
Our summer was less crowded with company than usual, very
few except connections or a passing stranger coming to mar the
sociability of the family party. Some of the Cumming Gordons
were with us, the Lady Logie, and Mrs. Cooper, with whom my
mother held secret mysterious conferences. There were Kinrara
gaieties too, but we did not so frequently share in them, some very
coarse speeches of the Duchess of Manchester having too much
disgusted cousin James to make him care for such company too
often repeated. He had a very short time before been elected
Head of his college in Oxford. As Master of University with a
certain position, a good income, a fine house, and still better
expectations through his particular friends Lord Eldon the
Chancellor, and his brother Sir William Scott, he was now able
to realise a long-cherished hope of securing his cousin Mary to
share his prosperous fortunes. This was the expected marriage
that the hethegee-shethegee language had attempted to conceal from
us, and did, in fact, till very near the time of its completion,
when we found it out more by the pains my mother took to leave
the lovers together than by any alteration in their own imperturbably
calm deportment. They were going together in
middle age, very sensibly on both parts, first loves on either
side, fervent as they were, having been long forgotten, and they
were to be married and to be at home in Oxford by the gaudy
day in October. The marriage was to take place in the Episcopal
chapel at Inverness, and the whisperings with Mrs. Cooper had
reference to the necessary arrangements. It was on the 19th of
September, my brother William's birthday, that the bridal party
set out; a bleak day it was for encountering Slochd Mor;
that wild, lonely road could have hardly looked more dreary. I
accompanied the aunt I was so very much attached to, in low
enough spirits, having the thought of losing her for ever,
dreading many a trial she had saved me from, and Mrs Millar,
who feared her searching eye. My prospects individually were
not brightened by the happy event every one congratulated the
family on. Cousin James was to take his wife by the coast road
to Edinburgh, and then to Tennochside. Some other visits were
to be paid by the way, so my aunt had packed the newest
portion of her wardrobe, much that she had been busied upon
with her own neat fingers all those summer days, and all her
trinkets, in a small trunk to take with her on the road; while
her heavy boxes had preceded us by Thomas Mathieson, the
carrier, to Inverness, and were to be sent on from thence by sea
to London. We arrived at Grant's Hotel, the carriage was
unpacked, and no little trunk was forthcoming! It had been
very unwisely tied on behind, and had been cut off from under
the rumble by some exemplary Highlander in the dreary
waste named from the wild boors. My poor aunt's little
treasures! for she was far from rich, and had strained her
scanty purse for her outfit. Time was short, too, but my mother
prevailed on a dressmaker — a Grant — to work. She contributed
of her own stores. The heavy trunks had luckily not sailed;
they were ransacked for linen, and on the 20th of September
good Bishop Macfarlane united as rationally happy a pair as ever
undertook the chances of matrimony together.
We all loved aunt Mary, and soon had reason to regret her.
Mrs. Millar, with no eye over her, ruled again, and as winter
approached and we were more in the house, nursery troubles
were renewed. My father had to be frequently appealed to,
severities were resumed. One day William was locked up in a
small room reserved for this pleasant purpose, the next day it
was I, bread and water the fare of both. A review of the
volunteers seldom saw us all collected on the ground, there was
sure to be one naughty child in prison at home. We were
flogged too for every error, boys and girls alike, but my father
permitted no one to strike us but himself. My mother's
occasional slaps and boxes on the ear were mere interjections
taken no notice of. It was upon this broken rule that I prepared
a scene to rid us of the horrid termagant, whom my mother with
a gentle, self-satisfied sigh announced to all her friends as such a
treasure. William was my accomplice, and this was our plan. My
father's dressing-closet was next to our sitting nursery, and he,
with limper regularity, made use of it most methodically, dressing
at certain stated hours, continuing a certain almost fixed time
at his toilette, very seldom indeed deviating from this routine,
which all in the same house were as well aware of as we were, Mrs.
Millar among the rest. The nursery was very quiet while he
was our neighbour. It did sometimes happen, however, that he
ran up from his study to the dressing-room at unwonted hours,
and upon this chance our scheme was founded. William was to
watch for this opportunity; as soon as it occurred he secretly
warned me, and I immediately became naughty, did something
that I knew- would be particularly disagreeable to Mrs. Millar.
She found fault pretty sharply, I replied very pertly, in fact as
saucily as I could, and no one could do it better; this was
followed as I expected by two or three hard slaps on the back
of my neck, upon which I set up a scream worthy of the rest of
the scene, so loud, so piercing, that in came my father to find me
crouching beneath the claws of a fury. "I have long suspected
this, Millar," said he, in the cold voice that sunk the heart of
every culprit, for the first tone uttered told them that their
doom was sealed. "Six weeks ago I warned you of what would
be the consequences; you can go and pack up your clothes
without delay, in an hour you leave this for Aviemore," — and she
did. No entreaties from my mother, no tears from the three
netted younger children, no excuses of any sort availed. In an
hour this odious woman had left us for ever. I can't remember
her wicked temper now without shuddering at all I went
through under her charge. In her character, though my father
insisted on mentioning the cause for which she was dismissed,
my mother had gifted her with such a catalogue of excellences,
that the next time we heard of her she was nurse to the young
Duke of Roxburghe — that wonder long looked for, come at last —
and nearly murdered him one day, keeping him under water for
some childish fault till he was nearly drowned, quite insensible
when taken out by the footman who attended him. After this
she was sent to a lunatic asylum, where the poor creature ended
her stormy days; her mind had probably always been too
unsettled to bear opposition, and we were too old as well as too
spirited to have been left so long at the mercy of an ignorant
woman, who was really a tender nurse to an infant then. In
some respects we were hardly as comfortable without her, the
good-natured Highland girl who replaced her not understanding
the neatnesses we had been accustomed to; and then I, like other
patriots, had to bear the blame of all these inconveniences; I,
who for all our sakes had borne these sharp slaps in order to
secure our freedom, was now complained of as the cause of very
minor evils; my little brothers and sisters, even William my
associate, agreeing that my passionate temper had aggravated
"poor Millar," who had always been "very kind" to them.
Such ingratitude! "Kill the next tiger yourselves," said I, and
withdrew from their questionable society for half a day, by
which time Jane having referred to the story of the soldier and the
Brahmin in our Evenings at Home, and thought the matter over,
made an oration which restored outward harmony; inwardly, I
remained a little longer angry — another half-day — a long period
in our estimate of time. My mother, however, discovered that
the gardener's young daughter would not do for us undirected,
so the coachman's wife, an English Anne, a very nice person
who had been nurse before she married, was raised from
the housemaid's place to be in Millar's, and it being determined
we were all to stay over the winter in the Highlands,
a very good plan was suggested for our profitable management.
We were certainly becoming not a little wild as it
was.
The minister of the united parishes of Duthil and Rothiemurchus
was a curious, tall, thin, shy, worthy, and rather clever
man, commonly known among us as Mr. Peter of Duthil. His
surname was Grant of course, his duties far from light, his cure
extending for about twenty miles down along Speyside, with all
the plains and glens on either hand of the river; the births and
marriages alone of all this district were work enough for one
man, considering the distances he had to travel to these ceremonies;
funerals he had little to do with unless he chose to
attend them out of any particular respect, the Presbyterians not
requiring of necessity any form of prayer at the grave, nor in
humble cases the blessing of the clergy at the preceding feast.
Private exhortations were never thought of, all who could read
preferring the Bible itself to man's exposition of it; and for
preaching, the service was long enough certainly, two psalms,
two prayers, and a sermon first in Gaelic, then in English; but it
was only once in the day, and when he officiated in the one
kirk, the other kirk was closed. We were entitled to Mr. Peter
only once in three weeks, being given over to the heathen the
other two Sundays, unless the laird exerted himself to provide
spiritual comfort for his people otherwise. There were what
were called Queen Anne's bounty clergy, a class of men ordained
but not beneficed, educated in the usual Divinity classes at
Aberdeen, picking up the crumbs of such learning as was taught
there, and generally of inferior birth even to the humble class
from which the Scotch clergy were then taken. One of these,
good old Mr. Stalker, with his poor, very poor Government
allowance, and some assistance from my father, and the further
help of a mob of scholars, for he kept the parish school, was then
settled in a cabin not a bit better than his neighbours, and gave
us sermons on the two blank Sundays; on all, I believe, when
"the family" was absent, Mr. Peter, honest man, indulging
himself with home during the winter snows and frosts at any
rate. Such a home! We used to hear him sometimes talk of
it, not in complaint he never dreamed of complaining; it used
to come out that he was neglected and lonely there, and very
happy at the Doune. Mrs. Peter, or rather Mrs. Grant of
Duthil, for she was dignified and literary, in fact a blue-stocking,
had but one aim in life — to rival the fame of Mrs. Grant of
Laggan. She began by two volumes of letters, full of heather
and sunsets, grey clouds and mists, and kindred feelings with
the half-pay officers around her and their managing wives; which
volumes not succeeding, though the Clan stood to her and
bought half of the edition, she determined to try a school on the
wild moor among the mountains, a school of pretension, not a
sensible, practical plan of improving education for the children
of those of her own degree, the owners of the little farms around
her. She imagined the fame of her talents would procure her
distinguished pupils from a distance, whose tastes she, tasteless,
was to cultivate; and she had inveigled a poor English girl, a
Miss Ramsay, from Newcastle to come to act the part of
principal teacher in the rather singularly conducted establishment.
'There was no account made of poor Mr. Peter, no pleasant
breakfast, nor cozy parlour, nor tidy dinner, nor well-swept
hearth with its good fire, nor cheerful companion for the minister;
his little closet of a study was his world, where he reigned in
solitude, content with such scanty attendance as two bare-footed,
overworked lasses could find a moment to give him. Everybody
pitied poor Mr. Peter, and he in his turn pitied the poor disappointed
English girl, who had found, instead of a well-ordered
place of instruction, a most distracted sort of Bedlam; wild,
rebellious, mindless girls, an ignorant fantastic head, and not a
comfort on earth. Between him and my mother it was arranged,
therefore, that when the year of her engagement at Duthil was
up, Miss Ramsay should remove to the Doune, a happy change
for her and a very fortunate hit for us. She was a kind, cheerful
creature, not capable of giving us much accomplishment, but
she gave us what we wanted more, habits of order. She employed
our day busily and rationally, not interfering with our play-hours
or our active out-of-door pursuits, on the contrary joining
in them when business was over, reading to us while we worked
or drew on rainy days, thus entirely banishing fretfulness from
our schoolroom. Drawing was a new pleasure, and one we took
to heartily, every one of us, little Jane and all. She and I were
Miss Ramsay's pupils, waited on by Grace Grant the souter's
daughter. Mary and the baby Johnnie remained under the care
of Mrs. Bird.
The autumn and winter passed very happily away, under
these improved arrangements. The following summer of 1809
was quite a gay one, a great deal of company flocking both to
the Doune, and Kinrara, and at midsummer arrived William; the
little fellow, not quite eleven years old then, had travelled all
the way south after the summer holidays from Rothiemurchus
to Eton, by himself, paying his way like a man; but they did
not put his courage to such a proof during the winter. He
spent both his Christmas and his Easter with the Freres, and so
was doubly welcome to us in July. He took care of himself as
before on this long journey, starting with many companions in
a post-chaise, dropping his friends here and there as they
travelled, till it became more economical to coach it. At Perth
all coaching ended, and I don't remember how he could have
got on from thence to Dalwhinnie, where a carriage from the
Doune was sent to meet him.
During the winter my father had been very much occupied
with what we considered mere toys, a little box full of soldiers,
painted wooden figures, and tin flags belonging to them, all
which he twisted about over the table to certain words of command,
which he took the same opportunity of practising. These
represented our volunteers, about which, ever since I could
remember, my father, whilst in the Highlands, had been extremely
occupied. There was a Rothiemurchus company, his
hobby, and an Invereshie company, and I think a Strathspey
company, but really I don't know enough of warlike matters —
though a Colonel's teddy — to say whether there could be as
many as three. There were officers from all districts certainly.
My father was the Lieutenant-Colonel; Ballindalloch, the major;
the captains, lieutenants, and ensigns were all Grants and Maephersons,
with the exception of our cousin Captain Cameron.
Most of the elders had served in the regular army, and had
retired in middle life upon their half-pay to little Highland
farms in Strathspey and Badenoch, by the names of which
they were familiarly known as Sluggan, Tullochgorm, Ballintomb,
Kinchurdy, Bhealiott. Very soldierly they looked in
the drawing-room in their uniforms, and very well the regiment
looked on the ground, the little active Highlander taking
naturally to the profession. There were fuglemen in those
days, and I remember hearing the inspecting general say that
tall Murdoch Cameron the miller was a superb model of a
fugleman. I can see him now in his picturesque dress, standing
out in front of the lines, a head above the tallest, directing the
movements so accurately followed. My father on field days
rode a beautiful bay charger named Favourite, covered with
goat-skins and other finery, and seemingly quite proud of his
housings. It was a kilted regiment., and a fine set of smart
well-set-up men they were, with their plumed bonnets, dirks,
and purses, and their low-heeled buckled shoes. My father
became his trappings well, and when, in early times, my mother
rode to the ground with him, dressed in a tartan petticoat, red
jacket gaudily laced, and just such a bonnet and feathers as he
wore himself, with the addition of a huge cairngorm on the side
of it, the old grey pony might have been proud in turn.
These displays had, however, long been given up. I recollect
her always quietly in the carriage with us bowing on all sides.
To prepare himself for command, my father, as I have said,
spent many a long evening manœuvring all his little figures;
to some purpose, for his Rothiemurchus men beat both Strathspey
and Badenoch. I have heard my uncle Lewis and Mr.
Cameron say there was little trouble in drilling the men, they
had their hearts in the work; and I have heard my father say
that the habits of cleanliness, and habits of order, and the sort
of waking up that accompanied it, had done more real good
to the people than could have been achieved by many years
of less exciting progress. So we owe Napoleon thanks. It was
the terror of his expected invasion that roused this patriotic
fever amongst our mountains, where, in spite of their distance
from the coast, inaccessibility, and other advantages of a hilly
position, the alarm was so great that every preparation was now
in train for repelling the enemy. The men were to face the foe,
the women to fly for refuge to Castle Grant. My mother was
all ready to remove there, when the danger passed; but it was
thought better to keep up the volunteers. Accordingly they
were periodically drilled, exercised, and inspected till the year
'13, if I remember rightly. It was a very pretty sight, either
on the moor of Tullochgorm or the beautiful meadows of
Dalnavert, to come suddenly on this fine body of men and the
gay crowd collected to look at them. Then their manoeuvres
with such exquisite scenery around them, and the hearty spirit
of their cheer whenever "the Leddy" appeared upon the
ground; the bright sun seldom shone upon a more exhilarating
spectacle. The Laird, their Colonel, reigned in all hearts.
After the "Dismiss," bread and cheese and whisky, sent forward
in a cart for the purpose, were profusely administered to the
men, all of whom from Rothiemurchus formed a running escort
round our carriage, keeping up perfectly with the four horses
in hand, which were necessary to draw the heavy landau up
and down the many steeps of our hilly roads. The officers rode
in a group round my father to the Doune to dinner, and I
recollect that it was in this year 1809 that my mother remarked
that she saw some of them for the first time in the drawing-room
to tea — and sober.
Miss Ramsay occupied us so completely this summer, we
were much less with the autumn influx of company than had
been usual with us. Happy in the schoolroom, still happier
out in the forest, with a pony among us to ride and tie, and our
luncheon in a basket, we were indifferent to the more dignified
parties whom we sometimes crossed in our wanderings. To
say the truth, my father and mother did not understand the
backwoods, they liked a very well cooked dinner, with all suitable
appurtenances in their own comfortable house; neither of
them could walk, she could not ride, there were no roads for
carriages, a cart was out of the question, such a vehicle as
would have answered the sort of expeditions they thus seldom
went on was never thought of, so with them it was a very
melancholy attempt at the elephant's dancing. Very different
from the ways of Kinrara. There was a boat on Loch-an-Eilan,
which was regularly rowed over to the old ruined castle, then
to the pike bay to take up the floats that had fish to them, and
then back to the echo and into the carriage again; but there
was no basket with luncheon, no ponies to ride and tie, no
dreaming upon the heather in pinafores all stained with blaeberries!
The little people were a great deal merrier than their
elders, and so some of these elders thought, for we were often
joined by the "lags of the drove," who perhaps purposely avoided
the grander procession. Kinrara was full as usual. The Duke of
Manchester was there with some of his children, the most
beautiful statue-like person that ever was seen in flesh and
blood. Poor Colonel Cadogan, afterwards killed in Spain, who
taught us to play the devil, which I wonder did not kill us;
certainly throwing that heavily-leaded bit of wood from one
string to the opposite, it might have fallen upon a head by the
way, but it never did. The Cummings of Altyre were always
up in our country, some of them in one house or the other, and
a Mr. Henville, an Oxford clergyman, Sir William's tutor, who
was in love with the beautiful Emilia, as was young Charles
Grant, now first seen among us, shy and plain and yet preferred;
and an Irish Mr. Macklin, a clever little, flighty, ugly man, who
played the flute divinely, and wore out the patience of the
laundry-maids by the number of shirts he put on per day; for
we washed for all our guests, there was no one in all Rothiemurchus
Competent to earn a penny in this way. He was a
"very clean gentleman," and took a bath twice a day, not in the
river, but in a tub — a tub brought up from the wash-house, for in
those days the chamber apparatus for ablutions was quite on
the modern French scale. Grace Baillie was with us with all
her pelisses, dressing in all the finery she could muster, and in
every style; sometimes like a flower-girl, sometimes like Juno;
now she was queen-like, then Arcadian, then corps de ballet, the
most amusing and extraordinary figure stuck over with coloured
glass ornaments, and by way of being outrageously refined; the
most complete contrast to her sister the Lady Logie. Well,
Miss Baillie coming upstairs to dress for dinner, opened the
door to the left instead of the door to the right, and came full
upon short, fat, black Mr. Macklin in his tub! Such a commotion!
we heard it in our schoolroom. Miss Baillie would not
appear at dinner. Mr. Macklin, who was full of fun, would stay
upstairs if she did; she insisted on his immediate departure, he
insisted on their swearing eternal friendship. Such a hubbub
was never in a house before. "If she'd been a young girl, one
would a'most forgive her nonsense," said Mrs. Bird, the nurse.
"If she had had common sense," said Miss Ramsay, "she would
have held her tongue; shut the door and held her tongue,
and no one would have been the wiser." We did not forget this
lesson in presence of mind, but no one having ventured on
giving even an idea of it to Miss Baillie, her adventure much
annoyed the ladies, while it furnished the gentlemen with an
excuse for such roars of laughter as might almost have brought
down the ceiling of the dining-room.
Our particular friend, Sir Robert Ainslie, was another who
made a long stay with us. He brought to my mother the first
of those little red morocco cases full of needles she had seen,
where the papers were all arranged in sizes, on a slope, which
made it easy to select from them. He had with him his Swiss
servant, the best valet, the best cook, the best aid to the housekeeper,
the kindest companion to children that ever entered a
house. William was his especial favourite, and in after-years
owed much at his Christmas holidays to the unfailing attentions
of this excellent friend, when he spent those holidays in
London which were too short to warrant the long journey to
his Scotch home. It is odd I should forget the name of this
favourite of ours, for he was quite our especial attendant during
his stay at the Doune, up in the guigne trees showering down
that most delicious of fruits to the expecting flock below, and
excelling on the water either in rowing or fishing. How well I
remember the day we all came exulting home from a very
successful expedition to the pike bay, William with a big fish
on a stick laid over his shoulder, the tail of it touching the
ground! It was measured and then weighed, and turned out
quite a wonder, stuffed and baked and eaten, and most surprising
of all, was really good. The pike in Loch-an-Eilan were uncommonly
large, living there so little disturbed; but I never
remember our catching another equal to this.
This was the first season I can recollect seeing a family we
all much liked, Colonel Gordon and his tribe of fine sons. He
brought them up to Glentromie in a boat set on wheels, which
after performing coach on the roads was used for loch-fishing in
the hills. He was a most agreeable and gentlemanly man, full
of amusing conversation, and always welcome to every house on
the way. He was said to be a careless father, and not a kind
husband to his very pretty wife, who certainly never accompanied
him up to the Glen. He was a natural son of the Duke
of Gordon's, a great favourite with the Duchess! much beloved
by Lord Huntly whom he exceedingly resembled, and so might
have done better for himself and all belonging to him, had not
the Gordon brains been of the lightest with him. He was not
so flighty, however, as another visitor we always received for a
few days, Lovat, the Chief of the Clan Fraser, who was indeed a
connection. The peerage had been forfeited by the wicked lord
in the last rebellion, the lands and the chieftainship had been
left with a cousin, the rightful heir, who had sprung from the
common stock before the attainder. He was an old man, and
his quiet, comfortable-looking wife was an old woman. They
had been at Cluny, the lady of the Macpherson chieftain being
their niece, or the laird their nephew, I don't exactly know
which; and their servants told ours they had had a hard matter
to get their master away, for he was subject to strange whims,
and he had taken it into his head when he was there that he
was a turkey hen, and so he had made a nest of straw- in his
carriage and filled it with eggs and a large stone, and there he
sat hatching, never leaving his station but twice a day like other
fowl, and having his supplies of food brought to him. They
had at last to get Lady Cluny's henwife to watch a proper
moment to throw out all the eggs and to put some young
chickens in their place, when Lovat, satisfied he had accomplished
his task, went about clucking and strutting with wonderful
pride in the midst of them. He was quite sane in conversation
generally, rather an agreeable man I heard them say, and would
be as steady as other people for a certain length of time; but
every now and then he took these strange fancies, when his wife
had much ado to bring him out of them. The fit was over
when he came to us. It was the year of the Jubilee when
George III. had reigned his fifty years. There had been great
doings at Inverness, which this old man described to us with
considerable humour. His lady had brought away with her
some little ornaments prepared for the occasion, and kindly
distributed some of them among us. I long kept a silver buckle
with his Majesty's crowned head somewhere upon it, and an
inscription commemorating the event in pretty raised letters
surrounding the medallion. By the bye it was on the entrance of
the old king upon his fiftieth year of reign that the Jubilee was
kept, in October I fancy 1809, for his state of health was such
he was hardly expected to live to complete it; that is, the world
at large supposed him to be declining. Those near his person
must have known that it was the mind that was diseased, not
the strong body, which lasted many a long year after this, though
every now and then his death was expected, probably desired,
for he had ceased to be a popular sovereign. John Bull respected
the decorum of his domestic life, and the ministerial
Tory party of course made the best of him. All we of this
day can say of him is, that he was a better man than his
son, though, at the period I am writing of, the Whigs, among
whom I was reared, were very far indeed from believing in this
truism.
I can't recollect whether it was in this year of the Jubilee,
1809, or the year before, that of aunt Mary's marriage, that the
whole world blazed up, like a tap o' tow, on account of the doings
of Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke and Colonel Wardle. She was a
worthless woman, who in the course of her professional life became
for a while the mistress of the Duke of York, and during
her reign of power made use of his name to realise large sums
of money by the sale of army patronage. Colonel Wardle, disappointed
like many others, for she did not always manage to
get the commissions sire had been paid for promising, was
yet the only one bold enough to show her and himself up, by
bringing the matter before the public. The pleasure of finding
royalty in half-a-dozen scrapes, made this said world wonderfully
patriotic, and of course virtuous. Colonel Wardle's own
delinquencies were quite overlooked, the sin of having tried
his own luck by these very dirty back-stairs was shrouded by
the glory of coming forward to throw such a set of bones upon
the public arena. He was made a hero of, addresses voted to
him from everywhere; meetings to praise him held all over the
country, even at Inverness; it was quite a rage. My father and
a stout band of Whigs attended our Highland demonstration,
and superlatived the Duke's infamy in great style, his folly
would have been the jester term, for of actual criminality
nobody accused him as far as his honour as Commander-in-Chief
was concerned. As a Christian man and a husband there was
no justifying his immoral life, though from what clean hands
the stones so heartily thrown at him could come, we might leave
to the rigid to discover. The outcry was so violent the ministry
was obliged to deprive the Duke of his office, although it was
not very long before there was as great an outcry to have him
back again, everything having gone wrong at the Horse Guards
without him. Colonel Wardle was discovered and dethroned,
Mrs. Clarke and her influence forgotten, and after-judgments pronounced
that throughout the whole transaction only one person
had behaved well, and that was the little quiet, trifling, generally
insignificant Duchess of York, who for the most part living
separate from her husband in the retirement of Oatlands, with
her rouge, her flowers and her poodles, upon this occasion came
to his house in London, drove out daily with him, and gave him
her countenance in every way possible. There was a good deal
of low party spirit at the bottom of the hubbub; party governed
all actions. The exposure, however, did some good, it put an
end to the system of jobbing which had been the scandal of the
profession hitherto. And the Duke, wise enough to profit by the
lesson, so effectually reformed the service when he returned to
power, that he is always considered the best Chief ever placed in
authority. The wants of the common soldiers he more particularly
attended to; they got to speak of him as their best
friend, and justly. But during the Wardle epidemic his character
in all respects was sadly maligned. Every now and then people
hunt up a scapegoat, and load it well before they are done
with it.
It was this autumn that a very great pleasure was given to
me. I was taken on a tour of visits with my father and mother.
We went first to Inverness, where my father had business with
his agent, Mr. Cooper. None of the lairds in our north
countrie managed their own affairs, all were in the hands of
some little writer body, who to judge by consequences ruined
most of their clients. One of these leeches generally sufficed for
ordinary victims. My dear father was preyed on by two or
three, of which fraternity Mr. Arthur Cooper was one. He had
married Miss Jenny and made her a very indulgent husband;
her few hundreds and the connection might have been her principal
attractions, but once attracted, she retained her power over
him to the end. She was plain but ladylike, she had very pretty,
gentle manners, a pleasing figure, beautiful hand, dressed neatly,
kept a very comfortable house, and possessed a clear judgment,
with high principles and a few follies; a little absurd pride, given
her perhaps by my great-aunt, the Lady Logie, who had brought
her up and was very fond of her. Who he was, nobody
knew. Betty Campbell declared his father was a shoemaker in
a good way of business, who had given "a fine education" to his
only son, and had set him up first in Forres, his native place,
whence he afterwards removed to Inverness. He was a most
vulgar body, short and fat and red-haired, and a great beau,
clever enough, I believe, and so full of a quaint kind of really
amusing gossip, that he made his way even with my mother.
We were all very fond of Mrs. Cooper, and she adored my father.
While we were at Inverness we paid some morning visits too
characteristic of the Highlands to be omitted in this true chronicle
of the times; they were all in the Clan. One was to the Miss
Grants of Kinchurdy, who were much patronised by all of their
name, although they had rather scandalised some of their relations
by setting up as dressmakers in the county town. Their
taste was not perfect, and their skill was not great, yet they
prospered. Many a comfort earned by their busy needles found
its way to the fireside of the retired officer their father, and their
helping pounds bought the active officer, their brother, his
majority. We next called on Mrs. Grant, late of Aviemore, and
her daughters, who had set up a school, no disparagement to the
family of an innkeeper although the blood they owned was
gentle, and last we took luncheon with my great-aunt, the Lady
Glenmoriston, a handsome old lady with great remains of shrewdness
in her countenance. I thought her cakes and custards excellent;
my mother, who had seen them all come out of a cupboard
in the bedroom, found her appetite fail her that morning.
Not long before we had heard of her grandson our cousin
Patrick's death, the eldest of my father's wards, the Laird; she
did not appear to feel the loss, yet she did not long survive him.
A clever wife, as they say in the Highlands, she was in her
worldly way. I did not take a fancy to her.
We left Inverness nothing loth, Mrs. Cooper's small house
in the narrow, dull street of that little town not suiting my ideas
of liberty; and we proceeded in the open barouche and four to
call at Nairn upon our way to Forres. At Nairn, comfortless
dreary Nairn, where no tree ever grew, we went to see a sister
of Logie's, a cousin, a Mrs. Baillie, some of whose sons had
found 31 Lincoln's Inn Fields a pleasant resting-place on the
road to India. Her stepson — for she was a second wife — the
great Colonel Baillie of Bundelcund and of Leys, often in his
pomposity, when I knew him afterwards, recalled to my mind the
very bare plenishing of this really nice old lady. The small,
cold house chilled our first feelings. The empty room, uncurtained,
half carpeted, with a few heavy chairs stuck formally
against the walls, and one dark-coloured, well-polished table
set before the fireplace, repressed all my gay spirits. It took
a great deal of bread and marmalade, scones and currant wine,
and all the kind welcome of the little, brisk old lady to restore
them; not till she brought out her knitting did I feel at home
— a hint remembered with profit. Leaving this odious fisher
place very near as quick as King James did, we travelled on to
dine at five o'clock at Burgie, a small, shapeless square of a house,
about two miles beyond Forres, one of the prettiest of village
towns, taking situation into the account. There is a low hill
with a ruin on it, round which the few streets have clustered;
trees and fields are near, wooded knolls not far distant, gentlemen's
dwellings peep up here and there; the Moray Firth, the
town and Sutors of Cromartie, and the Ross-shire hills in the distance;
between the village and the sea extends a rich flat of
meadowland, through which the Findhorn flows, and where stand
the ruins of the ancient Abbey of Kinloss, my father's late purchase.
I don't know why all this scene impressed me more than
did the beautiful situation of Inverness. In after-years I did
not fail in admiration of our northern capital, but at this period
I cannot remember any feeling about Inverness except the pleasure
of getting out of it, while at Forres all the impressions were
vivid because agreeable; that is I, the perceiver, was in a fitting
frame of mind for perceiving. How many travellers, ay, thinkers,
judges, should we sift in this way, to get at the truth of their
relations. On a bilious day authors must write tragically.
The old family of Dunbar of Burgie, said to be descended
from Randolph, Earl of Moray — though all the links of the chain
of connection were far from being forthcoming — had dwindled
down rather before our day to somebody nearly as small as a
bonnet Laird; his far-away collateral heir, who must have been
a most ungainly lad, judging from his extraordinary appearance
in middle age, had gone out to the West Indies to better his fortunes,
returning to take possession of his inheritance a little
before my father's marriage. In figure something the shape of
one of his own sugar hogsheads, with two short thick feet standing
out below, and a round head settled on the top like a picture
in the Penny Magazine of one of the old English punishments, and
a countenance utterly indescribable — all cheek and chin and
mouth, without half the proper quantity of teeth; dressed too
like a mountebank in a light blue silk embroidered waistcoat and
buff satin breeches, and this in Pitt and Fox days, when the
dark blue coat, and the red or the buff waistcoat, according to
the wearer's party, were indispensable. So dressed, Mr. Dunbar
presented himself to my father, to be introduced by him to an
Edinburgh assembly. My father, always fine, then a beau, and
to the last very nervous under ridicule! But Burgie was a
worthy man, honest and upright and kind-hearted, modest as
well, for he never fancied his own merits had won him his
wealthy bride; their estates joined, "and that," as he said himself,
"was the happy coincidence." The Lady Burgie and her
elder sister, Miss Brodie of Lethen, were co-heiresses. Coulmonie,
a very picturesque little property on the Findhorn, was the
principal possession of the younger when she gave her hand to
her neighbour, but as Miss Brodie never married, all their wide
lands were united for many a year to the names and titles of
the three contracting parties, and held by Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar
Brodie of Burgie, Lethen and Coulmonie during their long reign
of dulness; precedence being given to the gentleman after some
consideration. They lived neither at very pretty Coulmonie, nor
at very comfortable Lethen, nor even in the remains of the fine
old Castle of Burgie, one tall tower of which rose from among
the trees that sheltered its surrounding garden, and served only
as storehouse and toolhouse for that department; they built for
themselves the tea-canister-like lodge we found them in, and
placed it far from tree or shrub, or any object but the bare moor
of Macbeth's witches. My spare time at this romantic residence
was spent mostly in the tower, there being up at the top of it an
apple-room, where some little maiden belonging to the household
was occupied in wiping the apples and laying them on the
floor in a bed of sand. In this room was a large chest, made of
oak with massive hasps, several padlocks, and a chain; very
heavy, very grand-looking, indeed awful, from its being so
alone, so secured, and so mysteriously hidden as it were. It
played its part in after-years, when all that it did and all that
was done to it shall take the proper place in these my memoirs,
if I live to get so far on in my chroniclings. At this time I was
afraid even to allude to it, there appeared to be something so
supernatural about the look of it.
Of course we had several visits to pay from Burgie. In the
town of Forres we had to see old Mrs. Provost Grant and her
daughters, Miss Jean and Miss — I forget what — but she, the
nameless one, died. Miss Jean, always called in those parts
Miss Jean Pro, because her mother was the widow of the late
Provost, was the living frontispiece to the "world of fashion."
A plain, ungainly, middle-aged woman, with good Scotch sense
when it was wanted, occupied every waking hour in copying
the new modes in dress; no change was too absurd for Miss
Jean's imitation, and her task was not a light one, her poor purse
being scanty, and the Forres shops, besides being dear, were ill
supplied. My mother, very unwisely, had told me her appearance
would surprise me, and that I must be upon my guard and
show my good breeding by looking as little at this figure of fun
as if she were like other people; and my father repeated the
story of the Duchess of Gordon, who received at dinner at
Kinrara some poor dominie, never before in such a presence; he
answered all her civil inquiries thus, "'Deed no, my Lady
Duchess; my Lady Duchess, 'deed yes," she looking all the
while exactly as if she had never been otherwise addressed — not
even a side smile to the amused circle around her, lest she might
have wounded the good man's feelings. I always liked that
story, and thought of it often before and since, and had it well
on my mind on this occasion; but it did not prevent my long
gaze of surprise at Miss Pro. In fact, no one could have
avoided opening wide eyes at the caricature of the modes she
exhibited; she was fine, too, very fine, mincing her words to
make them English, and too good to be laughed at, which somehow
made it the more difficult not to laugh at her. In the early
days, when her father, besides his little shop, only kept the post-office
in Forres, she, the eldest of a whole troop of bairns, did
her part well in the humble household, helping her mother in
her many cares, and to good purpose; for of the five clever sons
who out of this rude culture grew up to honour in every profession
they made choice of, three returned "belted knights" to
lay their laurels at the feet of their old mother; not in the same
poor but and ben in which she reared them; they took care to
shelter her age in a comfortable house, with a drawing-room upstairs,
where we found the family party assembled, a rather
ladylike widow of the eldest son (a Bengal civilian) forming one
of it. Mrs. Pro was well born of the Arndilly Grants, and
very proud she was of her lineage, though she had made none the
worse wife to the honest man she married for his failure in this
particular. In manners she could not have been his superior,
the story going that in her working days she called out loud,
about the first thing in the morning, to the servant lass to "put
on the parritch for the pigs and the bairns," the pigs as most
useful coming first.
We went next to a very old Widow Macpherson, belonging
to the Invereshie family, who had likewise two unmarried
daughters living with her, Miss Maddie and Miss Bell, the
greatest gossips in Forres. A third daughter, Mrs. Clark, was
married at Milltown, in Badenoch, of whom we shall hear much
more ere long. Next we drove out to Kincorth, a new bare
place, where dwelt another Widow Grant, with her four
children, wards of my father's, Robina and Davina, girls about
my own age, and twin sons much younger, whom we often saw
in after-days, and to one of whom, excellent Lewis Grant, we
owe a debt of gratitude it will be a pleasure to me to the end of
my life to remember. He it was who saw us safe from London
to Portsmouth, and on board our Indiaman, in 1827, on our
melancholy way to Bombay. The little red-headed Kincorth
laddie was then a confidential clerk in Sir Charles Forbes' house,
and well deserving of his good fortune.
From Burgie we went back a few miles to Moy, an old-fashioned
house, very warm and very comfortable, and very
plentiful, quite a contrast, where lived a distant connection, an
old Colonel Grant, a cousin of Glenmoriston's, with a very queer
wife, whom he had brought home from the Cape of Good Hope.
This old man, unfortunately for me, always breakfasted upon
porridge; my mother, who had particular reasons for wishing
to make herself agreeable to him, informed him I always did the
same, so during the three days of this otherwise pleasant visit a
little plate of porridge for me was placed next to the big plate of
porridge for him, and I had to help myself to it in silent sadness,
for I much disliked this kind of food as it never agreed
with me, and though at Moy they gave me cream with it, I found
it made me just as sick and heavy afterwards as when I had the
skimmed milk at home. They were kind old people these in
their homely way. In the drawing-room stood a curiously-shaped
box, through a sort of telescope end of which we looked
at various scenes, thus magnified to the size of nature — a very
amusing pastime to me. One of these scenes depicted St. Helena
so accurately that, forty years after, the reality came upon me as
an old friend — the town, the ravine, the shingly shore, and the
steep sides of the rock as they rise inaccessible from the sea. I
wonder why this particular view made so vivid an impression.
From Moy we went straight to Elgin, where I remember
only the immense library belonging to the shop of Mr. Grant
the bookseller, and the ruins of the fine old Cathedral. On our
way, by the bye, we rested a few minutes at Kinloss, the farm
there being tenanted by the husband of Mr. Cooper's sister.
The ruins of the old abbey were still of some size, the remains
of the monks' garden rich in fruit trees, all planted upon a pavement,
as is our modern fashion, with a sufficiency of soil above
the stones for the side roots to find nourishment in. We got to
Duns to dinner, and remained there a few days with Sir
Archibald and Lady Dunbar and their tribe of children. Lady
Dunbar was one of the Cummings of Altyre — one of a dozen —
and she had about a dozen herself, all the girls handsome. The
house was very full. We went upon expeditions every morning,
danced all the evenings, the children forming quite a part of the
general company, and as some of the Altyre sisters were there, I
felt perfectly at home. Ellen and Margaret Dunbar wore sashes
with their white frocks, and had each a pair of silk stockings
which they drew on for full dress, a style that much surprised
me, as I, at home or abroad, had only my pink gingham frocks
for the morning, white calico for the afternoon, cotton stockings
at all times, and not a ribbon, a curl, or an ornament
about me.
One day we drove to Gordonstown, an extraordinary palace
of a house lately descended to Sir William, along with a large
property, where he had to add the Southron Gordon to the
Wolf of Badenoch's long-famed name, not that it is quite clear
that the failing clan owes allegiance to this branch particularly,
but there being no other claimant Altyre passes for the Comyn
Chief. His name is on the roll of the victors at Bannockburn
as a chieftain undoubtedly. I wonder what can have been done
with Gordonstown. It was like the side of a square in a town
for extent of façade, and had remains of rich furnishings in it,
piled up in the large deserted rooms, a delightful bit of romance
to the young Dunbars and me. Another day we went greyhound
coursing along the fine bold cliffs near Peterhead, and in
a house on some bleak point or other we called on a gentleman
and his sister, who showed us coins, vases, and spear-heads found
on excavating for some purpose in their close neighbourhood at
Burghead, all Roman; on going lower the workmen came upon
a bath, a spring enclosed by cut-stone walls, a mosaic pavement
surrounding the bath, steps descending to it, and paintings on
the walls. The place was known to have been a Roman station
with many others along the south side of the Moray Firth. We
had all of us great pleasure in going to see these curious remains
of past ages thus suddenly brought to light. I remember it all
perfectly as if I had visited it quite lately, and I recollect
regretting that the walls were in many parts defaced.
On leaving Duffus we drove on to Garmouth to see Mr.
Steenson, my father's wood agent there; he had charge of all
the timber floated down the Spey from the forest of Rothiemurchus
where it had grown for ages, to the shore near Fochabers
where it was sorted and stacked for sale. There was a
good-natured wife who made me a present of a milk-jug in the
form of a cow, which did duty at our nursery feasts for a wonderful
while, considering it was made of crockery ware; and rather
a pretty daughter, just come from the finishing school at Elgin,
and stiff and shy of course. These ladies interested me much
less than did the timber-yard, where all my old friends the logs,
the spars, and the deals and my mother's oars were piled in such
quantities as appeared to me endless. The great width of the
Spey, the bridge at Fochabers, and the peep of the towers of
Gordon Castle from amongst the cluster of trees that concealed
the rest of the building, all return to me now as a picture of
beauty. The Duke lived very disreputably in this solitude, for
he was very little noticed, and, I believe, preferred seclusion.
It was late when we reached Leitchison, a large wandering
house in a flat bare part of the country, which the Duke had
given, with a good farm attached, to his natural son Colonel
Gordon, our Glentromie friend. Bright fires were blazing in all
the large rooms, to which long passages led, and all the merry
children were jumping about the hall anxiously waiting for us.
There were five or six fine boys, and one daughter, Jane, named
after the Duchess. Mrs. Gordon and her two sisters, the dark
beautiful Agnes, and fat, red-haired Charlotte, were respectably
connected in Elgin, had money, were well educated and so
popular women. Mrs. Gordon was pretty and pleasing, and the
Colonel in company delightful; but somehow they did not get
on harmoniously together; he was eccentric and extravagant,
she peevish, and so they lived very much asunder. I did not
at all approve of the ways of the house after Duffus, where big
and little people all associated in the family arrangements. Here
at Leitchison the children were quite by themselves, with porridge
breakfasts and broth dinners, and very cross Charlotte
Ross to keep us in order. If she tried her authority on the
Colonel as well, it was no wonder if he preferred the Highlands
without her to the Lowlands with her, for I know I was not
sorry when the four bays turned their heads westward, and,
after a pleasant day's drive, on our return through Fochabers,
Elgin, and Forces, again stopped at the door at Logie.
Beautiful Logie! a few miles up the Findhorn, on the wooded
banks of that dashing river, wooded with beech and elm and oak
centuries old; a grassy holm on which the hideous house stood,
sloping hills behind, the water beneath, the Darnaway woods
beyond, and such a garden! such an orchard! well did we know
the Logie pears, large hampers of them had often found their
way to the Doune; but the Logie guignes could only be tasted
at the foot of the trees, and did not my young cousins and I
help ourselves! Logie himself, my father's first cousin, was a
tall, fine-looking man, with a very ugly Scotch face, sandy hair
and huge mouth, ungainly in manner yet kindly, very simple in
character, in fact a sort of goose; much liked for his hospitable
ways, respected for his old Cumming blood (he was closely related
to Altyre), and admired for one accomplishment, his playing
on the violin. He had married rather late in life one of the
cleverest women of the age, an Ayrshire Miss Baillie, a beauty
in her youth, for she was Burns' "Bonnie Leslie," and a bit of a
fortune, and she gave herself to the militia captain before she
had ever seen the Findhorn! and they were very happy. He
looked up to her without being afraid of her, for she gave herself
no superior wisdom airs, indeed she set out so heartily on St.
Paul's advice to be subject to her husband, that she actually got
into a habit of thinking he had judgment; and my mother remembered
a whole room full of people hardly able to keep their
countenances, when she, giving her opinion on some disputed
matter, clenched the argument as she supposed, by adding, "It's
not my conviction only, but Mr. Cumming says so." She was
too Southron to call the Laird "Logie." Logie banks and Logie
braes how very lovely ye were on those bright autumn days,
when wandering through the beech woods upon the rocky banks
of the Findhorn, we passed hours, my young cousins and I, out
in the pure air, unchecked of any one. Five sons and one fair
daughter the Lady Logie bore her Laird; they were not all born
at the time I write of. Poor Alexander and Robert, the two
eldest, fine handsome boys, were my companions in these happy
days; long since mourned for in their early graves. There was
a strange mixture of the father's simplicity and the mother's
shrewdness in all the children, and the same in their looks; only
two were regularly handsome, May Anne and Alexander, who
was his mother's darling. Clever as she was she made far too
much distinction between him and the rest; he was better
dressed, better fed, more considered in every way than the
younger ones, and yet not spoiled. He never assumed and they
never envied, it was natural that the young Laird should be most
considered. A tutor, very little older than themselves, and
hardly as well dressed, though plaiding was the wear of all,
taught the boys their humanities; he ate his porridge at the
side-table with them, declining the after-cup of tea, which Alexander
alone went to the state-table to receive. At dinner it
was the same system still, broth and boiled mutton, or the kain
fowl at the poor tutor's side-table. Yet he revered the Lady;
everybody did; every one obeyed her without a word, or even,
I believe, a thought, that it was possible her orders could be
incorrect. Her manner was very kind, very simple, though she
had an affected way of speaking; but it was her strong sense,
her truthful honesty, her courage — moral courage, for the body's
was weak enough — her wit, her fire, her readiness that made her
the queen of the intellect of the north countrie. Every one
referred to her in their difficulties; it was well that no winds
wandered over the reeds that grew by the side of the Lady
Logie,. Yet she was worldly in a degree, no one ever more
truly counselled for the times, or lived more truly up to the
times, but so as it was no reproach to her. She was with us
often at the Doune with or without the Laird, Alexander sometimes
her companion, and he would be left with us while she
was over at Kinrara, where she was a great favourite. I believe
it was intended by the family to marry Alexander to Mary, they
were very like and of suitable ages, and he was next heir of
entail presumptive to Rothiemurchus after my brothers. It had
also been settled to marry first Sir William Cumming and afterwards
Charles, to me. Jane oddly enough was let alone, though
we always understood her to be the favourite with everybody.
My father had a story of Mrs. Cumming that often has come
into my head since. He put her in mind of it now, when she
declined going on in the carriage with him and my mother to
dine at Relugas, where we were to remain for a few days. She
had no great faith in four-in-hands on Highland roads, at our
English coachman's rate of driving. She determined on walking
that lovely mile by the river-side, with Alexander and the
"girlie" — me — as her escort; her dress during the whole of
our visit, morning, noon, and night, was a scarlet cloth gown
made in habit fashion, only without a train, braided in black
upon the breast and cuffs, and on her head a black velvet cap,
smartly set on one side, bound with scarlet cord, and having a long
scarlet tassel, which dangled merrily enough now, as my father
reminded her of what he called the "Passage of the Spey." It
seemed that upon one occasion when she was on a visit to us,
they were all going together to dine at Kinrara, and as was
usual with them then, before the ford at our offices was settled
enough to use when the water was high, or the road made passable
for a heavy carriage up the bank of the boyack, they were
to cross the Spey at the ford below Kinapol close to Kinrara.
The river had risen very much after heavy rain in the hills, and
the ford, never shallow, was now so deep that the water was up
above the small front wheels and in under the doors, flooding
the footboard. My mother sat still and screamed. Mrs. Cumming
doubled herself up orientally upon the seat, and in a commanding
voice, though pale with terror, desired the coachman,
who could not hear her, to turn. On plunged the horses, in
rushed more water, both ladies shrieked. My father attempted
the masculine consolation of appealing to their sense of eyesight,
which would show them "returning were as tedious as going o'er,"
that the next step must be into the shallows. The Lady Logie
turned her head indignantly, her body she could not move, and
from her divan-like seat she thus in tragic tones replied — "A
reasonable man like you, Rothiemurchus, to attempt to appeal
to the judgment of a woman while under the dominion of the
passion of fear!"
At Relugas lived an old Mrs. Cuming, with one m, the
widow of I don't know whom, her only child her heiress
daughter, and the daughter's husband, Tom Lauder. He had
some income from his father, was to have more when his father
died, and a large inheritance with a baronetcy at an uncle's
death, Lord Fountainhall. It had been a common small Scotch
house, but an Italian front had been thrown before the old
building, an Italian tower had been raised above the offices, and
with neatly kept grounds it was about the prettiest place ever
lived in. The situation was beautiful, on a high tongue of land
between the Divie and the Findliorn — the wild, leaping, rockybedded
Divie and the broader and rapid Findhorn. All along
the banks of both were well-directed paths among the wooding,
a group of children flitting about the heathery braes, and the
heartiest, merriest welcome within. Mr. and Mrs. Lauder
were little more than children themselves, in manner at least;
really young in years and gifted with almost bewildering animal
spirits, they did keep up a racket at Relugas It was one
eternal carnival: up late, a plentiful Scotch breakfast, out all
day, a dinner of many courses, mumming all the evening, and a
supper at the end to please the old lady. A Colonel Somebody
had a story — ages after this, however — that having received an
appointment to India, he went to take leave of his kind friends
at Relugas. It was in the evening, and instead of finding a
quiet party at tea, he got into a crowd of popes, cardinals,
jugglers, gipsies, minstrels, flower-girls, etc., the usual amusements
of the family. He spent half a lifetime in the East, and
returning to his native place thought he would not pass that
same hospitable door. He felt as in a dream, or as if his
years of military service had been a dream — there was all the
crowd of mountebanks again! The only difference was in the
actors; children had grown up to take the places of the elders,
some children, for all the elders were not gone. Sir Thomas
Dick Lauder wore as full a turban, made as much noise, and was
just as thin as the Tom Lauder of twenty years before, and his
good lady, equally travestied and a little stouter, did not look a
day older with her grown-up daughters round her, than she did
in her own girlish times. It was certainly a pleasant house for
young people. Sir Thomas, with all his frivolity, was a very
accomplished man; his taste was excellent, as all his improvements
showed; no walks could have been better conducted, no
trees better placed, no views better chosen, and this refinement
was carried all through, to the colours of the furniture and the
arrangement of it. He drew well, sketched very accurately
from nature, was clever at puzzles, bouts rimes, etc. — the very
man for a country neighbourhood. Her merit was in implicitly
following his lead; she thought, felt, saw, heard as he did, and
if his perceptions altered or varied, so did hers. There never
was such a patient Grizzel; and the curious part of their history
was that being early destined by their parents to go together,
they detested one another, as children did nothing but quarrel,
agreed no better as they grew, being at one on one only point,
that they never would marry. How to avoid such a catastrophe
was the single subject they discussed amicably. They grew
confidential upon it quite, and it ended in their settlement at
Relugas.
This merry visit ended our tour. We drove home in a few
hours over the long, dreary moor between the Spey and the
Findhorn, passing one of the old strongholds of the Grants, the
remains of a square tower beside a lonely lake — a very lonely
lake, for not a tree nor a shrub was near it; and resting the
horses at the Bridge of Carr, a single arch over the Dulnain,
near which had clustered a few cottages, a little inn amongst them
sheltered by trees; altogether a bit of beauty in the desert. I
had been so good all this tour, well amused, made of, and not
worried, that Miss Ramsay was extremely complimented on the
improvement she had effected in my naturally bad disposition.
As if there were any naturally bad dispositions! Don't we
crook them, and stunt them, and force them, and break them,
and do everything in the world except let them alone to expand
in pure air to the sun, and nourish them healthfully?
We were now to prepare for a journey to London. I recollect
rather a tearful parting from a companion to whom we had
become much attached, Mr. Peter of Duthil's youngest son — or only
son, for all I know, as I never saw any other. Willie Grant was
a fine handsome boy, a favourite with everybody and the darling
of his poor father, who had but this bright spot to cheer his dull
home horizon. All this summer Willie had come to the Doune
with the parson every third Sunday; that is, they came on the
Saturday, and generally remained over Monday. He was older
than any of us, but not too old to share all our out-of-door fun,
and he was full of all good, really and truly sterling. We were
to love one another for ever, yet we never met again. When
we returned to the Highlands he was in the East India Military
College, and then he sailed, and though he lived to come home,
marry, and settle in the Highlands, neither Jane nor I ever saw
him more. How many of these fine lads did my father and
Charles Grant send out to India! Some that throve, some that
only passed, some that made a name we were all proud of,
and not one that I heard of that disgraced the homely rearing
of their humbly-positioned but gentle-born parents. The moral
training of those simple times bore its fair fruits: the history of
many great men in the last age began in a cabin. Sir Charles
Forbes was the son of a small farmer in Aberdeenshire. Sir
William Grant, the Master of the Rolls, was a mere peasant — his
uncles floated my father's timber down the Spey as long as they
had strength to follow the calling. General William Grant was
a footboy in my uncle Rothie's family. Sir Colquhoun Grant,
though a woodsetter's child, was but poorly reared, in the
same fashion as Mrs. Pro's fortunate boys. Sir William
Macgregor, whose history was most romantic of all, was such
another. The list could be easily lengthened did my memory
serve, but these were among the most striking examples of what
the good plain schooling of the dominie, the principles and the
pride of the parents, produced in young ardent spirits;
forming characters which, however they were acted on by the
world, never forgot home feelings, although they proved this
differently. The Master of the Rolls, for instance, left all his
relations in obscurity. A small annuity rendered his parents
merely independent of hard labour; very moderate portions just
secured for his sisters decent matches in their own degree; an
occasional remittance in a bad season helped an uncle or a brother
out of a difficulty. I never heard of his going to see them, or
bringing any of them out of their own sphere to visit him.
While the General shoved on his brothers, educated his nephews
and nieces, pushed the boys up, married the girls well — such as
had a wish to raise themselves — and almost resented the folly
of Peter the Pensioner, who would not part with one of his flock
from the very humble home where he chose to keep them.
Which plan was wisest, or was either quite right? Which relations
were happiest — those whose feelings were sometimes hurt,
or those whose frames were sometimes over-wearied and but
scantily refreshed? I often pondered in my own young mind
over these and similar questions; but just at the time of our last
journey from the Doune to London less puzzling matters principally
occupied my sister Jane and me.
We were not sure whether or no Miss Ramsay were to
remain with us; neither were we sure whether or no we wished
it. We should have more of our own way without her, that was
certain; but whether that would be so good for us, whether we
should get on as well in all points by ourselves, we were beginning
to be suspicions of. She had taught us the value of constant
employment, regular habits, obliging manners, and we knew,
though we did not allow it, that there would be less peace as well
as less industry should we be again left to govern ourselves.
However, so it was settled. Miss Ramsay was dropped at Newcastle
amongst her own friends, and for the time the relief from
restraint seemed most agreeable. She was not capable of
teaching us much, neither was she an intelligent person, so that
probably she was no loss had her place been better supplied; but
from my recollections of nursery gossip, nursery misrule, wasted
time, neglected studies, ill-used masters, I should say that as far
as our progress was concerned the sums my father paid to our
several teachers might as well have remained in his pocket. It
was an idea of my father's that we were better unguided;
characters self-formed were to his mind more brave, more natural,
than could ever be the result of over-tutoring. We were therefore
very little directed in our early days. We were always
informed of our wrong-doings, sometimes punished for them,
but we were very much left to find out the right for ourselves;
and so once more unshackled we proceeded on our way
to town.
CHAPTER VI
1809-1810
HAVING got so far in these memorials of past life, the pleasure
of the many half-forgotten incidents now revived induces me to
proceed in stringing together such recollections of our generation
as can hardly fail, dear children, to be interesting to you.
The feebleness of my health at present confines me so much to
my room that I am neglecting nothing else while thus employing
myself, so, though I have lost one listener to the chapters
as they are concluded, dear Janie Gardiner being no longer
among us, on I go as at Avranches, feeling that if any of you are
like me, this history will be a curious family legend to refer to.
We left the Highlands, then, late in the autumn of 1809,
and leaving our good-natured governess with her friends at
Newcastle, reached London in about three weeks from the time
we set out. During the winter, and the spring of 1810, we
were occupied as usual with our several masters, under whom
we could not fail to make a certain degree of progress, because
we were quick children and they were clever instructors, but
we by no means duly improved our time, or conscientiously
worked out the value of my father's money and kindness. For
want of a steady director we got into habits of dawdling,
idling, omitting, and so on, and we were very irregular in our
hours, setting the authority of our maid, Margaret Davidson,
at defiance. She waited on my mother as well as on us, and
might have made a good deal of mischief had she been given to
tale-bearing. My music fell really back, though not apparently.
Miss Horn was not Mr. Morris. I recollect too that I took no
trouble — nobody was there to make me; that is, in music a
difficult passage was slurred, in singing an uneasy note
omitted, in drawing chance directed the pencil, in writing
translations I never looked out in the dictionary for the meaning
of such words as I did not know, I just popped in any word
that struck me as suitable, and it was quite a bright idea given
me by one of our companions in the Square, to read the rule
before making the exercise; this had never struck me as necessary,
so poor M. Beckvelt must have taught us oddly; he was
extremely pleased with the marked improvement caused by this
study of the grammar, and I daresay gave himself all the credit
of it. Mr. Thompson, from whom we learned the most, did not
take matters so easily. The dining-room was given up to us,
and there we lived by ourselves, as it was never wanted by
any one else till about an hour before my father and mother's
dinner. We got up late, studied as little and amused ourselves
as much as we could manage. My mother was often ailing,
she also hated the worry of children, and she did not herself
understand the various accomplishments we were trying to learn.
She therefore occupied the back drawing-room; where, however,
I made her breakfast, she being seldom down in time for my
father, who required his early; either Jane or I took it down
to him in his study, and when my mother had hers up in her
room, we helped ourselves with great delight to the remains,
our detestable porridge having been barely tasted. After this
we always walked two hours in the Square, then we returned
to our studies, dined, studied again by way of, and when the
butler entered with his plate trays we bundled up all our
hooks, and departed to change our dress. In the evenings, when
we were at home, we occupied ourselves pretty much as We
liked, being reproved when we did foolishly.
This kind of half-haphazard education may preserve originality
of character, or indeed produce some good effects in some
cases, but I do not think it improved any of us, either physically
or mentally. I am sure we should all have been stronger
women had there been a better system pursued with our diet
and general training; most certainly we should have been
happier then and afterwards had we been more looked after,
and so better understood; and it is likely we should have been
more skilled in all we were taught, our minds and memories
much better stored, had there been some eye over us. I know
for myself that I, all quickness and eagerness and volatility,
required a steady hand to keep me back, to make me finish as I
went on, complete what I had begun, think of what there was
to do, how to do it, and why it was done. Naturally active,
lively, negligent, capricious, vain, all good qualities verged too
nearly upon bad for me to be safely left to my own impulses; for
I never reflected. Jane, slow, cautious, conscientious, very sensi-tive
and rather awkward, required encouragement and direction,
and occasional shaking up. We had both to educate ourselves
long years after, when taught by sufferings how much discipline
we wanted. Dear Mary was petted one minute, repulsed the
next, called idle when she was ill, stupid and obstinate for want
of help in her childish difficulties. Mothers in those days were
ignorant of their responsibilities, assistants were incapable of
supplying their place, the world in general as far behind in
economic morals as in less momentous things. Our children
have numberless advantages over us, their parents. I cannot
reflect over the mistakes of our day without pain. I really
think I must have turned out badly but for two people, Mr.
Thompson and Annie Grant. Mr. Thompson vexed me with
his chronological order, and his pricknickity neatness and his
rigid arithmetic; but these methodical proceedings were just
exactly what my volatile nature required. The man had not
an idea, but he somehow caught and made me look after mine.
How hard he worked for the wife and half-dozen children!
Up every morning summer and winter at four, to get his breakfast
and walk to Kensington by six, and then teach on till nine
at night.
We had an excellent dancing-master, an Irish Mr. Blake,
of whom we learned the good old minuet style of moving, which
I wish from my heart were the fashion again, for I think
neither the manner of the present day so graceful, nor the
carriage by any means so good, nor the gestures so easy as in
the days of the stately sinkings and risings and balancings of
the body required in the minuet. We formed a small dancing
class, which met once a week at alternate houses. We were
three — four at William's holidays; there were five Huttons,
Mary, Sophy, Emily, Edward, and Henry, and a Miss and two
Masters Williams; all inhabitants of the Square (as we called
Lincoln's Inn Fields), the children of brother barristers. We
had increased our acquaintance in our playground. We had
little Diana Wilson and her cousins Hotham next door to add
to our list of friends; the younger Vivians, a set of Wyndhams
— very nice children — three Tyndales, not so well born
as some of the others, but clever girls; their father was an
attorney, vulgar enough, their mother a daughter of Mrs.
Rundell (Cookery-book), an extremely accomplished woman,
without art approach to refinement. My favourite companion
was Julia Hankey, now the widow of my brother William's
school-fellow, Seymour Bathurst. Her mother was an Alexander
of Ballochmyle, who lived with her two maiden sisters,
honest Scotch gentlewomen, and their uncle the chief Baron,
in one of the best houses in our then fashionable law situation.
She was the widow of the Alderman Hankev who died from
putting brandy in his shoes when his feet were sore and hot
with walking through the city, canvassing to be Lord Mayor:
the chill of the evaporation produced apoplexy. They were all
immensely rich on all sides, and Julia and her three brothers
and one cousin, Frederick, the only heirs of all. We also saw
sometimes the Welshes and the Wards at the Admiralty, Fanny
Hunter, and our cousins Raper.
We were extremely fond of a visit to Brunswick Square;
the baby cousins there, of whom there were now three, John,
Lizzy, and George, were charming playthings, and all our
aunt's tall brothers-in-law were so fond of us, so very kind to
us. Another particular friend was Mrs. Sophy Williams, my
father's old governess, who very often came to see us and never
empty-handed, and we used to go to visit her where she then
lived at Kensington as companion to old Mrs. Anguish, the
mother or the aunt of the Duchess of Leeds, and a relation of
Mrs. Raper's. It was one of those old-fashioned households
now hardly remembered, where the fires were all put out, the
carpets all taken up, and curtains down upon the 1st of May,
not to be replaced in those shivery rooms until the 1st of
October; where the hard high-backed chairs were ranged
against the wall, and a round, club-legged, darkly-polished
table stood quite bare in the middle of the room. In one
window was a parrot on a perch, screaming for ever, "How d'ye
do?" In the other the two old ladies with their worsted work,
their large baskets, and their fat spaniel. Mrs. Anguish talked
a great deal of scandal to my mother about the court of the
good Queen Charlotte, the Prince and the Duchess of Devonshire,
the Duke of Devonshire and Lady Elizabeth Forster,
sundry irregularities among the nobles of past and present
days; while dear Mrs. Williams described Twyford and Thorley,
told of my grandmother's warm heart and warmer temper, of
my father's quaint sayings, and aunt Lissy's goodness. We
used also to visit Mrs. Thrale (Dr. Johnson's), who was then
Mrs. Piozzi — her house a sort of museum — and Lady Keith, her
daughter, and Mrs. Murray Aust in a beautiful villa looking
on Rotten Row, whose tour in the Highlands had made her
rather celebrated; and dear old Mrs. Raper in her melancholy
back drawing-room in Wimpole Street, where I never yet
found her doing anything whatever, though her mind must
have been well filled at some former time, for she drew upon
its stores in conversation most agreeably; and Mrs. Charles
lronside, and old Mrs. Maling I remember. What other
acquaintances my mother called on I do not know, for we were
always left in the carriage except at the foregoing houses. She
generally drove out every day, and some of us were always
with her. On the week-days she made her visits and went
shopping — to Green the glover's in little Newport Street, next
door to such beautiful dolls, a whole shop of no other toy,
some the size of life, opening and shutting their eyes, as was
then a rare virtue; to Roberts and Plowman; to Gray the
jeweller; to Rundall and Bridge, so dirty and shabby without,
such a fairy palace within, where on asking a man who was
filling a scoop with small brown-looking stones what he was
doing, he told me he was shovelling in rubies; to Miss
Stewart, our delight, cakes and flattery and bundles of finery
awaiting us there; and then the three or four rooms full of
hoops before the court days, machines of whalebone, very
large, covered with silk, and then with lace or net, and hung
about with festoons of lace and beads, garlands of flowers,
puffings of ribbon, furbelows of all sorts. As the waists were
short, how the imprisoned victims managed their arms we of
this age can hardly imagine. The heads for these bodies were
used as supports for whole faggots of feathers, as many as
twelve sometimes standing bolt upright forming really a forest
of plumage; the long train stretched out behind, very narrow,
more like a prolonged sash end than a garment. Yet there
were beauties who wore this dress, and in it looked beautiful.
We went to Churton's for our stockings, to Ross for my
mother's wigs — this was another queer fashion — every woman,
not alone the grey and the bald, wore an expensive wig instead
of her own hair; to Lowe for shoes, to St. Paul's Church corner
for books. I don't remember half the places.
On Sundays we went to Lincoln's Inn Chapel in the
morning, Sir William Grant looking kindly down upon us from
his window. We dined, said our Catechism, and then all set
out for Rotten Row, where the amusement consisted in one
long file of carriages at a foot's pace going one way, passing
another long file of carriages at a foot's pace going the other,
bows gravely exchanged between the occupants, when any of
the busy starers were acquainted. All London was engaged in
this serious business. We sometimes prevailed on my mother
to make a diversion round the ring, that we might see the
swans on the water, but she only now and then obliged us,
much preferring that long procession up and down a mile of
dusty road — the greater the crowd, the slower the move, the
greater the pleasure. "Delightful drive in the park to-day"
meant that there was hardly a possibility of cutting into the
line, or moving much above a yard in a minute. "Most dreadfully
stupid in the park to-day" meant that there was plenty
of room for driving comfortably.
On Sunday evenings my father took his tea upstairs. Other
evenings we carried him down a large breakfast cup full of very
strong tea to his study, where he was always seated immersed
in papers with his secretary, little horrid Sandy Grant, whose
strange voice sounded as if he spoke through a paper-covered
comb. It was not law business that occupied them; the poor
clerk in the outer room had an idle time. Law-suits of his own,
dreams of political influence, money loans, and all the perplexities
and future miseries consequent on these busy evenings
were being prepared in that study where we carried the cup of
tea. How kindly my father smiled on his young messengers,
how bright his room looked, how warm his fire! We liked to
go there, and we loved to linger.
We were very seldom allowed to go to children's parties,
nor did my mother ever give any for us at home. One ball
only I remember at the Walshes in Harley Street, where I
danced all night with two partners, Henry Ward and Abercrombie
Dick, the first rather a great man now among a
secondary set, the last a Lieutenant-Colonel at twenty-seven;
and another at Mr. Blake's, our dancing-master, where Jane and
I so far forgot the orthodox English regular four-in-a-bar style
of evenly goose-stepping the Scotch reel, as in our happy
excitement to revert to good Mr. Grant's Strathspey fashion,
of springing through in time to the music, at which, as both
Jane and myself were exceedingly admired by the elders of the
company, no remark was made either by Mr. Blake or his
assistant; but we received a sufficient lecture during our next
lesson for so disgracing his teaching. We went very often to
the play, we three elder ones, and to Sadler's Wells and
Astley's, and to some of the Concerts. Also this spring for the
first time in my life I went to the Opera. At the Hanover
Square Concerts Salomon was the leader, the singers were
Bartleman, Braham, Kelly, the Knyvetts, Mr. and Mrs.
Vaughan, Mrs. Bianchi — afterwards my teacher — and Mrs.
Billington. Mrs. Mountain I heard, but not there. The first
song I heard Mrs. Billington sing was Handel's "Sweet bird
that shunn'st the noise of folly," accompanied on the violin by
Salomon. I was sitting next my father, behind whom I slunk,
holding down my head to conceal the tears whose shedding
relieved my heart. We were always taught to restrain all such
exhibitions of feeling, which indeed my mother would have
characterised as mere affectation, and therefore I was ashamed
of the overpowering sensations which made me so full of delight;
something exquisite there was in the feeling which I have not
yet forgotten. How I practised my own shakes and runs and
holding notes, for the two following days only, giving up from
despair of ever pleasing myself. She was the enchantress of
my first Opera too. We were all in the Square one afternoon,
at a grand game of Tom Tinkler's ground, when one of my
playmates told us that the little white flag, our homeward
signal, was flying from our high windows. We ran off at once
and were met at the gate by the footman, who said that I only
was wanted. I was to dress as quick as possible in my best
white frock to go to the Opera. How old was I that happy
night? — thirteen within a week or two. My dress was a plain
white frock with plenty of tucks, a little embroidery on the
waist, white calico long gloves, and a cropped head, the hair
brushed bright with rose oil, which to me made the toilette
complete. The Opera was "Il Fanatico." Naldi the father,
with his full low notes, Mrs. Billington his pupil daughter.
She sang her solfeggi, all the exercises, and "Uno trillo sopra
là" — nothing ever was so beautiful, even the memory of those
sounds, so clear, so sweet, so harmonious, that voice that ran
about like silver water over pearls! There is no enjoyment
like good music, simple or complicated, so as it be truthfully and
earnestly given; it has ever afforded to me the most intense
pleasure I am capable of receiving, and how little I have heard,
and how vilely I made it!
We had a great fright this year by the very severe series of
illnesses that attacked poor William. He brought the whooping-cough
with him from Eton at Christmas, which we all caught
from him, and a pleasant time we had, condemned to one side
walk in the Square, from any approach to which all other
children were strictly forbidden. It was not very bad with us,
and towards the end we became rather attached to our visitor,
for we had no lessons, no milk, delicious tea breakfasts, and
dinners of puddings and such good things, with long daily
drives far out into the country. William had not long been
returned to school when he took the measles; this turned to
scarlet fever, and my mother went down to nurse him, with
very faint hopes at one time of bringing him through. When
he could be moved he was taken to Kensington to be under the
care of Mrs. Mary Williams, the elder sister of Sophy, who,
with a blind sister, Anne, lived in a very neat house not far
from the gardens. My mother went every day to see him,
taking care to take off the dress she wore before allowing
any of the rest of us to come near her, while any risk of
infection was supposed to remain; and yet both Jane and I
got, not the measles, but the scarlet fever; the younger ones
escaped.
It was about this time that I began to take more notice of
any remarkable persons occasionally dining at my father's.
The three eccentric brothers, Lord Buchan, Lord Erskine, and
Harry Erskine (by far the most brilliant of the three), stand
out foremost, It was a real treat to the whole family when
this last with his agreeable wife came for a few weeks from
Scotland, as we always saw a good deal of them. The Duchess
of Gordon I remember with her loud voice, and Lady Madelina
Sinclair, talking of Rothiemurchus and Kinrara. Lord Gillies
and Mrs. Gillies, in his advocate days, when appeal cases
brought him to London. The Redfearns, whom I never saw,
the sight of me recalling her lost boy (with the drum) so
vividly that she could not bear the shock. There were the
Master of the Rolls and some few English lawyers, Mr. Ward
(Tremaine), Sir Griffin Wilson, and William Frere; and upon
one occasion his intended wife Miss Gurdon, who sang with a
voice and in a style only equalled by Catalani.
This year, after all the sickness, we went early to Tunbridge,
my mother having suffered herself severely in consequence of her
fatigue and anxiety. A large dull house, but a very comfortable
one, was taken for us at the top of Sion Hill. It belonged to
Mr. Canning's mother, and had a really good garden, with a fine
clump of shady trees in it, under which we children used to
pass our days. My mother had some dislike to this place which
suited all the rest of us so admirably, so, in the fiery month of
June, we removed from this quiet, roomy, old-fashioned house
to a smartened-up Grosvenor Lodge, a new bow-windowed
villa on the London road, a full mile from the Wells, where the
sun shone on us unmolested till we in the attics were nearly
grilled; but we were in the world as well as in the sunshine,
and the dust besides. Every morning we went out in the open
carriage and four, driving in every direction all round that
beautiful country, where well-wooded hills and dales, with fields,
lanes, villages, peeping spires, and country seats, combined to
present a succession of views of surpassing richness, wanting
only water to make the style of scenery perfect. We made
parties to the Rocks, to the Repository on the heath, to Frant,
and many other places, and we often walked up and down the
pantiles listening to a very respectable band. There was something
so very pretty about those simple Wells; they struck me
again, as they had struck me before, as so much more to be
admired — the pure water just bubbling up fresh as it sprung,
merely caught in small marble basins into which the clear glasses
were dipped, and these offered to the drinkers by a few tidily
dressed old women — than the pump-room style of Cheltenham
and other places, where from a row of brass cocks flows no one
knows what sort of mixture, served by flaunty girls from behind
a long counter. Then the water was so pleasant, clear and
sparkling and very cold, the taste of iron far from disagreeable,
and I at least, like my mother, so strengthened by it, that
I love the very name of the Wells to this day. It was a dry
bracing climate that suited me; I felt as if I could have jumped
over the moon there.
Aunt Leitch spent a short time with us at Grosvenor Lodge,
and Annie Grant and Miss Maling. Mrs. Griffin Wilson, our
neighbour, was in the next house to us for a while, attending
the death-bed of her sister Lady Edward O'Brien. A pleasant
cousin James Blackburn, rather sweet we thought upon aunt
Leitch, was also of our party. Aunt Leitch had been for some
time a widow. She had given up Kilmerdinney to her husband's
heir for a consideration, and had joined in housekeeping
with uncle Ralph, who had determined on letting Tennochside
and coming south for a few years, in order better to educate
his two children. We had our Highland neighbours, Belleville
and Mrs. Macpherson, also here; of them we saw a great deal,
having from first to last been always on the most friendly terms
with them. My brother John, then Johnnie, a little creature
in a nankin frock, and Belleville were so inseparable, that people
soon began to look for them as one of the shows of the place,
for they walked together in rather a singular manner. Belleville
went first with his hands crossed behind his back, holding
out his long stick, the end of which was taken by the child,
who trotted on thus for hours, few words passing between the
pair. Mrs. Macpherson, who preferred the carriage, generally
went an airing with us, my mother calling for her at her
lodgings near the pantiles. We were really very happy this
season at Tunbridge Wells, and so set up by the fine air that
we could not have looked more healthy had we been in our own
Duchus.
Upon looking over the doings of this year so far, I find I
have forgotten to mention quite a remarkable circumstance.
Mrs. Charles Grant, the old director's wife, invited us three little
girls to accompany my father and mother to a great party she
was giving in Russell Square — a rout — and we all went. It
was to meet the Persian ambassador, the same who was Mr.
Morier's friend, and who got on in every way so well in this
country that many years afterwards he was sent here again.
I cannot at this moment recollect his name; he was a tall
handsome man, not very dark. He spoke English quite well
enough to be understood, and turned all the women's heads
with his beautiful Eastern dress and flatteries. He was remarkably
fond of children, always liked to have some in the room
with him, which was the reason we had been distinguished by
this invitation. There was wonderful commotion in the green
room which Jane and I shared in common, little Mary venturing
to show herself there, as she had been included among the
company. Our dancing shoes, drab jean, were to do quite
well, and cotton stockings, but we got new frocks of soft clear
muslin, very full, with several deep tucks. All the three
heads were fresh cropped and oiled, and as our toilettes were being
completed my mother entered, so beautifully dressed in white
spotted muslin over straw-coloured silk, holding in her hands
three pairs of white kid gloves, and three cairngorm crosses
dangling to gold chains. Duncan Macintosh had given us the
stones — found on our own hills — and she had had them set
for us purposely to wear this evening. The Persian ambassador
took a great deal of notice of us and of our sparkling crosses.
Jane, of course, he most distinguished, her bright eyes and
her rosy checks, and her lively natural manner equally free from
forwardness or shyness, always ensured her the attention of
strangers. Both she and I behaved extremely well, we were
told next day, papa and mamma quite satisfied with us, and
with our propriety in the cake line, just helping ourselves once,
as we had been told, and no more. Mary was suspected of
more frequent helpings, also she tired and fell asleep on Belleville's
knee, for he and Mrs. Macpherson were there. Mrs.
Macpherson said laughingly to my mother when the great
Mirza (I am sure now that was one of his names) was
occupied so much with Jane, not very far from where sat an
elderly Miss Perry, another director's daughter, with an
enormous turban on her head, and a fine cashmere on her
shoulders: "What would she give to be the object of such
attention?" the shawl and turban having been adopted, it was
said, to attract the stranger, who had a wife and one little girl
at home.
Aunt Mary hail invited me to be present at a great solemnity
at Oxford, the Installation of Lord Grenville as Chancellor of
the University, which ceremony was to take place in the month
of July of this summer, 1810. It was quite an era in my life,
the first indeed of any moment, and it filled my young heart
with a tumultuous pleasure I was for some days unable to
control. It was lucky for me that my father was from home,
as he would have been very likely to have kept me there for
showing myself so unfit to be trusted with my own conduct.
We were never to annoy others with any excess of emotion,
probably a good rule for such very excitable children, and yet
it might have made us artificial, and it did afterwards make me
appear affected, the struggle between feeling and fearing. I
certainly did run a little wild on receiving Aunt Griffith's letter
(she liked us to call her by her husband's name). To visit alone!
To go to the Theatre! Concerts! Inaugurations! See
degrees conferred! Among such a crowd of great and noble, in
classic Oxford, where stood Great Tom! It really half turned
a head not then very steady. We had been reading Miss
Porter's Scottish Chiefs, to initiate us into the realities of life
and the truth of history; and such visions of display had been
brought before us, of plumed helmets, coats of gilded mail,
kings, queens, trains, escorts, etc., that, my aunt indulging a
little in poetical anticipations of the splendid scenes she was
asking me to witness, I took my seat beside my father in his
post-chariot, with some idea that I had grown suddenly six feet
high, twenty years older, and was the envy of every one. My
father had come to us for a week's holiday after my first transport
had cooled a little. The parting with them all made me
grave enough, and it was soon quite unnecessary to caution me
about expressing any exuberance of spirits. The first disappointment
in this dream of pleasure was the conveyance we
travelled in. I was accustomed to the barouche; and four, the
liveried servants, and all the stir of such an equipage; my
father's plain post-chaise, pair of horses, and only one man,
made no sensation along the road, neither at the inns nor in the
villages. No one stared at so plain a carriage, nor was there
any bustle in the inn-yards on our changing horses.
Arrived in London, the large empty house in Lincoln's Inn
Fields was intolerable, not a creature there but the housemaid in
charge of all the displaced furniture, so that I wandered from
one bare melancholy room to another in very tearful mood. In
the Square it was no better, few of our young companions
having remained in town — none that I cared for. Aunt Lissy
was in Norfolk, my father occupied the whole day, so that
except at meals I never saw him. There were plenty of books,
however, and the pianoforte, and I had always work with me,
but it was very lonely. One new delight reconciled me in some
measure to this dull week. My mother had trusted me to buy
myself shoes, gloves, ribbons, etc., required as additions to my
moderate equipment, and I had the satisfaction of purchasing
these supplies myself, entering the shops in Fleet Street, in great
state, in front of my attendant the housemaid, asking for what
I wanted, choosing and paying like a grown-up young lady.
I was thirteen, Annie's age, but how far behind what she is in
some respects, so ignorant of all useful things, so childish, so
affected, so bewildered at having to act for myself; all our
wants having been hitherto supplied without any trouble to
us. Aunt Leitch had made me a present of a pound note to
spend as I liked without question. I parted with it for a
parasol with a plated stick and a carved ivory handle and a
pagoda summit, of a pea-green silk with a dazzling fringe,
altogether big enough to have acted as an umbrella, and under
this canopy I strutted away with the dignity of a peacock, to
the amusement, I should suppose, of every one that passed me.
I and my Chinese parasol were one morning in the Square,
figuring before the nursery-maids, when an unusual sound
yelled up from a corner of the gardens, — the Searle Street
corner, — and a mob of dirty-looking men tumbled in over one
another to the amount of hundreds. They had hardly rushed
on as far as Lord Kenyon's high house, when from the Long
Acre corner a troop of dragoons rattled in all haste, advancing
towards the Surgeons' Hall, with gleaming sabres. The mob
retreated steadily enough and slowly and unwillingly, but the
horses moving on in their peculiar way, turning their hind legs to
the multitude occasionally, made good their determined pressure
on the crowd, amid yells and shouts and many hisses. But the
dragoons prevailed, as the imposing cavalry advanced so did
the great unwashed retire, and soon the whole pageant vanished,
the noise even gradually dying away in the distance. As
quickly as we could recover our composure, all who had been
sauntering in the Square regained their houses. At the corner
gate I flew to, I and my precious parasol, I found my father's
man, Mr. Sims, waiting to escort me home. All the windows
of the two lower storeys of all the houses in the Square were
immediately closed, and the housemaid and I had to mount up
to the very top of ours, to the barred windows of the nursery,
to study the horse-tailed helmets of our patrol. Early next
morning I was taken to Sandy Grant's chambers in Sergeant's
Inn, the iron gates of which retirement were kept fast closed
till Sir Francis Burdett had left the Tower, for he had been the
cause of all this commotion. He was then the perfect idol of
the people, their ideal of an English country gentleman. He
supported this character in breeches and top-boots, and having
a fair handsome person and good-humoured manners, he
remained for many a year the king of the fiddlers. What his
crime had been on this occasion, I forget, some disrespect to the
House of Commons, I think, for they ordered him into custody,
and sent him to the Tower by water to avoid ill consequences,
his friends being above all things excitable. On the day of his
release they had him to themselves, and had all their own way,
filling the streets from end to end. Never was there such a pack
of heads wedged close together, like Sir Walter Scott's description
of the Porteous mob. Every window of the long, tall row of
houses on either side was filled with women waving handkerchiefs
and dark blue flags, the Burdett colour. The roar of
voices and the tread of so many feet sounded awful even in
the enclosed court; it penetrated to the back room where Mrs.
Sandy Grant and I were sitting. She was a good-natured
woman, lame from a short leg with a club-foot, which prevented
her moving much. Though she had a very handsome face, it
was supposed her husband had married her for her money, as
she had not been well educated, and so not suited for the companion
of a clever man. He was hardly kind to her, though he
did not positively ill-use her. She was very good-natured to
me, doing her best to amuse me while I remained her guest.
She had a friend on a visit with her, a young lady deficient in
the number of her fingers; on neither hand had she more than
the thumb and the index, concealing this deformity by always
wearing gloves, the empty fingers of which were stuffed. Thus
defective, and thus shackled, she wrote, drew well, embroidered
beautifully, and cut paper with minikin scissors, as if determined
to show what could be done under difficulties; I often
thought of her dexterity and laid the lesson to heart.
I was to travel to Oxford with two friends of my uncle
Griffiths, Dr. and Miss Williams. They accordingly called for
me in a hack post-chaise, the first I had ever entered, and when
I found myself seated in it, bodkin, my feet on straw, my little
trunk corded on outside, the lining dirty, the windows rattling,
the whole machine so rickety, and began to jolt along the
paved streets with these very uninviting strangers, I could not
help having rather melancholy regrets for Grosvenor Lodge,
sunny as it was, my brothers and sisters and their merry ways,
the open landau and four skimming over the roads, my mother's
silk dresses, the well-bred servants, the polished luxury of home.
I was indeed subdued, I sat quiet and silent, looking vacantly
out at all the ugliness we travelled through. Dr. Williams was
reading a pamphlet, I am sure I wondered how he could keep
his eyes steady on the lines; he made notes from time to time
with a pencil on the pages of a pocket-book he kept open on
his knee, then he would lie back as if in deep thought, and
begin to read and write again; that was my left hand. Miss
Williams had a squeaky voice, quite an irritant to a sensitive
ear; she did not speak much, which was well, but what she did
say was very kindly meant; I daresay I was a great bore to
her and all her bags and parcels; that was my right. Straight
before was a Humphrey Clinker whipping on two much-abused
horses, very very unlike the four bays. At last we stopped at
a pretty country inn near a wood, where we had luncheon, and
then we all went out to gather wild-flowers, for Dr. Williams
was a botanist and had gone this, not the usual, road for the
purpose of collecting specimens. We grew much more companionable;
when he took my nosegay from me he seemed
much pleased, he told me a great deal that I never forgot,
showing me the form and the beauty of the simple flower and
telling me what valuable qualities it sometimes lost when
cultivation rendered it more lovely to the eye. He pressed
among the leaves of a thick packet of blotting-paper such
flowers as he had selected from our gatherings, and then we
resumed our journey in, I thought, a very much more comfortable
chaise; the Doctor read less, the sister, though she still
squeaked, talked more, and I chattered away very merrily.
The latter part of the journey therefore passed pleasantly to
me, while both answering and asking questions. A little packet
of change with a memorandum of my share of the expenses
was put into my hands as we were about entering Oxford, and
in a few minutes, late in the evening, we stopped at my uncle's
door — not the grand door opening on one of the quadrangles,
approached by broad steps up to great gates kept by a porter
in his lodge, all grand as a college should be, but a back door
in a narrow lane, letting me in to the kitchen passage, up a
stair to the hall, and so to the kindest welcome from both aunt
and uncle who were standing there to receive me. I was just
in time, they said, the house was to be full of company in a day
or two, when the little housekeeper would find herself extremely
useful. In the meanwhile I was introduced to all the apartments,
made acquaintance with the different closets and their
various keys, and was established myself in my aunt's dressing-room
with a sofa bed to sleep on, and two drawers in her chest
and my own trunk for my clothes, she taking charge of my
balance of cash, remarking that it was very shabby of Dr.
Williams to have charged me with my expenses, as he must
have had the chaise for himself and his sister at any rate, and
he might have treated me to my luncheon, just eighteenpence,
without any violent liberality. My Highland pride preferred
having paid my share, but I said nothing, and I was silent about
the balance too, which I knew my father had intended I should
have kept in my own pocket; not that I wanted money, we
had never been accustomed to have any.
The Master's lodgings at University College formed two
sides of a quadrangle — no, not quite, one side and the half of
another. The other half of the second side and the third were
occupied as students' rooms; the fourth was the high wall of
the Master's garden. It was a large house containing a great
many rooms of a good size, but inconveniently planned, several
of them opening one out of another with no separate entrances
and not proportioned properly, the whole of the one long side
being wedge-shaped, the space twenty feet wide at the street
end, and only ten at the garden end, the outer wall humouring
the lane, instead of the lane having been made to follow the
wall. The private apartments were on this side and very comfortable,
though oddly shaped. There were on the other side
two spare bedrooms with dressing-rooms for company, and at
the head of the front staircase a nice cheerful room which was
afterwards mine, but wanted at this time for Sir William Scott.
Besides this great man a cousin Horseman arrived, and aunt
Leitch and uncle Ralph and aunt Judy. Both ladies had been
dressed by Miss Stewart for the occasion. Aunt Leitch always
wore black, a Scotch fashion when a widow is no longer young;
besides, it suited her figure, which had got large, and her rather
high colour. She had good taste and looked extremely well,
never wearing what did not become her, and choosing always
what was plain and rich and fresh and well-fitting. A white
chip bonnet and feathers made a great impression on me just
now, so did a straw-coloured silk of my aunt Judy's, as she
altered it to please herself. It was to be worn with handsomely
embroidered white muslin gowns and a small cloak of like
material trimmed with lace, and all the broad hem round lined
with straw-coloured satin ribbon; the shape of the bonnet was
such as was worn at the time, rather a close cottage, if I remember,
with a long feather laid across it very prettily. My
uncle had chosen the whole dress and spared no expense to
have his oddity of a little wife made to look somewhat like
other people. The first day it was all very well, but the
second no one would have known her; both cloak and bonnet
were so disfigured by the changes she had made in them, that
their singularity and her high-heeled shoes — for she had never
yet been persuaded to lay her stilts aside — really made us all
feel for my uncle, who was certainly very angry, though he was
prepared for the exhibition, she never having then nor since
received any article of any description from any person, however
celebrated, without altering it, if it could be done; her own
taste being, according to her, unimpeachable, and all these lower
natures requiring the finishing touch of her refinement to make
her the most perfect object that ever vexed a sensitive husband.
I have a much more distinct recollection of this affair, of
nipping the sugar, setting out the desserts, giving out the linen,
running all the messages, than I have of all the classic gaieties
of the week, though I was kindly taken to all of them. In
fact I fancy they had disappointed me, read me another lesson,
for, as far as I remember, hope never intoxicated me again; I
never felt again as I had felt at Grosvenor Lodge, on the day
of receiving my aunt's invitation. The theatre, for one thing,
had been a shock, where I had expected to be charmed with a
play, instead of being nearly set to sleep by discourses in Latin
from a pulpit. There were some purple and some gold, some
robes and some wigs, a great crowd and some stir at times,
when a deal of humdrum speaking and dumb show was
followed by the noisy demonstrations of the students as they
applauded or condemned the honours bestowed; but in the
main I tired of the heat and the mob, and the worry of these
mornings, and so, depend upon it, did poor Lord Grenville, who
sat up in his chair of state among the dignitaries, like the
Grand Lama in his temple guarded by his priests. The
concerts, though, were delightful. There, for the first and only
time in my life, I heard Catalani. I don't think her singing,
her Rule Britannia, above all her "Gott safe the King," will
ever go out of my head. She was the first Italian woman I
had noticed, and much her large, peculiarly set eyes, her open
forehead, pale dark complexion and vivacity of countenance
struck me. She was very handsome. We had Braham, too,
with his unequalled voice and fine bravura style, and my old
acquaintance from the Hanover Square Rooms; Mrs. Bianchi
indeed always went about with Catalani to teach her her songs,
the great singer not knowing a note of music; indeed her ear
was defective, it was a chance her gaining the pitch of the
accompaniment; if she did, all was right, for she kept on as
she set out, so it was generally sounded for her by her friend,
and then off she went like nobody else that ever succeeded her.
Well all this over, the company gone, the actors and the
spectators departed, the term over, Oxford deserted, my regular
life there began. In the morning I read both in French and in
English to my aunt, took one walk a day with old Anne, who
dressed herself in a black mode cloak that had arm-holes to let
the arms through, and a small black bonnet, to attend upon
me. I gave out the good things from the storeroom, sometimes
naughtily helping myself, played in the garden at walking
like a lady with a phantom companion, to whom I addressed
some very brilliant observations, went visiting sometimes with
my aunt, and helped her to patch, for that favourite work still
continued although the whole house was decorated with her
labours. Borders of patchwork went round all the sofa and
chair covers, and my room went by the name of the patchwork
room because the bed and the window curtains were all
trimmed with this bordering. My aunt kept her house very
neat and clean, as it deserved to be kept, for my uncle and the
college together had fitted it up handsomely. The woodwork
was all dark oak highly polished and carved. The chimney-pieces
were of stone, of antique form, suited to a college of
Alfred's (?) days, and then with my uncle's ingenious turn for nicknackities
of his own production it was filled with ornamental
trifles, all in keeping with the grave air of his college residence.
The walls of some rooms were hung with his poker-paintings,
pictures burned on wood by hot irons; others had his drawings
framed; the plants were in pots painted Etruscan; some windows
screened by transparencies. He was never idle, sketching or
finishing his sketches filling up any unoccupied time. They had
three old servants, a man and two maids, who did all the work
of that large house. William and old Anne had lived with my
uncle at his living of Whitchurch in his bachelor days. Nanny
was added on his marriage, and the three remained with him
till his death, when William was made porter to the college,
and Anne and Nanny accompanied my aunt to her small house
in Holywell.
I was beginning to tire of being "burd alane," kind and
indulgent as were my aunt and uncle, when a letter arrived
from my mother that caused a number of mysterious consultations.
Though I was never admitted to the secret tribunal in
the study, I heard afterwards up in my aunt's boudoir most of
all that had been discussed. The question was concerning a
proposition made by my mother to this effect, that instead of
reclaiming me, my sister Jane should be sent to bear me
company. My father found it necessary to proceed immediately
to the Highlands, and not intending to remain there long, it
being now late in the season, he did not wish to encumber his
party with all his children and a governess, for we elder ones
could not well be let to run wild any longer; and if our uncle
Griffiths would let us stay with him and my aunt would take
the trouble to look a little after us, and choose us good masters,
we were anxious enough to learn to ensure our making good
profit of such instruction. A delay of two or three days
resulted in an answer such as was expected. I had a peep of
father, mother, brothers, and little sister, for William's holidays
enabled him to travel with them, and then Jane and I were
left by ourselves to make the best of it. It was a great trial,
this arrangement, to have to give up the Highlands, to be
separated we who were all so happy together, and whose hearts
were in Rothiemurchus. Many a passion of tears our little
patchwork room witnessed for the first week. Afterwards our
young spirits revived, and we set ourselves to work in earnest
to be busy and happy in our new circumstances.
CHAPTER VII
1810-1811
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE is said to be the most ancient of all the
Colleges in Oxford, as may be supposed from King Alfred
getting the credit of being its founder. The two quadrangles
which form the principal part of the edifice occupy a considerable
space in the High Street; each quadrangle is entered
through large arched gateways approached by flights of broad
steps. The line of building separating the two quadrangles
extends sufficiently behind to separate the Master's gardens
from the Fellows'. It is appropriated to the kitchen offices
principally. My uncle's lodgings forming a larger house than
he required, he let some of the upper rooms of the side looking
to the street, retaining on the ground-floor a dining-room,
drawing-room and pantry, two bedrooms, with two dressing-closets
above. The upper storey he let. The other side, the
wedge, contained on the ground-floor the hall and staircase, back
passage and back staircase, the study, and through the study
the library, a very long room filled with old dusty books in
cases all round, reaching from the floor to the ceiling; most of
these books were unreadable, being a collection of divinity from
very ancient times, belonging to the College, and not of late
much added to. In this room there was no furniture, neither
curtains, nor carpet, nor fireplace; but three chairs, one table,
and a pianoforte were put into it for us, and this was our schoolroom.
Through this library was a small room with a fireplace,
used by my uncle to heat his irons for his poker-painting; this
little room opened into a pretty garden, where our happiest
hours were spent. Over this suite were the private apartments
of my uncle and aunt, and our patchwork room. Above again
were the servants' rooms, storeroom and lumber rooms. The
kitchens were underground. It was all very nice, except that
long melancholy library, which was always like a prison to us;
there was no view from the windows, no sun till quite late in
the day, not an object to distract our attention from our business.
A judicious arrangement perhaps; we lost no time there
certainly. Mr. Vickery, the organist of Magdalen, taught us
music, he was clever, but perfectly mad; half his lesson he
spent in chattering, the other half in dancing. So except my
aunt came in, or he thought she was coming, we got very little
instruction from him. Jane made no progress at all, I not
much, but I don't think I lost what I had formerly learned,
because I was so fond of it that I kept myself up for my own
pleasure, spending at least two hours a day at the pianoforte.
Our writing master was an elderly man of the name of Vincent,
much in the same style as our old friend Mr. Thompson; he,
however, taught nothing beyond writing and arithmetic and the
mending of pens, which last accomplishment we found about as
useful an art as any of the many we learned. A young Mr.
Neale taught us drawing remarkably well; he drew before us
during the lesson, and left us to copy what we had seen him do,
an excellent plan. Our aunt was so kind as to keep us up in
history, geography, French, etc., and our uncle, with his refined
tastes and his many accomplishments, was of the utmost use to
us in fixing our attention on wiser things than had hitherto
chiefly employed us. For one thing, he opened to us what had
been till then a sealed book — the New Testament. He taught
us to make its precepts our rule of life, showed us that part of
our Saviour's mission here on earth was to be to us an example,
and he explained the Catechism so clearly that we, who had
always just learned it by rote every Sunday most grudgingly,
now took pleasure in repeating what we understood and found
was to be of use. My little artifices and equivocations were
never passed by him, but they were so kindly checked, so
reproved as a duty, that I soon disliked to pain him by employing
them. Neither did I find such subterfuges necessary. No
one punished me for accidental faults, nor was a harsh word
ever addressed to me, I therefore insensibly lost the bad habits
given by our nursery miseries. Truly this visit to Oxford was
one of the fortunate chances of my life.
My uncle was invariably good to me, but Jane was his
favourite, honest, natural, truthful Jane. Her love of reading,
drawing, gardening and poetry, kept them constantly together,
while I was more my aunt's companion. Still, we were
often dull, for they were a good deal out at dinner with the other
Heads of Houses, and then we had long evenings alone in the
study, Anne popping up every now and then to look after us.
We were allowed to make tea for ourselves, and we had tea to
breakfast, and butter upon our bread, and a small glass of ale —
College home-brewed ale — at dinner. How fat we got! Our
regular walk was our only grievance. Neither my aunt nor
Anne would let us run, it was not considered correct to run in
Oxford, not even in the parks nor in the Christchurch meadows;
we were to move sedately on, arm in arm, for our arms were
not allowed to fall naturally; they were placed by my aunt in
what she called a graceful position, and so they were to remain,
and when we remonstrated and said mamma had never stiffened
us up so, we were told that my mother was by no means a
model of elegance, a sort of heresy in our ears, we being persuaded
she was as near perfection as mortal woman could be.
We were quite shocked to find her not appreciated. How we
skipped upstairs for our bonnets when my uncle proposed to
walk out with us! No graceful arm in arm for him! The
moment we were out of the town, away we raced just as we
liked, off to Joe Pullen's tree, or along the London roadway,
round the Christchurch meadows. If old Anne could but have
seen us! We told her of our doings though, which was some
satisfaction. Sometimes our walks with him were quieter. He
took us into the different colleges, to show us the Hall of one,
the stained-glass windows of another, the chapel of a third. He
told us the histories of the founders, with the dates of their
times, and he gave us short sketches of the manners of those
days, adverting to the events then passing, the advance of some
arts since, the point at which a certain style of architecture, for
instance, had stopped. We went over the Bodleian and the Radcliffe
Libraries, and to the museum and the theatre and the
schools, and very often we returned to the chapel window at New
College, and the picture over the communion table at Magdalen
— Christ bearing the Cross — supposed to be Spanish, and perhaps
by Velasquez; it had been taken in a ship that had sailed
from a port in Spain. Sometimes he made us write little essays
on different subjects in prose, and try to rhyme, beginning with
bouts-rimés, at which my aunt beat us all. I cannot say that my
versifying ever did him or me much credit, but I poetised
capitally in prose, while Jane strung off couplets by the hundred
with very little trouble beyond writing them down. My uncle
could versify by the hour. There was a horrifying fragment in
our Elegant Extracts which we used to read over for ever with
great delight — the ride of a certain Sir Bertram, his arrival at an
enchanted castle, with the beginning of fearful adventures there,
cut short just at the exciting moment. This in the course of an
afternoon he made an ancient ballad of to amuse us, in this
style: —
Sir Bertram did his steed bestride
And turned towards the wold,
In hopes o'er those wild moors to ride
Before the curfew tolled.
He had an immensity of fun in him besides this readiness,
and was the author of many satirical pleasantries and political
squibs called forth by the events of the day, some of which
found their way into the newspapers, as —
Sir Arthur, Sir Arthur, Sir Hew and Sir Harry
Sailed boldly from England to Spain,
But not liking long there to tarry,
They wisely sailed all back again.
"Sir Arthur" was the Duke of Wellington. His second
sailing did better. Then there was —
The city of Lisbon.
The gold that lay in the city of Lisbon.
which in our volume had little coloured vignettes all down the
page, representing the subject of each new announcement.
"The Court of Enquiry," with little officers in regimentals
seated all round a table; the "Fraternal Hug" of the French
ally to the poor overwhelmed Portuguese, etc. Never a letter
almost went to the Doune without containing either in pen or
pencil some clever allusion to the times. His caricatures were
admirable, particularly of living characters, the likenesses were
so perfect. Some of these he composed on the common playing-cards,
the hearts and diamonds being most humorously turned
into faces, hands, furniture, etc. He began a series from Shakespeare,
which are really fine as compositions. His graver style,
whether in water-colours, chalks, reeds or burnt in, are considered
to have shown great genius, his many sketches from
nature being particularly valuable, from their spirit and truthfulness.
There were portfolios full of these in their ruder
states, hundreds finished, framed, and dispersed among his
friends. We had a great many at the Doune taken in Rothiemurchus,
Dunkeld and the West Highlands. My aunt's little
boudoir was hung round with others. In his dining-room were
more; there were some at the Bodleian, and the altar-piece in
his own College chapel — Christ blessing the Bread — was of his
own poker-painting. In the museum was a head, I think of
Leicester; and while we were with him he was busy with a tiger
the size of life, the colouring of the old oak panel and the
various tints burned on it so perfectly suiting the tiger's skin.
Jane was his great assistant in this work, heating the irons for
him in the little end room, and often burning portions of the
picture herself. A print was taken from his water-colour drawing
of part of the High Street, in which his own College figures
conspicuously. They are rare now, as he sold none. One was
afterwards given to me, which we have framed and hung in our
entrance hall.
Two facts struck me, young as I was, during our residence
at Oxford; the ultra-Tory politics and the stupidity and frivolity
of the society. The various Heads, with their respective wives,
were extremely inferior to my uncle and aunt. More than half
of the Doctors of Divinity were of humble origin, the sons of
small gentry or country clergy, or even of a lower grade; many
of these, constant to the loves of their youth, brought ladies of
inferior manners to grace what appeared to them so dignified a
station. It was not a good style; there was little talent and
less polish and no sort of knowledge of the world, and yet the
ignorance of this class was less offensive than the assumption of
another, where a lady of high degree had fallen in love with her
brother's tutor and got him handsomely provided for in the
church that she might excuse herself for marrying him. Of the
lesser clergy there were young witty ones, odious, and young
learned ones, bores, and elderly ones, pompous; all, of all grades,
kind and hospitable. But the Christian pastor, humble and
gentle, and considerate and self-sacrificing, occupied with his
duties, and filled with the "charity" of his Master, had no representative,
as far as I could see, among these dealers in old wines,
rich dinners, fine china, and massive plate. The religion of Oxford
appeared in those days to consist in honouring the king and his
ministers, and in perpetually popping in and out of chapel. All
the Saints' days and all the eves of Saints' days were kept holy,
every morning and every evening there were prayers in every
College chapel, lengthened on Wednesdays and Fridays by the
addition of the Litany. My uncle attended the morning prayers
regularly, Jane and I with him, all being roused by the strokes
of a big hammer, beaten on every staircase half an hour before
by a scout. In the afternoons he frequently omitted this duty,
as the hour, six o'clock, interfered with the dinner-parties, the
company at that time assembling about five. The education
was suited to the divinity. A sort of supervision was said to
be kept over the young riotous community, and to a certain
extent the Proctors of the University and the Deans of the
different Colleges did see that no very open scandals were committed.
There were rules that had in a general way to be
obeyed, and there were lectures that must be attended, but as
for care to give high aims, provide refining amusements, give a
worthy tone to the character of responsible beings, there was
none ever even thought of. The very meaning of the word
education did not appear to be understood. The College was a
fit sequel to the school. The young men herded together, they
lived in their rooms, or they lived out of them in the neighbouring
villages, where many had comfortable establishments. Some
liked study, attended the lectures, and read up with their tutors,
laughed at by the others who preferred hunting, gaming, supper
parties, etc. The chapel-going was felt to be "an uncommon
bore," and was shirked as much as possible, little matter, as no
good could possibly follow so vain a ceremony. All sorts of
contrivances were resorted to, to enable the dissipated to remain
out at night, to shield a culprit, to deceive the dignitaries. It
was a drive at random of a low and most thoughtless kind; the
extravagance consequent on which often ruined parents who had
sacrificed much to give a son the much-prized university education.
The only care the Heads appeared to take with regard
to the young minds they were supposed to be placed where
they were and paid well to help to form, was to keep the
persons of the students at the greatest possible distance. They
conversed with them never, invited them to their homes never,
spoke or thought about them never. A perpetual bowing was
their only intercourse; a bow of humble respect acknowledged
by one of stiff condescension limited the intercourse of the old
heads and the young, generally speaking. Of course there were
exceptional cases, and the Deans and the tutors were on more
familiar terms with the students, but quite in the teacher and
pupil style, very little of the anxious improver on one side, and the
eager for knowledge on the other. I do not know what encouragement
was given to the "excelsior" few, but I well remember
the kind of punishment inflicted on the erring many, sufficient
perhaps for the faults noticed. Too late out, not at chapel,
noise at lecture—these delinquencies doomed the perpetrators to
an "imposition." A certain number of pages from a classic
author transcribed, that was all, in a legible hand. A task that
really was of some use, though no one would think it, for several
decent young men belonging to the town made a livelihood by
writing them at so much a page. There was a settled price, and
when the clean-looking leaves had been turned over by my uncle,
for it was into the study of the Head that these mockeries had
to be delivered, my aunt claimed them, as she found them invaluable
for patch papers. Mr. Rowley, the Dean, had drawn
for her, with a great array of compasses, a small hexameter,
which she had had executed in tin, and after this pattern she
cut up all these papers, sitting between dinner and tea, while
my uncle finished his port wine.
Our breakfast hour was at nine o'clock; dinner was at four,
except on company days, when it was half an hour later, and
such dinners! The College cook dressed them. The markets
were ransacked for luxuries, the rich contents of the cellar
brought out, port, sherry, and madeira of vintages most prized
some twenty years before; beautiful plate, the best glass and
china and table linen; desserts of equal costliness; big men
in wide silk cassocks that would have stood alone, scarves
besides, and bands; one or two of the older men in powdered
wigs. Sixteen the table held. The ladies were very fine,
quite as particular about their fashions, and as expensive too,
as the husbands were about the wines, very condescending
too in manner to one another. Mr. Moises used to say
that the two little girls in white frocks were the only live
creatures that looked real amongst them all. It was certainly
an unnaturally constrained life that these people passed at
Oxford. To us the dulness was intolerable; we were often
oppressed by it even to tears, as our pillows and a large red
mulberry tree in the garden could have testified, for to the
garden we generally repaired to recover from these occasional
fits of melancholy and to read over and over again our mother's
letters from the Doune. She had found a boat-load of Altyre
Cummings by the side of the river the day she reached home.
The Lady Logie and Alexander had been up on a visit. All
the old servants had asked after Jane and me. All the old people
so regretted our absence. Never was such a season for fruit,
the guignes superb, and William and little Mary on the ponies
riding all over the country. What a contrast to our company
dinners, our walks with Anne, the bare, dull library, and our
masters, and the little bit of garden where we tried to play.
We were one sunny afternoon sitting under the mulberry
tree, tired with searching on the grass round its trunk for the
fine ripe fruit which had fallen thickly there, and which, after
all, we thought, came next to guignes, when a window at that
side of the quadrangle to which the College kitchens were
attached opened, and a curly head was thrust out, to which
belonged very bright eyes and very blooming cheeks, and a
mouth wide opened by laughter. It was an upper window
belonging to a suite of rooms let to the students. "Little girl,"
said the head, "how do you sell your mulberries?" "They are
not ours, sir," said Jane — she was always the spokeswoman —
"we cannot sell them." "You can only eat them, eh?" said the
head again, and many voices from behind joined in the laughter.
"Jane," said I, "don't go on talking to that young man, my
aunt would not like it." "Nonsense," said Jane, "where's the
harm of answering a question?" "Well, little girls, won't you
sell me some mulberries? I'll give you a tune on the French
horn for them." And thereupon our new acquaintance began
to play, we thought beautifully, upon an instrument that we
thought charming. "A basket full of mulberries for a tune,
eh? My aunt won't be angry." A basket with a string to it
dangled from the window. But we were firm; we refused to
fill it. And because we were such very good, honest little girls,
we had a great many tunes on the French horn played to us for
nothing, till I, who was always a coward, coaxed Jane away.
It was getting near the dinner hour. My uncle's man William,
regularly as old Anne began to dish, crossed the garden to the
private door of the buttery, where he went daily for ale. We
thought it best, therefore, to retire from this first interview with
our musical acquaintance, although we were not sufficiently
modest to avoid the chances of succeeding ones. Indeed that
corner of the garden was so shady, so out of the way of my
aunt's windows and so near the mulberry tree, that we naturally
preferred to amuse ourselves there; the head and the horn as
naturally continued to appear, till at length we grew so friendly
as to take their acquaintances into the alliance, and we found
ourselves chatting and laughing merrily with about a dozen
commoners.
"Pray, Mr. Rowley," said my uncle the Master one day to
the Dean, "who plays the French horn here in College? No
very studious young gentleman, I should think." "Mr. So-and-So,"
said Mr. Rowley. (Is it not strange that I should have
completely forgotten our friend's name ?) "He is no bad performer,
I believe, and a very quiet young man," etc. etc. We
were crimson, we bent over our work in very shame, certain
that our highly improper flirtation had been discovered, and that
this conversation was meant as a hint for us to behave ourselves.
I daresay neither my uncle nor Mr. Rowley had the least notion
of our musical propensities, and were only mentioning a simple
fact, but conscience terrified us too much to allow of our ever
haunting the buttery steps again.
This recreation being at an end, we began another. My
aunt obliged us to darn our stockings every week when they
came from the washing, up in our own room. That is, obliged
me to darn them, for Jane couldn't work and wouldn't work, —
the only specimen of her abilities in this feminine accomplishment
during our Oxford visit being the rather singular piece of
patchwork which always stays on the chimney-piece in my room.
and which I use as a kettle-holder. She read to me while I
worked, and this made the time pass more pleasantly. My
uncle's lodgings, as I have mentioned, occupied two sides of the
square of buildings forming the inner quadrangle. Our room was
close to the corner, at right angles with the spare apartments he
had let for college rooms. The nearest set to us was occupied
by a Mr. Coxe, a very tall young man from Yorkshire, with a
remarkably loud voice, as we knew by the tone in which it was
his habit to read aloud, for the weather being warm and the
windows open, we could hear him distinctly spouting from book
or from memory as he paced up and down his study. We could
see him too, for we were very close neighbours, when either he
or we looked out of our casements, and as he acted the parts he
was speaking with much emphasis, I found it much more amusing
to watch Mr. Coxe's antics than to fill up the great holes Jane
thumped out in the heels of her stockings. Down therefore
went my hands, and forward stretched my neck, intent as I
was on the scene enacting, when Mr. Coxe, finding himself
noticed, so increased the force with which he ranted, that I
could not contain my laughter. At this he humbly bowed, his
hand upon his heart. I laughed the more. He shook his head;
he clasped his hands; he threw his arms here and there, starting,
stamping, and always roaring. In short, the pantomime
proceeded with vigour to a most amusing height before Jane,
who was sitting below me faithfully reading through the pages
of the Spectator, perceived what was going on. Some one else
must have perceived it too, probably Mr. Rowley, who was
always prowling about, for though neither he, nor my uncle, nor
my aunt ever mentioned the subject to us, muslin blinds were
fastened to our windows next day, which we were on no account
to displace, and we were ordered in future to take all our mendings
down to that horrid and most melancholy library, where my
aunt said that we were more within her reach should she want
us. Mr. Coxe was really very diverting, I regretted losing his
theatricals extremely.
The young men had a hundred ways of amusing themselves,
quite independent of the Master's childish nieces. Mr. Rowley
having made himself disagreeable to some of his pupils who
found it suit their health to take long rides in the country, they
all turned out one night to hunt the fox under his window. A
Mr. Fox, in a red waistcoat and some kind of a skin for a cap,
was let loose on the grass in the middle of the quadrangle, with
the whole pack of his fellow-students barking around him.
There were cracking whips, shrill whistles, loud halloos, and
louder hark-aways, quite enough to frighten the dignitaries.
When those great persons assembled to encounter this confusion,
all concerned skipped off up the different staircases, like
so many rats to their holes, and I don't believe any of them
were ever regularly discovered, though suspected individuals
were warned as to the future. Mr. Fox, I remember, was found
quietly reading in his room, undisturbed by all the tumult,
although a little flurried by the authoritative knocks which
forced him, at that hour of the night, to unlock his door! My
uncle was very mild in his rule; yet there were circumstances
which roused the indignation of the quietest colleges.
The ringleader in every species of mischief within our grave
walls was Mr. Shelley, afterwards so celebrated, though I should
think to the end half-crazy. He began his career by every kind
of wild prank at Eton, and when kindly remonstrated with by
his tutor, repaid the well-meant private admonition by spilling
an acid over the carpet of that gentleman's study, a new purchase,
which he thus completely destroyed. He did no deed so
mischievous at University, but he was very insubordinate, always
infringing some rule, the breaking of which he knew could not
be overlooked. He was slovenly in his dress, and when spoken
to about these and other irregularities, he was in the habit of
making such extraordinary gestures, expressive of his humility
under reproof, as to overset first the gravity, and then the
temper, of the lecturing tutor. Of course these scenes reached
unpleasant lengths, and when he proceeded so far as to paste up
atheistical squibs on the chapel doors, it was considered necessary
to expel him, privately, out of regard for Sir Timothy Shelley,
the father, who, being written to concerning his wayward son,
arrived in much anxiety, had a long conference with my uncle
in the study, to which presently both the young man and Mr.
Rowley were admitted, and then Sir Timothy and his son left
Oxford together. Quiet was restored to our sober walls after
this disturber of its peace had been got rid of, although some
suspicious circumstances connected with the welfare of a principal
favourite of my aunt's still required to be elucidated, as Mr.
Rowley said, and at once checked.
Our inner quadrangle had buildings on only three of its
sides, the fourth side was a wall, a high wall, the wall of the
Master's garden. The centre part of this wall was raised a few
feet higher than the lengths on either hand, carved in a sort of
scroll. Against this more elevated portion on the garden side
was trained a fruit-tree, a baking pear, very old and very sturdy,
with great branching arms spread regularly at equal distances
from bottom to top, a perfect step-ladder! The defences of the
garden on the stable side next the lane were of no moment, very
easily surmounted, and the vigilant eyes of Mr. Rowley had discovered,
on the College side of the high pear-tree wall, certain
indications of the pear-tree's use to those tenants, steady or
unsteady, who returned from their rambles later than suited the
books of the porter's lodge. The pear-tree must come down,
beautifully as it was trained, splendid as the fruit was — large
brown pears on which my aunt reckoned for her second course
dishes. The wall, too, looked so bare without it. My aunt
never thoroughly forgave Mr. Rowley for this extreme of discipline,
and, like Mr. Balquhidder's cow, the pears grew so in size
and flavour, and the tree became so wonderfully fruitful after
its decease, that my uncle, after enduring a fair allowance of
lamentations for it, had to forbid the subject. I have often
thought since when on my hobby — as my brother John calls my
educating mania — that if we were to make wise matters more
lovable, young ardent spirits would not waste the activity
natural to their age on follies. Too much work we hardly any
of us have, but work too dry, work too absorbing, work unsuitable,
is the work cut out for and screwed on to every young
mind of every nature that falls under the iron rule of school or
college. Learning is such a delight, there must be some error in
the teaching when the scholars shirk it and debase themselves to
merely sensual pleasures, of a low order too, drinking, gambling,
and the like pursuits, which caused the destruction of the pear-tree.
I am setting down all my Oxford experiences together, without
regard to vacation or term time, an unclassical proceeding,
which, if I had thought about it, I would not have done. The
long vacation began soon after the Commemoration was over in
July, and lasted till October, and though some reading men remained
to study, and some of the Fellows came and went, Oxford
was empty for the time of all the hubbub I had gone to form a
part of till close upon Gaudy day. My uncle and aunt, however,
remained there till the month of September, when they
went to Cheltenham for a few weeks on account of my uncle's
health, and took us with them. William, the man-servant, attended
us, but neither of the maids; we were to wait on our
aunt and on each other. Our lodgings were small but very neat,
as every lodging was at Cheltenham. We had a good drawing-room
and small dining-room over a cabinetmaker's shop, and bedrooms
above. We were just opposite to a chemist's, beside
whose house was the paved alley which led past the old church
to the walk up to the old Wells at the end of the avenue. We
all drank the waters and we all ate famous breakfasts afterwards,
and Jane and I, out most of the day with my uncle, were so
happy wandering about the outskirts of what was then only a
pretty village, that we much regretted remaining here so short
a time. My aunt, who walked less, and who could patch away
anywhere, preferred, of course, her comfortable home, for she
had found few acquaintances in Cheltenham; only old Mrs.
Colonel Ironside, the widow of the Indian cousin in whose gay
London house she had spent such happy times in her young
days, and Admiral Ricketts, Mrs. Ironside's nephew, with his
kind Irish wife. We saw very little of any of them; I fancy
morning calls had been the extent of the civilities. What I
recollect of Cheltenham is the beautiful scenery. The long
turning High Street, the rich well-wooded plain the town was
settled in, the boundary of low hills, Malvern in the distance,
and that charming Well walk, always shady, where we were
told the King and Queen had appeared by seven o'clock in the
morning, when His Majesty King George the Third had been
ordered by his physicians to try the waters. Half a lifetime
afterwards, when I returned married from India and revisited
this pretty place, I remembered it all as it had been, even found
my way about it, though so altered, and I must say I regretted
that the lovely rural village had grown into a large town, beautiful
still with its hundreds of handsome villas and long streets
of excellent houses, but not half so pleasing to me as it was in
the "olden time." I hear now that they have cut down the fine
avenue that shaded the old Well walk, built rows of shops from
the Crescent up to the old pump-room, and that the town extends
through the fields beyond. The children of these times will be
tired before getting to their country walks. Jane and I had
green fields to run in.
On returning to Oxford we all resumed our graver habits.
Jane and I had that odious library and our masters; my uncle
and aunt the duties of society. All the great people having
reassembled, they had all to interchange their calls and then to
invite one another to dimier. In the evenings sometimes there
were routs — thirty or forty people to tea and cards, refreshments
handed round before separating. Jane and I were spared
appearing at the desserts; we were found in the drawing-room
by the ladies, dressed in the fine muslin frocks bought for the
Persian ambassador, with the gold chains and the cairngorm
crosses, of course; we sat up as late as the company stayed,
and were much noticed; luckily the home parties were not
many. The ladies were really all so commonplace, they made
little impression. There was a handsome, very vulgar and very
good-natured Mrs. Lee, from Ipswich; an extremely pretty
Mrs. Hodson from Lancaster; a fat Mrs. Landon, whose husband
was uncle to L. E. L.; a tall Mrs. Marlowe and the
Misses Williams, all three with squeaky voices, and all elderly.
No young women seemed to live in Oxford. A single Miss
Eveleigh, by no means good-looking, but rich, soon married.
The Principal of Jesus College, Dr. Hughes, a most huge mountain
of a Welshman, was our particular favourite among the
gentlemen, I believe because he let each of us sit in the large
silver punch-bowl belonging to his Headship. It held Jane
easily. Dr. Williams never got into my good graces, nor Mr.
Rowley, he was such a little ugly and very pompous man. Mr.
Moises we were very fond of. A particular friend of my uncle's,
the son of that Newcastle schoolmaster who educated Lord
Eldon and Lord Stowell, Mr. Collins, then rather a beau, was
another great ally of ours. They were all clergymen, as were
most of the travellers who paid passing visits, such as our two
cousins Horseman, whom we distinguished as the "clean and
the dirty" one, both odd, but John, the elder and the dirty one,
much the queerer. James was just going to he married, for
which John called him a great fool. Mr. Surtees came several
times, once with his wife, such a pretty little woman, very small,
one of those half-dozen Miss Allans, who were all rich. Three
of them married three Wedgwoods, and one married Sir James
Macintosh. Miss Allan, the nicest of them, remained single.
Mr. Surtees was brother to Lady Eldon, and, of course, got well
up in the Church. In early life he had been in love with aunt
Leitch, though she had never smiled on him. Lord Eldon never
happened to come to my uncle's when I was there, though they
were so intimate as to correspond. Lord Chancellors have not
much time for travelling; besides, the King was in very uncertain
health just then, giving everybody about him a good deal of
uneasiness. Lord Stowell, then Sir William Scott, was often
with us, and a very agreeable old man he was.
What strange women those two clever brothers married! Lady
Eldon's was a runaway affair and she had not a penny, but she
was very beautiful, and to the last hour of her life retained her
husband's affections, in spite of her eccentricities. Latterly she was
never seen but by him. She lived up in her own rooms dressed
in a hat and habit, and was called too much of an invalid to see
visitors. But she got up to make his breakfast every morning,
however early he required it, as she had done from the day of
their marriage; nothing ever prevented this but her two or three
confinements; on other occasions, when indisposed with colds or
headaches, she still waited on him, and returned to bed when
he went off to court or chambers. She never learned that they
were rich. When he was making thousands at the bar, and
later when his official salary was so large, she continued the
careful management of their early struggling days, locking up
stores and looking after remains, and herself counting the coal-sacks,
making the carters hold up the bags and shake them as
they were emptied into the cellars, she standing at the window
of her lord's handsome house in her hat and habit, giving a little
nod as each empty sack was laid upon the pavement.
Lady Scott was still more thrifty, at least we heard a great
many more stories concerning her oddities. She had money and
no beauty; and if there ever had been any love it did not last
long, for they were little together. He was said to be miserly
too, but he was not miserable. She grudged him his clean shirt
daily, and used to take a day's wear out of the cast one herself,
putting it on instead of a bed-gown, thereby saving that article
in her own wardrobe. Then she allowed him but one towel a
week, and Mr. Collins had a story of her, that on closing a
visit to a friend of his, she entered her hostess's presence before
taking leave, laden with a pile of towels, which she thought it
her duty to bring to view, in order to expose the extravagance
of the servants who had supplied them so profusely, priding herself
on having used but two, one for herself and one for Sir
William! There were tales of her serving up chickens reheated,
and having wings and legs of some fictitious kind skewered on
in place of the real ones which had been eaten; of a leg of
mutton doing duty all the week; of her cutting a turkey in
two when she found her son dined out, and on his returning
unexpectedly, sewing the turkey up again. Mr. Collins and
Mr. Moises, both north-countrymen, used to keep us laughing
by the hour at all the oddities they told of her. She died at
last, but long after this, and he made a second unlucky venture.
Old Lady Sligo, the dowager of her day, was a worse wife than
this first one. Why they married at their advanced age no one
could fancy. She was near seventy, and he was past it. He
had both a son and a daughter, the daughter very agreeable.
She was often at Oxford as Mrs. Townsend, and occasionally
after becoming Lady Sidmouth; and as she had been at school
with aunt Lissy, we imputed this also as a merit to her.
We remained at Oxford until the spring of 1811. My
father and mother had left the Highlands before Christmas,
intending to proceed to London, whither they had sent on most
of the servants, with the heavy luggage, by sea. They were
delayed, however, in Edinburgh by either business or pleasure,
perhaps a mixture of both, so it was in the month of March
they called for us. A young friend, Mary Balfour, was with
them; a nice, kind, very accomplished, though exceedingly
plain girl. She was going on a visit to some friends in London,
and took advantage of a spare seat in their carriage. There
was no one in it but my father, my mother, the two children
Mary and Johnnie, and Miss Balfour. Mary Creake, the
maid, and the footman were outside. Whether my father
travelled with his own horses this time I forget. I daresay he
did, and had kept them all four and the coachman all this time
at the hotel in Edinburgh. He did not hurry away as was his
usual habit everywhere, he stayed a few days to show the
beauties of Oxford to Miss Balfour. Amongst other sights
they went to see Great Tom, which I had no mind to do;
hearing him every night booming so grandly over the quiet
around quite satisfied me, for the sound was very fine, coming
in too just after the little "merry, merry Christchurch bells."
Jane, who was of an inquisitive turn, decided upon mounting up
all those long stairs in order to understand the real size of the
monster. Once up, she would go in and under it, and remain
in it just to hear one toll. Poor child! she dropped as if shot,
was carried out into the air, brought home still senseless, laid in
bed, Dr. Williams sent for, the whole house in despair. Doctor
Williams recommended her being left to nature, he apprehended
no danger; the nerves had received a shock and they must be
left to recover, and they did recover. She wakened next morning
as if she had merely had a good night's sleep, recollecting
nothing, however, beyond her last-expressed wish to see the
great tongue moved by the men who pulled it with a rope, so
very differently from the ringing of the other bells. This little
agitating scene so well over, we fell to our pickings, assisted by
Mary Creake, who had a way of getting quickly through this and
every kind of work.
We were sorry to leave our kind uncle and aunt, but we
were not sorry to resume the freedom of our home life, after
the restraint in fashion at University. We found the house in
Lincoln's Inn Fields in great order, which was strange, considering
that the servants had had nothing to do but to clean it up
for months back. We liked all our London masters and were
glad to meet our young acquaintance, and then we had our
happy days in Brunswick Square, and were to see our brother
William at the Easter holidays. Besides, a great pleasure was
preparing for us. Annie Grant came to live with us, and as
the changes consequent upon this agreeable addition to our
home-party had much influence over the welI-being of the
younger members of the family, I will make a pause in this
particular era — draw one of the long strokes between this and
more trifling days, and begin again after this resting-point.
CHAPTER VIII
1811-1812
ANNIE GRANT was the "accidental" daughter — to use a very
delicate expression a very refined lady once used to me, when
compelled to employ some term of this sort — of old Colonel
William Grant with the long queue, my father's half great-uncle,
my great-grand-uncle, who had long lived at the Croft. The
first time my mother saw her she was herding some cows in
the Lochan Mor (a boggy swamp, afterwards drained by Mr.
Cameron), standing beneath the shelter of a high bank of hanging
birch, no shoes upon her feet nor hat upon her head, her
knitting in her hands, her short dark petticoat, white jacket, and
braided snooded hair combining to present a perfect model of
Highland beauty. I wonder if Mrs. General Need when the
great lady at Cawnpore, the most favoured guest at Newstead
Abbey, the honoured of Kensington Palace, where more than
once she dined with the Duke of Sussex — did she ever wander
back in thought to the days of her simple youth? In those
early days she was not taught to expect much notice, neither
did she receive much; her mother was her father's housekeeper,
and brought up her children, Annie and her brother Peter,
in her own station, sending them to the parish school, and
never obtruding them or herself on any of "the family." After
the old Colonel's death she, still a very beautiful woman, married
his grieve, and went to settle in another part of the country.
The Colonel had been married in middle life to an Irishwoman,
a Mrs. Dashwood; they had never had any children, so he left
his savings — these Highlanders have always savings — to Annie
and her brother, some £2000 or better. My father as head of
the house was their guardian. Peter was sent to a better
school. Annie was taken by Captain Lewis Grant and his odd
wife to keep the keys of their small establishment, an office
regularly filled in every household then by such stray maidens
of the race as were in want of a home. When Mrs. Grant died
the Lady Logie took charge of Annie, who seemed never to be lost
sight of among her kith and kin, however irregularly she had
arrived among them. The Lady Logie "had her to school" at
Forres, where she received a good plain education, and as much
instruction in music as, assisted by the ear of her race, enabled
her to play the airs of her own country, grave and lively, with an
expression very delightful. On the death of the Lady Logie (my
father's aunt) it was determined the poor girl should earn a
home for herself. She was accordingly brought to London to
our house, and after being a few weeks with us she was bound
apprentice to the Miss Stewarts, the celebrated dressmakers.
Maybe, in their workroom, she well remembered her free hours
in the Lochan Mor. For her own happiness, herself and her
little fortune would probably have been better bestowed on
some young farmer in her native north, but this was an age of
unnatural notions; accomplished girls, portionless and homeless,
were made into governesses, and for the less instructed there
was nothing dreamed of but the dressmaking, a trade never
over-stocked, its victims dying off quite as quickly as the vacant
places were demanded. For some years all went smoothly.
Annie was a favourite, and never overworked except at special
busy times. Every Sunday while we were in town she spent with
us, often coming to us on the Saturday. Every summer she
had her holiday, which all of us enjoyed as much as she did, for
not only we, but all who came to our house, were fond of her.
At length came the time when the two old Miss Stewarts were to
resign the business, as had been agreed on, to Annie Grant and
Jessie Stewart, on terms which had been previously settled. A
word of dissatisfaction had never been uttered on their part, till
out came the astounding news that they had sold their house
and business more advantageously. Jessie Stewart had no
refuge but the arms of a lover, to whom through many years
of poverty she made the most exemplary wife, bearing severe
trials with patience and afterwards an exalted position meekly.
Her husband has long been a leading man, living in the best
society.
Annie Grant was received by my father and mother, I may
say, gladly, for they had begun to grudge her to needle and thread.
Very early (for her) one morning my mother drove to Albemarle
Street, and brought back a great blessing to our home. Without,
as far as we knew, any regular arrangement, Annie Grant slid
somehow into the charge of us. She took lessons with all our
masters, was so attentive while with them, so diligent in working
for them, so anxious to improve, that we caught her spirit.
There was no more idling in our dining-room; when the prescribed
lessons were over other occupations started up; she and
I read history together daily, Goldsmith, Robertson, Rollin. We
also had Shakespeare given to us, and some good novels, all
Miss Edgeworth's Fashionable Tales; and we walked a great deal,
sometimes taking the carriage to the Green Park or Kensington
Gardens, and taking a turn there. We were really busy, and so
happy, for Annie's gentle, steady rule was just what we all
wanted; she soothed me, encouraged Jane, and coaxed Mary.
Her great art was removing from us all that was irritating; we
had no occasion to "set up our backs." We actually forgot to
feel angry. Upon the phrenological system of influences, could
we have been under better? Had she been carefully trained
in physiological principles she could not have acted more wisely
than her mere kindly nature prompted. In the matter of our
breakfast she gained for us quite a victory, persuading my mother
that now she had no cow in the stable weak tea was cheaper than
milk, and a small bit of butter good for the chest, so that we
began our day so pleasantly all went smoothly on. In the evenings
we reeled away for an hour to her spirited strathspeys, the big
people often joining the little, and turning with us to magic
music and other games before confined to our own more
particular sphere. Everybody seemed happier since Annie lived
with us. She made extraordinary progress with the masters,
particularly with Mr. Nattes, the drawing-master. He said she
would be an artist if she chose. She more than overtook us in
a very few weeks, a fact that first set me thinking about the
folly of making children study while very young, that is, of giving
them expensive masters for pursuits beyond their ability. Plenty
of occupation better suited to their ordinary capacities can be
found which would give present employment, and prepare the
way for future success in higher things at a more profitable age.
Mr. Nattes had another pupil in whom he was much interested.
He said she would never draw much nor be first-rate in any art,
but she was so excellent a person that he had recommended her
as governess to a family in which he taught. This was our old
friend Miss Ramsay, who had come up to London to improve
herself. She often came to see us both before and after she
went to live with a rich Mrs. Smith, sister to the Marchioness of
Northampton, with whom and her very nice daughters she lived
for many years, in fact till she died, tended by them in her
failing health with all the affectionate care her good conduct
merited. Mr. Nattes was a handsome Italian, elderly, most
agreeable, who had been a Jesuit it was said, and did give the
idea of not being just what he seemed. He was married, and in
some repute as an artist, though never high up among his
brethren; he had been sketching in the Highlands when my
father fell in with him and brought him to the Doune, where
he filled a portfolio with beautifully-executed sketches most
accurately drawn. Some of these he reproduced in water-colour,
and we framed them and hung them up, and they were pretty
enough, but no more like the scenes they were meant to represent
than if they had been taken from any other place on the
artist's tour; they were, indeed, mere fancy pieces with names
below them fully as much travestied as the scenery. He taught
well so far, made us handle our pencils neatly, and gave us a
thorough knowledge of perspective. We drew according to rule
from models, attending accurately to position and to light and
shade, and soon sketched truthfully from Nature. It was a
great pity I had so little application, wearied so soon of any
work I set about, idled my time laughing and chattering. "Easy
come, easy go" is a very wise proverb. Then I was in character
fully half-a-dozen years younger than my age, and nobody considered
this. Jane, on the contrary, had the sense of a ranch
older girl. She was so conscientious, too, that she would not have
neglected her duty for any consideration. She was naturally
slow in acquiring, and particularly awkward in executing anything
in the world to be done by her fingers; her sketches were
apt to be crooked, her needlework was abominable, her playing
dreadful, her writing was wretched, her figures could not be
read; and yet in time she overcame all these difficulties, for her
industry was unfailing. It was almost a pity so much time
passed so painfully with her, yet she was a happy child, and she
was none the worse in after-life for this discipline. They could
not discipline me; binding the wind would have been about as
easy. My spirits were at times quite flighty, nothing ever sobered
them down to usefulness except the kind reproving glance of
Annie Grant. She, however, failed with Mary; the stupidity of
that strange heavy child had hitherto rendered every attempt to
rouse her vain. She was eight years old, and she could not
read, she would not try to count, writing she did on a slate in
her own way, but not in the least in Mr. Thompson's. She even
romped listlessly, would not dance, liked sitting quiet with her
doll cutting up cakes and apples into dinners for it. When
she washed the old block of wood without arms or legs which
she preferred to any wax baby, she seldom dried and never
dressed it, but called to me to render these services; and if I
were out of the way would roll a pinafore round the beauty and be
content. She was tall, large, and fair, as big nearly as Jane, and
looked as old. I was excessively fond of her; so was my mother.
My mother was very ill again this spring, confined for many
weeks to her room, and then ordered off to the seaside as soon
as she had recovered strength enough for the long journey to
the coast. Those were not railroad days. To prepare her for
her travels she took constant evening drives with us, getting out
beyond Southwark, beyond the parks, towards Epping, etc.,
occasionally making a day of it to Kew, Richmond, and even
Windsor. I had been once at Windsor before to see William, as
I have, I think, mentioned, when we went to Eton Chapel, and
afterwards met the King and Queen and the band of the Blues
upon the Terrace. We did some of this again, went to the
King's private chapel and saw him say his prayers in his little
bob wig, his short wife in a black silk cloak and plain straw
bonnet beside him. We also this time saw the Castle thoroughly,
private apartments and all, for the Queen and the Princesses had
gone for the day to Frogmore. My father's tenant at Thorley
Hall was a Mr. John Vowles, who had a brother William a corn-factor
at Windsor; they were of German extraction, in some
way connected with some of the personal attendants of the
Queen. Mrs. William Vowles, indeed, was a German horn, and
had been brought up by her parents in the Palace; she had been
educated and portioned by Her Majesty, and had not been
thrown off on her marriage. She it was who took us up the
back-stairs and showed us through most of the rooms in common
use by the family, when for the first time my mind wakened up
to the fact that real kings and queens were not like the royalties
of fairy tales, always seated upon thrones receiving homage and
dispensing life and death, but quiet, simple, actively-industrious
human beings. I could have made myself quite at home in
Queen Charlotte's bedroom, and should have made myself
very comfortable in the business-like morning-room occupied
by herself and her daughters. Books, music, painting, works
plain and fine, filled the apartment in which were but two easy-chairs,
each with a small table beside it; these were for "Mr. and
Mrs. Guelph," as they called themselves in the happy privacy of
their family. Another time that we were at Windsor we
dined early with Mr. and Mrs. Vowles, and went over to Frog-more
in the evening — the Queen's hobby, her garden-house. It
was a pretty villa in pretty grounds, too low for health, I should
say, were people to have lived there, at least till the mere or
pond was drained, but it did perfectly for the royal amusement
by day. The walls of one room were painted by one Princess;
all cabinets and tables of another were japanned by a second;
carpets, stools, and rugs were the work of a third; while the
knitting, knotting, and netting of the old Queen, if she did it all
herself, must have ensured her a busy life.
By the middle of July my mother was able to be removed to
Ramsgate, where she very soon recovered her looks and health;
she was very fond of the sea, and throve near it. Mrs. Peter
Grant had taken a house for us on the East Cliff, a very fine
situation with a splendid sea-view. We were at some distance
from the town, a sort of common all round us, and one house
only near; it was indeed attached to ours, the two stood together
alone, out of the way of all the rest of Ramsgate. Our neighbour
was Lady Augusta Murray, called by her friends the
Duchess of Sussex, although her marriage to the Duke, which
really did take place abroad, was null in this country. She
had been created Baroness D'Amelaud, and had a pension settled
on her of £3000 a year, on which to bring up her two children,
a boy and a girl, fine, large, handsome young people, unduly
imbued with the grandeur of their birth. She never committed
herself by calling herself or them by any title: "My boy, my girl,"
she always said in speaking of or to them. The servants, however,
mentioned them as the Prince and Princess, as did all
the acquaintances who visited at the house. Prince Augustus
was about seventeen, extremely good-looking, though rather
inclined to be stout; very good-natured he was too, amiable and
devoted to his mother. He was going into the army under
the name of D'Este, a bitter pill to the Duchess, although it was
one of the royal surnames, and had been chosen for his son by
the Duke himself. Princess Augusta was some years younger
than her brother. She was but twelve, and particularly handsome
on a large scale, a fine figure, and fine features, with a charming
expression of countenance. The Duchess's house was small,
though larger than ours, for she had turned the whole ground
floor into one room, a library, and built a large dining-room out
behind. The drawing-room floor was her own apartment, containing
bedroom, sitting-room, and her maid's room; the floor
above was equally divided between her son and daughter. She
kept no horses, for she never drove out. She passed most of
her time in a very large garden, well walled in, which covered a
couple of acres or more, and extended all down the slope of the
cliff to the town. Our two families soon became intimate, the
younger ones especially passing the greater part of the day together,
a friendship which never entirely ceased while opportunity
served to bring any of us together. The advances,
however, were amusing. The Duchess, as a royal personage,
must be waited on. My mother, who was very retiring, would
not take such a step forward as the leaving her name at the
great lady's door. My father, who had bowed, and been spoken
to when gallantly opening gates, could do no more without his
wife; so all came to a full stop. Meanwhile, Jane and I, who
had made acquaintance out on the free common of the downs
with the little Princess, untroubled by any notions of etiquette,
enjoyed our intercourse with our new acquaintance amazingly;
Jane and she soon becoming fast friends. One evening she
approached the paling which separated our two gardens just as
my mother was stepping over the gravel towards the carriage to
take an airing. I shall never forget the picture; she leaned on
the top rail, her large-leaved Tuscan hat thrown back of her
dark close-cropped hair, and her fine countenance brightened by
the blush of girlish modesty, while she held up a small basket
full of fine peaches, an offering from her mother. A visit of
thanks was of course necessary, and found agreeable. A few
days after the Duchess bade Jane tell her mamma that she had
returned her call when her mamma was unluckily out, and that
she hoped they would be good neighbours. On this hint we all
acted. My mother occasionally went in there with some of us,
my father constantly, indeed he soon became her confidential
adviser in many of her difficulties, trying to get her through
some of the trials which harassed her existence. We were all
made very happy by this addition to our Ramsgate pleasures;
we liked the place itself and our life there, and above all we liked
our neighbours.
Early in the morning we all went down to the sands to
bathe, not in Seaham fashion, but in a respectable manner,
suited to a crowded watering-place. A little table on which
lay a great book stood within a railing enclosing all the bathing-machines.
Each party, on entering the gate of this enclosure,
set their names down in the book, and in their turn were
conducted to a bathing-machine, roomy boxes upon wheels,
shaded at one end by a large canvas hood that reached the water
when the horse at the other end had proceeded with it to a
sufficient depth; the driver then turned his carriage round with
the hood to the sea, and unhinging his traces went in search of
another fare, leaving the bathers to the care of a woman in a
blue flannel jacket and petticoat and a straw bonnet, who soon
waded into view from another machine, and lifting up the canvas
shade stood ready to assist in the fearful plunge. The shock of a
dip was always an agony to Mary and me; that over, we would
have ducked about much longer than the woman let us. Jane
delighted in the whole business, and Annie Grant bore it;
Johnnie always bathed in the machine with my mother. It was
rather frightful bathing when the waves were high, at least to
the timid ones. Some people went into the sea when they really
might have been carried away by it, when they and the women
had to keep hold of ropes while the waves went over them. We
never emulated these heroines; but certainly Jane sometimes
urged us all on with her when the rest would rather have turned
back. Either in going or returning we encountered our friend
the little Princess walking right royally in front of her very
strange-looking elderly maid, Mrs. Deadman. Annie used to be
amused at the dignity with which she used to approach the little
table and dash down a very flourishing "P," the single letter that
served to mark her name; then she would smile most courteously
upon us, but never came near or spoke upon these occasions.
We all breakfasted together, then studied for three hours,
dined early with my father and mother, and drank tea with them
late. In the intervals we were either next door, or on the
downs, or on the sands. The sands were very firm, and of considerable
extent when the tide was out; there was a charming
subterranean passage by which we reached them without going
round by the steep hill near Albion Place; it had been excavated
by a strange sort of man who had built a castle on the
cliff — a castle with battlements and towers, and a curtain flanked
by turrets, and a moat, and what not. A prose Walter Scott
who could not see the absurdity of defences when there were no
longer any assailants, he thought the style suited to the scenery.
This passage he made for the purpose of bringing manure up to
his fields; it was quite dark about the middle of the descent, a
particular merit to us. Annie and I used to take books down
to the sands and sit on the rocks with them in our hands, but
we never read; watching the waves, listening to them, looking
at the crab-hunters and the shrimpers, and far out at sea straining
our eyes after the shipping, little boats, larger craft, huge
merchantmen, all moving over the face of the waters, and the
downs in the distance — all this was book enough. Mary and
Johnnie were often with us, and sometimes my mother, who,
however, rather objected to such idling; and as Jane was almost
always with the Princess, quite as great a favourite with the
Duchess as with her daughter, a plan was struck out for the
better employment of my time, which was immediately acted on.
Mrs. Peter Grant, the widow of one of my great-uncle Sandy's
sons, who had had charge of Anne Grant of Glenmoriston, and
lived in a small house at Ramsgate, had been found so competent
to the task. of superintending the education of young ladies, that
she had been prevailed on by first one friend and then another
to receive their delicate children. At last her family became
too large for her small house. She took a larger one in Albion
Place, engaged a clever governess, to whom she was shortly
obliged to give an assistant, and had soon a flourishing school.
She limited the number of pupils to eighteen, and generally had
applications waiting for a vacancy. She was an honest-hearted
kind person, a little given to sentiment, well read for her day
and accomplished, having been originally intended for a governess
by her parents, in whose house her husband had lodged while
walking the hospitals in London; her beauty, much of which
still remained, had changed her destiny — whether for better or
worse, who can say? She fondly cherished the memory of her
young husband, lost soon after her marriage by some accident
at the Cape; he was surgeon in a man-of-war.
To Mrs. Peter Grant's school I was to be sent every day for
so many hours, ostensibly to learn flower-painting, and be kept
up in French and singing; but in reality to take down a good
deal of conceit which unavoidably sprung up in the quick mind
of a girl who had not the means of fairly testing her abilities by
an equal standard. Jane was so much younger, and naturally so
slow, her attempts in all our occupations were of course inferior
to mine, and as we had no companions except at play-hours, I
could not find out that, clever as I thought myself, there were girls
of my own age very much more advanced. This I learned very
quickly at Albion Place, where three or four of my new friends
were very much beyond me. We were taught flower-painting
by a very pretty Mrs. Abrams, a celebrated artist, the daughter
of a landscape painter and the wife of an architect, who had
come to Broadstairs to give sea-bathing to her pictures of children,
and thought she might as well try to earn what would pay
the expenses of the trip. She had taught in Mrs. Pope's school
in Bloomsbury Square, where Harriet Grant had gone when
Anne went to Ramsgate; she afterwards gave Harriet lessons at
our house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, so that I knew her quite well,
and was delighted to see her again and he taught her pretty art,
which, however, I never afterwards pursued. Mrs. Grant herself
taught us singing in a class. We stood behind her, all intoning
the scales at once, and then executing the turns, runs, shakes,
etc., in succession. A little ugly Miss Hodges had the finest
voice, and so we let her do most of the work, Mrs. Grant, busy
with her accompaniment, not always detecting the tricks we
played her. Miss Wishart the governess was not so easily deceived.
Her schoolroom lessons were difficult to evade; so when
I tired of her grammar, and history, and French dictations, I
used to get up a little fun to break the dulness of the morning.
Poor Miss Wishart! She bore a good deal from me; ninny half-hours
of funny songs, droll stories, laughing, dancing, acting,
mimicking, her own anger and Mrs. Grant's melancholy remonstrances
being done to the life before them. She often banished
me to a certain back parlour where distressed members of the
establishment were wont to expiate their offences in solitude,
declaring it was impossible either to learn or teach while that
flighty little creature was in the study; and then she would
recall me herself, saying "she had punished me only for my good,"
in a voice and with a manner she was sure to hear and see next
day. I am not quite sure that I derived much benefit from my
schooling after all. Sarah Backhouse, one of the elder pupils,
whose roses and crocuses far surpassed mine, did her utmost to
tranquillise my volatile nature. I liked her extremely, as I did
a Miss Wintle; we kept sight of one another for several years,
though we were far parted.
Lord Cochrane was at Deal this summer; he came to see our
friend the Duchess, and prevailed on her to go to sea with him
for a day; he brought the barge, very nicely fitted up for her
and her party, which, as a matter of course, included Jane. He
had a collation on board his ship, and presented every lady with
a pair of French gloves; a pair or two fell to me, as compensation,
I suppose, for being left behind. But my turn came.
Admiral Raper, then a captain commanding the Bellerophon,
arrived in the Downs; it was just before the old ship was brokers
up. My father, my mother, and William who was with us for
the holidays, and I, all went to Deal to see him. Harry was
there too, on a visit to his father for a day or two. How much
I was struck with the parlour we were shown into at the Inn
It was called the Dolphin, and it had a bow-window actually
built out into the sea; it had all the effect of looking out from
the stern cabin. From this window we had perfect command of
the beach, and were able to observe with admiration the wonderful
dexterity of the Deal men in landing passengers from
their clumsy-shaped boats. The beach is so steep that it is
deep water immediately, and whether coming in or going out,
the boats always appeared to stand almost up on end just as they
neared the shore. None of them ever upset however, difficult as
it would seem to prevent it; I think it was in one of these that
we made our start, and yet I have a perfect recollection of the
captain's gig and the smart boat's crew which manned it. We
dined on board, and then proceeded to inspect the ship, one of
the most interesting sights in the world; the ingenious comforts
of the cabins, the light, airy, cheerful aspect of the captain's in
particular, the excessive cleanliness, every board so white, every
bit of metal so brightly polished, the order, the quiet, the neatness,
the most made of each small space, the real elegance of
some of the arrangements, — all together produced an effect on
persons unaccustomed to the interior of a man-of-war, that every
one of us was loud in praising and expressing our surprise at.
All I demurred at were the lamps in the cockpit, no daylight
penetrating to the abode of the middies down below on the
third deck; and yet Harry persisted in going to sea, because, as
he said, he should rise in time to where his father stood; which
he did not, for taking some disgust at the usual ill-usage of the
Admiralty he retired from the service a lieutenant. He was, by
the bye, on board the ship that carried Lord Amherst to China
for the purpose of declining to make all the bows to the emperor
customary by the etiquette of that queer country; and he was
wrecked near Loo Choo, lost all his beautiful drawings, scientific
memoranda, etc.; for he was a true Raper, even to their eccentricities:
but at this time a fine merry boy, full of spirits and
hope.
We remained all night at Deal, and next day drove to a
pretty parsonage in the close neighbourhood, where lived the
father of my new friend, Miss Backhouse. He was in some way
connected with the house of Forster, Cooke, and Frere, had a
son in it I think, and so made acquaintance with us. He was
an agreeable man with a large family of well-brought-up children
and a kind wife, and he lived in a picture of a country
clergyman's house, all overgrown with honeysuckles, jasmines,
roses, and vines, large clusters of grapes hanging down round
the dining-room windows, out of which we leaned to gather
them. This part of Kent is very rich, a good soil and mild
climate combining to make the vegetation very luxuriant. Beyond
this sort of beauty and the sea there is no fine feature in
the scenery; of its sort however it is perfect, with its neat hamlets,
church spires, old wooding, and such hedges! very high,
twelve or even fifteen feet in some places, trimmed like green
walls, not a break in them; little narrow cross roads running
between two of these shady boundaries in all directions. Along
such we drove to Walmer Castle and home by Sandgate; a
sunny excursion that was cherished for many a day in a bright
corner of my memory.
The next incident that rests there is the very exquisite
singing of a Miss Walker, a young person not otherwise prepossessing,
nor much known in Ramsgate, whither they had
come for the health of Mrs. Walker, a fantastic woman, rather
superior in manner to her underbred husband; his forwardness
was against the progress of the family rather. They were introduced
to us by Mrs. Peter Grant, and most certainly the eldest
daughter's very remarkable talent made many of our summer
evenings pass delightfully. Her voice was both sweet and
powerful, of great extent, and I heard my father say wanted
only practice to make it flexible. She had hitherto been taught
by one of the choir of a cathedral town in which they lived,
her style was therefore the sacred, and very beautiful; I never
heard what became of her. Another fresh acquaintance was an
old dashing Mrs. B., who made up to my mother, I hardly know
how; she had the remains of a great beauty, but was bold,
noisy, and vulgar. She had two handsome daughters, and a
good-looking son, a lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of cavalry,
quartered at Canterbury. One of the daughters was fair, the
other dark, to suit either taste in the market they were diligently
prepared for; they were models of the class shabby genteel.
Their aim was to appear what they were not, rich and fashionable,
and to achieve this make-believe reputation every energy
of their clever heads was employed, and every moment of their
busy day. They darned net to look like lace, they dyed, and
turned, and revived, and remade; bought cotton satin and
cotton velvet, made one dress do duty for three by varying the
slip, the trimming, or the body, wore calico gloves, painted pasteboard
for fans; every sort of expedient inexhaustible ingenuity
could devise was resorted to, in order to make ten pounds effect
an appearance which would have required a hundred spent on
realities. The mother was seldom seen in the morning, she was
generally occupied darning, clear starching, and cooking, for they
gave evening parties; an expense they could not have afforded
had a confectioner been employed to furnish the refreshments.
It was for the benefit of the world at large that all this toil
was gone through, or rather for two, any two, members of the
world at large who were men, and bachelors. Whether two
such ever rewarded the indefatigable endeavours of this mother
and daughters we at least never knew.
A very different specimen of the military was introduced to
us by the Malings; Colonel and Mrs. Glossipp also from Canterbury,
he a fine soldierly-looking man, she a plain woman, but so
nice, kind, gentle, merry, clever, quite a soldier's wife. She had
four healthy, happy boys, and three gowns, a "heightem, a
tightem, and a scrub," with which she perambulated the world,
none of the wardrobe department likely to be hurt by her travels
if we were to judge of the inferior degrees by a comparison with
the "heightem," the one always exhibited at Ramsgate. But no
matter what Mrs. Glossipp wore she always looked like a lady,
and she was so lively and agreeable it was always a white day
when the Colonel's dog-cart drove up to the door of our small
house on Albion Cliff Mrs. Glossipp was full of fun, and to
please her a party was made, including the handsome Miss B.,
to attend a ball at Margate, at that time the slimmer retreat of
all the city of London, and holding more wealth than any place
out of it. Miss Louisa B. was quite wrong in carrying her pink
cotton satin, though covered with muslin of her own embroidery,
to such an assemblage as she found there. Lace dresses and
lace flounces of fabulous value fluttered all round the room.
Velvets and satins, feathers and jewels! such jewels as would
have graced the Queen's drawing-room were in profusion.
Large, fat, dowager Aldermanesses, with a fortune in mechlin and
diamonds on them, sat playing cards with tumblers of brandy and
water beside them; the language used possessed a grammar of its
own; the dancing was equally original, a Miss St. George, the belle
of the ball and six feet high, cutting capers up to the moon. The
extravagances of this "fashionable" resort formed one of the
sights to be seen from aristocratic Ramsgate. How different
now That race of civic dignitaries sleeps with its fathers. It
would be hard to know the tradesman from the noble now, at a
glance at any rate. My father said the finery of the Margate
ladies had excited my mother's envy, for she set about smuggling
vigorously at this time, very much to his annoyance; bargain-making
and smuggling were his aversion. He always said,
"What is wanted get of the best quality at the best place, and
take care of it. What is not wanted, don't get, however cheap
it is wasting money, in fact real extravagance; and have nothing
to do with rogues." Wise preaching — 'tis so easy for the
man who lavishes thousands on his whistle, to lift his eyebrows
at the cost of his wife's. My dear mother found it hard to
resist those melodramatic sailors with their straw hats smartly
bound with ribbon, the long curled love-lock then generally
worn by the more dashing among the seamen, the rough,
ready, obligingly awkward manner, and all their silks, laces, gloves
and other beautiful French goods so immeasurably superior to
any in those days fabricated at home. She was not to be
deterred by the seizures now and then made of all these
treasures, miles and miles away; carriages stopped and emptied,
ladies insulted, fined, and so on, as really frequently happened
when their transactions were too daring. She could not resist a
few purchases, though half believing my father's assertion that
the smugglers were all in league with the Custom-house authorities,
themselves giving information of any considerable purchaser.
However, her doings were never thus brought to light.
Meanwhile, we young people had our occupations. The
Duchess of Sussex, to amuse herself, got up the tragedy of
Macbeth. She was a Scotchwoman, one of the Dunmore
hurrays, and very national; she was, besides, intellectual and intelligent,
as all her pursuits evidenced, and she was very proud of
the beauty of her daughter. It was all to be amongst ourselves,
we four, the little Princess, and two quiet little girls sometimes
our companions, whose father lived in Ramsgate and was
the Duchess's man of business. We all therefore "played many
parts," which necessity we considered a pleasure, as it kept us in
one character or another continually on the stage. Dining the
preparations we were incessantly rehearsing either at one house
or the other, each, for the benefit of the rest, learning the whole
play; thus impressing on our young memories, never to be
effaced, some of the finest poetry in the language; the sentiments
actually became endeared to us, wise trains of reflection
following the pains of learning those favourite passages by heart.
Jane was Macbeth and a second Roscius, my father, who
had a good idea of acting, having been taught to read by
Stephen Kemble, taking great pains with her. Lady Macbeth
was ranted a little by the Princess, yet she looked the part well;
I was a shocking stick in Banquo, but a first-rate witch, a
capital Hecate. The Duchess painted one scene for us, which
did for all — a bit of an old tower and some trees — and Deddy,
as we called Mrs. Deadman, superintended the dresses. My
father was the prompter, the library was the theatre, and a very
respectable audience of dowager peeresses and other visitors and
residents applauded every speech we made. The music-master
played martial airs on an old wretched pianoforte between the
acts, and there was a grand supper, followed by a good merry
dance at the end, all having gone off well. Yet that crowning
night was nothing near the enjoyment of all the busy hours we
had preparing for it. "Dreamer, dream not the fruition," etc.,
as the wise of all ages have repeated, none of them in prettier
lines than these, written by my father to the music of Rousseau's
Dream, composed as he was walking round the Ord Bain
many a day after this.
This was the year of the great comet; night after night we
watched it rising over the town of Ramsgate, spreading its
glorious train as it rose, and thus passing slowly on, the wonder
of all, and terror of some, a grand sight only equalled by the
Northern lights as we used to see them in the Highland
winters. And this was the season of the return of the China
fleet, single merchantmen not daring in those war times to
venture out to sea as in these happier, peaceful times. The
East India shipping therefore made sail together under the
convoy of a couple of frigates, an imposing evidence of the
strength and wealth of the country, which had the most beautiful
effect on the wide sea-view they entirely filled that ever could
have been gazed at from any shore. The Downs, always
beautiful because never deserted, and often very crowded, were
on this occasion closely packed with huge Indiamen, their tall
masts seeming to rake the skies; and when the anchors were
weighed, and the dark mass moved out to sea, each vessel carrying
all her canvas to catch the breeze, all distinctly seen from
the balcony of our house, I do not think a grander sight ever
met wondering eyes. The frigates, much smarter-looking ships,
kept outside as convoy, and on they moved like some fine pageant
in a scene, till, hours after we had seen them leave the roads at
Deal, the last of the long line was lost to us behind the North
Foreland, or the South I fancy it must have been as nearer to
us, although it was the lesser projection of the two.
Soon after the passing of the China fleet we left our pretty
lodgings on the cliff and moved into an excellent house on a less
exposed situation, one of a row on the town side of our friend
the Duchess's garden. Our only acquaintance in it was Mr.
Vince the astronomer, a kind old man, who often let us look
through his large telescope by day, and watch the moon through
a smaller by night.
About the middle of November we returned to Lincoln's Inn
Fields, and then Annie Grant and Jane and I set to work in
earnest with all our old masters, and this winter really made
good progress. As for Mary, there seemed to be no use in
trying to teach her anything, for she would not learn, even to
read; she was therefore, by the advice of old Dr. Saunders, a
friend of my grandfather Grant's, left to amuse herself as she
liked with our baby brother Johnnie, and they were generally
kept out in the Square all the fine hours of the day. Our
cousins Eliza and Edmund were a good deal with us. The
winter before, when aunt Leitch was with him, uncle Ralph
had a very good house in Somerset Street, Portman Square.
This year, aunt Leitch having left him, he took a very pretty
house, an old-fashioned half cottage, half villa, with a charming
garden, out at Turnham Green, where we spent many a happy
day. Edmund was at school in the neighbourhood; Eliza had a
governess sometimes, and sometimes masters, and once she went
to school, but that whim did not last long. She was very quick,
and learned what she had a fancy for without trouble, excelling
in music, that is playing, from infancy. She had no steadiness
to understand thoroughly anything. We were very often in
Brunswick Square, oftener than formerly, because Annie could
go with us there through the quiet of those lawyer streets, crossing
Holborn being our only difficulty. Mrs. Charles Ironside's
handsome sister, a widow, Mrs. Lernault, married this year Mr.
Robert Calvert, the very rich brewer; and our very handsome
cousin, Ursula Launder, married William Norton, the natural
son of Lord Grantley, a mere boy compared to her, for he was
not more than two-and-twenty and she was at least twice his
age. Her large fortune was her charm, but her young husband
treated her with marked attention during her whole life, long
after every vestige of her remarkable beauty had left her.
Aunt Mary was one of the bridesmaids, Lord Dursley the
groomsman, and soon after came on the great Berkeley case,
which was decided by stripping him of name and fame and
giving that that old title to a third brother. Uncle Frere was the
solicitor employed to get up the case for the defendant, and so
overworked was he by it, between fatigue and anxiety, that he
took a fever before it was over, and frightened us all seriously.
It was a brain fever, and in his delirium he kept calling for little
Eli to sing him "Crochallan," so I was sent for, to sit by his bedside
and "gently breathe" all the plaintive Scotch and Gaelic
airs I could remember, thus soothing him when most excited.
He would insist on sending messengers here, and there, and
everywhere, on writing letters, and consulting on law points
with me and the bedclothes, and he was never to be thwarted,
but I was to sing the airs he liked best. At last one day he fell
asleep to "Crochallan," the oft-repeated "Hanouer ma vourgne"
having quite composed him. My aunt, who was always watching,
sat down and wept. "Even children can be of use," she said as
she kissed me, though I was no child, but very near fifteen; too
old, my mother thought, to be again exhibited in Macbeth,
which, having succeeded so well at Ramsgate, the Duchess was
determined to get up again in Arklow Place.
Jane and I were very much with the Princess. Her mother's
handsome house looking into the Park near Cumberland Gate
was a very agreeable change to us, and we were so at home
there we were quite at ease among the family circle. Jane was
still the favourite. Prince Augustus was with his regiment in
Jersey, from whence he had sent a box of little French curiosities
to his mother; two of the toys were marked for Jane and me,
so good-naturedly. Jane's was an ivory knife-grinder, mine a
Frenchwoman in a high cap, spinning. It is at the Donne now.
Instead of the Prince we had our friend Lord Archibald Hamilton,
who spent most of his time with his cousin "Augusta," and
his son Henry Hamilton, a fine boy then, though "accidental."
Well, the play went on without me. I was only dresser and
prompter. Lucy Drew replaced me as Banquo, and Georgie
Drew was Hecate; the other characters remained the same.
Our scenery was borrowed from the theatre, our dresses were
very superior, as was our orchestra, and our audience was half
the peerage. Jane outdid herself, but William's Macduff outdid
her Macbeth. We had waited for the Easter holidays in
order to secure him. I remember that old Lady Dunmore, who
had, like a Frenchwoman, taken to religion in her old age by
way of expiating the sins of her youth, would not attend our
play in public — her principles condemned the theatre — but she
saw it in private. We all went to her small house in Baker
Street dressed, and acted before her, and a capital good dinner
she gave us afterwards, all her plate out, and lots of fruit. She
must have been very beautiful in her day; quite a picture she
was now, in a high cap like that in the prints of the Duchess of
Argyle, the Irish beauty. Lucy and Georgina Drew were the
grand-daughters of Lady Dunmore, and lived with her, brought
up by Lady Virginia their aunt, their mother Lady Susan
having on her third marriage made them over to this maiden
sister. Lady Susan's first husband was a very rich West Indian,
Mr. Thorpe, by whom she had one son, an idiot. Who Mr.
Drew was I really do not know. The third husband was Mr.
Douglas, brother to Lord Milltown's mother, Lady Cloncurrie.
We often saw him in Connaught Place. He was much taken
with Jane, as every one else was; but in after-days, when we
met here in Ireland, he insisted it was I who had so attracted
him "as a lovely intelligent girl" — I, at that time extremely
plain, and so shy I never spoke to strangers! He was a
remarkably handsome man then as now, and quite a crack
preacher, all London flocking round any pulpit he consented to
mount: Lady Virginia Murray had the plainest face I ever
looked on, seamed, scarred with the smallpox, her figure perfect,
and her general kindness unfailing. Lady Susan was scorbutic,
but might have been handsome once. Lord Dunmore was very
nice, and his wife too — a Hamilton, a cousin; Fincastle and
Charley Murray were charming boys. Many others there were,
too, whom I forget. I just remember Lady Georgina Montague
being there one day — a handsome, very dark, and very thin girl
in a black frock, put on for the first time for her grandmother
the Duchess of Gordon, whose funeral procession had that morning
left London for the Highlands. My mother would hardly
believe that the child could have been allowed to go out to spend
a merry day with young companions at such a time, and attributed
it to the ignorance of the governess who had charge of this
poor deserted family. The Duke of Manchester was repairing
his fortunes abroad as Governor of Jamaica; the Duchess had
left home years before with one of her footmen. Both my
father and mother grieved sincerely for the death of their old
friend and neighbour with whom they had spent so many happy
hours. Indeed, the whole of the Highlands mourned for her, as
with all her oddities she was the soul of our Northern society.
The remaining events of this, our last season in London,
come but hazily back to me. We acted our Macbeth in
Brunswick Square, I taking Lady Macbeth badly enough, I
should think, on this mere family occasion. Duncan Macintosh,
the Rothiemurchus forester, came to town on some of my
father's law-suits, and was a perfect delight to everybody, with
his shrewdness, his simplicity, his real astonishment, and the
Highland idea of good breeding which precluded the expression
of wonder at any novelty. Aunt Leitch, who was on a visit to
us, seized on him as her beau, and treated him and herself to
the play two or three times a week, for it was the last appearance
of Mrs. Siddons; she went through all her great parts, and
took her leave of the stage as Lady Macbeth.
Uncle Ralph ventured to Covent Garden that night; he did
get in, but came out again, returning to us nearly exhausted, his
hat crushed, his coat torn, his face so pale that he frightened
us. Never had there been such a crush at the doors of the pit;
it had so overcome even his strength, that he was unable to
endure the heat of the closely-packed house. We heard next
day that the audience would listen to no other performer.
When she was on the stage a pin could have been heard to fall;
when she was off, all was uproar, Kemble himself even unattended
to, and when she walked away at the last from her
doctor and the waiting gentlewoman, they would bear no more;
all rose, waving hats and handkerchiefs, shouting, applauding,
making such a din as might have brought the house down. All
passionless as was that great actress' nature in private life, she was
overcome. Uncle Ralph ever regretted being unable to remain
to see the last of fine acting. She has had no successor. I am
quite sure that we, we young people I mean, owed more to
Covent Garden than to any other of our teachers. We not only
learned Shakespeare by heart, thus filling our heads with
wisdom, our fancy with the most lovely imagery, and warming
our hearts from that rich store of good, but we fixed, as it were,
all these impressions; John Kemble and Mrs. Siddons embodying
all great qualities, becoming to us the images of the qualities
we admired. An excuse this for the statues and pictures in the
churches of infant times.
In May or June poor Mr. Pereeval was shot, our neighbour
in the Square, whose three daughters, disdaining other associates,
walked only with the three Miss Nicholls, Sir John Nicholls'
equally exclusive young ladies. Lady Wilson ran in to tell my
mother, she having just had an express from Sir Griffin, who
was in Westminster Hall. It was a great shock to every one,
though he had been an unpopular man; the suddenness of the
blow and the insufficiency of the cause making the deed the more
afflicting. It set all the politicians to work again, but nothing
came of all the commotion. The Prince Regent went on with
the same Tory party amongst whom he had thrown himself as
soon as he became head of the Government. One place was
easily supplied; his former friends were just as far from power
as before. They might and did abuse him, and the max deserved
abuse, whatever the Regent did. Moore enchanted the
town with his witty newspaper squibs, looked for as regularly
every morning as breakfast was. Whigs blamed and Tories
could not praise, but they all ate their leek thankfully, and
on went the world with its generalities and individualities, its
Buonaparte and its Wellington, "the most profligate Ministry
that ever existed," holding the whip-hand over at least an
equally profligate Opposition. Whatever sins were going on we
three little girls had worn mourning for all. While we were at
Ramsgate the old king's delirium had become so alarmingly
violent it was supposed his bodily strength must give way under
the continual paroxysms; his death was therefore daily expected,
so my careful mother, fearing that black would rise in
price, bought up at a sale a quantity of bombazine. The king
calmed, recovered his strength, but his mind was hopelessly
gone, in which state properly attended to he might live for
years. What was to be done with all the bombazine? We
just had to wear it, and trimmed plentifully with crimson it did
very well.
But now a great change was to come over the family. The
English bar had never answered well, and was now to be given
up. It remained to be seen how Parliamentary business would
answer, for my father was elected member for the thoroughly
rotten borough of Great Grimsby, at an expense he and the
electors, and his agent little Sandy Grant, were not one of them
fully able to acknowledge; to meet some of the difficulties thus
produced, economical measures were to be resorted to, which
in a couple of years would set everything to rights. Thorley
Hall had been sold some time before to Lord Ellenborough, and
Kinloss bought with part of the purchase money. The house
in Lincoln's Inn Fields was to go now and all the furniture
not wanted to make the Doune more comfortable, for, to our
delight, it was there we were to spend these two years of retirement.
My father was to run up to town for the session at a
very trifling expense. We were a little disturbed at the news
that Annie was not to go North with us. My mother hoped
that before the winter she would settle herself in some house
of business, but in the meantime she was to pay a visit to a
Mrs. Drury, a rich widow, the sister of Mr. William Hunter,
who had been married to one of the Malings, and who had
taken a great fancy to our dear Annie. Next came worse
tidings. We were to have a governess; and very great pains
our poor mother took to choose one. I could not count the
numbers she saw, the notes she wrote, the references she
visited; at last she fixed upon a little bundle of a woman recommended
by Lady Glenbervie. The father had been sub-ranger
of Bushey Park; the daughter, said to have been well educated
and left unprovided for at his death, had been all winter in
London taking lessons from various masters with a view to
teaching in private families. It all seemed satisfactory; a high
salary bribed Miss Elphick to engage for one year to go to so
remote a country, and she came every other day to sit with
us from the time she gave her consent to the bargain, that she
might learn our ways and we get accustomed to her. My
father also engaged a little French girl, a protégée of Mr.
Beckvelt, and about Jane's age, to go North as our schoolroom
companion. She went by sea with most of the servants and
luggage, and had a very tearful parting from good M. Beckvelt,
whom we also were very sorry to leave. He was up a bit in
the world since we had first known him. The dingy house in
Rathbone Place was exchanged for a pretty sunny house and
garden at Paddington; two of his daughters were well married,
the other two in good situations as governesses; he, just the same
as in less prosperous days. We were also in great grief when
we said farewell in Brunswick Square. All the pretty presents
waiting for us there could not pacify either Jane or me. To
me my aunt Lissy was inexpressibly dear, and the little cousins,
of whom there were then four, John, Lissy, George and Susan,
were great pets with us. It required to have Rothiemurchus in
prospect.
CHAPTER IX
1812
EARLY in July of the year 1812 my mother set out with her
children for the Doune, bidding a final adieu, though she knew
it not, to England. I cannot remember whether my father
travelled with us or not. Yes, he must — for he read Childe
Harold to us; it had just come out, and made its way by its
own intrinsic merit, for popular prejudice set strong against the
author. "To sit on rocks," etc., arrested the attention even
of me. I was not given to poetry generally; then, as now, it
required "thoughts that rouse, and words that burn" to affect
me with aught but weariness; but when, after a second reading
of this passage, my father closed the pamphlet for a moment, saying,
"This is poetry!" I felt that he was right, and resolved to look
the whole poem over some day at leisure. We had also with us
Walter Scott's three first poems, great favourites with us, The seven
Champions of Christendom, Goldsmith's History of England, and
his Animated Nature, and in French, Adèle et Théodore. This
was our travelling library, all tumbled into a brown holland bag
kept under the front seat of the barouche. At the inns where we
had long rests, our own horses doing but few stages in the day,
we amused ourselves in spouting from these volumes, Jane and I
acting Macbeth, singing operas of our own invention, and playing
backgammon, a style of thing so repugnant to the school ideas of
propriety befitting the reign of the new governess, that she got
wonderfully grave with her unfortunate pupils. We had picked
her up as we left town, and thinking more of ourselves than of her
felt quite disposed to quarrel with any one who wept so bitterly
at leaving London and her own friends, when she was going to
the Highlands amongst ours. She was a little fat dumpling of a
woman, with fine eyes, and a sweet-toned voice in speaking,
strangely dressed in a fashion peculiar to the middle classes in
England in that day, when the modes were not studied all
through society as they are now, nor indeed attainable by
moderate persons, as the expense was quite beyond the means
of poorer people. Her provision for the long journey was a
paper of cakes, and a large thick pocket-handkerchief, which
was soon wetted through; not an auspicious beginning where
two such monkeys as Jane and I were concerned. Mary and
Johnnie ate the cakes. Poor Miss Elphick! she had troubled
times. Her first grand stand was against the backgammon,
"shaking dice-boxes in a public inn!" We were very polite,
but we would not give in, assuring her we were always accustomed
to shake dice-boxes where we liked out of lesson hours.
Next she entreated to be spared Macbeth's dagger! Hamlet's
soliloquies! Hecate's fury! "So masculine to be strutting about
and ranting in such loud tones," etc. etc. We were amazed; our
occupation gone! the labour of months to be despised after all
the applause we had been earning! What were we to do? sit
silent with our hands before us? Not we indeed! We pitied
her, and left her, thinking that our mother had made a most unfortunate
choice in a governess.
We entered Scotland by the Kelso Road, we passed the field
of Flodden; neither of us remembered why it should be famous.
"Miss Elphick will tell us, I am sure," I remarked; pert unfeeling
child that I was. I had taken her measure at once, and
knew full well she knew less of Flodden field than I did.
"Decidedly not," said my father, "take the trouble to hunt out
all the necessary information for yourself, you will be less likely
to forget it; I shall expect the whole history a week after we get
home." Whether suspecting the truth, he had come to the rescue
of the governess, or that he was merely carrying out his general plan
of making us do all our work ourselves, I cannot say, and I did not
stop to think. My head had begun to arrange its ideas. The
Flowers o' the Forest and Marmion were running through it.
"Ah, papa," I said, "I need not hunt, it's all here now, the
phantom, the English lady, the spiked girdle and all; I'm right,
ain't I" and I looked archly over at our governess, who, poor
woman, seemed in the moon altogether. The family conversation
was an unknown language to her. "What could have made
mamma choose her?" said Jane to me.
We went to see Melrose, dined at Jedburgh, passed Cowdenknowes,
Tweedside, Ettrick Shaws, Gala Water, starting up in
the carriage in ecstasies, flinging ourselves half out at the sides
each time these familiar names excited us. In vain Miss Elphick
pulled our frocks. I am sure she feared she had undertaken the
charge of lunatics, particularly when I burst forth in song at
either Tweedside or Yarrow braes. It was not so much the
scenery, it was the "classic ground" of all the Border country.
A number of French prisoners, officers, were on parole at
Jedburgh. Lord Buchan, whom we met there, took us to see a
painting in progress by one of them; some battlefield, all the
figures portraits from memory. The picture was already sold,
and part paid for, and another ordered, which we were all very
glad of the handsome young painter having interested us much.
The ingenuity of the French prisoners of all ranks was amazing,
only to be equalled by their industry; those of them unskilled in
higher arts earned for themselves most comfortable additions to
their allowance by turning bits of wood, bones, straw, almost
anything in fact, into neat toys of many sorts, eagerly bought up
by all who met with them. We rested a few days in Edinburgh
and then journeyed leisurely by the Highland road home, still
crossing the Queensferry in a miserable sailing boat, and the Tay
at Inver for the last time in the large flat boat. When next we
passed our boundary river the handsome bridge was built over it
at Dunkeld, the little inn was done up, a fine hotel where the
civillest of landlords reigned, close to the bridge, received all
travellers; and Neil Gow was dead, the last of our bards — no one
again will ever play the Scotch music as he did. His sons in the
quick measures were perhaps his equals, they gave force and spirit
and fine execution to strathspeys and reels, but they never gave the
slow, the tender airs with the real feeling of their beauty their
father had. Nor can any one now hope to revive a style passing
away. A few true fingers linger amongst us, but this generation
will see the last of them. Our children will not be as national
as their parents — reflections made like some puns, à loisir, for at
the time we last ferried over the Tay I was only on the look-out
for all the well-remembered features of the scenery. We baited
the horses at Moulinearn, not the pretty country inn of the rural
village which peeps out on the Tummel from its screen of fine
wooding now, but a dreary, desolate, solitary stone house, dirt
without and smoke within, and little to be had in it but whisky.
The road to Blair then passed over the summit of the hills, overlooking
the river and the valley in which nestled Fascally, and
allowing of a peep at Loch Rannoch in the far distance; then on
through Killiecrankie, beautiful then as now, more beautiful, for
no Perth traders had built villas on its sheltered banks, nor
Glasgow merchant perched a castle on the rock. Hardly a cabin
broke the solitude in those days, to interrupt the awe we always
felt on passing the stone set up where Dundee fell, Bonny
Dundee, whom we Highlanders love still in spite of Walter Scott.
Miss Elphick, poor soul, was undoubtedly as innocent of any
acquaintance with him as she had been with James IV., but there
had been something in my father's manner on the Flodden field
day which prevented any further display of my ill-breeding. I
therefore contented myself with a verse of the song, and a little
conversation with my mother, who was a perfect chronological
table of every event in modern history.
The old inn at Blair was high up on the hill, overlooking the
Park, the wall of which was just opposite the windows. We
used to watch through the trunks of the trees for the antlered
herds of deer, and walk to a point from whence we could see
the Castle far clown below, beside the river, a large, plain, very
ugly building now, that very likely looked grander before its
battlements were levelled by order of the Government after the
rebellion. Here we were accustomed to a particularly good
pudding, a regular soufflé that would have done no discredit to
a first-rate French cook, only that he would have been amazed
at the quantity of whisky poured over it. The German brandy
puddings must be of the same genus, improved, perhaps, by the
burning. The "Athole lad" who waited on us was very awkward,
red-haired, freckled, in a faded, nearly threadbare tartan
jacket. My father and mother had a bedroom, Johnnie and the
maid a closet, but we three and our governess slept in the
parlour, two in a bed, and the beds were in the wall shut in by
panels, and very musty was the smell of them. So poor Miss
Elphick cried, which we extremely resented as a reflection on
the habits of our country. Next day was worse, a few miles of
beauty, and then the dreary moor to Dalnacardoch, another lone
house with very miserable steading about it, and a stone-walled
sheepfold near the road; and then the high hill-pass to Dalwhinnie
very nearly as desolate. Nothing can exceed the dreariness of
Drumochter — all heather, bog, granite, and the stony beds of
winter torrents, unrelieved by one single beauty of scenery, if
we except a treeless lake with a shooting-box beside it, and
three or four fields near the little burn close to which stands the
good inn of Dalwhinnie. We felt so near home there that we
liked the lonely place, and were almost sorry we were to
sleep at Pitmain, the last stage on our long journey. We never
see such inns now; no carpets on the floors, no cushions in the
chairs, no curtains to the windows. Of course polished tables,
or even clean ones, were unknown. All the accessories of the
dinner were wretched, but the dinner itself, I remember, was
excellent; hotch-potch, salmon, fine mutton, grouse, scanty
vegetables, bad bread, but good wine. A mile on from Pitmain
were the indications of a village — the present town of Kingussie
— a few very untidy-looking slated stone houses each side of a
road, the bare heather on each side of the Spey, the bare mountains
on each side of the heather, a few white-walled houses here
and there, a good many black turf huts, frightful without, though
warm and comfortable within. A little farther on rose Belleville,
a great hospital-looking place protruding from young
plantations, and staring down on the rugged meadow-land now
so fine a farm. The birch woods began to show a little after
this, but deserted the banks about that frightful Kincraig where
began the long moor over which we were glad to look across the
Spey to Invereshie, from whence all the Rothiemurchus side of
the river was a succession of lovely scenery. On we went over
the weary moor of Alvie to the loch of the same name with its
kirk and manse, so singularly built on a long promontory, running
far out into the water; Tor Alvie on the right, Craigellachie
before us, and our own most beautiful "plain of the fir trees"
opening out as we advanced, the house of the Doune appearing
for a moment as we passed on by Lynwilg. We had as usual to
go on to the big boat at Inverdruie, feasting our eyes all the
way on the fine range of the Cairngorm, the pass of the Larrig
between Cairngorm and Brae-Riach, the hill of Kincairn standing
forward to the north to enclose the forest which spread all
along by the banks of the Spey, the foreground relieved by
hillocks clothed with birch, fields, streams, and the smoke from
the numerous cottages. Our beloved Ord Bain rose right in
front with its bald head and birch-covered sides, and we could
point out our favourite spots to one another as we passed along,
some coming into sight as others receded, till the clamour of our
young voices, at first amusing, had to be hushed. We were so
happy! we were at last come home; London was given up,
and in our dearly loved Rothiemurchus we now fully believed
we were to live and die.
We found the Doune all changed again, more of the backwater,
more of the hill, and all the garden, gone. This last had
been removed to its present situation in the series of pretty
hollows in the birch wood between the Drum and the Milltown
muir; a fashion of the day, to remove the fruit and vegetables
to an inconvenient distance from the cook, the kitchen department
of the garden being considered the reverse of ornamental.
The new situation of ours, and the way it was laid out, was the
admiration of everybody, and there could not well have been
anything of the sort more striking to the eye, with the nicely-managed
entrance among the trees, and the gardener's cottage so
picturesquely placed; but I always regretted the removal. I
like to be able to lounge in among the cabbages, to say nothing
of the gooseberries; and a walk of a quarter of a mile on a hot
summer's day before reaching the refreshment of fruit is almost
as tormenting to the drawing-room division of the family as is
the sudden want of a bit of thyme, mint, or parsley to those in
authority in the offices, with no one beyond the swing-door idle
enough to have half an hour to spare for fetching some. A very
enjoyable shrubbery replaced the dear old formal kitchen garden,
with belts of flowering trees, and gay beds of flowers, grass plots,
dry walks, and the Doune hill in the midst of it, oh neatly
fenced from the lawn; and so agreeable a retirement was this
piece of ornamental ground, that I can't but think it very bad
taste in my brother John and the Duchess of Bedford to take
away the light green paling and half the dressed ground, and
throw so large an open space about that ugly half-finished house:
for I am writing now after having been with my husband and
my children and three of my nephews in the Highlands, a few
really happy weeks at Inverdruie; finding changes enough in
our Duchus, as was to be expected after an absence of twenty
years; much to regret, some things to praise, and many more to
wish for. In my older age it was the condition of the people
that particularly engaged me; in 1812 it was the scenery.
It has always seemed to me that this removal to Rothiemurchus
was the first great era in my life. All our habits
changed — all connections, all surroundings. We had been so
long in England, we elder children, that we had to learn our
Highland life again. The language, the ways, the style of the
house, the visitors, the interests, all were so entirely different
from what had been latterly affecting us, we seemed to be
starting as it were afresh. I look back on it even now as a
point to date up to and on from; the beginning of a second stage
in the journey. Our family then consisted of my father and
mother, we three girls and our governess, and our young French
companion Caroline Favrin, William during the summer holidays,
Johnnie, and a maid between him and my mother, poor
Peggy Davidson. Besides her there were the following servants:
Mrs. Bird the coachman's wife, an Englishwoman, as upper
housemaid and plain needlewoman; under her Betty Ross, the
gardener's youngest daughter; Grace Grant, the beauty of the
country, only daughter of Sandy Grant the greusiach or shoemaker,
our schoolroom maid; old Belle Macpherson, a soldier's
widow who had followed the 92nd all over the world, and had
learned to make up the Marquis of Huntly's shirts remarkably
well at Gibraltar, box-plaiting all the frills — he never wore them
small-plaited, though my father did for many a long day after
this! She was the laundrymaid. The cook and housekeeper
was an English Mrs. Carr from Cumberland, an excellent
manager; a plain cook under her from Inverness; and old
Christie as kitchenmaid. The men were Simon Ross, the
gardener's eldest son, as butler, and an impudent English footman,
Richard, with a bottle-nose, who yet turned all the women's
heads; William Bird the coachman, and George Boss, another son
of the gardener's, as groom. Old John Mackintosh brought in all
the wood and petits for the fires, pumped the water, turned the
mangle, lighted the oven, brewed the beer, bottled the whisky,
kept the yard tidy, and stood enraptured listening to us playing
on the harp "like Daavid"! There was generally also a clerk
of Mr. Cooper's, my father requiring assistance in his study,
where he spent the greater part of his time managing all his
perplexed affairs.
At the farm were the grieve, and as many lads as he
required for the work of the farm under him, who all slept
in a loft over the stables, and ate in the farm kitchen.
Old George Ross No. 1 — not the gardener — had a house
and shop in the offices; he was turner, joiner, butcher,
weaver, lint-dresser, wool-comber, dyer, and what not; his old
wife was the henwife, and had her task of so many hanks
of wool to spin in the winter. Old Jenny Cameron, who
had never been young, and was known as Jenny Dairy, was
supreme in the farm kitchen; she managed cows, calves, milk,
stores, and the spinning, assisted by an active girl whom I never
recollect seeing do anything but bake the oaten bread over the
fire, and scour the wooden vessels used for every purpose, except
on the washing and rinsing days (called by the maids ranging),
when Jenny gave help in the laundry, in which abode of mirth
and fun the under-housemaid spent her afternoons. Besides this
regular staff, John Fyffe, the handsome smith, came twice a week
to the forge with his apprentices, when all the maids were sure
to require repairs in the ironworks; and the greusiach came
once a week for the cheque he carried in his bosom to the bank
at Inverness, walking the thirty-six miles as another man, not a
Highlander, would go three, and the thirty-six back again, with
the money in the same safe hiding-place. My father at this
time paid most of the wages in cash. There were also the bowman,
who had charge of the cattle, named, I suppose, from the
necessity of arming him in ancient times with the weapon most
used, when he had to guard his herd from marauders. John
Macgregor was our bowman's name, though he was never spoken
of but as John Bain or John the Fair, on account of his complexion.
He was married to George Ross the orraman's daughter
(orraman means the jobber or Jack-of-all-trades), and, like almost
all the rest of them, lived with us till he died. The gardener,
and those of his family who were not married or in our service,
lived in the pretty cottage at one entrance of the new garden,
which also served as lodge to the White Gate. The gamekeeper,
tall, handsome John Macpherson, had an ugly little hut at the
Polchar. The fox-hunter, little, active Lewie Gordon, had part
of the Kinapol house; the principal shepherd, John M'Gregor,
known as the muckle shepherd from his great stature, had
the remainder; the under-shepherd, also a Macgregor, lived
nearer the mountains. The carpenter, Donald Maclean, had
another part of Kinapol; he had married my mother's first
cook Nelly Grant, she who could make so many puddings, ninety-nine,
if I remember right. The Colleys, the masons, were at
Riannachan; far enough apart all of them, miles between any
two, but it little mattered; we were slow coaches in our Highlands;
time was of little value, space of no account, an errand
was a day's work, whether it took the day or only an hour or
two. Three or four extra aids, Tam Mathieson the carrier, Tans
M'Tavish the smuggler, and Mary Loosach and the Nairn fisher-wives,
with their creels on their backs, made up the complement
of our Highland servitors.
Poor Miss Elphick! nothing could reconcile her at first to
the wild country she had got into. Between the inns and bleak
moors and the Gaelic she had been overpowered, and had
hardly articulated since we crossed Drumochter. She had yet
to awake to the interest of the situation, to accommodate herself
besides to manners so entirely different from any she had been
accustomed to. How our mother could have taken a fancy to
this strange little woman was ever an enigma to Jane and me;
she was uneducated, had lived amongst a low set of people, and
had not any notion of the grave business she had undertaken.
Her temper was passionate and irritable; we had to humour, to
manage her, instead of learning from her to discipline ourselves.
Yet she was clever, very warm-hearted, and she improved herself
wonderfully after being with us a little time. Her father,
of German extraction, had been bailiff to the Duke of Clarence
at Bushey Park; he lived jollily with a set of persons of his own
station, spending freely what was earned easily, and so leaving
nothing behind him. His son succeeded him in his place; his
elder daughters were married poorly; this one, the youngest,
had nothing for it but the usual resource of her class, go out as
a governess, for which responsible situation she had never been
in the least prepared. Her childhood had been chiefly passed
under Mrs. Jordan's eye, among all her Fitz-Clarences; she then
went to a third-rate school, and at eighteen went to keep her
rather dissipated brother's house during the interval between his
first and second marriage. Lady Glenbervie, who was in some
way interested about the family, recommended her to my mother.
She had found her in old Mrs. Wynch's apartments in Hampton
Court Palace, recommended her removing to London for a few
months for masters, and promised to do all she could for her.
We got on better with her after a while, but at first her constant
companionship made us very miserable. Oh, how we regretted
Annie Grant!
It was the intention of my father and mother to remain
quietly at the Doune for the next two years, that is, my father
intended the Doune to be the home of his wife and children.
He could himself be with us only occasionally, as he had to carry
his election, and then in the proper season take his place in
Parliament. I cannot bring to mind whether he wrote M.P.
after his name this year or the next, but in either the one or the
other Great Grimsby was gained — at what cost the ruin of a
family could certify. Whether he were with us or no, visitors
poured in as usual; no one then ever passed a friend's house in
the Highlands, nor was it ever thought necessary to send invitations
on the one part, or to give information on the other; the
doors were open literally, for ours had neither lock nor bolt, and
people came in sure of a hearty welcome and good cheer. The
Lady Logie I remember well; I was always fond of her, she
was so fond of me; and her old father, and her sister Grace
Baillie, whom I overheard one morning excusing my plain appearance
to my mother — "pale and thin certainly, but very ladylike,
which is always sufficient." No Mr. Macklin with his flute
— he was in India, gone as a barrister to Bombay, and recommended
to the good graces of my uncle Edward. Burgle and
Mrs. Dunbar Brodie paid their regular visit. She measured all
the rooms, and he played the flageolet in the boat upon the lake
not badly, though we young people preferred hearing Mrs. Bird,
the coachman's wife, sing the "Battle of the Nile" in that situation.
Then we had poor Sir Alexander Boswell, not a baronet
then, Bozzy's son, his wife, wife's sister and quiet husband,
Mr. Conyngham — new acquaintances made through the Dick
Landers, who lived near them; they were also with us, and all the
old set. Amongst others, Sir William Gordon-Cumming, newly
come to his title and just of age; some of his sisters with him.
He was the queerest creature, ugly, yet one liked his looks, tall
and well made, and awkward more from oddity than ungracefulness;
extraordinary in his conversation between cleverness
and a kind of want of it. Everybody liked Sir Willie, and many
years afterwards he told me that at this time he very much liked
me, and wanted my father to promise me to him in a year or two;
but my father would make no promises, only just a warm welcome
on the old footing when this oddity should return from his continental
travels. He was just setting out on them, and I never
heard of this early conquest of mine, for he fell in love with
Elizabeth Campbell at Florence; "And ye see, Lizzy, my dear,"
said he to me, as he was driving me in his buggy round the
beautiful grounds at Altyre, "Eliza Campbell put Eliza Grant
quite out of my head!" We had no Kinrara; that little paradise
had been shut up ever since the death of the Duchess of Gordon,
except just during a month in the shooting season, when the
Marquis of Huntly came there with a bachelor party.
We girls saw little of all this company, old friends as some
of them were, as, except at breakfast where Miss Elphick and I
always appeared, we never now left our own premises. We
found this schoolroom life very irksome at first, it was so different
from what we had been accustomed to. Governess and pupils
slept in one large room up at the top of the new part of the
house, the barrack-room where I so well remembered Edwina
Cumming combing her long yellow hair. We had each of us a
little white-curtained bed, made to fit into the slope of the roof
in its own corner, leaving space enough between the bedstead
and the end wall for the washing-table. The middle of the
room with its window, fireplace, toilettes, and book table, made
our common dressing-room; there were chests of drawers each
side of the fireplace, and a large closet in the passage, so that we
were comfortably lodged. Miss Elphick began her course of
instruction by jumping out of bed at six o'clock in the morning,
and throwing on her clothes with the haste of one escaping
from a house on fire; she then wiped her face and hands, and
smoothed her cropped hair, and her toilette was over. Some
woman, I forget who, telling Sir William Cumming, who was
seated next her at breakfast, that she never took more than ten
minutes to dress in the morning, he instantly got up, plate and
cup in hand, and moved off to the other side of the table. He
would not then have sat beside me, for Miss Elphick considered
ten minutes quite sufficient for any young lady to give to her
toilette upon week-days. We could "clean ourselves" properly, as
she did, upon Sundays. She could not allow us time for such unnecessary
dawdling. We must have an hour of the harp or the
pianoforte before breakfast, and our papa chose that we should
be out another; therefore, we must give ourselves a "good
wash" on Sundays, and make that do for the week. We were
thoroughly disgusted. Her acquirements were on a par with
this style of breeding; she and I had a furious battle the first
week we began business, because during a history lesson she
informed dear Mary that Scotland had been conquered by Queen
Elizabeth, and left by her with her other possessions to her
nephew, King James! I was pert enough, I daresay, for the
education we had received had given us an extreme contempt
for such ignorance, but what girl of fifteen, brought up as I had
been, could be expected to show respect for an illiterate woman
of very ungovernable temper, whose ideas had been gathered from
a class lower than we could possibly have been acquainted with,
and whose habits were those of a servant? She insisted also
that there never had been a Caliph Haroun al Raschid — our most
particular friend — that he was only a fictitious character in those
Eastern fairy tales; and when, to prove his existence, we
brought forward the list of his presents to Charlemagne, we
found she did not believe in him either! Yet she could run off
a string of dates like Isabella in The Good French Governess.
I thought of her historical knowledge a good many years
afterwards, when visiting General Need's nephew, Tom Walker,
at Aston Hall, in Derbyshire; we had known him very well in
Edinburgh when he was in the Scots Greys. He was public-school
and college bred, had been a dozen years in the army,
was married to a marquis's grand-daughter, and had a fortune
of £3000 a year. He was showing us a collection of coins, some
of them of the reign of Elizabeth, and after calling our attention
to them, he produced sonic base money which she had coined on
some emergency — in plain terms, to cheat the public. "And here,
you see," added he, picking up several other base pieces, "Philip
and Mary, following her bad example, cheated the public too."
It was not to be supposed that we could get on very comfortably
with poor Miss Elphick; we were ungovernable, I dare-say,
but she was totally unfit to direct us; and then, when we
saw from the windows of our schoolroom, a perfect prison to us,
the fine summer pass away, sun shining, birds singing, river
flowing, all in vain for us; when we heard the drawing-room
party setting out for all our favourite haunts, and felt ourselves
denied our ancient privilege of accompanying it, we,
who had hitherto roamed really "fancy free," no wonder we
rebelled at being thus cooped up, and detested the unfortunate
governess who thus deprived us of liberty. Miss Elphick determined
to leave; she felt herself quite unequal to the Highlands
and the Highland children, so she went to make her complaint
to my mother. She returned after a long conference, seemingly
little improved in temper by the interview. However she had
fared, we fared worse; she was, to all appearance, civilly treated,
which we were not. I was first sent for, and well reproved, but
not allowed to speak one word to excuse myself; called impudent,
ignorant, indolent, impertinent, deprived of all indulgences,
threatened with still heavier displeasure, and sent back to
my duties in such a state of wrath that I was more decided than
ever on resisting the governess, and only regretted my powers of
annoyance could not be brought to bear also on my mother.
Jane then had her maternal lecture, which gave her a fit of tears,
so bitter that she had to be sent to bed; she was silent as to
what had passed, but she was more grieved than I was. My
father had been from home during this commotion, but I suppose
he was informed on his return of what had taken place, for an
entire reform in every way was the result of this "agitation."
Until he came back we were miserable enough; Miss Elphick
never spoke to Jane or me, threw our books, pens, and pencils
at us, contradicted our every wish, to make us know, she said,
that she was over us. She doubled our lessons, curtailed our
walks, and behaved altogether with vulgarity. My mother soon
forgave Jane; I, who was never a favourite, was rather unjustly
kept out of favour — not an improving treatment of a naturally
passionate temper.
My father met us with his usual affection, but next day his
manner was so stiffly dignified we were prepared for a summons
to attend him in the study. He had changed his sitting-room
for our accommodation, and given up to us the part of the old
hall he had fitted up for himself, which was now our schoolroom;
the room within, once the state bedroom and then my mother's
room, was now the nursery where Johnnie, the French girl, and
Peggy Davidson slept, and my mother had taken our old nursery
at the head of the stairs looking over the shrubbery to Inverdruie,
while the room exactly underneath was newly done up
for my father. Into this lower chamber I was first ordered to
appear. I had determined with Jane to tell my father boldly
all our grievances, to expose to him the unsuitability of our
governess, and to represent to him that it could not be expected
we would learn from a person whom we felt ourselves fitted to
teach. Alas, for my high resolves! There was something so
imposing about my father when he sat in judgment that awe
generally overcame all who were presented to him. Remonstrances
besides would have been useless, as he addressed me
very differently from what I expected as I stood before him, all
my courage gone, just waiting my doom in silence. I forget
the exact words of his long harangue; he was never very brief
in his speeches, but the purport is in my head now, for he told
me what I knew was the truth. He said Miss Elphick was not
exactly the sort of governess he could have wished for us, but
that she was in many respects the best out of many my mother
had taken the trouble to inquire about. She had great natural
talents, habits of neatness, order, and industry, in all of which
we were deficient; all these she could teach us, with many
other equally useful things. A more correct knowledge of
history, a more cultivated mind, would have been a great advantage
certainly, but we could not expect everything; what he
did expect, however, was that his children should act as became
the children of a gentleman, the descendants of a long line of
gentlemen, and not by rude unfeeling remarks, impertinence
and insubordination put themselves on a par with their inferiors.
Gentlemen and gentlewomen were studious of the feelings of all
around them; they were characterised by that perfect good-breeding
which would avoid inflicting the slightest annoyance on
any human being.
This lecture had considerable effect on me. I dreaded compromising
my gentle blood; I also believed in the difficulty of
procuring a suitable governess. My conduct therefore improved
in politeness, but I cannot say that I ever learned to esteem
poor Miss Elphick. Jane's private interview with my father
did not last so long as mine; she had never been so pert nor so
intractable as I had been, therefore she had less to reform. She
said my father had quite failed to convince her that they had
got a suitable governess for us, she was therefore sure that he
had some doubts on the point himself; but as there seemed a
determination not to part with her we had to make the best of
it; and from this time Miss Elphick and Jane got on very well
together; I think, at last, Jane really liked her. She improved
wonderfully. Her conversation in the study lasted an hour or
more, and she left it much more humble than she had entered
it. What passed never transpired, but her manner became less
imperious, her assertions less dogmatic. Dictionaries, biographies,
gazetteers, chronologies were added to our bookcase,
and these were always referred to afterwards in any uncertainty,
though it was done by way of giving us the trouble of searching
in order to remember better.
Schoolroom affairs went on more smoothly after this settlement.
We were certainly kept very regularly at work, and
our work was sufficiently varied, but the heads were properly
rested for the most part, and we had battled out a fair amount
of exercise.
In the summer we rose at six, practised an hour, walked an
hour, and then the younger ones had breakfast, a plan Dr.
Combe would have changed with advantage. Miss Elphick and
I had often to wait two hours longer before our morning's meal
was tasted, for we joined the party in the eating-room, and my
father and mother were very late in appearing. We each took
a bit of bread before the early walk, a walk that tired me
greatly. Studies went on till twelve, when we went out again.
At two we dined, and had half an hour to ourselves afterwards.
We studied again till five, and spent the rest of the evening as
we liked, out of doors till dark in summer, or in the drawing-room,
for we had "agitated" to get rid of learning lessons overnight
and had succeeded. In winter we rose half an hour later,
without candle, or fire, or warm water. Our clothes were all
laid on a chair overnight in readiness for being taken up in
proper order next morning. My mother would not give us
candles, and Miss Elphick insisted on our getting up. We were
not allowed hot water, and really in the Highland winters, when
the breath froze on the sheets, and the water in the jugs became
cakes of ice, washing was a very cruel necessity. As we could
play our scales in the dark, the two pianofortes and the harp
began the day's work. How very near crying was the one
whose turn set her at the harp I will not speak of; the strings
cut the poor cold fingers. Martyr the first sat in the dining-room
at the harp, martyr the second put her poor blue fingers
to the keys of the grand pianoforte in the drawing-room, for in
these two rooms the fires were never lighted till near nine
o'clock. Mary was better off. She being a beginner practised
under Miss Elphick's superintendence in the schoolroom, where,
if Grace Grant had not a good fire burning brightly by seven
o'clock, she was likely to hear of it. Our al fresco playing below
was not of much use to us; we had better have been warm in
our beds for all the good it did us. As we had no early walk
in winter, we went out at half after eleven, and at five we had
a good romp all over the old part of the house, playing at hide-and-seek
in the long garret and its many dependencies, till it
was time for Miss Elphick, who dined in the parlour, to dress.
We had a charming hour to ourselves then by the good lire in
the schoolroom, no candle allowed, till we had to dress ourselves
and take our work down to the drawing-room, where I
had tea; the rest had supped upstairs on bread, Johnnie and
Caroline Favrin alone being able to take the milk. Poor, clear
Jane, how I longed to give her one of the cups of tea I was
allowed myself; she was too honest to go into the nursery and
get one from Peggy Davidson.
We learned the harp, pianoforte, and singing after a fashion,
drawing in several styles, geography with map-making well
taught, and arithmetic very well taught, more knowledge of the
stars than I cared for; lists of stars, and maps of the sky, and
peerings of a frosty night out of the barrack-room window after
Orion's belt, his sword, and his neighbours, were not in my line.
We had chronological tables to make which delighted me, pieces
of poetry to learn by heart, and French translations and exercises.
Every Saturday after dinner we mended our clothes. We
really soon got to like the regularity of our life. Once accustomed
to the discipline we hardly felt it as such, and we got
very much interested in most of our employments, anxious to
show our father that we were making good use of our time.
We generally played to him in the evening whether there were
guests or no, and once a week we had each to give him something
new, on the execution of which he passed judgment, not
unsparingly, for he was particular to a fault in finding fault.
Once a week we had a French evening when there was no
company, and we read aloud occasionally after tea, in turns,
such bits as he had himself selected for us out of good authors,
the same passage over and over till we had acquired the proper
expression. He often read aloud himself any passage that
struck him, either from books, reviews, or newspapers. We
had a good command of books, a fair library of our own, and
a really good one collected by my father. My father always
commented on the passages selected, ever in a spirit of liberality
and kindness; I never heard an ill-natured remark from his
lips, on either dead or living, nor noticed the very slightest
interest in gossip of any sort; he meddled in no man's business,
was charitable, in St. Paul's sense of the word, in all his judgments.
It was no common privilege to grow up under such a
mind.
My mother, when in health, was an example of industry.
She kept a clean and tidy house, and an excellent table, not
doing much herself, but taking care to see all well done. She
was very kind to the poor, and encouraged us to visit them and
work for them, and attend to them when sick. She was a
beautiful needlewoman, and taught us to sew and cut out, and
repair all our own, our father's, brothers', and family linen.
She had become Highland wife enough to have her spinnings
and dyeings, and weavings of wool and yarn, and flax and
hanks, and she busied herself at this time in all the stirring
economy of a household "remote from cities," and consequently
forced to provide its own necessities. Her evening readings
were her relaxation; she was very well read, thoroughly read
in English classics, and she possessed a memory from which
neither fact nor date ever escaped. When idle, we used to
apply to her, and never found her wrong. She used to employ
us to go her errands among the people, and we got Miss Elphick
broken in at last to like the long wanderings through the fir
wood. We had two ponies, which we rode in turn; a tent in
the shrubbery in summer, the garden in autumn, the poultryyard
in spring, the farm-yard at all times, with innumerable
visits to pay to friends of all degrees. Such was our Highland
home; objects of interest all round us, ourselves objects of
interest to all round, little princes and princesses in our Duchus,
where the old feudal feelings still reigned in their deep intensity.
And the face of Nature so beautiful — rivers, lakes, burnies,
fields, banks, braes, moors, woods, mountains, heather, the dark
forest, wild animals, wild flowers, wild fruits; the picturesque
inhabitants, the legends of our race, fairy tales, raids of the
clans, haunted spots, cairns of the murdered — all and everything
that could touch the imagination, there abounded and acted as
a charm on the children of the chieftain who was adored; for
my father was the father of his people, loved for himself as well
as for his name.
CHAPTER X
1570-1813
ROTHIEMURCHUS at this period contained four large farms —
the Doune, where we lived ourselves, to which my father was
constantly adding such adjoining scraps as circumstances enabled
him now and then to get possession of; Inverdruie, where
lived his great-uncle Captain Lewis Grant, the last survivor of
the old race; the Croft, where now was settled his cousin
James Cameron; and the Dell, occupied by Duncan Macintosh,
the forester, who had permission to take in as many acres of
the adjacent moors as suited his husbandry. Quantities of
smaller farms, from a mere patch to a decent steading, were
scattered here and there among the beautiful birch woods, near
swiftly running streams, or farther away among the gloom of
the fir forest, wherever an opening afforded light enough for a
strip of verdure to brighten the general carpet of cranberries
and heather. The carpenter, the smith, the fox-hunter, the
saw-millers, the wheelwright, the few Chelsea pensioners, each
had his little field, while comparatively larger holdings belonged
to a sort of yeomanry coeval with our own possession, or even
some of them found there by our ancestor the Laird of
Muckerach, the second son of our Chief, who displaced the
Shaws, for my father was but the ninth laird of Rothiemurchus;
the Shaws reigned over this beautiful property
before the Grants seized it, and they had succeeded the Comyns,
lords not only of Badenoch but of half our part of the north
besides. The forest was at this time so extensive there was
little room for tillage through the wide plain it covered. It
was very pretty here and there to come upon a little cultivated
spot, a tiny field by the burn-side with a horse or a cow upon
it, a cottage often built of the black peat mould, its chimney,
however, smoking comfortably, a churn at the door, a girl
bleaching linen, or a guid-wife in her high white cap waiting
to welcome us, miles away from any other spot so tenanted.
Here and there upon some stream a picturesque saw-mill was
situated, gathering its little hamlet round; for one or two held
double saws, necessitating two millers, two assistants, two homes
with all their adjuncts, and a larger wood-yard to hold, first
the logs, and then all they were cut up into. The wood manufacture
was our staple, on it depended our prosperity. It was
at its height during the war, when there was a high duty on
foreign timber; while it flourished so did we, and all the many
depending on us; when it fell, the Laird had only to go back
to black cattle again "like those that were before him." It
was a false stimulus, said the political economists. If so, we
paid for it.
Before introducing you, dear children, to our Rothiemurchus
society, we must get up a bit of genealogy, or you would never
understand our relationships or our manners or connections in
the north country. In the reign of the English popish Mary
and of the Scotch regencies, in the year 1556, I think, but am
not quite certain, the Chief of the clan Grant presented his
second son Patrick with the moor of Muckerach in Strathspey,
on which he built a tower. The mother of Patrick was a
Lady Margaret Stewart, daughter of the Earl of Athole, and
cousin to the Queen. Whom he married I forget. He had
been a clever enterprising man, for the Shaws having displeased
the Government by repeated acts of insubordination, a common
offence in those times, their lands were confiscated, and the
Rothiemurchus portion presented to the Laird of Muckerach —
"gin he could win it" — which without more ado he did, and
built himself a house at the Dell, the door stone of which he
brought from his tower on the moor, and to this day there it
is, with the date cut deep into it. The Shaws, though removed,
remaining troublesome, he repaired the ruins of an old castle of
the Comyns on an island in Loch-an-Eilan in case of any extraordinary
mishap, and he pulled down and quite destroyed an
old fort of the Shaws on the Donne Hill, leaving his malediction
to any of his successors who should rebuild it. He must have
had stirring times of it, yet he died peaceably in his bed, and
was succeeded by sons, for some generations of no great note,
a Duncan, a James, a Patrick, etc., none of them remarkable
except Duncan, who was surnamed "of the Silver Cups" from
possessing two silver cups, probably a rare piece of splendour
in a Highland household in those days. A second James inherited
more of the qualities of the first Laird; his father,
whose name I am not sure of, but called in the Gaelic the
Foolish Laird, was but a poor body; he let the Shaws get
rather ahead again, married badly, and was altogether so
unfit to rule that his rather early death was not regretted.
He either fell over a rock or was drowned in a hunting party
— nobody inquired into particulars.
The reign of his son opened unpleasantly; the Shaws were
very troublesome, and Laird James had to fight them; the
Shaws, of course, got the worst of it, though they lived through
many a fight to fight again. At last their chief was killed,
which sobered this remnant of a clan, but they had to bury
him, and no grave would suit them but one in the kirkyard of
Rothiemurchus beside his fathers. With such array as their
fallen fortunes permitted of, they brought their dead and laid
him unmolested in that dust to which we must all return. But
oh, what horrid times! His widow next morning on opening
the door of her house at Dalnavert caught in her arms the
corpse, which had been raised in the night and carried back to
her. It was buried again, and again it was raised, more times
than I care to say, till Laird James announced he was tired
of the play. The corpse was raised, but carried home no
more. It was buried deep down within the kirk, beneath the
Laird's own seat, and every Sunday when he went to pray he
stamped his feet upon the heavy stone he had laid over the
remains of his enemy.
Laird James took to wife a very clever woman, the daughter
of Mackintosh of Killachy, nearly related to the Mackintosh
Chief (Sir James Mackintosh, the famed of our day, is that
Killachy's descendant). Her name was Grace, but on account
of her height, and perhaps of her abilities, she was always
called in the family Grizzel Mor. I do not know what fortune
she brought beyond herself and the contents of a great green
chest, very heavy, with two deep drawers at the bottom of it,
which stood in the long garret as far back as my recollection
reaches, and held the spare blankets well peppered, and with
bits of tallow candles amongst them. She was the mother of
Macalpine — Patrick Grant, surnamed Macalpine, I don't well
know why, the great man of our line, who would have been
great in any line. He removed from the Dell to the Doune,
built what was then thought a fine house there, and had the
family arms sculptured and coloured set over the door. I
remember regretting the shutting up of that door, and the
dashing over of the coat-of-arms with yellow mortar and stones.
His brothers were Colonel William Grant, who married in 1711
Anne, a daughter of Ludovic Grant of Grant, and was the
founder of the Ballindallochs, and Mr. John Grant, who died
unmarried. He had plenty of sons and daughters by his wife,
who was a grand-daughter of the Laird of Grant, his Chief, one
of whose sisters was married to Lovat. Macalpine ruled not
only his own small patrimony, but mostly all the country
round. His wisdom was great, his energy of mind and body
untiring. He must have acted as a kind of despotic sovereign,
for he went about with a body of four-and-twenty picked men,
gaily dressed, of whom the principal and the favourite was his
foster-brother, Ian Bain or John the Fair, also a Grant of the
family of Achnahatanich. Any offences committed anywhere
this band took cognisance of. Macalpine himself was judge and
jury, and the sentence quickly pronounced was as quickly
executed, even when the verdict doomed to death. A corpse
with a dagger in it was not unfrequently met with among the
heather, and sometimes a stout fir branch bore the remains of
a meaner victim. I never heard the justice of a sentence
questioned. Macalpine was a great man in every sense of the
word, tall and strong made, and very handsome, and a beau;
his trews (he never wore the kilt) were laced down the sides
with gold, the brogues on his beautifully-formed feet were
lined and trimmed with feathers, his hands, as soft and white
as a lady's and models as to shape, could draw blood from the
finger-nails of any other hand they grasped, and they were so
flexible they could be bent back to form a cup which would
hold a tablespoonful of water. He was an epicure, as indeed
are all Highlanders in their own way. They are contented
with simple fare, and they ask no great variety, but
what they have must be of its kind the best, and cooked precisely
to their fancy. The well of which Macalpine invariably
drank was the Lady's Well at Tullochgrue, the water of which
was certainly delicious. It was brought to him twice a day in
a covered wooden vessel, a cogue or lippie.
There is no end to the stories of Macalpine's days — was none
rather, for old-world tales are wearing out in the Highlands
as everywhere else, and since we, the old race, have had to
desert the spot where our forefathers dwelt, there is less
going to keep alive those feudal feelings which were concentrated
on the Laird's family.
Macalpine had by his first wife, Lady Mary, several sons —
James who succeeded him, Patrick who went into the army,
married some one whose name I forget, and retired after some
years of service to Tullochgrue, and John, surnamed Corrour,
from having been born at the foot of the rock of that name up
in the hill at Glen Ennich. The young cattle were always sent
up in the summer to eat the fine grass in the glens, and the lady
having gone up at this time to the sheiling (a mere but and ben
which the herds inhabited), either to bleach her linens or for
mere change of air, was suddenly taken ill in that wilderness.
Without nurse or doctor she got as suddenly well, and brought
her fine young son back with her to the Doune. The army was
Corrour's destination of course; he saw a good deal of service,
and I believe died somewhere abroad, a distinguished officer,
though he began life by fighting a running duel, that is, challenging
two or three in succession, rather than acknowledge his
ignorance. He had brought with him to the south, where he
joined his regiment, a horse accoutred; the horse died, and
John Corrour went looking about for another to fit the saddle,
which he insisted was the correct method of proceeding, and
any one who questioned this had to measure swords with him.
He had never seen asparagus; some being offered to him he
began to eat it at the white end, which provoking a laugh at
the mess table, he laid his hand on that terrible sword, and
declared his undoubted right to eat what best pleased him. It
is said that to his dying day he always put aside the tender
green points of this vegetable. What marriages all the daughters
of Macalpine made I never heard; one I know married Cameron
of Glenevis. A few years after the death of Lady Mary, when
her family had long been grown up and settled, Macalpine, then
in his 78th year, made what was considered to be a very low
connection, although this second bride of his was a handsome
woman, the daughter of Grant of Tullochgorm, a respectable
tacksman. She bore him four sons, who were younger than
some of his grandsons, Colonel William Grant, Captain Lewis
Grant, George who was a sailor (a very uncommon profession
for a Highlander), and died at sea, and Alexander who died
young. Colonel William was a good deal abroad, he had been
in the West Indies, Canada, etc.; he married in Ireland a widow
of the name of Dashwood, who died childless, and the Colonel
soon after retired to the Croft, where he lived happily, but not
altogether respectably, to a good old age. His very handsome
housekeeper, Jenny Gordon, bore him two children, our dearly-loved
Annie, and her brother Peter Macalpine Grant, whom my
father sent out to India as a cadet. Being the eldest living member
of the family, Colonel William was tacitly elected to conduct
my mother to the kirk on her arrival as a bride in Rothiemurchus,
and on this occasion he dressed himself in full regimentals,
and wore a queue tied with very broad black ribbon which
nearly reached down to his chair when he was seated. With
cocked hat beneath his arm, he led her by the point of a finger,
and walking backwards on tiptoe up the aisle in the face of the
congregation, relinquishing her with a bow so low as made her
feel much smaller than the little man who thus honoured her.
He was the man of fashion of the circle, excelling in those graces
of manner which belonged to the beau of his day. He piqued
himself on the amount of noise he made when rinsing out his
mouth after dinner, squirting the water back into his finger-glass
in a way that alarmed his neighbours. I have no recollection
of the Colonel, he must have died when I was very young,
Captain Lewis I remember perfectly.
He had fought at the siege of Gibraltar, and was I daresay
an excellent officer, a little, handsome, dapper man, very gentlemanly,
gay in manner, neat in habits, and with all the pride
and spirit of his race. He had been given Inverdruie when my
father resolved to make the Doune his own residence, and there
I remember him from my earliest days till the autumn of 1814,
when we lost him. His first wife, a Duff from Aberdeenshire,
a pretty little old lady, had lived very unhappily with
him, particularly since the death of their only child, a son, who
had also gone into the army. They lived together for many
years without speaking, though occupying the same rooms and
playing backgammon together every night; when either made
a disputed move the adversary's finger was silently pointed to
the mistake, no word was ever spoken. My mother and my
aunts rather liked the Captain's lady. She was the picture of
a little old gentlewoman, riding every Sunday to church in a
green joseph and black bonnet, her pony led by a little maiden
in a jacket and petticoat, plaid and snood. She also wore the
hat perpetually, inside the house and out of it. The joseph
was the habit of ceremony, put on when she made her calls or
dined with the Laird. She wore a sort of shirt beneath the
joseph with neatly plaited frills and ruffles. The Captain made
a much happier second choice, Miss Grace Grant, Burnside,
an elderly and a plain woman who had for some years kept
house for her uncle, Macpherson of Invereshie, and whom the
Captain had always liked and had toasted, as was the fashion of
his day, whenever after dinner he had proceeded beyond his
second tumbler. She was installed at Inverdruie when we
came back in 1812 to make our real home of Rothiemurchus;
and at the Croft, instead of the Colonel was the cousin James
Cameron, the grandson of Macalpine, his mother having been
the Lady Glenevis; and he had married his cousin, a granddaughter
of Macalpine, her father being Patrick Grant of
Tullochgrue, brother of Laird James.
But we must return to Macalpine himself, who died at the
age of ninety-two, of some sore in his toe which the doctors
wished to amputate; but the Laird resolved to go out of the
world as he had come into it, perfect, so the foot mortified. His
eldest son James succeeded him; he was called the Spreckled
Laird on account of being marked with the smallpox; he had
some of the sternness of his grandfather James, the Cruel Laird,
and sonic of the talent of his father, for in very troubled times
he managed to steer clear of danger and so transmit his property
unimpaired. He had married highly, a Gordon, a relative of
the Duke's, who brought him a little money, and a deal of good
sense, besides beauty. She was of course a Jacobite, sent help
to Prince Charlie, secreted her cousin Lord Lewis (the Lewie
Gordon of the ballad) in the woods, and fed him and his followers
secretly, setting out with her maid in the night to carry
provisions up to the forest, which, while she was preparing, she
persuaded the Laird were for other purposes. Mr. Cameron
showed us the very spot near Tullochgrue where the rebels
were resting when an alarm was given that the soldiers were in
pursuit; they had just time to go through the house at Tullochgrue,
in at one door and out at the other, and so got off to a
different part of the forest., before the little pursuing detachment
came up to the fire they had been seated round. The Lady Jean,
though so fast a friend, could be, Highland like, a bitter enemy.
She was systematically unkind to the widowed Lady Rachel,
whose marriage indeed had been particularly disagreeable, not
only to the family but also to the people; and she upon every
occasion slighted the four young sons of Macalpine's old age.
Poor Lady Rachel, not the meekest woman in the world, bore
this usage of her children with little placidity. Once after the
service in the kirk was over she stepped up with her fan in her
hand to the corner of the kirkyard where all our graves are
made, and taking off her high-heeled slipper she tapped with it
on the stone laid over her husband's grave, crying out through
her tears, "Macalpine! Macalpine! rise up for ae half-hour
and see me richted!" She had indeed, poor body, need of some
one to protect her if all tales be true of the usage she met with.
Her sons, however, were honourably assisted by their half-nephews,
and helped on in the world by them.
Three sons and two daughters were born to the Spreckled
Laird and the Lady Jean; Patrick, called the White Laird from
his complexion, always known to us as our uncle Rothie; he
married a daughter of Grant of Elchies, a good woman and a
pretty one, though nicknamed by the people the "yellow yawling,"
their name for the yellow-hammer, because her very pale
skin became sallow as her health gave way; they had no children.
The second son, William, the doctor, was my grandfather.
Alexander, the third, and quite his mother's favourite,
with his Gordon name, was a clergyman, married to an English
Miss Neale; she bore him seven sons, who all died before
their parents. Grace, the eldest daughter, married Cumming
of Logie, Henrietta, the younger, and a great beauty, married
Grant of Glenmoriston; both had large families, so that we
had Highland cousins enough; but of the elder set, all that remained
when we were growing up were Mr. Cameron, his wife,
and her sister Mary, and our great-grand-uncle Captain Lewis.
Mr. Cameron, though only a lieutenant, had seen some service;
he had been at the battle of Minden, and had very often visited
my grandfather in London. I have several of my grandfather's
letters to Mr. Cameron, charming in themselves from the spirit
of benevolence which shines through them, and proving a perfect
affection, founded on similarity of disposition, to have subsisted
between them. They were considered to have strongly resembled
one another in countenance, person, and manner; if so,
my grandfather, with his superadded undoubted abilities, must
have been a very irresistible person. Poor Mrs. Cameron was
nearly blind, worn down too by the afflicting loss of all her
children save one, a merchant in Glasgow. Miss Mary, therefore,
managed the establishment, and kept the household from
stagnating, as very likely would have been the case had the easy
master and mistress been left to conduct the affairs of the Croft.
The Dell was after a very different style, the largest
farm of any, but tenanted only by the forester, a handsome,
clever, active little man of low degree. He had gained the
heart of one much above him, the very pretty daughter of
Stewart of Pityoulish, a tacksman on the Gordon property, and
of some account in the country; the father made many a wry face
before he could gulp down as son-in-law the thriving Duncan
Macintosh. The marriage turned out very happily; she was
another Mrs. Balquhidder for management — such spinnings, and
weavings, and washings, and dyeings, and churnings, and knittings,
and bleachings, and candle-makings, and soap-boilings, and
brewings, and feather-cleanings, never are seen or even written
of in these days, as went on in those without intermission at the
Dell. And this busy guid-wife was so quietly gentle, so almost
sleepy in manner, one could hardly suppose her capable of
thinking of work, much less of doing an amount of actual labour
that would have amazed any but a Scotchwoman.
I have written these memoirs so much by snatches, never
getting above a few pages done at a time since the idle days of
Avranches, that I cannot but fear I often repeat myself, so
many old recollections keep running in my head when I set
about making notes of them, and not always in the order of
their occurrence either. The two years and a half we spent
in Rothiemurchus after giving up England don't always keep
clear of the summer visits to the dear old place afterwards, and
about dates I am sure I am sometimes incorrect, for there are
no sort of memoranda of any kind to guide me, and with such
a long life to look back through now, the later years passed in
such different scenes, I can only hope to give you a general
impression of my youth in the Highlands. It was well we
were so very happy within ourselves, had so large an acquaintance
of all ranks of our own people, for except during the
autumn months, when we were extremely in a bustle of gaiety,
we had not much intercourse with any world beyond our own.
Up the river there was Kinrara deserted; Mr. Macpherson
Grant, afterwards Sir George, who had succeeded his uncle at
Invereshie, never lived there; Kincraig, where dwelt Mr. and
Mrs. Mackintosh of Balnespick, we had little intercourse with;
they had a large family, he was a zealous farmer, and she a
very reserved woman. Belleville and Mrs. Macpherson were in
England, Miss Macpherson in Edinburgh, Cluny and his wife
nobody knew. Down the river Castle Grant was shut up, the
old General Grant of Ballindalloch dead, and his heir, also the
heir of Invereshie, we were never very cordial with, although
he was married to the sister of Mrs. Gillies. Having almost
none, therefore, of our own degree to associate with, we were
thrown upon the "little bodies," of whom there was no lack both
up and down the Spey. They used to come from all parts
ostensibly to pay a morning visit, yet always expecting to be
pressed to stay to dinner, or even all night. The Little Laird,
for so my father was called — in the Gaelic Ian Beag — and
his foreign lady were great favourites; my mother, indeed,
excelled in her entertainment of this degree of company, acted
the Highland hostess to perfection, suited her conversation
to her guests, leading it to such topics as they were most
familiar with, as if she had primed herself for the occasion.
Betty Campbell used to tell us that at first the people did not
like their Little Laird bringing home an English wife, but
when they saw her so pretty, so tall, so gentle, they softened
to her; and then when came the chubby boy (for I was not
accounted of, my uncle Rothie's deed of entail cutting me
and my sex off from any but a very distant chance of the
inheritance), a fine healthy child, born at the Donne, baptized
into their own faith, my mother soon grew into favour; and
when, in addition to all this, she set up wheels in her kitchen,
learned to count her hanks, and dye her wool, and bleach her
web, "young creature as she was," she perfectly delighted
them. At this time in the Highlands we were so remote from
markets we had to depend very much on our own produce for
most of the necessaries of life. Our flocks and herds supplied
us not only with the chief part of our food, but with fleeces to
be wove into clothing, blanketing, and carpets, horn for spoons,
leather to be dressed at home for various purposes, hair for the
masons. Lint-seed was sown to grow into sheeting, shirting,
sacking, etc. My mother even succeeded in common table linen;
there was the "dambrod" pattern, supposed to be the Highland
translation of dame-board or backgammon, the "bird's
eye," "snowdrop," "chain," and "single spot," beyond which
the skill of neither old George Ross nor the weaver in Grantown
could go. We brewed our own beer, made our bread, made
our candles; nothing was brought from afar but wine, groceries,
and flour, wheat not ripening well so high above the sea. Yet
we lived in luxury, game was so plentiful, red-deer, roe, hares,
grouse, ptarmigan, and partridge; the river provided trout
and salmon, the different lochs pike and char; the garden
abounded in common fruits and common vegetables; cranberries
and raspberries ran over the country, and the poultry-yard
was ever well furnished. The regular routine of business,
where so much was done at home, was really a perpetual amusement.
I used to wonder when travellers asked my mother if
she did not find her life dull.
You will now be able to follow us in our daily rambles, to
understand the places and people whom in our walks we went
to see. On rainy days we paced about the shrubbery, up the
river to the Green or West Gate, over the Drum, back again
to the White Gate and so home or out at the White Gate and
along Tomnahurich to turn at the burn of Aldracardoch. In
fine weather we wandered much farther afield, first coaxing Miss
Elphick a little farther than she liked, and then as her walking
powers improved getting her on to great distances, particularly
when cool weather made exercise pleasanter. She soon became
interested in our visits to all around, and felt pleasure in yielding
to our wishes to have some point as the aim of every journey.
Indeed, people high and low were so civil to the odd little woman,
she would have been inexcusable had she not met their advances
civilly. When we went to Inverdruie we passed the burn at
Aldracardoch, over which a picturesque wooden bridge for foot-passengers
was thrown. The saw-mill and the miller's house
were close to the road, too close, for the mill when going had
often frightened horses fording the stream. The miller's name
was again Macgregor, that dispersed clan venturing now to
resume the name they had been constrained to drop. They had,
as was usual on such occasions, assumed the patronymic of
whatever clan adopted them, remembering always that loved
one which was their own. James Macgregor's father had been
known as Gregor Grant, so the son slid the easier back to that
of right belonging to him. The road held on under high banks
of fine fir-trees, then came the lighter birch, and then a turn
brought us to the Loist Mor, a swampy field of some size
backed by the forest — the view of which, as he drained it year
by year, was so pleasant to the Captain that he had built himself
a covered seat among the birch in front of it, which used
to be the extent of his walk on a summer's evening. Ten
minutes more brought us up a rugged brae and past the offices
upon the moor at Inverdruie, in the midst of which bare
expanse stood the very ugly house my uncle Rothie had
placed there. It was very comfortable within, and the kind
welcome, and the pleasant words, and the good cheer we found,
made it always a delight to us to be sent there.
The Captain and Mrs. Grant lived in the low parlour to the
left of the entrance, within which was a light closet in which
they slept; the hall was flagged, but a strip of home-made
carpet covered the centre, of the same pattern as that in the
parlour, a check of black and green. The parlour curtain was
home-made too of linsey-woolsey, red and yellow. A good peat
fire burned on the hearth; a rug knit by Mrs. Grant kept the
fire-place tidy. A round mahogany table stood in the middle of
the room; a long mahogany table was placed against the wall,
with a large japanned tray standing up on end on it; several
hair-bottomed chairs were ranged all round. A japanned corner-cupboard
fixed on a bracket at some height from the floor very
much ornamented the room, as it was filled with the best tall
glasses on their spiral stalks, and some china too fine for use; a
number of silver-edged punch-ladles, and two silver-edged and
silver-lined drinking-horns were presented to full view on the
lowest shelf, and outside upon the very top was a large china
punch-bowl. But the cupboard we preferred was in the wall next
the fire. It was quite a pantry; oatcakes, barley scones, flour
scones, butter, honey, sweetmeats, cheese, and wine, and spiced
whisky, all came out of the deep shelves of this agreeable recess,
as did the great key of the dairy; this was often given to one
of us to carry to old Mary the cook, with leave to see her skim
and whip the fine rich cream, which Mrs. Grant would afterwards
pour on a whole pot of jam and give us for luncheon.
This dish, under the name of "bainne briste," or broken milk,
is a great favourite wherever it has been introduced. In the
centre of the ceiling hung a glass globe to attract the flies;
over the chimney-piece was the Captain's armoury, two or
three pairs of pistols safely encased in red flannel bags very
dusty from the peats, several swords of different sorts in their
scabbards crossed in various patterns, and a dirk or two. On
the chimney-slab was a most curious collection of snuff-boxes
of all sorts and shapes and sizes intermixed with a few large
foreign shells. The Captain, in a wig, generally sat in a corner
chair with arms to it, never doing anything that ever I saw.
He was old and getting frail, eighty-five or eighty-six, I believe.
Sometimes when he was not well he wore a plaid cloak, and a
nightcap, red or white, made by his industrious wife in a stitch
she called shepherd's knitting; it was done with a little hook
which she manufactured for herself out of the tooth of an old
tortoise-shell comb, and she used to go on looping her homespun
wool as quick as fingers could move, making not only
caps, but drawers and waistcoats for winter wear for the old
husband she took such care of. She was always busy when in
the house, and out of doors she managed the farm, and drove
the Captain out in a little low phaeton I remember my father
buying for them in London. Occasionally this first summer
they dined with us, and then the old great-grand-uncle looked
very nice in his best suit. Mrs. Grant was really charming,
full of Highland lore, kind and clever and good, without being
either refined or brilliant, and certainly plain in person. She
had a fine voice, and sang Gaelic airs remarkably well. My
mother was extremely attached to this excellent woman, and
spent many a morning with her; we used to watch them
convoying each other home after these visits, turning and returning
upon the Tomnahurich road ever so many times as each
lady neared her own premises, wondering which would be first
to give in and take final leave of the other.
It was a good mile beyond Inverdruie to the Dell, and we
had to cross five streams of rapid running water to reach it,
for into so many channels did the river Druie divide about a
couple of miles below the bridge of Coylam. The intervening
strips of land were all thickets of birch, alder, hazel, and raspberries,
through which the well-trodden paths wound leading to
the simple bridges of logs without a rail that crossed the water,
a single log in all cases but one, where the span being very
wide two were laid side by side. We skipped over them better
than I at least could do it now, but poor Miss Elphick! to get
her over the one with two logs was no easy matter, the others
she did not attempt for many a day unless assisted by some of
the saw-miller's lads who obligingly waded the water by her
side. One day we had a charming adventure on Druie side;
just as we were preparing to cross the bridge an old woman in
a high-crowned cap, a blanket plaid, and a bundle on her back,
stepped on to it on the opposite side. We were generally
accompanied by an immense Newfoundland dog called Neptune,
an especial favourite; he happened to be marching in front and
proceeded to cross the log; on he stepped, so did the old woman,
gravely moved the dog, and quietly came on the old woman, till
they met in the middle. To pass was impossible, to turn back
on that narrow footway equally so; there they stood, the old
woman in considerable uncertainty. The dog made up his mind
more quickly, he very quietly pushed her out of the way; down
she fell into the stream, and on he passed as if nothing extraordinary
had happened. She was a good old creature, just as
much amused as we were, and laughed as heartily, and she
spread the fame of Neptune far and near, for everybody had
the story before the day was over.
The Dell was an ugly place, a small low house, only two
or three stunted trees in the garden behind it, and a wide, sandy,
stony plain all round, never a bit the more fertile for the
regular inundation at the Lammas tide when the Druie always
overflowed its banks. Here the first lairds of Rothiemurchus
had lived after a fashion that must have been of the simplest.
It then became the jointure house, and in it the Lady Jean
passed her widowhood with a few fields and £100 a year.
Mrs. Macintosh was a tidy guid-wife, but nothing beyond the
thriving farmer's helpmate. She and her husband lived mostly
in the kitchen, and each in their own department did the work
of a head servant. The cheer she offered us was never more
than bread and cheese and whisky, but the oaten bread was so
fresh and crisp, the butter so delicious, and the cheese — not the
ordinary skimmed milk curd, the leavings of the dairy, but the
Saturday's kebbock made of the overnight and the morning's
milk, poured cream and all into the yearnin tub; the whisky
was a bad habit, there was certainly too much of it going. At
every house it was offered, at every house it must be tasted or
offence would be given, so we were taught to believe. I am sure
now that had we steadily refused compliance with so incorrect a
custom it would have been far better for ourselves, and might all
the sooner have put a stop to so pernicious a habit among the
people. Whisky-drinking was and is the bane of that country;
from early morning till late at night it went on. Decent
gentlewomen began the day with a dram. In our house the
bottle of whisky, with its accompaniment of a silver salver full of
small glasses, was placed on the side-table with cold meat every
morning. In the pantry a bottle of whisky was the allowance
per day, with bread and cheese in any required quantity,
for such messengers or visitors whose errands sent them in that
direction. The very poorest cottages could offer whisky; all
the men engaged in the wood manufacture drank it in goblets
three times a day, yet except at a merry-making we never saw
any one tipsy.
We sometimes spent an evening at the Dell. Duncan
Macintosh played admirably on the violin, it was delightful to
dance to his music. Many a happy hour have we reeled away
both at the Doune and at the Dell, servants and all included
in the company, with that one untiring violin for our orchestra.
A walk to the Croft led us quite in another direction. We
generally went to the White Gate, and through the new garden
on to the Milltown muir past Peter the Pensioner's wooden
house, and then climbing over the wooden railing wandered
on among the birch woods till we reached the gate at the
Lochan Mor; that passed, we got into the fir wood, refreshed.
ourselves in the proper season with blackberries and cranberries,
then climbing another fence re-entered the birch wood, in the
midst of which nestled the two cottages called the Croft.. The
houses were not adjoining; the upper one connected with the
farm offices was the family dwelling, the lower and newer one
at a little distance was for strangers. Old Mrs. Cameron, who
was by this time nearly blind, sat beside the fire in a bonnet
and shawl as if ready for walking, talking little, but sighing a
great deal. Miss Mary bustled about in her managing way as
kind as her nature would let her be; there was little fear of
any one getting a Saturday's kebbock at the Croft! a little honey
with a barley scone was the extent of Miss Mary's hospitality.
They had always a good fire and a kind welcome for the Laird's
children. We liked going to see them, and when Mr. Cameron
was not too busy with his farm and could stay within and play
on the Jew's harp to us, we were quite happy. He played more
readily and better at the Doune, the tender airs which suited
the instrument affecting his poor melancholy wife, of whom he
was passionately fond. He was a constant visitor at the Doune,
dining with us at least three times a week, but no weather ever
prevented his returning to the old wife at night; well wrapped
in his plaid he braved all weathers, walking his two or three
miles in the dark winter weather as if he had been thirty-six
instead of seventy-six. He was thoroughly a gentleman; no
better specimen of a Highlander and a soldier ever adorned our
mountains. Old and young, gentle and simple, all loved Mr.
Cameron. He and Mrs. Grant, Inverdruie, were two flowers in
the wilderness; other society could well be dispensed with when
theirs was attainable. Almost all my stories of the olden time
were learned either at Inverdruie or the Croft; they never
wearied of telling what I never wearied of listening to. John
Grant of Achnahatanich was also one of the chroniclers of the
past, but he never interested me so much in his more fanciful
stories as did my old aunt and my old cousin in their apparently
accurate relations. They may have insinuated a little more
pride of race than was exactly suited to the "opening day,"
yet it did no harm so far as I was concerned, and the younger
ones had no turn for these antiquities. Jane in childhood was
more taken up with the scenery than the people.
The small farms in Rothiemurchus lay all about in various
directions, most of them beautifully situated; the extent of the
old forest was said to be sixteen square miles, and it was reckoned
that about ten more were growing up, either of natural fir, or
my father's planted larch. The whole lay in the bosom of the
Grampians in a bend of a bow, as it were, formed by the mountains,
the river Spey being the string and our boundary.
The mountains are bare, not very picturesquely shaped,
yet imposing from their size. Many glens run up them
all richly carpeted with sweet grass peculiarly suited to the
fattening of cattle, one or two of these ending in a lake dropped
at the bottom of a screen of precipices. One pass, that of
Larrig, leads to Braemar, Lord Fife's country, with whose lands
and the Duke of Gordon's, ours march in that direction. Several
rapid streams run through the forest, the smaller burnies
rattling along their rocky beds to join the larger, which in their
turn flow on to be lost in the Spey. The Luinach and the
Bennie are quite rivers, the one rises north from Loch Morlich
in Glenmore, the other south from Loch Ennich in Glen Ennich;
they join just above the bridge of Coylam and form the Druie,
an unmanageable run of water that divides, subdivides, and
sometimes changes its principal channel and keeps a fine plain
of many acres in a state of stony wilderness. The vagaries of
the Druie were not alone watched by the crofters on its bank
with anxiety. There was a tradition that it had broken from
its old precincts on the transference of the property to the
Grants from the Shaws, that the Grants would thrive while
the Druie was tranquil, but when it wearied of its new channel
and returned to its former course, the fortune of the new family
would fail. The change happened in 1829, at the time of the
great Lammas floods so well described, not by our pleasant
friend Tom Lauder, but by a much greater man, Sir Thomas
Dick Lauder of Fountainhall, the Grange, and Relugas, author
of Lochandhu and the Wolf of Badenoch. We used to laugh
at the prediction!
Besides the streams, innumerable lochs lay hid among the
pine-trees of that endless forest. On one of these was the
small island completely occupied by the ruins of the Comyn
fortress, a low long building with one square tower, a flank
wall with a door in it and one or two small windows high up,
and a sort of house with a gable end attached, part of which
stood on piles. The people said there was a zigzag causeway
beneath the water, from the door of the old castle to the shore,
the secret of which was always known to three persons only.
We often tried to hit upon this causeway, but we never
succeeded.
A great number of paths crossed the forest, and one or two
cart-roads; the robbers' road at the back of Loch-an-Eilan
was made by Rob Roy for his own convenience when out upon
his cattle raids, and a decayed fir-tree was often pointed out as
the spot where Laird James, the Spreckled Laird, occasionally
tied a bullock or two when he heard of such visitors in the
country; they were of course driven away and never seen again,
but the Laird's own herds were not touched. It has been the
fashion to father all moss-trooping throughout the Highlands on
Rob Roy, but there was a Macpherson nearer to us, and a
Mackintosh equally clever at the gathering of gear — Mackintosh
of Borlam, of whom I shall have more to tell anon.
In a country of such remarkable beauty, and with so many
objects of interest to add to the mere pleasure of exercise, our
long walks became delightful even to such a Cockney as Miss
Elphick; she was a clever woman, and soon came to appreciate
all the worth of her new situation. She studied up to it, and
though an innate vulgarity never left her, the improvement in
her ideas was very perceptible. She corresponded occasionally
with her only surviving sister, and regularly with a Mr.
Somebody, a builder; when she became more sociable she
used to read to us her letters descriptive of the savage land she
had got into, and what was worse for us, she recounted her love
adventures. No beauty, no heiress, ever had been the heroine
of more romances than had fallen to the share of this little
bundle of a body, by her own account. It never entered our
young heads to doubt the catalogue. Mr. Somebody's replies
did not come very frequently from the beginning, neither
were they very long, and by degrees they ceased. She did most
of the writing. I remember her description of her first kirk
Sunday was cleverly and truthfully and most amusingly told;
it must have astonished a Londoner.
The unadorned but neat small kirk is very different now,
when hardly any one sits in it, from what it was then, when
filled to overflowing. It was much out of repair; neither doors
nor windows fitted, the plaster fallen from the roof lay in
heaps about the seats, the walls were rough, the graveyard
overgrown with nettles, even the path from the gate was
choked with weeds in many places. Far from there being any
ceremony about this Highland style of worship, there was
hardly even decency, so rude were all the adjuncts of our
"sermon Sunday." Mr. Stalker was dead — the good man who
drank so many cups of tea, whom my wicked aunt Mary used
to go on helping to more, cup after cup, till one evening they
counted nine, always pressing another on him by repeating
that his regular number was three! It was a luxury that
probably in those dear times the poor Dominie could seldom
afford himself at home, for he had a wife and children, and his
income must have been economically managed to bring them
all through the year. He had £5 from Queen Anne's bounty,
a house and garden and a field and £10 from my father, and
he taught the school. My mother got his wife £4 additional
for teaching sewing, which they hailed as a perfect godsend.
Well, he was gone, and he had not been replaced, so we had
sermon only every third Sunday in our own kirk; the devout
attended the neighbouring parishes on the blank days, some of
the kirks being at no great distance, speaking Highlandly, two
to five or six miles. Good Mr. Peter of Duthil was gone, he
had died in the winter; his widow and her school removed to
Inverness, and another Grant had succeeded him, for of course
the patronage was very faithfully kept in the clan. The new
minister was a perfect contrast to his predecessor; he was fat,
thickset, florid, with a large cauliflower wig on his large head.
Within the head was more learning than maybe half a dozen
professors could boast of among them, but it was not in the
divinity line; his turn was acutely satirical; he had been both
a poet and an essayist, what he was now it would be hard to
say; he seemed to have no particular employment; his wife
managed the glebe, the parishes managed themselves, and he
certainly gave himself little trouble about his sermons. What
he did in Gaelic I cannot say; in English he had but two,
although he altered the texts to give them an air of variety;
the text did not always suit the discourse, but that was no
matter. The sermons were by no means bad, though from
constant repetition they grew tiresome; it was lucky we had
six weeks to forget each of them in. One was against an undue
regard for the vanities of life, and always contained a sentence
on the lilies of the valley, and Solomon's glory; the other was on
charity. A violent Tory, detesting the House of Hanover, yet
compelled to pray for the reigning family, he cut the business as
short as possible — "God bless the King, and all the Royal
Family; as Thou hast made them great make them GOOD," with
great emphasis, and then he hurried on to more agreeable petitions.
The kirk was very near our house, on a height in the field
below the Dram, prettily sheltered by planting, and commanding
from the gate a fine view of the valley of the Spey. The bell
tolled from time to time, and as the hour for the service
approached the crowd began to pour in from either side, the
white caps and the red plaids gleaming through the birch
woods on the bank between the kirk field and the Drum,
through which the path lay. Our farm people moved up from
the low grounds to join them, and such of the house servants
as understood the Gaelic; the rest followed us an hour or
more later to the English portion of the ceremony. We
generally walked from the house along the flow-dyke by the
only piece left of the backwater, under the shade of natural
alder to the right and a thriving plantation of larch to the
left; a small gate painted green opened on the road to the
West lodge; we had to cross it into the field and then step up
the long slope to the kirkyard. My father opened the gate
to let my mother pass; Miss Elphick next, we three according
to our ages followed, then he went in himself. We sat in a
long pew facing the pulpit, with two seats, one in front for the
laird, and one behind for the servants. There was a wooden
canopy over it with a carved frieze all round and supporting
pillars flat but fluted, and with Ionic capitals like moderate
ram's horns. Macalpine's seat was at the end, nothing to mark
it but his scutcheon on a shield; the Captain, his surviving
son, sat there. There were one hundred and sixty years
between the birth of that father and the death of that son,
more than five generations.
The stir consequent on our entrance was soon hushed, and
the minister gave out the psalm; he put a very small dirty
volume up to one eye, for he was near-sighted, and read as
many lines of the old version of the rhythmical paraphrase (we
may call it) of the Psalms of David as he thought fit, drawling
them out in a sort of sing-song. He stooped over the pulpit
to hand his little book to the precentor, who then rose and
calling out aloud the tune — "St. George's tune," "Auld
Aberdeen," "Hondred an' fifteen," etc. — began himself a
recitative of the first line on the key-note, then taken up and
repeated by the congregation; line by line he continued in the
same fashion, thus doubling the length of the exercise, for really
to some it was no play — serious severe screaming quite beyond
the natural pitch of the voice, a wandering search after the air
by many who never caught it, a flourish of difficult execution
and plenty of the tremolo lately come into fashion. The
dogs seized this occasion to bark (for they always came to the
kirk with the family), and the babies to cry. When the
minister could bear the din no longer he popped up again,
again leaned over, touched the precentor's head, and instantly
all sound ceased. The long prayer began, everybody stood up
while the minister asked for us such blessings as he thought
best: with closed eyes it should have been, that being part of
the "rubric"; our oddity of a parson closed but one, the one
with which he had squinted at the psalm-book, some affection
of the other eyelid rendering it unmanageable. The prayer
over, the sermon began; that was my time for making observations,
"Charity" and "Solomon's Lilies" soon requiring no
further attention. Few save our own people sat around; old
grey-haired rough-visaged men that had known my grandfather
and great-grandfather, black, red, and fair hair, belonging to
such as were in the prime of life, younger men, lads, boys — all
in the tartan. The plaid as a wrap, the plaid as a drapery,
with kilt to match on some, blue trews on others, blue jackets
on all. The women were plaided too, an outside shawl was
seen on none, though the wives wore a large handkerchief
under the plaid, and looked picturesquely matronly in their
very high white caps. A bonnet was not to be seen, no
Highland girl ever covered her head; the girls wore their hair
neatly braided in front, plaited up in Grecian fashion behind,
and bound by the snood, a bit of velvet or ribbon placed
rather low on the forehead and tied beneath the plait at the
back. The wives were all in homespun, home-dyed linseywoolsey
gowns, covered to the chin by the modest kerchief
worn outside the gown. The girls who could afford it had a
Sabbath day's gown of like manufacture and very bright
colour, but the throat was more exposed, and generally ornamented
with a string of beads, often amber; some had to be
content with the best blue flannel petticoat and a clean white
jacket, their ordinary and most becoming dress, and few of
these had either shoes or stockings; but they all wore the plaid,
and they folded it round them very gracefully.
They had a custom in the spring of washing their beautiful
hair with a decoction of the young buds of the birch-trees. I
do not know if it improved or hurt the hair, but it agreeably
scented the kirk., which at other times was wont to be overpowered
by the combined odours of snuff and peat reek, for
the men snuffed immensely during the delivery of the English
sermon; they fed their noses with quills fastened by strings
to the lids of their mulls, spooning up the snuff in quantities
and without waste. The old women snuffed too, and groaned
a great deal, to express their mental sufferings, their grief for
all the backslidings supposed to be thundered at from the
pulpit; lapses from faith was their grand self-accusation, lapses
from virtue were, alas! little commented on; temperance and
chastity were not in the Highland code of morality.
The dispersion of the crowd was a pretty sight; the year
I write of dreamed of no Free Kirk doings; the full kirk nearly
filled the field with picturesque groups, so many filing off north,
south, east and west, up the steep narrow road to the Drum, by
the path through the bank of birchwood to the garden gate, along
the green meadow beneath the guigne-trees to the Doune farm
offices — the servants by the green gate under the crooked beech-tree
to the house; the family, after shaking hands and speaking
and bowing and smiling all round, returning by the flow-dyke
and the alders. The minister dined with us, and thus ended
our Sunday, but not our acquaintance with him. We got to like
this eccentric man, his head was so well filled, and his heart, in
spite of the snarl, so kindly, that old and young we took to
him, and often prevailed on him to spend a few days with us.
He was a disappointed man, equal to a very different position,
and he was lost in the manse of Duthil, far from any mind
capable of understanding his, and not fitted to go actively
through the duties of his calling.
Far different, yet no truer or better divine, in one sense of
the word, was his neighbour, our prime favourite, the minister
of Abernethy, known through all the country as Parson
John. He was a little merry man, fond of good eating, very
fond of good drinking, no great hand at a sermon, but a capital
hand at the filling or the emptying of a bowl of punch. He
was no scholar; his brother of Duthil used to wonder bow he
ever got through the University, he had so little skill in the
humanities of learning. For good practical sense, honesty of
purpose, kindness of heart, tender feeling combined with
energetic action, Parson John could hardly have been surpassed.
He found his parish a nest of smugglers, cattle-stealers, idlers,
every sort of immorality rife in it. He left it filled by the
best-conducted set of people in the country. He was all the
more respected for the strictness of his discipline, yet a sly
joke against the minister was much relished by his flock.
There was no very deep religious feeling in the Highlands
up to this time. The clergy were reverenced in their capacity
of pastors without this respect extending to their persons unless
fully merited by propriety of conduct. The established form
of faith was determinately adhered to, but the kittle questions,
which had so vexed the Puritanic south, had not yet troubled
the minds of their northern neighbours. Our mountains were
full of fairy legends, old clan tales, forebodings, prophecies, and
other superstitions, quite as much believed in as the Bible. The
Shorter Catechism and the fairy stories were mixed up together
to form the innermost faith of the Highlander, a much gayer and
less metaphysical character than his Saxon-tainted countryman.
The other clergyman of our acquaintance was Mr. Macdonald
of Alvie, our nearest neighbour of the three. He was a clever
worldly man, strictly decorous, not unfriendly, though most
careful in his management, particular in ascertaining the highest
price of meal, his stipend depending on the fluctuation of the
market, the ministers being paid in kind, so many "bolls of
victual" — meaning corn. He preached well, rather at length,
and made very fervent tiresome prayers and immensely long
graces, and of all people in the world he was detested most
heartily by our friend the minister of Duthil; his very name
was an abomination, why we could never find out. He had
been twice married, in neither case happily, both wives having
become invalids. It never struck any one that the situation of
his manse, nearly surrounded by water, could have affected the
health of women not naturally strong. The second Mrs.
Macdonald was dying at this time. We often sent her delicacies,
but never saw her; indeed we rarely saw any of the parsons'
wives, they seemed to keep quietly at home, like Mrs.
Balquhidder, "making the honey."
We heard plenty, however, of the wife of Parson John, an
excellent, managing woman, who kept her husband in great
order. They had a, large family, the bolls of victual were not
many, and the glebe lands were small. She had to keep her
eyes open, and water the ash-tree betimes in the morning.
One of her most prolific sources of income was her dairy. She
piqued herself on what she made of it, and was accused by the
minister of a very economical use of its produce in the house,
in order to send the more to market. Now, of all simple
refreshments Parson John loved best a drink of fine milk, well
coated with cream; this luxury his wife denied him, the cream
must go into the churn, skimmed milk was fittest for the
thirsty. In spite of her oft-repeated refusals and her hidden
key she suspected that the minister contrived to visit the dairy,
sundry cogues of set milk at times having the appearance of
being broken into. She determined to watch; and she had not
long to wait before she detected the culprit in the act, met
him face to face in the passage as he closed the door. She
charged him stoutly with his crime, he as stoutly denied it,
hard words passed; but the poor minister! he had forgotten to
take off his hat, he had put his mouth to the cogue, the brim
of the hat had touched the cream — there it was fringed with
her treasure before her eyes, an evidence of his guilt, and he
denying it! What Highland wife could bear such atrocity?
"Man," said the daughter of Dalachapple (ten acres of moor
without a house on it), "how dour ye, before the Lord! and
ye his graceless minister! see there!" He told the story himself,
with remarkable humour, over the punch-bowl.
The Captain had another story of him; his sermons were
mostly practical, he was unskilled in scholastic learning, and
sometimes when he had gone his round of moral duties he
would, for lack of matter, treat his congregation to a screed
from the papers. They were stirring times, revolutions and
battles by sea and land. The minister was a keen politician,
his people by no means unwilling to hear the news, although
they very earnestly shook their heads after listening to it.
False intelligence was as largely circulated then as now, it came
and it spread, and then it was to be contradicted. The parson
gave it as he got it, and one Sunday delivered a marvellous
narrative of passing events. Finding out during the week his
error, he hastened honestly to correct it, so, on the following
Sunday, after the psalm and the prayer and the solemn giving
out of the text, he raised his hands and thus addressed his
flock, "My brethren, it was a' lees I told ye last Sabbath
day." How the minister of Duthil enjoyed this story!
The next incident that comes back on memory is the death
of old George Ross, the hen-wife's husband; he caught cold,
and inflammation came on; a bottle of whisky, or maybe more,
failed to cure him, so he died, and was waked, after the old
fashion, shaved and partly dressed and set up in his bed, all
the country-side collecting round him. After abundance of
refreshment the company set to dancing, when, from the jolting
of the floor, out tumbled the corpse into the midst of the reel,
and away scampered the guests screaming, and declaring the
old man had come to life again. As the bereaved wife had not
been the gentlest of helpmates, this was supposed to be "a
warning" — of what was not declared; all that was plain was
that the spirit of the deceased was dissatisfied; many extraordinary
signs were spoken of, as we heard from my mother's
maid.
Before winter our cousin Patrick Grant of Glenmoriston
died suddenly, while walking on the banks of his own beautiful
river, of disease of the heart. I learnt a lesson from this
event; some one told it to me, and I, very sorry, for Patrick
had been kind to us, went straight to the drawing-room with
my sad news. My mother immediately went into hysterics,
was carried to bed, and lost her baby; all which was represented
to me by my father as a consequence of my want of
consideration. I had no nerves then (like the famous Duchess
of Marlborough), and could not comprehend the misery caused
by their derangement.
The next death was that of the Shaw. He was not the
lineal heir of the old race, he was descended collaterally from a
former chief of the ruined clan, of whose once large possessions
nothing now remained but the little farm of Dalnavert on Speyside.
It was on the long meadow there that the volunteers
were drilled, Mr. Shaw having a commission in the regiment.
He was the major, and, for so old a man, a good officer; he had
served in the line in his youth.
When we went to the reviews at Dalnavert we always
called at the house, a mere black peat bothy, no better outside
than the common huts of the same material, already falling
into disuse. It was larger, for it contained three rooms, each
of which had a window of four panes, not made to open, however;
and it had two chimneys, or rather only one chimney
and two open wooden chimney-tops, for the kitchen fire was
as usual, a stone on the floor and a hole in the roof. Between
the parlour and the bedroom a chimney-stalk was built. Both
these rooms were wainscotted, so that they looked neat within
and were extremely warm. It was the old house that had
come down with the few fields around it to this only survivor
of his line, and he would not change it. He had one child, a
daughter married away from him to a captain of marines, and
one sister who lived with him. She it was who presented my
mother with the sugared whisky, offering her the spoon she
herself had tasted with, which dose my mother escaped by
preferring her whisky plain.
Well, Major Shaw died, and was buried with military
honours, in the kirkyard of Rothiemurchus, by the side of "them
that went before him," up close to the graves of the Grants, just
outside the wall enclosing our ancestors. The Invereshie and
Rothiemurchus companies formed an imposing part of the
funeral procession, the body being borne in the midst of the
soldiers, and a volley fired over the grave. My father had a
neat stone slab on four pillars placed over it, with a short
inscription, and so ended the ancient feud. Miss Jane Shaw
did not long survive her brother; when she died the niece and
her husband, Captain and Mrs. Clarke, left the farm they had
rented at Invernahavon and came with their large and wonderfully
handsome family to Dalnavert, where they built a small
stone and lime house, and from their connection with Belleville
the old Shaw blood raised itself a bit.
Belleville was the son of Ossian, the Mr. Macpherson who
pretended to translate Ossian, and who made a fine fortune
out of the Nabob of Arcot's debts. His sister was married to
the schoolmaster Clarke, whose son, the marine, married the
Shaw's daughter. Ossian Macpherson, Highland to the very
heart, helped his sister, educated her son, bought land round
his birthplace, and built the fine house on the heights near
Kingussie, which for many a year looked so bleak, and
bare, and staring, while the planting on the hillsides was
young. He had four children. To his eldest son, James, our
friend, he left his large estates. The second, Charles, he
sent in the Civil Service to India, where he died. His
two daughters he portioned handsomely. Our Belleville,
who had also been in India, returned to take possession of his
Highland property about the year 1800. He married the
summer my sister Mary was born, and brought a young Edinburgh
wife home to the two London sisters. Juliet Macpherson,
the younger sister, very pretty and very clever,
soon married Dr., afterwards Sir David, Brewster. Anne
lived through many a long year with her brother and his somewhat
despotic wife until he died, and she herself became the
Lady Belleville. Our Belleville inherited many vexations.
Ossian had got entangled in some law-suits, and his son knowing
little of business left too much to his law-agents, and so it
happened that after living handsomely for some years, he found
it necessary to shut up Belleville, let the farm, and remove to
the neighbourhood of London, where they watched the unravelling
of their tangled skeins. Almost all their difficulties
were over in this year of which I am writing. They had
returned to Belleville, and from this time they were our
kindest neighbours, living like ourselves, winter and summer, in
their Highland home. We became naturally dependent on the
resources of each other; never a shadow of disagreement came
between us. The intimacy had a most favourable effect upon
us young people; Belleville was thoroughly a gentleman, his
tastes were refined, his reading extensive, his kindness unfailing.
There was a harshness in the character of Mrs. Macpherson
that we could have wished to soften; her uncompromising
integrity was applied sternly to weaker mortals. Her activity,
her energy, and her industry, all admirably exerted in her own
sphere of duties, rose up against any tolerance of the shortcomings
in these respects of less vigorous temperaments. She
measured all by her own rigid rules, her religious feelings
partaking of this asperity. She was own sister to old Mause
in the strength and the acrimony of her puritanism. I used so
to wish her to say to herself, "God be merciful to me, a sinner,"
but she had no idea that there was a doubt of her being justified.
She was right in principle, though ungentle, almost unchristian,
in practice. This fault apart, a better woman never existed,
anxious to help all around her of all degrees. She had a clear
understanding, good quick abilities, and a warm heart. We
owed much in many ways to Mrs. Macpherson, and we ended
the year with her, my father and mother, Jane and I, spending
the Christmas — New style — with these good neighbours. We
ourselves, who did everything Highland fashion, kept the Old
style at home.
We had three harvest-homes to keep in Rothiemurchus: a
very small affair at the Croft; luncheon in the parlour for us
children only, and a view of the barn prepared for the dinner
and dance to the servants. It was a much merrier meeting at
the Dell; my father and mother and all of us, stuffed into or on
the carriage, drove there to dinner, which was served in the
best parlour, my father at the head of the table, Duncan
Macintosh at the foot, and those for whom there was not room
at the principal board went with at least equal glee to a side
table. There was always broth, mutton boiled and roasted,
fowls, muir-fowl — three or four pair on a dish — apple-pie and
rice pudding, such jugs upon jugs of cream, cheese, oatcakes
and butter; thick bannocks of flour instead of wheaten bread,
a bottle of port, a bottle of sherry, and after dinner no end to
the whisky punch. In the kitchen was all the remains of the
sheep, more broth, haggis, head and feet singed, puddings black
and white, a pile of oaten cakes, a kit of butter, two whole
cheeses, one tub of sowans, another of curd, whey and whisky
in plenty. The kitchen party, including any servants from
house or farm that could be spared so early from the Croft, the
Doune, or Inverdruie, dined when we had done, and we ladies,
leaving the gentlemen to their punch, took a view of the kitchen
festivities before retiring to the bedroom of Mrs. Macintosh to
make the tea. When the gentlemen joined us the parlour was
prepared for dancing. With what ecstasies we heard the first
sweep of that masterly bow across the strings of my father's
Cremona! The first strathspey was danced by my father and Mrs.
Macintosh; if my mother danced at all, it was later in the evening.
My father's dancing was peculiar — a very quiet body, and very
busy feet, they shuffled away in double quick time steps of his
own composition, boasting of little variety, sometimes ending in
a turn-about which he imagined was the fling; as English it was
altogether as if he had never left Hertfordshire. My mother did
better, she moved quietly in Highland matron fashion, "high and
disposedly" like Queen Elizabeth and Mrs. Macintosh, for however
lightly the lasses footed it, etiquette forbade the wives to
do more than "tread the measure." William and Mary moved
in the grave style of my mother; Johnnie without instruction
danced beautifully; Jane was perfection, so light, so active,
and so graceful; but of all the dancers there, none was equal to
little Sandy — afterwards Factor — the son of Duncan Macintosh,
but not of his wife.
Some years before his marriage the forester had been
brought into our country by what was called the Glenmore
Company, a set of wood-merchants from Hull, who had bought
the forest of Glenmore from the Duke of Gordon for, I think,
£20,000. They made at least double off it, and it had been
offered to my uncle Rothie, wood and mountain, glen and lake,
for £10,000, and declined as a dear bargain. Mr. Osborne, the
gentleman superintending the felling of all this timber, brought
Duncan Macintosh from Strathspey as head of the working
gangs, and left him in that wild isolated place with no companion
for the whole winter but a Mary, of a certain age, and
not well favoured. The result was the birth of Sandy, a
curious compound of his young handsome father and his plain
elderly mother. It was this Mary who was the cook at Inverdruie,
and a very good one she was, and a decent body into
the bargain, much considered by Mrs. Macintosh. There was
no attempt to excuse, much less to conceal her history; in fact,
such occurrences were too common to be commented on. She
always came to the Dell harvest-home, and after the more
stately reels of the opening of the dance were over, when the
servants and labourers and neighbours of that class came by
turns into the parlour, Mary came among the others, and I
have seen her figuring away in the same set with Mr. Macintosh,
his good wife looking on with a smile: too pretty and too good
she was to fear such rivalry. At her marriage she had brought
little Sandy home and as much as lay in her power acted a
mother's part by him; her children accused her even of undue
partiality for the poor boy who was no favourite with his
father; if so, the seed was sown in good ground, for Sandy
was the best son she had. It was a curious state of manners;
I have thought of it often since.
We were accustomed to dance with all the company, as if
they had been our equals; it was always done. There was no
fear of undue assumption on the one side, or low familiarity
on the other; a vein of good-breeding ran through all ranks
influencing the manners and rendering the intercourse of all
most particularly agreeable. About midnight the carriage
would take our happy party home. It was late enough before
the remainder separated.
The Doune harvest-home was very like that at the Dell,
only that the dinner was at the farm kitchen and the ball in
the barn, and two fiddlers stuck up on tubs formed the orchestra.
A sheep was killed, and nearly a boll of meal baked, and
a larger company invited, for our servants were numerous and
they had leave to invite relations. We went down to the farm
in the carriage drawn by some of the men, who got glasses of
whisky apiece for the labour, and we all joined in the reels for
the hour or two we stayed, and drank punch made with brown
sugar, and enjoyed the fun, and felt as little annoyed as the
humbler guests by the state of the atmosphere.
We had no other ploy till Christmas Eve, when we started
for Belleville. Even now, after all these years of a long life,
I can bring to mind no house pleasanter to visit at. At this
time the drawing-room floor had not been refurnished; they
lived in their handsome dining-room and the small library
through it. The company, besides ourselves, was only one or two
of the young Clarkes and a "Badenoch body," but we had so
kind a welcome; Belleville was a host in a hundred, Mrs.
Macpherson shone far more in her own house than she did in any
other. Her lively conversation, her good music, and her desire
to promote amusement made her a very agreeable hostess.
We young people walked about all the mornings, danced and
laughed all the evenings till the whist for the elders began,
Belleville liking his rubber; and what particularly delighted
Jane and me, we sat up to supper, a sociable meal, one we
never saw at home where the dinner was late. At Belleville
they dined at five o'clock, and as the card-playing was seldom
over before midnight, the appearance of a well-filled tray was
not mistimed. Roasted potatoes only, fell to our share, and a
bit of butter with them. We were quite satisfied, so much so,
indeed, that we privately determined, when talking over our
happy evenings up at the top of that large house in one of the
attic rooms no amount of peats could warm, that when we had
houses of our own we would introduce the supper tray, and
roasted potatoes should, as at Belleville, be piled on the centre
dish.
Miss Macpherson, who liked all of us, was in great goodhumour
during our visit. We remained till after the New
Year, and then returned home to make preparations for the
passing of our Christmas-time — Old style — the season of greatest
gaiety in the Highlands. It was kept by rejoicings and merry-makings
amongst friends, no religious services being performed
on any day but Sunday.
CHAPTER XI
1813
CHRISTMAS, Old style, 1813 Belleville and Mrs. Macpherson
spent with us. They were easily entertained. She worked and
gossiped with my mother all the mornings, till the regular hour
for her duty walk, a task she performed conscientiously as soon
as it was too dark to thread her needle. He had one or
two strolls during the day, and plenty of old plays and newspapers
to read. In the evenings they enjoyed our merry
games and a little music, before we young ones were sent to bed,
as much as they did the rubber of whist afterwards. We had
two dinner-parties for our guests. Balnespick and Mrs. Mackintosh
were with us one day; she was a really beautiful woman,
fair, tall, slight and graceful, but very still and silent. How
little did we dream then that one of the sons of this couple
would be married to a grand-daughter of my father's. Balnespick
was a clever man, very useful in the neighbourhood, respected
by all ranks. He had married the beauty of Inverness, and
was very proud of her. Her sister ran off from a Northern
Meeting, which my father and aunt Mary attended, with a
young subaltern of the regiment in garrison at Fort George, a
crime quite excusable in him, for she was just as handsome a
brunette as her sister was a lovely blonde; and the stolen wedding
turned out, romance-like, quite a hit — the poor lieutenant was
the heir of Rokeby. Balnespick's sister was married to William
Cameron, the only remaining child of our dear old cousins at
the Croft.
The other dinner was to guests of less degree, Duncan
Macintosh and his wife, and one or two of the half-pay Strathspey
gentlemen. Mrs. Macintosh dined with us but once a year;
it was quite enough for both parties, the poor good woman being
quite astray playing company in a drawing-room, away from her
wheels, reels, kirns, and other housewifery. She could not read,
she brought no work, had no conversation, so that the time must
have hung very heavy after a sort of catechism was over between
her and my mother — a string of questions concerning the webs
and the dairy, duly answered in very simplicity.
The great event of the Christmas time was the Floaters' ball.
As the harvest-home belonged to the farm, this entertainment
was given to the forest — all engaged in the wood manufacture,
their wives and families, being invited. The amusements began
pretty early in the day with a game at "ba," the hockey of the low
country, our Scotch substitute for cricket. It is played on a field
by two parties, who toss a small ball between them by means of
crooked sticks called clubs. The Highlanders are extremely
fond of this exciting game, and continue it for hours on a
holiday, exhibiting during its progress many feats of agility.
There were always crowds of spectators. Our people kept up
the game till dark, when all the men — above a hundred — went
to dinner in the barn, a beef and some sheep having been killed
for them. The kitchens of both house and farm had been busy
for a couple of days cooking for the entertainment. The women,
as they arrived, were taken into the grieve's house for tea,
a delicate attention, fully appreciated. We delighted in the
Floaters' ball, so large a party, so many strangers, some
splendid dancers from Strathspey, the hay-loft, the straw-loft,
and the upper floor of the threshing-mill all thrown open en suite;
two sets of fiddlers playing, punch made in the washing-tubs,
an illumination of tallow dips! It is surprising that the floors
stood the pounding they got; the thumping noise of the many
energetic feet could have been heard half a mile off. When a
lad took a lass out to dance, he led her to her place in the reel
and "pree'd her mou"— kissed her — before beginning, she holding
up her face quite frankly to receive the customary salute, and
he giving a good sounding smack when the lass was bonnie.
The number of people employed in the forest was great.
At this winter season little could be done beyond felling the
tree, lopping the branches, barking the log, while the weather
remained open, before the frost set in. Most of this work
indeed was done in the autumn, and was continued while
practicable. This was not a severe winter, but it set in early.
We had a deep fall of snow, and then a degree of frost felt
only among the mountains, putting a stop while it lasted to all
labour. It was not unpleasant, for it was dry, and the sun
shone brightly for the few hours of daylight, and after the first
slap in the face on going out, sharp exercise made our walks
very enjoyable. We bounded on over the hard ground for
miles, indeed the distances people are able to walk in weather
of this sort would not be believed by those who had not tried
it. Five weeks of frost and snow brought us over the worst of
the winter, and then came a foretaste of spring which set us all
to work again. The spade and the plough were both busy, and
in the wood the great bustle of the year began.
The logs prepared by the loppers had to be drawn by horses
to the nearest running water, and there left in large quantities
till the proper time for sending them down the streams. It was
a busy scene all through the forest, so many rough little horses
moving about in every direction, each dragging its load, attended
by an active boy as guide and remover of obstructions.
The smack of the whip used to sound quite cheerful in those
otherwise solitary spots, and when we met, the few Gaelic words
interchanged seemed to enliven us all. This driving lasted till
sufficient timber was collected to render the opening of the
sluices profitable. Formerly small saw-mills had been erected
wherever there was sufficient water-power, near the part of the
forest where the felling was going on, and the deals when cut
were carted down to the Spey. It was picturesque to come
suddenly out of the gloom of the pine-trees, on to a little patch of
cultivation near a stream with a cottage or two, and a saw-mill
at work, itself an object of interest in a rude landscape. A
concentration of labour was, however, found to be more advantageous
to the wood-merchant; they were finding out that it
answered better to send the logs down nearer to the Spey by floating
them, than the deals by carting them. The prettily-situated
single saw-mills were therefore gradually abandoned, and new
ones to hold double saws built as wanted, within a more convenient
distance from the banks of the river where the rafts
were made. In order to have a run of water at command, the
sources of the little rivers were managed artificially to suit floating
Purposes. Embankments were raised at the ends of the lakes
in the far-away glens, at the point where the different burnies
issued from them. Strong sluice — gates, always kept closed,
prevented the escape of any but a small rill of water, so that
when a rush was wanted the supply was sure.
The night before a run, the man in charge of that particular
sluice set off up the hill, and reaching the spot long before daylight
opened the heavy gates; out rushed the torrent, travelling
so quickly as to reach the deposit of timber in time for the
meeting of the woodmen, a perfect crowd, amongst whom it
was one of our enjoyments to find ourselves early in the day.
The duty of some was to roll the logs into the water; this was
effected by the help of levers — like Harry Sandford's snowball,
Johnnie screamed out the first time we took him with us. The
next party shoved them off with long poles into the current,
dashing in often up to the middle in water when any case of
obstruction occurred. They were then taken in charge by
the most picturesque group of all, the youngest and most
active, each supplied with a clip, a very long pole thin and
flexible at one end, generally a young tall tree; a sharp
hook was fixed to the bending point, and with this, skipping
from rock to stump, over brooks and through briers, this
agile band followed the log-laden current, ready to pounce
on any stray lumbering victim that was in any manner
checked in its progress. There was something graceful in the
action of throwing forth the stout yet yielding clip, an exciting
satisfaction as the sharp hook fixed the obstreperous log. The
many light forms springing about among the trees, along banks
that were sometimes high, and always rocky, the shouts, the
laughter, the Gaelic exclamations, and above all, the roar of the
water, made the whole scene one of the most inspiriting that
either actors or spectators could be engaged in.
One or two of these streams carried the wood straight to
the Spey, others were checked in their progress by a loch; when
this was the case, light rafts had to be constructed, and paddled or
speared over by a man standing on each raft. The loch crossed,
the raft was taken to pieces, some of the logs left at a saw-mill,
the rest sent down the recovered stream to the Spey; there the
Spey floaters took charge of them; our people's work was done.
The Spey floaters lived mostly down near Ballindalloch, a
certain number of families by whom the calling had been followed
for ages, to whom the wild river, all its holes and shoals and
rocks and shiftings, were as well known as had its bed been dry.
They came up in the season, at the first hint of a spate, as a rise
in the water was called. A large bothy was built for them at
the mouth of the Druie in a fashion that suited themselves; a
fire on a stone hearth in the middle of the floor, a hole in the
very centre of the roof just over it where some of the smoke
got out, heather spread on the ground, no window, and there,
after their hard day's work, they lay down for the night, in their
wet clothes — for they had been perhaps hours in the river —
each man's feet to the fire, each man's plaid round his chest, a
circle of wearied bodies half stupefied by whisky, enveloped in
a cloud of steam and smoke, and sleeping soundly till the
morning. They were a healthy race, suffering little except in
their old age from rheumatism. They made their large rafts
themselves, seldom taking help from our woodmen, yet often
giving it if there were an over-quantity of timber in the runs.
Mr. Macintosh, who often dined at the Donne, usually contrived
to come the day before a log-run, our particular delight,
so we were sure of appearing in the very height of the business
before the noontide rest. When the men met in the morning
they were supposed to have breakfasted at home, and perhaps
had had their private dram, it being cold work in a dark wintry
dawn, to start over the moor for a walk of some miles to end in
standing up to the knees in water; yet on collecting, whisky
was always handed round; a lad with a small cask — a quarter
anker — on his back, and a horn cup in his hand that held a gill,
appeared three times a day among them. They all took their
"morning" raw, undiluted and without accompaniment, so they
did the gill at parting when the work was done; but the noontide
dram was part of a meal. There was a twenty minutes' rest
from labour, and a bannock and a bit of cheese taken out of every
pocket to be eaten leisurely with the whisky. When we were
there the horn cup was offered first to us, and each of us took
a sip to the health of our friends around us, who all stood up.
Sometimes a floater's wife or bairn would come with a message;
such messenger was always offered whisky. Aunt Mary had
a story that one day a woman with a child in her arms, and
another bit thing at her knee, came up among them; the horn
cup was duly handed to her, she took a "gey guid drap" herself,
and then gave a little to each of the babies. "My goodness,
child," said my mother to the wee thing that was trotting
by the mother's side, "doesn't it bite you?" "Ay, but I like
the bite," replied the creature.
There were many laughable accidents during the merry
hours of the floating; clips would sometimes fail to hit the mark,
when the overbalanced clipper would fall headlong into the
water. A slippery log escaping would cause a tumble, shouts of
laughter always greeting the dripping victims, who good-humouredly
joined in the mirth. As for the wetting, it seemed
in no way to incommode them; they were really like water-rats.
Sometimes the accident was beyond a joke. I know we were
all sobered by one that befell us. Just below the bridge on
the Loch-an-Eilan road, over the burn that flows out of the
loch, a small basin of water had been allowed to form during
a run, for the purpose of holding together a large quantity
of logs to prevent them from going down too quickly, as
from this point the stream was conveyed by a narrow conduit
of wood, across the -Milltown muir, on down a steep bank
into the first of a set of miniature lochs, concealed by the
birch-wood on one side and the fir-trees on the other, known as
the Lochans. This conduit, called the Spout, was in particular
favour with us, as along its course the fun was always at its
height, it was so difficult in that rush of water to keep the
great hulking logs in order, and send them singly on in regular
succession. One would rise up here over a lazy leader, another
there; above, two or three would mount up on end and choke
the passage, stopping all progress and wasting the water. The
clips were busy here, the men jumping about hooking this log
and sending it forward, hooking that log and keeping it back,
screaming to each other as they skipped over the Spout.
All of a sudden, Mary, not in general an active child nor
given to exertion of any kind, made a spring and cleared the
conduit. The shouts of applause which greeted this daring
action inspired her afresh, and laughing she prepared to spring
back. This time she miscalculated the distance and fell plump
into the stream, along which she was carried more rapidly than
we could follow her. Did she escape being crushed by the logs
she must have been drowned in that rushing torrent before being
tossed down the steep bank into the loch.
The presence of mind of one person often saves a life; to
save Mary's it required the presence of mind of two.
A tall Murdoch Murray stood by a narrow outlet with his
clip. He had the wisdom to draw one log quite across the
mouth of the outlet so that none could move, and thus all
danger of her being followed by one and so crushed was at an
end. A lad, whose name I forget — he died, poor fellow, of consumption,
carefully tended by us all while he lived — leaped from
his place, waited for her a little lower clown, seized her clothes,
and dragged her out. She was insensible. Mr. Macintosh then
came up, carried her into a saw-miller's house close by — it was
Sandy Colley's — had her undressed, rubbed, laid in the bed
wrapped in warm blankets, and when she opened her eyes gave
her a glass of whisky. Jane, as the sensible one of the party,
was sent home to order up dry clothes, without going near my
mother. Johnnie and I sat by Mary, doing whatever Duncan
Macintosh told us, and Miss Elphick cried.
As soon as it was known that the "bonny burd" was living,
grand cheering rent the air, and a dram all round, an extra, was
given in honour of her rescuers. That dram was the Highland
prayer, it began, accompanied, and ended all things. The men
wanted to make a king's cushion and carry her home, but
Mr. Macintosh thought it better for her to walk. We were
abundantly cheered on setting forth, and well scolded on
getting home, though none of us but poor little Mary herself
had any hand in the accident.
A more tragical event than most happily this "vaulting
ambition" of poor Mary's had turned out, had occurred a year
or two before at this same season. The only child of a poor
widow, Christian Grant, a fine young man named Allan, had
charge of the Loch Emrich sluice-gates. A quantity of timber being
wanted at Druie mouth for the Spey floaters who had come up
to make their rafts, a run was determined on, and this lad was
sent up to the Glen to open the sluice. It was a wild night,
wind and hail changing to snow, and he had eleven or twelve
miles to go through the forest, full of paths, and across the
heath that was trackless. Poor old Christy! she gave him a
hot supper, put up a bannock and a little whisky for him, and
wrapped his plaid well round him. She looked after him as he
left the house in the driving sleet; such risks were common, no
one thought about them. Early in the morning down came the
water, the weather had taken up, and the floating went merrily
on, but Allan did not return. He had reached the loch, that
was plain; where then had he wandered? Not far. When
evening came on and no word of him, a party set out in
search, and they found him at his post, asleep seemingly, a bit
of bannock and the empty flask beside him. He had done
his duty, opened the water-gate, and then sat down to rest.
The whisky and the storm told the remainder. He was quite
dead.
The mother never recovered her reason; the shock brought
on brain fever, and that left her strangely excited for a while.
Afterwards she calmed, was always harmless, sometimes restless,
but never either wiser or sillier than the half-simple state in
which she existed to extreme old age. She had always been a
tidy body, and had been called in often by Betty Campbell to
help at the farm when there was a press of business. Once or
twice at company times she had assisted in the scullery at the
House.
The first sensible action she did after her long months of
darkness was to arrive at the Doune one morning and set herself
to pluck the fowl. Of course every one was kind to her,
so she came the next day, and from that time never failed to
arrive regularly when the family was at home, about the breakfast
hour, and remain till after dinner when the kitchen was put
in order. She would never stay all night, preferring her little
cabin on Druie side, to which she returned cheerfully except on
stormy nights, when the maids said she would shake her head
sadly, and sometimes let fall tears. She never mentioned
her son.
My mother did not let her want for anything; clothes, tea,
snuff, all she wished for was supplied whether we were at home
or absent, till the good-hearted Duchess of Bedford succeeded us
at the Doune, when she took charge of Christy, gave her just
what she had been accustomed to, and reinstated her as head of
the scullery. I can see her now, with her pale anxious face, her
linsey gown, check apron, and white cap bound by a black
ribbon, seated beside the old japanned clock in our cheerful
kitchen, at some of her easy work. She had very little English,
just enough to say "my dear" or "my jewel" when any of us
children passed. She always rose when my mother entered and
kissed her hand, sometimes saying "bonnie" when she saw how
white it was. Poor old Christy! We used to work for her,
helping the maids to make her caps and aprons and handkerchiefs.
It was Johnnie's privilege to carry to her the week's
supply of snuff.
After this misfortune the men were sent up the hill in pairs,
for it had not come alone. The shepherds had their mournful
tales to tell as well as the floaters, and here is one of them.
The young people of whom I have to speak were not of
Rothiemurchus. They lived up in Glen Feshie, a great way
from our march, and they had not long been married. He was
either a small farmer, or the son of one, or merely shepherd to a
more wealthy man, I am not sure which, but his business was to
mind a large flock that pastured on the mountains. During the
summer when their charge strayed up towards the very summit
of the high range of the Grampians, the shepherds lived in
bothies on the hill, miles from any other habitation, often
quite alone, their collie dog their only companion, and with
no provisions beyond a bag of meal. This they generally ate
uncooked, mixed with either milk or water as happened to
suit, the milk or water being mostly cold, few of these hardy
mountaineers troubling themselves to keep a fire lighted in fine
weather. This simple food, called brose, is rather relished by the
Highlanders; made with hot water or with good milk they
think it excellent fare; made with beef broo — the fat skimmings
of the broth pot — it is considered quite a treat. Beef
brose is entertainment for any one. The water brose must
he wholesome; no men looked better in health than the masons,
who ate it regularly, and the shepherds. These last came down
from their high ground to attend the kirk sometimes, in such
looks as put to shame the luxurious dwellers in the smoky huts
with their hot porridge and other delicacies.
In the winter the flocks feed lower down, and the shepherd
leaves his bothy to live at home, but not at ease. A deep snow
calls him forth to wander over miles of dreary waste, in case of
drifts that overwhelm, or cold that paralyses. In spring there
come the early lambs, on whose safety depends the profit of the
sheep-owner, and our Highland springs retain so much of winter
in them that the care of a flock at this harsh season entails about
the hardest of all lives on labouring men.
It was at this critical time, at the beginning of a heavy snowstorm,
that our young husband departed on his round of duty.
The wife was preparing for her first baby; she was also busy
with her wheel, the first work of a newly-married notable Highland
girl being the spinning and the dying of a plaid for her
husband. She baked the bread, she trimmed her fire, and she
busked her house, then took her wheel, and by the light of a
splinter of quick fir laid on a small projecting slab within the
chimney, she wore away the long dark hours of that dreary
winter's night. Ever as the storm lulled for a while, she bent
to listen for the voice she expected at the door, which, poor
young thing, she was never to hear again, for he never returned
from those wild mountains. They sought him for days; no
trace of him could be discovered.
When the snow melted, and the summer flowers burst into
bloom, party after party set out in quest of his remains, all
unsuccessfully. It was not till late in autumn, when our gamekeeper
was on the Brae-Riach shooting grouse, that he saw on a
shelf of rock midway down a precipice a plaided figure. It was
all that was left of the missing shepherd, and his collie lay dead
beside him. Deceived by the snow he had wandered miles away
from his own ground, and must have died from exhaustion after
a fall on to this sheltered spot.
His widow was past all knowledge of his fate; her anxiety
had brought on premature childbirth, fever ensued, and though
she recovered her strength, her mind was gone. She lived in the
belief of the speedy return of her husband, went cheerfully about
her usual work, preparing things for him, going through the same
routine as on the day she lost him; baking, sweeping, putting
on fresh peaty, and ending with her wheel by the side of the
clean hearth in the evening. She would show her balls of yarn
with pride to the kind neighbours who looked in upon her, and
the little caps she was trimming for the baby that was lying
alongside the bones of its father in the kirkyard.
Sometimes in the evening, they said, she would look wearily
round and sigh heavily, and wander a little in her talk, but in
the morning she was early up and busy as ever. She was never
in want, for every one helped her; but though she was so much
pitied, she was in their sober way much blamed. The Highlanders
are fatalists; what is to be, must be; what happens
must be borne patiently. We must "dree our weird," all of us,
and 'tis "a flying in the face of Providence" to break the heart
for God's inflictions. They feel keenly too; all their affections
are warm and deep; still, they are not to be paraded. A tranquil
manner is a part of their breeding, composure under all
circumstances essential to the dignity of character common to all
the race. How would a matron from Speyside be astonished,
scandalised, at the impulsive nature and consequent exhibitions
of her reputed kindred in dear Ireland
I have wandered very far away from the floating. The
forest work did not end with the arrival of the logs at their
different destinations. Those that went straight to Spey were
seized on by the Ballindalloch men, bored at each end by an
auger, two deep holes made into which iron plugs were
hammered, the plugs having eves through which well-twisted
wattles were passed, thus binding any given number together.
When a raft of proper size was thus formed it lay by the bank
of the river awaiting its covering; this was produced from the
logs left at the saw-mills, generally in the water in a pool
formed to hold them. As they were required by the workmen,
they were brought close by means of the clip, and then by the
help of levers rolled up an inclined plane and on to the platform
under the saw; two hooks attached to cables kept the log in its
place, the sluice was then opened, down poured the water, the
great wheel turned, the platform moved slowly on with the log,
the saw-frame worked up and down, every cut slicing the
log deeper till the whole length fell off. The four outsides were
cut off first; they were called "backs," and very few of them
went down to Garmouth; they were mostly used at home for
country purposes, such as fencing, out-offices, roofing, or firing;
out-houses even were made of them. The squared logs were
then cut up regularly into deals and carted of to the rafts, where
they were laid as a sort of flooring. Two rude gears for the
oars completed the appointments of a Spey float. The men had
a wet berth of it, the water shipping in, or, more properly, over,
at every lurch; yet they liked the life, and it paid them well.
Then they had idle times great part of the year, could live at
home and till their little crofts in their own lazy way, the rent
being made up by the floating.
Near Arndilly there was a sunken rock difficult sometimes
to pass; this furnished a means of livelihood to several families
living on the spot. It was their privilege to provide ropes, and
arms to pull the ropes, and so to help the floats through a rapid
current running at high floods between this sunken rock and
the shore. The dole they got was small, yet there was hardly
more outcry raised in Sutherland when the Duke wanted his
starving cottars to leave their turf huts on the moors and live
in comfortable stone houses by the sea, than my father met
when some years later he got leave to remove this obstacle by
blasting.
The oars were to my mother the most important items of the
whole manufacture. She had discovered that in the late Laird's
time, when the sales of timber were very small — a dozen of rafts
in each season, worth a few hundreds annually — the oars had
been the perquisite of the Lady. A little out of fun, partly
because she had begun to want money sometimes, she informed
good Mr. Steenson that she meant to claim her dues. He used
to listen quietly, and answer blandly that next time he came up
her claims should be remembered, but never a penny she got.
Mr. Steenson fell ill and died. A new wood-agent had to
be appointed, and he being an old friend, my mother applied to
him with more confidence. This new agent was Dalachapple,
Mr. Alexander Grant of Dalachapple, nephew to the thrifty wife
of Parson John. He not only listened to my mother about the
oar money, but he acted in accordance with the old usage, and
with a delicacy quite amusing. In a mysterious manner, and
only when she was alone, did he approach her with her perquisite
in the form of a bank-note folded small. The oars were sold
for half-a-crown apiece, a pair to each float, and one season
he gave her upwards of forty pounds; this was long before the
great felling. She opened her eyes wide, and certainly found
the money a great comfort, though it was of little use in the
Highlands; all we did not produce ourselves was ordered in
large quantities on credit and paid for by drafts on a banker.
We had no shops near us but one at Inverdruie, kept by a Jenny
Grant, who made us pay very dear for thread and sugar-plums.
Our charities were given in the form of meal or clothing; fuel
every one had in plenty for the mere gathering, the loppings all
through the forest were turned to no other account. They made
a brilliant fire when well dried, owing to the quantity of turpentine
in the fir timber; still, those who could afford it laid in a
stock of petits for the winter.
My father had an objection to peat, and would not burn it
up at the house even in the kitchen. Coals were not thought
of; they could be had no nearer than Inverness, were dear
enough there, and the carriage thence — thirty-six miles —
would have made them very expensive; yet the wood fires were
very costly; the wood itself was of no value, but it had to be
carted home, cross-cut by two men, split up by two more, and
then packed in the wood-sheds. It was never-ending work, and
must have been very costly when we lived the year round at the
Doune. In the huge kitchen grate, in the long grates with dogs
in them made expressly for the purpose of supporting the billets,
the cheerful wood fires were delightful; but in our part of the
house, where my mother in her English tidiness had done away
with the open hearth and condemned us to small Bath grates,
we were really perished with cold; three or four sticks set on
end, all that the small space would hold, either smouldering
slowly if wet or blazing up to the danger of the chimney if dry,
gave out no heat equal to warm the frozen fingers and toes
during a Highland winter. We held a council in the schoolroom
and decided on taking steps to make ourselves more
comfortable.
On returning from our walks we visited the farm offices, and
there from the famous peat-stacks provided for the farm-servants
we helped ourselves, each possessing herself of as much as she
could carry. We got old John Mackintosh to chop our long
billets in two, and thus we contrived a much better fire; the
grate was not suitable, but we made the best of it.
When we told our dear old great-grand-uncle of our bright
thought, he started up, angry, but not with us; and forthwith
sent down for special schoolroom use two carts of the fine hard
peats from the far-off famous Rhinruy Moss; they burned almost
like coal, having but one fault, very light red ashes. We made
some dusters, enjoyed our fires, and had to keep good watch
over our store of fuel to prevent any from being stolen by the
kitchen, never failing daily to take an accurate measurement of
our own peat-stack, built neatly by the Captain's men in one of
the wood-houses. And so our winter glided away.
In the spring, as soon as the hill was open, my father went
to London to attend his duties in Parliament. My mother then
changed our arrangements a little. We did not get up till seven,
dark of course at first, but a whole hour gained on a cold morning
was something. Miss Elphick, Jane and I breakfasted with her
at half-past nine. We used to hear her go downstairs punctually
ten minutes sooner, opening her bedroom door at the end of
the passage with a deal of noise, and then making a resounding
use of her pocket-handkerchief — our signal call, we said.
We all dined with her at four o'clock. After that there were
no more lessons; we passed the evening beside her reading and
working. The work was the usual shirting, sheeting, towelling,
etc., required in the family, the stock of linen of all kinds being
kept up to the statutory number by a regular yearly addition;
the whole was then looked over, some mended to serve a time,
some made up for the poor, the rest sorted into rag-bundles
constantly wanted where accidents among the labourers were
frequent.
We read through all Miss Edgeworth's works, Goldsmith's
histories, most of the Spectator, and a few good standard novels
from the dusty shelves in the study.
On Saturday nights we were allowed a fire in the barrack-room,
after which indulgence my hair was admitted to shine
more brightly! After dinner, in an hour we had to ourselves,
Jane and I generally read to the "little ones." Mary was
hammering through Parent's Assistant herself, two pages a
day for her lesson, enough as she slowly spelt her way along the
lines, but not enough to interest her in the stories, so she was
pleased to hear them to an end with Johnnie. We often had to
repeat a favourite tale, so much approved were Lazy Laurence,
The Little Merchants, The Basket Woman, and others.
When we demurred to going over them again we were so
assailed by our listeners that we began Evenings at Home,
leaving out "the Tutor, George, and Harry." What excellent
books for children! Yet it was not while I was young that I
was fully aware of the value of the library chosen for us.
It was when I was again reading these old favourites to childish
listeners — to you, my own dear children — that the full extent
of their influence struck me so forcibly. They have not been
surpassed by any of our numerous later authors for the young.
This was a very happy time for us, even though William
was away. We saw him only at midsummer, the journey being
too long for his Christmas holidays to be spent with us; he spent
them always with the Freres.
One April morning Grace Grant, the greusiach's daughter,
the pretty girl who waited on us, drew aside the white curtains
of my little bed and announced that Mr. Cameron's two houses
were in ashes. A fire had broken out in the night at the Croft
in the new house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. William Cameron;
it had spread to the stack-yard and offices, and even to the
upper house in which the old people lived, and when my mother
reached the scene — for she had been roused by the news, had
got up, dressed, and walked off those two or three miles, she
who seldom went farther than her poultry-yard — she found the
homeless party on the green watching the destruction of their
property. About half of this news was true; the fire had broken
out and the lower house was burnt to the ground, some of the
corn-stacks were destroyed, and one young horse was injured,
but the rest of the stock and the better part of the crop and the
old cottage were safe. My mother had gone up, but before her
bedtime, the tidings having been brought to her while she was
reading as usual after we had left her, and she brought back
with her the two eldest of William Cameron's sons, who lived
with us for the next eighteen months, there being no room for
them at home.
The loss to their parents was great; all the handsome
Glasgow furniture was gone, as well as sundry little valuables
saved by poor Mrs. Cameron from the wreck of her city
splendour. It was melancholy to see the blackened ruins of that
little lovely spot; much of the offices had fallen, and the heaps
of scorched timber and broken walls we had to pick our way
through on our first visit made us feel very sad. The old people
received us as if nothing had happened. Miss Mary was neither
more nor less fussy, more nor less cross than usual. Mrs.
Cameron sat in her chair by the fire in her bonnet and shawl,
and with her green shade over her eyes just as she had ever
done; a monument of patience in idleness, sighing in her accustomed
manner, no change whatever in her. I am certain she had
been equally immovable on the night of the fire. Mr. Cameron
talked to us cheerfully of all matters going, the fire among the
rest, as if he and his had no particular concern in it, except when
he raised his fine head to the sky in humble gratitude that there
had been no lives lost; he even played the Jew's harp to
us; "Lochaber," which we called his own tune, for he came
from that part of the country, and "Crochallan," beautiful
"Crochallan," which we considered more peculiarly our own,
for we had all been sung to sleep by it in our infancy. I had
learned from Mr. Cameron to pronounce the Gaelic words with the
pretty, soft Lochaber accent, so different from the harsh, guttural
Strathspey. Years after at Hampstead, my uncle Frere, who
remembered my childish crooning of it when he had his fever,
made me sing it again not once, but for ever; and one day that
Francis Cramer was there my uncle made me sing it to him;
never was musician more delighted; over and over again was it
repeated till he had quite caught this lovely Gaelic air, and when
he went away he bade me farewell as "Crochallan Mavourgne,"
little suspecting he was addressing a young lady as the favourite
cow of one Allan!
I never myself admired the Croft so much in its improved
state as I did in the days of the two small detached cottages,
the stack-yard here, the stables there, the peat-stack near the
burn, and the garden paled with "backs," wherein grew the
sweetest, small, black-red hairy gooseberries that were ever
gathered.
My father, immediately on his return from London, began
to plan the present pretty two-storeyed cottage, as I may well
remember, for I had to make all the drawings for it architecturally
from his given dimensions; inside and outside working
plans, and then a sketch of its future appearance in the
landscape. I was so unskilful, so awkward, and he was so very
particular, required all to be so neatly done, so accurate and
without blemish of any sort, that I could not tell how many
sheets of paper, how many hours of time, how many trials of
temper were gone through before the finished specimens were left
to be tied up with other equally valuable designs, in a roll kept
in the lower closed book-shelves to the left of the library fireplace,
docketed by his saucy daughter "Nonsense of Papa's."
The new house was placed a little in advance of the old in
a situation very well chosen. It looks particularly well from
aunt Mary's favourite walk round the Lochans. My father
cut down some trees at one point to give a full view of it,
and we made a rough seat there, as we did in many a pretty
spot besides, where a summer hour could be dreamed away by
lake, or stream, or bank, or brae, and mountain boundary, the
birch leaves and the heather scenting the air.
They were stupid boys those sons of William Cameron.
James the elder, was a real lout, there was no making anything
of him, though Caroline the French girl, true to the coquettish
instincts of her nation, tried all her fascinations on him, really
toiled to elicit a single spark of feeling from this perfect log; in
vain. Jane was more successful with the second boy, Lachlan.
Both brothers went daily to the school at the bridge of Coylam,
the common parish school, and a very good one, where all the
boys in the place were taught, and could learn Latin if they
wished. The present master piqued himself on his English. He
came from Aberdeen, and was great in the English classics; whole
pages from our best poets, first read out by him and then learnt
by heart by the pupils, formed part of the daily lessons of the
more advanced classes. Lachlan Cameron, taught privately by
Jane, quite electrified the master by his fine delivery of the
Deserted Village at the rehearsal previous to the examination.
My father examined the school; I don't know what there
was my father did not do; so busy a man could hardly have been
met with. He did his work well while the whim lasted for that
particular employment; the misfortune was that there were too
many irons in the fire; fewer of them he would have managed
perfectly. Poor Sir Alexander Boswell, Bozzy's clever son,
wrote a brilliant Tory squib once ridiculing the Edinburgh
Whigs, and my father's share of it ended thus — "Laird, lawyer,
statesman, J. P. Grant in short."
This super-active tendency was very strong in me; without
being a meddler, for that I never was, I was inclined to
attempt too much. In my youth I was versatile, seized
on some new occupation, pursued it to weariness, gave it
up unfinished, and took with equal zeal to something else.
My father was quite aware of this defect in me. He first insisted
on every work begun being finished, however distasteful it might
have become; next he exacted a promise from me to this effect.
And to this promise I have faithfully adhered, sometimes at no
small cost of patience, the love of being up and doing, even in
more advanced age, making me undertake many labours, the
completion of which was far from agreeable.
Jane had none of this volatility; fond of employment, never
indeed idle, she was endowed from the beginning with a perseverance
that has carried her bravely through difficulties which
would have disheartened me. I was educated into equal
diligence, but it was a work of time, and shows what can be
done by careful supervision.
We always went with my father and mother to the examination
of the school — no short business; my father was methodical,
no flash pupil could have imposed on him. Backwards and
forwards he cross-examined, requiring the reasons for all things,
much as is the National system now, but as was not practised
then. I have heard him say the boys were fair scholars, but
beaten by the girls. The Latin class was respectable, the
arithmetic very creditable, the recitations had of course to be
applauded, and Lachlan Cameron was rewarded for action as well
as emphasis — Jane having John Kembled him to the utmost of
her ability — by receiving a handsome copy of Goldsmith's works.
The prizes were wisely chosen, indeed almost any standard
work would have been appreciated. Mrs. Gillies, during a visit
to us at the circuit time, taking a walk with my mother one morning,
went to rest a bit in a saw-mill; the saw was at work
grinding slowly up and down, while the log it was slitting moved
lazily on, the man and boy reading till they were wanted. The
boy's book was Cornelius Nepos in the original, the man's Turner's
Geography.
The schoolmaster's wife taught sewing, very badly my
mother said; she objected to the fineness of the thread used for
stitching, and she would take hold of a knot at the end of a hem
and draw the whole up as if ready for gathering, as a proof of
the incorrect manner in which the girls had been allowed to
ravel over this essential element of the science of needlework.
Peggy Green was certainly better fitted to trim up a cap, dance
at a harvest-home, or preside at a tea-drinking, than to teach
white seam, or to guide a poor man's house. She had been
Mrs. Gordon's maid, used to go up to Glentromie in the
boat with the Colonel and the children, and at some of the
merry makings fell in love with the handsome schoolmaster, the
very best dancer in Badenoch — for he was a Glen Feshie man.
He got "wonderful grand presents" at his marriage — a hurried
one — but he and his fine wife did not suit, tittle-tattle having
contributed to make them unhappy.
These forensic displays of Lachlan had turned our thoughts hack
to our nearly forgotten theatricals. We amused ourselves in the
shrubbery re-acting several of our favourite scenes in Macbeth.
My father coming upon us one day proposed that, as we were so
well acquainted with Shakespeare in tragedy, we should try his
comedy, and if we liked he would prepare for us his own favourite
As You Like It. We were delighted. He set to work, and
leaving out objectionable passages and unnecessary scenes, made
the prettiest three-act drama of this pretty play. We learned
our parts out among the birch-wooding on the Ord Bain, selecting
for our stage, when we had made progress enough to arrive
at rehearsals, a beautiful spot upon a shoulder of the hill not
far from Kinapol, about a couple of miles from the Donne,
so that we had a good walk to it all along the river-side, through
the planting.
Still, though charmed with Rosalind and Celia, we could not
bear giving up our older friends; we therefore persuaded my father
to curtail Macbeth, and allow us to act both, before him and
a select audience, as soon as William should come home; we
could not have got on without him, he and Jane being our stars.
Little fat Miss Elphick, too, must play her part; she had gradually
abandoned the strict disciplinarian style, and had become
in many respects as latitudinarian as her Celtic-nurtured pupils
could desire. In this case, moreover, personal vanity had a large
share in her gracious demeanour; she imagined herself handsome,
graceful, and an actress — Mrs. Jordan beautified! and
from having heard her read she had caught, my mother said, some
of the tone of that wonderful woman's style.
The part she chose in As You Like It was Rosalind, and
a vulgar Rosalind she made, exaggerating the very points an
elegant mind would have softened, for Rosalind is somewhat
more pert than even a "saucy lacquey" need have been, a little
forward, and not over delicate. Mrs. Harry Siddons refined her
into the most exquisite piece of gay impulsive womanhood, a
very Princess of romance. Poor Miss Elphick brought her up
from the servants' hall. We thought her queer-looking in her
doublet and hose, but Belleville, who was a good judge of such
matters, declared that she was finely limbed, had a leg fit for the
buskin, with an eye and a voice that might have made her
fortune had she followed the profession She was very much
pleased with herself, took a deal of trouble about her dress and
her hair — a crop — and the placing of her hat and feather, and
she knew her part perfectly.
Jane was a gentlemanly Orlando, William a first-rate Jaques;
he looked the character and felt it, for in his young days William
was cynical, turned his nose up habitually, very different from
his later pleased tranquillity. I did both the Duke and Celia, was
a stiff Duke and a lively Celia; we gave her no lover, left out
all that. But the actor in this pretty comedy was Mary — dull,
listless Mary; she chose the part herself, and would have no
other, and anything better than her Touchstone my father and
Belleville declared they had never seen; her humour, her voice,
her manner, her respectful fun to her ladies, her loving patronage
of Audrey (Anne Cameron), the whole conception of the
character was marvellous in a child of ten years of age; and she
broke upon us suddenly, for at all our rehearsals she had been
stupid. She had acted like a lump of lead, she never knew her
part, every other word she was prompted, and when my father tried
to put some life into her by reading to her as he wished her to
speak, he made little of it; but on the night of the play her
acting was perfect. Johnnie said it was the port wine, a large
jug of which mixed with water stood in our green-room (the
upper part of the thrashing-mill), and was dispensed in proper
quantities by Miss Elphick between the acts. Johnnie affirmed
that of this jug Touchstone had more than his share, as he, in
his capacity of third lord attending on the forest Duke, had
opportunities of discovering during his retirement behind the
fanners, as he was seldom required on the stage. The other
lords were represented by Jane Macintosh, James and Lachlan
Cameron, and Caroline; by the help of caps and feathers and long
boar-spears they grouped remarkably well.
We grew so fond of our comedy, Macbeth was less thought
of. We acted it first, Jane and William surpassing themselves.
Mary was Banquo, Miss Elphick the king, Mary was Hecate, and
the witches and the company at the banquet were the same as
did the forest lords, for we had each to play many parts. They
were obliged to make me Lady Macbeth, a part I don't think it
possible I could have done well, though my father took infinite
pains with me. They said I looked handsome in black velvet
and point lace — a dress the real Lady Macbeth would have
opened her eyes at. The people called out "briach, briach"
(pronounced bre-ach) when, thus arrayed and with a long train,
the Thane's wife came forward with her letter; a gratifying
sound to me, who had been thought always the plain one of the
family; even Grace Baillie, the most obliging creature in the
world, could only force herself to say, when contemplating the
pale thin object presented to her, "Eliza will be very lady-like!"

I was vain of my briach (bonnie), and our Highlanders
were good judges of both beauty and merit; they were charmed
with William's Macduff and applauded him vehemently, many
of the women bursting into tears; Jenny Dairy soaked her
apron through "to see puir Mr. William greeting for his wife and
family." We had a large audience. All our particular friends,
Belleville, Mrs. and Miss Macpherson, Camerons from the Croft,
Macintoshes from the Dell, and Mr. Alexander Grant from Gar-mouth;
these were the select, on the front benches; at the back
were John and Betty Campbell from the Dell of Killiehuntly
up in Badenoch — the farm they had taken on leaving our service
— Mackenzie and Mrs. Mackenzie, once Mrs. Lynch, from their
inn at Aviemore, and all our own servants. Our theatre was
part of the granary, decorated by ourselves with old carpets and
curtains, green boughs, and plenty of candles. We made our
own dresses, Anne Cameron and Jane Macintosh assisting; and
as the old black trunk in the long garret was made over to us,
we had my grandmother's blue and silver, and yellow satin, and
flowered silks, and heaps of embroidered waistcoats, scarfs and handkerchiefs,
all of which were turned to account. One peculiarity
of this acting was that we became so attached to the characters
we could not bear to think ill of them. We excused everybody
for every act, with the exception of Lady Macbeth; we could
in no way get her out of the scrape of the murder, till we
stumbled in Holinshed's Chronicles on the story as told in his
times. Even then we could not approve of her, but judging of
her by the morals of her age, we almost justified her for getting
rid of a wicked cruel king, whose conduct to her and hers had
been so ferocious. We forgot we were only shifting the saddle.
We were like the biographers who become so enamoured of their
subjects that they can never see their faults. We had also to
make out the locality of the forest of Arden, and we settled
it to our perfect satisfaction near Hainault; the principality or
duchy from which the two Dukes came eluded our researches.
The next stirring event was another alteration — a final one
it proved — of the principal staircase, the painting and papering
of the new part of the house, and the fitting up of the drawing-room
as a library. We had lived so long with doors and shutters
of plain deal, cane-backed chairs and sofas, common Scotch
carpeting, etc., that the chilly air of our half-furnished apartments
never struck us as requiring improvement. My mother
had long wished for more comfort around her, and the books
having accumulated quite beyond the study shelves my father
determined on removing them; he gave himself great credit for
his taste in the choice of his bookcases; they were made of the
fir from his forest, picked pieces of course, highly varnished and
relieved by black mouldings. The room was large and lofty,
and really looked well when finished, but it was a work of time.
All summer and all autumn and part of the winter the various
jobs were going on, and in the middle of the bustle we caught
the measles, one after the other, we four who had hitherto
escaped — and no doctor in the country! Tall Mr. Stewart from
Grantown, eighteen miles off, who used to attend every one on
Speyside, was dead. He was a retired army surgeon who had
settled in Strathspey on the chance of practice, skilful enough
for ordinary cases in his line, medical aid being little wanted.
Herbs and such simples cured the generality, and we had my
grandfather's medicine chest administered sagaciously by my
father. He did not like undertaking the measles, then considered
a serious complaint, so he sent to Inverness for Dr.
Ponton. He paid two very expensive visits, and we all got well.
Just at this time there appeared in the village of Kingussie
a miserable-looking man in a well-worn tartan jacket, with a
handsome wife, somewhat older than himself, and several children.
They arrived from Lochaber in an old gig, a small cart following
with luggage and a short supply of furniture; they hired the
room over Peter Macpherson's new shop. This man announced
himself as Dr. Smith, brother to a clever man of the same name
near Fort William. He had been some weeks there, creeping
into a little practice among the neighbours, before we heard of
him.
A poor woman in Rothiemurchus had died for want of skilful
aid; the woman employed on these occasions had not been
equal to the circumstances. This unhappy event decided my
father to look out for a doctor, and he went to consult Belleville
about it. An inquiry had been held into the causes of the
accident, and Dr. Smith had been brought forward to give his
professional testimony; his intelligence, his general information
astonished them; here was the very man they wanted. Accordingly
it was resolved to try him for a year. The Marquis of
Huntly, the Duke of Gordon, and Ballindalloch were written to.
Poor Balnespick was away he had gone to Cheltenham, where
he died. The regular subscription for the care of the poor
being immediately provided, this clever man was relieved from
the fear of starvation, and had the hope besides of cases among
the richer classes that would pay him better. He began with
us, for we all took ill again, an illness no one could understand;
all the symptoms of measles, and measles we had just recovered
from; yet measles it was. Mary and I had it very severely;
her cough, with winter approaching, gave great anxiety. Dr.
Ponton was again sent for, but his grave pomposity suggested
no change from Dr. Smith's treatment, so with another heavy
fee he took leave of us.
After the measles Dr. Smith appeared no more in the old
tartan jacket, and though he still preferred walking to any other
exercise — twenty or even thirty miles a day being a common
thing with him—he looked neither so pale nor so thin as when
he had first shown himself at the inquest. Good society in a
wonderfully short time improved his manners. He was quick
at the uptak, fond of reading, a good listener, and a pleasant
talker. Even Belleville's well-stored memory seldom found a
quotation thrown away. The doctor had been meant for something
better; a cloud hung over his early history.
When my father had set all his various hands to work —
Donald Maclean and his half-dozen men to the staircase, a
cabinetmaker and his assistants from Perth to the new library,
Grant the painter from Elgin with his men to their papering and
oil-brushes — he set off himself to be re-elected for Great Grimsby,
a dissolution of Parliament having made this necessary. An
immensity of money was spent on this occasion, another candidate
having started, the rich Mr. Fazakerly; out of four two only
could succeed, and my unfortunate father was one of them.
While he was away we had no room to sit in but the old gloomy
study. My mother made it as neat as she could, and as we
could pop in and out of the shrubbery by the low windows we got
reconciled to its other defects, yet were glad when the painters
having finished the bow-windowed bedroom over the dining-room,
she was able to fit that up as her drawing-room for the autumn
company. She got it quite ready by the time of my father's
return, with the finest man ever was seen for a valet, whom he
had picked up in London; a Norfolk giant, six foot one, magnificent
in shirt frill. It was well Bell did not work for him,
she would never have stood that small pleating; the poor girl
who did, Jenny Barron the dyer's daughter, who washed for the
men-servants, got many a lecture for inefficiency, Mr. Gonard
making more fuss than enough about himself in all ways.
My mother had had all the bedrooms in the new part of the
house painted and papered to please herself. In the old part
she had painted, but had not ventured on papering, the old walls
not having been studded; they were therefore done in distemper,
as were those of the dining-room. The colours were not happily
chosen, buff and grey, and the dining-room pea-green; all the
woodwork white, very cold-looking. The dining-room was
relieved by the Thorley pictures, mostly by Dutch or Flemish
artists, a small well-chosen selection. There was a Berghem,
two Boths, a Watteau, a Jan Stein, a small Wouvermann, and
several more undoubted originals, though by painters of less
note. One we admired was one of the three authorised copies of
Raphael's "Giardiniera" — the Virgin and Child and little dark
St. John — made by a favourite pupil. Castle Howard has
another, Russborough claims the third. The subject, however,
was so in favour that many pencils were tried on it, each possessor
claiming of course to hold one of the three valuables.
There were two coloured chalk sketches by Rembrandt of himself
and a friend; a piece of fruit, fish, and game considered
very fine; — in all about fifteen paintings, including two nearly
full-length portraits, a Raper ancestor and his friend Sir
Christopher Wren. A court beauty by Sir Peter Lely was sent
up to a bedroom, she was not dressed enough to be downstairs;
and a James the Sixth style of man was promoted to the library,
the only picture allowed in the room. A few old landscapes,
not so well preserved, were hung about in the bedrooms. One
portrait, unframed, in bad preservation, always riveted my
attention; we called it the dying nun, because of the style of
the accessories. It must, I think, have been the work of no
pretender, whether his name be known to fame or not.
Our Grant ancestors were spread over the walls of the staircase:
the Spreckled Laird and some of his family, himself in
armour, his brother Corrour in ditto, his wife the Lady Jean in
a very low-cut red velvet gown, with her yellow hair flowing
over her shoulders, their little boys, my uncle Rothie and one
who died young, of whom my brother Johnnie was the image,
in court-like suits, holding out birds and nosegays; Lord Elchies
in his ermine, and some others unknown. They made a better
show after they were framed by my brother John when he was
home on leave from India.
The library was long in being completed; there was a good
deal of work in the bookcases, as they entirely surrounded the
room. My mother had made the upstairs drawing-room so
pretty, and the view from its windows was so very beautiful,
that no one entering it could wish for any other; it looked up
the Spey to the Quaich range of mountains, Tor Alvie on the
one hand, the Ord Bain on the other, and the broom island,
now a pretty lawn covered with sheep, just in front between us
and the river. The grand pianoforte was there, and the harp
and a writing — table, the fireplace filled with balsams, other
plants in the small light closets opening out of the room, and
sofas and chairs in plenty. Angelica Kaufmann's prints were
pinned on the walls. Altogether it was cheerful and summery,
and many a pleasant hour was spent in this pretty apartment.
Amongst other visitors there came Tom Lauder and his
friend, henceforward our dear friend, Dr. Gordon; my father and
mother had known him before, but to us young people he was a
stranger. He was hardly handsome, and yet all his friends
thought him so; not very tall, slight, fair; it was the expression
of his countenance that was charming, and his manner, so gay,
so simple, so attractive. He was very clever, had made his own
way and was getting on rapidly. He had married, not well, I
think, though he was happy, and it had been a long attachment.
It was a bad connection, and she, to my mind, was not an
agreeable woman — dawdling, untidy, grave. She was very
useful to him, having a good head for languages. Among his
accomplishments was an exquisite style of singing; there was
no greater treat than to hear his "Banks and Braes o' bonnie
Doon," "Low doun i' the Broom," and others, for his fund was
inexhaustible. He recommended the cultivation of my voice
and William's.
Mr. Lauder sang too. He delighted in the "Red Cross
Knight"; his wife, who had a voice like a clarion trumpet,
much admired by some, joined him in a great number of songs
of this sort. He shone much more in his drawings; his sketches
were very pretty. We had holiday during his visit, accompanying
him to his favourite views in the mornings, and giving
ourselves up to music and Dr. Gordon in the evenings.
Two results followed our new friendship. Dr. Gordon explained
to my father the evil of our early rising and late breakfasting;
he assured him also that those stomachs that disliked
milk, milk was not good for; the consequence was that we
went back in rising to my mother's hour of seven, and that I
had orders to make breakfast every morning at nine, and Mary
partook of it; Caroline preferred joining James Cameron,
Lachlan, and Johnnie, who all throve on porridge or bread and
milk.
The other result was that William, who was now fifteen, was
to return no more to Eton. He was to remain at home till the
College met in Edinburgh in October, when Dr. Gordon consented
to take charge of him. Great rejoicings followed this
decision; the south of England was so far away, letters were so
long on the road; and though we had franks at command, so
could write as often as we pleased, that did not lessen the
distance, for the post used to go round by Aberdeen to Inverness
and on to Grantown by a runner, where another runner
received our bag and brought it three times a week to the
Doune.
This summer a great improvement took place in our postal
arrangements; a stage-coach was started to run three days a
week between Perth and Inverness. Our bag was made up at
Perth and dropped at Lynwilg at Robbie Cumming's, whose
little shop soon became a receiving-house for more bags than
ours. It was quite an event; we used to listen for the horn;
on still days and when the wind set that way we could hear it
distinctly, as we walked on the flow-dyke round the farm. At
one or two breaks in the wooding we could see the coach, a
novel sight that made us clap our hands, and set poor Miss
Elphick crying. She took to walking in that direction, it was
so gay, so like what she remembered.
The bridge of Alvie was passed by the new coach at about
five o'clock, and we had to hurry home to dress for dinner.
During the second course, or later on a bad evening, the boy
sent for the bag returned; the butler brought it in and delivered
the contents. One evening late in autumn it came; Miss Elphick
and I dined downstairs now, and we were all sitting round the
fire on which fresh logs had been thrown, the dessert and wine
were on the horse-shoe table, when the bag came in. Such
startling news! the Dutch revolt, the signal for rousing Europe!
There had been a dearth of warlike news after the Spanish
campaigns were over, and this unexpected turn of affairs in
Holland excited every one. How eagerly the papers were
watched for many a day after.
I do not recollect any other matter of importance happening
during the remainder of this year. Lord Huntly and a set of
grouse-shooting friends came to Kinrara, but we did not see
much of them. Some of them dined with us once or twice;
Lord Huntly often came over in the morning, and he had
William with him a great deal more than was good for an idle
boy of his age.
I never like to think of the style of education given by the
higher classes to their sons; home indulgence, school liberty,
college license, and no ennobling pursuits; we are then surprised
that the low gratification of the senses should almost entirely
supersede with our young men the higher pleasures of an exercised
intellect. In one very important particular, the management
of themselves, they are never in the very least instructed.
At Eton the boys had too much money, not to be laid out by
themselves for themselves, in necessaries first and indulgences
afterwards; but all that they could possibly want being provided
for them at a cost of which they knew not one item, their
"pouches" were extra, to be wasted on nonsense, or worse; some
of these pouches were heavy, boys carrying back with them from
ten guineas upwards according to the number of rich friends
they had seen in the holidays, everybody "pouching" an Eton
boy. William departed for Edinburgh really as ignorant as his
little brother of how far his allowance would go, or what it
would be wisest to do with it.
CHAPTER XII
1813-1814
THE winter of 1814 set in extremely cold; we had the Spey
frozen over early in January. The whole country was hung
with frost, the trees looking like so many feathers sparkling with
diamonds in the sunshine. The harvest-homes, and the forest
ball, and the Christmas at Belleville, and the Christmas at the
Doune had all taken place in due order; our fête being remarkable
by the opening of the library, now at last completed. The
bookcases, finished by handsome cornices, and very high, looked
very comfortable when quite filled with books; all along the top
were busts, vases, etc. The old Puritan in the ruff was over the
mantelpiece. There were the Thorley telescope, microscope,
theodolite, and other instruments of scientific value; a large
atlas, portfolios of prints, and a fair collection of books amounting
to three or four thousand volumes; there was not a subject
on which information could not be gathered amongst them.
There were some little old Elzevirs, Aldines, Baskervilles, and a
Field Bible, to rank as curiosities. A shelf of huge folios, the
architecture of Italy, Balbec, Palmyra, and other engravings, as
I may well know, for I wrote the catalogue.
My father and I were months at this pleasant work, during
the progress of which I think that my frivolous mind learned
more of actual worth to me than it had taken in during all the
former years of my young life. The first point that he insisted
on, preparatory to my new employment, was that I should write
a hand that could be read; on giving up half-text on lines, I
had got into the wavy unmeaning scribble then in fashion,
pretty enough to look at, but difficult to decipher, none of the
letters being accurately formed, the c, the e, the m, the n, and
the u were all so like that except for the dot over the i, and the
connection of the sentences, it was impossible to say which was
which. He therefore recommended an hour or so a day to be
spent in forming letters that could not be mistaken; I was to
write large, and slow, and carefully. I was making an abstract
of English history for him, and long before we got to the
Crusades a very legible hand was formed, somewhat stiff perhaps,
but easily read.
The catalogue was written on folio paper, ruled for the
proper headings; the books were classed, the size, edition,
place of printing, number of volumes all mentioned; a column
left for occasional remarks, and the place in the library indicated
by letters referring to the shelves, for the books were
arranged according to size. When we came to putting them up
we had to get Jane to help us; indeed she would have been the
fitter assistant all through, her peculiarly studious mind qualifying
her for this kind of work. That was perhaps the reason my
father did not employ her. She did not require sitting at any
one's feet to acquire knowledge; I did.
Our poor old catalogue was bound in blue morocco, with gilt
leaves, and lay always for reference on the large oval table. It
was bought, I believe, at the sale by James Gibson - Craig.
Beside it was a little marble-covered volume, in which I entered
the names of all who borrowed, the name of the book lent, and
the number of volumes taken, with the date of the loan. My
father thought a library kept for self was the talent hid in a
napkin, and that any loss or damage was to be balanced against
the amount of good distributed. His books were a blessing, far
and near.
We were still in the middle of our books when the poor old
Captain died. He had been subject for many years to violent
attacks of tic in some of the nerves of the face. He had had
teeth drawn, had been to Edinburgh to undergo treatment both
surgical and medical, to no purpose. Twice a year, in the spring
and fall, violent paroxysms of pain came on. The only relief he
got was from heat; he had to live in a room like an oven. His
good wife was so tender of him at these times; what a mass of
comforts she collected round him!
He had been longer than usual without an attack; we were
in hopes he was to be relieved during his decline from such
agony, and so he was — but how? by a stroke of paralysis. It
took him in the night, affected one whole side, including his
countenance and his speech. He never recovered, even partially,
and was a piteous spectacle sitting there helpless, well-nigh
senseless, knowing no one but his wife, and not her always, pleased
with the warmth of the fire and sugar-candy; the state of all
others he had had the greatest horror of falling into. He always
prayed to preserve his faculties of mind whatever befell the failing
body, and he lost them completely; not a gleam of reason
ever again shot across his dimmed intellect. This melancholy
condition lasted some months, and then the old man died gently
in the night, either eighty-four or eighty-six years of age.
The news was brought to the Doune early in the morning,
and my father and mother set out immediately for Inverdruie.
They remained there the greater part of the day. In the
evening my father and I were occupied writing the funeral
letters, and the orders to Inverness for mourning. Next day
Jane and I were taken to Inverdruie. We had never seen a
corpse, and the Captain had died so serenely, his vacant expression
had disappeared so entirely, giving place to a placidity amounting
to beauty, that it was judged no less startling first view of death
could be offered to young people. The impression, however, was
fearful; for days I did not recover from it. Jane, who always
cried abundantly when excited, got over it more easily. The
colour — the indescribable want of colour, rather — the rigidity, the
sharp outline of the high nose (he had prided himself on the size
and shape of this feature), the total absence of flexibility, it was
all horror — him, and not him. I longed to cry like Jane, but
there came only a pain in my chest and head. My father
preached a little sermon on the text before us. I am sure it
was very good, but I did not hear it. He always spoke well
and feelingly, and the people around seemed much affected;
all my senses were absorbed by the awful image on that bed.
We were led away, and then, while conversation was going on in
the chamber of the widow, my mind's eye went back to the scene
we had left, and things I had not seemed to notice appeared as
I must have seen them.
The body lay on the bed in the best room; it had on a shirt
well ruffled, a night-cap, and the hands were crossed over the
breast. A white sheet was spread over all, white napkins were
pinned over all the chair cushions, spread over the chest of
drawers and the tables, and pinned over the few prints that
hung on the walls. Two bottles of wine and a seed-cake were
on one small table, bread, cheese, butter, and whisky on another,
offered according to the rank of the numerous visitors by the
solitary watcher beside the corpse, a natural daughter of the poor
Captain's married to a farmer in Strathspey.
A great crowd was gathered in and about the house; the
name of each new arrival was carried up immediately to Mrs.
Grant, who bowed her head in approbation; the more that came
the higher the compliment. She said nothing, however; she had
a serious part to play — the Highland widow — and most decorously
she went through it. Every one expected it of her, for when
had she failed in any duty? and every one must have been
gratified, for this performance was perfect. She sat on the
Captain's cornered arm-chair in a spare bedroom, dressed in a
black gown, and with a white handkerchief pinned on her head,
one stile pinned round the head, all the rest hanging over it like
the kerchief on the head of Henry of Bolingbroke in some of the
prints. Motionless the widow sat during the whole length of
the day, silent and motionless; if addressed, she either nodded
slowly or waved her head, or, if an answer were indispensable,
whispered it. Her insignia of office, the big bright bunch of
large house keys, lay beside her, and if required, a lady friend,
first begging permission, and ascertaining by the nod or the wave
which was the proper key to use, carried off the bunch, gave out
what was wanted, and then replaced it.
All the directions for the funeral were taken from herself in
the same solemn manner. We were awestruck, the room was
full, crowded by corners and goers, and yet a pin could have been
heard to drop in it; the short question asked gravely in the
lowest possible tone, the dignified sign in reply, alone broke the
silence of the scene — for scene it was. Early in the morning,
before company hours, who had been so busy as the widow?
Streaking the corpse, dressing the chamber, settling her own, giving
out every bit and every drop that was to be used upstairs and
down by gentle and simple, preparing the additional supplies in case
of need afterwards so quietly applied for by the friendly young
lady, there was nothing, from the merest trifle to the matter of
most importance, that she had not, her own active self, seen to.
I shall never forget her on the day of the funeral, the fifth
day from the death. Her weeds had arrived, and remarkably
well she looked in them. She, a plain woman in her ordinary
rather shabby attire, came out in her new "mournings" like an
elderly gentlewoman. She sat in the same room, in the same
chair, with the addition of just a little more dignity, and a large
white pocket-handkerchief. All her lady friends were round her,
Miss Mary and Mrs. William from the Croft, Mrs. Macintosh from
the Dell, Mrs. Stewart from Pityoulish, two Miss Grants from
Kinchurdy, her own sister Anne from Burnside, Miss Bell
Macpherson from Invereshie, my mother, Jane, and I. There
was little said; every gig or horse arriving caused a little stir for
a moment, hushed instantly.
The noise without was incessant, for a great concourse had
assembled to convoy the last of Macalpine's sons to his long
home.
A substantial collation had been set out in the parlour, and
another, unlimited in extent, in the kitchen; people coming from
so far, waiting for so long, required abundance of refreshment.
They were by no means so decorous below as we were above in
the lady's chamber, though we had our table of good things too;
but we helped ourselves sparingly and quietly.
At length my father entered with a paper in his hand; it was
the list of the pall-bearers. He read it over to Mrs. Grant, and
then gave it to her to read herself. She went over the names
without a muscle moving, and then, putting her finger upon one,
she said, "I would rather Ballintomb, they were brothers in
arms." My father bowed, and then offered her his hand, on
which she rose, and every one making way they went out
together, a few following.
They passed along the passage to the death-chamber, where
on trestles stood the coffin, uncovered as yet, and with the face
exposed. The widow took her calm last look, she then raised a
small square of linen — probably put there by herself for the
purpose — and dropping it over the countenance, turned and
walked away. It was never to be raised. Though Jane and I
had been spared this solemnity, there was something in the
whole proceedings that frightened us. When Mrs. Grant
returned to her arm-chair and lay back in it, her own face
covered by a handkerchief, and when my father's step sounded
on the stairs as he descended, and the screws were heard as
one by one they fastened down the coffin lid, and then the
heavy tramp of the feet along the passage as the men moved with
their burden, we drew closer to each other and to good Mrs.
Mackenzie from Aviemore, who was among the company.
Hundreds attended the funeral. A young girl in her usual
best attire walked first, then the coffin borne by four sets of
stout shoulders, extra bearers grouping round, as the distance
to the kirkyard was a couple of miles at least. Next came the
near of kin, and then all friends fell in according to their
rank without being marshalled. Highlanders never presume,
their innate good-breeding never subjecting them to an enforced
descent from a too honourable place; there is even a fuss at
times to get them to accept one due to them. Like the bishops,
etiquette requires them to refuse at first the proffered dignity.
What would either say if taken at his word?
The Presbyterian Church has no burial ceremony. It is the
custom, however, for the minister to attend, generally speaking,
and to give a lengthy blessing before the feast, and a short prayer
at the grave. Mr. Grant of Duthil did his part better than was
expected; no one, from the style of his sermons, anticipated the
touching eulogy pronounced over the remains of the good old
Captain — not undeserved, for our great-grand-uncle had died at
peace with all the world. He was long regretted, many a kind
action he had done, and never a harsh word had he said of or to
any one.
My father gave the funeral feast at the Doune; most of the
friends of fit degree accompanied him home to dinner. All sorts
of pleasant stories went the round with the wine-bottles, and
very merry they were, clergy and all; the parsons of Alvie and
Abernethy were both there, coming in to the library to tea in
high good-humour. The rest of the people, who had been
abundantly refreshed at Inverdruie, dispersed.
The funeral over, there came on a marriage. Lord Huntly,
now in the decline of his rackety life, overwhelmed with debts,
sated with pleasure, tired of fashion, the last male heir of the
Gordon line — married. What would not the mother who adored
him have given to have seen his wedding-day? What regrets
she caused to herself and to him for preventing the love of his
youth from becoming her daughter-in-law! She actually carried
this beautiful girl away with her to Paris and married her to an
old merchant, while her son was away with his regiment. His
bride was young, and good, and rich, but neither clever nor
handsome. She made him very happy, and paid his most
pressing debts, that is her father did, old Mr. Brodie of the
Burn, brother to Brodie of Brodie, who either himself or somebody
for him had had the good sense to send him with a pen to
a counting-house instead of with a sword to the battle-field. He
made a really large fortune; he gave with his daughter, his only
child, one hundred thousand pounds down, and left her more than
another at his death. Really to her husband her large fortune
was the least part of her value; she possessed upright principles,
good sense, and when by and by she began to feel her powers and
took the management of his affairs, she turned out a first-rate
woman of business. In her later years she got into the cant of
the Methodists. At the time of her marriage she was very young,
and too unformed to be shown as the bride of the fastidious
Marquis, so while all the North was a blaze of bonfires in
honour of the happy event, her lord carried her off abroad.
The minister of Alvie made what was thought a very
indelicate allusion to "coming rejoicings closely connected with
the present" in a speech to the crowd round the blazing pile on
Tor Alvie; and as no after-events justified the prophecy, this
incorrect allusion was never forgotten. The marriage was
childless; Lord Huntly was the last Duke of Gordon.
Miss Elphick's mother having had a serious illness during the
winter, and wishing to see her daughter, it was determined that
we should have holiday for six weeks, and that our governess
should travel to town under my father's escort, Caroline the
French girl going with them. She was not to return; she had
been very useful to us in naturalising her language amongst us.
People may read a foreign language well, understand it as read,
even write it well, but to speak it, to carry on the affairs of daily
life from mere grammar and dictionary learning, I do not believe
to be possible. A needle full of thread was my first example in
point. We were all at work, and I asked for "du fil pour mon
aiguille." "Ah," said Caroline, "une aiguillée de fil; tenez, mademoiselle;"
and so on with a thousand other instances never
forgotten, for those eighteen months during which her Parisian
French was our colloquial medium for the greater part of the day
made us all thoroughly at home in the language; and though
rusted by years of disuse, a week in France brought it back so
familiarly to my sister Mary and me that the natives could not
believe we had not been brought up in the country. My father
was much pleased at his plan having succeeded so well; he however
forbade any mixture of tongues; when we wrote or spoke
English no French words were to be introduced; English, he
said, was rich in expletives, there could be no difficulty in finding
in it fit expressions to convey any meaning. He would send us
to Dryden, Milton, Bolingbroke and Addison in proof of this;
were we to alter any sentences of theirs by changing an English
for a French word we should enfeeble the style.
One of his favourite exercises for us was making us read
aloud passages from his favourite authors; he himself had been
taught by Stephen Kemble, and he certainly read beautifully.
Jane was an apt pupil; she sometimes mouthed a little, but in
general she in her clear round voice gave the music, as it were, to the
subject, expressed so perfectly by the gentle emphasis she employed.
William was not bad; I was wretched, they did nothing but
make fun of me. They used to tell an abominable story of me —
how Jane, having got grandly through the mustering of all the
devils in hell, alias fallen angels, and ended magnificently with
"He called so loud that all the hollow deep of hell resounded"
(as did our library!), I began in what William called my
"childish treble," "Princes, Potentates," in a voice that a
mouse at the fireside could have imitated!
Milton did not suit me, but Sterne was worse; nobody could
read Sterne, I am certain. My father could not; that ass, and
the Lieutenant's death, and the prisoner, — who could read them
aloud, or without tears?
To return from this episode. My father, Miss Elphick, and
Caroline happily off, we bade adieu to the restraints of the
schoolroom. We did not neglect our studies, but we shoved
them aside sometimes, and we led an easy sort of half-busy
merry life, more out of doors than in, all the fine bright weather
of the springtide. Jane looked after Mary's lessons, I carried
Johnnie through his; we all four agreed that the governess was
quite a supernumerary! Yet we owed her much; she was
tidiness itself, a beautiful needlewoman, mended old things, like
Burns's cottar's wife, to look like new, and taught her art to us.
She never allowed putting off till to-morrow what ought to be
done to-day. She made us obedient to rule, careful of time,
steady to business. With Mary she had done wonders; by
methodical perseverance she had roused her mind to exertion;
Touchstone had been a great help. Jane and I were surprised
to find the child who a year before could not count, able
to work any sum in the simple rules. She gave great expression
to the simple airs she had learnt on the pianoforte, and she had
wakened up to ask questions, and to be merry and enjoy her
walks, and though, from her great size for her age, her intellect
remained slow till her growth of body was over, she was never
again so inert as Miss Elphick had found her.
Johnnie was so easy to teach that he and I worked in sunshine.
He was the dearest little fellow ever was in the world,
not pretty except for fine eyes, small, slight, very quiet and silent,
but full of fun, full of spirit, clever in seeing and hearing and
observing and understanding all that went on around him, preferring
to learn in this practical way rather than from books.
He grew fond of reading, but he had found the mastering of the
mere mechanical part so difficult that he had rather a distaste
for the labour then.
We had two ponies at our command, William's pretty and
rather headstrong Black Sally, and the old grey my mother
used to ride to the reviews, now grown milk-white. He was
large, but so quiet that Mary, who was a coward, was mounted
on him. She never liked riding, and went but seldom.
Johnnie, besides being so little, was much of her mind; Jane
and I therefore had our steed to ourselves, and plenty of
use we made of it. We rode to Belleville, to the Dell of
Killiehuntly, and all over the country up and down the Spey, a
fat coachman on one of the carriage horses behind us.
At the Dell of Killiehuntly lived John and Betty Campbell,
doing well, but alas! not happy. His brother shared the farm,
a good managing man with whom it was easy to live — but he
had a wife with whom it was not easy to live. The two ladies
soon disagreed, and though they parted household — John and
Betty living in the farmhouse, Donald and Mary in rooms they
fitted up in the offices — perfect harmony never subsisted until
sorrow came to both.
Donald and Mary had a fine son drowned in the Spey; John
and Betty lost their only child, my god-daughter, in the
measles. Neither bereaved mother ever "faulted" the other
after these events. Each had shown so much heart on the
occasion of the grief of the other, that some bond of kindness, at
least of forbearance, existed evermore between them. Betty
never got over her "puir Eliza's" death; she never alluded to
her, never replied when any one else did, nor did she appear
altered outwardly, yet it had changed her. Her hair turned
grey, her manner became restless, and from that day she never
called me anything but Miss Grant, my Christian name she never
uttered, nor the pet name "burdie" by which she had oftenest
called us both. It altered John Campbell too. What had
brought that pair together was a problem not to be solved. John
had but very few words of English, it was difficult to make out
his meaning when he tried to explain himself in that foreign
language; to the end of his life he never got beyond the smattering
he began with. Betty, a Forres woman, spoke broad, low-country
Scotch, pure Morayshire, and never anything else to her
husband or to any one; she never attempted the Gaelic. The
language she did speak was all but incomprehensible, any English
the Highlanders acquire being real good English such as they
are taught by books at school, and in conversation with the
upper classes; Betty's was another tongue, the Low Dutch would
have comprehended it as easily as did the Highlander, yet she
and John managed to understand each other and to get on
together lovingly, the grey mare taking the lead.
Both husband and wife loved us dearly; few events made
either of them happier than the sight of our ponies picking their
steps cannily down the brae a little piece away from their good
farmhouse. All that they had of the best was brought out for
us, our steeds and our fat attendant faring equally well for our
sakes; and then Betty would promise to return the visit, and she
would not forget her promise either, but walk her eight or nine
miles some fine day, and pay her respects all through the Duchus.
She always reminded me of Meg Merrilies, a tall, large-framed,
powerfully-made woman, with dark flashing eyes and raven hair,
eminently handsome, though resolute-looking. Her dress, though
of a different style from the gipsy's, was picturesque; a linsey
gown, white neckerchief, white apron, a clear close-fitting cap
with a plaited lace-edged border, and a bright satin ribbon to
bind it on the head, and over this a high steeple cap of clearer
muslin, set farther back than the underneath one so that the
borders did not interfere. A red plaid of the Campbell tartan, spun
and dyed by herself, was thrown round her when she went out.
She spun the wool for stockings too, and knitted them; at
fine needleworks she was not expert, indeed she was too active
to sit to them. She was a stirring wife, in and out, but and
ben, cooking, washing, cleaning, keeping a quick eye over all,
warm-tempered, and kind-hearted. In her old age, when
husband and child were gone, Betty grew fond of money. She
was free-handed in happier days.
It was a shorter ride to Aviemore, in quite the other direction,
down the water; by no means so pleasant a visit. The
old servants there had for some years after their marriage gone
on most comfortably; there was no such inn upon the road;
fully furnished, neatly kept, excellent cooking, the most
attentive of landlords, all combined to raise the fame of
Aviemore. Travellers pushed on from the one side, stopped
short on the other, to sleep at this comfortable inn. Poor
Lynch! how hard she worked, how much she bore, to keep it
up to its reputation. She dearly loved her husband, and after
his failing became apparent, what she at first concealed she
continued to excuse, and after disease set in, the consequence
of perpetual drunkenness, she caught at it as the cause rather
than the effect, and watched and tended him, and did his work
as well as her own, and never once was heard to reflect upon
him.
All the years he had been with us Mackenzie had never
even been suspected of want of sobriety; he took his drams and
his punch like the rest — too much whisky was going amongst
them — but his steadiness had never been affected. At Aviemore
the poor man breathed whisky, so many travellers, drovers, and
others of that class must have the welcome - cup and the
stirrup-cup. Those that stayed the night required the cheerful
glass or bowl, the landlord of course partaking with every
one, so that in an unfortunately short space of time the landlord
learned "to love the bite" as the child did on the Milltown
muir. Quickly this craving increased, till he lost all
care for anything else. We used to see him staggering about
the stable-yard when his good wife would tell us he was too
busy to come in and ask us how we did. Latterly, when
epileptic fits and delirium tremens came on, she seemed relieved
to be able to talk of his bad health and the effect it had produced
on his intellect. She was a good creature that dear
little Mrs. Mackenzie, a proof of what a woman with a heart
can turn herself to. Her father had kept a china shop in
London, she was born and bred in the city, apprenticed to a
dressmaker and sent out as a lady's maid. My mother's was
her second place. Here she was at one end of the long moor
stretching for miles from the foot of Craigellachie across the
wild mountain range to Inverness, the business of her inn
sometimes overwhelming, sometimes slack, her stores to be
calculated and ordered from a distance, her fuel, peats which
she had to go to the moss to see prepared in immense quantity;
her plentiful housekeeping dependent on the farm requiring
her watchful management, her linen, her blankets, most of her
clothing made at home, her nearest neighbour three miles off,
children to educate, and that affliction of a husband to disturb
all. Here was worse than the backwoods, and the woman who
had to go through the toil without help, taken from a class
ignorant in the extreme of every practical detail, and used
to every comfort.
If ever I write a novel, Mrs. Mackenzie shall be the heroine.
While her children were infants she had an old, nearly blind
sister of her husband's to take care of them; on the death of
the old auntie she got a governess for them, an excellent little
woman not too fine for her place, and though there were those who
thought her "set up wi' a governess indeed," even they admitted
before long that a better plan for herself or for them could not
have been hit on. In her little odd way, with her cockney
English and her very dressy bonnets — she had sometimes
feathers in them — how much good sense her conduct showed!
She was so much respected that she was admitted on equal
terms into society much above her station. When my dear
mother got into bad health, long after this time, there was
no one she liked so much to have about her as "Lynch."
Miss Elphick returned before my father. She came by sea
to Inverness, stayed a day or two with the Coopers, and then
came on in the gig with Mr. Cooper, who had business with
William Cameron and such a dose of north country gossip for
my mother! She liked a little gossip, and she got abundance.
I like gossip too, I suppose we all do, clever gossip, but not
Mr. Cooper's: " The laird of this, his bills flying about; the
lady of that, too sharp a tongue to keep a servant. Everything
under lock and key at Glen here; open house to all comers at
Rath there. Fish bought at extravagantly high price by Mrs.
So-and-So of New Street, while the children of Some-one in
Church Lane often came to Mrs. Cooper for a 'piece.'" He
was a kind good-natured man, and his home was very happy.
Miss Elphick admired him extremely, "his coats fitted so
beautifully." She had brought for her own wear from London
a bottle-green cloth surcoat, much braided, quite military-looking,
and a regular man's hat, a Welsh style of dress she fancied
particularly becoming and suited to her, as tartans were to us,
her mother being a Welshwoman. In this guise she went in
the month of May, or June indeed, to pay her visit of condolence
to the widow at Inverdruie; a farewell on our part, Mrs.
Grant having determined to give up her farm and return to
Burnside to keep house with her very old mother and her
bachelor brother. We were coming back, and had reached the
turn in the road under the bank of fir-trees near James
Macgregor's, when a disastrous piece of news reached us.
What we called "the widows' house" at Loch-an-Eilan was
burnt to the ground.
My father had always had a turn for beautifying
Rothiemurchus with cottages; it was more that, at first, than
the wish to improve the dwellings of the people, consequently
his first attempts were guiltless of any addition to the family
comfort. A single room, thatched, with a gable end battened
down at top, like a snub nose, had been stuck on the hill at the
Polchar for the gamekeeper, on the bank at the ferry for the
boatman, at the end of the West gate as a lodge. They were
all as inconvenient as any old turf hut, and a great deal more
ugly, because more pretending.
Searching through our drawing-books for a model for the
Croft improved his ideas of cottage architecture; also, he now
better understood the wants of a household. He picked out a
number of pretty elevations, suggested the necessary changes,
and left it to Jane and me to make correct drawings and
working plans.
We had to try perhaps a dozen times before a sketch was
sufficiently good to be accepted. We became attached to the
subjects; it was no wonder that the new cottages became of
such importance to us. The West gate was the first improved.
It was lengthened by a room, heightened sufficiently to allow of
a store loft under the steep roof, the snub nose disappeared,
the heather thatch was extended by means of supporting
brackets, and a neat verandah ran along the side next the road
and round the gable end. We trained Ayrshire roses on the
walls, honeysuckle on the verandah, and we planted all sorts
of common flowers in a border between the cottage and the road.
It was a pretty cottage, particularly suited to the scenery, and
when neatly kept was one of the shows of the place.
The next attempt was the Polchar, a more ambitious one,
for there were a front and a back door, a long passage, staircase,
pantry, kitchen, parlour, and two bedrooms above. It
was very picturesque with its overhanging heather-thatched
roof, its tall chimneys, and its wide latticed windows. There
was no border of flowers, only a small grass plot and a gravel
walk, but there was an enclosed yard fronted by the dog
kennels, and a path led to a good kitchen garden laid out in a
hollow close by. Another path went down to the edge of the
first of the chain of Lochans, and on through the birch wood to
the Croft. Another path skirted these little lochs by James
Macgregor's to the fir forest — aunt Mary's walk. It was a
model for the dwelling of a Highland gamekeeper.
Next came a cottage for four aged widows; they had been
living apparently in discomfort, either alone in miserable
sheilings, far from aid in case of sickness, and on such dole as
kind neighbours gave helped by a share of the poor's box, or
in families weary enough of the burden of supporting them.
My father thought that by putting them all together he
could lodge them cheaply, that they might be of use to one
another in many ways, and that the help given to them would
go farther when less subdivided. It was a really beautiful
home that he built for them; there were the cantilever roof of
heather, the wide latticed windows, the tall chimneys, but he
made it two storeys high, and he put the staircase leading to
the upper rooms outside. It had quite a Swiss look. Sociable
as were his intentions regarding the widows, he knew too well
to make them live together except when they were inclined.
Each was to have a room and a closet for herself. Two of them
were to live on the ground floor with a separate entrance to
their apartments, one door opening from the front, the other
from the back of the house; the two above reached their
abode by the hanging staircase, a balcony landing each beside
her door-window.
We were charmed with this creation of our united fancies,
and had grand plans for suitable fittings, creeping plants, flower
borders, rustic seats, and furniture. The loch was on one hand;
the meal-mill at the foot of the Ord, with the burnie, the millrace,
a few cottages and small fields, on the other; the grey
mountains and the forest behind; all was divine but the spirit
of woman. The widows rebelled; old, smoke-dried, shrivelled-up
witches with pipes in their mouths, and blankets on their backs,
they preferred the ingle-nook in their dark, dirty, smoke-filled
huts to this picture of comfort. Stone walls were cold, light
hurt the eyes, deal floors got dirty and had to be scrubbed!
The front door complained of the outside stair, it was so much
in the way and noisy; the back door objected to entering at
the back, she had as good a right as her neighbour to the exit
of honour; her windows looked on the burn, there was no road
that way, she could see nothing; she equally detested the stairs,
though they were not near her; both ground floors said that
people going up and coming down, for ever crossing them in all
ways, forced them to spend a great deal of valuable time at the
foot of this annoyance, expostulating with the upper windows for
the ceaseless din they made. These more exalted ladies felt themselves
quite as ill used as those beneath them. Their backs were
broken carrying burdens up those weary stairs; no one could
come to see them without being watched from below. In short,
they were all in despair, agreeing in nothing but hatred of their
beautiful home. The fact is that they were not fit for it; it is
not at threescore and ten that we can alter habits and the
feelings grown out of them. It was very little understood then
where to begin, and how slowly it was necessary to go on in
order to reach the first even of the many resting-places on the
road to better ways.
The poor Captain sealed the fate of the widows' house. One
day after he had come in from his drive in the old pony phaeton
with the long-tailed black pony, somebody asking which way he
had been, he replied, "By Rothie's poorhouse at Loch-an-Eilan."
Of all things on earth this name is most repugnant to the feelings
of the Highlander; to be paraded as inmates of a recognised
almshouse was more than the pride of any clanswoman could
bear, and so it fell out that by accident the heather thatch took fire,
and although neighbours were near, and a stream ran past the
door, and the widows were all alive during the burning, active
as bees removing their effects — the stairs being no hindrance —
the flames raged on. In the morning only blackened walls
remained.
We could not help being so far uncharitable as to believe that
whether or no they had lit the spark that threw them homeless
on the world, they had at least taken no trouble to extinguish it.
My father was much annoyed at this misfortune; he would
do nothing towards any further arrangements for the comfort
of these old bodies. Perhaps they lived to repent their folly.
He did not, however, give up his building; the next cottage he
undertook was given to more grateful occupants. He had
intended it as a toy for my mother, but the amusement of
fitting it up not suiting her tastes, it was eventually made over
to us, and became one of the principal delights of our happy
Rothiemurchus life.
We will pause before describing it. Dalachapple once conversing
with my mother concerning some firm in Glasgow the
partners in which had been her acquaintance in her dancing
days, "They failed, did not they?" said she. "They paused,"
said he; and so will we.
CHAPTER XIII
1814
IN years long gone by a certain William Grant had enlisted as a
soldier and gone off to foreign parts, never to return in his
former station among his people. He rose early from the ranks,
and during a prosperous career in India won for himself fame,
and rupees to balance it. A curious kind of narrow-minded
man, he had, however, the common virtue of his race — he never
forgot his relations; in his advancement he remembered all,
none were neglected. There was a deal of good sense, too, in
the ways he took to provide for them. One brother was never
more nor less than a common soldier; we knew him as Peter the
Pensioner, on account of sixpence a day my father got him from
Greenwich, in lieu of an eye he had lost in some engagement.
He lived in one of the cottages on the Milltown muir, with a
decent wife and a large family of children, all of whom earned
their bread by labour. We had a son in the wood-work and a
daughter as kitchenmaid during the time their uncle the General
was paying a visit to us. The next brother rose to be a major,
and retiring from the army in middle life, settled on the farm of
Craggan some miles down Speyside. His two sons, educated by
the uncle, were both lieutenant-colonels before their death. The
daughter, to whom he was equally kind, he took out to India,
where she married a civilian high in the service. The rest of
his relations he left in their own place, merely befriending them
occasionally; but for his mother, when she became a widow
and wished to return to Rothiemurchus, where she was born,
he built a cottage in a situation chosen by herself, at the
foot of the Ord Bain, surrounded by birch-trees, just in front
of the old castle on the loch. Here she lived many years
very happy in her own humble way on a little pension he
transmitted to her regularly, neither "lifted up" herself by
the fortunate career of her son, nor more considered by the
neighbours in consequence. She was just the Widow Grant to
her death.
After she was gone, no one caring to live in so lonely a spot,
the cottage fell to ruin; only the walls were standing when my
father took a fancy to restore it, add to it, and make it a picture
of an English cottage home. He gave it high chimneys, gable
ends, and wide windows. Within were three rooms, a parlour,
a front kitchen boarded, and a back kitchen bricked. He hoped
my mother would have fitted it up like to her Houghton recollections
of peasant comfort, but it was not her turn. She began
indeed by putting six green-painted Windsor chairs into the
front kitchen, and hanging a spare warming-pan on the wall,
there being no bedroom in the cottage; there her labours ended.
The shutters of those cheerful rooms were seldom opened, stones
and moss lay undisturbed around its white-washed walls, hardly
any one ever entered the door; but it had a good effect in the
scenery. Coming out of the birch wood it struck every eye,
and seen from the water when we were in the boat rowing over
the loch, that single habitation amid the solitude enlivened the
landscape. We young people had the key, for it was our business
to go there on fine days to open the windows, and sometimes
when we walked that way we went in to rest. How often
we had wished it were our own, that we might fit it up to our
fancy.
This spring I was furnished with a new occupation. My
mother told me that my childhood had passed away; I was
now seventeen, and must for the future be dressed suitably to
the class "young lady" into which I had passed. Correct
measurements were taken by the help of Mrs. Mackenzie, and
these were sent to the Miss Grants of Kinchurdy at Inverness,
and to aunt Leitch at Glasgow. I was extremely pleased;
I always liked being nicely dressed, and when the various
things ordered arrived, my feelings rose to delight. My sisters
and I had hitherto been all dressed alike. In summer we wore
pink gingham or nankin frocks in the morning, white in the
afternoon. Our common bonnets were of coarse straw lined
with green, and we had tippets to all our frocks. The best
bonnets were of finer straw, lined and trimmed with white, and
we had silk spencers of any colour that suited my mother's eye.
In the winter we wore dark stuff frocks, black and red for a
while — the intended mourning for the king. At night always
scarlet stuff with bodices of black velvet and bands of the same
at the hem of the petticoat. While in England our wraps were
in pelisse form and made of cloth, with beaver bonnets; the
bonnets did in the Highlands, but on outgrowing the pelisses
they were replaced by cloaks with hoods, made of tartan spun
and dyed by Jenny Dairy, the red dress tartan of our clan,
the sett originally belonging to the Grants. Our habits were
made of the green tartan, now commonly known by our
name, and first adopted when the Chief raised the 42nd Regiment;
it was at first a rifle corps, and the bright red of the
belted plaid being too conspicuous, that colour was left out in
the tartan woven for the soldiers; thus it gradually got into
use in the clan, and still goes by the name of the Grant 42nd
tartan.
I now burst out full-blown into the following wardrobe.
Two or three gingham dresses of different colours very neatly
made with frills, tucks, flounces, etc. Two or three cambric
muslins in the same style with embroidery upon them, and one
pale lilac silk, pattern a very small check, to be worn on very
grand occasions — my first silk gown. A pink muslin and a blue
muslin for dinner, both prettily trimmed, and some clear and
some soft muslins, white of course, with sashes of different
colours tied at one side in two small bows with two very long
ends. In the bright, glossy, pale auburn hair no ornament was
allowed but natural flowers. The gowns, very much flounced
some of them, were not unlike what we wear now, only the
petticoats were scanty and the waists short, so short as to be most
extremely disfiguring. The best bonnet was white chip trimmed
with white satin and very small, very pale, blush roses, and the
new spencer was of blush-rose pink. Then there were pretty
gloves, neat shoes, silk neckerchiefs, and a parasol. Fancy my
happiness — I that had been kept so completely a child, was in
fact so young for my age! It might have turned my head but
for two or three circumstances. The drawing-room was so
dull that, after a few stately days passed there in my new
dignity, I slid back to my sisters in the schoolroom, undeterred
from pursuing such studies as I liked by the foolish sneers and
taunts of poor Miss Elphick, who, with the weak jealousy of an
inferior mind, chafed extremely at losing a pupil; and after all,
it was losing only the unlimited authority over her. Next, it
was not easy to dress myself in my finery up in my corner of
the barrack-room, and it was very difficult to carry myself and
my flounces safely down the narrow turtling stair which led to
the passage opening on the front staircase. Also, having no
wardrobe, my dresses were kept in a trunk; the one I wanted
seemed generally somehow at the bottom of it, and so troublesome
to get at.
At this time my father had taken the opportunity of a
quiet opening of the summer to take me through a short course
of mathematics. The reason for his adding this then unusual
science, or an idea of it, to his daughter's education was this.
I could never succeed in interesting my dear aunt Frere in the
improvements at Rothiemurchus. She said it was all very
proper, very necessary, quite inevitable, but not agreeable. She
liked the Highlands as she had known them — primitive, when
nobody spoke English, when all young men wore the kilt, when
printed calicoes were not to be seen, when there was no wheaten
bread to be got, when she and aunt Mary had slept in two
little closets in the old house just big enough to hold them, and
not big enough to hold any of their property, when there was
no tidy kitchen range, no kitchen even beyond the black hut,
no neat lawn, but all the work going forward about the house,
the maids in the broom island with kilted coats dancing in the
tubs upon the linen, and the laird worshipped as a divinity by
every human being in the place. The increase of comfort and
the gradual enlightenment was all very correct, but it was not
the Highlands. Old feudal affections would die out with the
old customs and the old prejudices, and that picturesque district
would become as prosaic as her meadows in Hertfordshire. To
prove to her that life could still be happier among our mountains
than elsewhere, progress notwithstanding, I thought I
would keep a journal with a regular history of our doings,
great and small, and send it to her, partly to convince her of
her error, partly to exercise my own love of scribbling, and
my pleasure in recurring thus to all I had noted with my quick
eyes and ears.
We of this sort of temperament cannot help noting down
our sensations; it is meat and drink to our busy minds, a
safety-valve to the brain, I really believe. Our descendants can
very easily put our observations in the fire should they not
value them.
Well, I had sent my journal to aunt Lissy, and she had
read it with great pleasure, and so had uncle George and uncle
Bartle, and so had my father one afternoon at Hampstead, and
he thought the young lady's wings wanted clipping! A walk
along the flow-dyke, where the plantation three feet high on
either hand had grown up during my recital, arched overhead,
concealed the sun's rays, and only here and there revealed the
opposite banks, was, though an acknowledged prevision, quite
a flight of fancy.
A salmon-fishing taking up several pages with the river and
its ripples, the leaps and pulls of the fish, the wonderful skill
of the fisherman with his rod made of sweeping broom, handle
added by himself; the crowd around, the sky overhead, a breeze
of course, cattle, nut-trees, and what not, so bewildered him
that he judged the wisest thing to be done with so imaginative
a brain was to square it a bit by rule and compass. The
necessity of proving all that was advanced step by step as we
went along, would, he believed, strengthen the understanding
sufficiently to give it power over the fancy. I do not think
he was wrong, and I grieved when the arrival of the autumn
company put a stop to our happy hours of mathematics.
A good deal of quiet gaiety took place this autumn. We had
our usual relay; Sandy Grant from Garmouth, lame James Grant,
Glenmoriston's uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Lauder, some of the Cumming
Gordons, in great glee at Edwina's marriage to Mr. Miller, Lord
Glenlee's son, and Anne Grant, Glen's sister, and her husband
Roderick Mackenzie of Flowerburn, a good-looking man, but
stupid, and as silent as his wife; during the two days they spent
with us we hardly heard the sound of either voice. Glen himself
married this same year; he and his bride were with us
nearly a week on their way to Invermoriston after the wedding.
Logie and Mrs. Cumming were not with us; Alexander was for
some time; he rode up on his pony, a fine boy, in deep mourning
for his father, who had died suddenly under painful circumstances.
A public meeting had been held at Nairn, to be followed
by a dinner; Logie was expected, and not arriving, the meeting
had to proceed without him, and so had the dinner. The
master of the hotel was a capital cook, famous for dressing
mushrooms well. This was a favourite dish of Logie's, and
Logie himself being a favourite, the landlord reserved a portion
for him, keeping it hot in the copper skillet he had cooked it
in. Logie did come, accounting in some way for his delay;
he ate the mushrooms, was taken ill, every symptom that of
poison, and he died in agony before the morning. His head was
no great loss, but his heart was, for he was kind to everybody,
and was long regretted by his neighbourhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar Brodie came as usual from Coulmonie,
she riding on her grey pony, he driving all the luggage in a gig,
flageolet included; and we went to the loch and rowed on
the water and played to the echo, and then she measured all
the rooms.
Mr. and Mrs. Cooper paid their yearly visit; the Bellevilles
came often; I do not know how many more, Dr. Gordon,
William, Sir Robert Ainslie, also Mrs. Gillio, with her pretty
little dark daughter and her Hindoo maid. She was the
daughter of Major Grant of Craggan, whom the fortunate
General William had educated and sent for to India. She had
come home with her children, and had thought it right to visit
the north. She was an excellent, sensible woman, and must
have been very pretty. She went to see all her poor relations
more than once, had brought useful presents for them, and left
a little money with them. Her Indian attendant was an amusement
to us. We made her describe her country in her broken
English, and show us how she put on her curious dress. Our
people all thought Mrs. Gillio's husband must be black too, as
she had married him in India.
Before Mrs. Gillio had left the Doune, the Marquis and
Marchioness of Huntly reached Kinrara. We gave them a few
days to settle before calling, but might have spared our delicacy,
for the following morning a great racket was heard at the ferry
close to the house, and presently the peculiar laugh of the
Marquis; soon he appeared at the window in his old shabby
shooting-dress and one of his queer hats, without gloves, calling
to my father and mother to come out, he had brought his wife
to visit them; and there she was, like another Cinderella, in a
beautiful baby phaeton drawn by four goats. The pretty
animals were harnessed with red ribbons, and at every horned
head there ran a little foot-page, these fairy steeds being rather
unruly.
The whole equipage had been brought over in our small
passenger boat. No sylph stepped out of this frail machine,
but a stout bouncing girl, not tastefully attired, and with a pale
broad face, fair — which he never liked — and stiff — which he
could not endure. He grew very fond of her, and so did I; the
rest of the family never took to her, and my father and mother
remembering her predecessor, the beautiful brilliant Duchess,
could not avoid making disadvantageous comparisons.
Kinrara too was different, a more elevated and very stupid
society, dull propriety, regularity, ceremony. There was a feast
of food, but not of reason; a flow of wine, but not of soul. I
cannot wonder that they sighed over the change and thought
with regret over the bright spirits departed.
They came and dined with us; we were alone. She was very
timid. She never had the gift of conversation; she could talk
well on a subject that interested her, and with a person she
liked, otherwise she was silent. Buonaparte would not have
chosen her for the wife of one of his marshals; she did not
shine in her reception rooms. We did not get on well at this
dinner, we ladies by ourselves in the drawing-room. I was of
no use, having only just been brought out of the schoolroom;
besides, it was not then the custom for young persons to speak
unless spoken to. At last Lady Huntly proposed music, and
on the pianoforte being opened she sat down to it to let us hear
some Swiss airs she had picked up in her travels. The first
chord was sufficient, the touch was masterly. In every style
she played well, but her Scotch music, tender or lively, was perfection.
Sir Walter Scott immortalised this delightful talent of
hers in his Halidon Hill, and she merited his highest praise. I
have never heard her surpassed or even equalled, as I do not
reckon that wonderful finger-work now in fashion as worth
listening to. Her lord, who was very little sensible of the
power of harmony, was always pleased with her music, listening
to it with evident pleasure and pride, particularly when she
gave him the reels and strathspeys he danced so well, when he
would jump up gaily and crack his fingers, and ask did any one
ever hear better playing than that.
Of course we were to dine at Kinrara, a visit the idea of
which frightened me out of my wits. I was not afraid of Lord
Huntly, I knew him well and he was my cousin besides; but
she was so stiff, and I knew there would be company, strangers,
and I had never dined out. Young people did not slide into
society then. They strode at once from pinafores, bread and
butter, and the governess, into long petticoats and their silent,
young-lady place. They did not add to the general sociability,
most of them could not; unpractised as they were in all that
was going and doing and saying, their little word would most
likely have been put in out of season. In the ordinary run of
houses company was anything but pleasant. Everybody seemed
to assume an unnatural manner; they did not follow their
customary employments; the books, and the drawings, and the
needlework were all put carefully out of sight. All were put
out of their way too by a grand fatigue day of best glass, best
china, best linen, furniture uncovered, etc., making everything
look and feel as unlike home as possible. It was not a welcome
we gave our friends, but a worry they gave us.
In great houses there were skilful servants to take all this
trouble and to prevent mistakes or fuss; in lesser houses it
was annoying. There was little of this sort of troublesome preparation
in our house, but there was a degree of formality, it
was the manner of the day; and happily and easily as we lived
with our parents when alone, or when only intimate friends
were with them, we knew we were to keep at a respectful
distance from company; it was a distasteful word, and the having
to encounter all it meant in a strange house among strangers
was far from agreeable.
After dressing myself in the blue muslin frock, with wild
roses in my hair, I should have felt more at ease had not my
mother thought it necessary to read me a lecture on proper
behaviour, so depriving me of all self-possession; I was thoroughly
uncomfortable during an evening that might have afforded me
pleasure. Lord Huntly, too, increased this agitation by calling
attention to me most unpleasantly. It was during dinner, that
great long table filled with guests, covered with plate, brilliantly
lighted, and a servant behind every chair. He was the greatest
fidget on earth. He had a set of rules for his household, any
infringement of which was visited by rigorous punishment. He
used to be up himself to call the maids in the morning, in the
kitchen at odd times to see what was doing; at no hour of the
day, or the night indeed, was the family safe from the bright
— very bright — eyes of my lord, peering here, there, and
everywhere. So during the dinner he was glancing about all
round the room, talking, laughing, apparently only intent on
being agreeable; yet he knew all that was going on at the sideboard
behind him better than Wagstaffe who presided there.
The gentlemen-sportsmen between whom I was placed found
very little to interest them in the shy replies made by a young
girl, hardly beyond childhood, to their few civil speeches. They
busied themselves elsewhere and left me to the use of my eyes,
and for them there was abundant amusement. I was accustomed
to long dinners with all their tiresome courses, therefore bore
the tedium of this very patiently. At last we reached the
"sweets," and I took some jelly; not finding a fork beside my
plate I asked my attendant for one, very gently too — I hardly
heard my own voice. But Lord Huntly heard it right well —
out he burst: "No fork for Miss Grant! A fork for Miss
Grant Rothiemurehus directly! Wagstaffe, pray who attends
to these things? Who sees the covers laid? Great inattention
somewhere! This must not happen again. Lizzy, have you
got your fork? Now for the jelly, ha! ha! ha!" How I
wished I had made shift with the spoon. I would gladly have
sunk under the table, for the storm had hushed every voice and
turned every eye on poor me. I hardly ever remember feeling
more miserable. Certainly bashfulness is very near akin to
vanity. Jane would have gone through the whole unmoved,
and would have thought Wagstaffe and suite fully deserving of
the reproof they got.
My next public appearance was much happier. It was the
house-warming at the Croft. The family had already taken
possession of the pretty new cottage, and the old had been
turned into offices. Mr. Cameron had promised us a dance to
commemorate the change; he now determined to give a dinner
first, a dinner superintended by Mrs. William, who had been
invested by her father-in-law with all power over the new
premises. The great bunch of keys was made over to her, and
poor Miss Mary, after so many years of rule, was displaced. The
comfort of the whole family was improved by this alteration.
Mrs. William was an admirable housekeeper, active, skilful,
managing, clean to a nicety, and economical without being stingy,
She had found her vocation, and her temper, naturally none of
the best, now less chafed since she had plenty to do and could
take her own way of doing it, became much easier to live with.
She paid a degree of respect to the old people that she had never
yet shown them, exerting herself particularly to make the old
lady comfortable, and though Miss Mary, piqued of course,
would wonder sometimes at the wastry when she saw the table
day after day so bountifully spread, Mr. Cameron, finding his
outgoings no larger, while his incomings were increased, and a
warm look of comfort and plenty surrounded him, soon silenced
rebellious murmurings.
My father and mother and William went to the dinner, the
rest of us followed to the tea in our favourite equipage, a cart
filled with hay. We always went in a cart to the Dell when we
could, because of the seven streams of the Druie we had to ford;
it was so charming to be close to the water and to hear ourselves
rumble over the stones; the hay prevented our being hurt
by the jolting, and plenty of plaids kept us warm. Even Miss
Elphick enjoyed this manner of visiting. We generally sang all
the way, bursting into screams of laughter when a big stone
under the wheel cut short a holding note. We had a rough
enough road to the Croft, a mere cart-track past the Fairy's
Knowe to the Moss Riachan, and so on into the birch wood.
William Cameron afterwards made a good approach to his house
by this route, admired by every one but me; I had something
of my aunt Lissy in me, and liked it all in the wild state. The
gates were all open for us — a lucky thought, as they had
no hinges; they were merely tied by two withes on one side
and one on the other, and had to be pulled back by a strong
arm.
Between parlour, kitchen, and barn we had nearly all Rothiemurchus
at the Croft house-warming; Duncan Macintosh playing
his best, his son Johnnie in tartan, and our Johnnie in his frightful
short-waisted nankin frock and trousers, dancing the fling with all
their hearts and cracking their small fingers. Old Mr. Cameron
danced too, and called for his tune The Auld Wife ayont the
Fire, and instead of kissing his partner went up and kissed the
old lady where she sat by the hearth in the old chair, and in the
bonnet and shawl and green shade as usual. We were all so
merry except her; she was neither graver nor gayer than was
her wont.
My father in laying out the new cottage had been careful of
the habits of the dear old people; a door from the common
parlour opened into the kitchen and to the family bedroom; they
had no farther to go to either apartment than they had been
used to The best parlour was quite distinct, no visitor could
"get their ways ben" without permission. The young people
and their children, and the strangers' room, were all upstairs,
with such views from the windows! Of the sort, I do not think
I know a prettier place than the Croft; so peculiar in its beauty
too, very wild, yet so lovely, the solitude around being so peaceful.
This merry dance there was the end of the old times.
Whether the old lady had caught cold when moving, or whether her
ailing frame had simply been worn out, she never seemed to thrive
after leaving the little "but and ben" she had so long lived in.
Before the winter set in Mrs. Cameron died without any suffering.
She was buried with the rest of us in the small enclosure in the
kirkyard, her husband appearing at the funeral, in the house, and
at the refreshment table, just as if it had been any other person's.
He came in to visitors afterwards with his calm manner unaltered;
there was no change in him to common eyes, nor in the proceedings
of the family. There was only her chair empty, and a
shade over his benignant countenance that never left it. Before
the spring he was laid beside her. We were far away when we
lost him. Many many years have passed since I last heard him
try Crochallan — he never touched the "trump" after his wife's
death — but I shall never forget Mr. Cameron, a real Highland
gentleman, loving us with the love of kin, teaching us all
wisdom, piety and a lively fancy glowing through his clear,
sound sense.
Before these melancholy events, we proceeded this pleasant
autumn with the usual merry-makings. There was more company
at the Doune, though I cannot remember who they were, and
there were more dinners at Kinrara, no longer formidable, and a
party at Belleville during some days, when for the first time to
my recollection I saw him whom by courtesy for many years we
continued to call young Charles Grant. Writing that once
familiar name again is pleasant to me, recalling so much that
was enjoyable, although some little that awakens regret. He
was no ordinary man, and to be so thoroughly estranged from
one who had been quite a son of the house, a dear elder brother,
is cause for grief in a world where few of us ever suit sufficiently
for intimacy. There was no fault on either part, it was
merely that our paths through life lay differently. His father
had been with us most summers; he was our county member, so
had to come to look after political interests. He was now intending,
to introduce his son to the electors against the time when he
should himself, from age or weariness, disincline to continue in
Parliament. The north country owed him much; we got canals,
roads, bridges, cadetships, and writerships in almost undue proportion.
My father, his firm friend and most useful supporter,
seldom applied in vain for anything in the old Director's power
to give. We had reason to be grateful for all his many kindnesses,
but he was never to any of us the delightful companion
that we found his son.
Young Charles was at this time deeply in love with Emilia
Cumming. She was a lovely-looking woman — not a regular
beauty, but more attractive than many handsome persons. Old
Charles Grant had reasons for forbidding a marriage between
them, and they were good ones, acquiesced in by his son, who yet
had not the resolution to avoid her society. Year after year he
dangled about her till her youth and her beauty went, and he
found absence no longer a difficulty. Neither of them married.
Mrs. Macpherson, who had known him from a child, was
really absurdly attached to him. She was anxious we should
make an agreeable impression on each other. I do not remember
that he spoke ten words to me, nor looked a second time at the
childish girl quite over-praised to him. On my part, half a look
was enough; I thought him hideous, tall, thin, yellow, grave,
with sandy hair, small light eyes, and a shy awkward manner,
though nearly as old as my father and already of some note
among clever men. These were the dear friends of after-days!
We have often laughed over our introduction.
Then came the Pitmain Tryst. It was an old custom to hold
a cattle market yearly in the month of September on a moor
between Kingussie and Pitmain. Instead of, as in Ireland, the
farmers flying about on cars to fairs, dressed in old clothes and
with bank-notes in an inside pocket, to buy a lot of beasts from
the small rearing farmers, choosing them here and there according
to their fitness for the quality of grass they are destined to
fatten on, our Highland proprietors reared large stocks of young
cattle, disposed of regularly once a year at the current price.
Belleville had a hundred cows, thus he had every year a hundred
stots, sold generally for from £7 to £8 apiece. If any died during
their period of growth he made up his number by buying from
the cottar farmers, the only way these little bodies had of disposing
of their single beast. Balnespick kept up fifty store
cows, my father thirty. There was great emulation among them
as to which reared the finest cattle. I must confess that though
my father boasted of his superior breeding, great pains being
taken to improve the stock, Belleville generally got the top price
at the Tryst. The buyers were drovers, such men as Walter
Scott most faithfully describes in Rob Roy. It was a separate
trade. The drovers bought, and paid for, and carried off their
purchase in large herds to the south, either to he privately disposed
of or resold at Falkirk for the English market.
A few substantial yeomen farmers were gradually establishing
themselves in the country, some of whom were also drovers, who
tried hard by patient industry to rival the produce of the laird's
fuller purse. They probably made more of the business in the
end. Our fine Staffa bull was choked by an uncut turnip. His
price swallowed up a deal of profit.
After the market in the morning, there was a dinner in the
evening, drovers, farmers, and lairds all meeting in the large
room at Pitmain to enjoy the best good cheer the county
afforded. Lord Huntly presided, and sent a stag from Gaick
forest. My father was croupier, and very grand speeches he and
others made after the punch began to circulate.
This year it was proposed that the ladies should be invited
to shine on the assemblage — not at the dinner, but to prepare
tea in another room, which would break up the punch party
earlier, and allow of the larger apartment being meanwhile prepared
for dancing. Both Lord Huntly and my father were promoters
of this sort of mixed meeting, so consonant to the spirit
of feudalism still cherished throughout our mountains. They
themselves were the life and soul of such gatherings, courteous
to all, gay in manner, and very gallant to the fair. The ball was
received with much favour, and in future always followed the
Tryst, doing more in the way of improving the country than any
one at first sight would suppose. Besides the renewal of intercourse
between the ranks, leading to a continuance of kind
feeling, a sort of stimulus was given to the spirits of those whom
Belleville called the bodies. They had hardly finished talking over
the pleasure of the one meeting before the preparations for the
next had to be begun. Husbands were proud of producing
handsome wives nicely dressed; mothers looked forward to
bringing with them pretty daughters to be introduced to grander
friends. The dress and the manners of the higher portion of the
company had a sensible effect on the lower. Mrs. John Macnab's
first cap was greatly moderated on her second appearance, and
Janet Mitchell's boisterous dancing fined down into a not
unbecoming sprightliness of movement.
All this is over now. The few grandees shut themselves up
rigorously in their proud exclusiveness. Those who could have
perpetuated a better tone are gone, their places know them no
more. Our former wise occasional reunions are matters of
history; each section appears now to keep apart, unnoticed by
the class above, and in turn not noticing the class below.
Lady Huntly did not do her part with all the charming
kindness of her lord. She kept up at the head of the room
among her own Kinrara guests, laughing so frequently that
nothing could persuade the Laggan and Badenoch farmers that
she was not ridiculing them. Her dancing did not quite redeem
her character, though it was good, in the old reel and strathspey
style. The sort of thing did not suit her, it was plain her being
there at all was an effort.
The Lady Belleville was known of old to keep herself very
distant, but she was a Southron, and little was expected from
her. She sat up in her big red turban amid the great, and there
she, and such as she, were allowed to sit; all the rest of the room
were in high glee, dancing, old and young, almost without
a rest.
One of the ladies most in repute as a partner was a very old
Mrs. Macintosh of Borlam, who lived in the village of Kingussie
with her daughter, the widow of a Major Macpherson, and a
comely widow too. The Leddy Borlam was said to be not far
from ninety years of age, upright, active, slender, richly dressed
for her station, and with a pleasant countenance. Her handsome
silks caused many a sly remark. She was the widow of a
celebrated freebooter whom Sir Thomas Lauder endeavoured to
portray as "Lochandhu." There were many tales current of his
doings in our part of the country. A cave he hid his treasures
in was still open on the hill at Belleville, for he did not deal in
black cattle only; no traveller was safe when Borlam wanted.
His wife was said to have been frequently occupied in picking
out the marks in the fine holland ruffled shirts it was his
especial coxcombry to appear in, and it was more than whispered
that he had given her braws enough to last beyond a lifetime;
seemingly a true suspicion, for the Lady Borlam's silks would
stand alone, and she had plenty of them. With them she wore
the Highland mutch (the high clear cap of fine muslin, trimmed,
in her case with Flanders lace), and then, calm as a princess, she
moved about in her ill-gotten gear. She was a wonderful old
woman, keen, merry, kindly, and as cute as an Irishwoman, never
tripping in her talk, or giving the remotest hint of the true
character of her lamented husband.
I found amongst the Kinrara guests at the Pitmain Tryst
our old Arklow Place friend Colonel Thornton, he who had
taught us all waltzing, and Mr. Orby Hunter, and Mr. Lane
Fox, names afterwards brought more prominently before the
public.
The Northern Meeting was to all of our degree as important
a gathering as was the Badenoch Tryst to our humbler acquaintance.
It had been set agoing soon after my birth by her who
was the life of all circles she entered, the Duchess of Gordon.
She had persuaded all the northern counties to come together
once a year about the middle of October, and spend the better
part of a week at Inverness. There were dinners and balls in
the evenings; the mornings were devoted to visiting neighbouring
friends and the beautiful scenery abounding on all sides.
She had always herself taken a large party there, and done her
utmost to induce her friends to do likewise — stray English being
particularly acceptable, as supposed admirers of our national
beauties! while enacting the part of lion themselves. No one
with equal energy had replaced her; still, the annual meeting
went on, bringing many together who otherwise might not have
become acquainted, renewing old intimacies, and sometimes
obliterating old grudges.
New dresses had come for my decoration, and beautiful flowers
chosen by dear Annie Grant, her last kind office for a while for
any of us. There were white muslin with blue trimmings, shoes
to match, and roses; white gauze, pink shoes and trimmings,
and hyacinths; pearl-grey gauze and pink, and a Bacchus wreath
of grapes and vine leaves, for we had three balls, dinners before
the first two, and a supper after the last. With what delight I
stepped into the barouche which was to carry us to this scene of
pleasure! I had no fears about partners, Pitmain had set me
quite at ease on that score. We went through the ford at
Inverdruie, every one we met bidding us godspeed, and looking
after us affectionately — for it was an era in the annals of the
family, this coming out of Miss Grant — and we stopped at Aviemore
to have a few pleasant words with Mrs. Mackenzie, It had
been a beautiful drive so far, all along by the banks of the Spey,
under the shade of the graceful birch-trees, the well-wooded rock of
Craigellachie rising high above us to the left after we had crossed
the river. Just at the foot of this, our beacon-hill, there lies,
quite close to Aviemore, a little loch shrouded in the wood, and
full of small sweet trout, which during the earthquake at Lisbon
was strangely agitated, dashing about in its small basin in a way
not soon to be forgotten. It is the last bit of beauty on the
road for many a long mile. A bare moor, with little to mark on
it or near it, leads on to the lonely inn at Freeburn, a desolate
dirty inn, where never was found a fire, or anything comfortable.
A short way from this abode of despair, a fine valley far below
opens on the view, containing a lake of some extent, the banks
artificially wooded, a good stretch of meadowland, and a new
house built by the Laird of Mackintosh, the Chief of his Clan,
"my uncle Sir Eneas." The planting was then so young that
even in that wilderness this solitary tract of cultivation was
hardly worthy of much praise. Later on it grew into a fine place
— roads were made, and shrubberies and gardens, and the trees
grew to a goodly size, but the succeeding Mackintosh did not live
there; he preferred Divie Castle near Inverness, and Moy, the
ancient residence of his family, was let to sportsmen. From
Freeburn the moor extends again, another dreary waste till we
reached a wild scene I always admired. The Findhorn, an unsheltered,
very rocky stream, rises somewhere beyond the ken
of travellers, and tumbles on through a gully whose high banks
give only an occasional glimpse of fair plains far off: A new
road has been engineered along the sides of this "pass of the
wild boars," Slochd Mor, thought a wonder of skill when
viewed beside the narrow precipitous pathway tracked out by
General Wade, up and clown which one could scarcely be made
to believe a carriage, with people sitting in it, had ever attempted
to pass. My mother had always walked those two or three
miles, or the greater part of them, the new route not having
been completed till some years after her marriage. A third now
puts to shame that much-praised second, and the planting, the
cottages with gardens, and the roadside inns have all given a
different character to this once bare region. There is no change,
however, near Inverness; there could be no improvement. It
breaks upon the eye weary of the monotony of the journey as a
fairy scene on drawing up a curtain. On rising the hill at the
Kirk of Divie — where the curious belfry is ever so far from
this desolate place of worship — the whole of the Moray Firth,
with the bounding Ross-shire hills, the great plain of Culloden,
Loch Ness, the mountains beyond that fine sheet of water, the
broad river, and one of the prettiest of towns scattered about its
banks just as it meets the sea, open before wondering eyes.
That vale of beauty must have been a surprise to the first discoverer
— no Roman; their legions crept along the coast to reach
their fort at Euchlass, they never tried the Grampians.
We put up at Mr. Cooper's good house in Church Street,
where we were made very welcome and very comfortable; and
being tired with our day's work, we enjoyed a quiet evening
with Mrs. Cooper and her girls. We had come purposely the
day before the first ball for the rest. The next morning I was
sent with some of the children to Castle Hill, a very pretty farm
of Mr. Cooper's three miles from Inverness. We came back in
time for me to get my toilette laid out ready, and my mother's
too, with help, and to have my hair dressed by Mr. Urquhart.
Probably all young girls have felt once in their lives, at least,
as I felt on mounting the broad, handsome staircase of the
Northern Meeting rooms on my father's arm. The hall was well
lit, the music sounded joyously, and my heart beat so high, it
might have been seen to palpitate! My mother and I passed
into a suite of waiting-rooms, where poor Peggy Davidson's aunt
attended to take care of the wraps, then rejoining my father we
entered, through the large folding-doors, our fine assembly
rooms. All was noise and blaze and mob. I could neither see
nor hear distinctly. A pleasant voice sounded near, it was Glenmoriston's;
he was there with his wife, and his sisters, and her
sisters, and their husbands and cousins, a whole generation of us.
A little farther on we encountered relations I did not know,
Colonel and Mrs. Rose of Holme, just returned from India; she
was a little plain woman loaded with diamonds; he was delightful,
although he did introduce to me a very ugly small, pock-marked
man, the captain of the Indiaman who brought them
home, and with this remarkable partner I joined the long country
dance then forming. My captain danced well; he was very
pleasant too, and much amused at the shaking of hands that
took place between me and half the room. We were really
acquainted with almost everybody, and of kin to a great
number.
Lord and Lady Huntly were there with a large party. Old
Lady Saltoun ditto, dancing away in an open frock almost as
lightly as her pretty daughter Eleanor, who afterwards married
young Mr. Grant of Arndilly — and she near eighty. Charlotte
Rose, now Lady Burgoyne, was very pretty, and danced beautifully;
but the beauties of the room, I thought, were the two Miss
Duffs of Muirtown — tall, graceful girls with a pensive air that
made them very attractive. My next partner was Culduthel —
poor Culduthel! — a fine, gay, good-natured, rattling young man.
Then Lord Huntly in a reel vis-à-vis to his wife, then Sir Francis
Mackenzie of Gairloch, then one or two of the Kinrara gentlemen,
and all the rest of the evening Applecross — Mackenzie of Applecross,
the last of his clever line. He was the catch of the north
country from the extent of his property, and though very plain,
sickly, and no great use as a dancing partner, he would have
been, without a penny, a catch for any one worthy of him.
Had he lived, he would have ably filled his position, but he and
his only sister both died of consumption a few years after this,
and before their parents. A writer in Edinburgh, with a large
family, succeeded to that fine Ross-shire property.
Mr. Cooper told us at breakfast that my first appearance had
been a decided success. I was perfectly aware of it, and not one
hit elated, though my mother was, and her maternal anxieties
had gone farther than mine; I had stopped at abundance of
dancing.
This evening's ball was pleasanter than the first; the third
and last, with the supper, was best of all, even in spite of a drawback.
Every joy has its attendant sorrow, every rose its thorn,
and I had the persevering assiduities of a good-natured and rather
vulgar person quite unable to see that his company was disagreeable.
In no way could I escape two or three dances with this
persistent young man, to my extreme annoyance, and, as it
seemed to me, the unreasonable amusement of my new friend,
Mr. Mackenzie of Applecross.
The mornings had hung heavy to many, but not to me.
Most people lounged about the narrow ill-paved streets, paid
each other visits, or congregated in our northern emporium of
fashion, Mr. Urquhart the hairdresser's shop. My father took
my mother, Mrs. Cooper, one of the girls, and me for charming
drives in several directions; it was impossible to turn amiss, the
whole surrounding scenery is so enchanting. We had visitors
too, people calling early, before luncheon; Mrs. Rose of Kilravock,
the dowager, was one of them. An extraordinary woman,
once a beauty and still a wit, who was matronising two elderly
young ladies, West Indians of large fortunes, and amusing them
and every one else with her clever eccentricities and tales of her
brilliant youth. She had been often at Kinrara in former days
with Jacky Gordon, the particular friend of the Duchess.
It was after our return home that Mrs. Cameron of the Croft
died.
CHAPTER XIV
1814-1815
I HAVE always looked on my appearance at the Inverness
Meeting as the second era in my life, although at the time I
was hardly aware of it. Our removal to the Highlands, our
regular break-in under the governess, the partial opening of
young minds, had all gone on in company with Jane, who was
in many respects more of a woman than I who was by three
years her elder. I was now to be alone, my occupations, habits,
ideas were all to be different from, indeed repudiated by, the
schoolroom. Miss Elphick thought me — and she was right —
a year too young for the trials awaiting me, for which I was in
no way prepared. She was annoyed at not having been consulted
as to the fitness of her pupil for commencing life on her
own account, and so she would neither help my inexperience
nor allow me to take shelter under my usual employments.
I felt very lonely wandering about by myself, or seated in
state in the library, with no one to speak to. My mother was
little with me, her hours were late, her habits indolent; besides,
she never much cared for me, and she was busily engaged with
my father revolving several serious projects for the good of
the family, none of them proper for us to be acquainted with
till they were decided on.
My father's Scotch friends were anxious that he should
return to their Bar, and the state of his affairs, though none of us
young people knew it, rendered some such step necessary. Also
my brother William had to look for a home while he remained
in college. Mrs. Gordon had had another baby, and in her
small house there was no longer room for a lodger. Then there
was the beautiful daughter! The pale thin girl had blossomed
into beauty, and hopes were raised of the consequences of her
being seen beyond the wilderness she had hitherto bloomed in.
So Edinburgh was decided on, and Grace Baillie was written
to, to engage us a house.
When we went to take leave of Mr. Cameron, he followed
us down to the gate at the Lochan Mor; and there laying a
hand on each young head, he bade God bless us with a fervour
we recollected afterwards, and felt that he must have considered
it as a final parting. Then wrapping his plaid round him and
drawing his bonnet down over his eyes, he turned and moved
away through the birch wood. He died during the winter,
upwards of seventy-eight, young for a Highlander. Rothiemurchus
altered after all that old set were gone.
We were in great glee over our preparations for Edinburgh,
when one night we got a fright; one of the chimneys in the old
part of the house took fire, a common occurrence — it was the
way they were frequently cleaned! but on this occasion the
flames communicated some sparks to a beam in the nearest
ceiling, and soon part of the roof was in flames. None of us
being in bed the house was soon roused, the masons sent for,
and a plentiful supply of water being at hand all danger was
soon over. My mother was exceedingly frightened, could not
be persuaded to retire to her room, and kept us all near her to
be ready for whatever might befall. At last, when calmer, we
missed Miss Elphick; she was not to be found, and we feared
some mischance had happened to her. After a good search she
was discovered as far from the house as she could well get,
dancing about on the lawn in her night-dress, without a shoe or
a stocking on her; by which crazy proceeding she caught so
severe a cold as was nearly the death of her. Jane said the
whole scene made a beautiful picture, and while the rest of us
were trembling for the fate of the poor old house, she was
admiring the various groups as they moved about in the
flickering light of the blazing chimney.
We had no more adventures before we started on our
journey, nor any incidents deserving of notice during our three
days' travel, save indeed one, the most splendid bow from my
odious partner, who, from the top of the Perth coach as it
passed us, almost prostrated himself before the barouche. It
was cold wretched weather, snow on the hills, frost in the
plains, a fog over the ferry. We were none of us sorry to find
ourselves within the warm cheerful house that Miss Baillie had
taken for us, No. 4 Heriot Row. The situation was pleasant,
though not at all what it is now. There were no prettily laid-out
gardens then between Heriot Row and Queen Street, only
a long strip of unsightly grass, a green, fenced by an untidy
wall and abandoned to the use of the washerwomen. It was an
ugly prospect, and we were daily indulged with it, the cleanliness
of the inhabitants being so excessive that, except on Sundays
and "Saturdays at e'en," squares of bleaching linens and
lines of drying ditto were ever before our eyes. Our arrival
was notified to our acquaintance and the public by what my
father's brethren in the law called his advertisement, a large
brass plate on which in letters of suitable size were engraved
the words —
MR. GRANT, ADVOCATE.
My father established himself with a clerk and a quantity
of law-books in a study, where he soon had a good deal of work
to do. He went every morning to the Parliament-house, breakfasting
before nine to suit William, who was to be at Dr.
Hope's chemistry class at that hour, and proceed thence to
Dr. Brown's moral philosophy, and then to Mr. Playfair's
natural philosophy. A tutor for Greek and Latin awaited him
at home, and in the evenings he had a good three hours' employment
making notes and reading up. Six masters were
engaged for us girls, three every day Mr. Penson for the
pianoforte, M. Elouis for the harp, M. L'Espinasse for
French, Signor something for Italian, and Mr. I forget who
for drawing, Mr. Scott for writing and ciphering, and oh! I
was near forgetting a seventh, the most important of all, Mr.
Smart for dancing. I was to accompany my father and mother
occasionally to a few select parties, provided I promised attention
to this phalanx of instructors, and never omitted being up
in the morning in time to make breakfast. It was hoped that
with Miss Elphick to look after us, such progress would be
made as would make this a profitable season for everybody.
An eye over all was certainly wanted. My mother breakfasted
in bed, and did not leave her room till mid-day. The marketing
was made by Gonard, all the orders given the day before. As
I was not welcome in the schoolroom, my studies were carried on
in the drawing-rooms, between the hours of ten, when breakfast
was over, and one, when people began to call. It was just an hour
for each master, and very little spare time at any other period
of the day, invitations flowing in quick, resulting in an eternal
round of gaieties that left us no quiet evening except Sunday.
About two o'clock every day my mother went out either on
foot or in the carriage, taking me with her. On our return
about four the drawing-room filled with men, who at about that
time were free from their various avocations to indulge themselves
with a pleasant hour before dinner. After the first week
or two, therefore, I gave up attempting to prepare for the
masters, and when the balls began I had even sometimes to
miss their lessons, as the late hours and the fatigue of dancing
exhausted me too much to make it possible for me to attend
them regularly. The only lessons I never neglected were Mr.
Penson's. He brought his violin to accompany us, and now and
then a violoncello, so that we got up trios occasionally, a delightful
treat to me without trouble, for I had not leisure for practising,
and just played at sight with him what he brought. Jane
and Mary were kept more systematically to their business, yet
Jane having to make breakfast after a while, rather interrupted
the studies and annoyed Miss Elphick. She found her evenings
dull too, and she could not bear dining early with the children.
She was ill too, had a teasing cough and other bad symptoms
from the effects of the cold she caught during her dance upon
the lawn. She became so cross and disagreeable that the whole
household was relieved when she announced her determination
to take a holiday. She could be well spared, she said, when
there were such excellent masters to replace her, and so she set
off on a visit to her mother.
On Miss Elphick's departure my mother's maid was deputed
to walk out once a day with Jane, Mary, and Johnnie. Jane
taught Johnnie, and she and Mary continued their own employments
conscientiously. At first, they said, they found the days
long and the evenings dull, but their complaints ceasing, my
mother concluded they had become accustomed to live alone.
Then they had to make tea for William, always a kind and
cheerful companion for them. The real fact was, that whenever
my father was out with my mother and me, William had
a very pleasant party at home — young college friends, and M.
L'Espinasse the French master. Each visitor brought a small
supply of fruit or cakes, and Jane had plenty of tea, sugar,
and bread and butter for the substantial part of the feast.
There were two good rules observed by this assemblage, no
intoxicating liquor was allowed, and the company separated
before eleven o'clock. No wonder Miss Elphick's absence was
agreeable!
Our visiting began with dinners from the heads of the Bar,
the Judges, some of the Professors, and a few others, nearly
all Whigs, for the two political parties mixed very little in
those days. The hour was six, the company generally numbered
sixteen, plate, fine wines, middling cookery, bad attendance
and beautiful rooms. One or two young people generally
enlivened them. They were mostly got through before the
Christmas vacation. In January began the routs and balls;
they were over by Easter, and then a few more sociable meetings
were thinly spread over the remainder of the spring, when,
having little else to do, I began to profit by the lessons of our
masters. My career of dissipation was therefore but four
months thrown away. It left me, however, a wreck in more
ways than one; I was never strong, and I was quite unequal
to all we went through. Mrs. Macpherson, who came up with
Belleville in March for a week or two, started when she saw
me, and frightened my mother about me. She had observed no
change, as of course it had come imperceptibly. She had been
surprised and flattered by my success in our small world of
fashion. I was on the list of beauties; it was intoxicating,
but not to me, young and unformed as I was, and unused to
admiration, personal beauty being little spoken of in the family.
I owed my steadiness neither to native good sense nor to wise
counsel. A happy temper, a genuine love of dancing, a little
Highland pride that took every attention as due to my Grant
blood, these were my safeguards.
The intimate friends of my father were among the cleverest
of the Whigs; Lord Gillies and his charming wife, John Clerk
and his sister, Sir David and Lady Brewster — more than suspected
of Toryism, yet admitted on account of the Belleville
connection and his great reputation — Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey,
John Murray, Tommy Thomson, William Clerk. There were
others attached to these brighter stars, who, judiciously mixed
among them, improved the agreeability of the dinner-parties;
Lady Molesworth, her handsome sister Mrs. Munro, Mrs. Stein,
Lady Arbuthnot, Mrs. Grant of Kilgraston, etc. We had had
the wisdom to begin the season with a ball ourselves, before
balls were plenty. All the beaux strove for tickets, because
all the belles of the season made their first appearance at it.
It was a decided hit, my mother shining in the style of her
preparations, and in her manner of receiving her company.
Every one departed pleased with the degree of attention paid
to each individually.
It struck me afterwards, in more reflecting days, that this
ball and my father's fir-forest had no small share in my successful
campaign, for my sister beauties were many of them far
beyond any good looks I could pretend to.
There were the two unmarried Dennistouns, afterwards Lady
Campbell and Lady Baillie, Miss Farquhar Gray who became
Mrs. Ashburner, a really beautiful Miss Logan, the splendid
Miss Dewar of Vogrie, and several other pretty pleasing girls,
who as usual married better than the more admired. Yet we
none of us wanted for lovers, honest, earnest lovers, men who
a few years later might have been listened to by the scornful
fair who in the height of their pride considered them just good
enough to dance with. It is a great mistake to speak too soon.
The return to the Bar had answered pretty well; fees came
in usefully. We gave dinners of course, very pleasant ones,
dishes well dressed, wines well chosen, and the company well
selected. My dress and my mother's came from London, from
the little Miss Stewarts, who covered my mother with velvet,
satin, and rich silks, and me with nets, gauzes, Roman pearl
trimmings and French wreaths, with a few substantial morning
and dinner dresses. Some of the fashions were curious. I
walked out like a hussar in a dark cloth pelisse trimmed with
fur and braided like the coat of a staff-officer, boots to match,
and a fur cap set on one side, and kept on the head by means
of a cord with long tassels. This equipment was copied by
half the town, it was thought so exquisite.
We wound up our gaieties by a large evening party, so that
all received civilities were fully repaid to the entire satisfaction
of everybody.
This rout, for so these mere card and conversation parties
were called, made more stir than was intended. It was given
in the Easter holidays, or about that time, for my father was
back with us after having been in London. He had gone
up on some appeal cases, and took the opportunity of
appearing in his place in the House of Commons, speaking a
little, and voting on several occasions, particularly on the Corn
Law Bill, his opinion on which made him extremely unpopular
with the Radical section of his party, and with the lower
orders throughout the country, who kept clamouring for cheap
bread, while he supported the producer, the agriculturist.
His name as a Protectionist was remarked quickly in Edinburgh
where there was hardly another member of Parliament to be
had, and the mob being in its first excitement the very evening
of my mother's rout, she and her acquaintance came in for a
very unpleasant demonstration of its anger against a former
favourite.
Our first intimation of danger was a volley of stones
rattling through the windows, which had been left with unclosed
shutters on account of the heat of the crowded rooms.
A great mob had collected unknown to us, as we had music,
and much noise from the buzz of conversation. By way of
improving matters, a score of ladies fainted. Lady Matilda
Wynyard, who had her senses always about her, came up to
my mother and told her not to be frightened; the General, who
had had some hint of the mischief, had given the necessary
orders, and one of the company, a Captain Macpherson, had
been already despatched for the military. A violent ringing
of the door bell, and then the heavy tread of soldiers' feet
announced to us that our guard had come. Then followed
voices of command outside, ironical cheers, groans, hisses, a
sad confusion. At last came the tramp of dragoons, under
whose polite attentions the company in some haste departed.
Our guard remained all night and ate up the refreshments
provided for our dismayed guests, with the addition of a cold
round of beef which was fortunately found in the larder.
Next day quiet was restored, the mob molested us no more,
and the incident served as conversation for a week or more.
About this time I got a good lesson in this wise. We had a
party of rather noted people coming to dine with us. William
Cameron, after his good father's death, and Mr. Cooper arrived
on some business in town. In Highland fashion they announced
having merely ordered beds at an hotel, sure of a welcome at
all meals with us. My mother wanted to tell them we had
company and the table full; my father said no; he would
hurt no one's feelings, they were fully entitled to a place at
his board, let who would be invited to it. So a leaf was
added; they were made extremely happy by eating with men
whose names were before the world, and the celebrated guests
were so charmed with new listeners to their witticisms that
their conversation sparkled with unusual brilliancy. No
dinner ever went off better, and my mother was perfectly
satisfied.
The last large party of the season was given by Grace
Bane in her curious apartments on the ground floor of an old-fashioned
corner house in Queen Street. The rooms being
small and ill-furnished, she hit upon a strange way of arranging
them. All the doors were taken away, all the movables
carried off, the walls were covered with evergreens, through
the leaves of which peeped the light of coloured lamps
festooned about with garlands of coarse paper flowers. Her
passages, parlours, bedrooms, cupboards, were all adorned en
suite, and in odd corners were various surprises intended for the
amusement of the visitors; a cage of birds here, a stuffed figure
in a bower there, water trickling over mossy stones into an
ivy-covered basin, a shepherdess, in white muslin a wreath of
roses and a crook, offering ices, a Highland laddie in a kilt presenting
lemonade, a cupid with cake, a gipsy with fruit, intricacies
contrived so that no one might easily find a way
through them, while a French horn, or a flute, or a harp from
different directions served rather to delude than to guide the
steps "in wandering mazes lost." It was very ridiculous, and
yet the effect was pretty, and the town so amused by the
affair that the wits did it all into rhyme, and half-a-dozen
poems were written upon this Arcadian entertainment, describing
the scenes and the actors in it in every variety of
style. Sir Alexander Boswell's was the cleverest, because so
neatly sarcastic. My brother's particular friend wrote the
prettiest. In all, we beauties were enumerated with flattering
commendation, but in the friend's the encomium on me was so
marked that it drew the attention of all our acquaintance,
and unluckily for me opened my mother's eyes.
She knew enough of my father's embarrassments to feel
that my "early establishment" was of importance to the
future well-being of the rest of us. She was not sure of the
Bar and the House of Commons answering together. She
feared another winter in Edinburgh might not come, or might
not be a gay one, a second season be less glorious than the
first. She had been delighted with the crowd of admirers,
but she had begun to be annoyed at no serious result following
all these attentions. She counted the admirers, there was no
scarcity of them, there were eligibles among them. How had
it come that they had all slipped away?
Poor dear mother! while you were straining your eyes
abroad, it never struck you to use them at home. While you
slept so quietly in the mornings you were unaware that others
were awake; while you dreamed of Sheffield gold, and Perthshire
acres, and Ross-shire principalities, the daughter you
intended to dispose of for the benefit of the family had been
left to enter upon a series of sorrows which she never during
the whole of her after-life recovered from the effects of.
It is with pain — the most extreme pain — that I even now
in my old age revert to this unhappy passage of my youth. I
was wrong; my own version of my tale will prove my errors;
but at the same time I was wronged — ay, and more sinned
against than sinning. I would pass the matter over if I could,
but unless I related it you would hardly understand my altered
character; you would see no reason for my doing and not
doing much that had been better either undone or done
differently. You would wonder without comprehending, accuse
without excusing; in short, you would know me not.
Therefore, with as much fairness as can be expected from
feelings deeply wounded and ill-understood, I will recall the
short romance which changed all things in life to me.
The first year William was at college he made the acquaintance
of a young man a few years older than himself,
son of one of the professors. His friend was tall, dark, handsome,
engaging in his manners, agreeable in conversation, and
considered to possess abilities worthy of the talented race to
which he belonged. The Bar was to be his profession, more
by way of occupation for him in the meanwhile than for any
need he would have to practise law for a livelihood. He was
an only son, his father was rich, his mother had been an heiress,
and he was the heir of an old, nearly bedrid bachelor uncle
who possessed a landed property on the banks of the Tweed.
Was it fair, when a marriage was impossible, to let two
young people pass day after day for months together? My
brother, introduced by his friend to the professor's family during
the first year he was at college, soon became intimate in the
house. The father was very attentive to him, the mother
particularly liked him, the three sisters, none of them quite
young, treated him as a relation. William wrote constantly of
them, and talked so much about them when at the Doune for
the summer vacation that we rallied him perpetually on his
excessive partiality, my mother frequently joining in our good-humoured
quizzing. It never struck us that on these occasions
my father never entered into our pleasantry.
When we all removed to Edinburgh William lost no time
in introducing his friend to us; all took to him; he was my
constant partner, joined us in our walks, sat with us in the
morning, was invited frequently, and sometimes asked to stay
for the family dinner. It never entered my head that his
serious attentions would be disagreeable, nor did it enter my
mother's, I believe, that such would ever grow out of our
brother-and-sister intimacy. I made acquaintance with the
sisters and exchanged calls as young ladies did then in Edinburgh;
and then I first thought it odd that the seniors of each
family, so particularly obliging as they were to the junior
members of each other's households, made no move towards
an acquaintance on their own parts. The gentlemen, much
occupied with their affairs, were excusable, but the ladies —
what could prevent the common forms of civility between
them? I had by this time become shy of making any remarks
on them, but Jane, who had marvelled too, asked my mother
the question. My mother's answer was quite satisfactory.
She was the latest comer, it was not her place to call first on
old residents. I had no way of arriving at the reasons on the
other side, but the fact of the non-intercourse annoyed me, and
caused me frequently a few moments more of thought than I
was in the habit of indulging in. Then came Miss Baillie's
fête, and the poem in which I figured so gracefully. It was in
every mouth, for in itself it was a gem. No but a lover
could have mingled so much tenderness with his admiration.
On the poet's next visit my mother received him coldly.
At our next meeting she declined his attendance. At the next
party she forbade my dancing with him: "after the indelicate
manner in which he had brought my name before the public
in connection with his own, it was necessary to meet such
forwardness with a reserve that would keep his presumption
at a proper distance." I listened in silence, utterly dismayed,
and might have submitted sorrowfully and patiently, but she
went too far. She added that she was not asking much of me,
for "this disagreeable young man had no attaching qualities;
he was not good-looking, nor well-bred, nor clever, nor much
considered by persons of judgment, and certainly by birth no
way the equal of a Grant of Rothiemurchus!"
I left the room, flew to my own little attic (what a comfort
that corner all to myself was then!), I laid my head upon my
bed, vainly trying to keep back the tears. The words darted
through my brain, "all false, quite false — what can it be? what
will become of us?" Long I stayed there till a new turn took
me, the turn of unmitigated anger. Were we puppets, to be
moved about by strings? Were we supposed to have neither
sense nor feeling? Was I so poor in heart as to be able to
like to-day, to loathe to-morrow? so deficient as to be incapable
of seeing with my own eyes? This long familiar
intimacy permitted, then suddenly broken upon false pretences!
"They don't know me," thought I; alas! I did not know
myself. To my mother throughout that memorable day I
never articulated one syllable. My father was in London.
My first determination was to see my poet and inquire of
him whether he were aware of any private enmity between
our houses. Fortunately he also had decided on seeking an
interview with me in order to find out what it was that my
mother had so suddenly taken amiss in him. Both so resolved,
we made the meeting out, and a pretty Romeo and Juliet
business it ended in.
There was an ancient feud, a college quarrel between our
fathers which neither had ever made a movement to forgive.
It was more guessed at from some words his mother had
dropped than clearly ascertained, but so much he had too late
discovered, that a more intimate connection would be as distasteful
to the one side as to the other.
We were young, we were very much in love, we were hopeful;
life looked so fair, it had been latterly so happy, we could
conceive of no old resentments between parents that would not
yield to the welfare of their children. He remembered that
his father's own marriage had been an elopement followed by
forgiveness and a long lifetime of conjugal felicity. I recollected
my mother telling me of the Montague and Capulet feud
between the Neshams and the Ironsides, how my grandfather had
sped so ill for years in his wooing, and how my grandmother's
constancy had carried the day, and how all parties had "as
usual" been reconciled. Also when my father had been reading
some of the old comedies to us, and hit upon the Clandestine
Marriage, though he affected to reprobate the conduct of
Miss Fanny, his whole sympathy was with her and her
friend Lord Ogleby, so that he leaned very lightly on her error:
He would laugh so merrily too at the old ballads, "Whistle
and I'll come to ye, my lad," "Low doun i' the broom," etc.
These lessons had made quite as much impression as more
moral ones. So, reassured by these arguments, we agreed to
wait, to keep up our spirits, to be true to each other, and to
trust to the chapter of accidents.
In all this there was nothing wrong, but a secret correspondence
in which we indulged was certainly not right. We
knew we should meet but seldom, never without witnesses, and
I had not the resolution to refuse the only method left us of
softening our separation. One of these stray notes from him
to me was intercepted by my mother, and some of the expressions
employed were so startling to her that in a country like
Scotland, where so little constitutes a marriage, she almost
feared we had bound ourselves sufficiently to cause considerable
annoyance, to say the least of it. She therefore consulted Lord
Gillies as her confidential adviser, and he had a conference with
Lord Glenlee, the trusted lawyer on the other side, and then
the young people were spoken to, to very little purpose.
What passed in the other house I could only guess at from
after-circumstances. In ours, Lord Gillies was left by my
mother in the room with me; he was always gruff, cold, short
in manner, and no favourite with me, he was therefore ill
selected for the task of inducing a young lady to give up her
lover. I heard him respectfully, of course, the more so as he
avoided all blame of either of us, neither did he attempt to
approve of the conduct of our elders; he restricted his arguments
to the inexperience of youth, the insurmountable aversion
of the two fathers, the cruelty of severing family ties,
dividing those who had hitherto lived lovingly together, the
indecorum of a woman entering a family which not only would
not welcome her, but the head of which repudiated her. He
counselled me, by every consideration of propriety, affection,
and duty, to give "this foolish matter up."
"Ah, Lord Gillies," thought I, "did you give up Elizabeth
Carnegie? did she give you up? When you dared not meet
openly, what friend abetted you secretly?" I wish I had had
the courage to say this, but I was so abashed, so nervous, that
words would not come I was silent.
To my mother I found courage to say that I had heard no
reasons which would move me to break the word solemnly
given, the troth plighted, and could only repeat that we were
resigned to wait.
Lord Glenlee made as little progress; he had had more of
a storm to encounter, indignation having produced eloquence.
Affairs therefore remained at a standstill. The fathers kept
aloof — mine indeed was still in London; but the mothers
agreed to meet and see what could be managed through their
agency. Nothing satisfactory. I would promise nothing, sign
nothing, change nothing, without an interview with my betrothed
to hear from his own lips his wishes. As if my mind
had flown to meet his, he made exactly the same reply to
similar importunities. No interview would be granted, so there
we stopped again.
At length his mother proposed to come and see me, and to
bring with her a letter from him, which I was to burn in her
presence after reading, and might answer, and she would carry
the answer back on the same terms. I knew her well, for she
had been always kind to me and had encouraged my intimacy
with her daughters; she had known nothing of my greater
intimacy with her son. The letter was very lover-like, very
tender to me, very indignant with every one else, very undutiful
and very devoted, less patient than we had agreed on being,
more audacious than I dared to be. I read it in much agitation
— read it, and then laid it on the fire. "And now before you
answer it, my poor dear child," said this sensible and excellent
woman, "listen to the very few words I must say to you," and
then in the gentlest manner, but rationally and truthfully, she
laid before me all the circumstances of our unhappy case, and
bade me judge for myself on what was fitting for me to do. She
indeed altered all my high resolves, annihilated all my hopes,
yet she soothed while she probed, and she called forth feelings
of duty, of self-respect, of proper self-sacrifice, in place of the
mere passion that had hitherto governed me. She told me she
would have taken me to her heart as a daughter, for the good
disposition that shone through some imperfections, and for the
true love I bore her son, but her husband would never do so,
nor endure an alliance with my father's child. They had been
friends, intimate friends, in their college days; they had
quarrelled, on what grounds neither had been known to give to
any human being the most distant hint; but in proportion to
their former affection was the inveteracy of their after-dislike.
All communication was over between them, they met as
strangers, and were never known to allude to each other. My
father had written to my mother that he would rather see me
in the grave than the wife of that man's son. Her husband
had said to her that if that marriage took place he would never
speak to his son again, never notice him, nor allow of his being
noticed by the family. She told me her husband had a vindictive
as well as a violent temper, and that she suspected
there must be a touch of the same disposition in my father, or
so determined an enmity could not have existed. They felt
that they were wrong, as was evidenced by the extra attention
each had paid the other's children. At their age she feared
there was no cure. She came to tell me the whole truth, to
show me that, with such feelings active against us, nothing but
serious unhappiness lay before us, in which distress all connections
must expect to share. She said we had been cruelly
used, most undesignedly; she blamed neither so far, but she
had satisfied her judgment that the peculiar situation of the
families now demanded from me this sacrifice; I must set free
her son, he could not give me up honourably. She added that
great trials produced great characters, that fine natures rose
above difficulties, that few women, or men either, wedded their
first love, that these disappointments were salutary. She said
what she liked, for I seldom answered her; my doom was
sealed; I was not going to bring misery in my train to any
family, to divide it and humiliate myself, destroy perhaps the
future of the man I loved. The picture of the old gentleman
too was far from pleasing, and may have affected, though unconsciously,
the timid nature that was now so crushed. I told
her I would write what she dictated, sign Lord Glenlee's
"renunciation," promise to hold no secret communication with
her son. I kept my word; she took back a short note in which,
for the reasons his mother would explain to him, I gave him
back his troth. He wrote, and I never opened his letter; he
came and I would not speak, but as a cold acquaintance.
What pain it was to me those who have gone through the
same ordeal alone could comprehend. His angry disappointment
was the worst to bear; I felt it was unjust, and yet it
could not be explained away, or pacified. I caught a cold
luckily, and kept my room awhile. I think I should have died
if I had not been left to rest a bit.
My father on his return from London never once alluded
to this heart-breaking subject; I think he felt for me, for he
was more considerate than usual. He bought a nice pony and
took me rides, sent me twice a week to Seafield for warm baths,
and used to beg me off the parties, saying I had been racketed
to death, when my mother would get angry and say such
affectation was unendurable — girls in her day did as they were
bid without fancying themselves heroines. She was very hard
upon me, and I am sure I did not provoke her; I was utterly
stricken down. What weary days dragged on till the month of
July brought the change to the Highlands!
Had I been left in quiet to time, my own sense of duty,
my conviction of having acted rightly, a natural spring of
cheerfulness, with occupation, change, etc., would have acted
together to restore lost peace of mind, and the lesson, severe as
it was, would have certainly worked for good, had it done no
more than to have sobered a too sanguine disposition. Had
my father's judicious silence been observed by all, how much
happier would it have been for every one! Miss Elphick
returned to us in June, and I fancy received from my mother
her version of my delinquencies, for what I had to endure in
the shape of rubs, snubs, and sneers and impertinences, no
impulsive temper such as mine could possibly have put up
with. My poor mother dealt too much in the hard-hit
line herself, and she worried me with another odious lover.
Defenceless from being blamable, for I should have entered
into no engagement unsanctioned, I had only to bear in silence
this never-ending series of irritations. Between them, I think
they crazed me; my own faults slid into the shade comfortably
shrouded behind the cruelties of which I was the victim, and
all my corruption rising, I actually in sober earnest formed a
deliberate plan to punish my principal oppressor — not Miss
Elphick, she could get a slap or two very well by the way.
My resolve was to wound my mother where she was most
vulnerable, to tantalise her with the hope of what she most
wished for, and then to disappoint her. I am ashamed now
to think of the state of mind I was in; I was astray indeed,
with none to guide me, and I suffered for it; but I caused
suffering, and that satisfied me. It was many a year yet
before my rebellious spirit learned to kiss the rod.
In journeying to the Highlands we were to stop at Perth.
We reached this pretty town early, and were surprised by a
visit from Mr. Anderson Blair, a young gentleman possessing
property in the Carse of Gowrie, with whom our family had
got very intimate during the winter. William was not with
us, he had gone on a tour through the West Highlands with a
very nice person, a college friend, an Englishman. He came to
Edinburgh as Mr. Shore, rather later than was customary, for
he was by no means so young as William and others attending
the classes, but being rich, having no profession, and not
college-bred, he thought a term or two under our professors —
our University was then deservedly celebrated — would be a
profitable way of passing idle time. Just before he and my
brother set out in their tandem with their servants, a second
large fortune was left to this favoured son of a mercantile race,
for which, however, he had to take the ridiculous name of
Nightingale.
Mr. Blair owed this well-sounding addition to the more
humble Anderson, borne by all the other branches of his large
and prosperous family, to the bequest of an old relation. Her
legacy was very inferior in amount to the one left to Mr.
Nightingale, but the pretty estate of Inchyra with a good
modern house overlooking the Tay, was part of it, and old Mr.
John Anderson, the father, was supposed to have died rich. He
was therefore a charming escort for my mother about the
town; we had none of us ever seen so much of Perth before.
We were taken to sights of all kinds, to shops among the rest,
and Perth being famous for whips and gloves, while we
admired Mr. Blair bought, and Jane and I were desired to
accept each a very pretty riding-whip, and a packet of gloves
was divided between us. Of course our gallant acquaintance
was invited to dinner.
The walk had been so agreeable, the weather was so
extremely beautiful, it was proposed, I can hardly tell by
whom, to drive no farther than to Dunkeld next morning, and
spend the remainder of the day in wandering through all the
beautiful grounds along the miles and miles of walks conducted
by the river-side through the woods and up the mountains.
"Have you any objection to such an arrangement, Eli? " said
my father to me. "I, papa! none in the world." It just
suited my tactics; accordingly so it was settled, and a very
enjoyable day we spent. The scenery is exquisite, every step
leads to new beauties, and after the wanderings of the morning
it was but a change of pleasure to return to the quiet inn at
Inver to dine and rest, and have Neil Gow in the evening to play
the violin. It was the last time we were there; the next time
we travelled the road the new bridge over the Tay at Dunkeld
was finished, the new inn, the Duke's Arms, opened, the ferry
and the inn at Inver done up, and Neil Gow dead.
Apropos of the Duke's Arms, ages after, when our dear
amusing uncle Ralph was visiting us in the Highlands, he made a
large party laugh, as indeed he did frequently, by his comical way
of turning dry facts into fun. A coach was started by some
enterprising individual to run between Dunkeld and Blair during
the summer season, which announcement my uncle read as if
from the advertisement in the newspaper as follows "Pleasing
intelligence. The Duchess of Athole starts every morning from
the Duke's Arms at eight o'clock. . . ." There was no need to
manufacture any more of the sentence.
The day had passed so agreeably at Dunkeld, it was
decided to proceed in the same way to Blair, a longer drive by
a few miles, and through that most beautiful of all bits of
mountain scenery, the Pass of Killiecrankie. We did not spend
our time near the Castle, we walked to the falls of the Bruar,
first brought into notice by Burns, and then too much made of;
as besides planting the banks and conducting a path up the
stream, so many summer-houses and hermitages and peep-bo
places of one sort or another had been perched on favourite
situations, that the proper character of the wild torrent was
completely lost. Nature was much disturbed, but no ill taste
could destroy so grand a scene. We were fortunate in finding
plenty of water leaping in wide cascades over rocks of every
size and shape, for there had been rain a few days before.
Our obliging friend left us next morning with the consolatory
information that we should meet again before the
12th of August, as a letter from Mr. Nightingale had brought
his agreement to a plan for them to spend the autumn in the
Highlands. They had taken the Invereshie shootings, and
were to lodge at the Dell of Killiehuntly with John and
Betty Campbell.
We had hardly got settled at the Doune before a note from
Mr. Blair, a very nice pony, and a basket of most delicious hothouse
fruit arrived from Inchyra; the fruit we ate with the
greatest pleasure, the pony had been sent to be acclimatised as
it would be used hereafter on the hill, and the note said it
would be conferring the greatest favour if the young ladies
would be so very kind as to ride and help to train it. We
were all perfectly willing to accept civilities, and Jane and I
henceforth were able to ride out together, and found our chief
happiness in resuming our old wanderings, which the increased
stiffness of the poor old white pony had made us fear must for
the future be undertaken singly. Our excursions, however,
were far from being as enjoyable as formerly. Inverdruie was
shut up; the attraction of the Croft was gone; Duncan
Macintosh, broken by ill-health and distress of mind owing to the
misconduct of his eldest son, was no longer the animated companion
of former days. Aviemore was a painful visit. We
had only Belleville and Kinrara and the scenery. Belleville
was almost always our great resource. We young people were
much liked there, and we liked going there. Kinrara, it must
be confessed, was dull, too stiff, too constrained, although kindness
was never wanting; but the Marquis and Marchioness
were not to arrive till the famous 12th of August. Our first
three weeks at home were very quiet, no company arriving, and
my father being absent at Inverness, Forres, Garmouth, etc.,
en business. We had all our humble friends to see, all our
favourite spots to visit. To me the repose was delightful,
and had I been spared all those unkind jibes, my irritated
feelings might have calmed down and softened my temper;
exasperated as they continually were by the most cutting
allusions, the persuasion that I had been most unjustly treated
and was now suffering unjustly for the faults of others, grew
day by day stronger and stronger, and estranged me completely
from those of the family who so perpetually annoyed me.
Enough of this; so it was, blame me who will.
After this quiet beginning our Highland autumn set in
gaily. The 10th of August filled every house in the country
in preparation for the 12th. Kinrara was full, though Lord
Huntly had not come with the Marchioness; some family
business detained him in the south, or he made pretence of it,
in order that his very shy wife might have no assistance in
doing the honours, and so rub off some of the awkward reserve
which so much annoyed him. Belleville was full, the inns
were full, the farm-houses attached to the shootings let were
full, the whole country was alive, and Mr. Nightingale,
Mr. Blair and my brother arrived at the Doune. Other guests
succeeded them, and what with rides and walks in the
mornings, dinners and dances in the evenings, expeditions to
distant lochs or glens or other picturesque localities, the Pitmain
Tryst and the Inverness Meeting, a merrier shooting season was
never passed. So every one said. I do not remember any one
person as very prominent among the crowd, nor anything very
interesting by way of conversation. The Battle of Waterloo
and its heroes did duty for all else, our Highlanders having
had their full share of its glories.
We ladies went up for the first time this year to Glen
Ennich, our shooting friends with us. The way lay through
the birch wood to Tullochgrue, past Macalpine's well and a corner
of the fir-forest and a wide heath, till we reached the banks of
the Luinach, up the rapid course of which we went till the
heath narrowed to a glen, rocks and hills closed in upon us,
and we came upon a sheet of water terminating the cul de sac,
fed by a cataract tumbling down for ever over the face of the
precipice at the end of it. All the party rode on ponies caught
about the country, each rider attended by a man at the bridle-head.
Jane and I were better mounted, for the Inchyra pony
had never been reclaimed; it was not wanted, so she and I had
it by turns on all occasions. The Edinburgh pony, poor Toper,
so called from its love of porter, carried the one that was not
honoured with Paddle.
A very pleasant day we passed, many merry adventures of
course taking place in so singular a cavalcade. We halted at a
fine spring to pass round a refreshing drink of whisky and
water, but did not unload our sumpter-horses till we reached
the granite-pebbled shore of the loch. Fairy tales belong to
this beautiful wilderness; the steep rock on the one hand is the
dwelling of the Bodach of the Scarigour, and the castle-like
row of precipitous banks on the other is the domain of the
Bodach of the Corriegowanthill — titles of honour these in fairy-land,
whose high condition did not however prevent their
owners from quarrelling, for no mortal ever gained the good
graces of the one without offending the other, loud laughing
mockery ever filling the glen from one potentate or the other,
whenever their territories were invaded after certain hours.
Good Mr. Stalker the dominie had been prevented from continuing
his fishing there by the extreme rudeness of the
Corriegowanthill, although encouraged by his opposite neighbour
and fortified by several glasses of stiff grog. We met
with no opposition from either; probably the Laird and all
belonging to him were unassailable. We had a stroll and our
luncheon, and we filled our baskets with those delicious delicate
char which abound in Loch Ennich, and returned gaily home in
safety.
Another much more adventurous expedition we made to the
parallel roads, attended as usual. Our shooting friends did
not thin their own moors too much. A tenant of the Duke of
Gordon's who lived near Kingussie, a most excellent oddity of
a little old man, had a large sheep-farm up in Laggan with a
better sort of bothy in a pretty glen, where he and Mrs.
Mitchell frequently remained a day or two at shearing time.
The poor Captain's phaeton carried my mother, Miss Elphick,
and the carpet-bags; the rest of us rode, and we came up with
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell by the way, travelling in their gig, a
cart following them containing one of their pretty daughters and
plenty of provisions. The bothy had but two rooms, a parlour
and a kitchen; the gentlemen occupied the kitchen, the ladies
the parlour, all sleeping at night on beds of heather thickly
strewn over the floor. The cooking kitchen was outside in the
open air, near an old wall under a tree. We took all our meals
out of doors, and so merry were we, so happy in this gipsy life,
we could have enjoyed a good week of it instead of the two
days my mother limited our visit to, out of consideration for
the resources of Mrs. Mitchell; particularly as two fiddlers were
of the party, and after walking miles all day we danced for
hours at night in the gentlemen's larger apartment. Our
English friend, Mr. Nightingale, was no great walker, nine miles
there and back to fish for dinner in a beautiful little loch at
the head of the glen wore him and a fine pair of boots
completely out, as he had the honesty to confess, and so
declined a walk of sixteen miles on the morrow to the parallel
roads in Glenroy. We suspected that our Scotch Mr. Anderson
Blair was little better able for such a Highland amount of
exercise, but this he would by no means allow, so he and
William set out with a guide for the object of our enterprise,
and lost their way, and returned very weary in the evening.
Some dinners at Kinrara were rather dull, pleasanter at
Belleville, very agreeable at home, so they all said. The
Pitmain Tryst was a very good one. My principal partner was
old Mr. Mitchell, with whom I finished off in the Haymakers, he,
short and fat and no great dancer, doing his part so lovingly,
the spectators were all in convulsions of laughter. Jane,
though only fifteen, was taken to this country gathering and to
all the dinners at Belleville. At one party there we met the
two Charles Grants, father and son, and brought them back
with us to Rothiemurchus.
At this time Mr. Blair took leave, as he was one of the
stewards of the Perth Hunt, and their yearly ball was approaching.
He left us Paddle, and he sent us fruit and music,
and seemed much more to regret his going than some of us did
to see him go. My mother was consoled by retaining Mr.
Nightingale, whom really everybody liked; he stayed, and
went with us to the Inverness Meeting. It was a bad one, I
recollect, no new beauties, a failure of old friends, and a
dearth of the family connections. Having a party with us we
went to Grant's Hotel, much more in the midst of the fun than
Mr. Cooper's quiet house in New Street. Chisholm and Mrs.
Chisholm were in rooms next ours — once such dear friends of
my father and mother's. The connection had long ended, in
spite of untiring efforts on the Chisholm part to renew it. She,
in anticipation of the Meeting, had brought for me a French
enamelled watch set with pearls, a Venetian chain to hang it on,
a large packet of French gloves, and a whole suit of embroidery.
There was a great consultation about the propriety of my
keeping them. No reason could be assigned for a refusal, so I,
at any rate, gained by the civility. My last year's friend, the
new member for Ross-shire, Mr. Mackenzie of Applecross, was at
this Meeting, more agreeable than ever, but looking extremely
ill. I introduced him by desire to my cousin Charlotte Rose,
who got on with him capitally. He was a plain man, and he
had a buck tooth to which some one had called attention, and it
was soon the only topic spoken of, for an old prophecy ran that
whenever a mad Lovat, a childless —, and an Applecross
with a buck tooth met, there would be an end of Seaforth.
The buck tooth all could see, the mad Lovat was equally
conspicuous, and though Mrs. — had two handsome sons
born after several years of childless wedlock, nobody ever
thought of fathering them on her husband. In the beginning
of this year Seaforth, the Chief of the Mackenzies, boasted of
two promising sons; both were gone, died within a few months
of each other. The Chieftainship went to another branch, but
the lands and the old Castle of Brahan would descend after
Lord Seaforth's death to his daughter, Lady Hood — an end
of Caber-Feigh. This made every one melancholy, and the
deaths of course kept many away from the Meeting.
Mr. Nightingale left us soon after our return home to pay
a visit to Mr. Blair and his mother and sisters at Inchyra.
CHAPTER XV
1815-1817
WE put all our home affairs in order for our long absence, and
then we set out for Edinburgh. My father had taken there the
most disagreeable house possible; a large gloomy No. 11 in
Queen Street, on the front of which the sun never shone, and
which was so built against behind that there was no free circulation
of air through it. It belonged to Lady Augusta Clavering,
once Campbell, one of the handsome sisters of the
handsome Duke of Argyll, who had run off from a masquerade
with a lover who made her bitterly repent she ever took him for
a husband. It was comfortable within, plenty of rooms in it,
four good ones on a floor, but they did not communicate. The
drawing-room was very large, four windows along the side
of it. There were, however, no convenient rooms for refreshments
for evening parties, so during our stay in it nothing could
be given but dinners, and very few of them, for none of us were
in very good-humour. It was well for me that my little bedroom
was to the sunny and quiet back of the house, and on the
drawing-room floor, for I had to spend many a week in it. A
long illness beginning with a cold confined me there during the
early part of the winter, and when I began to recover I was so
weakened that dear and kind Dr. Gordon, who had attended me
with the affection of a brother, positively forbade all hot rooms
and late hours. It was a sentence I would have wished him to
pronounce, for I was sick of those everlasting gaieties, and with
his encouragement and the assistance of a few other friends I
was making for myself, I was able to find employment for my
time infinitely more agreeable than that round of frivolous company.
We were spared the train of masters. Harp and Italian
alone were given to us this winter, a new Italian master, a fop
and an oddity, very much superior as a teacher to the other poor
old creature. M. L'Espinasse visited as a friend, and spent many
pleasant evenings with us. My mother did not at all approve of
this secluded life. At heart she loved both dress and visiting;
besides, she did not wish it to be thought that I was breaking
my heart, or had had it broken by cruel parents. Spectre as I
was, she really believed half my illness feigned. The Roses of
Holme, too, had come to town, and Charlotte was dancing everywhere
with Mr. Mackenzie. I am sure my ghost-like appearance
would not have brought him back to his first fancy. Still, with
her peculiar hopes and fears and wishes, it was rather hard upon
her, but Dr. Gordon was peremptory. My father supported
him, and so my father and mother went out to the dinners
together, and declined the evening parties till I was fit to accompany
them. How I enjoyed our home tea-circle! M. L'Espinasse
often with us, keeping Miss Elphick in good-humour, but no
college friends; those little domestic scenes were over.
Mr. Mackenzie and my father went up by the mail after
Christmas to attend to their duties in Parliament. He hail called
frequently in the mornings after I was well enough to sit in the
drawing-room, and had once or twice dined with us. He and I
were on the most friendly terms; my mother could not understand
us. We parted with the cordially expressed hope on both
sides to meet soon again, I promising to cheer my cousin Charlotte's
spirits during his absence. He really admired her. She
was clever, pretty, and lively, though too flippant to secure the
heart of a man like him. Mr. Blair and Mr. Nightingale then
suddenly announced their intention of making a tour on the
Continent of some duration. They just remained for Mr.
Nightingale to get possession of a set of shirts my mother had
very obligingly offered that I should cut out for him, and then
they set out, thus quite breaking up our home party.
We had two pieces of family news to raise our spirits after
all these disappointments. Uncle Edward and Annie Grant
were married — not to each other! He in Bombay, now a Judge
of the Sudder, had married a Miss Rawlins, the daughter of an
old Madras civilian, a highly respectable connection; and she in
Bengal, had become the wife of Major-General Need, commanding
at Cawnpore, a King's Cavalry officer. I have quite forgot,
I see, to mention that when we left London she had gone on a
visit to Mrs. Drury, the sister of Mr. Hunter, husband of one of
the Malings. Mrs. Drury took such a fancy to her that she
would not part with her, at least not to a house of business.
She proposed to my father to equip her for India. She went out
with Miss Stairs, sister to Lady Bury and Mrs. Vine, and she was
received by Mrs. Irwine Maling, from whose house she married.
The Needs belonged to Arkwright, Need, and Strutt, names we
British have cause to remember.
By the end of February, this winter of 1816, I was able to
indulge my mother with my company even to a ball or two.
Though received by the world with as much indulgence as
before, I had the prudence to dance little, generally sitting by
Mrs. Rose, or walking about with my steadiest of admirers, the
Colonel; my mother having the gratification of interrupting us
frequently by bearing petitions from various would-be partners
for just one dance before the early hour at which we now
retired. There was one I seldom refused — no lover, but a true
agreeable friend, the best dancer in Edinburgh, Campbell Riddell,
who, though a younger son and very little likely to make a
living at the Bar — a profession quite unsuitable to him — was
the favourite of all the belles, and more than tolerated by the
mothers. We were very happy, he and I, together, and long
years after when we met in Ceylon, we both recollected with
equal pleasure the days of our innocent flirtation. The Roses
were a great addition to us; we saw a great deal of them; she
was kind and clever, he was charming, and I liked both the
girls, though they were co-heiresses and far from faultless. Old
Miss Lawrence, who had just given herself brevet rank, and was
to be Mrs. Lawrence in future, came on a visit this year to the
Man of Feeling. I saw her for the first time, and thought
her most extraordinary. She was greatly taken up with a poem
old Mr. Mackenzie had made on me, and reminded me of it afterwards
at Studley. Dr. Ogle, of Oxford, an old Etonian, also
made us out. He brought with him a very fine musical box he
had bought at Geneva, a toy not common then.
A very singular set of persons, Nesham cousins of my
mother's, appeared to us about this time; Mr. and Mrs. Good-child,
and their son Jack. My mother's cousins in Durham
were really innumerable. In one family, her uncle John
Nesham's, there had been nine handsome daughters, all married,
and two sons. Mrs. Goodchild was, I think, the third daughter.
Her husband was a man of great wealth, deriving his income
principally from the valuable lime-quarries on his estates. He
was rude, boisterous, and strangely ignorant of every gentlemanly
acquisition, yet there was a natural frankness and kindness
and clever fun, very redeeming, particularly when we knew
him better. The wife was a noisy, underbred, over-dressed
woman, evidently imbued with the idea that her money lifted
her over the heads of almost everybody. The son was worse
than Tony Lumpkin, worse than Miss Jenny's booby of a
brother, for to their ignorance and coarseness and loutishness
he added a self-sufficiency that kept him completely at his ease,
while he was shocking all listeners. "Well, coosin," he said to
me after sitting a while, "got any prog? my stomach's been
crying cupboard this hour." We were glad to shut such a
mouth so easily. My mother said these Goodchilds had always
been remarkable for an affectation of vulgarity; from long
practice it seemed to me to have become natural. They were
only passing through, so we saw no more of them at this time.
We were inundated this whole winter with a deluge of a
dull ugly colour called Waterloo blue, copied from the dye used
in Flanders for the calico of which the peasantry made their
smock-frocks or blouses. Everything new was "Waterloo," not
unreasonably, it had been such a victory, such an event, after
so many years of exhausting suffering; and as a surname to
hats, coats, trousers, instruments, furniture, it was very well — a
fair way of trying to perpetuate tranquillity; but to deluge us
with that vile indigo, so unbecoming even to the fairest! It was
really a punishment; none of us were sufficiently patriotic to
deform ourselves by wearing it. The fashions were remarkably
ugly this season. I got nothing new, as I went out so little, till
the spring, when white muslin frocks were the most suitable
dress for the small parties then given. There was a dearth of
news, too, a lull after the war excitement; or my feeling stupid
might make all seem so. I know my memory recollects this
as a disagreeable winter. The lawyers were busy with a contemplated
change in the Jury Court. Trial by jury in civil
cases had not, up to this date, been the custom in Scotland.
In penal cases the Scotch jury law so far differed from the
English that a majority of voices convicted the prisoner;
unanimity was unnecessary; and this, which many sagacious
lawyers considered the better rule, was not to be interfered with,
it was only to be extended to civil cases. The machinery of
the Courts of Justice had of course to be slightly altered for
this change of system. If I remember rightly, two new Barons
were required, and a Chief Baron, whom we had never had
before. Sir William Shepherd, from the London Bar, was sent
in this capacity to set it all going. His very English wife
came with him, and amused us more than I can tell with her
cockneyisms. He was very agreeable. It may seem beyond the
range of a girl of my then age to have entered into so grave a
subject, but this sort of topic was becoming my business. I
wrote quickly and clearly, and seldom made mistakes; my
father, though he had a clerk, frequently found it suit him to
employ me as his more private secretary. I even helped him to
correct the press for some of his pamphlets, sought out and
marked his references, and could be trusted to make necessary
notes. I delighted in this occupation, and was frequently
indulged in it both in town and country at such odd times as
help was wanted. Indeed from henceforward I was his assistant
in almost all employments — work much more to my mind than
that eternal "outing."
In July we returned to the Doune. We had not many
visitors, so far as I recollect: Miss Baillie on her way to Logie,
Alexander so far with her on her return; two brothers of
the name of Davies, friends of Mrs. Cumming's, one a merchant,
the other a barrister, recreating themselves by a tour in the
Highlands, with the hope of a day or two's shooting here and
there. Their first essay of the moors was with us, and a failure,
for they waited for the late breakfast, came in dress-coats to it,
and were so long afterwards fitting on all the astonishing variety
of their sportsman accoutrements, that by the time they were
completely equipped the day was too far advanced for the
keepers to be able to take them to the best ground, although
they rode on ponies for the first half-dozen miles. They were
stupid specimens, and an elder brother whom we knew afterwards,
a Colonel and an M.P., was positively disagreeable. The
country was filled with half-pay officers, many of them returned
wounded to very humble homes in search of a renewal of the
health they had bartered for glory. A few of these had been
raised to a rank they were certainly far from adorning; very
unfit claimants got commissions occasionally in those war days.
Lord Huntly had most improperly so advanced one or two of
his servants' sons, and in the German legion there had been two
lieutenants who began life as carpenter's apprentices to Donald
Maclean. One of these, Sandy Macbean, who lived the rest of
his days at Guislich under the title of the Offisher, attended the
church very smart, and dined once every season at our table as
was now his due, had helped to alter the staircase with the same
hands that afterwards held his sword. Wagstaffe's son rose to
be a major. When he got his company the father resigned his
stewardship, and received some situation from the Marquis more
suited to the son's position.
Kinrara was very full this season, and very pleasant. The
charming Duchess, whose heart was in the Highlands, had left
orders to be buried on the banks of the Spey in a field she had
herself planted out. Lord Huntly planted a few larch round
the enclosure, but Lady Huntly laid out a beautiful shrubbery
and extended the plantation, making paths through it. The
grave was covered by a plain marble slab, but behind this rose a
stunted obelisk of granite, having on its front by way of inscription
the names of all her children with their marriages;
this was by her own desire. Her youngest son, Alexander, died
unmarried before herself; Lord Huntly she left a bachelor. Her
four younger daughters had all made distinguished connections;
the eldest, and the best bred amongst them, showed to less effect
among the list of great names, but then she had two husbands
to make up for their being commoners. The first, Sir John
Sinclair of Murkle, was her cousin; they had one child only,
the merry sailor son whom every one was fond of. The second
husband was a Mr. Palmer of Bedfordshire. The second
daughter was Duchess of Richmond, the third Duchess of Manchester,
the fourth Marchioness of Cornwallis, the fifth Duchess
of Bedford. When the Duchess of Manchester was driven from
the house of the husband she had disgraced, she left behind her
two sons, and six daughters placed by their father under the care
of a governess to be superintended by the Dowager Duchess;
the boys were at Eton. The eldest of these girls, however, Lady
Jane Montague, had almost always lived with her other grandmother,
the Duchess of Gordon. She it was who danced the
Shean Trews, and trotted over to the Doune on her pony as often
nearly as she stayed at home. My father and mother were
dotingly fond of her, for she was a fine natural creature, quite
unspoiled. When our Duchess, as we always called her, died,
Lady Jane was not happy at home with her younger sisters and
their governess; she went to live with her aunt the Duchess of
Bedford, and was shortly announced to be on the point of
marriage with the second of the Duke's three sons by his first
wife — Lord William Russell. Next we heard she was very ill,
consumptive — dying — and that kind aunt took her to Nice, and
attended her like a mother till she laid her in her grave. It was
a grief to every one that knew her, particularly those who had
watched the fair show of her childhood.
The second of these deserted girls was now of an age to be
introduced into society, and Lord and Lady Huntly brought her
with them to Kinrara. No, it was the third, Lady Susan, a
beautiful creature; the second, Lady Elizabeth, was just married
to a handsome Colonel Steele, with whom she had become
acquainted through her governess. It was on Lady Susan's
account that Kinrara was made so particularly agreeable. There
were plenty of morning strolls and evening dances, a little tour
of visits afterwards, all ending in her engagement to the Marquis
of Tweeddale, a man liked I believe by men, and it was said
by some women — of extraordinary taste, to my mind; for, thick-set
and square-built and coarse-mannered, with that flat
Maitland face which when it once gets into a family never can
be got out of it, he was altogether the ugliest boxer or bruiser-looking
sort of common order of prize-fighter that ever was seen
out of a ring. Yet he had a kind manner and a pleasant smile,
and he made a tender husband to this sweet gentle creature, who
accepted him of her own free will and never regretted the union.
Neither house went to the Tryst this year, nor to the Meeting.
Lady Susan's approaching marriage prevented any public
displays from Kinrara, and my father having been called to a
distance on business the Doune did not care to exhibit without
him.
We had had some troubles in our usually quiet Duchus this
autumn. Urquhart Gale, the principal saw-miller, and George
Macintosh, one of the returned officers, had each got into an
unpleasant scrape. Urquhart Gale's backsliding was only suspected
as yet, but George Macintosh's was a most miserable
business; the young man was in the gaol of Inverness for
murder. Mrs. Macintosh was one of the pretty daughters of
Stewart of Pityoulish, an old tacksman on the Gordon property,
very superior in station to his forester son-in-law. He was
devotedly attached to all of Gordon blood, but particularly so
to the family of his Grace, and he insisted on his first grandchild
being called after our Prince of Wales of the north, the Marquis
of Huntly. At a proper age this piece of respect got George
Macintosh a commission. He hail never joined his regiment
in the field, but he had been away and come home, and finding
other young officers in the country they one unlucky day entered
the public-house at the Boat of Inverdruie, and ordering whisky
drank to one another till they fell to quarrelling. Very hard
words passed between George Macintosh and one of the company;
the rest took part against poor George, and Duncan Cameron
the landlord, fearing for unpleasant consequences, rushed among
these half-mad boys, as he said, to prevent mischief. A frightful
scuffle ensued, at the end of which George Macintosh's first
opponent was picked up senseless. Nor did he ever speak again.
He died in a few hours without apparent injury except a small
triangular wound near the temple, which, on the doctor probing,
was found to run deep into the brain. The whole party were
taken up, lodged in prison, and indicted for murder; they could
not, however, be tried till the Spring circuit, and the connections
had all to wear away the winter in this dreadful anxiety. Mr.
and Mrs. Macintosh were completely overwhelmed by this
calamity, the end of which I may as well tell now as keep it
over to its proper season.
My father, feeling unable to conduct such a cause himself,
engaged George Joseph Bell to defend George Macintosh and
Duncan Cameron, and he sent a very clever writer body, a
regular rogue of the name of Lyon, to assist Mr. Cooper in
preparing the evidence. The friends of the other young men
spared no means of helping them, and they all got off easily
enough, having been on the side of the poor murdered lad; his
opponent and the Rothiemurchus man who had rushed in to
help him were in a very different position. Nothing, however,
transpired to criminate George Macintosh; he was acquitted;
but the landlord — he was by trade a tailor, and the wound had
he appearance of having been made by closed scissors; this
persuasion saved him; it was proved that it could not have
been scissors; neither was it — it had been done with the
snuffers. The verdict was manslaughter, and he was transported
for life. We all felt the whole affair as a disgrace to
Rothiemurchus; my father was quite depressed by such an
occurrence. Jane and I talking it over a year afterwards with
Belleville, he said the fault lay with those who had put young
men who were not gentlemen into a position only fit for gentlemen;
had these lowly-born uneducated youths been at the
plough, they would have had neither time nor inclination for
such a scandal.
My father actually got a cadetship for George Macintosh
after this, and sent him to India.
In November 1816 we travelled back to Edinburgh to take
possession of Sir John Hay's house in George Street, an infinitely
more agreeable winter residence than Lady Augusta Clavering's
very gloomy old barrack in Queen Street. It was an excellent
family house, warm, cheerful, and airy, with abundant accommodation
for a larger party than ours; but there was the same
fault of only one drawing-room and a small study off it. Perhaps
my father wanted no space for a ball. The town was
much fuller than it had been before, of course gayer, many very
pleasant people were added to our society. War was over, all
its anxieties, all its sorrows had passed away, and though there
must have been many sad homes made for ever, in a degree,
desolate, these individual griefs did not affect the surface of our
cheerful world. The bitterness of party still prevailed too much
in the town, estranging many who would have been improved
by mixing more with one another. Also it was a bad system
that divided us all into small coteries; the hounds were not
strictly defined, and far from strictly kept; still, the various
little sections were all there, apart, each small set over-valuing
itself and under-valuing its neighbours. There was the fashionable
set, headed by Lady Gray of Kinfauns, Lady Molesworth
unwillingly admitted, her sister Mrs. Munro, and several other
regular party-giving women, seeming to live for crowds at home
and abroad. Lady Molesworth, the fast daughter of a managing
manœuvring mother, very clever, no longer young, ran off
with a boy at college of old Cornish family and large fortune,
and made him an admirable wife — for he was little beyond a
fool — and gave him a clever son, the present Sir William Moles-worth.
Within, or beyond this, was an exclusive set, the
Macleods of Macleod, Cumming - Gordons, Shaw - Stewarts,
Murrays of Ochtertyre, etc. Then there was a card-playing
set, of which old Mrs. Oliphant of Rossie was the principal
support, assisted by her daughters Mrs. Grant of Kilgraston
and Mrs. Veitch, Mr. and Mrs. Massie, Mr. and Mrs. Richmond
(she was sister to Sir Thomas Liddell, Lord Ravensworth),
Miss Sinclair of Murkle the Duchess of Gordon's first cousin
and the image of her, Sam Anderson and others. By the bye,
Mrs. Richmond was the heroine of the queer story in Mr. Ward's
Tremaine, and she actually did wear the breeches. Then there
was a quiet country-gentleman set, Lord and Lady Wemyss, all
the Campbells, Lord and Lady Murray, Sir James and Lady
Helen Hall, Sir John and Lady Stewart Hays, and so forth. A
literary set, including college professors, authors, and others
pleased so to represent themselves; a clever set with Mrs.
Fletcher; the law set; strangers, and inferiors. All shook up
together they would have done very well. Even when partially
mingled they were very agreeable. When primmed up, each
phalanx apart, on two sides of the turbulent stream of politics,
arrayed as if for battle, there was really some fear of a clash at
times. We were so fortunate as to skim the cream, I think, off
all varieties; though my father publicly was violent in his
Whiggism he did not let it interfere with the amenities of private
life, and my mother kept herself quite aloof from all party work.
The Lord Provost of Edinburgh was seldom in any of these
sets; he was generally a tradesman of repute among his equals,
and in their society he was content to abide. This year the
choice happened to fall on a little man of good family, highly
connected in the mercantile world, married to an Inverness
Alves, and much liked. I don't remember what his pursuit was,
whether he was a banker, or agent for the great Madras house
his brother George was the head of, but he was a kind hospitable
man, his wife Mrs. Arbuthnot very Highland, and they
were general favourites. He was chosen Provost again when his
three years were out, so he received the king, George IV., on his
memorable visit, and was made a baronet. Just before him we
had had Sir John Marjoribanks of Lees, mercantile too. After
him, the Town Council went back to their own degree. The name
amongst us for Sir William Arbuthnot was Dicky Gossip, and
richly he deserved it, for he knew all that was doing everywhere
to everybody, all that was pleasant to know; a bit of ill-nature
or a bit of ill-news he never uttered. After a visit from
him and his excellent wife — they were fond of going about
together — a deal of what was going on seemed to have suddenly
enlightened their listeners, and most agreeably. A tale of
scandal never spread from them, nor yet a sarcasm. They,
from their situation, saw a great deal of company, and no parties
could be pleasanter than those they gave. They were much
enlivened this year by the arrival of a sister from Spain, the
widow of Sir John Hunter, the late Consul-General at Madrid.
Lady Hunter, being still in weeds, did not show herself; her
two very nice daughters appeared at home, though they went
out only to small gatherings of relations till the spring. They
were just sufficiently foreign to be the more interesting, and
they were so lady-like we took greatly to them, became quite
intimate, and never were estranged although widely separated.
Jane Hunter and Jane Grant more particularly remained faithful
to their early friendship after their names were changed, and
even to this day.
Locality has a good deal to do with intimacies. In Heriot
Row and in Queen Street we had no acquaintance very near
us; the Cathcarts were next door, and Lord Murray, who
was a widower, seemed anxious that his daughters should be
a good deal with us; they were, but that was all. Agnes was
merely gentle and pleasing, Mary very pretty, the brothers quite
cloddish, so that we never got on very far, although we were
much together. In George Street we were in the midst of agreeable
neighbours. Near the Arbuthnots in Charlotte Square
were the Cumming-Gordons, the old lady and her four married
daughters, Charles, and Sir William and his bride on a visit to
them. Young Lady Gordon-Cumming, as she called herself for
distinction, was not handsome, very tall — five feet ten and a
half — thin, not well made, neither were her features good, yet
all together, when well dressed, I have seen her look magnificent.
The whole connection was in a dream of joy at Sir Willie's wife
being the daughter of Lady Charlotte Campbell, niece to the
Duke of Argyll. It was Eliza here, and Eliza there, and Eliza
only; they were awakened by and by, and rather rudely, but
this winter it was all an intoxication of happiness. Old Lady
Cumming never went out, but every evening, when the rest of
the family were in, the shutters were left open to show the
drawing-rooms lighted up, and a general invitation was given to
certain familiar friends on such occasions to enter if agreeable.
There was a card-table, always music, for Sophy Cumming
played delightfully, and Charles very well on the violoncello, Sir
James Riddell, my friend Campbell's elder brother, equally well
on the violin; there was a flute too sometimes, and in the
flute's absence, a man whose name I can't remember whistled
like a sweet double flageolet. When Sophy was out of the
way I have taken the pianoforte for her — a miserable substitute.
Young Lady Cumming sang ballads neatly, all she had voice for.
One of the married daughters, Mrs. John Forbes, was observed
by the old lady to shirk these pleasant evenings rather, so the
four sisters remonstrated. Mrs. Forbes frankly acknowledged
that she had not time, a houseful of children and an advocate's
income left her little leisure for gadding; the sisters begged however
she would come, as their mother liked to have as many of
her family as she could gather round her, and they told her to
bring her work, that would prevent her loss of time. So she did;
I saw her there busy with a pair of coarse sheets, seaming down
the long seam with a long thread, stitching and stretching,
dragging this web bit by bit out of a great canvas bag as she
wanted it; and yet she did not look unladylike. All the
Cummings were queer, queerer than one ever sees people now,
but the good blood kept order to a certain degree.
Lady Charlotte Bury, she had become, passed a few days
in Edinburgh this season without the husband; her second
daughter Eleanor, afterwards Lady Uxbridge, was with her,
a pretty creature, very like me! It was curious the extraordinary
likeness to us that ran through this whole Campbell
connection, and no relationship between us. Some two hundred
years back or more an Argyll Campbell had married a Grant
of Grant, and her daughter had married a Grant of Rothiemurchus,
but that was too remote descent; besides, it was in
the Gunning and the Ironside the likeness lay. My mother
was so like Lady Wemyss they were frequently mistaken.
Uncle Ralph and Walter Campbell the uncle, the sailor, were
like as two brothers. Lady Eleanor Charteris — afterwards
Campbell, for she married her cousin Walter — was asked to
dance for me, and I was congratulated on my approaching marriage
for her. Lady Uxbridge and I were more alike. Even
Charlotte Clavering, Lady Augusta's daughter, had a look of me
after she dressed quietly as the wife of Miles Fletcher. Emma
Campbell could hardly be known from my sister Mary, William
and Walter Campbell ditto, Johnnie and Johnnie Campbell; and
Mary and I were both so like the Miss Gunning, Duchess of
Hamilton and of Argyll, that they used at Altyre to dress
us up and set us underneath her picture as a show. Mary
certainly was as beautiful. After all, perhaps the surprise is that
with so few features to work with Nature is able to vary us all
so much; that really is more wonderful than that some few of
us should be alike. Where there is such near resemblance,
character must have something to do with it.
Lady Ashburton's was another pleasant house; she was a
Cunninghame of Lainshaw, niece to Lord Cranstoun and to
Dugald Stewart, one of the College professors. He took pupils,
and had among them this eccentric son of the Speaker, Mr.
Dunning, Lord Ashburton; he was ungainly in person, disagreeable
in habits, some years younger than Miss Cunninghame,
who would have him, despite both uncles; Lord Cranstoun felt
it was a throwing away of a fine girl, Dugald Stewart felt it a
reflection on himself that in his house, while under his care, a
very wealthy nobleman should be while so young engaged to
his niece. The niece did not care; she was cold and she was
ambitious, so she married her lord, and they had a fine country
house and a beautiful town house — two houses thrown into one,
which gave her a splendid suite of apartments for the grave
style of receiving company that suited her taste; a dinner-party
every week, and in the evening her rooms thrown open to
an assemblage that filled them. Her intimate acquaintance had
cards for the season; others she asked when she liked. There
was no amusement provided, neither dancing nor music nor
cards, and yet it was always agreeable. In one of the many
rooms was a counter spread with a variety of refreshments. In
another were a number of small round tables where groups of
any desired size were served with tea. Lord Ashburton delighted
in company, and in people that were fat; like Julius
Cæsar he objected to all who had a lean and hungry look.
He went about smiling, though saying little except to himself;
he had a trick of soliloquising so very oddly. We dined there
one day, and it so happened that I sat next him; he looked at
me, after a while he looked again: "That's a pretty girl — Miss
Grant, I fancy; not fat enough. I must ask her to take wine."
All this was to himself, then aloud:"Miss Grant, a glass of
wine with me?" It was the fashion then to pay this civility to
all ladies, who could not have got any otherwise, and who, some
of them, liked a good deal. "It's a pity she's so thin. What
shall I say next to her?" He could not talk — converse, I mean
— merely start out a few words thus, always however to the
purpose. One of Lady Ashburton's sisters was married to Macleod
of Cadboll, a Ross-shire laird, and an aunt was the Baroness
Purgstall in Germany. This German aunt had given to two of
her countrymen letters of introduction to her old friends in
Edinburgh. Lady Ashburton presented them to my mother.
My mother, who always liked foreigners, paid them a great
deal of attention. The Styrian Baron Gudenus and the Saxon
Chevalier Thinnfeldt were soon made free of our house, and
very much indeed they enlivened it. They were well-bred, well-educated,
sensible young men, great additions to our society.
The Baron, the only son of an old Gratz family, was travelling
for pleasure, or perhaps for health — he looked sickly. The
Chevalier had a large property in mines, and came to our country
to get a better insight into the method of working them.
There were very few large balls given this winter. Lady
Gray, Mrs. Grant of Kilgraston, Mrs. Macleod, and a few others
retained this old method of entertaining. A much more pleasant
style of smaller parties had come into fashion with the new
style of dancing. It was the first season of quadrilles, against
the introduction of which there had been a great stand made
by old-fashioned respectables. Many resisted the new French
figures altogether, and it was a pity to give up the merry
country dance, in which the warfare between the two opinions
resulted; but we young people were all bit by the quadrille
mania, and I was one of the set that brought them first into
notice. We practised privately by the aid of a very much better
master than Mr. Smart. Finlay Dunn had been abroad, and
imported all the most graceful steps from Paris; and having
kept our secret well, we burst upon the world at a select
reunion at the White Melvilles', the spectators standing on the
chairs and sofas to admire us. People danced in those days; we
did not merely stand and talk, look about bewildered for our
vis-à-vis, return to our partners either too soon or too late, without
any regard to the completion of the figure, the conclusion of
the measure, or the step belonging to it; we attended to our
business, we moved in cadence, easily and quietly, embarrassing
no one and appearing to advantage ourselves. We were only
eight; Mr. White Melville and Nancy Macleod opposite to
Charles Cochrane and me, Johnnie Melville and Charles Macleod
with Fanny Hall and Miss Melville. So well did we all perform,
that our exhibition was called for and repeated several times in
the course of the evening. We had no trouble in enlisting
co-operators, the rage for quadrilles spread, the dancing-master
was in every house, and every other style discarded. Room
being required for the display, much smaller parties were invited.
Two, or at most three, instruments sufficed for band, refreshments
suited better than suppers, an economy that enabled the
inviters to give three or four of these sociable little dances at
less cost than one ball; it was every way an improvement. My
mother gave several of these small parties so well suited to the
accommodation of our house, and at no cost to my father, uncle
Edward having sent her for the purpose of being spent in any
way she liked upon her daughter, a hundred pounds.
Of our first Edinburgh quadrille who are left? The White
Melvilles were a family of two bachelor brothers and two unmarried
sisters, protected by a married sister and her handsome
Irish husband, Mr. Jackson. Of the women I have never heard
more; they were plain, well brought up, and had good fortunes.
Robert the laird was a man of large property and very likeable,
but he died, and Johnnie, his brother, a very nice person, little
thought of by the managing committees, small and plain, grew
wonderfully in all ways on becoming great. But he remembered
his younger brother days, and sought his bride from afar;
he married Lady Catherine Osborne, sister — half-sister rather —
to the present Duke of Leeds; both are dead, and their children
are married. Charles Cochrane, very handsome, a perfect
dancer, and always a great friend of mine — for I like sailors — is
still living, I think. He has been a great traveller, walking all
over the world, is an author, a philanthropist, eccentric but
kindly. All the Cochranes are maddish; Charles had a brother
Andrew, madly in love with one of the Ladies Charteris. He
disguised himself first as a lamplighter that he might look on
her as she sat at dinner, and then as a gardener that he might
watch her in her walks, Lord Wemyss having a large garden
belonging to his house in Queen Street. Charles Macleod
was brother to Harris, no way nearly related to Nancy. She
was sister to the Macleod, as plain a man as she was a handsome
girl; her brother's wife was a very underbred woman,
city-reared, daughter of a merchant, and sister to the banker
Stephenson, almost another Fauntleroy. Nancy Macleod married
Spencer Percival, an old Italian love. I met her afterwards at
Cheltenham with nine not pretty daughters. I liked her much.
At our little parties Jane came out amazingly; she was never
shy, always natural and gay and clever, and though not strictly
handsome, she looked so bright, so well, with her fine eyes and
her rosy lips, she was in extreme request with all our beaux.
To the old set of the two former winters I had added considerably
during the course of this more sociable one, and Jane went
shares whenever she was seen. She carried one altogether away
from me, the celebrated Basil Hall. He had this very year
returned from Loo Choo, had published his book, brought
home flat needles, and cloth made from wood, and a funny cap
which he put on very good-humouredly, and chop-sticks with
which he ate very obligingly; in short, he did the polite
voyager to no end. Jane was quite taken with him, so was
Jane Hunter; Margaret Hunter and I used to be amused with
them and him, and wonder how they could wait on the lion so
perseveringly. He was the second son of Sir James Hall, a man
not actually crazy, but not far from it; so given up to scientific
pursuits as to be incapable of attending to his private affairs.
They were in consequence much disordered, and they would
have been entirely deranged but for the care of his wife, Lady
Helen. Sir James had lately published a truly ingenious work,
an attempt to deduce Gothic architecture from the original
wigwams made of reeds. The drawings were beautifully
executed, not by himself, I fancy, and by them he showed clearly
the fluted pillars of stone copied from faggots of osier, groined
arches from the slender shoots bent over and tied together,
buds originating ornaments; a fanciful theory maybe, yet with
some show of reason in it. Lady Helen, a great friend of my
mother's, was sister to the Lord Selkirk who went to colonise
in America. Their eldest son was not very wise; Basil, flighty,
and his end miserable; a third, Jamie, used to cry unless Jane
or I danced with him — nobody else would. Three or four
beautiful girls died of consumption — Fanny one of them. I
used to wonder how Lady Helen kept her senses; calm she
always looked, very kind she always was, wrapped up her
affections were in Basil and the two daughters who lived and
married — Magdalen, first Lady de Lancey and then Mrs. Harvey,
and Emily, the wife of an English clergyman. The eldest son
married too, Julia Walker, Dr. Hope's niece and heiress.
Dr. Hope was the professor of chemistry, an old admirer of
my aunt Mary's, and still the flutterer round every new beauty
that appeared. I preferred him to Professor Leslie because he
was clean, but not to Professor Playfair; he, old, ugly, and
absent, was charming, fond of the young who none of them feared
him, glad to be drawn away from his mathematical difficulties
to laugh over a tea-table with such as Jane and me. We were
favourites too with Dr. Brewster, who was particularly agreeable,
and with John Clerk, who called Jane, Euphrosyne, and
with Mr. Jeffrey with whom we gradually came to spend a
great deal of time. I had Lord Buchan all to myself though, he
cared for no one else in the house. He lived very near us, and
came in most mornings in his shepherd's plaid, with his long
white hair flowing over his shoulders, to give me lessons in
behaviour. If he were pleased he would bring out some
curiosity from his pockets — a tooth of Queen Mary's, a bone of
James the Fifth — imaginary relics he set great store by. How
many flighty people there were in Scotland! Neither of his extraordinary
brothers quite escaped the taint. Lord Erskine and
Harry Erskine were both of them excited at times. At a certain
point judgment seems to desert genius. Another friend I made
this year who remembered to ask about me very lately, Adam
Hay, now Sir Adam. He was Sir John Hay's third son when I
knew him. John died, Robert the handsome sailor was drowned,
so the baronetcy fell to Adam. Are not the memoirs of the old
a catalogue of the deaths of many who were young with them?
Adam Hay tried to shake my integrity; he advocated, as he
thought, the cause of his dearest friend, whose mother, dear
excellent woman, having died, their sophistry persuaded them
so had my promise. We had many grave conversations on a sad
subject, while people thought we were arranging our matrimonial
excursion. He told me I was blamed, and I told him I must
bear it; I did add one day, it was no easy burden, he should
not seek to make it heavier. His own sister, some time after
this, succeeded to my place; lovely and most lovable she was,
and truly loved I do believe. Adam Hay told me of it when he
first knew it, long afterwards, and I said, so best; yet the
end was not yet.
I had never female friends, I don't know why; I never took
to them unless they were quite elderly. I had only Jane, but
she was a host. Poor Jane! this very spring she sprained her
ankle, the ankle that never strengthened again. My uncle
William arrived suddenly from Houghton, and all of us running
quickly downstairs to welcome him, Jane slipped, turned her
left foot under her, and fell from the pain, tumbling on down
the whole flight of stairs. All that was proper was done for it,
and we thought lightly of the accident, as she was laid up only
three weeks or so. She felt it better not to use it much, and so
for the present the matter rested. Our uncle remained with us
a few days only; he had come to consult my father on some
business, and my mother on an invitation he had received for his
eldest daughter Kate to join uncle Edward and his newly-married
wife in India. Soon after he left aunt Leitch arrived — not to
us; she liked being independent. She had taken lodgings at
Leith for the purpose of sea-bathing for Mary and Charlotte, two
other daughters of uncle William's, who had lived with her for
some years. Charlotte had not been well and had been ordered
to the sea, so on our account my aunt thought she would try the
east coast. Every second day they dined with us, walking up
that mile-long Leith Walk and our long street, and back again
in the cool April evenings; fatigue enough to do away with all
the good of the sea-bathing. Charlotte was a mere rather pretty
girl, nothing particular; Mary was very beautiful. What a fate
was hers! but I must not anticipate.
Aunt Leitch told us of Durham cousins living, poor people,
very near us, within the rules of the Abbey, on account of debt.
Misfortunes had overtaken some of the husbands of the nine
Miss Neshams. The Goodchilds were bankrupt, as were such of
the connections as had been engaged in business with them.
Mr. Carr, the husband of the eldest sister, had lost all; they
had to fly with a very small portion of their property from their
comfortable house at Stockton, and take refuge in a sorry lodging
inside the kennel at Holyrood. We found them out immediately,
and from that time forward very much lightened their
banishment. At first there were only the poor silly old man and
his wife, and two Stockton maid-servants, not yet done with
untiring efforts to clean up indifferent furniture. By and by
came George, their youngest son, not long from school, clever
enough and the best of good creatures, but so unmitigably
vulgar his company was frequently distressing. My mother
was quite disturbed by his conduct, and the roars of laughter it
elicited from my father. They generally dined with us on
Sunday, the only day the old man could get out, the carriage
going for them and taking them home, George calling out "My
eye!" and making faces at the coachman. He was a fit beau
for a belle lately arrived amongst us.
Mrs. Gillio, once Miss Peggy Grant of Craggan, niece to
the old General and to Peter the Pensioner, had settled at Bath
after her visit to the Highlands. She intended leaving her
youngest daughter and her son at good schools in England, and
was preparing to return to Bombay with her two eldest girls
when she heard of her husband's death. Her circumstances
being much changed by this calamity, she thought of Edinburgh
as uniting many advantages for all her children at a cheaper rate
than she could procure them elsewhere. We took lodgings for
them; the boy was to attend the High School, the two younger
girls the classes, and the elder ones to go a little out if they
made desirable acquaintance. Amelia Gillio, with her brilliant
eyes, was not a plain girl; she was worse, she was an impudent
one, and many and many a time I should have liked to ship
her off to the Antipodes for the annoyance she caused us.
After a walk with Nancy Macleod, or a visit to Agnes Cathcart,
or the Hunters, how this fourth-rate young lady's tones grated
on the ears all unaccustomed to them. It was the time of short
waists and short petticoats, and the Bath — or Miss Amelia's —
fashions were so extra short at both extremities, we were really
ashamed of being seen with her; the black frock reached very
little below the knee (she had certainly irreproachable feet and
ankles). George Carr attracted equal attention by wearing his
hat on the back of his head, never having a glove on, and
besides talking very loudly, he snatched up all the notices of
sales and such like carried about the streets by hawkers, and
stuffed them into his pockets, saying they would do for
"summat." He was intolerable.
We had a visitor this spring of a different grade, Colonel
d'Este, whom we had not seen since the old Prince Augustus
days. He was as natural as ever, asked himself to dinner, and
talked of Ramsgate. He had not then given up his claim to
royalty, therefore there was a little skilful arrangement on his
part to avoid either assumption or renunciation. He entered
unannounced, my father meeting him at the door and ushering
him into the room, my mother, and all the ladies on her hint,
rising till he begged them to be seated. Otherwise he conformed
to common usage, and perhaps did not observe that we had no
finger-glasses; which reminds me that a year or two after when
Prince Leopold was at Kinrara, Lord Huntly, precise as he was,
had forgotten to mention to his servants that nobody ever
washed before royalty, and from the moment that this omission
struck him, he sat in such an agony as to be incapable of his usual
happy knack of keeping the ball going. Luckily some of the
Prince's attendants had an eye to all, and stopped the offending
crystals on their way. I don't know what brought Colonel
d'Este to Scotland at that time of year, he was probably going
to some of his mother's relations in the west. I remember Lord
Abercrombie being asked to meet him, and after accepting, he
sent an apology; "an unavoidable accident which happily would
never be repeated" set us all off on a train of conjectures wide
of the truth, the newspapers next day announcing the marriage
of this grave elderly friend of my father's.
We left Sir John Hay's house in May; he was coming to
live in it himself with his pretty daughters; and we went for
three months to the house of Mr. Allan the banker, in Charlotte
Square, just while we should be considering where to fix for a
permanency. Mrs. Allan was ill, and was going to some
watering-place, and they were glad to have their house occupied.
Before we moved we paid two country visits, my father, my
mother and I.
Our first visit was to Dunbar, Lord Lauderdale's, a mere
family party, to last the two or three days my father and my
Lord were arranging some political matters. They were always
brimful of party mysteries, having a constant correspondence on
these subjects. My mother had so lectured me on the necessity
of being anything but myself on this startling occasion that a
fit of Kinrara feel came over me for the first evening. I was so
busy with the way I was to sit, and the proper mode to speak
the few words I was to say, and the attention I was to pay to
all the nods and winks she was to give me, that a fit of shyness
actually came on, and my spirits were quite crushed by these
preliminaries and the curious state of the household we fell
upon. In the very large drawing-room in which the family sat
there was plenty of comfortable furniture, including an abundance
of easy-chairs set in a wide circle around the fire. Before
each easy-chair was placed a stool rather higher than would
have been agreeable for feet to rest on, but quite suited to the
purpose it was prepared for — the kennel of a dog. I don't know
how many of these pets the Ladies Maitland and their mother
were provided with, but a black nose peeped out of an opening
in the side of every stool on the entrance of a visitor, and the
barking was incessant. At this time four daughters were at
home unmarried, and two or three sons. One daughter was
dead, and one had disposed of herself some years before by
running away with poor, silly, and not wealthy Fraser of Torbreck,
then quartered at Dunbar with the regiment of militia in
which he was a captain. This proceeding of the Lady Anne
quite changed the face of affairs in her father's family.
Lord Lauderdale had rather late in his man-of-fashion life
married the only child of one Mr. Antony Tod, citizen of London;
pretty she had never been; she was a nice little painted doll
when we knew her, a cipher as to intellect, but her fortune had
been very large, and she was amiable and obedient, and her lord,
they said, became fond of her and of all the many children she
brought him. He was not vain, however, either of her or of
them, he had no reason; so he kept them all living in great
retirement at Dunbar, never taking any of them with him to
town, nor allowing them to visit either in Edinburgh or in their
own neighbourhood, till the elopement of Lady Anne, the only
beauty. From that sore time Lady Lauderdale and her remaining
daughters lived much more in society. They had begun too
to feel their own importance, and to venture on opposing my
Lord, for Mr. Tod was dead, and had left to each of his grandchildren,
sons and daughters alike, £15,000; the rest to his
daughter for her life, with remainder to her eldest son, Lord
Maitland. To his son-in-law the Earl Mr. Tod left nothing.
Here was power to the weaker side, exerted, it was said, occasionally,
but they were a united happy family, fondly attached to
each other.
The square Maitland face was not improved by the Tod connection,
though the family finances benefited by it. Sons and
daughters were alike plain in face and short in person. Even
Lady Anne, with her really lovely countenance, was a dwarf in
size and ill-proportioned; but there was a very redeeming expression
generally thrown over the flat features, and they had all
pleasant manners. The second day went off much more agreeably
than the first, although I had to bear some quizzing on the
subject of gambling, and my horror of it. In the morning the
young people drove, rode, or walked; before dinner the ladies
worked a little, netting purses and knotting bags; the gentlemen
played with the dogs. All the evenings were spent at cards,
and such high play, brag and loo unlimited. It was nothing
for fifty or a hundred pounds to change hands among them. I
was quite terrified. My few shillings, the first I had called my
own for ages, given me for the occasion in a new purse bought
to hold them, were soon gone at brag, under the management of
Captain Antony Maitland, RN. He had undertaken to teach
me the game, of which I had no knowledge, for we never saw
cards at home except when a whist table was made up for Belleville;
and as the eternal cry "Anty! Anty!" did not repair my
losses, and I sturdily refused to borrow, declining therefore to
play, and composing myself gravely to look on, they could hardly
keep their countenances; my whole fortune was such a trifle to
them. It was not however my loss so much as what my mother
would say to it that disturbed me. She was very economical in
those little ways, and her unwonted liberality upon this occasion
would, I knew, be referred to ever after as a bar to any further
supplies, the sum now given having been so squandered. I
sought her in her room before we went to bed to make the confession,
fully believing it had been a crime. The thoughts of
the whole scene make me laugh now, though I slept all the better
then on being graciously forgiven "under the circumstances."
There was no company, only Sir Philip Dirom, arranging
his marriage settlements with Lord Lauderdale, the guardian of
the bride, the heiress Miss Henderson. He was a handsome
man, gentlemanly, and rather agreeable, not clever in the least,
and very vain. He had won honours in his profession — the
navy — and his latest acquisition, a diamond star of some order,
was the single object of his thoughts, after Miss Henderson's
acres. Lord Lauderdale laid a bet that Sir Philip would not be
two hours in the house without producing it; nor was he. In
the middle of dinner, having dexterously turned the conversation
on the orders of knighthood, he sent the servant for it, sure, he
said, that some of the ladies would like to see the pretty bauble
— one of the principal insignia of the Bath I suppose it was.
Lord Maitland received and handed the little red case round
with a mock gravity that nearly upset the decorum of the company.
How little, when laughing at these foibles, did we foresee that
the vain knight's great-niece was to be my cousin Edmund's
wife, or fancy that he would be so kind, so generous, to that
thoughtless pair!
The other visit was only for the day. We did not even
sleep from home, but returned very late at night, for Almondell
was twelve miles good from Edinburgh. Harry Erskine had
added to a small cottage prettily situated on the river from
which he named his retirement, and there, tired of politics, he
wore away time that I believe sometimes lagged with him, in
such country pursuits as he could follow on an income that gave
him little beyond the necessaries of life. He and Mrs. Erskine
had no greater pleasure than to receive a few friends to an early
dinner; they had a large connection, a choice acquaintance, and
were in themselves so particularly agreeable that, company or
no, a few hours passed with them were always a treat. Each
had been twice married; his first wife I never heard more of
than that she had left him children, two sons no way worthy of
him, Mrs. Callander, and another married daughter. The last
wife had no children, either Erskines or Turnbulls, and her
father, Mr. Munro, a merchant in Glasgow, having failed, her
youth was a struggling one; she had had even to draw patterns
for tambour work for her bread. Her sister Meg Munro, afterwards
Mrs. Harley Drummond, was a much more conspicuous
person than Mrs. Erskine. Their brothers were Sir Thomas
Munro and Mr. Alexander Munro, the husband of Lady Molesworth's
handsome sister. Mrs. Cumming and Grace Millie had
an old intimacy with these Munros; they were all from Ayrshire,
and that is a bond in Scotland.
In May we removed to Charlotte Square, a house I found
the most agreeable of any we had ever lived in in. Edinburgh;
the shrubbery in front, and the peep from the upper windows
at the back, of the Firth of Forth with its wooded shores and
distant hills, made the look-out so cheerful. We were in the midst,
too, of our friends. We made two new acquaintance, the Wolfe
Murrays next door, and Sir James and Lady Henrietta Ferguson
in my father's old house, in which Jane and I were born. Nothing
could be pleasanter than our sociable life. The gaiety was over,
but every clay some meeting took place between us young people.
My mother's tea-table was, I think, the general gathering point.
The two Hunters were almost always with us in the evenings;
they danced their Spanish dances, fandangoes and boleros,
striking the castanets so prettily in time to the music; Agnes
Cathcart often; and for beaux our German friends, George
and Henry Lindsay (at college then), Basil Hall, and sometimes
a class-fellow of my brother's. In the mornings we made walking
parties, and one day we went to Rosslyn and Lasswade, a merry
company. Another day we spent at sea.
The Captain of the frigate lying in the roads gallantly determined
to make a return to Edinburgh for all the attention
Edinburgh had paid him. He invited all left of his winter
acquaintance to a breakfast and a dance on board. We drove
down to the pier at Newhaven in large merry parties, where
now the splendid Granton pier shames its predecessors, and
there found boats awaiting us, such a gay little fleet, manned
by the sailors in their best suits, and we were rowed quickly
across the sparkling water, for it was a beautiful day, and
hoisted up upon the deck. There an awning was spread, flags,
etc., waving, a quadrille and a military band all ready, and Jane,
who was in high good looks, soon took her place among the
dancers, having been engaged by the little monkey of a middy
who had piloted us over. The collation was below, all along the
lower deck; we sat down to it at four o'clock, and then danced
on again till midnight, plentifully served with refreshments
hospitably pressed upon us by our entertainers. Sailors are so
hearty, and every officer of the ship seemed to feel he had the
part of host to play. There never was a merrier fête.
Jane always considered this her début. She was nicely
dressed, was very happy, much admired, and danced so well.
She and I were never dressed alike; indeed there was then so
little resemblance between us that probably the same style of
dress would not have become us. Her figure was not good, yet
when any one with better taste than herself presided at her
toilette, it could be made to look light and pleasing; her complexion
was not good either, at least the skin was far from fair,
but there was such a bright healthy colour in her rounded
cheek, and such a pair of deep blue brilliant eyes, and such a
rosy mouth which laughter suited, two such rows of even pearls
for teeth, she well deserved her names, Euphrosyne and Hebe;
and she was such a clever creature, had such a power of conversation,
without pedantry or blueism, it all flowed so naturally
from a well-stored head and warm honest heart. The little
middy's fancy was not the only one she touched that day. We
were, like the best bred of the company, in half dress, with
frocks made half high and with long sleeves. Jane's frock was
abundantly flounced, but it had no other trimming; she wore a
white belt, and had a hanging bunch of lilacs with a number of
green leaves in her hair. My frock was white too, but all its
flounces were headed with pink ribbon run through muslin, a
pink sash, and all my load of hair quite plain. A few unhappy
girls were in full dress, short sleeves, low necks, white satin
shoes. Miss Cochrane, the Admiral's daughter, was the most
properly dressed amongst us; she was more accustomed to the
sort of thing. She wore a white well-frilled petticoat, an open
silk spencer, and a little Swiss hat, from one side of which hung
a bunch of roses. She and the dress together conquered Captain
Palling; they were married a few months after.
Just before we left Charlotte Square we had a visit from the
whole family of Goodchild. They were on their way from their
handsome old home of High Pallion to a cottage in Perthshire,
very cheap, with a good garden, and quite out of the way of
expense of any kind. Mr. Goodehild shipped a good deal of his
lime to Dundee and thereabouts, it was therefore a good situation
for him. Mrs. Goodchild was glad to leave her old neighbourhood.
Since their misfortunes she had come out quite in a
new character. All her harshness, all her sarcasms, all her
follies indeed, were gone. She had put her shoulder to the
wheel in earnest, and though she could never make herself agreeable,
she had become respectable. Still we were not prepared
for the storming-party by which we were assaulted; six
daughters, I think, the father, mother, and two sons. The girls,
all in coloured cotton frocks, close coarse cottage bonnets, and
thick shoes, talking loud in sharp Durham voices, chose to walk
about to see the town, with the brothers and George Carr in
attendance. They were quite at their ease in the streets, gloves
off or on, bonnets untied for the heat, shop windows inspected,
remarks of all sorts made, George Carr perpetrating his usual
series of misdemeanours with effrontery unparalleled. Jane and
I departed to escort this assemblage, rejoiced we had so few
acquaintances left in town, the lawyers only remaining for the
summer. I was more remarkable myself if I had but known it
My walking dress was a white gown, a pink spencer, yellow tan
boots with tassels dangling, and a fine straw, high-crowned,
deep-poked bonnet, trimmed with white satin, in the front of
which were stuck up three tall white ostrich feathers in a Prince's
plume, nodding their tops forward with every step, unless the
wind held them straight up like poplar-trees. "Fair and feathery
Artizan" must have brought up this fashion; it was very ungraceful.

Mrs. Goodchild and her younger children proceeded almost
immediately on their journey. Mr. Goodchild had to remain a
short time on account of business. After this time he was frequently
with us on his way backwards and forwards, and became
a favourite in spite of his very strange manners, he was so
cleverly original and so good-natured. He took amazingly to
our Germans, particularly to the Chevaleer, as he called him,
and the Chevalier to him, and more especially to Bessy, the
eldest daughter, whom my mother had consented to receive for
a week or two as she had occasion to see a dentist, and wished
besides to remain and travel home with her father. She was a
pleasant person, very amusing, but not to my mind likeable.
I was forced to admire her very pretty feet, but M. Thinnfeldt
could not get me any farther. To be rid of Jack was such
a blessing, we cheerfully put up with his rather too lively sister.
She was an addition to the tea-table and the dancing, making
her way with everybody.
CHAPTER XVI
1817-1818
EARLY in July we moved to a large house in Picardy Place,
No. 8, with four windows in front, a great many rooms all of a
handsome size, and every accommodation, as the advertisements
say, for a family of distinction. My father took a lease of it for
three years, hiring the furniture from Mr. Trotter. It was a
sad change to us young people, down in the fogs of Leith, far
from any country walk, quite away from all our friends, and an
additional mile from Craigcrook too, measuring both ways. We
had got very intimate with Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey, Jane and I,
and we had frequently from Charlotte Square walked out to
their beautiful old place on Corstorphine Hill, spent the day
there, and returned late when any one was with us, earlier when
alone. Mr. Jeffrey was enchanted with Jane, he had never seen
any girl like her; he liked me too, but he did not find me out
till long after. He left me now more to Mrs. Jeffrey and their
little Charlotte, a pretty child in those days.
We had been at Craigcrook on a visit of some days, and
William had come out to walk home with us to Picardy Place,
looking strangely sad; on the way he told us there was very
little hope of the life of Dr. Gordon. What a shock it was!
Our intimacy had continued unbroken from the hour of our first
acquaintance, William and I more particularly having been very
much with him. He had got on in his profession as he deserved
to do, and had lately got a Chair in the University and a full
class, and they had left the old flat in Buccleuch Place in the
Old Town off by the Meadows, and lived in a nice house in Castle
Street. All was prospering with them, but he died. It was
some kind of fever he had neglected the first symptoms of, and
I believe he had injured himself by too exclusive a meat diet.
He was the first physician who had ever tried checking a certain
sort of consumptive tendency by high feeding; he had succeeded
so well with patients requiring this extra stimulus that he tried
the plan on himself. Deeply we lamented him; William felt
the loss most sincerely, nor did any other friend, I think, ever
replace him. Mrs. Gordon was left with three children, and
only tolerably well off. She was unable to remain in Castle
Street. She therefore removed soon to some place in Ayrshire,
where there was good and cheap education to be had for her
boys. Gogar — or some such name — her little boy, died; so, I
think, did her pretty Jane.
We went late to the Highlands and stayed very quietly there.
Kinrara was deserted this season, Belleville less gay than usual,
and we did not go to the Meeting. My mother was not in spirits,
my father was away; he went to Ireland to defend some rebels,
trials that made a great stir at the time, being made quite a
political battlefield. The junior counsel was Erskine Sandford,
the Bishop's son, who went with us by the name of Portia, as
it was his gown Mrs. Henry Siddons borrowed when she acted
that character; it fitted her well, for he was only about her
size, and she did not look unlike him, as he was handsome,
though so small. They were some weeks absent. While in
the north of Ireland my father took up his quarters in the
house of an old acquaintance, the Marquis of Donegal, whose
brother, Lord Spencer Chichester, my mother was once expected
to marry. The Marquis was in some perplexity about his
own marriage; he was ultimately obliged to go to the serious
expense of having an Act of Parliament passed to legalise it, the
Marchioness having been under age at the time it was celebrated.
She was a natural child, so without a parent, consequently the
Chancellor was her guardian. She had been brought up, indeed
adopted, by a worthy couple somewhere in Wales; they supposed
their consent sufficient, but it was not.
I spent much of the autumn rubbing dear Jane's ankle, on
the plan of the Oxford Mr. Grosvenor. We sat under the large
ash-tree, and she read aloud to me while I rubbed. We got
through many interesting books this way. She had hurt herself
dancing so much on board the frigate. We rode too;
Paddle was gone back to Inchyra, but a big Bogtrotter was
there instead, on which Jane, who knew not fear, was mounted.
Mr. Blair had returned from abroad, and had not come near us,
and my mother bore it well, for after hearing that he had asked
the Duc de Berri to drink wine with him, she had given him up.
At a public dinner in Paris this prince had paid an unusual
compliment to some of the English by proposing to "troquer"
with them in their fashion; he was certainly unprepared for the
civility being returned. Mr. Nightingale could not get over
this and a few other such instances, so they parted company.
Mr. Nightingale had come home too; we heard from him once
or twice, and then we heard of him. He was married to his old
love, Fanny Smith.
After a very short stay in the Highlands we all came up to
Picardy Place the end of October 1817, to meet my father on
his return from Ireland. We soon settled ourselves in our
spacious house, making ourselves more really at home than we
had hitherto felt ourselves to be in town, having the certainty
of no removal for three years. Still we younger ones were not
soon reconciled to the situation, all our habits being disturbed
by the separation from the West End! Three winters we spent
here, none of them worthy of particular note, neither indeed
can I at this distance of time separate the occurrences of each
from the others. The usual routine seemed to be followed in
all. My father and his new, very queer clerk, Mr. Caw, worked
away in their law chambers till my father went up to London
late in spring. The second winter he lost his seat for Grimsby,
a richer competitor carried all votes, and for a few months he
was out of Parliament. How much better it would have been
for him had he remained out, stuck to the Bar, at which he
really might have done well had he not left ever so many cases
in the lurch when attending the House, at which he made no
figure. He spoke seldom, said little when he did speak, and
never in any way made himself of consequence. Only once,
when all his party censured the Speaker, he made a little reputation
by the polite severity of his few words, called by Sir
Alexander Boswell his "bit of brimstone and butter," a witticism
that ran through all coteries, almost turning the laugh against
the really clever speech. He dined out everywhere with my
mother while he was in Edinburgh, hut hardly ever went out in
an evening. He seemed, from his letters to my mother, to go
a good deal into society while he was in London, dining at
Holland House, Lord Lansdowne's, Lord Grey's, all the Whigs
in fact, for he got into Parliament again. The Duke of Bedford
gave him Tavistock till one of his own sons should be ready
for it.
Five or six dinners, two small evening parties, and one large
one, a regular rout, paid my mother's debts in the visiting line
each winter. She understood the management of company so
well, every assembly of whatever kind always went off admirably
at her house. In particular she lighted her rooms brilliantly,
had plenty of refreshments, abundance of attendants, always a
piece of matting spread from the carriage steps to the house
door, and two dressing-rooms with toilets, good fires, and hot
water. In the one prepared for the ladies stood a maid with
thread and needle in case of accident. Everybody praised,
though few imitated; such preparations involved a little trouble,
besides requiring more rooms than many people could dispose
of. We dined out a great deal, Jane and I taking the dinners
in turns. We both went out in the evenings except when I
could manage an escape, which was easier than formerly, my
mother having given me up as a matrimonial speculation, and
Jane really delighting in society. We got into a rather graver
set than we had belonged to while in the sunshine of George
Street and Charlotte Square, not quite giving up our gayer
companions, but the distance from them was so great our easy
sociable intercourse was much broken. In our own short street
we knew only John Clerk, not then a judge, and his truly
agreeable sister Miss Bessy. William, Jane and I half lived in
their house. They never gave a dinner without one of us being
wanted to fill the place of an apology, and none of us ever
shirked the summons, feeling so at home, and meeting always
such pleasant people; all the law set of course, judges, barristers,
and writers; some of the literary, some of the scientific, and a
great many county families. The drawing-rooms — four of them
— were just a picture-gallery, hung with paintings by the
"ancient masters," some of them genuine! There were besides
portfolios of prints, clever caricatures, and original sketches,
these last undoubted and very valuable. John Clerk was a
collector; a thousand curiosities were spread about. He made
more of his profession than any man at the Bar, and with his
ready money commanded the market to a certain extent. The
latest purchase was the favourite always, indeed the only one
worth possessing, so that it almost seemed as if the enjoyment
was in the acquisition, not in the intrinsic merit of the object.
A hideous daub called a Rubens, a crowd of fat children miscalled
angels, with as much to spare of "de quoi" as would
have supplied the deficiencies of the whole cherubim, was the
wonder of the world for ever so long; my wonder too, for if it
was a Rubens it must have been a mere sketch, and never
finished. I think I have heard that at the sale of this museum
on Lord Eldin's death, a great many of his best-loved pictures
were acknowledged to be trash.
I did not like him; the immorality of his private life was
very discreditable; he was cynical too, severe, very, when
offended, though of a kindly nature in the main. His talents
there was no dispute about, though his reputation certainly was
enhanced by his eccentricities and by his personal appearance,
which was truly hideous. He was very lame, one leg being
much shorter than the other, and his countenance, harsh and
heavy when composed, became demoniac when illumined by the
mocking smile that sometimes relaxed it. I always thought
him the personification of the devil on two sticks, a living,
actual Mephistopheles. He spoke but little to his guests,
uttering some caustic remark, cruelly applicable, at rare intervals,
treasured up by everybody around as another saying of the
wise man's deserving of being written in gold, Eastern fashion.
When he did rouse up beyond this, his exposition of any subject he
warmed on was really luminous, masterly, carried one away. The
young men were all frightened to death of him; he did look as
if he could bite, and as if the bite would be deadly. The young
ladies played with the monster, for he was very gentle to us.
In the Parliament House, as the Courts of Justice are called
in Scotland, he was a very tiger, seizing on his adversary with
tooth and nail, and demolishing him without mercy, often
without justice, for he was a true advocate, heart and soul, right
or wrong, in his client's cause. Standing very upright on the
long leg, half-a-dozen pair of spectacles shoved up over his forehead,
his wickedest countenance on, beaming with energy, he
poured forth in his broad Scotch a torrent of flaming rhetoric too
bewildering to be often successfully opposed. There was a story
went of his once having mistaken a case, and so in his most
vehement manner pleading on the wrong side, the attorneys
(called writers with us) in vain whispering and touching and
pulling, trying in their agony every possible means of recalling
his attention. At last he was made to comprehend the mischief
he was doing, so he paused for breath, readjusted his notes,
probably never before looked at, held out his hand for the spectacles
his old fat clerk Mr. George had always a packet of
ready, put them on, shoved them up over all the series sent up
before, and then turning to the Judge resumed his address thus,
"Having now, my lord, to the best of my ability stated my
opponent's case as strongly as it is possible for even my learned
brother" — bowing to the opposite counsel with a peculiar swing
of the short leg — "to argue it, I shall proceed point by point to
refute every plea advanced, etc. etc."; and so he did, amid a
convulsion of laughter. As a consulting lawyer he was calm and
clear, a favourite arbitrator, making indeed most of his fees by
chamber practice.
The sort of tart things he said at dinner were like this.
Some one having died, a man of birth and fortune in the west
country, rather celebrated during his life for drawing pretty
freely with the long-bow in conversation, it was remarked that
the heir had buried him with much pomp, and had ordered for
his remains a handsome monument: "wi' an epitaph," said John
Clerk in his broadest Border dialect; "he must hae an epitaph,
an appropriate epitaph, an' we'll change the exordium out o'
respect. Instead o' the usual Here lies, we'll begin his epitaph
wi' Here continues to lie." I wish I could remember more of
them; they were scattered broadcast, and too many of them fell
by the wayside. The sister who lived with him and kept his
house must in her youth have been a beauty. Indeed she
acknowledged this, and told how to enhance it, she had when
about fifteen possessed herself of her mother's patch-box, and not
content with one or two black spots to brighten her complexion,
had stuck on a whole shower, and thus speckled had set out on a
very satisfactory walk, every one she met staring at her admiringly.
A deal of such quiet fun enlivened her conversation,
adding considerably to the attraction of a well-bred manner.
She painted a little, modelled in clay beautifully, sometimes
finishing her small groups in ivory. She was well read in
French and English classics, had seen much, suffered some, and
reflected a great deal. She was a most charming companion,
saying often in a few words what one could think over at good
length. She was very proud — the Clerks of Eldin had
every right so to be — and the patronising pity with which she
folded up her ancient skirts from contact with the snobs, as we
call them now, whom she met and visited and was studiously
polite to, was often my amusement to watch. She never disparaged
them by a syllable individually, but she would describe
a rather fast family as "the sort of people you never see in
mourning," or "so busy trying to push themselves into a place
and not succeeding."
There was a younger brother William, likewise a bachelor,
who had some office with a small salary and lived in lodgings,
dining out every day, for no party was complete without him.
He was less kindly than John, but his manner concealed this.
He was as clever, if not cleverer, but too indolent to make any
use of his great abilities. He had never practised at the Bar,
and was quite content with his small income and his large
reputation, though I have heard say, when wondering at the
extent of his information, that his memory was regularly refreshed
for society, it being his habit to read up in the morning
for his display in the evening, and then dexterously turn the
conversation into the prepared channel. He told a story better
than any one in the world, except his friend Sir Adam Ferguson.
He one dark evening over the fire gave us a whole murder case
so graphically that when he seized me to illustrate the manner
of the strangling, I and the whole of the rest of us shrieked. I
never trembled so much in my life.
Sir Adam Ferguson was the son of the "Roman Antiquities";
another idler. He was fond in the summer of walking excursions
in two or three localities where he had friends, in the
Perthshire Highlands, along the coasts of Fife and Forfar, and
in the Border country, the heights along the Tweed, etc. Mark
the points well. His acquaintance were of all ranks. He had
eves, ears, observation of all kinds, a wonderful memory, extraordinary
powers of imitation, a pleasure in detailing — acting, in
fact — all that occurred to him. He was the bosom friend of
Walter Scott; he and William Clerk lived half their time with
the great novelist, and it was ungenerous in him and Mr. Lockhart
to have made so little mention of them in the biography,
for most undoubtedly Sir Adam Ferguson was the "nature"
from which many of those life-like pictures were drawn. We,
who knew all, recognised our old familiar stories — nay, characters
— and guessed the rich source that had been so constantly
drawn on.
Waverley came out, I think it must have been in the autumn
of 1814, just before we went first to Edinburgh. It was brought
to us at the Doune, I know, by "little Jemmy Simpson," as that
good man, since so famous, was then most irreverently called.
Some liked the book, he said; he thought himself it was in
parts quite beyond the common run, and the determined mystery
as to the author added much to its vogue. I did not like it.
The opening English scenes were to me intolerably dull and
lengthy, and so prosy, and the persons introduced so uninteresting,
the hero contemptible, the two heroines unnatural and disagreeable,
and the whole idea given of the Highlands so utterly at
variance with truth. I read it again long afterwards, and
remained of the same mind. Then burst out Guy Mannering,
carrying all the world before it, in spite of the very pitiful
setting the gipsies, the smugglers, and Dandie Dinmont are
surrounded by. Here again is the copyist, the scenery Dumfries
and Galloway, the dialect Forfar. People now began to feel
these works could come but from one author, particularly as a
few acres began to be added to the recent purchase of the old
tower of Abbotsford, and Mrs. Scott set up a carriage, a barouche
landau built in London, which from the time she got it she was
seldom out of.
I was never in company with Walter Scott; he went out
very little, and when he did go he was not agreeable, generally
sitting very silent, looking dull and listless, unless an occasional
flash lighted up his countenance. In his own house he was
another character, especially if he liked his guests. It was odd,
but Sir Walter never had the reputation in Edinburgh he had elsewhere
— was not the lion, I mean. His wonderful works were
looked for, read with avidity, praised on all hands, yet the
author made far less noise at home than he did abroad. The
fat, vulgar Mrs. Jobson, whose low husband had made his large
fortune at Dundee by pickling herrings, on being congratulated at
the approaching marriage of her daughter to Sir Walter's son, said
the young people were attached, otherwise her Jane might have
looked higher; "it was only a baronetcy, and quite a late creation."
Another family in the Clerks' set and ours were the Dalzels;
they lived in a small house just behind Picardy Place, in Albany
or Forth Street. They were a Professor's widow, her sister, and
her sons and daughters, reduced in the short space of a few years
to the one son and one daughter who still survive. Mary
Dalzel played well on the pianoforte; there was no other talent
among them. The Professor had been a learned but a singularly
simple man. He had been tutor to either Lord Lauderdale or
his eldest son, and they had a story of him which Lady Mary
told us, that at dinner at Dunbar — a large party — a guest
alluding to the profligacy of some prominent political character,
Mr. Dalzel broke in with, "There has not been such a rogue
unhinged since the days of the wicked Duke of Lauderdale."
John Dalzel was a groat companion of my brother William's;
they had gone through College, and were now studying for
their Civil Law trials together. He was dull but persevering,
and might have risen in his profession had he lived.
In York Place we had only the old Miss Pringles, chiefly
remarkable for never in the morning going out together — always
different ways, that when they met at dinner there might be
more to say; and Miss Kate Sinclair; and two families which,
all unguessed by us, were destined to have such close connection
with us hereafter, Mrs. Henry Siddons and the Gibson Craigs.
Mrs. Siddons was now a widow living with her two very nice
daughters and her two charming little boys, quietly as became
her circumstances. She acted regularly, as the main prop of the
theatre on which the principal part of her income depended.
She went a little into society. She had pleasure in seeing her
friends in a morning in her own house, and the friends were
always delighted to go to see her, she was so very agreeable.
The girls were great friends of my sister Mary's; the little boys
were my mother's passion, they were with us for ever, quite
little pets. The Gibsons, who were not Craigs then, we got
more intimate with after they moved to a fine large house Mr.
Gibson was building in Picardy Place when we went there. There
were two sons, and seven daughters of every age, all of them
younger than the brothers.
Mr. Shannon, the Irish chaplain of the Episcopal chapel we
attended — the fashionable one — lived in York Place, and the
Gillies, with whom we were as intimate as with the Clerks, and
on the same easy terms; we young people being called on when
wanted, and never loth to answer the call, Lord Gillies being
kind in his rough way, and Mrs. Gillies then, as now, delightful.
Their nieces Mary and Margaret lived with them.
Jane and I added to our private list of so-called friends Mr.
Kennedy of Dunare, whose sister wrote Father Clement, whose
mother, beautiful at eighty, was sister to the mother of Lord
Brougham, who himself married Sir Samuel Romilly's daughter
and held for many years a high situation here in Ireland:
Archy Alison, now Sir Archibald, heavy, awkward, plain, and
yet foredoomed to greatness by the united testimony of every
one sufficiently acquainted with him; his father, one of the
Episcopal chaplains and author of a work on Taste, had married
Mrs. Montague's Miss Gregory, so there was celebrity on all
sides: Willy and Walter Campbell, uncle and nephew the same
age. Willy Campbell of Winton was really a favourite with all
the world, and most certainly would have shone in it had he
been spared; he died in Greece, bequeathing his immense
fortune equally between his two sisters, Lady Ruthven and
Lady Belhaven; they were all three the children of a second
marriage of old Campbell of Shawfield's with the heiress of
Winton. Robert Hay, Captain Dalzel who lent us the whole
of M. Jouy's then published works beginning with L'Hermite
de la Chaussée d'Antin, and the Scots Greys, completed our first
winter's list. There was always a cavalry regiment at the
barracks at Piershill, and in this fine corps was a nephew of
General Need's, Tom Walker, who was the means of introducing
us to the rest of the officers.
The gay set in Edinburgh was increased by the advent of
Mr. and Mrs. Inglis, Mr. and Mrs. Horrocks, the Macleods of
Harris, and others. Mr. Inglis was only a Writer to the Signet,
but a hospitable man reputed to be thriving in business; his
wife, sister to Mr. Stein, the rich distiller, with a sister married
to General Duff, Lord Fife's brother, kept a sort of open dancing
house, thus, as she fancied, ushering her two very pretty little
daughters into the world with every advantage. Her aim was
to marry them well, that is, highly or wealthily. She fixed on
Macleod of Harris for the younger, and got him; the elder fixed
on Davidson of Tulloch for herself, and lost him. Did I forget
to name Duncan Davidson among our particular friends? A
finer, simpler, handsomer, more attractive young man was never
ruined. He was much in love with Catherine Inglis, and there
was no doubt meant to marry her. He might perhaps have
turned out better had his early inclinations not been thwarted.
The old stockbroker was as ambitious as Mrs. Inglis, and expected
a very much superior connection for his eldest son.
Harris, having no father, could choose his own wife, too blind to
see how distasteful he was to her. This miserable beginning
had a wretched ending hereafter. Charles Macleod, the brother,
would have been more likely to take a young girl's fancy. The
Macleod sisters were nothing particular. Mr. Horrocks was the
very rich and extremely underbred son of a Liverpool merchant,
a handsome little man married to a Glasgow beauty, a cold,
reserved woman, who did not care for him a bit; they could do
nothing better than give balls.
Of course Miss Baillie gave her annual fête, no longer an
amusing one. An Ayrshire aunt had died and left her and Mrs.
Cumming handsome legacies, upon the strength of which the
Lady Logic came up to live in Edinburgh, and Grace Baillie
bought a good house, furnished it neatly, and became quite humdrum.
She had taken charge of a "decent man," for whom she
wanted a proper wife — Sir Ewan Cameron of Fassiefern, made a
baronet as a mark of honour to the reputation of two, if not
three, elder brothers all killed in the battlefield, leaving this poor
body the only representative of the old family. She offered him
to both Jane and me, and that we might not "buy a pig in a
poke" she paraded him several times before our windows on the
opposite side of the street. These old kind of men were beginning
to fancy us; I suppose we were considered, like them,
on the decline. Mr. Crawfurd, of Japan reputation, was seriously
attracted first by one and then the other, but Jane carried
the day, got all the languishing looks from such bilious eyes,
an ivory fan, and the two heavy volumes of his Eastern history.
A year or two after he married Miss Perry, the Morning
Chronicle, she being referred to me for his character, like a
servant, and getting Mary Gillies to write to me to beg for a
candid opinion of her elderly lover. When ladies arrive at asking
such opinions, one only answer can be given. Mine was
highly satisfactory. We really knew no ill of the man; his
appearance was the worst of him, and there was a drowned wife
too, lost on her voyage home; she might have been saved on a
desert island, and so start up some day like the old woman in
the farce, to destroy the happiness of the younger bride and the
bridegroom.
But I had an old lover all to myself, unshared with any rival,
won, not by my bright eyes, but by my spirited fingers, from
playing the Highland marches as Lady Huntly had taught me
them. Old Colonel Stewart of Garth (seventy, I should:think,
always in a green coat, and silver broad-rimmed spectacles)
was writing the history of the 42nd Regiment, and the slow
Black Watch, and the quick step of the Highland Laddie,
given better, he said, than by the band of his old love, so over-excited
or over-enchanted him that he hardly ever quitted my
side, and he gave me his precious work on its publication. I
had my two thick volumes too, but they were not heavy ones. He
was a fine old soldier, though a little of a bore sometimes, so very
enthusiastic about the deeds of his warrior countrymen. He never
went further in his love-making than to wish he were a young
man for my sake, so that Jane had the advantage over me of a
real offer. As for little Sir Ewan, we left him to Grace Baillie.
It was a great addition to the quiet home society we were
beginning to prefer to the regular gaiety, the having Mrs.
Cumming settled near us. Her two elder sons had already gone
out to India, Alexander in the Civil Service, Robert in the
Artillery, both to Bengal. The three younger it was necessary
to educate better, as it was gradually becoming more difficult to
get passed through the examinations, and all were destined for
the East. Besides, there was May Anne, who had hitherto,
happy child, been let run wild on the beautiful banks of the
Findhorn, and who was now declared to be of an age requiring
taming and training. John Peter, the third son, whom you
know best as the Colonel, soon got his cadetship and sailed away
to Bombay. George and Willie, intended for army surgeons,
were to study medicine, and were also to have their manners
formed by appearing occasionally in society. Willie made his
entrance into fashionable life at a large evening party of my
mother's. He was a handsome lad, very desirous of being
thought a beau, so he dressed himself in his best carefully, and
noticing that all the fine young men were scented, he provided
himself with a large white cotton pocket-handkerchief of his
mother's which he steeped in peppermint water, a large bottle
of this useful corrective always standing on the chimney-piece in
her room. Thus perfumed, and hair and whiskers oiled and
curled, Willie, in a flutter of shyness and happiness, entered our
brilliant drawing-rooms, when he was pounced on by Miss
Shearer, the very plain sister of Mrs. James Grant, an oldish
woman of no sort of fashion and cruelly marked with the smallpox.
"We'll keep together, Willie," said Miss Shearer, at every
attempt of poor Willie's to shake himself clear of such an encumbrance
in the crowd. How Dr. Cumming laughed at these
recollections when he and I met again after a lifetime's separation!
Up and down this ill-assorted pair paraded, Miss Shearer
determined to show off her beau. "There's an extraordinary
smell of peppermint here," said Lord Erskine to Mrs. Henry
Siddons, as the couple turned and twirled round to pass them,
Willie flourishing the large pocket-handkerchief in most approved
style. It was really overpowering, nor could we contrive to get
rid of it, nor to detect the offending distributor of such pharmaceutical
perfume, till next day, talking over the party with the
Lady Logie, she enlightened us, more amused herself by the
incident than almost any of the rest of us.
She was right to keep the bottle of peppermint where it
could easily be found, as the sort of housekeeping she practised
must have made a frequent appeal to it necessary. She bought
every Saturday a leg of mutton and a round of beef; when the
one was finished, the other was begun; the leg was roasted, the
round was boiled, and after the first day they were eaten cold,
and served herself, her daughter, her two sons, and her two
maid-servants the week; there were potatoes, and in summer
cabbage, and peas that rattled, in winter oranges, and by the
help of the peppermint the family throve. We never heard of
illness among them; the minds expanded too, after their own
queer fashion, even George, the most eccentric of human beings,
doing credit to the rearing. He was so very singular in his
ways, his mother was really uncertain about his getting through
the College of Surgeons. She made cautious inquiries now and
then as to his studies, attention to lectures, notes of them, visits
to the hospital, preparation for his thesis and so on, and getting
unsatisfactory replies, grew very fidgety. One day one of the
medical examiners stopped her in the street to congratulate her
on the admirable appearance made by her son George when he
was passed at Surgeon's Hall; his answers had been remarkable,
and his thesis, dedicated to my father, had been No. 2 or 3 out
of fifty. She was really amazed. "George," said she, when
they met, "when did you get your degree? When did you pass
your trials?" "Eh!" said George, looking up with his most
vacant expression. "Oh, just when I was ready for them." "You
never told me a word about it." "No? Humph! you'd have
heard fast enough if I'd failed." That was all she could get out
of him; but he told us, that seeing the door of the Surgeon's
Hall open and finding it was an examining day, it struck him
that he would go in and get the job over; it was very easy to
pass, he added. He has since at Madras risen high in his profession,
been twice publicly thanked for his care of the troops,
made money, married a wife; yet when he was at home on
furlough he acted more like Dominic Sampson than any other
character ever heard of.
George Carr was also a medical student, a very attentive
one, making up by diligence for no great natural capacity; he
was kept in order by his sister, a young lady lately from Bath,
as we were without ceasing reminded. She was a lady-like,
rather nice-looking person, without being at all handsome;
beautifully neat and neat-handed, and amiable, I believe, in her
home, though dreadfully tiresome in ours; for when asked for
a day, she stayed a week, sharing my small room and civilly
begging the loan of pins, oils, gloves, ribbons, handkerchiefs,
and other small articles with none of which I was
particularly well provided, and yet none were ever returned. We
were not comfortably managed with regard to our private expenses,
Jane and I. My mother bought for us what she
judged necessary, and she was apt to lay out more on handsome
gowns than left her sufficient for clean gloves, neat shoes, fresh
flowers; a way of proceeding that greatly distressed us — distressed
me particularly, for I was by nature tidy, had all the Raper
methodical pricknikity ways, and a five-guinea blonde-trimmed
dress, with calico or dirty gloves and ill-made shoes, made me
wretched; besides, there was no pleasure in managing a wardrobe
not under my own control. Out of economy I made most of
my own clothes, many of my mother's and Jane's, yet reaped no
benefit from this diligence, as what I disliked was often chosen
for me, and what I hated I had to wear. The extreme neatness
of Miss Carr exactly suited me; all her under-clothes, made by
herself, were perfection; her dresses of simple materials, except
such as had been presents, were well-fitting and fresh, so that
she looked always nicer in a room than many much more
expensively attired. She had the fault of hinting for presents,
but then she loved dress, she loved company, she was not very
wise, and her purse was very scanty. She amused us another
way. She had such a string of lovers — had had; it was poor
Miss Elphick and her early adorers over again; and if any
one danced twice with her, she wriggled about like an eel when
his name was mentioned. Every now and then we were informed
in confidence that she was going to be married, or to try
to snake up her mind to marry — that was the form. However,
these affairs never progressed. A Mr. Lloyd did "make his
offer"; mother and daughter walked up in great agitation to
tell us. He was an ugly, little, shabby old man, a friend of
Mr. Massie's, who wanted a wife and was taken with her, but
when they came to particulars, there was not money enough on
either side to make the connection prudent. It was a great
feather though in Miss Carr's thirty-year cap, and she shook it
out on all occasions with much complacency.
Bessie Goodchild likewise favoured us with another visit;
her teeth again required attention. She did not trust to a
request and a favourable answer, but very sagaciously made
sure she would be welcome for three days, and then contrived
one way or another to stay above a month. She was very
entertaining, and made herself very agreeable to my mother
with funny gossip about all the old Durham relations. She was
no plague in the house, but we had been brought up too honestly
to approve of her carrying tales from family to family, and mimicking
the oddities of persons from whom she had received
kindness. We had an odd family party sometimes — a Carr, a
Goodchild, a Gillio, and Grace Baillie who thrice a week at
least walked in at dinner-time. My brother's young men
friends continued popping in morning and evening, when it
suited them. He brought us most frequently William Gibson,
Germaine Lavie, Robert Ferguson (now the superfine colonel),
Mr. Beauclerk (grandson of Topham's), John Dalzel, and the
two Lindsays while they remained at College. Mary, now
grown into a very handsome girl, did her part well in all home
company. Johnnie also was made a little man of; he had a
tutor for Latin, attended the French and drawing classes, and
read English History with Jane. We had given up all masters
except the Italian and the harp, which last taught us in classes,
and thereby hangs a tale.
Monsieur Elouis, the harp master, charged so much for his
private lessons, that my mother suggested to him to follow the
Edinburgh fashion of classes at so much a quarter, three lessons a
week. He made quite a fortune. There were eight pupils in a
class, the lesson lasting two hours. We three, the two Hunters,
Grace Stein (afterwards Lady Don), Amelia Gillio and Catherine
Inglis were his best scholars. We played concerted pieces
doubling the parts, choruses arranged by him, and sometimes
duets or solos, practising in other rooms. The fame of our
execution spread over the town, and many persons entreated
permission to mount up the long common stair to the poor
Frenchman's garret to listen to such a number of harps played
by such handsome girls. One or two of the mammas would have
had no objection, but my mother and Lady Hunter would not
hear of their daughters being part of an exhibition. We went
there to learn, not to show off. Miss Elphick, too, had her own
ideas upon the subject. She always went with us, and was
extremely annoyed by the group of young men so frequently
happening to pass down the street just at the time our class dispersed,
some of them our dancing partners, so that there were
bows and speeches and attendance home, much to her disgust.
She waited once or twice till the second class assembled, but
the beaux waited too. So then she carried us all off a quarter
of an hour too soon, leaving our five companions to their fate;
and this not answering long, she set to scold M. Elouis, and
called the Edinburgh gentlemen all sorts of names. In the midst
of her season of wrath the door of our music room opened one
flay, and a large fine-looking military man, braided and belted and
moustached, entered and was invited to be seated. Every harp
was silent. "Mesdemoiselles," said M. Elouis with his most
polished air of command, "recommence if you please; this
gentleman is my most particular friend, a musical amateur, etc."
Miss Elphick was all in a flame; up she rose, up she made us
rise, gather our music together, and driving us and Amelia
Gillio before her, we were shawled and bonneted in less time
than I am writing of it, and on our way downstairs before
poor Monsieur had finished his apologies to the officer and the
other young ladies. Never was little woman in such a fury.
We never returned to the harp classes, neither did the Hunters,
and very soon they were given up. It was certainly an unwarrantable
liberty, an impertinence, and the man must either
have been totally unaware of the sort of pupils he was to find,
or else an ill-bred ignorant person. Poor Elouis never recovered
the mistake; he had to leave for want of business.
Margaret Gillio and I went shares in another master,
mistress rather. She had a sweet, flexible, bird-like voice and
sang her little English ballads very prettily. I tried higher
but my singing was very so-so till we had some lessons
from Mrs. Bianchi Lacey. She came with her husband and her
apprentice, a Miss Simmons, to give a concert or two and take
a few pupils by the way. The concerts were delightful, the
three sang so well together, the music they gave us was so good,
and it was all so simply done; her pianoforte the only accompaniment,
and in the small assembly room so that they were
perfectly heard. It was a style of singing, hers, that we may
call peculiarly ladylike; no very powerful voice, and it was now
going, for she was no longer young; still it was round and true
and sweet in the upper notes, and the finish of her whole song,
the neatness of every passage, the perfect expression she gave
both to music and words, was all new to me. I could now
understand it, and it gave me a different notion of the art from
any that had ever entered my head before. The first concert
she gave we were so much amused with old Sir John Hay, one
of the directors, squiring her about, bringing her negus, a shawl,
a chair, and what not, and my brother William doing ditto by
Miss Simmons, that the first song that young lady sang,
"Hangels ever bright and fair " (she was Birmingham), made less
impression than it should have done, for her voice was splendid.
We never heard what became of her; she was pretty, so perhaps
she married a pen-maker and led a private, instead of a hazardous
public, life. But the moment Mr. Lacey and his wife began
their delightful duets we had ears for none else. My father
offered me a dozen lessons. We had time for only ten — all, I
may say, I ever got — but we went to her three concerts. They
dined with us twice, and sang as much as we liked, and my
mother gave an evening party for them at which their singing
enchanted everybody. It was essentially suited to the drawing-room.
She had been taught by old Bianchi, who made her a
perfect musician. She played admirably and had a thorough
knowledge of the science. She was his apprentice and he
married her. After a short widowhood she rather threw- herself
away on too young a husband, a very vulgar man with so much
presumption of manner as to keep one in a fright lest he should
commit some atrocity. It was like sitting on needles and pins,
that young monkey our brother Johnnie said, to sit in company
with him. However, he never offended, and if he had, his fine
voice would have secured his pardon. Mrs. Lacey took a fancy
to me, gave me extra long lessons, and the kindest directions for
the management of my voice in her absence. She was very
particular about the erect position of the head and chest, the
smile with which the mouth was to be opened, the clear pronunciation
of every word. She gave me a set of exercises to
develop the power of the voice, every half-tone being brought
out in every one of them; the inequalities were to be carefully
marked and carefully improved. When we came to songs, she
made me study one. First the poet's meaning; his intentions were
to be accurately ascertained and accurately expressed aided by
the music, which was to accompany the words and follow out
the idea; in fact the song was to be acted. Next it was to be
embellished with a few occasional graces, very neatly executed,
applied in fit pauses, the whole got up so perfectly as to be
poured forth with ease, any effort, such as straining or forcing
the voice or unduly emphasising a passage, being altogether so
much out of taste as to produce pain instead of pleasure. Lastly
she bid me practise what I liked, but never inflict on other ears
what was not completely within my compass — no effort to myself.
I owed her much, very much, and yet she did not teach
me singing, at least not altogether. Her valuable advice, and
her care of the form of the mouth, were the foundation of my
after-fame. My finishing instructress was Mrs. Robert Campbell;
she and her sister Mrs. James Hamilton were two little Jewesses
four feet high, whose father had been Consul at one of the
Italian ports. One evening, at a small party at Mrs. Munro's,
Mrs. Robert Campbell sang a simple Italian ballad so beautifully,
so strictly according to Mrs. Lacey's rules, it was all so easy, so
satisfying, my lesson in singing was then, I felt, given me.
She was encored by acclamation; this enabled me to follow every
note. On going home I sat down to the pianoforte, sang the
ballad myself with every little grace that she had given it, next
day repeated it, took another from a store sent us by Eliza Ironside,
decorated it after my own taste, got every little turn to flow
as from a flute, and in the evening treated my father to both.
His surprise was only equalled by his extreme pleasure. It
seemed to be the height of his musical expectations. However,
we did more for him than that. He really loved music, he
loved us and was proud of us, and though he could sternly
express his dissatisfaction, he was no niggard of praise when
praise was due. We worked with a heart for a person so discriminating.
Mr. Loder brought an opera company with him,
and gave, not whole operas — he had not strength enough for
that — but very well got-up scenes from several most in favour.
It was a most agreeable variety in a place where public amusements
were but scantily supplied to the inhabitants. We had
De Begnis and his wife, and scenes from Figaro, Don Giovanni,
etc.; the rest of the artistes were very fair, but I forget their
names. Going into a music shop we saw on the counter two
numbers of a new work — the opera of Don Juan arranged for
two performers on the pianoforte; the first attempt in a kind
that had such success, and that brought good music within the
power of the family circle. We secured our prize, Jane and I,
hurried home, tried the first scena, were delighted, gave a week
to private, very diligent study, and when we had it all by heart,
the first afternoon my father came up to spend the gloaming
napping in an easy-chair, we arrested his sleepy fit by "Notte e
giorno," to his amazement. He liked our opera better, I think,
than "Sul margine d'un rio" or "Ninetta cara," for we had so
lately heard all the airs we played that we were quite up to
the proper style, and had ourselves all the desire in the world
to give the music we loved the expression intended by our then
favourite composer, Mozart. William also began to try a few
tenor ducts with me. Mrs. Lacey had taken the trouble to
teach him half-a-dozen for love. It is surprising how well he
could do both tender and buffo. His ear either was slightly
defective naturally, or from want of early exercise; this made
it difficult to keep his voice in order, otherwise he was a most
agreeable singer, and once set out kept the key well. Really
our home concerts, with Mary Dalzel's help, were very much
applauded by our partial audience.
Edinburgh did not afford much public amusement. Except
these operas which were a chance, a stray concert now and then
— catches and glees being the most popular — and the six
Assemblies, there were none other. The Assemblies were very
ill attended, the small room never half full, the large, which held
with ease twelve hundred people, was never entered except upon
occasion of the Caledonian Hunt Ball, when the members presented
the tickets, and their friends graciously accepted the free
entertainment. The very crowded dances at home, inconvenient,
troublesome and expensive as they were, seemed to be more
popular than those easy balls, where for five shillings we had
space, spring, a full orchestra, and plenty of slight refreshments.
I heard afterwards that as private houses became more fully and
handsomely furnished, the fashion of attending the Assemblies
revived.
Macleod of Harris did a very sensible thing the winter he
married poor, pretty little Richmond Inglis. They were living
with her father and mother, and so very much invited out that
he did not think Mrs. Inglis' perpetual entertainments sufficient
return for the many civilities he and his young wife had received.
He hired Smart's rooms where the dancing-master had his
academy, asked every one he knew far and near, contracted for a
supper, and gave the best ball I was ever at in my young days;
a ball that finally established waltzing among us. This much-persecuted
dance had been struggling on for a season, gaining far
less ground than the quadrilles; but a strong band mustering on
this occasion, the very "propers" gave in as by magic touch,
and the whole large room was one whirligig. Harris himself
danced for the first time at his own ball, and beautifully; his
brother Charles was the Vestris of our society — acknowledged.
The Laird was even more graceful in his movements. "Ah!"
said poor Richmond, "if I had ever seen my husband dance,
mamma would not have found it so difficult to get me to marry
him." She saw his perfections too late, I fancy, for she left him
and seven children afterwards.
CHAPTER XVII
1818-1819
THE first summer we were in Picardy Place, 1818, we girls
remained there protected by Miss Elphick during the whole
of it. When the fine weather came on in spring we had
resumed our excursions to Craigcrook, and it was then we
got so intimate with Basil Hall. We could not have been
acquainted with him while we lived in George Street, because
he only returned from his Loo Choo cruise late in the
autumn of 1817. During the following winter we saw a
good deal of him both before he went to London, and after
they had tried to spoil him there, for he was made such
a wonder of there, it was a miracle his head kept steady;
but it was at Craigcrook that we became such friends. Cruel
Lord Jeffrey limited his two young favourites to friendship;
he forbid any warmer feelings, closeting Jane in his pretty
cabinet, and under the shades of the wood on Corstorphine
Hill, to explain all the family particulars. And then Basil
went off to sea.
The Jeffreys generally went out on Friday evenings, Or, at any
rate, on Saturdays, to a late dinner at Craigcrook, and came
back to town on Monday morning, till the 12th of July released
him from law labours. Jane and I frequently went with them,
sometimes for only one day, returning in the evening. We
never met any lady there but Mrs. George Russell occasionally;
a clever woman, not to my mind agreeable. The men were
John Murray, now and then his elder brother, Tommy Thomson,
Robert Graeme, Mr. Fullerton till he married, William Clerk
very seldom, Mr. Cockburn always, John Jeffrey, the Moreheads
now and then, chance celebrities, and a London friend at
intervals. It was not a big-wig set at all. My father, Lord
Gillies, and such-like dignitaries would have been quite out of
place in this rather riotous crew; indeed, the prevailing free-and-easy
tone did not altogether suit me. Individually, almost
all of our party were agreeable, cleverly amusing. Collectively,
there was far too much boisterous mirth for my taste. I
preferred being with Mrs. Jeffrey, that naturally charming
woman, not then by any means sufficiently appreciated by
those so much her inferiors. She and I spent our time
gardening — she was a perfect florist — playing with little
Charlotte, to whom all my old nursery tales and songs were
new, preparing for the company, and chattering to each other.
My gentlemen friends were William Murray of Henderland,
and Robert Graeme of Lynedoch; they used to find Mrs.
Jeffrey and me out when we were weeding our borders, and
often carry us off up the hill, Jane remaining queen of the
bowling-green. How much she was admired by all those
clever heads!
The dinners were delightful, so little form, so much fun,
real wit sometimes, and always cheerfulness; the windows
open to the garden, the sight and the scent of the flowers
heightening the flavour of repasts unequalled for excellence;
wines, all our set were famous for having of the best and in
startling variety — it was a mania; their cellars and their books
divided the attention of the husband; the wife, alas! was
more easily satisfied with the cookery. Except in a real old-fashioned
Scotch house, where no dish was attempted that was
not national, the various abominations served up as corner
dishes under French names were merely libels upon housekeeping.
Mrs. Jeffrey presented nothing upon her table but
what her cook could dress; her home-fed fowl and home-made
bread, and fine cream and sweet butter, and juicy vegetables,
all so good, served so well, the hot things hot, the fruits, cream,
and butter so cold, gave such a feeling of comfort every one
got good-humoured, even cranky William Clerk. They were
bright days, those happy summer clays at Craigcrook.
Another country house we were very much in was one the
Gibsons had a lease of, Woodside. It was six miles from
town, a good ride. We went out early, stayed all day, and
came back in the cool of the summer evening. They were
kind people, the father and mother very little in our way, the
sons not much, the seven daughters of all ages our great
friends. Mrs. Kaye and Jane drew most together, Cecilia and
I; the little ones were pets, and very pretty ones. We rode
a good deal, one at a time, with the coachman attending. We
had struck up a friendship with a Captain and Mrs. Bingham
through the medium of their fine little boys. He commanded
the frigate in the Roads, had succeeded Captain Dalling. In
winter, they lived in lodgings in the town; in summer, took
a small house close to the sea at Newhaven. They gave a
very pretty party in town, towards the end of a winter,
inviting people simply to spend the evening. We found tea,
and a good many friends, and a hearty sailor's welcome. After
tea, said the captain, "Couldn't we get up a dance, don't you
think, for the young people?" and pulling out a whistle gave
a shrill call, on which in skipped half-a-dozen smart young sailors
in their best, who wheeled out the tables, lifted up the carpet,
settled the seats round the room, and then ushered in a band.
It had all been prepared before, but it was nicely done and a
surprise, and put us all in high spirits. The sailors brought
in supper at the proper time, and whilst we were enjoying our
refreshments in the one room, they danced us a hornpipe in the
other. When we rode to see them at Newhaven our luncheon
was strawberries and cream. More than once we afterwards
rowed to the frigate, and they gave us one little fête there on
board; a dozen friends and a collation; the boats took us up
the Forth for an hour instead of any dancing.
Captain Bingham's impromptu fait à loisir party puts me in
mind of Johnny Bell's. He was the celebrated surgeon, a
morsel of a man married to a wife as small, and they lived in
rooms proportioned to their size, on a flat in George Street.
He was extremely musical — of course collected a musical society
about him; his instrument, the bass viol or double bass, a
great deal bigger than himself; his hands could just meet on
it, the bow producing sounds from those thick strings a giant
could only have emulated. It was a Grace Baillie affair, their
single concert, the return for all they went to; their whole
apartment thrown open, kitchen and bedroom and all, made
to communicate not only by doors but by windows, oval
windows cut in the walls, filled by book-shelves at ordinary
times and opened on this state occasion, having all the effect
of mirrors, spectators fancying at first that the moving mob
seen through these openings was a reflection. The many tiny
rooms were by this means really made into one large enough
for the company, nearly all of whom met the eye at any spot,
by turning round the head. Some one wondering where the
little couple slept on this gala night, Lord Jeffrey gravely
answered, "In the case of the bass viol." A brother, George
Bell, a barrister, was a great friend of my father's, a very
first-rate man; it was he who helped poor Duncan Cameron so
well out of his scrape.
In August my father and mother and William went to the
Highlands. Johnnie accompanied M. L'Espinasse to France.
The little monkey had a turn for languages, was making good
progress in French, so as a reward this pleasant trip was
arranged for him. We three young ladies were left to amuse
ourselves and Miss Elphick. John Dalzel was good enough to
take us long walks frequently, sometimes as far as Portobello,
where Mrs. Gillio had taken lodgings for sea-bathing. She
had been in considerable difficulties, poor woman, on account of
her children. Amelia was very unmanageable, a forward
flirting girl, by no means pleased when found fault with.
George, her only son, had run away; after a search of some
days he was discovered on board a collier, bent on going to sea.
He made stipulations before consenting to return home, one of
which was that he should no more attend the High School.
One of her Indian friends placed him somewhere in England
under a tutor, who prepared young men for cadetships; he got
his appointment in proper time, and went out to Bombay,
where he died. Just as he left Edinburgh the mother broke
her leg, and it was to recover her strength that she was sent
to the seaside. Nobody could be kinder than she ever was to
us, and in every way by attention on our part we tried to
repay her warmth of feeling, but we could not go the length
of having Amelia much with us, or of at all forming part of
Amelia's own society. She had picked up a very under set of
girl acquaintance, with beaux of manners agreeable to them,
principally young medical students; as a class, the lowest of
all at college. She had a "Morris" and a "Turnbull" — she
called them all thus by their surnames — and two "Goldwires,"
and I really forget how many more, with whom she seemed to
be equally intimate; for, by her account, extraordinary personal
liberties seemed to be taken by these young men with those
young ladies without much offence, though she confessed she
did not approve of all proceedings. She "hated," she said,
"pawing men." "Morris" was not a pawing man, nor one of
the Goldwires, but the other was, and so was "Hogg," and it
was quite unpleasant, she thought, to have "a great hot hand
touching one." We used to wonder at what school in Bath
this girl could possibly have been educated.
We were obliged to offend poor Mrs. Gillio about a trip to
Roslin. She had hired a carriage, and made sure of our
delighted acceptance of seats in it. We were to have cold meat
and strawberries and cream at Lasswade, a day of thorough
enjoyment; but as Amelia's beaux were to have joined the
party, Miss Elphick took it upon herself to say that she could
not sanction the excursion. Amelia gave us a lively description
of the pleasures we had lost, concluding by a fine trick she
had played her mother. Going, Mrs. Gillio had packed up all
her young ladies inside the carriage with herself; two gentlemen
going on the box, the rest in a gig. Miss Amelia had no notion
of a continuance of "such old fudge"; so forming a respectable
league with a "Goldwire" (not the "pawing one" it was to be
hoped), "off him and me set, and jumped upon the dickey-box."
Dislodgment was stoutly resisted, and so there was rather a
riotous journey home. Margaret, a pretty, gentle girl, was
quite innocent of all these ill-breedings; she occupied herself
with her masters, her needleworks and her birds, and as a child-companion
for Mary was very much with us, improving herself
in every way in the school-room. A little spoiled Isabella,
once so pretty, now growing plain, was the plague of everybody.
We did not neglect our unfortunate cousins in the Abbey.
We never failed to visit them as when my mother ordered the
visit. Miss Carr, however, did not so much care to come to
us, our ways were rather dull for her; Jane spent most of her
time drawing, I worked a robe in imitation point, appliquée,
intended for Mary's first Northern Meeting. We were so
quiet, so orderly, so very correct in our whole conduct during
the absence of the heads of the family, that on their return my
father was addressed in the Parliament House by our opposite
neighbour, a writer who lived on a flat, a second storey, high
enough for good observation, arid assured by him of the perfect
propriety of our behaviour.
Jane's turn for drawing had been considerably increased
by some lessons from Mr. Wilson, the head of the Academy of
Painting, to whom Lord Eldin had most especially recommended
her. She went twice a week to his painting-rooms, where she
worked away in earnest with several clever companions, among
them poor Marianne Grant of Kilgraston, who very soon married
James Lindsay, and Grace Fletcher, both of them good painters
in oils. Mr. Wilson sometimes read a picture or a drawing or
a print with his pupils, and as I sometimes took my work and
went with Jane, I came in for the lecture. He began with the
general effect, went on to the grouping, the shading, the light,
the distance, the peculiar propriety of certain objects in certain
positions, directing our attention to an apparent trifle on which
perhaps the whole beauty depended. Always afterwards,
whether viewing fine scenery or examining paintings, we applied
these explanations to our pictures, and found our pleasure in
them heightened beyond any previous idea. It was like opening
another eye, an eye with brains behind it; and we had ample
opportunity for exercising our newly perceived faculty, for not
only was the surrounding sea and land and our own town
beautiful as art and nature could make them, but we had access
to an admirable collection of paintings by the best ancient and
modern artists, gathered from all quarters early the following
winter, and exhibited at small cost to all who chose to buy a
ticket. An empty house in York Place was hired for the
purpose, and open every morning to the public. Once a week
in the evening the holders of season tickets were admitted; the
rooms were well warmed, well lighted, and there were plenty of
seats. It really was the most agreeable of assemblies, there
being a paramount object to engage the attention and furnish
an unfailing subject of discourse. All the possessors of good
paintings had contributed to this collection. We used to know
the owners of particular gems by the air of triumph with which
they stood contemplating what they were thoroughly acquainted
with, instead of searching out stranger beauties. Mr. Wilson
frequently called us to him there, when surrounded by eager
listeners to his criticisms. He and I did not always agree! I
never would at any time surrender my private judgment, though
I had sense enough to keep my free rights to myself.
Before my father and mother went north, Jane and I had
spent a week with them at Hermandstone, an ugly but comfortable
place which Lord Gillies rented of Lord St. Clair. I
had been there before, and we were often there again, and
when they were quietly leading a country life with only a few
intimate friends visiting them, it was very pleasant. But when
they had all their rich, grand, formal East Lothian neighbours,
we young people hated going there. Lord Gillies was extremely
fond of aristocratic company; the more grandees he could seat
together at his splendidly furnished table the better pleased he
seemed to be. How often we see this in those of humble birth,
as if the having risen to a place in that "charmed circle" did
not add a lustre to it, when talents and probity such as his had
been the passport. Mrs. Gillies, well-born and highly bred, took
her position naturally, content with what contented him.
Neither of them, for all this, ever neglected the poor relations.
His one prosperous brother, the doctor and author, was never
as kindly welcomed as poor William, and poorer, more primitive
Colin. At this very time William Gillies' three children found
their home with their uncle Adam; for years they had had no
other, the two girls going to the different classes while in
Edinburgh, the boy placed first at the High School and then
sent to the Charter House; and every Saturday when in town
there was a dinner for the young family connections, school-boys
and girls, and college boys, all made as welcome as the grandees,
and appearing a good deal happier. Miss Bessy Clerk and
others used to fear that young people like William Gillies'
children, brought up in such society, in a house so luxurious,
would be spoilt for a ruder life, should such a change — as was
most likely — come to them. But it did not so turn out; the
change did come, and they bore it perfectly. Robert the corn
factor, Mary the authoress, and Margaret the professional
painter, have followed their different employments better than
if they had never had their intellects improved by their superior
education. The authoress and the painter in particular benefited
by the early cultivation of their taste, neither did I ever
hear that Robert did less in Mark Lane because he was capable
of enjoying in his villa at Kensington the refinements of a
gentleman's leisure. Margaret was never agreeable, but she
was very clever. She did not wait to be turned out of Lord
Gillies' house by his death or any accident. "Uncle Adam,"
said she one day, "do you mean to leave Mary and me anything
in your will?" "Perhaps a trifle," answered the uncle. "Not
an independence?" pursued the niece. "Certainly not, by no
means; these are strange questions, Margaret." "Necessary
questions, uncle. My father has nothing to give us; he has
married a second wife. We shall have then to work for our
bread some time; we had better begin now while we are young,
have health, activity, and friends to help us. I go to London
next week." She did, to her father's, where she was not
welcome; so she hired two rooms, sent for Mary, began painting
dauby portraits while learning her art more thoroughly; and
when I saw them in their pretty home at Highgate they told
me they had never been in want, nor ever regretted the decisive
step they had taken. The friends were at first seriously
displeased; but the success of the nieces in time appeased the
uncles, and both the doctor and Lord Gillies left them legacies.
In the early part of the Edinburgh summers a good many
very pleasant, quiet parties went on among such of us as had
to remain in town till the Courts rose in July. I remember
several agreeable dinners at this season at the Arbuthnots,
foreigners generally bringing their introductions about this
time of year. At the Brewsters they had foreigners sent to
them too, and they entertained them now, not in the flat where
we first found them, but in their own house in Athole Crescent
newly built out of the profits of the Kaleidoscope, a toy that
was ridiculously the rage from its humble beginning in the tin
tube with a perforated card in the end, to the fine brass instrument
set on a stand, that was quite an ornament to the
drawing-room. Had Sir David managed matters well, this
would have turned out quite a fortune to him; he missed the
moment and only made a few thousand pounds; still they gave
him ease, and that was a blessing. The little dinners at his
house were always pleasant. She was charming, and they
selected their guests so well and were so particularly agreeable
themselves, I don't remember anywhere passing more
thoroughly enjoyable evenings than at their house. He was
then, and is still, not only among the first of scientific men,
but in manners and conversation utterly delightful; no such
favourite anywhere as Sir David Brewster, except at home or
with any one engaged with him in business; nobody ever
had dealings with him and escaped a quarrel. Whether
he were ill, the brain over-worked and the body thus over-weighted,
or whether his wife did not understand him, or did
not know and exert herself, there is no saying. His temper
has much improved since his sensible very patient daughter
grew up, and since Lady Brewster died before her sister Miss
Macpherson, and so put the succession to Belleville out of his
head. I have sometimes spent the greater part of a day with
them, when he would leave all his calculations and devote himself
to our amusement, keeping close by the side of our work-table
for hours, without giving expression to one cross word,
and at dinner he would be in high spirits.
At one of their small dances my father and I could not
take our eyes off a Tweed-side neighbour, Miss Cochrane Johnstone.
The Kaleidoscope had bought a few acres near Gala
Water and built a small house upon them, where the Brewsters
for some years passed every summer. She was one of the
loveliest creatures that ever inherited broad lands, and she
became the prize of a tall, red-haired, rough sailor. She had
a round beautiful figure, beautiful complexion, regular features,
finely-formed head, and a pair of almond-shaped, warm, hazel,
sleepy eyes, that must have killed every man they glanced on
— gently. When I was reintroduced in 1842 (was it?) to the
widowed Lady Napier, a little, thin, prim-looking body surrounded
by unmistakably their father's daughters, I could not
recall a trace of the youthful beauty. It quite grieved me.
Perhaps, if she remembered me, I may have struck her as as
much changed. Miss Cochrane Wishart was another heiress
that was thought handsome in a masculine way. She married
a pretty little ladylike Sir Thomas Trowbridge, a sailor.
A real beauty who was no heiress was a Miss Maclean.
She made a perfect hubbub, and it was so odd a story
altogether, the rights of it, as they say, not known till long
afterwards. At a mess dinner the conversation turning on
beauties, their varieties, their reputations, their position, their
merits, etc., a young officer laid a bet that he would bring any
girl into notice and have her cried up as a wonder,
by properly properly preparing for her reception by the public. The
bet was taken and the plot laid. The barrack-master at
Berwick had several pretty daughters; the handsomest was
selected, and very soon a whisper grew to an inquiry, and the
inquiry to a strong desire to see either herself, or some one
who had seen "the beautiful Miss Maclean." She was
judiciously kept just long enough in retirement to excite
curiosity, and then she appeared on a visit to Mrs. Major
Somebody. The accomplices praised her to the skies, her fame
increased, the few that saw her reported in ecstasies. Presently
crowds followed her outgoings and her incomings. She lived
in a mob, and so interested everybody. Mrs. Major became
suddenly the rage, she had more invitations for herself and her
friend than there was a possibility of her accepting, and in a
room the rudeness of admirers quite blocked up the poor girl's
position, every eye was fixed on her. She really was a pretty
creature, with a fine clear skin, dark eyes, and a modest manner.
She was not to be named by the side of many who had been
less noticed, however. What stamped her celebrity was the
notice taken of her by the Count and Countess Flahault; they
invited her to stay with them, and as they saw company in an
easy way every evening, Miss Maclean was at once raised into
the great world. The Countess — Miss Mercer Elphinstone by
birth, Baroness Keith in expectancy — had fallen in love with
this most attractive foreigner and would marry him. An heir
to her vast fortune was of consequence, and an heir did not
come; all sorts of accidents preventing it. Little Dr. Hamilton
was consulted, and when the next occasion presented itself
Madame de Flahault was condemned to her sofa; but as her
mind was to be amused she was to pass her time cheerfully.
There she lay, covered with a lace overlay lined with pink silk,
her hair nicely arranged, chattering at a great rate to thirty or
forty guests. Miss Maclean's reign was short, but like Miss
Manie Dreghorn's long before, oh, it was glorious! She had
to return to Berwick, where she married poorly enough, a
lieutenant in a marching regiment, a Mr. Clarke; went with
him to Bombay and died. And the young officer won his bet.
M. de Flahault was in manner perfection, a finished Frenchman,
than which one can go no further in describing a gentleman;
very handsome too, of a lively conversation truly
agreeable. One small trait much struck me and set me
thinking too. Mrs. Munro had a small party, a good many
young people at it, so she wished to set them dancing. Who
would play? Mrs. This had not any music, and Mrs. That
made some other excuse. My mother desired me to go to the
instrument, which of course I did. "Oh no," said M. de
Flahault, "that would be too severe a punishment to the
gentlemen; let me relieve you, I can keep good time." He
played particularly well, so that it was a treat to dance to him,
but what I thought over was his putting himself and his
playing out of the question; his intention was to assist the
amusement of the evening, make everybody happy, and pay
a neat compliment the while. It was so well-bred, so very
un-British.
Lady Wiseman came to Edinburgh this summer; she was
staying with her mother's relations the old Miss Stewarts,
Annie Need's old friends — or foes — who on retiring from business
had settled in their native town. She and her two sisters,
Mrs. Rich and Mrs. Erskine, were Sir James Mackintosh's
children by his first wife. She was a clever, flighty creature,
very foolish in her conduct, plain in face, but very pleasant,
and a great friend of Jane's in a short time. After parting
they corresponded. Sir William Wiseman being at sea, she
had been left at Hertford College with her father, where she
had picked up an admirer with whom her proceedings went
rather beyond discretion, and so she was sent out of his way.
She had two fine little boys: Willie, the present baronet, who
went to sea, and has come through life well, and dear little
clever Jamie, who went all entirely wrong and shot himself in
India.
I think it was about the May or June of this year that old
Mrs. Siddons returned to the stage for twelve nights to act for
the benefit of her grandchildren. Henry Siddons was dead,
leaving his affairs in much perplexity. He had purchased the
theatre and never made it a paying concern, although his wife
acted perseveringly, and all the Kemble family came regularly
and drew good houses. His ordinary company was not good;
he was a stick himself, and he would keep the best parts for
himself, and in every way managed badly. She did better
after his death; her clever brother William Murray conducting
affairs much more wisely for her, and certainly for himself in
the end, slow as she was in perceiving this. Some pressing
debts, however, required to be met, and Mrs. Siddons came
forward. We were all great play-goers, often attending our
own poor third-rates, Mrs. Harry redeeming all else in our eyes,
and never missing the stars, John and Charles Kemble, Young,
Liston, :Mathews, Miss Stephens, etc. But to see the great
queen again we had never dreamed of. She had taken leave
of the stage before we left London. She was little changed,
not at all in appearance, neither had her voice suffered; the
limbs were just hardly stiffer, more slowly moved rather, therefore
in the older characters she was the finest, most natural;
they suited her age. Queen Katherine she took leave in. To
my dying hour I never shall forget the trial scene; the silver
tone of her severely cold "My Lord Cardinal," and then on
the wrong one starting up, the scorn of her attitude, and the
outraged dignity of the voice in which she uttered "To You I
speak." We were breathless. Her sick-room was very fine
too. Then her Lady Macbeth, Volumnia, Constance — ah! no
such acting since, for she was nature, on stilts in her private
life. "Bring me some beer, boy, and another plate," is a true
anecdote, blank verse and a tragic tone being her daily wear.
Once when Liston was down I longed to see him in Lubin
Log; for some reason I could not manage it, and Mrs. Harry
let me go to her private box. He had been Tony Lumpkin in
the play, and we were talking him over, waiting for his appearance
in the farce. "I have heard," said I, "of his giving a
look with that queer face of his, not uttering a word, yet sending
people into convulsions of laughter not to be checked whilst
he remained in sight." "Hush," said Mrs. Harry, "here he
comes." Enter Lubin from the coach with all his parcels. Between
his first two inquiries for his "numbrella" and his "'at," he
threw up at our hidden box, at me, the look — perfectly over-setting;
there never could be such another grotesque expression
of fun since the days of fauns and satyrs, and when composure
in a degree returned, a sly twinkle of one squinting eye, or
the buck tooth interrupting a smile, or some indescribable
secret sign of intelligence, would reach us and set us off again.
We were ill with laughing. He played that whole farce to us,
to Mrs. Harry and me, and every one agreed he had surpassed
himself.
The early part of the next summer, 1819, passed much in
the same way as the one before; sociable small parties among
our friends in town, and visits to those in the country; messages
to the Abbey of course, and we were always the messengers.
My mother was very careful of the servants; Johnnie declared
that one extremely rainy day when it was proper the Newcastle
Chronicle should be returned to Mrs. General Maxwell, my
mother called out to him, "Johnnie, my dear, I wish you would
run to George Street with this; it's such a dreadful day I don't
like sending out poor Richard " — a colossus of a footman, weighing
heavier every day from having nothing to do. Poor
Johnnie! this very spring he maybe thought with regret of
even Mrs. Maxwell's newspaper, for my father took him up to
town and sent him to Eton. They first paid a visit to the
electors of Tavistock, and on their way spent a day with Dugald
Stewart, who lived then near the Duke of Bedford's cottage at
Endsleigh. The old philosopher predicted the boy's future
eminence, although we at home had not seen through his
reserve. He was idle, slow, quiet, passing as almost stupid
beside his brilliant brother. "Take care of that boy, Grant,"
said Dugald Stewart at their parting; "he will make a great
name for himself, or I am much mistaken."And has he not?
Quiet he has remained, indolent too, and eccentric, but in his own
field of action who is his parallel? My mother and I thought of
no honourable future when our pet left us. We watched him
from the window, stepping into the travelling chariot after my
father in the new greatcoat that had been made for him, the
little tearful face not daring to venture a last glance back to
us. He was small of his age, and from being the youngest he
was childish. We did not see him for sixteen months. He
came back to us an Eton boy; how much those three small
words imply! My poor mother, I earn understand now the
sob with which she threw herself back upon the sofa, exclaiming,
"I have lost my Johnnie!" His cousin John Frere went
to Eton at the same time, and our John spent all short holidays
at Hampstead, only coming home to the Highlands once a year
in the summer. The two cousins remained attached friends
ever, and though widely separated, never lost sight of one
another till poor John Frere died.
The next event was the arrival of Uncle Ralph, his wife,
daughter Eliza, and sister Fanny, to have just a peep of us
before settling at Tennochside. They had tired of England
and were glad to return home, leaving Edmund behind at
school. Jane, who was a great favourite with Mrs. Ralph,
went to see them soon afterwards, and spent a very happy
three weeks at that comfortable place. During her absence we
had a visit from Aunt Leitch and our cousin Kate. Kate had
been with us before, which I have neglected to mention.
Uncle Edward, soon after his marriage, invited her out to
India, funds were sent home for her equipment and passage,
and it was decided by the family that Aunt Leitch should have
the charge of all matters concerning her departure. She was
to spend the winter in Glasgow, and the following spring proceed
to London to be outfitted before embarking. She came
direct from Houghton to us, and remained with us two months,
going to any parties that offered, and very much admired.
She was not pretty, in spite of fine eyes, but the expression of
her countenance was very bright; she was clever and natural
and lively, with modest, simple manners, and she was tall and
her figure was good. She dressed becomingly, scanty and plain
as her wardrobe was when she arrived; it increased in size
and value considerably during her stay at Picardy Place. We
were all quite sorry when she left us, the more so that she
sadly deteriorated during her visit to Glasgow. Aunt Leitch's
temper ruffled Kate's, want of exercise destroyed her looks.
She returned to us fat, and dark, and pert, and quite unlike
herself. This all went off after she reached India, although
Mrs. Edward Ironside's humours tried her impatience sorely.
She married very happily, and as Mrs. Barnewell was one of
the most agreeable women in all Bombay. Glasgow was not
a place to improve in. We were there once, I forget in what
year. My father went to collect evidence in some political
business, my mother and I with him. We were at Aunt
Leitch's pretty new house in St. Vincent Street, and she took a
great deal of trouble for us in making up parties at home,
engagements abroad, and even directed an Assembly. We were
not very refined in manners in Edinburgh, some of us, but
there were brains with us, abilities of a high order, turned to
more intellectual account than could be the general employment
of them in a mere manufacturing seaport town, for into
that had Glasgow sunk. Its College, as to renown, was gone;
its merchants no longer the cadets of the neighbouring old
county families, but their clerks of low degree shot up into
high places. "Some did remain who mourned in vain the
better days when they were young," but as a whole the society
was indescribably underbred. I should have been very much
out of my element in that Assembly had it not been for an
accidental meeting with the little merry sailor Houston Stewart,
and Dick Honeyman, a son of Lord Armadale's.
About July the Scots Greys got the route for Ireland.
Tom Walker was in despair. He was a fine-looking young
man, truly amiable, played the flute to Jane's pianoforte, a performance
suitable in every respect and unimprovable, for in spite
of daily very lengthened practisings neither artist made much
progress. He had a handsome private fortune. Altogether,
Annie Need had hoped this favourite nephew of her general's
would have brought them a Scotch niece back; but his
knowledge of history was so defective! It was not possible to
think seriously of a companion for life with whom there could
be no rational conversation! So the handsome cavalry officer
walked away — no, rode. I daresay the band-master was glad,
for most of his spare time had been occupied copying out
waltzes. An Irish love soon replaced the "bonnie Jean" so
honestly wooed. A Miss Constantia Beresford made no educational
difficulties; she caused a few, however, of many another
kind, and poor Tom Walker bore them.
General Need had returned home very soon after his
marriage to our dear Annie. They had settled amidst his
rich manufacturing relations near Nottingham, who had all
received her most kindly. We heard from her constantly and
were always planning to meet, yet never managed it. My
father had seen her with her two nice little boys, and found
her perfectly happy; her general no genius, but an excellent
man.
I cannot recollect much else that is worthy of note before
our little tour upon the Continent. We set out in August, and
were two months and a half away. My father was not inclined
for such a movement at all, it was probably very inconvenient
to the treasury, but my mother had so set her heart upon it,
he, as usual, good-naturedly gave way. Johnnie was to spend
his holidays with the Freres. Miss Elphick went to the
Kirkman Finlays; her parting was quite a dreadful scene,
screams, convulsions, sobs, hysterics. The poor woman was
attached to some of us, and had of late been much more agreeable
to the rest; but she was a plague in the house, did a deal
of mischief, and was no guide, no help. She had been seven
years with us, so there was a chain of habit to loosen at any
rate.
CHAPTER XVIII
A TOUR IN HOLLAND
1819
IN the month of August, then, of this year 1819 we set out on
our foreign travels, my father, my mother, William, Jane, Mary
and I; rather too large a party as we found when we had more
experience, particularly as we were attended by a man, a maid,
and a dog. The maid, a thoroughly stupid creature, and the
dog, poor Dowran, went with us; the man, a black, and a deal
too clever, met us in Holland, for to the Netherlands we were
hound. My father had always had a passion for Dutch and
Flemish paintings, farming, buildings, and polities; besides, he
was so very kind as to wish to take me to the waters at Aix-la-Chapelle.
My mother never told me that anxiety for me made
her wish for the complete change of scene we were entering on.
I only guessed it many years afterwards. We embarked at
Leith in a common trading-vessel, a tub, with but moderate
accommodation, the Van Egmont, bound for Rotterdam. Its
very slow rate of sailing kept us nine days at sea; luckily the
weather the whole time was beautiful, and our fellow-passengers
accommodating, with the exception of one unhappy-looking man,
a merchant in some embarrassment with regard to his affairs.
He used to watch the wind so nervously, it being of consequence
to him to appear before a certain day in the counting-house of
his Dutch correspondent. We had some difficulty in sweetening
the disturbed moments of this anxious-minded poor man, but we
succeeded in a degree, the wind, the last few days, aiding us.
His father was a light-hearted very old man, taking the voyage
for pleasure, probably unaware of the full extent of his son's
perplexities. A very grave merchant's clerk and two young
officers completed our party. One of the officers, now Colonel
Clunie, has been to India and back, found Jane out in Edinburgh,
and has several times dined with her in York Place, recurring
with delight to the happy nine days on board the Van Egmont.
We all did our best to make them pass cheerfully. We watched
the land, the sea, the sky, the day's work. Our skipper was
extremely civil; his mate, a merry scape-grace, inventing all
sorts of fun to amuse everybody; the fare was good, the cabin
clean, and living out on deck in the open air even I regained an
appetite.
On nearing the Dutch coast the scene became very interesting.
All at once we found ourselves amid a crowd of little
fishing-vessels, rigged with three-cornered sails of a deep orange
colour. We passed then a few larger boats, a merchantman or
two, and then there suddenly rose upon us from the waves,
steeples, tree-tops, towers and windmills, without any more
stable foundation seemingly than the water. There was some
delay in crossing the bar, an accumulation of sand at the mouth
of the Maes that can only be crossed at the full tide; once over
that we sailed quietly on, the windmills and steeples closing in
upon us, till the sedgy banks of the river appeared on either
hand, with houses, gardens, small fields full of cattle, all as it
seemed below the level of the water. It was a curious sight, a
pretty one; for as the river narrowed and so enabled us to distinguish
the objects we were passing, the total difference they
exhibited from any of the kind we had been accustomed
to look on created the most lively feelings of surprise. The
villages looked all like toys, little, formal, green, round-topped
trees in rows, small baby-houses painted in such bright colours
— red, and blue, and green, and yellow, and dazzling white —
with window-panes that shone like diamonds, door-steps clean
enough to dine on, neat gravel paths, and palings without a
blemish. One could not fancy the large, heavy-looking, heavily-clothed
men we saw in all the craft on the river being allowed
to enter such fairy premises. It now became a matter of nice
piloting to get our heavy barge through the thickening throng
of vessels of all sizes, but the big Dutchman in his big balloon
breeches, and his big overcoat covered with big dollars for
buttons, and his red night-cap, whom we had taken on board
below the bar, carried us safe in and out and round all
obstacles, and brought us up easily to the quay in the heart of
the busy and very beautiful city of Rotterdam.
The extent of the Bompjes I really don't remember. A
row of fine elms runs all along the parapet by the river's edge.
A broad road, so clean, is beyond, then a narrow pavement in
front of the street of irregularly built houses, some high, some
low, some palaces, some cottages, some with a handsome façade,
and others with picturesque gable ends, portes cochères every here
and there admitting to the courtyard and the warerooms as well
as the dwelling-houses of the merchants, even cranes at intervals
impending overhead. A large, long, low building, a capital
hotel, the Badthouse, was where we were bound, gladly availing
ourselves of all its name - promising hot water luxuries, to
refresh bodies wearied by near a fortnight of a sea toilette.
We arrived in the midst of the Kermess, the annual fair, the
most favourable of all times for the visit of strangers. The
wares of all the world were exposed for sale in streets of booths
tastefully decorated, lighted up brilliantly at night, and crowded
at all hours by purchasers from every province in the united
kingdoms, all in their best and very handsome and perfectly
distinct attire. Like Venice, Rotterdam is built on the water,
long canals intersect it in every direction, on which the traffic is
constant; there are mere footpaths on either side, with numbers
of narrow bridges for the convenience of crossing. The
tall houses forming the street must have been gloomy abodes,
just looking over the narrow stream to one another. Outside
they were gay enough from the excessive cleanliness observed,
and the bright paint, and the shining brass knockers, and the
old-fashioned solidity of the building. It was quite amusement
enough to wander all about this fine old city, every now and
then getting back into the throng of the fair, where indeed I
could have spent the day most agreeably, every object presented
to the eye was so totally different from any ever seen at home.
The people were of course the most dissimilar, national features
varying as much as national dress. The men are merely sturdy,
healthy, sailor-like persons, enveloped in a great quantity of
substantial clothing, each coat and pair of breeches containing
stuff enough for two; the women were quite superior, the
younger ones beautiful, with the loveliest of fair clear skins;
even the old were agreeable from the perfect cleanliness and
good order of their appearance; a rag, a tatter, is never seen,
nor a speck of dirt, and the peculiarity of the costume of every
province, all so befitting the station of the wearers, made every
little group a picture. Full stuff petticoats rather short, such
clean white stockings, neat, very black, polished shoes, pretty
ankles too, snow-white handkerchiefs, smart aprons, clear muslin
caps edged with fine lace in good quantity, varying in shape
according to the district that sent it forth, and often valuable
gold ornaments about the head, round the throat, and in the
ears. The north Hollanders especially were remarkable for thus
adorning themselves; their style of head was particularly becoming,
or else they were so pretty that whatever they wore
would have suited them.
After the people came the vehicles, the queerest assortment of
strangely-shaped post waagens not unlike our omnibus with
open sides, or some of the third-class carriages on our railways.
Numbers of these, of all sizes, were running through the paved
streets all day, and for the narrow pathways by the canals there
were very small carts drawn by dogs to convey such market
produce as it was not worth while to send by water to every
door; larger carts with or without tilts plied in the more accessible
thoroughfares. It was a very busy scene, very cheerful,
and very curious to us who had never been out of our own
country before. The excessive cleanliness was almost more to
be admired than all else: it pervaded the habits of the nation
throughout. The streets were daily swept, the pavements daily
washed, the railings daily wiped, the windows daily rubbed, the
brasses daily brightened. Within it was the same; no corner
left unvisited by the busy maid, the very door-keys were polished,
cupboards, closets, shelves, not only spotless but neatly ornamental;
white paper with a cut fringe, or white frilling, laid
along under the shining wares they were appropriated to hold.
Yet nobody seemed overworked. In the afternoons all the
women were spinning or knitting, as beautifully tidy in their
own persons as was all the property around them. There were
no dirty children, no beggars. They are all early risers, and
very active in their movements — regardless of consequences too!
In our before-breakfast walks we often got more from the whirl
of the mop than we liked, while the regular splashing and dashing
was going on during the hour all the houses were having
their faces washed. A girl with long gold earrings dangling,
would be out in the street with her pail, too intent on the
freshening up of her master's dwelling to think of the passersby.
In Ireland we can't get our maids to wash our door-steps
— must not propose such an indignity — some of the very particular
ones object to kneel to wash the kitchen flags; and as
for dusting, or bright rubbing! alas, damp as is our climate we
must put up not only with rusty keys, but rusty fire-irons, for a
generation or two yet; our lady wives not thinking the care of
their families a duty, as does the comfortable Dutch vrow. The
damp in Holland was the original cause of all this care, destruction
would have followed carelessness, and does follow it
here. The hotel was just as admirably kept as any private
house. We had no sitting-room, but the bedrooms were very
large, and we took our meals in the saloon, breakfast at a small
table at our own hour, dinner at the table d'hôte. The eating
was very good, abundance of it, nice fruit, wine, beer, and most
delicious tea; never before or since did I drink any equal to it.
The coffee was very strong of chicorée, but well made, and I
believe the bitter made it more wholesome. The bread was
either too heavy or too spongy.
The table d'hôte was pleasant; many of the townspeople seemed
to dine there, bachelors mostly, without homes, and travellers,
all of whom spoke to those they happened to sit next, charitably
acting to one another as if there were no convicts in the company.
The Dutch are called a silent people, yet some of these
had plenty to say, French being our medium of conversation — a
foreign language both to them and us. We found the Low
Dutch commonly spoken by no means hard to learn a little of.
Jane and I were soon able to carry on all the business of our
travelling party so as to be perfectly understood by servants and
tradespeople. We were bargaining at the door-steps with a
flower-girl, when a very smart English group, new arrivals,
elbowed their way past us. Some of the faces were familiar to
us, and a lady's loud, shrill, English voice gave me quite a start
I remembered it so well, but where, I could not puzzle out.
When we were assembled at three o'clock dinner a door opened
and the party entered, the ladies in great dress, all in rich silks,
one with a bare neck, all with the smartest heads, a turban, a
blonde cap with flowers, ribbons, trinkets — making themselves
so conspicuous that we really felt ashamed of our compatriots.
Imagine the feelings then with which I received the most
gracious of bows from the turban, and heard the sharp provincial
voice pronounce my name, adding that the owner of these
two properties could give me a better than ordinary report of
my "poor dear uncle at Oxford." It was the President of
Trinity and Mrs. Lee! her sister and a soldier husband, Captain
English by name, and two or three other Ipswich friends who
had made a run across the Channel to see some of the wonders
of Holland. Introductions all round followed of course as soon
as we rose from the table, and we agreed to take tea together in
one of our bedrooms. Very obliging they all were, and Mrs. Lee
did give my mother a more comfortable account of Dr. Griffith's
health than my aunt Mary had latterly been able to send us.
Still the case looked melancholy enough, and this kind-hearted
woman seemed to feel it so sincerely that even William forgave
the mid-day turban. They were going on to Antwerp next day,
so that we were saved another full-dress daylight dinner. My
father, who extremely enjoyed my mother's discomfiture on this
rather startling occasion, had behaved very ill by drawing Mrs.
English out, as he called it, and so he was banished after their
departure to take a walk till his paroxysms of laughter were over.
I went with him along the Bompjes under the trees by the side of
the water, and reaching the part at which the Harwich packet
landed the passengers, who should step ashore but Mr. Canning
— the only time I ever saw him. He and my father seemed
glad to meet, and while they were conversing I had an opportunity
of correcting all my imaginary impressions of the great
man. He was not so tall and much more slender than I
expected. His countenance was pale, anxious almost, and
certainly no longer handsome; the high, well-developed forehead
alone reminded me of the prints of him. He was travelling with
his sick son, a boy of seventeen or so, a cripple confined to a
Merlin chair, and supported in that by many cushions. An
elderly, very attentive servant never left the invalid's side, while
another looked after the luggage and a carriage fitted up with a
sort of sofa bed. They did not come to the Badthouse, so we
saw no more of them; but I could not forget them, and often
after, when the world was ringing with Mr. Canning's fame, this
scene of his private life returned to me, for he lost the son. It
was Mr. Burke and his son over again as to many of the circumstances,
only Mr. Canning had another son, and one daughter
afterwards married to Lord Clanricarde. Mrs. Canning, the
wife, was sister to the Duchess of Portland and the Countess of
Moray. They were co-heiresses with large fortunes, something
like a hundred thousand pounds apiece; indeed I believe the
eldest sister had more. It was all made by whist, their father,
General Scott, being the most accomplished player of his day.
He pursued it as a business, ate an early dinner of mutton or
chicken with a glass of wine, no more, and then encountered
anybody, everybody, full or fasting, taking good care however
of who was his partner. He was never accused of the slightest
approach to any incorrect practices, he merely took the advantage
of a sober man over those who had dined well; it was not called
dishonourable! his opponents were free agents. He left a
curious will. He ordered his daughters to marry into the
peerage under the penalty of forfeiting all share of their inheritance
should any of them give herself to a commoner. How
absurd are these meddlers with the future! Mrs. Canning, of
course, lost her fortune, but her ennobled sisters each presented
her with fifty thousand pounds as a wedding present.
We remained above a week in Rotterdam. Besides that this
first specimen of foreign lands extremely interested us, we had
made acquaintance with a very agreeable family long residents
in the town, Mr. Ferrier's our consul, a native of Brechin — not
then knighted — to whom Lord Gillies had given us an introduction.
They had been schoolfellows and friends; for the
civilities we received could hardly at first have been paid us on
our own account. The handsomest house on the Bompjes was
Sir Alexander Ferrier's; it was quite a palace, far too splendid
for a private family, having belonged to some great functionary
during the reign of Louis Buonaparte. The principal staircase
and the pavement of the hall and the doorsteps were of polished
marble. One room was of such large dimensions it had never
been furnished by Lady Ferrier; it occupied the height of two
storeys, and was opened only on occasion for the consul's annual
ball. Even the dining-room was much larger than any room at
Russborough; the daily parties of fourteen, sixteen, or so, were
lost in it. They dined late for Holland, six o'clock, and had music
and dancing among a large society of young people every evening.
The daughters of the house were of all ages, and all of them
were handsome, Amelia the eldest perhaps least so; neither was
she clever; she was amiable, gentle, and most obliging in manner
to every one, and soon became a favourite with us. We suspected
her of a little tender interest in the handsome son of her
father's Dutch partner, young Mr. Blankenhelm, for she certainly
looked grave when he chose any other lady to drive out with
him in his pea-green gig on either of the only two roads available
for carriage exercise, the one to Dort and the one to the Hague.
The second sister was in school in England, quite a beauty,
young, yet old enough to be in love too, and engaged to Sir
James Turing, an Aberdeenshire baronet of very old family,
whose father while a cadet had settled in Holland. The third
and fourth, very pretty girls, afterwards married well among their
father's mercantile friends. One of them, Eliza, was the mother
of Mrs. George Lauder. There were only two sons, John,
married to a tiresome little heiress who had been a ward of his
father's, and little Alex, who with a little Georgy still younger,
two beautiful children, was in the nursery. Sir James, or Sir
Robert Turing, I believe he was, had a brother, a very small man;
he arrived with a ship full of valuables from Batavia while we
were in Rotterdam. Much of the merchandise had been a
venture of Mr. Ferrier's. We saw it arrive, enter the great
gates, be unloaded from the trucks. Some of it was arranged
in the extensive surrounding ware-rooms on the ground floor;
some of it raised by the crane into the upper storeys, and one
small bale left at the counting-house door. We saw all this from
Amelia's apartments high up at the back of the house overlooking
the yard. She had a bedroom and sitting-room to
herself beautifully furnished. "Come," said she, "now's our
time for the Indian curiosities," and she led the way downstairs.
The unpacking of the cases in the office had begun. There were
China crapes, and China silks, and India muslins, ivory, Japan,
Bombay pretty things, preserved fruits, an infinite variety.
Some of these were commissions and would be sold well; some
were for the general market, and some for presents. My share
was a box of dates, and the black lacquer fan I gave to you,
Annie. Mrs. Ferrier had pieces of damask for new drawing-room
curtains. We highly approved of the generosity of the
mercantile profession, though Mr. Blankenhelm took care to
repeat more than once that his partner was not usually so liberal;
his heart had evidently warmed to his country folk.
Sir James Gambier was another visitor. He was the Consul-General
for the Netherlands, a very fine-looking, most agreeable
man, though the father of a grown-up family. He lived at the
Hague, but had business at Rotterdam during our stay which
kept him with us almost the whole time. Mr. Blankenhelm
said these affairs were of that mysterious nature no one could
form the least idea of them. He was a busybody evidently,
that tall, slender, handsome, gentlemanly Dutchman. The father
and mother were formed after the old squat type, as were one
or two other native heads of firms; the ladies belonging to
them we did not see; they were either at Schevening bathing,
or at their pleasure-houses in the country. We had Mr. Anderson
Blair for a couple of days. He was on his road to the
German Spas and wanted to engage us to extend our travels
so far. He liked everything and everybody at Rotterdam,
except the pea-green gig and Mr. Blankenhelm; however sunny
were our morning drives, clouds obscured our return from that
quarter!
At last we were to move, the quicker because the low fever
common to the place had seized on me and change of air was
the cure, assisted by a glass of gin bitters every morning the
first thing, ordered peremptorily by Mr. Ferrier, and sent in in a
dumpy bottle bulging out on either side from a long neck, sometimes
seen ages ago of a like shape and larger size in our own
country, and called a tappit hen. How they were to get on
without us, without Jane's Highland fling and my rebel songs,
they were afraid to think of in that palace-house. We were
grieved ourselves to leave them, they had made us so very
happy. We settled to return and embark for home from thence,
and that during the time we were at Brussels Mr. Ferrier
should bring Amelia to us and leave her there for the few weeks
we intended remaining. So bidding farewell over-night, we set
out early next morning for the Hague, twelve miles only along
a paved road by the side of the canal. It was the same neatness,
the same cleanliness, the same flatness and the same babyhouse
prettiness of scenery the whole way. We were in two
carriages: a large, long caravan sort of concern for ourselves;
the servants, the luggage and Dowran in a smaller queer-shaped
machine behind us. Dowran, disliking his position cooped up
at Ward's feet, took an opportunity to jump out, against all
rules, no dogs being allowed to be at large during the hot
months. A frightful hubbub ensued; men running, yelling,
screaming, brandishing sticks, throwing stones, the terrified
animal flying over the burning pavement, till with one thing
and another he was very nearly driven mad. William, jumping
from the carriage, had just time to save his favourite from an
uplifted club, but in what a condition was the poor creature!
A respectable bystander advised his being plunged into the
canal; he was then replaced at Ward's feet, and she and the
courier turning back, retraced the road to Rotterdam, my father
giving them a few pencilled lines to deliver with the dog to Mr.
Ferrier. So long as the poor beast lived we were content, for
that he had not gone really mad we were certain. We reached
the Hague in good time to order dinner in a private room, and to
invite Sir James Gambier to partake of it.
The Hague is a beautiful town, a perfect contrast to Rotterdam,
built on a plain of course, scattered over it, space being
everywhere; large squares, wide streets, even gardens, and very
little water. There were buildings to see, of course, of which
I remember only the Stadt House, left with all its splendid
furniture as Louis and Hortense had lived in it. It contains
one Hall of Audience, said to be the largest room ever a flat
roof had been ventured to be stretched over. The present
King and Queen, though bound to live occasionally in Holland,
were supposed by the jealous Dutch to prefer Flanders, and
when they did come to their ancient dominions they preferred
the privacy of the House in the Wood to the grander Stadt
House in the "village." We went out to see the House in the
Wood, an extremely pretty, country gentleman's residence, interesting
to us on account of our own Queen Mary, who lived
there so long with her cross but adored Prince William in days
when the Stadtholder was not allowed to affect much splendour.
They could hardly have had a simpler household than the King
William of this age. The apartments were all comfortable, but
none of them too fine for daily use; there was an air of
domestic repose about them. The little Princess Marianne's
crib-bed, poor thing, stood beside her mother's, and little chairs
and little tables suited to her childish size were in the businesslike
sitting-room the Queen always lived in. There were good
paintings in both these royal residences, and a great many
valuable curiosities scattered about; an ormolu clock in every
room, abundance of chandeliers and sconces, and the beds were
all set upon platforms, raised a step, or even two, from the
ground.
Amsterdam, twenty miles on or so, was a regular town
again, none of the free, villa-like look of the Hague; high houses
with quaint gable-ends, narrow streets and canals through them,
bridges innumerable, ships and bustle; plenty of sights for
travellers, just the very things I care least to see. A fine
picture, a few fine pictures, I can enjoy, give me time to study
them one by one when I am in the humour to look at them,
but a collection of pictures weighs me down with the headache,
and to run about from one gallery of paintings to another, then
to a museum, after that to a church or two to see monuments
here and carvings there, is all, to my peculiar feelings, utterly
wearisome. I would walk about all day with pleasure in a
strange country, keep my senses awake, and take my leisure
to examine any object that interested me as it met me; but to
run about looking for lions was to me intolerable. I had, however,
in general to follow the lead, and so have a confused idea
of a statue to Erasmus, a pulpit and screen perfect marvels of
carving, a whole string of ships commemorating Van Tromp —
no broom though — some fine marble monuments to the murdered
Prince of Orange, and what remains with me beyond them all,
the painting of the death of Abel in the Museum of Amsterdam.
Far more than all this sight-seeing I enjoyed an excursion
to North Holland across the Zuyder Zee. We went to see
Brock and Saardam, and on the way, as there was nothing very
remarkable in the surrounding scenery, my attention was drawn
to some of the passengers in the boat; they were of all degrees,
market-people, traders, pleasure-seekers and travellers, and less
noise I suppose was never made by any such number of persons
who had nothing else to do but talk and smoke. The smoking
was incessant, but as for talking, a word was hardly spoken by
any one but ourselves.
Another of my peculiarities being the total want of discernment
of any brilliant qualities in that lunatic barbarian Peter
the Great, Saardam with his little hut still existing, made
small impression. Brock was enchanting, a perfect curiosity,
really the fit capital of a Lilliputian fairy tale. It seemed unnatural
to see human beings of the usual dimensions moving
about this toy of a village. No carriage was allowed to pass
through its tiny streets; indeed there would hardly have been
room for any larger than a wheelbarrow. The roads, or paths
rather, were paved with coloured stones in patterns. No one
ever entered the little baby-houses by the front door but a
bride, or left them through this honoured entrance till a corpse ;
the family made use only of the back door, opening on a little
yard as scrupulously clean as our best-kept kitchens. We were
permitted to enter several of the houses; the people seemed to be
accustomed to show them, and to have the greatest pride in the
display of their quantities of heavy handsome furniture, polished
up by hard labour to rival the best French varnish. The parlours
were never lived in, that was plain, and that any family
labours ever went on in the kitchen seemed almost impossible;
one could hardly fancy slop-pails, dirty dishes, black pots, and
scrubbing brushes could have profaned for a moment precincts
apparently just burnished up for an exhibition. The inhabitants,
though too big for their dwellings, were all as spotlessly
clean. Cooking with stoves is certainly a means of cleanliness,
pipkins can be used instead of black pots, and there is no
burning to coat the outsides of them with soot.
The great man of the village lived in a much larger baby-house
than any other person possessed; he had a larger courtyard
too, and more than an acre of ground behind, which he
had laid out as an English garden in the following style: a
wood, a meadow, a labyrinth, a river, a lake, a shady lane, a
grove, and a cottage residence. Meandering walks led to all
these various beauties, and at different points, in appropriate attitudes,
were placed stuffed figures of men, all supposed to be
busy about different rural pursuits. At the edge of the wood was
a stuffed image of a sportsman properly equipped with belts
and bags and a real gun, accompanied by a stuffed dog pointing
at a small covey of wooden partridges nestled under a shrub.
On a pretty bridge that crossed the river, a stuffed fisher with
a basket under his arm held a rod over the stream, while another
image on the banks was taking a painted trout off the hook at
the end of his line. Under a tree sat a stuffed elderly gentleman
with a real book. On the lake were two large painted
swans; and in the cottage down the shady lane there were
seated by a fictitious kitchen fire an old couple properly
dressed, the old man mending a net, the old woman spinning
at her wheel, exact representations of the proprietor's parents,
in their identical clothing and their own abode, for in this hut
they had passed their humble lives, and were thus commemorated
by their prosperous son. All the furniture was preserved
as it had been left: the bed, the heavy wardrobe, table, chairs,
down to the kitchen utensils. It was the great man's pleasure
to visit this his birthplace constantly, and keep his parents and
all around them in repair. The whole garden was the idol of
Brock, spoken of with an exultation quite amusing; little nursery
people three feet high might have had it for a plaything, but as a
real honest pleasure-ground to a man weighing fifteen stone, amply
fitted out with broadcloth, the fact could hardly be realised.
After Amsterdam came Leyden, the same quaint style of
town, where we slept in order to have time to walk over ground
trodden, when its university was more famous, by my grandfather.
Then we went on to Haarlem, its environs blooming
in their sandy plain, the florists here being the best in all
Holland, both the soil and the water particularly suiting the
gardener's trade. The water of the famous mere, since partly
drained, is equally prized by the laundress, the lime it contains
whitening linen so perfectly that trunks of clothes come from
as far as Paris to undergo the good bleaching they get here.
The banker, Mr. Hope, had quite a noble villa near the mere,
with wonderful gardens round it. Haarlem is a pretty open
town, much more cheerful than the old cooped-up cities. It has
a fine market-place and a great square, and a beautiful cathedral,
where we went to hear the organ, once the boast of Europe;
there are others, they say, modern ones, finer now, only I never
heard them. The performing of this at Haarlem so exhausted
the organist, he required a high bribe to play more than once a
day. We thought he deserved whatever he chose to ask, his
taste and his execution were so perfect, and the tones of the
organ, some of them, so exquisite. He told us the windows had
been broken once when the full power of the instrument had
been called out. Since then they blow more moderately, but
a battle piece he gave us, and a storm, were really surprising,
the trumpet stops glorious, and the vox humana actually from a
soprano chest.
We had much disturbed our host by choosing to arrive at
his hotel, English fashion, near midnight. Every one was in
bed, and to have to get up, light the stove, air linen, prepare so
many rooms during the hours of natural sleep, considerably
deranged the establishment. Mynherr was very cross, but
there were two pretty vrowleins who, though disturbed a bit,
kept their tempers that night, and gave us good counsel in the
morning. They came in when Jane and I were brushing our
hair, and said to us with great civility that these unseasonable
arrivals were not the custom of the country, that travellers
arranged their movements so as least to inconvenience other
parties, and that we should find ourselves more comfortable
by conforming to the habits we found established; the meals
were better prepared for the regular times than when a chance
repast was dished up hurriedly. After this they proposed to
dress our hair. Mine, which reached to my ankles and was
too thick to hold in one hand, they admired in an ecstasy; and
when it had been plaited in strands and wound about my head
in their own beautiful fashion, a few ringlets only allowed to
hang low upon the cheek and fall still lower behind the ear, I
admired it myself abundantly; and so becoming was it thought
to be, and so much more easily manageable did I find it, that
till I took to caps some years after my marriage, fashion or no
fashion I never altered this arrangement of my golden hair.
We faithfully reported the good advice of our obliging attendants,
and found considerable advantage in ever after abiding by it.
Somehow we got to Zeist, and then to Utrecht, and so by some
means to Arnheim. My recollections of the order of our progress
are indistinct. I remember the places we passed through and
what we saw in them, and I remember the queer cabriolets we
sometimes travelled in, and the tiresomely slow trekshuyts we
were condemned to at others, and that is all at this distance of
time I can bring to mind: a sort of generalising of the journey.
Zeist was pretty, fields and wood, a village, a good inn, and the
curious establishment of the Herrnhuters or Moravians within
a walking distance. One of the Laboucheres, with a pretty
French wife, was living at the inn. The air is thought to be
particularly salubrious, and she was established here to recover
her health after a long illness. We were amused at her English
shyness about making the slightest approach to acquaintance
with us till the two M.P.'s mutually recognised each other.
My mother thought it was finery, as we had arrived in the extraordinary
post-waggons, the horses harnessed with ropes, and ourselves
very dusty. It went off, whichever it was, and we found
her both pleasant and useful. She directed us to what was best
worth seeing at the Moravian mission-house, namely, their very
ingeniously-made toys; a whole country exhibited upon the
table by means of miniature facsimiles of every article used
in it, and the people in their national costume besides. We
sent a large box full of Dutch representations to the Freres,
unknowing of the heavy duty which made it an expensive
although an amusing present. The establishment was a sort
of Mr. Owen sociable affair; all goods in common, no private
property, no homes. Buildings for all purposes were erected
round spacious yards. There was a great hall where all
assembled for every meal, a chapel, workshops, storerooms,
bedrooms, schoolrooms. At a certain age the young people were
married, at proper time their children entered the school; they
had no choice in matrimony, nor any power to bring up their
offspring by their own sides; indeed the parents were otherwise
employed in this true commonwealth, each person being at some
work for a certain number of hours. The premises were scrupulously
clean, but very plain, a sort of total abstinence system
denying the beautiful and the agreeable. The married men
had a peculiar dress all alike, so had the married women, and
the old people of each sex, and the young, and the children;
and all the private rooms were furnished alike, nothing in
them that was not absolutely requisite. I do not think the community
were happy, certainly not cheerful, merely contented,
and it was an uninteresting, unnatural whim altogether. They
make everything they use, spin, knit, weave, bake, etc., and have
a large farm in high order.
Utrecht I forget. We took the boat there to Arnheim, and
were amused for some miles by the neatness of the villas succeeding
each other along the level banks of the canal. They
were all very much alike, long houses with steep roofs, very
brightly painted, tiles one colour, walls another, windows and
doors a third. They all stood in pretty gardens, with a broad
gravel walk leading to a summer-house overhanging the water.
In this summer-house, as the day advanced, we saw many parties
smoking and drinking beer out of tall glasses, with the gravity
of Red Indians — pictures of Dutch enjoyment. Conversation
most surely they never thought of, even a stray remark was
rare among them. Words are not wasted in Holland. In our
boat a heavy - looking man stood on the deck smoking; he
puffed away in a comfortable, composed manner, regardless of
all around. Another heavy-looking man came up to him with
a countenance of exactly the same stolid class: it was as if a
thought of any kind had never crossed the mind of either; he
had a pipe in his hand, but it was not lighted. The second heavy
man approached the first, stood for a moment, not a word, not
a sign passed between them; the cold pipe was raised, advanced
towards the hot one — they touched — puff, puff, puff at both ends
in grave silence; when the cold pipe had lighted, the owner
moved away without even a bow passing between the smokers.
How much this pair amused us!
Arnheim is beautiful, a pretty town in a very picturesque
situation; Nimeguen still more striking; the journey between
the two did not strike me sufficiently to be remembered. I recollect
the bridge of boats though, by means of which we crossed
the Maes, and so entered Flanders. Liege was our next stage,
quite a fine city, full of handsome streets and squares and buildings,
shops rivalling our own, and hotels very superior to any
we had yet met with. It is the Birmingham of Belgium, a busy
manufacturing town, and thriving. I should have liked much
to have visited some of the ironworks, and we had time enough,
for my mother had caught a feverish cold and had to stay here
three days to nurse herself; but none of the rest having my turn
for details, they went on as usual hunting out the Hôtel de Ville,
the churches and pictures. There is an old Cathedral at Liege
worth a visit, otherwise a walk about the town is all that need
be attempted. We were returning home from rather a hot
one when we found several carriages crowding the yard, and
were told a great English Milor had just arrived. It was the
Duke and Duchess of Bedford on their way to one of the German
Spas for his health, without any of their children, but with
upper servants and under servants, and their doctor, good Mr.
Wolridge. I had gone up to my mother and did not see them, but
the rest were glad to meet — at least there was great chattering.
Nothing could equal the dreariness of the drive the greater part
of the way from Liège to Aix-la-Chapelle. A wild, barren heath
after the first few miles, on which, at long intervals, we saw a few
poor wretched creatures gathering the manure from the road to
mix with clay and coal-dust for fuel. They formed this composition
into neat enough cakes the size of bricks, and said it
made a good strong fire, but the perfume was the reverse of
agreeable. About the middle of our journey we stopped to
rest the horses at a more desolate inn than either Freeburn or
Moulinearn in their worst days. We could get nothing for ourselves
save a very greasy omelette fried in a bacon pan with
lard, and not made of very fresh eggs; there was some horrible
cake of rye flour, and schnapps, for this was Germany — Prussian
Germany. Black eagles with two heads stuck up everywhere,
and little round sticks girt with the three colours to mark the
boundaries. The postillions were in long boots, queer hats, the
orthodox colours, and they cracked for ever their thick-handled
whips, and kept in their mouths the amber head of the immense
pipe they never ceased smoking. They fed their horses every
now and then with slices of the same rye bread they ate themselves,
and they were fine, tall, handsome men into the bargain.
The gloom of Aix was excessive, 'twas "like some vast city of
the dead," hardly a stir in it; well-built streets, broad, with
handsome houses, all, as it were, shut up, for we never saw either
exits or entrances, and, except the old Cathedral and the little
chair in it on which the corpse of Charlemagne had been found
seated, there was hardly any object of curiosity in the whole
large town. The neighbourhood was equally uninteresting, there
was nothing to recommend the place but the waters; they rise
warm from the springs, and are nauseous enough to drink; to
bathe in they are delightful, leaving a softness upon the skin
and a suppleness among the bones that invigorate the whole
frame. My third bath told upon my looks quite magically, and
I felt so comfortably alive and alert, that dull as this odious
place was, I should have liked to make the week out; but nobody
else could have endured the monotony of fine summer days
so lost behind those walls, so we moved again back to Liege,
and on to Maestricht, and then to Spa, which pretty place suited
us so well we remained there for ten days. It is a hilly country,
not unlike Tunbridge Wells, great variety in the scenery, the
town clean and cheerful, its one steep street filled with good
houses, plenty of them being hotels. We put up at the best,
where we got excellent apartments, and we diverted ourselves
by walking, driving, shopping, and drinking the waters, meeting
very few of the numerous visitors except early in the morning
at the fountains, the ladies and gentlemen mostly spending their
day round the rouge-et-noir tables. It was frightful to see them,
all pale and anxious-looking except the few who were flushed
with excitement, gathered for such an unholy purpose in the
lovely autumn weather; dupes, sharpers, swindlers, all fermenting
together. A son of old Blucher's was undergoing the process
of being ruined, and though he had no good looks to recommend
him, his youth made one incline to pity him. There were
gaming rooms in our hotel. I declare I never passed the green
door leading to them without a shudder. As it swung noiselessly
to and fro when pushed on either side, it seemed to me to be the
barrier Dante sang of, cutting off every hope from all the doomed
admitted beyond it. Peace brought all this vice, and how much
more, to England. There was evil enough in our country before,
but not the open familiarity with degrading pursuits our continental
neighbours habitually indulge in.
We had a much more agreeable subject of contemplation
across the street. From our sitting-room windows, a rather
lofty premier, we looked down into the quiet ménage in a lower
entresol of an elderly French gentleman and his much younger
wife; as their curtains were generally drawn aside and their
windows frequently opened, we had by good management the
opportunity of investigating all details of their daily life.
Madame got up first, rather early, threw on a wrapper, covered
herself further with a shawl, slipped her bare feet into shufflers,
and leaving her plain, unbordered skull night-cap over her curl-papers,
without further ado began to prepare the coffee; when
this was ready Monsieur rose, popped on a flowered robe-de-chambre,
tossed away his night-cap, stepped into his slippers, and
then sat down to his coffee. Madame opened the door, evidently
to a knock; it was the gazette, which she received and handed to
Monsieur. While he read she busied herself in clearing away
the coffee and setting the room to rights. The beds were soon
plumped up into sofas, the draperies drawn back, the chairs and
tables put in order, and then the work seemed done. Another
tap at the door, the gazette was handed out again, the window-curtain
was let down, and we were left to imagine the toilet of
Monsieur. His appearance at the conclusion of his labours, in
about an hour, was perfect; we knew him quite well under his
metamorphosis issuing from the door of the house with shining
bat, smart redingote, shirt-front, cane, moustache, all in high
order, and we watched him sauntering off to the Café with an
air of easy negligence, an amusing contrast to the bustle of
Madame. She, after one look at the retiring form of her beloved
— we supposed that they had been but lately married, and
she was very pretty — pulled back her curtain and commenced
her morning works. Sometimes she sewed, sometimes she clear-starched,
sometimes she ironed, folded, brushed the clothes. She
was never idle. Towards the dinner-hour her window was darkened
for a while, and when she unveiled her chamber, Monsieur
was already within sight, sauntering down the street again to
meet a lady worthy of him. The neatest little figure in the
prettiest half-dress tripped along the floor to receive him, and
away they went together, as nice-looking and as quiet and as
happy a pair as could well be seen at the Spa. We could never
detect the time of their return home in the evening. The casement,
left open by Madame, was always closed at dusk by the
maid of the lodging-house; no light ever seemed to gleam from
within, yet we never failed in the early morning to see the fair
lady in her wrapper and her curl-papers, looking out for a breath
of fresh air before preparing her coffee.
We went from Spa to Maestricht, a large garrison town of
most agreeable aspect, and there we waited a couple of days,
nothing loth, for letters. The landlady of an excellent hotel
kept a capital table d'hôte. Many of the officers dined there,
lawyers, merchants, and a few- others, her husband among them;
he was a notary, with an office at a little distance, and quite as
much a guest in his wife's salon as any of the rest of the company.
Madame, short and fat and well dressed, and very
obliging, sat at the head of the table, her pretty daughters dispersed
along each side; one made the salad, another, who spoke
a little English, attended to the travellers; a third, quite a
child, seemed to be a pet with the acquaintance. It was quite
a gay family party, and really very amusing to strangers; no
very refined manners visible, but no ill-breeding. Madame had
been learning English from her school-taught daughter, and had
got very perfect two small words, which on every occasion she
pronounced with a winning smile to my mother — Ros bif — and
next day we had two miserable ribs of lean beef at dinner,
baked till quite black, out of compliment to our party. A
Dutch naval officer sat next to me, a very agreeable man, and
so polite as to dress himself in his uniform afterwards, because
we had none of us seen what was worn by his countrymen. It
was not unlike our own, blue, but turned up, I think, with red.
Two Dutch merchants I also got on with so well that the father
gave my father his card with his address at Rotterdam, and begged
we would let him know when we returned there, as he must
give his family the advantage of an introduction to foreigners
who had made two days pass so very agreeably to himself and
his son. A Frenchman could not have made a neater speech.
Here we saw the last of a Mr. Hare, a young Englishman
who had tormented Jane from the hour of our landing in
Holland. They had met in some passage in the Badthouse at
Rotterdam, and he had neglected no opportunity of throwing
himself ever after in her way. He even addressed her, not
rudely but humbly, laid nosegays at her feet, sent flowers by
Ward the maid, stood in doorways and sighed, looked up at
windows in languishing despair, followed her not only from
street to street but from place to place. We found him at the
Hague the morning after our arrival, at Amsterdam as soon as
ourselves, at Liege immediately after us. We only escaped him
at Spa from some misapprehension about our journey there, for
he used to waylay Ward and try to bribe her with large sums
of money to deliver notes and give him intelligence of our plans.
He tried the courier too, and I am pretty sure made more of him
than of little indignant Ward, who, after many minor repulses,
at last made him a long speech in the style of Mrs. Nickleby to
the man with the vegetable marrow, and with equal effect, for
this poor Mr. Hare was insane, had escaped from his friends,
and was not recovered by them till he had reached Maestricht.
Many years afterwards, when Jane was Mrs. Pennington, she
met him, also married, quite rational, and perfectly oblivious of
his wanderings in the Netherlands.
Whereabouts could we have seen Cleves? We certainly
passed through this most beautiful little duchy. A little paradise
it seemed to be, with its rich fields, its wooded hills and
old castles upon heights. All this German scenery was very
pretty, and so was the part of Flanders we next proceeded to.
We had to return to Liege, and then we travelled up the Maes,
an enchanting journey; past Huy, such a perfect picture of
beauty, to Namur, a large fortified town. Here, though I was
never noted for a painter's eye, I recollect nothing so well as a
large picture of the Crucifixion by Vandyke, unrolled for us to
examine. With pride the priest told us it had never been to
France. When Buonaparte carried off all the spoils of all countries
to embellish the Louvre, this gem was saved by being taken
down from its place over the high altar of the Cathedral, removed
out of its frame, rolled up, and hid in a chimney. They were
just going to replace it, there being no longer any fear of French
invasions. The works of Vandyke always touch me, as do the
few paintings of the Italian masters I have seen. This consists
but of two figures, the Christ on the Cross, his mother beneath
it. It has never gone out of my head. For many months after
seeing it, it came back to me in my dreams, or when I was
sitting quietly at work alone. I can't tell what it was that
attracted me; I have no knowledge of colouring, or even of
correct outline, so that all the beauties of the painting could
never be described by one so ignorant. I felt them though, and
I rather think that would have satisfied the artist himself nearly
as well as the panegyric of a connoisseur! They do talk such
stuff with their technical roundabout phrases.
The next point was Gemappes, the little rather bleak village
on the hill near Quatre Bras. We dined in a room the walls of
which still bore the marks of cannon-balls. The girl who waited
on us had been in the house during the battle, saw the Highland
regiments trot up in their peculiar fashion through the town, the
people crowding out of their doors to offer them a snatch of
refreshments as they quickly passed. She sang to us, in a loud,
shrill voice, a few bars of some tune bearing a resemblance to
the White Cockade, so that it must have been the 92nd, the
Gallant Gordons, that every one liked so much! those charming
men with petticoats, who, when billeted on the inhabitants,
helped to make the soup and rock the cradle for the half-frightened
mistress of the family. On the table where we had
sat to eat, so many wounded officers had lain under the surgeon's
knife; in the room overhead so many had died; the garden had
been destroyed, the fields had been desolated, losses of all kinds
had been suffered during those dreadful days, yet for this no
one blamed Napoleon. We found his name treasured in almost
every heart, everywhere except in Holland proper, where neither
he nor any of his dynasty was popular. Here in Flanders they
made no secret of preferring any sovereign to their present
Dutch one. The Flemings are half Spanish, half French; there
is no similitude whatever between them and the nation they
have been ill-advisedly joined to; had been, I should say, for the
forced union did not last long.
On reaching Brussels we put up at the Hotel de Bellevue in
the Place Royale, just for a couple of days while we looked
about us, for the whole aspect of this particularly pretty town
was so agreeable to my mother, now quite tired of travelling,
that it was determined to take a house here for a month, and
send for our friend Amelia Ferrier. We spent two mornings,
my father and I, walking about the high and new town, looking
for lodgings, and all over the old and low town, admiring both,
so beautiful they are in different ways. The Place Royale in
the high town was the fashionable residence of the court, some
of the nobles, most of the strangers; the houses are like palaces,
enclosing a large oblong park, very agreeably laid out in shady
walks. A steep street, the Montagne de la Cour, leads from
this to the low town, where all the public buildings are to be
found; and there are the Ramparts, a broad causeway with neat
houses on one side, and fine trees in a row upon the other. A
good many handsome equipages rolled about during the middle
of the day; there was plenty of traffic going forward, plenty of
handsome well-filled shops, foot passengers in constant variety,
all well dressed, and the women mostly wearing very coquettishly
the becoming Spanish mantilla instead of shawl and bonnet,
so disposed as by no means to conceal the features. The whole
scene was gay, it was a place to fall in love with, cheap, too, as
we found Flanders generally; nearly half as cheap again as Holland,
and about a third cheaper than the short experience we
had of Germany. The people in Brussels spoke French so well
that we got on most easily with them, and very soon settled all our
business. We fixed on apartments in a fine house in the Place
Royale belonging to a cotton manufacturer whose principal place
of residence was close to his mill in the country. He used only
the ground floor of his town house during occasional visits to
the city and let all the upper part. We had on the first floor a
dining-room and a drawing-room and my mother's bedroom, all
communicating; on the second floor four good bedrooms, and
there were rooms in a back wing for the servants. We required
no additional plagues, the courier dusting, and the porter's
daughter helping Ward upstairs; for our dinner came from a
traiteur in a tray on a boy's head, cheaper than we could have
cooked it at home, and very much better. We ordered it for
six, and there was always more left than the servants wanted.
Breakfast and tea the courier managed, our obliging landlord
allowing us to boil our kettle on his stove. The entrance to our
"palace home" was through a porte cochère into a yard surrounded
by low buildings used for warehouses. A staircase,
broad and handsome, led up to our apartments; they were
neatly furnished, the drawing-room indeed handsomely, and
with its cheerful look-out on the Parc, it was a very pleasant
sitting-room, particularly after we had put a harp and a pianoforte
into it. Unpacking was a short business, for we travelled
light, so soon felt at home in our new situation.
The day we moved from the hotel, just before despatching
our last truckful of luggage, my father, who had gone out alone
on some errand, returned accompanied by a countryman, a gentleman
he had known in his youth, Mr. P— G—, a good-looking,
busy-mannered person, with whom the world had not
gone altogether well whoever had been to blame for it. He
had been, he said, for some time settled at Brussels, and from a
perfect knowledge of the place might be of some use to us,
where so many were on the alert to take every advantage of
strangers. He very much regretted our precipitation in taking
a house so entirely on chance, and unguardedly throwing ourselves
quite into our landlord's hands by employing all his tradespeople,
the Belgians being rogues from top to bottom. He
would take care in future to preserve us from this race of
harpies by going with us himself to all the shops as a protection,
these crooked traders knowing him well, and knowing, too,
that he would not suffer his friends to be imposed upon. Mrs.
G—, who was ill, or she would immediately have done herself
the honour of waiting upon my mother, would introduce us
to respectable milliners and dressmakers; they would also
show us a little of Brussels society — do their best to make our
sojourn agreeable. If we had never read Gil Blas, we might
have been more grateful to him; there was something that
jarred against our sympathies in some way in his many professions;
that is, we young people fancied we could do just as well
without him. My father and mother were delighted at meeting
so zealous a friend. We therefore kept our own counsel, but as
far as I could manage it I prevented Mr. G—'s interference,
the rather that in one or two trifling instances I found I had
made better bargains for myself than he would have made for
me. The black courier detested him, I fancy their vocations
clashed; neither did Monsieur François like me, as he required
a watchful eye over his proceedings; he cheated us in spite
of being looked after, but he would have made a much
larger private purse had Mademoiselle not learned the value
of the different moneys, and picked up useful words both
in Dutch and German. One thing Mr. G— certainly did
well for us, he gave us the names of the best masters.
Whether, poor people, he made them pay for the recommendation
there is no saying. We lost not a franc, for
their terms being known we paid them the customary fees,
no more.
Education at Brussels was remarkably good at this time; many
English families were living there on account of the
excellence and cheapness of the masters. We took advantage
of three, Henri Bertini for the pianoforte, a lesson from whom
was worth at least half-a-dozen from an inferior professor; his
wife for the harp, rather a so-so teacher; and inimitable M.
Sacré for dancing. He was the master of the ceremonies at the
Palace, most particularly attentive to the deportment, yet taking
the greatest trouble with the most minute incidents of everyday
life as relating to the manners. He gave his pupils an case of
movement that very few inherited from nature. He must have
been descended from Monsieur Jourdain's celebrated teacher, for
the importance of his art filled his whole understanding. He
used to give us long lectures upon simple elegance, act awkwardness
before us, and then triumphantly ask which style would
have greatest effect on the sympathies of our neighbour in every
circumstance of life. Amelia Ferrier listened to him so gravely,
so with an air of fully appreciating his reasoning, that between
them we could hardly keep the entertainment they gave us
within the bounds of good breeding.
Mr. Ferrier had not been able to accompany his daughter.
He sent her with a friend, Mr. Stewart, the editor of the
"Courier," a most clever, amusing little man sadly in need of a
few lessons from M. Sacré, for he was so thoroughly vulgar as
to be sometimes annoying, but very witty; so up to the times,
too, acquainted with everything and everybody, and so shrewd
in his remarks he quite enlivened us. He delighted in music, so
that every evening while he stayed we had quite a concert.
Both Amelia and I were anxious to have had some singing
lessons; a celebrity was therefore engaged, but my father, who
superintended the first interview, took good care to preserve us
from a second.
Our early mornings being thus occupied in agreeable studies,
we devoted the middle of every day to walks about the town,
or drives in the environs; the evenings we occasionally spent in
such society as was accessible to us, not the best by any means,
Brussels being then the refuge of all the scum and dregs of
Britain. It would have required a good introduction to get at
all among the Belgian noblesse, the specimens within their view
making them very difficult of access by our countrymen. The
Prince of (I forget the name) alone, who laid himself out to
entertain the English, invited my father and William twice or
thrice to dine. The company they met they described as no
way remarkable; but they both spoke French so badly they were
quite unequal to judge of any one's conversational powers in
that language. The banquet was like one in London, with two
or three slight differences.
We became acquainted with one very nice family who had
come to Brussels to economise while educating their many
children; but then they had the sure prospect of a few years of
prudent saving setting their affairs all right again. Mr. Houlton
had been building a very fine house; we all know the cost of
that amusement! Mrs. Houlton, a fair specimen of a thoroughly
English woman, handsome and pleasant, looked well after all
under her control. The eldest son was in the Army, not with
them; the second, a dear little George, was worth making a pet
of. The two elder girls were beauties in different styles; the
second, a brunette, played the guitar in Spanish fashion, not picking
at the strings, but sweeping them with the thumb, and she
sang Spanish and Portuguese airs to this accompaniment so
bewitchingly we were not surprised to hear afterwards that she
had married well before she was seventeen. There was no
danger of her marrying ill with that wide-awake mother; and so
the pretty Fanny never married at all. There were several
clever younger sisters, hut none of them possessed the remarkable
good looks of the elder ones. We got extremely intimate
with these Houltons, spent many walking or driving mornings,
and happy musical evenings, together. They were from the
West of England, from somewhere near Bowood, Lord Lansdowne's;
I forget the county.
All this time Mrs. G— never came to call. He was with
us daily, and had managed to carry us to his hairdresser and
his shoemaker and his dressmaker, etc. I really believe they
were all the best in their line, and they may not have charged
us with the douceur given to our obliging friend — or they may ;
there was no knowing. At this period of our acquaintance
suspicion of the cause of all the trouble taken for us had not
entered the heads of the most influential among us. A stray
word of Mr. Stewart first enlightened us. Speaking of him
once after his regular daily visit, when he had been as usual all
kindness and very cheerful and agreeable, "Ah," said Mr.
Stewart, "poor devil! I wonder how the deuce the fellow
gets on; never did a man throw opportunities away as did
that poor P— G—, clever, gentlemanly man, quite cleared
out long before he had to run for it, how on earth does he
manage to live here? On his countrymen, eh? a percentage
on all wares perhaps supplied by his tradesmen. He had not
a penny left. Who was the wife? had she money?" That
bit of news it seemed as if we were not likely to know. Mr.
G— made the civillest of apologies for her non-appearance,
but she never came; her cold remained so very oppressive that
she, being a delicate person, could not venture out so late in the
year — September or October — while any cough continued. At
length, the day after Mr. Stewart departed to resume his editorial
duties in London, Mrs. G 's cough had sufficiently moderated
and Mr. G brought her to see us, literally brought
her, for she was evidently unwilling to come. She was very
awkward, very reserved in manner, extremely silent, and instead
of the slight delicate-looking woman we expected, she was a
great raw-boned giantess with a scorbutic face. She must have
had a fortune; that we were persuaded of. We found from
George Conyngham that it was a jointure, and that she had been
married for her beauty in very early youth. The call was
returned, and t