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Memoirs of a Highland Lady
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, [The name of the house on the Rothiemurchius estate.] 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. i\Iy 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, [A small house on the property.] the winters at Elgin, and a succession of tutors—queer men enough, by their pupil's account of them—were engaged to superintend the studies of this wilful boy and a whole host 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 school-mistress, 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 £io,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 vent 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 weaned 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• 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 dear 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 i800. 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 dear 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! 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 appearing 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 in 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 gentlefoiks" 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, real 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 nut 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 ectasies.

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.

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.

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 hail 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. 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 bedrid, 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 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 neighbour- hood. 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.

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 ill-brought-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-1 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, [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, 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 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.


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