Leaves from the Journal
The First Stay at Alt-na-Giuthasach 30 Aug. 1849
August 30, 1849.
After writing our letters, we set off on our ponies,
with Miss Dawson, Macdonald, Grant, Batterbury, and Hands Coutts;
Hamis is Gaelic for James, and is pronounced Hamish. The road has
been improved since last year, and though it is still very rough,
there are no fords to pass, nor real difficulties any longer. We
rode the whole way, and Albert only walked the last two miles. He
took a Gaelic lesson during our ride, asking Macdonald, who speaks
it with great purity, many words, and making him talk to Jemmie
Coutts. Albert has already picked up many words : but it is a very
difficult language, for it is pronounced in a totally different way
from that in which it is written.
We arrived at our little bothie at two oclock, and
were amazed at the transformation. There are two huts, and to the
one in which we live a wooden addition has been made. We have a
charming little dining-room, sitting-room, bed-room, and
dressing-room, all- in suite; and there is a little room where
Caroline Dawson (the Maid of Honour) sleeps, one for her maid, and a
little pantry. In the other house, which is only a few yards
-distant, is the kitchen, where the people generally sit, a small
room -where the servants dine, and another, which is a sort of
store-room, and a loft above in which the men sleep. Margaret French
(my maid), Carolines maid, Lohlein (Alberts valet), a cook,
Shackle (a footman), and Macdonald, are the only people with us in
the house, old John Gordon and his wife excepted. Our rooms are
delightfully papered, the ceilings as well as walls, and very nicely
furnished. We lunched as soon as we arrived, and at three walked
down (about twenty minutes walk) to the loch called Muich; which
some say means darkness or sorrow. Here we found a large boat,
into which we all got, and Macdonald, Duncan, Grant, and Coutts
rowed; old John Gordon and two others going in another boat with the
net. They rowed up to the head of the loch, to where the Muich runs
down out of the Dhu Loch, which is on the other side.
The scenery is beautiful here, so wild and grand,
real severe Highland scenery, with trees in the hollow. We had
various scrambles in and out of the boat and along the shore, and
saw three hawks, and caught seventy trout. I wish an artist could
have been there to sketch the scene; it was so picturesquethe boat,
the net, and the people in their kilts in the water, and on the
shore. In going back, Albert rowed and Macdonald steered; and the
lights were beautiful.
We came home at a quarter-past seven. At eight we
dined; Lohlein, Macdonald, and Shackle waiting on us.
This faithful and trusty valet nursed his dear master
most devotedly through his sad illness in December, 1861, and is now
always with me as my personal groom of the chambers or valet. 1 gave
him a house near Windsor Castle, where he resides when the Court are
there. He is a native of Coburg. His father has been for fifty years
Forster at Fulbach, close to Coburg, who was very active and
efficient. He is now a Page.
After dinner we played with Caroline Dawson at whist
with dummy, and afterwards walked round the little garden. The
silence and solitude, only interrupted by the waving of the
fir-trees, were very solemn and striking.
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