Thursday, September 16, 1852.
We were startled this
morning, at seven o’clock, by a letter from Colonel Phipps,
enclosing a telegraphic despatch with the report, from the sixth
edition of the Sun, of the Duke of Wellington’s death the day before
yesterday, which report, however, we did not at all believe. Would
to God that we had been right; and that this day had not been
cruelly saddened in the afternoon.
We breakfasted with Miss Seymour; and, after writing and reading, we
started at a quarter to eleven with her and our Highland party. The
day was not cold, and would, in fact, have been very fine, if it had
not been for a constant succession of very slight showers, or clouds
coming down. We walked along the loch, the road up to which is
excellent. It has been widened and would admit of a carriage. We
arrived at the Alt-na Dearg, a small burn and fall, which is very
fine and rapid. Up this a winding path has been made, upon which we
rode; though some parts are rather steep for riding. The burn falls
over red granite; and in the ravine grow birch, mountain-ash, and
alder. We got off and walked a good long way on the top of the very
steep hills overhanging the loch, to the Siren, and the Moss of Mon
Elpie, whence you overlook all the country belonging to Lord Panmure,
Mount Keen, the Ogilvie Hills, &c. We stopped to rest a little
while, though the walking is excellent, so hard and dry, on a point
overlooking the Shiel of the Glassalt, and the head of the loch.
Here I suddenly missed my watch, which the dear old Duke had given
me; and, not being certain whether I had put it on or not, I asked
Mackenzie [One of our keepers and a very good man; he lives at Alt-na
Giuthasach.] to go back and inquire. We walked on until we reached
the higher part of the Glassalt, which we stepped across. We had
passed over the tops of these hills on that expedition to the Dhu
Loch three years ago, when the ground was so soft, that ponies could
scarcely get along, the roads were so very bad.
Then we began the descent of the Glassalt, along which another path
has been admirably made. From here it is quite beautiful, so wild
and grand. The falls are equal to those of the Bruar at Blair, and
are 150 feet in height; the whole height to the foot of the loch
being 500 feet. It looked very picturesque to see the ponies and
Highlanders winding along. We came down to the Shiel of the Glassalt,
lately built, where there is a charming room for us, commanding a
most lovely view. Here we took the cold luncheon, which we had
brought with us; and after that we mounted our ponies, and rode to
the Dhu Loch, along a beautiful path which keeps well above the
burn, that rushes along over flat great slabs of stone. The scenery
is exquisite. We passed a small fall called the Burn of the Spullan
(“spout”). In half or three quarters of an hour we were at the wild
and picturesque Dhu Loch.
We got off our ponies, and I had just sat down to sketch, when
Mackenzie returned, saving my watch was safe at home, and bringing
letters: amongst them there was one from Lord Derby, which I tore
open, and alas! it contained the confirmation of the fatal news:
that England's, or rather Britain’s pride, her glory, her hero, the
greatest man she ever had produced, was no more! Sad day! Great and
irreparable national loss!
Lord Derby enclosed a few lines from Lord Charles Wellesley, saying
that his dear great father had died on Tuesday at three o’clock,
after a few hours’ illness and no suffering. God’s will be done! The
day must have come: the Duke was eighty-three. It is well for him
that he has been taken when still in the possession of his great
mind, and without a long illness, but what a loss! One cannot think
of this country without “the Duke,” our immortal hero!
In him centered almost every earthly honour a subject could possess.
His position was the highest a subject ever had, above party, looked
up to by all, revered by the whole nation, the friend of the
Sovereign; and how simply he carried these honours! With what
singleness of purpose, what straightforwardness, what courage, were
all the motives of his actions guided. The Crown never possessed,
and I fear never will, so devoted, loyal, and faithful a subject, so
staunch a supporter! To us (who alas! have lost, now, so many of our
valued and experienced friends.) his loss is irreparable, for his
readiness to aid and advise, if it could be of use to us, and to
overcome any and every difficulty, was unequalled. To Albert he
showed the greatest kindness and the utmost confidence. His
experience and his knowledge of the past were so great too; he was a
link which connected us with bygone times, with the last century.
Not an eye will be dry in the whole country.
We hastened down on foot to the head of Loch Muich; and then rode
home, in a heavy shower, to Alt-na-Giuthasach. Our whole enjoyment
was spoilt; a gloom overhung all of us.
We wrote to Lord Derby and Lord Charles Wellesley.