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Visit to Blair 15 Sept 1863


Balmoral, Tuesday, September 15, 1863

At twenty minutes to eight we reached Perth, where' -we breakfasted and dressed, and at twenty minutes past nine I left with Lenchen, Augusta Bruce, and General Grey, for Blair, going past Dunkeld, where we had not been since 1844, and which is so beautifully situated, and Pitlochry, through the splendid Pass of Killiecrankie (which we so often drove through in 1844), past Mr. Butter’s place Faskally, on to Blair, having a distant peep at the enti ance to Glen Tilt, and Schichallion, which it made and makes me sick to think of. At the small station were a few people—the poor Duke’s Highlanders (keepers), the dear Duchess, Lord Tullibardine, and Captain Drummond of Meginch.

The Duchess was much affected, still more so when she got into the carriage with me. Lenchen and the others went in the boat carriage, the one we had gone in not two years ago.

We drove at once to the house which we had visited in such joyful and high spirits October 9, two years ago. The Duchess took me to the same room which I had been in on that day, and, after talking a little to me of this dreadful affliction, [The Duke was suffering from an incurable illness] she went to see if the Duke was ready.

She soon returned, and I followed her downstairs along the passage, full of stags’ horns, which we walked along, together with the poor Duke, in i86r. When I went in, I found him standing up very much altered ; it was very sad. He kissed my hand, gave me the white rose which, according to tradition, is presented by the Lords of Athole on the occasion of the Sovereign’s visit, and we sat a little while with him. It is a small room, full of his rifles and other implements and attributes of sport now for ever useless to him! A sad; sad contrast. He seemed very much pleased and gratified.

We went upstairs again and took some breakfast, in the very same room where we breakfasted on that very-happy, never-to-be-forgotten day, full of joy and expectation. While we were breakfasting the door opened, and in walked the Duke in a thick MacDougal. Mrs. Drummond and Miss Moncreiff (the Duchess’s pretty, amiable future daughter-in-law) were there, and also Miss MacGregor, but we did not see her. The poor Duke insisted on going with me to the station, and he went in the carriage with the Duchess and me. At the station he got out, walked about, and gave directions. I embraced the dear Duchess and gave the Duke m) hand, saying, “Dear Duke, God bless you!” He had asked permission that his men, the same who had gone with us through the glen on that happy day two years ago, might give me a cheer, and he led them on himself. Oh: it was so dreadfully sad ! To think of the contrast to the time two years ago, when my darling was so well and I so happy with him, and just beginning to recover from my great sorrow for dearest Mama’s death—looking forward to many more such delightful expeditions ; and the poor Duke there full of health and strength, walking the whole way, and at the “March” [The boundary of the Duke's property. “March” is the word commonly used in Scotland to express the outer limit or boundary of land.] stopping to drink to our health and asking us to come again whenever we liked, and giving a regular Highland cheer in Highland fashion, returned by our men, the pipers playing, and all, all so gay, so bright! And I so eager for next year’s expeditions, which I ought not to have been! Oh! how little we know what is before us ! How uncertain is life! I felt very sad, but was so much occupied with the poor Duke, [He died in the following year, January 16, 1864] for whom I truly grieve, that I did not feel the trial of returning to Blair in such terribly altered circumstances, as I should otherwise have done.

At Stanley Junction we joined the others, and proceeded as usual to Aboyne, whence we drove in open carriages—Lenchen, Alfred, and Baby with me—and reached Balmoral at twenty minutes past six. It was very cold. Bertie and Alix were at the door, and stayed a little while afterwards. Hew strange they should be at Abergeldie! A few years ago dear Mama used to receive us.


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