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Expedition to Invermark 19 Sept 1865


Tuesday, September 19, 1865

On waking I felt very low and nervous at the thought of the expedition. All so sadly changed. Started at eleven o’clock with Lenchen and Jane Churchill, Grant and Brown on the box—like in former happy times. General Grey had preceded us, and we found him at the Bridge of Muich, where uur ponies were waiting. We had four gillies, three of whom were with us in 1861 (Smith, Morgan, and Kennedy). The heat was intense going up the Polach. I got well enough through the bog, but Jane Churchill’s pony floundered considerably. We lunched when we had crossed the Tartar and gone a little way up Mount Keen, and General Grey then went on to meet Lord Dalhousie. Two of his foresters had come to show us the way. We remounted after sitting and resting a little while, and ascended the shoulder of Mount Keen, and then rode on. The distance was very hazy. We got off and walked, after which I rode dow n that fine wild pass called the Ladder Burn ; but it seemed to strike me much less than when I first saw it, as all is flat now. At the foot of the pass Lord Dalhousie met us with General Grey, and welcomed us kindly; and at the Shiel, a little further on, where we had lunched in 1861, Lady Christian Maule, Lord Dalhousie’s sister, met us. She was riding.

We then went on a few yards further till we came to the Well', where we got off. It is really beautiful, built of white stones in the shape of the ancient crown of Scotland; and in one of the pillars a plate is inserted with this inscription: “Queen Victoria with the Prince Consort visited this well and drank of its refreshing waters on the 20th September, 1861, the year of Her Majesty’s great sorrow;” and round the spring, which bubbles up beautifully, and quite on a level with the ground, is inscribed in old English characters the following legend :—

Rest, traveller, on this lonely green,
And drink and pray for Scotland’s Queen,

We drank with sorrowing hearts from this very well, where just four years ago I had drunk with my beloved Albert; and Grant handed me his flask (one I had given him), out of which we had drunk on that day! Lord Dalhousie has kindly built this well in remembrance of that occasion. It was quite a pilgrimage.

We afterwards had some tea, close by; and this fine wide glen was seen at its best, lit up as it was by the evening sun, warm as on a summer’s day, without a breath of air, the sky becoming pinker and pinker, the hills themselves, as you looked down the glen, assuming that beautifully glowing tinge which they do of an evening. The Highlanders and ponies grouped around the well had a most picturesque effect. And yet to me all seemed strange, unnatural, and sad.

We mounted again, and went on pursuing the same way as we had done four years ago, going past the old Castle of Invermark. As there was time, however, we rode on to Loch Lee, just beyond it, which we had only seen from a distance on the last occasion. It is quite small, but extremely pretty, and was beautifully lit up, reminding me of the farthest end of Lock Mutch. After this we rode up to the house, the little drawing-room of which I well remembered; it brought all back to me. Lady Christian took us upstairs. I had two nice small rooms. The two maids, Lenchen and Lady Churchill, and Brown were all in our passage, away from the rest of the house. I felt tired, sad, and bewildered. For the first time in my life I was alone in a strange house, without either mother or husband, and the thought overwhelmed and distressed me deeply. I had a dear child with me, but those loving ones above me were both gone, —their support taken away! It seemed so dreadful! How many visits we paid together, my darling and I, and how we ever enjoyed thorn! Ever, when they were trying and formal, the happiness of being together, and a world in ourselves, was so great.

Dinner was below, in a pretty room which I also remembered. Only Lord Dalhousie, Lady Christian, the General, Lady Churchill, Lenchen, and I. I stayed but a short while below after dinner, and then went up with Lenchen and Jane Churchill, and afterwards walked out with Jane. It was very warm.

Wednesday, September 20

A beautiful morning. Breakfasted alone with Lenchen in my own little sitting-room—waited on by Brown, who is always ready to try to do anything required. At eleven we went out, and I planted two trees, and Lenchen one (instead of her blessed Father, alas!). We then mounted our ponies as yesterday, and proceeded (accompanied by Lord Dalhousie, Lady Christian, and several of his foresters) by a shorter road past the well, where we did not get off, up the Ladder Burn, on our homeward journey. We went the same way, stopping at the “March,” where, in a high wind, we got off and lunched under some stones. Good Lord Dalhousie was most hospitable and kind. The luncheon over, they took leave and went back, and General Grey went on in advance. As it was only one o’clock when we sat down to luncheon, we remained sitting some little time before we commenced our downward course. It was to-day—strange to say— the anniversary of our first visit to Invermark. Then we proceeded down the same way we had come up, across the Tanar, and when we had gone up some little way we stopped again, as we were anxious not to hurry home, and moreover the carriage would not have been ready to meet us. We had some tea, sketched a little, and rode on again ; the sky had become dark and cloudy, and suddenly down came a most violent shower of rain, which beat fiercely with the wind. We were just then going over the boggy part, which, however, we got across very well. As we came over the Polach the rain ceased. The view of the Valley of the Gairn and Mutch as you descend is beautiful, and reminded me forcibly of our last happy expedition in 1861, when Albert stopped to talk to Grant about the two forests, and said he and Grant might possibly be dead before they were completed! There lay the landscape stretched out—the same as before; and all else was changed!

We got home at ten minutes past seven o’clock, when it was still raining a little.


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