Thursday, October l, 1868
At nearly four o’clock left with Louise and Jane
Churchill for the Glassalt Shiel. It was a beautiful evening, clear
and frosty. We drove by Birkhall and the Linn of Mutch, where we
stopped to take tea ; we had just finished when Arthur arrived from Balia
ter with Grant, who had gone to meet him there. He had travelled
straight from Geneva, and looked rather tired, having besides had a
bad passage. After walking a little we drove on, Arthur getting into
the carriage with us, and Grant going with Brown on the box. We
arrived at half-past six at the Glassalt Shiel, which looked so
cheerful and comfortable, all lit up, and the rooms so cozy and
nice. There is a wonderful deal of room in the compact little house.
A good staircase (the only one) leads to the upper floor, where are
the rooms for Louise, Jane Churchill, her maid, and Arthur, in one
passage; out of this there is another, where are three rooms for
Brown, the cook, and another servant; in one of these Grant and Ross
slept, and C. Thomson in the other. Below are my sitting-room,
and bed. One of eight brothers (one died in 1865), three of whom,
besides himself, are in my service—Andrew (the eldest), a livery
porter; John, who has charge of the roads on my property at Balmoral,
and room, and my maids’ room; and on the other side of our little
hall the dining room: then a nice kitchen, small steward's room,
store-closet, and another small room where two menservants slept.
The small passage near my bedroom shuts off the rest, and makes it
quite private and quiet. Good stables, and the keeper’s cottage,
where our gillies sleep, just outside at the back.
We dined at about half-past eight in the small dining
room. This over, after waiting for a little while in my
sitting-room, Brown came to say all the servants were ready for the
house-warming, and at twenty minutes to ten we went into the little
dining-room, which had been cleared, and where all the servants were
assembled, viz., my second dresser, C Wilmore, Brown, Grant, Ross
(who played), Hollis (the cook), Lady Churchill’s maid, Maxted, C.
and A. Thomson, Blake (the footman), the two housemaids, Kennedy, J.
Stewart (the stableman), and the policeman (who only comes to do
duty outside at night). We made nineteen altogether. Five animated
reels were danced, in which all (but myself) joined. After the first
reel “whisky-toddy” was brought round for every one, and Brown
begged I would drink to the “fire-kindling.” Then Grant made a
little speech, with an allusion to the wild place we were in, and
concluding with a wish “that our Royal Mistress, our good Queen,”
should “live long.” This was followed by cheers given out by Ross in
regular Highland style, and all drank my health. The merry pretty
little ball ended at a quarter-past eleven, The men, however, went
on singing in the steward’s room for some time, and all were very
happy, but I heard nothing, as the little passage near my bedroom
shuts everything off.
Sad thoughts filled my heart both before dinner and
when I was alone and retired to rest. I thought of the happy past
and my darling husband, whom I fancied I must see, and who always
wished to build here, in this favourite wild spot, quite in amidst
the hills. At Allna-giuthasach I could not have lived again
now—alone. It is far better to have built a totally new house; but
then the sad thought struck me that it was the first Widow’s
house, not built by him or hallowed by his memory. But I am sure his
blessing does rest on it, and on those who live in it.