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Memoirs of a Highland Lady
Chapter XI. 1813

CHRISTMAS, Old style, 1813, Belleville and Mrs Macpherson spent with us. They were easily entertained. She worked and gossiped with my mother all the mornings, till the regular hour for her duty walk, a task she performed conscientiously as soon as it was too dark to thread her needle. He had one or two strolls during the day, and plenty of old plays and newspapers to read. In the evenings they enjoyed our merry games and a little music, before we young ones were sent to bed, as much as they did the rubber of whist afterwards. We had two dinner-parties for our guests. Balnespick and Mrs Mackintosh were with us one day; she was a really beautiful woman, fair, tall, slight, and graceful, but very still and silent. How little did we dream then that one of the sons of this couple would be married to a granddaughter of my father's. Balnespick was a clever man, very useful in the neighbourhood, respected by all ranks. He had married the beauty of Inverness, and was very proud of her. Her sister ran off from a Northern Meeting, which my father and aunt Mary attended, with a young subaltern of the regiment in garrison at Fort George, a crime quite excusable in him, for she was just as handsome a brunette as her sister was a lovely blonde; and the stolen wedding turned out, romance-like, quite a hit - the poor lieutenant was the heir of Rokeby. Balnespick's sister was married to William Cameron, the only remaining child of our dear old cousins at the Croft.

The great event of the Christmas time was the Floaters' ball. As the harvest-home belonged to the farm, this entertainment was given to the forest—all engaged in the wood manufacture, their wives and families, being invited. The amusements began pretty early in the day with a game at " ba," the hockey of the low country, our Scotch substitute for cricket. It is played on a field by two parties, who toss a small ball between them by means of crooked sticks called clubs. The Highlanders are extremely fond of this exciting game, and continue it for hours on a holiday, exhibiting during its progress many feats of agility. There were always crowds of spectators. Our people kept up the game till dark, when all the men—above a hundred— went to dinner in the barn, a beef and some sheep having been killed for them. The kitchens of both house and farm had been busy for a couple of days cooking for the entertainment. The women, as they arrived, were taken into the grieve's house for tea, a delicate attention, fully appreciated. We delighted in the Floaters' ball, so large a party, so many strangers, some splendid dancers from Strathspey, the hay-loft, the straw-loft, and the upper floor of the threshing-mill all thrown open en suite; two sets of fiddlers playing, punch made in the washing-tubs, an illumination of tallow dips! It is surprising that the floors stood the pounding they got; the thumping noise of the many energetic feet could have been heard half a mile off. When a lad took a lass out to dance, he led her to her place in the reel and "pree'd her mou"—kissed her— before beginning, she holding up her face quite frankly to receive the customary salute, and he giving a good sounding smack when the lass was bonnie.

The number of people employed in the forest was great. At this winter season little could be done beyond felling the tree, lopping the branches, barking the log, while the weather remained open, before the frost set in. Most of this work indeed was done in the autumn, and was continued while practicable. This was not a severe winter, but it set in early. We had a deep fall of snow, and then a degree of frost felt only among the mountains, putting a stop while it lasted to all labour. It was not unpleasant, for it was dry, and the sun shone brightly for the few hours of daylight, and after the first slap in the face on going out, sharp exercise made our walks very enjoyable. We bounded on over the hard ground for miles, indeed the distances people are able to walk in weather of this sort would not be believed by those who had not tried it. Five weeks of frost and snow brought us over the worst of the winter, and then came a foretaste of spring which set us all to work again. The spade and the plough were both busy, and in the wood the great bustle of the year began.

The logs prepared by the loppers had to be drawn by horses to the nearest running water, and there left in large quantities till the proper time for sending them down the streams. It was a busy scene all through the forest, so many rough little horses moving about in every direction, each dragging its load, attended by an active boy as guide and remover of obstructions. The smack of the whip used to sound quite cheerful in those otherwise solitary spots, and when we met, the few Gaelic words interchanged seemed to enliven us all. This driving lasted till sufficient timber was collected to render the opening of the sluices profitable. Formerly small saw-mills had been erected wherever there was sufficient water-power, near the part of the forest where the felling was going on, and the deals when cut were carted down to the Spey. It was picturesque to come suddenly out of the gloom of the pine-trees, on to a little patch of cultivation near a stream with a cottage or two, and a saw-mill at work, itself an object of interest in a rude landscape. A concentration of labour was, however, found to be more advantageous to the wood-merchant; they were finding out that it answered better to send the logs down nearer to the Spey by floating them, than the deals by carting them. The prettily-situated single saw-mills were therefore gradually abandoned, and new ones to hold double saws built as wanted, within a more convenient distance from the banks of the river where the rafts were made. In order to have a run of water at command, the sources of the little rivers were managed artificially to suit floating purposes. Embankments were raised at the ends of the lakes in the far-away glens, at the point where the different burnies issued from them. Strong sluicegates, always kept closed, prevented the escape of any but a small nil of water, so that when a rush was wanted the supply was sure.

The night before a run, the man in charge of that particular sluice set off up the hill, and reaching the spot long before daylight opened the heavy gates; out rushed the torrent, travelling so quickly as to reach the deposit of timber in time for the meeting of the woodmen, a perfect crowd, amongst whom it was one of our enjoyments to find ourselves early in the day. The duty of some was to roll the logs into the water; this was effected by the help of levers—like Harry Sand- ford's snowball, as Johnnie screamed out the first time we took him with us. The next party shoved them off with long poles into the current, dashing in often up to the middle in water when any case of obstruction occurred. They were then taken in charge by the most picturesque group of all, the youngest and most active, each supplied with a clip, a very long pole thin and flexible at one end, generally a young tall tree; a sharp hook was fixed to the bending point, and with this, skipping from rock to stump, over brooks and through briers, this agile band followed the log-laden current, ready to pounce on any stray lumbering victim that was in any manner checked in its progress. There was something graceful in the action of throwing forth the stout yet yielding clip, an exciting satisfaction as the sharp hook fixed the obstreperous log. The many light forms springing about among the trees, along banks that were sometimes high, and always rocky, the shouts, the laughter, the Gaelic exclamations, and above all, the roar of the water, made the whole scene one of the most inspiriting that either actors or spectators could be engaged in.

One or two of these streams carried the wood straight to the Spey, others were checked in their progress by a loch; when this was the case, light rafts had to be constructed, and paddled or speared over by a man standing on each raft. The loch crossed, the raft was taken to pieces, some of the logs left at a sawmill, the rest sent down the recovered stream to the Spey; there the Spey floaters took charge of them; our people's work was done.

The Spey floaters lived mostly down near Baumdalloch, a certain number of families by whom the calling had been followed for ages, to whom the wild river, all its holes and shoals and rocks and shiftings, were as well known as had its bed been dry. They came up in the season, at the first hint of a spate, as a rise in the water was called. A large bothy was built for them at the mouth of the Druie in a fashion that suited themselves; a fire on a stone hearth in the middle of the floor, a hole in the very centre of the roof just over it where some of the smoke got out, heather spread on the ground, no window, and there, after their hard day's work, they lay down for the night, in their wet clothes—for they had been perhaps hours in the river—each man's feet to the fire, each man's plaid round his chest, a circle of wearied bodies half-stupefied by whisky, enveloped in a cloud of steam and smoke, and sleeping soundly till the morning. They were a healthy race, suffering little except in their old age from rheumatism. They made their large rafts themselves, seldom taking help from our woodmen, yet often giving it if there were an over-quantity of timber in the runs.

Mr Macintosh, who often dined at the Doune, usually contrived to come the day before a log-run, our particular delight, so we were sure of appearing in the very height of the business before the noontide rest. When the men met in the morning they were supposed to have breakfasted at home, and perhaps had had their private dram, it being cold work in a dark wintry dawn, to start over the moor for a walk of some miles to end in standing up to the knees in water; yet on collecting, whisky was always handed round; a lad with a small cask—a quarter anker—on his back, and a horn cup in his hand that held a gill, appeared three times a day among them. They all took their "morning" raw, undiluted and without accompaniment, so they did the gill at parting when the work was done; but the noontide dram was part of a meal. There was a twenty minutes' rest from labour, and a bannock and a bit of cheese taken out of every pocket to be eaten leisurely with the whisky. When we were there the horn cup was offered first to us, and each of us took a sip to the health of our friends around us, who all stood up. Sometimes a floater's wife or bairn would come with a message; such messenger was always offered whisky. Aunt Mary had a story that one day a woman with a child in her arms, and another bit thing at her knee, came up among them; the horn cup was duly handed to her, she took a "gey guid drap" herself, and then gave a little to each of the babies. "My goodness, child," said my mother to the wee thing that was trotting by the mother's side, "doesn't it bile you?" "Ay, but I like the bite," replied the creature.

There were many laughable accidents during the merry hours of the floating; clips would sometimes fail to hit the mark, when the overbalanced clipper would fall headlong into the water. A slippery log escaping would cause a tumble, shouts of laughter always greeting the dripping victims, who good- humouredly joined in the mirth. As for the wetting, it seemed in no way to incommode them; they were really like water-rats. Sometimes the accident was beyond a joke. I know we were all sobered by one that befell us. Just below the bridge on the Loch-an-Eilan road, over the burn that flows out of the loch, a small basin of water had been allowed to form during a run, for the purpose of holding together a large quantity of logs to prevent them from going down too quickly, as from this point the stream was conveyed by a narrow conduit of wood, across the Milltown muir, on down a steep bank into the first of a set of miniature lochs, concealed by the birch wood on one side and the fir trees on the other, known as the Lochans. This conduit, called the Spout, was in particular favour with us, as along its course the fun was always at its height, it was so difficult in that rush of water to keep the great hulking logs in order, and send them singly on in regular succession. One would rise up here over a lazy leader, another there; above, two or three would mount up on end and choke the passage, stopping all progress and wasting the water. The clips were busy here, the men jumping about hooking this log and sending it forward, hooking that log and keeping it back, screaming to each other as they skipped over the Spout.

All of a sudden, Mary, not in general an active child nor given to exertion of any kind, made a spring and cleared the conduit. The shouts of applause which greeted this daring action inspired her afresh, and laughing she prepared to spring back. This time she miscalculated the distance and fell plump into the stream, along which she was carried more rapidly than we could follow her. Did she escape being crushed by the logs she must have been drowned in that rushing torrent before being tossed down the steep bank into the loch.

The presence of mind of one person often saves a life; to save Mary's it required the presence of mind of two.

A tall Murdoch Murray stood by a narrow outlet with his clip. He had the wisdom to draw one log quite across the mouth of the outlet so that none could move, and thus all danger of her being followed by one and so crushed was at an end. A lad, whose name I forget—he died, poor fellow, of consumption, carefully tended by us all while he lived—leaped from his place, waited for her a little lower down, seized her clothes, and dragged her out, She was insensible. Mr Macintosh then came up, carried her into a saw-miller's house close by—it was Sandy Colley's—had her undressed, rubbed, laid in the bed wrapped in warm blankets, and when she opened her eyes gave her a glass of whisky. Jane, as the sensible one of the party, was sent home to order up dry clothes, without going near my mother. Johnnie and I sat by Mary, doing whatever Duncan Macintosh told us, and Miss Elphick cried.

As soon as it was known that the "bonny burd" was living, grand cheering rent the air, and a dram all round, an extra, was given in honour of her rescuers. That dram was the Highland prayer, it began, accompanied, and ended all things. The men wanted to make a king's cushion and carry her home, but Mr Macintosh thought it better for her to walk. We were abundantly cheered on setting forth, and well scolded on getting home, though none of us but poor little Mary herself had any hand in the accident.

A more tragical event than most happily this "vaulting ambition" of poor Mary's had turned out, had occurred a year or two before at this same season. The only child of a poor widow, Christian Grant, a fine young man named Allan, had charge of the Loch Ennich sluice-gates. A quantity of timber being wanted at Druie mouth for the Spey floaters who had come up to make their rafts, a run was determined on, and this lad was sent up to the Glen to open the sluice. It was a wild night, wind and hail changing to snow, and he had eleven or twelve miles to go through the forest, full of paths, and across the heath that was trackless. Poor old Christy I she gave him a hot supper, put up a bannock and a little whisky for him, and wrapped his plaid well round him. She looked after him as he left the house in the driving sleet; such risks were common, no one thought about them. Early in the morning down came the water, the weather had taken up, and the floating went merrily on, but Allan did not return. He had reached the loch, that was plain; where then had he wandered? Not far. When evening came on and no word of him, a party set out in search, and they found him at his post, asleep seemingly, a bit of bannock and the empty flask beside him. He had done his duty, opened the water-gate, and then sat down to rest. The whisky and the storm told the remainder. He was quite dead.

The mother never recovered her reason; the shock brought on brain fever, and that left her strangely excited for a while. Afterwards she calmed, was always harmless, sometimes restless, but never either wiser or sillier than the half-simple state in which she existed to extreme old age. She had always been a tidy body, and had been called in often by Betty Campbell to help at the farm when there was a press of business. Once or twice at company times she had assisted in the scullery at the House.

The first sensible action she did after her long months of darkness was to arrive at the Doune one morning and set herself to pluck the fowl. Of course every one was kind to her, so she came the next day, and from that time never failed to arrive regularly when the family was at home, about the breakfast hour, and remain until after dinner when the kitchen was put in order. She would never stay all night, preferring her little cabin on Druie side, to which she returned cheerfully except on stormy nights, when the maids said she would shake her head sadly, and sometimes let fall tears. She never mentioned her son.

My mother did not let her want for anything; clothes, tea, snuff, all she wished for was supplied whether we were at home or absent, till the goodhearted Duchess of Bedford succeeded us at the Doune, when she took charge of Christy, gave her just what she had been accustomed to, and reinstated her as head of the scullery. I can see her now, with her pale anxious face, her linsey gown, check apron, and white cap bound by a black ribbon, seated beside the old japanned clock in our cheerful kitchen, at some of her easy work. She had very little English, just enough to say "my dear" or "my jewel" when any of us children passed. She always rose when my mother entered and kissed her hand, sometimes saying "bonnie" when she saw how white it was. Poor old Christy! We used to work for her, helping the maids to make her caps and aprons and handkerchiefs. It was Johnnie's privilege to carry to her the week's supply of snuff.

After this misfortune the men were sent up the hill in pairs, for it had not come alone. The shepherds had their mournful tales to tell as well as the floaters, and here is one of them.

The young people of whom I have to speak were not of Rothiemurchus. They lived up in Glen Feshie, a great way from our march, and they had not long been married. He was either a small farmer, or the son of one, or merely shepherd to a more wealthy man, I am not sure which, but his business was to mind a large flock that pastured on the mountains. During the summer when their charge strayed up towards the very summit of the high range of the Grampians, the shepherds lived in bothies on the hill, miles from any other habitation, often quite alone, their collie dog their only companion, and with no provisions beyond a bag of meal. This they generally ate uncooked, mixed with either milk or water as happened to suit, the milk or water being mostly cold, few of these hardy mountaineers troubling themselves to keep a fire lighted in fine weather. This simple food, called brose, is rather relished by the Highlanders; made with hot water or with good milk they think it excellent fare; made with beef broo—the fat skimmings of the broth pot—it is considered quite a treat. Beef brose is entertainment for any one. The water-brose must be wholesome; no men looked better in health than the masons, who ate it regularly, and the shepherds. These last came down from their high ground to attend the kirk sometimes, in such looks as put to shame the luxurious dwellers in the smoky huts with their hot porridge and other delicacies.

In the winter the flocks feed lower down, and the shepherd leaves his bothy to live at home, but not at ease. A deep snow calls him forth to wander over miles of dreary waste, in case of drifts that overwhelm, or cold that paralyses. In spring there come the early lambs, on whose safety depends the profit of the sheep- owner, and our Highland springs retain so much of winter in them that the care of a flock at this harsh season entails about the hardest of all lives on labouring men.

It was at this critical time, at the beginning of a heavy snowstorm, that our young husband departed on his round of duty.

The wife was preparing for her first baby; she was also busy with her wheel, the first work of a newly- married notable Highland girl being the spinning and the dyeing of a plaid for her husband. She baked the bread, she trimmed her fire, and she busked her house, then took her wheel, and by the light of a splinter of quick fir laid on a small projecting slab within the chimney, she wore away the long dark hours of that dreary winter's night. Ever as the storm lulled for a while, she bent to listen for the voice she expected at the door, which, poor young thing, she was never to hear again, for he never returned from those wild mountains. They sought him for days; no trace of him could be discovered.

When the snow melted, and the summer flowers burst into bloom, party after party set out in quest of his remains, all unsuccessfully. It was not till late in autumn, when our gamekeeper was on the Brae-Riach shooting grouse, that he saw on a shelf of rock midway down a precipice a plaided figure. It was all that was left of the missing shepherd, and his collie lay dead beside him. Deceived by the snow he had wandered miles away from his own ground, and must have died from exhaustion after a fall on to this sheltered spot.

His widow was past all knowledge of his fate; her anxiety had brought on premature childbirth, fever ensued, and though she recovered her strength, her mind was gone. She lived in the belief of the speedy return of her husband, went cheerfully about her usual work, preparing things for him, going through the same routine as on the day she lost him; baking, sweeping, putting on fresh peats, and ending with her wheel by the side of the clean hearth in the evening. She would show her balls of yarn with pride to the kind neighbours who looked in upon her, and the little caps she was trimming for the baby that was lying alongside the bones of its father in the kirkyard.

Sometimes in the evening, they said, she would look wearily round and sigh heavily, and wander a little in her talk, but in the morning she was early up and busy as ever. She was never in want, for every one helped her; but though she was so much pitied, she was in their sober way much blamed. The Highlanders are fatalists; what is to be, must be; what happens must be borne patiently. We must "dree our weird," all of us, and 'tis "a flying in the face of Providence" to break the heart for God's inflictions. They feel keenly too; all their affections are warm and deep; still, they are not to be paraded. A tranquil manner is a part of their breeding, composure under all circumstances essential to the dignity of character common to all the race. How would a matron from Speyside be astonished, scandalised, at the impulsive nature and consequent exhibitions of her reputed kindred in dear Ireland!

I have wandered very far away from the floating. The forest work did not end with the arrival of the logs at their different destinations. Those that went straight to Spey were seized on by the Ballindalloch men, bored at each end by an auger, two deep holes made into which iron plugs were hammered, the plugs having eyes through which well-twisted wattles were passed, thus binding any given number together. When a raft of proper size was thus formed it lay by the bank of the river awaiting its covering; this was produced from the logs left at the saw-mills, generally in the water in a pool formed to hold them. As they were required by the workmen, they were brought close by means of the clip, and then by the help of levers rolled up an inclined plane and on to the platform under the saw; two hooks attached to cables kept the log in its place, the sluice was then opened, down poured the water, the great wheel turned, the platform moved slowly on with the log, the saw-frame worked up and down, every cut slicing the log deeper till the whole length fell off. The four outsides were cut off first; they were called "backs," and very few of them went down to Garmouth; they were mostly used at home for country purposes, such as fencing, out- offices, roofing, or firing; out-houses even were made of them. The squared logs were then cut up regularly into deals and carted off to the rafts, where they were laid as a sort of flooring. Two rude gears for the oars completed the appointments of a Spey float. The men had a vet berth of it, the water shipping in, or, more properly, over, at every lurch; yet they liked the life, and it paid them well. Then they had idle times great part of the year, could live at home and till their little crofts in their own lazy way, the rent being made up by the floating.

Near Arndilly there was a sunken rock difficult sometimes to pass; this furnished a means of livelihood to several families living on the spot. It was their privilege to provide ropes, and arms to pull the ropes, and so to help the floats through a rapid current running at high floods between this sunken rock and the shore. The dole they got was small, yet there was hardly more outcry raised in Sutherland when the Duke wanted his starving cottars to leave their turf huts on the moors and live in comfortable stone houses by the sea, than my father met when some years later he got leave to remove this obstacle by blasting.

The oars were to my mother the most important items of the whole manufacture. She had discovered that in the late Laird's time, when the sales of timber were very small—a dozen of rafts in each season, worth a few hundreds annually the oars had been the perquisite of the Lady. A little out of fun, partly because she had begun to want money sometimes, she informed good Mr Steenson that she meant to claim her dues. He used to listen quietly, and answer blandly that next time he came up her claims should be remembered, but never a penny she got.

Mr Steenson fell ill and died. A new wood-agent had to be appointed, and he being an old friend, my mother applied to him with more confidence. This new agent was Dalachapple, Mr Alexander Grant of Dalachapple, nephew to the thrifty wife of Parson John. He not only listened to my mother about the oar money, but he acted in accordance with the old usage, and with a delicacy quite amusing. In a mysterious manner, and only when she was alone, did he approach her with her perquisite in the form of a bank-note folded small. The oars were sold for half-a-crown apiece, a pair to each float, and one season he gave her upwards of forty pounds; this was long before the great felling. She opened her eyes wide, and certainly found the money a great comfort, though it was of little use in the Highlands; all we did not produce ourselves was ordered in large quantities on credit and paid for by drafts on a banker. We had no shops near us but one at lnverdruie, kept by a Jenny Grant, who made us pay very dear for thread and sugar-plums. Our charities were given in the form of meal or clothing; fuel every one had in plenty for the mere gathering, the loppings all through the forest were turned to no other account. They made a brilliant fire when well dried, owing to the quantity of turpentine in the fir timber; still, those who could afford it laid in a stock of peats for the winter.

My father had an objection to peat, and would not burn it up at the house even in the kitchen. Coals were not thought of; they could be had no nearer than Inverness, were dear enough there, and the carriage thence—thirty-six miles—would have made them very expensive; yet the wood fires were very costly; the wood itself was of no value, but it had to be carted home, cross-cut by two men, split up by two more, and then packed in the wood-sheds. It was never-ending work, and must have been very costly when we lived the year round at the Doune. In the huge kitchen grate, in the long grates with dogs in them made expressly for the purpose of supporting the billets, the cheerful wood fires were delightful; but in our part of the house, where my mother in her English tidiness had done away with the open hearth and condemned us to small Bath grates, we were really perished with cold; three or four sticks set on end, all that the small space would hold, either smouldering slowly if wet, or blazing up to the danger of the chimney if dry, gave out no heat equal to warm the frozen fingers and toes during a Highland winter. We held a council in the schoolroom and decided on taking steps to make ourselves more comfortable.

On returning from our walks we visited the farm offices, and there from the famous peat-stacks provided for the farm-servants we helped ourselves, each possessing herself of as much as she could carry. We got old John Mackintosh to chop our long billets in two, and thus we contrived a much better fire; the grate was not suitable, but we made the best of it.

When we told our dear old great-grand-uncle of our bright thought, he started up, angry, but not with us; and forthwith sent down for special schoolroom use two carts of the fine hard peats from the far-off famous Rhinruy Moss; they burned almost like coal, having but one fault, very light red ashes. We made some dusters, enjoyed our fires, and had to keep good watch over our store of fuel to prevent any from being stolen by the kitchen, never failing daily to take an accurate measurement of our own peat-stack, built neatly by the Captain's men in one of the wood-houses. And so our winter glided away.

In the spring, as soon as the hill was open, my father went to London to attend his duties in Parliament. My mother then changed our arrangements a little. We did not get up till seven, dark of course at first, but a whole hour gained on a cold morning was something. Miss Elphick, Jane, and I breakfasted with her at half-past nine. We used to hear her go downstairs punctually ten minutes sooner, opening her bedroom door at the end of the passage with a deal of noise, and then making a resounding use of her pocket- hand kerchief—our signal call, we said.

We all dined with her at four o'clock. After that there were no more lessons; we passed the evening beside her reading and working. The work was the usual shirting, sheeting, towelling, etc., required in the family, the stock of linen of all kinds being kept up to the statutory number by a regular yearly addition; the whole was then looked over, some mended to serve a time, some made up for the poor, the rest sorted into rag-bundles constantly wanted where accidents among the labourers were frequent.
We read through all Miss Edgeworth's works, Goldsmith's histories, most of the Spectator, and a few good standard novels from the dusty shelves in the study.

On Saturday nights we were allowed a fire in the barrack-room, after which indulgence my hair was admitted to shine more brightly! After dinner, in an hour we had to ourselves, Jane and I generally read to the "little ones." Mary was hammering through Parent's Assistant herself, two pages a day for her lesson, enough as she slowly spelt her way along the lines, but not enough to interest her in the stories, so she was pleased to hear them to an end with Johnnie. We often had to repeat a favourite tale, so much approved were Lazy Laurence, The Little Merchants, The Basket Woman, and others. When we demurred to going over them again we were so assailed by our listeners that we began Evenings at Home, leaving out "the Tutor, George, and Harry." What excellent books for children! Yet it was not while I was young that I was fully aware of the value of the library chosen for us. It was when I was again reading these old favourites to childish listeners-- to you, my own dear children—that the full extent of their influence struck me so forcibly. They have not been surpassed by any of our numerous later authors for the young.

This was a very happy time for us, even though William was away. We saw him only at midsummer, the journey being too long for his Christmas holidays to be spent with us; he spent them always with the Freres.

One April morning Grace Grant, the greusiach's daughter, the pretty girl who waited on us, drew aside the white curtains of my little bed and announced that Mr Cameron's two houses were in ashes. A fire had broken out in the night at the Croft in the new house occupied by Mr and Mrs William Cameron; it had spread to the stack-yard and offices, and even to the upper house in which the old people lived, and when my mother reached the scene—for she had been roused by the news, had got up, dressed, and walked off those two or three miles, she who seldom went farther than her poultry-yard—she found the homeless party on the green watching the destruction of their property. About half of this news was true; the fire had broken out and the lower house was burnt to the ground, some of the corn-stacks were destroyed, and one young horse was injured, but the rest of the stock and the better part of the crop and the old cottage were safe. My mother had gone up, but before her bedtime, the tidings having been brought to her while she was reading as usual after we had left her, and she brought back with her the two eldest of William Cameron's sons, who lived with us for the next eighteen months, there being no room for them at home.

The loss to their parents was great; all the handsome Glasgow furniture was gone, as well as sundry little valuables saved by poor Mrs Cameron from the wreck of her city splendour. It was melancholy to see the blackened ruins of that little lovely spot; much of the offices had fallen, and the heaps of scorched timber and broken walls we had to pick our way through on our first visit made us feel very sad. The old people received us as if nothing had happened. Miss Mary was neither more nor less fussy, more nor less cross than usual. Mrs Cameron sat in her chair by the fire in her bonnet and shawl, and with her green shade over her eyes just as she had ever done; a monument of patience in idleness, sighing in her accustomed manner, no change whatever in her. I am certain she had been equally immovable on the night of the fire. Mr Cameron talked to us cheerfully of all matters going, the fire among the rest, as if he and his had no particular concern in it, except when he raised his fine head to the sky in humble gratitude that there had been no lives lost; he even played the Jew's harp to us; "Lochaber," which we called his own tune, for he came from that part of the country, and" Crochallan," beautiful "Crochallan," which we considered more peculiarly our own, for we had all been sung to sleep by it in our infancy. I had learned from Mr Cameron to pronounce the Gaelic words with the pretty, soft Lochaber accent, so different from the harsh, guttural Strathspey. Years after at Hampstead, my uncle Frere, who remembered my childish crooning of it when he had his fever, made me sing it again not once, but for ever; and one day that Francis Cramer was there my uncle made me sing it to him; never was musician more delighted; over and over again was it repeated till he had quite caught this lovely Gaelic air, and when he went away he bade me farewell as "Crochallan Mavourgne," little suspecting he was addressing a young lady as the favourite cow of one Allan!

My father, immediately on his return from London, began to plan the present pretty two-storeyed cottage, as I may well remember, for I had to make all the drawings for it architecturally from his given dimensions; inside and outside working plans, and then a sketch of its future appearance in the landscape. I was so unskilful, so awkward, and he was so very particular, required all to be so neatly done, so accurate and without blemish of any sort, that I could not tell how many sheets of paper, how many hours of time, how many trials of temper were gone through before the finished specimens were left to be tied up with other equally valuable designs, in a roll kept in the lower closed book-shelves to the left of the library fireplace, docketed by his saucy daughter "Nonsense of Papa's."

The new house was placed a little in advance of the old in a situation very well chosen. It looks particularly well from aunt Mary's favourite walk round the Lochans. My father cut down some trees at one point to give a full view of it, and we made a rough seat there, as we did in many a pretty spot besides, where a summer hour could he dreamed away by lake, or stream, or bank, or brae, and mountain boundary, the birch leaves and the heather scenting the air.

They were stupid boys those sons of William Cameron. James, the elder, was a real lout, there was no making anything of him, though Caroline the French girl, true to the coquettish instincts of her nation, tried all her fascinations on him, really toiled to elicit a single spark of feeling from this perfect log; in vain. Jane was more successful with the second boy, Lachlan. Both brothers went daily to the school at the bridge of Coylam, the common parish school, and a very good one, where all the boys in the place were taught, and could learn Latin if they wished. The present master piqued himself on his English. He came from Aberdeen, and was great in the English classics; whole pages from our best poets, first read out by him and then learnt by heart by the pupils, formed part of the daily lessons of the more advanced classes. Lachlan Cameron, taught privately by Jane, quite electrified the master by his fine delivery of the Deserted Village at the rehearsal previous to the examination.

My father examined the school; I don't know what there was my father did not do; so busy a man could hardly have been met with. He did his work well while the whim lasted for that particular employment; the misfortune was that there were too many irons in the fire; fewer of them he would have managed perfectly. Poor Sir Alexander Boswell, Bozzy's clever son, wrote a brilliant Tory squib once ridiculing the Edinburgh Whigs, and my father's share of it ended thus—" Laird, lawyer, statesman, J. P. Grant in short."

We always went with my father and mother to the examination of the school—no short business; my father was methodical, no flash pupil could have imposed on him. Backwards and forwards he cross- examined, requiring the reasons for all things, much as is the National system now, but as was not practised then. I have heard him say the boys were fair scholars, but beaten by the girls. The Latin class was respectable, the arithmetic very creditable, the recitations had of course to be applauded, and Lachlan Cameron was rewarded for action as well as emphasis—Jane having John Kembled him to the utmost of her ability—by receiving a handsome copy of Goldsmith's works.

The prizes were wisely chosen, indeed almost any standard work would have been appreciated. Mrs Gillies, during a visit to us at the circuit time, taking a walk with my mother one morning, went to rest a bit in a saw-mill; the saw was at work grinding slowly up and down, while the log it was slitting moved lazily on, the man and boy reading till they were wanted. The boy's book was Cornelius Nepos in the original, the man's Turner's Geography.

These forensic displays of Lachlan had turned our thoughts back to our nearly forgotten theatricals. We amused ourselves in the shrubbery re-acting several of our favourite scenes in Macbeth. My father coming upon us one day proposed that, as we were so well acquainted with Shakespeare in tragedy, we should try his comedy, and if we liked he would prepare for us his own favourite As You Like It. We were delighted. He set to work, and leaving out objectionable passages and unnecessary scenes, made the prettiest three-act drama of this pretty play. We learned our parts out among the birch-wooding on the Ord Bain, selecting for our stage, when we had made progress enough to arrive at rehearsals, a beautiful spot upon a shoulder of the hill not far from Kinapol, about a couple of miles from the Doune, so that we had a good walk to it all along the river-side, through the planting.

Still, though charmed with Rosalind and Celia, we could not bear giving up our older friends; we therefore persuaded my father to curtail Macbeth, and allow us to act both, before him and a select audience, as soon as William should come home; we could not have got on without him, he and Jane being our stars. Little fat Miss Elphick, too, must play her part; she had gradually abandoned the strict disciplinarian style, and had become in many respects as latitudinarian as her Celtic-nurtured pupils could desire. In this case, moreover, personal vanity had a large share in her gracious demeanour; she imagined herself handsome, graceful, and an actress—Mrs Jordan beautified! and from having heard her read she had caught, my mother said, some of the tone of that wonderful woman's style.

The part she chose in As You Like It was Rosalind, and a vulgar Rosalind she made, exaggerating the very points an elegant mind would have softened, for Rosalind is somewhat more pert than even a "saucy lacquey" need have been, a little forward, and not over delicate. Mrs Harry Siddons refined her into the most exquisite piece of gay impulsive womanhood, a very Princess of romance. Poor Miss Elphick brought her up from the servants' hail. We thought her queer- looking in her doublet and hose, but Belleville, who was a good judge of such matters, declared that she was finely limbed, had a leg fit for the buskin, with an eye and a voice that might have made her fortune had she followed the profession. She was very much pleased with herself, took a deal of trouble about her dress and her hair—a crop—and the placing of her hat and feather, and she knew her part perfectly.

Jane was a gentlemanly Orlando, William a first-rate Jaques; he looked the character and felt it, for in his young days William was cynical, turned his nose up habitually, very different from his later pleased tranquillity. I did both the Duke and Celia, was a stiff Duke and a lively Celia; we gave her no lover, left out all that. But the actor in this pretty comedy was Mary —dull, listless Mary; she chose the part herself, and would have no other, and anything better than her Touchstone my father and Belleville declared they had never seen; her humour, her voice, her manner, her respectful fun to her ladies, her loving patronage of Audrey (Anne Cameron), the whole conception of the character was marvellous in a child of ten years of age; and she broke upon us suddenly, for at all our rehearsals she had been stupid. She had acted like a lump of lead, she never knew her part, every other word she was prompted, and when my father tried to put some life into her by reading to her as he wished her to speak, he made little of it; but on the night of the play her acting was perfect. Johnnie said it was the port wine, a large jug of which mixed with water stood in our green-room (the upper part of the thrashing-mill), and was dispensed in proper quantities by Miss Elphick between the acts. Johnnie affirmed that of this jug Touchstone had more than his share, as he, in his capacity of third lord attending on the forest Duke, had opportunities of discovering during his retirement behind the fanners, as he was seldom required on the stage. The other lords were represented by Jane Macintosh, James and Lachlan Cameron, and Caroline; by the help of caps and feathers and long boar-spears they grouped remarkably well.

We grew so fond of our comedy, Macbeth was less thought of. We acted it first, Jane and William surpassing themselves. Mary was Banquo, Miss Elphick the king, Mary was Hecate, and the witches and the company at the banquet were the same as did the forest lords, for we had each to play many parts. They were obliged to make me Lady Macbeth, a part I don't think it possible I could have done well, though my father took infinite pains with me. They said I looked handsome in black velvet and point lace—a dress the real Lady Macbeth would have opened her eyes at. The people called out "briach, briach" (pronounced bre-ach) when, thus arrayed and with a long train, the Thane's wife came forward with her letter; a gratifying sound to me, who had been thought always the plain one of the family; even Grace Baillie, the most obliging creature in the world, could only force herself to say, when contemplating the pale thin object presented to her, "Eliza will be very lady-like "

I was vain of my briach (bonnie), and our Highlanders were good judges of both beauty and merit; they were charmed with William's Macduff and applauded him vehemently, many of the women bursting into tears; Jenny Dairy soaked her apron through "to see puir Mr William greeting for his wife and family." We had a large audience. All our particular friends, Belleville, Mrs and Miss Macpherson, Camerons from the Croft, Macintoshes from the Dell, and Mr Alexander Grant from Garmouth; these were the select, on the front benches; at the back were John and Betty Campbell from the Dell of Killiehuntly up in Badenoch—the farm they had taken on leaving our service—Mackenzie and Mrs Mackenzie, once Mrs Lynch, from their inn at Aviemore, and all our own servants. Our theatre was part of the granary, decorated by ourselves with old carpets and curtains, green boughs, and plenty of candles. We made our own dresses, Anne Cameron and Jane Macintosh assisting; and as the old black trunk in the long garret was made over to us, we had my grandmother's blue and silver, and yellow satin, and flowered silks, and heaps of embroidered waistcoats, scarfs and handkerchiefs, all of which were turned to account. One peculiarity of this acting was that we became so attached to the characters we could not bear to think ill of them. We excused everybody for every act, with the exception of Lady Macbeth; we could in no way get her out of the scrape of the murder, till we stumbled in Holinshed's Chronicles on the story as told in his times. Even then we could not approve of her, but judging of her by the morals of her age, we almost justified her for getting rid of a wicked cruel king, whose conduct to her and hers had been so ferocious. We forgot we were only shifting the saddle. We were like the biographers who become so enamoured of their subjects that they can never see their faults. We had also to make out the locality of the forest of Arden, and we settled it to our perfect satisfaction near Hainault; the principality or duchy from which the two Dukes came eluded our researches.

The next stirring event was another alteration—a final one it proved—of the principal staircase, the painting and papering of the new part of the house, and the fitting up of the drawing-room as a library. We had lived so long with doors and shutters of plain deal, cane- backed chairs and sofas, common Scotch carpeting, etc., that the chilly air of our half-furnished apartments never struck us as requiring improvement. My mother had long wished for more comfort around her, and the books having accumulated quite beyond the study shelves my father determined on removing them ; he gave himself great credit for his taste in the choice of his bookcases; they were made of the fir from his forest, picked pieces of course, highly varnished and relieved by black mouldings. The room was large and lofty, and really looked well when finished, but it was a work of time. All summer and all autumn and part of the winter the various jobs were going on, and in the middle of the bustle we caught the measles, one after the other, we four who had hitherto escaped—and no doctor in the country! Tall Mr Stewart from Grantown, eighteen miles off, who used to attend every one on Speyside, was dead. He was a retired army surgeon who had settled in Strathspey on the chance of practice, skilful enough for ordinary cases in his line, medical aid being little wanted. Herbs and such simples cured the generality, and we had my grandfather's medicine chest administered sagaciously by my father. He did not like undertaking the measles, then considered a serious complaint, so he sent to Inverness for Doctor Ponton. He paid two very expensive visits, and we all got well.

Just at this time there appeared in the village of Kingussie a miserable-looking man in a well-worn tartan jacket, with a handsome wife, somewhat older than himself, and several children. They arrived from Locliaber in an old gig, a small cart following with luggage and a short supply of furniture; they hired the room over Peter Macpherson's new shop. This man announced himself as Dr Smith, brother to a clever man of the same name near Fort William. He had been some weeks there, creeping into a little practice among the neighbours, before we heard of him.

A poor woman in Rothiemurchus had died for want of skilful aid; the woman employed on these occasions had not been equal to the circumstances. This unhappy event decided my father to look out for a doctor, and he went to consult Belleville about it. An inquiry had been held into the causes of the accident, and Dr Smith had been brought forward to give his professional testimony; his intelligence, his general information, astonished them; here was the very man they wanted. Accordingly it was resolved to try him for a year. The Marquis of Huntly, the Duke of Gordon, and Ballindalloch were written to. Poor Balnespick was away; he had gone to Cheltenham, where he died. The regular subscription for the care of the poor being immediately provided, this clever man was relieved from the fear of starvation, and had the hope besides of cases among the richer classes that would pay him better. He began with us, for we all took ill again, an illness no one could understand; all the symptoms of measles, and measles we had just recovered from; yet measles it was. Mary and I had it very severely; her cough, with winter approaching, gave great anxiety. Dr Ponton was again sent for, but his grave pomposity suggested no change from Dr Smith's treatment, so with another heavy fee he took leave of us.

After the measles Dr Smith appeared no more in the old tartan jacket, and though he still preferred walking to any other exercise—twenty or even thirty miles a day being a common thing with him—he looked neither so pale nor so thin as when he had first shown himself at the inquest. He was quick at the uptak, fond of reading, a good listener, and a pleasant talker. Even Belleville's well-stored memory seldom found a quotation thrown away.

When my father had set all his various hands to work—Donald Maclean and his half-dozen men to the staircase, a cabinetmaker and his assistants from Perth to the new library, Grant the painter from Elgin with his men to their papering and oil-brushes—he set off himself to be re-elected for Great Grimsby, a dissolution of Parliament having made this necessary. An immensity of money was spent on this occasion, another candidate having started, the rich Mr Fazakerly; out of four two only could succeed, and my unfortunate father was one of them.

My mother had had all the bedrooms in the new part of the house painted and papered to please herself. In the old part she had painted, but had not ventured on papering, the old walls not having been studded; they were therefore done in distemper, as were those of the dining-room. The colours were not happily chosen, buff and grey, and the dining-room pea-green; all the woodwork white, very cold-looking. The dining- room was relieved by the Thorley pictures, mostly by Dutch or Flemish artists, a small well-chosen selection. There was a Berghem, two Boths, a Watteau, a Jan Stein, a small Wouvermann, and several more undoubted originals, though by painters of less note. One we admired was one of the three authorised copies of Raphael's "Giardiniera"—the Virgin and Child and little dark St John—made by a favourite pupil. Castle Howard has another, Russborough claims the third. The subject, however, was so in favour that many pencils were tried on it, each possessor claiming of course to hold one of the three valuables. There were two coloured chalk sketches by Rembrandt of himself and a friend; a piece of fruit, fish, and game considered very fine;—in all about fifteen paintings, including two nearly full-length portraits, a Raper ancestor and his friend Sir Christopher Wren. A court beauty by Sir Peter Lely was sent up to a bedroom, she was not dressed enough to be downstairs; and a James the Sixth style sort of man was promoted to the library, the only picture allowed in the room. A few old landscapes, not so well preserved, were hung about in the bedrooms. One portrait, unframed, in bad preservation, always riveted my attention; we called it the dying nun, because of the style of the accessories. It must, I think, have been the work of no pretender, whether his name be known to fame or not.

Our Grant ancestors were spread over the walls of the staircase the Sprecided Laird and some of his family, himself in armour, his brother Corrour in ditto, his wife the Lady Jean in a very low-cut red velvet gown, with her yellow hair flowing over her shoulders, their little boys, my uncle Rothie and one who died young, of whom my brother Johnnie was the image, in court-like suits, holding out birds and nosegays; Lord Elchies in his ermine, and some others unknown. They made a better show after they were framed by my brother John when he was home on leave from India.

The library was long in being completed; there was a good deal of work in the bookcases, as they entirely surrounded the room. My mother had made the upstairs drawing-room so pretty, and the view from its windows was so very beautiful, that no one entering it could wish for any other; it looked up the Spey to the Quaich range of mountains, Tor Alvie on the one hand, the Ord Bain on the other, and the broom island, now a pretty lawn covered with sheep, just in front between us and the river. The grand pianoforte was there, and the harp and a writing-table, the fireplace filled with balsams, other plants in the small light closets opening out of the room, and sofas and chairs in plenty. Angelica Kaufmann's prints were pinned on the walls. Altogether it was cheerful and summery, and many a pleasant hour was spent in this pretty apartment.

Amongst other visitors there came Tom Lauder and his friend, henceforward our dear friend, Dr Gordon; my father and mother had known him before, but to us young people he was a stranger. He was hardly handsome, and yet all his friends thought him so; not very tall, slight, fair; it was the expression of his countenance that was charming, and his manner, so gay, so simple, so attractive. He was very clever, had made his own way and was getting on rapidly. He had married, not well, I think, though he was happy, and it had been a long attachment. It was a bad connection, and she, to my mind, was not an agreeable woman—dawdling, untidy, grave. She was very useful to him, having a good head for languages.

Two results followed our new friendship. Dr Gordon explained to my father the evil of our early rising and late breakfasting; he assured him also that those stomachs that disliked milk, milk was not good for; the consequence was that we went back in rising to my mother's hour of seven, and that I had orders to make breakfast every morning at nine, and Mary partook of it; Caroline preferred joining James Cameron, Lachlan, and Johnnie, who all throve on porridge or bread and milk.

The other result was that William, who was now fifteen, was to return no more to Eton. He was to remain at home till the College met in Edinburgh in October, when Dr Gordon consented to take charge of him. Great rejoicings followed this decision; the south of England was so far away, letters were so long on the road; and though we had franks at command, so could write as often as we pleased, that did not lessen the distance, for the post used to go round by Aberdeen to Inverness and on to Grantown by a runner, where another runner received our bag and brought it three times a week to the Doune.

This summer a great improvement took place in our postal arrangements; a stage-coach was started to run three days a week between Perth and Inverness. Our bag was made up at Perth and dropped at Lynwilg at Robbie Cumming's, whose little shop soon became a receiving-house for more bags than ours. It was quite an event; we used to listen for the horn; on still days and when the wind set that way we could hear it distinctly, as we walked on the flow-dyke round the farm. At one or two breaks in the wooding we could see the coach, a novel sight that made us clap our hands, and set poor Miss Elphick crying. She took to walking in that direction, it was so gay, so like what she remembered.

The bridge of Alvie was passed by the new coach at about five o'clock, and we had to hurry home to dress for dinner. During the second course, or later on a bad evening, the boy sent for the bag returned; the butler brought it in and delivered the contents. One evening late in autumn it came; Miss Elphick and I dined downstairs now, and we were all sitting round the fire on which fresh logs had been thrown, the dessert and wine were on the horse-shoe table, when the bag came in. Such startling news! the Dutch revolt, the signal for rousing Europe! There had been a dearth of warlike news after the Spanish campaigns were over, and this unexpected turn of affairs in Holland excited every one. How eagerly the papers were watched for many a day after.

I do not recollect any other matter of importance happening during the remainder of this year. Lord Huntly and a set of grouse-shooting friends came to Kinrara, but we did not see much of them. Some of them dined with us once or twice; Lord Huntly often came over in the morning, and he had William with him a great deal more than was good for an idle boy of his age.

I never like to think of the style of education given by the higher classes to their sons; home indulgence, school liberty, college license, and no ennobling pursuits; we are then surprised that the low gratification of the senses should almost entirely supersede with our young men the higher pleasures of an exercised intellect. In one very important particular, the management of themselves, they are never in the very least instructed. At Eton the boys had too much money, not to be laid out by themselves for themselves, in necessaries first and indulgences afterwards; but all that they could possibly want being provided for them at a cost of which they knew not one item, their "pouches" were extra, to be wasted on nonsense, or worse; some of these pouches were heavy, boys carrying back with them from ten guineas upwards according to the number of rich friends they had seen in the holidays, everybody "pouching" an Eton boy. William departed for Edinburgh really as ignorant as his little brother of how far his allowance would go, or what it would be wisest to do with it.

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