Victoria's Highland Journals
At Balmoral | Thursday, October 1, 1868
A housewarming for the widow's cottage
At nearly four o'clock left with Louise and Jane Churchill for the Glassalt Shiel. It was a beautiful evening, clear and frosty... 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, bedroom, 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.... 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 Altnagiuthasach 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.
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