Season 1870

Three years weary patience was rewarded in the fourth year with a fine grouse season, and, not being quite so thick upon the ground as in ordinary good seasons, the grouse sat better, and in the second and third weeks we made better bags than was customary.

Our lease was running out, this was the sixth season.

The factor did his best to induce us to renew for another seven years. I was anxious to do so, notwithstanding our disappointments, but my chum did not seem to care to do it, and I hardly liked to do so without him, and very much I afterwards regretted it.

The factor had always used us well, in the best possible manner, he had an old-fashioned notion that decent folks who paid a good round sum for sport and gave no trouble, were entitled to consideration, and to have something for their money; the modern factor quite discards ideas so very ridiculous.

In the spring of this season I was down with my second son for some trout fishing in the river, and we had some pleasant sport, being favoured with two or three small rises of water and a good show of March browns. We managed to make nice little baskets of 6lb. to 7lb. each on most days, fishing the Beldornie water as well as our own.

We had, neither of us, ever seen a red deer—anyhow, on his native heath—and we decided to make a day out to Glen Fiddoch Forest.

We knew that it was five miles across the Glenmarkie ground to the extreme point of our outside march at Auchendown Castle, and how much further we knew not. That, bear in mind, was before the days of ordnance maps.

We were all good walkers, that is, David and myself, and my son Oliver; he held a front place in athletics at Rugby School.

We crossed the moor south of Auchendown, and then got at last on to the road track to Glen Fiddoch Lodge. Altogether, it was a long tramp, the last few miles following up the Fiddoch burn, but time and labour at last landed us at the lodge.

The lodge was very old-fashioned, was all on the ground floor, with rooms on one side of a long building, and a passage on the other side.

The housekeeper was a civil old body: would give us some tea, which we appreciated, and made much of us in every way; showed us the room that had been used by the Queen the year before, when visiting the Duke. Everything was simple in the extreme. I am sure that no broker would have bid over eighteen pence for the washing stand in the Queen's bedroom.

On our way we saw deer by scores on the hill sides, and also round the lodge.

All was very pleasant up to now, but there was the walk back. By the time we reached Auchendown we had had enough, and there was the five miles across heavy moorland yet to be done. Some people say that your native heath, and the springiness of the heather, make walking pleasant and easy, but don't believe it; my notion has always been that one mile of moorland is equal to two on the hard road.

David was fairly done. It is not the first time that I had walked down the natives, both in Ireland and in Scotland, but I never expected to see David brought to a stand.

Well, we laid down and rested a good hour, refreshed with biscuits and whiskey and water, and put the five miles behind us before dark.