The Collected Letters, Volume 28


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 8 July 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530708-JWC-TC-01; CL 28: 187-189


Moffat House1 Friday [8 July 1853]

And my letter must be in the Postoffice before one o'clock! “very absurd”!2—and I have had to go to Beatock in the Omnibus with my cousin Helen to see HER off for Glasgow—and am so tired!— Dont wonder then if you get a “John's letter”3 from me also. The most important thing I have to tell you is that you could not know me here as I sit from a red Indian! that I was kept awake the first night after my arrival by a—Hyæna! (yes upon my honour! and you complain of a simple cock!) and that yesterday I was as near as possible for giving occasion for the most romantic paragraph of the “melancholy accident” nature that has appeared in any newspaper for some years! But first of the Hyæna. on my arrival I found an immense caravan of Wild Beasts pitched exactly in front of this House and they went on their way during the night and the animal in question made a devil of a row—I thought it was the Lion roaring but John said “no—it was ONLY the Hyeana”! I rather enjoyed the oddness of having fled into the country for “quiet” and being kept awake by Wild Beasts! Well having got no sleep the first night owing to these Beasts and my faceach—I felt very bothered all Wednesday, and gladly accepted Johns offer to tell you of my safe arrival, meaning to write myself yesterday—but it was settled that we should go yesterday to see St Mary's Loch and the Grey-Mares Tail4—we started at nine of the morning in an open carriage—“the Dr” and Phoebe, a tall, red-haired young woman with a hoarse voice, who is here on a visit (“the Bridesmaid” she was)5 my cousin Helen & one little boy and myself—the other two boys preceding us on horseback. It was the loveliest of days and beautifuler scenery I never beheld; besides that it was full of tender interest for me, as the birth place of my mother—no pursuit of the Picturesque had ever gone better with me till, on the way back when we stopt to take a nearer inspection of the Tail— The Boys had been left fishing in the loch of the Lows6—John and Miss Hutchison had gone over the hills by another road to look at Loch Skeen7 and were to meet us at The Tail so there was only Phoebe Helen and I went up to the Tail from underneath— We went on together to the customary point of view and then I scrambled on by myself (that is with Nero) from my habitual tendency to go a little further always than the rest—Nero grew quite frightened and pressed against my legs and when we came close in front of the Waterfall he stretched his neck out at it from under my petticoats and then barked furiously— Just then I saw John waving his hat to me from the top of the hill—and excited by the grandeur of the scene I quite forgot how old I was how out of the practice of “speeling rocks,” and quite forgot too that John had made me take the night before a double doze of morphia which was still in my head making it very light—and I began to climb up the precipice!!—for a little way I got on well enough but when I discovered that I was climbing up a ridge (!)—that the precipice was not only behind but on both sides of me—I grew, for the first time in my life that I remember of, frightenedphysically frightened—I was not only afraid of falling down—but of losing my head to the extent of throwing myself down—to go back on my hands and knees as I had come up was impossible—my only chance was to look at the grass under my face and toil on till John should see me—I tried to call to him but my tongue stuck fast and dry to the roof of my mouth—Nero barking with terror and keeping close to my head still further confused me— John had meanwhile been descending the hill; and holding by the grass. We reached one another. he said hold on—dont give way to panic I will stand between you and everything short of death— We had now got off the ridge onto the slope of the Hill but it was so steep that in the panic I had taken my danger was extreme for the next quarter of an hour—the bed of a torrent had been for a long time the object of my desire—I thought I should stick faster there than on the glassy slope with the precipice at the bottom of it but John called to me that “if I got among those stones I should roll to perdition” He was very kind, encouraging me all he could—but no other assistance was possible— In my life I was never so thankful as when I found myself at the bottom of that hill with a glass of water to drink— None of them knew the horrors I had suffered—for I made no screaming or crying—but my face they said was purple all over with a large black spot under each eye— — and today I still retain something of the same complexion and I am all of a tremble, as if I had been on the rack8

It is a lovely place this—and a charming oldfashioned house. with “grounds” to the back— It is comfortably but plainly and old-fashionedly furnished—looks as if it had been stript of all its ornamental details—and just the necessaries left— There is a cook housemaid and Ladysmaid and everything goes on very nicely—The three boys are as clever well behaved boys as I ever saw and seem excessively fond of “the Doctor”— John is kind as kind can be and seems to have an excellent gift of making his guests comfortable— Phoebe's manner is so different from mine—so formal and cold, that I dont feel at ease with her yet—she looks to me like a woman who had been all her life made the first person with those she lived beside and to feel herself in a false position when she doubts her superiority being recognized—she seems very content with John however and to suit him entirely— My hand shakes so you must excuse illegibility I dont know yet when I am to go to Scotsbrig

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