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followed, which no sooner finished, than young Miller takes down his cap from the pin and marches out of school, never more returning to do homage to the Cromarty pedagogue--having got as little good from teachers as probably ever did any man of equal eminence. Though, perhaps, there is nothing wonderful in this, quite as often as otherwise it has happened that those distinguished in after have been little distinguished in early life; while, in not a few instances, early eminence has only been the presage of after obscurity. Academical distinctions are by no means badges of permanent celebrity. "In the world's broad field of battle,” the booby of the schools has not seldom snatched the laurel from the dux. The distinguished have thus no cause for presumption; the dullards not much reason to despair.
Surrounded by images of the fleeting and evanescent, whence comes that passionate desire to baffle mutation, which so early takes possession of man, and leads him on to all those devices to conquer time's tyrannic power, and perpetuate, amidst every change, the memory of his noblest and most cherished associations? Are we wrong in assuming that it comes up from out those deeper feelings of our nature that mysteriously ally the present with all its changefulness to the eternally unchangeable? In this instinct, if we may dare to call a thing so sacred by such a name, lies the source of the sorrow with which we interchange the farewell word with the friend from whom we are about to part for ever, or take the
last fond look of the scenes to which we have bid a final adieu. A crisis had now arrived when Hugh Miller and his comrades were about to partake of this sacrament of sorrow. The band of which he had been the leader, hitherto more famous for rambling than for study, was about to break up; some going to sea, others going south to complete their education. Before, however, they are scattered abroad, they shall erect a memorial of their fraternity. The common school-book story of the Persian shepherd, who, when raised by his sovereign to high place in the empire, derived his chief pleasure from contemplating in a secret apartment the pipe, crook, and rude habiliments of his happier days, suggested to their chief that the band should also have its secret apartment, in which to store up for future contemplation, their bayonet, pistol, pot, and pitcher. The proposal was favourably received; and selecting a solitary spot among the trees as a proper site, and procuring a spade and mattock, they began to dig. At length the mysterious chamber was completed, a huge pit, six feet, lined with spars. Unfortunately, while exultant over their success, Johnstone, the forester of the district, discovers the pit, and being altogether a one-idead man, not able to fancy it was meant for any nobler purpose than the maiming of cattle, began to talk about a proclamation and a reward for the apprehension of the excavators of the cattle-trap. Miller's known acquaintance with all kinds of books on natural history, led the forester to some very definite conclusions about his share in the work. He was certain the rascal had acquainted himself by books with the mode of entrapping wild beasts in the forests abroad, of which this trap for his master's cattle was a copy. Thus speedily confounded and brought to nought was this humble memento of the joys and companionships of youth, and the band left to console themselves with the philosophic reflection that “the best-laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft agley."
The hour has come when Hugh Miller must gird himself in earnest for the real business of life. Nearly all his early companions are gone from the scenes of their boyish and youthful rambles ; his mother, after a long widowhood of eleven years, has entered anew into the married state; and now, after tasting so much of uncontrolled liberty and enjoyment, he finds himself standing face to face with a life of labour and restraint. The necessity of ever toiling from morn to night seemed a dire one, and fain would he have avoided it. But there was no escape. Unwilling, however, that labour should wield over him a rod entirely black, and remembering the long winter holidays of his cousin George, he selected the profession of his cousin as his own, trusting to find, like him, in the amusement of one-half the year, compensation for the toils of the other half. And yet, it was not altogether amusement which he sought. Even at this time, notwithstanding what he calls the antecedents of a sadly mis-spent boyhood, he looked to higher than mere amusement, and dared to believe that literature, and mayhap natural science, were,
after all, his proper vocation—a belief which, we doubt not, that sadly mis-spent boyhood went a long way to kindle. For the future geologist, we could scarcely conceive a better training than it was the fortune of Hugh Miller to receive. What lectures on natural science, by professor however eminent, were to be compared to those rambles with uncle Sandy, in which he became acquainted with nearly every organism about Cromarty? It was the deep love of nature which this early familiarity with its every feature inspired, that threw around Hugh Miller's scientific treatises, so many of the charms of
When resolving to be a mason, with literature and science as his ultimate aim, he also resolved that much of his leisure should be consecrated to the study of our best English authors. Such resolution fairly carried out, will place the stone-mason on a vantage-ground which multitudes who are wasting their guineas at the university will never attain. The grandest human intellects—are they not enshrined in books ? have they not shed their souls into those types and that printer's ink? What is the art of printing, but the art of making us familiar with the best thinking of the wisest and the best in every age of the world's history? Is there aught that men have done, devised, or discovered, that is not to be found in books ? How truly did Milton
say, “a good book is the ethereal and fifth essence, the life's blood of man embalmed and treasured up for a life beyond life.” In the existence of books, and in the access which all men have to their