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he looked a little awkward in his new vocation. The same mental peculiarity which made reading so irksome, until he found the secret of reading to lie in the stories it unlocked ; which made stone-cutting so irksome that Uncle David despaired of making him a tradesman; now made banking irksome and mysterious, and for a time left an impression upon his superiors of his utter incompetency. But, as in all the other cases, so in this; having mastered the central principle around which the details grouped themselves, he suddenly shot
into an accomplished accountant, was left in charge of the bank during the absence of the manager, and, fortunately enough, did not discount a single bad bill while his superior was away.
After a stay of about two months in Linlithgow, Hugh Miller returned to Cromarty, and was regularly installed accountant of the Commercial Bank now opened in his native town. It was during the first year of his accountantship his “Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland” appeared, and, during the second, Lydia Mackenzie Fraser became his wife. The spirit in which this important step was taken may be gathered from the following verses inscribed upon the blank pages of a pocket Bible which he presented to Miss Fraser on the eve of their marriage:
“Lydia, since ill by sordid gift
Were love like mine express'd,
Take Heaven's best boon, this Sacred Book,
From him who loves thee best.
Were sure unaptly told
Or soul-ensnaring gold.
"I know 'twas He who formed this heart,
Who seeks this heart to guide;
Than all on earth beside
As long this heart has cleaved;
Were half so well received !
" Full many a change, iny only love,
On human life attends ;
Th' uncertain vista ends.
Should weal or woe befall,
Lydia, it tells us all.
"O, much-beloved, our coming day
To us is all unknown;
Than they who stand alone.
Like ours, obscured and dim;
That we may know of Him.
“His words, my love, are gracious words,
And gracious thoughts express; He cares e'en for each little bird
That wings the blue abyss.
Of coming wants and woes He thought,
Ere want or woe began;
That He might feel for man.
“Then, O, my first, my only love,
The kindliest, dearest, best!
On Him our wishes rest.
Let joy or grief befall:
Our God, our guide, our all."
A hundred pounds did not now seem quite so large a sum as Hugh Miller had once imagined, and, to eke out his income, he began to write for the periodicals. The first that came in his way was “Wilson's Tales of the Borders,” to which he contributed some of the finest tales that appeared in that popular serial. The remuneration not proving altogether what it ought to have been, the accountant made an offer of his services to Mr. Robert Chambers, and during two years he contributed to his well-known journal, receiving the most liberal remuneration. In his
his “Schools and Schoolmasters,” Hugh Miller takes occasion to acknowledge the kindness of Mr. Chambers, not merely in his own case, but expresses the opinion that perhaps no writer of the present day has done so much to encourage struggling talent as that gentleman. This opinion is one which, we believe, will be endorsed by all who know anything of the genial and benevolent nature of that accomplished man. Some local squibs, written in defence of his favourite minister, Mr. Stewart, who
had refused to subordinate his sacramental services
to the orgies of a coronation-day, procured Hugh Miller a gentle reprimand from the bank authorities in Edinburgh. This attempt at dictation on the part of the bank, in a matter with which they might seem, on the first blush of the thing, to have no concern, we might be disposed to class in the same category with the dictation to Burns by the excise authorities; but a moment's reflection will show, that, without particularly blaming Hugh Miller, with whom, probably, the offence was a sin of ignorance, his superiors were substantially in the right. The Commercial Bank was meant on its establishment to be quite distinct in its character from the then existing banks, which were all of them political engines. Speaking of their directorates, Lord Cockburn says :-" They were made up of respectable men, but without any talent or general knowledge, and the conspicuous sycophants of existing power." Excluding politics from its trade, the Commercial could not well, in consistency with its character, especially at that early period when party feeling ran so high, even seem to violate its fundamental principle. The reprimand, however, we have said was a slight one, and Mr. Ross, his superior in Cromarty, made it still more mild. Gradually, however, was Hugh Miller drawn into the vortex of a controversy unspeakably more important than any merely local squabble. The battle between the Scottish Church and the Imperial Parliament had convulsed Scotland; Hugh Miller caught the contagion, and plunged with all the earnestness and all the energy of his nature into the thick of the combat.