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Life of a Scotch Naturalist, Thomas Edward
Chapter IX. Exhibits his Collection at Aberdeen


Banff was a comparatively small and remote town, whereas Aberdeen was the centre of Northern intellect and business. At Banff, comparatively few persons knew much about natural history or science; while Aberdeen had two universities, provided with professors, students, and all the accompaniments of learning. It also contained a large and intelligent population of educated business men, tradesmen, and artisans.

Edward was sanguine of success at Aberdeen. It was his City of Expectations. He was now doubly desirous of giving up shoe-making, and devoting himself to natural history. For this purpose he wanted means and a settled income. He intended to devote the proceeds of his exhibition in several ways. He had, indeed, almost settled them in his own mind. He would, in the first place, make arrangements for opening a coffee-house or provision-shop for the employment and support of his family. He would next purchase some works on natural history by the best authors. He would probably also buy a microscope and some other necessary scientific instruments. Alnaschar, in “The Arabian Nights,” with the basket of glass at his feet, did not dream more of what he would do with his forthcoming income than Edward did of what he would do with the successful results of his exhibition at Aberdeen.

But Edward must now be up and doing. The cases had to be put in order; new objects had to be added to the collection ; new birds had to be stuffed; some of the groups had to be arranged in dramatic form. One of these consisted of the Death of Cock Robin. There was the sparrow perched upon a twig, warrior-like, with his bow in one of his feet, and his arrow-case slung across his back. There was the redbreasted robin lying on a green and mossy knoll, with the arrow shot by the sparrow sticking in his little heart; and in a burn meandering close by, there was a silvery fish with its little dish, catching Robin’s life-blood. There was also a great black beetle, with a thread and needle, ready to sew his shroud.

In another ease, the Babes in the wood were represented—two robin-redbreasts covering their tender bodies with leaves. There was a ease of mice, entitled “ Pussy from Home the mice, large and small, were going into and coming out of a meal-bag, which they were rifling. There was another large ease, containing a number of small birds in a state of great excitement, darting and peeking at an object in the middle of the ease, which proved to be a weasel, attempting to rob a yellow bunting’s nest, containing six eggs, one of which the weasel had rolled out. Perhaps the best ease was the one containing a pheasant, with six young birds, all beautifully stuffed. For this Edward was offered three guineas before he left Banff.

At length all was ready, and Edward, with a light heart, left Banff for Aberdeen. The collection was taken in six carriers’ earts — the largest that could be found. Edward could not take it by railway, for there were no railways then in Banff. The whole family accompanied the collection. It consisted of Edward, his wife, and five children. They set out early in the morning of Friday, the 31st of July, 1846—a memorable day in Edward’s history. The six eart-loads arrived safe at Aberdeen on the evening of the following day.

Edward had previously taken the shop No. 132 Union Street, for the purposes of his exhibition. This street is the finest in Aberdeen—perhaps the finest in Scotland. It is wide and broad, and about a mile long. The houses are of hewn granite, some of them of massive and noble architecture. Union Street is the representative street of the Gray City.

Handbills were issued, and advertisements published in the local journals, announcing the opening of the exhibition. In the handbill it was stated that “the objects comprising this collection have been collected in the counties of Banff and Aberdeen, and preserved by a single individual, and that individual a journeyman shoe-maker. They have been exhibited by him in Banff, to the delight and admiration of every visitor—all being surprised at the beauty, order, and multitude of the various objects—some going so far as to doubt the fact of the proprietor being a shoemaker, saying that it was impossible for a person of that trade being able to do any thing like what they saw before them.

“Thomas Edward takes the liberty of stating that the collection is allowed by eminent naturalists to be one of the greatest curiosities ever offered for public inspection in this quarter, amounting, as it does, to above two thousand objects; and being the work of one individual, who had to labor under every disadvantage, having none to tell how or where to find the different objects; none to teach him how to preserve these objects when found; no sound of promised reward ringing in his ears to urge him on in his singular course; no friend to accompany him in his nightly wanderings; help from none; but solely dependent on his own humble abilities and limited resources.

“Were it possible for words to describe, in adequate terms, the unexampled assiduity and unwearied perseverance with which Thomas Edward has labored in the formation of his collection, it would surprise every individual capable of reflection. Such not being the case, a visit to the exhibition can alone enable the public to form any idea of the extent of his labors. The ocean, the rocky shore, the shingly and sandy beach ; the meadows, the cultivated fields, the whinny knowes, the woods; the running brooks, the stagnant pools, the muddy and unsavory ditches, the marshy flats; old walls, ruined towers, and heath-clad hills —have all been visited and anxiously searched in order to procure the objects which compose the collection.”

Such was Edward’s appeal to the people of Aberdeen to come and see his collection. The terms were very moderate— “Ladies and Gentlemen, 6d.; Tradespeople, 3d.; Children, half-price.” The Aberdeen Journal thus noticed the collection: “We have been particularly struck with the very natural attitudes in which the beasts and birds of prey are placed; some being represented as tearing their victims, others feeding their young, and some looking sideward or backward, with an expression of the eye which indicates the fear of interruption. The birds are very beautiful, and the entomological specimens will be found exceedingly interesting.”

On the Thursday following his arrival in Aberdeen, Edward opened his collection. He was in hopes that there would be a rush to see the objects which he had collected with so much difficulty during the last eight years. He believed in himself, though others did not yet believe in him. But there was no rush—no eager multitude crowding the door of No. 132. Indeed, very few persons called to see the collection. These might, however, tell their friends of its interest, and the rush might still come. But he waited in vain. The rush never came.

The principal people who called upon him during the first ten days were stuffed - bird sellers, and persons who pestered him to buy nearly every thing of a bestial kind, alive or dead. Some of the articles offered were monstrosities or delusions, such as double chickens, double mice, a kitten with a rat’s head, a double-headed dog, a rat with two tails, both curled up like a pig’s, and such-like objects. These people were all bowed to the door.

Several ladies called upon Edward to consult him about their favorite pets. One had a lap-dog that was sick; another a bird that was lame ; others had crippled or diseased cats. He was asked to come and see a pig that had broken one of its legs. A gentleman called upon him one day about an old and favorite rabbit whose front teeth had grown so forward that it could not eat—“Would he come and cut them off?” “ No ! he had not time. He must attend to his exhibition.”

Very few people came. Those who did come knew very little about natural history. Their ignorance of the works of nature seemed to Edward surprising. Only a few knew any thing, excepting about the commoner sorts of animals. As to the number, and nature, and habits of living creatures, they appeared to know next to nothing. The transformation of insects was a mystery to them. They could not see how it was possible for an ugly caterpillar to become transformed into a beautiful butterfly. Edward felt very much for the ignorance of men of his own class: it was simply deplorable.

Dr. Macgillivray, Professor of Natural History in Mari-schai College, Aberdeen, called upon Edward, and was much pleased with his collection of Banffshire fauna. The professor told him that the inhabitants of Aberdeen were not yet prepared for an exhibition of this kind. There was not even a public museum in the city; no collection of natural objects; no free library; nothing for the enlightenment of the higher and nobler faculties of man. To this cause Edward, in a great measure, attributed the failure of his exhibition. Some of the professors who afterward called to see the collection told Edward that “the people of Aberdeen were not yet prepared for such an exhibition, especially as it had been the work of a poor man. He had come several centuries too soon.”

Several of the persons who examined the exhibition did not believe that it had been the work of Edward at all.

Among his better-class visitors was a gentleman who frequently came in as he passed, and carefully examined the specimens. He sometimes gave Edward half a crown, and would not take any change back. The gentleman was an inveterate and persistent interrogator. His questions were usually of a personal character. But Edward had by this time prepared a bag of forgetfulness, into which he put all the disagreeable things that were said to him; and, once there, he remembered them no more. Edward believed that his visitor belonged to the medical profession, and that he was connected with a neighboring dispensary.

One day the visitor arrived, and, without looking at the specimens, he went directly up to Edward, and asked, “ Well, how are you getting on?” “Very poorly,” was the answer. “And no wonder!” said the visitor. “How?” “How!” he almost shouted, “because the people here don’t believe in such a thing. I am sure of it, from what I know and have heard myself.”

“But if they would only come!”

“Come? that’s the very thing. It seems they’ll not come. And although they did, what satisfactory evidence is there that what they see is the result of your own unaided and individual labor? You are quite a stranger here. You should have had some persons of high standing in the city to take you under their patronage—say the professors of both colleges, or the provost and town-council. Oh! you needn’t shake your head and look at the floor. It would have been much better.”

“I never considered myself in a position,” said Edward, “to ask such a favor.”

“Then you’ll not succeed here unless you do something of the sort.”

“In that case, then,” said Edward, “I’ll be plain enough to tell you that I never will succeed.”

“You are too stiff — too unbending,” said hbe doctor. “Then, you know very well that you have nobody in Aberdeen to confirm your extraordinary statement. You say that the whole of this collection is entirely the work of your own hands, and that it is your own exclusive property!” “Yes. I bought the game birds; and as- regards the others, I procured the whole of them myself — preserved them and cased them, just as you see them.”

“And had you to work for your living all that time?” “Yes; and for the living of my family too.”

“Then you have a wife and a family?”

“Yes, I have five children.”

“The devil!”

“No, sir; I said children.”

“Ah yes, I know; I beg your pardon. But do you mean to say that you have maintained your wife and family by working at your trade all the while that you have been making this collection?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, nonsense! How is it possible that you could have done that?”

“By never losing a single minute, nor any part of a minute, that I could by any means improve.”

“Did you ever hear of any one else who had ever done the like before?”

“No. But thousands might have done it, and much more too.”

“Well, I don’t believe it. I have never heard of such a thing, and I have never read of such a thing!”

“But I never thought,” said Edward, “that I was doing any thing that any one else might not have done. I was quite unaware of the fact that I was doing any thing in the least way meritorious. But if I have, as a journeyman shoe-maker, done any thing worthy of praise, then I must say that there is not a working-man on the face of the earth that could not have done much more than I have done; for of all the occupations that are known, that of shoe-making is surely the very worst.”

“Had you been an outside worker, I would not have thought so much about it; but even then it would have been surprising. But having to work from morning to night in a shoe-maker’s shop—where these things can neither be seen nor found—the thing is perfectly inconceivable. I’ll give my oath that, so far as Aberdeen is concerned— or, I believe, any other place — there is not a single working-man who could, by himself, have done any thing of the sort. I tell you that there is no person who knows the laboring people and their circumstances better than I do; and I tell you again, that, situated as they are, the thing is quite impossible. They have neither the learning nor the opportunities necessary for scientific pursuits; nor yet the time nor the money to spare for the purpose. No, poor devils ! they need all their time and all their money to eke out their bare and half-starved existence.”

“I quite agree with you,” replied Edward, “in some of your remarks; but I am sorry to say that the wretchedness you allude to is in too many eases attributable to themselves, and also to their slatternly and improvident wives. They do not go into the fields to drink in the sweets of nature, but rush unthinkingly into the portals of hell, and drown their sorrows in whisky. In this way they beggar themselves and pauperize their families.”

“There is doubtless something in that,” said the doctor, “but I spoke in general. Of course, there are exceptions. It would appear that you are one, and a most extraordinary one too. And here it is that I am most puzzled. I can’t understand how you have done all this single-handed. Besides, you must have read a great deal. You must have had access to the best scientific works; and you must also have possessed sufficient means to enable you to collect and arrange these things as they now are.”

“Permit me to say, sir,” said Edward, “that I am not a book - learner, nor have I ever read any scientific works. I never had an}^ access to them. Nor do I possess any means besides those that I have earned by hard and constant work.”

“What! have you no education? no access to scientific works?”

“No, sir.”

“Then how the deuce did you manage?”

“Well, I think I have told you that several times before. But I’ll tell you again — this time in a few words. My chief school was the earth, and my principal teacher was nature. What I have been able to do, has been done by economizing every farthing of money, and every moment of time.”

“Do you mean to say that you got no education, and had no money, but what you worked for?”

“I do; and—”

“Confounded nonsense!”

“Allow me to proceed. It is not always those who have the most money and the best education that do the most work, either in natural history or any thing else.”

“Oh yes! That’s all very well; but it’s not to the point. But [looking at his watch] I find I must go. I’ll call again ; for I am determined to be at the bottom of this affair.” The next time he called, Edward was standing at the door. “Well,” said he, “I can’t wait to-day, for I have to go into the country, and I can’t be home for a week. But here’s your fare.” “No, no,” said Edward; “you haven’t been in.” “Very well, here goes!” and he pitched the fare in among the birds. When Edward went to look at the fare, instead of a penny, he found a crown-piece. The gentleman never called again. By the time he returned from the country the exhibition was at an end.

As Edward had announced in his handbill that he had been an inhabitant of Aberdeen, and worked at the Grandholm Mills in his boyhood, some of his old companions called upon him at the exhibition. The paragraph in the handbill was as follows: “The idea of having' a collection of the works of nature was first formed by him (the exhibitor) in very early life, and while traversing the country in the vicinity of Aberdeen, but more particularly when wandering among the delightful haughs of Grandholm, where he went to work when little more than nine years of age. Should this come under the notice of any of those who were mill-mates with Thomas Edward, they perchance may remember the boy they all wondered at so much because he would not join in their youthful sports, but rather chose to wander alone through the woods or by the banks of the Don, in quest of those objects, the pursuit of which in after-years cost him so much labor, time, and expense.”

As nearly twenty years had passed since Edward had worked at the spinning-mills, he failed to recognize his early companions when they called, until they mentioned some circumstance or conversation which brought them to his recollection. Some walked round the collection before they made themselves known to him, while others did so as they entered. But one and all agreed that though they might have imagined that Edward had done something toward making the collection, they could not believe that he had done it all by himself while working at his trade. They were working-men themselves, and knew what they had to contend with, in the form of want of time, want of means, and difficulties of all sorts. These considerations only tended to heighten their sense of astonishment the more.

Some of Edward’s other acquaintances also called, and they, like the others, declared that it was perfectly impossible for any working-man to have made such a collection by himself without any extraneous aid. One of his old shop-mates called frequently, and Edward endeavored to convince him that the thing was quite feasible; but he insisted that he must have got assistance or help in some way or another.

“Well,” said Edward, “you remember bow I worked beside you in the old garret in Shoe Lane; how I was never idle, and was always busy at something, whether I had shoe-making to do or not. Very well. I continued the same practice after I left you; and when I got a wife, instead of growing lazier, I became more ardent than ever. I squeezed the pith and substance out of every moment to make the most of it; and raxed and drew every farthing out like a piece of india-rubber, until I could neither rax nor draw it any more. I have thus endeavored to make the most and the best of every thing.”

A new idea seemed to strike the man. “But did ye no get some bawbees wi’ yer wife?”

“No,” said Edward, “not a bawbee. But, though poor in cash, she brought me a dowry worth more than all the money ever coined!”

“Trash, man ! trash ! Fat could be better than siller till a puir man?”

“Well, I’ll tell you. She brought me a remarkably sound and healthy body, strong bones, and a casket well filled with genuine common sense, or, rather, a mind far superior to that usually possessed by the majority of her sex. Now that’s what I call better than money. And I can tell you, also, that if young men were to look out for such wives, they would be able to lead their lives to much better purpose than they now do. Your tap-rooms, and dram-shops, and public-houses would then have fewer and far less eager customers. And, if I am not much mistaken, there would be many more happy homes and happy families, especially among the poor; instead of the miserable, heart-sickening, disease-engendering hovels, which are a curse and a stain upon our so-called civilization.”

“Ye’ll be a temperance-man, then are ye?”

“Yes; I’m temperate enough. And if wives would look more to their husbands’ comfort, as well as to the interests of their own families, there would be far more temperance-chapmen, as you call them, than there are now. I’m not a member of the Temperance Society ; nevertheless, I am in favor of every thing that would make people more sober and diligent, and tend to man’s good, both here and hereafter.”

“But,” continued the man, “are ye satisfied that ye got nae help in the way I hinted?”

“None whatever.”

“But far did ye learn the wrightin’ [carpentering], the paintin’, and the glazin’?”

“At my ain fireside, where every thing good should be learned. My teachers were — first, ‘Necessity;’ and, secondly, another teacher, of whom you may not have heard, called Will.”

“Ye’re a mystery,” said the man.

“Perhaps I may be,” answered Edward; “but I’ll just tell you three things, whether you may understand the ‘mystery’ or not. My neighbors in Banff say of me that ‘ that man surely means to tak’ the world by speed o’ fit.’ My shopmates say that ‘ Tam is just the lad for taking time by the forelock;’ and many of the inhabitants say, ‘ Whoever may be seen lounging about at the lazy corners, you’ll never see Edward among them.’ Now, these are three little nuts which I hope you will crack among your shopmates ; and I hope they will do them good.”

One day two ladies came to see the exhibition. They looked over the collection, and one of them came up to Edward and looked him straight in the face. She asked him if he belonged to Aberdeen.

“Well,” he replied, “although I was not born in Aberdeen, still I may say I belong to it. My mother was an Aberdeen woman, and I was brought up here until I went to Banff.” “Ah,” said the lady, “I thought so. Your countenance and appearance are very much the same as they were when I last saw you.” “Indeed!”

“Were you not at one time a private in the Aberdeenshire militia?” “I was; but what of that?” “Allow me to explain: do you remember running out of the ranks one day while at drill, and flying after a butterfly?” “I do,” said Edward.

“And of being pursued and taken prisoner by a corporal and four men of your company, when you were brought up before the officer, who gave you your liberty?”

“Yes,” said Edward, “all that is true.” “And perhaps you remember that there was a group of ladies with the officer?” “Oh yes, I remember that.” “Well, then, I was one of those ladies; and I first proposed to the others that we should intercede with the captain to let you off.”

The lady then proceeded to explain that she herself was an entomologist, and had been greatly pleased with the collection. Edward, on his part, thanked her most cordially for the good service she had been able to do for him on the links that day, now so long past. “But, now,” she added, “as one good turn deserves another, will you come and take your tea and supper with us some evening?” Edward .was thunderstruck at this proposal, for he was an exceedingly shy and bashful man, though he had been such a “hempy” in his youth. “Oh no!” said he, “I can not venture on taking such a liberty.” “I’ll have no denial,” said the lady; “there will be only a few friends who wish to make your acquaintance.”

The idea of being exhibited as a lion was perfectly revolting to Edward; so he again protested that he could not accept the invitation, however kindly it was meant. “No, no; you must come. There’s my card and address, and when I have fixed the day, I’ll send you an invitation. Good-day. Now remember! one good turn deserves another!” And away she went, leaving Edward looking rather sheepish, and fumbling in his hand a piece of elegantly got-up and highly aromatic pasteboard.

When the servant came with the invitation two days later, Edward returned a message that it was impossible for him to accept the invitation, because he could not leave his collection. The servant again returned, and invited him to attend the party after the exhibition had been closed for the night. He again politely refused.

The lady never returned to the exhibition ; and Edward felt that he had grievously offended her by refusing her invitation. Yet, had she known of his position at the time, her heart would have melted with pity at his sufferings. But this was of too touching and too delicate a nature to be explained to her. By that time, although Edward’s doom was not altogether sealed, still he knew, humanly speaking, that his fate was inevitably fixed, and that he had no visible means of escape from his lamentable position.

We have said that when Edward opened his exhibition in Aberdeen, he expected that there would be a large influx of visitors to see the collection of objects in natural history, which he had made with so much labor and difficulty. But there was no rush whatever. The attendance was always very small. The exhibition-room was for the most part empty. Edward at first thought that he had fixed the price too high; but he could remedy that defect. The better classes had failed him; now he would try the working-people. He would call “the millions” to his aid. Accordingly he reduced the entrance-price to a penny.

But “the millions” never came. So far as Edward’s collection was concerned, their minds seemed as hard and impenetrable as the adamantine houses in which they lived. Their hearts, he thought, were made of their native granite. Still he would make another effort. lie now advertised more widely than before, thinking that extended publicity might prove successful. He had bills printed by the thousand; he employed sandwichmen to carry them about, to distribute them in the market, in the principal thoroughfares, at the gates of the factories and principal working-places, and in every place resorted to by working-people. To accommodate them, he opened the exhibition at eight instead of ten in the morning; and kept it open until ten o’clock at night.

It was of no avail. The millions did not come. The attendance even fell off. Some days only a few pence were taken; on other days nothing. Days, weary days, went on, and still there was no success. Yet Edward had plenty of advisers. Some thought that the collection should have been exhibited near the centre of the town) where the working-classes lived. Edward was fain to think that there might be something in this. He found a large room which he thought would answer the purpose; but he was required to pay the rent beforehand, and to give security for ten pounds. This was entirely out of the question, for he could not give security for “ten bawbees.” One person, who had been a showman, advised him to have immense placards outside, and to have a band of music to attract the people. He must have show and hubbub. “That was the thing that attracted folk; whereas his exhibition was all in the inside.” But Edward would not have any of such attractions.

In short, the exhibition was fast approaching its end. The rent of the shop had to be paid, and he had no money to pay it. His wife and family had to be maintained, and he had no means of maintaining them. All that he took at the door was required to pay the cost of the bills and advertisements. By the end of the third week he was deep in debt. Though he had been earning small wages, he had never before been in debt. To think of being in debt was in itself an agony. What was he to do? He was sinking deeper and deeper, with no prospect of deliverance.

By the Friday of the fourth week he had altogether lost hope. He had taken nothing in the shape of money that day. His exhibition was entirely deserted. He sunk into the lowest state of despondency. About three o’clock he received a letter from his master at Banff, telling him that if he did not return immediately to his work, he would be under the necessity of giving his employment to another. “Return immediately!” That was impossible. What was he to do with his collection? How was he to defray his debt?

It is scarcely to be wondered at, if, under these deplorable circumstances, despair—despair of the worst description —should have got the better, at least for a time, of his overtaxed and oversensitive brain. He was in a strange place —a place which had once known him, but knew him no more. His wife and his five children were altogether dependent upon him, though they were at present living with his aged and infirm parents. He was deep in debt, for which, if not liquidated, his collection would be seized—a collection, rather than part with which he would have sacrificed his life. At the same time, the loss of work, starvation, and ruin stared him in the face. Is it surprising that, thus situated, despair should for a time have got the mastery over his better and sounder judgment?

The afternoon was far advanced. His dinner, which had been brought to him an hour before, still lay untasted. He was pacing up and down the apartment, pondering over his miserable position, when his father entered. Edward was looking so agitated that the old man inquired what ailed him? He said he was going out, and went toward the door, fearing lest his wife or any of his children might appear. His father stepped between him and the door, remonstrating with him, and saying that he was not fit to go out in such a state. But a woman entering attracted his father’s attention, and Edward was thus allowed to slip away unobserved.

Edward rushed down Union Street, on his way to the sands. At first he thought of going to the Dee at the Craiglug; but he bethought him that it would be better to go to the sea-shore, where it might be thought his death was accidental. From the time of his leaving the shop in Union Street until about four hours after, when lie recovered his senses, his memory remained almost a complete blank. He had a vague idea of crossing the links, and seeing some soldiers at the foot of the Broadhill. But beyond that he remembered next to nothing. Unlike a dream, of which one remembers some confused ideas, this blank in his mental life was never filled up, and the purpose for which he wandered along the sands left little further impression upon his memory. He remembered, however, the following circumstances:

He had thrown off his hat, coat, and waistcoat before rushing into the sea, when a flock of sanderlings lighted upon the sands near him. They attracted his attention. They were running to and fro, some piping their low, shrill whistle, while others were probing the wet sand with their bills as the waves receded. But among them was another bird, larger and darker, and apparently of different habits from the others. Desirous of knowing something of the nature of this bird, he approached the sanderlings. They rose and flew away. He followed them. They lighted again, and again he observed the birds as before. Away they went, and he after them. At length he was stopped at Don mouth. When he recovered his consciousness, he was watching the flock of birds flying away to the farther side of the river. He had forgotten all his miseries in his intense love of nature. His ruling passion saved him.

How long the chase lasted he never could tell. It must have occupied him more than an hour. He found himself divested of his hat, coat, and vest; and he went back to look for them. He had no further desire to carry out the purpose for which he had descended to the sea. His only thought was about the strange bird among the sanderlings: “What could it be?” Perhaps the bird had been his Providence. He tried to think so.

In the mean time he was very cold. He found his coat, vest, and hat a long way down the beach. On his return, he found that he had been followed by some people, who were watching him. When he returned, they followed him until he reached his clothes; and when they saw him dressed and ready to depart, they disappeared. Not wishing to cross the links again that night, he turned and went up Don side to the new bridge, and took the road from thence into the town.

It was late before he got home. Being still very much depressed, and feeling very unwell, he went almost immediately to bed, thinking that he might be able to hide his grief yet a little longer from those who were near and dear to him—dearer to him now than ever. But, alas! the ordeal he had passed through during the day had been most dreadful, and he was racked by conflicting and torturing thoughts during the whole of his sleepless night.

Morning, anxiously wished-for morning, came at last. Although still feverish from excitement, and very unsettled in his mind, he got up, dressed, and went down to the sea-shore a little after daylight, eagerly searching for the strange bird of the preceding evening. But, although he walked several times along the sands, from the bathing-machines to the mouth of the Don, he never saw it. He saw its companions, the sanderlings; but the providential bird had gone. So far as Edward knew, he never saw the like of that bird again.

Although chagrined at his disappointment, he felt himself, on the whole, more refreshed and settled in his mind than when he left home. After breakfast — the first food he had taken since the previous morning—he went to Union Street to open his exhibition. As he was not disturbed by visitors, he had plenty of time for reflection. He had now to consider how he could honorably extricate himself from the trap into which he had so unwittingly and so unfortunately fallen.

The only way which presented itself was by making a terrible sacrifice—namely, by selling the whole of his collection. It took him many long and bitter heart-pangs before lie could arrive at this conclusion. But force, stern force, prevailed over all other considerations. He must, so far as he could, get honorably out of debt, although not a farthing of balance might remain. Yes: his eight years’ collection of birds and natural objects must go, so that he might stand upright before the world. Accordingly, an advertisement appeared in the newspapers offering the collection for sale.

After the announcement appeared, several gentlemen called and told him that he was quite wrong in offering his collection for sale. He had several letters from Banff to the same effect. Some of his correspondents there offered their suggestions and advice. They said that as the collection had been made in Banffshire, it properly belonged to Banffshire; and that it would be an everlasting slur upon the county if it were allowed to go elsewhere. One gentleman of influence requested Edward to delay the sale for a few days, in order that he might be enabled to obtain subscriptions, so as to secure the collection for Banff. Twenty pounds could easily be collected in Banff for such a purpose. If the subscribers did not themselves buy it, there was a scientific' society in Banff that would certainly buy it, to form the nucleus of a collection of Banffshire fauna.

Edward, accordingly postponed the sale for some days. He had great faith in his correspondent, who was himself a member of the society in question. The gentleman had considerable influence in the district, and would doubtless do what he could to raise the requisite money to purchase the collection. But, alas, how futile are promises! Words! mere words I Hays passed, and no further communications arrived. Edward was now pressed for his debts, and he could no longer postpone the sale of the collection. The spark of hope that had been kindled in his breast died out. All hope of salvation from any quarter had fled. He must meet his difficulties as he best could. It was now the middle of the sixth week, and his expenses were increasing daily. Accordingly, he accepted the offer of twenty pounds and ten shillings for the whole of his collection!

It was a bitter pang to part with it; but the thing must be done. Howling was of no use. Edward was even glad to get that paltry sum, in order to be at last set free. The gentleman (Mr. Grant) who bought the collection wished it for his boy, who had a taste for natural history. The specimens were removed to his house at Ferryhill. They were afterward packed up and sent to his place in St. Nicholas Street, where they were stored up in some damp.


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