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Cantley, on parting with him, had made him a present of a copy of Gordon's Geographical Grammar. The book contains a description of an artificial globe, which is not, however, illustrated by any figure. Nevertheless, “ from this description," says Ferguson,
“I made a globe in three weeks at my father's, having turned the ball thereof out of a piece of wood; which ball I covered with paper, and delineated a map of the world upon it; made the meridian ring and horizon of wood, covered them with paper, and graduated them; and was happy to find that by my globe (which was the first I ever saw) I could solve the problems."
For some time after this, he was very unfortunate. Finding that it would not do to remain idle at home, he engaged in the service of a miller in the neighbourhood, who, feeling probably that he could trust to the honesty and capacity of his servant, soon began to spend all his own time in the alehouse, and to leave poor Ferguson at home, not only with every thing to do, but with very frequently nothing to eat. A little oatmeal, mixed with cold water, was often, he tells us, all he was allowed. Yet in this situation he remained a year, and then returned to his father's, very much the weaker for his fasting. His next master was a Dr. Young, who having induced him to enter his service by a promise to instruct him in medicine, not only broke his engagement as to this point, but used him in other respects so tyrannically, that, although engaged for half a year, he found he could not remain beyond the first quarter, at the expiration of which, accordingly, he came away without receiving any wages, having “wrought for the last fortnight,” says he, as much as possible with one hand and arm, when I could not lift the other from my side.” This was in consequence of a severe hurt he had received, which the Doctor was too busy to look to, and by which he was confined to his bed for two months after his return home.
Reduced as he was, however, by exhaustion and actual pain, he could not be idle.
« In order,” says he,“ to amuse myself in this low state, I made a wooden clock, the frame of which was also of wood, and it kept time pretty well. The bell on which the hammer struck the hours was the neck of a broken bottle." A short time after this, when he had recovered his health, he gave a still more extraordinary proof of his ingenuity, and the fertility of his resources for mechanical invention, by actually constructing a timepiece, or watch, moved by a spring. But we must allow him to give the history of this matter in his own words :Having then,” he says, no idea how
timepiece could go but by a weight and a line, I wondered how a watch could go in all positions; and was sorry that I had never thought of asking Mr. Cantley, who could very easily have informed me. But happening one day to see a gentleman ride by my father's house (which was close by a public road), I asked him what o'clock it then was ? He looked at his watch, and told me. As he did that with so much good-nature, I begged of him to shew me the inside of his watch; and though he was an entire stranger, he immediately opened the watch, and put it into my hands. I saw the spring box, with part of the chain round it; and asked him what it was that made the box turn round? He told me that it was turned round by a steel spring within it. Having then never seen any other spring than that of my father's gun-lock, I asked how a spring within a box could turn the box so often round as to wind all the chain upon it? He answered, that the spring was long and thin; that one end of it was fastened to the axis of the box, and the other end to the inside
of the box; that the axis was fixed, and the box was loose upon
it. I told him that I did not yet thoroughly understand the matter. • Well, my lad,' says he, ' take a long, thin piece of whalebone; hold one end of it fast between your finger and thumb, and wind it round your finger; it will then endeavour to unwind itself; and if you fix the other end of it to the inside of a small hoop, and leave it to itself, it will turn the hoop round and round, and wind up a thread tied to the outside of the hoop.' I thanked the gentleman, and told him that I understood the thing very well. I then tried to make a watch with wooden wheels, and made the spring of whalebone; but found that I could not make the wheel go when the balance was put on, because the teeth of the wheels were rather too weak to bear the force of a spring sufficient to move the balance; although the wheels would run fast enough when the balance was taken off. I inclosed the whole in a wooden case, very little bigger than a breakfast tea-cup; but a clumsy neighbour one day looking at my watch, happened to let it fall, and turning hastily about to pick it up, set his foot upon it, and crushed it all to pieces, which so provoked my father, that he was almost ready to beat the man, and discouraged me so much, that I never attempted to make such another machine again, especially as I was thoroughly convinced I could never make one that would be of any real use.”
What a vivid picture is this of an ingenuous mind thirsting for knowledge! and who is there, too, that does not envy the pleasure that must have been felt by the courteous and intelligent stranger by whom the young mechanician was carried over his first great difficulty, if he ever chanced to learn how greatly his unknown questioner had profited from their brief interview! That stranger might probably have read the above narrative, as given to the world by Ferguson,
after the talents which this little incident probably contributed to develope had raised him from his obscurity to a distinguished place among the philosophers of his
age; and if he did know this, he must have felt that encouragement in well-doing which a benevolent man may always gather, either from the positive effects of acts of kindness upon others, or their influence upon his own heart. Civility, charity, generosity, may sometimes meet an ill return, but one person must be benefited by their exercise; the kind heart has its own abundant reward, whatever be the gratitude of others. The case of Ferguson shews that the seed does not always fall on stony ground. It may appear somewhat absurd to dwell upon the benefit of a slight civility which cost, at most, but a few minutes of attention ; but it is really important that those who are easy in the world—who have all the advantages of wealth and knowledge at their command-should feel of how much value is the slightest encouragement and assistance to those who are toiling up the steep of emulation. Too often “the scoff of pride” is superadded to the “ bar of poverty;" and thus it is that many a one of the best talents and the most generous feelings
“ Has sunk into the grave unpitied and unknown," because the wealthy and powerful have never understood the value of a helping hand to him who is struggling with fortune.
Ferguson's attention having thus been turned to the mechanism of time-pieces, he now began to do a little business in the neighbourhood as a cleaner of clocks, by which he made some money. He was invited also to take up his residence in the house of Sir James Dunbar, of Durn, to whom he seems to have made himself useful by various little services for which his ingenuity fitted him. · Among other things he converted two round stones upon the gateway, into a pair of stationary globes, by painting a
map of the earth upon one, and a map of the heavens upon the other.
“ The poles of the painted globes,” he informs us,
“ stood towards the poles of the heavens; on each the twenty-four hours were placed around the equinoctial, so as to shew the time of the day when the sun shone out, by the boundary where the half of the globe at any time enlightened by the sun was parted from the other half in the shade; the enlightened parts of the terrestrial globe answering to the like enlightened parts of the earth at all times. So that, whenever the sun shone on the globe, one might see to what places the sun was then rising, to what places it was setting, and all the places where it was then day or night throughout the earth.” Having been introduced to Sir James's sister, Lady Dipple, he was induced at her suggestion to attempt the drawing of patterns for ladies' dresses, in which he soon became quite an adept. “On this,” says he, “I was sent for by other ladies in the country, and began to think myself growing very rich by the money I got for such drawings; out of which I had the pleasure of occasionally supplying the wants of my poor father.” He still continued, however, his astronomical studies, making observations on the stars, as usual, with his beaded threads, and delineating on paper the apparent paths of the planets as thus ascertained. So excited would he become while thus engaged, that he often conceived, he says, that he saw the ecliptic lying like a broad highway across the firmament, and the planets making their way in
paths like the narrow ruts made by cart-wheels, sometimes on one side of a plane road, and sometimes on the other, crossing the road at small angles, but never going far from either side of it.”
He now began also to copy pictures and prints with pen and ink; and having gone to reside with Mr. Baird, of Auchmeddan, Lady Dipple's son-in