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Far Above Rubies
by [?]

Another thing I must mention is that, although his mind was constantly haunted by imaginary forms of loveliness, he had never yet been what is called in love. For he had never yet seen anyone who even approached his idea of spiritual at once and physical attraction. He was content to live and wait, without even the notion that he was waiting for anything. He went on writing his verses, and receiving the reward, such as it was, of having placed on record the thoughts which had come to him, so that he might at will recall them. Neither had he any thought of the mental soil which was thus slowly gathering for the possible growth of an unknown seed, fit for growing and developing in that same unknown soil.

One day there arrived in that cold Northern city a certain cold, sunshiny morning, gay and sparkling, and with it the beginning of what, for want of a better word, we may call his fate. He knew nothing of its approach, had not the slightest prevision that the divinity had that moment put his hand to the shaping of his rough-hewn ends. It was early October by the calendar, but leaves brown and spotted and dry lay already in little heaps on the pavement–heaps made and unmade continually, as if for the sport of the keen wind that now scattered them with a rush, and again, extemporizing a little evanescent whirlpool, gathered a fresh heap upon the flags, again to rush asunder, as in direst terror of the fresh-invading wind, determined yet again to scatter them, a broken rout of escaping fugitives. Along the pavement, seemingly in furtherance of the careless design of the wind, a girl went heedlessly scushling along among the unresting and unresisting leaves, making with her rather short skirt a mimic whirlwind of her own. Her eyes were fixed on the ground, and she seemed absorbed in anxious thought, which thought had its origin in one of the commonest causes of human perplexity–the need of money, and the impossibility of devising a scheme by which to procure any. It was but a few weeks since her father had died, leaving behind him such a scanty provision for his widow and child that only by the utmost care and coaxing were they able from the first to make it meet their necessities. Nor, indeed, would it have been possible for them to subsist had not a brother of the widow supplemented their poor resources with an uncertain contingent, whose continuance he was not able to secure, or even dared to promise.

At the present moment, however, it was not anxiety as to their own affairs that occupied the mind of Annie Melville, near enough as that might have lain; it was the unhappy condition in which the imprudence of a school-friend–almost her only friend–had involved herself by her hasty marriage with a man who, up to the present moment, had shown no faculty for helping himself or the wife he had involved in his fate, and who did not know where or by what means to procure even the bread of which they were in immediate want.

Now Annie had never had to suffer hunger, and the idea that her companion from childhood should be exposed to such a fate was what she could not bear. Yet, for any way out of it she could see, it would have to be borne. She might possibly, by herself going without, have given her a good piece of bread; but then she would certainly share it with her foolish husband, and there would be little satisfaction in that! They had already arrived at a stage in their downward progress when not gold, or even silver, but bare copper, was lacking as the equivalent for the bread that could but keep them alive until the next rousing of the hunger that even now lay across their threshold. And how could she, in her all but absolute poverty, do anything? Her mother was but one pace or so from the same goal, and would, as a mother must, interfere to prevent her useless postponement of the inevitable. It was clear she could do nothing–and yet she could ill consent that it should be so.