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bewildered way, more like the action of a sleep-walker than a
waking person. I know, and never can forget, that there was that
in her wild manner which gave me no assurance but that she would
sink before my eyes, until I had her arm within my grasp.
At the same moment I said 'Martha!'
She uttered a terrified scream, and struggled with me with such
strength that I doubt if I could have held her alone. But a
stronger hand than mine was laid upon her; and when she raised her
frightened eyes and saw whose it was, she made but one more effort
and dropped down between us. We carried her away from the water to
where there were some dry stones, and there laid her down, crying
and moaning. In a little while she sat among the stones, holding
her wretched head with both her hands.
'Oh, the river!' she cried passionately. 'Oh, the river!'
'Hush, hush!' said I. 'Calm yourself.'
But she still repeated the same words, continually exclaiming, 'Oh,
the river!' over and over again.
'I know it's like me!' she exclaimed. 'I know that I belong to it.
I know that it's the natural company of such as I am! It comes from
country places, where there was once no harm in it - and it creeps
through the dismal streets, defiled and miserable - and it goes
away, like my life, to a great sea, that is always troubled - and
I feel that I must go with it!'
I have never known what despair was, except in the tone of those
'I can't keep away from it. I can't forget it. It haunts me day
and night. It's the only thing in all the world that I am fit for,
or that's fit for me. Oh, the dreadful river!'
The thought passed through my mind that in the face of my
companion, as he looked upon her without speech or motion, I might
have read his niece's history, if I had known nothing of it. I
never saw, in any painting or reality, horror and compassion so
impressively blended. He shook as if he would have fallen; and his
hand - I touched it with my own, for his appearance alarmed me -
was deadly cold.
'She is in a state of frenzy,' I whispered to him. 'She will speak