'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 words.
'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 differently in a little time.'
I don't know what he would have said in answer. He made some motion with his mouth, and seemed to think he had spoken; but he had only pointed to her with his outstretched hand.