18 THE SPHINX'S CHILDREN.
ure fresh from its long overflow ; red foxes sported
with their cubs on the tawny sand ; the birds taught
their infant offspring their own sweet arts of flight and song on every bough ; and even the ostrich, lonely Desert-runner, heaped her treasure of white eggs in the sand, or guided her callow young far from the sight and fear of man ;— but the Sphinx sat alone.
Mightier and mightier grew the yearning within her, as the full moon floated upward from the east and cast her dewy dreams over land and sea. The hour was come ; the whole impulse and persistence of her nature went out in vivid life, and, filling the very stones which the winds had gathered and piled against her breast, cleft them with its sentient spell, clothed them with lean flesh and wiry sinews, shaped them after the fashion of the Desert men, and sent them out alive with intellect and will, but with hearts of flint, into the wide world, — the Sphinx's children!
With a sigh that shook the shores of Egypt and smote the Sicilian midnight with sickening vibrations of earthquake, the Sphinx beheld this culmination of her great desire ; in the very hour of fruition hope fled ; and as this grim certainty sped away from before her, taking with it all her borrowed life, she dropped that majestic head lower upon her bosom, uplifted it again for one last look at her offspring, and so stiffened,— once more a stone.
Age after age rolled by ; storm and tempest hurled their thunders at her head ; wave after wave of bright, insidious sand curled about her feet and heaped its sliding grains against her side ; men came and went in fleeting generations, and seasons fled like hours through the whirling wheel of Time ; but the Sphinx longed and