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The Sphinx's Children

The Sphinx's Children and Other People (New York: Tickner, 1886)


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THE SPHINX'S CHILDREN. 21

for the idolatries and harlotries of Popery, fired with lurid zeal, and bestriding one stringent idea, he rides on over dead and living, preaches predestination and hell as if the Gospel dwelt only upon destiny and despair, casts no tender look at the loving piety that underlay shrines and woman-worship and bead-counting wherever a true heart sought its God through the sole formulas it knew, but spurs forward to the end, a mighty power to destroy, to do away with old corruptions and break down idols on their altars, — saint and iconoclast! Did the heart of stone within him know its ancestry, —track its hard, loveless de-scent from the Sphinx's children?

Then a Queen ; — a solitary woman, proud of her solitude, isolated in her regnant splendor, a dead planet like the moon, sung and pictured and adored, but keeping on her majestic path in awful beauty, deaf to human entreaty, cold to human love ; a great statesman in a queen's robes ; a keen, subtle politician, coifed and farthingaled ; a revengeful sovereign ; a deadly enemy ; a woman who forgave nothing to a woman, and retaliated everything upon a man ; she who brought unshrinkingly to death a sister queen discrowned and captive, a sister whose grace and loveliness and kindly aspect might have moved the lions of the arena to fawn upon her, but nowise disarmed the tigress who lapped her blood ; she who banished and slew the man she would not stoop to love, because he dared to love another ; and when death stared her in the face, and open-eyed judgment shook her soul, rose from that death-pallet to grapple and abuse a false woman, penitent for and confessing her falseness; a virgin monarch, pitiless,



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