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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. 23

steady finger on the flickering pulse, and calm eye on the death-sweating brow and bitten lip. They put on the Druid's robe and wreath, and held the human sacrifice closer to its altar. In the Asiatic jungle, lurking behind the palm-trunk, they waited, lithe and swarthy Thugs, treacherously to slay whatever victim passed by alone; or in the fair Pacific Islands kept horrid jubilee above their feasts of human flesh, and streaked themselves with kindred blood in their carousals. Holland tells its fearful story of their Spanish rule. Russian serfs record their despotism, cowering at the memory of the knout. France cringes yet at the names of the black few who guided her roaring Revolution as one might guide the ravages of a tiger with curb of adamant and rein of linked steel.

Africa stretches out her hands to testify of their presence. Too well those golden shores recall the wail of women and the yelling curses of men, driven, beast-fashion, to their pen, and floated from home to hell, or — happier fate'. — dragged up, in terror of pursuit, and thrown overboard, a brief agony for a long one. They know them, too, whose continual cry of separation, starvation, insult, agony, and death rises from the heart of freedom like the steam of a great pestilence. Pity them, hearts of flesh! pity also the captors, —the Sphinx children, the flint-hearts! pity those who cannot feel, far beyond those who can,-—though it be but to suffer!

New England knew them, in band and steeple-hat, hanging and pressing to death helpless women, be-witched with witchcraft. Acadia knew them, when its depopulated shores lay barren before the sun, and its homes sent up no smoke to heaven.

Greece quivers at the phantasm of their Turkish



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