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The Sphinx's Children

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


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TILE SPHINX'S CHILDREN. 13

perhaps twice, — the sodden, valueless heart of that old man, whose gold has sucked out all that made him a man, beats with a pulse of generous honor ; even in the dust of stocks and the ashes of speculation, amid the howling curses. of the poor and the hitter weeping of his own flesh, once he hears the Voice of God, and all eternity cleaves the earth at his feet with a glare of truth. Once in her loathsome life, that woman, brazen with sin and shame, flaunting on the pavement, the scorn and jest of decency and indecency, the fearful index of corrupt society, — oven she has her hour of softness, when the tiny grass that creeps out from the stones greenly into a spring sunshine, and as with a divine w hisper recalls to her the time before she fell, the unburdened heart, the pure childish pleasures, the kind look of her dead mother's eye, the clasp of that sister's arm who passed her but yesterday pallid with disgust and ashamed to own their sacred birth-tie : then the tide rolls back ; the hour is come ! She, too, called a woman, who leads society, and triumphs over caste and custom with metallic ring and force,—she who forgets the decencies of age in her shameless attire, and supplies its defects with subterfuges, falser in heart even than in aspect, — she, about whom cluster men old and young, applauding with brays of laughter and coarser jeers the rancor of her wit, as it drops its laughing venom or its sneering sophisms of worldly wisdom,— even she, when the lights are fled, when the music has ceased from its own desecration, when the frenzy of wine and laughter mock her in their dead dregs, when the men who flattered and the women who envied are all gone, — she recalls one calm eye in the crowd, that stung her with its pure, contemptuous pity,



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