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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

to Alps and Sanctuaries         269

of each murder.   One of the victims, it appeared, on being
told they were about to kill him, said :

" If you murder me, I shall be foully murdered."
Whereupon they murdered him and he was foully murdered.
It is a mistake to expect people to rise to the occasion unless
the occasion is only a little above their ordinary limit. People
seldom rise to their greater occasions, they almost always fall
to them.   It is only supreme men who are supreme at supreme
moments.   They differ from the rest of us in this that, when
the moment for rising comes, they rise at once and instinc-
tively.

The Aurora Borealis

I saw one once in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence off the island
of Anticosti. We were in the middle of it, and seemed to be
looking up through a great cone of light millions and millions
of miles into the sky. Then we saw it farther off and the
pillars of fire stalked up and down the face of heaven like one
of Handel's great basses.

In front of my room at Montreal there was a verandah from
which a rope was stretched across a small yard to a chimney
on a stable roof over the way. Clothes were hung to dry on
this rope. As I lay in bed of a morning I could see the shadows
and reflected lights from these clothes moving on the ceiling
as the clothes were blown about by the wind. The movement
of these shadows and reflected lights was exactly that of the
rays of an Aurora Borealis, minus colour. I can conceive no
resemblance more perfect. They stalked across the ceiling
with the same kind of movement absolutely.

A Tragic Expression

The three occasions when I have seen a really tragic ex-
pression upon a face were as follows :

(1)  When Mrs. Inglis in my room at Montreal heard my
sausages frying, as she thought, too furiously in the kitchen,
she left me hurriedly with a glance, and the folds of her dress
as she swept out of the room were Niobean.

(2)  Once at dinner I sat opposite a certain lady who had a
tureen of soup before her and also a plate of the same to which
she had just helped herself.   There was meat in the soup and