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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

344                 Rebelliousness

Tantalus did get a little something not infrequently;
water stuck to the hairs of his body and he gathered it up in
his hand; he also got many an apple when the wind was
napping as it had to do sometimes. Perhaps he could have
done with more, but he got enough to keep him going quite
comfortably. His sufferings were nothing as compared with
those of a needy heir to a fortune whose father, or whoever
it may be, catches a dangerous bronchitis every winter but
invariably recovers and lives to 91, while the heir survives
him a month having been worn out with long expectation.

Sisyphus had never found any pleasure in life comparable
to the delight of seeing his stone bound down-hill, and in so
timing its rush as to inflict the greatest possible scare on any
unwary shade who might be wandering below. He got so
great and such varied amusement out of this that his labour
had become the automatism of reflex action—which is, I
understand, the name applied by men of science to all actions
that are done without reflection. He was a pompous, pon-
derous old gentleman, very irritable and always thinking that
the other shades were laughing at him or trying to take ad-
vantage of him. There were two, howrever, whom he hated
with a fury that tormented him far more seriously than any-
thing else ever did. The first of these was Archimedes who
had instituted a series of experiments in regard to various
questions connected with mechanics and had conceived a
scheme by which he hoped to utilise the motive power of the
stone for the purpose of lighting Hades with electricity. The
other was Agamemnon, who took good care to keep out of
the stone's way when it was more than a quarter of the
distance up the slope, but who delighted in teasing Sisyphus
so long as he considered it safe to do so. Many of the other
shades took daily pleasure in gathering together about stone-
time to enjoy the fun and to bet on how far the stone would
roll.

As for Tityus—what is a bird more or less on a body that
covers nine acres ? He found the vultures a gentle stimulant
to the liver without which it would have become congested.

Sir Isaac Newton was intensely interested in the hygro-
metric and barometric proceedings of the Danaids.

" At any rate," said one of them to my informant, " if we
really are being punished, for goodness' sake don't say any-