The Fiend's Delight, by Ambrose Bierce

Musings, Philosophical and Theological.

. . . . Seated in his den, in the chill gloom of a winter twilight, comforting his stomach with hoarded bits of cheese and broad biscuits, Mr. Grile thinketh unto himself after this fashion of thought:

I.

To eat biscuits and cheese before dining is to confess that you do not expect to dine.

ii.

“Once bit, twice shy,” is a homely saying, but singularly true. A man who has been swindled will be very cautious the second time, and the third. The fourth time he may be swindled again more easily and completely than before.

iii.

A four-footed beast walks by lifting one foot at a time, but a four-horse team does not walk by lifting one horse at a time. And yet you cannot readily explain why this is so.

iv.

If a jackass were to describe the Deity he would represent Him with long ears and a tail. Man’s ideal is the higher and truer one; he pictures Him as somewhat resembling a man.

V.

The bald head of a man is a very common spectacle. You have never seen the bald head of a woman.

vi.

Baldheaded women are a very common spectacle.

vii.

Piety, like small-pox, comes by infection. Robinson Crusoe, however, caught it alone on his island. It is probable that he had it in his blood.

viii.

The doctrine of foreknowledge does not imply the truth of foreordination. Foreordination is a cause antedating an event. Foreknowledge is an effect, not of something that is going to occur, which would be absurd, but the effect of its being going to occur.

ix.

Those who cherish the opposite opinion may be very good citizens.

X.

Old shoes are easiest, because they have accommodated themselves to the feet. Old friends are least intolerable because they have adapted themselves to the inferior parts of our character.

xi.

Between old friends and old shoes there are other points of resemblance.

xii.

Everybody professes to know that it would be difficult to find a needle in a haystack, but very few reflect that this is because haystacks seldom contain needles.

xiii.

A man with but one leg is a better man than a man with two legs, for the reason that there is less of him.

xiv.

A man without any legs is better than a man with one leg; not because there is less of him, but because he cannot get about to enact so much wickedness.

xv.

When an ostrich is pursued he conceals his head in a bush; when a man is pursued he conceals his property. By instinct each knows his enemy’s design.

xvi.

There are two things that should be avoided; the deadly upas tree and soda water. The latter will make you puffy and poddy.

xvii.

This list of things to be avoided is necessarily incomplete.

xviii.

In calling a man a hog, it is the man who gets angry, but it is the hog who is insulted. Men are always taking up the quarrels of others.

xix.

Give an American a newspaper and a pie and he will make himself comfortable anywhere.

xx.

The world of mind will be divided upon the question of baptism so long as there are two simple and effective methods of baptising, and they are equally disagreeable.

xxi.

They are not equally disagreeable, but each is disagreeable enough to attract disciples.

xxii.

The face of a pig is a more handsome face than the face of a man-in the pig’s opinion.

xxiii.

A pig’s opinion upon this question is as likely to be correct as is a man’s opinion.

xxiv.

It is better not to take a wife than to take one belonging to some other man: for if she has been a good wife to him, she has adapted her nature to his, and will therefore be unsuited to yours. If she has not been a good wife to him she will not be to you.

xxv.

The most gifted people are not always the most favoured: a man with twelve legs can derive no benefit from ten of them without crawling like a centipede.

xxvi.

A woman and a cow are the two most beautiful creatures in the world. For proof of the beauty of a cow, the reader is referred to an ox; for proof of the beauty of a woman, an ox is referred to the reader.

xxvii.

There is reason to believe that a baby is less comely than a calf, for the reason that all kine esteem the calf the more comely beast, and there is one man who does not esteem the baby the more comely beast.

xxvii.

To judge of the wisdom of an act by its result is a very shallow plan. An action is wise or unwise the moment it is decided upon.

xxix.

If the wisdom of an action may not be determined by the result, it is very difficult to determine it.

xxx.

It is impossible.

xxxi.

The moon always presents the same side to the earth because she is heaviest on that side. The opposite side, however, is more private and secluded.

xxxii.

Camels and Christians receive their burdens kneeling.

xxxiii.

It was never intended that men should be saints in heaven until they are dead and good for nothing else. On earth they are mostly

xxxiv.

Fools.


I, Grile, have arranged these primal truths in the order of their importance, in the hope that some patient investigator may amplify and codify them into a coherent body of doctrine, and so establish a new religion. I would do it myself were it not that a very corpulent and most unexpected pudding is claiming my present attention.

O, steaming enigma! O, savoury mountain of hidden mysteries! too long neglected for too long a sermon. Engaging problem, let me reveal the secrets latent in thy breast, and unfold thine occult philosophy! [Cutting into the pudding.] Ah! here, and here alone is-[Eating it].

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31