Cleopatra’s Nose

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/June 5, 1869

We believe it was Pascal who said that if the organ whose name forms the caption of this article had been half an inch longer, the fortunes of the world would have been changed. Doubtless had Cleopatra’s nose been aware of its importance in mundane affairs, it would have become puffed up with conceit, and would have carried its haughty tip so loftily in the air that a great political commotion must instantly have ensued—that an effect would have been produced quite equal in stupendousness to any result that could have come of lengthening. Then Egypt’s queen would have snipped off the offending member and cast it ignominiously into the Nile, to be eaten by avenging shrimps. The moral is: Don’t let a member of the body politic know that he is of any account; if you do, he is tolerably certain to make his importance felt in a manner that is excessively disagreeable. This is illustrated in the case of our friend, Supervisor Nunan. We have been indiscreet enough at various times to convince him of his importance by mentioning his little peccadilloes and shortcomings. Now he has turned out a full-blown reformer, and has actually set about regenerating the Industrial School. Lord knows it needs it badly enough, but O the spectacle of Nunan turned philanthropist! This is indeed a rare old joke. And then to think to what a trifling circumstance he is himself owing, and how easily he might have been prevented! Oh!

(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)

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