Fantastic Fables

by Ambrose Bierce

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The Ingenious Blackmailer

AN Inventor went to a King and was granted an audience, when the following conversation ensued:

INVENTOR. - "May it please your Majesty, I have invented a rifle that discharges lightning."

KING. - "Ah, you wish to sell me the secret."

INVENTOR. - "Yes; it will enable your army to overrun any nation that is accessible."

KING. - "In order to get any good of my outlay for your invention, I must make a war, and do so as soon as I can arm my troops - before your secret is discovered by foreign nations. How much do you want?"

INVENTOR. - "One million dollars."

KING. - "And how much will it cost to make the change of arms?"

INVENTOR. - "Fifty millions."

KING. - "And the war will Cost - ?"

INVENTOR. - "But consider the glory and the spoils!"

KING. - "Exactly. But if I am not seeking these advantages? What if I decline to purchase?"

INVENTOR. - "There is no economy in that. Though a patriot, I am poor; if my own country will not patronise me, I must seek a market elsewhere."

KING (to Prime Minister). - "Take this blackmailer and cut off his head."

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It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.