“The Prerogative of Might”

A Slander traveling rapidly through the land upon his joyous mission was accosted by a Retraction and commanded to halt and be killed.

‘Your career of mischief is at an end,’ said the Retraction, drawing his club, rolling up his sleeves and spitting on his hands.

‘Why should you slay me?’ protested the Slander. ‘Whatever my intentions were, I have been innocuous, for you have dogged my strides and counteracted my influence.’

‘Dogged your grandmother!’ said the Retraction, with contemptuous vulgarity of speech. ‘In the order of nature it is appointed that we two shall never travel the same road.’

‘How then,’ the Slander asked, triumphantly, ‘have you overtaken me?’

‘I have not,’ replied the Retraction; ‘we have accidentally met. I came round the world the other way.’

But when he tried to execute his fell purpose he found that in the order of nature it was appointed that he himself perish miserably in the encounter.

— Ambrose Bierce, Fantastic Fables, 1899