The final paragraphs of Bierce's story “Haita The Shepherd” read as follows (the maiden referred to in the text is, in fact, Happiness itself, and the guy met her thrice only to lose her immediately) and I cannot figure out what the very last part means, what this "two" is referring to.

She cometh only when unsought, and will not be questioned. One manifestation of curiosity, one sign of doubt, one expression of misgiving, and she is away! How long didst thou have her at any time before she fled?

Only a single instant, answered Haita, blushing with shame at the confession. Each time I drove her away in one moment.

Unfortunate youth! said the holy hermit, but for thine indiscretion thou mightst have had her for two.

1 Answer 1


The "two" here is referring to "moment". Something along the lines of:

Haita: "I drove her away in one moment"

Hermit: "You are unfortunate. Without('but for' in the original) your indiscretion, you might have had her for two moments"

Two moments here meaning some longer time than she the one moment she mentioned.

  • Thank you, I understand. But how is the "without" (from your version) expressed in the original? There, to me, it says for = because (?), which does not make sense to me
    – John V
    Nov 6, 2020 at 11:48
  • 1
    No, it's "but for" which means "without". Nov 6, 2020 at 12:37
  • There is also the implication that "two moments" of happiness is all you will get. Perhaps from the hermit's viewpoint a permanent state of happiness can only be had by a fool, whereas folly is a natural companion of inexperience. Nov 6, 2020 at 12:58

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