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|Tom Sawyer Abroad||Mark Twain|
Tom Respects The Flea
|Page 1 of 5||
"NOON!" says Tom, and so it was. His shadder was just a blot around his feet. We looked, and the Grinnage clock was so close to twelve the difference didn't amount to nothing. So Tom said London was right north of us or right south of us, one or t'other, and he reckoned by the weather and the sand and the camels it was north; and a good many miles north, too; as many as from New York to the city of Mexico, he guessed.
Jim said he reckoned a balloon was a good deal the fastest thing in the world, unless it might be some kinds of birds -- a wild pigeon, maybe, or a railroad.
But Tom said he had read about railroads in England going nearly a hundred miles an hour for a little ways, and there never was a bird in the world that could do that -- except one, and that was a flea.
"A flea? Why, Mars Tom, in de fust place he ain't a bird, strickly speakin' --"
"He ain't a bird, eh? Well, then, what is he?"
"I don't rightly know, Mars Tom, but I speck he's only jist a' animal. No, I reckon dat won't do, nuther, he ain't big enough for a' animal. He mus' be a bug. Yassir, dat's what he is, he's a bug."
"I bet he ain't, but let it go. What's your second place?"
"Well, in de second place, birds is creturs dat goes a long ways, but a flea don't."
"He don't, don't he? Come, now, what IS a long distance, if you know?"
"Why, it's miles, and lots of 'em -- anybody knows dat."
"Can't a man walk miles?"
"Yassir, he kin."
"As many as a railroad?"
"Yassir, if you give him time."
"Can't a flea?"
"Well -- I s'pose so -- ef you gives him heaps of time."
"Now you begin to see, don't you, that DISTANCE ain't the thing to judge by, at all; it's the time it takes to go the distance IN that COUNTS, ain't it?"
"Well, hit do look sorter so, but I wouldn't 'a' b'lieved it, Mars Tom."
"It's a matter of PROPORTION, that's what it is; and when you come to gauge a thing's speed by its size, where's your bird and your man and your railroad, alongside of a flea? The fastest man can't run more than about ten miles in an hour -- not much over ten thousand times his own length. But all the books says any common ordinary third-class flea can jump a hundred and fifty times his own length; yes, and he can make five jumps a second too -- seven hundred and fifty times his own length, in one little second -- for he don't fool away any time stopping and starting -- he does them both at the same time; you'll see, if you try to put your finger on him. Now that's a common, ordinary, third-class flea's gait; but you take an Eye-talian FIRST-class, that's been the pet of the nobility all his life, and hasn't ever knowed what want or sickness or exposure was, and he can jump more than three hundred times his own length, and keep it up all day, five such jumps every second, which is fifteen hundred times his own length. Well, suppose a man could go fifteen hundred times his own length in a second -- say, a mile and a half. It's ninety miles a minute; it's considerable more than five thousand miles an hour. Where's your man NOW? -- yes, and your bird, and your railroad, and your balloon? Laws, they don't amount to shucks 'longside of a flea. A flea is just a comet b'iled down small."
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