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A monologue from the book by Mark Twain
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Tom Sawyer Abroad. Mark Twain. London: Chatto & Windus, 1897.
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 person can learn them ‘most anything; and they learn it quicker than any other cretur, too.
They’ve been learnt to haul little carriages in harness, and go this way and that way and t’other way according to their orders; yes, and to march and drill like soldiers, doing it as exact, according to orders, as soldiers does it.
They’ve been learnt to do all sorts of hard and troublesome things. S’pose you could cultivate a flea up to the size of a man, and keep his natural smartness a-growing and a-growing right along up,
bigger and bigger, and keener and keener, in the same proportion — where’d the human race be, do you reckon? That flea would be President of the United States, and you couldn’t any more prevent it than you can prevent lightning.