The Flea and the Bedbug

In the palace of a certain king stood an incomparable bed, blessed with every virtue needed for a bedroom. In a corner of its linen lived a female bedbug named Mandavisarpini. Surrounded by a thriving family of sons and daughters, with the sons and daughters of sons and daughters, and with more remote descendants, she drank the king’s blood as he slept. On this diet she grew plump and handsome.

While she was living there in this manner, a flea named Agnimukha drifted in on the wind and dropped on the bed. This flea felt supreme satisfaction on examining the bed – the wonderful delicacy of its linen, its double pillow, its exceptional softness & its delicious perfume. Charmed by the sheer delight of touching it, he hopped this way and that until he came across Mandavisarpini, who said to him: “Where do you come from? This is a dwelling fit for a king. Be gone, and lose no time about it.” “Madam,” said he, “you should not say such things. For we must respect our guests. Now I am your guest. I have of late sampled the blood of various men, but found it quite unwholesome. On the contrary, he who rests on this bed must have a delightful blood, just like nectar. It must be free from diseases. It must be enriched by delicious dishes, buttery, tender, melting in the mouth. To me it seems an elixir of life. Therefore, with your kind permission, I plan to taste this sweet and fragrant substance.”

“No,” said she. “For fiery-mouthed stingers like you, it is out of the question. Leave this bed. People who do not know their enemies’ and own resources, their duties or who are too fast for their own good would always fail.” Thereupon he fell at her feet, repeating his request. And finally she relented, but added: “However, you must not come to dinner at a wrong place or time.” “What is the right place and when is the right time?” he asked. “Being a newcomer, I am not updated” And she replied: “When the king’s body is mastered by wine, fatigue, or sleep, then you may quietly bite him on the feet. This is the right place and the right time.” To these conditions he gave his assent.

In spite of this arrangement, the famished impatient flea, when the king had just dozed off in the early evening, bit him on the back. And the poor king, as if burned by a firebrand, as if stung by a scorpion, as if touched by a torch, bounded to his feet, scratched his back, and cried to a servant: “Rascal! Somebody bit me. You must hunt through this bed until you find the insect.”

Now Agnimukha heard the king’s command and in terrified haste crept into a crevice in the bed. Then the king’s servants entered, and following their master’s orders, brought a lamp and made a minute inspection. As fate would have it, they came upon Mandavisarpini as she crouched in the nap of the fabric, and killed her with her family.