The flea and the professor

Loppen og professoren

There was an aëronaut, and things went badly with him. His balloon burst, hurled him out, and went all to pieces. Just two minutes before, the aëronaut had sent his boy down by parachute - wasn't the boy lucky! He wasn't hurt, and he knew enough to be an aëronaut himself, but he had no balloon and no means of getting one.
Live he must, so he took to sleight-of-hand tricks, and to throwing his voice, which is called ventriloquism. He was young and good-looking. When he grew a mustache and wore his best clothes, he might well have been mistaken for the son of a nobleman. Ladies found him handsome and one young lady was so taken by his charm and dexterity that she eloped with him to foreign lands. There he called himself "The Professor" - he could scarcely do less.
He continually thought about how to get himself a balloon and sail through the air with his little wife. But they still lacked the means to do so.
"That will come yet," he said.
"Oh, if only it would," said she.
"We are still young people," he said, "and I'm a Professor."
"Crumbs are also bread!"
She helped him all she could, and sat at the door to sell tickets for his entertainments. In the wintertime this was a chilly sort of pleasure. She also helped him with one of his acts. He would put her into a table drawer - a large table drawer - and she would creep into the back drawer. From in front she was not to be seen, and as far as the audience was concerned she was invisible. But one evening, when he pulled out the drawer she was invisible to him too. She was not in the front drawer, not in the back one, and not in the whole house. She was nowhere to be seen or heard, and that was her contribution to the entertainment.
She never came back. She was tired of it all, and he became tired of it too. He lost his good humor and could not laugh or make jokes, so people stopped coming to see him. His earnings fell off and his clothes wore out, until at last all that he had was a large flea, an heirloom from his wife; that's why he liked it so well. He trained the flea and taught it to perform - to present arms, and to fire off a cannon. Of course it was a very small cannon.
The Professor was proud of the flea, and the flea was proud of himself. He had learned a thing or two, and had human blood in him. He had been to the largest cities. Princes and Princesses had seen him and given him high praise, which was printed in the newspapers and on the billposters. He knew he was a famous flea who could support a Professor, yes, a whole household.
Proud he was and famous he was. Yet when he and the Professor traveled they went by fourth-class railway carriages, which took them along just as quickly as those of the first-class. They made a secret pledge to each other that they would never separate. Neither of them would marry. The flea would remain a bachelor and the Professor a widower. That made them even.
"Where one has the best luck," said the Professor, "one ought not go back a second time." He was a student of human nature, which is a science in itself. At length he had traveled through all countries except the savage ones, and to those he decided to go. There they eat Christian men. The Professor knew this, but then he was not much of a Christian, and the flea was not much of a man, so he thought they might venture successfully into the wilds, and make a lot of money.
They traveled by steamship and they traveled by sailboat. The flea performed his trick along the way in exchange for free passage, and thus they came to the country of savages. Here a little Princess ruled the land. She was only eight years old, but she ruled just the same. She had taken away the power from her papa and mamma, for she had a will of her own and was uncommonly beautiful, and uncommonly rude.
As soon as the flea presented arms and fired off his cannon, she took such a fancy to him that she cried, "Him or nobody!" She fell madly in love with the flea, and she was already a madcap in all other respects.
"My sweet, level-headed little child - " her papa said, "if only there were some way to make a man of him."
"Leave that to me, old fellow," said she, which was no way for a little Princess to talk to her papa, but then she was a savage. She set the flea on her fair hand:
"Now you are a man, ruling with me, but you must do what I want you to do, or I shall kill you and eat the Professor."
The Professor had a large room to lice in, with walls made of sugar cane. He could have licked them, but he didn't care for sweets. He had a hammock to sleep in, and that reminded him of being in a balloon, where he had always wanted to be. He thought of this continually.
The flea lived with the Princess. He sat upon her delicate hand or on her fair neck. She had taken a hair from her head and made the Professor fasten it to the flea's leg, and kept it tied to the big red coral pendant which hung from the tip of her ear. What a delightful time the Princess did have, and the flea too, she thought.
The Professor was not so delighted. He was a traveler, who liked to ride from town to town, and to read in the newspapers about how persevering and ingenious he had been to teach the flea tricks of human behavior. Day in and day out he lay lazily in his hammock. He ate good food: fresh bird's eggs, elephant eyes, and fried giraffe legs. Cannibals do not live entirely on human flesh. No, that is a specisl delicacy!
"Shoulder of child with pepper sauce," said the Princess's mamma, "is the most delicate."
The Professor was bored with it all, and preferred to leave this savage land, but his flea he must take with him, for it was his wonder and his bread and butter. How could he catch it? How could he get hold of it? This was not an easy thing to do. He racked his wits, and at last he declared:
"Now I have it! Papa of the Princess, give me something to do. Let me teach your people to present themselves before Your Royal Highness. This is what is known as culture in the great and powerful nations of the earth."
"Can I learn to do that too?" the Princess's papa asked.
"It's not quite proper," the Professor told him, "but I shall teach your Savage Papaship to fire off a cannon. It goes off with a bang. One sits high in the air, and then off it goes or down you come."
"Let me bang it off," the Princess's papa begged. But in all the land there was no cannon, except the one the flea had brought with him - and that was so tiny.
"I shall cast a bigger one," said the Professor. "Just give me the means to do so. I must have fine silk cloth, a needle and thread, and rope and cordage, besides stomach drops for the balloon. Stomach drops blow a person up so easily and give one the heaves. They are what make the report in the cannon's stomach."
"By all means." The Princess's papa gave him everything that he asked. The whole court, and all the populace gathered together to see the casting of the big cannon. The Profesor did not call them until he had the ballon all ready to be filled and to go up. The flea sat there upon the Princess's hand, and looked on as the ballon was filled. It swelled out and became so violent that they could scarcely hold it down.
"I must take it up in the air to cool it off," said the Professor who took his seat in the basket that hung underneath.
"But - I cannot steer it alone, I must have a trained companion to help me. There is no one here who can do that except the flea." - "I am not at all willing to permit it," said the Princes, but she held out her hand and gave the flea to the Professor, who placed it on his wrist.
"Let go the lines and ropes!" he shouted. "Now the balloon is going up." They thought he said "the cannon." So the balloon went higher and higher, up above the clouds and far away from that savage land.
The little Princess, her family, and all of her subjects sat and waited. They are waiting there still, and if you don't believe this, just you take a journey to the country of savages. Every child there is talking about the Professor and the flea, whom they expect back as soon as the cannon cools off.
But they won't be back. They are at home here with us. They are in their native land. They travel by rail, first-class, not fourth. For they have a great success, an enormous balloon. Nobody asks them how they got their balloon, or where it came from. They are wealthy folk now - oh, most respectable folk - the flea and the Professor.
Der var en luftskipper, ham gik det galt, ballonen sprak, manden dumpede og slog sig i stykker. Sin dreng havde han to minutter forud sendt ned med faldskærm, det var drengens lykke. Han var uskadt og gik om med store kundskaber til at blive luftskipper, men han havde ikke ballon og ikke midler til at skaffe sig denne.
Leve måtte han, og så lagde han sig efter behændighedskunster, og at kunne tale med maven, det kaldes at være bugtaler. Ung var han og så godt ud, og da han fik mundskæg og kom i gode klæder, kunne han antages for et grevebarn. Damerne fandt ham smuk, ja en jomfru blev så betaget af hans dejlighed og hans behændighedskunst, at hun fulgte med ham til fremmede byer og lande. Der kaldte han sig professor, mindre kunne det ikke være.
Hans stadige tanke var at få sig en luftballon og gå til vejrs med sin lille kone, men de havde endnu ikke midlerne.
"De kommer!" sagde han.
"Bare de ville!" sagde hun.
"Vi er jo unge folk! og nu er jeg professor. Smuler er også brød!"
Hun hjalp ham troligt, sad ved døren og solgte billetter til forestillingen, og det var en kold fornøjelse om vinteren. Hun hjalp ham også i et kunststykke. Han puttede sin kone i bordskuffen, en stor bordskuffe. Der krøb hun ind i bagskuffen, og så var hun ikke at se i forskuffen. Det var som en øjenforblændelse.
Men en aften da han trak skuffen ud, var hun også borte fra ham. Hun var ikke i forskuffen, ikke i bagskuffen, ikke i hele huset, ikke at se, ikke at høre. Det var hendes behændighedskunst. Hun kom aldrig igen. Hun var ked af det, og han blev ked i det, tabte sit gode humør, kunne ikke mere le og gøre løjer, og så kom der ingen folk. Fortjenesten blev dårlig, klæderne blev dårlige. Han ejede til sidst kun en stor loppe, et arvegods efter konen, og derfor holdt han så meget af den. Så dresserede han den, lærte den behændighedskunster, lærte den at præsentere gevær og skyde en kanon af, men lille.
Professoren var stolt af loppen, og den var stolt af sig selv. Den havde lært noget og havde menneskeblod og været i de største byer, var blevet set af prinser og prinsesser, havde vundet deres høje bifald. Det stod trykt i aviser og på plakater. Den vidste, at den var en berømthed og kunne ernære en professor, ja en hel familie.
Stolt var den og berømt var den, og dog, når den og professoren rejste, tog de på jernbane fjerde plads. Den kommer lige så hurtig som første. Det var et stiltiende løfte, at de aldrig ville skilles ad, aldrig gifte sig, loppen ville forblive ungkarl og professoren enkemand. Det går lige op.
"Hvor man gør størst lykke," sagde professoren, "der skal man ikke komme to gange!" Han var en menneskekender og det er også en kundskab.
Til sidst havde han berejst alle lande, uden de vildes land. Og så ville han til de vildes land. Der æder de rigtignok kristne mennesker, vidste professoren, men han var ikke rigtig kristen og loppen var ikke rigtig menneske, så mente han, at de nok turde rejse der og have en god fortjeneste.
De rejste med dampskib og med sejlskib. Loppen gjorde sine kunster, og så havde de fri rejse undervejs og kom til de vildes land.
Her regerede en lille prinsesse, hun var kun otte år, men hun regerede. Hun havde taget magten fra fader og moder, for hun havde en vilje og var så mageløs yndig og uartig.
Straks, da loppen præsenterede gevær og skød kanonen af, blev hun så indtagen i loppen, at hun sagde: "Ham eller ingen!" Hun blev ganske vild af kærlighed og var jo allerede vild i forvejen.
"Søde, lille, fornuftige barn!" sagde hendes fader, "kunne man først gøre et menneske af den!"
"Det lader du mig om, gamle!" sagde hun, og det var ikke net sagt af en lille prinsesse, der taler til sin fader, men hun var vild.
Hun satte loppen på sin lille hånd.
"Nu er du et menneske, regerende med mig, men du skal gøre hvad jeg vil, ellers slår jeg dig ihjel og spiser professoren."
Professoren fik en stor sal at bo i. Væggene var af sukkerrør, dem kunne han gå og slikke, men han var ikke slikmund. Han fik en hængekøje at sove i, det var, som lå han i en luftballon, den han altid havde ønsket sig, og som var hans stadige tanke.
Loppen blev hos prinsessen, sad på hendes lille hånd og på hendes fine hals. Hun havde taget et hår af sit hoved, det måtte professoren binde loppen om benet, og så holdt hun den bunden til det store koralstykke, hun havde i øreflippen.
Hvor var det en dejlig tid for prinsessen, også for loppen, tænkte hun, men professoren fandt sig ikke tilfreds, han var rejsemand, holdt af at drage fra by til by, læse i aviserne om sin udholdenhed og kløgt i at lære en loppe al menneskelig gerning. dag ud og ind lå han i hængekøjen, dovnede og fik sin gode føde: friske fugleæg, elefantøjne og stegte giraflår. Menneskeæderne lever ikke kun af menneskekød, det er en delikatesse. "Barneskulder med skarp sovs," sagde prinsessemoderen, "er det mest delikate."
Professoren kedede sig og ville gerne bort fra de vildes land, men loppen måtte han have med, den var hans vidunder og levebrød. Hvorledes skulle han fange og få den. Det var ikke så let.
Han anspændte alle sine tænkeevner og så sagde han: "Nu har jeg det!"
"Prinsessefader: Forund mig noget at bestille! Må jeg indøve landets beboere i at præsentere, det er det man i verdens største lande kalder dannelse!"
"Og hvad kan du lære mig!" spurgte prinsessefaderen.
"Min største kunst," sagde professoren, "at fyre en kanon af så hele jorden bæver, og alle himlens lækreste fugle falder stegte ned! Det er der knald ved!"
"Kom med kanonen!" sagde prinsessefaderen.
Men i hele landet var der ingen kanon, uden den loppen havde bragt, og den var for lille.
"Jeg støber en større!" sagde professoren. "Giv mig bare midlerne! Jeg må have fint silketøj, nål og tråd, tov og snor, samt mavedråber for luftballoner, de blæser op, letter og løfter. De giver knaldet i kanonmaven."
Alt hvad han forlangte fik han.
Hele landet kom sammen for at se den store kanon. Professoren kaldte ikke, før han havde ballonen hel færdig til at fylde og gå op.
Loppen sad på prinsessens hånd og så til. Ballonen blev fyldt, den bovnede og kunne næppe holdes, så vild var den.
"Jeg må have den til vejrs, at den kan blive afkølet," sagde professoren og satte sig i kurven, der hang under den. "Ene kan jeg ikke magte at styre den. Jeg må have en kyndig kammerat med, for at hjælpe mig. Her er ingen der kan det uden loppen!"
"Jeg tillader det nødig!" sagde prinsessen, men rakte dog loppen til professoren, som satte den på sin hånd.
"Slip snore og tov!" sagde han. "Nu går ballonen!"
De troede han sagde: "kanonen!"
Og så gik ballonen højere og højere, op over skyerne, bort fra de vildes land.
Den lille prinsesse, hendes fader og moder, hele folket med stod og ventede. De venter endnu, og tror du det ikke, så rejs til de vildes land, der taler hvert barn om loppen og professoren, tror at de kommer igen, når kanonen er kølet af, men de kommer ikke, de er hjemme hos os, de er i deres fædreland, kører på jernbane, første plads, ikke fjerde. De har god fortjeneste, stor ballon. Ingen spørger, hvorledes de har fået ballonen eller hvorfra de har den, de er holdne folk, hædrede folk, loppen og professoren.