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scorn utterly. A Perote lady (and a Perote
lady is the very essence of fine ladyism)
will often stop several times in the course
of a flirtation, languidly to catch a flea
upon her dress: feebly smiling while she
twiddles him in her fingers, and then
passively dropping him on the floor. Two
grave Galata merchants will stop in the
midst of a bargain sportively to catch a
flea on the shirt front of an acquaintance;
and cracking out his crisp life on the
counter, will proceed to draw a bill on
London or to discuss the exchange, the
depreciation of Kaim├ęs, and the rise of gold.

No individual throughout the country
seems to be able to resist the fascination
of hunting a flea wherever he sees him.
What trapping was to the Red Indians
what the fox-chase was to the squire of our
childhoodflea-hunting is to the Oriental:
it is a passiona delight. As soon as the
lively little game breaks cover, no matter
where or when, the eyes of the Perote light
up with an unwonted fire; a keen sporting
expression passes over his face; he raises
his hand stealthily by a sort of instinct;
the certainty of his aim might pass into
a proverb, and the next moment the
hand has descended, and the Perote is
twiddling his finger and thumb with tranquil
satisfaction, and has resumed his occupation,
be it what it may. He would stop to catch
a flea, on his way to be hanged or to be
married. He must have missed appointments,
lost fortunes, by the habit; but it is
engrafted in his nature, and is unconquerable.

I have gone into rooms where fleas lay
thick as dust upon the floor, and each of my
steps must have killed hundreds of them;
but if I ever ventured to express the smallest
distress upon the occasion, I became as
incomprehensible to the men of Pera, as
if I had told a Chinese I disliked stewed
dog.

They will even argue the point with you,
if you press them closely, and maintain that
the flea is like the elder Mirabeauthe
friend of men. They will tell you that fleas
keep up an irritation on the skin which is
highly beneficial in a hot country, and
prevents the accumulation of morbid humours.
On my remonstrating also with an hotel
waiter about finding them constantly in
the bread (some baked and some alive),
that individual, who spoke all the languages
of the world in bad French, assured me the
baker had a superstition about them, and
thought them lucky! Pumping him with
a light hand, I found he was not quite free
from the same idea himself, and that it obtains
generally throughout the country. He said,
that to allay the irritation they occasioned,
was at all times a pleasing occupation;
that it was to be remarked, no flea ever bit
a man in a dangerous place, or injured his eye,
or his ear, or opened an artery: therefore
fleas were the friends of men. He did not
know (nor do I) what many of the Perote
gentlemen would do if it were not for the
unfailing entertainment supplied by fleas. He
believed they kept people who had nothing to
do, out of mischief. He said that the
courteous catching of a flea upon the person of
another, offered a frequent and pleasant
opportunity of commencing a conversation, or
beginning an acquaintance. That acquaintances
so formed had often ripened into warm
and lasting friendships. He had even
known more than one instance of Perote
marriages brought about by a cheerful and
inoffensive gallantry of this kind. He was
much surprised at the unjustifiable anger
of an English lady at dinner, upon whose
shoulder he had succeeded in catching a
flea by an adroit movement of his left hand
while his right was occupied in presenting
her a dish of kid stuffed with chestnuts.
She screamed, and her gentleman threatened
to horsewhip him. He confessed his feelings
were hurt and his reason confounded by this
behaviour on the part of my country
people. No Perote lady would have raised
her eyes from her plate during such an
occurrence.

I endeavoured to soothe him by saying we
were a people who lived in an inclement
climate, and to whom, therefore, the utility
of the flea was comparatively unknown;
but he would not credit it. He could not
bring his mind to bear all at once on a
fact which appeared to him so remarkable.
I was like the Christian knight who told
an African king that he could ride his
horse dry-footed over some of our rivers in
winter; and who was immediately bow-
strung.

I remember a personage of no mean rank
once calling my attention specially to see
him hunt and kill two fleas, who were
reposing together on the linen cover of a
sofa. He began by rousing them into flight
with the golden point of his pencil, and
then pursued them in a state of the liveliest
excitement for some minutes. (He had a
long white beard, and was a man of an
august presence.) At length he ran down
his game, and taking them in the usual way
between his finger and thumb, finally slew
them upon the pipestick of a brother sportsman
who offered it spontaneously for the
purpose.

In the mosques, in the market-place, in the
palace by the sweet cool seaside, and in the
coffee-houses in the hot and sultry town
wherever there is a Perote there is a flea,
and the Perote's greatest delight is to
capture it.

NEW YEAR'S EVE

The shut-out wind is humming,
  The trees are dark and still;
No sound is in the valley,
  No sound is on the hill;

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