Once upon a time, in a palace, there was a huge and beautiful bed with soft pillows and warm sheets. The mattress was filled with feathers, and was fit for a king, for it was the king himself who slept on it. In a corner of this wonderful bed lived a flea with her family.
Every night, when the king was deep in sleep, the flea bit him and drank his blood. She was careful not to bite the king before he was fast asleep, and wasn’t too greedy, and just bit him once, so the king never realized her presence. Thus, she continued to live on the bed, undiscovered, and soon grew plump and healthy, feasting on the royal blood. Her family too learnt the art of sucking blood inconspicuously, and prospered on this feast.
One day, a mosquito happened to enter the royal chamber through an open window. She saw the wonderful bed and the decorations, and realized that it must be some great personage who resided there. She wondered how the blood of such a rich man would taste, and decided to stay back to try it out.
The flea saw the mosquito and asked, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
The mosquito replied, “I am a mosquito, and I have come from the stagnant pond outside the garden. I am tired and hungry. Could I please stay here tonight?”
The flea angrily replied, “No, you cannot. This is my area, and I have not invited you. I do not like strangers, so leave at once!”
The mosquito continued to plead. She said, “Please allow me to stay here just for the night. I can see that you are healthy and strong. The person who sleeps here must indeed be something special, since you are well fed. Look at me; I am so thin because I have not tasted good blood in a very long time. I have been living only on the blood of the vagrants who sleep near my pond, and their blood is as thin as water, for they are a malnourished lot. Please tell me who is it that sleeps in this magnificent bed!”
The flea replied, “You are right. It is no ordinary human who sleeps in this bed. This is the abode of the king himself, and it is on his blood that we feed everyday. I have lived here all my life, and have learnt to suck the king’s blood without making him aware of me. I have marked out my area, and no one is allowed here. So please leave. I am sure you will find other beds in the palace with other occupants as well nourished as the king.”
The mosquito would not give up so easily. “Please, please allow me to stay just for tonight” he said, but the flea was adamant in her refusal.
As a last resort, the mosquito resorted to flattery. “You are blessed to feast on the king’s blood. Indeed, you are the king of us vermin. I am a simple insect who has come to ask you for help. Will you turn me away without even a meal? I have never tasted royal blood, and am not likely to do so again. Please do not turn me away like this.”
The poor flea was moved by this entreaty. She did not have the heart to turn away such a supplicant, and relented. But she also laid down a condition. She said, “All right. You may stay here tonight and taste royal blood, but since you are in my domain, you must follow my rules. Do you agree?”
The mosquito was thrilled, and agreed. She said, “Thank you so much for allowing me this pleasure Please tell me your rules. I shall surely obey them.”
The flea replied, “There is a place and time for every deed. You must only bite the king at the right place and at the right time.”
The mosquito said, “I am an ignorant mosquito. Please tell me which is the right place and the right time.”
The flea was happy to enlighten the mosquito. She said, “You must only bite the king when he is fast asleep. That is the right time. Further, you must bite him only on the feet where the sensations are the least. That is the right place.”
The mosquito replied, “Thank you for teaching me. I shall abide by your rules.”
The mosquito waited in a corner of the room, while the flea returned to her home in the mattress. Soon, night fell, and the king returned to his room. The mosquito was awed by the sight of the royal personage, and looked forward to tasting his blood.
As the king got into the bed and closed his eyes, the mosquito was overwhelmed by her good fortune, and forgot all the warnings and the rules laid down by the flea. She rushed to the king and bit him on his arm!
The king was not yet asleep, and the mosquito bite seemed to him like the sting of a scorpion! He woke up in alarm and called out to his guards –“There is some insect on my bed which just bit me. Find it at once and kill it!”
As the guards began combing the mattress and the pillow for the insect, the mosquito flew away. Meanwhile, the guards found the flea and its family in a crevice, and killed all of them!
Thus, the mosquito brought about the destruction of the family who had granted him sanctuary. This is why we must never trust strangers or allow them into our homes.