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MOST FASTIDIOUS

Then King Vikram again went and took the Betaal from the tree, and carried him along on his shoulder. And as he was going along.

The Betaal again said to the king: “Listen, King, I will tell you a story. In the country of Anga, called Vrikshaghata there lived a rich sacrificing Brahman named Vishnusvamin. He had three sons.

In course of time they grew up to be young men. One day, Brahman want to have sacrifice for the God so he sent those three brothers to the sea to fetch a turtle. So they went, and when they had found a turtle, the eldest said to his two brothers: “Let one of you take the turtle for our father’s sacrifice; I cannot take it, as it is all slippery with slime.”

When the eldest brother said this, the two younger ones answered him: “If you hesitate about taking it, why should not we?”

When the eldest heard that, he said: “You two must take the turtle; if you do not, you will have obstructed our father’s sacrifice, and then you and he will certainly sink down to hell.” When he told the younger ones this they laughed, and said to him: “If you see our duty so clearly, why do you not see that your own is the same?”
Then the eldest said: “What! do you not know how fastidious I am? I am very fastidious about eating, and I cannot be expected to touch what is repulsive.”

The middle brother, when he heard this speech of his, said to his brother: “Then I am a more fastidious person than you, for I am a most fastidious connoisseur of the fair sex.”

When the middle one said this, the eldest went on to say “Then let the younger of you two take the turtle!”
Then the youngest brother frowned, and in his turn said to the two elder: “You fools! I am very fastidious about beds, so I am the most fastidious of the lot.”

So the three brothers fell to quarrelling with one an other, and being completely under the domination of conceit, they left that turtle and went off immediately to the court of the king of that country, whose name was Prasenajit, and who lived in a city named Vitankapura, in order to have the dispute decided.

There they had themselves announced by the warder, and went in, and gave the king a circumstantial account of their case The king said “Wait here, and I will put you all in turn to the proof”; so they agreed and remained there.

At the time that the king took his meal, he had them conducted to a seat of honour and given delicious food fit for a king. possessing all the six flavours. While all were feasting around him, the Brahman who was fastidious about eating, alone of all the company, did not eat, but sat there with his face puckered up with disgust. The king himself asked the Brahman why he did not eat his food, though it was sweet and fragrant. He slowly answered him: “I perceive in his cooked rice an evil smell of the reek from corpses, so I cannot bring myself to eat it, whatsoever delicious it may be.”

When he said this before the assembled multitude, they all smelled it by the king’s orders, and said: “This food is prepared from white rice, and is good and fragrant.”

But the Brahman who was so fastidious about eating would not touch it, but stopped his nose. Then the king reflected, and proceeded to inquire into the matter, and found out from his officers that the food had made from rice which had been grown in a field near the burnlng ghat of a certain village. Then the king was much astonished and, being pleased, he said to him: “In truth you are very particular as to what you eat, so eat of some other dish.”

After they had finished their dinner, the king dismissed the Brahmans to their apartments and sent for the loveliest lady of his court. In the evening he sent that fair one, all whose limbs were of faultless beauty, splendidly adorned, to the second Brahman, who was so squeamish about the fair sex. That matchless kindler of Kama’s flame, with a face like the full moon of midnight, went, escorted by the king’s servants, to the chamber of the Brahman.

When she entered, lighting up the chamber with her brightness, that gentleman who was so fastidious about the fair sex felt quite faint, and stopping his nose with his left hand, said to the king’s servants: “Take her away: if you do not, I am a dead man; a smell comes from her like that of a goat.”

When the king’s servants heard this, they took the bewildered fair one to their sovereign, and told him what had taken place.

The king immediately had the squeamish gentleman sent for, and said to him: “How can this lovely woman, who has perfumed herself , so that she diffuses exquisite fragrance through the whole world, smell like a goat?”

But though the king used this argument with the squeamish gentleman, he stuck to his point. And then the king began to have his doubts on the subject, and at last, artfully framed questions, he elicited from the lady herself that, having been separated in her childhood from her mother and nurse, she had been brought up on goat’ milk.

Then the king was much astonished, and praised highly the discernment of the man who was fastidious about the fair sex, and immediately had given to the third Brahman who was fastidious about beds, in accordance with his taste, a bed composed of seven mattresses placed upon a bedstead.

White smooth sheets and coverlets were laid upon the bed, and the fastidious man slept on it in a splendid room. But before half a watch of the night had passed he rose up from that bed, with his hand pressed to his side, screaming in an agony of pain.

The king’s officers, who were there, saw a red crooked mark on his side, as if a hair had been pressed deep into it. They went and told the king, and the king said to them: “Look and see if there is not something under the mattresses.” So they went and examined the bottom of the mattresses one by one, and they found a hair in the middle of the bedstead underneath them all. And they took it and showed it to the king; and they also brought the man who was fastidious about beds, and when the king saw the state of his body he was astonished. He spent the whole night in wondering how a hair could have made so deep an impression on his skin through seven mattresses.

The Betaal, again asked him a question: “King, tell me which was the most fastidious of these three, who were respectively fastidious about eating, the fair sex, and beds?”

The king replied: “I consider the man who was fastidious about beds in whose case imposition was out of the question, the most fastidious of the three, for the mark produced by the hair was seen conspicuously manifest on his body, whereas the other two may have previously acquired their information from someone else.”
When the king said this, the Betaal left his shoulder, as before, the king again went in quest of him, without being at all depressed



 
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