The Three Delicate Wives of King Virtue-banner.
Which is the most delicate?
Which is the most delicate?
Then the king went to the sissoo tree, put the goblin on his shoulder once more, and started toward the monk. And as he walked along, the goblin on his shoulder said: "O King, I will tell you a strange story to relieve your weariness. Listen."
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There once was a king in Ujjain whose name was Virtue-banner. He had three princesses as wives and loved them dearly. One of them was named Crescent, the second Star, and the third Moon. While the king lived happily with his wives, he conquered all his enemies, and was content.
One day at the time of the spring festival, the king went to the garden to play with his three wives. There he looked at the flower-laden vines with black rows of bees on them; they seemed like the bow of the god of love, all ready for service. He heard the songs of nightingales in the trees; they sounded like commands of Love. And with his wives he drank wine which seemed like Love's very life-blood.
Then the king playfully pulled the hair of Queen Crescent, and a lotus-petal fell from her hair into her lap. And the queen was so delicate that it wounded her, and she screamed and fainted. And the king was distracted, but when servants sprinkled her with cool water and fanned her, she gradually recovered consciousness. And the king took her to the palace and waited upon his dear wife with a hundred remedies which the physicians brought.
And when the king saw that she was made comfortable for the night, he went to the palace balcony with his second wife Star. Now while she slept on the king's breast, the moonbeams found their way through the window and fell upon her. And she awoke in a moment and started up, crying "I am burned!" Then the king awoke and anxiously asked what the matter was, and he saw great blisters on her body. When he asked her about it, Queen Star said: "The moonbeams that fell on me did it." And the king was distracted when he saw how she wept and suffered. He called the servants and they made a couch of moist lotus-leaves, and dressed her wounds with damp sandal-paste.
At that moment the third queen, Moon, left her room to go to the king. And as she moved through the noiseless night, she clearly heard in a distant part of the palace the sound of pestles grinding grain. And she cried: "Oh, oh! It will kill me!" She wrung her hands and sat down in agony in the hall. But her servants returned and led her to her room, where she took to her bed and wept. And when the servants asked what the matter was, she tearfully showed her hands with bruises on them, like two lilies with black bees clinging to them. So they went and told the king. And he came in great distress, and asked his dear wife about it. She showed her hands and spoke, though she suffered: "My dear, when I heard the sound of the pestles, these bruises came." Then the king made them give her a cooling plaster of sandal-paste and other things.
And the king thought: "One of them was wounded by a falling lotus-petal. The second was burned by the moonbeams. The third had her hands terribly bruised by the sound of pestles. I love them dearly, but alas! The very delicacy which is so great a virtue, is positively inconvenient."
And he wandered about in the palace, and it seemed as if the night had three hundred hours. But in the morning the king and his skilful physicians took such measures that before long his wives were well and he was happy.
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When he had told this story, the goblin asked: "O King, which of them was the most delicate?"
And the king said: "The one who was bruised by the mere sound of the pestles, when nothing touched her. The other two who were wounded or blistered by actual contact with lotus-petals or moonbeams, are not equal to her."
When the goblin heard this, he went back, and the king resolutely hastened to catch him again.
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