The Man who never Laughed
Then the damsel said to him, “Know, O king, that I am the queen of this land, and all these troops that thou hast seen, including every one, whether of cavalry or infantry, are women. There are not among them any men. The men among us, in this land, till and sow and reap, employing themselves in the cultivation of the land, and the building and repairing of the towns, and in attending to the affairs of the people, by the pursuit of every kind of art and trade; but as to the women, they are the governors and magistrates and soldiers.” And the young man wondered at this extremely. And while they were thus conversing, the vizier entered; and lo! she was a grey-haired old woman, having a numerous retinue, of venerable and dignified appearance; and the queen said to her, “Bring to us the Kádee and the witnesses.” So the old woman went for that purpose. And the queen turned towards the young man, conversing with him and cheering him, and dispelling his fear by kind words; and, addressing him courteously, she said to him, “Art thou content for me to be thy wife?” And thereupon he arose and kissed the ground before her; but she forbade him; and he replied, “O my mistress, I am less than the servants who serve thee.” She then said to him, “Seest thou not these servants and soldiers and wealth and treasures and hoards?” He answered her, “Yes.” And she said to him, “All these are at thy disposal; thou shalt make use of them, and give and bestow as seemeth fit to thee.” Then she pointed to a closed door, and said to him, “All these things thou shalt dispose of; but this door thou shalt not open; for if thou open it, thou wilt repent, when repentance will not avail thee.” Her words were not ended when the vizier, with the Kádee and the witnesses, entered, and all of them were old women, with their hair spreading over their shoulders, and of venerable and dignified appearance. When they came before the queen, she ordered them to perform the ceremony of the marriage-contract. So they married her to the young man.