Queen Maurice was rich and she was lonely. She wanted some company. A bird, perhaps, or a dog.
She found birds too noisy. She found dogs too...lively.
She sat alone on her throne and wished for company.
"Your majesty, maybe you can invite guests." Her loyal butler Daniel smiled. "I can help."
"Yes please, Daniel. Invite fifty people -- no, hundreds!" She was so excited, she leapt onto her throne. At last, she would have friends!
Daniel prepared a long list of people from all over the country. He wrote the names and addresses of noble families, villagers and children. He stayed up late to finish the list. He hoped Queen Maurice would like them.
Queen Maurice signed every royal invitation. Oh, how thrilled she was when the replies came back! She would hold the most royal and festive ball in the kingdom.
On the special evening, she wore her best green gown and her favourite tiara. The guests were friendly and nice. As she sat on the throne and watched them dance, she counted one hundred and twenty-two people. One hundred and twenty-three, including Daniel.
"Daniel," she asked suddenly. "What do friends do?"
"Friends talk and laugh together. They share stories and fun. They enjoy each other's company, like tonight."
She thought about the words Daniel used. Together, fun, company? If so, she had zero friends. She covered her face with her hands to hide her tears.
"What's wrong?" Daniel asked, worried.
"I see one hundred and twenty-three people, but none of them are my friends. I am lonelier than ever."
Daniel passed her a handkerchief to dry her tears. He said wisely, "Sitting here will not bring you any friends. However, if you would dance with me, I will gladly be your first friend."
Queen Maurice lifted her head and smiled widely. It was such a wide smile, the guests near her noticed. Some even stopped dancing to smile at the smile. Suddenly, Queen Maurice looked very beautiful tonight.
"Yes, of course! That would be very lovely."
The smile stayed with Queen Maurice - for the entire evening, and the many days to come.