She was tired of admiring the paintings of her or listening to poems written about her. She was bored, bored, bored!
Her loyal butler Daniel brought in colourful birds, "From all over the country," he winked. He also brought in all sorts of dogs, from golden retrievers to labradors. "These dogs are purebreds, Queen Maurice. The best of the best."
The animals seemed like a wonderful addition...at first. She soon found birds too noisy and dogs too lively. Purebreds or not, they barked too much!
She sat alone on her throne and wished for company.
"Your majesty, maybe you can invite guests." Daniel smiled. "I can help."
"Yes please, Daniel. Invite fifty people -- no, hundreds!" She was so excited, she leapt off 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. She hardly smiled these days. He made sure the kitchen staff knew how to prepare her favourite foods.
Queen Maurice signed every royal invitation with her name in pink ink. 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 easily impressed. Their eyes grew twice their size at the sight of her enormous ballroom.The ceiling must have been at least three stories high, and the floor gleamed like a mirror. They could see the moon from the floor-to-ceiling windows! They oohed and aahed over her throne, which was padded with the softest cotton and decorated with many precious stones. For the first time, Queen Maurice felt like she could have friends.
The moon rose even higher in the sky as the dances went on.
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. He was standing beside her so quietly, she almost missed him out.
"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 a hundred and twenty-two guests and 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 my friends. I thought the party was supposed to bring me many friends, yet 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 noticed. Some nearby even stopped dancing to smile at the smile. Suddenly, Queen Maurice looked very beautiful tonight.
"Yes, of course! That would be very lovely."
She had a most magical time. She danced with Daniel and the chef, Jacques, who made the delicious desert selection tonight. She thought she would end the night with hundreds of friends but for now, two was just as splendid.
She even laughed together with a small village girl named Violet when they saw one of the many purebred dogs slip across the polished floor.
"Silly goose!" Queen Maurice called to him. The dog barked at them. Queen Maurice laughed again, this time sharing a secret smile with Violet. The dogs were not annoying anymore; they seemed to be amusing instead!
The smile stayed with Queen Maurice - for the entire evening, and the many days to come. She had friends now, and this knowledge was enough to keep Queen Maurice the happiest she ever was.