Queen Maurice was rich and she was lonely. [image 1] She wanted some company. A bird, perhaps, or a dog.
She was tired of counting the diamonds on her tiara, tired of trying on new dresses, and tired of playing her grand piano. She was bored, BORED, bored!
Her loyal butler Daniel had just the solution. He brought in colourful birds. There were pink flamingos, green parrots and even yellow hummingbirds. "They're from all over the country," he winked.
He also brought in all sorts of dogs, from waist-high golden retrievers to tiny chihuahuas. "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. [image 2] Purebreds or not, they barked and ran around 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. He even ordered her favourite desserts for the ball. After all, a triple-layered chocolate cake was sure to make anyone happy.
Queen Maurice signed every royal invitation with her name in glittery 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. She and Daniel welcomed the guests at the double doors that opened to reveal her ballroom.
The guests wore all sorts of clothes. Queen Maurice saw neat tuxedos and ironed shirts, satin skirts and puffed sleeves. The funniest, however, was the man who wore pajamas!
All of their eyes grew twice their size at the sight of her enormous ballroom.The ceiling must have been at least three stories high [image 3], 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. Queen Maurice smiled proudly.
She clapped her hands twice, loudly in the air. Everyone turned to look at her. "Let the ball begin!" she announced, and the musicians began to play their instruments.
Queen Maurice sat on her 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?"
Daniel answered quickly. "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, one butler, 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 her smile. All of a sudden, Queen Maurice looked very beautiful tonight.
"Yes, of course! That would be very lovely."
She had the most magical time. She danced with Daniel and the town chef, Jacques, who made the most delicious dessert selection tonight.
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 in response. Queen Maurice laughed again, this time sharing a secret smile with Violet. Rather than annoying, the dogs seemed to be amusing instead!
The smile and the wonderful memories stayed with Queen Maurice - for the entire evening, and the many days to come.
After all, she had friends now. This knowledge was enough to keep Queen Maurice the happiest she ever was.