The Messenger returned to the palace. He had been trying to round up villagers for the upcoming ball that the Prince and the King and Queen were hosting. He walked into the kitchen and he wasn’t surprised to see that the Prince was there.
The young Prince was sitting at the kitchen table which was used daily by the servants. It was a comfortable place to work, rather sunny.
The Prince had finished drawing a picture of a donkey and now he was working on cutting out the tail. (The upcoming ball featured a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, which wasn’t a surprise to anybody. And for the record, one of the Prince’s favorite poems was called “The Donkey,” by G.K. Chesterton.)
When he saw the Messenger walk in, the Prince looked up expectantly.
The Messenger looked rather downcast.
“What did they say?” he said. “Any trouble?”
The Messenger said, “Well, mostly I didn’t hear from them. Some said that they had other plans.”
“What kind of other plans?”
“Well, some people didn’t say, but other people said they were doing other things that day.”
“Yes, like some had something beforehand, and some had something scheduled for the evening.”
“But during the hours of the ball itself?”
“Well, they could have come, but it would have been a squeeze – a full day, you know.”
“I see. And the others?”
“Well, some felt that they wouldn’t be missed, that others would probably go in their place.”
The Prince looked a little sad to hear this.
“And some would attend only if we changed the party to make it into one for children too.”
“And if we didn’t?”
“Then they wouldn’t.”
The Prince said, “I see.”
The Messenger, at this point, began to become more talkative. “But maybe this is all wrong – maybe you should have told me to invite all the children too? Why restrict it to the adults? Isn’t it the case that children are loved in a special way?”
The Prince smiled. “Well, yes, of course I love the children in a special way, but I have their hearts already. The children are already mine.”
The Messenger was visibly confused.
The Prince went on. “But, you see, the adults is what I wanted this time. I wanted to show them my special love. That was the point. And the King wanted to give them a special surprise.”
The Messenger was surprised himself. He hadn’t heard anything about a surprise, but if the King had a surprise, of course the Prince and the Queen would be the first to know about it.
The Messenger was honoured to be given even this much information.
The Prince said, “Yes, a surprise.”
The Messenger suddenly remembered something. “But you know, there were a few people who said they would attend. Some said ‘yes,’ right away and others said ‘yes’ a little later.”
The Prince smiled, almost as if he knew who they were without the Messenger saying anything.
The Prince went back to working on his donkey.
What was he waiting for, the Messenger wondered. Some special last-minute reply from someone?
The Messenger wasn’t sure what to do.
Was it time to shop for potato chips or was it time to go back into the town square to make another announcement or was it time to cancel everything?
The Messenger decided that at a time like this, one could eat a chocolate chip cookie.
The pile was nearby, made just this past Tuesday. He reached for one and it tasted good.
For the moment, he had no troubles at all.
Finally, the cookie was polished off. He looked up at the Prince expectantly, and waited for his next set of orders. What was it to be? Streamers from the dollar store or another announcement?
The Prince smiled broadly and his young eyes twinkled.
The Messenger waited.
“Isn’t it time for you to get changed?” said the Prince.
Uncomprehending, the Messenger said, “Changed?”
The Prince nodded, “You’re one of the guests too, you know. A special invitation, from the King and Queen.”
He pulled out an envelope sealed with the royal seal, and placed it into the Messenger’s hands.
On the front was the Messenger’s name.