Children are facing a time of increased solitude. I am writing the story The Secret Prince to show them a child who faces a similar situation in which he is stuck at home (well, a castle in his case). A flood surrounds the castle and Prince Ronduin can not go to school in the village and cannot run through the woods. How does he pass his time? Can Ronduin be a role model for children today? Can the story help to normalize their experience? I’ve been pleased to learn that a small but growing group of families is reading this to their children as the story grows. My goal is to add a chapter each Monday and Thursday. Perhaps you will join us. If you are new to this story, start here:
You will find a link to the next chapter at the end of each chapter.
“Where is this boat?” asked Ronduin as he and Sir Andrew descended the spiral staircase.
“You’ve been looking at it since you were a babe,” said Sir Andrew, laughing.
Now, they rounded a curve. There should have been five more steps to the landing, but, instead, Ronduin looked at water. Flood waters had risen to cover the bottom steps and, as Ronduin looked out toward the wide open doors of the great dining hall, he saw water everywhere. Peering through the dimness, he could see that the long table and the velvet covered chairs were missing. No doubt they had been carried to the second floor. Instead of the usual furniture, Ronduin was surprised to see that scaffolding had been set up to hold planks that led from into the dining hall.
The scaffolding did not reach the stairway. Instead, a long, single, narrow board was supported by a step on one end and, on the other end, the platform made by the scaffold. Sir Andrew said, “Wait until I cross.” The board sagged as he crossed it, but he kept his balance and, stepping onto the more stable platform, he turned to Ronduin and said, “Now you walk across.” Ronduin moved quickly across the narrow plank with grace and ease.
Together, they walked down the wooden pathway that crossed the entry hall and trough the open doors into the dining hall. This wooden pathway over water reminded Ronduin of the docks he had visited at the sea shore. “But,” he thought, “this is not the same at all. There should not be a dock in the great dining hall!”
And, then, there it was, tied to the makeshift dock, a big green rowboat. Ronduin looked at the boat and then he looked up toward the high ceiling remembering that once a green boat hung high above the room, held by stout ropes. He had always thought the boat was a decoration. Now he realized it had a purpose. The ropes that once held the boat hung slack from the ceiling and the green boat floated by a dock where there should have been a long banquet table.
“In you go,” said Sir Andrew, taking Ronduin’s hand so he could step across the water into the green boat. Ronduin sat on the thwart and Sir Andrew stepped into the boat and picked up one of the two oars that lay in the vessel. “Can you untie us? Then we’ll be off across this small sea,” said Sir Andrew smiling.
Ronduin untied the rope and then Sir Andrew used the oar as a pole to push the boat out the great doors into the hallway toward and the bottom of the stone stairs. Here he pivoted the boat and poled the craft backwards to the bottom step.”
“Now, Ronduin, please step out and hold the boat in place. There seems to be no place to tie the boat except for that wobbly board and I fear that, if we tied to the board, the boat would pull it into the water and they would both float away. So, holding the boat will be your job while we get people and supplies on board.”
Stepping off the boat onto the stairs, Sir Andrew said, “Hold tight. I’ll be right back.” And then he was bounding up the spiral stairs and soon out of sight.
Ronduin sat alone on the cold, damp stone step holding the transom of the green boat. Sir Andrew’s footsteps, loud at first, became softer, softer until Ronduin heard the creaky opening and closing of the heavy oak door at the second floor landing. Light filtered through small windows in the stairwell, brightening the surface of the water that had transformed the ground floor of the castle into a small lake.
Ronduin felt as if he were in a dream. Nothing about sitting on a step holding a rowboat from floating away inside the castle felt familiar. Yet, even as even the dreams in which he could fly or speak with animals made sense sense as he was dreaming them, somehow, this made sense too.
Ronduin sat holding the boat for a long time. He didn’t decide to start humming and then singing. It just seemed to happen. The sound of his gentle voice echoed faintly off the castle walls. He made up songs about ducks swimming in a circle, about a green boat on a great sea, about the sun coming out and drying the land and the green grass growing and the trees budding and the flowers blooming, about running to the spring festival.
And then the door creaked again. This time the footfalls were softer and slower and soon his mother stood beside him, her arms very full with a cloth grain bag.
“Thank you for holding the boat,” she said, setting the bag three steps up from Ronduin on a dry area. “We are sending all the villagers home with bags of grains and dried pease and turnips and onions so they and their families will have enough to eat while we wait for dry land to appear. We will send five villagers and their supplies in this first trip.
Sounds of voices filled the stairway.
“Ah, here they come now,” she said.
Soon the boat was laden with bags and baskets full of food and five workers stood on the steps ready to board the boat. Sir Andrew stood next to Ronduin who had continued to hold the boat in place as people loaded the supplies. The first worker had just stepped into the green rowboat when the King’s strong voice could be heard high above them booming into the stairway.
“The storm has returned with great wind and heavy downpours,” he shouted.
The people standing in the stairway let out a long sigh.
Ronduin sighed too.
Find Chapter Seven here https://childrengrowing.com/2020/03/27/the-secret-prince-chapter-seven-three-linen-bags/