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.
Ronduin tucked the golden chicken into the turnip basket and closed the top basket. Then he reached out toward Sir Andrew who carefully placed the red hen in his hands. “It’s OK little bird,” said Ronduin softly as he tucked the red chicken under his arm and stroked her head. “I’m going to put you in with your friend now and soon I will take you to your new home.” Ronduin tucked the red hen into the double basket next to the golden hen and pulled a string out of his pocket and tied the handles together.
At that moment the door squeaked opened at the top of the stairs and six people, each carrying a bag loaded with vegetables, hurried down the stone stairs. Ronduin moved the chicken baskets to the step behind him so there would be space on the stairs for people to pass. Then he grabbed the stern of the boat while Sir Andrew stepped out to make space for three people to move into into the forward part of the boat. Next, Sir Andrew stepped into the middle of the boat and sat next to the oarlocks. He was followed by three more people who sat in the wide end of the boat. The last person in line was Ricard, Mirabel’s father. He hugged the blue wool bag of vegetables close to his chest.
Just at that moment, Ronduin heard a booming voice at the top of the stairs. “We will leave these bags on the steps,” he said, “they can take whatever fits in each boatload.”
The King and a helper each carried two big grain bags down the steps and placed them behind the chicken baskets.
“Did you catch both hens?” asked Ronduin’s father.
“We did and they are in these baskets,” said Ronduin.
After the boat leaves, I’ll help you carry them to the balcony,” said his father.
Speaking to Sir Andrew, the King asked, “How many grain bags do you think you can carry?”
“At least two,” said Sir Andrew.
Ronduin steadied the boat and the King passed a heavy bag to Ricard who passed it to Sir Andrew who passed it to someone who nestled it into the bow of the boat. The second bag was passed along the same way. Ronduin smiled as he thought of the village people eating bowls of porridge made from the grain in these bags.
Ronduin noticed that now the boat sat much deeper in the water than it had when it arrived. “I think the boat is full enough,”said Ronduin to his father. “I agree,” said the King.
“We will keep a look out for you coming back,” said the King to Sir Andrew. “And safe journey to all of you,” he said to the villagers in the green boat.
“Thank you,” said Ricard to the King, “for sending us home to our families.”
Sir Andrew nodded at Ronduin who let go of the boat. Ronduin watched as he poled the boat full of workers and bags of vegetables and bags of grain out into the open doorway and onto the wide expanse of water. Ronduin waved and Ricard waved back.
The King’s helper had gone back to work. Now Ronduin and his father were alone. It was very quiet. Ronduin peeked into the chicken baskets and saw that the hens were sleeping. Ronduin and his father sat on the step together watching the ripples the boat had left behind move across the water in the entry way of the castle.
“Strange times,” said the King.
Ronduin nodded and leaned his head onto his father’s arm and took a deep breath. It is strange, he thought, to be sitting on a stone step in the castle with his father and two chickens and to watch boat go through the doorway and head out on what looked like a sea.
But, somehow, it was good, too. They sat quietly for some time and then Ronduin’s father reached into a pocket and took out something wrapped in a cloth. “Agnes thought we might want this,” he said.
Ronduin opened up the cloth and, when he saw two small meat pies, he realized that he was hungry.
Ronduin and his father sat together and ate.
“You know,” said his father, “It will be very quiet here when everyone has gone back to the village. The only people in the castle will be Agnes and you and your mother and I. And, of course, Roland will be with the animals in the barn, but we can’t get to him once the boat has gone to the village.”
“But won’t Sir Andrew bring the boat back?” asked Ronduin.”
“Your mother and I and Sir Andrew decided he should stay in the village after taking the third boatload tomorrow,” said Ronduin’s father. “Agnes says the water is deeper than it was during the last big flood, so it will take many, many days for the water to drain away. He can use the boat to get around in town for awhile. Then the time of mud will begin.”
Just then the chickens started clucking.
“They might be hungry,” said Ronduin. “I have a little pie left.”
Ronduin crushed his remaining pie crust into little crumbs. He opened the basket and placed the crumbs next to the hens who ate them quickly.
Ronduin’s father reached into the basket and lifted the red chicken and tucked her under his arm.”
Ronduin did the same with the golden chicken.
“You know,” said Ronduin’s father, “Since there are two of us, it would be easier to carry the hens like this than in the baskets.”
“I think so too,” said Ronduin, stroking the head of the golden chicken.
The third floor balcony had not been built for chickens, but it made for a good home for two hens except for the fact that there were no worms to be found. It was just a bit bigger than Ronduin’s bed. One end of the balcony had a roof and the other end was open to the sky.
Ronduin could hear the banging of hammers and, across the courtyard, he could see people up on the roof finishing the repairs. His father had said that the roof would be fixed by the end of the day and that, the on the morrow, Sir Andrew would take the rest of the workers to their homes. His father had told him as well that he, himself, would meet Sir Andrew upon his return today, for he was eager to hear how people were doing in the village. He had said that Ronduin should spend the rest of the day getting the chickens settled in their new home.
Roduin put the two baskets on their sides and wedged them into the corner under the roof where they would stay dry in rain. Then he went to the storeroom to get straw usually used for mattresses. He carried a big bag of it back to the balcony and put a few handfuls in each basket and he strewed the rest over the floor. Next, he made a trip to the new kitchen where Agnes gave him some oats and kitchen scraps. He brought these and a bowl of water to the hens.
“Now I’m done,” he said to himself, smiling. Ronduin sat cross legged on the end of the balcony that was open to the sky. He sang a little song that came into his mind and into his voice as he sang it.
Two chickens they flew into a boat
hey diddle dee dee
And to the castle they did float
hey hey diddle dee day
No grass, no land did they espy
hey now diddle dee dum
Live on a balcony now did they eating oats and bits of old pie
Ronduin sang this again and again until the sky turned pink, then reddish orange.
For just a few seconds the color of the sky was almost a match for the color of the reddish hen.
“I’ll call you Sunset,” Ronduin said to the red chicken.
“And your name is Sunrise,” said Ronduin to the golden chicken.
Here is the portal to Chapter 12:
Some teacher and parents are using The Secret Prince as a focal point for lessons or to inspire projects. Children are drawing pictures to illustrate the story, making jump ropes and learning to sew. You are welcome to join us on Facebook at The Secret Prince Story Community https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/ . Here can discuss ideas for how to work with the story, share pictures and discuss how to use this and other stories to help children cope in this time when their routines have been changed.