The Secret Prince : Chapter Sixteen — A Mystery

Photo by Mattias Russo-Larsson on Unsplash

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 growing group of families is reading this to their children as the story grows. Teachers are also using this story with their classes. My goal is to add a chapter each Monday and Thursday. Perhaps you will join us. Kim Allsup

If you are new to this story, start here: https://childrengrowing.com/2020/03/15/stories-for-children-in-times-of-trouble-storytelling-help-for-parents-in-the-era-of-covid-19/

You will find a link to the next chapter ( as soon as it is available) at the end of each chapter.

Also, consider joining us on Facebook to discuss how to use this story with children at The Secret Prince Story Community. Many thanks to Joel Aragón Colín who is translating the story into Spanish and to Phan Lê Minh who is translating the story into Vietnamese. Please join us for conversations, updates new chapters translations here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/

Chapter 16

“The sun is fully up,” thought Ronduin, smiling.  He put Sunrise down and looked into the two baskets. Each basket held one lovely egg. He put a handful of straw in the empty food bucket and then carefully laid the eggs in the bucket on the straw. 

“Good bye Sunrise, good bye Sunset,” he said as he stepped out the door. 

Ronduin usually moved as quickly as possible as he wove his way around the scaffolding, but, today, carrying a bucket with two precious eggs, he walked slowly down the third floor hallway and down the stairway. 

As he opened the second floor doorway, he almost bumped into Cook Agnes.  “Good Day, Prince Ronduin,” she said, stepping to the side to make room for him to walk beside her.

“Good day to you,” said Ronduin.  

Cook Agnes carried a large basket in her right hand. It was heavy with turnips, onions and carrots. Her left hand grasped a walking stick. 

“Look at those lovely eggs,” she said to Ronduin peering into his bucket. 

Cook Agnes and Ronduin walked slowly down the hallway together, even more slowly than Ronduin had walked on the third floor. Ronduin realized that the heavy basket was hard for her to carry.  

“Let’s trade, said Ronduin. “You take the eggs and I’ll carry the basket.” 

“Thank you,” said Cook Agnes as Ronduin lifted the heavy basket and handed her the light bucket. 

Ronduin wrapped both arms around the big basket. It was heavy, but he had no problem carrying it.  

“The King and Queen ate their morning meal before the sun had fully risen,” said Cook Agnes. “Then we went to the new storage room. It’s quite a mess. When the first floor flooded, the workers were in such a hurry to move the food that they had to leave it in piles on the floor in the new storage room. I came back with a basket full of food and the Queen and the King stayed to organize the food on shelves and tables.”

“Should I go help them?” asked Ronduin.  

“Not today,” Cook Agnes answered. “The Queen told me to bring you with me when I go to the first floor. But first you must eat your porridge.”

                                  #

Cook Agnes and Ronduin sat together in the new kitchen eating porridge. “Why are we going to the first floor?” asked Ronduin. 

“I had just started working in the castle as a kitchen helper when a flood much like this one happened. I was just a bit older than you are now,” said Cook Agnes. “I remembered that the lower stairway near the dining hall was stained from the deep water for many years. When the stain began to fade, they wanted to make a permanent mark that showed the highest level of the water. So, they chiseled out a stone on the side of the step at the high point of the flood. Your parents want us to go down there and try to find the gap in the wall. Then we will know for sure whether this flood is deeper than that one.” 

#

When Ronduin and Cook Agnes stepped into the staircase, Ronduin already felt that something was different. Something had changed since he walked down these stairs to help with the green rowboat. It was something about the sound. The echo of their footsteps sounded different.  

Then he saw it. Midway down the steps, looking out toward the scaffolding, he realized the water had grown higher. Now the water lapped over the edge of the scaffolding. The water had come so high that the plank of wood that had connected the stairs to the temporary dock had floated away. Ronduin spotted the piece of wood floating near the dining hall.  He thought it looked lost and lonely. 

“The water is higher than it was when I was here holding the boat,” said Ronduin. 

“How can that be?” asked Cook Agnes.   

“I don’t understand it either,” said Ronduin. ‘The only rain since Sir Andrew left with the last boatload of workers happened just as the boat entered the forest. It only rained for only a few minutes.” 

Ronduin walked quickly to the last step before the water. Cook Agnes  followed slowly, leaning on her walking stick. She sat down on a dry step and handed Ronduin the walking stick. 

“They chiseled out a stone on that side,” she said, pointing to the left side of the stairway. Use my walking stick to see if you can find the spot with the missing stone.”  

Ronduin took the stick and poked along the wall, checking for a gap one step at a time. “Not this one,” he said as he felt a solid, rock wall along the first underwater step. “And not this one,” he said moving down one more step. “And not this one,” he said as he discovered that the third step also had solid stones alongside it. 

Now Ronduin reached for the fourth step that was underwater, but the stick was too short. He took off his shoes and stockings and stepped onto the the first step underwater. The water felt cold, very cold. His peasant breeches came just past his knees. He thought he could manage to keep them dry, but, when he crouched down to reach the fourth underwater step with the stick, he soaked the edge of his breeches. 

And then, there it was, a gap in the wall. “I found it! I found it!” said Ronduin. “There’s a hole in the wall right next to the fourth step!”

“Oh my!” said Cook Agnes. “Four steps lower than the water level today.” 

Still standing in the cold water, Ronduin looked up the stairwell and carefully counted the dry steps. He counted twice just to be sure. “Twenty-two dry steps to the landing,” he said. 

“I’ve been trying to remember what happened during that flood long ago,” said Cook Agnes. “I don’t remember exactly how many days until the water went down, but it was a long time. And then we still couldn’t travel because the deep mud would eat your boots and lame your horse. The water is deeper now so it will take longer to go away.”

Now Ronduin stepped out of the water. He noticed that the edge of his pants were wet and he felt a sudden chill.

“Let’s get you dry and warm,” said Cook Agnes. “Go along to your bedchamber and get dry breeches on. By the time you get back to the new kitchen, the fire will be roaring.” 

#

Ronduin stood at the window in his dry breeches and looked out toward the village. He could not see the town of course, for it was hidden behind the forest. But today he could see something that had been hidden during the time of rain. Beyond the forest he saw the hills and the mountains.  

Looking at the mountains, he wondered whether the people in the high hill towns had been soaked by days of rain. 

“But there, the water would run downhill in the small creeks,” he thought.”Here, in the flat lands near the big river and the wide lake, the water just stays. And strangely even gets deeper even after the rain stops.” 

Ronduin felt a little chill and remembered that Cook Agnes was building up the fire. “I can sit by the fire and think about the magic of the rising water,” he thought.   

###

A note for parents and teachers: You might gently wonder out loud why the water continues to rise after the rain stops. Perhaps the children will figure this out on their own. We will come back to this mystery in a future chapter. 

Here is the portal to Chapter 17 https://childrengrowing.com/2020/04/23/the-secret-prince-chapter-17-then-we-can-too/

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