The Secret Prince : Chapter 17 — Then We Can Too

from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts 

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 17

The Queen and the King, entered the new kitchen carrying heavy sacks which they placed on the work table near the fire. Speaking to Cook Agnes, the Queen said, “This is a sack of pease.”

“And here’s some oats,” said the king. 

Jumping up from his spot by the hearth, Ronduin spoke excitedly, “Father, Mother, we went down to the first floor and we found out that this flood is four steps deeper than the flood that Cook Agnes remembers. But that’s not all we found out. The water level is higher than it was when I helped Sir Andrew with the green boat! And it hasn’t been raining, so it’s a mystery! And the plank has floated away!” 

“We have to see this,” said the Queen. 

“Yes, right away,” said the King. 

Within minutes, Ronduin, the Queen and the King were marching down the stairs.

“See the plank?” asked Ronduin. “It’s floating near the dining hall.”

“I see it,” said the Queen.  

“I counted twenty-two dry steps, and the water is almost to the very top of this last step,” said Ronduin. “And the water is up to the new dock.”

“You have noticed the important things,” said the King. “I want you to make a daily report. Please come down here every morning and count the dry steps.”

“Certainly, father,” said Ronduin.”Do you think the water might continue to rise?”

“Possibly,” said the King. 

“Why is the water getting deeper?” asked Ronduin. “We only had a tiny bit of rain since Sit Andrew took the boat to town.”

“This is a good puzzle for you,” said his mother. “Take your time and think about it.” His father nodded and smiled. 

Ronduin was surprised that his parents didn’t answer his question. At the same time, he was glad he would get to figure out the puzzle on his own. 

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That afternoon the sun shone brightly in the sky, but the wind howled and a chill in the air made Ronduin wonder whether ice would form. The young prince and and his parents pulled chairs close to the fire in the sitting room. Here, his mother mended an apron. Ronduin continued sewing the two squares together and his father sat quietly looking into the flames. 

“What are you sewing, Ronduin?” asked the King.

“I’m making a little bag to throw and catch,” said Ronduin. “I’ll fill it with dry pease if Cook Agnes can spare some.”

“I used to have a cloth bag of pease when I was a boy,” said the King. 

After some time, the king pulled a chair to the tall shelves. He climbed up on the chair and took down a large book from the highest shelf. He carried it to the table and, before he put it down, he moved a mug half full of cider from the big table to a small table by the window. 

Ronduin knew why his father had moved the drink. Every book in the castle, and there were only seven of them, had been created by monks who wrote every word and drew every picture by hand. Some were in Latin and they were mostly too hard for him to read, but Ronduin loved looking at the colorful drawings that brightened the pages. If the King had not moved the drink, Ronduin would have moved it himself, for he knew that books were too valuable to be on a table with a drink that might spill. 

The King sat at the table, slowly turning the pages of the big, leather-bound book. After some time, he said, “Here it is. Ronduin, come and look at this.”

Ronduin stood behind his father, looking over his shoulder at at the open book. The King stopped at a page and said, “These are our ancestors, Ronduin” 

Ronduin admired the picture of a king on a throne wearing a blue robe,   and surrounded by attendants. 

The next page showed a picture of a castle. 

“Is that this castle?” asked Ronduin. “It’s missing a turret.”

“Yes, this is a drawing of the castle before it was completely finished.  And look at this! It’s a drawing of the old barn that was gone before I was a boy.” 

The King turned the page. “This part explains why they replaced the old barn with the barn on the hill. It says here that long, long ago, a flood carried so much water into the barn that they had to bring all the animals into the castle to keep them safe.” 

The King continued. “Here is a drawing of the castle and the new barn during another flood long ago. You can see that the old barn is no longer there. It says here that they took down the old barn after the first flood and they built the new one up on the hill so the animals would have a place to graze if it ever flooded here again.”

“So there have been many floods?” asked Ronduin. “And many times our ancestors had to stay in the castle for a long time?”

“Yes, there have been many floods,” said the King. “But maybe only one or two in each person’s lifetime. It seems to us like being stuck in the castle is unusual. And it is for us. But, if this very old castle could speak, it would tell us that in the very long life of a castle, foods happen again and again.” 

“I sort of wish we still had the old barn,” said Ronduin. I would like to bring cows into the castle. Then we would have milk.”

“But the cows would be unhappy if they could not wander outside,” said the King. 

The King studied the  big book for some time, then he closed it with great care and a long sigh. “I had hoped to learn how many days it took for the floodwaters to disappear. But the book did not tell me. Still, it helps to think about all the ancestors who, like us, had to stay inside for a long time. It helps to know that they figured out how to live differently during those times. And, if they could learn how to live differently, then we can too.”

The Queen said, “Speaking of living differently, we have become the workers who fill the boxes with firewood and this one is empty and the wood box in the kitchen is running low.” 

“Looks like fetching more wood is next,” said the King.

“I can help,” said Ronduin.

The Queen put down her sewing and said, “Your father and I will go. We need you here to keep the fire lit,” 

“We’ll be back soon,” said the King

Again, Ronduin found himself alone in the sitting room. Right away he picked up his jump rope. He had only jumped three jumps when it happened. The flying rope caught the edge of the small table near the window. The mug of cider on the table fell over and the table tipped just a bit so it leaned on a chair. 

“Oh drat! Now I’ve made a flood,” shouted Ronduin in surprise. 

Ronduin quickly opened the Queen’s sewing kit and pulled out a pair of his old breeches that were waiting to be mended. He used these for a cleaning rag, knowing they could be washed and dried. He sat on the floor wiping up the puddle of cider. When the floor was dry, Ronduin, thought, “I can take these to the steps when I go there in the morning and wash them and then hang them on the balcony rail by the chickens.”

Now Ronduin, still seated, scooted back until he was almost under the table. He wanted to be sure he had wiped up all of the spilled cider. He felt something wet dripping on the back of his neck. He stood and saw that the slightly tilted table still had a puddle on it. The wooden rim on the edge of the table had kept this puddle from pouring onto the floor. Cider dripped from a small crack in the rim. This is why Ronduin now had a wet neck and a wet back. The puddle on the table, drip by drip, was becoming a puddle on the floor.   

“Drat again,” said Ronduin. “Even more flooding!”

Ronduin jumped up and went back to the sewing box and found scraps of cloth. He put the small table back in its normal position. Then he carefully cleaned up every last drip of spilled cider.

A note to parents and teachers. The spill from the table gives a hint about why the flood waters continue to rise. Monday’s chapter will show Ronduin figuring out the how the spill shows why the water keeps rising. A fourth or fifth grader might figure this out on their own. Younger children are less likely to make the cognitive leap independently.  

Here is the portal to Chapter 18: https://childrengrowing.com/2020/04/27/the-secret-prince-chapter-18-a-bowl-of-flowers/

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