The Secret Prince : Chapter 31 — Listening in the Dark

Photo by Elodie Oudot on Unsplash

Preface to Chapter 31

Children have endured a time of increased solitude.  They have had their daily lives changed and still face an uncertain time as the world moves through the end of the pandemic and back to health. 

I am a retired teacher developing the story The Secret Prince to show children who face a situation in which their world has changed dramatically. A flood surrounds the Medieval castle and the village. Prince Ronduin cannot go to school in the village and cannot run through the woods. How does he pass his time? Mirabel, who loves near the village is stuck in a small house with eleven other people. Can Ronduin and Mirabel be role models for children today? Can the story help to normalize the experience of being stuck at home? I’ve been pleased to learn that many families are 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.

I hope you will join us as readers and perhaps even as collaborators.  

Kim Allsup

If you are new to this story, start here:

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

Some teachers and parents follow the time-tested approach (used in Waldorf Schools) of telling a story on one day, then asking the child to retell it the next day. The day after that the child engages in an activity related to the story: writing, math, drawing, making or using a jumprope, building a model, sewing a bean bag, or making a map for example. Some creative parents are adding to the story by telling about a person who lives in the village. One parent had the idea to add to the story by having Ronduin’s mother tell him stories. 

Many thanks to the collaborators who are translating this story:  Joel Aragón Colín who is translating the story into Spanish, to Phan Lê Minh who is translating the story into Vietnamese and Tanya Kirilova Kothari who is translating The Secret Prince into Bulgarian! I am also grateful to Karah Pino who will continue as the author of Roland’s story and to Elliot Gardner who who as joined the team as my editorial assistant.  

Please join us for conversations, updates, ideas for follow up activities, new chapters and translations by joining The Secret Prince Story Community on Facebook:

Many families find that the easiest way to keep up with the story is to sign up as a follower of this blog on WordPress. Blog followers receive an email with the full text of each chapter when it is posted on this blog.

Chapter 31

Mirabel reached for a rung just above her head. It was her favorite rung on the ladder to the loft. More curved than most, it had once been a branch of an oak tree. Two rounded bumps, one on each side, were the the remains of side branches that had been mostly cut away. 

Now, as Mirabel used the bumpy rung to pull herself upward, she felt a heaviness in her arms that reminded her that she had spent most of the day hauling water, chopping wood and carrying armloads of sticks to the pile in the goat yard. This pile would soon be lit as a signal fire, but not tonight. 

Mirabel’s eyes were already closing as she settled between Adelaide and the half wall made of wattle. She pushed some pokey straw out of her face, gently wrapped her arm around her sleeping sister and felt herself drifting into a dream. 

In the dream she climbed her favorite tree, the oak tree in the front of the house where, from the very topmost branches, she could see all the way to the castle. She saw the fields covered in water and the barn hill rising up to the right of the castle. She could not see the barn itself, for it was hidden by the tall pine forest. She could, however, see the stable peeking out from the forest on the lower level of the hill. 

Mirabel drifted out of her dream into a deeper sleep. She did not know how long she had slept when she was wakened by the howl of the wind. 

“We can’t light the fire tomorrow if this wind keeps up,” said her father. Mirabel rolled away from Adelaide and peeked through the wattle at the edge of the loft. 

A single candle lit the faces of the adults around the table, her mother, her father, Sir Andrew, the baker, and the mother of the twins who held one of them sleeping in her arms. 

“I think we have at most three days, maybe four, before the water is too low to travel by boat,” said Sir Andrew. 

“If the water is low, the boat could travel over the lake and then up the river,” said Mirabel’s mother. 

“But the water must still be deep enough over the path to reach the lake,” said the mother of the twins.”

“We will be ready to go home in the morning.” said the baker. “With the water dropping, we can move into our upstairs rooms so we can be ready to clean the first floor and the bakery as soon as the water is gone. I’m sorry I can’t go with you to help plant the fields in the foothills. I can’t even send Garrick. I need him at the bakery to help wash off the mud carried in by the flood.”

“We have enough workers to fill the boat,” said Sir Andrew. “We’re leaving space in the boat for one runner, maybe two, if they are small. Once our fire is lit, I’ll send the children up the tall oak to watch for Roland’s answering fire. If he doesn’t light his fire, after the castle relays the message that our fire is lit, that means he needs help.” 

“If we learn that he does need help, we need to bring someone with us who can run the foothill path and then run the high path to the barn hill.” 

“Why might he need help?” asked the mother of the twins.

“When I took the boat to the barn hill to visit Roland, he and I talked about what would happen if the flood stays so long that we can’t plant the fields by the castle.  He said that if we have to wait that long, the barn hill will be overgrazed and the hay and grain in the barn will be low. The animals will need to move to the new grass growing on the foothills.” 

“Roland thought he might need help because he might have animals giving birth, or a sick animal. With a helper, Roland could stay at the barn and the helper could herd the animals to the foothills and fresh grass.” 

“What does it mean if he does light his signal fire?” asked Mirabel’s mother.

“It means he’s ready to herd the cows and the sheep and doesn’t need help. In that case, he will meet us in the foothills and leave the large animals with us and go back to care for the chickens. If we see his signal fire, it means we can leave the runner here and, instead, take another field worker with us.”

“Garrick and I will take care of lighting and tending the second signal fire at the other end of the village,” said the baker. “Once the boat is loaded with workers, you will be free to leave for the foothills.” 

“Now we must sleep,” said Mirabel’s mother. “Tomorrow will be a busy day.”

Mirabel lay awake in the darkness while she heard the scufflings of people moving away from the table and toward sleep. Her mind traveled to a day when she had been not much older than Adelaide. She remembered walking with her father across the fields all the way to the barn hill. They had climbed the hill to the big stone barn where Roland had met them and led them to a stall. Here, five kittens chased each other. One kitten had stopped and looked up at her. She was a mix of colors, with a dark back, orange markings and a white breast. She seemed to be saying, “Pick me.” 

Mirabel fell asleep remembering the joy of carrying her new kitten all the way home. 

Here is the portal to Chapter 32

  One thought on “The Secret Prince : Chapter 31 — Listening in the Dark

  1. Melissa
    June 13, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    My daughter says,
    “Too cute!”, of the kitten picture. 😊
    Thanks for another great chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. June 13, 2020 at 9:38 pm

    Confession ( for adults only) I chose the kitten picture first, then wrote the description. Glad she likes the kitten!


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