The Secret Prince : Chapter 32 — The View from the Oak

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Preface to Chapter 32

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: 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.

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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/

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 32 

Ronduin had dressed in the early morning darkness and now he stood at his bedroom window wearing his special linen shirt. He waited for the sun to brighten the sky and light up the water that still stretched from the castle to the forest. 

                                                     ***

Mirabel stepped out the door into the early morning darkness and waited at the base of the tall oak. She waited until the first rays of the sun lit the upper branches and then she began to climb. 

***  

Now Ronduin watched as the water brightened. He blinked three times when he saw it.  A patch of earth, the highest point on the little hill at the center of the fields, had appeared.   

“Oh no!” he said aloud. He ran out the door, leaving the bucket and the jug  behind. ” I’ll feed the chickens later,” he thought. “First, I’ll check the water level at the steps before I tell mother and father.”  

***

Looking out through the branches at the top of the tall oak, Mirabel knew right away that the water had gone down. Halfway between the forest and the castle, a small hilltop had appeared like a little island. Mirabel scrambled down the tree and ran around the house. She was normally a calm child, but now, when she saw what had happened overnight, she called out in her loudest voice, “Wake up everyone. Come outside!” 

Within minutes, Sir Andrew, her mother, her father, Rowan, Garrick, Adelaide carrying Elspeth, the baker, the twins and their mother all ran outside and, along with Mirabel, looked in astonishment at the green boat, which no longer floated, but sat in mud. 

“We have to move fast,” said Sir Andrew. “The water is dropping so quickly  that we need to get the boat to the lake before the path is above water. Yesterday we thought I could bring the baker family to town and then come back to light the fire and pick up Ricard and Rowan. But now we need a faster plan.”

“Rowan and I will get ready to go with you now,” said Ricard. “Once the boat gets to the lake, we will have enough water even if the flood goes away entirely. We can travel over the lake and then up the river to the village. We can wait in the village to give Roland time to light his signal fire to tell us he’s on his way.” 

“If we can get to the village this morning we can tell the field workers to be ready by tomorrow morning. If we see a fire from the barn hill, we will take Lars. He’s strong, and knows a lot about planting, but he’s not a fast runner. So, if we don’t see a fire, we will take one or two runners to run to Roland to give him aid.

“Sir Andrew, you and Ricard and Rowan can stay overnight with us,” said the baker. 

***

Ronduin made his way around the third floor scaffolding and into the stairwell. Even on the third floor landing he could tell from the changed sound of the echo of his steps that something had changed on the first floor.    He hurried down the steps and, reaching a view of the first floor, he was startled to see that the boards, once a dock for the green boat, sat far above the level of the water. Looking down the steps, he could see the jug that still sat on the step marking the highest water level. Now it was many steps above the water level. “I must tell mother and father that the water is going down fast, really fast,” thought Ronduin, turning and hurrying up the stairs. 

***

Sir Andrew turned to Rowan and Garrick. “I think the two of you are big enough to push the boat off the mud,” he said.

“I’m big enough to help too,” said Mirabel, “and I’m lighter so I won’t sink so far into the mud.” 

Mirabel looked out at the boat sitting on mucky mud. She wanted to get to the back of the boat, but did not want to walk through the muck. It sat near the fence, so she climbed up onto the fence.  Then, she walked on its lower rungs while holding the top of the fence until she neared the stern of the boat. When she got near the stern of the boat, Mirabel climbed to the top of the fence and jumped into the boat. She realized that now she had no choice but to step into the mud. It felt cold and sticky and oozed between her toes as she took a couple of steps to the stern of the boat. Now she took ahold of the boat and and began pulling the it into the water. At the same time, Garrick and Rowan pushed on the bow.  Bit by bit, they tugged and pushed the green boat until it floated. Mirabel climbed back into the boat and tied it to a tree so it wouldn’t float away. 

While Mirabel returned by scooting her way along the fence, she noticed the adults deep in conversation. She had missed most of their discussion, but now she heard her mother say, “We will be fine here on our own. I can chop wood and haul water.” 

“But, I’m supposed to chop the wood while Rowan is away,” said Mirabel just before jumping off of the fence. 

“Mirabel, we were talking about how you can run as fast as Rowan,” said her father. 

“And I’m not sure we will find a child as fast as you in the village,” said Sir Andrew. 

“Ronduin is as fast,” said Mirabel. “But the farm where he lives is further down the path away from the village and you wouldn’t have time to fetch him.” 

Mirabel noticed that her father and Sir Andrew smiled at each other, but she did not know why they smiled. Sir Andrew said, “yes, that farm is farther than we dare travel today.” 

“So,” said Mirabel’s father, “we want you to come with us as far as the village. If we see a signal fire from Roland, you can stay at the village and help in the bakery until the land is dry enough to walk home. But, if we don’t see a signal, this means Roland needs help. Then you will go with us to the foothills tomorrow morning and you and Rowan will take the place of Lars in the boat.  When we get to the foothills, two of you will run all the way to the barn hill to help Roland.” 

Mirabel’s eyes grew wide. She had not expected this new responsibility, but she felt ready to do what was asked of her. “I can be ready to go very quickly,” she said. 

“Come inside,” said her mother. “Let’s pack up some food and I’ll lend you my warm shawl.” 

***

Ronduin burst into the new kitchen. “Father, Mother, Cook Agnes, the water has gone down really far. I see an island in the field and many more dry steps on the first floor. It will be today, I know it. They will have to move the boat into town before the water is too low to move it at all. I must go to the sitting room and watch for the signal fire. Oh, except I have not fed the chickens.” 

“I will go with you to the sitting room,” said his father, getting up from the table. “I must see this island myself.”

“You have not eaten anything,” said Cook Agnes to Ronduin. “I will bring bread and cheese to you in the sitting room and I will feed the chickens.” 

“And I will prepare a pot of glowing embers for lighting our signal fire,” said  the Queen.  

***

When Ronduin’s mother, the Queen, was preparing a pot of glowing embers for their signal fire, Mirabel’s mother was also placing embers into a pot. Mirabel’s mother carried her embers to the goat yard. Mirabel followed her with one arm around a bag full of goat cheese and bread. It was the blue woolen bag that had come from the castle. The other arm clutched  her mother’s warm, woolen shawl.

And then it all happened very fast. Mirabel’s father held Elspeth and Adelaide in his arms. He was saying good bye to them as Mirabel’s mother placed the embers under the pile and blew hard on them. The dry kindling lit in a flash. For a moment Mirabel saw small flames licking the wood. Then she heard crackling sounds and hissing sounds. Suddenly, the entire heap of wood burst into flames. Soon the flames leaped upward and a plume of smoke reached to the sky above.  

Rowan ran around the house to climb the oak tree. Standing near the goat yard, Mirabel looked out over the house and saw him climbing into the uppermost branches. 

***

Ronduin spotted the first wisps of smoke before his father did. “I think that might be smoke,” he said. 

“I’m not sure,” said his father. “Maybe it is. It’s certainly coming from the right place. We’ll know in a moment. Ronduin was wearing his magical linen shirt. He clutched the hem of his shirt while he watched and waited. 

Then, suddenly, a great plume of smoke followed the wisp. 

“That is surely the signal fire,” said Ronduin.

“Let’s go,” said the King. “Your mother said she would meet us on the turret. She should be there now with embers in a pot.” 

Ronduin had learned how to move around the scaffolding with speed that was not as fast as running, but was fast nonetheless. Cook Agnes was leaving the chicken balcony as he passed. “The fire is lit,” he told her and turned back to notice that his father was not keeping up with him. 

“Speed on, son,” called his father. 

Ronduin reached the top of the turret and, though he was out of breath, managed to say, “The signal fire is lit.”

Ronduin’s mother pointed to the pot of embers, and handed him a small shovel. “You may light the fire,” she said. 

Ronduin spotted the area where small twigs had been placed under larger twigs. This was the spot meant for the embers. He placed two shovels full of embers into the twigs. Now his father arrived and the King handed Ronduin the bellows. With three big puffs of air, flames grew from the orange embers and lit the small twigs. Ronduin felt a gust of wind on his back and then the entire heap of wood burst into flames and smoke climbed into the sky. 

“Look it’s Roland,” said the Queen, who saw the old farmer step out of the barn and stare in the direction of the castle. 

***

‘The castle fire is lit,” called Rowan high from his perch in the oak. 

A great cheer rose up from Sir Andrew and everyone standing around the little house joined him in happy shouting. Their signal fire had been seen at the castle and the King and Queen had sent the message along to barn hill. 

As soon as Rowan came down from the oak tree, Sir Andrew turned the boat around. Then Mirabel and Rowan were sent to the bow of the boat. Behind them, Garrick, Ricard, the twins and their mother and father filled the green boat. Sir Andrew gave the boat a big push as he stepped into the stern of the boat. The baker took up the oars. 

At first Mirabel’s view was blocked by all the people in the boat. But then the path curved and, for a moment, she was able to see all the way back to their house in the forest.  She could see Adelaide standing next to her mother who was holding Elspeth. And she could see the fire burning brightly. Mirabel waved and her mother and Adelaide waved back.  

***

Here is the portal to Chapter 33 https://childrengrowing.com/2020/06/19/the-secret-prince-chapter-33-lullaby-on-the-lake/

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