Thinking the tickle was a spider crawling across his face, Ronduin startled and leaped out of bed. Now he hastily tugged off his nightshirt in case the spider had darted inside.
In truth, the tickle was only a bit of straw poking through a hole in Ronduin’s mattress, but he had no way to know in the darkness that it was only a wisp of dried grass and not a biting bug.
After brushing his hands across his legs and chest and finding no insects, he
lifted the nightshirt from the floor and tried to shake out any critters that might be hiding inside it.
Ronduin shivered and yet he could not convince himself that his warm nightshirt was free of bugs.
This is why he found himself walking across his dark room and feeling about in his top drawer in search of clothing. Remembering that he had folded his trousers and his linen shirt and placed them in the top drawer, he found them easily and dressed quickly.
Then he carefully ran his hands across the top of the dresser where he found Apple and Pear still sound asleep. “I’m sorry to wake you,” said Ronduin as he carried them to the window sill, but I don’t want to sleep with spiders and I don’t want to be alone in the dark.”
Peering out into the darkness he saw no glimmer of light in the sky. “Looks like I have a lot of thinking time before the sun comes up,” he said. Neither Apple nor Pear answered, but he knew they were good listeners, so he continued.
“I went to sleep thinking about Mirabel and Rowan waving to us from barn hill as the sky turned pink. They seemed so far away yet so close. I want to go there and I want to go soon! I don’t want to wait for the fields to dry enough to walk on. If I can walk on a board in the courtyard, we should be able to use boards to walk to barn hill,” said Ronduin defiantly.
“We have scaffolding all over the castle,” he continued. “It’s here on the third floor and there’s more in the great dining hall. I think most of the boards that lie along the top level aren’t even nailed down. I could carry these boards down to the fields and make a pathway to barn hill. And then Father and Mother and Cook Agnes and I could all cross the pathway and I could run with Mirabel and Rowan all along the high path to the foothills.”
Ronduin put his hands on Apple and Pear to be sure they were listening. Then he lifted the two bean bags and juggled them around and around. Ronduin had become so good at juggling that he could easily juggle two beanbags in the dark.
Suddenly, Ronduin stopped juggling and sat down on the floor leaning against the wall beneath the window. “I don’t know whether we have enough boards,” he said to Apple and Pear, one in each hand. “It’s a long way to barn hill,” he said, spreading his arms wide with a bean bag in each hand. “We will need dozens and dozens of boards.”
Bringing the two beanbags back to rest on his knees, he closed his eyes and tried to imagine all the boards from the third floor of the castle laid end to end across the fields. Then he imagined adding the boards from the first floor dock that the green boat had been tied to so long ago. He closed his eyes and tried to picture laying each board across the field. He saw himself laying the first board across the mud then walking down this board carrying the second board, placing it and walking back to the starting place. Then he saw himself lifting a third board and carrying it all the way to the end of the second board and putting it in place.
Ronduin stood and put Apple and Pear back on the windowsill. “It’s going to take a long time to put all those boards in place. But maybe I shouldn’t even try because we may not have enough boards,” he said, feeling suddenly discouraged.
Now, as the sky slowly brightened and he could see his throwing sacks looking impatient on the windowsill, Ronduin stopped figuring out how to get to barn hill and began playing with Apple and Pear. He helped Apple jump over Pear on the windowsill, then helped Pear jump over Apple. The two beanbags leapfrogged over each other to the end of the sill, then turned around and leapfrogged in the other direction.
“Come on you two,” he said. “It’s time to feed the chickens.” Ronduin tucked Apple and Pear into his pockets, lifted the jug of water and the bucket of table scraps he had left by the door and, humming a tune, made his way into the hallway. Walking beside the scaffolding, he had an idea. Putting the bucket and the jug at under the scaffolding, Ronduin, climbed up to the top level, took one end of a board and lowered it so that it rested on the floor and leaned on the scaffold. Then he climbed down, lifted the board and lay it on the floor.
Next, Ronduin climbed up and brought down another board in the same way.
Taking Apple and Pear out of his pockets, he set them on a low level of the scaffolding and said to them, “You can watch me practice building a boardwalk.”
Now Ronduin lifted the second board and held it at the center tucked it under one arm. Now he stepped onto the ofter board and walked very slowly as he balanced the heavy board under his arm. “This isn’t easy,” he said to Apple and Pear. “But I can do it.”
When he reached the end of the board on the floor, he slowly lowered the end of the board that had been under his arm until one end reached the floor. Then he pushed it forward and placed it end to end with the board under his feet.
“Now I have to get the third board,” said Ronduin looking at Apple.
There was something about the way that Apple looked at him that made Ronduin think that his throwing sack was trying to tell him something.
“You’re telling me not to get the third board?” asked Ronduin. He stepped onto the second board, walked to the end of it turned and came back to face Apple.
“See, I can’t get very far without the third board,” he said.
Now he looked at Pear. The two throwing sacks were close enough that he could touch them, so he lifted Pear and hopped Pear over Apple. Then he hopped Apple over pear just as he had at the windowsill. “I remember playing this leapfrog game with my friends,” he said. “Throwing sacks can leapfrog. Children can leapfrog. And, looking at his feet where the two boards met, he said, “boards can leapfrog too! That’s what you were trying to tell me! I don’t need hundreds of boards! I just need two!”
At that moment, Ronduin was standing on the second board. He reached down to lift the first board. He balanced it under his arm and walked with it to the end of the second board. Next he placed it on the floor where he had planned to place the third board.
Turning, he looked back at Apple and Pear, “Thank you, thank you, thank you! You helped me figure it out!” he said excitedly. “We don’t need dozens of boards. We can leapfrog the boards across the muddy fields all the way to barn hill!”
A note to parents and teachers: Consider engaging children in some problem solving about how to cross the fields using boards. How can all four people in the castle (King, Queen, Ronduin, Cook Agnes) cross the muddy fields if we assume a board can support only one person at a time? Does each person need their own set of leapfrogging boards, or is their another plan that would work? Can you make a model to show this? Share your thoughts about how to meet this challenge in the comments!
Here is a link to Chapter 50 : https://childrengrowing.com/2020/10/17/the-secret-prince-chapter-50-sunrise-in-the-foothills/
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