Ronduin emptied the bucket of kitchen scraps into the chickens’ food bowl. “Sunrise and Sunset, you will like what I brought you today,” he said to the chickens in a tone that sounded like he expected them to understand. “Yesterday I noticed some turnips that had started to sprout and I asked Cook Agnes for green tops. She said she planned to use them in soup.”
Sunrise and Sunset started pecking at the turnip tops even before Ronduin had finished telling about how he had convinced Cook Agnes to let him put them in the food bucket along with the leftover porridge.
“I’m late for the morning meal in the kitchen,” he said, watching the chickens pecking at the porridge, because Apple and Pear helped me figure out how to cross the muddy field by leapfrogging the boards. So I’d better ….”
Ronduin’s voice trailed off as his gaze drifted to the board he had used to reach the bench and the tree.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” he said, quickly forgetting about breakfast.
Ronduin ran inside the castle and fetched another board from the scaffolding. It was darker than the first board, but about the same length. When he returned to the courtyard with the board, he told the chickens, “I have to try our plan for walking across the mud in a place that actually is muddy, not hard like the castle floor. It won’t take long.”
Ronduin laid the new board on the stone path and then leaned down to lift the board that he had left between the path to the bench. Pulling at it, he discovered it was stuck in the mud. A second tug, stronger than the first, loosened the grip of the mud and he was able to free the board and drag it to the path.
Next he dragged both boards, one at a time, to the midway point on the path. He lifted the light colored board and laid it straight out across the wettest part of the muddy area. Stepping out onto the board, he lifted the darker board just as he had practiced on the third floor.
Next he balanced the boards across his arms.
Looking at the mud he planned to cross, Ronduin realized that he couldn’t follow the plan he made on the third floor. It simply wouldn’t to tip the board he carried into the mud. If he put the end of the board into the mud at an angle, he would be pushing one end into the muck and then it might be impossible to lay it flat on top of the mucky surface.
With the board on his arms feeling heavier by the second, Ronduin needed a new plan. Suddenly he saw the solution. He realized that he had to lay the darker board on top of the lighter board and then slide it forward.
He rotated the board and slid it down his body and then laid it on top of the lighter colored board. Then Ronduin took a deep breath. Next he slowly pushed the darker board forward over the mud. Finally, he gave it one last shove and then the two boards were positioned end to end. Standing, he stepped across a small gap onto the dark colored board feeling victorious.
Ronduin had been too busy to notice that he had an audience. Now, looking back toward the walkway, he saw the two chickens looking at him, tilting their heads from to side as if to ask, “What are you doing?”
“I did it! I did it! I figured out how to use board to walk to barn hill,” he told the chickens excitedly.
The chickens seemed to forget that barn hill was their first home. Instead, they appeared to take Ronduin’s excitement as an invitation, for they fluttered onto the board near the walkway.
“Oh, that’s a bad idea,” he said, bending down and sliding the board forward. This unexpected movement startled the chickens and they jumped back to the stone path.
Now Ronduin had an idea to make the board sliding easier. He started by sliding the lighter colored board onto the darker board. Then he moved it onto its side and slid it forward. It was easier to slide in this sideways position. He kept it in that position until about half of its length was out over the mud. Then he lay it flat and finished pushing it into place as he had with the darker colored board. When Ronduin stepped onto the lighter colored board, he looked back toward the path and realized he had reached a point when he could no longer simply walk back to the path along a bridge made of boards.
“If I want to go back, I have to move boards to get there,” he said aloud. ‘It’s like I’m on an island in the middle of a sea of mud.”
Ronduin looked toward the castle wall. “I’ll go to the wall and then back, just to show that I can go a long distance this way,” he muttered to himself, forgetting that he was missing breakfast.
Next, Ronduin moved the very muddy darker board over the lighter colored board until it made the next section of his moving bridge. This time though he didn’t step to the next board right away. Feeling tired, he sat at the end of the lighter colored board. Crossing his legs and put his head in his hands, he remembered getting up very early, long before the sun rose. His stomach growled and he wished for a bowl of warm porridge.
Then something happened. He felt the board sinking just a bit. Mud seeped on to the board causing Ronduin to stand quickly and step onto the darker colored board. Now, Ronduin reached down to lift the end of the slightly sunken lighter colored board. He tugged and it would not lift. He tugged harder and and then harder still. But the board would not budge. ‘This is impossible,” he said. “I’m just not strong enough.”
Ronduin sat down in the middle of the darker colored board. He closed his eyes and the picture that entered his mind was the great sea of mud between the castle and barn hill. He imagined himself stuck out there, unable to move a board, just as he was stuck here now. “Maybe this idea won’t work after all,” he thought. “Because here, my parents or Cook Agnes will help me, but nobody would be around to help in the middle of the field.”
“Helpers won’t be here soon though. My parents and Cook Agnes are in the kitchen on the second floor,” thought Ronduin. “They won’t hear me if I call for help.”
Suddenly, Ronduin felt like the sickly prince again, weak and tired. Ronduin lay down on the dark colored board for a short rest. The last thought he had before falling asleep was, “I wish I had my gray blanket.”
click here to find Chapter 52 https://childrengrowing.com/2020/10/31/the-secret-prince-chapter-52-rescued/