Ronduin and his father walked all around the courtyard, back and forth and up and down until they became practiced at walking on the mud with the boards strapped to their feet.
They practiced for so long that the Queen and Cook Agnes came looking for them when they did not arrive for the mid-day meal.
“Look!” called out Ronduin. “We can walk on the mud! We can walk to barn hill! Then we can walk to the foothills and see our friends!”
“Next we will make a new set of boards so we have enough for all four of us to walk across the muddy fields,” said the King.
“But first it’s time for the mid-day meal,” said the Queen.”
“I’ve made a quiche,” said Cook Agnes.
Soon the four of them sat at the table in the kitchen, eating quiche. Ronduin and his parents talked excitedly about reaching barn hill and the foothills beyond.
“We can help with the planting if it’s not finished,” said Ronduin.
“And the sheep sheering,” said his father.”
“I’m eager to to learn about life in the village during the flood,” said the Queen. “I hope all is well.”
Cook Agnes was strangely quiet. Finally she said, “I’m not strong enough to walk across all the way across the muddy fields with boards tied to my feet. I will stay here and care for the chickens.”
For a few moments the only sound in the room was the landing of the kitchen cat leaping up to the window sill.
“I don’t like the idea of leaving you behind,” said the Queen.
“I’ll be fine,” said Cook Agnes. “I never did go to the sheep shearing festival, for I was always too busy here at the castle.”
Agnes stood to clear the table. Ronduin stood too, gathering plates and glasses faster than Cook Agnes. He had never helped do this job before, but, now looking at Cook Agnes, he saw something that he had never seen. She moved slowly. She stood bent forward and often leaned on the table. He thought, “Of course she wouldn’t be able to walk across mud with boards on her feet. It’s hard for her to even walk around the kitchen.”
After the mid-day meal, the Queen joined Ronduin and the King in the muddy courtyard.
“Our plan won’t work now,” said Ronduin. “We need two people for each set of boards.”
“I have an idea,” said the Queen. “When I was a girl in the Mountain Kingdom, sometimes people would travel across deep snow on boards called skis. They were something like the invention you made for mud, yet different. One person stood in the center of two boards holding sticks to help with balance. I think we could try mud skis. The snow skis could glide down a hill. We won’t do any gliding in the mud. But one person walking with a board on each foot could work.”
“I like that idea,” said the King. I’ll get right to work making holes for the foot ropes at the center of two boards.”
Mirabel trudged up the hill leading Giselle and her calf on ropes. “Time for your rest,” she said.
Giselle stopped walking and bent down to nibble at a few blades of grass. “Oh my! Look at the grass!” said Mirabel. “Here and there It’s growing again! It came up so fast! I can wait while you nibble, but I’m keeping both of you attached to ropes and away from most of the hill so the grass will have a chance to grow back.”
Mirabel tied the two creatures in the barn, then walked around to the other side of the building to draw a bucket of water from the well. When she returned with the water, she found that the calf was nursing. “You are growing fast, little calf, just like the grass,” she said.
Suddenly, Mirabel realized that she was tired. She remembered waking up very early and finding Rowan in the kitchen surrounded by bright candles and many loaves of bread. As soon as she sat down on a clean clump of straw in Giselle’s stall, both Giselle and her calf crowded in. Giselle lay down and Mirabel snuggled up to her and the calf snuggled up on Giselle’s other side. The steady flow breaths and the warmth of the cow lulled Mirabel to sleep.
All three slept together like this for some time. Then Mirabel woke because the calf was licking her face. She blinked and then sat up and threw her arms around the calf’s neck. “I love you too little calf,” she said. “Rowan will be back before dark, and I told him I would have food ready, so I’m off to the kitchen. Yes, you can come along. I’ll tie you and Giselle near the kitchen door where there is still some grass to nibble.”
Soon Mirabel busied herself in the kitchen. She found onions and bread flour and butter and eggs and cheese and set herself to work making a large quiche. “Rowan will be extra hungry after his long walk today,” she thought.
While the quiche cooked in the oven, she washed the table and swept the floor and washed and dried the bowls, knives and spoons. When she pulled the quiche out of the oven to check it she found the center was still too soft, so she popped it back in the oven, went outside and sat on the stone step. Here she picked up Robere and settled him on her lap while she watched Giselle and her calf contentedly munching the fringe of grass growing alone the wall.
When she told Robere, “Rowan will be back soon” the cat purred as if he understood what she was saying. “We will both be happy to see him,” she said.
But, long after she had pulled the quiche from the oven, Rowan had not yet appeared. Mirabel walked Giselle and her calf around to the barn door and settled them inside. When she stepped outside again she saw that the sunset colors were beginning to fill the sky.
“It’s almost time to wave at the royal family,” thought Mirabel. “And, if they see me alone without Rowan, they may worry. Maybe I’ll walk around the barn to wait for him. But maybe that’s a bad idea because the royal family may look for us at sunset and see that we both are missing.”
So, Mirabel did not walk around the barn. She kept her eyes on the castle until the Prince, then his parents and then Cook Agnes appeared on the castle wall. They waved and Mirabel waved. The sun set. The royal family usually went into the castle once the sun went down. But today they stayed, watching in the twilight.
Mirabel stayed too. Then she heard sounds, fast footsteps. Rowan came around the barn carrying something long over one shoulder. He hurried to stand beside Mirabel. He placed the long package on the ground and then they waved together and the Royal family waved back. They all kept waving until it was too dim to see across the muddy fields.
“Look at what I brought,” said Rowan. Mirabel noticed that he had used the sleeping sack as a wrapping. Rowan lifted the package and untied the ropes that held it together.
Pulling long boards out of the cloth wrapping, Rowan said, “These are usually used as snow skis. But Princess Eleanor thinks we could use them to walk across the mud. She sent these with me so we can practice using them for a few days. Then a team will arrive with more skis and a sled for the sickly prince so we can rescue the royal family.”
Click here for chapter 55: https://childrengrowing.com/2021/01/06/the-secret-prince-chapter-55-the-story-of-rowans-journey/