Ronduin lay on the wooden floor of the barn loft. He closed his eyes but could not sleep. He heard Peter and Peyton snoring. But it was not their muffled snores that kept him awake. Nor was he kept awake by the hard floor that lacked his lovely feather bed.
One at a time, Ronduin imagined the faces of his classmates. Are they wondering, he thought, why all the other children of his age had taken turns working in the fields, yet he had not? And what might they think of him if they knew his whole story? Mirabel had been kind when she learned he was the prince. But she was always kind. The others might be angry that he had not told them the whole truth.
The barn had no windows, but the full moon shone through cracks, and provided enough light to help him find his way to the ladder and down to the ground floor.
Stepping outside he saw that the round moon shone brightly above the castle. Ronduin walked to the stump where Cook Agnes had sat with the cat. The remains of the fire still glowed and gave off a soft warmth. He sat in the silence of the dark evening and gazed at the moon and at the silhouette of the dark castle under the moon.
Reaching into his pockets, Ronduin found three throwing sacks.
“Now you’re awake too,” said Ronduin to his throwing sacks. “Are you too tired to juggle?” Ronduin sensed that the throwing sacks wanted to leap out of his hands. So, he helped them leap. Round and round they flew. He was so good at juggling that he did not have to see the throwing sacks to catch them again and again and to toss them again and again them with precision.
“Meoww” The loud cat sound seemed to come from the other side of the barn. Concerned that the kitchen cat from the castle and Robere might be fighting, Ronduin caught his throwing sacks, tucked them in his pockets and walked around the barn to investigate.
Reaching the dark side of the barn, Ronduin was glad to see a puddle of candlelight spilling out the kitchen window. It was just bright enough for Roduin to see Robere standing on the step, demanding he be allowed to join the important meeting in the barn kitchen.
“Meowoww!” Robere called out again as Ronduin walked toward him. When the barn door opened, Ronduin was standing on the step with Robere in his arms.
“Welcome,” said Sir Andrew. “We were wishing you were here, Ronduin. I see Robere called you.”
Ronduin smiled at his old friend Sir Andrew and stepped inside where he found his parents and Ellyn sitting at a candle lit table. The Queen held the kitchen cat on her lap.
“Just the person we need to talk to,” said Ronduin’s father, “sit here next to me and we will tell you about our plans for the festival.”Still holding Robere, Ronduin settled on a stool next to his father and across the table from his mother who held the kitchen cat. The two cats looked at each other calmly.
“The Summer Festival will begin in two weeks,” said Ronduin’s mother. “Tomorrow, Sir Andrew, your father and I will walk to the stable in the foothills and stay there. Ellyn and her cousins will come with us. You, Mirabel, Rowan and Cook Agnes will stay here until the Festival. This way we can postpone telling everyone that the prince has recovered and had been attending the village school until the Great Flood.”
“I am happy to hear that,” said Ronduin. “But I’m nervous about sharing my secret at the Festival.”
“We will help with that,” said Sir Andrew. “We will tell everyone you traveled safely to barn hill and that you are waiting there. They will probably think that you need to rest because you are sickly.”
“During these two weeks we will tell everyone that the royal family will announce a wonderful surprise at the Festival,” continued Sir Andrew. “When they see our excitement about this surprise, they will be ready to be excited when the announcement is made. There is no reason your classmates should not be happy that they already know the prince. I hear that Mirabel was happy to learn this. They will be happy too, especially if they are told in advance that this is happy news.”
“Tomorrow will be a busy day,” said Ellyn. “We will pile up wood for a signal fire. You are to light it if you need help while the four of you are alone here on the hill.”
“And,” said the Queen, “tomorrow you and I and your father will practice our juggling performance. I will return for a one day visit with you in one week so we can practice again.”
“I think we may have a visit from Roland tomorrow, ” said Sir Andrew. ” Now that the fields are planted, he will easily find helpers to watch the sheep and the cows so he can make the journey.”
“But now, it is time to sleep,” said the King, standing.
Ronduin stood too and, as he did so, he forgot to keep a grip on Robere, so the cat jumped off his lap. Ronduin watched as Robere walked over to his bowl which had been placed under the window. Here Robere quickly gobbled up some bits of scrambled egg. Then, as everyone filed out the door, Robere followed.
The Queen and Ronduin waited outside the kitchen for a few minutes while Robere disappeared into the woods. Then the Queen carried the kitchen cat to the moonlit side of the barn and set her on the stump near the last glowing embers of the fire.