That morning Horace was feeling particularly pleased with himself. He looked at his watch again, only a few minutes to go before his sister Prudence’s alarm woke her, which should mean only a few more seconds after that, before he heard the screaming.

This time it was the best he’d ever conceived of, had to be. She’d done so well last time, he had to admit, her planning was exemplary, even getting Nanny involved so he was convinced that she was away that night, at the Penshursts. So when she leapt out from under his bed in the middle of the night dressed as a witch, warts and huge pointy noise included, he’d been completely unprepared. She’d known it was his worst fear, that he’d had many nightmares about witches stealing into his room at night. As a result, he’d wet the bed and his sister had earned the praise of both parents for such a wonderfully executed jape. It was embarrassing to be so caught out like that, but he had to admit it was very well done; especially the part about Violet Penshurst’s dog dying and her needing to be consoled. It impressed him.

He didn’t want to react too quickly; she’d be looking out for something. He needed to bide his time. For the next 6 or 7 weeks he did nothing but plan and carry n with his usual routine, going to school, playing with Edgar on the beach and tending to his beetle collection. She played her part well in all of this, pretending not to care as the days stretched into weeks. It was only by chance that he overheard her talking to Mama as he arrived late for breakfast one morning – then he knew it was starting to get to her.

‘He must be planning something stupendous Mama. Do you know? You do don’t you?’

Mama had said nothing of course, she knew nothing of his plans, but had she known, she wouldn’t have broken the code. Prudence knew, they’d both been taught this from an early age – never interfere with a jape. Say nothing,  even afterwards, not revealing a single thing about how it had worked, the planning or any other details – you never knew when you might need to use some of that information in the future.

Both of them knew Mama and Papa wouldn’t crack, but they tried, of course they tried, it would have been disappointing to their parents if they hadn’t. Perhaps a seemingly innocent question:

‘Have you seen Prudence, I’ve got a present for her’ was his most recent failed attempt.

As far as he knew they had never cracked.

Just then the alarm went off and he listened carefully waiting for his elaborate scheme to unfold. Sure enough, there it was, a high-pitched scream and was that what he thought it was, the sound of little footsteps, running towards her toilet, exclaiming and shrieking all the way as the dog’s mess he’d carefully planted in abundance by the side of her bed squelched through her toes and with each step, smeared and befouled the white shag pile carpet, from her bed all the way to her toilet.

He was by the door now and he could hear Mama and Papa racing up the stairs to bear witness. As they arrived he threw the door open and was ecstatic to find Prudence kneeling at the toilet bowl vomiting, her bare upturned feet still filthy and behind her a trail of brown malodorous footsteps – a complete success.

He would obviously never tell her how he’d managed to ensure that the pooh was so moist, nor would he reveal how he’d contained the smell.

Mama and Papa laughed and pointed at Prudence, they turned to him and the pride on both their faces brought tears to his eyes.

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