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Chapter no 23

Spare

LIKE ME, MARKO HAD A SWEET TOOTH. Like me, he particularly loved puddings. (He always called them “puds.”) So I got the idea of spiking his pudding with

Tabasco sauce.

At first he’d howl. But then he’d realize it was a trick, and laugh. Oh, how he’d laugh! Then he’d realize it was me. And laugh louder!

I couldn’t wait.

The next night, as everyone tucked into their dinner, I tiptoed out of the meal tent. I went down the footpath, fifty meters, into the kitchen tent, and poured a whole teacup of Tabasco into Marko’s bowl of pudding. (It was bread and butter, Mummy’s favorite.) The kitchen crew saw me, but I put a finger to my lips. They chuckled.

Scurrying back into the meal tent, I gave Tiggy a wink. I’d already taken her into my confidence and she thought the whole caper brilliant. I don’t remember if I told Willy what I was up to. Probably not. I knew he wouldn’t have approved.

I squirmed, counting the minutes until dessert was served, fighting back giggles.

Suddenly someone cried out: Whoa!

Someone else cried: What the—!

In unison we all turned. Just outside the open tent was a tawny tail swishing through the air.

Leopard!

Everyone froze. Except me. I took a step towards it. Marko gripped my shoulder.

The leopard walked away, like a prima ballerina, across the footpath where I’d just been.

I turned back in time to see the adults all look at one another, mouths open.

Holy fuck. Then their eyes turned towards me. Holy fuuuuck.

They were all thinking the same thing, picturing the same banner headline back home.

Prince Harry Mauled by Leopard.

The world would reel. Heads would roll.

I wasn’t thinking about any of that. I was thinking about Mummy. That leopard was clearly a sign from her, a messenger she’d sent to say:

All is well. And all will be well.

At the same time I also thought: The horror!

What if Mummy were to come out of hiding at last, only to learn that her younger son had been eaten alive?

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