Ma Petite Cherie

Elizabeth, dressed in her little white night gown, and little white slippers, was, so far, successful in her plot. She'd snuck down the great stairs without any of her father's servants spying her. She'd silently made it out one of the doors toward the garden. A few paces more and she could hide among the branches of the great willow tree by the water's edge, and there she could wait to see if he would show up.

However, the five year old child did not count on her father, Sir Percy Blakeney, to spy the little white figure running stealthily through the dark yard, and certainly didn't expect to be scooped up. "Lud, mademoiselle, what are you doing out of bed?" he'd exclaimed, his lazy blue eyes nearly impossible to see in the dark. "It is terribly late. Far too late for silly young girls to be running about at night, eh what?"

The child's spirit was crushed. So close! She'd come so close! Now she might never hear anything about the Scarlet Pimpernel!

"Papa!" she exclaimed, batting long eye lashes in a way customary to how her mother did when she wanted something. "Can't I stay up? Please? Just this once?"

"Why the devil for, my dear?"

"To see Uncle Armand," she lied.

"You've already seen him," the blond man contradicted, beginning to carry his beloved burden back to the house. "In fact, he spent a great deal of time playing with you in the yard. Be satisfied for now, my child."

Well, if lying didn't work, the truth was at least reliable. "But, Papa! I want to see the Scarlet Pimpernel!"

Sir Percy paused a beat. "And who on earth told you your uncle had anything to do with that?" he asked jovially, continuing on. "Really, Lizzie, someone's been pulling your leg."

"I don't suppose he does have anything to do with it. But Nana said that the French think he's part of the English nobility. Where else, then, would he be than at mother's garden party?"

"I suspect," said Blakeney drolly, "that he has far better places to be than at a garden party." He now entered the house, warm from the summer evening which was drawing to a close. He began to climb the stairs, quite oblivious to any sort of way that Elizabeth might offset his balance. "Besides, how do you know what he looks like?" he finally asked, once he reached the top of the stairs.

"Well," began the child, excitedly. This was probably the best subject she'd discussed all evening! "He's eight feet tall, with a very, very long nose." She showed all these physical traits with her hands. "And he is very, very skinny. That's why no one can ever find him. He can fit behind a tree, and you wouldn't know he was there. And he wears a big hat, with an enormous feather in it, and-"

"Odd's fish, m'dear, there's no one like that at your mother's garden party. In fact, I don't think I've ever met anyone like that. Well, except for maybe Lord Digby, who does have a rather long nose, but-"

"Oh, but he must be there, father! I simply know that he is!"

Sir Percy planted a kiss on his daughter's forehead as they entered her room. Gently, he put her into her bed, tucking her in tightly. "Do not fret, my love. If he's as wonderful as they say, I'm sure he'll show up at some social event."

"Do you think I'll ever meet the Scarlet Pimpernel, father?" she asked with a sleepy yawn.

"I couldn't possibly say, m'dear. But you very well might, one day, if you're lucky."

"Have you ever met the Scarlet Pimpernel, papa?"

"I most certainly have not. His band of ruffians is certainly not the kind of company I'd like to keep."

"Has mother?"

"You must ask her that yourself. Where do you get all these odd questions from?"

"When I cannot sleep, Nana tells me stories. If I ask her enough times, she tells me about the Scarlet Pimpernel. How many years has he been saving aristos for father?"

"There haven't been aristos to save for two years now, m'dear. So he hasn't reared his ugly head."

"Well, how many years did he save aristos for?"

Here Blakeney paused in thought, scratching his chin. "I don't know, m'love. Two or three, I suppose. Ask your clever mother. She knows far more than anything your slow witted father does."

"I don't think you're slow," his adoring daughter exclaimed, seizing his large hand. "I think you're wonderful."

"You flatter me, my child. Lord knows what I've done to deserve such a loving daughter." He then kissed her forehead again, and she sank back in the pillow, her eyes beginning to droop sleepily.

"How come no one ever caught him?"

"Caught who?"

"The Scarlet Pimpernel! How come the French were never able to catch him?"

Percy laughed. "As if one of them demmed frog-eaters could ever catch a good Englishman, eh what?" Elizabeth giggled. "Ah, but plenty of them have tried."

"Like who?"

Blakeney thought again. "Citoyen Chauvelin certainly was a determined soul."

"Did you ever meet him?" Elizabeth asked excitedly, squeezing her father's hand.

"Indeed. The poor fellow had a terrible sense of fashion. Black it was, all day, everyday. Enough to drive a man insane."

"What was he like?"

"Sink me, child, why do you ask all these trying questions? He was your mother's friend! Ask her."

The child, now allowing a large yawn to escape her lips, sunk into her pillow and mattress. "I should like to meet the Scarlet Pimpernel someday."

"Most women would, it seems. Now, promise not to go scampering out of bed again?"

Elizabeth nodded, smiling as she turned on her side to go to sleep. Percy kissed the top of her head, and quietly left the room, blowing out the candles as he left.

As he made his way back to the garden, he noticed his wife waiting at the bottom of the stairs for him. Smiling, he quickened his pace ever so slightly so that he could reach his charming wife's side all the more quickly.

"Lord Dewhurst wondered where you'd gone to, so I came in to fetch you."

Sir Percy took his wife's hand and kissed it delicately. "I will come whenever it is you call, madame."

She smiled at her handsome husband, and then asked where he had been.

"I caught our daughter trying to scramble up a tree. Some nonsense about wanting to see if the Scarlet Pimpernel had come to your garden party."

Marguerite's smile brightened. "And did she find him?"

"I don't believe so," he admitted. "She then refused to go to bed until I told her about him. This done, she's now fast asleep."

"She is not the first to want to meet him," Marguerite said, sighing wistfully as an unruly lock of strawberry blonde hair fell into her eyes.

"Ah, well. Maybe someday she will."

Marguerite's fingers laced with that of her husbands and she gazed adoringly at him. "She will not be disappointed."

Percy gave his wife a quick kiss on the forehead before advising they return to the guests at the party.