DISCLAIMER: I do not own The Scarlet Pimpernel or any of the characters contained therein or created by Baroness Orczy. I'm just borrowing them and having a little fun!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I absolutely adore the Baroness' creations - it's an ongoing love affair that started when I was 10. However, no-one can deny that she was not the most consistent writer. So, what I am offering is a loving parody to explain some things. Such as: why is Armand 33 in 1792, but 25 in 1794? Why does Marguerite start off as redhead and end up as a blonde? All of this (and more!) will be revealed in...
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL! (WITH JOKES)
Having finished his morning toilette, Sir Percy Blakeney looked in the mirror and gave an approving nod. It was good to see that his efforts had paid off; although, he had to admit, getting dressed in the mornings had become a lot more simple ever since he had invented the clip-on cravat. It really was so much easier than having to deal with all those complicated knots and bows and things; and he had created lots of different styles to choose from. Of course, he always carried a loose cravat with him when he went to parties so that he could take off the clip-on and let the proper one just hang around his neck, to give him that devil-may-care look that always looks good at 4 in the morning. (This was something that would be adapted by men in tuxedos a few decades later, after the invention of the clip-on bow-tie.)
Satisfied with his appearance, Percy made his way down to the breakfast room and passed his brother-in-law on the stairs.
'Morning, Percy,' Armand said, morosely. Ever since that encounter they had had with that time-machine and the bloke who called himself 'The Doctor' - which had left Armand nearly ten years younger and Marguerite with a lifetime's supply of blonde hair dye - Armand had been morose. This was because he hadn't decided whether to be happy or annoyed about his new-found youth and thought that this was the best attitude to adopt until he had made up his mind. Marguerite wasnít particularly bothered about their sudden reversal in age status, as she had always felt like an older sister anyway.
'Morning, my boy,' Percy answered cheerfully and clapped him heartily on the shoulder. Armand staggered under the assault and Percy reminded himself, ruefully, that he just didn't know his own strength sometimes. He offered Armand a pinch of snuff by way of apology and left his brother-in-law sneezing on the stairs.
Despite Percy's cheerful disposition (which he was famous for and of which he was very proud), he still had something on his mind. That something was to do with being (whisper it) the Scarlet Pimpernel. Specifically, it was his insignia. Now, Percy had nothing against small red flowers, obviously. It would have been stupid to choose as your defining mark something you hated. However, as time went on, Sir Percy had started to worry that a small red flower wasn't really the most macho choice as far as personal insignias went. He sighed. The trouble was, by the time he had come to choosing his emblem, all of the really cool ones like a spider or a bat had already been taken. He couldn't even do that funky carving-his-initials-with-the tip-of-his-sword thing, because "S" and "P" were just too curved to be able to do it properly. Percy squared his shoulders (because he was a proper man and not one of those whiny metrosexual types) and walked into the breakfast room.
Marguerite Blakeney also had something on her mind, which was wondering if her roots needed retouching yet. As her hair was really auburn (and that's extremely red), it was fairly obvious when the re-growth appeared. In fact, she was starting to wonder if this whole going blonde thing was actually worth all the bother, especially as Percy hadn't complimented her on her new look, not once.
(The fact was that Percy - being a proper man - hadn't even noticed that his wife's hair was now a completely different colour. He was aware that something had changed, but he thought that maybe she was just combing it differently. If Percy had been challenged he would have explained that although he was married to the most beautiful woman in Europe, looks weren't all that important to him; what he admired most about Marguerite was her intelligence and her ability to run away from French soldiers quite fast while wearing inappropriate shoes. Honest.)
Marguerite put her own concerns to one side and looked at her husband sympathetically. Even though he had been incredibly stoic about the whole emblem thing, she - intuitive woman that she was - had picked up on it. (Admittedly, that was made easier because Percy sometimes talked in his sleep.) As a result she had decided to show solidarity and have most of the rooms in the house decorated with small red flowers.
Percy did wonder if this might not give the game away about his secret identity; but as he didn't want to hurt her feelings, he wisely kept quiet. What he didn't know was that Marguerite was planning on opening a retail chain specialising in soft furnishings that would have scarlet pimpernels on everything, including cushions, curtains and mouse mats.(1)
They ate their breakfast and indulged in some of that sickeningly happy mushy stuff that made the footman wish that they would dismiss him, or just take their meals in their rooms. They did not linger over breakfast (much to the footman's relief) as they had a very important appointment to do with League business. As they didn't want Armand to know about it, this meant that they had to sneak out of the house. Percy found this most inconvenient and wondered - not for the first time - exactly why it was that Armand was still living with them, when Percy had given him a perfectly nice house in Leeds (which in those days may as well have been in another country).
'Where are you two going to?' asked a morose voice.
'Oh, Armand... Er... Didn't see you there. We're just going to, um...' Percy and Marguerite exchanged surreptitious glances. They weren't very good at doing that because Marguerite always giggled but, luckily, Armand was too busy being morose to notice.
'We're going to that, er, thing,' Marguerite said helpfully.
'Yes. That thing.'
'What thing?' Armand asked suspiciously. He had a feeling lately that Percy was leaving him out of League business. And he would have been right. This was because he always got himself into trouble, Marguerite didn't want him getting hurt and the other League members thought he was a bit of a wuss, not necessarily in that order.
'It's a husband and wife thing,' Percy said.
'Oh. Oh, okay. I'll see you later then.'
'Whew, that was close,' Percy said as they got into the carriage. Percy had called the carriage because the meeting was at Sir Andrew's house, even though Andrew's estate was next door to the Blakeney's and they could just have climbed over the wall at the bottom of their (really big) garden. However, as Percy pointed out, if you are the richest man in England, why not take a carriage everywhere, just because you can? Marguerite would have pointed out that the bizarre but strangely flattering fashions for women at that time made climbing over anything almost impossible. But as the carriage was already there, she didn't have to.
Contrary to popular belief, there were only seven members of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, including Percy. But as seven doesn't sound as impressive a number as twenty, Percy had ordered them, at their very first meeting, to mill about a bit to make it look as though there were more of them than there really were. Over the years some of the League had also developed a nice line in quick-change routines. In fact, they had all got so good at milling and quick change (2) that when they weren't doing terribly brave League related things they took themselves on the road as a vaudeville troupe to earn a bit of extra cash. After all, stately homes are very expensive to run. And as members of the League, their life insurance premiums were sky-high (but they all got a complimentary pen when they took out their policies).
When Percy and Marguerite arrived the League had been discussing what their favourite part about being in the League was. Andrew voted for Scarlet Pimpernel related poetry - most of this poetry was actually written by Percy himself (mostly on the back of a used cravat), so this was an obvious sign of Andrew's wholehearted devotion to his leader and best friend. Or of sucking up.(3) A few votes went to the dressing up, but in the end they all agreed that the best part really was the opportunity for foreign travel and meeting new people.
(Actually, for the unmarried members the really best thing was the fact that their heroic antics as rescuers made attractive female rescuees put out more. But Marguerite was present by then and they thought it wiser to keep quiet about that part because she'd lecture them about something she called sexual harassment. As they wouldn't have minded being harassed sexually they didn't see what her problem was.)
'So, how are we going to do the rescuing bit?' Andrew asked enthusiastically, because - as Percy's most trusted lieutenant and bestest friend - that was his job.
'Well,' Percy replied, looking enigmatic, 'I'll disguise myself as something that involves the sort of prosthetics, make-up and wigs that always seem incredibly advanced for the eighteenth century, use a bit of the old misdirection, grab the French toffs and then make a dashing exit while uttering a few witticisms.'
The rest of the League gazed at him in awe and felt very glad that they had decided to keep Percy as leader. Percy had become leader in the first place because the League was his idea and also because he could lurk in shadows looking fantastically moody better than any of the others.
Marguerite also gazed at her husband in admiration, her bosom heaving out of her appreciation of his dazzling intellect and manly physique. The rest of the League pretended not to notice her heaving bosom, apart from Tony who had stationed himself behind her left shoulder so that he could look down the front of her dress.
The meeting broke up in the usual fashion, with a round of drinks (all right, a few rounds of drinks) and the usual toasts: to the King, to the King of France (Marguerite just pretended to drink to those, because she is still actually a Republican), to their tailors, to their horses, and to their absent but long-suffering and incredibly understanding wives. Some of them drank to Marguerite's cleavage but they kept it to themselves as they didn't want Percy - or, even more terrifyingly, Marguerite - killing them.
Percy gallantly handed his wife into the carriage and then jumped up next to her with a devilishly attractive grin and the sense of a job well done. There was, however, one thing he still had to do. 'By the way, darling, all things considered I much prefer you as a redhead than as a blonde.' He whipped up the horses. 'See, I'm more observant than people think.'
Appendix A: Marguerite is now a redhead again. However, while her hair was growing out she had a temper tantrum when retuning her harpsichord and inadvertently invented the Punk movement 200 hundred years early.
Appendix B: Armand, against all expectations, published a runaway best-seller, Moroseness And How To Use It To Your Advantage. All the media attention left him feeling incredibly depressed. He is now writing a follow-up, Moroseness And The Modern Celebrity.
Appendix C: The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel Vaudeville Troupe had a sell-out tour of the south coast. My Lords Hastings and Frogmorton put their shares of the proceeds towards a nice little one bedroom cottage in Petersham. That's right, one bedroom. You're not actually surprised, are you?
Appendix D: Percy reconciled himself to his insignia. This was mainly because Marguerite, with typical selflessness, had it tattooed on her...
Hey, some things are best left private, no?
(1) As mouse mats - and indeed, computers - had not yet been invented, it just shows what an intelligent and forward thinking woman Marguerite is.
(2) Some of them had also excelled at cross-dressing but when Marguerite joined that particular service was no longer required, as she is an actual woman. Some of the League are still rather bitter about that aspect. But as Marguerite was an actress and so is used to people with alternative life-styles, she doesn't mind giving them fashion and beauty tips
(3) Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, friend or toady? Discuss. Arguments should be backed up with examples.