A/N: I don't own the Scarlet Pimpernel, any of Orczy's wonderful characters etc. etc. I thought up this story a while ago and was inspired to write and post it after noticing several other authors on this site had done so with their 'modern person in pimpernel times' stories. This is not my first TSP fanfic, but it is the first one I have ever put online, so enjoy and review if you care to!
Chapter 1: Classes
"So, can anyone tell me what the basic idea was behind the French Revolution?"
Jen tried to stir through the foggy mists enveloping her brain and find the answer she had skimmed over last night in her homework assignment. No go. It had remained in her mind along with the rest of her homework reading for about the same length of time a bird will remain in an open cage. Apparently, the other students in this small high school classroom were suffering the same dilemma, for not a hand raised in answer to Mr. Gordon's seemingly simple question. Jen let a strand of her dark brown hair fall in front of her face as she sighed. What a dumb class. What had possessed her to take World History? First class of the day too. Nothing but dates, dead people, and events that no longer mattered. Her thoughts were interrupted quite suddenly by an unexpected event.
"Yes, Amber?" Mr. Gordon said, sounding quite relieved. Someone had apparently raised their hand. He pushed his glasses eagerly back up his narrow nose and waited expectantly for his answer.
Jen darted a look from under her hair at the hand-raiser and scowled to herself. Know-it-all, Amber Morris, it figured she would answer. What a geek.
Amber, who really tried hard not to make the rest of the class look bad, but couldn't help doing just that anyway, blushed, and answered, "It was a matter of the French lower classes wishing to overthrow the power that the upper classes held over them."
"Very good," Mr. Gordon smiled approvingly, "France was, as were many countries of the time, divided into very separate social classes. Those unfortunate enough to be in a class. . ." his voice droned on in a monotonous fashion and Jen soon found herself losing her concentration once more. Mr. Gordon was very much of the uptight sort, with teaching that seemed to be as boring to him as it was to his class, not that Jen could really blame him, he had been teaching this same class four times a day for the past ten years after all. She stuffed her hands in the pockets of her tight jeans and let her gaze fall on Amber Morris, who sat in the row next to her, two seats ahead, right in the front row. Amber always sat in the front row. When she had been in Jen's English class last year she had sat in the front row too. She always wore her light brown hair braided down her back and she always wore skirts or a dress. It became her well to dress in this manner, adding a gentle femininity to her figure, but it wasn't trendy and it definitely was not cool.
Jen's cell phone suddenly vibrated in her pocket. She flipped it open under her desk and clicked open the text she had been sent. It was from Lauren. Now Lauren was cool. Jen glanced over her shoulder and grinned back at her friend after reading the message: i know 1 class i am unfortun8 enough 2 B in. Jen thought a moment for an answer and began to compose it.
"Now, can anyone tell me what the three major classes were in France in the mid to late eighteenth century?" Mr. Gordon asked, darting an expectant glance at Amber who was sitting very still, secretly praying that some other classmate would answer this time.
Jen wracked her brains again. Uh, well, there were the nobility of course, but it would be of no use to raise her hand if she only knew one class, Mr. Gordon would be sure to press her for the rest and make her look stupid.
Amber reluctantly raised her hand.
"Yes, Amber?" Mr. Gordon called.
"The nobility, the clergy, and the bourgeois," she murmured, cringing within herself. If there was one thing worse than correctly answering a question when no one else knew the answer, it was answering correctly twice in a row under the same circumstances.
What a dork, Jen thought to herself, Amber even used the fancy B word that Jen could never remember.
"Very good, Amber." Mr. Gordon nodded approvingly, "at least someone did their homework."
At least someone remembers their homework, Jen retorted silently.
"Which of these classes was the largest?" Mr. Gordon asked.
Jen raised her hand. Amber's smart streak just had to be stopped.
"Uh," Jen really hadn't known the answer, and to make matters worse, her brain had suddenly ceased to work the instant she opened her mouth, leaving her staring stupidly at Mr. Gordon's impatient face with the eyes of the entire class upon her. Jen swallowed, and decided odds of one to three weren't so bad, making a wild guess. "The nobility?"
The way Mr. Gordon's narrow face grimaced told Jen even before he spoke just how utterly wrong her answer was. "No," he said crisply and turned to face the rest of the class. "Can anyone else tell me what the correct answer is?" Not a hand lifted from a desk. Mr. Gordon turned to Amber, "perhaps you would care to tell us, Amber?"
If there was anything possibly worse than answering correctly twice in a row, it was answering correctly after a cool girl like Jen had answered wrong. Amber blushed beet red and replied, "the bourgeois."
"That is correct. Now," he continued, a note of sarcasm in his voice, "there would not have been a revolution at all if the bourgeois were outnumbered by the nobility, would there have?" He proceeded to draw a large pie graph on the blackboard, dividing out about ninety-five percent of it and labeling the little slice left: "Nobility".
Jen sighed heavily and paid no attention for the remainder of the class.
As the students filed out of the classroom at the end of the class, Jen was called to an abrupt halt by Mr. Gordon. "Jennifer, come here a moment, I want to have a word with you."
Jen sighed and turned back, looking tiredly out from under her hair to signal her readiness to hear what her teacher had to say.
"Jennifer, I'm concerned about you," Mr. Gordon said. "You aren't a bad student. You passed the entirety of your classes last year with B's, C's and the occasional A. You are currently passing all your classes this year too. All except this one. In World History, you are failing miserably. I was just grading test two yesterday and found you have only been saved from an H by the fact that our grading system stops at F. I would normally blame laziness for such poor results from a student, but considering your record I am inclined to be persuaded otherwise. Is there something that is giving you trouble with this class?"
Jen sighed and decided to be honest. "I totally can't remember any of it after I study it. All these names of people who just don't seem all that important to my everyday life, all these things that happened, like, several hundred years ago, what difference does it make if I know about them or not? How can I be expected to be smart about stuff that is, I mean really, just history? I mean, the reason we don't do things like that any more is because we know better now, right?"
Mr. Gordon was silent for a few moments, then said, "I think I can help you, Jen. You don't want to fail this class, do you?"
Jen shook her head. Duh, who wants to fail a class?
"Well, then, how about I give you an extra credit assignment. I want you to choose a book from this list -,"
"Oh, brother, a book report?" Jen groaned.
"Not exactly," Mr. Gordon said, holding out a sheet of paper, "You may write a paper outlining the historical events and perspectives and their relevance from the book or you may verbalize it to me, whichever you wish. Now here is the list, it will be due four weeks from now, put some good effort into it and it will save your grade. That is all, now hurry so you're not late for your next class."
Jen snatched the paper from her teacher's hand and strode out of the room with a hastily called thanks.