Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Scarlet Pimpernel


In 1792, during the bloodthirsty, early stages of the French Revolution, Marguerite St. Just, a beautiful Frenchwoman, is the wife of the wealthy English fop Sir Percy Blakeney, a baronet. Before their marriage, Marguerite had carelessly made comments in private which had the unintended consequence of sending the French aristocrat Marquis de St. Cyr and his sons to the guillotine. When Percy found out, he became estranged from his wife. Marguerite, for her part, became disillusioned with Percy's dandyish ways.

Meanwhile, the "League of the Scarlet Pimpernel", a secret society of 20 English aristocrats, "one to command, and nineteen to obey", is engaged in rescuing their French counterparts from the daily executions. Their leader, the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, takes his nickname from the drawing of a small red flower with which he signs his messages. Despite being the talk of London society, only his followers and possibly the Prince of Wales know the Pimpernel's true identity. Like many others, Marguerite is entranced by the Pimpernel's daring exploits.

At a ball attended by the Blakeneys, Percy's verse about the "elusive Pimpernel" makes the rounds and amuses the other guests. Meanwhile, Marguerite is blackmailed by the wily new French envoy to England, Citizen Chauvelin. Chauvelin's agents have stolen a letter incriminating her beloved brother Armand, proving that he is in league with the Pimpernel. Chauvelin offers to trade Armand's life for her help against the Pimpernel. Contemptuous of her seemingly witless and unloving husband, Marguerite does not go to him for help or advice. Instead, she passes along information which enables Chauvelin to learn the Pimpernel's true identity.

Later that night, Marguerite finally tells her husband of the terrible danger threatening her brother and pleads for his assistance. Percy promises to save him. After Percy unexpectedly leaves for France, Marguerite discovers to her horror that he is the Pimpernel—the very man she has endangered. He had hidden behind the persona of a dull, slow-witted fop in order to deceive the world. He had not told Marguerite because of his worry that she might betray him, as she had others in the past. Desperate to save her spouse, she pursues Percy to France to try to warn him.

Chauvelin is close to capturing Percy on several occasions, but the Englishman manages to outwit him each time. Percy rescues Armand and the Comte de Tourney, the father of a schoolfriend of Marguerite's. Percy is finally reunited with his frantic wife when they are both taken prisoner by Chauvelin, though luckily Percy is so well disguised as a despised Jew that the Frenchman does not recognize him. The couple later manage to escape.

With Marguerite's love and courage amply proved, Percy's ardour is rekindled. Safely back on board their schooner, the Day Dream, the happily reconciled couple returns to England.

Thanks to Wikipedia

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