Sir Alexander felt as if his collar was tightening around his neck like a noose. The League had been captured? No doubt that filthy rat Chauvelin had something to do with this. Sir Alexander looked about the faces of the other Guilders--being new to the Guild, he hardly knew anyone, except for Lady Hastings herself. Stricken murmurs rose in the throats of the crowd around him, and the elaborate walls seemed to be closing around him.....
“What we need is someone to be a shadow to Sir Percy and Andrew, someone who could track them, but remain unseen, to make sure they are safe.”
Lady Hasting’s lilting voice barely rose above the tumult like a faint and distant melody. “But we must have someone whom Percy and Andrew have contact with, but wouldn’t suspect as following them.” She glanced over the faces of the Guilders, until her dainty eyes settled on Sir Alexander.
“You.” she said.
Sir Alexander looked behind him.
“Me? I’m just a banker.”
“Precisely. You’re known to Sir Andrew and Sir Percy on business terms, and also, those who would be tracking them would be less suspicious of you.”
Sir Alexander just knew something would go wrong; he didn’t know if he could handle an adventure like this.....he really wasn’t the adventurous type.
“I’ll try,” he stammered. Lady Hastings only gave him a firm look. He turned around, tripping on the Oriental rug that lay beneath his feet, and stumbled out the door, hitting his shin on the door jam. Already he was off to a good start.
* * * *
Sir Alexander sat in his study, glancing over a folded piece of paper bearing a violet flower. It stated, in flamboyant handwriting,
Certain information has come to my knowledge, Sir Alexander, about the status of Sir Andrew and Sir Percy. Chauvelin has sent on Pierre DeBernier, a very cunning and little-known French agent, to track down Sir Percy and Sir Andrew. It is also to our knowledge that Percy and Andrew themselves will attempt to free the other League members, who have are being held in an unknown location outside of Paris. Your mission is to make sure Sir Percy and Sir Andrew make it to France NO MATTER WHAT. Other Guilders have been assigned the task ot assiting in aiding in finding and freeing the captured League members. God speed.
How was he going to do this??? His mind was reeling for a way to get Sir Percy and Sir Andrew safely to France. He slipped the scrap of paper into his pocket and went back to his banking records. He flipped a few pages in his record book, glancing over a few of the entries. Suddenly, something promising caught his eye......
* * * *
“Good afternoon, Lady Blakeney,” Sir Alexander greeted the beautful woman in his most gentlemanly voice as she stepped into her entrance hall to meet her caller.
“Monsiuer Pierce! Is this a social call, Sir Alexander?”
Sir Alexander took up the lady’s dainty fingertips and kissed them.
“No, Madame, I pray it’s business. Is Sir Percy in?”
Hardly had he gotten the words out of his mouth than a drawling voice came drifting into the front hall. Sir Percy sauntered into the room, dressed in his usual beautiful attire. He addressed Sir Alexander with his usual, goodnatured way,
“Ah, the American chap! Tell me, how are things in the States?”
Sir Alexander almost felt a little nervous in the presence of Percy; he was standing not six feet from the brave leader of the league of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
“I’m not sure, Sir Percy. I haven’t been to America in five years.”
“Well, Sir Alex, I suppose you’re here on business, my lad?”
Sir Alexander cringed at his shortened name; however there was no use in correcting Percy. He’d usually apologize about calling him that and then five minutes later go back to using the nickname.
Marguerite bid Sir Alexander farewell, leaving the men to discuss their business. Sir Alexander only hoped that his plan would work......
* * * *
Sir Alexander began to fidget with his collar, and straightened his cravat for the tenth time. If only he could just tell Percy that he had been sent to assure his safety on his passage to France; but on no account could he let out the secret of the Violet Guild. If he could just persuade Percy to take him to France, on the assumption of a business call, then Sir Alexander would have a reason to be at Percy’s side every minute. And a certain angle to his plan would assure that Sir Andrew would be along, too.
“Now, I don’t know who this Monsieur Chauvelin fellow is, but he came to my office the other day, inquiring about some land over in France. I suppose he’s trying to establish an estate--”
Percy’s voice sounded ever less drawling, his words darting about the air like silent, nervous fish. Then his eyes clouded over with their affected nonchalance, and he continued, “Ah, yes, I know the chap. He was in England a year ago......do continue, Sir Alex.”
Sir Alexander shot him an impatient glare and continued, “Anyway, this Chauvelin fellow wanted to purchase some land near Calais, and I noticed that part of the land he is interested in is owned by you, as part of your French esate. We’d have to travel there to settle this little matter with Monsiuer Chauvelin and his brokers. I’m surprised such a thing could happen like this; they should keep better records there, but you know the French--”
Sir Alexander’s voice died down as he glanced at the face across from him. Percy was silent, yet his eyes seemed to be alive with something, and Sir Alexander could almost sense that brilliant mind working away behind those deep blue eyes. Hopefully Percy would take Sir Andrew along as well, now that Chauvelin had been mentioned.
“Odd’s fish, but you’re in great luck, my dear Sir Alex! I was about to embark on a journey to Paris to meet with some old friends, anway, and I’m sure we could make a stop at Calais.”
Sir Alexander smiled demurely, straightening his cravat for the elenth time.
“Dear me, man, are you nervous about something? Here, let me fix that for you,” Percy reached over the table, and untied Sir Alexander’s cravat with a flourish of his fingers. “You’ve been fiddling with that for the last half-hour.” He set to work tying it with expertise. His fingers still poised at Sir Alexander’s collar, he asked in a nonchalant tone,
“You don’t mind if Sir Andrew accompanies us, do you, chap?”
He finished tying the cravat and fluffed it a little so that it stood out jauntily from Sir Alexander’s collar.
“Not at all, Percy,” Sir Alexander said with a smile.
* * * *
The sun was piercing through a few thick sea clouds like a yellow dagger. The sea was like dark blue glass, the water sparkling as if a million gold diamonds glittered about its surface. Oh, God, how Sir Alexander hated sea travel!
He was hunched over the edge of the Day Dream, clutching his stomach. He was sure he was going to be sick this time.
Percy and Andrew were sitting on the deck, watching Sir Alexander with puzzled, concerned looks.
“You can’t take a banker anywhere,” Sir Percy drawled, and then called out, “Hey! Alex, ol’ chap! You going to make it?”
There was only a very weak groan in response.
Sir Andrew dismissed the presence of Sir Alexander and turned back to Percy.
“You believe that story about the land?”
Percy answered in a low tone,
“I don’t know why Chauvelin would want us at Calais otherwise; it’s most certainly a trap. Any news about the others?”
“No, last report I heard they were near Paris. Hopefully we’ll make it through to Paris; we’ll need to take that roundabout route.”
“God, I hope they’re faring well.” Percy’s voice was almost lost amidst the gentle breath of the ocean air.
He called out to Sir Alexander in his good-natured drawl,
“Don’t worry there, my lad! We’re almost to the shore!”
Sir Alexander looked up towards the horizon at the crazily-tilting coastline sliding ever closer to the boat.
* * * *
Night had fallen upon the French coast like a diamond-studded navy-blue cloak. Sir Alexander was shivering, hunched in a carriage, sitting opposite Sir Percy and Sir Andrew. The monotonous rocking of the carriage was starting to get to him, the constant motion only interrupted by a stone encountered on the road or the horse skipping a step. The moon shone like a lonely silver beacon upon the lonely French countryside.
Only the sound of a gentle breeze and the clatter of the horse’s hooves upon the gravel were heard by the three travellers, along with the rustle of the long grass lining the road. Sir Alexander felt his eyes growing heavy as the rustling grew louder. He let his head rest against the back of the carriage seat, trying to ignore the draft that seeped in from--
Something shot into the silence with an echoing crack that drowned out the sounds of the carriage like a waterfall’s roar over taking the silent patter of a stream of water.
Percy and Andrew started, perched on the edge of their seats, glancing about at all angles. Sir Alexander had started, his legs unvoluntarily standing, and had hit his head on the roof of the carriage. He now sank to the carriage seat, rubbing the top of his sandy head woefully.
Percy was about to speak when another BANG! exploded into the darkness like a lead weight falling off a twenty-story building. Sir Alexander had ducked this time, and fell off the carriage seat. Andrew extended an arm to him and hauled him upwards. But as Sir Alexander was on the floor, he caught sight of something on the carriage wall behind his head; a small hole, about the size of a quarter. Made from none other than a musket ball.
The rustling grew louder until an all-out barrage of gunshots attacked the carriage. The horse suddenly skidded to a halt, and the carriage jack-knifed, tilting crazily upon its side, the one of the doors opening from the shock of the carriage hitting the ground. The traces had broken on the horse’s harness and the horse went galloping away, shedding various articles of tack as it galloped down the moonlit road. There was nothing for be seen of the driver.
Percy and Andrew were struggling to get out of the carriage, to free themselves from the splintering wood as shot upon shot attacked the carriage. Sir Alexander was no where to be found. They scrambled out of the fallen carriage and into the long grass, and then into the woods beyond.
* * * *
Sir Alexander felt something poking at him from underneath his leg as he lay crumpled inside the broken carriage. He shifted around and retrieved whatever object lay underneath him; it was small and cold, and round; a ring of some sort. He quickly pocketed it just as he heard some voices over him.
“Search the carriage!”
Three dark faces appeared over him, wearing Revolutionary soldier’s hats. A strong pair of arms reached for his small frame and pulled him from the wreckage of the carriage.
“I’ve found something, Captain.”
Sir Alexander was propped so that he was leaning against the carriage, looking into the moonlight. Another face appeared from the darkness and a very quiet voice came along with it.
“Perhaps this is him.....bring him to my carriage so I can interrogate him!”
Sir Alexander felt as if his eyes were sealing themselves closed; he could barely keep up the strength to remain sitting upright.
A cloud occluded the moon as he was brought to another carriage and forced inside. The same face and quiet voice he had heard now sat opposite him.
Sir Alexander found some strength to protest,
“I’m just a banker, I didn’t ask for any of this....”
The man didn’t seem to care, and asked in French, of course,
“Were you travelling alone?”
Sir Alexander wasn’t very fluent in French, but he understood what he had said and answered,
The man looked outside the carriage to one of his soldiers. He instructed,
A soldier appeared in the doorway and began to sift around in Sir Alexander’s pockets. He produced two objects in the dim light; what looked like a folded letter and a small ring.
The man who was interrogating him took the objects from the soldier and dismissed him. Holding the ring into what remained of moonlight, he could see that it was engraved with a curious device; something resembling a star-shaped flower. The envelope was sealed with red sealing wax, bearing the insignia of the flower. He broke the seal and read the letter, which was written in French,
I fear I must start on without you, Sir Andrew. The rendezvous will be at the inn “Le Petit Berger” seven miles from Calais. I shall be waiting for you there.
The letter was signed with a drawing of a red, star-shaped flower.
The man, who was none other than DeBernier, suddenly stared at Sir Alexander, squinting in the dim light. Could it be? Morbleu! He had captured the Scarlet Pimpernel, in the flesh! He wasn’t as exactly as Monsieur Chauvelin had described, though he did have dark blue eyes and sandy hair..... This would be most pleasing to Monsiuer Chauvelin, most pleasing, deinitely.......
* * * *
Sir Alexander was sitting in the Office of Public Safety. He had no idea how that letter had wound up in his jacket pocket!!! He was also surprised that Sir Percy and Andrew had abandoned him so easily, but secretly he hoped that they were alright. Citoyen DeBernier was sitting across from Sir Alexander, still looking him over skeptically. There was something about this man that didn’t seem like how he had imagined the Scarlet Pimpernel.....he was so......short.
Sir Alexander realized he would have to play the part of Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., in order to insure the true Sir Percy’s safety. Though Sir Alexander couldn’t keep up the charade for very long, it would be enough to stall, to provide those precious minutes for Sir Percy and Sir Andrew to escape.
“So you are the Scarlet Pimpernel?” Citoyen DeBernier sounded incredulous.
Sir Alexander assumed his best drawling English accent,
“Umm....Odd’s fish, Citoyen! You’ve found me out, you clever chap, you.....” What else would Sir Percy do in this situation? He reached over the table and began fiddling with the Citoyen’s cravat. “Lud, man! Don’t you Frenchies know how to tie cravats?!”
Citoyen DeBernier shot him an evil look and Sir Alexander sat back in his seat.
“You’re not even English!”
Sir Alexander pretended to be shocked, though in actuality he was downright horror-stricken,
“Yes I am, man! I’m as demmed English as possible!”
Suddenly the door burst open and a dark, foxlike shape sidled into the room. Citoyen Chauvelin crossed the room in quiet footsteps, saying,
“Citoyen DeBernier, I hear you have some important news to tell me.....” He moved past Sir Alexander, inquiring, “Who’s this little chap?”
DeBernier puffed out his chest in false bravado,
“That’s the Scarlet Pimpernel.”
A million surprised and astonished glances passed over Chauvelin’s face, which then melted to absolute anger,
“What?! You mistook this man for Blakeney? Are you out of your mind?! This is some impersonator, and he looks more like an accountant to me than a hero!”
Sir Alexander raised a finger in protest,
“Actually sir, I’m a banker--”
“Shut up, you!” Chauvelin banged his fist on DeBernier’s desk. “I’m not done with you, Citoyen! You will pay dearly for this!”
The ring had been sitting on the desk and had now rolled onto the floor. Sir Alexander stooped to pick it up, and then he felt an arm against his shoulder shoving him out into the street. He collapsed down the stairs, dropping the ring, as it rolled down the road, glinting in the morning sunlight.
Chauvelin grabbed the letter which had been sitting on the desk, and read it over quickly. He knew of that hotel, and he would find the true Scarlet Pimpernel there. He smiled and pocketed the letter.
* * * *
“I feel bad for him, but I knew they wouldn’t do anything to him,” Sir Percy whispered as he walked alongside Sir Andrew on the bustling street.
“Why’d you even take him along, Percy, is beyond me.”
“I thought he could be a diversion should the need for one arise; and I took that precaution. I sure hope they haven’t done anything drastic to him. Poor little chap. He’s only a financier, not used to all this adventure.” He paused to look Sir Andrew in the eye, “Besides, he never would have lasted if we took him along to the mission. Chauvelin’s probably seen him by now, guillotened a few more aristos to get some frustrations out and fired a few more secretaries. I bet he’s around here, at the Committee.”
There was almost a pang of guilt in his words; Percy had delayed his rescue mission and had walked into the lion’s den by coming here to see if Sir Alexander was at the Committee. It was the least he could do for someone who had saved his life. However, his business with the land deal would have to be postponed, that is, if there was ever any land dispute at all......Percy somehow felt suspicious of Sir Alexander’s motives in following him to France.
The moved into the shadow of a building, and were greeted by a weary, familiar voice,
“Sir Percy? Sir Andew?”
Percy looked into the shadows to see Sir Alexander, smiling weakly at them, tottering towards them.
“Alex, ol’ chap! We were worried about you!”
He looped an arm about the little American’s shoulder and began to lead him away from the Committee building. Now all he had to do was get him back to England, and hire a carriage to get himself and Andrew back to Paris.
“Why were you in the Committee building? Were you in trouble?”
Sir Alexander fell in step beside Sir Percy and looked up to him,
“No, no trouble at all.....what makes you think I was in the Committee building? I was just trying to find some help after those bandits attacked our carriage.”
Percy shot a look to Andrew. Percy had suspected that Sir Alexander was relatively suspicious about his true identity, now more than ever. But he knew the little American had no motive in telling anyone of his secret.
“Here, you dropped this in the carriage,” Sir Alexander said with a sly smile, as he produced the ring from his pocket and placed it in Percy’s gloved palm. Percy only looked at him with an almost fearful look, and then took the ring silently and slipped it into his pocket. He smiled, and said in his best, affected drawl,
“Lud man! We’d best get you back to England! I hear that Chauvelin has more on his mind than land disputes.”
* * *
Sir Alexander was back in his office in England, watching the sunlight stream in though the gauzy window curtains. He had been trying to work on his bank books, but somehow he couldn’t concentrate. The taste of adventure still clouded thick about his face like flitting, dreamy fireflies. What would the woman he loved, his soon-to-be fiancé, Grace Lyons, have to say when he told her he had helped the Scarlet Pimpernel! She’d probably faint, and then he would hold her in his arms--
There was a knock at the door, and one of Sir Alexander’s servants stood outside, arm outstretched holding an envelope.
Sir Alexander took it from him and bid him good afternoon, and broke the violet seal and read the letter,
The Guild is most gracious to your bravery, Sir Alexander! We have just recieved news that Percy and Andrew have made it safely to their destination, and work has gone underway to free the rest of the League. Thanks to the false letter, Chauvelin has been thrown off the track and Sir Percy and Sir Andrew were able to reach their destination safely. The odds look favorable that the entire League will be saved by the rest of the Guilders. Merci, Sir Alexander! The Guild will remember your heroism!
The only signature was a small, violet flower.
Sir Alexander started again as he heard another, very small sound. Footsteps died away down the hall as a piece of paper was slipped underneath the door. Sir Alexander crossed the room carefully, and stooped to pick up the paper. He broke the seal and unfolded it,
I wish all English gentlemen had the services of such a fine banker as yourself. I do believe that that land deal was a mistake, and I’ve checked with Citoyen Chauvelin; I don’t believe that land is on his mind at the present moment. I’ll remember the deed you have done for me, and I apologize for any trouble I have caused you; perhaps I’ll need your services in the future, and I don’t mean just your financial prowess. I shall see you at the next ball. Give my regards to your pretty Miss Lyons.
Thank you, Sir Alexander.
P. S. Thanks for finding my ring....I hope your finding it didn’t cause you too much trouble.....if you know what I mean. I’m forever grateful to you, and you won’t be forgotten.
There wasn’t a signature, but he knew only too well who it was from, for there was only the device of a small wayside English flower drawn in the corner in red ink.
* The End *
- Return to the main Archives page
- Mail the author!