The Scarlet Pimpernel HTML version

VI. An Exquisite Of '92
Sir Percy Blakeney, as the chronicles of the time inform us, was in this year of
grace 1792, still a year or two on the right side of thirty. Tall, above the average,
even for an Englishman, broad-shouldered and massively built, he would have
been called unusually good-looking, but for a certain lazy expression in his deep-
set blue eyes, and that perpetual inane laugh which seemed to disfigure his
strong, clearly-cut mouth.
It was nearly a year ago now that Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart., one of the richest
men in England, leader of all the fashions, and intimate friend of the Prince of
Wales, had astonished fashionable society in London and Bath by bringing
home, from one of his journeys abroad, a beautiful, fascinating, clever, French
wife. He, the sleepiest, dullest, most British Britisher that had ever set a pretty
woman yawning, had secured a brilliant matrimonial prize for which, as all
chroniclers aver, there had been many competitors.
Marguerite St. Just had first made her DEBUT in artistic Parisian circles, at the
very moment when the greatest social upheaval the world has ever known was
taking place within its very walls. Scarcely eighteen, lavishly gifted with beauty
and talent, chaperoned only by a young and devoted brother, she had soon
gathered round her, in her charming apartment in the Rue Richelieu, a coterie
which was as brilliant as it was exclusive--exclusive, that is to say, only from one
point of view. Marguerite St. Just was from principle and by conviction a
republican--equality of birth was her motto--inequality of fortune was in her eyes
a mere untoward accident, but the only inequality she admitted was that of talent.
"Money and titles may be hereditary," she would say, "but brains are not," and
thus her charming salon was reserved for originality and intellect, for brilliance
and wit, for clever men and talented women, and the entrance into it was soon
looked upon in the world of intellect--which even in those days and in those
troublous times found its pivot in Paris--as the seal to an artistic career.
Clever men, distinguished men, and even men of exalted station formed a
perpetual and brilliant court round the fascinating young actress of the Comedie
Francaise, and she glided through republican, revolutionary, bloodthirsty Paris
like a shining comet with a trail behind her of all that was most distinguished,
most interesting, in intellectual Europe.
Then the climax came. Some smiled indulgently and called it an artistic
eccentricity, others looked upon it as a wise provision, in view of the many events
which were crowding thick and fast in Paris just then, but to all, the real motive of
that climax remained a puzzle and a mystery. Anyway, Marguerite St. Just
married Sir Percy Blakeney one fine day, just like that, without any warning to her