BEHIND THE MASK: A SCARLET PIMPERNEL FAN-FICTION STORY
By Mary Chapel, October 15, 2016
Summary: The Scarlet Pimpernel and his wife share their secrets.
Author’s Note: Dedicated to my mother, who has been such a help in my life and has always been there for me, even when I didn’t want her!
November the 10, 1792
“…As I continue to understand in parts my Husband, I find more and more about his Past is unknown to me. Simple details such as the Nature of his Parents and Schooldays remain a Mystery to me, one which Many seem not to Wish to touch Upon. This Night shewd me that an Innocent Assumption may be taken in the Strangest of Ways by him, mayhap in part to the Malady that afflicted his dear Mother-a fact which the old, Trusted Servants divulged to me after Careful Questioning.
Yet I long to Know him as I ought to, and I will Strive to carry on this Quest of Discovery as long as we are Together.”
Marguerite set down her dainty feather pen and shut the book. Pressing her fingers to her aching temples, trying to ignore the persistent nausea that had been her frequent companion for the last week, she replayed the events of that afternoon as she had fifty times before…
Percy had been agitated the whole day, unusually so even for him. In the drawing room, Marguerite could hear him striding about in the study, casting himself into a chair, then getting up and starting it all over again. By and by, he slammed the door and hurried down the stair. She came out to him, expecting a kiss or an embrace customary to his leaving, for whatever cause, but he moved right past her, ignoring even her catch at his arm. The large front doors slammed as well, and out of the window she saw him walking rapidly towards the stables, his coattails tossing in the wind and his hands running through his hair. He had no hat whatsoever, nor overcoat, and it was a chill day.
“Well!” she snorted.
Annoyed, Marguerite caught up her cloak from the closet and swept her hair up tighter. Percy would have some explaining to do and she wanted it done now! No one was in France that she knew of, the League was at some sort of lull (Why, she realized, she did not know. This was followed by a fresh surge of irritation at Percy.) The estates were brimming over with prosperity and all the servants were doing well, so there was no reason why Percy should be like this! And with such news to relate to him too! Why, she couldn’t speak to him at all this day, what with this dreadful mood he was in…
“Ahem. If I may, madame…?” a cautious voice came from behind her.
“What? Ah, Pierre. Would you tell Marie to bring my walking boots down?” she asked the elderly butler as she clasped her cloak.
“Madame…,” Pierre was obviously distressed as he shifted back and forth, something he had only done right after her marriage began to crumble.
“Pierre, if you would?” she asked again, standing up with her house shoes in her hand. “Or is there something I should know?”
“Yes, Madame, there is. And I think you should…” his voice trailed off again.
“Pierre, I have little patience today…,” Marguerite warned.
“Well, Madame, it’s just that the master has these moods where we simply must leave him alone. It’s been this way since he was a little boy.”
“Moods?” Marguerite’s curiosity flamed. Mayhap this will reveal a bit more of my husband…
“Please, do continue, Pierre. I know so little about Percy that anything new and different is an absolute treat.”
She put all the force of her smile, which had charmed so many on and off the stage, into her statement as she slipped on her house shoes again.
Pierre stopped shifting about, but his face wrinkled more deeply than even his usual frown. He folded his arms tight and stared at the floor. Marguerite watched him carefully, slipping into a slight pleading expression as she sensed his walls crumbling.
“Well, ma’m, it’s not our story to tell, and I’d ask you not repeat anything I say, but we’ve thought you should know for awhile now. So, if you’d allow me, I’ll call for Mrs. Sprig and old Eliza and we can tell you.”
That conversation had been long and convoluted, leaving her utterly drained. How does one take in that your husband’s mother was, quite simply, mad, and that some of the characteristics she had shown before her degeneration were now showing in Percy? And at around the same age as well!
However, they had been very sweet and reassuring, each in their own way. Mrs. Sprig’s sweet tea and crumpets, Eliza’s gnarled old hands stroking her hair as she cried, Pierre’s rough assurance that he had known of others who had recovered, all told her that she was gaining their love and trust as well.
Yet I know so little of him, but love him so much. What can I do?
Tears welled up in her eyes again as she feared for the future, yet knew she would not, could not leave him for anything in the world, just as his father never left his mother before her. Even with their future in front of them, shining so bright in the morning, now full of clouds.
And she drooped onto the desk, silently weeping as she wished there was something, anything that she could do for him that would fend off the looming specter that hung over them all now.
“Egad, my lady, are you fatigued already? I had hoped for a moment of your time before we retired, if it ‘twoud not be too great a boon to ask of thee,” her husband’s voice sounded at the doorway.
Percy! Oh, Dieu, what to do now?
She choked on a sob, huddling down further into her shawl and chair, trying to hide the traces of her tears and distress.
“I say, are you quite well, Margot?” Footsteps—his footsteps, so light but heavy at once, came up behind her and a warm hand rested on her shoulder.
“Please…,” she begged, turning from him. Half her being heaved with overall wretchedness, the nausea and headache making her so ill that she wanted him to go; the other half wanting Percy just to make it all go away like he had before.
“Margot? Are you crying, my sweet?” Percy queried.
Hands lifted her face and Percy’s concerned eyes looked down at her, realizing this was no small matter. His eyes tried to find an answer to it, tried to help her in any way he could as he always did.
“P-Percy, I, I…” she stuttered through her sobs.
“Shhh, dear heart, come with me,” he murmured, sweeping her into his arms and carrying her into her bedroom. “You never have to tell me anything.”
“But, Percy…” She floundered again, wondering what to say, what not to say, what should be said…
“I already know, dearest,” he whispered into her hair, his arms tightening around her. “Eliza told me. But what she would not have told you is that I work every day on containing it, so as to never come to the pass my mother did. And the doctors have told me, after our reconciliation, that there is a lesser and lesser chance of me succumbing to this malady. So, Margot, there is no need of worrying your pretty head any further, for all ’tis well now.”
Marguerite sputtered on his arm as she accidentally got a mouthful of lacy cuff, happiness and nausea sweeping over her all at once.
“Zounds! Are you set on destroying my impeccable fashion reputation, woman?” Percy chuckled as he set her down gently.
Marguerite, very close to throwing up, could only weakly smile up at him as he sat down beside her.
“Percy, I’m glad you know, and I want you to know…”
“Shh, Margot, I know without words,” he answered, moving closer for a kiss.
The kiss was wonderful (as were all of Percy’s kisses) and took away her mind from all her aches and troubles, but Marguerite was impatience solidified at the end, having been reminded of her pressing news.
“Percy, this isn’t about that now,” she cooed, all flushed from the kiss and brimming over with renewed happiness. “I have something else I want to tell you, but la! you were in such a vile mood that I simply couldn’t!”
Percy looked at her expectantly, obviously wanting to continue what the kiss had started. She moved one of his hands over her stomach and clasped her hands over it.
“Percy, meet your child.”