Monday, January 9, 2012
Review: The Elusive Pimpernel
Chauvelin, maddened by his failure to capture the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel the year before is ready to try again. He is the only man in France who knows the Pimpernel's identity and he means to make good use of it. He does not mean to send that hero to a martyr's death; oh no, that would be too tame and ineffectual for him. What he plans is the dishonour of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and thereby of the whole League, and as hostages for this he will hold not only Marguerite, but a whole city of innocent people.
I love this book. It's not quite as heartstoppingly beautiful as El Dorado, but it is a fast paced, lovely, humourous book. Sir Percy is there in full force, with all his heroic silliness, and Marguerite with her beautiful, loving impulsiveness. Chauvelin is as villainous as ever, although since he had no choice but to capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel or go to the guillotine himself, we could cut him some slack. In the series it is after Sir Percy Leads the Band and I Will Repay, but I have never read either of those and found no spoilers or even references to them. There are a multitude of lovely quotes and quotable passages in The Elusive Pimpernel too, more than both The Scarlet Pimpernel and El Dorado. I'd recommend that when you read it you watch your copy very carefully, or you will be wandering around the house muttering, “where is that elusive pimpernel?” (I did find it, after a while, to read it the second time in a month.)
The Elusive Pimpernel is available free as an e-book from Gutenberg, an audiobook from Librivox, or a paper book from your library. If all else fails, you can get it as an un-free book from Amazon.
And now, for a particularly delightful passage:
Dishonour and ridicule! Derision and scorn!" he (Chauvelin) murmured, gloating over the very sound of these words, which expressed all that he hoped to accomplish, "utter abjections, then perhaps a suicide's grave..."
He loved the silence around him, for he could murmur these words and hear them echoing against the bare stone walls like the whisperings of all the spirits of hate which were waiting to lend him their aid.
How long he had remained thus absorbed in his meditations, he could not afterwards have said; a minute or two perhaps at most, whilst he leaned back in his chair with eyes closed, savouring the sweets of his own thoughts, when suddenly the silence was interrupted by a loud and pleasant laugh and a drawly voice speaking in merry accents:
"The lud live you, Monsieur Chaubertin, and pray how do you propose to accomplish all these pleasant things?"
In a moment Chauvelin was on his feet and with eyes dilated, lips parted in awed bewilderment, he was gazing towards the open window, where astride upon the sill, one leg inside the room, the other out, and with the moon shining full on his suit of delicate-coloured cloth, his wide caped coat and elegant chapeau-bras, sat the imperturbable Sir Percy.
"I heard you muttering such pleasant words, Monsieur," continued Blakeney calmly, "that the temptation seized me to join in the conversation. A man talking to himself is ever in a sorry plight... he is either a mad man or a fool..."
He laughed his own quaint and inane laugh and added apologetically:
"Far be if from me, sir, to apply either epithet to you... demmed bad form calling another fellow names... just when he does not quite feel himself, eh?... You don't feel quite yourself, I fancy just now... eh, Monsieur Chauberin... er... beg pardon, Chauvelin..."