The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel

The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel

Infobox Book |
name = The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = 1933 First Edition
author = Baroness Orczy
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series = The Scarlet Pimpernel
genre = Adventure, Historical novel
publisher = Hodder & Stoughton
release_date = 1933
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 256 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by = Lord Tony's Wife
followed_by = Mam'zelle Guillotine

"The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel", by Baroness Orczy, is another sequel book to the classic adventure tale, "The Scarlet Pimpernel." First published in 1933, it is 6th in the series and one of the shorter Scarlet Pimpernel books. A French language version, translated and adapted by Charlotte and Marie-Louise Desroyses, was also produced under the title "Les Métamorphoses du Mouron Rouge."

The story features the Pimpernel's arch enemy Chauvelin as well as introducing the Austrian Baron de Batz, a real historical figure who also appears in "Eldorado" and "Sir Percy Leads the Band."


The action starts in 1792 before the execution of Louis XVI. Paris, and middle-aged lawyer, Bastien, the Maître de Croissy (once the star of the Paris bar who counted Kings and aristocrats amongst his clients), is reduced to living in rented accommodation with his wife Louise and young son, Charles-Léon.

Deprived of his income by the revolution, Bastien now takes work where he can get it, including that put his way by key figures in the revolutionary government even though he has strong royalist sympathies.

Aware of his contacts, the Baron de Batz approaches Bastien with a scheme to free the King and, hankering after a return to his old lifestyle, he is more than willing to get involved.

De Batz asks de Croissy to talk to some of his clients about the possibility of taking considerable bribes (paid for by the Austrian Government)in exchange for the King's freedom. This he does with some success, yet the Austrian gold is not forthcoming at the agreed time and the plans come to nothing. The subsequent trial and execution of the King and the further involvement of de Batz, can be read about in Sir Percy Leads the Band.

A year has passed, it is now September 1793 and little Charles-Léon is gravely ill. His parents try to secure a permit to take him to their house in the Isère district near Grenoble, but although the Doctor is willing to sign a permit for the child, his parents are not allowed to leave Paris for more than seven days. Louise is distraught, as there is no-one in Grenoble she trusts enough to look after her sick baby.

Listening to all this is Louise's childhood friend Josette Gravier who announces that she has a plan. Josette idolises the mysterious Englishman known as The Scarlet Pimpernel and is sure that he will be able to arrange a permanent permit for Louise, if only she can get a message to him.

The rest of the household don't share Josette's enthusiasm for the Pimpernel, and doubt he even exists. The matter appears to be settled when Bastien reveals that, although the Baron de Batz's schemes to free the King came to nothing, he still has a number of incriminating letters from influential members of the government which could easily discredit them and send them to the guillotine. He proposes to use the leverage the letters give him to obtain a permit for his wife to stay with his ill son in Grenoble.

Bastien puts his plan into action, but he is playing with fire and not long after meeting with the those implicated (the Citizen Representatives Chabot, Bazire and d'Églantine), his clerk Maurice finds his body in their offices. The Maître de Criossy has been brutally murdered to silence him for good, and his death covered up as suicide.

Josette starts to fear for Louise, who is unable to eat, sleep or speak since hearing the news. The originals of the letters are in Louise's keeping and surely it can't be long before those who killed Bastien turn their attention her way. Luckily the Scarlet Pimpernel has heard of their plight and arranges for Louise and her son to escape to England before they can be arrested. Josette is grateful that her hero has succeeded but although the de Croissys are free, Maurice and she have been left behind in Paris. Josette receives a letter from Louise saying she is well in England and still has the letters, but otherwise daily life continues pretty much as normal... until one day Maurice is arrested.

Fearing for Maurice's life, Josette gets up the courage to face citizen Chabot and uses her knowledge of the letters to barter for Maurice's freedom and their unhindered passage to England. She is given a permit to go to England to fetch the letters from Louise, but does not realise that the representatives have engaged Citizen Chauvelin to follow her and take the incriminating documents from her.

Chauvelin offers friendly assistance to Josette whilst in England and she naïvely starts to trust him as a friend. However once back in France, Chauvelin steals the letters then fabricates up a set of blank look-alikes. He tells Josette that the originals were stolen by the English spies but he has managed to get them back -- and then gives the blank copies to Josette, pretending they are the real letters.

Not long afterwards Citizen Chabot arrives in Rouen and during a meeting with Josette has her searched by the guards. With the packet of letters now in his possession, he scornfully tells her that she will face the guillotine for her blackmail, along with her lover. Yet when he opens the package he finds only blank papers. Enraged, Chabot is convinced that Josette has tricked him, and turns the guest house upside down looking for the papers (Chauvelin, who is seeking to turn the letters to his personal advantage has not told Chabot that he has them in his possession).

Whilst the soldiers are searching the guest house, Chauvelin assures Josette that he swapped the originals for blanks for her own safety and then has her arrested for treason and taken to the cells. He decides to open the original letters to see what leverage he can get from them but to his horror finds that his package is also blank save for that, all too familiar, maddening doggerel...

"We seek him here..."

Will Chauvelin succeed in cornering the English Spies? Can the Scarlet Pimpernel save Josette and Maurice from the guillotine? and what will happen to the incriminating letters?

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