A Fine Specimen of English Manhood
With a stern countenance, Sir Percy regarded the young man before him. It was rare for him to take such measures as he was about to take with this young man, but Sir Percy's gentlemanly sensibilities had been seriously affronted by this jackanapes, and he had decided that the only course of action was to take the young man firmly to task.
"Now then," said Sir Percy, crossing his arms and looking down his nose, "I have been hearing the most extraordinary tales about you, and I, for one, cannot stomach it any longer!"
The young man looked stunned at Sir Percy's tone, but said nothing.
"That's right," Sir Percy continued, "You will listen to me now, and I will tell you how a proper English gentleman should have behaved in your situation."
The young man still said nothing, so Sir Percy went on, "The first thing I hear is, you have been up at all hours, drinking and causing a ruckus everywhere you go - and with women too!"
The young man hung his head.
"For shame, I say!" said Sir Percy, "A person of your age should learn better amusements. A proper English gentleman would take up sports - riding or boxing - or perhaps even learn a trade."
The young man hiccuped, and looked thoughtfully at Sir Percy as the tall, blond Englishman began to pace - with a very proper step - back and forth in front of him.
"The next thing I hear," Sir Percy almost growled, "Is that you have been disrespectful towards your mother," Sir Percy crossed his arms, "A member of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel would rather be turned into a scarlet pimpernel than be accused of such a thing. What have you to say?"
The young man made inarticulate noises of the repentant variety.
Sir Percy raised his eyebrows, "Well, I hope you are very sorry - there is simply no excuse for such behavior. . . "
The young man began to cry.
Sir Percy was very stern, "You must not think that just because you are young and emotional that I will give you special treatment. . ."
The young man cried all the harder, and began to suck on his fingers for comfort.
Sir Percy's stern look broke somewhat, and he was not able to disguise the merry sparkle in his blue eyes, "Well. . . I suppose. . ." he sighed reluctantly, "For this once. . ." He sighed again, and threw a blanket around the young man's shoulders. "You must not get used to this, you know," Sir Percy said warningly, and then in a low and soothing voice he told the young man a long, instructive, and excessively interesting story about the exploits of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
By the end of the story, the young man was asleep.
Sir Percy, far from insulted at this bit of social crudity, smiled down at the sleeping form of his son, and gently, ever so gently, he settled the blanket over little George and tucked him snugly in.
"Don't you worry about being a proper gentleman just yet, my son," he said softly, "There's time enough for a boy only eight months old to be known as "Sir George Blakeney, Baronet" - the finest specimen of English manhood ever seen on these shores." With a gesture no one in his social circle would have thought him capable of, Sir Percy gently touched the infant's head, then bent to peck a kiss to the boy's tiny button nose. "Good night, my son," he whispered, leaning over the crib. Then he stood reluctantly and turned to leave the room, when he suddenly encountered a very bright and very stern pair of blue eyes hovering around the doorway.
"I may have to take you to task for that, young man," said Marguerite, crisply.
Sir Percy affected surprise, "I, Madame? For what, may I ask?"
Marguerite pulled him out of the room and closed the nursery door behind him, then linked her arm through his, "For," she said, "Impugning my authority."
Sir Percy managed to hold back his laugh. "What? . . But you asked me to. . ." he nearly lost control of his mirth, and he spluttered a bit, "Ahem! . . .What do you mean, my dear?"
Marguerite stood on tiptoe, and drawing his head closer to hers, she whispered, "It is not your place - nor your right, Mi'lor Blakeney - to decide just who is the finest specimen of English manhood ever seen on these shores." She smiled broadly, turned and began walking down the hall, "That is my task - and my duty," she said, looking saucily at him.
He smiled as he followed her, "Yet, I'll wager, dear heart, that no matter what. . ." with one step her caught her into his arms, "No matter what, no matter who, no matter all the facts - " he kissed her lightly, " - you will never find a better man than that small one in there." He gestured in the direction of the nursery.
"Perhaps. . . and perhaps not. . ." she said with eyes glinting, "I do know both of you rather well. . ."
He picked her up. "Yes you do, rather. . ." he said, and swung her around as she laughed. "You know we are both mischievous hellions. . ." and he spun her faster. When she was sufficiently dizzy, he put her down, and she let him guide her wither he willed, as she had to lean on his shoulder or fall over.
"Percy?" she said, now tiredly merry.
"I may just, you know, let you choose who is the best Englishman after all."
"Yes," she said slowly, her eyes glinting slyly again, "But you must answer me a question first."
He had led her to her rooms, and before answering, he helped her take off her shawl and settled her comfortably on her chaise-lounge. He knelt beside it and said quietly, "You may ask me any question you like, Madame, and I will answer you."
She caught one of his hands, looked at it for a moment, and kissed the finger that held a small, plain gold band around it, then she looked innocently up at him, her eyes wide and glowing, and she asked, "Do you think, Sir Percy, that our son would be at all improved if he had a sister?"
No one ever heard the answer to that question, but it is a generally accepted fact that, even though George Blakeney was incomperably spoilt by everyone - including both his parents and his siblings - even so, he did become, in time, a man of the sort of which even the Scarlet Pimpernel would have been vastly proud.