The Scarlet Pimpernel

"Who is this man, this Scarlet Pimpernel?"

The leaders of the French Revolution seek the answer to this pressing question.  An Englishman known only by the name the Scarlet Pimpernel has helped scores of French aristocrats to escape from France and thereby avoid the guillotine.  The Scarlet Pimpernel is a man of many disguises who is always one step ahead of his enemies.  He has a band of 19 loyal followers who help him rescue the French aristocrats.  All of his messages to his associates are always signed with the drawing of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

The Scarlet Pimpernel . . . is the name of a humble English wayside flower; but it is also the name chosen to hide the identity of the best and bravest man in all the world, so that he may better succeed in accomplishing the noble task he has set himself to do.

Only his closest allies know his true identity:  Sir Percy Blakeney.  Sir Percy Blakeney is one of the richest men in England; he is "unusually tall and very richly dressed."  Sir Percy is described as "unusually good-looking, but for a certain lazy expression in his deep-set eyes, and that perpetual inane laugh which seemed to disfigure his strong, clearly-cut mouth."  Sir Percy is considered dull-witted but is known for his witty verses.

"We seek him here, we seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere.  Is he in heaven?  Is he in hell?  That demmed elusive Pimpernel?"
Sir Percy's wife, Marguerite, finds herself fascinated with the mysterious Pimpernel.

Ah! there was a man she might have loved, had he come her way:  everything in him appealed to her romantic imagination; his personality, his strength, his bravery, the loyalty of those who served under him in the same noble cause, and, above all, the anonymity which crowned him, as if with a halo of romantic glory.

Marguerite eventually discovers that Sir Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel.

. . . with his wordly inanities, his foppish ways, and foolish talk, he was not only wearing a mask, but was playing a deliberate and studied part.

Parallels to Zorro

The similarity to the Zorro legend is undeniable.  Both Don Diego and Sir Percy are wealthy men who are regarded as fops; and both men hide their true personalities from everyone, including their closest family members.  Additionally, each man has a woman who is not pleased with his personality and instead prefers the personality of the alter-ego.  It is quite probable that Johnston McCulley had read The Scarlet Pimpernel and was inspired to create Zorro.

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