The Scarlet Pimpernel was written by Baroness Emmuska Orczy and first published in 1905. This novel is the first in a series of tales that follows the fictional main character infamously known as the Scarlet Pimpernel. The story is set at the time of the French Revolution, which occurred in the latter part of the eighteenth century. This revolt involved the overthrow of the French monarchy. A notorious Englishman sympathetic to the crisis in the aristocratic ranks helped sneak French royals out of the country to safety across the English Channel. This Englishman was known by the name of the Scarlet Pimpernel because upon making a clean escape from the French patrols, he would leave a note describing the caper, and it would be signed with a red, star-shaped flower the English called a scarlet pimpernel.
As the story opens, French soldiers have had their numbers increased at the gates of the Paris because the number of French aristocrats who have made successful escapes has dramatically increased in the past several weeks. The number has grown so dramatically that a new decree has been made stating that the guards who fail to stop the aristocrats will, themselves, be forced to place their necks under the guillotine.
The guillotine is one of the French public’s greatest entertainments during these times. Crowds gather to watch the aristocratic leaders, who had once ruled their world, be led to the guillotine platform and subsequently have their heads cut off. However, in recent days, the popularity of watching the guards at the city gates find lords and ladies hiding in common horse-drawn carts has become even more appealing than the guillotine deaths. One guard, Sergeant Bibot, is known for his ability to catch aristocrats no matter what their disguise, so his station draws the biggest crowds. Bibot is already accredited with sending more than fifty aristocrats to the guillotine. His most ambitious goal, though, is to capture the Scarlet Pimpernel.
As a crowd gathers around him, Bibot is asked about an incident that occurred a few days past in which a French guard was fooled by the Scarlet Pimpernel. Several dukes and ladies had gone through this guard’s gate without the guard’s being aware of it. Only later was it discovered that the aristocrats made it safely to a boat that sailed for England. Bibot has fun retelling this story. He calls the guard a fool for having come so close to catching the Scarlet Pimpernel but failing. This would never happen to him, he claims.
As the sun is about to set, an old hag with crooked fingers approaches the gate with her horse and cart. Bibot recognizes the old woman. He saw her earlier, sitting near the guillotine platform. In her cart, the woman has a collection of bundles of hair. She gathers the locks from the heads that fall from the guillotine. Bibot thinks her job is disgusting. However, even more repellant is the news this woman tells him—that she is on her way home to take care of a child with small pox. The woman adds that the doctors are not sure if the disease is the pox or the plague. At this pronouncement, Bibot and the crowd step away from the woman. Bibot quickly signals that the woman should continue on her way.
To Bibot’s amazement, several minutes after the woman drives away, a captain of the guard appears on horseback. The captain quickly questions Bibot about whether he saw an old woman driving a cart. There were several carts driven by old women, Bibot responds. Then the guard adds...
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that this particular woman would have said her son had the plague. When Bibot confirms that this woman has indeed passed through the gate, the captain yells out that he just learned there were several aristocrats hiding in the woman’s cart. Furthermore, the woman is reported to have been none other than the Scarlet Pimpernel.
To provide some local English color, the story switches to a small inn called the Fisherman’s Rest in Dover, England. The owner is a Mr. Jellyband, a jovial man in his sixties. The inn has been in the family for several generations and will next be inherited by Mr. Jellyband’s only heir, his daughter, Sally, who now works as cook and waitress.
Sally is in the kitchen, preparing for special dinner guests who are expected. The inn is very popular with local fishermen. It is close to the docks, so it is also frequented by the Scarlet Pimpernel’s men as well as the French aristocrats who have just fled from their county on the other side of the channel.
As they await the guests, Mr. Jellyband enters into a discussion with one of his patrons, Mr. Hempseed. First the two men discuss the weather, which they say is uncommonly wet for a September. However, their talk quickly turns to politics. They discuss the recent occurrences of the escaped French aristocrats who are aided by Englishmen. Mr. Hempseed believes the British should stay out of French politics. If the French people want to kill their aristocrats, Mr. Hempseed says, the English should not stop them. At this time, the popular British sentiment is often against the French, whom the British find too highly emotional and crude.
Although Jellyband does not contest this, he raises another concern—that of Hempseed’s hypocrisy. Hempseed, Jellybrand points out, has quoted the Bible in one moment and promoted murder in the next. Jellyband suggests that maybe Hempseed has been persuaded by the French revolutionists and now promotes the French people’s cause against the monarchy. When Hempseed attempts to deny this charge, Jellyband interrupts him and states that all he knows is that his own loyalty to England is steadfast and that he would never do anything to promote the French cause. He then adds that he also would recognize any French intruders who came to England and would not have anything to do with them.
At this statement, a stranger on the other side of the room calls out to Jellyband. The man declares Jellyband to be an honest friend and praises him for his sharp awareness. The stranger (who is not identified in this chapter but is described as having a sly smile on his face as he speaks) then invites Jellyband to join him in a glass of wine. Jellyband graciously accepts the offer and goes over to sit and drink at the stranger’s table. The stranger raises his cup and makes a toast to loyal Englishmen, “as we all are.” The stranger then adds that although they are loyal Englishmen, they assuredly must all admit that the wine they are drinking is one good thing that has come from France. Jellyband gives his assent, telling the stranger that this fact cannot be denied.
The scene remains the same as in the previous chapter, at Fisherman’s Rest in Dover. Sally, the owner’s daughter, announces that Sir Antony has arrived. Sir Antony is a British gentleman who is described as very friendly and especially fond of Sally. Sir Antony is one of the inn’s most favored guests. He often travels to and from France, and he stays at the inn before his numerous departures and upon his returns.
When Mr. Jellyband greets Sir Antony, he mentions the French aristocrats who are about to arrive and credits Sir Antony for saving them. Sir Antony looks around the room, and when he notices the two strangers sitting at a far table, he tells Jellyband that he should not discuss the matter in front of them. Jellyband laughs off Sir Antony’s concern, telling him that the two strangers, though new in the community, are friends, and Sir Antony should not trouble himself about them. Sir Antony feels skeptical but relents and comments about the grim look on one of the strangers’ faces. If this stranger is in business here, Antony states, it must be in the profession of an undertaker. Jellyband tells Antony he has been told that the stranger has recently become a widower. Jellyband informs Sir Antony that he can trust his evaluation of the stranger because he is an innkeeper and, therefore, a good judge of character.
When Antony asks who else might be staying at the inn that night, Jellyband tells him that there will be no one else except for Sir Percy Blakeney and his wife. Lord Antony appears to be very surprised that Lady Blakeney will be there for the night. Jellyband explains that the Blakeneys have come to say good-bye to Lady Blakeney’s brother, who is leaving for France on Sir Blakeney’s private yacht, the Day Dream.
Just as Jellyband is explaining these matters to Sir Antony, the door to the inn reopens and a party of four enters, including an older woman and her daughter and son. Sir Antony addresses the older of the two women as Comtesse (the French equivalent to the English word countess). The woman speaks English with a thick French accent. Sir Antony asks about her recent voyage. The Comtesse assures Sir Antony that the trip was not very difficult. She states that she is glad she and her children have escaped the suffering they endured while in France.
Meanwhile, a young friend of Sir Antony’s, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, stands near Suzanne, the Comtesse’s daughter. Ffoulkes appears smitten by the young woman, and she with him. When Suzanne’s mother shouts out to her to come to the table to eat, Suzanne is abruptly brought out of the spell Sir Andrew appears to have cast upon her.
The party of Sir Antony and Sir Andrew, along with the French Comtesse and her children, sit at a table and enjoy their dinner. None of them notice the two strangers across the room when one of them rises and spreads his cloak out at his sides while the other slips under the table and hides. Then the first stranger bids goodnight to the other patrons of the inn and climbs the stairs to his room. Upon the stranger’s having closed the door to the parlor, Sir Antony breathes out, “Alone, at last!” With this pronouncement, the other diners relax, not knowing that a spy is in their midst.
After the stranger leaves, the Comtesse’s son stands and proposes a toast to the king of England for allowing his family a safe refuge. Sir Andrew adds a toast to the king of France, wishing him victory over his enemies. Sir Antony suggests another toast, this one for the Comtesse’s husband, the Count of Tournay de Basserive. Antony states his hopes that they may welcome the Count to England before too many days have passed.
After this toast, the Comtesse becomes mournful. She regrets having had to leave her husband behind. She states that it was very difficult to make a choice between her husband and her children. She wanted to stay with her husband but her children would not leave without her. They had learned that all their names were on a list, and they were soon to be condemned to the guillotine. The Comtesse fears that her husband will be sentenced to death.
Sir Antony tries to assure the Comtesse that her husband will be rescued. Antony says that he and his group of men have sworn to bring the Count to safety. The Comtesse thanks Sir Antony, and Antony accepts her thanks with humility. He claims that he and his friends are merely the hands. The head, or leader, of the group is the person most responsible for their success. When the Comtesse asks for the identity of their leader, Sir Antony tells her it is a well-kept secret that must be maintained. Sir Antony tells her only that their leader goes by the name of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The Comtesse’s son says he has heard of that name. He adds that as the story goes, every time one of the royals escapes, the French public prosecutor, Foucquier-Tinville, receives a paper that is signed with a picture of a small red flower. Suzanne, the Comtesse’s daughter, adds that she has heard that the little red flower is the only thing that scares the prosecutor. Then she wonders if the prosecutor received a note after she and her mother and brother escaped.
When the Comtesse asks why the Scarlet Pimpernel and this group of British men risk their lives for the French royalty, Sir Antony replies that they do it for sport. The Comtesse has trouble believing this. Antony assures her that the British are very enamored of their sports, and there is no better sport than rescuing the French aristocracy from the clutches of the French prosecutor. Suzanne looks at Sir Andrew and says that she has to believe Sir Andrew must have risked his life to save her for some nobler motive.
The Comtesse changes the topic of conversation and brings up the name of Marguerite St. Just, a French woman who, according to the Comtesse, betrayed a French nobleman, the Marquis de St. Cyr. When he hears this, Sir Antony quickly looks over at Sir Andrew before he questions this assertion. Antony thinks the Comtesse must be mistaken. However, the Comtesse is sure of her statement. She asks if Sir Antony knows this woman, who moved to England after marrying a British lord. Antony responds that he is very well acquainted with her and her husband. Everyone knows Lady Blakeney, Antony tells her. Then he leans over and whispers to Jellyband, asking the innkeeper when Lord and Lady Blakeney are expected. Before Jellyband can answer, a young boy rushes into the parlor and announces that the Blakeneys have just arrived.
There is a lot of tension in the dining room of the inn after the Blakeneys arrival is announced. The Comtesse immediately stands and declares that she will not stay to meet Lady Blakeney. Antony yells at Jellyband to go outside and attempt to delay Lady Blakeney from entering the inn. Jellyband is not successful. Lady Blakeney chides the innkeeper, pushing him to the side and commenting on his seeming reluctance to allow her to enter. She is freezing and wet from the rain, she tells him, and must warm herself by the fire.
Everyone in the room is surprised to hear the Comtesse order Suzanne to leave the room with her. For her part, Lady Blakeney appears pleased by the chance encounter with the Comtesse. Lady Blakeney walks toward the Comtesse and Suzanne with her arms extended, hoping to greet them. As Lady Blakeney nears Suzanne, the Comtesse shouts out that she forbids her daughter to speak to Lady Blakeney. This statement shocks the British people in the room. The Comtesse’s remarks insult Lady Blakeney, whom the British hold in high esteem both for her pleasant personality and also for her high rank in society.
Marguerite Blakeney attempts to break the tension with a laugh, asking the Comtesse, “What fly stings you?” The Comtesse replies that she has the right to forbid her daughter to show friendship to Lady Blakeney and again tells Suzanne to follow her out of the room. Suzanne at first looks as if she will obey her mother without question. However, at the last moment, feeling a sense of camaraderie between herself and Marguerite because they are both around the same age (in their early twenties), Suzanne momentarily defies her mother. She rushes toward Marguerite, kisses her profusely about the face, and wraps her arms around her before she finally leaves the room.
Suzanne’s demonstration of affection relieves some of the tension in the room. As Marguerite watches the figures of the two French women leave, she blows kisses to their backs. Then she smiles and asks Sir Andrew if he has ever encountered such an unpleasant woman. Marguerite adds that she hopes that she will not become as bitter as the Comtesse when she grows older. As she walks toward the fire, Marguerite mimics the Comtesse’s command that Suzanne not speak to her. Appreciative of her performance, Sir Antony says that the French must hate Sir Percy, Marguerite’s husband, for having married her and taken her away to England. However, Marguerite responds that even the French cannot hate Sir Percy. His wittiness and charm would even disarm the Comtesse. The Comtesse’s son, who has remained in the parlor, steps forward, ready to defend his mother. However, at this same moment, the door of the inn opens and in strides Sir Percy.
Sir Percy Blakeney is described as tall and very handsome, one of the richest men in England and extremely fashionable—but it is also said that Sir Percy is lazy and dull-witted. The whole of French and English society was astonished when the vivacious and intelligent Marguerite St. Just accepted Sir Percy’s proposal of marriage. The couple has been married for one year.
A year ago in Paris, Marguerite (then eighteen) had gathered around her the most intelligent and creative group of people who lived in France. Those who visited her home were the most clever men and the most talented women. Some say Marguerite chose Sir Percy for the riches he might bestow on her. Her closest friends, however, scoff at that idea. They knew of many men who had courted her who could have provided not only money and good looks but also insightful intelligence. Her friends considered Marguerite the cleverest woman in all of Europe, and they were surprised when she chose Sir Percy. None of them can even venture a guess as to why she did so.
As for Sir Percy, many Englishmen think he would have been wiser to choose a wife as dull as he was. They conclude that Sir Percy fell blindly in love with the French woman.
Sir Percy’s parents died relatively young, leaving him with a sizable estate. He traveled widely in his youth, and when he brought Marguerite home as his wife, English society welcomed them with open arms. The Prince of Wales was especially charmed by them and considered both to be his good friends. Thus Sir Percy and Marguerite rose in social circles to become the leaders of fashion and style. To most people, Percy seemed very proud of his wife, even when she openly and wittily criticized him at every opportunity, as if it were a game she used to sharpen her intellect.
On this particular day, Sir Percy notices the tension in the room and asks Sir Antony what the problem is. Marguerite is the first to answer. She tells her husband that it was nothing, except that someone insulted her. Sir Percy is astonished. He asks who would dare to insult a woman with such a sharp tongue.
At this point, the young son of the Comtesse steps forward and announces that the insult came from his mother. The boy adds that he cannot apologize for his mother because he agrees with her. Then he challenges Sir Percy to a duel to save his wife’s honor. Sir Percy barely pays any attention to the young man, as if he finds him trifling. This leads Marguerite to talk to Sir Percy in a belittling tone, suggesting that he is not man enough to defend her. She does this as if the concept is nothing new, as if she has known about her husband’s cowardice for a long time and has resigned herself to it.
Marguerite anticipates the arrival of her brother, Armand, and asks to be excused so she can say good-bye to him in private. Everyone understands this need. There are great dangers in Armand’s returning to France. There is a chance Marguerite may never see him again.
Sir Percy says no more. However, Sir Andrew notices the strange look on Percy’s face as he watches Marguerite leave the room. Sir Andrew interprets Percy’s expression as an intensive longing of “deep and hopeless passion.”
Marguerite Blakeney awaits the arrival of her brother, Armand. She walks outside the inn and looks over the banks at the ship below that will soon take him away. She will only have thirty minutes to be with him. When Armand finally comes, he tries to calm his sister’s concerns by saying he is not going very far away and will soon return. However, Marguerite knows the circumstances in France are very dangerous for Armand. Although both Armand and Marguerite supported the revolution, they believe the people who are now in control have gone too far. They are too hungry for blood and revenge.
Armand looks around to make sure no one has heard what Marguerite has said. Then he tells her she should not voice her criticism about the people in power. This confirms Marguerite’s fears. She points out that Armand is not safe even there in England. No one is safe when it comes to condemning the new regime in Paris. Armand tells her that he must return. He adds that when France is in peril, all Frenchmen must take active roles in saving her. He then encourages Marguerite to be brave for his sake as well as her own. Marguerite tells her brother that she sometimes wishes he were not so prudent.
Marguerite tells Armand that she cannot think about the possibilities that he might die. She tells him he is the only one who loves her. Armand asks about Marguerite’s husband; does he not love her? Marguerite answers that Percy Blakeney once loved her, but she confesses that his love has since died. Then Armand asks if Marguerite ever told Percy about her involvement in the death of the Marquis de St. Cyr, the same incident for which the Comtesse had demanded that Suzanne not speak to Marguerite. Marguerite answers in the affirmative: she told Percy about the situation soon after they were married. Armand asks if she told Percy all the details, especially the ones that exonerate her from having done anything wrong. Marguerite says she wanted to, but Percy had already heard of the affair from someone else. She feared sounding as if she were defending herself against all the negative rumors, which she believed would have been useless. Ever since she spoke to Percy about her influence in the Marquis’s imprisonment and subsequent death, as well as the sentencing and deaths of all members of the Marquis’s family, her husband has hated her.
When she first met Percy, Marguerite tells her brother, she thought Percy loved her as no one else ever could. She did not mind that Percy seemed dull and boring as long as he loved her as much as she sensed he did. She wanted to be drowned in his love more than she wanted anything else. She thought that maybe Percy’s dim wit would keep all his attention devoted to her.
Armand contemplates what his sister has told him. He can imagine how harmful the news of Marguerite’s involvement in the tribunal and subsequent sentencing of the Marquis, a fellow aristocrat, must have been on Percy’s love of her. Armand has noticed a change in his sister since her marriage. He wonders if Percy’s withdrawal of his love has opened his sister’s heart to love. Whereas she might have once wanted only to be bathed in a man’s love, maybe with Percy’s refusal to love her, Marguerite has gained a better understanding of what it means to love.
Marguerite stands on the edge of the cliffs for over an hour as she watches the boat that is taking Armand away. Her thoughts wander back to her husband. She thinks about how he once loved her; she had not fully appreciated his love a year ago. She often thought of Percy’s love as being similar to the affection a dog might lavish on its owner. Still, she had enjoyed it, and now she misses it. The pain she feels in its place makes her lash out at Percy, taking advantage of every opportunity to use her wit to ridicule her husband, hoping her words might hurt him. She thinks that if he hurt, she would at least regain some of his attention. However, her plan has not worked. After a year, the two of them have only grown farther apart.
Percy’s love for Marguerite disappeared shortly after she confessed to him her part in the condemnation of the Marquis. Although she never told her husband all the details, she wonders about the circumstances by which she became inadvertently involved in the man’s death. She had hated the Marquis because he had completely humiliated her brother one day. Armand’s only crime was falling in love with Angele de St. Cyr, the Marquis’s daughter. The Marquis was infuriated when he discovered this. Armand was a plebian, unworthy of even looking at his daughter let alone loving her. To punish Armand for thinking he was equal to an aristocrat and to dissuade Armand from trying to lure his daughter away from him, the Marquis sent some of his men to find and savagely beat Armand. Incidents like this eventually led to the revolution. The French people grew weary of being brutally suppressed.
One day, Marguerite had her chance for revenge against the Marquis. Without considering the consequences, she discovered and exposed details about the Marquis’s having corresponded with the Austrian royals in an attempt to gain the emperor’s support to quell the revolution that threatened to take away all the privileges of the French aristocracy. When the French revolutionaries gained power and heard of Marguerite’s accusation against the Marquis, they quickly accused the Marquis of treason, tried him, and sentenced the man and all his family to death. Marguerite was horrified at these terrible consequences. Ever since, she has felt remorseful for not having thought through the circumstances before she acted on the information. Later, she regretted the role she played and tried to save the marquis, but to no avail.
With Armand’s ship out of sight, Marguerite walks back to the inn and is surprised to see an old acquaintance, Chauvelin. She had known the man in France. Chauvelin was the stranger who had earlier been sitting at a back table in the inn and shared a glass of wine with Jellyband. The Frenchman had left the room before Marguerite arrived, so she had not seen him previously. Shortly after greeting one another, Chauvelin tells Marguerite why he is in England. He is now a French diplomat for the new Republic of France and has come to meet with the British king. However, his real reason for being there is to search for the man who goes by the name of the Scarlet Pimpernel. He asks Marguerite to help him do this.
Marguerite once supported the overthrow of the French aristocracy in favor of a government of the people. However, she has become disillusioned by all the bloody reprisals of the new regime. So the story of the Scarlet Pimpernel, who risks his life to save the lives of the French royalty, has stirred a romantic interest in Marguerite. She, like many British citizens, feels proud of the Scarlet Pimpernel. She even fantasizes that she would want to marry someone just like the Scarlet Pimpernel, if she were ever given another chance. When Chauvelin proposes that she help him uncover the Pimpernel’s identity, Marguerite flatly refuses.
After Sir Percy and Marguerite leave Dover to return home, Jellyband walks over to talk to Sir Antony and Sir Andrew, who are the only people remaining in the dining room. Jellyband confirms that everyone else is either gone or is in bed. The two young men have the room to themselves. Upon learning this, Antony and Andrew begin a private conversation.
First Antony teases Andrew about his obvious attraction for Suzanne, the daughter of the Comtesse. Andrew admits that the trip over from France was a very stimulating one for him. Antony wishes Andrew good luck in pursuing the young woman. Then the two men discuss their plans for the next few days, during which they will be involved in helping the Scarlet Pimpernel with another escape.
Antony warns Andrew that the new French Republic has sent over a man named Chauvelin, a bitter man who is determined to identify the Scarlet Pimpernel. Chauvelin has brought an army of spies with him, Antony says. Because of this added danger, they are to be more cautious. Chauvelin plans to kidnap the Scarlet Pimpernel the next time he is in France. Antony also tells Andrew that he is to meet a man named Hastings at Calais, in France, in a few days. Their challenge this time will be to save the Comte de Tournay, who is under a sentence of death. Armand St. Just (Marguerite’s brother) will accompany Andrew. Getting the Comte and Armand out of France will be one of the biggest challenges the Pimpernel’s group has ever undertaken. Antony hopes that he, too, will be asked to join in the adventure.
The room in which Antony and Andrew are sitting is quite dark. The fireplace provides the only light. They do not see that a figure has crawled out from under a nearby bench; the man has been hidden there for a long time. This man listens carefully to everything Antony and Andrew are saying.
Andrew has a message from the Scarlet Pimpernel addressed to Antony. When he takes the note out of his pocket, another piece of paper falls to the ground. Andrew has no idea how the second piece of paper got there, but the two men lean closer to the fire to read the messages. So intent are the young men on reading the notes, they do not notice the man in the shadows, slithering across the floor toward them. However, they do notice a sound at the door, and Antony stands and crosses the room to discover what it is. When he opens the door, something hits him hard on his head. Behind him, Andrew is also struck on the head and falls to the floor.
Quickly, more men enter the room and bind and gag both Andrew and Antony. Chauvelin takes the notes that had once been Andrew’s. One of the letters grabs Chauvelin’s attention more than the other. After reading it, Chauvelin states, “Armand St. Just a traitor after all.” Chauvelin is pleased to discover that he has a way to blackmail Marguerite Blakeney. He believes she will no longer be able to refuse to help him find the Scarlet Pimpernel.
A couple of days after Armand leaves for Paris, Marguerite attends the opera, along with many of the more fashionable people of Britain. The Comtesse is present as the guest of Lady Portarles, who attempts to lighten the Comtesse’s mood. The Comtesse has heard nothing about the welfare of her husband, and she is dressed all in black as if in mourning. Lord Grenville, who is sponsoring a ball and dinner that will be held immediately following the opera, enters Lady Portarles’s box. Upon hearing of the Comtesse’s concern for her husband, he reminds her that she has been assured by the Scarlet Pimpernel’s group that they will rescue her husband. Unfortunately, Lord Grenville also reports that was recently in Paris, where he found the streets literally running with blood. He announces that there are at least one hundred French aristocrats put to death each day.
Their conversation then briefly turns to the French guest who is sitting in Lord Grenville’s box. It is none other than Chauvelin. Lord Grenville is England’s foreign Secretary of State, so it is his duty to entertain diplomats from other countries. Lady Portarles refers to Chauvelin as a troublemaker. She suspects that his only reason for visiting England is to cause mischief for the French royalists who have fled to this country. At this remark, the Comtesse, a little too eager to once again discredit the reputation of Marguerite Blakeney, suggests that if Chauvelin were serious about making trouble for the French aristocracy, all he need do is enlist Marguerite Blakeney’s help. As soon as Lady Portarles hears this, she reprimands the Comtesse, telling her that she is only doing a disservice to herself in attempting to make Lady Blakeney look bad. All of England loves and admires Marguerite, Lady Portarles says. She then says that the Comtesse’s poor remarks about Marguerite only make the Comtesse look like a fool.
At this point, Marguerite enters her private box at the opera. Lord Blakeney stays with her for a while. When she is alone, Chauvelin wastes no time in coming to her. Marguerite is annoyed when Chauvelin shows up at her box. She is intent on listening to the opera and has nothing more to say to the man. She has already told him that she will not spy for him.
Chauvelin is not dissuaded by Marguerite’s attitude. He tells her about having overheard Sir Andrew and Sir Antony talking at the inn. Chauvelin says that his spies gathered very valuable information but still do not know the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Then Chauvelin offers Lady Blakeney some new information he has. In the papers he found with Sir Andrew and Sir Antony was a letter that proves that Armand, Marguerite’s brother, is a member of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s group. Because Armand is a French citizen working to save the lives of the French royals, his membership in this group is an act of treason. Chauvelin tells Marguerite that, when found, Armand will be tried and convicted of this crime—unless she helps him discover the Scarlet Pimpernel’s identity. If she helps him, Chauvelin will turn over to her Armand’s letter in which he claims membership in the notorious group.
Lord Grenville’s ball is one of the most popular and important occasions of the year. Everyone important desires to be there. Lord Grenville, the foreign Secretary of State, has welcomed several European dignitaries to his home before Marguerite and Lord Blakeney arrive with the most distinguished guest of all, the Prince of Wales. Chauvelin is also there. Grenville invited him to the event, but most of the guests prefer to ignore him. They know about his new government and despise it.
Chauvelin feels passionate about his beliefs that the new revolutionary government officials in France are the heroes of the common people. He looks upon all the French royalists present at the ball as prey who found a way to sneak away from their destiny with the guillotine. When the Prince is introduced to Chauvelin, he tells the Frenchman that he will accept him as a private citizen from France. In the capacity only, the prince says, is Chauvelin welcome in England.
Next, the Prince is introduced to the Comtesse, whom he next introduces to Marguerite, not knowing that the two women are already acquainted. In his introduction, the Prince tells the Comtesse that Marguerite’s friends are his friends and her enemies are his enemies. Marguerite smiles, enjoying this slight retribution from the Prince for the Comtesse’s berating at the inn.
When the name of the Scarlet Pimpernel is brought into the Prince’s conversation, he turns to Chauvelin and asks if Chauvelin knows the Pimpernel’s identity. The Prince claims that all of England would appreciate knowing this secret. Chauvelin, in turn, tells the Prince that in France, rumor has it that the Prince knows quite well who the Scarlet Pimpernel is. The prince responds by saying, “My lips are sealed!” He adds that though the English people do not know who the Scarlet Pimpernel is, they still adore him and honor him as the bravest man in the world.
Chauvelin takes the Prince’s comments for what they are—statements of contempt against the French diplomat. Neither the Prince nor Marguerite have any good feelings for Chauvelin, and the Frenchman knows this. This does not really bother Chauvelin. He hates the Prince for being among the privileged aristocracy. As for Marguerite, Chauvelin feels he has the upper hand. He has the weapon that will make her do as he wants her to do. He does not need her love or affection. He does not even need her friendship or respect. In its place, Chauvelin has Armand’s fate clenched tightly in his fist. Lady Blakeney either does what Chauvelin wants her to do or her brother will die.
To ease the tension in the air, Lord Blakeney diverts everyone’s attention by telling a joke and making everyone laugh. He says that while all the women in England have been taken with the Scarlet Pimpernel, their husbands have been left to stand in the background and wait while their wives worship a shadow.
Lord Blakeney leaves his wife alone to dance or flirt with whomever she chooses. He will spend his time at the ball telling bland jokes and playing cards. When Marguerite thinks about her husband, she wonders why it is not he who comes to her rescue. She tried to speak to him on their way from the opera to the ball, but when she realized how dull her husband was, she questioned what assistance she thought he might be able to offer. So instead of asking for his advice, she remained silent and did not open up to him about the torment she is suffering. Chauvelin has put her in a terrible place. She will either have to spy on the Scarlet Pimpernel or allow her own brother to die. If only she could have worked out a scheme with her husband. Surely they might have figured out a way to foil Chauvelin. Now she knows this is impossible. Her husband is not available to her. She is on her own.
Earlier, Chauvelin had told Marguerite that one of the notes he had found on Sir Andrew stated that the Scarlet Pimpernel was going to be at the ball. He would secretly meet with either Andrew or Antony if they needed to contact him. As Marguerite stands by herself at the side of the ballroom, she looks around, wondering which of the British gentlemen she sees might be the Pimpernel. Then she notices Sir Andrew and feels sure she saw Lord Hastings pass something to Sir Andrew’s hand. Marguerite made her way to where Andrew is standing.
When she reaches Andrew, Marguerite pretends she is feeling faint. She hopes to distract Andrew so she can sneak a look at the note he is holding in his hand. After she sits down, Marguerite closes her eyes. When she opens them, she sees that Andrew is holding the note over the flame of a candle. Before Andrew can figure out what Marguerite is doing, she grabs the burning piece of paper and exclaims that Andrew’s grandmother must have taught him about the benefit of smelling burning paper. The scent, Marguerite explains, helps one to overcome faintness. Andrew insists that the information on the note is personal and that Marguerite should return it to him, but Marguerite bumps into the small table that holds several candles, which tumble to the floor. As Andrew rushes to stomp out the flames of the fallen candles, Marguerite has just a few seconds to read the note. At the end of it, she recognizes the stamp of the small scarlet pimpernel in the corner.
To ease all suspicion, Marguerite drops the paper as if by accident and helps Andrew restore the candles to the table. Then she teases Andrew that the note must be from a lover. She asks Andrew if he thinks the woman who sent it would be jealous if she saw Andrew dancing with her. Andrew accepts the invitation to dance with Marguerite, content that she did not see the information on the note. Marguerite has a very contented smile on her face. She feels that at last she has a chance to save her brother.
While Marguerite dances with Sir Andrew, the words from the note she read flow through her mind. The first phrase she remembers is this: “Start myself tomorrow.” The flame had obliterated the rest of the words from that line. However, there were more words at the bottom of the note. They stated that if anyone wanted to meet with the Scarlet Pimpernel, he would be in the supper room at one o’clock.
Marguerite checks the time. It is eleven. Marguerite has two hours to decide her fate, the fate of her brother, and that of the Scarlet Pimpernel. If she tells Chauvelin that the Scarlet Pimpernel will be in the supper room that night, she will surely be the cause of the Pimpernel’s death. However, if she does not tell Chauvelin, Armand will die. She must choose between a brave man she does not know and the only man who ever loved her. She could never let Armand die because of her. Armand would willingly and without question trust his life to her hands. She cannot let him down. She cannot send him to the guillotine.
On she dances with Sir Andrew. Her laughter and high spirits keep Sir Andrew off guard. She can tell that his suspicions about her and the note are behind him. There is nothing in the expression on his face that indicates he thinks Marguerite might have read the note. Marguerite had been an actress in her youth. However, never has she played such a convincing role as she is playing this night. Never has her brother’s life been dependent on her convincing acting skills. Her experience on stage helps her realize that she must not overdo her role. She must not mention the note because it would bring too much attention to it and Andrew’s suspicions might rise again. Instead, she smiles at him, exuding innocence and joy. As she does, she feels Andrew’s tension melt away. Andrew has some reason to doubt her, though. She is French, a foreigner to him. Andrew also knows about Marguerite’s involvement in the Marquis’s death. On the other hand, Marguerite is Sir Blakeney’s wife and a close friend of the prince.
When the dance is finished, Marguerite asks Andrew to take her into a private room. Once there, she plays with him, asking if he has forgiven her for teasing him about his lover. Then she asks if he will be coming to a party she is holding on Wednesday. Andrew tells her that he is not sure. Then he remembers that he has been ordered to France and tells her that he may have to leave London on that day.
Although Marguerite cannot quite admit it to herself, she has made a decision. She cannot ever turn her back on her brother. Ever since their parents died, while Marguerite was still a young child, Armand has taken care of her. He is more than just a brother; he is her father and mother as well. The gallant hero, the Scarlet Pimpernel, will have to fend for himself. Marguerite has heard all the stories about his bold rescues and escapes from French authorities in the past, and she feels sure that the Pimpernel will be able to save himself again. As she sees it, she has no choice. She must save her brother, no matter the cost to the Pimpernel.
Marguerite has been avoiding Chauvelin for the past couple of hours, though she has felt his eyes on her throughout the night. She knows that the French diplomat has a great understanding of human nature and has probably interpreted her every move as that of someone who has made the decision to save her kin. It is almost one o’clock. Recently, Marguerite has been talking to Lord Fancourt so Chauvelin will not approach her. However, it is time to face the abrasive Frenchman. As soon as Marguerite sends Lord Fancourt on an errand, Chauvelin appears in front of her.
Reluctantly, Marguerite tells Chauvelin that she read Sir Andrew’s note. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Marguerite tells Chauvelin, will be in the supper room at one o’clock. At this announcement, Chauvelin looks very pleased. Marguerite asks what Chauvelin will do if more than one person is in the room at one o’clock. Chauvelin explains that his men will follow whoever is in the room. Then Chauvelin will travel to Calaise, the meeting place in France a previous note had designated. Chauvelin will be there to catch this meddlesome Englishman who has been eluding his efforts for more than a year. When Marguerite asks about her brother, Chauvelin tells her that if her message proves to be fruitful, tomorrow she will receive the damaging letter that names her brother as a traitor. Chauvelin and Marguerite part ways.
When Chauvelin reaches the supper room, he finds it empty. This pleases him. He will merely make himself comfortable and wait for whoever might appear. As he surveys the room, he tries to imagine whom the Scarlet Pimpernel will turn out to be. As he ponders this, he discovers he has made a mistake. The room is not deserted. He hears the quiet breathing of one of the dinner guests sleeping. When he looks more carefully, he finds none other than Lord Blakeney, with his mouth open and his eyes closed, asleep on a sofa. Surely this sleeping figure of one of British society’s biggest fools will not interfere with Chauvelin’s quest. Chauvelin feels content with his plans and decides to also stretch out on one of the other sofas to wait for his victim to appear.
Lady Blakeney waits anxiously in the ballroom, hoping to see Chauvelin reappear. It is after one o’clock. Surely Chauvelin has by now determined the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. But she worries: if he has not done so, what does this mean for the fate of her brother?
While she waits, Lord Fancourt walks toward her. He tells her that he has found her husband. Marguerite had forgotten she had sent Lord Fancourt on an errand. Lord Blakeney was difficult to find, Fancourt tells her. Finally, though, Fancourt was able to discover Lord Blakeney in the supper room. He had fallen asleep. Fancourt says that soon Lord Blakeney will be outside with his carriage, prepared to take Lady Blakeney home.
Marguerite’s mind is so involved in her concern for her brother that all this talk of her husband seems foreign to her. Her brother’s life is at stake. She cares little about what her husband is doing. All she wants is to find Chauvelin so he can tell her if her information was sufficient for him to uncover the Scarlet Pimpernel’s identity. She has done her best; surely Chauvelin will see this. But she wonders if Armand will still be in danger if her news was not enough.
Lord Fancourt is busy talking to her, but Marguerite has not heard a word. She interrupts his monologue to ask if anyone else had been in the supper room, where he found Lord Blakeney. He answers that only Chauvelin was there, and he was also asleep. Fancourt notices that Lady Blakeney is not paying much attention to their conversation, so he excuses himself and says he will go outside to see if Lord Blakeney is ready to leave.
As he walks away, Marguerite’s distress increases. She wonders why Chauvelin has not sought her out. Even if her attempts to help him had failed, would he not have found pleasure in letting her know that her brother’s life is still in his hands? With this thought lodged in her mind, Marguerite notices Lord Grenville coming toward her. He asks if he might escort Marguerite outside. Lord Blakeney was waiting for her.
Many friends gather around Marguerite to bid her goodbye. However, Marguerite’s attention is focused on finding Chauvelin, a task at which she finally succeeds. As soon as she gets the chance, she asks Chauvelin if he would attend her down the stairs. As soon as she gains some distance from the crowd, she quickly asks if the plan worked. Chauvelin replies that he is not yet sure; only time will tell. Marguerite asks Chauvelin to reveal his decision about her brother. Chauvelin replies that Armand’s fate is still undecided. No one had entered the supper room, Chauvelin tells Marguerite. However, he will travel to Calais the next day and wait to see who will show up at the designated meeting place. Soon she will have more news about Armand’s fate.
As they drive home, Marguerite feels temporarily relieved by the cool, October air that rushes by her face. She is glad that her husband, Sir Percy, enjoys living in the country. They own a beautiful home alongside a river that is a long drive from the clutter and stagnation of London.
As they ride along, Marguerite steals glances at her husband’s profile. In the early morning light, she catches glimpses of the image she had once had of her husband, when he had courted her and still loved her. She admires the way he drives the horses, allowing them almost full rein, running as powerfully as they desire.
Then the events of the night crash in on her again. If anyone had told her a week ago that she would betray the Scarlet Pimpernel, the hero of all England, she would have laughed at them. However, that may well be exactly what she has done. She has been in a similar position during the condemnation of the Marquis de St. Cyr years before. In that case, though, she had been the victim of circumstance. Now, in the possible downfall of the Scarlet Pimpernel, she has made a conscious choice. She acted to save her brother, but is that enough to justify her? This moral crisis she is suffering through somehow makes Marguerite more empathetic toward her husband. She may have been aware of his faults, but that night she cannot deny her own weaknesses. She wonders whether her husband would ever be able to forgive her if he knew about what she has done this night.
When they reach the house, neither Percy nor Marguerite feel anxious to go inside. Instead, each takes a separate tour of the gardens. Not until they reach the steps to the terrace do they realize that both of them have remained outside. Marguerite takes this chance encounter as an opportunity to try, once again, to find support in her husband. Although he is about to go inside, she asks him to wait. She needs to talk to him, she says.
Marguerite first asks if it is possible that their love for one another has died. Percy becomes somewhat agitated. He had loved her, he tells her, but she threw his love back into his face. Marguerite reluctantly agrees with his assessment. She had once been filled with false pride, she confesses. She had hoped that his love would one day make her love him. That was a foolish, immature way to view their relationship, she admits. However, he has grown so cold toward her. She has felt closed off from him. They discuss the trials their relationship has faced throughout their first year together. Percy tells her that he had no choice but to close his heart to her. He felt she was out to destroy his affections. However, as he tells her this, Marguerite is surprised to see the passion in her husband’s face. The more he talks to her, she realizes that he is still in love with her. She is touched by this realization and opens up to him, telling him how Chauvelin is threatening to try her brother for treason. Marguerite is not strong enough to tell Percy about her betrayal of the Scarlet Pimpernel. She fears that this confession would only make Percy turn away from her again.
Before they part to go to bed in their separate bedrooms, Percy promises that he will do all he can to make sure that Armand is safe.
After dressing for bed, Marguerite stands at her bedroom window and thinks about her husband. She feels an ache in her heart and is surprised to realize that the source of the pain is not her brother but rather her husband. She discovers that she still loves him. In fact, as she takes time to reflect on the past few months, she knows she has always loved him. Percy’s traits that she found the hardest to like—his laziness, his empty laughter—are just a mask. Percy wears that mask to hide his pain, the emotional pain she has caused by not returning his love. Underneath that mask, Marguerite now understands, is a very strong, passionate, and willful man: a man she could love.
Then, just as suddenly as she reached this conclusion, she questions if what she feels for her husband is really love. She asks herself, could she really love a fool? Is it love that she feels? Has she loved him all along? She is not sure. The only thing she feels certain of is that she is now determined to make him love her again. She wants his obstinate heart to be hers again. She will keep his love and cherish it. She will, one day, deserve it. She knows that she will never be happy until he loves her again.
These contradictory thoughts and emotions keep her awake although she tries to fall asleep. She had even has a few fleeting dreams until she hears footsteps outside her door. She gets out of bed and rushes to open the door. She finds a note, written in her husband’s hand, that says he has been called away. He will be gone for a week.
Marguerite thinks she hears voices outside, so she runs down to the front door and goes outside. She sees Percy coming toward his horse, which has already been saddled for him. She asks where he is going. The note had said that he had business in the north, but Marguerite does not believe this. There had been no mention of any business meetings just a few hours ago, when they had arrived at home. She presses her husband to tell the truth. Percy then tells her that he must go away because of Armand. Marguerite wants to know if this means Percy will be putting himself into danger. Percy denies this in an attempt to allay his wife’s fears. She looks so beautiful in the early morning light.
After saying goodbye to Percy, Marguerite returns to her bed. Even though she knows Armand is still in danger, she truly senses that everything will be all right. Percy is determined to save her brother. She knows that whatever he sets his mind to, he will complete. That is the kind of man Percy Blakeney is.
Marguerite wakes up refreshed after a brief sleep. She feels good about the day that lies before her. Suzanne, the daughter of the Comtesse and an old school friend of Marguerite’s, is coming to visit. Although the Comtesse had forbidden Suzanne to speak to her, Marguerite intentionally asked Suzanne to come visit her in front of the Prince of Wales while they all were at the ball. The Comtesse, not wanting to cause the Prince to think ill of her, had granted permission to her daughter. Marguerite is looking forward to spending a few hours with her old friend and rehashing school memories, which will not doubt take her mind off her brother and her husband.
After eating a small breakfast and while waiting for Suzanne to arrive, Marguerite walks into the hallway that leads to her husband’s bedroom suite. The rooms in Percy’s section of the large house consist of his bedroom, a dressing room, and a small study. When Sir Percy is not in the study, the room remains locked. Lord Blakeney has given precise instructions that no person of the household, except his confidential valet, Frank, should ever enter that room. Normally, Marguerite feels no curiosity about what her husband does in his study. She even used to tease him, saying that Percy kept the door locked because he did not want anyone to know that all he ever did in that room was sleep.
This morning, however, Marguerite feels drawn to this precise room. She did not know why, but when she sees that all the doors are ajar, including the door to Percy’s study, she cannot resist. The doors are open because Frank is in the process of straightening the rooms in Percy’s corner of the house. Marguerite quietly walks to the room, peeks in, and enters when she sees Frank is not there. Surely Percy had no intention of keeping his wife locked out of his study. If Frank happened to find her there, he would never be so bold as to say anything against her presence.
Once inside, Marguerite is surprised by what she finds. The room is very orderly and simply furnished. The only picture on the walls is a portrait of Percy’s mother, which had been painted when she was still a young lady. She was a beautiful woman whom Percy highly resembles.
Marguerite then moves over toward Percy’s desk, which is very well organized but piled high with important-looking papers. The whole picture that lies before her does not reflect the dull-witted man that most of British society knows as Lord Percy Blakeney. Of course, her husband owns an extremely large estate. He is one of the richest men in Britain. Marguerite has always wondered how a dull-witted man could be so successful in business. Marguerite wonders, is the mask her husband wears intended to fool not only her but also everyone else? Why would Percy go to so much trouble?
The puzzle of her husband’s true personality gives Marguerite a headache. She is about to leave the room when her foot accidentally kicks a small object that rolls across the room. She walks over to the metal piece and stoops to pick it up. It is a man’s golden ring. When she turns the ring, she notices an engraving on a shield. Looking closer, she recognizes the shape. It is a small, star-shaped flower—the same flower she saw on the notes she came across at the opera and at Lord Grenville’s ball.
Suzanne has come to visit Marguerite. Although Marguerite is very happy to see her and to share memories of their days together at school, she is very distracted by the events of the past day and a half. Marguerite’s distraction comes to a head when she asks Suzanne if she has any news concerning her father, the Count. Suzanne tells Marguerite that they received some very encouraging news. Lord Hastings assured her that her father will soon be rescued. Rumors have suggested that the Scarlet Pimpernel is on his way to Calais to meet with her father, who is in hiding, and bring him to England to be reunited with his family.
At this announcement, everything begins to make sense to Marguerite. She had been wondering if her attempts to save her brother, Armand had been successful. Chauvelin had not completely confirmed that Marguerite’s help had pinpointed the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Chauvelin had told her that the only person to show up in the supper room at the previous night’s ball had been her husband.
As Marguerite reflects on her last conversation with the French diplomat, she suddenly remembers a sly smile on Chauvelin’s lips, as if he knew something he was not telling her. With the information that Marguerite has gathered since—her husband’s sudden departure and the ring she found in his office—it dawns on her that Sir Percy could well be the Scarlet Pimpernel. Everything begins to fall into place. Sir Percy purposefully acts like a simpleton not only when he is with her but also when he is out in public, Marguerite surmises, to throw all suspicion off him as being the Scarlet Pimpernel. No one would ever suspect that someone with her husband’s reputation of having a very dull wit could be the British hero daringly rescuing the French elite.
The more Marguerite thinks about the possibility, the more she is convinced that not only is her husband the Scarlet Pimpernel but that she is responsible for sending him right into the trap Chauvelin is setting for him. Now, not only is her brother, Armand, in danger, but so too is her husband. She berates herself for being so ignorant and not recognizing her husband’s true identity. However, she does not have time to think about these things. She must act.
Before she has time to do anything, Marguerite receives a letter from a messenger. Inside the envelope is the letter Armand had sent to Sir Andrew, the letter Chauvelin found. Chauvelin has sent the letter, proof of Armand’s treason, to Marguerite as part of their bargain. The receipt of the letter confirms that Chauvelin is on the Scarlet Pimpernel’s trail. Marguerite must do something to save her husband. She must find him. If she cannot save him from his fate of death, then she will die with him.
Before she leaves home, Marguerite asks the messenger about the man who gave him the letter to deliver. Marguerite learns that Chauvelin had ordered a carriage to take him to Dover. Marguerite knows that from Dover, Chauvelin would take a boat across the Channel to Calais. She must get to Calais as soon as she can. She also knows that she can not do this alone, so she heads straight for Sir Andrew’s home.
Upon finding Sir Andrew, Marguerite acknowledges that she knows that her husband is the Scarlet Pimpernel. She also tells Sir Andrew that she knows her husband is in grave danger. Without telling Sir Andrew all the details concerning how she knows this, she tells him that Chauvelin is determined to bring Sir Percy to the guillotine. As soon as Chauvelin captures the Scarlet Pimpernel, he will quickly put him on trial so the French court can sentence him to death. The French revolutionists will do this before the British officials can intervene.
Sir Andrew asks Marguerite how Chauvelin was able to identify the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite would have rather concealed her involvement, but she confesses that it was all her fault. She briefly explains that Chauvelin blackmailed her, but she does not excuse her actions. Had she known that the Scarlet Pimpernel was her husband, she may have acted differently, she tells Sir Andrew. Then she demands that they stop talking about all the details because they do not have any time to waste. She must arrive in Dover that evening and try to cross the Channel and arrive in Calais before Chauvelin does.
Sir Andrew is torn. He has sworn his allegiance to the Scarlet Pimpernel. He has been given no orders from Sir Percy to go to Calais. Now Sir Andrew has to choose between his promise to do only what Sir Percy has told him to do and the actions Marguerite is demanding to save Sir Percy’s life. Sir Andrew senses that Marguerite will do anything to save her husband, but he knows that she has no chance of doing so on her own. She does not know where Sir Percy is or where to find the people Sir Percy is attempting to save. Sir Andrew finally decides that he must take Marguerite to Calais. He will dress as her servant so they can travel in disguise, giving them a slight chance that Chauvelin’s men might not uncover them.
Marguerite is the first to leave for Dover. Sir Andrew will come on horseback a few hours later.
Marguerite arrives at the inn in Dover before Sir Andrew does. When she arrives alone, Mr. Jellyband is a bit concerned. His worry increases when she tells Jellyband to expect Sir Andrew in an hour or two. Jellyband thinks Marguerite is having an affair with Sir Andrew. He concludes that Marguerite is a French woman, which in his mind explains her strange behavior. Once Marguerite realizes what it must look like for her to be in Dover without her husband and meeting clandestinely with another man, she finds a few seconds of humor in her otherwise dreadful day.
When Sir Andrew reaches the inn, he has bad news for Marguerite. He has checked with the men on the dock and everyone tells him that there is no chance a boat can make the journey across the Channel that night. A fierce storm is brewing, and the wind is blowing directly from France to Dover. Sir Andrew attempts to soothe Marguerite’s anxiety by reminding her that if they cannot make it out that night, neither can Chauvelin. Sir Andrew asks that Jellyband set up two rooms so he and Marguerite can sleep there that night. Sir Andrew adds that if Jellyband takes good care of Lady Blakeney, he is sure Sir Percy will pay him well. This eases some of the tension on Jellyband’s face; the innkeeper finally realizes that what he had assumed was an affair must be an innocent rendezvous of which Sir Percy is well aware.
After Jellyband leaves the room, Sir Andrew tells Marguerite that the boat captains he talked to confided that a stranger has been asking about a fare across to Calais. The captain also confirmed that the stranger would have to wait, as Sir Andrew will, until the storm subsides before taking on the journey. When Marguerite suggests that maybe Chauvelin has found someone to sail him across the Channel, Sir Andrew says that would be their great fortune: if Chauvelin managed to get out before the storm, his boat would surely be at the bottom of the sea now. Then Andrew jests, asking Marguerite if he should go out and find out where Chauvelin is sleeping for the night and slay him. That, Andrew says, would be the end of their problems. Marguerite admits that she has had thoughts of killing Chauvelin. Then she remarks that the French government, not the British, is the only one at this point in time that is set up to sanction murder.
The next morning, the storm is still blowing across the water. Sir Andrew goes to the dock but finds that with the winds so strong and the tide going out, circumstances are against their leaving Dover for several more hours at best. However, a few hours later, Andrew finds a captain of a very swift yacht who is willing to take the chance. So Marguerite and Andrew finally set sail for Calais.
The sunset is beautiful as they make their way across the Channel, though Marguerite pays little attention to the scenery. Her mind is set on finding Sir Percy as soon as she can and warning him that Chauvelin will soon be in Calais in pursuit of him. Once Marguerite and Andrew set foot on French soil, they make their way through the darkened streets to a small inn that is familiar to Andrew.
When they step inside, Marguerite is stunned by the squalid interior of the inn. There is not one piece of furniture that does not have a broken or missing part. The paper on the walls is peeling off. The tablecloths have holes in them and do not look as if they have been recently cleaned. The room smells of dirt and cigar smoke. A disheveled man approaches them with an air of contempt. Andrew addresses the man as Brogard. Brogard has bought into the concept of the French Revolution “equality” with a vengeance. He believes he no longer needs to demonstrate manners to any of his guests because, no matter that they may be dressed better and be cleaner than he is, they deserve no more than he does. He delays all his responses to them, shows them little courtesy, and goes to very little trouble to serve them. He also stands very close to them and blows cigar smoke in Marguerite’s face.
However, Marguerite and Sir Andrew know that Brogard may have information they could use. They swallow their pride and remember that the French people are going through dramatic changes in the country as well as in their culture. Marguerite had noticed on her way to the inn that most of the French people they passed along the way, instead of greeting them in a friendly or casual manner, looked very suspicious and concerned. In France at this time, Marguerite is well aware, anyone might be a spy, even one’s best friend. If anyone says anything that might insinuate that they favor the aristocracy, they could be thrown in jail for treason. The French friendliness with which Marguerite had grown up is lacking. People stay to themselves, afraid to say anything that might suggest they could be against the revolution.
As Marguerite and Andrew settle down to a bowl of soup, they encourage one another to eat not because they feel hungry but rather because they need all the strength they can muster. Then Andrew asks Brogard if he has happened to see any other English gentlemen recently, especially an unusually tall man. Brogard responds that indeed he has. The gentleman is due back soon. He asked Brogard to make dinner for him. Marguerite fights to keep control of her emotions; not only is Percy in Calais, but he is on his way back to the inn.
Sir Andrew continually reminds Marguerite to control her emotions and not speak so loudly because there are spies everywhere in France. Sir Andrew tells her that it is wise if they do not let Brogard know who they are looking for or why. However, Marguerite can barely control herself. She thinks that in a few minutes she will see Sir Percy, her husband, and the ordeal will be all over. Percy will be safe, and they will be able to leave France and return to British soil.
Andrew has to temper Marguerite’s joyous mood with the news that Sir Percy would never leave unless the people he has come to rescue are safe. It is not until Andrew’s words that Marguerite remembers her brother. She had become so obsessed with finding and warning her husband that she had all but forgotten Armand’s danger. There is also Suzanne’s father to consider. Armand and Suzanne’s father are hiding in a hut somewhere up in the cliffs overlooking the bay. They were told to go there and wait until someone came to rescue them. Unfortunately, Chauvelin was also aware of this plan because he read Andrew’s notes, in which the scheme was written. Sir Percy would never think of only his safety. He has made a promise to save Armand and the count. He will not stop until he is successful.
Marguerite says they might have at least one hour before Chauvelin arrives. Andrew warns Marguerite that he saw Chauvelin on the beach right before they boarded their ship in England, so they might have less time than that. Chauvelin might have left Dover shortly after they did. Andrew also tells Marguerite that Chauvelin knows this inn because of that same note he had confiscated from Andrew. Once Chauvelin lands in Calais, he surely will come directly to the inn in search of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Hoping to give them more time, Marguerite quells her emotions so she can think clearly. Then she suggests that Andrew leave her and go out in search of Sir Percy. He might find him and tell him not to come to the inn. Andrew is reluctant to leave Marguerite alone, unprotected. She convinces him that she will be all right. Before he leaves, Andrew asks Brogard to give Marguerite a room in which she might rest. The only room available is a tiny attic space; it has only a bed of straw and a torn curtain rather than a door. However, Marguerite takes the room. It provides her with a view of the downstairs room and gives her enough shelter to hide in without being seen from below.
Before he leaves, Andrew pays Brogard handsomely to look after Marguerite. He takes one more look, sees Marguerite smiling at him, and then leaves the inn.
As Marguerite waits in the attic room, she observes Brogard, the Calais innkeeper, set the table in preparation for the meal Sir Percy will soon eat. The anticipation of seeing her husband grows stronger in Marguerite, though she knows that she dare not stir even when Sir Percy arrives. Andrew has warned her not to greet Sir Percy in any public place because this might bring dangerous attention to him. Chauvelin’s spies are everywhere.
As she waits for Percy’s arrival, she suddenly hears footsteps outside. At first, her heart leaps because she believes it must be her husband. Then she is disappointed when she listens more closely. The strides are too short. Upon listening more attentively, Marguerite realizes that she hears two sets of footsteps, not just one. The door to the inn briskly opens and two Frenchmen enter. Although Marguerite cannot see their faces, she soon recognizes the voice of Chauvelin.
Chauvelin is with one of his men. After he orders some food, Chauvelin discusses his plans. He questions the man he calls Desgas about Sir Percy’s yacht. Desgas responds that it has been sighted. Desgas also tells Chauvelin that all the soldiers are in place, awaiting orders. No one has yet discovered where the hut of Pere Blanchard is, though. This is the name that was mentioned in one of Andrew’s notes that Chauvelin confiscated. However, troops are stationed all along the coast.
Chauvelin then repeats his orders to be ever watchful for the tall Englishman. Chauvelin tells Desgas that the Englishman will probably stoop over to disguise his height. The soldiers are to capture the Englishman, not kill him. Chauvelin wants the Scarlet Pimpernel alive. They are to shoot him only as a last resort.
After Desgas leaves, Chauvelin sits down to his meal with a carefree attitude. Meanwhile, up in the attic room, Marguerite watches Chauvelin. She thinks of Chauvelin as a fiend. He laughs and chuckles to himself as he rubs his hands together, suggesting that it is just a matter of time before he will finally be successful in unmasking the Scarlet Pimpernel. He has laid what he considers to be very careful plans. There are no loopholes through which the Pimpernel might escape. Every road is guarded. The small group of fugitives is unaware that Chauvelin’s troops are about to surround them.
Marguerite silently refers to Chauvelin as a devil. He is too evil to kill his prey quickly. He is determined to make Sir Percy suffer. Chauvelin will not be pleased unless Sir Percy is completely humiliated. The worst part, though, is that Marguerite is the one who has allowed Chauvelin to have this victory. She betrayed her husband. She has brought him to this point, and now she can do nothing to help him.
As she hides behind the curtain, Marguerite suddenly hears someone outside the inn. The person is singing as he walks. The song he sings is the British patriotic melody “God Save the King.” Marguerite immediately recognizes the voice as belonging to Sir Percy.
Sir Percy enters the inn, and from what Marguerite can observe, her husband might have been taken aback upon seeing Chauvelin for only a mere six seconds. Sir Percy then casually walks over to the table and pats Chauvelin on the back. Although Marguerite had not been able to see, Chauvelin is dressed in disguise. He has a priest’s frock on and is wearing a wig. When Sir Percy immediately calls Chauvelin by name, the Frenchman chokes on the spoonful of soup he is in the process of swallowing. Percy asks Chauvelin why he is dressed in this way and kids him about his terrible wig.
Percy continues his conversation with Chauvelin, sometimes calling the man by a mispronunciation of his name just to irritate him. As her husband talks, he appears to Marguerite to be looking around the room and outside the windows, as if were checking out whether Chauvelin has any of his soldiers stationed about. After a few minutes, Percy appears to relax. He must have assumed that if Chauvelin’s men had been outside, they would have come in by now. So Percy sits down at the table next to Chauvelin and ladles out some soup into a bowl.
Marguerite can barely control her emotions. She wants to rush down the stairs and warn her husband. However, the more she watches him, the more she appreciates his cleverness and quick wit. Her husband is so much more than she had ever imagined. However, she wonders why Percy does not just knock Chauvelin down to the ground. He is much bigger and more powerful than the little Frenchman is. Marguerite finally surmises that her husband must have a much more far-reaching plan. He cannot afford to take any risks. There still could be soldiers stationed outside. Sir Percy still needs to reach the people he must rescue. He cannot afford to be stopped at this point.
Percy continues his conversation with Chauvelin, saying that he did not know the Frenchman had “taken orders” (in other words, become a priest). Percy is mocking Chauvelin. As Chauvelin continues to look at his watch, Percy also teases him about possibly waiting for a secret rendezvous, perhaps with a young French woman. Chauvelin, as Marguerite knows, is really waiting for the return of his soldiers. Sir Percy is probably aware of this too. However, he continues to play the fool to put Chauvelin at ease.
While Chauvelin continues to focus on the front door to the inn and his watch, Percy subtly empties his snuff box and fills it with pepper from a shaker that is sitting on the table. Then, knowing that Chauvelin loves snuff, Percy offers him a pinch, telling him it is the best snuff he has ever consumed. Chauvelin is drawn in. He reaches for the snuff and inhales it. Within a second or two, Chauvelin is sneezing and gagging so painfully that he can neither hear, see, nor speak. In the meantime, Percy sneaks out of the inn.
Chauvelin finally is able to catch his breath and stop sneezing just as his men reach the inn. As soon as Desgas enters, Chauvelin asks Desgas if he had seen the tall British man. Desgas had not. Chauvelin has to take his misery out on someone, so he yells at Desgas, screaming that had he been five minutes earlier they would have captured the British man. However, Chauvelin recovers, as he realizes that catching the Scarlet Pimpernel in the act of defying the French government would mean his sure death. They needed to wait and catch him as Sir Percy attempts to rescue Armand and Suzanne's father. The roads were well guarded. There was no way that Sir Percy could go anywhere without being seen. They would track him. He would eventually lead them to the hut where Armand and the others were hiding.
Then Desgas tells Chauvelin that he does have some interesting news to share. Desgas says that a tall Englishman had been seen earlier in the day. He had gone to a man named Reuben, asking to rent a cart and a horse, which was to be ready by eleven o'clock. Chauvelin tells one of his men to go to Reuben's house to see if the Englishman was there.
About five minutes later, Chauvelin's soldier returns. He is followed by a very disheveled, dirty man dressed in tattered, oily clothes. His red hair is worn in the fashion of traditional Jews, and he speaks with a Polish accent. He shuffles his feet when he walks and has a stooped appearance.
Chauvelin, horribly prejudiced against Jews, insists that this man not come too close. Desgas first tells Chauvelin that this is not the man called Reuben. However, the Jew knows Reuben's whereabouts and has said that he will supply other critical information, if Chauvelin pays for it.
The Jew tells Chauvelin that he had been with Reuben when the tall Englishman had appeared. Before he could make a deal with the Englishman, Reuben, who was more aggressive, promised to rent a cart and horse to the Englishman. The Jewish man laughs at this, telling Chauvelin that Reuben's cart and horse were in terrible disrepair and probably would fall apart in the middle of the road before reaching its destination. Chauvelin then asks where the Englishman is going. For a price, the Jew offers to take Chauvelin there. Because the Jewish man knows of a shortcut, they might even arrive before the Englishman.
Marguerite waits in the attic room to make sure that Chauvelin and his soldiers are outside before she creeps downstairs. She peers into the darkness outside to ensure that the soldiers are gone, then she goes outside and follows behind them as closely as she dares. She knows that Miquelon, Chauvelin’s destination, is at least nine miles ahead. She is ready for the journey even if she must make it on foot. She must go where her husband is about to meet his fate. She will try to save him. However, if she fails, at least she will be there at his side.
There is a moon in the night sky but clouds cover it, giving Marguerite enough darkness to hide along the sides of the road. She is forced to trample along the bushes and other wild vegetation because she will not risk walking on the road. She might be too visible. She is fortunate that the Jewish man’s horse is old and thin and cannot quickly pull the cart in which Chauvelin rides. She can match the horse’s advance. There are no houses along the road, not even a humble fisherman’s shack. Marguerite wonders where Sir Percy might be hiding. She knows Chauvelin had spies and soldiers posted all along this very road, waiting for Sir Percy to walk by. Marguerite wonders if her husband was aware of the danger.
Meanwhile, Chauvelin continues to rub his hands together, anticipating the long-awaited success that is surely to arrive shortly. He has been planning this event for almost a year, and finally he will reap his rewards. This will be his most distinguished accomplishment; the anticipation is almost too much for him to bear. He will catch the Scarlet Pimpernel red-handed as he attempts to free the traitors to France’s new republic. The Englishman will not be able to claim any protection from the British government. There will be no one to save him. Even if the British officials should want to rescue him, it would be too late. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Percy Blakeney, would be executed before any word from the British king could stop it.
Marguerite drops back into the deeper darkness when she hears horses approaching. A troop of soldiers pulls up at the cart to speak to Chauvelin. They tell their commander that they have located the fisherman’s hut in which two men whom they suspect to be the traitors are apparently waiting for rescue. They are unable to identify the men. However, one is fairly young and the other old. Upon hearing this, Marguerite almost cries out. She senses that the young man is her brother, Armand, and the older man is Suzanne’s father, the Count. How her husband could possibly save them under these conditions is more than Marguerite can imagine.
Marguerite was exhausted, though this condition did not fully make an impression on her thoughts. In her mind, she was oblivious to all pain except for her longing for her husband. She had abandoned all hope of rescuing him. All she felt she had left to her was that she would see him long enough to tell him how much she loved him and how sorry she was that she had foolishly lead him to his death. Her shoes were gone and her feet were sore. Her knees buckled with each step. She and the soldiers in front of her had arrived at their destination. Marguerite felt as if she had been walking in a trance. She was not unaware of her surroundings, though. She had noticed that the cart had stopped, and Chauvelin was giving orders to someone. She must hear what Chauvelin was saying. So she crept closer, on her hands and knees.
A soldier was telling Chauvelin that Pere Blanchard's hut was straight ahead on a footpath that winded halfway down the cliff. Chauvelin then insisted that the soldier listen to him very intently as they may not be able to speak again as they drew closer to the hut. Chauvelin gave orders to the soldier that he and his men were to creep slowly and quietly down the cliffside and check out the hut. If there were people inside, the soldier was to whistle a signal. If the tall Englishman was there, he was to charge inside with all his men and capture him. Then Chauvelin emphasized that the most important element of this mission was to capture the Englishman, and they must do so without killing him.
After Chauvelin dismisses the soldiers, he turns to Desgas, who remains at his side. Desgas reminds Chauvelin about the Jewish owner of the cart. He wants to know what they should do with him. They could not afford to leave him alone without being guarded. There was a chance that the man might make a noise and warn the people in the shack, so they decide to gag the cart owner and take him with them down to the hut.
After she sees them walking away, Marguerite decides that she must follow them. She has wanted to yell out a warning, but she is concerned that if she does so too early, her voice might not carry all the way to the hut. So she restrains the desire. Instead, she focuses on getting ahead of Chauvelin. She takes a side path and hurries as fast as she can. To her surprise, when she stops to listen for sounds, she hears footsteps behind her. She has succeeded in beating Chauvelin down the path. However, in her next steps, Marguerite trips and falls. Before she has a chance to stand, she feels someone grab her. Quickly someone wraps a scarf around her mouth to gag her. When she turns to face her captor, she is not surprised to see Chauvelin. He, however, is very shocked to see her.
Captured thus, the exhaustion that Marguerite had previously kept at bay suddenly descends upon her. She feels her senses leaving her. She knows that someone has picked her up and is carrying her down the path. Her mind, at that moment, falls into a deep, dark despair.
Marguerite had possibly fainted. She no longer was aware of time. When she came to, she noticed only that someone had placed her on the ground, with her back leaning against a rock. Then she heard a conversation between Chauvelin and one of his men. The fisherman's hut had been checked. There were four men inside, the soldier reported. They were all sitting by a small fire. There was no sign of the tall Englishman. His yacht was seen in the harbor, but no one knew where the small boat that would bring the men from the shore to yacht had been hidden.
After Chauvelin gave new orders, his soldier returned to the hut. Chauvelin then turned to Marguerite. He tells her that he wants to make her more comfortable, adding that he might remove the gag from her mouth if she makes him a promise. He says that he knows that upon untying the scarf Marguerite's first impulse will be to shout a warning. However, he tells her that if she yells out a signal or makes any kind of a noise that would alert the men in the hut of the soldiers' presence, he will personally gather the four men in the hut, which includes her brother, Armand, and shoot them right on the spot in front of her. However, if she remains silent, thus allowing them to capture the Scarlet Pimpernel, Chauvelin will immediately release Armand and his companions and allow them to board the yacht and return safely to England. Chauvelin adds that the reason he wants Marguerite free is that he wants her to have the freedom to make the decision about whom she chooses to save.
Marguerite, though numb with physical pain, had enough awareness to realize the terrible horror that Chauvelin had once again placed on her. Again, she would have to make an agonizing decision. Again, she would have to choose between her husband's life and that of her brother. If she remained silent, her husband would walk right into Chauvelin's trap. If she called out, Sir Percy might escape, but her brother would be shot.
After waiting for a few minutes, Chauvelin leans down and removes the gag from Marguerite's mouth. Marguerite does not scream. She has no strength to do anything. However, she knows that she must think. As she does, she feels screams rising in her throat, but no sounds come out of her mouth. Every time that she thinks about yelling out, she sees the vision of her brother being shot. She could not stand the pressure. How much longer could she wait? How was she to make such a difficult decision? Just when she thinks she can take no more, she hears a sound. Someone was singing. Someone who was not too far away from her. It was a man's voice she heard, and he was singing "God Save the King."
The singing voice came nearer and nearer to Marguerite. She knew it was her husband singing "God Save the King." She also knew that Sir Percy was walking to his death, still unaware that Chauvelin and his men were waiting for him. She could not stay quiet any longer. If she must sacrifice her brother in order to save her husband, then so be it. She could no longer remain silent. So she shouted out, calling her brother by name, imploring him to either come out of the hut shooting or to run away to the beach. He must do something, Marguerite yelled.
Chauvelin, hearing Marguerite's wails, commands one of his soldier to subdue her. Thus Marguerite is pushed to the ground and her head is covered with some kind of bag. The effect of this was that Marguerite, who had not had a night's sleep in three days and had not eaten in almost as many days, fainted.
Meanwhile, Chauvelin has rushed to the fisherman's hut, where he finds his soldiers standing near the door. When he sees this, Chauvelin loses all patience. He yells at his men, asking why they have not entered the hut. They respond that they have not seen the tall Englishman, reminding Chauvelin that he had ordered them, under penalty of death, not to do anything until they saw the Englishman. Chauvelin then orders them to rush into the hut and gather up whoever is still there. When the soldiers go in, they tell Chauvelin that the hut is empty.
Then one of Chauvelin's officers reports that he had seen the four men escape from the hut a few minutes before Marguerite had yelled out. He had seen them climb down the cliff and then disappear. Then someone points out the noise that he hears. It is the sound of oars quickly paddling out to sea. In the distance, the soldiers see the white sails of Sir Percy's yacht. A few minutes later, a gun sounds from the boat, signalling that the four fugitives are safely aboard.
Chauvelin cannot believe the stupidity of his men. How could they have let the four men escape? The other question that remains unanswered is, Where was the Scarlet Pimpernel now? How could he have gotten away. Chauvelin knew it was the Scarlet Pimpernel's voice who had been singing "God Save the King," which meant that he had been in the vicinity just minutes earlier. How could the tall Englishman have escaped in the boat? It was not possible. He must still be nearby.
When Chauvelin walks into the hut, he finds a crumpled note on the floor. It was signed with the mark of the Scarlet Pimpernel. In the note, the Scarlet Pimpernel tells the four men that they must leave without him. He will meet them at a spot on the beach near Calais. They are to pick him up there.
With the note in hand, Chauvelin believes he has one more chance to catch the elusive Pimpernel. He does not leave, however, without taking out his frustration on someone. So he orders two of his soldiers to whip the Jewish cart owner, as if the poor man were to blame.
Marguerite stirs after Chauvelin and his men are gone. She had been unconscious and did not know what had happened to her brother or her husband. For all she knew they were both dead. She was extremely exhausted, and her feet were badly damaged from the long walk without shoes. She was so tired, she did not care to move. She could stay there forever on that rocky cliff, especially if she had lost the two men whom she loved.
Then out of the darkness, she heard a distinctive cry. Someone had cursed. The tone of voice was unmistakably British and the sound was very familiar. Marguerite sensed that it was Sir Percy, but she could not tell from where the sound of the voice was coming from. She sat up and looked around. In the short distance in front of her, she thought she made out the figure of a crumpled body. Then she remembered the cries of the Jewish cart owner. It must have been his shouts of pain that had stirred her back to consciousness.
Then she heard the cursing voice again. At the sound, Marguerite cries out Percy's name. She asks him to come to her, but Sir Percy tells her that his hands and feet are bound and he cannot move. So Marguerite crawls to the crumpled body that she thinks ought to be that of the Jewish man. It is there that she finds her husband.
Percy then tells her the story of how he had managed the costume and the horse and cart. He says that he knew there was no way he could have made his way up the road to the fisherman's hut without being detected. In order to be successful, he must stay as close to Chauvelin as he dared. Sensing that Chauvelin would be disgusted by the filthy clothes and Jewish disguise, Sir Percy came up with the idea of renting the old cart and horse. Percy knew that Chauvelin, because of his racial prejudice, would barely look in his face.
Sir Percy also tells Marguerite that he had given Armand two separate notes. The one that Chauvelin had read had been left behind purposefully as a decoy, leading Chauvelin in the opposite direction. The first note had told Armand how to escape as well as how to rescue him at a completely different location down the shore. All he and Marguerite had to do now was to make their way down the cliffs to a boat that would be waiting for them.
As Percy recuperates from the beating that Chauvelin's men gave him, Sir Andrew appears just in time to help both him and Marguerite to the beach. Sir Andrew offers to carry Marguerite who cannot walk because of the sores on her feet, but Percy refuses to allow any other man carry his wife. Despite his own aching shoulders, which the soldiers had lashed with their belts, Percy carries Marguerite to the awaiting boat. Many months later, safe in England, everyone attends the wedding of Sir Andrew and Suzanne. Everyone is invited except, of course, Chauvelin.