Despite the gaiety of the ball, Lady Blakeney “suffers intensely.” Her nerves have been on edge since meeting Chauvelin at the opera, and now Sir Percy is “surrounded by a crowd of brainless, empty-headed young fops,” loudly laughing and joking. Sir Percy has recently written a poem in honor of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and the men sit reciting it now. “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?” The men laugh and applaud, and Sir Percy takes a bow. “All done in the tying of a cravat,” he proclaims smiling.
Lady Blakeney’s suffering is a sign of her guilt. She knows she should stay true to her convictions and not help Chauvelin, but her love for Armand makes this too great a sacrifice. Sir Percy’s comment that he wrote his witty poem in the “tying of a cravat” is a subtle dig at his wife. Lady Blakeney is fond of saying that tying his cravat is the only thing Sir Percy is capable of, and Percy’s comment sarcastically draws attention to this. This comment is doubly ironic since he himself is the “demmed, elusive” Scarlet Pimpernel.
As Lady Blakeney wanders about the ball, she notices Lord Anthony and Sir Andrew, who both look “a little haggard and anxious.” From what Suzanne had said at the opera, the Scarlet Pimpernel has no intention of abandoning her father, which means he must be at the ball. Lady Blakeney is struck suddenly with “a burning curiosity to know him,” and scans the crowd intently. Near a doorway to a small boudoir, she notices a man discreetly slip something into Sir Andrew’s hand, and he slides quietly into the room.
Lord Anthony and Sir Andrew look “haggard and anxious” because they have just been beaten for their association with the Scarlet Pimpernel, but the fact that they are still willing to continue working on his behalf is a testament to their loyalty and integrity. They are loyal to both their leader and their belief in his cause, and they stick to their beliefs even when it’s hard—unlike Lady Blakeney.
As she watches Sir Andrew retreat into the boudoir, Lady Blakeney “suddenly ceases to exist” and is replaced by Marguerite St. Just. She slips into the room behind Sir Andrew and pretends to be faint, blaming the heat in the ballroom. Sir Andrew quickly brings her a chair, and then stands near a burning candle and places a small twisted piece of paper near the flame. Just as the paper touches the fire, Lady Blakeney snatches it from his hand. “How thoughtful of you, Sir Andrew, surely ‘twas your grandmother who taught you that the smell of burnt paper is a sovereign remedy against giddiness,” she says, glancing at the hasty handwriting.
Here, Orczy implies that Lady Blakeney and Marguerite St. Just are two different people—essentially, that Lady Blakeney has a dual personality as well. Lady Blakeney, a respected British woman, is incapable of betraying the Scarlet Pimpernel, so she must assume her identity as Marguerite, a passionate and impulsive French republican, to do so. This too aligns with Orczy’s argument of the basic goodness of the British compared to the violent and devilish French Republic.
“Whichever it is, Lady Blakeney, this little note is undoubtedly mine,” Sir Andrew says as he takes the paper from her hands. Lady Blakeney steps backward, knocking over a table and several candles, and Sir Andrew immediately stomps out the flames. He walks across the room and places the paper in the flame of another candle, and it immediately goes up in smoke. Lady Blakeney begins walking toward the door. “Will you venture to excite the jealousy of your fair lady by asking me to dance the minuet?” she asks smiling.
Sir Andrew is almost rude when he takes the paper back from Marguerite, which reflects the seriousness of what she has done in snatching his secret correspondence. Sir Andrew wouldn’t normally treat Lady Blakeney with disrespect (he is the epitome of British chivalry), but the lives of multiple people hinge on the League corresponding successfully.