The Scarlet Pimpernel

by

Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Despite the stress of the evening, Lady Blakeney enjoys the short ride home. Sir Percy is sure at the reigns and rarely speaks as he drives, which affords Lady Blakeney time to relax. In the darkness, Sir Percy’s “lazy blue eyes” are hidden, and he looks nothing like the “nincompoop” and “effete fop” he has become.
Despite the successful execution of his brainless persona, Sir Percy isn’t able to completely conceal how sure and capable he is. This is reflected in the ease with which he handles the horses.
Themes
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
Suddenly, Lady Blakeney feels an “intense sympathy” for Sir Percy. The events of the last several hours have left her feeling vulnerable, and she thinks of the awful things she has done. Tomorrow, it is likely the death of the Scarlet Pimpernel will “be at her door”—just like the death of the Marquis de St. Cyr. In the latter case, however, she is “morally innocent.” She never intended to hurt the Marquis, it was “fate” that had stepped in, but her offense against the Scarlet Pimpernel is “obviously base.”
Again, Marguerite implies that she isn’t responsible for the Marquis because she didn’t intend for him to be killed. She intended to condemn the Scarlet Pimpernel, and that is the difference, Marguerite reasons. Orczy appears to disagree and implies that Marguerite is just as responsible for the Marquis’s death as she will be if the Scarlet Pimpernel is executed.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
After Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney arrive at their “palatial” estate by the river, Lady Blakeney heads for the sprawling gardens. Not yet wanting to go inside to bed, she discovers Sir Percy walking in the direction of the river. “Sir Percy,” she calls. He stops and faces her. “At your service, Madame!” he responds. The night is lovely, she says, and asks Sir Percy to stay and visit. “Or is my company so distasteful to you, that you are in a hurry to rid yourself of it?” she asks.
Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney are immediately snippy with each, although subtly, and this reflects their resentment towards one another. “At your service, Madame!” is a bit over the top, and Percy is clearly being sarcastic—no doubt a product of his wounded pride.
Themes
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
“Nay, Madame,” Sir Percy replies, “but ‘tis on the other foot the shoe happens to be.” He tells Lady Blakeney that she will find the evening “more poetic” without him. “The estrangement, which alas! has arisen between us, was none of my making,” Lady Blakeney says. “You desired my presence, Madame,” he says coldly and waits. “Is it possible that love can die?” she asks him quietly. “Do you wish to see me once more a love-sick suppliant at your feet, so that you might again have the pleasure of kicking me aside, like a troublesome lap-dog?” he asks.
Sir Percy implies that it is Marguerite who finds his company “distasteful,” which is a reference to her pride and resentment of his stupidity. She refers to his pride as well, as that is the main source of their “estrangement.” Marguerite’s obvious disrespect for the aristocracy has left Percy feeling “kicked aside” and unimportant. Orczy’s language again involves animals, which reflects how lowly Marguerite’s actions have made Percy feel.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
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Percy!” Lady Blakeney yells. “I entreat you!” She reminds him of early in their courtship, when he “still loved her.” She admits that she was “allured” by his “wealth and position,” but had hoped his “great love for [her] would beget” great love in her as well. “But, alas!” she cries. Percy stares at her. “Twenty-four hours after our marriage, Madame,” he says, “the Marquis de St. Cyr and all his family perished on the guillotine, and the popular rumor reached me that it was the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney who helped to send them there.”
Lady Blakeney frequently accuses Percy of being shallow, but she is guilty of this as well. She was only attracted to Sir Percy’s money, along with the fact that he appeared to worship her. Orczy’s portrayal of Marguerite as a Frenchwoman is completely unflattering, and again reflective of Orczy’s opinion of the superiority of the British over the French.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
“Nay! I myself told you the truth of that odious tale,” Lady Blakeney says. Yes, admits Sir Percy, but not until after he had already heard all the “horrible details” from others. Lady Blakeney pleads with her husband. She did not intend to deceive him. She had “strained every nerve” and “every influence” to save the Marquis, but his fate was sealed. As Sir Percy stares coldly at his wife, Lady Blakeney senses that he loves her still, despite his obvious contempt for her. Sir Percy’s “pride has kept him from her,” but she is determined to “win back that conquest which had been hers before.”
Just as Armand suspects earlier, Marguerite is determined to win back Percy’s love not because she loves him, but because her pride as a beautiful and desirous woman is wounded at the thought that he might not love her anymore. She senses this isn’t true, and it isn’t, but this too implies that Lady Blakeney isn’t quite deserving of Sir Percy’s love—yet.
Themes
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
“Listen to the tale, Sir Percy,” Lady Blakeney begs, as she tells him all about the Marquis de St. Cyr and his despicable treatment of Armand, a mere “plebian,” for “daring to love” a woman of noble birth. “When the opportunity occurred, and I was able to take my revenge, I took it,” Lady Blakeney admits. She meant only to cause the “proud” Marquis “trouble and humiliation.” He had been plotting with Austria to overthrow the revolution and she had said as much. “But I did know—how could I guess? —they trapped and duped me.” By the time Lady Blakeney realized what she had done, “it was too late.”
Again, it is difficult to believe that Marguerite didn’t know that her words would end in the Marquis’s death. Aristocrats are killed each day for far less, so it seems absurd to think that he wouldn’t have been killed for treason. Armand’s treatment was terrible, but Orczy implies that the Marguerite’s behavior was ultimately hypocritical—she preaches equality but decided that Armand’s life (again) was worth more than the next man’s life.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
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“I entreated you for an explanation,” Sir Percy says to Lady Blakeney. “I fancy that you refused me all explanation then, and demanded of my love a humiliating allegiance it was not prepared to give.” She turns to him. “I wished to test your love for me, and it did not bear the test,” she says quietly. “And to probe that love, you demanded that I should forfeit mine honour,” Sir Percy says.
The fact that Lady Blakeney felt the need to “test” Sir Percy’s love for her makes her appear selfish and again hypocritical. Sir Percy must somehow prove himself to Lady Blakeney, which implies that she considers herself superior to him as well.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Standing close to Sir Percy, Lady Blakeney can feel his eyes upon her in the darkness, but he will “not yield” to “this woman whom he had so deeply loved, and at whose hands his pride had suffered so bitterly.” Sir Percy again speaks. “I pray you, Madame, in what way can I serve you?” Lady Blakeney, stressed and exhausted from the events of the night, nearly breaks down and cries. “Percy! —Armand is in deadly danger,” she says and quickly tells him about Armand’s letter to Sir Andrew Ffoulkes. As Lady Blakeney speaks her brother’s name, Sir Percy’s face grows “a shade more pale” with a look of “determination and obstinacy.”
Percy grows pale at the mention of Armand’s name because he feels responsible for Armand’s predicament. Armand is in trouble for helping him, after all, and Percy’s look of “determination and obstinacy” suggests that he wants to right this wrong. Percy doesn’t agree to help Armand on behalf of Marguerite—he helps him because it is the right thing to do, and he is deeply moral.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Sir Percy finally agrees to help Armand. “I pledge you my word that he shall be safe,” he says. “Now, have I your permission to go?” he asks. Lady Blakeney turns and begins to walk away. She doesn’t turn around as she heads towards the house, but if she had, she would have seen Sir Percy staring at her, for he is “but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love.”
Sir Percy’s pride is beginning to crack. He loves Marguerite too much to completely deny it, but she must first atone for her betrayal of him and the Marquis. Sir Percy is the only person, other than the Comtesse, who holds Marguerite responsible for her actions.
Themes
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Pride and Humility Theme Icon
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