The Scarlet Pimpernel


Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Lady Blakeney’s “breath stops short” at the sound of what she is sure is Sir Percy’s singing. “Long to reign over us,” the voice continues singing outside. “God save the King!” He throws open the door and steps inside the inn, and upon seeing Chauvelin, “hesitates” for only a moment. “Odd’s fish!” he proclaims. “M. Chauvelin…I vow I never thought of meeting you here.” Chauvelin, caught mid-bite in a bowl of soup, “fairly chokes” but quickly recovers. “I am indeed charmed to see, Sir Percy,” he says. “You must excuse me—h’m—I thought you the other side of the Channel.”
The image of Chauvelin choking on his soup is comical. He is clearly surprised to see Percy so soon, and also that Percy—who recovers quickly—would greet him as if this were a chance encounter between gentleman. This also makes Chauvelin seem unprepared and unqualified to go up against the Scarlet Pimpernel.
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“I didn’t know,” Sir Percy says to Chauvelin with a smile, “that you…er…were in holy orders.” Chauvelin is speechless. “But, la!” cries Percy. “I should have known you anywhere, […] although the wig and hat have changed you a bit.” As Sir Percy stands facing Chauvelin, Lady Blakeney watches from the attic, and she is suddenly struck by her love for her husband. Chauvelin asks Sir Percy if he is headed to Paris. “Odd’s life, no,” Percy answers, “beastly uncomfortable place Paris just now.”
Sir Percy is in his element outsmarting Chauvelin. Percy is most comfortable in his identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel, and therefore Lady Blakeney is suddenly struck by her love for him in this moment particularly. This is who Sir Percy truly is, not the brainless man he pretends to be, and Marguerite’s contempt for him seems to be completely gone.
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Chauvelin sits uncomfortably, looking repeatedly at his watch. “You are expecting a friend, maybe?” Sir Percy asks. Chauvelin quickly says yes. “Not a lady—I trust,” Sir Percy jokes, “surely the holy Church does not allow?” Lady Blakeney watches as Sir Percy walks across the room and discreetly removes his snuff box from his pocket, dumping pepper inside of it. He turns back to Chauvelin. “The Jew in Piccadilly has sold me better snuff this time than I have ever tasted. Will you honor me, Monsieur l’Abbé?” he asks holding out the snuff box.
This passage harkens back to the beginning of the novel and Orczy’s mention of Chauvelin’s “pernicious habit” of dipping tobacco. Sir Percy knows that Chauvelin can’t resist snuff and is sure to accept his offer, which will render Chauvelin incapacitated and afford Percy a chance to escape. This again proves that Sir Percy is indeed smarter than Chauvelin, and by extension, all the French Guard as well.
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Chauvelin accepts Sir Percy’s offer of a pinch of snuff, and upon placing it in his mouth, thinks “his head will burst.” Chauvelin begins to violently sneeze and choke, and as he does, Sir Percy calmly puts on his hat, places some money on the table, and walks out the door.
Sir Percy is never ruffled. He is calm and collected in every situation, no matter what the circumstances. This is another reflection of his stereotypical British restraint—he is not easily excited, unlike the impulsive French (as Orczy portrays them).
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