The Scarlet Pimpernel

by

Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chapter 30 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lady Blakeney’s “aching heart stands still” at the sound of the singing. The voice comes closer, and she hears the “click” of Desgas’s gun. Suddenly, Lady Blakeney runs toward the cliff screaming. “Armand! Armand! For God’s sake fire! Your leader is near! He is coming! He is betrayed!” she yells. “Percy, my husband, for God’s sake fly!” Chauvelin can “hardly refrain from striking her” and orders his men to silence her.
Lady Blakeney clearly doesn’t follow Chauvelin’s orders, but she seems to chose both Percy and Armand rather than choosing to save just one of them. The singing means that Sir Percy is near and moving closer, and she refuses to give up either Percy or Armand so that the other might live.
Themes
Loyalty Theme Icon
The singing stops and Chauvelin orders his men to the hut. “Into it my men, and let no one escape alive,” he says. When the men reach the hut and throw the door open, they find the room deserted. The men stop, “like machines waiting for further orders.” Chauvelin turns to his men “What is the meaning of this?” he asks. The four men have escaped, the men confirm. A soldier steps forward and claims he heard the men sneak off long before the lady began to scream. “You and your men will pay with your lives for this blunder,” Chauvelin promises. “You ordered us to wait, citoyen, until the tall Englishman arrived and joined the four men in the hut. No one came,” the soldier explains.
Chauvelin’s men are motivated by fear, and in the absence of clear orders, they do nothing. The men are loyal, but they are loyal only to France and Chauvelin’s rank—they don’t actually respect him—and as such he is unable to effectively lead them. This not only portrays Chauvelin as a poor leader but also underscores Orczy’s overarching argument of the value of remaining true to one’s self and morals over remaining blindly loyal to one’s country.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
“Hush!” Chauvelin cries “What was that?” he asks in reference to a mechanical sound in the distance. “The schooner’s boat!” one of the men shouts. Armand and the three men had snuck down to the water, boarded the dinghy and are now, presumably, safely aboard the Day Dream, which is headed out to sea. The Scarlet Pimpernel has “completely outwitted” Chauvelin, and a “superstitious shudder passes through him” as he thinks about the “potent Fate” that watches over the “daring” hero.
Orczy implies that the Scarlet Pimpernel, an Englishman, is simply smarter than the Frenchmen—this too aligns with Orczy’s argument of the inherent superiority of the British. It is not “superstition” or magic that makes the Scarlet Pimpernel so capable compared to Chauvelin, it is his identity as an Englishman and an aristocrat.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Chauvelin moves to enter the hut. “Bring the light in here!” he orders. In the hut, a small scrap of paper is found crumpled on the floor. Chauvelin tells one of the men to read it, and it proves to be correspondence signed by the Scarlet Pimpernel to his men. “I cannot quite reach you,” the letter reads. The Scarlet Pimpernel orders his men to escape down the cliff to the waiting dinghy and board the yacht, which will bring them safely to England. He asks that the men bring the dinghy back to him, at a creek near Calais, where he will be “as soon as possible.”
Sir Percy later tells Marguerite that the letter Chauvelin finds in the hut is simply a fake to throw him off the Scarlet Pimpernel’s trail. The Scarlet Pimpernel is constantly leaving behind clever notes, false starts, and dead ends. This is further evidence of his brilliance and cleverness, which Marguerite only recently thought Sir Percy incapable of.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
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One of Chauvelin’s men knows the creek in question and offers to take them there at once. Chauvelin looks around. “Where is the Jew?” he asks. The men motion toward the dirty old man, scared and cowering on the ground. The ropes around him have come loose, but he makes no effort to move or struggle. “Bring that cowardly brute here,” Chauvelin orders. As the man comes closer, Chauvelin’s “contempt” for the man’s race keeps him at a distance.
Sir Percy was just singing “God save the King,” and the Jew’s loose ropes suggest that he escaped and then returned. Chauvelin’s bias against the Jew blinds him to this fact. He believes the Jew is incapable and helpless and doesn’t even consider that he could be the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
Related Quotes
“I suppose now, that being a Jew, you have a good memory for bargains,” Chauvelin says to the Jew. Chauvelin reminds him of their initial bargain—help him find the Scarlet Pimpernel and be awarded with gold. “Now, you did not fulfil your share of the bargain, but I am ready to fulfil mine,” Chauvelin says and orders his men to remove their belts and give the Jew “the best and soundest beating he has ever experienced.”
Here, Chauvelin employs a popular Jewish stereotype, which is another reflection of his villainy. Chauvelin’s poor treatment of the Jew is not only openly racist, but more proof that he is an incapable leader and a despicable man.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon