The Scarlet Pimpernel

by

Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Lord Anthony and Sir Andrew sit down at the dinner table with the Comtesse and her children, the two strangers sitting near the back of the coffee-room slip out quietly. “All safe!” one of the men mutters quietly, as his companion, “with the alertness born of long practice,” falls to his knees and slides unnoticed under an oak bench. “Alone, at last!” Lord Anthony shouts, and the Vicomte raises his glass in a toast. “To his Majesty George Three of England,” he says. “God bless him for his hospitality to us all, poor exiles from France!” They join glasses. “His Majesty the King!” they yell.
Lord Anthony seems to be the only one aware that the strangers have left the room, which now suggests that perhaps he does know about them after all. The stranger’s proclamation of “All safe!” could be in reference to the League and the French aristocrats—they have indeed made the trip and are safe in England. The theatrical slide under the bench is also in keeping with the Scarlet Pimpernel’s heroic physical abilities.
Themes
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Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
“And to M. le Comte de Tournay de Basserive,” Lord Anthony says raising his glass again. “May we welcome him in England before many days are over.” The Comtesse begins to shake. “I scarcely dare to hope,” she says. Lord Tony reassures her that her husband will safely escape France just as she and her children have. The Comtesse begins to cry, and Lord Anthony and Sir Andrew look on with compassion but say nothing. For as long as anyone can remember, Englishmen have always been “ashamed” of their “emotion” and “sympathy.”
Sir Andrew and Lord Tony are too proud to admit their emotions, and this is reflected in Sir Percy’s relationship with Marguerite as well. He feels betrayed after he discovers her involvement in the death of the St. Cyr family, but instead of talking to Marguerite about his feelings, he buries them and is miserable because of it. While Orczy seems to celebrate English restraint, in this circumstance, she suggests the British could be a little more passionate, like the French.
Themes
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Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
“As for me, Monsieur,” Suzanne says to Sir Andrew, “I trust you absolutely and I know that you will bring my dear father safely to England.” Everyone at the table smiles. Sir Andrew tells her that he is but a “humble tool” to his “great leader.” Someone else entirely is responsible for their escape. The Comtesse asks to meet him at once so that she can thank him personally, but Lord Anthony tells her that won’t be possible. “Why?” she asks. “Because the Scarlet Pimpernel works in the dark, and his identity is only known under a solemn oath of secrecy to his immediate followers,” he responds.
Suzanne is clearly falling in love with Sir Andrew as well, and is certain he will rescue the Comte too. Sir Andrew’s modesty regarding his involvement in Suzanne’s rescue is in line with Orczy’s central argument of the importance of humility. Sir Andrew is an Englishman, a noble one at that, and he has humility and restraint down pat. Sir Andrew is a hero as well, but he is also loyal to his leader and content to refer all the glory and appreciation to The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Themes
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Loyalty Theme Icon
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
The Comtesse asks Lord Anthony why they risk their lives to save poor French aristocrats. “Sport, Madame la Comtesse, sport,” he answers happily. “We are a nation of sportsmen, you know, and just now it is the fashion to pull the hare from between the teeth of the hound.” The Comtesse can’t believe it. It is “preposterous” to think they risk capture and death at the guillotine for sport. She asks Lord Tony how many men are in league with the Scarlet Pimpernel. “Twenty all told,” he answers, “one to command, and nineteen to obey.”
Here again, Lord Anthony is only being modest. Orczy later claims the Scarlet Pimpernel and his men rescue the aristocrats out of their love for humankind, but Lord Anthony could never admit to such lofty and romantic motivation. He is, after all, ashamed of his emotions, so he makes up the (somewhat dehumanizing) excuse of “sport,” which also employs another popular British stereotype.
Themes
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Pride and Humility Theme Icon
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The Vicomte tells Lord Anthony and Sir Andrew that the women in France “have been more bitter against us aristocrats than the men,” and the Comtesse agrees. One woman, Marguerite St. Just, had “denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr and all his family to the awful tribunal of the Terror,” she tells them. Lord Anthony looks around nervously. “Marguerite St. Just?” he asks, and the Comtesse confirms. Marguerite is a famous French actress who has recently married an Englishman. “You must know her,” she says.
The Vicomte’s surprise that women are more bitter than men in France reflects popular gendered stereotypes of women. Marguerite’s quick temper in France makes her transition into the British Lady Blakeney all the more significant. As a Frenchwoman, she is impulsive and reckless, but as an Englishwoman she is controlled and practical.
Themes
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“Know her?” says Lord Anthony. Lady Blakeney is married to Sir Percy, “the richest man in England,” and she is “the most fashionable woman in London.” They are close friends with the Prince of Wales and together they “lead both fashion and society.” The Comtesse shudders. “I pray God that while I remain in this beautiful country, I may never meet Marguerite St. Just.” Suddenly, there is a commotion outside and a stable boy bursts through the door of the coffee-room, announcing that Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney are arriving.
Lord Anthony knows Lady Blakeney, and presumably he knows at least something about Marguerite’s involvement in the St. Cyrs’ death. Orczy repeatedly suggests that British society should be more concerned with Marguerite’s history. Sir Percy and the Comtesse are the only ones who have a moral objection to Marguerite’s behavior, through which Orczy implies that Marguerite must take responsibility for her role in the aristocrat’s death.
Themes
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