The Scarlet Pimpernel


Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

The Comtesse stands immediately at the mention of Lady Blakeney. “I will not see her!” she proclaims. A “low and musical voice” can be heard outside the door and Mr. Jellyband quickly opens it. Lady Blakeney enters, complaining about being wet and cold. At twenty-five years old, Lady Blakeney’s beauty is “at its most dazzling stage,” and she is impeccably dressed. Lady Blakeney turns and faces Suzanne, who happens to be an old school friend, and the Comtesse. She greets Suzanne happily. “Pardieu, little citizeness, how came you to be in England?” she asks, “And Madame too?”
Orczy’s reference to Lady Blakeney’s beauty being at a “dazzling stage” carries connotations of Marguerite’s history as a glamorous actress in France. Marguerite’s question as to how Suzanne came to be in England seems to be in extremely poor taste. Marguerite is exceptionally intelligent, and she certainly knows how and why Suzanne is there in England now. Marguerite’s question makes her appear shallow and insensitive, and suggests she doesn’t much care about the French aristocrats.
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Lady Blakeney approaches Suzanne and the Comtesse “with not a single touch of embarrassment,” as the Comtesse places a “restraining hand” upon her daughter. “Suzanne,” she says, sternly in English. “I forbid you to speak to that woman.” Sir Andrew and Lord Anthony “gasp with horror at this foreign insolence” and wait for the lady to respond. “Hoity-toity, citizeness,” Lady Blakeney says laughingly, “what fly stings you, pray?”
Marguerite’s question of what “fly” has “stung” the Comtesse is also quite insensitive. She knows why the Comtesse hates her, and Marguerite almost appears to enjoy making her feel uncomfortable. Sir Andrew and Lord Tony “gasp” because disrespecting a woman of Lady Blakeney’s social standing is frowned upon in England, which doesn’t necessarily square with Marguerite’s political views of equality. Society has positioned Marguerite above the Comtesse, and Marguerite seems to like it that way.
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“We are in England now, Madame,” the Comtesse answers, “and I am at liberty to forbid my daughter to touch your hand in friendship. Come Suzanne.” She grabs her daughter and “sails majestically” up the stairs. “Suzanne,” mocks Lady Blakeney in the Comtesse’s accent. “I forbid you to speak to that woman.” Lady Blakeney laughs, and while it sounds “a trifle forced and hard,” the others join in. The Vicomte is standing quietly in the corner, and just as he moves to object to his mother’s poor treatment, “a pleasant, though distinctly inane, laugh” is heard outside the door.
Lady Blakeney’s forced laugh suggests that she is hurt by the Comtesse’s words, and that perhaps she even feels guilty about her past in France, although she does not admit this openly. Here, Marguerite displays some of her new British restraint and hides her true feelings and emotions. She covers her emotions with humor and sarcasm and is almost successful in hiding her pain.
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