Outside “The Fisherman’s Rest,” Marguerite’s brother, Armand, approaches. Marguerite yells excitedly to him. She is dreading her brother’s return to France, where he is a respected member of the Republic. “They are going too far, Armand,” Marguerite says in reference to the Reign of Terror. She has “enthusiasm for liberty and equality,” but that message is lost under the weight of the guillotine.
Marguerite’s moral compass is in conflict with the violence and fear of the revolution. The guillotine is a symbol of the fear and violence of the republic, and it looms over the aristocrats relentlessly. She believes in the French Republic’s cause of equality, but remaining loyal is difficult when her morals and personal convictions are so strained.
“Hush!” Armand warns, looking around suspiciously. Marguerite’s fear for her brother’s safety is obvious. “Ah! You see: you don’t think yourself that it is safe even to speak of these things—here in England!” she cries. Armand tries to reassure her. “When France is in peril, it is not for her sons to turn their backs on her,” he says. Marguerite begs him to stay with her, safe in England. “I have only you,” she says. Armand reminds his sister that Sir Percy loves her. “He did…once…,” she says.
Armand’s comment about not turning his back on France is ironic, since he has already done so. Armand is already in league with the Scarlet Pimpernel and his men, which means he is working directly against France and its cause. Armand’s “moderate” political views suggest he believes in a more peaceful approach to the revolution, and in this case, his loyalty to his morals have trumped his loyalty to his country.
Armand asks Marguerite if Sir Percy knows about “the part [she] played” in the capture of the Marquis de St. Cyr. “That I denounced the Marquis de St. Cyr, you mean, to the tribunal that ultimately sent him and all his family to the guillotine?” she asks. Yes, Marguerite confirms, Sir Percy knows. She had told him after they were married. “You told him all the circumstances—which so completely exonerated you from any blame?” Armand asks. No, she tells him. Sir Percy had already heard about her actions from others, and “it was too late” to explain. “And now I have the satisfaction,” Marguerite says, “of knowing that the biggest fool in England has the most complete contempt for his wife.”
Marguerite’s claim that she didn’t tell Sir Percy about the circumstances of St. Cyr’s death because it was too late isn’t exactly true. Sir Percy later says that he begged Marguerite for an explanation, and she refused—a “test” of his love, she called it—but here she implies that she never had a chance. This omission of the truth implies that Marguerite feels guilty about the St. Cyr family, and even responsible, despite Armand’s claim that she is “completely exonerated” from blame.
When Sir Percy and Marguerite first met, he “seemed to worship [her] with a curious intensity of concentrated passion.” She initially didn’t care that he was “slow and stupid”—his love more than made up for this fact. But for Sir Percy, a man with “ineradicable pride” in his aristocratic heritage, Marguerite’s sin against the St. Cyr family had “stung [him] to the quick.”
Sir Percy’s pride in his aristocratic heritage won’t allow him to continue loving a woman who so clearly doesn’t respect the monarchy. While Orczy clearly argues the importance of the aristocracy, she also argues the importance of humility, which she claims even royals should possess. Because of Percy’s excessive pride, he can’t completely love Marguerite and therefore can’t be happy in his marriage.
Armand is confused by his sister’s heartache. Sir Percy has always loved Marguerite more than she loved him, but now it seems that “with the waning of her husband’s love, Marguerite’s heart has awakened with love for him.” Armand does not mention his suspicion to his sister. There is much he cannot tell her—like how the politics in France are “changing almost every day,” and that his own opinions and “sympathies might become modified.”
Again, Armand’s “sympathies” have already “become modified.” He presumably slips Sir Andrew the “damning” letter that Chauvelin later finds while waiting for the tide at “The Fisherman’s Rest,” so Armand has already made his decision to abandon the French cause. Ironically, Armand’s suspicions about Marguerite’s feelings are true and she later admits as much, which also doesn’t paint Marguerite in a flattering light. She views her husband’s love as a game, something to be won or lost, not something to be cherished, and is this way she is undeserving of it.