during the reign of Charles X (1824-1830) - this one may be modelled on a consecration in Rouen - and even the cynical Julien is greatly impressed, though even more so by the youth of the Bishop of Agde who presides. Above all, Julien's participation in these events reinforces the advantages of precocious social advancement, despite the ominous nature of the predominant imagery (the sacred icon appears to have its throat cut, the light seems cast in pools of blood on the floor).

Religious belief also impacts on Mme de Rênal when she believes that the illness of her youngest son, Stanislas-Xavier, is a punishment for her adultery. Their relationship undergoes further strain when Élisa, out of jealousy, confides their secret to M. Valenod. He denounces them to M. de Rênal by means of an anonymous letter and Mme de Rênal is forced to concoct an elaborate deceit, involving a forged second letter to herself, in order to pull the wool over her husband's eyes. This culminates in her requesting that Julien be sent away, adding painful separation to their difficulties. Julien profits from this time to attend a dinner at M. Valenod's, where he experiences a sense of moral and intellectual superiority for the first time; the manipulative Valenod is also heavily implicated in further Jesuit plot, under the control of the abbé de Frilair. Despite the offer of a substantial salary increase from M. Valenod, Julien, under the influence of the abbé Chélan, to whom Élisa has confessed all, resolves to settle matters in Verrières by leaving for the seminary in Besançon.

Julien's lack of worldly experience is all the more apparent in a new town; he visits a café for the first time, where he flirts with a licentious barmaid and narrowly avoids provoking a fight with another of her lovers. He meets the Director of the seminary, the worthy abbé Pirard, a Jansenist, whose favourite he rapidly becomes but soon finds himself castigated for his intelligence; a perverse legacy of the Enlightenment has been to make books the true 'enemies' of the faith. A religious ceremony brings a newly pious and remorseful Mme de Rênal to Besançon; her letters to Julien had gone unanswered (the abbé Pirard destroyed them) but a brief glimpse of her former lover is enough to make her faint. Meanwhile, the abbé Pirard's position in the seminary is becoming more and more untenable on account of his Jansenism; a powerful protector, the Marquis de la Mole offers to arrange a parish in Paris for him, which he accepts. Shortly afterwards he arranges for Julien to come and join him in the Hôtel de la Mole as the Marquis's private secretary. Julien profits from his escape to risk one last night of passion with Mme de Rênal in Verrières.

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