has begun to renew her courtship with the illustrious Marquis de Croisenois - is incensed. Julien initiates a correspondence with the Maréchale, who initially seems unmoved; however, she invites him to dinner and they also attend the opera. As time goes by so Julien becomes more careless; on one occasion he pays so little attention to the letter he transcribes that he fails to remove references that imply he is in London! However, persistence pays off when Mathilde discovers the correspondence and Julien's deceit; she faints at his feet. Still smarting from her earlier treatment of him, Julien demands guarantees of her love. Sentiment overtakes them however; that night he attends the opera with Mme de Fervaques, Mathilde is also present, they catch each other's eyes and are overcome by emotion. On their return home the old battle recommences; this time Julien has deduced from the example of Napoleon's strategies the importance of keeping Mathilde in fear of losing him and experience teaches him to disguise his vulnerability.
In any case, the stakes have been raised. Mathilde is pregnant and has no intention of ever leaving him; she writes to her father to beg that they be allowed to marry. Furious, the Marquis summons Julien who incriminates himself, inspired by another hero of his, Molière's Tartuffe (see Act III, scene 6). Julien leaves for the Marquis's property in Villequier, leaving negotiations in the capable hands of Mathilde, who already views herself as his wife. After a lengthy wait, the Marquis gives his consent, bequeathing lands in Languedoc to 'M. le Chevalier Julien Sorel de la Vernaye' as he is henceforth to be known and ensuring him a commission in the cavalry. The Marquis is a remarkably reasonable man; he will not stand in the way of love but needed only time to satisfy himself that Julien had not seduced his daughter for profit. Julien, glorious in his uniform and engaged to the most eligible woman in France has made it. "My novel is finished, and all the glory is mine".
And yet for Julien the true drama is only just beginning. Just as he begins to enjoy the fruits of his new position (for example, he sends the abbé Chélan 500 francs to be distributed amongst the poor) a panic stricken Mathilde informs him that it is all off. The Marquis has received a letter from Mme de Rênal, imposed on her by her confessor, denouncing Julien as a serial seducer, interested only in self-advancement. Julien takes immediate action. He returns to Verrières, buys a pair of pistols, enters the church and fires two shots at Mme de Rênal. He leaves her for dead and is led away by the police.
In jail he is fully aware of the consequences of premeditated murder; he knows he will not escape the guillotine, offers no defence and writes a set of final instructions to Mathilde. Yet the discovery that Mme de Rênal is not in fact dead fills him with joy. He receives visits from a horrified M. Chélan and a bewildered Fouqué, but dreads nothing more than the arrival of his father. The footsteps that seem to herald his arrival actually turn out to belong to Mlle de la Mole, in peasant disguise, who has managed to persuade the abbé Frilair to grant her access. However, Mathilde leaves him cold; he does not believe that she will care for his child. All ambition has faded and he is overwhelmed by deep remorse at having tried to kill Mme de Rênal. Mathilde, who laments that since the revolution it has no longer been possible to rig juries, and a lawyer both try to persuade Julien to construct a defence, yet he refuses. Mme de Rênal also composes a letter to all the jurors, a glowing character reference for the accused, stressing her lack of lust for vengeance. The day of the trial arrives; only the fear that he will die a hated man leads Julien to speak. He confesses his crime - ambition, and the desire to escape wretched poverty. He is condemned to death. Back in his cell, he is visited by a despairing Mathilde but all his thoughts are now with Mme de Rênal. Once again, he refuses to appeal.
To his delighted surprise, he is awoken by Mme de Rênal. They renew their love and she vows to live for his child. In contrast, Mathilde's continual presence serves only to irritate him. He receives the dreaded visit from his father; they reach an agreement over Julien's money, a transaction that terminates their relationship much as it began. Julien is left to his philosophical reflections. Mme de Rênal has now been granted permission to visit him twice a day, much to the disgust of Mathilde; rarely has Julien lived so completely in the present and been so happy. Two events have the potential to disturb his peace: his confessor promises to arrange a pardon if he makes a high-profile conversion to the Jesuits, and Mme de Rênal hatches a plan to appeal to the King in person. He refuses the first offer, and dissuades her from the second. Julien is executed without ceremony. Fouqué guards the decapitated corpse until Mathilde
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