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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 15
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    Jean hurried down the lane and started off across country in such a state of high exaltation as robbed him of all senses of realities and banished all consciousness whether of joy or pain. He had no remembrance of what he had been before the moment when he kissed the actress's hand; he seemed a stranger to himself. On his lips lingered a taste that stirred voluptuous fancies, and grew stronger as he pressed them one against the other.

    Next morning his intoxication was dissipated and he relapsed into profound depression. He told himself that his last chance was gone. He realized that the gate overhung with wild vine and ivy was shut against him by that careless, capricious hand more firmly and more inexorably than ever it could have been by the bolts and bars of the most prudish virtue. He felt instinctively that his kiss had stirred no promptings of desire, that he had been powerless to win any hold on his mistress's senses.

    He had forgotten what he said, but he knew that he had spoken out in all the frank sincerity of his heart. He had exposed his ignorance of the world, his contemptible candour. The mischief was irreparable. Could anyone be more unfortunate? He had lost even the one advantage he possessed, of being unknown to her.

    Though he entertained no very high opinion of himself, he certainly held fate responsible for his natural deficiencies. He was poor, he reasoned, and therefore had no right to fall in love. Ah! if only he were wealthy and familiar with all the things idle, prosperous people know, how entirely the splendour of his material surroundings would be in harmony with the splendour of his passion! What blundering, ferocious god of cruelty had immured in the dungeon of poverty this soul of his that so overflowed with desires?

    He opened his window and caught sight of his father's apprentice on his way back to the workshop. The lad stood there on the pavement talking with naive effrontery to a little book-stitcher of his acquaintance. He was kissing the girl, without a thought of the passers-by, and whistling a tune between his teeth. The pretty, sickly-looking slattern carried her rags with an air, and wore a pair of smart, well-made boots; she was pretending to push her admirer away, while really doing just the opposite, for the slim yet broad-shouldered stripling in his blue blouse had a certain townified elegance and the "conquering hero" air of the suburban dancing-saloons. When he left her, she looked back repeatedly; but he was examining the saveloys in a pork-butcher's window, never giving another thought to the girl.

    Jean, as he looked on at the little scene, found himself envying his father's apprentice.
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