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    Chapter 24

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    Chapter 24
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    Sunday was a day of cheerful indolence, devoted to attending the services in the Chapel, which was filled with the scent of incense all day long. At Vespers, while the clear, boyish voices intoned the long-drawn canticles, Jean would be gazing at some woman's face half seen in the dusk of the galleries where the pupils' mothers and sisters knelt during the office, their haughty air contradicting the humble attitude. At the sound of the _Ave maris stella_, the lowly bookbinder's son would lift his eyes to these ladies of high degree, the plainest of whom feels herself a jewel of price and cherishes a natural and unaffected pride of birth. The chants and incense, the flowers and sacred images, whatever troubles the imagination and stimulates to prayer, all these things united to enervate his spirit and deliver him a trembling victim to the glamour of these patrician dames.

    But it was Gabrielle he worshipped in them, Gabrielle to whom he offered up his prayers, his supplications. All that element in religion which gives to love the fascination of forbidden fruit appealed powerfully to his imagination. Unbeliever though he was, he loved the Magdalen's God and savoured the creed that has bestowed on lovers one amorous bliss the more--the bliss of losing their immortal souls.
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