James' battered book of saints is not one meant for children, and that is why he likes it. He graduated from alphabet books with pictures of St. Francis of Assisi years ago. His book hasn't any pictures at all, and the text is quite small. It's a book for those old enough and patient enough to sift through large words to the vibrant stories within.
There's a certain cruel pleasure in reading about the martyrs, whose deaths are described in lurid detail. To curl up with the tome in a quiet corner, out of sight and mind of every other person on the estate, and from relative safety imagine St. Sebastian pierced through with arrows or St. Lucy's eyes gouged from her skull. Intellectually, James prefers the scholars and doctors and founders of orders, the Benedicts and Scholasticas whose holiness was not reliant on their abilities to withstand horrors. But something within him is tugged back to those who looked at the misery of the world and, like Christ, accepted it without complaint.
When he is eleven, he dogears the story of St. Maria Goretti, whose life is made more vivid than those who suffered more inventive torments by virtue of the fact that he knows it to be true. It's difficult to accept St. Margaret's being swallowed whole by a dragon (and the book, which calls her apocryphal, is in agreement with him), but Maria Goretti lived and died less than a century ago. The facts of her life and death are not in question. She died at twelve after a farmhand's attempt at rape and then murder, and the book describes her as an ideal model for boys and girls to take after.
It is too late for him to do anything of the sort, he knows; Maria resisted her attacker, and her chastity was not compromised. Somehow, she knew the things to say, the ways to shield herself, so she sustained both purity and fourteen knife wounds.
When he thinks about it long enough, far from the chapel and ashamed to know that God's watchful eye is upon him yet, he's not sure he'd prefer the wounds. Other times, when he cannot bear to think at all, he would gladly perform the stabbing himself if it meant escape and an end to the sins upon his flesh.
Since James has no virtue left to speak of, there is only one way to strive to emulate Maria (and, by extension, Christ Himself): forgiveness. Father Addington mentions it on Sundays sometimes, during his long and occasionally impenetrable homilies, though always in the context of of Jesus. In an echo of the Bible's encouragement to turn the other cheek, Maria forgave her attacker on her deathbed.
James has read her story and others. Has examined the definition of "forgiveness" in multiple dictionaries. Has asked St. Agnes to pray for him and begged God to make him good. But he cannot turn his heart from the mass of fear and fury and mortification cloistered within him. How can he, when each time he tells himself that he forgives His Lordship, he's given new reason to need to forgive?
They call him James the Just, but he is no such thing. And he is quite certain he is doomed to Hell.