—Sorry! Sorry! O sorry!
The slide clicked back and his heart bounded in his breast. The face of an old priest was at the grating, averted from him, leaning upon a hand. He made the sign of the cross and prayed of the priest to bless him for he had sinned. Then, bowing his head, he repeated the CONFITEOR in fright. At the words MY MOST GRIEVOUS FAULT he ceased, breathless.
—How long is it since your last confession, my child?
—A long time, father.
—A month, my child?
—Three months, my child?
—Eight months, father.
He had begun. The priest asked:
—And what do you remember since that time?
He began to confess his sins: masses missed, prayers not said, lies.
—Anything else, my child?
Sins of anger, envy of others, gluttony, vanity, disobedience.
—Anything else, my child?
There was no help. He murmured:
—I… committed sins of impurity, father.
The priest did not turn his head.
—With yourself, my child?
—And… with others.
—With women, my child?
—Were they married women, my child?
He did not know. His sins trickled from his lips, one by one, trickled in shameful drops from his soul, festering and oozing like a sore, a squalid stream of vice. The last sins oozed forth, sluggish, filthy. There was no more to tell. He bowed his head, overcome.
The Priest was silent. Then he asked:
—How old are you, my child?
The priest passed his hand several times over his face. Then, resting his forehead against his hand, he leaned towards the grating and, with eyes still averted, spoke slowly. His voice was weary and old.
—You are very young, my child, he said, and let me implore of you to give up that sin. It is a terrible sin. It kills the body and it kills the soul. It is the cause of many crimes and misfortunes. Give it up, my child, for God’s sake. It is dishonourable and unmanly. You cannot know where that wretched habit will lead you or where it will come against you. As long as you commit that sin, my poor child, you will never be worth one farthing to God. Pray to our mother Mary to help you. She will help you, my child. Pray to Our Blessed Lady when that sin comes into your mind. I am sure you will do that, will you not? You repent of all those sins. I am sure you do. And you will promise God now that by His holy grace you will never offend Him any more by that wicked sin. You will make that solemn promise to God, will you not?
The old and weary voice fell like sweet rain upon his quaking parching heart. How sweet and sad!
—Do so my poor child. The devil has led you astray. Drive him back to hell when he tempts you to dishonour your body in that way—the foul spirit who hates our Lord. Promise God now that you will give up that sin, that wretched wretched sin.