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leaning forward whispered to him half laughingly :
"Take care, Master Fernando, or you'll be tumbling over altogether."
One of his aunt's nearest neighbours was a certain Lord, of a family that had been Catholic until very recently, and some of whose members were Catholic still. Of one of them she often spoke, mentioning that he was a Private Chamberlain at the Vatican. Fernando little imagined that within fifteen years he would himself be a Private Chamberlain of the Pope.
On his return to Gracechurch, Fernando had a very pleasant time, staying much with kind and pleasant people in country houses, and entering fully into all social engagements that offered. It was in some ways an idle time enough, with scarcely any nominal study, but with all the more leisure for the reading in which Fernando delighted, and perhaps he learned as much that way as many boys who do not care for books would learn in the same time at school.
To himself this time at homeb ecame memorable because during it he made his first confession, to an Anglican clergyman. Years before he had very tremulously tried to
go to confession to a Catholic priest, as has been told in Gracechurch, and had learned that the thing was impossible. He had then made no attempt to deceive the priest by passing himself off as a Catholic, but, having read all Charlotte Brontë's books, he probably had in mind the sort of confession one of her very Protestant heroines is represented as making to a priest in Brussels.
Long before his own attempt he had earnestly wished to go to confession, but had been too shy to propose it to any clergyman of his own Church whom he knew.
How he fared when he actually did make his first confession as an Anglican there is no need to tell here. It is enough to say that the preparation lasted over many weeks, and the confession itself occupied four hours: for Fernando had then only the vaguest idea of the distinction between mortal and venial sin, and tremblingly believed that the omission of a single venial sin would involve the guilt of sacrilege: nor did he at all understand that it suffices to confess our faults in their number and species-he supposed it essential to detail each fault in its minutest circumstances, every wrong or idle word must be repeated as it was spoken, every vain or wicked thought
described as though it had been a picture, every wrong deed detailed as to its minutest aspect, with all that could have led to it, and all that might have followed on it.
The time fixed for his confession was eight at night, and the place, whither he had to walk, and whence he had to walk home, after midnight, was three miles away. As it happened, through his own misunderstanding of ecclesiastical rule, he was nearly worn out before he ever started on that walk, for he imagined that, for confession as for Holy Communion, he must be fasting, and the day had been tiring.
Rising before seven he had gone to church at eight; being a guest in a house not far from his own, he had felt it necessary to appear at breakfast, though unable (as he thought) to eat or drink. Purposely appearing late in the dining-room he had managed, by waiting on other people, talking and so on, to pass away the time till everyone else had left the room, without anyone's noticing his own abstinence.
The whole morning he spent in church, already tortured by neuralgia, his life-long austere and inexorable companion; at luncheon the tactics of breakfast had to be
repeated, with more difficulty. In the afternoon, by ill luck, there was a picnic, to which some drove, some rode, and some walked, and it fell to Fernando to be among the walkers. Only about seven o'clock did he return, just in time to walk off again to keep his appointment.
As he made his way home between twelve and one in the night, very tired, and in horrible pain as to his head, he felt sure that he was in God's grace, and I do not think that he was wrong. If perfect contrition can be attained by earnest and painful sincerity, he had for that while at all events attained it.
His first confession to a Catholic priest was not till three years later, on the day of his reception into the Church; it also began at eight o'clock, but at eight o'clock in the morning, and it was all over by ten minutes past.
NOTES AND INTERROGATIONS
THE gentleman to whom Fernando made his confession as an Anglican did not remain long in the Gracechurch neighbourhood, and the boy did not go to confession again till he was once more at school. This was not for
Probably few of those among whom he was living had much idea of the extent to which the boy's mind was inwardly absorbed by the religious question. They were all thoroughly good people, who spent a great deal of their time in works of usefulness and kindly charity among the poor and they did it in a singularly pleasant fashion, not as a task, or as an austere duty, but as though it were one of the pleasures of life. It would hardly be possible to make readers unacquainted with the people to whom allusion is here made understand what I would like to describe-their delightful vitality and cleverness, their fun and cheer