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Fire of Love
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Lection I.

The saint of God, the hermit Richard, was born in the village of Thornton, near Pickering, in the diocese of York, and in due time, by the efforts of his parents, he was sent to be educated. When he was of adult age Master Thomas Neville, at one time Archdeacon of Durham, honourable maintained him in the University of Oxford, where he made great progress in study. He desired rather to be more fully and perfectly instructed in the theological doctrine of Holy Scripture than in physics or the study of secular knowledge. At length, in his nineteenth year, considering that the time of mortal life is uncertain and its end greatly to be dreaded (especially by those who either give themselves to fleshly lusts or only labour that they may acquire riches, and who, for these things, devote themselves to guile and deceit, yet they deceive themselves most of all), by God’s inspiration he took thought betimes for himself, being mindful of his latter end, lest he should be caught in the snares of sinners.

Hence, after he had returned from Oxford to his father’s house, he said one day to his sister, who loved him with tender affection: ‘My beloved sister, thou hast two tunics which I greatly covert, one white and the other grey. Therefore I ask thee if thou wilt kindly give them to me, and bring them me tomorrow to the wood near by, together with my father’s rain hood.’ She agreed willingly, and the next day, according to her promise, carried them to the said wood, being quite ignorant of what was in her brother’s mind. And when he had received them he straightway cut off the sleeves from the grey tunic and the buttons from the white, and as best he could he fitted the sleeves to the white tunic, so that they might in some manner be suited to his purpose. Then he took off his own clothes with which he was clad and put on his sister’s white tunic next his skin, but the grey, with the sleeves cut out, he put on over it, and put his arms through the holes which had been cut; and he covered his head with the rain hood aforesaid, so that thus in some measure, as far as was then in his power, he might present a certain likeness to a hermit. But when his sister saw this she was astounded and cried: ‘My brother is mad! My brother is mad!’ Whereupon he drove her from him with threats, and fled himself at once without delay, lest he should be seized by his friends and acquaintances.

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