In July my father went to take the waters

In July my father went to take the waters and left me, with my mother and elder brother, a prey to the blinding white heat of the summer days. Just as in the struggles against Napoleon and, later, Hitler, it was a war that Britain had to fight and had to win. ‘Held close in his arms, her head against his breast,’ began the last paragraph, ‘Nicole no longer felt any anger against him … everything that happened in the past was suddenly of no importance.’ The initials stamped on it in Gothic characters were not Father Rothschild’s, for he had borrowed it that morning from the valet-de-chambre of his hotel. Today, spaceflight is almost commonplace.

In medieval Europe until the end of the eleventh century we learn of the feudal aristocracy largely from clerical sources which naturally reflect ecclesiastical attitudes: the knights do not speak for themselves. If you had wealth, you could work out precisely how much interest it would earn you every year, while civil servants and officers were reliably able to consult the calendar and see the year they would be promoted and the year they would retire. We can trace back the devotion to the Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross to the Twelfth Century. But this book uses it just to introduce philosophy.

A meadow mouse, startled by my approach, darts damply across the skunk track.

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