Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
16 January 1809

SIR CHARLES NAPIER,

soldier, describes his capture during the battle

of Corunna:

"I said to the four soldiers. `Follow me and we will cut through them!' Then with a shout I rushed forward. The Frenchmen had halted, but now ran on to us, and just as my spring was made the wounded leg failed, and I felt a stab in the back; it gave me no pain, but felt cold, and threw me on my face.

Turning to rise, I saw the man who had stabbed me making a second thrust. Whereupon, letting go my sabre, I caught his bayonet by the socket, turned the thrust, and raising myself by the exertion, grasped his firelock with both hands.

His companions had now come up, and I heard the dying cries of the four men with me, who were all instantly bayoneted. We had been attacked from behind by men not before seen, as we stood with our backs to a doorway, for we were all stabbed in an instant, before the two parties coming up the road reached us. They did so, however, just as my struggle with the man who had wounded me was begun. They struck me with their muskets, clubbed and bruised me much, whereupon, seeing no help near, and in great pain from my wounded leg, I called out `Je me rend.'"

19 January 1917

ANDRE GIDE

(pictured) novelist, writes

in his journal:

"Toby died last night. I reproach myself for not having noted from day to day the phases of his illness. I have just written to Criquetot, pork- butcher, who has assumed the veterinary's functions since the mobilisation, to come with the necessary instruments to perform an autopsy. I have no idea of what he died.

Whatever the complaint was, it was strangely complicated by his nervous state. He was certainly the most neurasthenic dog one could possibly imagine. He had every possible phobia; hugged hedges and walls; always took the longest way around to come to a call; was seized with dizziness as he climbed the stairs; dared to eat only when no one was looking. He adored sugar; but if you offered him a piece, he would let it fall on the floor and go off into a corner to play the martyr.

He would spend most of the day seated, like a macaque, with his legs and his whole hindquarters paradoxically brought forward between his front legs and sporting his cock like a rosette of the Legion d'honneur on a lapel."

Ian Irvine

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