THE FATALIST (1869-1870)
HAM. I shall win at the odds. But thou would'st not think how ill all's here about my heart; but it is no matter.
HOR. Nay, good my lord, --
HAM. It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of gain-giving as would perhaps trouble a woman.
HOR. If your mind dislike anything, obey it; I will forestal their repair hither, and say you are not fit.
HAM. Not a whit, we defy augury; there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all. Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be.
Hamlet, V, ii
THE 'future without fear' that Louis dreamed of in 1869 was in one respect a mere delusion. For three years now it had become impossible to look eastwards from the Tuileries without visualizing a Prussian army on the far bank of the Rhine; and it was plain to all in Louis' confidence that the feeling inspired by the sight of it was not confidence, but fear. It had already taken shape in two policies: a demand for compensation, and a counter-alliance. It was doubly unfortunate for French prestige that the failure of both these policies should be followed so closely by putting forward a third: that of, disarmament.
Within six months of the settlement of the Luxembourg affair Prince Napoleon went on what was represented to be a private mission from Louis to the Prussian court. He returned convinced of three things: First, it would be useless to talk to the King of Prussia about disarmament: he was a soldier, immensely proud of his army, and could fairly claim that with only 200,000 men under arms he could not safely reduce his forces: still less would he consider changing the system which would enable him to put twice or thrice that number of men in the field within ten days of a declaration of war. Secondly, the consolidation of north and south Germany was going on rapidly; so that, if France wished to attack Prussia, the sooner the better. But, thirdly, such an attack would only hasten that consolidation, instead of retarding it.
' Prince Napoleon', reported Lord Lyons ( March 31st, 1868), 'is himself opposed to war. He considers that an unsuccessful war