Page:Britain's Deadly Peril.djvu/19

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Has Britain, in the course of her long history, ever been prepared for a great war? I do not believe she has; she certainly was not ready last August, when the Kaiser launched his thunderbolt upon the world.

Perhaps, paradoxical as it may seem, this perpetual unreadiness may be, in a sense, part of Britain's strength.

We are a people slow of speech, and slow to anger. It takes much—very much—to rouse the British nation to put forth its full strength. "Beware of the wrath of the man slow to anger" is a useful working maxim, and it may be that the difficulty of arousing England is, in some degree, a measure of her terrible power once she is awakened.

Twice or thrice, at least, within living memory we have been caught all unready when a great crisis burst upon us—in the Crimea, in South Africa, and now in the greatest world-conflict ever seen. Hitherto, thanks to the amazing genius for improvisation which is characteristic of our race, we have "muddled through" somehow, often sorely