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Happily for Mary Datchet she returned to the office to find that by some obscure
Parliamentary maneuver the vote had once more slipped beyond the attainment
of women. Mrs. Seal was in a condition bordering upon frenzy. The duplicity of
Ministers, the treachery of mankind, the insult to womanhood, the setback to
civilization, the ruin of her life's work, the feelings of her father's daughter--all
these topics were discussed in turn, and the office was littered with newspaper
cuttings branded with the blue, if ambiguous, marks of her displeasure. She
confessed herself at fault in her estimate of human nature.
"The simple elementary acts of justice," she said, waving her hand towards the
window, and indicating the foot-passengers and omnibuses then passing down
the far side of Russell Square, "are as far beyond them as they ever were. We
can only look upon ourselves, Mary, as pioneers in a wilderness. We can only go
on patiently putting the truth before them. It isn't THEM," she continued, taking
heart from her sight of the traffic, "it's their leaders. It's those gentlemen sitting in
Parliament and drawing four hundred a year of the people's money. If we had to
put our case to the people, we should soon have justice done to us. I have
always believed in the people, and I do so still. But--" She shook her head and
implied that she would give them one more chance, and if they didn't take
advantage of that she couldn't answer for the consequences.
Mr. Clacton's attitude was more philosophical and better supported by statistics.
He came into the room after Mrs. Seal's outburst and pointed out, with historical
illustrations, that such reverses had happened in every political campaign of any
importance. If anything, his spirits were improved by the disaster. The enemy, he
said, had taken the offensive; and it was now up to the Society to outwit the
enemy. He gave Mary to understand that he had taken the measure of their
cunning, and had already bent his mind to the task which, so far as she could
make out, depended solely upon him. It depended, so she came to think, when
invited into his room for a private conference, upon a systematic revision of the
card-index, upon the issue of certain new lemon-colored leaflets, in which the
facts were marshaled once more in a very striking way, and upon a large scale
map of England dotted with little pins tufted with differently colored plumes of hair
according to their geographical position. Each district, under the new system, had
its flag, its bottle of ink, its sheaf of documents tabulated and filed for reference in
a drawer, so that by looking under M or S, as the case might be, you had all the
facts with respect to the Suffrage organizations of that county at your fingers'
ends. This would require a great deal of work, of course.
"We must try to consider ourselves rather in the light of a telephone exchange--
for the exchange of ideas, Miss Datchet," he said; and taking pleasure in his
image, he continued it. "We should consider ourselves the center of an enormous
system of wires, connecting us up with every district of the country. We must
have our fingers upon the pulse of the community; we want to know what people
all over England are thinking; we want to put them in the way of thinking rightly."
The system, of course, was only roughly sketched so far--jotted down, in fact,
during the Christmas holidays.