Virginia Woolf: Night and Day


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.

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