You will readily guess, after what I have related, that I was not only not re-elected to the Legislature, but that I was not even a candidate. I could have born the outrageous attacks of the opposite party; but the treatment I had received from my own "constituents" (I shall always hate the word) gave me a new revelation of the actual character of political life. I have not mentioned half the worries and annoyances to which I was subjected--the endless, endless letters and applications for office, or for my influence in some way--the abuse and threats when I could not possibly do what was desired--the exhibitions of selfishness and disregard of all great and noble principles--and finally, the shameless advances which were made by what men call "the lobby," to secure my vote for this, that, and the other thing.
Why, it fairly made my hair stand on end to hear the stories which the pleasant men, whom I thought so grandly interested in schemes for "the material development of the country," told about each other. Mrs. Filch's shawl began to burn my shoulders before I had worn it a half a dozen times. (I have since given it to Melissa, as a wedding-present).
Before the next session was half over, I was doubly glad of being safe at home. Mrs. Whiston supposed that the increased female representation would give her more support, and indeed it seemed so, at first. But after her speech on the Bounty bill, only two of the fifteen Democratic women would even speak to her, and all hope of concord of action in the interests of women was at an end. We read the debates, and my blood fairly boiled when I found what taunts and sneers, and epithets she was forced to endure. I wondered how she could sit still under them.
To make her position worse, the adjoining seat was occupied by an Irishwoman, who had been elected by the votes of the laborers on the new Albemarle Extension, in the neighborhood of which she kept a grocery store. Nelly Kirkpatrick was a great, red-haired giant of a woman, very illiterate, but with some native wit, and good- hearted enough, I am told, when she was in her right mind. She always followed the lead of Mr. Gorham (whose name, you see, came before hers in the call), and a look from him was generally sufficient to quiet her when she was inclined to be noisy.
When the resolutions declaring the war a failure were introduced, the party excitement ran higher than ever. The "lunch-room" (as they called it--I never went there but once, the title having deceived me) in the basement-story of the State House was crowded during the discussion, and every time Nelly Kirkpatrick came up, her face was a shade deeper red. Mr. Gorham's nods and winks were of no avail--speak she would, and speak she did, not so very incoherently, after all, but very abusively. To be sure, you would never have guessed it, if you had read the quiet and dignified report in the papers on her side, the next day.
THEN Mrs. Whiston's patience broke down. "Mr. Speaker," she exclaimed, starting to her feet, "I protest against this House being compelled to listen to such a tirade as has just been delivered. Are we to be disgraced before the world--"
"Oh, hoo! Disgraced, is it?" yelled Nelly Kirkpatrick, violently interrupting her, "and me as dacent a woman as ever she was, or ever will be! Disgraced, hey? Oh, I'll larn her what it is to blaggard her betters!"
And before anybody could imagine what was coming, she pounced upon Mrs. Whiston, with one jerk ripped off her skirt (it was silk, not serge, this time), seized her by the hair, and gave her head such a twist backwards, that the chignon not only came off in her hands, but as her victim opened her mouth too widely in the struggle, the springs of her false teeth were sprung the wrong way, and the entire set flew out and rattled upon the floor.