That was only the beginning of my trouble. What with these slanders and longing for the quiet of our dear old home at Burroak, I was almost sick; yet the Legislature sat on, and sat on, until I was nearly desperate. Then one morning came a despatch from my husband: "Melissa is drafted--come home!" How I made the journey I can't tell; I was in an agony of apprehension, and when Mr. Strongitharm and Melissa both met me at the Burroak Station, well and smiling, I fell into a hysterical fit of laughing and crying, for the first time in my life.
Billy Brandon, who was engaged to Melissa, came forward and took her place like a man; he fought none the worse, let me tell you, because he represented a woman, and (I may as well say it now) he came home a Captain, without a left arm--but Melissa seems to have three arms for his sake.
You have no idea what a confusion and lamentation there was all over the State. A good many women were drafted, and those who could neither get substitutes for love nor money, were marched to Gaston, where the recruiting Colonel was considerate enough to give them a separate camp. In a week, however, the word came from Washington that the Army Regulations of the United States did not admit of their being received; and they came home blessing Mr. Stanton. This was the end of drafting women in our State.
Nevertheless, the excitement created by the draft did not subside at once. It was seized upon by the Democratic leaders, as part of a plan already concocted, which they then proceeded to set in operation. It succeeded only too well, and I don't know when we shall ever see the end of it.
We had more friends among the Republicans at the start, because all the original Abolitionists in the State came into that party in 1860. Our success had been so rapid and unforeseen that the Democrats continued their opposition even after female suffrage was an accomplished fact; but the leaders were shrewd enough to see that another such election as the last would ruin their party in the State. So their trains were quietly laid, and the match was not applied until all Atlantic was ringing with the protestations of the unwilling conscripts and the laments of their families. Then came, like three claps of thunder in one, sympathy for the women, acquiescence in their rights, and invitations to them, everywhere, to take part in the Democratic caucuses and conventions. Most of the prominent women of the State were deluded for a time by this manifestation, and acted with the party for the sake of the sex.
I had no idea, however, what the practical result of this movement would be, until, a few weeks before election, I was calling upon Mrs. Buckwalter, and happened to express my belief that we Republicans were going to carry the State again, by a large majority.
"I am very glad of it," said she, with an expression of great relief, "because then my vote will not be needed."
"Why!" I exclaimed; "you won't decline to vote, surely?"