CHAPTER IV. MOTORING WITH REVOLVERS READY.

SOME one asked me the other day, when motoring about twenty-five miles an hour through an, English lane, whether we were going too fast, and whether I was nervous. I thought of some of my motor drives in Ireland, and smiled at the idea. There I only felt nervous when we were not going fast. Though, up to 21st November, one only looked on life as pleasantly exciting. I never had the slightest idea of the risks we ran, and that we were ever in any real danger never entered my head. It amused me to motor out to golf with men who sat with revolvers on their knees. I thought they were very careful of themselves, just as I thought that the army of officials who lived in Dublin Castle, and never went outside the gates, valued their lives very highly. I am not quite sure that I do not still think so, though perhaps they are right. We used to joke about these officials, and say they would have to stop in the Castle till they became entitled to their pensions, and then leave Ireland by aeroplane.

The first time I went to play tennis at Dublin Castle, a lady walked round the court during the game, and laid a wreath on the grass. Three of the victims of the 1916 rebellion were buried behind the tennis courts, and there they still lie. I am not sure that some of those who now live in the Castle do not envy them their peace and rest. I often asked friends, who did venture out at intervals, to play tennis or golf with me ; but I must own I always had a slight feeling of relief when they refused. I was not exactly frightened, as I have said, and I did not realise the danger they were in, nor that their presence was a source of danger to me ; but as things got worse in Dublin, as they rapidly did in the autumn of 1920, I felt that it was better for them not to be in the streets and in unguarded houses. Still I did feel that it was cowardly and unkind not to ask them sometimes. The one person who I was perfectly convinced was safe, luckily for my peace of mind, was my husband. He was a regimental officer, and had nothing whatever to do with politics, secret service, or police,and we were always told that the regular soldiers were popular, and that the people fully realised, as was, and is now, an undoubted fact, that the British officer stood between them and ruin. For had it not been for the regimental officers, and the discipline they enforced, Dublin would have been burned long ago. The one thing that I cannot endure now when motoring is a back fire or a burst tyre. It is so horribly like a revolver shot, and that, in Dublin, always meant some- thing dreadful happening. I forget I am no longer there, and wonder whether any one I know has been hurt.

I cannot understand how men can go on, week after week, month after month, motoring, living, sleeping, always in danger, always with their hands on their revolvers. They all agree that it is much worse than France, the strain far greater. There is no " behind the line " in Ireland. There is no relief from the atmosphere of murder and spying. At every street corner there is a knot of men and youths,any of whom may throw a bomb or fire a shot at you, in the absolute certainty that, in that event, no one will give them away ; and that they will be able to escape, with ease and certainty, down a side street or through a shop or house, leaving the innocent passers-by to bear the brunt of any shots that might be fired in reply. They all stare into the motor as you pass. Once, when I was walking, an empty motor passed me, which I recognised, as did a man who was standing near me. He stepped out into the road, read the number carefully, and wrote it in a notebook. I could not help turning round and laughing at him, and telling him not to be so ridiculous. I have never seen any one so taken aback. The numbers of these cars are always being changed, which must worry the Sinn Fein picquets a little ; but as there are hundreds of these men, who earn good pay by doing nothing but loaf about street corners, spying and listening, I suppose the new numbers are soon known. Of course, they have lists of people they want, and know them all by sight. These lists are often captured in raids, and it must be an odd feeling to see one's own name on the list to be removed as soon as possible.

There is a little terrier running about Dublin Castle which no one will own. He is quite a happy little dog every one is good to him, every one feeds him ; but no one now will call him " my dog." His last three masters have all died violent deaths. The first died for his country fighting in France ; the second and third were murdered in Ireland. That third master I knew rather well, and my husband very well. We were driving to a bridge tournament when we heard of his death. After five years of the war, I imagined I had no feelings left. I used to hear of horror after horror with dry eyes, and seemed to have become incapable of being moved very deeply by anything. But in Dublin these tragedies shook me to the depths. I hated to go out anywhere ; I always seemed to hear some bad news, or get mixed up in some horrid disturbance. One afternoon I was coming back with a friend by tram from a delightful day's golf, when I really had forgotten everything, and had begun to think that Ireland was not such a bad country after all. Just as we reached the middle of Dublin, our tram suddenly stopped. I heard shots, and saw hundreds of people running madly in every direction. We got out of the tram and walked up a side street, where we found an outside car, and got on it. I asked the driver what had happened. He said a soldier had been killed, and that the military had fired back and killed two civilians. In an unguarded moment though I was generally very careful of what I said in public I replied, " And a good thing too." He turned round in his seat with a look of fury, and said, " There are not many who would let you live to say that twice." I could not get off the car, so I stayed on, feeling extremely uncomfortable, and feeling, also, that I hated golf and everything else, and that really one could not even attempt to make the best of things in a country where such incidents were possible, in fact common. I wondered what people would say in England if they were subject to those sorts of excitements and threats when coming home from a peaceful day's golf. It was after I had been in Ireland about two months that I was told by a man, whose opinions should have carried great weight, that I had no right to be over there at all. That he strongly disapproved of officers' wives being in Ireland, and that he would not, on any account, have his own wife there, and that, if he had his own way, he would pack us all back to England at once. It was not safe for us, and, also, it hampered his work, as they were always afraid of reprisals on officers' wives. There had been several rumours before this that we, the wives, would have to leave Ireland. It was announced in one morning's paper, and contradicted in the next. But after being told this, as I considered, more or less officially, I felt sure that it must be only a matter of days before I should have to pack up and go.

But weeks passed, and nothing more was said. I asked once why we were allowed to stay, and was told that our leaving would make such a bad impression on Ireland. A curious reason for allowing us to remain ; or, at least, I thought so later on. At the time I do not suppose that I thought about the matter at all. I was only too glad that I could be with my husband. I even had my little daughter over for a short time. While she was with us, the Sinn Feiners raided a house for arms a few doors from us. There was a good deal of firing, which I really thought for the moment was small boys playing with crackers. The small boys of Dublin had a pleasing habit of exploding crackers to see us jump. I never disappointed them. Lately, I understand, this habit has ceased. Tragedy is far too close to the surface, and an exploded cracker may even draw a pistol shot from an overstrained patrol. But, at that time, I could not imagine real firing in our eminently respectable square, the Mayfair of Dublin, and we leant out of the window 'to see what was happening. We heard later that two or three people had been slightly wounded, but luckily it was too dark to see anything, and my small daughter went to bed, much disappointed, and hoping that our house would be the next to be raided. Fortunately, when that time came and it was very far from being a mere raid for arms she was safe in England. I think I should have gone mad if she had been present on that ghastly day. She and I used to ride together daily in Phoenix Park, but even there one could not get away from the war.

Unfortunately, we never admitted we were at war, though the Irish openly declared they considered they were fighting against England. Mysterious ooking men skulked about under the trees, watching everything and everybody, and numbers of R.I.C. and soldiers surrounded Viceregal Lodge and the Chief Secretary's residence. Later, when in more tragic circumstances, I myself stayed at the latter place, I was very glad the soldiers were there. No guard would have been too large to please me then. I always rode a mare that had been my husband's charger in France. Thanks to the kindness of the War Office, she had been sent over to him from Germany. I had ridden her there, and was rejoiced to see her again in Ireland. She had been wounded in the war, and always wore the three medal ribbons to which she was entitled on her brow-band. The soldiers loved this ; not so the Sinn Feiners, and I got many unpleasant looks. I do not know how I could have been so stupid as to ride her with those conspicuous ribbons, but one simply could not take things seriously, and the fact that it was an unsafe thing to do, and that I was asking for trouble never even entered my head. If I did worry about anything and I could not help thinking and worrying sometimes I was always told that things were getting much better, and that the trouble would soon be over.

A few days before the murders of 21st November, a friend of mine, who had a flat in our house, was held up by two men outside the door at seven o'clock in the evening. They pressed a revolver against her chest, and asked her a number of questions, as to where she lived, and so on. Even this did not greatly alarm us. My husband did tell me that I must always be indoors before it was dark; and I made him promise that he would never walk to barracks alone in the evening. I suppose we must have got callous and indifferent, and every one was so heartily bored with it all, so tired of the place and the people. I think that the two men who could really write a good book about Ireland in these times are Michael Collins, the Commander-in-Chief of the Republican Army, and Richard Mulcahy, his Chief of Staff. Amusing Irish stories are merely irritating at present, and, personally, I find it almost impossible to imagine that Ireland and the Irish people ever resembled the country and the characters portrayed in the delightful books I loved so much. Those same delicious characters are probably at this moment if not actually engaged in murder at four hundred pounds per victim digging trenches and mining roads for the small sum of seven shillings a day this, I believe, being the tariff of pay in the Republican Army.

But Collins and Mulcahy's reminiscences would be wonderfully interesting and exciting. They might also be amusing, if they have a sense of humour. Practically every General, on every side, has written his version of the great European war, so perhaps some day these two will give us a book on the Irish war. One day in their lives, not to speak of the nights, must contain more incident than fifty years of most men's. The innumerable and hairbreadth escapes which, according to our people, they are perpetually making, sometimes over the roof, sometimes through the cellar, would make a dramatic story. Their luck must turn some day, and they will be caught. Then perhaps they will write their book. But perhaps not : they may not have time to write it then. The countless half-written letters and half-empty cups of tea that they leave behind them, I must say, though, I was a little shaken when the story of the last marvellous escape was told me, and the narrator explained how two half-empty cups stood on the table, proving clearly,in his mind, that they had been interrupted at afternoon tea, and had escaped by seconds of time. I meekly suggested that very likely the tea was some that had been left over from breakfast, and that the maid, being Irish, had probably forgotten to clear it away ; but my narrator was Irish too, and did not see the joke. Sometimes Collins & Co. got away fully dressed, as on that occasion. At other times they escaped in shirts or pyjamas. There can be no two opinions as to the courage and brains of these two at least. But what a life ; what a waste of two really wonderful men ! I suppose they also motor with their revolvers in their hands, for ever expecting that shout of "Hands up! " Words so familiar to both sides, but, alas! from the Sinn Feiners it is usually followed quickly by a volley of shots. " Hands up ! What is your name?"The order is obeyed, the name given and then, murder.

Mrs Woodcock's Story