CHAPTER VIII. THE FIVE FOLLOWING DAYS.

IT was not until I went back to the military hospital on the afternoon of 21st November that I realised that our house had not been the only one visited by the murderers. The matron there told me that the dead bodies of fourteen British officers lay in the hospital mortuary. Nine of these were in pyjamas. That little sentence shows in what circumstances the majority of them lost their lives. Two officers who had dined at our house on the Saturday night were among the killed. These officers were Roman Catholics, and, I was told, had taken up special service work from a sense of duty. Tale after tale of horror was unfolded to me until my brain reeled,and I felt I could bear no more. One officer had been butchered in front of his wife. They took some time to kill him. Shortly afterwards she had a little baby. It was born dead, and a few days after she also died.

The American Consul had dined at our house the night before the murders. His two hosts were among the murdered They had played bridge till it was very late, and he had been pressed to stay the night. If he had, there would probably have been an American citizen the less,as there is no doubt the men and boys who visited our house were mostly quite incapable,from fright,of distinguishing friend from foe. One of the wounded officers told me he was placed against a wall in the hall, and eight men took, or tried to take, careful aim at him. One man's hand shook so much that a comrade took his revolver away from him, and another supported his trembling right hand on his left arm. This officer also was a regimental officer, and had nothing to do with police or secret service. Like my husband , he too had a most marvellous escape, and none of the shots he received were vital.

When I left the hospital that afternoon, I felt fairly happy about my husband. He was very anxious that I should leave for England the next day, but I refused to leave him till the end of the week, and it was arranged that I should occupy his room in the barracks, which were near the hospital. When I got there, I found another officer's wife had also arrived to take refuge. Her husband had been very badly wounded, and had been taken to a nursing home near the flats. She had been told that she could see him again at eight o'clock that night, and asked me to go with her. We ordered a taxi,not realising yet the gravity of the situation. Shortly before eight we heard that no motors of any description were allowed on the streets. The trams were stopped. There had been a fight during the afternoon between the Crown forces and the Sinn Feiners. This, added to the morning's murders, had inflamed both sides in Dublin to a dangerous degree. My friend said she would walk.It was nearly three miles through the nastiest parts of Dublin, and though not realising that this was quite impossible that night, I did not like the idea. Fortunately an armoured lorry was going out on duty. The patrol had orders to stop and search all motors, and it was arranged that we should go with it. We sat in front of the lorry with the driver, and an officer and a party of soldiers behind. I did not see any armour, and felt singularly conspicuous and unsafe. Never, if I live to be a hundred, shall I forget the Dublin streets that night.They were crowded,though one would have thought only fools would have been out at such a time. There was firing everywhere, and occasionally the crash of a bomb. We dashed along at a terrific pace. The driver was longing to run over some one. The men were longing to shoot.They were mad with passion. One car did not stop when challenged, and they fired at once. Fortunately they missed it, as it was an R.I.C. car, going from one hotel to another, collecting luggage belonging to the survivors of the morning's massacre, who had already been moved into the Castle and other safer places. When we arrived at the nursing home, the scene was a strange one. There was a military guard on it, inside and out. Three officers were lying there, dangerously wounded, and it was thought possible that the Sinn Feiners might come back to finish them off. In spite of all I had seen and heard that day, I could not then think this was possible. But since then a wretched man, who had been badly wounded, was carried out of a hospital on a stretcher and killed in the garden,so I suppose it really was possible, even likely.

The house was dark and quiet, the usual smell of anaesthetics pervaded the place, and in the dim light I saw British soldiers with steel helmets and fixed bayonets standing on the landings in the hall, on the stairs, and before each door. My friend's husband was slightly better, and I persuaded her to return to barracks with me. The drive back was equally exciting, rather more so. The firing was nearer,and we passed several Crossley cars full of Black and Tans. Our armoured lorry made a terrific noise on the paved roads, and as we passed, people fell on their knees on the pavements. Nearly every one had their hands up, and ran distractedly about. I could feel no pity for them. I hated them.I know nothing about reprisals. I believe nothing in Ireland that I do not actually see myself; but I do know that night I should have understood, and forgiven, any act of reprisal by our men. But,as I have already said, no act of reprisal took place.I do not think I slept more than a couple of hours each night all that week. I never felt tired, never wanted to rest.

On Monday, telegrams and telephone messages from England began to pour in. I had been so used to the apathetic attitude of English people, including my own friends and relations, towards Irish affairs, that I was overcome by the flood of messages of sympathy and offers of help that I received. I did not realise how fully the awful affair had been reported in the English papers, or that all the names had been given in full. England seemed awake at last. I walked about freely on Monday, but on Tuesday I took an outside car, and went back to the flat to finally pack up our belongings. To my astonishment the car-driver knew who I was ; and I was still more astonished when he asked me how my husband was getting on, and whether he would be likely to know any of the men who had shot him. As a matter of fact he would not ; it was all over too quickly.Then came a string of leading questions. I looked at the man. He was the usual type of Sinn Feiner.He must have thought me a fool. However,I answered pleasantly and evasively I might even say untruthfully. When I got to the flat,I found that various oddlooking people had been to ask for me, and had retired discomfited when they heard I was in the barracks. I did not like all this very much, and I packed, looking nervously over my shoulder all the time. Fortunately the faithful soldier servant arrived. He packed perfectly, as he did everything else. Was there ever any one like the British soldier ? He looked after me all that week like a nurse. There was always a huge fire in my room when I got back from hospital. My fire lighted and my early morning tea brought me at seven o'clock; my hot bath, and my breakfast in my room a little later. But, for all the care and kindness I had from every one, it was a ghastly week. I was interviewed by innumerable officials and journalists. I signed papers and made statements, and on Tuesday some of the relations of the poor murdered men arrived. I saw them, of course, but I could tell them so little, so painfully little.

The papers I filled in were really rather amusing.Among the questions to be answered were,"How many murders were committed in your presence? " , and next, " Were the murderers armed ? "I felt inclined to answer this last like the wounded British Tommy,"No,they bit."On Tuesday night , G.H.Q. suddenly got agitated about me, and all sorts of messages arrived to say that I was not to leave barracks without an armed escort. Apparently they wanted me later as a witness, so I became suddenly precious. My husband was going on splendidly, so I arranged to cross to England on the Friday. My husband, and the officers in whose charge I was, were most anxious that I should go sooner. On the other hand,the police authorities, who wanted my evidence, were equally anxious that I should not go at all. But I promised faithfully to come back, and I was allowed to depart. I felt that I must really go away for a little, or I should go mad. It was horrible, feeling that the loafers at the street corners might now be watching and waiting for me. Incidents I had laughed at before now became very real to me. I had gone through a great deal, and I could not rest in Ireland. I wanted to go to England ; I wanted to feel safe. Above all, I wanted to get away from the sight and sound of revolvers. All night long, too,there were sounds of rifle shots, and the rattle of armoured cars returning from raids and patrols. These drew up, and the officer in charge made his report just below my window, which was not conducive to slumber. Occasionally a sentry got nervous, and let off his rifle at a real or imaginary shadow in the garden of the female lunatic asylum opposite. This garden had been used as cover for Sinn Fein snipers, and the house had been hit more than once. The other charming view from my window was over the grounds of the pauper hospital. I really do not know which was the most cheerful outlook. I motored to the Military Hospital two or three times, escorted by auxiliaries. It gave me confidence just to look at them. They were so big, and so very fully armed. They also took me to the boat when I at last left Dublin. An officer and the faithful soldier servant went with me to my destination in England. It was right away in the country, and it seemed like heaven. My motor drew up, the hall door opened, and I saw the big square hall and a huge log fire. My eyes filled with tears. Ireland seemed like an evil dream.

Mrs Woodcock's Story