CHAPTER X. THE COURT-MARTIAL.

If I had married a crowned head or a Cabinet Minister, I should doubtless, long ere this, have become accustomed to the presence of detectives , both inside and outside the house. As it was, the sight of one or two of these unmistakable looking men, walking solemnly up and down the extremely respectable and old fashioned street in London, where we waited our next summons to Ireland, was almost too much for my nerves, and sometimes for my gravity. I was alternately frightened and amused. Somehow the big, quiet old house in which we were staying seemed centuries removed from the turmoil and horrors of present-day life in Ireland. It seemed utterly impossible that the Sinn Feiners could interfere with us here. If they did, I could imagine the butler opening the door and saying, " Not at home " in his most impressive manner, and I felt that even the most militant Sinn Feiner would retire abashed before that magisterial demeanour. Also, of course, were my husband a royal personage or a Minister, there would be a slight compensation in the way of emoluments. As it is, we have not even yet recovered, three months afterwards, expenses of our first trip to Ireland on Government service. Truly the wheels of H.M. Paymasters grind slowly. They also grind exceeding small, and instead of being at all grateful to me for going over, I do not doubt that they will erase from my claim for expenses the cost of my sleeping berth and the food I consumed on the journey,and any other item which appears to them unnecessary for a mere witness. Wherever I went in London, I was always asked my views on the Irish situation. I had not any to give. The situation is too complex for any one of ordinary intelligence. The only solution I can see is one of money. Cut off their trade, touch their pockets.

At present Ireland is waging war and making money at one and the same time. I know I am prejudiced: how could I be otherwise ? I am not used to murder, and near at hand it was bound to make far more impression on one than a thousand tales of German atrocities. I waited in England a month, a week over the promised time. At last, in despair, I went to the Irish Office, to see if they could find out there whether the court-martial, at which I was the principal witness, had been again postponed. I rang the bell, and the door was opened about an inch. On explaining who I was, I was allowed to enter. Two obvious detectives sat in the hall. Each one had his hand in his right-hand coat pocket. I looked at them, and laughed outright. That particular attitude was so very familiar. The big service revolvers are usually kept there ; the small automatic pistol in the left-hand breast pocket. There was very little I did not know about revolvers. The worst of it is now, that whenever I see a man put his hand into his pocket, I always suspect a revolver, and cannot help giving an audible sigh of relief when he brings out a pipe, or some such innocent article. I remember the murderer I saw in the garden on 21st November, and I can see him now, scrambling over the wall ; then, a moment later, he dropped into the garden, brought his hand out of his pocket, and with it a large revolver With this in his hand, he crept towards the house. Hatefully familiar attitude ! The Irish Office were sympathetic and helpful, and a date was fixed for the trial about a week later.

As the time approached, I got more and more nervous. When I had first volunteered to give evidence, I had never imagined that the whole thing would not have been over in a month at most, and that one journey to Ireland would not have been sufficient. Now it was three months since the murders, and this was my second visit. I do not wonder that my nerves were on edge. The arrangements for this visit were also a little patchy. At one moment I was surrounded by a perfect army of detectives, officers, and military police. At others I was left severely alone. The procession from the train to the boat at Holyhead, at the charming hour of 2 A.M., must have been a funny sight. No Customs examination now, but a special gangway. We moved at a sharp trot, followed by the two inevitable soldiers' dogs, and precipitated ourselves on board. I was put into a cabin, and the escort piled themselves on the berths the other side of the passage, where they lay in serried rows throughout the remainder of the night.Once when I wanted some coffee, I put my head outside the door; but the moment I did so, I caused such a commotion among the ranks opposite, that I hastily withdrew it. Thank Heaven, it was a calm crossing. This time the arrangements for meeting me were complete. At dawn and, once more, at a brisk pace, we hurried down the pier, and were distributed among the various waiting motor-cars. The one I was in was covered with wire-netting, and had other methods of defence, that perhaps I had better not describe. Anyway, it was singularly uncomfortable.

It was decided that this time I was to stay in Dublin Castle. It was thought I should be safer and better there than at the Chief Secretary's Lodge in Phoenix Park. The Castle is a dreadful place, surrounded by the worst slums in Dublin. Nowadays it is like a huge rabbit-warren. Every official connected in any way, however remotely, with the Government of Ireland or the police, is interned there, in many cases with their wives and families. In addition, innumerable military officers with their belongings, a very large number of soldiers and police. There are also scores of male and female clerks, typists. Accommodation is at a premium. Quite important people sleep two in a room nay, two in a bed, sometimes. All day long motors dash in and out, orderlies scurry about with papers. About teatime, lady clerks, jug in hand, wander out in search of milk, and exchange a few words of badinage with the waiting orderlies. I had nothing whatever to do, and after walking round and round the square for an hour or so, the only form of exercise to be got, I spent the remainder of the day at the window, watching the stream of motors and passers-by on the square. It is the gloomiest and most dreary place I have ever been in, and the only conversation ever heard is on the state of Ireland, and the latest rumours. I watched two intrepid warriors returning from golf. Two golf-bags were handed out of the car, and then four enormous revolvers. One official who used to sally forth, with a large escort, to lunch at his club, was asked by the other members to stay away. They considered his presence a danger. Even the poor little children of some of the police officials never leave the Castle. Afternoon dances are held occasionally, at which the inhabitants stretch their cramped legs. It is the only exercise that some of them get.

Personally it makes one ashamed to think that the Government of the most powerful Empire in the world should allow its servants to live like this, practically as prisoners in the heart of Dublin. After doing nothing for a couple of days, the prosecuting counsel, for whom we had been waiting, arrived from England, and I was told the trial would be the next day. I had never been present at even a County Court before, and I felt as if I had committed murder myself, and when I heard the well-known names of the leading English counsel, I was more nervous than ever. The next morning I waited about an hour outside the court-room, where the court-martial officer sought to cheer me by showing me on the walls of the City Hall opposite the marks made by the rebel bullets in 1916, and the spot where the first policeman was killed. It was while waiting here that I heard a leading Dublin doctor say that he could stop the whole of the present trouble in half an hour. His idea was "to hang Asquith and two of his secretaries from the bridge in the centre of the town." This seemed to me a little drastic, but of course life is very cheap in Ireland, and the loyalists do not appear to like Asquith. At last my turn came, and I was led into the presence of the Court, and gave my evidence. I was not very severely cross-examined, and the ordeal was not so bad as I had feared. It was quite easy to tell my story after all ; every detail of that day is written on my heart and brain for ever. The defending counsel sought to imply that probably, with my husband lying badly wounded, I had been nervous too nervous, perhaps, to be quite clear as to what had really happened. But he was wrong. For one thing, I did not at first realise how badly injured my husband was, neither did I know, at first, that two other officers were dead, and two others dying, in the house. But even had I known all this, I do not think it would have made any difference.

My brain was never clearer, and I never felt less nervous than I did on that morning. The Court was a most impressive sight. It was crowded with officers, and the counsel and judge-advocate in wig and gown were a strange contrast to the khaki. English and Irish law appear to be different, and there were various arguments on legal points. There was also one amusing episode. One witness, called for the defence, said he had known the prisoner for years, and could testify as to his character. Counsel, wishing to emphasise the value of this witness's evidence, said, " You were a Loyalist member of the Dublin County Council, and opposed the Sinn Fein member at the last election, I think." To which the witness quickly and emphatically answered, " No, not a Loyalist, a Nationalist, sir." Not precisely the answer required. At last the Court was closed, and, later, I heard that the prisoner had been found guilty on the lesser charge, and sentence would be promulgated later.At last I was free to leave Ireland for ever.But I was not to go yet without one more further shock. I sent a messenger with a telegram to the post office, a few hundred yards from the Castle. While waiting for his return,I heard that three unarmed messengers had been murdered, almost in view of the Castle gates, and I felt certain that he was one of them. It was the usual story, so common now in Ireland. A crowded street at midday, a volley of revolver shots from the usual group of loafers, not a hand raised to hinder, not a voice raised in protest ; and, as usual, the assassins escaped down a side street. It was imagined that these poor men were shot " by mistake " for three others, who arrived in the street a few minutes later. Doubtless these three left mothers, widows, and children, but one never hears of these. That their men were shot " by mistake " will not be much consolation to them.

My journey back was a little uneven. Two officers were deputed to take me to London, and they duly arrived with several motors. Followed by an armoured car with machine-guns, we left for Kingstown. I could not help contrasting this with my departure from Germany, where I left with many smiles and " aufwiedersehens," carrying a large bunch of pink carnations. As far as Holyhead all went well, but there the officials had not been told that I was coming, and no carriage had been reserved for me or my escort. I was put into a carriage marked " Ladies only,"and my escort left on the platform. I felt distinctly annoyed, as I compared this to my departure from Holyhead a few nights before, which had been most impressive ; and I said bitterly to the detective, who had been hastily summoned by an officer, that, possibly now I had given my evidence, my life was of no further value to the authorities, but that it was still just as valuable to me, and that a label " Ladies only" did not seem a very adequate protection. Eventually I travelled with my escort in a reserved carriage. One of them unnerved me very much by placing his revolver on the seat beside him, where it was pointing straight at me. He then went to sleep, and having heard terrifying stories of how automatics went off, almost if you looked at them, I passed an anxious hour, wondering what the effect of a jolt or fall would be on the evil-looking weapon. But nothing happened The journey seemed endless, but at last we arrived in London.

I am finishing this in a lovely little spot in the south of France. Somebody else is also here, also writing his memoirs. No less a person than Monsieur Venizelos. Seeking for a quiet place to write this morning, I blundered into a little room reserved for him. He spluttered with indignation, and I fled. After all, I think I shall go and play golf. Perhaps Arnaud Massey, the French champion, will give me a lesson again." Keep your eye on the ball. Do not look up. No one is going to shoot at you from behind a hedge here. You are not in Ireland " thank God !

Mrs Woodcock's Story