Lennox Robinson.

The cross roads; a play in a prologue and two acts online

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Performing and all other rights reserved. Per-
mission to perform this flay must be obtained from
Maunsel & Co. Ltd. q6 Middle Abbey Street y



James O'Reilly.
Sidney Doyle.
Henry Blake.

Brian Connor.
Ellen McCarthy.

Scene : Committee Room at the Erin Debating
Society's rooms. There is a table in the middle of the
room with a bright lamp on it. A fire-place on the
right and a door : on the left another door. O'Reilly is
sitting oil the left ; Doyle is sitting at the table smoking,
and Blake, crouching over the fire, has a mantis cript
in his hand., which he is reading and correcting. He
coughs from time to time.

Doyle {taking out his watch). I say, it's half-past
eight ! {Gets up and opens the door on the right and
looks out.) There's not a soul there.

O'Reilly. Good Lord !

Doyle {coming back). Well, it's a fearful night ;
simply pelting rain. You really couldn't expect
people to come out such an evening.

O'Reilly. But it was fine enough last Monday,
and there were only seven or eight. I say, Blake,
you won't be able to give us your speech to-night :
there's no audience.

Blake {indifferently). It doesn't matter at all.

O'Reilly. I'm afraid these debates are going to
pot ; but what are we to do ?

Doyle. I don't know. It's queer, but people
seem to be beginning to get tired of these speeches.



{Innocently) I know I take a great deal of trouble
over mine.

O'Reilly. Oh, it can't be the fault of the speeches.
You and Connor and I have been spouting to them
for the last two years, and it stands to reason that
we must have made immense progress in the art
during that time. At first I used to need at least
a fortnight's preparation; but now I can turn out a
speech on any subject under the sun at three hours'

Doyle {enviously). Yes, you're wonderfully fluent !
And then there are your weekly articles in
Granuaile. ... I wonder would there be any
chance of the editor taking any of my things ?

O^Reilly {patronisingly). I don't see why he
wouldn't. You write quite well. Buy up a lot of
back numbers, and you'll see the sort of thing he

Doyle. Y — es . . . but I know beastly little
Irish — worse luck ; and the Granuaile goes in for
it so hotly.

O'Reilly. Oh, that doesn't matter. It's the
sub — Browne — who's so keen on the language. I
know for a fact that the editor is very shaky him-
self, and gets Browne to vet all his articles.

Doyle. Really ! And the Granuaile pays you
sometimes — at least, Connor got half-a-crown for a
poem last week.

O'Reilly. Oh, the old Gran's flourishing — it
must be when they pay for poetry. Poor old
Connor ! I'm glad to hear he's making a little
money at last. I wonder why he isn't here to-
night; he seldom misses a debate.

Doyle. I was in the shop to-day, and I saw him ;
but he was too busy attending to some people to
get a word with him. He looked in a black, bad


O'Reilly. Miss McCirthy bad been snubbing
him, I suppose.

Doyle. I didn't see her. Look here, O'Reilly
why don't you get her to speak ?

OReilly. Miss McCarthy ?

Doyle. Yes, why not ? I bet you she'd give a
rattling good speech ; she's clever enough for any-

O'Reilly . Oh, she's clever — {After a moment's
thought) Yes, that's a great idea. " Woman and
the New Ireland. Speech by Miss McCarthy."
It sounds fine ! And of course there'd be a record
attendance : half the chaps in the place are in love
with her.

Doyle. I suppose she'd speak for us ?

O'Reilly. Did you ever know a woman yet who
would miss the chance of getting up and lecturing
a roomful of men who'd be forced to give her a
hearing ?

Doyle [laughing). I wish she had come here to-
night and we could have asked her. {After a
pause, during which he re-lights his pipe.) Do you
know, O'Reilly, that though old Fitzgibbon has
been about as useless a president of the Debating
Society as it is possible for a president to be, still
he has done us one good turn, and that was in-
troducing Miss McCarthy.

O'Reilly. Yes, it is a wonder to find a woman
who is neither frumpish nor old taking an interest
in patriotism and politics ; and, to give her her due,
I think she is genuine ; she doesn't come here for
the sake oi—{with a self conscious smile) — well, for
the society she finds.

Doyle {enthusiastically). My dear fellow, she's
a n.arvel ! Can you realize that three years ago
she was only Mrs. Fitzgibbon's servant ; and then
Fitzgibbon saw she was a cut above housemaid's


work, and brought her into the book-shop ; and now
she is his most useful and intelligent assistant !
When Fitzy brought her first to the debates, he
said she was only an ignorant country girl from
the wilds of County Cork, with a blind love for
her country. She is one of our most intellectual
members now.

O^Reilly. Oh, she's developed certainly.

Doyle. Do you know, sometimes I feel a bit afraid
of her. I mean she seems so awfully superior to us.
We're content to peg away year after year chatting
about Ireland and what Ireland's coming to, and
what Ireland might have been, and we never do
anything. Miss McCarthy's different. I think
she's beginning to get a bit sick of this eternal
talk, talk, talk. She's all on for doing some
definite work; and she's just the sort of girl who
would do something big for Ireland — sacrifice her-
self if necessary — do something we'd never do.

O'Reilly {slyly). Are you in love with her too ?

Doyle. Like Connor ? Oh no ; but I've an
immense admiration for her — beginning life in a
peasant's cottage, and after three years in Dublin
being v/hat she is to-day. What's her future r
That's the question.

Blake {who has been listening to the latter part of
the conversation chimes in like an echo). That's the

O^Reilly [swinging round). Hallo, I didn't know
you were listening. I thought you despised

Blake. I do.

OReilly. Well, then

Doyle. Shut up, O'Reilly. Look here, Blake. [To
Blake.) What do you think about Miss McCarthy ?
— about her future, I mean. I say she'll be a
brilliant success in some way or other — in some


practical way — that's what I admire so much about
her — her practical level-headedness.

Blake {in a low voice). And that's what frightens

Doyle, Frightens you ? ( Waits for Blake to
explain himself^ What do you mean ?

Blake, Perhaps you won't understand ; but I —
well, she's developing one side of her nature at the
expense of the other. She's not well balanced.

O'Reilly. Not well balanced ! Why, she's one of
the coolest-headed young women it's been my lot to

Doyle. Yes, Blake. She isn't fickle and change-
able ; she — oh, she is level-headed.

Blake {quietly). But don't you think it is possible
to be too level-headed, too practical, too even-
minded ? When I look at her, I sometimes think I
see a child starving slowly to death. I see her
deliberately killing one side of her nature ; I— but
you wouldn't understand.

Doyle {trying very hard to understand him). You
— you mean that she's — that she's not sentimental
and — soft ?

O'Reilly [impatiently). Oh, Blake's ideal woman
is a sensitive, cringing creature, all nerves and

Blake. That is not true. But I would like to see
a little more fancy about her. She is all fact, cold
fact ; and some day — well, facts make a hard pillow.

O'Reilly, Pooh ! She'll simply marry Connor,
and be an A I wife and housekeeper.

Doyle. Of course Connor would like to marry
her, but will she have him ?

O'Reilly, You bet she will.

Doyle, It will be a long time before they can
marry. Our respected president isn't exactly
princely in the salaries he gives his employes.


O'Reilly {yazvitzng). Well, all I say is, may they
ask me to dinner when they're married, for I bet
you'll get good grub there — {listening). What's
that ? I think I hear voices.

\_The door opens and Ellen McCarthy and Brian
Connor enter.

O^Reilly (getting up quickly). Miss McCarthy !
Well, you were plucky to come out such an awful
night. Hello, Connor.

Ellen {shaking hands luith everyone). How do
you do, Mr. O'Reilly ? it is a dreadful night. Good
evening, Mr. Doyle. How do you do, Mr. Blake ?
Thanks {to Brian^ who takes her umbrella^ and helps
her off with her cloak).

Ellen {coming to the fire and sitting in one of the
chairs). Has no one come? Is there going to be
no deijate ?

O'Reilly. I'm afraid not ; it's such a bad evening.

Ellen. I'm so sorry, Mr. Blake, after all the
trouble you went to about your speech ; and this is
the second Monday you've been disappointed.

Blake. Oh, it doesn't matter. I haven't much
hope of converting jj'^*?/. Miss McCarthy.

Ellen {smiling). No ; you'll never convert me to
such a high-flown and — if you'll forgive my saying
it — ridiculous idea. But still I'd like to have
heard your speech.

Brian. Is this the speech we were to have had
last Monday ?

O'Reilly. Yes. Blake wants us to join with
him in a quest for — what's the expression? — for our
natural mates. Whatever we do we are not to
reject that mate. All considerations of birth, or
position, or suitability of the mundane kind are to
be cast aside. As soon as we realize that our
landlady, or the woman who washes down the
stairs on a Saturday, is our natural mate


Doyle. We marry them; and Blake says, " Bless
you, my children." \They all laugh except Blake.

Doyle. The weakness of the creed has always
struck me as lying in the fact that there is no
means of knowing if such and such a person is
your natural mate or not. You may think so for
six months, and get married on the strength of it ;
but afterwards you may realize that you have made
a mistake, and then !

Brian (half -shyly ^ ashatned of himself for laughing
at what he secretly believes to he true). Still, Blake,
I think there is something in it. I mean — I —
I mean that love is the first consideration, and —
and birth and station are nothing.

Ellen. Certainly. But there is a third reason
for marrying besides love and personal advantage.
There is marrying for a third person's sake —
marrying for the advancement of some one else,
the advancement of the nation, or perhaps of one's
family. That to my mind might be the highest
and noblest form of marriage.

Blake {horror-struck). Oh no, no. It can never
be right to outrage nature. To prostitute nature
for the sake of worldly advantage ! Oh no, no.

Ellen [quite untouched). Oh but yes. Don't
you think that there's more than a touch of selfish-
ness in marrying for one's own love ? But even
granting the idea is right, is it practical ? Am I
to go on rejecting man after man in a search for
that mysterious personage called my "mate"?

Blake. Yes ; you must search and search.

Ellen. And when I meet him, how shall I recog-
nize him ?

Blake. You won't mistake him, you can't.
You'll feel his whole soul, his whole being, rush
out to yours and envelop you, as the wind envelops
you when you stand at night on a dark hill-top ;


and there will be only you and that other in the
whole world.

Brian {his eyes fixed on Ellen). Yes, yes; you
can't mistake it,

Doyle. No ; it's quite absurd.

O'Reilly. And the idea that if you break this
law a curse attaches to you is absurder still. Why,
look all round you at the marriages that are under-
taken from worldly motives ; the results, if not
absolute perfection, are at least fairly comfortable.

Brian. Well, O'Reilly, there are also countless
tragedies ; and perhaps if Blake's plan were fol-

Ellen. Ah, no ; it's an idea that might have held
good when primitive men and primitive women
peopled the earth ; but we've developed too much
since then. Curses and all that sort of thing are
hopelessly out of date.

Blake {earnestly). Miss McCarthy, I knew a man
once ; he was engaged — for common motives — to
marry a rich^ well-bred girl. One day he met his
other self, his complement in the opposite sex. He
recognized her at once, of course. Miss McCarthy,
she was a common girl of the streets. You would
have held aside your dress for fear it might touch
her ; she was poor and degraded, but she was his
mate, and he knew it. I begged him again and
again to marry her; but he wouldn't. He was
afraid of those bogies — public opinion, his family,
the children that might come — he married the other
girl [stops ^ choked by a fit of coughing).

Brian. Yes ? And ?

Blake. She has made him a good wife — it isn't
her fault — but his life is a hell. His mind is in
torment, and his body is in torment ; he is dying of
a slow, incurable, internal disease. He's in hell.

[^ moment's silence.


Ellen, How— how horrible, Mr, Blake. But you
surely don't suggest that it's a case of cause and
effect ?

Blake. I am quite sure. There is a curse
{rising). Good night, Miss McCarthy. Good night,
everyone. [_Goes out,

Ellen [thoughtfully). What a curious man he is !
Doyle. That man he was talking about— the
one that's dying— is his brother.
Ellen. Oh, dear!

O'Reilly (angry with Blake for the sobering effect he
has made). I'm awfully fond of old Blake ; but he's
a bit too— too dreary and hysterical for me.

Ellen. Yes, I like him, too. How he coughs,
poor man !

Doyle. It's not a fit night for him to be out.

Ellen. And he seemed to have no coat. I'm
glad he lives near ; he won't take long going home.

Doyle. Won't he! Why, Miss McCarthy, as
likely as not he'll spend the next couple of hours
wandering about the streets and quays, wrapped
in a sort of twilight dream of his own

O'Reilly. Looking for his natural mate.

[They all laugh except Brian.

Brian {to Ellen^ half appealingly). Don't you
really believe in it, Miss McCarthy ?

Ellen. In Mr. Blake's idea ? Certainly not. It's
absolutely absurd. Still I'd like to have heard his

O^Reilly. We'll hear it next Monday, I hope.

Ellen. But I'm afraid I won't be there to hear

Doyle. Why so ? where are you going r

Ellen. I'm going home.

Doyle. To County Cork ?

Ellen. Yes ; to Ballygurteen.

OReilly. But not for long, I hope ?


Ellen. For good. I won't come back to Dublin
any more.

Doyle. Miss McCarthy !

O'Reilly. What !

Elle?i [smiling at their astonishijient). It's true.

O'Reilly. But this is very sudden ; isn't it ?

Brian [crossly). It's absolute nonsense.

Ellen. Well, you see, it's this way. Mother
wrote last week saying that my sister Kate had a
chance of going to learn her trade as a dressmaker
with a cousin of mine, and she wanted to know
would I come home and mind the house for her.
Of course, it's a great chance for Kate ; so I gave
Mr. Fitzgibbon notice ; and then his niece from
England came over unexpectedly, and she'll take
my place in the shop, and I can go home to-

Doyle. What a rotten shame ! Couldn't your
mother manage without you ?

Brian. Of course she could.

Ellen. Ah, my mother's getting an old woman,
and there'll have to be some one to look after the
butter and the fowl.

Doyle. Why couldn't your sister stay at home ?

Ellen. Well, she wants her chance the same as
everyone. I've had my chance up here, and now
it's only fair she should get hers.

O^Reilly. Surely you're not going back just to
look after butter and hens ?

Ellen. Yes, that's just what I am going to do.
I'm sick of Dublin.

O'Reilly [aghast). Sick of Dublin !

Ellen [smiling). Yes ; sick of it ! You know^ when
I came up here first, and when I began to think of
things, and come to the debates and find out about
Ireland, I thought Dublin w^as the hub of the
country ; I thought it was the centre of nationalism,


and that if I wanted to work for Ireland I could
do the best work up here

Brien. And so you can.

Ellen. But I've found out my mistake. The
few houses that we call Ballygurteen— or even my
mother's cottage — is more a centre of nationalism
than Dublin, and so I'm going home.

O'Reilly {sneering). I see. Dark Rosaleen
dairy-farming !

Ellen {nettled). It's better to be making butter
for her sake than to be talking about her at the
Erin Club. It's patriotism like yours, Mr. O'Reilly,
that has given me a sickening of Dublin — your
patriotism that sells American boots all the
week, and comes and chats of Ireland on Monday

O'Reilly. Well, I've a good tack in the Chicago
boot-shop, and I don't see why I should chuck it :
and at any rate I wear nothing but Irish clothes ;
and did you see my article in last week's
Granuaille ?

Ellen. I forgot about your little weekly articles
signed with your name in Irish characters— I
believe it's all the Irish you know — and as to
Irish clothes, they're so smart now-a-days that
they make no demand on your patriotism. Would
you have worn them ten years ago r

O'Reilly. Ten years ago ? Let me see, what

were my views ten years ago ? I think I was

a pro-Boer.

Elle?i. And eating nothing but Dutch cheese,
I suppose. No, Mr. O'Reilly; I'm very glad I
came up to Dublin, because I've learnt a lot here
I'd never have learnt down at Ballygurteen ; but a
girl like me can't do anything practical up here.
I'm only a farmer's daughter, after all, with the
reputation at home of being able to milk the


crankiest cow in County Cork — and what good is
that to me in Dublin ?

Doyle, But do you expect to spend the rest of
your life at home r

Brian. That's just what I say, Doyle. She's
surely not going to bury herself for the rest of her
life in a bog.

Doyle. It won't be long till you're sick of the
country. Wait till the winter comes and the rain,
and the wind blows up wet and cold, and you'll
wish yourself back in Grafton Street and its bright
lights. I don't believe you'll stick it long.

Ellen. Won't I ? Well, I'm a country girl born
and bred, and let me tell you there's a finer sight
than Grafton Street, and it's the road across the hill
at home ; and I'd rather have the Argideen river
than your old Liffey ; and I'd rather see my
mother's cottage standing back from the road than
the finest buildings you have in Dublin.

O'Reilly. There's one for you, Doyle.

Ellen. But I don't deny I've been very happy
in Dublin, and you've all been very kind to me.

O'Reilly. We're very sorry you're going, I know.
Just before you came in we were saying we'd like
you to give an address to the Club some Monday

Ellen. Me ! Goodness, Mr. O'Reilly, I never
did such a thing in my life !

Doyle. Then, the sooner you begin the better.

Brian. You'd do it splendidly !

Ellen [laughing). Not I. I think it's high time
I left Dublin if that's what you're going to make
me do.

Doyle. What will you do when you go home ?

Ellen. Oh, I'll be busy enough with the hens
and the dairy, and — and — oh, there's a lot of work
on a farm.


Brian [angrily). It's absurd to think of you
going back to farm-work.

Elle7i. Indeed, it isn't. It's now that I'll be
able to make use of all I learnt at the debates.
I'll be able to do something at home.

Brian. You could do better work up here.

O'Reilly. Whatever you do, I'm sure you'll never
forget that we are all pledged to serve Ireland as
best we can in our different spheres of work. Per-
haps you will have great opportunities at home,
Miss McCarthy — better opportunities than you'd
have had if you stayed in Dublin.

Ellen. Yes, that's what I think. Would you
mind telling me the time, Brian ?

Brian {looking at his watch). It's not nine yet.

Ellen. I think I'd better be going all the same.
I've a lot of packing to do; and I only looked in to
say good-bye to any friends who might happen to be
here. \Rising., and putting on her cloak.

Doyle. Are you really going to-morrow ?

Ellen. Yes, by the first train.

O^Reilly. What will Mr. Fitzgibbon do without
you ?

Ellen. Indeed, he was very good to me — letting
me come to these debates, and lending me books —
and Mrs. Fitzgibbon, too, I'm very grateful to

O'Reilly. I'll tell you what. Miss McCarthy,
you should start a debating society at Bally-
gurteen, and get down speakers from Dublin, and
have a great opening meeting.

Ellen {laughing). Indeed, we're much too busy
down in the country to be having meetings and
speeches ; but I mean to make use of all the educa-
tion I got up in Dublin ; and maybe Ballygurteen
will be known all over Ireland yet for its up-to-date


O'Reilly. I hope it will, indeed. You must
write to us sometimes, and tell us how you get on ;
and if there is any way we can help you — well,
you've only got to ask, you know.

Ellen. Thank you very much. Are you coming,
Brian, or do you want to stay and have a talk ?

Brian [quickly). Oh, Tm coming, of course.

O'Reilly. Well see you to the door, anyway
{ppeni7tg the door on the left). Take the lamp,
Doyle ; the gas has been put out.

{Doyle takes the lamp off the table a?id goes to
the door. Ellen follow s^ but stops in the middle
of the 7'ooni.

Ellen {looking rounds and speaking with a touch
of wis If til regret in her voice). We've had many a
pleasant talk here ; haven't we, Mr. O'Reilly r I
wonder will I ever see this little room again. Yes,
I'm coming, Mr. Doyle. {Exit all."]





Ellen McCarthy.

Mrs. McCarthy, her mother.

Mrs. Desmond.

Mike Dempsey.
Tom Dempsey, his son,
Brian Connor.

Eight months later: Inferior of Mrs. McCarthys
cottage. Fire-place on the left, and door leadi^ig to the
yard. At the back a dresser, and at the right-hand
corner a door leading to the road. A table in the middle
of the room, at which an old woman — Mrs. McCarthy

— is ironing. Another old woman — Mrs. Desmond

sits by the fire with a cup of tea in her hand.

Mrs. Desmond, An' so you've Ellen back }

Mrs, McCarthy {pausing in her work). Didn't I
see you since she came home ? Oh, you're right.
You were away all the summer an' autumn with
your daughter. Yes ; Kate's gone to the dress-
maker, an' Ellen's come home in her place.

Mrs. Desmond, You're lucky, ma'am, to have
another one to come home. Since my Mary's went,
I have no one to do a hand's turn for me — not that
himself isn't very obliging ; but — but —

Mrs. McCarthy {with mild scorn), A man isn't
much good in a house, anyway.

Mrs. Desmond. Sorra a bit of good at all. 'Tis
well for you to have Ellen, a fine gerr'l an' a great
scholar, too ; for I remember well the letters you
used to be reading to me that she wrote home from
Dublin, an' never in me life did I see such long-

B 2


Mrs. McCarthy. Long ! You may say that ! 'Tis
many the day I was tired before I had them all
spelt out ; an' sure I didn't understand the half she
was saying, about the meetings she was going to,
an' the talk they had, an' about Ireland — as I says
to Ellen herself when she came home, "What do /
know about Ireland r " But seemingly they talk a
lot about Ireland up in Dublin.

Mrs. Desmond. She was glad to come home r

Mrs. McCarthy. She was so. An' 'tisn't every
gerr'l that's spent three years in the city is glad to
come back here, I tell you. But Ellen wasn't a
minute in the house when she tossed off her hat
an' her grand clothes, an' away with her feeding
the hens.

Mrs. Desmond. Well, well.

Mrs. McCarthy. An' on Sunday, I'd have taken
me oath she'd be for showing the gerr'ls some of
the fine Dublin fashions — taking the shine out of
Maggie Culinane that thinks such a dale of herself
— but nothing would do her but to put on me old
cloak that I've had these fifteen years. " Wisha,
Ellen," says I, "you're never going to wear that?"
" I am indeed," says she. *' When I was in Dublin,
I wore Dublin clothes ; but I'm in the county of
Cork now, an' 'tisn't apeing the city I'll be" — an'
off with her to the chapel.

Mrs. Desmond. Look at that now ! Well, isn't
it nice to have her come back the same as she
was before — no fine notions at all ?

Mrs. McCarthy {discontentedly). Ah, she's not
altogether the same. You've no idea now the
way she goes on about claneness. It beats me
altogether. There's not another one ever said
this room wasn't clane, but the morning after she
came, she was down on her two knees scrubbing

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