A cart driver in a small Irish village has a passenger from outside the village. The passenger asks about a young woman named Margaret, who recently has given birth to a child out of wedlock. Because she and her child were forced to emigrate to the United States, an association is made between her experience with the community’s moral intolerance and that of Julia Cahill. The latter was forced to leave Ireland twenty years previously but cursed the parish before she left.
The listener’s implied incredulity about the effectiveness of Julia’s curse on the village arouses the driver’s vehement insistence that Julia’s powers came from her association with the fairies. To impress his passenger, he recounts the circumstances that precipitated the lethal curse.
Although he describes Julia Cahill as tall and lithe with fine black eyes, the village narrator especially emphasizes her high-spirited character. The daughter of a well-to-do shopkeeper, one day she listened at one counter while, at another counter, her father and a suitor, a prosperous farmer named Michael Moran, bargained over the dowry that she would receive when she married Moran.
The deciding factor in the arrangements was the interference of Father Madden, a new priest in the parish. Father Madden supported arranged marriages because he believed that the usual means used by young people to get to know each other—dances and walks—foster premarital sex and...
(The entire section is 448 words.)