Cathleen ni Houlihan takes place in the Gillane cottage near Killala in 1798. Peter Gillane, the master of the house, hears a strange noise. Then both his son, Patrick, and his wife, Bridget, hear the noise: It is cheering. They wonder about the cause but are soon brought back to their principal concern, the upcoming marriage of the family’s eldest son, Michael. Bridget unties a bundle and shows Peter and young Patrick the fine clothes Michael will wear to his wedding, finer clothes than they have ever seen. Patrick, curious about the cheering, returns to the window, where he spies a strange old woman. She turns away from the house and takes another path. Patrick, as interested in ghost stories as any other twelve-year-old, says that the old woman reminds him of the tales of an old woman who travels through the Irish countryside whenever there is impending war or trouble. His mother hushes him and tells him to go open the door for his brother, Michael, the bridegroom. Immediately upon Michael’s entering, his father questions him about the bridal dowry. Did he bring it with him?
The dowry, it turns out, is especially good, bringing a fortune into the Gillane family—more money than they have ever possessed. Peter is proud of the bargain they have struck, for when he married Bridget she brought no dowry. She has been a fine wife and mother, but, as Peter says, “money is good too.” He goes on to list all the land and cattle they will buy with the money. Michael points out that Delia is so much in love with him that she will be glad for Peter and Michael to spend her dowry as they...
(The entire section is 657 words.)