(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In the late 1920’s, a time when Americans lived in romantic self-exile in Europe, Alwyn Tower’s friend, Alexandra Henry, renovates a stable in Chancellet, a town in France. The interior is ultramodern, with a gigantic picture window looking out on a wild English-type garden in the back. Unexpectedly, Madeleine Cullen, en route to Budapest in a sleek, dark Daimler, stops off to see her friend, Alexandra. A handsome woman with Irish eyes and a London voice, she emerges from the car in fine French clothes and on spectacularly high heels. On her wrist, encased in a blood-stained gauntlet, perches a leashed hawk wearing a plumed Dutch hood. Ricketts, a dapper young Cockney chauffeur, and the stout, slightly inebriated Mr. Cullen help her over the cobblestones. Lucy, the hawk, is an exemplary bird, a symbol of love and lust.

Tower, Alexandra, and the two guests gather in the living room, where Mr. Cullen talks volubly about falcons and falconry. Later, the four take a walk in the formal garden of a nearby chateau. The Cullens, after leaving their two wild boys at Cullen Hall in Ireland, travel constantly; they have been involved with Irish revolutionaries and gone on pig-sticking hunts in Tangier and lion hunts in the jungle. In these activities, Mrs. Cullen is the initiator; Mr. Cullen merely follows where she leads.

After the ritual feeding of Lucy in the living room, the bird is placed on a bench in the wild garden, while Mrs. Cullen and...

(The entire section is 469 words.)