Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 469
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 Alexandra rest before dinner. At the chromium bar on the balcony, the drunken Mr. Cullen talks to Tower as he would have to a bartender. He tells Tower that he almost killed an Irish poet out of jealousy (not really justified, as his wife allowed him his own infidelities). Comparing himself with his superlative wife, he mentions that he is a bad horseman, marksman, and sportsman, loathed travel, and above all, despises Lucy because the bird is constantly perched on Madeleine’s wrist, preventing him from getting close to his wife. As Mr. Cullen continues to talk, Tower’s malice (the scorn of a captive hawk by a potentially captive hawk) increases.
Finally, the very drunken Mr. Cullen creeps up on Lucy, removes her hood, and cuts her leash. Mrs. Cullen thereupon kicks off her high heels and recaptures the bird. Then, just as the Cullens are about to resume their journey to Budapest, Mr. Cullen himself tries to get free by pulling a gun. It is unclear whether he intends to shoot the chauffeur (whom he suspects of coveting his wife), Mrs. Cullen, Lucy, or himself, but Mrs. Cullen, with the bird on her wrist flapping madly in the attempt to hold on, rushes back into the house and out to the garden to throw the revolver into the pond.
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