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The American

Henry James

Chapters 23–24

Chapters 21–22

Chapters 23–24, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Chapter 23

Newman returns to Paris, nursing his secret about the Bellegardes and planning the best way to use it. His lengthy meditations are interrupted by the arrival in his apartments of Mrs. Bread, who is packed and ready to become Newman's housekeeper, though she has not yet told the Marquise she is leaving.

Mrs. Bread brings news that Claire is in the convent, though she has not yet taken her vows. She has refused to see her family, forfeiting her last chance to do so before entering the impossibly strict Carmelite order. Though Newman has no chance of seeing Claire, he is free to attend Sunday mass at the convent chapel in the Avenue de Messine, where he will be able to hear her singing among the other nuns.

The next day, Mrs. Bread moves in for good, bringing all her worldly possessions. When she told the Marquise she was leaving to take a job with Newman, the Marquise turned red and tried to keep her from leaving the premises. Mrs. Bread managed a fit of righteous indignation, however, and escaped. Delighted, Newman deduces that the Bellegardes are scared of him.

Newman asks Mrs. Tristram to obtain him an entrance into the Carmelite chapel for mass on the following Sunday. Mrs. Tristram, delighted to help Newman in any way she can after the tragic collapse of the marriage scheme, arranges it immediately.

Chapter 24

On Sunday morning, at the appointed hour, Newman enters the gate of the Carmelite convent near the Parc Monceau. The chapel is cold and smells of incense. As the priest begins to intone mass, the nuns' wordless chant rises softly from behind a large iron screen. Though Claire is not yet an initiate, Newman imagines that he hears her voice. Horrified at the thought that she will never speak again, Newman turns and leaves, brushing past Urbain and the Marquise as they enter.

Outside, Newman sees the young Marquise waiting in her carriage. Newman, already sorry for having let Urbain and the Marquise get away without a confrontation, asks the younger Marquise to help him arrange an accidental meeting. She is as good as her word, and brings them on a walk through the Parc Monceau after the service. When Urbain and the Marquise are too close to flee, Newman steps up from a hidden park bench and blocks their path.

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