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The American

Henry James

Chapters 25–26

Chapters 23–24

Chapters 25–26, page 2

page 1 of 3

Chapter 25

Newman, Intending to reveal his evidence against the Bellegardes, calls on the Duchess, who is as radiantly fat as ever. She plays the perfect hostess, full of opaque ceremony and superficial bon mots. Whether or not anyone else can trust the elite, Newman thinks, they can certainly trust each other.

The Duchess tells Newman an amusing story about the time her mother snubbed the great Napoleon, which Newman understands as a gesture of support. Before he can tell his secret, however, another visitor arrives. Watching the Duchess and some Prince play meaningless and endless conversational games, Newman is suddenly overwhelmed by the folly of his errand:

Had it come to this—that he was asking favours of false gods and appealing for sympathy where he had no sympathy to give? ...Whether or no the Duchess would hear his story he wouldn't tell it. Was he to sit there another half-hour for the sake of exposing the Bellegardes? The Bellegardes be deeply damned!

Newman gets up abruptly and makes his excuses. For a moment on the pavement he wonders again whether he should have disclosed his secret, but realizes what he actually wants is to banish the Bellegardes from his mind altogether.

Newman dines with the Tristrams three days later. Tom derides the Bellegardes, while Mrs. Tristram begs Newman to take a break from Paris. Knowing his revenge will keep until he returns, Newman leaves for London. He arrives in the midst of the Season, and though he knows no one, the vastness and duskiness of the new city revive him. One afternoon, strolling among the elite in Hyde Park, Newman recognizes Noémie Nioche on some gentleman's arm. Sickened by her disregard for Valentin's death, Newman avoids her and sits down in an available chair, only to find himself seated next to M. Nioche.

As Nioche vainly rails against his daughter's ambition, Noémie appears, accompanied by Lord Deepmere. With his usual simplicity, Lord Deepmere admits to Newman that he is sorry about his cousin Valentin—through whom he met Noémie—but that he quite simply finds Noémie wonderful. As Newman takes his leave of the trio, Nioche whispers a promise that Newman will read of his great revenge in the papers, though Newman never does.

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