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The American

Henry James

Chapters 6–7

Chapters 4–5

Chapters 6–7, page 2

page 1 of 2

Chapter 6

Newman returns to Paris in the late fall to apartments that Tom Tristram has carefully selected for him in accordance with his social standing. The rooms are on Boulevard Haussman, gilded from floor to ceiling and full of satin, furniture, mirrors, and clocks. Newman, who likes big rooms and patented mechanical devices, finds the apartments magnificent.

One day Mrs. Tristram tells Newman that she has just seen Claire leaving church at St-Sulpice, her eyes red from confession. Mrs. Tristram explains that the saintly Claire is suffering at the hands of her mother and older brother, who probably want her to marry again to revive the ailing family fortune. Newman is dismayed by this idea and feels immediately protective of Claire.

On Mrs. Tristram's encouragement, Newman goes once more to the Bellegarde residence and this time finds Claire at home. He is ushered into a candlelit room where Claire and a gentleman sit talking by a fire. Newman recognizes the pleasant young man from the courtyard, who turns out to be Claire's brother Valentin. The three make small talk about Paris. Newman finds Valentin to be a man of good humor, seeking opportunities for amusement. When Newman inquires about the house, Valentin offers to take him on a tour, claiming a tour is exactly what the house needs. Claire dissuades them, however, and orders tea. Along with tea comes a young pretty lady, the wife of Urbain, Claire's eldest brother.

Newman watches Claire as she makes the tea. Mrs. Tristram's tales of Claire's perfection have made him trust Claire implicitly and feel at ease around her. He senses her beauty in a kind of lightness, serenity and dignity, and in her intense yet mild eyes. When talk turns to Newman, he discusses his business ventures and his involvement in the war. Valentin asks Newman if he is brave and, when Newman replies "Try me," invites Newman to visit again.

Chapter 7

Valentin calls on Newman at home very late one evening about five days later. Newman's apartments delight Valentin. Though Newman is not sure what Newman finds so funny, he feels that he and Valentin are destined to be great friends. Valentin apologizes for coming so late, but admits that he has stopped by at Claire's urging that he make amends for coming across as a fool.

The two men talk late into the night. Valentin offers to help Newman with anything he may wish in Paris, remarking on the irony of an indolent aristocrat offering to help a man's man. Still, Valentin predicts that he and Newman will get along wonderfully, if only because they are too different to quarrel. Newman finds Valentin "now almost infantile and now appallingly mature," candid, eloquent, and a great talker. Valentin, who has no ambitions, envies Newman's liberty—the freedom that first his poverty now his capital have given him—and admits that Newman is the only man whom he has ever caught himself wishing to be. Valentin finds in Newman that air of being indestructibly at home in the world—a trait by which Valentin's father had said people recognize a Bellegarde.

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