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The American

Henry James

Chapters 10–11

Chapters 8–9

Chapters 10–11, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Chapter 10

Newman continues his regular visits to Mrs. Tristram to apprise her of the situation with Claire. Mrs. Tristram, who is well aware of what Newman is up against, is astonished and impressed by his success. Though Newman has never doubted himself, the world's astonishment only adds to the value of the prize.

Shortly thereafter, Valentin makes good on his promise to introduce Newman to the Bellegardes, explaining that he has mentioned Newman as a fabulously wealthy American and a wonderful fellow who is looking for a superior wife. Valentin and Newman find the dowager Marquise in her salon, a perfectly dim, candlelit room. The dignified Madame de Bellegarde looks hard at Newman but does not offer her hand. The daughter of an English aristocrat who married a French Marquis, the Marquise has clear blue eyes, a high forehead, and a delicate face. Newman tries to take the Marquise's measure as an adversary, but finds her formidable and inscrutable. He sees that she, unlike her daughter, is perfectly at home in her world of exquisite order.

The young Marquise comes rustling over to talk to them, and Newman realizes that she is exactly the kind of woman Noémie Nioche would like to be. Conversation is dry, with Madame de Bellegarde evidently wondering what the right way is to talk to an American. When she admits that she does not see much of Paris, Newman tells her she is missing a great deal. The Marquise stares, as this is perhaps the only time she has ever been consoled on her losses.

Urbain, the young Marquis, enters. Middle-aged, distinguished, and majestic, Urbain is a carbon copy of his mother the Marquise, whereas Newman imagines Valentin and Claire taking after their late father, the Marquis. Though Urbain is preparing to leave for a ball with his wife, he pauses to speak with Newman about Newman's business ventures, noting that Paris is a very good place to spend a fortune. Watching Urbain put on his gloves, Newman begins to understand Valentin's hints of what he is up against.

Taken by the sudden urge to say something on his own terms, Newman breaks into a long and extremely direct speech about his poor adolescence, his family, and his inclination towards work. This outburst is followed by a profound silence. Urbain, with vague benevolence, says Newman must not be too discouraged. Newman replies that he intends to marry remarkably well.

Valentin appears with a message that Claire is coming to the ball as well. The Marquise is shocked, but just then Claire appears in a long white gown with a cloak of deep blue and diamonds glinting in her hair. Newman thinks her the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Valentin, Claire, Urbain, and his wife leave for the ball. Left alone with the Marquise, Newman reveals that he hopes Claire will marry him. Icily, the Marquise says he cannot know what he asks. Newman replies that he is quite rich and, when prompted, details his wealth bluntly and impressively. The Marquise returns his candor, saying that she would like to get what she can from him, but that to do it her way will be easier. Newman replies that he is thankful for any terms at all, and radiantly, rapidly leaves.

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