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The American

Henry James

Chapters 13–14

Chapter 12

Chapters 13–14, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Chapter 13

Newman comes to the Rue de l'Université many times over the next six weeks and sees Claire more often than he can count. Though he claims not to have been reduced to the silliness of love, he is conscious of an intense all- consuming tenderness, as well as a deep wish to rescue Claire from her depressing secrets. As the days pass he is less and less able to imagine himself without her.

At the Bellegarde house, Newman is neither forceful nor eloquent, but is content to haunt Claire's rooms and attend her parties, watching her and her world from a distance. He spends many a chilly evening by the Marquise's fireside, while Claire talks to guests and the Marquise makes a great show of being interested in others. These evenings lead Newman to remark to Mrs. Tristram that he would not wonder if the Marquise had done someone to death, out of some high sense of duty. Nonetheless, Newman finds it difficult to bear a grudge while in the same room with someone, and does his best to be cordial despite his utter ignorance of the Bellegardes' rarified conversational topics and customs.

One afternoon, as Newman is waiting to see Claire at the Bellegarde house, a pale, older English servant approaches him. She is Mrs. Bread, formerly the Marquise's personal lady and Claire's old nurse. Mrs. Bread tells Newman that Claire is wonderful and good and deserves happiness, and that his marriage to her is possible but will take some doing and much patience. Asking Newman to say nothing to Claire, Mrs. Bread vanishes, leaving him deeply touched.

Gradually, Newman and Claire begin to discuss Claire's family. Claire is worried about Valentin, sensing that he is unhappy despite Newman's promises to take care of him. One Friday, after an uncomfortable family evening in the drawing room, Claire asks Newman's opinion of her mother and Urbain. He admits that he could live without them, but mostly ignores them. She replies that he is too good-natured, especially as they think they have treated him rather handsomely.

In the middle of this conversation, Urbain enters, looking radiant. Behind him are the Marquise and a balding, simple fellow. The fellow is Lord Deepmere, a distant cousin and heir to a wide array of fortunes, Irish estates, and English property, who has just now made the Bellegardes' acquaintance. As the talk of property drags on, Newman takes his leave. Urbain accompanies him to the top of the stair. Newman thanks Urbain for sticking so well to their bargain, and turns to leave, missing Urbain's deeply ambiguous glance.

Chapter 14

Newman finds Claire alone the next time he calls on her. Seizing his chance, he declares that he has waited patiently and silently for six months as they agreed, but his heart has not changed. Ardently and respectfully, he asks again for her hand. He promises to keep her as safe as she was in her father's arms. Claire begins to cry, admitting that he has become quite pleasing to her, though her family would never understand. Declaring that she loves him, Newman embraces her, and she returns the kiss.

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