The American

by: Henry James

Chapters 25–26

Summary Chapters 25–26

The months Newman spends in London allow him to begin to heal and confront his melancholy. He considers living the rest of his life as he would have done had he married Claire—giving up business entirely and doing nothing of which she would have disapproved. Alone, he is often overwhelmed by the memory of her sweetness.

Newman remains in England till midsummer, after which he decides to book passage to America. As he is packing, he fingers the Marquis' letter folded in his pocketbook. Deep down, feeling himself a good fellow wronged, Newman takes some pleasure in prolonging the Bellegardes' suspense. He journeys across America to San Francisco, visiting many of his old friends but telling Claire's story to no one. Yet finding himself uninterested in business ventures and money, and dispassionate about his old delights, Newman realizes that he cannot move on without attending to his unfinished business in France.

Near the end of the winter Newman receives a letter of Paris gossip from Mrs. Tristram, which includes the news that Claire has taken the veil and the name of Saint Veronica. Newman leaves for Paris that evening, intending to stay there permanently. Arriving, he goes to see Mrs. Tristram, who is worried by Newman's evident unrest and umbrage. She had expected him to magnificently forget the sad events of his past.

Leaving the Tristrams', Newman walks to Claire's convent in the rue d'Enfer. The day is gray, the street deserted, the convent wall windowless and discolored. Newman realizes that Claire is completely lost to him, and that to grieve and pine for her is as sterile a sacrifice as shutting oneself in a convent. He leaves sadly, but relieved of a great burden.

Wandering back, Newman pauses for a long time in the sanctuary of Notre-Dame. He finds that he has almost forgotten the Bellegardes, and that the bottom has fallen out of his revenge. He does not want a glorious victory, but rather a discreet escape. Returning to his apartments, he asks Mrs. Bread to repack his things, announcing his intention to return to America permanently.

Late that evening, Newman visits the Tristrams one last time, recounting his afternoon revelations. Mrs. Tristram is relieved to see him, having worried that he would commit suicide. She adds that the Bellegardes have been lying low this season, hiding at Fleurières. Declaring that he never wants to speak of the Bellegardes again, Newman tosses the Marquis' folded letter into the fire. As it burns, Newman explains that the paper was proof of a great infamy that would ruin the Bellegardes if known. Though he once entertained thoughts of exposing them, Newman now thinks them "sick as a pair of poisoned cats," and has no desire for revenge.