The American: Chapter 13,14
Summary of Chapter XIII
Newman courts Madame de Cintré for the next six weeks and knows he is deeply in love with her. He wants to protect her. Claire seems to like him and listen to his stories with interest, even though he is out of place in her society. He does not care about the family secrets, for he decides, “she was a woman for the light, not for the shade” (p.125). He brings out her hidden gaiety. Newman concludes the mother, the marquise, is a wicked “old sinner” (p. 125).
Newman meets a family servant, Mrs. Bread. She came from England with her mistress, the old marquise forty years earlier. She is devoted to Claire and glad Newman will marry her and take her away. If they marry, she would like to go with them. She indicates she has valuable information about the family.
Claire later tells Newman she loves Mrs. Bread and Valentin, but he notices she never mentions Urbain or her mother. He admits to her he does not like them, and she tells him she is in a difficult position since they do not like him. Just then the mother and brother appear to introduce an unknown English relative to Claire—Lord Deepmere. The man is wealthy with great estates.
Commentary on Chapter XIII
Newman tells Mrs. Tristram that the mother is wicked: “I shouldn't wonder if she murdered someone” (p. 125). This is foreshadowing of the family secret that Newman eventually learns. He wants to remove Claire from the darkness surrounding her family. He also calls her brother, the marquis, “mean and underhand” (p. 125), another correct estimation. Newman still believes he can rescue her.
Newman tells Claire that it is hard work to “resemble one's self” (p. 131). He brings up the question of having inner integrity. This is going to be a great test for Claire in the courtship. She also worries that her brother Valentin is idle and will have an unhappy end, more foreshadowing of the tragic family history.
Two interesting developments are Mrs. Bread and Lord Deepmere. Mrs. Bread hints she knows the family secret. It must be terrible because she wants to leave with Claire when they marry. Lord Deepmere is of marriageable age and comes as a shock to Claire. He is ugly, stupid, and cruel, but he has money and a pedigree. He is a distant cousin. It is obvious the mother is up to something. She has to hold on to her power and does not want her daughter to be happy with Newman.
Summary of Chapter XIV
The next time Newman sees Claire he announces the six months of silence is over, and he wants to discuss their marriage. He loves her and feels she is the perfect wife for him. He takes her hand and tells her she will be safe, as safe as in her father's arms. She breaks into tears. She says that it is not simple and that she is weak. She claims she is cold and a coward. She never thought to marry again. He is also not the sort of man she had imagined marrying. She is glad he is different from others. She is not interested in possessions, money, or social life. She seems to imply she loves him too.
The next day he meets Mrs. Bread who urges him to marry Claire at once. Newman invites her to live with them. Claire and Newman confess to the marquise that they will marry. She is not pleased, and this makes Claire uneasy. They make their wedding plans. Now Newman is confident and wants the Bellegardes to take notice of him. He plans an engagement party in his rooms with a great entertainment. The marquise counters his plans with her own engagement party at their house, inviting all their friends.
Commentary on Chapter XIV
Claire begins to melt under Newman's sincere passion and gentleness. She assents to the marriage and even has the courage to confront her family with it though the mother's power over her is evident in the fact she can never relax.
Newman is so happy he misses the significance of the old marquise's counter offer to hold the engagement party. Newman takes it as a compliment, but the old woman is cagey. She stages the event in her territory with their picked friends. Valentin instinctively understands his mother's move and warns Newman she is strong. Mrs. Bread's warning to marry quickly is accompanied by a sense of fear. She knows the battle is not yet won.
Text: James, Henry, The American, The Project Gutenberg Ebook, #177, www.gutenberg.org, January 2, 2007.