Drama based on the novel by Henry James, "The American," about a self-made Midwesterner who discovers the sinister secret of an aristocratic French family when he falls in love with a daughter of the family. Christopher Newman, a 19th century "new man" who has amassed a fortune in California, heads to Europe to learn its ways and find a wife. In Europe, he meets Claire de Cintre, a young, beautiful and enigmatic Parisian widow. Claire's mother, Madame de Bellegarde, is a descendant of an ancient noble family, who stops at nothing to arrange aristocratic matches for her children. Other characters include Mrs. Bread, the housekeeper who knows the family secrets; Valentin, Claire's effete and impetuous brother; and Noemie, the bohemian mistress shared by Newman and Valentin.