After the horror of the Civil War, 'ignorant' Christopher Newman made his fortune. He travels to France is search of cultural treasures. He won't get past the Paris nightlife. After an affair with a haughty painter, he falls in love with the daughter of the late marquis de Bellegarde. She was married off and traumatized by her abusive late husband for the family's sake. Her elder brother supports their ruthless mother, but junior Valentin is besotted with the artist and strikes a partnership with Christopher.