Part 2, Chapters 1-2 Summary
In his courtship of Florence, Dowell describes himself as a chicken attempting to cross a street with a car coming. Dowell learned that he fit Florence's definition of the perfect husband, one who did not work but could afford to take her to Europe, and one who would not demand physical contact. Dowell was determined to marry Florence, despite her demands. When her family hinted they might be against the marriage, Dowell snuck into Florence's room and persuaded her to elope. Before Florence left with Dowell, she told him something was wrong with her heart. This was the first time Dowell heard she was ill. Florence would later use her suggested illness to keep Dowell from her bedroom and their marriage unconsummated.
On their honeymoon, Dowell and Florence travel by ship to France. A great windstorm caused the ship to rock so harshly that Florence took to her bed. A doctor was called, and although Dowell never knew how Florence talked him into collaborating her story, the doctor told Dowell that due to Florence's heart condition, Dowell was not to have any sexual relations with his wife. Also forbidden were future trips by boat, which could easily cause her demise. This later would work against Florence's wishes when she wanted to travel to England after meeting the Ashburnhams. At the time, the only way of traveling from France to England was by boat, which Dowell vehemently forbade.
In France, they were met by Jimmy. Dowell learns much later that Florence earlier had an affair with Jimmy. Dowell describes Jimmy as not very good looking, crude in manner and dress. Jimmy was a poorly skilled artist with no money; Florence supported him. Jimmy set the rules Dowell was to follow while in France, including Florence retiring early to protect her health and locking her door because any abrupt entrance might frighten her and damage her heart. Jimmy reiterated that Dowell was not to have sexual relations with Florence. Florence decreed that Jimmy was to live with them. Dowell discovered much later that Jimmy went to her bedroom every night.
Dowell was merely to be Florence's nursemaid, ensuring no one agitated her. Florence's affair with Jimmy lasted two years, until she met Edward Ashburnham. Had he known that Florence had fallen in love with Ashburnham, Dowell says, he would have helped them be together, no matter the cost.