Part 3, Chapter 4 Summary
Dowell reflects on the character and life of Edward Ashburnham. Ashburnham continues to appear as a gentleman and good soldier, no matter what he has done. Dowell tends to excuse Ashburnham's foibles, stating that the captain was merely a sentimentalist, overly emotional. This is how Dowell justifies the captain's frequent affairs with other women.
Ashburnham somewhat contradicts Dowell's positive description of him, however, by admitting to Dowell that after his first indiscretion, in which he was caught kissing a young girl, he was surprised to discover that his sexual desires were aroused. At first, Ashburnham had said that he merely kissed this young girl to soothe her nerves. He had found her crying and claimed he was innocent of any impropriety. However, he continued to think of the young woman and fantasized about being unfaithful. This eventually led the captain to look for women who might be interested in having an affair. His goal was to find a woman he could talk to, who might empathize with him and give him comfort, something he found Leonora incapable of doing.
While Ashburnham was in this state of mind, he met La Dolciquita, a Spanish woman who was already the mistress of a Russian duke. When La Dolciquita agreed to have sex with the captain, Ashburnham thought he had found a woman who would love him. He quickly learned, however, that La Dolciquita was interested only in his money. She demanded that Ashburnham give her large sums to ensure financial security in the future. She also made constant requests for very expensive gifts.
Ashburnham had been ready to vow his love to La Dolciquita and leave Leonora. Even after he found out that La Dolciquita was a money-hungry businesswoman, he thought he might still convince her that what really mattered in life was love, passion, and devotion. He made an offer to her, asking her to come with him to Antibes for a week. She agreed after he gave her more money. By the end of that week, Ashburnham finally decided to leave her.
As he traveled back to Leonora, Ashburnham was frightened that he might have ruined his life. He had wasted more than 20,000 pounds on La Dolciquita and was concerned he might have lost Leonora in the process. As he fretted, he felt his passion for Leonora renew itself and hoped he was not too late to salvage his marriage.