Part 4, Chapter 1 Summary
Dowell admits that his assessment of Florence here might appear harsh, but he feels he must blame Florence for Leonora's mental anguish and deterioration. Dowell claims Florence was an incorrigible flirt who talked too much and had few morals. Until Florence arrived, Leonora thought she might still be successful in winning back her husband. It might also be true her marriage was doomed to fail. Dowell surmises it might only have been some other woman who lured the captain away from his wife.
However, Dowell believes that until Florence came into their lives, Leonora was close to regaining her husband's attention, love, and constancy. Leonora's having tolerated and even encouraging Maisie to live with them had worked out well. Before Maisie's death, Leonora, who was ever watchful of her husband, had noticed that Edward appeared to have lost interest in the young woman. He had returned to playing polo and going out at night alone, habits that Leonora interpreted as her husband coming back to his marital senses. The captain even exhibited signs that his affection for Leonora had been reawakened. There were small incidents, such as her husband whispering a secret thought with her while they were with company. This gesture provided a sense of intimacy. Leonora had gone to her priest and the head nun at the local convent to seek advice. They had counseled her to be patient and not press her husband too hard. She was beginning to finally believe they had been correct when Florence appeared.
Leonora quickly realized Florence was flirting as she had witnessed many women doing the same. The difference was that her husband was responding to Florence in a way he had not done with other women. Leonora noticed the way her husband looked at Florence, as if they shared deep-seated intimacies. The first time Leonora saw this was when they had visited the home of Martin Luther. The understanding that Florence was trying to steal her husband made Leonora run from the room.
Prior to this, Dowell had admired Leonora for her cool disposition. Dowell took these traits as a high measure of good character in Leonora. Leonora's reaction on that day marked the beginning of her downfall. When Florence practically admitted to Leonora that she was having an affair with Edward as well as suggesting a situation wherein the captain would have two wives, Leonora understood that her marriage was over.