A year and a half pass while Dr. Arrowsmith is becoming established in Wheatsylvania. Occasional lapses into drinking and all-night poker playing tarnish his reputation to some extent, but in general his practice improves. He and Leora now have their own home.
Not wishing to become fixed in "a routine of prescriptions and bandaging," Martin seeks a stimulant in Dr. Hesselink, of Groningen. The forty-year-old physician advises studying at home, increasing his vocabulary, and freeing it of slang. Martin begins reading aloud to Leora — for example, Conrad and European history.
Gustaf Sondelius, a Swede by birth and a German by education, is to come to lecture in Minneapolis. Since medical school days, Martin has admired this man and his war on disease. Leora, after four months of pregnancy, loses her child, and she and Martin realize that there can never be another.
Martin, though less distinguished than the town barber, less prosperous than the carpenter, and less interesting than the garage man, is nevertheless known as "reliable, skillful, and honest." This bit of irony is matched by the fact that the garage man, the bootlegger, and the undertaker are considered more desirable associates than is the United Brethren minister.
The realization that other things count as well as knowledge in one's special field is brought out in Martin's frantic attempts at self-education. He is to do much studying of this type in years to come. The fantastic character of Sondelius is introduced in this chapter. He is to be of importance later on. The loss of their unborn child only brings Martin and Leora closer together.