Martin is lonely in New York after his return from the West Indies, having been reduced from Dr. Arrowsmith to a man with no one to talk to He finds a companion in Joyce Lanyon, who knows how to make men talk. He visits her in her palatial home, to the disapproval of Latham Ireland, a well-dressed lawyer, also an admirer of Joyce. The luxury surrounding her, as well as her wealthy friends and lavish entertaining, holds Martin in awe.
Joyce becomes an arranger, a sponsor of causes. The part of her life which she feels to have been most useful, however, is that in which she played the part of an almshouse cook. She teaches Martin bridge and plays tennis with him. They are married with pomp and ceremony the next January in St. George's Church. Terry Wickett refuses to act as best man. For three months, they travel in Europe, Martin having for the first time the opportunity to observe the great laboratories of London, Paris, and Copenhagen. He is happy except for dreadful seconds when Leora floats between them, she who never realized her aspiration to see France.
Martin, with his limited knowledge of women, has much to learn from Joyce, who besides being his wife is a wealthy and socially prominent woman. He superficially masters her way of life, but when he has a clerk telephone her that he is busy in the laboratory and cannot meet her at dinner, she is enraged.
Lewis has been building up to this second marriage of Arrowsmith for several chapters. The wealthy and socially important Joyce is a far cry from the simple, careless Leora of Wheatsylvania, North Dakota. The ways of the rich are satirized through the characters of Joyce and her friends: their weekend parties, their display of luxury, their insistence on their own accepted codes of behavior, and their shallowness beneath the surface. In contrast again is Terry Wickett, with whom Martin is no longer free to escape to the Vermont hills. Martin is torn between devotion to his work and loyalty to his wife.