Dick dreams of Nicole, somewhat dissatisfied that their relationship ended so clinically. While on a vacation in a small Swiss town, Dick meets Nicole and her sister, Baby, by chance. Nicole is quite in love with him and he is taken by her youth. Dick dines with the Warrens, and Baby intimates her plan to lure, with their great wealth, a doctor-groom to take care of Nicole at all times. Dick scoffs at the plan, but before he knows it he is kissing Nicole and in that kiss, he loses any ability he had to keep her out of his heart. Though she does not wish them to marry as Dick suspects, Baby asks Dick to accompany Nicole back to Zurich. They leave for Zurich together and know that they will be together from then on.
By the next scene, Nicole and Dick are engaged, despite the disapproval of Baby. Dick gives his pedigree to try to convince her of his worth; the son of a clergyman, great-grandson of a governor, Yale graduate and Rhodes scholar. A montage follows, highlighting the happy moments of their marriage, the birth of their two children, which send Nicole into depression, and their travels throughout the world. All the while, Dick tries, with increasing difficulty, to maintain financial independence from his rich wife. This montage, which includes the fact that Dick's book sold very well, Nicole's suspicion that Tommy Barban is in love with her, and her suspicions concerning Rosemary, leads right back up to the resumption of the narrative where it had left off.
Dick sits in a cafe with Mrs. Speers, saying goodbye before the actress and her mother leave for America. Dick tells Mrs. Speers in a self-indulgent way that he is in love with her daughter. The mother and daughter leave, and Dick feels Rosemary's absence quite sharply. Dick is also concerned for his wife's mental health after her two recent breakdowns, but by December she seems well again, and they go on holiday to the Alps with Baby and the family. Dr. Gregory appears and proposes to Dick that they buy a clinic together that is going out of business in Switzerland. Baby, intrigued by the idea of having her sister live in close proximity to a sanitarium, urges them to go through with it and offers her financial backing. Dick feels trapped at the prospect of being so financially dependent, but agrees to Dr. Gregory's proposition.
We see more clearly how Nicole changes Dick's life. Though trying to busy himself otherwise, Dick meets Nicole again on a funicular carrying them up to a small resort town. The symbolic imagery of ascension parallels that of their relationship as they rise toward engagement. Upon reaching the top, Dick goes to the cheaper hotel, explaining that he is "economizing." The reappearance of this word recalls Rosemary and the young Nicole, while also highlighting Dick's poverty.
Baby's suggestion that the Warrens can buy a doctor-groom for Nicole makes Dick laugh out loud, but money is a partial factor in his decision to marry even though he does not want it to be.
When they kiss, another very important thematic element is revealed, if not the most important. When they kiss, Dick finds proof of his own existence in her eyes. This encapsulates the way that Dick's existence, as the doctors had suspected, becomes reduced to taking care of Nicole. She, not scholarship, becomes his existence. She is his case.
Baby, however, does not approve of the marriage. Even though he is the amazing man to whom we were introduced in Book 1, she pigeonholes him into being a "shabby-snobby" intellectual, and not a true aristocrat. Baby prefers Englishmen and Dick: the American royalty, does not measure up.
Dick's book is published shortly after the marriage and is quite successful. But he cannot write after that. In Nicole's rich montage of thoughts, she notes that Dick can no longer write, and she tires of waiting for him to make more money. Amidst the gaiety of their travels and Nicole's depressions, he ceases to be the writer that he was and it pains him. His intellect has begun to dull, on account, presumably, of Nicole.
The transition from the past to the present and Dick's confession of love for Rosemary with Mrs. Speers is a powerful one. All of the events of the preceding pages are erased or annulled. Dick's precocious dreams of great scholarship are gone. Dick has given up his aspirations for Nicole, and Nicole has shown signs of relapse into insanity. In a way, he has lost. It is in this state that he accepts the idea to purchase the clinic.