The Professor goes to see his family doctor, Dr. Dudley, who runs some tests and tells him there is nothing wrong with him. The Professor doesn’t mention his conviction that he is near the end of his life to the doctor.
He describes the letters he receives from Louie and Lillian in France to be pleasant. They are constantly describing wonderful places, people, experiences and presents they are going to bring him upon their return.
Louie even suggests they will take the Professor with them to the same places the following summer, and the Professor wonders if he will be alive the following summer. He thinks that he might like to see Notre Dame again, but concludes that if he is alive, he would rather see Outland’s country.
The chapter opens with Cather first establishing for the reader that there is nothing physically wrong with St. Peter. His trouble is in his mind, that organ that he has cultivated, cherished and developed so assiduously throughout his life.
This development sets the stage for the Professor’s future mental and emotional struggles.
Lillian’s and Louie’s letters home are full of delightful stories and descriptions, but they touch no fond chord in the Professor. Indeed, he hardly reads any of them. It is clear that the Professor’s level of withdrawal from people and from life is quickly reaching a point of no return.
At a time the Professor believes marks the beginning of the end of his life, he looks forward not to revisiting the haunts of his youth in Paris, but to revisiting the place that gave him his intellectual second wind. Lillian was the intellectual companion of the Professor’s youth, and Outland was the intellectual companion of his middle age; at the end of his life, at a moment of personal crisis, the Professor chooses Outland and the Southwest over his own wife and a summer with her.
Given this choice, it is perhaps understandable why Lillian grew so jealous of Outland. When she tells him that it was not the children that came between them, the obvious unspoken remark is that it was Outland, Outland and the Professor’s love of his work, that destroyed the marriage. The Professor has always, and will always, treasure his love for his work above his love for his family, and this realization is enough to doom the marriage.