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- Chapter 1 opens on a wagon that's travelling through the Ohio wilderness.
- A sick man in the wagon asks the girl driving whether a man named Uncle Ed in Cincinnati will take them in.
- The girl insists that no one is going to give them any help, so she makes camp and cooks supper fore everyone. This woman, we are told, is the great-grandmother of Martin Arrowsmith.
- Next thing you know, we're looking in on a young man who's reading an anatomy book in the examining chair of a doctor's office.
- Martin, we hear, desires to one day become a great healer, which is why he spends his free time hanging out in the office of Doc Vickerson.
- The problem is that Doc Vickerson isn't that great a mentor. He's a self-loathing drunk.
- Doc Vickerson knows that he's squandered much of his life on booze, and he asks Martin to remember him after he's gone. The poor guy seems to know that Martin is destined for bigger and better things.