One day, Coverdale decides to take a day off to wander alone through the forest and refresh himself. In the forest, Coverdale looks around for a good spot to spend the day and he is so lost in his own thoughts that he doesn’t realize someone is there until they call out to him and call him a friend. Coverdale is immediately irritated—he doesn’t like being interrupted and he doesn’t like the person’s tone. Coverdale asks what he wants and reminds the man that he’s not even an acquaintance, much less a friend. The man drily says they’re clearly not friends but asks if Coverdale, as a member of Blithedale, can do him a favor. Coverdale snaps that he’s busy and takes stock of the man—he is young and somewhat handsome, though not to Coverdale’s taste. There seems to be something inexplicably rude and indecorous about him.
Despite his love of society and studying people, Coverdale is an introvert who must have some amount of periodical solitude so that he doesn’t burn out. The man’s inopportune intrusion on Coverdale’s solitude immediately creates the foundation for the hatred Coverdale has towards him for the rest of the narrative.
Coverdale immediately hates the man, but he still feels ashamed of his rudeness and asks what the man needs. The man apologizes for the way he addressed Coverdale and asks if a woman named Zenobia lives there. Coverdale confirms this, although Zenobia is a pseudonym. The man says he knows that and asks where he can find her. Coverdale points out the farmhouse and tries to excuse himself, but the man says he’d rather meet Zenobia in private, away from prying eyes. Coverdale points out where Zenobia takes her usual walk, close enough to the farmhouse that someone can hear her if she calls. The man then asks about a shaggy philanthropist who wants to build a large facility but lacks the funds—a man who might expect one lady they both know to put up the money for it. For some reason this makes the man laugh, exposing a gold bar on his teeth.
Since Moodie just asked anxiously if anyone has come asking for Zenobia, this man’s appearance seems foretold. Coverdale only shows the man where Zenobia goes walking because it’s close enough to the farmhouse that she can call for help. Coverdale, then, doesn’t merely hate the man, but also believes that he might be dangerous. The man’s comment about a shaggy philanthropist—clearly meaning Hollingsworth—in need of money is also the first clue that Hollingsworth might entertain a relationship with Zenobia for her money, as this would allow him to build his center for criminal reform. The gold bar in the man’s teeth is his defining feature and implies that he’s actively using props to obscure his real appearance.
The sight of the gold bar makes Coverdale laugh—he thinks that the man might have a lot of fake body parts. When they stop, Coverdale expresses his regret that laughing has cost him the right to resent the man’s description of Hollingsworth. Coverdale tries to leave, but the man stops him with another question—whether there is a pale, weak young girl named Priscilla there. Instead of answering, Coverdale asks the man for his name. The man gives him a card saying his name is Professor Westervelt. Coverdale says that he’s shown the man where to find Zenobia but he’ll have to ask Priscilla’s other friends to lead him to her. Westervelt leaves and Coverdale regrets it because the man might have shed light on the obvious connection between Zenobia and Priscilla. Instead of his walk, Coverdale lurks around Zenobia’s path, close enough to interfere if needed.
Coverdale again casts himself in the role of rescuer. He creeps around Zenobia's walk and says it's because then he'll be nearby if she needs help, but this position will also allow him to hear their conversation (if they have one) and hopefully figure out how they’re connected.