A stranger (Griffin) arrives at Bramblehurst station on a snowy February day. He is completely wrapped up in clothing, so only the tip of his nose can be seen. He arrives at the Coach and Horses Inn and begs for a room and a fire. Mrs. Hall takes him to a room and lights a fire. She is thrilled that he is there, as it is very rare for visitors to come to Iping during winter. She leaves the room to get plates and glasses and when she returns is surprised to see Griffin still wearing all his clothes, despite the fact that the fire is now roaring.
Beginning a story with the arrival of a strange person in extreme weather conditions is a typical trope of gothic novels. It creates a sense of eerieness, which is further emphasized by Griffin’s unusual, suspicious appearance. While Mrs. Hall is perhaps not wise to trust someone whose face she hasn’t even seen, she does so because she needs the money.
Mrs. Hall asks to take Griffin’s hat and coat, but he refuses. She is surprised to see that he is also wearing large blue glasses. She leaves and returns again, announcing that his lunch is served, and sees that he is still standing in the same position with all his clothes on. Mrs. Hall leaves and finds that her assistant, Millie, is still mixing the mustard for Griffin’s lunch. She scolds her and, when the mustard is ready, takes it back into his room. She sees that Griffin has now taken off his boots, and she takes them to be dried.
Griffin’s behavior is odd, but Mrs. Hall does not devote much time to worrying about what is wrong with him. Instead, she focuses on providing the best service for Griffin that she can. In this sense, Mrs. Hall is shown to be a pragmatic, professional woman.
Griffin rudely tells Mrs. Hall to leave his hat, and she is shocked to see him holding a napkin over the lower part of his face. The rest of his head above his glasses is wrapped in bandages. His black hair shoots out in different directions, which gives him “the strangest appearance conceivable.” Mrs. Hall stammers an apology, promises that she will dry the boots, and leaves. She concludes that he must have been disfigured in an accident. When she returns to collect his dishes, Griffin is in a better mood. He tells her he left some luggage at Bramblehurst station, and is disappointed to hear that he won’t be able to get it back before tomorrow.
Mrs. Hall reacts to Griffin’s bizarre appearance with a rationalization. She chooses a plausible explanation—that Griffin was disfigured in an accident—and in doing so assuages any fears she might have about his odd appearance. Depending on one’s point of view, this could be a prudent choice or a foolish one.
Making conversation, Mrs. Hall tells Griffin about a time when her brother injured himself with a scythe, and Griffin laughs coldly. He then interrupts the conversation with a request for matches, which Mrs. Hall finds rude. However, she remembers the money she will get from him and brushes it off. After Mrs. Hall leaves, she hears what sounds like Griffin talking to himself and pacing around the room.
Throughout the first part of the book, Mrs. Hall reassures herself about Griffin’s rudeness by remembering the money she will gain from his visit. This could be viewed as evidence of her greediness; at the same time, as a small business owner, prioritizing profit is perhaps just necessary for survival.