Faraday considers the following few weeks as his courtship period with Caroline, although they are not particularly romantic. Faraday spends all of his time thinking about Caroline and is annoyed that she does not want to move as quickly as he does. Whenever Faraday tries to pull Caroline close and kiss her, she recoils. Furthermore, she repeatedly puts off telling Mrs. Ayres that she plans to marry Faraday.
All of Caroline’s actions suggest that she is not as interested in marrying Faraday as he is in marrying her. It makes one wonder whether Caroline formally accepted Faraday’s marriage proposal at all, even though he seems to think she did. It’s also noteworthy that Faraday suddenly seems to want to move so quickly.
Several weeks after Faraday’s return from London, more strange incidents occur at Hundreds. In the middle of the night, Caroline wakes up to a ringing telephone, only to find that there is no one on the other end. She asks Faraday if the call came from him, and Faradays says it did not. The following night, the phone rings again. However, again, no one is there.
Again, another pattern of strange occurrences at Hundreds Hall begins. As usual, Caroline searches for a rational explanation but cannot find one. However, there’s a sense that all these mysterious events might be building to a climax.
Although no one answers the phone, Caroline says that it sounds like someone is on the other end, listening. She wonders whether Roderick could be trying to contact her from his mental institution. Faraday assures her that Roderick does not have access to a phone. To appease her, Faraday calls up the institution to double-check. As he assumed, Roderick has not placed any calls to Hundreds. Faraday also tells Caroline to call the phone operator to ask if anyone placed a call. Thinking it a good idea, Caroline rings up the operator and asks her if anyone called Hundreds recently. The operator says that no one has called for a few weeks.
Again, all of Caroline and Faraday’s attempts at rationalizing away the situation fail. By the end of the section, only a few options remain. It could be that there is a rational explanation that Faraday and Caroline have not thought of yet. Or Caroline could be imagining the phone. However, the explanation that always hangs in the background is the supernatural one, which Faraday still refuses to take seriously.
The next day, new problems occur. The bells the Ayerses use to summon their servants start going off at all hours of the day, even though no one touches them. For a while, they create a great deal of confusion for Betty and Mrs. Bazeley, who think the Ayerses are messing with them. Eventually, they realize the house is playing more tricks on them and try to identify the source of the problem. Caroline and Faraday examine the wiring for a problem but cannot find one. Ultimately, Caroline decides to cut the call box’s wires, so it is not an issue.
Here, there are more strange incidents without reasonable explanations. Everyone involved is at a loss, including Faraday. Nevertheless, Faraday still does not take the supernatural explanation seriously. Similarly, Caroline knows how he feels about it and does not bring it up to him.
When the bells are no longer a problem, yet another issue starts to occur. One of the speaking tubes in the nursery starts making a shrill whistling sound, seemingly for no reason. When Mrs. Bazeley picks up the corresponding earpiece, she swears she hears breathing, although there is no one willing to answer her on the other end.
The mention of the nursery calls Susan to mind for those looking for a supernatural explanation. Similarly, the breathing Mrs. Bazeley hears suggests there is some sort of entity on the other end that is responsible for all of these bizarre incidents.
Faraday takes a look at the speaking tube in an attempt to figure out the problem. Because he cannot find anything wrong, he listens to the earpiece, hearing nothing. For a moment, he wonders if he will hear his mother’s voice on the other end because she once worked in the nursery. However, he quickly dismisses the notion as ridiculous and sets the earpiece back down. In an attempt to silence the speaking tube for good, Faraday places a cork in it.
This section is an interesting moment for Faraday’s character because he has an irrational thought (that he might hear his late mother’s voice) that he knowingly allows to dictate his behavior. However, the moment is brief and Faraday refuses to let irrationality get in the way of his otherwise rational investigation.
Unfortunately, Faraday’s solution does not last long. A few days later, while Betty and Mrs. Bazeley are working in the kitchen, they watch the speaking tube uncork itself. They run out of the kitchen, terrified, and report what they saw to Mrs. Ayers. This is the first Mrs. Ayers hears about the speaking tube because Faraday and Caroline try not to tell her about odd occurrences in the house if they do not have to. Curious and concerned, Mrs. Ayers decides to go up and look at the nursery herself.
This is the only instance in the novel where two characters witness the same bizarre event and back up each other’s testimony. Meanwhile, if the nursery noises do have something to do with Susan, Mrs. Ayers’s involvement with the situation seems likely to lead to trouble.
In the nursery, Mrs. Ayers picks up the speaking tube and listens to it but does not hear anything. Then, she walks over to the part of the room where Susan died. After a moment, Mrs. Ayers realizes that she made a mistake by coming up to the nursery alone; the trip has only made her feel worse. Mrs. Ayers turns to leave when suddenly, a cold blast of air rushes by her and slams the nursery door shut. Scared, Mrs. Ayers attempts to reopen the door, but finds she cannot.
Here, the novel explicitly links the nursery to Susan, which, again, does not bode well for Mrs. Ayers. As with Roderick and his mirror, there is no rational explanation of the events. If one is to take Faraday’s approach, then the only way to interpret Mrs. Ayers’s experience is as a nervous breakdown. Otherwise, one ventures into the realm of the irrational, where Faraday refuses to go.
Mrs. Ayers starts yelling for help, but no one comes. After some time, she thinks she hears footsteps in the hallway, which she assumes belong to Betty, but still, no one arrives to help her. Mrs. Ayers looks through the door’s keyhole and sees what looks like a childlike figure running up and down the hall. However, she never gets a good look at it.
The childlike figure sounds like “the little stranger” of the novel’s title. Additionally, that stranger seems like it is Susan’s ghost, although Mrs. Ayers never gets a good enough look to confirm her suspicion.
Terrified, Mrs. Ayers moves away from the door. Moments later, the speaking tube lets out a sharp whistle, which only adds to Mrs. Ayers’s fear. She picks up the earpiece, thinking, perhaps, that one of the servants is attempting to contact her. However, all she hears is heavy breathing, which reminds her of Susan’s breath in the days leading up to her death.
Events turn more bizarre and become even harder to find a rational explanation for. If it is Susan who is haunting Mrs. Ayers, then she is not happy. Unlike what Caroline felt in the wall, this presence seems angry and upset.
Mrs. Ayers’s horror reaches a fever pitch when she looks outside and sees Mrs. Bazeley and Betty with Caroline. At this point, she realizes the breathing must be coming from someone else and she quickly throws down the earpiece. In a panic, Mrs. Ayers starts banging on the windowpanes in the nursery, eventually shattering the glass. The noise gets Caroline’s attention, and everyone runs upstairs to help Mrs. Ayers.
Although the entire sequence is strange, Mrs. Ayers’s fear reaches a fever pitch when she realizes that she cannot find a rational explanation for what is going on. After exhausting all other options, she screams in terror because she thinks the presence in her home is Susan’s ghost. Readers should note that these events aren’t being told from Faraday’s perspective.
However, by the time Caroline, Betty, and Mrs. Bazeley make their way to the nursery, nothing seems out of place. The only thing amiss is Mrs. Ayers herself and the window she smashed. The sight of her mother frightens Caroline, as she is bleeding profusely from breaking the glass. Caroline calls Faraday and asks him to come over as quick as he can. Faraday arrives soon afterward and tends to Mrs. Ayers. Faraday worries she is going down the same path as Roderick.
The sight of Mrs. Ayers in the nursery is not unlike that of Roderick in the fire. In both cases, nothing looks out of place other than what the respective person has done to themselves and their surroundings. Of course, Faraday notices these similarities, and knows what they could suggest about Mrs. Ayers’s sanity down the line.
After tending to Mrs. Ayers, Faraday and Caroline talk about the incident. Caroline insists that there is some sort of presence in the household that wants to hurt her family, much to Faraday’s dismay. As usual, Faraday assures Caroline there is a rational explanation for everything that has occurred. Additionally, he suggests that they marry soon to give Mrs. Ayers something to look forward to. Faraday believes that with his help, they can start making Hundreds feel like the home it once was.
Although Faraday wants to advance his relationship with Caroline, she still does not reciprocate. Instead, she is still too concerned about her mother, and she does not accept the explanations Faraday puts forth about what is happening at Hundreds. Indeed, Faraday’s eagerness to marry seems like an attempt to distract Caroline from what’s happening.