The following week, Faraday does not see Caroline because he is busy with his patients. He is grateful for the gap because he doesn’t want to see Caroline again until he sorts out his feelings. Eventually, Faraday decides that he will put the rumors to rest and make his feelings clear whenever anyone asks. In the meantime, he avoids Hundreds.
This is another stretch in the novel where Faraday stays away from Hundreds for some time. However, at this point, it is worth noting that—usually—Faraday spends a lot of time at Hundreds and not with his patients. This again raises the question: has Faraday been neglecting his patients for the chance to spend more time with the Ayerses and Hundreds Hall?
A week after the dance, Faraday visits Hundreds and finds Caroline and Mrs. Ayers in the garden. Faraday helps them with the gardening, while trying to catch Caroline’s gaze. However, Caroline avoids Faraday’s eyes and focuses on gardening. Although Mrs. Ayers tries to tell Faraday about some of her plants, he barely hears her because he cannot stop thinking about Caroline. As he moves around the house, he recalls the kiss he and Caroline shared a week before.
Caroline’s behavior suggests that Faraday’s presence is uncomfortable for her. However, it does not imply that she dislikes him. Instead, it looks like, similar to Faraday, she does not know what she wants. At the very least, Caroline does not feel comfortable discussing the matter anywhere near her mother, who could likely figure out what was being said.
Finally, Faraday gets a moment alone with Caroline, but before he can say anything, Mrs. Ayers calls him over to look at something. After, all three of them go inside and sit by the fire. Mrs. Ayers begins talking about poetry and discussing her childhood. However, Faraday barely hears her because he is too focused on Caroline. Throughout the visit, Faraday does his best to get some time alone with Caroline, but all of his suggestions fail.
At this point, Mrs. Ayers is completely clueless about Faraday’s intentions, which is why she has no problem interrupting his moment alone with Caroline. As the evening progresses, Faraday’s obsession with getting Caroline alone, to the point of ignoring Mrs. Ayers, becomes a little disturbing.
Faraday falls quiet, realizing that he won’t get a moment alone with Caroline. Mrs. Ayers notices his silence and asks him what is wrong. Faraday makes up an excuse and then gets up to leave. Faraday and Caroline share a brief intimate moment as Caroline helps him with his coat. Mrs. Ayers notices how they speak to one another and tries to dismiss herself. However, Caroline stops her and leaves before Mrs. Ayres can remove herself.
At this point, Mrs. Ayers figures out that something is going on between Faraday and Caroline. Mrs. Ayers has tried and failed to find Caroline a suitor, and likely thinks Faraday is the best she can do at this point. As such, she does her best to leave them alone. However, Caroline tries to get her mother to stay, again implying that she is not comfortable with the situation.
Faraday is left alone with Mrs. Ayres, who asks him if there is something between himself and Caroline. Faraday tells Mrs. Ayres that he does not know, and she would do better to speak to Caroline about the matter. When he looks closer, Faraday notices Mrs. Ayres is crying. He asks her what is wrong, and she makes him promise that he and Caroline won't abandon her. Faraday promises that will never happen.
Mrs. Ayers’s tears suggests that she believes Faraday will want to sell Hundreds or leave it behind once he marries Caroline. However, Faraday’s response implies that he plans to keep Hundreds, although how he could afford to do so is unclear. Notably, this is the second time Faraday dismisses the notion of selling Hundreds as outlandish.
Faraday takes his leave and heads to his car. On his way outside, he runs into Caroline. He tells Caroline to check on Mrs. Ayres because she seems to think they want to elope. Then, he looks at Caroline and questions whether there is any truth in the matter. Caroline says that there is not because they are too sensible to do something like that. Faraday gets the feeling that Caroline wants him to move closer, and although he thinks about it, he decides against it. Disappointed with himself, Faraday leaves, still confused about where matters stand.
Here, Caroline and Faraday’s relationship remains in an ambivalent state. Neither knows how to move forward, nor do they understand the extent and source of their desire for each other. Readers should note this uncertainty, as it suggests that Faraday’s motives, in particular, might not be strictly romantic.
Faraday runs into Caroline and Mrs. Ayers in town a few days later. However, everyone acts as though nothing out of the ordinary has occurred; it is as if his last visit never happened. In the coming weeks, Faraday grows busy, and he does not go out to Hundreds for some time. However, he hears whispers that Caroline and Mrs. Ayers miss him. In the meantime, Caroline and Mrs. Ayers occupy themselves by visiting their other friends and caring for Hundreds.
At this point, Faraday has run out of excuses to go to Hundreds. Unless someone invites him, he has no reason or right to go there. Meanwhile, Caroline and Mrs. Ayers take some social calls, during which time they presumably try to explain away Roderick’s absence. Additionally, Caroline takes the time to think about her relationship with Faraday and how to move forward.
One day, while tending to some water damage in the house, Betty and Mrs. Bazeley find strange marks beside the window where Gyp bit Gillian. They point them out to Caroline. The markings look like bunched-up groups of the letter “s.” Betty and Mrs. Bazeley try to remove the marks but cannot. Everyone is confused because they have never seen the marks before and are sure that they were not there before the Ayerses’ party. Caroline posits that Gillian must have made the marks. However, Mrs. Bazeley is skeptical. She says the marks look like they've come up from under the paint.
Although they are different from the scorch marks found in Roderick’s room, the “s” marks share a similarity with them. Most importantly, like the scorch marks, no one knows how the “s’s” got there or how long they have been there. Additionally, like the scorch marks, the “s” marks appear to come from within the paint, instead of sitting on top of it.
A few days later, Caroline is walking through Hundreds when she hears a tapping sound on the ceiling. She looks around in search of a leak but cannot find anything. As she searches, she hears the same sound in the next room, more aggressive this time. This pattern repeats several times, and Caroline moves from room to room in search of it. Eventually, she recruits Mrs. Ayers to help her find the source of the sound, but neither one can figure it out. Caroline finds the sound strange, but not frightening.
Similar to what happened earlier in the novel, this chapter becomes a string of strange occurrences at Hundreds, all of which defy rational explanations. However, unlike Roderick’s incidents, these occurrences are playful in nature; no one gets harmed, and no one is scared. However, they are bizarre, nonetheless.
Eventually, Caroline follows the sound to a cabinet. She moves the cabinet and places her hand on the wall. Moments later, she feels a slight tapping on her hand, which she says resembles a little hand. However, she chalks the whole incident up to rats (or some other pest) in the walls. Caroline orders Betty to help her move the cabinet away from the wall. When she does, she sees more childish scribbles on the wall. This time, there are more “s’s”, some of which are accompanied by “u’s.”
The little hand Caroline feels in the wall is reminiscent of the book’s title: The Little Stranger. If the thing in the wall is the little stranger, then it appears childlike and innocent, at least for the moment. Additionally, it is implied that the entity in the wall is the same one that is making the marks around the house, although the Ayerses have yet to put that together.
The markings do not bother Caroline initially, but Mrs. Ayers seems deeply disturbed. Mrs. Ayers tells Betty to cover the marks and not mention them again. Mrs. Ayers's reaction worries Caroline, and she does her best not to mention the scribbles.
Mrs. Ayers’s response to the markings is similar to Roderick’s earlier in the novel. There is a sense that she knows something and is not sharing it.
A few nights later, Mrs. Ayers wakes up in the middle of the night, sensing that someone has called for her. She listens carefully and hears a fluttering sound. After some time, she decides a bird must have gotten stuck in the chimney. Annoyed, Mrs. Ayers gets up and looks at the chimney only to find it empty and rusted shut. Confused, Mrs. Ayers goes back to bed.
Again, Mrs. Ayers’s behavior mirrors Roderick’s from earlier in the novel. Like Roderick, she wakes up in the middle of the night because of inexplicable noises.
A few nights later, the same sound wakes up Mrs. Ayers. She calls for Betty and orders her to stand by while she investigates the source of the disruption. However, once again, the investigation is a failure. The next day, Mrs. Ayers and Caroline look at the chimney to figure out what is happening. However, they find nothing. To make Mrs. Ayers feel better, Caroline tells her that she saw a bird’s nest near the chimney, which could explain the sound. This information helps Mrs. Ayers relax.
Mrs. Ayers attempts to use Betty to act as a second source of eyes and ears to confirm her suspicions but is unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Caroline manages to calm her mother’s nerves, even though her explanation is an unlikely one.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Ayers’s peace does not last long. Later the same day, Caroline hears her mother shriek while in the dressing room. Caroline asks her mother what is wrong, but Mrs. Ayers does not say. Caroline goes to investigate herself, and she finds more scribbles on the wall. After examining them for a moment, Caroline realizes what has made Mrs. Ayers so upset. It looks like the marks are attempting to spell “Susan,” and Mrs. Ayers’s deceased daughter likely drew them.
Here, the source of Mrs. Ayers’s discomfort earlier in the chapter is revealed. Mrs. Ayers thinks that the childlike scribbles and noises she has heard belong to Susan. Similarly, the cry that awoke Mrs. Ayers in the night is not unlike the cry of a child who wants her mother.
Caroline returns to her mother and tries to comfort her. Mrs. Ayers reveals that she assumed the marks had come from Susan all along. Caroline asks whether there is anything she can do to help Mrs. Ayers. However, Mrs. Ayers insists that all she needs is rest. Caroline does her best to make her mother comfortable and then goes downstairs.
Again, Mrs. Ayers’s behavior mirrors Roderick’s. Like Roderick, she dismisses the help of others and asks that she be left to rest. However, it is important to recall that when Roderick rested in solitude, bad things started to happen. At this point, Caroline does not think of or worry about this connection.
While all these strange occurrences are happening, Faraday is presenting his paper on electrical therapy at a conference in London. Faraday's presentation is a great success, and he is surprised when a famous doctor pulls him aside and encourages him to move to London. Faraday wonders whether he could ever leave his current practice. After the conference ends, Faraday returns home and sees his usual patients.
Again, Faraday demonstrates that he is a better doctor than he gives himself credit for. However, when it is suggested to him, he does not seem eager to move to London and advance his career. Once again, it seems Faraday does not fully know what he desires.
Several days after Faraday's return, Caroline calls him and asks him to come out to Hundreds. She tells Faraday she wants his opinion on a few matters, though she does not elaborate over the phone. Curious and concerned, Faraday drives out to Hundreds immediately. Faraday finds Caroline working, and he asks her what is wrong. Caroline tells him there is nothing seriously wrong and he did not need to drive out so quickly. Ignoring Caroline's comment, Faraday continues to press her about what is going on.
Faraday receives a number of vague and concerning calls from Hundreds over the course of the novel, each of which fill him with worry. Meanwhile, Caroline’s response to his speedy arrival appears disingenuous; in reality, she is scared and appreciates that Faraday came to her so quickly.
Eventually, Caroline relates the events of the past few weeks. Although she knows that each incident could have a reasonable explanation, she cannot help but feel that something is off in the house. Unsurprisingly, Faraday looks for a rational explanation in everything. He says that the marks surely came from Susan and the sounds in the wall came from animals, just as Caroline thought. Additionally, he suggests that the bird supposedly stuck in the chimney may have just been in Mrs. Ayres's imagination. Caroline acknowledges that all of Faraday's suggestions make sense, but still, she cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong with the house.
Once again, it sounds like Caroline is considering a supernatural explanation for what is going on at Hundreds, which Faraday will not accept. Without witnessing any of the strange events himself, Faraday finds a rational explanation for all of them. Although Caroline knows each incident could have a rational explanation, the number of them is too high to write off so quickly.
Faraday goes upstairs to check on Mrs. Ayers, worried about what he will find. However, when he gets upstairs, he sees Mrs. Ayers in a good mood. Mrs. Ayers is watching as Betty tries on some of her old dresses. This activity brings Mrs. Ayers joy, and she greets Faraday calmly when he enters the room. Faraday asks Mrs. Ayers how she feels, and she explains that she is all right now. For a few days, the marks bothered her because they brought up old, painful memories. However, now she is doing much better.
On the face of things, Mrs. Ayers looks like she is doing much better than Roderick was when he experienced similar incidents (or, as Faraday would say, “symptoms”). However, a closer look at the scene suggests Mrs. Ayers is not as well as she pretends to be. Mrs. Ayers seems to be treating Betty as if she is Susan. Even if this is not the case, Mrs. Ayers is acting like she is stuck in the past with no way to move forward.
Faraday returns downstairs and tells Caroline that Mrs. Ayers is doing just fine. Still, Caroline is not convinced. She says that her mother looks okay on the surface, but she is living as though she is in the past. When she talks to her mother, Caroline finds that Mrs. Ayers is never present.
Here, Caroline demonstrates that she can be just as perceptive as Faraday, even if their methods differ. Faraday completely glosses over the reality of Mrs. Ayers’s condition, even though the truth is crystal clear to Caroline.
Then, Caroline switches the subject. She inquires about Faraday's trip to London and asks how his conference went. Faraday tells her that the trip went well and that he is considering working in London. This news surprises Caroline, and she asks Faraday if he has been avoiding her because he didn't want to tell her this information. Faraday promises Caroline that London has nothing to do with why he has not seen her.
As it turns out, perhaps Faraday is more interested in working in London than he previously let on. Or, at the very least, Caroline thinks this is the case, which will be important for the final third of the novel.
Faraday reveals that he has not been out to Hundreds because he feels anxious about his relationship with Caroline. Then, suddenly, he pulls Caroline close to him and tries to kiss her. Caroline moves away in an attempt to dodge him. Faraday tries to apologize for his behavior, but Caroline tells him there is no need. The two of them discuss their feelings for one another and realize that they both want to be together. However, while Faraday is completely excited, he senses some reluctance in Caroline. Nonetheless, he expresses his desire to marry her.
This romantic scene is awkward, where one party is clearly much more interested in the other. All of sudden, Faraday appears to know what he wants. Meanwhile, Caroline is still unsure. Although the next chapter starts with the two of them engaged, notably Waters omits Caroline’s acceptance of the marriage proposal.