A stranger arrives in Bramblehurst railway station. He is bundled from head to foot with only the tip of his nose showing. He enters the Coach & Horses Inn and demands a room and a fire. Mrs. Hall, the owner prepares a supper for him and offers to take his coat and hat, but he refuses to take them off. When he finally removes the hat, his entire head is swathed in a bandage. Mrs. Hall thinks he has endured some accident. She tries to get him to talk about himself, but he is taciturn with her, although not particularly rude.
The stranger’s luggage arrives at the inn. Numerous crates fill the deliveryman’s cart, some of them containing bottles packaged in straw. Fearenside, the cartman, owns a dog that starts to growl when the stranger comes down the steps to help with the boxes. The dog jumps for the stranger’s hand, but misses and sinks his teeth in a pant leg. The dog tears open the trouser leg, whereupon the stranger goes quickly back into the inn and to his room.
Concerned about the possibility of injury, Mr. Hall goes to the stranger’s room. He gets a glimpse of what seems like a white mottled face before he is shoved by an unseen force back through the door. The stranger soon reappears at the door, his trousers changed, and gives orders for the rest of his luggage. The stranger unpacks 6 crates of bottles, which he arranges across the windowsill and all the available table and shelf space in the inn’s parlor-a space he seems to have commandeered for himself.
Mrs. Hall enters later to tend to his needs and catches a quick glimpse of him without his glasses. His eyes seem hollow; he quickly puts his glasses on. She starts to complain about the straw on the floor, but he tells her to put it on the bill and to knock before entering his rooms. She points out that he could lock his door if he doesn’t want to be bothered, advice that he takes. He then works behind the locked door all afternoon. At one point, Mrs. Hall hears him raving about not being able to “go on.” She hears a sound like a bottle being broken. Later she takes him tea and notes the broken glass and a stain on the floor. He again tells her to “put it on the bill.”
Meanwhile Fearenside talks in the beer shop of Iping Hangar. Fearenside says that the stranger is a “black man,” an assumption derived from the absence of “pink flesh” when the trouser leg was ripped open. When reminded of the pink nose, Fearenside claims that the man must therefore be a “piebald,” or a part white, part black creature.
Notes - Fearenside is more observant than even he realizes. Of course, Griffin knows that a close look at his torn pant leg will reveal a “missing” leg, but he also needs to get away from the dog until they can get the animal under control. Subtle differences among characters of the town are beginning to be revealed. Mrs. Hall notices a “hollow” look to the guest’s eyes, an appearance masked by the dark glasses he usually wears. His frustration is over the failure of his experiments; she notes the mess he makes but cleans up after him with minimal complaint when he gives her extra money. Fearenside, on the other hand, liberally discusses the “discoveries” he has made as a result of the brief encounter. Fearenside refers to horses as an example of the “patchy” color that can happen when black and white are mixed.
The stranger works diligently in his room until the end of April with only occasional skirmishes with Mrs. Hall. Whenever she disapproves of anything he does, he quiets her with additional payment. He rarely goes out during the day, but goes out nearly every night, muffled up regardless of the weather.
His identity becomes a topic of speculation in the town. Mrs. Hall defends him, repeating his own words that he is an “experimental investigator.” The view of the town is that he is a criminal trying to escape justice. Mr. Gould, the probationary assistant imagines that the man must be an “anarchist” who is preparing explosives.
Another group of people believe he is a piebald and could make a lot of money if he chose to show himself at the fairs. All agree, however, that due to his habits of secrecy, they dislike him. The young men begin to mock his bearing; a song called “Bogey Man” becomes popular and children follow at a distance calling out “Bogey Man.”
The curiosity of a general practitioner named Cuss is aroused, and he contrives for an interview. During the interview the stranger accidentally removes his hand from his pocket. Cuss is able to see down the empty sleeve to the elbow. Cuss questions him about “moving an empty sleeve.” The stranger laughs, then extends the empty sleeve toward Cuss’s face and pinches his nose. Cuss leaves in terror and tells his story to Bunting, the vicar.
Notes - In spite of Hall’s defense, Griffin will be the cause of his own destruction. Perhaps it is the frustration of always having to guard his secret that causes him to act offensively when challenged, but in any case, he could have handled the situation differently. The deliberate pinching of Cuss’s nose is not only an unnecessary affront, but is also a mark of Griffin’s immaturity. Bringing pain upon others for the sake of his own amusement, however, will soon deteriorate to performing criminal acts. In fact, although Bunting is about to become Griffin’s new victim, Griffin has already been foraging at night for places that he could rob in order to maintain his materials and keep up with his rent.
This chapter nudges the plot forward a bit by bringing in Bunting the vicar. The actions which will follow begin to bring the town together in an awareness of a stranger in their midst.