The day begins normally enough, though Arthur, despite his cushy night at the inn, has barely slept. The phone call from Mr. Bentley makes him feel as if he has to return to Eel Marsh House and must push away whatever doubt or dread had poked through in the night.
Arthur is determined to conquer Eel Marsh House, and as soon as he returns he sets to making it a more hospitable environment. He is doing so partly to stave off the creeping dread and sense of horror the house engenders within him, to convince himself that he can assert control over his narrative rather than fall victim again to fear.
Arthur is brave (or foolish) enough to return to the burial ground—the place where he last encountered the horrifying woman in black. He is toying with fate, and tempting trouble in doing so, adding to the slow build of dread and horror despite the seemingly uneventful day Arthur is having so far.
Everything at Eel Marsh House is—at least for the afternoon—more or less normal. Arthur even feels optimistic about the work, and tells himself that he will not have to stay at Eel Marsh much longer and will in fact be able to complete the task he set out to do.
Just as Arthur tried to convince himself that the woman in black was not an apparition, he now tries to convince himself that because he has not seen or heard anything strange at the house all day that the terrors are over. All of this is quickly dashed in the middle of the night, when Spider—her heightened animal senses engaged—detects something dangerous somewhere in the house.
Hill builds a sense of visceral, spine-chilling horror here through Arthur, who is narrating his memories from a time in the future—a time when he has just listened to his own step-children’s hair-raising ghost stories. The metatextual work happening in this passage as Arthur revisits one of the most terrifying moments of his life makes this moment’s creeping Gothic dread stand out.