page 1 of 2
Stevens next writes from a seaside town in Weymouth, where he goes after he visits Miss Kenton. He is sitting on a pier watching all of the colored lights come on in the evening. He arrived at Weymouth the afternoon of the day before, and has stayed another day so that he might spend a little leisure time away from driving.
Miss Kenton actually surprises Stevens by coming to meet him at the hotel where he was staying in Little Compton. She has aged, but very gracefully, and he is extremely pleased to see her again. It strikes Stevens that Miss Kenton seems to have lost the spark that used to make her so lively; when her face is in repose, he thinks that its expression is sad.
Stevens and Miss Kenton fill each other in on their lives over the last twenty years. Although Stevens had thought that Miss Kenton's letter indicated that she had left her husband, she tells him she is in fact moving back in with her husband. Miss Kenton urges Stevens, on his return trip, to visit her daughter Catherine, who is expecting a child in the fall. Stevens tells Miss Kenton what Darlington Hall is like now with the reduced staff and Mr. Farraday as the employer. Stevens tells Miss Kenton the sad news that Reginald Cardinal was killed in World War II, in Belgium. Miss Kenton inquires about the unsuccessful libel action that Lord Darlington took against a newspaper that made claims that he was a Nazi sympathizer and a traitor to England. Stevens says that Lord Darlington lost the libel suit, and after his good name was ruined, he practically became an invalid.
The meeting goes on for two hours before Miss Kenton says she must return home. Stevens drives her to a bus stop a little way outside the village. While they are waiting at the bus station, Stevens asks Miss Kenton a question that he says has been troubling him for some time: he asks if she is being mistreated in some way, as her letters often seem unhappy. Miss Kenton says that her husband does not mistreat her in any way at all. Stevens says he does not understand why, then, she is unhappy. She tells him that for a long time, she did not love her husband, but that after having a daughter and going through the war together, she has grown to love him. However, there are times when she thinks she has made a great mistake with her life. She even says, "For instance, I get to thinking about a life I may have had with you, Mr. Stevens." But then she says that it is of no use to dwell on what might have been.
For the first time in the novel, Stevens appears to realize how much he loves Miss Kenton. Upon hearing her words about the possibility of a life they might have had together, he says that his "heart is breaking." He does not speak for a moment, but when he does, he only says that Miss Kenton is right: one cannot dwell on the past. He says that she must do all she can to ensure many happy years ahead with her husband and her grandchildren. Then the bus comes, and Miss Kenton leaves. Stevens sees that her eyes have filled with tears.
A man comes up and sits next to Stevens on the bench on the pier, and begins talking to him. During the conversation, the man reveals that he was once a butler at a small house. Stevens says that he is the head butler at Darlington Hall, and the man is very impressed. Stevens tells the man about how Darlington Hall was in the old days. Then Stevens tells the man he gave what he had to give to Lord Darlington; even though he is trying hard to please his new employer, he feels that he is making more and more errors. The man next to him offers Stevens a handkerchief—our only clue that Stevens is crying.
Take a Study Break!