The next morning, Stevens wakes up early and thinks again about Miss Kenton's letter. Though her married name is Mrs. Benn, Stevens continues to refer to her as Miss Kenton. She has recently moved out of Mr. Benn's house in Helston and is staying with a friend in a nearby town. Stevens believes she feels lonely, and he thinks the seeming nostalgia she expresses in her letter might indicate she might like to return to Darlington Hall as housekeeper. Stevens quotes several passages from the letter, some of which are very sad. One particular incident Miss Kenton mentions in her letter leads Stevens into a long reminiscence about the past.

Miss Kenton and Stevens's father both came to work at Darlington Hall at the same time, in the spring of 1922, because the former under-butler and housekeeper of Darlington Hall had just eloped. Stevens thinks that such abandonment of a professional post for marriage is irritating and thoroughly unprofessional. He quickly adds that though Miss Kenton did likewise leave to get married, she in no way falls into this irritating category, as she was always extremely professional and worked at Darlington Hall for many years.

Miss Kenton and Stevens's father both arrived with excellent employment histories to recommend them. However, Stevens's father was already in his seventies, and he suffered from arthritis and other ailments. Over the first few weeks of their employment, Miss Kenton points out several errors that Stevens's father has committed: he has reversed two statues in the hall, and has left traces of polish on the silver. Finally, Miss Kenton tells Stevens directly that his father has perhaps been entrusted with more responsibility than a man of his age can handle. Stevens tells Miss Kenton she is being foolish.

Two months later, Stevens's father falls down some steps on the lawn while carrying a tray to Lord Darlington and two guests. Dr. Meredith suggests that Stevens's father had been overworked. After this incident, Lord Darlington asks Stevens to reduce his father's workload. Stevens goes to speak to his father, a conversation that is awkwardly formal because the men have spoken less and less over the past few years. Stevens's father does not show any emotion, and says only that he fell because the steps on the lawn are crooked. That evening, Miss Kenton and Stevens, looking out the window of the house, see Stevens's father outside on the lawn, walking up and down the steps upon which he fell. His eyes are trained on the ground, "as though," Miss Kenton recalls in her letter, "he hoped to find some precious jewel he had dropped there."

Stevens moves to a discussion of an international conference held at Darlington Hall in March 1923. Lord Darlington was a close friend of Herr Karl-Heinz Bremann, a distinguished German soldier who fought in the Great War (World War I). Lord Darlington was disturbed by the fact that the Treaty of Versailles sent the economy of postwar Germany spiraling into ruin—he said it did England "great discredit to treat a defeated foe like this."

A while later, Herr Bremann shot himself, most likely due to the dire conditions in Germany. This tragedy prompted Lord Darlington to try to act. He assembled leaders of a wide variety of nationalities and professions—diplomats, clergymen, writers and thinkers—to think of ways to revise the Treaty of Versailles to alleviate the situation in Germany. Though none of the dignitaries present were government officials, they were prominent figures in their respective countries, and Darlington hoped that they would influence people who held official offices before Prime Minister Lloyd George and the heads of other European nations reviewed the treaty again in Switzerland later that year.