During the period of hectic preparation for the conference, Lord Darlington gave Stevens a bizarre extra task: he asked him to tell Sir David Cardinal's son, Mr. Reginald Cardinal, who was twenty-three at the time and engaged to be married, "the facts of life." Stevens makes two failed attempts to inform Reginald Cardinal about sex, but due to the generally hectic state of the household, and the early arrival of Monsieur Dupont, Stevens never accomplishes his task.

Some of the guests present at the conference include Sir David Cardinal, Monsieur Dupont, an American named Mr. Lewis, and two German countesses. Before the arrival of M. Dupont, Lord Darlington and Mr. Lewis engage in a discussion in which Lord Darlington explains that the English find the present unforgiving French attitude towards the Germans "despicable." M. Dupont is a very important figure at the conference, as Lord Darlington was especially keen on convincing him that the Treaty of Versailles should be made more lenient.

During the first morning of the conference, Stevens's father falls ill. Dr. Meredith instructs Stevens to call him immediately if his father deteriorates at all. That night, Stevens overhears a discussion between M. Dupont and Mr. Lewis, in which Mr. Lewis tells Mr. Dupont that Lord Darlington called the French "despicable" and "barbarous." The next day, the discussions among the guests are heated and intense. Stevens keeps making trips upstairs to see his father throughout the day, but his father is usually asleep. However, when Stevens goes upstairs the next evening, a chambermaid wakes up Stevens's father. The elder Stevens asks his son if everything is in hand downstairs, and then says that he is proud of him, telling him that he has been "a good son." Stevens only replies that they can talk in the morning, and that he is "glad Father is feeling better."

At dinner that night, the last night of the conference, M. Dupont stands up and makes a speech. He says he has been impressed with the views presented and will do what he can to further less vindictive opinions in France before the upcoming conference in Switzerland. M. Dupont makes disparaging remarks about Mr. Lewis, revealing that the American made nasty remarks about everyone present, and closes by toasting Lord Darlington.

Mr. Lewis stands up in rebuttal, declaring that each dignitary present is a "naïve dreamer" who has no idea how to make official decisions. He ends by toasting "professionalism" and dismissing Lord Darlington as an "amateur." Lord Darlington responds by saying that what Lewis deems amateurism is what most people call honor. Darlington says that if deceit and cheating lie at the base of professionalism, he has no desire to acquire such a quality. The dignitaries thoroughly applaud this speech.

Miss Kenton suddenly comes in to tell Stevens that his father has become very ill. He goes up to see his father, and Mrs. Mortimer, the cook, says that his father's pulse has gone very weak. Stevens is distressed, but goes downstairs to ensure that everything is taken care with the guests. Stevens goes into the smoking room, and Mr. Reginald Cardinal and Lord Darlington both ask him if anything is wrong, concerned that he appears to be crying. Stevens apologizes and says it is merely the strain of a hard day.