Stevens claims that he was reading the book to "maintain and develop his command of the English language." He admits that he also enjoyed the romantic aspects, but only for the aesthetics of the language and phrasing. He also emphasizes that he needed to be strict with Miss Kenton to drive home the point that he did not wish to be disturbed when he was off duty in his private study. Stevens feels that Miss Kenton's behavior was inappropriate, and he resolved to re- establish their relationship as merely professional.
Miss Kenton had suddenly begun taking full advantage of all her contracted vacation time shortly before the event in the study. One night over cocoa she explains to Stevens that she is "renewing her acquaintance" with a man who used to be a butler at Granchester Lodge, her previous place of employment. She comments that Stevens must be perfectly contented with his life, as he is so excellent at his profession. Stevens claims that until Lord Darlington has accomplished all that he can, only then will he consider himself contented.
A week or so later, when they meet over cocoa, Miss Kenton is absentminded. Stevens tells her that she seems increasingly distracted lately, and she replies in a sudden outburst that she is very, very tired. Stevens is taken aback, and suggests they abandon their evening meetings if she is so tired. She protests, but he insists, and the meetings over cocoa stop.
A few weeks later Miss Kenton receives news that her aunt, her only living relative, has passed away. She tells Stevens the news, then asks for a few moments alone and goes into her room. Stevens realizes that he has neglected to offer Miss Kenton his condolences; though he wishes to amend his error, he senses that on the other side of the door she is crying, and that if he enters he will interrupt her private grief. When Miss Kenton comes out of her room in the afternoon, Stevens only asks if everything is in order. He talks around the issue of condolences, pointing out a few mistakes that the new maids have made. Miss Kenton wearily says she will check over the maids' work, and, tiring of Stevens's relentlessly professional conversation excuses herself from the room.
Stevens speculates that if he had acted differently on any of these occasions, things may have turned out better for him. He says, "there was certainly nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small events would render whole dreams forever irredeemable."
Stevens's car runs out of gas near nightfall, and he is forced to stay with a local couple named Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. Many neighbors and friends of the Taylors come over to meet Stevens over dinner, and these townsfolk declare that Stevens is a true gentleman. They ask Stevens what he thinks makes someone a gentleman, and he responds that he thinks the quality to which they refer might be termed "dignity." The Taylors' friends say that the doctor in their town, Dr. Carlisle, is also a gentlemen, and they hope that Stevens can meet him.