Stevens receives a letter from Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper of Dartington Hall, in which she drops a few hints that she may wish to return. The big old house is somewhat understaffed, so an extra pair of hands would come in pretty useful. But aside from purely professional considerations, Stevens also acknowledges that Miss Kenton's letter changes his mind regarding his employer's generous offer of time off work. On this rare vacation, Stevens will embark upon a trip to the West Country. One could say that he feels the need to recharge his batteries, as it were. Miss Kenton's letter has opened his eyes to the fact that, for several months, sloppy errors have been slowly creeping into the day-to-day management of Dartington Hall. Taking a trip will allow Stevens to devise a new staff plan that will put things right.
But Miss Kenton's letter has greater significance than matters of domestic servitude. Stevens casually mentions that he'll pay Miss Kenton a brief visit and ask her to return to Dartington Hall. Yet even here we sense that Stevens is protesting too much. Already we start to suspect that his interest in having Miss Kenton back at the Hall is more than strictly professional. Stevens may feel somewhat embarrassed at his master's teasing suggestion that he has a new lady-friend, but his visible unease reveals that Mr. Farraday's mild joshing has touched a raw nerve.
As Stevens is such a stickler for propriety, he chooses the clothes he's going to wear on his trip with meticulous care. He's aware that he will be an ambassador for Dartington Hall on his travels, and must therefore convey the appropriate impression in the company of others. As a head butler, Stevens is all-too-aware of the importance of the right suit for the right occasion. Although he's going on holiday, he won't really relax or let his hair down; he'll still remain the repressed English butler, obsessed with maintaining due propriety at all times.