As you might expect, I did not take Mr Farraday’s suggestion at all seriously that afternoon, regarding it as just another instance of an American gentleman’s unfamiliarity with what was and what was not commonly done in England.
Over the following days, however, I came to learn not to be surprised by such remarks from my employer, and would smile in the correct manner whenever I detected the bantering tone in his voice. Nevertheless, I could never be sure exactly what was required of me on these occasions.
It is all very well, in these changing times, to adapt one’s work to take in duties not traditionally within one’s realm; but bantering is of another dimension altogether.
I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart.
The great butlers are great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost; they will not be shaken out by external events, however surprising, alarming or vexing.
That is to say, I have been endeavouring to add this skill to my professional armoury so as to fulfil with confidence all Mr Farraday’s expectations with respect to bantering.
…this small episode is as good an illustration as any of the hazards of uttering witticisms.
As we continued to talk, I must say I thought I began to notice further, more subtle changes which the years had wrought on her. For instance, Miss Kenton appeared, somehow, slower. It is possible this was simply the calmness that comes with age, and I did try hard for some time to see it as such. But I could not escape the feeling that what I was really seeing was a weariness with life; the spark which had once made her such a lively, and at times volatile person seemed now to have gone. In fact, every now and then, when she was not speaking, when her face was in repose, I thought I glimpsed something like sadness in her expression.
‘Lord Darlington wasn’t a bad man. He wasn’t a bad man at all. And at least he had the privilege of being able to say at the end of his life that he made his own mistakes. His lordship was a courageous man. He chose a certain path in life, it proved to be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see, I trusted. I trusted in his lordship’s wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can’t even say I made my own mistakes. Really – one has to ask oneself – what dignity is there in that?’
The evening’s the best part of the day. You’ve done your day’s work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it.
Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished?
Perhaps it is indeed time I began to look at this whole matter of bantering more enthusiastically.
MY review of Remains of the Day