The selection begins with Proust slipping out of the narrator's point of view and into that of Mme. de Cambremer, scrutinizing the Princesse and the Duchesse de Guermantes in their box.
She was happy enough this evening with the thought that all these women she scarcely knew would be able to see a person from their own set seated beside her, the young Marquis de Beausergent, the brother of Mme Argencourt, who moved between both social worlds, and whom the women of the second were delighted to parade before the eyes of the first.But Mme. de Cambremer can scarcely be more fascinated -- and delighted -- with the Duchesse than the narrator:
the Duchesse, goddess turned woman, and for that moment a thousand times more beautiful, raised in my direction the white-gloved hand that had been resting on the edge of the box and waved it as a sign of friendship; my eyes were met by the spontaneous incandescence and the flashing eyes of the Princesse, who had unwittingly set them ablaze merely by the movement of looking to see whom her cousin had just greeted, and the latter who had recognized me, showered upon me the sparkling and celestial rain of her smile.An obsession is rekindled, and he begins to stalk the Duchesse with all the ardor that he used to direct toward encounters with the gang of girls. But the Duchesse seems displeased with the meetings on her daily walk that the narrator engineers; he pretends not to see her until the moment they pass each other in the street. She responds with "a sullen face that gave a distinctly curt nod, far removed from the friendly gesture of the Phèdre evening." He wonders if "it was possible that Mme de Guermantes's servants had heard their mistress say how tired she was of inevitably running into me when she went out, and had repeated her remarks to Françoise."
He begins to mistrust Françoise, who "was the first person to demonstrate to me by her example (which I was to understand only much later, when it was repeated more painfully, as the final volumes of this work will show, by a person who was much dearer to me) that the truth does not have to be spoken to be made apparent." Françoise sometimes seems to be full of benevolence toward him.
But Jupien, whose lapses into indiscretion were unfamiliar to me at the time, revealed afterward that she had told him that I was not worth the price of the rope it would take to hang me, and that I had tried to do her all the harm I could.He begins to doubt the evidence of his senses, to suspect "that all reality is perhaps equally dissimilar from what we believe ourselves to be directly perceiving.... Was it the same with all social relations? And to what depths of despair would it lead me if it were the same with love? That was the future's secret."
And thus it was [Françoise] who first gave me the idea that people do not, as I had imagined, present themselves to us clearly and in fixity with their merits, their defects, their plans, their intentions with regard to ourselves..., but, rather, as a shadow we can never penetrate, of which there can be no direct knowledge, about which we form countless believes based upon words and even actions, neither of which give us more than insufficient and in fact contradictory information, a shadow that we can alternately imagine, with equal justification, as masking the burning flames of hatred and of love.