_____The selection begins with one of Proust's occasional slips that suggest a lack of serious editing: One not-very-long sentence begins "Robert was unaware of almost all the infidelities of his mistress, ..." And the next sentence is: "He was unaware of almost all these infidelities." The repetition may possibly be intentional, a reinforcement of the point, but it's hardly necessary. I think it more likely just a moment of inattentiveness as he launches into a discussion of Saint-Loup's relationship with Rachel, one that more and more seems to resemble Swann's with Odette.
Mme. de Marsantes bids the narrator "an anxious goodbye" -- although he isn't really planning to leave -- and then switches back to the more formal manner of "a grande dame who knew exactly how to conduct herself." But when Mme. de Villeparisis overhears him telling Saint-Loup's mother that he is in no hurry and is waiting for Charlus, she surprises him by being displeased at his being on "friendly terms" with the Baron, and urges him to go on without Charlus. So, "under the impression that she had some important business to discuss with her nephew," he takes his leave.
As he's descending the staircase, he hears Charlus call out to him, "So this is what you call waiting for me, is it?" And so the two of them set out together on foot, Charlus saying that he wants to wait until he sees a cab to his liking. On the street, cab after cab passes without being hailed, some of them even stopping, but Charlus says he's waiting for one with the right kind of lamps. He talks to the narrator "with the same sporadic familiarity that had already struck me in Balbec, and which was in such contrast with the harshness of his tone."
"I have often thought, monsieur, that there was in me, thanks not to my humble gifts but to circumstances that you may one day have occasion to learn, a wealth of experience, a kind of secret dossier of inestimable worth, which I have not felt it proper to use for my own purposes, but which would be of priceless benefit to a young man to whom I would hand over, in a matter of months, what it has taken me more than thirty years to acquire, and which I am perhaps alone in possessing."The narrator has no idea what he's getting at, and is further puzzled when he breaks off this thread to ask him about Bloch and whether "my school friend was young, good-looking, and so forth." When the narrator says Bloch is French, Charlus says, "'I took him to be Jewish.' His assertion of such an incompatibility led me to believe that M. de Charlus was more anti-Dreyfusard than anyone I had met. And yet he went on to protest against the charge of treason leveled against Dreyfus." The narrator's confusion about Charlus's attitude continues when the Baron asserts that Dreyfus "would have committed a crime against his country if he had betrayed Judaea, but what has that got to do with France?" And nothing the narrator can say, such as observing that if there were a war against France, Jews would have to serve, too, can dislodge Charlus from his course of thought. Charlus even pursues a fantasy in which Bloch stages some "biblical entertainment" that involved Bloch as David and Bloch's father as Goliath, and an "excellent spectacle" in which Bloch attacks his mother: "to thrash that non-European bitch would be giving the old cow what she deserves."
The narrator rightly characterizes these as "dreadful, almost deranged remarks," noting that as he makes them, "M. de Charlus squeezed my arm until it hurt," and reflects "that the connections, scantily investigated to date, I felt, between goodness and evil in the same heart, various as they might be, would be an interesting area of study." Then, coincidentally, he sees Bloch's father on the street, and offers to introduce him to the Baron, who takes umbrage at the very idea, citing "the youth of the person making the introduction, and the unworthiness of the person introduced."
But as it happened, M. Bloch was paying no attention to us. He was busy greeting Mme Sazerat effusively, to her great delight. This startled me, for previously, in Combray, she was so anti-Semitic that she had been indignant with my parents for allowing young Bloch into the house. But Dreyfusism, like a strong gust of wind, had blown M. Bloch right up against her a few days before this. My friend's father had found Mme Sazerat charming and was particularly gratified by the lady's anti-Semitism, which he saw as a proof of the sincerity of her faith and the authenticity of her Dreyfusard views.Clearly, the Dreyfus affair made strange bedfellows.
Again, we have to wonder how the narrator knows all of this, including the conversation that Bloch père is said to have had with Nissim Bernard about his encounter with Mme. Sazerat, which elicits this wonderful portrait of M. Bernard:
Saddened by the misfortune of the Jews, remembering his friendship with Christians, increasingly mannered and affected as time went on, for reasons to be revealed in due course, he now looked like a Pre-Raphaelite worm onto which hairs had been indecently grafted, like threads in the depths of an opal.Charlus continues with his baffling ramble, mentioning in the course of it the loss of his wife, "the loveliest, noblest, most perfect creature imaginable," and then bristling at the sight of M. d'Argencourt, who "tried to avoid us" but is thwarted by Charlus, who insists on talking to d'Argencourt about the narrator. "I noted that M. d'Argencourt, to whom I had barely been introduced at Mme. de Villeparisis's, and to whom M. de Charlus had now spoken at length about my family, was appreciably colder to me than he had been an hour ago, and subsequently, for a long time, he behaved with the same reserve whenever we met." Clearly, Charlus has an odd effect on people.
As they walk on, the narrator introduces the topic of the Duchesse de Guermantes, but elicits from Charlus only the demand that he "give up society life. It pained me to see you at that ridiculous gathering." He asks this as part of a kind of Mephistophelian bargain, as a "sacrifice" in return for which he can bestow all manner of gifts on the narrator: "The 'Open Sesame' to the Guermantes mansion, and any others worthy of throwing open their doors to you, lies with me."
Then the narrator asks about Mme. de Villeparisis and her family, and learns that she gained the name when she married a M. Thirion, who "thought that he could adopt some defunct aristocratic name with impunity," and chose Villeparisis because, "there have been no Villeparisis since 1702."
The fact that Mme de Villeparisis as merely Mme Thirion completed her downfall in my estimation, which had begun when I saw the uneven gathering of people in her salon.... I continued to visit her occasionally, and from time to time she sent me tokens of remembrance. But in no way did it seem to me that she was part of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and if I had needed any information about it, she was one of the last people I should have asked.Charlus continues with some modified praise for Saint-Loup as a suitable friend for the narrator: "At least he's a proper man, not one of those effeminate creatures one comes across everywhere nowadays, who look just like rent boys capable of bringing their innocent victims to a sorry end at the drop of a hat.' (I did not know the meaning of this slang expression, 'rent boy.')" And with that, Charlus hires a cab driven by a drunken cabbie, gets into the cab beside him and drives the cab himself.