_____And so the narrator is introduced to Mme. de Guermantes, who barely acknowledges him. Then the company is joined by someone who has made previous attempts to visit Mme. de Villeparisis and is now grudgingly admitted: Legrandin. "I had wanted to go and greet Legrandin at once," the narrator tells us, "but he kept himself as far away from me as he could, no doubt in the hope that I might not hear the highly refined flatteries he kept lavishing on Mme de Villeparisis." Instead, he talks with Bloch, who talks mostly about himself: "'Yes, I do live a charmed life,' Bloch responded smugly, 'I've three really good friends -- quite enough for me -- and an adorable mistress.'"
Meanwhile, Mme. de Villeparisis's rival, Alix, indulges in some name-dropping with Mme. de Villeparisis and is coolly one-upped by her. Mme. de Villeparisis informs Mme. de Guermantes that Legrandin's sister is Mme. de Cambremer, whom the Duchesse describes as a "vile woman," a "monster," and "an impossible woman," and observes of Legrandin that he and his sister "both have that doormat humility and the mental resources of a circulating library. She's just as sycophantic and just as annoying as he is. I think I begin to see the family likeness."
The narrator offends Legrandin with a joke that he takes the wrong way: "'Well, monsieur, I feel almost excused from being in a salon, now that I find you in one, too.' Legrandin drew the conclusion from this (at least this is what he accused me of a few days later) that I was a thoroughly spiteful young person who delighted only in being nasty."
But the salon chiefly gives the narrator an opportunity to see and reflect upon Mme. de Guermantes:
He still has difficulty disassociating the person from the aura her family name casts upon her: "I thought at least that, when she spoke, her conversation would be profound and mysterious, strange as a medieval tapestry or a Gothic window" and finds it hard to believe that she doesn't "reflect the amaranth color of the last syllable of her name." In fact the Duchesse merely participates in the spiteful snark of salon conversation, taking the opportunity to make a barbed joke about the weight that Mme. Leroi has gained. But the narrator's attention perks up when she mentions Bergotte and praises his wit.Later, when I had become indifferent to her, I was to know many of the Duchesse's distinctive features, notably (to keep for this moment to what already charmed me at the time without my being able to recognize it) her eyes, which captured like a picture the blue sky of an afternoon in the French countryside, broad and expansive, drenched in light even when there is no sun; and a voice that one would have thought, from its first hoarse sounds, to be almost common, in which there lingered, as on the steps of the Combray church or the pâtisserie on the square there, the lazy, rich gold of provincial sunlight.
The scene is a comedy of manners, largely composed of name-dropping and incidental details of the current social conventions, such as the "fashionable quirk of the time" in which gentlemen "set their top hats on the floor beside them." The group gathers around to admire the flower-painting that Mme. de Villeparisis is engaged in, which leads Bloch to a "clumsy gaffe": "Bloch was anxious to express his admiration with some suitable gesture, but managed only to knock over the vase containing the spray of blossom with his elbow, and all the water was spilled on the carpet." When he overhears the historian say that the Marquise has "a magic touch," Bloch takes the remark as a sarcastic reference to his accident and replies "insolently, 'There's not the least cause for alarm. The water didn't touch me.'"