_____The narrator begins with a dismissal of the concept of friendship, "which is totally bent on making us sacrifice the only part of ourselves that is real and incommunicable (except through art) to a superficial self that ... finds ... a vague, sentimental satisfaction at being cherished by external support ... and marvels at qualities it would castigate as failings and seek to correct in itself." But he does admit that it can, "in certain circumstances [provide] us with just the boost we needed and the warmth we are unavailable to muster of our own accord."
So however misanthropic the narrator might eventually become, when Saint-Loup arrives after the narrator has been dumped by Mme. de Stermaria and is weeping into the rolls of carpet that are to be laid before his parents' return, he feels some gratitude. Though he wants to be taken to Rivebelle and the women he remembers from the restaurants there, he settles for one in Paris, which is smothered by a thick fog.
The fog arouses a "dim memory of arrival in Combray by night" -- but it is only a dim memory, not the transformative one produced by the taste of the madeleine. It does, however, arouse in him a sense of "inspired exhilaration, which might have resulted in something had I remained alone and so avoided the detour of the many futile years I was yet to spend before discovering the invisible vocation which is the subject of this book." In other words, this dim memory of Combray is not enough to set him off in search of lost time. If it had, he observes, "the carriage I found myself in would have deserved to rank as more memorable than Dr. Percepied's, in which I had composed the little descriptive piece about the Martinville steeples, recently unearthed, as it happened, which I had reworked and offered without success to the Figaro." So his rejection of friendship, it seems, is a way of blaming it for his setting aside his career as a writer.
In the carriage, he's surprised and angry when Saint-Loup confesses that he has badmouthed the narrator to Bloch: "'I told Bloch you weren't very fond of him, that you found him rather vulgar. You know me, I like things to be clear-cut,' he concluded smugly, in a tone of voice that brooked no argument." The narrator regards this as a betrayal of their friendship, and observes that "his face was marred, while he uttered these vulgar words, by a horribly twisted expression, which I encountered only once or twice in all the time I knew him." He is at a loss to explain Saint-Loup's callousness.
At the restaurant, the narrator enters alone, while Saint-Loup stays to give the driver instructions. The place is divided into two areas, one of which is dominated by a group of young aristocrats, anti-Dreyfusards, and the other by the Dreyfusards. The narrator takes a seat in the area reserved for the aristocrats, and is rudely ushered into the other area, facing the drafty "door reserved for the Hebrews." He observes the behavior of the aristocrats, who include the Prince de Foix.
And then there's an ambiguous passage about the Prince de Foix and Saint-Loup, who, the narrator tells us, belonged to a "closely knit group of four" who were "known as the four gigolos," "were never invited to anything separately" and at country houses were always given adjoining bedrooms:
as a result, especially since the four of them were extremely good-looking, rumors circulated about the nature of their intimacy. As far as Saint-Loup was concerned, I was in a position to denounce such rumors categorically. But the curious thing is that, if it eventually came to light that the rumors were true of all four of them, then each one had been utterly unaware of the facts in relatin to the other three. Yet each had done his utmost to inform himself about the others, either to gratify a desire or, more likely, a grudge, to prevent a marriage, or to have the upper hand over the friend whose secret he had uncovered. A fifth member (for in groups of four there are always more than four) had joined this Platonic quartet, a man far more suspect than the others. But religious scruple had held him back until long after the group had broken up and he himself was a married man, the father of a family, one minute rushing off to Lourdes to pray that the next baby might be a boy or a girl, and the next flinging himself at soldiers.Considering Saint-Loup's previous overreaction to being propositioned by a man on the street, and his apparent jealousy of the narrator's friendship with Bloch, it seems safe to say that we haven't learned everything about Saint-Loup yet.
Saint-Loup's arrival, and his discovery of the narrator sitting in front of the drafty door, causes a flurry of apologies from the management. It also causes a renewal of admiration of Saint-Loup from the narrator, who compares him to the "foreigners, intellectuals, would-be artists" in the café, who are mocked by the aristocrats for their awkwardness and lack of style but are nevertheless "highly intelligent and goodhearted men who, in the long run, could be profoundly endearing." Saint-Loup has style and grace and wealth in addition to intelligence and good-heartedness, which impresses the narrator because of his background.
Among the Jews especially, there were few whose parents did not have a kindness of heart, a broad-mindedness, an honest, in comparison with which Saint-Loup's mother and the Duc de Guermantes came across as the sorriest of moral figures in their desiccated emotions, the surface religiosity they cultivated only to condemn scandal, and their clannish apology for a Christianity which never failed to lead ... to colossally wealthy marriages. But, for all this, Saint-Loup, in whatever way the faults of his parents had combined to create a new set of qualities, was governed by a delightful openness of mind and heart.And he is further endeared to the narrator when he goes to borrow the Prince de Foix's vicuña cloak to keep the narrator warm in the drafty room, and on his return negotiates the crowded room with a graceful balancing act along the banquettes that line the wall. It resembles the act of a lover more than that of a friend. Meanwhile, the waiters have been kowtowing to the narrator, and the proprietor addresses him as "M. le Baron" and then, on being corrected, "M. le Comte." "I had no time to launch a second protest, which would almost certainly have promoted me to the rank of marquis."
When he's seated again, Saint-Loup tells the narrator that Charlus wants to see him tomorrow evening. The narrator replies that he's dining with the Duchesse de Guermantes that evening. Saint-Loup, who calls it a "fabulous blowout," tries to persuade him that he should "get out of it" and that Charlus doesn't want him to go, but they agree that the narrator will see Charlus afterward at eleven.
They also talk about the threat of war in Morocco, to which Saint-Loup is scheduled to return and from which he's trying to get transferred, with the Duchesse's help: "she can twist Général de Saint-Joseph round her little finger." He tells the narrator that he doesn't think there will be war with Germany over Morocco, but adds with semi-prescience: "You need only to think what a cosmic thing a war would be today. It would be more catastrophic than the Flood and the Götterdämmerung put together. Only it wouldn't last so long."
After the earlier anger, the narrator regains his admiration for Saint-Loup:
Our rare conversations alone together, and this one in particular, have assumed, in retrospect, the status of important turning points. For him, as for me, this was the evening of friendship. And yet the friendship I felt for him at this moment was scarcely, I feared (with some remorse), what he would have liked to inspire. Still in the throes of the pleasure it had given me to see him come cantering toward me and gracefully reaching his goal, I felt that this pleasure arose from the fact that each of his movement as he had moved along the wall bench possibly derived its meaning from, was motivated by, something very personal to Saint-Loup himself, but that what really lay behind it was something he had inherited, by birth and upbringing, from his race. ... In the same way that Mme de Villeparisis, on an intellectual level, had needed a great deal of serious thought in order to convey a sense of the frivolous in her conversation and in her memoirs, so, in order for Saint-Loup's body to carry so much nobility, all ideas of nobility had first to leave his mind, which was intent on higher things, before returning to his body to re-establish themselves there as noble attributes of an utterly unstudied kind.