_____We learn more about how Saint-Loup is viewed by his fellow soldiers:
Among many of the volunteers from other squadrons, the sons of rich middle-class families who viewed aristocratic high society only from the outside and without access to it, the attraction that they spontaneously felt toward what they knew of Saint-Loup's character was reinforced by the glamour that attached in their eyes to this young man, whom, when they went on leave to Paris, they had often seen on Saturday nights dining in the Café de la Paix with the Duc d'Uzès and the Prince d'Orléans. And this was why they now associated his handsome face, his gangling way of walking and saluting, his perpetually dancing monocle, the jaunty overstatement of his high caps, and the trousers that were of too fine a cloth and too pink a shade, with a notion of stylishness they certainly did not find among the best turned-out officers in the regiment.They also appreciate his "scorn for the opinion of his superior officers, which seemed to them to be the natural upshot of his kindness to his subordinates."
Meanwhile, the narrator is strolling out at night, feeling exhilarated and almost liberated from his obsession with Mme. de Guermantes. Putting her out of his head "seemed really painful, but sensible, and for the first time possible, perhaps even easy."
But not for long. He is invited to join Saint-Loup and some of his fellow officers at dinner at a hotel, encountering a group of mostly "nobles except for one or two commoners in whom the nobles had detected likely friends ..., thus proving that they were not in principle hostile to the middle classes, even if they were Republican, provided they had clean hands and attended mass." And there the narrator takes Saint-Loup aside and asks him a question about the photograph he has seen in his room. He pretends to be uncertain whether the woman in it is the Duchesse. Saint-Loup confirms it, referring to her as "the splendid Oriane."
The narrator claims to be "interested in her, from a literary point of view, you understand, from a -- how shall I put it? -- from a Balzacian point of view." He says that he has heard that the Duchesse "regards me as an absolute idiot," which leads Saint-Loup to propose that they dine with her when he returns to Paris in about three weeks. Delighted, the narrator goes still further, asking Saint-Loup if he might have the photograph, but Saint-Loup says he will have to ask the Duchesse first.