Part II, Chapter I, from "As I was not in any hurry to arrive..." to "...moved away to let him welcome the new arrivals."
And so the narrator goes to the reception at the Prince and Princesse de Guermantes's, still uncertain whether he has been invited or been the victim of a practical joke.
Outside, he encounters the Duc de Châtellerault, who has been "outed" to him by yesterday's conversation between Jupien and Charlus. Somehow, the narrator has learned of a liaison between the Duc and the Princesse's doorman, in which the Duc managed to keep his identity secret by pretending to be an Englishman. So when the Duc and doorman meet again at the entrance to the reception, there's a comical recognition scene: "As he asked his 'Englishman' of two days before what name he should announce, the doorman was not merely moved, he judged himself to be indiscreet, tactless.... On hearing the guest's reply, 'the Duc de Châtellerault,' he felt so overcome with pride that he remained speechless for a moment."
The narrator, on the other hand, expects social ruin when his own name is "roared out, like the sound preceding a possible cataclysm," fearing that the Princesse will order the footmen to haul him away. Instead she rises and approaches him graciously, then dismisses him with the words, "You'll find the Prince in the garden." But now he faces another dilemma: finding someone who will introduce him to the Prince. He sees Charlus, who could have done so, but is afraid that the Baron will not forgive him for arriving at the reception without his prior intercession -- he had earlier assured the narrator, "The only entrée to those salons is through me."
Then he's stopped by someone else he knows, "Professor E--," the physician he encountered when his grandmother suffered her stroke, and who seemed more interested in getting ready for his dinner with the minister of commerce than in helping the ill woman. Now, Professor E--, who knows no one at the reception, having been invited because of his recent successful treatment of the Prince, wants to cling to the narrator. But the latter manages to shrug him off to talk to the Marquis de Vaugoubert, who "was one of the few men (perhaps the only man) in society who found himself in what is known in Sodom as 'confidence' with M. de Charlus." That is, Vaugoubert had committed youthful homosexual indiscretions known to Charlus. But ambitious to make his way in the Foreign Ministry, Vaugoubert has devoted himself to chastity:
Having gone from an almost infantile debauchery to absolute continence on the day his thoughts turned to the Quai d'Orsay and the desire to make a great career, he wore the look of a caged beast, casting glances in all directions expressive of fear, craving, and stupidity.
He has married, but Mme. de Vaugoubert is as masculine as her husband is effeminate. "I felt, alas, that she looked on me with interest and curiosity as one of the young men who appealed to M. de Vaugoubert, and whom she would have so much liked to be, now that her aging husband preferred youth."
However, the narrator still hasn't persuaded anyone to introduce him to the Prince. Next he sees Mme. d'Arpajon, and his inability for a moment to remember her name sends him off into a reverie about how we remember names. And here Proust begins to craft a dialogue between the narrator and the reader, playing off the latter's frustration with his seeming ability to move his story forward:
"All of which," the reader will say, "teaches us nothing about this lady's disobligingness; but since you've been at a standstill for this long, let me, M. l'Auteur, make you waste one minute more to tell you how regrettable it is that, young as you were (or as your hero was, if he is not yourself), you should already have so little memory as to be unable to recall the name of a lady whom you knew very well." It is very regrettable, you are right, M. le Lecteur.
And he goes on with more reflections on the topic of remembering things until the reader interrupts again: "'So Mme d'Arpajon finally introduced you to the Prince?' No, but be quiet and let me take up my story again." This bit of authorial raillery perhaps reflects Proust's interest in English fiction, where such author-reader interchanges often take place, and it also raises the question of the narrator's identity, on which Proust had no doubt already been challenged by readers and critics.
In any case, Mme. d'Arpajon doesn't introduce him to the Prince, leaving him venturing to approach Charlus again, only to be interrupted by Mme. de Gallardon, who wants to introduce her nephew, Adalbert, Vicomte de Courvoisier, to Charlus. The Baron responds to her with his customary surliness, but the narrator persists with his own request.
[P]erhaps -- in spite of his ill-humor against me -- I would have succeeded with him when I asked him to introduce me to the Prince, had I not had the unhappy idea of adding, out of scrupulousness, and so that he should not suppose me tactless enough to have entered on the off chance, relying on him to enable me to stay, "You know that I know them very well, the Princesse has been very kind to me." "Well, if you know them, what need have you of me to introduce you?" he snapped at me and, turning his back, resumed his make-believe game of cards with the nuncio, the German ambassador, and a personage whom I did not know.
Finally, he succeeds when he encounters M. de Bréauté, who obligingly effects the introduction. He finds the Prince aloof, in contrast with the agreeableness of the Duc de Guermantes, but paradoxically "realized at once that the fundamentally disdainful man was the Duc, who spoke to you from your first visit 'as an equal,' and that, of the two cousins, the truly simple one was the Prince."