_____We learn that the Princesse de Guermantes, with whom the narrator says he is "one day to be such good friends," is infatuated with Charlus. Whenever the Baron's name comes up in conversation, the narrator notices her alerted attention. "If she made allusion to the rumors that a few people were circulating concerning the Baron, it was only as though to absurd and infamous inventions." As for Charlus's attempts to conceal the fact that he is gay, the narrator asserts, "there are no vices that in high society cannot find complaisant support, and the domestic arrangements of a château have been known to be turned upside down so that a sister may sleep next to her sister the moment it was known that she did not have a merely sisterly love for her."
As the narrator is getting ready to take his leave with the Duc and Duchesse, who are driving him home, the Duc turns his own attentions to Charlus, his younger brother, speaking to him affectionately. But he makes a gaffe in their conversation to Charlus when, speaking of their earlier years, he says:
"'Oh, you were someone out of the ordinary, for it can be said that in nothing did you have the same tastes as everyone else....' But hardly had he spoken these words before the Duc went red as a beet, as they say, for he knew, if not of his brother's habits, then at least of his reputation."The Duc attempts to cover up the slip, but Charlus had noticed his brother's embarrassment. The moment grows more awkward until the Duchesse intervenes to make moves toward departing. There is a moment of social jousting as they wait for the carriages among the Duchesse, Mme. de Gallardon (who refers to the Duchesse as "a nasty piece of work"), and the Princesse d'Orvilliers, whom the narrator recognizes as a "woman who, near the Guermantes hôtel, had cast long, languorous looks at me.... But never again was I to receive from her, when I met her, a single one of those overtures in which she had seemed to be offering herself."
On the way home, remembering Saint-Loup's comment about the availability of the maid to Baronne Putbus, the narrator asks the Duchesse about the Baronne. She replies, "Oh no, not her.... I don't even know by what mischance I know the name of that cow. She's the dregs of society."
At home, he discovers that Albertine hasn't arrived yet, so he waits impatiently for her, slipping into his old obsessiveness: "All this anxiety for that same Albertine, to whom I had not given three minutes' thought during the Guermantes soirée!" Finally, she telephones, saying that she had misread his note and was near her home. "I sensed that she was lying, and it was now, in my fury, more from a need to inconvenience her than to see her that I wanted to force her to come." By doing so, he also inconveniences Françoise, who is forced to get out of bed to admit Albertine when she arrives.
"I had learned to recognize this terrible need for another human being in Combray, in connection with my mother, to the point of wanting to die if she got Françoise to tell me she could not come upstairs." And so, in a matter of a few hours, the narrator has reverted from the sophisticated figure in high society salons to the small boy at the beginning of Swann's Way. The obsessiveness he had shown with Gilberte has also revived. "With Albertine, I felt that I would never learn anything, would never succeed in unraveling this tangled multiplicity of authentic details and untruthful facts." He also treats Françoise cruelly, playing on her dislike of Albertine: "I knew that what was best able to annoy Françoise was that I should spend money on people she did not like... Françoise loathed Albertine, in any case, because Albertine, being poor, could not add anything to what Françoise saw as my advantage."