_____Cottard is so devoted to the Verdurins and their "Wednesdays" that nothing, not even an emergency demanding his professional attention, can deter him:
For Cottard, kindly man though he was, would renounce the comforts of a Wednesday not for a workman who had had a stroke but for the headcold of a minister. Even in this last instance he would say to his wife: "Make my sincere apologies to Mme Verdurin. Warn her I'll be late getting there. His Excellency might well have picked another day to catch cold." One Wednesday, their elderly cook having cut the vein in her arm, Cottard, already in a dinner jacket in order to go to the Verdurins', had given a shrug when his wife timidly asked him whether he could not dress the wound. "But I can't, Léontine," he had exclaimed with a groan, "you can see I've got my white waistcoat on."Cottard is convinced that the Verdurins, because Mme. Verdurin inherited "thirty-five million," are the cream of society, and that in comparison to the Duchesse de Guermantes, "Mme Verdurin is a great lady, the Duchesse de Guermantes is probably on her uppers."
At a station, a beautiful girl gets on the train and attracts the narrator's eye. "I have never again met, nor identified, the beautiful girl with the cigarette.... But I have never forgotten her. It often happens that when I am thinking of her I am seized by a wild longing." And the experience induces a meditation on time and memory, for he realizes that the beautiful girl would, ten years later, have "faded. We can sometimes find a person again, but not abolish time." This experience with an anonymous girl precedes the mention of the fact that the Verdurins are upset because their favorite violinist has disappeared. We are told here only that he has been "doing his military service near Doncières" and that he had not met them at the station the last time they expected him. The attentive reader will remember another musical soldier recently spotted at a train station.
It will be especially unfortunate if the violinist doesn't show up tonight, Brichot observes, because Mme. Verdurin has invited the Marquis and Marquise de Cambremer, from whom they are leasing La Raspelière. Cottard is delighted, and says to the narrator, "What did I tell you? The Princesse Sherbatoff, the Marquis and Marquise de Cambremer." The Verdurins have had some concern about whether the anti-Dreyfusism of the Cambremers will put them at odds with the overwhelmingly Dreyfusard view of their little set, but they resolve to seat them next to Brichot, "the only one of the faithful who had taken the side of the General Staff, which had lowered him greatly in Mme Verdurin's esteem."
Ski launches into praise of Mme. de Cambremer's intelligence and prettiness. "Since I thought the complete opposite of what Ski had expressed..., I contented myself with saying that she was the sister of a very distinguished engineer, M. Legrandin," the narrator comments, and he admits to the others that he has already met her. He adds that he is looking forward to seeing her so that he can remind her he wants to borrow a book they had talked about: the former curé of Combray's volume on the etymology of local place-names. Brichot immediately launches into an extended monologue about the errors in the curé's book that takes up almost four pages in the novel.
We are rescued from Brichot's philology by his realization that they have passed the stop where they were to meet the Princesse Sherbatoff. The group launches a search for the Princesse and finds her in an empty carriage reading the Revue des deux mondes: It is "the lady who, in this same train, two days earlier, I had thought might be the madam of a brothel." (Again, never ignore even the anonymous walk-on characters in Proust.) The Princesse has some good news for the group: The missing violinist has been found. "He had kept to his bed the previous day on account of a migraine, but would be coming this evening and bringing an old friend of his father's whom he had met again in Doncières." Now who could that be?
The affair of the violinist reminds Brichot of something: "our poor friend Dechambre, formerly Mme Verdurin's favorite pianist, has just died." And Brichot and Cottard argue about whether Dechambre had played the Vinteuil sonata at Mme. Verdurin's when Swann was there. (He did.)