Part II, Chapter I, from "I made a pretense of being busy writing...." to "...a state of euphoria whose source she never divined."
When Albertine enters, the narrator pretends to be writing his note to Gilberte, and when she admires the slipcase that Gilberte had given him, he presents it to her. "The slipcase, Gilberte's agate marble, all that had once derived its importance from a purely internal state, since now, for me, they were just any old slipcase, any old marble." When Albertine leaves, he resumes writing the letter.
Then he reports that, after returning from a visit to a spa, the Duc de Guermantes, influenced by some Italian "women of superior intellect" he had met, has become "a rabid Dreyfusard," following the pattern of the Prince de Guermantes. This seems to be a prelude to a seismic shift in the Guermantes's social standing, for the narrator notes that Mme. Verdurin, through her association with the Princess Yourbeletieff, a patron of the Ballets Russes, which were taking Paris by storm, has risen in social prominence. Moreover, so has Odette Swann: "Her salon had crystallized around a man, a dying man, who had passed almost overnight, at a time when his talent was running dry, from obscurity to great fame. The infatuation with the works of Bergotte was immense."
Odette has a reputation as an anti-Dreyfusard, which has drawn others to her, such as Mme. d'Épinoy who, visiting Odette to ask for a contribution to the right-wing Patrie Française, is surprised to find her salon filled with fashionable people. "Since, without her being aware of it, the Princesse d'Épinoy saw people's place in society as internal to them, she was obliged to disincarnate Mme Swann and reincarnate her in a fashionable woman." So now Odette is seen in the company of "Mme de Marsantes and the woman who, thanks to the progressive effacement of the Duchesse de Guermantes (sated with honors, and annihilating herself by putting up no reisistance), was on the way to becoming the 'lioness,' the queen of the hour, the Comtesse Molé."
Even the narrator's role in society has begun to change: "Mme Swann was able to believe I was making up with her daughter out of snobbery." Adding to this is Gilberte's inheritance of "nearly eighty million francs" from "an uncle of Swann's." As for Swann himself, his Dreyfusism does no harm to Odette's standing, "because they said, 'He's senile, an idiot, no one pays him any attention, only his wife counts and she's charming.'" Odette's reputation as an "intellectual," though wholly undeserved, also counts in her favor: "to prefer Mme Swann was to prove that you were intelligent, like going to a concert rather than a tea party." The narrator is surprised to hear Mme. de Montmorency compare Odette to the Duchesse de Guermantes, to the latter's disadvantage, saying that if the Duchesse had "stuck at it more, she'd have managed to create a salon." He comments, "If Mme de Guermantes did not have a 'salon,' what, then, was a 'salon'?"