Day One Hundred Twenty: Sodom and Gomorrah, pp. 288-318

Part II, Chapter II, from "The coachman, though very young..." to "...if only in order to pass it on to his sister."
Brichot and Cottard are disturbed to hear the news of Dechambre's death, fearing that Mme. Verdurin will be so upset that the Wednesday will be spoiled. But the narrator observes that "Like almost all society people, Mme Verdurin, precisely because she had need of the company of others, never gave them another thought after the day they died." And that "M. Verdurin would pretend that the death of the faithful so affected his wife that, in the interests of her health, it was not to be mentioned." Which is precisely what happens when they arrive at La Raspelière. 

The journey from the station is filled with such spectacular scenery that the narrator is "intoxicated" by it, unlike the rest of the travelers. The Princesse "later confessed to Cottard that she found me very enthusiastic; he replied that I was too emotional, that I would have needed sedatives and to take up knitting." 

As for any suspicions we might have about the identity of the missing violinist, they're confirmed when they arrive and M. Verdurin reports that they will be entertained by "a youngster my wife discovered, just as she discovered Dechambre, and Paderewski and the others: Morel." And that he will be accompanied by "an old friend of his family's who he's met again and who bores him to death...: the Baron de Charlus." Ski, the sculptor, is "surprised to learn that the Verdurins had consented to receive M. de Charlus." But it turns out that outside the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the Baron has "been confused with a certain Comte Leblois de Charlus, who was not even faintly, or only distantly related to him, and who had been arrested, perhaps in error, during a police raid that was still talked about." So it turns out that although the Baron deserves his reputation, he has achieved it falsely. And when Ski brings it to Mme. Verdurin's attention, she dismisses it as rumor and says that even if it's true, it wouldn't compromise her in any way. She is "furious" with Ski because "Morel being the principal ingredient of her Wednesdays, she was anxious before all else not to upset him." 

When Morel and Charlus arrive, the latter is "as self-conscious as a schoolboy entering for the first time into a brothel and overdoing his respects to the madam." He adopts an effeminate manner, "fluttering affectedly, and with the same ampleness to his waddlings as though they were hobbled and made broader by his being in a skirt, that he made for Mme Verdurin, wearing so flattered and honored an expression that you might have thought that to be introduced to her was for him a supreme favor." 

But the narrator is more surprised by Morel, who had previously treated him "condescendingly." This time he fawns on the narrator, asking him to conceal from Mme. Verdurin the fact that his father had been the valet to the narrator's uncle, and "to say that, in your family, he was the steward of estates so vast that it made him the equal practically of your parents." The narrator is annoyed by the request, "But so unhappy and so urgent was his expression that I did not refuse." As it turns out, Mme. Verdurin had known the narrator's family and responds with a story about his great-grandfather's stinginess. And after he has accomplished this task, Morel reverts to his original "disdainful familiarity" toward the narrator, "and for a time he avoided me even, contriving to make it look as though he despised me.... I concluded ... from that first evening that he must be base by nature, that he would not shrink when need be from obsequiousness and knew nothing of gratitude." We also learn that Charlus becomes a manager of Morel: "You are to imagine some merely skillful performer from the Ballets Russes, trained, taught, and brought on in every sense by M. de Diaghilev." 

Charlus does make a powerful impression on one member of the gathering:  When Mme. Verdurin says, "The Baron was just saying...," Cottard responds with "'A baron! Where, where's a baron? Where's a baron?' he exclaimed, looking around for him with an astonishment bordering on incredulity." 

Meanwhile, the Cambremers arrive, and the narrator treats us to a description of the Marquis's nose: "not ugly but, rather, a little too beautiful, too strong, too vain of its own importance. Hooked, polished, shiny, spanking new, it was quite prepared to make up for the spiritual insufficiency of his gaze; ... the nose is generally the organ in which stupidity exhibits itself the most readily." We also learn that, in the army, he had been given the nickname "Cancan." As for Mme. de Cambremer, "She was furious to be jeopardizing her reputation this evening at the Verdurins' and had done so only at the entreaties of her mother-in-law and husband, for the sake of the tenancy." But she brightens when she sees Charlus there, because she has not yet managed to be introduced to him. Charlus "had given Odette -- and kept -- his word that he would not allow himself to be presented to Mme de Cambremer." 

At the dinner table, the Baron finds himself seated by Cottard, who is so smitten with Charlus's title that there is a moment of misinterpretation: "The Baron, who was quick to find men of his own kind wherever he was, did not doubt that Cottard was one such, and was giving him the eye." The narrator gives us some reflections on the usual course of events when one "invert," as he calls them, meets another, but 
M. de Charlus's error was short-lived. A godlike discernment showed him a moment later that Cottard was not of his own kind and that he had no need to fear his advances, either for himself, which would merely have exasperated him, or for Morel, which would have seemed to him more serious.

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