_____The narrator knows, of course, where Saint-Loup lost his croix de guerre, but he is not shocked by the revelation: "if Saint-Loup had indeed entertained himself during the evening in that way, it was only to fill in time while he was waiting, because, seized with the desire to see Morel again, he had used all his military connections to discover which regiment Morel was in."
He tells us about the way the butler torments Françoise by putting the worst possible spin on the war news and terrifying her with thoughts of the Germans invading Paris -- it amounts to the butler's "own private war against Françoise (whom actually he liked, despite that, in the same way that one likes somebody whom one enjoys enraging every day by beating them at dominoes).... He waited for bad news like a child waiting for an Easter-egg, hoping that things would go badly enough to frighten Françoise, but not so badly as to cause him actual suffering."
The narrator also tells us about Françoise's wealthy relatives who, when their son is killed in the war, go to help their daughter-in-law run her café. And it occasions this bit of authorial breaking of the fourth wall:
In this book, in which there is not one fact that is not fictitious, not one real character concealed under a false name, in which everything has been made up by me in accordance with the needs of my exposition, I have to say, to the honour of my country, that Françoise's millionaire relatives alone, who came out of their retirement to help their niece when she was left without support, that they and they alone are real living people.... I take a childlike and deeply felt pleasure, in transcribing their real name here: appropriately enough, they are called by the very French name of Larivière.It's a lovely tribute, of course, but a bit of a fib, for Proust earlier introduced two minor characters, Marie Gineste and Céleste Albert, who were "real living people," the latter his own housekeeper.
And then comes the great blow of Saint-Loup's heroic death at the front, two days after he returned to it. The narrator recalls "that self-effacement that characterized the whole of his behaviour, right down to the way he would follow me out on the street bare-headed to close the door of my cab every time I left his house." And he links this great loss to that of Albertine:
Only a few days after I had seen him in pursuit of his monocle in the hall at Balbec, when I had thought him so haughty, there was another living form which I had seen for the first time on the beach at Balbec, and which also no longer existed outside the state of memory: this was Albertine, trudging across the sand that first evening, indifferent to everything around her, as much at home there as a seagull... His life and Albertine's, discovered so late, at Balbec, and so swiftly over, had scarcely touched; it was he, I reminded myself as I saw how the nimble shuttles of the years weave slender connections between those of our memories which seem at first most independent of each other, it was he whom I had sent to Mme Bontemps's house when Albertine left me. And then it had turned out that their two lives each had a parallel, and unsuspected, secret.The "parallel ... secret" is their homosexuality.
Françoise, who had not particularly liked Saint-Loup, "flaunted her grief" and seems to relish imagining the grief that afflicted Saint-Loup's mother. "And she watched for signs of grief in me with such avidity that I feigned a degree of brusqueness when speaking of Robert." He notes that Saint-Loup was buried "in the church of Saint-Hilaire at Combray," although the church was previously said to have been destroyed. And he notes that although he had expected the Duchesse de Guermantes to receive the news of Saint-Loup's death "with the same indifference that I had seen her display towards the deaths of so many others whose lives had seemed so closely bound up with her own," she is in fact "inconsolable."
And then he learns that Saint-Loup's efforts to locate Morel had had ironic consequences: Because the army's attention had been alerted, Morel is identified as a deserter and arrested. Morel, thinking that Charlus is behind the arrest, claims he was led astray by Charlus and M. d'Argencourt, who are arrested but soon released. Morel, too, is released and sent to the front, "where he showed great gallantry, survived every danger, and came back at the end of the war, with the medal that M. de Charlus had once vainly solicited for him, and which he owed indirectly to the death of Saint-Loup.
Several years pass, in which the narrator returns to the sanatorium, which "cured me no more than the first." On the train taking him back to Paris, he reflects on the failure of his literary ambitions and feels indifferent to the beauty he witnesses in the countryside -- a sign of the extent of his depression. On his return, he is invited to "a tea-party given for her daughter and son-in-law by La Berma" (no matter that her death has earlier been reported in the novel) and to a reception at the new home of the Prince de Guermantes. The name evokes his childhood memories: "I had wanted to go to the Guermantes' house as if that might have been able to bring me closer to my childhood and to the depths of my memory in which I saw it." He finds himself in "the streets leading to the Champs-Élysee," which unleashes another flood of memories: "And, like an aviator, who has up to that point travelled laboriously along the ground, suddenly 'taking off,' I rose up slowly towards the silent heights of memory."
And then he sees, getting out of a cab, aided by Jupien, M. de Charlus, "convalescing now from an attack of apoplexy." He has "an unruly forest of entirely white hair" and "a white beard, like those formed by the snow on the statues of river-gods in the public gardens.... [T]he old, decayed prince now wore the Shakespearian majesty of a King Lear." He watches as Charlus tips his hat and bows to Mme. de Saint-Euverte, whom earlier he "would never have consented to dine with." And he speaks to the narrator, at first in a pianissimo that contrasts with the loudness that attracted so much attention when he once walked on the boulevards, of the deaths of so many of his contemporaries.