Chapter II: Mademoiselle de Forcheville, concluded, from "The memory of Albertine had become so fragmented within me...."
_____The narrator claims, "I was happier to have Andrée by my side than I would have been to have Albertine miraculously restored. For Andrée would be able to tell me more about Albertine that Albertine herself had ever told me." And what Andrée tells him as they're making out is pretty hot stuff. For one thing, that Albertine "had met a handsome lad at Mme Verdurin's called Morel," and that Morel had acted as bait, luring "young laundry-maids and young fisher-girls" into threesomes with him and Albertine and once taking Albertine and one of the girls "to a house of ill-fame in Couliville, where four or five women took her together or in succession."
But Andrée also claims that Albertine felt remorse and "hoped that you would save her, that you would marry her." Then she recalls the time that the narrator almost caught them in the act. The narrator's reaction is that "this was the sort of useless truth about the life of a dead mistress, if indeed it was true, which suddenly surfaces from the depths when we no longer have any use for it." He questions Andrée's veracity, and notes that she had been spreading malicious rumors about a "man whom we had met at Balbec and who since then had been living with Rachel." This is Octave, who when he first appears in the novel is a rather foppish young golfer whom Albertine dismisses as "a lounge lizard." He is also a nephew of the Verdurins, whom he mocks. In an extended aside, the narrator tells us that later, Octave is to leave Rachel and marry Andrée, and that he will reveal himself as a talented designer who "introduced into contemporary art a revolution at least equal to hat accomplished by the Ballets Russes." (Peter Collier's note tells us that Octave is modeled in part on Jean Cocteau.)
The narrator continues with Andrée's revelations, including the suggestion that the reason Albertine left the narrator was that she didn't want the other "girls of the little gang" to know she was living with a man to whom she was not married. He finds it satisfying that her revelations confirm his original suspicions instead of "the wretched and cowardly optimism to which I had later yielded." And he forms a theory that Albertine's lesbianism had brought out her "masculine" side, "creating the illusion that one enjoyed with her the same loyal and unrestrained camaraderie as with a man, just as a parallel vice had produced in M. de Charlus a feminine subtlety of wit and sensibility." (Our narrator is of course subject to homophobic hokum.)
His grilling of Andrée is interrupted by dinner with his mother, who reports that the Princess of Parma has paid her a visit -- an unheard of thing. It was her way of making amends for the snub she had delivered the narrator's mother, who "thought, and later I came to share her opinion, that the Princess of Parma had quite simply failed to recognize her annd thought she need take no notice of her." On learning what she had done from the Duchesse de Guermantes, the Princess broke protocol and made her visit.
Andrée and the narrator meet again a week later, when she presents another theory for Albertine's leaving: that her aunt feared the narrator wouldn't marry her, spoiling her for another marriage that Mme. Bontemps had in mind for her. And that the visit Albertine was supposed to make to Mme. Verdurin was not to meet Mlle. Vinteuil there, but this young man. Andrée also claims that there had never been anything physical between Albertine and either Mlle. Vinteuil or her lover. The narrator retains his doubts:
But why should I believe that it was she rather than Andrée who had been lying? Truth and life are indeed an uphill path, and, without ever really getting to know them, I felt that the final impression which they left me was one where sadness was perhaps still overshadowed by fatigue.