Immediately after the first dinner-party that i had attended at la raspelière with what was still called at féterne 'the young couple,' albeit m. and mme. de cambremer were no longer, by any means, in their first youth, the old marquise had written me one of those letters which one can pick out by their handwriting from among a thousand. she said to me: 'bring your delicious — charming — nice cousin. it will be a delight, a pleasure,' always avoiding, and with such unerring dexterity, the sequence that the recipient of her letter would naturally have expected, that i finally changed my mind as to the nature of these diminuendoes, decided that they were deliberate, and found in them the same corruption of taste — transposed into the social key — that drove sainte-beuve to upset all the normal relations between words, to alter any expression that was at all conventional. two methods, taught probably by different masters, came into conflict in this epistolary style, the second making mme. de cambremer redeem the monotony of her multiple adjectives by employing them in a descending scale, by avoiding an ending upon the perfect chord. on the other hand, i was inclined to see in these inverse gradations, not an additional refinement, as when they were the handiwork of the dowager marquise, but an additional clumsiness whenever they were employed by the marquis her son or by his lady cousins. for throughout the family, to quite a remote degree of kinship and in admiring imitation of aunt zélia, the rule of the three adjectives was held in great honour, as was a certain enthusiastic way of catching your breath when you were talking. an imitation that had passed into the blood, moreover; and whenever, in the family circle, a little girl, while still in the nursery, stopped short while she was talking to swallow her saliva, her parents would say: 'she takes after aunt zélia,' would feel that as she grew up, her upper lip would soon tend to hide itself beneath a faint moustache, and would make up their minds to cultivate her inherited talent for music. it was not long before the cambremers were on less friendly terms with mme. verdurin than with myself, for different reasons. they felt, they must invite her to dine. the 'young' marquise said to me contemptuously: 'i don't see why we shouldn't invite that woman, in the country one meets anybody, it needn't involve one in anything.' but being at heart considerably impressed, they never ceased to consult me as to the way in which they should carry out their desire to be polite. i thought that as they had invited albertine and myself to dine with some friends of saint-loup, smart people of the neighbourhood, who owned the château of gourville, and represented a little more than the cream of norman society, for which mme. verdurin, while pretending never to look at it, thirsted, i advised the cambremers to invite the mistress to meet them. but the lord and lady of féterne, in their fear of offending their noble friends, or that m. and mme. verdurin might be bored by people who were not intellectual, or yet again (since they were impregnated with a spirit of routine which experience had not fertilised) of mixing different kinds of people, and making a social blunder, declared that it would not be a success, and that it would be much better to keep mme. verdurin (whom they would invite with all her little group) for another evening. for this coming evening — the smart one, to meet saint-loup's friends — they invited nobody from the little nucleus but morel, in order that m. de charlus might indirectly be informed of the brilliant people whom they had in their house, and also that the musician might help them to entertain their guests, for he was to be asked to bring his violin. they threw in cottard as well, because m. de cambremer declared that he had 'a go' about him, and would be a success at the dinner-table; besides, it might turn out useful to be on friendly terms with a doctor, if they should ever have anybody ill in the house. but they invited him by himself, so as not to 'start any complications with the wife.' mme. verdurin was furious when she heard that two members of the little group had been invited without herself to dine at féterne 'quite quietly.' she dictated to the doctor, whose first impulse had been to accept, a stiff reply in which he said: 'we are dining that evening with mme. verdurin,' a plural which was to teach the cambremers a lesson, and to shew them that he was not detachable from mme. cottard. as for morel, mme. verdurin had no need to outline a course of impolite behaviour for him, he found one of his own accord, for the following reason. if he preserved, with regard to m. de charlus, in so far as his pleasures were concerned, an independence which distressed the baron, we have seen that the latter's influence was making itself felt more and more in other regions, and that he had for instance enlarged the young virtuoso's knowledge of music and purified his style. but it was still, at this point in our story, at least, only an influence. at the same time there was one subject upon which anything that m. de charlus might say was blindly accepted and put into practice by morel. blindly and foolishly, for not only were m. de charlus's instructions false, but, even had they been justifiable in the case of a great gentleman, when applied literally by morel they became grotesque. the subject as to which morel was becoming so credulous and obeyed his master with such docility was that of social distinction. the violinist, who, before making m. de charlus's acquaintance, had had no conception of society, had taken literally the brief and arrogant sketch of it that the baron had outlined for him. 'there are a certain number of outstanding families,' m. de charlus had told him, 'first and foremost the guermantes, who claim fourteen alliances with the house of france, which is flattering to the house of france if anything, for it was to aldonce de guermantes and not to louis the fat, his consanguineous but younger brother, that the throne of france should have passed. under louiv xiv, we 'draped' at the death of monsieur, having the same grandmother as the king; a long way below the guermantes, one may however mention the families of la trémoïlle, descended from the kings of naples and the counts of poitiers; of d'uzès, scarcely old as a family, but the premier peers; of luynes, who are of entirely recent origin, but have distinguished themselves by good marriages; of choiseul, harcourt, la rochefoucauld. add to these the family of the noailles (notwithstanding the comte de toulouse), montesquieu and castellane, and, i think i am right in saying, those are all. as for all the little people who call themselves marquis de cambremerde or de vatefairefiche, there is no difference between them and the humblest private in your regiment. it doesn't matter whether you go and p —-at comtesse s— t's or s — t at baronne p—'s, it's exactly the same, you will have compromised yourself and have used a dirty rag instead of toilet paper. which is not nice.' morel had piously taken in this history lesson, which was perhaps a trifle cursory, and looked upon these matters as though he were himself a guermantes and hoped that he might some day have an opportunity of meeting the false la tour d'auvergnes in order to let them see, by the contemptuous way in which he shook hands, that he did not take them very seriously. as for the cambremers, here was his very chance to prove to them that they were no better than 'the humblest private in his regiment.' he did not answer their invitation, and on the evening of the dinner declined at the last moment by telegram, as pleased with himself as if he had behaved like a prince of blood. it must be added here that it is impossible to imagine how intolerable and interfering m. de charlus could be, in a more general fashion, and even, he who was so clever, how stupid, on all occasions when the flaws in his character came into play. we may say indeed that these flaws are like an intermittent malady of the mind. who has not observed the fact among women, and even among men, endowed with remarkable intelligence but afflicted with nerves, when they are happy, calm, satisfied with their surroundings, we cannot help admiring their precious gifts, the words that fall from their lips are the literal truth. a touch of headache, the slightest injury to their self-esteem is enough to alter everything. the luminous intelligence, become abrupt, convulsive and narrow, reflects nothing but an irritated, suspicious, teasing self, doing everything that it can to give trouble. the cambremers were extremely angry; and in the interval other incidents brought about a certain tension in their relations with the little clan. as we were returning, the cottards, charlus, brichot, morel and i, from a dinner at la raspelière, one evening after the cambremers who had been to luncheon with friends at harambouville had accompanied us for part of our outward journey: 'you who are so fond of balzac, and can find examples of him in the society of to-day,' i had remarked to m. de charlus, 'you must feel that those cambremers come straight out of the scènes de la vie de province.' but m. de charlus, for all the world as though he had been their friend, and i had offended him by my remark, at once cut me short: 'you say that because the wife is superior to the husband,' he informed me in a dry tone. i wasn't suggesting that she was the muse du département, or mme. de bargeton, although. m. de charlus again interrupted me: 'say rather, mme. de mortsauf.' the train stopped and brichot got out. 'didn't you see us making signs to you? you are incorrigible.' 'what do you mean?' 'why, have you never noticed that brichot is madly in love with mme. de cambremer?' i could see from the attitude of cottard and charlie that there was not a shadow of doubt about this in the little nucleus. i felt that it shewed a trace of malice on their part. 'what, you never noticed how distressed he became when you mentioned her,' went on m. de charlus, who liked to shew that he had experience of women, and used to speak of the sentiment which they inspire with a natural air and as though this were the sentiment which he himself habitually felt. but a certain equivocally paternal tone in addressing all young men — notwithstanding his exclusive affection for morel — gave the lie to the views of a woman-loving man which he expressed. these children,' he said in a shrill, mincing, sing-song voice, 'one has to teach them everything, they are as innocent as a newborn babe, they can't even tell when a man is in love with a woman. i wasn't such a chicken at your age,' he added, for he liked to use the expressions of the underworld, perhaps because they appealed to him, perhaps so as not to appear, by avoiding them, to admit that he consorted with people whose current vocabulary they were. a few days later, i was obliged to yield to the force of evidence, and admit that brichot was enamoured of the marquise. unfortunately he accepted several invitations to luncheon with her. mme. verdurin decided that it was time to put a stop to these proceedings. quite apart from the importance of such an intervention to her policy in controlling the little nucleus, explanations of this sort and the dramas to which they gave rise caused her an ever increasing delight which idleness breeds just as much in the middle classes as in the aristocracy. it was a day of great emotion at la raspelière when mme. verdurin was seen to disappear for a whole hour with brichot, whom (it was known) she proceeded to inform that mme. de cambremer was laughing at him, that he was the joke of her drawing-room, that he would end his days in disgrace, having forfeited his position in the teaching world. she went so far as to refer in touching terms to the laundress with whom he was living in paris, and to their little girl. she won the day, brichot ceased to go to féterne, but his grief was such that for two days it was thought that he would lose his sight altogether, while in any case his malady increased at a bound and held the ground it had won. in the meantime, the cambremers, who were furious with morel, invited m. de charlus on one occasion, deliberately, without him. receiving no reply from the baron, they began to fear that they had committed a blunder, and, deciding that malice made an evil counsellor, wrote, a little late in the day, to morel, an ineptitude which made m. de charlus smile, as it proved to him the extent of his power. 'you shall answer for us both that i accept,' he said to morel. when the evening of the dinner came, the party assembled in the great drawing-room of féterne. in reality, the cambremers were giving this dinner for those fine flowers of fashion m. and mme. féré. but they were so much afraid of displeasing m. de charlus, that although she had got to know the férés through m. de chevregny, mme. de cambremer went into a fever when, on the afternoon before the dinner, she saw him arrive to pay a call on them at féterne. she made every imaginable excuse for sending him back to beausoleil as quickly as possible, not so quickly, however, that he did not pass, in the courtyard, the férés, who were as shocked to see him dismissed like this as he himself was ashamed. but, whatever happened, the cambremers wished to spare m. de charlus the sight of m. de chevregny, whom they judged to be provincial because of certain little points which are overlooked in the family circle and become important only in the presence of strangers, who are the last people in the world to notice them. but we do not like to display to them relatives who have remained at the stage which we ourselves have struggled to outgrow. as for m. and mme. féré, they were, in the highest sense of the words, what are called 'really nice people.' in the eyes of those who so defined them, no doubt the guermantes, the rohans and many others were also really nice people, but their name made it unnecessary to say so. as everybody was not aware of the exalted birth of mme. féré's mother, and the extraordinarily exelusive circle in which she and her husband moved, when you mentioned their name, you invariably added by way of explanation that they were 'the very best sort.' did their obscure name prompt them to a sort of haughty reserve? however that may be, the fact remains that the férés refused to know people on whom a la trémoïlle would have called. it needed the position of queen of her particular stretch of coast, which the old marquise de cambremer held in the manche, to make the férés consent to come to one of her afternoons every year. the cambremers had invited them to dinner and were counting largely on the effect that would be made on them by m. de charlus. it was discreetly announced that he was to be one of the party. as it happened, mme. féré had never met him. mme. de cambremer, on learning this, felt a keen satisfaction, and the smile of the chemist who is about to bring into contact for the first time two particularly important bodies hovered over her face. the door opened, and mme. de cambremer almost fainted when she saw morel enter the room alone. like a private secretary charged with apologies for his minister, like a morganatic wife vho expresses the prince's regret that he is unwell (so mme. de clinchamp used to apologise for the duc d'aumale), morel said in the airiest of tones: 'the baron can't come. he is not feeling very well, at least i think that is why, i haven't seen him this week,' he added, these last words completing the despair of mme. de cambremer, who had told m. and mme. féré that morel saw m. de charlus at every hour of the day. the cambremers pretended that the baron's absence gave an additional attraction to their party, and without letting morel hear them, said to their other guests: 'we can do very well without him, can't we, it will be all the better.' but they were furious, suspected a plot hatched by mme. verdurin, and, tit for tat, when she invited them again to la raspelière, m. de cambremer, unable to resist the pleasure of seeing his house again and of mingling with the little group, came, but came alone, saying that the marquise was so sorry, but her doctor had ordered her to stay in her room. the cambremers hoped by this partial attendance at once to teach m. de charlus a lesson, and to shew the verdurins that they were not obliged to treat them with more than a limited politeness, as princesses of the blood used in the old days to 'shew out' duchesses, but only to the middle of the second saloon. after a few weeks, they were scarcely on speaking terms. m. de cambremer explained this to me as follows: 'i must tell you that with m. de charlus it was rather difficult. he is an extreme dreyfusard. no!' 'yes. anyhow his cousin the prince de guermantes is, they've come in for a lot of abuse over that. i have some relatives who are very particular about that sort of thing. i can't afford to mix with those people, i should quarrel with the whole of my family.' 'since the prince de guermantes is a dreyfusard, that will make it all the easier,' said mme. de cambremer, 'for saint-loup, who is said to be going to marry his niece, is one too. indeed, that is perhaps why he is marrying her.' 'come now, my dear, you mustn't say that saint-loup, who is a great friend of ours, is a dreyfusard. one ought not to make such allegations lightly,' said m. de cambremer. 'you would make him highly popular in the army!' 'he was once, but he isn't any longer,' i explained to m. de cambremer. 'as for his marrying mlle, de guermantes-brassac, is there any truth in that?' 'people are talking of nothing else, but you should be in a position to know.' 'but i repeat that he told me himself, he was a dreyfusard,' said mme. de cambremer. 'not that there isn't every excuse for him, the guermantes are half german.' 'the guermantes in the rue de varenne, you can say, are entirely german,' said cancan. 'but saint-loup is a different matter altogether; he may have any amount of german blood, his father insisted upon maintaining his title as a great nobleman of france, he rejoined the service in 1871 and was killed in the war in the most gallant fashion. i may take rather a strong line about these matters, but it doesn't do to exaggerate either one way or the other. in medio virtus, i forget the exact words. it's a remark doctor cottard made. now, there's a man who can always say the appropriate thing. you ought to have a small larousse in the house.' to avoid having to give an opinion as to the latin quotation, and to get away from the subject of saint-loup, as to whom her husband seemed to think that she was wanting in tact, mme. de cambremer fell back upon the mistress whose quarrel with them was even more in need of an explanation. 'we were delighted to let la raspelière to mme, verdurin,' said the marquise. 'the only trouble is, she appears to imagine that with the house, and everything else that she has managed to tack on to it, the use of the meadow, the old hangings, all sorts of things which weren't in the lease at all, she should also be entitled to make friends with us. the two things are entirely distinct. our mistake lay in our not having done everything quite simply through a lawyer or an agency. at féterne it doesn't matter, but i can just imagine the face my aunt de ch'nouville would make if she saw old mother verdurin come marching in, on one of my days, with her hair streaming. as for m. de charlus, of course, he knows some quite nice people, but he knows some very nasty people too.' i asked for details. driven into a corner, mme. de cambremer finally admitted: 'people say that it was he who maintained a certain monsieur moreau, morille, morue, i don't remember. nothing to do, of course, with morel, the violinist,' she added, blushing. 'when i realised that mme. verdurin imagined that because she was our tenant in the manche, she would have the right to come and call upon me in paris, i saw that it was time to cut the cable.'