One Sunday the race for the Grand Prix de Paris was being run in the Bois de Boulogne beneath skies rendered sultry by the first heats of June. The sun that morning had risen amid a mist of dun-colored dust, but toward eleven o’clock, just when the carriages were reaching the Longchamps course, a southerly wind had swept away the clouds; long streamers of gray vapor were disappearing across the sky, and gaps showing an intense blue beyond were spreading from one end of the horizon to the other. In the bright bursts of sunlight which alternated with the clouds the whole scene shone again, from the field which was gradually filling with a crowd of carriages, horsemen and pedestrians, to the still-vacant course, where the judge’s box stood, together with the posts and the masts for signaling numbers, and thence on to the five symmetrical stands of brickwork and timber, rising gallery upon gallery in the middle of the weighing enclosure opposite. Beyond these, bathed in the light of noon, lay the vast level plain, bordered with little trees and shut in to the westward by the wooded heights of Saint-Cloud and the Suresnes, which, in their turn, were dominated by the severe outlines of Mont-Valerien.
Nana, as excited as if the Grand Prix were going to make her fortune, wanted to take up a position by the railing next the winning post. She had arrived very early—she was, in fact, one of the first to come—in a landau adorned with silver and drawn, a la Daumont, by four splendid white horses. This landau was a present from Count Muffat. When she had made her appearance at the entrance to the field with two postilions jogging blithely on the near horses and two footmen perching motionless behind the carriage, the people had rushed to look as though a queen were passing. She sported the blue and white colors of the Vandeuvres stable, and her dress was remarkable. It consisted of a little blue silk bodice and tunic, which fitted closely to the body and bulged out enormously behind her waist, thereby bringing her lower limbs into bold relief in such a manner as to be extremely noticeable in that epoch of voluminous skirts. Then there was a white satin dress with white satin sleeves and a sash worn crosswise over the shoulders, the whole ornamented with silver guipure which shone in the sun. In addition to this, in order to be still more like a jockey, she had stuck a blue toque with a white feather jauntily upon her chignon, the fair tresses from which flowed down beyond her shoulders and resembled an enormous russet pigtail.