To see and to be seen constitutes the principal raison d’etre of this exercise, where the riders traverse the same path going and coming, a man thus being able to meet more than once the fair one whom he seeks, or a lady to encounter several times a cavalier who interests her.
On this more and more frequented road, the masculine element displayed different costumes, according to the age and tastes of each rider. The young men appeared in careless array: leggins, short coats, and small caps. The older men, faithful to early traditions, wore long trousers, buttoned-up redingotes, and tall hats, like those worn by their fathers, as shown in the pictures by Alfred de Dreux.
For the feminine element the dress is uniform. It consists of a riding-habit of black or dark blue, with bodice and skirt smoothly molded to the form by one of the two celebrated habit-makers, Youss or Creed. The personal presence alone varied, according to the degree of perfection of the model.
A cylindrical hat, a little straight or turned-over collar, a cravat tied in a sailor’s knot, a gardenia in the buttonhole, long trousers and varnished boots completed the dress of these modern Amazons, who, having nothing in common with the female warriors of ancient times, are not deprived, as were those unfortunates, of any of their feminine charms.
The military element is represented by officers of all grades from generals to sub-lieutenants, in morning coats, with breeches and high boots, forbidden under the Second Empire, but the rule at present.
At the top of the Pre-Catelan, the path is crossed by the Bagatelle road to the lakes, a point of intersection situated near a glade where the ladies were fond of stopping their carriages to chat with those passing on horseback. A spectator might have fancied himself at the meet of a hunting-party, lacking the whippers-in and the dogs.
A few days after the review at Vincennes, on a bright morning in May, a file of victorias and pony-chaises were strung out along this sylvan glade, and many persons had alighted from them. Announcing their arrival by trumpet-blasts, two or three vehicles of the Coaching Club, headed by that of the Duc de Mont had discharged a number of pretty passengers, whose presence soon caused the halt of many gay cavaliers.
Several groups were formed, commenting on the news of the day, the scandal of the day before, the fete announced for the next day.
More serious than the others, the group surrounding Madame de Montgeron strolled along under the trees in the side paths which, in their windings, often came alongside of the bridle-path.
“What has become of Mademoiselle de Vermont, Duchess?” inquired Madame de Lisieux, who had been surprised not to find Zibeline riding with their party.
“She is in the country, surrounded by masons, occupied in the building of our Orphan Asylum. The time she required before making over the property to us expires in two weeks.”