Four Short Stories HTML version

Chapter XI
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.
Twelve struck. The public would have to wait more than three hours for the Grand Prix to
be run. When the landau had drawn up beside the barriers Nana settled herself
comfortably down as though she were in her own house. A whim had prompted her to
bring Bijou and Louiset with her, and the dog crouched among her skirts, shivering with
cold despite the heat of the day, while amid a bedizenment of ribbons and laces the
child's poor little face looked waxen and dumb and white in the open air. Meanwhile the
young woman, without troubling about the people near her, talked at the top of her voice
with Georges and Philippe Hugon, who were seated opposite on the front seat among
such a mountain of bouquets of white roses and blue myosotis that they were buried up to
their shoulders.