"Oho!" shouted Garvestad, "your mare shies; she'll break your neck some day, as likely as not. You had better sell her before she gets you into trouble."
"But I shouldn't like to have your broken neck on my conscience," Erik replied; "if necks are to be broken by Lady Clare I should prefer to have it be my own."
The peasant was not clever enough to make out whether this was jest or earnest. With a puzzled frown he stared at the youth and finally broke out:
"Then you won't sell her at no price? Anyway, the day you change your mind don't forget to notify John Garvestad. If it's spondulix you are after, then here's where there's plenty of 'em."
He slapped his left breast-pocket with a great swagger, looking around to observe the impression he was making on his audience; then, jerking the bridle violently, so as to make his horse rear, he rode off like Alexander on Bucephalus, and swung down upon the highway.
It was but a few weeks after this occurrence that Captain Carstens and his son were invited to honor John Garvestad by their presence at his wedding. They were in doubt, at first, as to whether they ought to accept the invitation; for some unpleasant rumors had reached them, showing that Garvestad entertained unfriendly feelings toward them. He was an intensely vain man; and the thought that Erik Carstens had a finer horse than Valders-Roan left him no peace. He had been heard to say repeatedly that, if that high-nosed youth persisted in his refusal to sell the mare, he would discover his mistake when, perhaps, it would be too late to have it remedied. Whatever that meant, it sufficed to make both Erik and his father uneasy. But, on the other hand, it would be the worst policy possible, under such circumstances, to refuse the invitation. For that would be interpreted either as fear or as aristocratic exclusiveness; and the captain, while he was new in the district, was as anxious to avoid the appearance of the one as of the other. Accordingly he accepted the invitation and on the appointed day rode with his son into the wide yard of John Garvestad's farm, stopping at the pump, where they watered their horses. It was early in the afternoon, and both the house and the barn were thronged with wedding-guests. From the sitting-room the strains of two fiddles were heard, mingled with the scraping and stamping of heavy feet.
Another musical performance was in progress in the barn; and all over the yard elderly men and youths were standing in smaller and larger groups, smoking their pipes and tasting the beer-jugs, which were passed from hand to hand. But the moment Lady Clare was seen all interest in minor concerns ceased, and with one accord the crowd moved toward her, completely encircling her, and viewing her with admiring glances that appreciated all her perfections.
"Did you ever see cleaner-shaped legs on a horse?" someone was heard to say, and instantly his neighbor in the crowd joined the chorus of praise, and added: "What a snap and spring there is in every bend of her knee and turn of her neck and flash of her eye!"