"That old ramshackle of a lumber nag whose every rib you can count through her skin is your beautiful thoroughbred?" ejaculated his friend, incredulously. "Come now, don't be a goose."
"I'll tell you of it some other time," said Erik, quietly; "but there's not a shadow of a doubt that this is Lady Clare."
Yes, strange as it may seem, it was indeed Lady Clare. But oh, who would have recognized in this skeleton, covered with a rusty-black skin and tousled mane and forelock in which chaff and dirt were entangled--who would have recognized in this drooping and rickety creature the proud, the dainty, the exquisite Lady Clare? Her beautiful tail, which had once been her pride, was now a mere scanty wisp; and a sharp, gnarled ridge running along the entire length of her back showed every vertebra of her spine through the notched and scarred skin. Poor Lady Clare, she had seen hard usage. But now the days of her tribulations are at an end. It did not take Erik long to find the half-tipsy lumberman who was Lady Clare's owner; nor to agree with him on the price for which he was willing to part with her.
There is but little more to relate. By interviews and correspondence with the different parties through whose hands the mare had passed, Erik succeeded in tracing her to Tollef Morud, the ex-groom of John Garvestad. On being promised immunity from prosecution, he was induced to confess that he had been hired by his former master to arrange the nocturnal fight between Lady Clare and Valders-Roan, and had been paid ten dollars for stealing the mare when she had been sufficiently damaged. John Garvestad had himself watched the fight from behind the fence, and had laughed fit to split his sides, until Valders-Roan seemed on the point of being worsted. Then he had interfered to separate them, and Tollef had led Lady Clare away, bleeding from a dozen wounds, and had hidden her in a deserted lumberman's shed near the saeter where the searchers had overtaken him.
Having obtained these facts, Erik took pains to let John Garvestad know that the chain of evidence against him was complete, and if he had had his own way he would not have rested until his enemy had suffered the full penalty of the law. But John Garvestad, suspecting what was in the young man's mind, suddenly divested himself of his pride, and cringing dike a whipped dog, came and asked Erik's pardon, entreating him not to prosecute.
As for Lady Clare, she never recovered her lost beauty. A pretty fair-looking mare she became, to be sure, when good feeding and careful grooming had made her fat and glossy once more. A long and contented old age is, no doubt, in store for her. Having known evil days, she appreciates the blessings which the change in her fate has brought her. The captain declares she is the best-tempered and steadiest horse in his stable.
"Oh, you never will amount to anything, Bonnyboy!" said Bonnyboy's father, when he had vainly tried to show him how to use a gouge; for Bonnyboy had just succeeded in gouging a piece out of his hand, and was standing helplessly, letting his blood drop on an engraving of Napoleon at Austerlitz, which had been sent to his father for framing. The trouble with Bonnyboy was that he was not only awkward--left-handed in everything he undertook, as his father put it--but he was so very good-natured that it was impossible to get angry with him. His large blue innocent eyes had a childlike wonder in them, when he had done anything particularly stupid, and he was so willing and anxious to learn, that his ill-success seemed a reason for pity rather than for wrath. Grim Norvold, Bonnyboy's father, was by trade a carpenter, and handy as he was at all kinds of tinkering, he found it particularly exasperating to have a son who was so left-handed. There was scarcely anything Grim could not do. He could take a watch apart and put it together again; he could mend a harness if necessary; he could make a wagon; nay, he could even doctor a horse when it got spavin or glanders. He was a sort of jack-of-all-trades, and a very useful man in a valley where mechanics were few and transportation difficult. He loved work for its own sake, and was ill at ease when he had not a tool in his hand. The exercise of his skill gave him a pleasure akin to that which the fish feels in swimming, the eagle in soaring, and the lark in singing. A finless fish, a wingless eagle, or a dumb lark could not have been more miserable than Grim was when a succession of holidays, like Easter or Christmas, compelled him to be idle.
When his son was born his chief delight was to think of the time when he should be old enough to handle a tool, and learn the secrets of his father's trade. Therefore, from the time the boy was old enough to sit or to crawl in the shavings without getting his mouth and eyes full of sawdust, he gave him a place under the turning bench, and talked or sang to him while he worked. And Bonnyboy, in the meanwhile amused himself by getting into all sorts of mischief. If it had not been for the belief that a good workman must grow up in the atmosphere of the shop, Grim would have lost patience with his son and sent him back to his mother, who had better facilities for taking care of him. But the fact was he was too fond of the boy to be able to dispense with him, and he would rather bear the loss resulting from his mischief than miss his prattle and his pretty dimpled face.