And a cavalryman Erik might, perhaps, have become if his father had not been transferred to another post, and compelled to take up his residence in the country. It was nominally a promotion, but Captain Carstens was ill pleased with it, and even had some thought of resigning rather than give up his delightful city life, and move far northward into the region of cod and herring. However, he was too young a man to retire on a pension, as yet, and so he gradually reconciled himself to the thought, and sailed northward in the month of April with his son and his entire household. It had long been a question whether Lady Clare should make the journey with them; for Captain Carstens maintained that so high-bred an animal would be very sensitive to climatic changes and might even die on the way. Again, he argued that it was an absurdity to bring so fine a horse into a rough country, where the roads are poor and where nature, in mercy, provides all beasts with rough, shaggy coats to protect them from the cold. How would Lady Clare, with her glossy satin coat, her slender legs that pirouetted so daintily over the ground, and her exquisite head, which she carried so proudly--how would she look and what kind of figure would she cut among the shaggy, stunted, sedate-looking nags of the Sognefiord district? But the captain, though what he said was irrefutable, had to suspend all argument when he saw how utterly wretched Erik became at the mere thought of losing Lady Clare. So he took his chances; and, after having ordered blankets of three different thicknesses for three different kinds of weather, shipped the mare with the rest of his family for his new northern home.
As the weather proved unusually mild during the northward voyage Lady Clare arrived in Sogn without accident or adventure. And never in all her life had she looked more beautiful than she did when she came off the steamer, and half the population of the valley turned out to see her. It is no use denying that she was as vain as any other professional beauty, and the way she danced and pirouetted on the gangplank, when Erik led her on to the pier, filled the rustics with amazement. They had come to look at the new captain and his family; but when Lady Clare appeared she eclipsed the rest of the company so completely that no one had eyes for anybody but her. As the sun was shining and the wind was mild, Erik had taken off her striped overcoat (which covered her from nose to tail), for he felt in every fibre of his body the sensation she was making, and blushed with pleasure as if the admiring exclamations had been intended for himself.
"Look at that horse," cried young and old, with eyes as big as saucers, pointing with their fingers at Lady Clare.
"Handsome carcass that mare has," remarked a stoutish man, who knew what he was talking about; "and head and legs to match."
"She beats your Valders-Roan all hollow, John Garvestad," said a young tease who stood next to him in the crowd.
"My Valders-Roan has never seen his match yet, and never will, according to my reckoning," answered John Garvestad.
"Ho! ho!" shouted the young fellow, with a mocking laugh; "that black mare is a hand taller at the very least, and I bet you she's a high-flyer. She has got the prettiest legs I ever clapped eyes on."
"They'd snap like clay pipes in the mountains," replied Garvestad, contemptuously.