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Title: Baldy of Nome
Author: Darling, Esther Birdsall
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Baldy of Nome" ***

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BALDY of NOME

by

ESTHER BIRDSALL DARLING

Decorations by Hattie Longstreet



[Illustration: Baldy of Nome]



To My Mother

whose unfailing kindness to all animals is one of my earliest and
happiest memories



Contents


   I. THE PARTING OF THE WAYS

  II. WHERE EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY

 III. THE FIRST STEP

  IV. THE PLODDER

   V. THE WOMAN, THE RACERS, AND OTHERS

  VI. TO VISIT THOSE IN AFFLICTION

 VII. THE DAWN OF A TO-MORROW

VIII. A TRAGEDY WITHOUT A MORAL AND A COMEDY WITH ONE

  IX. WITH THE FLIGHT OF TIME

   X. THE SOLOMON DERBY

  XI. ONE SUMMER

 XII. THE GREAT RACE

XIII. FOR THE SUPREMACY OF THE TRAIL

 XIV. IMMORTALS OF THE TRAIL


Illustrations

THE RACING TEAM

"SCOTTY" ALLAN AND BALDY

THE ALASKA OF MEN AND DOGS
  June 1st--The steamer "Corwin" at the edge of the ice, five miles
  from shore

THE WOMAN

NOME, ALASKA--FROM BERING SEA

THE START OF AN ALASKA DOG TEAM RACE

A TEAM OF SIBERIANS

"SHE HAD BEEN A MEMBER OF ONE OF THE MAIL TEAMS"
  Eric Johnson, U.S. mail carrier on the Nome-Unalakleet Route

THE AIR WAS CRISP AND KEEN

THE TRAIL HAD GROWN EXCEEDINGLY ROUGH

KRUZAMAPA HOT SPRINGS

THE RAMSAY SIBERIANS

AN OVATION FOR THE PLUCKY LITTLE SCOTCHMAN

THE CAR COASTED DOWN ALL THE HILLS

"SCOTTY" ALLAN ON THE TRAIL

AN ALASKAN SWEEPSTAKES TEAM
  Fay Dalzene, driver

CAPTAIN HAAS OF THE FRENCH ARMY AND HIS ALASKAN SLEDGES

BALDY OF NOME



I

The Parting of the Ways

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

Baldy of Nome


CHAPTER I

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS


Baldy knew that something was wrong. His most diverting efforts had
failed to gain the usual reward of a caress, or at least a word of
understanding; and so, dog-like to express his sympathy, he came close
beside his friend and licked his hand. Always, before, this had called
attention to the fact that Baldy was ready to share any trouble with the
boy--but to-day the rough and grimy little hand, stiff and blue from the
cold, did not respond, and instead only brushed away the tears that
rolled slowly down the pinched cheeks. Sometimes the slight body shook
with sobs that the boy tried manfully to suppress; but when one is
chilled, and tired and hungry, and in the shadow of a Great Tragedy, the
emotions are not easy to control.

With unseeing eyes and dragging steps, the boy trudged along the snowy
trail, dreading the arrival at Golconda Camp. For there was the House of
Judgment, where all of the unfortunate events of that most unhappy day
would be reviewed sternly, though with a certain harsh justice, that
could result in nothing less than a sentence of final separation from
Baldy. And so when the dog in his most subtle and delicate manner showed
his deep love for the boy, it only made the thought of the inevitable
parting harder to bear.

So completely was Ben lost in his own gloomy reflections that he did not
hear the sound of bells behind him; and it was not until a cheery voice
called out demanding the right of way that he stepped aside to let a
rapidly approaching dog team pass. As it came closer he saw that it was
the Allan and Darling team of Racers, and for the moment his eyes
brightened with interest and admiration as he noticed with a true
dog-lover's appreciation the perfect condition of the fleet-footed dogs,
and the fine detail of sled and equipment.

Then his glance fell upon Baldy--thin, rough coated, and showing
evidences of neglect; upon Baldy to whom he could not now even offer
food and shelter, and a wave of bitterness swept over him.

"Come along, sonny, if you're going our way," and in the kindly little
man at the handle-bars the boy recognized "Scotty" Allan, the most
famous dog driver in Alaska. To the boy "Scotty" represented all that
was most admirable in the whole North, and he stood speechless at the
invitation to ride with him behind a team that had always seemed as
wonderful as Cinderella's Fairy Coach. He hesitated, and then the Woman
in the sled beckoned encouragingly. "Get in with me; and your dog may
come too," she said as she rearranged the heavy fur robes to make room.
The boy advanced with painful shyness, and awkwardly climbed into the
place assigned him. The Woman laid her hand on Baldy's collar to draw
him in also, but the boy exclaimed quickly, "No, ma'am, don't do that,
please; he ain't really cross, but he won't ride in anythin' as long's
he's got a leg to stand on; an' sometimes he growls if people he don't
know touches him."

"Dogs and boys never growl at me, because I love them; and he does not
look as if he really had a leg to stand on," she replied smilingly. But
the boy nervously persisted. "Please let him go--his legs is all right.
He looks kind o' run down jest now 'cause he"--the boy felt a tightening
at his throat, and winked hard to keep the tears from starting
again--"'cause he ain't got much appetite. But when he's eatin' good his
legs is jest great. Why, there ain't no other dog in Golconda that's got
as strong legs as Baldy when he's--when he's eatin' good," he repeated
hastily. "An' Golconda's plumb full o' fine dogs."

"If that's so," said "Scotty," "I think I shall have to take a look at
those Golconda wonders before the winter fairly sets in; and maybe you
can give me a few pointers."

For a mile or so the boy sat spellbound, drinking in the casual comments
of "Scotty" upon the dogs in the team, as if they were pearls of wisdom
dropping from the lips of an Oracle. He was not so much interested in
the Woman's replies, for they displayed a lack of technical information
that contrasted unfavorably in the boy's mind with the keen and accurate
insight that Allan showed in every word on that most vital subject.

Vaguely the boy remembered having once heard that she had become a
partner in the racing team for mere amusement of the sport, instead of
from a serious, high-minded interest, and that of course did not entitle
her to the same respect you could feel for one to whom the care and
culture of the dog assumed the dignity of a vocation. Then, too, she had
spoken slightingly of Baldy's legs. As a human being he could not but
respond to her friendly overtures, but as a dog fancier she held no
place in his esteem.

As they approached the divide where the trail for Golconda branched from
the main road, an idea suddenly came to the boy. He had watched the
harmony between Allan and his dogs; had noted their willingness, their
affection for "Scotty," and his consideration for them. And as the pace
became slower, and he realized that they were nearly at the end of this
fate-given interview, he tremblingly gasped out the question that had
been seething through his mind with such persistence. "Mr. Allan, would
you like to buy Baldy?"

"Buy Baldy!" exclaimed the man in surprise. "Why, I thought you and
Baldy were chums--I had no idea he was for sale."

"He wasn't till jest now, not till I saw how yer dogs love you; but I
got t' git rid of him. It's been comin' fer a long time, an' I guess
to-day's finished it."

The man leaned over and looked into the tear-stained face. "Are you in
some trouble about him? Perhaps it's not so bad as you think, and maybe
we can help you without taking Baldy."

But the boy went on determinedly. "No, sir, I want you to take him; it'd
be the best thing fer him, an' I kin stan' it someway. A feller has ter
stan' a lot o' things he don't like in this world, but I hope,"
feelingly, "all of 'em ain't as hard as givin' up his best friend."

As if to avoid the sympathy he felt was forthcoming, he plunged hastily
into the details that had led to the unexpected offer. "I'm Ben Edwards.
Maybe you knew my father; he was killed in the cave-in on the June
Fraction. Baldy was only a little pup then, but Dad was awful fond of
him."

"I remember," said the Woman thoughtfully; "and you have been in
difficulties since, and need the money you could get for Baldy. Is that
it?"

"It ain't only the money, but none o' the men at the Camp care much fer
Baldy, an' they ain't kind to him. Only Moose Jones. When he was here he
wouldn't let the men tease Baldy ner me, an' he made the cook give me
scraps an' bones ter feed him. An' once he licked Black Mart fer
throwin' hot water on Baldy when he went ter the door o' Mart's cabin
lookin' fer me. I think Moose Jones is the best man in the world, an'
about the strongest," volunteered the boy loyally.

"And where's Moose Jones now?" asked "Scotty." "I used to see him
prospecting out near the Dexter Divide last winter."

"He was at Dexter first, an' then he was at Golconda fer a while; but in
spring he went ter St. Michael, an' from there up ter the new strike at
Marshall."

"And you miss him very much?" questioned the Woman.

"Yes, ma'am, I miss him a lot, an' so does Baldy. He was awful good ter
animals an' kids. He had a pet ermine that 'ud come in ter see him every
night in his cabin, an' he wouldn't let Mart an' some o' the fellers set
a trap fer the red mother fox that was prowlin' round the place t' git
somethin' fer her babies. Said he'd make trap-bait fer bears o' the
first feller that tried t' git 'er."

"Excellent idea."

"Oh, he didn't really mean it serious. Why, Moose is so kind he hates
ter kill anythin'--even fer food. Sometimes when he's been livin' on
bacon an' beans fer months, he lets a flock o' young ptarmigan fly by
him 'cause he says they look so soft an' pretty an' fluttery he don't
like ter shoot 'em; an' Moose is a dead shot. He's mighty handy with his
fists too, an' next ter Mr. Allan I guess Moose knows more about dogs
than any man in Alaska; an' he said he'd bet some day there'd be a
reg'lar stampede ter buy Baldy."

"A prophet," exclaimed the Woman. "You see we are the forerunners. But
who is Black Mart?"

"Oh, he's a miner that's workin' the claim next ter Golconda. He's a
friend o' the cook there, an' comes over ter eat pretty often. Him and
Moose had some trouble once over some minin' ground, an' Mart kinda
takes it out on all Moose's friends, even if they's only boys an' dogs,
don't he, Baldy?" And Baldy wagged that he certainly did. "Now the cook
says they've got work dogs enough belongin' ter the claim ter feed,
without supportin' my mangy cur in idleness. Mr. Allan," earnestly, "he
ain't mangy, an' he's the most willin' dog I ever seen fer any one that
loves him. But he ain't sociable with every one, an' he don't like bein'
handled rough."

"Scotty" looked at Baldy with a practiced and critical eye. "Those are
all points in his favor," he remarked. "You can't do much with a dog
that gives his affection and obedience indiscriminately."

"Besides, he ain't no cur--he's one o' them Bowen-Dalzene pups, an' you
know there ain't a poor dog in the lot. They give him to me 'cause he
wasn't like any o' the others in the litter, an' would 'a' spoiled the
looks o' the team when they was old enough ter be hitched up," continued
Ben breathlessly. "He was sort o' wild, too, an' he wouldn't pay
attention t' any of 'em when I was round, an' they said I might as well
take him fer keeps as t' have him runnin' away t' git t' me all the
time."

"And your mother does not like him, and thinks it would be best not to
keep him now?"

"She really does like him; but she does the washin' fer the Camp, an'
helps with the dishes, an' sews when she kin git a job at it. But there
ain't none of 'em reg'lar, an' sometimes there ain't more'n enough fer
us two t' live on. Then she gits pretty tired an' discouraged like, an'
says Baldy's a useless expense, an' keeps me from doin' my chores,
'cause I like t' play with him, an'--"

"Yes, yes, I see," broke in the Woman hastily, anxious to spare him any
further revelations of a painful nature. "I know exactly how it is; but
maybe we could make some arrangement with your mother about the dog. We
will take a sort of an option on him; you can keep him with you, and we
will pay a certain sum for the privilege of being permitted to buy him
outright before the stampede actually begins."

The boy looked at her suspiciously, but there was no smile on her lips,
and she rose a notch in his estimation. She evidently did realize, in a
slight degree, what an unusual bargain was being offered in his
heart-breaking sacrifice.

"An' it ain't 'cause his appetite's gone that makes him thin. I wasn't
tellin' the truth about that," he stammered desperately; "he's jest
_hungry_." The child's mouth quivered and he hesitated, yet he was
determined to tell the whole of the sordid little tragedy now that he
had begun. "But spendin' too much time with him when I should be workin'
ain't the worst. To-day I done somethin' that mebbe she'll think ain't
exac'ly square; an' my mother believes if you ain't square in this world
you ain't much worth while."

"You're not, son," agreed "Scotty" heartily. "Your mother's right."

"My father was allers called Honest Ben Edwards out here on the Third
Beach Line, an' Mother says she'd ruther have that mem'ry o' him than
all the fortunes that's been made in Alaska by lyin' an' steal-in' an'
jumpin' other people's claims."

"Right again, Ben. Nothing can take that from her, and a name like that
is the best thing a man can leave his son."

"This mornin' she gave me some money fer a new pair o' mittens fer her,
an' shoes fer me; an' the cook asked me t' buy a kitchen knife an' a few
pans fer him. I walked inter town t' git 'em, an' Baldy come with me,
though she said I was foolish t' be bothered with him. But I told her it
was awful lonesome on the trail, an' she said I could take him this
time." He paused for breath, visibly embarrassed.

"And you forgot all about your errands," hazarded the Woman.

"No, ma'am, I didn't exac'ly forgit, but when I was passin' the Court
House an' I seen a big crowd inside, I went in, too, ter listen a
minute.

"That lawyer Fink, that got up the Kennel Club, an' has the bully dog
team, an' Daly, the feller with the smile that makes you feel like
there's sunshine in the room, was a-talkin' agin each other; an' their
fightin' was so excitin' an' so smooth an' perlite too, that everybody
was a-settin' on the edges o' their chairs a-waitin' fer what was
a-comin' next."

"So you were interested in what the lawyers had to say?"

"Yes, sir. Ever since my mother told me the story about President
Lincoln a while ago, I been wantin' t' be a lawyer when I grow up. He
didn't have no more book-learnin' than me at first, but he wouldn't let
nothin' stop him, an' jest see what he done."

"Lincoln is to be your model, then? Well, you're right to aim high, Ben.
You can practice his simple virtues of being honest and kind and
industrious every day, and anywhere. And the education must be managed
someway," added the Woman thoughtfully.

"After Mother read me that speech o' Mr. Lincoln's at Gettysburg, when
all the people was jest dumb from their feelin's bein' so solemn an'
deep; an' some o' his other speeches that was fine, I begun t' go t'
town whenever there was t' be any good speakin', even when I had t' walk
both ways."

"Shows your determination, as a starter," replied "Scotty"
encouragingly. "And were you always repaid for your tramp?"

"Most allers, Mr. Allan. Last Fourth o' July I heerd Judge Tucker tell
in his pleasant voice 'at sounds like he likes talkin' t' you all that
Virginia's done fer our country, an' I wished I was from Virginia too.
But mebbe some day I'll make some boy wish he was from Alaska by bein'
fine an' smart an' gentle like Judge Tucker."

"Virginia or Alaska, Ben--it's all the same, so long as you're proud of
your state, and give your state a chance to be proud of you."

"Yes, ma'am; that's what Mother says. Then I heerd Tom Gaffney recitin'
Robert Emmett's last speech, on St. Patrick's day, at Eagle Hall, an' I
near cried at the end; an' I don't cry easy. It takes somethin' pretty
bad t' make me cry," and he looked furtively toward Baldy.

"I'm sure it does, sonny; any one can see that you're game, all right;
but that speech always makes me cry too."

The boy regarded "Scotty" appreciatively. Here was a typical Alaskan, a
sturdy trailsman, touched by the tender, pitiful things of life, just
like a little boy that hasn't had time to become hardened. Ben felt that
they would be friends.

[Illustration: SCOTTY AND BALDY]

"I like all kinds o' speakin', too; not jest the fiery sort that makes
you want t' fight fer your country, an' mebbe die fer it like Robert
Emmett; but the kind that jest makes you want t' be good ter folks an'
dogs, an' do the best you kin when things is agin you, an' you don't
see much ahead--"

The Woman nodded gravely. "Yes, I know. It's the most difficult sort of
bravery--the sort without flags, and music, and cheers to keep you up to
the firing line."

"That's the kind, ma'am. Mebbe you know Bishop Rowe. That's what he
preaches--jest doin' your best all the time, like you was in some big
race. When he's in Nome I allers go t' St. Mary's. He talks plain an'
simple, an' cheers you up--I guess kinda the way Lincoln talked--jest
like he knew all about people's troubles an' didn't blame 'em fer
mistakes, but wanted t' help 'em t' do better. Sometimes his talks don't
sound smooth, an' made up beforehand, but you never forgit 'em."

"Eloquence of the heart instead of the tongue," murmured the Woman.

"An' last August I went every night fer near a week, when Mr. Wickersham
was talkin' men inter sendin' him t' Washington, no matter what they
felt an' said agin his goin' when he wasn't before 'em."

"You have certainly had a variety of orators, and a wide range of
subjects."

"You kin see I ain't missed a single chanct t' hear any of 'em since I
made up my mind t' be a great man"--and then appalled by his lengthy
burst of eloquence the child colored violently and concluded in
confusion--"an' this mornin' I got so interested in them speeches o'
Daly's an' Fink's, I must 'a' lost all track o' time, fer when I come
out it was noon, an' Baldy was gone."

"You must indeed have been absorbed to forget Baldy. Where did you find
him?"

"One o' the school kids told me the pound-man had got him, so I went
over t' the pound on the Sand Spit as fast as I could run. I explained
t' the man that Baldy wasn't a Nome dog; that we live five miles out at
Golconda--but he said he was gittin' pretty sick o' that excuse. That no
boy's dog ever really lived in Nome, so fur's he could find out; that
all of 'em was residin' in the suburbs, an' only come in t' spend a day
now an' then."

"It's a strange thing," mused the Woman, "that all pound-men are
sarcastic and sceptical. It seems an inevitable part of their
occupation. They never believed me when I was a little girl, either.
Then what?"

"He said the only thing that concerned him was that Baldy was in town
when he found him, and hadn't no license. Besides, he thought the dog
was vicious 'cause he growled when the wire was around his neck. Pretty
near any dog 'ud do that ef he had any spirit in him; an' Baldy's jest
full o' spirit."

Both the Woman and "Scotty" looked involuntarily at Baldy who stood,
dejected and uneasy; and then exchanged a glance in which amusement and
pity struggled for expression.

"The pound-man said ef I didn't pay the $2.50 t' git him out, an'
another $2.50 t' git him a license, he'd sell the dog along with a lot
o' others he'd ketched durin' the week. I tuk Mother's money, an' what
the cook give me, an' got Baldy out, an' bought him a license so's he'd
be safe nex' time. Now," sadly, "there ain't goin' t' be any nex' time."

"There really did not seem to be any other way out of it for the
moment," observed the Woman sympathetically.

"No, ma'am, but it wasn't very honest t' use the cook's money, ner
Mother's; it'll take a long time t' pay 'em back, an' I guess Mother
won't have much patience with Baldy after this. I wouldn't mind gittin'
punished myself, but I don't want him blamed. He'd be a lot better off
with you, Mr. Allan; an' mebbe ef you'd feed him up, an' give him a
chanct, he'd be a racer some day. He'd never lay down on you, an',"
almost defiantly, "he's got good legs."

"Scotty" felt the dog's legs, and noted the breadth of his chest. "What
do you want for him, Ben?"

"Would ten dollars be too much?" asked the boy, eagerly.

"Ten dollars would be too little," quickly exclaimed the Woman. "You see
we are getting ahead of all the others who do not know his fine points
yet, and we should be willing to pay something extra for this
opportunity. Do you think that twenty-five dollars would be fair,
considering that we are in on the ground floor?"

"Yes, ma'am, that's lots more'n I expected. But it ain't so much the
money I'm gittin' as the home he's gittin' an' the trainin' an' all."

"Well, that's a bargain, then; come to my husband's office--Darling and
Dean, on Front Street, you know--the first time you are in town, and we
will give you a check; and you can bring Baldy with you then."

"I guess," slowly, "you'd better take him now. It 'ud be easier fer me
t' let him go while I'm kinda worked up to it. Mebbe ef I thought about
it fer a few days I wouldn't be able t' do it, an' he mightn't have
another chanct like this in his whole life."

He drew a frayed bit of rope from a torn pocket, and tied it to the old
strap that served as Baldy's collar--handing the end to "Scotty."

In the deepening shadows of the chill November dusk the boy's face was
ashen. He stooped over as if to see that the knot in the rope was secure
at the dog's neck--but the Woman knew in that brief instant the
trembling blue lips had been pressed in an agony of renunciation against
Baldy's rough coat.

"Thank you both very much," he said in a tone that he tried to keep
steady. "Thank you fer the ride and fer--fer everything."

He did not trust himself to look at the dog again, but stepped quickly
into the Golconda Trail.

"You must come to see Baldy often," the Woman called to him.

"Yes, ma'am, I'll be glad to--after a while," he replied gratefully.

And then as "Scotty" gave the word to the impatient Racers, and the team
swung round to return to Nome, there came to them out of the grayness a
voice, faint and quavering like an echo--"Some day you'll be glad you've
got Baldy."

[Illustration]



II

Where Every Dog Has His Day

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER II

WHERE EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY


Baldy's entrance into the Allan and Darling Kennel had failed to attract
the interest that the arrival of a new inmate usually created. He was an
accident, not an acquisition, and the little comment upon his presence
was generally unfavorable.

Even Matt, who took care of the dogs, and was a sort of godfather to
them all, shook his head dubiously over Baldy. "He don't seem to belong
here, someway," had been his mild criticism; while the Woman complained
to "Scotty" that he was one of the most unresponsive dogs she had ever
known.

"He's not exactly unresponsive," maintained "Scotty" justly; "but he's
self-contained, and it's hard for him to adjust himself to these recent
changes. It's all strange to him, and he misses the boy. You can't watch
him with Ben and say that he's not affectionate; but he gives his
affection slowly, and to but few people. One must earn it."

The Woman regarded Baldy with amused contempt. "So one must work hard
for his affection, eh? Well, with all of the attractive dogs here
willing to lavish their devotion upon us, I think it would hardly be
worth while trying to coax Baldy's reluctant tolerance into something
warmer."

"Scotty" admitted that Baldy could hardly be considered genial. "He's
like some people whose natures are immobile--inexpressive. It's going to
take a little while to find out if it's because there is nothing to
express, or because he is undemonstrative, and has to show by his
conduct rather than by his manners what there is to him."

It was true that Baldy was unmistakably ill at ease in his new quarters,
and did not feel at home; for he was accustomed neither to the luxuries
nor to the restrictions that surrounded him. His early experiences had
been distinctly plebeian and uninteresting, but they had been quite free
of control.

Born at one of the mining claims in the hills, of worthy hard-working
parents, he had, with the various other members of the family, been
raised to haul freight from town to the mine. But his attachment for Ben
Edwards had intervened, and before he was really old enough to be
thoroughly broken to harness, he had taken up his residence at Golconda.

Here his desultory training continued, but a lesson in sled pulling was
almost invariably turned into a romp, so that he had only acquired the
rudiments of an education when he came under "Scotty's" supervision.

His complete ignorance in matters of deportment, and possibly, too, his
retiring disposition, made him feel an intruder in the exclusive coterie
about him; and certainly there was a pronounced lack of cordiality on
the part of most of the dogs toward him. This was especially true of
Tom, Dick, and Harry, the famous Tolman brothers, who were the Veterans
of Alaska Dog Racing, and so had a standing in the Kennel that none
dared question. That is, none save Dubby, who recognized no standard
other than his own; and that standard took no cognizance of Racers as
Racers. They were all just dogs--good or bad--to Dubby.

The fact that Tom, Dick, and Harry had been in every one of those unique
dashes across the snow-swept wastes of Seward Peninsula, from Bering Sea
to the Arctic Ocean and return, and had never been "out of the money,"
did not count greatly in his rigid code. The same distance covered
slowly by freighters in pursuance of their task of earning their daily
living would seem to him far more worthy of respect and emulation. And
so, when the Tolman brothers, who were apt to be quarrelsome with those
"not in their class," showed a coldness toward Baldy that threatened to
break into open hostility at the slightest excuse, Dubby promptly ranged
himself on the side of the newcomer with a firmness that impressed even
Tom, Dick, and Harry with a determination to be at least discreet if not
courteous.

They had learned, with all of the others in the Kennel, to treat with a
studied politeness--even deference--the wonderful old Huskie whose
supremacy as a leader had become a Tradition of the North; and who was
still in fighting trim should cause for trouble arise. He did not rely
alone on his past achievements, which were many and brilliant, but he
maintained a reputation for ever-ready power which is apt to give
immunity from attack.

Dubby's attitude toward the Racers generally was galling in the extreme.
Usually he ignored them completely, turning his back upon them when they
were being harnessed, and apparently oblivious of their very existence;
except as such times when he felt that they needed suggestions as to
their behavior.

There was, in a way, a certain injustice in Dubby's contempt for what
might be called the sporting element of the stable; for, like college
athletes, they were only sports incidentally, and for the greater part
of the year they were as ready and willing to do a hard day's work in
carrying goods to the creeks as were the more commonplace dogs who had
never won distinction on the Trail.

But Dubby was ultra-conservative; and while "Scotty" must have had some
strange human reason for all of these silly dashes with an absolutely
empty sled, in his opinion hauling a boiler up to Hobson Creek would be
a far more efficacious means of exercise, and would be a practical
accomplishment besides. Dubby was of a generation that knew not racing.
Of noted McKenzie River parentage, he came from Dawson, where he was
born, down the Yukon to Nome with "Scotty" Allan. He had led a team of
his brothers and sisters, six in all, the entire distance of twelve
hundred miles, early manifesting that definite acknowledged mastery over
the others that is indispensable in a good leader. He had realized what
it meant to be a Pioneer, had penetrated with daring men the waste
places in search of fame, fortune and adventure; and had carried the
heavy burdens of gold wrested from rock-ribbed mountain, and bouldered
river bed. He had helped to take the United States Mail to remote and
inaccessible districts, and had sped with the Doctor and Priest to the
bedside of the sick or dying in distant, lonely cabins.

He and his kind have ever shared the toil of the development of that
desolate country that stretches from the ice-bound Arctic to where the
gray and sullen waters of Bering Sea break on a bleak and wind-swept
shore. They figure but little in the forest-crowned Alaska of the
South, with its enchanted isles, emerald green, in the sunlit, silver
waves; but they are an indispensable factor in the very struggle for
mere existence up beyond the chain of rugged Aleutians whose towering
volcanoes are ever enveloped in a sinister shroud of smoke. Up in the
eternal snows of the Alaska of the North, the unknown Alaska--the Alaska
of Men and Dogs.

[Illustration: THE ALASKA OF MEN AND DOGS June 1--The
steamer Corwin at the edge of the ice, five miles from shore]

And so it is not strange that in such a land where the dog has ever
played well his rôle of support to those who have faced its dangers and
conquered its terrors, that his importance should be at last freely
acknowledged, and the fact admitted that only the best possible dogs
should be used for all arduous tasks.

Toward this end the Nome Kennel Club was organized. The object was not
alone the improvement of the breeds used so extensively, but also, since
the first President was a Kentuckian, of equal importance was the
furnishing of a wholesome and characteristic sport for the community.

And Nome, once famed for her eager, reckless treasure-seekers in that
great rush of 1900; famed once for being the "widest open" camp in all
Alaska, now in her days of peace and quiet still claims recognition. Not
only because of the millions taken out annually by her huge dredgers and
hydraulics; not only because she is an important trading station that
supplies whalers and explorers with all necessary equipment for their
voyages in the Arctic; not only because of her picturesque history; but
because she possesses the best sled dogs to be found, and originated and
maintains the most thrilling and most difficult sport the world has ever
known--Long Distance Dog Racing.

Previous to the advent of these races any dog that could stand on four
legs, and had strength enough to pull, was apt to be pressed into
service; but since they have become a recognized feature of the life
there, a certain pride has manifested itself in the dog-drivers, and
dog-owners, who aim now to use only the dogs really fitted for the work.
Even the Eskimos, who were notorious for their indifferent handling of
their ill-fed, overburdened beasts, have joined in the "better dog"
movement, which is a popular and growing one.

According to Dubby's stern law, however, most of the Racers--the
long-legged, supple-bodied Tolmans, the delicately built Irish Setters,
Irish and Rover, and numberless others of the same type, would have been
condemned to the ignominy of being mere pets; useless canine adjuncts to
human beings--creatures that were allowed in the house, and were given
strangely repulsive bits of food in return for degrading antics, such as
sitting on one's hind legs or playing dead.

Occasionally there was, for some valid reason, an exception to his
disapproval; as in the case, for instance, of Jack McMillan. For while
he could not but deplore Jack's headstrong ways, and his intolerance of
authority in the past, he nevertheless felt a certain admiration for the
big tawny dog who moved with the lithe ease of the panther, and held
himself with the imposing dignity of the lion. An admiration for the dog
whose reputation for wickedness extended even to the point of being
called a "man-eater," and was the source, far and near, of a respect
largely tempered with fear.

There was always an air of repressed pride about Jack when he listened
to the thrilling accounts of his crimes told with dramatic inspiration
to horrified audiences; a pride which is not seemly save for great
worth and good deeds. Yet in spite of these grave faults of character
Dubby accorded McMillan the recognition due his wonderful strength and
keen intelligence; for Dubby, while intolerant of mere speed, was ever
alert to find the sterner and more rugged qualities in his associates.

Perhaps it was partly because Baldy possessed no trivial graces and
manifested no disdain for the homely virtues of the work dogs whose
faithfulness has won for them an honorable place in the community, that
Dubby had soon given unmistakable signs of friendliness that helped to
make Baldy's new home endurable.

While Dubby's championship was a great comfort, there were many things
of every-day occurrence that surprised and annoyed Baldy. Out of the
bewilderment that had at first overwhelmed him he had finally evolved
two Great Rules of Conduct, which he observed implicitly--to Pull as
Hard as he Could, and to Obey his Driver. This code of ethics is perfect
for a trail dog of Alaska, but it was in the minor things that he was
constantly perplexed--things in which it was difficult to distinguish
between right and wrong, or at least between folly and wisdom. To tell
where frankness of action became tactlessness, and the renunciation of
passing pleasures a pose. It was particularly disconcerting to see that
virtue often remained unnoticed, and that vice just as often escaped
retribution; and what he saw might have undermined Baldy's whole moral
nature, but for the simple sincerity that was the key-note to his
character. As an artless dog of nature he was accustomed, when the world
did not seem just and right to him, to show it plainly--an attitude not
conducive to popularity; and it often made him seem surly when as a
matter of fact he was only puzzled or depressed. He could not feign an
amiability to hide hatred and vindictiveness as did the Tolmans, and it
was a constant shock to him to note how the hypocrisy of Tom and his
brothers deluded their friends into a deep-seated belief in their
integrity. Even after such depravity as chasing the Allan girl's pet
cat, stealing a neighbor's dog-salmon, or attacking an inoffensive
Cocker Spaniel, he had seen Tom so meek and pensive that no one could
suspect him of wrong-doing who had not actually witnessed it; and he had
seen the Woman, when she _had_ actually witnessed it, become a sort of
accessory after the fact, and shield Tom from "Scotty's" just wrath,
which was extraordinary and confusing.

The confinement of a Kennel, too, no matter how commodious, was most
trying. Even the vigorous daily exercise was "personally conducted" by
Matt; and Baldy longed for the freedom that had been his when alone, or
preferably with the boy, he had roamed through the far stretches of rank
grass, tender willows, and sweet-smelling herbs in summer, or over the
wide, snowy plains in winter.

Then, later, the boy came to Baldy; and there were blissful periods when
he would lie with his head on Ben's lap; when the repressed enmity of
the haughty Tolmans, the cold indifference of the magnificent McMillan,
and even Matt's eternal vigilance were forgotten. Periods when his
companion's toil-hardened hands stroked the sleek sides and sinewy
flanks that no longer hinted of insufficient nourishment; and caressing
fingers lingered over the smooth and shining coat that had once been so
rough and ragged.

To see Baldy receiving the same care and consideration as his
stable-mates, who had won the plaudits of the world, justified the boy's
sacrifice; and in spite of his loneliness he always left Baldy with a
happy heart.

"We'll show 'em some day we was worth while, won't we, Baldy?" he would
whisper confidently; and Baldy's reply was sure to be a satisfactory wag
of his bobbed tail, signifying that he certainly intended to do his
best.

[Illustration]



III

The First Step

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER III

THE FIRST STEP


With the boy's more frequent visits Baldy's horizon began to widen
almost imperceptibly. He even looked forward to those moments when, with
George Allan and his friend Danny Kelly, Ben stood beside him discussing
his points and possibilities.

Up to the present his world had included but two friends--the boy and
Moose Jones. Annoyed and sometimes abused at the Camp, he had felt that
there was no real understanding between himself and most of those with
whom he came into association, and it had made him gloomy and
suspicious. Now he knew, with the intuition so often found in children
and animals, that George and Danny, as well as Ben, comprehended, at
least in part, the emotions he could not adequately express--gratitude
for kindness and a desire to please; and in return he endeavored to show
his appreciation of this understanding by shy overtures of friendliness.
He even licked George's hand one day--a caress heretofore reserved
exclusively for Ben Edwards--and he escorted Danny Kelly the full length
of the town to his home in the East End, much as he dreaded the confines
of the narrow city streets where he was brought into close contact with
strange people and strange dogs.

At Golconda, in his absorbing affection for the boy, he had more or less
ignored the others of his kind--they meant nothing to him. But now the
advantages of plenty of food and excellent care were almost offset by
his occasional contact with the quarrelsome dogs of the street, and his
constant companionship with the distinguished company into which he had
come reluctantly and in which he seemed so unwelcome.

In "Scotty" Baldy discerned a compelling personality to whom he rendered
willing allegiance and respect, as well as a dawning affection. And it
was with much gratification that he had heard occasionally after
inspection comments in a tone that contained no trace of regret at his
presence, even if it had as yet inspired no particular enthusiasm. To be
sure Allan found some merit in the least promising dogs as a rule, and
perhaps the faint praise he was beginning to bestow on Baldy had in it
more or less of the impersonal approval he gave to all dogs who did not
prove themselves hopelessly bad. But it seemed at least a step in the
right direction when "Scotty" had said, replying to criticism of the
Woman, "No, he is certainly not fierce, and by no means so morose as he
looks. So far I must confess he's proving himself a pretty good sort."

Of course even the Woman, who admitted frankly that first impressions
counted much with her, knew that it was not always wise to judge by
appearances, for she had seen the successful development of the most
unlikely material. There was the case of Tom, Dick, and Harry. No one
would ever have supposed in seeing them, so alert and with the quickness
and grace of a cat in their movements, that in their feeble mangy
infancy they had only been saved from drowning by their excellent family
connections, and their appealing charm of responsiveness. A
responsiveness that in maturity made them favorites with every one who
knew them, and prompted the tactful ways that convinced each admirer
that his approval was the last seal to their satisfaction in the fame
they had won. When Tom leaned against people confidingly, and put up his
paw in cordial greeting; and Dick and Harry, so much alike that it was
nearly impossible to tell them apart, stood waiting eagerly for the
inevitable words of praise, it was hard indeed to realize that their
perfect manners were a cloak for morals that rough, uncultured Baldy
would condemn utterly.

With the departure of the last boats of the summer there is no
connecting link with the great, unfrozen outside, except the wireless
telegraph and the United States Government Dog Team Mail that is brought
fifteen hundred miles, in relays, over the long white trail from Valdez.
Then, with the early twilight of the long Arctic winter, which lasts
until the dawn of the brilliant sunshine and pleasant warmth of May,
there come the Dog Days of Nome. Days that are heralded by an increased
activity in dog circles, a mysterious fascination that weaves itself
about all prospective entries to the races, and the introduction of a
strange dialect called "Deep Dog Dope," which is the popular means of
communication between all people regardless of age, sex or
nationality--from the Federal Judge on the Bench to the tiniest tots in
Kindergarten.

The town gives itself up completely to the gripping intensities and
ardors of this period when all dog men assemble in appropriate places to
talk over the prospects of the coming Racing Season. Accordingly George
and Danny were in the habit of meeting in the Kennel, each afternoon, to
consider the burning questions of the hour, with all of the certain
knowledge and wide experience that belonged to their mature years--for
George and Danny were seven and eight respectively.

Often Ben, whose mother had obtained work in town so that he might go to
school regularly, joined in these important discussions; and while
somewhat older than his companions, he greatly enjoyed being with them,
for they were manly little fellows and had picked up much valuable dog
lore from "Scotty" and Matt.

The Woman, too, for no apparent reason, was frequently at these serious
conclaves, and was apt to voice rather trifling views on the weighty
matters in debate. George felt that she was entitled only to the
courteous toleration one accords the weaker sex in matters too deep for
their inconsequent minds to grasp fully; for even if she was his
father's racing partner, she had openly acknowledged that she considered
dogs a pastime, and not a life study, which naturally proved her mental
limitations.

[Illustration: The Woman]

One of the events already assured was a race for boys under nine years
of age. "It's too bad you're too old for it, Ben," George had exclaimed
sympathetically. "Father's told Danny and me we can use some of his
dogs; and he'd 'a' been glad t' do the same for you. When I want t'
drive fast dogs, and go t' the Moving Pictures at night, and drink
coffee, I wish I was old too; but now I can see that gettin' old's
pretty tough on a feller sometimes."

"Mebbe there'll be a race fer the older boys later," replied Ben
hopefully. "I dunno as I could do much myself, but I sure would like t'
try Baldy out. He minds so quick I think he'd be a fine leader; an' it
looks like he'd be fast from the way he chases rabbits and squirrels
out on the tundra."

"You can't allers tell about that," observed Dan pessimistically. "I got
a dog that's a corker when he's just chasin' things; but when I put a
harness on him he ain't fit for a High School Girl's Racin' Team, an'
you know what girls is for gettin' speed out of a dog. 'You poor tired
little doggie, you can stop right here an' rest if you want to; I don't
care if they do get ahead of us,'" and Danny finished his remarks in the
high falsetto and mincing inflection he attributed to the youthful
members of a sex that in his opinion, as well as in George's, has no
right to engage in the masculine occupation of Dog Mushing.

"Of course," said George, looking thoughtfully at Baldy, who was lying
contentedly at Ben's feet, and giving voice to the wisdom of "Scotty" or
Matt in such discussions, "of course, in a dog that's goin' in for the
Big Race, you got t' have more'n speed. You can't depend on just that
for four hundred and eight miles. There's got t' be lots of endurance
an' the dogs had ought t' really enjoy racin' t' do their best. But for
this race we're goin' in, Danny, I guess speed's the whole thing.
Speed, an' the dog's mindin' you." George glanced involuntarily toward
Jack McMillan, who sat with his head resting against the Woman's knee.
"You can't do anythin' at all, no matter how fast dogs is, if they don't
mind."

"I'm afraid, Mr. McMillan," commented the Woman seriously, "that these
personalities are meant for you. Just because your first owner spoiled
you, and the second paid the highest price ever given for a dog in the
North, all accuse you of thinking yourself far too important to be
classed with the common herd whose chief virtue is obedience. They say
you lost a great race by being ungovernable. Guilty, or not guilty?" The
brown eyes that had been wont to blaze so fiercely now looked pleadingly
into the Woman's face, and the sable muzzle was pressed more closely
against her. "They started you off all wrong, Jack. They let you become
headstrong, and then tried to force you arbitrarily into their ways,
instead of persuading you. If you had been a human being, all this would
have been considered Temperament, but being only a dog it was Temper,
and was dealt with as such." McMillan gravely extended his paw in
appreciation of her championship.

"Oh, I didn't only just mean Jack when I was talkin' about dogs not
mindin'," explained George with embarrassed haste; for he knew of the
Woman's fondness for the dog and did not wish to hurt her feelings, much
as he condemned her judgment in selecting such a favorite.

Her preference had dated from the night when she had entered the Kennel
after a long absence, and had seen the stranger in the half light of the
June midnight. He had changed somewhat since the imperious days when he
had threatened the life of his trainer, and she had not recognized the
Incorrigible in the handsome dog who had greeted her with such
flattering cordiality.

He soon manifested an abject devotion to her, and would barely listen
even to "Scotty" when she was near--the moment he heard her footsteps
howling insistently till she ignored all of the others and came directly
to him. It became a matter of pride with her to take him into the
streets where people would still look askance at the erstwhile
"man-eater," and comment on her courage in handling the "brute." While
she and the "brute" had the little joke between them, which she later
confided to Ben, that Jack McMillan's misdemeanors were merely the
result of an undisciplined nature handled unsympathetically, and that at
heart he was the gentlest dog in Nome.

"Jack minds all right now," ventured Ben. "I seen him the other day with
Mr. Allan, an' he minded as good as any of 'em--even Kid."

"Well, none of them could do better than that. 'Scotty' says that Kid
has every admirable quality that a dog could possibly possess, and that
without a doubt he is the most promising racing leader in Alaska. But of
course Jack would have to mind or he would not be here. The first thing
a new dog must realize is that 'Scotty' is the sole authority, and that
obedience is the first law of the Kennel. Even with his first racing
driver I believe it was more a case of misunderstanding on both sides
than wilful disobedience. But it grew to a point where it became almost
a matter of life or death for one or the other."

"Moose Jones said they had t' break his tusks t' use him at all, an'
that it took three men t' hold him away from his driver sometimes; an'
that 'Scotty' was the only man in the whole North that could git the
best of him without breakin' his spirit. An' he seems terrible fond o'
'Scotty'--I mean Mr. Allan--now."

"You may call him 'Scotty,' Ben; he doesn't mind in the least. He's
'Scotty' to every Alaskan from Juneau to Barrow, Eskimos included--age
no restraint. Yes, Jack is fond of 'Scotty,' but it took a battle royal
to bring about this permanent peace."

"It's a wonder he wasn't killed before you an' 'Scotty' got him, if they
was all so scared t' handle him."

"He would have been killed except that his enormous strength and unusual
alertness made him too valuable. So in spite of their fears they kept
him, but he was watched incessantly; and after his tusks were broken he
became even more rebellious, and grew to distrust every one about him.
Poor old fellow." She turned the handsome head toward the boy. "Look at
him, Ben. Would you believe that they used to frighten naughty children
by telling them that Jack was out looking for them?"

It was a fact that his name had once carried a suggestion of grim terror
and impending disaster in Nome. And the dark hint that McMillan of the
Broken Tusks was in the neighborhood struck consternation to the hearts
of infant malefactors, and had been the source of much unwilling virtue,
and many a politic repentance on the part of those offenders hitherto
only impressed by the threatened arrival of the Policeman.

Ben regarded Jack with admiration and pity. He was sorry for even a dog
that has been misunderstood.

"No, ma'am, he don't look vicious, but he sure does look powerful. If a
man had a whole team like Jack there'd hardly be a chanct t' beat him, I
s'pose."

"I'm not so sure of that, Ben. Of course the team counts for a great
deal; so, too, does the skill of the driver. But there are many other
things that enter into this contest that do not have to be considered
usually. Given a mile of smooth track and horses in perfect condition,
well mounted, the fastest one is apt to win. In a race that lasts for
over three days and nights, however, through the roughest sort of
country, in weather that may range from a thaw to a blizzard, and with
fifteen or twenty dogs to manage, the Luck of the Trail is an enormous
factor. One team may run into a storm, and be delayed for hours, that
another may escape entirely; and a trivial accident may put the best
team and driver entirely out of commission."

"That's so," agreed Danny. "That's what happened the year 'Scotty' lost
the race to Seppala, an' came in second. Don't you know, George, your
father told us it was near the end o' the run, an' the dogs was gettin'
pretty tired, so he put a loose leader at the head t' give 'em new
life--sort t' ginger 'em up. I guess that dog was as tired as the rest,
an' nervous, 'cause he missed the trail in a terrible blow an' got
separated from 'Scotty' an' went back t' the Road House they'd left
last, like he'd been learned t' do. O' course 'Scotty' looked for him a
while an' then went back for him. But it lost the race, all right, an'
the cinch he had on breakin' the record. With them four hours lost, an'
what he done later, he'd 'a' made the best time ever known in a dog race
in Alaska. Gee, it was awful."

The Woman sighed. "Well, at least they can't blame the loss of _that_
race on you, can they, Jack? It certainly was hard luck, but we will
have to be good sports and try it again. Perhaps you'll develop a dog
star of the first magnitude for us in your race, boys."

George and Danny looked serious. It was a difficult problem--this
assembling of a racing team, and the responsibility weighed heavily upon
them. Why, it meant the possibility of making a juvenile Record, and
winning a Cup, and naturally required a critical consideration of even
the smallest details.

"If I could only take some o' the Sweepstakes Dogs," mused George
regretfully, "it 'ud be dead easy; but Father says it wouldn't be fair
t' the fellers that hasn't a racin' stable t' pick from. We got t' use
some o' the untried ones. I been thinkin' o' Spot for a leader. He seems
sort o' awkward, 'cause he's raw-boned, an' ain't filled out yet; but
all the other dogs like him, an' he'd ruther run than eat."

"Isn't he pretty young for that position?" hazarded the Woman. "Let me
see, he can't be much more than a year old now."

She remembered when he had been a common little fellow, but a short time
ago, sprawling in every mud-puddle, or wobbling uncertainly after the
many strange alluring things in the streets. Matt, who seemed to have
second sight in regard to the invisible, latent good points in all
horses and dogs, had picked him up in the pound for a mere nothing; and
to him there was granted the vision of a brilliant future for the
vagrant puppy. "Mark my words," he had said decisively when Spot's fate
hung in the balance, "you can't go wrong on him; he'll be a credit to us
all some day." And so Spot was rescued from death, or at least from a
life of poverty and obscurity, and given to George Allan to become his
constant companion.

"You know," she persisted, "if a leader is too young he's apt to become
over-zealous and important the way Irish did the day we loaned him to
Charlie Thompson in the first Moose Handicap. Don't you remember he was
disgusted at the way they were being managed by a rank novice, so he
took his place in front of a rival team that was being well driven, and
led them to victory, with the whole town cheering and yelling? You don't
want that to happen to you, because your leader is inexperienced."

"It ain't the same thing at all," explained George patiently; for it is
ever the man's part to try to be patient with the feminine ignorance of
dogs and baseball and other essential things about which women seem to
have no intuition. "You see, I ain't goin' to drive him loose. A dog
shouldn't ever be a loose leader unless he's a wonder at managin' all
the rest, an' young dogs ain't generally had the trainin' for it. After
a dog has showed he can find the trail, an' keep it, an' set the pace,
an' make the others mind him, bein' a loose leader's kind of an honor
he's promoted to; like bein' a General in the army. He don't have t' be
hitched up to the tow-line any more, an' pull; he just has t' think, an'
keep the team out o' trouble."

"It's too bad that dogs aren't driven with lines instead of spoken
orders--then there wouldn't be all of the bother about a leader every
time." Both George and Danny looked at her for a moment with a contempt
they barely succeeded in concealing. Even Ben Edwards was unpleasantly
surprised, and he was not given to regarding her vagaries with
unfriendly criticism.

Drive with lines! Bother about a leader! Why, if dogs were driven with
lines there would be no more interest in driving a dog team than there
is in driving a delivery wagon, or running an automobile. All of the
fascination of having your dogs answer to your will, voluntarily and
intelligently, would be lost in the mechanical response to the jerk and
the pull of the reins.

She was utterly hopeless. There was no use of a further waste of words
with her on such matters.

George turned to Danny and Ben. They were discerning, and capable of
grasping a dog man's point of view. "Then there's Queen, for one
wheeler. You know we're only allowed three dogs, an' we got t' be mighty
careful."

"I expect it's pretty near 's important t' git the right wheel dogs as
'tis a leader, ain't it, George? Bein' next t' the sled an' so close t'
the driver an' load, they allers seem t' kinda manage the business end
o' things."

"That's right, Ben. That's why we got t' be sure o' gettin' good
wheelers. In racin' there's no load, but it takes some managin' just the
same t' keep the sled right on side hills an' goin' down steep slopes.
O' course in a short race I wouldn't get into the sled at all, an' on
the runners at the back I can get my feet on the brake easy. But Father
an' Matt say that you want your wheelers t' know just what their duties
is if the brake gets out o' order, or any thin' goes wrong."

"Wheelers have to be clever, and strong and tractable then--rather a
big order," murmured the Woman somewhat meekly, as one seeking
information.

"Yes, ma'am," replied Danny politely, "all o' that, an' I was just
wonderin' if Queen 'ud do for the place."

Queen, another present of Matt's to George, was a Gordon Setter with a
strong admixture of native blood, and was hopeless as a regular team dog
because of her high-strung and irritable disposition. Naturally nervous,
she had become, with the advent of her first family, so fierce that it
was dangerous for any one to approach her except George, and for him she
cheerfully left her puppies to be of service in sled pulling.

"Oh, I think she'll do; when you know Queen an' like her she ain't so
bad; an' besides not bein' able t' take any o' the real racers don't
leave us much choice."

"Do you--don't you think you could use Baldy?" suggested Ben eagerly.
"He's no locomotive like McMillan, ner a flyin' machine like them Tolman
dogs an' Irish an' Rover; but you've no idea how powerful an' willin' he
is till you've tried him. Just give him a show, George. I'm 'most sure
he'd make good. Moose Jones allers said he would."

There was a moment of serious consideration on the part of George,
while Danny eyed Baldy critically, and remarked with discrimination,
"Better take him; some o' these common lookin' dogs has the right stuff
in 'em. If looks was everythin' I guess you an' me 'ud be scrappin' over
Oolik Lomen or Margaret Winston, that new fox-hound Russ Downing just
got from Kentucky. But you an' me know too much t' get took in by just
good looks, George."

"All right, Ben. I'll take Baldy for the other wheel dog," said George
as he ran his hand over Baldy's sturdy, muscular body. "He'll be able to
show somethin' o' what's in him in this dash. Now we'd better see about
Danny's team."

The Woman's observation that she thought Jemima, being black, would make
a more artistic wheel-mate for Queen from the standpoint of color
harmony, than would white-faced sable Baldy, was silently ignored, as
was merited.

And so, in defiance of Art, and in spite of her evident prejudice
against him, Baldy made one of George Allan's Racing Team.

Danny, after much discussion and deep thought, selected Judge for his
leader, and Jimmie and Pete as wheelers. They were all steady and
reliable, and made up a more dependable team than George's uncertain
combination of youthful Spot, fiery Queen, and untried Baldy.

Ben was elated that the latter had been accepted by such experts as
being worthy a place in the coming event. And as he left the Kennel to
rush home to tell his mother the great news, he pictured Baldy in his
coming rôle of wheeler in so distinguished a company. "I'm mighty glad I
give him up when I did," he thought cheerfully. "Baldy is sure gettin'
his chanct now."

[Illustration]



IV

The Plodder

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER IV

THE PLODDER


The last two weeks before the Alaska Juvenile Race, as the Nome Kennel
Club had announced it, were busy ones, not only for the boys who were to
actually take part in it, but for all of their friends as well. For
those who had not teams for the event had more than likely loaned a dog,
a sled or a harness to one of the contestants, and consequently felt a
deep personal interest in all incidents connected with the various
entries.

To Ben Edwards the time was full of diversions, for every afternoon on
his way home from school he stopped at the Kennel to curry and brush
Baldy or help George and Danny in the care of the other dogs whose
condition was of such moment now.

When George felt that he should give Spot special training to fit him
for his new position as leader, or took Queen out under the strict
discipline he knew would be necessary to prepare her for the ordeal, he
would ask Ben to hitch Baldy to one of the small sleds and give him a
run.

Baldy's nature had always expressed itself best in action, and Ben was
delighted with the ease with which he adjusted himself to serious sled
work. There were no more romps, no more games, but his pace became even
and steady, and he required no threats and no inducements to make him do
his best.

"There's one thing about Baldy," admitted George freely, "you don't have
t' jolly him along all the time. Why, even with Spot I have to say
'Snowbirds' an' 'Rabbits' every little while when I want him to go
faster, an' then you should see him mush. You know that's what Father
says t' Tom, Dick 'an' Harry, an' Rover an' Irish. It's fine with any of
'em that's got bird-dog blood, an' you know Spot's part pointer. O'
course they don't have t' really see snowbirds an' rabbits, but they
just love t' hear about 'em, an' begin t' look ahead right away. An' if
they do happen t' see 'em, they pretty nearly jump out o' their harness,
they're so crazy for 'em."

"Baldy's part bird-dog, too," said Ben, "but I been watchin' him close,
an' it ain't anythin' outside that makes him want t' go; it's more like
he feels a sort o' duty about doin' the very best he kin fer any one
that's usin' him. He's allers willin' t' do more'n his share; an' he's
lots happier when he's workin' hard than when he's just lyin' idle in
the stable, or bein' trotted out by Matt fer a walk."

"I wisht I was like that," muttered Danny gloomily. "That bein' happiest
when you're workin' hard must be great; but I guess it's only dogs an'
mebbe some men that's like that. I don't know o' any boys that's got
such feelin's."

[Illustration: NOME, ALASKA, FROM BERING SEA]

When the day of the Boys' Race arrived, a day clear, and beautiful, and
only a degree or two below zero, it seemed as if all of Nome had decided
to celebrate the momentous occasion; going in crowds to the starting
place, which was a broad, open thoroughfare on the outskirts of town.
Those especially interested in the individual teams gathered at the
various kennels to see the dogs harnessed and the young drivers prepared
for their test as trailsmen in the coming struggle.

It was Saturday, and a general holiday, and Ben's mother had given him
permission to go to the Kennel early; so that when George and Dan
arrived they found their dogs smooth and shining from the energetic
grooming that Ben had given them.

"It's awful good of you, Ben," said George appreciatively. "Danny an' me
came in plenty o' time t' do it ourselves, an' Matt said he'd help us
too; an' now you've got 'em lookin' finer'n silk. I'll bet even
Father'll say they're as fine as a Sweepstakes Team, an' he's mighty
partic'lar, I can tell you. But I don't see how you got Queen t' stand
for it."

"I talked to 'er jest the way you do, an' then walked straight up to 'er
so's she'd see I wasn't afeared. Moose Jones says it's no use tryin' t'
do anything with a dog that knows you're scared. He told me the reason
your father made a good dog out o' Jack McMillan was because he wasn't
afeared of him, an' give the dog an even break in the terrible fight
they had."

"Father always does that," responded George proudly. "He believes you
got t' show a dog once for all that you're master of him at his very
best. If you tie a dog o' McMillan's spirit, an' beat him t' make him
obey, he always thinks he hadn't a fair chance. But if you can show him
that he can't down you, no matter how good a scrap he puts up, he'll
respect you an' like you the way Jack does Dad."

"I don't believe me an' Queen'd ever have any trouble now," observed Ben
thoughtfully. "Some way I guess we kinda understand each other better'n
we did before."

"Well, it sure shows you got courage," exclaimed Dan admiringly. "I
wouldn't touch that snarlin' brute o' George's, not if I could win this
race by it, an' you know what I'd do fer that." He examined Judge,
Jimmie, and Pete, with profound satisfaction. They were compactly built,
of an even tan color, short haired, bob-tailed, and all about the same
size, being brothers in one litter. Their sturdy legs suggested strength
and their intelligent faces spoke of amiability as well as alertness.
They were indeed worthy sons of the fleet hound mother--Mego--whose
puppies rank so high in the racing world beyond the frozen sea. "They
just glisten, Ben. You must 'a' worked hard t' get 'em lookin' as smooth
an' shinin' as the fur neck-pieces the girls wear."

"O' course I wanted t' git Baldy ready fer his first race; an' doin'
little things fer the other dogs is about the only way I kin pay
everybody round here fer all they're doin' fer him."

Baldy was fast learning not to despise the detail that had made the new
life so irksome before he realized how necessary it is in a large
Kennel; and he now stood patiently waiting for his harness, while long
discussions took place as to the adjustment of every strap, and the
position of every buckle.

"Scotty" and Matt had come in to be ready with counsel and service, if
necessary; then the Allan girls and many of the children from the
neighborhood arrived, and later the Woman appeared with the Big Man whom
Baldy some way associated invariably with her, and a yellow malamute
whom Baldy invariably associated with him.

The Big Man always spoke pleasantly to the dogs, and had won Baldy's
approval by not interfering--as did the Woman--in Kennel affairs; and
the malamute--the Yellow Peril, as the Woman had named him--was plainly
antagonistic to the Racers, at whom he growled with much enthusiasm. And
so Baldy was glad to see the Big Man and the Peril amongst the
acquaintances and strangers who were thronging into the place.

George brought out a miniature racing sled--his most prized
possession--and a perfect reproduction of the one "Scotty" used in the
Big Races, being built strongly, but on delicate lines. Danny pulled
another, only a trifle less rakish, beside it. They were conversing in
low tones. "We got pretty nearly half an hour t' wait, Dan, an' it's
fierce t' have all these people that don't know a blame thing about
racin' standin' round here givin' us fool advice. Why, if we was t' do
what they're tellin', we'd be down an' out before we reached Powell's
dredge on Bourbon Creek. Most of 'em don't know any more 'bout dogs 'n I
do 'bout--'bout--"

"'Rithmetic," suggested Danny promptly.

"Well, anyway, we got t' run our own race. Dad says there ain't any cut
an' dried rules for dog racin' beyond knowin' your dogs, an' usin'
common sense. Each time it's different, 'cordin' t' the dogs, the
distance, the trail an' the weather. An' you have t' know just what it's
best t' do whatever happens, even if it never happened before."

"Gee," sighed Danny heavily, "winnin' automobile races an' horse races
is takin' candy from babies besides this here dog racin'. I hadn't any
idea how much there was to it till we begun t' train the dogs, an' talk
it over with your father. I was awful nervous last night, I don't
believe I slept hardly any, worryin' about the things that can go wrong,
no matter how careful you are."

"I didn't sleep any, either. I got t' thinkin' about Queen hatin'
Eskimos, an' chasin' 'em every time she gets a chance. It 'ud be a
terrible thing if she saw one out on the tundra, an' left the trail t'
try and ketch him; or if she smelled some of 'em in the crowd an' made a
break for 'em just when she ought t' be ready t' start. An' you know
there's bound t' be loads of Eskimos, 'cause they'd rather see a dog
race than eat a seal-blubber banquet."

"That's so; but Spot is good friends with all the natives 'round town,
an' he's stronger'n Queen, an' wouldn't leave the trail for anything but
snowbirds or rabbits, so he'd hold 'er down. An' I guess Baldy'd be
kinda neutral, 'cause he don't pay attention t' Eskimos or anything when
he's workin'. I never saw a dog mind his own business like Baldy. That's
worth somethin' in a race." The inactivity was becoming unbearable.
"George, if you and Ben'll get the dogs into harness, I'll go an' see
what's doin' with some of the others. It'll sort o' fill in time."

Ben and George hitched the dogs to the respective sleds after Spot, in
the exuberant joy of a prospective run, had dashed madly about, barking
boisterously, a thing absolutely prohibited in that well-ordered
household. "Scotty" and Matt refrained from all criticism of George's
leader, knowing that both the boy and dog were unduly excited by the
noisy, laughing groups surrounding them. Queen, while she waited with
very scant patience for the strange situation, diverted herself by
nipping viciously at any one who went past, and Baldy stood quiet and
different save when Ben Edwards was near, or "Scotty" spoke kindly to
him.

Mego's sons, as was natural with such a parent, and with Allan's
training since they were born, behaved with perfect propriety; and there
were many compliments for Dan's team, which manifested a polite interest
in the development of affairs.

Shortly Dan returned with somewhat encouraging information about the
rival teams.

"Bob's got three dogs better matched 'n yours as t' size," he remarked
judicially, "but his leader, old Nero, 's most twelve, you remember, 'nd
wants t' stop an' wag his tail, an' give his paw t' every kid that
speaks to him. Bill's got some bully pups, but his sled's no good; it's
his mother's kitchen chair nailed onto his skiis. Jimmie's team's a
peach, an' so's his sled; but Jim drives like a--like a girl," finished
Mr. Kelly scornfully, with the tone of one who disposes of that
contestant effectively and finally. "For looks an' style, I can tell
you, George, there ain't any of 'em that's a patch on my team. Some
Pupmobile!"

He glanced proudly at the wide-awake dogs who showed their breeding and
education at every turn, and then toward George's ill-assorted
collection: Spot, rangy, raw-boned, and awkward, Queen fretful and
mutinous, and Baldy so stolid that it was evident he was receiving no
inspiration from the enthusiasm about him.

"Of course you can beat me drivin' without half tryin', George, an' if
Spot's feet wasn't so big, an' Queen didn't have such a rotten
disposition, an' Baldy knew he was alive, it 'ud be a regular cinch for
you. But the way things is, believe me, I'm goin' t' give you a run for
your money, with good old Mego's 'houn' dogs.'"

Both George and Dan had, of course, like all small boys in Nome, at one
time or another, made swift and hazardous dashes of a few hundred yards,
in huge chopping bowls purloined from their mothers' pantries; and drawn
by any one dog that was available for the instant, and would tamely
submit to the degradation. An infantile amusement, they felt now, in the
face of this real Sporting Event that was engaging the attention of the
entire town. And to complete the feeling that this was indeed no mere
child's play, the Woman came to them with two cups of hot tea to warm
them up, and steady their nerves on the trail. This they graciously
accepted and drank, in spite of its very unpleasant taste; for "Scotty"
always drank tea while giving Matt the last few necessary directions
before a race.

"All ready, boys, time to leave," called the Big Man cheerily. "Peril
and I will go ahead, and charge the multitudes so that you can get
through."

The Allan girls pressed forward hurriedly to give George two treasured
emblems of Good Luck--a four-leaf clover in a crumpled bit of silver
paper, and a tiny Billiken in ivory, the cherished work of Happy Jack,
the Eskimo Carver.

Equally potent charms in the form of a rabbit's foot, and a rusty
horseshoe were tendered Danny by his staunch supporters.

At the big door of the Kennel the boys stopped for a final word. "We
won't make a sound if we should have to pass on the trail," said George.
"We'll be as silent as the dead," an expression recently acquired, and
one which seemed in keeping with these solemn moments. "All the dogs
know our voices, an' if we should speak they might stop just like they
have when we've been exercisin' 'em, an' wanted t' talk things over.
We'll pull the hoods of our parkas over our heads, an' turn our faces
away so's not to attract 'em. Dan, I do want t' win this race awful bad,
'cause o' my father mostly, but you bet I hope you'll come in a close
second."

"Same to you, George," and they made their way to the middle of the
street, where they fell in behind the Big Man and the Peril, and were
flanked by the Woman and "Scotty," Matt and Ben, with most of the others
who had waited for this imposing departure.

The other entries had already arrived at the starting point, where there
was much confusion and zeal in keeping the bewildered dogs in order. It
was a new game, and they did not quite comprehend what was expected of
them.

At last, however, the Timekeeper, and Starter, assisted by various
members of the Kennel Club, had cleared a space into which the first
entry was led with great ceremony. It was Bob, with the cordial, if
ancient, Nero in the lead.

They were to leave three minutes apart; the time of each team being
computed from the moment of its departure till its return, as is always
done in the Great Races.

The Timekeeper stood with his watch in his hand, and the Starter beside
him. Bob, eager for the word, spoke soothingly to the dogs to keep them
quiet. He was devoutly hoping that Nero would not discover any intimate
friend in the crowd and insist upon a formal greeting; for Nero's
affability was a distinct disadvantage on such an occasion.

At last the moment came, and the Starter's "Go" was almost simultaneous
with Bob's orders to his leader, whose usual dignified and leisurely
movements were considerably hastened by the thunderous applause of the
spectators.

It was a "bully get-away," George and Dan agreed, and only hoped that
theirs would be as satisfactory.

Bill followed with equal ease, and equal approbation.

Jim, justifying Dan's earlier unfavorable report, lost over a minute by
letting his dogs become tangled up in their harness, and then coaxing
them to leave instead of commanding.

"Wouldn't that jar you?" whispered Dan disgustedly. "Why, your sister
Helen does better'n that in those girly-girly races, even if she does
say she'd rather get a beatin' herself than give one to a dog."

But the general public looked with more lenient eyes upon such
mistakes, and Jim left amidst the same enthusiasm that had sped the
others on their way.

When Dan and his dogs lined up there was much admiration openly
expressed.

"Looks like a Sweepstakes team through the wrong end of the opry
glasses, don't it?" exclaimed Matt with justifiable pride to Black Mart
Barclay, who happened to be next him.

Mart scrutinized the entry closely. "Not so bad. Them Mego pups is
allers fair lookers an' fair go-ers, so fur's I ever heered t' the
contrary," he admitted grudgingly.

There was an air of repressed but pleasurable expectation about the
little "houn' dogs," as they patiently waited for their signal to go.
Their racing manners were absolutely above reproach. Unlike Nero, they
quite properly ignored the merely social side of the event, and were
evidently intent upon the serious struggle before them; and equally
unlike Queen and Baldy, they showed neither the peevishness of the one,
nor the apathy of the other.

By most people the race was practically conceded to Dan before the
start.

It seemed an endless time to George before it was his turn; but when he
finally stepped into place, the nervousness that had made the wait
almost unbearable disappeared completely. The hood of his fur parka had
dropped back, and his yellow hair, closely cropped that it should not
curl and "make a sissy" of him, gleamed golden in the sunlight above a
face that, usually rosy and smiling, was now pale and determined.

In that far world "outside," George Allan would have been at an age when
ringlets and a nurse-maid are just beginning to chafe a proud man's
spirit; but here in the North he was already "Some Musher,"[1] and was
eager to win the honors that would prove him a worthy son of the
Greatest Dog Man in Alaska.

[Footnote 1: "Musher"--driver, trailsman.]

True to their several characteristics, Spot manifested an amiable and
wide-awake interest in all about him, Queen repelled all advances with
snaps and snarls, and Baldy quivered with a dread of the unknown, and
was only reassured when he felt Ben Edwards' hand on his collar, and
listened to the low, encouraging tones of the boy's voice.

[Illustration: THE START OF AN ALASKAN DOG TEAM RACE]

"Too bad, Matt," drawled Black Mart, "that the little Allan kid's usin'
Baldy. He was allers an ornery beast, an' combin' his hair an' puttin'
tassels an' fancy harness on him ain't goin' t' make a racer outen a
cur."

Ben's face flushed hotly. "It ain't just beauty that counts, Baldy; it's
what you got clear down in your heart that folks can't see," he thought,
and clung the more lovingly to the trembling dog.

Matt carefully shook the ashes from his pipe. "It's a mighty good thing,
Mart, that people an' dogs ain't judged entirely by looks. If they was,
there's some dogs that's racin' that would be in the pound, an' some men
that's criticizin' that would be in jail."

"Ready."

George, poised lightly on the runners at the back of the trim sled,
firmly grasped the curved top, and repeated the word to Spot, who held
himself motionless but in perfect readiness for the final signal.

"Go."

With unexpected buoyancy and ease, Spot darted ahead, and for once
Queen forgot her grievances, and Baldy his fears; as in absolute harmony
of action, the incongruous team sped quickly down the length of the
street, and over the edge of the Dry Creek hill; to reappear shortly on
the trail that led straight out to the Bessie Bench.

The Road House there was the turning point, where the teams would pass
round a pole at which was stationed a guard; and the collection of
buildings which marked the end of half of the course looked distant
indeed to the five young mushers who with their teams had now become, to
the watchers in Nome, merely small moving black specks against the
whiteness of the snow.

George and Dan had discussed the matter fully in the preceding days, and
had decided that, like "Scotty," they would do all of the real driving
on the way home. So it was not at all disconcerting, some time before
they reached the turn, to meet two of the teams coming back. The third,
Jim's, had been diverted at the Road House by a large family of small
pigs in an enclosure surrounded by wire netting; and Jim's most alluring
promises and his direst threats were both unavailing against the charms
of the squealing, grunting creatures, the like of which his spellbound
chargers had never seen before.

Dan was several hundred feet ahead of George, and the latter could but
look with some misgivings at the even pace of Judge, Jimmie and Pete; a
pace that as yet showed no sign of weakening. Of course should Mego's
pups prove faster than his own team, he would loyally give all credit
due the driver and dogs; but it would be a bitter disappointment indeed
if Spot did not manifest the wonderful speed that Matt had always
predicted for him, and if there was no evidence in superior ability, of
the long hours of careful attention that George had devoted to his
education as a leader.

When Dan's team finally rounded the pole, and was headed toward him,
George realized that the work of Mego's sons evinced not only mechanical
precision, but the intelligence of their breeding, and the advantages of
their early training by "Scotty." Dan would indeed, as he had boasted,
"give them a run for their money."

"_Mush_, Spot, Queen, Baldy," and there was a slight increase in
briskness, which was checked again as they swung by the guard.

"Now then, Spot," and George gave a peculiar shrill whistle that to the
dog meant "Full Speed Ahead."

He watched the distance between himself and Dan decrease slowly at
first; then more rapidly until they were abreast of one another. True to
their compact they did not speak, and the inclination of Spot to stop
for the usual visit beside his stable mates received no encouragement.
Instead he got a stern command to "Hike, and hike _quick_!"

Beyond were the other teams, almost together, and to George it seemed as
if he barely crept toward Bob and Bill; though there was a steady gain
to the point where he could call out for the right of way to pass--a
privilege the driver of the faster team can demand.

But just behind him came Dan, whose dogs now felt the inspiration of the
stiff gait set them by their friends; and both boys knew that from now
on the race was between them alone.

George was more experienced in handling dogs, but Dan's dogs were easier
to handle. It was narrowing down to a question of the skill of the
driver on one side, pitted against the excellence of the dogs on the
other. Unless, indeed, Spot, Queen or Baldy should rise to the occasion
in some unexpected manner; or the Luck of the Trail, that the Woman
believed was so potent a factor, should enter into the contest.

They were approaching the last quarter of the course, where the road
from Monroeville crossed the trail diagonally. George glanced back and
saw that he would have to travel faster still to shake off Dan's
tireless "Pupmobile."

For a moment he wondered despairingly why he had been so short-sighted
as to choose three unknown quantities in such an important event,
leaving to Dan those whose worth was a foregone conclusion. Then his
sporting blood rose. If no one ever attempted anything new, it would be
a pretty slow old world. And if he had not the courage to try Spot out,
his pet might remain an ordinary, commonplace dog to the end of his
days; a condition that would be intolerable to George. Then, too, it
would have been a disappointment to Ben if Baldy could not have entered;
and Ben's feelings were now of much consequence to George and Danny, as
they had admitted him, a third member, to their exclusive secret
society, "The Ancient and Honorable Order of Bow-Wow Wonder Workers."
Better defeat than a fair chance not taken; and so, at such thoughts he
was cheered and again whistled to Spot to "Speed Up."

But just at that instant there came, down the Monroeville Road, and
around the base of a small rise of ground, a Native hunter over whose
shoulder was hung a dozen or more ptarmigan, the grouse of the North.
Spot paused instantly, and seemed petrified in an attitude which his
distant grandsires, old in field work, might have envied for its perfect
immobility. The fact that the birds were dead and on a string meant
nothing to his untutored mind. They were birds, and as such were worthy
of a close and careful inspection.

Simultaneously Queen's hatred of Eskimos received an impetus; and joined
by the now aroused Spot, she started off the trail toward the
unconscious cause of her deep-seated antipathy.

"A double-ender," groaned George; "dead birds, and an Eskimo. Spot and
Queen won't show up till everything's over but the shoutin'. I'll just
about tie for fourth place if Jim gets his pups away from the pigs
about the time Queen finishes with the hunter."

But tug as desperately as they might, neither Spot nor Queen succeeded
in pulling the sled more than a few feet; for added to George's weight
on the brake, Baldy, calm and immovable, was braced against the efforts
of the other two.

Spot's ungainly feet pawed the snow impatiently, as he strained in his
collar stretching the tow-line so taut that George feared it might snap.
Equally unavailing were Queen's sudden leaps and frantic plunges. The
more they struggled, the more firmly Baldy held to the trail.

At last George's stern reproofs, and a certain reasonableness in Spot
that prompted him to accept the inevitable gracefully, combined to end
the disturbance. Besides, the birds did not run nor fly, so they were
not much fun anyway.

Not for Queen, however, was any such placid acceptance of defeat. Balked
of her expected prey, she turned fiercely against her wheel-mate, whom
she rightly considered responsible for her inability to bolt; and after
one or two efforts, she fastened her teeth in his ear, leaving a small
wound from which the blood trickled, staining his collar and shoulder.
George expected Baldy to retaliate, but instead the dog ignored the
attack and still held his ground with a determination that even Queen
recognized, and to which she finally submitted unwillingly.

But in the time it took to adjust their difficulties, Dan caught up with
them, and together the two teams dashed down the trail, neck and neck.

Dan longed to shout some facetious criticisms of the behavior he had
just witnessed, but a certain sympathy for his rival, who was also his
friend, restrained him; as well as the desire to conserve every atom of
energy he possessed, even to saving his breath.

For a few hundred yards there was no perceptible difference in their
positions; then gradually the Mego Pups pulled away and took the lead by
a small margin.

Nose to the back of Dan's sled came Spot, and so they sped on and on
till the bridge and high bank of Dry Creek came into view, as well as
the moving dark objects that the boys knew to be the crowds awaiting
their return.

George, desperately anxious to try the signal that would urge his
leader to his utmost, waited till they reached the top of a slight
incline. Then the whistle sounded low, but clear. Spot leaped forward,
and Queen and Baldy were no laggards in his wake.

Once more they were abreast of the "houn' dogs," and once more the tried
and untried of the same Kennel raced side by side, with even chances of
victory.

Then again came the Luck of the Trail; and Fate that had sent dead birds
as a temptation now sent a live cat as an inspiration. It was black and
sleek and swift, and fairly flew from a clump of willows by the wayside,
up the trail toward a cabin on the edge of town; and after it flew Spot,
all eagerness for the chase.

Dan's team, as indifferent to the fascination of swift, sleek cats as
only dogs of "Scotty's" training could be, were pursuing the even tenor
of their way in no wise excited by the episode.

When the cat darted out of sight to safety George's dogs were almost at
the starting point and the crowds had hurried to meet them; keeping free
only a narrow passage down which they dashed with unabated speed. For
while they were tired, and home and rest were near, the cheers and
applause of the people egged them on till they crossed the line, where
George was greeted as Winner of the First Annual, Juvenile Race of Nome.

He had covered the course of seven miles in thirty minutes and six
seconds, while two minutes behind came Dan, just in time to offer loyal
homage on the altar of friendship and success. There was a warm clasp of
the hand, and a sincere if brief tribute. "You are some swell racer,
George," and, as one making a vow, "you can bet I'll never throw rocks
at another black cat so long as I live."

Shortly Bob and Bill arrived, well pleased that they were so close to
the Victor--but there was no sign of Jim; whereupon Mr. Kelly delivered
himself of a scathing comment. "I guess next time Jim 'd better enter
the High School Girls' Handicap; these real races ain't any place for
him."

The presentation of the tiny Trophy Cup was a formal function. George,
held up in the Judge's arms that he might be seen as he received it, was
filled not only with present pride, but also with an inward
determination to devote the rest of his existence to the high calling of
dog racing; with perhaps an occasional descent into the lower realms of
school affairs and business, as a concession to the wishes of his
parents and in deference to their age and old-fashioned ideas.

His happiness in the accomplishment of his dogs was complete. His hard
work in their training had been fully repaid; for Spot had not only
proved his cleverness as a leader, but Queen had been no worse than he
had anticipated, and Baldy had faithfully performed his duty as a
wheeler in keeping the trail when it was most necessary.

It was a triumph worth while for the boy and the team.

That night at a full meeting of the "Bow-Wow Wonder Workers," the
exciting affairs of the day were discussed at length.

Dan announced that he could recommend the Mego Pups to "Scotty" without
a single unfavorable criticism. If there had been any weakness, it was,
he admitted freely, in his driving. "I don't seem to put the ginger into
'em the way George does at the finish. But I guess he takes it from his
father; and my dad," regretfully, "never drove anything better 'n horses
in his whole life. Then there was that black cat, too."

Ben Edwards, with his arm around Baldy's neck, listened with delight as
the minute details of the race were given by those who knew whereof they
spoke. He was proud indeed when George told how Baldy had steadfastly
held out against the efforts of Spot and Queen to bolt; and of the dog's
stoical indifference to the bitten ear, which was, fortunately, only
slightly torn.

"I guess, Ben, that Baldy'll be somethin' like old Dubby. You can count
on him doin' the right thing every time. He'll pull 'most as strong as
McMillan, and he sure was good not to chew Queen up, the way she tackled
him. But I don't know," judicially, "that we can make a real racer of
him. He don't seem to have just the racin' spirit. He ain't keen for it,
like Spot. But he's a bully all 'round dog, just the same."

"Mebbe it's cause he don't understand the game," answered Ben loyally.
"Moose Jones allers said that Baldy had plenty o' spirit; an' I kinda
think he's like the ship she was tellin' us about the other day. He
ain't really found himself yet."

The Woman, perfectly unconscious that she was penetrating into a serious
and secret Conclave of an Ancient and Honorable Order, came into the
Kennel with the evening paper.

It contained an article complimenting George upon his skill in managing
a difficult team, and upon introducing Spot, an infant prodigy, to the
racing world of the North. Then it announced, in a delicate vein of
sarcasm, that one of the wheel dogs had been the most recent notable
addition to the Allan and Darling Kennel--Baldy, late of Golconda, now
of Nome, "a likely Sweepstakes Winner." At which the Woman had sniffed
audibly, and "Scotty" had chuckled amiably. But Ben Edwards crept that
night into his hard cot with the paper tightly clasped in his grimy
hand, to dream of Baldy's future triumphs.

[Illustration]



V

The Woman, The Racers, and Others

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER V

THE WOMAN, THE RACERS, AND OTHERS


Even after the boys' race, when George and Dan often singled him out for
special use, and the joy of a run with Ben Edwards was almost an
inevitable part of the day's program, there were still a number of
matters that were distinctly trying to Baldy.

He could not, for one thing, quite figure out the Woman, nor reconcile
himself to her constant presence and aimless wanderings about the place.

When "Scotty" and Matt, or even Danny and George came in, it was for
some evident purpose; when the boy appeared, it was to see him
exclusively, but it was different with her.

She apparently loved all of the dogs, but she had no idea of discipline,
and casually suggested all sorts of foolish and revolutionary privileges
for them that would have meant ruin in no time.

She held the tiniest puppies in her lap when she should have known it
was not good for them, spent hours playing with the young dogs with no
attempt at training; and he could not forget that she had tried, the
first day he had ever met her, to drag him ignominiously into her sled.

Even Ben's evident friendliness toward her did not overcome Baldy's
disapproval, though he frequently went with them for long walks which
would have been far more agreeable could he have been with the boy
alone. She quite monopolized his chum, talking so earnestly that the dog
was almost ignored, and could only trot along with the consolation that
Ben shared was better than Ben absent.

Then, too, she was not in the least discriminating, and told Tom, who
perhaps had as many faults as any member of the team, that he had an
"angel face"; spoke of Dick and Harry, clever imitators of their
brother's misdeeds, as "The Heavenly Twins"; and alluded to Irish and
Rover, gentle Irish Setters, as "Red Devils," which was so rankly unjust
that Baldy, who knew not automobiles, was amazed at her stupidity. To
Baldy the word "Devil" had an evil sound, for when he had heard it at
Golconda it was generally associated with a kick or a blow. She even
ostentatiously walked past the chained dogs sometimes, carrying fluffy
Jimmie Gibson, the baby blue fox from the Kobuk, which was tantalizing
to a degree. But when she let Jack McMillan put his paws on her
shoulders, and lay his big head against her cheek, calling him a
"perfect lamb" or a "poor dear martyr," in a tone that betrayed
affectionate sympathy, Baldy turned away in disgust.

As a matter of fact these attentions and endearments were exceedingly
unwise, for they were invariably directed toward the very dogs who were
most apt to over-value physical charm and ingratiating tricks of manner.

But there was one thing more objectionable still that could be laid at
her door--she was constantly lowering the general tone of the Kennel.

The stables where the Racers were kept gave shelter, also, to a few
others whose merits warranted their sharing in the special care bestowed
upon the fleet-footed Sweepstakes Winners. The latter all carried
themselves with a conscious dignity that befitted their fame and
aspirations; but gradually Baldy noticed that through the Woman there
were being introduced a number of ordinary strangers who made use of the
place, and were housed and fed, till it began to look like a transient
dog hotel.

She brought them because they were tired and hungry, lame, halt or
blind; or worse still, just because they "seemed to like her." No reason
was too trivial, no dog too worthless. Matt shamelessly upheld her,
"Scotty" submitted, while Baldy sulkily glowered at these encumbrances
who were more fit for the pound than the Allan and Darling Racing
Stables. For Baldy had but one criterion; that of efficiency as the
result of honest endeavor. And it was indeed a trial for a conscientious
plodder to see the ease with which idle canines possessed themselves of
the comforts and privileges that by right belong alone to those whose
industry has earned them.

Had Baldy been a French Poodle, with little tufts of hair cut in
circles round his ankles, and a kinky lock tied with a splashing bow
over his eyes, he would probably, with delicate disdain, have thought of
her as lacking in "esprit de corps." As it was, being but a blunt
Alaskan, he growled rather sullenly when she came too near, and
considered that she had no more dog-pride than an Eskimo; and Baldy's
contempt for her could suggest no more scathing comparison.

There was no jealousy in his objections, for he now fairly gloried in
the sensation that Kid, Irish or McMillan created when they were in the
lead; and as the two latter at least were dogs that were coldly
indifferent to him, this was surely a test of his unselfishness.

He was perfectly willing, also, to welcome "classy" dogs, as George and
Dan called them, like Stefansson, Lipton, or dainty Margaret Winston,
from Kentucky. He even understood there were dogs, neither Workers nor
Racers, who had gained a kind of popular distinction that was recognized
by both the human and canine population of the City; and while it was
impossible for him to comprehend the _reason_, he accepted the _fact_
philosophically.

There was, for instance, Oolik Lomen, who was born on Amundsen's ship
the "Gjoa" when on the voyage that resulted in the discovery of the
Northwest Passage. Possibly on account of his celebrated birthplace, or
because of his unusual appearance, Oolik was haughty to the verge of
insolence; and to Baldy he represented the culmination of all the
charming but useless graces of the idle rich. He did nothing but lie on
the Lomen porch on a soft rug, or wander about with a doll in his mouth,
much as a certain type of woman lolls through life carrying a lap dog.

Then there was the tramp Nomie, the pet of the Miners' Union, and the
Fire Department. This fox terrier was a constant attendant at all
important affairs of the town--social or political--at parades,
christenings, weddings, and even funerals. At concerts or at the theatre
he walked out upon the stage, and waited quietly near the wings till the
program was finished. He went to church quite regularly, but was
non-sectarian, and was just as apt to appear at the Eskimo Mission
Chapel as at St. Mary's when the Bishop preached.

Rarely did he fail to be at all Council Meetings, informal receptions,
and formal balls. At these he was untiring, and would select a couple
for each dance and follow them through the mazes of the waltz and
one-step with great dexterity; visiting between times with his many
acquaintances.

The knowledge that Nomie assisted at every fire, and at all of the
drills of the Life Saving Crew on the beach made Baldy feel that these
social diversions were only an outlet for abundant vitality, since there
were not fires and wrecks enough to keep him busy; and a poor little fox
terrier, no matter _how_ ambitious, is debarred by his size from the
noble sport of racing, or the more prosaic business career of
freighting.

So it really seemed, on the whole, that Baldy was exceedingly liberal in
his estimate of dogs in general. And it was only his desire for a high
standard in his own Kennel that prompted his aversion to those waifs and
strays that she collected; who, of no possible use, were neither
professional beauties like Oolik, nor society favorites like Nomie, and
so really had no claim to any sort of recognition.

Neither did Baldy, because of his new associations and ambitions, gauge
his opinions of all dogs by racing tests alone. He still believed
implicitly in the dignity of labor; and his early residence amongst
freighters had enabled him to recognize the fact that endurance and good
common dog-sense are often of more value, even in a racing team, than
speed and mere pride of carriage.

In the occasional intervals when no feminine presence upset the calm and
system of his surroundings, there were periods when Baldy watched
intently the habits and characteristics of the other dogs, and tried to
fit himself to become a candidate for the Racing Team.

In this he was assisted by the boy, who was just as carefully studying
Allan's methods with his dogs, and putting them in practice every time
he took Baldy out for exercise. One was as eager for improvement as the
other, and "Scotty" and the Woman often remarked the unflagging energy
both displayed toward that end.

"Too bad that Ben's efforts are wasted on a dog that will never be much
to boast of, at best. He has strength and patience, but that is about
all. I believe, like George, that he lacks spirit."

Of course there had been no dramatic incidents in his life like those
of Jack McMillan's; he was no paragon like Kid; nor had he manifested
the marvelous intelligence of old Dubby. But on the other hand, there
was really nothing tangible so far in his career to make her feel that
he was incapable of development.

"You're wrong about Baldy," said "Scotty" thoughtfully. "I have been
watching him ever since the Juvenile Race; and he has certain latent
qualities that will make a good general utility dog of him for even a
racing team. He may not prove a leader, but he's dependable, not apt to
lose his head and stampede, as do some of the more spirited ones. He'll
do his modest part yet, in a big event."

"Well, you'll have to show me," exclaimed the Woman, whose speech was
now and then tinged unconsciously by her close fellowship with the
Wonder Workers.

Even Dubby's favorable notice was now frequently attracted toward Baldy;
and the fact that he was aspiring to belong to the Racing Team was
mitigated to a certain extent in the venerable huskie's sight by a
puppy-hood spent amongst the working classes. He was not born to an
exalted position, a natural aristocrat, like Tom, Dick or Harry; and
would not, as did they, glory in it ostentatiously. But if it came, he
would accept it with a solemn sense of obligation to do his best
anywhere it pleased his master to place him.

Unlike the Tolman brothers, McMillan, Irish and Rover, he did not curry
favor by the happy accident of birth, beauty, or personal magnetism; and
so Dubby began to bestow upon Baldy, for his modesty and industry, an
approbation not accorded by him to many of the others in the Kennel. And
Dubby's opinion of a new dog was worth much, for "Scotty" Allan himself
respected the experience and sagacity that governed it.

Possessed of the colorings and markings of his wolf forbears, as well as
their keen instinct in trail emergencies, Dubby combined with this the
faithful, loving nature of the dog branch of the family.

In his merest infancy he had given promise of unusual ability--a promise
more than fulfilled.

When hardly more than three months old he had learned the orders "Gee,"
"Haw," "Mush" and "Whoa" perfectly. And he was beginning to think a
little for himself when the rest of the litter were still undecided
whether "Gee" meant to turn to the right paw side, or the left paw side;
and were hardly convinced that "Mush" was "Go on" and not a terse
invitation to breakfast.

His later accomplishments were many. He could pick up an uncertain trail
when concealed by three feet of soft, freshly fallen snow; he could tell
if ice was thick enough to carry the weight of a loaded sled, when the
most seasoned trailsman was deceived, and he could scent a camp for four
or five miles with the wind in the right direction. Never but once in
his life had he been known to take the wrong route to a given point.
Then he mistook the faint glimmer of Venus, as she dimly showed above
the dark horizon, for the lantern on the ridge-pole of a road house;
which was poetic, but misleading, and proves that even dogs can come to
grief through too much star gazing.

He was always driven "loose" on the rare and gala occasions when, at his
own plainly expressed desire, he was placed again in temporary service.
With that liberty he made it his business to see that no dog was
shirking. A glance at a slack strap was enough to betray the idler; and
an admonishing nip on the culprit's ear or flank was the cause of a
reformation that was sudden and abject for a while at least.

The only punishment that had ever been meted out to Dubby for some
indiscretion, or an act of insubordination, was to hitch him up with the
rest of the team. There were no depths of humiliation greater, no shame
more poignant, and for days after such an ordeal he would show a
brooding melancholy that almost made the Woman weep in sympathy.

Now, pensioned and retired, with a record of over thirty thousand miles
in harness to his credit, he lived a delightful and exclusive existence
in his own apartments over the barn.

As he had taken Baldy into his favor, so too he included Ben in his
rather limited list of favorites; and the boy never wearied of hearing
from "Scotty" and the Woman their many tales of the huskie's remarkable
achievements.

"Even if he ain't a Racer," was the child's admiring assertion,
"everybody in the whole North knows Dub, and what he's done. I hope,"
wistfully, "that some day people'll speak o' Baldy jest like that."

"You can hardly expect that, Ben! Think of the hundreds and hundreds of
good dogs that are never known outside of their own kennels. Baldy is
obedient and willing, but it takes something extraordinary, really
brilliant, or dramatic, to give a dog more than a local reputation. Of
course there are a few, but very few, who have won such distinction.
John Johnson's Blue Eyed Kolma was a wonder for his docile disposition
and staying qualities. You can't match our Kid for all round good work,
nor Irish for speed. And Jack McMillan--"

"I don't believe I'd specify McMillan's claims to fame, or shall we say
notoriety," observed "Scotty," with a twinkle in his eye. "Then," he
resumed, "there were Morte Atkinson's Blue Leaders, that Percy
Blatchford drove in the second big race. When we met at Last Chance on
the way back, Blatchford nearly cried when he told me how those setters
had saved his hands from freezing. He had turned them loose to rest and
run behind at will, knowing they would catch up at the next stop. In
some way he had dropped the fur gloves he wore over his mittens, when he
took them off to adjust a sled pack, and did not miss them for some
time, until he ran into a fierce blizzard. Of course he could not go
back for them, and he feared his hands would become useless from the
cold. He was in a pretty bad fix, when up came the Blue Leaders, almost
exhausted, but each with a glove in his mouth."

"Oh, that was fine," murmured Ben.

"Give me bird-dog stock every time," continued Allan, "with a native
strain for strength and trail instincts. It's a combination that makes
our Alaskans just about right, to my idea."

"Naturally I feel that our half-breeds are best, too. But I do wish,"
regretfully, "that they could all be the same sort of half-breeds--to
make them more uniform as to size and style. With Kid and Spot part
pointer, Irish and Rover part setter, Jack McMillan verging on the
mastiff, and all the rest of them part something else, don't you think
it looks the least little bit as if we had picked them up at a remnant
sale?"

She caught sight of "Scotty's" face, full of shocked surprise.

"Don't say it," she exclaimed quickly; "both Ben and I know perfectly
well that 'handsome is as handsome does.' I learned it in my copy-book,
ages and ages ago. And it's true that they are the greatest dogs in all
the world, but they don't quite look it. Of course the year you won with
Berger's 'Brutes,' with that awkward, high-shouldered native, Mukluk, in
the lead, I learned that looks do not go very far in Arctic racing. But
certainly Fink's 'Prides' in their gay trappings of scarlet and gold did
seem more to suit the rôle of Winners when Hegness came in victorious
with them in the first race."

"At that, the 'Brutes' were the best dogs, and if it had not been for
our delay of eighteen hours at Brown's Road House, where all of the
teams had to lay up because of a howling gale, I am not at all sure that
the 'Prides' would not have lost out to the 'Brutes' in that race too."

"That must have been a strange night. I know after that every one called
Brown's 'The House of a Thousand Bow Wows.' How many were there?"

"Let me see; there were fifty-four racing dogs, thirty-five freighters,
twenty-six belonging to the mail carriers, ten or twelve to casual
mushers, and I think about the same number to Eskimo trappers. And
all--men and dogs--in the one room, which, fortunately, was of pretty
good size."

"Scotty" laughed heartily at the remembrance. "We, who were driving the
Racing Teams, had put our leaders to bed in the few bunks there were;
for we could not afford to take any chances of our leaders scrapping in
such close quarters, and possibly being put out of commission. But an
Outsider, a government official, I think, who was on his way to Nome as
a passenger with the Mail Team, was pretty sore about it. Said 'it was a
deuce of a country where the dogs slept in beds and the men on the
floor.'"

"How perfectly ridiculous," said the Woman indignantly. "You might know
he was not an Alaskan. He was as bad as that squaw who wouldn't give you
her mukluks."

"What was that, Mr. Allan?" questioned the boy, eagerly.

"I'm afraid, Ben, that some of these incidents look a little
high-handed, as though everything was allowable in a race, regardless of
other people's rights; but they really don't happen often. This time I
tore one of my water boots on a stump going through the trees by
Council. At a near-by cabin I tried to buy a pair of mukluks a native
woman had on, as I saw they were about the size I needed. She refused to
sell, though I offered her three times their value. There was no time to
argue, nor persuade, so finally in desperation her Eskimo husband and I
took them off her feet, though she kicked vigorously. It saved the day
for me, but it seemed a bit ungallant."

"It served her right for not being as good a sport as most of the
Eskimos. And anyway, every one on Seward Peninsula, of any nationality,
is supposed to know that whatever a driver or his dogs need, in the All
Alaska Sweepstakes, should be his without a dissenting voice or a
rebellious foot."

"Moose Jones used to say," quoted Ben rather timidly, "that most
Malamutes are stubborn. Was the leader you spoke of, Mukluk, stubborn
too, in the race you won with him?"

"Yes, he was stubborn, all right. Do you recall," turning to the Woman,
"the night I made him go 'round one corner for half an hour because he
refused to take the order the first time, and I was afraid of that
trait in him. It did not take long, however, to show him that I could
spend just as much time making him obey as he could spend defying me.
There's no use in whipping a dog like that. And with all his obstinacy,
he was, next to old Dubby, more capable of keeping a trail in a storm
than any dog I've ever handled. He had pads[2] of leather, and sinews of
steel. He was surely shy on beauty, though."

[Footnote 2: Feet.]

"Of course," her voice dropping to almost a whisper, "I would not admit
this anywhere but right here, in the privacy of the Kennel, and I
wouldn't say it here if the dogs could understand; but when it comes to
actual good looks, 'Scotty,'" the Woman confessed, "we are really not in
it with Bobby Brown's big, imposing Loping Malamutes, or Captain
Crimin's cunning little Siberians, with their pointed noses, prick ears,
and fluffy tails curled up over their backs like plumes."

"Yes, they do make a most attractive team," admitted Allan justly; "and
they're mighty good dogs too. But somehow they seem to lack the pride
and responsiveness that I find in those with bird-dog ancestry. Of
course each man prefers his own type, the one he has deliberately
chosen; and Fox Ramsay, and John or Charlie Johnson are convinced that
the tireless gait of their 'Russian Rats' in racing more than offsets
the sudden bursts of great speed of our 'Daddy Long Legs.'"

[Illustration: A TEAM OF SIBERIANS]

The Woman shrugged her shoulders. "Let us hope for the sake of the sport
that the matter will not be definitely decided for some time to come.
If, as Mark Twain says, 'it is a difference of opinion that makes horse
racing,' it seems to me it's about the widest possible difference of
opinion that makes dog racing; and each year's races have made the
difference more hopelessly pronounced."

"Well, there'll always be disagreements as to the merits of the various
racing dogs; but for a good all around intelligent and faithful worker,
I have never found a dog that could outdo Dubby here," and "Scotty"
affectionately caressed the old huskie who had come into the Kennel with
his friend Texas Allan, the cat, to find out what was interfering with
an expected walk.

"Sometimes Dub and I used to have disputes about a choice of roads, the
thickness of ice, or other details of traveling; but I will say that he
always listened tolerantly to all I had to offer in the way of
suggestions, and wagged his tail courteously to show there was no ill
feeling, even if he did get his way in the end. And, frankly, he was
generally right."

Which was, of course, only natural; for "Scotty" was, after all, only
human, while Dubby had the eyes, ears, and nose of his wolf forbears.

Dubby was a licensed character indeed, but Baldy realized, as did the
others, that his freedom was a reward of merit.

That he might not feel that his days of usefulness were over, he had
been given the honorary position of Keeper of the Kennel Meat; and much
of his life was now spent dozing peacefully before the meat-room door,
though he was ever ready to resent a covetous glance from unduly curious
dogs.

To be sure, there were besides the dignity and responsibility of his
high office certain perquisites that he thoroughly enjoyed--one of which
was the hospitality that was his to dispense.

He often invited old team-mates, or pitifully hungry puppies into his
quarters, where he would treat them to dog biscuit, dried fish, or a
drink of fresh water; but he never abused his privileges, and it was
only the worthy or helpless that appealed successfully to his charity.

His ample leisure now permitted also the cultivation of certain refined
tastes which had been dormant in his busy youth. He taught Fritz, the
house dog, whose only method of expression heretofore had been an
ear-piercing bark, to howl in a clear, high tenor, with wonderfully
sustained notes; so that together they would sit on the stable runway
and wail duets happily for hours at a time.

For his many virtues and great ability, as well as for these lighter
accomplishments, Baldy conceived an admiration for Dubby that would have
been boundless but for one weakness that was absolutely
incomprehensible--the huskie's devotion to the cat, Texas.

It was a strange friendship in a place where a cat's right to live at
all is contested every hour of the day, and where nine times nine lives
would not cover a span of more than a few months at the most, as a rule.
It had begun when Texas was little more than a kitten, and had wandered
away one day from the warm kitchen fire, out into the shed, and from
there into the street.

Delighted with her unaccustomed freedom, she chased a bit of whirling,
eddying paper across a strip of snow, into the angle of a cabin; then
turning, gazed into the face of a big, ferocious dog who was already
licking his chops suggestively.

Since the prey was safely cornered, he generously decided to share the
anticipated excitement with some boon companions. And so, giving three
short, sharp cries and repeating the call several times, he was joined
by two other malamutes who, eager for the fun of killing a cat, drew in
close beside him.

It had all happened in a moment; but in that moment Dubby, out for
exercise, came upon the scene. He was no lover of cats, be it
understood; and he had often been guilty of making short work of one if
it chanced to cross his path when he was in quest of adventure. But this
was the Allan cat. He had often seen the girls carry it about in their
arms; and while it seemed a strange perversion to caress a kitten when
there were puppies about, or even babies, still the peculiarities of
your Master's Family must be respected. Even, if necessary, to the
extreme limit of defending their pet cats.

Then, too, there was something that had appealed to him in the plucky
stand of the terrified little creature. Eyes dilated with fear, every
hair on end, sputtering and spitting, she had unsheathed her tiny claws
and was prepared to make a brave fight for her life. The chances were
hopelessly against her--the dogs did not intend to let her run--and
Dubby felt that it was butchery, not sport.

Also, if Texas was hurt, the girls would be sad, and cry, and not play
for a long time. He knew, because that happened when their terrier Tige
was run over. And so, with one bound, he jumped upon the instigator of
the trouble, and caught him by the shoulder with his still strong, sharp
teeth. The other dogs wheeled in surprise; and in an instant there was a
battle as bloody as it was short and decisive. Dubby was a marvelous
tactician--the others only novices, and in a very brief period there
were three well-minced malamutes who limped disconsolately in different
directions; leaving a conquering hero on the field, with the spoils of
war--a ruffled gray kitten in a shivering state of uncertainty as to
her ultimate fate, but too weak to make any further defense.

Dubby picked her up in his mouth, and carried her back to the house,
where he carefully deposited her inside the shed, and waited until some
one answered his scratches on the door.

It marked the beginning of a companionship that lasted for years. Every
fine afternoon Dubby would take Texas out for a stroll; and even after
she was a huge seventeen pound cat, well able to hold her own, it was a
reckless dog indeed that showed any hostility toward Texas when Dub was
her body-guard.

One readily comprehends that he might graciously accept her gratitude;
but, as the French Poodle's People say, "Noblesse Oblige," and it
certainly seemed unnecessary that a dog of his achievement should flaunt
his affection for a mere cat in the eyes of the whole world.

While this caused strong disapproval in all canine circles, strangely
enough it apparently made no difference in his standing with men and
women. Mr. Fink, in his exalted position as President of the Nome Kennel
Club, and one of the most brilliant lawyers in Alaska besides, always
raised his hat to Dubby when they met, as a greeting from one keen mind
to another; for the man had watched the skill of the dog on the trail,
and knew that it was unsurpassed in the whole North. "Scotty" Allan
never failed to give every evidence of his sincere regard, and the Woman
had even perpetuated the undesirable association by having Dubby's
picture taken with Texas when they were out on one of their daily
promenades.

And so, admired by men and feared by dogs, the faithful huskie was
singularly exempt from the tragedies of a neglected, forlorn old age.

Ben regarded Dubby with admiring interest; and pondering for a while on
all that he had heard said, finally, "Do you think, Mr. Allan, you'll
ever find any one dog that kin race like Kid and be as smart on the
trail as Dub?" In his eagerness he did not wait for the reply. "Don't
you s'pose if a dog's really good t' begin with, an' some one that loves
him lots learns him all the things a' racin' dog's got t' know, that
he'd turn out so wonderful that everybody in Alaska 'ud know how great
he was--mebbe everybody in the world?"

The Woman smiled. "Have you any one in mind, Ben?"

"Yes, ma'am, no, ma'am; I was only thinkin'," he stammered as he
earnestly listened for "Scotty's" answer.

"I would not be surprised if such a thing _could_ happen, Sonny. You
know pretty nearly all good things are possible to good dogs--and good
boys."

And deep in his heart the boy vowed that he and Baldy would begin the
very next day to show what can be accomplished by those who, loving
much, serve faithfully. [Illustration]



VI

To Visit Those in Affliction

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VI

TO VISIT THOSE IN AFFLICTION


"We got t' change these rules someway, George. There ain't a thing in
'em 'bout visitin' the sick an' dyin'. There's somethin' 'bout not usin'
sick dogs, I remember, but that's all there is 'bout sickness; and that
won't hardly do."

George considered the matter carefully as he read over the "Rules and
Regerlations of the Anshent and Honroble Order of Bow-Wow Wonder
Workers" in his hand. They were rather blotted, and decidedly grimy; but
it was perfectly clear, as Dan had announced, there was nothing in them
that suggested the duty of ministering to those in distress.

The Order had met that afternoon to decide upon the proper thing to be
done in the case of Ben Edwards, who had been ill for two days with a
severe cold, and absent from school.

With a sincere desire to emulate other Orders more Ancient than theirs,
if not more Honorable, they felt that a fraternal call upon their
suffering member was necessary.

"We ought t' take him somethin' to eat an' read," remarked George; "like
Dad always does when he goes t' the Hospital t' see Masons, or Elks, or
any of 'em that's broke their legs or arms in shafts, or fallin' off
dredges an' things."

"It's all right t' take him eatables; but don't let's take him any stuff
to read. It might make him worse. It's bad enough bein' sick, without
havin' some readin' shoved onto you, too."

Dan, who was the Treasurer of the Wonder Workers, as well as holding
other important offices, brought forth a can from under the hay in the
corner of Spot's stall.

"We better see how much money we got before we talk 'bout what we'll
take him."

"If there's enough, Dan, don't you think an ice-cream cone 'ud be fine;
or do you think he'd ruther have some peanuts an' pop-corn?"

"Peanuts an' pop-corn's all right, or maybe some candy an' gum. You see
if he can't eat the ice-cream it 'ud melt right away an' wouldn't be any
good t' anybody. But the other stuff 'ud last, an' if he's too bad t'
eat it, he could always give it to his mother, or some of his friends."

They carefully counted the thirty-five cents in the Treasury, and were
deep in a financial debate when the Woman's voice broke in upon their
important discussion.

"Hello, boys, where are you?"

"We never seem to be able to get any place that some one don't butt in
on us," groaned Dan. "I'll bet if we went out on an ice hummock on
Bering Sea that some Eskimo tom-cod fisher 'ud show up beside us t' fish
through a hole in the ice. What do you s'pose she wants now?"

"I don't know, Dan. But let's tell her about Ben, and maybe she'll want
t' take him the things t' eat, an' we can keep the thirty-five cents
till he's well an' can help spend it some way he'd like better. P'raps
on somethin' for the dogs."

"I was just coming to ask for him," she said when informed of Ben's
illness. "I have missed him the last day or so, and wondered what was
the matter."

Then, "Let's give him a party," she exclaimed quickly. "A cold isn't
serious, and a party would cheer him up. Besides, I have been wanting to
see Mrs. Edwards for a long time, and this is a good chance for a chat
about the boy. And we'll invite Baldy too." She took some money out of
her purse, and handed it to George. "You can both run downtown and get
whatever boys like, and I'll go for a cake I have at home, and meet you
here in fifteen minutes."

When they at last started for the Edwards house the boys felt that their
modest mission of mercy had developed into quite a festive occasion.
Their purchases ranged from dill pickles through ginger snaps to
chocolate creams; while the Woman carried jellies and preserves and all
sorts of dainties that inspired Dan with a sudden belief, confided to
George, that invalidism, unmixed with literature, was not so much to be
dreaded as he had always fancied.

"Depends on whether you get castor-oil or cake," was the pessimistic
reply of one who had gone through bitter experiences along those lines.
"This just shows what belongin' t' orders does for you, Dan. If Ben
wasn't a member o' the Bow Wows, I'll bet he could 'a' died an' hardly
any one would 'a' known it but his mother. An' now he's havin' a party
give to him 'cause our Society kinda hinted to her what we was plannin'
when she showed up." And for once an approving glance was cast toward
the Woman.

"When I'm old enough," decided Dan, "I'm goin' t' belong t' everything.
You can wear feathers an' gold braid in processions, an' have stuff like
this when you're sick, an' bully funerals with brass bands when you're
dead."

"Me too," agreed George heartily.

As they turned the corner into Second Avenue, a short distance from the
Edwards cabin, an adventure befell them which was fully covered by Rule
Seven of the "Rules and Regerlations" of their Order: "To help thoes in
Trubble." It came at the very end, just next the important one which
forbade any hint of sharp practice in dog trading; and had been added
after they had listened to the Woman's story about King Arthur and his
Knights.

"Just 'cause it's a dog man's order we needn't stop tryin' t' do things
for people," George had announced when Rule Seven was being considered.
And the others had felt, too, that their association with good dogs
should make them more tolerant of human weakness and imperfection.

Down the street came a tiny Mother with a cherished doll-baby in its
go-cart, out for an airing; and down the street, too, came Oolik Lomen,
who had wandered away from his rug on the porch in search of diversion.
He had mislaid his rubber doll, there was nothing to play with, and he
was decidedly bored; when his covetous eyes fell upon the golden-haired
infant, whose waxen beauty was most tempting.

The piratical instinct that was, perhaps, an inheritance, took
possession of him completely; and with a rush he overturned the
carriage, grabbing its occupant, and dashing away full speed toward the
Lomen home.

The shocked parent, seeing her child snatched from her loving care so
ruthlessly, broke into cries of distress. And the Wonder Workers, who
were so solemnly pledged "To help thoes in Trubble," unceremoniously
bestowed their various bundles upon the Woman, and started in pursuit.

Baldy, who had been quietly following, also joined in the chase--for he
had watched the entire proceeding with disapproving eyes, and was only
waiting for a little encouragement to help administer the punishment
that Oolik so richly merited.

But that proud descendant of Viking Dogs, once behind his own fence,
ostentatiously dragged the stolen one by a leg into a corner; and,
seated in front of his victim, growled defiance in the very faces of the
brave Knights who were attempting the rescue.

"George, you take the doll when I sic Baldy onto Oolik, and give it to
the kid, an' come back quick. Believe me, it's goin' t' be a scrap worth
seem' when those two dogs really get woke up to' it. I'll bet Baldy is
pretty keen in a row if he thinks he's right; an' even if Oolik is too
good lookin', you know Amundsen said his mother was the best dog he ever
had, an' that's goin' some for a man like him."

Before the plans for the combat could be completed, however, Helen
Lomen came out, overcome with regret for the tragedy, to lead Oolik into
the house in disgrace. She was anxious to make restitution for any
damage; but a close examination revealed the fact that there was no
wound that a bit of glue would not easily cure, and the only real hurt
was that given to the feelings of insulted motherhood.

The Woman was visibly relieved at the turn affairs had taken; for she
had a purely feminine dread of dog fights, and had frequently stopped
some that would have been of most thrilling interest in deciding certain
important questions.

In an undertone the boys spoke of the vagaries of the gentler sex, and
frankly admitted "they were sure hard t' understand," while the Woman
tried unsuccessfully to make Baldy carry a small package.

"Do you think she'll ever learn," asked George rather hopelessly, "that
a sled dog's got no use for little stunts like that? His mind's got t'
be on bigger things."

"Here we are," called Dan, as they stopped before a tiny cabin almost
snowed in, with a deep cut leading up to the front door.

A thin, pale-faced woman, with a pleasant manner, answered the knock.

"Mrs. Edwards, we've come to surprise Ben. May we see him?"

Ben's mother ushered them all, Baldy included, into a room plainly
furnished, but neat and home-like.

"This must be Ben's day for surprises, for this morning Mr. Jones
arrived from St. Michael."

"Here's Moose, that I've bin tellin' you about so much," and Ben, from a
couch, nodded happily toward the large man who rose from a chair beside
the boy, and shook hands cordially with them all.

"Yes, I come over by dog team. I leased my ground up at Marshall, an'
thought I'd drop into Nome t' see if my friend Ben here was still aimin'
t' be a lawyer, an' the very first thing I hear is that he's gone inter
dog racin' with you an' 'Scotty' Allan. That is, that Baldy's in the
racin' stable, which is pretty near the same thing."

"Oh, I haven't give up the idea of bein' a lawyer, Moose. She," nodding
toward the Woman, "talks to me about it all the time; and 'Scotty's'
goin' t' speak t' Mr. Fink the very next time they meet. 'Scotty' says
he thinks Mr. Fink'll listen, 'cause he was so interested in Baldy after
the boys' race, an' asked all about him. He said," in a tone in which
triumph was plainly noticeable, "that he didn't know _when_ he'd seen a
dog with legs an' a chest like Baldy."

"I know a good dog is about the best introduction you can have to Mr.
Fink; but if for any reason that fails, I'll have a talk with Mr. Daly
and tell him that you want to be another Lincoln, as nearly as possible,
and that will appeal to him," confidently remarked the Woman.

"You got the right system in this here case," chuckled Moose Jones. "Ef
you was t' tell one o' them lawyers that you jest couldn't git the other
one interested in the boy, it's a dead cinch he'd git inter one office
or t'other; an' it don't make much difference which. They're both mighty
smart men, even ef they don't go at things the same way. Well, anyway,
Ben, I'm glad I kin depend on retainin' you when my claims begin t' show
up rich, as I kinda think some of 'em's bound t' do, one place or
another. On my way back t' Nome, I stopped at them new diggin's at Dime
Creek, an' staked some ground; an' it's a likely lookin' country, I kin
tell you."

From the first instant he had heard the sound of the man's voice, Baldy
had remained motionless, but intent, trying to recall their past
association; then with a bark he rushed up to Moose Jones, showing every
possible sign of recognition and joy.

"Well, well," exclaimed Moose, "ef this ain't Baldy o' Golconda! Why, I
didn't know him right away, he's so sorta perky an' high-toned; all
along of gettin' in with a speedy bunch, I expect," and the man stroked
the dog affectionately.

"Isn't he fine?" cried Ben eagerly. "I just wish you could 'a' seen him
the day o' the race; but George'll tell you all about it--how he
wouldn't let Spot an' Queen bolt, an' how willin' he was an' all."

"Yes, indeed, the boys must tell you all about that famous event, Mr.
Jones, while I talk to Mrs. Edwards about something else."

Before going into the details of the race, which never palled upon Ben,
they described with much gusto the defeat of Oolik Lomen in the first
Great Adventure the Wonder Workers had undertaken; and Ben bitterly
regretted that he could not also have been one of the brave knights who
had so valorously risen in defense of the weak and distressed against
the strong and unprincipled.

But Dan consoled him somewhat by the information that the incident had
been almost spoiled by interference; and that the next time they
performed deeds of chivalry he hoped it would be when no female was
about, unless, indeed, it might be a victim to be rescued from a
terrible plight.

In the brief chat the Woman had with Mrs. Edwards she learned a little
of the hardships that had fallen to the lot of the boy and his mother,
and realized in spite of their courage and reticence that they had
endured a hard struggle for almost a mere existence.

"Don't you think it would be easier for you outside, where there are not
so many physical discomforts to be considered?"

"Perhaps. But my husband left a little mining ground that may, in time,
prove worth while if developed; and I have remained where I could look
after it, and see that the assessment work was properly done. As it is,
a man named Barclay--Black Mart Barclay, they call him--jumped the claim
next to his, and if it had not been for Mr. Jones I should have lost it.
He loaned me the money to take the matter into the courts, where I won
out."

"And the boy?"

"He is my one thought," responded Mrs. Edwards. "As a young child he was
rather delicate, and we could not send him to school because of the
distance. Since then his association with the men at Golconda has done
much to offset what I have tried to do for him. Before my marriage I
taught school in a village in New Hampshire, though you would hardly
suspect it to hear Ben speak. I wanted to get a position in the school
here; but nowadays there is so much special training required that I
found I was not fitted for the work; and I have just had to take what I
could get from time to time. At any rate," with a cheerful smile, "we
are still alive and have kept our property."

"It was brave," murmured the Woman, whose eyes were misty; "very brave."

"Now that Ben is going to school regularly," the other continued, "he
will, I think, soon lose this roughness of speech; and you can see that
he is anxious to learn, and is ambitious."

"Yes, indeed; I have found him really unusual."

"Mr. Jones told us this morning that if his mining ventures turn out
well, and they certainly look as if they might, that he will send Ben to
college. He was my husband's partner at one time, and has always taken a
great interest in the boy."

"I am so glad," was the response. "I have felt all along that some way
should be found to make such a thing possible. The child deserves it.
Some day soon, if you will let me come again, we will make some
wonderful plans for his future. But I came to-day to ask you if you will
let Ben go on a trip to the Hot Springs with us next week? I am sure it
would do him a lot of good to be in the open air, and perhaps he would
enjoy the outing."

"I should be glad to have him go; as to his enjoyment--just see what he
says."

Ben listened breathlessly while the Woman told of the prospective
outing. "I am to go with 'Scotty' and nine or ten of the racing dogs,
and Pete Bernard, with twelve big huskies, is to take my husband. As
Pete will have a sled load of freight for Shelton and the Springs, we
thought you had better go with 'Scotty' and me; that is, of course, if
you would like to make the trip. I believe that 'Scotty' intends driving
Baldy, if that is any inducement."

Ben could hardly reply for excitement and happiness.

"Well then," and the Woman rose, "it is quite decided that you are to
go. I dare say George and Dan--and Baldy--will want to remain a while.
We have talked so much and so fast that I had really forgotten the
'party' we came to give you, and it is time for me to leave if I keep
another engagement. If you are able to get out to-morrow, Ben, bring
your mother and Mr. Jones over to the Kennel, and we will introduce them
to some of our distinguished dog friends."

Mrs. Edwards and Moose Jones followed her to the door. The former, with
a warm hand-clasp, faltered a few words of thanks; and Moose, with some
embarrassment, said in an undertone, "I'm much obliged, ma'am, fer what
you and 'Scotty''s done fer the kid an' the dog. Ben used t' come t' my
cabin when I was kinda lonely an' discouraged at Golconda; an' havin'
him 'round learnt me that you got t' have some one that you love, t'
work fer, if you want t' git the best out o' things an' people. Now Mrs.
Edwards says I kin give Ben his eddication, which'll pay back somethin'
o' what his father done fer me once when I was considerable down on my
luck. And," with enthusiasm, "believe me, you kin bet it'll be some
eddication, ef I have my way, an' them claims pan out the way they look
now."

So potent a cure was the delight of the coming excursion that Ben was
over not only the next day with Moose Jones, but every day after, until
the time for the departure arrived; for there were many interesting
matters to be settled. The most absorbing was, naturally, the selection
of dogs for the journey; and there were long discussions by all
concerned before the team was finally chosen.

The Woman's suggestions were, as usual, well meant; but were almost
invariably influenced by personal preferences rather than sound
judgment. And "Scotty" had to firmly repress her desire to thrust the
greatness of a Trail Career upon some of those for whom he had other
achievements in mind.

[Illustration: "SHE HAD BEEN A MEMBER OF ONE OF
THE MAIL TEAMS"

Eric Johnson, U. S. Mail Carrier on the Nome-Unalakleet Route]

"I do wish you would take Mego," she urged. "The dear old thing simply
loves sled work, and you never give her anything to do nowadays but
bring up families."

"And why not?" demanded "Scotty." "There is not another dog-mother in
all Nome who can so intelligently care for a family." Which was true;
for added to her natural fondness for those dependent upon her, she had
wide experience in the ways of dogs and people, and was thoroughly
familiar with the dangers that beset the path of puppy-hood.

When young she had been a member of one of the Mail Teams and had worked
hard for her living. The run of over two hundred and thirty miles
between Nome and Unalakleet was covered many times during the winter;
and the Mail Carrier, who has the chance to observe carefully the
individual behavior of the dogs he uses, was much attracted to Mego. Her
patient industry was a happy contrast to the actions of some of the
others, who were unruly and quarrelsome, or disinclined to do their
share of the necessary labor; and it was with such a high
recommendation that "Scotty" had bought her.

"If she only had to care for her own puppies it would not be so bad,"
the Woman complained; "but every once in a while some light-minded
gad-about roams around at will, or runs away, and leaves her offspring
for Mego to raise. Why, sometimes you would think she was the matron of
a Puppies' Day Home."

To her credit it may be said that whether the puppies were hers or
another's, Mego was untiring in her gentle supervision of their minds
and manners. She taught them to be respectful and wag their tails
prettily when addressed; not to jump and place muddy paws on those who
came to see them, and not to wander away alone, nor associate with
strangers. And the task was often difficult, for there were many
alluring temptations and many bad examples.

"But she positively enjoys it," insisted "Scotty." "When her own little
ones outgrow her care, she is always watching for a chance to annex at
least one member of any new litter in her neighborhood. Only last week
she heard the faint squeaks and squeals of Nellie Silk's malamute pups,
and I caught her tunneling under the manger to try to get to them.
Mego's kidnapping is the one scandal in the Kennel."

"I suppose they were siren calls, not to be resisted. And anyway, that
is the only blot on her otherwise spotless character. She possibly does
it for the excitement; and if you will let her go in the Hot Springs
team she will have something else to think about. If you don't give her
a new interest," was the sinister and gloomy prophecy, "stealing puppies
will very likely become an obsession with her."

But Allan was not to be persuaded. "She gets all of the exercise and
pleasure that she needs here about the place. If she went away only
think of the things that might happen to her youngest family. You know
how careless Birdie is with them."

"That's so," with a sigh. "I had quite forgotten Birdie," and she
recalled with regret the habit of that half grown stag-hound of dropping
bits of food into the corral, between the wires, to make friends of the
little ones; and then after working at the fastening of the gate till it
could be opened, enticing them out for a frolic.

Mego knew, as well as did the Woman and "Scotty," that Birdie meant no
harm. On the contrary, she had excellent qualities, and deserved much
credit for the valuable assistance she rendered as a self-constituted
Secret Service Agent, and an ardent Advocate of Universal Peace.

When there was a quarrel in the Nursery, and the puppies became violent,
she gently separated them and gave the defeated one a cherished if
somewhat ancient bone that she had buried for such occasions; occasions
when material consolation is needed to forget material ills.

In case of serious trouble she would rush for help, whining anxiously,
and frequently her prompt action in bringing Matt prevented fatal
terminations to neighborhood feuds, race riots, or affairs of honor
between dogs with irreconcilable differences of opinion on important
subjects.

But when Birdie was not doing detective work, or holding Peace
Conferences, she was lonely and craved the companionship of the frisky
pups. And while Mego was certain that her character was above reproach,
as well as her motives, she realized also that the stag-hound was
heedless. And the wise mother had always in mind the perils that lurk
in the hoofs of horses, the wheels of wagons, and the hovering
Pound-man; and never relaxed her vigilance in guarding her family
against such dangers.

"Well then, leaving out Mego, what dogs shall you use besides Kid, Tom,
Dick, Harry, Spot, and McMillan? I told Ben that you would take Baldy."

"Yes, Baldy, and probably Rex. I have been considering Fisher and Wolf,
too. Fisher has been rather indolent and indifferent, and I have never
given Wolf a good run since I bought him of that native boy, Illayuk."

"Why not Jemima? You have never given her a really good run either, and
she is no more inexperienced for the trip than is Wolf. As a matter of
fact, I have been training her quite a bit myself lately, and I find
that she is enthusiastic and good-tempered."

"Scotty" repressed a smile with difficulty. "Of course if you've been
training her that's different."

He had seen her several times trying to make Jemima jump over a stick,
beg for a bone, and stand on her hind legs--quite useless
accomplishments, as George and Dan had agreed, for a sled dog. And he
had also heard her words of advice to the progressive little dog, who
did indeed seem to be anxious to create a place for herself amongst the
best in the Kennel.

"Jemima," the Woman would warn her solemnly, "there are lots of things
the Females of the Species have to learn early, if they would avoid
trouble in this world. The very first of all is to let yourself be well
groomed, make the most of the gay pompoms on your harness, and cultivate
tact above all things. Never make a public nuisance of yourself. Be
steadfast, but not militant; and do not snarl and snap, tear children's
clothing, nor upset the puppies' food dish, even though you are
dissatisfied with existing conditions. But instead, never forget there
are wonderful opportunities even in a dog's life, and be ever ready and
waiting to use them when they come. Now shake hands."

As a concession to the Woman's fondness for Jemima, rather than to her
training, "Scotty" decided to let her go with them; and to her great
delight, and to Baldy's unbarkable dismay, for Baldy had but little
regard for ambitious females, she was placed in the wheel with him.

And so, with Kid in the lead, Baldy and Jemima in the wheel, Tom, Dick,
Harry and the others arranged to the best advantage; with the Woman
covered to the eyes in furs, and surrounded by bags, rugs, and carriage
heaters, and Ben comfortably tucked away in the midst; and with "Scotty"
Allan at the handle-bars, they were finally ready for the start to the
Springs.

Mrs. Edwards and Moose Jones had joined the Allan girls, George, Dan and
Matt at the Kennel, to wish the travelers a pleasant journey; and as he
waved a last farewell to them before the team dropped over the brow of
the hill, Ben observed gaily, "Well, I guess Ben Hur and all o' them old
chariot racers didn't have nothing much on Alaska racin' dog teams when
it comes t' style an' speed an' excitement."

[Illustration]



VII

The Dawn of a To-morrow

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VII

THE DAWN OF A TO-MORROW


Once out of the streets where there is danger of upsetting the unwary or
absent-minded pedestrian, the Allan and Darling Team headed down the
trail with real pleasure in the prospect of a long run.

They almost seemed to feel that this jaunt might be in the nature of a
"try-out" for racing material; or at the very least it might offer
something worth while in the way of adventure.

As a matter of fact it did, in the end, prove an eventful trip.
Particularly for Baldy, who gained recognition in an unexpected manner;
for the Woman, whose experiences nearly quenched her ardor for
exploration; and for Jemima, who learned that masculine human nature
respects feminine ambition up to a certain point only, and then
considers it a form of mania to be restrained.

Just behind was Pete Bernard, a sturdy French Canadian, trying to hold
his uncontrollable, half-wild huskies, who were jumping and making
sudden lunges toward any stranger--man or dog--that wandered near; and
especially toward the Yellow Peril, who was a free lance in the
expedition, and as such was particularly irritating to those in harness.
They were a perfect contrast to "Scotty's" dogs, who had been taught to
step into place, each as his name was called, standing quietly until all
were in position, and the traces were snapped to the tow-line; and then,
as the signal was given, to dart ahead with the ease and precision of
machinery started by electricity. Pete's sled was piled high with
freight and luggage, and astride of this was the Big Man, also in furs.

It was a cloudless day in January--a marvelous combination of white and
blue. Snowy plains rose almost imperceptibly into softly curved hills,
and ended in rugged mountains that were outlined in sharp, silvery
peaks against the dazzling sky.

The air was crisp and keen, the jingle of the sled-bells merry, and
Baldy even forgot, in the very joy of living, and in the nearness of
Ben, that Jemima was his team-mate.

[Illustration: THE AIR WAS CRISP AND
KEEN]

They could faintly hear Pete's voice giving strange directions to his
dogs; for Pete was Captain of a coasting schooner in summer, and
freighted with a dog team in winter, and used the same terms in both
occupations. He steered his ship "Gee" and "Haw," admonished his dogs
"not to get tangled up in their riggin'," and cautioned them against
"runnin' afoul of other craft." Of course no well raised dog could be
expected to know that his harness was "riggin'," nor that a sled could
possibly come under the head of "craft "; and he would be quite at a
loss to grasp Pete's meaning generally. But as Pete's team never obeyed
anyway, except by the exercise of sheer bodily force, it made but small
difference how he spoke to them.

On they came, "passenger" and "cargo" safely aboard, some distance
behind the Racers, who passed before long the famous Paystreak Diggings,
which had yielded their many millions, and were soon beyond the groups
of miners' cabins on the Third Beach Line.

It was a very different Baldy--this Baldy of Nome--from the one who had
so often in the days gone by traveled the Golconda Trail with his
friend, the boy. The days when he was hungry and foot-sore and
heart-sick, and now--Baldy straightened up proudly, and nearly pulled
Jemima off her feet in his desire to render good service for favors
received. While Ben's eyes sparkled as he glanced at the dog in his
responsible position of right wheeler in the Allan and Darling Team of
Racers.

There the way led up a gentle slope, then down to the bed of Nome River,
where they kept on the ice for several miles. It was here that Jemima's
unfitness for work with experts began to manifest itself; as well as the
unusual tenacity of purpose that seemed either perseverance or
perversity--depending upon whether you looked at the matter from Baldy's
standpoint or from hers.

"Scotty" watched with some amusement her efforts to keep up with the
others on the slippery ice, and when he thought she was becoming tired
he stopped her, and let her run free. When she realized that she was
out of the team her amazement and chagrin were plainly manifest. She sat
down in the snow while she figured out a plan of campaign for the
restoration of her rights; and then was off immediately in pursuit.
"Scotty" had brought Fisher back into the wheel with Baldy; and Jemima,
without pausing, jumped over Fisher's back between him and Baldy, to the
growling disgust of the latter. Of course all three became "tangled in
the riggin'," and the sled slipped up and over them.

The Woman, thinking the dogs were hurt, gave a frightened scream, Ben
was nearly thrown out by the sudden jolt, and "Scotty "--yes, "Scotty"
said something short and forceful, which was most rare; though swearing
much or little seems almost as invariable a part of dog mushing as it is
of mule driving. Jemima was lifted out, the tow-line straightened, and
another start was made; but after trotting along steadily for a time she
gave a second sudden leap, and was between the two dogs just in front of
the wheelers. Once more things were badly mixed, and the untangling
process had to be repeated. "Scotty" was annoyed, but interested; for
the usual rebukes had no effect on Jemima who was still agreeably but
firmly bent upon being an active member of the team.

Again and again she tried the same move till she had been ousted from
every position she had endeavored to fill. And then, more in sorrow than
in anger, she abandoned the unsuccessful tactics, stepped up beside Kid,
and, keeping pace with him, ran at the head of the team until they drew
up before the door of the Nugget Road House, where they were to spend
the night. Jemima believed in preserving appearances.

When they were settled, the Woman with "Scotty" and Ben went into the
barn to see the dogs fed, and said if Jemima showed any inclination,
because of her frustrated plans, to destroy Road House property, or
refuse food, her name should be changed to Emmeline. But Jemima, at
least to her own satisfaction, had demonstrated her ability, as well as
her unswerving determination, so she ate dried salmon and corn meal
porridge with zest, and slept soundly, content to leave the rest to
Allan's sense of justice. Baldy looked distrustfully at the sleeping
Jemima, and thought approvingly of the absent Mego--for Baldy was
somewhat primitive in his ideas of the hitherto gentle sex.

Shortly afterward the other team came--and then followed the excitement
and confusion that was the inevitable accompaniment of the arrival of
Pete Bernard and his howling huskies.

What an untrained lot they were--fierce and unapproachable--for no one
ever handled them but Pete, and he had no time to give to their higher
education. If they had the strength to pull, he would see that they did
it; he never used a dog physically unfit, and was perfectly willing to
go through with them any of the severe hardships they were forced to
endure. Did he not, without hesitation, drive them mercilessly through
black night and raging blizzard to bring a freezing stranger to the
hospital--a man whose one chance lay in skilled care?

It was no great thing in Pete's sight--a simple episode of the North.
The man was in dire need, he himself was strong, and his dogs would go
through anything with Pete "at the steerin' gear"--and so a life was
saved.

When the Bernard team was also stabled, Baldy was overcome with that
delicious drowsiness that follows a busy day in the open. From the house
came those strange noises that people seem to so much enjoy--else why do
they remain within reach of them instead of running far away, as did
Baldy at first? But he, like the rest of the Allan and Darling family,
had eventually become used to the phonograph; and their perfect
self-control now enabled them to lie quietly through the "Sextette from
Lucia" or the latest rag time at least with composure, if not with
pleasure.

Not so, however, Pete's uncultured brutes; such strains were melancholy
and painful to them in the extreme; and they did not hesitate to let it
be known. One by one they began to howl, till all twelve were wailing
dolefully and continuously. The Nugget dogs joined them, and Baldy
noticed with stern condemnation that Fisher and Wolf, who had not yet
acquired the repose of manner that comes of rigid discipline, were also
guilty of this breach of Road House decorum. Allan and Pete rushed out
to quell the disturbance, but the Big Man said not to interfere; that
many a dollar he had paid for an evening of Strauss or Debussy when the
clamor was just as loud, and to him no more melodious--and he was for
letting them finish their "number" in peace.

At last the music-machine ceased from troubling, the rival canine
concert was ended, and laughter and song were hushed. The stillness of
the Arctic night fell upon the Nugget Road House, lying in the somber
shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains. And to Baldy and all the others came
rest and forgetfulness of such trials as nerve-racking sounds that
destroy well-earned sleep, and the enforced companionship of advanced
females that insist upon having a paw in the management of affairs that
should not concern them.

The next morning both teams were ready to continue the journey. The Big
Man with Pete Bernard and his huskies were to take the long route
through the Lowlands; while "Scotty" decided upon the short cut by the
Golden Gate Pass, because the Woman wanted to go the most picturesque
way.

It had been cold but clear when they left Nugget, and was still fair,
though somewhat colder, when they stopped for lunch at Slisco's; but
later, as they went up through the steep divide, the chill wind became
almost unbearable.

The trail had grown exceedingly rough, and for many miles there were,
at close intervals, a succession of jagged windrows rising like the
crests of huge waves frozen as they curled to break. Once when the sled
hit a crag, in spite of every effort to steer clear of it, "Scotty"
heard an ominous crack. He was obliged to stop, and with Ben's aid wound
the broken place with a stout cord. Then they tied the Woman in with
ropes, for there was constant fear that she might be hurled out when the
sled swerved unavoidably.

[Illustration: THE TRAIL HAD GROWN EXCEEDINGLY ROUGH]

It did not take them ten minutes to do it all, but Allan was obliged to
remove his gloves, and one of his hands became frost-bitten, and almost
useless for a time. He put Jemima, who had gone slightly lame, into the
sled with her friend, and tucked the warm rugs about them both; while
the boy insisted upon perching lightly on the side that he might be
ready to give instant assistance if necessary. The dog was resentful
against the enforced ease, however, for she was not at all ready, in
spite of pain, to give up her work.

In answer to the solicitous questions as to how she was standing it all,
there came from the numb and bleeding lips of the Woman, through an ice
encrusted veil, a reply that was something between a groan and a sob.
In faltering tones she declared herself "perfectly comfortable; found
the scenery glorious, and simply loved traveling by dog team." Had Baldy
understood this assurance of a "delightful ride," and had he seen
Jemima's strenuous resistance against what was necessary for her
well-being, it might have seemed to him proof positive of the existence
of certain traits characteristically feminine.

Kid, who was no respecter of the elements, much less of people, and
whose one rule of life appeared to be "Get There, and Get There First,"
dashed up those slippery barriers to find a sheer drop of five feet or
more on the other side, down which he would take team and sled.

The cold had become still more intense, and the thermometer they carried
registered thirty degrees below zero, with the summit far beyond. The
situation was serious, and "Scotty" felt that their best chance for
safety lay in the speed with which they could cross the Divide, and
reach the open country; for there the trail led over the flats, and
there were not the menacing precipices, that could not now be seen
through a dense fall of eddying snow.

The way had been completely obliterated, and even Kid had paused,
confused, and for once uncertain of the next move. "Scotty" called the
boy to the handle-bars. "Stand on the brake, Ben, and shout to Kid if he
should start after me. He may hear you even above the storm. I'll have
to go on to see if I cannot locate some sort of a trail." He lowered his
voice. "This is the worst place in the Sawtooth Range to be caught, and
I'll have to depend upon you to do a man's work. Losing the way now
would be a desperate matter, but of course we must not let her know how
desperate," with a gesture toward the sled.

When Allan forged ahead into the thickness of the whirling snow, and
disappeared completely, the boy felt a strange dread of the unknown.
There was something appalling in the mighty force of the Arctic blizzard
that had fallen full upon them. Something ghostly in the silent,
motionless figure of the Woman, covered as with a pall, by the drifting
snow, and in the shadowy string of dogs faintly seen, from time to time,
when a rare lull cleared the air to a dim and misty grayness. Something
terrifying in the cruel sting of the bitter wind that cut into the flesh
like whip-lashes, and shrieked and howled in its unspent rage over that
lonely and desolate mountain fastness.

It seemed ages before "Scotty" returned to report that there was no sign
of a trail. "I used to know this country fairly well, and I think I'd
better go on before the team for a while to try to keep at least in the
right direction. But I'll have to put another dog in the lead with Kid.
It's almost impossible to make any headway, and two of the strongest
dogs will barely be able to hold up against this blow."

He thought deeply for a moment. Life or death might hinge upon his
selection of dogs that would follow him through danger and disaster
unfalteringly, unflinchingly. And, too, he must decide at once.

As in a flash there came to him the memory of Baldy's steadfast strength
in the boys' race, his calm determination; and after an instant's
hesitation he hooked Baldy up beside Kid. With a few words of direction
to Ben, "Scotty" turned once more into the teeth of the gale; and at his
heels, patient and obedient, came his stanch team with Kid and Baldy in
the lead.

Ben felt, even in the midst of the distress and danger, a thrill of joy;
while Baldy was filled with pride. He had supposed that Tom, Dick,
Harry or McMillan would share that honor and responsibility with Kid,
and now, unexpectedly, it had come to him. "Scotty" was trusting him;
safety for them all might rest on his strength and faithfulness, and he
was grateful indeed for this opportunity to prove that he was both
strong and faithful.

He did not care though the glittering frost whitened his short hair, and
pierced his sinewy flanks like a knife thrust; he hardly realized that
the driving snow froze his eyelids together, and caked between his toes,
making his feet so tender that they bled. Straining and breathless he
plunged forward, knowing only that behind him was his friend the boy,
with a helpless human being; and that somewhere beyond was his master,
calling to them from out the cold and the dark. So, blindly, willingly,
they followed the intrepid man who staggered on, and on, till at last
the fury of the storm was over. Then the chill mist seemed to rise, as a
curtain, and the peaceful Valley of the Kruzgamapa lay before them,
bathed in the glow of the early winter sunset.

Far across the white plains, surrounded by willows and alders, leafless
and outlined skeleton-like against the rosy sky, lay the Hot Springs
Road House. Its shining windows and smoking chimney brought hopeful
interest and renewed courage, even to those already "perfectly
comfortable"; and gave to the dogs that zest and eagerness that marks
the sighted end of a hard day's run.

In another half hour they had arrived at their destination, and were all
warmly housed. Jemima, stiff, and a bit inclined to be sulky, had been
lifted out of the sled and was now resting cozily on some furs in the
corner. The Woman, almost rigid, had also been lifted out, and after
thawing a little, was busily engaged in applying soothing remedies to a
badly scarred cheek and chin; for the Big Man was due at any moment, and
his facetious comments on the unpleasant results of her "pleasure trips"
had become time-honored, if unwelcome, family jokes.

Ben was vastly contented in the knowledge that he had been of real
service, and accepted the appreciation that was warmly expressed with
modest joy.

As for Baldy, there was the dawn of a glorious future in that day's
work. When, in his turn, Allan came to him and rubbed cooling ointment
into his swollen and bleeding feet, there was much more than just the
customary kindly stroke. Something Baldy could not fathom, that made his
heart beat happily. There was born, of a touch and tone, the wonderful
ambition to be classed with Dubby and Kid in his master's affections; as
with his hand still resting gently on Baldy, "Scotty" turned to the boy.
"Ben, we're glad _now_ that we have Baldy."

[Illustration]



VIII

A Tragedy without a Moral--and a Comedy with One

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER VIII

A TRAGEDY WITHOUT A MORAL--AND A COMEDY WITH ONE


Life at the Kruzgamapa Hot Springs offered a pleasant relaxation from
the business cares and social duties of Nome. There was very little
driving for the dogs, but they were allowed to chase every big beautiful
white hare they could find, pursue a red fox if they were so lucky as to
start one, and watch the flocks of ptarmigan that fluttered near enough
to be a constant lure.

They were out by day with the Big Man and Ben to look for game, and once
nearly went wild with excitement when they saw an Eskimo take a large
gray lynx from his trap. That was the sort of a cat that would be worth
while as a friend or foe; and Baldy remembered Texas Allan with added
disdain.

Occasionally natives with their sleds drawn by reindeer would pass that
way. And if they could elude "Scotty's" vigilance it was great fun to
dash after the awkward, stubborn beasts who so disliked them; and who
somewhat threatened, in the more remote interior, to break up the
monopoly of the Northern Dog Transportation Company, Unlimited.

At night they were taken for long walks by the Woman and Ben. Out over
the snow that crackled sharply in the clear, crisp air; out where the
stars seemed strangely close, the moon strangely bright--and where
across the heavens waved the luminous, ghostly banners of the Northern
Lights.

Time now meant nothing. It was the Land of Day After To-morrow, where
the obligation of definite hours for definite duties did not exist.

And because there was a vacation freedom in the very atmosphere,
sometimes they stole into the big living-room of the Road House, two or
three at a time; and lying in the shadowy twilight they would listen,
in drowsy content, to the cheery snap of the wood in the huge ruddy
stove, and to the voices of their friends as they talked of the North,
its hardships, its happiness, its hopes.

[Illustration: KRUZAMAPA HOT SPRINGS]

The great world "Outside," and its troubles, seemed far away.

International difficulties, the Fall of a Monarchy? Interesting of
course, but on the last Holiday, Charles Johnson, with his marvelous
Siberians, supplemented the previous Siberian triumph of John Johnson by
winning the Solomon Derby of that year; making the course of sixty-five
miles in but little more than five hours. That was something to worry
one.

Suffrage? Desirable for many places, naturally. Though in Nome a woman
could be a member of the Kennel Club, enter a racing team, and vote on
school matters, long before the franchise was given her by the
Legislature in Juneau. And surely that, all agreed, had been as liberal
a policy as any reasonable female should have demanded from any
community.

The Tariff, Panama Canal news, and graft prosecutions? Well, of course,
one discussed such affairs casually; but after all, the Dog Question in
all its phases was of far more immediate importance to Alaskans. And so
they spent many an hour in reminiscences and prophecies; and were
thrilled over and over again with the excitement of the great contests
they had witnessed--lost and won; basing predictions for the future on
the achievements of the past.

Then the dogs would be roused by the entrance of the Eskimo hunters, who
stopped in the dusk of the evening on the way back to their settlement
at Mary's Igloo, to barter for their day's bag. And later they sniffed
with keen pleasure the wonderful smells from the adjoining kitchen;
smells of broiled trout, reindeer steaks, and Arctic grouse--and
fainter, but more delicious still, the odor of their own meal being
cooked in the tent beside the cabin door.

They remained at the Springs a couple of weeks; and delightful weeks
they were, too, but for one unfortunate incident, which was precipitated
because of Tom's aristocratic race prejudice.

He had always hated Eskimo dogs; choosing either to ignore his own
huskie blood, or feeling that it was superior to the native strain in
the malamutes of the coast--just as some people boast of being
descended from Pocahontas, but would shudder at the mere idea of a
Siwash Squaw ancestress.

At all events, Tom had resented the entrance of the Eskimo, Wolf, into
the Kennel; and never failed, when "Scotty" was not about, to manifest
an enmity that would have told a civilized dog not to attempt any
liberties with him. But Wolf was only an ignorant puppy, taken from a
native igloo, where all of the dogs and all of the family lived in happy
harmony; and so, one day when he was particularly joyous, he nipped, in
a spirit of mischief, the end of Tom's wagging stump of a tail. Tom
wheeled instantly, his hair bristling and his jaws apart, but the timely
arrival of Matt made further demonstration impossible; and Tom's
instinctive dislike for Wolf grew into an obsession after that direct
and personal insult.

In their well-appointed quarters in Nome, with each dog in his own
stall, revenge was out of the question; and when in harness, or out with
Matt for exercise, there was as little chance for settling a grievance
as there would be with soldiers on parade. But at the Springs Tom's
opportunity came.

The small stables were overcrowded, there being seventy dogs in camp
belonging to storm-bound travelers. It was necessary to chain them
closer together than "Scotty" felt was wise, though he was not prepared
for the tragedy that greeted him when he went out one morning to see
that all was well with the team.

Every dog rose to greet him, as he came in with the Woman and Ben,
except Wolf, who lay dead, strangled with his own collar.

The muscular body, so supple and vigorous but a short time before, was
stiffening fast; and there were signs of a struggle desperate but
ineffectual.

"Oh, 'Scotty,' can't you do something for poor Wolf?" and the tears came
to the Woman's eyes as she laid a pitying hand on the handsome head of
the tawny malamute.

"It's too late," said Allan regretfully. "He was a good dog, too; and
would have made a strong addition to the team, properly handled."

A careful examination showed that on the left hind foot were traces of
blood and marks of teeth; and there were but two dogs who could have
reached Wolf to stretch him till he choked--Baldy and Tom.

The Woman looked accusingly toward Baldy. "I suppose he did it. He
probably does not realize how wicked it was, he has had so little
discipline as yet."

Anxious to defend the dog, Ben answered impulsively, "I'm quite sure
Baldy wouldn't do a thing like that. He's been friends with Wolf; I saw
them playing together only yesterday. And it really ain't a bit like
Baldy t' be cruel an' sneakin'--t' lay fer a dog that didn't have a
chance agin him."

"But surely Tom, after all of his years of training, would not have
attacked one of his own stable-mates. Such a thing has never occurred
before in our Kennel. I fear, Ben, it must have been Baldy."

But "Scotty" was not so confident. "I agree with Ben; it's not like
Baldy. I have never found him quarrelsome, nor vindictive. And I hate,
too, to believe Tom guilty. You know I never punish a dog on
circumstantial evidence; so I am afraid this cold-blooded murder will
have to be passed over, unless we can be certain of the criminal. There
is always the possibility that a stray dog may have been responsible."

"Well, don't saddle it onto the Yellow Peril," exclaimed the Big Man,
who came in to see what was the matter. "He is popularly supposed to
start every dog fight in Nome; but this time he can prove a clear
alibi, for he slept at the foot of my bed all night." Thus exonerated,
the Peril passed by the line of chained dogs, bumping into them in a
perfectly unnecessary manner, and emitting supercilious growls that in
themselves would have been sufficient grounds for instant death if Pete
Bernard's huskies could have acted upon their unanimous opinion.

"It's a terrible thing," sighed the Woman, "to have a murderer in our
midst and not know who it is. It makes me feel positively creepy." And
again, almost unconsciously, her glance fell upon Baldy.

And so the affair was ended officially. But Baldy could not forget the
sickening suspicion that had rested upon him. In her heart the Woman
felt that he was the culprit; and even "Scotty" had not been absolutely
certain of his innocence. There was only Ben who _knew_.

Forlornly the boy and the dog wandered about throughout that dismal day,
which seemed interminable. Nothing interested them, even the very things
that had made the other days pass so quickly and so happily. Nothing
except gloomily watching Tom, whose actions would have plainly proved
his guilt to "Scotty" had the man not been too absorbed in an
improvement for his sled to take much notice of anything else.

For a brief period the wily criminal had shown a humility as deep as it
was unusual; he had sat on a pile of wood alone, not even romping with
Dick and Harry till he felt the Hour of Judgment had passed. And then,
deciding that there was no punishment forthcoming, he had leaped and
frisked, and seemed so guileless that Baldy's contempt for his own kind
made life hardly worth while.

One might look for such actions from inferior animals--from a cat that
has killed a bird for instance; for cats are only soft-footed, purring
bundles of deceit, with no standard of trail morals. But for a dog, a
racing dog, and one belonging to the Allan and Darling Team, it was
almost incredible. One would expect him at least to have the courage of
his convictions, and be willing to take the consequences of what he
regarded as a legitimate feud.

Tom's escape from all blame in this deplorable matter rankled. It made
Baldy realize the indifference or casual injustice of a world that
seldom delves below the surface of things; and while at times it plunged
him into periods of depression, more often it spurred him on in his
dogged determination to attain the goal of his recently aroused
ambitions.

Fortunately he had a forgiving nature, and realized they could not know
how deeply he had been wounded by their lack of faith. Also he was too
busy to brood very much, for when they exercised at all, the new dogs
were being tried out, and the older ones were in demand as "trainers."
Most recruits are as eager for the honor of making the team as a
freshman is to get into college football; but occasionally it was thrust
upon an unwilling candidate.

"I should not be at all surprised if I have some trouble with Fisher,"
remarked "Scotty," as he turned the dogs out one day for their usual
run. "He has a certain malamute stubbornness that might cause me a lot
of annoyance just when I could least afford the time to correct him."

"Well, after your famous victory over Jack McMillan I do not anticipate
seeing any real difficulty with Fisher," was the Big Man's confident
reply. "I think you would be eligible to the position of wild beast
tamer in a menagerie as the result of your tussle with Jack; for his
strong wolf strain and his enormous strength certainly made him a
formidable opponent. Yet you never tied nor whipped him."

"That had been tried constantly, with no success, and some danger. You
see, with McMillan's disposition, such treatment only made him more
defiant, without in the least breaking his spirit. I knew of course that
he would have to be conquered, and conquered completely, or become an
outlaw against whom every one would turn; but the punishment would have
to be more vital and less humiliating than a beating. It won't do to
embitter an animal any more than it will a person. You have to leave a
certain self-respect and give him a fair chance."

And more than a fair chance Jack had received in that thrilling moment
when the wiry little Scotchman, cool and determined, had faced the huge
brute whose nature, harking back to the wild, threw off the shackles of
generations of suppression and training, and rose to meet his hereditary
enemy--opposing fierce resentment to all efforts of control.

For an instant the man and dog had paused, each seeming to gauge the
strength of the other--then the instinct to kill, that heritage from the
past, when the timber wolf gave no quarter, rose supreme; and the dog
sprang forward, the wide open jaws revealing his sharp, white teeth and
cruelly broken tusks. Suddenly the weight of Allan's body was hurled
against him; strong supple fingers closed upon his neck, and with an
unexpected wrench Jack McMillan's head was buried in a drift of soft,
deep snow. He struggled violently to wrest himself from the iron grasp;
madly he fought for freedom; but always there was that slow, deadly
tightening at the throat. Panting and choking, he had made one last
desperate attempt to break the grip that pinned him down; and then lay
spent and inert except for an occasional hoarse gasp, or convulsive
movement of his massive frame.

At length the man had risen, and the dog, feeling himself loosed, and
able to get his breath, staggered uncertainly to his feet, turned, and
stood bravely facing his foe. There was, for a brief period, the
suggestion of a renewed conflict in the dog's attitude. With the foam
dripping from his mouth, quivering in every muscle; but still erect,
exhausted but not cowed, he waited for the next move--and when it came
McMillan had met his master. Not because of the force in the vise-like
fingers, not because of the dominating mind that controlled them, but
because of the generous spirit that treats a conquered enemy--even a
dog--as an honorable antagonist, not an abject slave.

There had seemed to be a sudden comprehension on the part of the dog,
like the clearing of a distorting mist. He realized in the tone of the
man's voice the recognition and appreciation of qualities which stand
not alone for unquenchable hatred, but for undying fidelity as well; and
when "Scotty's" hand fell upon his head, and gently stroked the soft
sable muzzle, Jack McMillan had not only met a master, but he had made a
friend.

"But Fisher is quite different from Jack. There was never anything petty
about him. Even his hatred had something impressive about it, for he
fought to kill, and was never snarling and underhanded. You always knew
where you stood with him. While Fisher is not at all dangerous, he has
many undesirable traits that are difficult to overcome. He shirked all
the way up from town. That may have been the fault of his training, or
possibly he is naturally lazy; that is what I want to find out. At any
rate nagging does not seem to worry him in the least."

The Woman came out of the house pulling on her fur gloves. "What do you
say," she asked Allan, "to a spin over to Mary's Igloo? Father Bernard
has all sorts of native curios there that I should like to see, and the
day is right for a drive."

"Fine idea," agreed the Big Man. "And Ben and I will follow with as many
of Pete's huskies as we think we can manage without being slated for the
hospital. We might try the Yellow Peril in the lead."

"In that case," the Woman responded rather grimly, "you will probably be
slated for the cemetery instead. Why don't you get a couple of reindeer
from the camp just below? They may not be so fast, but they are surely
safe, and one feels so picturesque behind them, with all their gay felt
collars and trappings."

"Scotty" whistled for the dogs, but Fisher was not to be seen. He had
gone back into the stable to doze on the hay, his favorite pastime.
Again and again the whistle failed to gain any response. The other dogs
had all stepped into place before the sled; when at last Fisher,
reluctant in coming, meditated a moment, and then, in open rebellion,
darted down the steep banks into the overflow of the Springs. The water,
a strange freak of nature in the Arctic, was very warm, and deep enough
so that he had to swim; and he felt that he had selected an ideal place
for his Declaration of Independence.

But "Scotty," shouting directions to have the other dogs unhitched,
immediately started in pursuit of the rebel.

Fisher left the hard, well-beaten track, and struck out for some small
willows and alders where the snow had drifted in feathery masses. He
broke through the crust frequently, but knew that a man would have more
difficulty still in making any headway. Finally Allan turned back to the
house, and Fisher sat down to think over his little victory. He was
tired and panting, but he felt he had scored a point; when to his
amazement he saw the man coming toward him, and now on snow-shoes. He
plunged forward, and relentlessly "Scotty" followed. Hour after hour
the chase continued, until Fisher realized, at length, the futility of
it all; and thoroughly exhausted, crouched shivering in the snow,
waiting for the punishment that lay in the coils of the long black whip
in the man's hand.

When some little distance from him, Allan paused and called to Fisher.

The dog listened. There was something compelling in the tone, something
he could not resist; and so in spite of the temptation to make one more
wild dash for liberty, the dog crawled to "Scotty's" feet in fear and
trembling. And instead of the sting of the lash he had expected, a
kindly touch fell upon him, and a friendly voice said, "It's a good
thing, old fellow, you decided to come to me of your own free will.

"It means a bone instead of a beating--remember that always," and a
delicious greasy bone was taken from a capacious pocket and given him.

So Fisher went back to the stable with "Scotty "; where Jack McMillan
and other ex-rebels, but now loyal subjects, ignored, with a politeness
born of similar experiences, the little episode that taught Fisher once
for all that respect for authority eliminates the necessity for a
whipping. Which is, perhaps, the canine version of Virtue being its own
Reward.

The drive back to town was pleasant but uneventful. Ben, perfectly well
again, was eager to begin his school work and lay a foundation for the
wonderful education that Moose Jones had in mind for him, while Baldy
was glad to be at home once more where he could settle down to his
regular duties. It was with a contentment quite new to him, for in
"Scotty" Allan there was evident a growing recognition of his earnest
desire to be of real use. And with that certainty he ceased to worry
over the short-sightedness of a world which, till now, had appeared to
him unable to grasp the idea that while beauty is only fur deep, ability
goes to the bone.

Tom, Dick and Harry might attract the notice of strangers by their
persuasive ways; Jack McMillan compel admiration by his magnificence;
Irish and Rover win caresses by their affectionate demonstrations. But
after all, in storm and stress, with perhaps a life at stake, it was to
him, to Baldy the obscure, to Baldy "formerly of Golconda, now of
Nome," that his master had turned in his hour of greatest need.

[Illustration:]



IX

With the Flight of Time

[Illustration:]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER IX

WITH THE FLIGHT OF TIME


The town of Nome, extending along the shore of Bering Sea for nearly two
miles, is not built back to any extent on the tundra, which stretches
away, a bog in summer, to the low-lying hills in the distance. In winter
this is, however, a wide sweep of spotless snow crossed by well-defined
trails--and it was here that the dogs were given their exercise.

There were many pleasant diversions in this daily training; visits to
the outlying camps, where they were lauded and petted by the miners, and
surreptitiously banqueted by the camp cooks.

Then there were impromptu races into town if by chance they encountered
other teams coming back after the day's work; when the leaders, eying
one another critically, even scornfully, would, without so much as a
bark by way of discussion, start headlong for Nome, which was visible in
the shadowy gray twilight only by its curling smoke and twinkling
lights.

On they would come, over the Bridge, and up the steep banks of Dry
Creek, turning into Front Street, and dashing down that main
thoroughfare at a pace that took little heed of city speed limits.

It was an hour when baby-sleds and small children were not in evidence;
and so they were always urged on to a spirited finish by the eager
voices of bystanders, to whom sport is more important than home and
dinner.

The unmarked days have slipped into the fast-flying weeks, and they into
the months; till, suddenly, as from a lethargy, the North arouses itself
to greet the first unfailing herald of spring--the Dog Races of Nome.
And about the second week in February the serious work that is the
forerunner of these spring races is begun; and Baldy found his time full
to overflowing with the duties that had long since become joys.

Many luxuries were added to their usual comforts, and all sorts of
improvements made in equipment. There were beautiful patent leather
collars stuffed with caribou hair and faced with rattan, so there should
be no chafing of the neck; they were as "fine and becoming," the Woman
said, "as feather boas." All extra weight was eliminated. The harness
was of thin linen webbing; snaps and buckles gave place to ivory
toggles; wooden whiffletrees were replaced by those made of aluminum,
and the tow-line, light and flexible, and of incredible strength, was of
walrus hide.

Most wonderful of all, it seemed to Ben, George and Dan, was the racing
sled, built on delicate lines, but of tough, almost unbreakable hickory,
and lashed with reindeer sinew. It weighed but little more than thirty
pounds--"as trim a bark as ever sailed the uncharted trails," according
to Pete Bernard; and surely a sight to gladden the eyes of a Dog Musher
of the North.

To the front of this was attached a delicately adjusted combination of
scales and springs, by which Allan could tell when the draft of the team
equaled a pound to the dog; and if more was indicated he was always
behind pushing and adding all of the strength he possessed to that of
those steel-muscled animals each of whom can start, on runners, several
hundred pounds on level snow.

The Kennel was at all times delightful and spotless from its frequent
coats of whitewash. It was airy in summer, and protected in winter; and
the mangers used for beds and stuffed with clean, dry straw, were far
enough off the floor so that there could be no dampness. Electric lights
in the long dark months made it possible to keep the place easily in
perfect order; but with increased activity came increased conveniences
such as hooks in the stalls to hold each dog's harness, which was marked
with the wearer's name, and many other trouble-saving devices that would
prevent confusion when they were preparing for their frequent runs.

Of course the Allan and Darling dogs were all docked. That it was
correct, and gave them a trim appearance, would not have impressed Baldy
in the least; but that it kept their tails from freezing when going
through overflows in icy streams, which causes much personal agony, and
injury to the eyes of the dog in the rear, was a matter of signal
importance.

Always well-groomed, the care of the Kennel inmates now became the sole
task of Matt, who examined them thoroughly twice a day; cutting and
filing their nails when necessary, that they might not split, and
currying and brushing their hair till the Big Man observed that these
elaborate preparations suggested a beauty contest rather than a dog
race.

Ben Edwards was about constantly, when not in school, to assist Matt;
and under his unremitting attention Baldy was fast becoming, if not
handsome, at least far from unsightly.

Then, too, Ben would often help "Scotty" by taking Baldy and several of
the steady dogs out, to give the former as much experience in the wheel
as possible; for Baldy was being seriously considered as a permanent
wheeler in the Racing Team. His qualifications were not brilliant, but
he had proved in the Juvenile Race that he possessed the power to
enforce his authority on flighty and reckless dogs; and on the trip to
the Hot Springs that his courage was equal to his energy.

Many of the dogs had been in several of the Sweepstakes teams and they
realized that these short, snappy spins were for speed and not
endurance, which is the main feature of the great race.

Baldy watched with much anxiety the lack of intelligent interest on the
part of a few of the recruits, and tried to infuse the proper zest into
them by the force of a good example. That not proving entirely
satisfactory, he had been known, when really necessary, to use the
prerogative of a loose leader, and bite the dog in front of him when he
wished to suggest more readiness, or a closer attention to business. But
that was contrary to Baldy's peace policy, and was always a last resort.

The old guard were naturally the mentors, and it was a pleasure to watch
the skill with which they performed their tasks. It was a stupid or
unwilling dog indeed who could not learn much from the agile Tolmans, or
the gentle Irish Setters, in whom the fierce strong blood of some huskie
grandparent would never be suspected except for a certain toughness that
manifested itself in trail work alone.

As for Kid, capable from the first, he was fast developing a justifiable
confidence in himself, and a perfect control over the rest of the team,
and "Scotty" was jubilant over such a leader.

"We have a good team," he said to the Woman as they stood watching the
dogs at play out in the corral with Ben, George and Dan. "And we need
it. Matt tells me that Seward Peninsula has been scoured quietly, from
one end to the other, to add finer dogs to last year's seasoned entries.
And all of the drivers will be men who know the game." Which meant a
severe struggle; for strength and speed in the dogs, and real
generalship and a masterly comprehension of all phases of the trail, in
the driver, are the chief requisites in this wonderful contest.

"They're in great form," observed the Woman with pride and admiration.
"I don't think I have ever seen them looking better."

"True," agreed "Scotty." "But don't count too much on that, for the year
we had that strange epidemic in the Kennel, something like distemper,
they seemed perfectly well till almost the day of the race. And that was
the race," grimly, "when the dear little Fuzzy-wuzzy Lap Dogs, as you
call them, made the record time, and we came in third."

"Well," ruefully, "they had a true Siberian trail all the way; it was
clear and cold, and there was not a single blizzard. And the whole North
knows that our rangy half-breeds are at their best when there are
storms, and the route is rough and broken. The luck of the trail,"
sighing, "but at that, they were marvels."

Without cavil, and with due praise from friend and antagonist alike, the
success of the Siberians that year had been phenomenal and well
deserved. And so, when the "Iron Man" John Johnson, driving a team
entered by Colonel Charles Ramsay of London, and Fox Ramsay driving his
own team of the same type, were first and second, the Ramsay Tartan
fluttered beside the flag of Finland in triumph. It made no difference
that one driver was the son of a Scotch Earl and one of a Scandinavian
Peasant--they were both men in the eyes of all Alaska; and they were
both, with their sturdy dogs, saluted as victors in this classic of the
snows. And John Johnson's record of four hundred and eight miles in
seventy-four hours, fourteen minutes, and twenty-two seconds had made
history in the North.

[Illustration: The Ramsay Siberians]

"I did not feel half so bad, did you, 'Scotty,' when Fay Dalzene beat us
with that great team of his and Russ Bowen's? For after all they were
our type of dog, and justified our faith in the Alaskans."


But no one year's result, nor the accumulated result of several years,
could settle the question of supremacy between the two breeds; and so
the smouldering rivalry continued and was fanned into a hot flame each
season just before the Solomon Derby.

"You'll have a lot of able rivals, if the immense number of speedy teams
I see in the streets means anything," was the Big Man's comment one
evening when the Woman, after a fast drive, was boasting of the marked
improvement in the team work of their entry.

"'Scotty' says he's glad of it; the more teams that go into racing the
higher the standard in Nome. There has never been a time since the camp
started when there have been so many efficient dogs as now; and it's
just because the people are learning that the only way you can have good
dogs is to give them good care. When an Eskimo gets together a racing
team, and an excellent one at that, it begins to look like a general
reform. Don't you remember when practically all of the natives used to
force puppies, who were far too young to be driven at all, to draw the
entire family in a sled that was already overflowing with household
goods?"

"Yes, at one time you could certainly tell an Eskimo team as far as you
could see it by the gait of the wretched, mangy beasts, that always
appeared to be in the last stages of exhaustion."

"And there's really a vast improvement in the freighting teams as well;
for so many dogs that do not quite make the racing teams become
freighters and show the results of their breeding and training there. In
fact," enthusiastically, "I am sure that dog racing has been an enormous
benefit to Nome in every way. Stefansson told me himself that never in
his experience, and it has been wide, had he found such dogs as those
'Scotty' bought for their Canadian Arctic Expedition. And I believe,"
with conviction, "it is because Nome dogs, through the races, are
acknowledged to be the best in all the North--for both sport and work."

The Big Man smiled, and suggested, banteringly, that she embody those
views into form for the benefit of Congress.

The Woman looked rather puzzled. "Congress?" she demanded; "and why
Congress?"

"Because," he continued with some amusement, "there are people who
venture to differ with you materially in your view-point. I understand
that very recently the Kennel Club has received communications from
various high officials of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals, threatening to place the matter of dog racing in Nome before
Congress, with the hope of having these cruel racing contests stopped.

"That is, of course, if those concerned cannot be made to see the error
of their ways by some less drastic method."

For a moment the Woman was quite speechless with surprise and dismay.

"Well," she finally exclaimed, "if that isn't human nature for
you--beams and motes and all that sort of thing.

"Good people with the very best intentions in the world, trying to
interfere in affairs about which they know nothing, thousands of miles
away; when probably around the very next corner are things about which
they should know everything, needing their attention constantly."

"They say, in one letter, that there are many Alaskans, as well as
Outsiders, who have made these complaints."

"Oh, I dare say," scornfully, "even in Alaska there are persons whose
only idea of a dog is that of a fat, wheezy house-dog who crunches bones
under the dining table, and sleeps on a crocheted shawl in a Morris
chair. But _real_ Alaskans know that pity for the dogs of the North
should be felt, not for the Racers, but for the poor work dogs who haul
their burdens of lumber and machinery and all kinds of supplies out to
the distant mines.

"And that, too, over rough and splintered ties in the glare of the
fierce summer sun that shines for nearly twenty-four hours at a stretch.
I'll wager," defiantly, "that if Alaska dogs have one supreme ambition,
like that of every loyal small American boy to become President of the
United States, it is to become a member of a racing team."

"Undoubtedly," agreed the Big Man soothingly. "But Congress, I believe,
is ignorant of such ambitions as yet."

"Congress is ignorant of a good many things concerning Alaska and the
Alaskans," contemptuously.

"It was because for years Congress imposed a prohibitive tax on
railways through this wilderness, a tax only just now removed, that
innumerable freighters, day after day, have crawled into town unnoticed,
with feet cut and bruised and bleeding, and with no one to herald their
suffering to a sympathetic world. It's because their labors were not
spectacular, and the dogs were too obscure to attract more than a
passing pity--never national interest, or interference."

"But they assert, if I may go on," ventured the Big Man with an
assumption of fear, "that the condition of the dogs, at the finish of
these four hundred and eight mile races, is deplorable."

"They're tired; naturally very tired; though the necessity of fairly
forcing their steps through the crushing, cheering, frantic mob often
gives them an effect of utter exhaustion that belies their actual
condition.

"You know how often we have gone down to the Kennel within an hour or so
after their arrival, and have found them comfortably resting and showing
little, if any, signs of the ordeal. Many and many a prospector's team
is in far worse condition after a severe winter's trip, made just for
ordinary business purposes, while all of the Kennel Club's rules for
racing are aimed against cruelty.

"Why, you know that the very first one says you must bring back every
dog with which you started, dead or alive, and--"

The Big Man laughed heartily. "Dare I mention that the 'Dead or Alive'
rule is the one that seems to have caused the most unfavorable comment
Outside.

"They seem to think it has rather a desperate 'win at any hazard' sound
that needs toning down a bit."

"It means," remarked the Woman severely, "that even if a dog becomes
lame or useless, and a detriment to the rest, he must not be abandoned,
but brought back just the same. And as a team is only as strong as its
weakest member, surely they can realize that it is a matter of policy,
even if not prompted by his love for them, for every driver to keep his
dogs in the best possible condition--that he may not be forced to carry
one that is disabled upon his sled. That would seriously handicap any
team."

"Of course, my dear, all will admit, even Congress, that this is no
country for weaklings--men or dogs--and that is no contest for those who
cannot brave the elements and survive the dangers of a desperately hard
trail.

"And I will maintain, freely, that no athletes in the Olympic Games of
Greece, nor college men in training for the field, are more carefully
and considerately treated than are the dogs in the All Alaska
Sweepstakes. But, you see, these Outsiders don't know that."

"I only wish," said the Woman earnestly, "that the Officers of the
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Congress, and
everybody, might hear the way Dalzene, Holmsen, Hegness, Fred Ayers, and
the Johnsons speak of their dogs, just as one speaks of cherished
friends, not dumb brutes. If they had seen the 'Iron Man' with the tears
rolling down his furrowed cheeks as he tenderly caressed the dead body
of one of his little Siberians; or had watched 'Scotty' Allan breast the
icy waters of a surging flood the night of the great storm, to save an
injured dog not even his own, I am sure there would be no further talk
of cruelty amongst dog racers. And to think," she concluded
indignantly, "that these protests come from congested centers in
civilized communities, where pampered poodles die from lack of exercise
and over-feeding, and little children from overwork and starvation!"

"There is no occasion for immediate worry," was the Big Man's
consolation. "I rather think Congress has troubles enough of its own
just at present, without mixing up in dog racing in Nome. There won't be
much excitement about it in Washington this session."

Early in the day before the coming event, the Woman sauntered down
toward the Kennel slowly, her mind filled with agreeable memories and
happy anticipations.

At this last try-out the team had shown more speed than ever, and a
certain delight in their work that spoke well for the final selection
that had been made; while Kid, as a leader, had been manifesting such
extraordinary talent that even Allan had been loud in his praise. Which
was rare, for his approval of his dogs was more often expressed in deeds
than in words.

At the door of the Kennel she paused--struck instantly by an
unmistakable air of depression that pervaded the place. Even McMillan
did not howl his usual noisy welcome.

"Any one here?" and out into the semi-dusk of the Arctic morning came
Ben, his face plainly showing grief and consternation.

"Oh, Ben, what is it, what is the matter?" exclaimed the Woman
tremulously. "Has something dreadful happened to 'Scotty'--the dogs;
what is wrong--do tell me!"

"It's poor Kid," sobbed the boy. "We found him dead a little while ago,
when 'Scotty' and Matt and me come in t' fix the harness an' sled fer
to-morrer. I went back t' see Baldy, an' you know Kid was next to him,
an' after I'd spoke t' Baldy, Kid 'ud allers put his paw out t' shake
hands and kinda whimper soft an' joyful, like he was sayin' nice things
t' you. But this time there wasn't a sound from him; an' when I looked,
there he was, dead, a-hangin' by a strap that was caught up high someway
so's he couldn't pull it loose. 'Scotty' said he must 'a' been tryin'
fer some reason t' git over the boards that divided him from the next
stall.

"But it was somethin' he'd never done before--one o' them accidents you
can't count on, unless you tie 'em so short they ain't comfortable.
Anyway, he was stiff an' cold when we got to him. The poor feller never
had a chance after he was caught."

The boy wiped away the fast-flowing tears. "There wasn't," he said
regretfully, "another dog in the Kennel I liked so much as him--after
Baldy. And 'Scotty' feels awful bad, too. He can't hardly talk about it.
He's gone into the house now, but he says he'll be back pretty soon."

When Allan reappeared there was a look of sadness in his eyes, and a
husky tone to his voice. It was plain to see that he mourned not only a
wonderful leader, but a loving companion as well; and when he moved
silently and sorrowfully amongst the other dogs, they knew that
something was very wrong and gave him as little trouble as they could.

And so the entire Kennel was plunged into gloom by this unhappy
occurrence, for Kid had been a genial stable-mate and a general
favorite. All the dogs seemed to share in the grief of their masters.

"Will you withdraw the entry?" asked the Woman, who realized perfectly
that Kid had been the mainstay and inspiration, as a great leader must
be, of the whole Derby Team.

"No," was "Scotty's" prompt reply. "We'll run just the same.

"There has never been a race in Nome yet in which I have not driven a
team; and leader or no leader, I'll not back out now. Don't be
discouraged. We'll win this race yet!"

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X

The Solomon Derby

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER X

THE SOLOMON DERBY


The morning of the Solomon Derby dawned clear and cold. It was twenty
degrees below zero, but was ideal racing weather, as there was no wind;
and the course was reported in excellent condition.

"This is the first time I ever prepared for a race," remarked Allan as
he examined the different dogs carefully, "that I have not been looking
forward to it with the keenest pleasure. I was mighty fond of Kid, and
had trained him with more care than any other dog I have handled except
old Dubby. And Kid was perfectly adapted to lead this particular team,
for the dogs were so willing to defer to him without any ill-feeling.
His loss is a severe handicap now, I can tell you. Somehow he was so
young and vigorous that the possibility of anything serious happening to
him did not occur to me; he had never been ailing a day in his life.
Generally I have at least one other dog fairly well prepared to lead if
necessary; but I was so determined to make a marvel of Kid that I did
not take that precaution, and at present there is not a single one that
I consider up to the mark for such a race as this."

"Why not try Tom?" suggested the Woman. "The Tolman dogs are all
intelligent, and these have never known anything but racing all their
lives, and must have absorbed a lot of knowledge about it, even if they
have not been leaders. Besides, you have had Tom in the lead a few
times, have you not?"

"Yes, once or twice lately to rest Kid, and," ruefully, "the result was
not one that fills me with any confidence in him for a really important
event like this. The Tolmans, you know, never fall below the necessary
standard in anything, neither do they ever rise above it. They are all
right in the rank and file where their thinking is done for them; but
as for leading--" the man shrugged his shoulders expressively.

"Well, if Tom wouldn't do, there's no use talkin' 'bout Dick and Harry;
fer Tom is the smartest o' that bunch. But he ain't popular with the
rest o' the team, like Kid was. Them Tolmans has a high-handed way to
'em that some won't stand fer," remarked Matt as he began to remove the
racing harness from the hooks and place it on the floor beside the
tow-line, which was stretched out in the middle of the Kennel.

Dan, Ben and George had been considering the predicament gravely as
George bestowed even more than his usual attention upon Spot's
appearance.

"Spot," he observed with repressed pride, "ain't had much 'sperience,
but he won a great race just the same. Don't forget that, Dad."

"He's a trifle young," replied "Scotty," "and besides," slyly, "we might
meet an Eskimo hunter somewhere on the way."

Dan claimed recognition for the Mego "houn'" pups, especially Judge, and
the Woman, with some hesitation, spoke of McMillan; but Allan gave
valid reasons why they were not eligible.

"Not much time left," announced the Big Man as he, with the Peril, paced
restlessly up and down in front of the Kennel.

"Scotty" pondered anxiously, for his decision must be made immediately.
He walked over to Rex, regarding him intently.

"Do you believe," said a low, faltering voice beside him, "that--that
Baldy could lead? Him and Kid took us safe over the Golden Gate Divide
in that terrible blizzard, an' mebbe he learnt somethin' about leadin'
from Kid that night. He's mighty willin' an' strong, an'--"

"True, Ben; that idea had just come to me, too. I am absolutely sure I
can depend upon him to do his level best. Whether he is fast enough is
the question." With a sigh he added, "Well, fast or slow, there's not
much choice. I'll have to fall back upon Baldy to-day. Matt," he called,
"you may put Baldy in the lead."

"Baldy in the lead!" exclaimed Matt in astonishment. "Why, except fer a
time or so that we've drove him that way t'kinda fill out, he's never
been in the lead since we got him. If we're as shy on leaders as all
that, I'd hook up Mego; she's still good, if she is old. But Baldy!"

"Surely, surely, 'Scotty,'" pleaded the Woman, "you'll not use an
untried dog to-day of all days. Baldy has never shown anything more than
just ordinary speed, and you know a leader has to set the pace for them
all. If he hasn't the pride in his work, the spirit, he's a failure; and
Baldy," desperately, "is just a plodder."

But "Scotty" was firm. "He's more than that; you couldn't see what he
did in the storm on the Hot Springs Trail. He's our best chance." Then,
"Baldy in the lead, Matt, and be quick; we're almost due now at the
post." And so it was Baldy who led the Allan and Darling entry in the
Solomon Derby.

It took the strongest self-control and the keenest desire not to shake
"Scotty's" faith in him, to keep Baldy from bolting when he moved
through those throngs whose nearness roused in him such unaccountable
fear.

Most of the dogs, now more or less accustomed to these gatherings,
stood quietly indifferent to the clamor and confusion.

Jack McMillan was distinctly annoyed by it all; he did not wish to have
strangers pushing against him, stroking his back, and even taking
liberties with his velvety ears. What was the use of a Black Past, if it
did not protect one from such unwelcome familiarities?

Tom, Dick and Harry, as usual, were charmed with the situation; for they
dearly loved any sort of a demonstration in which they could figure
conspicuously. Tom, ever anxious to be in the public eye, glanced about
and, seeing the United States Marshal, who was known to be an ardent
admirer of the Allan and Darling team, jumped upon him, demanding
recognition, which was cordially granted.

Baldy, to whom the whole episode was trying in the extreme, did not even
resent this little play for favor in official circles, so anxious was he
to be over the ordeal, and out in the open speeding away toward the dark
and frowning cliffs of Cape Nome, in the dim distance.

Two teams at intervals of ten minutes had started before them, and there
were three others to follow.

As it was only sixty-five miles to Solomon and back, Allan decided to
try to pass the teams in front, even if he acted as trail-breaker and
pace-maker; for there was no necessity in so short a race for
generalship in the matter of feeding and resting.

Shortly after they left Fort Davis, four miles down the coast, they
could see John Johnson ahead, and still beyond him a rapidly moving dot
which Allan knew to be Fred Ayer with his "Ayeroplanes," as the Woman
had dubbed them; facetiously, but with a certain trepidation. For that
splendid team had been successful in many of the shorter races, and bade
fair to develop into dangerous antagonists in the longer ones.

But the Allan and Darling dogs, urged on constantly by "Scotty," went
forward at an even gait that soon lessened the space between themselves
and the Siberians; when, having passed them, they gained perceptibly
upon the others.

The "Ayeroplanes" seemed almost to float along the surface of the snow,
so light and smooth was their pace, so harmonious their team action.

But as if impelled by a hidden force he had never felt before, Baldy
sturdily forged on and on, till they, too, were left behind. A new
fervor thrilled him as he determined to show that he was more than "just
dog." No understudy on the stage, given an unexpected opportunity, ever
desired more ardently to eclipse the star than did Baldy to fill poor
Kid's place.

How they flew over the ground; how exhilarating the air; how light the
sled. And then it suddenly dawned upon Baldy that the sled was too
light. When Allan was not running behind with a tight grasp on the
handle-bars, he was usually perched at the back on the projecting
runners; and for some time the dog had not noticed this additional
weight. Then, too, he was beginning to miss his master's voice--"Hi,
there, Tom, Dick, Harry, snowbirds in sight; rabbits, Spot; road house,
Barney." Of course all of the dogs knew perfectly well that it was only
a joke; that snowbirds, rabbits and road houses are things that do not
concern you at all when you are being driven in a race. But they enjoyed
the little pleasantry, nevertheless, and it gave them delightful
subjects to think about that might become possibilities when they were
not in harness.

If "Scotty" was not addressing them personally, he was often singing
bits of Scotch ballads, or whistling scraps of rag-time, which was
wonderfully cheering, and gave them a sense of companionship with him.

At last the instinct that all was not right was too strong for Baldy.
Stopping suddenly, he looked back and discovered that they were
driverless.

He realized that such halts were most unwise; but the team without Allan
was as a ship without a Captain and to Baldy there was but one thing to
do--to find "Scotty" at all hazards.

For an instant there was danger of a mutiny amongst the dogs. Tom, Dick
and Harry tacitly agreed that it was a marvelous chance to make that
snowbird joke a charming reality; there was a stirring of McMillan's
fiery blood, for he still admitted but one source of control; a plump
fluffy hare, scurrying by within range of Spot's young eyes inspired him
with a desire to give chase, as once again he quite forgot the grave
importance of filling a position in a racing team.

But Baldy, knowing that the time for action had come, that his supremacy
as a leader must be acknowledged, and at once, firmly held his ground.
Turning, he faced them fearlessly. There was a low ominous growl, a
smouldering light in his strange, somber eyes, a baring of his sharp
white fangs. Yet it was something else, a something in the very nature
of the dog, in his steadfast spirit, his indomitable will, that made the
others feel in some subtle, final way that they must obey him. So when
he swung round they followed him as unswervingly as they would have
followed Kid.

Far away in the whiteness, Baldy saw a black spot toward which he sped
with mad impatience. It grew more and more distinct, till, beside it, he
saw that it was his master, lying pale, motionless and blood-stained in
the trail. From a deep gash on his head a crimson stream oozed and
froze, matting his hair and the fur on his parka.

Baldy stopped short, quivering with an unknown dread. There was
something terrifying in the tense body, so still, so mute. He licked the
pallid face, the cold hands, and placed a gentle paw upon the man's
breast, scratching softly to see if he could not gain some response.
There was no answer to his loving appeal; and throwing back his head,
there broke from him the weird, wild wail of the Malamute, his
inheritance from some wolf ancestor. The other dogs joined the mournful
chorus, and then, as it died away, he tried again and again to rouse his
silent master.

Moment after moment passed, the time seemed endless; but finally the
warm tongue and the insistent paw did their work; for there was a slight
movement, a flicker of the eyelids, and then "Scotty" lifted himself
upon his elbow and spoke to them.

He was hopelessly confused. What was he doing in the snow, in the bitter
cold, soaked in blood, and with his team beside him? Where was Kid?

Then it all came back to him; he remembered he was in a race--the
Solomon Derby, and Kid was dead. That with Baldy in the lead they had
gone ahead of the other teams at a terrific speed, when he heard
something snap. Thinking it might be a runner, he had leaned over the
side of the sled to look; there was a crushing blow, and he recalled no
more until he felt Baldy's hot breath, and an agonizing pain in his
temple.

Gazing about, he saw the cause of the mishap--an iron trail stake half
concealed by a drift, now red with his blood. All around, as far as the
eye could reach, stretched the vast snowy plains that merged into the
purple shadows of the distant mountains, outlined in dazzling beauty
against the azure sky. There was no sign of the other teams. He could
not tell how long he had been unconscious--whether minutes or hours; he
only realized that he had never entered Solomon.

Weakly he stumbled to his feet and fell helplessly into the sled. At a
word Baldy darted ahead, and Allan, wiping the blood from his eyes, saw
they were traveling in the wrong direction, toward the wireless tower at
Port Safety. In some way he dimly realized that the dogs had turned on
the trail. Given the order, Baldy wheeled instantly, and dashed forward
with no slackening of his former speed, though "Scotty" was lying inert
and useless, an unusual and unexpected burden.

But, wounded and shaken, "Scotty's" spirit was still undaunted; and
uncertain of anything save that you are never beaten till the race is
over, Allan inspired Baldy to do his willing best.

The bitter disappointment of Kid's death was fast yielding to amazement
at Baldy's unsuspected fleetness. Trustworthy he had always been, and
obedient and faithful--but his pace now was a revelation. There was yet
a chance.

"On, Baldy; on boys." And away they flew till the roofs of Solomon
loomed on the horizon, directly ahead.

Solomon at last. At the end of the one short street was a group of
Kennel Club officials, and the entire population of the place, ready to
welcome the coming and speed the parting racers.

To his intense surprise Allan learned that his was the first team in,
his delay having evidently been but a brief one. He resisted all
entreaties that he should have medical attention. "There's no trouble at
all," he maintained stoutly, "so long as my cap is frozen to the wound.
Of course I am a little faint, and dizzy, but that will pass in the
fresh air. Just water the dogs and see that they're all right, will
you?" And resting only the five minutes that are obligatory for the
signing of papers, he was again on his way, as Fred Ayer came into view,
closely followed by Johnson.

Returning, it seemed as if Kid himself could not have excelled Baldy in
the management of the team--all of his latent powers developing to meet
the great demands made upon him. He was proving himself indeed a leader.

The news of the mishap had been telephoned to Nome; and the usual
enthusiasm over the first arrival was turned into an ovation for the
plucky and popular little Scotchman.

With the loss of the best dog in the Kennel, on the eve of the race, and
an obscure, untried dog in the lead; with a stunning blow that had left
him alone and senseless on the trail he was still victorious, to the
admiration of all Nome.

The excitement was intense as the cheering throngs closed in upon the
dogs and their driver, ready and eager to give their hearty greetings
and unstinted applause.

[Illustration: AN OVATION FOR THE PLUCKY LITTLE SCOTCHMAN]

Moose Jones and Ben hurried toward the winners, both overjoyed at the
success of Allan and their favorite, Baldy.

"Some dog, Baldy o' Golconda, ain't he, Mart?" was Jones's exultant
comment as they passed Barclay, who stood regarding the heroes with
ill-concealed contempt.

"Some accident!" retorted Mart. "There'll be a fine day,"
belligerently, "when 'Scotty' Allan'll find out that there dog's a fake,
a reg'lar quitter. Jest now he's bluffed you all inter thinkin' him a
wonder; but you wait an' he'll give himself away yet. He was ornery as a
pup, an' he's ornery as a dog. You can't make a silk purse outen a sow's
ear, an' I tell you straight you can't make a Sweepstakes Winner out o'
Baldy o' Golconda, no matter what he done in this here measly Solomon
hike."

"Well, we'll see, Mart."

"You've won a great race," exclaimed the Woman as she came forward with
the Big Man, and grasped "Scotty's" hand warmly; "a great race, and
against heavy odds."

But "Scotty," looking down on Baldy with gratitude and pride, replied
simply:

"No, the credit all belongs to good old Baldy here; it is his race, not
mine."

Then the Woman, kneeling in the snow beside the leader, with her arms
about him, said softly, "It was wonderful, Baldy, simply wonderful, the
way you saved the day."

And so the Solomon Derby was over, and Baldy had made good.

[Illustration]



XI

One Summer

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XI

ONE SUMMER


The winning of the Solomon Derby marked a new era in Baldy's life. His
home-coming had been made both joyous and miserable by the various
attentions he had received. With his sensitive, shrinking nature, it was
a sore trial to be the center of attraction, and the object of constant
discussion. "Scotty" had warmly commended his record to Ben Edwards,
which was compensation even for the Woman's newly awakened and frankly
expressed admiration. She had almost wept on his neck, which was
embarrassing for an undemonstrative dog, and said he deserved a Carnegie
Medal--whatever that was--though she suggested, practically, a large
juicy beefsteak as an immediate compromise.

The neighbors conceded generously that it was more than they had
expected of an "old grouch." George Allan and Danny Kelly, from out
their superior wisdom in dog affairs, agreed that while improbable, it
had never been impossible for a freighter to develop into a racer under
favorable conditions. While most gratifying of all, Dubby came in to
express, with strenuous waggings of his stubby but eloquent tail, his
surprise and satisfaction that a member of a purely sporting fraternity
had distinguished himself so highly; had acted, in fact, in a manner
worthy of a dependable huskie. And Baldy, knowing that Dubby had himself
and his unblemished career in mind, felt that this was indeed the climax
of approval.

Gradually he was coming to realize that through his unremitting efforts
to be of service, and because of real worth, there was an attitude of
kindly interest manifested toward him that had taken the place of the
covert criticism and careless indifference that had once caused him so
much sorrow.

"Now that he's led once," confided Ben to George and Dan, "I don't
believe Baldy'll ever be satisfied again t' stay in the wheel. It seems
t' me that every minute he's awake he's tryin' t' do better in his work.
That race kinda roused him in every way."

"He'll never have to stay in the wheel," observed "Scotty." "The Derby
was a revelation to me in regard to Baldy. I confess frankly I didn't
think he was capable of the ability he showed that day and," with a
smiling glance toward the Woman, "there were those of less faith than
mine who were completely won over."

"If you mean me," she rejoined, "you are quite right. I've apologized to
Ben and Baldy every day since the Derby. I have even admitted that
Baldy's legs are as good as Jack McMillan's, if not better. Could
humility go further in making amends?"

And Baldy, who now saw the world through different and more friendly
eyes, learned that even the Woman was not wholly lacking in a certain
sense of discrimination as she had proved when she had felt the muscles
of his sturdy body and spanned the width of his broad chest with
unqualified approval.

After a complete rest of a week or more, the training began again; for
there was yet to be held the most important event of the year--the All
Alaska Sweepstakes, which takes place early in April.

The runs were much longer and harder than the preliminary dashes for the
Solomon Race; and sometimes they went back even to the Mountains which
rose, rugged and majestic, from the endless white wastes to a sky
brilliantly blue in the dazzling Arctic sunshine, or sodden and gray in
a storm.

Totally different in temperament and methods from Kid and Dubby, Baldy
manifested, nevertheless, many of the fundamental qualities that had so
distinguished those wonderful leaders. And in communion with "Scotty" in
their long hours of exercise, he not only began to understand the speech
and the touch of his hand, but also his unexpressed moods. He knew when
Allan was care-free, and satisfied with the team, or was discouraged by
some unexpected act of stupidity or disobedience, though no syllable was
spoken.

Not long before the Big Race, several unfortunate things happened in
the Kennel to make Allan believe it was, as the "Wonder Workers"
solemnly declared it, a "Hoodoo" year for the dogs. Rover wrenched his
shoulder in a friendly tussle with one of the Mego pups, Tom cut his
foot badly on a bit of broken glass, and Baldy developed a severe cold
that made him feverish and short of breath.

It seemed at first as if they might not be able to enter a team at all,
so many accidents combined against them; but the lure of the contest was
too much for "Scotty." "We'll do our best. Lots of teams go in that are
no stronger than ours at its weakest, and every entry that drops out
makes it less interesting. Then don't forget the luck of the trail, in
which you believe so thoroughly. Remember the Solomon Derby."

"I don't believe in working luck over time," she answered. "However, if
you really think it would make any difference in the sport, of course
we'll go in. I know you can do better," confidently, "with a poor team
than most men with a good one."

But "Scotty" shook his head decidedly. "Don't think it. Our antagonists
are all that they should be--men and dogs--and the most careful
driving will not always overcome the weakness of the team."

Since the driver may use his own discretion as to the length and
frequency of the stops to be made, he must have the ability to realize
exactly how much rest he may take himself and give his dogs without the
unnecessary loss of a moment. He must know what the other teams have
done, and are capable of doing; he must drive his own race, and he must
know how the other men are driving theirs. He must decide wisely how
many dogs it is well to use--that matter also being optional with him.
For it is an important point to select enough dogs to keep up to the
required standard, yet not too many for good team work, in which
individual peculiarities have been merged in general harmony of action.

No precaution is neglected to insure the comfort of the contestants.
Commissary teams sent out by the Kennel Club leave supplies at all of
the Road Houses and camps that are to be used as rest stations--drugs
for emergencies, and all sorts of luxuries that would be too bulky to be
carried in the racing sleds, but which are shared impartially at the
different stops.

Each man must be certain of the best food for his dogs, and the length
of time it takes to digest it. The usual diet of the Allan and Darling
Racers, rolled oats, dried salmon, and the oily nutritious flesh of the
white whale, with a proper amount of bone, now was changed to chopped
beef and mutton, cooked with eggs. This was put up in hermetically
sealed tins, with enough in each for a feeding; and every dog's
allowance wrapped separately in muslin so that there might be no loss of
time in dividing it into portions.

And in all of these things "Scotty" Allan was a past master. Yet in
spite of his efforts and skill, they came in not first, but second;
which was, according to George and Dan, "not so worse for a scrub team,"
and according to Ben, "mighty good considerin' they didn't have Baldy."

These days of ceaseless striving and untiring patience had been of great
benefit to Baldy. He no longer experienced despair over such a Kennel
misfortune; but cheerfully resolved that each failure must be a
stepping-stone, not a stumbling-block, in the march toward success.

There was one real sorrow that came to him that spring--a sorrow shared
by many--which swept away the passing regret for the lost race. Dubby,
full of years and honors, was dead, mourned by all. His obituary in the
newspapers not only testified that he was generally beloved, but was one
that many a man might be proud to deserve. "Alaska's Most Famous Leader
Passes Away." What untold stories of marvelous intelligence, of
unfaltering allegiance, of loving service lay in those simple words.

Baldy missed Dubby sorely, for there had grown a firm bond of sympathy
between them. The old huskie had learned that a character may dignify a
calling, and that a true heart often beats beneath a racing harness;
while Baldy had long since discovered that Dubby's aloofness was but the
inevitable loneliness of a Dog that has had his Day.

To divert his mind from sad memories, Baldy would go to look at Mego's
twelve, beautiful, fat new puppies, and then would dream of a
comfortable serene old age when he would be given the tutoring of such
promising youngsters, and help to make them winners of future All Alaska
Sweepstakes.

Then came the summer, and with it the play-time for the Kennel; a
summer filled with ever changing interests and pleasures.

"I'll be glad, 'Scotty,'" said Moose Jones, "t' keep till fall as many
dogs as you don't want in Nome. It's kinda hard t' have 'em tied up in
the fine weather, an' dogs like yours can't run 'round the streets
loose. Ben an' me's goin' t' be out t' Golconda, where I've got a crew
o' men at work. You may 'a' heerd I bought Golconda a few weeks ago, an'
I'm goin' t' mine there this season. Sold my ground over t' Marshall t'
a New York Syndicate that was nosin' round pretty sharp before I left;
and it's give me money enough t' take up this here property. Then I
leased my Dime Creek holdin's on royalties, an' that'll put me on my
feet even ef this Golconda claim ain't all I think. But I done a lot o'
prospectin' there once, an' it sure looks promisin'; an' besides it's
right next t' the Midas, an' fer the last couple years or more Barclay
has been takin' out wonderful pay there."

"I'd be glad to have you keep Baldy, Irish and Rover for us if you
will," replied Allan cordially. "George and Spot are inseparable in
vacation times, and McMillan," with a nod toward the Woman's house,
"seems to be under the impression, now that he is not in training, that
he is a lap dog, and rarely comes to the Kennel at all. Matt will take
the rest of them up to his cabin on Penny River, where they will have
all the exercise they want, and great fun hunting. You know I never have
a moment for them in summer, as it is our busy season in the office,"
and Allan, who was Secretary in the Big Man's Company, gave a sigh as he
realized that not until autumn would come again the happy Dog Days.

To Baldy it was a period of perfect joy--to be with Ben Edwards and
Moose Jones in the glorious freedom of the open country in the far
hills. Here the dogs did what their fancies dictated. They swam,
unmolested, in the ditch; ran for miles with their chum, the dappled
gray horse; gave chase to saucy, chattering squirrels, and even fished
so successfully that they were the admiration of all the camps about.

Irish and Baldy would stand in the riffles of a stream, and Rover,
leaping into the pools and quiet waters, would drive the fish up into
the shallows, where they were seized by his two companions, taken ashore
and dropped on the bank. Then they returned for more, keeping up the
sport till a bird in flight or some other fascinating moving creature
lured them away in a spirited pursuit through thick willows and across
green marsh-lands.

At night they slept, if they chose, in the Bunk House; and ate without
restriction such mysterious delicacies as cake and pastries.

No longer was Baldy ignored by the men, nor did it now take the threats
of Moose Jones to prevent the petty annoyances to which he had been
subjected formerly; for in winning the Solomon Derby he had proved his
worth and they were glad to give him well-earned praise.

Occasionally there would be a dissenter from the general admiration of
the dog. Black Mart, who sometimes came over from the Midas, never
failed to belittle the record he had made. "It's no test, that short
mush t' Solomon, an' it don't prove nothin'. Why, I've seen teams that
could do wonders in that there run that couldn't git as fur as Council
in the Big Race without goin' t' pieces. It takes somethin' more'n a
slinkin' half-breed like him t' lead a winnin' team in the Sweepstakes."

And Moose would retort sarcastically, "Mart, ef you was as good a judge
o' dogs as dogs is o' you--stop growlin' at him, Baldy--you'd have a
winnin' team in yourself, instead o' just jawin' about it."

One man's enmity mattered but little, however, in the general
friendliness Baldy experienced; and there were so many glorious things
to offset those infrequent encounters with the one person he
instinctively regarded with aversion.

Encouraging news had come from Dime Creek, and Golconda was proving rich
beyond the highest expectations of Jones; and many happy hours did he
and Ben spend in plans for the boy's future; a future that now seemed
near and bright.

"Even without Golconda, Ben," Moose would exclaim confidently, "I've got
enough salted away from them other deals to put you through all the book
learnin' you'll need t' make a reg'lar spell-bindin' lawyer o' you like
Fink, er a way up Judge, mebbe in Washington. An' with Golconda,--well,
Sonny, that there Arabian Nights chap that she was tellin' you about
wouldn't have nothin' on us fer adventure, an' doin' good turns to folks
unbeknownst, an' all that kind o' stuff," and Moose Jones would pat
the boy's shoulder affectionately.

Every week or so Baldy, with Irish and Rover and some of the Wild Goose
dogs from the Grand Central Ditch House near, would be hitched to a flat
car belonging to the place, and would have a trip into town with Moose
to take the gold dust from the "clean-ups" to the bank.

The car coasted down all the hills, for there was a strong brake to keep
it safe. And the dogs were either invited to ride with Jones, or were
permitted to get to the bottom as best pleased them with Ben, which
meant a scamper through fields of blue forget-me-nots and purple lupine,
over damp and mossy dells, and along the slopes where tiny birds were
hidden in cozy nests about which the frightened parents fluttered
divertingly.

[Illustration: THE CAR COASTED DOWN ALL THE HILLS]

It was indeed a treat; for always at the end of the jaunt there was an
interview with "Scotty" Allan, who was sure to look Baldy over carefully
and say fondly, "Well, how's my Derby hero to-day?" and give the
expected hearty greetings to Irish and Rover. Or possibly there would be
a brief visit to the Woman, who, whatever her faults, never failed to
produce a tid-bit of some sort for her canine callers.

She and Ben would dwell with keen delight upon his prospects of
attaining his ambitions. "And besides all Moose will do for you," she
announced one day, "Mr. Daly tells me he will be only too glad to be of
any assistance possible. He thinks a boy with your ideal--Lincoln--should
have all the help it is in his power to give."

Of course, surfeited at last with luxury and idleness, the dogs would
finally be eager to return to the duties of the winter; glad of the
season that brings the cheery sound of bells, the joyous barks of
recognition from passing friends, the snarl of challenge from passing
enemies, and all of the wholesome pleasures that belong to a busy,
useful life. But now they were quite care-free, and content, and the
responsibilities of the winter seemed far away indeed.

But the most treasured moments of all to Baldy were those spent with Ben
when, waiting for Moose to finish his evening's tasks, he and the boy
wandered along the winding banks of the ditch. Far away across the sedgy
tundra lay the sea, a line of molten gold in the last rays of the
belated June sunset. Behind them rose the snow-crested peaks of the
Sawtooth Mountains, like frosted spires against an amber sky. Soon the
amber would change to amethyst and deepen to purple--fading at last to a
shadowy gray; and all the world seemed steeped in the mystic calm of
those twilight hours before the early Northern dawn.

And in those hours the brooding stillness of nature was broken only by
the voice of man; for it was then, in that vast solitude, that from the
lips of Ben Edwards came ringing words, sonorous sentences, impassioned
appeals.

Baldy did not know it, but he was at such times a learned Judge moved
strangely by unexpected eloquence; a jury melted to tears by a touching
plea for clemency; a Populace swayed to great deeds by a silver-tongued
Orator. Even, on rare occasions, he was the Loyal Throng that stood,
silent and uncovered, before the White House steps, thrilled by the
fiery patriotism of Mr. Edwards, the President of the United States of
America.

Then, he was just Baldy, a faithful loving dog that trotted happily at
the heels of the ragged little boy whose unselfishness had given him
the great chance of his life.

There was no faltering in the devotion of boy or dog. They believed in
each other.

[Illustration]



XII

The Great Race

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XII

THE GREAT RACE


Another winter had come and gone, and again it was the day of the Great
Race.

Never had the time passed so quickly to Baldy, for he had now become a
distinguished member of The Team, for whom every one, even the Woman,
entertained a real respect, and to whom all of the dogs turned readily
as to their acknowledged leader.

The Allan and Darling Racers were ready for the event.

There was an early stir in the Kennel, and all was hurry and bustle. The
Woman came in with the Big Man, the Allan girls, and Ben Edwards, who
helped her tie knots of white and gold on the front of the sled, on the
collars of the racing dogs, and on other members of the family, about
forty in all, who were old enough to appreciate the attention. Even the
Yellow Peril apparently considered it an honor, for which he waited with
unaccustomed patience.

The preparations were almost complete; and "Scotty" was everywhere,
superintending the minute details, upon the completeness of which so
much might depend.

Birdie was, in the confusion, about to borrow Mego's puppies and take
them out for an airing. Fisher, delighted that he was not of the elect,
basked in a warm and secluded corner; while Jemima, frantic to be a part
of the team, was restrained forcibly by Matt, and placed in solitary
confinement.

Even Texas, for whom the Kennel had lost its charm--and safety--since
the death of old Dubby, followed the Allan girls, and was treated to a
becoming bow of the racing colors.

Matt brought out the long tow-line, and placed it carefully on the
floor.

"Rex and McMillan in the wheel, like we've been usin' 'em, I suppose?"
and at a nod he released them.

"Wheel, Jack; wheel, Rex," and they took their accustomed places next
the sled, and remained motionless, yet keenly alert. "Tom and Dick,
Harry and Tracy, Irish and Rover"--name after name was called, and each
dog stepped into position with joyful alacrity. They were, one and all,
sturdy, intelligent, and spirited; with the stamina of their wild
forebears, and the devoted nature of those dogs who have for generations
been trained to willing service and have been faithful friends to their
masters.

"Scotty's" eyes rested upon them with justifiable pride. "I think," he
announced happily, "that in all my years of racing I have never had so
fine a team; so many dogs I can count upon in every way." And then came
the expected order, "Baldy in the lead, Matt."

There was an imperceptible pause--- just long enough for him to brush
softly against Ben Edwards, and look up lovingly into a beaming
face--and then Baldy stood at the head of the Allan and Darling Racing
Team, a "likely Sweepstakes Winner," as the Daily Dog News had once
ironically predicted.

Baldy felt that now, if ever, had come his Day; the Day of which he had
dreamed in his despised puppy-hood; the Day in which he could prove that
the great dog man's confidence was not misplaced, and that the boy's
belief was well founded.

At last they stood, every detail of equipment perfect, while "Scotty"
glanced once more over his small kit in the sled; green veils for the
dog's eyes should the glare of the sun prove too troublesome, little
blankets, canton flannel moccasins for their feet in case of sharp ice,
and extra bits of harness--all stowed safely away, including his own fur
parka and water-tight boots.

Matt regarded the team critically, and while filled with a sober
satisfaction, was much relieved to hear that it had the unqualified
approval of the experts, George and Dan. "Of course Spot 'ud make a
classier leader, Dan, but I'm the only one that can really handle him
yet, so I guess Baldy's best for Dad."

The Woman waited to give each dog a parting caress and a word of
encouragement. "Tom, Dick and Harry, remember you're the Veterans, and
have an honorable record to maintain; Irish and Rover, never forget that
you _are_ Irish, and live up to all that it means; McMillan, it's your
chance to wipe out the past; and Baldy--well, Baldy, 'Scotty,' we all,
trust you." And then she turned and pinned the last knot of white and
gold on Allan's breast, and her voice trembled as she said, "Success to
our colors."

Through the narrow streets, gay with the fluttering streamers of the
Kennel Club gold and green, they went. Banners and pennants shone
resplendent under the cloudless blue of the April sky; and the crowds in
high spirits and gala attire, eager and laughing, closed in upon them
till Baldy longed to howl in sheer fright, though howling in harness is
strictly forbidden by "Scotty," and would have been quite out of keeping
with the august dignity of his position. He was appalled by such a solid
mass of human beings--for of course the courts, schools, and business
houses were all closed in honor of this important occasion; and probably
the only people in all of Nome not bending their steps toward the
starting place were those unavoidably detained in the hospital or jail.

Women who would not have been out of place on Fifth Avenue or Bond
Street, women to whom even the French Poodle would have given his
approval; men of the West in flannel shirts and cowboy hats; miners
from the Creeks, gathered from all corners of the Earth; Eskimos in
their furs with tiny babies strapped on their backs; rosy-cheeked
children--all hurried to the point where the long journey was to begin.

Nomie was everywhere, barking delightedly, and giving each team an
impartial greeting.

Oolik Lomen with his latest doll, acquired that very morning from some
careless mother more intent upon sporting affairs than domestic duties,
paraded superciliously up and down, plainly bored by the proceedings;
but attending because it was the correct thing to do.

What a relief it was to reach the open space on the ice of Bering Sea,
in front of the town, where the fast gathering multitudes were being
held back by ropes, and kept in line by Marshals in trappings of the
club colors.

Presently the merry jingle of bells, and loud shouts, announced the
approach of the Royal Sled. Covered with magnificent wolf robes, and
drawn by twelve young men, fur-clad from head to foot--her "human
huskies"--the Queen of the North dashed up to the Royal Box, where,
surrounded by her ten pretty maids of honor, like her clad in rare furs
of Arctic design and fashioning, she was given an imposing reception by
the judges and directors of the Kennel Club.

In one hand the Queen carried a quaintly carved scepter of ivory, made
from a huge walrus tusk, and in the other the American Flag at whose dip
would begin once more the struggle for the supremacy of the trail. A
supremacy which is not merely the winning of the purse and cup, but is
the conquering of the obstacles and terrors that beset the trackless
wastes--a defiance of the elements, a triumph of human nature over
nature.

There was the sound of many voices; small boys, scarcely out of
pinafores, discussed with a surprising amount of knowledge the merits of
the individual dogs and the capabilities of their drivers; little girls
donned ribbons with a sportsman-like disregard of their "becomingness"
to show a preference which might be based either on a personal fondness
for a driver or owner, or a loving interest in some particular dog.
While men and women, who on the Outside would be regarded as far beyond
an age when such an event would have an intense interest for them, here
manifest an allegiance so loyal that at times it threatens to disrupt
friendships, if not families.

The babble increased in volume, for the first team had drawn up between
the stands to wait for the final moment, and Charles Johnson stood
ready, with his noted Siberians, to begin the contest. They made a
charming appearance, and their admirers were many and enthusiastic.

"Ten seconds," was called; unconsciously all voices were hushed. "Five
seconds!" The silence was broken only by the restless moving of the
people and the barking of the excited dogs.

Then the clock struck ten, and simultaneously the stirring strains of
the trumpet ended the spell that held the crowd in breathless attention.
The men released the dogs, the flag in the hand of the Queen fluttered,
then fell, and the first team in the greatest race in the world had "hit
the Trail for Candle," while cheer after cheer followed its swift flight
between the long lines of eager faces and waving colors.

In the pause that ensued an impatient voice rose in insistent demand.
"What are you waiting for? Bring on your Fidos," and then as "Scotty"
Allan appeared and stood with difficulty holding the spirited Allan
and Darling dogs, the same voice asked in tones of utter disdain, "Whose
mangy Fidos are these?" He was evidently a stranger, and in favor of the
trim Siberians, scorning the rangy "Lop-ears," as they are sometimes
called in derision.

[Illustration: SCOTTY ALLAN ON THE TRAIL]

But whatever type may please their fancy, the faithfulness of all, and
the skill of each driver appeals to these Northerners, most of whom know
well the hardships of this ultimate frontier. So that their wild
enthusiasm seems not so much a question of personality as a spontaneous
tribute to the energy and courage of the men, and the patient
willingness of the dogs.

Allan's selection of dogs had caused much adverse criticism, but Matt
warmly defended his choice. "You can't tell me that Tom, Dick and
Harry's stale from too much trainin' an' bein' in too many races. I know
better; an' you can be certain that 'Scotty' wouldn't have taken 'em if
they was goin' t' be a drag on such wonders as Irish, Rover and Spot.
Take my word for it, them old Pioneers is goin' t' be the back-bone o'
the hull team when the youngsters has wore themselves out."

A few who did not believe in the sincerity or stability of Jack
McMillan's reformation predicted trouble because of his presence. As a
leader he had twice utterly demoralized teams in previous races, and it
was "not unlikely," declared the prophets of evil, "that he would blow
up on the Trail out of pure cussedness."

"Well, it ain't McMillan, ner Tom, Dick ner Harry that's goin' t' lose
this here race fer the Allan an' Darling team," exclaimed Mart Barclay
with vicious conviction. "It's that there cur leader they got--Baldy.
There's enough Scotch stubbornness in Allan t' try to make a leader
outen a cur jest becus folks said he couldn't. Up in Dawson I heered
once he trained a timber wolf t' lead a team o' McKenzie huskies; but
he'd find that a heap easier 'n puttin' the racin' sperit inter that
low-down Golconda hound; an' I'll bet he'll git all that's comin' t' him
this time fer his pains."

"Ef you're bettin' on that, Mart," quickly interposed Moose Jones, "I've
got some dust from my Golconda claim that's lyin' round loose at the
Miners and Merchants Bank, an' five hundred of it says that
you're--well, seem' as there's ladies present, it says you're _mistaken_
about Baldy's sperit. You see my friend, Ben Edwards here, is kinda
figgerin' on college some day after a while, an' a little loose change
wouldn't hurt none. It might come in right handy fer all the extry
things boys wants, like fancy clothes an' flat-faced bulldogs. I guess
Ben wouldn't want one o' them, though, after he's owned a dog like
Baldy. But he could use a thousand in lots o' ways easy--my money an'
yourn."

"Double it," sneered Mart.

"Done," and those surrounding them witnessed the wager with much
applause; while the boy, clinging to the rough hand of his companion,
whispered tremulously, "Oh, Moose, I won't want any extras when I go to
college. It's enough to just go. But I do want Baldy t' win, though."

"Ten seconds; five seconds." The dogs were mad to be off, but Allan's
warning command, "Steady, boys, steady," kept them quiet, though they
were quivering with eagerness; all except Baldy, who again seemed
plainly panic-stricken, and wildly glanced from side to side as if
searching for some loophole of escape.

Five minutes past ten. Once more the flag dipped, the signal for them to
start was given, and "Scotty's"

"All right, boys, go," was music to their listening ears; as leaping
forward with one accord, amidst renewed cries of encouragement and
admiration, the defenders of the White and Gold sped far out over the
frozen sea, where they, too, were headed for the Arctic.

[Illustration]



XIII

For the Supremacy of the Trail

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XIII

FOR THE SUPREMACY OF THE TRAIL


Slowly the people returned to town after every team had received an
ovation; for none was too partisan to give a hearty "God Speed" to all
of the men and all of the dogs in the race--and favorites were, for the
moment, forgotten.

Each day had brought word from the Outside that the Great Race was not
forgotten by the Alaskans in sunnier lands; and because of this the
excitement, as well as the purse, had grown apace.

No one, of course, settled down to anything serious, for business is
practically suspended during the entire progress of the event, and a
spirit of revelry is abroad. Formal and informal gatherings serve to
pass the hours, while telephone reports from each village and road house
are announced in all public places, and bulletins are posted at
convenient points for men, women and children, who await the news with
keen expectation. The messages come continuously, keeping up the intense
excitement from start to finish.

Soon on the Official Bulletin Board at the corner of Lane's way appeared
the first, telling that all of the teams had arrived in Solomon,
practically together, and had left shortly in the bitter wind that blows
in fierce gusts across the icy lagoons and sleet-swept beach.

Then in the low foot-hills had come milder weather; and the route was
fairly good, though it lay buried under freshly fallen snow through
which Baldy led, picking his way with unerring precision across the
trackless tundra. Now that he was in the open, away from noise and
people, he had settled down to a steady gait that promised much for his
endurance.

Sometimes in the glory of the April sunshine they passed other teams, or
other teams passed them; and sometimes there were hours when two teams
and possibly more met at the same relay camp.

There was never a hint here that the men were pitted against one another
in the fiercest rivalry of the North; for they were ever ready to help
their opponents to patch a broken harness, mend a sled, or care for the
dogs--just as, on the way, they give fair warning of overflows or other
obstacles. It is no race for those of weak bodies, mean minds or small
souls.

The dogs, however, carried the idea of rivalry to the point of personal
enmity, and watched ceaselessly for the opportunity to engage in a
diverting row. A row in which they might leave as many wounded on the
scene as would be caninely possible before human intervention. But this
was a vain aspiration; for every precaution was taken to guard against
fighting, and every leader slept with his driver to insure safety. Dogs,
like Death, love a shining mark, and the leaders are usually the real
victims of the fray.

Then came Candle, the end of the first half of the race, where the dogs,
after being cordially welcomed by the whole town, were checked off by
the appointed Judges, and their identification papers signed.

"Open those tins of dog feed, will you, Rydeen? This is to be their
first big banquet, where they get as much as they can eat," said
"Scotty" to one of the friends in the group about him. "Then if Humber
and some of the rest will help me, we'll give them a fine alcohol rub in
no time."

"You'd better do some resting yourself, 'Scotty,'" they urged, but he
would not consider that till he had thoroughly examined the team.

Then, "McMillan's feet are bruised," he exclaimed ruefully. There were
many offers of assistance in caring for the dog, which, however, Allan
gratefully declined. "He doesn't like having strangers work over him;
and when he's nervous he becomes headstrong; so I'd better attend to him
myself."

From Candle came the news--"All teams have left on return trip except
Allan and Darling." And as hour after hour passed and "Scotty" had not
yet started, there was exasperation in the hearts of his backers in
Nome. Exasperation, but not despair; for all remembered when Allan had
driven Berger's Brutes to success after a wait so long that all of Nome
was in a ferment over the fact that "Scotty" had "slept the race away."
But he had planned that campaign well; he had figured the possibilities
of his rivals, and knew that they had exhausted their strength too early
in the game. And so he had come in first with every other team at least
six hours behind; and the cry "'Scotty's' sleeping the race away at
Candle" became the derisive slogan of the Allan clan.

"Jack McMillan's feet are giving trouble," was the response of "Central"
to the frantic inquiries over the long distance telephone as to the
delay, "and 'Scotty's' massaging them with menthalatum."

To the repeated request, and then the demand, that McMillan be put back
into the wheel to get along as best he could, there was a moment's
hesitation and a sweet, but firm, feminine voice replied, "'Scotty'
says"--a gasp and a pause--"he says he'll not ruin a faithful dog if
every man, woman and child in all Alaska has bet on him. And I think
he's just right, too; Jack is a perfect dear," and the receiver was hung
up with a click that admitted of no further argument.

At last they were off again, five hours behind the others; but when they
did leave, the North knew that the sport was on in earnest--for Allan's
policy had ever been to do his real driving on the "home stretch."

Soon the languor from the rest, and the heaviness from the food were
forgotten; and there existed but one dominating, resistless impulse in
dog and man--the impulse to win.

Even the least responsive dog must then have felt the thrill of the
famous race, for never a whip--hardly a word--was necessary to spur them
on.

Frequently the trails were sodden, and often obliterated; soft snow
piling up like drifts of feathers into fleecy barriers through which the
dogs, with the aid and encouragement of their Master, fought their way,
inch by inch. Beyond them lay Death Valley, a dread waste where the dead
silence is broken only by the wailing and shrieking of the wind as it
sweeps down in sudden fury from the sentinel peaks that guard it. Across
this Baldy led unswervingly, never hesitating, and hardly relaxing his
steady pace, though the sudden gusts from the mountainside often curved
the team into a half circle; and he was forced to keep his nose well
into the air and brace himself firmly to keep from being carried off his
feet.

Further on came the Glacier Grade, on either side of which rose
overhanging cliffs. Here the bitter wind of Death Valley became a
veritable hurricane. Time and again the dogs tried to climb the icy
slopes and time and again they were hurled back by the fearful buffeting
of the elements.

"Scotty" finally halted them, and with the greatest difficulty succeeded
in fastening spiked "creepers" to his mukluks. Then he tied Baldy to the
back of his belt by a strong leash. "Baldy, it's up to us now to get
this team through safely--and quickly--" and bowing his head to the
storm he toiled step by step, slipping and sliding, up the perilous
heights, ten miles to the summit of the range, with the dogs following
and aiding where they could.

Then came the descent, fraught with more danger still; for the gale bore
down upon them so relentlessly that all resistance was useless, and the
dogs lay flat and were swept along with the sled; while "Scotty" stood
clinging to the brake, and dragging one spiked foot behind in the
desperate attempt to act as a human anchor.

And at the bottom, quite without warning, they found themselves
breaking through the snow into an overflow of a stream, where the water
had just come through cracks in the ice to the surface. As they landed
on it with great force it sprayed over them like a fountain; and almost
instantly was frozen by the chill of the air.

Allan unhooked them. "Now, boys, roll and get rid of that ice you've
been making. You're racing dogs, not ice plants." They pawed the ice
from their eyes, and thawed it out from between their toes with their
warm tongues. And "Scotty," too, was obliged to remove the ice from his
lashes before he could be sure of his bearings.

"Now then," as they had divested themselves of their glistening coats,
"the worst is over, and off we go."

At times the hard smooth trail wound like a silver ribbon under the pale
glow of the Aurora. Then, with flying feet, they sped along the edge of
deep gorges, up steep slopes, and over the glare ice of rivers and
lakes.

But the distance between them and the other teams was now gradually
lessening, and at Timber Road House they had made up half of the time
lost in Candle. Here they had the next "big sleep," lying on clean straw
on the floor beside Allan, whose closeness calmed their nerves. It was a
great comfort to be able to place a paw on him, or sociably lick his
hand--for they felt that all was well if they were but within reach of
their master's touch.

They awoke full of renewed energy. "Scotty" was harnessing them for the
last long run, with the help of his brother Bill, and Paul Kegsted, who
had charge of that relay station for the Kennel Club.

"Boys," he gasped in amazement, "Baldy's gone lame. He's so stiff he can
scarcely move. I can't understand it, for he was all right when I turned
in." At the slightest touch the dog winced, and Allan was appalled at
the situation.

He had trained nearly all of the dogs so that they could lead under most
circumstances; but this final struggle would require far more than
ordinary ability.

Wise old Tom, Dick and Harry, reluctant in the start, had saved
themselves until they were most needed; and were now steady and
reliable, as had been predicted--but they were not leaders for such a
trial as this. Irish and Rover were too inexperienced for so much
responsibility, Spot was too young, and McMillan too headstrong.

"Scotty" was without a leader.

Allan's consternation was echoed in Nome when the report of the mishap
was given out--"Allan practically no hope. Baldy down and out; no other
leader available. All other teams well ahead in good condition."

There was much diverse, and some heated, comment on the situation. But
above the general clamor rose the strident tones of Black Mart, alluding
with manifest satisfaction to the fact that Baldy was certainly proving
himself a "quitter" now.

"Baldy may be lame, but he is not a quitter," denied the Woman
wrathfully. "Besides, this race is never won--nor lost--till the first
team is in," and she turned to comfort Ben Edwards.

He had been suddenly roused from happy thoughts by this disconcerting
news. From his eyes there faded the glorious vision of the great
University beside the Golden Gate; of the rose-covered cottage where his
mother would have only pleasant things to do; of Moose Jones in a shiny
hat and tailed coat receiving the plaudits of a whole State for his
princely gifts to its chosen seat of learning--the vision of his own
success laid upon the altar of love and gratitude. And instead he saw
only the distant cabin at Timber, with poor Baldy crippled and
suffering, bringing bitter disappointment to his friends; and his heart
was filled with grief and longing for the dog.

Black Mart edged through the throng toward Jones. "I told you how it 'ud
be, Moose; that pet o' yourn ain't comin' through as good as you thought
he would when you was so willin' an' anxious t' bet your hard-earned
dust on him. An' I reckon 'Scotty' Allan ain't so pleased with himself
fer goin' agin what most ev'rybody said about his usin' that cur fer a
leader."

"Speakin' o' bets, _an' curs_, Mart, ef you want t' do any more bettin',
I'm willin't' accommodate you. I'm ready t' back my opinion that
'Scotty' kin come in first, without a leader, ef you think any ways
diffr'ent."

Black Mart glanced again at the Bulletin and read slowly--"Rubbing tried
without success. Baldy on sled. Irish and Rover probably in lead.
McMillan's feet still tender. Another storm coming up. Outlook bad."

"Seems kinda onsportsman like, like bettin' on a sure thing; but ef you
really insist, Moose, in the face o' this yere message, why you kin go
as fur's you like. Mebbe a dollar 'ud suit you better, the way things is
goin' now, than a thousand;" and the people laughed at the covert
allusion to their previous wager. Moose Jones whitened visibly under his
thick coat of tan at the insulting manner of his enemy. All of his
hatred culminated in his desire to show his contempt for Mart and his
predictions.

"Well then, let's make it somethin' worth while this time. Let's say
your claim agin mine--the Midas agin the Golconda--that the Allan an'
Darlin' dogs win the race."

A thrill of wild excitement ran through the crowd--two of the richest
claims in the whole of Alaska staked on the success or failure of one
dog team, and the leader of that "down and out" at Timber.

"Oh, Moose, if our team don't come in you'll lose a terrible lot, an'
you've worked so hard t' git it."

"Even losin' Golconda won't break me now, Sonny; not by a long shot.
An' even ef it did, I got what I allers did have left; two hands t' work
with, the hull country t' work in, an' a kid that likes me," with an
affectionate glance at the boy, "t' work fer. With all that, an' a good
dog er two, I wouldn't call a Queen my aunt. An' ef we should win,
Ben,--well, it's porterhouse fer Baldy the rest of his life at Mart
Barclay's expense."

At Timber the time was passing with discouraging rapidity. Nothing they
could do seemed to have any beneficial effect on Baldy's legs--the legs
that had been such a matter of pride to the boy in the old Golconda
days.

In the races it is the custom to carry, at intervals, any dogs who need
to recuperate, but Baldy had always manifested a certain scorn of these
"passengers"; and "Scotty" knew that it would only be by force that he
could be kept off his feet.

"Bill, you hold the dog; and Paul, if you'll keep the mouth of the
sleeping bag open, I'll try to get Baldy into it."

Poor Baldy resisted, but he was in the hands of his friends, so that
his resistance was of necessity less violent than he could have wished;
and in spite of his opposition he was tied in the bag, and gently lifted
upon the sled.

After thoughtful consideration, "Scotty" placed Irish and Rover at the
head of the team. "They're good dogs; mighty good dogs, but they're not
used to the grind like Baldy."

He took his place at the handle-bars. "I'll try my hardest, boys, but
every chance is against me now."

Before he could give the word to the new leaders, there was the sound of
gnawing, and the quick rending of cloth. He turned to see Baldy's head
emerge from the bag, his eyes blazing with determination and his sharp
fangs tearing the fastenings apart, and the hide to shreds.

"Baldy," he called; but Baldy threw himself from the sled with evident
pain, but in a frenzy of haste.

With intense amazement they watched him drag himself, with the utmost
difficulty, out of the sled, and up to the front of the team.

He paused a moment, and then by a supreme effort started off, expecting
the others to follow. There was no response to his desperate
appeal--for they were not used to Baldy as a loose leader. Again he came
back, and again endeavored to induce his team-mates to go with him down
the trail, but in vain; they waited a word from their master.

The men stood speechless; and the dog, whimpering pitifully, crept close
to Allan and looking up into his face reproachfully seemed to beg to be
restored to his rightful place, and tried to show him that just so long
as there was life in Baldy's body, "Scotty" would have a leader.

Paul Kegsted and Bill Allan hastily disappeared around opposite corners
of the building to meet on the other side with eyes suspiciously wet.

"Bill, did you ever see anything like that," demanded Kegsted
tremulously, "for grit and spirit and--"

"And brave and loving service," added Bill, swallowing hard.

While "Scotty's" voice broke as, leaning down to stroke the dog
tenderly, he said, "I know you're game, Baldy, game to the end; but it
can't be done, and I'll hook you up to prove it."

To his astonishment Baldy moved forward; very, very slowly at first,
then slightly faster and with less and less stiffness, until in an hour
or so of moderate speed he was himself once more.

The exercise had done more than the liniment, and finally he was
swinging along at a rate that showed no sign of his recent incapacity.
They were off again in their usual form, and Nome waited impatiently for
word of the belated team.

In the next few hours the messages that reached the expectant city were
full of thrills--of hopes and fears. Groups of excited people met to
discuss again all phases of the contest; the freshness of the dogs, the
stamina of the men, the possibility of accidents; for a broken harness,
a refractory leader, an error in judgment, may mean overwhelming defeat
at the eleventh hour.

Never in the annals of the Sweepstakes had the result been so doubtful,
the chances so even. The two Johnsons, Holmsen, Dalzene, Allan--all men
noted for their ability and fortitude--men who would be picked out of
the whole North to represent the best type of trailsmen, were nearly
neck and neck, less than fifty miles from Nome, ready for the final
dash. And what a dash it was!

[Illustration: AN ALAKAN SWEEPSTAKES TEAM

Fay Dalzene, Driver]

Like phantom teams they silently sped far out over the frozen waters of
Bering Sea, threading their way between huge ice hummocks that rose,
grotesque and ghostly, in the misty grayness of the Arctic twilight.
Through the chill dusk they toiled up the steep slopes of Topkok Hill,
through treacherous defiles, over perilous hidden glaciers, toward
Solomon and safety.

It was any one's race.

The telephone brought news that varied from moment to moment. John
Johnson was steady as to pace, and slightly in the lead; later Holmsen
had passed him, then Dalzene. Allan had dropped behind. The excitement
grew more intense each instant. Side by side drove Dalzene and Charlie
Johnson, with Holmsen at their heels--dogs and men on their mettle,
magnificent in endurance and spirit; but closing in upon them was "Finn
John" with his Blue Eyed Leader, and Nome well knew what they could do,
and had done twice.

Then, too, there was always "Scotty" to be feared; always his marvelous
generalship to be reckoned with; his perfect mastery of the dogs, and
their devotion to him to be considered.

"Seals on the ice ahead, Spot," had been a suggestion that had fired not
only Spot, but Tom, Dick and Harry also with a new interest that almost
banished fatigue.

Then at intervals there were broken bars, alternately whistled and sung,
of Home Sweet Home; and the dogs knew, someway, that this strange noise
always signified that their journey was nearly at an end. And once, in
readjusting his harness, "Scotty" had caressed Baldy so affectionately
that the dog forgot the struggle he had passed through, remembering the
happy fact that he had not failed in his trust.

All of this encouragement resulted in an increased activity that began
to tell in the fast decreasing distance between their team and the
others.

"On, Baldy; on, boys," and on they came out of the long reaches of utter
desolation, of dreary monotony, of lifeless calm, with a rush that soon
brought Johnson in view. "Gee"--they whirled to the right and by him
with unexpected ease; then on and on still, till they could see the
others. Baldy, spurred by that to yet stronger efforts, plunged forward
with renewed vigor until he seemed, with his team-mates, to touch the
drifted snows as lightly as a gull skims the crested waves.

When nearly abreast of those who had been setting so fast a pace, Allan,
in a low voice, tense with the excitement of the moment, called again to
the dogs. "Speed up, Baldy; speed up, boys. Don't let the Siberian
Fuzzy-Wuzzies beat you again. Show them what your long legs are good
for--Alaskans to the front," and Baldy, with an almost incredible burst
of speed, shot past them, and was at last in the lead in that mad,
headlong drive for Nome.

There was no hint of the laggard now in Tom, Dick and Harry--no
suspicion of "staleness" in their keen pride in their work; Irish and
Rover, ever fleet and responsive, needed no urging; Jack McMillan gave
his stupendous energy, his superb intelligence with loyal abandon; and
Baldy, as well as "Scotty," felt that each dog in the entire team had
proved the wisdom of his choice by a willing service now to the driver
he loved.

Fort Davis! The thunderous boom of the guns heralded the approach of
the first team. Nome, up the coast, was in a furor. Once more the people
gathered quickly in the streets, and hurried toward the gaily
illuminated stands to witness the finish of the great event.

Though it was ten o'clock at night, the full moon and the radiance of
the snow made everything shimmer and glitter with wonderful brilliancy.
High above the lights of the little town, which seemed but a
continuation of the stars, flamed the Way-Farer's Cross on the spire of
St. Joseph's; huge bonfires cast a flickering crimson glow upon the
frosted pinnacles of ice, and rockets rose and fell like sparkling
jewels in the clear sky.

Overhead fluttered a silken purse and the Trophy Cup, suspended by the
Kennel Club colors from a wire that marked the end of the longest and
most picturesque course in the racing world.

The wild wailing of many wolf dogs, shrill whistles, the merry peal of
bells, added to the deafening clamor--as far away over the frozen sea a
dim black shadow came--a swiftly moving shadow that soon was engulfed in
the swaying mob that surged to meet it.

The Woman leaned from out the Judges' Stand, waving streamers of White
and Gold in joyous welcome.

Ben Edwards, thrilling with pride and happiness, slipped through the
jostling crowd, and saw coming to him, down the Silver Trail, an ugly,
rough-coated, faithful dog--bringing in his triumph, a justification of
the boy's unshaken faith, a reward for his unfaltering affection.

Again and again there were the stirring notes of the bugle, shouts of
good will and praise, wild, incessant cheers, as the Allan and Darling
Team, with every dog in harness, and "Scotty" Allan at the handle-bars,
swept over the line--winners of the most hotly contested race the North
has ever known, and led to victory by Baldy of Nome.

[Illustration]



XIV

Immortals of the Trail

[Illustration]



[Illustration]

CHAPTER XIV

IMMORTALS OF THE TRAIL


The brief summer was over. The flowers that had blossomed so freely and
so brightly under fair skies and in ceaseless sunshine were gone; and in
the air was the chill of the early Arctic winter.

The Woman shivered slightly in spite of her furs. There was excitement
in the air.

Beside her, erect and soldierly, walked Captain Rene' Haas of the French
Army, with a firm elastic tread that spoke of many marches.

He was talking earnestly with an enthusiasm that lighted up his keen
dark eyes as with an inner fire.

"You see, there were many places last winter on the battle-front where
horses, mules or motors could not be used; for the snow was too soft and
deep, and the crust too thin. Many places where they needed just such a
method of transportation as we of the North know so well,--dogs. I
tried," modestly, "to show them a little of all that could be done, with
a few that I trained casually. But I spoke much of the marvelous dogs of
Alaska that I have learned to know and love so well in the past few
years; of their intelligence, their endurance, and their almost
incredible speed in the big races. My Government listened; and so I was
sent to take back with me the pick of the whole North, though there will
be many more from parts of Canada and Labrador."

"But not like ours of Nome," proudly replied the Woman.

"No, not like yours of Nome. That is why I am here. A hundred or more
trained by Allan and other racing men will be worth a thousand ordinary
recruits. Since he received my cable message telling my plans, 'Scotty'
has assembled a splendid lot of team dogs for me, with a full equipment
of sleds and harness; and even the dog salmon for the 'Commissary
Department.'

"There is indeed but little left for me to do, as the outfit will be
perfect now, with a few more experienced leaders."

"And you think," questioned the Woman with lips that quivered and eyes
that were dim, "that they will be treated well, that--" Her voice was
unsteady and she hesitated.

The young Captain seemed to divine all the unspoken fears.

"There is very little danger in the work," he assured her readily. "They
will probably be used entirely in courier and carrier service in the
passes of the French Alps.

"I belong to an Alpine Corps myself, and they will be under my direct
supervision, so far as possible. Really," with honest conviction, "they
will be far better off than if you sold them to freighters or
prospectors for a life of toil, possibly of neglect even. All soldiers,
irrespective of nationality, are good to the animals in their charge."

"I suppose it's true," sighed the Woman, "that we cannot go on
accumulating dogs indefinitely; that some of them must be sold from time
to time. And I, too, would rather see them go like this than to feel
they might suffer worse hardships and abuses on the Trail."

"Scotty" met them at the door of the Kennel. "Come in, and we'll all go
over the place together. It will not take long now to make up the rest
of the required number," and he skimmed quickly over the paper in his
hand.

Matt, hovering near, doing unnecessary things for the dogs, was plainly
much disturbed. George and Dan, full of a war atmosphere produced by the
French officer, and a kennel and corral guarded night and day, conversed
eagerly of the important affairs that were happening about them; while
Ben, listening apparently to their serious discussions of the European
situation, as likely to be affected by this purchase, was in reality
beset with a dread that drove all else from his mind.

"It's going to be a hard choice," the Woman mused as she glanced down
the long line of stalls on either side, and one end, of the roomy
stable.

"Scotty" paused before the Mego dogs that had fought so valiantly for
first honors in the Juvenile Race.

[Illustration: CAPTAIN HAAS OF THE FRENCH ARMY, AND HIS ALASKAN SLEDGES]

"Excellent," observed Captain Haas, as he looked them over carefully.
"Strong, intelligent, fleet," and "Scotty" wrote the names of Judge,
Jimmie and Pete.

"I knew I was a pretty good judge o' dogs," announced Dan with pleased
conviction; "but there's some class t' bein' a judge backed up by the
French Government," and he regarded his former team with mingled
feelings of regret and satisfaction.

On they went, adding name after name to the fast growing list.

"Not Tom, Dick and Harry," the Woman exclaimed as they came to the
Tolmans. "These Veterans have served us too long and too loyally." And
"Scotty" nodded silently.

"Irish and Rover?"

But before the question could be answered, the gentle Irish Setters
gazed into her eyes beseechingly, and nosed her sleeve, confident of a
caress.

"Impossible," she murmured hastily; "they are our dear comrades. And
Spot," with an emphatic shake of the head, "belongs to George."

Finally they paused at the last two stalls and looked from Jack
McMillan to Baldy. McMillan tugged violently at his chain, striving to
reach the Woman; while Baldy, as though he understood it all, crept
close to "Scotty's" side.

Captain Haas knew both of the dogs well. He had seen Jack turned from a
career of rebellion and unrest to one of willing patient service; and
Baldy, plodding, obscure, hard working Baldy, become the boast of the
whole North.

"Here are the two," admiringly, "that please me most of all. McMillan's
strength is superb--Baldy's endurance unparalleled. What War Dogs they
would make! One I must have; it matters little which. The price--" he
gave an eloquent gesture of complete indifference.

The Woman stroked Jack's sable muzzle gently. She thought of the old
days when his name was once a symbol of all that was fierce and
wolf-like and wicked in the annals of Nome; and then of his unbroken
spirit and steadfast allegiance to her. "McMillan of the Broken Tusks,"
she said softly, "has no price."

Then, eagerly, "Baldy?"

"I cannot give Baldy up," was the firm reply. "He has led the team in
three great victories; and he did not desert me when I lay freezing and
helpless, alone in the snow." "Scotty's" hand rested lovingly on the
ugly dark head pressed so tightly, so trustfully against him. "He's a
wonderful leader and my faithful friend."

"I understand," the Captain said, and turned away. "The list is now
complete."

And in the dusk of the Kennel, as once on the Golconda Trail, the boy's
wet cheek was laid tenderly against the dog's rough coat; but the tears
that fell now were tears of joy. "Oh, Baldy," he whispered happily,
"some day you'll be with me Outside. We'll do things there some day."

[Illustration: BALDY OF NOME]

Then came the day, filled with excitement and thrills, when on a
tow-line three hundred and fifty feet long, one hundred and six famous
dogs passed through the streets of the far-away Arctic town, on their
way to the battle-fields of France.

At their head was Spot, with George Allan trudging proudly by his side.

"I'll lend you Spot to get them down to the dock," was his offer to
Captain Haas. "You know he is fine in a crowd," and the officer
smilingly accepted the services of Spot.

And crowds there were, too, to go through; for as on the Sweepstakes
Days all of Nome had gathered to bid a final God Speed to the greatest
dogs of Alaska--a Foreign Legion indeed--bound for the front.

With no confusion, under the direction of Captain Haas and "Scotty"
Allan, who was to go with them as far as Quebec, they had been placed on
board the "Senator" lying out in the roadstead.

A silent little group stood on the dreary beach watching the twinkling
lights of the distant ship as she sailed, phantom-like, out into the
misty grayness of Bering Sea.

Only the dull pounding of the surf and the weird cry of the wolf dogs
broke the stillness.

At last the Woman turned from the Big Man at her side toward the boy and
Moose Jones.

"Some time, perhaps," she said half sadly, yet with pride, "the Captain
may have great tales for us of the War Dogs of the North. But never,
never, Ben, will there be greater tales than we can tell of the Old
Guard, Baldy of Nome and the others--our Immortals of the Trail."

[Illustration]





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