Baldy of Nome
Esther Birdsall Darling
Part 2 out of 3
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
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
"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
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 role 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
"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
"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
"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
"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 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
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
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
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
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
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]
To Visit Those in Affliction
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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."
The Dawn of a To-morrow
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
A Tragedy without a Moral--and a Comedy with One
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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.
With the Flight of Time
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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!"
The Solomon Derby
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.
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