Baldy of Nome
THE PARTING OF THE WAYS
Baldy knew that something was wrong. His most diverting efforts had failed to gain the usual reward of a caress, or at least a word of understanding; and so, dog-like to express his sympathy, he came close beside his friend and licked his hand. Always, before, this had called attention to the fact that Baldy was ready to share any trouble with the boy—but to-day the rough and grimy little hand, stiff and blue from the cold, did not respond, and instead only brushed away the tears that rolled slowly down the pinched cheeks. Sometimes the slight body shook with sobs that the boy tried manfully to suppress; but when one is chilled, and tired and hungry, and in the shadow of a Great Tragedy, the emotions are not easy to control.
With unseeing eyes and dragging steps, the boy trudged along the snowy trail, dreading the arrival at Golconda Camp. For there was the House of Judgment, where all of the unfortunate events of that most unhappy day would be reviewed sternly, though with a certain harsh justice, that could result in nothing less than a sentence of final separation from Baldy. And so when the dog in his most subtle and delicate manner showed his deep love for the boy, it only made the thought of the inevitable parting harder to bear.
So completely was Ben lost in his own gloomy reflections that he did not hear the sound of bells behind him; and it was not until a cheery voice called out demanding the right of way that he stepped aside to let a rapidly approaching dog team pass. As it came closer he saw that it was the Allan and Darling team of Racers, and for the moment his eyes brightened with interest and admiration as he noticed with a true dog-lover’s appreciation the perfect condition of the fleet-footed dogs, and the fine detail of sled and equipment.
Then his glance fell upon Baldy—thin, rough coated, and showing evidences of neglect; upon Baldy to whom he could not now even offer food and shelter, and a wave of bitterness swept over him.
“Come along, sonny, if you’re going our way,” and in the kindly little man at the handle-bars the boy recognized “Scotty” Allan, the most famous dog driver in Alaska. To the boy “Scotty” represented all that was most admirable in the whole North, and he stood speechless at the invitation to ride with him behind a team that had always seemed as wonderful as Cinderella’s Fairy Coach. He hesitated, and then the Woman in the sled beckoned encouragingly. “Get in with me; and your dog may come too,” she said as she rearranged the heavy fur robes to make room. The boy advanced with painful shyness, and awkwardly climbed into the place assigned him. The Woman laid her hand on Baldy’s collar to draw him in also, but the boy exclaimed quickly, “No, ma’am, don’t do that, please; he ain’t really cross, but he won’t ride in anythin’ as long’s he’s got a leg to stand on; an’ sometimes he growls if people he don’t know touches him.”