Just behind was Pete Bernard, a sturdy French Canadian, trying to hold his uncontrollable, half-wild huskies, who were jumping and making sudden lunges toward any stranger—man or dog—that wandered near; and especially toward the Yellow Peril, who was a free lance in the expedition, and as such was particularly irritating to those in harness. They were a perfect contrast to “Scotty’s” dogs, who had been taught to step into place, each as his name was called, standing quietly until all were in position, and the traces were snapped to the tow-line; and then, as the signal was given, to dart ahead with the ease and precision of machinery started by electricity. Pete’s sled was piled high with freight and luggage, and astride of this was the Big Man, also in furs.
It was a cloudless day in January—a marvelous combination of white and blue. Snowy plains rose almost imperceptibly into softly curved hills, and ended in rugged mountains that were outlined in sharp, silvery peaks against the dazzling sky.
The air was crisp and keen, the jingle of the sled-bells merry, and Baldy even forgot, in the very joy of living, and in the nearness of Ben, that Jemima was his team-mate.
[Illustration: The air was crisp and keen]
They could faintly hear Pete’s voice giving strange directions to his dogs; for Pete was Captain of a coasting schooner in summer, and freighted with a dog team in winter, and used the same terms in both occupations. He steered his ship “Gee” and “Haw,” admonished his dogs “not to get tangled up in their riggin’,” and cautioned them against “runnin’ afoul of other craft.” Of course no well raised dog could be expected to know that his harness was “riggin’,” nor that a sled could possibly come under the head of “craft “; and he would be quite at a loss to grasp Pete’s meaning generally. But as Pete’s team never obeyed anyway, except by the exercise of sheer bodily force, it made but small difference how he spoke to them.
On they came, “passenger” and “cargo” safely aboard, some distance behind the Racers, who passed before long the famous Paystreak Diggings, which had yielded their many millions, and were soon beyond the groups of miners’ cabins on the Third Beach Line.
It was a very different Baldy—this Baldy of Nome—from the one who had so often in the days gone by traveled the Golconda Trail with his friend, the boy. The days when he was hungry and foot-sore and heart-sick, and now—Baldy straightened up proudly, and nearly pulled Jemima off her feet in his desire to render good service for favors received. While Ben’s eyes sparkled as he glanced at the dog in his responsible position of right wheeler in the Allan and Darling Team of Racers.
There the way led up a gentle slope, then down to the bed of Nome River, where they kept on the ice for several miles. It was here that Jemima’s unfitness for work with experts began to manifest itself; as well as the unusual tenacity of purpose that seemed either perseverance or perversity—depending upon whether you looked at the matter from Baldy’s standpoint or from hers.