Ben was vastly contented in the knowledge that he had been of real service, and accepted the appreciation that was warmly expressed with modest joy.
As for Baldy, there was the dawn of a glorious future in that day’s work. When, in his turn, Allan came to him and rubbed cooling ointment into his swollen and bleeding feet, there was much more than just the customary kindly stroke. Something Baldy could not fathom, that made his heart beat happily. There was born, of a touch and tone, the wonderful ambition to be classed with Dubby and Kid in his master’s affections; as with his hand still resting gently on Baldy, “Scotty” turned to the boy. “Ben, we’re glad now that we have Baldy.”
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 disdain.
Occasionally natives with their sleds drawn by reindeer would pass that way. And if they could elude “Scotty’s” vigilance it was great fun to dash after the awkward, stubborn beasts who so disliked them; and who somewhat threatened, in the more remote interior, to break up the monopoly of the Northern Dog Transportation Company, Unlimited.
At night they were taken for long walks by the Woman and Ben. Out over the snow that crackled sharply in the clear, crisp air; out where the stars seemed strangely close, the moon strangely bright—and where across the heavens waved the luminous, ghostly banners of the Northern Lights.
Time now meant nothing. It was the Land of Day After To-morrow, where the obligation of definite hours for definite duties did not exist.
And because there was a vacation freedom in the very atmosphere, sometimes they stole into the big living-room of the Road House, two or three at a time; and lying in the shadowy twilight they would listen, in drowsy content, to the cheery snap of the wood in the huge ruddy stove, and to the voices of their friends as they talked of the North, its hardships, its happiness, its hopes.
[Illustration: KRUZAMAPA HOT SPRINGS]