“I only wish,” said the Woman earnestly, “that the Officers of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Congress, and everybody, might hear the way Dalzene, Holmsen, Hegness, Fred Ayers, and the Johnsons speak of their dogs, just as one speaks of cherished friends, not dumb brutes. If they had seen the ‘Iron Man’ with the tears rolling down his furrowed cheeks as he tenderly caressed the dead body of one of his little Siberians; or had watched ‘Scotty’ Allan breast the icy waters of a surging flood the night of the great storm, to save an injured dog not even his own, I am sure there would be no further talk of cruelty amongst dog racers. And to think,” she concluded indignantly, “that these protests come from congested centers in civilized communities, where pampered poodles die from lack of exercise and over-feeding, and little children from overwork and starvation!”
“There is no occasion for immediate worry,” was the Big Man’s consolation. “I rather think Congress has troubles enough of its own just at present, without mixing up in dog racing in Nome. There won’t be much excitement about it in Washington this session.”
Early in the day before the coming event, the Woman sauntered down toward the Kennel slowly, her mind filled with agreeable memories and happy anticipations.
At this last try-out the team had shown more speed than ever, and a certain delight in their work that spoke well for the final selection that had been made; while Kid, as a leader, had been manifesting such extraordinary talent that even Allan had been loud in his praise. Which was rare, for his approval of his dogs was more often expressed in deeds than in words.
At the door of the Kennel she paused—struck instantly by an unmistakable air of depression that pervaded the place. Even McMillan did not howl his usual noisy welcome.
“Any one here?” and out into the semi-dusk of the Arctic morning came Ben, his face plainly showing grief and consternation.
“Oh, Ben, what is it, what is the matter?” exclaimed the Woman tremulously. “Has something dreadful happened to ’Scotty’—the dogs; what is wrong—do tell me!”
“It’s poor Kid,” sobbed the boy. “We found him dead a little while ago, when ‘Scotty’ and Matt and me come in t’ fix the harness an’ sled fer to-morrer. I went back t’ see Baldy, an’ you know Kid was next to him, an’ after I’d spoke t’ Baldy, Kid ‘ud allers put his paw out t’ shake hands and kinda whimper soft an’ joyful, like he was sayin’ nice things t’ you. But this time there wasn’t a sound from him; an’ when I looked, there he was, dead, a-hangin’ by a strap that was caught up high someway so’s he couldn’t pull it loose. ‘Scotty’ said he must ‘a’ been tryin’ fer some reason t’ git over the boards that divided him from the next stall.
“But it was somethin’ he’d never done before—one o’ them accidents you can’t count on, unless you tie ’em so short they ain’t comfortable. Anyway, he was stiff an’ cold when we got to him. The poor feller never had a chance after he was caught.”