Moment after moment passed, the time seemed endless; but finally the warm tongue and the insistent paw did their work; for there was a slight movement, a flicker of the eyelids, and then “Scotty” lifted himself upon his elbow and spoke to them.
He was hopelessly confused. What was he doing in the snow, in the bitter cold, soaked in blood, and with his team beside him? Where was Kid?
Then it all came back to him; he remembered he was in a race—the Solomon Derby, and Kid was dead. That with Baldy in the lead they had gone ahead of the other teams at a terrific speed, when he heard something snap. Thinking it might be a runner, he had leaned over the side of the sled to look; there was a crushing blow, and he recalled no more until he felt Baldy’s hot breath, and an agonizing pain in his temple.
Gazing about, he saw the cause of the mishap—an iron trail stake half concealed by a drift, now red with his blood. All around, as far as the eye could reach, stretched the vast snowy plains that merged into the purple shadows of the distant mountains, outlined in dazzling beauty against the azure sky. There was no sign of the other teams. He could not tell how long he had been unconscious—whether minutes or hours; he only realized that he had never entered Solomon.
Weakly he stumbled to his feet and fell helplessly into the sled. At a word Baldy darted ahead, and Allan, wiping the blood from his eyes, saw they were traveling in the wrong direction, toward the wireless tower at Port Safety. In some way he dimly realized that the dogs had turned on the trail. Given the order, Baldy wheeled instantly, and dashed forward with no slackening of his former speed, though “Scotty” was lying inert and useless, an unusual and unexpected burden.
But, wounded and shaken, “Scotty’s” spirit was still undaunted; and uncertain of anything save that you are never beaten till the race is over, Allan inspired Baldy to do his willing best.
The bitter disappointment of Kid’s death was fast yielding to amazement at Baldy’s unsuspected fleetness. Trustworthy he had always been, and obedient and faithful—but his pace now was a revelation. There was yet a chance.
“On, Baldy; on boys.” And away they flew till the roofs of Solomon loomed on the horizon, directly ahead.
Solomon at last. At the end of the one short street was a group of Kennel Club officials, and the entire population of the place, ready to welcome the coming and speed the parting racers.
To his intense surprise Allan learned that his was the first team in, his delay having evidently been but a brief one. He resisted all entreaties that he should have medical attention. “There’s no trouble at all,” he maintained stoutly, “so long as my cap is frozen to the wound. Of course I am a little faint, and dizzy, but that will pass in the fresh air. Just water the dogs and see that they’re all right, will you?” And resting only the five minutes that are obligatory for the signing of papers, he was again on his way, as Fred Ayer came into view, closely followed by Johnson.