Returning, it seemed as if Kid himself could not have excelled Baldy in the management of the team—all of his latent powers developing to meet the great demands made upon him. He was proving himself indeed a leader.
The news of the mishap had been telephoned to Nome; and the usual enthusiasm over the first arrival was turned into an ovation for the plucky and popular little Scotchman.
With the loss of the best dog in the Kennel, on the eve of the race, and an obscure, untried dog in the lead; with a stunning blow that had left him alone and senseless on the trail he was still victorious, to the admiration of all Nome.
The excitement was intense as the cheering throngs closed in upon the dogs and their driver, ready and eager to give their hearty greetings and unstinted applause.
[Illustration: AN OVATION FOR THE PLUCKY LITTLE SCOTCHMAN]
Moose Jones and Ben hurried toward the winners, both overjoyed at the success of Allan and their favorite, Baldy.
“Some dog, Baldy o’ Golconda, ain’t he, Mart?” was Jones’s exultant comment as they passed Barclay, who stood regarding the heroes with ill-concealed contempt.
“Some accident!” retorted Mart. “There’ll be a fine day,” belligerently, “when ‘Scotty’ Allan’ll find out that there dog’s a fake, a reg’lar quitter. Jest now he’s bluffed you all inter thinkin’ him a wonder; but you wait an’ he’ll give himself away yet. He was ornery as a pup, an’ he’s ornery as a dog. You can’t make a silk purse outen a sow’s ear, an’ I tell you straight you can’t make a Sweepstakes Winner out o’ Baldy o’ Golconda, no matter what he done in this here measly Solomon hike.”
“Well, we’ll see, Mart.”
“You’ve won a great race,” exclaimed the Woman as she came forward with the Big Man, and grasped “Scotty’s” hand warmly; “a great race, and against heavy odds.”
But “Scotty,” looking down on Baldy with gratitude and pride, replied simply:
“No, the credit all belongs to good old Baldy here; it is his race, not mine.”
Then the Woman, kneeling in the snow beside the leader, with her arms about him, said softly, “It was wonderful, Baldy, simply wonderful, the way you saved the day.”
And so the Solomon Derby was over, and Baldy had made good.
The winning of the Solomon Derby marked a new era in Baldy’s life. His home-coming had been made both joyous and miserable by the various attentions he had received. With his sensitive, shrinking nature, it was a sore trial to be the center of attraction, and the object of constant discussion. “Scotty” had warmly commended his record to Ben Edwards, which was compensation even for the Woman’s newly awakened and frankly expressed admiration. She had almost wept on his neck, which was embarrassing for an undemonstrative dog, and said he deserved a Carnegie Medal—whatever that was—though she suggested, practically, a large juicy beefsteak as an immediate compromise.