Every week or so Baldy, with Irish and Rover and some of the Wild Goose dogs from the Grand Central Ditch House near, would be hitched to a flat car belonging to the place, and would have a trip into town with Moose to take the gold dust from the “clean-ups” to the bank.
The car coasted down all the hills, for there was a strong brake to keep it safe. And the dogs were either invited to ride with Jones, or were permitted to get to the bottom as best pleased them with Ben, which meant a scamper through fields of blue forget-me-nots and purple lupine, over damp and mossy dells, and along the slopes where tiny birds were hidden in cozy nests about which the frightened parents fluttered divertingly.
[Illustration: THE CAR COASTED DOWN ALL THE HILLS]
It was indeed a treat; for always at the end of the jaunt there was an interview with “Scotty” Allan, who was sure to look Baldy over carefully and say fondly, “Well, how’s my Derby hero to-day?” and give the expected hearty greetings to Irish and Rover. Or possibly there would be a brief visit to the Woman, who, whatever her faults, never failed to produce a tid-bit of some sort for her canine callers.
She and Ben would dwell with keen delight upon his prospects of attaining his ambitions. “And besides all Moose will do for you,” she announced one day, “Mr. Daly tells me he will be only too glad to be of any assistance possible. He thinks a boy with your ideal—Lincoln—should have all the help it is in his power to give.”
Of course, surfeited at last with luxury and idleness, the dogs would finally be eager to return to the duties of the winter; glad of the season that brings the cheery sound of bells, the joyous barks of recognition from passing friends, the snarl of challenge from passing enemies, and all of the wholesome pleasures that belong to a busy, useful life. But now they were quite care-free, and content, and the responsibilities of the winter seemed far away indeed.
But the most treasured moments of all to Baldy were those spent with Ben when, waiting for Moose to finish his evening’s tasks, he and the boy wandered along the winding banks of the ditch. Far away across the sedgy tundra lay the sea, a line of molten gold in the last rays of the belated June sunset. Behind them rose the snow-crested peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains, like frosted spires against an amber sky. Soon the amber would change to amethyst and deepen to purple—fading at last to a shadowy gray; and all the world seemed steeped in the mystic calm of those twilight hours before the early Northern dawn.
And in those hours the brooding stillness of nature was broken only by the voice of man; for it was then, in that vast solitude, that from the lips of Ben Edwards came ringing words, sonorous sentences, impassioned appeals.
Baldy did not know it, but he was at such times a learned Judge moved strangely by unexpected eloquence; a jury melted to tears by a touching plea for clemency; a Populace swayed to great deeds by a silver-tongued Orator. Even, on rare occasions, he was the Loyal Throng that stood, silent and uncovered, before the White House steps, thrilled by the fiery patriotism of Mr. Edwards, the President of the United States of America.