There was an imperceptible pause—– just long enough for him to brush softly against Ben Edwards, and look up lovingly into a beaming face—and then Baldy stood at the head of the Allan and Darling Racing Team, a “likely Sweepstakes Winner,” as the Daily Dog News had once ironically predicted.
Baldy felt that now, if ever, had come his Day; the Day of which he had dreamed in his despised puppy-hood; the Day in which he could prove that the great dog man’s confidence was not misplaced, and that the boy’s belief was well founded.
At last they stood, every detail of equipment perfect, while “Scotty” glanced once more over his small kit in the sled; green veils for the dog’s eyes should the glare of the sun prove too troublesome, little blankets, canton flannel moccasins for their feet in case of sharp ice, and extra bits of harness—all stowed safely away, including his own fur parka and water-tight boots.
Matt regarded the team critically, and while filled with a sober satisfaction, was much relieved to hear that it had the unqualified approval of the experts, George and Dan. “Of course Spot ’ud make a classier leader, Dan, but I’m the only one that can really handle him yet, so I guess Baldy’s best for Dad.”
The Woman waited to give each dog a parting caress and a word of encouragement. “Tom, Dick and Harry, remember you’re the Veterans, and have an honorable record to maintain; Irish and Rover, never forget that you are Irish, and live up to all that it means; McMillan, it’s your chance to wipe out the past; and Baldy—well, Baldy, ‘Scotty,’ we all, trust you.” And then she turned and pinned the last knot of white and gold on Allan’s breast, and her voice trembled as she said, “Success to our colors.”
Through the narrow streets, gay with the fluttering streamers of the Kennel Club gold and green, they went. Banners and pennants shone resplendent under the cloudless blue of the April sky; and the crowds in high spirits and gala attire, eager and laughing, closed in upon them till Baldy longed to howl in sheer fright, though howling in harness is strictly forbidden by “Scotty,” and would have been quite out of keeping with the august dignity of his position. He was appalled by such a solid mass of human beings—for of course the courts, schools, and business houses were all closed in honor of this important occasion; and probably the only people in all of Nome not bending their steps toward the starting place were those unavoidably detained in the hospital or jail.
Women who would not have been out of place on Fifth Avenue or Bond Street, women to whom even the French Poodle would have given his approval; men of the West in flannel shirts and cowboy hats; miners from the Creeks, gathered from all corners of the Earth; Eskimos in their furs with tiny babies strapped on their backs; rosy-cheeked children—all hurried to the point where the long journey was to begin.