In the pause that ensued an impatient voice rose in insistent demand. “What are you waiting for? Bring on your Fidos,” and then as “Scotty” Allan appeared and stood with difficulty holding the spirited Allan and Darling dogs, the same voice asked in tones of utter disdain, “Whose mangy Fidos are these?” He was evidently a stranger, and in favor of the trim Siberians, scorning the rangy “Lop-ears,” as they are sometimes called in derision.
[Illustration: SCOTTY ALLAN ON THE TRAIL]
But whatever type may please their fancy, the faithfulness of all, and the skill of each driver appeals to these Northerners, most of whom know well the hardships of this ultimate frontier. So that their wild enthusiasm seems not so much a question of personality as a spontaneous tribute to the energy and courage of the men, and the patient willingness of the dogs.
Allan’s selection of dogs had caused much adverse criticism, but Matt warmly defended his choice. “You can’t tell me that Tom, Dick and Harry’s stale from too much trainin’ an’ bein’ in too many races. I know better; an’ you can be certain that ‘Scotty’ wouldn’t have taken ’em if they was goin’ t’ be a drag on such wonders as Irish, Rover and Spot. Take my word for it, them old Pioneers is goin’ t’ be the back-bone o’ the hull team when the youngsters has wore themselves out.”
A few who did not believe in the sincerity or stability of Jack McMillan’s reformation predicted trouble because of his presence. As a leader he had twice utterly demoralized teams in previous races, and it was “not unlikely,” declared the prophets of evil, “that he would blow up on the Trail out of pure cussedness.”
“Well, it ain’t McMillan, ner Tom, Dick ner Harry that’s goin’ t’ lose this here race fer the Allan an’ Darling team,” exclaimed Mart Barclay with vicious conviction. “It’s that there cur leader they got—Baldy. There’s enough Scotch stubbornness in Allan t’ try to make a leader outen a cur jest becus folks said he couldn’t. Up in Dawson I heered once he trained a timber wolf t’ lead a team o’ McKenzie huskies; but he’d find that a heap easier ‘n puttin’ the racin’ sperit inter that low-down Golconda hound; an’ I’ll bet he’ll git all that’s comin’ t’ him this time fer his pains.”
“Ef you’re bettin’ on that, Mart,” quickly interposed Moose Jones, “I’ve got some dust from my Golconda claim that’s lyin’ round loose at the Miners and Merchants Bank, an’ five hundred of it says that you’re—well, seem’ as there’s ladies present, it says you’re mistaken about Baldy’s sperit. You see my friend, Ben Edwards here, is kinda figgerin’ on college some day after a while, an’ a little loose change wouldn’t hurt none. It might come in right handy fer all the extry things boys wants, like fancy clothes an’ flat-faced bulldogs. I guess Ben wouldn’t want one o’ them, though, after he’s owned a dog like Baldy. But he could use a thousand in lots o’ ways easy—my money an’ yourn.”