Then the dogs were caught and harnessed, and in great excitement began to strain at the traces and howl their eagerness to be off. Oksunaes were shouted to Abel and Mrs. Abel, and Bobby, grasping the front of one komatik, and Skipper Ed the front of the other, they pulled them sharply to one side to break them loose, shouting to the teams as they did so: “Hu-it! Hu-it!” Then they flung themselves upon the komatiks, and away they dashed, down the steep and slippery incline, and off through the shore hummocks at a wild, mad gallop.
They were away to the sena, and the Great Adventure, at last.
For a little way the dogs traveled at a gallop, and Bobby and Skipper Ed had lively work while this lasted, guiding the komatiks between the ice hummocks. But it was not long before the first excitement of going upon a journey wore off, and after their manner the animals, with tails curled over their backs, settled down to a steady pulling. Now and again they came upon a ridge of ice piled up by the tide, and then it was necessary to lift at the komatiks and help the dogs.
Presently the ice hummocks were left behind and the smooth, white surface of the frozen bay stretched out before them. The snow which covered the ice had been beaten down and hard packed by the wind, and the sledge runners slid over its surface so easily that the dogs increased their pace to a steady, rapid trot.
The weather was fearfully cold. The runners of the sledge squeaked and creaked. Frost flakes on the hard packed snow glistened and scintillated in the moonlight and soon the netseks of the travelers were covered with white hoar frost, ice formed upon their eyelashes and Skipper Ed’s breath froze upon his beard until presently his face was almost hidden by a mass of ice.
They ran by the side of the komatiks to keep warm, only now and again riding for a little way to rest, and as they ran or walked they chatted gaily, contemptuous of the cold, and keenly enjoying in anticipation the sport and adventure in store for them.
And so they traveled for three full hours before the first hint of daylight came stealing up over the white horizon in the southeast, and at length, very slowly, as though reluctant to show his face, and uncertain of his welcome, the sun peeked timidly over the ice field. Then, reassured, he boldly lifted his round, glowing face full into view, giving cheer and promise to the frozen world.
To the sledge traveler the dreariest hour of the day, and the hour of bitterest cold, is that immediately preceding sunrise. As though by consent our three friends during this period fell into silence, and none spoke until the sun looked out over the ice, and the frost-covered snow—each frost flake a miniature prism—was set a-sparkling and a-glinting as though the snow was thick sown with diamonds.