It seemed to Amherst as though his body had been left behind, and only the spirit in him rode the wild blue currents of galloping air; but as the sled's rush began to slacken with the strain of the last ascent he was recalled to himself by the touch of the breathing warmth at his back.
Close to the trail Jim saw the fresh remains of a camp-fire beside the deep marks of a sled's runners. "Well, an' what of it?" said he to Jan, sharply. "'Tain't the first time you've struck another man's trail, is it? What 'n the nation ails ye to be so het up about it, anyway?" And then, with his practised trailer's eyes he began to examine these tracks himself. "H'm!
Morse proposed that they camp as soon as they reached the edge of it. "Better get on the sled and ride till then," he added. Beresford shook his head. "No, I'll carry on all right. Got to grin and bear it. The sled's overloaded anyhow. You trot along and I'll tag. Time you've got the fires built and all the work done, I'll loaf into camp." Tom made no further protest. "All right. Take it easy.
The sled swerved, turned on her side, and slid along with a sound of snapping and tearing. While they were still headed straight for the hole, the Boy had gathered himself for a clear jump to the right, but the sled's sudden swerve to the left broke his angle sharply.
Do seem kind o' queer, too," he muttered. "The sled's a middlin'-heavy one, all right, only I don't see but one dog's track here, and that's onusu'l. Mus' be a pretty good husky, Jan, to shift that load on his own eh? But hold on! I reckon there's two men slep' here. But there's only one man's track on the trail, an' only one dog.
All night long the splendour kept up, and all night long, as the dogs went at a good clip and one of us rode while the other was at the sled's handle-bars, we gazed and marvelled at its infinite variety, at its astonishing fertility of effect, at its whimsical vagaries, until the true dawn of Easter swallowed up the beauty of the night as we came in sight of Eagle.
"Bob's got three dogs better matched 'n yours as t' size," he remarked judicially, "but his leader, old Nero, 's most twelve, you remember, 'nd wants t' stop an' wag his tail, an' give his paw t' every kid that speaks to him. Bill's got some bully pups, but his sled's no good; it's his mother's kitchen chair nailed onto his skiis.
Going to the stage, he took down his five-foot snowshoes, slipped his moccasined feet into the thongs, and with his gun resting in the hollow of his bemittened hand, and the sled's hauling-line over his shoulder, strode off through the vaulted aisles between the boles of the evergreens; while through a tiny slit in the wall of his moose-skin home two loving eyes watched the stalwart figure vanishing among the trees.
The dogs were starving, and, to appease their appetites, were purloining bacon from the sled's stores; but Providence, for once, was kind to them, and a large, fat seal of several hundred pounds weight was shot that day on the edge of the ice cake upon which they were camped, and this gave them food and fuel.