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way, struggling painfully over the hardest part of the trail they had
yet encountered, and for that matter, the hardest between them and
The Thirty Mile River was wide open. Its wild water defied the
frost, and it was in the eddies only and in the quiet places that the
ice held at all. Six days of exhausting toil were required to cover
those thirty terrible miles. And terrible they were, for every foot of
them was accomplished at the risk of life to dog and man.
A dozen times, Perrault, nosing the way, broke through the ice
bridges, being saved by the long pole he carried, which he so held
that it fell each time across the hole made by his body. But a cold
snap was on, the thermometer registering fifty below zero, and
each time he broke through he was compelled for very life to build
a fire and dry his garments.
Nothing daunted him. It was because nothing daunted him that he
had been chosen for government courier. He took all manner of
risks, resolutely thrusting his little weazened face into the frost and
struggling on from dim dawn to dark.
He skirted the frowning shores on rim ice that bent and crackled
under foot and upon which they dared not halt. Once, the sled
broke through, with Dave and Buck, and they were half-frozen and
all but drowned by the time they were dragged out. The usual fire
was necessary to save them. They were coated solidly with ice, and
the two men kept them on the run around the fire, sweating and
thawing, so close that they were singed by the flames.
At another time Spitz went through, dragging the whole team after
him up to Buck, who strained backward with all his strength, his
fore paws on the slippery edge and the ice quivering and snapping
all around. But behind him was Dave, likewise straining
backward, and behind the sled was Francois, pulling till his
Again the rim ice broke away before and behind, and there was no
escape except up the cliff. Perrault scaled it by a miracle, while
Francois prayed for just that miracle; and with every thong and
sled lashing and the last bit of harness rove into a long rope, the
dogs were hoisted, one by one, to the cliff crest. Francois came up
last, after the sled and load. Then came the search for a place to
descend, which descent was ultimately made by the aid of the
rope, and night found them back on the river with a quarter of a
mile to the day’s credit.