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‘Undreamed of!’cried Mercedes, throwing up her hands in dainty
‘However in the world could I manage without a tent?’ ‘It’s
springtime, and you won’t get any more cold weather,’ the man
She shook her head decidedly, and Charles and Hal put the last
odds and ends on top of the mountainous load.
‘Think it’ll ride?’ one of the men asked.
‘Why shouldn’t it?’ Charles demanded rather shortly.
‘Oh, that’s all right, that’s all right,’ the man hastened meekly to
say. ‘I was just a-wonderin’, that is all. It seemed a mite top-heavy.’
Charles turned his back and drew the lashing down as well as he
could, which was not in the least well.
‘An’ of course the dogs can hike along all day with that contraption
behind them,’ affirmed a second of the men.
‘Certainly,’ said Hal, with freezing politeness, taking hold of the
gee-pole with one hand and swinging his whip from the other.
‘Mush!’ he shouted. ‘Mush on there!’ The dogs sprang against the
breast-bands, strained hard for a few moments, then relaxed. They
were unable to move the sled.
‘The lazy brutes, I’ll show them,’ he cried, preparing to lash out at
them with the whip.
But Mercedes interfered, crying, ‘Oh, Hal, you musn’t,’ as she
caught hold of the whip and wrenched it from him. ‘The poor
dears! Now you must promise you won’t be harsh with them for
the rest of the trip, or I won’t go a step.’ ‘Precious lot you know
about dogs,’ her brother sneered; ‘and I wish you’d leave me alone.
They’re lazy, I tell you, and you’ve got to whip them to get
anything out of them. That’s their way. You ask any one. Ask one
of those men.’ Mercedes looked at them imploringly, untold
repugnance at sight of pain written in her pretty face.
‘They’re weak as water, if you want to know,’ came the reply from
one of the men. ‘Plum tuckered out, that what’s the matter. They
need a rest.’ ‘Rest be blanked,’ said Hal, with his beardless lips;
and Mercedes said, ‘Oh!’ in pain and sorrow at the oath.
But she was a clannish creature, and rushed at once to the defence
of her brother. ‘Never mind that man,’ she said pointedly. ‘You’re
driving our dogs, and you do what you think best with them.’
Again Hal’s whip fell upon the dogs. They threw themselves
against the breast-bands, dug their feet into the packed snow, got