All Hager had to do was slow the dogsled to a walk, and his partner died. A perfect crime--no chance to get caught!
The dogs made slow progress through the deep drifts. Hager's smoldering irritation blazed into abrupt rage. From his position at the rear of the sled, he lashed out with the driver's whip that he held in one heavily mittened hand, shouting behind the wool scarf covering the lower half of his face. The dogs lunged in their traces, whining. A couple floundered in the powdery footing and were immediately snapped at by their companions behind them.
The snow was falling swiftly and with a sinister steadiness. It seemed to hang like a vast white curtain over the valley, obscuring the hills and the fanged outline of mountains beyond. The wind seized portions of the curtain and twisted it into fantastic shapes--the shapes of demons, Hager thought suddenly. For the scene through which he moved was a kind of hell, a white and frozen hell, with the howl of the wind like the despairing shrieks of tormented souls.
Hager pictured himself as one of them. And Cahill, huddled in furs on the sled, another. He cursed behind the scarf as he thought of Cahill. This was Cahill's fault, their being out here in the storm. If it weren't for Cahill, he would be back at the cabin, snug and warm, logs blazing cheerfully in the fireplace.
It was a rotten time for Cahill to have taken sick, Hager fumed. But it had happened. And it had left him with nothing else to do but pack their catch of furs, harness up the sled, and start out with Cahill for the doctor in Moose Gulch.
He almost regretted having taken the furs. With Cahill an added burden on the sled, it was too large a load for the dogs to pull with the necessary speed and endurance. But he hadn't dared to leave the entire season's catch unguarded at the cabin. If some wanderer appeared in his and Cahill's absence, the furs would be an irresistible temptation.