CHAPTER XXXI. LAST WORK OF THE WINTER - BIRDS AND FLOWERS OF SPRING CONTINUOUS DAYLIGHT - SOCIAL LIFE IN GIZHIGA - A CURIOUS SICKNESS - SUMMER DAYS AND NIGHTS - NEWS FROM AMERICA

The months of April and May, owing to the great length of the days and the comparative mildness of the weather, are the most favourable months in north-eastern Siberia for outdoor work and travel; and as the Company's vessels could not be expected to arrive at Gizhiga before the early part of June, Major Abaza determined to make the most of the intervening time. As soon as he had recovered a little, therefore, from the fatigue of his journey, he started with Bush, Macrae, and the Russian governor, for Anadyrsk, intending to engage there fifty or sixty native labourers and begin at once the construction of station-houses and the cutting and distribution of poles along the Anadyr River. My own efforts to that end, owing to the laziness of the Anadyrsk people, had been unsuccessful; but it was hoped that through the influence and cooperation of the civil authority something might perhaps be done.

Major Abaza returned by the very last winter road in May. His expedition had been entirely successful; Mr. Bush had been put in command of the Northern District from Penzhina to Bering Strait, and he, together with Macrae, Harder, and Smith, had been left at Anadyrsk for the summer. As soon as the Anadyr River should open, this party was directed to descend it in canoes to its mouth, and there await the arrival of one of the Company's vessels from San Francisco, with reinforcements and supplies. In the meantime fifty native labourers from Anadyrsk, Osolkin, and Pokorukof, had been hired and placed at their disposal, and it was hoped that by the time the ice should be out of the river they would have six or eight station-houses prepared, and several thousand poles cut, ready for distribution in rafts between the settlements of Anadyrsk and the Pacific coast. Having thus accomplished all that it was possible to accomplish with the limited means and force at his disposal, Major Abaza returned to Gizhiga, to await the arrival of the promised vessels from America with men, material, and supplies, for the prosecution of the work.

The season for dog-sledge travel was now over; and as the country afforded no other means of interior transportation, we could not expect to do any more work, or have any further communication with our outlying parties at Anadyrsk and Okhotsk until the arrival of our vessels. We therefore rented for ourselves a little log house overlooking the valley, of the Gizhiga River, furnished it as comfortably as possible with a few plain wooden chairs and tables, hung up our maps and charts on the rough log-walls, displayed our small library of two books - Shakespeare and the New Testament - as advantageously as possible in one corner, and prepared for at least a month of luxurious idleness.