It was hard work on the following morning to climb again into the saddle, but the Major was insensible to all appeals for delay. Stern and inflexible as Rhadamanthus, he mounted stiffly upon his feather pillow and gave the signal for a start. With the aid of two sympathetic Kamchadals, who had perhaps experienced the misery of a stiff back, I succeeded in getting astride a fresh horse, and we rode away into the Genal (gen-ahl') valley - the garden of southern Kamchatka.

The village of Malqua lies on the northern slope of the Kamchatka River watershed, surrounded by low barren granite hills, and reminded me a little in its situation of Virginia City, Nevada. It is noted chiefly for its hot mineral springs, but as we did not have time to visit these springs ourselves, we were compelled to take the natives' word for their temperature and their medicinal properties, and content ourselves with a distant view of the pillar of steam which marked their location.

North of the village opens the long narrow valley of Genal - the most beautiful as well as the most fertile spot in all the Kamchatkan peninsula. It is about thirty miles in length, and averages three in breadth, and is bounded on both sides by chains of high snow-covered mountains, which stretch away from Malqua in a long vista of white ragged peaks and sharp cliffs, almost to the head-waters of the Kamchatka River. A small stream runs in a tortuous course through the valley, fringed with long wild grass four or five feet in height, and shaded here and there by clumps of birches, willows, and alders. The foliage was beginning already to assume the brilliant colours of early autumn, and broad stripes of crimson, yellow, and green ran horizontally along the mountain sides, marking on a splendid chromatic scale the successive zones of vegetation as they rose in regular gradation from the level of the valley to the pure glittering snows of the higher peaks.

As we approached the middle of the valley just before noon, the scenery assumed a vividness of colour and grandeur of outline which drew forth the most enthusiastic exclamations of delight from our little party. For twenty-five miles in each direction lay the sunny valley, through which the Genal River was stretched like a tangled chain of silver, linking together the scattered clumps of birch and thickets of alder, which at intervals diversified its banks. Like the Happy Valley of Rasselas, it seemed to be shut out from the rest of the world by impassable mountains, whose snowy peaks and pinnacles rivalled in picturesque beauty, in variety and singularity of form, the wildest dream of eastern architect. Half down their sides was a broad horizontal belt of dark-green pines, thrown into strong and beautiful contrast with the pure white snow of the higher summits and the rich crimson of the mountain ash which flamed below. Here and there the mountains had been cleft asunder by some Titanic power, leaving deep narrow gorges and wild ravines where the sunlight could hardly penetrate, and the eye was lost in soft purple haze. Imagine with all this, a warm fragrant atmosphere and a deep blue sky in which floated a few clouds, too ethereal even to cast shadows, and you will perhaps have a faint idea of one of the most beautiful landscapes in all Kamchatka. The Sierra Nevadas may afford views of more savage wildness, but nowhere in California or Nevada have I ever seen the distinctive features of both winter and summer - snow and roses, bare granite and brilliantly coloured foliage - blended into so harmonious a picture as that presented by the Genal valley on a sunshiny day in early autumn.

Dodd and I devoted most of our leisure time during the afternoon to picking and eating berries. Galloping furiously ahead until we had left the caravan several miles behind, we would lie down in a particularly luxuriant thicket by the river bank, tie our horses to our feet, and bask in the sunshine and feast upon yellow honeyed "moroshkas" (mo-ro'-shkas) and the dark purple globes of delicious blueberries, until our clothes were stained with crimson spots, and our faces and hands resembled those of a couple of Comanches painted for the war-path.

The sun was yet an hour high when we approached the native village of Genal. We passed a field where men and women were engaged in cutting hay with rude sickles, returned their stare of amazement with unruffled serenity, and rode on until the trail suddenly broke off into a river beyond which stood the village.

Kneeling upon our saddles we succeeded in fording the shallow stream without getting wet, but in a moment we came to another of about the same size. We forded that, and were confronted by a third. This we also passed, but at the appearance of the fourth river the Major shouted despairingly to Dodd, "Ay! Dodd! How many paganni rivers do we have to wade through in getting to this beastly village?" "Only one," replied Dodd composedly. "One! Then how many times does this one river run past this one settlement?" "Five times," was the calm response. "You see," he explained soberly, "these poor Kamchadals haven't got but one river to fish in, and that isn't a very big one, so they have made it run past their settlement five times, and by this ingenious contrivance they catch five times as many salmon as they would if it only passed once!" The Major was surprised into silence, and seemed to be considering some abstruse problem. Finally he raised his eyes from the pommel of his saddle, transfixed the guilty Dodd with a glance of severe rebuke, and demanded solemnly, "How many times must a given fish swim past a given settlement, in order to supply the population with food, provided the fish is caught every time he goes past?" This reductio ad absurdum was too much for Dodd's gravity; he burst into a laugh, and digging his heels into his horse's ribs, dashed with a great splatter into the fourth arm or bend of the river, and rode up on the other side into the village of Genal.

We took up our quarters at the house of the "starosta" (stah'-ro-stah) or head man of the village, and spread our bearskins out on the clean white floor of a low room, papered in a funny way with old copies of the Illustrated London News. A coloured American lithograph, representing the kiss of reconciliation between two offended lovers, hung against the wall on one side, and was evidently regarded with a good deal of pride by the proprietor, as affording incontestable evidence of culture and refined taste, and proving his familiar acquaintance with American art, and the manners and customs of American society.

Dodd and I, notwithstanding our fatigue, devoted the evening entirely to literary pursuits; searching diligently with tallow candles over the wall and ceiling for consecutive numbers of the Illustrated London News, reading court gossip from a birch plank in the corner, and obituaries of distinguished Englishmen from the back of a door. By dint of industry and perseverance we finished one whole side of the house before bedtime, and having gained a vast amount of valuable information with regard to the war in New Zealand, we were encouraged to pursue our investigations in the morning upon the three remaining sides and the ceiling. To our great regret, however, we were obliged to start on our pilgrimage without having time to find out how that war terminated, and we have never been able to ascertain to this day! Long before six o'clock we were off with fresh horses for a long ride of ninety versts to Pushchin (poosh'-chin).

The costumes of our little party had now assumed a very motley and brigandish appearance, every individual having discarded from time to time, such articles of his civilised dress as proved to be inconvenient or uncomfortable, and adopted various picturesque substitutes, which filled more nearly the requirements of a barbarous life. Dodd had thrown away his cap, and tied a scarlet and yellow handkerchief around his head. Viushin had ornamented his hat with a long streamer of crimson ribbon, which floated gayly in the wind like a whip-pennant. A blue hunting-shirt and a red Turkish fez had superseded my uniform coat and cap. We all carried rifles slung across our backs, and revolvers belted around our waists, and were transformed generally into as fantastic brigands as ever sallied forth from the passes of the Apennines to levy blackmail upon unwary travellers. A timid tourist, meeting us as we galloped furiously across the plain toward Pushchin would have fallen on his knees and pulled out his purse without asking any unnecessary questions.

Being well mounted on fresh, spirited horses, the Major, Dodd, Viushin, and I rode far in advance of the rest of the party throughout the day. Late in the afternoon, as we were going at a slashing rate across the level plain known as the Kamchatkan tundra, [Footnote: A treeless expanse carpeted with moss and low berry-bushes.] the Major suddenly drew his horse violently back on his haunches, wheeled half round, and shouted, "Medveid! medveid!" and a large black bear rose silently out of the long grass at his very feet.

The excitement, I can conscientiously affirm, was terrific. Viushin unslung his double-barrelled fowling-piece, and proceeded to pepper him with duck-shot; Dodd tugged at his revolver with frantic energy while his horse ran away with him over the plain; the Major dropped his bridle, and implored me by all I held sacred not to shoot him, while the horses plunged, kicked, and snorted in the most animated manner. The only calm and self-possessed individual in the whole party was the bear! He surveyed the situation coolly for a few seconds, and then started at an awkward gallop for the woods. In an instant our party recovered its conjoint presence of mind, and charged with the most reckless heroism upon his flying footsteps, shouting frantically to "stop him!" popping away in the most determined and unterrified manner with four revolvers and a shotgun, and performing prodigies of valour in the endeavour to capture the ferocious beast, without getting in his way or coming nearer to him than a hundred yards. All was in vain. The bear vanished in the forest like a flying shadow; and, presuming from his known ferocity and vindictiveness that he had prepared an ambuscade for us in the woods, we deemed it the better part of valour to abandon the pursuit. Upon comparing notes, we found that we had all been similarly impressed with his enormous size, his shagginess, and his generally savage appearance, and had all been inspired at the same moment with an irresistible inclination to take him by the throat and rip him open with a bowie-knife, in a manner so beautifully illustrated by the old geographies. Nothing but the fractiousness of our horses and the rapidity of his flight had prevented this desirable consummation. The Major even declared positively that he had seen the bear a long time before, and only rode over him "to scare him up," and said almost in the words of the redoubtable Falstaff, "that if we would do him honour for it, so; if not, we might scare up the next bear ourselves." Looking at the matter calmly and dispassionately afterward, I thought it extremely probable that if another bear did not scare the Major up, he never would go out of his way to scare up another bear. We felt it to be our duty, however, to caution him against imperilling the success of our expedition by such reckless exploits in the way of scaring up wild beasts.

Long before we reached Pushchin it grew dark; but our tired horses freshened up after sunset, with the cool evening air, and about eight o'clock we heard the distant howling of dogs, which we had already come to associate with hot tea, rest, and sleep. In twenty minutes we were lying comfortably on our bearskins in a Kamchadal house.

We had made sixty miles since daybreak; but the road had been good. We were becoming more accustomed to horseback riding, and were by no means so tired as we had been at Malqua. Only thirty versts now intervened between us and the head-waters of the Kamchatka River, where we were to abandon our horses and float down two hundred and fifty miles on rafts or in native canoes.

A sharp trot of four hours over a level plain brought us on the following morning to Sherom (sheh-rome'), where rafts had already been prepared for our use.

It was with no little regret that I ended for the present my horseback travel. The life suited me in every respect, and I could not recall any previous journey which had ever afforded me more pure, healthful enjoyment, or seemed more like a delightful pleasure excursion than this. All Siberia, however, lay before us; and our regret at leaving scenes which we should never again revisit was relieved by anticipations of future adventures equally novel, and prospective scenery grander even than anything which we had yet witnessed.