To a person of an indolent disposition there is something particularly pleasant in floating in a boat down a river. One has all the advantages of variety, and change of incident and scenery, without any exertion; all the lazy pleasures - for such they must be called - of boat life, without any of the monotony which makes a long sea voyage so unendurable. I think it was Gray who said that his idea of paradise was "To lie on a sofa and read eternally new romances of Marivaux and Crebillon." Could the author of the "Elegy" have stretched himself out on the open deck of a Kamchadal boat, covered to a depth of six inches with fragrant flowers and freshly cut hay; could he have floated slowly down a broad, tranquil river through ranges of snow-clad mountains, past forests glowing with yellow and crimson, and vast steppes waving with tall, wild grass; could he have watched the full moon rise over the lonely, snowy peak of the Kluchefskoi (kloo'-chef-skoi') volcano, bridging the river with a narrow trail of quivering light, and have listened to the plash of the boatman's paddles, and the low melancholy song to which they kept time - he would have thrown Marivaux and Crebillon overboard, and have given a better example of the pleasures of paradise.

I know that I am laying myself open to the charge of exaggeration by thus praising Kamchatkan scenery, and that my enthusiasm will perhaps elicit a smile of amusement from the more experienced traveller who has seen Italy and the Alps; still, I am describing things as they appeared to me, and do not assert that the impressions they made were those that should or would have been made upon a man of more extensive experience and wider observation. To use the words of a Spanish writer, which I have somewhere read, "The man who has never seen the glory of the sun cannot be blamed for thinking that there is no glory like that of the moon; nor he who has never seen the moon, for talking of the unrivalled brightness of the morning star." Had I ever sailed down the Rhine, climbed the Matterhorn, or seen the moon rise over the Bay of Naples, I should have taken perhaps a juster and less enthusiastic view of Kamchatka; but, compared with anything that I had previously seen or imagined, the mountain landscapes of southern and central Kamchatka were superb.

At Sherom, thanks to the courier who had preceded us, we found a boat, or Kamchatkan raft, ready for our reception. It was composed of three large dugout canoes placed parallel to one another at distances of about three feet, and lashed with sealskin thongs to stout transverse poles. Over these was laid a floor or platform about ten feet by twelve, leaving room at the bow and stern of each canoe for men with paddles who were to guide and propel the unwieldy craft in some unknown, but, doubtless, satisfactory manner. On the platform, which was covered to a depth of six inches with freshly cut grass, we pitched our little cotton tent, and transformed it with bearskins, blankets, and pillows into a very cosy substitute for a stateroom. Rifles and revolvers were unstrapped from our tired bodies, and hung up against the tent poles; heavy riding boots were unceremoniously kicked off, and replaced by soft buckskin torbasses [Footnote: Moccasin boots.]; saddles were stored away in convenient nooks for future use; and all our things disposed with a view to the enjoyment of as much luxury as was compatible with our situation.

After a couple of hours' rest, during which our heavy baggage was transferred to another similar raft, we walked down to the sandy beach, bade good-bye to the crowd which had assembled to see us off, and swung slowly out into the current, the Kamchadals on the shore waving hats and handkerchiefs until a bend in the river hid them from sight. The scenery of the upper Kamchatka for the first twenty miles was comparatively tame and uninteresting, as the mountains were entirely concealed by a dense forest of pine, birch, and larch, which extended down to the water's edge. It was sufficient pleasure, however, at first, to lie back in the tent upon our soft bearskins, watching the brilliantly coloured and ever varying foliage of the banks, to sweep swiftly but silently around abrupt bends into long vistas of still water, startling the great Kamchatkan eagle from his lonely perch on some jutting rock, and frightening up clouds of clamorous waterfowl, which flew in long lines down the river until out of sight. The navigation of the upper Kamchatka is somewhat intricate and dangerous at night, on account of the rapidity of the current and the frequency of snags; and as soon as it grew dark our native boatmen considered it unsafe to go on. We accordingly beached our rafts and went ashore to wait for moonrise.

A little semicircle was cut in the thick underbrush at the edge of the beach, fires were built, kettles of potatoes and fish hung over to boil, and we all gathered around the cheerful blaze to smoke, talk, and sing American songs until supper time. The scene to civilised eyes was strangely wild and picturesque. The dark, lonely river gurgling mournfully around sunken trees in its channel; the dense primeval forest whispering softly to the passing wind its amazement at this invasion of its solitude; the huge flaming camp-fire throwing a red lurid glare over the still water, and lighting up weirdly the encircling woods; and the groups of strangely dressed men lounging carelessly about the blaze upon shaggy bearskins - all made up a picture worthy of the pencil of Rembrandt.

After supper we amused ourselves by building an immense bonfire of driftwood on the beach, and hurling blazing firebrands at the leaping salmon as they passed up the river, and the frightened ducks which had been roused from sleep by the unusual noise and light. When nothing remained of our bonfire but a heap of glowing embers, we spread our bearskins upon the soft, yielding sand by the water's edge, and lay staring up at the twinkling stars until consciousness faded away into dreams, and dreams into utter oblivion.

I was waked about midnight by the splashing of rain in my face and the sobbing of the rising wind in the tree-tops, and upon crawling out of my water-soaked blankets found that Dodd and the Major had brought the tent ashore, pitched it among the trees, and availed themselves of its shelter, but had treacherously left me exposed to a pelting rain-storm, as if it were a matter of no consequence whatever whether I slept in a tent or a mud-puddle! After mentally debating the question whether I had better go inside or revenge myself by pulling the tent down over their heads, I finally decided to escape from the rain first and seek revenge at some more propitious time. Hardly had I fallen asleep again when "spat" came the wet canvas across my face, accompanied by a shout of "Get up! it is time to start"; and crawling out from under the fallen tent I walked sullenly down to the raft, revolving in my mind various ingenious schemes for getting even with the Major and Dodd, who had first left me out in the rain, and then waked me up in the middle of the night by pulling a wet tent down over my head. It was one o'clock in the morning - dark, rainy, and dismal - but the moon was supposed to have risen, and our Kamchadal boatmen said that it was light enough to start. I didn't believe that it was, but my sleepily expressed opinions had no weight with the Major, and my protests were utterly ignored. Hoping in the bitterness of my heart that we should run against a snag, I lay down sullenly in the rain on the wet soaking grass of our raft, and tried to forget my misery in sleep. On account of the contrary wind we could not put up our tent, and were obliged to cover ourselves as best we could with oilcloth blankets and shiver away the remainder of the night.

About an hour after daylight we approached the Kamchadal settlement of Milkova (mil'-ko-vah), the largest native village in the peninsula. The rain had ceased, and the clouds were beginning to break away, but the air was still cold and raw. A courier, who had been sent down in a canoe from Sherom on the previous day, had notified the inhabitants of our near approach, and the signal gun which we fired as we came round the last bend of the river brought nearly the whole population running helter-skelter to the beach. Our reception was "a perfect ovation." The "city fathers," as Dodd styled them, to the number of twenty, gathered in a body at the landing and began bowing, taking off their hats, and shouting "Zdrastvuitie?" [Footnote: How do you do?] while we were yet fifty yards from the shore; a salute was fired from a dozen rusty flint-lock muskets, to the imminent hazard of our lives; and a dozen natives waded into the water to assist us in getting safely landed. The village stood a short distance back from the river's bank, and the natives had provided for our transportation thither four of the worst-looking horses that I had seen in Kamchatka. Their equipments consisted of wooden saddles, modelled after the gables of an angular house; stirrups about twelve inches in length, patched up from discarded remnants of sealskin thongs; cruppers of bearskin, and halters of walrus hide twisted around the animals' noses. The excitement which prevailed when we proceeded to mount was unparalleled I believe in the annals of that quiet settlement. I don't know how the Major succeeded in getting upon his horse, but I do know that a dozen long-haired Kamchadals seized Dodd and me, regardless of our remonstrances, hauled us this way and that until the struggle to get hold of some part of our unfortunate persons resembled the fight over the dead body of Patroclus, and finally hoisted us triumphantly into our saddles in a breathless and exhausted condition. One more such hospitable reception would forever have incapacitated us for the service of the Russian American Telegraph Company! I had only time to cast a hurried glance back at the Major. He looked like a frightened landsman straddling the end of a studdingsail-boom run out to leeward on a fast clipper, and his face was screwed up into an expression of mingled pain, amusement, and astonishment, which evidently did not begin to do justice to his conflicting emotions. I had no opportunity of expressing my sympathetic participation in his sufferings; for an excited native seized the halter of my horse, three more with reverently bared heads fell in on each side, and I was led away in triumph to some unknown destination! The inexpressible absurdity of our appearance did not strike me with its full force until I looked behind me just before we reached the village. There were the Major, Viushin, and Dodd, perched upon gaunt Kamchadal horses, with their knees and chins on nearly the same level, half a dozen natives in eccentric costumes straggling along by their sides at a dog-trot, and a large procession of bareheaded men and boys solemnly bringing up the rear, punching the horses with sharp sticks into a temporary manifestation of life and spirit. It reminded me faintly of a Roman triumph - the Major, Dodd, and I being the victorious heroes, and the Kamchadals the captives, whom we had compelled to go sub jugum, and who now graced our triumphal entry into the Seven-hilled City. I mentioned this fancy of mine to Dodd, but he declared that one would have had to do violence to his imagination to make "victorious heroes" out of us on that occasion, and suggested "heroic victims" as equally poetical and more in accordance with the facts. His severely practical mind objected to any such fanciful idealisation of our misery. The excitement increased rather than diminished as we entered the village. Our motley escort gesticulated, ran to and fro, and shouted unintelligible orders in the most frantic manner; heads appeared and disappeared with startling kaleidoscopic abruptness at the windows of the houses; and three hundred dogs contributed to the general confusion by breaking out into an infernal canine peace jubilee which fairly made the air quiver with sound. At last we stopped in front of a large one-story log house, and were assisted by twelve or fifteen natives to dismount and enter. As soon as Dodd could collect his confused faculties he demanded: "What in the name of all the Russian saints is the matter with this settlement; is everybody insane?" Viushin was ordered to send for the starosta, or head man of the village, and in a few moments he made his appearance, bowing with the impressive persistency of a Chinese mandarin.

A prolonged colloquy then took place in Russian between the Major and the starosta, broken by explanatory commentaries in the Kamchadal language, which did not tend materially to elucidate the subject. An evident and increasing disposition to smile gradually softened the stern lines of the Major's face, until at last he burst into a laugh of such infectious hilarity that, notwithstanding my ignorance of the nature of the fun, I joined in with hearty sympathy. As soon as he partially recovered his composure he gasped out, "The natives took you for the Emperor!" - and then he went off in another spasm of merriment which threatened to terminate either in suffocation or apoplexy. Lost in bewilderment I could only smile feebly until he recovered sufficiently to give me a more intelligible explanation of his mirth. It appeared that the courier who had been sent from Petropavlovsk to apprise the natives throughout the peninsula of our coming, had carried a letter from the Russian governor giving the names and occupations of the members of our party, and that mine had been put down as "Yagor Kennan, Telegraphist and Operator." It so happened that the starosta of Milkova possessed the rare accomplishment of knowing how to read Russian writing, and the letter had been handed over to him to be communicated to the inhabitants of the village. He had puzzled over the unknown word "telegraphist" until his mind was in a hopeless state of bewilderment, but had not been able to give even the wildest conjecture as to its probable meaning. " Operator," however, had a more familiar sound; it was not spelled exactly in the way to which he had been accustomed, but it was evidently intended for "Imperator," the Emperor! - and with his heart throbbing with the excitement of this startling discovery and his hair standing on end from the arduous nature of his exegetical labours, he rushed furiously out to spread the news that the Tsar of all the Russias was on a visit to Kamchatka and would pass through Milkova in the course of three days! The excitement which this alarming announcement created can better be imagined than described. The all-absorbing topic of conversation was, how could Milkova best show its loyalty and admiration for the Head of the Imperial Family, the Right Arm of the Holy Orthodox Church, and the Mighty Monarch of seventy millions of devoted souls? Kamchadal ingenuity gave it up in despair! What could a poor Kamchatkan village do for the entertainment of its august master? When the first excitement passed away, the starosta was questioned closely as to the nature of the letter which had brought this news, and was finally compelled to admit that it did not say distinctly, "Alexander Nikolaivitch, Imperator," but "Yagor" something "Operator," which he contended was substantially the same thing, because if it didn't mean the Emperor himself it meant one of his most intimate relations, who was entitled to equal honour and must be treated with equal reverence. The courier had already gone, and had said nothing about the rank of the travellers whom he heralded, except that they had arrived at Petropavlovsk in a ship, wore gorgeous uniforms of blue and gold, and were being entertained by the governor and the captain of the port. Public opinion finally settled down into the conviction that "Op-erator", etymologically considered, was first cousin to "Im-perator," and that it must mean some dignitary of high rank connected with the imperial family. With this impression they had received us when we arrived, and had, poor fellows, done their very best to show us proper honour and respect. It had been a severe ordeal to us, but it had proved in the most unmistakable manner the loyalty of the Kamchadal inhabitants of Milkova to the reigning family of Russia.

The Major explained to the starosta our real rank and occupation, but it did not seem to make any difference whatever in the cordial hospitality of our reception. We were treated to the very best that the village afforded, and were stared at with a curiosity which showed that travellers through Milkova had hitherto been few and far between. After eating bread and reindeer meat and tasting experimentally various curiously compounded native dishes, we returned in state to the landing-place, accompanied by another procession, received a salute of fifteen guns, and resumed our voyage down the river.