At Irkutsk, we plunged suddenly from a semi-barbaric environment into an environment of high civilisation and culture; and our attempts to adjust ourselves to the new and unfamiliar conditions were attended, at first, with not a little embarrassment and discomfort. As we were among the first Americans who had been seen in that Far Eastern capital, and were officers, moreover, of a company with which the Russian Government itself had been in partnership, we were not only treated with distinguished consideration, but were welcomed everywhere with warm-hearted kindness and hospitality; and we found it necessary at once to exchange calls with high officials; accept invitations to dinner; share the box of the Governor-General's chief of staff at the theatre, and go to the weekly ball of the "noble-born" in the hall of the "Blagorodnaya Sobrania," (Assembly of Nobles). The first difficulty that we encountered, of course, was the lack of suitable clothing. After two and a half years of campaigning in an arctic wilderness, we had no raiment left that was fit to wear in such a city as Irkutsk, and - worse than that - we had little money with which to purchase a new supply. The two hundred and fifty dollars with which we left Okhotsk had gradually dribbled away in the defrayment of necessary expenses along the road, and we had barely enough left to pay for a week's stay at the hotel. In this emergency we fell back upon our telegraph-company uniforms. They had been soaked in the Lena, frozen into masses of ice, and stretched all out of shape in the process of wringing and drying at Krestofskaya; but we got an Irkutsk tailor to press them and polish up the tarnished gilt buttons, and after spending most of the money we had left in the purchase of new fur overcoats to replace the dirty, travel-worn kukhlankas in which we had arrived, we got ourselves up in presentable form to call on the Governor-General.

The severest ordeal through which we had to pass, however, was the dance at the hall of the Blagorodnaya Sobrania to which we were escorted by General Kukel (koo'-kel), the Governor-General's chief of staff. The spacious and brilliantly lighted apartment, draped with flags and decorated with evergreens; the polished dancing-floor; the crash and blare of the music furnished by a military band; the beautiful women in rich evening toilettes; and the throng of handsome young officers in showy and diversified uniforms, simply overwhelmed us with feelings of mingled excitement and embarrassment. I felt, myself, like a uniformed Eskimo at a Charity Ball, and should have been glad to skulk in a corner behind the band! All I wanted was an opportunity to watch, unobserved, the brilliant picture of colour and motion, and to feel the thrill of the music as the band swept, with wonderful dash, swing, and precision, through the measures of a spirited Polish mazurka. General Kukel, however, had other views for us, and not only took us about the hall, introducing us to more beautiful women than we had seen, we thought, in the whole course of our previous existence, but said to every lady, as he presented us: "Mr. Kennan and Mr. Price, you know, speak Russian perfectly." Price, with discretion beyond his years, promptly disclaimed the imputed accomplishment; but I was rash enough to admit that I did have some knowledge of the language in question, and was forthwith drawn into a stream of rapid Russian talk by a young woman with sympathetic face and sparkling eyes, who encouraged me to describe dog-sledge travel in north-eastern Asia and the vicissitudes of tent life with the Wandering Koraks. On this conversational ground I felt perfectly at home; and I was succeeding, as I thought, admirably, when the girl suddenly blushed, looked a trifle shocked, and then bit her lip in a manifest effort to restrain a smile of amusement not warranted by anything in the life that I was trying to describe. She was soon afterward carried away by a young Cossack officer who asked her to dance, and I was promptly engaged in conversation by another lady, who also wanted "to hear an American talk Russian." My self-confidence had been a little shaken by the blush and the amused smile of my previous auditor, but I rallied my intellectual forces, took a firm grip of my Russian vocabulary, and, as Price would say, "sailed in." But I soon struck another snag. This young woman, too, began to show symptoms of shock, which, in her case, took the form of amazement. I was absolutely sure that there was nothing in the subject-matter of my remarks to bring a blush to the cheek of innocence, or give a shock to the virgin mind of feminine youth, and yet it was perfectly evident that there was something wrong. As soon as I could make my escape, I went to General Kukel and said: "Will you please tell me, Your Excellency, what's the matter with my Russian?"

"What makes you think there's anything the matter with it?" he replied evasively, but with a twinkle of amusement in his eyes.

"It doesn't seem to go very well," I said, "in conversation with women. They appear to understand it all right, but it gives them a shock. Is my pronunciation so horribly bad?"

"You speak Russian," he said, "with quite extraordinary fluency, and with a-a-really interesting and engaging accent; but - excuse me please - shall I be entirely frank? You see you have learned the language, under many disadvantages, among the Koraks, Cossacks, and Chukchis of Kamchatka and the Okhotsk Sea coast, and - quite innocently and naturally of course - you have picked up a few words and expressions that are not - well, not - "

"Not used in polite society," I suggested.

"Hardly so much as that," he replied deprecatingly. "They're a little queer, that 's all - quaint - bizarre - but it's nothing! nothing at all! All you need is a little study of good models - books, you know - and a few months of city life."

"That settles it!" I said. "I talk no more Russian to ladies in Irkutsk."

When, upon my arrival in St. Petersburg, I had an opportunity to study the language in books, and to hear it spoken by educated people, I found that the Russian I had picked up by Kamchatkan camp-fires and in Cossack izbas on the coast of the Okhotsk Sea resembled, in many respects, the English that a Russian would acquire in a Colorado mining camp, or among the cowboys in Montana. It was fluent, but, as General Kukel said, "quaint - bizarre," and, at times, exceedingly profane.

I was not the only person in Irkutsk, however, whose vocabulary was peculiar and whose diction was "quaint" and "bizarre." A day or two after the ball of the Blagorodnaya Sobrania we received a call from a young Russian telegraph operator who had heard of our arrival and who wished to pay his respects to us as brother telegraphers from America. I greeted him cordially in Russian; but he began, at once, to speak English, and said that he would prefer to speak that language, for the sake of practice. His pronunciation, although queer, was fairly intelligible, and I had little difficulty in understanding him; but his talk had a strange, mediaeval flavour, due, apparently, to the use of obsolete idioms and words. In the course of half an hour, I became satisfied that he was talking the English of the fifteenth century - the English of Shakespeare, Beaumont, and Fletcher - but how he had learned such English, in the nineteenth century and in the capital of eastern Siberia, I could not imagine. I finally asked him how he had managed to get such command of the language in a city where, so far as I knew, there was no English teacher. He replied that the Russian Government required of its telegraph operators a knowledge of Russian and French, and then added two hundred and fifty rubles a year to their salaries for every additional language that they learned. He wanted the two hundred and fifty rubles, so he began the study of English with a small English-French dictionary and an old copy of Shakespeare. He got some help in acquiring the pronunciation from educated Polish exiles, and from foreigners whom he occasionally met, but, in the main, he had learned the language alone, and by committing to memory dialogues from Shakespeare's plays. I described to him my recent experience with Russian, and told him that his method was, unquestionably, better than mine. He had learned English from the greatest master of the language that ever lived; while I had picked up my Russian from Cossack dog-drivers and illiterate Kamchadals. He could talk to young women in the eloquent and impassioned words of Romeo, while my language was fit for backwoodsmen only.

At the end of our first week in Irkutsk, we were ready to resume our journey; but we had no money with which to pay our hotel bill, still less our travelling expenses. I had telegraphed to Major Abaza repeatedly for funds, but had received no reply, and I was finally compelled to go, in humiliation of spirit, to Governor General Shelashnikoff, and borrow five hundred rubles.

On the 13th of December, we were again posting furiously along the Great Siberian Road, past caravans, of tea from Hankow; detachments of Cossacks convoying gold from the placers of the Lena; parties of hard-labour convicts on their way to the mines of the trans-Baikal; and hundreds of sleighs loaded with the products or manufactures of Russia, Siberia, and the Far East.

For the first thousand miles, our progress was retarded and our rest greatly broken - particularly at night - by tea caravans. With the establishment of the winter road, in November, hundreds of low, one-horse sledges, loaded with hide-bound boxes of tea that had come across the desert of Gobi from Peking, left Irkutsk, every day, for Nizhni Novgorod. They moved in solid caravans, a quarter of a mile to a mile in length, and in every such caravan there were from fifty to two hundred sledges. As the tea-horses went at a slow, plodding walk, their drivers were required, by law, to turn out for private travellers and give the latter the road; but they seldom did anything of the kind. There were only twelve or fifteen of them to a caravan of a hundred sledges; and as they usually curled up on their loads at night and went fast asleep, it was practically impossible to arouse them and get the caravan out of the middle of the road. In order to pass, therefore, we ourselves had to turn out and drive three quarters of a mile, or possibly a mile, through the deep soft snow on one side of the beaten track. This so exasperated our driver that he would give every horse and every sleeping teamster in the whole caravan a slashing cut with his long rawhide whip, shouting, in almost untranslatable Russian, "Wake up!" (Whack.) "Get a move on you!" (Whack.) "What are you doing in the middle of the road there?" (Whack.) "Akh! You ungodly Tartar pagans!" (Whack.) "GO TO SLEEP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, WILL YOU?" (Whack, whack.) Meanwhile, the strongly braced outrigger of our pavoska, on the caravan side, would strike every one of the tea-sledges, as we passed, and the long series of violent shocks, combined with the rolling and pitching of our vehicle, as it wallowed through the deep snow, would be enough to awaken a man from anything except the last sleep of death. Usually, we were aroused by our driver's preliminary shouts when we first came in sight of a caravan; but sometimes we were in such a stupor of sleep that we did not awake until the outrigger collided with the first load of tea and brought us suddenly to consciousness with a half-dazed impression that we had been struck by lightning, or hit by a falling tree. If we had had to undergo this experience only once or twice in the course of the night, it would not have been so bad; but we sometimes passed half a dozen caravans between sunset and dawn; threw every one of them into disorder and confusion with outrigger and whip; and left behind us a wake of Russian and Tartar profanity almost fiery enough to be luminous in the dark. Shortly after leaving Tomsk, however, we passed the vanguard of these tea caravans and saw them no more.

The road in western Siberia was hard and smooth, and the horses were so good that we made very rapid progress with comparatively little discomfort. We stopped only twice a day for meals, and every night found us 175 or 200 miles nearer our destination than we had been the night before. We succeeded in getting across the Urals before the end of the year, and on the 7th of January, after twenty-five days of almost incessant night-and-day travel, we drew up before a hotel in the city of Nizhni Novgorod, which, at that time, was the eastern terminus of the Russian railway system. We sold our sleigh, fur bag, pillows, tea-equipment, and the provisions we had left, for what they would bring - a beggarly sum; took a train the same day for St. Petersburg; and reached the Russian capital on the 9th of January, eleven weeks from the Okhotsk Sea by way of Yakutsk, Irkutsk, Tomsk, Tiumen, Ekaterineburg, and Nizhni Novgorod. In the eleven weeks we had changed dogs, reindeer, or horses more than two hundred and sixty times and had made a distance of five thousand seven hundred and fourteen miles, nearly all of it in a single sleigh.