After our unsuccessful attempt to pass the Samanka Mountains, there was nothing for us to do but wait patiently at Lesnoi until the rivers should freeze over, and snow fall to a depth which would enable us to continue our journey to Gizhiga on dog-sledges. It was a long, wearisome delay, and I felt for the first time, in its full force, the sensation of exile from home, country, and civilisation. The Major continued very ill, and would show the anxiety which he had felt about the success of our expedition by talking deliriously for hours of crossing the mountains, starting for Gizhiga in the whale-boat, and giving incoherent orders to Viushin, Dodd, and myself, about horses, dog-sledges, canoes, and provisions. The idea of getting to Gizhiga, before the beginning of winter, filled his mind, to the exclusion of everything else. His sickness made the time previous to Dodd's return seem very long and lonesome, as I had absolutely nothing to do except to sit in a little log room, with opaque fish-bladder windows, and pore over Shakespeare and my Bible, until I almost learned them by heart. In pleasant weather I would sling my rifle across my back and spend whole days in roaming over the mountains in pursuit of reindeer and foxes; but I rarely met with much success. One deer and a few arctic ptarmigan were my only trophies. At night I would sit on the transverse section of a log in our little kitchen, light a rude Kamchadal lamp, made with a fragment of moss and a tin cup full of seal oil, and listen for hours to the songs and guitar-playing of the Kamchadals, and to the wild stories of perilous mountain adventure which they delighted to relate. I learned during these Kamchatkan Nights' Entertainments many interesting particulars of Kamchadal life, customs, and peculiarities of which I had before known nothing; and, as I shall have no occasion hereafter to speak of this curious little-known people, I may as well give here what account I can of their language, music, amusements, superstitions, and mode of life.

The people themselves I have already described as a quiet, inoffensive, hospitable tribe of semi-barbarians, remarkable only for honesty, general amiability, and comical reverence for legally constituted authority. Such an idea as rebellion or resistance to oppression is wholly foreign to the Kamchadal character now, whatever it may have been in previous ages of independence. They will suffer and endure any amount of abuse and ill-treatment, without any apparent desire for revenge, and with the greatest good-nature and elasticity of spirit. They are as faithful and forgiving as a dog. If you treat them well, your slightest wish will be their law; and they will do their best in their rude way to show their appreciation of kindness, by anticipating and meeting even your unexpressed wants. During our stay at Lesnoi the Major chanced one day to inquire for some milk. The starosta did not tell him that there was not a cow in the village, but said that he would try to get some. A man was instantly despatched on horseback to the neighbouring settlement of Kinkil, and before night he returned with a champagne-bottle under his arm, and the Major had milk that evening in his tea. From this time until we started for Gizhiga - more than a month - a man rode twenty miles every day to bring us a bottle of fresh milk. This seemed to be done out of pure kindness of heart, without any desire or expectation of future reward; and it is a fair example of the manner in which we were generally treated by all the Kamchadals in the peninsula.

The settled natives of northern Kamchatka have generally two different residences, in which they live at different seasons of the year. These are respectively called the "zimovie" or winter settlement, and the "letovie" (let'-o-vye) or summer fishing-station, and are from one to five miles apart. In the former, which is generally situated under the shelter of timbered hills, several miles from the seacoast, they reside from September until June. The letovie is always built near the mouth of an adjacent river or stream, and consists of a few yurts or earth-covered huts, eight or ten conical balagans mounted on stilts, and a great number of wooden frames on which fish are hung to dry. To this fishing-station the inhabitants all remove early in June, leaving their winter settlement entirely deserted. Even the dogs and the crows abandon it for the more attractive surroundings and richer pickings of the summer balagans. Early in July the salmon enter the river in immense numbers from the sea, and are caught by the natives in gill-nets, baskets, seines, weirs, traps, and a dozen other ingenious contrivances - cut open, cleaned, and boned by the women, with the greatest skill and celerity, and hung in long rows upon horizontal poles to dry. A fish, with all the confidence of sea life, enters the river as a sailor comes ashore, intending to have a good time; but before he fairly knows what he is about, he is caught in a seine, dumped out upon the beach with a hundred more equally unsophisticated and equally unfortunate sufferers, split open with a big knife, his backbone removed, his head cut off, his internal arrangements scooped out, and his mutilated remains hung over a pole to simmer in a hot July sun. It is a pity that he cannot enjoy the melancholy satisfaction of seeing the skill and rapidity with which his body is prepared for a new and enlarged sphere of usefulness! He is no longer a fish. In this second stage of passive unconscious existence he assumes a new name, and is called a "yukala" (yoo'-kah-lah).

It is astonishing to see in what countless numbers and to what great distances these fish ascend the Siberian rivers. Dozens of small streams which we passed in the interior of Kamchatka, seventy miles from the seacoast, were so choked up with thousands of dying, dead, and decayed fish, that we could not use the water for any purpose whatever. Even in little mountain brooks, so narrow that a child could step across them, we saw salmon eighteen or twenty inches in length still working their way laboriously up stream, in water which was not deep enough to cover their bodies. We frequently waded in and threw them out by the dozen with our bare hands. They change greatly in appearance as they ascend a river. When they first come in from the sea their scales are bright and hard, and their flesh fat and richly coloured; but as they go higher and higher up stream; their scales lose their brilliancy and fall off, their flesh bleaches out until it is nearly white, and they become lean, dry, and tasteless. For this reason all the fishing-stations in Kamchatka are located, if possible, at or near the mouths of rivers. To the instinct which leads the salmon to ascend rivers for the purpose of depositing its spawn, is attributable the settlement of all north-eastern Siberia. If it were not for the abundance of fish, the whole country would be uninhabited and uninhabitable, except by the Reindeer Koraks. As soon as the fishing season is over, the Kamchadals store away their dried yukala in balagans and return to their winter quarters to prepare for the fall catch of sables. For nearly a month they spend all their time in the woods and mountains, making and setting traps. To make a sable-trap, a narrow perpendicular slot, fourteen inches by four in length and breadth, and five inches in depth, is cut in the trunk of a large tree, so that the bottom of the slot will be about at the height of a sable's head when he stands erect. The stem of another smaller tree is then trimmed, one of its ends raised to a height of three feet by a forked stick set in the ground, and the other bevelled off so as to slip up and down freely in the slot cut for its reception. This end is raised to the top of the slot and supported there by a simple figure-four catch, leaving a nearly square opening of about four inches below for the admission of the sable's head. The figure-four is then baited and the trap is ready. The sable rises upon his hind legs, puts his head into the hole, and the heavy log, set free by the dropping of the figure-four, falls and crushes the animal's skull, without injuring in the slightest degree the valuable parts of his skin. One native frequently makes and sets as many as a hundred of these traps in the fall, and visits them at short intervals throughout the winter. Not content, however, with this extensive and well organised system of trapping sables, the natives hunt them upon snow-shoes with trained dogs, drive them into holes which they surround with nets, and then, forcing them out with fire or axe, they kill them with clubs.

The number of sables caught in the Kamchatkan peninsula annually varies from six to nine thousand, all of which are exported to Russia and distributed from there over northern Europe. A large proportion of the whole number of Russian sables in the European market are caught by the natives of Kamchatka and transported by American merchants to Moscow. W.H. Bordman, of Boston, and an American house in China - known, I believe, as Russell &Co. - practically control the fur trade of Kamchatka and the Okhotsk seacoast. The price paid to the Kamchadals for an average sable skin in 1867 was nominally fifteen rubles silver, or about eleven dollars gold; but payment was made in tea, sugar, tobacco, and sundry other articles of merchandise, at the trader's own valuation, so that the natives actually realised only a little more than half the nominal price. Nearly all the inhabitants of central Kamchatka are engaged directly or indirectly during the winter in the sable trade and many of them have acquired by it a comfortable independence.

Fishing and sable-hunting, therefore, are the serious occupations of the Kamchadals throughout the year; but as these are indications of the nature of the country rather than of the characteristics of its inhabitants, they give only an imperfect idea of the distinctive peculiarities of Kamchadals and Kamchadal life. The language, music, amusements, and superstitions of a people are much more valuable as illustrations of their real character than are their regular occupations.

The Kamchadal language is to me one of the most curious of all the wild tongues of Asia; not on account of its construction, but simply from the strange, uncouth sounds with which it abounds, and its strangling, gurgling articulation. When rapidly spoken, it always reminded me of water running out of a narrow-mouthed jug! A Russian traveller in Kamchatka has said that "the Kamchadal language is spoken half in the mouth and half in the throat"; but it might be more accurately described as spoken half in the throat and half in the stomach. It has more guttural sounds than any other Asiatic language that I have ever heard, and differs considerably in this respect from the dialects of the Chukchis and Koraks. It is what comparative philologists call an agglutinative language, and seems to be made up of permanent unchangeable roots with variable prefixes. It has, so far as I could ascertain, no terminal inflections, and its grammar seemed to be simple and easily learned. Most of the Kamchadals throughout the northern part of the peninsula speak, in addition to their own language, Russian and Korak, so that, in their way, they are quite accomplished linguists.

It has always seemed to me that the songs of a people, and especially of a people who have composed them themselves, and not adopted them from others, are indicative to a very great degree of their character; whether, as some author supposed, the songs have a reflex influence on the character, or whether they exist simply as its exponents, the result is the same, viz., a greater or less correspondence between the two. In none of the Siberian tribes is this more marked than in the Kamchadals. They have evidently never been a warlike, combative people. They have no songs celebrating the heroic deeds of their ancestors, or their exploits in the chase or in battle, as have many tribes of our North American Indians. Their ballads are all of a melancholy, imaginative character, inspired apparently by grief, love, or domestic feeling, rather than by the ruder passions of pride, anger, and revenge. Their music all has a wild, strange sound to a foreign ear, but it conveys to the mind in some way a sense of sorrow, and vague, unavailing regret for something that has for ever passed away, like the emotion excited by a funeral dirge over the grave of a dear friend. As Ossian says of the music of Carryl, "it is like the memory of joys that are past - sweet, yet mournful to the soul." I remember particularly a song called the Penzhinski, sung one night by the natives at Lesnoi, which was, without exception, the sweetest, and yet the most inexpressibly mournful combination of notes that I had ever heard. It was a wail of a lost soul, despairing, yet pleading for mercy. I tried in vain to get a translation of the words. Whether it was the relation of some bloody and disastrous encounter with their fiercer northern neighbours, or the lament over the slain body of some dear son, brother, or husband, I could not learn; but the music alone will bring the tears near one's eyes, and has an indescribable effect upon the singers, whose excitable feelings it sometimes works up almost to the pitch of frenzy. The dancing tunes of the Kamchadals are of course entirely different in character, being generally very lively, and made up of energetic staccato passages, repeated many times in succession, without variation. Nearly all the natives accompany themselves upon a three-cornered guitar with two strings, called a ballalaika (bahl-lah-lai'-kah), and some of them play quite well upon rude home-made violins. All are passionately fond of music of every kind.

The only other amusements in which they indulge are dancing, playing football on the snow in winter, and racing with dog-teams.

The winter travel of the Kamchadals is accomplished entirely upon dog-sledges, and in no other pursuit of their lives do they spend more time or exhibit their native skill and ingenuity to better advantage. They may even be said to have made dogs for themselves in the first place, since the present Siberian animal is nothing more than a half-domesticated arctic wolf, and still retains all his wolfish instincts and peculiarities. There is probably no more hardy, enduring animal in the world. You may compel him to sleep out on the snow in a temperature of 70 deg. below zero, drive him with heavy loads until his feet crack open and stain the snow with blood, or starve him until he eats up his harness; but his strength and his spirit seem alike unconquerable. I have driven a team of nine dogs more than a hundred miles in a day and a night, and have frequently worked them hard for forty-eight hours without being able to give them a particle of food. In general they are fed once a day, their allowance being a single dried fish, weighing perhaps a pound and a half or two pounds. This is given to them at night, so that they begin another day's work with empty stomachs.

The sledge, or nart, to which they are harnessed is about ten feet in length and two in width, made of seasoned birch timber, and combines to a surprising degree the two most desirable qualities of strength and lightness. It is simply a skeleton framework, fastened together with lashings of dried sealskin, and mounted on broad, curved runners. No iron whatever is used in its construction, and it does not weigh more than twenty pounds; yet it will sustain a load of four or five hundred pounds, and endure the severest shocks of rough mountain travel. The number of dogs harnessed to this sledge varies from seven to fifteen, according to the nature of the country to be traversed and the weight of the load. Under favourable circumstances eleven dogs will make from forty to fifty miles a day with a man and a load of four hundred pounds. They are harnessed to the sledge in successive couples by a long central thong of sealskin, to which each individual dog is attached by a collar and a short trace. They are guided and controlled entirely by the voice and by a lead-dog who is especially trained for the purpose. The driver carries no whip, but has instead a stick about four feet in length and two inches in diameter, called anoerstel (oar'-stel). This is armed at one end with a long iron spike, and is used to check the speed of the sledge in descending hills, and to stop the dogs when they leave the road, as they frequently do in pursuit of reindeer and foxes. The spiked end is then thrust down in front of one of the knees or uprights of the runners, and drags in that position through the snow, the upper end being firmly held by the driver. It is a powerful lever, and when skilfully used brakes up a sledge very promptly and effectively.

The art of driving a dog-team is one of the most deceptive in the world. The traveller at first sight imagines that driving a dog-sledge is just as easy as driving a street-car, and at the very first favourable opportunity he tries it. After being run away with within the first ten minutes, capsized into a snow-drift, and his sledge dragged bottom upward a quarter of a mile from the road, the rash experimenter begins to suspect that the task is not quite so easy as he had supposed, and in less than one day he is generally convinced by hard experience that a dog-driver, like a poet, is born, not made.

The dress of the Kamchadals in winter and summer is made for the most part of skins. Their winter costume consists of sealskin boots or torbasses worn over heavy reindeerskin stockings and coming to the knee; fur trousers with the hair inside; a foxskin hood with a face border of wolverine skin; and a heavy kukhlanka (kookh-lan'-kah), or double fur overshirt, covering the body to the knees. This is made of the thickest and softest reindeerskin, ornamented around the bottom with silk embroidery, trimmed at the sleeves and neck with glossy beaver, and furnished with a square flap under the chin, to be held up over the nose, and a hood behind the neck, to be drawn over the head in bad weather. In such a costume as this the Kamchadals defy for weeks at a time the severest cold, and sleep out on the snow safely and comfortably in temperatures of twenty, thirty, and even forty degrees below zero, Fahr.

Most of our time during our long detention at Lesnoi was occupied in the preparation of such costumes for our own use, in making covered dog-sledges to protect ourselves from winter storms, sewing bearskins into capacious sleeping-bags, and getting ready generally for a hard winter's campaign.