About the 20th of October a Russian physician arrived from Tigil, and proceeded to reduce the little strength that the Major had by steaming, bleeding, and blistering him into a mere shadow of his former robust self. The fever, however, abated under this energetic treatment, and he began gradually to amend. Sometime during the same week, Dodd and Meranef returned from Tigil with a new supply of tea, sugar, rum, tobacco, and hardbread, and we began collecting dogs from the neighbouring settlements of Kinkil and Polan for another trip across the Samanka Mountains. Snow had fallen everywhere to a depth of two feet, the weather had turned clear and cold, and there was nothing except the Major's illness to detain us longer at Lesnoi. On the 28th he declared himself able to travel, and we packed up for a start. On November 1st we put on our heavy fur clothes, which turned us into wild animals of most ferocious appearance, bade good-by to all the hospitable people of Lesnoi, and set out with a train of sixteen sledges, eighteen men, two hundred dogs, and forty days' provisions, for the territory of the Wandering Koraks. We determined to reach Gizhiga this time, or, as the newspapers say, perish in the attempt.

Late in the afternoon of November 3d, just as the long northern twilight was fading into the peculiar steely blue of an arctic night, our dogs toiled slowly up the last summit of the Samanka Mountains, and we looked down from a height of more than two thousand feet upon the dreary expanse of snow which stretched away to the far horizon. It was the land of the Wandering Koraks. A cold breeze from the sea swept across the mountain-top, soughing mournfully through the pines as it passed, and intensifying the loneliness and silence of the white wintry landscape. The faint pale light of the vanishing sun still lingered upon the higher peaks; but the gloomy ravines below us, shaggy with forests of larch and dense thickets of trailing-pine, were already gathering the shadows and indistinctness of night. At the foot of the mountains stood the first encampment of Koraks. As we rested our dogs a few moments upon the summit, before commencing our descent, we tried to discern through the gathering gloom the black tents which we imagined stood somewhere beneath our feet; but nothing save the dark patches of trailing-pine broke the dead white of the level steppe. The encampment was hidden by a projecting shoulder of the mountain.

The rising moon was just throwing into dark, bold relief the shaggy outlines of the peaks on our right, as we roused up our dogs and plunged into the throat of a dark ravine which led downward to the steppe. The deceptive shadows of night, and the masses of rock which choked up the narrow defile made the descent extremely dangerous; and it required all the skill of our practised drivers to avoid accident. Clouds of snow flew from the spiked poles with which they vainly tried to arrest our downward rush; cries and warning shouts from those in advance, multiplied by the mountain echoes, excited our dogs to still greater speed, until we seemed, as the rocks and trees flew past, to be in the jaws of a falling avalanche, which was carrying us with breathless rapidity down the dark canon to certain ruin. Gradually, however, our speed slackened, and we came out into the moonlight on the hard, wind-packed snow of the open steppe. Half an hour's brisk travel brought us into the supposed vicinity of the Korak encampment, but we saw as yet no signs of either reindeer or tents. The disturbed, torn-up condition of the snow usually apprises the traveller of his approach to the yurts of the Koraks, as the reindeer belonging to the band range all over the country within a radius of several miles, and paw up the snow in search of the moss which constitutes their food. Failing to find any such indications, we were discussing the probability of our having been misdirected, when suddenly our leading dogs pricked up their sharp ears, snuffed eagerly at the wind, and with short, excited yelps made off at a dashing gallop toward a low hill which lay almost at right angles with our previous course. The drivers endeavoured in vain to check the speed of the excited dogs; their wolfish instincts were aroused, and all discipline was forgotten as the fresh scent came down upon the wind from the herd of reindeer beyond. A moment brought us to the brow of the hill, and before us in the clear moonlight, stood the conical tents of the Koraks, surrounded by at least four thousand reindeer, whose branching antlers looked like a perfect forest of dry limbs. The dogs all gave voice simultaneously, like a pack of foxhounds in view of the game, and dashed tumultuously down the hill, regardless of the shouts of their masters, and the menacing cries of three or four dark forms which rose suddenly up from the snow between them and the frightened deer. Above the tumult I could hear Dodd's voice, hurling imprecations in Russian at his yelping dogs, which, in spite of his most strenuous efforts, were dragging him and his capsized sledge across the steppe. The vast body of deer wavered a moment and then broke into a wild stampede, with drivers, Korak sentinels, and two hundred dogs in full pursuit.

Not desirous of becoming involved in the melee, I sprang from my sledge and watched the confused crowd as it swept with shout, bark, and halloo, across the plain. The whole encampment, which had seemed in its quiet loneliness to be deserted, was now startled into instant activity. Dark forms issued suddenly from the tents, and grasping the long spears which stood upright in the snow by the doorway, joined in the chase, shouting and hurling lassos of walrus hide at the dogs, with the hope of stopping their pursuit. The clattering of thousands of antlers dashed together in the confusion of flight, the hurried beat of countless hoofs upon the hard snow, the deep, hoarse barks of the startled deer, and the unintelligible cries of the Koraks, as they tried to rally their panic-stricken herd, created a Pandemonium of discordant sounds which could be heard far and wide through the still, frosty atmosphere of night. It resembled a midnight attack of Comanches upon a hostile camp, rather than the peaceful arrival of three or four American travellers; and I listened with astonishment to the wild uproar of alarm which we had unintentionally aroused.

The tumult grew fainter and fainter as it swept away into the distance, and the dogs, exhausting the unnatural strength which the excitement had temporarily given them, yielded reluctantly to the control of their drivers and turned toward the tents. Dodd's dogs, panting with the violence of their exertions, limped sullenly back, casting longing glances occasionally in the direction of the deer, as if they more than half repented the weakness which had led them to abandon the chase.

"Why didn't you stop them?" I inquired of Dodd, laughingly. "A driver of your experience ought to have better control of his team than that."

"Stop them!" he exclaimed with an aggrieved air. "I'd like to see you stop them, with a rawhide lasso round your neck, and a big Korak hauling like a steam windlass on the other end of it! It's all very well to cry 'stop 'em'; but when the barbarians haul you off the rear end of your sledge as if you were a wild animal, what course would your sublime wisdom suggest? I believe I've got the mark of a lasso round my neck now," and he felt cautiously about his ears for the impression of a sealskin thong.

As soon as the deer had been gathered together again and a guard placed over them, the Koraks crowded curiously around the visitors who had entered so unceremoniously their quiet camp, and inquired through Meranef, our interpreter, who we were and what we wanted. A wild, picturesque group they made, as the moonlight streamed white and clear into their swarthy faces, and glittered upon the metallic ornaments about their persons and the polished blades of their long spears. Their high cheek-bones, bold, alert eyes, and straight, coal-black hair, suggested an intimate relationship with our own Indians; but the resemblance went no further. Most of their faces wore an expression of bold, frank honesty, which is not a characteristic of our western aborigines, and which we instinctively accepted as a sufficient guarantee of their friendliness and good faith. Contrary to our preconceived idea of northern savages, they were athletic, able-bodied men, fully up to the average height of Americans. Heavy kukh-lankas(kookh-lan'-kas), or hunting-shirts of spotted deerskin, confined about the waist with a belt, and fringed round the bottom with the long black hair of the wolverine, covered their bodies from the neck to the knee, ornamented here and there with strings of small coloured beads, tassels of scarlet leather, and bits of polished metal. Fur trousers, long boots of sealskin coming up to the thigh, and wolfskin hoods, with the ears of the animal standing erect on each side of the head, completed the costume which, notwithstanding its bizarre effect, had yet a certain picturesque adaptation to the equally strange features of the moonlight scene. Leaving our Cossack Meranef, seconded by the Major, to explain our business and wants, Dodd and I strolled away to make a critical inspection of the encampment. It consisted of four large conical tents, built apparently of a framework of poles and covered with loose reindeerskins, confined in their places by long thongs of seal or walrus hide, which were stretched tightly over them from the apex of the cone to the ground. They seemed at first sight to be illy calculated to withstand the storms which in winter sweep down across this steppe from the Arctic Ocean; but subsequent experience proved that the severest gales cannot tear them from their fastenings. Neatly constructed sledges of various shapes and sizes were scattered here and there upon the snow, and two or three hundred pack-saddles for the reindeer were piled up in a symmetrical wall near the largest tent. Finishing our examination, and feeling somewhat bored by the society of fifteen or twenty Koraks who had constituted themselves a sort of supervisory committee to watch our motions, we returned to the spot where the representatives of civilisation and barbarism were conducting their negotiations. They had apparently come to an amicable understanding; for, upon our approach, a tall native with shaven head stepped out from the throng, and leading the way to the largest tent, lifted a curtain of skin and revealed a dark hole about two feet and a half in diameter, which he motioned to us to enter.

Now, if there was any branch of Viushin's Siberian education upon which he especially prided himself, it was his proficiency in crawling into small holes. Persevering practice had given him a flexibility of back and a peculiar sinuosity of movement which we might admire but could not imitate; and although the distinction was not perhaps an altogether desirable one, he was invariably selected to explore all the dark holes and underground passages (miscalled doors) which came in our way. This seemed to be one of the most peculiar of the many different styles of entrance which we had observed; but Viushin, assuming as an axiom that no part of his body could be greater than the (w)hole, dropped into a horizontal position, and requesting Dodd to give his feet an initial shove, crawled cautiously in. A few seconds of breathless silence succeeded his disappearance, when, supposing that all must be right, I put my head into the hole and crawled warily after him. The darkness was profound; but, guided by Viushin's breathing, I was making very fair progress, when suddenly a savage snarl and a startling yell came out of the gloom in front, followed instantly by the most substantial part of Viushin's body, which struck me with the force of a battering-ram on the top of the head, and caused me, with the liveliest apprehensions of ambuscade and massacre, to back precipitately out. Viushin, with the awkward retrograde movements of a disabled crab, speedily followed.

"What in the name of Chort [Footnote: The Devil.] is the matter?" demanded Dodd in Russian, as he extricated Viushin's head from the folds of the skin curtain in which it had become enveloped. "You back out as if Shaitan and all his imps were after you!" - "You don't suppose," responded Viushin, with excited gestures, "that I'm going to stay in that hole and be eaten up by Korak dogs? If I was foolish enough to go in, I've got discretion enough to know when to come out. I don't believe the hole leads anywhere, anyhow," he added apologetically; "and it's all full of dogs." With a quick perception of Viushin's difficulties and a grin of amusement at his discomfiture, our Korak guide entered the hole, drove out the dogs, and lifting up an inner curtain, allowed the red light of the fire to stream through. Crawling on hands and knees a distance of twelve or fifteen feet through the low doorway, we entered the large open circle in the interior of the tent. A crackling fire of resinous pine boughs burned brightly upon the ground in the centre, illuminating redly the framework of black, glossy poles, and flickering fitfully over the dingy skins of the roof and the swarthy tattooed faces of the women who squatted around. A large copper kettle, filled with some mixture of questionable odour and appearance, hung over the blaze, and furnished occupation to a couple of skinny, bare-armed women, who with the same sticks were alternately stirring its contents, poking up the fire, and knocking over the head two or three ill-conditioned but inquisitive dogs. The smoke, which rose lazily from the fire, hung in a blue, clearly defined cloud about five feet from the ground, dividing the atmosphere of the tent into a lower stratum of comparatively clear air, and an upper cloud region where smoke, vapours, and ill odours contended for supremacy.

The location of the little pure air which the yurt afforded made the boyish feat of standing upon one's head a very desirable accomplishment; and as the pungent smoke filled my eyes to the exclusion of everything else except tears, I suggested to Dodd that he reverse the respective positions of his head and feet, and try it - he would escape the smoke and sparks from the fire, and at the same time obtain a new and curious optical effect. With the sneer of contempt which always met even my most valuable suggestions, he replied that I might try my own experiments, and throwing himself down at full length on the ground, he engaged in the interesting diversion of making faces at a Korak baby. Viushin's time, as soon as his eyes recovered a little from the effects of the smoke, was about equally divided between preparations for our evening meal, and revengeful blows at the stray dogs which ventured in his vicinity; while the Major, who was probably the most usefully employed member of the party, negotiated for the exclusive possession of a polog. The temperature of a Korak tent in winter seldom ranges above 20 deg. or 25 deg. Fahr., and as constant exposure to such a degree of cold would be at least very disagreeable, the Koraks construct around the inner circumference of the tent small, nearly air-tight apartments called pologs, which are separated one from another by skin curtains, and combine the advantages of exclusiveness with the desirable luxury of greater warmth. These pologs are about four feet in height, and six or eight feet in width and length. They are made of the heaviest furs sewn carefully together to exclude the air, and are warmed and lighted by a burning fragment of moss floating in a wooden bowl of seal oil. The law of compensation, however, which pervades all Nature, makes itself felt even in the pologs of a Korak yurt, and for the greater degree of warmth is exacted the penalty of a closer, smokier atmosphere. The flaming wick of the lamp, which floats like a tiny burning ship in a miniature lake of rancid grease, absorbs the vital air of the polog, and returns it in the shape of carbonic acid gas, oily smoke, and sickening odours. In defiance, however, of all the known laws of hygiene, this vitiated atmosphere seems to be healthful; or, to state the case negatively, there is no evidence to prove its unhealthfulness. The Korak women, who spend almost the whole of their time in these pologs, live generally to an advanced age, and except a noticeable tendency to angular outlines, and skinniness, there is nothing to distinguish them physically from the old women of other countries. It was not without what I supposed to be a well-founded apprehension of suffocation, that I slept for the first time in a Korak yurt; but my uneasiness proved to be entirely groundless, and gradually wore away.

With a view to escape from the crowd of Koraks, who squatted around us on the earthen floor, and whose watchful curiosity soon became irksome, Dodd and I lifted up the fur curtain of the polog which the Major's diplomacy had secured, and crawled in to await the advent of supper. The inquisitive Koraks, unable to find room in the narrow polog for the whole of their bodies, lay down to the number of nine on the outside, and poking their ugly, half-shaven heads under the curtain, resumed their silent supervision. The appearance in a row of nine disembodied heads, whose staring eyes rolled with synchronous motion from side to side as we moved, was so ludicrous that we involuntarily burst into laughter. A responsive smile instantly appeared upon each of the nine swarthy faces, whose simultaneous concurrence in the expression of every emotion suggested the idea of some huge monster with nine heads and but one consciousness. Acting upon Dodd's suggestion that we try and smoke them out, I took my brier-wood pipe from my pocket and proceeded to light it with one of those peculiar snapping lucifers which were among our most cherished relics of civilisation. As the match, with a miniature fusillade of sharp reports, burst suddenly into flame, the nine startled heads instantly disappeared, and from beyond the curtain we could hear a chorus of long-drawn "tye-e-e's" from the astonished natives, followed by a perfect Babel of animated comments upon this diabolical method of producing fire. Fearful, however, of losing some other equally striking manifestation of the white men's supernatural power, the heads soon returned, reenforced by several others which the report of the wonderful occurrence had attracted. The fabled watchfulness of the hundred-eyed Argus was nothing compared with the scrutiny to which we were now subjected. Every wreath of curling smoke which rose from our lips was watched by the staring eyes as intently as if it were some deadly vapour from the bottomless pit, which would shortly burst into report and flame. A loud and vigorous sneeze from Dodd was the signal for a second panic-stricken withdrawal of the row of heads, and another comparison of respective experiences outside the curtain. It was laughable enough; but, tired of being stared at and anxious for something to eat, we crawled out of our polog and watched with unassumed interest the preparation of supper.

Out of a little pine box which contained our telegraphic instruments, Viushin had improvised a rude, legless mess-table, which he was engaged in covering with cakes of hardbread, slices of raw bacon, and tumblers of steaming tea. These were the luxuries of civilisation, and beside them on the ground, in a long wooden trough and a huge bowl of the same material, were the corresponding delicacies of barbarism. As to their nature and composition we could, of course, give only a wild conjecture; but the appetites of weary travellers are not very discriminating, and we seated ourselves, like cross-legged Turks, on the ground, between the trough and the instrument-box, determined to prove our appreciation of Korak hospitality by eating everything which offered itself. The bowl with its strange-looking contents arrested, of course, the attention of the observant Dodd, and, poking it inquiringly with a long-handled spoon, he turned to Viushin, who, as chef-de-cuisine, was supposed to know all about it, and demanded:

"What's this you've got?"

"That?" answered Viushin, promptly, "that's kasha" (hasty pudding made of rice).

"Kasha!" exclaimed Dodd, contemptuously. "It looks more like the stuff that the children of Israel made bricks of. They don't seem to have wanted for straw, either," he added, as he fished up several stems of dried grass. "What is it, anyhow?"

"That," said Viushin again, with a comical assumption of learning, "is the celebrated 'Jamuk chi a la Poosteretsk,' the national dish of the Koraks, made from the original recipe of His High Excellency Oollcot Ootkoo Minyegeetkin, Grand Hereditary Taiyon and Vwisokee Prevoskhodeetelstvo - "

"Hold on!" exclaimed Dodd, with a deprecating gesture, "that's enough, I'll eat it"; and taking out a halfspoonful of the dark viscid mass, he put it to his lips.

"Well," said we expectantly, after a moment's pause, "what does it taste like?"

"Like the mud pies of infancy!" he replied sententiously. "A little salt, pepper, and butter, and a good deal of meat and flour, with a few well selected vegetables, would probably improve it; but it isn't particularly bad as it is."

Upon the strength of this rather equivocal recommendation I tasted it. Aside from a peculiar earthy flavour, it had nothing about it which was either pleasant or disagreeable. Its qualities were all negative except its grassiness, which alone gave character and consistency to the mass.

The mixture, known among the Koraks as manyalla, is eaten by all the Siberian tribes as a substitute for bread, and is the nearest approximation which native ingenuity can make to the staff of life. It is valued, we were told, more for its medicinal virtues than for any intrinsic excellence of taste, and our limited experience fully prepared us to believe the statement. Its original elements are clotted blood, tallow, and half-digested moss, taken from the stomach of the reindeer, where it is supposed to have undergone some essential change which fits it for second-hand consumption. These curious and heterogeneous ingredients are boiled up together with a few handfuls of dried grass to give the mixture consistency, and the dark mass is then moulded into small loaves and frozen for future use. Our host was evidently desirous of treating us with every civility, and, as a mark of especial consideration, bit off several choice morsels from the large cube of venison in his grimy hand, and taking them from his mouth, offered them to me. I waived graciously the implied compliment, and indicated Dodd as the proper recipient of such attentions; but the latter revenged himself by requesting an old woman to bring me some raw tallow, which he soberly assured her constituted my only food when at home. My indignant denials, in English were not, of course, understood; and the woman, delighted to find an American whose tastes corresponded so closely with her own, brought the tallow. I was a helpless victim, and I could only add this last offence to the long list of grievances which stood to Dodd's credit, and which I hoped some time to settle in full.

Supper, in the social economy of the Koraks, is emphatically the meal of the day. Around the kettle of manyalla, or the trough of reindeer meat; gather the men of the band, who during the hours of daylight have been absent, and who, between mouthfuls of meat or moss, discuss the simple subjects of thought which their isolated life affords. We availed ourselves of this opportunity to learn something of the tribes that inhabited the country to the northward, the reception with which we should probably meet, and the mode of travel which we should be compelled to adopt.