The Wandering Koraks of Kamchatka, who are divided into about forty different bands, roam over the great steppes in the northern part of the peninsula, between the 58th and the 63d parallels of latitude. Their southern limit is the settlement of Tigil, on the west coast, where they come annually to trade, and they are rarely found north of the village of Penzhina, two hundred miles from the head of the Okhotsk Sea. Within these limits they wander almost constantly with their great herds of reindeer, and so unsettled and restless are they in their habits, that they seldom camp longer than a week in any one place. This, however, is not attributable altogether to restlessness or love of change. A herd of four or five thousand reindeer will in a very few days paw up the snow and eat all the moss within a radius of a mile from the encampment, and then, of course, the band must move to fresh pasture ground. Their nomadic life, therefore, is not entirely a choice, but partly a necessity, growing out of their dependence upon the reindeer. They must wander or their deer will starve, and then their own starvation follows as a natural consequence. Their unsettled mode of life probably grew, in the first place, out of the domestication of the reindeer, and the necessity which it involved of consulting first the reindeer's wants; but the restless, vagabondish habits thus produced have now become a part of the Korak's very nature, so that he could hardly live in any other way, even had he an opportunity of so doing. This wandering, isolated, independent existence has given to the Koraks all those characteristic traits of boldness, impatience of restraint, and perfect self-reliance, which distinguish them from the Kamchadals and the other settled inhabitants of Siberia. Give them a small herd of reindeer, and a moss steppe to wander over, and they ask nothing more from all the world. They are wholly independent of civilisation and government, and will neither submit to their laws nor recognise their distinctions. Every man is a law unto himself so long as he owns a dozen reindeer; and he can isolate himself, if he so chooses, from all human kind, and ignore all other interests but his own and his reindeer's. For the sake of convenience and society they associate themselves in bands of six or eight families each; but these bands are held together only by mutual consent, and recognise no governing head. They have a leader called a taiyon who is generally the largest deer-owner of the band, and he decides all such questions as the location of camps and time of removal from place to place; but he has no other power, and must refer all graver questions of individual rights and general obligations to the members of the band collectively. They have no particular reverence for anything or anybody except the evil spirits who bring calamities upon them, and the "shamans" or priests, who act as infernal mediators between these devils and their victims. Earthly rank they treat with contempt, and the Tsar of all the Russias, if he entered a Korak tent, would stand upon the same level with its owner. We had an amusing instance of this soon after we met the first Koraks. The Major had become impressed in some way with the idea that in order to get what he wanted from these natives he must impress them with a proper sense of his power, rank, wealth, and general importance in the world, and make them feel a certain degree of reverence and respect for his orders and wishes. He accordingly called one of the oldest and most influential members of the band to him one day, and proceeded to tell him, through an interpreter, how rich he was; what immense resources, in the way of rewards and punishments, he possessed; what high rank he held; how important a place he filled in Russia, and how becoming it was that an individual of such exalted attributes should be treated by poor wandering heathen with filial reverence and veneration. The old Korak, squatting upon his heels on the ground, listened quietly to the enumeration of all our leader's admirable qualities and perfections without moving a muscle of his face; but finally, when the interpreter had finished, he rose slowly, walked up to the Major with imperturbable gravity, and with the most benignant and patronising condescension, patted him softly on the head! The Major turned red and broke into a laugh; but he never tried again to overawe a Korak.

Notwithstanding this democratic independence of the Koraks, they are almost invariably hospitable, obliging, and kind-hearted; and we were assured at the first encampment where we stopped, that we should have no difficulty in getting the different bands to carry us on deer-sledges from one encampment to another until we should reach the head of Penzhinsk Gulf. After a long conversation with the Koraks who crowded around us as we sat by the fire, we finally became tired and sleepy, and with favourable impressions, upon the whole, of this new and strange people, we crawled into our little polog to sleep. A voice in another part of the yurt was singing a low, melancholy air in a minor key as I closed my eyes, and the sad, oft-repeated refrain, so different from ordinary music, invested with peculiar loneliness and strangeness my first night in a Korak tent.

To be awakened in the morning by a paroxysm of coughing, caused by the thick, acrid smoke of a low-spirited fire - to crawl out of a skin bedroom six feet square into the yet denser and smokier atmosphere of the tent - to eat a breakfast of dried fish, frozen tallow, and venison out of a dirty wooden trough, with an ill-conditioned dog standing at each elbow and disputing one's right to every mouthful, is to enjoy an experience which only Korak life can afford, and which only Korak insensibility can long endure. A very sanguine temperament may find in its novelty some compensation for its discomfort, but the novelty rarely outlasts the second day, while the discomfort seems to increase in a direct ratio with the length of the experience. Philosophers may assert that a rightly constituted mind will rise superior to all outward circumstances; but two weeks in a Korak tent would do more to disabuse their minds of such an erroneous impression than any amount of logical argument. I do not myself profess to be preternaturally cheerful, and the dismal aspect of things when I crawled out of my fur sleeping-bag, on the morning after our arrival at the first encampment, made me feel anything but amiable. The first beams of daylight were just struggling in misty blue lines through the smoky atmosphere of the tent. The recently kindled fire would not burn but would smoke; the air was cold and cheerless; two babies were crying in a neighbouringpolog; the breakfast was not ready, everybody was cross, and rather than break the harmonious impression of general misery, I became cross also. Three or four cups of hot tea, however, which were soon forthcoming, exerted their usual inspiriting influence, and we began gradually to take a more cheerful view of the situation. Summoning the taiyon, and quickening his dull apprehension with a preliminary pipe of strong Circassian tobacco, we succeeded in making arrangements for our transportation to the next Korak encampment in the north, a distance of about forty miles. Orders were at once given for the capture of twenty reindeer and the preparation of sledges. Snatching hurriedly a few bites of hardbread and bacon by way of breakfast, I donned fur hood and mittens, and crawled out through the low doorway to see how twenty trained deer were to be separated from a herd of four thousand wild ones.

Surrounding the tent in every direction were the deer belonging to the band, some pawing up the snow with their sharp hoofs in search of moss, others clashing their antlers together and barking hoarsely in fight, or chasing one another in a mad gallop over the steppe. Near the tent a dozen men with lassos arranged themselves in two parallel lines, while twenty more, with a thong of sealskin two or three hundred yards in length, encircled a portion of the great herd, and with shouts and waving lassos began driving it through the narrow gantlet. The deer strove with frightened bounds to escape from the gradually contracting circle, but the sealskin cord, held at short distances by shouting natives, invariably turned them back, and they streamed in a struggling, leaping throng through the narrow opening between the lines of lassoers. Ever and anon a long cord uncoiled itself in air, and a sliding noose fell over the antlers of some unlucky deer whose slit ears marked him as trained, but whose tremendous leaps and frantic efforts to escape suggested very grave doubts as to the extent of the training. To prevent the interference and knocking together of the deer's antlers when they should be harnessed in couples, one horn was relentlessly chopped off close to the head by a native armed with a heavy sword-like knife, leaving a red ghastly stump from which the blood trickled in little streams over the animal's ears. They were then harnessed to sledges in couples, by a collar and trace passing between the forelegs; lines were affixed to small sharp studs in the headstall, which pricked the right or left side of the head when the corresponding rein was jerked, and the equipage was ready.

Bidding good-by to the Lesnoi Kamchadals, who returned from here, we muffled ourselves from the biting air in our heaviest furs, took seats on our respective sledges, and at a laconic "tok" (go) from thetaiyon we were off; the little cluster of tents looking like a group of conical islands behind us as we swept out upon the limitless ocean of the snowy steppe. Noticing that I shivered a little in the keen air, my driver pointed away to the northward, and exclaimed with a pantomimic shrug, "Tam shipka kholodno" - "There it's awful cold." We needed not to be informed of the fact; the rapidly sinking thermometer indicated our approach to the regions of perpetual frost, and I looked forward with no little apprehension to the prospect of sleeping outdoors in the arctic temperatures of which I had read, but which I had never yet experienced.

This was my first trial of reindeer travel, and I was a little disappointed to find that it did not quite realise the expectations that had been excited in my boyish days by the pictures of galloping Lapland deer in the old geographies. The reindeer were there, but they were not the ideal reindeer of early fancy, and I felt a vague sense of personal injury and unjustifiable deception at the substitution of these awkward, ungainly beasts for the spirited and fleet-footed animals of my boyish imagination. Their trot was awkward and heavy, they carried their heads low, and their panting breaths and gaping mouths were constantly suggestive of complete exhaustion, and excited pity for their apparently laborious exertions, rather than admiration for the speed which they really did exhibit. My ideal reindeer would never have demeaned himself by running with his mouth wide open. When I learned, as I afterward did, that they were compelled to breathe through their mouths, on account of the rapid accumulation of frost in their nostrils, it relieved my apprehensions of their breaking down, but did not alter my firm conviction that my ideal reindeer was infinitely superior in an aesthetic point of view to the real animal. I could not but admit, however, the inestimable value of the reindeer to his wandering owners. Besides carrying them from place to place, he furnishes them with clothes, food, and covering for their tents; his antlers are made into rude implements of all sorts; his sinews are dried and pounded into thread, his bones are soaked in seal oil and burned for fuel, his entrails are cleaned, filled with tallow, and eaten; his blood, mixed with the contents of his stomach, is made into manyalla; his marrow and tongue are considered the greatest of delicacies; the stiff, bristly skin of his legs is used to cover snow-shoes; and finally his whole body, sacrificed to the Korak gods, brings down upon his owners all the spiritual and temporal blessings which they need. It would be hard to find another animal which fills so important a place in the life of any body of men, as the reindeer does in the life and domestic economy of the Siberian Koraks. I cannot now think of one which furnishes even the four prime requisites of food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. It is a singular fact, however, that the Siberian natives - the only people, so far as I know, who have ever domesticated the reindeer, except the Laps - do not use in any way the animal's milk. Why so important and desirable an article of food should be neglected, when every other part of the deer's body is turned to some useful account, I cannot imagine. It is certain, however, that no one of the four great wandering tribes of north-eastern Siberia, Koraks, Chukchis, Tunguses, and Lamutkis, uses in any way the reindeer's milk.

By two o'clock in the afternoon it began to grow dark, but we estimated that we had accomplished at least half of our day's journey, and halted for a few moments to allow our deer to eat. The last half of the distance seemed interminable. The moon rose round and bright as the shield of Achilles, and lighted up the vast, lonely tundra with noonday brilliancy; but the silence and desolation, the absence of any dark object upon which the fatigued eye could rest, and the apparently boundless extent of this Dead Sea of snow, oppressed us with new and strange sensations of awe. A dense mist or steam, which is an unfailing indication of intense cold, rose from the bodies of the reindeer and hung over the road long after we had passed. Beards became tangled masses of frozen iron wire; eyelids grew heavy with white rims of frost and froze together when we winked; noses assumed a white, waxen appearance with every incautious exposure, and only by frequently running beside our sledges could we keep any "feeling" in our feet. Impelled by hunger and cold, we repeated twenty times the despairing question, "How much farther is it?" and twenty times we received the stereotyped but indefinite answer of "cheimuk," near, or occasionally the encouraging assurance that we would arrive in a minute. Now we knew very well that we should not arrive in a minute, nor probably in forty minutes; but it afforded temporary relief to be toldthat we would. My frequent inquiries finally spurred my driver into an attempt to express the distance arithmetically, and with evident pride in his ability to speak Russian, he assured me that it was only "dva verst," or two versts more. I brightened up at once with anticipations of a warm fire and an infinite number of cups of hot tea, and by imagining prospective comfort, succeeded in forgetting the present sense of suffering. At the expiration, however, of three-quarters of an hour, seeing no indication of the promised encampment, I asked once more if it were much farther away. One Korak looked around over the steppe with a well assumed air of seeking some landmark, and then turning to me with a confident nod, repeated the word "verst" and held up four fingers! I sank back upon my sledge in despair. If we had been three-quarters of an hour in losing two versts, how long would be we in losing versts enough to get back to the place from which we started. It was a discouraging problem, and after several unsuccessful attempts to solve it by the double rule of three backwards, I gave it up. For the benefit of the future traveller, I give, however, a few native expressions for distances, with their numerical equivalents: "cheimuk" - near, twenty versts; "bolshe nyet" - there is no more, fifteen versts; "sey chas priyedem" - we will arrive this minute, means any time in the course of the day or night; and "dailoko" - far, is a week's journey. By bearing in mind these simple values, the traveller will avoid much bitter disappointment, and may get through without entirely losing faith in human veracity. About six o'clock in the evening, tired, hungry, and half-frozen, we caught sight of the sparks and fire-lit smoke which arose from the tents of the second encampment, and amid a general barking of dogs and hallooing of men we stopped among them. Jumping hurriedly from my sledge, with no thought but that of getting to a fire, I crawled into the first hole which presented itself, with a firm belief, founded on the previous night's experience, that it must be a door. After groping about some time in the dark, crawling over two dead reindeer and a heap of dried fish, I was obliged to shout for assistance. Great was the astonishment of the proprietor, who came to the rescue with a torch, to find a white man and a stranger crawling around aimlessly in his fish storehouse. He relieved his feelings with a ty-e-e-e of amazement, and led the way, or rather crawled away, to the interior of the tent, where I found the Major endeavouring with a dull Korak knife to cut his frozen beard loose from his fur hood and open communication with his mouth through a sheet of ice and hair. The teakettle was soon simmering and spouting over a brisk fire, beards were thawed out, noses examined for signs of frost-bites, and in half an hour we were seated comfortably on the ground around a candle-box, drinking tea and discussing the events of the day.

Just as Viushin was filling up our cups for the third time, the skin curtain of the low doorway at our side was lifted up, and the most extraordinary figure which I ever beheld in Kamchatka crawled silently in, straightened up to its full height of six feet, and stood majestically before us. It was an ugly, dark-featured man about thirty years of age. He was clothed in a scarlet dress-coat with blue facings and brass buttons, with long festoons of gold cord hung across the breast, trousers of black, greasy deerskin, and fur boots. His hair was closely shaven from the crown of his head, leaving a long fringe of lank, uneven locks hanging about his ears and forehead. Long strings of small coloured beads depended from his ears, and over one of them he had plastered for future use a huge quid of masticated tobacco. About his waist was tied a ragged sealskin thong, which supported a magnificent silver-hilted sword and embossed scabbard. His smoky, unmistakably Korak face, shaven head, scarlet coat, greasy skin trousers, gold cord, sealskin belt, silver-hilted sword, and fur boots, made up such a remarkable combination of glaring contrasts that we could do nothing for a moment but stare at him in utter amazement. He reminded me of "Talipot, the Immortal Potentate of Manacabo, Messenger of the Morning, Enlightener of the Sun, Possessor of the Whole Earth, and Mighty Monarch of the Brass-handled Sword."

"Who are you?" suddenly demanded the Major, in Russian. A low bow was the only response. "Where in the name of Chort did you come from?" Another bow. "Where did you get that coat? Can't you say something? Ay! Meranef! Come and talk to this - fellow, I can't make him say anything." Dodd suggested that he might be a messenger from the expedition of Sir John Franklin, with late advices from the Pole and the North-west Passage, and the silent owner of the sword bowed affirmatively, as if this were the true solution of the mystery. "Are you a pickled cabbage?" suddenly inquired Dodd in Russian. The Unknown intimated by a very emphatic bow that he was. "He doesn't understand anything!" said Dodd in disgust; "where's Meranef?" Meranef soon made his appearance, and began questioning the mysterious visitor in a scarlet coat as to his residence, name, and previous history. For the first time he now found a voice. "What does he say?" asked the Major; "what's his name?"

"He says his name is Khanalpooginuk."

"Where did he get that coat and sword?"

"He says 'the Great White Chief' gave it to him for a dead reindeer." This was not very satisfactory, and Meranef was instructed to get some more intelligible information. Who the "Great White Chief" might be, and why he should give a scarlet coat and a silver-hilted sword for a dead reindeer, were questions beyond our ability to solve. Finally, Meranef's puzzled face cleared up, and he told us that the coat and sword had been presented to the Unknown by the Emperor, as a reward for reindeer given to the starving Russians of Kamchatka during a famine. The Korak was asked if he had received no paper with these gifts, and he immediately left the tent, and returned in a moment with a sheet of paper tied up carefully with reindeer's sinews between a couple of thin boards. This paper explained everything. The coat and sword had been given to the present owner's father, during the reign of Alexander I., by the Russian Governor of Kamchatka as a reward for succour afforded the Russians in a famine. From the father they had descended to the son, and the latter, proud of his inherited distinction, had presented himself to us as soon as he heard of our arrival. He wanted nothing in particular except to show himself, and after examining his sword, which was really a magnificent weapon, we gave him a few bunches of tobacco and dismissed him. We had hardly expected to find in the interior of Kamchatka any relics of Alexander I., dating back to the time of Napoleon.