We left Mikina early, November 23d, and started out upon another great snowy plain, where there was no vegetation whatever except a little wiry grass and a few meagre patches of trailing-pine.

Ever since leaving Lesnoi I had been studying attentively the art, or science, whichever it be, of dog-driving, with the fixed but unexpressed resolution that at some future time, when everything should be propitious, I would assume the control of my own team, and astonish Dodd and the natives with a display of my skill as a kaiur (kai-oor).

I had found by some experience that these unlettered Koraks estimated a man, not so much by what he knew which they did not, as by what he knew concerning their own special and peculiar pursuits; and I determined to demonstrate, even to their darkened understandings, that the knowledge of civilisation was universal in its application, and that the white man, notwithstanding his disadvantage in colour, could drive dogs better by intuition than they could by the aggregated wisdom of centuries; that in fact he could, if necessary, "evolve the principles of dog-driving out of the depths of his moral consciousness." I must confess, however, that I was not a thorough convert to my own ideas; and I did not disdain therefore to avail myself of the results of native experience, as far as they coincided with my own convictions, as to the nature of the true and beautiful in dog-driving. I had watched every motion of my Korak driver; had learned theoretically the manner of thrusting the spiked stick between the-uprights of the runners into the snow, to act as a brake; had committed to memory and practised assiduously the guttural monosyllables which meant, in dog-language, "right" and "left," as well as many others which meant something else, but which I had heard addressed to dogs; and I laid the flattering unction to my soul that I could drive as well as a Korak, if not better. To my inexperienced eye it was as easy as losing money in California mining stocks. On this day, therefore, as the road was good and the weather propitious, I determined to put my ideas, original as well as acquired, to the test of practice. I accordingly motioned my Korak driver to take a back seat and deliver up to me the insignia of office. I observed in the expression of his lips, as he handed me the spiked stick, a sort of latent smile of ridicule, which indicated a very low estimate of my dog-driving abilities; but I treated it as knowledge should always treat the sneers of ignorance - with silent contempt; and seating myself firmly astride the sledge back of the arch, I shouted to the dogs, "Noo! Pashol!" My voice failed to produce the startling effect that I had anticipated. The leader - a grim, bluff Nestor of a dog - glanced carelessly over his shoulder and very perceptibly slackened his pace. This sudden and marked contempt for my authority on the part of the dogs did more than all the sneers of the Koraks to shake my confidence in my own skill. But my resources were not yet exhausted, and I hurled monosyllable, dissyllable, and polysyllable at their devoted heads, shouted "Akh! Te shelma! Proclataya takaya! Smatree! Ya tibi dam!" but all in vain; the dogs were evidently insensible to rhetorical fireworks of this description, and manifested their indifference by a still slower gait. As I poured out upon them the last vial of my verbal wrath, Dodd, who understood the language that I was so recklessly using, drove slowly up, and remarked carelessly, "You swear pretty well for a beginner." Had the ground opened beneath me I should have been less astonished. "Swear! I swear! You don't mean to say that I've been swearing?" - "Certainly you have, like a pirate." I dropped my spiked stick in dismay. Were these the principles of dog-driving which I had evolved out of the depths of my moral consciousness? They seemed rather to have come from the depths of my im_moral un_consciousness. "Why, you reckless reprobate!" I exclaimed impressively, "didn't you teach me those very words yourself?" - "Certainly I did," was the unabashed reply; "but you didn't ask me what they meant; you asked how to pronounce them correctly, and I told you. I didn't know but that you were making researches in comparative philology - trying to prove the unity of the human race by identity of oaths, or by a comparison of profanity to demonstrate that the Digger Indians are legitimately descended from the Chinese. You know that your head (which is a pretty good one in other respects) always was full of such nonsense." - "Dodd," I observed, with a solemnity which I intended should awaken repentance in his hardened sensibilities, "I have been betrayed unwittingly into the commission of sin; and as a little more or less won't materially alter my guilt, I've as good a notion as ever I had to give you the benefit of some of your profane instruction." Dodd laughed derisively and drove on. This little episode considerable dampened my enthusiasm, and made me very cautious in my use of foreign language. I feared the existence of terrific imprecations in the most common dog-phrases, and suspected lurking profanity even in the monosyllabic "Khta" and "Hoogh," which I had been taught to believe meant "right" and "left." The dogs, quick to observe any lack of attention on the part of their driver, now took encouragement from my silence and exhibited a doggish propensity to stop and rest, which was in direct contravention of all discipline, and which they would not have dared to do with an experienced driver. Determined to vindicate my authority by more forcible measures, I launched my spiked stick like a harpoon at the leader, intending to have it fall so that I could pick it up as the sledge passed. The dog however dodged it cleverly, and it rolled away ten feet from the road. Just at that moment three or four wild reindeer bounded out from behind a little rise of ground three or four hundred yards away, and galloped across the steppe toward a deep precipitous ravine, through which ran a branch of the Mikina River. The dogs, true to their wolfish instincts, started with fierce, excited howls in pursuit. I made a frantic grasp at my spiked stick as we rushed past, but failed to reach it, and away we went over the tundra toward the ravine, the sledge half the time on one runner, and rebounding from the hard sastrugi (sas-troo'-gee) or snow-drifts with a force that suggested speedy dislocation of one's joints. The Korak, with more common sense than I had given him credit for, had rolled off the sledge several seconds before, and a backward glance showed a miscellaneous bundle of arms and legs revolving rapidly over the snow in my wake. I had no time, however, with ruin staring me in the face, to commiserate his misfortune. My energies were all devoted to checking the terrific speed with which we were approaching the ravine. Without the spiked stick I was perfectly helpless, and in a moment we were on the brink. I shut my eyes, clung tightly to the arch, and took the plunge. About half-way down, the descent became suddenly steeper, and the lead-dog swerved to one side, bringing the sledge around like the lash of a whip, overturning it, and shooting me like a huge living meteor through the air into a deep soft drift of snow at the bottom. I must have fallen at least eighteen feet, for I buried myself entirely, with the exception of my lower extremities, which, projecting above the snow, kicked a faint signal for rescue. Encumbered with heavy furs, I extricated myself with difficulty; and as I at last emerged with three pints of snow down my neck, I saw the round, leering face of my late driver grinning at me through the bushes on the edge of the bluff. "Ooma," he hailed. "Well," replied the snowy figure standing waist-high in the drift. - "Amerikanski nyett dobra kaiur, eh?" [American no good driver]. "Nyett sofsem dobra" was the melancholy reply as I waded out. The sledge, I found, had become entangled in the bushes near me, and the dogs were all howling in chorus, nearly wild with the restraint. I was so far satisfied with my experiment that I did not desire to repeat it at present, and made no objections to the Korak's assuming again his old position. I was fully convinced, by the logic of circumstances, that the science of dog-driving demanded more careful and earnest consideration than I had yet given to it; and I resolved to study carefully its elementary principles, as expounded by its Korak professors, before attempting again to put my own ideas upon the subject into practice.

As we came out of the ravine upon the open steppe I saw the rest of our party a mile away, moving rapidly toward the Korak village of Kuil (Koo-eel'). We passed Kuil late in the afternoon, and camped for the night in a forest of birch, poplar, and aspen trees, on the banks of the Paren River.

We were now only about seventy miles from Gizhiga. On the following night we reached a small log yurt on a branch of the Gizhiga River, which had been built there by the government to shelter travellers, and Friday morning, November 25th, about eleven o'clock, we caught sight of the red church-steeple which marked the location of the Russian settlement of Gizhiga. No one who has not travelled for three long months through a wilderness like Kamchatka, camped out in storms among desolate mountains, slept for three weeks in the smoky tents, and yet smokier and dirtier yurts of the Koraks, and lived altogether like a perfect savage or barbarian - -no one who has not experienced this can possibly understand with what joyful hearts we welcomed that red church steeple, and the civilisation of which it was the sign. For almost a month we had slept every night on the ground or the snow; had never seen a chair, a table, a bed, or a mirror; had never been undressed night or day; and had washed our faces only three or four times in an equal number of weeks! We were grimy and smoky from climbing up and down Korak chimneys; our hair was long and matted around our ears; the skin had peeled from our noses and cheek-bones where it had been frozen; our cloth coats and trousers were grey with reindeer hairs from our fur kukhlankas; and we presented, generally, as wild and neglected an appearance as men could present, and still retain any lingering traces of better days. We had no time or inclination, however, to "fix up"; our dogs dashed at a mad gallop into the village with a great outcry, which awakened a responsive chorus of howls from two or three hundred other canine throats; our drivers shouted "Khta! khta! hoogh! hoogh!" and raised clouds of snow with their spiked sticks as we rushed through the streets, and the whole population came running to their doors to ascertain the cause of the infernal tumult. One after another our fifteen sledges went careering through the village, and finally drew up before a large, comfortable house, with double glass windows, where arrangements had been made, Kerrillof said, for our reception. Hardly had we entered a large, neatly swept and scrubbed room, and thrown off our heavy frosty furs, than the door again opened, and in rushed a little impetuous, quick-motioned man, with a heavy auburn moustache, and light hair cut short all over his head, dressed in neat broadcloth coat and trousers and a spotless linen shirt, with seal rings on his fingers, a plain gold chain at his vest button, and a cane. We recognised him at once as the ispravnik, or Russian governor. Dodd and I made a sudden attempt to escape from the room, but we were too late, and saluting our visitor with "zdrastvuitia," [Footnote: "Good health," or "Be in health," the Russian greeting.] we sat down awkwardly enough on our chairs, rolled our smoky hands up in our scarlet and yellow cotton handkerchiefs, and, with a vivid consciousness of our dirty faces and generally disreputable appearance, tried to look self-possessed, and to assume the dignity which befitted officers of the great Russian-American Telegraph Expedition! It was a pitiable failure. We could not succeed in looking like anything but Wandering Koraks in reduced circumstances. The ispravnik, however, did not seem to notice anything unusual in our appearance, but rattled away with an incessant fire of quick, nervous questions, such as "When did you leave Petropavlovsk? Are you just from America? I sent a Cossack. Did you meet him? How did you cross the tundras; with the Koraks? Akh! those proclatye Koraks! Any news from St. Petersburg? You must come over and dine with me. How long will you stay in town? You can take a bath now before dinner. Ay! loodee! [very loud and peremptory]. Go and tell my Ivan to heat up the bath quick! Akh Chort yeekh! vazmee!" and the restless little man finally stopped from sheer exhaustion, and began pacing nervously across the room, while the Major related our adventures, gave him the latest news from Russia, explained our plans, the object of our expedition, told him of the murder of Lincoln, the end of the Rebellion, the latest news from the French invasion of Mexico, the gossip of the Imperial Court, and no end of other news which had been old with us for six months, but of which the poor exiled ispravnik had never heard a word. He had had no communication with Russia in almost eleven months. After insisting again upon our coming over to his house immediately to dine, he bustled out of the room, and gave us an opportunity to wash and dress.

Two hours afterward, in all the splendour of blue coats, brass buttons, and shoulder-straps, with shaven faces, starched shirts, and polished leather boots, the "First Siberian Exploring Party" marched over to the ispravnik's to dine. The Russian peasants whom we met instinctively took off their frosty fur hoods and gazed wonderingly at us as we passed, as if we had mysteriously dropped down from some celestial sphere. No one would have recognised in us the dirty, smoky, ragged vagabonds who had entered the village two hours before. The grubs had developed into blue and golden butterflies! We found the ispravnik waiting for us in a pleasant, spacious room furnished with, all the luxuries of a civilised home. The walls were papered and ornamented with costly pictures and engravings, the windows were hung with curtains, the floor was covered with a soft, bright-coloured carpet, a large walnut writing-desk occupied one corner of the room, a rosewood melodeon the other, and in the centre stood the dining-table, covered with a fresh cloth, polished china, and glittering silver. We were fairly dazzled at the sight of so much unusual and unexpected magnificence. After the inevitable "fifteen drops" of brandy, and the lunch of smoked fish, rye bread, and caviar, which always precedes a Russian dinner, we took seats at the table and spent an hour and a half in getting through the numerous courses of cabbage soup, salmon pie, venison cutlets, game, small meat pies, pudding, and pastry, which were successively set before us, and in discussing the news of all the world, from the log villages of Kamchatka to the imperial palaces of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Our hospitable host then ordered champagne, and over tall, slender glasses of cool beaded Cliquot we meditated upon the vicissitudes of Siberian life. Yesterday we sat on the ground in a Korak tent and ate reindeer meat out of a wooden trough with our fingers, and today we dined with the Russian governor, in a luxurious house, upon venison cutlets, plum pudding, and champagne. With the exception of a noticeable but restrained inclination on the part of Dodd and myself to curl up our legs and sit on the floor, there was nothing I believe in our behaviour to betray the barbarous freedom of the life which we had so recently lived, and the demoralising character of the influences to which we had been subjected. We handled our knives and forks, and leisurely sipped our champagne with a grace which would have excited the envy of Lord Chesterfield himself. But it was hard work. No sooner did we return to our quarters than we threw off our uniform coats, spread our bearskins on the floor and sat down upon them with crossed legs, to enjoy a comfortable smoke in the good old free-and-easy style. If our faces had only been just a little dirty we should have been perfectly happy!

The next ten days of our life at Gizhiga were passed in comparative idleness. We walked out a little when the weather was not too cold, received formal calls from the Russian merchants of the place, visited the ispravnik and drank his delicious "flower tea" and smoked his cigarettes in the evening, and indemnified ourselves for three months of rough life by enjoying to the utmost such mild pleasures as the little village afforded. This pleasant, aimless existence, however, was soon terminated by an order from the Major to prepare for the winter's campaign, and hold ourselves in readiness to start for the Arctic Circle or the west coast of the Okhotsk Sea at a moment's notice. He had determined to explore a route for our proposed line from Bering Strait to the Amur River before spring should open, and there was no time to be lost. The information which we could gather at Gizhiga with regard to the interior of the country was scanty, indefinite, and unsatisfactory. According to native accounts, there were only two settlements between the Okhotsk Sea and Bering Strait, and the nearest of these - Penzhina - was four hundred versts distant. The intervening country consisted of great moss tundras impassable in summer, and perfectly destitute of timber; and that portion of it which lay north-east of the last settlement was utterly uninhabitable on account of the absence of wood. A Russian officer by the name of Phillippeus had attempted to explore it in the winter of 1860, but had returned unsuccessful, in a starving and exhausted condition. In the whole distance of eight hundred versts between Gizhiga and the mouth of the Anadyr River there were said to be only four or five places where timber could be found large enough for telegraph poles, and over most of the route there was no wood except occasional patches of trailing-pine. A journey from Gizhiga to the last settlement, Anadyrsk, on the Arctic Circle, would occupy from twenty to thirty days, according to weather, and beyond that point there was no possibility of going under any circumstances. The region west of Gizhiga, along the coast of the Okhotsk Sea, was reported to be better, but very rugged and mountainous, and heavily timbered with pine and larch. The village of Okhotsk, eight hundred versts distant, could be reached on dog-sledges in about a month. This, in brief, was all the information we could get, and it did not inspire us with very much confidence in the ultimate success of our enterprise. I realised for the first time the magnitude of the task which the Russian-American Telegraph Company had undertaken. We were "in for it," however, now, and our first duty was obviously to go through the country, ascertain its extent and nature, and find out what facilities, if any, it afforded for the construction of our line.

The Russian settlements of Okhotsk and Gizhiga divided the country between Bering Strait and the Amur River into three nearly equal sections, of which two were mountainous and wooded, and one comparatively level and almost barren. The first of these sections, between the Amur and Okhotsk, had been assigned to Mahood and Bush, and we presumed that they were already engaged, in its exploration. The other two sections, comprising all the region between Okhotsk and Bering Straits, were to be divided between the Major, Dodd, and myself. In view of the supposed desolation of the unexplored territory immediately west of Bering Strait, it was thought best to leave it unsurveyed until spring, and perhaps until another season. The promised co-operation of the Anadyr River party had failed us, and without more men, the Major did not think it expedient to undertake the exploration of a region which presented so many and so great obstacles to midwinter travel. The distance which remained to be traversed, therefore, was only about fourteen hundred versts from Okhotsk to the Russian outpost of Anadyrsk, just south of the Arctic Circle. After some deliberation the Major concluded to send Dodd and me with a party of natives to Anadyrsk, and to start himself on dog-sledges for the settlement of Okhotsk, where he expected to meet Mahood and Bush. In this way it was hoped that we should be able in the course of five months to make a rough but tolerably accurate survey of nearly the whole route of the line. The provisions which we had brought from Petropavlovsk had all been used up, with the exception of some tea, sugar, and a few cans of preserved beef; but we obtained at Gizhiga two or three puds (poods) [Footnote: One pud = 36 lbs.] of black rye-bread, four or five frozen reindeer, some salt, and an abundant supply of yukala or dried fish. These, with some tea and sugar, and a few cakes of frozen milk, made up our store of provisions. We provided ourselves also with six or eight puds of Circassian leaf tobacco to be used instead of money; divided equally our little store of beads, pipes, knives, and trading-goods, purchased new suits of furs throughout, and made every preparation for three or four months of camp life in an arctic climate. The Russian governor ordered six of his Cossacks to transport Dodd and me on dog-sledges as far as the Korak village of Shestakova, and sent word to Penzhina by the returning Anadyrsk people to have three or four men and dog-teams at the former place by December 20th, ready to carry us on to Penzhina and Anadyrsk. We engaged an old and experienced Cossack named Gregorie Zinovief as guide and Chukchi interpreter, hired a young Russian called Yagor as cook and aid-de-camp (in the literal sense), packed our stores on our sledges and secured them with lashings of sealskin thongs, and by December 13th were ready to take the field. That evening the Major delivered to us our instructions. They were simply to follow the regular sledge road to Anadyrsk via Shestakova and Penzhina, to ascertain what facilities it offered in the way of timber and soil for the construction of a telegraph line, to set the natives at work cutting poles at Penzhina and Anadyrsk, and to make side explorations where possible in search of timbered rivers connecting Penzhinsk Gulf with Bering Sea. Late in the spring we were to return to Gizhiga with all the information which we could gather relative to the country between that point and the Arctic Circle. The Major himself would remain at Gizhiga until about December 17th, and then leave on dog-sledges with Viushin and a small party of Cossacks for the settlement of Okhotsk. If he made a junction with Mahood and Bush, at that place, he would return at once, and meet us again at Gizhiga by the first of April, 1866.