The village of Penzhina is a little collection of log houses, flat-topped yurts, and four-legged balagans, situated on the north bank of the river which bears its name, about half-way between the Okhotsk Sea and Anadyrsk. It is inhabited principally by meshchans (mesh-chans'), or free Russian peasants, but contains also in its scanty population a few "Chuances" or aboriginal Siberian natives, who were subjugated by the Russian Cossacks in the eighteenth century, and who now speak the language of their conquerors and gain a scanty subsistence by fishing and trading in furs. The town is sheltered on the north by a very steep bluff about a hundred feet in height, which, like all hills in the vicinity of Russian settlements, bears upon its summit a Greek cross with three arms. The river opposite the settlement is about a hundred yards in width, and its banks are heavily timbered with birch, larch, poplar, willow, and aspen. Owing to warm springs in its bed, it never entirely freezes over at this point, and in a temperature of 40 deg. below zero gives off dense clouds of steam which hide the village from sight as effectually as a London fog.

We remained at Penzhina three days, gathering information about the surrounding country and engaging men to cut poles for our line. We found the people to be cheerful, good-natured, and hospitable, and disposed to do all in their power to further our plans; but of course they had never heard of a telegraph, and could not imagine what we were going to do with the poles which we were so anxious to have cut. Some said that we intended to build a wooden road from Gizhiga to Anadyrsk, so that it would be possible to travel back and forth in the summer; others contended with some show of probability that two men, even if they were Americans, could not construct a wooden road, six hundred versts long, and that our real object was to build some sort of a huge house. When questioned as to the use of this immense edifice, however, the advocates of the house theory were covered with confusion, and could only insist upon the physical impossibility of a road, and call upon their opponents to accept the house or suggest something better. We succeeded in engaging sixteen able-bodied men, however, to cut poles for a reasonable compensation, gave them the required dimensions - twenty-one feet long and five inches in diameter at the top - and instructed them to cut as many as possible, and pile them up along the banks of the river.

I may as well mention here, that when I returned from Anadyrsk in March I went to look at the poles, 500 in number, which the Penzhina men had cut. I found, to my great astonishment, that there was hardly one of them less than twelve inches in diameter at the top, and that the majority were so heavy and unwieldy that a dozen men could not move them. I told the natives that they would not do, and asked why they had not cut smaller ones, as I had directed. They replied that they supposed I wanted to build some kind of a road on the tops of these poles, and they knew that poles only five inches in diameter would not be strong enough to hold it up! They had accordingly cut trees large enough to be used as pillars for a state-house. They still lie there, buried in arctic snows; and I have no doubt that many years hence, when Macaulay's New Zealander shall have finished sketching the ruins of St. Paul's and shall have gone to Siberia to complete his education, he will be entertained by his native drivers with stories of how two crazy Americans once tried to build an elevated railroad from the Okhotsk Sea to Bering Strait. I only hope that the New Zealander will write a book, and confer upon the two crazy Americans the honour and the immortality which their labours deserved, but which the elevated railroad failed to give.

We left Penzhina on the 31st day of December for Anadyrsk. After travelling all day, as usual, over a barren steppe, we camped for the night near the foot of a white isolated peak called Nalgim, in a temperature of 53 deg. below zero. It was New Year's Eve; and as I sat by the fire in my heaviest furs, covered from head to foot with frost, I thought of the great change which a single year had made in my surroundings. New Year's Eve, 1864, I had spent in Central America, riding on a mule from Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific coast, through a magnificent tropical forest. New Year's Eve, 1865, found me squatting on a great snowy plain near the Arctic Circle, trying, in a temperature of 53 deg. below zero, to eat up my soup before it froze solidly to the plate. Hardly could there have been a greater contrast.

Our camp near Mount Nalgim abounded in trailing-pine and we made a fire which sent up a column of ruddy flame ten feet in height; but it did not seem to have much influence upon the atmosphere. Our eyelids froze together while we were drinking tea; our soup, taken hot from the kettle, froze in our tin plates before we could possibly finish eating it; and the breasts of our fur coats were covered with a white rime, while we sat only a few feet from a huge blazing camp-fire. Tin plates, knives, and spoons burned the bare hand when touched, almost exactly as if they were red-hot; and water, spilled on a little piece of board only fourteen inches from the fire, froze solid in less than two minutes. The warm bodies of our dogs gave off clouds of steam; and even the bare hand, wiped perfectly dry, exhaled a thin vapour when exposed to the air. We had never before experienced so low a temperature; but we suffered very little except from cold feet, and Dodd declared that with a good fire and plenty of fat food he would not be afraid to try fifteen degrees lower. The greatest cause of suffering in Siberia is wind. Twenty degrees below zero, with a fresh breeze, is very trying; and a gale of wind, with a temperature of - 40 deg., is almost unendurable. Intense cold of itself is not particularly dangerous to life. A man who will eat a hearty supper of dried fish and tallow, dress himself in a Siberian costume, and crawl into a heavy fur bag, may spend a night out-doors in a temperature of - 70 deg. without any serious danger; but if he is tired out, with long travel, if his clothes are wet with perspiration, or if he has not enough to eat, he may freeze to death with the thermometer at zero. The most important rules for an arctic traveller are: to eat plenty of fat food; to avoid over-exertion and night journeys; and never to get into a profuse perspiration by violent exercise for the sake of temporary warmth. I have seen Wandering Chukchis in a region destitute of wood and in a dangerous temperature, travel all day with aching feet rather than exhaust their strength by trying to warm them in running. They would never exercise except when it was absolutely necessary to keep from freezing. As a natural consequence, they were almost as fresh at night as they had been in the morning, and if they failed to find wood for a fire, or were compelled by some unforeseen exigency to travel throughout the twenty-four hours, they had the strength to do it. An inexperienced traveller under the same circumstances, would have exhausted all his energy during the day in trying to keep perfectly warm; and at night, wet with perspiration and tired out by too much violent exercise, he would almost inevitably have frozen to death.

For two hours after supper, Dodd and I sat by the fire, trying experiments to see what the intense cold would do. About eight o'clock the heavens became suddenly overcast with clouds, and in less than an hour the thermometer had risen nearly thirty degrees. Congratulating ourselves upon this fortunate change in the weather, we crawled into our fur bags and slept away as much as we could of the long arctic night.

Our life for the next few days was the same monotonous routine of riding, camping, and sleeping with which we were already so familiar. The country over which we passed was generally bleak, desolate, and uninteresting; the weather was cold enough for discomfort, but not enough so to make outdoor life dangerous or exciting; the days were only two or three hours in length and the nights were interminable. Going into camp early in the afternoon, when the sun disappeared, we had before us about twenty hours of darkness, in which we must either amuse ourselves in some way, or sleep. Twenty hours' sleep for any one but a Rip Van Winkle was rather an over-dose, and during at least half that time we could think of nothing better to do than sit around the camp-fire on bearskins and talk. Ever since leaving Petropavlovsk, talking had been our chief amusement; and although it had answered very well for the first hundred nights or so, it was now becoming a little monotonous and our mental resources were running decidedly low. We could not think of a single subject about which we knew anything that had not been talked over, criticised, and discussed to the very bone. We had related to each other in detail the whole history of our respective lives, together with the lives of all our ancestors as far back as we knew anything about them. We had discussed in full every known problem of Love, War, Science, Politics, and Religion, including a great many that we knew nothing whatever about, and had finally been reduced to such topics of conversation as the size of the army with which Xerxes invaded Greece and the probable extent of the Noachian deluge. As there was no possibility of arriving at any mutually satisfactory conclusion with regard to either of these important questions, the debate had been prolonged for twenty or thirty consecutive nights and the questions finally left open for future consideration. In cases of desperate emergency, when all other topics of conversation failed, we knew that we could return to Xerxes and the Flood; but these subjects had been dropped by the tacit consent of both parties soon after leaving Gizhiga, and were held in reserve as a "dernier ressort" for stormy nights in Korak yurts. One night as we were encamped on a great steppe north of Shestakova, the happy idea occurred to me that I might pass away these long evenings out of doors, by delivering a course of lectures to my native drivers upon the wonders of modern science. It would amuse me and at the same time instruct them - or at least I hoped it would, and I proceeded at once to put the plan into execution. I turned my attention first to astronomy. Camping out on the open steppe, with no roof above except the starry sky, I had every facility for the illustration of my subject, and night after night as we travelled northward I might have been seen in the centre of a group of eager natives, whose swarthy faces were lighted up by the red blaze of the camp-fire, and who listened with childish curiosity while I explained the phenomena of the seasons, the revolution of the planets around the sun, and the causes of a lunar eclipse. I was compelled, like John Phoenix, to manufacture my own orrery, and I did it with a lump of frozen, tallow to represent the earth, a chunk of black bread for the moon, and small pieces of dried meat for the lesser planets. The resemblance to the heavenly bodies was not, I must confess, very striking; but by making believe pretty hard we managed to get along. A spectator would have been amused could he have seen with what grave solemnity I circulated the bread and tallow in their respective orbits, and have heard the long-drawn exclamations of astonishment from the natives as I brought the bread into eclipse behind the lump of tallow. My first lecture would have been a grand success if my native audience had only been able to understand the representative and symbolical character of the bread and tallow. The great trouble was that their imaginative faculties were weak. They could not be made to see that bread stood for the moon and tallow-for the earth, but persisted in regarding them as so many terrestrial products having an intrinsic value of their own. They accordingly melted up the earth to drink, devoured the moon whole, and wanted another lecture immediately. I endeavoured to explain to them that these lectures were intended to be as_tronomical, not gas_tronomical, and that eating and drinking up the heavenly bodies in this reckless way was very improper. Astronomical science I assured them did not recognise any such eclipses as those produced by swallowing the planets, and however satisfactory such a course might be to them, it was very demoralising to my orrery. Remonstrances had very little effect, and I was compelled to provide a new sun, moon, and earth for every, lecture. It soon became evident to me that these astronomical feasts were becoming altogether too popular, for my audience thought nothing of eating up a whole solar system every night, and planetary material was becoming scarce. I was finally compelled, therefore, to use stones and snowballs to represent celestial bodies, instead of bread and tallow, and from that time the interest in astronomical phenomena gradually abated and the popularity of my lectures steadily declined until I was left without a single hearer.

The short winter day of three hours had long since closed and the night was far advanced when after twenty-three days of rough travel we drew near our final destination - the ultima Thule of Russian civilisation. I was lying on my sledge nearly buried in heavy furs and half asleep, when the distant barking of dogs announced our approach to the village of Anadyrsk. I made a hurried attempt to change my thick fur torbassa and overstockings for American boots, but was surprised in the very act by the drawing up of my sledge before the house of the Russian priest, where we intended to stop until we could make arrangements for a house of our own.

A crowd of curious spectators had gathered about the door to see the wonderful Amerikanse about whom they had heard, and prominent in the centre of the fur-clad group stood the priest, with long flowing hair and beard, dressed in a voluminous black robe, and holding above his head a long tallow candle which flared wildly in the cold night air. As soon as I could disencumber my feet of my overstockings I alighted from my sledge, amid profound bows and "zdrastvuitias" from the crowd, and received a hearty welcome from the patriarchal priest. Three weeks roughing it in the wilderness had not, I fancy, improved my personal appearance, and my costume would have excited a sensation anywhere except in Siberia. My face, which was not over clean, was darkened by three weeks' growth of beard; my hair was in confusion and hung in long ragged locks over my forehead, and the fringe of shaggy black bearskin around my face gave me a peculiarly wild and savage expression of countenance. The American boots which I had hastily drawn on as we entered the village were all that indicated any previous acquaintance with civilisation. Replying to the respectful salutations of the Chuances, Yukagirs, and Russian Cossacks who in yellow fur hoods and potted deerskin coats crowded about the door, I followed the priest into the house. It was the second dwelling worthy the name of house which I had entered in twenty-two days, and after the smoky Korak yurts of Kuil, Mikina, and Shestakova, it seemed to me to be a perfect palace. The floor was carpeted with soft, dark deerskins in which one's feet sank deeply at every step; a blazing fire burned in a neat fireplace in one corner, and flooded the room with cheerful light; the tables were covered with bright American table-cloths; a tiny gilt taper was lighted before a massive gilt shrine opposite the door; the windows were of glass instead of the slabs of ice and the smoky fish bladders to which I had become accustomed; a few illustrated newspapers lay on a stand in one corner, and everything in the house was arranged with a taste and a view to comfort which were as welcome to a tired traveller as they were unexpected in this land of desolate steppes and uncivilised people. Dodd, who was driving his own sledge, had not yet arrived; but from the door we could hear a voice in the adjoining forest singing "Won't I be glad when I get out of the wilderness, out o' the wilderness, out o' the wilderness," the musician being entirely unconscious that he was near the village, or that his melodiously expressed desire to "get out o' the wilderness" was overheard by any one else. My Russian was not extensive or accurate enough to enable me to converse very satisfactorily with the priest, and I was heartily glad when Dodd got out of the wilderness, and appeared to relieve my embarrassment. He didn't look much better than I did; that was one comfort. I drew mental comparisons as soon as he entered the room and convinced myself that one looked as much like a Korak as the other, and that neither could claim precedence in point of civilisation on account of superior elegance of dress. We shook hands with the priest's wife - a pale slender lady with light hair and dark eyes, - made the acquaintance of two or three pretty little children, who fled from us in affright as soon as they were released, and finally seated ourselves at the table to drink tea.

Our host's cordial manner soon put us at our ease, and in ten minutes Dodd was rattling off fluently a highly coloured account of our adventures and sufferings, laughing, joking, and drinking vodka with the priest, as unceremoniously as if he had known him for ten years instead of as many minutes. That was a peculiar gift of Dodd's, which I often used to envy. In five minutes, with the assistance of a little vodka, he would break down the ceremonious reserve of the severest old patriarch in the whole Greek Church, and completely carry him by storm; while I could only sit by and smile feebly, without being able to say a word. Great is "the gift o' gab."

After an excellent supper of shchi (shchee) or cabbage-soup, fried cutlets, white bread and butter, we spread our bearskins down on the floor, undressed ourselves for the second time in three weeks, and went to bed. The sensation of sleeping without furs, and with uncovered heads, was so strange, that for a long time we lay awake, watching the red flickering firelight on the wall, and enjoying the delicious warmth of soft, fleecy blankets, and the luxury of unconfined limbs and bare feet.