Tent Life in Siberia
George Kennan

Part 3 out of 7

into two parties--one to go around the mountains by water with the
whale-boat and heavy baggage, and one over them with twenty unloaded
horses. The road over the mountains was supposed to lie near the
seacoast, so that the land party would be most of the time within
signalling distance of the whale-boat, and in case either party
met with any accident or found its progress stopped by unforeseen
obstacles the other could come to its assistance. Near the middle of
the mountainous tract, just west of the principal ridge, there was
said to be a small river called the Samanka (sa-mahn'-kah), and the
mouth of this river was agreed upon as a rendezvous for the two
parties in case they lost sight of each other during storms or foggy
weather. The Major decided to go with Dodd in the whale-boat, and gave
me command of the land party, consisting of our best Cossack, Viushin,
six Kamchadals, and twenty light horses. Flags were made, a code of
signals was agreed upon, the heavy baggage was transferred to the
whale-boat and a large sealskin canoe, and early on the morning of
October 4th I bade the Major and Dodd good-bye at the beach, and they
pushed off. We started up our train of horses as the boats disappeared
around a projecting bluff, and cantered away briskly across the
valley toward a gap in the mountains, through which we entered the
"wilderness." The road for the first ten or fifteen versts was very
good; but I was surprised to find that, instead of leading us along
the seashore, it went directly back into the mountains away from the
sea, and I began to fear that our arrangements for cooperation would
be of little avail. Thinking that the whale-boat would not probably
get far the first day under oars and without wind, we encamped early
in a narrow valley between two parallel ranges of mountains. I tried,
by climbing a low mountain back of our tent, to get a sight of the
sea; but we were at least fifteen versts from the coast, and the view
was limited by an intervening range of rugged peaks, many of which
reach the altitude of perpetual snow. It was rather lonely to camp
that night without seeing Dodd's cheerful face by the fireside, and
I missed more than I thought I should the lively sallies, comical
stories and good-humoured pleasantry which had hitherto brightened
the long hours of camp life. If Dodd could have read my thoughts that
evening, as I sat in solitary majesty by the fireside, he would have
been satisfied that his society was not unappreciated, nor his absence
unfelt. Viushin took especial pains with the preparation of my supper,
and did the best he could, poor fellow, to enliven the solitary meal
with stories and funny reminiscences of Kamchatkan travel; but the
venison cutlets had lost somehow their usual savour, and the Russian
jokes and stories I could not understand. After supper I lay down upon
my bearskins in the tent, and fell asleep watching the round moon rise
over a ragged volcanic peak east of the valley.

On the second day we travelled through a narrow tortuous valley among
the mountains, over spongy swamps of moss, and across deep narrow
creeks, until we reached a ruined subterranean hut nearly half way
from Lesnoi to the Samanka River. Here we ate a lunch of dried fish
and hardbread, and started again up the valley in a heavy rain-storm,
surrounded on all sides by rocks, snow-capped mountains, and extinct
volcanic peaks. The road momentarily grew worse. The valley narrowed
gradually to a wild rocky canon, a hundred and fifty feet in depth,
at the bottom of which ran a swollen mountain torrent, foaming around
sharp black rocks, and falling over ledges of lava in magnificent
cascades. Along the black precipitous sides of this "Devil's Pass"
there did not seem to be footing for a chamois; but our guide said
that he had been through it many times before, and dismounting from
his horse he cautiously led the way along a narrow rocky ledge in
the face of the cliff which I had not before noticed. Over this we
carefully made our way, now descending nearly to the water's edge, and
then rising again until the roaring stream was fifty feet below, and
we could drop stones from our outstretched arms directly into the
boiling, foaming waters. Presuming too much upon the sagacity of a
sure-footed horse, I carelessly attempted the passage of the ravine
without dismounting, and came near paying the penalty of my rashness
by a violent death. About half way through, where the trail was only
eight or ten feet above the bed of the torrent, the ledge, or a
portion of it, gave way under my horse's feet, and we went down
together in a struggling mass upon the rocks in the channel of the
stream. I had taken the precaution to disengage my feet from the
treacherous iron stirrups, and as we fell I threw myself toward the
face of the cliff so as to avoid being crushed by my horse. The fall
was not a very long one, and I came down uppermost, but narrowly
escaped having my head broken by my animal's hoofs as he struggled to
regain his feet. He was somewhat cut and bruised, but not seriously
hurt, and tightening the saddle-girth I waded along through the
water, leading him after me until I was able to regain the path. Then
climbing into the saddle again, with dripping clothes and somewhat
shaken nerves, I rode on.

Just before dark we reached a point where further progress in that
direction seemed to be absolutely cut off by a range of high mountains
which ran directly across the valley. It was the central ridge of the
Samanka Mountains. I looked around with a glance of inquiring surprise
at the guide, who pointed directly over the range, and said that
there lay our road. A forest of birch extended about half way up
the mountain side, and was succeeded by low evergreen bushes,
trailing-pine, and finally by bare black rocks rising high over all,
where not even the hardy reindeer-moss could find soil enough to bury
its roots. I no longer wondered at the positive declaration of the
Kamchadals, that with loaded horses it would be impossible to cross,
and began to doubt whether it could be done even with light horses. It
looked very dubious to me, accustomed as I was to rough climbing and
mountain roads. I decided to camp at once where we were, and obtain as
much rest as possible, so that we and our horses would be fresh for
the hard day's work which evidently lay before us. Night closed in
early and gloomily, the rain still falling in torrents, so that we
had no opportunity of drying our wet clothes. I longed for a drink
of brandy to warm my chilled blood, but my pocket flask had been
forgotten in the hurry of our departure from Lesnoi, and I was obliged
to content myself with the milder stimulus of hot tea. My bedding,
having been wrapped up in an oilcloth blanket, was fortunately dry,
and crawling feet first, wet as I was, into my bearskin bag, and
covering up warmly with heavy blankets, I slept in comparative

Viushin waked me early in the morning with the announcement that it
was snowing. I rose hastily and putting aside the canvas of the
tent looked out. That which I most dreaded had happened. A driving
snowstorm was sweeping down the valley, and Nature had assumed
suddenly the stern aspect and white pitiless garb of winter. Snow had
already fallen to a depth of three inches in the valley, and on the
mountains, of course, it would be deep, soft, and drifted. I hesitated
for a moment about attempting to cross the rugged range in such
weather; but my orders were imperative to go on at least to the
Samanka River, and a failure to do so might defeat the object of the
whole expedition. Previous experience convinced me that the Major
would not let a storm interfere with the execution of his plans; and
if he should succeed in reaching the Samanka River and I should not, I
never could recover from the mortification of the failure, nor be able
to convince him that Anglo-Saxon blood was as good as Slavonic. I
reluctantly gave the order therefore to break camp, and as soon as the
horses could be collected and saddled we started for the base of the
mountain range. Hardly had we ascended two hundred feet out of the
shelter of the valley before we were met by a hurricane of wind from
the northeast, which swept blinding, suffocating clouds of snow down
the slope into our faces until earth and sky seemed mingled and lost
in a great white whirling mist. The ascent soon became so steep and
rocky that we could no longer ride our horses up it. We therefore
dismounted, and wading laboriously through deep soft drifts, and
climbing painfully over sharp jagged rocks, which cut open our
sealskin boots, we dragged our horses slowly upward. We had ascended
wearily in this way perhaps a thousand feet, when I became so
exhausted that I was compelled to lie down. The snow in many places
was drifted as high as my waist, and my horse refused to take a step
until he was absolutely dragged to it. After a rest of a few moments
we pushed on, and after another hour of hard work we succeeded in
gaining what seemed to be the crest of the mountain, perhaps 2000 feet
above the sea. Here the fury of the wind was almost irresistible.
Dense clouds of driving snow hid everything from sight at a distance
of a few steps, and we seemed to be standing on a fragment of a
wrecked world enveloped in a whirling tempest of stinging snowflakes.
Now and then a black volcanic crag, inaccessible as the peak of the
Matterhorn, would loom out in the white mist far above our heads, as
if suspended in mid-air, giving a startling momentary wildness to the
scene; then it would disappear again in flying snow, and leave us
staring blindly into vacancy. A long fringe of icicles hung round the
visor of my cap, and my clothes, drenched with the heavy rain of the
previous day, froze into a stiff crackling armour of ice upon my body.
Blinded by the snow, with benumbed limbs and chattering teeth, I
mounted my horse and let him go where he would, only entreating the
guide to hurry and get down somewhere off from this exposed position.
He tried in vain to compel his horse to face the storm. Neither shouts
nor blows could force him to turn round, and he was obliged finally
to ride along the crest of the mountain to the eastward. We went down
into a comparatively sheltered valley, up again upon another ridge
higher than the first, around the side of a conical peak where the
wind blew with great force, down into another deep ravine and up still
another ridge, until I lost entirely the direction of our route and
the points of the compass, and had not the slightest idea where we
were going. I only knew that we were half frozen and in a perfect
wilderness of mountains.

I had noticed several times within half an hour that our guide was
holding frequent and anxious consultations with the other Kamchadals
about our road, and that he seemed to be confused and in doubt as to
the direction in which we ought to go. He now came to me with a gloomy
face, and confessed that we were lost. I could not blame the poor
fellow for losing the road in such a storm, but I told him to go on in
what he believed to be the direction of the Samanka River, and if we
succeeded in finding somewhere a sheltered valley we would camp and
wait for better weather. I wished to caution him also against riding
accidentally over the edges of precipices in the blinding snow, but I
could not speak Russian enough to make myself understood.

We wandered on aimlessly for two hours, over ridges, up peaks, and
down into shallow valleys, getting deeper and deeper apparently into
the heart of the mountains but finding no shelter from the storm. It
became evident that something must be done, or we should all freeze
to death. I finally called the guide, told him I would take the lead
myself, and opening my little pocket compass, showed him the direction
of the sea-coast. In that direction I determined to go until we should
come out somewhere. He looked in stupid wonder for a moment at the
little brass box with its trembling needle, and then cried out
despairingly, "Oh, Barin! How does the come-_pass_ know anything about
these accursed mountains? The come-_pass_ never has been over this
road before. I've travelled here all my life, and, God forgive me, I
don't know where the sea is!" Hungry, anxious, and half frozen as I
was, I could not help smiling at our guide's idea of an inexperienced
compass which had never travelled in Kamchatka, and could not
therefore know anything about the road. I assured him confidently that
the "come-_pass_" was a great expert at finding the sea in a storm;
but he shook his head mournfully, as if he had little faith in its
abilities, and refused to go in the direction that I indicated.
Finding it impossible to make my horse face the wind, I dismounted,
and, compass in hand, led him away in the direction of the sea,
followed by Viushin, who, with an enormous bearskin wrapped around his
head, looked like some wild animal. The guide, seeing that we were
determined to trust in the compass, finally concluded to go with us.
Our progress was necessarily very slow, as the snow was deep, our
limbs chilled and stiffened by their icy covering, and a hurricane of
wind blowing in our faces. About the middle of the afternoon, however,
we came suddenly out upon the very brink of a storm-swept precipice a
hundred and fifty feet in depth, against the base of which the sea was
hurling tremendous green breakers with a roar that drowned the rushing
noise of the wind. I had never imagined so wild and lonely a scene.
Behind and around us lay a wilderness of white, desolate peaks,
crowded together under a grey, pitiless sky, with here and there a
patch of trailing-pine, or a black pinnacle of trap-rock, to intensify
by contrast the ghastly whiteness and desolation of the weird snowy
mountains. In front, but far below, was the troubled sea, rolling
mysteriously out of a grey mist of snowflakes, breaking in thick
sheets of clotted froth against the black cliff, and making long
reverberations, and hollow, gurgling noises in the subterranean
caverns which it had hollowed out. Snow, water, and mountains, and in
the foreground a little group of ice-covered men and shaggy horses,
staring at the sea from the summit of a mighty cliff! It was a simple
picture, but it was full of cheerless, mournful suggestions. Our
guide, after looking eagerly up and down the gloomy precipitous coast
in search of some familiar landmark, finally turned to me with a
brighter face, and asked to see the compass. I unscrewed the cover and
showed him the blue quivering needle still pointing to the north. He
examined it curiously, but with evident respect for its mysterious
powers, and at last said that it was truly a "great master," and
wanted to know if it always pointed toward the sea! I tried to explain
to him its nature and use, but I could not make him understand, and
he walked away firmly believing that there was something uncanny and
supernatural about a little brass box that could point out the road to
the sea in a country where it had never before been!

We pushed on to the northward throughout the afternoon, keeping as
near the coast as possible, winding around among the thickly scattered
peaks and crossing no less than nine low ridges of the mountain range.

I noticed throughout the day the peculiar phenomenon of which I had
read in Tyndall's _Glaciers of the Alps_--the blue light which seemed
to fill every footprint and little crevice in the snow. The hole made
by a long slender stick was fairly luminous with what appeared to be
deep blue vapour. I never saw this singular phenomenon so marked at
any other time during nearly three years of northern travel.

About an hour after dark we rode down into a deep lonely valley, which
came out, our guide said, upon the sea beach near the mouth of the
Samanka River. Here no snow had fallen, but it was raining heavily. I
thought it hardly possible that the Major and Dodd could have reached
the appointed rendezvous in such a storm; but I directed the men to
pitch the tent, while Viushin and I rode on to the mouth of the river
to ascertain whether the whale-boat had arrived or not. It was too
dark to see anything distinctly, but we found no evidence that human
beings had ever been there, and returned disappointed to camp. We were
never more glad to get under a tent, eat supper, and crawl into our
bearskin sleeping-bags, than after that exhausting day's work. Our
clothes had been either wet or frozen for nearly forty-eight hours,
and we had been fourteen hours on foot and in the saddle, without warm
food or rest.

[Illustration: Wooden Cup]



Early Saturday morning we moved on to the mouth of the valley, pitched
our tent in a position to command a view of the approaches to the
Samanka River, ballasted its edges with stones to keep the wind from
blowing it down, and prepared to wait two days, according to orders,
for the whale-boat. The storm still continued, and the heavy sea,
which dashed sullenly all day against the black rocks under our tent,
convinced me that nothing could be expected from the other party. I
only hoped that they had succeeded in getting safely landed somewhere
before the storm began. Caught by a gale under the frowning wall of
rock which stretched for miles along the coast, the whale-boat, I
knew, must either swamp with all on board, or be dashed to pieces
against the cliffs. In either case not a soul could escape to tell the

That night Viushin astonished and almost disheartened me with the news
that we were eating the last of our provisions. There was no more
meat, and the hardbread which remained was only a handful of
water-soaked crumbs. He and all the Kamchadals, confidently expecting
to meet the whale-boat at the Samanka River, had taken only three
days' food. He had said nothing about it until the last moment, hoping
that the whale-boat would arrive or something turn up; but it could no
longer be concealed. We were three days' journey from any settlement,
and without food. How we were to get back to Lesnoi I did not know,
as the mountains were probably impassable now, on account of the snow
which had fallen since we crossed, and the weather did not permit us
to indulge a hope that the whale-boat would ever come. Much as we
dreaded it, there was nothing to be done but to attempt another
passage of the mountain range, and that without a moment's delay.
I had been ordered to wait for the whale-boat two days; but
circumstances, I thought, justified a disobedience of orders, and I
directed the Kamchadals to be ready to start for Lesnoi early the next
morning. Then, writing a note to the Major, and enclosing it in a tin
can, to be left on the site of our camp, I crawled into my fur bag to
sleep and get strength for another struggle with the mountains.

The following morning was cold and stormy, and the snow was still
falling in the mountains, and heavy rain in the valley. We broke camp
at daylight, saddled our horses, distributed what little baggage we
had among them, as equally as possible, and made every preparation for
deep snow and hard climbing.

Our guide, after a short consultation with his comrades, now came to
me and proposed that we abandon our plan of crossing the mountains as
wholly impracticable, and try instead to make our way along the narrow
strip of beach which the ebbing tide would leave bare at the foot
of the cliffs. This plan, he contended, was no more dangerous than
attempting to cross the mountains, and was much more certain of
success, as there were only a few points where at low water a horse
could not pass with dry feet. It was not more than thirty miles to
a ravine on the south side of the mountain range, through which we
could, leave the beach and regain our old trail at a point within one
hard day's ride of Lesnoi. The only danger was in being caught by high
water before we could reach this ravine, and even then we might save
ourselves by climbing up on the rocks, and abandoning our horses to
their fate. It would be no worse for them than starving and freezing
to death in the mountains. Divested of its verbal plausibility, his
plan was nothing more nor less than a grand thirty-mile race with a
high tide along a narrow beach, from which all escape was cut off by
precipitous cliffs one and two hundred feet in height. If we reached
the ravine in time, all would be well; but if not, our beach would be
covered ten feet deep with water, and our horses, if not ourselves,
would be swept away like corks. There was a recklessness and dash
about this proposal which made it very attractive when compared with
wading laboriously through snow-drifts, in frozen clothes, without
anything to eat, and I gladly agreed to it, and credited our guide
with more sense and spirit than I had ever before seen exhibited by a
Kamchadal. The tide was now only beginning to ebb, and we had three or
four hours to spare before it would be low enough to start. This
time the Kamchadals improved by catching one of the dogs which had
accompanied us from Lesnoi, killing him in a cold-blooded way with
their long knives, and offering his lean body as a sacrifice to the
Evil Spirit, in whose jurisdiction these infernal mountains were
supposed to be. The poor animal was cut open, his entrails taken out
and thrown to the four corners of the earth, and his body suspended
by the neck from the top of a long pole set perpendicularly in the
ground. The Evil Spirit's wrath, however, seemed implacable, for it
stormed worse after the performance of these propitiatory rites than
it did before. This did not weaken at all the faith of the Kamchadals
in the efficacy of their atonement. If the storm did not abate, it
was only because an unbelieving American with a diabolical brass box
called a "come-_pass'_" had insisted upon crossing the mountains in
defiance of the _genius loci_ and all his tempestuous warnings. One
dead dog was no compensation at all for such a sacrilegious violation
of the Evil Spirit's clearly expressed wishes! The sacrifice, however,
seemed to relieve the natives' anxiety about their own safety; and,
much as I pitied the poor dog thus ruthlessly slaughtered, I was glad
to see the manifest improvement which it worked in the spirits of my
superstitious comrades.

About ten o'clock, as nearly as I could estimate the time without a
watch, our guide examined the beach and said we must be off; we would
have between four and five hours to reach the ravine. We mounted
in hot haste, and set out at a swinging gallop along the beach,
overshadowed by tremendous black cliffs on one side, and sprinkled
with salt spray from the breakers on the other. Great masses of green,
slimy seaweed, shells, water-soaked driftwood, and thousands of
medusas, which had been thrown up by the storm, lay strewn in piles
along the beach; but we dashed through and over them at a mad gallop,
never drawing rein for an instant except to pick our way among
enormous masses of rock, which in some places had caved away from
the summit of the cliff and blocked up the beach with grey
barnacle-encrusted fragments as large as freight-cars.

We had got over the first eighteen miles in splendid style, when
Viushin, who was riding in advance, stopped suddenly, with an
abruptness which nearly threw him over his horse's head, and raised
the familiar cry of "Medveidi! medveidi! dva." Bears they certainly
seemed to be, making their way along the beach a quarter of a mile or
so ahead; but how bears came in that desperate situation, where they
must inevitably be drowned in the course of two or three hours, we
could not conjecture. It made little difference to us, however,
for the bears were there and we must pass. It was a clear case of
breakfast for one party or the other. There could be no dodging or
getting around, for the cliffs and the sea left us a narrow road.
I slipped a fresh cartridge into my rifle and a dozen more into my
pocket; Viushin dropped a couple of balls into his double-barrelled
fowling-piece, and we crept forward behind the rocks to get a shot at
them, if possible, before we should be seen. We were almost within
rifle range when Viushin suddenly straightened up with a loud laugh,
and cried out, "Liudi"--"They are people." Coming out from behind the
rocks, I saw clearly that they were. But how came people there? Two
natives, dressed in fur coats and trousers, approached us with violent
gesticulations, shouting to us in Russian not to shoot, and holding
up something white, like a flag of truce. As soon as they came near
enough one of them handed me a wet, dirty piece of paper, with a
low bow, and I recognised him as a Kamchadal from Lesnoi. They were
messengers from the Major! Thanking God in my heart that the other
party was safe, I tore open the note and read hastily:

Sea Shore, 15 versts from Lesnoi, October 4th. Driven ashore here by
the storm. Hurry back as fast as possible.

S. Abaza.

The Kamchadal messengers had left Lesnoi only one day behind us, but
had been detained by the storm and bad roads, and had only reached on
the previous night our second camp. Finding it impossible to cross the
mountains on account of the snow, they had abandoned their horses,
and were trying to reach the Samanka River on foot by way of the sea
beach. They did not expect to do it in one tide but intended to take
refuge on high rocks during the flood, and resume their journey as
soon as the beach should be left bare by the receding water. There was
no time for any more explanations. The tide was running in rapidly,
and we must make twelve miles in a little over an hour, or lose our
horses. We mounted the tired, wet Kamchadals on two of our spare
animals, and were off again at a gallop. The situation grew more
and more exciting as we approached the ravine. At the end of every
projecting bluff the water was higher and higher, and in several
places it had already touched with foam and spray the foot of the
cliffs. In twenty minutes more the beach would be impassable. Our
horses held out nobly, and the ravine was only a short distance
ahead--only one more projecting bluff intervened. Against this the sea
was already beginning to break, but we galloped past through several
feet of water, and in five minutes drew rein at the mouth of the
ravine. It had been a hard ride, but we had won the race with a clear
ten minutes to spare, and were now on the southern side of the snowy
mountain range, less than sixty miles from Lesnoi. Had it not been
for our guide's good sense and boldness we should still have been
floundering through the snow, and losing our way among the bewildering
peaks, ten miles south of the Samanka River. The ravine up which
our road lay was badly choked with massive rocks, patches of
trailing-pine, and dense thickets of alder, and it cost us two hours'
more hard work to cut a trail through it with axes.

Before dark, however, we had reached the site of our second day's
camp, and about midnight we arrived at the ruined _yurt_ where we had
eaten lunch five days before. Exhausted by fourteen hours' riding
without rest or food, we could go no farther. I had hoped to get
something to eat from the Kamchadal messengers from Lesnoi, but was
disappointed to find that their provisions had been exhausted the
previous day. Viushin scraped a small handful of dirty crumbs out of
our empty bread-bag, fried them in a little blubber, which I suppose
he had brought to grease his gun with, and offered them to me; but,
hungry as I was, I could not eat the dark, greasy mass, and he divided
it by mouthfuls among the Kamchadals.

The second day's ride without food was a severe trial of my strength,
and I began to be tormented by a severe gnawing, burning pain in
my stomach. I tried to quiet it by eating seeds from the cones of
trailing-pine and drinking large quantities of water; but this
afforded no relief, and I became so faint toward evening that I could
hardly sit in my saddle.

About two hours after dark we heard the howling of dogs from Lesnoi,
and twenty minutes later we rode into the settlement, dashed up to the
little log house of the _starosta_, and burst in upon the Major and
Dodd as they sat at supper. Our long ride was over.

Thus ended our unsuccessful expedition to the Samanka Mountains--the
hardest journey I ever experienced in Kamchatka.

Two days afterward, the anxiety and suffering which the Major had
endured in a five days' camp on the sea beach during the storm,
brought on a severe attack of rheumatic fever, and all thoughts of
farther progress were for the present abandoned. Nearly all the horses
in the village were more or less disabled, our Samanka mountain guide
was blind from inflammatory erysipelas brought on by exposure to five
days of storm, and half my party were unfit for duty. Under such
circumstances, another attempt to cross the mountains before winter
was impossible. Dodd and the Cossack Meranef (mer-ah'-nef) were sent
back to Tigil after a physician and a new supply of provisions, while
Viushin and I remained at Lesnoi to take care of the Major.

[Illustration: Stone Lamps]



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"

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

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

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
an _oerstel_ (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.

From a painting by George A. Frost]

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.

[Illustration: Root Digger]



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

From a painting by George A. Frost]

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

"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

"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.

[Illustration: Small Adze with bone headpiece]



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 neighbouring _polog_; 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 the
_taiyon_ 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
_told_ that 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.

[Illustration: Iron Skin Scraper]



On the following morning at daybreak we continued our journey, and
rode until four hours after dark, over a boundless level steppe,
without a single guiding landmark to point the way. I was surprised
to see how accurately our drivers could determine the points of the
compass and shape their course by simply looking at the snow. The
heavy north-east winds which prevail in this locality throughout the
winter sweep the snow into long wave-like ridges called _sastrugi_
(sas-troo'-gee), which are always perpendicular to the course of the
wind, and which almost invariably run in a north-west and south-east
direction. They are sometimes hidden for a few days by fresh-fallen
snow; but an experienced Korak can always tell by removing the upper
layer which way is north, and he travels to his destination by night
or day in a nearly straight line.

We reached the third encampment about six o'clock, and upon entering
the largest tent were surprised to find it crowded with natives, as if
in expectation of some ceremony or entertainment. Inquiry through
our interpreter elicited the interesting fact that the ceremony of
marriage was about to be performed for, or rather by, two members
of the band; and instead of taking up our quarters, as we at first
intended, in another less crowded tent, we determined to remain
and see in what manner this rite would be solemnised by a wholly
uncivilised and barbarous people.

The marriage ceremony of the Koraks is especially remarkable for its
entire originality, and for the indifference which it manifests to the
sensibilities of the bridegroom. In no other country does there
exist such a curious mixture of sense and absurdity as that which is
dignified in the social life of the Koraks with the name of marriage;
and among no other people, let us charitably hope, is the unfortunate
bridegroom subjected to such humiliating indignities. The
contemplation of marriage is, or ought to be, a very serious thing
to every young man; but to a Korak of average sensibility it must be
absolutely appalling. No other proof of bravery need ever be exhibited
than a certificate of marriage (if the Koraks have such documents),
and the bravery rises into positive heroism when a man marries two or
three times. I once knew a Korak in Kamchatka who had four wives, and
I felt as much respect for his heroic bravery as if he had charged
with the Six Hundred at Balaklava.

The ceremony, I believe, has never been described; and inadequate as a
description may be to convey an idea of the reality, it will perhaps
enable American lovers to realise what a calamity they escaped when
they were born in America and not in Kamchatka. The young Korak's
troubles begin when he first falls in love; this, like Achilles'
wrath, is "the direful spring of woes unnumbered." If his intentions
are serious, he calls upon the damsel's father and makes formal
proposals for her hand, ascertains the amount of her dower in
reindeer, and learns her estimated value. He is probably told that he
must work for his wife two or three years--a rather severe trial of
any young man's affection. He then seeks an interview with the young
lady herself, and performs the agreeable or disagreeable duty
which corresponds in Korak to the civilised custom of "popping the
question." We had hoped to get some valuable hints from the Koraks as
to the best method which their experience suggested for the successful
accomplishment of this delicate task; but we could learn nothing that
would be applicable to the more artificial relations of civilised
society. If the young man's sentiments are reciprocated, and he
obtains a positive promise of marriage, he goes cheerfully to work,
like Ferdinand in _The Tempest_ for Miranda's father, and spends two
or three years in cutting and drawing wood, watching reindeer,
making sledges, and contributing generally to the interests of his
prospective father-in-law. At the end of this probationary period
comes the grand "experimentum crucis," which is to decide his fate and
prove the success or the uselessness of his long labour.

At this interesting crisis we had surprised our Korak friends in the
third encampment. The tent which we had entered was an unusually large
one, containing twenty-six _pologs_, arranged in a continuous circle
around its inner circumference. The open space in the centre around
the fire was crowded with the dusky faces and half-shaven heads of the
Korak spectators, whose attention seemed about equally divided between
sundry kettles and troughs of _manyalla_, boiled venison, marrow,
frozen tallow, and similar delicacies, and the discussion of some
controverted point of marriage etiquette. Owing to my ignorance of the
language, I was not able to enter thoroughly into the merits of the
disputed question; but it seemed to be ably argued on both sides.
Our sudden entrance seemed to create a temporary diversion from
the legitimate business of the evening. The tattooed women and
shaven-headed men stared in open-mouthed astonishment at the
pale-faced guests who had come unbidden to the marriage-feast, having
on no wedding garments. Our faces were undeniably dirty, our blue
hunting-shirts and buckskin trousers bore the marks of two months'
rough travel, in numerous rips, tears, and tatters, which were only
partially masked by a thick covering of reindeer hair from our fur
_kukhlankas._ Our general appearance, in fact, suggested a more
intimate acquaintance with dirty _yurts_, mountain thickets, and
Siberian storms, than with the civilising influences of soap, water,
razors, and needles. We bore the curious scrutiny of the assemblage,
however, with the indifference of men who were used to it, and
sipped our hot tea while waiting for the ceremony to begin. I looked
curiously around to see if I could distinguish the happy candidates
for matrimonial honours; but they were evidently concealed in one of
the closed _pologs_. The eating and drinking seemed by this time to be
about finished, and an air of expectation and suspense pervaded the
entire crowd. Suddenly we were startled by the loud and regular
beating of a native _baraban_ or bass drum, which fairly filled the
tent with a great volume of sound. At the same instant the tent opened
to permit the passage of a tall, stern-looking Korak, with an
armful of willow sprouts and alder branches, which he proceeded
to distribute in all the _pologs_ of the tent. "What do you suppose
that's for?" asked Dodd in an undertone. "I don't know," was the
reply; "keep quiet and you'll see." The regular throbs of the drum
continued throughout the distribution of the willow sticks and at
its close the drummer began to sing a low, musical recitative, which
increased gradually in volume and energy until it swelled into a wild,
barbarous chant, timed by the regular beats of the heavy drum. A
slight commotion followed, the front curtains of all the _pologs_ were
thrown up, the women stationed themselves in detachments of two or
three at the entrance of each polog, and took up the willow branches
which had been provided. In a moment a venerable native, whom we
presumed to be the father of one of the parties, emerged from one of
the _pologs_ near the door, leading a good-looking young Korak and the
dark-faced bride. Upon their appearance the excitement increased to
the pitch of frenzy, the music redoubled its rapidity, the men in the
centre of the tent joined in the uncouth chant, and uttered at short
intervals peculiar shrill cries of wild excitement. At a given signal
from the native who had led out the couple, the bride darted suddenly
into the first _polog_, and began a rapid flight around the tent,
raising the curtains between the _pologs_ successively, and passing
under. The bridegroom instantly followed in hot pursuit; but the women
who were stationed in each compartment threw every possible impediment
in his way, tripping up his unwary feet, holding down the curtains
to prevent his passage, and applying the willow and alder switches
unmercifully to a very susceptible part of his body as he stooped
to raise them. The air was filled with drum-beats, shouts of
encouragement and derision, and the sound of the heavy blows which
were administered to the unlucky bridegroom by each successive
detachment of women as he ran the gantlet. It became evident at once
that despite his most violent efforts he would fail to overtake the
flying Atalanta before she completed the circuit of the tent. Even the
golden apples of Hesperides would have availed him little against such
disheartening odds; but with undismayed perseverance he pressed
on, stumbling headlong over the outstretched feet of his female
persecutors, and getting constantly entangled in the ample folds of
the reindeerskin curtains, which were thrown with the skill of a
matador over his head and eyes. In a moment the bride had entered the
last closed _polog_ near the door, while the unfortunate bridegroom
was still struggling with his accumulating misfortunes about half-way
around the tent. I expected to see him relax his efforts and give up
the contest when the bride disappeared, and was preparing to protest
strongly in his behalf against the unfairness of the trial; but, to my
surprise, he still struggled on, and with a final plunge burst through
the curtains of the last _polog_ and rejoined his bride. The music
suddenly ceased, and the throng began to stream out of the tent. The
ceremony was evidently over. Turning to Meranef, who with a delighted
grin had watched its progress, we inquired what it all meant. "Were
they married?"--"Da's," was the affirmative reply. "But," we objected,
"he didn't catch her."--"She waited for him, your honour, in the last
_polog_, and if he caught her there it was enough."--"Suppose he had
_not_ caught her there, then what?"--"Then," answered the Cossack,
with an expressive shrug of commiseration, "the _beidnak_ [poor
fellow] would have had to work two more years." This was pleasant--for
the bridegroom! To work two years for a wife, undergo a severe course
of willow sprouts at the close of his apprenticeship, and then have
no security against a possible breach of promise on the part of the
bride. His faith in her constancy must be unlimited. The intention of
the whole ceremony was evidently to give the woman an opportunity to
marry the man or not, as she chose, since it was obviously impossible
for him to catch her under such circumstances, unless she voluntarily
waited for him in one of the _pologs_. The plan showed a more
chivalrous regard and deference for the wishes and preferences of the
gentler sex than is common in an unreconstructed state of society; but
it seemed to me, as an unprejudiced observer, that the same result
might have been obtained without so much abuse of the unfortunate
bridegroom! Some regard ought to have been paid to his feelings, if
he _was_ a man. I could not ascertain the significance of the
chastisement which was inflicted by the women upon the bridegroom with
the willow switches. Dodd suggested that it might be emblematical of
married life--a sort of foreshadowing of future domestic experience;
but in view of the masculine Korak character, this hardly seemed to
me probable. No woman in her senses would try the experiment a second
time upon one of the stern, resolute men who witnessed that ceremony,
and who seemed to regard it _then_ as perfectly proper. Circumstances
would undoubtedly alter cases.

Mr. A.S. Bickmore, in the _American Journal of Science_ for May,
1868, notices this curious custom of the Koraks, and says that the
chastisement is intended to test the young man's "ability to bear up
against the ills of life"; but I would respectfully submit that the
ills of life do not generally come in that shape, and that switching
a man over the back with willow sprouts is a very singular way of
preparing him for future misfortunes of any kind.

Whatever may be the motive, it is certainly an infringement upon the
generally recognised prerogatives of the sterner sex, and should be
discountenanced by all Koraks who favour masculine supremacy. Before
they know it, they will have a woman's suffrage association on their
hands, and female lecturers will be going about from band to band
advocating the substitution of hickory clubs and slung-shots for the
harmless willow switches, and protesting against the tyranny which
will not permit them to indulge in this interesting diversion at least
three times a week. [Footnote: It is now well known that this ceremony
is a form of "marriage by capture" which is widely prevalent among
barbarous peoples.--G.K. (1909).]

After the conclusion of the ceremony we removed to an adjacent tent,
and were surprised, as we came out into the open air, to see three
or four Koraks shouting and reeling about in an advanced stage of
intoxication--celebrating, I suppose, the happy event which had just
transpired. I knew that there was not a drop of alcoholic liquor in
all northern Kamchatka, nor, so far as I knew, anything from which it
could be made, and it was a mystery to me how they had succeeded in
becoming so suddenly, thoroughly, hopelessly, undeniably drunk. Even
Ross Browne's beloved Washoe, with its "howling wilderness" saloons,
could not have turned out more creditable specimens of intoxicated
humanity than those before us. The exciting agent, whatever it might
be, was certainly as quick in its operation, and as effective in its
results, as any "tanglefoot" or "bottled lightning" known to modern
civilisation. Upon inquiry we learned to our astonishment that they
had been eating a species of the plant vulgarly known as toadstool.
There is a peculiar fungus of this class in Siberia, known to the
natives as "muk-a-moor," and as it possesses active intoxicating
properties, it is used as a stimulant by nearly all the Siberian
tribes. [Footnote: _Agaricus muscarius_ or fly-agaric.] Taken in large
quantities it is a violent narcotic poison; but in small doses it
produces all the effects of alcoholic liquor. Its habitual use,
however, completely shatters the nervous system, and its sale by
Russian traders to the natives has consequently been made a penal
offence by Russian law. In spite of all prohibitions, the trade is
still secretly carried on, and I have seen twenty dollars' worth of
furs bought with a single fungus. The Koraks would gather it for
themselves, but it requires the shelter of timber for its growth, and
is not to be found on the barren steppes over which they wander; so
that they are obliged for the most part to buy it, at enormous prices,
from the Russian traders. It may sound strangely to American ears, but
the invitation which a convivial Korak extends to his passing friend
is not, "Come in and have a drink," but, "Won't you come in and take a
toadstool?" Not a very alluring proposal perhaps to a civilised toper,
but one which has a magical effect upon a dissipated Korak. As the
supply of these toadstools is by no means equal to the demand, Korak
ingenuity has been greatly exercised in the endeavour to economise the
precious stimulant, and make it go as far as possible. Sometimes, in
the course of human events, it becomes imperatively necessary that a
whole band shall get drunk together, and they have only one toadstool
to do it with. For a description of the manner in which this band gets
drunk collectively and individually upon one fungus, and keeps drunk
for a week, the curious reader is referred to Goldsmith's _Citizen
of the World_, Letter 32. It is but just to say, however, that this
horrible practice is almost entirely confined to the settled Koraks of
Penzhinsk Gulf--the lowest, most degraded portion of the whole tribe.
It may prevail to a limited extent among the wandering natives, but I
never heard of more than one such instance outside of the Penzhinsk
Gulf settlements.

Our travel for the next few days after leaving the third encampment
was fatiguing and monotonous. The unvarying routine of our daily life
in smoky Korak tents, and the uniform flatness and barrenness of the
country over which we journeyed, became inexpressibly tiresome, and we
looked forward in longing anticipation to the Russian settlement of
Gizhiga, at the head of Gizhiginsk Gulf, which was the Mecca of our
long pilgrimage. To spend more than a week at one time with the
Wandering Koraks without becoming lonesome or homesick, requires an
almost inexhaustible fertility of mental resource. One is thrown for
entertainment entirely upon himself. No daily paper, with its fresh
material for thought and discussion, comes to enliven the long blank
evenings by the tent fire; no wars or rumours of wars, no _coup
d'etat_ of diplomacy, no excitement of political canvass ever agitates
the stagnant intellectual atmosphere of Korak existence. Removed to an
infinite distance, both physically and intellectually, from all of the
interests, ambitions, and excitements which make up our world, the
Korak simply exists, like a human oyster, in the quiet waters of his
monotonous life. An occasional birth or marriage, the sacrifice of a
dog, or, on rare occasions, of a man to the Korak Ahriman, and the
infrequent visits of a Russian trader, are the most prominent events
in his history, from the cradle to the grave. I found it almost
impossible sometimes to realise, as I sat by the fire in a Korak tent,
that I was still in the modern world of railroads, telegraphs,
and daily newspapers. I seemed to have been carried back by some
enchantment through the long cycles of time, and made a dweller in
the tents of Shem and Japheth. Not a suggestion was there in all our
surroundings of the vaunted enlightenment and civilisation of the
nineteenth century, and as we gradually accustomed ourselves to the
new and strange conditions of primitive barbarism, our recollections
of a civilised life faded into the unreal imagery of a vivid dream.

[Illustration: Ice scratcher used in stalking seals]



Our long intercourse with the Wandering Koraks gave us an opportunity
of observing many of their peculiarities, which would very likely
escape the notice of a transient visitor; and as our journey until we
reached the head of Penzhinsk Gulf was barren of incident, I shall
give in this chapter all the information I could gather relative to
the language, religion, superstitions, customs, and mode of life of
the Kamchatkan Koraks.

There can be no doubt whatever that the Koraks and the powerful
Siberian tribe known as Chukchis (or Tchucktchis, according to
Wrangell) descended originally from the same stock, and migrated
together from their ancient locations to the places where they now
live. Even after several centuries of separation, they resemble each
other so closely that they can hardly be distinguished, and their
languages differ less one from the other than the Portuguese differs
from the Spanish. Our Korak interpreters found very little difficulty
in conversing with Chukchis; and a comparison of vocabularies which we
afterward made showed only a slight dialectical variation, which could
be easily accounted for by a few centuries of separation. None of
the Siberian languages with which I am acquainted are written,
and, lacking a fixed standard of reference, they change with great
rapidity. This is shown by a comparison of a modern Chukchi vocabulary
with the one compiled by M. de Lesseps in 1788. Many words have
altered so materially as to be hardly recognisable. Others, on the
contrary, such as "tin tin," ice, "oottoot," wood, "weengay," no,
"ay," yes, and most of the numerals up to ten, have undergone no
change whatever. Both Koraks and Chukchis count by fives instead of
tens, a peculiarity which is also noticeable in the language of the
Co-Yukons in Alaska. The Korak numerals are:--

Innin, One.
Nee-ak deg.h, Two.
Nee-ok deg.h, Three.
Nee-ak deg.h, Four.
Mil-li-gen, Five.
In-nin mil-li-gen, Five-one.
Nee-ak deg.h " Five-two.
Nee-ok deg.h " Five-three.
Nee-ak deg.h " Five-four.
Meen-ye-geet-k deg.hin, Ten.

After ten they count ten-one, ten-two, etc., up to fifteen, and then
ten-five-one; but their numerals become so hopelessly complicated when
they get above twenty, that is would be easier to carry a pocketful of
stones and count with them, than to pronounce the corresponding words.

Fifty-six, for instance, is
"Nee-akh-khleep-kin-meen-ye-geet-khin-par-ol-in-nin-mil-li-gen," and
it is only fifty-six after it is all pronounced! It ought to be at
least two hundred and sixty-three millions nine hundred and fourteen
thousand seven hundred and one--and then it would be long. But the
Koraks rarely have occasion to use high numbers; and when they do,
they have an abundance of time. It would be a hard day's work for a
boy to explain in Korak one of the miscellaneous problems in Ray's
Higher Arithmetic. To say 324 x 5260 = 1,704,240 would certainly
entitle him to a recess of an hour and a reward of merit. We
were never able to trace any resemblance whatever between the
Koraki-Chukchi language and the languages spoken by the natives on the
eastern side of Bering Strait. If there be any resemblance, it must be
in grammar rather than in vocabulary.

[Illustration: A KORAK GIRL]

The religion of all the natives of north-eastern Siberia, wandering
and settled, including six or seven widely different tribes, is that
corrupted form of Buddhism known as Shamanism. It is a religion which
varies considerably in different places and among different people;
but with the Koraks and Chukchis it may be briefly defined as the
worship of the evil spirits who are supposed to be embodied in all the
mysterious powers and manifestations of Nature, such as epidemic and
contagious diseases, severe storms, famines, eclipses, and brilliant
auroras. It takes its name from the shamans or priests, who act as
interpreters of the evil spirits' wishes and as mediators between them
and man. All unnatural phenomena, and especially those of a disastrous
and terrible nature, are attributed to the direct action of these
evil spirits, and are considered as plain manifestations of their
displeasure. It is claimed by many that the whole system of Shamanism
is a gigantic imposture practised by a few cunning priests upon
the easy credulity of superstitious natives. This I am sure is a
prejudiced view. No one who has ever lived with the Siberian natives,
studied their character, subjected himself to the same influences that
surround them, and put himself as far as possible in their places,
will ever doubt the sincerity of either priests or followers, or
wonder that the worship of evil spirits should be their only religion.
It is the only religion possible for such men in such circumstances.
A recent writer [Footnote: W.E.H. Lecky, _History of Rationalism
in Europe_.] of great fairness and impartiality has described so
admirably the character of the Siberian Koraks, and the origin and
nature of their religious belief, that I cannot do better than quote
his words:--

"Terror is everywhere the beginning of religion. The phenomena which
impress themselves most forcibly on the mind of the savage are not
those which enter manifestly into the sequence of natural laws, and
which are productive of most beneficial effects; but those which are
disastrous and apparently abnormal. Gratitude is less vivid than
fear, and the smallest infraction of a natural law produces a deeper
impression than the most sublime of its ordinary operations. When,
therefore, the most startling and terrible aspects of Nature are
presented to his mind--when the more deadly forms of disease or
natural convulsion desolate his land, the savage derives from them an
intensely realised perception of diabolical presence. In the darkness
of the night; amid the yawning chasms and the wild echoes of the
mountain gorge; under the blaze of the comet or the solemn gloom of
the eclipse; when famine has blasted the land; when the earthquake
and the pestilence have slaughtered their thousands; in every form
of disease which refracts and distorts the reason, in all that is
strange, portentous, and deadly, he feels and cowers before the
supernatural. Completely exposed to all the influences of Nature, and
completely ignorant of the chain of sequence that unites its various
parts, he lives in continual dread of what he deems the direct and
isolated acts of evil spirits. Feeling them continually near him, he
will naturally endeavour to enter into communion with them. He will
strive to propitiate them with gifts. If some great calamity has
fallen upon him, or if some vengeful passion has mastered his reason,
he will attempt to invest himself with their authority, and his
excited imagination will soon persuade him that he has succeeded in
his desire."

These pregnant words are the key to the religion of the Siberian
natives, and afford the only intelligible explanation of the origin of
shamans. If any proof were needed that this system of religion is the
natural outgrowth of human nature in certain conditions of barbarism,
it would be furnished by the universal prevalence of Shamanism in
north-eastern Siberia among so many diverse tribes of different
character and different origin. The tribe of Tunguses for instance,
is certainly of Chinese descent, and the tribe of Yakuts is certainly
Turkish. Both came from different regions, bringing different beliefs,
superstitions, and modes of thought; but, when both were removed from
all disturbing agencies and subjected to the same external influences,
both developed precisely the same system of religious belief. If
a band of ignorant, barbarous Mahometans were transported to
north-eastern Siberia, and compelled to live alone in tents, century
after century, amid the wild, gloomy scenery of the Stanavoi
Mountains, to suffer terrific storms whose causes they could not
explain, to lose their reindeer suddenly by an epidemic disease which
defied human remedies, to be frightened by magnificent auroras that
set the whole universe in a blaze, and decimated by pestilences whose
nature they could not understand and whose disastrous effects they
were powerless to avert--they would almost inevitably lose by degrees
their faith in Allah and Mahomet, and become precisely such Shamanists
as the Siberian Koraks and Chukchis are today. Even a whole century of
partial civilisation and Christian training cannot wholly counteract
the irresistible Shamanistic influence which is exerted upon the mind
by the wilder, more terrible manifestations of Nature in these lonely
and inhospitable regions. The Kamchadals who accompanied me to the
Samanka Mountains were the sons of Christian parents, and had been
brought up from infancy in the Greek Church; they were firm believers
in the Divine atonement and in Divine providence, and prayed always
night and morning for safety and preservation; yet, when overtaken
by a storm in that gloomy range of mountains, the sense of the
supernatural overcame their religious convictions, God seemed far away
while evil spirits were near and active, and they sacrificed a dog,
like very pagans, to propitiate the diabolical wrath of which the
storm was an evidence. I could cite many similar instances, where the
strongest and apparently most sincere convictions of the reality
of Divine government and superintendence have been overcome by
the influence upon the imagination of some startling and unusual
phenomenon of Nature. Man's actions are governed not so much by what
he intellectually believes as by what he vividly realises; and it is
this vivid realisation of diabolical presence which has given rise to
the religion of Shamanism.

The duties of the shamans or priests among the Koraks are, to make
incantations over the sick, to hold communication with the evil
spirits, and to interpret their wishes and decrees to man. Whenever
any calamity, such as disease, storm, or famine, comes upon a band, it
is of course attributed to some spirit's displeasure, and the shaman


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