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bounded out from behind a little rise I found, had become entangled in the of ground three or four hundred yards bushes near me, and the dogs were all away, and galloped across the steppe howling in chorus, nearly wild with the toward a deep, precipitous ravine, restraint. I was so far satisfied with my through which ran a branch of the experiment, that I did not desire to Mukina River. The dogs, true to their repeat it at present, and made no objecwolfish instincts, started with fierce, ex- tions to the Korak's assuming again his cited howls in pursuit. I made a frantic old position. I was fully convinced by grasp at my spiked stick as we rushed the logic of circumstances that the past, but failed to reach it, and away science of dog-driving demanded more we went over the tundra toward the careful and earnest consideration than ravine, the sledge half the time on one I had yet given to it, and I resolved to runner, and rebounding from the hard study carefully its elementary principles “sastrugi,” or snow-drifts, with a force as expounded by its Korak professors which suggested speedy dislocation of before attempting again to put my own one's joints. The Korak, with more ideas upon the subject into practice. discernment than I had given him credit As we came out of the ravine upon the for, had rolled off the sledge several open steppe, I saw the rest of our party seconds before, and a backward glance a mile away, moving rapidly toward the showed a miscellaneous bundle of legs Korak village of Kuil. and arms still revolving rapidly over the snow in my wake. I had no time, however, with ruin staring me in the Perhaps I ought to apologize for face, to commiserate his misfortune. using the word village to designate the My energies were all devoted to check- Korak settlement of Kuil. I have no ing the terrific speed with which we reason for so doing except that as it were approaching the ravine. Without resembles nothing else on earth, it must the spiked stick I was perfectly help- be a village, Webster and all other lexiless, and in a moment we were on the cographers to the contrary notwithbrink. I shut my eyes, clung tightly to standing. At first sight the traveller the arch, and took the plunge. About imagines that he looks upon a collection half-way down, the descent became of Titanic hour-glasses rudely constructsuddenly steeper, and the lead-dog ed of wood, which at some remote swerved to one side, bringing the sledge period had been expanded laterally by around like the lash of a whip, over- vertical pressure, and reduced to a state turning it, and shooting me with cata- of rickety dilapidation in the process. pultic velocity through the air into a He examines them perhaps with the deep, soft drift of snow at the bottom. curiosity of an antiquarian, as relics of I must have fallen at least eighteen some past age and unknown people; feet, for I buried myself entirely, with but the idea of their present habitation the exception of my lower extremities, by human beings hardly suggests itself which, projecting above the snow, kick- to him. As we drove up with a chorus ed a faint signal for rescue. Encumber- of barks and howls to these nondescript ed with heavy furs, I extricated myself structures, the irrepressible Tom sprang with difficulty; and as I at last emerged, from his sledge with a whoop, which I saw the round, leering face of my late was evidently a reminiscence of Donnydriver grinning at me through the brook Fair, and demanded, “ An’ is this bushes on the edge of the bluff. a house ? " Upon being told that it * Ooma," he hailed. “Well,” · replied was, he
very naturally inquired of his the snowy figure standing waist-high native for the door, and was referred to in the drift. .“ Amerikanski nyett dobra a smooth, black, and very greasy pole, kiour, eh?” (American no good driver). set at an angle from the ground to the “Nyett sofsem dobra," was the melan- upper edge of the rickety hour-glass, anu choly reply, as I waded out. The sledge, affording apparently no hold for han )
" He says,
or foot. Perplexed to know what con- “ Bad luck to the Koriak: ! wud they nection there was between a pole and a make a mon a chimney-sweep, and door, Tom scratched his fur hood re- then burrn him for a sacrifice ? The flectively, and hesitated until his guide, uproarious laughter with which Tom's with a dexterity only to be acquired by comrades met his serious remark seemed long and arduous practice, climbed the partially to reassure him, but he persist pole and grinned back at him from the ed in refusing to descend, and I was summit with a few unintelligible words compelled to set him the example myof gibberish, like "Itchagee khachetkin self. I slid down the oily pole into the Akhmelnemelkhin,” which evidently interior, when, upon opening my tearful meant, “Come up."
“Wot duz 'ee eyes to ascertain my whereabouts, I was say, zur," asked Tom.
saluted with a chorus of drawling • Come up.' “An' if I might be per
"zda-ro-o-o-va's" from half a dozen mitted to say, zur, how the divil am I skinny, greasy old women, who sat to get up.” “Can't you climb,” sug- cross-legged on a raised platform around gested Ford, helplessly. "CLIMB is it!" the fire, sewing fur-clothes. The inteexclaimed Tom, with inexpressible dis- rior of a Korak “yourt” presents a dain. “Do ye think, zur, I'd demane strange and not very inviting appearmeself with climin’a greased pole to get ance to one who has never become acinto a nigger's house?” “You can't get customed from long habit to its dirt, in any other way," argued Ford; "they smoke, and frigid atmosphere. It rego in through the top, don't you see." ceived its only light, and that of a Tom saw, and grumbling out his dis- cheerless, gloomy character, through the satisfaction, set about the ascent. With round bole about twenty feet above the asthmatic breath and dirty hands he floor, which serves as window, door, and gained the summit, only in time to see chimney, and which is reached by a his guide disappear through a round round log, standing perpendicularly in hole out of which the smoke was pour- the centre. The beams, rafters, and ing in dense black clouds. Turning to logs which compose the yourt are all of us with a comical air of astonishment, a glossy blackness, from the smoke in he ejaculated breathlessly, “Be the holy which they are almost constantly envelpowers of Moses, if the dirty spalpeen oped. A wooden platform, raised about hain't gone down the chimney I” a foot from the earth, extends out from “Well, what of it?" shouted Ford, “go the walls on three sides to a width of on." Tom glanced dubiously at the six feet, leaving an open spot, eight or hole, and then at his comrades below, ten feet in diameter, in the centre for and, put upon his mettle by their ban- the fire, and a huge copper kettle of tering laughter, he stepped cautiously melting snow. On the platform are to the edge of the hole, looked in, and pitched square skin tents called “polistened. Out of the blackness of dark- logs,” which serve as sleeping apartness below came the “Ah-há-yah, Ah- ments for the inmates and as refuges há-yah ” of a Korak mother soothing from the smoke, which is sometimes her fretful child. Tom was evidently almost unendurable. These pologs are intimidated by the mysterious, unearthly warmed and lighted by a burning wick sounds and thick darkness below him, of dried moss, floating in a pan of seal's and thought that the heathen rites of fat. A little circle of stones on the sacrifice had already commenced, and ground, in the centre of the yourt, that preparations were going on for his forms the fireplace, over which is usuimmediate immolation as soon as he ally simmering a kettle of fish or reindescended. Returning to the upper deer-ineat, which with "youkala," seal's edge of the “yourt;" with a vigorous blubber, and rancid oil, forms the Korak sneeze, which was partly the result of bill of fare. Every thing which one his emotions and partly the effect of the sees or touches bears the distinguishing smoke, he turned to us, and exclaimed, marks of Korak origin-grease and dirt
The yourt of our old Korak friend ach to feel uneasiness, but such Syba“ Cheekhin," where our party stopped ritic luxuries, if frequently indulged in, to drink tea, presented upon our arrival are apt to unfit a man for the hardships an unusually repulsive appearance. On incident to the lot of an explorer, and one side of the fire lay a huge frozen to make him discontented with the seal in process of thawing out, while plainer fare of his every-day life. High$hree or four women, with arms barely, therefore, as I appreciated our copand bloodied to the shoulder, were en- per-colored host's motives, I felt congaged in cutting up a second. Beside strained, on behalf of the party, to the platform reposed a dog with a litter “ decline with thanks." of young puppies, whose squealing and With rare thoughtfulness, and with a whining mingled melodiously with the ready appreciation of American wants yells of two frantic babies and the bor- which was as gratifying as it was surprisrible guttural lullaby of some old hag ing in a barbarian, Cheekhin brought a in one of the “pologs.” While deliber- newspaper, that great exponent of civating whether to remain or not, Ford ilization, to fill up the pauses in his . canc sliding down the pole like a fall- rude repast; and we had the satisfacing star, striking upon the head an tion, as we munched our pine-seeds, of unwary Korak who stood underneath, reading news, only a year old, from and doubling him up like an interroga- the great outside world. tion-point. This American way of en- was a torn copy of the London Illustrated tering Korak houses evidently failed to News, which had found its way, in some meet the unqualified approval of the inexplicable manner, from the vast comsufferer, who stood rubbing his shaved mercial centre of the world to this rehead ruefully, and ever and anon glan- mote, and lonely Korak yourt in the cing at Ford, as if the latter were a barrenness of a Siberian steppe. It species of aerolite which had never be- acquired, from its long travel and the fore come under his observation. After strangeness of its situation, an interest some discussion, we concluded to accept to which it bad intrinsically no claim ; temporarily Korak hospitality, unprom- but never before was news so entertainising as the interior and domestic ar- ing; never before were editorials charrangements of the yourt were. Accord- acterized by so much pungency and ing to the Tapleyan philosophy, which good sense. Even the “Court Circuwe professed, the worse the circum- lar,” that dreary record of aristocratic stances the more the credit in being gossip, when read by the dim light "jolly."
of Korak barbarism, suggested new In a few moments - Cheekhin" sct theories of social life and
prog: before us, on the head of an old barrel ress, and awakened new and strange which he had obtained from some thoughts as to the unequal distriwhaler, a tempting lunch of pine-seeds bution of the wealth, power, and and raw fish, which were the nearest glory of the world, and the potentialapproximation he could make to what ity of circumstances, in their develophe considered the etherial and spiritual ment. Read, as I did, in the “ Court food of the “ Amerikanse.” He offered, Circular," that “ Her Majesty the Queen incidentally, to concoct for us a blubber- on Sunday attended divine service in stew with train-oil accompaniments, but the Royal Chapel," and then raise your thinking that we had not yet learned to eyes through the dark, smoky atmosappreciate this native delicacy, he made phere of the yourt to the gaunt, furthe offer with a diffidence which did clad form of poor Cheekhin, hanging & credit both to his head and heart. I wreath of dried grass around the neck would not hare any one suppose for a of a dead dog, sacrificed to the Spirit moment that there is any thing in the of Evil. Does not the comparison nature of blubber-stew and train-oil startle you with “ thoughts which lie which should cause the educated stom- too deep for words?” It is this, in part,
which gives to a newspaper in a distant which the wind tears up from the uncivilized land such a strange, absorb- boundless steppes and carries in dense, ing interest. The circumstances which suffocating clouds through the air, it chronicles and the very atmosphere sometimes • hiding every thing from of busy; active, money-getting life view at a distance of ten feet. To the which seems to still hang round its unaccustomed eye it would seem almost pages, are so utterly out of harmony impossible that a human being should with one's surroundings, and so incom- survive one of the worst of these storms, patible with the wild, lonely isolation when the atmosphere is literally packed of barbarism, that they seem like the with the driving particles of snow, and records of another world and of a when five seconds' exposure of the face strange people.
will plaster up eyes and nostrils so that After reading the News even to the one can neither see nor breathe, while last advertisement, and doing ample the roaring wind makes it nearly imjustice to the feast of “ Cheekhin,” the possible to stand on one's feet. Travel modern Lucullus, we bade all the old is of course out of the question, and the women “Ta-húm,” and achieved the unfortunate individual who is overascent of the chimney. If the tears taken by one of these storms on a steppe which were rolling down Ford's cheeks has only to cower behind his sledge in could be taken as circumstantial evi- his heaviest furs, without shelter and dence, his parting with those old women without fire, and wait perhaps many must have been a heart-rending one. long, dreary days and nights for the He claimed that they were the effect wind to subside. If before that time of smoke !
his dog, food, and provisions fail, God The brilliant mirage of the morning help him! for his own efforts will avail was the herald of a storm, whose near him little : the pitiless wind drowns his approach became sufficiently evident as cries, and, exhausted with cold and we emerged into the open air. A heavy fatigue, he sinks benumbed into the black cloud hung luw over the Gulf, snow, which covers him with a white and the snow, impelled by the freshen- shroud and marks by a little mound ing gusts of wind, drifted in long misty the place of his last rest. lines across the steppe.
Anxious to We had proceeded only about ten reach our destination before night-fall, versts from Kuil, when darkness and and not anticipating any difficulty in the tempest came on together. The doing so, I gave the order for a startblack cloud which had brooded for an regardless of the half-muttered remon- hour over the Gulf, extended rapidly strances of the Koraks, who were in- westward, and smothered in a dark clined to protest against setting out in mantle of vapor the last gleams of the a north-east“ pourga.” The “pourga ” Arctic twilight: the wind, shrieking out is, so far as I know, a distinctively the wild cries which it had learned Siberian storm, and is one of the great from the Northern bergs and ice-fields, est obstacles to winter-travel over the descended upon the steppe in whirling vast wastes of snow, called “tundras," pillars of srow which stalked, like misty which compose the greater part of that phantoms, through the darkness before desolate, deserted land. Like the the denser body of the coming storm. “Norther” of southern latitudes, it There was only time to shout out an
on frequently almost without order to keep together before the gale warning, and is, of course, of all degrees bu'st upon us, and all sounds were lost of severity and fury, continuing some- in the roaring of the wind and the suffo. times unabated for more than a weekcating clouds of snow. The very dogs It is not necessarily attended with which drew our sledges were out of clouds, or with a fall of snow from sight, and upon stopping a moment above, but is especially distinguished afterward to be sure that we were all by the immense quantities of snow together, only four sledges out of thir
teen made their appearance. Five min- and twigs of the trailing pine over the utes—ten-elapsed, and there were still bottom, built a fire in the leeward corno signs of our missing comrades. We ner, and “went into camp.” As the shouted, fired pistols, and sent men out ruddy blaze flashed fitfully over the into the driving tempest on each side snow-encrusted faces which crowded as far as they dared go, but we might about the camp-fire, we looked eagerly as well have attempted in the “ Cave around to see how many were missing. of the Winds” to drown, by a shout, Bowsher Yount, Newton O'Brien, and the thunderings of Niagara as to make Heck were gone, and a sober expression our feeble voices heard above the deep fell for a moment upon every face as we diapason of the winds. Man's efforts thought of our absent comrades out on. and even man's existence seemed to sink the barren steppe, fighting for life in into insignificance before the majesty the darkness against cold, furious wind of aroused Nature. Shrinking with and blinding snow. averted and covered faces behind our As soon as we had warmed our stiff, sledges, striving with gasping breath to numb fingers into an aching protest get one inhalation of air unmixed with against resuscitation, we entered upon snow, we waited, in the almost vain preparations for the evening meal. hope that the missing sledges would Lewis unpacked the tea-kettles from come up. Suddenly a half-smothered the nearest sledge, Savenski was deand despairing cry came out of the spatched in search of ice for water, darkness by our side, and as we shouted while Tom, with adroit diplomacy, in reply, the dark, indistinct outlines made the pretence of getting out the of three more sledges passed before us. bread-bag a cover for the gratification This increased our number to seven, of his own private appetite. The wind and as it seemed useless to wait longer still moaned desolately through the treefor the others, who were evidently lost, tops, and the snow sifted down in fine we reluctantly moved on, lashing our particles over the dark fur-clad forms sledges together with thongs of seal- grouped around the fire; but under the
skin to prevent a second separation softening influences of the fire-light and • Owing to the darkness our pocket com- of an unlimited quantity of tea, which
passes were useless, but even could we was speedily forthcoming, the sober fahave determined our true course, the ces gradually relaxed into more cheerknowledge would have availed us little, ful expressions, and the buoyant spirits since the wind made it impossible to of health reasserted themselves in a travel in any direction except before it. series of lively sallies, quaint remarks, About five hours after dark we passed and hearty laughter, which drowned scattering clumps of bushes, which in- even the melancholy complaining of the dicated our approach to a river, and wind-swept trees. “ You talk about soon the darkness ahead seemed to grow the hardships of an explorer,” mumbled thicker and denser, and a beļt of timber Ford, between the bites of a cake of loomed up through the drifting snow hard bread. “I suppose you'll be callonly a few yards distant. It was this ing this a hardship next.” A mass of of which we were in search. No one snow, which at this moment fell from knew where we were, geographically, the overhanging branches into Ford's but it mattered little, now that we had neck, seemed rather to ruffle the comfound trees to break the force of the placency with which he was disposed deadly, chilling wind, and to afford a to contemplate our adventure, and to respite to the choked lungs from the give some color to the adverse opinion driving atmosphere of snow. Selecting that this was a hardship; but with a a spot sheltered by the trees and a high shivering shrug he continued, “If we bank, we dug a decp cellar in the snow, hadn't any thing to eat, I should con
warming” our benumbed limbs by the sider it a hardship; but as it is, it's violent exercise, spread alder branches only an experience." “ An' d'yez minci,"