The natural disposition of the Wandering Koraks is thoroughly good. They treat their women and children with great kindness; and during all my intercourse with them, extending over two years, I never saw a woman or a child struck. Their honesty is remarkable. Frequently they would harness up a team of reindeer after we had left their tents in the morning, and overtake us at a distance of five or ten miles, with a knife, a pipe, or some such trifle which we had overlooked and forgotten in the hurry of departure. Our sledges, loaded with tobacco, beads, and trading goods of all kinds, were left unguarded outside their tents; but never, so far as we knew, was a single article stolen. We were treated by many bands with as much kindness and generous hospitality as I ever experienced in a civilised country and among Christian people; and if I had no money or friends, I would appeal to a band of Wandering Koraks for help with much more confidence than I should ask the same favour of many an American family. Cruel and barbarous they may be, according to our ideas of cruelty and barbarity; but they have never been known to commit an act of treachery, and I would trust my life as unreservedly in their hands as I would in the hands of any other uncivilised people whom I have ever known.
Night after night, as we journeyed northward, the polar star approached nearer and nearer to the zenith, until finally, at the sixty-second parallel of latitude, we caught sight of the white peaks of the Stanavoi Mountains, at the head of Penzhinsk Gulf, which marked the northern boundary of Kamchatka. Under the shelter of their snowy slopes we camped for the last time in the smoky tents of the Kamchatkan Koraks, ate for the last time from their wooden troughs, and bade good-by with little regret to the desolate steppes of the peninsula and to tent life with its wandering people.
[Illustration: Women’s Knives used in making clothing]
FIRST FROST-BITE—THE SETTLED KORAKS HOUR-GLASS YURTS—CLIMBING DOWN CHIMNEYS—YURT INTERIORS—LEGS AS FEATURES—TRAVELLING BY “PAVOSKA”—BAD CHARACTER OF SETTLED KORAKS
On the morning of November 23d, in a clear, bracing atmosphere of twenty-five degrees below zero, we arrived at the mouth of the large river called the Penzhina, which empties into Penzhinsk Gulf, at the head of the Okhotsk Sea. A dense cloud of frozen mist, which hung over the middle of the gulf, showed the presence there of open water; but the mouth of the river was completely choked up with great hummocks, rugged green slabs, and confused masses of ice, hurled in by a south-westerly storm, and frozen together in the wildest shapes of angular disorder. Through the grey mist we could see dimly, on a high bluff opposite, the strange outlines of the X-shaped yurts of the Kamenoi Koraks.