FIRST ATTEMPT AT DOG-DRIVING—UNPREMEDITATED PROFANITY—A RUNAWAY—ARRIVAL AT GIZHIGA—HOSPITALITY OF THE ISPRAVNIK—PLANS FOR THE WINTER
We left Mikina early, November 23d, and started out upon another great snowy plain, where there was no vegetation whatever except a little wiry grass and a few meagre patches of trailing-pine.
Ever since leaving Lesnoi I had been studying attentively the art, or science, whichever it be, of dog-driving, with the fixed but unexpressed resolution that at some future time, when everything should be propitious, I would assume the control of my own team, and astonish Dodd and the natives with a display of my skill as a kaiur (kai-oor).
[Illustration: SETTLED KORAKS IN A TRIAL OF STRENGTH]
I had found by some experience that these unlettered Koraks estimated a man, not so much by what he knew which they did not, as by what he knew concerning their own special and peculiar pursuits; and I determined to demonstrate, even to their darkened understandings, that the knowledge of civilisation was universal in its application, and that the white man, notwithstanding his disadvantage in colour, could drive dogs better by intuition than they could by the aggregated wisdom of centuries; that in fact he could, if necessary, “evolve the principles of dog-driving out of the depths of his moral consciousness.” I must confess, however, that I was not a thorough convert to my own ideas; and I did not disdain therefore to avail myself of the results of native experience, as far as they coincided with my own convictions, as to the nature of the true and beautiful in dog-driving. I had watched every motion of my Korak driver; had learned theoretically the manner of thrusting the spiked stick between the-uprights of the runners into the snow, to act as a brake; had committed to memory and practised assiduously the guttural monosyllables which meant, in dog-language, “right” and “left,” as well as many others which meant something else, but which I had heard addressed to dogs; and I laid the flattering unction to my soul that I could drive as well as a Korak, if not better. To my inexperienced eye it was as easy as losing money in California mining stocks. On this day, therefore, as the road was good and the weather propitious, I determined to put my ideas, original as well as acquired, to the test of practice. I accordingly motioned my Korak driver to take a back seat and deliver up to me the insignia