Throughout the holidays the whole population did nothing but pay visits, give tea parties, and amuse themselves with dancing, sleigh-riding, and playing ball. Every evening between Christmas and New Year, bands of masqueraders dressed in fantastic costumes went around with music to all the houses in the village and treated the inmates to songs and dances. The inhabitants of these little Russian settlements in north-eastern Siberia are the most careless, warmhearted, hospitable people in the world, and their social life, rude as it is, partakes of all these characteristics. There is no ceremony or affectation, no “putting on of style” by any particular class. All mingle unreservedly together and treat each other with the most affectionate cordiality, the men often kissing one another when they meet and part, as if they were brothers. Their isolation from all the rest of the world seems to have bound them together with ties of mutual sympathy and dependence, and banished all feelings of envy, jealousy, and petty selfishness. During our stay with the priest we were treated with the most thoughtful consideration and kindness, and his small store of luxuries, such as flour, sugar, and butter, was spent lavishly in providing for our table. As long as it lasted he was glad to share it with us, and never hinted at compensation or seemed to think that he was doing any more than hospitality required.
[Illustration: ANADYRSK IN WINTER]
With the first ten days of our stay at Anadyrsk are connected some of the pleasantest recollections of our Siberian life.
[Illustration: Woman’s Mittens of Elk skin]
NEWS FROM THE ANADYR PARTY—PLAN FOR ITS RELIEF—THE STORY OF A STOVE-PIPE—START FOR THE SEACOAST
Immediately after our arrival at Anadyrsk we I had made inquiries as to the party of Americans who were said to be living somewhere near the mouth of the Anadyr River; but we were not able to get any information in addition to that we already possessed. Wandering Chukchis had brought the news to the settlement that a small band of white men had been landed on the coast south of Bering Strait late in the fall, from a “fire-ship” or steamer; that they had dug a sort of cellar in the ground, covered it over with bushes and boards, and gone into winter quarters. Who they were, what they had come for, and how long they intended to stay, were questions which now agitated the whole Chukchi nation, but which no one could answer. Their little subterranean hut had been entirely buried, the natives said, by the drifting snows of winter, and nothing but a curious iron tube out of which came smoke and sparks showed where the white men lived. This curious iron tube which so puzzled the Chukchis we at once supposed to be a stove-pipe, and it furnished the strongest possible confirmation of the truth of the story. No Siberian native could ever have invented the idea of a stove-pipe—somebody must have seen one; and this fact alone convinced us beyond a doubt that there were Americans living somewhere on the coast of Bering Sea—probably an exploring party landed by Colonel Bulkley to cooperate with us.