The very name of Kamchatka had always been associated in our minds with everything barren and inhospitable, and we did not entertain for a moment the thought that such a country could afford beautiful scenery and luxuriant vegetation. In fact, with us all it was a mooted question whether anything more than mosses, lichens, and perhaps a little grass maintained the unequal struggle for existence in that frozen clime. It may be imagined with what delight and surprise we looked upon green hills covered with trees and verdant thickets; upon valleys white with clover and diversified with little groves of silver-barked birch, and even the rocks nodding with wild roses and columbine, which had taken root in their clefts as if nature strove to hide with a garment of flowers the evidences of past convulsions.
Just before three o’clock we came in sight of the village of Petropavlovsk—a little cluster of red-roofed and bark-thatched log houses; a Greek church of curious architecture, with a green dome; a strip of beach, a half-ruined wharf, two whale-boats, and the dismantled wreck of a half-sunken vessel. High green hills swept in a great semicircle of foliage around the little village, and almost shut in the quiet pond-like harbour—an inlet of Avacha Bay—on which it was situated. Under foresail and maintopsail we glided silently under the shadow of the encircling hills into this landlocked mill-pond, and within a stone’s throw of the nearest house the sails were suddenly clewed up, and with a quivering of the ship and a rattle of chain cable our anchor dropped into the soil of Asia.
[Illustration: Boy’s Boots of Sealskin]
THINGS RUSSIAN IN KAMCHATKA—A VERDANT AND FLOWERY LAND—THE VILLAGE OF TWO SAINTS.
It has been well observed by Irving, that to one about to visit foreign countries a long sea voyage is an excellent preparative. To quote his words, “The temporary absence of worldly scenes and employments produces a state of mind peculiarly fitted to receive new and vivid impressions.” And he might have added with equal truth—favourable impressions. The tiresome monotony of sea life predisposes the traveller to regard favourably anything that will quicken his stagnating faculties and perceptions and furnish new matter for thought; and the most commonplace scenery and circumstances afford him gratification and delight. For this reason one is apt, upon arriving after a long voyage in a strange country, to form a more favourable opinion of its people and scenery than his subsequent experience will sustain. But it seems to me particularly fortunate that our first impressions of a new country, which are most clear and vivid and therefore most lasting, are also most pleasant, so that in future years a retrospective glance over our past wanderings will show the most cheerful pictures drawn in the brightest and most enduring