On Monday morning, Jan. 22d, the whole party assembled in front of the priest’s house. For the sake of economising transportation, and sharing the fortunes of our men, whatever they might be, Dodd and I abandoned our pavoskas, and drove our own loaded sledges. We did not mean to have the natives say that we compelled them to go and then avoided our share of work and hardships. The entire population of the village, men, women, and children, turned out to see us off, and the street before the priest’s house was blocked up with a crowd of dark-faced men in spotted fur coats, scarlet sashes, and fierce-looking foxskin hoods, anxious-faced women running to and fro and bidding their husbands and brothers good-bye, eleven long, narrow sledges piled high with dried fish and covered with yellow buckskin and lashings of sealskin thongs, and finally a hundred and twenty-five shaggy wolfish dogs, who drowned every other sound with their combined howls of fierce impatience.
Our drivers went into the priest’s house, and crossed themselves and prayed before the picture of the Saviour, as is their custom when starting on a long journey; Dodd and I bade good-bye to the kind-hearted priest, and received the cordial “s’ Bokhem” (go with God), which is the Russian farewell; and then springing upon our sledges, and releasing our frantic dogs, we went flying out of the village in a cloud of snow which glittered like powdered jewel-dust in the red sunshine.
Beyond the two or three hundred miles of snowy desert which lay before us we could see, in imagination, a shadowy stove-pipe rising out of a bank of snow—the “San greal” of which we, as arctic knights-errant, were in search.
[Illustration: Ceremonial Masks of Wood]
A SLEDGE JOURNEY EASTWARD—REACHING TIDE-WATER—A NIGHT SEARCH FOR A STOVE-PIPE—FINDING COMRADES—A VOICE FROM A STOVE—STORY OF THE ANADYR PARTY
I will not detain the reader long with the first part of our journey from Anadyrsk to the Pacific Coast, as it did not differ much from our previous Siberian experience. Riding all day over the ice of the river, or across barren steppes, and camping out at night on the snow, in all kinds of weather, made up our life; and its dreary monotony was relieved only by anticipations of a joyful meeting with our exiled friends and the exciting consciousness that we were penetrating a country never before visited by civilised man. Day by day the fringe of alder bushes along the river bank grew lower and more scanty, and the great steppes that bordered the river became whiter and more barren as the river widened toward the sea. Finally we left behind us the last vestige of vegetation, and began the tenth day of our journey along a river which had increased to a mile in width, and amidst plains perfectly destitute of all life, which stretched away in one unbroken white expanse until they blended