"Yes, that's so," said Rainsford.
The general smiled. "I had no wish to go to pieces," he said. "I must do something. Now, mine is an analytical mind, Mr. Rainsford. Doubtless that is why I enjoy the problems of the chase."
"No doubt, General Zaroff."
"So," continued the general, "I asked myself why the hunt no longer fascinated me. You are much younger
than I am, Mr. Rainsford, and have not hunted as much, but you perhaps can guess the answer."
"What was it?"
"Simply this: hunting had ceased to be what you call `a sporting proposition.' It had become too easy. I
always got my quarry. Always. There is no greater bore than perfection."
The general lit a fresh cigarette.
"No animal had a chance with me any more. That is no boast; it is a mathematical certainty. The animal had
nothing but his legs and his instinct. Instinct is no match for reason. When I thought of this it was a tragic
moment for me, I can tell you."
Rainsford leaned across the table, absorbed in what his host was saying.
"It came to me as an inspiration what I must do," the general went on.
"And that was?"
The general smiled the quiet smile of one who has faced an obstacle and surmounted it with success. "I had
to invent a new animal to hunt," he said.
"A new animal? You're joking." "Not at all," said the general. "I never joke about hunting. I needed a new
animal. I found one. So I bought this island built this house, and here I do my hunting. The island is perfect
for my purposes--there are jungles with a maze of traits in them, hills, swamps--"
"But the animal, General Zaroff?"
"Oh," said the general, "it supplies me with the most exciting hunting in the world. No other hunting
compares with it for an instant. Every day I hunt, and I never grow bored now, for I have a quarry with
which I can match my wits."
Rainsford's bewilderment showed in his face.
"I wanted the ideal animal to hunt," explained the general. "So I said, `What are the attributes of an ideal
quarry?' And the answer was, of course, `It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to
"But no animal can reason," objected Rainsford.
"My dear fellow," said the general, "there is one that can."
"But you can't mean--" gasped Rainsford.
"And why not?"
"I can't believe you are serious, General Zaroff. This is a grisly joke."
"Why should I not be serious? I am speaking of hunting."
"Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."
The general laughed with entire good nature. He regarded Rainsford quizzically. "I refuse to believe that so
modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life.
Surely your experiences in the war--"
"Did not make me condone cold-blooded murder," finished Rainsford stiffly.
Laughter shook the general. "How extraordinarily droll you are!" he said. "One does not expect nowadays to
find a young man of the educated class, even in America, with such a naive, and, if I may say so, mid-
Victorian point of view. It's like finding a snuffbox in a limousine. Ah, well, doubtless you had Puritan
ancestors. So many Americans appear to have had. I'll wager you'll forget your notions when you go hunting
with me. You've a genuine new thrill in store for you, Mr. Rainsford."
"Thank you, I'm a hunter, not a murderer."
"Dear me," said the general, quite unruffled, "again that unpleasant word. But I think I can show you that
your scruples are quite ill founded."
"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world
were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why
should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites,
mongrels--a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them."
"But they are men," said Rainsford hotly.
"Precisely," said the general. "That is why I use them. It gives me pleasure. They can reason, after a fashion.
So they are dangerous."
"But where do you get them?"
The general's left eyelid fluttered down in a wink. "This island is called Ship Trap," he answered.
"Sometimes an angry god of the high seas sends them to me. Sometimes, when Providence is not so kind, I
help Providence a bit. Come to the window with me."
Rainsford went to the window and looked out toward the sea.
"Watch! Out there!" exclaimed the general, pointing into the night. Rainsford's eyes saw only blackness, and
then, as the general pressed a button, far out to sea Rainsf
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