“We will have some capital hunting, you and I,” said the general. “I shall be most glad to have your society.”
“But what game –” began Rainsford.
“I’ll tell you,” said the general. “You will be amused, I know. I think I may say, in all modesty, that I have done a rare thing. I have invented a new sensation. May I pour you another glass of port?”
“Thank you, general.”
The general filled both glasses, and said, “God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me He made a hunter. My hand was made for the trigger, my father said. He was a very rich man with a quarter of a million acres in the Crimea, and he was an ardent sportsman. When I was only five years old he gave me a little gun, specially made in Moscow for me, to shoot sparrows with. When I shot some of his prize turkeys with it, he did not punish me; he complimented me on my marksmanship. I killed my first bear in the Caucasus when I was ten. My whole life has been one prolonged hunt. I went into the army – it was expected of noblemen’s sons – and for a time commanded a division of Cossack cavalry, but my real interest was always the hunt. I have hunted every kind of game in every land. It would be impossible for me to tell you how many animals I have killed.”
“How nice,” Rainsford said.
“On second thought,” General Zaroff said, “it is an awfully dangerous game, and perhaps you would rather not play after such a long trip.”
Rainsford was reluctant to agree at first, because it seemed impolite, but he was rather relieved not to have to play after his long trip. “Let’s play another game,” he suggested. “After all, there are so many other wonderful games to play here.”
There were, and they did. He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided later, lying in his bed, after they had played several rounds of various games, and didn’t hunt one another at all.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.