Classics, thriller

The Most Dangerous Game

Richard Connell, first published January 19, 1924 in Collier’s. Translated into modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

“There’s a large island off to the right somewhere. It’s a bit of a mystery…” Whitney said.

“What island is it?” Rainsford asked.

“The old charts call it Ship-Trap Island. A suggestive name, isn’t it? Sailors have a curious fear of the place. I don’t know why. Some superstition…” Whitney replied.

“Can’t see it.” Rainsford remarked, trying to see through the damp, tropical night. The night was palpable as it pressed its thick, warm blackness on the yacht.

“You have good eyes, and I’ve seen you shoot a moose moving through fall brush at four hundred yards, but even you can’t see four miles through a moonless, Caribbean night.” Whitney said with a laugh.

“Nor four yards, ugh! It’s like moist, black velvet.” Rainsford admitted.

“There will be plenty of light in Rio. We should be there in a few days. I hope the jaguar guns from Purdey’s arrived. We should have good hunting in the Amazon. Hunting is a great sport.” Whitney promised.

“The best sport in the world.” Rainsford agreed.

“For the hunter. Not for the jaguar.” Whitney corrected.

“Don’t talk nonsense, Whitney. You’re a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?” Rainsford asked.

“Perhaps the jaguar does.” Whitney observed.

“Bah! They don’t understand.” Rainsford said.

“Even so, I do think they understand one thing — fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death.” Whitney said.

“Nonsense! This hot weather is making you soft, Whitney. Be realistic. The world is made up of two classes — the hunters and the hunted. Luckily, we are hunters.” Rainsford laughed. “Do you think we’ve passed that island yet?”

“I can’t tell in the dark, but I hope so.”

“Why?”

“The place has a bad reputation.”

“Cannibals?” Rainsford guessed.

“Hardly. Even cannibals wouldn’t live in such a God-forsaken place. It has somehow become sailor’s lore. Didn’t you notice the crew’s nerves are jumpy today?”

“Now that you mention it, they were a little strange. Even Captain Nielsen…”

“Yes, even that stubborn, old Swede, who’d go to the devil himself to ask for a light. Those fishy blue eyes held a look I never saw there before. All he said was `This place has an evil name among seafaring men. Don’t you feel anything?’ — as if the air around us was poison. You can’t laugh when I tell you this, but I did feel a sudden chill. There was no wind, and the sea was flat as glass. We were getting near the island then. I felt a mental chill; a sort of sudden dread.”

“Pure imagination! One superstitious sailor can infect the whole crew with fear.” Rainsford said.

“Maybe, but sometimes I think sailors have a sixth sense that warns them of danger. I think evil is a physical thing — with wave lengths, like sound and light. An evil place can broadcast vibrations of evil. Anyhow, I’m glad we’re leaving this area. I think I’ll turn in now.”

“I’m not sleepy, I’m going to smoke another pipe on the back deck.” Rainsford said.

“Goodnight. See you at breakfast.”

“Right. Goodnight, Whitney.”

There was no sound except the engine’s muffled throb and the swish of the propeller. Rainsford sat in a lounge chair, lazily puffing his favorite pipe. A heavy sleepiness set in. “It’s so dark, I could sleep without closing my eyes; the night can be my eyelids—” He thought.

A sudden sound startled him. It came from the right, and his expert ears could not be wrong. Again and again he heard it. Somewhere, off in the darkness, a gun fired three times.

Rainsford jumped up, moving quickly to the rail, mystified. He squinted in the direction the shots came from, but it was like trying to see through a blanket. He leapt higher, onto the rail; his pipe hit a rope and fell from his mouth. He lunged for it, and a short, hoarse cry escaped his lips as he lost balance. The cry was cut short as the blood-warm waters closed over his head.

He struggled to the surface and tried to cry out. The waves from the speeding yacht slapped him in the face, and he choked on the salt water. Desperately, he chased the departing yacht but stopped before he went fifty feet. He became very calm; it was not his first time in a tight spot. There was a slim chance his cries could be heard by someone, but that chance grew slimmer as the yacht raced on. He wriggled out of his clothes and shouted with all his power. The lights of the yacht dimmed, then the night blotted them out entirely.

Rainsford remembered the shots and swam in their direction with slow, deliberate strokes, conserving his strength. For a seemingly endless time, he fought the sea and counted his strokes. He could maybe do a hundred more, but then…

The high, screaming sound of an animal in extreme pain and terror came from the darkness. He did not recognize what animal; he did not try to. With fresh energy, he swam toward the sound. He heard it again; then it was cut short by a separate, crisp noise.

“Pistol shot.” Rainsford muttered, swimming on.

After ten minutes of determined effort, he heard the most beautiful sound he ever heard — the growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore. He was almost on the rocks before he saw them; on a night less calm he would have been shattered against them. With his remaining strength, he dragged himself out of the swirling waters. Jagged rocks shot up into the darkness, and he forced himself to climb, hand over hand. Gasping, hands raw, he reached a flat place at the top. Dense jungle came down to the cliff’s edge. Rainsford was not concerned with dangers from the tangle of trees and underbrush. He only knew he was safe from the sea and utterly tired. He dropped at the jungle’s edge and fell into the deepest sleep of his life.

When he woke, the sun’s position told him it was late afternoon. Sleep gave him new vigor, and he was very hungry. He looked around, almost cheerfully. “Where there are pistol shots, there are men. Where there are men, there is food.” He thought but wondered what kind of men would be in such a forbidden place. An unbroken stretch of snarled and ragged jungle outlined the shore.

He saw no sign of a trail through the tight web of weeds and trees. He found it easier to follow the shore and walk along the water. Not far from where he landed, he stopped. Evidence suggested a large, wounded animal had thrashed around in the underbrush. The weeds were crushed, the moss was cut, and one patch of weeds were stained crimson. A small, glittering object caught his eye. It was an empty cartridge.

“A twenty-two, that’s odd. It must have been a fairly large animal. The hunter had nerve to tackle it with a light gun. It’s clear the brute put up a fight. I suppose the first three shots were when the hunter flushed his prey and wounded it. The last shot was when he trailed it here and finished it.” He remarked.

He examined the ground closely and found what he hoped for — tracks of hunting boots. They pointed along the cliff, in the direction he was going. With night approaching, he hurried, slipping on rotten logs and loose stones but making progress.

Bleak darkness was blacking out the sea and jungle when Rainsford saw lights. He saw them as he turned a crook in the coast-line. There were so many lights, he thought he found a village at first. As he got closer, he was astonished to see the lights were in one enormous building — a lofty structure with pointed towers extending up into the gloom. He saw the shadowy outlines of a large residence sitting on a high bluff. Three sides sat on steep cliffs descending into sea and shadow.

“Mirage.” Rainsford thought, but it was no mirage when he opened the tall, spiked, iron gate. The stone steps, massive door, and leering gargoyle knocker were real; yet it all seemed unreal.

The knocker creaked stiffly, as if never used before, and its loud boom startled him. He thought he heard footsteps inside, but the door remained closed. He lifted the heavy knocker again and let it fall. The door opened suddenly, and Rainsford stood blinking in glaring, gold light.

He saw the largest man he’s ever seen — gigantic, solid, and black bearded to the waist. The man held a long-barreled gun pointed at Rainsford’s heart, two small eyes regarding him from the tangled beard.

“Don’t be alarmed, I’m no thief. I fell off a yacht. My name is Sanger Rainsford, I’m from New York City.” Rainsford said with a disarming smile.

The threatening stare did not change. The giant stood still as a statue, giving no sign he understood English. He was dressed in a black uniform with gray, fleece trim.

“I’m Sanger Rainsford from New York, I fell off a yacht. I’m hungry.”Rainsford began again.

The man raised the gun’s hammer, saluted, clicked his heels, and stood at attention. Someone was coming down the wide, marble steps – a tall, slender man in evening clothes. He approached Rainsford and held out his hand.

His cultivated voice and slight accent made his words sound precise and deliberate. “It is pleasure and honor to welcome Mr. Sanger Rainsford, the celebrated hunter, to my home.”

Rainsford automatically shook the man’s hand.

“I’ve read your book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet. I am General Zaroff.” The man explained.

First, Rainsford noticed the man was singularly handsome; second, there was an original, almost bizarre quality about the general’s face. He was tall, past middle age, and had vivid white hair. His thick eyebrows and pointed, military mustache were black as night. His eyes were also black and bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharp-cut nose, a dark, aristocratic face, and was accustomed to giving orders. The general signaled the uniformed giant who then put his pistol away, saluted, and withdrew.

“Ivan is incredibly strong but has the misfortune of being deaf and dumb. He’s a simple man, but like all his race, he’s also a bit savage.” The general remarked.

“Is he Russian?”

“He and I are Cossack.” The general’s smile showed red lips and pointed teeth.

“Come, we shouldn’t be chatting here. We can talk later. Now you want clothes, food, rest. You’ll have them. This is a most-restful spot.”

Ivan reappeared, and the general spoke with moving lips but no sound.

“Please follow Ivan, I was about to have my dinner when you came. I’ll wait for you. You’ll find my clothes will fit.” The general said.

Rainsford followed the silent giant to a huge bedroom with a canopied bed big enough for six men. Ivan laid out an evening suit from a London tailor who never worked for anyone below the rank of duke.

The dining room was remarkable in many ways. Its oak panels, high ceiling, and large dining tables gave it a medieval magnificence. It resembled a baron’s manor of feudal times. Around the walls were many mounted heads — lions, tigers, elephants, moose, and bears; Rainsford had never seen more perfect specimens.

The general was sitting alone. “You’ll have a cocktail?” He suggested. The cocktail was surprisingly good, and the linen, crystal, silver, and china were of the finest quality. They had borsch – the rich, red soup with whipped cream popular to Russian palates. “We do our best to be civilized here, but please forgive any oversights. We’re off the beaten track. Do you think the champagne suffered from its long ocean trip?” General Zaroff said, half apologetically.

“Not in the least!” Rainsford declared. He was finding the general a very thoughtful and friendly host, but there was one small trait that made him uncomfortable. Whenever he looked up from his plate, he found the general studying him, appraising him narrowly.

“Perhaps you were surprised I recognized your name. I read all books on hunting in English, French, and Russian. The hunt is my one life’s passion.” General Zaroff said.

“You have some wonderful trophies here. That Cape buffalo is the largest I ever saw.” Rainsford said as he ate a well-cooked filet mignon.

“Oh, yes, he was a monster.”

“Did he charge you?”

“Hurled me against a tree and fractured my skull, but I got the brute.” The general said.

“I’ve always thought the Cape buffalo is the most dangerous of all big game.” Rainsford said.

The general did not reply at first; he was smiling his curious, red-lipped smile. “No, the Cape buffalo is not the most dangerous big game.” He said slowly, sipping his wine. “Here on my preserve, I hunt more dangerous.”

Rainsford expressed surprise. “Is there big game on this island?”

The general nodded. “The biggest.”

“Really?”

“Oh, it isn’t here naturally, of course. I have to stock the island.”

“What have you imported, general? Tigers?”

The general smiled. “No, hunting tigers stopped interesting me years ago. I exhausted their possibilities. No thrill or real danger left. I live for danger.” The general took out a gold cigarette case and offered his guest a long, silver-tipped, black cigarette. It was perfumed and smelled like incense. “We will have some wonderful hunting together. I will be very glad to have your company.”

“But what game—” Rainsford began.

“I know you will be amused. I think I can modestly say I’ve done a rare thing. I’ve invented a new sensation. May I pour you another glass of champagne?”

“Thank you, general.”

The general filled both glasses before speaking. “God makes some men poets, some kings or beggars. He made me a hunter. My father said my hand was made for the trigger. He was a very rich, enthusiastic sportsman with a quarter million acres in the Crimea. When I was five, he gave me a custom-made gun to shoot sparrows with. When I shot some of his prize turkeys, he did not punish me, but complimented my marksmanship. I killed my first bear in the Caucasus at age ten. My life has been one prolonged hunt. As expected of a nobleman’s son, I joined the army and commanded a cavalry division, but my real interest was always hunting. I have hunted every game in every land; it would be impossible to say how many animals I have killed.”

He puffed his cigarette. “After the debacle in Russia, I left the country; it was careless for an officer to stay there. Many noble Russians lost everything. Luckily, I invested in American stocks, so I will never have to open a tearoom or drive a taxi. I continued to hunt — grizzlies in the Rockies, crocodiles in the Ganges, rhinos in East Africa. Africa is where the Cape buffalo laid me up for six months. Then I hunted jaguars in the Amazon after hearing they were unusually smart, but they weren’t.” The general sighed. “They were no match for intelligence and a high-powered rifle. I was bitterly disappointed. One night, I was lying in my tent with a splitting headache when I realized hunting was beginning to bore me! Remember, hunting is my life. I heard American businessmen often fall apart when they give up their life’s work.”

“Yes, that’s so.” said Rainsford.

The general smiled. “I had no wish to fall apart, I had to do something. I have an analytical mind, that is why I enjoy the puzzle of the chase.”

“No doubt, General Zaroff.”

“I asked myself why the hunt no longer fascinated me. You are much younger and have not hunted as much, but maybe you can guess the answer.” The general continued.

“What was it?”

“Hunting stopped being `sporting.’ It became too easy, I always got my prey. There is no greater bore than perfection.” The general lit a fresh cigarette. “No animal had a chance against me. I’m not bragging; it’s the truth. Animals have nothing but legs and instinct. Instinct is no match for reason. Realizing this was a tragic moment for me.”

Rainsford leaned forward, absorbed in his host’s words.

“An idea came to me, and I knew what I must do.” The general continued.

“And that was?”

The general smiled the quiet smile of one who has overcome an obstacle. “I had to invent a new animal to hunt.”

“A new animal? You’re joking.”

“I never joke about hunting. I needed a new animal; I found one. I bought this island, built this house, and do my hunting. The island is perfect for my purposes. There are jungles with a maze of trails, hills, swamps—”

“But the animal, General Zaroff?”

“Oh, it supplies me with the most exciting hunting in the world. Nothing else compares. Every day I hunt and never grow bored. I have a prey able to match my wits.” The general said.

Rainsford’s confusion showed in his face.

“I wanted the perfect animal, one with courage, cunning, and, above all, intelligence.” The general explained.

“But no animal can reason.” Rainsford objected.

“There’s one that can.” The general said.

“But you can’t mean—” Rainsford gasped.

“Why not?”

“I can’t believe you’re serious. This is a horrible joke.”

“Why should I not be serious? I’m talking about hunting.”

“Hunting? Good God, you’re talking about murder.”

The general laughed sportingly. He regarded Rainsford quizzically. “I refuse to believe a modern and civilized young man like yourself has romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your experiences in the war—”

“Did not make me condone cold-blooded murder.” Rainsford finished stiffly.

The general shook with laughter. “How extraordinarily unusual you are! Nowadays, one doesn’t expect to find an educated young man with such a naive point of view. It’s like finding a dip-jar in a limousine. Doubtless you had Puritan ancestors like many Americans. I bet you’ll forget those ideals when you go hunting with me. You’ve a genuine new thrill in store for you.”

“Thank you, but I’m a hunter, not a murderer.”

“There’s that unpleasant word again, but I think I can show you your morals are ill-founded.”

“Yes?”

“Life is to be lived by the strong, and – if needed – taken by the strong. The weak were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships, thieves of all races — a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than dozens of them.”

“But they are men.” Rainsford said hotly.

“Precisely, that’s why I use them. It gives me pleasure. They can think, so they are dangerous.”

“But where do you get them?”

The general winked. “This island is called Ship-Trap. Sometimes an angry god sends them. Sometimes, when fate is less kind, I help. Come to the window with me.”

Rainsford looked to the sea.

“Watch! Out there!” The general exclaimed, pointing into the night. Rainsford’s eyes saw only blackness. Then, with the push of a button, lights flashed at sea.

The general chuckled. “They indicate passage where there’s only giant, razor-sharp rocks like a sea monster’s jaws. They crush a ship as easily as I crush this nut.” He dropped a walnut on the hardwood floor and stepped on it. “Yes, I have electricity. We try to be civilized here.” He said casually.

“Civilized? And you shoot men down?”

The general’s black eyes held a trace of anger, but it was there only a second. “How righteous you are! I assure you it’s not what you suggest, that would be barbaric. I treat these visitors with every consideration. They get plenty of good food and exercise, and they’re in splendid physical condition. You’ll see tomorrow.”

“What do you mean?”

The general smiled.“We’ll visit my training school, it’s in the cellar. I have a dozen pupils there now. They’re from the Spanish ship, San Lucar, that had the bad luck to crash on the rocks. A very inferior group, I regret to say. Poor specimens and more accustomed to a ship than jungle.” He raised his hand, and Ivan brought thick, Turkish coffee. With effort, Rainsford held his tongue in check.

“It’s a game. I suggest to one of them that we go hunting. I give him food, an excellent hunting knife, and three hours head start. I follow armed with only a small, short-ranged, caliber pistol. If my prey eludes me for three days, he wins. If I find him, he loses.” The general smiled.

“Suppose he refuses to be hunted?”

“Oh, he doesn’t have to play if he doesn’t want to. If he doesn’t t want to hunt, I give him to Ivan. Ivan once had the honor of serving as official torturer for the Great White Czar, and has his own ideas of sport. They always choose the hunt.” The general said.

“And if they win?”

The smile on the general’s face widened. “I have never lost.” He said, then added hastily: “I don’t wish you to think I’m bragging. Many of them offered little challenge. Occasionally, I get lucky. One almost won; I eventually had to use the dogs.”

“The dogs?”

“This way, please. I’ll show you.”

The general steered Rainsford to a window. The lights sent a flickering illumination that made grotesque patterns on the courtyard below. Rainsford could see a dozen huge, black shapes moving around. As they turned toward him, their eyes glittered greenly.

“I think they’re a good lot. They’re let out at seven every night. If anyone tried to get in my house — or out — something extremely regrettable would happen.” He hummed a snatch of song from the Folies Bergere. “Now, I want to show you my new collection of heads. Will you come to the library?”

“I hope you will excuse me tonight. I’m really not feeling well.” Rainsford said.

“Ah, is that so? Well, I suppose that’s only natural after your long swim. You need a restful night’s sleep. Tomorrow you’ll feel like a new man; then we’ll hunt, yes? I’ve one promising prospect—” Rainsford hurried from the room. “Sorry you can’t go with me tonight, I expect a fine game. He looks resourceful. Well, goodnight; I hope you rest well.”

The bed was good, the pajamas were silk, and he was tired in every fiber of his being, but Rainsford could not quiet his brain with sleep. He lay, eyes wide open. Once he thought he heard stealthy steps in the hall outside his room. He tried to open the door, but it was locked. He went to the window, his room was high up in one of the towers. The lights of the chateau were out, leaving it dark and silent. By a fragment of the moon’s wan light, he could dimly see the courtyard.

Weaving in and out of the shadows were black, noiseless forms. The hounds heard him and looked expectantly with their green eyes. Rainsford went back to bed, trying to fall asleep. He achieved a doze just as morning began, then he heard a gunshot far off in the jungle.

General Zaroff did not appear until lunch. He was dressed perfectly in the clothes of a country squire. He was overly concerned about Rainsford’s health. “As for me, I do not feel so well. I am worried. Last night, I detected traces of my old complaint.” The general sighed.

To Rainsford’s confused look, the general said, “Ennui. Boredom.”

Taking a second helping of crepes, the general explained: “The hunting was not good last night, the man panicked. He made a straight trail that offered no problems at all. That’s the trouble with these sailors; they are dumb and don’t know how to move in the woods. They do excessively stupid and obvious things. It’s most annoying. Will you have another glass of Chablis?”

“General, I wish to leave at once.” Rainsford said firmly.

The general raised his thick eyebrows; he seemed hurt. “But, you’ve only just come. You’ve had no hunting—” The general protested.

“I wish to go, Rainsford said. He saw the dead, black eyes of the general, studying him. General Zaroff’s face suddenly brightened.

He filled Rainsford’s glass with aged Chablis from a dusty bottle.“Tonight, we will hunt.”

Rainsford shook his head. “No, I will not hunt.”

The general shrugged and delicately ate a grape. “As you wish. The choice is entirely yours, but I think you will find my idea of sport more fair than Ivan’s.”

He nodded toward the corner where the giant stood scowling, thick arms crossed on his hog’s chest.

“You don’t mean—” Rainsford cried.

“I told you, I always mean what I say about hunting. This is really an inspiration. I drink to a foe worthy of my skill — at last.” The general raised his glass, but Rainsford sat staring at him.

“You’ll find this game worth playing. Your brain, woodsman skills, strength and stamina against mine. Outdoor chess! Plus, the stake is not without value, eh?” The general said enthusiastically.

“And if I win—” Rainsford began huskily.

“I’ll cheerfully acknowledge defeat if I do not find you by midnight on the third day. My boat will place you on the mainland near a town.” The general knew what Rainsford was thinking. “Oh, you can trust me, I will give you my word as a gentleman and sportsman. Of course you, must agree to say nothing of your visit here.”

“I’ll agree to nothing of the kind,” said Rainsford.

“Oh, in that case — but why discuss it now? Three days hence we can discuss it over a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, unless—” The general sipped his wine.

Then, he became businesslike. “Ivan, will supply you with hunting clothes, food, and a knife. I suggest you wear moccasins, they leave less trail. Also, avoid the big swamp in the southeast corner of the island. We call it Death Swamp, there’s quicksand. One foolish man tried it. The worst part was that Lazarus followed him. You can imagine my feelings. I loved Lazarus; he was the finest hound in my pack. Well, I must beg you to excuse me now. I always take a nap after lunch. You’ll hardly have time for one. No doubt you’ll want to get started. I won’t follow until dusk. Hunting at night is so much more exciting than by day, don’t you think? Goodbye.” With a deep, courtly bow, General Zaroff left the room.

Ivan entered from another door. He carried khaki hunting clothes, a sack of food, and a long-bladed hunting knife in a leather sheath. His right hand rested on a cocked gun in the crimson sash around his waist.

Rainsford fought his way through brush for two hours. “I must keep my nerve. I must keep my nerve.” He said through gritted teeth.

He had not been entirely thinking straight when the gates snapped shut behind him. At first, his idea was to put distance between himself and General Zaroff. He had plunged along, forced on by the sharp prodding of something very like panic. Now he had a grip on himself and was taking stock of the situation. Running was pointless; it would eventually bring him to the sea. He could not get away.

“I’ll give him a trail to follow.” Rainsford muttered, leaving the small pathway for the trackless wilderness. He walked a series of intricate loops and doubled on his trail again and again, recalling all the dodges of the fox. Night found him exhausted, hands and face cut by branches, on a thickly wooded ridge. He knew it would be insane to stumble through the dark, even if he had the strength.

His need for rest was imperative. “I have played the fox, now I must play the cat.” A big tree with a thick trunk and outspread branches was near. He climbed into the branches, careful not to leave the slightest mark, and stretched out on a large limb. Rest brought him confidence and almost a feeling of security. He thought even an enthusiastic a hunter like General Zaroff could not track him there; only the devil could follow that complicated trail through the jungle after dark. Yet, perhaps the general was a devil…

An apprehensive night crawled by slowly as a wounded snake, and Rainsford could not sleep. The jungle was silent as a dead world. Toward morning, when the sky was dingy gray, the cry of startled birds focused his attention. Something was coming, slowly, carefully, by the same winding way he came. He flattened himself down, and through a screen of thick leaves, he watched. A man was approaching.

It was General Zaroff. He made his way along, eyes focused on the ground in utmost concentration. He paused, almost beneath the tree, dropped to his knees and studied the ground. Rainsford’s impulse was to jump down like a panther, but he saw the general held a small automatic pistol.

The hunter shook his head several times, as if puzzled. Then he straightened up and took out one of his black cigarettes. Its smelly, incense-like smoke floated up to Rainsford’s nostrils, and he held his breath.

The general’s eyes left the ground and traveled up the tree, inch by inch. Rainsford froze, every muscle tensed, but the hunter’s sharp eyes stopped before they reached him. A smile spread over his brown face. Very deliberately, he blew a smoke ring into the air; then turned his back on the tree and walked away carelessly. The swish of the underbrush against his hunting boots grew fainter and fainter.

Rainsford’s breath burst hotly from his lungs. His first thought made him feel sick and numb. The general could follow a trail through the woods at night, an extremely difficult trail; he must have uncanny powers. Only by the slimmest chance had he failed to see his prey.

Rainsford’s second thought was even more terrible. It sent a shudder of cold horror through his whole being. Why had the general smiled? Why had he turned back? He did not want to believe it, but the truth was as evident as the sun pushing through the morning mists. The general was playing with him, saving him for another day’s sport! The general was the cat; he was the mouse. Then Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror. “I will not lose my nerve. I will not.”

He left the tree and went into the woods. His face was set, and he forced his mind to function. Three hundred yards from his hiding place, he stopped where a huge, dead tree leaned on a smaller, living one. Throwing his sack of food down, Rainsford took his knife and began to work with all his energy.

When the job was finished, he hid behind a fallen log a hundred feet away. He did not have to wait long. The cat was coming to play with the mouse.

General Zaroff was following the trail with the sureness of a bloodhound. Nothing escaped those searching, black eyes – no crushed grass, bent twig, or mark, no matter how faint. He was so focused on his tracking, he noticed nothing else of his surroundings.

Rainsford could not see the general, nor could he see the pit. He lived a year in a minute. Then he felt an impulse to shout with joy when he heard the sharp crackle of breaking branches as the pit cover gave way. He heard the sharp scream of pain as the pointed stakes found their mark. He leapt from his hiding place, then cowered back. Three feet from the pit, a man was standing with a flashlight.

“You’ve done well. Your Burmese tiger pit claimed one of my best dogs. Again you score. I think I’ll see what you can do against my whole pack. I’m going home for a rest now. Thank you for a most amusing evening.”

Rainsford, lying near the swamp, woke at daybreak to a terrifying sound. It was distant, faint and wavering, but he knew it. It was the howling of hounds. He could do one of two things. He could stay, but that was suicide; or run, postponing the inevitable. For a moment he stood, thinking. An idea with a wild chance came to him, and he walked away from the swamp.

The sound of hounds drew closer, then still closer, closer, ever closer. On a ridge he climbed a tree. Down a watercourse, not a quarter mile away, he saw the bush moving. Squinting, he saw the lean figure of General Zaroff. Ahead of him was the giant Ivan, who seemed pulled forward by the pack’s leash.

They would be there any minute. His mind worked frantically. He thought of a native trick he learned in Uganda. He slid down the tree, caught hold of a springy, young sapling, and attached his knife, the blade pointing down the trail. With a wild grapevine, he tied back the sapling, and ran for his life. The hounds raised their voices as they hit the fresh scent.

Rainsford now knew how hunted animals felt. He had to catch his breath. The hounds’ howling stopped abruptly, and his heart stopped too. They must have reached the knife.

Excited, he climbed up a tree to look back. His pursuers stopped, but the hope in Rainsford’s brain died. In the shallow valley, he saw General Zaroff was still on his feet, but Ivan was not. The knife, driven by the recoil of the springing tree, was not a total failure. Rainsford fell to the ground hard when the hounds began howling again.

“Nerve, nerve, nerve!” he panted, as he ran. A blue gap showed between the trees ahead. The hounds drew closer. He forced himself toward the gap. He reached it. It was the sea shore. Across the cove, he could see the gloomy, gray stone of the chateau. Twenty feet below, the sea rumbled and hissed. He hesitated. He heard the hounds. Then he leaped far out into the sea…

When the general and his pack reached the place by the sea, they stopped. For several minutes, he stood regarding the blue-green water. Shrugging his shoulders, he sat, took a drink of brandy from a silver flask, lit a cigarette, and hummed Madame Butterfly.

General Zaroff had a very good dinner in his dining hall that evening. He had a bottle of Pol Roger and half a bottle of Chambertin. Two slight annoyances kept him from perfect enjoyment. One was how difficult it would be to replace Ivan; the other was his escaped prey. “The American hadn’t played the game.” The general thought as he tasted his liquor. In his library, he read from the works of Marcus Aurelius to soothe himself. At ten, he went up to his bedroom.

He was deliciously tired as he locked himself in. There was a little moonlight, so he went to the window looking down at the courtyard. “Better luck next time.” He called to the hounds. Then he switched on the light.

A man who hid in the bed curtains was standing there.

“Rainsford! How in God’s name did you get here?” The general screamed.

“Swam. I found it quicker than walking through the jungle.” Rainsford said.

The general sucked in his breath and smiled. “I congratulate you, you have won the game.”

Rainsford did not smile. “I am still a beast on the hunt. Get ready, General Zaroff.” He said in a low, hoarse voice.

The general gave a deep bow. “I see. Splendid! One of us is to supply a meal for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard!”

Rainsford never slept in a better bed.

Classics, horror

The Yellow Wallpaper

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published January 1892 in The New England Magazine. Translated to modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

It is rare for ordinary people like John and myself to secure a colonial mansion. A haunted house would pure, romantic bliss — but that is asking too much of fate!

Still, I’m proud to say there is something strange about it. Why else would it be so cheap? Why has it been empty so long? John laughs at me, but one expects that in marriage. John is extremely practical. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and openly scoffs at talk of the paranormal.

John is a doctor, and perhaps — (I would not say it to a living soul, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) — perhaps that is one reason I do not recover faster.

He does not believe I am sick! What can I do if a respected physician and my own husband assures everyone there is nothing wrong except a temporary anxiety — a slight hysterical tendency?

My brother is also a respected doctor and says the same thing. So I take phosphates or phosphites — whichever it is, tonics, walks, air and exercise, and I am forbidden from “work” until I have recovered.

Personally, I disagree with their ideas. I believe enjoyable work combined with excitement and change would do me good, but what am I to do? I wrote for a while in spite of them; but it does greatly exhaust me. I have to be so sneaky, or I am met with heavy opposition.

Sometimes, I think if I had less restrictions and more socializing, my condition would — but John says the worst thing I can do is to think about my condition… and I admit it always makes me feel bad. So I will leave it alone and talk about the house.

It is the most beautiful place! It stands all alone, far back from the road, a full three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places you read about, because there are hedges, walls, gates that lock, and many separate little houses for gardeners and staff.

There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden — large, shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long, grape-covered pergolas with benches beneath them. There were also greenhouses, but they are all broken now.

I believe there was some legal trouble about the heirs and coheirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years. I’m afraid that spoils my haunted theory, but I don’t care. There is something strange about the house — I can feel it.

I told John one moonlit evening, but he said what I felt was a draft and closed the window. I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is because of this anxiety, but John says if I feel that way, I will neglect proper self-control. I take pains to control myself — in front of him, at least, and it makes me very tired.

I don’t like our room at all. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the veranda, with roses all over the window and the old-fashioned, colorful hangings! But John would not hear of it. He said there was only one window, not enough room for two beds, and no room close by in case he wanted to use another. He is very careful and loving, hardly letting me move without special instruction.

I have a schedule that accounts for each hour in the day. He takes care of everything for me, so I feel deeply ungrateful not to value it more. He said we only came here for me, because I was to have perfect rest and air. “My dear, your exercise depends on strength, and your food depends on appetite; but you can breathe air all the time.” So we took the nursery at the top of the house.

It is a big, airy room, nearly the whole floor, with windows all around, and air and sunshine galore. I think it was a nursery first, then playroom and gymnasium; the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings in the walls. The paint and wallpaper look as if a boys’ school used it. The paper is stripped off in big, wide patches all around my headboard, and in a place lower down, on the other side of the room. I never saw worse wallpaper in my life. One of those long, flamboyant patterns committed every artistic sin.

It is dull enough to make it difficult to follow, yet noticeable enough to constantly annoy and draw attention. When you follow the lame, uncertain curves for a little ways, they suddenly commit suicide — plunging off at outrageous angles, destroying themselves in impossible contradictions.

The color is horrid, almost revolting; a smoldering, unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull, yet vivid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others. No wonder the children hated it! I would hate it too if I had to live in this room long.

Here comes John, I must put this away, — he hates for me to write a word.

We have been here two weeks, and I haven’t felt like writing since that first day. I am in the hideous nursery now, sitting by the window, and there is nothing to stop me from writing as much as I want – except lack of strength.

John is away all day, and some nights when his cases are serious. I am glad my case is not serious, but these anxiety troubles are dreadfully depressing. John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.

Of course it is only anxiety. I feel guilty for not performing wifely duties! I meant to be a big help to John, providing real rest and comfort, but instead I am a burden! Nobody would believe how hard it is to do what little I can — to dress, socialize, and clean. It is fortunate Mary is good with the baby. Such a dear baby! Yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so anxious. I suppose John was never nervous in his life.

He laughs at me so much about this wallpaper! At first he agreed to re-paper the room. Later he said I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for an anxiety patient than enabling such whims. He said after the wallpaper it would be the heavy bed frame, then the barred windows, then that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on.

“You know the place is doing you good, and really, dear, I don’t want to renovate the house just for a three month rental.” He said.

“Then let’s go downstairs, there are such pretty rooms there.” I said.

Then he took me in his arms, called me a blessed little goose, and said if I wished, he would go down to the cellar and white-wash it as well. Though, he is right about the beds, windows, and things.

It is an airy and comfortable room, and I will not be silly enough to make him uncomfortable just for a whim. I’m growing quite fond of the big room, except for that horrid paper. Out of one window, I can see the garden, the mysterious, deep-shaded pergolas, the wild, old-fashioned flowers, bushes and gnarly trees.

Out of another, I get a lovely view of the bay and a private wharf belonging to the estate. A beautiful, shaded lane leads there from the house. I always think I see people walking on these many paths, but John cautioned me not to indulge fantasy. He says with my imagination, an anxious disposition is sure to cause excited fantasies, and that I should control myself to keep them in check. So I try.

Sometimes, I think if I were well enough to write, it would relieve the flow of ideas and allow me to rest – but I get pretty tired when I try. It is so discouraging not to have any understanding about my work. When I really recover, John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia over for a long visit; but he says he would rather put fireworks in my pillowcase than let me have those stimulating people around now.

I wish I could recover faster, but I must not think about it. This wallpaper looks as if it knew what a vicious influence it had! There is a recurring spot where the pattern sags like a broken neck, and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. I get positively angry with the disrespect of it. Up, down, and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere. There is one place where two sections don’t line up, and the eyes are a little uneven.

I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! As a child, I used to lie awake getting more entertainment and terror from blank walls and furniture than most children found in a toy store. I remember the kindly wink of the knobs on our old bureau, and one chair that always seemed like a strong friend. I used to think if any of the other things looked mean, I could hop into that chair and be safe.

The furniture in this room is only a little unpleasant, we had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose when this was used as a playroom, they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder! I never saw such messes as the children made here. As I said before, the wallpaper is torn off in spots, and it’s incredibly sticky — they must have had determination as well as hatred. Then the floor is scratched, gouged and splintered, and the plaster is dug out here and there. This great heavy bed looks as if it has been through the wars, but I don’t mind a bit — only the paper.

Here comes John’s sister. She is such a dear girl, so considerate of me! I must not let her find me writing. She is a perfect, enthusiastic housekeeper and wants no better profession. I truly believe she thinks it’s the writing that made me sick! When she is out, I can write next to the window and see her coming from a long way off. One overlooks the shaded, winding road and country. A lovely country, too, full of large elms and velvet meadows.

This wallpaper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade; a particularly irritating one that can only be seen in certain lights, and not clearly even then. In places where it isn’t faded, when the sun is just so — I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure that seems to skulk about behind that silly and obvious front design.

There’s sister on the stairs!

Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are gone and I am exhausted. John thought it might do me good to have company, so we had mother, Nellie, and the children down for a week. Of course, I didn’t do a thing. Jennie sees to everything now, but it tired me all the same. John says if I don’t recover faster, he will send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall.

I don’t want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his care, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only worse! Besides, it is such a hassle to go so far. I don’t think it would be worth going for anything, and I’m getting dreadfully anxious and upset. I cry most of the time and at nothing. Of course, I don’t when anyone is here, only when I am alone. I am alone a good deal now. John is very often kept in town by serious cases, and Jennie is good to leave me alone when I want her to.

I walk in the garden or down the lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down a good deal. I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wallpaper. Perhaps because of the wallpaper. I think about it so much! I lie here on this great immovable bed —it is nailed down — and follow that pattern around by the hour. It is good as exercise, I assure you.

I start at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion. I know a little about the principle of design, and know this was not arranged by any laws of radiation, alternation, repetition, symmetry, or anything else I ever heard of. It is repeated by sections, but not otherwise.

Looked at one way, each strip stands alone, the fat curves and flourishes waddling up and down in isolated columns of foolishness. But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of visual horror, like seaweeds caught in the waves.

The whole thing seems to go horizontally too, and I exhaust myself trying to distinguish where its going in that direction. They have used a horizontal strip for decoration that adds to the confusion wonderfully. There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and when the candlelights dim, and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can almost see the pattern — the endless horrors seem to form around a common center and rush off to steep plunges of equal distraction.

It makes me tired to follow it. I guess I will take a nap. I don’t know why I should write this. I don’t want to. I don’t feel able. I know John would think it absurd, but I must somehow say what I think and feel — it is such a relief! Though, the effort is getting to be greater than the relief. Half the time I am awfully lazy and lie down a lot. John says I must not lose my strength, and has me take cod liver oil, lots of tonics, ale, wine, and rare meat.

Dear John! He loves me dearly and hates to have me sick. I tried to have an earnest, reasonable talk with him, telling him how I wished to visit Cousin Henry and Julia, but he said I wasn’t able to go. I did not make a very good case for myself, I was crying before I finished.

It is getting very hard to think straight. Just this anxious weakness I suppose. Dear John gathered me in his arms, carried me to bed, and sat reading to me until it tired my head. He said I was his darling, his comfort, all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and stay well.

He says only I can help myself out of it, that I must use willpower and self-control, and not let silly fantasies run away with me. There’s one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to stay in this nursery with the horrid wallpaper. If we had not used it, that blessed child would! What a fortunate escape! I wouldn’t have an impressionable, little child of mine live in such a room for all the world.

I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here after all. I can stand it so much easier than a baby could. Of course, I am too smart to mention it to them anymore, but I keep watch of it all the same. There are things in that paper that nobody else knows or ever will. Behind that outside pattern, the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very many.

It is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I began wishing John would take me away from here! It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so smart and loves me so much. I tried last night. The moon was out, shining all around just as the sun does. I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, always coming in one window or another.

John was asleep and I hated to wake him, so I kept still and watched the moonlight on that wavy wallpaper until I felt creepy. The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, as if she wanted to get out. I got up softly, wanting to feel it, to see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake.

“What is it, little girl? Don’t go walking about like that, you’ll get cold.” He said.

I though it was a good time to talk, so I told him I was not really improving here, and that I wished he would take me away.

“Why darling?! Our lease will be up in three weeks, and I can’t see how to leave before. The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly leave town yet. If you were in any danger, I could and would, but you really are better whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, and I know. You are gaining weight and color, your appetite is better. I feel much better about you, dear.”

“I don’t weigh a bit more; and my appetite may be better in the evening when you are here, but it is worse in the morning when you are away!” I said.

“Bless her little heart! She will be sick as she pleases! Now let’s improve the daytime hours by going to sleep and talk about it in the morning!” He said with a big hug.

“And you won’t leave?” I asked gloomily.

“Why, how can I, dear? It is only three more weeks, then we will take a nice trip for a few days while Jennie is getting the house ready. Really dear you are better!”

“Better in body perhaps —” I began, and stopped short. He sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word.

“My darling, I beg of you, for my sake, our child’s, and your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish notion. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?”

Of course I said no more on the subject, and we went to sleep before long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn’t. I laid there for hours trying to decide whether the front and back patterns moved together or separately.

Viewing a pattern like this by day makes it appear disorderly and law-defying, a constant annoyance to a normal mind. The color is hideous, unreliable, and infuriating, but the pattern is torture. You think you have mastered it, but just as you start following it well, it turns a back-flip and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples you. It is like a bad dream.

The outside pattern is an elaborate, flowing design, reminding me of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an endless string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless complexities. That’s only sometimes!

There is one defining oddity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself – that it changes with the light. When the sun shoots in through the east window — I always watch for that first long, straight ray — it changes so quickly I can never quite believe it. That is why I always watch.

By moonlight, I wouldn’t know it was the same paper. At night, in any kind of light – twilight, candlelight, lamplight, and worst of all, by moonlight – the outside pattern becomes bars! The woman behind it is real as can be. For a long time, I didn’t realize what the thing behind that dim sub-pattern was, but now I am quite sure it’s a woman. By day she is subdued, quiet. I believe it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is puzzling, it keeps me quiet for hours.

I lie down so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all I can. Indeed, he started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each meal. I am convinced it is a very bad habit. I don’t sleep, and that breeds dishonesty because I don’t tell him I’m awake — Oh, no!

The fact is, I am getting a little afraid of John. He seems very odd sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look. Occasionally, it strikes me, just as a theory, — that perhaps it is the paper! I’ve watched John when he didn’t know I was looking, and suddenly entered the room on innocent excuses. I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper! Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.

She didn’t know I was in the room. I asked her in the most restrained manner possible, in a very quiet voice, what she was doing. She turned around looking quite angry, as if she had been caught stealing, and asked me why I would frighten her so! Then she said the paper stained everything it touched, that she found yellow smooches on all our clothes, and wished we would be more careful! Did that not sound innocent? I know she was studying that pattern, and I am determined that nobody will figure it out but myself!

Life is much more exciting now than it used to be. You see, I have something more to expect, to look forward to. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was. John is so happy to see me improve! He laughed the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wallpaper.

I shrugged it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was because of the wallpaper — he would make fun of me. He might even want to take me away. I don’t want to leave until I have figured it out. There is one more week, and I think that will be enough. I’m feeling so much better! I don’t sleep much at night, it is too interesting to watch developments, but I sleep a good deal during the day.

Daytime it is tiresome and confusing. There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried. That wallpaper is the strangest yellow! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw — not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old, foul, bad yellow things.

There is something else about that wallpaper — the smell! I noticed it the moment we came in the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we’ve had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here. It creeps all over the house. I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, and lying in wait for me on the stairs. It gets into my hair. Even when I ride, if I turn my head suddenly — there is that smell!

Such a strange odor! I have spent hours trying to analyze it to find what it smelled like. It is not bad at first, very gentle, but quite subtle and the most enduring odor I ever met. In this damp weather it is awful, I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me. It used to disturb me at first. I seriously considered burning the house down to reach the smell, but now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that is similar, is the color of the paper! A yellow smell.

There is a funny mark on this wall, low down, near the baseboard. A streak that runs around the room. The long, straight, even smooch goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, as if it was rubbed over and over.

I wonder how it was done, who did it, and why. Round and round and round — round and round and round — it makes me dizzy! I really have finally discovered something. Through watching so much when it changes at night, I have finally figured it out. The front pattern does move — and no wonder! The woman shakes it! Sometimes, I think there are a great many women behind it, and sometimes only one. She crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.

In the bright spots she keeps still, and in the shady spots she takes hold of the bars, shaking them hard. She is always trying to climb through, but nobody could climb through that suffocating pattern. I think that’s why it has so many heads. They get through, then the pattern shuts them off, turning them upside down, and making their eyes white! If those heads were covered or removed, it would not be half as bad. I think that woman gets out in the daytime! Privately — I’ll tell you why. I’ve seen her!

I can see her out of every window! I know it is the same woman because she is always creeping, and most women do not creep during the day. I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and she hides under the blackberry vines when a carriage comes.

I don’t blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping in daylight! I always lock the door when I creep in daylight. I can’t do it at night, I know John would suspect something immediately. John is so strange now, I don’t want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don’t want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself. I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once, but turn as fast as I can, I only see out of one at a time.

Though I always see her, she might be able to creep faster than I can turn! I have watched her sometimes way off in the open country, creeping fast as a cloud’s shadow in high wind. If only that top pattern could be gotten off the other one! I mean to try it, little by little. I have found out another funny thing, but I won’t say it this time! It is not good to trust people too much.

There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe John is beginning to notice. I don’t like the look in his eyes. I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She had a very good report to give. She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.

John knows I don’t sleep well at night, but I’m so quiet! He also asked me all sorts of questions, pretending to be loving and kind. As if I couldn’t see through him! Still, it’s no wonder he acts that way after sleeping under this wallpaper for three months. It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly affected by it.

Hurray! This is the last day, but it is enough. John is staying in town overnight, and won’t be out until this evening. Jennie wanted to sleep with me — the sly thing! I told her I would definitely rest better alone. That was clever, when really I wasn’t alone at all! As soon as it was moonlight, that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern. I got up and ran to help her.

I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we peeled off yards of that paper. A strip about as high as my head and half around the room. Then, when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me, I declared I would finish it today!

We leave tomorrow, and they are moving the furniture back where it came from. Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I happily told her I did it out of pure spite of the vicious thing. She laughed and said she wouldn’t mind doing it herself, but I must not get tired. How she betrayed herself that time, but no one touches this paper but me — not alive!

She tried to get me out of the room — it was too obvious! I said it was so quiet, empty, and clean now that I would lie down and sleep all I could; and not to wake me even for dinner. I would call when I woke. Now she, the servants, and the things are gone, and there is nothing left but that nailed down bedstead. We shall sleep downstairs tonight, and take the boat home tomorrow. I quite enjoy the room, now that it is empty again.

How those children destroyed this room! This bedstead is fairly gnawed, but I must get to work. I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path. I don’t want to go out, and I don’t want anybody to come in until John. I want to astonish him. I’ve got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find.

If that woman does get out and tries to escape, I can tie her, but I forgot I cannot reach far without anything to stand on! This bed will not move! I tried to lift and push it until I was exhausted, then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner — but it hurt my teeth. Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly, and the pattern enjoys it! All those strangled heads, bulbous eyes, and waddling fungi scream with mockery!

I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be a deserving exercise, but the bars are too strong to try. Besides, I wouldn’t do it. Of course not. I know that would be improper and possibly misunderstood. I don’t even like to look out the windows — there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all came out of the wallpaper like I did, but now I’m securely tied by my well-hidden rope — you won’t get me out there in the road!

I suppose I will have to get back behind the pattern when night comes, and that is hard! It is so pleasant to be out in this big room and creep around as I please! I don’t want to go outside. I won’t, even if Jennie asks me to. Outside, you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow. Here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot get lost. Why there’s John at the door! It is no use, young man, you can’t open it!

How he yells and pounds! Now he’s crying for an axe. It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door! “John dear! The key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf!” I said in the gentlest voice,

That silenced him for a few moments. Then he said — very quietly, “Open the door, my darling!”

“I can’t. The key is down by the front door under a plantain leaf!” Then I said it again, several times, very gently, slowly, so often that he had to go and see. He found it of course, and came in, stopping short by the door.

“What is the matter? For God’s sake, what are you doing?!” He cried.

I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder. “I’ve got out at last, in spite of you and Jennie. I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” I said.

Now, why would that man have fainted? He did, right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!