When Rainsford wakes it is late afternoon. Energized by his rest, he begins to search for the source of the pistol shots. Rainsford is perplexed by the fact that anyone would even be on the island, as it is such a remote place. He begins to explore the island by walking along the shoreline.
It isn’t long before he finds evidence of an animal disturbance. He surmises from crushed plants and a spent cartridge that the animal that was shot down must have been quite large. It is also clear to him from the number of shots that the animal had resisted its ultimate demise. He finds footprints, and follows the trail, eager to find their source before nightfall.
In the midst of the darkness Rainsford spots lights. At first he thinks that he must have found a village because there were so many lights. As he approaches he realizes that he has, in actuality, stumbled upon a large building. The chateau is located on the edge of a cliff. So unexpected was the sight before him that Rainsford actually thinks he is seeing a mirage.
Rainsford walks up to the front door and knocks. Rainsford finds himself face to face with an enormous, black-bearded man. The man had a revolver at his side, pointed at Rainsford’s chest. Rainsford tries to explain that he had fallen of a yacht and was no threat. He tells the ominous man that he is from New York City, a visitor in this part of the world. The man does not react to Rainsford’s words. Confused by the lack of response, Rainsford repeats himself once again. Suddenly, the man’s arm goes up in a military salute. Another man was approaching from inside the house.
The second man politely introduces himself to Rainsford and appears to already know who he was. The man was familiar with one of Rainsford’s hunting books about snow leopards in Tibet. He then introduces himself as General Zaroff. Rainsford finds Zaroff to be charming. Zaroff is a tall man with white hair, black eyebrows, a black moustache, and black eyes. Using a sign, the general instructs his assistant, the large man with the revolver, to put his gun away. He then apologetically explains that his assistant, Ivan, is deaf and dumb. Rainsford inquires as toward Ivan’s heritage. Zaroff explains that both he and Ivan are Cossacks. He then invites Rainsford into the house.
Rainsford is led to a lavish room by Ivan. A suit from a fine London tailor is provided for him to wear to dinner. At dinner, he finds a magnificent room full of signs of wealth. In addition, there are numerous heads mounted on the wall.
Zaroff offers Rainsford a cocktail, inviting him to sit at the table. While eating borscht and other delicacies, the two men converse. Zaroff asks Rainsford if he thinks that the champagne had been tainted by the trip across the ocean. Rainsford says no, all the while admiring the generosity of his host.
Rainsford demonstrates his prowess as a hunter by following the trail left by the animal he had heard the night prior. It is important to note that his pursuit of the trail is driven by his love of the sport. His passion is what ultimately comes into question through his encounters with Zaroff. In this portion of the story, Rainsford is clearly playing the role of the hunter. He is in pursuit of both knowledge and downed prey.
The revelations that Rainsford are about to receive are symbolized by his trek from the darkness of the forest to the bright lights of Zaroff’s mansion. Much to his surprise, however, he is greeted by the barrel of a gun at the door of the bright house. Suddenly, Rainsford is thrust into the position of the cornered prey. His attempts at connecting on the level of civilization are in vain as the man at the door, Ivan, is not able to speak or hear.
When Zaroff walks in, another slew of contradictions is presented. Zaroff represents the crème-de-la-crème of society. He is well-read, finely dressed, and socially graceful. Zaroff parallels the finery of his house, whereas Ivan is more closely associated with the jungle that abuts the aforementioned house. In addition, Zaroff presents his own set of contradictions that are foreshadowed by the symbolic contrasting colors of his hair, his demeanor, and his ethnic heritage. These first hints of conflict are further fleshed out as the story progresses.
Rainsford is quickly shuttled to a room worthy of a king. The transition from man-overboard, lost in a jungle to esteemed guest is so seamless that Rainsford doesn’t realize that something is off until much later. The fine champagne and exquisitely tailored suits help Rainsford feel at home in a place that is clearly not in a hospitable, well-known locale.
In sum, this portion of the text sets the stage for the pivotal plot point that is to come. The seemingly illogical turn of events raises a series of questions that are later answered in the most unexpected of ways. In other words, this passage serves an important role in building the suspense by creating a highly unpredictable situation.