After Rainsford had doubled back over his tracks and carefully climbed onto the branches of a tree for the night, he believed he has safely eluded Zaroff. But next morning, the "cry of some startled bird" signalled that something was drawing near. It was Zaroff, with his eyes intently frozen to the ground. After studying the soil directly below Rainsford's branches, Zaroff lit a cigarette and slowly looked up the trunk of the tree.
But the sharp eyes of the hunter stopped before they reached the limb where Rainsford lay; a smile spread over his brown face. Very deliberately he blew a smoke ring into the air; then he turned his back on the tree and walked carelessly away, back along the trail he had come.
Rainsford was shocked that Zaroff could have followed his "difficult trail" to the exact spot where he had hidden himself, and he considered himself lucky that the Russian had not seen him. He also wondered why, after having looked upward to almost where he was positioned, he had not looked further.
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?
Rainsford suddenly realized that Zaroff had known exactly where he was, and that he had deliberately turned back.
The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse.