Remixed by Lucky Doubles Roller, who cannot post it due to snow in NYC.
The dining room to which Whittington conducted him was in many ways remarkable. There was a medieval magnificence about it; it suggested a baronial hall of feudal times with its oaken panels, its high ceiling, its vast refectory tables where twoscore men could sit down to eat. About the hall were mounted heads of many animals--lions, tigers, elephants, moose, bears; larger or more perfect specimens Whittington had never seen. At the great table the Vice President was sitting, alone.
"You'll have a cocktail, Mr. Whittington," he suggested. The cocktail was surpassingly good; and, Whittington noted, the table apointments were of the finest--the linen, the crystal, the silver, the china.
They were eating Wyoming beef, the rich, red meat so dear to patrician palates. Half apologetically Cheney said, "We do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here. Please forgive any lapses. We are well off the beaten track, you know. Do you think the champagne has suffered from its long flight on my Gulfstream?"
"Not in the least," declared Whittington. He was finding the Vice President a most thoughtful and affable host, a true Republican. But there was one small trait of Cheney's that made Whittington uncomfortable. Whenever he looked up from his plate he found the general studying him, appraising him narrowly.
"Perhaps," said Cheney, "you were surprised that I recognized your name. You see, I read all books on hunting published in English, French, and Russian. I have but one passion in my life, Mr. Whittington, and it is the hunt."
"You have some wonderful heads here," said Whittington as he ate a particularly well-cooked filet mignon. " That Cape buffalo is the largest I ever saw."
"Oh, that fellow. Yes, he was a monster."
"Did he charge you?"
"Hurled me against a tree," said Cheney. "Fractured my skull. But I got the brute."
"I've always thought," said Whittington, "that the Cape buffalo is the most dangerous of all big game."
For a moment Cheney did not reply; he was smiling his curious thin-lipped smile. Then he said slowly, "No. You are wrong, sir. The Cape buffalo is not the most dangerous big game." He sipped his wine. "Here in this Texas preserve," he said in the same slow tone, "I hunt more dangerous game."
Whittington expressed his surprise. "Is there big game in this preserve?"
Cheney nodded. "The biggest."
"Oh, it isn't here naturally, of course. I have to stock the preserve."
"What have you imported, Mr. Vice President?" Whittington asked. "Tigers?"
Cheney smiled. "No," he said. "Hunting tigers ceased to interest me some years ago. I exhausted their possibilities, you see. No thrill left in tigers, no real danger. I live for danger, Mr. Whittington."
Cheney took from his pocket a gold cigarette case and offered his guest a long black cigarette with a silver tip; it was perfumed and gave off a smell like incense.
"We will have some capital hunting, you and I," said Cheney. "I shall be most glad to have your society."
"But what game--" began Whittington.
"I'll tell you," said Cheney. "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, Mr. Vice President."
Cheney 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 Wyoming, and he was an ardent sportsman. When I was only five years old he gave me a little gun, specially made by Colt 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 Rocky Mountains when I was ten. My whole life has been one prolonged hunt. I avoided the army--it was expected of noblemen's sons--as 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
Cheney puffed at his cigarette.
"After the debacle with Enron I left the state, for it was imprudent for a Vice President stay there. Many noble republicans lost everything. I, luckily, had invested heavily in securities and oil industry service contracts, so I shall never have to open a tearoom in Monte Carlo or drive a taxi in Paris. Naturally, I continued to hunt--grizzliest in the Rockies, crocodiles in the Ganges, rhinoceroses in East Africa. It was in Africa that the Cape buffalo hit me and laid me up for six months. As soon as I recovered I started for the Amazon to hunt jaguars, for I had heard they were unusually cunning. They weren't." The VP sighed. "They were no match at all for a hunter with his wits about him, and a high-powered rifle. I was bitterly disappointed. I was lying in my tent with a splitting headache one night when a terrible thought pushed its way into my mind. Hunting was beginning to bore me! And hunting, remember, had been my life. I have heard that in Japan businessmen often go to pieces when they give up the business that has been their life."
"Yes, that's so," said Whittington.
Cheney smiled. "I had no wish to go to pieces," he said. "I must do something. Now, mine is an analytical mind, Mr. Whittington. Doubtless that is why I enjoy the problems of the chase."
"No doubt, Dick."
"So," continued Cheney, "I asked myself why the hunt no longer fascinated me. You are much younger than I am, Mr. Whittington, 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."
Cheney 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."
Whittington leaned across the table, absorbed in what his host was saying.
"It came to me as an inspiration what I must do," Cheney went on.
"And that was?"
Cheney 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 Cheney. "I never joke about hunting. I needed a new animal. I found one. So I bought this Texas preserve, built this house, and here I do my hunting. The preserve is perfect for my purposes--there are woods with a maze of traits in them, hills, swamps--"
"But the animal, Dick?"
"Oh," said Cheney, "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."
Whittington's bewilderment showed in his face.
"I wanted the ideal animal to hunt," explained Cheney. "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 reason."'
"But no animal can reason," objected Whittington.
"My dear fellow," said Cheney, "there is one that can."
"But you can't mean--" gasped Whittington.
"And why not?"
"I can't believe you are serious, Dick. This is a grisly joke."
"Why should I not be serious? I am speaking of hunting."
"Hunting? Great Guns, Mr. Vice President, what you speak of is murder."
Cheney laughed with entire good nature. He regarded Whittington quizzically. "I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a lawyer as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your experiences in the court room--"
"Did not make me condone cold-blooded murder," finished Whittington stiffly.
Laughter shook Cheney. "How extraordinarily droll you are!" he said. "One does not expect nowadays to find a man of the educated class, even in America, with such a naive, and, if I may say so, liberal point of view. It's like finding a snuffbox in a limousine. Ah, well, doubtless you had Puritan ancestors. 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. Whittington."