The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry

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In "The Ransom of Red Chief," how did Sam wake up in the morning? What was Red Chief doing?

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They all go to bed about eleven o'clock on the first night they are supposedly holding the boy captive. Sam says that they spread some blankets and quilts on the ground and that he and Bill sleep with the boy between them. Around daybreak Sam is awakened by terrible screams from Bill. He sees that Red Chief is sitting on Bill's chest and literally trying to scalp him with a big case knife. Sam gets the knife away from the boy, but neither of the men dares to go back to sleep again. Earlier that evening Bill had told his partner that he and Red Chief were getting along just fine.

"I'm Old Hank, the Trapper, Red Chief's captive, and I'm to be scalped at daybreak."

Naturally Bill had thought it was all just pretense, but the unique situation of actually being kidnapped seems to have carried Red Chief far beyond his normal fantasizing. Bill is becoming terrified of this boy, and as Red Chief realizes that he has the upper hand, he becomes more and more aggressive. Sam tries to keep some control over the situation, but Bill is totally demoralized and only wants to get rid of the kid as soon as possible. 

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