O. Henry's witty short story that contains one comic reversal after another, foreshadows the ironic outcome with the opening sentence of Sam, the narrator, “It looked like a good thing: but wait till I tell you.” Sam and his partner, Bill Driscoll, plan a kidnapping of Summit, Alabama's prominent citizen and financier, Ebenezer Dorset. However, with the first sentence in mind, Sam's and Bill's confidence that the worst that could happen to them was nothing more than being chased by
constables and maybe some lackadaisical bloodhounds and a diatribe or two in the Weekly Farmers' Budget
seems to be an underestimation of the possibilities. Then, when Bill attempts to kidnap the freckled, red-haired Dorset boy, he hits Bill in the eye with a piece of a brick and puts up "a fight like a welter-weight cinnamon bear." Obviously, then, the boy is no fragile, frightened victim. After Sam arrives in camp, he finds Bill tending to wounds and bruises on his face and is met by this boy who then challenges him,
"Ha! cursed paleface, do you dare to enter the camp of Red Chief, the terror of the plains?"
Clearly, it becomes clear to the reader through foreshadowing that "Red Chief" is no ordinary boy and may prove to be extremely difficult to hold as a hostage since, rather than being frightened, he is "having the time of his life." Complications [problems arising from their plans] to the men's obtaining a ransom from his father also derive from Sam's observation the next day that instead of a search party out looking for the boy,
Nobody was dragging the creek; no couriers dashed hither and yon, bringing tidings of no news to the distracted parents. There was a sylvan attitude of somnolent sleepiness pervading that section of Alabama....
Thus, the "good thing" that Sam and Bill Driscoll plan develops into anything but easy because the boy is no frightened or weak child, and the father does not care that his son has been taken; for, the reader later learns that the men become so tortured that they return the child.