Why did the father's response surprise the kidnappers in "The Ransom of Red Chief"?  

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Bill and Sam initially plan on making their money by kidnapping Ebenezer Dorset's son and holding him ransom for two thousand dollars. They discover that Ebenezer Dorset is a wealthy mortgage fancier with a ten-year-old son named Johnny, who turns out to be a handful for the two kidnappers. In their ransom letter, Sam appeases Bill by asking Ebenezer Dorset for fifteen hundred dollars in exchange for Johnny's safe return. While the con men wait for Ebenezer's response, Johnny terrorizes Bill by kicking him in the shins, disrupting his sleep, physically threatening him at knifepoint, burning him with a scolding hot potato, and slinging rocks at his head using his slingshot. When the con men finally receive a response from Johnny's father, Ebenezer surprises Bill and Sam by demanding two hundred and fifty dollars to take Johnny off their hands. Ironically, it is Johnny who holds his capturers hostage, and they end up paying Ebenezer the two hundred and fifty dollars to take him back.

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The father's response surprises the kidnappers because they expect him to love his child and want him back. In fact, the kidnappers rely on this for their scheme to earn money:

Philoprogenitiveness, says we, is strong in semirural communities; therefore, and for other reasons, a kidnapping project ought to do better there than in the radius of newspapers that send reporters out in plain clothes to stir up talk about such things. 

It is thus definitely surprising to Sam and Bill when the father of the kidnapped child gives them a counter-proposal: they are to bring the child back to the father, and, in lieu of claiming the ransom, they are to pay the father 250 dollars themselves to take him off their hands. Bill, the more battered between the pair, hastens to bring back the child and pay the ransom to the father. He then runs away as fast as he can from the child. It's certainly an unusual way to respond to a kidnapping!

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