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The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry

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Student Question

What actions does Red Chief take to annoy Bill in "The Ransom of Red Chief"?

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Bill Driscoll endures a fair amount of torture at the hands of Johnny Dorset, also known as Red Chief. The abuse begins during the initial capture of Johnny when the boy throws a brick at Bill and hits him in the eye. When Sam is returning the buggy, Bill receives many kicks in the shins from the boy. His non-stop "during-dinner speech" and his ear-splitting war whoops get on Bill's nerves. The boy keeps Bill up for three hours during the night with his play-acting, and in the morning he takes a knife to Bill's hair and almost scalps him. After that, Bill doesn't dare to sleep a wink while Red Chief is in their care. Later, when Sam leaves again, Red Chief terrorizes Bill by putting a hot boiled potato down his back and squashing it against Bill's skin with his foot. When Sam returns, Red Chief is threatening Bill with a huge rock. Although Sam takes the rock away, Red Chief later takes out a sling shot and slings a rock at Bill, hitting him behind the ear. It knocks Bill a little senseless, and he staggers into a pan of hot water and gets scalded. The next day during Sam's absence, Red Chief rides Bill like a "hoss" for miles, and Bill finally abandons the boy, but he reappears. After such abuse, Bill is more than willing to pay the ransom Johnny's father requires. 

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