The Ransom of Red Chief


  • Narrator

    It looked like a good thing:

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  • but wait till I tell you.

  • We were down South, in Alabama—

  • Bill Driscoll and myself—

  • when this kidnapping idea struck us.

  • It was, as Bill afterward expressed it,

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    “during a moment of temporary mental apparition";

  • Narrator

    but we didn't find that out till later.

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  • There was a town down there, as flat as a flannel-cake, and called Summit, of course.

  • It contained inhabitants of as undeleterious and self-satisfied a class of peasantry as ever clustered around a Maypole.

  • Bill and me had a joint capital of about six hundred dollars, and we needed just two thousand dollars more to pull off a fraudulent town-lot scheme in Western Illinois with.

  • We talked it over on the front steps of the hotel.

  • Philoprogenitiveness, says we, is strong in semi-rural communities;

  • Narrator

    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.

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  • We knew that Summit couldn't get after us with anything stronger than constables and maybe some lackadaisical bloodhounds and a diatribe or two in the Weekly Farmers' Budget.

  • So, it looked good.

  • We selected for our victim the only child of a prominent citizen named Ebenezer Dorset.

  • The father was respectable and tight, a mortgage fancier and a stern, upright collection-plate passer and forecloser.

  • The kid was a boy of ten, with bas-relief freckles, and hair the colour of the cover of the magazine you buy at the news-stand when you want to catch a train.