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In an hour we set forth at a steady gallop eastward. Our horses were Kentucky-bred, strengthened by the mesquite grass of the west. Ben Tatum's steeds may have been swifter, and he had a good lead, but if he had heard the punctual thuds of the hoofs of those trailers of ours, born in the heart of feudland, he might have felt that retribution was creeping up on the hoof-prints of his dapper nags.

I knew that Ben Tatum's card to play was flight flight until he came within the safe territory of his own henchmen and supporters. He knew that the man pursuing him would follow the trail to any end where it might lead. During the ride Sam talked of the prospect for rain, of the price of beef, and of the musical glasses. You would have thought he had never had a brother or a sweetheart or an enemy on earth. There are some sub.

A Technical Error 43 jects too big even for the words in the "Un- abridged. Sam laughed at exactly the right place laughed with his mouth. When I caught sight of his mouth, I wished I had been blessed with enough sense of humour to have suppressed those anecdotes. Our first sight of them we had in Guthrie. Tired and hungry, we stumbled, unwashed, into a little yellow-pine hotel and sat at a table. In the opposite corner we saw the fugitives. They were bent upon their meal, but looked around at times uneasily.

The girl was dressed in brown one of these smooth, half-shiny, silky-looking affairs with lace collar and cuffs, and what I believe they call an accordion-plaited skirt. She wore a thick brown veil down to her nose, and a broad-brimmed straw hat with some kind of feathers adorning it. The man wore plain, dark clothes, and his hair was trimmed very short. He was such a man as you might see anywhere. There they were the murderer and the woman he had stolen.

There we were the 44 A Technical Error rightful avenger, according to the code, and the supernumerary who writes these words. For one time, at least, in the heart of the supernumerary there rose the killing instinct. For one moment he joined the force of com- batants orally. Tenderfoot, there's a rule out here among white men in the Nation that you can't shoot a man when he's with a woman.

I never knew it to be broke yet. You cant do it. You've got to get him in a gang of men or by himself. That's why. He knows it, too. We all know. So, that's Mr.


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Ben Tatum! One of the ' pretty men'! I'll cut him out of the herd before they leave the hotel, and regulate his account! Although Sam haunted lobby and stairway and halls half the night, in some mysterious way the fugitives eluded him ; and in the morning the veiled lady in the brown dress with the accordion-plaited skirt and the dapper young man with the close-clipped A Technical Error 45 hair, and the blackboard with the prancing nags, were gone.

It is a monotonous story, that of the ride; so it shall be curtailed. Once again we over- took them on a road. We were about fifty yards behind. They turned in the buckboard and looked at us; then drove on without whipping up their horses. Their safety no longer lay in speed. Ben Tatum knew. He knew that the only rock of safety left to him was the code. There is no doubt that, had he been alone, the matter would have been settled quickly with Sam Durkee in the usual way; but he had something at his side that kept still the trigger-finger of both.

It seemed likely that he was no coward. So, you may perceive that woman, on occasions, may postpone instead of precipi- tating conflict between man and man. But not willingly or consciously. She is oblivious of codes. Five miles farther we came upon the future great Western city of Chandler. The horses of pursuers and pursued were starved and weary. There was one hotel that offered danger to man and entertainment to beast; 46 A Technical Error so the four of us met again in the dining room at the ringing of a bell so resonant and large that it had cracked the welkin long ago.

The dining room was not as large as the one at Guthrie. Just as we were eating apple pie how Ben Davises and tragedy impinge upon each other! I noticed Sam looking with keen intentness at our quarry where they were seated at a table across the room. The girl still wore the brown dress with lace collar and cuffs, and the veil drawn down to her nose. The man bent over his plate, with his close-cropped head held low.

The young person in the dark sack suit. A Technical Error 47 from whose head and from whose life a woman's glory had been clipped, laid her head on her arms stretched upon the table; while people came running to raise Ben Tatum from the floor in his feminine masquer- ade that had given Sam the opportunity to set aside, technically, the obligations of the code.

Ennui was upon him. This goodly promontory, the earth particularly that por- tion of it known as Quicksand was to him no more than a pestilent congregation of favours. Overtaken by the megrims, the philosopher may seek relief in soliloquy; my lady find solace in tears; the flaccid East- erner scold at the millinery bills of his women folk. Such recourse was insufficient to the denizens of Quicksand. Calliope, especially, was wont to express his ennui according to his lights. Over night Calliope had hung out signals of approaching low spirits.

He had kicked his own dog on the porch of the Occidental Hotel, and refused to apologise. He had become capricious and fault-finding in con- versation. While strolling about he reached often for twigs of mesquite and chewed the The Reformation of Calliope 49 leaves fiercely. That was always an ominous act. Another symptom alarming to those who were familiar with the different stages of his doldrums was his increasing politeness and a tendency to use formal phrases.

A husky softness succeeded the usual penetrat- ing drawl in his tones. A dangerous courtesy marked his manners. Later, his smile be- came crooked, the left side of his mouth slant- ing upward, and Quicksand got ready to stand from under. At this stage Calliope generally began to drink. Finally, about midnight, he was seen going homeward, saluting those whom he met with exaggerated but inoffensive courtesy.

Not yet was Calliope's melancholy at the danger point. He would seat himself at the window of the room he occupied over Silves- ter's tonsorial parlours and there chant lu- gubrious and tuneless ballads until morning, accompanying the noises by appropriate mal- treatment of a jingling guitar. More mag- nanimous than Nero, he would thus give musical warning of the forthcoming munici- pal upheaval that Quicksand was scheduled to endure.

At best he was a loafer and a nuisance; at worst he was the Terror of Quicksand. His ostensible occupation was something subordinate in the real estate line; he drove the beguiled Easterner in buck- boards out to look over lots and ranch prop- erty. Originally he came from one of the Gulf States, his lank six feet, slurring rhythm of speech, and sectional idioms giving evidence of his birthplace. And yet, after taking on Western adjust- ments, this languid pine-box whittler, cracker- barrel hugger, shady corner lounger of the cotton fields and sumac hills of the South became famed as a bad man among men who had made a life-long study of the art of trucu- lence.

At nine the next morning Calliope was fit. Inspired by his own barbarous melodies and the contents of his jug, he was ready primed to gather fresh laurels from the diffident brow of Quicksand. Encircled and criss- crossed with cartridge belts, abundantly gar- nished with revolvers, and copiously drunk, he poured forth into Quicksand's main street.

Too chivalrous to surprise and capture a The Reformation of Calliope 5 1 town by silent sortie, he paused at the nearest corner and emitted his slogan that fearful, brassy yell, so reminiscent of the steam piano, that had gained for him the classic appellation that had superseded his own baptismal name. Following close upon his vociferation came three shots from his forty-five by way of lim- bering up the guns and testing his aim.

A yellow dog, the personal property of Colonel Swazey, the proprietor of the Occidental, fell feet upward in the dust with one farewell yelp. A Mexican who was crossing the street from the Blue Front grocery, carrying in his hand a bottle of kerosene, was stimulated to a sudden and admirable burst of speed, still grasping the neck of the shattered bottle.

The new gilt weathercock on Judge Riley J s lemon and ultramarine two-story residence shivered, flap- ped, and hung by a splinter, the sport of the wanton breezes. The artillery was in trim. Calliope's hand was steady. The high, calm ecstasy of ha- bitual battle was upon him, though slightly embittered by the sadness of Alexander in that his conquests were limited to the small world of Quicksand. Down the street went Calliope, shooting 52 The Reformation of Calliope right and left.

Glass fell like hail; dogs vamosed; chickens flew, squawking; feminine voices shrieked concernedly to youngsters at large. The din was perforated at intervals by the staccato of the Terror's guns, and was drowned periodically by the brazen screech that Quicksand knew so well. The occasions of Calliope's low spirits were legal holidays in Quicksand.

All along the main street in advance of his coming clerks were putting up shutters and closing doors. Business would languish for a space. But some four squares farther down lively preparations were being made to minister to Mr. Catesby's love for interchange of com- pliments and repartee. On the previous night numerous messengers had hastened tc advise Buck Patterson, the city marshal, of Calliope's impending eruption.

The patience of that official, often strained in extending leniency toward the disturber's misdeeds, had been overtaxed. In Quicksand some indulgence was accorded the natural ebullition of human nature. Providing that the lives of the more The Reformation of Calliope 53 useful citizens were not recklessly squandered, or too much property needlessly laid waste, the community sentiment was against a too strict enforcement of the law.

But Calliope had raised the limit. His outbursts had been too frequent and too violent to come within the classification of a normal and sanitary relaxation of spirit. Buck Patterson had been expecting and awaiting in his little ten-by-twelve frame office that preliminary yell announcing that Calliope was feeling blue. When the signal came the City Marshal rose to his feet and buckled on his guns. Two deputy sheriffs and three citizens who had proven the edible qualities of fire also stood up, ready to bandy with Calliope's leaden jocularities.

Keep behind cover and bring him down. He's a nogood 'un. It's up to Calliope to turn up his toes this time, I reckon. Go to him all spraddled out, boys. And don't git too reckless, for what CaJliope shoots at he hits. The plan was to accomplish the downfall of the Quicksand Terror without loss to the attacking party, 'if possible. The splenetic Calliope, unconscious of re- tributive plots, was steaming down the chan- nel, cannonading on either side, when he sud- denly became aware of breakers ahead.

The city marshal and one of the deputies rose up behind some dry-goods boxes half a square to the front and opened fire. At the same time the rest of the posse, divided, shelled him from two side streets up which they were cautiously manoeuvring from a well-executed detour.

Logging out…

The first volley broke the lock of one of Calliope's guns, cut a neat underbit in his right ear, and exploded a cartridge in his crossbelt, scorching his ribs as it burst. Feel- ing braced up by this unexpected tonic to his spiritual depression, Calliope executed a fortissimo note from his upper register, and returned the fire like an echo. The upholders of the law dodged at his flash, but a trifle too late to save one of the deputies a bullet just r The Reformation of Calliope 55 above the elbow, and the marshal a bleeding cheek from a splinter that a ball tore from the box he had ducked behind.

And now Calliope met the enemy's tactics in kind. Choosing with a rapid eye the street from which the weakest and least accurate fire had come, he invaded it at a double-quick, abandoning the unprotected middle of the street. With rare cunning the opposing force in that direction one of the deputies and two of the valorous volunteers waited, con- cealed by beer barrels, until Calliope had passed their retreat, and then peppered him from the rear.

In another moment they were reinforced by the marshal and his other men, and then Calliope felt that in order to successfully prolong the delights of the con- :roversy he must find some means of reducing the great odds against him. His eye fell ipon a structure that seemed to hold out this romise, providing he could reach it. Not far away was the little railroad station, its building a strong box house, ten by twenty feet, resting upon a platform four feet above [round. Windows were in each of its walls. He reached the haven in safety, the station agent leaving the building by a window, like a flying squirrel, as the garrison entered the door.

Patterson and his supporters halted under protection of a pile of lumber and held con- sultations. In the station was an unterrified desperado who was an excellent shot and carried an abundance of ammunition. For thirty yards on each side of the besieged was a stretch of bare, open ground. It was a sure thing that the man who attempted to enter that unprotected area would be stopped by one of Calliope's bullets. The city marshal was resolved. He had decided that Calliope Catesby should no more wake the echoes of Quicksand with his strident whoop.

He had so announced. Officially and personally he fejt imperatively bound to put the soft pedal on that instrument of dis- cord. It played bad tunes. Standing near was a hand truck used in the manipulation of small freight. It stood by a shed full of sacked wool, a consignment from one of the sheep ranches. On this truck the The Reformation of Calliope 57 marshal and his men piled three heavy sacks of wool.

Stooping low, Buck Patterson started for Calliope's fort, slowly pushing this loaded truck before him for protection. The posse, scattering broadly, stood ready to nip the besieged in case he should show himself in an effort to repel the juggernaut of justice that was creeping upon him. Only once did Cal- liope make demonstration.

He fired from a window, and some tufts of wool spurted from the marshal's trustworthy bulwark. The re- turn shots from the posse pattered against the window frame of the fort. No loss re- sulted on either side. The marshal was too deeply engrossed in steering his protected battleship to be aware of the approach of the morning train until he was within a few feet of the platform.

The train was coming up on the other side of it. It stopped only one minute at Quick- sand. What an opportunity it would offer to Calliope! He had only to step out the other door, mount the train, and away. Abandoning his breastworks, Buck, with his gun ready, dashed up the steps and into the room, driving open the closed door with one heave of his weighty shoulder.

The 58 The Reformation of Calliope members of the posse heard one shot fired in- side, and then there was silence. At length the wounded man opened his eyes. After a blank space he again could see and hear and feel and think. Turning his eyes about, he found himself lying on a wooden bench. A tall man with a perplexed countenance, wearing a big badge with "City Marshal" engraved upon it, stood over him. A little old woman in black, with a wrinkled face and sparkling black eyes, was holding a wet handkerchief against one of his temples.

He was trying to get these facts fixed in his mind and connected with past events, when the old woman began to talk. That bullet never teched ye! Jest skeeted along the side of your head and sort of paralyzed ye for a spell. I've heerd of sech things afore; cun-cussion is what they names it. Abel Wadkins used to kill squirrels that way barkin' em, Abe called it. You jest been barked, sir, and you'll be all right in a little bit.

Feel lots better already, don't ye! You just lay still a while longer and let me bathe your head. You don't know me, I reckon, and 'tain't surprisin' that you shouldn't. I The Reformation of Calliope 59 come in on that train from Alabama to see my son. Big son, ain't he?

This is my son, sir. She reached out one veined and calloused hand and took one of her son's. Then smiling cheerily down at the prostrate man, she con- tinued to dip the handkerchief in the waiting- room tin washbasin and gently apply it to his temple. She had the benevolent garrulity of old age. One of my nephews, El- kanah Price, he's a conductor on one of them railroads and he got me a pass to come out here. I can stay a whole week on it, and then it'll take me back again.

Jest think, now, that little boy of rnine has got to be a officer a city marshal of a whole town! That's somethin' like a constable, ain't it? I never knowed he was a officer: he didn't say nothin' about it in his letters. I reckon he thought his old mother'd be skeered about the danger he was in.

But, laws! I never 60 The Reformation of Calliope was much of a hand to git skeered. I heard them guns a-shootin' while I was gittin''off them cars, and I see smoke a- comin' out of the depot, but I jest walked right along. Then I see son's face lookin' out through the window. I knowed him at oncet. He met me at the door, and squeezed me 'most to death. And there you was, sir, a-lyin' there jest like you was dead, and I 'lowed we'd see what might be done to help sot you up.

He was a rugged man, big- boned and straight. His eyes, steady and keen, seemed to linger upon the face of the man standing so still above him. His look wandered often from the face he studied to the marshal's badge upon the other's breast. Son told me about you, sir, while you was layin' senseless on the floor. Don't you take it as meddlesome fer an old woman with a son as big as you to talk about it. The Reformation of Calliope 6 1 And you mustn't hold no grudge ag'in my son for havin' to shoot at ye.

A officer has got to take up for the law it's his duty and them that acts bad and lives wrong has to suffer. Don't blame my son any, sir -'tain't his fault. He's always been a good boy good when he was growin' up, and kind and 'bedient and well-behaved. Won't you let me advise you, sir, not to do so no more? Be a good man, and leave liquor alone and live peaceably and godly. Keep away from bad company and work honest and sleep sweet. Very earnest and candid her old, worn face looked.

In her rusty black dress and antique bonnet she sat, near the close of a long life, and epitomized the experience of the world. Still the man to whom she spoke gazed above her head, contemplating the silent son of the old mother. Sup- pose the marshal speaks up and says if the talk's all right?

The Ransom of Red Chief

He fingered 62 The Reformation of Calliope the badge on his breast for a moment, and then he put an arm around the old woman and drew her close to him. She smiled the unchanging mother smile of three-score years, and patted his big brown hand with her crooked, mit- tened fingers while her son spake. If I was a drunken, desp'rate character, without shame or hope, I'd follow it.

If I was in your place and you was in mine I'd say: 'Marshal, I'm willin' to swear if you'll give me the chance I'll quit the racket. I'll drop the tanglefoot and the gun- play, and won't play hoss no more. I'll be a good citizen and go to work and quit my foolishness. So help me God! You promise to be good and he won't do you no harm. Forty- one year ago his heart first beat ag'in 5 mine, and it's beat true ever since.

I see a man settin' it on the platform jest as I seen son's face in the win- dow, and it went plum out of my head, There's eight jars of home-made quince jam in that trunk that I made myself. I wouldn't have nothin' happen to them jars for a red apple. I seen her through the window a-comin' in. She never had heard a word 'bout my tough ways. I didn't have the nerve to let her know I was a worthless cuss bein' hunted down by the community. There you was lyin' where my shot laid you, like you was dead.

The idea struck me sudden, and I just took your badge off and fastened it onto myself, and I fastened my reputation on'to you. I told her I was the marshal and you was a holy terror. You can take your badge back now, Buck. Don't you dare to take it off till the day your mother leaves this town. You'll be city marshal of Quicksand as long as she's here to know it. After I stir around town a bit and put 'em on I'll guarantee that nobody won't give the thing away to her.

And say, you leather-headed, rip-roarin', low-down son of a locoed cyclone, you follow that advice she give me! I'm goin' to take some of it myself, too. Best of all I like to hear him tell of his earlier days when he sold liniments and cough cures on street corners, living hand to mouth, heart to heart with the people, throwing heads or tails with fortune for his last coin.

I don't know what he ever did with the pocket knife I swapped him for it. I carried only one best bet just then, and that was Resurrection Bitters. It was made of life-giving plants and herbs accidentally discovered by Ta-qua- la, the beautiful wife of the chief of the Choc- 65 66 Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet taw Nation, while gathering truck to garnish a platter of boiled dog for the annual corn dance. I went to the Fisher Hill druggist and he credited me for half a gross of eight-ounce bottles and corks.

I had the labels and ingredients in my valise, left over from the last town. Life began to look rosy again after I got in my hotel room with the water running from the tap, and the Resurrection Bitters lining up on the table by the dozen.

by O. Henry

No, sir. There was two dollars' worth of fluid extract of cinchona and a dime's worth of aniline in that half-gross ol bitters. I've gone through towns years after- wards and had folks ask for 'em again. Fisher Hill was a low, malarial town ; and a compound hypothetical pneumo-cardiac anti-scorbutic tonic was just what I diagnosed the crowd as needing. The bitters started off like sweet- breads-on-toast at a vegetarian dinner. I had sold two dozen at fifty cents apiece when I felt somebody pull my coat tail. I knew what that meant; so I climbed down and sneaked a Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet 67 five-dollar bill into the hand of a man with a German silver star on his lapel.

I was talking to the landlord about it. They didn't know when he'd be down. So Doc Waugh-hoo hunches down again in a hotel chair and lights a jimpson- weed regalia, and waits. I've seen you work. He was a good street man; and he was more than that he respected his pro- fession, and he was satisfied with per cent, profit. He had plenty of offers to go into the illegitimate drug and garden seed business; but he was never to be tempted off of the straight path. I told him about the situation in Fisher Hill and how finances was low on account of the local mixture of politics and jalap.

Andy had just got in on the train that morning. He was pretty low himself, and was going to canvass the town for a few dollars to build a new battleship by popular Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet 69 subscription at Eureka Springs. So we went out and sat on the porch and talked it over. He's de only doctor in de town, and Massa Banks am powerful bad off. He sent me to ax you to please, suh, come.

The Ransom of Red Chief

He was making internal noises that would have had everybody in San Francisco hiking for the parks. A young man was standing by the bed holding a cup of water. Can't you do nothing for me? I never took a course in a medical college,' says I. He has tried to alleviate my distress, but without success. Oh, Lordy! Biddle and sets down by the bed and feels the Mayor's pulse. Then I turns up the lids of his eyes and looks close at the pupils of 'em. Whoa-ha,' says Mr.

Waugh-hoo, when you get through plowing,' says I. And then I walks back to the bed and throws back my long hair. Mayor,' says I, 'there is only one hope for you. Drugs will do you no good. The be- lief that there is no pain and sickness except what is produced when we ain't feeling well. Declare yourself in arrears. I am a medium, a coloratura hypnotist, and a spirituous con- trol.

It was only through me at the recent seances at Ann Arbor that the late president of the Vinegar Bitters Company could revisit the earth to communicate with his sister Jane. I don't prac- tice personal magnetism on them. I do not drag it in the dust,' says I, 'because they haven't got the dust. I don't practice medicine. Til pay it. I guess my life's worth that much. You ain't sick. You haven't got a heart or a clavicle or a funny bone or brains or anything. You haven't got any pain. Declare error. Now you feel the pain that you didn't have leaving, don't you? The right lobe of the perihelion has subsided.

You can't hold your eyes open any longer. For the present the disease is checked. Now, you are asleep. Tiddle,' says I, 'the wonders of modern science. Til come back at eleven to-morrow. When he wakes up give him eight drops of turpentine and three pounds of steak. Riddle,' says I, when he opened the bedroom door, 'and how is uncle this morning? I gave him another treatment, and he said the last of the pain left him.

It's a good thing I happened to be in Fisher Hill, Mr. Mayor,' says I, 'for all the remedies in the cornucopia that the regular schools of Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet 75 medicine use couldn't have saved you. No checks, please, I hate to write my name on the back of a check almost as bad as I do on the front. I put it in my inside pocket careful. Biddle lays his hand on my arm. Mayor, sitting up in bed. He's been following you over five counties. He came to me yesterday and we fixed up this scheme to catch you. What was it you said I had, Doc? Til have to turn you over to the sheriff.

Then he puts handcuffs on me, and takes the money out of my pocket. I'll turn them over to the sheriff when we get to his office, and he'll send you a receipt. Biddle,' says the mayor. Can't you pull the cork out of your magnetism with your teeth and hocus-pocus them handcuffs off? Mayor,' says I, 'the time will come soon when you'll believe that personal mag- netism is a success. And you'll be sure that it succeeded in this case, too. I reckon you better take 'em off, and ' Hey? Why, of course it was Andy Tucker. That was his scheme; and that's how we got the capital to go into business together.

Among other hard things, you called me a rattle- snake. Maybe I am one anyhow, you hear me rattling now. One year after I got to the pen, my daughter died of well, they said it was poverty and the disgrace together. You've got a daughter, Judge, and I'm going to make you know how it feels to lose one.

And I'm going to bite that district attorney that spoke against me. I'm free now, and I guess I've turned to rattlesnake all right. I feel like one. I don't say much, but this is my rattle. Look out when I strike. Judge Derwent threw the letter carelessly aside. It was nothing new to receive such epistles from desperate men whom he had been called upon to judge. He felt no alarm. Littlefield honoured the rattle of the writer, as far as it concerned himself, with a smile of contempt; but he frowned a little over the reference to the Judge's daughter, for he and Nancy Derwent were to be married in the fall.

Littlefield went to the clerk of the court and looked over the records with him. They decided that the letter might have been sent by Mexico Sam, a half-breed border desperado who had been imprisoned for manslaughter four years before. Then official duties crowded the matter from his mind, and the rattle of the revengeful serpent was forgotten. Court was in session at Brownsville. Most of the cases to be tried were charges of smug- gling, counterfeiting, post-office robberies, and violations of Federal laws along the border. One case was that of a young Mexican, Rafael Ortiz, who had been rounded up by a clever deputy marshal in the act of passing a counter- feit silver dollar.

Ortiz languished cozily in jail, smoking brown cigarettes and waiting for trial. Kilpatrick, the deputy, brought the counterfeit dollar and handed it to the district attorney in his office in the court-house. The deputy and a reputable druggist were pre- pared to swear that Ortiz paid for a bottle of medicine with it. The coin was a poor coun- terfeit, soft, dull-looking, and made principally of lead. It was the day before the morning on which the docket would reach the case of Ortiz, and the district attorney was preparing himself for trial.

If it had been just one time, these Mexicans can't tell good money from bad; but this little yaller rascal belongs to a gang of counterfeiters, I know. One Dollar's Worth 81 This is the first time I've been able to catch him doing the trick. He's got a girl down there in them Mexican jacals on the river bank. Bill realized that this child could cause more problems than any adult.

Hard words: mailed, mailman, stingy, poplar, buggy, respectfully, gallop, ransom, coward, parrot, sling, scalp, ninety, bill, kidnapping, camping, respectable, scout, kidnap, noisy, messenger, lazy, terrify, loudly, furious, frighten, silently, sheriff, devil, spy. English e-Reader Open menu.

Do you really want to log out? Some features are not available for unauthorized users. Log out from all devices. No Yes. The Ransom of Red Chief. We chose for our victim -- the only child of an influential citizen named Ebenezer Dorset.

He was a boy of ten, with red hair. Bill and I thought that Ebenezer would pay a ransom of two thousand dollars to get his boy back. About two miles from Summit was a little mountain, covered with cedar trees. There was an opening on the back of the mountain. We stored our supplies in that cave. One night, we drove a horse and carriage past old Dorset's house. The boy was in the street, throwing rocks at a cat on the opposite fence. That boy put up a fight like a wild animal.

But, at last, we got him down in the bottom of the carriage and drove away. We took him up to the cave. The boy had two large bird feathers stuck in his hair. He points a stick at me and says:. Paleface, do you dare to enter the camp of Red Chief, the terror of the plains? I'm Old Hank, the trapper, Red Chief's captive.

I'm going to be scalped at daybreak. By Geronimo! That kid can kick hard. I hate to go to school. I like to camp out. You won't take me back home again, will you? I never had such fun in all my life. We went to bed about eleven o'clock. Just at daybreak, I was awakened by a series of terrible screams from Bill. Red Chief was sitting on Bill's chest, with one hand holding his hair. In the other, he had a sharp knife.

He was attempting to cut off the top of Bill's head, based on what he had declared the night before. I got the knife away from the boy. But, after that event, Bill's spirit was broken. He lay down, but he never closed an eye again in sleep as long as that boy was with us. Now, you and the Chief get up and make something to eat, while I go up on the top of this mountain and look around. I climbed to the top of the mountain. Over toward Summit, I expected to see the men of the village searching the countryside. But all was peaceful.

Ecoustic Alchemy: O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief” (AUDIO)

When I got to the cave, I found Bill backed up against the side of it. He was breathing hard, with the boy threatening to strike him with a rock. I hit his ears. Have you got a gun with you, Sam?