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The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

(_underscores_ denote italics)

[From _The Saturday Press_, Nov. 18, 1865. Republished in _The
Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches_
(1867), by Mark Twain, all of whose works are published by Harper &
Brothers.]

In compliance with the request of a friend of mine, who wrote me from
the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and
inquired after my friend's friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to
do, and I hereunto append the result. I have a lurking suspicion that
_Leonidas W_. Smiley is a myth; and that my friend never knew such a
personage; and that he only conjectured that if I asked old Wheeler
about him, it would remind him of his infamous _Jim Smiley_, and he
would go to work and bore me to death with some exasperating
reminiscence of him as long and as tedious as it should be useless to
me. If that was the design, it succeeded.

I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably by the barroom stove of the
dilapidated tavern in the decayed mining camp of Angel's, and I
noticed that he was fat and bald-headed, and had an expression of
winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance. He
roused up, and gave me good-day. I told him a friend had commissioned
me to make some inquiries about a cherished companion of his boyhood
named _Leonidas W_. Smiley--_Rev. Leonidas W._ Smiley, a young
minister of the Gospel, who he had heard was at one time a resident of
Angel's Camp. I added that if Mr. Wheeler could tell me anything about
this Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, I would feel under many obligations to
him.

Simon Wheeler backed me into a corner and blockaded me there with his
chair, and then sat down and reeled off the monotonous narrative which
follows this paragraph. He never smiled, he never frowned, he never
changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he tuned his
initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of
enthusiasm; but all through the interminable narrative there ran a
vein of impressive earnestness and sincerity, which showed me plainly
that, so far from his imagining that there was anything ridiculous or
funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important matter,
and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in _finesse_.
I let him go on in his own way, and never interrupted him once.

"Rev. Leonidas W. H'm, Reverend Le--well, there was a feller here once
by the name of _Jim_ Smiley, in the winter of '49--or may be it was
the spring of '50--I don't recollect exactly, somehow, though what
makes me think it was one or the other is because I remember the big
flume warn't finished when he first came to the camp; but any way, he
was the curiousest man about always betting on anything that turned up
you ever see, if he could get anybody to bet on the other side; and if
he couldn't he'd change sides. Any way that suited the other man would
suit _him_--any way just so's he got a bet, _he_ was satisfied. But
still he was lucky, uncommon lucky; he most always come out winner. He
was always ready and laying for a chance; there couldn't be no
solit'ry thing mentioned but that feller'd offer to bet on it, and
take any side you please, as I was just telling you. If there was a
horse-race, you'd find him flush or you'd find him busted at the end
of it; if there was a dog-fight, he'd bet on it; if there was a
cat-fight, he'd bet on it; if there was a chicken-fight, he'd bet on
it; why, if there was two birds setting on a fence, he would bet you
which one would fly first; or if there was a camp-meeting, he would be
there reg'lar to bet on Parson Walker, which he judged to be the best
exhorter about here, and he was, too, and a good man. If he even see a
straddle-bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would
take him to get to--to wherever he _was_ going to, and if you took him
up, he would foller that straddle-bug to Mexico but what he would find
out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road. Lots of
the boys here has seen that Smiley and can tell you about him. Why, it
never made no difference to _him_--he'd bet on _any_ thing--the
dangest feller. Parson Walker's wife laid very sick once, for a good
while, and it seemed as if they warn't going to save her; but one
morning he come in, and Smiley up and asked him how she was, and he
said she was considerable better--thank the Lord for his inf'nit'
mercy--and coming on so smart that with the blessing of Prov'dence
she'd get well yet; and Smiley, before he thought, says, ‘Well, I'll
risk two-and-a-half she don't anyway.'"

Thish-yer Smiley had a mare--the boys called her the fifteen-minute
nag, but that was only in fun, you know, because, of course, she was
faster than that--and he used to win money on that horse, for all she
was so slow and always had the asthma, or the distemper, or the
consumption, or something of that kind. They used to give her two or
three hundred yards start, and then pass her under way; but always at
the fag-end of the race she'd get excited and desperate-like, and come
cavorting and straddling up, and scattering her legs around limber,
sometimes in the air, and sometimes out to one side amongst the
fences, and kicking up m-o-r-e dust and raising m-o-r-e racket with
her coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose--and always fetch up at
the stand just about a neck ahead, as near as you could cipher it
down.

And he had a little small bull-pup, that to look at him you'd think he
warn't worth a cent but to set around and look ornery and lay for a
chance to steal something. But as soon as money was up on him he was a
different dog; his under-jaw'd begin to stick out like the fo'-castle
of a steamboat, and his teeth would uncover and shine like the
furnaces. And a dog might tackle him and bully-rag him, and bite him,
and throw him over his shoulder two or three times, and Andrew
Jackson--which was the name of the pup--Andrew Jackson would never let
on but what _he_ was satisfied, and hadn't expected nothing else--and
the bets being doubled and doubled on the other side all the time,
till the money was all up; and then all of a sudden he would grab that
other dog jest by the j'int of his hind leg and freeze to it--not
chaw, you understand, but only just grip and hang on till they throwed
up the sponge, if it was a year. Smiley always come out winner on that
pup, till he harnessed a dog once that didn't have no hind legs,
because they'd been sawed off in a circular saw, and when the thing
had gone along far enough, and the money was all up, and he come to
make a snatch for his pet holt, he see in a minute how he'd been
imposed on, and how the other dog had him in the door, so to speak,
and he 'peared surprised, and then he looked sorter discouraged-like,
and didn't try no more to win the fight, and so he got shucked out
bad. He gave Smiley a look, as much as to say his heart was broke, and
it was _his_ fault, for putting up a dog that hadn't no hind legs for
him to take holt of, which was his main dependence in a fight, and
then he limped off a piece and laid down and died. It was a good pup,
was that Andrew Jackson, and would have made a name for hisself if
he'd lived, for the stuff was in him and he had genius--I know it,
because he hadn't no opportunities to speak of, and it don't stand to
reason that a dog could make such a fight as he could under them
circumstances if he hadn't no talent. It always makes me feel sorry
when I think of that last fight of his'n, and the way it turned out.

Well, thish-yer Smiley had rat-tarriers, and chicken cocks, and
tom-cats and all of them kind of things, till you couldn't rest, and
you couldn't fetch nothing for him to bet on but he'd match you. He
ketched a frog one day, and took him home, and said he cal'lated to
educate him; and so he never done nothing for three months but set in
his back yard and learn that frog to jump. And you bet you he _did_
learn him, too. He'd give him a little punch behind, and the next
minute you'd see that frog whirling in the air like a doughnut--see
him turn one summerset, or may be a couple, if he got a good start,
and come down flat-footed and all right, like a cat. He got him up so
in the matter of ketching flies, and kep' him in practice so constant,
that he'd nail a fly every time as fur as he could see him. Smiley
said all a frog wanted was education, and he could do 'most
anything--and I believe him. Why, I've seen him set Dan'l Webster down
here on this floor--Dan'l Webster was the name of the frog--and sing
out, "Flies, Dan'l, flies!" and quicker'n you could wink he'd spring
straight up and snake a fly off'n the counter there, and flop down on
the floor ag'in as solid as a gob of mud, and fall to scratching the
side of his head with his hind foot as indifferent as if he hadn't no
idea he'd been doin' any more'n any frog might do. You never see a
frog so modest and straightfor'ard as he was, for all he was so
gifted. And when it come to fair and square jumping on a dead level,
he could get over more ground at one straddle than any animal of his
breed you ever see. Jumping on a dead level was his strong suit, you
understand; and when it come to that, Smiley would ante up money on
him as long as he had a red. Smiley was monstrous proud of his frog,
and well he might be, for fellers that had traveled and been
everywheres, all said he laid over any frog that ever _they_ see.

Well, Smiley kep' the beast in a little lattice box, and he used to
fetch him downtown sometimes and lay for a bet. One day a feller--a
stranger in the camp, he was--come acrost him with his box, and says:

"What might be that you've got in the box?"

And Smiley says, sorter indifferent-like, "It might be a parrot, or it
might be a canary, maybe, but it ain't--it's only just a frog."

And the feller took it, and looked at it careful, and turned it round
this way and that, and says, "H'm--so 'tis. Well, what's _he_ good
for?"

"Well," Smiley says, easy and careless, "he's good enough for _one_
thing, I should judge--he can outjump any frog in Calaveras county."

The feller took the box again, and took another long, particular look,
and give it back to Smiley, and says, very deliberate, "Well," he
says, "I don't see no p'ints about that frog that's any better'n any
other frog."

"Maybe you don't," Smiley says. "Maybe you understand frogs and maybe
you don't understand 'em; maybe you've had experience, and maybe you
ain't only a amature, as it were. Anyways, I've got _my_ opinion and
I'll risk forty dollars that he can outjump any frog in Calaveras
County."

And the feller studied a minute, and then says, kinder sad like,
"Well, I'm only a stranger here, and I ain't got no frog; but if I had
a frog, I'd bet you."

And then Smiley says, "That's all right--that's all right--if you'll
hold my box a minute, I'll go and get you a frog." And so the feller
took the box, and put up his forty dollars along with Smiley's, and
set down to wait.

So he set there a good while thinking and thinking to his-self, and
then he got the frog out and prized his mouth open and took a teaspoon
and filled him full of quail shot--filled! him pretty near up to his
chin--and set him on the floor. Smiley he went to the swamp and
slopped around in the mud for a long time, and finally he ketched a
frog, and fetched him in, and give him to this feller, and says:

"Now, if you're ready, set him alongside of Dan'l, with his forepaws
just even with Dan'l's, and I'll give the word." Then he says,
"One--two--three--_git_!" and him and the feller touched up the frogs
from behind, and the new frog hopped off lively, but Dan'l give a
heave, and hysted up his shoulders--so--like a Frenchman, but it
warn't no use--he couldn't budge; he was planted as solid as a church,
and he couldn't no more stir than if he was anchored out. Smiley was a
good deal surprised, and he was disgusted too, but he didn't have no
idea what the matter was, of course.

The feller took the money and started away; and when he was going out
at the door, he sorter jerked his thumb over his shoulder--so--at
Dan'l, and says again, very deliberate, "Well," he says, "_I_ don't
see no p'ints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog."

Smiley he stood scratching his head and looking down at Dan'l a long
time, and at last says, "I do wonder what in the nation that frog
throwed off for--I wonder if there ain't something the matter with
him--he 'pears to look mighty baggy, somehow." And he ketched Dan'l up
by the nap of the neck, and hefted him, and says, "Why blame my cats
if he don't weigh five pounds!" and turned him upside down and he
belched out a double handful of shot. And then he see how it was, and
he was the maddest man--he set the frog down and took out after that
feller, but he never ketched him. And----

(Here Simon Wheeler heard his name called from the front yard, and got
up to see what was wanted.) And turning to me as he moved away, he
said: "Just set where you are, stranger, and rest easy--I ain't going
to be gone a second."

But, by your leave, I did not think that a continuation of the history
of the enterprising vagabond _Jim_ Smiley would be likely to afford me
much information concerning the Rev. _Leonidas W._ Smiley, and so I
started away.

At the door I met the sociable Wheeler returning, and he buttonholed
me and recommenced:

"Well, thish-yer Smiley had a yaller, one-eyed cow that didn't have no
tail, only jest a short stump like a bannanner, and----"

However, lacking both time and inclination, I did not wait to hear
about the afflicted cow, but took my leave.

Mark Twain