Best American Humorous Short Stories HTML version

The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County
By Mark Twain (1835-1910)
[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
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