Editor's note: This story includes some of the informaldialect that Mark Twain liked to include in his writing. We have provided explanations of some of theexpressions after the story.
Our story is called "The Celebrated Jumping Frog ofCalaveras County." It was written by Mark Twain. Hereis Shep O'Neal with the story.
A friend of mine in the East asked me to visit old SimonWheeler, to ask about my friends friend, Leonidas W.Smiley. I did as my friend asked me to do and this storyis the result.
I found Simon Wheeler sleeping by the stove in theruined mining camp of Angels.
I saw that he was fat and had no hair, and had a gentleand simple look upon his peaceful face. He woke up, and gave me "good-day."
I told him a friend had asked me to find out about afriend named Leonidas W. Smiley, who he heard was atone time living in Angels Camp. I added that if Mr.Wheeler could tell me anything about this Leonidas W.Smiley, I would feel a great responsibility to him.
Simon Wheeler forced me into a corner with his chairand began telling me this long story. He never smiled, he never frowned. But all through the endless storythere was a feeling of great seriousness and honesty. This showed me plainly that he thought the heroes of the story were men of great intelligence.
I let him go on in his own way, and never stopped himonce. This is the story Simon Wheeler told.
Leonidas W. …. hm… Le… well, there was a man hereonce by the name of Jim Smiley, in the winter of 1849 -- or may be it was the spring of 1850. Anyway, he was the strangest man. He was always making money onanything that turned up if he could get anybody to try tomake money on the other side. And if he could not dothat, he would change sides.
And he was lucky, uncommon lucky. He most alwayswas a winner. If there was a dog-fight, he would try towin money on it. If there was a cat-fight, he would takethe risk. If there was a chicken-fight, he would try to winmoney on it. Why, if there was two birds setting on afence, he would want you to decide which one would flyfirst so he could win money.
Lots of the boys here have seen that Smiley and cantell you about him. Why, it did not matter to him. Hewould try to make money on anything. He was themost unusual man. Parson Walker's wife was very sickonce, for a long time, and it seemed as if they were notgoing to save her.
But one morning he come in, and Smiley asked himhow was his wife, and he said she was better, thankGod. And Smiley, before he thought, says, "Well, I'llrisk my money she will not get well."
And Smiley had a little small dog. To look at the dog,you would think he was not worth anything but to sitaround and look mean and look for a chance to stealsomething. But as soon as there was money, he was adifferent dog. Another dog might attack and throw himaround two or three times. Then all of a sudden Smiley's dog would grab thatother dog by his back leg and hang on till the men said it was over.
Smiley always come out the winner on that dog, at least until he found a dogonce that did not have any back legs. The dog's legs had been cut off in amachine. Well, the fighting continued long enough, and the money was gone. Then when Smiley's dog come to make a grab (at) the other dog's back legs, he saw in a minute how there was a problem.
The other dog was going to win and Smiley's dog looked surprised and did nottry to win the fight anymore. He gave Smiley a look that said he was sorry forfighting a dog that did not have any back legs for him to hold, which he neededto win a fight. Then Smiley's dog walked away, laid down and died. He was agood dog, and would have made a name for himself if he had lived, for he hadintelligence. It always makes me feel sorry when I think of that last fight of hisand the way it turned out.
Well, this Smiley had rats, and chickens, and cats and all of them kind ofthings. You could not get anything for him to risk money on but he wouldmatch you. He caught a frog one day, and took him home, and said he wasgoing to educate the frog. And so he never done nothing for three months butsit in his back yard and teach that frog to jump. And you bet you he did teachhim, too.
He would give him a little hit from behind. And the nextminute you would see that frog dancing in the air andthen come down all on his feet and all right, like a cat.Smiley got him so the frog was catching flies, and hewould catch one of those insects every time.
Smiley said all a frog wanted was education, and hecould do almost anything. And I believe him. Why, Ihave seen him set Dan’l Webster down here on thisfloor—Dan’l Webster was the name of the frog -- andsing out, "Flies, Dan’l, flies!" And quicker than you couldshut your eyes that frog would jump straight up andcatch a fly off the table. Then he would fall down on thefloor again like a ball of dirt and start rubbing the side ofhis head with his back foot as if he had no idea he had been doing any more than any frog might do.
You never seen a frog so honest and simple as he was, for all he was soskilled. And when it come to jumping, he could get over more ground in onejump than any animal of his kind that you ever saw.
Smiley was very proud of his frog, and people who had traveled and beeneverywhere all said he was better than any frog they had ever seen.
Well, one day a stranger came in and says to Smiley, "What might be that youhave got in the box?"
And Smiley says, "It's only just a frog." And the man took it, and looked at itcareful, and turned it round this way and that, and says, "Hm, so it is. Well,what is he good for?"
"Well," Smiley says, easy and careless, "he can out jump any frog inCalaveras county."
The man took the box again, and took another long look, and gave it back toSmiley, and says, "Well, I don’t see anything about that frog that is any betterthan any other frog."
"Maybe you don’t," Smiley says. "Maybe you understand frogs and maybeyou don’t. Anyways, I will risk forty dollars and bet you that he can jumpfarther than any frog in Calaveras County."
And the man studied a minute. "Well, I’m only a stranger here, and I do nothave a frog. But if I had a frog, I would risk my money on it.
And then Smiley says, "That’s all right. If you will hold my box a minute, I will go and get you a frog." And so the man took the box, and put up his fortydollars and sat down to wait.
He sat there a long time thinking and thinking. Then he got the frog out of thebox. He filled its mouth full of bullets used to kill small birds. Then he put thefrog on the floor.
Now Smiley had caught another frog and gave it to the man and said, "Now sithim next to Dan'l and I will give the word."
Then Smiley says, "One-two-three-go!" and Smiley and the other man touched the frogs.
The new frog jumped. Dan'l just lifted up his body butcould not move at all. He was planted like a building. Smiley was very surprised and angry too. But he didnot know what the problem was.
The other man took the money and started away. Andwhen he was going out the door, he looked back andsaid "Well, I don't see anything about that frog that is any better than any otherfrog."
Smiley stood looking down at Dan’l a long time, and at last says, "I wonderwhat in the nation happened to that frog. I wonder if there is something wrongwith him."
And he picked up Dan'l and turned him upside down and out came a whole lotof bullets. And Smiley was the angriest man. He set the frog down and tookout after that man but he never caught him.
Now Simon Wheeler heard his name called and got up to see what waswanted. He told me to wait but I did not think that more stories about JimSmiley would give me any more information about Leonidas W. Smiley, andso I started to walk away.
At the door I met Mr. Wheeler returning, and he started talking again. "Well, this here Smiley had a yellow cow with one eye and no tail…"
However, lacking both time and interest, I did not wait to hear about the cow. Ijust left.
This story was written by Mark Twain and adapted for Learning English byKaren Leggett.
Words in This Story
most always - adv. US, informal; almost always
Dan’l - n. abbreviation of a given name, Daniel
anyways - adv. US, informal; anyway
studied a minute - v. US, informal; thought a minute
get you a frog - v. US, informal; get a frog for you
plant - v. to put or place (something or yourself) firmly or forcefully on asurface or in a particular position