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CRAPE ON THE DOOR.
MARK TWAIN'S ACCOUNT OF "JIM SMILEY.”
As related by Simon Wheeler, Esq., of Angel's Camp, Calaveras Coumty, Cal., un being asked for information concerning a certain Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley.
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 re* member the big flume wasn't finished when he first came to the camp; but any way, he was the curiosest 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 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 so he was, too, and a good man. If he even seen a straddle-bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get 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 would bet on anything,--the dangdest feller. Parson Walker's wife laid very sick once, , for a good while, and it seemed as if they warn't a-goin to save her. But one morning he come in, and Smiley asked 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 that she don't, anyway.”
This-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 us you could cipher it down.
And he had a little small bull pup, that to look at him you'd think he wa’n’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 savage 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 jest 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 har. nessed a dog once that didn't have no hind legs, because they'd been sawed off by 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 saw in a minute how he'd been imposed on, and how the other dog had him in ihe 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 give Smiley a look, as much as
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 had 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 circuinstances, 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, this-yer Smiley had rat-tarriers, and chickencocks, and all 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 calk'lated to edercale 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 he did learn hin, 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 flatfooted and all right, like a cat. him up so in the matter of catching flies, and kept him in practice so constant, that he'd nail a fly every time as far 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'! 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 oft'n the counter there, and flop down on the floor again, 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 idee he'd been doing any
en doing any more'n any frog might do. You never see a frog so modest anci 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 kept the beast in a little lattice box, and he used to fetch him down town sometimes, and lay for a bet. One day a feller—a stranger in camp, he was— come across him with his box, and
says: What might it 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, may be, but it aint,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 ary 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, I don't see no p'ints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog.'
“May be you don't,” Smiley says. “May be you understand froys, and may be you don't understand 'em; may be you've had experience, and inay be you aint only a amature, as it were. Anyways, I've got my opinion, and I'll risk forty dollars that he can outjump ary 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 aint 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
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