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The Notorious Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County
by Mark Twain
Illustrated by F. Strothman
THE JUMPING FROG
IN ENGLISH, THEN IN FRENCH, THEN
CLAWED BACK INTO A CIVILIZED
LANGUAGE ONCE MORE BY
PATIENT, UNREMUNERATED TOIL.
Even a criminal is entitled to fair play; and certainly when a man who has done no harm has been unjustly treated, he is privileged to do his best to right himself. My attention has just beep called to an article some three years old in a French Magazine entitled, 'Revue des Deux Mondes' (Review of Some Two Worlds), wherein the writer treats of "Les Humoristes Americaines" (These Humorist Americans). I am one of these humorists American dissected by him, and hence the complaint I am making.
This gentleman's article is an able one (as articles go, in the French, where they always tangle up everything to that degree that when you start into a sentence you never know whether you are going to come out alive or not). It is a very good article and the writer says all manner of kind and complimentary things about me--for which I am sure thank him with all my heart; but then why should he go and spoil all his praise by one unlucky experiment? What I refer to is this: he says my jumping Frog is a funny story, but still he can't see why it should ever really convulse any one with laughter--and straightway proceeds to translate it into French in order to prove to his nation that there is nothing so very extravagantly funny about it. Just there is where my complaint originates. He has not translated it at all; he has simply mixed it all up; it is no more like the jumping Frog when he gets through with it than I am like a meridian of longitude. But my mere assertion is not proof; wherefore I print the French version, that all may see that I do not speak falsely; furthermore, in order that even the unlettered may know my injury and give me their compassion, I have been at infinite pains and trouble to retranslate this French version back into English; and to tell the truth I have well-nigh worn myself out at it, having scarcely rested from my work during five days and nights. I cannot speak the French language, but I can translate very well, though not fast, I being self- educated. I ask the reader to run his eye over the original English version of the jumping Frog, and then read the French or my retranslation, and kindly take notice how the Frenchman has riddled the grammar. I think it is the worst I ever saw; and yet the French are called a polished nation. If I had a boy that put sentences together as they do, I would polish him to some purpose. Without further introduction, the jumping Frog, as I originally wrote it, was as follows [after it will be found the French version --(French version is deleted from this edition)--, and after the latter my retranslation from the French]
"I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably"
THE NOTORIOUS JUMPING FROG OF *CALAVERAS COUNTY[*Pronounced Cal-e-va-ras]
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 that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he on 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 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 bar-room stove of the dilapidated tavern in the decayed mining camp 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 that a friend of mine 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 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.
"Backed me into a corner"
"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 maybe 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 come to the camp; but anyway, 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 so 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 dangdest 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'nite 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 resk two-and-a-half she don't anyway.'
"Thish-yer Smile) 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 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 among 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.
"Thish-yer smiley had a mare"
"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 give 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 tomcats 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 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 maybe 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'1 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 down-town 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 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, 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, partiular look, and give it back to Smiley, and says, very deliberate, 'Well,' he says, 'I don't see no pints 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 resk forty dollars the 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 right0-that's all right if you'll hold my box a minute, I'll go and get you a frog.' Any 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 himself 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 fore paws just even with Dan'l's, and I'll give the word.' Then he says, 'One-two- three--git' and him and the feller touches 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 Teller 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 pints 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 he says, 'I do wonder what in the nation that frog throw'd 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 by the nap of the neck, and hefted him, and says, 'Why blame my cats if he don't weigh five pound!' 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 just 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.
Now let the learned look upon this picture and say if iconoclasm can further go:
[From the Revue des Deux Mondes, of
July 15th, 1872.]
THE JUMPING FROG"--Il y avait, une fois ici un individu connu sous le nom de Jim Smiley: c'etait dans l'hiver de 49, peut-etre bien au printemps de 50, je ne me reappelle pas exactement. Ce qui me fait croire que c'etait l'un ou l'autre, c'est que je me souviens que le grand bief n'etait pas acheve lorsqu'il arriva au camp pour la premiere fois, mais de toutes facons il etait l'homme le plus friand de paris qui se put voir, pariant sur tout ce qui se presentaat, quand il pouvait trouver un adversaire, et, quand n'en trouvait pas il passait du cote oppose. Tout ce qui convenaiat l'autre lui convenait; pourvu qu'il eut un pari, Smiley etait satisfait. Et il avait une chance! une chance inouie: presque toujours il gagnait. It faut dire qu'il etait toujours pret a'exposer, qu'on ne pouvait mentionner la moindre chose sans que ce gaillard offrit de parier la- dessus n'importe quoi et de prendre le cote que l'on voudrait, comme je vous le disais tout a l'heure. S'il y avait des courses, vous le trouviez riche ou ruine a la fin; s'il y avait un combat de chiens, il apportait son enjeu; il l'apportait pour un combat de chats, pour un combat de coqs;--parbleu! si vous aviez vu deux oiseaux sur une haie il vous aurait offert de parier lequel s'envolerait le premier, et s'il y aviat 'meeting' au camp, il venait parier regulierement pour le cure Walker, qu'il jugeait etre le meilleur predicateur des environs, et qui l'etait en effet, et un brave homme. Il aurai rencontre une punaise de bois en chemin, qu'il aurait parie sur le temps qu'il lui faudrait pour aller ou elle voudrait aller, et si vous l'aviez pris au mot, it aurait suivi la punaise jusqu'au Mexique, sans se soucier d'aller si loin, ni du temps qu'il y perdrait. Une fois la femme du cure Walker fut tres malade pendant longtemps, il semblait qu'on ne la sauverait pas; mai un matin le cure arrive, et Smiley lui demande comment ella va et il dit qu'elle est bien mieux, grace a l'infinie misericorde tellement mieux qu'avec la benediction de la Providence elle s'en tirerait, et voila que, sans y penser, Smiley repond:--Eh bien! ye gage deux et demi qu'elle mourra tout de meme.
"Turn one summerset, or maybe a couple"
"Ce Smiley avait une jument que les gars appelaient le bidet du quart d'heure, mais seulement pour plaisanter, vous comprenez, parse que, bien entendu, elle etait plus vite que ca! Et il avait coutume de gagner de l'argent avec cette bete, quoi-qu'elle fut poussive, cornarde, toujours prise d'asthme, de colique ou de consomption, ou de quelque chose d'approchant. On lui donnait 2 ou 300 'yards' au depart, puffs on la depassait sans peine; mais jamais a la fin elle ne manquait de s'echauffer, de s'exasperer et elle arrivait, s'ecartant, se defendant, ses jambes greles en l'ai devant les obstacles, quelquefois les evitant et faisant avec cela plus de poussiare qu'aucun cheval, plus de bruit surtout avec ses eternumens et reniflemens.---crac! elle arrivaat donc toujour premiere d'une tete, aussi juste qu'on peut le mesurer. Et il avait un petit bouledogue qui, a le voir, ne valait pas un sou; on aurait cru que parier contre lui c'etait voler, tant il etait ordinaire; mais aussitot les enjeux faits, il devenait un autre chien. Sa machoire inferieure commencait a ressortir comme un gaillard d'avant, ses dents se decouvcraient brillantes commes des fournaises, et un chien pouvait le taquiner, l'exciter, le mordre, le jeter deux ou trois fois par-dessus son epaule, Andre Jackson, c'etait le nom du chien, Andre Jackson prenait cela tranquillement, comme s'il ne se fut jamais attendu a autre chose, et quand les paris etaient doubles et redoubles contre lui, il vous saisissait l'autre chien juste a l'articulation de la jambe de derriere, et il ne la lachait plus, non pas qu'il la machat, vous concevez, mais il s'y serait tenu pendu jusqu'a ce qu'on jetat l'eponge en l'air, fallut-il attendre un an. Smiley gagnait toujours avec cette bete-la; malheureusement ils ont fini par dresser un chien qui n'avait pas de pattes de derriere, parce qu'on les avait sciees, et quand les choses furent au point qu'il voulait, et qu'il en vint a se jeter sur son morceau favori, le pauvre chien comprit en un instant qu'on s'etait moque de lui, et que l'autre le tenait. Vous n'avez jamais vu personne avoir l'air plus penaud et plus decourage; il ne fit aucun effort pour gagner le combat et fut rudement secoue, de sorte que, regardant Smiley comme pour lui dire:--Mon coeur est brise, c'est to faute; pourquoi m'avoir livre a un chien qui n'a pas de pattes de derriere, puisque c'est par la que je les bats?--il s'en alla en clopinant, et se coucha pour mourir. Ah! c'etait un bon chien, cet Andre Jackson, et il se serait fait un nom, s'il avait vecu, car il y avait de l'etoffe en lui, il avait du genie, je la sais, bien que de grandes occasions lui aient manque; mais il est impossible de supposer qu'un chien capable de se battre comme lui, certaines circonstances etant donnees, ait manque de talent. Je me sens triste toutes les fois que je pense a son dernier combat et au denoument qu'il a eu. Eh bien! ce Smiley nourrissait des terriers a rats, et des coqs combat, et des chats, et toute sorte de choses, au point qu'il etait toujours en mesure de vous tenir tete, et qu'avec sa rage de paris on n'avait plus de repos. Il attrapa un jour une grenouille et l'emporta chez lui, disant qu'il pretendait faire son Education; vous me croirez si vous voulez, mais pendant trois mois il n'a rien fait que lui apprendre a sauter dans une cour retire de sa maison. Et je vous reponds qu'il avait reussi. Il lui donnait un petit coup par derriere, et l'instant d'apres vous voyiez la grenouille tourner en l'air comme un beignet au-dessus de la poele, faire une culbute, quelquefois deux, lorsqu'elle etait bien partie, et retomber sur ses pattes comme un chat. Il l'avait dressee dans l'art de gober des mouches, er l'y exercait continuellement, si bien qu'une mouche, du plus loin qu'elle apparaissait, etait une mouche perdue. Smiley avait coutume de dire que tout ce qui manquait a une grenouille, c'etait l'education, qu'avec l'education elle pouvait faire presque tout, et je le crois. Tenez, je l'ai vu poser Daniel Webster la sur se plancher,--Daniel Webster etait le nom de la grenouille,--et lui chanter: Des mouches! Daniel, des mouches!--En un clin d'oeil, Daniel avait bondi et saisi une mouche ici sur le comptoir, puis saute de nouveau par terre, ou il restait vraiment a se gratter la tete avec sa patte de derriere, comme s'il n'avait pas eu la moindre idee de sa superiorite. Jamais vous n'avez grenouille vu de aussi modeste, aussi naturelle, douee comme elle l'etait! Et quand il s'agissait de sauter purement et simplement sur terrain plat, elle faisait plus de chemin en un saut qu'aucune bete de son espece que vous puissiez connaitre. Sauter a plat, c'etait son fort! Quand il s'agissait de cela, Smiley en tassait les enjeux sur elle tant qu'il lui, restait un rouge liard. Il faut le reconnaitre, Smiley etait monstrueusement fier de sa grenouille, et il en avait le droit, car des gens qui avaient voyage, qui avaient tout vu, disaient qu'on lui ferait injure de la comparer a une autre; de facon que Smiley gardait Daniel dans une petite boite a claire-voie qu'il emportait parfois a la Ville pour quelque pari.
"Un jour, un individu etranger au camp l'arrete aver sa boite et lui dit:--Qu'est-ce que vous avez donc serre la dedans?
"Smiley dit d'un air indifferent:--Cela pourrait etre un perroquet ou un serin, mais ce n'est rien de pareil, ce n'est qu'une grenouille.
"L'individu la prend, la regarde avec soin, la tourne d'un cote et de l'autre puis il dit.--Tiens! en effet! A quoi estelle bonne?
"--Mon Dieu! repond Smiley, toujours d'un air degage, elle est bonne pour une chose a mon avis, elle peut battre en sautant toute grenouille du comte de Calaveras.
"L'individu reprend la boite, l'examine de nouveau longuement, et la rend a Smiley en disant d'un air delibere:--Eh bien! je ne vois pas que cette grenouille ait rien de mieux qu'aucune grenouille.
"--Possible qua vous ne le voyiez pat, dit Smiley, possible que vous vous entendiez en grenouilles, possible que vous ne vous y entendez point, possible qua vous avez de l'experience, et possible que vous ne soyez qu'un amateur. De toute maniere, je parie quarante dollars qu'elle battra en sautant n'importe quelle grenouille du comte de Calaveras.
"L'individu reflechit one seconde et dit comma attriste:-- Je ne suis qu'un etranger ici, je n'ai pas de grenouille; mais, si j'en avais une, je tiendrais le pari.
"--Fort bien! repond Smiley. Rien de plus facile. Si vous voulez tenir ma boite one minute, j'irai vous chercher une grenouille.--Voile donc l'individu qui garde la boite, qui met ses quarante dollars sur ceux de Smiley et qui attend. Il attend assez longtemps, reflechissant tout seul, et figurez-vous qu'il prend Daniel, lui ouvre la bouche de force at avec une cuiller a the l'emplit de menu plomb de chasse, mail l'emplit jusqu'au menton, puis il le pose par terre. Smiley pendant ce temps etait a barboter dans une mare. Finalement il attrape une grenouille, l'apporte cet individu et dit:--Maintenant, si vous etes pret, mettez-la tout contra Daniel, avec leurs pattes de devant sur la meme ligne, et je donnerai le signal; puis il ajoute:-- Un, deux, trois, sautez!
"Lui et l'individu touchent leurs grenouilles par derriere, et la grenouille neuve se met h sautiller, mais Daniel se souleve lourdement, hausse les epaules ainsi, comma un Francais; a quoi bon? il ne pouvait bouger, il etait plante solide comma une enclume, il n'avancait pas plus que si on l'eut mis a l'ancre. Smiley fut surpris et degoute, mais il ne se doutait pas du tour, bien entendu. L'individu empoche l'argent, s'en va, et en s'en allant est-ce qu'il ne donna pas un coup de pouce par- dessus l'epaule, comma ca, au pauvre Daniel, en disant de son air delibere:--Eh bien! je ne vois pas qua cette grenouille ait rien de muiex qu'une autre.
"It might be a Canary, maybe, but it ain't--it's only
just a frog"
"Smiley se gratta longtemps la tete, les yeux fixes Sur Daniel; jusqu'a ce qu'enfin il dit:--je me demande comment diable il se fait qua cette bite ait refuse, . . . Est-ce qu'elle aurait quelque chose? . . . On croirait qu'elle est enflee.
"Il empoigne Daniel par la peau du coo, le souleve et dit:--Le loup me croque, s'il ne pese pas cinq livres.
"Il le retourne, et le malheureux crache deux poignees de plomb. Quand Smiley reconnut ce qui en etait, il fut comme fou. Vous le voyez d'ici poser sa grenouille par terra et courir apres cet individu, mais il ne le rattrapa jamais, et ....
[Translation of the above back from the French:]
THE FROG JUMPING OF THE COUNTY OF CALAVERAS
It there was one time here an individual known under the name of Jim Smiley; it was in the winter of '89, possibly well at the spring of '50, I no me recollect not exactly. This which me makes to believe that it was the one or the other, it is that I shall remember that the grand flume is not achieved when he arrives at the camp for the first time, but of all sides he was the man the most fond of to bet which one have seen, betting upon all that which is presented, when he could find an adversary; and when he not of it could not, he passed to the side opposed. All that which convenienced to the other to him convenienced also; seeing that he had a bet Smiley was satisfied. And he had a chance! a chance even worthless; nearly always he gained. It must to say that he was always near to himself expose, but one no could mention the least thing without that this gaillard offered to bet the bottom, no matter what, and to take the side that one him would, as I you it said all at the hour (tout a l'heure). If it there was of races, you him find rich or ruined at the end; if it, here is a combat of dogs, he bring his bet; he himself laid always for a combat of cats, for a combat of cocks --by-blue! If you have see two birds upon a fence, he you should have offered of to bet which of those birds shall fly the first; and if there is meeting at the camp (meeting au camp) he comes to bet regularly for the cure Walker, which he judged to be the best predicator of the neighborhood (predicateur des environs) and which he was in effect, and a brave man. He would encounter a bug of wood in the road, whom he will bet upon the time which he shall take to go where she would go--and if you him have take at the word, he will follow the bug as far as Mexique, without himself caring to go so far; neither of the time which he there lost. One time the woman of the cure Walker is very sick during long time, it seemed that one not her saved not; but one morning the cure arrives, and Smiley him demanded how she goes, and he said that she is well better, grace to the infinite misery (lui demande comment elle va, et il dit qu'elle est bien mieux, grace a l'infinie misericorde) so much better that with the benediction of the Providence she herself of it would pull out (elle s'en tirerait); and behold that without there thinking Smiley responds: "Well, I gage two-and-half that she will die all of same."
"Prized his mouth open"
This Smiley had an animal which the boys called the nag of the quarter of hour, but solely for pleasantry, you comprehend, because, well understand, she was more fast as that! [Now why that exclamation?--M. T.] And it was custom of to gain of the silver with this beast, notwithstanding she was poussive, cornarde, always taken of asthma, of colics or of consumption, or something of approaching. One him would give two or three hundred yards at the departure, then one him passed without pain; but never at the last she not fail of herself echauffer, of herself exasperate, and she arrives herself ecartant, se defendant, her legs greles in the air before the obstacles, sometimes them elevating and making with this more of dust than any horse, more of noise above with his eternumens and reniflemens--crac! she arrives then always first by one head, as just as one can it measure. And he had a small bulldog (bouledogue!) who, to him see, no value, not a cent; one would believe that to bet against him it was to steal, so much he was ordinary; but as soon as the game made, she becomes another dog. Her jaw inferior commence to project like a deck of before, his teeth themselves discover brilliant like some furnaces, and a dog could him tackle (le taquiner), him excite, him murder (le mordre), him throw two or three times over his shoulder, Andre Jackson--this was the name of the dog--Andre Jackson takes that tranquilly, as if he not himself was never expecting other thing, and when the bets were doubled and redoubled against him, he you seize the other dog just at the articulation of the leg of behind, and he not it leave more, not that he it masticate, you conceive, but he himself there shall be holding during until that one throws the sponge in the air, must he wait a year. Smiley gained always with this beast-la; unhappily they have finished by elevating a dog who no had not of feet of behind, because one them had sawed; and when things were at the point that he would, and that he came to himself throw upon his morsel favorite, the poor dog comprehended in an instant that he himself was deceived in him, and that the other dog him had. You no have never seen person having the air more penaud and more discouraged; he not made no effort to gain the combat, and was rudely shucked.
Eh bien! this Smiley nourished some terriers a rats, and some cocks of combat, and some pats, and all sorts of things; and with his rage of betting one no had more of repose. He trapped one day a frog and him imported with him (et 1'emporta chez lui) saying that he pretended to make his education. You me believe if you will, but during three months he not has nothing done but to him apprehend to jump (apprendre a sauter) in a court retired of her mansion (de sa maison). And I you respond that he have succeeded. He him gives a small blow by behind, and the instant after you shall see the frog turn in the air like a grease-biscuit, make one summersault, sometimes two, when she was well started, and refall upon his feet like a cat. He him had accomplished in the art of to gobble the flies (gober des mouches), and him there exercised continually --so well that a fly at the most far that she appeared was a fly lost. Smiley had custom to say that all which lacked to a frog it was the education, but with the education she could do nearly all--and I him believe. Tenez, I him have seen pose Daniel Webster there upon this plank--Daniel Webster was the name of the frog--and to him sing, "Some flies, Daniel, some fifes!"--in a flash of the eye Daniel 30 had bounded and seized a fly here upon the counter, then jumped anew at the earth, where he rested truly to himself scratch the head with his behind foot, as if he no had not the least idea of his superiority. Never you not have seen frog as modest, as natural, sweet as she was. And when he himself agitated to jump purely and simply upon plain earth, she does more ground in one jump than any beast of his species than you can know. To jump plain-this was his strong. When he himself agitated for that, Smiley multiplied the bets upon her as long as there to him remained a red. It must to know, Smiley was monstrously proud of his frog, and he of it was right, for some men who were traveled, who had all seen, said that they to him would be injurious to him compare, to another frog. Smiley guarded Daniel in a little box latticed which he carried bytimes to the village for some bet.
"Finally he ketched a frog"
One day an individual stranger at the camp him arrested with his box and him said:
"What is this that you have them shut up there within?"
Smiley said, with an air indifferent:
"That could be a paroquet, or a syringe (ou un serin), but this no is nothing of such, it not is but a frog."
The individual it took, it regarded with care, it turned from one side and from the other, then he said:
"Tiens! in effect!--At what is she good?"
"My God!" respond Smiley, always with an air disengaged, "she is good for one thing, to my notice (A mon avis),she can better in jumping (elle pent battre en sautant) all frogs of the county of Calaveras."
The individual retook the box, it examined of new longly, and it rendered to Smiley in saying with an air deliberate:
"Eh bien! I no saw not that that frog had nothing of better than each frog." (Je ne vois pas que cette grenouille ait rien de mieux qu'aucune grenouille.) [If that isn't grammar gone to seed, then I count myself no judge.--M. T.]
"Possible that you not it saw not," said Smiley, "possible that you--you comprehend frogs; possible that you not you there comprehend nothing; possible that you had of the experience, and possible that you not be but an amateur. Of all manner (De toute maniere) I bet forty dollars that she better in jumping no matter which frog of the county of Calaveras."
The individual reflected a second, and said like sad:
"I not am but a stranger here, I no have not a frog; but if I of it had one, I would embrace the bet."
"Strong well!" respond Smiley; "nothing of more facility. If you will hold my box a minute, I go you to search a frog (j'irai vous chercher)."
Behold, then, the individual, who guards the box, who puts his forty dollars upon those of Smiley, and who attends (et qui attend). He attended enough long times, reflecting all solely. And figure you that he takes Daniel, him opens the mouth by force and with a teaspoon him fills with shot of the hunt, even him fills just to the chin, then he him puts by the earth. Smiley during these times was at slopping in a swamp. Finally he trapped (attrape) a frog, him carried to that individual, and said:
"Now if you be ready, put him all against Daniel with their before feet upon the same line, and I give the signal"--then he added: "One, two, three--advance!"
"Turned him upside down"
Him and the individual touched their frogs by behind, and the frog new put to jump smartly, but Daniel himself lifted ponderously, exalted the shoulders thus, like a Frenchman--to what good? he not could budge, he is planted solid like a church he not advance no more than if one him had put at the anchor.
Smiley was surprised and disgusted, but he no himself doubted not of the turn being intended (mais il ne se doutait pas du tour, bien entendu). The individual empocketed the silver, himself with it went, and of it himself in going is it that he no gives not a jerk of thumb over the shoulder--like that--at the poor Daniel, in saying with his air deliberate--(L'individu empoche l'argent, s'en va et en s'en allant est- ce qu'il ne donne pas un coup d pouce par-dessus l'epaule, comme ga, au pauvre Daniel, en disant de son air delibere):
"Eh bien! I no see not that that frog has nothin of better than another."
Smiley himself scratched longtimes the head, the eyes fixed upon Daniel, until that which at last he said:
"I me demand how the devil it makes itself that this beast has refused. Is it that she had something? One would believe that she is stuffed."
He grasped Daniel by the skin of the neck, him lifted and said:
"The wolf me bite if he no weigh not five pounds:"
He him reversed and the unhappy belched two handfuls of shot (et le malheureux, etc.). When Smiley recognized how it was, he was like mad. He deposited his frog by the earth and ran after that individual, but he not him caught never.
Such is the jumping Frog, to the distorted French eye. I claim that I never put together such an odious mixture of bad grammar and delirium tremens in my life. And what has a poor foreigner like me done, to be abused and misrepresented like this? When I say, "Well, I don't see no pints about that frog that's any better'n any other frog," is it kind, is it just, for this Frenchman to try to make it appear that I said, "Eh bien! I no saw not that that frog had nothing of better than each frog"? I have no heart to write more. I never felt so about anything before.
HARTFORD, March, 1875,
PRIVATE HISTORY OF THE "JUMPING FROG" STORY
Five or six years ago a lady from Finland asked me to tell her a story in our negro dialect, so that she could get an idea of what that variety of speech was like. I told her one of Hopkinson Smith's negro stories, and gave her a copy of Harper's Monthly containing it. She translated it for a Swedish newspaper, but by an oversight named me as the author of it instead of Smith. I was very sorry for that, because I got a good lashing in the Swedish press, which would have fallen to his share but for that mistake; for it was shown that Boccaccio had told that very story, in his curt and meagre fashion, five hundred years before Smith took hold of it and made a good and tellable thing out of it. I have always been sorry for Smith. But my own turn has come now. A few weeks ago Professor Van Dyke, of Princeton, asked this question: "Do you know how old your Jumping Frog story is?" And I answered: "Yes-forty-five years. The thing happened in Calaveras County in the spring of 1849." "No; it happened earlier-a couple of thousand years earlier; it is a Greek story."
I was astonished-and hurt. I said:
"My re-translation from the french"
"I am willing to be a literary thief if it has been so ordained; I am even willing to be caught robbing the ancient dead alongside of Hopkinson Smith, for he is my friend and a good fellow, and I think would be as honest as any one if he could do it without occasioning remark; but I am not willing to antedate his crimes by fifteen hundred years. I must ask you to knock off part of that."
But the professor was not chaffing; he was in earnest, and could not abate a century. He named the Greek author, and offered to get the book and send it to me and the college text-book containing the English translation also. I thought I would like the translation best, because Greek makes me tired. January 3oth he sent me the English version, and I will presently insert it in this article. It is my Jumping Frog tale in every essential. It is not strung out as I have it strung out, but it is all there.
To me this is very curious and interesting. Curious for several reasons. For instance:
I heard the story told by a man who was not telling it to his hearers as a thing new to them, but as a thing which they had witnessed and would remember. He was a dull person, and ignorant: he had no gift as a story-teller, and no invention; in his mouth this episode was merely history- history and statistics; and the gravest sort of history, too; he was entirely serious, for he was dealing with what to him were austere facts, and they interested him solely because they were facts; he was drawing on his memory, not his mind; he saw no humor in his tale, neither did his listeners; neither he nor they ever smiled or laughed; in my time I have not attended a more solemn conference. To him and to his fellow gold- miners there were just two things in the story that were worth considering. One was the smartness of its hero, Jim Smiley, in taking the stranger in with a loaded frog; and the other was Smiley's deep knowledge of a frog's nature-for he knew (as the narrator asserted and the listeners conceded) that a frog likes shot and is always ready to eat it. Those men discussed those two points, and those only. They were hearty in their admiration of them, and none of the party was aware that a first-rate story had been told in a first-rate way, and that it was brimful of a quality whose presence they never suspected-humor.
Now, then, the interesting question is, did the frog episode happen in Angel's Camp in the spring of '49, as told in my hearing that day in the fall of 1865? I am perfectly sure that it did. I am also sure that its duplicate happened in Boeotia a couple of thousand years ago. I think it must be a case of history actually repeating itself, and not a case of a good story floating down the ages and surviving because too good to be allowed to perish.
I would now like to have the reader examine the Greek story and the story told by the dull and solemn Californian, and observe how exactly alike they are in essentials.
THE ATHENIAN AND THE FROG**Sidawick. Greek Prose Composition. p.116.
An Athenian once fell in with a Boeotian who was sitting by the roadside looking at a frog. Seeing the other approach, the Boeotian said his was a remarkable frog, and asked if he would agree to start a contest of frogs, on condition that he whose frog jumped farthest should receive a large sum of money. The Athenian replied that he would if the other would fetch him a frog, for the lake was near. To this he agreed, and when he was gone the Athenian took the frog, and, opening its mouth, poured some stones into its stomach, so that it did not indeed seem larger than before, but could not jump. Theboeotian soon returned with the other frog, and the contest began. The second frog first was pinched, and jumped moderately; then they pinched the boeotian frog. And he gathered himself for a leap, and used the utmost effort, but he could not move his body the least. So the Athenian departed with the money. When he was gone the Boeotian, wondering what was the matter with the frog, lifted him up and examined him. And being turned upside down, he opened his mouth and vomited out the stones.
NOTE. November, 1903. When I became convinced that the "Jumping Frog" was a Greek story two or three thousand years old, I was sincerely happy, for apparently here was a most striking and satisfactory justification of a favorite theory of mine -to wit, that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often. Still, when I later had a chance to see Professor Sidgwick's book I was a little staggered, because of two things: the details were a little too faithful to the facts in the Calaveras incident for the comfort of my theory, and I could not help being suspicious of the Greek frog because he was willing to be fed with gravel. One can't beguile the modern frog with that product. By-and-by, in England, after a few years, I learned that there hadn't been any Greek frog in the business, and no Greek story about his adventures. Professor Sidgwick had not claimed that it was a Greek tale; he had merely synopsised the Calaveras tale and transferred the incident to classic Greece; but as he did not state that it was the same old frog, the English papers reproved him for the omission. He told me this in England in 1899 or 1900, and was much troubled about that censure, for his act had been innocent, he believing that the story's origin was so well known as to render formal mention of it unnecessary. I was very sorry for the censure, but it was not I that applied it. I would not have done it. M.T.