After the many agonies of my journeys about the globe and nation, still my friends tried me with even more grueling troubles than ever had been thrust upon me before. I had just arrived in a town whose name I doubt you know, when I received a telegram from a friend of mine in New York, urging me to call upon a friend of his friend, the latter going by the name of Thaddeus L. Versailles, who I believed was fictional. Yet I complied and headed to the print shop where the friend of Thaddeus L. Versailles was to be dwelling, according to the telegram.
The musty smells of dust filled my lungs when I walked in. It appeared as though it had not been dusted since Biblical times. The man asleep in the corner must be Elijah, I thought.
"Pardon me, sir," I said less politely than I could have. "I have come to inquire about a companion of Thaddeus L. Versailles for a friend of mine back East. If you could take a few moments out of your prophesying to tell me about him, I would be much obliged and pay you back in a way I seem fitting, perhaps even monetarily so."
"Don't know no Thaddeus Versailles," he said, lighting a cigar and looking dead serious, "but there was a feller around here by the name of Pete Versailles, be it ten er fifteen year ago. Nice guy, Pete was. He was real smart; said he was learned in Paris. Called himself Pee-air. Warn't in very high esteem around here, though. Miners don't kyer much for class and sich things.
"Lot of good that school did for Pete round here. He warn't real handy, not at all, and so failed at most every job he took. I feeled pity at the kid, so I says to him, 'How's bout you come down yonder to my print shop, and I'll learn you how we run a newspaper out here.'
"So Pete come down to this building I's and you's in now. He were real enthusiastic-like, all in a fuss about the gov'ment and pollyticks and sich as to make a body sick.
"'Hold up,' I tells poor ol' Pete. 'These miners only got the gold in their minds. They's out all day huntin' and hackin' for them God-forsaken nuggets. Do you with all your fancy French notions think that when them gets back to their ramshackle homes they's gonna want to read about pollyticks?'
"That seemed to hit him considerable, but I went on and learned him how to make a paper that miners'll read, all about gold and who's got it, who want it, and who lost it all. But I knowed by that steaming Yooropean look in his big brown eyes that he warn't giving in that easy.
"The next morning I wakes up to a big commotion. I run outside to see what was the matter; why they'd all gone to sleep in the evening and wake up the next time the sun comes up about five times crazier than before. First person I catch I asks him what was it all about; had someone struck a bonanza?
"'Why, how you talk! It being all from that paper of yers that's got all the folks in a fuss!' the fool told me and I knew then for sure that the Frenchman'd been up to something behind my back
"I searched for ol' Pete and found him leaning against the old hoosegow (I reckoned he'd be in it soon enough), a pipe in his mouth and a slanted fedorer on his blamed learned head. He sees me coming by and says, 'I told you I'd get these fools to read about politics.'
"I knowed he'd told some of the truth, with lies all twisted in to get them miners attention. They believed all the lies, every one of them. It didn't take too long for someone with sense to come along though, and expose the paper for what it was-a blamed sham, that is. Oh, and how they were mad! I thought Pete was done for! But I suppose France ain't all foolishness, for he—"
Just at that moment there was a knock at the door. Anon my speaker went to answer it. Because I believed this story would not benefit my friend and because of my extreme ennui, I mad for the door. Elijah turned to me as I walked out, trying to hurry up and finish the story, so as to get his money, but I slipped past the old kook and left him to his dust and prayers.
I know it isn't really funny, but it was fun to write. Here's a sample of Mark Twain's writing:
"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 too 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 a long time, and finally he ketch a frog and give him to this feller…" (From The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County)