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 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 nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him as long and tedious as it should be useless for me.
If that was the design, it certainly succeeded.
I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably by the bar-room stove of the old, dilapidated tavern in the ancient 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 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 a resident of Angel's Camp.
I added that, if Mr. Wheeler could tell me any thing 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 me 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 the 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 any thing 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.
To me, the spectacle of a man drifting serenely along through such a queer yarn without ever smiling, was exquisitely absurd.
As I said before, I asked him to tell me what he knew of Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, and he replied as follows.
I let him go on in his own way, and never interrupted him once:
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—
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