Mark Twain's friend, who happens to live in the East, asks him to find a good-natured person named Simon Wheeler at the Angel's mining camp and ask about a former school chum of his named Rev.Leonidas W. Smiley, a reverend of the Gospel, who used to live there. So Mark Twain goes to Angel's mining camp and finds Simon at the local tavern. However, Mark Twain has a sneaking suspicion that his friend is playing a trick on him and that Leonidas W. Smiley never existed and his friend never knew anyone by that name.
"I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; that my friend never knew such a personage..." (paragraph one)
Twain thinks that he is being set up by his friend. Looking back, he feels that his friend knew that the name, Leonidas W. Smiley, would remind Simon of a gambler who used to live in the mining camp named Jim Smiley, and he would relate a long, boring story that would be useless to Twain. Mark states that if that was the plan, it succeeded, but then he goes on to relate the story to us, the readers, and entertain us with it.