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BEAUTIFUL for situation is the lovely little city of Hannibal, on the Mississippi, the boyhood home of Mr. Samuel L. Clemens, known the world over as "Mark Twain." The hills are high, the valley is picturesque, the houses are handsome and comfortable. The town claims a population of fifteen thousand, and is just now enjoying a boom, recent discoveries of deposits having been made that will greatly enrich the place. On a late visit I endeavored to gather some information regarding Hannibal's "first citizen," with the following result.
Mr. Clemens must have been acquainted with Hannibal for a long time, for he has recently said that he has known the place ever since "Lovers' Leap" was a mole-hill and the Mississippi River a small creek.
The local tradition remembers the father of the humorist, "Squire" Clemens, as a good and peaceable citizen. He brought to the town with him his wife and children, and nothing unusual is remembered of the family, except that Mrs. Clemens had a peculiar and interesting drawl in her speech. When her son lectured in the town theater she called the attention of the neighbors to the fact that "Sam had a mighty long drawl to his talk, and she wondered where in the world he had got it." Whereupon an old farmer remarked, "If the dam is a pacer, you will very likely find an amble in the colt." They brought up their children as well as circumstances would allow, considering three things, the Civil War, the West on the river, and the children. It is generally believed that "Aunt Polly," in "Tom Sawyer" was "Sam's" own mother, and that Tom was Sam. If this is so, one can almost read the family history in that captivating little book. . . .
In his writings Mr. Clemens sometimes gives the real name of one of his characters, and one will find, upon investigation, that his picture is true to life. Among these, I will mention two extremes, Huckleberry Finn and Laura Hawkins, who figures as Becky Thatcher. One was in the lower walks of life, living on charity, sleeping in old barrels, and covering himself with such rags as might fall to his lot; the other was a beautiful, accomplished girl, a strong and lovely character, the pride and belle of the village. It was lately my good fortune to meet the lady, Mrs. F-----, whose youth was thus celebrated. She is happily engaged in a work of charity, and one can see by her kindly face and cheerful nature that she is well qualified for such a delicate and noble work. By Mr. Clemens's own confession, she was his first sweetheart, as may be seen by his wedding announcement sent to her with an indorsement in his own handwriting that such was the case. I had this photographed, but the passing years have so dimmed the words that it is difficult to decipher them. I have also procured a photograph of the entrance of the now famous cave, in which one can, in imagination, follow the steps of the two children Tom and Becky, rambling about the cave with candles held high above their heads, running, walking, climbing, peering into every dark passageway, and sometimes venturing in, until suddenly they realize that they have been separated from the other members of the party and are lost. . . .
Mr. Clemens holds a safe place in the affections and esteem of the citizens of Hannibal. His name is a household word, a possession of local pride, and all claim a personal interest in their gifted fellow-citizen. How wonderful is the spell of humor! As long as boys shall climb those hills or float along the Mississippi, as long indeed as the English language is read, the name of "Mark Twain" will be known and honored, and the mere mention of the humorist will serve to bring a smile to the face of sorrow and lighten the burdens of many a weary life.