MARK TWAIN'S FICTION MAKES A GOLD MINE OF WEIRD CAVE
The magic of the name Mark Twain has made a gold mine of one of the limestone caves that honeycomb the Mississippi bluffs. Because of that name the traveler without a car in Hannibal, Mo., dickers with the town taxi for the trip to the caves, two miles down the river bank and thence through the woods over a bumpy road. Parking space at the journey's end is full of tourists' cars and registry is filled with signatures from every State.
Before Mark Twain's day tourists came to the cave; but since the cave has borne his name its visitors have greatly multiplied. Last year 7,000 persons registered there, a record that, according to present indications, will be broken this year.
Hannibal is becoming more and more "Mark Twain's home town." Strolling from the station, the visitor follows the broad Main Street, pungent now and then with the mingled odors of kerosene, soap and leather from some country store. Hannibal is a sizable town with citified shops, but it has many of the old landmarks of Mark Twain's time.
Not many moments pass ere the stranger is convinced that the humorist has found honor in his own country. The hotel is named "Mark Twain." In front of the sidewalk men sit in rocking chairs of a Sunday afternoon, with hats and feet at odd angles, watching the world go by. Signs advertising mark Twain this and that are everywhere seen; and presently on glimpses Mark Twain's river.
A worn wooden signboard at the corner of a dilapidated alley points to "Mark Twain's Spring." It is within a court of negro shanties, from one of which some one will surely call out, offering a glass. Then on one goes, up a steep street and past a box-like little house, set close to the sidewalk and bearing a United States flag. A marker announces that in this humble cottage mark Twain dwelt as a boy. Around the corner at the end of Main Street is the bronze group of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and up the hill in a park overlooking the river is the statue of their creator.
Further on a poster says: "Don't Miss Mark Twain's Cave." The suggestion is enough. It is not easy to get there, but once arrived, the visitor is rewarded. He may shiver in its depths on a hot Summer day and perhaps see spooks. No civilized cave is this, with steps and ladders and electric lights. Except for a reinforced entrance and a door, the place is much as Tom Sawyer's gang left it.
One picks up a kerosene lantern and follows the leader along a damp path between dark, damp walls. Squeezing through "Fat Man's Misery," one slips hastily under "Hanging Rock" and gapes at "Aladdin's Palace," "The Cathedral" and the "Drawing Room." The guide, who is called "Squirrel," points out the hole where Jesse James and his brother concealed themselves for two weeks and adds that an Indian was hanged on the "heelless boot." is ghost is said to reappear there every day - "Squirrel" names the hour at which the visitor is passing through.
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