HONORED BY MISSOURI
The family did not return to New York. They took a beautiful house at Riverdale on the Hudson—the old Appleton homestead. Here they established themselves and settled down for American residence. They would have bought the Appleton place, but the price was beyond their reach.
It was in the autumn of 1901 that Mark Twain settled in Riverdale. In June of the following year he was summoned West to receive the degree of LL.D. from the university of his native state. He made the journey a sort of last general visit to old associations and friends. In St. Louis he saw Horace Bixby, fresh, wiry, and capable as he had been forty-five years before. Clemens said:
“I have become an old man. You are still thirty-five.”
They went over to the rooms of the pilots’ association, where the river-men gathered in force to celebrate his return. Then he took train for Hannibal.
He spent several days in Hannibal and saw Laura Hawkins—Mrs. Frazer, and a widow now—and John Briggs, an old man, and John RoBards, who had worn the golden curls and the medal for good conduct. They drove him to the old house on Hill Street, where once he had lived and set type; photographers were there and photographed him standing at the front door.
“It all seems so small to me,” he said, as he looked through the house. “A boy’s home is a big place to him. I suppose if I should come back again ten years from now it would be the size of a bird-house.” He did not see “Huck”—Torn Blankenship had not lived in Hannibal for many years. But he was driven to all the familiar haunts—to Lover’s Leap, the cave, and the rest; and Sunday afternoon, with John Briggs, he walked over Holliday’s Hill—the “Cardiff Hill” of “Tom Sawyer.” It was just such a day, as the one when they had damaged a cooper shop and so nearly finished the old negro driver. A good deal more than fifty years had passed since then, and now here they were once more—Tom Sawyer and Joe Harper—two old men, the hills still fresh and green, the river rippling in the sun. Looking across to the Illinois shore and the green islands where they had played, and to Lover’s Leap on the south, the man who had been Sam Clemens said:
“John, that is one of the loveliest sights I ever saw. Down there is the place we used to swim, and yonder is where a man was drowned, and there’s where the steamboat sank. Down there on Lover’s Leap is where the Millerites put on their robes one night to go to heaven. None of them went that night, but I suppose most of them have gone now.”
John Briggs said, “Sam, do you remember the day we stole peaches from old man Price, and one of his bow-legged niggers came after us with dogs, and how we made up our minds we’d catch that nigger and drown him?”
And so they talked on of this thing and that, and by and by drove along the river, and Sam Clemens pointed out the place where he swam it and was taken with a cramp on the return.