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speeches ; or Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, doling forth
the contents of an ancient newspaper. In place of these,
a lean, bilious-looking fellow, with his pockets full of hand-
bills, was haranguing vehemently about rights of citizens
elections members of congress liberty Bunker's
Hill heroes of seventy -six and other words, which
were a perfect Babylonish jargon to the bewildered Van
Winkle.

The appearance of Rip, with his long grizzled beard, his
rusty fowling-piece, his uncouth dress, and an army of
women and children at his heels, soon attracted the atten-
tion of the tavern politicians. They crowded round him,
eying him from head to foot with great curiosity. The
orator bustled up to him, and, drawing him partly aside,
inquired u on which side he voted." Rip stared in vacant
stupidity. Another short but busy little fellow pulled him
by the arm, and, rising on tiptoe, inquired in his ear
u whether he was Federal or Democrat." Rip was equally
at a loss to comprehend the question ; when a knowing,
self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made
his way through the crowd, putting them to the rjght and
left with his elbows as he passed, and planting himself
before Van Winkle, with one arm a-kimbo, the other rest-
ing on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating,
as it were, into his very soul, demanded in an austere tone,
" What brought him to the election with a gun on his
shoulder, and a mob at his heels, and whether he meant to
breed a riot in the village?" "Alas! gentlemen," cried
Rip, somewhat dismayed, " I am a poor quiet man, a native
of the place, and a loyal subject to the king, God bless
him ! "



RIP VAN WINKLE. 323

Here a general shout burst from the bystanders : " A tory !
a tory! a spy! a refugee ! hustle him! away with him!"
It was with great difficulty that the self-important man in
the cocked hat restored order ; and-, having assumed a
tenfold austerity of brow, demanded again of the unknown
culprit what he came there for, and whom he was seeking.
The poor man humbly assured him that he meant no harm,
but merely came there in search of some of his neighbors,
who used to keep about the tavern.

" Well who are they ? name them."

Rip bethought himself a moment, end inquired,
< Where 's Nicholas Vedder ? "

There was a silence for a little while, when an old man
replied in a thin piping voice, " Nicholas Vedder ! why,
he is dead and gone these eighteen years ! There was a
wooden tombstone in the churchyard that used to tell all
about him, but that's rotten and gone too."

" Where's Brom Dutcher?"

" 0, lie went off to the army in the beginning of the
war : some say he was killed at the storming of Stony
Point ; others say he was drowned in a squall at the foot
of Antony's Nose. I don't know ; he never came back
again. r

" Where's Van Bummel, the schoolmaster?"

*" He went off to the wars too, was a great militia gen-
eral, and is now in congress."

Rip's heart died away at hearing of these S;K! changes in
his home and friends, and finding himself thus alone in the
world. Every answer puzzled him too, by treating of
such enormous lapses of time, and of matters which he
could not understand : war congress Stony Point ;
he had no courage to ask after any more friends, but cried
out in despair, " Does nobody here know Rip Van
Winkle ? "

" O, Rip Van Winkle ! " exclaimed two or three. O,



324 WASHINGTON IRVING.

to be sure ! that 's Rip Van Winkle yonder, leaning against
the tree."

Rip looked, and beheld a precise counterpart of himself,
as he went up the' mountain : apparently as lazy, and
certainly as ragged. The poor fellow was now completely
confounded. He doubted his own identity, and whether he
was himself or another man. In the midst of his bewilder-
ment, the man in the cocked hat demanded who he was,
and what was his name.

" God knows ! " exclaimed he, at his wit's end ; " I 'm
not myself I'm somebody else that's me yonder
no that's somebody else got into my shoes I was my-
self last night, but 1 fell asleep on the mountain, and
they've changed my gun, and everything's changed, and
I 'm changed, and I can't tell what 's my name, or who I
am!"

The bystanders began now to look at each other, nod,
wink significantly, and tap their fingers against their fore-
heads. There was a whisper, also, about securing the gun,
and keeping the old fellow from doing mischief, at the
very suggestion of which the self-important man in the
cocked hat retired with some precipitation. At this
critical moment a fresh comely woman pressed through
the throng to get a peep at the gray -bearded man. She
had a chubby child in her arms, which, frightened at his
looks, began to cry. " Hush, Rip," cried she, " hush, you
little fool ; the old man won't hurt you." The name of
the child, the air of the mother, the tone of her voice, all
awakened a train of recollections in his mind. " What is
your name, my good woman ? " asked he.

"Judith Gardenier."

" And your father's name ? "

" Ah, poor man ! Rip Van Winkle was his name, but
it's twenty years since he went away from home with his
gun, and never has been heard of since : his dog came home



RIP VAN WINKLE. 325

without him ; but whether he shot himself, or was carried
away by the Indians, nobody can tell. I was then but a
little girl."

Rip had but one question more to ask ; but he put it
with a faltering voice :

* Where 's your mother ? "

" Oh, she too had died but a short time since ; she
broke a blood-vessel in a fit of passion at a New England
peddler."

There was a drop of comfort, at least, in this intelligence.
The honest man could contain himself no longer. He caught
his daughter and her child in his arms. "I am your
lather ! " cried he " Young Rip Van Winkle once old
Rip Van Winkle now ! Does nobody know poor Rip Van
Winkle?"

All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from
among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering un-
der it in his face for a moment, exclaimed, " Sure enough !
it is Rip Van Winkle it is himself! Welcome home again,
old neighbor ! Why, where have you been these twenty
long years ''. "

Rip's story was soon told, for the whole twenty years
had been to him but as one night. The neighbors stared
when they heard it ; some were seen to wink at each
other, and put their tongues in their cheeks : and the self-
important man in the cocked hat, who when the alarm
was over had returned to the field, screwed down the
corners of his mouth, and shook his head ; upon which
there was a general shaking of the head throughout the
assemblage.

It was determined, however, to take the opinion of old
Peter Vanderdonk, who was seen slowly advancing up the
road. He was a descendant of the historian of that name,
who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the province.
Peter was the most ancient inhabitant in the village, and



326 WASHINGTON IRVING.

well versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of
the neighborhood. He recollected Rip at once, and cor-
roborated his story in the most satisfactory manner. He
assured the company that it was a fact, handed down from
his ancestor the historian, that the Kaatskill Mountains
had always been haunted by strange beings; that it was
affirmed that the great Hendrick Hudson, the first dis-
coverer of the river and country, kept a kind of vigil there
every twenty years, with his crew of the Half-moon, being
permitted in this way to revisit the scenes of his enterprise,
and keep a guardian eye upon the river, and the great city
called by his name ; that his father had once seen them in
their old Dutch dresses playing at ninepins in a hollow of
the mountain ; and that he himself had heard, one summer
afternoon, the sound of their balls, like distant peals of
thunder.

To make a long story short, the company broke up, and
returned to the more important concerns of the election.
Rip's daughter took him home to live with her ; she had
a snug, well-furnished house, and a stout cheery farmer
for her husband, whom Rip recollected for one of the ur-
chins that used to climb upon his back. As to Rip's son
and heir, who was the ditto of himself, seen leaning against
the tree, he was employed to work on the farm, but evinced
an hereditary disposition to attend to anything else but his
business.

Rip now resumed his old walks and habits ; he soon
found many of his former cronies, though all rather the
worse for the wear and tear of time, and preferred making
friends among the rising generation, with whom he soon
grew into great favor.

Having nothing to do at home, and being arrived at that
happy age when a man can be idle with impunity, he took
his place once more on the bench at the inn door, and was
reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the village, and a



KIP VAN WINKLE. 327

chronicle of the old times < l before the war." It was some
time before he could get into the regular track of gossip,
or could be made to comprehend the strange events that
had taken place during his torpor. How that there had
been a revolutionary war, that the country had thrown off
the yoke of old England, and that, instead of being a subject
of his Majesty George the Third, he was now a free citizen
of the United States. Rip, in fact, was no politician ; the
changes of states and empires made but little impression on
him ; but there was one species of despotism under which
he had long groaned, and that was petticoat government.
Happily that was at an end ; he had got his neck out of
the yoke of matrimony, and could go in and out whenever
he pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van
Winkle. Whenever her name was mentioned, however,
he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and cast up his
eyes ; which might pass either for an expression of resig-
nation to his fate, or joy at his deliverance.

He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived
at Mr. Doolittle's hotel. He was observed, at first, to
vary on some points every time he told it, which was,
doubtless, owing to his having so recently awakened. It
at last settled down precisely to the tale I have related,
and not a man, woman, or child in the neighborhood, but
knew it by heart. *Some always pretended to doubt the
reality of it, and insisted that Rip had been out of his
head, and that this was one point on which he always
remained flighty. The old Dutch inhabitants, however,
almost universally gave it full credit. Even to this day
they never hear a thunder-storm of a summer afternoon
about the Kaatskill, but they say Hendrick Hudson and
his crew are at their game of ninepins ; and it is a common
wish of all hen-pecked husbands in the neighborhood,
when life hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have
a quieting draught out of Rip Van Winkle's flagon.



328 WASHINGTON IRVING.



NOTE.

The foregoing tale, one would suspect, had been suggested to
Mr. Knickerbocker by a little German superstition about the
Emperor Frederick der Rothbart, and the Kypphaiiser moun-
tain : the subjoined note, however, which he had appended to
the tale, shows that it is an absolute fact, narrated with his
usual fidelity :

" The story of Rip Van Winkle may seem incredible to many, but
nevertheless I give it my full belief, for I know the vicinity of our
old Dutch settlements to have been very subject to marvellous
events and appearances. Indeed, I have heard many stranger stories
than this in the villages along the Hudson ; all of which were too
well authenticated to admit of a doubt. I have even talked with
Rip Van Winkle myself, who, when I last saw him, was a very
venerable old man, and so perfectly rational and consistent on every
other point, that I think no conscientious person could refuse to
take this into the bargain ; nay, I have seen a certificate on the sub-
ject, taken before a country justice, and signed with a cross, in the
justice's own handwriting. The story, therefore, is beyond the pos-
sibility of doubt. D. K."



POSTSCRIPT.

The following are travelling notes from a memorandum-book
of Mr. Knickerbocker : f

The Kaatsberg, or Catskill Mountains, have always been a region
full of fable. The Indians considered them the abode of spirits, who
influenced the weather, spreading sunshine or clouds over the land-
scape, and sending good or bad hunting seasons. They were ruled
by an old squaw spirit, said to be their mother. She dwelt on the
highest peak of the Catskills, and had charge of the doors of day and
night, to open and shut them at the proper hour. She hung up the
new moons in the skies, and cut up the old ones into stars. In
times of drought, if properly propitiated, she would spin light sum-
mer clouds out of cobwebs and morning dew, and send them off
from the crest of the mountain, flake after flake, like flakes of carded
cotton, to float in the air ; until, dissolved by the heat of the sun,



RIP VAN WINKLE. 329

they would fall in gentle showers, causing the grass to spring, the
fruits to ripen, and .the corn to grow an inch an hour. If displeased,
however, she would brew up clouds black as ink, sitting in the midst
of them like a bottle-bellied spider in the midst of its web ; and
when these clouds broke, woe betide the valleys !

In old times, say the Indian traditions, there was a kind of Mani-
tou or Spirit, who kept about the wildest recesses of the Catskill
Mountains, and took a mischievous pleasure in wreaking all kinds
of evils and vexations upon the red men. Sometimes he would
assume the form of a bear, a panther, or a deer, lead the bewildered
hunter a weary chase through tangled forests and among ragged
rocks, and then spring off with a loud ho ! ho ! leaving him aghast
on the brink of a beetling precipice or raging torrent.

The favorite abode of this Manitou is still shown. It is a great
rock or cliff on the loneliest part of the mountains, and, from the
flowering vines which clamber about it, and the wild flowers which
abound in its neighborhood, is known by the name of the Garden
Eock. Near the foot of it is a small lake, the haunt of the solitary
bittern, with water-snakes basking in the sun on the leaves of the
pond-lilies, which lie on the surface. This place was held in great
awe by the Indians, insomuch that the boldest hunter would not
pursue his game within its precincts. Once upon a time, however,
a hunter who had lost his way penetrated to the garden rock, where
he beheld a number of gourds placed in the crotches of trees. One
of these he seized, and made off with it ; but in the hurry of his
retreat he let it fall among the rocks, when a great stream gushed
forth, which washed him away and swept him down precipices,
where he was dashed to pieces, and the stream made its way to the
Hudson, and continues to flow to the present day ; being the iden-
tical stream known by the name of the Kaaters-kill.




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Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 66 of 66)