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their coils or tendrils from tree to tree, and spread a kind of
network in his path.

At length he reached to where the ravine had opened
through the cliffs to the amphitheatre; but no traces of such
opening remained. The rocks presented a high, impenetrable
wall, over which the torrent came tumbling in a sheet of
feathery foam, and fell into a broad deep basin, black from
the shadows of the surrounding forest. Here, then, poor Rip
was brought to a stand. He again called and whistled after
his dog; he was only answered by the cawing of a flock
of idle crows, sporting high in air about a dry tree that over-
hung a sunny precipice ; and who, secure in their elevation,
seemed to look down and scoff at the poor man's perplexities.
What was to be done? The morning was passing away, and
Rip felt famished for want of his breakfast. He grieved to
give up his dog and gun; he dreaded to meet his wife; but
it would not do to starve among the mountains. He shook
his head, shouldered the rusty firelock, and, with a heart full
of trouble and anxiety, turned his steps homewards.

As he approached the village he met a number of people,



RIP VAN WINKLE 243

but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for
he had thought himself acquainted with every one in the
country round. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion
from that to which he was accustomed. They all stared at
him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast
their eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The
constant recurrence of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily,
to do the same, when, to his astonishment, he found his beard
had grown a foot long !

He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop
of strange children ran at his heels, hooting after him, and
pointing at his gray beard. The dogs, too, not one of which
he recognised for an old acquaintance, barked at him as he
passed. The very village was altered ; it was larger and more
populous. There were rows of houses which he had never
seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had
disappeared. Strange names were over the doors strange
faces at the windows everything was strange. His mind
now misgave him; he began to doubt whether both he and
the world around him were not bewitched. Surely this was
his native village, which he had left but the day before. There
stood the Kaatskill Mountains there ran the silver Hudson
at a distance there was every hill and dale precisely as
it had always been. Rip was sorely perplexed. " That
flagon last night," thought he, " has addled my poor head
sadly ! "

It was with some difficulty that he found the way to his
own house, which he approached with silent awe, expecting
every moment to hear the shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle.
He found the house gone to decay the roof fallen in, the
windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges. A half-
starved dog that looked like Wolf was skulking about it.
Rip called him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth,
and passed on. This was an unkind cut indeed. " My very
dog," sighed poor Rip, " has forgotten me ! "

He entered the house, which, to tell the truth, Dame Van
Winkle had always kept in neat order. It was empty, for-
lorn, and apparently abandoned. This desolateness over-
came all his connubial fears he called loudly for his wife
and children the lonely chambers rang for a moment with
his voice, and then all again was silence.



344 THE BOOK OF THE SHORT STORY

He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the
village inn but it, too, was gone. A large, rickety wooden
building stood in its place, with great gaping windows, some
of them broken and mended with old hats and petticoats, and
over the door was painted: The Union Hotel, by Jonathan
Doolittle. Instead of the great tree that used to shelter
the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall
naked pole, with something on the top that looked like a red
nightcap, and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a
singular assemblage of stars and stripes; all this was
strange and incomprehensible. He recognised on the sign,
however, the ruby face of King George, under which he had
smoked so many a peaceful pipe; but even this was singu-
larly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one
of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of
a sceptre, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and
underneath was painted in large characters : GENERAL WASH-
INGTON.

There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door, but
none that Rip recollected. The very character of the people
seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling, disputatious
tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy
tranquillity. He looked in vain for the sage Nicholas Ved-
der, with his broad face, double chin, and fair long pipe,
uttering clouds of tobacco smoke instead of idle speeches ; or
Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, doling forth the contents of
an ancient newspaper. In place of these, a lean, bilious-look-
ing fellow, with his pockets full of handbills, was haranguing
vehemently about rights of citizens elections members of
Congress liberty Bunker Hill heroes of '76 and other
words, which were a perfect Babylonish jargon to the bewil-
dered 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 attention of the
tavern politicians. They crowded round him, eyeing him
from head to foot with great curiosity. The orator bustled
up to him, and, drawing him partly aside, inquired " on
which side he voted." Rip stared in vacant stupidity. An-
other short -but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm,
and, rising on tiptoe, inquired in his ear " whether he was



RIP VAN WINKLE 245

Federal or Democrat." Rip was equally at a loss to com-
prehend the question; when a knowing, self-important old
gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the
crowd, putting them to the right and left with his elbows as
he passed, and planting himself before Van Winkle, with one
arm akimbo, the other resting 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 ! gentle-
men," cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, " I am a poor, quiet
man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the King,
God bless him ! "

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 neighbours,
who used to keep about the tavern.

" Well who are they ? name them."

Rip bethought himself a moment, and 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 Butcher ? "

" Oh, he 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 An-
thony's Nose. I don't know he never came back again."

"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 sad changes in
his home and friends, and finding himself thus alone in the
world. Every answer puzzled him, too, by treating of such



246 THE BOOK OF THE SHORT STORY

enormous lapses of time, and of matters which he could not
understand: war Congress Stony Point he had no cour-
age to ask after any more friends, but cried out in despair:
" Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle ? "

" Oh, Rip Van Winkle ! " exclaimed two or three, " oh,
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 bewilderment, the man
in the cocked hat demanded who he was, and what was his
name.

" God knows," exclajmed 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 myself last night,
but I 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 ams, 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 recol-
lections in his mind. " What is your name, my good wom-
an ? " 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 with-
out him ; but whether he shot himself, or was carried away
by the Indians, nobody can tell. I was then but a little girl."



RIP VAN WINKLE 247

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
father ! " cried he "young Rip Van Winkle once old Rip
Van Wikk now ! Does nobody know poor Rip Van Win-
kle?"

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

Rip's story was soon told, for the whole twenty years had
been to him as but one night. The neighbours 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 of the village, and well
versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of the
neighbourhood. He recollected Rip at once, and corroborated
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 discoverer 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
the river and the great city called By his name. That



248 THE BOOK OF THE SHORT STORY

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 a
husband, whom Rip recollected for one of the urchins 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 dis-
position 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 favour.

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 rev-
erenced as one of the patriarchs of the village, and a chron-
icle of the old times " 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 Revolu-
tionary war that the country had thrown off the yoke of
old England and that, instead of being a subject of His
Majesty, George III., 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 dread-
ing 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 resignation to his fate or joy at his deliv-
erance.

He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived



RIP VAN WINKLE 249

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 neighbourhood 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 inhab-
itants, 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 com-
mon wish of all henpecked husbands in the neighbourhood,
when life hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a
quieting draught out of Rip Van Winkle's flagon.

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 Kypphauser
mountain: the subjoined note, however, which he had ap-
pended 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 last I saw him, was a very ven-
erable 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 cer-
tificate on the subject taken before a country justice and
signed with a cross, in the justice's own handwriting. The
story, therefore, is beyond the possibility of a doubt.

" D. K."



17



THE BOOK OF THE SHORT STORY



POSTSCRIPT

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

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 sun-
shine or clouds over the landscape, 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
moon in the skies, and cut up the old ones into stars. In
times of drought, if properly propitiated, she would spin
light summer 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, 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
Manitou or Spirit, who kept about the wildest recesses of the
Catskill Mountains and took a mischievous pleasure in wreak-
ing all kinds of evils and vexations upon the red men. Some-
times he would assume the form of a bear, a panther, or a
deer, lead the bewildered hunter a weary chase through tan-
gled 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 favourite 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 neighbourhood, is
known by the name of the Garden Rock. 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
i/hich lie on the surface. This place was held in great awe



RIP VAN WINKLE 251

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 Hud-
son, and continues to flow to the present day ; being the iden-
tical stream known by the name of the Kaaterskill.



A LIST OF REPRESENTATIVE TALES AND
SHORT STORIES



1820 TO 1830:

Smarra, Charles Nodier (1821).

Die Flucht nach Agypten and Der Mann von Funfzig

Jahren, Goethe, Wilhelm Meister's Wanderjahre

(1821-1829).

Trilby, Charles Nodier (1822).
Die Gemalde, J. L. Tieck (1822).
Die Verlobung, J. L. Tieck (1823).
Wandering Willie's Tale, Sir Walter Scott, Redgauntlet

(1824).

Tales of a Traveler, Washington Irving (1824).
Sayings and Doings, Theodore Hook (1824-1825-1828).
The Superannuated Man, Charles Lamb (1825).
O'Hara Tales, John and Michael Banim (1825-42). .
Die Novelle, Goethe (1826).

My Aunt Margaret's Mirror, Sir Walter Scott (1828).
The Tapestried Chamber, Sir Walter Scott (1828).
Mateo Falcone, Prosper Merimee (1829).
Vision de Charles XL, Prosper Merimee (1829).
L'Enlevement de la Redoute, Prosper Merimee (1829).
Tamango, Prosper Merimee (1829).
Federigo, Prosper Merimee (1829).
La Perle de Tolede, Prosper Merimee (1829).

253



WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE



WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE
/

WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE, by Sir Walter Scott
(1771-1832), first published in Redgauntlet in 1824, was
the first short story of importance that the famous
romancer wrote. The Tales of a Grandfather (1828-
18291830) are not properly short stories, but history
popularly presented. In 1828 there appeared in The
Keepsake three short stories by Scott : My Aunt Mar-
garet's Mirror, The Tapestried Chamber, and Death of
the Laird's Jock. These three, together with Wandering
Willie's Tale, are Scott's only important contributions to
fiction in short story form.

Wandering Willie's Tale is told by one of the charac-
ters in Scott's romance, Redgauntlet, but it has no other
connection with the longer work of fiction in which it is
embedded. Perhaps its insertion where it so clearly of-
fends against the unity of the narrative is a proof of Sir
Walter's own high regard for its value. One critic calls it
" the finest short story in the language " ; this is perhaps
excessive praise, but as a tale of the weird it is scarcely
surpassed either by Theophile Gautier's The Dead Leman
(1836) or by Robert Louis Stevenson's Thrawn Janet
(1881). In brief, it stands at or very near the head of
its class. Like The Dead Leman, Wandering Willie's
Tale is a dream-fantasy from beginning to end ; " the
wildest and most rueful of dreams," Lockhart calls it.
For an interesting treatment of the " ghost " story, the
conte cruel, the reader is referred to Scott's Apology for
Tales of Terror (1799).

257



258 THE BOOK OF THE SHORT STORY

AUTHORITIES :

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, by John G.
Lockhart.

Hours in a Library (first series), by Leslie Stephen.

Sir Walter Scott, by George Saintsbury (Famous
Scots series).

Sir Walter Scott, by Richard Holt Hutton (English
Men of Letters series).



WANDERING WILLIE'S TALE

" Honest folks like me ! How do ye ken whether I am
honest, or what I am ? I may be the deevil himsell for what
ye ken, for he has power to come disguised like an angel of
light ; and, besides, he is a prime fiddler. He played a sonata
to Corelli, ye ken."

There was something odd in this speech, and the tone in
which it was said. It seemed as if my companion was not
always in his constant mind, or that he was willing to try
if he could frighten me. I laughed at the extravagance of
his language, however, and asked him in reply if he was fool
enough to believe that the foul fiend would play so silly a
masquerade.

" Ye ken little about it little about it," said the old man,
shaking his head and beard, and knitting his brows. " I could
tell ye something about that."

What his wife mentioned of his being a tale-teller as well
as a musician now occurred to me ; and as, you know, I like
tales of superstition, I begged to have a specimen of his
talent as we went along.

" It is very true," said the blind man, " that when I am
tired of scraping thairm or singing ballants I whiles make a
tale serve the turn among the country bodies; and I have
some fearsome anes, that make the auld carlines shake on the
settle, and the bits o' bairns skirl on their minnies out frae
their beds. But this that I am going to tell you was a thing
that befell in our ain house in my father's time that is, my
father was then a hafiflins callant ; and I tell it to you, that it
may be a lesson to you that are but a young thoughtless chap,
wha ye draw up wi j on a lonely road ; for muckle was the dool
and care that came o' 't to my gudesire."

He commenced his tale accordingly, in a distinct narra-
tive tone of voice, which he raised and depressed with con-

259



260 THE BOOK OF THE SHORT STORY

siderable skill; at times sinking almost into a whisper, and
turning his clear but sightless eyeballs upon my face, as if it
had been possible for him to witness the impression which
his narrative made upon my features. I will not spare a
syllable of it, although it be of the longest ; so I make a dash



Online LibraryAlexander JessupThe book of the short story → online text (page 19 of 38)