« PreviousContinue »
THE RETURN OF RIP VAN WINKLE. “E had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange children ran at his
heels, hooting after him, and pointing at his grey beard. The dogs, too, not one of which he recognized for an old acquaintance, barked at him as he passed. The very vil
lage 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—stranger faces at the windowg_everything was strange. His mind nowmisgave himųhe began to doubt whether botõke 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, forlorn, and apparently abandoned. This desolateness overcame all his connubial fears—he called loudly for his wife and children—the lonely chambers rang for a moment wtth his voice, and then all again was silence.
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 night-cap, and from it was fiuttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage of stars and stripes—all this was strange and incomprehensible. He recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe; but even this was singularly 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 Washington.”
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 tranquility. He looked in vain for the sage Nicholas Vedder, with his broad face, double chin, and fair long pipe, uttering clouds of tobacco smoke instead of idle speeches; or Van Bummel, the school-master, doling forth the contents of an ancient newspaper. In place of these, a lean, bilious-looking fellow, with his pockets full of handbills, was haranguing vehemently about rights of citizens-electionsmembers 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 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. Another short but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and rising on tiptoe, inquired in his ear,“ 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 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! gentlemen,” 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 by-standers—“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 bimself 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 chureh-yard that used to tell all about him, but that's rotten and gone too."
“Where's Brom Dutcher?”
“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 Antony's Nose. I don't know-he never came back again.”
“Where's Van Bummel, the schoolmaster?"
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 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 ?” “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,” exclaimed he, at his wit's end ;“ I am 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 every thing's changed, and I'm changed, and I can't tell what's my name, or who I am!”
The by-standers began now to look at each other, nod, wink significantly, and tap their fingers against their foreheads. 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.
“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 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 more question 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 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 under 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?"
All 'round the little farm I wandered
When I was young, Then many happy days I squandered,
Many the songs I sung. When I was playing with my brother
Happy was I, 0, take me to my kind old mother,
There let me live and die. CHORUS—All the world, etc.
Let the fragrant summer breeze,
wings of honey bees,
grass and fern; And let the wayward wind, Still singing, plod behind The cider press—the good old-fashioned kind! Blend in the song the moan of the dove that grieves alone, And the wild whirr of the locust, and the bum
ble's drowsy drone;
One little hut among the bushes,
One that I love,
No matter where I rove.
All 'round the comb,
Down in my good old home.
Everywhere I roam,
STEPHEN C. FOSTER.
Then, far away and clear,
sound you hear.
JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY.
Filling the sky and the earth below,
Hurrying by, It lights on the face and it sparkles the eye, And the dogs, with a bark and a bound, Snap at the crystals that eddy around: The town's alive, and its heart is aglow, To welcome the coming of beautiful snow!
DOWN ON THE SUWANNEE
Far, far away.
There where the old folks stay.
Sadly I roam,
And for the old folks at home. CHORUS—All the world is sad and dreary