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gant wife may, therefore, in some respects be considered a tolerable blessing, and if so, Rip Van Winkle was thrice blessed.
Certain it is, that he was a great favorite among all the good wives of the village, who, as usual with the amiable sex, took 5 his part in all family squabbles; and never failed, whenever
they talked those matters over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the blame on Dame Van Winkle. The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached. He
assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to 10 fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories of ghosts,
witches, and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the village, he was surrounded by a troop of them, hanging on his skirts, clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on
him with impunity; and not a dog would bark at him through15 out the neighborhood.
The great error in Rip's composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet
rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a Tartar's lance, and 20 fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be
encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry a fowlingpiece on his shoulder for hours together, trudging through woods and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels
or wild pigeons. He would never refuse to assist a neighbor, 25 even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man at all country
frolics for husking Indian corn, or building stone-fences; the women of the village, too, used to employ him to run their errands, and to do such little odd jobs as their less obliging
husbands would not do for them. In a word, Rip was ready 30 to attend to anybody's business but his own; but as to doing
family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.
In fact, he declared it was of no use to work on his farm; it was the most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole coun35 try; everything about it went wrong, and would go wrong, in
spite of him. His fences were continually falling to pieces ; his cow would either go astray or get among the cabbages; weeds were sure to grow quicker in his fields than anywhere
else; the rain always made a point of setting in just as he had 5 some out-door work to do; so that though his patrimonial estate
had dwindled away under his management, acre by acre, until there was little more left than a mere patch of Indian corn and potatoes, yet it was the worst-conditioned farm in the
neighborhood. 10 His children, too, were as ragged and wild as if they belonged
to nobody. His son Rip, an urchin begotten in his own likeness, promised to inherit the habits, with the old clothes of his father. He was generally seen trooping like a colt at his
mother's heels, equipped in a pair of father's cast-off galli15 gaskins, which he had much ado to hold up with one hand, as a fine lady does her train in bad weather.
Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat
white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought 20 or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for
a pound. If left to himself, he would have whistled life away in perfect contentment; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he
was bringing on his family. Morning, noon, and night her 25 tongue was incessantly going, and everything he said or did was
sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence. Rip had but one way of replying to all lectures of the kind, and that, by frequent use, had grown into a habit. He shrugged his shoul
ders, shook his head, cast up his eyes, but said nothing. This, 30 however, always provoked a fresh volley from his wife; so that
he was fain to draw off his forces, and take to the outside of the house—the only side which, in truth, belongs to a henpecked husband.
Rip's sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as 35 much henpecked as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded
them as companions in idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye, as the cause of his master's going so often astray. True it is, in all points of spirit befitting an honorable
dog, he was as courageous an animal as ever scoured the woods 5 --but what courage can withstand the ever-during and all-beset
ting terrors of a woman's tongue? The moment Wolf entered the house his crest fell, his tail drooped to the ground, or curled between his legs, he sneaked about with a gallows air, casting
many a sidelong glance at Dame Van Winkle, and at the least 10 flourish of a broomstick or ladle he would fly to the door with yelping precipitation.
Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age,
and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener 15 with constant use. For a long while he used to console himself,
when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village; which held its sessions on a bench before a small inn,
designated by a rubicund portrait of His Majesty George the 20 Third. Here they used to sit in the shade through a long lazy
summer's day, talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless sleepy stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman's money to have heard the profound dis
cussions that sometimes took place, when by chance an old 25 newspaper fell into their hands from some passing traveler.
How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the school-master, a dapper learned little man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic
word in the dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate 30 upon public events some months after they had taken place.
The opinions of this junto were completely controlled by Nicholas Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landlord of the inn, at the door of which he took his seat from morning till
night, just moving sufficiently to avoid the sun and keep in the 35 shade of a large tree; so that the neighbors could tell the hour
by his movements as accurately as by a sun-dial. It is true he was rarely heard to speak, but smoked his pipe incessantly. His adherents, however (for every great man has his adherents),
perfectly understood him, and knew how to gather his opinions. 5 When anything that was read or related displeased him, he was
observed to smoke his pipe vehemently, and to send forth short, frequent and angry puffs; but when pleased, he would inhale the smoke slowly and tranquilly, and emit it in light and placid
clouds; and sometimes, taking the pipe from his mouth, and 10 letting the fragrant vapor curl about his nose, would gravely nod his head in token of perfect approbation.
From even this stronghold the unlucky Rip was at length routed by his termagant wife, who would suddenly break in
upon the tranquillity of the assemblage and call the members 15 all to naught; nor was that august personage, Nicholas Vedder
himself, sacred from the daring tongue of this terrible virago, who charged hiin outright with encouraging her husband in habits of idleness.
Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only 20 alternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and clamor
of his wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with
whom he sympathized as a fellow-sufferer in persecution. “Poor 25 Wolf," he would say, "thy mistress leads thee a dog's life of it;
but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee!” Wolf would wag his tail, look wistfully in his master's face, and if dogs can feel pity I verily
believe he reciprocated the sentiment with all his heart. 30 In a long ramble of the kind on a fine autumnal day, Rip
had unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill Mountains. He was after his favorite sport of squirrel shooting, and the still solitudes had echoed and re-echoed with
the reports of his gun. Panting and fatigued, he threw himself, 35 late in the afternoon, on a green knoll, covered with mountain
herbage, that crowned the brow of a precipice. From an opening between the trees he could overlook all the lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance the
lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but 5 majestic course, with the reflection of a purple cloud, or the
sail of a lagging bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.
On the other side he looked down into a deep mountain glen, wild, lonely, and shagged, the bottom filled with fragments from 10 the impending cliffs, and scarcely lighted by the reflected rays
of the setting sun. For some time Rip lay musing on this scene; evening was gradually advancing; the mountains began to throw their long blue shadows over the valleys; he saw that
it would be dark long before he could reach the village, and he 15 heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the terrors of Dame Van Winkle.
As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance, hallooing, “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle !" He looked
round, but could see nothing but a crow winging its solitary 20 flight across the mountain. He thought his fancy must have
deceived him, and turned again to descend, when he heard the same cry ring through the still evening air: "Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!”—at the same time Wolf bristled up his back,
and giving a low growl, skulked to his master's side, looking 25 fearfully down into the glen. Rip now felt a vague appre
hension stealing over him; he looked anxiously in the same direction, and perceived a strange figure slowly toiling up the rocks, and bending under the weight of something he carried on his
back. He was surprised to see any human being in this lonely 30 and unfrequented place; but supposing it to be some one of
the neighborhood in need of assistance, he hastened down to yield it.
On nearer approach he was still more surprised at the singularity of the stranger's appearance.
He was a short, square35 built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard.