Page images

His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion: a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist, several pair of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows 'of buttons down the

sides, and bunches at the knees. He bore on his shoulder a stout 5 keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to

approach and assist him with the load. Though rather shy and distrustful of this new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual alacrity; and mutually relieving one another, they clam

bered up a narrow gully, apparently the dry bed of a moun10 tain torrent. As they ascended, Rip every now and then heard

long rolling peals like distant thunder, that seemed to issue out of a deep ravine, or rather cleft, between lofty rocks, toward which their rugged path conducted. He paused for a moment,

but supposing it to be the muttering of one of those transient 15 thunder-showers which often take place in mountain heights,

he proceeded. Passing through the ravine, they came to a hollow, like a small amphitheatre, surrounded by perpendicular precipices, over the brinks of which impending trees shot their

branches, so that you only caught glimpses of the azure sky 20 and the bright evening cloud. During the whole time Rip and

his companion had labored on in silence; for though the former marveled greatly what could be the object of carrying a keg of liquor up this wild mountain, yet there was something strange

and incomprehensible about the unknown, that inspired awe and 25 checked familiarity.

On entering the amphitheatre, new objects of wonder presented themselves. On a level spot in the centre was a company of odd-looking personages playing at ninepins. They

were dressed in a quaint outlandish fashion; some wore short 30 doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and

most of them had enormous breeches of similar style with that of the guide's. Their visages, too, were peculiar; one had a large beard, broad face, and small piggish eyes; the face of

another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted 35 by a white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a little red cock's tail

They all had beards, of various shapes and colors. There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout old gentleman, with a weather-beaten countenance; he wore a laced

doublet, broad belt and hanger, high-crowned hat and feather, 5 red stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with roses in them. The

whole group reminded Rip of the figures in an old Flemish painting in the parlor of Dominie Van Shaick, the village parson, which had been brought over from Holland at the time of

the settlement. 10 What seemed particularly odd to Rip was, that though these

folks were evidently amusing themselves, yet they maintained the gravest faces, the most mysterious silence, and were, withal, the most melancholy party of pleasure he had ever witnessed.

Nothing interrupted the stillness of the scene but the noise of 15 the balls, which, whenever they were rolled, echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder.

As Rip and his companion approached them, they suddenly desisted from their play, and stared at him with such fixed,

statue-like gaze, and such strange, uncouth, lack-lustre coun20 tenances, that his heart turned within him, and his knees smote

together. His companion now emptied the contents of the keg into large flagons, and made signs to him to wait upon the company. He obeyed with fear and trembling; they quaffed

the liquor in profound silence, and then returned to their game. 25 By degrees Rip's awe and apprehension subsided. He even

ventured, when no eye was fixed upon him, to taste the beverage, which he found had much of the flavor of excellent Hollands. He was naturally a thirsty soul, and was soon tempted

to repeat the draught. One taste provoked another; and he 30 reiterated his visits to the flagon so often that at length his

senses were overpowered, his eyes swam in his head, his head gradually declined, and he fell into a deep sleep.

On waking, he found himself on the green knoll whence he had first seen the old man of the glen. He rubbed his eyes— 35 it was a bright, sunny morning. The birds were hopping and

twittering among the bushes, and the eagle was wheeling aloft, and breasting the pure mountain breeze. “Surely,” thought Rip, "I have not slept here all night.” He recalled the occur

rences before he fell asleep. The strange man with a keg of 3 liquor—the mountain ravine—the wild retreat among the rocks

—the woe-begone party at ninepins—the flagon—“Oh! that flagon! that wicked flagon!” thought Rip—"what excuse shall I make to Dame Van Winkle?”

He looked round for his gun, but in place of the clean, well10 oiled fowling-piece, he found an old firelock lying by him, the

barrel incrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten. He now suspected that the grave roisterers of the mountain had put a trick upon him, and, having dosed him with

liquor, had robbed him of his gun. Wolf, too, had disappeared, 15 but he might have strayed away after a squirrel or partridge.

He whistled after him, and shouted his name, but all in vain; the echoes repeated his whistle and shout, but no dog was to be seen.

He determined to revisit the scene of the last evening's gam20 bol, and if he met with any of the party, to demand his dog and

gun. As he rose to walk, he found himself stiff in the joints, and wanting in his usual activity. “These mountain beds do not agree with me,” thought Rip, "and if this frolic should lay

me up with a fit of the rheumatism, I shall have a blessed time 25 with Dame Van Winkle.” With some difficulty he got down

into the glen; he found the gully up which he and his companion had ascended the preceding evening; but to his astonishment a mountain stream was now foaming down it, leaping

from rock to rock, and filling the glen with babbling murmurs. 30 He, however, made shift to scramble up its sides, working his

toilsome way through thickets of birch, sassafras, and witchhazel, and sometimes tripped up or entangled by the wild grapevines that twisted their coils or tendrils from tree to tree,

and spread a kind of network in his path. 35 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 5 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 overhung a sunny precipice;

and who, secure in their elevation, seemed to look down and 10 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 fire15 lock, and, with a heart full of trouble and anxiety, turned his steps homeward.

As he approached the village he met a number of people, but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had

thought himself acquainted with every one in the country 2ű 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 25 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 rec

ognized for an old acquaintance, barked at him as he passed. 30 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 win

dows, everything was strange. His mind now misgave him; 35 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 5 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 10 the house gone to decay—the roof fallen in, the windows shat

tered, 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 15 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 children20 the lonely chambers rang for a moment with his voice, and then again all 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 25 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 30 night-cap, and from it was fluttering 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 metamor35 phosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a

« PreviousContinue »