« PreviousContinue »
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 5 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 Vedder, with his broad
face, double chin, and fair long pipe, uttering clouds of tobacco10 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 hand bills, was haranguing vehemently about rights of
citizens—elections—members of congress-liberty-Bunker's 15 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 20 taverr.-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 "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, 25 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 30 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 ?”— 35 “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 bystanders—“A tory ! a tory! a spy! a refugee ! hustle him! away with him!” It was 5 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 10 search of some of his neighbors, who used to keep about the tavern.
“Well—who are they ?-name them.”
Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, “Where's Nicholas Vedder ?” 15 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." 20 “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.” 25 "Where's Van Bummel, the schoolmaster ?”
“He went off to the wars too, was a great militia general, 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. 30 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 5 ragged. The poor fellow was now completely confounded. He doubted his own identity, and whether he was himself or another
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'm not myself 10 — I'm somebody else—that's me yonder-n0—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 !" 15 The bystanders 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 20 some precipitation. At this critical moment a fresh, comely
woman pressed through the throng to get a peep at the graybearded 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 25 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.
“And your father's name?” 30 “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 question more to ask; and he put it with a faltering voice :
“Where's your mother?”
“Oh, she too had died but a short time since; she broke a 5 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 10 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 15 —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, 20 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 25 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 won
derful events and traditions of the neighborhood. He recollected 30 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 upon the river and the great city called by his name. That 5 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 re10 turned to the more important concerns of the election. Rip's
daughter took him home to live with her; she had a snug wellfurnished 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 him15 self, 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 20 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 rever25 enced as one of the patriarchs of the village, and a chronicle 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 revolutionary war—that 30 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 35 which he had long groaned, and that was-petticoat govern