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RIP VAN WINKLE

RIP VAN WINKLE was a good-natured, shiftless man who lived during the old colonial times in a village at the foot of the Catskills. One day, with his dog and gun, he wandered far up the mountains, and there meeting with some strange dwarfs, he fell into a deep sleep which lasted twenty years. When he awoke it seemed to him that only one night had passed. But, in truth, he had become an old man, his beard had grown long, and his clothes had fallen into tatters. He made his way slowly to the village, wondering what had happened.

There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door of the inn, but none that Rip recoilected. The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, hustling, 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 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-looking fellow, with his pocket full of handbills, was haranguing vehe mently about rights of citizens, elections, members of

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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, 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, 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 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, 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 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 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?” 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."

66 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 Anthony'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 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. 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 wits' 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 foreheads. There was a whisper, also, about se

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