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of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, when, to 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 to his gray beard. The dogs, too, not one of whom he recognised for an old acquaintance, barked at him as he passed ; 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 windows-everything was strange. His mind now misgave him ; 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 was sorely perplexed." That flagon last night," thought he, “ has addled my poor head sadly!" It was with some difficulty that he found his 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 his 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 Winkle had always kept in neat order. It was empty, forlorn, and apparently abandoned. The desolation overcame all his connubial fears. He called loudly for his wife and children ; the lonely chambers rang for a moment with 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 ricketty wooden building stood in its place, with great gaping windows, and over the door was painted, “The Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.” Instead of the ruby face of King George on the sign, was a portrait under which was painted in large characters, “ General Washington."
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, who asked him 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. The poor man humbly assured them that he meant no harm, but merely came there in search of some of his neighbours.
“ Well, who are they? Name them.” Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, “Where's Nicholas Vender?”
There was a silence for a little while, when an old man replied, in a thin, piping voice, “ Nicholas Vender! why, he's 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."
“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 ?”
“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 matter which he could not understand, as 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 a man in a 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 everything is changed, and I am changed. I cannot tell what's my name, and 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 securing the gun, and keeping the old fellow from doing mischief. At this critical moment, a fresh, comely woman pressed through the throng to take a peep at the gray-headed man. She had a chubby child in her arms, which, frightened at his looks, began to cry. “Hush, Rip,” cried she; “hush, you little simpleton ; the old man won't hurt you.” Thé name of the child, the tone of her voice, all awakened a train of reflections 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 was seen or heard of since. His dog came home without him, but whether he shot himself, or was carried away by the Indians, nobody can tell.”
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 peeping under it into his face for a moment, exclaimed, ** Sure enough it is Rip Van Winkle-it is himself !
Welcome home again, old neighbour ; why where have you been these twenty long years?
Rip's story was soon told, the whole twenty years had been to him as one night. The neighbours stared when they heard it, and some were seen to wink at each other, and put their tongues in their cheeks. Old Peter Vanderdonk recognised Rip at once, and corroborated his story in the most satisfactory manner. He assured the company that it was a fact that the Kaatskill mountains had always been haunted by strange beings, that it was affirmed that the great Hendrick Hudson, the discoverer of the river and the country, kept a kind of vigil there every twenty years, with his crew; that his father had once seen them in their old Dutch dresses, playing at nine pins in a hollow of the mountains; and that he himself had heard, one summer afternoon, the sound of their balls, like distant peals of thunder.
Rip used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Mr. Doolittle's hotel. He was at first observed to vary on some points every time he told it, which was, doubtless, owing to his having so recently awaked. It at last settled. down to precisely the tale I have related ; and not a man, woman, or child in the neighbourhood but knew it by heart. Some always pretended to doubt the reality of it, and insisted that Rip had been out of his head, and that this was one point on which he always remained flighty. The old Dutch inhabitants, however, almost universally gave it full credit. Even to this day they never hear a thunderstorm of a summer afternoon about the Kaatskill mountains, but they say Hendrick Hudson and his crew are at their game of nine-pins; and it is a common wish of all hen-pecked husbands in the neighbourhood, when life hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a quieting draught out of Rip Van Winkle's fagon.
John Heywood, Excelsior Printing Works, Hulme Hall Road, Manchester.
EXTRA SUBJECT SERIES
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Bcing a complete Series of Text Books on the Extra Specific Subjects of Examination for
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Author of "Inorganic Chemistry," " Animal Physiology," “ Physical Geography." &c
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