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Title: Rip Van Winkle
Author: Irving, Washington
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: “He used to console himself by frequenting a kind of
perpetual club of the sages, philosophers and other idle personages,
which held its sessions before a small inn.”]






    _Complete Edition, with 51 Illustrations in Colour. First
    published (15s. net) September 1905._

    _New Impressions January 1907; August 1908; May 1909; November

    _Cheaper Issue, with 24 Illustrations in Colour and many new
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                                                        To face page

  “He used to console himself by frequenting a kind of
  perpetual club of the sages, philosophers and other idle
  personages, which held its sessions before a small inn”

  “Certain biscuit-bakers have gone so far as to imprint his
  likeness on their New-Year Cakes”                                x

  “These mountains are regarded by all good wives, far and
  near, as perfect barometers”                                     x

  “Some of the houses of the original settlers”                    2

  “A curtain-lecture is worth all the sermons in the world
  for teaching the virtues of patience and long-suffering”         2

  “Taught them to fly kites”                                       2

  “His cow would go astray or get among the cabbages”              4

  “His children were as ragged and wild as if they belonged
  to nobody”                                                       4

  “Equipped in a pair of his father’s cast-off galligaskins,
  which he had as much ado to hold up as a fine lady does her
  train in bad weather”                                            4

  “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.”                                 6

  “A company of odd-looking persons playing at ninepins”          10

  “They maintained the gravest faces”                             12

  “They stared at him with such fixed, statue-like gaze, that
  his heart turned within him and his knees smote together”       12

  “He even ventured to taste the beverage, which he found had
  much of the flavour of excellent Hollands”                      12

  “Surely,” thought he, “I have not slept here all night....
  Oh! that flagon! that wicked flagon! what excuse shall I
  make to Dame Van Winkle?”                                       12

  “They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise and
  invariably stroked their chins”                                 14

  “A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting
  after him and pointing at his grey beard”                       14

  “The dogs, too, not one of whom he recognised for an old
  acquaintance, barked at him as he passed”                       14

  “He found the house gone to decay.... ‘My very dog,’ sighed
  poor Rip, ‘has forgotten me’”                                   16

  “They crowded round him, eyeing him from head to foot with
  great curiosity”                                                16

  Rip’s daughter and grandchild                                   20

  “He preferred making friends among the rising generation,
  with whom he soon grew into great favour”                       24

  “The Kaatsberg or Catskill mountains have always been a
  region full of fable”                                           26

  They were ruled by an old squaw spirit                          28



    These fairy mountains                                          2

    Long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians                   5

    Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village          21

    The Kaatskill mountains had always been haunted by
        strange beings                                            25

    Very subject to marvellous events and appearances             30

    When these clouds broke, woe betide the valleys               33

    With a loud ho! ho!                                           35



    By Woden, God of Saxons,
    From whence comes Wensday, that is Wodensday.
    Truth is a thing that ever I will keep
    Unto thylke day in which I creep into
    My sepulchre----



The following tale was found among the papers of the late Diedrich
Knickerbocker, an old gentleman of New York, who was very curious in
the Dutch history of the province, and the manners of the descendants
from its primitive settlers. His historical researches, however, did
not lie so much among books as among men; for the former are lamentably
scanty on his favourite topics; whereas he found the old burghers, and
still more their wives, rich in that legendary lore so invaluable to
true history. Whenever, therefore, he happened upon a genuine Dutch
family, snugly shut up in its low-roofed farmhouse, under a spreading
sycamore, he looked upon it as a little clasped volume of black-letter,
and studied it with the zeal of a book-worm.

The result of all these researches was a history of the province
during the reign of the Dutch governors, which he published some years
since. There have been various opinions as to the literary character
of his work, and, to tell the truth, it is not a whit better than it
should be. Its chief merit is its scrupulous accuracy, which indeed
was a little questioned on its first appearance, but has since been
completely established; and it is now admitted into all historical
collections as a book of unquestionable authority.

The old gentleman died shortly after the publication of his work; and
now that he is dead and gone, it cannot do much harm to his memory to
say that his time might have been much better employed in weightier
labours. He, however, was apt to ride his hobby in his own way; and
though it did now and then kick up the dust a little in the eyes of
his neighbours, and grieve the spirit of some friends, for whom he
felt the truest deference and affection, yet his errors and follies
are remembered “more in sorrow than anger,” and it begins to be
suspected that he never intended to injure or offend. But however his
memory may be appreciated by critics, it is still held dear by many
folks whose good opinion is well worth having; particularly by certain
biscuit-bakers, who have gone so far as to imprint his likeness on
their new-year cakes; and have thus given him a chance for immortality,
almost equal to the being stamped on a Waterloo medal, or a Queen
Anne’s farthing.


[Illustration: “Certain biscuit-bakers have gone so far as to imprint
his likeness on their New-Year Cakes.”]

[Illustration: “These mountains are regarded by all good wives, far and
near, as perfect barometers.”]

[Illustration: _These fairy mountains._]

[Illustration: “Some of the houses of the original settlers.”]

[Illustration: “A curtain-lecture is worth all the sermons in the world
for teaching the virtues of patience and long-suffering.”]

[Illustration: “Taught them to fly kites.”]


Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill
mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian
family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a
noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change
of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day,
produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains,
and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect
barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in
blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening
sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they
will gather a hood of grey vapours about their summits, which, in the
last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of

At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried
the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle-roofs gleam
among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away
into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village,
of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists
in the early times of the province, just about the beginning of the
government of the good Peter Stuyvesant (may he rest in peace!), and
there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within
a few years, built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland, having
latticed windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weathercocks.

In that same village and in one of these very houses (which, to tell
the precise truth, was sadly time-worn and weather-beaten), there
lived, many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great
Britain, a simple, good-natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle.
He was a descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in
the chivalrous days of Peter Stuyvesant, and accompanied him to the
siege of Fort Christina. He inherited, however, but little of the
martial character of his ancestors. I have observed that he was a
simple, good-natured man; he was, moreover, a kind neighbour, and
an obedient, hen-pecked husband. Indeed, to the latter circumstance
might be owing that meekness of spirit which gained him such universal
popularity; for those men are apt to be obsequious and conciliating
abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home. Their tempers,
doubtless, are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace of
domestic tribulation; and a curtain-lecture is worth all the sermons
in the world for teaching the virtues of patience and long-suffering.
A termagant 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 favourite among all the good wives of
the village, who, as usual with the amiable sex, took 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 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 throughout the neighbourhood.

[Illustration: “His cow would go astray or get among the cabbages.”]

[Illustration: “His children were as ragged and wild as if they
belonged to nobody.”]

[Illustration: “Equipped in a pair of his father’s cast-off
galligaskins, which he had as much ado to hold up as a fine lady does
her train in bad weather.”]

[Illustration: _Long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians._]

The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to
all kinds of profitable labour. It could not be for 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 fish all day without a murmur, even
though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry
a fowling-piece 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 neighbour even
in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man in 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 to attend to anybody’s business but his own;
but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it

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 country; everything
about it went 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 some
outdoor 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 neighbourhood.

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 his father’s cast-off galligaskins, 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 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 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 shoulders, shook his head,
cast up his eyes, but said nothing. This, 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 hen-pecked husband.

[Illustration: “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 much
hen-pecked 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 honourable dog, he was as courageous an
animal as ever scoured the woods--but what courage can withstand the
evil-doing and all-besetting terrors of a woman’s tongue? The moment
Wolf entered the house his chest 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
flourish of a broomstick or ladle he would fly to the door with yelping

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 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
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 discussions that sometimes took
place, when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands from some
passing traveller. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as
drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, 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 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 shade of a large tree; so
that the neighbours 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. 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 letting the fragrant
vapour 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 all to naught; nor was that august
personage, Nicholas Vedder himself, sacred from the daring tongue of
this terrible virago, who charged him outright with encouraging her
husband in habits of idleness.

Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only
alternative, to escape from the labour of the farm and clamour 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 sympathised as
a fellow-sufferer in persecution. “Poor 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.

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 favourite 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, 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 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 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 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 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 fearfully down into the glen. Rip now felt a vague apprehension
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 and unfrequented place; but
supposing it to be some one of the neighbourhood in need of his
assistance, he hastened down to yield it.

[Illustration: “A company of odd-looking persons playing at


On nearer approach he was still more surprised at the singularity of
the stranger’s appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow,
with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. 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 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 his new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual
alacrity; and mutually relieving one another, they clambered up a
narrow gully, apparently the dry bed of a mountain 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 ragged path conducted.
He paused for an instant, but supposing it to be the muttering of
one of those transient 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 and the
bright evening cloud. During the whole time Rip and his companion had
laboured on in silence; for though the former marvelled 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 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 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 by a white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a little red cock’s
tail. They all had beards, of various shapes and colours. 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, 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 parlour of Dominie Van Shaick, the
village parson, and which had been brought over from Holland at the
time of the settlement.

What seemed particularly odd to Rip was, that 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 the balls, which, whenever they
were rolled, echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder.

[Illustration: “They maintained the gravest faces.”]

[Illustration: “They stared at him with such fixed, statue-like gaze,
that his heart turned within him and his knees smote together.”]

[Illustration: “He even ventured to taste the beverage, which he found
had much of the flavour of excellent Hollands.”]

[Illustration: “Surely,” thought he, “I have not slept here all
night.... Oh! that flagon! that wicked flagon! what excuse shall I make
to Dame Van Winkle?”]



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 countenances, 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.

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 flavour of excellent Hollands. He was naturally a thirsty
soul, and was soon tempted to repeat the draught. One taste provoked
another; and he 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--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 occurrences before he fell asleep. The strange man with a keg of
liquor--the mountain ravine--the wild retreat among the rocks--the
woebegone 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, well-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 roysterers of the mountains had put a
trick upon him, and, having dosed him with liquor, had robbed him of
his gun. Wolf, too, had disappeared, 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.

[Illustration: “They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise and
invariably stroked their chins.”]

[Illustration: “A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting
after him and pointing at his grey beard.”]

[Illustration: “The dogs, too, not one of whom he recognised for an
old acquaintance, barked at him as he passed.”]

He determined to revisit the scene of the last evening’s gambol, 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 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. He, however, made shift to scramble
up its sides, working his toilsome way through thickets of birch,
sassafras, and witch-hazel, and sometimes tripped up or entangled by
the wild grape-vines that twisted their coils or tendrils from tree to
tree, and spread a kind of network in his path.

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 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 the air about a dry tree that overhung a sunny precipice; and who,
secure in their elevation, seemed to look down and 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
firelock, 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 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 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
grey 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!”

[Illustration: “He found the house gone to decay.... ‘My very dog,’
sighed poor Rip, ‘has forgotten me.’”]

[Illustration: “They crowded round him, eyeing him from head to foot
with great curiosity.”]

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 the house gone to decay--the
roof had 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 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 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 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 rickety wooden building stood in
its place, with great gaping windows, some 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 nightcap, and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a
singular assemblage of stars and stripes;--all this was strange and
incomprehensible. He recognised 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 metamorphosed. The red coat was changed
for one of blue and buff, a 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 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 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 pockets full of handbills, was haranguing vehemently about
rights of citizens--elections--members of 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, eyeing 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 the 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, 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?” “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!”

[Illustration: Rip’s daughter and grandchild.]

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 neighbours, who used to keep about the

“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.”

“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

“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 wit’s 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 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 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 some precipitation. At this critical
moment a fresh, comely woman pressed through the throng to get a peep
at the grey-bearded 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 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

[Illustration: _Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village
(p. 24)._]

“Judith Gardenier.”

“And your father’s name?”

“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; but he put it with a faltering

“Where’s your mother?”

“Oh, she too had died but a short time since; she broke a blood vessel
in a fit of passion at a New-England pedler.”

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 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 neighbour. Why, where have you been these
twenty long years?”

Rip’s story was soon told, for the whole twenty years had seemed to
him as but one night. The neighbours 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, 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
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 wonderful events and traditions of
the neighbourhood. He recollected 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 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 returned to the
more important concerns of the election. Rip’s daughter took him home
to live with her; she had a snug, well-furnished 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 himself, 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 wear and tear of
time; and preferred making friends among the rising generation, with
whom he soon grew into great favour.

[Illustration: “He preferred making friends among the rising
generation, with whom he soon grew into great favour.”]

[Illustration: _The Kaatskill mountains had always been haunted by
strange beings._]

[Illustration: “The Kaatsberg or Catskill mountains have always been a
region full of fable.”]

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 reverenced 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
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 which he had long groaned,
and that was--petticoat government. Happily that was at an end; he had
got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony, and could go in and out
whenever he pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle.
Whenever her name was mentioned, however, he shook his head, shrugged
his shoulders, and cast up his eyes; which might pass either for an
expression of resignation to his fate, or joy at his deliverance.

He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Mr.
Doolittle’s hotel. He was observed, at first, 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 precisely to 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 thunder-storm of a summer afternoon about the Kaatskill,
but they say Hendrick Hudson and his crew are at their game of
ninepins; 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 flagon.


[Illustration: They were ruled by an old squaw spirit.]

[Illustration: _Very subject to marvellous events and appearances._]


The foregoing tale, one would suspect, had been suggested to Mr.
Knickerbocker by a little German superstition about the Emperor
Frederick _der Rothbart_, and the Kypphäuser mountain; the subjoined
note, however, which he had appended to the tale, shows that it is an
absolute fact, narrated with his usual fidelity.

“The story of Rip Van Winkle may seem incredible to many, but
nevertheless I give it my full belief, for I know the vicinity of
our old Dutch settlements to have been very subject to marvellous
events and appearances. Indeed, I have heard many stranger stories
than this, in the villages along the Hudson, all of which were too
well authenticated to admit of a doubt. I have even talked with Rip
Van Winkle myself, who, when last I saw him, was a very venerable old
man, and so perfectly rational and consistent on every other point,
that I think no conscientious person could refuse to take this into
the bargain; nay, I have seen a certificate on the subject taken
before a country justice and signed with a cross, in the justice’s own
handwriting. The story, therefore, is beyond the possibility of doubt.

                                                             “D. K.”


The following are travelling notes from a memorandum-book of Mr.

The Kaatsberg or Catskill mountains have always been a region full of
fable. The Indians considered them the abode of spirits, who influenced
the weather, spreading sunshine or clouds over the landscape, and
sending good or bad hunting seasons. They were ruled by an old squaw
spirit, said to be their mother. She dwelt on the highest peak of the
Catskills, and had charge of the doors of day and night to open and
shut them at the proper hour. She hung up the new moons in the skies,
and cut up the old ones into stars. In times of drought, if properly
propitiated, she would spin light summer clouds out of cobwebs and
morning dew, and send them off from the crest of the mountain, flake
after flake, like flakes of carded cotton, to float in the air, until,
dissolved by the heat of the sun, they would fall in gentle showers,
causing the grass to spring, the fruits to ripen, and the corn to grow
an inch an hour. If displeased, however, she would brew up clouds black
as ink, sitting in the midst of them like a bottle-bellied spider in
the midst of its web; and when these clouds broke, woe betide the

[Illustration: _When these clouds broke, woe betide the valleys!_]

In old times, say the Indian traditions, there was a kind of Manitou or
Spirit, who kept about the wildest recesses of the Catskill mountains,
and took a mischievous pleasure in wreaking all kinds of evils and
vexations upon the red men. Sometimes he would assume the form of a
bear, a panther, or a deer, lead the bewildered hunter a weary chase
through tangled forests and among ragged rocks, and then spring off
with a loud ho! ho! leaving him aghast on the brink of a beetling
precipice or raging torrent.


The favourite abode of this Manitou is still shown. It is a great
rock or cliff on the loneliest part of the mountains, and, from the
flowering vines which clamber about it, and the wild flowers which
abound in its neighbourhood, is known by the name of the Garden Rock.
Near the foot of it is a small lake, the haunt of the solitary bittern,
with water-snakes basking in the sun on the leaves of the pond-lilies
which lie on the surface. This place was held in great awe by the
Indians, insomuch that the boldest hunter would not pursue his game
within its precincts. Once upon a time, however, a hunter who had
lost his way penetrated to the Garden Rock, where he beheld a number
of gourds placed in the crotches of trees. One of these he seized and
made off with it, but in the hurry of his retreat he let it fall among
the rocks, when a great stream gushed forth, which washed him away
and swept him down precipices, where he was dashed to pieces, and the
stream made its way to the Hudson, and continues to flow to the present
day, being the identical stream known by the name of the Kaaters-kill.



Transcriber’s Note:

Attempts have been made to retain hyphenation, punctuation and spelling
as published in the original publication.

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