The Little Robber Girl
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES
Animal Sketches And Stories
Blondine Bonne Biche and Beau Minon
BRER RABBIT and HIS NEIGHBORS
CHINESE MOTHER-GOOSE RHYMES
FABLES FOR CHILDREN
FABLES FROM INDIA
FATHER PLAYS AND MOTHER PLAYS
FIRST STORIES FOR VERY LITTLE FOLK
For Classes Ii. And Iii.
For Classes Iv. And V.
For Kindergarten And Class I.
FUN FOR VERY LITTLE FOLK
Good Little Henry
JAPANESE AND OTHER ORIENTAL TALES]
Jean De La Fontaine
King Alexander's Adventures
KINGS AND WARRIORS
LAND AND WATER FAIRIES
Lessons From Nature
LITTLE STORIES that GROW BIG
MODERN FAIRY TALES
MOTHER GOOSE CONTINUED
MOTHER GOOSE JINGLES
MOTHER GOOSE SONGS AND STORIES
Myths And Legends
NEGLECT THE FIRE
ON POPULAR EDUCATION
PLACES AND FAMILIES
Poems Of Nature
RESURRECTION DAY (EASTER)
RHYMES CONCERNING "MOTHER"
RIDING SONGS for FATHER'S KNEE
ROMANCES OF THE MIDDLE AGES
SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY
Selections From The Bible
SLEEPY-TIME SONGS AND STORIES
Some Children's Poets
Songs Of Life
STORIES BY FAVORITE AMERICAN WRITERS
STORIES FOR CHILDREN
STORIES for LITTLE BOYS
STORIES FROM BOTANY
STORIES FROM GREAT BRITAIN
STORIES FROM IRELAND
STORIES FROM PHYSICS
STORIES FROM SCANDINAVIA
STORIES FROM ZOOLOGY
STORIES _for_ LITTLE GIRLS
THE DAYS OF THE WEEK
The King Of The Golden River; Or, The Black Brothers
The Little Grey Mouse
THE OLD FAIRY TALES
The Princess Rosette
THE THREE HERMITS
THE TWO OLD MEN
UNCLES AND AUNTS AND OTHER RELATIVES
VERSES ABOUT FAIRIES
WHAT MEN LIVE BY
WHERE LOVE IS, THERE GOD IS ALSO
Rip Van Winkle
from The Strange Story Book
West of the river Hudson, and at the foot of the Catskill Mountains,
lies one of the oldest European villages in the United States of
America. It was built by some of the earliest Dutch settlers, who were
so anxious to have everything nice and tidy as it would have been at
home, that they brought a large supply of bricks and weathercocks from
Holland to make it, and you would never have guessed from the look of
the houses that you were in the New World.
In course of time the snows of winter and the heats of summer began to
leave their mark on the surface of the bricks, and the cottages that
were not well cared for showed signs of wear and tear. In one of the
shabbiest of them there dwelt while New York was still a British Colony
a descendant of one of the old fighters, called Rip van Winkle. Rip was
one of those delightful people who are never too busy to listen to your
troubles or to sympathise with your grievances, and if you were
short-handed in the hay-field or had no one to grind the corn, you might
always count on him. But if men and women loved him, children adored
him. He made the best toys, flew kites when there really seemed no
breeze to lift them from the ground, and bowled over a larger number of
ninepins than the cleverest of them all. As he passed through the fields
or the village street, the children ran out of the houses and gathered
about him, till you might have thought that the days of the Pied Piper
of Hamelin had come back. And if a child was ill or a snowstorm heavier
than usual was raging, there would be a knock at the door, and Rip's
cheerful pink face would enter, with tales of ghosts and witches and
Indians, which, like all the very nicest things, were a joy and a terror
Yet, for some reason which few persons and certainly none of the
children could understand, Rip's wife did not seem to appreciate him as
highly as his friends did. When he came home in the evening and was
burning to tell her how he had spent all day sitting on a wet rock above
a splendid pool in the river, and how very cleverly he had caught all
sorts of big fish, she would point to some logs which needed splitting
for the kitchen fire. When he began to relate how the gale of last night
had blown down Farmer Gilpin's stone wall, and that it had taken both of
them all the morning and afternoon to set it up again, she would ask him
how it was he had never perceived the gap in his own fence. And if she
inquired why the plums in the orchard had not been gathered, but had
fallen rotting to the ground, she did not seem content with his answer
that good-wife Barker had run out of thread, and could not go on with
her spinning till he fetched her a supply.
'Everyone's business but your own,' she replied bitterly, to which Rip,
though he never got cross, would murmur with a downcast face that his
farm was the worst bit of land in the country and would grow nothing but
weeds. And that of course he could not have guessed that the cow which
was feeding at the other end of the field would have spied the hole in
the hedge, and have eaten all the cabbages in the garden; and if ever he
planted any seed, the rain was sure to wash it out of the ground before
it had time to take root.
Now it must be admitted that Mrs. van Winkle had some grounds for
complaint, for though she did nothing but grumble, she worked hard to
feed the children, not thinking it necessary however to mend their
clothes. They were the oddest sights in the cast-off garments of their
father and mother, or of anyone who took pity on their ragged condition;
and the oddest of all was young Rip, whose coat tails if not held well
up or pinned across him in front, trailed on the ground behind him like
a lady's train.
Still the children were, in spite of the drawbacks, as happy as kings.
They did not want to be made clean and tidy, and they were so used to
hearing their mother scolding--scolding all the day long--that they
would have quite missed the sound of her tongue if it had ever stopped.
But there was no danger of that.
Except Rip, the only person who minded Mrs. van Winkle's ill-temper was
Rip's inseparable companion, his dog Wolf. As soon as he entered the
house, his tail instead of being carried proudly in the air, fell
between his legs; and far from jumping about and putting his muddy paws
on your knees as a happy dog always does, he would sneak into the
darkest corner, and try to escape notice.
* * * * *
As the years went by, things grew worse and not better. Rip spent less
and less time at home and was generally to be found sitting on a bench
in front of the inn telling some of his old stories or discussing with
other idle men the actions of the Government of which none of them knew
anything, and which generally were over and done with weeks before.
These gatherings were presided over by Nicholas Vedder the landlord, who
said little but smoked his pipe and looked wise.
For a while Rip was left in peace and enjoyed himself; then one day his
wife broke in upon the peaceable company and scolded them for their
idleness till they all fled in different directions. After that Rip went
there no more, but whistled to Wolf, and, taking down his gun, went up
into the mountains.
* * * * *
On a fine autumn morning, the two friends went off as usual, and climbed
to one of the highest peaks of the Catskills. At length, quite
exhausted, Rip threw himself down on a green knoll almost on top of a
cliff, and watched the sun sinking slowly in the West. The Hudson river,
bounded with woods, could be seen on one side of him; a deep stony glen
was on the other; and all about him the stillness seemed in itself to
bring rest and peace. But the lengthening shadows gave him warning that
he must retrace his steps at once, unless he wished to be barred out of
his house, and heavily he rose to his feet and whistled to Wolf, when he
heard a voice crying 'Rip van Winkle!'
He looked round with a start, but as he saw nothing but a crow flying
home to bed, he thought his ears must have deceived him. He turned again
to the path, when a second time the cry sounded, 'Rip van Winkle! Rip
van Winkle!' and at the same instant Wolf gave a howl, and his hair
stood up as if something terrible was in the neighbourhood. Rip followed
the direction of the dog's eyes, which were fixed with an expression of
fear on the glen; and Rip, with a sinking of heart that he could not
explain, beheld a shadowy figure toiling towards them through the rocks,
weighed down by something heavy which it carried on its back.
'Poor old fellow! he can hardly get along. I had better go and help
him,' thought Rip, and set off down the path; but when he came near to
the stranger he stopped in surprise, for never had he beheld anyone so
The man was old and short and square, with a shock of thick bushy hair,
and a long greyish beard. He was dressed after the Dutch fashion of a
hundred years back, in a jacket belted round the waist, and several
pairs of breeches, each a little longer than the other. On his shoulder
was a keg of liquor, nearly as big as himself.
'Let me take that for a bit,' said Rip, and though the dwarf did not
understand his words, there was no mistaking the meaning of Rip's
outstretched hands. So, carrying the keg by turns they clambered upwards
apparently along the bed of a mountain stream, while thunder rolled
about them. Now of course, thunder in mountains is common enough, but
what was uncommon about this thunder was, that instead of coming from
above them, it seemed to issue from a narrow cleft of the rock in
front of them, where the path ended.
When they reached the ravine, the dwarf led the way through the cleft
and signed to his companion to follow, for they could not walk abreast.
Once through the cleft, Rip found himself in a round, hollow place
enclosed by precipices overhung by trees, so that it would be completely
concealed from anyone walking on the mountain. The branches and the
leaves were so thick that even the bright rays of the setting sun could
hardly pierce through them.
At the entrance to the hollow Rip paused again, for before him was a
group of little men playing ninepins. Like his guide they wore jerkins
and breeches, and knives were stuck in their belts. They were all very
ugly, with long beards and large noses, and one who appeared the leader
had a high-crowned hat with a feather and high-heeled shoes with roses
on them--very unfit, thought Rip, for climbing about those rough paths.
* * * * *
As Rip and his companion came out from the cleft, the little men
suddenly stopped their game, which they had played in dead silence and
without seeming in the least to enjoy it. They turned and looked at the
stranger, and Rip felt his blood run cold and his knees knock together.
Why he could not have told, except that their faces had a queer, fixed
expression such as he had never seen on the face of any living being.
But no time was allowed him to indulge in these thoughts, for his
companion signed to him to fill some big flagons which stood on one
side, from the keg they had carried.
When the players had emptied the flagons, they went back to their game,
seeming as melancholy as before.
After a while Rip began to grow a little less frightened, and he even
ventured, when no one was observing him, to take a good draught out of
the keg himself. As soon as he had done so, his eyes and head became
very heavy, and he fell down where he stood, sunk in a deep sleep.
* * * * *
It was bright and sunny when Rip woke, lying curled up comfortably on
the green knoll from which he had first beheld the old man climbing up
the path. The birds were twittering in the bushes and hopping round him,
and high up over the tops of the mountains an eagle was soaring.
'Have I really slept here all night?' he said to himself. 'Oh, dear, how
angry my wife will be!' Then he sat up, and there rushed into his mind
the cleft in the rocks and the little men playing ninepins. 'It was the
flagon which was my undoing,' said he.
Scrambling to his feet, he looked about for his gun, but in place of the
well-kept weapon, with its shining barrel (the only thing on which Rip
ever bestowed any care), he saw an old, rusty firelock, with the wooden
stock eaten by worms and falling away.
'Why they have been playing tricks on me and changed my gun!' he
exclaimed, 'though they did look so solemn; but what has become of
Wolf? Gone after a squirrel, I suppose,' and he whistled loudly to call
But whistle as Rip might, for the first time he heard no bark in answer.
'Oh, well! he will come home when he is tired. I'll go back to that
curious place, and tell them I must have my own gun.' But as Rip moved
to climb the path he felt his legs stiff, and was obliged to go slowly.
'These mountain roads don't agree with me,' he thought. 'I mustn't be
caught in this way a second time,' and with great difficulty he made his
way to the gully. But since he saw it last, the face of the glen had
altered completely. Instead of the dried-up watercourse through which he
and the dwarf had painfully clambered, a torrent was now dashing itself
from rock to rock, so that Rip was obliged to take a round-about path
through the mass of shrubs and creepers that clothed the sides of the
ravine. Pushing and fighting, he at length reached the spot where the
cleft led to the hollow in the rocks. But what a change from the evening
before! The opening had entirely vanished, and a high waterfall leapt
from above into a round basin. 'Surely this was the place? Yes! I am
certain of it!' cried the bewildered Rip, and again he tried to call to
Wolf, but his voice died away in his throat.
'Well, I can't starve among the mountains, whatever happens,' he said,
with a show of briskness which would not have deceived anybody, if
anybody but himself had been there to see; and taking up the old rusty
gun, he began to go down the mountain.
As he drew near the village he met several people and was surprised to
find they were all strangers to him. 'Where can they all have come from,
and who can they be?' he said. 'I didn't think there could be three
people for miles round unknown to me. What queer dresses they have on,
too! Can they be a crew of foreigners shipwrecked in the Sound, who
have strayed up here? If they are, they have been pretty quick about
it. And really,' he thought as he glanced back over his shoulder and
noticed them staring at him, 'they seem to find me as odd as I find
them! And why do they all stroke their chins as they look at me? Is
anything the matter with my chin?' and as he put his hand up to feel
it, he discovered that he had grown a beard a foot long.
* * * * *
By this time he had entered the village street and a group of children
gathered at his heels. At that his eyes brightened and his face lost
something of its half-puzzled, half-frightened expression. Here, at
least, was something to which he was accustomed, but instead of the
smiles and shouts of joy which formerly greeted him, these children
hooted rudely, and pointed to his beard.
Then indeed Rip's heart began to fail within him. What was the matter
that in one night everything had changed so, and nothing seemed as it
was only yesterday? And now he came to think of it, after a single night
the village appeared much bigger, and the fields that were green when he
went up the mountain, were full of houses to-day. Even the very dogs did
not know him, and perhaps that was worst of all.
'I am bewitched,' thought Rip. 'It can't all be that flagon.'
* * * * *
He turned to go to his own house, but the very road to it was altered,
and he lost his way more than once. At last he struck into a path which
he recognised, and he stopped for a moment expecting to hear his wife's
voice scolding somebody. But all was still, and as he drew nearer he saw
that the roof had fallen in, and the glass of the windows was broken. A
half-starved dog was prowling round, and with a throb of joy Rip
whistled and called to him, 'Wolf, Wolf! Come here, good dog!' but the
dog snarled and showed his teeth before trotting away.
Was it Wolf, or not? Rip never knew.
Inside, the house was as desolate as without, and very unlike to what
Rip had been accustomed to see it. Though he felt it was useless, he
shouted the names of his wife and children; then a thrill of fear passed
over him, and not daring to look behind him, he hurried back to the
'I must go and have a drink,' he said. 'Of course, I had no breakfast
and that has made my head get queer. A little food will set me to
So he hastened on to the village inn, and, being busy with his thoughts,
walked with his eyes on the ground till his feet unconsciously halted at
the old place. Then he glanced up, but only to receive another shock.
The ancient structure with its latticed panes and gabled roof was gone,
and instead he beheld a long sort of wooden shed, untidy and dirty, the
windows more holes than glass, and stuffed with old hats or even
petticoats to keep out the air. Over the door was painted a sign bearing
the words 'Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.' In the room of the great
tree in front, where he and his friends had smoked so many pipes, was a
pole crowned with a sort of red nightcap from which a flag fluttered. An
odd kind of flag it was too, for when the wind blew it out, you saw, not
the familiar criss-cross lines of the Union Jack, but stars and stripes
which had never appeared on any English banner as far as Rip knew! And
when his eyes fell upon the sign where a very pink-faced King George in
a red coat was wont to gaze at his loyal subjects, he too had vanished
and given place to a gentleman in blue and buff, holding a sword instead
of a sceptre, while underneath was painted in large letters
From the inn Rip turned to the crowd that stood about it, and even here
the strange alteration that pervaded everything and everybody was
visible. There was none of the former air of calm and leisure
characteristic of the friends who had sat with him round the tree
yesterday--or was it a hundred years ago? This crowd was noisy and
bustling and inclined to quarrel: full of plans and inventions to judge
by the talk, and eager to discuss and find fault with the contents of a
handbill, which one of their number was handing about. Rip did not
understand much of what they were saying, but he caught such phrases as
'Members of Congress,' 'Bunker's Hill,' 'liberty,' and other expressions
as meaningless to him as if they were uttered in a foreign tongue.
* * * * *
It was some time before he noticed that to the villagers on their side
he himself was an object of great interest and curiosity. They pressed
round him and made remarks to each other about his strange dress and the
rust on his gun, while the little man with the handbills pushed his way
up to him and inquired 'how he had voted?' which Rip, who had not the
least idea what he meant, answered merely with a stare. Another who
desired to know 'whether he was Federal or Democrat' fared no better;
but a third questioner, who asked why he had come to the election with a
gun on his shoulder and a mob at his heels, and if he intended to head a
riot, at last gave Rip back his power of speech.
'Alas! gentlemen,' he cried; 'I am a poor, quiet man, a native of this
village and a loyal subject of King George.'
The tumult that broke forth at this reply nearly deafened him. 'A spy! a
spy!' shouted the people, 'away with him! to the gallows with him!' and
it might have gone hardly with Rip had not a man in a cocked hat
interfered and called them to order. The man next demanded of Rip what
he wanted and why he was there, to which Rip humbly made answer that he
had come in search of some of his neighbours who had been used to meet
him at the tavern.
'Well, give us their names?' said the man in the cocked hat.
'Nicholas Vedder, the innkeeper,' answered Rip.
There was a moment's silence; then an old man, in a thin piping voice,
'Nicholas Vedder? Why, he's dead and gone these eighteen years; and even
his wooden tombstone in the churchyard has got rotten.'
'And Brom Dutcher?'
'Oh, he enlisted as a soldier in the beginning of the war. Some say he
was killed at the storming of Stony Point; others, that he was drowned
in a squall off Antony's Nose. Anyway, he never came back here.'
'And van Bummel, the schoolmaster?'
'He went off to the wars too, and became a general, and is now a member
Rip asked no further questions: his home and his friends were gone, and
he seemed to be alone in the world. At length a cry of despair broke
'Does nobody know Rip van Winkle?'
'Rip van Winkle?' answered two or three. 'Oh, to be sure! There's Rip
van Winkle leaning against that tree.'
Rip looked where they pointed, and grew more bewildered and despairing
than ever. For what he saw was himself; himself as he had been yesterday
when he went up the mountain; himself in the rags that he had worn with
such a light heart.
'And what is your name?' asked the man in the cocked hat, watching his
'God knows,' cried Rip; 'I don't know who I am. I'm not myself. I'm
somebody else--that's me yonder--at least I can't tell; he seems to have
got into my shoes. I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the
mountain and they changed my gun, and now everything is changed and I'm
changed, and I don't know what is my name or who I am.'
When he had ceased, the bystanders looked at each other and tapping
their foreheads, whispered something about taking away the gun so that
he might not do himself a mischief. They were still talking when a
pleasant-faced woman pushed through the crowd to get a peep of the
stranger with the long beard. His looks frightened the child she was
carrying, and it began to cry. 'Hush, Rip! hush!' she said; 'the old man
won't hurt you.'
As he heard her words Rip started and turned towards her eagerly.
'What is your name?' he asked.
'And who was your father?'
'Ah, poor man, he was Rip van Winkle; but he went away from home more
than twenty years agone. He took his dog and his gun with him, and the
dog was found lying in front of the door early next morning. But as for
father, whether he shot himself by accident or was carried away by the
Indians, we never knew. I was only a little girl then.'
'And your mother?'
'Oh, she died only a short time since. She flew into such a passion with
a pedlar who she thought had cheated her, that she broke a blood
But though Rip had inquired after his wife, all affection for her had
long died away, and he did not take this news much to heart. He flung
his arms round his daughter and cried.
'I am your father. Don't you know me? Young Rip van Winkle once, now old
Rip van Winkle. Does nobody know poor Rip van Winkle?'
The crowd heard, amazed, and in silence. Then suddenly an old woman went
up to him, and peered closely into his face.
'Why, 'tis Rip van Winkle, for sure!' said she. 'Welcome home,
neighbour! Where have you been these twenty long years?'
Rip's story was soon told, but the people who listened to it had as much
difficulty in believing that you could sleep for twenty years and think
it was one night, as Rip himself. 'Mad!' was the only interpretation
they put upon the tale, though they did not say so openly.
In the midst of the general perplexity an old man was seen coming along
the road, and someone called out:
'Here is Peter Vanderdonk! Let us ask him if he ever knew of such
'Ay, let us! He is the oldest dweller in the village, and we will abide
by his words,' the rest answered in chorus, and they watched intently
till Peter came up.
'Why! 'tis Rip van Winkle back again!' he exclaimed, just as the old
woman had done. 'Right glad I am to see him, too.'
Who can tell the joy of poor Rip at this hearty greeting? So he was no
ghost after all, as he had almost begun to think, but a flesh and blood
man, with friends like other people. He could hardly speak for
happiness, but he grasped Peter's hand tightly, and then the man with
the cocked hat asked Peter if he had ever heard any strange stories of
the Catskill Mountains.
'Ay, that have I, many a time,' replied Peter. 'My grandfather--he was
mighty taken up with all such things--told me that the great Hendrik
Hudson who first came over from Europe and gave his name to the river,
held a feast up there once in every twenty years, with the crew of his
ship the "Half Moon"; and my old father had actually beheld them playing
at ninepins in the hollow of the mountains. And though I never saw
anything myself,' finished Peter, 'I heard the sound of their balls one
summer afternoon, and anybody who did not know, would have thought it
* * * * *
After this the crowd broke up and went about its own concerns, and Rip
returned with his daughter to her own house. Her husband was one of the
children he had played with long ago, and he was now a thriving farmer.
Rip's son, whom he had seen leaning against the tree, was supposed to be
employed on the farm, but he was no more fond of attending to his own
work than his father before him.
Little by little Rip slipped back into his former life, and gathered
about him those of his old friends that were still left. But now, as in
the days of long ago, it was the children whom he loved best, and when
they grew tired of romping together, he would sit down on some green
knoll while they climbed about him, and tell them the tale, of which
they never grew weary, of his night on the Catskills.
* * * * *
None of you who read this story are old enough to remember the wonderful
American actor Jefferson, who played Rip van Winkle till he grew at last
to feel he was more Rip van Winkle than Jefferson. But those who did
see him act it will never forget it, nor his burst of despair when he
came home, to be repudiated and denied by everyone.
Next: The Wonderful Basket
Previous: The Good Sir James