January 21, 2012: The Simplified Story of A Simple, Good-Natured Fellow.. PDF Print E-mail

 

“[...] 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, (…) a simple good-natured fellow, of the name Rip Van Winkle. […] A simple, good-natured man. He was, moreover, a kind neighbor (…). […] That meekness of spirit which gave him such universal popularity; for those men are more 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. […] He was a great favorite among all the good wives of the village. […] 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 neighborhood. […] He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil. […] In a word, Rip was ready to attend anyone’s business (…).

[…] Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative, to escape from (…) the farm (…) was to (…) 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 [his dog] Wolf, with whom he sympathized 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!” […]

The appearance of Rip, with (…) an army of women and children at his heels, soon attracted the attention of the tavern politicians. They crowded at 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?” […] 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?” […]; 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, (…) 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 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 reassured 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.”

[…]

“Where’s Nicholas Vedder? […] Where’s Brum Dutcher? […] Where’s Van Bummel, the schoolmaster?”

[…] 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; […] “God knows,” exclaimed he (…), I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and they’ve changed my gun, and every thing’s changed, and I’m changed (…).” […] 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, 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. […]

He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Mr. Doolittle’s Hotel. […] Some always pretended to doubt the reality of it, and insisted that Rip had been out of his head (…). The old (…) inhabitants, however, almost universally gave it full credit. […] The story of Rip Van Winkle may seem incredible to many, but nevertheless, I give it my full belief (...). 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. […]”

[Excerpts from short story “Rip Van Winkle”, one of Michael Jackson's favorite books, by Washington Irving]


--

 

RIP, Van Winkle. You are sorely missed. #