Along the reaches of the Hudson River, not far from the Catskill Mountains, there is a small, Dutch town. The mountains overshadow the town, and there are times when the good Dutch burghers can see a hood of clouds hanging over the crests of the hills. In this small town lives a man named Rip Van Winkle. He is beloved by all his neighbors, by children, and by animals, but his life at home is made miserable by his shrewish wife. Though he is willing to help anyone else at any odd job that might be necessary, he is incapable of keeping his own house and farm in repair. He is descended from an old and good Dutch family, but he has none of the fine Dutch traits of thrift and energy.
Rip spends a great deal of his time at the village inn, under the sign of King George III, until his wife chases him from there. When this happens, he takes his gun and his dog, Wolf, and heads for the hills. Wolf is as happy as Rip is to get away from home. When Dame Van Winkle berates the two of them, Rip raises his eyes silently to heaven, but Wolf tucks his tail between his legs and slinks out of the house.
One fine day in autumn, Rip and Wolf walk high into the Catskills while hunting squirrels. As evening comes on, the two sit down to rest before heading for home. After they rise again and start down the mountainside, Rip hears his name called. A short, square little man with a grizzled beard is calling to Rip, asking him to help carry a keg of liquor. The little man is dressed in antique Dutch clothes. Although he accepts Rip’s help in carrying the keg, he carries on no conversation. As they ascend the mountain, Rip hears noises that sound like claps of thunder. When they reach a sort of natural amphitheater near the top, Rip sees a band of little men, dressed and bearded like his companion, playing ninepins. One stout old gentleman, who seems to be the leader, wears a laced doublet and a high-crowned hat with a feather.
The little men are no more companionable than the first one has been, and Rip feels somewhat depressed. Because they seem to enjoy the liquor from the keg, Rip tastes...
(The entire section is 859 words.)