Dutch people arrived in North America from the Netherlands early in the seventeenth century. They came to live in a new land—they were settlers. Many of them made their homes in the area around the Hudson River, in the east of the land. But at the time when The Legend of Rip Van Winkle begins, nearly two hundred years later, this part of North America was aBritish colony. The land was owned by Britain. The colony was ruled by King George the Third, who was the British king from 1760 to 1820. Some people in North America were happy about this. They liked the British king—they were loyal to King George. But many others did not want their land to be ruled by Britain. They wanted to live in an independent country. They wanted their own government and theywanted their own laws. There was a war between these people and the British army. The Americans won the war, and the British left the colony. At the end of Rip Van Winkle's story, he is living in an independent country—the United States of America. The country has a president, not a king. The first president of the United States was George Washington.
THE LEGEND OF RIP VAN WINKLE
Lifein the Village
The Catskill Mountains are west of the great Hudson River, in North America. The mountains are very beautiful, but they are also very strange. The colors of the mountains are always changing. When the weather is good, they are deep blue. But often, the tops of the mountains are covered with gray clouds.
Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans lived there. These peoplesaid, "The mountains are haunted—spirits live on them. The spirits can change the weather. They can send sunshine and they can send clouds."
There are many strange stories about the Catskill Mountains. This is one of those stories. It tells about a farmer named Rip Van Winkle. Rip lived in a small village at the bottom of the mountains. The village had been built by the Dutch settlers,long before Rip was born.
Rip Van Winkle lived in the village with his wife and two children—a boy who was also named Rip, and a girl named Judith. The farmer was popular with the men and women of the village—they all liked him. He was always kind and helpful to them.
"Rip is a fine man," the villagers often said to each other. "He helps everybody."
Rip was also popularwith the children of the village. He made toys for them and sometimes he told them exciting stories about ghosts and spirits. The children often followed him around the village. Animals liked Rip too. Dogs never barked at him.
But the village women felt very sorry for Rip. The reason for this was his wife. She was quite different from Rip.
"Rip's wife is a terrible woman," thevillagers said. "Why does he stay with her? She shouts at him from morning till night. She never lets that man have any peace."
This was true—Rip's wife was always angry with him. She was angry because Rip was lazy.
Rip owned a small farm but he never did any work on it. He liked an easy life. He was not interested in money. He never made any money from his farm. He never earnedany money for his family.
"There's something wrong with the ground on my farm," he often told people. "Nothing grows there. The fences are always falling down. The animals are always running away. I can't work on that farm. Nothing ever goes well there."
So Rip did not work on his farm. He went fishing or he went hunting. Sometimes he even helped his friends on their farms. Allthese things made his wife very upset.
"Our farm is the worst in the country," she shouted at Rip one day. "Why? Because of you. You're lazy! It's all your fault! When are you going to mend the fences? Last week our cow escaped from its field again and it ate all our vegetables."
"Well, I started to mend the fences yesterday," said Rip. "But it began to rain, so I had to stop."...