On waking, he found himself on the green knoll whence he had first seen the young 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, the inscrutable monologue from that distinguished gentleman, the flagon—”Oh! That flagon! That wicked flagon!” thought Rip. “What excuse shall I make to Dame Van Whitey!”
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 Whitey.”
With some difficulty he got down into the glen. The morning was passing away, and Rip felt famished for want of his breakfast. He dreaded to meet his wife, but it would not do to starve among the mountains. He shook his head 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 everyone in the country round. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed: wife-beaters atop oversize pants slung down around knees, exposing underwear; gold orthodontia protruding from scowling mouths; tattoos covering all visible flesh. They all stared at him with equal marks of hostility and scorn, and whenever they cast their eyes upon him, invariably grumbled some insult or threat. The constant recurrence of this behavior induced Rip, involuntarily, to stroke his chin, 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, nappy-headed children ran at his heels, throwing rocks at him and swearing profusely. The dogs, too, not one of which he recognized, but all appearing to be some sort of pit bull mix, barked at him as he passed. The very village was altered: it was a filthy slum. There were rows of ramshackle lean-tos which he had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared. Ruins of old structures lay strewn around, as if ransacked. All sorts of refuse—both of the man-made and human-body-made kinds—littered the streets, which were now just patches of asphalt amongst the dirt and gravel. There was an awful stench in the air, a putrid mix of sewage and gas and cooking chicken. Filthy children ran around and played in the filth; filthy adults hooted and hollered on their stoops, smoking their marijuana and drinking their malt liquor, occasionally screaming or kicking at the children. Chickens pecked around willy-nilly for aliment.
Strange music blared from all directions in a cacophonic horror; strange faces peered at him from the holes in the lean-tos; 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 Catskill 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!”
To be continued…