The Land Of Rip Van Winkle
From "The Land Of Rip Van Winkle" (1884)
By A.E.P. Searling
It was in September, not very long ago, that seven wise people resolved to leave the parching, blistering heat that was desolating New York - that hottest of cities - and to sail away to seek a land of cool breezes and sweet odors. Moreover, it must be some region with an atmosphere of romance to suit the Literary Fellow; it must furnish specimens for the Botanical Member of the expedition, and sketching ground for the Artist.
The Catskills, of course!
There were Mr. and Mrs. Schuyler, of Washington Square she a pretty, well-bred woman of no particular age; he - well, he is Mrs. Schuyler's elderly husband. Then there was that pretty Miss Perkins, whose lance was always poised awaiting the uncovering of some luckless wight's weak or wicked spot, when ping! it flew straight to the vital point, and the victim was generally content to retreat and nurse his wound. As for the third lady of the party, it was enough for her that she was known as "that elegant Miss Rutherford," and her principal occupation was to go about attending to the wounded that pretty Polly Perkins left in the rear. The person most often in need of such consolation was Captain Oldbore, who had started on this trip with a goodly store of facts wherewith to instruct his fellow-travellers; practical, verified history those facts were, and he did not propose to allow the Artist or the Literary Fellow to spoil them with a false glamour of romance. His theory was that history was in some sort a sacred charge, and it was every man's duty to keep fiction from usurping its place. Traditions were pernicious till authenticated, and the man most to be respected was the conscientious, truth-seeking antiquary.
Now Miss Polly Perkins cherished an ill-concealed contempt for such dry-as-dust reminiscence, and had a great weakness for the tales of by-gone days that John Grant, the Literary Fellow, had always at hand.
So one morning they all sailed away on the deck of a day-boat for Catskill. For a while the talk was all of routes and hotels until a decision was at last reached as to how much time to give to each part of the mountains. Then ensued a roll-call of baskets and umbrellas and sketching tools and other impedimenta. At last they settled themselves down to find they were approaching the Highlands, where a pulsing haze of noon-day heat covered those towering hillsides.
ON DECK OF STEAMER
"How beautiful!" murmured Miss Rutherford.
" Light 's too strong," objected the Artist. "You should see them by moonlight, or later in the day, or in the early morning. They need a slanting light on them, they bear no shadows now," and with a comprehensive wave of his hand he dashed them out of the canvas, and painted them in over again.
Then the Literary Fellow took it up.
"And yet they need a haze over them; they are never perfect without that characteristic mantle. They are loveliest in October, when Indian summer glorifies them; then they always remind me of Captain Kidd, and those old legends."
"Yes?" interrogated Miss Rutherford; "I did not know the doughty old fellow's ghost prowled about here."
"Oh! but he did come here," broke in the Artist. " Now, no doubt John there has a yarn about it."
The person thus referred to sat meditatively nursing his cane, with a far-away look in his eyes that promised a story. Miss Polly sat apart a little, where the wind was blowing her ribbons and love-locks all about her face. Some of the conversation had reached her ears, for at this point she left her seat, casting a side-glance at Captain Oldbore, to make sure that he would not disturb the promised tale with cynical criticism. But there was no need for fear; the old gentleman was deeply engaged at the moment with his historical facts, possibly "chewing a cud" of erudite mistake about Revolutionary affairs. All things looked encouraging as she came forward, singing softly:
"Oh, my name was Captain Kidd, as I sail'd, as I sail'd !"
"Do you know the rest of it?" asks the Literary Fellow, and she finishes:
"Oh, my name was Captain Kidd, as I sail'd, as I sail'd ;
Oh, my name was Captain Kidd as I sail'd.
My sinful footsteps slid ; God's law they did forbid;
But still wickedly I did, as I sail'd.
"I'd a Bible in my hand when I sail'd, when I sail'd;
I'd a Bible in my hand when I sail'd;
I'd a Bible in my hand, by my father's great command,
And I sunk it in the sand, when I sail'd.
"I spied three ships of France as I sail'd, as I sail'd;
I spied three ships of France as I sail'd;
I spied three ships of France ; to them I did advance,
And took them all by chance, as I sail'd.
" I'd ninety bars of gold, as I sail'd, as I sail'd;
I'd ninety bars of gold, as I sail'd;
I'd dollars manifold, and riches uncontrolled,
And by these I lost my soul, as I sail'd."