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Main > United States folktales > Fairy tale "Roistering Dirck Van Dara"

Roistering Dirck Van Dara

In the days when most of New York stood below Grand Street, a roistering fellow used to make the rounds of the taverns nightly, accompanied by a friend named Rooney. This brave drinker was Dirck Van Dara, one of the last of those swag-bellied topers that made merry with such solemnity before the English seized their unoffending town. It chanced that Dirck and his chum were out later than usual one night, and by eleven o'clock, when all good people were abed, a drizzle set in that drove the watch to sleep in doorways and left Broadway tenantless. As the two choice spirits reeled out of a hostelry near Wall Street and saw the lights go out in the tap-room windows they started up town to their homes in Leonard Street, but hardly had they come abreast of old St. Paul's when a strange thing stayed them: crying was heard in the churchyard and a phosphorescent light shone among the tombs. Rooney was sober in a moment, but not so Dirck Van Dara, who shouted, "Here is sport, friend Rooney. Let's climb the wall. If the dead are for a dance, we will take partners and show them how pigeons' wings are cut nowadays."

"No," exclaimed the other; "those must perish who go among the dead when they come out of their graves. I've heard that if you get into their clutches, you must stay in purgatory for a hundred years, and no priest can pray you out."

"Bah! old wives' tales! Come on!" And pulling his friend with him, they were over the fence. "Hello! what have we here?" As he spoke a haggard thing arose from behind a tombstone, a witchlike creature, with rags falling about her wasted form and hair that almost hid her face. The twain were set a-sneezing by the fumes of sulphur, and Rooney swore afterwards that there were little things at the end of the yard with grinning faces and lights on the ends of their tails. Old Hollands are heady. Dirck began to chaff the beldam on her dilapidation, but she stopped his talk by dipping something from a caldron behind her and flinging it over both of her visitors.

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