What does Rip see when he returns to town?
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Van Winkle returns to the village but recognizes nobody, which is strange for a small village, and he notices that everyone is strangely dressed. They look surprised to see him, too, and he realizes that his beard has grown a foot longer. The children hoot at him and the dogs bark. The village itself has grown larger. He begins to think he must be going crazy, for the natural scenery is the only thing that is recognizable. The flagon must have made him lose his mind.
At his house, he finds it in complete disrepair and abandoned. His wife and children are not there. The inn where he used to meet his friends has disappeared, and where there used to be a picture of George III there is now one of a certain George Washington. The new group of people at the new hotel there is full of completely different people, and their discussions are more argumentative than he remembers. The crowd asks him questions, especially about what political party he belongs to. He is confused and says he is still a loyal subject of the king. They declare him a traitor and a Tory. When he says he has just come looking for his friends, they tell him that Nicholaus Vedder has been dead for eighteen years and Van Bummel is now in Congress.
Rip Van Winkle becomes still more distressed and confused when he asks if they know Rip Van Winkle and the townspeople point out a different lazy-looking man. He begins to think he is crazy. A familiar woman approaches, and he finds out enough to decide that she is his daughter.