The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving – FULL AudioBook | Greatest AudioBooks


THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW by Washington Irving FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE DIEDRICH
KNICKERBOCKER. A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye; And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
Forever flushing round a summer sky. CASTLE OF INDOLENCE. In the bosom of one of those spacious coves
which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion
of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan
Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the
protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market
town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is
more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name
was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the
adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to
linger about the village tavern on market days. Be that as it may,
I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being
precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two
miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills,
which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small
brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose;
and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker
is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity. I recollect that, when a stripling, my first
exploit in squirrel-shooting was in a grove of tall walnut-trees
that shades one side of the valley. I had wandered into it
at noontime, when all nature is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the
roar of my own gun, as it broke the Sabbath stillness around and was
prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes. If ever I should wish
for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions,
and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none
more promising than this little valley. From the listless repose of the place, and
the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the
original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the
name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow
Boys throughout all the neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence
seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.
Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during
the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief,
the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the
country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the
place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds
a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a
continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs,
are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights,
and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with
local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and
meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country,
and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it
the favorite scene of her gambols. The dominant spirit, however, that haunts
this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the
powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without
a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose
head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle
during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country
folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of
the wind. His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times
to the adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at
no great distance. Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of
those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating the floating
facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the trooper
having been buried in the churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene
of battle in nightly quest of his head, and that the rushing speed
with which he sometimes passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast,
is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry to get back to the
churchyard before daybreak. Such is the general purport of this legendary
superstition, which has furnished materials for many a wild story
in that region of shadows; and the spectre is known at all the country firesides,
by the name of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. It is remarkable that the visionary propensity
I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the
valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides there for
a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that
sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching
influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams,
and see apparitions. I mention this peaceful spot with all possible
laud, for it is in such little retired Dutch valleys, found here and
there embosomed in the great State of New York, that population,
manners, and customs remain fixed, while the great torrent of migration
and improvement, which is making such incessant changes in other parts
of this restless country, sweeps by them unobserved. They are like those
little nooks of still water, which border a rapid stream, where
we may see the straw and bubble riding quietly at anchor, or slowly
revolving in their mimic harbor, undisturbed by the rush of the passing
current. Though many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy
shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find
the same trees and the same families vegetating in its sheltered bosom. In this by-place of nature there abode, in
a remote period of American history, that is to say, some thirty years
since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or,
as he expressed it, “tarried,” in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing
the children of the vicinity. He was a native of Connecticut,
a State which supplies the Union with pioneers for the mind as well as
for the forest, and sends forth yearly its legions of frontier woodmen
and country schoolmasters. The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable
to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders,
long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet
that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely
hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large
green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a
weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew.
To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with
his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken
him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some
scarecrow eloped from a cornfield. His schoolhouse was a low building of one
large room, rudely constructed of logs; the windows partly glazed, and partly
patched with leaves of old copybooks. It was most ingeniously secured
at vacant hours, by a withe twisted in the handle of the door, and
stakes set against the window shutters; so that though a thief might
get in with perfect ease, he would find some embarrassment in getting
out,–an idea most probably borrowed by the architect, Yost Van Houten,
from the mystery of an eelpot. The schoolhouse stood in a rather
lonely but pleasant situation, just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook
running close by, and a formidable birch-tree growing at one end
of it. From hence the low murmur of his pupils’ voices, conning over
their lessons, might be heard in a drowsy summer’s day, like the hum of
a beehive; interrupted now and then by the authoritative voice of the master,
in the tone of menace or command, or, peradventure, by the appalling
sound of the birch, as he urged some tardy loiterer along the flowery
path of knowledge. Truth to say, he was a conscientious man, and ever
bore in mind the golden maxim, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Ichabod
Crane’s scholars certainly were not spoiled. I would not have it imagined, however, that
he was one of those cruel potentates of the school who joy in the smart
of their subjects; on the contrary, he administered justice with
discrimination rather than severity; taking the burden off the backs
of the weak, and laying it on those of the strong. Your mere puny stripling,
that winced at the least flourish of the rod, was passed by with indulgence;
but the claims of justice were satisfied by inflicting a double
portion on some little tough wrong-headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin,
who sulked and swelled and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch.
All this he called “doing his duty by their parents;” and he never inflicted
a chastisement without following it by the assurance, so
consolatory to the smarting urchin, that “he would remember it and thank
him for it the longest day he had to live.” When school hours were over, he was even the
companion and playmate of the larger boys; and on holiday afternoons
would convoy some of the smaller ones home, who happened to have
pretty sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts
of the cupboard. Indeed, it behooved him to keep on good terms with
his pupils. The revenue arising from his school was small, and would
have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily bread,
for he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the dilating powers
of an anaconda; but to help out his maintenance, he was, according to
country custom in those parts, boarded and lodged at the houses of
the farmers whose children he instructed. With these he lived successively
a week at a time, thus going the rounds of the neighborhood, with
all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief. That all this might not be too onerous on
the purses of his rustic patrons, who are apt to consider the costs
of schooling a grievous burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones,
he had various ways of rendering himself both useful and agreeable.
He assisted the farmers occasionally in the lighter labors of their
farms, helped to make hay, mended the fences, took the horses to
water, drove the cows from pasture, and cut wood for the winter fire.
He laid aside, too, all the dominant dignity and absolute sway with which
he lorded it in his little empire, the school, and became wonderfully
gentle and ingratiating. He found favor in the eyes of the mothers
by petting the children, particularly the youngest; and like the lion
bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would
sit with a child on one knee, and rock a cradle with his foot for whole
hours together. In addition to his other vocations, he was
the singing-master of the neighborhood, and picked up many bright shillings
by instructing the young folks in psalmody. It was a matter of
no little vanity to him on Sundays, to take his station in front of the
church gallery, with a band of chosen singers; where, in his own mind,
he completely carried away the palm from the parson. Certain it is, his
voice resounded far above all the rest of the congregation; and there
are peculiar quavers still to be heard in that church, and which may
even be heard half a mile off, quite to the opposite side of the millpond,
on a still Sunday morning, which are said to be legitimately descended
from the nose of Ichabod Crane. Thus, by divers little makeshifts,
in that ingenious way which is commonly denominated “by hook and by crook,”
the worthy pedagogue got on tolerably enough, and was thought, by all
who understood nothing of the labor of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy
life of it. The schoolmaster is generally a man of some
importance in the female circle of a rural neighborhood; being considered
a kind of idle, gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior
taste and accomplishments to the rough country swains, and, indeed, inferior
in learning only to the parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt
to occasion some little stir at the tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition
of a supernumerary dish of cakes or sweetmeats, or, peradventure,
the parade of a silver teapot. Our man of letters, therefore, was
peculiarly happy in the smiles of all the country damsels. How he
would figure among them in the churchyard, between services on Sundays; gathering
grapes for them from the wild vines that overran the surrounding
trees; reciting for their amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones;
or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the
adjacent millpond; while the more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly
back, envying his superior elegance and address. From his half-itinerant life, also, he was
a kind of travelling gazette, carrying the whole budget of local gossip
from house to house, so that his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction.
He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition,
for he had read several books quite through, and was a perfect
master of Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft,” in which,
by the way, he most firmly and potently believed. He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness
and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvellous,
and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had
been increased by his residence in this spell-bound region. No tale
was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow. It was often his
delight, after his school was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch
himself on the rich bed of clover bordering the little brook that whimpered
by his schoolhouse, and there con over old Mather’s direful tales,
until the gathering dusk of evening made the printed page a mere mist
before his eyes. Then, as he wended his way by swamp and stream and awful
woodland, to the farmhouse where he happened to be quartered, every sound
of nature, at that witching hour, fluttered his excited imagination,–the
moan of the whip-poor-will from the hillside, the boding
cry of the tree toad, that harbinger of storm, the dreary hooting of
the screech owl, or the sudden rustling in the thicket of birds frightened
from their roost. The fireflies, too, which sparkled most vividly
in the darkest places, now and then startled him, as one of uncommon
brightness would stream across his path; and if, by chance, a huge blockhead
of a beetle came winging his blundering flight against him, the poor
varlet was ready to give up the ghost, with the idea that he was struck
with a witch’s token. His only resource on such occasions, either to
drown thought or drive away evil spirits, was to sing psalm tunes and
the good people of Sleepy Hollow, as they sat by their doors of an evening,
were often filled with awe at hearing his nasal melody, “in linked
sweetness long drawn out,” floating from the distant hill, or along the
dusky road. Another of his sources of fearful pleasure
was to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they
sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering
along the hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts
and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges,
and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman,
or Galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would
delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful
omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed
in the earlier times of Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully
with speculations upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming
fact that the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were
half the time topsy-turvy! But if there was a pleasure in all this, while
snugly cuddling in the chimney corner of a chamber that was all
of a ruddy glow from the crackling wood fire, and where, of course,
no spectre dared to show its face, it was dearly purchased by the terrors
of his subsequent walk homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows
beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night! With
what wistful look did he eye every trembling ray of light streaming
across the waste fields from some distant window! How often was he appalled
by some shrub covered with snow, which, like a sheeted spectre,
beset his very path! How often did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound
of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to
look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping
close behind him! And how often was he thrown into complete dismay by
some rushing blast, howling among the trees, in the idea that it was the
Galloping Hessian on one of his nightly scourings! All these, however, were mere terrors of the
night, phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness; and though he had seen
many spectres in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in
divers shapes, in his lonely perambulations, yet daylight put an end to
all these evils; and he would have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite
of the Devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by
a being that causes more perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins,
and the whole race of witches put together, and that was–a woman. Among the musical disciples who assembled,
one evening in each week, to receive his instructions in psalmody, was
Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and only child of a substantial
Dutch farmer. She was a blooming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as
a partridge; ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her father’s peaches,
and universally famed, not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations.
She was withal a little of a coquette, as might be perceived
even in her dress, which was a mixture of ancient and modern fashions,
as most suited to set off her charms. She wore the ornaments of pure
yellow gold, which her great-great-grandmother had brought over from
Saardam; the tempting stomacher of the olden time, and withal a
provokingly short petticoat, to display the prettiest foot and ankle in
the country round. Ichabod Crane had a soft and foolish heart
towards the sex; and it is not to be wondered at that so tempting a morsel
soon found favor in his eyes, more especially after he had visited
her in her paternal mansion. Old Baltus Van Tassel was a perfect picture
of a thriving, contented, liberal-hearted farmer. He seldom, it is true,
sent either his eyes or his thoughts beyond the boundaries of his
own farm; but within those everything was snug, happy and well-conditioned.
He was satisfied with his wealth, but not proud of it; and piqued
himself upon the hearty abundance, rather than the style in which
he lived. His stronghold was situated on the banks of the Hudson, in one
of those green, sheltered, fertile nooks in which the Dutch farmers are
so fond of nestling. A great elm tree spread its broad branches over
it, at the foot of which bubbled up a spring of the softest and sweetest
water, in a little well formed of a barrel; and then stole sparkling
away through the grass, to a neighboring brook, that babbled along among
alders and dwarf willows. Hard by the farmhouse was a vast barn, that
might have served for a church; every window and crevice of which
seemed bursting forth with the treasures of the farm; the flail was busily
resounding within it from morning to night; swallows and martins skimmed
twittering about the eaves; and rows of pigeons, some with one
eye turned up, as if watching the weather, some with their heads under their
wings or buried in their bosoms, and others swelling, and cooing, and
bowing about their dames, were enjoying the sunshine on the roof. Sleek
unwieldy porkers were grunting in the repose and abundance of their
pens, from whence sallied forth, now and then, troops of sucking pigs,
as if to snuff the air. A stately squadron of snowy geese were riding
in an adjoining pond, convoying whole fleets of ducks; regiments
of turkeys were gobbling through the farmyard, and Guinea fowls fretting
about it, like ill-tempered housewives, with their peevish,
discontented cry. Before the barn door strutted the gallant cock, that
pattern of a husband, a warrior and a fine gentleman, clapping his
burnished wings and crowing in the pride and gladness of his heart,–sometimes
tearing up the earth with his feet, and then generously calling
his ever-hungry family of wives and children to enjoy the rich morsel
which he had discovered. The pedagogue’s mouth watered as he looked
upon this sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare. In his devouring
mind’s eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with
a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were
snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet
of crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks
pairing cosily in dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency
of onion sauce. In the porkers he saw carved out the future sleek
side of bacon, and juicy relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld
daintily trussed up, with its gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure,
a necklace of savory sausages; and even bright chanticleer himself
lay sprawling on his back, in a side dish, with uplifted claws, as if
craving that quarter which his chivalrous spirit disdained to ask while
living. As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this,
and as he rolled his great green eyes over the fat meadow lands, the
rich fields of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards
burdened with ruddy fruit, which surrounded the warm tenement
of Van Tassel, his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit
these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how they
might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense
tracts of wild land, and shingle palaces in the wilderness. Nay, his
busy fancy already realized his hopes, and presented to him the blooming
Katrina, with a whole family of children, mounted on the top of
a wagon loaded with household trumpery, with pots and kettles dangling beneath;
and he beheld himself bestriding a pacing mare, with a colt at her
heels, setting out for Kentucky, Tennessee,–or the Lord knows where! When he entered the house, the conquest of
his heart was complete. It was one of those spacious farmhouses, with
high-ridged but lowly sloping roofs, built in the style handed down from
the first Dutch settlers; the low projecting eaves forming a piazza along
the front, capable of being closed up in bad weather. Under this were
hung flails, harness, various utensils of husbandry, and nets for fishing
in the neighboring river. Benches were built along the sides
for summer use; and a great spinning-wheel at one end, and a churn at
the other, showed the various uses to which this important porch might be
devoted. From this piazza the wondering Ichabod entered the hall, which
formed the centre of the mansion, and the place of usual residence.
Here rows of resplendent pewter, ranged on a long dresser, dazzled
his eyes. In one corner stood a huge bag of wool, ready to be spun;
in another, a quantity of linsey-woolsey just from the loom; ears of
Indian corn, and strings of dried apples and peaches, hung in gay festoons
along the walls, mingled with the gaud of red peppers; and a door left
ajar gave him a peep into the best parlor, where the claw-footed chairs
and dark mahogany tables shone like mirrors; andirons, with their accompanying
shovel and tongs, glistened from their covert of asparagus
tops; mock-oranges and conch-shells decorated the mantelpiece; strings
of various-colored birds eggs were suspended above it; a great ostrich
egg was hung from the centre of the room, and a corner cupboard,
knowingly left open, displayed immense treasures of old silver
and well-mended china. From the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon
these regions of delight, the peace of his mind was at an end, and his only
study was how to gain the affections of the peerless daughter of Van
Tassel. In this enterprise, however, he had more real difficulties than
generally fell to the lot of a knight-errant of yore, who seldom had anything
but giants, enchanters, fiery dragons, and such like easily conquered
adversaries, to contend with and had to make his way merely through
gates of iron and brass, and walls of adamant to the castle keep, where
the lady of his heart was confined; all which he achieved as easily
as a man would carve his way to the centre of a Christmas pie; and then
the lady gave him her hand as a matter of course. Ichabod, on the contrary,
had to win his way to the heart of a country coquette, beset with
a labyrinth of whims and caprices, which were forever presenting
new difficulties and impediments; and he had to encounter a host
of fearful adversaries of real flesh and blood, the numerous rustic
admirers, who beset every portal to her heart, keeping a watchful and
angry eye upon each other, but ready to fly out in the common cause against
any new competitor. Among these, the most formidable was a burly,
roaring, roystering blade, of the name of Abraham, or, according to the
Dutch abbreviation, Brom Van Brunt, the hero of the country round,
which rang with his feats of strength and hardihood. He was broad-shouldered
and double-jointed, with short curly black hair, and a bluff but
not unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air of fun and arrogance.
From his Herculean frame and great powers of limb he had received the
nickname of BROM BONES, by which he was universally known. He was
famed for great knowledge and skill in horsemanship, being as dexterous
on horseback as a Tartar. He was foremost at all races and cock fights;
and, with the ascendancy which bodily strength always acquires in rustic
life, was the umpire in all disputes, setting his hat on one side,
and giving his decisions with an air and tone that admitted of no gainsay
or appeal. He was always ready for either a fight or a frolic; but
had more mischief than ill-will in his composition; and with all
his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of waggish good humor
at bottom. He had three or four boon companions, who regarded him as
their model, and at the head of whom he scoured the country, attending
every scene of feud or merriment for miles round. In cold weather
he was distinguished by a fur cap, surmounted with a flaunting fox’s
tail; and when the folks at a country gathering descried this well-known
crest at a distance, whisking about among a squad of hard riders, they always
stood by for a squall. Sometimes his crew would be heard dashing
along past the farmhouses at midnight, with whoop and halloo, like a troop
of Don Cossacks; and the old dames, startled out of their sleep, would
listen for a moment till the hurry-scurry had clattered by, and then
exclaim, “Ay, there goes Brom Bones and his gang!” The neighbors looked
upon him with a mixture of awe, admiration, and good-will; and, when
any madcap prank or rustic brawl occurred in the vicinity, always shook
their heads, and warranted Brom Bones was at the bottom of it. This rantipole hero had for some time singled
out the blooming Katrina for the object of his uncouth gallantries,
and though his amorous toyings were something like the gentle caresses
and endearments of a bear, yet it was whispered that she did not
altogether discourage his hopes. Certain it is, his advances were signals
for rival candidates to retire, who felt no inclination to cross a
lion in his amours; insomuch, that when his horse was seen tied to Van Tassel’s
paling, on a Sunday night, a sure sign that his master was courting,
or, as it is termed, “sparking,” within, all other suitors passed
by in despair, and carried the war into other quarters. Such was the formidable rival with whom Ichabod
Crane had to contend, and, considering all things, a stouter man
than he would have shrunk from the competition, and a wiser man would
have despaired. He had, however, a happy mixture of pliability and
perseverance in his nature; he was in form and spirit like a supple-jack–yielding,
but tough; though he bent, he never broke; and though
he bowed beneath the slightest pressure, yet, the moment it was
away–jerk!–he was as erect, and carried his head as high as ever. To have taken the field openly against his
rival would have been madness; for he was not a man to be thwarted
in his amours, any more than that stormy lover, Achilles. Ichabod,
therefore, made his advances in a quiet and gently insinuating manner.
Under cover of his character of singing-master, he made frequent visits
at the farmhouse; not that he had anything to apprehend from the meddlesome
interference of parents, which is so often a stumbling-block in the
path of lovers. Balt Van Tassel was an easy indulgent soul; he loved
his daughter better even than his pipe, and, like a reasonable man
and an excellent father, let her have her way in everything. His notable
little wife, too, had enough to do to attend to her housekeeping and manage
her poultry; for, as she sagely observed, ducks and geese are foolish
things, and must be looked after, but girls can take care of themselves.
Thus, while the busy dame bustled about the house, or plied her spinning-wheel
at one end of the piazza, honest Balt would sit smoking his
evening pipe at the other, watching the achievements of a little wooden
warrior, who, armed with a sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting
the wind on the pinnacle of the barn. In the mean time, Ichabod would
carry on his suit with the daughter by the side of the spring under the
great elm, or sauntering along in the twilight, that hour so favorable
to the lover’s eloquence. I profess not to know how women’s hearts are
wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration.
Some seem to have but one vulnerable point, or door of access; while
others have a thousand avenues, and may be captured in a thousand
different ways. It is a great triumph of skill to gain the former,
but a still greater proof of generalship to maintain possession of the
latter, for man must battle for his fortress at every door and window.
He who wins a thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown;
but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette is indeed
a hero. Certain it is, this was not the case with the redoubtable Brom
Bones; and from the moment Ichabod Crane made his advances, the interests
of the former evidently declined: his horse was no longer seen tied
to the palings on Sunday nights, and a deadly feud gradually arose
between him and the preceptor of Sleepy Hollow. Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in
his nature, would fain have carried matters to open warfare and have settled
their pretensions to the lady, according to the mode of those
most concise and simple reasoners, the knights-errant of yore,–by
single combat; but Ichabod was too conscious of the superior might of
his adversary to enter the lists against him; he had overheard a boast
of Bones, that he would “double the schoolmaster up, and lay him on
a shelf of his own schoolhouse;” and he was too wary to give
him an opportunity. There was something extremely provoking in this obstinately
pacific system; it left Brom no alternative but to draw upon
the funds of rustic waggery in his disposition, and to play off boorish practical
jokes upon his rival. Ichabod became the object of whimsical persecution
to Bones and his gang of rough riders. They harried his hitherto
peaceful domains; smoked out his singing school by stopping up the
chimney; broke into the schoolhouse at night, in spite of its formidable
fastenings of withe and window stakes, and turned everything topsy-turvy,
so that the poor schoolmaster began to think all the witches
in the country held their meetings there. But what was still more
annoying, Brom took all opportunities of turning him into ridicule
in presence of his mistress, and had a scoundrel dog whom he taught to
whine in the most ludicrous manner, and introduced as a rival of Ichabod’s,
to instruct her in psalmody. In this way matters went on for some time,
without producing any material effect on the relative situations
of the contending powers. On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive
mood, sat enthroned on the lofty stool from whence he usually watched
all the concerns of his little literary realm. In his hand he swayed
a ferule, that sceptre of despotic power; the birch of justice reposed
on three nails behind the throne, a constant terror to evil doers, while
on the desk before him might be seen sundry contraband articles
and prohibited weapons, detected upon the persons of idle urchins,
such as half-munched apples, popguns, whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole
legions of rampant little paper gamecocks. Apparently there had been
some appalling act of justice recently inflicted, for his scholars were
all busily intent upon their books, or slyly whispering behind them with
one eye kept upon the master; and a kind of buzzing stillness reigned
throughout the schoolroom. It was suddenly interrupted by
the appearance of a negro in tow-cloth jacket and trowsers, a round-crowned
fragment of a hat, like the cap of Mercury, and mounted on the
back of a ragged, wild, half-broken colt, which he managed with a
rope by way of halter. He came clattering up to the school door with an invitation
to Ichabod to attend a merry-making or “quilting frolic,” to be
held that evening at Mynheer Van Tassel’s; and having delivered
his message with that air of importance, and effort at fine language, which
a negro is apt to display on petty embassies of the kind, he dashed
over the brook, and was seen scampering away up the hollow, full of the
importance and hurry of his mission. All was now bustle and hubbub in the late
quiet schoolroom. The scholars were hurried through their lessons without
stopping at trifles; those who were nimble skipped over half with impunity,
and those who were tardy had a smart application now and then
in the rear, to quicken their speed or help them over a tall word. Books
were flung aside without being put away on the shelves, inkstands were
overturned, benches thrown down, and the whole school was turned loose
an hour before the usual time, bursting forth like a legion of young
imps, yelping and racketing about the green in joy at their early emancipation. The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an
extra half hour at his toilet, brushing and furbishing up his best, and indeed
only suit of rusty black, and arranging his locks by a bit of
broken looking-glass that hung up in the schoolhouse. That he might
make his appearance before his mistress in the true style of a cavalier,
he borrowed a horse from the farmer with whom he was domiciliated, a choleric
old Dutchman of the name of Hans Van Ripper, and, thus gallantly
mounted, issued forth like a knight-errant in quest of adventures. But
it is meet I should, in the true spirit of romantic story, give some
account of the looks and equipments of my hero and his steed. The
animal he bestrode was a broken-down plow-horse, that had outlived
almost everything but its viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with
a ewe neck, and a head like a hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled
and knotted with burs; one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring
and spectral, but the other had the gleam of a genuine devil in it. Still
he must have had fire and mettle in his day, if we may judge from the
name he bore of Gunpowder. He had, in fact, been a favorite steed of
his master’s, the choleric Van Ripper, who was a furious rider, and had infused,
very probably, some of his own spirit into the animal; for, old and
broken-down as he looked, there was more of the lurking devil in him
than in any young filly in the country. Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed.
He rode with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up
to the pommel of the saddle; his sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers’;
he carried his whip perpendicularly in his hand, like a sceptre,
and as his horse jogged on, the motion of his arms was not unlike the
flapping of a pair of wings. A small wool hat rested on the top of his nose,
for so his scanty strip of forehead might be called, and the skirts of
his black coat fluttered out almost to the horses tail. Such was the appearance
of Ichabod and his steed as they shambled out of the gate of
Hans Van Ripper, and it was altogether such an apparition as is seldom
to be met with in broad daylight. It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day;
the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden
livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The
forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the
tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange,
purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make
their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard
from the groves of beech and hickory-nuts, and the pensive whistle
of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubble field. The small birds were taking their farewell
banquets. In the fullness of their revelry, they fluttered, chirping
and frolicking from bush to bush, and tree to tree, capricious from the
very profusion and variety around them. There was the honest cock robin,
the favorite game of stripling sportsmen, with its loud querulous
note; and the twittering blackbirds flying in sable clouds; and the
golden-winged woodpecker with his crimson crest, his broad black gorget,
and splendid plumage; and the cedar bird, with its red-tipt wings and yellow-tipt
tail and its little monteiro cap of feathers; and the blue jay,
that noisy coxcomb, in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes,
screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending
to be on good terms with every songster of the grove. As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye,
ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight
over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store
of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered
into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped up in rich piles
for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian
corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy coverts, and holding
out the promise of cakes and hasty-pudding; and the yellow pumpkins
lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and
giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed
the fragrant buckwheat fields breathing the odor of the beehive,
and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty
slapjacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle, by the
delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel. Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts
and “sugared suppositions,” he journeyed along the sides
of a range of hills which look out upon some of the goodliest scenes
of the mighty Hudson. The sun gradually wheeled his broad disk down in the
west. The wide bosom of the Tappan Zee lay motionless and glassy, excepting
that here and there a gentle undulation waved and prolonged the
blue shadow of the distant mountain. A few amber clouds floated in the
sky, without a breath of air to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden
tint, changing gradually into a pure apple green, and from that into
the deep blue of the mid-heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the
woody crests of the precipices that overhung some parts of the
river, giving greater depth to the dark gray and purple of their rocky
sides. A sloop was loitering in the distance, dropping slowly down with
the tide, her sail hanging uselessly against the mast; and as the reflection
of the sky gleamed along the still water, it seemed as if the
vessel was suspended in the air. It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived
at the castle of the Heer Van Tassel, which he found thronged with the
pride and flower of the adjacent country. Old farmers, a spare leathern-faced
race, in homespun coats and breeches, blue stockings, huge shoes,
and magnificent pewter buckles. Their brisk, withered little dames,
in close-crimped caps, long-waisted short gowns, homespun petticoats,
with scissors and pincushions, and gay calico pockets hanging
on the outside. Buxom lasses, almost as antiquated as their mothers,
excepting where a straw hat, a fine ribbon, or perhaps a white frock,
gave symptoms of city innovation. The sons, in short square-skirted
coats, with rows of stupendous brass buttons, and their hair generally
queued in the fashion of the times, especially if they could procure
an eel-skin for the purpose, it being esteemed throughout the
country as a potent nourisher and strengthener of the hair. Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene,
having come to the gathering on his favorite steed Daredevil,
a creature, like himself, full of mettle and mischief, and which no
one but himself could manage. He was, in fact, noted for preferring vicious
animals, given to all kinds of tricks which kept the rider in constant
risk of his neck, for he held a tractable, well-broken horse as
unworthy of a lad of spirit. Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world
of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered
the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion. Not those of the bevy of
buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but the
ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous
time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable
kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was
the doughty doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling
cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes,
and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple pies, and
peach pies, and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and
moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears,
and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together
with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty
much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up
its clouds of vapor from the midst–Heaven bless the mark! I want breath
and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to
get on with my story. Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great
a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty. He was a kind and thankful creature, whose
heart dilated in proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer, and
whose spirits rose with eating, as some men’s do with drink. He could
not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling
with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene
of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor. Then, he thought, how soon he’d
turn his back upon the old schoolhouse; snap his fingers in the face
of Hans Van Ripper, and every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant
pedagogue out of doors that should dare to call him comrade! Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his
guests with a face dilated with content and good humor, round and jolly
as the harvest moon. His hospitable attentions were brief, but expressive,
being confined to a shake of the hand, a slap on the shoulder,
a loud laugh, and a pressing invitation to “fall to, and help themselves.” And now the sound of the music from the common
room, or hall, summoned to the dance. The musician was an old gray-headed
negro, who had been the itinerant orchestra of the neighborhood
for more than half a century. His instrument was as old and battered
as himself. The greater part of the time he scraped on two or three
strings, accompanying every movement of the bow with a motion of the head;
bowing almost to the ground, and stamping with his foot whenever
a fresh couple were to start. Ichabod prided himself upon his dancing as
much as upon his vocal powers. Not a limb, not a fibre about him
was idle; and to have seen his loosely hung frame in full motion, and clattering
about the room, you would have thought St. Vitus himself, that
blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person. He was
the admiration of all the negroes; who, having gathered, of all ages
and sizes, from the farm and the neighborhood, stood forming a pyramid
of shining black faces at every door and window, gazing with delight
at the scene, rolling their white eyeballs, and showing grinning rows
of ivory from ear to ear. How could the flogger of urchins be otherwise
than animated and joyous? The lady of his heart was his partner in the dance,
and smiling graciously in reply to all his amorous oglings; while
Brom Bones, sorely smitten with love and jealousy, sat brooding by himself
in one corner. When the dance was at an end, Ichabod was
attracted to a knot of the sager folks, who, with Old Van Tassel, sat
smoking at one end of the piazza, gossiping over former times, and drawing
out long stories about the war. This neighborhood, at the time of which I
am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle
and great men. The British and American line had run near it
during the war; it had, therefore, been the scene of marauding and
infested with refugees, cowboys, and all kinds of border chivalry.
Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each storyteller to dress
up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and, in the indistinctness
of his recollection, to make himself the hero of every exploit. There was the story of Doffue Martling, a
large blue-bearded Dutchman, who had nearly taken a British frigate with
an old iron nine-pounder from a mud breastwork, only that his gun burst
at the sixth discharge. And there was an old gentleman who shall be
nameless, being too rich a mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who, in
the battle of White Plains, being an excellent master of defence, parried
a musket-ball with a small sword, insomuch that he absolutely felt it
whiz round the blade, and glance off at the hilt; in proof of which
he was ready at any time to show the sword, with the hilt a little bent.
There were several more that had been equally great in the field,
not one of whom but was persuaded that he had a considerable hand
in bringing the war to a happy termination. But all these were nothing to the tales of
ghosts and apparitions that succeeded. The neighborhood is rich in legendary
treasures of the kind. Local tales and superstitions thrive
best in these sheltered, long-settled retreats; but are trampled under
foot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of
our country places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most
of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first
nap and turn themselves in their graves, before their surviving friends
have travelled away from the neighborhood; so that when they turn out
at night to walk their rounds, they have no acquaintance left to
call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except
in our long-established Dutch communities. The immediate cause, however, of the prevalence
of supernatural stories in these parts, was doubtless owing to the
vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. There was a contagion in the very air that
blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of
dreams and fancies infecting all the land. Several of the Sleepy Hollow
people were present at Van Tassel’s, and, as usual, were doling out
their wild and wonderful legends. Many dismal tales were told about
funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the
great tree where the unfortunate Major André was taken, and which
stood in the neighborhood. Some mention was made also of the woman in
white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard
to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the
snow. The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite
spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several
times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his
horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard. The sequestered situation of this church seems
always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands
on a knoll, surrounded by locust-trees and lofty elms, from among which
its decent, whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian
purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends
from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered by high trees, between
which, peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon
its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one
would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace. On one
side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along which raves a large
brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black
part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden
bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly
shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime;
but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. Such was one of
the favorite haunts of the Headless Horseman, and the place where
he was most frequently encountered. The tale was told of old Brouwer,
a most heretical disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the Horseman
returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get
up behind him; how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and
swamp, until they reached the bridge; when the Horseman suddenly turned
into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over
the tree-tops with a clap of thunder. This story was immediately matched by a thrice
marvellous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping
Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from
the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight
trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch,
and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all
hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted,
and vanished in a flash of fire. All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone
with which men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners
only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank
deep in the mind of Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large
extracts from his invaluable author, Cotton Mather, and added many marvellous
events that had taken place in his native State of Connecticut,
and fearful sights which he had seen in his nightly walks about Sleepy
Hollow. The revel now gradually broke up. The old
farmers gathered together their families in their wagons, and were heard
for some time rattling along the hollow roads, and over the distant
hills. Some of the damsels mounted on pillions behind their favorite
swains, and their light-hearted laughter, mingling with the
clatter of hoofs, echoed along the silent woodlands, sounding fainter and
fainter, until they gradually died away,–and the late scene of noise and
frolic was all silent and deserted. Ichabod only lingered behind, according
to the custom of country lovers, to have a tête-à-tête with
the heiress; fully convinced that he was now on the high road to success.
What passed at this interview I will not pretend to say, for in
fact I do not know. Something, however, I fear me, must have gone
wrong, for he certainly sallied forth, after no very great interval,
with an air quite desolate and chapfallen. Oh, these women! these women!
Could that girl have been playing off any of her coquettish tricks?
Was her encouragement of the poor pedagogue all a mere sham to secure her
conquest of his rival? Heaven only knows, not I! Let it suffice to
say, Ichabod stole forth with the air of one who had been sacking a
henroost, rather than a fair lady’s heart. Without looking to the right
or left to notice the scene of rural wealth, on which he had so often
gloated, he went straight to the stable, and with several hearty cuffs
and kicks roused his steed most uncourteously from the comfortable quarters
in which he was soundly sleeping, dreaming of mountains of corn and
oats, and whole valleys of timothy and clover. It was the very witching time of night that
Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crestfallen, pursued his travels homewards,
along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and
which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was as
dismal as himself. Far below him the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct
waste of waters, with here and there the tall mast of a sloop, riding
quietly at anchor under the land. In the dead hush of midnight, he
could even hear the barking of the watchdog from the opposite shore of
the Hudson; but it was so vague and faint as only to give an idea
of his distance from this faithful companion of man. Now and then, too,
the long-drawn crowing of a cock, accidentally awakened, would sound
far, far off, from some farmhouse away among the hills–but it was
like a dreaming sound in his ear. No signs of life occurred near him, but
occasionally the melancholy chirp of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural
twang of a bullfrog from a neighboring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably
and turning suddenly in his bed. All the stories of ghosts and goblins that
he had heard in the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The
night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in
the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had
never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the
very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid.
In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered
like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed
a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough
to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the
earth, and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragical
story of the unfortunate André, who had been taken prisoner hard by;
and was universally known by the name of Major André’s tree. The common
people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly
out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-starred namesake, and partly
from the tales of strange sights, and doleful lamentations, told concerning
it. As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he
began to whistle; he thought his whistle was answered; it was but a blast
sweeping sharply through the dry branches. As he approached a little
nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst of the
tree: he paused and ceased whistling but, on looking more narrowly, perceived
that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning,
and the white wood laid bare. Suddenly he heard a groan–his teeth
chattered, and his knees smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing
of one huge bough upon another, as they were swayed about by the
breeze. He passed the tree in safety, but new perils lay before him. About two hundred yards from the tree, a small
brook crossed the road, and ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen,
known by the name of Wiley’s Swamp. A few rough logs, laid side
by side, served for a bridge over this stream. On that side of the road
where the brook entered the wood, a group of oaks and chestnuts, matted
thick with wild grape-vines, threw a cavernous gloom over it. To pass this
bridge was the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that
the unfortunate André was captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts
and vines were the sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him.
This has ever since been considered a haunted stream, and fearful are
the feelings of the schoolboy who has to pass it alone after dark. As he approached the stream, his heart began
to thump; he summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse
half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across
the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old animal
made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod,
whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side,
and kicked lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed
started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side
of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder bushes. The schoolmaster
now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder,
who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand
just by the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly sent his rider
sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the
side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow
of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen
and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the
gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller. The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose
upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now
too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or
goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning
up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering
accents, “Who are you?” He received no reply. He repeated his demand
in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more
he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting
his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just
then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble
and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the
night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some
degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions,
and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer
of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging
along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his
fright and waywardness. Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange
midnight companion, and bethought himself of the adventure of Brom
Bones with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes
of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to
an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag
behind,–the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him;
he endeavored to resume his psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to
the roof of his mouth, and he could not utter a stave. There was something
in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion
that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted
for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller
in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled
in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!–but
his horror was still more increased on observing that the
head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before
him on the pommel of his saddle! His terror rose to desperation; he
rained a shower of kicks and blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement
to give his companion the slip; but the spectre started full jump
with him. Away, then, they dashed through thick and thin; stones flying
and sparks flashing at every bound. Ichabod’s flimsy garments fluttered
in the air, as he stretched his long lank body away over
his horse’s head, in the eagerness of his flight. They had now reached the road which turns
off to Sleepy Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon,
instead of keeping up it, made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong
downhill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow shaded by
trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous
in goblin story; and just beyond swells the green knoll on which stands
the whitewashed church. As yet the panic of the steed had given his
unskilful rider an apparent advantage in the chase, but just as he had
got half way through the hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way,
and he felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel, and
endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to save himself
by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the saddle fell to the
earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a
moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper’s wrath passed across his mind,–for
it was his Sunday saddle; but this was no time for petty fears; the
goblin was hard on his haunches; and (unskilful rider that he was!)
he had much ado to maintain his seat; sometimes slipping on one side,
sometimes on another, and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his
horse’s backbone, with a violence that he verily feared would cleave
him asunder. An opening in the trees now cheered him with
the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection
of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not
mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees
beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’s ghostly competitor
had disappeared. “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I
am safe.” Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close
behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive
kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered
over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now
Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according
to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin
rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at
him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late.
It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash,–he was tumbled headlong
into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin
rider, passed by like a whirlwind. The next morning the old horse was found without
his saddle, and with the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping
the grass at his master’s gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance
at breakfast; dinner-hour came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled at
the schoolhouse, and strolled idly about the banks of the brook;
but no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness
about the fate of poor Ichabod, and his saddle. An inquiry was set
on foot, and after diligent investigation they came upon his traces. In
one part of the road leading to the church was found the saddle trampled
in the dirt; the tracks of horses’ hoofs deeply dented in the road, and
evidently at furious speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on
the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black,
was found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a
shattered pumpkin. The brook was searched, but the body of the
schoolmaster was not to be discovered. Hans Van Ripper as executor
of his estate, examined the bundle which contained all his worldly effects.
They consisted of two shirts and a half; two stocks for the neck;
a pair or two of worsted stockings; an old pair of corduroy small-clothes;
a rusty razor; a book of psalm tunes full of dog’s-ears; and a broken
pitch-pipe. As to the books and furniture of the schoolhouse, they
belonged to the community, excepting Cotton Mather’s “History of Witchcraft,”
a “New England Almanac,” and a book of dreams and fortune-telling;
in which last was a sheet of foolscap much scribbled and blotted
in several fruitless attempts to make a copy of verses in honor
of the heiress of Van Tassel. These magic books and the poetic scrawl were
forthwith consigned to the flames by Hans Van Ripper; who, from that
time forward, determined to send his children no more to school, observing
that he never knew any good come of this same reading and writing.
Whatever money the schoolmaster possessed, and he had received
his quarter’s pay but a day or two before, he must have had about
his person at the time of his disappearance. The mysterious event caused much speculation
at the church on the following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips
were collected in the churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot
where the hat and pumpkin had been found. The stories of Brouwer, of
Bones, and a whole budget of others were called to mind; and when they
had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of
the present case, they shook their heads, and came to the conclusion that
Ichabod had been carried off by the Galloping Hessian. As he was a
bachelor, and in nobody’s debt, nobody troubled his head any more about
him; the school was removed to a different quarter of the hollow,
and another pedagogue reigned in his stead. It is true, an old farmer, who had been down
to New York on a visit several years after, and from whom this account
of the ghostly adventure was received, brought home the intelligence
that Ichabod Crane was still alive; that he had left the neighborhood partly
through fear of the goblin and Hans Van Ripper, and partly in
mortification at having been suddenly dismissed by the heiress; that he
had changed his quarters to a distant part of the country; had kept school
and studied law at the same time; had been admitted to the bar; turned
politician; electioneered; written for the newspapers; and finally had
been made a justice of the Ten Pound Court. Brom Bones, too, who,
shortly after his rival’s disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina
in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever
the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty
laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he
knew more about the matter than he chose to tell. The old country wives, however, who are the
best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod
was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story
often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire.
The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe; and that
may be the reason why the road has been altered of late years, so as
to approach the church by the border of the millpond. The schoolhouse
being deserted soon fell to decay, and was reported to be haunted by the
ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue and the plowboy, loitering homeward
of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance,
chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy
Hollow. POSTSCRIPT. FOUND IN THE HANDWRITING OF MR. KNICKERBOCKER. The preceding tale is given almost in the
precise words in which I heard it related at a Corporation meeting
at the ancient city of Manhattoes, at which were present many of
its sagest and most illustrious burghers. The narrator was a pleasant,
shabby, gentlemanly old fellow, in pepper-and-salt clothes, with
a sadly humourous face, and one whom I strongly suspected of being
poor–he made such efforts to be entertaining. When his story was concluded,
there was much laughter and approbation, particularly from
two or three deputy aldermen, who had been asleep the greater
part of the time. There was, however, one tall, dry-looking old gentleman,
with beetling eyebrows, who maintained a grave and rather severe face
throughout, now and then folding his arms, inclining his head, and
looking down upon the floor, as if turning a doubt over in his mind. He
was one of your wary men, who never laugh but upon good grounds–when
they have reason and law on their side. When the mirth of the rest of
the company had subsided, and silence was restored, he leaned one arm on
the elbow of his chair, and sticking the other akimbo, demanded, with
a slight, but exceedingly sage motion of the head, and contraction of
the brow, what was the moral of the story, and what it went to prove? The story-teller, who was just putting a glass
of wine to his lips, as a refreshment after his toils, paused for
a moment, looked at his inquirer with an air of infinite deference,
and, lowering the glass slowly to the table, observed that the story
was intended most logically to prove– “That there is no situation in life but has
its advantages and pleasures–provided we will but take a joke
as we find it: “That, therefore, he that runs races with
goblin troopers is likely to have rough riding of it. “Ergo, for a country schoolmaster to be refused
the hand of a Dutch heiress is a certain step to high preferment
in the state.” The cautious old gentleman knit his brows
tenfold closer after this explanation, being sorely puzzled by the ratiocination
of the syllogism, while, methought, the one in pepper-and-salt
eyed him with something of a triumphant leer. At length
he observed that all this was very well, but still he thought the story
a little on the extravagant–there were one or two points
on which he had his doubts. “Faith, sir,” replied the story-teller, “as
to that matter, I don’t believe one-half of it myself.” D. K. THE END.

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