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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving

Found among the papers of the late Diedrech 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
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 marvelous 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
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 considered 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
In addition to his other vocations, he was the singingmaster 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 mill-pond, 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 mill-pond; 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 traveling
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 marvelous, 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 school-house, 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, to 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
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 booming
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 of her
charms. She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her
great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saar dam; the tempting
stomacher of the olden time, and withal a provokingly short petticoat, to
display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round.
Ichahod 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; an 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 highridged 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; mockoranges 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 ofa 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-jackДyielding, 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 lchabod 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 singingschool 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 game-cocks.
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
knighterrant 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
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
hickorynuts, 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 cockrobin, 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
hastypudding; 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 slap-jacks, 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 shallow 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
midheaven. 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 leathernfaced 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 pin-cushions,
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 eelskin 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, wellbroken 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
olykoek, 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
higgledypigglely, 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 goodhumor, 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
eye-balls, 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 V an 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,
cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry. Just sufficient time had
elapsed to enable each story-teller 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
Andre 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
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 tete-a-tete 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 crest-fallen, 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 bull-frog 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 Andre, who had been
taken prisoner hard by; and was universally known by the name of Major
Andre's tree. The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and
superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its illstarred
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 Andre 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
school-boy 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 down hill 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' ghostly competitor had disappeard. "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 oњ 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 smallclothes; 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 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 chat 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
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 mill-pond. The schoolhouse being deserted soon fell to
decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate
pedagogue and the plough-boy, 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.
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