“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

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⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

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.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Washington Irving Ichabod Crane Headless Horseman illustration by Emanuel Leutze 1864In 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.

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