The legend of sleepy hollow by Washington Irving

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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 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
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
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 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 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 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 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 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 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-jackÄyielding, 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 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 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 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
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 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
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 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 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 higgledy-
pigglely, 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




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