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  • THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW by Washington Irving

  • FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER.

  • A pleasing land of drowsy head it was, Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;

  • And of gay castles in the clouds that pass, Forever flushing round a summer sky.

  • CASTLE OF INDOLENCE.

  • In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson,

  • at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan

  • Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas

  • when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called

  • Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.

  • This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent

  • country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village

  • tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert

  • to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two

  • miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one

  • of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just

  • murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of

  • a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.

  • I recollect that, when a stripling, my first exploit in squirrel-shooting was in a grove

  • of tall walnut-trees that shades one side of the valley. I had wandered into it at noontime,

  • when all nature is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the roar of my own gun, as it

  • broke the Sabbath stillness around and was prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes.

  • If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions,

  • and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this

  • little valley. From the listless repose of the place, and

  • the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch

  • settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its

  • rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighboring country. A

  • drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.

  • Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days

  • of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe,

  • held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson.

  • Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds

  • a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie.

  • They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions,

  • and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood

  • abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors

  • glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare,

  • with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.

  • The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief

  • of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head.

  • It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away

  • by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever

  • and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the

  • wings of the wind. His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times to the

  • adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed,

  • certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting

  • and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the

  • trooper having been buried in the churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle

  • in nightly quest of his head, and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes

  • along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry

  • to get back to the churchyard before daybreak. Such is the general purport of this legendary

  • superstition, which has furnished materials for many a wild story in that region of shadows;

  • and the spectre is known at all the country firesides, by the name of the Headless Horseman

  • of Sleepy Hollow. It is remarkable that the visionary propensity

  • I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously

  • imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake they may have been

  • before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the

  • witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see

  • apparitions. I mention this peaceful spot with all possible

  • laud, for it is in such little retired Dutch valleys, found here and there embosomed in

  • the great State of New York, that population, manners, and customs remain fixed, while the

  • great torrent of migration and improvement, which is making such incessant changes in

  • other parts of this restless country, sweeps by them unobserved. They are like those little

  • nooks of still water, which border a rapid stream, where we may see the straw and bubble

  • riding quietly at anchor, or slowly revolving in their mimic harbor, undisturbed by the

  • rush of the passing current. Though many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades

  • of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find the same trees and the

  • same families vegetating in its sheltered bosom.

  • In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American history, that

  • is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned,

  • or, as he expressed it, "tarried," in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing the

  • children of the vicinity. He was a native of Connecticut, a State which supplies the

  • Union with pioneers for the mind as well as for the forest, and sends forth yearly its

  • legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters. The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable

  • to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and

  • legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels,

  • and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with

  • huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a

  • weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him

  • striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering

  • about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth,

  • or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield. His schoolhouse was a low building of one

  • large room, rudely constructed of logs; the windows partly glazed, and partly patched

  • with leaves of old copybooks. It was most ingeniously secured at vacant hours, by a

  • withe twisted in the handle of the door, and stakes set against the window shutters; so

  • that though a thief might get in with perfect ease, he would find some embarrassment in

  • getting out,—an idea most probably borrowed by the architect, Yost Van Houten, from the

  • mystery of an eelpot. The schoolhouse stood in a rather lonely but pleasant situation,

  • just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook running close by, and a formidable birch-tree

  • growing at one end of it. From hence the low murmur of his pupils' voices, conning over

  • their lessons, might be heard in a drowsy summer's day, like the hum of a beehive; interrupted

  • now and then by the authoritative voice of the master, in the tone of menace or command,

  • or, peradventure, by the appalling sound of the birch, as he urged some tardy loiterer

  • along the flowery path of knowledge. Truth to say, he was a conscientious man, and ever

  • bore in mind the golden maxim, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." Ichabod Crane's

  • scholars certainly were not spoiled. I would not have it imagined, however, that

  • he was one of those cruel potentates of the school who joy in the smart of their subjects;

  • on the contrary, he administered justice with discrimination rather than severity; taking

  • the burden off the backs of the weak, and laying it on those of the strong. Your mere

  • puny stripling, that winced at the least flourish of the rod, was passed by with indulgence;

  • but the claims of justice were satisfied by inflicting a double portion on some little

  • tough wrong-headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin, who sulked and swelled and grew dogged and

  • sullen beneath the birch. All this he called "doing his duty by their parents;" and he

  • never inflicted a chastisement without following it by the assurance, so consolatory to the

  • smarting urchin, that "he would remember it and thank him for it the longest day he had

  • to live." When school hours were over, he was even the

  • companion and playmate of the larger boys; and on holiday afternoons would convoy some

  • of the smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty sisters, or good housewives for

  • mothers, noted for the comforts of the cupboard. Indeed, it behooved him to keep on good terms

  • with his pupils. The revenue arising from his school was small, and would have been

  • scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily bread, for he was a huge feeder, and, though

  • lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda; but to help out his maintenance, he was, according

  • to country custom in those parts, boarded and lodged at the houses of the farmers whose

  • children he instructed. With these he lived successively a week at a time, thus going

  • the rounds of the neighborhood, with all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.

  • That all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his rustic patrons, who are

  • apt to consider the costs of schooling a grievous burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones,

  • he had various ways of rendering himself both useful and agreeable. He assisted the farmers

  • occasionally in the lighter labors of their farms, helped to make hay, mended the fences,

  • took the horses to water, drove the cows from pasture, and cut wood for the winter fire.

  • He laid aside, too, all the dominant dignity and absolute sway with which he lorded it

  • in his little empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle and ingratiating. He found

  • favor in the eyes of the mothers by petting the children, particularly the youngest; and

  • like the lion bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would sit with a child

  • on one knee, and rock a cradle with his foot for whole hours together.

  • In addition to his other vocations, he was the singing-master of the neighborhood, and

  • picked up many bright shillings by instructing the young folks in psalmody. It was a matter

  • of no little vanity to him on Sundays, to take his station in front of the church gallery,

  • with a band of chosen singers; where, in his own mind, he completely carried away the palm

  • from the parson. Certain it is, his voice resounded far above all the rest of the congregation;

  • and there are peculiar quavers still to be heard in that church, and which may even be

  • heard half a mile off, quite to the opposite side of the millpond, on a still Sunday morning,

  • which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane. Thus, by divers

  • little makeshifts, in that ingenious way which is commonly denominated "by hook and by crook,"

  • the worthy pedagogue got on tolerably enough, and was thought, by all who understood nothing

  • of the labor of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy life of it.

  • The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female circle of a rural

  • neighborhood; being considered a kind of idle, gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior

  • taste and accomplishments to the rough country swains, and, indeed, inferior in learning

  • only to the parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir at the

  • tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary dish of cakes or sweetmeats,

  • or, peradventure, the parade of a silver teapot. Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly

  • happy in the smiles of all the country damsels. How he would figure among them in the churchyard,

  • between services on Sundays; gathering grapes for them from the wild vines that overran

  • the surrounding trees; reciting for their amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones;

  • or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent millpond;

  • while the more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior elegance

  • and address. From his half-itinerant life, also, he was

  • a kind of travelling gazette, carrying the whole budget of local gossip from house to

  • house, so that his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover, esteemed

  • by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through,

  • and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather's "History of New England Witchcraft," in which,

  • by the way, he most firmly and potently believed. He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness

  • and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting it,

  • were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in