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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.




The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Category:
General Fiction
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