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They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy
Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead
of keeping up it, made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong
down hill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow
shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses
the bridge famous in goblin story; and just beyond swells the
green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.

As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskilful rider
an apparent advantage in the chase, but just as he had got half
way through the hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way, and he
felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel, and
endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to
save himself by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the
saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by
his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper's wrath
passed across his mind, --for it was his Sunday saddle; but this
was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches;
and (unskilful rider that he was!) he had much ado to maintain
his seat; sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another,
and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse's backbone,
with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.

An opening, in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that
the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a
silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not
mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the
trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones' ghostly
competitor had disappeard. "If I can but reach that bridge,"
thought Ichabod, " I am safe." Just then he heard the black steed
panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he
felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old
Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the
resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod
cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according
to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the
goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his
head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile,
but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous
crash, --he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder,
the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.

The next morning the old horse was found without his saddle,
and with the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at
his master's gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at
breakfast; dinner-hour came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled
at the schoolhouse, and strolled idly about the banks of the
brook; but no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel
some uneasiness about the fate of poor Ichabod, and his saddle.
An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent investigation they
came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading to the
church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of
horses' hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious
speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a
broad part oś 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
book of dreams and fortune-telling; in which last was a sheet of
foolscap much scribbled and blotted in several fruitless attempts
to make a copy of verses in honor of the heiress of Van Tassel.
These magic books and the poetic scrawl were forthwith consigned
to the flames by Hans Van Ripper; who, from that time forward,
determined to send his children no more to school; observing that
he never knew any good come of this same reading and writing.
Whatever money the schoolmaster possessed, and he had received
his quarter's pay but a day or two before, he must have had about
his person at the time of his disappearance.

The mysterious event caused much speculation at the church
on the following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were
collected in the churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot where
the hat and pumpkin had been found. The stories of Brouwer, of
Bones, and a whole budget of others were called to mind; and when
they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with
the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads, and
came to the conclusion chat Ichabod had been carried off by the
Galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor, and in nobody's debt,
nobody troubled his head any more about him; the school was
removed to a different quarter of the Hollow, and another
pedagogue reigned in his 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 mill-pond. The
schoolhouse being deserted soon fell to decay, and was reported
to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue and
the plough-boy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening,
has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy
psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.



The End





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