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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."




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