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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 Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Category:
General Fiction
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