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In this way matters went on for some time, without producing
any material effect on the relative situations of the contending
powers. On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood,
sat enthroned on the lofty stool from whence he usually watched
all the concerns of his little literary realm. In his hand he
swayed a ferule, that sceptre of despotic power; the birch of
justice reposed on three nails behind the throne, a constant
terror to evil doers, while on the desk before him might be seen
sundry contraband articles and prohibited weapons, detected upon
the persons of idle urchins, such as half-munched apples,
popguns, whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole legions of rampant
little paper game-cocks. Apparently there had been some appalling
act of justice recently inflicted, for his scholars were all
busily intent upon their books, or slyly whispering behind them
with one eye kept upon the master; and a kind of buzzing
stillness reigned throughout the schoolroom. It was suddenly
interrupted by the appearance of a negro in tow-cloth jacket and
trowsers. a round-crowned fragment of a hat, like the cap of
Mercury, and mounted on the back of a ragged, wild, half-broken
colt, which he managed with a rope by way of halter. He came
clattering up to the school-door with an invitation to Ichabod to
attend a merry - making or "quilting-frolic," to be held that
evening at Mynheer Van Tassel's; and having, delivered his
message with that air of importance and effort at fine language
which a negro is apt to display on petty embassies of the kind,
he dashed over the brook, and was seen scampering, away up the
Hollow, full of the importance and hurry of his mission.

All was now bustle and hubbub in the late quiet schoolroom.
The scholars were hurried through their lessons without stopping
at trifles; those who were nimble skipped over half with
impunity, and those who were tardy had a smart application now
and then in the rear, to quicken their speed or help them over a
tall word. Books were flung aside without being put away on the
shelves, inkstands were overturned, benches thrown down, and the
whole school was turned loose an hour before the usual time,
bursting forth like a legion of young imps, yelping and racketing
about the green in joy at their early emancipation.

The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an extra half hour at
his toilet, brushing and furbishing up his best, and indeed only
suit of rusty black, and arranging his locks by a bit of broken
looking-glass that hung up in the schoolhouse. That he might make
his appearance before his mistress in the true style of a
cavalier, he borrowed a horse from the farmer with whom he was
domiciliated, a choleric old Dutchman of the name of Hans Van
Ripper, and, thus gallantly mounted, issued forth like a knight-
errant in quest of adventures. But it is meet I should, in the
true spirit of romantic story, give some account of the looks and
equipments of my hero and his steed. The animal he bestrode was a
broken-down plow-horse, that had outlived almost everything but
its viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck, and a
head like a hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and
knotted with burs; one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring
and spectral, but the other had the gleam of a genuine devil in
it. Still he must have had fire and mettle in his day, if we may
judge from the name he bore of Gunpowder. He had, in fact, been a
favorite steed of his master's, the choleric Van Ripper, who was
a furious rider, and had infused, very probably, some of his own
spirit into the animal; for, old and broken-down as he looked,
there was more of the lurking devil in him than in any young
filly in the country.

Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed . He rode
with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the
pommel of the saddle; his sharp elbows stuck out like
grasshoppers'; he carried his whip perpendicularly in his hand,
like a sceptre, and as his horse jogged on, the motion of his
arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings. A small wool
hat rested on the top of his nose, for so his scanty strip of
forehead might be called, and the skirts of his black coat
fluttered out almost to the horses tail. Such was the appearance
of Ichabod and his steed as they shambled out of the gate of Hans
Van Ripper, and it was altogether such an apparition as is seldom
to be met with in broad daylight.

It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was
clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery
which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests
had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the
tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes
of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks
began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the
squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory-
nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the
neighboring stubble field.

The small birds were taking their farewell banquets. In the
fullness of their revelry, they fluttered, chirping and
frolicking from bush to bush, and tree to tree, capricious from
the very profusion and variety around them. There was the honest
cockrobin, the favorite game of stripling sportsmen, with its
loud querulous note; and the twittering blackbirds flying in
sable clouds, and the golden- winged woodpecker with his crimson
crest, his broad black gorget, and splendid plumage; and the
cedar-bird, with its red tipt wings and yellow-tipt tail and its
little monteiro cap of feathers; and the blue jay, that noisy
coxcomb, in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes,
screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and
pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove.

As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to
every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the
treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of
apples: some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some
gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped
up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great
fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their
leafy coverts, and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty-
pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up
their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects
of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant
buckwheat fields breathing the odor of the beehive, and as he
beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty
slap-jacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle,
by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.

Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts and "sugared
suppositions," he journeyed along the sides of a range of hills
which look out upon some of the goodliest scenes of the mighty
Hudson. The sun gradually wheeled his broad disk down in the
west. The wide bosom of the Tappan Zee lay motionless and glassy,
excepting that here and there a gentle undulation waved and
prolonged the blue shallow of the distant mountain. A few amber
clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air to move them.
The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually into a
pure apple green, and from that into the deep blue of the mid-
heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the woody crests of the
precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater
depth to the dark gray and purple of their rocky sides. A sloop
was loitering in the distance, dropping slowly down with the
tide, her sail hanging uselessly against the mast; and as the
reflection of the sky gleamed along the still water, it seemed as
if the vessel was suspended in the air.




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