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 noon time, 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 marvellous 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 nine fold, 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 church-yard, 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 church-yard before daybreak.
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 woodsmen 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 school-house was a low building of one large room, rudely constructed of logs; the windows partly glazed, and partly
patched with leaves of old copy-books. 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
eel-pot. The school-house 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 of 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." When
school hours were over, he was even the companion and playmate of the larger boys; and on holiday afternoons would convoy
some of the smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts
of the cupboard. Indeed it behooved him to keep on good terms with his pupils. The revenue arising from his school was small,
and would have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily bread, for he was a huge feeder, and though lank, had the
dilating powers of an anaconda; but to help out his maintenance, he was, according to country custom in those parts, boarded
and lodged at the houses of the farmers, whose children he instructed. With these he lived successively a week at a time;
thus going the rounds of the neighborhood, with all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.
That all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his rustic patrons, who are apt to consider the costs of schooling
a grievous burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones, he had various ways of rendering himself both useful and agreeable. He
assisted the farmers occasionally in the lighter labors of their farms; helped to make hay; mended the fences; took the horses
to water; drove the cows from pasture; and cut wood for the winter fire. He laid aside, too, all the dominant dignity and
absolute sway with which he lorded it in his little empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle and ingratiating. He
found favor in the eyes of the mothers, by petting the children, particularly the youngest; and like the lion bold, which
whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would sit with a child on one knee, and rock a cradle with his foot for whole
hours together. In addition to his other vocations, he was the singing-master of the neighborhood, and picked up many bright
shillings by instructing the young folks in psalmody. It was a matter of no little vanity to him, on Sundays, to take his
station in front of the church gallery, with a band of chosen singers; where, in his own mind, he completely carried away
the palm from the parson. Certain it is, his voice resounded far above all the rest of the congregation; and there are peculiar
quavers still to be heard in that church, and which may even be heard half a mile off, quite to the opposite side of the mill-pond,
on a still Sunday morning, which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane. Thus, by divers little
make-shifts in that ingenious way which is commonly denominated "by hook and by crook," the worthy pedagogue got on tolerably
enough, and was thought, by all who understood nothing of the labor of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy life of it.