The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The following passage is taken from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. A man named Ichabod Crane becomes interested in ghost stories. One local story tells of a Hessian soldier, whose head was shot off in the Revolutionary War. One night, Ichabod finds himself being chased by a terrifying sight: a man on horseback, with no head - only a pumpkin sitting on top of his shoulders.
1. An opening in the trees now cheered Ichabod with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He remembered Brom Bones telling how the headless horseman had chased him one dark night but had disappeared when he reached the bridge. "If I can but reach that bridge," thought Ichabod, "I am safe."
2. Just then, he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him. He even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another kick in the ribs, and his horse, old Gunpowder (borrowed from his stern landlord, Hans Van Ripper) sprang up on the bridge. He thundered over the resounding planks and gained the opposite side. Now Ichabod looked behind to see if his pursuer would vanish in a flash of fire. Just then, he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod tried 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 him by like a whirlwind.
3. The next morning, the old horse was found without his saddle and with the bridle under his feet, soberly eating 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 they found no schoolmaster.
4. After diligent investigation, they came upon his tracks. In one part of the road leading to the church, they found the saddle trampled in the dirt. They traced the tracks of horses' hoofs, which deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious speed, to the bridge. On the bank of a broad part of the brook, they found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.
5. The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be discovered. Hans Van Ripper examined the bundle, which contained all his worldly effects. They consisted of two shirts, a pair or two of worsted stockings, a rusty razor, a book of psalm tunes, and a broken pitch-pipe. As to the books and furniture of the schoolhouse, they belonged to the community. A copy of Cotton Mather's "History of Witchcraft," a "New England Almanac," and a book of dreams and fortune-telling were Ichabod's. These magic books were thrown into the flames by Hans Van Ripper. From that time forward, he determined to send his children to school no more. He observed that he never knew any good to come of reading and writing. Whatever money the schoolmaster possessed, he must have had with him at the time of his disappearance.
6. The mysterious event caused much discussion at the church on the following Sunday. Groups of people were collected at the bridge and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin had been found. When they had carefully considered all that had happened, they shook their heads. Most came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried off by the Galloping Hessian. Since he was a bachelor, nobody troubled his head any more about him.
7. Brom Bones married Katrina shortly after Ichabod's disappearance. He was observed to look very knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related. He always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin. This led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell.
8. But the old country wives maintain to this day that the ghost carried Ichabod away. It is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge became more than ever an object of superstition. That may be the reason why the townspeople changed the path of the road, so as to approach the church by the border of the millpond. The schoolhouse soon fell to decay. It was reported that the ghost of the unfortunate teacher haunted it. A schoolboy going homeward on a summer evening has often fancied he heard Ichabod's voice in the distance, chanting a sad poem in the silence of Sleepy Hollow.