UA-19541526-1

The Black Cat

by Edgar Allan Poe

For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief.
Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad
am I not –and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My
immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of
mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified –have tortured –have
destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror –to
many they will seem less terrible than baroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which
will reduce my phantasm to the common-place –some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less
excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an
ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.

From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was
even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and
was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never
was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiar of character grew with my growth, and
in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished
an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or
the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing
love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry
friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.

I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing
my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind.
We had birds, gold fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.

This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing
degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition,
made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in
disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point –and I mention the matter at all for no better
reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.

Pluto –this was the cat’s name –was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me
wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me
through the streets.

Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and
character –through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance –had (I blush to confess it)
experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more
regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my At length, I
even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition.
I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me
from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog,
when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me –for what
disease is like Alcohol! –and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently
somewhat peevish –even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.

One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat
avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my
hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original
soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence,
gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it,
grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I
burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.

When reason returned with the morning –when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch –I
experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it
was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into
excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.

In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful
appearance, but he no longer appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as
might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so much of my old heart left, as to be at
first grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved me. But this feeling
soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of
PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives,
than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart –one of the indivisible
primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred
times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he
should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which
is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final
overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself –to offer violence to its own nature
–to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only –that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury
I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck
and hung it to the limb of a tree; –hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest
remorse at my heart; –hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me
no reason of offence; –hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin –a deadly sin that
would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it –if such a thing were possible –even beyond the
reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.

On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire.
The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my
wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The destruction was complete. My
entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.

I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster
and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts –and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect.
On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This
exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house,
and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted
the action of the fire –a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense
crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with every
minute and eager attention. The words “strange!” “singular!” and other similar expressions, excited my
curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas relief upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic
cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal’s
neck.

When I first beheld this apparition –for I could scarcely regard it as less –my wonder and my terror were
extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden
adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd –by
some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window,
into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of
other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster; the
lime of which, had then with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, accomplished the portraiture
as I saw it.

Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether to my conscience, for the startling fact
‘just detailed, it did not the less fall to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I could not rid
myself of the phantasm of the cat; and, during this period, there came back into my spirit a
half-sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to regret the loss of the animal, and
to look about me, among the vile haunts which I now habitually frequented, for another pet of the same
species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its place.

One night as I sat, half stupefied, in a den of more than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to
some black object, reposing upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or of Rum, which
constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead
for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the
object thereupon. I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat –a very large one
–fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair
upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white, covering
nearly the whole region of the breast.

Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared
delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to
purchase it of the landlord; but this person made no claim to it –knew nothing of it –had never seen it
before.

I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the animal evinced a disposition to
accompany me. I permitted it to do so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it
reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great favorite with my wife.

For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This was just the reverse of what I had
anticipated; but I know not how or why it was –its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and
annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I
avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty,
preventing me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike, or otherwise violently ill use it;
but gradually –very gradually –I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from
its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence.

What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the discovery, on the morning after I brought it
home, that, like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only
endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed, in a high degree, that humanity of
feeling which had once been my distinguishing trait, and the source of many of my simplest and purest
pleasures.

With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself seemed to increase. It followed my
footsteps with a pertinacity which it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it
would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I
arose to walk it would get between my feet and thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and
sharp claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my breast. At such times, although I longed to
destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing, partly it at by a memory of my former crime, but
chiefly –let me confess it at once –by absolute dread of the beast.

This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil-and yet I should be at a loss how otherwise to define
it. I am almost ashamed to own –yes, even in this felon’s cell, I am almost ashamed to own –that the
terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, had been heightened by one of the merest
chimaeras it would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my attention, more than once, to the
character of the mark of white hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visible
difference between the strange beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will remember that this
mark, although large, had been originally very indefinite; but, by slow degrees –degrees nearly
imperceptible, and which for a long time my Reason struggled to reject as fanciful –it had, at length,
assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to
name –and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I
dared –it was now, I say, the image of a hideous –of a ghastly thing –of the GALLOWS! –oh, mournful
and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime –of Agony and of Death!

And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere Humanity. And a brute beast –whose
fellow I had contemptuously destroyed –a brute beast to work out for me –for me a man, fashioned in
the image of the High God –so much of insufferable wo! Alas! neither by day nor by night knew I the
blessing of Rest any more! During the former the creature left me no moment alone; and, in the latter, I
started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its
vast weight –an incarnate Night-Mare that I had no power to shake off –incumbent eternally upon my
heart! Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me
succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates –the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The
moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while, from the
sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself, my
uncomplaining wife, alas! was the most usual and the most patient of sufferers.

One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand, into the cellar of the old building which
our poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me
headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread
which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved
instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded,
by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the
axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.

This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of
concealing the body. I knew that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without
the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered my mind. At one period I thought of
cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a
grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the well in the yard –about
packing it in a box, as if merchandise, with the usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it
from the house. Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expedient than either of these. I
determined to wall it up in the cellar –as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up
their victims.

For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately
been plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented
from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace,
that had been filled up, and made to resemble the rest of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily
displace the at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could detect
anything suspicious.

And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and,
having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little
trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with
every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster could not every poss be distinguished from the old, and
with this I very carefully went over the new brick-work. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was
right. The wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the
floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and said to myself –“Here at
least, then, my labor has not been in vain.”

My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause of so much wretchedness; for I had, at
length, firmly resolved to put it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could have
been no doubt of its fate; but it appeared that the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of my
previous anger, and forebore to present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to describe, or to
imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in
my bosom. It did not make its appearance during the night –and thus for one night at least, since its
introduction into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder
upon my soul!

The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came not. Once again I breathed as a
free-man. The monster, in terror, had fled the premises forever! I should behold it no more! My
happiness was supreme! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries had been
made, but these had been readily answered. Even a search had been instituted –but of course nothing
was to be discovered. I looked upon my future felicity as secured.

Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police came, very unexpectedly, into the house,
and proceeded again to make rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the
inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. The officers bade me
accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or
fourth time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of
one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom,
and roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart. The glee at
my heart was too strong to be restrained. I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to
render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness.

“Gentlemen,” I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, “I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I
wish you all health, and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this –this is a very well
constructed house.” (In the rabid desire to say something easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.)
–“I may say an excellently well constructed house. These walls –are you going, gentlemen? –these
walls are solidly put together”; and here, through the mere phrenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily, with a
cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of
the wife of my bosom.

But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend! No sooner had the reverberation
of my blows sunk into silence than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! –by a cry, at first
muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and
continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman –a howl –a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of
triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the damned in their
agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.

Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the
party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen
stout arms were tolling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with
gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary
eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice
had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb!

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone.

photo by certified su

The Body Snatcher

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Every night in the year, four of us sat in the small parlour of the George at Debenham–the undertaker,
and the landlord, and Fettes, and myself. Sometimes there would be more; but blow high, blow low,
come rain or snow or frost, we four would be each planted in his own particular arm-chair. Fettes was an
old drunken Scotchman, a man of education obviously, and a man of some property, since he lived in
idleness. He had come to Debenham years ago, while still young, and by a mere continuance of living
had grown to be an adopted townsman. His blue camlet cloak was a local antiquity, like the church-spire.
His place in the parlour at the George, his absence from church, his old, crapulous, disreputable vices,
were all things of course in Debenham. He had some vague Radical opinions and some fleeting
infidelities, which he would now and again set forth and emphasise with tottering slaps upon the table.
He drank rum–five glasses regularly every evening; and for the greater portion of his nightly visit to the
George sat, with his glass in his right hand, in a state of melancholy alcoholic saturation. We called him
the Doctor, for he was supposed to have some special knowledge of medicine, and had been known,
upon a pinch, to set a fracture or reduce a dislocation; but beyond these slight particulars, we had no
knowledge of his character and antecedents.

One dark winter night–it had struck nine some time before the landlord joined us–there was a sick man
in the George, a great neighbouring proprietor suddenly struck down with apoplexy on his way to
Parliament; and the great man’s still greater London doctor had been telegraphed to his bedside. It was
the first time that such a thing had happened in Debenham, for the railway was but newly open, and we
were all proportionately moved by the occurrence.

“He’s come,” said the landlord, after he had filled and lighted his pipe.

“He?” said I. “Who?–not the doctor?”

“Himself,” replied our host.

“What is his name?”

“Dr. Macfarlane,” said the landlord.

Fettes was far through his third tumblers stupidly fuddled, now nodding over, now staring mazily around
him; but at the last word he seemed to awaken, and repeated the name “Macfarlane” twice, quietly
enough the first time, but with sudden emotion at the second.

“Yes,” said the landlord, “that’s his name, Doctor Wolfe Macfarlane.”

Fettes became instantly sober; his eyes awoke, his voice became clear, loud, and steady, his language
forcible and earnest. We were all startled by the transformation, as if a man had risen from the dead.

“I beg your pardon,” he said. “I am afraid I have not been paying much attention to your talk. Who is this
Wolfe Macfarlane?” And then, when he had heard the landlord out, “It cannot be, it cannot be,” he
added; “and yet I would like well to see him face to face.”

“Do you know him, Doctor?” asked the undertaker, with a gasp.

“God forbid!” was the reply. “And yet the name is a strange one; it were too much to fancy two. Tell me,
landlord, is he old?”

“Well,” said the host, “he’s not a young man, to be sure, and his hair is white; but he looks younger than
you.”

“He is older, though; years older. But,” with a slap upon the table, “it’s the rum you see in my face–rum
and sin. This man, perhaps, may have an easy conscience and a good digestion. Conscience! Hear me
speak. You would think I was some good, old, decent Christian, would you not? But no, not I; I never
canted. Voltaire might have canted if he’d stood in my shoes; but the brains”–with a rattling fillip on his
bald head–“the brains were clear and active, and I saw and made no deductions.”

“If you know this doctor,” I ventured to remark, after a somewhat awful pause, “I should gather that you
do not share the landlord’s good opinion.”

Fettes paid no regard to me.

“Yes,” he said, with sudden decision, “I must see him face to face.”

There was another pause, and then a door was closed rather sharply on the first floor, and a step was
heard upon the stair.

“That’s the doctor,” cried the landlord. “Look sharp, and you can catch him.”

It was but two steps from the small parlour to the door of the old George Inn; the wide oak staircase
landed almost in the street; there was room for a Turkey rug and nothing more between the threshold
and the last round of the descent; but this little space was every evening brilliantly lit up, not only by the
light upon the stair and the great signal-lamp below the sign, but by the warm radiance of the barroom
window. The George thus brightly advertised itself to passers-by in the cold street. Fettes walked
steadily to the spot, and we, who were hanging behind, beheld the two men meet, as one of them had
phrased it, face to face. Dr. Macfarlane was alert and vigorous. His white hair set off his pale and placid,
although energetic, countenance. He was richly dressed in the finest of broadcloth and the whitest of
linen, with a great gold watch-chain, and studs and spectacles of the same precious material. He wore a
broad-folded tie, white and speckled with lilac, and he carried on his arm a comfortable driving-coat of
fur. There was no doubt but he became his years, breathing, as he did, of wealth and consideration;
and it was a surprising contrast to see our parlour sot–bald, dirty, pimpled, and robed in his old camlet
cloak–confront him at the bottom of the stairs.

“Macfarlane!” he said somewhat loudly, more like a herald than a friend.

The great doctor pulled up short on the fourth step, as though the familiarity of the address surprised
and somewhat shocked his dignity.

“Toddy Macfarlane!” repeated Fettes.

The London man almost staggered. He stared for the swiftest of seconds at the man before him,
glanced behind him with a sort of scare, and then in a startled whisper “Fettes!” he said, “you!”

“Ay,” said the other, “me! Did you think I was dead too? We are not so easy shut of our acquaintance.”

“Hush, hush!” exclaimed the doctor. “Hush, hush! this meeting is so unexpected–I can see you are
unmanned I hardly knew you, I confess, at first; but I am overjoyed–overjoyed to have this opportunity.
For the present it must be how-d’ye-do and good-by in one, for my fly is waiting, and I must not fail the
train; but you shall–let me see–yes–you shall give me your address, and you can count on early news
of me. We must do something for you, Fettes. I fear you are out at elbows; but we must see to that for
auld lang syne, as once we sang at suppers.”

“Money!” cried Fettes; “money from you! The money that I had from you is lying where I cast it in the
rain.”

Dr. Macfarlane had talked himself into some measure of superiority and confidence, but the uncommon
energy of this refusal cast him back into his first confusion.

A horrible, ugly look came and went across his almost venerable countenance. “My dear fellow,” he said,
“be it as you please; my last thought is to offend you. I would intrude on none. I will leave you my
address however—-”

“I do not wish it–I do not wish to know the roof that shelters you,” interrupted the other. “I heard your
name; I feared it might be you; I wished to know if, after all, there were a God; I know now that there is
none. Begone!”

He still stood in the middle of the rug, between the stair and doorway; and the great London physician,
in order to escape, would be forced to step to one side. It was plain that he hesitated before the thought
of this humiliation. White as he was, there was a dangerous glitter in his spectacles; but while he still
paused uncertain, he became aware that the driver of his fly was peering in from the street at this
unusual scene, and caught a glimpse at the same time of our little body from the parlour, huddled by the
corner of the bar. The presence of so many witnesses decided him at once to flee. He crouched
together, brushing on the wainscot, and made a dart like a serpent, striking for the door. But his
tribulation was not yet entirely at an end, for even as he was passing Fettes clutched him by the arm
and these words came in a whisper, and yet painfully distinct, “Have you seen it again?”

The great rich London doctor cried out aloud with a sharp, throttling cry; he dashed his questioner
across the open space, and, with his hands over his head, fled out of the door like a detected thief.
Before it had occurred to one of us to make a movement the fly was already rattling toward the station.
The scene was over like a dream, but the dream had left proofs and traces of its passage. Next day the
servant found the fine gold spectacles broken on the threshold, and that very night we were all standing
breathless by the barroom window, and Fettes at our side, sober, pale and resolute in look.

“God protect us, Mr. Fettes!” said the landlord, coming first into possession of his customary senses.
“What in the universe is all this? These are strange things you have been saying.”

Fettes turned toward us; he looked us each in succession in the face. “See if you can hold your
tongues,” said he. “That man Macfarlane is not safe to cross; those that have done so already have
repented it too late.”

And then, without so much as finishing his third glass, far less waiting for the other two, he bade us
good-by and went forth, under the lamp of the hotel, into the black night.

We three turned to our places in the parlour, with the big red fire and four clear candles; and as we
recapitulated what had passed the first chill of our surprise soon changed into a glow of curiosity. We
sat late; it was the latest session I have known in the old George. Each man, before we parted, had his
theory that he was bound to prove; and none of us had any nearer business in this world than to track
out the past of our condemned companion, and surprise the secret that he shared with the great
London doctor. It is no great boast, but I believe I was a better hand at worming out a story than either of
my fellows at the George; and perhaps there is now no other man alive who could narrate to you the
following foul and unnatural events.

In his young days Fettes studied medicine in the schools of Edinburgh. He had talent of a kind, the
talent that picks up swiftly what it hears and readily retails it for its own. He worked little at home; but he
was civil, attentive, and intelligent in the presence of his masters. They soon picked him out as a lad who
listened closely and remembered well; nay, strange as it seemed to me when I first heard it, he was in
those days well favoured, and pleased by his exterior. There was, at that period, a certain extramural
teacher of anatomy, whom I shall here designate by the letter K. His name was subsequently too well
known. The man who bore it skulked through the streets of Edinburgh in disguise, while the mob that
applauded at the execution of Burke called loudly for the blood of his employer. But Mr. K—- was then at
the top of his vogue; he enjoyed a popularity due partly to his own talent and address, partly to the
incapacity of his rival, the university professor. The students, at least, swore by his name, and Fettes
believed himself, and was believed by others, to have laid the foundations of success when he had
acquired the favour of this meteorically famous man. Mr. K—- was a bon vivant as well as an
accomplished teacher; he liked a sly allusion no less than a careful preparation. In both capacities
Fettes enjoyed and deserved his notice, and by the second year of his attendance he held the
half-regular position of second demonstrator or sub-assistant in his class.

In this capacity, the charge of the theatre and lecturerdom devolved in particular upon his shoulders. He
had to answer for the cleanliness of the premises and the conduct of the other students, and it was a
part of his duty to supply, receive, and divide the various subjects. It was with a view to this last–at that
time very delicate– affair that he was lodged by Mr. K—- in the same wynd, and at last in the same
building, with the dissecting-room. Here, after a night of turbulent pleasures, his hand still tottering, his
sight still misty and confused, he would be called out of bed in the black hours before the winter dawn by
the unclean and desperate interlopers who supplied the table. He would open the door to these men,
since infamous throughout the land. He would help them with their tragic burden, pay them their sordid
price, and remain alone, when they were gone, with the unfriendly relics of humanity. From such a scene
he would return to snatch another hour or two of slumber, to repair the abuses of the night, and refresh
himself for the labours of the day.

Few lads could have been more insensible to the impressions of a life thus passed among the ensigns
of mortality. His mind was closed against all general considerations. He was incapable of interest in the
fate and fortunes of another, the slave of his own desires and low ambitions. Cold, light, and selfish in
the last resort, he had that modicum of prudence, miscalled morality, which keeps a man from
inconvenient drunkenness or punishable theft. He coveted, besides, a measure of consideration from
his masters and his fellow-pupils, and he had no desire to fail conspicuously in the external parts of life.
Thus he made it his pleasure to gain some distinction in his studies, and day after day rendered
unimpeachable eye-service to his employer, Mr. K—-. For his day of work he indemnified himself by
nights of roaring, blackguardly enjoyment; and when that balance had been struck, the organ that he
called his conscience declared itself content.

The supply of subjects was a continual trouble to him as well as to his master. In that large and busy
class, the raw material of the anatomists kept perpetually running out; and the business thus rendered
necessary was not only unpleasant in itself, but threatened dangerous consequences to all who were
concerned. It was the policy of Mr. K—- to ask no questions in his dealings with the trade. “They bring
the body, and we pay the price,” he used to say, dwelling on the alliteration–“quid pro quo.” And again,
and somewhat profanely, “Ask no questions,” he would tell his assistants, “for conscience sake.” There
was no understanding that the subjects were provided by the crime of murder. Had that idea been
broached to him in words, he would have recoiled in horror; but the lightness of his speech upon so
grave a matter was, in itself, an offence against good manners, and a temptation to the men with whom
he dealt. Fettes, for instance, had often remarked to himself upon the singular freshness of the bodies.
He had been struck again and again by the hang-dog, abominable looks of the ruffians who came to him
before the dawn; and putting things together clearly in his private thoughts, he perhaps attributed a
meaning too immoral and too categorical to the unguarded counsels of his master. He understood his
duty, in short, to have three branches: to take what was brought, to pay the price, and to avert the eye
from any evidence of crime.

One November morning this policy of silence was put sharply to the test. He had been awake all night
with a racking toothache–pacing his room like a caged beast or throwing himself in fury on his bed–and
had fallen at last into that profound, uneasy slumber that so often follows on a night of pain, when he
was awakened by the third or fourth angry repetition of the concerted signal. There was a thin, bright
moonshine; it was bitter cold, windy, and frosty; the town had not yet awakened, but an indefinable stir
already preluded the noise and business of the day. The ghouls had come later than usual, and they
seemed more than usually eager to be gone. Fettes, sick with sleep, lighted them upstairs. He heard
their grumbling Irish voices through a dream; and as they stripped the sack from their sad merchandise
he leaned dozing, with his shoulder propped against the wall; he had to shake himself to find the men
their money. As he did so his eyes lighted on the dead face. He started; he took two steps nearer, with
the candle raised.

“God Almighty!” he cried. “That is Jane Galbraith!” The men answered nothing, but they shuffled nearer
the door.

“I know her, I tell you,” he continued. “She was alive and hearty yesterday. It’s impossible she can be
dead; it’s impossible you should have got this body fairly.”

“Sure, sir, you’re mistaken entirely,” said one of the men.

But the other looked Fettes darkly in the eyes, and demanded the money on the spot.

It was impossible to misconceive the threat or to exaggerate the danger. The lad’s heart failed him. He
stammered some excuses, counted out the sum, and saw his hateful visitors depart. No sooner were
they gone than he hastened to confirm his doubts. By a dozen unquestionable marks he identified the
girl he had jested with the day before. He saw, with horror, marks upon her body that might well betoken
violence. A panic seized him, and he took refuge in his room. There he reflected at length over the
discovery that he had made; considered soberly the bearing of Mr. K—-‘s instructions and the danger to
himself of interference in so serious a business, and at last, in sore perplexity, determined to wait for the
advice of his immediate superior, the class assistant.

This was a young doctor, Wolfe Macfarlane, a high favourite among all the reckless students, clever,
dissipated, and unscrupulous to the last degree. He had travelled and studied abroad. His manners
were agreeable and a little forward. He was an authority on the stage, skilful on the ice or the links with
skate or golf-club; he dressed with nice audacity, and, to put the finishing touch upon his glory, he kept
a gig and a strong trotting-horse. With Fettes he was on terms of intimacy; indeed, their relative
positions called for some community of life; and when subjects were scarce the pair would drive far into
the country in Macfarlane’s gig, visit and desecrate some lonely graveyard, and return before dawn with
their booty to the door of the dissecting-room.

On that particular morning Macfarlane arrived somewhat earlier than his wont. Fettes heard him, and
met him on the stairs, told him his story, and showed him the cause of his alarm. Macfarlane examined
the marks on her body.

“Yes,” he said with a nod, “it looks fishy.”

“Well, what should I do? ” asked Fettes.

“Do?” repeated the other. “Do you want to do anything? Least said soonest mended, I should say.”

“Some one else might recognise her,” objected Fettes. “She was as well known as the Castle Rock.”

“We’ll hope not,” said Macfarlane, “and if anybody does–well, you didn’t, don’t you see, and there’s an
end. The fact is, this has been going on too long. Stir up the mud, and you’ll get K—- into the most
unholy trouble; you’ll be in a shocking box yourself. So will I, if you come to that. I should like to know
how any one of us would look, or what the devil we should have to say for ourselves in any Christian
witness-box. For me, you know there’s one thing certain–that, practically speaking, all our subjects have
been murdered.”

“Macfarlane!” cried Fettes.

“Come now!” sneered the other. “As if you hadn’t suspected it yourself!”

“Suspecting is one thing—-”

“And proof another. Yes, I know; and I’m as sorry as you are this should have come here,” tapping the
body with his cane. “The next best thing for me is not to recognise it; and,” he added coolly, “I don’t. You
may, if you please. I don’t dictate, but I think a man of the world would do as I do; and I may add, I fancy
that is what K—- would look for at our hands. The question is, Why did he choose us two for his
assistants? And I answer, because he didn’t want old wives.”

This was the tone of all others to affect the mind of a lad like Fettes. He agreed to imitate Macfarlane.
The body of the unfortunate girl was duly dissected, and no one remarked or appeared to recognize her.

One afternoon, when his day’s work was over, Fettes dropped into a popular tavern and found
Macfarlane sitting with a stranger. This was a small man, very pale and dark, with coal-black eyes. The
cut of his features gave a promise of intellect and refinement which was but feebly realised in his
manners, for he proved, upon a nearer acquaintance, coarse, vulgar, and stupid. He exercised,
however, a very remarkable control over Macfarlane; issued orders like the Great Bashaw; became
inflamed at the least discussion or delay, and commented rudely on the servility with which he was
obeyed. This most offensive person took a fancy to Fettes on the spot, plied him with drinks, and
honoured him with unusual confidences on his past career. If a tenth part of what he confessed were
true, he was a very loathsome rogue; and the lad’s vanity was tickled by the attention of so experienced
a man.

“I’m a pretty bad fellow myself,” the stranger remarked, “but Macfarlane is the boy–Toddy Macfarlane, I
call him. Toddy, order your friend another glass.” Or it might be, “Toddy, you jump up and shut the
door.” “Toddy hates me,” he said again. “Oh, yes, Toddy, you do!”

“Don’t you call me that confounded name,” growled Macfarlane.

“Hear him! Did you ever see the lads play knife? He would like to do that all over my body,” remarked
the stranger.

“We medicals have a better way than that,” said Fettes. “When we dislike a dead friend of ours, we
dissect him.”

Macfarlane looked up sharply, as though this jest was scarcely to his mind.

The afternoon passed. Gray, for that was the stranger’s name, invited Fettes to join them at dinner,
ordered a feast so sumptuous that the tavern was thrown in commotion, and when all was done
commanded Macfarlane to settle the bill. It was late before they separated; the man Gray was incapably
drunk. Macfarlane, sobered by his fury, chewed the cud of the money he had been forced to squander
and the slights he had been obliged to swallow. Fettes, with various liquors singing in his head, returned
home with devious footsteps and a mind entirely in abeyance. Next day Macfarlane was absent from the
class, and Fettes smiled to himself as he imagined him still squiring the intolerable Gray from tavern to
tavern. As soon as the hour of liberty had struck he posted from place to place in quest of his last
night’s companions. He could find them, however, nowhere; so returned early to his rooms, went early to
bed, and slept the sleep of the just.

At four in the morning he was awakened by the well-known signal. Descending to the door, he was filled
with astonishment to find Macfarlane with his gig, and in the gig one of those long and ghastly packages
with which he was so well acquainted.

“What?” he cried. “Have you been out alone? How did you manage?”

But Macfarlane silenced him roughly, bidding him turn to business. When they had got the body upstairs
and laid it on the table, Macfarlane made at first as if he were going away. Then he paused and seemed
to hesitate; and then, “You had better look at the face,” said he, in tones of some constraint. “You had
better,” he repeated, as Fettes only stared at him in wonder.

“But where, and how, and when did you come by it?” cried the other.

“Look at the face,” was the only answer.

Fettes was staggered; strange doubts assailed him. He looked from the young doctor to the body, and
then back again. At last, with a start, he did as he was bidden. He had almost expected the sight that
met his eyes, and yet the shock was cruel. To see, fixed in the rigidity of death and naked on that
coarse layer of sackcloth, the man whom he had left well clad and full of meat and sin upon the
threshold of a tavern, awoke, even in the thoughtless Fettes, some of the terrors of the conscience. It
was a cras tibi which re- echoed in his soul, that two whom he had known should have come to lie upon
these icy tables. Yet these were only secondary thoughts. His first concern regarded Wolfe. Unprepared
for a challenge so momentous, he knew not how to look his comrade in the face. He durst not meet his
eye, and he had neither words nor voice at his command.

It was Macfarlane himself who made the first advance. He came up quietly behind and laid his hand
gently but firmly on the other’s shoulder.

“Richardson,” said he, “may have the head.”

Now Richardson was a student who had long been anxious for that portion of the human subject to
dissect. There was no answer, and the murderer resumed: “Talking of business, you must pay me; your
accounts, you see, must tally.”

Fettes found a voice, the ghost of his own: “Pay you!” he cried. “Pay you for that?”

“Why, yes, of course you must. By all means and on every possible account, you must,” returned the
other. “I dare not give it for nothing, you dare not take it for nothing; it would compromise us both. This is
another case like Jane Galbraith’s. The more things are wrong the more we must act as if all were right.
Where does old K—- keep his money?”

“There,” answered Fettes hoarsely, pointing to a cupboard in the corner.

“Give me the key, then,” said the other, calmly, holding out his hand.

There was an instant’s hesitation, and the die was cast. Macfarlane could not suppress a nervous twitch,
the infinitesimal mark of an immense relief, as he felt the key between his fingers. He opened the
cupboard, brought out pen and ink and a paper-book that stood in one compartment, and separated
from the funds in a drawer a sum suitable to the occasion.

“Now, look here,” he said, “there is the payment made–first proof of your good faith: first step to your
security. You have now to clinch it by a second. Enter the payment in your book, and then you for your
part may defy the devil.”

The next few seconds were for Fettes an agony of thought; but in balancing his terrors it was the most
immediate that triumphed. Any future difficulty seemed almost welcome if he could avoid a present
quarrel with Macfarlane. He set down the candle which he had been carrying all this time, and with a
steady hand entered the date, the nature, and the amount of the transaction.

“And now,” said Macfarlane, “it’s only fair that you should pocket the lucre. I’ve had my share already. By
the bye, when a man of the world falls into a bit of luck, has a few shillings extra in his pocket–I’m
ashamed to speak of it, but there’s a rule of conduct in the case. No treating, no purchase of expensive
class-books, no squaring of old debts; borrow, don’t lend.”

“Macfarlane,” began Fettes, still somewhat hoarsely, “I have put my neck in a halter to oblige you.”

“To oblige me?” cried Wolfe. “Oh, come! You did, as near as I can see the matter; what you downright
had to do in self-defence. Suppose I got into trouble, where would you be? This second little matter
flows clearly from the first. Mr. Gray is the continuation of Miss Galbraith. You can’t begin and then stop.
If you begin, you must keep on beginning; that’s the truth. No rest for the wicked.”

A horrible sense of blackness and the treachery of fate seized hold upon the soul of the unhappy
student.

“My God!” he cried, “but what have I done? and when did I begin? To be made a class assistant–in the
name of reason, where’s the harm in that? Service wanted the position; Service might have got it. Would
he have been where I am now?”

“My dear fellow,” said Macfarlane, “what a boy you are! What harm has come to you? What harm can
come to you if you hold your tongue? Why, man, do you know what this life is? There are two squads of
us–the lions, and the lambs. If you’re a lamb, you’ll come to lie upon these tables like Gray or Jane
Galbraith; if you’re a lion, you’ll live and drive a horse like me, like K—-, like all the world with any wit or
courage. You’re staggered at the first. But look at K—-! My dear fellow, you’re clever, you have pluck. I
like you, and K—- likes you. You were born to lead the hunt; and I tell you, on my honour and my
experience of life, three days from now you’ll laugh at all these scarecrows like a high-school boy at a
farce.”

And with that Macfarlane took his departure and drove off up the wynd in his gig to get under cover
before daylight. Fettes was thus left alone with his regrets. He saw the miserable peril in which he stood
involved. He saw, with inexpressible dismay, that there was no limit to his weakness, and that, from
concession to concession, he had fallen from the arbiter of Macfarlane’s destiny to his paid and helpless
accomplice. He would have given the world to have been a little braver at the time, but it did not occur to
him that he might still be brave. The secret of Jane Galbraith and the cursed entry in the daybook
closed his mouth.

Hours passes; the class began to arrive; the members of the unhappy Gray were dealt out to one and to
another, and received without remark. Richardson was made happy with the head; and before the hour
of freedom rang Fettes trembled with exultation to perceive how far they had already gone toward safety.

For two days he continued to watch, with increasing joy, the dreadful process of disguise.

On the third day Macfarlane made his appearance. He had been ill, he said; but he made up for lost
time by the energy with which he directed the students. To Richardson in particular he extended the
most valuable assistance and advice, and that student, encouraged by the praise of the demonstrator,
burned high with ambitious hopes, and saw the medal already in his grasp.

Before the week was out Macfarlane’s prophecy had been fulfilled. Fettes had outlived his terrors and
had forgotten his baseness. He began to plume himself upon his courage, and had so arranged the
story in his mind that he could look back on these events with an unhealthy pride. Of his accomplice he
saw but little. They met, of course, in the business of the class; they received their orders together from
Mr. K—-. At times they had a word or two in private, and Macfarlane was from first to last particularly
kind and jovial. But it was plain that he avoided any reference to their common secret; and even when
Fettes whispered to him that he had cast in his lot with the lions and forsworn the lambs, he only signed
to him smilingly to hold his peace.

At length an occasion arose which threw the pair once more into a closer union. Mr. K—- was again
short of subjects; pupils were eager, and it was a part of this teacher’s pretensions to be always well
supplied. At the same time there came the news of a burial in the rustic graveyard of Glencorse. Time
has little changed the place in question. It stood then, as now, upon a cross road, out of call of human
habitations, and buried fathoms deep in the foliage of six cedar trees. The cries of the sheep upon the
neighbouring hills, the streamlets upon either hand, one loudly singing among pebbles, the other
dripping furtively from pond to pond, the stir of the wind in mountainous old flowering chestnuts, and
once in seven days the voice of the bell and the old tunes of the precentor, were the only sounds that
disturbed the silence around the rural church. The Resurrection Man–to use a byname of the
period–was not to be deterred by any of the sanctities of customary piety. It was part of his trade to
despise and desecrate the scrolls and trumpets of old tombs, the paths worn by the feet of worshippers
and mourners, and the offerings and the inscriptions of bereaved affection. To rustic neighbourhoods,
where love is more than commonly tenacious, and where some bonds of blood or fellowship unite the
entire society of a parish, the body-snatcher, far from being repelled by natural respect, was attracted
by the ease and safety of the task. To bodies that had been laid in earth, in joyful expectation of a far
difFerent awakening, there came that hasty, lamp-lit, terror-haunted resurrection of the spade and
mattock. The coffin was forced, the cerements torn, and the melancholy relics, clad in sackcloth, after
being rattled for hours on moonless byways, were at length e~posed to uttermost indignities before a
class of gaping boys.

Somewhat as two vultures may swoop upon a dying lamb, Fettes and Macfarlane were to be let loose
upon a grave in that green and quiet resting-place. The wife of a farmer, a woman who had lived for
sixty years, and been known for nothing but good butter and a godly conversation, was to be rooted
from her grave at midnight and carried, dead and naked to that far-away city that she had always
honoured with her Sunday’s best; the place beside her family was to be empty till the crack of doom; her
innocent and almost venerable members to be exposed to that last curiosity of the anatomist.

Late one afternoon the pair set forth, well wrapped in cloaks and furnished with a formidable bottle. It
rained without remission–a cold, dense, lashing rain. Now and again there blew a puff of wind, but these
sheets of falling water kept it down. Bottle and all, it was a sad and silent drive as far as Penicuik, where
they were to spend the evening. They stopped once, to hide their implements in a thick bush not far
from the churchyard, and once again at the Fisher’s Tryst, to have a toast before the kitchen fire and
vary their nips of whisky with a glass of ale. When they reached their journey’s end the gig was housed,
the horse was fed and comforted, and the two young doctors in a private room sat down to the best
dinner and the best wine the house afforded. The lights, the fire, the beating rain upon the window, the
cold, incongruous work that lay before them, added zest to their enjoyment of the meal. With every glass
their cordiality increased. Soon Macfarlane handed a little pile of gold to his companion.

“A compliment,” he said. “Between friends these little d—-d accommodations ought to fly like pipe-lights.”

Fettes pocketed the money, and applauded the sentiment to the echo. “You are a philosopher,” he
cried. “I was an ass till I knew you. You and K—- between you, by the Lord Harry! but you’ll make a man
of me.”

“Of course, we shall,” applauded Macfarlane. “A man? I tell you, it required a man to back me up the
other morning. There are some big, brawling, forty-year-old cowards who would have turned sick at the
look of the d—-d thing; but not you–you kept your head. I watched you.”

“Well, and why not?” Fettes thus vaunted himself.

“It was no affair of mine. There was nothing to gain on the one side but disturbance, and on the other I
could count on your gratitude, don’t you see?” And he slapped his pocket till the gold pieces rang.

Macfarlane somehow felt a certain touch of alarm at these unpleasant words. He may have regretted
that he had taught his young companion so successfully, but he had no time to interfere, for the other
noisily continued in this boastful strain:

“The great thing is not to be afraid. Now, between you and me, I don’t want to hang–that’s practical; but
for all cant, Macfarlane, I was born with a contempt. Hell, God, Devil, right, wrong, sin, crime, and all the
old gallery of curiosities –they may frighten boys, but men of the world, like you and me, despise them.
Here’s to the memory of Gray!”

It was by this time growing somewhat late. The gig, according to order, was brought round to the door
with both lamps brightly shining, and the young men had to pay their bill and take the road. They
announced that they were bound for Peebles, and drove in that direction till they were clear of the last
houses of the town; then, extinguishing the lamps, returned upon their course, and followed a by-road
toward Glencorse. There was no sound but that of their own passage, and the incessant, strident
pouring of the rain. It was pitch dark; here and there a white gate or a white stone in the wall guided
them for a short space across the night; but for the most part it was at a foot pace, and almost groping,
that they picked their way through that resonant blackness to their solemn and isolated destination. In
the sunken woods that traverse the neighbourhood of the burying-ground the last glimmer failed them,
and it became necessary to kindle a match and reillumine one of the lanterns of the gig. Thus, under the
dripping trees, and environed by huge and moving shadows, they reached the scene of their
unhallowed labours.

They were both experienced in such affairs, and powerful with the spade; and they had scarce been
twenty minutes at their task before they were rewarded by a dull rattle on the coffin lid. At the same
moment Macfarlane, having hurt his hand upon a stone, flung it carelessly above his head. The grave,
in which they now stood almost to the shoulders, was close to the edge of the plateau of the graveyard;
and the gig lamp had been propped, the better to illuminate their labours, against a tree, and on the
immediate verge of the steep bank descending to the stream. Chance had taken a sure aim with the
stone. Then came a clang of broken glass; night fell upon them; sounds alternately dull and ringing
announced the bounding of the lantern down the bank, and its occasional collision with the trees. A
stone or two, which it had dislodged in its descent, rattled behind it into the profundities of the glen; and
then silence, like night, resumed its sway; and they might bend their hearing to its utmost pitch, but
naught was to be heard except the rain, now marching to the wind, now steadily falling over miles of
open country.

They were so nearly at an end of their abhorred task that they judged it wisest to complete it in the dark.
The coffin was exhumed and broken open; the body inserted in the dripping sack and carried between
them to the gig; one mounted to keep it in its place, and the other, taking the horse by the mouth,
groped along by wall and bush until they reached the wider road by the Fisher’s Tryst. Here was a faint,
diffused radiancy, which they hailed like daylight; by that they pushed the horse to a good pace and
began to rattle along merrily in the direction of the town.

They had both been wetted to the skin during their operations, and now, as the gig jumped among the
deep ruts, the thing that stood propped between them fell now upon one and now upon the other. At
every repetition of the horrid contact each instinctively repelled it with the greater haste; and the
process, natural although it was, began to tell upon the nerves of the companions. Macfarlane made
some ill-favoured jest about the farmer’s wife, but it came hollowly from his lips, and was allowed to drop
in silence. Still their unnatural burden bumped from side to side; and now the head would be laid, as if in
confidence, upon their shoulders, and now the drenching sackcloth would flap icily about their faces. A
creeping chill began to possess the soul of Fettes. He peered at the bundle, and it seemed somehow
larger than at first. All over the countryside, and from every degree of distance, the farm dogs
accompanied their passage with tragic ululations; and it grew and grew upon his mind that some
unnatural miracle had been accomplished, that some nameless change had befallen the dead body,
and that it was in fear of their unholy burden that the dogs were howling.

“For God’s sake,” said he, making a great effort to arrive at speech, “for God’s sake, let’s have a light!”

Seemingly Macfarlane was affected in the same direction; for, though he made no reply, he stopped the
horse, passed the reins to his companion, got down, and proceeded to kindle the remaining lamp. They
had by that time got no farther than the cross-road down to Auchenclinny. The rain still poured as
though the deluge were returning, and it was no easy matter to make a light in such a world of wet and
darkness. When at last the flickering blue flame had been transferred to the wick and began to expand
and clarify, and shed a wide circle of misty brightness round the gig, it became possible for the two
young men to see each other and the thing they had along with them. The rain had moulded the rough
sacking to the outlines of the body underneath; the head was distinct from the trunk, the shoulders
plainly modelled; something at once spectral and human riveted their eyes upon the ghastly comrade of
their drive.

For some time Macfarlane stood motionless, holding up the lamp. A nameless dread was swathed, like a
wet sheet, about the body, and tightened the white skin upon the face of Fettes; a fear that was
meaningless, a horror of what could not be, kept mounting to his brain. Another beat of the watch, and
he had spoken. But his comrade forestalled him.

“That is not a woman,” said Macfarlane in a hushed voice.

“It was a woman when we put her in,” whispered Fettes.

“Hold that lamp,” said the other. “I must see her face.”

And as Fettes took the lamp his companion untied the fastenings of the sack and drew down the cover
from the head. The light fell very clear upon the dark, well-moulded features and smooth-shaven cheeks
of a too familiar countenance, often beheld in dreams of both of these young men. A wild yell rang up
into the night; each leaped from his own side into the roadway; the lamp fell, broke and was
extinguished; and the horse, terrified by this unusual commotion, bounded and went off toward
Edinburgh at a gallop, bearing along with it, sole occupant of the gig, the body of the dead and
long-dissected Gray.

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (1850 –  1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson now ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world. His works have been admired by many other writers, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Marcel Schwob, Vladimir Nabokov, J. M. Barrie, and G. K. Chesterton, who said of him that he “seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins.”

photo by whatleydude

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving

In 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.

The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female circle of a
rural neighborhood; being considered a kind of idle gentleman-like personage, of
vastly superior taste and accomplishments to the rough country swains, and, indeed,
inferior in learning only to the parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion
some little stir at the tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary
dish of cakes or sweetmeats, or, peradventure, the parade of a silver tea-pot. Our
man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly happy in the smiles of all the country
damsels. How he would figure among them in the church-yard, between services on
Sundays! Gathering grapes for them from the wild vines that overrun the
surrounding trees; reciting for their amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones;
or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent mill-pond;
while the more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior
elegance and address.

From his half itinerant life, also, he was a kind of travelling gazette, carrying the
whole budget of local gossip from house to house; so that his appearance was
always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a
man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through, and was a
perfect master of Cotton Mather’s history of New England Witchcraft, in which, by
the way, he most firmly and potently believed.

He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity. His
appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally
extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spellbound
region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow. It was often his
delight, after his school was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch himself on the
rich bed of clover, bordering the little brook that whimpered by his school-house, and
there con over old Mather’s direful tales, until the gathering dusk of the evening
made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes. Then, as he wended his way,
by swamp and stream and awful woodland, to the farmhouse where he happened to
be quartered, every sound of nature, at that witching hour, fluttered his excited
imagination: the moan of the whip-poor-will from the hillside; the boding cry of the
tree-toad, that harbinger of storm; the dreary hooting of the screech-owl, or the
sudden rustling in the thicket of birds frightened from their roost. The fire-flies, too,
which sparkled most vividly in the darkest places, now and then startled him, as one
of uncommon brightness would stream across his path; and if, by chance, a huge
blockhead of a beetle came winging his blundering flight against him, the poor varlet
was ready to give up the ghost, with the idea that he was struck with a witch’s token.

His only resource on such occasions, either to drown thought, or drive away evil
spirits, was to sing psalm tunes;- and the good people of Sleepy Hollow, as they sat
by their doors of an evening, were often filled with awe, at hearing his nasal melody,
“in linked sweetness long drawn out,” floating from the distant hill, or along the dusky
road.

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 his 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 blooming 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 off her charms. She
wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her great-great-grandmother had
brought over from Saardam; the tempting stomacher of the olden time; and withal a
provokingly short petticoat, to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country
round.

Ichabod 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 every thing 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 bubbled along among alders and dwarf willows. Hard by the
farm-house 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; and 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; 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 farm-yard, 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 pedagogue’s mouth watered, as he looked upon this sumptuous promise of
luxurious winter fare. In his devouring mind’s eye, he pictured to himself every
roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the
pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of
crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in
dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In the
porkers he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon, and juicy relishing ham;
not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up, with its gizzard under its wing, and,
peradventure, a necklace of savory sausages; and even bright chanticleer himself
lay sprawling on his back, in a side-dish, with uplifted claws, as if craving that
quarter which his chivalrous spirit disdained to ask while living.

As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great green eyes
over the fat meadow-lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and Indian
corn, and the orchards burdened with ruddy fruit, which surrounded the warm
tenement of Van Tassel, his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit
these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how they might be
readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land, and
shingle palaces in the wilderness. Nay, his busy fancy already realized his hopes,
and presented to him the blooming Katrina, with a whole family of children, mounted
on the top of a wagon loaded with household trumpery, with pots and kettles
dangling beneath; and he beheld himself bestriding a pacing mare, with a colt at her
heels, setting out for Kentucky, Tennessee, or the Lord knows where.

When he entered the house the conquest of his heart was complete. It was one of
those spacious farmhouses, with high-ridged, but lowly-sloping roofs, built in the
style handed down from the first Dutch settlers; the low projecting eaves forming a
piazza along the front, capable of being closed up in bad weather. Under this were
hung flails, harness, various utensils of husbandry, and nets for fishing in the
neighboring river. Benches were built along the sides for summer use; and a great
spinning-wheel at one end, and a churn at the other, showed the various uses to
which this important porch might be devoted. From this piazza the wondering
Ichabod entered the hall, which formed the centre of the mansion and the place of
usual residence. Here, rows of resplendent pewter, ranged on a long dresser,
dazzled his eyes. In one corner stood a huge bag of wool ready to be spun; in
another a quantity of linsey-woolsey just from the loom; ears of Indian corn, and
strings of dried apples and peaches, hung in gay festoons along the walls, mingled
with the gaud of red peppers; and a door left ajar gave him a peep into the best
parlor, where the claw-footed chairs, and dark mahogany tables, shone like mirrors;
andirons, with their accompanying shovel and tongs, glistened from their covert of
asparagus tops; mock-oranges and conch-shells decorated the mantel-piece;
strings of various colored birds’ eggs were suspended above it: a great ostrich egg
was hung from the centre of the room, and a corner cupboard, knowingly left open,
displayed immense treasures of old silver and well-mended china. From the
moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight, the peace of his mind
was at an end, and his only study was how to gain the affections of the peerless
daughter of Van Tassel.

In this enterprise, however, he had more real difficulties than generally fell to the lot
of a knight-errant of yore, who seldom had any thing but giants, enchanters, fiery
dragons, and such like easily-conquered adversaries, to contend with; and had to
make his way merely through gates of iron and brass, and walls of adamant, to the
castle keep, where the lady of his heart was confined; all which he achieved as
easily as a man would carve his way to the centre of a Christmas pie; and then the
lady gave him her hand as a matter of course. Ichabod, on the contrary, had to win
his way to the heart of a country coquette, beset with a labyrinth of whims and
caprices, which were for ever presenting new difficulties and impediments; and he
had to encounter a host of fearful adversaries of real flesh and blood, the numerous
rustic admirers, who beset every portal to her heart; keeping a watchful and angry
eye upon each other, but ready to fly out in the common cause against any new
competitor.

Among these the most formidable was a burly, roaring, roystering blade, of the name
of Abraham, or, according to the Dutch abbreviation, Brom Van Brunt, the hero of
the country round, which rang with his feats of strength and hardihood. He was
broad-shouldered and double-jointed, with short curly black hair, and a bluff, but not
unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air of fun and arrogance.

From his Herculean frame and great powers of limb, he had received the nickname
of BromM Bones, by which he was universally known. He was famed for great
knowledge and skill in horsemanship, being as dexterous on horseback as a Tartar.
He was foremost at all races and cock-fights; and, with the ascendancy which bodily
strength acquires in rustic life, was the umpire in all disputes, setting his hat on one
side, and giving his decisions with an air and tone admitting of no gainsay or appeal.
He was always ready for either a fight or a frolic; but had more mischief than ill-will in
his composition; and, with all his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of
waggish good humor at bottom. He had three or four boon companions, who
regarded him as their model, and at the head of whom he scoured the country,
attending every scene of feud or merriment for miles round. In cold weather he was
distinguished by a fur cap, surmounted with a flaunting fox’s tail; and when the folks
at a country gathering descried this well-known crest at a distance, whisking about
among a squad of hard riders, they always stood by for a squall. Sometimes his
crew would be heard dashing along past the farmhouses at midnight, with whoop
and halloo, like a troop of Don Cossacks; and the old dames, startled out of their
sleep, would listen for a moment till the hurry-scurry had clattered by, and then
exclaim, “Ay, there goes Brom Bones and his gang!” The neighbors looked upon him
with a mixture of awe, admiration, and good will; and when any madcap prank, or
rustic brawl, occurred in the vicinity, always shook their heads, and warranted Brom
Bones was at the bottom of it.

This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the blooming Katrina for the object
of his uncouth gallantries, and though his amorous toyings were something like the
gentle caresses and endearments of a bear, yet it was whispered that she did not
altogether discourage his hopes. Certain it is, his advances were signals for rival
candidates to retire, who felt no inclination to cross a lion in his amours; insomuch,
that when his horse was seen tied to Van Tassel’s paling, on a Sunday night, a sure
sign that his master was courting, or, as it is termed, “sparking,” within, all other
suitors passed by in despair, and carried the war into other quarters.

Such was the formidable rival with whom Ichabod Crane had to contend, and,
considering all things, a stouter man than he would have shrunk from the
competition, and a wiser man would have despaired. He had, however, a happy
mixture of pliability and perseverance in his nature; he was in form and spirit like a
supple-jack- yielding, but tough; though he bent, he never broke; and though he
bowed beneath the slightest pressure, yet, the moment it was away- jerk! He was as
erect, and carried his head as high as ever.

To have taken the field openly against his rival would have been madness; for he
was not a man to be thwarted in his amours, any more than that stormy lover,
Achilles. Ichabod, therefore, made his advances in a quiet and gently-insinuating
manner. Under cover of his character of singing-master, he made frequent visits at
the farmhouse; not that he had any thing to apprehend from the meddlesome
interference of parents, which is so often a stumbling-block in the path of lovers. Balt
Van Tassel was an easy indulgent soul; he loved his daughter better even than his
pipe, and, like a reasonable man and an excellent father, let her have her way in
everything. His notable little wife, too, had enough to do to attend to her
housekeeping and manage her poultry; for, as she sagely observed, ducks and
geese are foolish things, and must be looked after, but girls can take care of
themselves. Thus while the busy dame bustled about the house, or plied her
spinning-wheel at one end of the piazza, honest Balt would sit smoking his evening
pipe at the other, watching the achievements of a little wooden warrior, who, armed
with a sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the pinnacle of the
barn. In the meantime, Ichabod would carry on his suit with the daughter by the side
of the spring under the great elm, or sauntering along in the twilight, that hour so
favorable to the lover’s eloquence.

I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have
always been matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have but one
vulnerable point, or door of access; while others have a thousand avenues, and may
be captured in a thousand different ways. It is a great triumph of skill to gain the
former, but a still greater proof of generalship to maintain possession of the latter,
for the man must battle for his fortress at every door and window. He who wins a
thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps
undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette, is indeed a hero. Certain it is, this was
not the case with the redoubtable Brom Bones; and from the moment Ichabod Crane
made his advances, the interests of the former evidently declined; his horse was no
longer seen tied at the palings on Sunday nights, and a deadly feud gradually arose
between him and the preceptor of Sleepy Hollow.

Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in his nature, would fain have carried
matters to open warfare, and have settled their pretensions to the lady, according to
the mode of those most concise and simple reasoners, the knights-errant of yore- by
single combat; but Ichabod was too conscious of the superior might of his adversary
to enter the lists against him: he had overheard a boast of Bones, that he would
“double the schoolmaster up, and lay him on a shelf of his own school-house;” and
he was too wary to give him an opportunity.

There was something extremely provoking in this obstinately pacific system; it left
Brom no alternative but to draw upon the funds of rustic waggery in his disposition,
and to play off boorish practical jokes upon his rival. Ichabod became the object of
whimsical persecution to Bones, and his gang of rough riders. They harried his
hitherto peaceful domains; smoked out his singing school, by stopping up the
chimney; broke into the school-house at night, in spite of its formidable fastenings of
withe and window stakes, and turned every thing topsy-turvy: so that the poor
schoolmaster began to think all the witches in the country held their meetings there.
But what was still more annoying, Brom took all opportunities of turning him into
ridicule in presence of his mistress, and had a scoundrel dog whom he taught to
whine in the most ludicrous manner, and introduced as a rival of Ichabod’s to instruct
her in psalmody.

In this way matters went on for some time, without producing any material effect on
the relative situation of the contending powers. On a fine autumnal afternoon,
Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on the lofty stool whence he usually
watched all the concerns of his little literary realm. In his hand he swayed a ferrule,
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 gamecocks. 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 school-room. 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 school-room. 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 looks by
a bit of broken looking-glass, that hung up in the school-house. 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 plough-horse, that had outlived
almost every thing but his 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
burrs; 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
horse’s 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 cock-robin,
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-tipped wings and yellow-tipped 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 stores 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
bee-hive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty
flapjacks, 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 into 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
shadow 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.

It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of the Herr Van Tassel,
which he found thronged with the pride and flower of the adjacent country. Old
farmers, a spare leathern-faced race, in homespun coats and breeches, blue
stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter buckles. Their brisk withered little
dames, in close crimped caps, long-waisted shortgowns, homespun petticoats, with
scissors and pincushions, and gay calico pockets hanging on the outside. Buxom
lasses, almost as antiquated as their mothers, excepting where a straw hat, a fine
ribbon, or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city innovation. The sons, in
short square-skirted coats with rows of stupendous brass buttons, and their hair
generally queued in the fashion of the times, especially if they could procure an
eel-skin for the purpose, it being esteemed, throughout the country, as a potent
nourisher and strengthener of the hair.

Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene, having come to the gathering on
his favorite steed Daredevil, a creature, like himself, full of mettle and mischief, and
which no one but himself could manage. He was, in fact, noted for preferring vicious
animals, given to all kinds of tricks, which kept the rider in constant risk of his neck,
for he held a tractable well-broken horse as unworthy of a lad of spirit.

Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured
gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion. Not those
of the bevy of buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but the
ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous time of
autumn. Such heaped-up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable
kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty
doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and
short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then
there were apple pies and peach pies and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and
smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches,
and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together
with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have
enumerated them, with the motherly tea-pot sending up its clouds of vapor from the
midst- Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it
deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story. Happily, Ichabod Crane was not
in so great a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty.

He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion as his skin
was filled with good cheer; and whose spirits rose with eating as some men’s do with
drink. He could not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and
chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost
unimaginable luxury and splendor. Then, he thought, how soon he’d turn his back
upon the old school-house; snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper, and
every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue out of doors that
should dare to call him comrade!

Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated with
content and good humor, round and jolly as the harvest moon. His hospitable
attentions were brief, but expressive, being confined to a shake of the hand, a slap
on the shoulder, a loud laugh, and a pressing invitation to “fall to, and help
themselves.”

And now the sound of the music from the common room, or hall, summoned to the
dance. The musician was an old gray-headed negro, who had been the itinerant
orchestra of the neighborhood for more than half a century. His instrument was as
old and battered as himself. The greater part of the time he scraped on two or three
strings, accompanying every movement of the bow with a motion of the head; bowing
almost to the ground, and stamping with his foot whenever a fresh couple were to
start.

Ichabod prided himself upon his dancing as much as upon his vocal powers. Not a
limb, not a fibre about him was idle; and to have seen his loosely hung frame in full
motion, and clattering about the room, you would have thought Saint Vitus himself,
that blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person. He was the
admiration of all the negroes; who, having gathered, of all ages and sizes, from the
farm and the neighborhood, stood forming a pyramid of shining black faces at every
door and window, gazing with delight at the scene, rolling their white eye-balls, and
showing grinning rows of ivory from ear to ear. How could the flogger of urchins be
otherwise than animated and joyous? the lady of his heart was his partner in the
dance, and smiling graciously in reply to all his amorous oglings; while Brom Bones,
sorely smitten with love and jealousy, sat brooding by himself in one corner.

When the dance was at an end, Ichabod was attracted to a knot of the sager folks,
who, with old Van Tassel, sat smoking at one end of the piazza, gossiping over
former times, and drawing out long stories about the war.

This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those
highly-favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and
American line had run near it during the war; it had, therefore, been the scene of
marauding, and infested with refugees, cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry.
Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each story-teller to dress up his tale with a
little becoming fiction, and, in the indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself
the hero of every exploit.

There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large blue-bearded Dutchman, who had
nearly taken a British frigate with an old iron nine-pounder from a mud breastwork,
only that his gun burst at the sixth discharge. And there was an old gentleman who
shall be nameless, being too rich a mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who, in the
battle of Whiteplains, being an excellent master of defence, parried a musket ball
with a small sword, insomuch that he absolutely felt it whiz round the blade, and
glance off at the hilt: in proof of which, he was ready at any time to show the sword,
with the hilt a little bent. There were several more that had been equally great in the
field, not one of whom but was persuaded that he had a considerable hand in
bringing the war to a happy termination.

But all these were nothing to the tales of ghosts and apparitions that succeeded.
The neighborhood is rich in legendary treasures of the kind. Local tales and
superstitions thrive best in these sheltered long-settled retreats; but are trampled
under foot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country
places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for
they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap, and turn themselves in their
graves, before their surviving friends have travelled away from the neighborhood; so
that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds, they have no acquaintance left
to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in
our long-established Dutch communities.

The immediate cause, however, of the prevalence of supernatural stories in these
parts, was doubtless owing to the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. There was a contagion in
the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of
dreams and fancies infecting all the land. Several of the Sleepy Hollow people were
present at Van Tassel’s, and, as usual, were doling out their wild and wonderful
legends. Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and
wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate Major Andre
was taken, and which stood in the neighborhood. Some mention was made also of
the woman in white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard
to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow. The
chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow,
the headless horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the
country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the
church-yard.

The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite
haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust-trees and lofty
elms, from among which its decent whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like
Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends
from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may
be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where
the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead
might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along
which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a
deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a
wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by
overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned
a fearful darkness at night. This was one of the favorite haunts of the headless
horseman; and the place where he was most frequently encountered. The tale was
told of old Brouwer, a most heretical disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the horseman
returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him;
how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached the
bridge; when the horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into
the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap of thunder.

This story was immediately matched by a thrice marvellous adventure of Brom
Bones, who made light of the galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed
that, on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been
overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of
punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow,
but, just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a
flash of fire.

All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in the dark, the
countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the
glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large
extracts from his invaluable author, Cotton Mather, and added many marvellous
events that had taken place in his native State of Connecticut, and fearful sights
which he had seen in his nightly walks about Sleepy Hollow.

The revel now gradually broke up. The old farmers gathered together their families
in their wagons, and were heard for some time rattling along the hollow roads, and
over the distant hills. Some of the damsels mounted on pillions behind their favorite
swains, and their light-hearted laughter, mingling with the clatter of hoofs, echoed
along the silent woodlands, sounding fainter and fainter until they gradually died
away- and the late scene of noise and frolic was all silent and deserted. Ichabod only
lingered behind, according to the custom of country lovers, to have a tete-a-tete with
the heiress, fully convinced that he was now on the high road to success. What
passed at this interview I will not pretend to say, for in fact I do not know. Something,
however, I fear me, must have gone wrong, for he certainly sallied forth, after no
very great interval, with an air quite desolate and chapfallen.

Oh these women! These women! Could that girl have been playing off any of her
coquettish tricks? Was her encouragement of the poor pedagogue all a mere sham
to secure her conquest of his rival? Heaven only knows, not I!- Let it suffice to say,
Ichabod stole forth with the air of one who had been sacking a hen roost, rather than
a fair lady’s heart.

Without looking to the right or left to notice the scene of rural wealth, on which he
had so often gloated, he went straight to the stable, and with several hearty cuffs
and kicks, roused his steed most uncourteously from the comfortable quarters in
which he was soundly sleeping, dreaming of mountains of corn and oats, and whole
valleys of timothy and clover.

It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crest-fallen,
pursued his travel homewards, along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above
Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was
as dismal as himself. Far below him, the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct
waste of waters, with here and there the tall mast of a sloop, riding quietly at anchor
under the land. In the dead hush of midnight, he could even hear the barking of the
watch dog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so vague and faint as
only to give an idea of his distance from this faithful companion of man.

Now and then, too, the long-drawn crowing of a cock, accidentally awakened, would
sound far, far off, from some farm-house away among the hills- but it was like a
dreaming sound in his ear. No signs of life occurred near him, but occasionally the
melancholy chirp of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural twang of a bullfrog, from a
neighboring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably, and turning suddenly in his bed.

All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon, now came
crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed
to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He
had never felt so lonely and dismayed. He was, moreover, approaching the very
place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of
the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other
trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled,
and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to
the earth, and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragic story of the
unfortunate Andre, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and was universally
known by the name of Major Andre’s tree. The common people regarded it with a
mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its
ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights and doleful
lamentations told concerning it.

As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to whistle: he thought his whistle
was answered- it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches. As he
approached a little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst
of the tree – he paused and ceased whistling; but on looking more narrowly,
perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the
white wood laid bare. Suddenly he heard a groan- his teeth chattered and his knees
smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon another,
as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in safety, but new
perils lay before him.

About two hundred yards from the tree a small brook crossed the road, and ran into
a marshy and thickly-wooded glen, known by the name of Wiley’s swamp. A few
rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge over this stream. On that side of
the road where the brook entered the wood, a group of oaks and chestnuts, matted
thick with wild grape-vines, threw a cavernous gloom over it. To pass this bridge was
the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate Andre was
captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy
yeomen concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered a
haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the schoolboy who has to pass it
alone after dark.

As he approached the stream his heart began to thump; he summoned up, however,
all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to
dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old
animal made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod,
whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side, and kicked
lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it was
only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder
bushes.

The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old
Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand just by
the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head.
Just at this moment a splashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive
ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he
beheld something huge, misshapen, black and towering. It stirred not, but seemed
gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the
traveller.

The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be
done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of
escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind?
Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents –
“Who are you?” He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more
agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the
inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into
a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and, with a
scramble and a bound, stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night
was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be
ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a
black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but
kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old
Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.

Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and bethought
himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened
his steed, in hopes of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his
horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag
behind- the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavored to
resume his psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and
he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged silence of
this pertinacious companion, that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully
accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his
fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak,
Ichabod was horror-struck, on perceiving that he was headless!- but his horror was
still more increased, on observing that the head, which should have rested on his
shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of the saddle: his terror rose to
desperation; he rained a shower of kicks and blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a
sudden movement, to give his companion the slip- but the spectre started full jump
with him. Away then they dashed, through thick and thin; stones flying, and sparks
flashing at every bound. Ichabod’s flimsy garments fluttered in the air, as he
stretched his long lank body away over his horse’s head, in the eagerness of his
flight.

They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but Gunpowder,
who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it, made an opposite
turn, and plunged headlong down hill to the left. This road leads through a sandy
hollow, shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses the bridge
famous in goblin story, and just beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the
whitewashed church.

As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskillful rider an apparent advantage in
the chase; but just as he had got half way through the hollow, the girths of the
saddle gave way, and he felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel,
and endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to save himself by
clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he
heard it trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van
Ripper’s wrath passed across his mind – for it was his Sunday saddle; but this was no
time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches; and (unskillful rider that he
was!) he had much ado to maintain his seat; sometimes slipping on one side,
sometimes on another, and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse’s
backbone, with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.

An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was
at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him
that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the
trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’s ghostly competitor had
disappeared. “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then
he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied
that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder
sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the
opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should
vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone.

Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his
head at him. Ichabod endeavored 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 by like a
whirlwind.

The next morning the old horse was found without his saddle, and with the bridle
under his feet, soberly cropping 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 school-house and strolled idly about the banks of the brook; but
no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness about the
fate of poor Ichabod, and his saddle. An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent
investigation they came upon his traces.

In one part of the road leading to the church was found the saddle trampled in the
dirt; the tracks of horses’ hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious
speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of the
brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the unfortunate
Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.

The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be
discovered. Hans Van Ripper, as executor of his estate, examined the bundle which
contained all his worldly effects. They consisted of two shirts and a half; two stocks
for the neck; a pair or two of worsted stockings; an old pair of corduroy
small-clothes; a rusty razor; a book of psalm tunes, full of dogs’ ears; and a broken
pitchpipe. As to the books and furniture of the school-house, they belonged to the
community, excepting Cotton Mather’s History of Witchcraft, a New England Almanac,
and a book of dreams and fortune-telling; in which last was a sheet of foolscap much
scribbled and blotted in several fruitless attempts to make a copy of verses in honor
of the heiress of Van Tassel. These magic books and the poetic scrawl were
forthwith consigned to the flames by Hans Van Ripper; who from that time forward
determined to send his children no more to school; observing, that he never knew
any good come of this same reading and writing. Whatever money the schoolmaster
possessed, and he had received his quarter’s pay but a day or two before, he must
have had about his person at the time of his disappearance.

The mysterious event caused much speculation at the church on the following
Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were collected in the church-yard, at the
bridge, and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin had been found. The stories of
Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of others, were called to mind; and when
they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of
the present case, they shook their heads, and came to the conclusion that Ichabod
had been carried off by the galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor, and in
nobody’s debt, nobody troubled his head any more about him. The school was
removed to a different quarter of the hollow, and another pedagogue reigned in his
stead.

It is true, an old farmer, who had been down to New York on a visit several years
after, and from whom this account of the ghostly adventure was received, brought
home the intelligence that Ichabod Crane was still alive; that he had left the
neighborhood, partly through fear of the goblin and Hans Van Ripper, and partly in
mortification at having been suddenly dismissed by the heiress; that he had changed
his quarters to a distant part of the country; had kept school and studied law at the
same time, had been admitted to the bar, turned politician, electioneered, written for
the newspapers, and finally had been made a justice of the Ten Pound Court. Brom
Bones too, who shortly after his rival’s disappearance conducted the blooming
Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever
the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention
of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than
he chose to tell.

The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain
to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite
story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge
became more than ever an object of superstitious awe, and that may be the reason
why the road has been altered of late years, so as to approach the church by the
border of the mill-pond. The school-house being deserted, soon fell to decay, and
was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue; and the
plough boy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice
at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of
Sleepy Hollow.

Washington Irving was an American short story writer (1783-1859) whose pseudonyms included Dietrich Knickerbocker, Jonathan Oldstyle, and Geoffrey Crayon. According to Fred Lewis Pattee, “[Irving] made short fiction popular; stripped the prose tale of its didactic elements and made it a literary form solely for entertainment; added richness of atmosphere and unity of tone; added definite locality and actual American scenery and people; brought a peculiar nicety of execution and patient workmanship; added humor and lightness of touch; was original; created characters who are always definite individuals; and endowed the short story with a style that is finished and beautiful.”

photo by brendanburton


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