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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 16





THE VANDERDECKEN OF TAPPAN ZEE

It is Saturday night; the swell of the Hudson lazily heaves against the shores of Tappan Zee, the cliff above Tarrytown where the white lady cries on winter nights is pale in starlight, and crickets chirp in the boskage. It is so still that the lap of oars can be heard coming across the water at least a mile away. Some small boat, evidently, but of heavy build, for it takes a vigorous hand to propel it, and now there is a grinding of oars on thole-pins. Strange that it is not yet seen, for the sound is near. Look! Is that a shadow crossing that wrinkle of starlight in the water? The oars have stopped, and there is no wind to make that sound of a sigh.

Ho, Rambout Van Dam! Is it you? Are you still expiating your oath to pull from Kakiat to Spuyten Duyvil before the dawn of Sabbath, if it takes you a month of Sundays? Better for you had you passed the night with your roistering friends at Kakiat, or started homeward earlier, for Sabbath-breaking is no sin now, and you, poor ghost, will find little sympathy for your plight. Grant that your month of Sundays, or your cycle of months of Sundays, be soon up, for it is sad to be reminded that we may be punished for offences many years forgotten. When the sun is high to-morrow a score of barges will vex the sea of Tappan, each crowded with men and maids from New Amsterdam, jigging to profane music and refreshing themselves with such liquors as you, Rambout, never even smelled—be thankful for that much. If your shade sits blinking at them from the wooded buttresses of the Palisades, you must repine, indeed, at the hardness of your fate.





THE GALLOPING HESSIAN

In the flower-gemmed cemetery of Tarrytown, where gentle Irving sleeps, a Hessian soldier was interred after sustaining misfortune in the loss of his head in one of the Revolutionary battles. For a long time after he was buried it was the habit of this gentleman to crawl from his grave at unseemly hours and gallop about the country, sending shivers through the frames of many worthy people, who shrank under their blankets when they heard the rush of hoofs along the unlighted roads.

In later times there lived in Tarrytown—so named because of the tarrying habits of Dutch gossips on market days, though some hard-minded people insist that Tarwe-town means Wheat-towna gaunt schoolmaster, one Ichabod Crane, who cherished sweet sentiments for Katrina Van Tassell, the buxom daughter of a farmer, also a famous maker of pies and doughnuts. Ichabod had been calling late one evening, and, his way home being long, Katrina's father lent him a horse to make the journey; but even with this advantage the youth set out with misgivings, for he had to pass the graveyard.

As it was near the hour when the Hessian was to ride, he whistled feebly to keep his courage up, but when he came to the dreaded spot the whistle died in a gasp, for he heard the tread of a horse. On looking around, his hair bristled and his heart came up like a plug in his throat to hinder his breathing, for he saw a headless horseman coming over the ridge behind him, blackly defined against the starry sky. Setting spurs to his nag with a hope of being first to reach Sleepy Hollow bridge, which the spectre never passed, the unhappy man made the best possible time in that direction, for his follower was surely overtaking him. Another minute and the bridge would be reached; but, to Ichabod's horror, the Hessian dashed alongside and, rising in his stirrups, flung his head full at the fugitive's back. With a squeal of fright the schoolmaster rolled into a mass of weeds by the wayside, and for some minutes he remained there, knowing and remembering nothing.


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