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The Galloping Hessian


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

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

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.

Next morning farmer Van Tassell's horse was found grazing in a field near
Sleepy Hollow, and a man who lived some miles southward reported that he
had seen Mr. Crane striding as rapidly along the road to New York as his
lean legs could take him, and wearing a pale and serious face as he kept
his march. There were yellow stains on the back of his coat, and the man
who restored the horse found a smashed pumpkin in the broken bushes
beside the road. Ichabod never returned to Tarrytown, and when Brom
Bones, a stout young ploughman and taphaunter, married Katrina, people
made bold to say that he knew more about the galloping Hessian than any
one else, though they believed that he never had reason to be jealous of
Ichabod Crane.

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