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The Vanderdecken Of Tappan Zee


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

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.

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