23 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
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 underfoot 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 these stories, however, turned upon the fav-
orite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the headless horseman, who had been
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