Friday, October 19, 2007

Gray Days and Spooky Stories

We carved pumpkins today, in what is FINALLY fall weather, thanks to yesterday's crazy storms. The gray clouds and bitter wind put me in mind of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and I thought I'd share some of that moody story here. This is the best part, where Ichabod feels he is being followed down a dark road at midnight.

" . . . 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 lanky 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 unskilful 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 (unskilful 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 . . . ."

--From THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW, Washington Irving

3 comments:

Kay said...

Love the jack-o-lanterns!

Anonymous said...

Tne Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of my all time favorites. Although I have visited Washington Irving's haunts out East, my favorite way to celebrate this author is right here in Illinos. Every year throughout October the Bourbonnais Park District (yes, this would be the same place as Bear's training camp), re-enact the story of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman...mind you with a real headless-costumed man on a stallion. It's actually meant for kids (I have taken mine many times since they were about 8 or 9 years), and so although it makes you heart pound, it is not terribly scary. It takes place at Perry Farm, where a guide takes you through the woods from bonfire to bonfire all the time telling you the story of Ichabod. When you arrive at the last bonfire, guess who appears! More info in at www.btpd.org, the park district website. There are also fun hayrides and other activities. Well worth the drive if you like storytelling! Mary Beth

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Kay

And Mary Beth, that sounds fantastic! What a terrific fall outing. As you may have read, I am not thrilled by this summery weather, but next week might be a good time to do that. It should be cold and gray, the way I like it.