He made many visits to Katrina's farm and made her think he was helping her to sing better. Time passed, and the town people thought Ichabod was winning. Brom's horse was never seen at Katrina's house on Sunday nights anymore. One day in autumn Ichabod was asked to come to a big party at the Van Tassel home. He dressed in his best clothes. A farmer loaned him an old horse for the long trip to the party. The house was filled with farmers and their wives, red-faced daughters and clean, washed sons.
The tables were filled with different things to eat. Wine filled many glasses. Brom Van Brunt rode to the party on his fastest horse called Daredevil. All the young ladies smiled happily when they saw him. Soon music filled the rooms and everyone began to dance and sing. Ichabod was happy dancing with Katrina as Brom looked at them with a jealous heart. The night passed. The music stopped, and the young people sat together to tell stories about the revolutionary war. Soon stories about Sleepy Hollow were told. The most feared story was about the rider looking for his lost head.
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One farmer told how he raced the headless man on a horse. The farmer ran his horse faster and faster. The horseman followed over bush and stone until they came to the end of the valley. There the headless horseman suddenly stopped. Gone were his clothes and his skin.
All that was left was a man with white bones shining in the moonlight. The stories ended and time came to leave the party. Ichabod seemed very happy until he said goodnight to Katrina. Was she ending their romance? He left feeling very sad. Well, Ichabod began his long ride home on the hills that surround Tarry Town.
He had never felt so lonely in his life. He began to whistle as he came close to the tree where a man had been killed years ago by rebels. He thought he saw something white move in the tree. But no, it was only the moonlight shining and moving on the tree. Then he heard a noise. His body shook. He kicked his horse faster.
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The old horse tried to run, but almost fell in the river, instead. Ichabod hit the horse again. The horse ran fast and then suddenly stopped, almost throwing Ichabod forward to the ground.
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There, in the dark woods on the side of the river where the bushes grow low, stood an ugly thing. Big and black.
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It did not move, but seemed ready to jump like a giant monster. Ichabod's hair stood straight up. It was too late to run, and in his fear, he did the only thing he could.
His shaking voice broke the silent valley. Ichabod asked again. Still no answer. Ichabod's old horse began to move forward. The black thing began to move along the side of Ichabod's horse in the dark. Ichabod made his horse run faster. The black thing moved with them. Side by side they moved, slowly at first. And not a word was said. Ichabod felt his heart sink.
Up a hill they moved above the shadow of the trees. For a moment the moon shown down and to Ichabod's horror he saw it was a horse. And it had a rider. But the rider's head was not on his body. It was in front of the rider, resting on the horse. Ichabod kicked and hit his old horse with all his power.
Away they rushed through bushes and trees across the valley of Sleepy Hollow. Up ahead was the old church bridge where the headless horseman stops and returns to his burial place. He kicked his horse again.
The horse jumped on to the bridge and raced over it like the sound of thunder. Ichabod looked back to see if the headless man had stopped. He saw the man pick up his head and throw it with a powerful force. The head hit Ichabod in the face and knocked him off his horse to the dirt below. They walked all across the valley. They saw the foot marks of Ichabod's horse as it had raced through the valley. They even found Ichabod's old hat in the dust near the bridge. But they did not find Ichabod. The only other thing they found was lying near Ichabod's hat.
The town people talked about Ichabod for many weeks. He had a lasting impact on our culture. Which makes his general unfamiliarity today all the more puzzling. The young United States of the early 19th century, flush with independence, nevertheless struggled with a deep-seated inferiority complex.
Europe was the fount of culture and knowledge.
And Irving did not disappoint. Other writers of the time — like Edgar Allan Poe — were eager for his approval. The public clamored for his autograph.
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He broke bread with President Martin Van Buren. The beautiful Sunnyside offers tours from May through November. Irving spent many, many years in Europe duly noted and criticized in some quarters and, in the s, served as American minister to Spain. Sunnyside, though, was eventually his permanent home, where he wrangled with publishers, lived amid his large extended family, and over a lifetime produced an astonishingly varied, prodigious output that ran the gamut from fiction, essays, biographies, travelogue, and — most surprisingly — a work on the Prophet Muhammad.
The Headless Horseman is a true staple of the fantastic. We are proud to help drive this tremendous economic engine for the area.
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