A New Century

A New Century

by Kadorienne
Email: moggy at belladonna.org

 

On her first morning in New York, Katrina opened her eyes to see her husband pulling on his boots. Noticing that she was awake, he came to sit on the edge of the bed and kissed her. It was easier to kiss her now, when he had to leave the flat in just a few minutes, than it would be late this evening. "Good morning, Mrs. Crane."

She smiled and stretched. "You keep saying that name."

He took her hands and looked down at her wonderingly, still unable to credit his good fortune. "I never truly expected there to ever be a Mrs. Ichabod Crane."

"Nonsense. You are reporting today?"

"Yes. I don't know how long I'll be." He rose and went to the closet for the white shirt he would wear under his uniform jacket. His fingers, stiff from the cold, fumbled with the buttons.

Katrina pushed aside the blankets and stood. Ichabod glanced at her, but quickly averted his eyes. She pulled her blue dressing-gown over her thin nightdress and went to him, reaching for the buttons of his shirt. "Here, let me help."

He moved back a pace. "No, thank you, I can manage."

Not arguing, she opened one of her chests to look for a dress warm enough for the snowy day. Choosing one of girlish pink, she held it up to herself; there was no mirror except for Ichabod’s small shaving mirror. "How does this one look?"

Ichabod looked at her, a little blankly. "You look lovely no matter what you wear," was all he could think of to say.

She laughed. "You won’t be much help. Well, I think it will do." She draped it over a chair and pulled a chemise and corset out of the trunk.

"I am going to go ahead and get breakfast," he said quickly and walked out, still struggling with the last few buttons, leaving her alone to dress.

In the kitchen, Young Masbath was building a fire. "Good morning, sir. Did you sleep well?"

To the boy's perplexity, this simple question turned Ichabod's face crimson. "Yes, thank you," came the brief reply before Ichabod turned away and opened a cabinet, rattling the kettle he pulled out loudly. "Let's boil some water."

By the time Katrina was dressed, a simple breakfast was on the table. "You should let me do this from now on," she remarked as she sat down. "I will get up earlier."

"That is all right, I can do it."

"But I should."

"Really, it is not necessary."

She smiled impishly. "Perhaps we should make a game of racing each other to the kitchen every morning."

"Well… if you really want to do it," Ichabod relented, unable to match her playful tone. Not for the first time, he wished that he could think of amusing things to say. The moment he had met Katrina, when she had kissed his cheek and then removed her blindfold to reveal the most startling dark eyes he had ever seen, warm and mysterious like his mother’s, all words had fled his mind. He had longed to say something clever, something that would catch her attention, but all he had been able to manage was to tell her that he was looking for her father. And yet, when the two of them were alone together, he had found that he could speak to her as to no other.

When breakfast was over, Ichabod put on his uniform jacket while Katrina fussed over Young Masbath’s new clothes, which she had bought for him. The boy was far readier to accept help than her husband was. Ichabod watched them for a moment before he left for the courthouse. He had left New York a bachelor, alone in the world; he had returned with a bride and a ward. And with all his certainties shattered. All in all, he had gotten a great deal more from Sleepy Hollow than he had bargained for.

* * *

Ichabod returned looking grave, though he managed a small smile at Katrina's greeting kiss. "What is the matter, Ichabod?"

He sighed as he sat down. She took a seat beside him and clasped his hand. "It has not made any difference, Katrina. I have finally gotten to demonstrate that my techniques work, and they could not care less. They were very disappointed to learn that I had not failed miserably and returned with my tail between my legs."

Her eyes searched his face sympathetically. "Why do they not heed you? Can they not see what these methods of yours are capable of?"

"They do not even heed the rules of procedure already on the books! They arrest whomever they wish with no probable cause – Katrina, almost every man who is arrested is arrested illegally! And proper police procedure requires a rudimentary gathering of evidence – nothing like I am trying to do, of course, but at least a beginning. But even the few creditable rules we have are ignored completely. I have spent more hours just trying to persuade the High Constable and the Burgomaster to at least follow the sensible rules which are already in place, supposedly binding us; I have tried to make them see that they are violating the law, but they care no more for the law than they do for justice. No, they care only for custom." Exhausted by this familiar tirade, he closed his eyes. "I am no nearer to my goal than I ever was."

Katrina caressed her husband's hand for a moment before speaking. "How else might you tell people about these methods of yours?"

He grimaced as he racked his brain for an answer. "I always planned to write monographs about them, once I had some practical demonstrations to discuss. But I have not been allowed to make those demonstrations. I suppose I might be able to find a few crimes to investigate privately, but I do not know how I would find the time around my duties as a constable."

"Resign from the constabulary," Katrina suggested.

"How could I do that, Katrina? I have a family to support now. We will be needing a larger flat, and many other things." The truth was, he had been embarrassed to bring her to his dreary bachelor flat, though she had not commented on its humble nature.

Katrina laughed aloud. He glanced at her in surprise.

"Why do you laugh?"

"Really, Ichabod! Have you forgotten that you've married an heiress?" He stared at her. "You had forgotten! You never even thought of my fortune! How could I help loving you?" She pressed her lips to his cheek, inspiring the same wondering look from him she had seen before.

"But Katrina, I could not possibly--"

"Why on earth not?"

He parted his lips to protest further, but no arguments came. He took refuge in evasion. "I simply couldn’t. Please, Katrina, let’s say no more of it."

"Very well." She pressed his hand. "For now."

* * *

The following day when Ichabod reported for duty, he was told to see the Burgomaster. The stern old man was wearing the closest thing to a smile Ichabod had ever seen, he noted apprehensively.

The Burgomaster’s resonant voice seemed to echo in the high-ceilinged room. "So, Constable Crane. It seems that we have another version of your doings in Sleepy Hollow to review."

"Another version?"

The Burgomaster held up a letter with a broken seal. "Yes. A letter just arrived, mailed while your… investigation was still under way. From the Reverend Steenwyck." He glanced at the writing. "Desecration of burial grounds and mutilation of a dead body, just for a beginning."

Ichabod wanted to curse. That self-righteous hypocrite Steenwyck had found time, in between instigating a lynch mob and fornicating with the murderess, to complain of him before his death. He lifted his chin and squared his shoulders. This, he knew, was going to take a long time.

* * *

Ichabod’s explanations, arguments, and finally pleas were unheeded. He had made too many enemies with his mission; his superiors had been waiting for too long for an excuse to be rid of him. He began to suspect that he had been allowed to put his methods to the test in Sleepy Hollow only so that he could then be reprimanded for doing so. He was given a clearly stated choice: he could resign now of his own accord, or he would be discharged. The discharge procedure would be lengthy and highly unpleasant, would blacken his record for his entire life, and, the High Constable pointed out with relish, could conceivably result in a prison sentence if his irregularities were deemed sufficiently serious. It was clear that he had no hope of remaining in the constabulary; to fight it would be useless. He swallowed the defeat bitterly and turned in his resignation. The High Constable took the paper from him as if it were a trophy. He would not be missed, Ichabod thought wearily as he went to the watchhouse to collect the few belongings he had there and turn in his uniform coat.

"If it isn't Constable Crane back from the hinterlands!" Ichabod stiffened, but did not turn; it was Witherspoon. "I hear you're abandoning us."

"I have just resigned," Ichabod affirmed somberly, trying to move past the other man to collect his cloak. Witherspoon stood in his way. Ichabod stopped, resigned. "What is it, Witherspoon?"

The other man was examining him. "You look different, Crane. More relaxed. Did you get a looser codpiece?"

Ichabod tried to hide his irritation. He knew his fellow constables found him priggish, and made vulgar remarks for the amusement of seeing his offended reaction. He straightened his frock coat, and at the gesture something caught Witherspoon's eye.

"What's this?" Witherspoon seized Ichabod's left wrist and held up his hand. A wide golden band glittered on the third finger. "Is it possible that Constable Crane's bachelor days are over? No wonder you look a new man! I always knew all you needed was a woman."

Witherspoon's next sentence made the blood rush to Ichabod's cheeks. The next thing Ichabod knew, his fist was slamming into Witherspoon's face. An instant later Witherspoon was sprawled on the ground and the two men were staring at each other in astonishment.

Witherspoon recovered first. He burst into raucous laughter. "Well, hang me if the lass didn't make a man of you, Crane!" He held out a hand. Ichabod hesitantly took it and helped him up, still surprised at his own action. Witherspoon slapped his back affectionately. "No hard feelings, eh, Crane? Come on, let the boys buy you a farewell drink."

Ichabod's first impulse was to refuse, but the change in Witherspoon's demeanour intrigued him. The two went together to a pub popular with the constables. The policemen present all looked in surprise when they saw Ichabod; he had never gone there before.

"Guess who's put his neck into the marital noose!" Witherspoon bawled, putting an arm around the embarrassed Ichabod's shoulders as if they were the closest of comrades. Everyone guffawed.

"Not Crane! He's married to his laboratory!" Green jeered good-naturedly.

"How soon before the stork visits the Cranes?" another asked. Ichabod thought this was very silly, but all the others evidently considered it the cleverest joke in history, and repeated it several times.

Another constable began a remark whose direction was predictable, but Witherspoon stopped him. "Better take care what you say of Mrs. Crane. He'll defend her honor. He gave me this for speaking too freely of the lady!" Witherspoon pointed to the bruise forming around his eye.

"Naw! I didn't know you had it in you, Crane!"

To Ichabod's amazement, all his fellow constables gathered round to slap his back with what they apparently considered affection and congratulate him. He wondered sourly if he would have gotten on better with them if he had punched one of them years ago. But he had always despised those who solved problems with their fists.

When they heard he had resigned, they all began to tell stories of his battles with the High Constable and the Burgomaster. It turned out that, unbeknownst to him, they had all been glad to see someone defying the authorities who ruled them. This did not mean sympathy for his purpose, however; they still thought he was off his head. His attempts to demonstrate his techniques were a sideshow to them. His crusade still meant nothing to them, he realized bleakly. Still, he allowed himself to enjoy their rough camaraderie as best he could; it was, he felt, long overdue.

He walked home slowly, looking about, trying to memorize this route he had taken so many times. His unusual attention made him notice something in a shop window: a flash of bright red, a necklace with a pendant of carved wood in the shape of a perching cardinal, painted scarlet. He gazed at it for a moment before going inside and buying it with an impulsiveness foreign to him. It was inexpensive, a child’s trinket, but somehow he did not think that she would mind. He tucked the cardinal securely in his pocket.

He returned home to be greeted with a kiss from his bride. He smiled sadly at her. "Our first disagreement, my love," he said, "and you have won it." In answer to her inquiring look, he explained in a strained voice, "I was invited to resign today."

"Invited?"

The defeat was very bitter. All of his years of work…. "If I had not resigned, I would have been discharged, at the very least. That was made very clear." He sighed.

She took his hand and pulled him to the divan. He sat down stiffly. One of his hands closed around the cardinal in his pocket, but he suddenly felt that it had been a foolish idea to buy it. He could not think of what to say to her or how to offer it. He removed his hand from his pocket, still empty.

She clasped both his hands in hers, raising his scarred palms to her lips. It startled him a bit; he was still unused to physical affection.

"Do you love this work so much?" she asked softly.

"It is not a matter of loving it or enjoying it. It is the only thing that gives me any kind of peace." His eyes met hers involuntarily. "At least, till recently."

He put his arms around her, slowly, as if trying not to startle her. Appreciating the gallantry, she melted into his embrace. He still seemed unsure of himself. Her mind traveled back to the two or three times that she had allowed Brom to kiss her. She had felt as if she were being embraced by a huge, affectionate bear. Ichabod's tentative attentions had infinitely more finesse, little as he realized it.

"What will you do now?" she asked.

"Try to find an opportunity on my own to demonstrate what my techniques can do."

She leaned her head against his chest, and suddenly he found that he could speak no more. Her own silence, too, seemed more frozen than peaceful. He was powerless to end the silence, but he cursed it. These awkward moments between them were new. Ever since the night of his arrival in Sleepy Hollow, when she had brought the Van Tassel family Bible to him, he had found that when the two of them were alone together, he was more at ease than he had been since childhood. Although she held his heart between her dainty hands, he was not afraid of her as he was afraid of everyone else; she who had the most power over him also seemed the least dangerous. Perhaps it was her kindness that gave her that power over him in the first place.

He was still able to talk to her as to no other on earth, but since they were man and wife a constraint had come between them, not always, but descending now and then and dividing them who should never be separate. And though they could not speak of it, he knew well enough what the cause was.

Their nights had joy, but the joy was broken by agonizing moments when both of them became too shy to speak or act, and would be helplessly frozen, unable to meet each other's eyes. They were still so uncertain. Ichabod supposed every newlywed couple experienced this, but it was torture for both of them. Yet they could not spare themselves; always they were drawn together again, both of them helpless to resist. He almost wished they were still unmarried so that propriety could continue to protect them from vulnerability. He felt he ought to say something to reassure her, but he had no idea what that might be. And in any case, his own confounded shyness was far greater than hers.

* * *

That night he jolted awake from a nightmare, his first since they were married. His cry awoke Katrina, and she promptly put her arms around him, pulling him close to her, stroking his hair as she had done the night the Horseman had wounded him.

"I’m sorry I woke you," he said when he caught his breath, a bit formally.

"Don’t be foolish. What were you dreaming?"

He closed his eyes and buried his face in her hair, surprised at how comforting the contact was. On hundreds of nights, he had burst into consciousness out of a nightmare to find himself alone in his dark, cold flat. The night the Horseman had run him through and he had jolted out of sleep, her comforting arms around him had startled him almost as much as the nightmare. "Someone was being tortured…."

"Who?"

"I don’t know. But I could hear them screaming. I tried to get in, to stop it, but he held me back…."

"Who did?"

He drew a ragged breath. "The Burgomaster, at first. But he became Reverend Steenwyck, and then became my father, in the insane manner of dreams." Becoming more coherent, he added, "Katrina, it is monstrous, unjust – and it goes on every day, and I have not been able to stop it. All the most eloquent arguments I could devise, and they have been ignored."

Her arms tightened on him. "How could I help loving a man who wishes to cure the whole world by himself? As for me, I shall settle for trying to cure you." She gave her head a shake. "I am not certain which of us has chosen the greater challenge."

He felt the rare relief of knowing that another human being had heard and believed what he said. She was nothing like him, yet she was the only one who understood. He drifted back to sleep cradled in her arms.

* * *

Ichabod sat in a box at the opera house beside Katrina, scarcely knowing how he had gotten there. Katrina had announced that she had bought the tickets as coolly as she might have informed him that they were going to have chicken for dinner. He had not been able to think of a way to protest. Not that he truly wished to. He had always been vaguely intrigued by the dramatic advertisements for the opera that he saw posted about, but it had never occurred to him to attend; his years of poverty had put him in the habit of living very simply, even below his modest means as a constable.

The interior of the opera house was beautiful, certainly. Elaborate mouldings, painted gold, decorated the walls from floor to dizzyingly high ceiling. Burgundy velvet covered all the seats. The women were all resplendent in lace and silk of every color, though not one of them had a face which could compare to Katrina’s – at least, so Ichabod considered. The men, he noticed, were almost all in his own preferred simple black, though in very fine materials. He was wearing the velvet suit Katrina had insisted upon buying for their quiet wedding in Tarrytown. It was by far the most elegant clothing he had ever owned. The way she had examined his sparse wardrobe of virtually identical cheap black suits made him suspect uneasily that he would find himself at a tailor’s very soon. He would consent to new clothes if she insisted. He would consent to virtually anything to please her. He well knew that had the Headless Horseman not slaughtered Brom Van Brunt, he would have had little chance at Katrina’s hand – or at her heart. But he meant to do his best to make her second choice a satisfactory one.

Katrina was looking about eagerly, examining the huge room and the ladies’ dresses, her golden curls tossing over her shoulders like a little girl’s as she turned her head this way and that. Ichabod opened the programme and discovered a summary of the opera they were about to see. Beethoven’s Fidelio. The story, it seemed, was of an innocent man, a fighter against tyranny, unjustly imprisoned. Ichabod read on with more interest. The wife of the accused, it seemed, disguised herself as a guard in order to rescue her husband.

The light dimmed abruptly, forcing Ichabod to stop reading. Everyone in the theatre had been talking and laughing; now an almost eerie hush fell over the large crowd. The curtain did not rise just yet, but the music began, swelling and immediately powerful. Ichabod settled back into his seat; perhaps the evening would not be as dull as he had expected. Soon the curtains parted and the voices of the singers soared up through the immense room.

Leonore, indeed disguised as the programme had promised, searched the prison for her husband Florestan. She coaxed the other guards to allow the prisoners to come outside into the sunlight for a few minutes, but Florestan was not among them. She learned that he was confined in the deepest dungeon – and that a powerful enemy was plotting to have him murdered.

Chained in his grim cell, Fidelio had a vision of his faithful Leonore as an angel bringing him peace. Overcome by privation and the vision, he swooned, and awoke to find his vision true: Leonore was at his side, defying the other guards to give him food and drink. When his enemy came to murder him, Leonore stood between him and the swordpoint, saving his life. Her heroic deed brought the injustice to light and he was freed, the lovers reunited, the villain punished.

Yet it was not truly the story that was filling Ichabod’s soul, but the music, the spirit behind the soaring melodies. It was like a visionary experience, in which his meticulous logical faculties were swept aside and he could only feel and marvel.

When the curtain descended, Ichabod emerged as from a dream. His face was bathed in tears. His eyes met Katrina's; she had been weeping too. He parted his lips to thank her, to tell her what she had brought into his life, but words failed him and they simply looked at each other. Very slowly, their fingers laced together.

* * *

"Ichabod, wake up. We'll be late."

Ichabod opened his eyes. He knew nothing about lady's dresses, but he supposed Katrina's black and white striped dress was one of her fancier ones. "Late for what?"

"For church! How far is it to your church?"

Ichabod sat up slowly. Katrina gave him an inquiring look. "Katrina… I have not been to church since I was fourteen."

His face clouded as he remembered the heated argument with his father his refusal had caused, and the severe beating he had received at the hands of that petty tyrant. The blows had continued to rain down on his thin back long after his struggles had given way to angry sobs. It was not the first such beating, but it was to be the last, for that very night he had run away. For the next few years, struggling to survive on his own on the streets of New York, he had seen things which had only increased his sense of outrage at the world. His books had been his only salvation; after his mother's death, reading had been his only joy in life, and after running away, he had often skipped meals in order to buy books. Those books had, in time, begun to point the way to his crusade.

Katrina enfolded him in a warm, sympathetic embrace, interrupting his reverie. He rested his head against her heart, closing his eyes, inhaling her honeysuckle scent. Her hands caressed his hair gently. He pulled her tightly close, and suddenly he remembered the Hessian's axe disintegrating as it touched hallowed ground, the demon horse pawing ineffectually at the church gate.

Clearly, he had investigation to perform.

Releasing her and throwing back the sheets, he rose. "There is a church only a block away, my love."

But before they were ten minutes into the sermon, he was wishing he had not come. The parson was a tight-lipped man, smug at his own certainty of salvation. He reminded Ichabod unpleasantly of the Reverend Steenwyck and of his own father.

"I didn't like him either, darling," Katrina said as they walked home with Young Masbath following behind, although Ichabod had said nothing. "Next Sunday I shall try a different church." She hesitated. She wanted her husband to attend with her, but did not wish to press him.

He guessed at her thoughts. "I will accompany you, my love. Perhaps we can find…."

"Find what?"

Ichabod frowned, staring into the distance. "I don't know. Something." He shrugged, feeling awkward. "I am not accustomed to looking for anything from the Church."

During the following week, while Ichabod was occupied with his experimentations, Katrina made it her business to become acquainted with some of her neighbors, and inquired about churches, and also found a school for Young Masbath. Ichabod had been relieved to see Katrina take over the boy without comment. He had taken the boy back to New York with them as a matter of course, but the fact was that he had no idea what to do with him here, any more than he had in Sleepy Hollow. Supposedly Young Masbath had been his servant, but Ichabod had seldom given any orders, and only awkwardly accepted the services the boy had rendered on his own.

Katrina had bought Young Masbath some new clothes and assigned him chores that made him feel he was earning his keep, and he responded to her warm affection like a plant to sunshine and water. It was good to see, though Ichabod was at a loss how to participate.

The cardinal pendant stayed in his laboratory, which he kept locked, until one day while she was out he slipped it into her jewelry chest. He could not decide whether that was a clever idea or a very silly one, but he could not bring himself to give it to her in person, and he was beginning to fancy that the cardinal mocked him whenever his eye fell on it.

The next morning at breakfast, there was a flash of fiery red at Katrina’s throat. His eyes widened when he saw that she was wearing the cardinal pendant. Seeing his look, she leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Thank you, my love," she said.

"You do not have to wear it if you do not care for it," he stammered.

"I adore it. You know that cardinals are my favorite. That was certainly sly of you, hiding it in my jewelry box. I suppose next you’ll hide a live cardinal somewhere so that it will fly out and startle me out of my wits."

Her teasing dazed him. He wanted to tease back, but could not think of how. "I did not plan anything so… dramatic," was all he could manage, relieved that his gift had been so well received.

Katrina heard good reports about a pastor whose church only a few blocks away, and on the following Sunday she led Ichabod and Young Masbath there.

Ichabod was almost immediately impressed with the Reverend Boylston. Well into middle age, he was not handsome by any means, but there was a dignity to his face with its Roman nose and firm chin. His high forehead showed intelligence, and his heavy-lidded dark eyes looked at the congregation in an even way that inspired trust. But his words impressed Ichabod far more. He spoke of compassion, and reminded his listeners that Jesus had not shunned sinners. This was not a man who was certain that he knew everything; this was a man who had his beliefs, but could admit that he might be wrong. By the middle of the sermon, the Cranes knew that they had found their church.

Afterwards, the Reverend stood at the door, speaking to each of his parishioners in turn. They caught his encouraging remarks to a veiled widow, praising her courage. Then it was their turn.

"New faces?" The Reverend's rather thin lips spread in a benevolent smile.

"I am Constable Ichabod Crane, my wife Katrina, Young, er, Josiah Masbath." Ichabod was so accustomed to referring to himself as a constable that it slipped his mind for the moment that he was one no longer.

"How long have you lived here, Constable?" the Reverend asked, shaking Ichabod's hand.

"Ten years." Ichabod braced himself for the inevitable questions about why he had not been to church before, but the Reverend's smile merely became more gentle. He took Katrina's hand.

"And you are new to the city, is that right, Mrs. Crane?"

She gave him a smile that lit up her already lovely face. "Do I look so much like a country girl?"

"Eh? Oh, you fear your dress is unfashionable? Not at all, Mrs. Crane. But you look so happy, I guessed that you were a new bride."

Ichabod's and Katrina's eyes met involuntarily, telling the Reverend all he needed to know. He shook Young Masbath's hand as if the boy were a grown man. "And you, young sir?"

"I'm… I'm come here to work for the Constable, sir. Constable Crane avenged my father's murder." The boy gave Ichabod a look that pleased him as much as it embarrassed him. Never before had he been a hero in anyone’s eyes.

The Reverend's eyes moved over all of them again, as if he were beginning to see what held the three of them together. "My congratulations. I would like to hear this story, sometime."

"Would you join us for dinner one evening this week, Reverend?" Katrina asked. Ichabod looked at her in surprise; after his solitary life, extending such an invitation would never had occurred to him, but he said nothing. They agreed on a time and the Cranes and Young Masbath headed home, all feeling more heartened that they had since arriving in New York.

A few days later the Reverend Boylston joined the Cranes for roast beef, rice and a groaning sideboard of vegetables. He complimented Katrina's cooking gallantly, and chatted with her about the neighborhood. He drew Young Masbath out, asking him about his boyish doings and listening seriously. Ichabod wished that he had been able to set the boy so at ease. The Reverend was everything a preacher ought to be, he thought.

The Reverend at last turned his attention to Ichabod and asked the question Ichabod had expected on the church steps. "So, Constable Crane. May I ask why you are back in the fold after so long? Have you been saved by the love of a good woman?" He spoke the last words with gentle humor.

Ichabod pressed his lips together, considering. "That is part of it," he admitted, meeting Katrina's searching gaze. "But not all. Reverend, I have been an atheist since childhood. Now I know that God exists, and I must make sense of everything all over again."

Katrina smiled and shook her head slightly to herself. How like Ichabod to try to make sense of faith. Having learned that there were more things in heaven and earth than he dreamt of, he scrutinized them with his philosophy. She listened to the men's conversation anxiously, hoping the Reverend Boylston could say something that would put her husband's mind at ease.

"You are a man of science?" the Reverend asked, gesturing to the shelves of books.

Ichabod nodded, and in response to the Reverend's questions talked about his techniques, his crusade, his struggles with his superiors. The Reverend listened with sympathy, not even expressing disapproval when Ichabod spoke of performing autopsies. At length, the Reverend said, "You know, my grandfather was Dr. Zabdiel Boylston."

"Not really!" Ichabod was impressed.

"Who is Dr. Zabdiel Boylston?" Katrina asked.

"He was – well, perhaps you would prefer to tell the story, Reverend." Ichabod looked at him expectantly.

The Reverend smiled. "My grandfather was the first doctor in the New World to administer a smallpox vaccine. Several decades ago, a ship came into Boston harbor, bringing a cargo of tea leaves and smallpox. An epidemic raged through Boston, with Zabdiel Boylston and one or two other doctors combating it with the vaccine. Most people preferred to believe that the epidemic was God's punishment for their sins and treat the disease by praying. They attacked my grandfather for his work – literally; several men tried to pull him off his horse and beat him one day. A few days later, someone set fire to his house. But in the end, cooler heads prevailed. He administered hundreds of vaccines – one of them to a bright lad named Benjamin Franklin, incidentally – and brought the epidemic under control, and now no one considers vaccines things of the Devil."

He spoke with quiet pride of his ancestor. Ichabod listened with growing wonder. Dr. Zabdiel Boylston was a kindred spirit of his. Perhaps, then, his grandson….

"Why does everyone fight against good ideas?" Young Masbath blurted, too interested to remember to wait to be spoken to.

The Reverend looked at the boy seriously. "I think they do not wish to admit that they have lived their lives by ideas which are wrong. A failing not often found in the young, who are less apt to feel that they have wasted time."

Ichabod began asking the Reverend his own questions, questions about the nature of evil. The Reverend answered patiently; it was clear that he had spent his own youth asking the same ones. Young Masbath lost the thread of the conversation as it became more abstract and philosophical and concentrated on his roast beef. Katrina listened in quiet distress; her husband had doubts which would never have occurred to her in her sheltered life. But Ichabod grew more and more impressed even as he argued, for the Reverend did not try to convince Ichabod of anything, but simply listened and made gently phrased suggestions.

"All my life I have seen human misery," Ichabod said. "As a constable I have seen far more misery than I care to remember. I always took it as proof that there was no God. Now I know that there is one, and I wish to know why He allows all of this."

The Reverend shook his head. "Ah, Constable. Wise men have been pondering this for centuries."

"And have they solved it?" Ichabod demanded.

"Not truly," the older man admitted. "I cannot claim to have a revelation, but I can tell you what I think, the only solution which has made any sense to me."

"Yes?" Both of the Cranes were listening tensely. Young Masbath looked up, not understanding, but perceiving the taut attention. Only the Reverend Boylston still seemed relaxed.

"You ask why God does not keep humans from injuring each other, why He does not end sickness and injustice and ignorance." Ichabod nodded. "I think that He wants us to do all of this ourselves."

Ichabod stared at him, his lips parting as his mind raced.

The Reverend continued after pausing a moment. "I believe that He wishes for us to grow up and take responsibility for our own lives on this world. He wishes for us to make this world as good as we may. A quest which my grandfather and I follow, and you as well, Constable."

Ichabod's face was solemn. He had found an answer which his rational mind could accept. "Thank you, Reverend," he said, slowly picking up his glass. Katrina relaxed, seeing the newfound serenity in her husband's face.

The Reverend watched the Cranes' faces contentedly for a moment before speaking again. "May I ask, Constable, what has recently convinced you of the existence of God?"

In order to explain about the Headless Horseman's inability to cross the church gate, it was necessary to tell the entire story of the decapitations in Sleepy Hollow. Learning how Ichabod had taken Young Masbath in, the Reverend looked at Ichabod with approval which could not help but warm him, and praised the boy as well. "You're a brave young man, to face the disapproval of everyone you knew to help find your father's murderer." The boy mumbled his thanks, looking down at his plate, trying not to cry. But though he had been driven by grief and not courage, this new way of seeing himself took root at once, heartening him.

The Reverend expressed no skepticism at the tale of the Hessian ghost. Instead, when the tale was told, he made a suggestion. "Perhaps you could help me, then, Constable. My sister believes her house to be haunted. I performed an exorcism, but to no avail. Perhaps you could investigate."

Ichabod swallowed. "I should be glad to. Do you believe that it is haunted?"

The Reverend seemed to hesitate. "It is certain that there are strange, unearthly moans in the house every night." Ichabod shivered. "Her husband was murdered there four years ago, and some think it is his unquiet ghost."

"And what do you think?" Ichabod tried to keep his voice steady.

"I have my theory," the Reverend replied, "but I would rather you went out there for yourself first. I should like to see if your thinking runs the way mine has."

"Tell me about the murder."

"A pair of thieves were robbing the house. Mr. Montrose – my late brother-in-law – discovered them in one of the parlours. One of them bludgeoned him with a poker."

"Were the culprits brought to justice?"

"Yes, they are both in prison."

"And is there any possibility that perhaps they did not commit the murder?"

"There is a witness. One of the servants heard the struggle and came in and was assaulted as well. He lived, but is badly scarred. He is still employed at Montrose Manor; you shall see him when you arrive." The Reverend turned his attention to Young Masbath. "So, young man. Are you ready to help Mr. Crane with another ghost hunt?"

"Yes, sir," the boy responded promptly.

"You may see many ghosts in your time if you stay with Mr. Crane," the Reverend remarked. Ichabod drew an uneasy breath.

"We saw more than ghosts, Reverend," the boy boasted. "We saw a real witch, too, and once the Constable saw a beast with two backs."

The adults all stared at the boy. Then the Reverend and Katrina turned their eyes to Ichabod, who examined his plate intently. When Katrina thought she could control her voice, she said gently, "Perhaps you had better not mention that to anyone, Josiah. It shall be our secret."

* * *

The three of them arrived at Montrose Manor on a cold, sunny day. Ichabod had planned to go alone, but Katrina had packed bags for all three of them as a matter of course. When he had asked why, she had said tranquilly, "But of course, I’m going with you."

"Going with me? I thought you and Young Masbath would stay here."

"So soon after our wedding? Are you weary of me already?" she had teased. He had blushed to the roots of his hair.

"No, no, of course not," he had stammered, and the next thing he knew they were all in the carriage together.

The thick grove of trees which surrounded Montrose Manor would have made it almost invisible during the summer, but now in early winter, light grey stone adorned with creeping ivy tendrils could be glimpsed between the bare branches.

They traveled up the walk, sheltered by arching branches. All of them were impressed when they emerged from the grove and could see the house. Ichabod had occasionally been in such houses in the course of his varied constabulary duties, but had never been a guest in one. And even the finest home in Sleepy Hollow could hardly compare to this three story stone edifice. It had four different chimneys, though only three had smoke trails at the moment. Doves made grey arcs in the sky, alighting on the roof and in the branches of the abundant trees.

Another house full of ghosts and tragedy, Ichabod thought bleakly as they reached the door. He lifted the heavy brass knocker and pounded. The door was promptly opened by a servant, who showed them into a drawing room crammed with expensive furniture. There were vases full of roses, even though such things were very expensive so late in the autumn. Katrina was used to fine things, but had not had them in such profusion. Ichabod and Young Masbath stood stiffly, both afraid to touch anything.

"Mr. Crane?" A middle-aged woman appeared in the doorway, a woman who bore a distinct resemblance to the Reverend Boylston; the same dark eyes, heavy lids and high forehead. She wore a widow’s black silk. Ichabod turned and bowed slightly, forcing the polite half-smile he used on such occasions. He noticed that there were circles under her eyes and her face was drawn and tense. "I am Emily Boylston Montrose."

Katrina, perceiving her husband’s usual awkwardness at meeting strangers, stood and went to Lady Montrose. The two of them clasped hands. "I am Lady Crane, and this is our ward, Josiah Masbath."

"Excellent." Lady Montrose seemed a bit nervous, but she forged ahead. "Please, everyone, be seated." Another servant, a thin man with a scarred face, appeared with a tea tray and served them all as his employer spoke. Ichabod examined him surreptitiously; this must be the servant who had been injured during the robbery that had taken Mr. Montrose’s life. The scar twisted one side of the man’s mouth and spread all the way up his cheek. Young Masbath jumped when the man offered him a cup; he had never been waited on in his life. Ichabod hoped the servant did not think the boy was reacting to his scar. His demeanour was as imperturbable as that of most servants, yet he seemed somehow colder. Being so terribly scarred could do that, perhaps.

"Mr. Crane, I do hope that my brother is right, that you can help me," Lady Montrose was saying. "I am at my wit’s end."

"Tell me about the nature of the haunting, madam," Ichabod suggested, opening his new ledger. "When did it start?"

She drew a breath. "At the beginning of autumn, when I returned to this house. Shortly after my return, I was sitting in the parlour where… where my husband died one evening, thinking about him, and suddenly I heard a horrible moan, like a soul in torment. All at once I seemed to hear a dozen moans…." She put her face in her hands, shivering. Katrina put a comforting hand on her back. Ichabod could only pause tactfully, waiting for her to compose herself. "Since then, those moans have been heard every night."

"The Reverend Boylston said that he had heard them as well?"

She nodded. "Everyone who has gone into that room at night has heard them. It is not a grieving widow’s imagination, Mr. Crane. You will hear them yourself tonight."

He straightened at her words, pursing his lips. "Indeed. I suppose you have searched for hiding places where some prankster might be concealed?"

"Of course," she said with a dismissive wave. "There is no hiding place in the room, though of course you are welcome to look. And in any case, every member of the household was present during the second night that we heard the moans. We all waited up to listen. There was no one left to make them."

"Who else is in this household?"

"Myself, my nephew Ronald and his wife, my nephew Peter, and the servants."

"These nephews, are they your late husband’s blood?"

She smiled sadly. "Yes, his brother’s sons. His brother died when they were youths."

"I see." He paused, collecting his thoughts. "And were your nephews living here while you were in Europe?"

"Oh, no. They leased houses in the city."

"Was anyone living here while you were away?"

"Only a few servants, to keep it up."

"And have there been any other manifestations, other than the noises?"

"A few times I, and others, have seen an… apparition. Late at night, a white form has been glimpsed in the grove outside."

"The sounds… all anyone has ever heard is moans? There have never been any words?"

"No, never."

"I see." Ichabod closed up his ledger. "I should like to see this parlour."

The parlour in question was on the first floor. "We redecorated it just before my husband’s… death," Lady Montrose sighed as they entered, "and of course never got the chance to enjoy it."

"It’s lovely," Katrina said politely.

"When the murder happened, this room was still half full of the old furniture, just waiting to be removed. After I left, the servants put the new furniture in place, but of course it’s had precious little use." She wrung her hands.

Ichabod stood surveying the room with narrowed eyes. The walls were papered in elaborate gilt patterns. There was a plushly upholstered frost-green divan, a few straight-backed chairs with elaborately carved arms and legs, a low dainty table, some oil landscapes on the walls, and a couple of small bookshelves that held Oriental vases filled with more summer flowers, silver candlesticks and china figurines. To Ichabod’s eyes, highly overornate. None of the furniture offered any sort of hiding place, however, nor did anything seem out of place.

"Thank you," he said formally. "I should like to speak with your nephews as well."

"You shall meet them at dinner. It will be at seven. Now, I’ll have the girl show you to your rooms."

* * *

When the Cranes came downstairs for dinner, the others were waiting for them. Lady Montrose was there; there was a man in his thirties with a weak chin and undefined features; at his side was a woman about the same age who looked utterly uninterested in her companions and surroundings, and who had probably been pretty at one time; and a younger man, also weak-chinned, with a soft face and sulky mouth. Katrina gazed about the dining room with admiration, taking in the plush Oriental carpet, the teakwood furniture, the fine silver and china, the vases of lilies. Ichabod preferred to scrutinize his dinner companions. The older of the two men, he noticed at once, preferred to look at Katrina. Ichabod was beginning to learn that there were drawbacks to being married to a beautiful woman. His spine stiffened as the man’s pale blue eyes roamed over Katrina. Then he examined Ichabod, evidently trying to discern what had found favor in Katrina’s eyes. Ichabod was offended, even though the truth was that he did not know himself.

"Mr. Crane, this is my nephew Ronald," Lady Montrose began, indicating the older man. "And his wife Henrietta." Henrietta seemed scarcely aware that her name had been mentioned. Ichabod inclined his head to her. "And my younger nephew Peter. This is Ichabod Crane, formerly of the New York constabulary, and Lady Crane."

"What are you going to do, arrest the ghost?" Ronald jeered.

Ichabod gave him a cool look. "I am no longer with the constabulary," he replied, not addressing the question.

"If you want, Peter and I’ll sit up with you to listen to the ghost, Mr. Crane."

Peter looked around at that. "But I didn’t want to do that tonight!"

Ronald gave Peter a look. "Tonight’s when you’re needed."

Ichabod wondered what that brief, commanding glance meant, and why Ronald had made the offer. He did not relish the brothers’ company, but he did wish to confirm that they were present when the moans were heard. And, though he did not put this into words, he did not care to face a ghost alone.

"Much appreciated," he said. "Shall we retire to the parlour after dinner, then?"

As dinner progressed, Ichabod’s initial dislike of Ronald increased steadily. The man was a boor. He interrupted everyone, sneered at everything, expounded his own idiotic views as though he imagined everyone was hanging onto his words. Ichabod had heard more intelligent remarks from illiterate constables downing their tenth ale of the evening. Lady Montrose endured it with heroic patience, but her embarrassment was obvious. Ronald criticized his aunt’s management of the Manor, Peter’s gambling debts, Ichabod’s presence at the Manor – "What use is a Constable against a ghost?" – and his wife’s spending habits.

"A wife should be always like an echo, and at the same time, quite unlike an echo, eh, Crane?" Ronald waited for Ichabod’s inquiring look, which he gave grudgingly. Lady Montrose and Henrietta had evidently heard this one before, and looked merely weary. "Like an echo, she should speak only when spoken to, and unlike an echo, should never try to have the last word."

Scorn swept through Ichabod. What a dolt, he thought. Ronald was complacently gazing at the drumstick he was consuming, and so missed the sly smiles exchanged by Henrietta and Katrina. Catching the exchange, Ichabod felt a fleeting – very fleeting – nostalgia for uncomplicated bachelorhood.

"I have always found Lady Crane to be worth listening to," he said coolly. A little smile curved Katrina’s lips.

Ronald raised an eyebrow. "Worth looking at, anyway!"

Ichabod wanted to lunge across the table and seize the man by the throat. The impulse startled him, so it was a moment before he could reply evenly, "As is your own lovely wife, in whom you are most fortunate." Henrietta cast him an ironic look. So much for his attempt at chivalry. Katrina, he noticed, was regarding Ronald coolly. Ichabod felt he had done rather an inadequate job of defending her. No doubt had it been Brom Van Brunt at her side, Ronald would never have dared look at her in that manner.

After dinner, Katrina took her husband’s arm and walked with him to the parlour. He was a bit taken aback. "You wish to hear the ghost, Katrina?"

"Of course," she replied. "I am very curious to hear it, if you do not mind, Ichabod."

Her last words were spoken, not in the tone of a wife asking permission, but in that of someone reciting a courteous but meaningless phrase. Ronald smirked and raised his eyebrows at Ichabod, who drew himself up. If the alternative was being like Ronald or his father, he would be proud to surrender to petticoat rule.

"As you wish, my love," he replied firmly. Besides, he felt braver with her at his side.

The four of them took seats around the parlour. The room was a bit chilly. Ichabod hoped that it was only the lack of a hearth that made it so. Tense silence descended. Ronald seemed nervous, but was grumpily trying not to show it. Peter seemed merely sulky. Katrina’s eyes were wide, and there was certainly tension in her little hand clasping the crook of Ichabod’s elbow, but she maintained a calm demeanour. As for Ichabod, he was only hoping he would be able to stay conscious.

The tense silence was eventually broken by a moan. Ichabod turned cold. The moan sounded again, and then another, as if a choir of damned souls were writhing slowly in the spasms of their torment. Katrina’s hand tightened on his arm. She looked about her, but there was nothing to see. He clasped her hand, gaining a little reassurance from the contact, but he was frozen to the spot.

The moans quieted after a few minutes. Ichabod managed to cast a glance at the other men. Both were staring at the floor, trying not to show their unease. Or was it unease that they were hiding? Ichabod searched their faces for slyness or smugness. He had forgotten his fear as he focused on them when another chorus of moans arose, turning his blood to ice once more.

After a moment, Ichabod forced himself to stand up. He wished he could keep hold of Katrina’s hand, drag her around the room with him as he searched, and had they been alone he might have done it. He looked behind and under furniture, pressed his ear to walls, hoping to find some hiding place he had missed, or some sort of opening through which noises might be coming from somewhere else. He found none. When he reached the dainty shelf of Oriental vases, the moans seemed to grow louder, or perhaps he imagined it.

"My uncle was found right where you’re standing," Peter said hollowly. Ichabod quickly stepped back. Ronald sneered, though he himself made no move towards the spot.

This is not a ghost, Ichabod reminded himself. If it were, Reverend Boylston’s exorcism would have banished it.

He swallowed. When he thought he could keep his voice steady, he called out, "Hello!" The moans quieted, making him grow even colder. There was a long silence that Ichabod eventually could not bear. He broke it by calling out again. "Who’s there?" Nothing. "What do you want?… Why are you here?" Nothing.

Ichabod waited. When he was sure there would be no answer, he sat back down. A moment after he did, the moans resumed. Quickly he took Katrina’s hand. In spite of his own quailing heart, he found space to be proud of her. Her eyes were wide, but in spite of her fear, she remained calm, just clinging tightly to his hand.

"It’ll go on all night, just like this," Peter said unhappily.

"So, Constable, aren’t you going to send the ghost to jail?" Ronald sneered.

Ichabod met the other man’s eyes. "In time, perhaps I will." He stood, pulling Katrina to her feet. "Have you heard enough, my love?" She nodded. Her cheeks were pale, he noticed with concern. Glancing at the brothers, he said, "Then I wish you good night." With that, the Cranes retired for the evening.

* * *

"I should like to see something of the neighborhood," Ichabod informed Lady Montrose the next morning. "Is there someone who could show me around?"

Lady Montrose, her eyes still underlined with dark shadows, tried to look amiable. "I am going to the silk-merchant’s. Perhaps you and Mrs. Crane would care to accompany me. There is also a chemist’s nearby, and a bookshop, and—"

"Bookshop?" both Ichabod and Katrina replied eagerly. Lady Montrose smiled, a little amusement piercing her gloom.

At the bookshop, Katrina selected herself a dozen tales of romance. "I hope you do not believe these cause brain fever," she said lightly as she leafed through Don Quixote.

"Rank superstition, my love," he replied indulgently. She looked up from the book, raising delicate eyebrows.

"Superstition? Like the Headless Horseman? Or the witch of the western woods?"

"No, not like that," Ichabod answered reluctantly. "Illness is caused by exposure to bad air or to cold and damp. Not by reading, whatever the subject matter."

"Good," she replied crisply, adding the book to the stack she had already chosen. She found Young Masbath staring wide-eyed at some picture books of adventure tales and bought them, along with a couple of primers; the boy could scarcely read, but she was seeing to it that his education was mended. He was so overwhelmed at the gift – he had gone through his life with almost nothing in the way of possessions – that he could scarcely find his voice to thank Katrina. And Ichabod found himself in almost the same case, for she bought almost every scientific text he glanced at, until he did not dare to glance at any more. He was delighted, to be sure – books were almost the only thing he was greedy for – but years of rationing his money and carefully choosing the books and experimental equipment he would buy with his limited funds made this sudden largesse dizzying. He was actually relieved to move on to the silk merchant’s, where at least she could only spend her money on herself. He and the boy stood at the front of the shop with a few other men who were also waiting for their ladies. Katrina and Lady Montrose sorted through the bolts of shimmering fabric and discussed each long and earnestly, while Lady Montrose’s maid Josephine stood mutely behind them, holding the silks her mistress selected. Now and then Katrina would hold up a bolt of fabric and demand to know what he thought of the color. His replies were noncommittal until she held up one of pale yellow.

"I like that one," he said at once. "Buy it."

It was the first actual opinion he had expressed. "Why this one?" she asked.

"It is the same color you wore that day in the western woods," he answered. "You were never more beautiful. You looked like a ray of sunshine."

The other men standing about laughed, startling him, and the women who were examining the cloths smiled at him. Even Lady Montrose looked wanly amused. "Ten to one they’ve been married less than a month," one of the men said. Ichabod turned scarlet and wished he had not waxed poetic in front of witnesses. Katrina made him forget his normal restraints.

He adored Katrina, but it seemed she was always causing him embarrassment, from the moment they had met. When he had unwittingly wandered into the Pickety Witch game, all he had been able to do was stand still as a statue and pray that he would be struck dead on the spot – and the look in the eyes of Brom Van Brunt had made it seem likely that his prayer would be granted. For a moment he had thought that rather than solving the murders, he would be adding to the body count.

Then there was the night the Horseman had run him through, when he had bolted upright from the nightmare of his mother’s death straight into Katrina’s arms. Every word they had spoken that night was written indelibly in his memory, pure and beautiful. But in the morning, he had awakened to find her stepmother sitting beside his bed. "Where is Katrina?" he had blurted before he thought, simply because he never wanted to be apart from her again, not for one moment. The Lady Van Tassel had given him a penetrating look. Now he realized that she had been evaluating his feelings for Katrina and considering how they might affect her dark plots. At the time, however, he had thought she was concerned for her stepdaughter’s honor, and the realization had uncomfortably dawned that others might not see their midnight tête-à-tête for the innocent moment that it was. After all, they had been unchaperoned; in the middle of the night, she had sat on his bed and embraced him; he had even come within a breath of kissing her -- and all of this with her suitor scarcely cold. She had conducted herself with such a ladylike trust in his gallantry that it had not even occurred to him at the time that this was not altogether seemly. Seeing the night’s events in this ugly light, he had flushed, thereby no doubt confirming the Lady Van Tassel’s suspicions.

He wanted nothing so much as to leave the shop and escape everyone’s knowing smiles, but that would only have attracted more attention, so he merely turned to face the window, gazing at the passerby. To his surprise, he noticed a shabbily dressed man, about his own age, standing outside gazing through the window. Gazing in the direction of Lady Montrose. Ichabod could not discern the emotion behind the man’s expression, but the steadiness of the gaze convinced him that it was a powerful one.

Ichabod went to stand beside Lady Montrose and spoke in a low voice. "Lady Montrose. I want you to very calmly glance out the window and observe the man in the brown jacket and then look back at the silks." Lady Montrose looked surprised, but did as he asked.

"What was I supposed to notice?"

"You do not know him?"
"I never saw him before that I recall."

"I see."

"Why did you ask?"
"I thought he was looking at us." He decided not to worry Lady Montrose until he knew something more concrete. "I will be back in a few minutes."

By the time he got out the door, the man had gone. Glancing around, Ichabod glimpsed the brown jacket beside a vegetable cart. He watched until the man walked on to the pie wagon and then approached the vegetable seller and asked who the man was.

The vegetable seller was loud and abusive and refused to answer any questions and generally behaved as if Ichabod had insulted him by asking. Ichabod had retreated and was standing fuming when Katrina appeared at his elbow, her eyes dancing. "Let me try it," she said. He was startled; he had not even known she was out of the silk merchant’s, observing him. Before he could say a word, she was gone, chatting with the woman at the pie wagon where the brown-jacketed man had made a purchase. Katrina looked over the woman’s wares and chatted with her like an old friend while Ichabod watched with amazement. She returned with two pies and a triumphant smile.

"His name is Michael O’Brien, he’s a shoemaker, and – the murderer was his brother!"

Ichabod’s eyes narrowed as he considered this. After a moment he noticed her disappointed look, and fortunately was able to discern what she wanted. "A brilliant bit of detective work, my love," he said, taking her hand and placing it in the crook of his elbow possessively. "If I am not careful, I shall come to rely on you entirely too much."

When they returned to their rooms at Montrose Manor, Ichabod sat in the small sitting room which connected their bedroom with Young Masbath’s, filling a page of his ledger with speculations about Michael O’Brien. Revenge for his brother’s imprisonment could be a motive for simulating a haunting. On the other side of the room, Katrina sat with an arm about Young Masbath’s shoulders, helping him to sound out the words of one of his new books. The boy looked genuinely happy, and Ichabod paused to silently thank Heaven that Katrina was there to look after him.

When he had filled an entire page with notes, Ichabod surrendered to the temptation to look over the new books Katrina had bought for him. She left the boy to pore over an adventure tale by himself and came to sit beside Ichabod. Picking up one of his new books at random, she leafed through it; it was an advanced chemistry text.

"Do you understand all of this?" she asked with awe.

"You would as well, had you spent every spare moment for the last ten years burrowing through books just like that one."

She glanced at him before opening another of the books, this one about medicine. Her knowledge of herbal cures made this one a bit more readable for her. She read a page here and there, and then looked up at him. He was watching her, watching her warm dark eyes flickering over the crowded pages. "Would you mind if I read this one, Ichabod?"

He was amused. "Do you imagine you need my permission to read any book you choose?"

She smiled shyly. "I meant because it is your book."

"Read any of them that you wish. I have several medical books at home; you are welcome to go through them." And perhaps you shall come to understand that raven’s feet and rhyming charms are not an essential part of any medicine, he added silently.

"Which is the best book?" she asked.

The simplicity of her question amused him, but as it happened, there was a simple answer. He pulled a book out of the stack and held it up. An Essay on Crimes and Punishments, by Cesare Beccaria.

"I already have a copy of this book, but it is getting very battered. I have had it since I was sixteen, and I have read it many, many times." He opened it and quickly found the passage he had read the most often. He read it aloud to her. "’What right, then, but that of power, can authorise the punishment of a citizen so long as there remains any doubt of his guilt? This dilemma is frequent. Either he is guilty, or not guilty. If guilty, he should only suffer the punishment ordained by the laws, and torture becomes useless, as his confession is unnecessary. If he be not guilty, you torture the innocent; for, in the eye of the law, every man is innocent whose crime has not been proved.’"

"This man thinks as you do," she said, her face serious.

"I think as he does," Ichabod corrected. "It was chancing on a copy of this book when I was sixteen that put me on this path, that showed me what my life’s work was to be."

"Then I must read it," she said, taking it from him.

"You do not have to," he said at once.

Her eyes searched his face. "You don’t wish me to?"

"I have no objections whatever, my love. I only thought you might find it dull, and I did not want you to think you had to read it on my account."

She opened the book to its contents page and scanned it. "It does not look dull," she said in a tone more emphatic than he thought necessary.

"Read it if you wish to," he said helplessly.

"I shall," she said, and promptly settled down to begin. Feeling vaguely that he had said something wrong, he went into the bedroom to wash the dust from the long-unopened books off his hands.

As he reached for a towel, something caught Ichabod’s eye: a spot of bright pink on the white material. He had seen that color before.

Quickly, he went to the bed and moved it. Underneath, he found what he had expected: the pentagram to protect a loved one from evil spirits, which he had at first thought to be an "Evil Eye". The sight unnerved him, now as then, though why exactly he could not have sorted out from his jumble of emotions. Perhaps simply because he had spent most of his life fleeing from magic. He had no idea how efficacious Katrina’s spells were, but he could no longer be certain that they were nonsense. He was also embarrassed – suppose someone learned that the Rational Man’s wife drew charms under his bed! Yet the thought that she was still trying to protect him touched something in his heart he had not known existed. He felt reassured, without sense or reason, as if he were under the protection of a guardian angel.

Perhaps most of all, the pentagram reminded him that Katrina was a mystery to him. She did not do as he would do or think as he thought. He wondered if she compelled him so precisely because she was a mystery and he had devoted his life to uncovering hidden truths. But she was a mystery he was certain he could never solve. And finally, he wondered why a woman who baffled him so, who could render him speechless with a glance from her rich brown eyes, was yet the only person on earth who made him feel as if he were not alone.

He shoved the bed back into place, leaving the pentagram untouched. He had no idea what to do about it. Should he rub it off the floor? Ought he to tell her not to draw anymore? Somehow, he was certain she would not heed him. Most women waited for their husband’s approval, or at least pretended to, but she went her way and did as she saw fit. He knew she would not submit to a husband’s orders against her own judgment any more than his mother had – but Ichabod had no desire to rule her, however nervous she made him. He decided to ignore the charm for now, simply because he did not know what else to do. He only hoped that this time, he would not need it.

* * *

It was as they were finishing lunch that Ichabod suddenly asked Lady Montrose, "Where is the furniture that used to be in the parlour?"

She sighed. "I had planned to use it in other rooms around the house, but after… what happened, I could not bear to look at it. It is all in the basement."

The basement. Naturally. Ichabod hated basements.

"If you have no objections, I should like to see the furniture."

"Certainly, but why?"

Ichabod shrugged. "Perhaps there will be nothing to find, but I shan’t know that till I look."

"By all means. The basement door is in the kitchen."

They all rose as the servants entered to clear the table. "I must get my ledger first," Ichabod said, and headed for his room. A few minutes later he was in the kitchen, looking at the stairs leading down into the darkness.

"I shall need a candle, please," he informed the nearest servant, who happened to be the scarred man. The man brought it to him without comment. Ichabod wondered for a second what went on behind that scarred face.

He paused for a few seconds at the top of the stairs before forcing himself to descend, holding the candle before him, trying not to think of spiders. Basements always had spiders. The air was damp and cold, the odor dank. The large, dark room was cluttered with the usual rubbish of basements; broken furniture, such as a wardrobe with a missing door and a chair with a broken leg, old trunks, forgotten odds and ends.

A short distance from the foot of the stairs was a cluster of furniture, elegant and perfectly serviceable. Deciding these must be the parlour’s former furnishings, Ichabod approached them. It was mostly oak furniture upholstered in dark blue satin. Along with the furnishings were various ornaments: some plain but gracefully shaped vases of deep purple that Ichabod liked far more than the Oriental ones now in place upstairs, some still lifes of flowers, a fireplace set of poker, spade and brush, and a couple of candelabra.

Ichabod was opening his ledger to list the items when he heard a sound. Instantly he froze, his blood stopping in its tracks. He strained his ears in the unnatural silence, but for a long moment there was nothing.

Then a board creaked, and a diaphanous shape emerged from behind the broken wardrobe. The gauzy form wafted into the air.

For a moment, Ichabod could not even gasp for breath. Then he dashed up the stairs, tripping twice in his panic. He burst into the kitchen, where the servants stared at him in surprise – and trepidation, for the haunting had them all on edge.

"It’s – it’s… down there!" he managed. At a sound near the door he whirled.

Peter was standing in the basement doorway, smirking, holding a huge length of mosquito netting with a long string attached.

Ichabod stared at Peter with a stunned expression for a minute before losing consciousness.

* * *

When he awoke, he had been moved to a divan in the sitting room and a blanket draped over him. Katrina was sitting beside him, her pretty face anxious. As his eyes fluttered open, she felt his forehead, then held a teacup to his lips.

He forced himself to drink, then slowly sat up. The Montroses, he noticed with embarrassment, were all gathered round. Peter looked worried, Ronald contemptuous, and the ladies worried. Young Masbath was standing by the door, watching anxiously.

"It was just a joke," Peter said sulkily.

"I accept your apology," Ichabod replied ironically.

"How long have you had this phobia of mosquito netting?" Ronald sneered. Ichabod wanted to come back with a stinging retort, but could think of none, so he simply ignored him.

"Are you all right, Mr. Crane?" Lady Montrose asked worriedly.

"Fine, thank you, Madam," he replied tersely, hoping he had not discredited himself. Tossing the blanket aside, he stood up, trying to seem steady.

"Ichabod—" Katrina tried to restrain him, but he waved her back.

"I must go back down to complete my examination," he said firmly, straightening his frock coat and trying to look as if nothing had happened. "Where is my ledger?"

"I believe it is still in the kitchen," Lady Montrose said. "Are you sure—"

"Quite sure, thank you."

Katrina, Ronald and Young Masbath followed him back into the kitchen. The servants all looked carefully away, as if trying not to laugh. The sight stiffened Ichabod’s back. "May I go with you, sir?" Young Masbath asked shyly.

"If you wish," he replied brusquely, trying to hide his relief. He was not certain he could face that basement alone again.

Young Masbath led the way, holding a candle aloft. Ichabod, following with his ledger tucked under his arm, envied the boy’s fearlessness. Ronald trailed behind, looking highly amused. Katrina came down the stairs and watched mutely. As Ichabod studied and listed the furnishings, Ronald sneered, "Just what do you think you’re going to find?"

Not troubling to look up, Ichabod said, "When I find out, I shall tell you." Suddenly he fixed a piercing gaze on Ronald. "You are the heir to Montrose Manor, are you not?"

Ronald looked startled and a little uncomfortable. "Yes, I’m the next of kin, since Lady Montrose and my uncle had no children. Why?"

"I only wondered." Ichabod closed his ledger with a snap. "That will be all, I believe, Young Masbath." He glanced at the boy and his eyes widened. A spider of middling size was crawling by him. The boy followed Ichabod’s gaze and promptly stepped on the horrible creature before Ichabod had time to react at all. Then he smiled at Ichabod, who did not know whether to be more grateful or embarrassed.

Ichabod retreated to his own room with his ledger. It was scarcely past noon and he was exhausted. Katrina insisted on checking his temperature and pulse again. Young Masbath lingered uncertainly in the doorway until Ichabod ordered him to go and play.

When the door had closed behind the boy, he remarked, "He is a brave boy."

"Why did you take him in?" she asked suddenly.

"Katrina…." It was not an easy thing to speak of for him. "What if someone had been trying to get justice for my mother? Being allowed to help him, or even just believe that I was helping him, would have saved my peace of mind."

She pressed his hand. "I wish Peter Montrose was Josiah’s age right now. I would teach him a thing or two," she said, her jaw setting.

Ichabod tried to look unconcerned. "If I am to be a ghost-hunter, I had better get used to this. Someone, it seems, always feels the need to do this sort of thing."

"Oh?"

"You did not know about the similar prank that Brom Van Brunt played on me?" Her eyes widened. He tried to speak lightly, wishing he had not brought it up. "Before I saw the Horseman murder Magistrate Philipse, I was riding through Sleepy Hollow late at night and heard hoofbeats behind me. When I turned, the rider was headless. He chased me halfway through town before my rational mind asserted itself and reminded me that there was no such thing as a Headless Horseman, that at worst my pursuer was a murderer in disguise." He spoke with irony, remembering how very certain he had been. "I reined in and he threw a jack-o-lantern at me before removing his disguise. It was Brom."

Katrina was very angry at the story, but could not help laughing even as she frowned. "That is so like him! Do you know, when we were children, he stopped up the chimney in the schoolhouse so that the room filled with smoke and school had to be let out for the day. And when we were older, the choir director began to pay court to me, and Brom trained one of his hunting dogs to whine on command and took it to a rehearsal, introducing it as a new singing-master." She shook her head ruefully. "I should have told him not to bother you. It is my own fault for giving you that kiss on account. He was so abominably jealous, even though he had no right to be."

"No right?"

"He proposed to me a dozen times. I refused him every time."

With embarrassment Ichabod remembered the rather clumsy proposal he had blurted only moments after the Horseman had made his final departure to Hell. Doubtless Brom had managed it better. Though it was just as well Ichabod had stammered out the question when he was still half out of his mind with terror; in his right mind, he would have made proposing an ordeal for himself as harrowing as the one he had survived when the Horseman had come for Katrina.

"Why did you only make me ask once?"

"I was afraid you would not ask another eleven times!" Her glance was full of coquetry. No other woman had ever troubled to flirt with him. The look was enticing, but he had no idea what to do in response. Her face grew suddenly serious and she came to him, taking his hands. "Because I wanted to marry you. I never wanted to marry anyone else," she said earnestly.

He searched her eyes, wondering if he could believe her.

* * *

At dinner that evening, Lady Montrose was smiling, really smiling for the first time since the Cranes had arrived. "In a few days my cousin, Nicholas Boylston, is giving his annual ball. You and Lady Crane must come."

Ichabod cringed. He was casting about mentally for an excuse when he saw the look in Katrina’s eyes and sighed inwardly. "We shall be delighted, Lady Montrose," he said. At least, one of us shall.

Katrina had already turned the yellow silk he had liked over to a dressmaker, and the dress was just barely finished in time for the ball. It was far more elaborate than any other he had seen her in, but the color made her glow just as she had in the dress she had worn to follow him into the western woods. It was exactly the same color as her hair. He wondered idly if he liked the color because it suited her, or because she had been wearing it on that day and night when he had begun to dare to hope that he might be able to win her.

He was obliged to don one of the new suits she had indeed inflicted upon him. He felt absurdly overdressed, but when they arrived at the ball, he found that he was perhaps the most simply dressed man present.

Katrina was in her element. The large crowd of elegantly dressed people made her blossom, while he was pondering how he could draw the minimum of attention to himself. Everyone seemed to be trying to stand in their way as they walked across the room, and the appraising glances strangers shot at him made his stomach clench. He was relieved to catch sight of the Reverend Boylston; aside from the Montroses, he knew no one present. He rigidly escorted her to the Reverend’s side.

"Ah, Mr. Crane, Lady Crane! What a pleasure to see you!" The Reverend was warm as always. His wise, heavy-lidded eyes took in both of them, observing Katrina’s joy and Ichabod’s discomfiture, and gave Ichabod a look of amused approval. "Allow me to introduce Mr. Samuel Stephenson."

Ichabod had no need to make any conversation with Mr. Samuel Stephenson, because Katrina did so for him. She asked him about his work – he was a lawyer, it turned out – and drew him out effortlessly with her girlish charm while her husband stood mute and inflexible behind her.

Mr. Stephenson introduced them to some other people he knew who happened to pass by and Katrina charmed them just as easily. Every now and then a remark would be addressed to Ichabod, but he was able to answer in only a few words and then their attention would be riveted back on Katrina’s sunlit sparkle while he stood in her shadow with relief. Realizing that he would not have to try to make amusing conversation as long as Katrina was at his side, he began to relax a bit.

That was when she turned to him and exclaimed, "Listen to that music – I must dance!"

For the first time in his life, Ichabod thought he would be glad to faint. "Katrina, I don’t know how—"

"I’ll teach you." He wished he could simply turn and leave the room, but her extended hands were a command he found he could not disobey. He put his hands in hers as he might have held out his wrists to be shackled. Smiling, she pulled him onto the floor and showed him how to hold his arms. He assumed the position stiffly. He was certain that every single person in the ballroom was looking at him. She moved into his unnaturally posed arms and showed him the simple steps. He rigidly moved his feet in the manner she directed.

After a few minutes, when his dancing had not improved, she looked up at him. "You truly do not wish to do this, do you, my love?" He parted his lips to reply, but no words came. She laughed softly. "Very well. I grant you a reprieve. Do you mind if I dance?"

"Not at all," he replied. And he meant it, until he saw her actually doing so. She whirled around the room, skillfully guided by Mr. Stephenson. Mr. Stephenson held Ichabod’s wife in his arms and gazed at her with admiration, and Ichabod found that he understood why Brom Van Brunt had glowered so when the Pickety Witch had given the city stranger a kiss on account. Katrina was smiling up at her partner, laughing at something he said, and Ichabod was livid. He knew his jealousy was groundless, but that made no difference; his sense and reason were as usual useless where Katrina was concerned. He had not even known that he was a jealous man, but then, he had never had anything to be jealous of before. He could not endure the sight for another minute. He turned on his heel and went into one of the small side rooms, one which was unoccupied at the moment, and tried to breathe, to compose himself.

Turning his back on the room, he looked out the window at the stars, cold and serene in their places, trying to stop his trembling. He was shaking all over, and for once it was not from fear. Red-hot rage surged through him, sweeping away the fears and scruples that normally controlled him. If he saw Mr. Stephenson now, he would strangle him. He would.

She had made a mistake, marrying him. She would have been far better served by a brave, uncomplicated man like Brom Van Brunt. What foolishness had made him imagine that a bookish, introverted man such as himself could make any woman happy?

Ronald sauntered into the room, smirking. "So, Crane!" he began, but seeing Ichabod’s face, he stopped, his grin vanishing. He fell silent, intimidated. Ronald only attacked when he was certain there would be no defense. Of the two men in the room, it was not Ichabod Crane who was the greater coward.

Ronald stood uncomfortably quiet until the Reverend Boylston entered the room. The two of them exchanged a few pleasantries and then Ronald escaped, leaving the Reverend and Ichabod alone together.

The Reverend took his time, taking a seat in a leisurely fashion and making himself comfortable. Ichabod wished he would leave, but he showed no inclination to do so.

"Did you meet Frederick Hamilton?" the Reverend asked.

"I do not believe so," Ichabod said through numb lips.

The Reverend chuckled, for all the world as if he had no idea anything was the matter with his companion. "Emily’s dancing with him right now. He’s been trying to get her to marry him for two years."

"Oh?"

"Yes. I think she might accept him in time. But the haunting has brought back too many memories, as you can imagine." He changed the subject abruptly. "So, what do you think, Mr. Crane? Are we dealing with a ghost?"

Ichabod turned, startled. Relief at being able to talk about his work cooled his jealous rage a bit.

"No. We are dealing with an unscrupulous heir. I think that Ronald is trying to drive Lady Montrose out of her home, and Peter is in on the plot, so that he can pay his gambling debts."

The Reverend regarded him. "So I thought, for a time. But now I think otherwise."

"Oh? At whose door do you lay this ‘haunting’?"

"Did you know that my brother-in-law’s murderer has a brother, who lives very close to here?"

Intrigued, Ichabod left the window and sat across from the Reverend. "I found that out, yes." He explained how he had seen Michael O’Brien staring at Lady Montrose with an indecipherable expression.

The Reverend listened attentively, and then explained, "I have seen him a few times, lurking in the grove, or in the general vicinity of the Manor. What business does he have there? I have suspected him for some time, but I have not managed to catch him at anything."

"What can you tell me about him? Was he an accomplice in his brother’s crimes?"

"I do not know that he was, yet it seems logical enough, does it not?"

Ichabod nodded, but frowned. It had once seemed logical enough that Baltus Van Tassel controlled the Headless Horseman.

"The fact that I saw him in the grove made me wonder if he somehow created the ‘apparition’ so many have seen."

"Thank you. I shall investigate." Ichabod gazed at nothing, his mind reviewing the possibility that Michael O’Brien was behind the haunting. "You say you performed an exorcism in the parlour?"

"Yes. Why?"

"It is only… that is the main reason I do not believe that we are dealing with a ghost. Yet I cannot for the life of me deduce how any human agency is making these noises! I can say that Ronald Montrose or Michael O’Brien is likely behind them, but how are they doing it?"

The Reverend listened seriously. "Then I suppose that is the question you must answer, and the rest will resolve itself."

"Yes…." Ichabod drifted into thought once more, until the Reverend called him back to the present.

"You know, you are a very lucky young man." The Reverend waited for Ichabod to look at him and then continued, "Seldom have I seen any woman so in love with her husband."

Ichabod could not answer. All the mad jealousy was already flooding back. The older man watched him knowingly. When Ichabod was able to control his voice, he said, "It is… awkward."

"What is?" the Reverend asked gently. Ichabod hesitated.

"Being married," he said at last, knowing that the older man would understand far more than he said, probably far more than he wished him to. Ichabod abruptly put his head in his hands. "How long is it like this?"

The older man smiled reassuringly. "Not long. In a few months, you’ll wonder what you were fretting over."

"How can I…." Ichabod was groping for the right question when Katrina entered. He shot to his feet as if he had been caught doing something wrong. The Reverend also rose, quite composedly.

"There you are!" Katrina exclaimed. "I wondered what happened to you. Mr. Montrose said you didn’t seem well. I was worried."

"I am fine."

She gave the Reverend a brief smile as she moved to her husband’s side. "You do not look fine, my love. Sit down; I’ll bring you a cup of tea."

Ichabod waved her away. "No, thank you, I can get it."

The Reverend spoke up. "Fetch him the tea, Lady Crane. I shall make him stay here and sit down for you."

She smiled at him again and left the room. The Reverend waited till she was out the door before saying, "You should let her wait on you."

"I should? Why?"

"You wish to make her happy?"

"More than anything," was the prompt reply.

"Then allow her to look after you, even when you do not need it. Women like to take care of people they love. It is the maternal instinct, I suppose. It makes them unhappy when they're not allowed to do so."

Ichabod listened with an attentive frown. Women might as well have been some rare species from a far-off continent for all he knew of them.

"In your case especially," the Reverend continued. "She knows your life has not been easy, and she wishes to make it up to you."

Ichabod’s black brows knit together. "I was trying not to ask so much of her. It did not seem fair to her." The Reverend laughed at that, and Ichabod smiled tentatively in return. "Was I wrong?"

"Completely." The older man was grinning. "She wishes to give you the world. She will give you as much as you allow her to – and more, young man."

"Are all women like this?"

The Reverend’s eyebrows raised, but he did not ask how Ichabod could be so ignorant of half of the species. Instead he replied, "No. Only the good ones. Now sit down." Ichabod obeyed, and drank the tea Katrina brought him a moment later. The attention she was giving him warmed him far more than the tea did, and the thought of Mr. Stephenson began to fade.

After a time, one of the many gentlemen they had met that evening came in and made a few minutes’ worth of polite, tedious conversation. He ended by inviting Katrina to dance. Ichabod forced himself to give his courteous consent – he did not wish Katrina to know about his absurd jealousy – but knowing that she was dancing with other men again was sufficient to wipe away his relief and set him seething again. The Reverend Boylston attempted to distract him anew, but it was no use. Ichabod was barely able to control himself by the Montroses at last decided to leave and the ordeal of the evening was over.

In their bedroom at Montrose Manor, Ichabod removed his fancy frock coat and vest in seething silence, which Katrina eventually broke.

"Are you all right?"

"Fine, thank you," he responded automatically, not looking at her. When they had stood in the ruin of her childhood home and she had unknowingly mimicked his nightmare, she had let it go at that. But not this time.

"Ichabod, something is wrong. Can’t you tell me?"

At that he whirled and turned a penetrating glance on her. "Why did you marry me?" he demanded harshly.

She stared at him, her lips slightly parted, tears filling her rich brown eyes. Immediately remorseful, he wished he could call the words back.

"Because I love you," she whispered. "Don’t you know that?"

Awkward, contrite, he moved to her and embraced her gently. "Forgive me, my love. It’s only… you go through the world so cheerfully, laughing, playing, charming everyone, expecting to find delight around every corner – and finding it! What do you want with a man who spends all his waking hours reading books about the inhuman things that people do to each other and messing about with chemicals, who cannot speak to anyone about anything other than murder, and…."

His voice trailed off, for she was looking even more hurt and distressed. Her large dark eyes searched his face. "Do you truly find me so frivolous?"

He was too amazed to answer.

She pressed on, her words coming out in a rush. "Do you truly think me so light-minded? I am not! Not always, at least…. You think I am concerned only with parties and pretty dresses? You think I do not care about your noble work, or about the illness of the world, or about your cleverness? You are wrong! I do care! When you came to Sleepy Hollow and I learned what you were trying to do, that you were trying to cure the world all by yourself, I knew that you were the greatest man I would ever know, that I would do anything for you. Why did you think I followed you into the western woods? And when – when you proposed, I thought that perhaps I could help you, if only by trying to heal your wounds. I might seem like a naive child to you, but that is not all of me! I promise it is not!"

Ichabod could only stare down at her in stupefaction. She imagined that she was the one who had been found wanting. He looked at this creature, who looked as delicate and pretty as a china doll and who had swept into his life and turned it upside down, leaving him helpless to resist. For all her doll-like appearance, she had an indomitable will. She swept away all his certainties. She held the key to all the mysteries his rational mind could not solve: intuition, beauty, magic, love.

He groped for words. "Katrina… your joy in life has made it possible for me to live again. Don’t you dare attempt to be more serious; I have had enough seriousness for a lifetime already." He cradled her golden head against his heart, loving her so much that it physically hurt him. "I adore you. I would not change a hair on your pretty head. It is a miracle that someone like you can exist."

She sniffled as she buried her face in his chest. He felt like a cad for distressing her, forgetting his own earlier turmoil. He tried to soothe her. Their eyes were filled with tears when their lips met, and inevitably they were drawn into another night of awkward pleasure, each of them trying to wring assurance from the other. His jealousy, his astonishment, his desire to reassure her blended with his normal nervousness and yearning. They clung to each other desperately, trying to reach something neither of them knew how to find. Yet even though they did not find it that night, Ichabod felt without knowing why that they had gotten somehow closer to it.

And for the first time, he began to credit the idea that he was the man she truly wanted.

As they were beginning to drift off into sleep, still grasping each other as they would cling to a life raft, he whispered into her hair, "I would do anything for you." She squeezed him briefly, letting him know she had heard. And at that moment, he realized dismally exactly what it was that he would have to do.

* * *

The dancing-master Dubois and his pretty assistant chuckled inwardly when the dark-haired young man walked rigidly into their room. They had seen his sort before, shy, bookish men trying to catch some lady’s eye or please an imprudently chosen wife. They never lasted through more than a couple of lessons; learning to move gracefully and with ease took time and effort, and such men were too easily discouraged in the physical realm.

Still, they began the first lesson as if they did not know it would likely be the last. Dubois explained a few things, and then his assistant Julie glided into their pupil’s arms. He looked as horrified to see a pretty young girl coming towards him as if she had been a poisonous snake, and when she took his hand, it was cold. With some of her pupils she smiled and flirted to put them at ease, but with his sort, it was best to behave as an automaton, a moving doll. She gazed over his shoulder into space, her face blank, and moved with him in response to the instructor’s orders, never speaking.

His movement was exactly what they expected: stiff as a board, mechanical, awkward. Dubois told him to relax, but of course he could not. He performed the steps outlined to him as if they were a military drill. He held his partner as if she were a cactus. When the clock struck the end of the session, he almost crumbled with relief.

When the door closed behind him, Dubois and Julie smiled at each other. "Do you think he’ll come for a second lesson?" she asked, giggling.

Dubois raised an eyebrow at the door. "I believe so. He is determined, that one. But I will be very surprised if he is here for a third."

How are these sounds being made?

Ichabod asked himself that over and over. Pages of his ledger were covered with speculation. There were no hiding places in the parlour or the surrounding rooms, no mouseholes through which moaning winds could sound. Even had there been a hiding place, he had not been able to identify anyone who could be making the noises. He had stayed up every night, keeping watch, and had been unable to glimpse anyone doing anything at all suspicious. All of the suspects either had been seen in the room while the noises were occurring, or else had no way of getting into the Manor to make them. He speculated about a conspiracy, but this line of thought was no more fruitful than any other he had followed. As he eliminated one possibility after another, his sense of unease grew. Soon the only remaining possibility would be a ghost. He had no desire to encounter another ghost, especially since this one was so inscrutable, refusing to reveal what it wanted and being impervious to exorcism. If this is a ghost, what does it want? How can I banish it?

Katrina’s gentle hand on his forehead startled him. He became aware of their sitting-room once more, and realized that it was getting late. He also realized that his head was pounding.

"You need rest, Ichabod. Put the ledger away. The mystery will still be here in the morning."

"Just a little longer," he muttered automatically, absently massaging his temples with one hand as he bent back over the ledger.

"Ichabod." Her voice was soft, but firm. "I cannot believe that you are thinking clearly now, and if you could see yourself, neither would you." He stared at her, too taken aback to know how to respond. She daintily closed his ledger and removed his pen from his hand. Then she began massaging his temples for him. He started at the unaccustomed contact.

"Katrina—"

"Hush. I am going to make you a sleeping draught now, and you are going to bed. You will think much better after a good night’s sleep."

She left the room, and a few minutes later returned with a cup holding a liquid whose bitter taste he recognized from the night the Horseman had wounded him. He had re-opened his ledger while she was gone, and once more she wordlessly took it from him and closed it, as if he were a small boy trying to stay up late reading an adventure story. He wanted to argue, though he had to admit that she was right; he was too tired, his head ached too much to think clearly. But the calm way she had assumed command reminded him of how considerably his life had changed. His life was no longer his alone to direct. He did not miss his freedom – it had been a cold, joyless freedom – but he was bewildered. He obediently drank the potion and got into bed at her direction, wondering if all husbands were as helpless as he.

* * *

Ichabod faced dancing lessons as he faced autopsies, murderers and headless ghosts. When he arrived for his fifth lesson, Dubois and Julie both stared at him. He stopped just inside the doorway and glanced down at himself. Nothing seemed amiss.

"Is something wrong?" he asked nervously.

They glanced at each other. Dubois said, "The truth is, Mr. Crane, we expected you to quit after the second lesson. Men of your sort generally do."

"My sort?" Ichabod’s voice was sharp.

"Men of the mind. The bookish. You never seem to care for frivolities such as dancing." He came to Ichabod’s side and put a hand lightly on his back to steer him to the center of the room. "Mr. Crane, it is clear that you do not enjoy dancing. Why are you here?"

Ichabod hesitated. "My wife loves to dance," he managed at last.

The others smiled at each other. "She must be a remarkable woman, for you to torture yourself this way for her," Julie said lightly.

Ichabod could not explain that he spent his entire life doing things which were torture for him because they were vital to his purpose, or about the murderous jealousy that had stunned him when he had seen Katrina dancing with another man. He could not think of anything at all to say, but his flustered look told them enough.

Dubois smiled gently. "Since you are determined to learn, let us see if we can help you. There is a great deal I have not told you, because I was so certain you would not be back. I will set myself to filling that lack now. Position!" Ichabod uncomfortably took Julie in his arms, his jaw set in grim determination. Dubois chuckled. "Mr. Crane, what are you trying to bite in half?"

Ichabod stared at him as if he had lost his senses.

"Unclamp your jaw," the other man elucidated. Ichabod tried to do so. "Relax the muscles in your arms, as well. You act as if you expect your partner to sink a knife into your back."

With a conscious effort, Ichabod managed to release some of his tension, though he transferred a great deal of it to his brow, frowning in concentration. Dubois smiled to himself. It was a beginning.

"Much better! Now, begin. One-two-three…."

* * *

"I saw the ghost again last night," Henrietta remarked at dinner with a shudder. Lady Montrose’s face fell at the words.

"You saw one too many glasses of wine, you mean," Ronald sneered.

"I suppose she saw every one that you drank, and there were a great many," Katrina remarked innocently. Ichabod almost choked.

"Where was the ghost, Mrs. Montrose?" he asked when he could command his voice.

"Out in the grove, as usual."

"Close to the house?"

"No, it was drifting about among the trees when I saw it. It finally faded out of sight."

"What did it look like?"

"White and formless." She hugged herself, and Ichabod wondered with exasperation why Ronald did not try to soothe her. Even he knew that much about women.

"From what window did you see it?"

"My bedroom window."

Ichabod asked all of the Montroses who else had seen the apparition and from what window they had been looking, and soon determined, though he did not say so aloud, that it always manifested on the north side of the house. When he and Katrina were alone, he informed her, "Watching the Montrose brothers has been fruitless. I believe that tonight I shall watch for the apparition instead."

"Do you think it will appear tonight?"

"I have no way of knowing, but I must try to see it."

That night and the next there was no apparition. But on the third night, he and Katrina, watching from their sitting-room window late into the night, glimpsed a pale form wafting through the grove.

Ichabod checked his pistol swiftly and reached for his overcoat. "I’m going to follow it," he said, trying not to let his voice waver.

Perhaps he was not so successful as he had hoped, for Katrina rose as well. "I’m going with you."

He felt that he ought to insist that she stay behind, but he was too relieved at having her by his side to do so. She put on her dark cloak and they crept out into the grove. His pistol was ready, his ears alert. All he heard was the occasional coo of a dove. And then he heard it, the low but unmistakable murmur of a human voice.

History repeats itself, he thought, remembering the "beast with two backs" he had unhappily spied in Sleepy Hollow. He had to learn who the trysting lovers were, but he hoped that at least these two would not feel the need to smear blood on each other. He did not, however, choose that Katrina should be exposed to such sights. He halted beneath an oak.

"Wait here," he whispered, squeezing her hand reassuringly before stealing closer to the voice.

In fact, this particular rendezvous proved to be far easier on his nerves than the last he had happened upon. These lovers were fully clad and were exchanging a passionate but quite innocent kiss. The woman was clad in a dingy beige cloak which had created the illusion of a pale form moving through the trees. Ichabod’s eyes narrowed. When the two parted, he could see that the woman was a servant from Montrose Manor, Lady Montrose’s maid Josephine. And the man….

The man was Michael O’Brien. The murderer’s brother.

It had not been Lady Montrose the man had been staring at, but Josephine standing behind her holding the skeins of silk. And the unidentified emotion in his eyes had been adoration.

"It won’t be much longer, dear," the man was saying. "I’ll have my own cobbling shop soon, and then we can marry."

The two kissed again, quickly. "Thank Heaven! Oh, it’s been so long…."

"But not much longer. I’ll prove to everyone that I’m nothing like my brother!"

"I know that you’re not." Another kiss followed. Smiling to himself, Ichabod gladly gave the couple their privacy.

* * *

The tryst Ichabod had witnessed eliminated one of his major suspects. The new knowledge had him rearranging his facts all the next day. He was so absorbed in pondering what he had discovered that he almost forwent his dancing lesson. But he did attend, and while his body carried out what it had learned almost on its own, his brain was still working on the knotty problem.

Half an hour into the lesson, he suddenly became aware that Julie was staring at him. Darting a glance, he found that Dubois looked similarly amazed. Ichabod promptly tripped, and the others laughed.

"A vast improvement, Mr. Crane! Your body has learned how to move. Now your mind may begin to enjoy it."

"Enjoy it?"

"Again!"

Obediently Ichabod began twirling Julie around the room once more. To his surprise, he found that he did enjoy his new mastery of this useless skill. By the time the dance was over, he was smiling. He turned to Dubois.

"Thank you, sir. I would never have believed it possible."

Dubois grinned, shaking his head. "Neither would I."

* * *

"What do you think is causing the eerie sounds?" Katrina asked one evening as they sat together in their sitting room, after she had put Young Masbath to bed. "Is it a ghost this time?"

Ichabod frowned. "I do not think so. I think someone of flesh and blood is making the sounds. And yet, I cannot for the life of me determine how they are doing so."

"Why would someone be making those sounds every night for so long? Doesn’t he know what he’s doing to Lady Montrose?"

"That is the entire point. I think Ronald is trying to frighten his aunt away from the house so that he may have it for himself. Perhaps he even hopes to drive her mad."

"Ichabod…." Her face was shocked. "How can you say that so casually? Something so dreadful?"

He stopped and looked at her in surprise, and suddenly realized what an abyss divided them. Tragedy and evil were new acquaintances of hers, while he had lived intimately with both since the age of seven. After what he had seen during his years in the slums and his tenure as a police constable, no travesty could shock him; indeed, it was moral behavior, not its reverse, which surprised him. Katrina was innocent and sheltered, still able to be shocked. Suddenly he embraced her, holding her tightly against his heart. If he had anything to do with it, she would stay that way.

"Do not mind it when I talk like that," he said, trying to reassure her. "The only way to investigate crimes without going mad is to view them with the same detachment I have with my chemical experimentations." He added, "I am going to watch those brothers very carefully tonight, now that my other prime suspect has been found innocent. Peter’s reluctance to sit up to listen to the ghost on our first night here leads me to believe that he had some other recreation in mind, though I have not observed him out and about in the evening since then."

"Let me sit up with you."

He wondered why she troubled to put her intentions in the form of asking for his permission when he knew perfectly well that only the strongest persuasion had any chance of deterring her. Perhaps she thought it was polite to seem to seek her husband’s approval.

"Very well," he answered, and the two of them sat up late into the night together. He leafed idly through one of his new books and she pressed on with Essay on Crimes and Punishments. She was a third of the way through it by now. They read in silence, both looking up at every creak, every step.

At about ten o’clock it began to rain, hard. Katrina looked up from the book. "Do you think anyone will go out in this weather?"

"If they do, it will mean that they have an excellent reason for doing so."

She nodded and continued reading. It was nearly eleven when they heard footsteps in the hall. Ichabod rose, checking his pistol and pulling on his overcoat. He kissed her quickly. "Go to bed," he said briefly.

"I’m coming with you—"

"Not this time. Please, do not argue. Stay here. Promise me?" She nodded reluctantly. He strode out the door.

He followed as quietly as he could. Whoever it was went to the stables and took a horse. Watching from the shadows, Ichabod discovered that it was Peter. He quickly claimed a mount of his own and followed Peter at a distance into the pouring rain. What could lure him out on a night like this?

He trailed Peter into the city, grateful that the sound of the rain masked his pursuit. Peter did not seem especially concerned about the possibility of being followed. He slowed his horse when he turned a corner.

Ichabod reined in when he realized what road Peter had turned onto. Lantern Lane. It was a place Ichabod knew far better than he cared to. He thanked God for the instinct that had made him leave Katrina behind. The first time he had been on Lantern Lane was a few months after he had run away, when he was scraping out a living at various odd jobs, living in a filthy tenement. En route to somewhere else, he had passed through Lantern Lane. Right away he could tell it was somehow different from the other streets of the slums, though how he did not at first know. When he had grasped the things that were going on there he had fainted, and when he awakened found that his pockets had been emptied of their few coins. That was far from the worst thing that could have happened to him there, and he had avoided the hellish place carefully after that, until his duties on the constabulary had required him to patrol it. He would have preferred to torch it.

Ichabod paused, considering for a moment before turning his horse to head back to Montrose Manor in the rain. He did not care which of the many vices offered by Lantern Lane drew Peter there.

He was dripping wet when he returned to the house. After hanging his soaked coat in the kitchen by the hearth to dry, he paused in the sitting room to see if the ghost was there, moaning. It was. Shivering from something more than the cold, he went to the room he shared with Katrina. She was waiting up for him, wrapped in her warm blue dressing-gown.

"Ichabod!" Katrina rushed to his side. "Are you hurt?"

"No, just cold." Still shivering, he moved to the fire. She followed, taking his frock coat from him as he pulled it off.

"Where did he go?" she asked as she hung the coat up to dry.

"Lantern Lane," Ichabod replied unwillingly, holding his hands out to the fire.

"Where is that? I have never gone there." Her tone was conversational.

"And you never shall."

She looked at him, surprised at the unusual curtness of his tone. "Is it dangerous there?"

The thought of Katrina within a hundred miles of that vile district made Ichabod more ill than any corpse he had ever seen. "Very. You are never to go anywhere near there, is that clear?"

Her eyebrows raised. It was the first time he had spoken to her with a husband’s authority. She was not displeased, but womanlike, she could not resist the chance to test him. "And what if I do?" she teased.

"Katrina!" He seized her arms and almost shouted, "This is not a joking matter!"

"My love, I’m sorry." Her eyes were wide, but she spoke calmly, reassuringly. "I did not mean to upset you. Of course I will not go anywhere you do not want me to."

"You must promise me that. I shall never have any peace, else." His voice and his grip both softened, but he did not release her.

She smiled, happy enough to have elicited this show of concern from him. "You have my word. I do not wish to cause you worry. And now, if you do not wish to cause me worry, you must not catch a chill. Let's get these wet clothes off you." Her cheeks flushed very slightly as she reached for the buttons on his vest, but with the excuse of a practical task to perform she went about it matter-of-factly enough.

Ichabod's impulse was to stop her and do it himself, but remembering the Reverend's words he submitted, allowing her to undress him as if he were a child. In a few minutes his clothes were hanging up to dry and he was sitting before the fire wrapped in a blanket, drinking a cup of hot tea. He found that Katrina's motherly attentions lulled him, and he relaxed into the warmth. The thought of Lantern Lane faded away.

When he had drained the cup, she took it from him and tenderly brushed his damp hair back from his face. "What else may I do for you, my love?"

He hesitated only a second before placing his hands gently on her waist and pulling her closer. "Help me to warm up."

She nestled on his lap and they sat in peaceful silence, their arms around each other. The only sounds were the crackling of the fire and the soft drumming of rain on the roof. The rest of the world seemed to recede; nothing outside this warm, quiet room mattered. The intimacy created by her nurturing attentions put them more at ease with each other than they had been since they were married.

Ichabod ran his fingers through Katrina's shimmering golden hair. "You are the loveliest woman in the world," he said softly, breaking the silence.

She caressed his cheek. "If the Pickety Witch had seen your face, she would have kissed your mouth and not your cheek."

He looked up into her eyes. "Oh? Why is that?"

She searched his face and laughed softly. "Is it possible that you do not know how handsome you are?" Ichabod responded by blushing, and her smile widened. "You don't know! How could you not?"

"No one else has seen whatever it is that you see, Katrina," he answered softly.

"Fools," she whispered caressingly.

Their conversation continued in hushed tones, foolish, affectionate conversation, absurdly sweet compliments and endearments, the pleasant nonsense that lovers have whispered to each other from the dawn of time. But to them as to all others, it sounded fresh and new. Eventually they left off talking and began kissing. It seemed that they spent hours kissing, unhurriedly, as if they meant to continue for the rest of their lives. But when Ichabod eventually gathered her in his arms and stood, carrying her to their bed, they melted into each other as naturally as if they had never been separate. This night there were no awkward moments and no shyness.

* * *

Ichabod woke early the next morning. He contentedly watched Katrina sleep for a time before rising, being careful not to disturb her; she looked far too peaceful, like a slumbering angel. He tucked the covers around her gently before tiptoeing into the sitting room to dress. In the hallway, a whiff of perfume reached him. On a narrow table in another over-decorated Oriental vase was an elaborate arrangement of white roses. On a sudden impulse, Ichabod took one of them and walked softly back to his bedroom, where he slipped it under the door.

He went to the dining room with a smile on his lips. The younger Montroses were already there.

"Where is Lady Crane this morning?" Ronald asked. His baiting tone could not ruffle Ichabod, not today.

"Still asleep," Ichabod replied serenely. He did not remember ever feeling so certain that all was right with the world. He began to understand why Katrina was able to sustain such strong faith. He remembered the Ichabod Crane of a week earlier, who had actually been doltish enough to imagine that Katrina would have preferred to be Lady Van Brunt. But that had been an eternity ago.

Lady Montrose entered, clutching a silken shawl around her shoulders. "Gracious, it’s cold! Light all the fireplaces," she instructed the scarred servant.

"Yes, ma’am." The man departed.

After a few minutes of desultory breakfast chat, Ichabod inquired, "Has anyone seen Young Masbath?"

Henrietta replied, "He’s out playing in the orchard."

Peter shivered. "In this cold?"

"He’s young, he needs to run around," Henrietta replied indulgently.

"I had better find him. Mrs. Crane will skin me alive if I let him catch a chill," Ichabod said cheerfully, rising. He found his coat and put it on, pushing up the sleeves. They were a little too long, but the coat had been inexpensive, so he had settled for it. Katrina would no doubt clap a better fit on his back before long, he mused with a smile.

The bracing cold of the morning was as refreshing as spring warmth would have been. After the rainy night, the sky was a stark, bright blue. Ichabod could not remember ever before having felt so light, so peaceful. He wandered about the grove, taking his time, watching the doves drift about on the wind, until he spotted the boy up in a tree.

"I’ll be right down, sir," the boy said, spying him.

"No, stay there," Ichabod instructed, and began climbing. He had not climbed a tree in years, except for the Tree of the Dead. He found he still had the knack. He was not much more than half as high among the branches as Young Masbath before the height began to make him nervous and he stopped, enjoying the higher vantage point. It was the most beautiful morning he had ever seen.

The boy’s eyes were wide. "Sir, what are you doing?"

"The same thing you are," Ichabod replied lightly.

Young Masbath clambered down to a branch on a level with Ichabod’s and deliberated for a long minute. "Why aren’t you being serious?" he asked at last.

"Perhaps I’m learning good habits from Lady Crane," he answered cheerfully, finding that he could dare to go a foot or two higher.

"There’s a bird’s nest up there, sir. I didn’t touch it, of course."

Ichabod squinted up through the branches. "What kind of bird lives there, do you suppose?"

"Dove, I should think. I’ve hardly seen any other birds around here."

"No cardinals? A pity." The boy looked confused, wondering what cardinals had to do with it. "There are so many doves here. They must have a dozen nests in every tree."

The boy peered up through the branches, then around at the other trees. "I don’t see many more. Just one or two."

Ichabod watched the grey birds swooping around the roof, circling around the three trails of smoke that rose from the chimneys.

His eyes narrowed. His black brows knit together as a dozen tiny details unraveled in his brain. Then he briskly began climbing down to the ground.

"Are you ready to come inside, Young Masbath?"

"Yes, sir."

Inside, while the boy went to the nearest hearth and held his hands over the fire, Ichabod found the scarred servant. After speaking to him for a moment, he went into the haunted parlour. A moment later, he burst out laughing. In the dining room, Katrina shot to her feet at the sound.

When he appeared, smiling, she ran to him. "Ichabod! What’s wrong?"

He laughed again, not so loudly this time. "It seems I could benefit from some of your frivolity, my love. I must be a grim fellow indeed if my wife assumes something is wrong when I laugh."

"I have never heard you laugh before," she explained with a wondering look. "What is it?"

"All in good time, my love." He noticed that she had pinned the white rose in her hair. The cardinal pendant was about her neck. Their eyes met, and he found that he had a thousand things to say, and no need to say any of them. Everything was said in the blending of their gazes. After drowning in that gaze for an eternal, perfect moment, he spoke. "Where is Lady Montrose?"

"I believe she is in the sitting room."

He kissed her hand, knowing that she would understand everything he meant by the gesture, and went to speak to his hostess.

It took some time to persuade Lady Montrose to the renovation Ichabod proposed, especially as he was so vague as to his reasons, but his persistence eventually prevailed and the work was set for that very afternoon.

Shortly after lunch there was a knock at the front door. A servant answered, and Lady Montrose went to see who it was.

"What are you doing here?" she exclaimed.

"Mr. Crane sent me a message, asking me to come," the Reverend Boylston replied. "He did not explain why."

"Ah, Reverend," Ichabod exclaimed heartily, striding into the entry hall with a smile. "Good to see you. I have something to show you, all of you."

The Reverend regarded Ichabod, raising an eyebrow. "Who are you, and what have you done with Constable Crane?"

Ichabod smiled wider. "Would you both oblige me by stepping into the parlour?" He turned to the servant who had opened the door. "Kindly invite the rest of the family to the parlour." He went to the hallway and called, "Young Masbath!"

The boy came running. "Yes, sir!"

"Find Lady Crane. Her presence is desired in the parlour."

In a few minutes, everyone was nervously gathered in the haunted parlour. All were looking at Ichabod as if he had finally lost his senses. For once, he was the only one in the room who was at ease.

The gardener, a stocky, muscular man, came in with hammer and chisel, stopping in surprise when he found such a large audience awaiting him. "Please proceed, sir!" Ichabod urged.

Uncertainly, the gardener set down his tools and began gingerly moving the Oriental vases and the shelf they rested on to the corner.

The Reverend spoke up. "Emily, what in the world?"

"Mr. Crane insists that we re-open the old fireplace," Lady Montrose said helplessly.

"So this is what my husband looks like when he’s up to something," Katrina observed. Ichabod flashed her a boyish smile. The two of them found that they were blushing when their eyes met, but it was a gentle warmth on the cheeks, not the scorching crimson that had plagued Ichabod before.

The gardener tentatively leveled the chisel at the gilded wallpaper and began to pound with the hammer. The paper split. Plaster crumbled. Then he came to the bricks which had walled up the fireplace. He knocked a couple of them askew and then stopped and dropped his tools, his face ashen, for a chorus of eerie moans had arisen urgently.

Everybody leapt to their feet. The gardener backed away, eyes wide. Ichabod looked around, enjoying the moment, and then calmly knelt before the walled fireplace, picked up the tools, and began to pound on the chisel. He was not very skilled with the tools, but his hands were steady. Katrina and Young Masbath watched incredulously; Ichabod Crane was the calmest person in the room.

The moans continued. A few bricks were loose now. Ichabod pulled them onto the floor and stood aside, grinning from ear to ear. Everyone peered nervously into the small opening he had made.

Inside the unused hearth, a colony of doves had made their home. At the unexpected disturbance, they fluttered and moaned – not moaned, cooed.

After a shocked silence, everyone began to laugh. Lady Montrose laughed and wept at the same time. Peter looked as if it were a good joke on everyone. Only Ronald looked annoyed.

Several minutes later, Lady Montrose recovered herself enough to ask, "But what about the apparition?"

Ichabod met Katrina’s eyes and smiled. "Evening mists, I suppose. I saw the apparition as well, and went into the grove to investigate. I found nothing amiss." And that much, he thought with satisfaction, was the unvarnished truth.

Lady Montrose stood and took Ichabod’s hand. "Thank you, Mr. Crane. I feel very foolish now."

"Please do not, Lady Montrose. I would not have missed this investigation. I expected to find a ghost or a vicious prankster. I found a nest of cooing doves. All that is missing is olive branches. I have discovered more than the cause of a haunting. I have discovered that not everything is as dire as I believe."

Smiling radiantly, Katrina came to his side and kissed his cheek. Young Masbath stayed back, but smiled proudly, gazing at him.

Ronald sneered, "Too much wine, like I said all along."

"You believed that the sounds were made by your uncle’s ghost," Henrietta reminded him, neglecting to be like and unlike an echo.

The Reverend Boylston came to shake his hand. "Thank you, Mr. Crane. May I offer you and your family a ride back home?"

* * *

In the coach, the Reverend asked, "My curiosity is boundless. How did you guess?"

"I did not guess," Ichabod replied crisply. "Lady Montrose ordered that every fireplace be lit, yet only three of the four chimneys were putting out smoke. I asked the servant if every fireplace had indeed been lit, and he insisted that it had. Young Masbath pointed out, in a roundabout fashion, that there were not nearly enough nests in the trees to house all those doves. I knew from my first day here that something did not fit, but it was not until I connected these two facts that I realized what it was. The late Mr. Montrose was murdered with a poker. What was a poker doing in the parlour if there was no fireplace? Lady Montrose did not mention that bricking up the fireplace was part of the redecoration she did immediately before her husband’s death. The doves had the four years of her absence to make themselves at home."

"You were so certain that Ronald was trying to frighten his aunt out of her wits," Katrina chided.

He smiled, putting his hand on hers. "Ronald is guilty of nothing more than an unpleasant disposition, my love."

Seeing the way the Cranes looked at each other, the Reverend Boylston knew that the trouble which had divided them at the ball was dissolved. His thin lips spread in a fatherly smile.

* * *

"What shall we do for New Year’s Eve?" Katrina asked that evening. Her eyes sparkled for an instant before clouding. "We always gave a party and invited everyone in Sleepy Hollow."

Ichabod wanted to distract her from wistful memories, and besides, he had an idea, inspired by her unquestioned assumption that they would "do something" for a holiday. "Well, let me see. I spent last New Year’s Eve tinkering with some new lenses for my magnifying spectacles."

This had the desired effect; she stared at him. "Your what?"

"That’s right, you never saw them, did you? Come." Taking her hand, he led her to his laboratory and unlocked the door. The spectacles were on a high shelf. He lifted them down and put them on, enjoying her giggle when she saw him.

"What in the world are those for?"

Removing them, he explained, "They make things appear far larger than they truly are, so that you can see tiny details that you might otherwise miss. Here." He placed the lenses before her eyes and fastened them on her head. She looked around the room, laughing softly. "Hold still," he instructed, glancing around. His eye fell on a rock he had picked up years ago because of its interesting mix of colors. He had taken it home to identify it with his books, and then simply left it on a shelf, along with a dozen similar oddities. He picked it up and pressed it into her palm. She examined the odd rock through the lenses.

"Amazing!" she breathed. She was awed as a child at the sight, and suddenly Ichabod felt a century younger. He was always so absorbed in devising ways to use science to detect crimes that it seldom occurred to him to simply marvel at the wonders of it.

When she was finished, she handed the rock back to Ichabod and carefully removed the spectacles, handing them to him. "You really spent New Year’s Eve making this?"

"Not making it. I made it a few years ago. Just improving upon it." She looked up at him, her large brown eyes serious, as he continued. "And the New Year’s before that, I spent experimenting with chemical reactions to common poisons. And if memory serves, the year before that, I came home from my patrol and was asleep by ten o’clock." She looked, he thought with amusement, as if he were to be deeply pitied for his peaceful, solitary holidays. "But this year – Lady Crane, would you care to go dancing again?"

A lovely smile immediately spread across her face, but her eyes were full of concern for him. He tried to memorize the sight; he never wanted to forget it. "I would love to. But – are you certain you don’t mind taking me?"

He found that he was smiling, too. He tried to remember the last time he had smiled before meeting Katrina. "Not at all."

She kissed his cheek. With a confidence he would never have believed himself capable of, he took her in his arms and kissed her mouth, long and lingeringly.

He found that the ball was not so fearsome as it would once have been. Not with Katrina at his side. All he needed do was allow her and she would make all the conversation needed. In no time, she had everyone present charmed and eating out of her hand, just as she had in Sleepy Hollow. No one is immune to her, he thought with wonder. Several of their acquaintances from the previous ball gathered around her.

The orchestra struck up. Mr. Stephenson offered Katrina his arm. "Lady Crane, may I have the honor?"

Before Katrina could answer, Ichabod took her arm. "Forgive me, but I claim the right of Lady Crane’s first dance. Perhaps I may give you a turn later."

He whisked an astonished Katrina onto the dance floor. When he began to sweep her around the floor, her face lit up with delight as it had when he had demonstrated the cardinal disk toy for her, and he felt an answering smile spread over his own face.

"You learned to dance! For me?"

"Of course. I told you that I would do anything for you, my love."

Ichabod felt as if he could not only dance, but fly. Since the Pickety Witch had caught him and given him a kiss on account, he had done a hundred things he had never thought he would do. And since their marriage, he had faced one fear after another, and each had proved to be as innocent as doves. With her white magic, he was ready to face a new century.

 

 

Tales of Romance

Sleepy Hollow