Crane's Return

It was a cool and windy and sunny day in late September. What could be a day of beauty was instead one of terror. All the townspeople were screaming mad and seemed to be running for their lives, screams about ghosts and poltergeist filling the air. As a selected few who had still remained in the church were coming out from services, among them the ever feared Brom Bones and his beautiful, petite wife, Katrina Van Tassel, they were curious to what was going on.

Brom Bones, a man now in his 60s and his age beginning to show but ever still the bear of a man, grabbed a running gent by his coat collar and demanded to know what all the hollering was about.

"Tis the ghost of Ichabod Crane, he' come back from the dead!" the man replied before he resumed running in the opposite direction.

"Ichabod?" Katrina asked.

"He doesn't know what he's talking about," Brom insisted, "But all the same, let us do find out what is going on around here."

Sleepy Hollow was a quaint little village up the Hudson River that was famous for its frightful apparitions, though none quite so famous nor so terrifying as the ghost of the headless Hessian soldier whose head was torn off by a stray cannonball fired by the Revolutionaries during the war. Though his body had been buried in a graveyard near the church, his spirit was a restless one that rode out on dark nights searching for his head and rumored to take that of any who might get in his way.

30 years ago a tall and slender schoolmaster by the name of Ichabod Crane had resided in Sleepy Hollow, and on the night of All Hallow's Eve 30 years ago, he had disappeared. Some say that he had raced with the Horsemen to the church's bridge from which the ghost should have disappeared, but he got Ichabod nonetheless. Others say that after Brom Bones had wed Katrina, Ichabod's ghost could be heard laughing and singing around the schoolhouse where he had formerly taught. Others say that Ichabod simply left Sleepy Hollow after being scared away, and became a lawyer in Connecticut.

Nobody could ever determine the schoolmaster's fate but now it seemed that regardless of what had been, now he had returned. Taking Katrina by the hand, Brom Bones stomped forth on the road to go in the direction of which most others were running away from. Many people surrounded them screaming and gasping in terror at the sight that they beheld before them.

"I don't see anything," Brom said as he looked forth and failed to see what the others did, "I don't see anything!

Katrina, whose eyes were still sharp from her youth, however did see something. "I see him!" She pointed directly ahead, "There he is, look!"
And suddenly, Brom saw what his wife and all the rest of the townsfolk saw. Coming their way was a figure on horseback. A terrifying and familiar figure, one that struck horror in most everybody who saw it; the horse was black as midnight as were its reins, the figure that rode it was tall and thin with a head of short black hair, pale skin and a rather unsightly nose.

"Dear God preserve us," Katrina exclaimed, "It is Ichabod."

"It can't be," Brom replied.

The horse came up the road at a frightening speed, its rider was determined to reach a final destination and the rider rode with such swift and fury, one might think he were outrunning the Headless Horseman, or given the seemingly devil may care behavior of the rider, maybe racing with the Horsemen.

The reins were tugged and the horse came to a sudden stop, and everybody gasped in shock and horror as they saw plain as day the face that they so many years ago recognized as that of their beloved schoolmaster, Crane. But this was not Crane, at least not the one they knew, even with 30 years come and gone he looked ever as youthful as he did when last seen at the party at the Van Tassel farm. Ichabod's gentle and charming and loving face and the eyes that were just filled with optimism were replaced, the eyes now glass and hard, the face practically set in stone of a horrible scowl.

He dressed in a black tri-fold cap and wore dark black clothes, long and thin like the body that wore them. At the waist a belt was worn that supported one flintlock pistol and one saber. Then, to add to everybody's shock and amaze, they found that this man was in fact not a man but a woman. A woman with Ichabod's face and build, and when she spoke, a harsh voice came from her mouth.

"Which of you is Brom Bones?" she asked.

Once again many gasped and Brom himself turned a shade of white. Despite his fear of what was to follow from this, he took a step forward and said, "I am Brom Bones, and what be you?"

The woman removed her cap and ran her hand through her hair as she answered, "I, peasant, am Isabella Crane…Ichabod Crane's daughter."

Nobody could believe what they heard, Ichabod Crane's daughter. Though it fit that she would look like him, it was unbelievable in the fact that he had been long thought dead.

"Ichabod," Katrina took a step forward, then another, "Is he…is he?"

Isabella got off her horse and walked over to Katrina and looked her dead in the eye, "My father passed away this last May."

"Heaven protect him," she replied.

"Why have you come here?" Brom asked.

She turned around to him with a look that could kill him dead in his tracks. Her eyes looked glassy and cold, but she answered by taking out a piece of yellowed paper, "This."

Brom took out the paper and unrolled it, it was a notification that Sleepy Hollow needed a new schoolmaster.

"You want a job as a schoolmarm? Is that it?" Brom asked.

"A schoolmaster, Bones. Who is in charge of the schoolhouse?"

"Have you a place to stay?" another man asked.

"About that," Isabella went back to her horse and took down a bundle that was wrapped up on its back, she reached into it, "Are there any houses for buying out here? I brought some money to buy a home." She took out a large bag full of coins, "You think this is enough?"

"Yes it is, unfortunately there aren't any houses for the buying or selling currently," he told her.

"You can stay with us," Katrina offered.

"She can…" Brom was about to say she could not, but instead he answered, "She most certainly can."

"Your hospitality is overwhelming," Isabella dryly responded.

Half an hour later, Isabella with her little bundle and big bag of money, was settled into a guest room of the Van Tassel estate. Her horse was kept out in the stable with those of the Van Tassel family, her saber and pistol she did not remove, nor assure neither would see use before the day was through.

A dinner was made and she was asked to join the Van Tassels at the table so while they ate, she could explain what had happened to her father. Over a roast turkey, Isabella started to explain what became of Ichabod all those years ago.

"After that night of facing the Headless Horseman, my father was knocked unconscious. When he woke up, he decided to get out of Sleepy Hollow, and it was the hardest thing for him to do in all his life," she explained, "Because it meant leaving you, Miss Van Tassel."

Katrina blushed, a woman her 60s she still maintained much of her beauty and vigor from her youth, and though she wouldn't admit it to her husband, every day she woke up thinking about Ichabod. Missing him and wondering what might have come of them if he had stayed in Sleepy Hollow, might they had married and had children were thoughts she was all too familiar with.

"Anyway," she continued, "After that he went back home to Connecticut and as the legend has gone, he married a wealthy widow, but he only had one child, that being myself. My mother died when I was a little girl and my father was left to raise me himself, long before he had quit as a schoolmaster and became a lawyer. I guess I should be thankful, he sent me to school and it would've been awkward him being there to teach me."

"I must say," Brom commented, "He didn't raise you too well a woman, did he?"

She giggled, "My father did his best, unfortunately he knew about as much on raising girls as a donkey knows about New Year. So you could say I turned out more of a man than a woman."

"Well I wouldn't say that," Brom said.

He felt somebody kick him under the table but he didn't say anything.

"So why didn't Ichabod ever return to Sleepy Hollow?" Katrina asked.

"Yes," Brom said, "I'm most curious to the answer of this question myself."

"I had a feeling you would be," she said, "Well…my father wanted to come back, and he wanted to see you again, Miss Van Tassel, but he was afraid, he feared for his life. He worried if he came back he might be killed."

"Killed?" Brom laughed, "By a non-existent ghost?"

"Oh no," Isabella roared with laughter in response, "You see, Bones, that's exactly what I'm talking about, not a ghost at all."

"How…how did Ichabod die?" Katrina wondered.

"That's hard to say…the doctor ruled it natural causes…but I don't believe it. I think it was a broken heart that done him in."

"How tragic," Katrina replied.

"Yes it is, my father loved my mother, but only for a spell…in fact I think he was happier once she passed…Katrina, my father spoke to me about you every day of his life. He told me about how beautiful you were and how very much a woman and one of the best you were, and he regretted not staying to marry you."

"Oh…" she blushed again. Feeling herself ready to tear up, she tried to change the subject before she became much more upset, "How…how did you decide to become a schoolteacher?"

"Oh well my whole life I knew my father had two professions, schoolmaster and lawyer, I knew him all my life as a lawyer but he did teach me the tricks of the trade to being a schoolmaster as well. He knew that I wasn't likely to get married so I had to work, because I don't like the idea of living off of somebody else when I can do for myself. And let us be honest since we are all adults, when you're a man and you look like this it's one thing…but when you're a woman and you look like this," she laughed, "No man will marry you unless you've had a few too many swigs of something."

"So you decided to go into school teaching from that?" Katrina asked.

"Well, I can't cook and I can't clean and I can't sew, I don't know how to milk a cow and I can't churn butter, and I can't write poetry, and I can't sculpt models, and I can't pose for a portrait. There are only two things I know how to do work wise and both come from watching my father do it. So when I turned 21 I told him 'Either I become a schoolmaster or I'm going down to the courthouse with you and am going to start lawyering alongside of you.'."

Katrina and Brom both had a hearty laugh at that comment, though Brom's was more for show than anything. He was finding this conversation about as entertaining as having his tongue nailed to the table.

"There's never been a woman lawyer before," Katrina said.

"I know."

"And with any luck, there never will be," Brom said, "What would a woman know about being a lawyer?"

"My guess would be I know as much about lawyering and you know about scaring people," Isabella replied, "Anyway, I wanted more to teach than to lawyer but if I ever got the itch to suddenly turn tail to that work, I'd be ready to fight to the end of me for it."

"So Ichabod raised a fighter," Brom noted.

"No, I raised myself a fighter," Isabella answered, "My father never was much for it. He preferred to take fights to the courthouse."

"I doubt he ever could win a fight of strength," Brom said.

"Brom, please," Katrina said.

"Well Bones," Isabella replied, "Strength is not all it's cracked up to be. I suppose if your life is set being a pack mule, that's one thing, but intellect and knowledge can win far more battles than pure muscle alone."

"You speak so highly against strength, and look at yourself," Brom said, "Every bit as scrawny as your father, I bet you couldn't lift a heavy object if your life depended on it."

Isabella reached across the table and grabbed Brom's hand and slammed his arm down on the table. "If I were you I'd be more careful about my gambling."

"You've barely touched you turkey, Miss Crane," Katrina said.

"Isabella, my name is Isabella. I'm the daughter of a widow and a lawyer, formalities have no place with me."

"Isabella, is there something the matter with it?"

"Oh no…I just, haven't had much of an appetite since my father passed." She held up her scrawny arm to show them, "I used to be much plumper than this but…when he died, I couldn't eat. After burying him I could find no solace in food, only nausea, so lo and behold the sight before you today."

"So do tell," Brom said, "What exactly is it that brings you out this way?"

"Yes," Katrina agreed. Isabella had set down the notice in the paper in the middle of the table and Katrina picked it up, "Exactly how did this get all the way to Connecticut?"

"By sheer chance I got acquainted with a charming fellow who was coming out my way from here and he was spreading word of what was in the paper, that Sleepy Hollow was in need of a new schoolmaster. Well I'd already done some teaching back home, but after my father passed, it just became too much, handling the same kids I've dealt with for years, then going home to an empty house to remember that he wasn't coming home. So I decided to leave."

"And come here," Brom added.

"Yes, my father often said he'd like to come back but he was always afraid to, so I decided to make the trip out for him and find out what went on here."

"Well now tell me something, do you really believe that it was some ghost on horseback that drove Ichabod away?" Brom asked smugly.

"No," there was a dead certainty in her voice, and her eyes as she looked towards him, "He was driven away by a man. By some foolish man who decided to scare him away and dressed up like a specter to do so. That's the conclusion he came to long ago, and that's why I'm really here. The job as schoolmaster is only a bonus where I'm concerned, I've come out here to find the man who scared my father off. Nobody, but nobody, I assure you, messes with a Crane and lives to boast about it. Even if it takes 30 years to right the wrong, that's what I'm going to do." She looked to Brom, "You, you boasted that night at the party having raced with the Horseman for a bowl of punch, did you not?"

"That I did."

"So you believe in ghosts?"

"Maybe…did your father tell you about the ghost?"

"He told me the stories about all of Sleepy Hollow's ghosts…but he also told me, before he died, that what he thought to be a ghost at the bridge that night was no ghost. If it were, it would've disappeared at the bridge, and since it did not, it means we are dealing with a flesh and blood man, and one who may still be alive, in this town. I will find him."