Title: Long Time, No See
Fandom: Sleepy Hollow Pairing: Ichabod/Horseman Disclaimer: The standard, don't own them, not getting paid, etc.
Springtime in Sleepy Hollow was very much like springtimes in the other places the Hessian had been. Tiny green leaves on the trees, birdsong and cherry blossoms, Ichabod sitting outside his house with his face turned to the sun, everything growing anew. And the Hessian was the only one who did not fit into this picture of springtime joy.
Like now for example, he was taking a morning ride through the woods. Daredevil did not clash with this season, he was just a horse, but his rider did. Black clothes, ragged cloak and pale skin just was not what one should wear for the season. But he had no other clothes, and no other looks. He was a dead man in a world that was celebrating life.
Ichabod sat on a bench in the little garden behind his house. The sun was warm and nice, and that felt good after the winter. It was April after all, soon to be may. He was thinking about what Georg had said earlier that day; about not fitting in. From what he had gathered of the bits and pieces of the Hessian's past that he had heard, and observed, Georg wanted to fit in but on his own terms. He wanted to fit in but not to be de-fanged. One difficult balance that was.
Ichabod knew everything about not fitting in. Being a gawky boy in a school where physical sports were the only thing that counted among his fellow students had made sure of that. Not to mention that his father had been a famous preacher, which made for a few jeers and some pranks from the more cruel ones.
They had been together for a year now, the ghost gamekeeper and the notary. And a good year that had been too, no killings, no awkward circumstances regarding wills or anything else, just life going on, as it always had. That had left Ichabod and Georg plenty of time to get used to the everyday business of being a couple, in secret though. One could guess what the villagers would think of the infamous Hessian Horseman and the Notary's relationship, once they found out.
It was so good just sitting out here in the light. Too bad Georg did not see things that way. Last spring the Hessian had actually been away between April and August. All Ichabod had heard from him was a few short messages delivered by a talking raven named Jessamyn. Jessamyn, by the way, had a part in the story Georg finally had told Ichabod, on their first Valentine day together.
Chapter 1: Whatever Happened To Lady Jane?
'It is hard to put words around something one never had the need to even think about before', Georg had said. 'When I died I thought that it was the end of me, of Isegrim, of Georg Aschenbach. That little girl who broke that dry twig had killed me. The fight with those soldiers was just a formality to me. I was dead.
I thought that I was going somewhere, most probably to Hell, but then I didn't go anywhere. Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be a winter coat, Ichabod; hung away over the summer, to be used the next winter. That was what it was like. Somehow I was trapped. I could not go anywhere.
I could feel the years pass as I was held, or trapped inside that space between Heaven, Earth, and Hell. I could feel the flesh on my bones turn into dust, and mud. Now when I think back on it, I understand that I was kept inside the Tree, with my body buried beside it. It is still confusing to me, but I think there might be words invented for that someday.
When my skull was taken from my grave, I knew *she* would have total control over me. And then lady Van Tassel sent me out for the Van Garrets, then for Masbeth, Phillipse, the Killians, then for Mr. Van tassel, for miss Van Tassel.
I hated being a puppet doll, a marionette, with her pulling the strings. I never liked the idea of working for nothing. She said that if I did what she told me to do, then I would get my skull back. She would return my freedom back to me and I could go anywhere I wanted to. She said that would be my payment. I considered it blackmail. She had taken something that was mine from me, she would return it if I did as she said. That qualifies her actions as blackmail.
I don't regret killing Mr. Van Brunt though. He could not take a piece of good advice and attacked me even when I left him alone. He only has himself to blame. No Ichabod, I don't know where he is. I think he passed on when I killed him. He's not among the ghosts at the graveyard, even though he is buried there. And I haven't seen him anywhere else either.
When you showed up on the stage, I had no hope of your being able to figure out what was going on. Then you did exactly that, and returned my skull back to me. I was amazed at that. Really.
The regenerating hurt. It hadn't hurt that much when my flesh rotted, but this hurt. And then it was over. The pain was just a memory, a reminder, like the sound that stays in the air after you've beaten the drum. And then I saw the world with my own eyes. Really saw. And the first thing I saw was snow. Just like when I died. Felt a bit disappointed about that. Then I turned around and saw you.
It was the first time I saw you with my own eyes. Before that, I had only felt the presence of people. That had been a bit like standing in a dark room seeing only shadows of the people around me. I had felt their presence more than seeing them, and I had managed to hit the target every time.
You were the most beautiful thing I've seen since Oleg died.
Then I saw you hide behind miss Van Tassel, and I knew that I would never be able to tell you that. Looking like I do makes anything nice and tender I say seem like a cruel joke. Then Daredevil came and reminded me of the more urgent business.
When I had lifted up lady Van Tassel, I decided to get even. I had picked up from her stray thoughts that she was proud of her perfect skin. I made sure her skin was not so perfect anymore by kissing her.
You saw how I did.
She had killed me, used me, and blackmailed me into killing people for no payment at all. It simply was time for her to get hurt. Then I rode into the Tree and down to Hell.
Chapter 2: The Trial Of Lady Jane
(The Hessian; continued)
"On the way to Hell we were followed by a raven who told me it had been sent out to lead me right. When I asked its name, and how it came it could speak with human tongue, it answered: 'My name is Jessamy, and I'm in service of the Lord of the Dreaming.'
I was happy just to have someone to guide me right even if it was just a bird. Lady Van Tassel was of no help at all.
Either she screamed hysterically trying to get out of my arms, or she was totally still, and just whimpered or mumbled words I could not make any sense of. I was probably as nervous as she was about going to hell, but at least I did not show it.
It was good to have a guide because the Nowhere, that area or space, that lies between the worlds, was very, very wide. It's easy to go in the wrong direction if you don't know where you're going.
Soon enough we were at the gates of Hell.
The gatekeeper seemed to recognize lady Van Tassel and said something about the fulfilling of an agreement. Then it ( I couldn't figure out if it was a he or a she ) told me that I was to stand as a witness in the trial that had been awaiting the lady for some time. When I asked why there was to be a trial, Jessamy told me that it was because it had to be carefully decided where in Hell she was destined to be. Most trials go very quickly, while others take ages.
I was lead by the raven and one of the other guards to a huge hall, which had been made into a courtroom. The judge was sitting on a throne. He had a crown on his head and a mallet in his hand. He was dressed in a mantle that seemed to be made out of blood. There were other people there too. Bird-headed men, girls with scorpion bodies. Lots of other strange creatures like that, but there were also persons (I couldn't see if they were male or female) so beautiful I had a hard time keeping my eyes off them.
Lady van Tassel was sitting on the floor in front of the throne. I was told to stand about ten feet away from her. No, I don't know why.
Then the judge spoke to me, and his voice was like thunder. 'Witness, what is your name?'
'You know why you are here?'
The judge turned to her, lady van Tassel.
'Jane Archer, also known as Jane van Tassel; you have signed away your soul to gain possession of this man, to use as a weapon in your revenge against those who evicted you and your family.'
'Yes', she whispered.
'Your soul is therefore bound to Hell, by your own consent.'
'Since you are deemed guilty already, this trial is to determine your place in Hell. Do you understand?'
The trial went on, with me as the principal witness. I was asked questions, she was asked questions, and we both answered as well as we could. In the end she was sentenced to the part of hell known as Therapy. No, I do not know what that is. Jessamy said it was much like Purgatory, without the flames, but with people asking you questions over and over again. Apparently, that's quite painful.
Jane van Tassel was escorted out of the courtroom, and then it was my turn to stand trial. At least that was what I thought. But the judge just said that there were a few people who wanted to see me. He mentioned names that held no meaning for me. The lord Morpheus lord Auberon and lady Tatiana. The Lord Morpheus is a very pale man, paler than me, and with black holes where there should be eyes, though one can see something sparkle in them, a bit like stars on a night sky. It was he who spoke to me. His voice was like the ones one hear sometimes in the back of your head in the morning, just before you've woken up completely.
'I wish to employ you as my agent in some of the affairs that concern the Waking World, your world', he said.
My instincts kicked in. 'What will I be paid?'
'A place of your own, and the freedom to go anywhere you want, under my protection of course.'
'As long as I don't abuse this protection.'
I agreed and signed a contract where I was given this realm where I live now as my pay. It's actually a part of the Dreaming that has been closed off for me and it has its own gateway to the other worlds.
Lord Auberon, the ruler of Faerie, was also employing me, as a guardian for the Tree of the Dead. I am to make sure that no one will try and enter the Faerie. My payment for that is the ability to come and go as I please in the Twilight Realms. That's a position I'll keep for as long as the Tree stands. It will end on the day the Tree has rotted away. But I'll keep the payment.
As far as I know, Lady Van Tassel is still in Hell. And she can stay there for all I care. Then I returned to this world, our world.
It took me a whole year to put words around what had happened to me, a whole year. I did what I was paid to do, and spent the rest of my time trying to get the ghosts to understand that *I* had not killed them of my own free will. That it had been lady van Tassel who had *used* me to kill them.
I also thought a lot about my past, of things I had forgotten. Those memories were like pieces in a puzzle, and they finally began to form a whole picture. I remembered Ermengarde and her stories, Mother and her attitude towards priests and churches, and all other things I had not been able to recall for so many years.
And then you came back to Sleepy Hollow."
Author's note:The raven Jessamy, was borrowed from Sandman issue #28, the one named Thermidor. She was used without the consent of Neil Gaiman, the creator of Sandman.
Chapter 3 "
The Hessian's New Clothes"
Ichabod rose from his bench. It was almost noon, and that meant lunch. Not that he was very hungry, but he did feel like eating something light. Bread, cheese and a slice of that cold roast beef his housekeeper had made for dinner a couple of evenings ago. A decent lunch, washed down with some cold water. Had he still lived in town Ichabod would have called this frugal, but now he just enjoyed the food. While he ate he pondered the question of how to make the Hessian stay for the whole summer instead of just leaving for a while as he had done last year.
Suddenly it came to him. New clothes!
Georg had once told him that he had never been to a tailor. Instead he had seen battlefields as perfect opportunities to find new clothes. Of course they were still on their previous owners, but the owners were dead, and a pair of perfectly good trousers would just be wasted on them. Ichabod had felt a bit nauseous at that.
'A visit to the tailor in Tarrytown to get Georg a new wardrobe. Why not', thought Ichabod. Georg could afford it. He was paid to keep an eye on the woods for Katerina, and he had not spent a single coin of that money. And the tailor would be able to make clothes that fit Georg's style as well as the current trends. Something timeless.
And new clothes always put people in a better mood. New clothes would also make him able to walk through the village without people recalling that episode called 'The Church Battle' and wanting to get even. Ichabod began to ponder how to sell this idea to Georg. He hummed a happy little tune to fit this glorious spring day.
The two men, the mercenary and the notary lay together in bed enjoying the afterglow that came after they had made love. Georg loved this moment, this peace after the storm. Ichabod lay curled up against his lover and pondered if this was the right moment to start discussing new clothes. Then he decided that it was indeed so, and rose on his side to talk. "I've been thinking, Georg", said Ichabod.
"You need new clothes."
"Ichabod, I do not need new clothes."
"Yes, you do."
"No." Ichabod sat up. "Then what are you going to use that money for?"
That made Georg frown a bit. "Well", he said after a moment of silence, "food, if I were still alive. Oh, I don't know."
"Then use the money to get new clothes. New clothes always put people in a better mood."
Georg pondered this for a while, then shrugged and gave in. "Alright. New clothes then. But nothing frilly or macaronish or foppish."
Ichabod smiled. "You have my word. Black, red and charcoal gray. And as plain as possible."
"Not too plain though. I do not want to look like a priest."
"But like a gentleman, right."
"Most gentlemen I've ever seen were fops, at least to me."
"Then they weren't real gentlemen. Real gentlemen have a restrained and elegant style."
"Whatever you say."
"Mr. Aschenbach, would you mind standing still. I really need to take those measurements of your legs", said Mr. Schneider, the best tailor in Tarrytown.
"Why?" said his new client, a tall man with pale skin and hair that seemed totally out of control. The clothes currently worn by this man were old, and Mr. Schneider swore they were somehow sentient. But this person had a wallet with cash, which he had shown to the tailor and said that he wanted a wardrobe in a restrained and elegant style, so the tailor did not say a word about that.
"So that the trousers will be of a perfect fit", the tailor said with an exasperated sigh.
Ichabod looked on while Georg made himself any tailor's nightmare. It had taken some time to convince Georg that one did not have to wear the cloak and the leather harness to the tailor. It was a bit strange to see Georg in only that plain coat and those plain trousers when one was used to seeing him in full battle regalia.
Once all the measurements had been scribbled down on a piece of paper, it was time to select the fabrics. Mr. Schneider was told to bring down only the black and dark gray textiles from the shelves. Together Ichabod and Georg discussed which fabrics that were suitable to which clothes.
"You do need one set of Sunday clothes," Ichabod said, "and two sets of everyday clothes. And two waistcoats for the Sunday set, one for funerals and one for celebrations."
"I cant go to funerals, unless they are held outside graveyards."
"You can stand near the fence and look as if you're shy."
"I'm not shy."
"I know, but does anyone else know?"
In the end they agreed on a black satin fabric with thin red stripes for the festive waistcoat, and a plain black fabric for the more solemn one. The selection of textiles for the other clothes took a long time, but by the end of the day they had selected the fabrics, and placed an huge order. The tailor was overjoyed at having been paid at once. Normally his customers asked for credit and then failed to pay unless threatened with a lawsuit.
His customer was asked to come back in a week for a fitting before the clothes were to be finished. And the tailor hoped that the nice young man would come too, since apparently his presence was the only thing standing between the tailor and the temper of his customer.
It was one month later. They had picked up Georg's new clothes at Mr. Schneider's shop. Now they were at Ichabod's place and The Hessian was picking a bit nervously at the bundle. "What if they look silly now, when they looked so good at the tailor's?"
"Just put them on. I want to see what you look like in them."
"All right." Georg began to take off his old clothes and to put on the new ones.
Chapter 4: Letters
"Dear Mr. Crane!
It has been a while since you wrote to me, I know that, but I have been so awfully busy. You can't imagine how much I have to work on my reputation as a lady of the world. I must go on visits to the most important profiles of high society, and I must always have a chaperone with me since I'm not married yet.
Yes, there have been offers, but none of the men in question have been interested in more than my money. I want a husband who'll respect me, not for my fortune but for who I am. Someone who can give me as much as I can give him. I have thought the matter through, and I do not want passion, because that can go wrong once the first glow have worn off, I want something that's lasting. A man who is not afraid of my powers, and who can see past my money, and my looks, and who'll love me. That's what I want
It doesn't have to be love, but if it evolved into that it would be so good.
I am so jealous of the relationship you have with Mr. Aschenbach. I laughed out loud when you described what it was like at the tailor's. He does have a short temper, but is good for you. I have noticed that you are less inclined to faint at the drop of a hat these days. Among other things.
On an other note: I have now commissioned my portrait, to be painted by an artist from France. He is not really a Frenchman, he is apparently German but has live in France for many, many years. He fled from Paris after the French revolution with his family. His name may sound familiar to you: Claus Aschenbach. I am going to visit him to-morrow for the first time. I've heard that he is nice and likes to tell of Paris before the revolution.
Katerina Van Tassel
P.S Masbath sends his regards and says that he will send you a letter in a few days. He is working hard, but is paid well, I made sure of that last time I met his uncle, Mr. Bridge."
"Dear Miss Van Tassel
It was good to hear from you.
I must tell you that I have heard this Claus Aschenbach's name mentioned only once, in a dream I had two winters ago. In this dream I'm standing on a beach. It is summer but the world is grey. The sea is grey too. I meet and talk to five children. One of them is Georg Aschenbach, but as a seven year old boy. He told me that his parents had died, leaving him and his sisters in the care of someone who apparently killed two of the girls, the oldest, Ermengarde, and the youngest, Karolina. He also mentioned that his brothers, Albrecht and Claus, came to Ermengarde's funeral and decided to take the surviving kids away from this murderer. Can you find out if my dream were true, and what happened to Georg. He won't tell me, and thinks that his family is his own business. I've told him everything about mine though.
PS: It's good of you to take care of Masbeth."
"Dear Mr. Crane!
Thank you for telling me of your dream. I am still trying to put my mind around the fact that someone like our mutual friend can have one brother who is an artist, and one who is a writer. Somehow that doesn't go with the image that I have of our mutual friend. But I must tell from the beginning, or else this letter will make very little sense.
I went to the study of Claus Aschenbach. It is on the first floor of a three-story house. a girl, maybe ten years, opened the door, and led me to the study, where Mr. Aschenbach was waiting for me. I asked the girl's name. She told me that it was Libertée, and that I was not to laugh. She also told me that Mr. Aschenbach was her grandfather.
Mr. Aschenbach sat at the easel on a stool. On the easel was a pre-prepared canvas and in front of him was the chair on which I was to sit. I didn't see his face at first, but when he turned around to greet me I was amazed at how much he resembled *our* Mr. Aschenbach.
He seemed not to notice this though but lead me to the chair and asked me to turn my face in his direction. I must describe to you what Claus Aschenbach looked like. Imagine our mutual friend about thirty years older, with softer features and warm hazel eyes. And long white hair tied neatly together at the neck. Also add a few color spots here and there on his clothes, on his face and on his hands.
He began to start working on the canvas while I asked him questions.
'Why is that girl named Libertée?'
'Her father, my late son, was an avid believer in the revolutionary ideals; Liberté, Fraternité and Égalité. And so was his brother, and Albrecht's oldest son, their cousin. They are dead now. Were guillotined back in -93, during the Terror.
'They were in the wrong party. They should've gone with Robespierre instead of with Danton.'
'Do you have any children left alive then?'
'I had seven, and now only three are still alive. Myself I had eleven brothers and sisters, of which three are alive.'
As you know I have a talent for making people speak, and he only needed a tiny nudging to start talking. The story he told me I have written down separately, on its own piece of paper.
Please write back to me and tell me what you think. And what our mutual friend thinks of this as well. I'd like to know his side of the story.
Katerina van Tassel
P.S. Claus Aschenbach has the most gorgeous son, named Gérard, and he's only four years older than me."
Chapter 5: Claus' Story, Or How A Lovely Kid Can Become A Homicidal Maniac
"We were twelve children, named alphabetically, with names starting on 'A' for the first, 'B' for the second and so on. This was a family tradition. Father was number seven so he had a name starting on 'G'. He was named Gerhardt.
Yes, it is rather peculiar, I know.
When I was a child, Mother Uta used to say that babies came from a water lily pond in Heaven. She said that a baby grew in each bud, and when the baby was big enough the bud opened and a stork came to fetch the baby and fly down to Earth with it.
Very pretty story, yes.
When Dieter and Johann died, Mother said that they had one good look at the world, and had decided that they did not like the place and wanted to go back to the water lily pond. They were only a few months old when they died. When Franz died, Mother said that God had taken back his favorite angel. When Lorenz died, three days old, he took Mother with him back to Heaven I wonder what she would have said to comfort us when Karolina drowned and Ermengarde froze to death. I wonder what she would have said when Bertha died giving birth to her first child. I wonder what she would have said when Ina got guillotined in the Revolution. And I really wonder what Mother would have said when Georg went mad.
Oh, did you drop your book? I'll pick it up.
You're welcome. Where was I? Oh yes.
Mother died in the summer of 1746. I was fifteen and had started my apprenticeship at a portrait painter's shop in Kiel. Bertha was about to get married and Albrecht was at the university of Heidelberg. Father followed Mother a couple of months later, and none of us could take care of the kids; Ermengarde, Georg, Hildegarde , Ina, and Karolina.
Fortunately, we thought at the time, a distant relative offered to take care of them, raise them as his own children. He was a very churchly man who could quote the Bible and sing most of the psalms in the psalm book. We thought that he would be a good guardian for the kids.
Later, when it was too late, Hildegarde and Ina told me and Albrecht that *he* had wanted to save their souls from sin by killing them one by one. From what little they could tell of the two and a half years they had pent in this hell-hole, we gathered that *he* thought that *he* might gain entrance into Heaven by saving people from sin.
Well... The easiest way to prevent someone from sinning is to make sure there is never an opportunity to sin, and you can't sin if you are dead.
We could not get anything out of Georg since he had lost his memory after a violent fever which almost killed him.
*He* had decided to take Karolina first, since she was the youngest. And in the first winter after the kids arrival at *his* house, in January, Karolina was put in a bucket with water. Then *he* placed a heavy rock on the lid so that she could not get out. A whole day passed before he decided that she was now properly 'saved'. This was in January 1747, and Karolina was four years old.
We were told of her death, but since kids die all the time we saw nothing strange in this. And so we never went to the funeral. Why? We simply didn't have the time or the means to get there.
Ermengarde had tried to write to Albrecht, and to me, but neither of us had gotten any letters. One of the servants had, when asked to take the letters to the post office, given them over to *him*. She did not know about this and thought that we did not care about what happened to her and the kids. To our shame, we had been too busy living our lives in Köln, where I had moved after a year in Kiel, and in Heidelberg that we did not worry when we heard nothing from them. 'No news are good news' as the saying goes.
Yes, rather naive, I know.
The girls told us that Ermengarde had said to them that this is what family ties are worth, absolutely nothing. The next winter it was Ermengarde's turn to be 'saved'. It was a bitterly cold winter that seemed never to end. According to what we found in *his* papers, he thought that since Ermengarde was older she needed to suffer more in order for her soul to be saved. So she was chained to a wall in the back of the house, where the Northern wind was on the hardest. Two days later *he* concluded that she was saved from this world. Ermengarde was thirteen years old.
This time we came to her funeral, and found to our shock that the kids, whom we thought had been well fed and well clothed, were hidden away in a back room. And when we finally were allowed to see them, we could hardly recognize them. They were so thin, and so dirty. And their clothes were full of patches. Ermengarde had obviously tried to keep them whole and clean, but had not had the means for it.
We decided on the spot that the kids were not going to live there any more. And the day after the funeral, we simply took them with us, and didn't bother to tell any of this to the authorities. *He* had enough money to buy himself out of any trial. There's one law for those who have money and the right connections, and then there's another law for those without.
Do sit still, miss.
Of course *he* was pretty upset that Albrecht and I would not allow him to save the kids.
Please look *this* way. I can't draw your face if you keep looking away the whole time.
When we came to Hiedelberg, where Albrecht lived, Georg fell ill. He was in a critical condition for a long time. He had hallucinations from time to time, and would try and fight against creatures only he could see. When he recovered, he had changed totally. The Georg I knew was not there anymore.
What he was like before? The sweetest little kid. Look at the painting at your left. No not that one, *that* one. See that boy in the brown coat with the toy horse? That's him, was him, before the disaster.
He was totally changed after his sickness. And he did not recognize us. I'd tell him my name, and he'd wonder who I was. And then he'd ask if that girl was Albrecht, and I had to tell him it was Hildegarde, and that Albrecht was a name for a boy. Then he'd ask why. But he could still read and write. Thankfully.
Yes it is strange. But worse was that he would from time to time go into such rages, that the whole household, including a very strong handy-man, would stay out of his way, and not interfere. He'd bite anyone who tried to restrain him, or throw things at anyone who dared to go near him.The littlest thing could set him off into another fit. He became a terror. And nobody knew what to do about it. Everyone was helpless.
The only thing that could stop such a rage was to simply let him go for a ride on his favourite steed, Herzlein. And as a consequence he spent most of his waking time with horses, since, as he would put it, they don't know how to hurt people. For someone so young he was a very skilled horseman.
That was the only thing left of the old Georg. His fascination, love, of horses. One day, before he was to leave for the Academy, I went into the stables, looking for him. It was dinner-time. I heard him recite something from La Fontaine's Fables. Then I saw him sitting on the floor in Herzlein's stable. Georg was reading a fable for a horse.
The story of the raven and the fox, I think. He looked so sane and normal, I thought he was back to his old self. Then I told him it was dinner-time, and he told me he did not want to eat with humans but with people.
Chapter 6: Claus' Story, Or You Never Knows When Your Past Comes Back To Slap You In The Face
Well, Georg was sent of to that military Academy in Berlin. From the letters his teachers sent me, I gathered that he had not changed in his manners toward people, or creatures. Meaning that he was rude and obnoxious toward his superiors and his teachers, when he was not ignoring them completely. But he was allowed to stay since they thought that he was very good with horses, and the world would always have use for good horsemen.
Please turn your face this way, young lady!
Another thing he excelled at was fencing and archery. When he was fifteen he was challenged to duel by the principal's son. Georg won, mostly because the other one was not as agile and fast as he was.
The summer after that he left the Academy, taking only his clothes, and an old sword that he had won in a bet. For twenty years we heard nothing from him. Absolutely nothing.
Meanwhile I got to Paris to make myself famous, found a few good patrons who'd help me financially, got married to the pretty daughter of my landlady, had children. My specialty were portraits and still lifes. Still are.
You're getting cramps? Well I think I have your pose down now, so you may shift around a bit.
Albrecht became a secretary to a Prussian duke, who was sent to Paris as ambassador. He married a young widow, with a lot of money, and got a family of his own.
When I look back now, I can't imagine that I did not know how good my life was then. I had a reputation, and a small fame. Life was good. So good.
One day I was summoned to go to Hesse to paint a portrait of the whole royal family. And I went there, because I thought that this was another merit for me. I won't bore you with descriptions of the journey. My family was to stay in Paris since I figured that I'd only stay there for a while, less than three months. In Kassel, the capital of Hesse, I stayed with a friend of mine, Peter Vogel, who had studied together with me in Köln.
He was strongly critical of Hesse's involvement in the war in the Colonies across the Atlantic, and wanted to protest in a way that would not land him in jail. So he painted a satire, based on a painting of the king and his advisors sitting around a table. But instead of the king and the other worthy people, he put a band of mercenaries around the table, with the leader of the band sitting just like the king.
Vogel showed me the drawings he had made of the mercenaries, and told me that he had spent the last week in the barracks, where they were housed before it was time to leave for America. Among the faces on the sheets I saw one that was very familiar to me. For a moment I thought I saw Father, but then I remembered that Father would never have his hair like that, and that he would never have his teeth filed down like this stranger. Then I thought that this might be Georg, so I asked Peter what this man's name was.
'I don't know', he said,' but the others call him Isegrim.'
It took a few hours of persuasion before he agreed to take me to the lodgings. I've never seen a group of men like those mercenaries. Cold eyes that seemed to calculate how much you were worth either dead or alive, and then those names. Strange names, like Rot-Schwantz or Le Neigeux. I saw the one called Isegrim at a distance, as he was entering the stables. But I recognized him at once. It was Georg. Dressed all in black, with his hair on end, but it was him. My brother.
I was then introduced to the leader of the gang. His name was Captain Suomi. Suomi means Finland in Finnish, I was told. I wanted to meet this man called Isegrim, and I told Peter why. When I said something about this Isegrim being mad, I got a yelling-at from a young man tending to his horse. Peter told me that the young man was the one closest to my brother.
He lead us to the stables, where we found him yelling at a servant who had forgotten to bring something for his horse. I stepped forward and greeted him. He turned around. I have never ever seen anything that mad before. He was as mad and as vicious as a mob. And he did not recognize me. I tried to tell him who I was, but he said that he had no brothers.
God, how he had changed.
Sorry. My hand shakes too much. I guess we have to finish for today.
He threatened me with an axe. Peter dragged me out of there. We heard the young man, Rot-Schwantz, yell after us, but we didn't hear what he said. That was the last time I saw him. Lord, how he had changed.
Sorry. I keep seeing his mad eyes, and filed-down teeth. Such a terrible change. Terrible.
We haven't heard anything about him since then. He's probably dead. And if he is, then I hope he rests in peace. If he's alive, then I can only hope he has gotten his senses back.
Please leave now, Miss. We can continue tomorrow. I'm an old man, after all.
Chapter 7: Reverend Steenvycke Goes To Hell
The birds were singing in the trees as the sun sunk down into the red clouds at the horizon. The stars wer shining bright, and there was no moon. The air was still mild, after the unusually hot day. It was in the middle of june, just before midsummer. The ghosts at the graveyard were stirring around, waiting for the Hessian. There was something in the air tonight, an expectant mood, a feeling that something was about to happen, though no one of the ghost could tell exactly what it was that caused this feeling.
The Hessian rode quietly through the village on his usual round. The villagers now knew him as Georg Aschenbach, the new gamekeeper of Miss Van Tassel. Apparently, the new clothes had made it easier for him to get accepted by the community, even though he had done very little to change the rest of his appearance. The hair was still spiking in all directions, and his skin was pale as ever. But now it was considered an aristocratic kind of pale. When he spoke to anyone of the inhabitants of the village, he always had a hand over his mouth, or tried to move the lips as little as possible, to hide his teeth.
When he arrived to the graveyard he immediately felt the anxiousness among the the ghosts coming against him like the proverbial thick waves.
"It's Reverend Steenwycke", Hardenbrook explained.
"What is he doing now?"
"We don't know yet, but he's hiding something."
"Hessian!" someone called. The Hessian turned to see who it was. It was the Reverend, waving at him. "What do you want, reverend?" "If I could get out of here, could you take me to Hell?"
"Why do you want to go to Hell?"
The rest of the ghosts collectively dropped their jaws in surprise. "You can't get out of the graveyard!" exclaimed the ghost of Baltus van Tassel.
"Well, I think I can."
"How?" asked the Hessian.
"By walking out through the gate."
"That's impossible, we have all tried to get out of here," said Dr. Lancaster.
"Precisely. But you didn't try to walk through the gate."
"Show us", said the Hessian
The Reverend swallowed audibly, but hovered to the graveyard gate. There he closed his eyes, put his hand on the gate and pushed. The gates opened and he, still with closed eyes, walked out.
The surprised silence was thick enough to cut with a knife. Steenwycke opened his eyes and looked around. He was outside the graveyard, and in one piece, as far as ghosts could be in one piece. The Hessian shook his head in puzzled amusement. Inside the graveyard the other ghosts began to discuss this unexpected success.
"Well," the Hessian said, "seems like you got a brain under that wig."
"I wasn't sure if I was right, but I was wasn't I?"
Behind them the other ghosts tried to get through the gate. "It's no use. We can't get out!" Baltus van Tassel exclaimed.
"You'll have to believe that the gate isn't there."
"So it all comes down to whether you *believe* you can or not," the Hessian asked the Reverend.
"I guess so. I'm not sure. But I got out."
"You said something about going to hell."
"Where is this?" Reverend Steenwycke asked as he and the Hessian were riding through the place between places.
"It's the Nowhere", the Hessian answered.
"Where is Hell?"
"On the other side."
They rode on in silence.
Standing outside the gates of Hell, the reverend tried to collect himself long enough to actually lift one hand and knock.
"Why do you want to go to Hell?"
"Because Jane is there."
"She deserved it."
"I know, but I still love her. Even now, when I know that she just used me, I still love her."
"So you are going the share the hellfire and the brimstone with her?"
"Yes, if she wants me to."
"And if not?"
"Then I'll tell her I forgive her, and then I'll ask whomever is in charge to let me end this existence, and to be allowed to move on to a new existence elsewhere."
"You have read about Eastern philosophers?"
"Once. I like the idea of a second chance to right your wrongs. I liked it even better when I died and found that I didn't go anywhere."
They shook hands, and the Hessian wished the Reverend good luck. Then Steenwycke knocked on the gates to Hell.
There seemed to be more to the Reverend than anyone had thought, the Hessian pondered. Not only had he managed to get out of the graveyard, he had gone to Hell just to be with that woman! As Georg rode back through the Nowhere, he thought about that long letter that had arrived a couple of weeks before. Something in that long letter had troubled Ichabod a lot. But he had not shown it to Georg, which could mean two things; either it was not anything interesting, or it was something very interesting. Anyways, Georg thought, anything that troubled Ichabod was of interest to him. He made his decision.
Later that night Georg walked silently into Ichabod's house. He walked up the stairs to see if Ichabod was sleeping yet. Ichabod was knocked out by the heat and slept with an open window. If it was this hot in june, then what wouldn't july be like. Now was a perfect opportunity to go and look for that letter. Ichabod used to put the letters he got from Miss Van Tassel in a drawer, in a slant-front desk in the room he used as an office, and not bother to lock it.
As Georg walked as silently as he could out of the bedroom, he looked back at Ichabod. The young man had kicked off his sheets and lay uncovered in the light from the stars. Gorgeous, Georg thought. But he would freeze a bit in the morning though. The mornings were always cold, and a bit damp. He walked down the stairs to the office.
There they were. Small bundles of letters tied together with black cords, each cord bearing a tag with the year the letters were from. Except for the long letter, the one he wanted to find. Where was it? He dug further into the drawer, and found the letter he was looking for in the far back. Hidden, he thought, hidden so I would not find it. This means it concerns me quite a lot. On the other hand, would he not have locked the drawer if he had not wanted me to read it?
He was still arguing with himself when he opened the letter and started to read.
Chapter 8: For Better And For Worse
Georg tried to make sense of Katerina's handwriting. Was that scribble supposed to be an 'e' or an 'r'? And what's an 'easel'? He went to the book-case where Ichabod stored his books. Georg knew that Ichabod had a dictionary and a German-English word-book there. He was so occupied with translating the letter for himself that he did not really *read* it, but rather looked at the words one by one, trying to figure out what each of them meant.
Then he read it through.
An ice-cold feeling spread from his stomach to his heart and his throat. He remembered those bleak days of so long ago. When life was gray and without hope. His hand closed around the letter, and the soft rustling sound from the paper made him think of dead leaves under deep snow, of pages being turned in a book, of hands ripping out pages in the book to light a fire.
'We take the boring tales first', Ermengarde had said when sacrificing her fairy-tale book. 'The ones with saints and angels go first.'
There had been a candle left behind by a kind old woman, which Ermengarde used to start the fire with. That kind woman had been the only servant of the house that Ermengarde had trusted in the end. But the letters she had been asked to send had been left to her master, *him*. So Frau Baum had been a traitor after all.
They had played a game, pretending that their room was a cave in a big dangerous forest. The servants were trolls that would hit the children if they saw them, and the master of the house a cruel dragon who ate plenty but shared none of his riches. The children had snuck out of the room to steal firewood and food. Most of the time it was Ermengarde who did the stealing while Georg stayed and looked after Hildegarde and Ina. But then Ermengarde had broken her ankle, and it had healed badly, so the responsibility had gone over to Georg. Unfortunately, Georg was not a good thief.
Claus had no idea what they have gone through, those four children huddled in front of a tiny fire in the fireplace in the darkest room in the house. And what had he said about Captain Suomi's troupe? They were *not* monsters! They did *not* have cold eyes, they were *good* humans! Fury mingled with the cold feeling.
Yes, Georg remembered the day he had met Claus. Such a wimp. Thought a smile and a few nice words could make up for his ignorance. 'No news is good news' indeed! The thought put a furious snarl on his face. Everybody knew that if there was no news, then it meant the messenger was either killed or a traitor, and that was not good news.
Georg recalled it all so vividly now, and the memory shook him. The ice-cold fury melted, giving way to a deep sorrow. He had not mourned those days of so long ago, at first because he did not remember them, then because he did not want to think about them.
He stood up and walked out of the house, not caring if he woke anyone when he slammed the door.
Ichabod woke from a disturbing dream, in which people called him Johnny, and Georg had been called Chris. Somebody was shooting with a gun, or was that a door slamming shut? Could that be burglars entering, or leaving, the house?
After a few seconds Ichabod decided to fight his instinct to crawl under the bed and hide, and walk down the stairs to see if anything had been stolen. Gun in hand, wishing for Georg to be there next to him, he left the relative safety of his room.
Nothing had been stolen, but someone had read the letter he had hid in the back of the drawer. Since that someone also had picked down a dictionary and a German-English word-book, he could deduce that it had been Georg. The letter was rather crumpled, indicating strong negative emotions.
Ichabod guessed that Georg needed him right now. Even if his bad-tempered lover would rather go to Hell than admitting to it. Making a decision, he walked back upstairs and put on his clothes. He was going to look for Georg and provide as much comfort and listening as Georg could bear.
Ichabod was into this relationship for better and for worse. And now, obviously, the 'for worse' time had come.
The forest was silent, a curious, nervous silence. Ichabod felt as if every creature in the woods watched him as he walked down the old Indian trail to the Tree of the Dead. He thought he saw the trees move out of his way to let him through the forest easier. Or maybe that was just his imagination.
Daredevil trotted down to Ichabod as the notary entered the clearing where the Tree was. The horse shook his head as if saying 'follow me.' Ichabod was lead to the grave near the Tree. Georg sat beside it, resting his head on his knees, arms folded round his legs.
"Hello", said Ichabod tentatively. No answer.
Ichabod sat down on the ground next to Georg. "I wanted you to read that letter, but I could not get around to actually handing it to you."
"For what? For my sisters who died without anyone trying to do anything about it? For my brothers who didn't do anything before it was too late? For my screwed-up life?"
Ichabod heard the intensity in Georg's tirade. But he also heard the held-back tears behind the bitter words.
"No. For me being a coward and not showing you the letter. Miss Van Tassel did want to hear your side of the story."
"I have nothing to add to that letter."
"I think you do", Ichabod said with quiet conviction. "And I'd like to hear it."
"There's nothing to tell."
"Then at least tell me what happened to the toy horse."
It was like opening a dam. Georg talked and talked until noon. Ichabod listened patiently.
The toy horse had been burned together with his sisters' dolls when their guardian had decided that toys were something that could keep the children from salvation.
Georg told of other things as well. Of make-believe worlds, of storytellers, of hopelessness, of unexpected kindness and expected cruelty. Of war as a way of living, of a life where the choice was between 'kill them or get killed yourself.'
Then Ichabod's stomach grumbled quite loudly. "I haven't eaten since breakfast."
Chapter 9: A walk In the Park
Gérard Aschenbach felt a bit nervous at the thought of actually taking a walk in the park together with Katerina Van Tassel, her chaperone, Miss Forestgrove, and his young niece Liberteé Aschenbach. It was not the company itself that made him nervous, but the thought of maybe making a fool of himself, in front of the most beautiful woman he ever had the pleasure to exchange a few words with. And his niece who would not let him forget that anytime soon. He could imagine the loud announcement: 'Guess what Gérard did in the park...' He shuddered at the thought.
Well, it was time now. Time to quit fussing in front of the mirror, and to fetch Libertée and walk to the house where Katerina lived.
The four of them were walking in a park near where Katerina's house. It was a very pretty park, and Gérard said it reminded him of the garden around the royal castle of Versailles. On a smaller scale though, and only one fountain instead of at least fifty.
After a while they got tired of walking and sat down on a bench under a huge maple tree. Liberteé and miss Forestgrove got along very well, and they were busy talking about fairy tales and romantic horror novels. They were also comparing notes on the different lending libraries in New York. Gérard and Katerina on the other hand were both a bit shy, so their conversation did take a while to start. Gérard cleared his throat.
"Um..well..what is it like in that little village of yours, miss?" said he, and hoped this was a safe topic.
"It's rather small, but there are a magistrate, a notary and a doctor. There's a big forest, and fields, and a lot of sheep", answered Katerina.
"It's far away, isn't it?"
"Yeah, two days up the Hudson river by coach."
"I've seen the river. It's wider than the Seine."
There were a moment of silence again. "What was Paris like?"
"The most beautiful town in the world. I was born there, in a house on the west side of the Seine. I grew up on its streets, just like any other Parisian kid."
"What was the Revolution like? I've read about it, but I'd like to hear what it was like."
"It started out hopeful, and got bad. My brothers, Albert and Bernard wanted to help create a new and better France, with education and equality for all, and cousin Adolphe was into that too," said Gérard in a low voice.
"Were you there when the Bastille was attacked?"
"Oh yes! I was only thirteen, but I wanted to be where history was made. My brothers took me to the assembly and I got to follow the discussions. It was a great time. Then the Revolution got bad."
"Yes, your father mentioned that."
"The crowd cheered as they entered the stand where Madame Guillotine was waiting for them. That's something I'll never forget. I was seventeen, and shortly after that, we decided to flee. We fled in scattered groups to Belgium, got together again in a small town just on the other side of the border. And then we got on board a ship to America."
"I was one year old", said Liberteé, throwing in her two cents. "Mother decided to follow grandfather to America, because she wanted me and my brother to live in a place where one could say what one thought without getting killed for it."
They sat together on the bench, trying to think of something to say to end the uneasy silence brought on by Gérard's story.
"My father was beheaded by a headless horseman", said Katerina suddenly.
"What?" exclaimed Gérard.
Miss Forestgrove and Libertée perked their ears at this unexpected announcement.
Katerina finished telling the story, with the necessary editing needed to cover up some of the more conspicuous facts, such as the true identity of the horseman, and of the relationship between said horseman and notary Crane.
"And he has not been seen around since, but constable Crane moved to Sleepy Hollow a year later to fill the position as the new notary", Katerina concluded her story.
"Oh my! This really beats my gothic novels", said Miss Forestgrove. "And it's all true?", asked Gérard.
"That horseman, with sharp teeth and hair on end, sounds like something Father told me once, when I was a kid."
"About his brother Georg? Mr. Aschenbach told me about him."
"Yeah, or mad uncle Georg as we used to say."
Katerina let the subject drop, but she began to plan a surprise for the whole clan Aschenbach, including one 'mad uncle Georg'.
"Would you like to come out to my house in Sleepy Hollow this fall? You and your family."
"Well..*I'd* like to but I don't know about Father and Mother and my sisters and all the kids."
"My house is big enough for everyone, and I have the Van Garret house too if it gets too crowded. The fresh country air will do everyone good."
"I'll ask Father and uncle Albrecht. I'll tell you to-morrow if they say yes or no."
That evening, after having returned home from the walk with the Aschenbach siblings and her chaperone, she sat down and pondered the situation. She had now found out some more about Georg Aschenbach's family. They were decent people, no doubt about that. Still, it gave her a little thrill to imagine the confrontation between her gamekeeper and his brothers, if she could arrange a surprise encounter.
"Poor Gérard", she giggled to herself, "I'm really mean to you."
Chapter 10: Meet The Aschenbach Family
The summer had passed and the autumn was approaching, with golden fields, and a bit of red in the leaves on the trees. Georg had gotten used to being considered a part of the village community. Nobody objected to him never going to church or his habit of keeping his hand over his mouth. Good manners and good clothes had done the trick. Ichabod was happy for the villagers acceptance of Georg. Life was good.
One day, in late august, Katerina came to Sleepy Hollow with her guests. According to the village gossip there were two old men, with their wives, a nun, a young man and a couple of kids. There would have been more people coming to visit, had they not been busy with school and work in New York.
Ichabod was a bit disturbed by that. Normally Katerina would tell him when her plans involved Sleepy Hollow, but this he actually knew nothing of. He did not even know the names of the visitors. This too was unusual, because Katerina had always told him the names of her visitors, at least when they were invited to the Van Tassel manor in Sleepy Hollow. It felt like there were trouble in the air.
The Hessian had not been around for the last couple of days, but that was because he was busy terrorizing a pair of poachers that were in the woods with flintlocks at the wrong time of the year. He could have hunted them down like game, but it was more fun making them really fear whatever that was in the woods. Then, the day after Katerina's arrival to Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod received an invitation to dinner at the manor the same evening. Actually, the invitation was to both him and Georg. Since Georg wasn't around, Ichabod decided to go to the dinner alone. As much as he disliked those formal affairs, this was, he thought, a great opportunity to find out about those visitors. The whole village was full of rumors about the guests, and Ichabod had been plagued with questions about them. Now at least he'd be able to answer a few of them. If Katerina didn't make him swear to keep silent about whoever he met at her place, that was.
The appointed evening came, and Ichabod walked up to the manor. He found himself half wishing for Georg to be there with him, and half relieved that he was not around.
Katerina introduced Ichabod to her guests. "Mr. Aschenbach, this is Mr. Ichabod Crane. He's the notary of this place. Mr. Crane, this is Mr. Albrecht Aschenbach. Mr Aschenbach is a writer. He writes articles and essays for a Dutch journal."
"One has to make a living", said Albrecht with a smile. Ichabod studied him. A tall old man, looking like seventy, even if he was closer to eighty years of age. His hair was white and combed back to form a short mane. His eyes were somber and grey. Ichabod thought that he looked like Georg, but with a magnificent hook of a nose instead.
Katerina continued the introductions. "Mr Aschenbach, this is Mr. Ichabod Crane. Mr Crane, this is Mr Claus Aschenbach. He is an artist. He is the one who painted the portrait of me in the living room."
Claus looked exactly like Katerina had described him in her letter. There were even color spots in his face.
"Sister Hildegarde, this is Mr. Ichabod Crane. Mr Crane, this is sister Hildegarde of St. Birgitta's Order."
Hildegarde was the only one who did not shake hands with Ichabod, preferring to bow instead. Ichabod wondered if there were any other members of the Order in America.
"Dr. Aschenbach, this is Mr. Ichabod Crane. He was the constable I told you about. Mr. Crane, this is Dr. Gérard Aschenbach."
Ichabod had to blink twice before he believed his eyes. The young man in front of him was an exact copy of Georg, a young, blonde, sane clone. But the similarities began and ended with the looks. Where Georg's eyes always seemed to have a undercurrent of sorrow, Gérard's eyes shone with a quiet joy. It was a bit like comparing late October with early May.
After Ichabod had been introduced to Albrecht's and Claus' wives, and the two children; Libertée and Égalité Aschenbach, it was time for the dinner. Ichabod did not notice much of the food, as he was too busy talking to Gérard about science.
"You do know that Miss Van Tassel knows quite a lot about potions?" Ichabod asked.
"Yes, and I keep asking her to teach me how to make them", answered Gérard. "Sometimes I feel that it is wrong to rule out the old ways of healing, before one has tested them to see if they really work."
"And if they work?"
"Then I want to find out exactly what it is that is the working ingredient."
Ichabod liked this guy, and was happy for Katerina.
Georg was on his way home to Ichabod. The poachers had been properly scared out of their wits, and would not want to enter the woods again for a very long time. He felt very pleased with himself. He thought Ichabod would be at home at this time of the day. Ichabod wasn't.
There was a note left by Ichabod on the kitchen table though, together with a written invitation to dinner at Katerina's place. Well, Georg thought, I do look rather presentable now, so I guess I can go up there and see how Ichabod is doing.
A maid went to Katerina to tell her, in a very low voice, that another guest had arrived. "Who?"
"The game-keeper, Georg Aschenbach."
"Let him in."
Georg Aschenbach entered the dining-room.