Wolfert's Roost and Miscellanies by Washington Irving


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Page 2

This worthy but ill-starred man had led a weary and worried life,
throughout the stormy reign of the chivalric Peter, being one of those
unlucky wights with whom the world is ever at variance, and who are kept
in a continual fume and fret, by the wickedness of mankind. At the time
of the subjugation of the province by the English, he retired hither in
high dudgeon; with the bitter determination to bury himself from the
world, and live here in peace and quietness for the remainder of his
days. In token of this fixed resolution, he inscribed over his door the
favorite Dutch motto, "Lust in Rust," (pleasure in repose.) The mansion
was thence called "Wolfert's Rust"--Wolfert's Rest; but in process of
time, the name was vitiated into Wolfert's Roost, probably from its
quaint cock-loft look, or from its having a weather-cock perched on
every gable. This name it continued to bear, long after the unlucky
Wolfert was driven forth once more upon a wrangling world, by the
tongue of a termagant wife; for it passed into a proverb through the
neighborhood, and has been handed down by tradition, that the cock of
the Roost was the most hen-pecked bird in the country.

This primitive and historical mansion has since passed through many
changes and trials, which it may be my lot hereafter to notice. At the
time of the sojourn of Diedrich Knickerbocker it was in possession of
the gallant family of the Van Tassels, who have figured so conspicuously
in his writings. What appears to have given it peculiar value, in his
eyes, was the rich treasury of historical facts here secretly hoarded
up, like buried gold; for it is said that Wolfert Acker, when he
retreated from New Amsterdam, carried off with him many of the records
and journals of the province, pertaining to the Dutch dynasty; swearing
that they should never fall into the hands of the English. These, like
the lost books of Livy, had baffled the research of former historians;
but these did I find the indefatigable Diedrich diligently deciphering.
He was already a sage in year's and experience, I but an idle stripling;
yet he did not despise my youth and ignorance, but took me kindly by the
hand, and led me gently into those paths of local and traditional lore
which he was so fond of exploring. I sat with him in his little chamber
at the Roost, and watched the antiquarian patience and perseverance
with which he deciphered those venerable Dutch documents, worse than
Herculanean manuscripts. I sat with him by the spring, at the foot of
the green bank, and listened to his heroic tales about the worthies of
the olden time, the paladins of New Amsterdam. I accompanied him in his
legendary researches about Tarrytown and Sing-Sing, and explored with
him the spell-bound recesses of Sleepy Hollow. I was present at many of
his conferences with the good old Dutch burghers and their wives, from
whom he derived many of those marvelous facts not laid down in books
or records, and which give such superior value and authenticity to his
history, over all others that have been written concerning the New
Netherlands.

But let me check my proneness to dilate upon this favorite theme; I may
recur to it hereafter. Suffice it to say, the intimacy thus formed,
continued for a considerable time; and in company with the worthy
Diedrich, I visited many of the places celebrated by his pen. The
currents of our lives at length diverged. He remained at home to
complete his mighty work, while a vagrant fancy led me to wander about
the world. Many, many years elapsed, before I returned to the parent
soil. In the interim, the venerable historian of the New Netherlands
had been gathered to his fathers, but his name had risen to renown. His
native city, that city in which he so much delighted, had decreed all
manner of costly honors to his memory. I found his effigy imprinted upon
new-year cakes, and devoured with eager relish by holiday urchins; a
great oyster-house bore the name of "Knickerbocker Hall;" and I narrowly
escaped the pleasure of being run over by a Knickerbocker omnibus!

Proud of having associated with a man who had achieved such greatness,
I now recalled our early intimacy with tenfold pleasure, and sought to
revisit the scenes we had trodden together. The most important of
these was the mansion of the Van Tassels, the Roost of the unfortunate
Wolfert. Time, which changes all things, is but slow in its operations
upon a Dutchman's dwelling. I found the venerable and quaint little
edifice much as I had seen it during the sojourn of Diedrich. There
stood his elbow-chair in the corner of the room he had occupied;
the old-fashioned Dutch writing-desk at which he had pored over the
chronicles of the Manhattoes; there was the old wooden chest, with the
archives left by Wolfert Acker, many of which, however, had been fired
off as wadding from the long duck gun of the Van Tassels. The scene
around the mansion was still the same; the green bank; the spring beside
which I had listened to the legendary narratives of the historian; the
wild brook babbling down to the woody cove, and the overshadowing locust
trees, half shutting out the prospect of the great Tappan Zee.

As I looked round upon the scene, my heart yearned at the recollection
of my departed friend, and I wistfully eyed the mansion which he had
inhabited, and which was fast mouldering to decay. The thought struck me
to arrest the desolating hand of Time; to rescue the historic pile from
utter ruin, and to make it the closing scene of my wanderings; a quiet
home, where I might enjoy "lust in rust" for the remainder of my days.
It is true, the fate of the unlucky Wolfert passed across my mind; but
I consoled myself with the reflection that I was a bachelor, and that I
had no termagant wife to dispute the sovereignty of the Roost with me.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 24th Nov 2017, 7:27