44 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
and punish political offences; but all prone, in the exercise of their high functions, to sack hen-roosts, drive off cattle, and lay farmhouses under contribution. Such was the origin of two great orders of border chivalry, the Skinners and the Cow Boys, famous in revolu-
tionary story ; the former fought, or rather marauded, under the American, the latter under the British banner. In the zeal of service, both were apt to make blunders, and confound the property of friend and foe. Neither of them in the heat and hurry of a foray had
time to ascertain the politics of a horse or cow, which they were driving off into captivity; nor, when they wrung the neck of a rooster,
did they trouble their heads whether he crowed for Congress or King George.
To check these enormities, a confederacy was formed among the yeomanry who had suffered from these maraudings. It was composed
for the most part of farmers' sons, bold, hard-riding lads, well armed and well mounted, and undertook to clear the country round of Skinner and Cow Boy, and all other border vermin ; as the Holy Brotherhood in old times cleared Spain of the banditti which infested
her highways. Wolfert's Roost was one of the rallying places of this confederacy, and Jacob Van Tassel one of its members. He was eminently fitted
for the service ; stout of frame, bold of heart, and like his predecessor, the warrior sachem of yore, delighting in daring enterprises. He had an Indian's sagacity in discovering when the enemy was on the maraud, and in hearing the distant tramp of cattle. It seemed as if he had a scout on every hill, and an ear as quick as that of Fine Ear in the fairy-tale.
The foraging parties of Tories and refugees had now to be secret and sudden in their forays into Westchester County ; to make a hasty maraud among the farms, sweep the cattle into a drove, and hurry
down to the lines along the river road, or the valley of the Neperan. Before they were half-way down, Jacob Van Tassel, with the holy brotherhood of Tarrytown, Petticoat Lane, and Sleepy Hollow would
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