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Longsleddale: GentsMag 1902 Legend
evidence:-   old text:- Gents Mag
source data:-   Magazine, The Gentleman's Magazine or Monthly Intelligencer or Historical Chronicle, published by Edward Cave under the pseudonym Sylvanus Urban, and by other publishers, London, monthly from 1731 to 1922.
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Gentleman's Magazine 1902 part 2 p.423  "... III. - A LEGEND OF THE FELLS."
"IN the days of King Stephen, Church, Crown, and Barons were struggling in a quagmire of petty strife and intrigue, but the attendant horrors were only noted in the vale of Kent by the extraordinary number of guests of high rank - barons whose little armies had been destroyed, whose castles had been sacked, and who could not return to their estates for fear of their lives - who came and went at Kendal Castle. The Baron had too many troubles in his own domain to think of engaging in the struggles raging throughout the country. Westmorland was not yet fully subjugated by the Normans, ..."
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Gentleman's Magazine 1902 part 2 p.424  "..."
"One night in June, under cover of a fierce thunderstorm, a Saxon band stole down the valleys and set ablaze the woods clothing Harter Fell - to this day the ground remains barren, for the spell of the Saxon witch-familiar has never been broken. At Kendal the blaze was seen, and a small band set out to punish the offenders. Along the road, an old one even then, they marched to the foot of the dale, and here they met a group of peaceful villagers fleeing from the outlaws. Brutally the soldiers ill-treated them - to the Norman the Saxon was a slave of little value, a burden carried with the land - till a Saxon youth, his blood aflame with the coarseness around him, struck one man to the ground with his bare fist."
""A fight-rally," shouted the captain in irony, as with the point of his sword he touched the boy's thigh, and laughed at the pain he caused. The rough warriors followed his example, till, maddened, the youngster turned on them, and calling on prodigious strength, with a stone killed the nearest of his tormentors. Instantly the joke dropped, and in a second, from a steel torn body, the Saxon's soul went to commune with his God."
""You have wronged" said a hollow voice, and the superstitious soldiers fell back from their hacking of the dead. No one save the trembling villagers was to be seen, but this awful voice seemed to proceed from the bleeding corpse."
""You have wronged!" came the words again, in a voice now triumphant, and over the dead man appeared a woman of middle age. Her face was smirched with ashes and soot, as though her breweing of hell-kail were blackening her skin as foully as her soul; her dress was a shapeless cloak of homespun, but so ancient and dirt-stained that its original hue had vanished."
"A jeering laugh now arose from the group of armed men."
""And who gave thee to be our judge?" asked the captain. "I am responsible to the Baron of Kendal alone.""
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Gentleman's Magazine 1902 part 2 p.425  ""And to me," aswered the witch calmly; "thou wilt not return to Kendal till thou hast taken each Saxon of the fourscore who set the woods on fire.""
""Ah, marry," laughed the captain, "then I return not empty handed. The omen is a good one, gentle witch, for I have vowed to clear out, root and branch, the dog Saxons of the fells. I am going to burn every house in Kentmere, in Longsleddale, and in the valley beyond, ere I return to my lord. Fair witch, wilt thou go with us and see our triumph? The smell of reeking blood will be homely breath to thy hell-filled nostrils. Come with us, and cast a charm over the Saxon fools, that they escape not the wrath of my lord the Baron.""
""The charm is cast these three hours - before you left the courtyard of your Norman keep. Look for the Saxon between the mist and the dale, for till you force him of his lair, you cannot return to your home.""
""Ha, ha, fair augur, gentle dame. We are provided with horses and provisions, and ere long the life of the robber band will be past.""
""The mist hangs low, the dale in sunset purple lies, the crags are riven, but not by storm. The robber band is at peace long since, but the Norman warrior walks the hills for evermmore.""
"Uttering these prophetic words, the witch seemed to melt into thin air; the dalefolk trembled, but the captain turned to his men and said in jest:-"
""My men, the witch has gone, but her spell is good. See yonder"" and he pointed toward Harter Fell, where rainclouds hung dense and black. "Yonder we find our prey, 'twixt mist and dale. Forward to conquer. The churlish Saxon is already undone.""
"The little company marched rapidly up the dale, plundering and burning the few homesteads they met. The inhabitants had fled, some across the fells to the monastery at Shap, some to seek comfort at a famous witch's cave in Loughrigg, some by devious ways, by which they did not meet the feared expedition from Kendal."
"After sacking the hovels without mercy, the Normans made for the open fell, where clung the dense mist, and as they approached the veil of white, the zip of an arrow falling among the ranks warned them of danger. The soldiers did not hesitate to grumble at the hard climb, and to curse the Saxons who thus showed their ability to strike home without being seen. The Captain ordered a retreat, but now dense and white the pall had fallen below, and neither backward for fear of the cliffs, nor forward for fear of the advantage held by the enemy, dare they move."
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Gentleman's Magazine 1902 part 2 p.426  ""You have wronged," came a voice as of a syren gloating over its prey. The hardy men shivered, and turned to discern, if possible, whence the voice came."
"Not fifty yards away, a sheer spur of rock towered up, and here in majestic state stood the witch, with the scurrying wreaths of mist around her head. The Captain sprang to the foot of the cliff and addressed her:-"
""Friend witch, a plague to these stone-covered slopes and craggy cliffs. Show us the way to the valley again, if thy magic avail aught, and thou shalt have treasure to satisfy thee.""
""Canst thou bribe the devil, whose is all gold and silver? Thou and thy band are condemned to find the fourscore Saxons who fought for their rights at Ely and at Northallerton, and till Norman eyes can see the fox among the bent, and Norman feet can outclimb all upon scree and crag, you cannot reach them. From this to that," the witch held out her hands towards the heavens above and towards the moving mist-wreaths below, "you cannot find solace or rest. The curse of the fells is upon you. in the coming time I see you riding betwixt mist and dale, restless, silent, capturing none.""
""A Saxon pig, by God! and a heathen. Upon her, and hew her to pieces.""
"Obediently his men sprang forward, but, with a roar and a rattle, the cliff in front of them crumbled to pieces, and they had to retreat for their lives. The Captain, sword in hand, stood nearest the flying fragments, and in silence waited for the witch to speak again."
"But she had gone; the rock on which she had stood when last seen slowly crumbled and, in a succession of mighty avalanches, rolled down the mountain side."
""You have wronged," came a thunder of defiance from the surging clouds above, "and be ye punished.""
"Days passed on; the expedition did not return, so the Baron of Kendal sent forth another force. Not a trace, not a sign, of the lost men could be found. The mist still hung close on the hills, and the Saxon rebels, more accustomed to the conditions of the ground and air than the Normans, were unremitting in their attacks. The bowmen of the invaders could not shoot without a mark, and the arrows cleaving the mists were the only signs of life. Now came the breaking up of the Saxon terror. An army was sent in succour, and the last bitter struggle began. Round Buckbarrow and Grey Crag, round"
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Gentleman's Magazine 1902 part 2 p.427  "Branstree and Harter Fell the Normans swarmed, and among the precipices of Goat Scar came the final tragedy. Forcing their way up a grassy slack, the invading host reached the top of Harter Fell and the battle was won. The Saxons had no other resource but fight, and against the iron-disciplned troops their valour was of little use. It was a fight to destruction. with no mercy, and the Normans won at awful cost. The lost expedition was never found; no trace of a horse or steel of foreign make was to be discovered in the Saxon caves, and the Baron of Kendal, who personally conducted the final siege, had to leave the mystery unsolved."
"Yet on fine summer evenings, when the purple shades are on the mountain sides, and the glittering mists hang on the summits, the dalesman has often been surprised to see, marching between the mist and the dale, sometimes high, sometimes low, a body of armed horsemen. With scouts in front, behind, below, above, they sweep along in disciplined order. They are the Norman band, condemned to walk the fells till they capture eighty Saxons slain some eight hundred years ago."

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