Margaret Wilson is staked out in the tide of the Solway Firth. Writhing against her chains, she is engulfed in the rising water and devoured by crabs, punishment for refusing to betray her beliefs.
Two women, Margaret McLachlan and Margaret Wilson, were staked out in the waters of the Solway Firth, near Wigtown in Southwest Scotland. It was the 'Killing Time'
Margaret Wilson, was only eighteen years old. Her sister, Agnes, was twelve. They were the daughters of Gilbert Wilson of the parish of Penninghame. He was a Covenantor, a radical Presbyterian who denounced the Pope and all elements of the Catholic Church.
Cameronian Convenantors who would not accept the King James VII's Letters of Indulgence were presecuted and executed without trial or appeal.
The girls were a part of a band of Covenantors who wandered through Carrick, Galloway, and Nithsdale. But with the death of King Charles II the band felt safer and returned to Wigtown.
But their trust was misplaced. Patrick Stuart, a man of some influence in the region, upon encountering them, suggested a toast to the king's health. It was not something Margaret or her sister could do and refused. It was exactly what Stuart wanted and he denounced them.
The girls were arrested and thrown into the thieves' hole. After they a little time they were put together with Margaret McLauchlan, a formidable Covenantor of than ordinary respectability and singular piety. She refused all the oaths pressed on her on her and she would not stop attending Presbyterian prayer meetings and hiding the persecuted.
Accused of raising arms and rebellion. She was very roughly dealt with and deprived of fire and bedding even though she was sixty-three years of age.
Margaret and Agnes were indicted along with her for rebellion and attending Covenantor meetings at Bothwell Bridge, Ayr's Moss, and present at twenty field-conventicles.
The charges were probably false. All three claimed they had never been at Bothwell or Ayr's Moss. Agnes would've only been eight had she been at Ayr's Moss, and her sister, Margaret only twelve. It was unlikely they could have played any significant part in either incident. But when the Abjuration Oath was put to them, they dutifully refused it and the assize found them guilty of treason.
All the three were to be staked below the flood-mark in the water of Blednoch near Wigtown, and drowned.
Gilbert Wilson secured the liberation of his youngest daughter, Agnes, for a bond of a hundred pounds sterling.
No such mercy was available for Margaret Maclachlan or Margaret Wilson. They were brought to the place of execution by a large crowd of spectators and soldiers. A Major Windram was in command.
Margaret Maclachlan was staked a good way beyond Margaret Wilson, and quickly drowned. It was done this way to terrify Margaret Wilson into taking the oaths and conditions that would allow Windram to set her free. But Margaret would utter no such oath.
As the water was sweeping over her fellow-martyr, Margaret Wilson said, 'What do I see but Christ wrestling there. Think you that we are the sufferers? No, it is Christ in us who suffers'.
Then she sang the 25th Psalm from verse 7th and recited the 8th chapter to the Romans. She seemed to all unafraid.
The water covered her: but before she was quite dead, they pulled her up, and held her out of the water till she was recovered, and able to speak; and then by Major Windram's orders, she was asked, if she would pray for the king.
She answered, 'She wished the salvation of all men, and the damnation of none.'
A woman among the spectators cried out....'Dear Margaret, say God save the king, say God save the king.'
She answered 'God save him, if he will, for it is his salvation I desire.'
Some in the crowd cried out,'She hath said it, she hath said it.'
The major hopeful for respite from his terrible undertaking came near, and offered her the abjuration, charging her instantly to swear it, otherwise be returned to the water.
She responded, 'I will not. I am one of Christ's children, let me go.'
Infuriated Major Windram pushed her back into the water.
The name of the man by whose information this poor woman was murdered is known. But it is Margaret Wilson's bravery that is well remembered.
The following is an imagining of what might happen when the strength of belief compells a man to come to the rescue of a woman he has never metl.
Nineteen years later: Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Margaret Wilson's secret daughter, Margaret Mercy, is telling the orphaned Tait children, Joshua and 'Scilla, a bedtime story about the man she intends to marry. She has never seen him, but he will have a small pistol given him by the church; the mate to one her mother left her.
Meanwhile, at the settlement gates the sentry's throat is slit and marauding Mohawk torch the cabins. The fighting swarms around Margaret Mercy's burning home.
CRASH! The door is kicked in. Osseo, the Mohawk, lunges through the splinters. Margaret Mercy and the children make a lucky escape. No sooner are they out of Osseo's reach when a burning floor caves in on them. 'Scilla panics and runs away. Margaret Mercy goes after her, leaving Joshua behind, frightened and alone. He hesitates for a moment...then starts to follow her...But he stops short. Margaret Mercy and his sister are in the clutches of the Mohawk warrior, Osseo, who looks upon the boy surrounded by fire, then laughs.
A month later, in Boston, Myles Standish, soldier of fortune, and his dog, Alden, rescue a young man from a beating. His name is William Wallace. He is a Christian and a member of Margaret Wilson's pacifist cult. Later, William reveals that he is promised in marriage to Margaret Mercy Wilson of Deerfield.
Myles has news of trouble. A boy on the docks knows more. The boy turns out to be Joshua. He confirms that, along with his sister, 'Scilla, Margaret Mercy has been taken captive.
Myles suggests Livingston, of New York City, can arrange ransom. William has a valuable, gold watch. They gain passage on the ship that is preparing to take Joshua to his new guardian in that very city.
Under sail, William imagines himself a hero for redeeming his bride, Margaret Mercy, from the wicked savages. Myles warns him against optimism. Joshua warns him against Livingston.
Joshua awakens to the howl of a hurricane and the deranged barking of a terrified dog. A shaft of light... a deluge of water... William fights through the torrent, dragging Joshua out with him. Battered by huge waves and terrifying winds, William ties the boy down on a loose hatch cover. Then he goes back for Myles. But Alden, the dog, is left behind, gnawing at the tangled harness trapping him. Back on deck, William lashes Myles down, then ties himself to the wreckage next to him. As they are swept away, Alden leaps into the boy's arms. The ship goes down.
Our heroes are left adrift on the wreckage. Joshua can't hide his admiration for William. Myles acknowledges the debt he owes for his life.
By early April, they reach New York. Joshua pleads with William not to meet Livingston but to go after the captives himself. William brushes the boy aside.
At the meeting, William changes his mind and decides not to give Livingston the watch but to press on without his help. William is tricked into delivering a letter to Albany.
Myles is against the adventure. William assures him that this is a mission of peace. He offers him a small pistol to come along. Myles agrees to go as far as Albany. Joshua begs to be included, but yet again, William spurns him.
As Spring settles in, they are on a river barge heading North. All is going according to plan when Joshua is discovered hiding in a barrel of apples. William cannot send the boy back until they reach Albany. William delivers the letter from Livingston to Rembrandt Van Rijn, an old soldier retired in Albany, brewing ale. Later, Van Rijn reads the letter and has visions of a woman. She is surrounded by war and suffering. She looks just like Margaret Mercy. He falls asleep and a shadowy figure, Hiawatha, emerges from the trees and stalks him. Van Rijn awakens and greets him as a friend. Hiawatha agrees to guide them into Mohawk territory in return for William's gold, pocket watch. They leave Joshua behind in the care of the church.
As Summer is breaking, they hit the trail, Hiawatha claims that he is English and is looking for an English wife. William is shocked.
At sentry, Hiawatha smokes and drinks. He dreams that he is married to an English woman. Her name is Margaret Mercy Wilson. Myles interrupts his reverie and insults him. Hiawatha disappears into the woods.
Having found Joshua skulking in the woods, they have taken him prisoner. Suddenly, William shoots the warrior holding a knife to the boy's throat. Myles kills the other one. Osseo grabs Van Rijn's gun. Hiawatha steps out of the trees. Osseo escapes.
Van Rijn says they must seek safety at the French fort, Frontenac. William agrees, but Joshua wants to go after Osseo. Hiawatha trades Myles' suit for a canoe.
As they paddle across a huge lake, Joshua wonders if Hiawatha was one of the Mohawk who took Margaret Mercy and his sister.
Summer is all but over when they finally arrive at Frontenac. The French confiscate their last possessions, and even strip Myles of the motley skins that replaced his suit when he traded it for the canoe.
When Van Rijn passes Livingston's letter to the governor. Vaudriel promptly jails them all, except Hiawatha, as he is Mohawk, and Joshua whom William frees using his watch as ransom. William conceals his pistol on the boy.
Later, Joshua tells William that the French are planning to execute them and helps them escape. William forces the boy to promise to return to New England as arranged with Vaudriel and runs off with Myles and Van Rijn. As the French magazine erupts into a ball of fire, Hiawatha kills a guard, slings the boy over his shoulder and runs off after William and the others.
Lost in the Autumn forest, Van Rijn and Myles leave William to look for Margaret Mercy on his own while they turn back for Albany. William is seized by a fit and cries out for pity.
A Mountain Lion, asleep in the trees, is aroused by William's cries. The lion stalks William and catches him on a lonely beach. Luckily, Hiawatha and Joshua appear just in the nick of time and save him. But he is badly wounded. They take him back to Hiawatha's village to recuperate or die.
Now recovered, William is eager to resume his search for the captives and asks for Joshua's help.
Osseo makes an entrance. Van Rijn and Myles are his prisoners and he wants William too. Hiawatha refuses. It turns out that Hiawatha is not English and that he and Osseo are brothers. They argue. Hiawatha lashes out and accidentally kills his mother.
He is nailed to a cross by newly christianised savages. Myles runs away. William, Van Rijn and Joshua are released. Snow falls.
As night closes in William threatens to give up looking for Margaret Mercy but Joshua wants to go on. William relents.
Later, Van Rijn is awakened by cries for help and rouses Myles. William cannot get up. They go after the boy, leaving William behind. On a distant mountain ridge, Osseo also hears the cries for help.
Joshua is cornered by a bear and protected only by the dogs, when Myles and Van Rijn appear. Van Rijn distracts the beast allowing Myles to kill her.
Some distance through the trees, bathed in a glowing light, William hears a voice and his faith and strength are refreshed.
When Osseo finds Myles and the boy at the kill, Alden is already dead and Van Rijn severely wounded. Van Rijn dies before they can move him.
A little while later, William finds Van Rijn's body guarded by the little dog, Slouch. William buries Van Rijn, then follows Osseo's trail in the snow.
Meanwhile, Joshua is reunited with Margaret Mercy. She is pregnant. 'Scilla is already back in New York. Crusted with ice, William appears like an apparition at the village gates. Slouch stands at his side. Osseo is about to brain him when an old woman intervenes. William's fate must be settled by a game of stickball.
William meets Margaret Mercy. They argue. He learns that Osseo is the father of her child and vows to kill him. The contest begins but Osseo tires of it quickly and seizes a tomahawk. Myles throws William Hiawatha's war club. The Mohawk do not interfere. Slouch darts out of the crowd and starts nipping at Osseo's heel. Osseo turns his back on William to deal with the dog. William sees his chance and stuns the warrior with a lucky blow. He falls heavily. As William is poised to kill Osseo, Margaret Mercy throws herself over the helpless Mohawk and pleads for his life. William does not relent. She pulls out her pistol. Seeing it, he drops his club. Then suddenly, she grips her stomach and drops the pistol. Joshua scoops it up and attempts to shoot Osseo. Myles knocks the pistol from the boy's hand. William pulls Margaret Mercy out of the way.When the dust settles, the Mohawk elders judge that Osseo has lost the contest. He is banished. He wants to take Margaret Mercy. William prevents it.
Osseo leaves in a bad temper, vowing revenge.
The Mohawk grant the captives' freedom. William will not leave Margaret Mercy there. He promises to marry her, to be father to her baby and to keep their faith alive. His eyes lock onto hers. They share a profound moment of love.
Back in Albany, Slouch has Alden's pups. Margaret Mercy and William have Osseo's son. They will take the baby back to New York. They ask Joshua to join them. Joshua chooses to remain with Myles to fight Osseo and the renegades.