IT WAS a beautiful morning in the month of May.

The sky was serene and without a speck of a cloud, the orchards full of the scent of apple blossoms the songs of birds. Far away the hills were all aflame with purple heather and patches of yellow gorse, while the little hamlets that nestled in the shadow of the glens looked as if they were abodes of peace and happiness.

But, alas, it was not so.

This is a story of Scotland's martyrs, nearly two hundred years ago, when God's people were persecuted and slain only for asking to be allowed to worship him in spirit and in truth, according to the dictates of their own consciences.

The "puir hill folk," as the Covenanters were called by their friends, were hunted from one rocky fastness to another, “wandering in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth." Often the escapes of these fugitives from their pursuers were so narrow as to appear miraculous—being, in truth, singular interpositions of God's providence in the behalf of his persecuted people.

Yet many were taken, chiefly in their hillside meetings for worship, and were either shot at the time of their apprehension or brought to a mock trial and sentenced to death if they refused to abjure the faith and mode of worship so dear to them, and conform to that of their oppressors.

On that bright May morning two women were sitting together in a narrow cell of the roughly-built tolhooth., or jail, in the town of Wigton, in Galloway. They were both named Margaret; but while one was nearing her threescore years and ten, the other, though her face wore a saddened look, had scarcely seen eighteen summers.

She was full of life and energy, while- her companion, although she had continued steadfast and faithful before the council, was now cast down by many fears and forebodings as the time approached of their sentence. For, in case the oath of abjuration, they were condemned to be fastened to stakes within tidemark of the sea, and slowly drowned by the incoming waves.

The older woman, worn out by want of needful rest and refreshment, had fallen into a light drowse, with her gray, uncovered head leaning against the rough stone wall behind her.

Suddenly she started to her feet with a sharp, wailing cry.

"O Johnnie, man, dinna lave me here to drown alane, all alane! Gin ye wad only gae wi' me, lad, and tak' a strong grip O' my puir weak hand."

"'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. . .

. . For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour," repeated the clear voice of the girl Margaret, as she gently forced her companion again on the low bench, and, kneeling before her, embraced and supported her with her strong young arms.

"Eh! Is it you, lassie?—bonnie Margaret, as they ca ye.

Ab, me! I dreamed I was back in the pleasant bit shieling on the green brae side, where I used to live lang syne with my John and the wee bairnies that are a' dead and gane years ago. Then it seemed as if a great flood came to drown me, and I cried out; for the faces of the grewsome sea monsters looked like the faces of the cruel men who threatened us and drove us along for the execution they did not take wi' their pikes. O lassie, I'm sore afraid."

"I, even I, am he that comforteth you; who art thou that thou shouldst be afraid of man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass?" quoted "bonnie Margaret."

"O lassie, ye 'do me a warld o' good. Can na ye tell me mair o' thae blessed words that seem like honey and the honeycomb?" said the poor creature weeping gently, as she laid her head on her young companion's shoulder.

"Deed and I can then," cried the girl, her eyes kindling. "The troopers shied my precious wee Bible into the deep loch when they broke up our conventicle, as they ca'd it, and took us prisoners.

But they could na' root the holy texts out of my heart and memory."

Still kneeling, she then repeated the greater part of that comforting chapter, beginning:—

"'Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also."

Then, pausing awhile, as if she were turning the leaves of a book, she began again:—

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."'

The morning passed swiftly away. High noon came, which was the time fixed for the execution of their sentence. The crowd that had been gathering since early dawn, now pressed nearer to the walls of the tollbooth; for it was announced that the Provost had arrived, and, at the head of a party of dragoons, he soon came clattering along the principal street of the town.

Then the two poor defenseless women stepped meekly out, and being placed in the midst of the rude soldiery, who greeted them with taunts and ribald jests, the procession moved on in the direction of the sea.

Many were the expressions of sorrow and sympathy from those who accompanied them on their melancholy journey. Few had tasted a morsel of food that day, or even kindled a fire in their habitations; for the hearts of the people were very sore at this pitiful sight of the two Margarets walking as calmly along as if they were "ganging to the kirk" on a bright Sabbath morning. The younger woman supported and aided her companion's failing steps, golden locks mingling with the silver, both soon to wear the martyr's crown.

When they reached the shore, over which the tide had even then begun to rise, a free pardon was offered to both the prisoners on condition that they would take an oath to abjure all connection with the persecuted covenant folk. But this they steadily refused to do.

"If we have no part with Christ's dear servants," they said, "we can have no part with him. And if we deny him, he also will deny us."

So they took the elder Margaret, and bound her to a stake set far out into the sea, so that the waves had already risen to her knees, thinking to frighten her young companion with the sight of her dying struggles. But before she was led away, Bonnie Margaret embraced and kissed her, praying God to be with her, according to his gracious promise, and adding, as a parting benediction, these words of the Lord Jesus:—

"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.'"

She was then herself tied to a stake placed nearer the landmark, and her face forcibly set in a position to watch the body of her friend, now sinking, now rising with the surging waves, until the last flutter of her garments had disappeared, and all was over. But Margaret was in no wise daunted by the sight; but, as the old chronicle tells us, sang in a clear, loud voice, several verses of the twenty-fifth psalm:—

"To thee I lift my soul,

O Lord, I trust in thee;

My God, let me not be ashamed,

Nor foes triumph o'er me.

"Turn unto me thy face,

And to me mercy show;

Because that I am desolate

And am brought very low."


As she paused for breath, a woman's voice in the crowd arose with an exceeding bitter cry,—

"O Margaret, my bonnie, bonnie Margaret, gie in, gie in, my bairnie—dinna drown. Gie in and tak' the oath."

"Whist, mither dear," replied the girl, " dinna ye ken, that if we be dead with Christ, we shall also live with him? If we suffer, we shall also reign with him."

Then another cried,— "Margaret, can na ye just say, God save the king'?"

A thrill ran through the fast-chilling veins of the young martyr at the sound of that manly voice, but, after a moment's struggle with the ties of earthly love, she answered in low but firm tones,—

"I pray God to save him of his great grace."

"She has said it, my Lord Provost; she has said,

'God save the king.' Let her go," cried several excited voices.

The soldier bent his head and whispered in Margaret's ear,—

"Take the oath, foolish' and obstinate girl, and I will save you even now."

Finding, however, that the heroic maiden continued firm in her refusal, and worn out by what they called her "contumacy," they left her to die.

Her voice was still heard in prayer and praise until the water came up to her lips. - Then her up-lifted face seemed to shine with a glory not of earth, and, after a few more struggles, Scotland's maiden martyr was numbered with " those who were slain for the word of God and the testimony which they held...

For they loved not their lives unto the death."

But down through the ages, mingling with the mighty chant of old ocean, comes a voice from the dead to the living, "I have found redemption through the blood of the Lamb"




Mary D. Boyd.