“Cast off the gripes, and man the falls!” he continued when the watch were collected at the scene of action. “Mr. Kendall, you will inform the captain what has happened.”
Within three minutes, the first cutter was in the water, for the crew had been frequently exercised in the evolution of lowering boats, and performed it with remarkable facility for boys. Before the first cutter touched the water, the captain, the principal, and all the professors, came on deck.
Mr. Lowington was entirely cool, though everybody else appeared to be intensely excited. The crew of the first cutter were piped away, and at the principal’s suggestion, the third lieutenant was sent off in the boat to prevent the landing of the rebellious pupils.
“Up oars! Let fall! Give way!” said Shuffles, in the boat, delivering his orders in rapid succession; and the first cutter darted off in chase of the runaways.
THE FOURTH OF JULY.
The first cutter was manned by her regular crew, who had been trained with the utmost care to pull together, while Wilton, in the professors’ barge, which was of the same size, had some very indifferent oarsmen. The runaways had made up their force of such material as they could obtain, and though all were somewhat accustomed to rowing, they had not been drilled to work together; they were not the unit of power in pulling a boat. Shuffles, therefore, had a manifest advantage, and he was determined to bring back the fugitives.
The second cutter, in charge of Paul Kendall, was cleared away, and, with Mr. Lowington and Mr. Fluxion on board, left the ship to take part in the pursuit. The chase promised to be an exciting one, for Wilton and Monroe were straining every nerve to reach the shore before they were overtaken. They were making for the nearest land, and having just the number of hands required to pull the boat, each of them was obliged to use an oar himself. They had no coxswains, and Wilton, at the bow oar of the professors’ barge, could not see what was ahead, though he kept the pursuing boats in full view.
The nearest land, not more than half a mile from the ship, was a point covered with salt marsh, above which was a cove, whose opening was about ten rods in width. Wilton was making for the point below the cove, but his calculations were made without judgment or discretion. If he reached the land, his party would be obliged to walk a mile in order to get round the cove, on a narrow strip of marsh, where they might be intercepted. But the fatal defect in his plan of operations was a failure to consider the depth of water between the ship and the point. The flow of the tide from the cove, while it kept a clear channel through the entrance, had formed a bar off the tongue of land on the seaward side of it, which was bare at half tide, and was now just covered. Wilton was pulling for this bar, with all the strength of his crew.