Shuffles was prompt to observe the mistake of his late crony, and just as prompt to profit by it. The first cutter was gaining rapidly on the chase; but Shuffles, as she reached the border of the main channel, ordered his coxswain to keep the boat’s head towards the entrance of the cove.
“We shall never catch them on this tack,” said the coxswain of the cutter, who knew nothing about the bar.
“I think we shall,” replied the third lieutenant, confidently.
“We are not going towards the point.”
“That’s very true, and the professors’ barge will not go much farther in that direction. Pull steady, my lads; don’t hurry yourselves. There is plenty of time.”
The coxswain thought his superior officer was taking the matter very coolly, and knowing of the intimacy which had formerly subsisted between Shuffles and Wilton, he was ready to conclude that the third lieutenant was willing to permit the escape of “our fellows.” While he was putting this construction on the conduct of his superior, the professors’ barge “took the ground,” and stuck fast.
“They’re aground, Mr. Shuffles,” said the coxswain.
“There’s just where I expected them to be,” answered Shuffles, quietly.
“Shall I run towards them?”
“No; keep her as she is. There isn’t more than a foot of water anywhere between them and the point.”
The third cutter, being a smaller boat than the professors’ barge, did not touch the bar as soon as her consort; but Monroe saw that his craft could not land her party on the point at that stage of the tide, and he ordered his crew first to lay on their oars, and then to back water. Wilton’s boat was aground at the bow, and when he had sent part of his crew aft, she was easily pushed off the bar. By this delay he had lost the chance of landing at the point, and his only alternative was to pull up to the cove; but in doing so, it would be impossible to avoid the first cutter, which had now secured a position off the mouth of the little bay.
“Stand by to lay on your oars,” said the coxswain of the first cutter, as directed by the lieutenant in command. “Oars!”
The crew ceased rowing, and laying on their oars, waited the next movement of the runaways. In the mean time the second cutter was well away from the ship, and Mr. Lowington, promptly comprehending the intentions of the third lieutenant, directed the officer in command to pull towards the boats on the bar, keeping well to seaward, in order to prevent them from escaping in that direction.
Wilton realized that he was cornered, and hoping that Shuffles would not be over-zealous in the discharge of his duty, directed his course towards the opening of the cove. A few strokes brought him within hailing distance of the first cutter.
“No use, Wilton,” said Shuffles, laughing. “You may as well pull for the ship. It’s all up with you.”