Such a proposition was more than a tempting one, and Cawley gave the matter his attention. Unable to resist the idea, he acquiesced, it being agreed that Rattenbury should accompany him to France, where they would take in a cargo of spirits, Cawley to be paid his twelve shillings for every cask they were able to bring across. So, as soon as the bowsprit was repaired and set in its place, the Lyme Packet cast off her warps and ran out of Weymouth harbour. She made direct for Cherbourg, where they anchored in the roadstead. Rattenbury now went ashore and returned accompanied by 227 casks of spirits made up in half-ankers. These were put on board and the voyage back to England commenced, the intention being to make for West Bay and land the goods somewhere near Sidmouth. Having arrived off the Devonshire coast, Rattenbury took the Lyme Packet’s boat and rowed himself ashore, landing at Beer Head, his object being to get assistance from the men of Sidmouth for landing his goods. It was then about 1 A.M. The captain of the Lyme Packet kept his ship standing off and on during the night, and hovered about that part of the coast till daybreak. But as Rattenbury had not returned by the time the daylight had come back, Cawley became more than a little nervous and feared lest he might be detected. Before very long—the exact time was 6.30 A.M.—Robert Aleward, a mariner on the Revenue cutter Scourge, on turning his eye into a certain direction not more than three miles away, espied this Lyme Packet, informed his commander, and a chase was promptly begun. Cawley, too, saw that the Lyme Packet had been observed, and began to make preparations accordingly.
He let draw his sheets, got the Lyme Packet to foot it as fast as she could, and as the three intervening miles became shorter and shorter he busied himself by throwing his casks of spirits overboard as quickly as he and his crew knew how. The distant sail he had noticed in the early morning had all too truly turned out to be the Revenue cutter, but he hoped yet to escape or at any rate to be found with nothing contraband on board. It was no good, however, for the cruiser soon came up, and as fast as the Lyme Packet had dropped over the half-ankers, so quickly did the Scourge’s men pick them up again in the cutter’s boats. Having come up alongside, the cutter’s commander, Captain M’Lean, went on board, seized Cawley and his ship as prisoners, and eventually took both into Exmouth.
Judicial proceedings followed with a verdict for the King, so that what with a broken bowsprit and the loss of time, cargo, ship, and liberty the voyage had in nowise been profitable to Cawley.
A TRAGIC INCIDENT
And now we must turn to an occurrence that was rather more tragic than the last, though the smugglers had only themselves to blame.