Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/105

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
75
THE FRIGATE MEDUSA

deck and in the shrouds announced to us by the waving of their hands and hats, the pleasure they felt at coming to the; assistance of their unfortunate countrymen."

Fifteen men were taken on board the brig of the hundred and fifty who had shoved away from the frigate Medusa a little more than a fortnight earlier. There was no more fiddling and dancing on deck for "these helpless creatures almost naked, their bodies shrivelled by the rays of the sun, ten of them scarcely able to move, their limbs stripped of skin, their eyes hollow and almost savage, and the long beards giving them an air almost hideous."

They were most tenderly cared for by the surgeon of the Argus, but six of them died after reaching the African port of St. Louis. Only nine of the castaways of the Medusa's raft, therefore, lived to return to France. Their minds and bodies were marked with the scars of that experience, which you will find mentioned very frequently in the old records of shipwreck and disaster. It was an episode in human history, the best and the worst of it, and a reminder of man's eternal conflict with the sea.