Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/80

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many disasters to stout ships, whose crews had been taken captive or killed by savage tribes, if they survived the hostility of the sea. M. Richefort, who was so obligingly acting as commander of the Medusa, insisted that there were a hundred fathoms of water under the keel and not the slightest cause for anxiety, and they still danced on deck to the scraping of the fiddles.

With a crash that flung the merry-makers this way and that, and brought the spars tumbling about their ears, the Medusa struck in only sixteen feet of water, and the deadly sands had inextricably gripped her. She was a lost ship on this bright day of calm seas and sunny weather and the sailors blithely tripping it heel-and-toe. It was soon realized that the frigate might pound to pieces in the first gale of wind, and that advantage had best be taken of the quiescent ocean to get away from her. The coast was known to be no more than forty miles distant, and the hope of escape was strong.

There was ample time in which to abandon ship with some order and method, to break out provisions and water-barrels, to build a number of buoyant rafts and carefully equip them, to safeguard the lives of the people as far as possible. The frigate carried carpenters, mechanics, and other artisans, and all manner of tools for the colony of