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THE FRIGATE MEDUSA

not even decked over, twisting and working to the motion of the waves which slapped over it or splashed between the timbers when the ocean was smooth. As soon as it floated alongside the frigate, one hundred and fifty persons wildly jammed themselves upon it, standing in water to their waists and in danger of slipping between the spars and planks. The only part of the raft which was unsubmerged when laden had room for no more than fifteen men to lie down upon it.

The weather was still calm, and the ship rested solidly upon her sandy bed, the upper decks clear of water. It seems incredible that no barrels of beef and biscuit were lashed to the timbers of the raft, no water-casks rolled from the tiers and swung overside. A kind of mob hysteria swept these people along, and the men of resolution were carried with it. They were unaccustomed to the sea, and a frenzied fear of it stampeded them. The flimsy, wave-washed raft floated away from the Medusa with only biscuit enough for one scanty meal and a few casks of wine. The stage was set, as one might say, for inevitable horrors.

One of the boats which was not so crowded as the others had the grace to row back to the ship with orders to take off a few, if there were men still aboard. To the surprise of the lieutenant in the