Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/81

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THE FRIGATE MEDUSA

Sénégal. Hundreds of people had been saved from other ships in situations even more desperate than this. There had been strong men, unwavering authority, and disciplined obedience in them, however, but this doomed frigate was like a madhouse, and panic ran from deck to deck. The crew was slack at best, but it could not be held altogether responsible for the demoralization. The soldiers and laborers were Spanish, French, Italian, and negroes, many of whom had probably been in prison or the convict hulks, and were sent to Africa for their country's good.

The frigate had five seaworthy boats, which were hurriedly launched and filled with people whose only thought was to save their own skins. In one of them was the governor of Sénégal and his family, and in another were placed four children and the wives of the officials. In this respect the ancient chivalry of the sea was lived up to. There were heroes among the French army officers, as might have been expected, for they kept clear of the struggle for the boats, and succeeded in holding most of their men, who were assigned to the one raft which had been frantically thrown together.

The five boats shoved off and waited for the raft, which it was proposed to take in tow. Barrels of bread and wine and water had been hoisted on deck,