Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/97

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67
THE FRIGATE MEDUSA

souls who had shown themselves to be greatly heroic. They had withstood one onslaught after another, and there were never more than twenty of them, in honor preferring one another, untouched by the murderous delirium which had afflicted the others.

True, they saw phantasms and talked wildly, but the illusions were peaceful. M. Correard imagined that he was traveling through the lovely, fruitful fields of Italy. One of the officers said to him, quite calmly, "I recollect that we were abandoned by the boats, but there is no cause for anxiety. I am writing a letter to the Government, and in a few hours we shall be saved." And while they were babbling of the cafés of Paris and Bordeaux and ordering the most elaborate meals, they chewed the leather of the shoulder-belts and cartridges, and famine took its daily toll of them. In these circumstances it was inevitable that sooner or later they would begin devouring one another for food. The details are repugnant, and it is just as well to pass over them. With this same feeling in mind, one of the survivors confessed:

 
It was necessary, however, that some extreme measure should be adopted to support our miserable existence. We shudder with horror on finding ourselves under the necessity of recording that which we put into practice. We feel the pen drop from our hands, a deadly coldness