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we quickened our march; and for the first time since our shipwreck, a smiling picture presented itself to our view: The trees, always green, with which that noble river is shaded, the humming-birds, the red-birds, the paroquets, the promerops, and others, which flitted among their long, yielding branches, caused in us emotions difficult to express. We could not satiate our eyes with gazing on the beauties of this place, verdure being so enchanting to the sight, especially after having traveled through the desert. Before reaching the river, we had to descend a little hill covered with thorny bushes. It was four o'clock in the afternoon before the boats of the government arrived, and we all embarked. Biscuit and wine were found in each of them, and all were refreshed. After sailing for an hour down the stream, we came in sight of St. Louis, a town miserable in appearance, but delightful to our vision after so much suffering. At six in the evening we arrived at the fort, where the late English governor and others, including our generous friend Mr. Carnet, were met to receive us. My father presented us to the governor, who had alighted; he appeared to be sensibly affected with our misfortunes, the females and children chiefly exciting his commiseration; and the native inhabitants and Europeans tenderly shook the hands of the
unfortunate people; the negro slaves even seemed to deplore our disastrous fate. Every thing was done to relieve our necessities, and render us comfortable after our dangers and fatigues.”
We now turn to the account of the raft, and the unfortunates who had been treacherously deserted on it.
Ruthlessly abandoned in the midst of the ocean, and at the distance of five or six miles from the wreck of the Medusa, the crew of the raft, numbering altogether a hundred and fifty individuals, gave themselves up to all the horrors of despair. This feeling, however, was less manifested by the officers than by their companions, who were principally soldiers and sailors. M. Coudin, the nominal commander, was unfit, from illness, to issue orders or exert his influence, and the duty of attending to the general wants and safety appears to have been assumed by M. Correard and M. Savigny, with one or two other officers. These gentlemen, by putting on a countenance of greater fortitude than they really possessed, endeavored to soothe the general apprehensions, and held out hopes of succor, of which they had but a feeble expectation.
When tranquillity was restored, and attention could be given to the more immediate condition qof affairs, the first idea that occurred to the officers in command, was that of steering the raft by the aid of sails and compass. A search was now made for the chart, compass, and anchor, which, on quitting the wreck, were understood to have been placed on the raft; but they were no where to be found, and had never been embarked. In this emergency, M. Correard recollected that he had seen one of the sailors with a small pocket compass in his hands, and on inquiry, it was still fortunately in his possession. This was a piece of joyful intelligence. The compass was not larger than a crown-piece, and perhaps not very accurate; nevertheless, it would answer the purpose for which it was required, and was accordingly given to the chief in command. Alas! short-lived were the expectations which the possession of the compass had raised. From want of care, it dropped from the fingers of the commander, disappeared between the planks of the raft, and was irrecoverably lost. There was no other guide across the deep than the rising and setting sun.
In the hurry of leaving the wreck, none had eaten any thing, and in the course of the forenoon all began to feel severely the calls of hunger. A meal was now served, consisting of a
little biscuit, mixed with three-quarters of a pint of wine. Bad as it was, it was the best meal distributed on the raft. The biscuit was all consumed, and there was nothing left but wine. After this repast, and while all were as yet able to form correct conclusions, it might be supposed that some definite plan would have been executed for navigating the raft, if not to the shore of the desert, at least back to the Medusa, where there were stores of many useful materials, and an abundance of provisions. Except the erecting of a very insufficient mast and sail, nothing of this kind appears to have been done. The raft lay a hulk on the water, at the mercy of every wave.
A few of the better-disposed officers preserved a degree of order, and preached patience and hope; and this is the utmost that can be said in their favor. Others employed themselves in canvassing, with the common soldiers and sailors, plans for taking revenge on those who had deserted them when they should reach the land.
With the shades of evening a better spirit prevailed. To the first feeling of despair, there now ensued a degree of resignation; and religion, with its soothing influence, contributed to the general calm. At times a sanguine spirit would try to impart hopes of succor on the morrow. Perhaps the boats would land their
crews on the island of Arguin, and return to carry away those on the raft; perhaps they might return after reaching the desert; perhaps they might give intelligence of their fate to one of the vessels of the squadron with which they might fall in. These attempts at comfort were only of momentary avail. Night set in, darkness enveloped the raft, the wind rose, and the agitated sea dashed its waves and spray over the cowering mass of sufferers. The uneasy motion of the raft, and the shifting of the spars, likewise added to the horrors of the scene. With feet entangled amid the planks and cordage, many were thrown down, and deprived of the power of moving, by others falling above them. As the storm increased, numbers were obliged to lash themselves to the beams, to prevent the waves from washing them off. Cries of pain, of renewed despair, and of bitter lamentation, again rose on the blast. The faculties of many became temporarily impaired; they fancied that vessels were approaching, and, by way of holding out a signal, they fired off pistols, and set fire to small heaps of gunpowder. Among the whole on board during that awful night, there were few who did not expect that the raft would perish in the storm before morning. But these anticipations were
not realized. The morning at length broke, and