Three days more passed over in expressible anguish, when they constructed a smaller and more manageable raft, in the hope of directing it to the shore; but on trial it was found insufficient. On the seventeenth day, a brig was seen; which, after exciting the vicissitudes of hope and fear, proved to be the Argus, sent out in quest of the Medusa. The inhabitants of the raft were all received on board, and were again very nearly perishing, by a fire which broke out in the night. The six boats which had so cruelly cast them adrift, reached the coast of Africa in safety; and after many dangers among the Moors, the survivors arrived at St. Louis.
After this, a vessel was despatched to the wreck of the Medusa, to carry away the money and provisions; after beating about for eight days, she was forced to return. She again put to sea, but after being away five days, again came back. Ten days more were lost in repairing her; and she did not reach the spot till fifty-two days after the vessel had been lost; and dreadful to relate, three miserable sufferers were found on board. Sixty men had been abandoned there by their magnanimous countrymen. All these had been carried off except seventeen, some of whom were drunk, and others refused to leave the vessel. They remained at peace as long as their provisions lasted. Twelve embarked on board a raft, for Sahara, and were never more heard of. Another put to sea on a hen-coop, and sunk immediately. Four remained behind, one of whom, exhausted with hunger and fatigue, perished. The other three lived in separate corners of the wreck, and never met but to run at each other with drawn knives. They were put on board the vessel, with all that could be saved from the wreck of the Medusa.
The vessel was no sooner seen returning to St. Louis, than every heart beat high with joy, in the hope of recovering some property. The men and officers of the Medusa jumped on board, and asked if any thing had been saved. “Yes,” was the reply, “but it is all ours now;” and the naked Frenchmen, whose calamities had found pity from the Moors of the desert, were now deliberately plundered by their own countrymen.
A fair was held in the town, which lasted eight days. The clothes, furniture, and necessary articles of life, belonging to the men and officers of the Medusa, were publicly sold before their faces. Such of the French as were able, proceeded to the camp at Daceard, and the sick remained at St. Louis. The French governor had promised them clothes and provisions, but sent none; and during five months, they owed their existence to strangers—to the British.