A FIRE-PROOF MARYLANDER.
A letter from Preston, Caroline County, Md., gives a marvelous account of a stalwart African known as Nathan Coker, who has lived all his life in the lower part of I unkahoe Neck. He is now between sixty and seventy years of age, and has no knowledge of books—cannot even repeat the alphabet—but is much above mediocrity in point of general intelligence and good, hard, corn-field common sense, as compared with his race. When quite young he conceived the idea of becoming fire-proof, and before he was twenty-five he was a veritable fire-king. How he acquired the power to perform the feats of placing his hands and arms in a vessel of boiling water and keeping them there for ten minutes, licking a red-hot shovel, holding in his mouth molten lead, and even swallowing it, as well as many others more daring, without apparent injury, no one knows, nor has he ever revealed the secret. In fact it is doubtful if he can himself explain the mystery, but he can and does handle bars of iron glowing with white heat, eat glowing charcoal made from hickory or oak wood, walk barefooted on a red-hot bar of iron, sixteen feet long, with perfect coolness and deliberation. These facts are attested by many respectable witnesses. He used to delight in frightening the ignorant and superstitious country people, to whom he was unknown, whenever he could find a crowd gathered around the stove in a village or country store, by stalking in, opening the stove door and running his hand down in the fire and deliberately taking a live coal in his fingers and coolly placing it in his pipe and walking off. He was at one time on exhibition, and his strange feats created considerable excitement, but owing to his dislike of notoriety and his lack of education, he soon retired from the stage. His power of resisting the effects of fire is singular and has never, so far as I know, been explained, though he has been examined by a number of scientific men. Many of the colored people, and in fact not a few of the whites, who had been taught by the crude theologians of fifty years ago to believe in a personal devil with horns, tail and cloven foot, whose kingdom was the bottomless pit, and who occasionally treated his refractory subjects to molten lead, firmly ibelieved, and perhaps some of them still believe, that Nathan was a sort of brevet devil himself.