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BY J. K. PAULDING.
SOMETIME in the year 1800 or 1801, I am not certain which, a man of the name of William Morgan—I don't mean the person whose • abduction' has made so much noise in the world-enlisted on board the United States frigate
for a three years cruize in the Mediterranean. He was an awful looking person, six feet four inches high; a long pale visage deeply furrowed with wrinkles; sunken eyes far up towards his forehead; black exuberant hair standing on end as if he was always frightened at something; a sharp chin of a length proportioned to his height; teeth white but very irregular; and the colour of his eyes what the writers on supernatural affairs call very singular and mysterious. Besides this, his voice was hollow and sepulchral; on his right arm were engraved certain mysterious devices, surmounted with the letters E. M.; and his tobacco-box was of iron. His every day dress was a canvass hat with a black rib
bon band, a blue jacket, white trowsers, and leather shoes. On Sundays he wore a white beaver, which, among sailors, bespoke something extraordinary, and on rainy days a pea-jacket too short by half a yard. It is worthy of remark that Morgan entered on Friday; that the frigate was launched on Friday; that the master carpenter who built her was born on Friday; and that the squadron went to sea on Friday. All these singular coincidences, combined with his mysterious appearance, caused the sailors to look upon Morgan with some little degree of wonder.
During the voyage to Gibraltar, Morgan's conduct served to increase the impression his appearance had made on the crew. He sometimes went without eat. ing for several days together, at least no one ever saw him eat; and, if he ever slept at all, it was without shutting his eyes or lying down, for his messmates, one and all, swore that, wake at what time of the night they would, Morgan was seen sitting upright in his hammock, with his eyes glaring wide open. When his turn came to take his watch upon deck, his conduct was equally strange. He would stand stock still in one place, gazing at the stars, or the ocean, apparently unconscious of his situation; and when roused by his companions, fall flat on the deck in a swoon. When he revived, he would fall to preaching the most strange and incomprehensible rhapsodies that ever were heard. In their idle hours
upon the forecastle, Morgan would tell such stories about himself, and his strange escapes by sea and land, as caused the sailors' hair to stand on end, and made the jolly fellows look upon him as a person gifted with the privilege of living for ever. He often indeed hinted that he had as many lives as a cat, and more than once offered to let himself be hanged for the gratification of his messmates. On more than one occasion, he was found lying on his back in his hammock, apparently without life, his eyes fixed and glowing, his limbs stiff and rigid, his lower jaw sunk down, and his pulse motionless, at least so his messmates swore when they went to call the doctor; though when the latter came he always found Morgan as well as ever he was in his life, and apparently unconscious of all that had happened.
As they proceeded on the voyage, which proved for the most part a succession of calms, the sailors, haying little else to do, either imagined or invented new wonders about Morgan. At one time a little Welsh foretop-man swore that as he was going to sit down to dinner, his canteen was snatched from under him by an invisible hand, and he fell plump on the deck. A second had his allowance of grog 'abducted' in a mysterious manner, although he was ready to make oath he never had his eyes off it for a moment. A third had his tobacco-box rifled, though it had never been out of his pocket. A fourth had a crooked
sixpence, with a hole by which it was suspended from his neck by a ribbon, taken away without his ever being the wiser for it.
These things at length reached the ears of captain R-, who, the next time Morgan got into one of his, trances, had him confined for four and twenty hours; and otherwise punished him in various ways on the recurrence of any one of these wonderful reports. All this produced no effect whatever, either on Morgan or the crew, which at length had its wonder stretched to the utmost bounds by a singular adventure of our hero.
One day, the squadron being about half way across the Atlantic, and the frigate several leagues ahead with a fine breeze, there was an alarm of the magazine being on fire. Morgan was just coming on deck with a spoon in his hand, for some purpose or other, when hearing the cry of magazine on fire,' he made one spring overboard. The fire was extinguished by the daring gallantry of an officer, now living, and standing in the first rank of our naval heroes. In the confusion and alarm, it was impossible to make
any efforts to save Morgan; and it was considered a matter of course that he had perished in the
Two days after, one of the other vessels of the squadron came alongside the frigate, and sent a boat on board with Billy Morgan. Twelve hours after his leap overboard, he had been found swimming away gallantly, with the spoon in his hand.
When asked why he did not let it go, he replied that he kept it to help himself to salt water when he was dry. This adventure fixed in the minds of the sailors an obstinate opinion, that Morgan was either a dead man come to life again, or one that was not very easy to be killed.
After this, Morgan continued his mysterious pranks, the sailors talked and wondered, and captain Rpunished him, until the squadron were within two or three days sail of Gibraltar, admitting the wind continued fair as it then was. Morgan had been punished pretty severely that morning for star-gazing and falling into a swoon on his watch the night before, and had solemnly assured his messmates, that he intended to jump overboard and drown himself the first opportunity. He made his will, dressed himself in his best, and settled all his affairs. He also replenished his tobacco-box, put his allowance of biscuit in his pocket, and filled a small canteen with water, which he strung about his neck; saying that perhaps he might take it into his head to live a day or two in the water, before he finally, went to the bottom.
Between twelve and one the vessel being becalmed, the night a clear star-light, and the sentinels pacing their rounds; Morgan was distinctly seen to come up through the hatchway, walk forward, climb the bulwark, and let himself drop into the sea. A midshipman and two seamen testified to the facts; and Morgan being missing the next morning, there was