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the blessings I enjoy-for which I owe you my gratitude-are owing to my never having known that man: being separated from him I have escaped pollution !".
“Do not speak so, my son! He is your father! Sit down by me, Henry. You are agitated by the thoughts that this discovery suggests.”
He sunk down on the bed and embraced his mother.
“ That you, a being so pure, should have been united to such
“Hush! He is your father !"
“ That you, mother, whose soul is truth, should, for a long series of years, have lived in a foreign country, and sheltered by a false character! You, who have taught me to shun all mystery, and have even disapproved of this pious disguise which I now wear; though I have never denied what I thought my name, but am enrolled in the city watch as Henry Johnson—a name I will always retain! Even this dress, put on when my duty as a clerk is over, to gain a pittance for your comfort in sickness, appeared to your mind too much like deception; and yet that man's baseness has forced you to assume a false name, and hide from me, your son, the knowledge of your marriage with one, whose name has been bruited in our ears, year after year, and who has for months occupied the public attention in the land to which he had driven you for refuge !
“ I have never said that he drove me from England."
“ Circumstances speak louder than words. But now there can be no objections to my knowing all; and while he sleeps under the influence of the poison which has caused his ruin, and so much sorrow to you, tell me the leading facts of your story ; let me know-Mister Cooke!”
Mrs. Johnson, at the earnest solicitations of her son, briefly related the facts connected with her marriage ; which I will give, as briefly, in my own words, in the next chapter.
“False as the wind, the water, or the weather ;
Though those that are betray'd,
That break themselves in swearing.”
In number more than ever women spoke.”
All we have to do with the story of George Frederick Cooke, is to account for his connection with the fate of Mrs. Johnson.
Cooke was the son of an Irish serjeant of dragoons, and of a Scotch lady. He was born on the 17th of April, 1756.
The serjeant died soon, and the lady was received again by the friends she had abandoned, (for the drum or the bugle ;) at least, so far as to be enabled to live above want, and give her only child, George Frederick, a good English education, in the town of Berwick upon Tweed.
He had been married to a Miss Daniels, and divorced from her legally, and was at the height of his celebrity, when it was the ill fate of a Miss Lamb to be thrown into his society. He, in common with General Williams, and Richard the Third, had
a wheedling tongue : and the young lady was flattered by the attentions of the man whom the people “ delighted to honour.” She was told that his habits had long been of the worst kind,
but, all is mortal in nature, so is all nature, in love, mortal in folly.” She considered all these tales as 66 weak inventions of the enemy;" and, like many ferred her own inclinations to the advice of her friends.
Miss Lamb, as the London Witlings of 1808, said, “was basted by the Cooke,” she, like many young people of both sexes, formed erroneous ideas of the stage, and those who tread it. She had seen and admired Cooke at Covent Garden, before she met him in private company. She had witnessed the enthusiastic admiration of others. To be the admired of the admired, turned the head of the young and artless girl. In vain she was forewarned : his fame, and his bewitching manners, when sober; (as he could continue long to be, for any subordinate purpose, though not to preserve health, reputation, and well-being,) surmounted all opposition : the lady became Mrs. Cooke.
But long before this sacrifice of the Lamb, say in the year 1790 or '91, for nobody ever knew the exact date, a similar sacrifice had been made at the same altar. Indeed, we have reason to believe that George Frederick was as little scrupulous in forming matrimonial engagements, as he was in entering into theatrical ones, and broke them as easily. This early engagement was with the lady who we know as Mrs. Johnson. Cooke was then the hero of Manchester, Liverpool, Bath, and Bristol ; and even then was noted for long continued, and oft repeated seasons of intemperance. However, the lady thought love would cure all faults, and she married him.
Of this marriage I can find no record ; certain it is, he married twice in England, and once in America afterward.
With some little outbreakings, now and then, we may suppose that months passed almost happily. George was fond of reading, and really loved his wife—for a time. It was impossible that any creature, possessing human feelings, could do otherwise. Attractive in personal appearance, though no beauty—with all the good habits rendered permanent by a tender domestic education with love and admiration of her husband, approaching to idolatry-in short, with every qualification to render a retired matrimonial life happy-how could a man, endowed, by nature, with good sense and good feeling, fail to love such a being ?
But habit--that devil, or that angel, as it is good or evilthe habit, which, in this unhappy man, had weakened the best
feelings of our nature, and proved the worst of devils, resumed that sway, which, the desire to gain a fine young girl, and the novelty of a happy marriage, had interrupted. The bottle, and the riot, and the madness of intoxication, increased by the waning of love, and perfected by former associations, prevailed over every consideration which ought to guide a rational creature.
The sufferings of the wife were beyond the power of pen to portray. Long she pined in solitude, for she only saw her husband when he required a nurse or a servant. No reproach, by word or look, escaped her. Her tears were unseen; her smiles and tenderness unappreciated. She became a mother, and saw that her child had no father. From bad to worsefrom insensibility to brutality-down-down, sunk the victim of vice; and lower and lower in misery, the victim's victim.
The friends of the lady interfered; but the pride of the conscious criminal was roused, and defiance to them, and reproach to his wife, was the consequence.
Let us draw a veil over the scenes which could induce such a woman as Mrs. Johnson to adopt the resolution of flying, with her child, from their native country, to seek a refuge from the husband and the father. To mitigate her own sufferings, might have proved a sufficient motive for assuming another name, and crossing the seas ; but she had another : to remove her boy from such a parent, and hide from him the knowledge of a being, whose example might cause ruin, and whose conduct must cause shame.
She was assisted by sympathising friends; and the measures taken for her flight were so judiciously planned, and carefully executed, that she was placed in safety, with the means of present support, on the shores of the new world.
Cooke never knew where she had gone, or how she had been enabled to accomplish a retreat which left no traces behind. The event awakened him to remorse. His pride, too, was hurt.
voice that cried shame! was drowned by the voice of intemperance. In time, the wife and child appeared to be forgotten, as though they had never been. But although he married again and again, they visited his dreams ; and in those moments when images of the past come unbidden; the moments of feverish and unquiet sleep; moments appropriated to themselves by the intemperate ; in those moments when the present is shrouded in clouds and darkness, then would a flash from awakening conscience illumine the figures of his wife and child. She, holding the boy up, as if to invite the father's hand,
and suddenly snatching the infant away when within his grasp. Sometimes in bodily torture, his own groans would sound as those of his dying wife ; and he would see her and her boy sinking amidst waves. But to the world he appeared as if he had never had wife or child; and of his early marriage the world never knew. Much-dreaded solitude could not be avoided. Then came the pangs of wakeful conscience, or the visions of troubled sleep, with physical suffering and mental anguish, intolerable.
Such was George Frederick Cooke in England, and in the sick chamber of his long-lost wife in New-York.
The romances with which he amused himself and his hearers, in hours of incipient ebriation, always turned upon adventures occurring to himself in America. This makes it probable, that in the musings upon his wife's flight, he suspected that the United States was the place of her concealment. American history was the subject of his reading. He was intimately acquainted with all the scenes of the American revolutionary war. He delighted in imagining himself to have been an actor in them, and so to represent himself to his companions. His memory and imagination were sufficiently strong to produce descriptions and narrations that puzzled his hearers, and produced effects upon them, that flattered the narrator in those moments when reason and conscience were drugged by the undermining opiates applied to the senses. It is even possible that this suspicion, (relative to his wife's place of refuge,) influenced him, when, in one of his many moments of madness, he inlisted in a marching regiment, as a common soldier, and was only prevented being transported to America, by the accidental discovery of his purpose, at the time, and in the act of embarkation.