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The Three Brides

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CHAPTER IThe Model And Her Copies

There is sure another Flood toward, that so many couples are coming to the Ark.—As You Like It

“Ah! it is a pitiable case!”

“What case, boys?”

“Yours, mother, with such an influx of daughters-in-law.”

“I suspect the daughters-in-law think themselves more to be pitied.”

“As too many suns in one sphere.”

“As daughters-in-law at all.”

“There’s a ready cure for that.  Eh, Charlie?”

“The sight of the mother-in-law.”

“Safe up on the shelf?  Ha, you flattering boys!”

“Well, each of the three bridegrooms has severally told us that his bride was a strong likeness of the mother, so she will have the advantage of three mirrors!”

“Ay, and each married solely for her benefit.  I wonder which is the truest!”

“Come, Baby Charles, don’t you take to being cynical and satirical,” said the mother.  “It would be more to the purpose to consider of the bringing them home.  Let me see, Raymond and his Cecil will be at Holford’s Gate at 5.30.  They must have the carriage in full state.  I suppose Brewer knows.”

“Trust the ringers for scenting it out.”

“Julius and Rosamond by the down train at Willansborough, at 4.50.  One of you must drive old Snapdragon in the van for them.  They will not mind when they understand; but there’s that poor wife of Miles’s, I wish she could have come a few days earlier.  Her friend, Mrs. Johnson, is to drop her by the express at Backsworth, at 3.30.”

“Inconvenient woman!”

“I imagine that she cannot help it; Mrs. Johnson is going far north, and was very good in staying with her at Southampton till she could move.  Poor little thing! alone in a strange country!  I’ll tell you what!  One of you must run down by train, meet her, and either bring her home in a fly, or wait to be picked up by Raymond’s train.  Take her Miles’s letter.”

The two young men glanced at one another in dismay, and the elder said, “Wouldn’t nurse do better?”

“No, no, Frank,” said the younger, catching a distressed look on their mother’s face, “I’ll look up Miles’s little African.  I’ve rather a curiosity that way.  Only don’t let them start the bells under the impression that we are a pair of the victims.  If so, I shall bolt.”

“Julius must be the nearest bolting,” said Frank.  “How he accomplished it passes my comprehension.  I shall not believe in it till I see him.  There, then, I’ll give orders.  Barouche for the squire, van for the rector, and the rattling fly for the sailor’s wife.  So wags the course of human life,” chanted Frank Charnock, as he strolled out of the room.

“Thanks, Charlie,” whispered his mother.  “I am grieved for that poor young thing.  I wish I could go myself.  And, Charlie, would you cast an eye round, and see how things look in their rooms?  You have always been my daughter.”

“Ah! my vocation is gone!  Three in one day!  I wonder which is the best of the lot.  I bet upon Miles’s Cape Gooseberry.—Tired, mother darling?  Shall I send in nurse?  I must be off, if I am to catch the 12.30 train.”

He bent to kiss the face, which was too delicately shaped and tinted to look old enough to be in expectation of three daughters-in-law.  No, prostrate as she was upon pillows, Mrs....