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[Illustration: Cover art]






THREE LITTLE COUSINS


BY

AMY E. BLANCHARD


_Author of "Playmate Polly," "A Little Tomboy," "A Sweet Little Maid,"
"Dimple Dallas," etc._




NEW YORK

HURST & COMPANY

PUBLISHERS




Copyright, 1907, by

GEORGE W. JACOBS & COMPANY

_Published July, 1907_




_CONTENTS_


I. MOLLY AND POLLY
II. UNCLE DICK AT SCHOOL
III. MARY
IV. THE RHINESTONE PIN
V. MARY AND THE BOY
VI. DISCOVERIES
VII. IN ELTON WOODS
VIII. ELLIS AND THE BABY
IX. NEW BURDENS FOR ELLIS
X. ARABS
XI. THE ROSEBERRY FAMILY
XII. EAST AND WEST




_CHAPTER I_

_Molly and Polly_

It had stopped raining; Molly made quite sure of it by looking into the
little puddles upon the walk. At first she thought there were drops
still falling upon them, but it was only the wind which ruffled the
surface. The green grass was misty with rain and upon the bushes the
shining drops hung from every twig. Presently a sudden burst of
sunshine broke through the clouds and changed the drops to sparkles of
light. "There!" exclaimed Molly, "I see a piece of blue sky. Now I
may go, mayn't I, mother? It is clearing off."

Mrs. Shelton came to the window and Molly with serious face watched her
scan the sky. "It really is brighter," Mrs. Shelton decided. "Yes, I
see a piece of blue big enough for a Dutchman's breeches so I think the
rain is over, but you'd better put on your rubbers, Molly."

Molly scarcely waited to hear but danced out of the room and down the
steps. "Don't forget your rubbers!" her mother called after her, and
Molly scurried to the closet under the stairs, grabbed the rubbers,
snatched up her hat and was out of the door in a twinkling. Steadying
herself on one foot, she drew on the overshoes, for there was no time
to sit down; she could hear the whistle of the cars in the distance and
knew there was barely time to reach the station before the train would
stop.

It was an important occasion, for would not the express bring Molly's
Cousin Polly whom she had always longed to meet? And not only Polly
was coming but their Uncle Dick who was bringing Polly all the way from
Colorado to the east. Uncle Dick was not so much of a novelty as
Polly, but he was quite as ardently expected, for he was the jolliest
fellow in the world, Molly thought, and, though he teased her
unmercifully, he was full of jokes and funny quips and amusing
anecdotes, besides being generous in the extreme and always ready to
put himself out to do a kind turn. As for Polly, Molly had many
conjectures concerning her. What sort of girl would she be who had
always lived on a ranch far away from the rest of the world; a girl who
had never been to school and only a few times to church, who had never
seen a big city, nor an automobile, nor even a trolley car? Would she
be very wild indeed, whooping like a savage Indian and eating with her
knife like an untutored woodsman? Would Molly be ashamed to have her
friends meet her? These questions, to which the answer was so near,
Molly asked herself for the hundredth time as she walked toward the
station.

Already the train was slowing up and in a few moments Molly was
standing tiptoe, looking eagerly along the line of cars. Then she
watched each person who descended the steps till at last she was
rewarded by the sight of a tall young man who lifted down a little girl
about Molly's age, a fair-haired, rosy-cheeked little girl, prettily
dressed, and in no way suggesting a wild Indian. The instant Molly saw
her, she was seized with a fit of shyness and could not follow her
first impulse to rush forward. Instead she waited where she was till
the two came up.

"Hello!" cried Uncle Dick. "I expected you would come at least to the
next station to meet us, and here you are backing away instead."

Feeling that Polly might think that she really did not show the
eagerness to see her that she ought to expect, Molly put out her hand
but was presently seized in Polly's fervent hug. "Oh, but I am glad to
see you," she said. "I could scarcely wait to get here, could I, Uncle
Dick? It's such a long way and to-day was the longest one of all."

"I've been just crazy to see you, too," returned Molly. "I was so
afraid it would rain hard and mother would not let me come to meet you.
Where's Uncle Dick going? Oh, I see; he is looking after your baggage.
Don't you hate sleeping-cars, and didn't it seem funny to have no one
but Uncle Dick all these days?"

"No one but Uncle Dick; I like that," said that gentleman rejoining
them. "Are you going to have me called a nobody at the very outset,
Polly?"

"Oh, I didn't mean - - " began Molly covered with confusion.

"Oh, yes you did; you said it when you thought my back was turned,"
interrupted her uncle.

Polly began to pound him with her fist. "Quit your nonsense, you great
big, long-legged, old tease," she said. "You know that wasn't what
Molly meant. You aren't a bit nice to her; you began to tease her the
very minute you set eyes on her. You'd better be pretty good to her or
I won't let you take me home again; so there, sir."

Uncle Dick gave her a playful shake. "You'll be homesick enough in a
week from now to go home by yourself," he warned her.

"She'll do no such thing," cried Molly, gathering courage from Polly's
example. "She'll just love it here, I know. Come along, Polly; we'll
get home first."

But, in spite of their trying to run ahead, Uncle Dick's long legs
overtook them, and with a hand, which they could not shake off, on the
shoulder of each, he rushed them along so fast that they were
breathless when they reached the front gate. Molly's mother was at the
door to greet them. She gathered travel-stained little Polly into her
arms. "Dear Polly, I am so glad we are to have you with us at last,"
she said. "Are you very tired, dearie? Was it a tiresome journey?"

"It was rather tiresome at the last," Polly acknowledged, "though at
first I liked it for there were some very kind ladies who came as far
as St. Louis, but the rest of the way I did get tired of sitting still
all day. I am dreadfully cindery and black, Aunt Betty, so I am afraid
you can't see at all what I look like. I did try to get off some of
the worst about an hour ago, but I suppose I am still very black, as
black as Manuel."

"Who is Manuel?" asked Molly.

"He's the blackest one of the Mexicans who work for father," Polly
replied.

"Take your cousin up-stairs and see to making her comfortable," Mrs.
Shelton told Molly. "Well, Dick, I believe you are actually taller
than when I last saw you. When are you going to stop growing?" she
said to her brother.

"When I come east to live," he returned. "Everything is big out our
way, you know. Everything, including our hearts."

"That's true enough in your case," responded his sister. "Your old
room is ready for you. Run right up; I must speak to the maids."

By this time, the two little girls were in the room they were to share
together, and in a few minutes Polly had made herself more presentable
by the use of soap and water, and with Molly's help in changing her
dress. Then the cousins faced each other and examined one another
critically, and presently both burst out laughing. "You don't look a
bit as I thought you did," said Molly.

"Neither do you," returned Polly. "I thought you would be fair, like a
doll I have named Molly."

"And I thought you would be like a picture I have of Minnehaha,"
returned Molly. Then they laughed again. "Isn't it funny that we are
both named for our grandmother," continued Molly. "Suppose you had
been called Molly instead of Polly, wouldn't we get mixed up?"

"Yes, almost as much as if we were both called Polly," said Polly,
laughing again.

"Are you very, very fond of Uncle Dick?" asked Molly.

"Oh, dear, yes; I adore him. We are just the best sort of friends. He
is the greatest tease, but I know ways to tease him, too."

"Oh, do tell me," Molly begged, "for he teases me nearly to death,
though I think he is perfectly splendid."

"Wait till he is in a teasing mood, and you'll see," Polly answered.
"Oh, Molly, I am perfectly wild to think I am to see the ocean. I have
lived among the mountains all my life, and I am wild to get to the sea."

"You will love it," Molly assured her. "Won't we have a fine time all
summer together?" She looked admiringly at Polly's curling locks, her
dimples, and her pretty fresh white frock. Here was a cousin of whom
she need not be ashamed. Why had Uncle Dick called her as wild as a
March hare? Why had he given Molly the impression that an Indian was a
tame creature beside Polly Perrine?

Polly was thinking much the same thing. Why had Uncle Dick given her
the idea that she would find her cousin a fair, doll-like creature? To
be sure she had seen a photograph of Molly, but she had worn a hat and
coat when it was taken and one could easily get a wrong impression from
it.

"Let's go down," proposed Molly; "I have lots of things to show you;
besides I want to see Uncle Dick." She felt a little jealous of her
cousin's claim to their uncle, and she felt sure her father would
appropriate him if he happened to come in before she reached the porch
where her mother was sitting with her brother.

Her father had not arrived, having gone to some business meeting which
was sure to keep him late. Uncle Dick was lolling back in a porch
chair. "Hello, youngsters," he cried as he caught sight of his nieces.
"How are you getting along? What do you think of each other?"

Polly ran to him, and perching herself upon the arm of the chair,
turned up his nose with an impertinent finger. "Badness," she said,
"why did you tell me that Molly looked like a wax doll?"

"Did I tell you that? Well, if I were a maker of wax dolls, I could
make one just like her, I think, if I had some of old Doc's tail for
hair and two pieces of coal for eyes."

"Her eyes aren't black; they're like two pieces of brown velvet,"
objected Polly, "and her hair isn't a bit like Doc's tail; it is as
soft as silk. Your nose must go up higher for that, sir." She gave
his nose an extra tilt while he squirmed under the process.

"There, there, Polly, that is high enough!" he exclaimed; "it will
never come down again if you turn it up too high."

"I hope it will not," said Polly; "I hope it will stay turned up like
Dicky-pig's."

"Who is Dicky-pig?" asked Molly.

"Oh, he is a little pig I named after my beautiful uncle; he looks just
like him," said Polly mirthfully.

"Does your brother look like a pig?" Dick asked his sister.

Mrs. Shelton smiled as she looked at the handsome youth. "I don't
detect a striking resemblance," she replied, rising to leave.

"Well, he acts like one sometimes," declared Polly. "I want to know,
too," she went on, to her uncle, "if you have been telling Molly things
about me that aren't so."

"He said you were wild as a March hare and looked like an Apache
Indian," announced Molly from the other side of the chair, giving her
uncle's hair a tweak.

"Two to one is not fair," cried Dick. "I draw the line at having my
hair pulled out by the roots; it is quite enough to have my nose mauled
all out of shape. Here, young woman, you must be kept in better order.
Polly, you are setting a bad example to your cousin; never before has
she pulled my hair." He grabbed first one and then the other, stowed
them away under his knees and held them tight.

"You're spoiling my clean frock," complained Polly. "Let me out and
I'll not turn up your nose." Dick loosed his hold, "till the next
time," added Polly darting away.

Dick made a grab for her and Molly, too, escaped. "Come back, come
back!" cried Dick. "I have something for you, Molly, and you shall
have it if you will answer me one question."

The girls slowly returned, but kept at a safe distance. "What is the
question?" asked Molly.

Uncle Dick dived down into one of his pockets and drew forth a box of
candy which he laid on the chair by his side. "I want to see how you
are progressing with your studies," he remarked with gravity. "By the
way, is school over yet?"

"No, it closes next week," Molly told him, eying the candy.

"Ah, then I must visit it and inquire into your record," said her uncle
with an air of dignity.

"Oh, Uncle Dick!" Molly was on pins and needles lest he should really
do something of the kind, and if he should hurt the feelings of her
dear Miss Isabel whom she adored, Molly did not know what she should
do. Miss Isabel might not understand her uncle's joking ways and - oh,
dear! Her anxious look made her uncle chuckle with glee.

"I'll go sure as a gun," he declared, seeing a chance to tease.

"Oh, please don't," begged Molly.

"Why not go? Indeed I shall. I am confident from your manner, Miss
Shelton, that it really is necessary that I should make some inquiries
for the credit of the family. Tell me why I should not go, if you
please."

"Why - why - none of the girls' uncles ever do go," said Molly lamely.

"Not a bit of reason why I should not start the custom. What is your
teacher like? Old, with little bobbing curls each side her face?
Wears a cap, does she? or false frizzes and her teeth click when she
talks?"

"She's nothing like that at all," returned Molly indignantly. "She is
perfectly lovely with blue eyes and long black lashes, and the
beautifullest hair, and she has the prettiest, whitest teeth, like even
corn on the cob."

"My, oh, my! All the more must I go," said Dick. "Is she young, dear
niece? How old might she be, darling Molly?"

"Oh, I don't know; I think about twenty-one, for she has only been
teaching a year. She didn't leave college till last summer, and she
told me she wasn't seventeen when she first went there."

"Delightful," said Uncle Dick meditatively. "Where is my sister? I
must interest her in this matter. Now, Molly, sweet girl, answer my
question and you shall have, not only this box of candy, but another to
take to - what did I understand your teacher's name to be?"

"It is Isabel Ainslee, and it is a beautiful name."

"I quite agree with you. Now, Molly, answer me. How many cakes can
you buy two for three cents apiece?"

Molly looked at Polly. This was a puzzler surely. "Two," she ventured
uncertainly.

Uncle Dick looked at her penetratingly. "That might be the answer
under some circumstances," he said.

This puzzled Molly more than ever and she looked at Polly for
inspiration.

Polly was laughing. "You're an old fraud," she said to her uncle.
"That is no question at all. It is nonsense, Molly. It depends
entirely upon how much money you have. If you have six cents you can
buy two cakes."

"So you can," returned Molly, seeing daylight. "I have just six cents,
so I could buy two cakes at three cents apiece."

"But you didn't answer; it was Polly who did," said her uncle.

"Then Polly takes the candy," said that person darting forward and
snatching up the candy box which she thrust into Molly's hand. "Here,
Molly, run," she cried. And run Molly did, holding fast to the box and
giving one backward glance at her uncle which showed him laughing and
shaking his fist at the two retreating figures.

"Just wait till I see that Isabel Ainslee," he called after them.
"I'll fix it for you, Molly Shelton."

But Molly had no fears, for Polly whispered; "He's only trying to
tease, Molly. Don't mind him."




_CHAPTER II_

_Uncle Dick at School_

It wanted but a week of the time when the delightful season would begin
which meant long days of freedom for the two little girls, for they
were to spend the summer in a dear little cottage by the sea. Ever
since Aunt Ada Reid bought her cottage it had been Molly's happy
experience to spend the summer there, and to enjoy the delight of
running wild. Polly was already enthusiastic but she became doubly so
as the time approached and Molly dwelt upon the joys before them.

"We can run anywhere we like and nobody cares," Molly told her, "and
there is so much to do the days never seem half long enough. Just this
week of school, and then free! free! Uncle Dick didn't do as he
threatened after all; he has not been to the school once."

"Oh, he has forgotten all about it," returned Polly.

But Uncle Dick had not forgotten, as the day's proceedings proved.
Polly was deeply interested in school matters, for she had been taught
at home always, and knew nothing of routine and system, which, even in
a small school, must be carried on. She had gone as a visitor with
Molly when the rules were not so strictly enforced, for in the last
warm days of the term Miss Ainslee was lenient and Polly thought school
life perfectly delightful with easy lessons and ever so many
interesting things said and done by both teacher and pupils.

The two little girls were sitting side by side, listening attentively
to Miss Ainslee's account of the early Britons, when the door softly
opened and a tall young man appeared. He looked smilingly around.
Molly gave the stifled exclamation: "Uncle Dick!" Polly jumped to her
feet but sat down again.

It was a hot morning. The breeze scarcely stirred the leaves of the
wistaria vines over the windows. Once in a while a robin gurgled out
his cheerful song which Molly always declared reminded her of cherry
juice; the little girls in thin frocks fanned themselves behind the
rows of desks. Miss Ainslee's back was toward the door and she kept on
with the reading, not having heard the intruder who presently made a
step forward and gave a roguish glance in Molly's direction, to that
young person's confusion, for the color mounted to her cheeks. What
was he going to do she wondered. He gave an apologetic little cough
which caused Miss Ainslee to look up from her book with a surprised
expression.

"Isn't it most time for recess?" asked Uncle Dick gently.

Miss Ainslee glanced at the clock. "Why yes," she replied, her
surprise more evident.

"That's what my sister said, and as it is such a warm morning we
thought - she thought some ice cream would be refreshing to you all, so
she has sent over a freezer; I told the man to set it outside."

Pleased giggles issued from the little girls behind the desks.

"I never thought," continued Dick, "but perhaps I ought - we ought to
have furnished dishes and spoons. You couldn't eat it from the
ink-wells, I suppose." He turned to the children who again giggled
delightedly.

"Oh, I think we can manage in an emergency," said Miss Ainslee. "We
have a small cooking class here on Saturday mornings and there is quite
a supply of dishes in the cupboard yonder. I think we can make them go
around."

Dick's smile grew wistful as he said: "It was pretty hot coming over
here, but I don't suppose you could ask me to have some of the cream
with you; I'm not a little girl, you know, and I perceive you don't
take boys."

A tremulous little smile danced about the corners of Miss Ainslee's
mouth as she moved toward the cupboard.

"I could help to dish it out at least," Dick added hastily. "I could
do that beautifully, couldn't I, Polly?" He turned to his niece.

"Oh, you are Molly's uncle, aren't you?" The puzzled expression with
which Miss Ainslee was regarding him changed to one of understanding.
"She has been talking of you for the past month. Certainly stay. I
shall be very glad of your help."

Dick cast a triumphant look at Molly. "Then I'll go right out and take
off the ice from the freezer," he said. "Will you have the cream in
here or out there?"

"Out there, I think," returned Miss Ainslee. "I like the children to
take their recess out of doors whenever they can. I will bring out the
plates and spoons."

"No, don't," said Dick. "Just show me where they are. Oh, I see:
among the gallipots and things. You please go and get the kids - I mean
the little girls all settled and I will play butler."

To this Miss Ainslee would not consent, but she dismissed the children
who fled out with excited whispers, and presently, to their great
satisfaction, they were served with heaping saucers of ice cream and
delicious little cakes. Once or twice Molly and Polly ventured near to
where their uncle and Miss Ainslee were sitting under a great tree, but
each time that they appeared Uncle Dick would say in a strong voice: "I
want to inquire about Molly's marks, Miss Ainslee. How is she getting
on with her arithmetic?" As this was Molly's bugbear, she would move
off hastily whenever the study was mentioned while Uncle Dick looked
after her with a twinkle in his eye. He politely took his leave after
recess was over, though some of Molly's friends clamored for him to
stay and tell them stories of the great west, for they had heard of his
powers in that direction. He refused to stay, however, though he
promised that he would come again, if Miss Ainslee would permit.

The girls all gathered around their teacher when the visitor had gone,
and were loud in their praises of Molly Shelton's uncle. But Molly
herself said never a word, though after school was dismissed she crept
up to Miss Ainslee and whispered: "Did you tell him I never do get half
my examples right?"

Miss Ainslee put her arm around her and whispered back: "No, dear, I
didn't, for it wouldn't have been true. Sometimes you do get more than
half of them right."

"I do try," said Molly wistfully.

"I know you do," returned Miss Ainslee, giving her a hug. So Molly
went home satisfied that after all her uncle's visit to the school
meant only good will and not a desire to discover the weak spots in his
niece's record.

Uncle Dick made a second visit to the school at another recess hour
when it threatened rain and he brought umbrellas for Molly and Polly,
and rain it did, coming down in such torrents for a while that he
accepted the shelter offered, and, while the thunder rolled and the
lightning flashed, told the children such thrilling stories as
completely absorbed the attention of the whole school, and no one
thought of being afraid of the storm.

Then came the last day of the term when Uncle Dick, as invited guest,
came with Mrs. Shelton to see the pretty Garden of Verses which Miss
Ainslee had arranged for the closing entertainment. Even Polly took
part in that and repeated the lines:

"A birdie with a yellow bill
Hopped upon the window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said.
'Ain't you 'shamed, you sleepy-head!'"

while Molly, wearing a long silken gown, swept in with rustling skirt
to say:

"Whenever auntie moves around
Her dresses make a curious sound;
They trail behind her up the floor,
And trundle after through the door."


She was called to the front of the little stage to receive the bunch of
lovely roses her Uncle Dick sent her, and felt very grand when they
were handed up to her. Polly, too, came in for her share of flowers,
though hers were sweet-peas because her name began with P. However,
that did not account fur the white bell-like blossoms which were
presented to Miss Ainslee, though Polly explained it by saying, "She is
a belle, you know," and did not see the whole joke till she remembered
Miss Ainslee's first name.

To Polly, Miss Ainslee was a paragon of perfection. She had never
before known so dainty and pretty a young lady. The tutor which she
and her brothers had was a young man who had gone to Colorado for his
health, and when stranded in Denver was chanced upon by Dick Reid who
befriended him and brought him home, where he was glad enough to teach
the niece and nephews of his former college mate. Miss Ainslee was a
teacher of quite another stamp and ardent little Polly adored her.

When the little girls had returned from the closing exercises of the
school, their thoughts turned to the next excitement which was the
journey northward with Uncle Dick. They were to start the very next
morning, and their trunks stood ready to go.

As they entered the hall, Mrs. Shelton picked up a letter which the
postman had just brought. It had a foreign postmark, and Molly knew it
must be from her Aunt Evelyn, her Uncle Arthur's wife, who lived in
England. Mrs. Shelton sat down in the library and opened the letter.
She had read only a few lines when she exclaimed: "Well, I declare!"

"What is it, mother?" asked Molly. "What does Aunt Evelyn say? How is
Mary?"

"She is better, and what do you think, Molly? Uncle Arthur is coming
over and is going to bring Mary with him. They are on their way."


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