ELIZABETH ANN'S SIX COUSINS
OVER THE SAND DUNES
Always, ever since she could, remember, Elizabeth Ann had. longed for brothers and sisters and now it seemed as though her dream had come true, for here she was, one of this family of brothers and sisters. The Masons treated her as though she had always lived with them and when dinner was over and they all started in to help with the work, Doris handed Elizabeth Ann the bread plate to carry to the kitchen.
"If we help Mother, then she'll go down to the beach with us," Doris explained, "and we have ever so much more fun if she is along." Everyone was busy and no one got in another's way. Aunt Jennie put the food that was left in the ice box, Emmy scraped the dishes and. piled them neatly ready to be washed; Doris and Elizabeth Ann trotted back and forth with the dishes from the table and the four boys put back the chairs and, when the table was clear, folded the cloth and put it away.
Washing and drying the dishes was fun- Elizabeth Ann said so. The older ones dried them and Doris and Elizabeth Ann put them away carefully in the closet. Ted and Lan disappeared and when they came back they announced that they had carried fresh water to the chickens.
"So there's nothing to do, but have a good time all the afternoon!" cried Jerry, picking up Elizabeth Ann and pretending to toss her through the screen door. "Come on, Mother, we have to go down and play in the sand."
Aunt Jennie laughed and put on a broad-brimmed hat that shaded her eyes from the sun. Then she took her knitting bag-which was filled with stockings that needed darning -and said she was ready.
"I don't want Elizabeth Ann to get sunburned," she said as they were starting. "I wonder if she wouldn't like to wear a sun-bonnet ?"
The six Mason children were browned from playing out in the sun so much and Elizabeth Ann thought it must be nice to be so tanned.
"Sun-bonnets are hot, Aunt Jennie," she said a little shyly. "Do I have to wear one ?"
"Of course not, child," replied her aunt. "We'll try to keep you from getting badly burned at first-after the first few days you'll probably tan and that will not be painful."
It was easy to reach the beach from the little brown house. You walked out of the yard and turned to the left and climbed three sand dunes and there you were, with a wide strip of sandy beach to play on and the rippling ocean just beyond.
"Look who's following us!" exclaimed Doris, happening to glance back as they climbed the last dune.
Elizabeth Ann looked and saw Antonio slowly pacing after them, his tail held high in the air.
"Let him come," said Aunt Jennie. "We had. a cat once that followed us just as a dog would; Tony may like the seashore."
They walked down the beach-Antonio marching sedately behind them-to the square of canvas tacked on two poles stuck in the sand. This made a shady place for Aunt Jennie to sit and she told Elizabeth Ann that she sometimes spent the whole day sewing there, taking a lunch with her.
"That's when I'm not busy, of course," she added.
Elizabeth Ann supposed she meant busy with the work in the house, but Doris explained better when they were in wading. For Elizabeth Ann had the supreme delight of taking off her shoes and stockings and wading in that lovely, sparkling cold water that very afternoon. She had gone wading in the brook at Maple Spring, but wading in the ocean was much more exciting. The waves chased her and she found that, slow as they looked, they could come creeping in and surprise her if she was not careful.
She and Doris had their skirts pinned up and Ted and Lan rolled up their trousers and the four of them ran down to the water's edge as soon as Aunt Jennie was comfortably settled under the tent. She had her mending and. Emmy some other sewing and Jerry was going to read aloud to them. Rodney had brought writing materials and he went off a little way to figure out some problem.
"They'll go swimming to-night, before supper," said Doris, holding Elizabeth Ann's hand as they walked on the wet sand. ' ' Ouch ! that was cold! Ted and Lan can swim and I'm learning, but Emmy said we shouldn't wear our bathing suits this afternoon, because your trunk hadn't come and you wouldn't have yours to wear."
"I haven't any bathing suit," said Elizabeth Ann. "Can Emmy swim?"
"Like a duck," replied Doris. "She's the best girl swimmer for her age in Seabridge. You can have one of my bathing suits; I have an old one and a new one and I'll give you the new one because I like you."
Elizabeth Ann looked at her little cousin who loved, her enough to give her the new bathing suit. She thought that Doris was lovely and indeed she was. Ted and Lan had gone to building wells for crabs and they had left them further back on the beach as they walked along, talking.
"We can't go any further than that piling," said Doris, pointing to some logs sunk in the sand.
"Why not?" asked Elizabeth Ann curiously.
"Because Jerry says so," replied Doris. "We can go up the beach as far as the piling and down as far as the jetty, any time; he or Mother can make us hear if we don't go further away than that, by blowing the whistle. But if we want to go further than that, we have to ask."
"Isn't Jerry nice!" said Elizabeth Ann, watching a tiny wave run over her ankles and break on the sand.
"Of course he's nice," declared Doris proudly. "He is the nicest brother in the world. You can coax Rod and make him forget to scold and you have to do as Jerry says, whether you want to, or not, but I love Jerry most. Rod gets mad-he says it is his red hair-but Jerry never does. When Emmy gets to be a teacher, Jerry and Rod and she will make so much money Mother won't have to go out sewing any more."
"Go out sewing?" asked Elizabeth Ann, puzzled.
They had reached the piling now and Doris turned promptly, facing the way they had come.
"Once I was mad at Jerry and I went past here," she confided. "I walked almost a mile up the beach and coming back I met him looking for me. I couldn't go in bathing or even wading for a whole week after that."
Elizabeth Ann stepped back as a larger wave than usual came rolling in.
"They won't hurt you-the tide is going out," said Doris. "What was I telling you- Oh, about Mother going out sewing. You see, Elizabeth Ann, it takes a lot of money to bring up six children. Jerry and Rod work in the city and before that Mother used to sew all day long; now she only sews three days a week for people. Emmy is going to be a teacher and she's almost through high school now. I'm going to he a teacher, too, hut of course that takes a long time. Mother says Ted and Lan and I can help by being useful, so we do try. When Mother isn't home I help Emmy keep house."
"I'll help, too," declared Elizabeth Ann. "I can sew patchwork-Aunt Hester taught me. And I can dry dishes and sweep the porch and hunt eggs-didn't Ted say you had chickens'?"
"We have a big garden, too," said Doris. "It is in back of the house. Ted and Lan are supposed to take care of the chickens and weed the garden, but they don't always do it and then Rod gets after them. There the boys are now."
"We whistled to you, but you never heard us," Ted said. "I suppose you were talking dolls."
"We never said a word about dolls," declared Doris.
"I have a doll in my trunk," said Elizabeth Ann. ' 'Her name is Nancy. Aunt Isabel was going to send me a doll from London, but something happened to it on the way over; it didn't get here."
"Maybe the ship was wrecked," said Ted. "Lots of ships are; and the doll would be drowned, just like a person."
"I don't believe a doll would sink," announced Lan. ' ' It would be interesting to try, wouldn't it?"
"Don't you dare drown my doll, Lansing Mason!" cried Doris angrily.
"Who said anything about drowning your doll?" 'asked Lan. "Elizabeth Ann will let me experiment with her doll-she isn't afraid I'll hurt it-are you, Elizabeth Ann?"
"No-o, I guess not," Elizabeth Ann answered. "But I wouldn't like Nancy to be drowned. I'm very fond of her."
"She wouldn't be really drowned," explained Lan earnestly. "I just want to see if she will sink; I'll tie a string to her, Elizabeth Ann and if she sinks, I'll pull her up again. If she doesn't sink, then I'll know a doll can't drown. It's a scientific experiment, Elizabeth Ann."
Elizabeth Ann liked Lan and she didn't want to refuse to give him Nancy. So she promised he might try his "experiment" as soon as her trunk was unpacked.
"Early to-morrow morning will be a good time," said Lan. "Jerry and Rod sleep later Sunday morning. I'll meet you down on the beach before breakfast, Elizabeth Ann, and be sure you bring Nancy with you. ' '
Ted said he would be there, too and Doris wanted to see the experiment also. As long as it wasn't her doll that was to be drowned, Doris was rather interested in the plan.
Presently Jerry whistled and they went back to the tent. Aunt Jennie held something out to Elizabeth Ann.
"Here's a pair of Doris's socks," she said to the little girl. "I thought perhaps you'd like to put them on, since they're so much cooler than stockings."
"I'd like to wear them!" exclaimed Elizabeth Ann in delight. ' ' Mine are in the trunk. ' '
She and Doris sat down and rubbed their feet dry with the heavy bath towel Aunt Jennie gave them. Then they put on their socks and sandals. Elizabeth Ann had always worn socks at home, but Aunt Hester had not approved of them and while she was at Maple Spring her niece had worn only long tan and black stockings.
Elizabeth Ann didn't understand why she should get sleepy so early, but Emmy found her asleep on the sofa almost as soon as supper was over.
' ' It's the sea air, " said Emmy wisely. ' ' That always makes folk sleep; and then you've been traveling, too. Doris goes to bed at half-past seven and it's nearly that. She'll go with you now."'
Elizabeth Ann's trunk had come and she had helped Aunt Jennie unpack it when they came in from the beach. Nancy was sitting in state on a chair and Elizabeth Ann, remembering what she had promised Lan, insisted on taking the doll to bed with her.
"Maybe I won't have any Nancy doll after the experiment," she whispered to herself sadly.
Emmy stayed with them till they were in bed. Then she kissed them and went out. Doris said that Emmy slept where Elizabeth Ann was to sleep, but that during her visit she was to share a room with her mother.
"I forgot Antonio!" said Elizabeth Ann sleepily.
"Ted made him a bed down cellar, dear," said Aunt Jennie, coming in softly and sitting down on Elizabeth Ann's bed. "These warm nights he will be happier out doors, but we were afraid he might run away so we will keep him in the cellar for a week or so."
Aunt Jennie heard both little girls say their prayers and then she kissed them, saw that they were lightly covered and pulled back the white curtains so that the moonlight came into the room.
"My mother always kisses me good night, " whispered Elizabeth Ann to Doris who was almost asleep, when Aunt Jennie had gone downstairs.
"My mother kisses every one of us after we are in bed," said Doris, opening one eye. "Even Jerry and Rod and Emmy."
"How old are they?-Jerry and Rod, I mean?" whispered Elizabeth Ann.
"Jerry is twenty-one and Rod is nineteen," replied Doris. "Mother said we must go to sleep and not talk."
Almost as soon as she said that, both little girls were fast asleep and the next thing Elizabeth Ann knew, it was morning. The sun was streaming into the room and jumping out of bed, Elizabeth Ann ran to the window. There lay the wonderful blue ocean, twinkling and sparkling.
"Say, we'd better hurry up," said Doris, sitting up in bed suddenly. "You promised to let Lan try an experiment, you know. Don't make a noise, or someone will hear you."
Just why Elizabeth Ann and Doris should think it necessary to be so quiet, perhaps they could not have told. They dressed very quietly and crept downstairs and out of the house, Elizabeth Ann with Nancy in her arms. Ted and Lansing were sitting on the porch steps, putting on their shoes. They had come down, carrying their shoes in their hand so as not to make any noise.
"Did you bring the doll?" asked Lansing. "Sure you did-I have the string. Come on -we don't want any of the others tagging us."
Though the white, sandy beach was covered with curious pebbles and bits of pretty shells, Elizabeth Ann did not stop to look long. She couldn't even enjoy the beautiful ocean or the white-capped waves that came tumbling in; all she could think of was Nancy and what might happen to her.
Lansing insisted that they must walk as far as the piling and when they reached that, he took a ball of cord out of his pocket.
"I want to find out whether that doll your aunt sent you from London could really drown," he said, knotting the string around Nancy's waist. "If Nancy floats, that's a sign dolls can't drown; and if she sinks, why they can, that's all."
"But you'll pull her back, if she sinks, Lan ? ' ' urged Elizabeth Ann anxiously. ' ' You said you would."
' ' Of course I'll pull her back, ' ' said Lansing. "What do you suppose I'm tying the string on her for?"
"Why don't you take off her dress '?" suggested Doris.
"It's too good to get wet," said Ted, who had climbed to the top of one of the pilings and. sat there, dangling his feet.
So Elizabeth Ann took off Nancy's dress and her shoes and stockings and Lansing fastened the string on again, over her petticoat.
"Let me kiss her good-by, " begged Elizabeth Ann earnestly.
"You don't have to kiss her good-by," said Lansing impatiently, nevertheless holding out the doll to his little cousin. "I'm going to pull her in, soon as I see her commence to sink."
Elizabeth Ann kissed her doll soberly and Doris insisted on kissing Nancy, too. Then Lansing went down to the edge of the water and flung the doll out as far as he could. He had a strong arm for a boy and Nancy fell far out-a mile out, Elizabeth Ann was always sure though, of course, Lansing could not throw nearly as far as that.
"Gee, the string broke!" cried Lansing as the doll struck the water.
"I told you not to use that old piece"! scolded Ted.
The ball of string was made up of odds and ends Lansing and Ted had saved and tied together and now a knot had broken at the wrong moment and there was nothing with which to pull Nancy back to shore.
"Oh!" cried Elizabeth Ann, hiding her eyes as a great billow lifted the unfortunate doll and slammed her with great force against the piling.
"She's smashed!" said Doris in an awe-struck tone.
Elizabeth Ann was always glad that the poor smashed Nancy did not come floating back to them. Instead she floated further and further from shore. The children watched the bobbing object and saw it carried a little further out and a little further out. Soon it looked like a dancing, black speck on the water.
"I'm-I'm awfully sorry, Elizabeth Ann," stammered Lansing. "I never thought the string would break."
"No, of course you didn't," said Elizabeth Ann. "It's all right."
"You ought to leave dolls alone after this," scolded Doris.
"You won't tell anybody, will you, Elizabeth Ann?" said Ted. "Lan didn't mean to drown the doll."
"No, I won't tell," promised Elizabeth Ann.
"Nancy didn't drown-she floated and that proves what I thought-dolls don't drown," said Lansing. "Of course she was smashed when she hit the piling, but that was an accident."
"Maybe a mermaid will find her and play with her," said Doris hopefully.
"Well, we'd better go back before they wonder where we are," suggested Ted, jumping down from his high perch. "Come on, Elizabeth Ann."
"I'll come in a minute," said Elizabeth Ann. "You go on."
"I have to set the table for breakfast," said Doris.
"I haven't watered the chickens yet," said Ted, "and Lan, it's your turn to feed 'em."
"You go ahead and I'll come in a minute," announced Elizabeth Ann.
"Sure you won't get lost?" asked Lansing, looking at her closely.
"No, of course not," retorted Elizabeth Ann and indeed there was little danger of that. The Masons' little brown house was the only one for half a mile either way on the beach.
When she was alone, Elizabeth Ann sat down on the sand, heedless of the sun which was beginning to be warm. She wanted to think.
Doris went to the dining-room as soon as she reached the house and Ted started for the chicken yard. They had all been unusually silent during the walk back.
"If you don't feed the chickens they won't get fed," said Ted warningly.
"I'll feed 'em," replied Lansing, but instead of going out to the yard he went upstairs to Jerry's room. The little brown house was so small that everyone had to "double up" and Rodney and Jerry shared their bedroom.
Rodney was still in bed, "thinking about getting up" as he said, but Jerry was fully dressed, and ready to come downstairs. He looked a little surprised to see Lansing.
"We'll go down and talk," said Jerry kindly. "Perhaps that lazy bones "will get up, if we leave him alone."