COUSINS are not as simple as they seem. The very fact of being a cousin, or having a cousin, is complicated. The laissez-faire of cousinship is both eluding and deluding — cousins will be cousins, even if you did not choose them. They can borrow money from you, visit you without being asked, tell people they belong to your family, contest your will, even fall in love with you — and a cousin once removed is twice as likely to. Never completely trust a cousin — never depend on his not doing any of these things. Never take him for granted. The ‘cousinly kiss’ may or may not mean what it seems. And cousins always do kiss — it’s part of being cousins.

(Not that cousins need necessarily prove perilous. Once in a blue moon they invite you to Europe, or leave you money, but that almost always takes an aunt or an uncle.)

Of course, one is not supposed to marry one; but then, occasionally, one does. Oftener one does n’t; oftenest one has a surreptitious affaire, calmly conscious of an innocent-minded and unsuspecting family, absorbed in their solitaire and knitting and novels, in the background. The mantle of cousinship may cover a multitude of indiscretions, even in the best regulated families.

‘Who is with Lucy out in the Gloucester hammock so late?’

‘Oh, it’s only Tom!’ And Father shuffles the cards, and Mother finishes the chapter, and Auntie knits and knits.

Meanwhile the Gloucester hammock is swayed by emotions little akin to those supposed to exist in the bosom of a family, and the dear old familiar harmless-looking cousinly kiss leaves Lucy wondering where is which and who is what. As we said at the beginning, cousins are not as simple as they seem. It’s safer not to trust even first cousins. Perhaps it is just as well not to trust one’s self as a first cousin — relatively speaking!

Oh, could I say half that I might say,
How sad are the lessons ’t would give;
’T would keep you from loving for many a day,
And from cousins as long as you live!