There were several wagons over from the Haven, in which the small-fry summer visitors arrived and joined their more aristocratic neighbors. The wagons stopped upon the Shell Road and the passengers climbed down to the beach between two of the larger cottages.
The people at The Beaches had tried on several occasions to inclose the stretch of shore below their summer homes, and to make it a private beach. But even the most acquisitive of the town councilmen (and there were several of the fraternity of the Itching Palm in the council) dared not establish such a precedent. The right of the public to the shore at tide-water could not safely be ignored in a community of fishermen and clam diggers.
So the shore on this morning had become a gay scene, with the interest centering on the open air studio of the film company. Lawford saw Louise walking on alone along the edge of the water. Bane had been called into conference by the director.
Lawford could not well hasten his steps and desert Miss Louder, but he desired strongly to do so. And ere the film actress lingeringly left him to rejoin her company, Louise was some distance in advance.
His sisters were near her. Lawford could see them look at her most superciliously, and the saucy Cecile said something that made Prue laugh aloud.
Just beyond the Tapp girls was approaching a group of women and men. Lawford recognized them as the Perritons and their friends. Lawford had no particular interest in the summer crowd himself; but he knew the Perritons were influential people in the social world.
With them was a majestic person the young man had never seen before. Undoubtedly the “Lady from Poughkeepsie.” Her pink countenance and beautifully dressed gray hair showed to excellent advantage under the black and white parasol she carried.
She stepped eagerly before the party, calling:
Louise Grayling raised her head and waved a welcoming hand.
“What brings you forth so early in the morning, auntie?” she asked, her voice ringing clearly across the sands.
There were at least four dumfounded spectators of this meeting, and they were all named Tapp.
Lawford stood rooted to the sands, feeling quite as though the universe had fallen into chaos. It was only L’Enfant Terrible who found speech.
“Oh, my!” she cried. “What a mistake! The movie queen turns out to be some pumpkins!”
Louise, knowing Aunt Euphemia so well, was immediately aware that the haughty lady had something more than ordinarily unpleasant to communicate. It was nothing about Uncle Amazon and the Shell Road store; some other wind of mischance had ruffled her soul.
But the girl ignored Aunt Euphemia’s signals for several minutes; until she made herself, indeed, more familiar with the manner and personal attributes of these new acquaintances. There was a Miss Perriton of about her own age whom she liked at first sight. Two or three men of the party were clean-cut and attractive fellows. Despite the fact that their cottage had been so recently opened for the season, the Perritons had already assembled a considerable house party.