On the doorstep were standing Priscilla Grant, golden and fair in silk attire, a short, stout gray-haired lady in a tweed suit, and another lady, tall stately, wonderfully gowned, with a beautiful, highbred face and large, black-lashed violet eyes, whom Anne "instinctively felt," as she would have said in her earlier days, to be Mrs. Charlotte E. Morgan.
In the dismay of the moment one thought stood out from the confusion of Anne's mind and she grasped at it as at the proverbial straw. All Mrs. Morgan's heroines were noted for "rising to the occasion." No matter what their troubles were, they invariably rose to the occasion and showed their superiority over all ills of time, space, and quantity. Anne therefore felt it was HER duty to rise to the occasion and she did it, so perfectly that Priscilla afterward declared she never admired Anne Shirley more than at that moment. No matter what her outraged feelings were she did not show them. She greeted Priscilla and was introduced to her companions as calmly and composedly as if she had been arrayed in purple and fine linen. To be sure, it was somewhat of a shock to find that the lady she had instinctively felt to be Mrs. Morgan was not Mrs. Morgan at all, but an unknown Mrs. Pendexter, while the stout little gray-haired woman was Mrs. Morgan; but in the greater shock the lesser lost its power.
Anne ushered her guests to the spare room and thence into the parlor, where she left them while she hastened out to help Priscilla unharness her horse.
"It's dreadful to come upon you so unexpectedly as this,"apologized Priscilla, "but I did not know till last night that we were coming. Aunt Charlotte is going away Monday and she had promised to spend today with a friend in town. But last night her friend telephoned to her not to come because they were quarantined for scarlet fever. So I suggested we come here instead, for I knew you were longing to see her. We called at the White Sands Hotel and brought Mrs. Pendexter with us. She is a friend of aunt's and lives in New York and her husband is a millionaire. We can't stay very long, for Mrs. Pendexter has to be back at the hotel by five o'clock."Several times while they were putting away the horse Anne caught Priscilla looking at her in a furtive, puzzled way.
"She needn't stare at me so," Anne thought a little resentfully.
"If she doesn't KNOW what it is to change a feather bed she might IMAGINE it."When Priscilla had gone to the parlor, and before Anne could escape upstairs, Diana walked into the kitchen. Anne caught her astonished friend by the arm.
"Diana Barry, who do you suppose is in that parlor at this very moment? Mrs. Charlotte E. Morgan. . .and a New York millionaire's wife. . .and here I am like THIS. . .and NOT A THING IN THE HOUSEFOR DINNER BUT A COLD HAM BONE, Diana!"
By this time Anne had become aware that Diana was staring at her in precisely the same bewildered fashion as Priscilla had done.
It was really too much.
"Oh, Diana, don't look at me so," she implored. "YOU, at least, must know that the neatest person in the world couldn't empty feathers from one tick into another and remain neat in the process.""It. . .it. . .isn't the feathers," hesitated Diana. "It's. . .
it's. . .your nose, Anne."
"My nose? Oh, Diana, surely nothing has gone wrong with it!"Anne rushed to the little looking glass over the sink. One glance revealed the fatal truth. Her nose was a brilliant scarlet!
Anne sat down on the sofa, her dauntless spirit subdued at last.
"What is the matter with it?" asked Diana, curiosity overcoming delicacy.
"I thought I was rubbing my freckle lotion on it, but I must have used that red dye Marilla has for marking the pattern on her rugs,"was the despairing response. "What shall I do?""Wash it off," said Diana practically.
"Perhaps it won't wash off. First I dye my hair; then I dye my nose.
Marilla cut my hair off when I dyed it but that remedy would hardly be practicable in this case. Well, this is another punishment for vanity and I suppose I deserve it. . .though there's not much comfort in THAT.