“Why, Nan!” Grace cried, “how did you know?”
“Katie told me,” repeated Nan.
“But—but she never told me,” expostulated their hostess.
“I don’t suppose you ever saw her crying, as I did, while she was setting the dinner table. It was last evening. She had been on her feet more than usual yesterday. The doctor tells her that her arches are breaking down; but she cannot afford to have arch supports made at present, because her mother needs all the money Katie can earn.”
“Mercy!” gasped Bess. “Did you ever see such a girl as Nan? She already knows all the private history of that girl.”
“No, I do not,” said Nan, with some indignation. “I never asked her a thing. She just told me. Lots of girls who have to go out to service are troubled with their arches breaking down. Especially when the floors are polished wood with nothing but rugs laid down. Bare floors may be very sanitary; but they are hard on the feet.”
“There you go!” sighed Bess, “with a lot of erudite stuff that we don’t understand. I wish you wouldn’t.”
“I know why Katie, and other people as well, love to tell Nan all their troubles,” said Grace, softly. “Because she is sympathetic. I am afraid I ought to have known about poor Katie’s feet.”
The very next day the little serving maid was sent by Mrs. Mason to the orthopedic shoe shop to be measured for her arch supports and shoes. But it was Nan whom poor Katie caught alone in a dark corner of the hall when she came back, and humbly kissed.
“An’ bless yer swate heart, Miss, for ’twas yer kind thought stirred up Miss Grace to tell the mistress. Bless yer swate heart again, I say!”
Nan kept this to herself, of course; but it pleased her very much that the word she had dropped had had such a splendid result. Grace, she knew, was a lovable girl and never exacting with the servants; and Mrs. Mason was good to her people, too. But it was a rather perfunctory sort of goodness, spurred by little real knowledge of their individual needs.
After this, it was quite noticeable that Grace was even more considerate of Katie and the other maids. Nan Sherwood had had little experience with domestic servants; but the appreciation of noblesse oblige was strong within her soul.
The girls’ time, both day and evening, was fully occupied. The Masons’ was a large household, and there seemed to be always company. It was almost like living in a hotel, only above and over all the freedom and gaiety of the life there, was the impression that it was a real home, and that the Mason family lived a very intimate existence, after all.
Walter and his father were close chums. Grace and her mother were like two very loving sisters. The smaller children were still with their governess and nurse most of the time. But there were times in every day when the whole family was together in private, with the rest of the household shut out.