Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/106

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86
CHAP.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

but I was forced to give it up, it was too hard, for I had all the work to do, they didn't keep no other servant." "Have you seen anything of the country lately?" I asked. "Oh no Miss, I haven't seen it since you took me; oh, don't I remember Romford!" I had seen her large bright eyes looking earnestly at a bunch of glorious purple flowers I had brought with me, and I could not help giving her one piece to carry back to the miserable home she had left. Her father has lost his work through drinking, her mother has but little washing to do, and has two children younger than Elizabeth, and a baby. The eldest boy has work at 4/6 a week but he has to walk an immense way to it. They lived in Clerkenwell, over a rag-shop, where this little girl used to sleep in a back-parlour, but could not go to bed till after eleven or later, because the girl she slept with always kept the key; "for there was lots of rags there." And this is a child who seems meant to live wherever beauty may be found, comparatively without affection, utterly indifferent to home. She is hardly touched by kindness; but at the sight of flowers her face lights up, her eyebrows rise, her whole being seems expanded. I never, never shall forget her in the fields at Hampstead. She is high-spirited; and I trust she may not be crushed by sorrow. Energetic and persevering to the extreme, I think she will make herself master of events by submitting to their laws. She, alone of all my children, worked beautifully when I doomed her to do anything. "It is no use, it must be done," said in an unsympathetic tone, acted like magic. Indeed, she was altogether indifferent to sympathy. When I had to go and help and teach and encourage others, Elizabeth struggled on alone. She is gloriously proud, can stand alone, and say candidly to us