Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/21

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5
PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD

sister and so pulled her out. She was always overflowing with energy which showed itself in various ways. When about eight years old she was climbing on a high fence and fell on the back of her head; so that for some time she was forbidden to do any lessons; but her mother found that she was playing at keeping a school, and was learning long pieces of poetry, French grammar, and doing sums for the pretence children, so that she was working her brain more than she would have done in the school room.

Her love of learning and writing poetry was great; and it was about this time that she wrote the following elegy on a young pigeon:

"Little one thou liest deep.
Buried in eternal sleep,
And we oft for thee repine,
While thy grave with flowers we twine.
Thou didst not live to see the sun,
For thy short life was but begun,
When silent death took all away,
Thou lovely little Hower of May."[1]

As some of the letters given in this book will show. Octavia was somewhat inclined to exaggerate the practical as opposed to the imaginative part of her nature. As a fact the imaginative and even fanciful side of her was apparent at an early age; for on one occasion she was found to have left a party at her grandfather's and to have seated herself on the steps in the garden. When asked what she was doing, she answered, "I am looking for the fairies!" "Have you seen any?" asked her friend, "No," replied Octavia, and added with the cheery confidence which distinguished her, "but I am sure, I shall see them."

This imaginative side; of her must have been greatly stimulated by the only young companions with whom she and her sisters wore brought into contact. These were the younger son and daughter of William and Mary Howitt, the well-known writers. Miss Margaret Howitt writes, "The kind wish of my elder sister Anna Mary to afford pleasure to her small brother

  1. Octavia railed the mother pigeon "May," and the young been hatched in a dark loft.