Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/212

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190
chap.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

capital ; not that he cared for the money ; but that, if the scheme were placed on a business footing, others might follow the example. Upon which, Octavia exclaimed, ' Who will ever hear of what I do ? ' Nevertheless, she admitted the justice of his criticism, and promised to use her best efforts to make the scheme a paying one ; and so actually began the work which was to spread so far.

"When Octavia was searching for a suitable house to turn into tenements for the poor,—she was most anxious to find one with a garden. We spent many days looking at empty houses, and seeing landlords and agents ; but, whenever the purpose for which the house was required was understood, difficulties were at once raised. At last, after one of these refusals, Octavia exclaimed, ' Where are the poor to live ? ' Upon which the agent replied coldly. ' I don't know ; but they must keep off the St. John's Wood Estate.' "

With regard to the school, which was to supply so many zealous and sympathetic helpers for Octavia's work, it will be noted that all of the four sisters had shown an early interest in education ; and while Octavia and Emily carried on the teaching at Nottingham Place, in which Florence afterwards shared, Miranda was managing a day school for the children of small tradesmen and artizans. The Nottingham Place school was originally intended only for a few children of intimate friends. But the growth of the numbers, and Octavia's additional work in the management of the houses, induced Miranda, in 1866, to give up her separate teaching, and to become the head of the Nottingham Place school.

As will be seen from one or more of the letters, Octavia was disposed to emphasise the difference between her stern ideas of discipline, and Miranda's gentle persuasiveness ; and, though this difference may have been exaggerated in Octavia's mind, something of the same feeling seems to be reflected in the accounts given by early pupils. On the other hand, that Octavia's readiness of resource and helpfulness in emergencies was specially impressed on the memories of the scholars, seems proved by an amusing story, which I remember hearing from

one of the pupils.