Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/213

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OCTAVIA'S EDUCATIONAL POWER

One night, some of the girls suddenly awoke to the impression that some intruder had come into the room. Whether the newcomer was a ghost or a burglar, they were, of course, uncertain. (I forget whether a chest of drawers or a towel-horse was the real offender.) But after trying all sorts of remedies, one girl cried out triumphantly, " I'll tell Miss Octavia " ; and this form of defiance seemed to restore the courage of the most timid.

But one would rather mention as the distinctive part in the management of the Nottingham Place school, not so much the differences of quality between any of the sisters as the way in which they all worked into each other's hands. Another old pupil, writing since Octavia's death, says, " I feel what a privilege I had in being one amongst you all—the little I do was first put into me in Nottingham Place days. I so admired you all, and the separate work you did."

Nor was Octavia's power over the young limited to those who were officially recognised as her pupils. Dr. Greville MacDonald, who has since made his mark in such different ways, writes :— " Miss Octavia Hill had an extraordinary influence upon me in my boyhood, though she could have known nothing of it. She was the first person who taught me how to learn, and how to love learning. In my youth, when I began to know a little of her social power and her personal sacrifice, she had more to do, I think, than even my father, in giving me a steadfast faith ; which, thanks to her heart and life, became established amidst the ruins of conflicting questions, and has ever grown in steadfastness."

But, besides the assistance which the school supplied in the

development of Octavia's work among the poor, the home at Nottingham Place was connected in a more material way with the inhabitants of the Marylebone courts. The stables at the back of the house were turned into a room for the tenants' parties ; the rooms above were let to a blind man and his family in whom Octavia was much interested ; and, in order to prepare the place for habitation, Octavia and Miss Cons whitewashed and painted the rooms, and even glazed the windows. This practical knowledge of such work was a great