Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/23

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7
PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD

Reform.[1] It was in connection with this work that she gave a remarkable proof of that power of concentrating her mind on, and utilising effectively any important fact affecting the matter with which she was concerned, which afterwards stood her in good stead. Among the papers which she copied was an Order in Council, freeing tenement houses from a certain tax which had hitherto been exacted from them. Years after, when she was beginning the work of superintending the houses, she remembered this Order in Council. She made inquiries and found that it was still in force, but that it was entirely unknown to many owners of tenement houses. She was therefore able to free the tenants under her care from an undue burden.

Her visits to her grandfather also brought her into touch, unconsciously sometimes, with several distinguished men, one of whom remembered the meeting at a later period. Long after the time of which I am writing, on meeting the poet Browning at dinner, he informed her that he had seen her as a child at Highgate. She remarked that it was probably her sister Gertrude. "I remember her too," said Browning. "I was calling on R. H. Home, the author of Orion, who was on a visit there; and, when you and your sister had left the room, he said, 'Those are wonderful children; you can talk to them about anything.'"

The training which Mrs. Hill gave her children produced a certain independence and originality which was noticed at a later time of life, when a friend, commenting on a special little device, produced in an emergency, remarked, "I knew it must be done by a Hill; all you do is so original."

But this bright and free country life was soon to be exchanged for new experiences, the account of which needs another chapter.

Letter from Louisa Hill to her Stepmother.

Norwich, July 19th, 1840. 

My Darling Mama,

I am so delighted to know that you will soon be well and strong again, and able to lend the strength

  1. See "Dr. Southwood Smith, a Retrospect." By Mrs. C. L. Lewis. 1898.