Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/612

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580
CHAP.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

CONCLUSION

For more than a year before her death, Octavia had suffered from breathlessness, and at Easter of 1912, she became aware that her illness was serious. She at once began to plan the devolution of her work. She wrote to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and to five other owners of house property, to ask if they would appoint certain of her trained workers to take over the direct management of the houses. And she was much gratified that all these owners were ready to fall in with her suggestions; and that her lady workers were willing to undertake the responsibility of management and direction.

She decided to bequeath her own freehold property to her married nieces, the three daughters of Mrs. Charles Lewes, in the belief that they would care for the work, and continue the good management which would ensure the welfare of the tenants. Her nieces had been associated with her in many ways from their early girlhood, and their love and reverence for her made it likely that they would respond to this trust.

These arrangements entailed many letters and interviews, the looking over documents and accounts (she had no fewer than nine banking accounts for which she was personally responsible); and all this was a most arduous task in her weak state of health.

In May she went with Miss Yorke to Larksfield to try what rest and fresh air would do for her. She greatly enjoyed the beauty of the spring, and sat in an easy chair on the lawn for hours delighting in the birds and flowers, and specially in the scarlet poppies and golden broom seen against the blue distance.

However, she was fast losing strength, and when she returned to Marylebone Rd., on June 3rd, she never left the house again; but her energy never flagged. Up to within three days of her death she continued to see her friends and fellow workers, using to the utmost her failing strength, and endeavouring to arrange for the efficient carrying on of the many works in which she took such a keen interest. She was much cheered