Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/33

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1851—APRIL, 1856

Through all the bright and free life at Finchley, Mrs. Hill had never forgotten that her daughters would have to earn their living. Miranda, indeed, at the age of thirteen, had begun to earn as a pupil teacher in the private school of a friend; and her sister Margaret mentions in a letter the characteristic fact that Miranda had wished to give some of her first earnings to her half-sisters, who were starting a school. When, then, these sisters realised that Mrs. Hill was considering Octavia’s future work, they, in their turn, offered to give her a free education, as a start in life. On the other hand, Octavia’s artistic talent had already attracted the attention of Mrs. Hill’s friend, Miss Margaret Gillies; and she offered to train Octavia in her studio. Both these offers attracted Octavia herself; but Mrs. Hill did not wish to part with her. Whilst she was still hesitating, her attention was drawn to the notice of an Exhibition, to be held at 4 Russell Place, Fitzroy Square, of special preparations of painted glass, consolidated so as to make it suitable for tables and other purposes. She found that Miss Wallace, the patentee, was promoting the Exhibition, partly to secure work for some Polish exiles, in whom she was interested, partly with the more general aim of finding regular suitable paying employment for ladies.

Mrs. Hill mentions that her first thought was that Miranda, whose overflowing fancy seemed to her dangerously unpractical, might be roused to more steady work by such an occupation as this. But it was natural that it soon occurred to her that Octavia’s admitted artistic talent might also be utilised in this