Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/381

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ch. viii

which had fallen on her sister, a certain amount of decentralisation was effected, and greater power entrusted to the fellow workers.

The capacity and disposition possessed by each thus became more manifest; and, while some showed administrative power, but with little real sympathy, others, who had felt more of Octavia's personal influence, threw themselves, with hearty delight, into the life of the poor people. I have chosen letters from two of these sympathetic workers, as best illustrating Octavia's purpose. One was a lady whose name I do not venture to quote, because I have not been able to find out where she is now, or obtain her consent to the use of her name; but I am sure that she cannot be offended that her cheery, and rather unique influence should be remembered. The other is Miss Emily Harrison, to whom I have already alluded in an earlier chapter; whose little painting room near the playground was the scene of much friendly intercourse, and much more useful guidance than a more conventional teacher could give. At the same time Octavia's personal influence on the tenants was shown by such experiences as Mrs. Lewes relates. One tenant said to her, "We shall be all right now you've come. We do understand Miss Hill and Miss Cons." And again Mrs. Lewes writes, "At the D.'s I began with a locked door, a barking dog, and a notice to quit, and ended with a gentle interview, a promise to pay up largely, as soon as ever he is in work, and a withdrawn notice."

It will be seen that one victory, though of a temporary kind, marked this period. The public-house, which had been so bitter a bone of contention at an earlier stage of its existence, was turned into a coffee-house; and, under Miss Cons' energetic guidance, succeeded in holding its own for some time.

Still more cheering news came to Octavia during her absence. Her example had been producing effect in other towns; movements for housing reform had begun in Liverpool, Manchester, and Dublin; and a very efficient worker, who had come to Octavia for advice and training, was carrying on a satisfactory scheme in Leeds.

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