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v Alice of the Hermitage There was an almost sad expression upon the face of the girl we had seen beside the road and stopped to ask directions. "We are looking for All Saints Cemetery," I asked. "It is just down the road a short distance," the girl answered. "We are looking for a grave I expect all the young people know about," I said hoping she might volunteer to go with us and point it out. She stared back at me fixedly and I noticed a delicate sort of prettiness about her face with its small features and the halo of soft hair pulled back from her forehead. "But it will soon be dark out there in the graveyard," she replied. There was the heavy fragrance of gardenias in the air and I remember noticing for I dearly love them. "We have a flashlight and I'm sure we can find it if you know where Alice's grave is." "I'm sorry, but I really must be on my way," I thought I heard her say as she turned to go. We went on. The cemetery was on our left less than a half mile down the road and we parked beside the wall. The wrought iron gate was unlocked and we pushed it open and began to shine our flashlight on first one stone and then another until we realized that unless someone were there to show us the right marker we might look far into the night and never find it. My husband and I began to feel foolish. Here were two sane, middle-aged mid-westerners poking around out here in a South Carolina cemetery at night. We really had no idea where the grave we were looking for could be found. And, 27 how could we be sure there had ever been a girl named "Alice?" We decided to go back to the inn. Each year we had been coming to Litchfield Plantation in October enjoying the mild, golden autumn days and hearing a romantic story about a young girl who had died over a century ago. This trip we had become genuinely interested and the following afternoon we drove to Murrells Inlet especially to visit her home, the Hermitage, now the residence of Clarke Willcox and his wife. Beautiful, moss-draped cedars fringed the drive that led to the Hermitage and the house itself stood looking out over an expanse of green lawn dotted with huge live oaks. Although there are many antebellum homes more impressive than this one which was built in 1849 and never meant to be ostentatious , few have survived the ravages of time any better. Across the front porch were immense white columns over four feet around, each hewn from a massive tree. Beneath our feet the bricks of the steps felt rough and worn. They had been used as ballast to prevent sailing vessels from capsizing at sea and I couldn't help thinking that these were the same steps Alice's slippered feet had light-heartedly trod so many years before. The Hermitage was built by Dr. Allard Belin Flagg. He chose a point of land surrounded on three sides by tidal marshes. Its front door has glass sidelights and an overhead glass transom and halfway to the back door is a second and similar door. The floors are made of twenty-foot long, heart pine boards. Downstairs are six high ceilinged rooms, the parlor on each side of the hall decorated with dowel trim carved by apprenticed slaves. Between the two bedrooms upstairs is an unusual round window formed of curved spokes swirling out from a central eye. On the left of this window as we came upstairs was Alice's bedroom. It probably looks much as it did when she was alive, except that the personal possessions of a young girl are gone. There are a needlework sampler over the door with the 28 • South Carolina Ghosts They say that Alice still returns to her earthly home to search for her ring. name "Alice," a spool bed with a white spread, and dainty curtains at the windows. It has a quality of simplicity and innocence which might be expected of the room of a sixteenyear -old girl. Mr. and Mrs. Willcox shared Alice's story. Alice's last spring must have been a happy one. She was Alice of the Hermitage • 29 engaged to a young man whom she loved and it was the year...


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