My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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CHARLESTON, S.C., [originally: :] Thursday—Our drive from Asheville to Charleston yesterday was a constant progress into Spring, until we found the dogwood in full bloom in the woods and came upon our first live oaks, with the moss blowing in the wind. I've always felt that this moss had a sinister appearance, but except in one place, where we drove over a long causeway with swamps on either side of us, it seemed to me far more graceful and beautiful than sinister. The sun may have had something to do with it.

It was dark when we reached Charleston, but Miss Hickok had been here before, and we had no difficulty in finding the Battery and the Villa Margherita, where we are staying.

The first person I walked into was Dr. Alexander Forbes of Boston, who was here with his wife, and, as we sat at dinner in the courtyard with the fountain playing in the center, Michael Strange came over and spoke to me. I imagine this is a place where many people meet.

Miss Hickok and I went for my old friend Mrs. Huntington in my car this morning, and, as we drove slowly through the streets, I began to get the charm of the old place and the beauty of the old houses. Mrs. Huntington has a fascinating little house on King Street which we just looked into, for we have a promise of really going over it when we return there for tea this afternoon. Then she joined us, and we drove out to Middleton Gardens.

The azaleas are practically over, and they tell me they were not particularly beautiful this year, but that place needs no azaleas to make it beautiful. Mrs. Smith, whose husband has inherited it, made us enter over the original steps, which led into the old house, which was burned during the War Between the States. Certainly the people who lade this place out in the wilderness had imagination and breadth of vision rarely equalled. The gateway is exactly opposite the old house entrance, and you look straight through from the entrance to a bend in the River Ashley.

Sixty acres of garden, five terraces down to the water, with a butterfly shaped lake at the bottom before you reach the last walk along the river's edge. Tradition says it took ten years to make these terraces. The big old live oaks, said to be nearly a thousand years old, are one of the unfogettable beauties of the place. There is water everywhere, perhaps the most beautiful lake being the one where the cypress trees grow. The water is black, but crystal clear, so that every tree grows down as well as up.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith live in a wing of the old house which is still standing and very beautiful in itself, and they tell with evident relish the story of three men who came early one morning to visit the gardens and, seeing Mrs. Smith, remarked: "We are so sorry for you." She was a little mystified and answered them that she did not understand what they meant, but that she would answer them that she was not sorry for herself. Whereupon one of them said: "Tell her what we were saying," and the other said: "We are sorry for you because when you die and go to Heaven it can never mean to you what it will mean to us, because you have lived here."

TMsd 15 April 1937, AERP, FDRL