Fragrance in Travel Literature-A Family Flight through Mexico by Edward and Susan Hale

A family flight through Mexico (1886)
Hale, Edward Everett, 1822-1909; Hale, Susan, 1833-1910

From the eaily ' time of the Aztecs, the Mexicans have retained
their fondness for flowers, which play a prominent part in all their
festivals. This occasion is a sort of May-day, or celebration of
Spring. Fragrant heaps of flowers were everywhere, and the
Indian girls wove garlands or crowns of carnations, poppies, bluets,
for their heads ; they were most picturesque, with brown skin,
flashing black eyes and white teeth, and two long braids of black
hair hanging behind, with the universal rcbozo thrown over their
heads and around their shoulders. The broad avenue bordered by
trees was crowded with every kind of vehicle, and on the canal
were hundreds of canoes large and small, filled with wreath-crowned
girls, merry parties of foreigners, Spaniards strumming guitars. At
the booths, cooling drinks were sold, as in Spain ; of the Mexican
love of color even their beverages partake ; a bright-colored liquid
is always conspicuous on the counters; sometimes with bands of
different colors in the same tumblers, and jugs, shelves, awnings
are decorated with flowers, trailing green interspersed with sweet-
peas, poppies and carnations stuck about everywhere.

Meanwhile Miss Lejeune, with Bessie and Tom, were enjoying
the most delightful days of their Mexican trip ; days which were
to be counted among the most deUghtful of their lives. They
went by tram-car to Miraflores, the home of an English family,
whose kindly, hospitable hearts had been opened to them by the
key of a letter from some mutual friends very dear to both
parties. And here for two days they enjoyed real hospitality in
the most charming country seat in the most beautiful situation.
The long, low house was overhung with vines, and banked with
geraniums and other bright flowers. An ample garden, so long
established that it was shaded by large trees, yet full of sunshine,
was a paradise of roses, in luxuriant blossom. These roses
grew on standards sometimes five or six feet high, and were of
every imaginable kind, like the most precious of hothouse vari-
eties. There were white roses, yellow roses, flame-colored ones;
deep crimson, warm rose-color, and the palest pink ; roses as large
as your open hand, and crowded with petals, single dogroses, and
old-fashioned "cinnamon roses." They grew in such profusion, that
their faded petals fell in heaps unheeded, and swept away by the
tidy gardener, while the neglected blossoms he cut off would have
made the fortune of a florist. Everybody could have all he could
possibly desire. The difficulty was to choose. Each new blossom
seemed more lovely than the rest, and when a handful was o-ath-
ered, every separate one seemed the most worthy of praise.
Bessie and Miss Lejeune were wild about the roses. They wanted
to be painting them all the time. But the roses were not all.
Heliotrope was trained up the side of the house, and looked in
at the window of their large comfortable room, — on the o-round-
floor, as were all the rooms, full of fragrant blossoms. The hio-h
wall running round the garden, and shutting in this fairy enclos-
ure was massed with morning-glories of intense blue. Bignonia
hung from every angle, and pansies, sweet-peas, with countless
other flowers, bloomed in the beds bordered by the rose-trees.
It was an enchanted spot. Water trickled from fountains amono-
the walks, and kept the place always fresh. There were seats
under the trees, where one might look out upon the sunny wealth
of blossoms, and try to decide which rose to gather next.
When they had begun to be the least bit accustomed to the
lovely spot, and could bear to restrain themselves from exclaim-
ing, "How enchanting!" more than once in five minutes, some
one said, "Go and bring the key to the Alfalfa gate," and they
were led to a thick door in the high wall. All around them
was shade, seclusion, and the perfume uf roses. The gate was
thrown open, and a broad, wide-reaching view spread before and
below them, of sunny fields glowing green with rich alfalfa (clover)
stretching far, far away, and the horizon bounded by the grand
forms of the two volcanoes, Istaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, glow-
ing in the light of the sunset which was fast approaching.
It was a wonderful view; beyond exclamations of approval, or
words to describe it. Steps led down to a broad gravel walk,
lined with flower-beds, leading around the outer enclosure of these
grounds, with glimpses of the distance between trees ; it was all
very pretty, but our travellers returned with rapture to the view
from the Alfalfa gate.
To describe this visit in detail would be to trespass upon the
hospitality which made it perfect. The guests who enjoyed it will
look back upon it rather as a dream than as a possible reality, —
as brief, as bright, as perfect dreams ought to be.

Bessie did not know what this meant, but she was ready, when
the train stopped, to join Mr. Pastor on the platform, and Tom
followed. A crowd of dark men in white garments beset the train,
with their hands full of little baskets of delicious strawberries, —
large, long, pointed, pale-tinted strawberries, heaped on each other,
fresh from their beds, with the hulls on.
"Buy all you want," said their wise companion, "for this is the
only place for them."
Bessie and Tom bought wildly of several delighted merchants,
and carried their fragrant spoil into the car. The strawberries
lasted through that day, and the next ; they were so ripe and
fresh that no sugar was needed, and they could be eaten like
the plums of Jack Horner, with iinger and thumb.
At Irapuato, these delicious strawberries are sold every day in
the year to passengers on the trains.

It is about two miles to Chapultepec. Well outside the streets,
the country stretched away in broad cultivated plains beyond which
are glimpses of the volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Istaccihuatl, so
often, however, veiled at that season that Miss Lejeune up to this
very day pretended to believe there were no such mountains. The
long line of the old aqueduct bringing water to the city appeared ;
the arches are not so graceful, nor is the color of the stone so
warm as those of Morelia. It was a lovely drive, the dew yet
sparkling on the grass, the air sweet and perfumed. They met
one or two acquaintances on horseback returning from an early
morning excursion through the avenues around the palace ; a
favorite habit with lovers of exercise and nature in Mexico.

After the train left the dry sandy neighborhood of Vera Cruz
and began to ascend, the view from the windows was a constant
succession of rich vines hanging in festoons upon the trees and
bright with large flowers, most of which were new to the travellers.
They longed to stop the train and gather them. Some of the trees
seemed to have green leaves, but were solid masses of pink and
white blossoms. Bright red leaves (probably poinsettia) gleamed
from dark foliage, and whiffs of rich perfume reached the platform
of the car as they flew by.

After that, the hot walk back in the sun, — then delightful well-
earned repose, much dawdling on balconies. The afternoons had
each its plan for an excursion. It was .growing dark always as
they went to dinner ; before the cathedral tlamed torches of the
street-vendors of fruit and candy. The fading sunset was before
them, and as they came back they often stopped to listen to the
band playing in the Zocolo, while the strong scent of datura was
wafted over the garden beds.