Scent of Travel by Alice Morse Earle from Stage-coach and tavern days

The foot-farer, trudging along the outskirts of the village, is often shut out by close stone or board barriers from any sight of the flowering country gardens, the luxuriance of whose blossoming is promised by the heads of the tall hollyhocks that bend over and nod pleasantly to him; but the traveller on the coach could see into these old gardens, could feast his eyes on all the glorious tangle of larkspur and phlox, of tiger lilies and candytuft, of snowballs and lilacs, of marigolds and asters, each season outdoing the other in brilliant bloom.

And what odors were wafted out from those
gardens! What sweetness came from the lilacs and deutzias and syringas; from clove-pinks and spice bush and honeysuckles; how weird was the anise-like scent of the fraxinella or dittany; and how often all were stifled by the box, breathing, says Holmes, the fragrance of eternity! The great botanist Linnaeus grouped the odors of plants and flowers into classes, of which three were pleasing perfumes. To these he gave the titles the aromatic, the fragrant, the ambrosial — our stagecoach traveller had them all three.

From the fields came the scent of flowering buckwheat and mellifluous clover, and later of newmown hay, sometimes varied by the tonic breath of the salt hay on the sea marshes. The orchards wafted the perfumes from apple blossoms, and from the pure blooms of cherry and plum and pear; in the woods the beautiful wild cherries equalled their domestic sisters.

How sweet, how healthful, were the cool depths of the pine woods, how clean the hemlock, spruce,fir, pine, and juniper, and how sweet and balsamic their united perfume. And from the woods and roadsides such varied sweetness! The faint hint of perfume from the hidden arbutus in early spring, and the violet; the azalea truly ambrosial with its pure honey-smell; the intense cloying clethra with the strange odor of its bruised foliage; the meadowsweet; the strong perfume of the barberry; and freshest, purest, best of all, the bayberry throwing off balm from every leaf and berry. Even in the late autumn the scent of the dying brakes and ferns were as beloved by the country-lover as the fresh smell of the upturned earth in the spring after the farmer's plough, or the scent of burning brush.

Fruit odors came too to the happy traveller, the faint scent of strawberries, the wild strawberry the most spicy of all, and later of the dying strawberry leaves; even the strong and pungent onions are far from offensive in the open air; while the rich fruity smell of great heaps of ripe apples in the orchards is carried farther by the acid vapors from the cider mills, which tempt the driver to stop and let all taste new apple-juice.

In the days of the stage-coach we had on our summer journeys all these delights, the scents of the wood, the field, the garden; we had the genial sunlight, the fresh air of mountain, plain, and sea; and all the wild and beautiful sights which made the proper time for travel — the summer—truly joyful. Now we may enjoy a place when we get there, but we have a poor substitute for the coach for the actual travelling — a dirty railway car heated almost to tinder by the sun, with close foul air (and the better the car the fouler and closer the air) filled, if we try to have fresh air, with black smoke and cinders; clattering and noisy ever, with occasional louder-shrieking whistles and bells, and sometimes a horrible tunnel — it has but one redeeming quality, its speed, for thereby the journey is shortened.