Pennyroyal Time by Eliza Calvert Hall
I Walked slowly down the " big road " that Sunday afternoon— slowly, as befitted the scene and the season; for who would hurry over the path that summer has prepared for the feet of earth's tired pilgrims? It was the middle of June, and Nature lay a vision of beauty in her vesture of flowers, leaves, and blossoming grasses. The sandy road was a pleasant walking-place; and if one tired of that, the short, thick grass on either side held a fairy path, fragrant with pennyroyal, that most virtuous of herbs. A tall hedge of Osage orange bordered each side of the road, shading the traveler from the heat of the sun, and furnishing a nesting-place for numberless small birds that twittered and chirped their joy in life and love and June. Occasionally a gap in the foliage revealed the placid beauty of corn, oats, and clover, stretching in broad expanse to the distant purple woods, with here and there a field of the cloth of gold—the fastripening wheat that waited the hand of the mower. Not only is it the traveler's manifest duty to walk slowly in the midst of such surroundings, but he will do well if now and then he sits down and dreams.
As I made the turn in the road and drew near Aunt Jane's house, I heard her voice, a high, sweet, quavering treble, like the notes of an ancient harpsichord. She was singing a hymn that suited the day and the hour:
"Welcome, sweet day of rest,
That saw the Lord arise,
Welcome to this rejoicing breast,
And these rejoicing eyes."
Mingling with the song I could hear the creak of her old splintbottomed chair as she rocked gently to and fro. Song and creak ceased at once when she caught sight of me, and before I had opened the gate she was hospitably placing another chair on the porch and smiling a welcome
"Come in, child, and set down," she exclaimed, moving the rocker so that I might have a good view of the bit of landscape that she knew I loved to look at.
"Pennyroy'll Now, child, how did you know I love to smell that?" She crushed the bunch in her withered hands, buried her face in it and sat for a moment with closed eyes. "Lord! Lord!" she exclaimed, with deep-drawn breath, " if I could jest tell how that makes me feel! I been smellin' pennyroy'l all my life, and now, when I get hold of a piece of it, sometimes it makes me feel like a little child, and then again it brings up the time when I was a gyirl, and if I was to keep on settin' here and rubbin' this pennyroy'l in my hands, I believe my whole life'd come back to me. Honeysuckles and pinks and roses ain't any sweeter to me. Me and old Uncle Harvey Dean was just alike about pennyroy'l. Many a time I've seen Uncle Harvey searchin' around in the fence corners in the early part o' May to see if the pennyroy'l was up yet, and in pennyroy'l time you never saw the old man that he didn't have a bunch of it somewheres about him. Aunt Maria Dean used to say there was dried pennyroy'l in every pocket of his coat, and he used to put a big bunch of it on his piller at night. Sundays it looked like Uncle Harvey couldn't enjoy the preachin' and the singin' unless he had a sprig of it in his hand, and I ricollect once seein' him git up durin' the first prayer and tiptoe out o' church and come back with a handful o' pennyroy'l that he'd gethered across the road, and he'd set and smell it and look as pleased as a child with a piece o' candy."
"Piercing sweet" the breath of the crushed wayside herb rose on the air. I had a distinct vision of Uncle Harvey Dean, and wondered if the fields of asphodel might not yield him some small harvest of his much-loved earthly plant, or if he might not be drawn earthward in " pennyroy'l time."File:Mentha pulegium02.jpg