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The Piper by Josephine Preston Peabody

Part 2 out of 3

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That hid there, like a famished castaway,
For one more word, without a hope,--a hope;
Helpless to save her.

PIPER
And she told thee then,
She goes to be a nun?

MICHAEL
Youth to the grave!
And I--vile nothing--cannot go to save her,
Only to look my last--

PIPER
Who knows?

MICHAEL
[bitterly]
Ah, thou!--

PIPER
Poor Nightingale!
[Fingers Us pipe, noiselessly.]

MICHAEL
[rapt with grief]
Oh, but the scorn of her!

PIPER
She smiled on thee.

MICHAEL
Until she heard the truth:--
A juggler,--truly,--and no wandering knight!
Oh, and she wept.
[Wildly]
Let us all hang together.

PIPER
Thanks. Kindly spoken.--Not this afternoon!

MICHAEL
Thou knowest they are given up for dead?

PIPER
Truly.

MICHAEL
Bewitched?

PIPER
So are they.

MICHAEL
Sold to the Devil?

PIPER
[Facing softly up and down, with the restless cunning
of a squirrel at watch]
Pfui! But who else? Of course. This same old Devil!
This kind old Devil takes on him all we do!
Who else is such a refuge in this world?
Who could have burned the abbey in this place,
Where holy men did live? Why, 't was the Devil!
And who did guard us one secluded spot
By burying a wizard at this cross-ways?--
So none dare search the haunted, evil place!
The Devil for a landlord!--So say I!
And all we poor, we strollers, for his tenants;
We gypsies and we pipers in the world,
And a few hermits and sword-swallowers,
And all the cast-aways that Holy Church
Must put in cages--cages--to the end!
[To Michael, who is overcome]
Take heart! I swear,--by all the stars that chime!
I'll not have things in Cages!

MICHAEL
Barbara!
So young,--so young and beautiful!

PIPER
And fit
To marry with friend Michael!

MICHAEL
Do not mock.

PIPER
I mock not.--(Baa--Baa--Barbara!)

MICHAEL
Ay, she laughed,
On that first day. But still she gazed.--I saw
Her, all the while! I swallowed--

PIPER
Prodigies!
A thousand swallows, and no summer yet!
But now,--'t is late to ask,--why did you not
Swallow her father?--That had saved us all.

MICHAEL
They will be coming soon. They will cut off
All her bright hair,--and wall her in forever.

PIPER
Never. They shall not.

MICHAEL
[dully]
Will you give them back,
_Now_?

PIPER
I will never give them back. Be sure.

MICHAEL
And she is made an offering for the town!
I heard it of the gossips.--They have sworn
Jacobus shall not keep his one ewe-lamb
While all the rest go childless.

PIPER
And I swear
That he shall give her up,--to none but thee!

MICHAEL
You cannot do it!

PIPER
Have I lived like Cain,
But to make good one hour of Life and Sun?
And have I got this Hamelin in my hands,
To make it pay its thousand cruelties
With such a fool's one-more? . . .
--You know right well,
'T was not the thousand guilders that I wanted
For thee, or me, or any!--Ten would serve.
But there it ached; _there_, in the money-bag
That serves the town of Hamelin for an heart!
That stab was mortal! And I thrust it deep.
Life, life, I wanted; safety,--sun and wind!--
And but to show them how that daily fear
They call their faith, is made of blasphemies
That would put out the Sun and Moon and Stars,
Early, for some last Judgment!
[He laughs, up to the tree-tops]
And the Lord,
Where will He get His harpers and singing-men
And them that laugh for joy?--From Hamelin guilds?--
Will you imagine Kurt the Councillor
Trying to sing?
[He looks at his pipe again; then listens intently.

MICHAEL
His lean throat freeze!--But she--
Barbara! Barbara!--

PIPER
Patience. She will come,
Dressed like a bride.

MICHAEL
Ah, do not mock me so.

PIPER
I mock not.

MICHAEL
She will never look at me.

PIPER
Rather than be a nun, I swear she will
Look at thee twice,--and with a long, long look.
[Chant approaches in the distance, coming from Hamelin.

VOICES
Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla,
Teste David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando judex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!

PIPER
Bah, how they whine! Why do they drag it so?

MICHAEL
[overcome]
Oh, can it be the last of all? O Saints!--
O blessed Francis, Ursula, Catherine!
Hubert--and Crispin--Pantaleone--Paul!
George o' the Dragon!--Michael the Archangel!

PIPER
Michael Sword-eater, canst not swallow a chant?
The well, the well!--Take care.

VOICES
[nearer]
Inter oves locum praesta,
Et ab hoedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis:
Voca me cum benedictis.

[MICHAEL climbs down the ancient well, reaching his head up warily,
to see.

The PIPER waves to him debonairly, points to the tree-tops, left,
and stands a moment showing in his face his disapproval of the
music. He fingers his pipe. As the hymn draws near, he scrambles
among the bushes, left, and disappears.

Enter slowly, chanting, the company of burghers from Hamelin,--men
together first, headed by priests; then the women.--ANSELM and all
the townsfolk appear (saving VERONIKA, the wife of KURT); JACOBUS
is meek; KURT very stern.--As they appear, the piping of the Dance-spell
begins softly, high in air. The hymn wavers; when the first burghers
reach the centre of the stage, it breaks down.

They look up, bewildered: then, with every sign of consternation,
struggle, and vacant fear, they begin to dance, willy-nilly. Their
faces work; they struggle to walk on; but it is useless. The music
whirls them irresistibly into a rhythmic pace of 3/4 time, and
jogs their words, when they try to speak, into the same dance-measure.
One by one,--two and two they go,--round and round like corks at first,
with every sign of struggle and protest, then off, on the long road
to Rudersheim. Fat priests waltz together.--KURT the fierce and
JACOBUS the sleek hug each other in frantic endeavor to be released.
Their words jolt insanely.

KURT, JACOBUS

( No, no.--No, no--No, no.--No, no!
( Yes, yes.--I, yes.--Yes, yes.--Yes, yes!

SOME
( _La--crymos--a--Dies--ill--_
( Bewitched--the Devil!--bewitched--bewitched!
( I will not--will not--will--I will!
( No, no--but where!--Help--help!--To arms!

OTHERS
( _Suppli--canti--suppli--Oh_!
( To Hamelln--back--to Hamelln--stay!
( No, no!--No, no,--Away,--away!
[They dance out, convulsively, towards Rudersheim.
KURT and JACOBUS, still whirling, cry,--

JACOBUS, KURT
( Yes, yes!--yes, yes!--Let go--let go--
( No, no!--I will not--No! . . . No

[Exeunt left, dancing.

OTHERS
( Keep time, keep time! Have mercy!--Time!
( Oh, let me--go!--Let go--let go!
( Yes, yes--Yes, yes--No, no--no--no!

[BARBARA appears, pale and beautiful;--richly dressed in white,
with flowing locks. She is wan and exhausted.--The dance-mania,
as it seizes her, makes her circle slowly and dazedly with a
certain pitiful silliness. The nuns and monks accompanying her
point in horror. But they, too, dance off with each other,
willy-nilly,--like leaves in a tempest. BARBARA is left alone,
still circling slowly. The piping sounds softer. She staggers
against a tree, and keeps on waving her hands and turning her head,
vaguely, in time.

MICHAEL looks forth from the well; then climbs out and approaches her.

MICHAEL

She is so beautiful,--how dare, I tell her?
My heart, how beautiful! The blessed saint! . . .
Fear nothing, fairest Lady.--You are saved.
[She looks at him unseeingly, and continues to dance.--He holds
out his arms to stop her.
Pray you, the danger's gone. Pray you, take breath!
Poor, shining dove,--I would not hold thee here,
Against thy wish.--'Tis Michael, the sword-eater.
[The piping ceases.]

BARBARA
[murmuring]
Yes, yes--I must--I must--I must. . .
[Reenter the PIPER from the thickets.]

MICHAEL
Look, I will guard you like a princess, here;
Yes, like Our Lady's rose-vine.

BARBARA
[gasping]
Ah, my heart!
[The PIPER comes towards her. She sees him and holds out
her arms, crying:--
Oh, he has saved me!--I am thine--thine--thine!
[Falls into his arms half-fainting. The PIPER
stands amazed, alarmed, chagrined.

PIPER
Mine?

MICHAEL
[furiously]
_Thine_?--So was it? All a trap? Cock's blood!
Thine, thine!--And thou hast piped her wits away.
Thine!

PIPER
[holding her off]
No, not mine!

BARBARA
[to him]
Why did you steal me hence?
When did you love me?--Was it on first sight?

PIPER
[confounded]
I, love thee?

MICHAEL
--Knave! thief! liar!

PIPER
--Give me breath.
[Holds off BARBARA gently.]

BARBARA
Where are you taking me?

PIPER
I? Taking thee?

MICHAEL
[to her]
He shall not steal thee!

BARBARA
[in a daze]
I must follow him.

PIPER
No! 'T is too much. You shall not follow me!
I'll not be followed.--Damsel, sit you down.
Here is too much! I love you not.

BARBARA
[wonderingly]
You do not?
Why did you pipe to me?

MICHAEL
--And steal her wits,
Stealer of all the children!

BARBARA
[vaguely]
Are they safe?

PIPER
[to MICHAEL]
Oh, your good faith!--
[To her]
They're safe.

BARBARA
I knew--I knew it!

PIPER
And so art thou. But never shall they go
To Hamelin more; and never shale thou go
To be a nun.

BARBARA
To be a nun,--no, no! Ah me, I'm spent.
Sir, take me with you.

MICHAEL
[still enraged to the PIPES]
Rid her of the spell!
Is this thy pledge?

PIPER
[distracted]
I do but rub my wits--
To think--to think.
[To himself]
What shall I do with her,
Now that she's here!--Suppose her bound to stay!
[To them]
Hearken.--You, Michael, on to Rudersheim--

MICHAEL
And leave her here? No, no!

PIPER
Then take the girl.

BARBARA
To Rudersheim? No, never, never!

PIPER
Well . . .
Hearken.--There is the hermit, over the hill.
[Apart, wildly]
But how--suppose she will not marry him?
I will not take her where the children are.
And yet--
[An idea strikes him. To her]
Hark, now;--hark, now, and tell me truly;
Can you spin cloth?

BARBARA
[amazed]
I? Spin?

PIPER
[eagerly]
Can you make shoes?

BARBARA
I--_I_ make shoes!--Fellow!

PIPER
So.

MICHAEL
Art thou mad!

PIPER
With me you may not go! But you'll be safe.
Hearken:--you, Michael, go to Rudersheim;
And tell the nuns--

BARBARA
No, no! I dare not have it!
Oh, they would send and take me! No, no, no!

PIPER
Would you go back to Hamelin?

BARBARA
No--no--no!
Ah, I am spent.
[Droops towards the PIPER; falters and sinks down on the bank
beside the well, in a swoon.--The PIPER is abashed and rueful
for the moment.

MICHAEL
All this, your work!

PIPER
[looking at her closely]
Not mine.
This is no charm. It is all youth and grief,
And weariness. And she shall follow you.--
Tell the good nuns you found her sore bewitched,
Here in this haunt of 'devils';--clean distraught.
No Church could so receive a dancing nun!
Tell them thou art an honest, piteous man
Desires to marry her.

MICHAEL
Marry the Moon!

PIPER
No, no, the Moon for me!--She shall be yours;
And here she sleeps, until her wits be sound.
[He spreads his cloak over her, gently]
The sun's still high. 'T is barely afternoon.--
[Looks at the sunshine. A thought strikes him with sudden dismay]
'T is--no, the time is going!--On my life,
I had forgot Them!--And They will not stay
After the Rainbow fades.

MICHAEL
[confounded]
Art thou moon-mad?

PIPER
[madly]
No. Stir not! Keep her safe! I come anon.
But first I go.--They'll not mind Cheat-the-Devil!
They'll creep, to find out where the Rainbow went.
I know them! So would I!--They'll all leak out!

MICHAEL
Stay--stay!

PIPER
No; guard her, you!--Anon, anon!

MICHAEL
But you will pipe her up and after you!

PIPER
[flinging him the pipe from his belt]
Do you fear this? Then keep it till I come.
You bide!--The Other cannot.

MICHAEL
Who?

PIPER
The Rainbow,
The Rainbow!--

[He runs madly up the hillside, and away.]

Curtain

ACT III

SCENE: The same, later. BARBARA lies motionless, still
sleeping.--MICHAEL, sitting on the bank opposite, fingers
the pipe with awe and wistfulness. He blows softly upon it;
then looks at the girl hopefully. She does not stir.

Enter the PIPER, from the hills at back. He carries a pair of
water-jars slung over his shoulders, and seems to be in high feather.

PIPER
[singing]
Out of your cage,
Come out of your cage
And take your soul on a pilgrimage!
Pease in your shoes, an if you must!--
But out and away, before you're dust:
Scribe and Stay-at-home,
Saint and Sage,
Out of your cage,
Out of your cage!--
[He feigns to be terror-struck at sight of the pipe
in Michael's hands]
Ho, help! Good Michael, Michael, loose the charm!
Michael, have mercy! I'm bewitched!--

MICHAEL
[giving him the pipe]
Cock's faith!
Still mocking!--Well ye know, it will not play
Such games for me.

PIPER
Be soothed,--'twas as I guessed,
[Unslings the jars]
All of them hungry,--and the Rainbow going;--

And Cheat-the-Devil pining in a corner.
'Twas well I went: they were for leaking out,
And then,--lopped ears for two!

MICHAEL
Oh, that will come.

PIPER
Never believe it! We have saved her, look you;
We save them all! No prison walls again,
For anything so young, in Hamelin there.
Wake her, and see.

MICHAEL
Ay, wake her. But for me,
Her sleep is gentler.

PIPER
[comfortingly]
Nay, but wait.--Good faith,
Wait. We have broke the bars of iron now;
Still there are golden!--'Tis her very self
Is caged within herself. Once coax her out,
Once set her own heart free!--

MICHAEL
Wake her, and see!
[The PIPER crosses, humming.]

PIPER
Mind your eyes, tune your tongue!
Let it never be said, but sung, but sung,
'Out of your cage, out of your cage!'
Maiden, maiden,--
[He wakes her gently. BARBARA sits up, plainly bewildered;
then she sees the PIPER, and says happily:--

BARBARA
Oh!--you have come to save me. They are gone.
All this, for love of me!

PIPER
[ruefully]
No, no--I--No!

BARBARA
You--you are robbers?
[Her hands go to the pearls about her neck.]

PIPER
[indignant]
No! Blood on the Moon!
This is the maddest world I ever blinked at.--
Fear nothing, maiden. I will tell you all.
Come, sit you down; and Michael shall keep watch
From yonder hillock, lest that any pass.
Fear nothing. None will pass: they are too sure
The Devil hath this cross-ways!--Sit you down.

[MICHAEL watches, with jealous wistfulness, from the road (left
rear).--BARBARA half fearfully sits up, on the bank by the well.

BARBARA
Not love? And yet . . . you do not want my pearls?
Then why--

PIPER
For why should all be love or money?
Money! Oho,--that mouldy thousand guilders
You think of!--But it was your Hamelin friends
That loved the guilders, and not I.

BARBARA
Then why--
Why did you steal me hence?

PIPER
Why did yourself
Long to be stolen?

BARBARA
[shuddering]
Ah! to be shut up. . .
Forever,--young--alive!

PIPER
Alive and singing;
Young,--young;--and four thick walls and no more sun,
No music, and no wandering, and no life!
Think you, I would not steal ail things alive
Out of such doom?--How can I breathe and laugh
While there are things in cages?--You are free;
And you shall never more go back again.

BARBARA
And you, who are you then?

PIPER
How do _I_ know?
Moths in the Moon!--Ask me a thing in reason.

BARBARA
And 't was not . . . that you loved me.

PIPER
Loved thee? No!--
Save but along with squirrels, and bright fish,
And bubbling water.

BARBARA
Then where shall I go?

PIPER
Oh, little bird,--is that your only song?
Go? Everywhere! Here be no walls, no hedges,
No tolls, no taxes,--rats nor aldermen!
Go, say you? Round the world, and round again!
[Apart]
--Ah, she was Hamelin-born.
[He watches her]
But there's a man,--
Sky-true, sword-strong, and brave to look upon;
One that would thrust his hand in dragon's mouth
For your bright sake; one that would face the Devil,
Would swallow fire--

BARBARA
You would?

PIPER
[desperately]
_I_?--No, not I!
Michael,--yon goodman Michael.

BARBARA
[bitterly]
A stroller!---oh, nought but a wandering man.

PIPER,
Well, would you have a man take root, I ask?

BARBARA
That swallows swords. . . .

PIPER
Is he a comely man?

BARBARA
That swallows swords!--

PIPER
What's manlier to swallow?
Did he but swallow pancakes, were that praise?
Pancakes and sausage, like your Hamelin yokels?
He swallows fire and swords, I say, and more.
And yet this man hath for a whole noon-hour
Guarded you while you slept;--still as a dove,
Distant and kind as shadow; giant-strong
For his enchanted princess,--even you.

BARBARA
So you bewitched me, then.

PIPER
[wildly]
How do I know?

BARBARA
Where are the children?

PIPER
I'll not tell you that.
You are too much of Hamelin.

BARBARA
You bewitched them!

PIPER
Yes, so it seems. But how?--Upon my life,
'T is more than I know,--yes, a little more.
[Rapidly: half in earnest and half in whimsy]
Sometimes it works, and sometimes no. There are
Some things upon my soul, I cannot do.
[Watching her.]

BARBARA
[expectantly]
Not even with thy pipe?

PIPER
Not even so.
Some are too hard.--Yet, yet, I love to try:
And most, to try with all the hidden charms
I have, that I have never counted through.

BARBARA
[fascinated]
Where are they?

PIPER
[touching his heart]
Here.

BARBARA
What are they?

PIPER
How do I know?
If I knew all, why should I care to live?
No, no! The game is What-Will-Happen-Next?

BARBARA
And what will happen?

PIPER
[tantalizingly]
Ah! how do I know?
It keeps me searching. 'T is so glad and sad
And strange to find out, What-Will-Happen-Next!
And mark you this: the strangest miracle. . .

BARBARA
Yes!--

PIPER
Stranger than the Devil or thy Judgment;
Stranger than piping,--even when _I_ pipe!
Stranger than charming mice--or even men--

BARBARA
[with tense expectancy]
What is it? What?

PIPER
[watching her]
Why,--what may come to pass
Here in the heart. There is one very charm--

BARBARA
Oh!

PIPER
Are you brave?

BARBARA
[awe-struck]
Oh!

PIPER
[slowly]
Will you drink the philter?

BARBARA
'Tis. . . some enchantment?

PIPER
[mysteriously]
'T is a love philter.

BARBARA
Oh, tell me first--

PIPER
Why, sooth, the only charm
In it, is Love. It is clear well-water.

BARBARA
[disappointed]
Only well-water?

PIPER
Love is only Love.
It must be philters, then?
[He comes down smiling and beckons to MICHAEL, who draws near, bewildered.
This lady thirsts
For magic!
[He ties a long green scarf that he has over his shoulder, to a
water-jar, and lowers it down the old well; while BARBARA watches,
awe-struck. He continues to sing softly.
_Mind your eyes_,
_Tune your tongue_;
_Let it never he said_,
_But sung,--but sung_!--

MICHAEL
[to BARBARA, timidly]
I am glad at least, fair lady,
To think how my poor show did give you pleasure
That day--that day when--

BARBARA
Ah! that day of doom!

MICHAEL
What is your will?

BARBARA
[passionately]
I know not; and I care not!
[Apart]
Oh, it is true.--And he a sword-eater!
[The PIPER hauls up the jar, full of water.]

PIPER
Michael, your cup.

[MICHAEL gives him a drinking-horn from his belt. The PIPER fills it
with water, solemnly, and turns to BARBARA, who is at first defiant,
then fascinated.
Maiden, your ears. So:--hearken.
Before you drink of this, is it your will
Forever to be gone from Hamelin?

BARBARA
I must,--I must.

PIPER
Your mother?

BARBARA
[piteously]
I have no mother;
Nor any father, more. He gave me up.

PIPER
That did he!--For a round one thousand guilders!
Weep not, I say. First, loose you, heart and shoes,
From Hamelin. Put off now, the dust, the mould,
The cobble-stones, the little prying windows;
The streets that dream o' _What the Neighbors Say_.
Think you were never born there. Think some Breath
Wakened you early--early on one morning,
Deep in a Garden (but you knew not whose),
Where voices of wild waters bubbling ran,
Shaking down music from glad mountain-tops,--
Where the still peaks were burning in the dawn,
Like fiery snow,--down into greenest valleys,
That do off their blue mist only to show
Some deeper blue, some haunt of violets.
No voice you heard, nothing you felt or saw,
Save in your heart, the tumult of young birds,
A nestful of wet wings and morning-cries,
Throbbing for flight! . . .
Then,--for your Soul, new wakened, felt athirst,
You turned to where that call of water led,
Laughing for truth,--all truth and star-like laughter!
Beautiful water, that will never stay,
But runs and laughs and sparkles in the heart,
And sends live laughter trickling everywhere,
And knows the thousand longings of the Earth!
And as you drank it then, so now, drink here;

[He reaches her the horn. She has listened, motionless, like a thing
bewitched, her eyes fixed and wide, as if she were sleep-walking. She
drinks. MICHAEL stands near, also motionless. When she speaks, it
is in a younger voice, shy, sweet and full of wonder.

And tell me,--tell me, you,--what happened then?
What do you see?

BARBARA
Ah!--
[She looks before her with wide, new eyes.]

PIPER
Do you see--a--

BARBARA
. . .Michael!

PIPER
So!--And a good one. And you call him?

BARBARA
. . . Michael.

PIPER
So.--'Tis a world of wonders, by my faith!--
What is the fairest thing you see but--

BARBARA
Michael.

PIPER
And is he comely as a man should be?
And strong?--And wears good promise in his eyes,
And keeps it with his heart and with his hands?
[She nods like a child]
And would you fear to go with him?--

BARBARA
No, no!

PIPER
Then reach to him that little hand of yours.

[MICHAEL, wonder-struck, runs to the jar, pours water upon his hand,
rubs it off with haste, and falls on his knees before her, taking her
hand fearfully.

BARBARA
[timidly]
And can he talk?--

PIPER
Yes, yes.--The maid's bewildered.
Fear nothing. Thou'rt so dumb, man!--Yes, yes, yes.
Only he kneels; he cannot yet believe.
Speak roundly to him.--Will you go with him?
He will be gentler to you than a father:
He would be brothers five, and dearest friend,
And sweetheart,--ay, and knight and serving-man!

BARBARA
Yes, yes, I know he will. And can he talk, too?

PIPER
Lady, you have bewitched him.

MICHAEL
Oh! dear Lady,
With you--with you, I dare not ope my mouth
Saving to sing, or pray!

PIPER
Let it be singing!
Lad, 't is a wildered maiden, with no home
Save only thee; and she is more a child
Than yesterday.

MICHAEL
Oh, lordly, wondrous world!--
How is it, Sweet, you smile upon me now?

BARBARA
Sure I have ever smiled on thee. How not?
Art thou not Michael?--_And thou lovest me_.
_And I love thee_!--If I unloved thee ever,
It was some spell.--
[Rapturously]
But this,--ah, _This is I_!
[MICHAEL, on his knees, winds his arms about her.

PIPER
[softly]
It is all true,--all true. Lad, do not doubt;
The golden cage is broken.

MICHAEL
Oh! more strange
Than morning dreams! I am like one new-born;
I am a speechless babe.--And this is she,
My Moon I cried for,--here,--

PIPER
It is thy bride.

MICHAEL
Thou wilt not fear to come with me?

BARBARA
With thee?
With thee! Ah, look! What have I more than thee?
And thou art mine, tall fellow! How comes it now
Right happily that I am pranked so fair!
[She touches her fineries, her long pearl-strings, joyously]
And all this came so near to burying;
This!

MICHAEL
And this dearer gold.
[Kissing her hair.]

BARBARA
All, all for thee!--
[She leans over in a playful rapture and
binds her hair about him]
Look,--I will be thy garden that we lost,
Yea, everywhere,--in every wilderness.
There shall none fright us with a flaming sword!
But I will be thy garden!

[There is the sound of a herd-bell approaching.

PIPER
See,--how the sunlight soon shall pour red wine
To make your marriage-feast!--And do you hear
That faery bell?--No fear!--'T is some white creature,
Seeking her whiter lamb.--Go; find our hermit;
And he shall bless you,--as a hermit can!
And be your pledge for shelter. There's the path.--
[To MICHAEL]
Follow each other, close!

MICHAEL
Beyond the Sun!

PIPER
A golden afternoon,--and all is well!

[He gives MICHAEL his cloak to wrap round BARBARA. They go, hand
in hand, up into the hills, The herd-bell sounds softly.--The PIPER
cocks his head like a squirrel, and listens with delight. He watches
the two till they disappear; then comes down joyously.

PIPER
If you can only catch them while they're young!

[The herd-bell sounds nearer. He lets down a water-jar into the well
again. The nearness of the hell startles him. He becomes watchful
as a wild creature. It sounds nearer and nearer. A woman's voice
calls like the wind: 'Jan! Jan!'--
The PIPER, tense and cautious, moves softly down into the shrubbery
by the well.

VERONIKA'S VOICE
Jan!

PIPER
Hist! Who dared?

VERONIKA'S VOICE
. . . Jan!--

PIPER
Who dared, I say?
A woman.--'T is a woman!

[Enter VERONIKA, on the road from Hamelin. She is very pale and
worn, and drags herself along, clutching in her hand a herd-bell.
She looks about her, holds up the bell and shakes it once softly,
covering it with her fingers again; then she sits wearily down
at the foot of the ruined shrine and covers her face, with a sharp
breath.

VERONIKA
. . . Ah,--ah,--ah!
[The PIPER watches with breathless wonder and fascination. It seems
to horrify him.

PIPER
[under breath]
That woman!

[VERONIKA lifts her head suddenly and sees the motion of the bushes.

VERONIKA
He is coming!--He is here!
[She darts towards the well.--The PIPER springs up.
Oh, God of Mercy! . . . It is only you!
Where is he?--Where?--Where are you hiding him?

PIPER
[confusedly]
Woman . . . what do you, wandering, with that bell?
That herd-bell?

VERONIKA
Oh! are you man or cloud? . . . Where is my Jan?
Jan,--Jan,--the little lame one! He is mine.
He lives, I know he lives. I know--yes, yes,
You've hidden him. I will be patient.--Yes.

PIPER
Surely he lives!

VERONIKA
--_Lives_! will you swear it? Ah,--
I will believe! But he . . . is not so strong
As all the others.

PIPER
[apart]
Aie, how horrible!
[To her]
Sit you down here. You cannot go away
While you are yet so pale. Why are you thus?
[She looks at him distractedly.]

VERONIKA
You, who have torn the hearts out of our bodies
And left the city like a place of graves,--
Why am I spent?--Ah, ah!--But he's alive!
Yes, yes, he's living.

PIPER
Oh, how horrible!
Why should he not be living?--What am I?

VERONIKA
I do not know.

PIPER
Do you take me for the Devil?

VERONIKA
I do not know.

PIPER
Yet you were not afraid?

VERONIKA
What is there now to fear?

PIPER
[watching her]
Where are the townsfolk?

VERONIKA
They are all gone to Rudersheim. . .

PIPER
[still watchful]
How so?

VERONIKA
Where, for a penance, Barbara, Jacob's daughter,
Will take the veil. His one, for all of ours!
It will be over now.

PIPER
Have none returned?

VERONIKA
I know not; I am searching, since the dawn.

PIPER
To-day?

VERONIKA
And every day.
PIPER
That herd-bell, there
Why do you bring it?

VERONIKA
[sobbing]
Oh, he loves them so.
I knew, if he but heard it, he would follow--

PIPER
No more. I know!

VERONIKA
An if he could!

PIPER
[like a wounded animal]
You hurt me
Somewhere,--you hurt me!

VERONIKA
You!--A man of air?

PIPER
What, am I that?

VERONIKA
What are you?--Give them back!
Give them to me, I say. You have them hidden.
Are they all living?

PIPER
[struggling with pity]
Yes, yes.

VERONIKA
Give them back!

PIPER
No.

VERONIKA
But they live, they live?

PIPER
--Wilt thou believe me?

VERONIKA
And are they safe?

PIPER
Yes.

VERONIKA
And you hide them?

PIPER
Yes.

VERONIKA
And are they . . . warm?

PIPER
--Yes.

VERONIKA
Are they happy?--Oh,
That cannot be!--But do they laugh, sometimes?

PIPER
Yes.

VERONIKA
--Then you'll give them back again!

PIPER
No, never.

VERONIKA
[Half to herself, distraught between suspense and hope]
I must be patient.

PIPER
Woman, they all are mine.
I hold them in my hands; they bide with me.
What's breath and blood,--what are the hearts of children,
To Hamelin,--while it heaps its money-bags?

VERONIKA
You cared not for the money.

PIPER
No?--You seem
A foreign woman,--come from very far,
That you should know.

VERONIKA
I know. I was not born
There. But you wrong them. There were yet a few
Who would have dealt with you more honestly
Than this Jacobus, or--

PIPER
Or Kurt the Syndic!
Believe It not. Those two be tongue and brain
For the whole town! I know them. And that town
Stands as the will of other towns, a score,
That make us wandering poor the things we are!
It stands for all, unto the end of time,
That turns this bright world black and the Sun cold,
With hate, and hoarding;--all-triumphant Greed
That spreads above the roots of all despair,
And misery, and rotting of the soul!
Now shall they learn--if money-bags can learn--
What turns the bright world black, and the Sun cold;
And what's that creature that they call a child!--
And what this winged thing men name a heart
Beating queer rhythms that they long to kill.--
What is this hunger and this thirst to sing,
To laugh, to fight,--to hope, to be believed?
And what is truth? And who did make the stars?

* * * * *

I have to pay for fifty thousand hates,
Greeds, cruelties; such barbarous tortured days
A tiger would disdain;--for all my kind!
Not my one mother, not my own of kin,--
All, all, who wear the motley in the heart
Or on the body:--for all caged glories
And trodden wings, and sorrows laughed to scorn.
I,--I!--At last.

VERONIKA
Ah, me! How can I say:
Yet make them happier than they let you be?

PIPER
Woman, you could!--They know not how to be
Happy! They turn to darkness and to woe
All that is made for joy. They deal with men
As, far across the mountains, in the south,
Men trap a singing thrush, put out his eyes,--
And cage him up and bid him then to sing--
Sing before God that made him,--yes, to sing!

* * * * *

I save the children.--Yes, I save them, so,
Save them forever, who shall save the world!--
Yes, even Hamelin.--
But for only _you_,
What do they know of Children?--Pfui, _their own_!
Who knows a treasure, when it is his own?
Do they not whine: '_Five mouths around the table_;
_And a poor harvest. And now comes one more_!
_God chastens us_!'--Pfui!--

VERONIKA
[apart, dully]
. . . But I must be patient.

PIPER
You know, you know, that not one dared, save you,--
Dared all alone, to search this devil's haunt.

VERONIKA
They would have died--

PIPER
But never risked their _souls_!
That knew I also.

VERONIKA
Ah!

PIPER
'Young faces,' sooth,
The old ones prate of!--Bah, what is't they want?
'Some one to work for me, when I am old;
Some one to follow me unto my grave;
Some one--for me!' Yes, yes. There is not one
Old huddler-by-the-fire would shift his seat
To a cold corner, if it might bring back
All of the Children in one shower of light!

VERONIKA
The old, ah, yes! But not--

PIPER
The younger men?
Aha! Their pride to keep the name alive;
The name, the name, the little Hamelin name,
Tied to the trade;--carved plain upon his gravestone!
Wonderful! If your name must chain you, live,
To your gaol of a house, your trade you love not,--why,
Best go without a name, like me!--How now?
Woman,--you suffer?

VERONIKA
Ah, yet could I laugh,
Piper, yet could I laugh, for one true word,--
But not of all men.

PIPER
Then of whom?

VERONIKA
Of Kurt.

PIPER
Bah, Kurt the Councillor! a man to curse.

VERONIKA
He is my husband.

PIPER
[shortly]
Thine? I knew it not.
Thine? But it cannot be. He could not father
That little Jan,--that little shipwrecked Star.

VERONIKA
Oh, then you love him? You will give him back?

PIPER
The son of Kurt?

VERONIKA
No, not _his_ son! No, no.
He is all mine, all mine. Kurt's sons are straight,
And ruddy, like Kurt's wife of Hamelin there,
Who died before.

PIPER
And you were wed. . .

VERONIKA
So young,
It is all like some dream before the sunrise,
That left me but that little shipwrecked Star.

PIPER
Why did you marry Kurt the Councillor?

VERONIKA
[humbly]
He wanted me. Once I was beautiful.

PIPER
[wonderingly]
What, more than now?

VERONIKA
Mock if you will.

PIPER
I mock you;
O Woman, . . . you are very beautiful.

VERONIKA
I meant, with my poor self, to buy him house
And warmth, and softness for his little feet.
Oh, then I knew not,--when we sell our hearts,
We buy us nothing.

PIPER
Now you know.

VERONIKA
I know.
His dearest home it was, to keep my heart
Alone and beautiful, and clear and still;
And to keep all the gladness in my heart,
That bubbled from nowhere!--for him to drink;--
And to be houseless of all other things,
Even as the Lonely Man.
[The PIPER starts]
Where is the child?

PIPER
No; that I will not tell. Only thus much:
I love thy child. Trust me,--I love them, all.
They are the brightest miracle I know.
Wherever I go, I search the eyes of men
To find such clearness;--and it is not there.
Lies, greed and cruelty, and dreadful dark!
And all that makes Him sad these thousand years,
And keeps His forehead bleeding.--Ah, you know!

VERONIKA
Whom do you think on?

PIPER
Why, the Lonely Man,--
But now I have the children safe with me;
And men shall never teach them what men know;--
Those radiant things that have no wish at all
Save for what is all-beautiful!--the Rainbow,
The running Water, and the Moon, the Moon!
The only things worth having!

VERONIKA
--Oh, you will not
Give him to me?

PIPER
How give you yours again,
And not the others? What a life for him!
[She hides her face]
And Kurt the Syndic, left without his sons?
Bah, do not dream of it! What would Kurt do?--
And hearken here! Should any hunt me down,
Take care. Who then could bring the children back?

VERONIKA
_Jan_! _Jan_!

PIPER
He loves me. He is happy.

VERONIKA
[passionately ]
_No_!
Without me?--No.

PIPER
He has not even once
Called you.

VERONIKA
[staggering]
Ah, ah! how cruel! 'Tis the spell,
The spell.

PIPER
[touching his heart]
--You hurt me, here. What makes it, Woman?--
Would you not have him happy?

VERONIKA
O my God!

PIPER
[offering her water]
Drink here. Take heart. O Woman, they must stay!
'T is better so. No, no, I mock thee not.
Thou foldest all about me like the Dark
That holds the stars. I would I were thy child.|

VERONIKA
But I will find him. I will find him--

PIPER
No,
It must not be! Their life is bound with mine.
If I be harmed, they perish. Keep that word,
Go, go!

VERONIKA
[passionately]
My longing will bring back my Own.

PIPER
Ah, long not so.

VERONIKA
Yes, it will bring him back!
He breathes. And I will wish him home to me,
Till my heart break!

PIPER
Hearts never break in Hamelin.
Go, then; and teach those other ones to long;
Wake up those dead!

VERONIKA
Peace. I shall draw him home.

PIPER
Not till he cries for thee.

VERONIKA
Oh, that will be
Soon,--soon.

PIPER
[gently]
Remember,--if one word of thine
Set on the hounds to track me down and slay me,
They will be lost forever; they would die,--
They, who are in my keeping.

VERONIKA
Yea, I hear.
But he will come . . . oh, he will come to me,
Soon,--soon.

[She goes, haltingly, and disappears along the road to Hamelin.--The
PIPER, alone, stands spell-bound, breathing hard, and looking after
her. Then he turns his head and comes down, doggedly. Again he
pauses. With a sudden sharp effort he turns, and crosses with
passionate appeal to the shrine, his arm uplifted towards the carven
Christ as if he warded off some accusation. His speech comes in a
torrent.

PIPER
I will not, no, I will not, Lonely Man!
I have them in my hand. I have them all--
All--all! And I have lived unto this day.
You understand . . .
[He waits as if for some reply]
You know what men they are.
And what have they to do with such as these?
Think of those old as death, in body and heart,
Hugging their wretched hoardings, in cold fear
Of moth and rust!--While these miraculous ones,
Like golden creatures made of sunset-cloud,
Go out forever,--every day, fade by
With music and wild stars!--Ah, but You know.
The hermit told me once. You loved them, too.
But I know more than he, how You must love them:
Their laughter, and their bubbling, skylark words
To cool Your heart. Oh, listen, Lonely Man!--

* * * * *

Oh, let me keep them! I will bring them to You,
Still nights, and breathless mornings; they shall touch
Your hands and feet with all their swarming hands,
Like showering petals warm on furrowed ground,--
All sweetness! They will make Thee whole again,
With love. Thou wilt lookup and smile on us!

* * * * *

Why not? I know--the half--You will be saying.
You will be thinking of Your Mother.--Ah,
But she was different. She was not as they.
She was more like . . . this one, the wife of Kurt!
_Of Kurt_! No, no; ask me not this, not this!
Here is some dawn of day for Hamelin,--now!
-Tis hearts of men You want. Not mumbled prayers;
Not greed and carven tombs, not misers' candles;
No offerings, more, from men that feed on men;
Eternal psalms and endless cruelties! . . .
Even from now, there may be hearts in Hamelin,
Once stabbed awake!
[He pleads, defends, excuses passionately; before his will gives
way, as the arrow flies from the bow-string.]
--_I will not give them back_!
And Jan,--for Jan, that little one, that dearest
To Thee and me, hark,--he is wonderful.
Ask it not of me. Thou dost know I cannot!

* * * * *

Look, Lonely Man! You shall have all of us
To wander the world over, where You stand
At all the crossways, and on lonely hills,--
Outside the churches, where the lost ones
And the wayfaring men, and thieves and wolves
And lonely creatures, and the ones that sing!
We will show all men what we hear and see;
And we will make Thee lift Thy head, and smile.

* * * * *

No, no, I cannot give them all! No, no.--
Why wilt Thou ask it?--Let me keep but one.
No, no, I will not. . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . _Have Thy way.--I will_!

Curtain

ACT IV

SCENE: Hamelin market-place.

It is early morning; so dark that only a bleak twilight glimmers
in the square; the little streets are dim. Everywhere gloom and
stillness. In the house of KURT, beside the Minster, there is one
window-light behind a curtain in the second story. At the casements,
down right and left, sit OLD CLAUS and OLD URSULA, wan and motionless
as the dead.

The church-bell, which likewise seems to have aged, croaks softly,
twice. PETER the Sacristan stands by the bell-rope.

OLD URSULA
No, no. They'll never come. I told ye so.
They all are gone. There will be nothing young
To follow us to the grave.

OLD CLAUS
No, no,--not one!

[The Minster-door opens, and out come certain of the townsfolk
from early mass. They look unnaturally old and colorless. Their
steps lag drearily.--HANS the Butcher and his wife; AXEL the Smith
with his wife, and PETER the Cobbler, meet, on their way to the
little street, left, and greet one another with painstaking,
stricken kindness. They speak in broken voices.

HANS the Butcher
Well, well--

AXEL the Smith
God knows!
[The bell sounds]

HANS the Butcher
Neighbor, how fare your knees?
[AXEL smooths his right leg and gives a jerk of pain. They all
move stiffly.

AXEL the Smith
I'm a changed man.

HANS the Butcher
Peter the Sacristan,
Give by the bell! It tolls like--Oh, well, well!

AXEL the Smith
It does no good, it does no good at all.

PETER the Cobbler
Rather, I do believe it mads the demons;
And I have given much thought--

AXEL the Smith
Over thy shoes!

PETER the Cobbler
[modestly]
To demons.

AXEL'S WIFE
Let him chirp philosophy!
He had no children.

PETER the Cobbler
[wagging his head solemnly]
I'm an altered man.
Now were we not proceeding soberly,
Singing a godly hymn, and all in tune,
But yesterday, when we passed by--

HANS' WIFE
Don't say it!
Don't name the curseful place.

HANS the Butcher
--And my poor head,
It goes round yet;--around, around, around,
As I were new ashore from the high seas;
Still dancing--dancing--

AXEL the Smith
With 'Yes--yes!--Yes--yes!'

HANS the Butcher
Even as ye heard, the farmer's yokel found me
Clasping a tree, and praying to stand still!

AXEL the Smith
Ay, ay,--but that is nought.

PETER the Cobbler
All nought beside.

HANS' WIFE
Better we had the rats and mice again,
Though they did eat us homeless,--if we might
All starve together!--Oh, my Hans, my Hans!

PETER the Cobbler
Hope not, good souls. Rest sure, they will not come.

AXEL'S WIFE
Who will say that?

PETER the Cobbler
[discreetly]
Not I; but the Inscription,
[He points to the Rathaus wall.]

AXEL the Smith
Of our own making?

PETER the Cobbler
On the Rathaus wall!
At our own bidding it was made and graved:--
How,--on that day and down this very street,
He led them,--he, the Wonderfully-clothed,
The Strange Man, with his piping;
[They cross themselves]
And they went,--
And never came again.

HANS' WIFE
But they may come!

PETER the Cobbler
[pityingly]
Marble is final, woman;--nay, poor soul!
When once a man be buried, and over him
The stone doth say _Hic Jacet_, or Here Lies,
When did that man get up?--There is the stone.
They come no more, for piping or for prayer;
Until the trump of the Lord Gabriel.
And if they came, 'tis not in Hamelin men
To alter any stone, so graven.--Marble
Is final. Marble has the last word, ever.
[Groans from the burghers.]

HANS the Butcher
O little Ilse!--Oh! and Lump--poor Lump!
More than a dog could bear!--More than a dog--

[They all break down. The Shoemaker consoles them.

PETER the Cobbler
Bear up, sweet neighbors.--We are all but dust.
No mice, no children.--Hem! And now Jacobus,--
His child, not even safe with Holy Church,
But lost and God knows where!

AXEL'S WIFE
Bewitched,--bewitched!
[Hans and his wife, arm in arm, turn left, towards their house,
peering ahead.

HANS' WIFE
Kind saints! Me out and gone to early mass,
And all this mortal church-time, there's a candle,
A candle burning in the casement there;--
Thou wasteful man!

HANS the Butcher
[huskily]
Come, come! Do not be chiding.
Suppose they came and could not see their way.
Suppose--O wife!--I thought they'd love the light!
I thought--

PETER the Cobbler
Ay, now! And there's another light
In Kurt the Syndic's house.

[They turn and look up. Other burghers join the group. All walk
lamely and look the picture of wretchedness.

AXEL'S WIFE
His wife, poor thing,
The priest is with her. Ay, for once, they say,
Kurt's bark is broken.

OLD URSULA
There will be nothing young
To follow us to the grave.

AXEL'S WIFE
They tell, she seems
Sore stricken since the day that she was lost,
Lost, searching on the mountain. Since that time,
She will be saying nought. She stares and smiles.

HANS' WIFE
And reaches out her arms,--poor soul!

ALL
Poor soul!

[Murmur in the distance. They do not heed it.

AXEL the Smith
[To the Butcher]
That was no foolish thought of thine, yon candle.
I do remember now as I look back,
They always loved the lights. My Rudi there
Would aye be meddling with my tinder-box.
And once I--Oh!--
[Choking]

AXEL'S WIFE
[soothingly]
Now, now! thou didst not hurt him!
'T was I! Oh, once--I shut him in the dark!

AXEL the Smith
Come home . . . and light the candles.

PETER the Cobbler
In the day-time!

AXEL'S WIFE
Oh, it is dark enough!

AXEL the Smith
Lord knows, who made
Both night and day, one of 'em needs to shine!
But nothing does!--Nothing is daylight now.
Come, wife, we'll light the candles.

[Exit with his wife.

PETER the Cobbler
He's a changed man.

PETER the Sacristan
God help us, what's to do?
[Tumult approaching. Shouts of 'Jacobus' and 'Barbara.'
Hark!

HANS' WIFE
Neighbors!

HANS the Butcher
Hark! Hark!

[AXEL and his wife reenter hastily; AXEL rushes toward the noise.

AXEL'S WIFE
Oh, I hear something! Can it be--

PETER the Cobbler
They're shouting.

HANS the Butcher
My Iambs,--my lambs!

[AXEL reenters, crestfallen]

AXEL the Smith
'Tis naught--but Barbara
_His--his_!

[Shaking his fist at the house of Jacobus.

PETER the Cobbler
[calling]
Jacobus!

[The others are stricken with disappointment.

HANS the Butcher
Wife,--'t is none of ours.

AXEL the Smith
Let him snore on!--The only man would rather
Sleep late than meet his only child again!

PETER the Cobbler
[deprecatingly]
No man may parley with the gifts of Fortune!
[Knocking on the door]
Jacobus!

[Enter, at the rear, with a straggling crowd, BARBARA and MICHAEL,
both radiant and resolute. She wears the long green cloak over
her bridal array.

JACOBUS appears in his doorway, night-capped and fur-gowned,
shrinking from the hostile crowd. The people murmur.

CROWD
( Barbara!--She that was bewitched!
( And who's the man? Is it the Piper? No!
( No, no--some stranger. Barbara! Barbara's home;--
( He never gave her up!--Who is the man?

JACOBUS
My daughter! 'Tis my daughter,--found--restored!
Oh, heaven is with us!

ALL
[sullenly]
Ah!

JACOBUS
Child, where have you been?

ALL
Ay, where, Jacobus?
[He is dismayed.]

JACOBUS
Who is this man?--Come hither.

BARBARA
[without approaching him, lifting her face clearly]
Good-morning to you, father! We are wed.
Michael,--shall I go hither?
[The townsfolk are amazed.]

JACOBUS
She is mad!
She is quite mad,--my treasure.

PETER the Cobbler
Let her speak.
Maids sometimes marry, even in Hamelin.

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