The Piper by Josephine Preston PeabodyA Play in Four Acts

Produced by Al Haines The Piper A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS By JOSEPHINE PRESTON PEABODY BOSTON and NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge 1910 COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY JOSEPHINE PEABODY MARKS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Published November 1909 SEVENTH IMPRESSION TO LIONEL S. MARKS Anno 1284 Am Dage Johannis et Pauli War der 26
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Produced by Al Haines

The Piper

A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS

By JOSEPHINE PRESTON PEABODY

BOSTON and NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

The Riverside Press Cambridge
1910

COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY JOSEPHINE PEABODY MARKS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Published November 1909

SEVENTH IMPRESSION

TO

LIONEL S. MARKS

Anno 1284
Am Dage Johannis et Pauli
War der 26 Junii
Dorch einen piper mit allerlei farve bekledet Gewesen CXXX kinder verledet binnen Hamelen geboren To Calvarii bi den koppen verloren

[THE HAMELIN INSCRIPTION]

CHARACTERS

THE PIPER )
MICHAEL-THE-SWORD-EATER ) Strolling Players CHEAT-THE-DEVIL )

JACOBUS the Burgomeister )
KURT the Syndic )
PETER the Cobbler )
HANS the Butcher )
AXEL the Smith ) Men of Hamelin MARTIN the Watch )
PETER the Sacristan )
ANSELM, a young priest )
OLD CLAUS, a miser )
TOWN CRIER )

JAN )
HANSEL )
ILSE ) Children
TRUDE )
RUDI )

VERONIKA, the wife of Kurt
BARBARA, daughter of Jacobus
WIFE of HANS the Butcher
WIFE of AXEL the Smith
WIFE of MARTIN the Watch
OLD URSULA

Burghers, nuns, priests, and children

SCENE: HAMELIN ON THE WESER, 1284 A.D.

SCENES

ACT I. The market-place in Hamelin

ACT II. SCENE I. Inside the ‘Hollow-Hill’ SCENE II. The Cross-ways

ACT III. The Cross-ways

ACT IV. The market-place in Hamelin

One week is supposed to elapse between Acts I and II.

Acts II and III occupy one day.

Act IV concerns the following morning.

The Piper

ACT I

SCENE: The market-place of Hamelin. Right, the Minster, with an open shrine (right centre) containing a large sculptured figure of the Christ. Right, farther front, the house of KURT; and other narrow house-fronts. Left, the Rathaus, and (down) the home of JACOBUS. Front, to left and right, are corner-houses with projecting stories and casement windows. At the centre rear, a narrow street leads away between houses whose gables all but meet overhead.

It is late summer afternoon, with a holiday crowd. In the open casements, front (right and left, opposite each other), sit OLD URSULA and OLD CLAUS, looking on at men and things. –In the centre of the place now stands a rude wooden Ark with a tented top: and out of the openings (right and left) appear the artificial heads of animals, worn by the players inside. One is a Bear (inhabited by MICHAEL-THE-SWORD-EATER); one is a large Reynard-the-Fox, later apparent as the PIPER. Close by is the medieval piece of stage-property known as ‘Hell-Mouth,’ i.e. a red painted cave with a jaw-like opening into which a mountebank dressed in scarlet (CHEAT-THE-DEVIL) is poking ‘Lost Souls’ with a pitchfork.

BARBARA loiters by the tent. VERONIKA, the sad young wife of KURT, watches from the house steps, left, keeping her little lame boy, Jan, close beside her.

Shouts of delight greet the end of the show, a Noah’s Ark miracle-play of the rudest; and the Children continue to scream with joy whenever an Animal looks out of the Ark.

Men and women pay scant attention either to JACOBUS, when he speaks (himself none too sober)–from his doorstep, prompted by the frowning KURT,–or yet to ANSELM, the priest, who stands forth with lifted hands, at the close of the miracle-play.

ANSELM
And you, who heed the colors of this show, Look to your laughter!–It doth body forth A Judgment that may take you unaware,–
Sun-struck with mirth, like unto chattering leaves Some wind of wrath shall scourge to nothingness.

HANS, AXEL, AND OTHERS
Hurrah, Hurrah!

JACOBUS
And now, good townsmen all,
Seeing we stand delivered and secure As once yon chosen creatures of the Ark, For a similitude,–our famine gone,
Our plague of rats and mice,–

CROWD
Hurrah–hurrah!

JACOBUS
‘Tis meet we render thanks more soberly–

HANS the Butcher
Soberly, soberly, ay!–

JACOBUS
For our deliverance.
And now, ye wit, it will be full three days Since we beheld–our late departed pest.–

OLD URSULA
[putting out an ear-trumpet]
What does he say?

REYNARD
[from the Ark]
–Oh, how felicitous!

HANS’ WIFE
He’s only saying there be no more rats.

JACOBUS
[with oratorical endeavor]
Three days it is; and not one mouse,–one mouse, One mouse, I say!–No-o-o! Quiet. . . as a mouse.

[Resuming]
And now. . .

CROWD
Long live Jacobus!–

JACOBUS
You have seen
Noah and the Ark, most aptly happening by With these same play-folk. You have marked the Judgment. You all have seen the lost souls sent to–Hell– And, nothing more to do.–

[KURT prompts him]
Yes, yes.–And now. . .

[HANS the Butcher steps out of his group.]

HANS the Butcher
Hath no man seen the Piper?–Please your worships.

OTHERS
Ay, ay, so!
–Ay, where is he?
–Ho, the Piper!

JACOBUS
Piper, my good man?

HANS the Butcher
–He that charmed the rats!

OTHERS
Yes, yes,–that charmed the rats!

JACOBUS
[piously]
Why, no man knows.–
Which proves him such a random instrument As Heaven doth sometimes send us, to our use; Or, as I do conceive, no man at all,–
A man of air; or, I would say–delusion. He’ll come no more.

REYNARD
[from the Ark]
Eh?–Oh, indeed, Meaow!

JACOBUS
‘Tis clearest providence. The rats are gone. The man is gone. And there is nought to pay, Save peaceful worship.
[Pointing to the Minster.]

REYNARD
[sarcastically]
Oh, indeed,–Meaow!
[Sudden chorus of derisive animal noises from the Ark, delighting PEOPLE and CHILDREN.]

KURT
Silence,–you strollers there! Or I will have you Gaoled, one and all.

PEOPLE
No, Kurt the Syndic, no!

BARBARA
[to Jacobus]
No; no! Ah, father, bid them stay awhile And play it all again.–Or, if not all,
Do let us see that same good youth again, Who swallowed swords–between the Ark Preserved And the Last Judgment!

REYNARD
Michael-the-Sword-Eater,
Laurels for thee!

[The BEAR disappears: MICHAEL puts out his own head, and gazes fixedly at BARBARA.

CHILDREN
Oh, can’t we see the animals in the Ark? Again? Oh, can’t we see it all again?

ILSE
Oh, leave out Noah! And let’s have only Bears And Dromedaries, and the other ones!–

[General confusion.]

KURT
Silence!

JACOBUS
Good people–you have had your shows; And it is meet, that having held due feast, Both with our market and this Miracle,
We bring our holiday to close with prayer And public thanks unto Saint Willibald,– Upon whose day the rats departed thence.

REYNARD
[loudly]
Saint Willibald!

BEAR
–Saint Willibald!

OTHER ANIMALS
[looking out]
( Saint Willibald!
( Saint! Oh!

CROWD
Saint Willibald!–And what had he to do With ridding us o’ rats?

HANS the Butcher
‘T was the Piping Man
Who came and stood here in the market-place, And swore to do it for one thousand guilders!

PETER the Cobbler
Ay, and he did it, too!–Saint Willibald!

[Renewed uproar round the tent.]

KURT
[to Jacobus]
Drive out those mountebanks! ‘T is ever so. Admit them to the town and you must pay
Their single show with riotings a week.– Look yonder at your daughter.

[BARBARA lingers by the Ark-Tent, gazing with girlish interest at MICHAEL, who gazes at her, his bear-head in his band for the moment.]

JACOBUS
Barbara!

[She turns back, with an angry glance at KURT.]

AXEL the Smith
[doggedly to them]
By your leave. Masters! I would like to know, How did Saint Willibald prevail with the rats?– That would I like to know. I, who ha’ made Of strong wrought traps, two hundred, thirty-nine, Two hundred, thirty-nine.

REYNARD
[calling]
And so would I!

HANS the Butcher
So please your worships, may it please the Crier, Now we be here,–to cry the Piping Man–

PETER the Cobbler
A stranger-man, gay-clad,–in divers colors! Because he, with said piping–

HANS the Butcher
–Drave away
The horde of rats!

PETER the Cobbler
[sagely]
To our great benefit;
And we be all just men.

OTHERS
Ay, ay!–Amen!

WOMEN
Amen, Our Lady and the blessed Saints!

JACOBUS
Why, faith, good souls, if ye will have him cried, So be it.–But the ways of Heaven are strange! Mark how our angel of deliverance came,– Or it may be. Saint Willibald himself,– Most piedly clothed, even as the vilest player!– And straight ascended from us, to the clouds! But cry him, if you will.–Peace to your lungs!– He will not come.

[KURT wrathfully consults with JACOBUS, then signals to Crier.

CRIER
Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!
Whereas, now three days gone, our Plague of Rats Was wholly driven hence, our City cleansed, Our peace restored after sore threat of famine, By a Strange Man who came not back again, Now, therefore, if this Man have ears to hear, Let him stand forth.–Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!

[Trumpet.–PEOPLE gaze up and down the little streets.–REYNARD steps out of the Ark and comes down slowly, with a modest air.–KURT points him out, threateningly, and the CROWD bursts into derisive laughter.–He doffs his animal-head at leisure, showing a sparkling dark-eyed face.

ALL
The Man! the Man!

KURT AND JACOBUS
The Devil!–‘T is–

ALL
–THE PIPER!

[The PIPER regards them all with debonair satisfaction; then reverses his head-piece and holds it out upside-down, with a confident smile.

PIPER
Three days of rest, your worships, you have had. I see no signs of famine hereabout.
The rats are gone, even to the nethermost tail: And I’ve fulfilled my bargain. Is it granted?

[Murmurs, then cheers of “Ay, Ay, PIPER!” from the crowd.

Thank ‘ee.–My thousand guilders, an you please.

JACOBUS
One thou–Come, come! This was no sober bargain.– No man in reason could–

PIPER
One thousand guilders.

KURT
One thousand rogueries!

JACOBUS
[to PIPER]
You jest too far.

AXEL
Lucky, if he get aught!–Two hundred traps, And nine, and thirty! By Saint Willibald, When was I paid?

AXEL’S WIFE
Say, now!

PIPER
. . . One thousand guilders.

PETER the Cobbler
Give him an hundred.

HANS the Butcher
Double!

HANS’ WIFE
You were fools
To make agreement with him.–Ask old Claus. He has the guilders; and his house was full 0′ rats!

OLD CLAUS
[shaking his stick from the window] You Jade! And I that hoard, and save,
And lay by all I have from year to year, To build my monument when I am gone,
A fine new tomb there, in Saint Boniface! And I to pay for all your city rats!

OLD URSULA
[leaning out, opposite]
Right, neighbor, right well said!–Piper, hark here. Piper, how did ye charm the rats away?

PIPER
[coming down]
The rats were led–by Cu-ri-os-ity. ‘Tis so with many rats; and all old women;– Saving your health!

JACOBUS
No thought for public weal,
In this base grasping on–

PIPER
One thousand guilders.

KURT
[contemptuously]
For piping!

PIPER
Shall I pipe them back again?

WOMEN
( Good Saint Boniface!
Merciful heaven! ( Good Saint Willibald! ( Peter and Paul defend us!

HANS the Butcher
No, no; no fear o’ that. The rats be drowned. We saw them with our eyes.

PIPER
Now who shall say
There is no resurrection for a mouse?

KURT
–Do you but crop this fellow’s ears!–

VERONIKA
[from the steps]
Ah, Kurt!

JACOBUS
[to him, blandly]
Deal patiently, good neighbor. All is well. [To the PIPER]
Why do you name a price so laughable, My man? Call you to mind; you have no claim,– No scrip to show. You cling upon–

PIPER
[sternly]
Your word.

JACOBUS
I, would say–just–

PIPER
Your word.

JACOBUS
Upon–

PIPER
Your word.
Sure, ‘t was a rotten parchment!

JACOBUS
This is a base,
Conniving miser!

PIPER
[turning proudly]
Stand forth, Cheat-the-Devil!
[Up steps the DEVIL in red. PEOPLE shrink, and then come closer. Be not afeard. He pleased you all, of late. He hath no sting.–So, boy! Do off thy head.–

[CHEAT-THE-DEVIL doffs his red head-dress and stands forth, a pale and timorous youth, gentle and half-witted.

Michael, stand forth!
[MICHAEL comes down, bear-head in hand.

BARBARA
[regarding him sadly]
That goodly sword-eater!

PIPER
[defiantly]
So, Michael, so.–These be two friends of mine. Pay now an even third to each of us.
Or, to content your doubts, to each of these Do you pay here and now, five hundred guilders. Who gets it matters little, for us friends. But you will pay the sum, friend. You will pay!–

HANS, AXEL, AND CROWD
Come, there’s an honest fellow. Ay, now, pay! –There’s a good friend.–And would I had the same. –One thousand guilders?
–No, too much.
–No, no.

KURT
Pay jugglers?–With a rope apiece!

JACOBUS
Why–so–

PIPER
They are my friends; and they shall share with me. ‘T is time that Hamelin reckoned us for men; –Hath ever dealt with us as we were vermin. Now have I rid you of the other sort–
Right you that score!–

KURT
These outcasts!

PIPER
[hotly]
Say you so?
Michael, my man! Which of you here will try With glass or fire, with him?

MICHAEL
[sullenly]
No, no more glass, to-day!

PIPER
Then fire and sword!
[They back away.]
So!–And there’s not one man
In Hamelin, here, so honest of his word. Stroller! A pretty choice you leave us.–Quit This strolling life, or stroll into a cage! What do you offer him? A man eats fire– Swords, glass, young April frogs–

CHILDREN
Do it again!
Do it again!

PIPER
You say to such a man,–
‘Come be a monk! A weaver!’ Pretty choice. Here’s Cheat-the-Devil, now.

PETER the Cobbler
But what’s his name?

PIPER
He doesn’t know. What would you? Nor do I. But for the something he has seen of life, Making men merry, he ‘d know something more! The gentlest devil ever spiked Lost Souls Into Hell-mouth,–for nothing-by-the-day!

OLD URSULA
[with her ear-trumpet]
Piper, why do you call him Cheat-the-Devil?

PIPER
Because his deviltry is all a cheat:– He is no devil,–but a gentle heart!
–Friend Michael here hath played the Devil, betimes, Because he can so bravely breathe out fire. He plied the pitchfork so we yelped for mercy,– He reckoned not the stoutness of his arm!– But Cheat-the-Devil here,–he would not hurt Why–Kurt the Syndic–thrusting him in hell. [Laughter.

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
[unhappily]
No, no–I will not hurt him!

PIPER
[soothingly to him]
Merry, boy!
[To the townsfolk]
And,–if ye will have reasons, good,–ye see,– I want–one thousand guilders.

JACOBUS
In all surety,
Payment you’ll have, my man, But–

HANS the Butcher
As to ‘s friends,–
An that yon Devil be as feat wi’ his hands As he be slow o’ tongue, why, I will take him For prentice. Wife,–now that would smack o’ pride!

PETER the Cobbler
I’ll take this fellow that can swallow fire, He’s somewhat old for me. But he can learn My trade.–A pretty fellow!

PIPER
And your trade?

PETER the Cobbler
Peter the cobbler.–

MICHAEL
I? What, I? Make shoes?
[Proudly]
I swallow fire.

PIPER
Enough.

BARBARA
[aside, bitterly]
I’ll not believe it.

PIPER
[to HANS]
Your trade?

HANS the Butcher
I’m Hans the Butcher.

MICHAEL
Butcher?

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
[unhappily]
Butcher!
Oh, no! I couldn’t hurt them.

[Loud laughter.

BUTCHER’S WIFE
‘T is a fool!

[The PIPER motions to MICHAEL and CHEAT-THE-DEVIL, who during the following join the other player-folk, strike their tent, pack their bundles, and wheel off the bar rows that have served them for an Ark, leaving the space clear before the Shrine. Exeunt Strollers, all but MICHAEL, who hangs about, still gazing at BARBARA.

JACOBUS
Good people, we have wasted time enow. You see this fellow, that he has no writ–

PIPER
Why not, then? ‘T was a bargain. If your word Hold only when ‘t is writ–

KURT
We cannot spend
Clerkship on them that neither write nor read. What good would parchment do thee?

JACOBUS
My good man–

PIPER
Who says I cannot read?–Who says I cannot?

OLD CLAUS
Piper, don’t tell me you can read in books!

PIPER
[at bay]
Books! Where’s a book? Shew me a book, I say!

OLD URSULA
The Holy Book! Bring that–or he’ll bewitch you.

PIPER
Oh, never fear. I charm but fools and children; Now that the rats are gone.–Bring me a Book: A big one!–

[Murmurs. The PIPER defiant. The crowd moves towards the Minster. Enter ANSELM the priest, with a little acolyte,–the two bearing a large illuminated Gospel-book. ANSELM, eyeing the PIPER gravely, opens the book, which the boy supports on his head and shoulders.

PIPER
Ho, ‘t is too heavy! Come, you cherub-head, Here’s too much laid upon one guardian angel! [Beckons another small boy, and sets the book on their two backs. Well?–well? What now?
[He looks in frank bewilderment at the eager crowd.

CROWD
Read, read!

KURT
He cannot read.

PIPER
[to ANSELM]
Turn–turn–there’s nothing there.
[ANSELM turns pages. PIPER looks on blankly] . . . Ah, turn again!
The red one!–
[He takes his fife from his belt]
No, the green! The green one. So.
[Starts to pipe, looking on the book.]

CROWD
( Sure ‘t is a mad-man!
( But hear him piping!
( What is he doing?

PIPER
[puzzled at their mirth]
What the green one says.–
[A burst of laughter from the crowd. JAN, the little lame boy on the steps, reaches his arms out suddenly and gives a cry of delight.

JAN
Oh, I love the Man!

[He goes, with his crutch, to the PIPER, who turns and gathers him close.

JACOBUS
[to the People]
Leave off this argument.

KURT
Go in to Mass.

JACOBUS
Saint Willibald!

PIPER
[in a rage]
That Saint!–

KURT
Hence, wandering dog!

PIPER
Oho!–Well, every Saint may have his day. But there are dog-days coming.–Eh, your worship? [To ANSELM, suddenly]
You, there! You–Brother–Father–Uncle–You! Speak! Will you let them in, to say their prayers And mock me through their fingers?–Tell these men To settle it, among their mouldy pockets, Whether they keep their oath. Then will I go.

KURT
[savagely]
Away with you!–

ANSELM
The Piper should be heard;
Ye know it well. Render to Caesar, therefore, That which is Caesar’s.

PIPER
–Give the Devil his due!

JACOBUS
[warily]
We must take counsel over such a sum.

[Beckoning others, he and KURT go into the Rathaus, followed by all the men. Exit ANSELM with the Holy Book into the Minster.–The children play Mouse, to and fro, round about the PIPER.–The women, some of them, spin on the doorsteps, with little hand distaff’s, or stand about, gossiping.

[The PIPER wipes his forehead and goes up slowly (centre) to drink from the fountain at the foot of the Shrine.–MICHAEL, like one in a dream, comes down towards BARBARA, who gazes back at him, fascinated, through her laughter.

BARBARA
Is it for pay you loiter, Master Player? Were you not paid enough?

MICHAEL
No.–One more look.

BARBARA
Here, then.–Still not enough?

MICHAEL

No! One more smile.

BARBARA
[agitated ]
Why would you have me smile?

MICHAEL
[passionately]
Oh, when you smiled,
It was–it was like sunlight coming through Some window there,
[Pointing to the Minster]
–some vision of Our Lady.
[She drops her flowers.–He picks them up and gives them back slowly.

BARBARA
Who are you? You are some one in disguise.

MICHAEL
[bitterly]
A man–that passes for a mountebank.

BARBARA
[eagerly]
I knew!

MICHAEL
What then?

BARBARA
Thou art of noble birth.
‘T is some disguise, this playing with the fire!

MICHAEL
Yes.–For to-day, I lord it with the fire. But it hath burned me, here.
[Touching his breast.]
[Overcome for the moment, she draws away.– The PIPER, coming down, speaks stealthily to MICHAEL, who is still gazing.

PIPER
For all our sakes!
There is bad weather breeding.–Take to thy heels.

[BARBARA turns back to see MICHAEL withdrawing reluctantly, and throws a rose to him with sudden gayety.

BARBARA
Farewell to you, Sword-Swallower!–farewell!

MICHAEL
[looking back]
Farewell to you, my Lady, in-the-Moon. [Exit.
[JAN clings once more to the PIPER, while the other children hang about. VERONIKA calls to her boy, from the steps.

VERONIKA
Darling.–

PIPER
[drawing nearer]
Is this your Boy?

VERONIKA
Ay, he is mine;
My only one. He loved thy piping so.

PIPER
And I loved his.

HANS’ WIFE
[stridently]
Poor little boy! He’s lame!

PIPER
‘T is all of us are lame! But he, he flies.

VERONIKA
Jan, stay here if you will, and hear the pipe, At Church-time.

PIPER
[to him]
Wilt thou?

JAN
[softly]
Mother lets me stay
Here with the Lonely Man.

PIPER
The Lonely Man?
[JAN points to the Christ in the Shrine. VERONIKA crosses herself. The PIPER looks long at the little boy.

VERONIKA
He always calls Him so.

PIPER
And so would I.

VERONIKA
It grieves him that the Head is always bowed, And stricken. But he loves more to be here Than yonder in the church.

PIPER
And so do I.

VERONIKA
What would you, darling, with the Lonely Man? What do you wait to see?

JAN
[shyly]
To see Him smile.

[The women murmur. The PIPER comes down further to speak to VERONIKA.

PIPER
You are some foreign woman. Are you not? Never from Hamelin!

VERONIKA
No.

AXEL’S WIFE
[to her child]
Then run along.
And ask the Piper if he’ll play again The tune that charmed the rats.

ANOTHER
They might come back!

OLD URSULA
[calling from her window]
Piper! I want the tune that charmed the rats! If they come back, I’ll have my grandson play it.

PIPER
I pipe but for the children.

ILSE
[dropping her doll and picking it up] Oh, do pipe
Something for Fridolin!

HANSEL
Oh, pipe at me!
Now I’m a mouse! I’ll eat you up! Rr–rr!–

CHILDREN
Oh, pipe! Oh, play! Oh, play and make us dance! Oh, play, and make us run away from school!

PIPER
Why, what are these?

CHILDREN
[scampering round him]
We’re mice, we’re mice, we’re mice! . . . We’re mice, we’re mice! We’ll eat up everything!

MARTIN’S WIFE
[calling]
‘T is church-time. La, what will the neighbors say?

ILSE
[Waving her doll]
Oh, please do play something for Fridolin!

AXEL’S WIFE
Do hear the child. She’s quite the little mother!

PIPER
A little mother? Ugh! How horrible. That fairy thing, that princess,–no, that Child! A little mother?
[To her]
Drop the ugly thing!

MARTIN’S WIFE
Now, on my word! and what’s amiss with mothers? Are mothers horrible?
[The PIPER is struck with painful memories.]

PIPER
No, no. But–care
And want and pain and age. . .
[Turns back to them with a bitter change of voice] And penny-wealth,–
And penny-counting.–Penny prides and fears– Of what the neighbors say the neighbors say!–

MARTIN’S WIFE
And were you born without a mother, then?

ALL
Yes, you there! Ah, I told you! He’s no man. He’s of the devil.

MARTIN’S WIFE
Who was your mother, then?

PIPER
[fiercely]
Mine!–Nay, I do not know. For when I saw her, She was a thing so trodden, lost and sad, I cannot think that she was ever young,
Save in the cherishing voice.–She was a stroller; My father was a stroller.–So, you have it! And since she clave to him, and hunger too, The Church’s ban was on her.–Either live, Mewed up forever,–she! to be a nun;
Or keep her life-long wandering with the wind; The very name of wife stript from her troth. That was my mother.–And she starved and sang; And like the wind, she roved and lurked and shuddered Outside your lighted windows, and fled by, Storm-hunted, trying to outstrip the snow, South, south, and homeless as a broken bird,– Limping and hiding!–And she fled, and laughed, And kept me warm; and died! To you, a Nothing; Nothing, forever, oh, you well-housed mothers! As always, always for the lighted windows Of all the world, the Dark outside is nothing; And all that limps and hides there in the dark; Famishing,–broken,–lost!
And I have sworn
For her sake and for all, that I will have Some justice, all so late, for wretched men, Out of these same smug towns that drive us forth After the show!–Or scheme to cage us up Out of the sunlight; like a squirrel’s heart Torn out and drying in the market-place. My mother! Do you know what mothers are?– Your children! Do you know them? Ah, not you! There’s not one here but it would follow me, For all your bleating!

AXEL’S WIFE
Kuno, come away!

[The children cling to him. He smiles down triumphantly.

PIPER
Oho, Oho! Look you?–You preach–I pipe! [Reenter the men, with KURT and JACOBUS, from the Rathaus, murmuring dubiously.
[The PIPER sets down JAN and stands forth, smiling.

JACOBUS
[smoothly]
H’m! My good man, we have faithfully debated Whether your vision of so great a sum
Might be fulfilled,–as by some miracle. But no. The moneys we administer
Will not allow it; nor the common weal. Therefore, for your late service, here you have Full fifteen guilders,
[Holding forth a purse]
and a pretty sum
Indeed, for piping!

KURT
[ominously]
Take them!

JACOBUS
Either that,
Or, to speak truly, nothing!
[The PIPER is motionless]
Come, come. Nay, count them, if you will.

KURT
Time goes!

PIPER
Ay. And your oath?

KURT
No more; Enough.

[There is a sound of organ music from the Minster.]

VERONIKA
[beseechingly]
Ah, Kurt!

KURT
[savagely to the crowd]
What do ye, mewling of this fellow’s rights? He hath none!–Wit ye well, he is a stroller, A wastrel, and the shadow of a man!
Ye waste the day and dally with the law. Such have no rights; not in their life nor body! We are in no wise bound. Nothing is his. He may not carry arms; nor have redress
For any harm that men should put on him, Saving to strike a shadow on the wall!
He is a Nothing, by the statute-book; And, by the book, so let him live or die, Like to a masterless dog!

[The PIPER stands motionless with head up-raised, not looking at KURT. The people, half-cowed, half-doubting, murmur and draw back. Lights appear in the Minster; the music continues. KURT and JACOBUS lead in the people. JACOBUS picks up the money-purse and takes it with him.

VOICES
[laughing, drunkenly]
One thousand guilders to a ‘masterless dog’! [Others laugh too, pass by, with pity and derision for the PIPER, and echoes of ‘MASTERLESS DOG!’ Exeunt WOMEN and MEN to the Minster. Only the children are left, dancing round the motionless figure of the PIPER.

CHILDREN
Oh, pipe again! Oh, pipe and make us dance! Oh, pipe and make us run away from school! Oh, pipe and make believe we are the mice!

[He looks down at them. He looks up at the houses. Then he signs to them, with his finger on his lips; and begins, very softly, to pipe the Kinder-spell. The old CLAUS and URSULA in the windows seem to doze.

The children stop first, and look at him, fascinated; then they laugh, drowsily, and creep closer,–JAN always near. They crowd around him. He pipes louder, moving backwards, slowly, with magical gestures, towards the little by-streets and the closed doors. The doors open, everywhere.

Out come the children: little ones in night gowns; bigger ones, with playthings, toy animals, dolls. He pipes, gayer and louder. They pour in, right and left. Motion and music fill the air. The PIPER lifts JAN to his shoulder (dropping the little crutch) and marches off, up the street at the rear, piping, in the midst of them all.

Last, out of the Minster come tumbling two little acolytes in red, and after them, PETER the Sacristan. He trips over them in his amazement and terror; and they are gone after the vanishing children before the church-people come out.

The old folks lean from their windows.

OLD URSULA
The bell, the bell! the church bell! They’re bewitched!

[Peter rushes to the bell-rope and pulls it. The bell sounds heavily. Reenter, from the church, the citizens by twos and threes and scores.

OLD URSULA
I told ye all,–I told ye!–Devils’ bargains! [The bell]
[KURT, JACOBUS, and the others appear.]

KURT
Peter the Sacristan! Give by the bell. What means this clangor?

PETER the Sacristan
They’re bewitched! bewitched!
[Still pulling and shouting.]

URSULA
They’re gone!

KURT
Thy wits!

OLD CLAUS
They’re gone–they’re gone–they’re gone!

PETER the Sacristan
The children!

URSULA
–With the Piper! They’re bewitched! I told ye so.

OLD CLAUS
–I saw it with these eyes!
He piped away the children.

[Horror in the crowd. They bring out lanterns and candles. VERONIKA holds up the forgotten crutch’

VERONIKA
Jan–my Jan!

KURT
[to her]
Thy boy! But mine, my three, all fair and straight.–

AXEL’S WIFE
[furiously to him]
‘T was thy false bargain, thine; who would not pay The Piper.–But we pay!

PETER the Sacristan
Bewitched, bewitched!
The boys ran out–and I ran after them, And something red did trip me–‘t was the Devil. The Devil!

OLD URSULA
Ah, ring on, and crack the bell:
Ye’ll never have them back.–I told ye so!

[The bell clangs incessantly]

Curtain

ACT II

SCENE I: Inside ‘the Hollow Hill.’

A great, dim-lighted, cavernous place, which shows signs of masonry. It is part cavern and part cellarage of a ruined, burned-down and forgotten old monastery in the hills.–The only entrance (at the centre rear), a ramshackle wooden door, closes against a flight of rocky steps.–Light comes from an opening in the roof, and from the right, where a faggot-fire glows under an iron pot.–The scene reaches (right and left) into dim corners, where sleeping children lie curled up together like kittens.

By the fire sits the PIPER, on a tree-stump seat, stitching at a bit of red leather. At his feet is a row of bright-colored small shoes, set two and two. He looks up now and then, to recount the children, and goes back to work, with quizzical despair.

Left, sits a group of three forlorn Strollers. One nurses a lame knee; one, evidently dumb, talks in signs to the others; one is munching bread and cheese out of a wallet. All have the look of hunted and hungry men. They speak only in whispers to each other throughout the scene; but their hoarse laughter breaks out now and then over the bird-like ignorance of the children.

A shaft of sunlight steals through the hole in the roof. JAN, who lies nearest the PIPER, wakes up.

JAN
Oh!

[The PIPER turns]
Oh, I thought. . . I had a dream!

PIPER
[softly]
Ahe?

JAN
I thought. . . I dreamed. . . somebody wanted me.

PIPER
Soho!

JAN
[earnestly]
I thought. . . Somebody Wanted me.

PIPER
How then?
[With watchful tenderness.]

JAN
I thought I heard Somebody crying.

PIPER
Pfui!–What a dream.–Don’t make me cry again.

JAN
Oh, was it you?–Oh, yes!

PIPER
[apart, tensely]
No Michael yet!

[JAN begins to laugh softly, in a bewildered way; then grows quite happy and forgetful. While the other children waken, he reaches for the pipe and tries to blow upon it, to the PIPER’S amusement. ILSE and HANSEL, the Butcher’s children, wake.

ILSE
Oh!

HANSEL
–Oh!

PIPER
Ahe?

ILSE
I thought I had a dream.

PIPER
Again?

ILSE
. . . It was some lady, calling me.

HANSEL
Yes, and a fat man called us to come quick; A fat man, he was crying–about me!
That same fat man I dreamt of, yesterday.

PIPER
Come, did you ever see a fat man cry, About a little Boy?

[The Strollers are convulsed with hoarse mirth.

HANSEL
No,–Never.

ILSE
Never!
Oh, what a funny dream!

[They giggle together.]
[The PIPER silences the Strollers, with a gesture of warning towards the rocky door.

PIPER
[to himself]
‘T is Hans the Butcher.
[To the Children]
Well, what did he say?

HANSEL
‘_Come home, come home, come home_!’ But I didn’t go. I don’t know where. . . Oh, what a funny dream!

ILSE
Mine was a bad dream!–Mine was a lovely lady And she was by the river, staring in.

PIPER
You were the little gold-fish, none could catch. Oh, what a funny dream! . . .
[Apart, anxiously]
No Michael yet.
[Aloud]
Come, bread and broth! Here–not all, three at a time; ‘T is simpler. Here, you kittens. Eat awhile; Then–

[RUDI wakes.]

RUDI
Oh! I had a dream,–an awful dream!

[The PIPER takes JAN on his knee and feeds him, after ladling out a big bowl of broth from the kettle for the Children, and giving them bread.

PIPER
Oh! oh! I had a dream!

CHILDREN
Oh, tell it to us!

PIPER
I dreamed. . . a Stork. . . had nested in my hat.

CHILDREN
Oh!

PIPER
And when I woke–

CHILDREN
You had–

PIPER
_One hundred children_!

CHILDREN
Oh, it came true! Oh, oh; it all came true!

THE STROLLERS
Ah, ho, ho, ho!
[The dumb one rises, stretches, and steals toward the entrance, stopping to slip a blind-patch over one eye. The PIPER goes to him with one stride, seizing him by the shoulder.

PIPER
[to him, and the others, apart]
Look you.–No Michael _yet_!–And he is gone Full three days now,–three days. If he be caught, Why then,–the little ravens shall be fed! [Groans from the three]
Enough that Cheat-the-Devil leaked out too;– No foot but mine shall quit this fox-hole now! And you,–think praise for once, you have no tongue, And keep these magpies quiet. [Turns away. [To himself]
Ah, that girl.
The Burgomeister’s Barbara! But for her, And moon-struck Michael with his ‘one more look’! Where is he now?–And where are we?
[Turning back to the Children] So, so.

[The Strollers huddle together, with looks of renewed anxiety and wretchedness.–Their laughter at the Children breaks out forlornly now and then.–The PIPER shepherds the Children, but with watchful eyes and ears toward the entrance always.
–His action grows more and more tense.

RUDI
[over his broth]
Oh, I remember now!–Before I woke. . . Oh, what an awful dream!

ILSE
Oh, tell us, Rudi,–
Oh, scare us,–Rudi, scare us!–

RUDI
[bursting into tears]
. . . _Lump was dead_!
Lump, Lump!– [The Children wail.

PIPER
[distracted]
Who’s Lump?

RUDI
Our Dog!

PIPER
[shocked and pained]
The Dog!–No, no.
Heaven save us–I forgot about the dogs!

RUDI
He Wanted me;–and I always wasn’t there! And people tied him up,–and other people Pretended that he bit.–He never bites!
He Wanted me, until it broke his heart, And he was dead!

PIPER
[struggling with his emotion]
And then he went to heaven,
To chase the happy cats up all the trees;– Little white cats! . . . He wears a golden collar . . . And sometimes–[Aside]–I’d forgot about the dogs! Well, dogs must suffer, so that men grow wise. ‘T was ever so.

[He turns to give JAN a piping lesson]

CHILDREN

Oh, what a funny dream!
[Suddenly he lifts his hand. They listen, and hear a dim sound of distant chanting, going by on some neighboring road. The PIPER is puzzled; the Strollers are plainly depressed.

JAN
What is it?

PIPER
People; passing down below,
In the dark valley.
[He looks at the Children fixedly]
Do you want to see them?

CHILDREN
Don’t let them find us! What an ugly noise.– No, no–don’t let them come!

PIPER
Hark ye to me.
Some day I’ll take you out with me to play; High in the sun,–close to the water-fall . . . . And we will make believe–_We’ll make believe We’re hiding_! . . .

[The Strollers rock with mirth.]

CHILDREN
Yes, yes! Oh, let us make believe!

STROLLERS
Oho, ho, ho!–A make-believe!–Ho, ho!

PIPER
But, if you’re good,–yes, very, very soon I’ll take you, as I promised,–

CHILDREN
–Gypsies, oh!

PIPER
Yes, with the gypsies. We shall go at night, With just a torch–
[Watching them.]

CHILDREN
Oh!

PIPER
Like fire-flies! Will-o’-the-wisps! And make believe we’re hiding, all the way, Till we come out into a sunny land,–
All vines and sunlight, yes, and men that sing! Far, far away–forever.
[Gives ILSE a bowl to feed the other children] [JAN pipes a measure of the Kinder-spell, brokenly. The PIPER turns. So! Thou’lt be
My master, some day. Thou shalt pipe for me.

JAN
[piping]
Oh, wasn’t that one beautiful?–Now you!

PIPER
[taking the pipe]
The rainbow-bridge by day;
–And borrow a shepherd-crook!
At night we take to the Milky Way; And then we follow the brook!

We’ll follow the brook, whatever way The brook shall sing, or the sun shall say, Or the mothering wood-dove coos!
And what do I care, what else I wear, If I keep my rainbow shoes!

[He points to the little row of bright shoes. The Children scream with joy. ILSE and HANSEL run back.

CHILDREN
Oh dear! What lovely shoes! Oh, which are mine? Oh! Oh!–What lovely shoes! Oh, which are mine?

PIPER
Try, till you see.
[Taking up a little red pair]
But these,–these are for Jan.
[JAN is perched on the tree-stump, shy and silent with pleasure.

ILSE
Oh, those are best of all! And Jan–

PIPER
And Jan
Is not to trudge, like you. Jan is to wear Beautiful shoes, and shoes made most of all, To look at!
[Takes up a pair of bird’s wings.]

CHILDREN
[squealing]
Oh! Where did you find the wings?
Bird’s wings!

PIPER
There was some hunter in the woods, Who killed more birds than he could carry home. He did not want these,–though the starling did, But could not use them more! And so,–
[Fastening one to each heel]
And so,–
They trim a little boy.
[Puts them on JAN. He is radiant. He stretches out his legs and pats the feathers.

CHILDREN
[trying on theirs and capering]
O Jan!–O Jan!
Oh! see my shoes!

[The PIPER looks at JAN.]

PIPER
Hey day, what now?

JAN
I wish. . .

PIPER
What do you wish? Wish for it!–It shall come. [JAN pulls him closer and speaks shyly.]

JAN
I wish–that I could show them–to the Man, The Lonely Man.
[The PIPER looks at him and backs away; sits down helplessly and looks at him again.
Oh, can I?–

PIPER
Thou!–‘T would make me a proud man.

JAN
Oh! it would make Him smile!

[The Children dance and caper. TRUDE wakes up and joins them. Sound of distant chanting again.

TRUDE
I had a dream!

PIPER
A dream!
[Pretending to be amazed. Reflects, a moment] I know!–Oh, what a funny dream!
[The Children all fall a-laughing when he does.–Noise without. Cheat-the-Devil’s voice crying, ‘Cuckoo–Cuckoo!’

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
Quick, quick!–I’ve something here.

[The others roll away a big stone, and enter by the wooden door (rear), CHEAT-THE-DEVIL. He does not wear his red hood. He has a garland round his neck, and a basket on his arm.

PIPER
[sharply to himself]
No Michael yet!
[To CHEAT-THE-DEVIL]
Michael!–Where’s Michael?

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
Look you,–you must wait.
We must be cunning.–There’s a squirrel, mark you, Hopped after me! He would have found us out. I wanted him; I loved him. But I ran.
For once a squirrel falls a-talking.–Ah! Look what I have.–Guess, guess!
[Showing his basket to the Children.’]

CHILDREN
Cakes!
[He is sad]
Shoes!
[He is sadder]
Then–honey!
[He radiantly undoes his basket, and displays a honeycomb. The Strollers, too, rush upon him.

PIPER
Ah, Cheat-the-Devil! They would crop your ears. Where had you this?

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
Why, such a kind old farmer!
He’d left his bee-hives; they were all alone; And the bees know me. So I brought this for you; I knew They ‘d like it.–Oh, you’re happy now!

PIPER
But Michael,–have they caught him?

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
Oh, not they!
I heard no word of Michael; Michael’s safe! Once on the road I met a countryman,
Asked me the way. And not a word I spoke! ‘Tis far the wisest. Twenty riddles he asked me. I smiled and wagged my head. Anon cries he, This Fool is deaf and dumb!’–That made me angry, But still I spoke not.–And I would not hurt him! He was a bad man. But I liked the mule.– Now am I safe!–Now am I home at last!

PIPER
‘St.–Met you any people on the way, Singing?

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
No, growling,–growling dreary psalms All on a sunny day! Behind the hedges,
I saw them go. They go from Hamelin, now; And I know why!–
[The PIPER beckons him away from the Children. The mayor’s Barbara
Must go to Rudersheim, to be a Nun!

PIPER
To be a Nun!

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
A penance for them all.
She weeps; but she must go! All they, you see, Are wroth against him.–He must give _his_ child–

PIPER
A nun!

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
[nodding]
Forever!–She, who smiled at Michael. Look you, she weeps! They are bad people all;– Nothing like these. [Looking at the Children. These are all beautiful.

PIPER
To lock her up! A maiden, shut away Out of the light. To cage her there for life, Cut off her hair; pretend that she is dead!– Horrible, horrible! No, I’ll not endure it. I’ll end this murder.–He shall give up his; But never so!–Not so!–While I do live
To let things out of cages!–Tell me, quick!– When shall it happen?

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
Why, it falls to-day.
I saw two herds of people going by, To be there well aforetime, for the sight. And she is going last of all, at noon;
All sparkling, like a Bride.–I heard them tell.

PIPER
No, never, never!–No, it shall not be! Hist!–

[Steps heard scrambling down the entrance-way. [Enter MICHAEL in mad haste. They rush upon him with exultation and relief. He shakes them off, doggedly.

PIPER
So!–You had like to have hanged us.

MICHAEL
–What of that?

PIPER
All for a lily maiden.

MICHAEL
Ah,–thy pipe!
How will it save her?–_Save her_! Tune thy pipe To compass that!–You do not know–

PIPER
I know.
Tell me no more.–I say it shall not be! To heel, lad! No, I follow,–none but I! Go,–go! [MICHAEL rushes out again.
[To CHEAT-THE-DEVIL, pointing to the Children] Do you bide here and shepherd these.

CHILDREN
Where are you going?–Take us too!–us too!– Oh, take us with you?–Take us!

PIPER
[distracted]
No, no, no!
You shall be kittens all. And chase your tails, Till I come back!–So here!

[Catches HANSEL and affixes to his little jacket a long strip of leather for a tail; then whirls him about.

CHILDREN
Me too!–Me too!

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL
Let me make tails,–let me!
[Seizing shears and leather.]

PIPER
[wildly]
Faith, and you shall.
A master tailor!–Come, here’s food for thought. Think all,–
[To the Strollers]
And hold your tongues, there!–
If a Cat–
If a Cat have–as all men say–Nine Lives, And if Nine Tailors go to make a Man,
How long, then, shall it take one Man turned Tailor To keep a Cat in Tails, until she die?
[CHEAT-THE-DEVIL looks subdued; the children whirl about. But here’s no game for Jan.–Stay! Something else.– [He runs to a wooden coffer, rear, and takes out a long crystal on the end of a string, with a glance at the shaft of sunlight from the roof. The Children watch.

Be quiet, now.–Chase not your tails too far, Till I come home again.

CHILDREN
Come home–come home!

PIPER
And you shall see my–

CHILDREN
Something Beautiful!
Oh, oh, what is it?–Oh, and will it play? Will it play music?

PIPER
Yes.
[He hangs the crystal in the sun. A Rainbow strikes the wall. –The best of all!

CHEAT-THE-DEVIL, JAN, CHILDREN
Oh, oh, how beautiful,–how beautiful!

PIPER
And hear it pipe and call, and dance, and sing. Heja!–And hark you all. You have to mind– The Rainbow!

[He climbs out, pipe in hand. The Children whirl about after their tails.–CHEAT-THE-DEVIL, and JAN on his tree-stump, open-mouthed with happiness, watch the Rainbow.

Curtain

SCENE II: The Cross-ways: on the Long Road to Rudersheim.

A wooded country: high hills at back. The place is wild and overgrown, like the haunted spot it is reputed to be. In the foreground, right, a ruined stone well appears, in a mass of weeds and vines. Opposite, left, tall trees and dense thickets. Where the roads cross (to left of centre), stands a large, neglected shrine, with a weather-worn figure of Christ,–again the ‘Lonely Man’–facing towards Hamelin.–The stage is empty, at rise of the curtain; but the sound of chanting from burghers just gone by fades slowly, on the road to Rudersheim.

From the hillside at the rear comes the PIPER, wrapped in a long green cloak, his pipe in his hand. He looks after the procession, and back to Hamelin.–Enter, springing from the bushes to the right, MICHAEL, who seizes him.

Their speech goes breathlessly.

MICHAEL

QUICK!–tell me–

PIPER
Patience.

MICHAEL
Patience?–Death and hell!
Oh, save her–save her! Give the children back.

PIPER
Never. Have you betrayed us?

MICHAEL
I!–betrayed?

PIPER
So, so, lad.

MICHAEL
But to save her–

PIPER
There’s a way,–
Trust me! I save her, or we swing together Merrily, in a row.–How did you see her?

MICHAEL
By stealth: two days ago, at evening, Hard by the vine-hid wall of her own garden, I made a warbling like a nightingale;
And she came out to hear.

PIPER
A serenade!
Under the halter!

MICHAEL
Hush.–A death-black night,
Until she came.–Oh, how to tell thee, lad! She came,–she came, not for the nightingale, But even dreaming that it would be I!

PIPER
She knew you?–We are trapped, then.

MICHAEL
No, not so!
She smiled on me.–Dost thou remember how She smiled on me that day? Alas, poor maid, She took me for some noble in disguise!
And all these days,–she told me,–she had dreamed That I would come to save her!

PIPER
Said she this?

MICHAEL
All this–all this, and more! . . . What could lies do?–I lied to her of thee; I swore I knew not of thy vanishment,
Nor the lost children. But I told her true, I was a stroller and an outcast man