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
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]
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.
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.
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,—
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!—
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.]
[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.
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!
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.
BARBARA [aside, bitterly] I'll not believe it.
PIPER [to HANS] Your trade?
HANS the Butcher I'm Hans the Butcher.
CHEAT-THE-DEVIL [unhappily] Butcher! Oh, no! I couldn't hurt them.
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?
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.
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!
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]
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.
[The PIPER turns] Oh, I thought. . . I had a dream!
PIPER [softly] Ahe?
JAN I thought. . . I dreamed. . . somebody wanted me.
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 I thought I had a dream.
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.
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 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.
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]
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.]
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.
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 Patience?—Death and hell! Oh, save her—save her! Give the children back.
PIPER Never. Have you betrayed us?
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 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 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.
( 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
PIPER The Rainbow, The Rainbow!—
[He runs madly up the hillside, and away.]
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. . .
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—
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—
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.
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!
VERONIKA But they live, they live?
PIPER —Wilt thou believe me?
VERONIKA And are they safe?
VERONIKA And you hide them?
VERONIKA And are they . . . warm?
VERONIKA Are they happy?—Oh, That cannot be!—But do they laugh, sometimes?
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.
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!
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!