By Anna Hempstead Branch

: Boys And Girls Bookshelf

There was a lad named Piping Will

With tattered coat and poor;

He had no home to bide him in,

But roamed from door to door.

This lad had naught except a pipe

On which he used to play;

Yet never lad did laugh so free,

Nor had a look so gay.

"Nay, bide, thou merry piper-boy!"

The kindly house-dames sai

"The roads are rough, the skies are wild,

And thou dost lack for bread.

"The hills are steep, the stones unkind--

Why wilt thou always roam?

And winter turns a barren heart

To them that have no home."

Then would he smile and pipe awhile,

But would not ever stay.

How strange that he could be so poor,

Yet have a heart so gay!

And so the good folk shook their heads,

And they would turn and stare

To see him piping through the fields.

What was he doing there?

It fell about the blithe Yule-tide,

When winter winds were keen,

The Burgomaster's little maid

Slipped from the house unseen;

For she had heard that in the wood

The dear snow-children run,

And play where shadows are most cold

And where there is no sun.

But lo, the evening hurried on,

And bitter sleet blew cold;

It whitened all her scarlet cloak

And flying locks of gold.

The road was hid, and she was lost,

And knew not where to go;

And still the sharp blast swept her on,

Whether she would or no.

Now who is this amid the sleet?

His face she cannot see!

He tunes his pipe against the wind,

As merry as can be.

He tunes his pipe against the wind

With music sweet and wild,

When lo, a fluttering scarlet cape,

The sobbing of a child!

He took her up and held her close;

"I'll take you home," he said.

But still the little maid sobbed on,

Nor was she comforted.

"What! Cold and hungry, little maid,

And frightened of the storm?

I'll play upon my pipe," said he,

"And that will keep you warm!"

And lo, when first he blew his pipe,

It was a wondrous thing--

The sleet and snow turned all to flowers,

The birds began to sing!

When next he blew upon his pipe,

She marveled more and more;

For, built of gold with strange device,

A palace rose before!

A lovely lady led them in,

And there they sat them down;

The piper wore a purple cloak,

And she a snow-white gown.

And there was song and light and cheer,

Feasting and everything!

Who would have thought that Piping Will

Could be so great a king?

The third time that he blew his pipe

They took her to the queen;

Her hair was yellow as the sun,

And she was clothed in green.

Yet did she kiss that little maid,

Who should no longer roam--

When lo, the dear dream flashed away,

And there she was at home!

"Make this thy home, thou Piping Will,"

The Burgomaster cried.

"Thou hast restored our little maid!

I tell thee, thou must bide."

"Make this thy home, thou Piping Will,"

The bustling mother said.

"Come, warm thyself before the hearth

And eat the good white bread."

But Piping Will would only smile:

"Good friends, I cannot wait!"

(Who could have thought that tattered coat

Had been a robe of state!)

So forth he fared into the night,

And, piping, went his way.

"How strange," they said, "a lad so poor

Can have a heart so gay!"

Only the little maid that sat

Upon her father's knee

Remembered how they two had fared

That night right pleasantly.

And as she ate her bread and milk,

So close and safe and warm,

She wondered what strange, lovely lands

He wrought of wind and storm.

For he that plays a fairy pipe

Is lord of everything!

She laughed to think that Piping Will

Should be so great a king.