The Pied Piper
Once upon a time, there was a little town called Hamelin right beside the river.
It had been a fantastic harvest that year and boats unloaded the huge bags of corn grown by happy farmers from across the country.
But where there’s corn there are rats.
The people of Hamelin were very sad because the rats started to eat anything they could get their greedy, pointed little teeth into. They even nibbled furniture! One actually ate an old man’s smelly socks that he’d left on the floor.
The rats weren’t frightened of people. They were in houses, under beds, inside cupboards, even in the schoolrooms.
One old lady went to the mayor and said, “I was just drifting off to sleep last night when I felt there was something biting me. I shot up in bed and a great big stinking rat was chewing my ear!”
“Have you thought about traps?” replied the mayor.
“With all those blasted rats around, I’d need ten traps in every room!” yelled the old lady.
The mayor didn’t have a clue what to do.
The mayor’s officer asked, “What about cats?”
“I’m glad I thought of that,” said the mayor.
The mayor ordered hundreds of cats from pet shops across the land. Boxes of purring, meowing, hissing, growling cats soon arrived and one was given to every household.
“That will do the trick,” thought the mayor.
But by now the rats had grown so big that all the cats just took one look at them and ran off as fast as they could.
The mayor and the townspeople had nearly given up hope when a weird-looking man arrived and marched straight into the mayor’s office. He wore the strangest clothes. His jacket and cloak were made of scraps of different coloured material all stitched together. And he had a big red floppy hat with a big feather sticking out of the top.
“They call me the Pied Piper,” he said and pulled out a flute from under his cloak, “I can get rid of the rats.”
“You can? I’d give big money for that!” answered the mayor.
“How much?” asked the Pied Piper.
“100 pieces of gold,” answered the mayor.
“Make it two hundred and you’ve got a deal.”
They shook hands and the Pied Piper said, “Come to the town square down by the river at ten o’clock tonight and you will see what you will see.”
The mayor and his officer waited at the town square at five to ten.
Just then they heard a strange and beautiful tune that got nearer and nearer.
It was the Pied Piper playing his flute. The mayor and his officer were astonished to see that behind him were thousands of hypnotised-looking rats.
The Pied Piper marched through the square to the river, and the rats all followed him. He kept walking, playing his flute, took a deep breath and sank right under the surface. The flute music turned to bubbles as it faded away.
The rats had all got so lazy that they couldn’t swim and every single one of them sank down, were swept away by the current and drowned.
Suddenly the Pied Piper burst to the surface and took a big gulp of air. He came out of the river, shook himself and marched up to the mayor with a big smile.
“Two hundred pieces of gold please,” he said.
“I’m not sure that what you did was worth such a large sum of money. It only took you a few minutes, after all.” said the mayor.
“A deal’s a deal”, said the Pied Piper, “come back, same time, same place, tomorrow night.”
The mayor thought he was very clever for having got rid of all the rats without having to spend any money.
Next night, the mayor and his officer waited as they had done before. There was no sign of the Piper.
Then they heard the strange music again. The Pied Piper appeared and they were shocked to see that this time he led a big group of all the children in the town, all in their pyjamas, looking just as hypnotised as the rats had been.
The Pied Piper marched closer to the river still playing his magical music and soon some of the children were up to their knees in the water.
The mayor raced up and yelled, “Stop, stop, I was only joking, of course you shall have your two hundred pieces of gold!”
The Pied Piper suddenly stopped and the music came to an end. Immediately, the children woke up, and with lots of splashes and sploshes, cries and shouts, they raced back to their homes.
“Thank heavens for that,” gasped the mayor, “you had better come with me.”
In the mayor’s offices the officer unlocked a big metal box and opened the lid. Inside gleamed all the gold.
“I broke my promise and I’m very sorry,” said the mayor, “how much do I owe you?”
“Two hundred pieces of gold, please”.
“Give him three hundred,” said the mayor to the officer.
The officer counted out the gold and handed it to the Pied Piper in a big bag.
“Like a tune before I go?” asked the Pied Piper.
“Er, no thank you that won’t be necessary,” quickly answered the mayor.
The Pied Piper strolled off with a big smile on his face.
“I’ve learnt my lesson,” said the mayor, “and now I know how important it is to always keep your promises.”
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