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THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN TOWN



Once I made a pleasure trip to a country called Germany; and I went to a funny little town, where all the streets ran uphill. At the top there was a big mountain, steep like the roof of a house, and at the bottom there was a big river, broad and slow. And the funniest thing about the little town was that all the shops had the same thing in them; bakers' shops, grocers' shops, everywhere we went we saw the same thing,-big chocolate rats, rats and mice, made out of chocolate. We were so surprised that after a while, "Why do you have rats in your shops?" we asked.

"Don't you know this is Hamelin town?" they said. "What of that?" said we. "Why, Hamelin town is where the Pied Piper came," they told us; "surely you know about the Pied Piper?" "What about the Pied Piper?" we said. And this is what they told us about him.

It seems that once, long, long ago, that little town was dreadfully troubled with rats. The houses were full of them, the shops were full of them, the churches were full of them, they were everywhere. The people were all but eaten out of house and home. Those rats,

They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats!
At last it got so bad that the people simply couldn't stand it any longer. So they all came together and went to the town hall, and they said to the Mayor (you know what a mayor is?), "See here, what do we pay you your salary for? What are you good for, if you can't do a little thing like getting rid of these rats? You must go to work and clear the town of them; find the remedy that's lacking, or-we'll send you packing!"

Well, the poor Mayor was in a terrible way. What to do he didn't know. He sat with his head in his hands, and thought and thought and thought.

Suddenly there came a little rat-tat at the door. Oh! how the Mayor jumped! His poor old heart went pit-a-pat at anything like the sound of a rat. But it was only the scraping of shoes on the mat. So the Mayor sat up, and said, "Come in!"

And in came the strangest figure! It was a man, very tall and very thin, with a sharp chin and a mouth where the smiles went out and in, and two blue eyes, each like a pin; and he was dressed half in red and half in yellow-he really was the strangest fellow!-and round his neck he had a long red and yellow ribbon, and on it was hung a thing something like a flute, and his fingers went straying up and down it as if he wanted to be playing.

He came up to the Mayor and said, "I hear you are troubled with rats in this town."

"I should say we were," groaned the Mayor.

"Would you like to get rid of them? I can do it for you."

"You can?" cried the Mayor. "How? Who are you?"

"Men call me the Pied Piper," said the man, "and I know a way to draw after me everything that walks, or flies, or swims. What will you give me if I rid your town of rats?"

"Anything, anything," said the Mayor. "I don't believe you can do it, but if you can, I'll give you a thousand guineas."

"All right," said the Piper, "it is a bargain."

And then he went to the door and stepped out into the street and stood, and put the long flute-like thing to his lips, and began to play a little tune. A strange, high, little tune. And before

three shrill notes the pipe uttered,

You
heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling!
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives--
Followed the Piper for their lives!






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