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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XLVI THE PIED PIPER
"The Phantom World"
The following instance is so extraordinary, that I should not repeat it if the account were not attested by more than one writer, and also preserved in the public monuments of a considerable town of Upper Saxony; this town is Hamelin in the principality of Kalenberg, at the confluence of the rivers Hamel and Weser.
In the year 1384, this town was infested by such a prodigious multitude of rats, that they ravaged all the corn which was laid up in the granaries; everything was employed that art and experience could invent to chase them away, and whatever is usually employed against this kind of animals. At that time there came to the town an unknown person, of taller stature than ordinary, dressed in a robe of divers colours, who engaged to deliver them from that scourge, for a certain recompense which was agreed upon.
Then he drew from his sleeve a flute, at the sound of which all the rats came out of their holes and followed him; he led them straight to the river, into which they ran and were drowned. On his return he asked for the promised reward, which was refused him, apparently on account of the facility with which he had exterminated the rats. The next day, which was a fête day, he chose the moment when the older inhabitants were at church, and by means of another flute which he began to play, all the boys in the town above the age of fourteen, to the number of a hundred and thirty, assembled round him; he led them to the neighbouring mountain, named Kopfelberg, under which is a sewer for the town, and where criminals are executed; these boys disappeared and were never seen afterwards.
A young girl, who had followed at a distance, was witness of the matter, and brought the news of it to the town.