One thing that everyone seemed able to agree on was how remarkable it was that the whole affair, from the time the rats had first emerged to the last splash of the final tail disappearing to a watery grave, had all occurred in one single day. It was decided that what was left of the food supply should be gathered together in the town square and everyone should eat, drink and enjoy themselves (without any music, of course) until bedtime. Any townspeople reluctant to do so (such as Elizabeth Barrett, I’m afraid) were reminded of the huge amount of clearing up there would be afterwards, and this seemed to bring them around to the idea.

The town councillors were all given permission to attend and so only the mayor, Mr Wim and Mr Pole made their way back to the council chamber that evening, to await the arrival of The Pied Piper. Wim and Pole had, as requested, carefully counted out the entire amount it had been agreed he should be paid – one thousand guilders – and it was now ready in a briefcase in the council chamber. There it sat, right next to another, exactly identical briefcase, on the council table. The mayor did not think they would have to wait long for The Piper to arrive and, despite having to part with some of the town’s money, he was very happy about the situation. The same could not be said for his advisers.


‘Well, well, well,’ said Mayor Street. ‘All has ended very favourably, has it not?’


‘A very satisfactory piece of work, Mr Wim?’ said Mr Pole.


‘Undoubtedly, Mr Pole,’ said Mr Wim.


‘Except for the financial aspect, of course.’


‘Ah yes. The financial aspect.’


The two advisers frowned and shook their heads. They rubbed their chins with the thumb and forefinger of one of their hands.


The mayor tried to share their mood. ‘Ah yes,’ he said gravely, ‘the financial aspect.’ He too rubbed his chin with a thumb and forefinger and tried to look thoughtful.


‘The mayor understands the problem, Mr Wim,’ said Mr Pole.


‘Well, he’s a very clever man, Mr Pole,’ said Mr Wim.


‘Of course I understand the problem,’ said the mayor and then, after a pause, he added, ‘Er, what problem, exactly?’


‘Problem, sir?’ said Mr Wim. ‘No problem. You did promise to pay The Piper and so of course you really ought to pay him.’


‘One thousand guilders,’ said Mr Pole, emphasising every word in a solemn tone.


‘Yes,’ said the mayor, suddenly thinking that one thousand guilders sounded like an awful lot of money. ‘It does sound like an awful lot of money, doesn’t it? One thousand guilders, just for playing a pipe. I’ve always thought that was too much, actually. I said so, when he first came here, do you remember?’


‘Yes, but you did promise, your worship,’ said Mr Wim.


‘And you should honour your promise,’ said Mr Pole. ‘After all, your worship is a very honest man.’


‘Yes, that’s right, I’m known for my honesty, aren’t I? Well, there’s nothing for it then. You’d better open the briefcase. The chap will be here any minute, I am certain.’


‘On the other hand, Mr Wim,’ said Mr Pole, ‘there is another kind of honesty, isn’t there?’


‘Oh, there’s definitely another kind of honesty, Mr Pole,’ said Mr Wim. ‘Honesty to oneself.’


‘Now, be honest with yourself, Mr Mayor. Do you really think The Piper deserves one thousand guilders?’


‘In all honesty, Mr Mayor, does he deserve it?’


Mayor Street rubbed his chin a little more, frowned as much as he could manage and shook his head. ‘No,’ he said at last. ‘No, I don’t think he does deserve it.’


‘He tried to swindle us, didn’t he, sir? Swindlers like that don’t deserve a penny, let alone a thousand guilders.’


‘You’re right there, Wim,’ said the mayor.


‘And it’s not as if he can do anything to us, is it, sir? What’s he going to do? Bring the rats back from the dead?’


‘You’re right, too, Pole. We won’t pay him a single penny!’


‘Why, Mr Mayor,’ said Mr Wim, ‘another brilliant decision!’


‘You are clever, Mr Mayor,’ said Mr Pole. ‘And very honest!’


This caused the mayor to blush somewhat. ‘Yes, well, you know,’ he said, ‘that’s what I’m here for.’


‘And we are here to carry out your instructions. Don’t worry, you go home to your wife and leave everything to us. Isn’t that so, Mr Wim?’


‘We’ll take care of it, Mr Pole.’


‘Very well,’ said the mayor, and just at that moment the door to the chamber opened and, for the third time that day, The Pied Piper stepped into the room.


‘Ah! The hero of the hour, Mr Wim,’ said Mr Pole.


‘The saviour of the town, Mr Pole,’ said Mr Wim.


‘I have come for my thousand guilders,’ said The Piper.


‘Yes, well,’ said the mayor, ‘I’ll leave you in the capable hands of my trusted advisers.’


With no further words, but a sheepish glance at The Piper as he left the room, the mayor departed, crossed the town square and returned to his home. He found his wife had already left for the town party, but Mayor Street did not feel very much like celebrating that evening. Although he had no doubt he had done the right thing, there was a nagging sensation inside his tummy that something was very wrong. He decided an early night could be just what he needed and was soon sound asleep, clutching his teddy-bear and snoring in his comfortable bed.


Meanwhile, Wim and Pole were handing The Piper one of the briefcases from the council table. However, it was not quite the briefcase he was expecting.


‘What’s the meaning of this?’ said The Pied Piper, opening the lid. ‘It’s empty!’


‘Oh, dear! Is it empty, Mr Wim?’ said Mr Pole.


‘It certainly looks empty, Mr Pole,’ said Mr Wim. ‘Oh, dear!’


‘Wait a minute!’ said The Piper. ‘We had a deal.’


‘Did we have a deal, Mr Wim?’ said Mr Pole.


‘I don’t remember any deal, Mr Pole,’ said Mr Wim.


‘I said I would rid your town of its rats!’ exclaimed The Piper in a voice rising with anger.


‘Yes, you did, didn’t you?’ said Mr Wim.


‘And now they’re gone, aren’t they?’ said Mr Pole. ‘And what has gone can hardly come back.’


There was a pause, then The Piper spoke again. ‘I see your game, but you’ll regret it! It’s a foolish man who dares to cross The Pied Piper!’


‘Oh come now, Piper,’ said Mr Wim. ‘Think of this as a learning experience.’


‘Yes,’ agreed Mr Pole. ‘Something to mull over on your way out of Hamelin.’


Then the two advisers each hooked one of their arms under one of The Piper’s and lifted him from the floor with surprising ease. Too startled to react, The Piper let himself be carried to the door and set upon his feet again. But instead of ushering him from the room and closing the door behind him, as he had imagined they would do, Wim and Pole cleared their throats and began to sing. It was not the Town Council Song they sang, nor anything that sounded like The Piper’s tune. It was something they had invented especially for this occasion, something to make it clear to their guest that he was no longer welcome in Hamelin.

Goodnight and thank-you, we want you to stay

But now your job’s finished you’ll be on your way

We wish we had money, to give you some pay

But goodnight and thanks anyway!

Goodnight and thank-you, you’ve done your task well

Our city is clean, there’s no lingering smell

Everyone here thinks you’re very swell

So goodnight and thank-you, farewell!

We know we promised you some cash reward

For what you would do

But it’s done now and so are you

Goodnight, goodbye, au revoir, adieu!

Goodnight and thank-you, your music has cheered us

Of rats in our city you surely have cleared us

But we don’t take kindly to colourful weirdoes

So goodnight and thank-you from us.

Goodnight and thank-you whoever you are

It’s time for you now to travel afar

It’s too bad that no one’s invented the car

Goodnight and thank-you, piper.

We know we promised you some cash reward

For what you would do

But it’s done now and so are you!

Goodnight, goodbye, au revoir, adieu!

Goodnight and thank-you, your music has cheered us

Of rats in our city you surely have cleared us

But we don’t take kindly to colourful weirdoes

So goodnight and thank-you from us

Goodnight and thank-you from us

Get lost!


Only when the song was over did Wim and Pole finally gesture for The Piper to leave. Before doing so, he turned briefly towards them and uttered a warning through gritted teeth. ‘People who put me in a passion may find me pipe after another fashion!’


‘Oh, do pipe down,’ said Mr Wim and Mr Pole together. Then they turned their backs, closed the door and began counting out the one thousand guilders in the other briefcase, just to make sure it was all still there.

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