This post should be coming to you toward the end of the Unplugged week. As I noted when I first posted this, I wrote it two years ago, after telling my daughter the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. She was seriously unhappy with the ending, feeling that the people who deserved to be punished never were. Here, the true fools reap their just reward. Enjoy.
As the piper stepped back into the street, he was met by a young wife. In her arms, she carried a small, wooden chest. When she’d learned that the Lord Mayor and the Town Corporation intended not to pay the piper, she’d been appalled that the town’s appointed representatives were being so dishonest. As she’d suspected, the angry look on the piper’s face told her all she needed to know. With purpose, she saw him step into the town square, the same purpose he’d shown when he’d rid the town of rats. It was then that the young wife was filled with dread and knew that, if ever she was to act, it must be now.
“I beg your pardon, master piper,” she said, walking up to him with her wooden chest held out in her arms. “This chest isn’t worth much. It’s just cedar, but it’s filled with all of my gold jewelry. It’s most likely not a thousand guilders’ worth, but I offer it to you anyway in thanks for sparing my children another night of broken sleep.” With that, she kissed his cheek, then stepped back, leaving the piper with the cedar chest in his arms and a startled look on his face.
As she stepped back, there was a pause, then, one by one, the other citizens of Hamelin stepped forward, each carrying some valuable item and bidding him, some with tears in their eyes, to take them in payment. In no time, the floor around the piper was littered with valuable presents: gold, antiques, fine linens and even food. Some, with nothing to pay, merely paid with a simple kiss on that beardless cheek and a quiet murmur of gratitude. With each such gift, the piper’s smile increased.
Meanwhile, above them all, there stood the mayor and corporation on the balcony, struck dumb by the generosity of their own townsfolk.
“People of Hamelin,” said the piper, in a voice loud enough to carry to the ears of the leaders cowering above them, “your honesty and generosity has delayed the punishment I was about to give you. Had you not acted as you did, I was going to take away your children.” The assembled people gasped in shock and several mothers clutched their children to their breasts and skirts. “However, since you have acted as you did, I shall count myself paid and, instead, shall rely on you to punish the wayward leaders who would have cheated me and you of that which belongs to us.” So saying, he stepped out of the crowd of presents and walked away, leaving them all behind. As the piper left and the citizens of Hamelin began to re-gather their things, several of them looked up in anger.
“You would have risked so much just to continue to line your fat pockets?” snarled one.
“Let’s hale them down from their balcony and hoist them into a tree instead!” cried another. Many of the townsfolk took up this cry.
However, then the young wife stepped forward. “No!” she cried, silencing them all. “They aren’t worth the effort to kill them. Let them live with the knowledge of what their folly almost cost us. Perhaps it will make them wiser men.” The crowd muttered. “However,” cried the young wife, turning to the balcony and the sweating men standing atop it. “If you don’t become wiser, then you’ll not hold your places as leaders of this town for long. We’ll cast you out of town and none will speak to you as long as you live.” She then turned back to her fellow townspeople. “Let us go home, neighbors, and, forever after today, let this street along which the rats danced their last, be known to all as ‘the Pied Piper’s Street’ in memory of what we almost lost and let any pipers that play on it be gathered in and well cared for in His memory.” There was a murmur of consent as the crowd dispersed.
So it was done. The Mayor and Corporation were the wiser for their mistake, for they knew their townspeople watched them with a steely glint in their eyes. The street that knew the Pied Piper’s step was given the name “The Pied Piper’s Street” and, though no tavern or public house was ever allowed along its length, any piper or other musician found plying his trade on it was always brought inside someone’s house and treated like royalty. As for the people of Hamelin, they looked at their children with new eyes. Thus, it may be said that they truly lived happily ever after.