Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Pied Piper
By James Howell (c. 15941666)
TO MR. E. P.
From Familiar Letters
SIRI saw such prodigious things daily done these few years past, that I had resolved with myself to give over wondering at anything, yet a passage happened this week, that forced me to wonder once more, because it is without parallel. It was that some odd fellows went skulking up and down London streets, and with figs and raisins allured little children, and so purloined them away from their parents, and carried them a ship-board, far beyond sea, where by cutting their hair, and other devices, they so disguised them that their parents could not know them. This made me think upon that miraculous passage in Hamelen, a town in Germany, which I hoped to have passed through when I was in Hamburg, had we returned by Holland, which was thus (nor would I relate it unto you were there not some ground of truth for it). The said town of Hamelen was annoyed with rats and mice: and it chanced that a pied-coated Piper came thither, who covenanted with the chief burghers for such a reward, if he could free them quite from the said vermin, nor would he demand it till a twelvemonth and a day after: the agreement being made, he began to play on his pipes, and all the rats and the mice followed him to a great lough hard by, where they all perished; so the town was infected no more. At the end of the year, the Pied Piper returned for his reward, the burghers put him off with slightings, and neglect, offering him some small matter, which he refusing, and staying some days in the town, one Sunday morning at high mass, when most people were at church, he fell to play on his pipes, and all the children up and down followed him out of the town, to a great hill not far off, which rent in two, and opened, and let him and the children in, and so closed up again. This happened a matter of two hundred and fifty years since: and in that town, they date their bills and bonds, and other instruments in law, to this day from the year of the going out of their children: besides, there is a great pillar of stone at the foot of the said hill, whereon this story is engraven.