From the viewpoint of a mistreated baker's apprentice called Geist, Skurzynski tells of a gypsy piper who turns up in the town of Hamelin, rids it by natural means of a terrible infestation of rats, and then, when the council fails to pay him, feeds all the children (except Geist) sweets laced with ergot-contaminated rye. The baker boy is delighted to be singled out as the stranger's assistant, and his desire to leave Hamelin with his new master wins out over his doubts and reservations when the other children start behaving oddly. Then the piper arranges for the adults to be in church, praying for their offsprings' recovery, while he administers a supposed dance cure and, piping away, leads them out of town. The plan, he finally tells a horrified Geist, is to take the children to the eastern provinces where a nobleman will pay him per head for new settlers. In an afterword Skurzynski refers to the documentary basis for her speculation and explains how it could have happened just that way in the year 1284. She's done a good job of slipping in the necessary background conditions and, more important, of bringing Hamelin to life and making a likely, likable story of Geist's involvement.