The Bell of Atri
A-TRI is the name of a little town in
A long time ago, the King of Atri bought a fine large bell,
and had it hung up in a tower in the market place. A long
rope that reached almost to the ground was
"It is the bell of justice," said the king.
When at last everything was ready, the people of Atri had a
great holiday. All the men and women and children came down
to the market place to look at the bell of justice. It was a
very pretty bell, and was
"How we should like to hear it ring!" they said.
Then the king came down the street.
"Perhaps he will ring it," said the people; and everybody stood very still, and waited to see what he would do.
But he did not ring the bell. He did not even take the rope in his hands. When he came to the foot of the tower, he stopped, and raised his hand.
"My people," he said, "do you see this beautiful bell? It is your bell; but it must never be rung except in case of need. If any one of you is wronged at any time, he may come and ring the bell; and then the judges shall come together at once, and hear his case, and give him justice. Rich and poor, old and young, all alike may come; but no one must touch the rope unless he knows that he has been wronged."
Many years passed by after this. Many times did the bell in
the market place ring out to call the judges together. Many
wrongs were righted, many ill-doers were punished. At last
the hempen rope was almost worn out. The lower part of it
"This will never do," said the judges one day. "What if a child should be wronged? It could not ring the bell to let us know it."
They gave orders that a new rope should be put upon the bell
at once,—a rope that should hang down to the ground, so that
the smallest child could reach it. But there was not a rope
to be found in all Atri. They would have to send across the
mountains for one, and it would be many days before it could
be brought. What if some great wrong should be done before
it came? How could the judges know about it, if the
"Let me fix it for you," said a man who stood by.
He ran into his garden, which was not far away, and soon came back with a long grape-vine in his hands.
"This will do for a rope," he said; and he climbed up, and
fastened it to the bell. The
"Yes," said the judges, "it is a very good rope. Let it be as it is."
Now, on the
But the knight, when he grew older, cared no more to ride
into battle; he cared no more to do brave deeds; he thought
of nothing but gold; he became a miser. At last he sold
all that he had, except his horse, and went to live in a
little hut on the
"What is the use of keeping that lazy steed?" said the miser to himself one morning. "Every week it costs me more to keep him than he is worth. I might sell him; but there is not a man that wants him. I cannot even give him away. I will turn him out to shift for himself, and pick grass by the roadside. If he starves to death, so much the better."
So the brave old horse was turned out to find what he could among the rocks on the barren hill-side. Lame and sick, he strolled along the dusty roads, glad to find a blade of grass or a thistle. The boys threw stones at him, the dogs barked at him, and in all the world there was no one to pity him.
One hot afternoon, when no one was upon the street, the
horse chanced to wander into the
He stretched his thin neck, and took one of the tempting morsels in his mouth. It was hard to break it from the vine. He pulled at it, and the great bell above him began to ring. All the people in Atri heard it. It seemed to say,—
The judges heard it. They put on their robes, and went
out through the hot streets to the
"Ha!" cried one, "it is the miser's steed. He has come
to call for justice; for his master, as
"He pleads his cause as well as any dumb brute can," said another.
"And he shall have justice!" said the third.
"Go bring the miser before us," said the judges.
And when he came, they bade him stand and hear their
"This horse has served you well for many a year," they said. "He has saved you from many a peril. He has helped you gain your wealth. Therefore we order that one half of all your gold shall be set aside to buy him shelter and food, a green pasture, where he may graze, and a warm stall to comfort him in his old age."
The miser hung his head, and grieved to lose his gold; but the people shouted with joy, and the horse was led away to his new stall and a dinner such as he had not had in many a day.