Bedtime Stories

The Bell of Justice

The Bell of Justice Story Long, long ago, during the rule of old King John, there was a small and humble hillside town called Atri.

One day King John’s procession came through Atri. Trumpets blared and grown men wept as the gallant king rode through the small town’s streets. When King John reached the town square, he proclaimed, “By my royal order, a great bell shall hang here. Whenever any person is wronged, they shall ring the bell. And when this Bell of Justice is rung, the town’s judge shall correct whatever wrong has been done.”

And so the bell was hung in the town square and the king’s orders were obeyed.

For many, many years, the Bell of Justice was rung when wrongs were done. When a farmer’s livestock was stolen, he rang the bell. When a grandmother’s special fruit pie was swiped, she rang the bell. When a child was bullied, he or she rang the bell. And in each and every case, the town’s judge would come and bring justice to those who had done wrong.

Yet all things come to an end, and so did the town of Atri’s love for the Bell of Justice. After many years of not being used, the bell fell into disrepair. It rusted, and its rope unraveled and fell off. But even though the town of Atri had forgotten about the Bell of Justice, the town’s judge had not. He called to one of the town’s workers and said, “Please go out into the woods and get a long vine. We will tie the vine to the bell so that it can be rung once again.”

Now, during the many years since the rule of King John, other things had changed besides the Bell of Justice. During King John’s reign, legend tells us, there had been a brave and gallant knight called the Knight of Atri. Tales of his adventures and his hunts were still told. Yet, as you know, many years had passed. Knights, just like bells, grow old and rusty when they are not used. One day the horse approached his master, begging for just a bit of grain or hay to eat.

“It’s not a holiday or other day on which I might use you, so I don’t see why you should expect to be fed,” said the old knight. And with that, the Knight of Atri turned away his favorite horse and faithful companion.As the tired old horse trudged out into the hot summer sun, his belly begged for something to eat. The horse wandered through dry pastures, finding no fresh grass to nibble on. The horse wandered through barren fields, finding no corn or grain to eat. And so the Knight of Atri’s horse finally wandered into the town of Atri, hoping to find something to eat there.

But as the horse walked down the cobblestone streets, food was hard to find. The angry dogs of the town barked at the horse and chased him away. The people of the town had shut their doors and windows on this particularly hot day, hoping to keep the sun and heat out of their houses. The heat had driven the townspeople out of the streets and into their homes, where it then lulled them to sleep.

Still hungry, the horse spotted the center of town, where a green vine hung from the Bell of Justice.

The horse hurried to the Bell of Justice, imagining how the vine might taste. While horses do not know about such things as the ringing of bells and the righting of wrongs, they do know that a juicy green vine can fill an empty and rumbling stomach.It was with this knowledge that the hungry old horse grabbed the vine that was tied to the Bell of Justice. The horse simply wanted a bite to eat. But the vine had been tied to the end of the bell’s old, tattered rope rather tightly and the horse could not pull it loose. The horse pulled and pulled. And the bell rang and rang.

The bell rang so loudly and for so long that all of the people of Atri awoke from their summer naps. They opened their doors and their windows, at first wondering what the ruckus was. Then they came out into the streets, wondering why the Bell of Justice was being rung.

The townspeople walked to the bell, where they found the poor, hungry horse munching on the vine. At the front of the crowd stood the town’s judge. Knowing that the horse belonged to the Knight of Atri, the judge sent for him.When the old knight arrived, the judge said:

What good, what honor, what repute

Can come from starving this poor brute?

He who serves well and speaks not, merits more

Than they who knock loudest at the door.

Therefore I decree that as this steed

Served you in youth, you shall take heed

To comfort his old age, and to provide

Shelter, food, and field beside.

From that day forth, the Knight of Atri took good care of his old horse, and the people of the town never forgot the good that the Bell of Justice could bring.

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