Long ago, smack dab in the center of a little town called Atri, there hung a bronze bell. The townspeople called it the bell of justice. It was no ordinary bell. It wasn't rung on holidays or the mayor's birthday. This bell was to be rung only when someone who had been treated unfairly needed help to right the wrong.
The people of Atri were proud of their bell. They kept it polished so bright that it looked like gold in the shining sun. Anyone -- rich or poor, young or old, tall or short -- could pull on the long rope and ring the bell to have their story heard.
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When the mayor heard the bell ring, he would put on his special robe and call for his assistant. All the people would gather in the town square to see how the mayor set things right again.
Most of the time, the people of Atri treated each other fairly and honorably, so the bell was hardly ever rung. After many years, however, time took its toll on the bell's rope. The rope had worn away so much that only the tallest person could ring it -- certainly not a child.
One day the mayor was on his tour of the town. He liked to walk around and greet all the townspeople. On this day, the mayor saw the sorry state of the bell's rope. "This will never do," exclaimed the mayor. "We need a new rope immediately!"
Everyone searched high and low, but they could not find a rope that was long enough. The mayor had to send for a new, long rope from the town on the other side of the mountain.
Meanwhile the mayor's assistant brought a long, tough grapevine from his fields. It would have to serve as a bell pull until the new rope arrived.
On a farm just outside of the city limits lived an old knight. His glory days on the field of battle were long since over. Now he spent his time out on the farm. The knight had once owned beautiful horses and hunting dogs, for he had taken great delight in hunting foxes and deer.
Now the old knight hardly ever hunted. He had sold his dogs and all his horses but one. That one horse served the knight faithfully in many battles in his youth, so the knight kept that horse for when he had to make a fine appearance at a festival or in a holiday parade.
Although the old knight had plenty of money, he no longer was willing to spend it to take proper care of his farm or his one, old horse. He preferred to spend his time sitting at his table and counting his money instead.
The knight didn't care that the stable was falling down and the poor horse didn't get any attention. The day finally came when the old knight wouldn't even buy his horse enough food to eat. The horse tried not to make too much of a fuss, but his tummy was empty.
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