The Bell of Justice

The Bell of Justice hung in the hillside town of Atri.
The Bell of Justice hung in the hillside town of Atri.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

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.

For many years, townsfolk rang the bell when they were wronged.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

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.

The Knight of Atri had grown gray, and his sword and shield were rusty.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Knight of Atri was no different. His hair had grown gray. His sword and shield had rusted and hung unused on his wall. He sold off his horses, hawks, and hounds, his vineyards and his gardens, and all the rest of his worldly goods. The old and gray Knight of Atri was content to sit in his house and count the piles of gold coins that he had made from selling everything he owned.

The only possession the knight kept was his favorite horse, who had so often carried him into battle.

Although he kept this horse, the knight did not take good care of him. "Why should I feed this old horse?" the old knight asked. "I hardly ever use him anymore, so why should I have to feed him all the time?"

Just by looking at the tired old horse, one could tell how poorly the old knight cared for him. You could feel the horse's ribs when you touched his sides. His eyes were tired and sad. His ears no longer perked up like they had when he was young. His mane and tail were full of hairy knots and mats. The poor horse looked old and hungry.

The knight did not take good care of his horse.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

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.

Find out what happens to the hungry horse on the next page.

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