| Fifty Famous Stories Retold|
|by James Baldwin|
|Includes fifty legendary tales depicting certain romantic episodes in the lives of well-known heroes and famous men, or in the history of a people. Children naturally take a deep interest in such stories. The reading of them will not only give pleasure but will lay the foundation for broader literary studies, as nearly all are the subjects of frequent allusions in poetry and prose. Ages 6-9 |
THE BELL OF ATRI
 ATRI is the name of a little town in
Italy. It is a very
old town, and is built halfway up the side of
a steep hill.
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
fastened to the bell. The smallest child could ring the bell by pulling upon
"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 polished until it looked almost
as bright and yellow as the sun.
"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
was untwisted; some of the strands were broken; it became
so short that only a tall man could reach 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
injured one could not reach the old rope?
 "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 slender vine, with its leaves
and tendrils still upon it, trailed to the ground.
"Yes," said the judges, "it is a very good rope. Let it be
as it is."
Now, on the hillside above the village, there lived a man
who had once been a brave knight. In his youth he had ridden
through many lands, and he had fought in many a battle.
His best friend through all that time had been his
horse,—a strong, noble steed that had borne him
safe through many a danger.
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 hillside. Day after day he sat among
his money bags, and planned how he might get more gold; and
day after day his horse stood in his bare stall,
half-starved, and shivering with cold.
 "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
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 market place. Not a man
nor child was there, for the heat of the sun had driven them
all indoors. The gates were wide open; the poor beast could
roam where he pleased. He saw the grape-vine rope that hung
from the bell of justice. The leaves and tendrils upon it
were still fresh and green, for it had not been there long.
What a fine dinner they would be for a starving horse!
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,—
| Some one
| Oh! come
| Oh! come
| For I've
The judges heard it. They put on their robes, and went
out through the hot streets to the market place. They
wondered who it could be who would ring the bell at such a
time. When they passed through the gate, they saw the old
horse nibbling at the vine.
"Ha!" cried one, "it is the miser's steed. He has come
to call for justice; for his master, as everybody knows,
has treated him most shamefully."
"He pleads his cause as well as any dumb brute can," said
"And he shall have justice!" said the third.
Meanwhile a crowd of men and women and children had come into the market place, eager to learn what cause the
judges were about to try. When they saw the horse, all stood
still in wonder. Then every one was ready to tell how they
had seen him wandering on the hills, unfed, uncared for, while his master sat at home counting his bags of gold.
"Go bring the miser before us," said the judges.
"Some one has done me wrong!"
 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
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