Such a battle no one ever knew before. But Switzerland was saved, and Arnold Wink-el-ried did not die in vain.
A-tri is the name of a little town in It-a-ly. It is a very old town, and is built half-way 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 fas-tened to the bell. The smallest child could ring the bell by pulling upon this rope.
“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, pol-ished 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 un-twist-ed; 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 in-jured 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 ten-drils still upon it, trailed to the ground.