(1) In one of the beautiful cities of Italy there stood a tall marble column
, and on the top of the column
was a statue
of bronze, which shone in the sun. It was a statue
of Justice, and Justice held in one hand a pair of scales; that was to say that every deed
would be weighed in the balances: and in the other hand Justice held a sword; that was to say that when a man was weighed in the balances and found wanting, Justice was ready with a sword to put him to death.
(2) Now for many years, the statue
stood for the government
of the city. Justice is done to everyone. The law was observed by the rulers, who were fair
in their dealings with men, and upright
. But in the course of time, the rulers became evil
. They no longer governed justly, and the poor did not feel that they were treated by the law as the rich were treated, and this story is meant to show it.
(3) In one of the palaces of the city there was a poor maid-servant whom we will call Martha. She went in and out about her duty
and was a faithful
little thing. Although there were many jewels and pieces of money in her lady’s chamber
, she never took anything, and no one thought
her any other than a good, honest
(4) But one day, when she came to help her lady, dress for a great ball
, she could not find a pearl
necklace. It had been laid on the table
, her lady said, and now it was not there. Martha looked everywhere, but could not find it. It was a warm night, the window was open, and she looked out. She did not think the necklace could have been blown out, but she had looked everywhere else.
(5) No, there was no sign of it. It had not fallen
upon the stone ledge below the window. Not far away was the bronze figure
of Justice, and in the darkness, there was a curious sight
. She could not see the stone pillar
, but the bronze figure
stood out against the sky as if it were flying through
the air. This curious sight
kept her looking, and made her forget
for a moment
what had happened.
(6) “Martha!” called her lady sharply
, and Martha drew her head in and turned red as she thought
of what she had been doing. Her lady looked at her keenly.
(7) “Martha,” said she, suddenly
, “you took the necklace. You are a little thief
(8) Martha was frightened
at these words. She had never been called by such a name before, and she was confused
and knew not what to say. So she looked down and said nothing. The lady was angry
(9) “I know you are a thief
!” she said again, “a little thief
(10) “I am not,” cried Martha, but the lady had made up her mind
to it, and, as the necklace could not be found, she was certain
Martha had taken it.
(11) Poor Martha! She had no friends now, and she could not prove
she had not taken the necklace. She could only say she had not. To be sure, it was not in her little box, nor in any dress, she had, nor anywhere in the little room where she slept. They only said she must have been very cunning
it away so carefully.
(12) And now Martha was put in prison, and the evil
judges were more afraid of displeasing the great lady of the palace
than of doing an unjust deed
. They tried Martha, they found her guilty
, and they condemned her to be put to death.
(13) It was a strange
on the great bronze figure
of Justice that the gallows
on which Martha was to be hanged should be placed just under the figure
, at the foot of the column
. Yet so it was, and the day came for Martha to be hanged. The cruel
judges gave her no hope.
(14) The day came, and it was dark and lowering. It was almost as if the heavens frowned on the city. The people gathered and Martha mounted the platform
on which the gallows
stood. Low mutterings were heard. The skies grew black. There was a sudden blinding
light and a great crash
. A bolt
had plunged down. For a moment
the people were stunned
. Poor Martha thought
she had been struck.
(15) But she had not been struck. The lightning
, however, had come so near that it had struck the arm of Justice that held the scales, and down had come the scales to the ground. The scales fell, indeed, at Martha’s feet, and when she could see, oh joy! There lay the gleaming
necklace of pearls! It was twined in the clay
of a nest!
(16) The secret was out. A magpie
had stolen the necklace from the table
in the palace
, had flown with it out of the window to the nest he was building in the scales in the hand of Justice. Perhaps he was working it into the nest at the very moment
when Martha was looking at the bronze figure
(17) At any rate, justice
was done at last to little Martha, though men had been unjust