There was a monastery in France at the edge of a cliff overlooking a beautiful valley, and because its bells could be heard over such a wide area, it developed a reputation for attracting only the finest bellringers in the country.
There was always a bit of dread when a bellringer passed on or retired, and one year, when they spread the word of their need for a new master, there was a dearth of qualified candidates. They would have been good enough for any other monastery, but not this one. Better to have silent bells than anything less than the best.
As they were despairing at the quality of candidates, a man with no arms paid a visit to apply for the position. The monks were amazed and protested that this was no time for joking. But the man insisted, said he was from a family of famous bellringers, and he would show them what he could do. He drew back, lowered his head, and charged full speed at the bell. The monks were horrified, but could not stop him. And the sound — oh my, you should have been there! It was indeed a sound worthy of that monastery. It rang through the valley, and people everywhere stopped in their tracks and nodded to each other that at last a worthy bellringer had been found.
But alas, it was not to be. For the impact so stunned the poor armless man that he stumbled dizzily and fell over the cliff. The head monk ran down the steps to where a crowd had gathered, and a policeman spoke to him. “Do you know this man?” The monk sighed, “No, but his face rings a bell.”
The search continued. One day not long after, another armless man showed up and presented himself as the previous man’s brother. He was there to uphold the family honor, and would show them what a good bellringer could do. The monks protested, but too late — he also drew back and charged full speed into the bell. And once again, the most beautiful sound pealed out over the valley, such that even the birds circled around to see what was happening. And once again, he was so stunned that he too fell over the cliff in a daze.
Once again the head monk scrambled down the stairs to meet the crowd and a policeman. Again he was asked if he knew the deceased. “No, but he’s a dead ringer for his brother.”
Thanks to Jim Stephens for this one.