THE STORY OF CINCINNATUS
THERE was a man named Cincinnatus who lived on a
little farm not far from the city of Rome. He had once been
rich, and had held the highest office
 in the land; but in one way or another he had lost all his
wealth. He was now so poor that he had to do all the work
on his farm with his own hands. But in those days it was
thought to be a noble thing to till the soil.
Cincinnatus was so wise and just that everybody trusted him, and asked his advice; and when any one was in
trouble, and did not know what to do, his neighbors would
"Go and tell Cincinnatus. He will help you."
Now there lived among the mountains, not far away, a tribe
of fierce, half-wild men, who were at war with the Roman
people. They persuaded another tribe of bold warriors to help them, and then marched toward the city,
plundering and robbing as they came. They boasted that they would
tear down the walls of Rome, and burn the houses, and kill
all the men, and make slaves of the women and children.
At first the Romans, who were very proud and brave, did not
think there was much danger. Every man in Rome was a
soldier, and the army which went out to fight the robbers
was the finest in the world. No one staid at home with the
women and children and boys but the white-haired "Fathers,"
as they were called, who made the laws for the city, and a
small company of men who
 guarded the walls. Everybody thought that it would be an
easy thing to drive the men of the mountains back to the
place where they belonged.
But one morning five horsemen came riding down the road
from the mountains. They rode with great speed; and both
men and horses were covered with dust and blood. The
watchman at the gate knew them, and shouted to them as they
galloped in. Why did they ride thus? and what had happened
to the Roman army?
They did not answer him, but rode into the city and along
the quiet streets; and everybody ran after them, eager to
find out what was the matter. Rome was not a large city at
that time; and soon they reached the market place where the
white-haired Fathers were sitting. Then they leaped from
their horses, and told their story.
"Only yesterday," they said, "our army was marching
through a narrow valley between two steep mountains. All at
once a thousand savage men sprang out from among the rocks before
us and above us. They had blocked up the way; and the pass
was so narrow that we could not fight. We tried to come
back; but they had blocked up the way on this side of us
too. The fierce men of the mountains were before us and
behind us, and they were throwing rocks down
 upon us from above. We had been caught in a trap. Then ten
of us set spurs to our horses; and five of us forced our way
through, but the other five fell before the spears of the
mountain men. And now, O Roman Fathers! send help to our
army at once, or every man will be slain, and our city will
"What shall we do?" said the white-haired Fathers. "Whom
can we send but the guards and the boys? and who is wise
enough to lead them, and thus save Rome?"
All shook their heads and were very grave; for it seemed as
if there was no hope. Then one said "Send for Cincinnatus. He
will help us."
Cincinnatus was in the field plowing when the men who had
been sent to him came in great haste. He stopped and greeted
them kindly, and waited for them to speak.
"Put on your cloak, Cincinnatus," they said, "and hear the
words of the Roman people."
Then Cincinnatus wondered what they could mean. "Is all
well with Rome?" he asked; and he called to his wife to
bring him his cloak.
She brought the cloak; and Cincinnatus wiped the dust from
his hands and arms, and threw it over his shoulders. Then
the men told their errand.
They told him how the army with all the noblest
 men of Rome had been entrapped in the mountain pass. They told him about the great danger the
city was in. Then they said, "The people of Rome make
you their ruler and the ruler of their city, to do with
everything as you choose; and the Fathers
 bid you come at once and go out against our enemies, the
fierce men of the mountains."
So Cincinnatus left his plow standing where it was, and
hurried to the city. When he passed through the streets, and
gave orders as to what should be done, some of the people
were afraid, for they knew that he had all power in Rome to
do what he pleased. But he armed the guards and the boys,
and went out at their head to fight the fierce mountain
men, and free the Roman army from the trap into which it had
A few days afterward there was great joy in Rome. There was
good news from Cincinnatus. The men of the mountains had
been beaten with great loss. They had been driven back into
their own place.
And now the Roman army, with the boys and the guards, was
coming home with banners flying and shouts of
victory; and at their head rode Cincinnatus. He had saved Rome.
Cincinnatus might then have made himself king; for his
word was law, and no man dared lift a finger against him.
But, before the people could thank him enough for what he
had done, he gave back the power to the white-haired Roman
Fathers, and went again to his little farm and his plow.
He had been the ruler of Rome for sixteen days.