There was a man named Cin-cin-na'tus 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.

Cin-cin-na-tus was so wise and just th
t every-body trusted him, and

asked his advice; and when any one was in trouble, and did not know

what to do, his neighbors would say,--

"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 per-suad-ed

another tribe of bold war-riors to help them, and then marched toward

the city, plun-der-ing 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 gal-loped 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 yes-ter-day," they said, "our army was marching through a narrow

valley between two steep mountains. All at once a thou-sand sav-age

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 be taken."

"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


They told him how the army with all the noblest men of Rome had been

en-trapped 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 fallen.

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 vic-to-ry; 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.