“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 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.
On the other side of the sea from Rome there was once a great city named Car-thage. The Roman people were never very friendly to the people of Car-thage, and at last a war began between them. For a long time it was hard to tell which would prove the stronger. First the Romans would gain a battle, and then the men of Car-thage would gain a battle; and so the war went on for many years.
Among the Romans there was a brave gen-er-al named Reg’u-lus,—a man of whom it was said that he never broke his word. It so happened after a while, that Reg-u-lus was taken pris-on-er and carried to Carthage. Ill and very lonely, he dreamed of his wife and little children so far away beyond the sea; and he had but little hope of ever seeing them again. He loved his home dearly, but he believed that his first duty was to his country; and so he had left all, to fight in this cruel war.
He had lost a battle, it is true, and had been taken prisoner. Yet he knew that the Romans were gaining ground, and the people of Carthage were afraid of being beaten in the end. They had sent into other countries to hire soldiers to help them; but even with these they would not be able to fight much longer against Rome.