Cornelia S. Jewels
by James Baldwin, Fifty Famous Stories Retold
It was a bright morning in the old
city of Rome
many hundred years ago. In a vine-covered summer-
house in a beautiful garden, two boys were
standing. They were looking at their mother and
her friend, who were walking among the flowers
"Did you ever see so handsome
a lady as our
mother's friend?" asked the younger boy, holding
his tall brother's hand. "She looks like a
"Yet she is not so beautiful
as our mother,"
said the elder boy. "She has a fine dress, it is
true - but her face is not noble and kind. It is our
mother who is like a queen."
"That is true," said the other. "There
woman in Rome so much like a queen as our own
Soon Cornelia, their mother, came down the
walk to speak with them. She was simply dressed
in a plain, white robe. Her arms and feet were
bare, as was the custom in those days - and no
rings or chains glittered about her hands and
neck. For her only crown, long braids of soft
brown hair were coiled about her head - and a
tender smile lit up her noble face as she looked
into her sons' proud eyes.
"Boys," she said, "I
have something to tell
They bowed before her, as Roman lads
were taught to do, and said, "What is it, mother?"
"You are to dine with us
today, here in the
garden - and then our friend is going to show us
that wonderful casket of jewels of which you have
heard so much."
The brothers looked shyly at their mother's
friend. Was it possible that she had still other
rings besides those on her fingers? Could she
have other gems besides those which sparkled in
the chains about her neck?
When the simple outdoor meal was over, a
servant brought the casket from the house. The
lady opened it. Ah, how those jewels dazzled the
eyes of the wondering boys! There were ropes of
pearls, white as milk, and smooth as satin - heaps
of shining rubies, red as the glowing coals -
sapphires as blue as the sky that summer day - and
diamonds that flashed and sparkled like the sunlight.
The brothers looked long at the
whispered the younger, "if our mother could only
have such beautiful things!"
At last, however, the casket was closed and
carried carefully away.
"Is it true, Cornelia, that
you have no jewels?"
asked her friend. "Is it true, as I have heard it
whispered, that you are poor?"
"No, I am not poor," answered
as she spoke she drew her two boys to her side, "for
here are my jewels. They are worth more than all your gems."
The boys never forgot their mother's pride and
love and care - and in after years, when they had
become great men in Rome, they often thought
of this scene in the garden. And the world still
likes to hear the story of Cornelia's jewels.