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 and trees.
"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 queen.''
"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
"That is true,'' said the other. "There is no 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 you.''
They bowed before her, as Roman lads were taught to do, and said: "What is
"You are to dine with us to-day, 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 gems. "Ah!'' 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 Cornelia, and 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.