Cornelia’s Jewels Cornelia’s Jewels
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Jewels

Painting By Angelica Kauffman

It was a bright morning in the city of Rome a very long time ago. Two boys were standing in the garden of their summer home. They were looking at their mother and her friend. The two women were walking among the flowers and trees.

“Have you ever seen a lady as pretty as Mother’s friend?” asked the younger boy. He held his tall brother’s hand. “She looks like a queen.”

“But she is not as beautiful as our mother,” said the older boy. “She has a fine dress. But her face is not gentle and kind. It is our mother who is like a queen.”

“That is true,” said the younger brother. “No woman in Rome is more like a queen than our mother.”

Soon Cornelia, their mother, came down the walk to speak with them. She was simply dressed in a plain white dress. She didn’t wear shoes. There were no rings or chains on her hands and neck. Long braids of soft brown hair were wrapped about her head. A smile lit up her gentle face as she looked into her sons’ eyes.

“Boys,” she said, “I have something to tell you.”

They knelt before her, as Roman boys were taught to do. “What is it, Mother?” they asked.

“I want you to eat with us today, here in the garden. Then our friend is going to show us that wonderful box of jewels I told you about.”

The brothers looked at their mother’s friend with surprise. Was it possible that she had more rings besides those on her fingers? Could she have other jewels besides those around her neck?

When the simple meal was over, a servant brought the box from the house. The lady opened it. The boys were amazed. There were strings of pearls as white as milk and as soft as silk. There were piles of pretty rubies as red as coals in a fire. There were sapphires as blue as the sky that summer day. And there were diamonds that caught the sunlight.

The brothers looked at the jewels for a long time.

“Ah,” said the younger boy, “if only our mother could have such beautiful things!”

At last, however, the box was closed and carried carefully away.

“Is it true, Cornelia, that you have no jewels?” asked her friend. “People say that you are poor. Is it true?”

“No, I am not poor,” answered Cornelia. As she spoke, she pulled her two boys to her side. “These boys here are my jewels. They are worth more than all of yours.”

I am sure that the boys never forgot their mother’s love and care. Years later, 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.

This story is adapted from Fifty Famous People by James Baldwin.

I read this story! Honestly!

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