Happy Mother's Day!

Cornelia's Jewels
James Baldwin


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 pretty 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 queen."

"That is true," said the other. "There is no woman in Rome so much like a queen as our own dear mother."

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 sons 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 chest 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 chest 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 chest 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.


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Sentence Completion I

Use the vocabulary words to complete the sentences below.
  1. The rubies were as red as glowing ___________.
  2. The pearls were ___________ and white
  3. Cornelia's friend owned many __________ and __________.
  4. Cornelia could afford only __________ clothing.
  5. Still her sons thought she looked more __________ and _________ than her friend.
  6. Cornelia was ___________ of her two sons.
  7. The boys remembered the afternoon's __________ their whole lives.

Sentence Completion II

Use the vocabulary words to complete the sentences below.
  1. The __________ stranger stopped to help the old womann cross the street.
  2. A few ___________ still remained from the evening's fire.
  3. The rich woman wore many ___________.
  4. The __________ hid behind his mother.
  5. My brother was very __________ of his good grade.
  6. Her diamond ring __________ in the sunlight.

Reading Comprehension

  1. What city does this story happen in?
  2. When did this story take place?
  3. How many sons did Cornelia have?
  4. What did Corenelia's sons think their mother looked like?
  5. Did Cornelia own many gems?
  6. What kinds of gems did Corenelia's friend own?
  7. Why did Cornelia say she was not poor?

Discussion Questions

  1. What makes someone rich or poor?
  2. How important are gold. jewels, and other things?
  3. Whose treasure was greater, Cornelia's or her friend's?
  4. Why did the younger son wish his mother owned expensive gems?
  5. Which person do you believe is happier? Why?
  6. Which person would you rather be? Why?

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