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 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 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 nor 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 it, mother?"
"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
"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."
I am sure that 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