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The Scullion Who Became A Sculptor
by [?]

In the little Italian village of Possagno there lived a jolly stone-cutter named Pisano. He was poor, of course, or he would not have been a stone-cutter; but he was full of good humor, and everybody liked him.

There was one little boy, especially, who loved old Pisano, and whom old Pisano loved more than anybody else in the world. This was Antonio Canova, Pisano’s grandson, who had come to live with him, because his father was dead, and his mother had married a harsh man, who treated the little Antonio roughly.

Antonio was a frail little fellow, and his grandfather liked to have him near him during his working hours.

While Pisano worked at stone-cutting, little Canova played at it and at other things, such as modelling in clay, drawing, etc. The old grandfather, plain, uneducated man as he was, soon discovered that the pale-faced little fellow at his side had something more than an ordinary child’s dexterity at such things.

The boy knew nothing of art or of its laws, but he fashioned his lumps of clay into forms of real beauty. His wise grandfather, seeing what this indicated, hired a teacher to give him some simple lessons in drawing, so that he might improve himself if he really had the artistic ability which the old man suspected. Pisano was much too poor, as he knew, ever to give the boy an art-education and make an artist of him, but he thought that Antonio might at least learn to be a better stone-cutter than common.

As the boy grew older he began to help in the shop during the day, while in the evening his grandmother told him stories or sang or recited poetry to him. All these things were educating him, though without his knowing it, for they were awakening his taste and stimulating his imagination, which found expression in the clay models that he loved to make in his leisure hours.

It so happened that Signor Faliero, the head of a noble Venetian family, and a man of rare understanding in art, had a place near Pisano’s house, and at certain seasons the nobleman entertained many distinguished guests there. When the palace was very full of visitors, old Pisano was sometimes hired to help the servants with their tasks, and the boy Canova, when he was twelve years old, sometimes did scullion’s work there, also, for a day, when some great feast was given.

On one of these occasions, when the Signor Faliero was to entertain a very large company at dinner, young Canova was at work over the pots and pans in the kitchen. The head-servant made his appearance, just before the dinner hour, in great distress.

The man who had been engaged to furnish the great central ornament for the table had, at the last moment, sent word that he had spoiled the piece. It was now too late to secure another, and there was nothing to take its place. The great vacant space in the centre of the table spoiled the effect of all that had been done to make the feast artistic in appearance, and it was certain that Signor Faliero would be sorely displeased.

But what was to be done? The poor fellow whose business it was to arrange the table was at his wits’ end.

While every one stood dismayed and wondering, the begrimed scullion boy timidly approached the distressed head-servant, and said, “If you will let me try, I think I can make something that will do.”

“You!” exclaimed the servant; “and who are you?”

“I am Antonio Canova, Pisano’s grandson,” answered the pale-faced little fellow.

“And what can you do, pray?” asked the man, in astonishment at the conceit of the lad.

“I can make you something that will do for the middle of the table,” said the boy, “if you’ll let me try.”

The servant had little faith in the boy’s ability, but not knowing what else to do, he at last consented that Canova should try.