Feb 15th, 2020
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  2. A GOOD many years ago there lived in Italy a little boy whose name was
  3. Antonio Canova. He lived with his grandfather, for his own father was
  4. dead. His grandfather was a stonecutter, and he was very poor.
  5. Antonio was a puny lad, and not strong enough to work. He did not care
  6. to play with the other boys of the town. But he liked to go with his
  7. grandfather to the stoneyard. While the old man was busy, cutting, and
  8. trimming the great blocks of stone, the lad would play among the chips.
  9. Sometimes he would make a little statue of soft clay; sometimes he
  10. would take hammer and chisel, and try to cut a statue from a piece of
  11. rock. He showed so much skill that his grandfather was delighted.
  12. "The boy will be a sculptor some day," he said.
  13. Then when they went home in the evening, the grandmother would say,
  14. "What have you been doing to-day, my little sculptor?"
  15. And she would take him upon her lap and sing to him, or tell him stories
  16. that filled his mind with pictures of wonderful and beautiful things. And
  17. the next day, when he went back to the stoneyard, he would try to make
  18. some of those pictures in stone or clay.
  19. There lived in the same town a rich man who was called the Count.
  20. Sometimes the Count would have a grand dinner, and his rich friends
  21. from other towns would come to visit him. Then Antonio's grandfather
  22. would go up to the Count's house to help with the work in the kitchen;
  23. for he was a fine cook as well as a good stonecutter.
  24. It happened one day that Antonio went with his grandfather to the
  25. Count's great house. Some people from the city were coming, and there
  26. was to be a grand feast. The boy could not cook, and he was not old
  27. enough to wait on the table; but he could wash the pans and kettles, and
  28. as he was smart and quick, he could help in many other ways.
  29. All went well until it was time to spread the table for dinner. Then there
  30. was a crash in the dining room, and a man rushed into the kitchen with
  31. some pieces of marble in his hands. He was pale, and trembling with
  32. fright.
  33. "What shall I do? What shall I do?" he cried. "I have broken the statue
  34. that was to stand at the center of the table. I cannot make the table look
  35. pretty without the statue. What will the Count say?"
  36. And now all the other servants were in trouble. Was the dinner to be a
  37. failure after all? For everything depended on having the table nicely
  38. arranged. The Count would be very angry.
  39. "Ah, what shall we do?" they all asked.
  40. Then little Antonio Canova left his pans and kettles, and went up to the
  41. man who had caused the trouble.
  42. "If you had another statue, could you arrange the table?" he asked.
  43. "Certainly," said the man; "that is, if the statue were of the right length
  44. and height."
  45. "Will you let me try to make one?" asked Antonio. "Perhaps I can make
  46. something that will do."
  47. The man laughed.
  48. "Nonsense!" he cried. "Who are you, that you talk of making statues on
  49. an hour's notice?"
  50. "I am Antonio Canova," said the lad.
  51. "Let the boy try what he can do," said the servants, who knew him.
  52. And so, since nothing else could be done, the man allowed him to try.
  53. On the kitchen table there was a large square lump of yellow butter. Two
  54. hundred pounds the lump weighed, and it had just come in, fresh and
  55. clean, from the dairy on the mountain. With a kitchen knife in his hand,
  56. Antonio began to cut and carve this butter. In a few minutes he had
  57. molded it into the shape of a crouching lion; and all the servants crowded
  58. around to see it.
  59. "How beautiful!" they cried. "It is a great deal prettier than the statue
  60. that was broken."
  61. When it was finished, the man carried it to its place.
  62. "The table will be handsomer by half than I ever hoped to make it," he
  63. said.
  64. When the Count and his friends came in to dinner, the first thing they
  65. saw was the yellow lion.
  66. "What a beautiful work of art!" they cried. "None but a very great artist
  67. could ever carve such a figure; and how odd that he should choose to
  68. make it of butter!" And then they asked the Count to tell them the name
  69. of the artist.
  70. "Truly, my friends," he said, "this is as much of a surprise to me as to
  71. you." And then he called to his head servant, and asked him where he
  72. had found so wonderful a statue.
  73. "It was carved only an hour ago by a little boy in the kitchen," said the
  74. servant.
  75. This made the Count's friends wonder still more; and the Count bade the
  76. servant call the boy into the room.
  77. "My lad," he said, "you have done a piece of work of which the greatest
  78. artists would be proud. What is your name, and who is your teacher?"
  79. "My name is Antonio Canova," said the boy, "and I have had no teacher
  80. but my grandfather the stonecutter."
  81. By this time all the guests had crowded around Antonio. There were
  82. famous artists among them, and they knew that the lad was a genius.
  83. They could not say enough in praise of his work; and when at last they
  84. sat down at the table, nothing would please them but that Antonio
  85. should have a seat with them; and the dinner was made a feast in his
  86. honor.
  87. The very next day the Count sent for Antonio to come and live with him.
  88. The best artists in the land were employed to teach him the art in which
  89. he had shown so much skill; but now, instead of carving butter, he
  90. chiseled marble. In a few years, Antonio Canova became known as one of
  91. the greatest sculptors in the world.
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