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PETER OF CORTONA.
A little shepherd boy, twelve years old, one day gave up the care of the sheep he was tending, and betook himself to Florence, where he knew no one but a lad of his own age, nearly as poor as himself, who had lived in the same village, but who had gone to Florence to be scullion in the house of Cardinal Sachetti. It was for a good motive that little Peter desired to come to Florence: he wanted to be an artist, and he knew there was a school for artists there. When he had seen the town well, Peter stationed himself at the Cardinal’s palace; and inhaling the odor of the cooking, he waited patiently till his Eminence was served, that he might speak to his old companion, Thomas. He had to wait a long time; but at length Thomas appeared.
“You here, Peter! What have you come to Florence for?”
“I am come to learn painting.”
“You had much better learn kitchen work to begin with; one is then sure not to die of hunger.”
“You have as much to eat as you want here, then?” replied Peter.
“Indeed I have,” said Thomas; “I might eat till I made myself ill every day, if I chose to do it.”
“Then,” said Peter, “I see we shall do very well. As you have too much and I not enough, I will bring my appetite, and you will bring the food; and we shall get on famously.”
“Very well,” said Thomas.
“Let us begin at once, then,” said Peter; “for as I have eaten nothing to-day, I should like to try the plan directly.”
Thomas then took little Peter into the garret where he slept, and bade him wait there till he brought him some fragments that he was freely permitted to take. The repast was a merry one, for Thomas was in high spirits, and little Peter had a famous appetite.
“Ah,” cried Thomas, “here you are fed and lodged. Now the question is, how are you going to study?”
“I shall study like all artists—with pencil and paper.”
“But then, Peter, have you money to buy the paper and pencils?”
“No, I have nothing; but I said to myself, ’Thomas, who is scullion at his lordship’s, must have plenty of money!’ As you are rich, it is just the same as if I was.”
Thomas scratched his head and replied, that as to broken victuals, he had plenty of them; but that he would have to wait three years before he should receive wages. Peter did not mind. The garret walls were white. Thomas could give him charcoal, and so he set to draw on the walls with that; and after a little while somebody gave Thomas a silver coin.
With joy he brought it to his friend. Pencils and paper were bought. Early in the morning Peter went out studying the pictures in the galleries, the statues in the streets, the landscapes in the neighborhood; and in the evening, tired and hungry, but enchanted with what he had seen, he crept back into the garret, where he was always sure to find his dinner hidden under the mattress, to keep it warm, as Thomas said. Very soon the first charcoal drawings were rubbed off, and Peter drew his best designs to ornament his friend’s room.