The door was open; not, indeed, wide, but sufficiently to allow this ardent disciple to work his way into the innermost shrine of the temple of science. Though it took years and years of plodding, incessant work and study, and a devotion to purpose with which nothing was allowed to interfere, it made Faraday, by virtue of his marvelous discoveries in electricity, electro-magnetism, and chemistry, a world benefactor, honored not only by his own country and sovereign, but by other rulers and leading nations of the earth, as one of the greatest chemists and natural philosophers of his time.
So great has been his value to the scientific world, that his theories are still a constant source of inspiration to the workers in those great professions allied to electricity and chemistry. No library is complete without his published works. What wonder that Davy called Faraday his greatest discovery!
The Villa d’Asola, the country residence of the Signor Falieri, was in a state of unusual excitement. Some of the most distinguished patricians of Venice had been bidden to a great banquet, which was to surpass in magnificence any entertainment ever before given, even by the wealthy and hospitable Signer Falieri.
The feast was ready, the guests were assembled, when word came from the confectioner, who had been charged to prepare the center ornament for the table, that he had spoiled the piece. Consternation reigned in the servants’ hall. What was to be done? The steward, or head servant, was in despair. He was responsible for the table decorations, and the absence of the centerpiece would seriously mar the arrangements. He wrung his hands and gesticulated wildly. What should he do!
“If you will let me try, I think I can make something that will do.” The speaker was a delicate, pale-faced boy, about twelve years old, who had been engaged to help in some of the minor details of preparation for the great event. “You!” exclaimed the steward, gazing in amazement at the modest, yet apparently audacious lad before him. “And who are you?” “I am Antonio Canova, the grandson of Pisano, the stonecutter.” Desperately grasping at even the most forlorn hope, the perplexed servant gave the boy permission to try his hand at making a centerpiece.
Calling for some butter, with nimble fingers and the skill of a practiced sculptor, in a short time the little scullion molded the figure of a crouching lion. So perfect in proportion, so spirited and full of life in every detail, was this marvelous butter lion that it elicited a chorus of admiration from the delighted guests, who were eager to know who the great sculptor was who had deigned to expend his genius on such perishable material. Signor Falieri, unable to gratify their curiosity, sent for his head servant, who gave them the history of the centerpiece. Antonio was immediately summoned to the banquet hall, where he blushingly received the praises and congratulations of all present, and the promise of Signer Falieri to become his patron, and thus enable him to achieve fame as a sculptor.