THE METAL PIG 187
her foot, ordered him out of her house, and called him a most ungrateful good-for-nothing and a wicked boy ; and then, weeping, she kissed her little half-strangled Bellissima.
At this very moment the painter came upstairs, and here is the turning-point of the story.
In the year 1834 there was an exhibition in the Academy of Arts at Florence. Two pictures, placed side by side, collected a number of spectators. The smaller of the two represented a merry little boy who sat drawing, with a little white Spitz dog, curiously shorn, for his model; but the animal would not stand still, and was therefore bound by a string fastened to its head and its tail. There was a truth and life in this picture that interested every one. The painter was said to be a young Florentine, who had been found in the streets in his childhood, had been brought up by an old glove-maker, and had taught himself to draw. It was further said that a painter, now become famous, had discovered this talent just as the boy was to be sent away for tying up the favourite little dog of Madame, and using it as a model.
The glove-maker's boy had become a great painter: the picture proved this, and still more the larger picture that stood beside it. Here was represented only one figure, a handsome boy, clad in rags, asleep in the street, and leaning against the Metal Pig in the Porta Rossa street. All the spectators knew the spot. The child's arms rested upon the head of the Pig ; the little fellow was fast asleep, and the lamp before the picture of the Madonna threw a strong effective light on the pale delicate face of the child —it was a beautiful picture ! A great gilt frame surrounded it, and on one corner of the frame a laurel wreath had been hung ; but a black band wound among the green leaves, and a streamer of crape hung down from it. For within the last few days the young artist had—died !