In August, 1777, a vessel from Rochelle, laden with salt, and manned by eight hands, with two passengers on board, was discovered making for the pier of Dieppe. The wind was at the time so high, and the sea so boisterous, that a coasting pilot made four fruitless attempts to get out, and conduct the vessel into port. Boussard, a bold and intrepid pilot, perceiving that the helmsman was ignorant of his dangerous position, endeavoured to direct him by a speaking trumpet and signals; but the captain could neither see nor hear, on account of the darkness of the night, the roaring of the winds, and the tremendous swell of the sea. The vessel in the meantime grounded on a flinty bottom, at a short distance from the advanced jetty. Boussard, touched with the cries of the unfortunate crew, resolved to spring to their assistance, in spite of every remonstrance, and the apparent impossibility of success. Having tied one end of a rope round his waist, and fastened the other to the jetty, he plunged headlong into the raging deep. When he had got very near the ship, a wave carried him off, and dashed him on shore. Several times was he thus repulsed, rolled upon flinty stones, and covered with the wreck of the vessel, which the fury of the waves was tearing rapidly to pieces. He did not however give up his attempt. A wave now threw him under the vessel, and he was given up for lost, but he quickly emerged, holding in his arms a sailor, who had been washed overboard. He brought him on shore motionless and just expiring. In short, after an infinity of efforts and struggles, he reached the wreck, and threw the rope on board. All who had strength enough to avail themselves of this assistance, were successively dragged to land. Boussard, who imagined he had now saved all the crew, worn down by fatigue, and smarting from his wounds and bruises, walked with great difficulty to the light-house, where he fainted through exhaustion. Assistance being procured, he quickly recovered. On hearing that cries still issued from the wreck, he once more collected the little strength he had left, rushed from the arms of his friends, plunged again into the sea, and had the good fortune to save the life of one of the passengers, who was lashed to the wreck, and who had been unable before to profit by the means of escape.
Mons. de Crosne, the Intendant of Rouen, having stated these circumstances to M. Neckar, then director-general of the finances, he immediately addressed the following letter to Boussard, in his own hand-writing:— "Brave man, I was not apprized by the Intendant till the day before yesterday, of the gallant deed achieved by you on the 31st of August. Yesterday I reported it to his majesty, who was pleased to enjoin me to communicate to you his satisfaction, and to acquaint you, that he presents you with one thousand livres, by way of present, and an annual pension of three hundred livres. Continue to succour others when you have it in your power; and pray for your king, who loves and recompenses the brave."
A great inundation having taken place in the north of Italy, owing to an excessive fall of snow in the Alps, followed by a speedy thaw, the river Adige carried off a bridge near Verona, all except the middle part, on which was the house of the toll-gatherer, who thus, with his whole family, remained imprisoned by the waves, and in momentary danger of destruction. They were discovered from the bank, stretching forth their hands, screaming, and imploring succour, while fragments of the only remaining arch were continually dropping into the water. In this extreme danger, a nobleman who was present, a Count of Pulverino, held out a purse of a hundred sequins, as a reward to any adventurer who would take a boat and deliver this unhappy family. But the danger of being borne down by the rapidity of the current, or of being dashed against a fragment of the bridge, was so great, that no one in the vast number of spectators had courage enough to attempt the exploit. A peasant passing along enquired what was going on, and was informed of the circumstances. Immediately jumping into a boat, he, by strength of oars, gained the middle of the river, brought his boat under the pile, and the whole family safely descended by means of a rope. By a still more strenuous effort, and great strength of arm, he brought the boat and family to shore. "Brave fellow!" exclaimed the count, handing the purse to him, "here is your recompense." "I shall never expose my life for money," answered the peasant; "my labour is a sufficient livelihood for myself, my wife, and children. Give the purse to this poor family, who have lost their all."
This incident has been admirably worked up in a German ballad by Bürger (see the "Song of the Brave Man," in "Popular Ballads.")
When M. de St. Belmont, who defended a feeble fortress against the arms of Louis XIV., was taken prisoner, his wife, the Comtesse de St. Belmont, who was of a most heroic disposition, still remained upon the estates to take care of them. An officer of cavalry having taken up his quarters there without invitation, Madame de St. Belmont sent him a very civil letter of complaint on his ill behaviour, which he treated with contempt. Piqued at this, she resolved he should give her satisfaction, and sent him a challenge, which she signed "Le Chevalier de St. Belmont." The officer accepted it, and repaired to the place appointed. Madame de St. Belmont met him, dressed in men's clothes. They immediately drew their swords, and the heroine had the advantage of him; when, after disarming him, she said, with a gracious smile, "You thought, sir, I doubt not, that you were fighting with the Chevalier de St. Belmont; it is, however, Madame de St. Belmont, who returns you your sword, and begs you in future to pay more regard to the requests of ladies." She then left him, covered with shame and confusion.
One evening early in 1858, Melanie Robert, daughter of a small farmer, near Corbeil, was proceeding to Essonnes, when a man armed with a stout stick suddenly presented himself, and summoned her to give up her money. Pretending to be greatly alarmed, she hastily searched her pocket, and collecting some small pieces of coin held them out to the man, who without distrust approached to take them. But the moment he took the money, Melanie made a sudden snatch at the stick, and wresting it from his hand, dealt him so violent a blow with it across the head that she felled him to the ground. She then gave him a sound thrashing, and, in spite of his resistance, forced him to accompany her to the office of the commissary of police, by whom he was committed for trial.
Sir John Cochrane, who was engaged in Argyle's rebellion against James II., was taken prisoner, after a desperate resistance, and condemned to be executed. His daughter, having notice that the death-warrant was expected from London, attired herself in men's clothes, and twice attacked and robbed the mails between Belford and Berwick. The execution was by this means delayed, till Sir John Cochrane's father, the Earl of Dundonald, succeeded in making interest with the king for his release.