The six companies, or bodies corporate, of the City of Paris, set on foot in the month of October, 1788, a subscription for the relief of the sufferers by a dreadful hail-storm, which had ravaged a part of the country, and totally destroyed all the hopes of the husbandmen. To the honour of these companies, no less than 50,000 livres were collected in a short time, and placed in the hands of M. Neckar, in order to be applied to the purpose for which they were subscribed. M. Neckar, on receiving the money, directed it to be sent to the Treasury. "To the Treasury, my lord!" exclaimed the bearer. "Yes, sir," replied M. Neckar; "50,000 livres will do well for the Treasury, from which I drew yesterday 150,000 livres, to be distributed among the same husbandmen whom it is your object to relieve, feeling assured that the Treasury could never suffer from an advance made on the credit of the humanity of Frenchmen."
The City of Cajeta having rebelled against Alphonsus, was invested by that monarch with a powerful army. Being sorely distressed for want of provisions, the citizens put forth all their old men, women, and children, and shut the gates upon them. The king's ministers advised his majesty not to permit them to pass, but to force them back into the city; by which means he would speedily become master of it. Alphonsus, however, had too humane a disposition to hearken to counsel, the policy of which rested on driving a helpless multitude into the jaws of famine. He suffered them to pass unmolested; and when afterwards reproached with the delay which this produced in the siege, he feelingly said, "I had rather be the preserver of one innocent person, than be the master of a hundred Cajetas."
About the middle of last century, George Drummond was provost or chief magistrate of Edinburgh, and renowned for his humane disposition. He was one day coming into the town by the suburb called the West Port, when he saw a funeral procession leaving the door of a humble dwelling, and setting out for the churchyard. The only persons composing the funeral company were four poor-looking old men, seemingly common beggars, one at each end of a pole carrying the coffin, and none to relieve them; there was not a single attendant. The provost at once saw that it must be a beggar's funeral, and he went forward to the old men, saying to them, "Since this poor creature now deceased has no friends to follow his remains to the grave, I will perform that melancholy office myself." He then took his place at the head of the coffin. They had not gone far, till they met two gentlemen who were acquainted with the provost, and they asked him what he was doing there. He told them that he was going to the interment of a poor friendless mendicant, as there were none else to do it; so they turned and accompanied him. Others joined in the same manner, and at last there was a respectable company at the grave. "Now," said the kind-hearted provost, "I will lay the old man's head in the grave," which he accordingly did, and afterwards saw the burial completed in a decent manner. When the solemnity was over, he asked if the deceased had left a wife or family, and learned that he had left a wife, an old woman, in a state of perfect destitution. "Well, then, gentlemen," said the provost, addressing those around him, "we met in rather a singular manner, and we cannot part without doing something creditable for the benefit of the helpless widow; let each give a trifle, and I will take it upon me to see it administered to the best advantage." All immediately contributed some money, which made up a respectable sum, and was afterwards given in a fitting way to the poor woman; the provost also afterwards placed her in an industrious occupation, by which she was able to support herself without depending on public relief.
Sir Philip Sidney was a gallant soldier, a poet, and the most accomplished gentleman of his time. At the battle of Zutphen, in the Netherlands, after having two horses killed under him, he received a wound while in the act of mounting a third, and was carried bleeding, faint, and thirsty to the camp. A small quantity of water was brought to allay the thirst of Sir Philip; but as he was raising it to his lips, he observed that a poor wounded soldier, who was carried past at the moment, looked at the cup with wistful eyes. The generous Sidney instantly withdrew it untasted from his mouth, and gave it to the soldier, saying, "Thy necessity is yet greater than mine." He died of his wound, aged only thirty-three; but his kindness to the poor soldier has caused his name to be remembered ever since with admiration, and it will probably never be forgotten while humane and generous actions are appreciated among men.
On the same occasion, Viscount d'Orthe had the courage to write from Bayonne to Charles IX., that he found many good soldiers in his garrison, but not one executioner; and begged him to command their lives in any service that was possible to men of honor.
Baron Von Stackelberg, in going from Athens to Thessalonica in an armed vessel, was taken by some Albanian pirates, who immediately sent the captain of the vessel to the former place, demanding 60,000 piastres for the baron's ransom, and threatening that if it was not paid, they would tear his body to pieces. They obliged him, at the same time, to write to Baron Haller and another friend, to acquaint them with the demand. The time fixed by the pirates had elapsed, and Baron Stackelberg, who had become extremely ill, was expecting a cruel death, when the humane and generous Haller, who had borrowed 14,500 Turkish piastres, at 30 per cent., appeared. The pirates refused to take less than the sum demanded. Haller offered himself as a hostage instead of his friend, if they would prolong his life, and suffer him to recover from his sickness. This noble deed contributed to convince the pirates, that no larger sum could be obtained; they accepted it, and Haller returned to Athens with the friend whom his humanity had preserved.
During the residence of Her Royal Highness at Bognor, where she had gone for the recovery of her health, an officer of long standing in the army was arrested for a small sum, and being at a distance from his friends, and unable to procure bail, he was on the point of being torn from his family to be conveyed to Arundel gaol. The circumstance came to the knowledge of the princess, who, in the momentary impulse of generous feeling, exclaimed, "I will be his bail!" Then, suddenly recollecting herself, she inquired the amount of the debt; which being told her, "There," said she, handing a purse with more than the sum, "take this to him; it is hard that he who has exposed his life in the field of battle should ever experience the rigours of a prison."—During the last illness of an old female attendant, formerly nurse to the Princess Charlotte, she visited her every day, sat by her bedside, and with her own hand administered the medicine prescribed. When death had closed the eyes of this poor woman, instead of fleeing in haste from an object so appalling to the young and gay in general, the princess remained and gave utterance to the compassion she felt on viewing the remains in that state from which majesty itself cannot be exempt. A friend of the deceased, seeing Her Royal Highness was much affected, said, "If your Royal Highness would condescend to touch her, perhaps you would not dream of her." "Touch her," replied the amiable princess, "yes, poor thing! and kiss her, too; almost the only one I ever kissed, except my poor mother!" Then bending her head over the coffin of her humble friend, she pressed her lips to the cold cheeks, while tears flowed from her eyes.