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Italian Peasant

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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 Buerger
(see the "Song of the Brave Man," in "Popular Ballads.")





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