In 1835 an article circulated in many English periodicals, in a very similar manner to email forwards today. The little anecdote is called The Jew of Vilna, and tells the story about the Napoleonic advance, when a French colonel in Vilna discovered a Jewish girl and her aged father being assaulted by four soldiers. Not being able to convince them to stop, he wielded his sword, killing two of them, wounding the two others and sustaining some cuts himself. When the Russians beat the pants off the French, the colonel again passed through Vilna on retreat. This time it was he who was in a bad state, and he knocked on the door of the Jew's home, and was given clean clothes and a way for him was even arranged to make it back to France.
Retiring with only a small pension back in France, he was surprised some years later by a knock on the door. It was the Jew, who handed him an envelope and left. Inside it was £5000 with a note; read the article below to know the content of the note. The story ends with the optimistic notice that not only that, after the Jewish man died, the French colonel married his daughter and inherited £100,000!
Although, as I said, I have found this story is printed in many different books and periodicals, the one below is from a book called Five Hundred Curious and Interesting Narratives and Anecdotes (1838).
And in case the lessons of the story, why it circulated, is not apparent, below is an introduction to one of the printings of the story in the Christian Penny's Magazine: