A Grateful Lioness

A Dreadful famine raged at Buenos Ayres, yet the governor, afraid of giving the Indians a habit of spilling Spanish blood, forbade the inhabitants on pain of death to go into the fields in search of relief, placing soldiers at all the outlets to the country, with orders to fire upon those who should attempt to transgress his orders. A woman, however, called Maldonata, was artful enough to elude the vigilance of the guards, and escape. After wandering about the country for a long time, she sought for shelter in a cavern, but she had scarcely entered it when she espied a lioness, the sight of which terrified her. She was, however, soon quieted by the caresses of the animal, who, in return for a service rendered her, showed every sign of affection and friendliness. She never returned from searching after her own daily subsistence without laying a portion of it at the feet of Maldonata, until her whelps being strong enough to walk abroad, she took them out with her and never returned.

Some time after Maldonata fell into the hands of the Spaniards, and being brought back to Buenos Ayres on the charge of having left the city contrary to orders, the governor, a man of cruelty, condemned the unfortunate woman to a death which none but the most cruel tyrant could have thought of. He ordered some soldiers to take her into the country and leave her tied to a tree, either to perish by hunger, or to be torn to pieces by wild beasts, as he expected. Two days after, he sent the same soldiers to see what was become of her; when, to their great surprise, they found her alive and unhurt, though surrounded by lions and tigers, which a lioness at her feet kept at some distance. As soon as the lioness perceived the soldiers, she retired a little, and enabled them to unbind Maldonata, who related to them the history of this lioness, whom she knew to be the same she had formerly assisted in the cavern. On the soldiers taking Maldonata away, the lioness fawned upon her as unwilling to part. The soldiers reported what they had seen to the commander, who could not but pardon a woman who had been so singularly protected, without appearing more inhuman than lions themselves.

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