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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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