Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French III).djvu/71

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61
THE SORROW OF AN OLD CONVICT.

his little cage, "I give it to you. You may, perhaps, find some use for it; perhaps it may give you pleasure."

"Certainly not," replied Yves. "On the contrary, you must take it with you. It will be your little comrade down there."

"Oh," replied the old man, "he is no longer inside. You did n't know that; you did n't hear then? He is no longer there," and two tears of indescribable misery ran down his cheeks.

Through a lurch of the vessel the door of the cage had opened; the sparrow took fright, flew out, and immediately fell into the sea because of its cut wing. Oh, what a moment of horrible grief to see it fight and die, swept away by the rapid current, and he all the time helpless to rescue it. At first, by a natural impulse, he wished to cry out for help; to address himself to Yves; to implore him. . . . But the impulse was immediately stopped by the recollection and consciousness of his personal degradation. An old wretch like him! Who would be ready to hear the prayer of such as he? Could he ever imagine that the ship would be stopped to fish up a drowning sparrow the poor bird of a convict? The idea was absurd. Accordingly he remained silent in his place, looking at the little gray body as it disappeared on the foam of the sea, struggling to the end. He felt terribly lonely now, and for ever, and great tears of soli-