THE FATE OF THE TURTLE 243
morning broke, they made up their minds that they must go and tell the turtle of their plans, and bid him farewell.
They found him comfortably curled up on a pile of dead rushes, more than half asleep, for he was old, and could not venture out in the heat as he once used.
' Ah ! here you are,' he cried ; ' I began to wonder if I was ever going to see you again, for, somehow, though the lake has grown smaller, I seem to have grown weaker, and it is lonely spending all day and night by oneself!'
' Oh ! my friend,' answered the elder of the two ducks, ' if you have suffered we have suffered also. Besides, I have something to tell you, that I fear will cause you greater pain still. If we do not wish to die of thirst we must leave this place at once, and seek another where the sun's rays do not come. My heart bleeds to say this, for there is nothing—nothing else in the world—which would have induced us to separate from you.'
The turtle was so astonished as well as so distressed at the duck's speech that for a moment he could find no words to reply. But when he had forced back his tears, he said in a shaky voice :
' How can you think that I am able to live without you, when for so long you have been my only friends ? If you leave me, death will speedily put an end to my grief.'
' Our sorrow is as great as yours/ answered the other duck, ' but what can we do ? And remember that if we are not here to drink the water, there will be the more for you ! If it had not been for this terrible misfortune, be sure that nothing would have parted us from one whom we love so dearly.'
' My friends,' replied the turtle, ' water is as necessary to me as to you, and if death stares in your faces, it stares in mine also. But in the name of all the years