The soldier narrator realizes that the old man is in a dangerous situation. The Fascists are due to arrive at any moment, and so it's in the old man's best interests to get moving and join with the thousands of other refugees making their way across the pontoon bridge to relative safety. But the old man appears reluctant to move. For one thing, he doesn't know anyone in the direction of where the refugees are headed. But his main concern is the fate of the animals he's left behind.
The soldier tries his best to reassure the old man. He says that the animals will probably be alright. As the old man left the dove cage unlocked, the narrator tells him that the doves will have flown away. But the old man's still so traumatized by his ordeal that, despite the narrator's attempts to reassure him, he stays put, sitting in the dust by the side of the road, grimly awaiting his fate.