The two men who had gone for Felix’s buried treasure did not return till breakfast next morning. They stepped into the camp, each with his spear reddened and dripping with fresh blood. Felix no sooner saw the blood than he fainted. He quickly recovered, but he could not endure the sight of the spears, which were removed and hidden from his view. He had seen blood enough spilt at the siege of Iwis, but this came upon him in all its horror unrelieved by the excitement of war.
The two shepherds had been dogged by gipsies, and had been obliged to make a round to escape. They took their revenge by climbing into trees, and as their pursuers passed under thrust them through with their long spears. The shepherds, like all their related tribes, had been at feud with the gipsies for many generations. The gipsies followed them to and from their pastures, cut off stragglers, destroyed or stole their sheep and cattle, and now and then overwhelmed a while tribe. Of late the contest had become more sanguinary and almost ceaseless.
Mounted on swift, though small, horses, the gipsies had the advantage of the shepherds. On the other hand, the shepherds, being men of great stature and strength, could not be carried away by a rush if they had time to form a circle, as was their custom of battle. They lost many men by the javelins thrown by the gipsies, who rode up to the edge of the circle, cast their darts, and retreated. If the shepherds left their circle they were easily ridden over; while they maintained formation they lost individuals, but saved the mass. Battles were of rare occurrence; the gipsies watched for opportunities and executed raids, the shepherds retaliated, and thus the endless war continued. The shepherds invariably posted sentinels, and sent forward scouts to ascertain if the way were clear. Accustomed to the horrid scenes of war from childhood, they could not understand Felix’s sensitiveness.
They laughed, and then petted him like a spoilt child. This galled him exceedingly; he felt humiliated, and eager to reassert his manhood. He was willing to stay with them there for awhile, nothing would have induced him to leave them now till he had vindicated himself in their sight. The incident happened soon after sunrise, which is very early at the end of June. The camp had only waited for the return of these men, and on their appearance began to move. The march that morning was not a long one, as the sky was clear and the heat soon wearied the flocks. Felix accompanied the scout in advance, armed with his bow, eager to encounter the gipsies.
BOW AND ARROW
Three mornings the shepherds marched in the same manner, when they came in view of a range of hills so high that to Felix they appeared mountains. The home of the tribe was in these hills, and once there they were comparatively safe from attack. In early spring when the herbage on the downs was scarce, the flocks moved to the meadowlike lands far in the valleys; in summer they returned to the hills; in autumn they went to the vales again. Soon after noon on the third day the scouts reported that a large body of gipsies were moving in a direction which would cut off their course to the hills on the morrow.