Historical setting: Along the ridges of the Pyrenees, 6th Century C.E.
So I asked a simple question, “What is courage?”
Nic apologizes for my apparent goading argument. “My friend here, Lazarus, is a Christian pacifist so he is probably going to tell us meaningless things about courage.”
The young shepherd backs away from me. He asks, “A Christian, what?”
“He’s a pacifist. He doesn’t love the fight. In fact he doesn’t even fight at all.”
Again, the shepherd takes a long gander at me — a slow gaze from my feet to the top of my head, and down again before he speaks, “So, you are very fast at running.”
This fellow doesn’t seem to jest. And now Nic feels the explanation of pacifism has exposed my vulnerability so he places his hand on the hilt of his sword.
“I neither run nor fight, I have a horse.” It’s established now; I’m defenseless and my pride is of no consequence either. It’s a good time to change the subject back to the sheep issue. This shepherd is exhausted after his attempt to limp up this hill; and now the sheep are off in all directions. Gathering them back will be a huge task for a man with a lame foot.
“May we help you gather your sheep? After-all, it was our horses that caused them to scatter.”
He is suspicious of us and worries if we help and he doesn’t pay us we will demand a sheep as our pay. “If you take a sheep my father will come for you.”
“Let us just be helpful because you seem to need our help.” Nic added, “We don’t need to be paid. Really we are simply offering to help.”
The task here is guiding the sheep to a night pasture on the east side of the ridge. We aren’t shepherds and the sheep surely have no obligation to encourage our attempt; so the best we can do is bring the sheep up passed the ridge in small clumps of two or three at a time. It is slow work and the horses have no sense for it either so we put our beasts to pasture and do our so-called shepherding on foot.
This seems to take a very long time and the longer night of winter is already upon us. The glinting light of November sun is lost under a storm cloud from Gaul. We will need to find shelter, and now the shepherd considers a kindness for us.