The journey did not distract Joaquin from his constant preoccupation. The memory of the last encounter with the Americans tormented him. Although he had completely routed them, he had paid dearly for his victory, and he realized the necessity of admitting the weakness of his own men before a strong enemy. He felt certain that their band was not composed of such skillful men as Jack Three Fingers, Valenzuela, Antonio and Guerra. Disturbed at letting Arkansaw escape, he also had to admit that Jack Three Fingers was not always invincible. Nevertheless, he was the strongest in the whole company, the most astute, the cruelest, the most audacious of all the bullies. Formerly, he had been a favorite and a right-hand man of Father Jarauta, that most famous bandit chief. Moreover, his service record was increased by his many wounds which he had received during his career, the scars of which could still be seen. This exalted him in Joaquin’s eyes. If this great champion had such great difficulty in escaping the clutches of the great intrepid Arkansaw, it was more than probable that any of the other bandits who had figured in that affair would have equal difficulty. Joaquin understood from this that it was to his interest to avoid a formal combat with the Americans. Such an encounter, even though he happened to be victorious, could deprive him of a great number of men whom it would be difficult to replace, which would greatly impede his original purpose.
This and other similar reflections kept Joaquin morose and silent. It was the first time that he felt a keen and sincere desire to renounce as soon as possible that criminal existence, and to retire and return to his mother country with his dear Clarita. That young girl was marching behind the company with her friends, who were far from sad. She did not feel the same misgivings as her lover and was in a very different humor. She was making an effort to distract and entertain her pretty companions, who liked above all things to be