The gang doesn’t ride an hour before Apaches launch an ambush, riding across a lakebed. The scalp hunters take cover under bushes while arrows fall, and they begin to fire at their attackers, the kid calmly as though he’s done this before in a dream. After more shots are exchanged, the Apaches flee.
As anticipated by the discovery of the meat camp, the gang has its first encounter with the Apaches. The kid is so desensitized to violence, its deadly consequences are so unreal to him, that it’s as though he’s dreamed all this before.
The gang rides down into the lakebed where they find a dead Apache, half naked and with multiple healed war wounds. Toadvine has shot this man in the chest. The Judge searches the dead man’s warbag and corpse, taking a madstone (a stony concretion, like a hairball, taken from animal innards and said to counteract poison) as well as a skin bag tied next to the dead man’s genitals. At last, the Judge scalps the corpse.
The Judge is an avid anthropologist and naturalist, a characteristic first revealed here when he takes two of the more mysterious of the dead Apache’s belongings. He later explains that he seeks to know everything so that nature and all life will be at last absolutely under his control.
The gang rides on through the wasteland, through a lake of gypsum (present-day White Sands National Monument) and past dust spouts that are rumored to sweep men up only to drop them bleeding and broken on the desert floor before dispersing. At night the men camp and gaze rapturously into their campfires. In the morning the men wake to discover that some of their horses have gone blind with sunlight; these are shot, leaving the gang with only three spare horses.
The dust spouts are images for violence: people are brutalized and left for dead while the agent of the violence disappears without witness. The gang will enact this pattern many times, killing then disappearing. However, as much as the men sympathize with the destructive elements, like the fire they gaze into, they are also subject to natural violence, as the blinding of their horses illustrates.
At noon, the two Delawares who had separated from the gang at Janos return, bringing with them the horse that belonged to Grannyrat. Glanton burns Grannyrat’s saddle, blanket, and other effects. Then the gang rides on.
Grannyrat is quite likely murdered by the Delawares for deserting the gang. Breaking with the fraternity of warfare has dire consequences, as the kid will learn later.
Two days later, the gang comes across a carriage drawn by six horses. The horses are shy and skitter away when approached, but Glanton eventually gains access to the carriage. Inside he finds two dead men and a dead boy, as well letters and tagged bags of ore samples. He takes the guns and ammunition he finds and orders his men to take two of the six horses that are harnessed to the carriage.
Based on the ore Glanton finds, the three dead people in the carriage seem to have been working for a mine. They also seem to have been murdered by Indians. The Judge would say that, in a contest of wills, fate ruled in the Indians’ favor in this case.
After riding up through the mountains, the gang camps; then they resume their trek in the darkness of morning, through a caldera. They pass through what was once a Mexican copper mine, later besieged by the Apaches. There they come across a large triangular building, from which smoke is rising. Glanton knocks on the door and tells whoever’s inside to come out if they’re white. A man bearing a rifle answers, and Glanton forces entry.
The copper mine is probably that from which the carriage was riding from when the Apaches overtook it. Glanton, like many of his fellows, is a racist who trusts whites over non-whites, as evinced by his request that the building’s inhabitants come out if they’re white. When his will is challenged, Glanton resorts to force.
Inside the scalp hunters dismount and meet four men whose three other companions have been killed by the Apache. One of the survivors is propped against a wall, wounded beyond care. Though these squatters have been eating nothing but dead, stinking mule, the first things they ask for are whiskey and tobacco.
It is with dark humor that the squatters first request not necessities but the luxury items whiskey and tobacco. Even when in dire straits, people are often controlled more by their vices than anything else.
The four squatters have only two horses between them, one of which has been bitten by a snake, its head now enormously, grotesquely swollen. This poisoned horse totters toward the gang’s horses, only to be attacked by one. The four men explain that they haven’t killed the horse yet because they aim to eat it and don’t want it to rot too quickly. As the sun rises, Glanton sees that there’s a young Mexican or multiracial boy in the room, mostly naked. The Judge asks who the boy is, but the four squatters just shrug.
The gang’s horses attack the sick horse, a drama of ostracization that plays out among humans too, as when the black Jackson attempted to sit with the whites, or when David Brown is later wounded. The Judge’s question about the multiracial boy preludes the boy’s coming death, presumably at the Judge’s hands.
In the afternoon, the Judge explores the works of the mine and holds an impromptu lecture on geology. He says that natural objects like stones and trees, even more so than the Bible, are the words of God. Although the squatters listening to his lecture at first disagree, by lecture’s end they agree with the learned Judge, and he laughs at them for fools.
Contrary to Christian doctrine, the Judge locates the word of God not in the Bible or in Christ, but in brute hostile nature. That he then laughs at the squatters for agreeing with him suggests that he mocks their shallow attachment to their own beliefs, and that his beliefs are both different and more lasting
The gang passes the night around a campfire while outside a storm rages. Someone reports that, despite the lightning and rain, the Judge is standing naked outside reciting or composing aloud in the mode of epic poetry. In the morning, the snakebitten horse is dead, and the sky is clear. Toadvine and the Judge make small talk on the weather. The squatters inform Glanton that they want to join the gang, but Glanton ignores them.
The Judge is frequently naked, reflecting his dismissal of societal norms and drawing attention to his imposing physicality. He recites poetry just as the kid’s father did, suggestive not only of the Judge’s learnedness but also anticipative of his claim that he loved the kid like a son. Glanton probably turns the squatters down for lack of horses to provide them.
In the meantime, someone finds the young boy dead, his neck broken and flopping. The three unwounded squatters gather around the body and speak of the boy’s virtues, while the wounded squatter sings hymns and curses God alternately. The scalp hunters mount and ride away, having left the squatters with some provisions.
Wherever the Judge goes children die; he probably killed this boy. The squatter’s singing hymns and cursing God reveal his conflicted response to the world, his hope for good countered by his despair in the face of so much evil.
At dusk, the gang hunts deer and makes camp. Then they move on. That night they come across a party of riders that seems like the mirror image of their own. The two parties parley before riding on, each going in the direction the other just came from. The narrator observes that all travelers just pursue “inversions without end upon other men’s journeys.”
The idea that travelers merely pursue inversions of others’ journeys—that they are just taking different versions of journeys already made by others— implies that human desires and their endeavors to dominate are inherently wayward, backwards, senseless, and yet the same as they’ve always been. It also implies that the horrific events of the novel are fated to repeat themselves.