As Silva and the narrator make their way down the mountain, she looks off into the distance and thinks she sees a town, but Silva informs her that there isn’t one there. She refocuses her attention on the colorful flowers they pass as they ride.
The narrator continues searching for evidence of their place in the modern world but finds that her eyes deceive her. Because Silva doesn’t seem to believe in the conventional boundaries between reality and myth, his vision remains clear and unobstructed.
A white rancher rides up to Silva and the narrator and demands to know where Silva got the fresh meat. Silva claims he was hunting, and the rancher, calling him “Indian,” accuses him of being the cattle thief he has been looking for. The narrator describes the rancher as fat and sweaty, and says he smells rancid. She thinks he must be unarmed.
Though the narrator and the reader know that Silva steals cattle, the rancher has no evidence on which to base his accusation other than the fact that Silva is a Native American man in possession of fresh meat. By addressing Silva with a vague racial epithet, the rancher attempts to assert authority over him. The narrator’s description of the rancher implies a criticism of the colonial power he represents—gluttonous, ill-suited for the environment, and indulgent to the point of spoiling or turning “rancid.”
Silva turns to the narrator and instructs her to ride back up the mountain. The white rancher orders Silva to ride to Marquez, saying that he plans to call the state police. As the narrator turns to leave, she sees Silva’s hand on his rifle and notices “something ancient and dark” in his eyes. She rides away as fast as she can.
The mountain represents safety for the narrator, and she seems able to finally break free from Silva in this moment of confrontation with white cultural violence. Instead of confirming Silva’s identity as an ordinary human (rather than a ka’tsina), the confrontation with the white rancher seems to call evidence of the ka’tsina spirit within Silva to the surface.
Once she reaches a forked trail in the mountain ridge, the narrator pauses to let her horse rest. She recalls hearing four gunshots but thinks there might have been more. She continues riding downhill until she reaches the plain and spots the river. She gets off the horse and sends it back up the mountain.
The gunshots confirm Silva’s encounter with the rancher has escalated into violence and possibly murder, but thoughts about Silva potentially being a murderer never cross the narrator’s mind. Instead, the river provides a visual anchor that pulls her toward the path back home.