We put spurs into our horses, and soon cleared the marshy ground intervening between us and the Fork, which we forded, and rode for several miles through a country thickly covered over with oak trees and intersected by numerous small rivulets. Large herds of elk were frequently started, and during the whole day their shrill whistle was continually being heard.
We encamped to-night without having heard anything more of Andreas Armjo and his companions. Several parties of Indians we met a few hours before sundown stated that they had not seen any white men along the trail. I felt disposed, as far as I was myself concerned, to give over the pursuit, as my horse was already worn out by the journey; but my companions would not listen to it, and determined, at any rate, to see what would result from following it up briskly during the next day. We had all noticed that there were no new signs of horses that had been shod passing along the trail, but Bradley was of opinion that the party would be mounted on unshod beasts, as very few of the native Californians had their horses shod, unless they were going a journey across a rough broken country.
Next day we fell in with several more parties of Indians, from whom we learnt that the men we were in pursuit of were full two days journey before us. One party, who had seen them encamped the preceding evening more than forty miles ahead, told us that they had inquired of them where the trail turned off to Los Angelos. As this town was at least five or six days’ journey distant, and as the Sierra had to be crossed to reach it, we concluded among ourselves that it would be best for us to return to Monterey forthwith. This decision was readily come to, as there was now no hope of overtaking the party, and every step we proceeded we were getting into a more hostile country. In all probability, if we had pursued them to Los Angelos, we should have discovered that they had struck off on to the great Spanish Trail, as was their original intention, or else have found that they had been to Los Angelos and had taken their departure for some other place.
We therefore turned our horses’ heads, and retraced our steps towards the coast in no merry mood. We rode along, in fact, in sullen silence, only broken to mutter out our expressions of disappointment at the escape of those who had robbed us of the fruits of so many months of toil, exposure, and hardship. We encountered nothing very remarkable during our three days’ journey to Monterey. There were the same prairies to cross, the same thickets to penetrate, and the same streams to ford. Herds of elk and mustangs were continually seen upon the heights, and every now and then we met with some small parties of Indians, many of the chiefs dressed in the Spanish fashion. We were too well armed, and too many in number, for any of them to venture to attack us, had they been so inclined; but generally their intentions seemed to be perfectly pacific.