In the first days of the spring of 1852, Joaquin and his party went down from the mountains, taking with them about three hundred horses, stolen during the winter. They took them to the state of Sonora, crossing the southern part of California, and taking great care to travel only at night. There in Mexico they sold the horses.
Some weeks later the men returned to California, establishing their headquarters in a splendid place covered with forage and known as Arroyo Cantova. It was a valley seven or eight miles long, fertile, with water in abundance, and protected by a range of hills which had only one narrow pass in which a few determined men would be able to defend themselves against a colossal army. This rich and delightful valley was situated between the Tejon and Pacheco Passes east of the great range of mountains and west of Tulare Lake. From its topographical position the place was suitable for a retreat inasmuch as there was not a single habitation for fifty miles around it. Game was very abundant there; bear, elk, antelope, deer, quail, wild turkey and many small animals seemed to be placed there for the express purpose of feeding mankind. The location which Joaquin and his gang selected for making their camp could not have been more suitable.
In the center of a group of dense oak trees, always green, Joaquin fixed his dwelling. The bandit chief was often seen reclining in the fine grass with which nature had adorned that pleasant valley, at his side a beautiful and winsome young girl whom he had won in Sonora, when he and his band of outlaws went there to sell their stolen horses.
Clarita, as the graceful girl was called, was a daughter of Don Sebastian Valero, a Spanish grandee, who after having lost his fortune extravagantly, had retired to Mexico with a small capital and had bought a piece of land adjoining the ranch of Joaquin’s father. The first time that Joaquin and Clarita saw each other, she was only ten years old, and Joaquin was thirteen. Nevertheless, with her fem