“I never saw a gold mine in my life; and now I’m going to see one,” cried Lucy, skipping along in advance of the others. It was quite a large party; the whole Dunlee family, with the two Sanfords,—Uncle James and Aunt Vi,—making ten in all, counting Maggie, the maid. They had alighted from the cars at a way-station, and were walking along the platform toward the tallyho coach which was waiting for them. Lucy was firmly impressed with the idea that they were starting for the gold mines. The truth was, they were on their way to an old mining-town high up in the Cuyamaca Mountains, called Castle Cliff; but there had been no gold there for a great many years.
Mr. Dunlee was in rather poor health, and had been “ordered” to the mountains. The others were perfectly well and had not been “ordered” anywhere: they were going merely because they wanted to have a good time.
“Papa would be so lonesome without us children,” said Edith, “he needs us all for company.”
He was to have still more company. Mr. and Mrs. Hale were coming to-morrow to join the party, bringing their little daughter Barbara, Lucy’s dearest friend. They could not come to-day; there would have been hardly room for them in the tallyho. With all “the bonnie Dunlees,”—as Uncle James called the children,—and all the boxes, baskets, and bundles, the carriage was about as full as it could hold.
It was seldom that the driver used this tallyho. He was quite choice of it, and generally drove an old stage, unless, as happened just now, he was taking a large party. It was a very gay tallyho, as yellow as the famous pumpkin coach of Cinderella, only that the spokes of the wheels were striped off with scarlet. There were four white horses, and every horse sported two tiny American flags, one in each ear.
“All aboard!” called out the driver, a brown-faced, broad-shouldered man, with a twinkle in his eye.
“All aboard!” responded Mr. Sanford, echoed by Jimmy-boy.
Whereupon crack went the driver’s long whip, round went the red and yellow wheels, and off sped the white horses as freely as if they were thinking of Lucy’s gold mine and longing to show it to her, and didn’t care how many miles they had to travel to reach it. But this was all Lucy’s fancy. They were thinking of oats, not gold mines. These bright horses knew they were not going very far up the mountain. They would soon stop to rest in a good stable, and other horses not so handsome would take their places. It was a very hard road, and grew harder and harder, and the driver always changed horses twice before he got to the end of the journey.
As the tallyho rattled along, the older people in it fell to talking; and the children looked at the country they were passing, sang snatches of songs, and gave little exclamations of delight. Edith threw one arm around her older sister Katharine, saying:—