After a brief silence, Pat Riley, miner, said:
"He's the 15-puzzle, that cuss. And his boy's another one. I can't make them out."
"Nor anybody else," said Ham Sandwich; "and if they are 15-puzzles how are you going to rank up that other one? When it comes to A 1 right-down solid mysteriousness, he lays over both of them. Easy--don't he?"
Everybody said it. Every man but one. He was the new-comer--Peterson. He ordered the drinks all round, and asked who No. 3 might be. All answered at once, "Archy Stillman!"
"Is he a mystery?" asked Peterson.
"Is he a mystery? Is Archy Stillman a mystery?" said Wells-Fargo's man, Ferguson. "Why, the fourth dimension's foolishness to him."
For Ferguson was learned.
Peterson wanted to hear all about him; everybody wanted to tell him; everybody began. But Billy Stevens, the barkeeper, called the house to order, and said one at a time was best. He distributed the drinks, and appointed Ferguson to lead. Ferguson said:
"Well, he's a boy. And that is just about all we know about him. You can pump him till you are tired; it ain't any use; you won't get anything. At least about his intentions, or line of business, or where he's from, and such things as that. And as for getting at the nature and get-up of his main big chief mystery, why, he'll just change the subject, that's all. You can guess till you're black in the face--it's your privilege--but suppose you do, where do you arrive at? Nowhere, as near as I can make out."
"What is his big chief one?"
"Sight, maybe. Hearing, maybe. Instinct, maybe. Magic, maybe. Take your choice--grownups, twenty-five; children and servants, half price. Now I'll tell you what he can do. You can start here, and just disappear; you can go and hide wherever you want to, I don't care where it is, nor how far--and he'll go straight and put his finger on you."
"You don't mean it!"
"I just do, though. Weather's nothing to him--elemental conditions is nothing to him--he don't even take notice of them."
"Oh, come! Dark? Rain? Snow? Hey?"
"It's all the same to him. He don't give a damn."
"Oh, say--including fog, per'aps?"
"Fog! he's got an eye 't can plunk through it like a bullet."
"Now, boys, honor bright, what's he giving me?"
"It's a fact!" they all shouted. "Go on, Wells-Fargo."
"Well, sir, you can leave him here, chatting with the boys, and you can slip out and go to any cabin in this camp and open a book--yes, sir, a dozen of them--and take the page in your memory, and he'll start out and go straight to that cabin and open every one of them books at the right page, and call it off, and never make a mistake."
"He must be the devil!"
"More than one has thought it. Now I'll tell you a perfectly wonderful thing that he done. The other night he--"
There was a sudden great murmur of sounds outside, the door flew open, and an excited crowd burst in, with the camp's one white woman in the lead and crying:
"My child! my child! she's lost and gone! For the love of God help me to find Archy Stillman; we've hunted everywhere!"
Said the barkeeper:
"Sit down, sit down, Mrs. Hogan, and don't worry. He asked for a bed three hours ago, tuckered out tramping the trails the way he's always doing, and went up-stairs. Ham Sandwich, run up and roust him out; he's in No. 14."
The youth was soon down-stairs and ready. He asked Mrs. Hogan for particulars.
"Bless you, dear, there ain't any; I wish there was. I put her to sleep at seven in the evening, and when I went in there an hour ago to go to bed myself, she was gone. I rushed for your cabin, dear, and you wasn't there, and I've hunted for you ever since, at every cabin down the gulch, and now I've come up again, and I'm that distracted and scared and heart- broke; but, thanks to God, I've found you at last, dear heart, and you'll find my child. Come on! come quick!"
"Move right along; I'm with you, madam. Go to your cabin first."
The whole company streamed out to join the hunt.