Summary: A girl traveling alone to Virginia City meets a piece of her past and The Man In Black.
Rated: K+ (1,385 words)
The Man in Black Series:
The Man in Black
Janet Ellis only knew him as The Man in Black, but she never forgot him. He came riding into the peaceful life of the Ellis family on a white horse with heartbreaking news for her mother. “Mrs. Ellis, your son was killed last night.” Janet never forgot that moment. No matter how hard she tried, at night she would see him with repeating those very words. Then she would see him disappear down the path never to be seen again.
It took Janet many years to recover from Tommy’s death. She was sixteen when he was killed and he twenty. They had been very close. When her mother, too, died Janet’s father convinced her to come to him in Virginia City. At first, Janet was reluctant. Her father had left her mother to go to the mines of Nevada and Janet wanted nothing to do with the rough miners that her father had always associated with. Still, she was lonely and she longed for an adventure, any adventure to dispel her boring moments. So she packed her bags, sold the old family homestead and headed to Virginia City.
There was an old stagecoach stop along the railroad tracks. Janet, sitting at the window and looking out, could not help but wonder how many people had stopped there before the railroad was built. Surely, anyone coming West had to. Janet was lost in her thoughts until she felt the train screech to a halt. She looked up surprised. The other passengers looked equally surprised. “This is not a regular stop.” The fat, balding man beside Janet murmured.
Janet turned to him for the first time really noticing the man. “Have you made this trip often?” she inquired curiously.
The man nodded. “Every week.” He answered. “I own a mine out here and I have to travel to see that it is run properly.”
“Where do you live?” Janet continued for the sake of a conversation. She could see the engineer get off the train and walk around to the front where he disappeared from view.
“About two towns back.” The man answered. “It’s the last town with a decent hotel until you get to Virginia City.”
“Oh.” Janet turned back to the window.
“I’m worried.” The man continued after a short while.
“Why?” Janet turned back to him.
“About stopping here.” He replied.
“Oh.” Janet smiled. “Well, I am sure that everything will be all right.”
“I’m not too sure.” The man frowned. “This is bad country.”
“Oh?” Janet asked her curiosity piqued.
The man nodded. “They say ghost of people long dead haunt this section of the country.”
Janet burst into laughter. “Oh, come now!” she exclaimed. “Surely you don’t believe that!”
“It’s not a matter of believing, Miss.” The man replied, licking his lips nervously. “I’ve seen them.”
“Them who?” Janet asked, not that she believed what the man had to say.
But before he could answer the engineer came into the car where Janet sat. “There is a lady on this train,” the engineer started, “who lost a husband two weeks ago.”
The woman sitting behind Janet screamed.
Janet grabbed the engineer’s arm as he walked by. “Who wants her?”
“A man.” The engineer looked terrified. “A man in black.”
A thought sprang to Janet’s mind. “The Man in Black?” she asked. “Is he outside?”
“That’s right.” The engineer nodded.
Janet sprang to her feet and pushed past the man sitting beside her. “I must see him!” she exclaimed.
“Wait, Miss!” the engineer called. “Don’t go out there!” But it was too late. Janet had already disappeared.
Outside he sat on his white horse just the way that Janet remembered him. “Do you bring more ill tidings?” she asked from the door of the train.
The Man in Black looked down at her, his hazel eyes softening at the sight of the girl. Then he smiled. “No, Miss Ellis, only justice.”
“Was there justice for Tommy?” she asked a little harsher then she intended.
“Perhaps not.” He answered sadly. “I do what I can, Miss Ellis, but it is increasingly difficult.” Janet noticed wrinkles around his eyes and her heart went out to him.
“Why don’t you go back inside?” he asked her. “I am not looking for you.”
“But I have been looking for you.” Janet replied stepping closer to his horse. “I have never forgotten you. I want to know who you are.”
The man tugged his black hat over his face. “I’m afraid my identity must remain a secret.”
“Why?” she demanded. “Have you done something that you are ashamed of?”
His head snapped back and Janet could see the fire on his eyes. “Never!” he declared vehemently. Then he stopped and smiled. “Go back inside, Miss Ellis. Your father is waiting for you in Virginia City.”
Janet looked at him for a moment. “Will I ever see you again?”
“Who knows?” he smiled. “One never knows how often paths will cross. You will be safe with your father.”
Janet gazed deeply into his face. “I never forget a face.” She smiled. “if I ever see you again I will remember you.”
The Man in Black smiled. “Yes, Janet, I know you will.”
Janet thrilled as he spoke her name. Then she turned and prepared to go back into the train when a thought struck her. She whirled suddenly and demanded, “How did you know where I was going?”
He smiled, a playful little smile. “I know many things.” He answered. “But you would not understand. Not yet. Take care, Miss Ellis.”
She looked at him puzzled. But he offered no other explanation and the engineer was coming out with the woman the Man in Black wanted. He took her from the engineer and Janet watched him ride away. She shook her head puzzled and walked back into the train.
The man sitting beside her looked up as she reentered. “You have talked with the dead and yet you still live?” he marveled.
“He was not dead.” Janet answered.
“The Man in Black has been dead for almost one hundred years.” The man told her.
Janet turned. “What did you say? He is dead!”
“That’s right.” The man nodded. “Many years ago on this land there was a ranch, large and fertile. A father and his three sons ran it. One year a terrible fire swept through and ate up all the land including this ranch. The father and his youngest son died in that fire. The middle son had died before in an accident on the river and the eldest son was in Europe. When he returned home and found his family dead and his land ruined he blamed himself for their deaths. He started to roam the countryside doing good deeds for others to pay back how he had neglected his family. When he died Virginia City erected a statue in his honor on the land that had once been his. But he cannot rest. He had made a vow to help others so long as he was able and there were people that needed help. People still need help and he is still able. So he roams the countryside seeking for justice. This land might not be the way he remembers it but he still works for it.”
“How do you know all this?” Janet demanded leaning back in her chair.
“He told me.” The man answered. “I was a person he helped once.”
“Why does he wear black?” Janet demanded.
“I don’t know.” the man replied. “For a good reason I am sure.”
Janet sat in silence for several moments. Then the man leant across her and pointed at a rising speck in the distance. “That is the statue the people dedicated to him.”
Janet pressed her face against the window and looked out. “Who was he?” she asked.
“His name was Adam Cartwright.” The man answered. “But now we know him as The Man in Black.”
Next story in The Man in Black Series:
Other Stories by this Author
- The Man In Black Rides Again (by deansgirl)
- Autumn’s Story (by deansgirl)
- Afterwards (by deansgirl)
- Mona Lisa (by deansgirl)
- The Christmas Surprise (by deansgirl)