(Variation One)

an M7 AU

by Sevenstars

Their planks rejected, Alabama delegates walked out of the convention, followed by those of the other Gulf states, Georgia, South Carolina (except for two stubborn upcountry Unionists), and some of those from Arkansas and Delaware. They knew they were destroying the national party and didn't care; the vast majority of them had already made up their minds to secede.

Under Democratic rules, a two-thirds vote was required for nomination. The next day the remaining delegates attempted to select a candidate, but Chairman Caleb Cushing ruled that two-thirds of all delegates chosen, rather than two-thirds of those remaining, was necessary for this purpose. For two days the stay-behinds balloted. Douglas received 152 1/2 votes, but not the 202 needed. After seven days and fifty-seven ballots, all knew that the gathering had failed. Still, the hangers-on weren't ready to give up, and agreed to adjourn and reassemble in Baltimore on June 18. When they did, many of those who had withdrawn at Charleston attempted to take their seats, but were refused. This led to another walkout, not only by the original bolters but also by delegates from the Upper South, California, and Oregon. Several days later these were joined by Cushing, who was succeeded as convention chairman by David Tod of Ohio. The delegates remaining finally nominated Douglas, on the second ballot, on the platform of '56. Senator Benjamin Fitzpatrick, a moderate from Alabama, was chosen as his running mate; when he declined the nomination, his place was given to another Southern moderate, Senator Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia.

The Charleston seceders met first in Richmond, then in Baltimore, where they formed the Constitutional Democratic Party, adopted the slave-code platform defeated in Charleston, and named Vice-President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, a strong states'-rights man, as their Presidential candidate, with Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon as his running mate. They adopted a platform favoring the annexation of Cuba and the extension of slavery into the territories.

The single unifying national party was now hopelessly sundered, but even this wasn't enough: the conservative Southerners--a group that contained and represented most of the men of property, including the largest slaveholders in the South--split off from the dominant radicals. Secession frightened these men, who declared it would be ruinous to the region. They represented the calmest and best-educated elements in their states, with the least parochial view, and their platform was that Southern property-holders must fight encroaching industrialism and abolition within the framework of the Constitution.

In the border states a sense of moderation, perhaps due to the realization that they would bear the brunt of any calamity, aroused the diehard Whigs there to make one more try at reconciliation. Meeting in Baltimore, along with the conservative Southern Democrats, they reorganized into the Constitutional Union Party and named John Bell of Tennessee, a former Speaker of the House, for President, and Edward Everett, former Governor and Senator from Massachusetts, as his running mate. Their only platform was "the Constitution of the Country, the Union of the States, and the Enforcement of the Laws." They hoped to avoid the forces and issues that were about to cause a division of the Union by turning the clock back and starting all over again.

As for the Republicans, they had a three-point platform: to protect American industries; to give free homestead land to people moving west; and to keep slavery out of the territories. They endorsed a protective tariff for manufacturers, a more liberal naturalization law, and internal improvements, including a Pacific railroad. They expressed opposition to the reopening of the African slave trade and to any efforts to legalize slavery. This platform made a strong appeal to Eastern businessmen, Western farmers, and the large immigrant population. Yet their hard core of abolitionist fanatics had been quietly absorbed by seasoned politicians from the old Whig party, like Lincoln. Under the guidance of these men, abolitionism was transmuted into a carefully articulated anti-slavery position that called for firm but peaceful opposition to the "peculiar institution." They denounced Brown's raid as "among the gravest of crimes," promised the "maintenance inviolate of the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions," and pledged that slavery should not be disturbed in states where it was legal.

Still, these simple phrases disturbed many voters. Abolitionists thought them too soft; Southerners read in them an end to slavery--for if the institution couldn't go along with the movement West, the kind of life dependent on it would surely die out. If factories, which were mostly in the North, were protected by a high tariff, wealth in the North would rapidly surpass that of the cotton states; and if new land in the West were free, Northerners would quickly settle the territories with their own partisans. The Southern states threatened to withdraw from the Union if the Republican candidate was elected. Abolitionists felt that they had been betrayed, and even Republicans became frightened. It had seemed a clever move to nominate a "man of the people," such as Andrew Jackson had been; now they wished for the more experienced Seward. As for Lincoln, he was opposed to the extension of slavery into the new territories--at a speech in Connecticut he declared that these were "the newly-made bed to which our children are to go, and it lies with the nation to say whether they shall have snakes mixed up with them or not"--but he had no plan to abolish it where it existed. But Southerners didn't know this, or if they did, they didn't believe it. They believed the North envied their prosperity and well-being and wanted to unleash a horde of black barbarians on Southern gentility. Within a few days of his nomination, they were saying that Lincoln was an "ape," an "illiterate fool," and his election would mean one thing--secession. Yet some commentators still maintained a sense of proportion. One Denver newspaper Buck had seen declared editorially, "We venture to say that if party orators here and elsewhere were as logical and temperate as Mr. Lincoln; if, like him, they appealed to reason rather than passion; those bitter and lamentable differences which threaten our country's peace might be amicably adjusted."

Not one of the four candidates was able to command a national following, and the campaign of 1860 had quickly resolved into a choice between Lincoln and Douglas in the North, Breckinridge and Bell in the South. Yet little evidence could be seen that the nation was engaged in the most fateful political contest of its history. Borrowing all of the hard-cider, log-cabin razzle-dazzle that the Whigs had used with such great effect twenty years before, the Republican Wide Awake Clubs held torchlight parades, barbecue picnics, and rail-splitting contests for Honest Abe. They played up the planks in the Republican platform for free homesteads and Federal aid to railroads, and for the first time they attempted to mute somewhat the dangerous issue of slavery, insisting--and truthfully--that Lincoln was not a fanatical abolitionist. The Democrats for their part tried to tar the Republicans with prohibitionism and Know-Nothing nativism, issues that found some success among German and Irish voters. Above all, the supporters of Douglas presented their candidate as the only true national figure, the only one of the four presidential aspirants whose election wouldn't mean the disruption of the Union.

One result of these separate campaigns was that each side gained a false impression of the other. The South never learned to distinguish Lincoln from the radicals; the North failed to gauge the force of Southern intransigence. Lincoln himself was among the worst in this regard. He stubbornly refused to offer the South assurances or to amplify his position, which he said was a matter of public record. In fact, he was no abolitionist. He said that he had no purpose of interfering with slavery where it existed--"I believe I have no right to do so." His commitment was only to the containment of the institution. This would in time, he felt, cause it to pass without dislocation to either race or to society as a whole. He looked beyond his time to a solution which wouldn't involve any form of the racial equality in which he disbelieved. "I am not," he wrote, "nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races...and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality." Unfortunately he made no real attempt to refute Seward and the other fanatics of his party who preached irreconcilable conflict. All Black Republicans were linked with their loudest spokesmen: to the South, he took on the same radical image.

The propaganda had undoubtedly overlooked the South's virtues and its contribution to the country as a whole. It had given a delicate balance to national life, given a respectability to certain rural social values; most of all, it had held back, by its power in Washington, a leaning toward consolidation of power in the Federal government. Yet an entire generation there had no memory of life without pressure coming at them from the North, and they'd had enough of it. Although some Southerners were willing to concede that Lincoln wasn't a radical on the slave question, even they emphasized that the Republican party was dominated by abolitionists, and feared that Lincoln would be a mere figurehead, dominated by such radicals as Seward and Chase.

The one man who tried to break through the veil that was falling between the sections was Douglas. Though weakened by drink, ill health, and disappointments, he threw himself into a final glorious national campaign. He believed that the country was "in more danger now than at any moment since I have known anything of public life." Early this month, at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he had received news of early elections in Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Indiana that confirmed the trend. "Mr. Lincoln is the next President," he said. "We must try to save the Union. I will go South." Down through the hostile areas of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama he carried appeals on behalf of the Union. In city after city he spoke till his body sagged and his voice grew hoarse. Southerners listened coldly as he tried to convince them that a Republican victory would be no justification for breaking up the Union. "I do not believe that every Breckenridge man is a disunionist," he declared, "but I do believe that every disunionist is a Breckinridge man."

Buck had never been much of a political animal. By birth and much of his raising--his life had begun in Wilmington, Delaware, whose name Rosalie had bestowed on him as his own, and his nomadic childhood had included stints in three Kentucky cities and two Missouri ones before he and she lit at last in Kansas City--he was a Southern border-stater, and he had some experience of slavery, although it was almost entirely domestic and mild. Still, in a climate such as the one developing now, every man found himself searching his heart to determine where he would stand if the unthinkable were to happen. And if his boyhood had been more or less Southern-oriented, his late teens--a critical period in the formation of character and opinion--had been passed in a new country where slavery didn't exist: Southerners might be thick on the ground in San Francisco, but even there, no bondsmen were held. He had seen first hand what was possible to a society where free labor was the rule, and he found he liked what he saw. What was more, the frontier attracted perhaps more than its share of articulate, educated men--some of them black sheep or broken men fleeing their past, others frankly ambitious--and in listening to their discussions in saloons and gold-camp debates Buck had come to the conclusion that the nation's only chance lay in sticking together. The United States was unique in all human experience, a noble experiment that must prevail for humanity to progress. He didn't exactly think of the issue in just those words, but he certainly didn't like the idea of his country falling apart into the kind of squabbling conventicle of which he'd heard German immigrants tell. In addition, his own boyhood experience had given him a strong feeling for the concept of "showing up" those who scorned you, and he knew that the privileged classes of Europe had been saying for eighty years that democracy was a foolish notion and doomed to failure. Well, he'd heard a lot of people say that he was doomed to failure because he had no father, because he was a prostitute's son and a bastard. He'd proved them wrong so far: he'd made a good reputation for himself, chosen his jobs carefully and avoided going to the bad. He was prepared to help his country do the same. He was, if anything, a nationalist who shared Lincoln's nationalism and looked to him to preserve the Union without force, if possible.

Rosalie had spent more than half her life in high-class bordellos and had picked up a lot of political savvy, more than most "respectable" women ever had. "It looks now as if there was a chance of the Republicans winning," she said. "The Southerners don't come here much any more, because of Abigail supporting the free-soilers in Kansas, but we still hear things. They're calling Lincoln ‘that white trash,' a ‘black Republican.' But they say the South won't submit to his presidency till every man who can bear arms is shot down. If he gets himself elected, they say, there'll be just one way left for the Southland--secession."

"But it's just the fire-eaters, ain't it, and them wild rattlebrained boys off the river plantations?"

"No," his mother replied sadly, "I'm afraid not. I only wish. But what Brown started is a fire too hot and quick to be quenched. And the whole trouble has been building for as long as there's been a United States at all. It had to come to a head, sooner or later." She gazed at her tall son, just the age for war and already a baptized fighter. "If it does--when it does--what will you do?"

Buck sighed. "I ain't no more eager to kill my fellow man in a war than any other way, Ma," he confessed. "But if there's one thing I've learned out West, it's that there's times you got to be ready to stand up for what you believe in, to the death if it comes to that. There ain't no country in the world like ours, where a plain man's got a chance to be as much as he's got it in him to be. If it comes apart at the Mason-Dixon line, what'll come of the West then? Where'll we have to go? Everything we've made of ourselves'll go straight to smash. I ain't abolitionist, but it ain't the Negroes that's the thing. The thing is to stick together. I don't want no war, but if one comes, I reckon I'll have to stand with the Union."

Rosalie nodded. "Somehow I thought you'd say that. Well, there's one piece of advice I can give you. Remember that fighting someone doesn't mean you have to hate him. Think of the knights in armor that we read to you about when you were a boy, about how chivalrous they were to each other even when they met in battle. The only man to hate is the man who's done you a personal injury. Fight for your beliefs, and fight to win, but remember your enemy is a man who thinks he's right just as you do, and deserves your respect maybe all the more because he's fighting to defend his home and his way of life."

There was a soft knock at the door, and a rich Negro drawl: "Miss Rosalie, ma'am, it's Mammy Ida."

"Come in, Mammy," Rosalie invited. Buck looked up, puzzled. He knew Mammy, of course. He'd been too old to come under her care by the time he and Rosalie had joined the house, but he'd often helped her look out for the "little kids," the ones not yet old enough to be shipped off to boarding schools as most high-class prostitutes' children eventually were. Mammy had been with Miz Abigail since she was a scrawny thirteen-year-old girl; she'd begun as the madam's personal maid, then become nurse to her daughter Miss Olivia when she was born, and after the business was established had settled into place as the second servant in it, ranked just under Cleodene, the housekeeper, and above Bella, the cook.

Stout and gray-haired, Mammy opened the door and swept in like a full-rigged ship, smiling at the young man she remembered from boyhood. "Marse Buck, it's mighty fine to have you home."

"It's mighty fine to be home, Mammy," he said, and looked curiously at the long fall of sheer white linen that trailed over her arm almost to the floor, heavy with thousands of tiny embroidered stitches. "What you got there?"

It was Rosalie who answered, taking the bundle from Mammy's arms and coming to stand before Buck's chair and lower it to his eye level. "Meet your little brother, love."

In the midst of the sea of linen a little face opened in a yawn, then blinked up at the astonished young man bending over it. It was framed by a muslin bonnet edged with Valenciennes lace and all but lost in the long dress it wore. Buck looked up at his mother, stunned. "Brother?" he repeated.

Rosalie nodded. "Four months old last week."

"He's so little!" Buck breathed, out of his memories of other infants of similar age.

"Nine pounds, twenty inches," Rosalie agreed. "Takes after his mamma's side. He wasn't but six pounds when he came."

"Why didn't you write me?" Buck demanded.

For a moment an old sadness showed in her eyes, and he looked away quickly, realizing what he'd said. Rosalie was forty-two. Buck had been her first child. The second, a girl born when he was six, had scarcely lived three hours; her third, a boy who arrived seven years later, had lived almost two months. There had been two miscarriages besides. "I'm sorry, Ma," he said quietly. "I reckon I understand. You was thinkin' he might not make it."

"I guess I was afraid I'd jinx him if I let you know," Rosalie confessed. "But Dr. Raines says he's perfectly healthy, he's just...small. He'll probably never be a big tall man like his brother, but he's a lusty little fellow. He screams like a steamboat whistle when he's hungry, doesn't he, Mammy?"

"He does dat, Miss Rosalie. Don't hardly never stay still, neider. Always a-squirmin' 'roun' like a li'l wiggle worm."

Buck gazed wonderingly at this tiny stranger who shared half his blood, then tentatively extended his finger and held it within the view of the slatey eyes. The baby's gaze settled on it instantly and a tiny hand reached up to clutch it, and in that moment Buck Wilmington lost his heart forever. "Hey," he breathed. "How 'bout that, now. You got a grip like a trap on you, don't you, kid?" He looked up at his mother again. "What's his name?"

"John Daniel Dunne," was the reply. And seeing the look on Buck's face: "I know who his papa was because he's got a birthmark just like him, right in the middle of his backside. Daniel Valerius Dunne, out of New York City and heading west. He took the last up-bound boat before I knew I was pregnant." She smiled softly, remembering. "He was so young...barely twenty-five, but such a fine, real gentleman, so smart and such a good talker. Every lady in the house wanted him, but I was the one he picked. I couldn't believe it."

Buck knew that when a lady had all her paint on, she looked about ten years younger than she really was, but that would still make Rosalie a full seven years her lover's senior. And he had been a lover, not merely a customer. He knew that because of the softness of her voice and the dreamy look in her eyes, so like the one he'd seen every time she looked at him with the thought of how very much he resembled his own father. "Then I'm glad you got somethin' to remember him by, Ma," he said gently, meaning it. "I ain't one bit jealous, if that's what you're worried about."

"I'm not worried," she said at once. "I know you'll help me raise your brother into a good man."

"You count on it, Ma," he promised, and then looked at the baby again. "John Daniel Dunne," he repeated thoughtfully. "Hell, that's 'way too big a name for such a little guy. I think I'll call him JD."

July, 1865

Nervous hooves drummed on the ramp as the big bright sorrel gelding and the strawberry roan mare with the white star and three white stockings were led off the riverboat. First Lieutenant Bucklin Wilmington stepped quickly forward to take the roan from the deckhand holding her and soothe her with voice and hands. "Whoa, Cherry, easy, girl..."

"Steady, Carbine," a second voice echoed as the sorrel was handed off. Both horses were saddled and ready to ride, lacking only their riders' personal baggage, which was heaped on the landward end of the dock. "Sure you want me along, Buck?"

Buck grinned broadly at his friend under his sweeping cavalryman's mustache and the downturned brim of his felt hat, modified by a crease down the length of the crown and the removal of the right-side turnup and left-side ostrich plumes that were standard for Union cavalry and remained in place on the other man's headgear. "Hell, Chris, I thought we'd been all through that already. You ain't got a ma no more and I do. She'll like you. Shit, if I was to go back without you and she found out I'd left a friend shacked up in a hotel waitin' for me, she'd have the hide off me in strips. Seein's she never laid a hand on me when I was a younker, that pretty well tells you what the score is, don't it?"

Captain Chris Larabee topped Buck's height by two inches and was fair where Buck was dark, with close-cropped blond hair and eyes that shifted from blue to green depending on his mood. He wore his uniform in the fashionable way, three buttons of the blue tunic not buttoned, sash tied with apparently easy grace; the former had been dressed up with gold tape added to the collar and sleeves. His sky-blue breeches matched Buck's, but his boots ended at the knee where Buck's lifted in a curved shield over it. Buck wore the short uniform jacket which many cavalry officers had adopted for the sake of its comfort, nonregulation trefoils of gold braid adorning its cuffs; it was buttoned like a civilian sack coat, top two buttons only, to show the vest underneath and the watch chain draped across, belt and sash like Chris's cinching his lean waist. Both men still wore their saber belts, with holster, cartridge box, and percussion-cap pouch threaded to them and gauntlets tucked underneath.

They had been together only a year and a half, but with the almost instant bonding that comes to men in combat situations, each already thought of the other as "best friend." Chris had been in Nevada when the news of the war reached him, Buck in New Mexico; they'd enlisted from those territories--for territories as well as states sent their regiments to the front--and hadn't met until Buck and his company, having suffered too many casualties to remain viable as a unit, were transferred from the First New Mexico to Chris's "Sagebrush Rangers." Buck had been astonished and delighted to find that his new captain was a man he knew by reputation, not from the war itself so much, as from before it: two years the elder, Chris had been riding shotgun for a stage line in the California gold country when Buck was still newly arrived in the state, killing no less than five road agents in a few months' time and garnering such a name for speed and courage that the first two tries made against his coach were the last two until he left that company. What mattered even more to Buck was that the man was game to walk through the middle of a fistfight between God and the devil without batting an eye, and had the good common sense to know that folderols like saluting and polishing brass didn't matter anywhere near as much as heart and willingness, overlooking a good deal in camp as long as a man fought well on the field. He also usually had a reason for the things he did, even if it wasn't obvious. Often it wasn't; being without any formal military training, he made up his own rules as he went along.

From the start of the Atlanta campaign the two had fought, relaxed, and lived side by side, saving each other's lives by turns, growing easy with each other, exchanging tales of lives and experiences, becoming friends as well as company commander and immediate subordinate. Resaca, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, Hardee's and Cheatham's attacks, Ezra Church, Jonesboro, and then back to occupied Tennessee to defend vulnerable supply lines against the routed but not yet defeated John Bell Hood, where they fought at Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville; at the last of these Buck was wounded and spent a while in the hospital, but he rejoined the regiment after a month or so. Since first heading west ten years ago, he'd known a lot of men, and he knew Chris Larabee was one in a thousand. There are men who don't get their results from being tall, or powerful, or any particular thing. Chris was tall, and perhaps strong, but his authority didn't live in that. He was one of those men who just quietly get done what they start to do; you can see it. If you've seen it, you know. Buck saw it.

Their similar experience as Westerners and in a variety of gun jobs had only solidified the bond that formed between them, and as the war wound down, or wore out, they began to talk tentatively about staying together afterward. They both had money put away, there was good land to be had in New Mexico, and a Homestead Act had finally been passed by Congress. Both of them were familiar with the Territory--Chris slightly the more, with his two years' vantage in age--and agreed that the northeast segment of it, where high plain met breaking mountains and Anglos had early begun to spread out from the old Santa Fe Trail, would be a good place to settle. Both men knew and liked good horses; a horse ranch appealed to them as a way to begin a new life, to leave the gun trade behind. But getting to New Mexico required first passing through one of the Missouri River towns, and Buck was determined that it should be Kansas City. "I got a ma and a little brother waitin' for me there," he reminded his friend, "and I always said I was gonna make a good home somewhere out West for 'em."

"Then I reckon I best meet 'em," Chris observed, and with that it was decided. But it hadn't been till they boarded the boat at St. Louis that Buck had made it clear that he expected his friend to be at his side from his first arrival at Miz Abigail's house.

Strapping their baggage to their saddles with the quickness of veteran cavalry, they mounted up and clattered off with Buck just slightly in advance, until through the trees that masked it from "respectable" eyes and helped to muffle the sound of revelry at night, Miz Abigail's brownstone mansion loomed. Buck led the way around to the stable and buggy-park behind their high board fence, where a diminutive black stableboy (it was too early for the regular groom to be on duty) took Cherry and Carbine under his care, and then back to the front door. "'Afternoon, Cleodene," he said with a grin when the housekeeper answered his knock. "Recognize me?"

"Marse Buck!" the woman gasped, but Chris, with an outsider's perspective, thought he saw a glint of panic or fear in her eyes.

Buck was too happy to be home to notice it. "Where's my ma at? Up in town this time of the day, I bet." It was almost three P.M., and prostitutes as a matter of habit did their shopping and promenading in the afternoon. "Cleo, this here's a friend of mine, Cap'n Chris Larabee, First Nevada Cavalry. You figure to let us in, or do we got to stand out on the stoop for God and everybody to see?"

The woman collected her faculties and gestured them in. "Step right in, gemmuns. Miz Abigail's in her office, Marse Buck."

"Thanks, Cleo. Come on, pard."

The madam was fully dressed in a plum-colored taffeta, which spared both Buck and Chris some embarrassment as the younger veteran introduced his friend. She saw them both seated and went to the carved marble-topped sideboard to pour Glenlivet whiskey, imported from the Scottish highlands, into generous cut-glass tumblers. "I'm so glad you made it out safe, Buck," she declared. "We hadn't heard from you in so long, I'd begun wondering."

"We were in Tennessee when we got the word," Buck explained. "What with two armies fightin' back and forth over the place the last four years, the telegraph and railroads are in pretty sorry shape, and time we had any notion when we'd get released, I figured a letter wouldn't get here a lot quicker'n I could myself."

"You've mustered out, then?"

"Yes, ma'am. Got bonus money too, couple hundred dollars each. Enough to buy a farm in the West, they told us, not that we couldn't homestead it for free, and not that either one of us is a farmer, but money's money; even if we don't need it for the land, it'll come in handy to get started on."

"Then you've got plans made," she guessed.

"Yes, ma'am. Me'n'Chris here been talkin'. We figure, pool our resources, we can start us a little horse ranch out in New Mexico. There's good Spanish blood in that part of the country, and with a couple or three Ozark or thoroughbred studs we can breed up a fast, tough line of stock, maybe even with a nice easy singlefoot or fox-trot gait for good measure. We can put some of our land in hay for cash till our herd builds, maybe break local stock on the side, and we're both still young enough we can either one take a short-term gun job now and then if money gets tight. It'll be a good place for JD to grow up, and it's pretty country--Ma'll like it." He grinned. "Time's come, Miz Abigail, that I'll be takin' her away from you. I know I said, when I strike it rich, and I ain't exactly done that, but I got a stake, and a partner, and I reckon that'll do just as good."

Something changed in the madam's face. "Didn't you get my letter?"

Buck tilted his head. "What letter would that be, ma'am? Mail always did have kind of a hard time catchin' up with us--ain't even heard from Ma these five months."

Miz Abigail drew in a breath. "I guess there's no way to tell you this except to just tell you. Rosalie's dead."

For what seemed an eternity Buck didn't breathe at all, and then the stale useless air came out of his lungs in a sobbing explosion. "No. No. That can't be. How?"

"She got caught in the rain late in March," the madam explained, "and by the next morning she had a cold. Nobody thought too much of it at first, but then she suddenly came down with chills and fever and chest pains, and started coughing up mucus. Dr. Raines said it was pneumonia; he said people often get it when they've had some sickness that weakens their resistance to infection. He did everything he knew for her, Buck; we all did, we loved Rosalie. And she fought so hard, she wanted so much to be here when you came home...but she just couldn't make it. She hung on for ten whole days, and then she died." She stood, came to his side and put her hand on his shoulder. "I wrote you right away, I thought you'd gotten it. I'm so sorry, Buck."


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