At leave-taking came the guest’s general summing up of fears and faiths. All his hope for New Orleans, he said, was in the forts down at the Passes. Should they fall the city could not stand. But amid their illimitable sea marshes and their impenetrable swamp forests, chin-deep in the floods of broken levees, he truly believed, they would hold out. Let them do so only till the first hot breath of real Delta summer should bring typhoid, breakbone, yellow, and swamp fevers, the last by all odds the worst, and Butler’s unacclimated troops would have to reembark for home pell-mell or die on Ship Island like poisoned fish. So much for the front gate. For the back gate, Corinth, which just now seemed—the speaker harkened.
“Seemed,” he resumed, “so much more like the front—listen!” There came a far, childish call.
“An extra,” laughed Constance. “Steve says we issue one every time he brushes his uniform.”
“But, Con,” argued Anna, “an extra on Sunday evening, brought away down here—” The call piped nearer.
“Victory!” echoed Constance. “I heard it as pl’—”
“Beauregard! Tennessee!” exclaimed both sisters. They flew to the veranda, the other two following. Down in the gate could be seen the old coachman, already waiting to buy the paper. Constance called to him their warm approval. “I thought,” murmured Miranda, “that Beauregard was in Miss’—”
Anna touched her, and the cry came again: “Great victory—!” Yes, yes, but by whom, and where? Johnston? Corinth? “Great victory at—!” Where? Where, did he say? The word came again, and now again, but still it was tauntingly vague. Anna’s ear seemed best, yet even she could say only, “I never heard of such a place—out of the bible. It sounds like—Shiloh.”
Shiloh it was. At a table lamp indoors the Doctor bent over the fresh print. “It’s true,” he affirmed. “It’s Beauregard’s own despatch. ’A complete victory,’ he says. ’Driving the enemy’—” The reader ceased and stared at the page. “Why, good God!” Slowly he lifted his eyes upon those three sweet women until theirs ran full. And then he stared once more into the page: “Oh, good God! Albert Sidney Johnston is dead.”