“Passports!” cried Henri de Prerolles, accompanying his exclamation with the most Parisian oath that ever had reverberated from the Rue Laffitte to the Madeleine.
“Here is my passport!” he added, drawing from his pocket his officer’s cross, which he had taken good care not to allow to become a souvenir in the hands of his jailer. “And if that does not satisfy you, give me a pen.”
Suiting the action to the word, he seized a pen and wrote out the following telegram:
“Deputy of war, Tours:
prisons of the enemy, I demand admittance to France,
and official duties suitable to my rank, that I may cooperate in the
“De Prerolles, Commandant.”
He handed the paper to the police agent, saying: “Do me the favor to forward this despatch with the utmost expedition.”
As soon as the agent had glanced at the message, he swept a profound salute. “Pass on, Commandant,” said he, in a tone of great respect.
Promoted to a higher rank, and appointed commander of a regiment of foot, the Lieutenant-Colonel de Prerolles rejoined the army of Chanzy, which, having known him a long time, assigned to him the duties of a brigadier-general, and instructed him to cover his retreat from the Loire on the Sarthe.
In the ensuing series of daily combats, the auxiliary General performed all that his chief expected of him, from Orleans to the battle of Maus, where, in the thick of the fight, a shell struck him in the breast. It is necessary to say that on the evening before he had noticed that the little medallion which had been given to him by Fanny Dorville, worn from its chain by friction, had disappeared from his neck. Scoffing comrades smiled at the coincidence; the more credulous looked grave.
The wound was serious, for, transported to the Chateau de Montgeron, a few leagues distant, the Marquis was compelled to remain there six months before he was in fit condition to rejoin his command. Toward the end of his convalescence, in June, 1871, the brother and sister resolved to make a pious pilgrimage to the cradle of their ancestors.
Exactly nine years had elapsed since the castle and lands had been sold at auction and fallen into the possession of a company of speculators, who had divided it and resold it to various purchasers. Only the farm of Valpendant, with a house of ancient and vast construction, built in the time of Philippe-Auguste, remained to an old tenant, with his dependencies and his primitive methods of agriculture.
Leaving the train at the Beaumont tunnel, the two travellers made their way along a road which crosses the high plateau that separates the forest of Carnelle from the forest of the Ile-d’Adam, whence one can discern the steeple of Prerolles rising above the banks of the Oise.