The most audacious of the guerrillas who had devastated this fertile country was a chief called Regulas. He pillaged the farms, stopped railway trains, boldly demanding ransom from captives from the municipal governments of large towns. He was continually, active, and always inaccessible.
Warned by his scouts that the followers of this villain menaced the town of Pazcuaro, Captain de Prerolles prepared himself eagerly to meet them. He overtook them in a night march, and fell upon them unexpectedly, just as they were holding up the diligence from Morelia to Guadalajara. His plans had been so well laid that not a man escaped. What was the surprise of the French officer to find, among the travellers, delivered by himself from certain death, Paul Landry, the principal cause of his ruin, who the chances of war now laid under obligations to him!
“This is my revenge,” said the Captain, simply, to Landry, attempting to avoid his thanks, and returning to him intact his luggage, of which the chinacos had not had time to divide the contents.
Reconciled in Algiers with his regiment, Henri de Prerolles did not again quit the province of Constantine except to serve in the army of the Rhine, as chief of battalion in the line, until the promotions which followed the declaration of war in 1870. Officer of the Legion of Honor for his gallantry at Gravelotte and at St. Privat, and assigned for his ability to the employ of the chief of corps, he had just been called upon to assume command of his former battalion of chasseurs, when the disastrous surrender of Metz left him a prisoner of war in the hands of the Germans.
Profoundly affected by this disaster, but learning that the conflict still continued, he refused to avail himself of the offer of comparative freedom in the city, provided he would give his parole not to attempt to escape. He was therefore conducted to a distant fortress near the Russian frontier, and handed over to the captain of the landwehr, who received instructions to keep a strict guard over him.
This officer belonged to the engineering corps, and directed, at the same time, the work of repairs within the citadel, in charge of a civilian contractor.
Taking into consideration the rank of his prisoner, the captain permitted the Marquis to have with him his orderly, an Alsatian, who twice a day brought from the inn his chief’s repasts. This functionary had permission also, from ten o’clock in the morning until sunset, to promenade in the court under the eye of the sentinel on guard at the entrance. At five o’clock in the evening, the officer of the landwehr politely shut up his guest in his prison, double-locked the door, put the key in his pocket, and appeared no more until the next morning.
The middle of November had arrived; heavy snows had already fallen, and the prisoner amused himself by constructing fortifications of snow—a work which his amiable jailer followed with a professional interest, giving him advice regarding modifications proper to introduce in the defense of certain places, himself putting a finger in the pie in support of his demonstration.