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The ghost of the Bastille

A myth submitted to the site by Eleanor Smith

Paris,, France

On July 14th 1789, angry mobs stormed through Paris in France. They were raging in protest against the rich nobles who had for many years lived a life of luxury and privilege whilst the majority of French people languished in poverty.

They stormed and destroyed the infamous Bastille prison and captured many aristocrats, both men and women.

However, not all of these nobles had been cruel and wicked to the poor. One man who had been kind to the needy children of Paris was Jean D’Arbanville the son of the Marquis de Bastille. He had, from his personal fortune, paid for a school for some of the most deprived children of the women of Bastille.

Everyday he had visited the prison to make sure the children were fed and cared for, often bringing toys and other gifts. During this time he had made special friends with two urchins called Pierre and Marie. Their mother had fallen very ill and couldn’t look after them so Jean made sure they had enough to eat and he would often play and read stories with them. Pierre and Marie grew to love Jean and looked forward to seeing him everyday.

However, Jean’s father, the Marquis, did not know that he was doing this, but one of his father’s servants did. One day, the servant told the Marquis that Jean was helping the prisoners of the Bastille. The next day his father demanded to see Jean and banned him from going to the prison ever again. He was broken hearted but could not persuade his father to change his mind.

Jean missed the children very much and eventually decided to disobey his father and went in secret to see Pierre and Marie. The children had been very sad and could not understand why Jean had suddenly stopped coming to visit. So they were surprised and delighted when he arrived one fateful summer morning.

Jean knew there had been much unrest in the city in recent weeks so he had travelled through the streets in disguise. However, once in the cell with Pierre and Marie he took off his cloak and hat and sat happily reading stories. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the prisoners started cheering as the revolutionaries raged through the building. They saw Jean in his fine clothes and shouted ‘ Vivre la revolution– revenge will be ours !’ Pierre and Marie cried desperately that Jean was their friend and he wasn’t like the rest. However, they paid no attention to the urchins and took him away to the special courts that had been set up to try the nobles.

Within a few days Jean had been tried, convicted and sentenced to death by the guillotine. Pierre and Marie managed to convince the Bastille jailer to let them in to see Jean the night before his execution. They pressed their faces against the cold iron bars of his dark cell and whispered ‘Jean, Jean it is Pierre and Marie – we love you, please do not leave us again.’
Jean was resigned to his fate but realised these children were all he cared about in the world – his father had even escaped the revolution and gone to England. ‘ Don’t cry my little urchins – you will need to live your life without me but if you ever need me I will always be here – just return to the Bastille and call my name.’

After many years the revolution was over and a new France was born. Pierre and Marie grew up to be fine citizens helping poor children in the same way that they had known with Jean.

Many times they returned to the ruins of the Bastille and remembering Jean’s words called his name. A strange wind blew around them and a haunting but familiar voice always spoke saying ‘My little urchins – I am so proud of you. You are truly noble of heart – we will be together soon enough so make everyday count.’ Pierre and Marie always came away from their visits to the Bastille with new hope that they were doing the right thing - in the same way that Jean had felt so many years before.

By Eleanor Smith
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