Clara: Sneaking Away

I was exhausted, but I forced my brain to believe that sleep was not so important as that. Before the servants arose in the morning I was awake, tying the ribbons on my dress and straightening my hair, before I hurried down the stairs to the entrance lobby. There I found myself alone and slightly confused, until I remembered what it was that I had come to do. "I will be back soon," I whispered to the empty room.

Then I was outside, and the chill air was biting into my exposed skin. I hurried down the narrow street like a ghost, my skirts flapping beside me. It was true that we were no longer in Paris, and yet I was sure that somebody could tell me what was happening. I went to the only place I knew of: the market square. Somebody would be there.

Sure enough, a fruit seller was sadly setting out his stall, looking at the meagre fruits with sorrowful eyes, counting the small amount of coins in his belt pouch as though they would somehow multiply if he longed hard enough. I ran over to him. "Monsieur, I was wondering if you could tell me anything."

"About what?" he said, interested but not friendly. He looked me up and down, analysing my face and my dress.

"Paris. What is happening? I have heard that the Bastille was taken but I know nothing more. We left there a little while ago now, just before this happened, and I am longing for the details. Please, monsieur." My eyes were as pleading as my voice.

"I can tell you little," he admitted. "I am not a Parisian myself. But I will tell you what I know. The Bastille was, yes, it was taken. But there were only seven prisoners inside, and none of them particularly important." I gasped aloud.

"Seven? In that huge fortress? That cannot be right. You must be mistaken." On my walks each day I had often passed it, and wondered at the hundreds of men locked away behind its doors. But seven ... that was absurd.

"I am telling you, m'mselle, there were seven. And it was not so bad as they say. People are going around showing instruments of torture that came from it, but it is all lies." He sucked in his breath. "One of their pretences is that the printing press which was stored there after being confiscated was a rack. Another is that the many bones lying around belonged to prisoners."

"And they did not?" I was breathless with excitement. Everything I had been told, the rumours I had heard ... all were laid to waste.

"No. They belonged to the many that fell as it was taken, and to those that lived there long ago. There was no torturing there; it was more pleasant, or so I have heard, than many other prisons in the country." The fruit seller turned back to his stall. "And now, if you will excuse me, there is nothing more to tell."

"Nothing?" I said hopefully.

"I know no more. All of my news comes from the letters that my brother sends each week. He was present at the seige, or so I understand." Then his face lit up. "Ah! I remember something. The King, apparently, travelled back to Paris from Versailles where he was staying and has given into many of the demands of the Third Estate. But I can tell you nothing more."

That was no use to me, for I had never had any interest in politics. Still, the fact that the King had been in Versailles was interesting, and that he had travelled all the way back to Paris even more so. I stored them away in my memory.

"Merci beaucoup," I said gratefully. "Je doit aller, car mes amis ne sais pas où je suis." With a soft smile and a wave, I left the square to return to the house. Hopefully nobody would have missed me, or I would be in trouble.

The End

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