The Story Of Blue Beard

Many years ago there was a rich man who had a singular blue beard, which made him very ugly. Being left a widower, he wished to marry one of the two beautiful daughters of a neighboring lady, and at last the younger of these girls consented to be his wife.

About a month after the marriage, Blue Beard told his bride that he must leave her for a time, as he had some business to attend to at a distance. He gave her his keys, and told her to make free of everything and entertain her friends while he was absent, but ending by drawing one key from the bunch and saying:

"This small key belongs to the room at the end of the long gallery and that, my dear, is the one room you must not enter, nor even put the key into the lock. Should you disobey, your punishment would be dreadful."

Blue Beard set out on his journey, and for a time his wife found pleasure in showing her friends all her magnificence; but again and again she wondered what could be the reason why she was not to visit the room at the end of the long gallery. At last her curiosity became such that she could not resist the temptation to take just one peep within the forbidden door. When she reached the door she stopped for a few moments to think of her husband's warning, that he would not fail to keep his word should she disobey him. But she was so very curious to know what was inside, that she determined to venture in spite of everything.

So, with a trembling hand, she put the key into the lock, and the door immediately opened. The window shutters being closed, she at first saw nothing; but in a short time she noticed that the floor was covered with clotted blood, on which the bodies of several dead women were lying. (These were all the wives whom Blue Beard had married, and murdered one after another!) She was ready to sink with fear, and the key of the door, which she held in her hand, fell on the floor. When she had somewhat recovered from her fright, she took it up, locked the door and hurried to her own room, terrified by what she had seen.

As she observed that the key had got stained with blood in falling on the floor, she wiped it two or three times to clean it; but the blood still remained; she next washed it; but the blood did not go; she then scoured it with brickdust, and afterwards with sand. But notwithstanding all she could do, the blood was still there, for the key was a fairy, who was Blue Beard's friend, so that as fast as she got the stain off one side it appeared again on the other. Early in the evening Blue Beard returned, saying he had not proceeded far before he was met by a messenger, who told him that the business was concluded without his presence being necessary. His wife said everything she could think of to make him believe that she was delighted at his unexpected return.

The next morning, he asked for the keys. She gave them, but, as she could not help showing her fright, Blue Beard easily guessed what had happened.

"How is it," said he, "that the key of the closet upon the ground floor is not here."

"Is it not?" said the wife. "I must have left it on my dressing table."

"Be sure you give it me by and by," replied Blue Beard.

After going several times backwards and forwards, pretending to look for the key, she was at last obliged to give it to Blue Beard. He looked at it attentively, and then said:

"How came this blood upon the key?"

"I am sure I do not know," replied the lady, turning as pale as death.

"You do not know?" said Blue Beard sternly. "But I know well enough. You have been in the closet on the ground floor. Very well, madam; since you are so mightily fond of this closet, you shall certainly take your place among the ladies you saw there."

His wife, almost dead with fear, fell upon her knees, asked his pardon a thousand times for her disobedience, and begged him to forgive her, looking all the time so sorrowful and lovely that she would have melted any heart that was not harder than a rock.

But Blue Beard answered:

"No, no, madam; you shall die this very minute."

"Alas," said the poor creature, "if I must die, allow me, at least, a little time to say my prayers!"

"I give you," replied the cruel Blue Beard, "half a quarter of an hour not one moment longer."

When Bluebeard had left her to herself, she called her sister; and, after telling her that she had but half a quarter of an hour to live:

"Please," said she, "Sister Ann" (this was her sister's name), "run up to the tower, and see if my brothers are in sight; they promised to come and visit me to-day; and if you see them, make a sign for them to gallop on as fast as possible."

Her sister instantly did as she was desired, and the terrified lady every minute called out:

"Sister Ann, do you see anyone coming?"

And her sister answered:

"I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which looks green."

In the meanwhile, Blue Beard, with a great simitar in his hand, bawled as loud as he could:

"Come down instantly, or I will fetch you."

"One moment longer, I beseech you," replied she, and again called softly to her sister:

"Sister Ann, do you see anyone coming?"

To which she answered:

"I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which looks green."

Blue Beard again bawled out:

"Come down, I say, this very moment, or I shall come and fetch you."

"I am coming; indeed I will come in one minute," sobbed his unhappy wife. Then she once more cried out:

"Sister Ann, do you see anyone coming?"

"I see," said her sister, "a cloud of dust a little to the left."

"Do you think it is my brothers?" continued the wife.

"Alas, no, dear sister," replied she, "it is only a flock of sheep!"

"Will you come down or not, madam?" said Blue Beard, in the greatest rage imaginable.

"Only one moment more," answered she. And then she called out for the last time:

"Sister Ann! do you see no one coming?"

"I see," replied her sister, "two men on horseback coming to the house; but they are still at a great distance."

"God be praised!" cried she; "it is my brothers. Give them a sign to make what haste they can."

At the same moment Blue Beard cried out so loud for her to come down, that his voice shook the whole house. The poor lady, with her hair loose and her eyes swimming in tears, came down, and fell on her knees before Blue Beard, and was going to beg him to spare her life, but he interrupted her, saying: "All this is of no use, for you shall die;" then, seizing her with one hand by the hair, and raising the simitar he held in the other, he was going with one blow to strike off her head.

The unfortunate woman, turning toward him, desired to have a single moment allowed her to compose herself.

"No, no," said Blue Beard; "I will give you no more time, I am determined. You have had too much already."

Again he raised his arm. Just at this instant a loud knocking was heard at the gates, which made Blue Beard wait for a moment to see who it was. The gates were opened, and two officers entered with their swords in their hands. Blue Beard, seeing they were his wife's brothers, endeavored to escape, but they pursued and seized him before he had got twenty steps, and, plunging their swords into his body, laid him dead at their feet.

The poor wife, who was almost as dead as her husband, was unable at first to rise and embrace her brothers, but she soon recovered.

As Blue Beard had no heirs, she found herself the possessor of his great riches. She used part of her vast fortune in giving a marriage dowry to her sister Ann, who soon after was married. With another part she bought captains' commissions for her two brothers; and the rest she presented to a most worthy gentleman whom she married soon after, and whose kind treatment soon made her forget Blue Beard's cruelty.