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There was, some time ago, a gentleman who was very rich. He had fine
town and country houses, his dishes and plates were all of gold or
silver, his rooms were hung with damask, his chairs and sofas were
covered with the richest silks, and his carriages were all gilt with
gold in a grand style. But it happened that this gentleman had a blue
beard, which made him so very frightful and ugly, that none of the
ladies, in the parts where he lived, would venture to go into his
company. Now there was a certain lady of rank, who lived very near him,
and had two daughters, both of them of very great beauty. Blue Beard
asked her to bestow one of them upon him for a wife, and left it to
herself to choose which of the two it should be. But both the young
ladies again and again said they would never marry Blue Beard; yet, to
be as civil as they could, each of them said, the only reason why she
would not have him was, because she was loath to hinder her sister from
the match, which would be such a good one for her. Still the truth of
the matter was, they could neither of them bear the thoughts of having a
husband with a blue beard; and besides, they had heard of his having
been married to several wives before, and nobody could tell what had
ever become of any of them.
As Blue Beard wished very much to gain their
favour, he asked the lady and her daughters, and some ladies who were on
a visit at their house, to go with him to one of his country seats,
where they spent a whole week, during which they passed all their time
in nothing but parties for hunting and fishing, music, dancing, and
feasts. No one even thought of going to bed, and the nights were passed
in merry-makings of all kinds. In short, the time rolled on in so much
pleasure, that the youngest of the two sisters began to think that the
beard which she had been so much afraid of, was not so very blue, and
that the gentleman who owned it was vastly civil and pleasing. Soon
after their return home, she told her mother that she had no longer any
dislike to accept of Blue Beard for her husband; and in a very short
time they were married.
About a month after the marriage had taken place, Blue Beard told his
wife that he should be forced to leave her for a few weeks, as he had
some affairs to attend to in the country. He desired her to be sure to
indulge herself in every kind of pleasure, to invite as many of her
friends as she liked, and to treat them with all sorts of dainties, that
her time might pass pleasantly till he came back again. "Here," said he,
"are the keys of the two large wardrobes.
This is the key of the great
box that contains the best plate, which we use for company, this belongs
to my strong box, where I keep my money, and this belongs to the casket,
in which are all my jewels. Here also is a master-key to all the rooms
in the house; but this small key belongs to the closet at the end of the
long gallery on the ground floor. I give you leave," said he, "to open,
or to do what you like with all the rest except this closet. This, my
dear, you must not enter, nor even put the key into the lock, for all
the world. If you do not obey me in this one thing, you must expect the
most dreadful punishments." She promised to obey his orders in the most
faithful manner; and Blue Beard, after kissing her tenderly, stepped
into his coach, and drove away.
When Blue Beard was gone, the friends of his wife did not wait to be
asked, so eager were they to see all the riches and fine things she had
gained by marriage; for they had none of them gone to the wedding, on
account of their dislike to the blue beard of the bridegroom. As soon as
ever they came to the house, they ran about from room to room, from
closet to closet, and then from wardrobe to wardrobe, looking into each
with wonder and delight, and said, that every fresh one they came to,
was richer and finer than what they had seen the moment before.
they came to the drawing-rooms, where their surprise was made still
greater by the costly grandeur of the hangings, the sofas, the chairs,
carpets, tables, sideboards, and looking-glasses; the frames of these
last were silver-gilt, most richly adorned, and in the glasses they saw
themselves from head to foot. In short, nothing could exceed the
richness of what they saw; and they all did not fail to admire and envy
the good fortune of their friend. But all this time the bride herself
was far from thinking about the fine speeches they made to her, for she
was eager to see what was in the closet her husband had told her not to
open. So great, indeed, was her desire to do this, that, without once
thinking how rude it would be to leave her guests, she slipped away down
a private staircase that led to this forbidden closet, and in such a
hurry, that she was two or three times in danger of falling down stairs
and breaking her neck.
When she reached the door of the closet, she stopped for a few moments
to think of the order her husband had given her, and how he had told her
that he would not fail to keep his word and punish her very severely, if
she did not obey him. But she was so very curious to know what was
inside, that she made up her mind to venture in spite of every thing.
She then, with a trembling hand, put the key into the lock, and the door
straight flew open.
As the window shutters were closed, she at first
could see nothing; but in a short time she saw that the floor was
covered with clotted blood, on which the bodies of several dead women
These were all the wives whom Blue Beard had married, and killed one
after another. At this sight she was ready to sink with fear, and the
key of the closet door, which she held in her hand, fell on the floor.
When she had a little got the better of her fright, she took it up,
locked the door, and made haste back to her own room, that she might
have a little time to get into a humour to amuse her company; but this
she could not do, so great was her fright at what she had seen. As she
found that the key of the closet had got stained with blood in falling
on the floor, she wiped it two or three times over to clean it; yet
still the blood kept on it the same as before. She next washed it, but
the blood did not move at all. She then scoured it with brickdust, and
after with sand, but in spite of 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 off the blood on one side, it came again on the other.
Early in the same evening Blue Beard came home, saying, that before he
had gone far on his journey he was met by a horseman, who was coming to
tell him that his affair in the country was settled without his being
present; upon which his wife said every thing she could think of, to
make him believe she was in a transport of joy at his sudden return.
The next morning he asked her for the keys: she gave them to him; but as
she could not help showing her fright, Blue Beard easily guessed what
had been the matter. "How is it," said he, "that the key of the closet
upon the ground floor is not here?" "Is it not?" said the wife, "then I
must have left it on my dressing-table." "Be sure you give it me by and
by," replied Blue Beard. After going a good many times backwards and
forwards, as if she was looking for the key, she was at last forced to
give it to Blue Beard. He looked hard at it, and then said: "How came
this blood upon the key?" "I am sure I do not know," replied the poor
lady, at the same time turning as white as a sheet. "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 mighty
fond of this closet, you shall be sure to take your place among the
ladies you saw there." His wife, who was almost dead with fear, now fell
upon her knees, asked his pardon a thousand times for her fault, and
begged him to forgive her, looking all the time so very mournful and
lovely, that she would have melted any heart that was not harder than a
rock. But Blue Beard only said, "No, no, madam; you shall die this very
minute!" "Alas!" said the poor trembling creature, "if I must die, give
me, as least, a little time to say my prayers.
" "I give you," replied
the cruel Blue Beard, "half a quarter of an hour: not a moment longer."
When Blue Beard had left her to herself, she called her sister; and
after telling her, as well as she could for sobbing, that she had but
half a quarter of an hour to live; "Prithee," said she, "sister Anne,"
(this was her sister's name), "run up to the top of the tower, and see
if my brothers are not in sight, for they said they would visit me
to-day, and if you see them, make a sign for them to gallop on as fast
as ever they can." Her sister straight did as she was desired; and the
poor trembling lady every minute cried out to her: "Anne! sister Anne!
do you see any one coming?" Her sister said, "I see nothing but the sun,
which makes a dust, and the grass, which looks green."
In the meanwhile, Blue Beard, with a great cimeter in his hand, bawled
as loud as he could to his wife, "Come down at once, or I will fetch
you." "One moment longer, I beseech you," replied she, and again called
softly to her sister, "Sister Anne, do you see any one coming?" To which
she answered, "I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the
grass, which looks green." Blue Beard now again bawled out, "Come down,
I say, this very moment, or I shall come to fetch you." "I am coming;
indeed I will come in one minute," sobbed his wretched wife.
once more cried out, "Anne! sister Anne! do you see any one coming?" "I
see," said her sister, "a cloud of dust a little to the left." "Do you
think it is my brothers?" said the wife. "Alas! no, dear sister,"
replied she, "it is only a flock of sheep." "Will you come down, madam?"
said Blue Beard, in the greatest rage. "Only one single moment more,"
said she. And then she called out for the last time, "Sister Anne!
sister Anne! do you see no one coming?" "I see," replied her sister,
"two men on horseback coming; but they are still a great way off."
"Thank God," cried she, "they are my brothers; beckon them to make
haste." Blue Beard now cried out so loud for her to come down, that his
voice shook the whole house. The poor lady, with her hair loose, and all
in tears, now came down, and fell on her knees, begging him to spare her
life; but he stopped her, saying, "All this is of no use, for you shall
die," and then, seizing her by the hair, raised his cimeter to strike
off her head.
The poor woman now begged a single moment to say one
prayer. "No, no," said Blue Beard, "I will give you no more time. You
have had too much already." And 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 now flew open, and two
officers, dressed in their uniform, came in, and, with their swords in
their hands, ran straight to Blue Beard, who, seeing they were his
wife's brothers, tried to escape from their presence; but they pursued
and seized him before he had gone twenty steps, and plunging their
swords into his body he fell down dead at their feet.
The poor wife, who was almost as dead as her husband, was not able at
first to rise and embrace her brothers; but she soon came to herself;
and, as Blue Beard had no heirs, she found herself the owner of his
great riches. She gave a part of his vast fortune as a marriage dowry to
her sister Anne, who soon after became the wife of a young gentleman who
had long loved her. Some of the money she laid out in buying captains'
commissions for her two brothers, and the rest she gave to a worthy
gentleman whom she married shortly after, and whose kind treatment soon
made her forget Blue Beard's cruelty.