There was, some time ago, a
gentleman who was extremely rich: he had elegant town and country
houses; his dishes and plates were 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 magnificently gilt with gold.
But, unfortunately, this gentleman had a blue beard, which made him so
very frightful and ugly, that none of the ladies in the neighbourhood
would venture to go into his company.
It happened that a lady of quality, who lived very near him, had two
daughters, who were both extremely beautiful. Blue Beard asked her to
bestow one of them upon him in marriage, leaving to herself the choice
which of the two it should be.
They both, however, again and again refused to marry Blue Beard; but to
be as civil as possible, they each pretended that they refused because
she would not deprive her sister of the opportunity of marrying so much
to her advantage. But the truth was, they could not bear the thought of
having a husband with a blue beard: and, besides, they had heard of his
having already been married to several wives, and nobody could tell what
had afterwards become of them.
As Blue Beard wished very much to gain their favour, he invited the lady
and her daughters, and some ladies who were on a visit at their house,
to accompany him to one of his country seats, where they spent a whole
week, during which nothing was thought of but parties for hunting and
fishing, music, dancing, collations, and the most delightful
entertainments. No one thought of going to bed, and the nights were
passed in merriment of every kind.
In short, the time had passed so agreeably, that the youngest of the two
sisters began to think that the beard which had so much terrified her
was not so very blue, and that the gentleman to whom it belonged was
vastly civil and pleasing.
Soon after they returned home, she told her mother that she had no
longer any objection to accept Blue Beard as her husband; and,
accordingly, in a short time they were married.
About a month after the marriage had taken place. Blue Beard told his
wife that he should be obliged to leave her for a few weeks, as he had
some business to do in the country. He desired her to be sure to procure
herself every kind of amusement, to invite as many of her friends as she
liked, and to treat them with all sorts of delicacies, that the time
might pass agreeably during his absence. "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 to the casket in which are
all my jewels. Here also is a master key to all the apartments in my
house but this small key belongs to the closet at the end of the long
gallery on the ground floor. I give you leave," continued he, "to open
or do what you like with all the rest excepting this closet: this, my
dear, you must not enter, nor even put the key into the lock, for all
the world. Should you disobey me, expect the most dreadful of
She promised to obey his orders in the most faithful manner; and Blue
Beard, after tenderly embracing her, stepped into his carriage and drove
The friends of the bride did not, on this occasion, wait to be invited,
so impatient were they to see all the riches and magnificence she had
gained by marriage, for they had been prevented from paying their
wedding visit bv their aversion to the blue beard of the bridegroom.
No sooner were they arrived than they impatiently ran from room to room,
from cabinet to cabinet, and then from wardrobe to wardrobe, examining
each with the utmost curiosity, and declaring that the last was still
richer and more beautiful than what they had seen the moment before. At
length they came to the drawing-rooms, where their admiration and
astonishment were still increased by the costly splendour of the
hangings, of the sofas, the chairs, carpets, tables, girandoles, and
looking-glasses, the frames of which were silver gilt, most richly
ornamented, and in which they saw themselves from head to foot.
In short, nothing could
exceed the magnificence of what they saw; and the visitors did not cease
to extol and envy the good fortune of their friend, who all this time
was far from being amused by the fine compliments they paid her, so
eagerly did she desire to see what was in the closet her husband had
forbidden her to open. So great indeed was her curiosity, that, without
recollecting how uncivil it would be to leave her guests, she descended
a private staircase that led to it, and in such a hurry, that she was
two or three times in danger of breaking her neck.
When she reached the door
of the closet, she stopped for a few moments to think of the charge her
husband had given her, and that he would not fail to keep his word in
punishing her very severely, should she disobey him. But she was so very
curious to know what was in the inside, that she determined to venture
in spite of everything.
She accordingly, with a
trembling hand, 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 perceived 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 closet
door, which she field in her hand, fell on the floor. When she had
somewhat recovered from her fright, she took it up, locked the door, and
hastened to her own room, that she might have a little time to get into
humour for amusing her visitors; but this she found impossible, so
greatly was she terrified by what she had seen.
As she observed 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; still, however, the
blood remained the same as before; she next washed it, but the blood did
not stir at all; 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 it off on one side, it appeared again on the other.
Early in the evening Blue
Beard returned home, saying he had not proceeded far on his journey
before he was met by a messenger who was coining to tell him that his
business was happily concluded without his being present, upon which his
wife said everything she could think of, to make him believe she was
transported with joy at his unexpected return.
The next morning he asked
for the keys: she gave them to him; 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? Then I must
have left it on my dressing-table," said she, and left the room in
"Be sure you give it to m
by and by,'' cried Blue Beard.
After going several tines
backwards and forwards, pretending to look for the key, she was at last
obliged to give it to Blue Beard. He looked at it attentiveIy, and then
said. "How came there is blood upon the key?"
"I and sure I do not
know.'' replied the lady, turning at the same time 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
His wife, almost dead
with fear, fell upon her knees, asked his pardon a thousand times for
her disobedience, and entreated him to forgive her, looking all the time
so very 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
trembling 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 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: "Pr'ythee,'' said she, "sister Ann " (this was her sister's name),
"run up to the top of the tower, and see if my brothers are yet in
sight, for they promised to come and visit me to-day; and if yon see
them make a sign for them to gallop as fast as possible."
Her sister instantly did
as she was asked, and the terrified lady every minute called to her
"Ann!, Sister Ann! Do you see any one coming?"
And her sister answered,
"No, I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass which
In the meantime, Blue
Beard. with a great scimitar in his hand, bawled as loud as he could to
his wife, "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 any one coming?"
To which she answered, "I
see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass which looks
Blue Beard now again
bawled out. "Come down, I say, this very moment, or I shall come and
"I am coining: indeed. I
will come in one miinute," sobbed his unhappy wife. Then she once more
cried out, "Ann! sister Ann! do yon 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! my dear sister,''
replied she: "it is only a flock of sheep."
"Will you come down or
not, madam? " cried Blue Beard, in the greatest rage imaginable.
"Only one single moment
more," answered she, when she called out for the last time, "Sister Ann!
Do you see any 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
The poor lady with her
hair loose, and her eves swimming in tears, instantly came down, and
fell on her knees to Blue Beard, and was going to beg him to spare her
life. But he interrupted her, saving. "All this is of no use at all, for
you shall die;" then seizing her with one hand by the hair, and raising
the scimitar he held in the other, was going with one blow to strike off
The unfortunate creature
turning towards him, desired to have a single moment allowed her to
"No, no," said Blue
Beard, I will give you no more time, I am determined you have had too
much already:" and again 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 dressed in
their regimentals entered, and, with their swords in their hands, ran
instantly to Blue Beard. who, seeing they were his wife's brothers,
endeavoured 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 immediately fell down 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. She soon, however recovered; as as Blue Beard had no
heirs, she found herself the lawful heiress of his great riches.
She employed a portion of
her vast fortune, one in giving a marriage dowry to her sister Ann, who
soon after became the wife of a young gentleman by whom she had long
been beloved. Another part she employed in buying 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.
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