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Blue Beard

from The Blue Fairy Book





There was a man who had fine houses, both in town
and country, a deal of silver and gold plate, embroidered
furniture, and coaches gilded all over with gold. But
this man was so unlucky as to have a blue beard, which
made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and
girls ran away from him.

One of his neighbors, a lady of quality, had two
daughters who were perfect beauties. He desired of
her one of them in marriage, leaving to her choice which
of the two she would bestow on him. They would
neither of them have him, and sent him backward and
forward from one another, not being able to bear the
thoughts of marrying a man who had a blue beard, and
what besides gave them disgust and aversion was his
having already been married to several wives, and nobody
ever knew what became of them.

Blue Beard, to engage their affection, took them, with
the lady their mother and three or four ladies of their
acquaintance, with other young people of the neighborhood,
to one of his country seats, where they stayed a
whole week.

There was nothing then to be seen but parties of
pleasure, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and feasting.
Nobody went to bed, but all passed the night in rallying
and joking with each other. In short, everything
succeeded so well that the youngest daughter began to
think the master of the house not to have a beard so very
blue, and that he was a mighty civil gentleman.

As soon as they returned home, the marriage was
concluded. About a month afterward, Blue Beard told his
wife that he was obliged to take a country journey for
six weeks at least, about affairs of very great
consequence, desiring her to divert herself in his absence, to
send for her friends and acquaintances, to carry them
into the country, if she pleased, and to make good cheer
wherever she was.

"Here," said he, "are the keys of the two great
wardrobes, wherein I have my best furniture; these are of my
silver and gold plate, which is not every day in use; these
open my strong boxes, which hold my money, both gold
and silver; these my caskets of jewels; and this is the
master-key to all my apartments. But for this little
one here, it is the key of the closet at the end of the great
gallery on the ground floor. Open them all; go into all
and every one of them, except that little closet, which I
forbid you, and forbid it in such a manner that, if you
happen to open it, there's nothing but what you may
expect from my just anger and resentment."

She promised to observe, very exactly, whatever he
had ordered; when he, after having embraced her, got
into his coach and proceeded on his journey.

Her neighbors and good friends did not stay to be
sent for by the new married lady, so great was their
impatience to see all the rich furniture of her house, not
daring to come while her husband was there, because of
his blue beard, which frightened them. They ran
through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes, which
were all so fine and rich that they seemed to surpass one
another.

After that they went up into the two great rooms,
where was the best and richest furniture; they could not
sufficiently admire the number and beauty of the tapestry,
beds, couches, cabinets, stands, tables, and looking-glasses,
in which you might see yourself from head to
foot; some of them were framed with glass, others with
silver, plain and gilded, the finest and most magnificent
ever were seen.

They ceased not to extol and envy the happiness of
their friend, who in the meantime in no way diverted
herself in looking upon all these rich things, because of
the impatience she had to go and open the closet on the
ground floor. She was so much pressed by her curiosity
that, without considering that it was very uncivil to
leave her company, she went down a little back staircase,
and with such excessive haste that she had twice
or thrice like to have broken her neck.

Coming to the closet-door, she made a stop for some
time, thinking upon her husband's orders, and considering
what unhappiness might attend her if she was
disobedient; but the temptation was so strong she could
not overcome it. She then took the little key, and
opened it, trembling, but could not at first see anything
plainly, because the windows were shut. After some
moments she began to perceive that the floor was all
covered over with clotted blood, on which lay the bodies
of several dead women, ranged against the walls. (These
were all the wives whom Blue Beard had married and
murdered, one after another.) She thought she should
have died for fear, and the key, which she pulled out of
the lock, fell out of her hand.

After having somewhat recovered her surprise, she
took up the key, locked the door, and went upstairs into
her chamber to recover herself; but she could not, she
was so much frightened. Having observed that the key
of the closet was stained with blood, she tried two or
three times to wipe it off, but the blood would not come
out; in vain did she wash it, and even rub it with soap
and sand; the blood still remained, for the key was
magical and she could never make it quite clean; when
the blood was gone off from one side, it came again on
the other.

Blue Beard returned from his journey the same evening,
and said he had received letters upon the road, informing
him that the affair he went about was ended to
his advantage. His wife did all she could to convince
him she was extremely glad of his speedy return.

Next morning he asked her for the keys, which she
gave him, but with such a trembling hand that he easily
guessed what had happened.

"What!" said he, "is not the key of my closet among the
rest?"

"I must certainly have left it above upon the table,"
said she.

"Fail not to bring it to me presently," said Blue
Beard.

After several goings backward and forward she was
forced to bring him the key. Blue Beard, having very
attentively considered it, said to his wife,

"How comes this blood upon the key?"

"I do not know," cried the poor woman, paler than
death.

"You do not know!" replied Blue Beard. "I very well
know. You were resolved to go into the closet, were
you not? Mighty well, madam; you shall go in, and
take your place among the ladies you saw there."

Upon this she threw herself at her husband's feet, and
begged his pardon with all the signs of true repentance,
vowing that she would never more be disobedient. She
would have melted a rock, so beautiful and sorrowful
was she; but Blue Beard had a heart harder than any
rock!

"You must die, madam," said he, "and that presently."

"Since I must die," answered she (looking upon him
with her eyes all bathed in tears), "give me some little
time to say my prayers."

"I give you," replied Blue Beard, "half a quarter of
an hour, but not one moment more."

When she was alone she called out to her sister, and
said to her:

"Sister Anne" (for that was her name), "go up, I beg
you, upon the top of the tower, and look if my brothers
are not coming over; they promised me that they would
come to-day, and if you see them, give them a sign to
make haste."

Her sister Anne went up upon the top of the tower, and
the poor afflicted wife cried out from time to time:

"Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

And sister Anne said:

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

In the meanwhile Blue Beard, holding a great sabre
in his hand, cried out as loud as he could bawl to his
wife:

"Come down instantly, or I shall come up to you."

"One moment longer, if you please," said his wife, and
then she cried out very softly, "Anne, sister Anne, dost
thou see anybody coming?"

And sister Anne answered:

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

"Come down quickly," cried Blue Beard, "or I will
come up to you."

"I am coming," answered his wife; and then she cried,
"Anne, sister Anne, dost thou not see anyone coming?"

"I see," replied sister Anne, "a great dust, which comes
on this side here."

"Are they my brothers?"

"Alas! no, my dear sister, I see a flock of sheep."

"Will you not come down?" cried Blue Beard

"One moment longer," said his wife, and then she
cried out: "Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see nobody coming?"

"I see," said she, "two horsemen, but they are yet a
great way off."

"God be praised," replied the poor wife joyfully; "they
are my brothers; I will make them a sign, as well as I
can, for them to make haste."

Then Blue Beard bawled out so loud that he made the
whole house tremble. The distressed wife came down,
and threw herself at his feet, all in tears, with her hair
about her shoulders.

"This signifies nothing," says Blue Beard; "you must
die"; then, taking hold of her hair with one hand, and
lifting up the sword with the other, he was going to take
off her head. The poor lady, turning about to him, and
looking at him with dying eyes, desired him to afford her
one little moment to recollect herself.

"No, no," said he, "recommend thyself to God," and
was just ready to strike . . .

At this very instant there was such a loud knocking
at the gate that Blue Beard made a sudden stop. The
gate was opened, and presently entered two horsemen,
who, drawing their swords, ran directly to Blue Beard.
He knew them to be his wife's brothers, one a dragoon,
the other a musketeer, so that he ran away immediately
to save himself; but the two brothers pursued so
close that they overtook him before he could get to the
steps of the porch, when they ran their swords through
his body and left him dead. The poor wife was almost
as dead as her husband, and had not strength enough
to rise and welcome her brothers.

Blue Beard had no heirs, and so his wife became
mistress of all his estate. She made use of one part of it to
marry her sister Anne to a young gentleman who had
loved her a long while; another part to buy captains
commissions for her brothers, and the rest to marry
herself to a very worthy gentleman, who made her forget
the ill time she had passed with Blue Beard.





Next: Trusty John

Previous: Prince Darling



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