Story of Blue Beard, or, The effects of female curiosity/Story of Blue Beard, or, The effects of female curiosity
THE STORY OF
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; ind 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 ⟨⟩ 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 of Blue Beard for 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 he 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 punishments."
She promised to obey his orders in the most faithful manner; and Blue Beard, after tenderly embracing her, stepped into his carriage and drove away.
The friends of the bridle did not, on this occasion, wait to he 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 by 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 he 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 every thing.
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 held 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 us 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 coming to tell him that his business was happily concluded without his being present: upon which his wife said every thing she could think of, to make him believe she was transported with joy at his unexpected 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 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 tears. “Be sure you give it me by and by'” cried 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 the blood upon the key?” "I am 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: Vastly 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 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 you see them make a sign for them to gallop as fast as possible.”
Her sister instantly did as she was desired, and the terrified lady every minute called out to her, "Ann! sister Ann! do you see any one 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 scimetar 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 anyone 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 and fetch you.”
"I am coming: indeed I will come in one minute;” sobbed his unhappy wife. Then she once more cried out, "Ann! sister, Ann! 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?” 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 single moment more,” answered she. And then 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 whole house.
The poor lady with her hair loose, and her eyes 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 saying, “All this is of no use at all, for you shall die:” then seizing her with one hand by the hair, and raising the scimetar he held in the other, was going with one blow to strike off her head.
The unfortunate creature turning towards him, desired to have a single moment allowed for to recollect herself.
“No, no,” said Blue Beard, “I will give you no more time, I am determined—you have had too much already;” and again raising 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; and as Blue Beard had no heirs, she found herself the lawful possessor of his great riches.
She employed a portion of her vast fortune 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.