EFFECTS OF FEMALE CURIOSITY.
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 and silver; his rooms were hung
with damask; his chairs and sofas were covered with the
richest silks, and his carriages were all magnificently gilt
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
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
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 thoughts
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
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
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
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 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 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 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
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 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 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 coming 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
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-bye," 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, "Prithee,"
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 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 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 scimitar 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 her 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