The Story of Blue Beard
A LONG time ago， there lived a man who was very rich. He owned vast tracts1 of land， and lived in a splendid castle， that stood upon a high， steep hill， from whence he could see for miles around.
But this man had the misfortune to be very ill-looking， and had a beard which， from its color， him to be called Blue Beard.
Not far from his castle lived a lady who had two very pretty daughters. Blue Beard asked her for one of them in marriage， leaving it to her to choose which it should be. But both girls， when his offer was reported to them， him， of his beard， there were stories afloat that although he had already been married more than once， of his wives.
Blue Beard， thinking， the objections of the sisters， invited them to make a visit at his castle. They went and spent a week there， during which there were constant feasts and balls. In fact， Blue Beard managed so well that before the end of the week， Fatima， the youngest of the sisters， outgrew2 her dislike for him， and became his wife.
A month was given up to festivity in honor of the marriage， and the time passed away like a dream. At the end of it， Blue Beard told his wife that he was obliged to leave her for a few weeks， as he had some affairs to attend to in a distant part of the country.
"But my dear Fatima，" said he， "you can enjoy yourself in my absence， in any way that you please. You can give dinners， and invite your friends to visit you， for you ar This small key belongs to the Blue Closet， at the end of the long hall， on the ground floor. I give you leave，" he continued "to open or do what you like， with all of the castle， except this closet; but this， my dear， not enter， nor even put the key into its lock. Now，， for if you fail to obey me， expect the most dreadful punishment."
， and Blue Beard， after kissing her in a tender manner， stepped into his coach and was driven away.
As soon as he was gone， Fatima sent word to her sister Anne， and to several friends， without delay and make her a visit. She also sent a note to her two brothers， both officers in the army， asking them to obtain a leave of absence， and spend a few days with her.
Her brothers wrote to her that they would arrive the next day. So eager， however， were her other friends to see the riches of Blue Beard， that they all came within two hours. They went from room to room， showing fresh wonder and admiration3 at every new object they beheld4.
During the day， that she never once thought of the Blue Closet， but when all the guests were gone， she felt a great desire to know what it contained. She took out the key， and went down the stairs that led to it. On reaching the door， she stopped， and began to reason with herself， and her heart failed her， for she knew that she was not doing right. But her desire to know about the closet grew stronger each moment， and at last she put the key into the lock and opened the door.
She walked into the closet a few steps， and there saw a horrible sight. She was in the midst of blood， and hanging around the walls were the bodies of the former wives of Blue Beard whom he had slain5.
Fatima trembled like a leaf， and the key slipped from her fingers and fell on the floor. It was some moments before she could recover strength enough to pick it up， and fly from the place.
Observing the key to be stained with blood， she tried to wipe it off， out. In vain did she try washing and scouring6， the blood still remained， for the key was a magic one， the gift of a fairy to Blue Beard.
The next day， Blue Beard suddenly came home， saying that he had received word that there was no need of his making the intended journey. He asked Fatima for his keys， and she gave them to him， all except the one to the Blue Closet. He looked them over， and then asked， "How is it that the key of the Blue Closet is not here?"
" have left it in my room，" said his wife.
"Bring it to me at once， then，" said Blue Beard.
Poor Fatima went to get the key. Before going back with it， she thought she would try once more to wash off the blood-stains. But Blue Beard became tired of waiting for her， and， to her room， snatched the key from her hands. He looked at it a moment， and then burst into a terrible rage.
"Pray， madam，" said he， "how came this blood to be here?"
"I am sure I do not know，" said Fatima， turning very pale.
"You do not know?" said Blue Beard， in a voice like thunder. "I know full well. You have been in the Blue Closet. And since you are so fond of prying7 into secrets， you shall take up your abode8 with the ladies you saw there!"
Almost dead with terror， Fatima sank upon her knees and entreated9 her. But the cruel Blue Beard， deaf to her cries， drew his sword and bade her prepare for death at once.
She begged that he would at least allow her a short time to pray. "I will give you half an hour，" said Blue Beard， in a harsh voice， "and no more." Then he left the room.
As soon as he left her， Fatima ran to her sister， and told her as well as she could for her sobs10， that she had but half an hour to live， and asked her to go to the top of the tower and see if there were no signs of their brothers'.
Her sister did so， and the poor trembling girl below cried out from time to time， "Sister Anne， my dear sister Anne， do you see any one yet?" Her sister always replied "No， I see no one; I see naught11， and the grass which is green."
At last they heard the angry voice of Blue Beard， who cried out， "Are you ready? the time is up." Fatima begged for five minutes more， which he， knowing she was wholly at his mercy， granted. Fatima then called again to her sister "Sister Anne， do you see any one yet?"
Her sister replied as before， "I see nothing， and the grass which is green."
Quickly the five minutes sped away， and then the voice of Blue Beard was heard calling "Are you ready yet?"
Again she begged for a brief delay， only two minutes longer. Then she called， "Anne， sister Anne， do you not see some one now?"
"I see，" said her sister， " on the left hand side of the road， not far off."
"Do you think it is our brothers?" said the wife.
"Alas12， no， dear sister，" drew near; "it is only a flock of sheep."
Once more Blue Beard's voice was heard， and the poor wife begged again for a minute's delay. Then she called out again， for the last time， "Sister Anne， do you see any one yet?"
Her sister quickly answered， "I see two men on horseback but they are still a great way off."
"Thank Heaven!" cried Fatima， " be our brothers. Make every signal in your power， dear sister， for them to lose no time."
His poor wife came down and knelt at his feet， crying for mercy. Blue Beard seized her by the hair， about to cut off her head， when a noise at the castle gates made him pause. Footsteps were heard， in with drawn13 swords， and， when they saw what Blue Beard was about， quickly put an end， to him.
Fatima had fallen into a faint at the time Blue Beard seized her by the hair， and she lay so pale and lifeless that one would have thought that she was dead t