Bluebeard, my new husband, told me that he had to go away for six weeks, and while he was gone, I could do what I pleased and invite my friends to our fine country house.
He gave me the keys to two great wardrobes where he kept his finest furniture, along with another set of keys that opened his strong boxes full of gold and silver. Another set opened his caskets of jewels. Then he gave me the master key to all his apartments and told me I could open them all. Finally, he showed me a little key to the closet at the end of the great gallery on the ground floor. He forbid me to enter that room and warned me that he would be furious if I trespassed.
I promised him that I would not think of entering it. After he left, I invited friends and neighbors to the house. They were very curious because no one would dare visit the frightening Bluebeard. They ran through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes. We went up into the two great rooms which were filled with the richest furniture: beds, couches, cabinets, stands, tables, and looking-glasses. My friends thought I was the most fortune woman alive. I felt very unsettled, though. I wanted to see what my husband didn’t want me to see. So while my friends were diverted, I went down a back staircase that led to the gallery on the ground floor.
Trembling, I took the little key and opened the door. At first I could not see anything plainly, because the windows were shut, but the smell in the room was awful. Then I noticed that the floor was covered in clotted blood. The bodies of several dead women were arranged by the walls. I knew that my husband had married wives before me. Had he murdered them?
I thought I would die of fear. I ran upstairs to my bedroom to compose myself. The little key was stained with blood, and, try as I might, I could not wipe it off. I rubbed it with soap and sand, but the blood remained!
Bluebeard’s Wife in Bluebeard, Blue Fairy Book. Painting by Edgar Maxence.