OR some time after the fatal accident which deprived her of her
husband, Mrs. Bluebeard was, as may be imagined, in a state of profound
There was not a widow in all the country who went to such an expense for
black bombazine. She had her beautiful hair confined in crimped caps,
and her weepers came over her elbows. Of course, she saw no company
except her sister Anne (whose company was anything but pleasant to the
widow); as for her brothers, their odious mess-table manners had always
been disagreeable to her. What did she care for jokes about the major,
or scandal concerning the Scotch surgeon of the regiment? If they drank
their wine out of black bottles or crystal, what did it matter to her?
Their stories of the stable, the parade, and the last run with the
hounds, were perfectly odious to her; besides, she could not bear their
impertinent mustachios, and filthy habit of smoking cigars.
She put up a most splendid monument to her departed lord over the family
vault of the Bluebeards. The rector, Dr. Sly, who had been Mr.
Bluebeard's tutor at college, wrote an epitaph in the most pompous yet
pathetic Latin: "Siste, viator! mœrens conjux, heu! quanto minus est
cum reliquis versari quam tui meminisse"; in a word, everything that is
usually said in epitaphs. A bust of the departed saint, with Virtue
mourning over it, stood over the epitaph, surrounded by medallions of
his wives, and one of these medallions had as yet no name in it, nor
(the epitaph said) could the widow ever be consoled until her own name
was inscribed there. "For then I shall be with him. In cœlo quies,"
she would say, throwing up her fine eyes to heaven, and quoting the
enormous words of the hatchment which was put up in the church, and over
Bluebeard's hall, where the butler, the housekeeper, the footman, the
housemaid, and scullions were all in the profoundest mourning. The
keeper went out to shoot birds in a crape band; nay, the very scarecrows
in the orchard and fruit garden were ordered to be dressed in black.
Sister Anne was the only person who refused to wear black. Mrs.
Bluebeard would have parted with her, but she had no other female
relative. Her father, it may be remembered by readers of the former part
of her Memoirs, had married again, and the mother-in-law and Mrs.
Bluebeard, as usual, hated each other furiously. Mrs. Shacabac had come
to the hall on a visit of condolence; but the widow was so rude to her
on the second day of the visit that the step-mother quitted the house in
a fury. As for the Bluebeards, of course they hated the widow. Had not
Mr. Bluebeard settled every shilling upon her? and, having no children
by his former marriage, her property, as I leave you to fancy, was
pretty handsome. So Sister Anne was the only female relative whom Mrs.
Bluebeard would keep near her; and, as we all know, a woman must have
a female relative under any circumstances of pain, or pleasure, or
profit,—when she is married, or when she is widowed, or when she is in
a delicate situation. But let us continue our story.
"I will never wear mourning for that odious wretch, sister!" Anne would
"I will trouble you, Miss Anne, not to use such words in my presence
regarding the best of husbands, or to quit the room at once!" the widow
"I'm sure it's no great pleasure to sit in it. I wonder you don't make
use of the closet, sister, where the other Mrs. Bluebeards are."
"Impertinence! they were all embalmed by M. Gannal. How dare you report
the monstrous calumnies regarding the best of men? Take down the family
Bible, and read what my blessed saint says of his wives,—read it,
written in his own hand:—
"'Friday, June 20
.—Married my beloved wife, Anna Maria
"'Saturday, August 1.—A bereaved husband has scarcely
strength to write down in this chronicle that the dearest of
wives, Anna Maria Scrogginsia, expired this day of sore throat.'
"There! can anything be more convincing than that? Read again:—
"'Tuesday, September 1
.—This day I led to the hymeneal altar
my soul's blessing, Louisa Matilda Hopkinson. May this angel
supply the place of her I have lost!
"'Wednesday, October 5.—O Heavens! pity the distraction of a
wretch who is obliged to record the ruin of his dearest hopes
and affections! This day my adored Louisa Matilda Hopkinson gave
up the ghost! A complaint of the head and shoulders was the
sudden cause of the event which has rendered the unhappy
subscriber the most miserable of men.
"Every one of the women are calendared in this delightful, this
pathetic, this truly virtuous and tender way; and can you suppose that a
man who wrote such sentiments could be a murderer, miss?"
"Do you mean to say that he did not kill them, then?" said Anne.
"Gracious goodness, Anne, kill them! they died all as naturally as I
hope you will. My blessed husband was an angel of goodness and kindness
to them. Was it his fault that the doctors could not cure their
maladies? No, that it wasn't! and when they died the inconsolable
husband had their bodies embalmed in order that on this side of the
grave he might never part from them."
"And why did he take you up in the tower, pray? And why did you send me
in such a hurry to the leads? and why did he sharpen his long knife, and
roar out to you to COME DOWN?"
"Merely to punish me for my curiosity,—the dear, good, kind, excellent
creature!" sobbed the widow, overpowered with affectionate recollections
of her lord's attentions to her.
"I wish," said Sister Anne, sulkily, "that I had not been in such a
hurry in summoning my brothers."
"Ah!" screamed Mrs. Bluebeard, with a harrowing scream, "don't,—don't
recall that horrid, fatal day, miss! If you had not misled your
brothers, my poor, dear, darling Bluebeard would still be in life,
still—still the soul's joy of his bereaved Fatima!"
Whether it is that all wives adore husbands when the latter are no more,
or whether it is that Fatima's version of the story is really the
correct one, and that the common impression against Bluebeard is an
odious prejudice, and that he no more murdered his wives than you and I
have, remains yet to be proved, and, indeed, does not much matter for
the understanding of the rest of Mrs. B.'s adventures. And though people
will say that Bluebeard's settlement of his whole fortune on his wife,
in event of survivorship, was a mere act of absurd mystification, seeing
that he was fully determined to cut her head off after the honeymoon,
yet the best test of his real intentions is the profound grief which the
widow manifested for his death, and the fact that he left her mighty
well to do in the world.
If any one were to leave you or me a fortune, my dear friend, would we
be too anxious to rake up the how and the why? Pooh! pooh! we would take
it and make no bones about it, and Mrs. Bluebeard did likewise. Her
husband's family, it is true, argued the point with her, and said,
"Madam, you must perceive that Mr. Bluebeard never intended the fortune
for you, as it was his fixed intention to chop off your head! It is
clear that he meant to leave his money to his blood relations, therefore
you ought in equity to hand it over." But she sent them all off with a
flea in their ears, as the saying is, and said, "Your argument may be a
very good one, but I will, if you please, keep the money." And she
ordered the mourning as we have before shown, and indulged in grief, and
exalted everywhere the character of the deceased. If any one would but
leave me a fortune, what a funeral and what a character I would give
Bluebeard Hall is situated, as we all very well know, in a remote
country district, and, although a fine residence, is remarkably gloomy
and lonely. To the widow's susceptible mind, after the death of her
darling husband, the place became intolerable. The walk, the lawn, the
fountain, the green glades of park over which frisked the dappled deer,
all,—all recalled the memory of her beloved. It was but yesterday that,
as they roamed through the park in the calm summer evening, her
Bluebeard pointed out to the keeper the fat buck he was to kill. "Ah!"
said the widow, with tears in her fine eyes, "the artless stag was shot
down, the haunch was cut and roasted, the jelly had been prepared from
the currant-bushes in the garden that he loved, but my Bluebeard never
ate of the venison! Look, Anne sweet, pass we the old oak hall; 'tis
hung with trophies won by him in the chase, with pictures of the noble
race of Bluebeard! Look! by the fireplace there is the gig-whip, his
riding-whip, the spud with which you know he used to dig the weeds out
of the terrace-walk; in that drawer are his spurs, his whistle, his
visiting-cards, with his dear, dear name engraven upon them! There are
the bits of string that he used to cut off the parcels and keep, because
string was always useful; his button-hook, and there is the peg on which
he used to hang his h—h—hat!"
Uncontrollable emotions, bursts of passionate tears, would follow these
tender reminiscences of the widow; and the long and short of the matter
was, that she was determined to give up Bluebeard Hall and live
elsewhere; her love for the memory of the deceased, she said, rendered
the place too wretched.
Of course, an envious and sneering world said that she was tired of the
country, and wanted to marry again; but she little heeded its taunts;
and Anne, who hated her step-mother and could not live at home, was fain
to accompany her sister to the town where the Bluebeards have had for
many years a very large, genteel, old-fashioned house. So she went to
the town-house, where they lived and quarrelled pretty much as usual;
and though Anne often threatened to leave her, and go to a
boarding-house, of which there were plenty in the place, yet, after all,
to live with her sister, and drive out in the carriage with the footman
and coachman in mourning, and the lozenge on the panels, with the
Bluebeard and Shacabac arms quartered on it, was far more respectable,
and so the lovely sisters continued to dwell together.
For a lady under Mrs. Bluebeard's circumstances, the town-house has
other and peculiar advantages. Besides being an exceedingly spacious and
dismal brick building, with a dismal iron railing in front, and long,
dismal, thin windows, with little panes of glass, it looked out into the
churchyard, where, time out of mind, between two yew-trees, one of which
is cut into the form of a peacock, while the other represents a
dumb-waiter, it looked into the churchyard where the monument of the
late Bluebeard was placed over the family vault. It was the first thing
the widow saw from her bedroom window in the morning, and 'twas sweet to
watch at night, from the parlor, the pallid moonlight lighting up the
bust of the departed, and Virtue throwing great black shadows athwart
it. Polyanthuses, rhododendra, ranunculuses, and other flowers, with the
largest names and of the most delightful odors, were planted within the
little iron railing that enclosed the last resting-place of the
Bluebeards; and the beadle was instructed to half kill any little boys
who might be caught plucking these sweet testimonials of a wife's
Over the sideboard in the dining-room hung a full-length of Mr.
Bluebeard, by Ticklegill, R. A., in a militia uniform, frowning down
upon the knives and forks and silver trays. Over the mantel-piece he was
represented in a hunting costume, on his favorite horse; there was a
sticking-plaster silhouette of him in the widow's bedroom, and a
miniature in the drawing-room, where he was drawn in a gown of black and
gold, holding a gold-tasselled trencher cap with one hand, and with the
other pointing to a diagram of Pons Asinorum. This likeness was taken
when he was a fellow-commoner at St. John's College, Cambridge, and
before the growth of that blue beard which was the ornament of his
manhood, and a part of which now formed a beautiful blue neck-chain for
his bereaved wife.
Sister Anne said the town-house was even more dismal than the
country-house, for there was pure air at the Hall, and it was pleasanter
to look out on a park than on a churchyard, however fine the monuments
might be. But the widow said she was a light-minded hussy, and persisted
as usual in her lamentations and mourning. The only male whom she would
admit within her doors was the parson of the parish, who read sermons to
her; and, as his reverence was at least seventy years old, Anne, though
she might be ever so much minded to fall in love, had no opportunity to
indulge her inclination; and the town-people, scandalous as they might
be, could not find a word to say against the liaison of the venerable
man and the heart-stricken widow.
All other company she resolutely refused. When the players were in the
town, the poor manager, who came to beg her to bespeak a comedy, was
thrust out of the gates by the big butler. Though there were balls,
card-parties, and assemblies, Widow Bluebeard would never subscribe to
one of them; and even the officers, those all-conquering heroes who make
such ravages in ladies' hearts, and to whom all ladies' doors are
commonly open, could never get an entry into the widow's house. Captain
Whiskerfield strutted for three weeks up and down before her house, and
had not the least effect upon her. Captain O'Grady (of an Irish
regiment) attempted to bribe the servants, and one night actually scaled
the garden wall; but all that he got was his foot in a man-trap, not to
mention being dreadfully scarified by the broken glass; and so he
never made love any more. Finally, Captain Blackbeard, whose whiskers
vied in magnitude with those of the deceased Bluebeard himself, although
he attended church regularly every week,—he who had not darkened the
doors of a church for ten years before,—even Captain Blackbeard got
nothing by his piety; and the widow never once took her eyes off her
book to look at him. The barracks were in despair; and Captain
Whiskerfield's tailor, who had supplied him with new clothes in order to
win the widow's heart, ended by clapping the captain into jail.
His reverence the parson highly applauded the widow's conduct to the
officers; but, being himself rather of a social turn, and fond of a good
dinner and a bottle, he represented to the lovely mourner that she
should endeavor to divert her grief by a little respectable society, and
recommended that she should from time to time entertain a few grave and
sober persons whom he would present to her. As Dr. Sly had an unbounded
influence over the fair mourner, she acceded to his desires; and
accordingly he introduced to her house some of the most venerable and
worthy of his acquaintance,—all married people, however, so that the
widow should not take the least alarm.
It happened that the doctor had a nephew, who was a lawyer in London,
and this gentleman came dutifully in the long vacation to pay a visit to
his reverend uncle. "He is none of your roystering, dashing young
fellows," said his reverence; "he is the delight of his mamma and
sisters; he never drinks anything stronger than tea; he never missed
church thrice a Sunday for these twenty years; and I hope, my dear and
amiable madam, that you will not object to receive this pattern of young
men for the sake of your most devoted friend, his uncle."
The widow consented to receive Mr. Sly. He was not a handsome man,
certainly. "But what does that matter?" said the doctor. "He is good,
and virtue is better than all the beauty of all the dragoons in the
Mr. Sly came there to dinner, and he came to tea; and he drove out with
the widow in the carriage with the lozenge on it; and at church he
handed the psalm-book; and, in short, he paid her every attention which
could be expected from so polite a young gentleman.
At this the town began to talk, as people in towns will. "The doctor
kept all bachelors out of the widow's house," said they, "in order that
that ugly nephew of his may have the field entirely to himself." These
speeches were of course heard by Sister Anne, and the little minx was
not a little glad to take advantage of them, in order to induce her
sister to see some more cheerful company. The fact is, the young hussy
loved a dance or a game at cards much more than a humdrum conversation
over a tea-table; and so she plied her sister day and night with hints
as to the propriety of opening her house, receiving the gentry of the
county, and spending her fortune.
To this point the widow at length, though with many sighs and vast
unwillingness, acceded; and she went so far as to order a very becoming
half-mourning, in which all the world declared she looked charming. "I
carry," said she, "my blessed Bluebeard in my heart,—that is in the
deepest mourning for him, and when the heart grieves, there is no need
of outward show."
So she issued cards for a little quiet tea and supper, and several of
the best families in the town and neighborhood attended her
entertainment. It was followed by another and another; and at last
Captain Blackbeard was actually introduced, though, of course, he came
in plain clothes.
Dr. Sly and his nephew never could abide the captain. "They had heard
some queer stories," they said, "about proceedings in barracks. Who was
it that drank three bottles at a sitting? who had a mare that ran for
the plate? and why was it that Dolly Coddlins left the town so
suddenly?" Mr. Sly turned up the whites of his eyes as his uncle asked
these questions, and sighed for the wickedness of the world. But for all
that he was delighted, especially at the anger which the widow
manifested when the Dolly Coddlins affair was hinted at. She was
furious, and vowed she would never see the wretch again. The lawyer and
his uncle were charmed. O short-sighted lawyer and parson, do you think
Mrs. Bluebeard would have been so angry if she had not been jealous?—do
you think she would have been jealous if she had not ... had not what?
She protested that she no more cared for the captain than she did for
one of her footmen; but the next time he called she would not condescend
to say a word to him.
"My dearest Miss Anne," said the captain, as he met her in Sir Roger de
Coverley (she herself was dancing with Ensign Trippet), "what is the
matter with your lovely sister?"
"Dolly Coddlins is the matter," said Miss Anne. "Mr. Sly has told all."
And she was down the middle in a twinkling.
The captain blushed so at this monstrous insinuation, that any one could
see how incorrect it was. He made innumerable blunders in the dance, and
was all the time casting such ferocious glances at Mr. Sly (who did not
dance, but sat by the widow and ate ices), that his partner thought he
was mad, and that Mr. Sly became very uneasy.
When the dance was over, he came to pay his respects to the widow, and,
in so doing, somehow trod so violently on Mr. Sly's foot, that that
gentleman screamed with pain, and presently went home. But though he was
gone, the widow was not a whit more gracious to Captain Blackbeard. She
requested Mr. Trippet to order her carriage that night, and went home
without uttering one single word to Captain Blackbeard.
The next morning, and with a face of preternatural longitude, the Rev.
Dr. Sly paid a visit to the widow. "The wickedness and bloodthirstiness
of the world," said he, "increase every day. O my dear madam, what
monsters do we meet in it,—what wretches, what assassins, are allowed
to go abroad! Would you believe it, that this morning, as my nephew was
taking his peaceful morning-meal, one of the ruffians from the barracks
presented himself with a challenge from Captain Blackbeard?"
"Is he hurt?" screamed the widow.
"No, my dear friend, my dear Frederick is not hurt. And O, what a joy it
will be to him to think you have that tender solicitude for his
"You know I have always had the highest respect for him," said the
widow; who, when she screamed, was in truth thinking of somebody else.
But the doctor did not choose to interpret her thoughts in that way, and
gave all the benefit of them to his nephew.
"That anxiety, dearest madam, which you express for him emboldens me,
encourages me, authorizes me, to press a point upon you which I am sure
must have entered your thoughts ere now. The dear youth in whom you have
shown such an interest lives but for you! Yes, fair lady, start not at
hearing that his sole affections are yours; and with what pride shall I
carry to him back the news that he is not indifferent to you!"
"Are they going to fight?" continued the lady, in a breathless state of
alarm. "For Heaven's sake, dearest doctor, prevent the horrid, horrid
meeting. Send for a magistrate's warrant; do anything; but do not suffer
those misguided young men to cut each other's throats!"
"Fairest lady, I fly!" said the doctor, and went back to lunch quite
delighted with the evident partiality Mrs. Bluebeard showed for his
nephew. And Mrs. Bluebeard, not content with exhorting him to prevent
the duel, rushed to Mr. Pound, the magistrate, informed him of the
facts, got out warrants against both Mr. Sly and the captain, and would
have put them into execution; but it was discovered that the former
gentleman had abruptly left town, so that the constable could not lay
hold of him.
It somehow, however, came to be generally known that the widow Bluebeard
had declared herself in favor of Mr. Sly, the lawyer; that she had
fainted when told her lover was about to fight a duel; finally, that she
had accepted him, and would marry him as soon as the quarrel between him
and the captain was settled. Dr. Sly, when applied to, hummed and ha'd,
and would give no direct answer; but he denied nothing, and looked so
knowing, that all the world was certain of the fact; and the county
paper next week stated:—
"We understand that the lovely and wealthy Mrs. Bl—b—rd is
about once more to enter the bands of wedlock with our
distinguished townsman, Frederick S—y, Esq., of the Middle
Temple, London. The learned gentleman left town in consequence
of a dispute with a gallant son of Mars, which was likely to
have led to warlike results, had not a magistrate's warrant
intervened, when the captain was bound over to keep the peace."
In fact, as soon as the captain was so bound over, Mr. Sly came back,
stating that he had quitted the town not to avoid a duel,—far from it,
but to keep out of the way of the magistrates, and give the captain
every facility. He had taken out no warrant; he had been perfectly
ready to meet the captain; if others had been more prudent, it was not
his fault. So he held up his head, and cocked his hat with the most
determined air; and all the lawyers' clerks in the place were quite
proud of their hero.
As for Captain Blackbeard, his rage and indignation may be imagined; a
wife robbed from him, his honor put in question by an odious, lanky,
squinting lawyer! He fell ill of a fever incontinently; and the surgeon
was obliged to take a quantity of blood from him, ten times the amount
of which he swore he would have out of the veins of the atrocious Sly.
The announcement in "The Mercury," however, filled the widow with almost
equal indignation. "The widow of the gallant Bluebeard," she said,
"marry an odious wretch who lives in dingy chambers in the Middle
Temple! Send for Dr. Sly." The doctor came; she rated him soundly, asked
him how he dared set abroad such calumnies concerning her; ordered him
to send his nephew back to London at once; and as he valued her esteem,
as he valued the next presentation to a fat living which lay in her
gift, to contradict everywhere, and in the fullest terms, the wicked
report concerning her.
"My dearest madam," said the doctor, pulling his longest face, "you
shall be obeyed. The poor lad shall be acquainted with the fatal change
in your sentiments!"
"Change in my sentiments, Dr. Sly!"
"With the destruction of his hopes, rather let me say; and Heaven grant
that the dear boy have strength to bear up against the misfortune which
comes so suddenly upon him!"
The next day Sister Anne came with a face full of care to Mrs.
Bluebeard. "O, that unhappy lover of yours!" said she.
"Is the captain unwell?" exclaimed the widow.
"No, it is the other," answered Sister Anne. "Poor, poor Mr. Sly! He
made a will leaving you all, except five pounds a year to his laundress:
he made his will, locked his door, took heart-rending leave of his uncle
at night, and this morning was found hanging at his bedpost when Sambo,
the black servant, took him up his water to shave. 'Let me be buried,'
he said, 'with the pincushion she gave me and the locket containing her
hair.' Did you give him a pincushion, sister? did you give him a
locket with your hair?"
"It was only silver-gilt!" sobbed the widow; "and now, O Heavens! I have
killed him!" The heart-rending nature of her sobs may be imagined; but
they were abruptly interrupted by her sister.
"Killed him?—no such thing! Sambo cut him down when he was as black in
the face as the honest negro himself. He came down to breakfast, and I
leave you to fancy what a touching meeting took place between the nephew
and the uncle."
"So much love!" thought the widow. "What a pity he squints so! If he
would but get his eyes put straight, I might perhaps—" She did not
finish the sentence: ladies often leave this sort of sentence in a sweet
But hearing some news regarding Captain Blackbeard, whose illness and
blood-letting were described to her most pathetically, as well as
accurately, by the Scotch surgeon of the regiment, her feelings of
compassion towards the lawyer cooled somewhat; and when Dr. Sly called
to know if she would condescend to meet the unhappy youth, she said in
rather a distrait manner, that she wished him every happiness; that
she had the highest regard and respect for him; that she besought him
not to think any more of committing the dreadful crime which would have
made her unhappy forever; but that she thought, for the sake of both
parties, they had better not meet until Mr. Sly's feelings had grown
somewhat more calm.
"Poor fellow! poor fellow!" said the doctor, "may he be enabled to bear
his frightful calamity! I have taken away his razors from him, and
Sambo, my man, never lets him out of his sight."
The next day, Mrs. Bluebeard thought of sending a friendly message to
Dr. Sly's, asking for news of the health of his nephew; but, as she was
giving her orders on that subject to John Thomas the footman, it
happened that the captain arrived, and so Thomas was sent down stairs
again. And the captain looked so delightfully interesting with his arm
in a sling, and his beautiful black whiskers curling round a face which
was paler than usual, that, at the end of two hours, the widow forgot
the message altogether, and, indeed, I believe, asked the captain
whether he would not stop and dine. Ensign Trippet came, too, and the
party was very pleasant; and the military gentlemen laughed hugely at
the idea of the lawyer having been cut off the bedpost by the black
servant, and were so witty on the subject, that the widow ended by half
believing that the bedpost and hanging scheme on the part of Mr. Sly was
only a feint,—a trick to win her heart. Though this, to be sure, was
not agreed to by the lady without a pang, for, entre nous, to hang
one's self for a lady is no small compliment to her attractions, and,
perhaps, Mrs. Bluebeard was rather disappointed at the notion that the
hanging was not a bona fide strangulation.
However, presently her nerves were excited again; and she was consoled
or horrified, as the case may be (the reader must settle the point
according to his ideas and knowledge of womankind),—she was at any rate
dreadfully excited by the receipt of a billet in the well-known
clerk-like hand of Mr. Sly. It ran thus:—
"I saw you through your dining-room windows. You were
hob-nobbing with Captain Blackbeard. You looked rosy and well.
You smiled. You drank off the champagne at a single draught.
"I can bear it no more. Live on, smile on, and be happy. My
ghost shall repine, perhaps, at your happiness with
another,—but in life I should go mad were I to witness it.
"It is best that I should be gone.
"When you receive this, tell my uncle to drag the fish-pond at
the end of Bachelor's Acre. His black servant Sambo accompanies
me, it is true. But Sambo shall perish with me should his
obstinacy venture to restrain me from my purpose. I know the
poor fellow's honesty well, but I also know my own despair.
"Sambo will leave a wife and seven children. Be kind to those
orphan mulattoes for the sake of
The widow gave a dreadful shriek, and interrupted the two captains, who
were each just in the act of swallowing a bumper of claret.
"Fly—fly—save him," she screamed; "save him, monsters, ere it is too
late! Drowned!—Frederick!—Bachelor's Wa—" Syncope took place, and the
rest of the sentence was interrupted.
Deucedly disappointed at being obliged to give up their wine, the two
heroes seized their cocked hats, and went towards the spot which the
widow in her wild exclamations of despair had sufficiently designated.
Trippet was for running to the fish-pond at the rate of ten miles an
"Take it easy, my good fellow," said Captain Blackbeard; "running is
unwholesome after dinner. And, if that squinting scoundrel of a lawyer
does drown himself, I sha'n't sleep any the worse." So the two
gentlemen walked very leisurely on towards the Bachelor's Walk; and,
indeed, seeing on their way thither Major Macabaw looking out of the
window at his quarters and smoking a cigar, they went up stairs to
consult the major, as also a bottle of Schiedam he had.
"They come not!" said the widow, when restored to herself. "O Heavens!
grant that Frederick is safe! Sister Anne, go up to the leads and look
if anybody is coming." And up, accordingly, to the garrets Sister Anne
mounted. "Do you see anybody coming, Sister Anne?"
"I see Dr. Drench's little boy," said Sister Anne; "he is leaving a pill
and draught at Miss Molly Grub's."
"Dearest Sister Anne, don't you see any one coming?" shouted the widow
"I see a flock of dust—no! a cloud of sheep. Pshaw! I see the London
coach coming in. There are three outsides, and the guard has flung a
parcel to Mrs. Jenkins's maid."
"Distraction! Look once more, Sister Anne."
"I see a crowd,—a shutter,—a shutter with a man on it,—a
beadle,—forty little boys,—Gracious goodness! what can it be?" and
down stairs tumbled Sister Anne, and was looking out of the
parlor-window by her sister's side, when the crowd she had perceived
from the garret passed close by them.
At the head walked the beadle, slashing about at the little boys.
Two scores of these followed and surrounded
A SHUTTER carried by four men.
On the shutter lay Frederick! He was ghastly pale; his hair was
draggled over his face; his clothes stuck tight to him on account of the
wet; streams of water gurgled down the shutter-sides. But he was not
dead! He turned one eye round towards the window where Mrs. Bluebeard
sat, and gave her a look which she never could forget.
Sambo brought up the rear of the procession. He was quite wet through;
and, if anything would have put his hair out of curl, his ducking would
have done so. But, as he was not a gentleman, he was allowed to walk
home on foot, and, as he passed the widow's window, he gave her one
dreadful glance with his goggling black eyes, and moved on, pointing
with his hands to the shutter.
John Thomas the footman was instantly despatched to Dr. Sly's to have
news of the patient. There was no shilly-shallying now. He came back in
half an hour to say that Mr. Frederick flung himself into Bachelor's
Acre fish-pond with Sambo, had been dragged out with difficulty, had
been put to bed, and had a pint of white wine whey, and was pretty
comfortable. "Thank Heaven!" said the widow, and gave John Thomas a
seven-shilling piece, and sat down with a lightened heart to tea. "What
a heart!" said she to Sister Anne. "And O, what a pity it is that he
Here the two captains arrived. They had not been to the Bachelor's Walk;
they had remained at Major Macabaw's consulting the Schiedam. They had
made up their minds what to say. "Hang the fellow! he will never have
the pluck to drown himself," said Captain Blackbeard. "Let us argue on
that, as we may safely."
"My sweet lady," said he, accordingly, "we have had the pond dragged. No
Mr. Sly. And the fisherman who keeps the punt assures us that he has not
been there all day."
"Audacious falsehood!" said the widow, her eyes flashing fire. "Go,
heartless man! who dares to trifle thus with the feelings of a
respectable and unprotected woman. Go, sir, you're only fit for the love
of a—Dolly—Coddlins!" She pronounced the Coddlins with a withering
sarcasm that struck the captain aghast; and, sailing out of the room,
she left her tea untasted, and did not wish either of the military
gentlemen good night.
But, gentles, an' ye know the delicate fibre of woman's heart, ye will
not in very sooth believe that such events as those we have
described—such tempests of passion—fierce winds of woe—blinding
lightnings of tremendous joy and tremendous grief—could pass over one
frail flower and leave it all unscathed. No! Grief kills as joy doth.
Doth not the scorching sun nip the rose-bud as well as the bitter wind?
As Mrs. Sigourney sweetly sings:—
"Ah! the heart is a soft and a delicate thing;
Ah! the heart is a lute with a thrilling string;
A spirit that floats on a gossamer's wing!"
Such was Fatima's heart. In a word, the preceding events had a powerful
effect upon her nervous system, and she was ordered much quiet and
sal-volatile by her skilful medical attendant, Dr. Glauber.
To be so ardently, passionately loved as she was, to know that Frederick
had twice plunged into death from attachment to her, was to awaken in
her bosom "a thrilling string," indeed! Could she witness such
attachment and not be touched by it? She was touched by it,—she was
influenced by the virtues, by the passion, by the misfortunes, of
Frederick: but then he was so abominably ugly that she could not—she
could not consent to become his bride!
She told Dr. Sly so. "I respect and esteem your nephew," said she; "but
my resolve is made. I will continue faithful to that blessed saint whose
monument is ever before my eyes" (she pointed to the churchyard as she
spoke). "Leave this poor tortured heart in quiet. It has already
suffered more than most hearts could bear. I will repose under the
shadow of that tomb until I am called to rest within it,—to rest by the
side of my Bluebeard!"
The ranunculuses, rhododendra, and polyanthuses, which ornamented that
mausoleum, had somehow been suffered to run greatly to seed during the
last few months, and it was with no slight self-accusation that she
acknowledged this fact on visiting "the garden of the grave," as she
called it; and she scolded the beadle soundly for neglecting his duty
towards it. He promised obedience for the future, dug out all the weeds
that were creeping round the family vault, and (having charge of the
key) entered that awful place, and swept and dusted the melancholy
contents of the tomb.
Next morning, the widow came down to breakfast looking very pale. She
had passed a bad night; she had had awful dreams; she had heard a voice
call her thrice at midnight. "Pooh! my dear, it's only nervousness,"
said sceptical Sister Anne.
Here John Thomas, the footman, entered, and said the beadle was in the
hall, looking in a very strange way. He had been about the house since
daybreak, and insisted on seeing Mrs. Bluebeard. "Let him enter," said
that lady, prepared for some great mystery. The beadle came; he was pale
as death; his hair was dishevelled, and his cocked hat out of order.
"What have you to say?" said the lady, trembling.
Before beginning, he fell down on his knees.
"Yesterday," said he, "according to your ladyship's orders, I dug up the
flower-beds of the family vault, dusted the vault and the—the coffins
(added he, trembling) inside. Me and John Sexton did it together, and
polished up the plate quite beautiful."
"For Heaven's sake, don't allude to it," cried the widow, turning pale.
"Well, my lady, I locked the door, came away, and found in my hurry—for
I wanted to beat two little boys what was playing at marbles on Alderman
Paunch's monyment—I found, my lady, I'd forgot my cane.
"I couldn't get John Sexton to go back with me till this morning, and I
didn't like to go alone, and so we went this morning; and what do you
think I found? I found his honor's coffin turned round, and the cane
broke in two. Here's the cane!"
"Ah!" screamed the widow, "take it away,—take it away!"
"Well, what does this prove," said Sister Anne, "but that somebody moved
the coffin, and broke the cane?"
"Somebody! who's somebody?" said the beadle, staring round about him.
And all of a sudden he started back with a tremendous roar, that made
the ladies scream and all the glasses on the sideboard jingle, and
cried, "That's the man!"
He pointed to the portrait of Bluebeard, which stood over the jingling
glasses on the sideboard. "That's the man I saw last night walking round
the vault, as I'm a living sinner. I saw him a-walking round and round,
and, when I went up to speak to him, I'm blessed if he didn't go in at
the iron gate, which opened afore him like—like winking, and then in
at the vault door, which I'd double-locked, my lady, and bolted inside,
I'll take my oath on it!"
"Perhaps you had given him the key?" suggested Sister Anne.
"It's never been out of my pocket. Here it is," cried the beadle; "I'll
have no more to do with it." And he flung down the ponderous key, amidst
another scream from Widow Bluebeard.
"At what hour did you see him?" gasped she.
"At twelve o'clock, of course."
"It must have been at that very hour," said she, "I heard the voice."
"What voice?" said Anne.
"A voice that called, 'Fatima! Fatima! Fatima!' three times, as plain as
ever voice did."
"It didn't speak to me," said the beadle; "it only nodded its head, and
wagged its head and beard."
"W—w—was it a bl—ue beard?" said the widow.
"Powder-blue, ma'am, as I've a soul to save!"
Dr. Drench was of course instantly sent for. But what are the
medicaments of the apothecary in a case where the grave gives up its
dead? Dr. Sly arrived, and he offered ghostly—ah! too
ghostly—consolation. He said he believed in them. His own grandmother
had appeared to his grandfather several times before he married again.
He could not doubt that supernatural agencies were possible, even
"Suppose he were to appear to me alone," ejaculated the widow, "I should
die of fright."
The doctor looked particularly arch. "The best way in these cases, my
dear madam," said he, "the best way for unprotected ladies is to get a
husband. I never heard of a first husband's ghost appearing to a woman
and her second husband in my life. In all history there is no account of
"Ah! why should I be afraid of seeing my Bluebeard again?" said the
widow; and the doctor retired quite pleased, for the lady was evidently
thinking of a second husband.
"The captain would be a better protector for me certainly than Mr. Sly,"
thought the lady, with a sigh; "but Mr. Sly will certainly kill himself,
and will the captain be a match for two ghosts? Sly will kill himself;
but ah! the captain won't." And the widow thought with pangs of bitter
mortification of Dolly Coddlins. How—how should these distracting
circumstances be brought to an end?
She retired to rest that night not without a tremor,—to bed, but not to
sleep. At midnight a voice was heard in her room, crying, "Fatima!
Fatima! Fatima!" in awful accents. The doors banged to and fro, the
bells began to ring, the maids went up and down stairs skurrying and
screaming, and gave warning in a body. John Thomas, as pale as death,
declared that he found Bluebeard's yeomanry sword, that hung in the
hall, drawn, and on the ground; and the sticking-plaster miniature in
Mr. Bluebeard's bedroom was found turned topsy-turvy!
"It is some trick," said the obstinate and incredulous Sister Anne.
"To-night I will come and sleep with you, sister." And the night came,
and the two sisters retired together.
'Twas a wild night. The wind howling without went crashing through the
old trees of the old rookery round about the old church. The long
bedroom windows went thump thumping; the moon could be seen through them
lighting up the graves with their ghastly shadows; the yew-tree, cut
into the shape of a bird, looked particularly dreadful, and bent and
swayed as if it would peck something off that other yew-tree which was
of the shape of a dumb-waiter. The bells at midnight began to ring as
usual, the doors clapped, jingle—jingle down came a suit of armor in
the hall, and a voice came and cried, "Fatima! Fatima! Fatima! look,
look, look; the tomb, the tomb, the tomb!"
She looked. The vault door was open, and there in the moonlight stood
Bluebeard, exactly as he was represented in the picture, in his yeomanry
dress, his face frightfully pale, and his great blue beard curling over
his chest, as awful as Mr. Muntz's.
Sister Anne saw the vision as well as Fatima. We shall spare the account
of their terrors and screams. Strange to say, John Thomas, who slept in
the attic above his mistress's bedroom, declared he was on the watch all
night, and had seen nothing in the churchyard, and heard no sort of
voices in the house.
And now the question came, What could the ghost want by appearing? "Is
there anything," exclaimed the unhappy and perplexed Fatima, "that he
would have me do? It is well to say 'now, now, now,' and to show
himself; but what is it that makes my blessed husband so uneasy in his
grave?" And all parties consulted agreed that it was a very sensible
John Thomas, the footman, whose excessive terror at the appearance of
the ghost had procured him his mistress's confidence, advised Mr. Screw,
the butler, who communicated with Mrs. Baggs, the housekeeper, who
condescended to impart her observations to Mrs. Bustle, the
lady's-maid,—John Thomas, I say, decidedly advised that my lady should
consult a cunning man. There was such a man in town; he had prophesied
who should marry his (John Thomas's) cousin; he had cured Farmer Horn's
cattle, which were evidently bewitched; he could raise ghosts, and make
them speak, and he therefore was the very person to be consulted in the
"What nonsense is this you have been talking to the maids, John Thomas,
about the conjurer who lives in—in—"
"In Hangman's Lane, ma'am, where the gibbet used to stand," replied
John, who was bringing in the muffins. "It's no nonsense, my lady. Every
word as that man says comes true, and he knows everything."
"I desire you will not frighten the girls in the servants' hall with any
of those silly stories," said the widow; and the meaning of this speech
may, of course, at once be guessed. It was that the widow meant to
consult the conjurer that very night. Sister Anne said that she would
never, under such circumstances, desert her dear Fatima. John Thomas was
summoned to attend the ladies with a dark lantern, and forth they set on
their perilous visit to the conjurer at his dreadful abode in Hangman's
What took place at that frightful interview has never been entirely
known. But there was no disturbance in the house on the night after. The
bells slept quite quietly, the doors did not bang in the least, twelve
o'clock struck, and no ghost appeared in the churchyard, and the whole
family had a quiet night. The widow attributed this to a sprig of
rosemary which the wizard gave her, and a horseshoe which she flung into
the garden round the family vault, and which would keep any ghost
It happened the next day, that, going to her milliner's, Sister Anne met
a gentleman who has been before mentioned in this story, Ensign Trippet
by name; and, indeed, if the truth must be known, it somehow happened
that she met the ensign somewhere every day of the week.
"What news of the ghost, my dearest Miss Shacabac?" said he (you may
guess on what terms the two young people were by the manner in which Mr.
Trippet addressed the lady); "has Bluebeard's ghost frightened your
sister into any more fits, or set the bells a-ringing?"
Sister Anne, with a very grave air, told him that he must not joke on so
awful a subject, that the ghost had been laid for a while, that a
cunning man had told her sister things so wonderful that any man must
believe in them; that among other things, he had shown to Fatima her
"Had," said the ensign, "he black whiskers and a red coat?"
"No," answered Anne, with a sigh, "he had red whiskers and a black
"It can't be that rascal Sly!" cried the ensign. But Anne only sighed
more deeply and would not answer yes or no. "You may tell the poor
captain," she said, "there is no hope for him, and all he has left is to
"He shall cut the throat of Sly first, though," replied Mr. Trippet,
fiercely. But Anne said things were not decided as yet. Fatima was
exceedingly restive, and unwilling to acquiesce in the idea of being
married to Mr. Sly; she had asked for further authority. The wizard said
he could bring her own husband from the grave to point out her second
bridegroom, who shall be, can be, must be, no other than Frederick Sly.
"It is a trick," said the ensign; but Anne was too much frightened by
the preceding evening's occurrences to say so. "To-night," she said,
"the grave will tell all." And she left Ensign Trippet in a very solemn
and affecting way.
At midnight, three figures were seen to issue from Widow Bluebeard's
house, and pass through the churchyard turnstile, and so away among the
"To call up a ghost is bad enough," said the wizard; "to make him speak
is awful. I recommend you, ma'am, to beware, for such curiosity has been
fatal to many. There was one Arabian necromancer of my acquaintance who
tried to make a ghost speak, and was torn in pieces on the spot. There
was another person who did hear a ghost speak certainly, but came away
from the interview deaf and dumb. There was another—"
"Never mind," says Mrs. Bluebeard, all her old curiosity aroused, "see
him and hear him I will. Haven't I seen him and heard him, too, already?
When he's audible and visible, then's the time."
"But when you heard him," said the necromancer, "he was invisible, and
when you saw him he was inaudible; so make up your mind what you will
ask him, for ghosts will stand no shilly-shallying. I knew a stuttering
man who was flung down by a ghost, and—"
"I have made up my mind," said Fatima, interrupting him.
"To ask him what husband you shall take," whispered Anne.
Fatima only turned red, and Sister Anne squeezed her hand; they passed
into the graveyard in silence.
There was no moon; the night was pitch dark. They threaded their way
through the graves, stumbling over them here and there. An owl was
toowhooing from the church tower, a dog was howling somewhere, a cock
began to crow, as they will sometimes at twelve o'clock at night.
"Make haste," said the wizard. "Decide whether you will go on or not."
"Let us go back, sister," said Anne.
"I will go on," said Fatima. "I should die if I gave it up, I feel I
"Here's the gate; kneel down," said the wizard. The women knelt down.
"Will you see your first husband or your second husband?"
"I will see Bluebeard first," said the widow; "I shall know then
whether this be a mockery, or you have the power you pretend to."
At this the wizard uttered an incantation, so frightful, and of such
incomprehensible words, that it is impossible for any mortal man to
repeat them. And at the end of what seemed to be a versicle of his chant
he called Bluebeard. There was no noise but the moaning of the wind in
the trees, and the toowhooing of the owl in the tower.
At the end of the second verse he paused again, and called Bluebeard.
The cock began to crow, the dog began to howl, a watchman in the town
began to cry out the hour, and there came from the vault within a hollow
groan, and a dreadful voice said, "Who wants me?"
Kneeling in front of the tomb, the necromancer began the third verse. As
he spoke, the former phenomena were still to be remarked. As he
continued, a number of ghosts rose from their graves, and advanced round
the kneeling figures in a circle. As he concluded, with a loud bang the
door of the vault flew open, and there in blue light stood Bluebeard in
his blue uniform, waving his blue sword, and flashing his blue eyes
"Speak now, or you are lost," said the necromancer, to Fatima. But, for
the first time in her life, she had not a word to say. Sister Anne, too,
was dumb with terror. And, as the awful figure advanced towards them as
they were kneeling, the sister thought all was over with them, and
Fatima once more had occasion to repent her fatal curiosity.
The figure advanced, saying, in dreadful accents, "Fatima! Fatima!
Fatima! wherefore am I called from my grave?" when all of a sudden down
dropped his sword, down the ghost of Bluebeard went on his knees, and,
clasping his hands together, roared out, "Murder, mercy!" as loud as man
Six other ghosts stood round the kneeling group. "Why do you call me
from the tomb?" said the first; "Who dares disturb my grave?" said the
second; "Seize him and away with him!" cried the third. "Murder, mercy!"
still roared the ghost of Bluebeard, as the white-robed spirits advanced
and caught hold of him.
"It's only Tom Trippet," said a voice at Anne's ear.
"And your very humble servant," said a voice well known to Mrs.
Bluebeard; and they helped the ladies to rise, while the other ghosts
seized Bluebeard. The necromancer took to his heels and got off; he was
found to be no other than Mr. Claptrap, the manager of the theatre.
It was some time before the ghost of Bluebeard could recover from the
fainting-fit into which he had been plunged when seized by the
opposition ghosts in white; and while they were ducking him at the pump
his blue beard came off, and he was discovered to be—who do you think?
Why, Mr. Sly, to be sure; and it appears that John Thomas, the footman,
had lent him the uniform, and had clapped the doors, and rung the bells,
and spoken down the chimney; and it was Mr. Claptrap who gave Mr. Sly
the blue fire and the theatre gong; and he went to London next morning
by the coach; and, as it was discovered that the story concerning Miss
Coddlins was a shameful calumny, why, of course, the widow married
Captain Blackbeard. Dr. Sly married them, and has always declared that
he knew nothing of his nephew's doings, and wondered that he has not
tried to commit suicide since his last disappointment.
Mr. and Mrs. Trippet are likewise living happily together, and this, I
am given to understand, is the ultimate fate of a family in whom we were
all very much interested in early life.
You will say that the story is not probable. Pshaw! Isn't it written in
a book? and is it a whit less probable than the first part of the tale?