When all the cousins, ages ranging from 5 to 15 years, gathered at their grandfather’s home for the summer holidays, the only thing that dampened their enthusiasm was their grand-uncle, a strict disciplinarian, who brooked no nonsense. He led his life by the clock and meted out dire punishments even for small pranks that the kids played, or arguments they had with each other.
He was away most of the time and came home quite late, so the children had lots of fun in his absence.
One morning, when they saw that his car was missing, they played a riotous game of football inside the house. His booming voice soon put an end to their game. His long beard shook as his voice reverberated around the house. They were sent to their rooms – for two hours – to contemplate.
The fuming children decided to get their own back. Inside his room was a beautiful teak study table. On this table stood a bottle of blue-green ink.
They decided that at night, when he was asleep, they would turn his beard blue. They giggled as they imagined this Bluebeard.
Their two hours of contemplation were spent on detailing Project Bluebeard.
The household wound down by eleven p.m. Only the loud ticking of the huge grandfather clock could be heard. The children gathered and walked up the stairs, every creak met with worried whispers. Slowly, the group made its way into his room. A low watt night lamp was on. They could hear his loud snoring. The eldest carefully took some ink from the bottle and poured it into a dish. With cotton balls they quietly applied the blue ink on his beard.
His heavy snores encouraged them to add more. Once their job was done, they silently went back the way they had come.
Once in the safe haven of their room, tension gave way to high fives and laughter as they imagined Bluebeard in the morning. They rolled on the floor, imagining his shock when he saw himself in the mirror.
The next morning, as all of them gathered for breakfast, they heard the distinct stride of their grand uncle. Mouths with food froze, eyes listened, hands paused in mid air, as the steps walked towards the dining area.
Each child looked up casually, and what a shock each of them got. Their grand uncle’s beard shone its usual silvery-grey.
Uneasy eyes communicated over plates.
Then they heard his voice, “Good morning, children.”
Many squeaky voices wished him a good morning.