I’m sorry for Mister Bluebeard,
I’m sorry to cause him pain;
But a terrible spree there’s sure to be
When he comes back again.


These lines are quoted at the end of  The Man who Was, collected in Life’s Handicap, in 1891.

The officers of the White Hussars, a crack cavalry regiment, are dining in their splendid mess, and entertaining Dirkovitch, a Russian officer who has been travelling through India as a ‘correspondent.’ They do not take to him, but their manners are impeccable.

There is a noise outside, and the sentries bring in a bedraggled figure who they suspect of stealing rifles. He proves to be Captain Limmason, a long-lost officer of the regiment, who had been captured years ago by the Russians on an intelligence mission, and brutally treated.

He has now escaped and found his way home. He is terrified of Dirkovitch, but recovers himself, and drinks the loyal toast in the old style. Dirkovitch makes a vainglorious speech “Fellow-soldiers glorious—true friends and hospitables…”

This does not endear him to the mess, and when they see him off on the train north, they quote these lines from a popular song….