Elias replied, "Mr. Charter, wine needs no condoning. Our Lord's blood is wine."
(This book is part of "The Fairy Tale Series" edited by Terri Windling, the same collection that brought Stephen Brust's The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, and Pamela Dean's Tam Lin.)
Fitcher's Brides is an adaptation of the Bluebeard fairy tale. Apparently, there's a variant of the story called Fitcher's Bird, from whence the title.
The story follows the plot of both pretty closely; no surprises there. But like any good ghost story, you're not hooked on it because you expect to be surprised: "Don't go in the basement! Don't answer the phone! Don't join the Armageddon Religious Cult!!!"
(But they never learn.)
The book is set in New York's Burned-over District, the birthplace of everything from Mormonism to Milleritism, a hotbed of Spiritualists, table-rappers, and frauds. The religious cult in question is named as "Fitcherism," the followers of a fictional charasmatic, Elias Fitcher, who preaches the world will end on a certain day in 1843.
The moral of the story, happily enough, is not that sex is bad or that a woman's curiousity will be punished (although sex is used in the book to hurt curious women), but that blind faith can lead to horror. An altogether satisfying book.
By the way, here is what Gregory Frost has to say about the book.
Now, I've been wondering for a while if it's just me or if anybody else connects the Bluebeard fairy tale with that of Dracula: a sinister, foreign-looking man has a terrible secret; the women around him disappear, sicken, die; the man has an isolated house out of nightmares with numberless rooms; sexuality is evil; the dead "wives"; a woman's fidelity cannot be trusted; curiousity and willfulness are flaws, rather than virtues.
The story never comes out and says it, but I think Fitcher is a vampire. He can travel by day and doesn't have to take a coffin with him, but he can appear in places he is not, travel with celerity, leaves one man pale and weak after they have traveled together (the man later asks for God's forgiveness for having "been with" the preacher), and kills a woman in the form of a gray mist or shadow, draining her until nothing but a husk remains. Several times, the narrators mention seeing him out of the corners of their eyes with pointed, wolflike teeth.
None of the citations at the link to Frost's website above mention anything about vampires. Nevertheless, I have my theory...
She glimpsed his face, his eyes rolled down almost beneath the lids, his lips drawn back from his teeth--a feral face--and panic took over.