Page:Weird Tales volume 28 number 02.djvu/71

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blood would spurt and she would know the terror that the house of the Medici gave to others.

"Last, and most ingenious, a pair of creamy boots, pliable, embroidered in silver and silks, encrusted with amethysts—my betrothal jewels. In my hatred I cursed the boots, willing that the wearer, as long as a shred of the boots remained, should kill as I had killed, poison as I had poisoned, leave all thoughts of home and husband and live in wantonness and evil. So I cursed the beautiful boots, forgetting, in my hate, that perhaps another than a Medici might, in the years to come, wear them and become the Devil's pawn, even as I am now.

"In my life, the Medici will have the boots, of that I feel sure; but after that—I can only hope that this bloody history of the boots may be found when I am no more, and may it be a warning.

"I have lived to see my gifts received and worn, and I have laughed in my soul to see my curses bring death and terror and evil to three Medici women. I know not what will become of the golden necklace, the bracelet, or the boots. The boots may be lost or stolen, or they may lie in a Medici palace for age on age, but the curse will cling to them till they are destroyed. So I pray that no woman, save a Medici, will ever wear them.

"As I live and breathe and do the bidding of the lords of Florence, the accursed Medici—I have told the truth. When I am dead, perhaps they will find this book, and, in hell, I shall know and be glad.

"Maria Modena di Cavouri.

"Florence, 1476."

"Whew!" said old Erskine.

John laughed. "I don't suppose this charming history would have been any more thrilling if I had read it from the original book, in Italian, of course. Wonder where Uncle got it! There was no mention of it being in the library—but there it was."

"Now, will you destroy those boots?" asked Eric, and he was not entirely in jest.

But Suzanne said, laughingly, "Not before I find out if the Medici lady had a smaller foot than I! Are they still in the museum, John?"

"Never you mind, my dear. They're not for the likes of you."

"Oh, don't be silly, John. This is 1955, not the Fifteenth Century." And they laughed at Suzanne's earnestness.

The book that held the story of the Medici boots lay on the white cloth, looking like a book of lovely verse.

Suzanne, a small white blur against the summer dark, sat quietly while the men talked of Silas Dickerson, his life, his mania for collecting, his death that had so fittingly come to him in his museum. It was nearly twelve when Suzanne left the men on the terrace and with a quiet "good-night" entered the living-room and crossed to the long, shining stairs.

The men went on with their talk. Once, John, looking toward the jutting wing that was the museum, exclaimed, "Look at that, will you? Why—I'd swear I saw a light in the museum."

"You locked it, didn't you?" asked Eric.

"Of course; the key's in my desk upstairs. H-m. I'm probably mistaken, but it did seem as though a light shone there just a moment ago."

"Reflection from the living-room window, I think. Country life is making you jittery, John." And Eric laughed at his brother.

The men sat on, reluctant to leave the beauty of the night, and it was almost two o'clock when they finally went inside.