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The Continental Classics, Volume XVIII., Mystery Tales by Various

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"Then I felt as if something horrible was coming from his lips. My
breath almost ceased. Father did not finish what he was going to say,
but stopped and listened for a minute.

"'I was my father's only hope,' he went on after a while; 'I too was
born talented and prepared for great things, but the Orzos' destiny
overtook me, and you see now what became of me. I looked into the
tower-room. You know what it contains? You know what the name of our
secret is? He who saw this secret lost faith in himself. For him it
would have been better not to have come into this world at all. But I
loved to live and did not want to abandon all my hopes. I married your
mother; she consoled me until you were born, and then I regained my
delight in life. I knew what I had to keep before my eyes to bring up
my son to be such a man as his father could not be.

"'I acquiesced when you left for the foreign countries; then your
letters came. I made a special study of every sentence and of every
word of it, for I did not want to trust my reason. I thought the first
time that the fault was in me; that I saw unnecessary phantoms. But it
wasn't so, for what I read out of your words was our destiny, the
curse of the Orzos; from the way of your thinking, I found out that
everything is in vain; you too turned your head backward, you too
looked into yourself and noticed there the thing that makes the
perceiver sterile forever. You did not even notice what you have done;
you could not grasp it with your reason, but the poison is already
within you.'

"'It cannot be, father!' I broke out, terrified.

"But he sadly shook his head. 'I am old; I cannot believe in anything
now. I wish you were right, and would never come to know what I know.
God bless you, my son; it is getting late, and I am getting tired.'

"It struck me that he was trying to cover his disbelief with sarcasm.
Both of us were without sleep that night. At dawn there was silence in
his room. I bitterly thought, 'When will I go to rest?' When I went
into his room in the morning he was lying in his bed. All was over. He
had taken poison, and written his farewell on a piece of paper. His
last wish was that no one should ever know under what circumstances he

Balint left off speaking and gazed with outstretched eyes toward the
window in the darkness. I slowly went to him and put my hand upon his
shoulder. He started at my touch.

"I more than once thought of the woman who could be the mother of my
son. How many times have I been tempted to fulfill my father's last
wish! But at such a time it has always come to my mind that I too
might have such a son, who would cast into his father's teeth that he
was a coward and a selfish man; that he sacrificed a life for his
illusive hopes.

"No! I won't do it. I won't do it. I am the last of the Orzos. With me
this damned family will die out. My fathers were cowards and rascals.
I do not want anybody to curse my memory."

I kissed Balint's wet forehead; I knew that this was the last time I
would see him. The next day I left the castle, and the day after, his
death was made public. He committed suicide, like his father. He was
the last Orzo, and I turned about the coat of arms above his head.

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