Chapter 26 The Doctor's Secret
Dr. O'Shaughnessy rushed to the unconscious woman's side and checked her pulse. Seemingly satisfied he gave a “Hrmph!” and commanded whomever was listening to help him lift her to
the settee. He arranged her in a comfortable position, removed smelling salts from his bag, and waved them under her nose. Her held her hand and in a few seconds her eyelids flickered and opened.
Seeing the doctor's kind face she said, “Aubrey, Oh! Aubrey you are here at last. Oh, Aubrey he's done it again! This time it was a gun, and he almost killed two nice young men. What can I do Aubrey? He gets worse everyday. What am I going to do?”
“Now, now Zee-zee!” said the doctor in a soothing voice. “You just let Teng-ting and Tung-pau take you up stairs. I'll be along presently, and I'll give you one of those powders to help you rest. There, there -- it will be OK, you'll see!”
The Chinese man, Tung-pau, tenderly scooped her up like a doll and, attended by the woman, Teng-ting, headed for the foyer stairs. Harry and Jimmy were still standing back at a respectful distance when the doctor turned and spoke to them.
“Harry Killman and Jimmy Day, I gather you lads have had a harrowing time this evening!” he crossed over to them and solemnly shook their hands. “I trust you two are all right now?”
Jimmy answered for them both. “Yes sir, it was a bit exciting, but we're both quite all right, even if we're late for supper, and stranded miles from home!”
This brought a chuckle from the good doctor. “Well, I know I can help you with the stranded part and I think can help you with the late part, but if I know Martha Day and Evelyn Killman, and I know them well, they will have a good hot supper waiting on you no matter what time it maybe. Don't be concerned, I'll give you a ride home and I'll explain everything to your parents.” this he said while checking his pocket watch.
“But first, I have some medical business to attend to. You're going to have to be let in on the secret now so why don't you look around this extraordinary place. Oh, don't worry, you can come to no harm in this house.” the doctor turned to leave.
Thinking of something he turned back and said, chuckling, “Knowing you two fellows I should say you might want to first have a look see in the ballroom. It's the splendid double door in the foyer opposite the grand staircase. The one with the peacock. I shan't be long.”
An intricate carved peacock did indeed grace the double door to the ballroom. It was carved in dark mahogany so that half the bird was on each half of the door, the foot of each becoming a shiny brass doorknob, one for each door. At first Jimmy thought the paints that represented the jewel-eyes of the fanned tail of the peacock were of the most intense colors he'd ever seen until Harry exclaimed: “Jeepers! Jimmy there are real jewels set in the carving!” And sure enough the greens shone like emeralds, the blues like sapphires, and the reds like rubies. Perhaps those doors might have been what they most remembered if they hadn't opened them.
As the doors swung open both boys gasped. Colored light was everywhere. The last gold, teal, and azure rays of the setting sun played through hundreds of prism edged panes set in an enormous wall to wall window that ran from ceiling to floor at a height of three stories, perfectly framing the magnificent view as the sun sank behind the trees of the opposite bank of the St. Johns. The boys, drawn to the display beyond the windows, were only dimly aware that they had entered the room through an arch from under a balcony that ran the entire width of the ballroom on the wall opposite the magnificent window. Wrenching their eyes from the chromatic sunset array they began to take in their surroundings. Slowly turning they stopped with their backs to the windows to see a sight that almost took their breath away.
There they saw hundreds of sparkling organ pipes set in a magnificently carved mahogany facade of an enormous gleaming organ case. Mr. Edwin had given the boys a book with colored pictures of large ornate European organs with cases similar to this one. The instrument case before them rivaled any of the most magnificent cathedral organs depicted in that book. Just below the pipes was a balcony with carved balustrade which extended from wall to wall broken only by a grand wide stair case which descended from the center of the balcony, paused halfway in an elegant landing, then continued it's decent by splitting into two graceful arcs which touched the highly polished floor on either side, creating the arch through which the boys had entered.
Harry and Jimmy wasted no time in climbing to the organ loft. They expected to see a console centered under the facade at the top of the stairs but there was no console to be seen. Just a wall of delicately carved wooden panels with gilt decoration. Maybe it was on the main floor. They turned and looked out over the room for the console. The light from the windows had now faded, and just as the boys began to grow frustrated with the lack of light one of the four magnificent crystal chandeliers suddenly blazed with light.
“Ah! I thought I'd find you gents up there!” Dr. O'Shaughnessy's voice boomed throughout the room as he swept his hand toward the organ pipes. “Magnificent, isn't it?”
The boys enthusiastically answered in the affirmative.
“Now, I'd say you were due some kind of explanation. I know you boys are dying to get your hands on this beautiful beast here. It doesn't work -- at least it hasn't since I've been coming here and if I understand my Chinese friend it never was properly finished and never has made a sound. But that's all part of the story, most of which I shall tell you in the car, on the way home. Let's go! It's getting late and I know your parents are getting frantic.”
The circular drive that passed through the Porte-cochere began and ended at a formidable looking iron gate. Dr. O'Shaughnessy stopped the car.
“I'll be but a moment,” he said as he stepped out. Fishing in his pocket, he crossed to a small box mounted on a post. He opened the box and inserted the key he had taken from his pocket into a lock and turned it. The enormous gate began to slowly swing open of its own accord. Dr. O'Shaughnessy drove the car though and stopped. The car's headlights revealed another obstacle in their path; a drawbridge in the up position. Dr. O'Shaughnessy opened yet another box and inserted the key into its lock and turned it. As the gate closed behind them the drawbridge began to lower.
Once across the bridge Dr. O'Shaughnessy handed the key to Harry, who happened to be sitting next to the door, and said, “Would you do the honors? I think you know the drill by now!”
The doctor drove the car past the raised barrier. Harry jumped out of the car and inserted and turned the key in the other box. Jimmy turned and watched the mainland half of the drawbridge raise once again into place and the barrier bar return to it's down position.
“Wow,” Jimmy exclaimed as Harry jumped back into the car, “they don't even need a gate on this side!”
“Well, that just gives you an idea of the fame of the people who live in this place.” said Dr. O'Shaughnessy.
Jimmy queried, “Yes, Dr. O'Shaughnessy, who are these people who own that place?”
The doctor chuckled. “Who do you think they are, Jimmy? Harry? You boys are pretty smart. I think you may already know.”
Jimmy said. “At first I thought he was dead from the way the woman you called 'Zee-zee' spoke to the portrait in the library. But he couldn't be dead if he took a shot at us.”
“Unfortunate business, that.” interjected Dr. O'Shaughnessy.
“Well Jimmy are you gonna tell who you think those people are or not? `Cause I think I know who they are!” laughed Harry.
“I think they are Zeguenia Hildebrune and Lars Lynnsehn, and I guess she doesn't keep his mummified body in a glass case! Does she?” pronounced Jimmy.
“Yes they are, and no, she doesn't -- at least not yet, and now you know the secret you must keep!” replied the doctor.
Jimmy asked “But why here in Jacksonville? They could live anywhere!”
“I gather that's a long story but the long and short of it is that Zee-zee is originally from here!”
Harry exclaimed “She's a home town girl? How come no one ever knew that? I've never heard of any Hildebrunes around here. Say! Isn't she German or something?”
“I'm sure it's all part of a carefully orchestrated illusion. Her mother's maiden name was Hildebrune and she was from Austria. Zee zee's father inherited the house and island just before she was born. The house was originally a small mansion built in the Tudor style. His father, Zee zee's grandfather, added on to it. Seems he had always wanted a house built in the manner of the old plantation homes. He left the northern front of the Tudor style intact and built the front of the plantation style in the back. That's why the house looks so strange. It has two fronts! Then, to make things more confusing, the western exposure of the house, you know, the side with the ballroom windows, is in the New Orleans style, complete with a fourth story wrought-iron balcony above those windows. There was a lot of old money there even before Zeguenia Hildebrune made her fortune. As for Lars? Poor fellow. He had a rather sizable fortune, too, but he married Zee-zee for love and fate dealt them a crushing blow. When his mind is clear he really is a wonderful man. He mourns the loss of his music. That pipe organ you saw was to be his pride and joy, and he grieves that it is not finished, and he is afraid that he'll never even get to hear it.”
“But Dr. O'Shaughnessy, why did he shoot at Jimmy?” asked Harry.
“Because,” the doctor's voice was grave “in his great pain and confusion he thought he was defending his beloved Zee-zee. You see; he is insane with pain most of the time, and he knows he's dying from a brain tumor that will probably finish him off inside a year.”