Chapter 28 Zee Zee and Lars
Chapter 28 Zee Zee and Lars
After the splendid dinner Dr. O'Shaughnessy excused himself, saying that he'd had the tour. There was a quiet exchange between Zee-zee and the doctor, after which she grasped his hands and smiled at him, nodding her head.
She turned to the rest of them and said, “Aubrey is going up to check on my husband. He's had a good day so far today and, if the good doctor approves, I would like to introduce you gentlemen to him. But later, shall we?”
She indicated a direction as she took Mr. Edwin by the arm. As they walked she began to tell them all about how she and Mr. Lynnsehn met.
“It was in London during the war. I had been living in my mother's native country, Austria, and singing recitals in Denmark, Sweden, Brussels, France, Germany, Italy, even in Spain. When the trouble began I moved to England. As an American, I felt safer there than anywhere on the continent. I knew that during the war my career in Europe would, of course, be put on hold. Who was to know how long the war would last? And even though I was an American, I had used my mother's Austrian surname as my professional name and things Teutonic were not appreciated.
“My own fame nearly did me in! So carefully had I cultivated my European persona that no one believed I was a native born American citizen. All my financial assets were tied up in Austria or in the United States in such a way that I could not gain access to them. I was able to do occasional concerts throughout the British Isles but things became desperate as the war progressed. I received a letter from an impresario friend in London. The famous English concert organist Lars Lynnsehn was looking for an equally well known singer to tour with him for the purpose of presenting a series of patriotic concerts in churches and municipal buildings which had large organs. My friend had recommended me. Of course, I wired and accepted immediately. I didn't even have an agent at that time and I didn't really care how much it paid. I needed the job and I needed to establish myself as an artist loyal to the Allies.
“There were seven of us who would be touring. Along with myself and Lars as the celebrity talent, the promoter put together a string quartet and a harpist who would accompany us. After the first two weeks of touring I knew I was in love with Lars Lynnsehn. He was extraordinarily handsome and such a gentleman. We seemed to be compatible musically and professionally, but I wasn't sure how he felt about me. When the war escalated I decided to try to make the trip home to America. When I told Lars of my plans he told me how he felt about me and he said he wanted to go with me.
“He needed to leave England. He had tried to enlist in the military but was turned down medically due to his terrible migraine headaches. He couldn't bear to stay in England while all the men around him were training to fight a war. We were married within a week in a small Methodist church on the outskirts of Cardiff, Wales. The kind old pastor of the church made an announcement that we would be married immediately following the concert, and he invited the patrons to stay for the ceremony. So this singer and her beloved organist were married in a ceremony before an audience of strangers, with no singing or organ music, just a string quartet and a harp for music, played by fine musicians who remain friends to this day. We made plans to depart at the end of the tour and had booked passage on the Lusitania's return sailing to the U.S.A. Of course, she never made it into port. We eventually sailed on another ship, praying all the while that the German U-boats would not think us a worthy target.
“Lars' headaches got persistently worse. When we reached New York I took him to a specialist. The news was not good. We had already signed to do a tour of twenty cities over a five month period. The doctor told us that there really was only one thing to do; watch and wait to see if the suspected tumor increased in size.
“Nevertheless we had hope and were excited at our prospects. We thought that after the tour we would get a flat in Manhattan and use it as home base for our concert travels. I had always told Lars of Azavilla and how I longed to go there to live. We decided to make this our hideaway home. We felt we needed a place remote and hard to find by adoring fans. Lars and I hired a firm to come here and do some redecorating and updating. When we played Baltimore Lars met a fellow Englishman of French descent, a Mr. Leon' T. Beauliat, who was an organ builder who once worked for Robert Hope-Jones. He had an organ which he had built for a Mr. Sylvester Whittenhall who, with his wife, perished in the Titanic disaster. He had the organ erected in his shop and invited Lars to hear it. He fell in love with it and purchased it on the spot. We hired him to place the organ in this room, especially designed to go with the rather impressive organ facade.
“We continued our tour confident that the Azavilla renovations and organ installation would be complete by the end of the road and we could take a well deserved rest. Lars conducted and I sang arias from well known operas in every major city on the eastern seaboard. I think Lars knew how sick he was for each day his headaches became more intense.
“We were to end the tour in New York where we had a long standing appointment with the specialist. We were to open at Carnegie Hall for a two weekend engagement. The first night Lars collapsed on the podium at the end of a Mozart aria. When the result of the tests came we were prepared for the worst and that's just what it was.
“We had talked about this and what we would do if the news was bad. We decided to come here, to Azavilla, my home. Lars never had a permanent home. He was raised in Hong Kong. His parents were missionaries there. When he returned to England to finish his schooling the unthinkable happened. His parents were drowned along with two hundred Chinese when a ferry capsized in a sudden squall on it's way to mainland China. Among the Chinese lost were Hiu-sing and Chi-soon Chow, Tung-pau and Teng-ting's parents, who had become missionaries to their own people, on their way with Mr. and Mrs. Lynnsehn to establish a church at Guangzhou.
“Lars, Tung-pau, and Teng-ting had been virtually raised in the same household and they kept in touch always. When Lars became ill he knew we could not contend with everything so he sent for them. They came without question, without hesitation. I could not have coped at all with out Tung-pau and his sweet wife Shang-tee, and Teng-ting's kind and strong husband Wan-koo T'ang, I have come to love them dearly, and I think you boys may have seen how much they love me. I've learned to speak Chinese, too!” she chuckled.
She continued as they moved from room to room, “Since they have come here two precious tiny ones have been born. Tung-pau and Shang-tee's little girl, Victoria, and Teng-ting and Wan-koo's little boy Theodore. The families each have a house on the eastern side of the island, just through the Magnolia grove, over near the chapel cemetery where my momma and daddy are buried. For the last five years we have had our own little community here and, more importantly, they have become my family. So now you know all about Lars and me.” she said, stopping in front of the peacock doors.
“I have saved the best, but perhaps the saddest part of this house, for last. Harry and Jimmy, I understand that you two boys are organists. Johnnie,” this to Mr. Edwin, “you always did fascinate me with the way you played the organ, even as a teenager, not unlike these boys. Keith, Dr. O'Shaughnessy had already mentioned your name to me as someone who could be trusted and could do something that might help to make Lars' last precious days a bit more bright. Let me show you. Gentlemen, please come into the ball room.”