Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which side are you on?”
– Bob Dylan, Desolation Row
Victor did not survive the sinking. He probably knew that he was doomed because purportedly his last words to his young bride were “May you have a happy life.” Yeap, that sure sounds to me as if he saw his near future as certainly looking bleak.
He was last seen, if we are to believe the Countess of Rothes’ words, on his knees with a group of fellow believers, and saying a “Hail Mary” under the guidance of a priest. There would be no divine intervention to pluck him from his fate, but that’s usually the case.
So, in some horrid form or fashion, be it by drowning or freezing, he ceased. Just plain ceased. His mother could not believe it when she saw his name on the list of missing passengers. If you recall, she was under the impression that he had been in Paris all that time. Plus, she had proof. At least, that she thought so. She said, “That can’t be. I just received a postcard from him fromParis. Look.”
I sometimes wonder what ever happened to the butler as a result of following orders. No one seems to mention a thing.
Here’s where things get interesting again. Very interesting, indeed. María Josefa and her personal maid, Fermina, stayed in the Plaza Hotel in New York City where they would have to wait for the next boat to come in with the dead bodies. Fermina went down to the dock to identify her employer, but his corpse was not among those there. Like so many, it had been lost at sea. Time went by and with no luck of their recovering Victor’s body a new and very different issue arose. According to Spanish Law of the time, a person would be considered missing for up to twenty years unless irrefutable physical proof of his death could be produced. This complicated matters greatly for María, as it meant should couldn’t remarry or receive the inheritance awaiting her as a widow until she was 43. Money was less of an issue for her I am sure as belonged to one of the richest families in Spain, but still, it was money.
There are a number of versions of what happened next, but the one that has taken hold as the most accurate tells that the family actually bought a dead body in order to prove he was deceased. That body had been found floating in the Atlantic near where the Titanic had gone down, and was taken to Halifax where a representative of the family deemed it to be that of Victor. No death certificate has ever been produced nor can a tomb with his name on it be located at the cemetery for victims of the Titanic. Not a trace. But it was good enough.
Eventually both women returned to Madrid, where both they tried to start anew. Fermina would eventually return to her sewing business and lived for many years on Calle de Regueros in the center of Madrid. She would die in 1968, some say 1969, in Madrid, some say Uclés, Cuenca. But that is actually where she was born.
María Josefa married again and had several children. All the same, and despite the tale about buying a body, they say she was terribly in love with her husband Victor and never separated herself from the picture she had of him. She passed away in 1972.
There is a new book out called Los Diez del Titanic, which recounts the fate of all the Spaniards on the ocean liner that night, and I may just have to get a copy and learn more. We cannot forget the others, but the story about Victor, María Josefa (Pepita) and Fermina is by far the most famous, and perhaps the one that best embodies so many aspects of the sinking of the Titanic, which has become by far one of the most famous tragedies in the history of mankind, not because it was one of the worst tragedies of mankind but because it was a tragedy that so tightly and succinctly depicted the nature of mankind and its destiny.
So I pose the question to you: Which side are you on?