Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The House in Rue Pergolese (3)

Five years into the marriage with Maria Paz, Luna was the master of his 19th century universe. He was famous. He had connections with the Spanish government. His countrymen loved him. He had a beautiful wife, a lovely daughter, and a son that could assure him his lineage was secure. To top it all, his mother-in-law gave them a stipend of five hundred francs a month; Luna could maintain his family's lifestyle without compromising his art.

But the year 1892 would not be kind to Luna. In March, her three-year old daughter, Maria de la Paz, died. A few weeks later, news reached him about his father's death in in the Philippines on September 1891. Then in July, Andres and Chiching got sick, and left for Mont Dore to get well. They left Luna alone in Rue Pergolese to grieve for his lost daugther. In between his painting and visits to his daughter's grave, Luna wrote short notes to his wife, telling her how much he loved her and urging her to take good care of Andres and to make sure he didn't catch cold. In one of these letter exchanges, Chiching mentioned that he met a man, Mr. Dussaq, and spoke highly of him. Mother and son returned home in August 12. Three weeks after, Mr. Dussaq paid a visit to the Luna residence. Luna's luck turned to worse. He turned violent in jealous rage. His universe would start to crumble.

Dutiful brothers that they were, Trinidad and Felix sought to appease Luna's rage. They asked their sister to confess, but Chiching denied she had anything to do with Mr. Dussaq. Luna demanded that he "cleanse his honor in blood." And so, Trinidad and Felix arranged a duel with Mr Dussaq. Yet, upon meeting the brothers Pardo de Tavera, Dussaq refused to duel for he had "only fleeting and mundane relations" with Maria Paz Luna. Left with nothing to appease their raging brother-in-law, the brothers thought of a legal solution. They asked Dussaq to sign a sworn
declaration of his innocense. Dussaq agreed. He soon signed a written sworn declaration that "he has never corresponded with (by letter) nor had any rendezvous with Mme. Luna, to whom she had the honor of being presented at Mont Dore last July."

But Luna would not accept it. He said he had nothing left to do, but leave his wife. Luna's resolve to leave his wife was a welcome solution to the brothers. It was a clean way out for their sister. But Luna would change his mind. Luna decided, "I don't want a separation.... I am going to leave Paris with her and our son... we will go to Vigo.... We'll live there alone, all alone; I will leave on Sunday."

Trinidad protested. Luna had only eighty francs. He couldn't go to Spain with that money. He offered Luna his own money.

But Luna refused, "No I want nothing of my wife, nothing of you either. I will live down there in poverty, and I don't want to receive anything from you....No, no, nothing. nothing, I want nothing from you. I will live from the sale of the canvases I paint down
there."

The Pardo de Taveras were devastated. In Vigo, Chiching would be alone with this man who had turned into a violent wreck. The Pardo de Taveras would not be able to protect her. Something had to be done. Trinidad immediately summoned his brother Felix and family lawyer, Antonio Regidor, to Paris on September 22.

It was Sunday, the day Luna and family were set to leave for Vigo. The Trinidad was the first to arrive followed by Felix. Luna received them coldly. Trinidad went to her sister's room, and Felix to the room of Andres, who was sick that day. But then, Antonio Regidor, the famly lawyer, came, not knowing the complete circumstances in which he was summoned. Luna asked him why he was there. Antonio said, "Trinidad telegraphed me to set the conditions for the separation." Luna raged.

Upon seeing the brothers enter the room, he screamed at them, "What does it all mean?.... A reunion of the family council .. What do you have the presumptim to do. ...Ah! You know I will defend mysef."

The brothers warned their mother and sister to lock themselves in the room for Luna was very upset. Then, they asked their lawyer to join them in a cafe outside the house so they could brief him about the problem. In the cafe, they ordered a few drinks and some food. But before their orders could arrive, the maid had summoned them back "Come quickly monsieur wants to kill madame.!"

The bloody event was about to begin on that Sunday morning in the house in Rue Pergolese.

(To be continued)

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