by Gianfranco Menghini
1800. The great century
Eric and his wife’s, the international Fusoco shipping company is expanding exponentially thanks to the entrepreneurial initiative and acumen of the beautiful Virginie, with blue eyes and a volitional character. Laura the ancient lover of the Ligurian hills, now become a true Parisian, gives Eric a daughter: Pauline. Napoleon, happily transported from Ajaccio to Frejus under the careless eyes of the English fleet commanded by Admiral Lord Keith, in recognition of the unexpected help received at an unhappy moment in his career as an army leader, grants Eric the marketing, during the second Italian campaign, of one hundred and fifty paintings of great value executed by the most eminent Italian artists, offered by the newborn Cisalpine Republic, in exchange for the official recognition as the main institution of the future Italy. Although already rich, Eric gets an astronomical gain. In the attack on Rue Niçaise in Paris, there is a twist that will enrich the narrative of the second part of the novel. Immediately after that bloody event, which will have some catastrophic consequences, Eric and Guillaume go with the sailing ship Virginia, commanded by the incomparable Captain Williams, in Tangier, Morocco, where they built eight specimens of the special long-range cannons invented by the brilliant Jardine. The daring adventures first with the Algerian pirates, then the clash with an English naval squad and, finally, the crossing to France hampered by a frightening storm in the Gulf of Lion that drags the ship up to Sardinia, will force the commander to continue towards the quiet gulf of Cosmopolis, on the Island of Elba to repair the damages to the hull and take advantage to have two guns stably mounted in the belly of the ship, to defend itself from other probable attacks on the return journey.
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It was an incredible operation, Guillaume! You and Henri have been magnificent. We have always focused on General Bonaparte, who was the master of our good luck. To have saved him from the clutches of the British fleet was a commercial strategic masterpiece.
Eric was beaming.
They managed, in fact, to carry the commander in chief of the Army of Egypt as part of his entourage, up off Frejus coasts, with a quiet sea crossing, despite the inclement weather, the night of October 9th, 1799, aboard the brigantine Clipper Virginia. The general embarked secretly on the vessel at the port of Ajaccio. The British war fleet, commanded by Lord Keith, controlled all that part of the Mediterranean. The English Admiral could not imagine that the beautiful Americans brigs hid a passenger of such importance and did not impede it the navigation in that gray and windy morning, indeed, admired the ship cutting through the waves and sailed fast towards Nice.
They had collected General Buonaparte in Ajaccio, where he wanted to stop with the small fleet fleeing from the Egypt, to humor his fellow citizens, but had blocked himself for a week by the bad weather. Henri assured that should they be very useful if, as he claimed, he could again appoint General in Chief of the Army of Italy. Yeah, because, during his absence, all the conquests made in Italy were lost.
The Buonaparte was furious of such a waste, as for the Egyptian Campaign that, although victorious, had not had the desired effects. A fleet of over hundred ships destroyed by the British and if even though they had won so many field battles, these victories should yield only some absorbing archeological material, but of little commercial value. Barras, taking advantage of the Buonaparte’s idea to hit the British mercantile interests in the ancient land of the Pharaohs, had facilitated him in that venture with the unanimous opinion of the Directory, who had decided to get off the feet that bulky character who, after the countless victories in Italy, was taking more and more importance in the eyes on the French people, representing a grave danger to the stability of the power’s chairs occupied by its members.
The bet was to see what reaction should determine the sudden and not wished coming back of General Bonaparte in Paris. This time he should appear himself with empty hands and without the Army, left in the command of General Kléber, with whom seemed that he would not agree so well. In any case, the use in a month of the brigantine was not too heavy for the Fusoco and if the Buonaparte obtained as requested, this time, the gain should be more than noticeable.
In recent times, the Franco-American company’s business had become quite scarce regarding the export of commodities to the France, while it was taking more and more importance the transport of passengers between Richmond in Virginia, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and Portsmouth in England, for the passengers and the tobacco, as well as an extensive traffic of food, especially the sugar cane from the two main islands of the Caribbean: Cuba and Santo Domingo.
The yields of the cereals in general and of the wheat, especially, have been particularly abundant in 1798 in France, over to all more optimistic expectations and the French wine, although appreciated in America, was not consumed in sufficient quantity to obtain some real revenues.
Virginie had taken the place of Henri and headed all the traffic of the four brigantines of the company, with a substantial profit resulting from the transport of the passengers and the cane sugar from Cuba. The last two brigantines launched from the shipyards of Norfolk were built for more the transportation of the passengers than the goods, being the first business more profitable. The fleet now included the Clipper Virginia, the Paul Cabanis, the Fusoco and the Louviers. Virginie insisted on giving that name to this latter, with the regard to the yet unsatisfied desire of Eric to redeem the old property from his parents. The last two ships, just out of the shipyards of Norfolk, were equipped with twenty-two cabins and two apartments each and traveled back and forth between America and England, almost always full of passengers, especially in the warmer months when we could cross the Atlantic by the shortest route. During the winter, the journey was very long. In fact, to avoid the storms or the bad weather, inevitable in that season, the brigs must go down to the South and cross the ocean on the parallel of the Canaries or Madeira lengthening the journey of at least one week.
Nearly two years before, Eric had attended the opening of the second brigantine of the Fusoco, the Paul Cabanis, fully prepared in all its parts and ready for the maiden voyage from Norfolk to Richmond. There was such a lot of people on board on that beautiful sunny day in June 1797 that he had not had the opportunity to be alone with his wife.
His daughter was born in March. Virginie had had right when she said that she could be female. He regretted it a bit because…