by Gianfranco Menghini
The days of prey
Eric Grevilliers, the protagonist of this novel whose plot takes place in France, just lived Napoleon’s rise to power. A young aristocrat whose family has dispossessed of all his property by the revolutionary government. He became the protégé of Cabanis. This astute business person, taking advantage of his position of the official supplier of the French Army, monopolizes the works of art looted by the soldiers during the first Napoleonic Italian campaign. In the Paris of the late eighteenth century, Eric meets Virginia, came to perfect her language to France. He falls in love with this beautiful American, whose mother is of French nobility. To marry her uses the money earned by selling the art objects looted by French soldiers and bought at ridiculous prices. With these funds and thanks to the willing of Virginie, he manages to create a shipping company: The Fusoco. The company, based in Richmond, Virginia, will arm the most beautiful sail vessels at the time, the Clippers, the famous and very fast American brigantines. The Fusoco became an international shipping company that exponentially grows thanks to the initiative of the attractive Virginia, with a keen business sense and whose deep-blue eyes expressed a strong will. THE DAYS OF PREY tell the story of a young, ambitious and enterprising man, his rise to the highest peaks of the society of the time, his adventures on land and sea, his loves and passions, but above all, the incredible love he has for his wife, Virginie.This novel deftly mixes up stories to real events, historical, present and fancy characters in a precise reconstruction, suggestive and vivid, able to revive the taste for the great novel of action. All voices locked in the DAYS OF PREY, are the existent echoes of an authentic past that crossed Italy. They are also the voice of invented characters, no existent; surreal climaxes captivating the reader, they highlight those characters who are full of creative fancy, give their lives to form a story that lacks neither romantic attraction, nor sensuality. The vitality of their dreams will culminate in the desire of players to get and to stay together in a harmonious embrace that, apart from the intended ambiguity by the passionate effect will hand down all the intensity of human reality.
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And I don’t believe it… it is impossible that these reports are true. He would have the courage, but by what means he would fight? Come on Eric, before you say these things, you must make sure that the source should be reliable. And finally, how much importance do you give to these friends, who like such they are only to embarrass you. Do think if my informants, who work with me for several years, they did not have to inform me.”
After this tirade, Edouard Cabanis gave him a slap on the wrist of his protégé, already became red with shame and mortification.
Eric was a twenty-year-old from a good family, noble country, not particularly targeted and persecuted by the Terror, as they had not been locked up in the Temple waiting for the mower Madame Guillotine, however, they had been robbed of their possessions: a beautiful estate in the fertile countryside near Louviers, on the way to Le Havre along the meandering Seine. Louviers, a charming town in Normandy, on the Eure river, with the gothic Cathedral of the fifteenth century and the Cloister of the Penitents. One place very nice, with its rural tranquility. The estate included the beautiful residence, cattle, horses and stables. They left them to live on, with the conduct of a small farm and a decent house, formerly occupied by the factor.
The young man was educated at the Institut de France. During his studies, he showed a predilection for science and geography. Like all wealthy aristocrats and not, he had received a good training in the use of weapons and, despite having been shown to be brave, he did not much practice dueling with his fellow students. Jovial and cheerful character, typical of his age, he had become reserved, thoughtful and wary, unless he was in the company of friends. The well-known unpleasant facts that had affected his family four years earlier had matured by him in a hurry, leaving annoying memories and a great desire for redemption. He had to abandon his studies with the beautiful and carefree life of a noble scion of a wealthy family.
It then came the Revolution and the Terror. Everyone was shouting, commanding, legislating. The people took advantage of the situation, and the idlers ate their fill, as long they to enroll in that army which was then the civil guard, while wearing the Phrygian cap and arming of an old and rusty musket, which often a burst in their faces. Better than those curved bad swords that commanded a holy terror, especially to the shopkeepers, to this respect, they were stuffed themselves with food.
In addition to the noble appearance, he was of fine features, slim given the age but perfectly shaped, with a broad chest and of medium height. The jet-black hair framed his face shone where regular black big eyes, shaded by heavy eyebrows. The nose, slightly curved, denoting a strong character and giving him a decidedly male appearance, contrasted by a beautiful mouth. Where was staying in a perfect set of teeth of ivory and the whole of the face, without that nose, the young man could look like a girl.
On the eve of his return home, interrupted the studies that were turning almost at their end, he had received a letter from his father asking him to make a visit to the citizen Cabanis, attorney and supplier before of the royal armies and later of those of the newborn Republic. A wealthy man and nice political, Cabanis had become very expert on juggling in an environment where corruption reigned supreme. He was the son of a modest pair of attendants who, at the suite of Messrs. de Muissartes, had moved to Paris in the year in which the Corsica transferred to France by the Genoese. Though he had not received a normal school education, he learned all the rudiments of the art of getting by eavesdropping various speeches during the secret meetings that were held in the house with his master, well attended by the best Parisian society. Several times he had been surprised by his father, who had rebuked up to forbid him to run free in the many rooms of the palace. Fortunately, what he had learned was more than enough for someone like him, with considerable intelligence and a good imagination, to be able to disentangle by himself. In fact, in a period of twenty-five years, thanks to the supplies, at prices not always competitive, to the armies of France and the countless speculative and political vicissitudes, he became very rich. He created a vast sales network in a wide part of Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Some powerful men needed him. At the ripe old age of fifty-nine, having lost his only son in a shipwreck in the stormy Bay of Biscay and, no longer have others, he was worried to convey to someone everything he owned to perpetuate his work.
Some years ago, before the outbreak of the Revolution, he had had an accident on the route. He made a speculation on grain prices upward. It had been a difficult year in France, and three of his ships were traveling from Egypt loaded with grain. The vessel on which was embarked on his son, then just in his early twenties, was lost with the whole crew, another had crashed on the cliffs of the island of Jersey, counting fortunately only three missing and the third, quite battered, arrived after four days of adventures in Portsmouth, from where he joined Le Havre after repairs forty days later. During the trip, he had taken that place, distressed, and vainly hoping to find his son, a wheel of his coach crashed against a stone. The incident had not caused more damage but forced him to stop and ask for help to the farmers of the estate of Lacombe, in that of Louviers. He had been hosted by the owner of those lands, housed and fed while the coach was hospitalized while waiting for the locksmith changed the wheel. The Count de Greville-Lacombe, Eric’s father, had been a…