Chapter Eight – Logan and Richard
In eighteen twenty-one, Peadair proclaimed Logan’s birthday a holiday, and invited everyone for miles around to a huge feast. The people celebrated with food, music, dancing and games. Logan’s favorite games were the caber toss, where he was unbeaten, and the hammer throw.
Standing on the steps of the keep, Logan, Daniel and Peadair, dressed in their plaids, were splashes of color against the grey stones of the castle. Using a gong purchased on his latest trip, Peadair got everyone’s attention. When the crowd quieted, he spoke.
“Today we celebrate Logan’s birthday. ‘Celebrate’ is the important word. Our community has suffered much in recent years, but we are blessed. In an ever-changing world, our corner of Scotland is happy and safe. While other landowners in the Highlands are evicting their tenants and converting to sheep herding, we are growing and prospering. I believe Muileach will continue to grow.
“I have special news which affects all of us today. Logan will be leaving soon to study at Saint Martin’s College in Chester, near Liverpool. A new school, Saint Martin’s is small but specializes in modern business management and agriculture. While there, he’ll learn how we can preserve our longstanding traditional values yet still be part of the growing national and international business community. We won’t see much of him for a few years, but I know when he completes his schooling and returns home, Muileach will be a better place for all of us. So …” Beaming, he looked around, rubbing his hands together, “Now, who’s ready for some games?”
Peadair’s grin grew into an enormous smile when the crowd clapped and cheered. He called out, “Let’s go!” and led those who would compete, and those who would cheer them on out through the gate to where the competitions would take place.
Unaccustomed to the accolades, Logan’s emotions were a jumble. The attention was embarrassing, yet, at the same time, thrilling. His excitement had kept him awake nights for the past several weeks. It was humbling to think, one day, he’d be responsible for the lives of these people; yet knowing he’d make their lives better was empowering. He looked forward to a future with new friends, and maybe new loves, in people he hadn’t met yet, and, were it not for the schooling, may never have the chance to meet.
Thinking of traveling to England was exciting. Still, he already missed his family and friends here.
Logan wandered around, mingling with the guests, both out on the games field where the men played, and in the bailey, among everyone else, knowing he’s miss them all. Will I find new friends among strangers? I can only hope.
“Penny for yer thoughts.” Seanna, as usual, appeared from nowhere, looped her arm in his, and walked alongside.
“Och. ye don’t have enough pennies. My head may explode with all the thoughts swimming in it.”
“I can imagine.” Seanna laid her head on Logan’s upper arm as they strolled. “I can distract ye a bit, if ye’d like. We can slip away, somewhere. Moy Castle’s not too far. Folks are too afraid of the ghosts there to follow us. Or, maybe we can go into one of the towers.”
During the last five years, he and Seanna had been occasional lovers. He laughed. “Och. Not today. ’’Tis a gathering in my honor. I can’t leave. I’d be missed.” He looked at her with a mischievous grin, “They’d catch us, for sure.”
Seanna pouted, “I’ll not take no for an answer, ye know. When will ye leave?”
“Late next week. Classes start in early September.”
“Good. Then there’s time for us before ye leave.”
“Perhaps.” Seanna was dear to him, but there was too much going on in his life now for a dalliance with her, however brief.
“Oh, look. There’s yer little brother,” Seanna purred, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “Perhaps he and I should get better acquainted? He’s not my type, but since ye’ll be gone …” She left the rest unsaid.
Logan grinned, “He’s a bit young for ye.”
“Och, I’m not so long in the tooth.” Seanna laughed, gave Logan a playful shove, and set off in Daniel’s direction.
For a time, Logan considered taking Seanna with him, but abandoned the idea. He’d be venturing into a different world. Would Seanna, or what she represents, be welcome there? Besides, he had to concentrate on his studies. With her around, she would be a distraction.
“Logan.” Teasag’s voice cut through his thoughts. He spun around. The old lady had found a shady spot under a small tree near the stables where she was almost invisible. He changed direction.
“Teasag. I haven’t seen ye in months.”
“Aye. I was visiting my daughter, Kait, and her family on Iona.” She had a faraway look. “Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday, my Kait was a bairn. Now she’s seanamhair to ten bairns.”
“Aye, Teasag, time does have a way of passing, whether ye notice or not. It’s hard to believe Seanamhair and Seanair have been gone all these years.”
“Aye,” the old lady said with sadness in her voice. “They are missed. I remember when they were young … so long ago. Everyone knew do Seanair would be a great duke. Ye’re a lot like him, ye know.”
“So I’ve been told. I know I look like him.”
“Aye, but it’s more than your appearance. It’s a certain quality, not something a man can learn. Ye’ve got it, most don’t. I know not how else to explain it.”
“Och. ‘Tis kind of ye to say.” Teasag was a wise old lady, the oldest resident of Muileach. No one knew for sure how old, not even the lady herself, but she was unchallenged for the honor.
“Get on with ye now. I know there are others who’ll be wantin’ to wish ye well.” She wagged a crooked forefinger at him. “Remember, I’ll be watchin’ ye.”
“Och, ye watch everyone.” Logan laughed. “Be well, Teasag.”
By the time the sun was near gone, he’d talked with everyone at least once.
His stomach rumbled. Lunch was hours ago. He was tired, hungry, and parched.
As if he’d read his mind, Peadair called him from a table set up at the foot of the keep’s steps. “Logan. Come and eat something. Ye must be famished.”
Everyone started calling to him, laughing and waving for him to hurry. He grinned. This was the traditional challenge to best his record. He waved and ran toward the crowd at the table.
When he saw the food, his mouth watered. This was the best his community had to offer. Fresh foods of all kinds, large platters of meat, and sweets, his favorite, weighed down the big table. He seized the offered platter, sat on an upended empty barrel, and without a word, went to work on the mountain of food, stopping only to drink golden ale, by the tankard.
The crowd increased in size, and someone started chanting. “Lo-gan, Lo-gan, Lo-gan.” The chant spread and got louder, “Lo-gan, Lo-gan, Lo-gan.” Someone had a drum.
He looked up and grinned.
Challenged, he continued to devour the food in front of him. The chanters picked up the pace. “Lo-gan, Lo-gan, Lo-gan.”
By now, he was into the sweets. Another pie disappeared. “Lo-gan, Lo-gan, Lo-gan.”
Another tankard of ale. “Lo-gan, Lo-gan, Lo-gan.” The chant reverberated off the castle walls.
He eyed a cake, the last remaining bit of edible food on the table. But, he’d reached his limit. He stood, grabbed the cake, and made good his escape into the keep. Behind him, cheers and clapping celebrated his birthday meal.
He left the cake on a table in the deserted scullery, and made for a door in the far corner of the cavernous room. Outside, he forcibly lost much of his meal. He’d risen to the challenge, and had a grand time doing it. He’d hold the record for years to come, but he wasn’t a fool. Spending the next few days in abject misery from having eaten too much wasn’t his idea of fun. This way, come morning, he’d be fine … and this day would add to the growing legend surrounding his appetite.
Later, in bed, his thoughts drifted to Seanna. In his memory, she was part of Muileach—she’d always been there, like the castle and Loch Buie. Since his mother left, Seanna had been there for him, appearing when he needed her most. When he was with her, he could forget for a while. With her, he thought about marriage.
But, in the real world, away from her, he knew he had to set his sights higher. In time, he’d be the Duke of Muileach, and he didn’t see Seanna as his duchess. More important, he’d realized he didn’t love her. But, it didn’t mean he wouldn’t lay with her. She had a way of making him feel good.
While thinking about her, he heard a noise outside his door. Alert, he was on his feet in a second. The latch rattled. The door swung open a short distance. Ready to pounce on the intruder, he waited.
“Logan,” a voice whispered. “Logan, are ye awake?” He relaxed.
“Come in, Seanna.” He closed the door behind her, then lit a candle. “What are ye doing here?”
“Don’t you remember? I said I wasn’t taking no for an answer. Ye’re can’t be busy now.”
“Nay, ‘tis true, but I am trying to get some sleep.”
Ignoring him, she walked across the room. He saw she had only a plaid wrapped around her. With a flip of her wrist, the plaid slithered to the floor, puddling at her feet. Her nakedness in the flickering candlelight gave her an almost mythical appearance as she reached out to touch his bare chest.
Her fingertips burned his skin, causing his body to react. His thundering heart skipped a beat and his breathing came fast and ragged. Still, he didn’t move. Her body molded itself to his. She wrapped her arms around his neck, then jumped to wrap her legs around his waist. As he’d done many times before, he caught her by her buttocks. She bumped her hips against his erect member—he was inches from her hot well.
They came together with the fireworks of a purely sexual relationship.
Spent and drained, they slept.
Time and space meant nothing. Later, Logan tried to remember what happened, but it was all a haze.
When he awoke, it was almost dawn. She was gone, as if she’d never been there. But she wasn’t a dream as he could smell her on his skin. The thought of her threatened to overwhelm him, so, he rose and doused himself with water.
She came to him every night. He looked forward to her visits, but felt guilty at the same time. He didn’t want to hurt her. Their lovemaking was always glorious, but something was always missing. Now, he knew what it was.
On the last night, she begged him to take her with him. He refused. Upset, she gathered her belongings and left, leaving him aroused and angry. Sleep eluded him. He rose at dawn and sailed for England without seeing her.
The trip on the Scots Witch to Liverpool was uneventful. After docking, Logan hired a wagon to take his trunks to Chester. The school had arranged a room for him at Mary O’Malley’s Boarding House, a short walk from the school. Arriving in Chester late at night, he found an inn, paid for a late meal, and slept well.
In the morning, he presented himself at the boardinghouse. Mrs. O’Malley showed him to his room on the third floor overlooking busy Northgate Road. The large, pleasant east-facing room was bright and sunny in the early morning.
The room had the basics: a bed, washstand, highboy, wardrobe, and small table to serve as a desk. He’d provide whatever else he needed. The staff would see to his meals, his laundry, and the cleaning of his room.
Logan returned the wagon to Liverpool, then bought a horse to have in Chester.
Spending the late afternoon unpacking, and getting ready to register and start school in the morning, Logan began to relax. I think I’ll be enjoying this.
The shadows were long when the bell clanged, announcing the evening meal. In the dining room, he saw several men had arrived before him.
After the last of the men arrived, Mrs. O’Malley brought in large serving dishes of steaming hot food. Smiling, Logan turned to the man next to him, a tall, thin, dark-haired, dark-eyed fellow. In his best English, he greeted the stranger, “At least I know I’ll not starve.” He put out his hand, “Logan Conor, Muileach, Scotland.”
The stranger returned his smile in greeting. “Richard Grayson, Devonwood, Melton Mowbray, England. Pleased t0 meet you, Logan.” They shook hands. “We need to work on your English.”
Logan winced, and laughed. “Aye. We speak Gaelic at home, but I’ve picked up a wee bit of English here and there. ”
“You’ll need to do better than ‘a wee bit … here and there’.” The English lessons began after the meal.
The two men became fast friends. A few coins to Mrs. O’Malley allowed Richard to move his belongings to the room across the hall from Logan. They discovered they’d be taking many of the same courses, and were looking forward to school.
As graduation approached, Logan was the first to mention an increasing dread. “Richard, is this all there is? We come here, get our education, and go home?”
“Hmm. My thoughts have visited there, as well. What we’ve learned is valuable, but, what about us?”
“Aye. It’s been on my mind a while, but I’ve a plan. After graduation, with our families’ blessings, we’ll go to Paris to celebrate. I’ve heard of other students making similar plans to a variety of destinations.
“With our connections, we might be welcomed at the French court. Yes, I think a little time in Paris is what we need before going home. I think a year would be about right.”
“A year?” Richard thought a month or two would be fine, and almost said so, but then he agreed. “Hmm. Sounds like fun. Have you ever been to Paris?”
“Nay. You?” Logan assumed Richard had been there at least once.
“Nay. Father, my brothers, and I almost visited a breeding farm south of Paris, but the owner died, so we canceled.”
“Ha. I should’ve known it involved horses.”
“It’s what we do.”
“I know. I’m teasing. Yer Devonwood horses are astonishing. One day, I’ll own one, a fine black stallion, wi—”
“With white socks and a blaze on his face,” Richard said, a forefinger in the air and a twinkle in his eye. “And, you shall have him, one day.” Both men laughed.
“We have a week off coming before graduation. We’ll discuss our Paris holiday idea with our families.”
On June twentieth, eighteen twenty-four, Graduation Day, Richard’s family attended, as did Peadair and Daniel, all thrilled to see the men graduate.
The next day, Peadair boarded the Highland Storm and set sail for home, after requesting Daniel be allowed to accompany Logan and Richard. Logan thought Daniel a bit young for Paris, Peadair said it would do Daniel good to see a bit of the world.
Logan, Richard, and Daniel boarded the Scots Witch for the trip to Paris. “Make yerself comfortable, Richard. We’ll be under way soon.” He and Daniel left the cabin.
Richard settled into a spot on the window seat of the big cabin. From there, high up on the stern, he could watch the shore glide by. With the sounds and motions of the ship getting under way in the background, he lost himself in memories of their years at Saint Martins. They’d worked hard, Logan even harder as he learned English at the same time. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he remembered they’d played hard, too.
We landed in more than a few scrapes, and had our share of women, he mused, as his thoughts went to the times he and Logan had sought the company of the fairer sex. Women. Sometimes, they liked men like Logan, larger-than-life, almost primitive. Little did they know, he’s a gentle giant. He chuckled aloud.
“Well.” Logan startled Richard out of his reverie. “We’re under way. Where are ye, my friend? What’s so humorous?”
“I was thinking of our years in Chester.” He mused. “It’s been quite an adventure. I’ll miss the experience, and the friends we’ve made, but it’s time to get on with life.”
“Aye. We had books, and professors, and late night studying for exams countered by hours in pubs tipping ale, and some glorious nights with the ladies. But, it’s not over yet. We’re bound for Paris, Richard. Paris. And, no books or exams.”
“Aye, but is Paris ready for us?”
The Scots Witch slipped into Le Havre Harbor. Logan sent Daniel ashore to secure a berth, and the vehicles for the trip to Paris. At dawn the next day, a wagon and carriage, with drivers, arrived. The crew off-loaded the men’s trunks.
Standing on the dock, Logan and the other two men watched the ship ease out of the berth. She was due back in Muileach, but would return in a year’s time. Logan watched until the ship disappeared.
After an uneventful overland journey, they arrived in Saint Denis, north of Paris.
Peadair had contacted a retired ship captain friend in Courbevoie to arrange for lodging for Logan and Daniel. They’d be staying at a boarding house on Rue Chaptal.
Richard’s father, Damian, had obtained lodging for him on Rue De Lesseps, a few blocks away.
Their arrival was quiet, a hired carriage, and a small wagon for their trunks. Their drivers left them at their lodgings and drove away.
The fun would commence soon enough.