“I’ve never looked out on the Adriatic Sea before. All in all the beaches of the Lido surpass those we have visited in Naples. Perhaps we should just stay here longer.”
“I couldn’t help but overhear you, sir,” a well-dressed young gentleman, complete with white suit, vest, and white bowler hat and shoes called over from under a nearby beach umbrella. “You said Adriatic Sea. That, I am afraid, is a common misconception of the tourist to the Lido. You are just turned around. That’s actually the Venetian Lagoon out there. But it’s just a natural mistake. I would agree that the beaches of Venice are better than those in Naples, though.”
Manfred von Schlimeyer had been talking to a boy of fourteen sitting with him under a beach umbrella. The boy stood as Schlimeyer’s attention went to the nattily dressed--and quite incongruently attired for the beach, he thought--young man who had just corrected him on the body of water they were facing. The boy stretched and sauntered down to the water.
The boy was dressed for the seaside as any well-formed boy of the 1920s would be. If he were a year or two older, he would be required, by social custom, to wear a one-piece, form-fitting, short-legged woolen costume topped by an athletic shirt adhering to the man’s chest and with deep arm slits and neckline. Such bathing suits apparently had been meant for modesty but had neglected to provide anything that hid the obvious line of a young man’s left-dressed cock and the curve of his balls. But, being fourteen, although his chest was already beginning to muscle up, the boy wore just tight swimming trunks--which also showed his left-dressed cock and the curve of his balls. To most young women and a certain kind of man, the boy was breathtaking in his innocent beauty yet budding masculinity.
Both Schlimeyer and the formally attired young man watched the boy walk down to the surf--the view from behind of the pert, but bulbous buttocks being as interesting as the frontal view--and start stretching his body. Within minutes he walked into the surf up to his knees, executed a beautifully arced surface dive, and started swimming out to into the lagoon in strong, sure strokes.
“You have a handsome son, sir. You should be proud of him.”
“I am quite proud of Stephan, yes.”
“He’s a strong, elegant swimmer.”
The boy had swum out some distance from the beach and was swimming laps parallel to the beach between the wave-breaking rock walls at either end of the stretch of sand. He kept his curly mop of platinum blond hair above the water as he did the pert bulbs of his buttocks, and his arm strokes were regular and pulled him a long distance with each stroke. In the water, he looked much taller than he did on land.
On the beach, Schlimeyer and the young man he was talking with weren’t the only ones watching Stephan swim. On the other side of Schlimeyer, a canvas chair under an umbrella was just now being occupied by a German doctor, Reinhard Gleason, from Stuttgart, who was large-boned, a bit on the heavy side, and had a florid, redheaded complexion. He was perhaps in his forties. He, and the man sitting on the other side of him, an older French Catholic priest, fully clothed in black clerical garb and a high, white collar, Father Franz, had met the Schlimeyers here on the beach the previous day.
“Not the Von Schlimeyers of Berlin?” Gleason had asked when they were introduced, and when they allowed as how they were, indeed, those Von Schlimeyers, Gleason had attached himself to them like glue.
To that point he had been staying close to the fifth man in the little bunch in canvas chairs under five beach umbrellas. The Englishman, Sir Clarence Hailley, a man appearing to be in his fifties, was tall and rugged looking, almost cadaverous in appearance, but with piercing black eyes. There had been a hint at the introductions that he was in Venice convalescing from some wasting disease, but the discussion had not yet delved deeper into that topic. Nor had it explored the depths of what the French priest, a professor at the Faculté Notre-Dame Catholic seminary, in Paris, was doing on the eastern coast of Italy in March of 1924 beyond that his order had determined he needed to take a sabbatical.
All four men sitting with Schlimeyer, even Dr. Gleason, as he arrived on the beach, being the only one of the group who said he came to the beaches on the Lido di Venezia every autumn, were scrutinizing the boy swimming in the sea. Only Schlimeyer was looking at the men he was talking to during their disjointed chatting.
The only one of the group who wasn’t watching the swimmer, and the only woman present, was Hilda, who sat immediately to Manfred von Schlimeyer’s left, but set back behind him under a separate umbrella. Like the young gentleman in the white suit, she was fully dressed in a somber, long-sleeved dress that ran up to a choke collar, pinned with a large cameo broach, and down to the ground, with the points of black leather boots peeking out from under her multiple petticoats. She paid little attention to the men, keeping her nose in a series of Victorian Romance novels. The impression given was that vacationing at a Mediterranean beach hadn’t been her idea, and that she didn’t wish for Manfred to forget that.
“We’ve been in Venice for three days now, and the architecture hasn’t ceased to amaze me,” Manfred said to the young man sitting to his right. “I was led to believe it was an ancient town, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a larger collection of Art Noveau-style buildings.”
“Ah, the buildings here are glorious, yes, even the ones along Lido beach. Have you, by any chance seen the nearby Hotel Petit Palais? Exquisite.”
“We are staying there.”
“A good choice.” The young man raised his eyebrows. Only the very rich stayed there. “I have one of the Art Noveau buildings on the Adriatic side of the beach myself.”
“You? You live here? I took you for a fellow tourist,” Manfred said. “Your accent. I thought--”
“That I was an American, right?”
“Yes, I confess I did think that.”
“I am, as a matter of fact. But a displaced one. I am Jeremy Biddle, and I have an antique store here on the Piazza Puccini, not far from the Grand Hotel.” He briefly looked away from Stephan swimming in the sea to shake Manfred’s hand and then looked back. “My family is in banking, and I handle their affairs in Italy. But they thought it safer for their reputation for me to live abroad,” he added.
Manfred didn’t pursue this point, but he did register it in his mind. He turned his head and took another look at the young man. He was quite handsome. Trim, but with good musculature. And obviously sophisticated and refined--and well to do, as he was expensively dressed, if overdressed for the seaside. And perhaps knowing now that he lived in the Lido di Venezia explained why he was fully dressed. It was unusually warm for the end of September in Venice, but that was all relative. It was warm enough for bathing wear for the likes of Manfred and Dr. Gleason and the English nobleman at this time of year--and even for the sixty-year-old, gaunt French priest, who was, to use a pun, sticking to his habit--but it likely would still be too cold for the beach for a local inhabitant.
Stephan came out of the water but remained on the hard sand at the water’s edge. He was, indeed, a beautiful boy. Short, but trim with a boyish body that, nonetheless, had good torso definition, his chest muscles beginning to form, and strong looking arms and legs, as he would have to have to have been swimming as strongly and expertly as he had been. He was Germanic, light blond, with striking blue eyes, and a dazzling smile when he wasn’t looking shy and withdrawn into himself--or aloof to the scrutiny he obviously knew he was being given from the line of umbrellas.
A sigh went up from the cluster of men sitting around the Schlimeyers as Stephan loosened his muscles by doing stretches on the sand just above the tide line, seemingly entirely blind to the multiple sets of eyes capturing and mentally caressing his form from the line of umbrellas.
“Did I overhear right, that this is your first visit to the Lido di Venezia?” Biddle asked Manfred--although his eyes were glued to Stephan.
“Yes, we are doing the rounds of beach resorts this year. February was the Turkish beaches, the island of Cyprus in April. Summer was for swimming competitions in Germany for Stephan. Italy was reserved for early autumn. We will go to Naples, where we have gone before, after our visit here. And later in the fall we’ll take in the French Riviera. Stephan wants to swim in the sea, and I love to spoil Stephan.”
“I can well see why,” Biddle murmured. In fact he could only wonder at the effort Schlimeyer must have to make to keep men’s hands off the boy. His own hands were twitching at the prospect, which he hoped to be able to pursue. At the base of being sent abroad by his family was his taste for fourteen-year-old boys. The boy must, Biddle thought, know the effect he was having here on the beach. In a louder voice, though, he said, “But how can your young son be out of school for such a long time?”
“He is not receiving a conventional education. I am teaching him in the ways of life,” Manfred said, with a small laugh. “He finished his primary schooling last year. He wanted to take this year off to perfect his swimming skills. Further formal education can come later. I am teaching him of life now.”
There is an aspect of life, I would ache to teach him, Biddle was thinking. But, again, he didn’t give voice to that thought.
.... There is more of this story ...