China Boat

Chapter 18


Jack is a patrician.


He is a very American kind of patrician; from a family with very considerable history and stature, in both the Old World, and the New.

One way one can tell, is by his names; he has five of them. He is John Jay Philip Bradford Van Doern, and each of his given names refers to an important figure in American history, to whom he is related by blood.


I have seen those names, written in his family Bible.


That Bible is printed in Dutch. On actual vellum. Opposite the title page is the inscription; 'Amsterdaam — Anno Domini MDCXXIII'. The Year of Our Lord, 1623.

Above that inscription, in turn, is a heraldic achievement — a coat of arms, with supporters, and a crest, atop a field. It is carefully done in colored ink; and though the ink has faded, you can still see the colors, and how the ink has settled deeply into the soft vellum. It was drawn in a time when such a design was vitally meaningful, a matter of State importance, and not just family vanity. I have gazed on it, more than once, in wonder.


Jack is a patrician, an aristocrat, in a more purely American sense, too.

He is, as I said, related to a number of important figures in American history. In fact, he is a distant cousin — how distant, or otherwise, he won't exactly say — to President Theodore Roosevelt; and to the current President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

His family, in fact, exchanges Christmas cards with the Franklin Delano Roosevelts.

I know, because I saw a card from the Roosevelts during our first Christmas together, the Christmas of 1935, while I was staying with Jack for a few days. It was signed by both Franklin and Eleanor; and there were a few extra, affectionate lines at the bottom, in what I could tell was Mrs. Roosevelt's handwriting. The card was mixed with others, on the mantlepiece in the Library, with no special pride of place; I had stumbled on it, by accident … 

None of this impresses Jack.

"Our families have lived in the same parts of New York for three hundred years," he'd said, as I carefully put the card back on the mantelpiece. "It would be strange if we weren't related." And then, he'd shrugged. "Besides; it isn't really something one can talk about, is it — ?"

I had understood him, immediately.

In Jack's family, I had found, modesty and understatement are cardinal virtues; while anything even approaching self-promotion, or bragging, is … unthinkable. Vulgar. Common.

In fact, one of the few ways to really annoy Jack, is to probe him about the prominence of his family; or talk about their achievements, overmuch. The most I've heard him say, under such circumstances, is that he comes from 'good people'; and then he will politely, but firmly, change the subject.


But for all of his modesty, Jack truly is a patrician, in the best sense of the word; and that manifests itself in many ways.

He showed his true nature, his patrician's effortless self-confidence, in one incident in particular, last year; it is one of my favorite memories.

* * *

It happened in September, just after the start of Term, the start of the current school year.

It was a Sunday, after Chapel; and the day was very warm. In fact the whole month was very warm; golden sunshine every day, turning the grass brown; the leaves on the trees were still a tattered-green, but the ivy on the walls at school was already turning red. It was very difficult to stay indoors, that month.

A group of us had gone swimming, in the lake which touched on School property.

Jack and I had spent part of the summer together, but not all of it; we were very happy to be reunited.

We had gone off away from the others, following the meandering shoreline of the lake — sometimes swimming, sometimes wading — for quite some ways, until we reached a secluded little cove that we knew about. And there we made love to one another; slowly, deliciously, gloriously … 

It was not quite as easy to do, as it sounds.

The part of New England where our school is located, was shaped and formed by glaciers. The lake itself was a huge gouge in the bedrock, left by a glacier; the shore was littered by rocks, boulders, and huge slabs and expanses of smooth stone — and not much else. Stone, and dense, overhanging trees, and a few beds of marshy reeds, were all we had.

We had nothing to lie down upon; not even a towel. One does not slip away, discreetly, by bringing a dry towel into the water.

Jack had, however, managed to palm our little, oblong jar of petroleum jelly, before we set out … 

We ended up doing it half-bent-over, half-standing, at the water's edge; me inside of Jack, front to his back, while he braced himself against a smooth, flat slab of sun-warmed stone … 

The flat stone looked very inviting; but it would have scraped our skin, badly. We knew this from experience. We stayed thigh-deep in the water, instead.

"Ohhhh … ooohhh … wait a minute!" He shifted himself a little, with a breathless kind of laugh; and then he pushed back against me. "All right, go ahead … Ohhhh!" Then, "Ohhhhh … !"

My front was down on his back; and my hands caressed him, and I moved in him. I kissed his neck and his cheek, utterly lost in my feelings … 

"Move around, a little — ?" he gasped, still half-laughing; and then, "Oh, yes, that's it — !" He writhed a little, shivering in my arms, and, amazingly, he was still almost-laughing … 

Jack can be a little loud, in our lovemaking; when we can get away with it.

He is also joyously, joyfully vocal. Laughter — usually at himself — and words, are part of the experience; even when he is near his own climax. To Jack, the act of love is a joyful thing, and his bright and ebullient personality shines through at every moment. I have never known anyone like him.

He is generous, in his lovemaking, too.

"I'm getting close," I'd whispered into his ear; raggedly. Stroking into him, in my arms. Feeling it, building, in my crotch; loving him, so very much … 

He had braced himself, firmly, on his hands, then.

"Go ahead. Do it! I want it — !"

Well, perhaps it wasn't entirely a matter of altruism, on his part. Jack likes me to climax inside him, very much; it is something he craves, and we did not — we do not — have the opportunity to make love this way at school, very often.

The sun; the water, the air, the breeze … the taste of Jack's skin … the feeling of being inside Jack, so intimate with him, so close to him … .

"Ohhhh — !"

I'd whimpered, as I'd done it. The spasms went on, and on, for a long time. And after, I kept kissing him, his cheek, his neck, his pale, wet hair, his neck again … 


And then it was Jack's turn.


Jack went down lower, in front; bracing himself on his hands and forearms, both … I followed him down, my chest still on his back; and I trailed my right hand in the water, a moment — 

And then, I began stroking, again. Stroking his member, with my wet, slick hand; stroking into him, with my still-hard cock.

"Ooohhhh — !"; then, "oooohhhh … ", and he shivered, in my free arm, as I went in deep, and tried to maintain a rhythm … 

Making love to Jack is easy. I had learned a great deal about how to please him already, of course; but Jack is very good about letting one know, what he wants.

"Up, a little — ?" he'd gasped … then, a second later, a little puff of exasperated laughter. "No, I mean, your up — !"


I'd gone up a little higher on my toes, then; and I'd aimed downward with my cock, in short, sharp little jabs, that I knew he liked; aimed at a part of his anatomy, that I knew he liked — 

"Ummmm … ummmmmmmmm — !"

He'd keened out in a sustained, high tone, as he climaxed; I felt him clamping down on me, over and over again, and I heard the 'splot' of his semen hitting the stone, and the water … .


Silence, then; a beautiful stillness, as we breathed, and panted. I pulsed my hand on his dick just lightly, over and over, as his spasms died down, until he made a little motion with his head, telling me to stop; so I did.

Of course, I'd gone on kissing his neck.

"Do you want me to pull out — ?" I'd asked; very softly, into his ear, at last.

A soft breath of laughter, from him. "No — oo!"; as if to say, 'Of course not!'

When we make love this way, Jack strongly prefers that I stay inside him, after. He very strongly prefers, that we lie together, connected, cuddling, after; for a stretch. Truth to tell, I do, too.

Another few breaths; another kiss on his neck, as I caressed his front, with my free hand … 

And then, comedy.

"Stand up, a little — ?" from Jack; and I did, slowly, and he straightened too, sighing with appreciation as he eased his back muscles — 

And then, he was back down, again; and before I knew it, he was scooping great double-handfuls of water from between his legs — our legs — and splashing it on the smooth stone slab in front of us … Like a dog-paddle, in reverse.

"What are you doing — ?" I'd gasped.

He'd gone on splashing.

"That rock is hot," he'd said; "and I want us to lie down, there … " He'd gone on splashing, until the entire smooth surface was thoroughly soaked. "There; that should do it … Stay inside me!" he went, looking back, grinning; a light in his eye.

I couldn't help but laugh. I wondered what someone would think, if he saw the ridiculous scene … 

I pulled myself closer and deeper into him; my hands on his hips. It was a fierce and wonderfully loving feeling.

"All right," from Jack; "Now we climb up there … "

And I'd thought we looked ridiculous, before.

"Come on, we can do it!" Jack said; puffing out laughter. "Right leg, first … move it with mine … Hang on to my waist — !" Then — "No, don't step on my foot — !"

"Sorry — !" I moved, and almost fell away from him — and then we both spluttered a little more, with yet more laughter, together — 


Eventually, we made it up onto the warm, wet stone slab.


Jack lowered himself down, carefully; and I followed him, still barely keeping myself inside him — 

"Wait," from him, for a moment; then he reached down, tucking his private parts down, between his legs, so he wouldn't be lying on them; and then, slowly and carefully, he went all the way down on his front, flat-out, with me following him, on top of him … .

"Mmmm," from beneath me; a sound of satisfaction. Then — "You can relax, and put more of your weight on me, if you want … "

Jack likes to feel my full weight on him, when we do this.

I'd been partly supporting myself, on my forearms; I eased more of myself down, until I was pressing down on him full-body to full-body, with almost my full weight … I let my head down, closing my eyes, and I licked the side of his neck, once, very slowly … 

"Mmmmmm," from Jack, again; in even deeper satisfaction — 

Another moment of stillness.

"How are your arms?" I asked him; very softly.

"Mmmm — they're okay."

I moved inside him, just a little; for the sake of the pleasure it would give him, really. He gave a little sigh of appreciation; and then he clenched down on me, almost making me gasp … 

Another few heartbeats of silence.

"I tried to be gentle, at the end, there … " I'd been worried about scraping him up.

"You did fine … " A breath of laughter, from him. "You did everything very well, actually." Another, slight pause. Then — "I love you, Rhys … "

I'd told him, early on, how everyone in Europe mispronounced my name; and that was how he'd pronounced it to me ever since, in private, intimate moments, such as this; 'Rhiiize … '

I'd used my open mouth and tongue on him, then, wetly, at a spot where his neck and shoulder met; a spot where I thought it would make him shiver. It did.

"I love you, Jack," I'd whispered.

And I did. My heart was so full of love for him, I swear it felt like it was bursting … it actually hurt; I could feel it.

And my love colored and pervaded everything in the world, for me, just then; the stone slab, the golden, September sunlight; the water, the sound of the leaves above us … Everything, made sacred, by our love. Oh, how I loved him.

For all the times we'd said it — starting with that first time, on Oakley Commons — the thrill of saying, 'I love you,' the thrill of hearing it said back to me, has not gone away.


We had stayed in that position, for some little time.

Once, I'd suggested going back; more concerned for Jack's tender skin, pressed against the stone beneath us, than anything else.

"Mmmm … Just a few more minutes — ?" from him; with a contented kind of sound … 

And so, it was rather later than we'd planned, when we finally washed up, and swam and waded back to where we'd started — 

To find our clothes, gone. And our towels. Nothing left; not so much as a sock.

We'd looked everywhere; behind bushes, underneath rocks; casting around, going farther and farther out from the little stone shelf we all used as a beach … nothing.

Looking had actually been almost painful. The sun had seemed to almost hover over the horizon, as it will do, in September; and when it wasn't dazzling our eyes, it threw black, horizontal shadows. It took us quite a while, before we had to accept that our clothes were truly gone.

There came a moment, when we'd just stood, and looked at each other.

"Who could have done it — ?" I'd ventured. "One of our friends — ?"

"No," from Jack; decisively. "None of us would ever do such a thing … " he looked around, again; helplessly.

"Then, who — ?"

A shrug, and then a slightly-sardonic look, from him. "Well, it wasn't Mister Campbell … he's in Pennsylvania. And besides, after what you did to him, he wouldn't dare — "

I think I'd blushed, a little. Mister Campbell was the sadistic Mathematics teacher, whom I'd helped get dismissed — 

"No," Jack went on; "I'd have to guess, it was just a thief." He'd paused, a second. "Whoever it was, I hope he needs them, more than we do." He'd gone on peering around, as if hoping to spot our clothing and towels at last — 

I'd just looked at him.

"What do we do — ?" I asked; plaintively.

Another shrug from Jack.

"We go back to school."

"Like this — ?!"

"Well," he'd started, with another slow look around us; and then, he'd focused back on me. "I don't see any fig trees close by; do you — ?"

And at that, I could see the corners of his mouth turn up, just a little, until his dimples were in evidence; and I'd seen that light in his eyes, that he gets sometimes — 


It was the journey back to school, that proved Jack as a patrician, beyond any possible doubt.

It was also a hilarious episode, on several levels; I will never forget it.


One would expect two boys like us — two sixteen-year-olds, caught out without their clothes — to skulk back to school; to dart from bush to bush, perhaps, or to scuttle along, ashamed, trying to cover our private parts with our hands … 

Or, we could have run it; which would have had the virtue of shortening the ordeal. We could have done so, easily enough; we are both runners, and it was only a mile-and-a-half, from the lake to our House … 

We strolled.

Or, more accurately, Jack strolled; he strolled along, with utter composure, total self-confidence, and nonchalance, as if walking along completely naked was something we did every day … I just tried to emulate him.

I was not completely successful.

I tried to keep a straight face; but every once in a while, I'd give off a little snort of laughter … and when I did, Jack, staying in character, would shoot me a mock-questioning look, as if to say, 'what is it — ?' But the smile, even then, was never far from the corners of his mouth … 


As I said, it was about a mile-and-a-half's walk, from the lake to the school, and our House.

It was an oddly pleasurable experience; in spite of our predicament.

The sun was much closer still to the horizon, now, the light was becoming reddish; but the day was still very warm, and we would have been sweating, in our school uniforms. As it was, a light, warm breeze played on our bare skin; and that combination, of sun and breeze, was wonderfully comfortable, and sensual.

At the same time — we had just satisfied each other sexually, in a rather spectacular fashion; so it was a contented kind of sensuality, free of the usual driving needs, of our sixteen-year-old bodies … and that was an oddly freeing experience, too. It was all a wonderfully pleasant experience.

The paved path running up from the lake had a grassy verge; we walked on it, to spare our bare feet, and it felt very nice … Sometimes, we had to go single file, to stay on that verge, with Jack taking the lead; and watching him walk, from behind, was even nicer.

I mean that, quite seriously.

I had, and have since, seen Jack unclothed, very often … but never like that; never exercising in the light, and the open air — except while swimming, of course. But swimming hardly counts; the water conceals a great deal.

Walking is different. Whether walking along behind Jack, or stealing glances from beside him, I was able to actually watch, as he moved; it was an education. I watched his muscles slide around under his skin, as we strolled; I could admire his posture — he has perfect posture, he is very poised, and he moves very well — and I could admire his smooth, lightly-tanned skin — 




I stopped in my tracks; and I blushed, deeply. I tried to look at the horizon, at my feet, at anything but Jack — 

"What — ?" from Jack; then, "Oh … ", followed by a 'tsk', of sympathetic laughter.

"Sorry," I managed; trying hard to admire a bird, a finch, I thought, flitting around in a low bush, next to us … 

"Don't worry, there's nobody around," from Jack; with more laughter in his voice; "and, you're not full-on, yet … " A pause from him; and I felt a touch, on my arm. "Shall I come visit your bed, tonight — ?" He asked it, in a softer voice.

"Yes, please! Now, can we change the subject — ?" This, from me, a little desperately.

Another puff of laughter, from him.


We almost made it back to our House, undiscovered. But as luck would have it, just a few paces away from our door, the Headmaster emerged from his cottage; with eight new Third Formers in their very new uniforms, in tow — 

Tea with the Headmaster was one of our school's many traditions. Walking about the School, nude, was not.

"Van Doern! Williamson! What do you think you are doing — ?!"

The Headmaster, who is also a Reverend Doctor in his own right, is a rather large man; his voice carries. Jack and I stopped in our tracks; Jack a little less abruptly, than I.

"Sorry, sir," said Jack; turning to face him. He spread his hands, a little. "We were swimming in the lake, and we seem to have — mislaid — our clothes." I could see him trying to look contrite, and innocent.

"You mislaid your clothes — ?"

There was a dangerous edge of thunder in his words; I hastened to step in.

"We're sorry, sir. Our clothes were stolen, while we were swimming. We looked everywhere for them; that's why we're so late getting back."

"I see … And your classmates? Was their clothing stolen, as well — ?"

The edge of thunder was still there. Behind the Headmaster, the eight third-formers — fourteen-year-olds, new students — goggled at Jack and me.

"Umm … well, I don't think so, sir. It's possible that we became separated from them … "

The first cardinal rule of swimming in the lake, was that one stayed with the group. A student had drowned, swimming by himself, in 1899; in the institutional memory of the school, it might have been yesterday. Of course, we all ignored the rule.

"Ah … But still; you somehow missed seeing some person steal your clothes — ? Even though you were, of course, in-bounds — ?"

The hint of thunder was more sulfurous, now. Staying in-bounds, along the narrow segment of the lake-shore which fronted School property, was the second cardinal rule. It, too, was universally ignored.

Jack spoke up. "We might have gone a little bit far, sir. Possibly. It can be hard to judge, sometimes, when you're right down in the water."

He'd said it, cheerfully. He was enjoying himself, now; which can, and could, be a dangerous thing.

"I see," from the Headmaster; the dark storm clouds all over his face. I believed I could actually see him turn color. The fourteen-year-olds beside him continued to stare.

A pause.

"I want to see both of you in my office, in five minutes. Fully clothed."

"Yes, sir," from Jack, smoothly. "Um — sir — ?"

"Yes — ?" from the Headmaster. Ominously.

"The walk up from the lake was a little dusty … " He spread his hands a little, again, and looked down at his feet — emphasizing his nudity, I thought, deliberately — and then he looked up, innocently. "May we have a quick shower, first — ?"

I held my breath.

It wasn't quite insolence … but.

Here we were, aged sixteen; naked, confessed miscreants, and by all rights, we should have been cowed, and ashamed — 

Instead, Jack was perfectly composed, perfectly self-possessed … and pretty obviously, on just this side of outright laughter, at the whole situation, and at the Headmaster, himself. To his face.

And this, in front of eight New Boys, who had just been through the awful, traditional ordeal of High Tea with the Head … 

It was three centuries and more, of aristocracy, and wealth, of status, and of power, confronting the intimidating moral authority of — a schoolmaster.

The moral authority of the schoolmaster, did not win.

Jack was magnificent.

I could not, quite, see the Headmaster's teeth grinding together; but I was fairly sure, that was what was happening.

"My office," he'd said, flatly; staring down at us. "Ten minutes." A pause. "Fully dressed."


The mystery of what happened to our clothes was solved, quickly enough.

A tearful Wilcox — a dark-haired Fourth Former, who was fond of practical jokes — came rushing up to us, as soon as he could, after dinner; after seeing the Head himself, actually.

"I didn't mean to hide them — !" he'd told us; very clearly distressed. "I just put your clothes way up in the oak tree; you know, the one on the right … I just thought it was funny, the idea of you having to climb all the way up there, in your skins, to get them back." He'd gulped. "But they were in plain sight, I swear — !"

We'd missed them, in the September glare, and shadows.

Jack had laughed.

"And what were you wearing, when you climbed up there with our gear — ?"

Wilcox had blushed.

"Well — it was a hot day … and I didn't want to scuff up my own uniform … "

Jack had responded with an affectionate knuckle-rub on his dark hair; and we had, the three of us, spent the evening doing our homework together, and talking, to prove there were no hard feelings. He has since become a good friend.

The Headmaster gave Wilcox quite a number of lines, for his part in the whole saga. For our part, Jack and I were assigned to read Henry David Thoreau's 'Walden; or, Life in the Woods', and write a couple of very difficult papers — requiring research, references, and copious footnoting — on the work.

I actually got a great deal out of it. But at the same time, it was my first intimation that the Head had a sense of humor; in spite of everything.

* * *

So. Jack is a patrician.

But that is only a small part of who he is. I do not love him, for being a patrician; I love him for all that he is.

Jack is outgoing, gregarious, ebullient, even; he is enthusiastic about whatever interests him. He has a real talent for happiness, which is a priceless gift — although it can make his occasional downward turns really difficult to see, and experience … 

Regardless; he is a happy person. And if there is sometimes a certain velocity to his enthusiasms, if sometimes he finds it difficult to concentrate on one thing for as long as he might … Well. He has me, to encourage him, gently. We are a team, after all.

If Jack has one quality above all others, though, that makes me love him — it is his compassion.

Jack has never known great personal loss. He has never been L'américain, the stupid one; he has never gone underfed, and ostracized, for months at a time … No.

And yet, compassion for others is part of who he is; compassion is at his core.

I think, perhaps, his compassion comes from his family experience; he is the youngest of five children, in the most loving family I have ever encountered; all raised amidst absolute, rock-solid security, financial, emotional, and otherwise … 

I think it fundamentally offends him, that others do not share that experience. So, he feels it, very deeply; and he does what he can, when he can, wherever he can, for others.

And if that is not a true definition of 'patrician' — what is — ?

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