Derek Powell had long dreamed of taking a cruising holiday but had never fancied going on his own. Then one day his close friend, Alywin Reaper, a widower, had approached him and asked if he would like to accompany him and his son on just such a trip. The boy, Victor, was ten years old and had never been abroad before. Derek jumped at the chance to join them and agreed instantly.
The ship was a massive 60,000 tonner, a floating city. There were plenty of activities to keep them all occupied. Victor soon found other boys of a similar age to his on board and their favourite pursuit while at sea was playing about in the swimming pools. At the ports of call the trio would go ashore and explore what the foreign lands had to offer. The time went all to quickly for them and it seemed no time at all that they were into the last week of the three weeks tour. They were due to reach their last port on the Wednesday before heading homeward. It was on the day before that, the Tuesday, that Alywin had a slight accident. He slipped on a stairway and twisted his ankle. It was not a serious injury but painful to stand or walk on, and after having the ankle strapped in the ship's surgery, was told by the doctor to keep off his leg as much as possible for a couple of days. It meant that he would not be able to go ashore when they docked. It was only going to be a short stop at the small island anyway, the ship had to leave at lunch time in order to get back to it's home port on time on the Saturday morning.
"I'm not bothered about not going ashore tomorrow," Alywin told Derek, "but Victor will be disappointed! I wondered if you would take him ashore for a look round?"
"Yes, of course I will! I was going to suggest that myself." replied Derek.
Derek was quite happy to take the boy ashore. He had really taken to Victor. The lad was as nice as they come; polite, friendly and full of life and fun. The two of them went ashore the next day after breakfast; they would only have a couple of hours or so, so they would be unable to leave the town and explore further afield. Away from the harbour there was a nice beach and promenade so they spent most of their time in that area. They had a coffee in a cafe along the promenade then went into the town to have a quick look around the shops. They found a shop selling English newspapers, albeit a day old, and Derek bought two, one for himself and one to take back to Alywin. Victor was delighted to find that his favourite comic was also on sale.
"I would just like to get myself a souvenir with the name of the island on it." said Derek, "I've got one at every call we've made so far."
"What about trying Aladdin's cave!" replied Victor, pointing to a shop across the road.
Derek thought it was an apt description. It was one of those open fronted shops displaying a mass of copper and brass goods and also some basketwork. They went in to find that they were the only customers at that moment, and to serve them were two men and two boys. Derek estimated that the two boys were both about twelve or thirteen years old, and both were dressed only in a T-shirt, khaki trousers and sandals. One of the boys approached them.
"Mister?" was all the boy said inquiringly.
"Just looking round." answered Derek, "I'm looking for something with the name of the island on it."
"Velly nice tray!" said the boy pointing to a hugh tray about three feet across!
"No-no-no!" said Derek, "Two big!"
Derek selected a brass plate with the island's name embossed on it.
"You take English money?" Derek asked.
"Yes mister! Pound, Dollar, Euro! We take all!"
"How much?" Derek asked.
"Eight pound mister!"
Derek had been told by other passengers never to pay the price asked in this part of the world. About sixty per cent is about the right price!
"How much!" exclaimed Derek, trying to look astonished, "I'll give you five pounds!"
The boy looked across to one of the men. The man gave a single nod.
"Okay mister! Five pound!"
Derek pulled a tenner from his wallet and handed it over. The boy went over to the till and handed the plate to the other boy to wrap it.
"I give you change in English coin mister? We no can change coin in bank! Okay?"
"Yes, that's fine!"
The boy counted out the coins and handed them to Derek, who did not even think to check them. He was just about to put them in his pocket when one of the men who had been watching the transaction suddenly shouted out.
"No! Change no right!" he bellowed out excitedly pointing to Derek's hand. Derek opened his hand and looked at the money.
"Oh! No!" exclaimed Derek, "He's given me fifty pence too much! Sorry! I didn't count it!"
He put a fifty pence coin down on the counter and thought that would be the end of the matter, but the man started shouting angrily at the boy in their own language. The boy was looking very distressed as the man pointed to a square wicker basket which stood about eighteen inches high. The boy almost ran over to the basket, dropped down on his knees beside it and draped himself over it. At the same time the man reached under the counter and produced a rattan cane! No wonder the boy was looking distressed!
"No! No! Don't do that!" cried out Derek as he moved forward to intervene, but the second man put his arm out in front of Derek to motion him back.
"No mister! When father punish son no one - how you say? - interfere!"
"But it was only a small mistake. Fifty pence!"
"Fifty pence, fifty pound! Same mistake!"
Derek was worried about Victor witnessing such a thrashing, but they could not leave until the plate was wrapped. The other boy continued the wrapping apparently unconcerned by what was happening..There was a loud swish as the father brought the cane down with all his force on the boy's bottom.
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
The blows were raining down at the rate of about two per second! The boy was shouting and screaming out in agony as he twisted and wreathed, but made no attempt to get up. It was obviously more than he dare do!
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
The man seemed to have no mercy. The blows continued to rain down at an almost unbelievable rate!
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
Then all of a sudden he stopped, threw the cane to the floor and shouted angrily to his son. The boy leapt up and ran through a door at the back of the shop. The man followed at a slower pace. The other man watched them depart and then pointed to Victor, obviously thinking that he was Derek's son.
"You no whip?" he asked! The man was joking, but Victor didn't see anything funny in it! He snuggled up close to the side of Derek, who put his arm around him.
"No I don't!" said Derek firmly.
The man waggled his finger at Victor. "No whip, no good boy!"
"I'll be the judge of that!" replied Derek, who was anxious to get Victor out of the shop as he could sense that the lad was nervous.
"The two boys, are they brothers?" Derek asked.
"No," answered the man, "they - how you say? - cousins. This one my boy."
The boy completed the wrapping and handed the parcel to Derek, who complemented him for making an expert job of it. He didn't want to see another one get in trouble! He bade them goodbye and took Victor outside with a sigh of relief.
"Oh! That poor little devil! I'm sorry you had to see that, Victor."
"That's alright Derek." Victor answered, "After all, we came abroad to see how other people carry on!"
"You didn't expect a carry on like that, did you! You were getting frightened in there weren't you?"
Victor was reluctant to admit it. "Well, just a little perhaps!"
"I don't think your dad would be very happy if he knew you had seen anything like that! I wouldn't say anything to him about it if I were you."
"No! I won't" said Victor.
They returned to the ship and found Alywin in a deck chair beside one of the swimming pools. Derek and Victor drew up two more deck chairs and the three of them sat facing each other in a triangle formation.
"Have I missed much?" inquired Alywin.
"No! There's nothing much there apart from a nice beach." Derek told him.
"Can I go in the pool dad?" asked Victor.
"Not until this afternoon Vic. We're going to lunch soon."
"Oh! Please dad. Just for a few minutes."
"This afternoon Victor!" emphasized Alywin.
"You heard what your dad said." said Derek jokingly. Then waggling his finger at Victor he added, "You not be no good boy!"
Victor smiled, blushed, and hid his face behind his comic. Alywin looked up from his newspaper.
"What on earth are you on about?" he asked.
"Oh! Nothing!" answered Derek, "Just a little joke between Victor and myself about the way the man in the shop spoke!"