Cathy's father came up to them, followed by Cox.
"Is there a problem?" Cox enquired.
Nye answered saying "this is my Dad, Yanto Morgan. Dad, this is Isac Tabor, my Cox on the lifeboat."
"This is my Dad, Ethan Bladen," Cathy added.
Morgan senior blanched, then he recovered. "Pleased to meet you," he said. "I've come for Nye here. His Mum's been worried sick about him. She'll be so pleased to see him again."
He reached out and took hold of Nye. There was no tenderness in the move, only anger. Cathy shot her father a look that said "do something." The Cox saw it too, by yellow light from a street lamp. He came between father and son, causing Yanto to release Nye.
"Just one moment," said Cox. "This young man is a valued member of my crew. You're on my territory and you don't just grab people without a by your leave. I think we should talk this over."
"He's my son!"
"I've only your word for that."
"Are you calling me a liar?"
"I just want to know more sir. If you're within your rights you've nothing to loose from telling me."
Other men came over to see what was happening. Nye recognised some of his crewmates and hope flickered inside him. Dad dropped his cigarette and stamped on it, killing red embers on hard paving stones. Sounds of a distant lorry reached them. Mr Bladen put an arm round Cathy. "If you want trouble, you're not making it in front of my daughter," he said.
Yanto took a step back. Cox stroked his chin, then an idea occured to him. "Mr Morgan, let me offer you some hospitality. We pride ourselves on welcoming newcomers - your son can testify to that - and our ales are the finest on the south coast." Yanto's eyes lit up at tbe mention of alcohol. Cox went on saying "why don't you come with me to my favourite pub. We can talk things over and you can sample their beer or their ale."
"Well, that's very generous of you."
"Follow me then."
Cox and Mr Bladen led Morgan the elder into the night. Cox glanced back at Cathy and Nye, trying to reassure them. Then he and Bladen took their uninvited guest down a hill, past white cottages and iron railings.
The trio entered a pub that was built of red bricks. Dogs lay on the floor, men played darts and tobacco smoke filled the air. A man wiped the brown oak bar. A pool table nearly filled one room and stools stood around it. Both local men went to the toilet, leaving their visitor at the bar. They returned and made a suggestion.
"Do you fancy a game of pool Mr Morgan?" Cox asked. "Mr Bladen, could you order some drinks?"
"Thanks, I'll have a beer," said Morgan senior. The smell of alcohol was already on his breath, presumably he had gone to another pub to ask after his son. Cox set up coloured balls and asked Yanto to break. Smokey air was filled with the cracks of ques hitting balls, followed by rumbles as they rolled and landed in pockets. Mr Bladen placed drinks on a shelf by the door. While Yanto was concentrating on a tricky shot, Bladen spiked his drink. Cox had suggested this in the toilet. Both players had trouble in potting some shots, they bounced off the sides instead of going down holes. They decided on blaming the table, had it been an animal they'd have had it put to sleep. Yanto won the first game with Cox, then he played Mr Bladen and lost. All three continued to drink, and Cox managed to spike another of Yanto's pints.
"Your son's made quite an impression round here," Bladen said. "He's a valued crewman and my daughter's taken a shine to him."
"I'm glad to hear it, but his Mum wants him safely home."
"Why did he leave?" Cox enquired.
"He's not bad all the way through but any boy needs discipline every now and then. I gave him some and he couldn't take it.
"Where does the time go?" Yanto asked. "It seems like yesterday when he was a baby and now he's nearly a man. I (hic) wish we'd spent more time together while we could."
"I feel that way about Cathy," Bladen admitted. He started to feel some empathy towards Yanto. Then his resolution hardened. He and Cox had a task to carry out. There was no turning back now. Cox shifted his position as Yanto bent to take another shot. Their guest belched as his stomach struggled with too much alcohol. Cox wrinkled his nose. Sounds of darts hitting a board reached him.
As the night wore on, Cox and Bladen told stories to Yanto. Bladen recalled meeting an African trader who sold him a bolt of cloth. It was supposedly expensive woven fabric but later it turned out to be bark cloth and worth less than Cathy's father paid for it. The experience had made him more streetwise. Yanto guffawled at this while Cox spiked another drink. Cox listed girls he had met in various ports. Yanto looked impressed. "Good for you," he said, slurring every word. It sounded as if there was lead on his tongue.
Closing time came. Bladen and Cox had to help Yanto to his feet. Nye's father needed their support to get out. Outside in cold night air he threw up. The other two guided him away, through pools of street light. They felt his thick jacket under their palms. A black cat eyed them from across the street.
They eventually reached the waterside. Many fishing boats lay on the beach, their masts and chimneys towering over the men. Lobster pots sat beside them. Timber huts for drying nets lay further back. One smelt of fresh paint. Cox and Bladen exchanged glances. Both remembered tropical heat and vivid colours, a time when death was far away and freedom lay ahead. They had needed each other then. Tonight they did so again. Their hearts beat faster and their throats dried up. They checked that no one else was around, then guided Yanto between two of the boats. Soon afterwards, Bladen and Cox ran across rounded pebbles without him. Leaving the beach they hurried into town.
To be continued