Jack glanced at the top of the pile, paused, then cried, “There! There you are. Just so. There’s the service for you from clew to earing – the Royal Navy, stock and fluke. You get into a fine flow of patriotic fervour – you are ready to plunge into the thick of the battle – and you are asked to sign this sort of thing.” He passed Stephen the carefully written sheet.
His Majesty’s Sloop Sophie, at sea. My Lord, I am to beg you will be pleased to order a Court Martial to be held on Isaac Wilson (seaman) belonging to the Sloop I have the honour to Command for having committed the unnatural Crime of Sodomy on a Goat, in the Goathouse, on the evening of March 16th. I have the Honour to remain, my Lord, Your Lordship’s most obedient and humble servant, The Rt. Honourable Lord Keith, K.B., etc., etc. Admiral of the Blue.
“It is odd how the law always harps upon the unnaturalness of sodomy,” observed Stephen. “Though I know at least two judges who are pederasts; and of course barristers… What will happen to him?”
“Oh, he’ll be hanged. Run up at the yard arm, and boats attending from every ship in the fleet”
“That seems a little extreme.”
“Of course it is. Oh, what an infernal bore – witnesses going over to the flagship by the dozen, days lost … The Sophie a laughing-stock. Why will they report these things? The goat must be slaughtered – that’s but fair – and it shall be served out to the mess that informed on him.”
“Could you not set them both ashore – on separate shores, if you have strong feelings in the moral issue – and sail quietly away?”
“Well,” said Jack, whose anger had died down. “Perhaps there is something in what you propose. A dish of tea? You take milk, sir?”
“Goat’s milk, sir?”
“Why, I suppose it is.”
“Perhaps without milk, then, if you please.”
~ from Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian, pp 116-117
Picture from Black and WTF via the National Maritime Museum.