Story type: Literature
Cato, when Censor of Rome, expelled from the Senate Manilius, whom the general opinion had marked out for counsellor, because he had given his wife a kiss in the day time, in the sight of his daughter. And this reminds us of a local story told us by one of the “oldest inhabitants” of the city, that occurred once upon a time in this harbor. Before the Revolutionary war, one of the King’s ships was stationed here, and occasionally cruised down to the south’ard. It so chanced that after a long absence the cruiser arrived in the harbor on Sunday, and as the naval captain had left his wife in Boston, the moment she heard of his arrival she hastened down to the water side in order to receive him. The worthy old sea captain, on landing, embraced his lady with tenderness and true affection. This, as there were many spectators by, gave great offence to the puritanical landsmen, and was considered as an act of indecency and a flagrant profanation of the Sabbath. The next day, therefore, the captain was summoned before the magistrates and selectmen, who, with many severe rebukes and pious exhortations, ordered him to be publicly whipped!
The old captain stifled his indignation and resentment as much as possible; and as the punishment, from the frequency of it, was not attended with any degree of disgrace, he mixed as usual with the best of company, and even with the selectmen he soon ceased to be else than familiar as ever.
At length the vessel was ordered home, to England, and the captain, therefore, with seeming concern to take leave of his worthy friends, and that they might spend a more happy and convivial day together before their final separation, invited the principal magistrates and selectmen to dine with him the day of his departure, on board his ship. They readily accepted the invitation, and nothing could be more glorious than the entertainment that was given.
At length the solemn moment arrived that was to part them–the anchor was apeak, the sails unfurled, and nothing was wanted but the signal to get under way. The captain, after taking an affectionate and formal leave of his worthy municipal friends, accompanied them upon deck where the boatswain and crew were ready to receive them. He here thanked them afresh for the civilities they had shown him, of which the captain assured them he should bear a kind remembrance.
“One point of civility, only,” he continued, “gentlemen, remains to be adjusted between us, and as it is in my power to settle it, I shall be most happy to do so. You infernal old rogues you, you whipped me for evincing a due regard and love for my wife, and now, lest you perpetrate the outrage again ‘gainst all law and reason, I’ll give you a lesson that will last your lifetime. Boatswain, strip each of these rogues to the waist, lash them fast and put on your cat-o’-nine tails forty stripes each!”
The boatswain, mid the laugh and acclamation of the whole crew, went to the work with a hearty good will, and after giving the magistrates and selectmen a fine dressing all around, he cut them loose, put them in their boat, and the ship set sail down the harbor and soon disappeared in the dim dist cut ocean.