This incident sorely puzzled Billy Budd. It was an entirely new experience; the first time in his life that he had ever been personally apprachedapproached in underhand intrigueingintriguing fashion. Prior to this encounter he had known nothing of the afterguardsman, the two men being stationed wide apart, one forewardforeward] The standard spelling for this nautical term is "forward." HM uses the word nine times in Billy Budd, three with the "fore" spelling. HS emends "foreward" here and elsewhere to "forward." MEL retains both spellings as they appear in manuscript, as does NN. and aloft during his watch, the other on deck and aft.
What could it mean? And could they really be guineas, those two glittering objects the interloper had held up to his (Billy's) eyes? Where could the fellow get guineas? Why even spare buttonsspare buttons] Melville neglected to delete "buttons" above the line when he added "spare buttons" in the top margin. MEL deletes the unnecessary "buttons." are not so plentiful at sea. The more he turned the matter over, the more he was non-plussed, and made uneasy and discomforteddiscomforted] HS reads "discomfited." MEL's reading is "discomforted," as is NN's.. In his disgustful recoil from an overture which tho'though he but ill comprehended he instinctivlyinstinctively knew must involve evil of some sort, Billy Budd was like a young horse fresh from the pasture suddenly inhaling a vile whiff from some chemical factory and by repeated snortings tries to get it out of his nostrils and lungs. This frame of mind barred all desire of holding further parley with the fellow, even were it but for the purpose of gaining some enlightenment as to his design. (period in MS)design in approaching him. And yet he was not without natural curiosity to see how such a visitor in the dark would look in broad day.
He espied him the following afternoon in his first dog-watch below (no comma in MS)below, one of the smokers on that foreward part of the upper gun deck allotted to the pipe. He recognized him by his general cut and build, more than by his round freckled face and glassy eyes of pale blue, veiled with lashes all but white. And yet Billy was a bit uncertain whether indeed it were he—yonder chap about his own age chatting and laughing in free-hearted way, leaning against a gun; a genial young fellow enough to look at, and something of a rattle-brain, to all appearance. Rather chubby too for a sailor (no comma in MS)sailor, even an afterguardsman. In short the last man in the world, one would think, to be overburthened with thoughts, especially those perilous thoughts that must needs belong to a conspirator in any serious project, or even to the underling of such a conspirator.
Altho'Although Billy was not aware of it, the fellow, with a sidelong watchful glance had perceived Billy first, and then noting that Billy was looking at him, thereupon nodded a familiar sort of friendly recognition as to an old acquaintance, without interrupting the talk he was engaged in with the group of smokers. A day or two afterwards chancingchancing] NN emends by placing a comma after "chancing" in order to conform to the convention of setting off prepositional or other phrases, such as "in the evening promenade on a gun deck," that serve as a kind of apposition in a sentence. However, HM typically supplies only the closing comma of the interjected phrase and omits the opening comma. To preserve this pattern here and elsewhere, MEL does not emend. in the evening promenade on a gun deck, to pass Billy, he offered a flying word of good-fellowship as it were, which by its unexpectedness, and equivocalness under the circumstances so embarrasedembarrassed Billy that he knew not how to respond to it, and let it go unnoticed.
Billy was now left more at a lossat a loss] HM originally wrote "at sea." Deleting "sea," he inserted "at a loss," thereby doubling "at." MEL deletes the redundant "at." than before. The ineffectual speculations into which he was led waswere so disturbingly alien to him that he did his best to smother them. It never entered his mind that here was a matter which from its extreme questionableness, it was his duty as a loyal blue-jacket to report in the proper quarter. And, probably, had such a step been suggested to him, he would have been deterred from taking it by the thought, one of novice-magnanimity, that it would savor overmuch of the dirty work of a tell-tale. He kept the thing to himself. Yet upon one occasion, he could not forbear a little disburthening himself to the old Dansker, temptedtempted] HM adds in pencil what appears to be an "m" above "tempted," perhaps a false start on new wording. MEL disregards the uncompleted revision. thereto perhaps by the influence of a balmy night when the ship lay becalmed; the twain, silent for the most part, sitting together on deck, their heads propped against the bulwarks. But it was only a partial and annoyemousanonymous account that Billy gave, the unfounded scruples above referred to preventing full disclosure to anybody. Upon hearing Billy's version, the sage Dansker seemed to divine more than he was told; and after a little meditation during which his wrinkles were pursed as into a point, quite effacing for the time that quizzing expression his face sometimes wore,–"Did'ntDidn't I say so, Baby Budd?"
"Say what?" demanded Billy.
"Why, Jemmy Legs is down on you."
"And what[quote] (no comma in MS)what," rejoined Billy in amazement, "has Jemmy Legs to do with that cracked afterguardsman?"
"Ho, it was an afterguardsman then. A cat's-paw, a cat's-paw!" And with that exclamation, whichof whichof which] Originally, HM inscribed "which" only. Later, in the right margin near this word, he penciled "flaw?" and inscribed a circle around it, suggesting the need for a possible grammatical adjustment. HS emends by dropping "which" altogether. MEL offers "of which," as does NN., whether it had reference to a light puff of air just then coming over the calm sea, or subtler (no a in MS)a subtlera subtler] In MS, HM omits the indefinite article. MEL adds "a" to complete the grammatical parallelism. relation to the afterguardsman, there is no telling, the old Merlin gave a twisting wrench with his black teeth at his plug of tobacco, vouchsafing no reply to Billy's impetuous question, tho'though now repeated, for it was his wont to relapse into grim silence when interrogated in skeptical sort as to any of his sententious oracles, not always very clear ones, rather partaking of that obscurity which invests most Delphic deliverances from any quarter.
Long experience had very likely brought this old man to that bitter prudence which never interferes in aught and never gives advice.