Chapters

Chapter 18 Chapter 18 After the mysterious interview in the fore-chains, the one so abruptly ended there by Billy, nothing especially germangerman] meaning relevant to the matter under consideration, and generally spelled "germane." Melville's spelling here is found in Shakespeare and was in common usage throughout the 19th century (OED). to the story occurred until the events now about to be narrated. Elsewhere it has been said that in the lack of frigates (of course better sailers than line-of-battle ships) in the English squadron up the Straits at that period, the Bellipotent 74Bellipotent] The British war-ship Indomitable appears as "Bellipotent" six times in Chapters 18 and 28, which were written in a late stage of composition and originally appeared closer together in the narrative. Melville considered the name change but did not regularize it, and since no actual revision of Indomitable to Bellipotent appears in MS, the change must be treated as an uncompleted and oscillating revision. Unlike other editions of Billy Budd, which regularize either to Indomitable (Weaver, Freeman) or Bellipotent (HS, NN), MEL retains each name as it appears in MS. See also note on Indomitable in Chapter 1. was occasionally employed not only as an available substitute for a scout, but at times on detached service of more important kind. This was not alone because of her sailing qualities, not common in a ship of her rate, but quite as much, probably, that the character of her commander, it was thought, specially adapted him for any duty where under unforseenunforeseenunforeseen] HM's original misspelling is "unforseen," but that variant is not found in OED, and MEL emends to the standard spelling. NN preserves HM's original. difficulties a prompt initiative might have to be taken in some matter demanding knowledge and ability in addition to those qualities implyedimplied in good seamanship. It was on an expedition of the latter sort, a somewhat distant one, and when the Bellipotent was almost at her furthest remove from the fleet that in the latter part of an afternoon-watch she unexpectedly came in sight of a ship of the enemy. It proved to be a frigate. The latter percievingperceiving thro'through the glass that the weight of men and metal would be heavily against her, invoking her light heels crowded sail to get away. After a chacechace] See note on "chace" above and on "Jack Chace" in Dedication. urged almost against hope and lasting until about the middle of the first dog-watch, she signally succeeded in effecting her escape. Not long after the pursuit had been given up, and ere the excitement incident thereto had altogether waned away, the Master-at-Arms ascending from his cavernous sphere made his appearance cap in hand by the mainmast respectfully waiting the notice of Captain Vere then solitary walking the weather-side of the quarter-deck, doubtless somewhat chafed at the failure of the pursuit. The spot where Claggart stood was the place allotedallotted to men of lesser grades seeking some more particular interview either with the officer-of-the-deck or the captain himself. But from the latter it was not often that a sailor or petty-officer of those days would seek a hearing; only some exceptional cause, would, according to established custom, have warranted that. Presently, just as the Commander absorbed in his reflections was on the point of turning aft in his promenade, he became sensible of Claggart's presence, and saw the doffed cap held in deferential expectancy. Here be it said that Captain VereVere's personal knowledge of this petty-officer had only begun at the time of the ship's last sailing from home, Claggart then for the first, in transfer from a ship detained for repairs, supplying on board the Bellipotent the place of a previous Master-at-arms disabled and ashore. No sooner did the Commander observe who it was that now deferentially stood awaiting his notice, than a peculiar expression came over him. It was not unlike that which uncontrolablyuncontrollably will flit across the countenance of one at unawares encouteringencountering a person who though known to him indeed has hardly been long enough known for thorough knowledge, but something in whose aspect nevertheless now for the first provokes a vaguely repellantrepellentrepellent] HM's original misspelling is "repellant," but that variant is not found in OED, and MEL emends to the standard spelling. NN preserves HM's original. distaste. But coming to a stand, and resuming much of his wonted official manner, save that a sort of impatience lurked in the intonation of the opening word, he said "Well? what is it, Master-at-Arms?" With the air of a subordinate grieved at the necessity of being a messenger of ill tidings, and while conscientiously determined to be frank, yet equally resolved upon shunning overstatement, Claggart at this invitation or rather summons to disburthen, spoke up. What he said, conveyed in the language of no uneducated man, was to the effect following if not altogether in these words, namely, that during the chacechace] HM consistently spells "chase" as "chace," including his spelling of "Jack Chace" in his Dedication. NN emends to "Jack Chase" there, and preserves "chace" for the noun "chase" here. MEL retains the "Chace / chace" spellings. and preparations for the possible encounter he had seen enough to convince him that at least one sailor aboard,aboardaboard] Orignally, HM had included the appositive "not a volunteer," after "aboard," but in deleting it, he neglected to strike out the comma. MEL removes the remnant comma. was a dangerous character in a ship mustering some who not only had taken a guilty part in the late serious troubles, but others also who, like the man in question, had entered His Magesty'sMajesty's service inderunder another form than enlistment. At this point Captain Vere with some impatience interrupted him: "Be direct, man; say impressed men." Claggart made a gesture of subservience, and proceeded. Wherof Quitequite latelyWherof quite lately] In pencil, HM inscribed "Wherof" in the top margin and directly above "lately." The word suggests at least two revision scenarios. 1) HM might have intended the word as a general transition to open his sentence. 2) Or, "Wherof" might be a false start on a new sentence that HM had thought he might squeeze into the top margin but had abandoned, thinking he did not have enough space. In this scenario, the content of the unaccomplished, false-start sentence is dramatized in Vere's sharp response to Claggart's euphemism for "mutiny" in the dialog inscribed on the preceding leaf (197). That is, HM's initial but unfulfilled revision intention might have been to write something like "Whereof Vere responded sharply, etc." Instead, HM would have dropped that initiative, composed Vere's dialog instead, but neglected to erase "Wherof." HS and NN emend by deleting "Wherof" altogether. In editing this uncompleted revision, MEL retains the misspelled word at his position in the sentence to represent the second scenario; MEL also de-capitalizes "Quite" to accommodate the possibility of the first scenario. he (Claggart) had begun to suspect that on the gun-decks some sort of movement prompted by the sailor in question was covertly going on, but he had not thought himself warranted in reporting the suspicion so long as it remained indistinct. But from what he had that afternoon observed in the man referred to (no comma in MS)to,to,] MEL adds a comma to indicate the end of the introductory clause. the suspicion of something clandestine going on had advanced to a point less removed from certainty. He deeply felt, he added, the serious responsibility assumed in making a report involving such possible consequences to the individual mainly concerned, besides tending to augment those natural anxieties which every naval commander must feel in view of extraordinary outbreaks so recent as those which, he sorrowfully said it, it needed not to name. Now at the first broaching of the matter Captain Vere taken by surprise could not wholly dissemble his disquietude. But as Claggart went on, the former's aspect changed into restiveness under something in a witness' / the testifier'sthe testifier'sthe testifier's] In MS, HM's wife ESM has inserted in pencil "a witness'" above "the testifier's." Because she did not also delete the latter, the revision is uncompleted and oscillating. The intended meaning of "a witness'" is not entirely clear, and HM might have had in mind a further revision to his sentence. Because it is the more coherent option, MEL retains "the testifier's," as do HS and NN. manner in giving his testimony. However, he refrained from interrupting him. And Claggart, continuing, concluded with this: "God (no quote in MS)God forbid, Your honor, that the Bellipotent's should be the experience of the—" "Never mind that!" here peremptoralyperemptorily broke in the superior, his face altering with anger, instinctivlyinstinctively divining the ship that the other was about to name, one in which the Nore Mutiny had assumed a singularly tragical character that for a time jeopardized the life of its commander. Under the circumstances he was indignant at the purposed allusion. When the commissioned officers themselves were on all occasions very heedful how they referred to the recent events (not present in MS)inin] In revising, Melville neglected to supply "in," which MEL adds here. the Fleet for a petty-officer unnecessarily to allude to them in the presence of his Captain, this struck him as a most immodest presumption. Besides, to his quick sense of self-respect, it even looked under the circumstances something like an attempt to alarm him. Nor at first was he without some surprise that one who so far as he had hitherto come under his notice had shown considerable tact in his function should in this particular evince such lack of it. But these thoughts and kindred dubious ones flitting across his mind were suddenly replaced by an intuitional surmise which though as yet obscure in form served practically to affect his reception of the ill-tidings. Certain it is, that long versed in everything pertaining to the complicated gun-deck life, which like every other form of life, has its secret mines and dubious side, the side popularly disclaimed, Captain Vere did not permit himself to be unduly disturbed by the general tenor of his subordinate's report. Furthermore, Ififif] In adding "Furthermore," to the beginning of this sentence, Melville neglected to de-capitalize "If," which MEL does here. in view of recent events prompt action should be taken at the first palpable sign of recurring insubordination, for all that, not judicious would it be, he thought, to keep the idea of lingering disaffection alive by undue forwardness in crediting an informer even if his own subordinate and charged among other things with police surveilancesurveillance of the crew (no period in MS)crew. This feeling would not perhaps have so prevailed with him were it not that upon a prior occasion the patriotic zeal officially evinced by Claggart had somewhat irritated him as appearing rather supersenseablesupersensible and strained. Furthermore, something even in the official's self-possessed and somewhat ostentatious manner in making his specifications strangely reminded him of a bandsman, a perjured / perjurousperjurousperjurous] Below the original, ink-inscribed "perjured witness," HM inserted "perjurous" in pencil, but did not complete the revision by deleting "perjured," resulting in oscillating word options. Since "perjurous" more precisely addresses the condition of a lying witness, and since "perjured" refers to a witness who is lied about, MEL emends to the more coherent "perjurous," as do HS and NN. witness in a capital case before a court-martial ashore of which when a lieutenant he Captain Verehe Captain Vere] HM inserted "Captain Vere" after "he." HS emends to "he (Captain Vere)"; NN emends to "Captain Vere" (dropping "he"). MEL does not emend. had been a member. Now Thethe peremptory check given to Claggart in the matter of the arrested allusion was quickly followed up by this: "You say that there is at least one dangerous man aboard. Name him." "William Budd. A foretopman, your honor—" "William Budd[quote] (no comma in MS)Budd," repeated Captain Vere with unfeigned astonishment; "and mean you the man that Lieutenant RatcliffRatcliffe took from the merchantman not very long ago—the young fellow who seems to be so popular with the men—Billy, the Handsome Sailor, as they call him? (no quote in MS)him?" "The same, Your honor; but for all his youth and good looks, a deep one. Not for nothing does he insinuate himself into the good will of his shipmates, since at the least they will at a pinch all hands will a good wordthey will at a pinch, all hands will, say a good wordthey will at a pinch, all hands will, say a good word] Originally, Melville wrote in ink "they will at a pinch say a good word." In pencil, he then revised by deleting "say" and inserting "all hands will"—a kind of emphatic interjection on Claggart's part—without any punctuation and without re-inserting "say." NN emends with "they will at a pinch say—all hands will—a good word." MEL emends by surrounding "all hands will" with commas (not dashes) and adds "say" after it. for him, and all hazards. Did Lieutenant Ratcliffe happen to tell your honor of that adroit fling of Budd's, jumping up in the cutter's bow under the merchantman's stern when he was being taken off? It is even masqued by that sort of good humored air that at heart he resents his impressment. You have but noted his fair cheek. A man-trap may be under the ruddy-tipped daisies.A man-trap may be under the ruddy-tipped daisies.] HM labored over Claggart's false, pernicious image of Billy's putative duplicity. Originally, on leaf 203 and in ink, he wrote "There is a pitfall under his ruddy clover." (Click on thumbnail to see image 493.2 of that leaf.) And this version stayed with him as he continued to inscribe the rest of his chapter in ink, including leaf 211, where two paragraphs later, he has Vere imperfectly recall Claggart's pitfall/clover image. (See leaf image 505.) In this later paragraph, Vere partially quotes Claggart's words "pitfal under the clover." However, in a later stage of composition and revising in pencil, HM returned to the first iteration of the image on leaf 211 and changed Claggart's derogation of Billy to "A man-trap may be under the ruddy-tipped daisies." That is, he revised pitfall to man-trap and ruddy clover to ruddy-tipped daisies. But, in having revised here, HM neglected to update Vere's later, clover-quotation of Claggart to match the new daisy-imagery. Thus, this uncompleted revision results in oscillating images. HS and NN emend the second, "clover" iteration to conform to the revised "daisy" image. However, because HM might have continued to revise either or both versions, MEL does not emend at either site, noting instead the discrepancies here. See also "pitfal under the clover" below. Now the Handsome Sailor as a signal figure among the crew had naturally enough attracted the Captain's attention from the first. Tho'Though in general not very demonstrative to his officers, he had congratulated Lieutenant RatclifeRatcliffe upon his good fortune in lighting on such a fine specimen of the genus homo, who in the nude might have posed for a statue of young Adam before the Fall. As to Billy's adieu to the ship Rights--of-Man (double hyphen in MS)Rights-of-Man, which the boarding lieutenant had indeed reported to him, but, in a deferential way more as a good story than aught else, Captain Vere, thothough mistakenly understanding it as a satiric sally, had but thought so much the better of the impressed man for it; as a military sailor, admiring the spirit that could take an arbitrary enlistment so merrily and sensibly. The foretopman's conduct, too, so far as it had fallen under the Captain's notice had confirmed the first happy augury, while the new recruit's qualities as a sailor-man seemed to be such that he had thought of recommending him to the executive officer for promotion to a place that would more frequently bring him under his own observation, namely, the captaincy of the mizzen-top, replacing there in the starboard watch a man not so young whom partly for that reason he deemed less fitted for the post. Be it parenthesized here that since the mizzen-top-men havinghaving] HM's sentence nests the "having"-dependent clause within a seemingly uncompleted "since"-dependent clause, and NN corrects the weak structure by eliminating the "having"-clause and emending "having" to "have." Another option would be to drop "that." Since the present structure is not so faulty as to confuse readers, MEL does not emend. not to handle such breadths of heavy canvas as the lower sails on the main-mast and fore-mast, a young man if of the right stuff not only seems best adapted to duty there, but in fact is generally selected for the captaincy of that top, and the company under him are light hands and often but striplings. In sum, Captain Vere had from the beginning deemed Billy Budd to be what in the naval parlance of the time was called a "King's bargainbargain,"] MEL supplies the necessary comma to set off the following clause. that is to say, for His BrittanicBritannic Majesty's navy a capital investment at small outlay or none at all. After a brief pause during which the reminiscences abovementioned passed vividly through his mind and he weighed the import of Claggart's last suggestion conveyed in the phrase "pitfal under the clover,""pitfal under the clover,"] Vere is recalling Claggart's earlier image of Billy as putatively duplicitous, originally worded as "There is a pitfall under his ruddy clover." See above, as well as leaf image 493.2 (leaf 203). But in a later pencil stage of composition, Melville revised the original image and Claggart's pernicious wording to "A man-trap may be under the ruddy-tipped daisies." However, Melville neglected to update Vere's partial quotation of Claggart here to match the revised imagery there, thus creating an uncompleted and oscillating revision. (See "man-trap" above.) Attempting to correct Melville's error, the HS edition emends the wording here to an equally imprecise quotation: "mantrap under the daisies." The NN version follows suit but retains Melville's hyphenated "man-trap." Because Melville might have continued to revise his complicated image, MEL retains the discrepancy between the earlier revised image and the unrevised quotation of it here, and notes the textual problem in both sites. and the more he weighed it the less reliance he felt in the informer's good faith, suddenly he turned upon him and in a low voicein a low voice] HS emends by adding "demanded" to supply a verb to introduce the dialog, but HM frequently elides the verb in such cases. Here, "in a low voice" alone reads like a stage direction, and MEL does not emend, nor does NN.: "Do you come to me, master-at-arms with so foggy a tale? asAsAs] Originally, Melville wrote "But as," but when he deleted "But," he neglected to capitalize "as." MEL capitalizes the word. to Budd, cite me an act or spoken word of his confirmatory of what you in general charge against him. Stay," drawing nearer to him (no comma in MS)him, "heed what you speak. Just now, and in a case like this, there is a yard-arm-end for the false-witness." "Ah, your honor!" sighed Claggart mildly shaking his shapely head as in sad deprecation of such unmerited severity of tone. Then, bridling——erecting himself as in virtuous self-assertion, he circumstantially alleged certain words and acts, which collectivlycollectively, if credited, led to presumptions mortally inculpating Budd. And Forfor some of these averments, he added, substantiating proof was not far. With gray eyes impatient and distrustful essaying to fathom to the bottom Claggart's calm violet ones, Captain Vere again heard him out; then for the moment stood ruminating. The mood he evinced, Claggart—himself for the time liberated from the other's scrutiny—steadily regarded with a look difficult to render, —a look curious of the operation of his tactics, a look such as might have been that of the spokesman of the envious children of Jacob deceptivlydeceptively imposing upon the troubled patriarch the blood-dyed coat of young Joseph. Though something exceptional in the moral quality of Captain Vere made him, in earnest encounter with a fellow-man, a veritable touch-stone of that man's essential nature, yet now as to Claggart and what was really going on in him his feeling partook less of intuitional conviction than of strong suspicion clogged by strange dubieties. The perplexity he evinced proceeded less from aught touching the man informed against—as Claggart doutlessdoubtless opined——than from considerations how best to act in regard to the informer. At first indeed he was naturally for summoning that substantiation of his allegations which Claggart said was at hand. But such a proceeding would result in the matter at once getting abroad, which in the present stage of it, he thought, might undesirably affect the ship's company. If Claggart was a false witness,—that closed the affair. And therefore before trying the accusation, he would first practically test the accuser; and he thought this could be done in a quiet undemonstrative way. The measure he determined upon involved a shifting of the scene, a transfer to a place less exposed to observation than the broad quarter-deck. For Althoughalthough the few gun-room officers there at the time had, in due observance of naval etiquette, withdrawn to leeward the moment Captain Vere had begun his promenade on the deck's weather-side; and tho'though during the colloquy with Claggart they of course ventured not to diminish the distance; and though throughout the interview Captain Vere's voice was far from high, and Claggart's silvery and low; and the wind in the cordage and the wash of the sea helped the more to put them beyond ear-shot; nevertheless, the interview's continuance already had attracted observation from some topmantopmentopmen] Melville originally inscribed "topman" and may have intended the singular even after he inserted in ink as he inscribed the word "some," which can mean either singular or plural. But the context suggests a plurality of sailors at different stations, and MEL emends to "topmen." aloft and other sailors in the waist or further forward. Having determined upon his measures, Captain Vere forthwith took action. Abruptly turning to Claggart he asked (no comma in MS)asked, "Master-at-arms, is it now Budd's watch aloft?" "No, your honor." Whereupon, "Mr. Wilkes!" summoning the nearest midshipman, "tell Albert to come to me." Albert was the Captainthe Captain'sthe Captain's] In revising "his" to "the Captain," Melville neglected to include "'s," which MEL supplies here. hammock-boy, a sort of sea-valet in whose discretion and fidelity his master had much confidence. The lad appeared. "You know Budd the foretopman?" "I do, Sir[quote] (no period in MS)Sir." "Go find him. It is his watch off. Manage to tell him out of ear-shot that he is wanted aft. Contrive it that he speaks to nobody. Keep him in talk. yourself.talk yourself.talk yourself.] Melville added "yourself." in ink directly after "talk." without deleting the period after "talk." Later, he deleted "yourself." but then restored it. MEL removes the double period that results from the uncompleted revision. And not till you get well aft here, not till then let him know that the place where he is wanted is my cabin. You understand, Albert: Go.—Master-at-Arms (no comma in MS)Master-at-Arms,Master-at-Arms,] MEL supplies the necessary vocative comma to set off Vere's addressee. show yourself on the decks below, and when you think it time for Albert to be coming with his man, stand by quietly to follow the sailor in."