Chapters

Chapter 9 Chapter 9 Life in the fore-top well agreed with Billy Budd. There, when not actually engaged on the yards yet higher aloft, the topmen, who as such had been picked out for youth and activity, constituedconstituted an aerial club lounging at ease against the smaller stun'sails rolled up into cushions, spinning yarns like the lazy gods, and frequently amused with what was going on in the busy world of the decks below. No wonder then that a young fellow of Billy's disposition was well content in that suchsuchsuch] Originally, in ink, Melville inscribed "that society." Later, in pencil, he inserted "such" above "that" but did not delete "that," creating an uncompleted and oscillating revision. MEL emends to "such." society. Giving no cause of offence,offenceoffence] Originally, HM included a comma after "offence," but when he inserted "to anybody," above, he neglected to remove the comma. MEL deletes the remnant comma. Though "offense" is the preferred American spelling, MEL retains HM's British version, as does NN. to anybody, he was always alert at a call. So in the merchant service it had been with him. But now such a punctiliousness in duty was shown that his topmates would sometimes good-naturedly laugh at him for it. This heightened alacrity had its cause, namely, the impression made upon him by the first formal gangway-punishment he had ever witnessed, which befell the day following his impressment. It had been incurred by by (double by in MS)by a little fellow, young, a novice (no comma in MS)novice,novice,] In a pencil revision, HM inserted "by a little fellow, young, and much a novice" just before "an after-guardsman," creating a series of descriptors. He then deleted "and much." The revision is uncompleted: Melville might have intended to add a comma after "novice," making "an after-guardsman" an apposition, or he might have intended to delete "an" to give "a novice after-guardsman." HS and NN opt for the latter; MEL the former. an after-guardsman absent from his assigned post when the ship was being put about; a derilictiondereliction resulting in a rather serious hitch to that manoeuvre, one demanding instantaneous promptitude in letting go and making fast. When Billy saw the culprit's naked back under the scourge (no comma in MS)scourge,scourge,] MEL adds a comma to set off the participial phrase that follows and to clarify that the misplaced "gridironed" modifier refers to "naked back" not "scourge." gridironed with red welts, and worse; when he marked the dire expression in the liberated man's face as with his woolen shirt flung over him, by the executioner he rushed forward from the spot, to bury himself in the crowd, Billy was horrified. He resolved that never through remissness would he make himself liable to such a visitation or do or omit aught that might merit even verbal reproof. What then was his surprise and concern when ultimatlyultimately he found himself getting into petty trouble occasionally about such matters as the stowage of his bag or something amiss in his hammock, matters under the police oversight of the ship's-corporals of the lower decks, and which brought down on him a vague threat from one of them. So heedful in all things as he was, how could this be? He could not understand it, and it more than vexed him. When he spoke to his young topmates about it they were either lightly incredulous or found something comical in his unconcealed anxiety. "Is it your bag, Billy?" said one 'well, (no period or capitalization in MS)one. "Well,one. "Well,] In manuscript, HM's punctuation of dialogue is erratic, and MEL emends, when necessary, with minimal intervention. Here, some sentence stopping is required after "one." NN adds a semicolon after "one," which requires no capitalization of "well." However, a semicolon use is a matter of style, and to avoid adding an stylistic marker to the textual record, MEL adopts the less intrusive emendation option taken in HS, by adding a period and capitalizing "Well." sew yourself up in it, bully boy, and then you'll be sure to know if anybody meddles with it." Now there was a veteran aboard who because his years began to disqualify him for more active work had been recently assigned duty as main-mast-man in his watch, looking to the gear belayed at the rail roundabout that great spar near the deck. At off-times Thethe foretopman had picked up some acquaintance with him, and now in his trouble it occurred to him that he might be the sort of person to go to for wise councilcounselcounsel] MEL emends HM's original "council" to its proper homonym, as do HS and NN.. He was an old Dansker long anglicisedanglicized in the service, of few words, many wrinkles and some honorable scars. His wizzenedwizzened] HM's archaic spelling is noticeable variant in OED, and MEL retains it, as does NN. face, time-tinted and weather-stained to the complexion of an antique parchment, was here and there peppered blue by the chance explosion of a gun-cartridge in action. He was an Agamemnon-man; Somesome two years prior to the time of this story having served under Nelson when but Sir Horatio in that ship immortal in naval memory, and which dismantled and in part broken up to her bare ribs is seen a grand skeleton in HaydenHayden] Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910); his etching "Breaking up of the 'Agamemnon'" appeared in 1870 (see HS 158). MEL retains HM's misspelling of Hayden's name; NN emends to "Haden."'s etching. As one of a boarding-party from the Agamemnon he had received a cut slantwise along one temple and cheek leaving a long pale scar like a streak of dawn's light falling athwart the dark visage. It was on account of that scar and the affair in which it was known that he had recievedreceived it, as well as from his blue-peppered complexion that the Dansker went among the Indomitable's crew by the name of "Board-her-in--the smoke (double hyphen / no hyphen in MS)Board-her-in-the-smoke." Now the first time that his small weazel-eyesweazel-eyes] In this case, HM's inscription clearly uses a "z," and HS and NN emend to "weasel." But since numerous variations of "weasel" (with and without "z") are recorded in the OED, MEL does not change HM's spelling. happened to light on Billy Budd, a certain grim internal merriment set all his ancient wrinkles into antic play. Was it that his eccentric unsentimental old sapience (no comma in MS)sapience,sapience,] MEL adds a comma here and after "kind" to set off HM's qualifying phrase and to clarify reading. primitive in its kind (no comma in MS)kind, saw or thought it saw something which in contrast with the war-ship's environment looked oddly incongruous in the handsome sailor? But after slyly studying him at intervals, the old Merlin's equivocal merriment was modified; Forfor now Whenwhen the twain would meet, it would start in his face a quizzing sort of look, but it would be but momentary and sometimes replaced by an expression of speculative query as to what might eventually befall a nature like that, dropped into a world not without some man-traps and against whose subtleties simple courage lacking experience and address and without any touch of defensive ugliness, is of little avail; and where such innocenseinnocence as man is capable of does yet in a moral emergency not always sharpen the faculties or enlighten the will. However it was (no comma in MS)was,was,] MEL adds a necessary comma here to signal the end of HM's however-clause, as do HS and NN. the Dansker in his ascetic way rather took to Billy. Nor was this only because of a certain philosophic interest in such a character. There was another cause. While the old man's eccentricities, sometimes bordering on the ursine, repelled the juniors, Billy, undeterred thereby, would make advances, revering him as a salt hero,revering him as a salt hero] Melville inscribed this participial phase in a half-bubble at the top margin, but provided no clear indication of where the phrase is to be inserted. However, what may be a half-caret insertion device appears in pencil directly after the comma following "advances." MEL places the phrase at this point and adds the necessary comma after "hero." HS and NN place the phrase after "undeterred thereby." never passing the old Agammenon-man without a salutation marked by that respect which is seldom lost on the aged however crabbed at times or whatever their station in life. There was a vienvein of dry humor, or what not, in the mast-man; and, weatherwhetherwhether] MEL emends HM's original "weather" to its proper homonym, as do HS and NN. in freak of patriarchal irony touching Billy's youth and athletic frame, or for some other and more recondite reason, from the first in addressing him he always substituted Baby for Billy. The Dansker in fact being the originator of the knicknameknickname] HM's inscription of this incomplete sentence appears as a rough draft in pencil on a fragment of paper clipped to the rest of the MS leaf. MEL does not attempt to emend the faulty sentence structure. HM also neglected to resolve his final wording: he inscribed "name," then added "knick" to it, then deleted both, then inscribed "prefix" and deleted that as well. HS combines the sentence fragment to the end of the previous sentence and adds the word "name." NN also adds "name," but retains the sentence fragment. MEL retains the fragment and adds "knickname." by which the foretopman eventually became known aboardship. Well then, in his mysterious little difficulty going in quest of the wrinkled one, Billy found him off duty in a dog-watch ruminating by himself seated on a shot-box of the upper gun-deck now and then surveying with a somewhat cynical regard certain of the more swaggering promenaders there. Billy recounted his trouble, again wondering how it all happened. The salt seer attentively listened, accompanying the foretopman's recital with queer twitchings of his wrinkles and problematical little sparkles of his small ferret eyes. Making an end of his story, the foretopman asked, "And now, Dansker, do tell me what you think of it." The old man, shoving up the front of his tarpaulin and deliberatlydeliberately rubbing the long slant scar at the point where it entered the thin hair, laconically said, "Baby Budd, Jemmy LegsJemmy Legs] Both "Jemmy Legs" and "Jimmy Legs" are seafaring nicknames for the master-at-arms of a ship. HM inscribes both. HS regularizes his usage to "Jemmy Legs." MEL and NN do not. At his site, Melville originally wrote "Jimmy Legs" in ink, then in pencil modified the "i" to an "e." " (meaning the master-at-arms) "is down on you[quote] (no period in MS)you." "Jimmy Legs!" ejaculated Billy (no comma in MS)Billy, his welkin eyes expanding; "what for? Why he calls me the sweet and pleasant young fellow, they tell me." "Does he so?" grinned the grizzled one; then saidsaid, Ay Baby, lad 'A sweet voice (misplaced quote and comma in MS)"Ay Baby lad, a sweet voice has Jimmy Legs' (no period in MS)Jimmy Legs." "No, not always. But to me he has. I seldom pass him but there comes a pleasant word." "And that's because he's down upon you, Baby Budd." Such reiteration along with the manner of it, incomprehensible to a novice, disturbed Billy almost as much as the mystery for which he had sought explanation. Something less unpleasingly oracular he tried to extract; but the old sea-Chiron thinking perhaps that for the nonce he had sufficiently instructed his young Achilles, pursed his lips, gathered all his wrinkles together and would commit himself to nothing further. Years, and those experiences which befall certain shrewder men subordinated life-long to the will of superiors, all this had developed in the Dansker the pithy guarded cynicism that was his leading characteristic.