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<- Previous | First | Next -> Digital Library - - Billy Budd by Herman Melville

reproach at the sailor. The Shipmaster was one of those worthy
mortals found in every vocation, even the humbler ones-the sort of
person whom everybody agrees in calling “a respectable man.”
And-nor so strange to report as it may appear to be-though a
ploughman of the troubled waters, life-long contending with the
intractable elements, there was nothing this honest soul at heart
loved better than simple peace and quiet. For the rest, he was fifty
or thereabouts, a little inclined to corpulence, a prepossessing face,
unwhiskered, and of an agreeable color-a rather full face,
humanely intelligent in expression. On a fair day with a fair wind
and all going well, a certain musical chime in his voice seemed to
be the veritable unobstructed outcome of the innermost man. He
had much prudence, much conscientiousness, and there were
occasions when these virtues were the cause of overmuch
disquietude in him. On a passage, so long as his craft was in any
proximity to land, no sleep for Captain Graveling. He took to heart
those serious responsibilities not so heavily borne by some

Now while Billy Budd was down in the forecastle getting his kit
together, the Indomitable’s Lieutenant, burly and bluff, nowise
disconcerted by Captain Graveling’s omitting to proffer the
customary hospitalities on an occasion so unwelcome to him, an
omission simply caused by preoccupation of thought,
invited himself into the cabin, and also to a flask from the spirit-
locker, a receptacle which his experienced eye instantly discovered.
In fact he was one of those sea-dogs in whom all the hardship and
peril of naval life in the great prolonged wars of his time never
impaired the natural instinct for sensuous enjoyment. His duty he
always faithfully did; but duty is sometimes a dry obligation, and
he was for irrigating its aridity, whensoever possible, with a
fertilizing decoction of strong waters. For the cabin’s proprietor
there was nothing left but to play the part of the enforced host with
whatever grace and alacrity were practicable. As necessary
adjuncts to the flask, he silently placed tumbler and water-jug
before the irrepressible guest. But excusing himself from partaking
just then, he dismally watched the unembarrassed officer
deliberately diluting his grog a little, then tossing it off in three
swallows, pushing the empty tumbler away, yet not so far as to be
beyond easy reach, at the same time settling himself in his seat and
smacking his lips with high satisfaction, looking straight at the

These proceedings over, the Master broke the silence; and there
lurked a rueful reproach in the tone of his voice: “Lieutenant, you
<- Previous | First | Next -> Digital Library - - Billy Budd by Herman Melville

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