Such a figure is the Handsome Sailor of this story, bright-eyed Billy Budd, aged twenty-one, a foretopman of the British fleet whom Lieutenant Ratcliffe of the H.M.S. Bellipotent forcibly transfers from the English merchantman, the Rights-of-Man. Captain Graveling, of the latter ship, tells the impressment officer that before Billy came, the "forecastle was a rat-pit of quarrels." Listening with amusement, Lieutenant Ratcliffe cynically replies, "Blessed are the peacemakers, especially the fighting peacemakers!" As the cutter pushes off, Billy jumps up from the bow, waves his hat to his shipmates, and bids them and the ship a genial goodbye.Billy is just as well received on the H.M.S. Bellipotent as he was on the Rights-of-Man. He scarcely notes the change of circumstances. As he is being formally mustered into service, an officer inquires about his background and birthplace. Billy, whom the narrator describes as "little more than a sort of
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