Upon returning to the English fleet in the Mediterranean, the Bellipotent encounters the French battleship Athée (the Atheist). In the engagement that ensues, Captain Vere, while spearheading an attempted boarding of the enemy ship, is hit and seriously wounded by a musketball. The senior lieutenant succeeds him in command and leads the crew in capturing the enemy ship. He successfully guides both ships to the port of Gibraltar, not far from the scene of the fight. Here, Captain Vere and the other wounded men are put ashore. Dying and under the influence of a soothing drug, the captain murmurs, "Billy Budd, Billy Budd." The words are inexplicable to the attendant, but significant to the senior officer of the marines, to whom they are repeated by the attendant. A few weeks after Billy's execution, a notice appears in an authorized weekly naval chronicle stating
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