Billy Budd Chapters 8 & 9
The master-at-arms of the Bellipotent is John Claggart. Before the days of gunpowder, the master instructed men in the art of swords and sabers. Now he has become a sort of military policeman. Claggart is thirty-five and tall, looking too noble to do hard work. He has curly hair and an amber-hued complexion. Rumor has it that he is a criminal hiding from British royal authorities. At the time, police were liable to take well-bodied convicts and put them aboard a departing ship. Debtors also found the navy to be a safe haven. Often a ship's crew would be filled out by a release from the local prison. Talk about Claggart, however, may be dismissed because the master-at-arms is never liked. He is much like the modern day military police. No one trusts him, especially since he is a new officer on the Bellipotent. Claggart entered the navy late in life and even though he started in the lower ranks, he rose quickly. He commands the corporals, they do his bidding. Claggart is very interested in gaining rank.
Billy likes life in the foretop where they behave like an aerial lounging club. He sees a man severely whipped for not being at his post and is terrified. He is very careful not to make mistakes, but gets threatened for minor infractions like putting his bag away in the wrong place. There is an older veteran called the Dansker who sailed on Nelson's ship, Agamemnon. When he first saw Billy, he took to him immediately. He is a mastman and he calls Billy, 'Baby.' The Grizzled man is telling him a story when Billy gets off duty. The Dansker comes up to him and tells him that the master-at-arms has taken a dislike to him. Billy exclaims: "Jemmy Legs!...What for? Why, he calls me 'the sweet and pleasant young fellow' they tell me." Chapter 9, pg. 453. He tells Billy that Claggart has a sweet voice and is always nice to him because he doesn't like him.