Benito Cereno

IN THE year 1799, Captain Amasa Delano, of Duxbury, in  Massachusetts, commanding a large sealer and general trader, lay at anchor, with a valuable cargo, in the harbour of St. Maria—a small, desert, uninhabited island towards the southern extremity of the long coast of Chili. There he had touched for water.

On the second day, not long after dawn, while lying in his  berth, his mate came below, informing him that a strange sail was  coming into the bay. Ships were then not so plenty in those waters as now. He rose, dressed, and went on deck.

The morning was one peculiar to that coast. Everything was mute  and calm; everything grey. The sea, though undulated into long roods of swells, seemed fixed, and was sleeked at the surface like waved lead that has cooled and set in the smelter’s mould. The sky seemed a grey mantle. Flights of troubled grey fowl, kith and kin with flights of troubled grey vapours among which they were mixed, skimmed low and fitfully over the waters, as swallows over meadows before storms. Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come.

To Captain Delano’s surprise, the stranger, viewed through the  glass, showed no colours; though to do so upon entering a haven, however uninhabited in its shores, where but a single other ship might be lying, was the custom among peaceful seamen of all nations. Considering the lawlessness and loneliness of the spot, and the sort of stories, at that day, associated with those seas, Captain Delano’s surprise might have deepened into some uneasiness had he not been a person of a singularly undistrustful good nature, not liable, except on extraordinary and repeated excitement, and hardly then, to indulge in personal alarms, any way involving the imputation of malign evil in man. Whether, in view of what humanity is capable, such a trait implies, along with a benevolent heart, more than ordinary quickness and accuracy of intellectual perception, may be left to the wise to determine.

But whatever misgivings might have obtruded on first seeing the  stranger would almost, in any seaman’s mind, have been dissipated by observing that the ship, in navigating into the harbour, was drawing too near the land, for her own safety’s sake, owing to a sunken reef making out off her bow. This seemed to prove her a stranger, indeed, not only to the sealer, but the island; consequently, she could be no wonted freebooter on that ocean. With no small interest, Captain Delano continued to watch her—a proceeding not much facilitated by the vapours partly mantling the hull, through which the far matin light from her cabin streamed equivocally enough; much like the sun—by this time crescented on the rim of the horizon, and apparently,  in company with the strange ship, entering the harbour—which, wimpled by the same low, creeping clouds, showed not unlike a Lima intriguante’s one sinister eye peering across the Plaza from the Indian loop-hole of her dusk saya-y-manta.

It might have been but a deception of the vapours, but, the longer the stranger was watched, the more singular appeared her manoeuvres. Ere long it seemed hard to decide whether she meant to come in or no—what she wanted, or what she was about. The wind, which had  breezed up a little during the night, was now extremely light and  baffling, which the more increased the apparent uncertainty of her  movements.

Surmising, at last, that it might be a ship in distress, Captain  Delano ordered his whale-boat to be dropped, and, much to the wary  opposition of his mate, prepared to board her, and, at the least,  pilot her in. On the night previous, a fishing-party of the seamen had  gone a long distance to some detached rocks out of sight from the  sealer, and, an hour or two before day-break, had returned, having met  with no small success. Presuming that the stranger might have been  long off soundings, the good captain put several baskets of the  fish, for presents, into his boat, and so pulled away. From her  continuing too near the sunken reef, deeming her in danger, calling to  his men, he made all haste to apprise those on board of their  situation. But, some time ere the boat came up, the wind, light though  it was, having shifted, had headed the vessel off, as well as partly  broken the vapours from about her.

Upon gaining a less remote view, the ship, when made signally  visible on the verge of the leaden-hued swells, with the shreds of fog  here and there raggedly furring her, appeared like a whitewashed  monastery after a thunder-storm, seen perched upon some dun cliff  among the Pyrenees. But it was no purely fanciful resemblance which  now, for a moment, almost led Captain Delano to think that nothing  less than a ship-load of monks was before him. Peering over the  bulwarks were what really seemed, in the hazy distance, throngs of  dark cowls; while, fitfully revealed through the open port-holes,  other dark moving figures were dimly descried, as of Black Friars  pacing the cloisters.

Upon a still nigher approach, this appearance was modified, and  the true character of the vessel was plain—a Spanish merchantman of  the first class; carrying Negro slaves, amongst other valuable  freight, from one colonial port to another. A very large, and, in  its time, a very fine vessel, such as in those days were at  intervals encountered along that main; sometimes superseded Acapulco  treasure-ships, or retired frigates of the Spanish king’s navy, which,  like superannuated Italian palaces, still, under a decline of masters,  preserved signs of former state.

As the whale-boat drew more and more nigh, the cause of the  peculiar pipe-clayed aspect of the stranger was seen in the slovenly  neglect pervading her. The spars, ropes, and great part of the  bulwarks looked woolly, from long unacquaintance with the scraper,  tar, and the brush. Her keel seemed laid, her ribs put together, and  she launched, from Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones.

In the present business in which she was engaged, the ship’s  general model and rig appeared to have undergone no material change  from their original warlike and Froissart pattern. However, no guns  were seen.

The tops were large, and were railed about with what had once been  octagonal net-work, all now in sad disrepair. These tops hung overhead  like three ruinous aviaries, in one of which was seen perched, on a  ratlin, a white noddy, a strange fowl, so called from its lethargic  somnambulistic character, being frequently caught by hand at sea.  Battered and mouldy, the castellated forecastle seemed some ancient  turret, long ago taken by assault, and then left to decay. Towards the  stern, two high-raised quarter galleries—the balustrades here and  there covered with dry, tindery sea-moss—opening out from the  unoccupied state-cabin, whose dead lights, for all the mild weather,  were hermetically closed and caulked—these tenantless balconies  hung over the sea as if it were the grand Venetian canal. But the  principal relic of faded grandeur was the ample oval of the  shield-like stern-piece, intricately carved with the arms of Castile  and Leon, medallioned about by groups of mythological or symbolical  devices; uppermost and central of which was a dark satyr in a mask,  holding his foot on the prostrate neck of a writhing figure,  likewise masked.

Whether the ship had a figure-head, or only a plain beak, was  not quite certain, owing to canvas wrapped about that part, either  to protect it while undergoing a refurbishing, or else decently to  hide its decay. Rudely painted or chalked, as in a sailor freak, along  the forward side of a sort of pedestal below the canvas, was the  sentence, “Seguid vuestro jefe” (follow your leader); while upon the  tarnished head-boards, near by, appeared, in stately capitals, once  gilt, the ship’s name, “SAN DOMINICK,” each letter streakingly  corroded with tricklings of copper-spike rust; while, like mourning  weeds, dark festoons of sea-grass slimily swept to and fro over the  name, with every hearse-like roll of the hull.

As at last the boat was hooked from the bow along toward the  gangway amidship, its keel, while yet some inches separated from the  hull, harshly grated as on a sunken coral reef. It proved a huge bunch  of conglobated barnacles adhering below the water to the side like a  wen; a token of baffling airs and long calms passed somewhere in those  seas.

Climbing the side, the visitor was at once surrounded by a  clamorous throng of whites and blacks, but the latter outnumbering the  former more than could have been expected, Negro transportation-ship  as the stranger in port was. But, in one language, and as with one  voice, all poured out a common tale of suffering; in which the  Negresses, of whom there were not a few, exceeded the others in  their dolorous vehemence. The scurvy, together with a fever, had swept  off a great part of their number, more especially the Spaniards. Off  Cape Horn, they had narrowly escaped shipwreck; then, for days  together, they had lain tranced without wind; their provisions were  low; their water next to none; their lips that moment were baked.

While Captain Delano was thus made the mark of all eager  tongues, his one eager glance took in all the faces, with every  other object about him.

Always upon first boarding a large and populous ship at sea,  especially a foreign one, with a nondescript crew such as Lascars or  Manilla men, the impression varies in a peculiar way from that  produced by first entering a strange house with strange inmates in a  strange land. Both house and ship, the one by its walls and blinds,  the other by its high bulwarks like ramparts, hoard from view their  interiors till the last moment; but in the case of the ship there is  this addition: that the living spectacle it contains, upon its  sudden and complete disclosure, has, in contrast with the blank  ocean which zones it, something of the effect of enchantment. The ship  seems unreal; these strange costumes, gestures, and faces, but a  shadowy tableau just emerged from the deep, which directly must  receive back what it gave.

Perhaps it was some such influence as above is attempted to be  described which, in Captain Delano’s mind, heightened whatever, upon a  staid scrutiny, might have seemed unusual; especially the  conspicuous figures of four elderly grizzled Negroes, their heads like  black, doddered willow tops, who, in venerable contrast to the  tumult below them, were couched sphynx-like, one on the starboard  cat-head, another on the larboard, and the remaining pair face to face  on the opposite bulwarks above the main-chains. They each had bits  of unstranded old junk in their hands, and, with a sort of stoical  self-content, were picking the junk into oakum, a small heap of  which lay by their sides. They accompanied the task with a continuous,  low, monotonous chant; droning and drooling away like so many  grey-headed bag-pipers playing a funeral march.

The quarter-deck rose into an ample elevated poop, upon the  forward verge of which, lifted, like the oakum-pickers, some eight  feet above the general throng, sat along in a row, separated by  regular spaces, the cross-legged figures of six other blacks; each  with a rusty hatchet in his hand, which, with a bit of brick and a  rag, he was engaged like a scullion in scouring; while between each  two was a small stack of hatchets, their rusted edges turned forward  awaiting a like operation. Though occasionally the four  oakum-pickers would briefly address some person or persons in the  crowd below, yet the six hatchet-polishers neither spoke to others,  nor breathed a whisper among themselves, but sat intent upon their  task, except at intervals, when, with the peculiar love in Negroes  of uniting industry with pastime, two-and-two they sideways clashed  their hatchets together, like cymbals, with a barbarous din. All  six, unlike the generality, had the raw aspect of unsophisticated  Africans.

But the first comprehensive glance which took in those ten  figures, with scores less conspicuous, rested but an instant upon  them, as, impatient of the hubbub of voices, the visitor turned in  quest of whomsoever it might be that commanded the ship.

But as if not unwilling to let nature make known her own case  among his suffering charge, or else in despair of restraining it for  the time, the Spanish captain, a gentlemanly, reserved-looking, and  rather young man to a stranger’s eye, dressed with singular  richness, but bearing plain traces of recent sleepless cares and  disquietudes, stood passively by, leaning against the main-mast, at  one moment casting a dreary, spiritless look upon his excited  people, at the next an unhappy glance toward his visitor. By his  side stood a black of small stature, in whose rude face, as  occasionally, like a shepherd’s dog, he mutely turned it up into the  Spaniard’s, sorrow and affection were equally blended.

Struggling through the throng, the American advanced to the  Spaniard, assuring him of his sympathies, and offering to render  whatever assistance might be in his power. To which the Spaniard  returned, for the present, but grave and ceremonious  acknowledgments, his national formality dusked by the saturnine mood  of ill health.

But losing no time in mere compliments, Captain Delano returning  to the gangway, had his baskets of fish brought up; and as the wind  still continued light, so that some hours at least must elapse ere the  ship could be brought to the anchorage, he bade his men return to  the sealer, and fetch back as much water as the whaleboat could carry,  with whatever soft bread the steward might have, all the remaining  pumpkins on board, with a box of sugar, and a dozen of his private  bottles of cider.

Not many minutes after the boat’s pushing off, to the vexation  of all, the wind entirely died away, and the tide turning, began  drifting back the ship helplessly seaward. But trusting this would not  last, Captain Delano sought with good hopes to cheer up the strangers,  feeling no small satisfaction that, with persons in their condition he  could—thanks to his frequent voyages along the Spanish main—converse  with some freedom in their native tongue.

While left alone with them, he was not long in observing some  things tending to heighten his first impressions; but surprise was  lost in pity, both for the Spaniards and blacks, alike evidently  reduced from scarcity of water and provisions; while long-continued  suffering seemed to have brought out the less good-natured qualities  of the Negroes, besides, at the same time, impairing the Spaniard’s  authority over them. But, under the circumstances, precisely this  condition of things was to have been anticipated. In armies, navies,  cities, or families– in nature herself– nothing more relaxes good  order than misery. Still, Captain Delano was not without the idea,  that had Benito Cereno been a man of greater energy, misrule would  hardly have come to the present pass. But the debility, constitutional  or induced by the hardships, bodily and mental, of the Spanish  captain, was too obvious to be overlooked. A prey to settled  dejection, as if long mocked with hope he would not now indulge it,  even when it had ceased to be a mock, the prospect of that day or  evening at furthest, lying at anchor, with plenty of water for his  people, and a brother captain to counsel and befriend, seemed in no  perceptible degree to encourage him. His mind appeared unstrung, if  not still more seriously affected. Shut up in these oaken walls,  chained to one dull round of command, whose unconditionality cloyed  him, like some hypochondriac abbot he moved slowly about, at times  suddenly pausing, starting, or staring, biting his lip, biting his  finger-nail, flushing, paling, twitching his beard, with other  symptoms of an absent or moody mind. This distempered spirit was  lodged, as before hinted, in as distempered a frame. He was rather  tall, but seemed never to have been robust, and now with nervous  suffering was almost worn to a skeleton. A tendency to some  pulmonary complaint appeared to have been lately confirmed. His  voice was like that of one with lungs half gone, hoarsely  suppressed, a husky whisper. No wonder that, as in this state he  tottered about, his private servant apprehensively followed him.  Sometimes the Negro gave his master his arm, or took his  handkerchief out of his pocket for him; performing these and similar  offices with that affectionate zeal which transmutes into something  filial or fraternal acts in themselves but menial; and which has  gained for the Negro the repute of making the most pleasing  body-servant in the world; one, too, whom a master need be on no  stiffly superior terms with, but may treat with familiar trust; less a  servant than a devoted companion.

Marking the noisy indocility of the blacks in general, as well  as what seemed the sullen inefficiency of the whites, it was not  without humane satisfaction that Captain Delano witnessed the steady  good conduct of Babo.

But the good conduct of Babo, hardly more than the ill-behaviour  of others, seemed to withdraw the half-lunatic Don Benito from his  cloudy languor. Not that such precisely was the impression made by the  Spaniard on the mind of his visitor. The Spaniard’s individual  unrest was, for the present, but noted as a conspicuous feature in the  ship’s general affliction. Still, Captain Delano was not a little  concerned at what he could not help taking for the time to be Don  Benito’s unfriendly indifference toward himself. The Spaniard’s  manner, too, conveyed a sort of sour and gloomy disdain, which he  seemed at no pains to disguise. But this the American in charity  ascribed to the harassing effects of sickness, since, in former  instances, he had noted that there are peculiar natures on whom  prolonged physical suffering seems to cancel every social instinct  of kindness; as if forced to black bread themselves, they deemed it  but equity that each person coming nigh them should, indirectly, by  some slight or affront, be made to partake of their fare.

But ere long Captain Delano bethought him that, indulgent as he  was at the first, in judging the Spaniard, he might not, after all,  have exercised charity enough. At bottom it was Don Benito’s reserve  which displeased him; but the same reserve was shown toward all but  his personal attendant. Even the formal reports which, according to  sea-usage, were at stated times made to him by some petty underling  (either a white, mulatto or black), he hardly had patience enough to  listen to, without betraying contemptuous aversion. His manner upon  such occasions was, in its degree, not unlike that which might be  supposed to have been his imperial countryman’s, Charles V., just  previous to the anchoritish retirement of that monarch from the  throne.

This splenetic disrelish of his place was evinced in almost  every function pertaining to it. Proud as he was moody, he  condescended to no personal mandate. Whatever special orders were  necessary, their delivery was delegated to his body-servant, who in  turn transferred them to their ultimate destination, through  runners, alert Spanish boys or slave boys, like pages or pilot-fish  within easy call continually hovering round Don Benito. So that to  have beheld this undemonstrative invalid gliding about, apathetic  and mute, no landsman could have dreamed that in him was lodged a  dictatorship beyond which, while at sea, there was no earthly appeal.

Thus, the Spaniard, regarded in his reserve, seemed as the  involuntary victim of mental disorder. But, in fact, his reserve  might, in some degree, have proceeded from design. If so, then in  Don Benito was evinced the unhealthy climax of that icy though  conscientious policy, more or less adopted by all commanders of  large ships, which, except in signal emergencies, obliterates alike  the manifestation of sway with every trace of sociality;  transforming the man into a block, or rather into a loaded cannon,  which, until there is call for thunder, has nothing to say.

Viewing him in this light, it seemed but a natural token of the  perverse habit induced by a long course of such hard self-restraint,  that, notwithstanding the present condition of his ship, the  Spaniard should still persist in a demeanour, which, however harmless–  or it may be, appropriate– in a well-appointed vessel, such as the San  Dominick might have been at the outset of the voyage, was anything but  judicious now. But the Spaniard perhaps thought that it was with  captains as with gods: reserve, under all events, must still be  their cue. But more probably this appearance of slumbering dominion  might have been but an attempted disguise to conscious imbecility– not  deep policy, but shallow device. But be all this as it might,  whether Don Benito’s manner was designed or not, the more Captain  Delano noted its pervading reserve, the less he felt uneasiness at any  particular manifestation of that reserve toward himself.

Neither were his thoughts taken up by the captain alone. Wonted to  the quiet orderliness of the sealer’s comfortable family of a crew,  the noisy confusion of the San Dominick’s suffering host repeatedly  challenged his eye. Some prominent breaches not only of discipline but  of decency were observed. These Captain Delano could not but  ascribe, in the main, to the absence of those subordinate  deck-officers to whom, along with higher duties, is entrusted what may  be styled the police department of a populous ship. True, the old  oakum-pickers appeared at times to act the part of monitorial  constables to their countrymen, the blacks; but though occasionally  succeeding in allaying trifling outbreaks now and then between man and  man, they could do little or nothing toward establishing general  quiet. The San Dominick was in the condition of a transatlantic  emigrant ship, among whose multitude of living freight are some  individuals, doubtless, as little troublesome as crates and bales; but  the friendly remonstrances of such with their ruder companions are  of not so much avail as the unfriendly arm of the mate. What the San  Dominick wanted was, what the emigrant ship has, stern superior  officers. But on these decks not so much as a fourth mate was to be  seen.

The visitor’s curiosity was roused to learn the particulars of  those mishaps which had brought about such absenteeism, with its  consequences; because, though deriving some inkling of the voyage from  the wails which at the first moment had greeted him, yet of the  details no clear understanding had been had. The best account would,  doubtless, be given by the captain. Yet at first the visitor was  loth to ask it, unwilling to provoke some distant rebuff. But plucking  up courage, he at last accosted Don Benito, renewing the expression of  his benevolent interest, adding, that did he (Captain Delano) but know  the particulars of the ship’s misfortunes, he would, perhaps, be  better able in the end to relieve them. Would Don Benito favour him  with the whole story?

Don Benito faltered; then, like some somnambulist suddenly  interfered with, vacantly stared at his visitor, and ended by  looking down on the deck. He maintained this posture so long, that  Captain Delano, almost equally disconcerted, and involuntarily  almost as rude, turned suddenly from him, walking forward to accost  one of the Spanish seamen for the desired information. But he had  hardly gone five paces, when with a sort of eagerness Don Benito  invited him back, regretting his momentary absence of mind, and  professing readiness to gratify him.

While most part of the story was being given, the two captains  stood on the after part of the main-deck, a privileged spot, no one  being near but the servant.

“It is now a hundred and ninety days,” began the Spaniard, in  his husky whisper, “that this ship, well officered and well manned,  with several cabin passengers– some fifty Spaniards in all– sailed  from Buenos Ayres bound to Lima, with a general cargo, Paraguay tea  and the like– and,” pointing forward, “that parcel of Negroes, now not  more than a hundred and fifty, as you see, but then numbering over  three hundred souls. Off Cape Horn we had heavy gales. In one  moment, by night, three of my best officers, with fifteen sailors,  were lost, with the main-yard; the spar snapping under them in the  slings, as they sought, with heavers, to beat down the icy sail. To  lighten the hull, the heavier sacks of mata were thrown into the  sea, with most of the water-pipes lashed on deck at the time. And this  last necessity it was, combined with the prolonged detentions  afterwards experienced, which eventually brought about our chief  causes of suffering. When-”

Here there was a sudden fainting attack of his cough, brought  on, no doubt, by his mental distress. His servant sustained him, and  drawing a cordial from his pocket placed it to his lips. He a little  revived. But unwilling to leave him unsupported while yet  imperfectly restored, the black with one arm still encircled his  master, at the same time keeping his eye fixed on his face, as if to  watch for the first sign of complete restoration, or relapse, as the  event might prove.

The Spaniard proceeded, but brokenly and obscurely, as one in a  dream.

-"Oh, my God! rather than pass through what I have, with joy I  would have hailed the most terrible gales; but-”

His cough returned and with increased violence; this subsiding,  with reddened lips and closed eyes he fell heavily against his  supporter.

“His mind wanders. He was thinking of the plague that followed the  gales,” plaintively sighed the servant; “my poor, poor master!”  wringing one hand, and with the other wiping the mouth. “But be  patient, Senor,” again turning to Captain Delano, “these fits do not  last long; master will soon be himself.”

Don Benito reviving, went on; but as this portion of the story was  very brokenly delivered, the substance only will here be set down.

It appeared that after the ship had been many days tossed in  storms off the Cape, the scurvy broke out, carrying off numbers of the  whites and blacks. When at last they had worked round into the  Pacific, their spars and sails were so damaged, and so inadequately  handled by the surviving mariners, most of whom were become  invalids, that, unable to lay her northerly course by the wind,  which was powerful, the unmanageable ship for successive days and  nights was blown northwestward, where the breeze suddenly deserted  her, in unknown waters, to sultry calms. The absence of the  water-pipes now proved as fatal to life as before their presence had  menaced it. Induced, or at least aggravated, by the more than scanty  allowance of water, a malignant fever followed the scurvy; with the  excessive heat of the lengthened calm, making such short work of it as  to sweep away, as by billows, whole families of the Africans, and a  yet larger number, proportionally, of the Spaniards, including, by a  luckless fatality, every officer on board. Consequently, in the  smart west winds eventually following the calm, the already rent sails  having to be simply dropped, not furled, at need, had been gradually  reduced to the beggar’s rags they were now. To procure substitutes for  his lost sailors, as well as supplies of water and sails, the  captain at the earliest opportunity had made for Baldivia, the  southermost civilized port of Chili and South America; but upon  nearing the coast the thick weather had prevented him from so much  as sighting that harbour. Since which period, almost without a crew,  and almost without canvas and almost without water, and at intervals  giving its added dead to the sea, the San Dominick had been  battle-dored about by contrary winds, inveigled by currents, or  grown weedy in calms. Like a man lost in woods, more than once she had  doubled upon her own track.

“But throughout these calamities,” huskily continued Don Benito,  painfully turning in the half embrace of his servant, “I have to thank  those Negroes you see, who, though to your inexperienced eyes  appearing unruly, have, indeed, conducted themselves with less of  restlessness than even their owner could have thought possible under  such circumstances.”

Here he again fell faintly back. Again his mind wandered: but he  rallied, and less obscurely proceeded.

“Yes, their owner was quite right in assuring me that no fetters  would be needed with his blacks; so that while, as is wont in this  transportation, those Negroes have always remained upon deck– not  thrust below, as in the Guineamen– they have, also, from the  beginning, been freely permitted to range within given bounds at their  pleasure.”

Once more the faintness returned– his mind roved– but, recovering,  he resumed:

“But it is Babo here to whom, under God, I owe not only my own  preservation, but likewise to him, chiefly, the merit is due, of  pacifying his more ignorant brethren, when at intervals tempted to  murmurings.”

“Ah, master,” sighed the black, bowing his face, “don’t speak of  me; Babo is nothing; what Babo has done was but duty.”

“Faithful fellow!” cried Captain Delano. “Don Benito, I envy you  such a friend; slave I cannot call him.”

As master and man stood before him, the black upholding the white,  Captain Delano could not but bethink him of the beauty of that  relationship which could present such a spectacle of fidelity on the  one hand and confidence on the other. The scene was heightened by  the contrast in dress, denoting their relative positions. The Spaniard  wore a loose Chili jacket of dark velvet; white small clothes and  stockings, with silver buckles at the knee and instep; a  high-crowned sombrero, of fine grass; a slender sword, silver mounted,  hung from a knot in his sash; the last being an almost invariable  adjunct, more for utility than ornament, of a South American  gentleman’s dress to this hour. Excepting when his occasional  nervous contortions brought about disarray, there was a certain  precision in his attire, curiously at variance with the unsightly  disorder around; especially in the belittered Ghetto, forward of the  main-mast, wholly occupied by the blacks.

The servant wore nothing but wide trousers, apparently, from their  coarseness and patches, made out of some old top-sail; they were  clean, and confined at the waist by a bit of unstranded rope, which,  with his composed, deprecatory air at times, made him look something  like a begging friar of St. Francis.

However unsuitable for the time and place, at least in the blunt  thinking American’s eyes, and however strangely surviving in the midst  of all his afflictions, the toilette of Don Benito might not, in  fashion at least, have gone beyond the style of the day among South  Americans of his class. Though on the present voyage sailing from  Buenos Ayres, he had avowed himself a native and resident of Chili,  whose inhabitants had not so generally adopted the plain coat and once  plebeian pantaloons; but, with a becoming modification, adhered to  their provincial costume, picturesque as any in the world. Still,  relatively to the pale history of the voyage, and his own pale face,  there seemed something so incongruous in the Spaniard’s apparel, as  almost to suggest the image of an invalid courtier tottering about  London streets in the time of the plague.

The portion of the narrative which, perhaps, most excited  interest, as well as some surprise, considering the latitudes in  question, was the long calms spoken of, and more particularly the  ship’s so long drifting about. Without communicating the opinion, of  course, the American could not but impute at least part of the  detentions both to clumsy seamanship and faulty navigation. Eyeing Don  Benito’s small, yellow hands, he easily inferred that the young  captain had not got into command at the hawse-hole but the  cabin-window, and if so, why wonder at incompetence, in youth,  sickness, and aristocracy united? Such was his democratic conclusion.

But drowning criticism in compassion, after a fresh repetition  of his sympathies, Captain Delano having heard out his story, not only  engaged, as in the first place, to see Don Benito and his people  supplied in their immediate bodily needs, but, also, now further  promised to assist him in procuring a large permanent supply of water,  as well as some sails and rigging; and, though it would involve no  small embarrassment to himself, yet he would spare three of his best  seamen for temporary deck officers; so that without delay the ship  might proceed to Concepcion, there fully to refit for Lima, her  destined port.

Such generosity was not without its effect, even upon the invalid.  His face lighted up; eager and hectic, he met the honest glance of his  visitor. With gratitude he seemed overcome.

“This excitement is bad for master,” whispered the servant, taking  his arm, and with soothing words gently drawing him aside.

When Don Benito returned, the American was pained to observe  that his hopefulness, like the sudden kindling in his cheek, was but  febrile and transient.

Ere long, with a joyless mien, looking up toward the poop, the  host invited his guest to accompany him there, for the benefit of what  little breath of wind might be stirring.

As during the telling of the story, Captain Delano had once or  twice started at the occasional cymballing of the hatchet-polishers,  wondering why such an interruption should be allowed, especially in  that part of the ship, and in the ears of an invalid; and, moreover,  as the hatchets had anything but an attractive look, and the  handlers of them still less so, it was, therefore, to tell the  truth, not without some lurking reluctance, or even shrinking, it  may be, that Captain Delano, with apparent complaisance, acquiesced in  his host’s invitation. The more so, since with an untimely caprice  of punctilio, rendered distressing by his cadaverous aspect, Don  Benito, with Castilian bows, solemnly insisted upon his guest’s  preceding him up the ladder leading to the elevation; where, one on  each side of the last step, sat four armorial supporters and sentries,  two of the ominous file. Gingerly enough stepped good Captain Delano  between them, and in the instant of leaving them behind, like one  running the gauntlet, he felt an apprehensive twitch in the calves  of his legs.

But when, facing about, he saw the whole file, like so many  organ-grinders, still stupidly intent on their work, unmindful of  everything beside, he could not but smile at his late fidgeting panic.

Presently, while standing with Don Benito, looking forward upon  the decks below, he was struck by one of those instances of  insubordination previously alluded to. Three black boys, with two  Spanish boys, were sitting together on the hatches, scraping a rude  wooden platter, in which some scanty mess had recently been cooked.  Suddenly, one of the black boys, enraged at a word dropped by one of  his white companions, seized a knife, and though called to forbear  by one of the oakum-pickers, struck the lad over the head,  inflicting a gash from which blood flowed.

In amazement, Captain Delano inquired what this meant. To which  the pale Benito dully muttered, that it was merely the sport of the  lad.

“Pretty serious sport, truly,” rejoined Captain Delano. “Had  such a thing happened on board the Bachelor’s Delight, instant  punishment would have followed.”

At these words the Spaniard turned upon the American one of his  sudden, staring, half-lunatic looks; then, relapsing into his  torpor, answered, “Doubtless, doubtless, Senor.”

Is it, thought Captain Delano, that this helpless man is one of  those paper captains I’ve known, who by policy wink at what by power  they cannot put down? I know no sadder sight than a commander who  has little of command but the name.

“I should think, Don Benito,” he now said, glancing toward the  oakum-picker who had sought to interfere with the boys, “that you  would find it advantageous to keep all your blacks employed,  especially the younger ones, no matter at what useless task, and no  matter what happens to the ship. Why, even with my little band, I find  such a course indispensable. I once kept a crew on my quarterdeck  thrumming mats for my cabin, when, for three days, I had given up my  ship– mats, men, and all– for a speedy loss, owing to the violence  of a gale in which we could do nothing but helplessly drive before  it.”

“Doubtless, doubtless,” muttered Don Benito.

“But,” continued Captain Delano, again glancing upon the  oakum-pickers and then at the hatchet-polishers, near by, “I see you  keep some at least of your host employed.”

“Yes,” was again the vacant response.

“Those old men there, shaking their pows from their pulpits,”  continued Captain Delano, pointing to the oakum-pickers, “seem to  act the part of old dominies to the rest, little heeded as their  admonitions are at times. Is this voluntary on their part, Don Benito,  or have you appointed them shepherds to your flock of black sheep?”

“What posts they fill, I appointed them,” rejoined the Spaniard in  an acrid tone, as if resenting some supposed satiric reflection.

“And these others, these Ashantee conjurors here,” continued  Captain Delano, rather uneasily eyeing the brandished steel of the  hatchet-polishers, where in spots it had been brought to a shine,  “this seems a curious business they are at, Don Benito?”

“In the gales we met,” answered the Spaniard, “what of our general  cargo was not thrown overboard was much damaged by the brine. Since  coming into calm weather, I have had several cases of knives and  hatchets daily brought up for overhauling and cleaning.”

“A prudent idea, Don Benito. You are part owner of ship and cargo,  I presume; but not of the slaves, perhaps?”

“I am owner of all you see,” impatiently returned Don Benito,  “except the main company of blacks, who belonged to my late friend,  Alexandro Aranda.”

As he mentioned this name, his air was heart-broken, his knees  shook; his servant supported him.

Thinking he divined the cause of such unusual emotion, to  confirm his surmise, Captain Delano, after a pause, said, “And may I  ask, Don Benito, whether– since awhile ago you spoke of some cabin  passengers– the friend, whose loss so afflicts you, at the outset of  the voyage accompanied his blacks?”


“But died of the fever?”

“Died of the fever.- Oh, could I but-”

Again quivering, the Spaniard paused.

“Pardon me,” said Captain Delano slowly, “but I think that, by a  sympathetic experience, I conjecture, Don Benito, what it is that  gives the keener edge to your grief. It was once my hard fortune to  lose at sea a dear friend, my own brother, then supercargo. Assured of  the welfare of his spirit, its departure I could have borne like a  man; but that honest eye, that honest hand– both of which had so often  met mine– and that warm heart; all, all– like scraps to the dogs– to  throw all to the sharks! It was then I vowed never to have for  fellow-voyager a man I loved, unless, unbeknown to him, I had provided  every requisite, in case of a fatality, for embalming his mortal  part for interment on shore. Were your friend’s remains now on board  this ship, Don Benito, not thus strangely would the mention of his  name affect you.”

“On board this ship?” echoed the Spaniard. Then, with horrified  gestures, as directed against some spectre, he unconsciously fell into  the ready arms of his attendant, who, with a silent appeal toward  Captain Delano, seemed beseeching him not again to broach a theme so  unspeakably distressing to his master.

This poor fellow now, thought the pained American, is the victim  of that sad superstition which associates goblins with the deserted  body of man, as ghosts with an abandoned house. How unlike are we  made! What to me, in like case, would have been a solemn satisfaction,  the bare suggestion, even, terrifies the Spaniard into this trance.  Poor Alexandro Aranda! what would you say could you see your friend—who, on former voyages, when you for months were left behind, has, I  dare say, often longed, and longed, for one peep at you—now  transported with terror at the least thought of having you anyway nigh  him.

At this moment, with a dreary graveyard toll, betokening a flaw,  the ship’s forecastle bell, smote by one of the grizzled  oakum-pickers, proclaimed ten o’clock through the leaden calm; when  Captain Delano’s attention was caught by the moving figure of a  gigantic black, emerging from the general crowd below, and slowly  advancing toward the elevated poop. An iron collar was about his neck,  from which depended a chain, thrice wound round his body; the  terminating links padlocked together at a broad band of iron, his  girdle.

“How like a mute Atufal moves,” murmured the servant.

The black mounted the steps of the poop, and, like a brave  prisoner, brought up to receive sentence, stood in unquailing muteness  before Don Benito, now recovered from his attack.

At the first glimpse of his approach, Don Benito had started, a  resentful shadow swept over his face; and, as with the sudden memory  of bootless rage, his white lips glued together.

This is some mulish mutineer, thought Captain Delano, surveying,  not without a mixture of admiration, the colossal form of the Negro.

“See, he waits your question, master,” said the servant.

Thus reminded, Don Benito, nervously averting his glance, as if  shunning, by anticipation, some rebellious response, in a disconcerted  voice, thus spoke:

“Atufal, will you ask my pardon now?”

The black was silent.

“Again, master,” murmured the servant, with bitter upbraiding  eyeing his countryman. “Again, master; he will bend to master yet.”

“Answer,” said Don Benito, still averting his glance, “say but the  one word pardon, and your chains shall be off.”

Upon this, the black, slowly raising both arms, let them  lifelessly fall, his links clanking, his head bowed; as much as to  say, “No, I am content.”

“Go,” said Don Benito, with inkept and unknown emotion.

Deliberately as he had come, the black obeyed.

“Excuse me, Don Benito,” said Captain Delano, “but this scene  surprises me; what means it, pray?”

“It means that that Negro alone, of all the band, has given me  peculiar cause of offence. I have put him in chains; I-”

Here he paused; his hand to his head, as if there were a  swimming there, or a sudden bewilderment of memory had come over  him; but meeting his servant’s kindly glance seemed reassured, and  proceeded:

“I could not scourge such a form. But I told him he must ask my  pardon. As yet he has not. At my command, every two hours he stands  before me.”

“And how long has this been?”

“Some sixty days.”

“And obedient in all else? And respectful?”


“Upon my conscience, then,” exclaimed Captain Delano, impulsively,  “he has a royal spirit in him, this fellow.”

“He may have some right to it,” bitterly returned Don Benito;  “he says he was king in his own land.”

“Yes,” said the servant, entering a word, “those slits in Atufal’s  ears once held wedges of gold; but poor Babo here, in his own land,  was only a poor slave; a black man’s slave was Babo, who now is the  white’s.”

Somewhat annoyed by these conversational familiarities, Captain  Delano turned curiously upon the attendant, then glanced inquiringly  at his master; but, as if long wonted to these little informalities,  neither master nor man seemed to understand him.

“What, pray, was Atufal’s offence, Don Benito?” asked Captain  Delano; “if it was not something very serious, take a fool’s advice,  and, in view of his general docility, as well as in some natural  respect for his spirit, remit his penalty.”

“No, no, master never will do that,” here murmured the servant  to himself, “proud Atufal must first ask master’s pardon. The slave  there carries the padlock, but master here carries the key.”

His attention thus directed, Captain Delano now noticed for the  first time that, suspended by a slender silken cord, from Don Benito’s  neck hung a key. At once, from the servant’s muttered syllables  divining the key’s purpose, he smiled and said: “So, Don Benito–  padlock and key– significant symbols, truly.”

Biting his lip, Don Benito faltered.

Though the remark of Captain Delano, a man of such native  simplicity as to be incapable of satire or irony, had been dropped  in playful allusion to the Spaniard’s singularly evidenced lordship  over the black; yet the hypochondriac seemed in some way to have taken  it as a malicious reflection upon his confessed inability thus far  to break down, at least, on a verbal summons, the entrenched will of  the slave. Deploring this supposed misconception, yet despairing of  correcting it, Captain Delano shifted the subject; but finding his  companion more than ever withdrawn, as if still slowly digesting the  lees of the presumed affront above-mentioned, by-and-by Captain Delano  likewise became less talkative, oppressed, against his own will, by  what seemed the secret vindictiveness of the morbidly sensitive  Spaniard. But the good sailor himself, of a quite contrary  disposition, refrained, on his part, alike from the appearance as from  the feeling of resentment, and if silent, was only so from contagion.

Presently the Spaniard, assisted by his servant, somewhat  discourteously crossed over from Captain Delano; a procedure which,  sensibly enough, might have been allowed to pass for idle caprice of  ill-humour, had not master and man, lingering round the corner of  the elevated skylight, begun whispering together in low voices. This  was unpleasing. And more: the moody air of the Spaniard, which at  times had not been without a sort of valetudinarian stateliness, now  seemed anything but dignified; while the menial familiarity of the  servant lost its original charm of simple-hearted attachment.

In his embarrassment, the visitor turned his face to the other  side of the ship. By so doing, his glance accidentally fell on a young  Spanish sailor, a coil of rope in his hand, just stepped from the deck  to the first round of the mizzen-rigging. Perhaps the man would not  have been particularly noticed, were it not that, during his ascent to  one of the yards, he, with a sort of covert intentness, kept his eye  fixed on Captain Delano, from whom, presently, it passed, as if by a  natural sequence, to the two whisperers.

His own attention thus redirected to that quarter, Captain  Delano gave a slight start. From something in Don Benito’s manner just  then, it seemed as if the visitor had, at least partly, been the  subject of the withdrawn consultation going on– a conjecture as little  agreeable to the guest as it was little flattering to the host.

The singular alternations of courtesy and ill-breeding in the  Spanish captain were unaccountable, except on one of two suppositions–  innocent lunacy, or wicked imposture.

But the first idea, though it might naturally have occurred to  an indifferent observer, and, in some respects, had not hitherto  been wholly a stranger to Captain Delano’s mind, yet, now that, in  an incipient way, he began to regard the stranger’s conduct  something in the light of an intentional affront, of course the idea  of lunacy was virtually vacated. But if not a lunatic, what then?  Under the circumstances, would a gentleman, nay, any honest boor,  act the part now acted by his host? The man was an impostor. Some  lowborn adventurer, masquerading as an oceanic grandee; yet so  ignorant of the first requisites of mere gentlemanhood as to be  betrayed into the present remarkable indecorum. That strange  ceremoniousness, too, at other times evinced, seemed not  uncharacteristic of one playing a part above his real level. Benito  Cereno– Don Benito Cereno– a sounding name. One, too, at that  period, not unknown, in the surname, to supercargoes and sea  captains trading along the Spanish Main, as belonging to one of the  most enterprising and extensive mercantile families in all those  provinces; several members of it having titles; a sort of Castilian  Rothschild, with a noble brother, or cousin, in every great trading  town of South America. The alleged Don Benito was in early manhood,  about twenty-nine or thirty. To assume a sort of roving cadetship in  the maritime affairs of such a house, what more likely scheme for a  young knave of talent and spirit? But the Spaniard was a pale invalid.  Never mind. For even to the degree of simulating mortal disease, the  craft of some tricksters had been known to attain. To think that,  under the aspect of infantile weakness, the most savage energies might  be couched– those velvets of the Spaniard but the velvet paw to his  fangs.

From no train of thought did these fancies come; not from  within, but from without; suddenly, too, and in one throng, like  hoar frost; yet as soon to vanish as the mild sun of Captain  Delano’s good-nature regained its meridian.

Glancing over once again toward Don Benito– whose side-face,  revealed above the skylight, was now turned toward him– Captain Delano  was struck by the profile, whose clearness of cut was refined by the  thinness incident to ill-health, as well as ennobled about the chin by  the beard. Away with suspicion. He was a true off-shoot of a true  hidalgo Cereno.

Relieved by these and other better thoughts, the visitor,  lightly humming a tune, now began indifferently pacing the poop, so as  not to betray to Don Benito that be had at all mistrusted  incivility, much less duplicity; for such mistrust would yet be proved  illusory, and by the event; though, for the present, the  circumstance which had provoked that distrust remained unexplained.  But when that little mystery should have been cleared up, Captain  Delano thought he might extremely regret it, did he allow Don Benito  to become aware that he had indulged in ungenerous surmises. In short,  to the Spaniard’s black-letter text, it was best, for a while, to  leave open margin.

Presently, his pale face twitching and overcast, the Spaniard,  still supported by his attendant, moved over toward his guest, when,  with even more than usual embarrassment, and a strange sort of  intriguing intonation in his husky whisper, the following conversation  began:

“Senor, may I ask how long you have lain at this isle?”

“Oh, but a day or two, Don Benito.”

“And from what port are you last?”


“And there, Senor, you exchanged your seal-skins for teas and  silks, I think you said?”

“Yes. Silks, mostly.”

“And the balance you took in specie, perhaps?”

Captain Delano, fidgeting a little, answered–

“Yes; some silver; not a very great deal, though.”

“Ah– well. May I ask how many men have you on board, Senor?”

Captain Delano slightly started, but answered:

“About five-and-twenty, all told.”

“And at present, Senor, all on board, I suppose?”

“All on board, Don Benito,” replied the captain now with  satisfaction.

“And will be to-night, Senor?”

At this last question, following so many pertinacious ones, for  the soul of him Captain Delano could not but look very earnestly at  the questioner, who, instead of meeting the glance, with every token  of craven discomposure dropped his eyes to the deck; presenting an  unworthy contrast to his servant, who, just then, was kneeling at  his feet adjusting a loose shoe-buckle; his disengaged face  meantime, with humble curiosity, turned openly up into his master’s  downcast one.

The Spaniard, still with a guilty shuffle, repeated his question:

“And– and will be to-night, Senor?”

“Yes, for aught I know,” returned Captain Delano,- “but nay,”  rallying himself into fearless truth, “some of them talked of going  off on another fishing party about midnight.”

“Your ships generally go– go more or less armed, I believe,  Senor?”

“Oh, a six-pounder or two, in case of emergency,” was the  intrepidly indifferent reply, “with a small stock of muskets,  sealing-spears, and cutlasses, you know.”

As he thus responded, Captain Delano again glanced at Don  Benito, but the latter’s eyes were averted; while abruptly and  awkwardly shifting the subject, he made some peevish allusion to the  calm, and then, without apology, once more, with his attendant,  withdrew to the opposite bulwarks, where the whispering was resumed.

At this moment, and ere Captain Delano could cast a cool thought  upon what had just passed, the young Spanish sailor before mentioned  was seen descending from the rigging. In act of stooping over to  spring inboard to the deck, his voluminous, unconfined frock, or  shirt, of coarse woollen, much spotted with tar, opened out far down  the chest, revealing a soiled under-garment of what seemed the  finest linen, edged, about the neck, with a narrow blue ribbon,  sadly faded and worn. At this moment the young sailor’s eye was  again fixed on the whisperers, and Captain Delano thought he  observed a lurking significance in it, as if silent signs of some  freemason sort had that instant been interchanged.

This once more impelled his own glance in the direction of Don  Benito, and, as before, he could not but infer that himself formed the  subject of the conference. He paused. The sound of the  hatchet-polishing fell on his ears. He cast another swift side-look at  the two. They had the air of conspirators. In connection with the late  questionings, and the incident of the young sailor, these things now  begat such return of involuntary suspicion, that the singular  guilelessness of the American could not endure it. Plucking up a gay  and humorous expression, he crossed over to the two rapidly, saying:  “Ha, Don Benito, your black here seems high in your trust; a sort of  privy-counsellor, in fact.”

Upon this, the servant looked up with a good-natured grin, but the  master started as from a venomous bite. It was a moment or two  before the Spaniard sufficiently recovered himself to reply; which  he did, at last, with cold constraint: “Yes, Senor, I have trust in  Babo.”

Here Babo, changing his previous grin of mere animal humour into  an intelligent smile, not ungratefully eyed his master.

Finding that the Spaniard now stood silent and reserved, as if  involuntarily, or purposely giving hint that his guest’s proximity was  inconvenient just then, Captain Delano, unwilling to appear uncivil  even to incivility itself, made some trivial remark and moved off;  again and again turning over in his mind the mysterious demeanour of  Don Benito Cereno.

He had descended from the poop, and, wrapped in thought, was  passing near a dark hatchway, leading down into the steerage, when,  perceiving motion there, he looked to see what moved. The same instant  there was a sparkle in the shadowy hatchway, and he saw one of the  Spanish sailors, prowling there, hurriedly placing his hand in the  bosom of his frock, as if hiding something. Before the man could  have been certain who it was that was passing, he slunk below out of  sight. But enough was seen of him to make it sure that he was the same  young sailor before noticed in the rigging.

What was that which so sparkled? thought Captain Delano. It was no  lamp– no match– no live coal. Could it have been a jewel? But how come  sailors with jewels?- or with silk-trimmed undershirts either? Has  he been robbing the trunks of the dead cabin passengers? But if so, he  would hardly wear one of the stolen articles on board ship here. Ah,  ah—if now that was, indeed, a secret sign I saw passing between  this suspicious fellow and his captain awhile since; if I could only  be certain that in my uneasiness my senses did not deceive me, then—

Here, passing from one suspicious thing to another, his mind  revolved the point of the strange questions put to him concerning  his ship.

By a curious coincidence, as each point was recalled, the black  wizards of Ashantee would strike up with their hatchets, as in ominous  comment on the white stranger’s thoughts. Pressed by such enigmas  and portents, it would have been almost against nature, had not,  even into the least distrustful heart, some ugly misgivings obtruded.

Observing the ship now helplessly fallen into a current, with  enchanted sails, drifting with increased rapidity seaward; and  noting that, from a lately intercepted projection of the land, the  sealer was hidden, the stout mariner began to quake at thoughts  which he barely durst confess to himself. Above all, he began to  feel a ghostly dread of Don Benito. And yet when he roused himself,  dilated his chest, felt himself strong on his legs, and coolly  considered it– what did all these phantoms amount to?

Had the Spaniard any sinister scheme, it must have reference not  so much to him (Captain Delano) as to his ship (the Bachelor’s  Delight). Hence the present drifting away of the one ship from the  other, instead of favouring any such possible scheme, was, for the  time at least, opposed to it. Clearly any suspicion, combining such  contradictions, must need be delusive. Beside, was it not absurd to  think of a vessel in distress– a vessel by sickness almost dismanned  of her crew– a vessel whose inmates were parched for water– was it not  a thousand times absurd that such a craft should, at present, be of  a piratical character; or her commander, either for himself or those  under him, cherish any desire but for speedy relief and refreshment?  But then, might not general distress, and thirst in particular, be  affected? And might not that same undiminished Spanish crew, alleged  to have perished off to a remnant, be at that very moment lurking in  the hold? On heart-broken pretence of entreating a cup of cold  water, fiends in human form had got into lonely dwellings, nor retired  until a dark deed had been done. And among the Malay pirates, it was  no unusual thing to lure ships after them into their treacherous  harbours, or entice boarders from a declared enemy at sea, by the  spectacle of thinly manned or vacant decks, beneath which prowled a  hundred spears with yellow arms ready to upthrust them through the  mats. Not that Captain Delano had entirely credited such things. He  had heard of them– and now, as stories, they recurred. The present  destination of the ship was the anchorage. There she would be near his  own vessel. Upon gaining that vicinity, might not the San Dominick,  like a slumbering volcano, suddenly let loose energies now hid?

He recalled the Spaniard’s manner while telling his story. There  was a gloomy hesitancy and subterfuge about it. It was just the manner  of one making up his tale for evil purposes, as he goes. But if that  story was not true, what was the truth? That the ship had unlawfully  come into the Spaniard’s possession? But in many of its details,  especially in reference to the more calamitous parts, such as the  fatalities among the seamen, the consequent prolonged beating about,  the past sufferings from obstinate calms, and still continued  suffering from thirst; in all these points, as well as others, Don  Benito’s story had been corroborated not only by the wailing  ejaculations of the indiscriminate multitude, white and black, but  likewise– what seemed impossible to be counterfeit– by the very  expression and play of every human feature, which Captain Delano  saw. If Don Benito’s story was throughout an invention, then every  soul on board, down to the youngest Negress, was his carefully drilled  recruit in the plot: an incredible inference. And yet, if there was  ground for mistrusting the Spanish captain’s veracity, that  inference was a legitimate one.

In short, scarce an uneasiness entered the honest sailor’s mind  but, by a subsequent spontaneous act of good sense, it was ejected. At  last he began to laugh at these forebodings; and laugh at the  strange ship for, in its aspect someway siding with them, as it  were; and laugh, too, at the odd-looking blacks, particularly those  old scissors-grinders, the Ashantees; and those bed-ridden old  knitting-women, the oakum-pickers; and, in a human way, he almost  began to laugh at the dark Spaniard himself, the central hobgoblin  of all.

For the rest, whatever in a serious way seemed enigmatical, was  now good-naturedly explained away by the thought that, for the most  part, the poor invalid scarcely knew what he was about; either sulking  in black vapours, or putting random questions without sense or object.  Evidently, for the present, the man was not fit to be entrusted with  the ship. On some benevolent plea withdrawing the command from him,  Captain Delano would yet have to send her to Concepcion in charge of  his second mate, a worthy person and good navigator– a plan which  would prove no wiser for the San Dominick than for Don Benito; for–  relieved from all anxiety, keeping wholly to his cabin– the sick  man, under the good nursing of his servant, would probably, by the end  of the passage, be in a measure restored to health and with that he  should also be restored to authority.

Such were the American’s thoughts. They were tranquillizing. There  was a difference between the idea of Don Benito’s darkly  preordaining Captain Delano’s fate, and Captain Delano’s lightly  arranging Don Benito’s. Nevertheless, it was not without something  of relief that the good seaman presently perceived his whale-boat in  the distance. Its absence had been prolonged by unexpected detention  at the sealer’s side, as well as its returning trip lengthened by  the continual recession of the goal.

The advancing speck was observed by the blacks. Their shouts  attracted the attention of Don Benito, who, with a return of courtesy,  approaching Captain Delano, expressed satisfaction at the coming of  some supplies, slight and temporary as they must necessarily prove.

Captain Delano responded; but while doing so, his attention was  drawn to something passing on the deck below: among the crowd climbing  the landward bulwarks, anxiously watching the coming boat, two blacks,  to all appearances accidentally incommoded by one of the sailors, flew  out against him with horrible curses, which the sailor someway  resenting, the two blacks dashed him to the deck and jumped upon  him, despite the earnest cries of the oakum-pickers.

“Don Benito,” said Captain Delano quickly, “do you see what is  going on there? Look!”

But, seized by his cough, the Spaniard staggered, with both  hands to his face, on the point of falling. Captain Delano would  have supported him, but the servant was more alert, who, with one hand  sustaining his master, with the other applied the cordial. Don Benito,  restored, the black withdrew his support, slipping aside a little, but  dutifully remaining within call of a whisper. Such discretion was here  evinced as quite wiped away, in the visitor’s eyes, any blemish of  impropriety which might have attached to the attendant, from the  indecorous conferences before mentioned; showing, too, that if the  servant were to blame, it might be more the master’s fault than his  own, since when left to himself he could conduct thus well.

His glance thus called away from the spectacle of disorder to  the more pleasing one before him, Captain Delano could not avoid again  congratulating Don Benito upon possessing such a servant, who,  though perhaps a little too forward now and then, must upon the  whole be invaluable to one in the invalid’s situation.

“Tell me, Don Benito,” he added, with a smile– “I should like to  have your man here myself– what will you take for him? Would fifty  doubloons be any object?”

“Master wouldn’t part with Babo for a thousand doubloons,”  murmured the black, overhearing the offer, and taking it in earnest,  and, with the strange vanity of a faithful slave appreciated by his  master, scorning to hear so paltry a valuation put upon him by a  stranger. But Don Benito, apparently hardly yet completely restored,  and again interrupted by his cough, made but some broken reply.

Soon his physical distress became so great, affecting his mind,  tool apparently, that, as if to screen the sad spectacle, the  servant gently conducted his master below.

Left to himself, the American, to while away the time till his  boat should arrive, would have pleasantly accosted some one of the few  Spanish seamen he saw; but recalling something that Don Benito had  said touching their ill conduct, he refrained, as a shipmaster  indisposed to countenance cowardice or unfaithfulness in seamen.

While, with these thoughts, standing with eye directed forward  toward that handful of sailors– suddenly he thought that some of  them returned the glance and with a sort of meaning. He rubbed his  eyes, and looked again; but again seemed to see the same thing.  Under a new form, but more obscure than any previous one, the old  suspicions recurred, but, in the absence of Don Benito, with less of  panic than before. Despite the bad account given of the sailors,  Captain Delano resolved forthwith to accost one of them. Descending  the poop, he made his way through the blacks, his movement drawing a  queer cry from the oakum-pickers, prompted by whom the Negroes,  twitching each other aside, divided before him; but, as if curious  to see what was the object of this deliberate visit to their Ghetto,  closing in behind, in tolerable order, followed the white stranger up.  His progress thus proclaimed as by mounted kings-at-arms, and escorted  as by a Caffre guard of honour, Captain Delano, assuming a  good-humoured, off-hand air, continued to advance; now and then saying  a blithe word to the Negroes, and his eye curiously surveying the  white faces, here and there sparsely mixed in with the blacks, like  stray white pawns venturously involved in the ranks of the chessmen  opposed.

While thinking which of them to select for his purpose, he chanced  to observe a sailor seated on the deck engaged in tarring the strap of  a large block, with a circle of blacks squatted round him  inquisitively eyeing the process.

The mean employment of the man was in contrast with something  superior in his figure. His hand, black with continually thrusting  it into the tar-pot held for him by a Negro, seemed not naturally  allied to his face, a face which would have been a very fine one but  for its haggardness. Whether this haggardness had aught to do with  criminality could not be determined; since, as intense heat and  cold, though unlike, produce like sensations, so innocence and  guilt, when, through casual association with mental pain, stamping any  visible impress, use one seal– a hacked one.

Not again that this reflection occurred to Captain Delano at the  time, charitable man as he was. Rather another idea. Because observing  so singular a haggardness to be combined with a dark eye, averted as  in trouble and shame, and then, however illogically, uniting in his  mind his own private suspicions of the crew with the confessed  ill-opinion on the part of their captain, he was insensibly operated  upon by certain general notions, which, while disconnecting pain and  abashment from virtue, as invariably link them with vice.

If, indeed, there be any wickedness on board this ship, thought  Captain Delano, be sure that man there has fouled his hand in it, even  as now he fouls it in the pitch. I don’t like to accost him. I will  speak to this other, this old Jack here on the windlass.

He advanced to an old Barcelona tar, in ragged red breeches and  dirty night-cap, cheeks trenched and bronzed, whiskers dense as  thorn hedges. Seated between two sleepy-looking Africans, this  mariner, like his younger shipmate, was employed upon some rigging–  splicing a cable– the sleepy-looking blacks performing the inferior  function of holding the outer parts of the ropes for him.

Upon Captain Delano’s approach, the man at once hung his head  below its previous level; the one necessary for business. It  appeared as if he desired to be thought absorbed, with more than  common fidelity, in his task. Being addressed, he glanced up, but with  what seemed a furtive, diffident air, which sat strangely enough on  his weather-beaten visage, much as if a grizzly bear, instead of  growling and biting, should simper and cast sheep’s eyes. He was asked  several questions concerning the voyage– questions purposely referring  to several particulars in Don Benito’s narrative– not previously  corroborated by those impulsive cries greeting the visitor on first  coming on board. The questions were briefly answered, confirming all  that remained to be confirmed of the story. The Negroes about the  windlass joined in with the old sailor, but, as they became talkative,  he by degrees became mute, and at length quite glum, seemed morosely  unwilling to answer more questions, and yet, all the while, this  ursine air was somehow mixed with his sheepish one.

Despairing of getting into unembarrassed talk with such a centaur,  Captain Delano, after glancing round for a more promising countenance,  but seeing none, spoke pleasantly to the blacks to make way for him;  and so, amid various grins and grimaces, returned to the poop, feeling  a little strange at first, he could hardly tell why, but upon the  whole with regained confidence in Benito Cereno.

How plainly, thought he, did that old whiskerando yonder betray  a consciousness of ill-desert. No doubt, when he saw me coming, he  dreaded lest I, apprised by his captain of the crew’s general  misbehaviour, came with sharp words for him, and so down with his  head. And yet– and yet, now that I think of it, that very old  fellow, if I err not, was one of those who seemed so earnestly  eyeing me here awhile since. Ah, these currents spin one’s head  round almost as much as they do the ship. Ha, there now’s a pleasant  sort of sunny sight; quite sociable, too.

His attention had been drawn to a slumbering Negress, partly  disclosed through the lace-work of some rigging, lying, with  youthful limbs carelessly disposed, under the lee of the bulwarks,  like a doe in the shade of a woodland rock. Sprawling at her lapped  breasts was her wide-awake fawn, stark naked, its black little body  half lifted from the deck, crosswise with its dam’s; its hands, like  two paws, clambering upon her; its mouth and nose ineffectually  rooting to get at the mark; and meantime giving a vexatious  half-grunt, blending with the composed snore of the Negress.

The uncommon vigour of the child at length roused the mother.  She started up, at distance facing Captain Delano. But, as if not at  all concerned at the attitude in which she had been caught,  delightedly she caught the child up, with maternal transports,  covering it with kisses.

There’s naked nature, now; pure tenderness and love, thought  Captain Delano, well pleased.

This incident prompted him to remark the other Negresses more  particularly than before. He was gratified with their manners; like  most uncivilized women, they seemed at once tender of heart and  tough of constitution; equally ready to die for their infants or fight  for them. Unsophisticated as leopardesses; loving as doves. Ah!  thought Captain Delano, these perhaps are some of the very women  whom Mungo Park saw in Africa, and gave such a noble account of.

These natural sights somehow insensibly deepened his confidence  and ease. At last he looked to see how his boat was getting on; but it  was still pretty remote. He turned to see if Don Benito had  returned; but he had not.

To change the scene, as well as to please himself with a leisurely  observation of the coming boat, stepping over into the mizzen-chains  he clambered his way into the starboard quarter-galley; one of those  abandoned Venetian-looking water-balconies previously mentioned;  retreats cut off from the deck. As his foot pressed the half-damp,  half-dry sea-mosses matting the place, and a chance phantom cat’s-paw–  an islet of breeze, unheralded, unfollowed– as this ghostly  cat’s-paw came fanning his cheek, his glance fell upon the row of  small, round dead-lights, all closed like coppered eyes of the  coffined, and the state-cabin door, once connecting with the  gallery, even as the dead-lights had once looked out upon it, but  now caulked fast like a sarcophagus lid, to a purple-black,  tarred-over panel, threshold, and post; and he bethought him of the  time, when that state-cabin and this state-balcony had heard the  voices of the Spanish king’s officers, and the forms of the Lima  viceroy’s daughters had perhaps leaned where he stood– as these and  other images flitted through his mind, as the cat’s-paw through the  calm, gradually he felt rising a dreamy inquietude, like that of one  who alone on the prairie feels unrest from the repose of the noon.

He leaned against the carved balustrade, again looking off  toward his boat; but found his eye falling upon the ribboned grass,  trailing along the ship’s water-line, straight as a border of green  box; and parterres of sea-weed, broad ovals and crescents, floating  nigh and far, with what seemed long formal alleys between, crossing  the terraces of swells, and sweeping round as if leading to the  grottoes below. And overhanging all was the balustrade by his arm,  which, partly stained with pitch and partly embossed with moss, seemed  the charred ruin of some summer-house in a grand garden long running  to waste.

Trying to break one charm, he was but becharmed anew. Though  upon the wide sea, he seemed in some far inland country; prisoner in  some deserted chateau, left to stare at empty grounds, and peer out at  vague roads, where never wagon or wayfarer passed.

But these enchantments were a little disenchanted as his eye  fell on the corroded main-chains. Of an ancient style, massy and rusty  in link, shackle and bolt, they seemed even more fit for the ship’s  present business than the one for which probably she had been built.

Presently he thought something moved nigh the chains. He rubbed  his eyes, and looked hard. Groves of rigging were about the chains;  and there, peering from behind a great stay, like an Indian from  behind a hemlock, a Spanish sailor, a marlingspike in his hand, was  seen, who made what seemed an imperfect gesture toward the balcony–  but immediately, as if alarmed by some advancing step along the deck  within, vanished into the recesses of the hempen forest, like a  poacher.

What meant this? Something the man had sought to communicate,  unbeknown to any one, even to his captain? Did the secret involve  aught unfavourable to his captain? Were those previous misgivings of  Captain Delano’s about to be verified? Or, in his haunted mood at  the moment, had some random, unintentional motion of the man, while  busy with the stay, as if repairing it, been mistaken for a  significant beckoning?

Not unbewildered, again he gazed off for his boat. But it was  temporarily hidden by a rocky spur of the isle. As with some eagerness  he bent forward, watching for the first shooting view of its beak, the  balustrade gave way before him like charcoal. Had he not clutched an  outreaching rope he would have fallen into the sea. The crash,  though feeble, and the fall, though hollow, of the rotten fragments,  must have been overheard. He glanced up. With sober curiosity  peering down upon him was one of the old oakum-pickers, slipped from  his perch to an outside boom; while below the old Negro– and,  invisible to him, reconnoitring from a port-hole like a fox from the  mouth of its den– crouched the Spanish sailor again. From something  suddenly suggested by the man’s air, the mad idea now darted into  Captain Delano’s mind: that Don Benito’s plea of indisposition, in  withdrawing below, was but a pretence: that he was engaged there  maturing some plot, of which the sailor, by some means gaining an  inkling, had a mind to warn the stranger against; incited, it may  be, by gratitude for a kind word on first boarding the ship. Was it  from foreseeing some possible interference like this, that Don  Benito had, beforehand, given such a bad character of his sailors,  while praising the Negroes; though, indeed, the former seemed as  docile as the latter the contrary? The whites, too, by nature, were  the shrewder race. A man with some evil design, would not he be likely  to speak well of that stupidity which was blind to his depravity,  and malign that intelligence from which it might not be hidden? Not  unlikely, perhaps. But if the whites had dark secrets concerning Don  Benito, could then Don Benito be any way in complicity with the  blacks? But they were too stupid. Besides, who ever heard of a white  so far a renegade as to apostatize from his very species almost, by  leaguing in against it with Negroes? These difficulties recalled  former ones. Lost in their mazes, Captain Delano, who had now regained  the deck, was uneasily advancing along it, when he observed a new  face: an aged sailor seated cross-legged near the main hatchway. His  skin was shrunk up with wrinkles like a pelican’s empty pouch; his  hair frosted; his countenance grave and composed. His hands were  full of ropes, which he was working into a large knot. Some blacks  were about him obligingly dipping the strands for him, here and there,  as the exigencies of the operation demanded.

Captain Delano crossed over to him, and stood in silence surveying  the knot; his mind, by a not uncongenial transition, passing from  its own entanglements to those of the hemp. For intricacy such a  knot he had never seen in an American ship, or indeed any other. The  old man looked like an Egyptian priest, making Gordian knots for the  temple of Ammon. The knot seemed a combination of double-bowline-knot,  treble-crown-knot, back-handed-well-knot, knot-in-and-out-knot, and  jamming-knot.

At last, puzzled to comprehend the meaning of such a knot, Captain  Delano, addressed the knotter:-

“What are you knotting there, my man?”

“The knot,” was the brief reply, without looking up.

“So it seems; but what is it for?”

“For some one else to undo,” muttered back the old man, plying his  fingers harder than ever, the knot being now nearly completed.

While Captain Delano stood watching him, suddenly the old man  threw the knot toward him, and said in broken English,- the first  heard in the ship,- something to this effect– “Undo it, cut it,  quick.” It was said lowly, but with such condensation of rapidity,  that the long, slow words in Spanish, which had preceded and followed,  almost operated as covers to the brief English between.

For a moment, knot in hand, and knot in head, Captain Delano stood  mute; while, without further heeding him, the old man was now intent  upon other ropes. Presently there was a slight stir behind Captain  Delano. Turning, he saw the chained Negro, Atufal, standing quietly  there. The next moment the old sailor rose, muttering, and, followed  by his subordinate Negroes, removed to the forward part of the ship,  where in the crowd he disappeared.

An elderly Negro, in a clout like an infant’s, and with a pepper  and salt head, and a kind of attorney air, now approached Captain  Delano. In tolerable Spanish, and with a good-natured, knowing wink,  he informed him that the old knotter was simple-witted, but  harmless; often playing his old tricks. The Negro concluded by begging  the knot, for of course the stranger would not care to be troubled  with it. Unconsciously, it was handed to him. With a sort of conge,  the Negro received it, and turning his back ferreted into it like a  detective Custom House officer after smuggled laces. Soon, with some  African word, equivalent to pshaw, he tossed the knot overboard.

All this is very queer now, thought Captain Delano, with a  qualmish sort of emotion; but as one feeling incipient seasickness, he  strove, by ignoring the symptoms, to get rid of the malady. Once  more he looked off for his boat. To his delight, it was now again in  view, leaving the rocky spur astern.

The sensation here experienced, after at first relieving his  uneasiness, with unforeseen efficiency, soon began to remove it. The  less distant sight of that well-known boat– showing it, not as before,  half blended with the haze, but with outline defined, so that its  individuality, like a man’s, was manifest; that boat, Rover by name,  which, though now in strange seas, had often pressed the beach of  Captain Delano’s home, and, brought to its threshold for repairs,  had familiarly lain there, as a Newfoundland dog; the sight of that  household boat evoked a thousand trustful associations, which,  contrasted with previous suspicions, filled Him not only with  lightsome confidence, but somehow with half humorous self-reproaches  at his former lack of it.

“What, I, Amasa Delano– Jack of the Beach, as they called me  when a lad– I, Amasa; the same that, duck-satchel in hand, used to  paddle along the waterside to the schoolhouse made from the old hulk;-  I, little Jack of the Beach, that used to go berrying with cousin  Nat and the rest; I to be murdered here at the ends of the earth, on  board a haunted pirate-ship by a horrible Spaniard?- Too nonsensical  to think of! Who would murder Amasa Delano? His conscience is clean.  There is some one above. Fie, fie, Jack of the Beach! you are a  child indeed; a child of the second childhood, old boy; you are  beginning to dote and drool, I’m afraid.”

Light of heart and foot, he stepped aft, and there was met by  Don Benito’s servant, who, with a pleasing expression, responsive to  his own present feelings, informed him that his master had recovered  from the effects of his coughing fit, and had just ordered him to go  present his compliments to his good guest, Don Amasa, and say that  he (Don Benito) would soon have the happiness to rejoin him.

There now, do you mark that? again thought Captain Delano, walking  the poop. What a donkey I was. This kind gentleman who here sends me  his kind compliments, he, but ten minutes ago, dark-lantern in hand,  was dodging round some old grind-stone in the hold, sharpening a  hatchet for me, I thought. Well, well; these long calms have a  morbid effect on the mind, I’ve often heard, though I never believed  it before. Ha! glancing toward the boat; there’s Rover; a good dog;  a white bone in her mouth. A pretty big bone though, seems to me.-  What? Yes, she has fallen afoul of the bubbling tide-rip there. It  sets her the other way, too, for the time. Patience.

It was now about noon, though, from the greyness of everything, it  seemed to be getting toward dusk.

The calm was confirmed. In the far distance, away from the  influence of land, the leaden ocean seemed laid out and leaded up, its  course finished, soul gone, defunct. But the current from landward,  where the ship was, increased; silently sweeping her further and  further toward the tranced waters beyond.

Still, from his knowledge of those latitudes, cherishing hopes  of a breeze, and a fair and fresh one, at any moment, Captain  Delano, despite present prospects, buoyantly counted upon bringing the  San Dominick safely to anchor ere night. The distance swept over was  nothing; since, with a good wind, ten minutes’ sailing would retrace  more than sixty minutes’ drifting. Meantime, one moment turning to  mark Rover fighting the tide-rip, and the next to see Don Benito  approaching, he continued walking the poop.

Gradually he felt a vexation arising from the delay of his boat;  this soon merged into uneasiness; and at last, his eye falling  continually, as from a stage-box into the pit, upon the strange  crowd before and below him, and by-and-by recognizing there the  face– now composed to indifference– of the Spanish sailor who had  seemed to beckon from the main-chains, something of his old  trepidations returned.

Ah, thought he– gravely enough– this is like the ague: because  it went off, it follows not that it won’t come back.

Though ashamed of the relapse, he could not altogether subdue  it; and so, exerting his good nature to the utmost, insensibly he came  to a compromise.

Yes, this is a strange craft; a strange history, too, and  strange folks on board. But– nothing more.

By way of keeping his mind out of mischief till the boat should  arrive, he tried to occupy it with turning over and over, in a  purely speculative sort of way, some lesser peculiarities of the  captain and crew. Among others, four curious points recurred.

First, the affair of the Spanish lad assailed with a knife by  the slave boy; an act winked at by Don Benito. Second, the tyranny  in Don Benito’s treatment of Atufal, the black; as if a child should  lead a bull of the Nile by the ring in his nose. Third, the  trampling of the sailor by the two Negroes; a piece of insolence  passed over without so much as a reprimand. Fourth, the cringing  submission to their master of all the ship’s underlings, mostly  blacks; as if by the least inadvertence they feared to draw down his  despotic displeasure.

Coupling these points, they seemed somewhat contradictory. But  what then, thought Captain Delano, glancing toward his now nearing  boat,- what then? Why, this Don Benito is a very capricious commander.  But he is not the first of the sort I have seen; though it’s true he  rather exceeds any other. But as a nation– continued he in his  reveries– these Spaniards are all an odd set; the very word Spaniard  has a curious, conspirator, Guy-Fawkish twang to it. And yet, I dare  say, Spaniards in the main are as good folks as any in Duxbury,  Massachusetts. Ah, good! At last Rover has come.

As, with its welcome freight, the boat touched the side, the  oakum-pickers, with venerable gestures, sought to restrain the blacks,  who, at the sight of three gurried water-casks in its bottom, and a  pile of wilted pumpkins in its bow, hung over the bulwarks in  disorderly raptures.

Don Benito with his servant now appeared; his coming, perhaps,  hastened by hearing the noise. Of him Captain Delano sought permission  to serve out the water, so that all might share alike, and none injure  themselves by unfair excess. But sensible, and, on Don Benito’s  account, kind as this offer was, it was received with what seemed  impatience; as if aware that he lacked energy as a commander, Don  Benito, with the true jealousy of weakness, resented as an affront any  interference. So, at least, Captain Delano inferred.

In another moment the casks were being hoisted in, when some of  the eager Negroes accidentally jostled Captain Delano, where he  stood by the gangway; so that, unmindful of Don Benito, yielding to  the impulse of the moment, with good-natured authority he bade the  blacks stand back; to enforce his words making use of a half-mirthful,  half-menacing gesture. Instantly the blacks paused, just where they  were, each Negro and Negress suspended in his or her posture,  exactly as the word had found them– for a few seconds continuing so–  while, as between the responsive posts of a telegraph, an unknown  syllable ran from man to man among the perched oakum-pickers. While  Captain Delano’s attention was fixed by this scene, suddenly the  hatchet-polishers half rose, and a rapid cry came from Don Benito.

Thinking that at the signal of the Spaniard he was about to be  massacred, Captain Delano would have sprung for his boat, but  paused, as the oakum-pickers, dropping down into the crowd with  earnest exclamations, forced every white and every Negro back, at  the same moment, with gestures friendly and familiar, almost jocose,  bidding him, in substance, not be a fool. Simultaneously the  hatchet-polishers resumed their seats, quietly as so many tailors, and  at once, as if nothing had happened, the work of hoisting in the casks  was resumed, whites and blacks singing at the tackle.

Captain Delano glanced toward Don Benito. As he saw his meagre  form in the act of recovering itself from reclining in the servant’s  arms, into which the agitated invalid had fallen, he could not but  marvel at the panic by which himself had been surprised on the darting  supposition that such a commander, who upon a legitimate occasion,  so trivial, too, as it now appeared, could lose all self-command, was,  with energetic iniquity, going to bring about his murder.

The casks being on deck, Captain Delano was handed a number of  jars and cups by one of the steward’s aides, who, in the name of Don  Benito, entreated him to do as he had proposed: dole out the water. He  complied, with republican impartiality as to this republican  element, which always seeks one level, serving the oldest white no  better than the youngest black; excepting, indeed, poor Don Benito,  whose condition, if not rank, demanded an extra allowance. To him,  in the first place, Captain Delano presented a fair pitcher of the  fluid; but, thirsting as he was for fresh water, Don Benito quaffed  not a drop until after several grave bows and salutes: a reciprocation  of courtesies which the sight-loving Africans hailed with clapping  of hands.

Two of the less wilted pumpkins being reserved for the cabin  table, the residue were minced up on the spot for the general  regalement. But the soft bread, sugar, and bottled cider, Captain  Delano would have given the Spaniards alone, and in chief Don  Benito; but the latter objected; which disinterestedness, on his part,  not a little pleased the American; and so mouthfuls all around were  given alike to whites and blacks; excepting one bottle of cider, which  Babo insisted upon setting aside for his master.

Here it may be observed that as, on the first visit of the boat,  the American had not permitted his men to board the ship, neither  did he now; being unwilling to add to the confusion of the decks.

Not uninfluenced by the peculiar good humour at present  prevailing, and for the time oblivious of any but benevolent thoughts,  Captain Delano, who from recent indications counted upon a breeze  within an hour or two at furthest, despatched the boat back to the  sealer with orders for all the hands that could be spared  immediately to set about rafting casks to the watering-place and  filling them. Likewise he bade word be carried to his chief officer,  that if against present expectation the ship was not brought to anchor  by sunset, he need be under no concern, for as there was to be a  full moon that night, he (Captain Delano) would remain on board  ready to play the pilot, should the wind come soon or late.

As the two captains stood together, observing the departing  boat– the servant as it happened having just spied a spot on his  master’s velvet sleeve, and silently engaged rubbing it out– the  American expressed his regrets that the San Dominick had no boats;  none, at least, but the unseaworthy old hulk of the long-boat,  which, warped as a camel’s skeleton in the desert, and almost as  bleached, lay pot-wise inverted amidships, one side a little tipped,  furnishing a subterraneous sort of den for family groups of the  blacks, mostly women and small children; who, squatting on old mats  below, or perched above in the dark dome, on the elevated seats,  were descried, some distance within, like a social circle of bats,  sheltering in some friendly cave; at intervals, ebon flights of  naked boys and girls, three or four years old, darting in and out of  the den’s mouth.

“Had you three or four boats now, Don Benito,” said Captain  Delano, “I think that, by tugging at the oars, your Negroes here might  help along matters some.- Did you sail from port without boats, Don  Benito?”

“They were stove in the gales, Senor.”

“That was bad. Many men, too, you lost then. Boats and men.- Those  must have been hard gales, Don Benito.”

“Past all speech,” cringed the Spaniard.

“Tell me, Don Benito,” continued his companion with increased  interest, “tell me, were these gales immediately off the pitch of Cape  Horn?”

“Cape Horn?- who spoke of Cape Horn?”

“Yourself did, when giving me an account of your voyage,”  answered Captain Delano with almost equal astonishment at this  eating of his own words, even as he ever seemed eating his own  heart, on the part of the Spaniard. “You yourself, Don Benito, spoke  of Cape Horn,” he emphatically repeated.

The Spaniard turned, in a sort of stooping posture, pausing an  instant, as one about to make a plunging exchange of elements, as from  air to water.

At this moment a messenger-boy, a white, hurried by, in the  regular performance of his function carrying the last expired  half-hour forward to the forecastle, from the cabin time-piece, to  have it struck at the ship’s large bell.

“Master,” said the servant, discontinuing his work on the coat  sleeve, and addressing the rapt Spaniard with a sort of timid  apprehensiveness, as one charged with a duty, the discharge of  which, it was foreseen, would prove irksome to the very person who had  imposed it, and for whose benefit it was intended, “master told me  never mind where he was, or how engaged, always to remind him, to a  minute, when shaving-time comes. Miguel has gone to strike the  half-hour after noon. It is now, master. Will master go into the  cuddy?”

“Ah– yes,” answered the Spaniard, starting, somewhat as from  dreams into realities; then turning upon Captain Delano, he said  that ere long he would resume the conversation.

“Then if master means to talk more to Don Amasa,” said the  servant, “why not let Don Amasa sit by master in the cuddy, and master  can talk, and Don Amasa can listen, while Babo here lathers and  strops.”

“Yes,” said Captain Delano, not unpleased with this sociable plan,  “yes, Don Benito, unless you had rather not, I will go with you.”

“Be it so, Senor.”

As the three passed aft, the American could not but think it  another strange instance of his host’s capriciousness, this being  shaved with such uncommon punctuality in the middle of the day. But he  deemed it more than likely that the servant’s anxious fidelity had  something to do with the matter; inasmuch as the timely interruption  served to rally his master from the mood which had evidently been  coming upon him.

The place called the cuddy was a light deck-cabin formed by the  poop, a sort of attic to the large cabin below. Part of it had  formerly been the quarters of the officers; but since their death  all the partitionings had been thrown down, and the whole interior  converted into one spacious and airy marine hall; for absence of  fine furniture and picturesque disarray, of odd appurtenances,  somewhat answering to the wide, cluttered hall of some eccentric  bachelor squire in the country, who hangs his shooting-jacket and  tobacco-pouch on deer antlers, and keeps his fishing-rod, tongs, and  walking-stick in the same corner.

The similitude was heightened, if not originally suggested, by  glimpses of the surrounding sea; since, in one aspect, the country and  the ocean seem cousins-german.

The floor of the cuddy was matted. Overhead, four or five old  muskets were stuck into horizontal holes along the beams. On one  side was a claw-footed old table lashed to the deck; a thumbed  missal on it, and over it a small, meagre crucifix attached to the  bulkhead. Under the table lay a dented cutlass or two, with a hacked  harpoon, among some melancholy old rigging, like a heap of poor  friar’s girdles. There were also two long, sharp-ribbed settees of  malacca cane, black with age, and uncomfortable to look at as  inquisitors’ racks, with a large, misshapen arm-chair, which,  furnished with a rude barber’s crutch at the back, working with a  screw, seemed some grotesque Middle Age engine of torment. A flag  locker was in one corner, exposing various coloured bunting, some  rolled up, others half unrolled, still others tumbled. Opposite was  a cumbrous washstand, of black mahogany, all of one block, with a  pedestal, like a font, and over it a railed shelf, containing combs,  brushes, and other implements of the toilet. A tom hammock of  stained grass swung near; the sheets tossed, and the pillow wrinkled  up like a brow, as if whoever slept here slept but illy, with  alternate visitations of sad thoughts and bad dreams.

The further extremity of the cuddy, overhanging the ship’s  stern, was pierced with three openings, windows or port-holes,  according as men or cannon might peer, socially or unsocially, out  of them. At present neither men nor cannon were seen, though huge  ring-bolts and other rusty iron fixtures of the wood-work hinted of  twenty-four-pounders.

Glancing toward the hammock as he entered, Captain Delano said,  “You sleep here, Don Benito?”

“Yes, Senor, since we got into mild weather.”

“This seems a sort of dormitory, sitting-room, sail-loft,  chapel, armoury, and private closet together, Don Benito,” added  Captain Delano, looking around.

“Yes, Senor; events have not been favourable to much order in my  arrangements.”

Here the servant, napkin on arm, made a motion as if waiting his  master’s good pleasure. Don Benito signified his readiness, when,  seating him in the malacca arm-chair, and for the guest’s  convenience drawing opposite it one of the settees, the servant  commenced operations by throwing back his master’s collar and  loosening his cravat.

There is something in the Negro which, in a peculiar way, fits him  for avocations about one’s person. Most Negroes are natural valets and  hair-dressers; taking to the comb and brush congenially as to the  castanets, and flourishing them apparently with almost equal  satisfaction. There is, too, a smooth tact about them in this  employment, with a marvellous, noiseless, gliding briskness, not  ungraceful in its way, singularly pleasing to behold, and still more  so to be the manipulated subject of. And above all is the great gift  of good humour. Not the mere grin or laugh is here meant. Those were  unsuitable. But a certain easy cheerfulness, harmonious in every  glance and gesture; as though God had set the whole Negro to some  pleasant tune.

When to all this is added the docility arising from the unaspiring  contentment of a limited mind, and that susceptibility of blind  attachment sometimes inhering in indisputable inferiors, one readily  perceives why those hypochondriacs, Johnson and Byron– it may be  something like the hypochondriac, Benito Cereno– took to their hearts,  almost to the exclusion of the entire white race, their serving men,  the Negroes, Barber and Fletcher. But if there be that in the Negro  which exempts him from the inflicted sourness of the morbid or cynical  mind, how, in his most prepossessing aspects, must he appear to a  benevolent one? When at ease with respect to exterior things,  Captain Delano’s nature was not only benign, but familiarly and  humorously so. At home, he had often taken rare satisfaction in  sitting in his door, watching some free man of colour at his work or  play. If on a voyage he chanced to have a black sailor, invariably  he was on chatty, and half-gamesome terms with him. In fact, like most  men of a good, blithe heart, Captain Delano took to Negroes, not  philanthropically, but genially, just as other men to Newfoundland  dogs.

Hitherto the circumstances in which he found the San Dominick  had repressed the tendency. But in the cuddy, relieved from his former  uneasiness, and, for various reasons, more sociably inclined than at  any previous period of the day, and seeing the coloured servant,  napkin on arm, so debonair about his master, in a business so familiar  as that of shaving, too, all his old weakness for Negroes returned.

Among other things, he was amused with an odd instance of the  African love of bright colours and fine shows, in the black’s  informally taking from the flag-locker a great piece of bunting of all  hues, and lavishly tucking it under his master’s chin for an apron.

The mode of shaving among the Spaniards is a little different from  what it is with other nations. They have a basin, specially called a  barber’s basin, which on one side is scooped out, so as accurately  to receive the chin, against which it is closely held in lathering;  which is done, not with a brush, but with soap dipped in the water  of the basin and rubbed on the face.

In the present instance salt-water was used for lack of better;  and the parts lathered were only the upper lip, and low down under the  throat, all the rest being cultivated beard.

These preliminaries being somewhat novel to Captain Delano he  sat curiously eyeing them, so that no conversation took place, nor for  the present did Don Benito appear disposed to renew any.

Setting down his basin, the Negro searched among the razors, as  for the sharpest, and having found it, gave it an additional edge by  expertly stropping it on the firm, smooth, oily skin of his open palm;  he then made a gesture as if to begin, but midway stood suspended  for an instant, one hand elevating the razor, the other professionally  dabbling among the bubbling suds on the Spaniard’s lank neck. Not  unaffected by the close sight of the gleaming steel, Don Benito  nervously shuddered, his usual ghastliness was heightened by the  lather, which lather, again, was intensified in its hue by the  sootiness of the Negro’s body. Altogether the scene was somewhat  peculiar, at least to Captain Delano, nor, as he saw the two thus  postured, could he resist the vagary, that in the black he saw a  headsman, and in the white, a man at the block. But this was one of  those antic conceits, appearing and vanishing in a breath, from which,  perhaps, the best regulated mind is not free.

Meantime the agitation of the Spaniard had a little loosened the  bunting from around him, so that one broad fold swept curtain-like  over the chair-arm to the floor, revealing, amid a profusion of  armorial bars and ground-colours– black, blue and yellow– a closed  castle in a blood-red field diagonal with a lion rampant in a white.

“The castle and the lion,” exclaimed Captain Delano– “why, Don  Benito, this is the flag of Spain you use here. It’s well it’s only I,  and not the King, that sees this,” he added with a smile, “but”-  turning toward the black,- “it’s all one, I suppose, so the colours be  gay,” which playful remark did not fail somewhat to tickle the Negro.

“Now, master,” he said, readjusting the flag, and pressing the  head gently further back into the crotch of the chair; “now master,”  and the steel glanced nigh the throat.

Again Don Benito faintly shuddered.

“You must not shake so, master.- See, Don Amasa, master always  shakes when I shave him. And yet master knows I never yet have drawn  blood, though it’s true, if master will shake so, I may some of  these times. Now, master,” he continued. “And now, Don Amasa, please  go on with your talk about the gale, and all that, master can hear,  and between times master can answer.”

“Ah yes, these gales,” said Captain Delano; “but the more I  think of your voyage, Don Benito, the more I wonder, not at the gales,  terrible as they must have been, but at the disastrous interval  following them. For here, by your account, have you been these two  months and more getting from Cape Horn to St. Maria, a distance  which I myself, with a good wind, have sailed in a few days. True, you  had calms, and long ones, but to be becalmed for two months, that  is, at least, unusual. Why, Don Benito, had almost any other gentleman  told me such a story, I should have been half disposed to a little  incredulity.”

Here an involuntary expression came over the Spaniard, similar  to that just before on the deck, and whether it was the start he gave,  or a sudden gawky roll of the hull in the calm, or a momentary  unsteadiness of the servant’s hand; however it was, just then the  razor drew blood, spots of which stained the creamy lather under the  throat; immediately the black barber drew back his steel, and  remaining in his professional attitude, back to Captain Delano, and  face to Don Benito, held up the trickling razor, saying, with a sort  of half humorous sorrow, “See, master,- you shook so– here’s Babo’s  first blood.”

No sword drawn before James the First of England, no assassination  in that timid King’s presence, could have produced a more terrified  aspect than was now presented by Don Benito.

Poor fellow, thought Captain Delano, so nervous he can’t even bear  the sight of barber’s blood; and this unstrung, sick man, is it  credible that I should have imagined he meant to spill all my blood,  who can’t endure the sight of one little drop of his own? Surely,  Amasa Delano, you have been beside yourself this day. Tell it not when  you get home, sappy Amasa. Well, well, he looks like a murderer,  doesn’t he? More like as if himself were to be done for. Well, well,  this day’s experience shall be a good lesson.

Meantime, while these things were running through the honest  seaman’s mind, the servant had taken the napkin from his arm, and to  Don Benito had said: “But answer Don Amasa, please, master, while I  wipe this ugly stuff off the razor, and strop it again.”

As he said the words, his face was turned half round, so as to  be alike visible to the Spaniard and the American, and seemed by its  expression to hint, that he was desirous, by getting his master to  go on with the conversation, considerately to withdraw his attention  from the recent annoying accident. As if glad to snatch the offered  relief, Don Benito resumed, rehearsing to Captain Delano, that not  only were the calms of unusual duration, but the ship had fallen in  with obstinate currents and other things he added, some of which  were but repetitions of former statements, to explain how it came to  pass that the passage from Cape Horn to St. Maria had been so  exceedingly long, now and then mingling with his words, incidental  praises, less qualified than before, to the blacks, for their  general good conduct.

These particulars were not given consecutively, the servant now  and then using his razor, and so, between the intervals of shaving,  the story and panegyric went on with more than usual huskiness.

To Captain Delano’s imagination, now again not wholly at rest,  there was something so hollow in the Spaniard’s manner, with  apparently some reciprocal hollowness in the servant’s dusky comment  of silence, that the idea flashed across him, that possibly master and  man, for some unknown purpose, were acting out, both in word and deed,  nay, to the very tremor of Don Benito’s limbs, some juggling play  before him. Neither did the suspicion of collusion lack apparent  support, from the fact of those whispered conferences before  mentioned. But then, what could be the object of enacting this play of  the barber before him? At last, regarding the notion as a whimsy,  insensibly suggested, perhaps, by the theatrical aspect of Don  Benito in his harlequin ensign, Captain Delano speedily banished it.

The shaving over, the servant bestirred himself with a small  bottle of scented waters, pouring a few drops on the head, and then  diligently rubbing; the vehemence of the exercise causing the  muscles of his face to twitch rather strangely.

His next operation was with comb, scissors and brush; going  round and round, smoothing a curl here, clipping an unruly  whisker-hair there, giving a graceful sweep to the temple-lock, with  other impromptu touches evincing the hand of a master; while, like any  resigned gentleman in barber’s hands, Don Benito bore all, much less  uneasily, at least, than he had done the razoring; indeed, he sat so  pale and rigid now, that the Negro seemed a Nubian sculptor  finishing off a white statue-head.

All being over at last, the standard of Spain removed, tumbled up,  and tossed back into the flag-locker, the Negro’s warm breath  blowing away any stray hair which might have lodged down his  master’s neck; collar and cravat readjusted; a speck of lint whisked  off the velvet lapel; all this being done; backing off a little space,  and pausing with an expression of subdued self-complacency, the  servant for a moment surveyed his master, as, in toilet at least,  the creature of his own tasteful hands.

Captain Delano playfully complimented him upon his achievement; at  the same time congratulating Don Benito.

But neither sweet waters, nor shampooing, nor fidelity, nor  sociality, delighted the Spaniard. Seeing him relapsing into  forbidding gloom, and still remaining seated, Captain Delano, thinking  that his presence was undesired just then, withdrew, on pretence of  seeing whether, as he had prophesied, any signs of a breeze were  visible.

Walking forward to the mainmast, he stood awhile thinking over the  scene, and not without some undefined misgivings, when he heard a  noise near the cuddy, and turning, saw the Negro, his hand to his  cheek. Advancing, Captain Delano perceived that the cheek was  bleeding. He was about to ask the cause, when the Negro’s wailing  soliloquy enlightened him.

“Ah, when will master get better from his sickness; only the  sour heart that sour sickness breeds made him serve Babo so; cutting  Babo with the razor, because, only by accident, Babo had given  master one little scratch; and for the first time in so many a day,  too. Ah, ah, ah,” holding his hand to his face.

Is it possible, thought Captain Delano; was it to wreak in private  his Spanish spite against this poor friend of his, that Don Benito, by  his sullen manner, impelled me to withdraw? Ah, this slavery breeds  ugly passions in man! Poor fellow!

He was about to speak in sympathy to the Negro, but with a timid  reluctance he now re-entered the cuddy.

Presently master and man came forth; Don Benito leaning on his  servant as if nothing had happened.

But a sort of love-quarrel, after all, thought Captain Delano.

He accosted Don Benito, and they slowly walked together. They  had gone but a few paces, when the steward-a tall, rajah-looking  mulatto, orientally set off with a pagoda turban formed by three or  four Madras handkerchiefs wound about his head, tier on tier–  approaching with a salaam, announced lunch in the cabin.

On their way thither, the two captains were preceded by the  mulatto, who, turning round as he advanced, with continual smiles  and bows, ushered them in, a display of elegance which quite completed  the insignificance of the small bare-headed Babo, who, as if not  unconscious of inferiority, eyed askance the graceful steward. But  in part, Captain Delano imputed his jealous watchfulness to that  peculiar feeling which the full-blooded African entertains for the  adulterated one. As for the steward, his manner, if not bespeaking  much dignity of self-respect, yet evidenced his extreme desire to  please; which is doubly meritorious, as at once Christian and  Chesterfieldian.

Captain Delano observed with interest that while the complexion of  the mulatto was hybrid, his physiognomy was European; classically so.

“Don Benito,” whispered he, “I am glad to see this  usher-of-the-golden-rod of yours; the sight refutes an ugly remark  once made to me by a Barbados planter that when a mulatto has a  regular European face, look out for him; he is a devil. But see,  your steward here has features more regular than King George’s of  England; and yet there he nods, and bows, and smiles; a king,  indeed– the king of kind hearts and polite fellows. What a pleasant  voice he has, too?”

“He has, Senor.”

“But, tell me, has he not, so far as you have known him, always  proved a good, worthy fellow?” said Captain Delano, pausing, while  with a final genuflexion the steward disappeared into the cabin;  “come, for the reason just mentioned, I am curious to know.”

“Francesco is a good man,” rather sluggishly responded Don Benito,  like a phlegmatic appreciator, who would neither find fault nor  flatter.

“Ah, I thought so. For it were strange indeed, and not very  creditable to us white-skins, if a little of our blood mixed with  the African’s, should, far from improving the latter’s quality, have  the sad effect of pouring vitriolic acid into black broth; improving  the hue, perhaps, but not the wholesomeness.”

“Doubtless, doubtless, Senor, but”- glancing at Babo– “not to  speak of Negroes, your planter’s remark I have heard applied to the  Spanish and Indian intermixtures in our provinces. But I know  nothing about the matter,” he listlessly added.

And here they entered the cabin.

The lunch was a frugal one. Some of Captain Delano’s fresh fish  and pumpkins, biscuit and salt beef, the reserved bottle of cider, and  the San Dominick’s last bottle of Canary.

As they entered, Francesco, with two or three coloured aides,  was hovering over the table giving the last adjustments. Upon  perceiving their master they withdrew, Francesco making a smiling  conge, and the Spaniard, without condescending to notice it,  fastidiously remarking to his companion that he relished not  superfluous attendance.

Without companions, host and guest sat down, like a childless  married couple, at opposite ends of the table, Don Benito waving  Captain Delano to his place, and, weak as he was, insisting upon  that gentleman being seated before himself.

The Negro placed a rug under Don Benito’s feet, and a cushion  behind his back, and then stood behind, not his master’s chair, but  Captain Delano’s. At first, this a little surprised the latter. But it  was soon evident that, in taking his position, the black was still  true to his master; since by facing him he could the more readily  anticipate his slightest want.

“This is an uncommonly intelligent fellow of yours, Don Benito,”  whispered Captain Delano across the table.

“You say true, Senor.”

During the repast, the guest again reverted to parts of Don  Benito’s story, begging further particulars here and there. He  inquired how it was that the scurvy and fever should have committed  such wholesale havoc upon the whites, while destroying less than  half of the blacks. As if this question reproduced the whole scene  of plague before the Spaniard’s eyes, miserably reminding him of his  solitude in a cabin where before he had had so many friends and  officers round him, his hand shook, his face became hueless, broken  words escaped; but directly the sane memory of the past seemed  replaced by insane terrors of the present. With starting eyes he  stared before him at vacancy. For nothing was to be seen but the  hand of his servant pushing the Canary over towards him. At length a  few sips served partially to restore him. He made random reference  to the different constitutions of races, enabling one to offer more  resistance to certain maladies than another. The thought was new to  his companion.

Presently Captain Delano, intending to say something to his host  concerning the pecuniary part of the business he had undertaken for  him, especially—since he was strictly accountable to his owners—with  reference to the new suit of sails, and other things of that sort; and  naturally preferring to conduct such affairs in private, was  desirous that the servant should withdraw; imagining that Don Benito  for a few minutes could dispense with his attendance. He, however,  waited awhile; thinking that, as the conversation proceeded, Don  Benito, without being prompted, would perceive the propriety of the  step.

But it was otherwise. At last catching his host’s eye, Captain  Delano, with a slight backward gesture of his thumb, whispered, “Don  Benito, pardon me, but there is an interference with the full  expression of what I have to say to you.”

Upon this the Spaniard changed countenance; which was imputed to  his resenting the hint, as in some way a reflection upon his  servant. After a moment’s pause, he assured his guest that the black’s  remaining with them could be of no disservice; because since losing  his officers he had made Babo (whose original office, it now appeared,  had been captain of the slaves) not only his constant attendant and  companion, but in all things his confidant.

After this, nothing more could be said; though, indeed, Captain  Delano could hardly avoid some little tinge of irritation upon being  left ungratified in so inconsiderable a wish, by one, too, for whom he  intended such solid services. But it is only his querulousness,  thought he; and so filling his glass he proceeded to business.

The price of the sails and other matters was fixed upon. But while  this was being done, the American observed that, though his original  offer of assistance had been hailed with hectic animation, yet now  when it was reduced to a business transaction, indifference and apathy  were betrayed. Don Benito, in fact, appeared to submit to hearing  the details more out of regard to common propriety, than from any  impression that weighty benefit to himself and his voyage was  involved.

Soon, his manner became still more reserved. The effort was vain  to seek to draw him into social talk. Gnawed by his splenetic mood, he  sat twitching his beard, while to little purpose the hand of his  servant, mute as that on the wall, slowly pushed over the Canary.

Lunch being over, they sat down on the cushioned transom; the  servant placing a pillow behind his master. The long continuance of  the calm had now affected the atmosphere. Don Benito sighed heavily,  as if for breath.

“Why not adjourn to the cuddy,” said Captain Delano; “there is  more air there.” But the host sat silent and motionless.

Meantime his servant knelt before him, with a large fan of  feathers. And Francesco, coming in on tiptoes, handed the Negro a  little cup of aromatic waters, with which at intervals he chafed his  master’s brow, smoothing the hair along the temples as a nurse does  a child’s. He spoke no word. He only rested his eye on his master’s,  as if, amid all Don Benito’s distress, a little to refresh his  spirit by the silent sight of fidelity.

Presently the ship’s bell sounded two o’clock; and through the  cabin-windows a slight rippling of the sea was discerned; and from the  desired direction.

“There,” exclaimed Captain Delano, “I told you so, Don Benito,  look!”

He had risen to his feet, speaking in a very animated tone, with a  view the more to rouse his companion. But though the crimson curtain  of the stern-window near him that moment fluttered against his pale  cheek, Don Benito seemed to have even less welcome for the breeze than  the calm.

Poor fellow, thought Captain Delano, bitter experience has  taught him that one ripple does not make a wind, any more than one  swallow a summer. But he is mistaken for once. I will get his ship  in for him, and prove it.

Briefly alluding to his weak condition, he urged his host to  remain quietly where he was, since he (Captain Delano) would with  pleasure take upon himself the responsibility of making the best use  of the wind.

Upon gaining the deck, Captain Delano started at the unexpected  figure of Atufal, monumentally fixed at the threshold, like one of  those sculptured porters of black marble guarding the porches of  Egyptian tombs.

But this time the start was, perhaps, purely physical. Atufal’s  presence, singularly attesting docility even in sullenness, was  contrasted with that of the hatchet-polishers, who in patience evinced  their industry; while both spectacles showed, that lax as Don Benito’s  general authority might be, still, whenever he chose to exert it, no  man so savage or colossal but must, more or less, bow.

Snatching a trumpet which hung from the bulwarks, with a free step  Captain Delano advanced to the forward edge of the poop, issuing his  orders in his best Spanish. The few sailors and many Negroes, all  equally pleased, obediently set about heading the ship toward the  harbour.

While giving some directions about setting a lower stu’n’-sail,  suddenly Captain Delano heard a voice faithfully repeating his orders.  Turning, he saw Babo, now for the time acting, under the pilot, his  original part of captain of the slaves. This assistance proved  valuable. Tattered sails and warped yards were soon brought into  some trim. And no brace or halyard was pulled but to the blithe  songs of the inspirited Negroes.

Good fellows, thought Captain Delano, a little training would make  fine sailors of them. Why see, the very women pull and sing, too.  These must be some of those Ashantee Negresses that make such  capital soldiers, I’ve heard. But who’s at the helm? I must have a  good hand there.

He went to see.

The San Dominick steered with a cumbrous tiller, with large  horizontal pulleys attached. At each pulley-end stood a subordinate  black, and between them, at the tiller-head, the responsible post, a  Spanish seaman, whose countenance evinced his due share in the general  hopefulness and confidence at the coming of the breeze.

He proved the same man who had behaved with so shamefaced an air  on the windlass.

“Ah,- it is you, my man,” exclaimed Captain Delano– “well, no more  sheep’s-eyes now;- look straight forward and keep the ship so. Good  hand, I trust? And want to get into the harbour, don’t you?”

“Si Senor,” assented the man with an inward chuckle, grasping  the tiller-head firmly. Upon this, unperceived by the American, the  two blacks eyed the sailor askance.

Finding all right at the helm, the pilot went forward to the  forecastle, to see how matters stood there.

The ship now had way enough to breast the current. With the  approach of evening, the breeze would be sure to freshen.

Having done all that was needed for the present, Captain Delano,  giving his last orders to the sailors, turned aft to report affairs to  Don Benito in the cabin; perhaps additionally incited to rejoin him by  the hope of snatching a moment’s private chat while his servant was  engaged upon deck.

From opposite sides, there were, beneath the poop, two  approaches to the cabin; one further forward than the other, and  consequently communicating with a longer passage. Marking the  servant still above, Captain Delano, taking the nighest entrance—the one last named, and at whose porch Atufal still stood—hurried  on his way, till, arrived at the cabin threshold, he paused an  instant, a little to recover from his eagerness. Then, with the  words of his intended business upon his lips, he entered. As he  advanced toward the Spaniard, on the transom, he heard another  footstep, keeping time with his. From the opposite door, a salver in  hand, the servant was likewise advancing.

“Confound the faithful fellow,” thought Captain Delano; “what a  vexatious coincidence.”

Possibly, the vexation might have been something different, were  it not for the buoyant confidence inspired by the breeze. But even  as it was, he felt a slight twinge, from a sudden involuntary  association in his mind of Babo with Atufal.

“Don Benito,” said he, “I give you joy; the breeze will hold,  and will increase. By the way, your tall man and time-piece, Atufal,  stands without. By your order, of course?”

Don Benito recoiled, as if at some bland satirical touch,  delivered with such adroit garnish of apparent good-breeding as to  present no handle for retort.

He is like one flayed alive, thought Captain Delano; where may one  touch him without causing a shrink?

The servant moved before his master, adjusting a cushion; recalled  to civility, the Spaniard stiffly replied: “You are right. The slave  appears where you saw him, according to my command; which is, that  if at the given hour I am below, he must take his stand and abide my  coming.”

“Ah now, pardon me, but that is treating the poor fellow like an  ex-king denied. Ah, Don Benito,” smiling, “for all the license you  permit in some things, I fear lest, at bottom, you are a bitter hard  master.”

Again Don Benito shrank; and this time, as the good sailor  thought, from a genuine twinge of his conscience.

Conversation now became constrained. In vain Captain Delano called  attention to the now perceptible motion of the keel gently cleaving  the sea; with lack-lustre eye, Don Benito returned words few and  reserved.

By-and-by, the wind having steadily risen, and still blowing right  into the harbour, bore the San Dominick swiftly on. Rounding a point  of land, the sealer at distance came into open view.

Meantime Captain Delano had again repaired to the deck,  remaining there some time. Having at last altered the ship’s course,  so as to give the reef a wide berth, he returned for a few moments  below.

I will cheer up my poor friend, this time, thought he.

“Better and better, Don Benito,” he cried as he blithely  re-entered; “there will soon be an end to your cares, at least for  awhile. For when, after a long, sad voyage, you know, the anchor drops  into the haven, all its vast weight seems lifted from the captain’s  heart. We are getting on famously, Don Benito. My ship is in sight.  Look through this side-light here; there she is; all a-taunt-o! The  Bachelor’s Delight, my good friend. Ah, how this wind braces one up.  Come, you must take a cup of coffee with me this evening. My old  steward will give you as fine a cup as ever any sultan tasted. What  say you, Don Benito, will you?”

At first, the Spaniard glanced feverishly up, casting a longing  look toward the sealer, while with mute concern his servant gazed into  his face. Suddenly the old ague of coldness returned, and dropping  back to his cushions he was silent.

“You do not answer. Come, all day you have been my host; would you  have hospitality all on one side?”

“I cannot go,” was the response.

“What? it will not fatigue you. The ships will lie together as  near as they can, without swinging foul. It will be little more than  stepping from deck to deck; which is but as from room to room. Come,  come, you must not refuse me.”

“I cannot go,” decisively and repulsively repeated Don Benito.

Renouncing all but the last appearance of courtesy, with a sort of  cadaverous sullenness, and biting his thin nails to the quick, he  glanced, almost glared, at his guest; as if impatient that a  stranger’s presence should interfere with the full indulgence of his  morbid hour. Meantime the sound of the parted waters came more and  more gurglingly and merrily in at the windows; as reproaching him  for his dark spleen; as telling him that, sulk as he might, and go mad  with it, nature cared not a jot; since, whose fault was it, pray?  But the foul mood was now at its depth, as the fair wind at its  height.

There was something in the man so far beyond any mere  unsociality or sourness previously evinced, that even the forbearing  good-nature of his guest could no longer endure it. Wholly at a loss  to account for such demeanour, and deeming sickness with eccentricity,  however extreme, no adequate excuse, well satisfied, too, that nothing  in his own conduct could justify it, Captain Delano’s pride began to  be roused. Himself became reserved. But all seemed one to the  Spaniard. Quitting him, therefore, Captain Delano once more went to  the deck.

The ship was now within less than two miles of the sealer. The  whale-boat was seen darting over the interval.

To be brief, the two vessels, thanks to the pilot’s skill, ere  long in neighbourly style lay anchored together.

Before returning to his own vessel, Captain Delano had intended  communicating to Don Benito the practical details of the proposed  services to be rendered. But, as it was, unwilling anew to subject  himself to rebuffs, he resolved, now that he had seen the San Dominick  safely moored, immediately to quit her, without further allusion to  hospitality or business. Indefinitely postponing his ulterior plans,  he would regulate his future actions according to future  circumstances. His boat was ready to receive him; but his host still  tarried below. Well, thought Captain Delano, if he has little  breeding, the more need to show mine. He descended to the cabin to bid  a ceremonious, and, it may be, tacitly rebukeful adieu. But to his  great satisfaction, Don Benito, as if he began to feel the weight of  that treatment with which his slighted guest had, not indecorously,  retaliated upon him, now supported by his servant, rose to his feet,  and grasping Captain Delano’s hand, stood tremulous; too much agitated  to speak. But the good augury hence drawn was suddenly dashed, by  his resuming all his previous reserve, with augmented gloom, as,  with half-averted eyes, he silently reseated himself on his  cushions. With a corresponding return of his own chilled feelings,  Captain Delano bowed and withdrew.

He was hardly midway in the narrow corridor, dim as a tunnel,  leading from the cabin to the stairs, when a sound, as of the  tolling for execution in some jail-yard, fell on his ears. It was  the echo of the ship’s flawed bell, striking the hour, drearily  reverberated in this subterranean vault. Instantly, by a fatality  not to be withstood, his mind, responsive to the portent, swarmed with  superstitious suspicions. He paused. In images far swifter than  these sentences, the minutest details of all his former distrusts  swept through him.

Hitherto, credulous good-nature had been too ready to furnish  excuses for reasonable fears. Why was the Spaniard, so superfluously  punctilious at times, now heedless of common propriety in not  accompanying to the side his departing guest? Did indisposition  forbid? Indisposition had not forbidden more irksome exertion that  day. His last equivocal demeanour recurred. He had risen to his  feet, grasped his guest’s hand, motioned toward his hat; then, in an  instant, all was eclipsed in sinister muteness and gloom. Did this  imply one brief, repentant relenting at the final moment, from some  iniquitous plot, followed by remorseless return to it? His last glance  seemed to express a calamitous, yet acquiescent farewell to Captain  Delano for ever. Why decline the invitation to visit the sealer that  evening? Or was the Spaniard less hardened than the Jew, who refrained  not from supping at the board of him whom the same night he meant to  betray? What imported all those day-long enigmas and contradictions,  except they were intended to mystify, preliminary to some stealthy  blow? Atufal, the pretended rebel, but punctual shadow, that moment  lurked by the threshold without. He seemed a sentry, and more. Who, by  his own confession, had stationed him there? Was the Negro now lying  in wait?

The Spaniard behind– his creature before: to rush from darkness to  light was the involuntary choice.

The next moment, with clenched jaw and hand, he passed Atufal, and  stood unarmed in the light. As he saw his trim ship lying peacefully  at her anchor, and almost within ordinary call; as he saw his  household boat, with familiar faces in it, patiently rising and  falling on the short waves by the San Dominick’s side; and then,  glancing about the decks where he stood, saw the oakum-pickers still  gravely plying their fingers; and heard the low, buzzing whistle and  industrious hum of the hatchet-polishers, still bestirring  themselves over their endless occupation; and more than all, as he saw  the benign aspect of Nature, taking her innocent repose in the  evening; the screened sun in the quiet camp of the west shining out  like the mild light from Abraham’s tent; as his charmed eye and ear  took in all these, with the chained figure of the black, the  clenched jaw and hand relaxed. Once again he smiled at the phantoms  which had mocked him, and felt something like a tinge of remorse,  that, by indulging them even for a moment, he should, by  implication, have betrayed an almost atheistic doubt of the  ever-watchful Providence above.

There was a few minutes’ delay, while, in obedience to his orders,  the boat was being hooked along to the gangway. During this  interval, a sort of saddened satisfaction stole over Captain Delano,  at thinking of the kindly offices he had that day discharged for a  stranger. Ah, thought he, after good actions one’s conscience is never  ungrateful, however much so the benefited party may be.

Presently, his foot, in the first act of descent into the boat,  pressed the first round of the side-ladder, his face presented  inward upon the deck. In the same moment, he heard his name  courteously sounded; and, to his pleased surprise, saw Don Benito  advancing– an unwonted energy in his air, as if, at the last moment,  intent upon making amends for his recent discourtesy. With instinctive  good feeling, Captain Delano, revoking his foot, turned and  reciprocally advanced. As he did so, the Spaniard’s nervous  eagerness increased, but his vital energy failed; so that, the  better to support him, the servant, placing his master’s hand on his  naked shoulder, and gently holding it there, formed himself into a  sort of crutch.

When the two captains met, the Spaniard again fervently took the  hand of the American, at the same time casting an earnest glance  into his eyes, but, as before, too much overcome to speak.

I have done him wrong, self-reproachfully thought Captain  Delano; his apparent coldness has deceived me; in no instance has he  meant to offend.

Meantime, as if fearful that the continuance of the scene might  too much unstring his master, the servant seemed anxious to  terminate it. And so, still presenting himself as a crutch, and  walking between the two captains, he advanced with them toward the  gangway; while still, as if full of kindly contrition, Don Benito  would not let go the hand of Captain Delano, but retained it in his,  across the black’s body.

Soon they were standing by the side, looking over into the boat,  whose crew turned up their curious eyes. Waiting a moment for the  Spaniard to relinquish his hold, the now embarrassed Captain Delano  lifted his foot, to overstep the threshold of the open gangway; but  still Don Benito would not let go his hand. And yet, with an  agitated tone, he said, “I can go no further; here I must bid you  adieu. Adieu, my dear, dear Don Amasa. Go– go!” suddenly tearing his  hand loose, “go, and God guard you better than me, my best friend.”

Not unaffected, Captain Delano would now have lingered; but  catching the meekly admonitory eye of the servant, with a hasty  farewell he descended into his boat, followed by the continual  adieus of Don Benito, standing rooted in the gangway.

Seating himself in the stern, Captain Delano, making a last  salute, ordered the boat shoved off. The crew had their oars on end.  The bowsman pushed the boat a sufficient distance for the oars to be  lengthwise dropped. The instant that was done, Don Benito sprang  over the bulwarks, falling at the feet of Captain Delano; at the  same time, calling towards his ship, but in tones so frenzied, that  none in the boat could understand him. But, as if not equally  obtuse, three Spanish sailors, from three different and distant  parts of the ship, splashed into the sea, swimming after their  captain, as if intent upon his rescue.

The dismayed officer of the boat eagerly asked what this meant. To  which, Captain Delano, turning a disdainful smile upon the  unaccountable Benito Cereno, answered that, for his part, he neither  knew nor cared; but it seemed as if the Spaniard had taken it into his  head to produce the impression among his people that the boat wanted  to kidnap him. “Or else– give way for your lives,” he wildly added,  starting at a clattering hubbub in the ship, above which rang the  tocsin of the hatchet-polishers; and seizing Don Benito by the  throat he added, “this plotting pirate means murder!” Here, in  apparent verification of the words, the servant, a dagger in his hand,  was seen on the rail overhead, poised, in the act of leaping, as if  with desperate fidelity to befriend his master to the last; while,  seemingly to aid the black, the three Spanish sailors were trying to  clamber into the hampered bow. Meantime, the whole host of Negroes, as  if inflamed at the sight of their jeopardized captain, impended in one  sooty avalanche over the bulwarks.

All this, with what preceded, and what followed, occurred with  such involutions of rapidity, that past, present, and future seemed  one.

Seeing the Negro coming, Captain Delano had flung the Spaniard  aside, almost in the very act of clutching him, and, by the  unconscious recoil, shifting his place, with arms thrown up, so  promptly grappled the servant in his descent, that with dagger  presented at Captain Delano’s heart, the black seemed of purpose to  have leaped there as to his mark. But the weapon was wrenched away,  and the assailant dashed down into the bottom of the boat, which  now, with disentangled oars, began to speed through the sea.

At this juncture, the left hand of Captain Delano, on one side,  again clutched the half-reclined Don Benito, heedless that he was in a  speechless faint, while his right foot, on the other side, ground  the prostrate Negro; and his right arm pressed for added speed on  the after oar, his eye bent forward, encouraging his men to their  utmost.

But here, the officer of the boat, who had at last succeeded in  beating off the towing Spanish sailors, and was now, with face  turned aft, assisting the bowsman at his oar, suddenly called to  Captain Delano, to see what the black was about; while a Portuguese  oarsman shouted to him to give heed to what the Spaniard was saying.

Glancing down at his feet, Captain Delano saw the freed hand of  the servant aiming with a second dagger– a small one, before concealed  in his wool– with this he was snakishly writhing up from the boat’s  bottom, at the heart of his master, his countenance lividly  vindictive, expressing the centred purpose of his soul; while the  Spaniard, half-choked, was vainly shrinking away, with husky words,  incoherent to all but the Portuguese.

That moment, across the long benighted mind of Captain Delano, a  flash of revelation swept, illuminating in unanticipated clearness  Benito Cereno’s whole mysterious demeanour, with every enigmatic event  of the day, as well as the entire past voyage of the San Dominick.  He smote Babo’s hand down, but his own heart smote him harder. With  infinite pity he withdrew his hold from Don Benito. Not Captain  Delano, but Don Benito, the black, in leaping into the boat, had  intended to stab.

Both the black’s hands were held, as, glancing up toward the San  Dominick, Captain Delano, now with the scales dropped from his eyes,  saw the Negroes, not in misrule, not in tumult, not as if  frantically concerned for Don Benito, but with mask tom away,  flourishing hatchets and knives, in ferocious piratical revolt. Like  delirious black dervishes, the six Ashantees danced on the poop.  Prevented by their foes from springing into the water, the Spanish  boys were hurrying up to the topmost spars, while such of the few  Spanish sailors, not already in the sea, less alert, were descried,  helplessly mixed in, on deck, with the blacks.

Meantime Captain Delano hailed his own vessel, ordering the  ports up, and the guns run out. But by this time the cable of the  San Dominick had been cut; and the fag-end, in lashing out, whipped  away the canvas shroud about the beak, suddenly revealing, as the  bleached hull swung round toward the open ocean, death for the  figurehead, in a human skeleton; chalky comment on the chalked words  below, “Follow your leader.”

At the sight, Don Benito, covering his face, wailed out: “'Tis he,  Aranda! my murdered, unburied friend!”

Upon reaching the sealer, calling for ropes, Captain Delano  bound the Negro, who made no resistance, and had him hoisted to the  deck. He would then have assisted the now almost helpless Don Benito  up the side; but Don Benito, wan as he was, refused to move, or be  moved, until the Negro should have been first put below out of view.  When, presently assured that it was done, he no more shrank from the  ascent.

The boat was immediately despatched back to pick up the three  swimming sailors. Meantime, the guns were in readiness, though,  owing to the San Dominick having glided somewhat astern of the sealer,  only the aftermost one could be brought to bear. With this, they fired  six times; thinking to cripple the fugitive ship by bringing down  her spars. But only a few inconsiderable ropes were shot away. Soon  the ship was beyond the guns’ range, steering broad out of the bay;  the blacks thickly clustering round the bowsprit, one moment with  taunting cries toward the whites, the next with up-thrown gestures  hailing the now dusky expanse of ocean– cawing crows escaped from  the hand of the fowler.

The first impulse was to slip the cables and give chase. But, upon  second thought, to pursue with whale-boat and yawl seemed more  promising.

Upon inquiring of Don Benito what firearms they had on board the  San Dominick, Captain Delano was answered that they had none that  could be used; because, in the earlier stages of the mutiny, a  cabin-passenger, since dead, had secretly put out of order the locks  of what few muskets there were. But with all his remaining strength,  Don Benito entreated the American not to give chase, either with  ship or boat; for the Negroes had already proved themselves such  desperadoes, that, in case of a present assault, nothing but a total  massacre of the whites could be looked for. But, regarding this  warning as coming from one whose spirit had been crushed by misery,  the American did not give up his design.

The boats were got ready and armed. Captain Delano ordered  twenty-five men into them. He was going himself when Don Benito  grasped his arm. “What! have you saved my life, Senor, and are you now  going to throw away your own?”

The officers also, for reasons connected with their interests  and those of the voyage, and a duty owing to the owners, strongly  objected against their commander’s going. Weighing their remonstrances  a moment, Captain Delano felt bound to remain; appointing his chief  mate– an athletic and resolute man, who had been a privateer’s man,  and, as his enemies whispered, a pirate– to head the party. The more  to encourage the sailors, they were told, that the Spanish captain  considered his ship as good as lost; that she and her cargo, including  some gold and silver, were worth upwards of ten thousand doubloons.  Take her, and no small part should be theirs. The sailors replied with  a shout.

The fugitives had now almost gained an offing. It was nearly  night; but the moon was rising. After hard, prolonged pulling, the  boats came up on the ship’s quarters, at a suitable distance laying  upon their oars to discharge their muskets. Having no bullets to  return, the Negroes sent their yells. But, upon the second volley,  Indian-like, they hurtled their hatchets. One took off a sailor’s  fingers. Another struck the whale-boat’s bow, cutting off the rope  there, and remaining stuck in the gunwale, like a woodman’s axe.  Snatching it, quivering from its lodgment, the mate hurled it back.  The returned gauntlet now stuck in the ship’s broken  quarter-gallery, and so remained.

The Negroes giving too hot a reception, the whites kept a more  respectful distance. Hovering now just out of reach of the hurtling  hatchets, they, with a view to the close encounter which must soon  come, sought to decoy the blacks into entirely disarming themselves of  their most murderous weapons in a hand-to-hand fight, by foolishly  flinging them, as missiles, short of the mark, into the sea. But ere  long perceiving the stratagem, the Negroes desisted, though not before  many of them had to replace their lost hatchets with handspikes; an  exchange which, as counted upon, proved in the end favourable to the  assailants.

Meantime, with a strong wind, the ship still clove the water;  the boats alternately falling behind, and pulling up, to discharge  fresh volleys.

The fire was mostly directed toward the stern, since there,  chiefly, the Negroes, at present, were clustering. But to kill or maim  the Negroes was not the object. To take them, with the ship, was the  object. To do it, the ship must be boarded; which could not be done by  boats while she was sailing so fast.

A thought now struck the mate. Observing the Spanish boys still  aloft, high as they could get, he called to them to descend to the  yards, and cut adrift the sails. It was done. About this time, owing  to causes hereafter to be shown, two Spaniards, in the dress of  sailors and conspicuously showing themselves, were killed; not by  volleys, but by deliberate marksman’s shots; while, as it afterwards  appeared, during one of the general discharges, Atufal, the black, and  the Spaniard at the helm likewise were killed. What now, with the loss  of the sails, and loss of leaders, the ship became unmanageable to the  Negroes.

With creaking masts she came heavily round to the wind; the prow  slowly swinging into view of the boats, its skeleton gleaming in the  horizontal moonlight, and casting a gigantic ribbed shadow upon the  water. One extended arm of the ghost seemed beckoning the whites to  avenge it.

“Follow your leader!” cried the mate; and, one on each bow, the  boats boarded. Sealing-spears and cutlasses crossed hatchets and  handspikes. Huddled upon the long-boat amidships, the Negresses raised  a wailing chant, whose chorus was the clash of the steel.

For a time, the attack wavered; the Negroes wedging themselves  to beat it back; the half-repelled sailors, as yet unable to gain a  footing, fighting as troopers in the saddle, one leg sideways flung  over the bulwarks, and one without, plying their cutlasses like  carters’ whips. But in vain. They were almost overborne, when,  rallying themselves into a squad as one man, with a huzza, they sprang  inboard; where, entangled, they involuntarily separated again. For a  few breaths’ space there was a vague, muffled, inner sound as of  submerged sword-fish rushing hither and thither through shoals of  black-fish. Soon, in a reunited band, and joined by the Spanish  seamen, the whites came to the surface, irresistibly driving the  Negroes toward the stern. But a barricade of casks and sacks, from  side to side, had been thrown up by the mainmast. Here the Negroes  faced about, and though scorning peace or truce, yet fain would have  had a respite. But, without pause, overleaping the barrier, the  unflagging sailors again closed. Exhausted, the blacks now fought in  despair. Their red tongues lolled, wolf-like, from their black mouths.  But the pale sailors’ teeth were set; not a word was spoken; and, in  five minutes more, the ship was won.

Nearly a score of the Negroes were killed. Exclusive of those by  the balls, many were mangled; their wounds– mostly inflicted by the  long-edged sealing-spears– resembling those shaven ones of the English  at Preston Pans, made by the poled scythes of the Highlanders. On  the other side, none were killed, though several were wounded; some  severely, including the mate. The surviving Negroes were temporarily  secured, and the ship, towed back into the harbour at midnight, once  more lay anchored.

Omitting the incidents and arrangements ensuing, suffice it  that, after two days spent in refitting, the two ships sailed in  company for Concepcion in Chili, and thence for Lima in Peru; where,  before the vice-regal courts, the whole affair, from the beginning,  underwent investigation.

Though, midway on the passage, the ill-fated Spaniard, relaxed  from constraint, showed some signs of regaining health with free-will;  yet, agreeably to his own foreboding, shortly before arriving at Lima,  he relapsed, finally becoming so reduced as to be carried ashore in  arms. Hearing of his story and plight, one of the many religious  institutions of the City of Kings opened an hospitable refuge to  him, where both physician and priest were his nurses, and a member  of the order volunteered to be his one special guardian and  consoler, by night and by day.

The following extracts, translated from one of the official  Spanish documents, will, it is hoped, shed light on the preceding  narrative, as well as, in the first place, reveal the true port of  departure and true history of the San Dominick’s voyage, down to the  time of her touching at the island of Santa Maria.

But, ere the extracts come, it may be well to preface them with  a remark.

The document selected, from among many others, for partial  translation, contains the deposition of Benito Cereno; the first taken  in the case. Some disclosures therein were, at the time, held  dubious for both learned and natural reasons. The tribunal inclined to  the opinion that the deponent, not undisturbed in his mind by recent  events, raved of some things which could never have happened. But  subsequent depositions of the surviving sailors, bearing out the  revelations of their captain in several of the strangest  particulars, gave credence to the rest. So that the tribunal, in its  final decision, rested its capital sentences upon statements which,  had they lacked confirmation, it would have deemed it but duty to  reject.

   I, DON JOSE DE ABOS AND PADILLA, His Majesty’s Notary for the  Royal Revenue, and Register of this Province, and Notary Public of the  Holy Crusade of this Bishopric, etc.

Do certify and declare, as much as is requisite in law, that, in  the criminal cause commenced the twenty-fourth of the month of  September, in the year seventeen hundred and ninety-nine, against  the Senegal Negroes of the ship San Dominick, the following  declaration before me was made.

   Declaration of the first witness, DON BENITO CERENO.

   The same day, and month, and year, His Honour, Doctor Juan  Martinez de Dozas, Councillor of the Royal Audience of this Kingdom,  and learned in the law of this Intendancy, ordered the captain of  the ship San Dominick, Don Benito Cereno, to appear; which he did in  his litter, attended by the monk Infelez; of whom he received,  before Don Jose de Abos and Padilla, Notary Public of the Holy  Crusade, the oath, which he took by God, our Lord, and a sign of the  Cross; under which he promised to tell the truth of whatever he should  know and should be asked;- and being interrogated agreeably to the  tenor of the act commencing the process, he said, that on the  twentieth of May last, he set sail with his ship from the port of  Valparaiso, bound to that of Callao; loaded with the produce of the  country and one hundred and sixty blacks, of both sexes, mostly  belonging to Don Alexandro Aranda, gentleman, of the city of  Mendoza; that the crew of the ship consisted of thirty-six men, beside  the persons who went as passengers; that the Negroes were in part as  follows:

   [Here, in the original, follows a list of some fifty names,  descriptions, and ages, compiled from certain recovered documents of  Aranda’s, and also from recollections of the deponent, from which  portions only are extracted.]

  —One, from about eighteen to nineteen years, named Jose, and  this was the man that waited upon his master, Don Alexandro, and who  speaks well the Spanish, having served him four or five years;... a  mulatto, named Francesco, the cabin steward, of a good person and  voice, having sung in the Valparaiso churches, native of the  province of Buenos Ayres, aged about thirty—five years.... A smart  Negro, named Dago, who had been for many years a gravedigger among the  Spaniards, aged forty-six years.... Four old Negroes, born in  Africa, from sixty to seventy, but sound, caulkers by trade, whose  names are as follows:- the first was named Muri, and he was killed (as  was also his son named Diamelo); the second, Nacta; the third, Yola,  likewise killed; the fourth, Ghofan; and six full-grown Negroes,  aged from thirty to forty-five, all raw, and born among the Ashantees–  Martinqui, Yan, Lecbe, Mapenda, Yambaio, Akim; four of whom were  killed;... a powerful Negro named Atufal, who, being supposed to  have been a chief in Africa, his owners set great store by him.... And  a small Negro of Senegal, but some years among the Spaniards, aged  about thirty, which Negro’s name was Babo;... that he does not  remember the names of the others, but that still expecting the residue  of Don Alexandro’s papers will be found, will then take due account of  them all, and remit to the court;... and thirty-nine women and  children of all ages.

   [After the catalogue, the deposition goes on as follows:]

...That all the Negroes slept upon deck, as is customary in this  navigation, and none wore fetters, because the owner, his friend  Aranda, told him that they were all tractable;... that on the  seventh day after leaving port, at three o’clock in the morning, all  the Spaniards being asleep except the two officers on the watch, who  were the boatswain, Juan Robles, and the carpenter, Juan Bautista  Gayete, and the helmsman and his boy, the Negroes revolted suddenly,  wounded dangerously the boatswain and the carpenter, and  successively killed eighteen men of those who were sleeping upon deck,  some with handspikes and hatchets, and others by throwing them alive  overboard, after tying them; that of the Spaniards upon deck, they  left about seven, as he thinks, alive and tied, to manoeuvre the ship,  and three or four more who hid themselves remained also alive.  Although in the act of revolt the Negroes made themselves masters of  the hatchway, six or seven wounded went through it to the cockpit,  without any hindrance on their part; that in the act of revolt, the  mate and another person, whose name he does not recollect, attempted  to come up through the hatchway, but having been wounded at the onset,  they were obliged to return to the cabin; that the deponent resolved  at break of day to come up the companionway, where the Negro Babo was,  being the ringleader, and Atufal, who assisted him, and having  spoken to them, exhorted them to cease committing such atrocities,  asking them, at the same time, what they wanted and intended to do,  offering, himself, to obey their commands; that, notwithstanding this,  they threw, in his presence, three men, alive and tied, overboard;  that they told the deponent to come up, and that they would not kill  him; which having done, the Negro Babo asked him whether there were in  those seas any Negro countries where they might be carried, and he  answered them, No, that the Negro Babo afterwards told him to carry  them to Senegal, or to the neighbouring islands of St. Nicholas; and  he answered, that this was impossible, on account of the great  distance, the necessity involved of rounding Cape Horn, the bad  condition of the vessel, the want of provisions, sails, and water; but  that the Negro Babo replied to him he must carry them in any way; that  they would do and conform themselves to everything the deponent should  require as to eating and drinking; that after a long conference, being  absolutely compelled to please them, for they threatened him to kill  all the whites if they were not, at all events, carried to Senegal, he  told them that what was most wanting for the voyage was water; that  they would go near the coast to take it, and hence they would  proceed on their course; that the Negro Babo agreed to it; and the  deponent steered toward the intermediate ports, hoping to meet some  Spanish or foreign vessel that would save them; that within ten or  eleven days they saw the land, and continued their course by it in the  vicinity of Nasca; that the deponent observed that the Negroes were  now restless and mutinous, because he did not effect the taking in  of water, the Negro Babo having required, with threats, that it should  be done, without fail, the following day; he told him he saw plainly  that the coast was steep, and the rivers designated in the maps were  not be found, with other reasons suitable to the circumstances; that  the best way would be to go to the island of Santa Maria, where they  might water and victual easily, it being a desert island, as the  foreigners did; that the deponent did not go to Pisco, that was  near, nor make any other port of the coast, because the Negro Babo had  intimated to him several times, that he would kill all the whites  the very moment he should perceive any city, town, or settlement of  any kind on the shores to which they should be carried; that having  determined to go to the island of Santa Maria, as the deponent had  planned, for the purpose of trying whether, in the passage or in the  island itself, they could find any vessel that should favour them,  or whether he could escape from it in a boat to the neighbouring coast  of Arruco; to adopt the necessary means he immediately changed his  course, steering for the island; that the Negroes Babo and Atufal held  daily conferences, in which they discussed what was necessary for  their design of returning to Senegal, whether they were to kill all  the Spaniards, and particularly the deponent; that eight days after  parting from the coast of Nasca, the deponent being on the watch a  little after day-break, and soon after the Negroes had their  meeting, the Negro Babo came to the place where the deponent was,  and told him that he had determined to kill his master, Don  Alexandro Aranda, both because he and his companions could not  otherwise be sure of their liberty, and that, to keep the seamen in  subjection, he wanted to prepare a warning of what road they should be  made to take did they or any of them oppose him; and that, by means of  the death of Don Alexandro, that warning would best be given; but,  that what this last meant, the deponent did not at the time  comprehend, nor could not, further than that the death of Don  Alexandro was intended; and moreover, the Negro Babo proposed to the  deponent to call the mate Raneds, who was sleeping in the cabin,  before the thing was done, for fear, as the deponent understood it,  that the mate, who was a good navigator, should be killed with Don  Alexandro and the rest; that the deponent, who was the friend, from  youth of Don Alexandro, prayed and conjured, but all was useless;  for the Negro Babo answered him that the thing could not be prevented,  and that all the Spaniards risked their death if they should attempt  to frustrate his will in this matter, or any other; that, in this  conflict, the deponent called the mate, Raneds, who was forced to go  apart, and immediately the Negro Babo commanded the Ashantee Martinqui  and the Ashantee Lecbe to go and commit the murder; that those two  went down with hatchets to the berth of Don Alexandro; that, yet  half alive and mangled, they dragged him on deck; that they were going  to throw him overboard in that state, but the Negro Babo stopped them,  bidding the murder be completed on the deck before him, which was  done, when, by his orders, the body was carried below, forward; that  nothing more was seen of it by the deponent for three days;... that  Don Alonzo Sidonia, an old man, long resident at Valparaiso, and  lately appointed to a civil office in Peru, whither he had taken  passage, was at the time sleeping in the berth opposite Don  Alexandro’s; that, awakening at his cries, surprised by them, and at  the sight of the Negroes with their bloody hatchets in their hands, he  threw himself into the sea through a window which was near him, and  was drowned, without it being in the power of the deponent to assist  or take him up;... that, a short time after killing Aranda, they  brought upon deck his german-cousin, of middle-age, Don Francisco  Masa, of Mendoza, and the young Don Joaquin, Marques de Aramboalaza,  then lately from Spain, with his Spanish servant Ponce, and the  three young clerks of Aranda, Jose Mozairi, Lorenzo Bargas, and  Hermenegildo Gandix, all of Cadiz; that Don Joaquin and Hermenegildo  Gandix, the Negro Babo for purposes hereafter to appear, preserved  alive; but Don Francisco Masa, Jose Mozairi, and Lorenzo Bargas,  with Ponce, the servant, beside the boatswain, Juan Robles, the  boatswain’s mates, Manuel Viscaya and Roderigo Hurta, and, four of the  sailors, the Negro Babo ordered to be thrown alive into the sea,  although they made no resistance, nor begged for anything else but  mercy; that the boatswain, Juan Robles, who knew how to swim, kept the  longest above water, making acts of contrition, and, in the last words  he uttered, charged this deponent to cause mass to be said for his  soul to our Lady of Succour;... that, during the three days which  followed, the deponent, uncertain what fate had befallen the remains  of Don Alexandro, frequently asked the Negro Babo where they were,  and, if still on board, whether they were to be preserved for  interment ashore, entreating him so to order it; that the Negro Babo  answered nothing till the fourth day, when at sunrise, the deponent  coming on deck, the Negro Babo showed him a skeleton, which had been  substituted for the ship’s proper figure-head, the image of  Christopher Colon, the discoverer of the New World; that the Negro  Babo asked him whose skeleton that was, and whether, from its  whiteness, he should not think it a white’s; that, upon his covering  his face, the Negro Babo, coming close, said words to this effect:  “Keep faith with the blacks from here to Senegal, or you shall in  spirit, as now in body, follow your leader,” pointing to the  prow;... that the same morning the Negro Babo took by succession  each Spaniard forward, and asked him whose skeleton that was, and  whether, from its whiteness, he should not think it a white’s; that  each Spaniard covered his face; that then to each the Negro Babo  repeated the words in the first place said to the deponent;... that  they (the Spaniards), being then assembled aft, the Negro Babo  harangued them, saying that he had now done all; that the deponent (as  navigator for the Negroes) might pursue his course, warning him and  all of them that they should, soul and body, go the way of Don  Alexandro if he saw them (the Spaniards) speak or plot anything  against them (the Negroes)– a threat which was repeated every day;  that, before the events last mentioned, they had tied the cook to  throw him overboard, for it is not known what thing they heard him  speak, but finally the Negro Babo spared his life, at the request of  the deponent; that a few days after, the deponent, endeavouring not to  omit any means to preserve the lives of the remaining whites, spoke to  the Negroes peace and tranquillity, and agreed to draw up a paper,  signed by the deponent and the sailors who could write, as also by the  Negro Babo, for himself and all the blacks, in which the deponent  obliged himself to carry them to Senegal, and they not to kill any  more, and he formally to make over to them the ship, with the cargo,  with which they were for that time satisfied and quieted.... But the  next day, the more surely to guard against the sailors’ escape, the  Negro Babo commanded all the boats to be destroyed but the  long-boat, which was unseaworthy, and another, a cutter in good  condition, which, knowing it would yet be wanted for lowering the  water casks, he had it lowered down into the hold.

   [Various particulars of the prolonged and perplexed navigation  ensuing here follow, with incidents of a calamitous calm, from which  portion one passage is extracted, to wit:]

   –That on the fifth day of the calm, all on board suffering much  from the heat, and want of water, and five having died in fits, and  mad, the Negroes became irritable, and for a chance gesture, which  they deemed suspicious– though it was harmless– made by the mate,  Raneds, to the deponent, in the act of handing a quadrant, they killed  him; but that for this they afterwards were sorry, the mate being  the only remaining navigator on board, except the deponent.

—That omitting other events, which daily happened, and which can  only serve uselessly to recall past misfortunes and conflicts, after  seventy—three days’ navigation, reckoned from the time they sailed  from Nasca, during which they navigated under a scanty allowance of  water, and were afflicted with the calms before mentioned, they at  last arrived at the island of Santa Maria, on the seventeenth of the  month of August, at about six o’clock in the afternoon, at which  hour they cast anchor very near the American ship, Bachelor’s Delight,  which lay in the same bay, commanded by the generous Captain Amasa  Delano; but at six o’clock in the morning, they had already descried  the port, and the Negroes became uneasy, as soon as at distance they  saw the ship, not having expected to see one there; that the Negro  Babo pacified them, assuring them that no fear need be had; that  straightway he ordered the figure on the bow to be covered with  canvas, as for repairs, and had the decks a little set in order;  that for a time the Negro Babo and the Negro Atufal conferred; that  the Negro Atufal was for sailing away, but the Negro Babo would not,  and, by himself, cast about what to do; that at last he came to the  deponent, proposing to him to say and do all that the deponent  declares to have said and done to the American captain;... that the  Negro Babo warned him that if he varied in the least, or uttered any  word, or gave any look that should give the least intimation of the  past events or present state, he would instantly kill him, with all  his companions, showing a dagger, which he carried hid, saying  something which, as he understood it, meant that that dagger would  be alert as his eye; that the Negro Babo then announced the plan to  all his companions, which pleased them; that he then, the better to  disguise the truth, devised many expedients, in some of them uniting  deceit and defence; that of this sort was the device of the six  Ashantees before named, who were his bravos; that them he stationed on  the break of the poop, as if to clean certain hatchets (in cases,  which were part of the cargo), but in reality to use them, and  distribute them at need, and at a given word he told them that,  among other devices, was the device of presenting Atufal, his  right-hand man, as chained, though in a moment the chains could be  dropped; that in every particular he informed the deponent what part  he was expected to enact in every device, and what story he was to  tell on every occasion, always threatening him with instant death if  he varied in the least; that, conscious that many of the Negroes would  be turbulent, the Negro Babo appointed the four aged Negroes, who were  caulkers, to keep what domestic order they could on the decks; that  again and again he harangued the Spaniards and his companions,  informing them of his intent, and of his devices, and of the  invented story that this deponent was to tell, charging them lest  any of them varied from that story; that these arrangements were  made and matured during the interval of two or three hours, between  their first sighting the ship and the arrival on board of Captain  Amasa Delano; that this happened at about half-past seven in the  morning, Captain Amasa Delano coming in his boat, and all gladly  receiving him; that the deponent, as well as he could force himself,  acting then the part of principal owner, and a free captain of the  ship, told Captain Amasa Delano, when called upon, that he came from  Buenos Ayres, bound to Lima, with three hundred Negroes; that off Cape  Horn, and in a subsequent fever, many Negroes had died; that also,  by similar casualties, all the sea officers and the greatest part of  the crew had died.

   [And so the deposition goes on, circumstantially recounting the  fictitious story dictated to the deponent by Babo, and through the  deponent imposed upon Captain Delano; and also recounting the friendly  offers of Captain Delano, with other things, but all of which is  here omitted. After the fictitious, strange story, etc., the  deposition proceeds:]

  —That the generous Captain Amasa Delano remained on board all  the day, till he left the ship anchored at six o’clock in the evening,  deponent speaking to him always of his pretended misfortunes, under  the fore-mentioned principles, without having had it in his power to  tell a single word, or give him the least hint, that he might know the  truth and state of things; because the Negro Babo, performing the  office of an officious servant with all the appearance of submission  of the humble slave, did not leave the deponent one moment; that  this was in order to observe the deponent’s actions and words, for the  Negro Babo understands well the Spanish; and besides, there were  thereabout some others who were constantly on the watch, and  likewise understood the Spanish;... that upon one occasion, while  deponent was standing on the deck conversing with Amasa Delano, by a  secret sign the Negro Babo drew him (the deponent) aside, the act  appearing as if originating with the deponent; that then, he being  drawn aside, the Negro Babo proposed to him to gain from Amasa  Delano full particulars about his ship, and crew, and arms; that the  deponent asked “For what?” that the Negro Babo answered he might  conceive; that, grieved at the prospect of what might overtake the  generous Captain Amasa Delano, the deponent at first refused to ask  the desired questions, and used every argument to induce the Negro  Babo to give up this new design; that the Negro Babo showed the  point of his dagger; that, after the information had been obtained,  the Negro Babo again drew him aside, telling him that that very  night he (the deponent) would be captain of two ships instead of  one, for that, great part of the American’s ship’s crew being to be  absent fishing, the six Ashantees, without any one else, would  easily take it; that at this time he said other things to the same  purpose; that no entreaties availed; that before Amasa Delano’s coming  on board, no hint had been given touching the capture of the  American ship; that to prevent this project the deponent was  powerless;... –that in some things his memory is confused, he cannot  distinctly recall every event;... –that as soon as they had cast  anchor at six of the clock in the evening, as has before been  stated, the American captain took leave to return to his vessel;  that upon a sudden impulse, which the deponent believes to have come  from God and his angels, he, after the farewell had been said,  followed the generous Captain Amasa Delano as far as the gunwale,  where he stayed, under the pretence of taking leave, until Amasa  Delano should have been seated in his boat; that on shoving off, the  deponent sprang from the gunwale, into the boat, and fell into it,  he knows not how, God guarding him; that–

    [Here, in the original, follows the account of what further  happened at the escape, and how the “San Dominick” was retaken, and of  the passage to the coast; including in the recital many expressions of  “eternal gratitude” to the “generous Captain Amasa Delano.” The  deposition then proceeds with recapitulatory remarks, and a partial  renumeration of the Negroes, making record of their individual part in  the past events, with a view to furnishing, according to command of  the court, the data whereon to found the criminal sentences to be  pronounced. From this portion is the following:]

  —That he believes that all the Negroes, though not in the first  place knowing to the design of revolt, when it was accomplished,  approved it.... That the Negro, Jose, eighteen years old, and in the  personal service of Don Alexandro, was the one who communicated the  information to the Negro Babo, about the state of things in the cabin,  before the revolt; that this is known, because, in the preceding  midnight, lie used to come from his berth, which was under his  master’s, in the cabin, to the deck where the ringleader and his  associates were, and had secret conversations with the Negro Babo,  in which he was several times seen by the mate; that, one night, the  mate drove him away twice;... that this same Negro Jose, was the one  who, without being commanded to do so by the Negro Babo, as Lecbe  and Martinqui were, stabbed his master, Don Alexandro, after he had  been dragged half-lifeless to the deck;... that the mulatto steward,  Francesco, was of the first band of revolters, that he was, in all  things, the creature and tool of the Negro Babo; that, to make his  court, he, just before a repast in the cabin, proposed, to the Negro  Babo, poisoning a dish for the generous Captain Amasa Delano; this  is known and believed, because the Negroes have said it; but that  the Negro Babo, having another design, forbade Francesco;... that  the Ashantee Lecbe was one of the worst of them; for that, on the  day the ship was retaken, he assisted in the defence of her, with a  hatchet in each hand, with one of which he wounded, in the breast, the  chief mate of Amasa Delano, in the first act of boarding; this all  knew; that, in sight of the deponent, Lecbe struck, with a hatchet,  Don Francisco Masa when, by the Negro Babo’s orders, he was carrying  him to throw him overboard, alive; beside participating in the murder,  before mentioned, of Don Alexandro Aranda, and others of the  cabin-passengers; that, owing to the fury with which the Ashantees  fought in the engagement with the boats, but this Lecbe and Yan  survived; that Yan was bad as Lecbe; that Yan was the man who, by  Babo’s command, willingly prepared the skeleton of Don Alexandro, in a  way the Negroes afterwards told the deponent, but which he, so long as  reason is left him, can never divulge; that Yan and Lecbe were the two  who, in a calm by night, riveted the skeleton to the bow; this also  the Negroes told him; that the Negro Babo was he who traced the  inscription below it; that the Negro Babo was the plotter from first  to last; he ordered every murder, and was the helm and keel of the  revolt; that Atufal was his lieutenant in all; but Atufal, with his  own hand, committed no murder; nor did the Negro Babo;... that  Atufal was shot, being killed in the fight with the boats, ere  boarding;... that the Negresses, of age, were knowing to the revolt,  and testified themselves satisfied at the death of their master, Don  Alexandro; that, had the Negroes not restrained them, they would  have tortured to death, instead of simply killing, the Spaniards slain  by command of the Negro Babo; that the Negresses used their utmost  influence to have the deponent made away with; that, in the various  acts of murder, they sang songs and danced– not gaily, but solemnly;  and before the engagement with the boats, as well as during the  action, they sang melancholy songs to the Negroes, and that this  melancholy tone was more inflaming than a different one would have  been, and was so intended; that all this is believed, because the  Negroes have said it.

—That of the thirty—six men of the crew– exclusive of the  passengers (all of whom are now dead), which the deponent had  knowledge of– six only remained alive, with four cabin-boys and  ship-boys, not included with the crew;.... –that the Negroes broke  an arm of one of the cabin-boys and gave him strokes with hatchets.

   [Then follow various random disclosures referring to various  periods of time. The following are extracted:]

  —That during the presence of Captain Amasa Delano on board, some  attempts were made by the sailors, and one by Hermenegildo Gandix,  to convey hints to him of the true state of affairs; but that these  attempts were ineffectual, owing to fear of incurring death, and  furthermore owing to the devices which offered contradictions to the  true state of affairs; as well as owing to the generosity and piety of  Amasa Delano, incapable of sounding such wickedness;... that Luys  Galgo, a sailor about sixty years of age, and formerly of the king’s  navy, was one of those who sought to convey tokens to Captain Amasa  Delano; but his intent, though undiscovered, being suspected, he  was, on a pretence, made to retire out of sight, and at last into  the hold, and there was made away with. This the Negroes have since  said;... that one of the ship-boys feeling, from Captain Amasa  Delano’s presence, some hopes of release, and not having enough  prudence, dropped some chance-word respecting his expectations,  which being overheard and understood by a slave-boy with whom he was  eating at the time, the latter struck him on the head with a knife,  inflicting a bad wound, but of which the boy is now healing; that  likewise, not long before the ship was brought to anchor, one of the  seamen, steering at the time, endangered himself by letting the blacks  remark a certain unconscious hopeful expression in his countenance,  arising from some cause similar to the above; but this sailor, by  his heedful after conduct, escaped;... that these statements are  made to show the court that from the beginning to the end of the  revolt, it was impossible for the deponent and his men to act  otherwise than they did;... –that the third clerk, Hermenegildo  Gandix, who before had been forced to live among the seamen, wearing a  seaman’s habit, and in all respects appearing to be one for the  time; he, Gandix, was killed by a musket-ball fired through a  mistake from the American boats before boarding; having in his  fright ran up the mizzen-rigging, calling to the boats– “don’t board,”  lest upon their boarding the Negroes should kill him; that this  inducing the Americans to believe he some way favoured the cause of  the Negroes, they fired two balls at him, so that he fell wounded from  the rigging, and was drowned in the sea;... –that the young Don  Joaquin, Marques de Aramboalaza, like Hermenegildo Gandix, the third  clerk, was degraded to the office and appearance of a common seaman;  that upon one occasion, when Don Joaquin shrank, the Negro Babo  commanded the Ashantee Lecbe to take tar and heat it, and pour it upon  Don Joaquin’s hands;... –that Don Joaquin was killed owing to  another mistake of the Americans, but one impossible to be avoided, as  upon the approach of the boats, Don Joaquin, with a hatchet tied  edge out and upright to his hand, was made by the Negroes to appear on  the bulwarks; whereupon, seen with arms in his hands and in a  questionable attitude, he was shot for a renegade seaman;... –that  on the person of Don Joaquin was found secreted a jewel, which, by  papers that were discovered, proved to have been meant for the  shrine of our Lady of Mercy in Lima; a votive offering, beforehand  prepared and guarded, to attest his gratitude, when he should have  landed in Peru, his last destination, for the safe conclusion of his  entire voyage from Spain;... –that the jewel, with the other effects  of the late Don Joaquin, is in the custody of the brethren of the  Hospital de Sacerdotes, awaiting the decision of the honourable  court;... –that, owing to the condition of the deponent, as well as  the haste in which the boats departed for the attack, the Americans  were not forewarned that there were, among the apparent crew, a  passenger and one of the clerks disguised by the Negro Babo;... –that,  beside the Negroes killed in the action, some were killed after the  capture and re-anchoring at night, when shackled to the ring-bolts  on deck; that these deaths were committed by the sailors, ere they  could be prevented. That so soon as informed of it, Captain Amasa  Delano used all his authority, and, in particular with his own hand,  struck down Martinez Gola, who, having found a razor in the pocket  of an old jacket of his, which one of the shackled Negroes had on, was  aiming it at the Negro’s throat; that the noble Captain Amasa Delano  also wrenched from the hand of Bartholomew Barlo, a dagger secreted at  the time of the massacre of the whites, with which he was in the act  of stabbing a shackled Negro, who, the same day, with another Negro,  had thrown him down and jumped upon him;... that, for all the  events, befalling through so long a time, during which the ship was in  the hands of the Negro Babo, he cannot here give account; but that,  what he has said is the most substantial of what occurs to him at  present, and is the truth under the oath which he has taken; which  declaration he affirmed and ratified, after hearing it read to him.

He said that he is twenty-nine years of age, and broken in body  and mind; that when finally dismissed by the court, he shall not  return home to Chili, but betake himself to the monastery on Mount  Agonia without; and signed with his honour, and crossed himself,  and, for the time, departed as he came, in his litter, with the monk  Infelez, to the Hospital de Sacerdotes.

                                       BENITO CERENO.


   If the deposition of Benito Cereno has served as the key to fit  into the lock of the complications which preceded it, then, as a vault  whose door has been flung back, the San Dominick’s hull lies open  to-day.

Hitherto the nature of this narrative, besides rendering the  intricacies in the beginning unavoidable, has more or less required  that many things, instead of being set down in the order of  occurrence, should be retrospectively, or irregularly given; this last  is the case with the following passages, which will conclude the  account:

During the long, mild voyage to Lima, there was, as before hinted,  a period during which Don Benito a little recovered his health, or, at  least in some degree, his tranquillity. Ere the decided relapse  which came, the two captains had many cordial conversations– their  fraternal unreserve in singular contrast with former withdrawments.

Again and again, it was repeated, how hard it had been to enact  the part forced on the Spaniard by Babo.

“Ah, my dear Don Amasa,” Don Benito once said, “at those very  times when you thought me so morose and ungrateful– nay when, as you  now admit, you half thought me plotting your murder– at those very  times my heart was frozen; I could not look at you, thinking of  what, both on board this ship and your own, hung, from other hands,  over my kind benefactor. And as God lives, Don Amasa, I know not  whether desire for my own safety alone could have nerved me to that  leap into your boat, had it not been for the thought that, did you,  unenlightened, return to your ship, you, my best friend, with all  who might be with you, stolen upon, that night, in your hammocks,  would never in this world have wakened again. Do but think how you  walked this deck, how you sat in this cabin, every inch of ground  mined into honey-combs under you. Had I dropped the least hint, made  the least advance toward an understanding between us, death, explosive  death– yours as mine– would have ended the scene.”

“True, true,” cried Captain Delano, starting, “you saved my  life, Don Benito, more than I yours; saved it, too, against my  knowledge and will.”

“Nay, my friend,” rejoined the Spaniard, courteous even to the  point of religion, “God charmed your life, but you saved mine. To  think of some things you did– those smilings and chattings, rash  pointings and gesturings. For less than these, they slew my mate,  Raneds; but you had the Prince of Heaven’s safe conduct through all  ambuscades.”

“Yes, all is owing to Providence, I know; but the temper of my  mind that morning was more than commonly pleasant, while the sight  of so much suffering– more apparent than real– added to my good  nature, compassion, and charity, happily interweaving the three. Had  it been otherwise, doubtless, as you hint, some of my interferences  with the blacks might have ended unhappily enough. Besides that, those  feelings I spoke of enabled me to get the better of momentary  distrust, at times when acuteness might have cost me my life,  without saving another’s. Only at the end did my suspicions get the  better of me, and you know how wide of the mark they then proved.”

“Wide, indeed,” said Don Benito, sadly; “you were with me all day;  stood with me, sat with me, talked with me, looked at me, ate with me,  drank with me; and yet, your last act was to clutch for a villain, not  only an innocent man, but the most pitiable of all men. To such degree  may malign machinations and deceptions impose. So far may even the  best men err, in judging the conduct of one with the recesses of whose  condition he is not acquainted. But you were forced to it; and you  were in time undeceived. Would that, in both respects, it was so ever,  and with all men.”

“I think I understand you; you generalize, Don Benito; and  mournfully enough. But the past is passed; why moralize upon it?  Forget it. See, yon bright sun has forgotten it all, and the blue sea,  and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves.”

“Because they have no memory,” he dejectedly replied; “because  they are not human.”

“But these mild trades that now fan your cheek, Don Benito, do  they not come with a human-like healing to you? Warm friends,  steadfast friends are the trades.”

“With their steadfastness they but waft me to my tomb, Senor,” was  the foreboding response.

“You are saved, Don Benito,” cried Captain Delano, more and more  astonished and pained; “you are saved; what has cast such a shadow  upon you?”

“The Negro.”

There was silence, while the moody man sat, slowly and  unconsciously gathering his mantle about him, as if it were a pall.

There was no more conversation that day.

But if the Spaniard’s melancholy sometimes ended in muteness  upon topics like the above, there were others upon which he never  spoke at all; on which, indeed, all his old reserves were piled.  Pass over the worst and, only to elucidate, let an item or two of  these be cited. The dress so precise and costly, worn by him on the  day whose events have been narrated, had not willingly been put on.  And that silver-mounted sword, apparent symbol of despotic command,  was not, indeed, a sword, but the ghost of one. The scabbard,  artificially stiffened, was empty.

As for the black– whose brain, not body, had schemed and led the  revolt, with the plot– his slight frame, inadequate to that which it  held, had at once yielded to the superior muscular strength of his  captor, in the boat. Seeing all was over, he uttered no sound, and  could not be forced to. His aspect seemed to say: since I cannot do  deeds, I will not speak words. Put in irons in the hold, with the  rest, he was carried to Lima. During the passage Don Benito did not  visit him. Nor then, nor at any time after, would he look at him.  Before the tribunal he refused. When pressed by the judges he fainted.  On the testimony of the sailors alone rested the legal identity of  Babo. And yet the Spaniard would, upon occasion, verbally refer to the  Negro, as has been shown; but look on him he would not, or could not.

Some months after, dragged to the gibbet at the tail of a mule,  the black met his voiceless end. The body was burned to ashes; but for  many days, the head, that hive of subtlety, fixed on a pole in the  Plaza, met, unabashed, the gaze of the whites; and across the Plaza  looked toward St. Bartholomew’s church, in whose vaults slept then, as  now, the recovered bones of Aranda; and across the Rimac bridge looked  toward the monastery, on Mount Agonia without; where, three months  after being dismissed by the court, Benito Cereno, borne on the  bier, did, indeed, follow his leader.


Originally published in Putnam's Monthly in 1855


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