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26.4: Benito Cereno

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    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 harbor of St. Maria–a small, desert, uninhabited
    island toward 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 gray. 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 gray
    surtout. Flights of troubled gray fowl, kith and kin with flights of
    troubled gray vapors 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 colors; 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 incentives, 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 harbor, was drawing too
    near the land; 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 vapors partly mantling the hull, through which
    the far matin light from her cabin streamed equivocally enough; much
    like the sun–by this time hemisphered on the rim of the horizon, and,
    apparently, in company with the strange ship entering the harbor–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 vapors, 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
    daybreak, 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 vapors 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 white-washed 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. Toward 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 calked–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 re-furbishing, 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
    headboards, 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 the 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 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 drilling away like so many gray-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 that 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 basket 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 whale-boat 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

    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 long 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 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

    But the good conduct of Babo, hardly more than the ill-behavior 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 towards 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 towards all but his
    faithful 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 the involuntary
    victim of mental disorder. But, in fact, his reserve might, in some
    degree, have proceeded from design. If so, then here 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

    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 demeanor, 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 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 towards

    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 intrusted 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 favor 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, hardware, 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 detections 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, Señor,”
    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, proportionably, of the Spaniards, including, by
    a luckless fatality, every remaining 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 beggars’ 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 southernmost civilized port of Chili and South America; but upon
    nearing the coast the thick weather had prevented him from so much as
    sighting that harbor. 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

    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 Guinea-men–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

    “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

    “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 trowsers, apparently, from their
    coarseness and patches, made out of some old topsail; 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. Eying 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 gentility united?

    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 farther
    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 Conception, 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

    Ere long, with a joyless mien, looking up towards 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 for 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 fidgety panic.

    Presently, while standing with his host, 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
    Don 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, Señor.”

    Is it, thought Captain Delano, that this hapless 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 towards 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 quarter-deck 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 eying 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 none 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

    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, lowly, “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 here 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

    At this moment, with a dreary grave-yard 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 towards 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

    “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 offense. 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 offense, 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 him 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,
    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 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 sourly 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 his guest; a procedure which, sensibly enough, might
    have been allowed to pass for idle caprice of ill-humor, had not master
    and man, lingering round the corner of the elevated skylight, began
    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 respect, 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 low-born 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 super-cargoes 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 silky 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 more towards his host–whose side-face, revealed
    above the skylight, was now turned towards him–he 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 he 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 awhile, to leave open margin.

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

    “Señor, 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, Señor, you exchanged your sealskins 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, Señor?”

    Captain Delano slightly started, but answered–

    “About five-and-twenty, all told.”

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

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

    “And will be to-night, Señor?”

    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, Señor?”

    “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, Señor?”

    “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 woolen, 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

    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-counselor, 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, Señor, I have trust in Babo.”

    Here Babo, changing his previous grin of mere animal humor 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 demeanor of Don Benito

    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 under-shirts 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 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
    favoring 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 pretense 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 harbors, 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 corroborated not
    only 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 his veracity, that inference was a legitimate

    But those questions of the Spaniard. There, indeed, one might pause. Did
    they not seem put with much the same object with which the burglar or
    assassin, by day-time, reconnoitres the walls of a house? But, with ill
    purposes, to solicit such information openly of the chief person
    endangered, and so, in effect, setting him on his guard; how unlikely a
    procedure was that? Absurd, then, to suppose that those questions had
    been prompted by evil designs. Thus, the same conduct, which, in this
    instance, had raised the alarm, served to dispel it. In short, scarce
    any suspicion or uneasiness, however apparently reasonable at the time,
    which was not now, with equal apparent reason, dismissed.

    At last he began to laugh at his former 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 almost 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 vapors, or putting idle questions without sense or object.
    Evidently for the present, the man was not fit to be intrusted with the
    ship. On some benevolent plea withdrawing the command from him, Captain
    Delano would yet have to send her to Conception, in charge of his
    second mate, a worthy person and good navigator–a plan not more
    convenient 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 tranquilizing. There was a
    difference between the idea of Don Benito’s darkly pre-ordaining 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, violently
    pushed him aside, which the sailor someway resenting, they dashed him to
    the deck, 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 called away from the spectacle of disorder to the more
    pleasing one before him, Captain Delano could not avoid again
    congratulating his host 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, too,
    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 towards
    that handful of sailors, suddenly he thought that one or two 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 honor, Captain Delano, assuming a good-humored, off-handed 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 chess-men 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, a circle of blacks squatted round him inquisitively eying
    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 combined with a dark eye, averted as in trouble
    and shame, and then again recalling Don Benito’s confessed ill opinion
    of his crew, insensibly he was operated upon by certain general notions
    which, while disconnecting pain and abashment from virtue, 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
    misbehavior, 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 eying 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 lacework 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 vigor of the child at length roused the mother. She started
    up, at a 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 Ledyard 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-gallery–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
    cats-paw–an islet of breeze, unheralded, unfollowed–as this ghostly
    cats-paw came fanning his cheek; as 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 calked fast
    like a sarcophagus lid; and 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 cats-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 ribbon 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 château, 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 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 towards 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
    unfavorable 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,
    reconnoitering 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
    pretense: that he was engaged there maturing his 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 he not 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, nor 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 towards him, saying 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 odd 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 congé, 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 sea-sickness, 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 efficacy 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 water-side to the school-house 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 drule, I’m

    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 had, 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
    towards the boat; there’s Rover; 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 grayness of everything, it
    seemed to be getting towards 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 towards
    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

    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 towards his now nearing
    boat–what then? Why, 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

    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 the visitor’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 towards 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 aids, who, in the name of his captain,
    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 it,
    the Spaniard 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 whites alone, and in chief Don Benito; but the latter objected;
    which disinterestedness 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

    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-humor 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, dispatched 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, come the wind 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, Señor.”

    “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

    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 afternoon. It is _now_, master.
    Will master go into the cuddy?”

    “Ah–yes,” answered the Spaniard, starting, 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, Señor.”

    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 partitioning
    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 bulk-head. Under the
    table lay a dented cutlass or two, with a hacked harpoon, among some
    melancholy old rigging, like a heap of poor friars’ 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 crotch at the
    back, working with a screw, seemed some grotesque engine of torment. A
    flag locker was in one corner, open, exposing various colored 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 torn hammock of stained
    grass swung near; the sheets tossed, and the pillow wrinkled up like a
    brow, as if who ever 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 towards the hammock as he entered, Captain Delano said, “You
    sleep here, Don Benito?”

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

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

    “Yes, Señor; events have not been favorable to much order in my

    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 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
    castinets, and flourishing them apparently with almost equal
    satisfaction. There is, too, a smooth tact about them in this
    employment, with a marvelous, 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-humor. 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

    When to 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 color 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 colored 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 colors 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, specifically 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.

    The preliminaries being somewhat novel to Captain Delano, he sat
    curiously eying 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
    strapping 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 contrasting 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 always 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-colors–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
    towards the black–“it’s all one, I suppose, so the colors 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, at convenient times, 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

    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 pretense of seeing whether, as he had
    prophesied, any signs of a breeze were visible.

    Walking forward to the main-mast, 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

    “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
    saalam, 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 on, 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 Barbadoes 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, Señor.”

    “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,” a sort of 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, Señor, 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 colored aids, was hovering
    over the table giving the last adjustments. Upon perceiving their master
    they withdrew, Francesco making a smiling congé, 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, Señor.”

    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 constitution 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

    “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

    “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

    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 towards the

    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
    pullies attached. At each pully-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 shame-faced an air on the

    “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 harbor, don’t you?”

    The man assented with an inward chuckle, grasping the tiller-head
    firmly. Upon this, unperceived by the American, the two blacks eyed the
    sailor intently.

    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 the 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 seated Spaniard, 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 brisk confidence inspired by the breeze. But even as it was, he
    felt a slight twinge, from a sudden indefinite 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
    indeed. 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.

    Again conversation 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 harbor bore the San Dominick swiftly on. Sounding 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
    towards 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
    demeanor, 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
    neighborly style lay anchored together.

    Before returning to his own vessel, Captain Delano had intended
    communicating to Don Benito the smaller 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
    demeanor 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 forever. 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
    unharmed in the light. As he saw his trim ship lying peacefully at
    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
    charmed eye and ear took in all these, with the chained figure of the
    black, 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 harboring them even for a moment, he should, by
    implication, have betrayed an atheist 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,
    withdrawing 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

    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 towards 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 bowsmen
    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 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
    Spaniard, answered that, for his part, he neither knew nor cared; but it
    seemed as if Don Benito 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
    white 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 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, his
    host’s whole mysterious demeanor, 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 towards the San
    Dominick, Captain Delano, now with 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 torn 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

    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 towards the open ocean, death for the figure-head, in a human
    skeleton; chalky comment on the chalked words below, “_Follow your

    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 dispatched 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 gun’s
    range, steering broad out of the bay; the blacks thickly clustering
    round the bowsprit, one moment with taunting cries towards the whites,
    the next with upthrown gestures hailing the now dusky moors 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 thoughts, to pursue with whale-boat and yawl seemed more

    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 his men into
    them. He was going himself when Don Benito grasped his arm.

    “What! have you saved my life, Señor, 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–to head the party. The
    more to encourage the sailors, they were told, that the Spanish captain
    considered his ship good as lost; that she and her cargo, including some
    gold and silver, were worth more than a 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, favorable 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 towards 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, by 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 hand-spikes.
    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 main-mast.
    Here the negroes faced about, and though scorning peace or truce, yet
    fain would have had 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 harbor at midnight, once more
    lay anchored.

    Omitting the incidents and arrangements ensuing, suffice it that, after
    two days spent in refitting, the ships sailed in company for Conception,
    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

    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 St. Maria.

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

    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 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 Honor, Doctor Juan Martinez
    de Rozas, Councilor of the Royal Audience of this Kingdom, and
    learned in the law of this Intendency, 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 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 beside thirty cases of hardware 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 José, 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
    grave-digger among the Spaniards, aged forty-six years. * * * Four
    old negroes, born in Africa, from sixty to seventy, but sound,
    calkers 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–Matiluqui, Yan,
    Leche, Mapenda, Yambaio, Akim; four of whom were killed; * * * a
    powerful negro named Atufal, who being supposed to have been a
    chief in Africa, his owner 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 Alexandra’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.

    [_The catalogue over, the deposition goes on_]

    * * * 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 hand-spikes 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 during the act of revolt, the mate and another
    person, whose name he does not recollect, attempted to come up
    through the hatchway, but being quickly wounded, were obliged to
    return to the cabin; that the deponent resolved at break of day to
    come up the companion-way, 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
    neighboring 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 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
    thence they would proceed on their course; that the negro Babo
    agreed to it; and the deponent steered towards 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 to 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 easily, it being a solitary 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, on the
    passage or near the island itself, they could find any vessel that
    should favor them, or whether he could escape from it in a boat to
    the neighboring 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, José 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, José 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
    Succor: * * * 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
    discovering 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, endeavoring 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 towing
    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

    * * * * *

    –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 defense; that of
    this sort was the device of the six Ashantees before named, who
    were his bravoes; 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 calkers, 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 about
    half-past seven o’clock 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 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 pretense 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

    –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, José, 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, he use 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 José 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 defense 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, futhermore, 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 pretense, 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 some expression in his countenance, arising from a 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 mistake from the
    boats before boarding; having in his fright run 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 favored 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 disposition of the honorable 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

    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 honor, and crossed himself,
    and, for the time, departed as he came, in his litter, with the
    monk Infelez, to the Hospital de Sacerdotes.



    If the Deposition have served as the key to fit into the lock of the
    complications which precede 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 the sufferer 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 friend,” 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 towards an understanding between us, death,
    explosive death–yours as mine–would have ended the scene.”

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

    “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 might have ended
    unhappily enough. Besides, 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 monster, 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 man
    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

    “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, do they not come with a
    human-like healing to you? Warm friends, steadfast friends are the

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

    “You are saved,” 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.

    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
    towards St. Bartholomew’s church, in whose vaults slept then, as now,
    the recovered bones of Aranda: and across the Rimac bridge looked
    towards 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.

    This page titled 26.4: Benito Cereno is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robin DeRosa, Abby Goode et al..